I have suffered with bipolar disorder for seventeen years, however for sixteen and half of them, I was unaware I had the condition, as I was diagnosed with clinical depression instead. I have also been a parent for seventeen years, and although I have not always been the perfect mother, I have always done the best I could for my children and have an extremely deep emotional bond with them. Despite my imperfections due to the ups and downs of bipolar disorder, my children have always come first and have turned out to be wonderfully sensitive and intelligent individuals.
Bipolar disorder is not a disease or illness, as some people think. Like Autism, or Aspergers Syndrome, bipolar disorder is a brain condition that affects a sufferer from birth. However, unlike many conditions of the brain, bipolar may not present itself until the sufferer faces a traumatic period in his or her life, such as a car crash or childbirth. This goes some way to explaining why the majority of people with the condition, are not diagnosed until reaching their early twenties and many women have no signs of the condition, until after the birth to their first child.
Unfortunately, society has been given a very negative view of people who suffer with Bipolar Disorder, due to the portrayal of the condition in previous years, especially when it was known as manic depression. Even today, with information about the condition being widely available, when some people think of a person with the condition, they imagine a violent and delusional lunatic, who is unable to control their mood swings. They automatically think that nobody with the condition could be a good parent. However, there are arguments for and against parents who suffer with Bipolar Disorder that many people do not realise, due to the lack of information about the positive personality traits common to most people with the condition.
These personality traits make them excellent parents when receiving the correct treatment as they have more understanding of their children than a lot of parents. Anyone who has never had any relations with someone diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder may be surprised to learn, there are quite a few attributes common in most people with the condition that many other people do not possess.
The Pros of Having Bipolar Disorder
People with Bipolar Disorder are both academically and emotionally intelligent, and therefore, are very intuitive to other peoples feelings. Many people with the disorder can instinctively know how to ease the suffering of another person, even if they are not close to the other person. When a person with the condition is being kept stable with the correct treatment, the symptoms no longer present a problem in the sufferer and what is left is an amazing ability to tune into other peoples emotions, and offer their excellent emotional healing skills. This is an extremely positive attribute for any parent to possess, as it creates an emotional bond between the parent and child, which is incomprehensible to most people. People with Bipolar Disorder can also put themselves in others shoes, including their childrens, very easily. Therefore, although the parent is not always perfect, they are usually well respected by their children, as they are able to come down to their childrens level and have an unusual, contradicting, ability of explaining issues to their children in a completely honest and childlike, yet mature and loving way. Considering these attributes, it's not at all surprising that many people who are managing their condition successfully, also go on to become great counsellors.
The Cons of Having Bipolar Disorder
During depressive and manic episodes, a parent who is not receiving the correct treatment can create problems in families that children can be detrimentally affected by, and should not have to experience at such a young age. For example, children may be living with the effects of financial problems in their home due to a person with the condition being unable to control their spending during manic episodes, or the children may have to witness angry outbursts when the parent is unable to control their mood swings. When the parent is going through a depressive episode, a child may feel they are unable to get through to them; however, this is not unique to Bipolar Disorder, and the same for children of parents with any depressive illness.
Although no child should have to experience some of the problems that come with having a bipolar disorder parent, no upbringing is perfect, and like most bad experiences in life, good lessons can be learnt from them. Most children of parents with bipolar disorder learn a great deal about mental illness during their parents depressive and manic episodes, and grow into extremely understanding adults. The unique positive traits that come with bipolar disorder can create a very open and loving relationship between the child and the parent with bipolar disorder that is full of deep emotion and understanding. Its up to you to decide whether the pros make up for the cons for children of parents with bipolar disorder.