Our host, Gabe Howard, frequently shares how his parents “did everything wrong” when getting him help for bipolar disorder. He has shared the fractures in his family, the misunderstandings, and the conflict in multiple past episodes.

In this episode, we dive into some of the specifics of his parent’s missteps and touch on what they could have done differently. Join us as Gabe openly discusses how these mistakes impacted him and what his relationship with his parents is like now.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Dr. Nicole Washington
Dr. Nicole Washington

Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.

Find out more at DrNicolePsych.com.

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.

Gabe: Welcome, everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.

Gabe: In the vein of we get emails, Dr. Nicole, one of the emails that we’ve gotten quite frequently is Gabe, you mentioned that your parents made a bunch of mistakes, but you never really dive into what the mistakes are. And I, you know, I don’t for many, many reasons. But you know, you got to give the people what they want and they want to know what my parents screwed up. So, the title of this episode really should be Throwing Gabe’s Parents Under the Bus. What do you think?

Dr. Nicole: Oh, your poor mom and dad. Are they going to listen after this is done?

Gabe: They will. If I name it, I’m Going To Throw My Parents Under the Bus.

Dr. Nicole: You are absolutely right. They will listen.

Gabe: They will definitely tune in to that one.

Dr. Nicole: They will. They will. They will. And you do talk a lot about the mistakes your parents made. And we haven’t gone into detail. And I get why maybe we have not. But it sounds like people are really curious about what kinds of mistakes your parents made. So, I mean, I, I guess I just like to know, like, what do you consider a mistake?

Gabe: So, there is where it gets really, really difficult, right? Many people want my story to, like, zag to the left. They want me to tell a story about how my mom was like a functional alcoholic who sat on the couch and, like, threw bonbons at her head and how my dad ran around town and cheated on my mom or how there were beatings or how we had a lot of instability in our household. And I understand for many people, elements of that are very, very real for them. And I think one of the things that shocks many people is just how stable our household was. We it never zags. I just want to let everybody know it’s never going to zag. My parents never beat me. My mom and dad loved me very much. They were present as often as they could. And get this. Get this, Dr. Nicole, I want you to go back to like the 1980s. My family and I, we sat down to dinner almost every night at the kitchen table as a family.

Dr. Nicole: Wow.

Gabe: My father is now a retired truck driver. So, growing up, he was a truck driver. And my mom’s a stay-at-home mom. And I know it’s practically Norman Rockwell.

Dr. Nicole: They, I mean, they sound like monsters. I don’t know. They. They sound

Gabe: [Laughter]

Dr. Nicole: Like terrible people. I don’t know. But I imagine as wonderfully as you talk about them now, I would imagine they’re supportive. Now they get it. You all have come full circle. But I would imagine in the beginning, especially when Gabe was pre-bipolar diagnosis, maybe they weren’t quite as wonderful because they didn’t know how to be.

Gabe: The biggest mistake that I feel that my parents made is they tried to punish the symptoms of bipolar disorder out of me. And that’s a really, really big mistake when you think about trauma and think about trying to move forward. So, but let’s look at it from their perspective. Mania would make me stay up all night and depression would make me sleep all day. All right. Well, never in the history of time as a teenager stayed up all night and then wanted to sleep all day. Grandiosity would make me a know it all who was right about everything and would challenge every little thing they said. Yeah, yeah. Never in the history of time has a teenager

Dr. Nicole: Mhm. Mhm. Mhm. Mhm.

Gabe: Ever thought they knew everything. And. And mania made me talk a thousand miles a minute and dominate every conversation and think that I was the center of the universe. Yeah, this is this is atypical behavior for teenagers. But now let’s flip it back and look at this from my perspective.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: I tried Dr. Nicole. I wanted to be good. And they were consistently and this is what I want folks to focus on, they were consistently telling me that I was bad,

Dr. Nicole: Hmm.

