Dealing with my mother’s bipolar disorder

I’ve had to deal with my mother’s mood swings for the past 16 years since she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and prior to that, with her depressive episodes since my father passed away in my teens. Often, to preserve my own sanity and protect my children from the toxicity and negativity, I’ve chosen to keep a distance as each visit leaves me emotionally drained. I continue to care for her and maintain constant contact via text. But I am often made to feel guilty by well-meaning friends who feel I should spend more time with her. Where do I draw the line between honouring my mother, and caring for myself and my family?


At The Well

Li Ping says

Dear Sandwiched,

From your long and difficult experience, it sounds like you already know what the needed boundaries to protect your family’s and your own mental and emotional health are. In terms of the guilt that you feel, allow me to share some perspectives.

Firstly, your friends neither know what you are going through nor do they fully understand the ramifications of what they are suggesting. Treat their remarks as well-meaning, but not necessarily the gospel truth.

Secondly, we all have multiple, and often, competing demands in life. This means needing to prioritise some responsibilities over others. In your case, it is not wrong to prioritise your immediate family and that involves being healthy enough yourself to care for them well.

Thirdly, only God can determine if we are guilty. If you have been allowing God to lead you in how you should honour your mother, and have been obedient, you do not need to feel guilty, for there is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1). At the same time, continue to be sensitive to the Lord’s convicting of ways that you may have been dishonouring your mother, such as in your thoughts, or in your words about her to others. When he does convict, seek his forgiveness and cleansing.