The words “you remind me of your father” felt like a lit cigarette touching my skin.
It’s true, I look like him, have the same smile as him, I even laugh like him. From the stories I’ve heard, when he was younger, he was intelligent and kind. I’ve been perceived and described as kind, sweet and caring my whole life, but I’m scared that could change.
As a kid, I knew something was different about him, but I didn’t know what. He always seemed not there mentally, as if he had everything else on his mind. There were times when I remember him being angry, not necessarily with me, but in general. I always brushed it off and enjoyed my time with him. When I became a teen, my mother told me the truth then it all made sense. He was a father with bipolar disorder and anger issues that could fill a whole room. That day developed a fear in me.
I would wake up and wonder if today would be the day. Will I develop symptoms? Will I be able to see it in myself before anyone else does? Am I overreacting? All of these questions were in my mind. Growing up is already difficult, a time full of questions, uncertainty and lessons. Add a parent with mental illness to the equation, and it makes it so much more difficult and painful.
I tried not to feel anger for fear of becoming too angry. I tried not to feel any emotion too much. Downplaying my emotions led to some people referring to me as nonchalant, a trait I developed while worrying. This suppressed anger led to me lashing out in a far more significant way than any anger issue could’ve caused. My suppressed emotions snowballed until they all came out on some of my family. I realized my fear of becoming my dad hurt my relationship with my family. Looking back, I wish I allowed myself to feel more. I wish I could let this fear go but it has a chokehold on me.
When I turned 20, I felt my sense of worry grow. I knew bipolar disorder symptoms are likely to begin to appear in the early 20s. It created a loneliness and emptiness inside of me. However, that emptiness created an open mind. I realized those stereotypes people put on those with mental illnesses hurt them and increase loneliness. I wish people cared more about those around them with mental illnesses. It’s not the worst thing in the world. They are still people, good ones at that.
Now, I would love to hear I’m just like my dad.