Having a parent with a mental illness is perhaps one of the most confusing and frustrating experiences for a child growing up. Sometimes it feels like you are the mature one, the only grown up. You can feel neglected, smothered, or just in the way. They miss recitals, or forget to pick you up. Sometimes you go through periods where they just aren’t there due to stays in mental hospitals or recoveries. You just wanted a normal childhood experience, and honestly it’s something you cannot get back. Inevitably it gets harder as you grow up and realize other issues that went over your head as a child. It can be hard to hear them apologize, or maybe you learn to accept an apology you will never receive.

My mother has bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. When I was ten years old, she left me with my grandparents who eventually adopted me. It’s odd knowing your mom is out there, but only seeing her once every two or three months. It’s odd putting your grandmother’s name under the mother line. It’s odd how normal it all begins to feel. You create your own normal. Here is an original poem depicting some of the feelings you experience with a mentally ill parent.

To My “Borderline” Mother

I’m sorry you missed me

growing up and getting tall,

the toothless smile that as

I sang my first solo


I’m sorry you don’t know

my favorite color.

Aqua like the sea that carries

me towards tomorrow.


I’m sorry I said

the weather is so bipolar here.

Or that I run from those

who remind me of you.


I’m sorry I call

someone else mom.

Hugs and jokes shared

in a communion you don’t attend.


I’m sorry you feel

the need to apologize to me.

I’m sorry I am

apologizing to you too