The Chances of Having Hereditary Bipolar Disorder

Something that has plagued me since the birth of my daughter. I’ve cried myself to sleep many nights wondering if my daughter will be like me one day and praying that she will not. I would lay in bed stuck in a debilitating loop of what my mind goes through on a daily basis and wishing none of it hit my little girl.

Looking at that perfect baby is nothing short of a miracle. I was told in the beginning of my pregnancy to abort the baby; chance of having a normal baby was impossible. You see i was told at a young age getting pregnant would be hard for me. holding it would be even harder. My eggs are not strong enough and all the endometriosis was like a baby trying to grow in forest full of trees with no sun light. But i wanted her so bad. I wanted her to love m unconditionally. I needed that-from years of being bullied, from years of isolation from being different, from years of my own torment I needed someone to love me unconditionally. I knew I would be a great mom because I was raised to be a mom and nothing else.

But after this perfect baby was born I began to have doubts as a mother, as a person. She would inherit so many things from me – please do not let her inherit my brain. I know I am not that smart, a slew of learning disabilities not found until I was much older. I also know I am bipolar. Having tried to kill myself three times, having remembered all the trouble i caused my mother and father i would not wish this on anyone. I was eractic, unstable, uncontrollable and all over the place my entire life. Never staying in one place for work or even a home-I bouynced around boyfriends and work like they were a pingball machine.

My mother worked well with all she learned, gatherng pamplets on teen suicide and never letting me out of her sight on occasion. I was a full time job. So far everything has been great, ten toes, ten fingers, your goohing and gahing when your supposed to.

But when you started to walk on your toes I panicked – autism? The doctor assured us no – you were fine. Diagnosed at four days old with a metabolic disease known as PKU, I kept vigil on the side effects of the disease – regression. I kept waiting for my baby to regress. The disease was rare and uncommon but as long as it is treated she will maintain a normal healthy life. and you did. But I kept looking for a problem – why because bipolar never sleeps forever and I kept thinking this is too simple. her disease was a simple as being on anything but protein. It was hard but it really wasn’t – it was just a diet. there was no mental illness that came with it unless she stayed off her diet than she could start regressing. i watched every thing that went her stomach and panicked for everything that was protein based. But it kept my mind off of me. I had other worries and didn’t have time for my own bipolar to creep up.

Years had passed and you were now a teenager. seventh grade came and hit like a bat hitting a bell. It was loud and clear you were struggling, i could see it but didn’t know what to do. Than one concussion after another and one day your telling me your thinking of cutting yourself but deep. I quickly explained the thought away from you, hoping it would pass as I called CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) asking your metabolic doctor who I should talk to about seeing a psychiatrist. I was afraid to go to work, leave you alone for more than ten minutes. OMG shes me. Please no. I’ve prayed and prayed she would not be like me. Begged my husband to watch her – “promise me she will not be like me.” I begged him. And in a few short words he eliminated the fear I had all this time “Nick”, he said, “shes not like you-she never was bullied like you, she has two parents that fight for every step of the way and she has a team of doctors watching her every move.”

He was right- she has a support network I never had. She has a psychiatrist, a therapist, a PKU specialist, a dedicated father in tune with his daughter and a dedicated mother whose making sure she is seen by any one who will listen. i wasn’t diagnosed till I was in my thirties – my teenage years were considered to be just the bad years of my life, never getting any real help.

The overall lifetime risk of developing bipolar disorder is thought to be somewhere between 1 and 4 percent, depending on the definition, with the average age at diagnosis being 18.

It only lasted two years of ups and downs, psychiatrist and medication on and off, Therapists and doctors appointments. she seems better – no thoughts or intrusions in her mind of suicide. she calmer and happier, has friends again. At the time of this post my daughter is only 15, so there is time for her to develop it. But my daughter knows that i am bipolar, I do not hide it and she has come to my aid on many occasions turning the role from child to parent until I calmed down. a simple hug was a rescue for me. but she would do so much more. she sees it, we talk about it, she listens and she is so much more aware than i ever was. On her wall is mantras – Stay trippy!, always think positive, stay calm. she has a bunch all over her walls. she is more in-tune wit her emotions than I ever was. I commend her for that. Not sure if we had something to do with that-but i am glad we made a smart baby.

But she is young and I stand vigil to her relapsing. A child of one parent with bipolar disorder and one without has a 15 to 30 percent chance of having BP.

Knowing that there is an increased risk of bipolar disorder in children of those with bipolar disorder, should parents with the disorder have children?

This is a question that doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. There are many medical conditions that may have a hereditary aspect. In addition, there is not a single gene or gene sequence that “guarantees” a child will develop bipolar disorder.

It’s important to note that nothing says that having a child who does develop a mental health disorder will not be a wonderfully fulfilling experience.

I know for me I needed her, I know I am different than my mom and she will be different than me. Knowing this helps me know she will be ok. Why because i am ok. Yes I had horrific years and some great ones too. But isn’t that normal – having good with bad. It cant all be good we all must experience bad. That’s how we learn.

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