By: Natalia Beiser
When I experienced my first manic episode at eighteen, my family was oblivious to my struggle. My mother stated that I had done something to bring the illness onto myself. She expressed that she believed that the trigger was that I had previously drank alcohol as a minor. She even sought out a minister to see if I had become possessed.
Until I was twenty seven years old, I did not know my birth father, as he was absent from my life before I could create memories of him. When I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a thyroid disorder, I was frustrated that I had no medical history for these illnesses that were cropping up. I knew nothing about the medical history on one side of my family. With much fear of the unknown, I sought out my birth father and his family at that time.
First, I called my grandparents, who also were strangers to me.I explained who I was and that I was seeking out medical history information.Not only were they happy to oblige; they wanted to meet me and have me in their lives.
My grandmother reported diagnoses of everyone in the family – colon cancer, heart problems, and diabetes. Shortly into the conversation she mentioned that my aunt has bipolar disorder. Then I knew. I was not at fault for having bipolar disorder. This illness runs in families.
My grandfather had a psychotic break in World War II and my great uncle suffered from bipolar disorder and died by suicide. My father also struggles with the illness. I did not reveal my struggle at first, but when I did, they have been accepting and supportive.
As I feared my mother and her reaction to meeting my father, I never sought out my birth father, even though he was easily accessible. Mother said that I would be opening Pandora’s box and caused me to be frightened of my biological father and his family.
However, opening that box was one of the best acts of kindness that I have ever granted myself. My birth father and his family have been accepting of me and my fight for positive living with bipolar disorder.