This is THE Roadmap For Bipolar Folks with an Alexithymic Parent

Made you look! There isn’t one. The end.

Just kidding. But really there isn’t one. Why?

There are 2.3 million people (1% of the population) diagnosed with BP and 1 in 10* (10% of the population for you math idiots) people have alexithymia. So why is there no advice or helpful information about BP kids with alexithymic parents?

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of alexithymia? But supposedly 10 times the number of people have alexithemia vs BP. How the hell don’t you know about it?

Hmm. Maybe it’s because alexithymia is super boring. No really, it is. But let me explain why that is a massive problem for both alexis and their loved ones.

Drive straight on Education Ave.

Alexithymia is defined as the condition of being unable to recognize or describe one’s own emotions. Seems innocent enough. But this emotional confusion leads to dysfunction in emotional awareness, social attachment, and interpersonal relationships.

But here’s the rub. Alexis don’t see the problem. And most loved ones don’t understand that there is an underlying problem. As loved ones, we tend to blame the alexi for not connecting emotionally with us. We don’t realize that they can’t. And it’s not their fault.

So the vast majority of people never say anything to a medical doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist. They chalk this up to their loved one being an insensitive jerk.

Resources: Coming Soon (oh the irony)

Take ferry across Accept It River, stay in bike lane & make left at fork onto Forgive Dr. until it dead ends.

All my life (obviously) I was raised by an alexithymic dad and a “neuro-typical” mom. When I was 16, I was incorrectly diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). It wasn’t until I was 35 that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

So think of that: a dad who struggles to identify and understand emotions raising a kid who is an emotional tornado. Good times.

My dad is a great person. Don’t get me wrong. But he 100% does not know what the hell is going on with me. Luckily, I have the best mom of all time who has been my rock. But this relationship of a BP/NT/Alexi has taken its toll over the years. And then there’s my brother. But no one cares about him.

Just kidding. One could argue that he’s has dealt with the most trauma in regards to this relationship. My dad is not at all abusive. Let me be 100% clear about that. And to explain how my brother experienced trauma related to my dad’s alexithemia would not only be for another post, but probably a book. A very, very long book.

But as a result, he has a very strained relationship with my dad. It’s a reeeeeally long story but the TL:DR is that my dad and my brother spent a lot more time together when we were young than I did so my brother got the brunt of my dad’s alexithymic symptoms. My brother still hasn’t come to terms with that. And because of that, he can’t “forgive” my dad for being the way he was. As he puts it, he loves my dad, but he doesn’t like him. That tears me up inside and I desperately want that to change. But the only thing I can do is keep emphasizing to my brother that my dad can’t be who he wants him to be.

My mom is trying to come to terms with my dad’s alexithymia but since my dad hasn’t really fully taken responsibility for his alexithymia, she’s still having a hard time. I don’t know if he’s in denial or just thinks it’s no big deal. I’m guessing it’s more the latter. So I’m trying to figure out how to convince him that he needs to do something about it.

I, on the other hand, have pretty much accepted the alexithemia. I think I’m able to do that because of my BP. I know what it’s like to be very different from everyone around me. I know what it’s like to send out the wrong signals and therefore be misunderstood.

Make a U-Turn at the Wrong Way sign & look in the rear view mirror … at yourself.

But the biggest thing I’m struggling with right now is figuring out if or how being raised by an alexi may have impacted my BP, my perceptions of my surroundings, my ability to understand men, my over analyzing of body language…

I feel like I need to understand this so I can better detect when my perceptions are wrong.

For those of you with BP, you totally know what I mean. We often see the world as full of stressors. And we’re also usually very empathetic people. So when someone feels sad, we feel sad. When they’re stressed, we feel stressed. But we can often read emotions incorrectly based on our current state-of-mind. We often see negative emotions when there aren’t any. So someone could be happy but we see them as being sad, so we’re sad. Sucks doesn’t it?

Step 4: Review Your Relationship with This New Mindset

Make a Q-Turn at New Mindset Blvd.

Now add the fact that my dad doesn’t show emotions the way NTs do. For a BP, this is beyond confusing. I know he’s feeling something, but what? I’m analyzing EVERYTHING. Tone of voice, leg twitches, facial color, they way he pronounces “s”, stiffness, darting eyes, breathes… But what does any of it mean?!

Fuck if I know! So what does the massively confused and desperately empathic BP daughter do? She does what all BPs do. She assumes the worst and thinks that her dad is so depressed he could commit suicide. No joke. It can get that bad.

Luckily, I don’t become suicidal but my anxiety hits the roof and I quickly spin out of control at which point my dad looks at me with just as much confusion as I had looking at him.

But the important takeaway here is that, at times, I need to take a disconnected look at our relationship. I need to use my new mindset to analyze my interactions with my dad that I have problems with. I need to be able to take a step back and remind myself that he’s not like me. His mind works completely differently than mine does. That allows me to let go of animosity before it gets a chance to built up and impact our relationship.

Side note: Sometimes I need to do this in mid-incident. I had to do this yesterday while trying to shovel Greek yogurt in my face and balling my eyes out after he mentioned “eating less” and then went about mailing out some letters. I was able to disconnect at the same time as I was balling right in front of him because I new he didn’t mean it the way I took it. In fact, he wasn’t “technically” talking about me (but he was and I don’t even think he new it). So I had forgiven him right after he said it. But that didn’t mean that it didn’t make me spiral into self-hatred so much so that spooning the yogurt into my mouth made me literally gag.

You have reached your destination.

So, anyhow, those are my thoughts. There’s the roadmap. Sorry it’s more like Apple Maps 2012. But there you have it.

*Quick notes on this source:

  1. This source links to this which links to the OG source.
  2. The OG source is based on a study in Finland and in it the researchers claim that “Multivariate analysis showed that alexithymia was associated with male gender, advanced age, low educational level, and low socioeconomic status.” This doesn’t make sense to me because my dad is highly educated (civil-structural engineer with a masters degree), has been an alexi for all of my life, and, for much of my childhood, we were upper-middle class (things began to changed dramatically when I was about 13 when he lost his job due to ageism). So I want it on the record that I think this part is bullshit. Just saying.

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