Dear Kitt

You fuel your rage by seeing a psychoanalyst one to three times a week, exploring over and over how you had been abused as a child. You deepen your depression by studying psychodynamic theory in graduate school. Doing so defeats you and undermines your mental health. Yes, therapy will enable you to work through issues you have with your parents, but what is left unsaid is the fact that your parents love you.

Of course they are not perfect. Nobody is perfect. We are all “dysfunctional” to some extent or another. Yes, it is difficult to grow up in an alcoholic household, but your family loves YOU. Believe me, loving you is quite difficult.

Do not defensively rage against your father when he suggests that “wouldn’t it be great if you could just take a pill and feel better.” He was right. He merely suggested a medical solution to your long-standing struggle with depression, and you jumped all over him.

Your bipolar disorder, what was then diagnosed as depression and interpreted as aggression turned inward against yourself, is not caused by abusive parenting. You have a biological disorder of the brain. You did yourself no favors by smoking pot from seventeen years-old to the time you completely came undone at thirty. You did yourself no favors by taking shrooms, dropping acid, or on one particularly stupid occasion snorting cocaine. You did yourself no favors by drinking alcohol. You damaged your fragile brain. You may very well have tipped the balance.

Your childhood was not perfect. No one’s is. Your parents have had their own struggles. Now you know, mood disorders are genetic and often self-medicated with alcohol. Working with families as a therapist, you learned compassion for your parents. You saw the love these parents had for their children as they struggled to parent them. You shook your head when staff vilified adoptive parents of children with severe mental health and behavioral issues. You knew it was not the adoptive parents’ fault that their children had brain disorders, in utero exposure to alcohol and drugs, or extreme child abuse and neglect by others. Still, clinical staff judged the desperate adoptive parents rather than show compassion and offer support.

Kitt, if only you had used your Kaiser insurance for mental health treatment, rather than pay out of pocket to see an analyst. If only you had seen a psychiatrist at a younger age, your life would have been different. You would have properly cared for your fragile brain earlier in your life. Your loved ones would have been spared your rages and mood swings. Perhaps. Perhaps, to some extent. Then again, perhaps not.

I cannot change the past. I can only move forward from here. I must forgive the Kitt who blamed her parents rather than see a medical doctor. To all the many therapists who saw me and never recommended that I see a psychiatrist, what were you thinking? They, too, I must forgive, for I did not “look bipolar” as I’ve been told on more than one occasion. My worst behavior is reserved for those I love the most.

Kitt, forgive me for not being proactive, for not taking care of your brain, for blaming others for something over which they had little to no control.


41 responses to “Dear Younger Me”

  1. I am so sorry that your son’s wife left him abruptly. None of us can control the choices others make. I hope that you and your son are living your lives fully. You raised your son well. You are blessed to have each other as father and son.

    My husband met me shortly after my breakdown when I was 30 years old and had to move back in with my parents to recover. I had been diagnosed as depressed at that point in spite of a manic episode in reaction to a tricyclic antidepressant. Bipolar type II was not yet recognized by the DSM. On our second date my husband said that I was the most independent woman that he had ever met. I laughed, for I was living with my parents. But, the truth is, he saw me, not my illness. I love him for that.

  2. Kitt, my son married a beautiful young lady who was bipolar. He and I both found out she was bipolar right after they’d gotten engaged. She’d posted it on Facebook after being diagnosed as such by her psychiatrist that day. When I called my son to see what he was going to do about it, he said, “Dad, you’ve taught me better. I gave that woman my word. I’m going to marry her.” And that he did. At the time, I was very proud of him for making that decision, but 18 months later, when she abruptly just packed up and left him for good, I didn’t feel that proud. Having struggled with depression almost all my life (As you said, I believe it’s genetic.), from time to time, I think about my ex-daughter-in-law, and wish her the best.

    Thank you for making yourself so vulnerable. I know many will be blessed by your transparency. Also, thank you for liking my last post and becoming a follower of my blog.

  3. Dear Kitt, your post highlights the difficulties of self-acceptance. As Larkin argues, “They f**k us up,” our parents, but at some stage one has to accept responsibility for oneself. Only then, can healing begin.

  4. […] But then she told me some more. Stuff that wasn’t so easy to take. Later I found myself reading this post by Kitt O’Malley. It contains a whole bunch of stuff I can identify with. But the most […]

  5. Thank you so much.

  6. A very well written, soulful piece, Kitt! Feelings of guilt are so hard to get over when rooted in the desperate need to improve a situation that, like you said, is so nearly impossible to control. I like how the blame of the younger Kitt shifts into acceptance and forgiveness while the current Kitt also claims responsibility for some things. Life is strange, especially how our pain and suffering can give birth to wonderful achievements and revelations. I think you’ve captured the beauty of that potential while still laying bare the deep wounds to continue healing. Brave, excellent work.

  7. Thank you, Walker.

  8. Thank you. Grace and gratitude. Forgiveness helps. My parents and I get along well now. They rescued me when I was at my worst. Their actions spoke clearly of their love. I cannot change my past. I can only live my life as it happens. Besides, I would not have accomplished as much academically or professionally if I my workaholism wasn’t fueled by hypomania.

