I was officially diagnosed as bipolar sometime around 1990. I don’t remember the first time I got married, but I don’t remember a lot of things from those 15 or so years. Drugs were a huge factor for my memory loss, mental illness was another. My son was born October 28, 2005. My divorce from his mother was finalized in April of 2006. I got remarried on June 15, 2007. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2008. My daughter was born on March 3, 2010.
My son was not planned. We found out that my soon-to-be ex-wife was pregnant when we filed for divorce, a pregnancy test was a mandatory part of the divorce proceedings. My ex,along with my current partner and all of our respective families knew I would not be a good father because of the many issues I was having (I was drug free at that time, but there were many other issues that turned out to be one big issue), but I was determined to be a better dad than I ever had. I have no contact with my father anymore and when I did it was not the best. He encouraged me to continue using a lot of the drugs I was using – not a father and a horrible dad. I had more custody of my son than I probably should have had, but instead of giving up rights to him, which would have been better (read: easier) for me, I did everything I could and more.
My swinging moods, increasing anxiety, building fears, and growing paranoia made caring for just myself difficult. It made showing the love that I had for my partner nearly impossible at times due to the lack of emotion and, regretfully, that little boy took so much of a back seat in my life that he was barely in the car.
Luckily I had and have a wonderful support system. My partner was number one. My ex would not let me have my son unless my girlfriend turned wife was going to be with us for the entire time. She never took this or any other issue to court as I never gave her a reason by arguing with her. I don’t want to know what would have happened if she did and I find it is best not to dwell on it. Next came my now mother-in-law and by extension her husband. They were there even more than my own mother. It was more than I could have asked or expected from them. What I did get from my mother was more than was expected, but less than what was wanted; however, she came next. Then was my little sister and finally my partner’s sister (not that her contribution was small). I had others helping me, both mentally and physically (not including my mental health professionals), but those were the primary individuals. That amount of people assisting me was more than most people ever have in their lives to assist with their kids or their lives in general; I know that and I am grateful to them all.
The reason my ex would not let me have my son alone was because she knew I had mental issues (i.e. bipolar disorder, megalomania, compulsive lying, hallucinations and more). She believed that I was one day going to snap and, without someone else around, hurt our son – which was never going to happen. My ex also believed that I just needed to work hard enough (at a paying job) and I would be cured because hard work cures everything (except cancer, diabetes and anything there is a blood test for – other than migraines which she had so that made them real unlike mental illness).
Just like cancer, those with a mental illness can’t just magically “get over it” by wishing it away or “just not thinking about it”, but like the cancer patient that braves through it and doesn’t overreact, the mentally ill patient needs to take a page out of the cancer patient’s book and stop overreacting and attempting to get sympathy for their illnesses (if they are able to).
Another big misnomer is that every one with a major metal illness (especially schizophrenia) is violent and if they are not currently violent then the violence is just below the surface waiting to strike out at anyone and anything. I have a ton of anxiety and sometimes need to walk away from a situation or feel like I am going to have a heart attack, but I am less likely to explode in a fit of rage than the average parent of a two-year old who gets overly frustrated.
Some mental illnesses are brought on and caused by environmental factors such as a parent with wild mood swings or abuse of any kind or any number of things, but it is not always about “blaming mommy”. People whine and complain that people with mental illnesses constantly are blaming other people and they are right. Some of it is justified and some of it is just ridiculous. Most mental illnesses are the subject of constant study, but have not been completely unlocked. It is believed that the brain chemistry has something to do with a lot of the mental disorders (proven by scans and such) and genetics are suspected to also be a factor, especially in patients with schizophrenia. Drug use and self harm are also thought to be causes, but the causes why that is present in the first place is another unknown. Most illnesses, mental and otherwise, are still being studied to determine the cause and origin. Many may never be discovered, but we are working to fix what we do know about. The only mental patient that should be ever begin to be browbeaten is one who does not seek help. There are programs out there so anyone of any class can receive help. I did when I was broke, nearly homeless and completely beaten down. Even physical illness have a similar situation only sometimes it is not as easy for them to get the help they need.
So the big difference between the severely and permanently physically ill patient and a mentally ill patient is that one is more accepted than the other and the other can receive help easier. An illness is an illness and should be treated as such. Most of us do not wish to be treated any differently, however some of us have to be treated with a bit more caution and ease.
I will die will my illness, but my treatment will hopefully prevent me from falling into a world where my illness rules me and I lose control of my mental facilities.
To all those out there that share my situation, just remember to not only take one day at a time (minute by minute), but also keep goals and dreams in mind and share them with a partner or close friend so they can help you reach/achieve them.