Examining Fear

Nov. 4, 2018

Today I dug up an old post from six years ago. Looking back, I still identify with a lot of it, but there are a couple of key differences. First, I claimed that "I am speaking out for all other parents..." yet, at that time, I was still writing blog posts anonymously fearing the stigma. Eventually, I would find the courage to overcome my anonymity. And second, in this post, I am really fearful. I remember, six years ago my son was so unpredictable. He'd already shown that he was potentially dangerous. I lived in a constant state of fear. At the time, he had not yet been arrested, but his erratic behavior was increasing and his arrest was imminent. Of course, I did not know that then.

But looking back, perhaps the fear I expressed here is less about him being dangerous and more about the uncertainty I felt. Not knowing what might happen terrified me. Today, six years later, I cannot say that my son's situation has completely stabilized. But in a way, I think I have. My stability comes from gradually accepting the uncertainty of serious mental illness, not only his illness but mine. That fear came from not knowing. My evolving courage comes from accepting the fact I may never know.

Sometime in early 2013

If my twenty-year-old son knew I was writing this, I'm not sure what he'd do. Bipolar disorder can be a dangerous thing when it goes untreated. I am a mother who is afraid of her son, but I am speaking out for all the other parents out there who fear their own children.

First, you should know something about me. I have bipolar II. I was diagnosed in 2011, a year after my world crumbled. A year after my older son walked out my door. With a right-for-now cocktail of medications plus a wonderful therapist, I function well day to day. My colleagues would never guess that I have bipolar II. They probably attribute my high spirited antics to being a creative teacher. They don't know there is electricity tingling underneath my skin when I'm hypomanic. And when the melancholy settles in, I rely on my finest acting skills at work and my peers are none the wiser. From the outside, I seem just fine. But on the inside, I struggle.

Thanks to a proper diagnosis and treatment I manage my life better now than I ever did before. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my older son. Though his diagnosis came over two years ago, he has refused any treatment. Instead, he self-medicates with drugs and alcohol. He dropped out of college. Twice. And he's usually unemployed. He is trapped by his own apathy and sees no way out. And I am powerless to help him.

His story is my story and I want to share it with you. His story, my story is one of heartache and tragedy, broken promises and last chances. But it is also a story of hope. I am still hopeful that he will get help for himself. I am still hopeful that his life will turn around. I am still hopeful that he will become whole again. I am his mother and I will always love him. But because I fear him, for now, I will have to love him from a safe distance.

This post was originally used as a blogger biography on http://ibpf.org/blog/stillhopefulmom.

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