illustration of woman stressed

What It’s Really Like To Parent With Bipolar Disorder

By Kimberly Zapata

I’ve never liked the color white. It is bland, cold, sterile and is the backdrop for most bad memories. My father died in a windowless white room — in a white bed, covered in white sheets. My first apartment was white, and the unfinished walls were a stark reminder that this arrangement was temporary. This was not my home. And the color reminds me of absence: of what could be but is not there. So when I entered my new psychiatrist’s office — a large white room, overlooking several posh restaurants in the SoHo district of lower Manhattan — I was unsettled.

My hands shook, legs bounced and I struggled to focus. Words made little to no sense.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said the color alone caused my panic. It didn’t. My anxiety peaked hours earlier, when I wondered if this randomly selected shrink would hear me. If he could help. But the aesthetic definitely made things worse. It reminded me how sick I was. How desperately I needed help.

The good news is, white walls aside, he proved to be a fantastic doctor. He was (and is) empathetic, sympathetic, compassionate and kind. He is also extremely knowledgable, and an hour later, I left his office with new prescriptions and a new diagnosis: bipolar II.

In my heart, I already knew I had bipolar. I had been dealing with manic highs and crippling lows for years. And while I have struggled with mental illness most of my life — I was diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old, when I went from being a straight-A student to one who could barely pull a C or D — this diagnosis was 18 years (and two suicide attempts) in the making.

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