  9. Kitt, this is so raw and real… your introspective and deep insight is truth. Suffering on all those levels can be just so hard to survive. You did what you could at that time. You didn’t know, and your parents didn’t understand. May you heal and continue to learn to navigate your road with your burdens of sickness. It will never be easy, but it IS possible to live fully and with purpose. The greatest source of healing is grace. It seems you are soaking in it now.

  10. Loving well, loving my family, loving my son, has been my highest priority. My parents and I get along well. I take my medication and try to care good care of myself. It helps that I have a wonderful husband and son.

  11. Hi Kitt. You’re right. No one is perfect. We all stumble and fall. The trick is about how we get up after the fall. Nice post. I do hope Older Kitt has learned from Younger Kitt’s errors – for the better. It sounds like she has. 🙂 Regards. eLFy

  12. Brave post…and a beautiful post, too.

  13. I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 39. I first sought treatment as a suicidal 18 year old at UCLA. To top it off, when in my 20s, I got an MA in psychology and became a licensed psychotherapist, a profession I left when I broke down at 30. You are not alone. This illness is difficult to diagnose, especially type II bipolar disorder. The diagnostic criteria have changed over the years, as well.

  14. In hindsight, I was showing obvious signs of bipolar in middle school. I didn’t get a diagnosis until earlier this year, at age 33. I struggle a lot with being bitter about people not helping me get treatment sooner, and with being angry at myself for so much of my life being “wasted”. It’s going to take a long time to forgive both myself and all of the people I feel should have helped.

  15. Thank you. Age brings with it some perspective. Becoming a parent, too, brings understanding.

  16. Although healing, it must have also been difficult to write. I know myself as well as others gain so much insight from you. Thank you for having courage to share your wounds and your triumphs.

  17. Brilliantly written….and original in its poignancy and perspective.

  18. More of us might benefit from also writing letters to ourselves, as you have done… We might learn still …even at my age… Diane

  19. Lilypup, if that Gravatar is a photograph of you, I would doubt you were a pup over two months old. 😉

  20. I love the idea of “looking” bipolar. Over the last thirty years, the changes we have been through. I know the younger people on my blog barely believe it. Who can blame them?

  21. Thank you, Michael!

  22. Raw and emotional. I imagine this post was a very healing experience for you! #awesome

  23. You are right. Acceptance and forgiveness are key to recovery, as is the Serenity Prayer.

  24. Thank you for sharing that. That was an excellent explanation!

  25. Hi Kitt, just beautiful and deep and thought provoking. I too believe the ones we need to forgive most is ourselves. I don’t often give myself ‘permission’ to be sick. Its like if I can exercise enough will, then I will get better faster, get over the symptoms quicker, will feel happier more of the time. My most zealous critic is myself. If I have learned anything over the last two and half decades it is that what will be will be, no matter how much I try to fix or change things outside of my control, I won’t – because they are outside of my control. As is mental illness! So acceptance and forgiveness play a huge part in coming to terms with how I am, warts and all!!
    Lovely post Kitt…

  26. Very moving and informative.

  27. My son is 14. I was hospitalized when he was 4. Not sure exactly how I explained it to him. I do recall explaining that just like we made sure he was safe and didn’t let him do dangerous things, they were making sure I was safe until I felt better because I was sick. My son and husband visited every night. My son insisted on eating his dinner from the leftovers still on the warming trays so that he could eat dinner as a family. He charmed the other patients by playing checkers and being a cutie. Since then there have been times when he has angrily hurled the word crazy at me, but he knows that is unacceptable. I’m okay with playful use of the word, not hateful use of it.

  28. My 7-year-old says I have “anger issues” lol. But I always tell them I love them and spend quality time with them. I don’t know how old your son is, but I was wondering how you explained to him about Bipolar Disorder (I guess I’m assuming that you have)?
    If you’d prefer, here’s my email:

    I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this 🙂

  29. Thank you. Bipolar rage is the WORST. We try so hard to do the right things, to be gentle and loving, and then the beast rears its ugly face.

  30. this is a very brave and honest post – thank you for sharing it

  31. I I loved hearing your voice! I can’t believe how much of your thoughts and feelings mirror my own experiences with my father. I don’t know if you feel like you “understand” how they must have felt. I realize now, looking back, that my father self-medicated with alcohol and that my brother and I triggered his most vulnerable “stress buttons”.

    You mentioned that you needed space from your son when he was younger. That you felt rage. I also have felt that rage and have said and done things that I’m not proud of. I agree with you on being diagnosed earlier, getting treatment earlier…I still feel bitter about that.

    Ending on a sunny point….I love the flowers 🙂

  32. You are absolutely right. We must forgive our parents, alcoholic and dysfunctional in many ways. I had loving parents, too. I forgive. Now we must forgive ourselves for blaming our parents and for whatever other sins we have committed. I look back over my youth and am appalled. I look over present behavior and sometimes just cringe. God forgives us. Now it is time that we forgive ourselvles and try new better behaviors. There will be failures to be sure but we must begin anew.

  33. That is a seriously beautiful and compassionate letter. Really balanced too. And it makes me think too.

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