Telling Your Children You’re Bipolar

My eldest son is my partner in crime, and we go everywhere together. We go to ice cream shops when the wife isn’t around. We do monthly movies, some of which are mind numbingly boring. I’m calling you out, “Dory.” Either way, the kid loves them.  Right now, we do errands as ninjas or pirates, occupations whose main focus is apparently attaining as many Costco samples as possible. But we do boring stuff as well; I often take him with me to the pharmacy.

With five different medications, I experience the unfortunate consequence of having to fill my prescriptions at different times during the month.  That’s a lot of visits to the pharmacy, with a lot of bottles coming home. It’s a little disheartening to check in and watch the pharmacy tech try to scroll through all your medications in order to find the one you’re trying to refill. Anyhow, it is what it is.

Merrick’s pretty familiar with a few Kaiser locations; I take him along when I’m picking up my medication.  He’s knows we’re at a hospital, where the doctors treat the sick.  And he’s starting to put things together. Merrick knows his dad needs to take medicine because he isn’t well.  He understands and remembers that his father has always taken medicine. His father has never not been sick.  And now, he’s starting to ask why.

I do my best to explain that I’m just taking vitamins because dad doesn’t have enough vitamins in his body. However, this feels somewhat dishonest. Sooner or later he’s going to know what I am and what I have. I fear that day with all my being. How do I tell my child that I am bipolar? How will he trust in me if he sees the cracks of mania, the dips of the depression? When will I stop being his hero? Will he blame me for my failings? Will he forgive me? And is my love enough?

These are the things I think about during those long drives on the freeway. I think about how he will remember these and the coming years. I often beg the universe to let him know my strengths before my weaknesses. I hope to be a hero, before I am human. My greatest wish is to be a good father.  And I hope that that’s what I am more days than not.

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I’m a budding Marriage and Family Therapist. I’m finishing my degree in counseling after blundering halfway through law school. I work with kids and teenagers, some of which are troubled, and most of which are lost. Each and every single one of them reminds me of a piece or part of my childhood. The job can be heart wrenching, but most of the time, it reminds of the beauty in this world. I’m a husband and a father. I’m married to a lovely woman. She’s a great lady; smart and kind. I have two young kids--crazy, adorable, and ridiculously hilarious boys. I also enjoy putting pen to paper once in awhile.

7 thoughts on “Telling Your Children You’re Bipolar

    1. I myself, needed to tell my boys about my illness. The difference though is that all 3 of them are nearly adults. But it was still a dilemma for me. I didn’t know how to tell them since I was confined in the neuropsych Ward of a hospital for 2 weeks. They’ve always known though that their mother was a “crazy” one in the lighthearted sense of the word. What I was so afraid of was them thinking that I was actually crazy. I and their father just had to be honest and as simple as we could be, explaining that it was a medical condition like having diabetes (their father has diabetes). I needed maintenance to keep myself healthy and be able to stay the “crazy” mom they know and not end up hospitalised again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. When you did tell them, did they ever want to rehash anything about the past? Have they ever, in anger, ever use it against you? And last, did you in any way feel that you had to somehow start over with them, maybe in the same sense that some of us, after hospitalization, have to somehow start over with understanding our own selves?


      2. I’m sorry I don’t have children and can’t even imagine how hard it must be to tell them. But I am from an extremely judgemental and conservative country… and I’ve had people do all that you mentioned. Use it against me, throw it back at me, make excuses for me or exceptions… I believe whether it’s with your children or others… you do have to start afresh in some sense.
        Here’s wishing you strength for all this.


  1. I really worry about this too, that and my self harm scars. My daughter is only 2, so I have a while yet. I think it will be good for her to know, even if she uses it in anger, it will just be that, people say things they don’t mean just to get a reaction when angry. I hope she will see how hard I have to work to have a stable life and to be a good mom. I hope. How to bring up the conversation, and how to actually tell her is a terrifying thought. I’m sure your son won’t see you as any less of a hero. I think higher of my own mother for the difficulties she coped with when I was young, even when I was horrible as a teen to her, I admired her.


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