Ah, clickbait headlines. The bane of any serious journalist. This story ran in Good Housekeeping under the title, "My Father's Bipolar Disorder Made My Life Better." Of course, my father's illness did not make my life better, and I would give anything to have him healthy. However, through his illness he has taught me many lessons that I otherwise would not have learned.
... "Your father's book saved my life," she said to me, indicating his poem that was initially meant for children, resonated with adults. "You are so lucky to have this man as your father."
I never forgot that woman's words. She was right. I was lucky. My father's unconventional way of thinking showed me that it is possible to construct the life you want, and assured me that it was okay to stand out from the crowd.
However, through the years of dealing with my father's acute illness, I was able to look back on the foundations that were laid during my childhood. My parent's rejection of stigma allowed me to bypass the shame that many family members of people with mental illness feel. That woman's remark about how special my father was got me through the darkest time. After all, how many people can say their father saved a life?
I've taken my dad's greatest gift – writing – and now use that to advocate for people with mental illness and their families. I hope that, like him, I can touch lives with my words.
My father is doing better now, although he has never returned to the gregarious man I remember. Looking back, I can see how his illness shaped every part of my life with him. During the good times his larger-than-life persona could be attributed in part to his disease. During the worst times, it was clear the toll that bipolar disorder had taken.
Through it all, I can see the man who my father is, apart from his disease. This man is my father; he is the person I love; he is the man who raised me. He has bipolar disorder. But that does not define him. It isn't who he is.
Read the whole story at Good Housekeeping.
The turn around in my father's health in the last year has been nothing short of miraculous. In large part, that's because of the group home where he lives, which has given him top-notch care and enabling him to get back on his feet. I am incredibly passionate about sharing this story, and am thrilled to share it with the far-reaching audience at Vice.
"You father is all set to be released tomorrow," the social worker said, her voice cheery, as if this were good news.
And yet, as I heard those words, I was overcome with nausea. I sat in the May sunshine outside my New Hampshire home, pulling on new blades of grass, focusing on the small physical details of the lawn as I tried to maintain my composure. I lived out of state with an infant, and was unable to take my father in for both practical reasons (he would lose his Massachusetts state-sponsored medical insurance) and personal ones (I couldn't care for an ill father and an infant at once). My three siblings, all in their teens and early 20s, were just starting their lives—living abroad, launching a business, and going to college. None of us were equipped to handle our father's needs.
In that moment, my biggest worry—that my father was going to die—was replaced with a new, more pressing concern: Where would he live if he survived?
PLEASE read the rest of this important story on Vice, and share. People with mental illness are our loved ones and they need our advocacy.
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