My parents divorced when I was seven years old, sharing custody of me until I was fourteen. Their separation, among other reasons, was due to my father’s passiveness towards treating his bipolar disorder. He refused to attend therapy and stopped taking his medication after the divorce, believing there was nothing wrong with him.
Living with my dad wasn’t horrible at first. I fondly remember watching science fiction movies together and jamming out to his favorite albums. But this loving facade was not sustainable. Suddenly I was blamed for every problem in my dad’s life because he wasn’t mature enough to take blame for his own actions. My father frequently told me, in angry outbursts that lasted for hours, that I was the only reason why my mother left him. If I wasn’t born, my father could leave our town and move on with his life. Apparently the stress of “taking care of a child as a single father” caused him to clash with co-workers and ultimately lose his job too.
I believed all of his hurtful words simply because he was my dad. Children are prone to make mistakes and parents are supposed to teach them how to behave correctly. I assumed that he was always right, leading to an unnecessary burden in my conscience.
Living in his household felt like walking on eggshells, where the wrong tone of voice or word would earn me a two-hour screaming incident. My daily goals revolved around not making him angry. Almost anything would trigger his yelling, from talking during a movie to earning a B on a math test.
Although I never experienced physical abuse from him, I knew his treatment towards me would affect me for the years to come. Growing up actually helped me out of this vicious cycle. I became less intimidated by my father’s anger and began to understand his bipolar disorder. At the same time, I was sick of feeling like a victim. My sadness slowly molded into resentment that was later expressed as defiance.
After my mom gained sole custody of me, I was diagnosed with depression. Learning about my own mental illness wasn’t shocking, especially since I was still experiencing the negative emotions as if I was exposed to my father’s wrath.
The first kind of medication prescribed to me worked right off the bat and still helps me to this day. I no longer feel the irrational sadness and anger that used to ruin my daily life. Therapy was difficult at first because I was afraid of talking about my problems out loud. I was also afraid of being judged for my situation, especially about why I remained passive for so long. Positive reinforcement taught me how to no longer blame myself for his mistakes. Along with this professional help, I befriended optimistic people and talked to others who experienced the same abuse as me. I found much comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone with my pain.
To anybody who has went through a similar situation or wishes to seek help for a mental illness, understand that patience is important and the results are definitely worth the effort. I used to cry myself to sleep at my father’s house, thinking that life couldn’t get any better. But now I’m a college student who is the happiest that she has ever been! Every day feels like a wonderful and new adventure. If your first medication does not work or you experience side effects, don’t feel guilty or ashamed. Most of my friends had to try three or four different kinds before finding one that worked best.
Finding new passions is always important as well. I discovered my favorite films and television shows while overcoming my depression. My friends draw or produce music to express their emotions, but I choose writing. I advise people to indulge in self-care during these times too. Treat yourself to new clothes. Don’t feel bad about eating junk food from time to time. After all that you have been through, you deserve this happiness in your life!
Written by Cynthia Romanova