What My Parents Need To Know About Me

I do not say much about my parents. There is nothing to be said about my folks outside my therapy sessions. Out of a need for privacy I usually keep my family members out of any advice I give on this blog. This Christmas I decided not to visit my parents in their new home, just a couple of hours away from where I live. It is something selfish for someone that writes on a mental health blog to do, but it was the right decision. It is January 15th as I write, yet I have not had a verbal conversation with my parents since the year begun. I figure writing down the origin of the conflict with my parents would be a starting point to resolve the jumble in my head. Anyway, this is as much as I can gather from this indifference I feel towards them. 

1. I Did Not Forget My Upbringing 

In African societies parenthood is a sacred duty. Fathers and mothers are revered, never to be questioned and are irrefutably correct in every decision they make whether good or bad. Our society embraces spanking and scolding in childhood although the boundary crossing over to physical or emotional abuse is quite blurred. My childhood was not pleasant. I recall being a hybrid child; part-baby, part-teenager and part-adult. I was an intelligent child who loved literature but smart enough to cram all the science and mathematical formulas to be the best in my class. I was reprimanded much more aggressively because in my father’s words I was “their most promising child.” I will not go into the details of my childhood, but my upbringing was a trigger to childhood depression. After outrightly refusing to be educated in an Ivy League university I became a pariah to my parents. By age 17 I had my first tattoos consequently leading into a full blown rebellion. Like I mentioned before, I decided to water down my dark emotions with alcohol into my early 20s advancing to become the black sheep of the family. So many mistakes were made and no amends have been made yet. I am 26 years old still nursing that child in me that saw so much darkness. 

2. We Are Not Friends 

The very attempt to befriend your child is always the start of parent-child tension. My parents have attempted to befriend me but naturally there is no guideline on how such a relationship could possibly work. We can talk about my romantic relationship, my career, my dressing, my hobbies, my friends, my education as friends. The problem begins when suchlike things are mentioned “why are you still earning a small salary”, “why have you not enrolled for a masters class”, “why don’t you own a car”, “what are your five year plans”, “why haven’t you sought a second opinion about your mental illness”, and “why won’t you speak with us”. The same breath that seeks friendship cannot be the same breath that seeks an authoritative parental tone. We cannot be friends on social media or chat about our daily activities as friends then switch to a parent-child relationship when it suits one party. It is not right to leverage immediate financial needs with future friendship needs. When we attempt to start a business together, we cannot be partners if my parents are steadfast on being older and wiser. The rules are many, so friendship is out of the question as I have learned the hard way. I will respect and revere my parents but I cannot be friends with them. My duty is to love them not to be friends. 

3. I Must Be Respected 

Every parent has some sort of insecurity regarding their children. Emotional insecurity is a hefty price to pay for having children. I am 26 years old adult with a mental illness.  If I choose to disclose such information to people that could be helped, then it is my responsibility to do as much. It is rather annoying to know my parents would disclose privy matters about my mental illness to relatives and friends without my consent. It is wrong to make it known I am at fault in getting a mental illness, somewhat inferring that I will not amount to much in my life. It is wrong to suspect me of trying to scam money for my personal use by attaching the cost my mental health to it. As a matter of fact I remember that my parents were entirely responsible for paying for my inpatient treatment, they still pay for my costly medication and they thoughtfully pay for an expensive private medical insurance. These privileges have allowed me some dignity in my treatment and I do appreciate it. What bothers me, is these seem to have become a form of currency to be exchanged for affection or communication. Why do I need to be a member of a sports club to put up a façade of high society? Why do I have to hide my mental illness to support an image of a proper family? Why do parents believe they should not be questioned? Why do my parents disregard any of my opinions? There are so many why’s that will be left unanswered in this lifetime. My therapist requested me to hold on to these whys until the time is right to ask them. For parents raising a child with bipolar disorder, these ‘whys’ left unanswered leave us with resentments; yet the answers are readily available. 

Read the rest of Denis’s posts here

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