Raising Bipolar: 5 Things I've Learned About Myself

Dec 20, 2013

One mother reflects on what's she's learned about herself will #raisingbipolar kids. www.TheHolisticHomeschooler.com @tmichellecannon

When you're a parent, you learn a lot about your children. When you're the parent of a child with special needs, you learn even more. 

Like all parents, you're getting to know this person with her particular strengths, challenges, and personality. But if the child has a special need, whether mental, neurological, or physical, you must also learn all you can about that particular challenge. And then you learn how to adapt to it.

Something else happens when you are a parent of a child. You learn a lot about yourself. If you have a special needs child, you learn even more. Special needs can really push a parent to the limits, testing all aspects of the parent's abilities, skills, and personality.

Here are 5 things I've learned about myself from raising kids with bipolar disorder.

I have a surprising amount of patience and sympathy

It's very difficult to be calm, comforting, and reassuring when a person is in a state of irrational irritability, anger, rage or paranoia. Incredibly difficult. I've learned that I can be calm, sympathetic, and understanding in the face of delusions, verbal attacks, and rage.

During these times, realizing her thoughts are not within her control, I put my arms around her and say, "I understand, Sweetheart." What I understand is that her mind isn't functioning properly and that she is upset. Or I tell her I'm sorry she's feeling this way or that.

I can be impatient and unsympathetic. 

Did I mention it's difficult to maintain calmness and sympathy when being verbally attacked by a person in an irrational state of mind? There are times I shock myself with a complete lack of patience or sympathy. Although it's not common, I've found myself reacting with annoyance and irritation at these episodes.

Usually my annoyance stems from an increased frequency of episodes in a short period of time. (I just can't take it anymore.) Or maybe I've tried calm and sympathetic, but the response to my attempts was greater anger, more verbal attacks, and argumentativeness.

Rather than offering a hug and telling my child I understand, I find myself irritated. I'm irritated at the irrational words flying at me. I'm hurt by them. I find myself wanting to say, "Knock it off!" rather than "I understand." 

These are the times I walk outside or go for a drive, if possible. It's just not worth the upset for either of us. Better to bite my tongue and wait for the storm to pass. It will pass.

I have a great capacity for learning about this disorder. 

I am forever researching, reading research, and noting what I see with my kids. I ask questions of those with the disorder so I can better understand the thought processes or the sleep issues.

I have learned that very little is known about this disorder by either the so-called experts or even patients themselves. It seems a diagnosis and pill is all anyone seems to be interested in knowing. 
I, on the other hand, am always seeking better treatments, better responses, better understanding. 

I am willing to do anything to help my children. 

I always knew I'd do anything for my kids, but this disorder has challenged me to really live it. For example:

When my youngest daughter is on her "perfect" schedule, I accommodate her fully. 
  • That means serving breakfast at 4 a.m. and dinner at 3 p.m. 
  • It means cutting play dates short and skipping afternoon field trips. 
  • It means not going out to dinner or visiting my adult children in the evenings. 
  • It means no sleepovers. 
  • It means I can't have a night out with my friends or adult children. I rearrange everything to accommodate her.
When she slips off her schedule, I often stay up all night or even several days straight.
I lose a lot of sleep. I've stayed up all night with my child for an entire month, never seeing daylight in that time. It caused me to be weepy, moody and irritable, yet I pushed through, continually trying to switch her schedule and failing. 

Often I get dragged onto that schedule in an effort to switch her around to a more normal schedule. I hate it. I hate it so much, but I do it for her well-being.

I feed her at certain times, regardless of all else. 
I will stop our day to make sure she doesn't miss a meal. I will arrive to things late and leave early just to ensure she has protein at certain times. High protein is how we ensure mood stability.

I make sure that none of her triggers are triggered. 
The things I know set off a manic episode are avoided like that plague. Some of these triggers mean I can't do perfectly normal things. I sacrifice these normal things to help her.

I don't need an apology in order to forgive. 

The hateful words, the rages, the false accusations that fly out of the mouth a person with bipolar disorder could make some people bitter and resentful. Some people may expect an apology in order to move on, but I don't. 

I know that many times, the person saying and doing these things, has no memory of them later. It is truly a case of temporary insanity. How can I hold that person responsible? How can I expect an apology for those moments?

This is part of human imperfection. This is an illness. I can no more blame them for their anger than I could blame someone for having a fever during the flu.

It's not an easy life, but I have discovered quite a bit about myself, my ability to cope and how strong my love for my children truly is. 

What has your special needs experience taught you?

Hop over to iHomeschool Network and see what the other moms have learned from their children

Get more articles in your inbox!

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. Anonymous1/20/2014

    I didn't home school my 3 children until they were in 6th, 7th and would of been in 8th grade because she tries hard even though can't do third grade work. They got their GED and they were complimented by the monitoring teaching saying they had a better grip and knowledge than high school graduating regularly. (My middle child was put in a special literature class because of her high scores. All have an excellent vocabulary scoring and they are very creative. My oldest took art classes in college until her dad died and her illness became unmanageable - and finally diagnosed. I didn't know what I was doing but I kept at it and tried. With God's help they made it through 6 years of home schooling with undiagnosed cases of 3 bipolar and 1 schizophrenia. The third undiagnosed case of bipolar disease was their teacher, me! I'm helping to home school 5 grandchildren with different learning needs and abilities and problems. Thank you for creating your sight,. The Scripture tells us that if we believe we can do all things in Christ Jesus. Praise His Holy Name!!!

  2. Angela Michels10/03/2016

    Love reading your articles! My son also has bipolar disorder. He is 20 now and I have been through hell and back with him. I've done things righ. I've done things wrong. The only thing that has never changed is I've been by his side every step of the way. He is slowly learning how to be independent, control his outbursts and finding his place in the world. Although ever day can seem like a struggle, just know "this too shall pass". Good luck to you and your little one!

    1. Thanks, Angela! I'm about to follow up with a series on how we conquered bipolar disorder. My youngest has been symptom-free for nearly 3 months now. She's no longer taking any remedies and all is well.


Join the conversation!