Gabe: Consistently telling me that I was wrong, that I needed to change my behavior, that I needed to clean up my act, that I needed to do better. And these are my parents

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: And I love my parents. So, I believed them. I heard the message loud and clear.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: If I continue this behavior, I am a worthless human being. Now, put bipolar disorder on top of that where in the depressive moments that it doesn’t take much to push a depressed person over the edge. And when you have your family telling you that you’re bad because they believe these are behavioral issues, all of this just coalesced into this mess where I really felt like I was all alone, which of course means I didn’t see them as support. I didn’t see them as allies and I didn’t see them as people that I could go to. And that is a really, really huge mistake because as we’ve talked about on this show before, a support system is a huge protective factor.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: And my support system’s message was clear. I’m a bad person.

Dr. Nicole: And it sounds like that was a very lonely experience, right? When the people that you love and care about the most and expect to be there for you during those darkest times are telling you need to do better. You’re a bad kid. Straighten up, buck up, those kinds of things. I would imagine that those statements, those moments were extremely hurtful. How did you deal with that?

Gabe: It depends on where I was on the spectrum of bipolar disorder. If I was manic, they were idiots.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: If I was depressed, they were right. And this went into the pro list of why I should end my life if I was in the middle. I was working really, really hard to make them happy.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: I was trying so hard. Again, I didn’t. When. The bipolar disorder, Dr. Nicole, is mean, it’s cruel because you take the exact same thing, and depending on where you are on that bipolar spectrum, you’re going to see and or remember it differently.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: So, it was really very much a whiplash effect. And let’s focus on when I was in the middle. See the middle, the stereotypical, the average right, the just right in the center. If we’re if we’re using the spectrum analogy to full effect, that that’s when you make people proud, right? That’s when you get the job. That’s when you excel in school. That’s when you make the team. That’s when your grades start to perk up. That’s when your parents start bragging about you. But more importantly, that’s when everyone thinks that all of the interventions are working. That’s when they believe that the punishment finally took, the lecture finally took, the intervention finally took. And I believed that too. I’m like, hey, I’m doing

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: It. I’m doing it. But it had nothing to do with that. It was just it just happened to be a coincidence. I just happened to cycle into the stereotypical average center of the spectrum at the same time that an intervention occurred. But here’s why bipolar disorder is mean, Dr. Nicole. Nobody understood that. As far as my parents were concerned. The intervention worked, the lecture worked, the punishment worked. And I could do it. They saw me do it. They watched me do it. They watched me behave. So, any time that symptom would show up,

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: They’d be like, Look, he’s choosing poorly again.

Dr. Nicole: Right.

Gabe: What is wrong with this kid? And I believed it too.

Dr. Nicole: Right.

Gabe: I was like, Look, I don’t know why I’m choosing poorly, but I. I joke about it now. But here’s the, the honest to God’s blunt truth, I, I started to believe that I was just an asshole,

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: That I was just a bad, broken kid. And my parents started believing this as well because it again, they saw me be good.

Dr. Nicole: Right.

Gabe: And in their mind I was being willfully and maliciously defiant for no reason.

Dr. Nicole: So, they said, well, look, he’s doing great now. So, he has the ability to do great. He just chooses not to during those other times. I think that’s one of those places where we see us talking about mental health disorders as behavioral health and using the term behavioral health and behavioral health issues. I think just the word behavior in there gives people the idea that all of the symptoms that people have are behaviors and they can just snap out of them whenever we tell them to. So, it sounds like, you know, your parents were victims of their lack of knowledge about mental illness, which a lot of parents are. So, I would imagine your relationship was very rocky during that time.

Gabe: Yeah. And let’s stay on that lack of knowledge, right? Let’s keep along that lack of knowledge focus. Here’s another lack of knowledge moment that was happening in my childhood with my parents. We believed that mental illness happened to bad families. We believed that mental illness happened because you had bad parents and unstable life. Actually, more specifically, we believe that mental illness happened because you had a bad mother. We believed all of these tropes. We also believed that that violence and mental illness were inherently linked. I was never violent. So the my parents are just like, look, we give you food, your house is stable, we love you and shower you with attention and you’ve got a really, really good mom. It’s true. All of those things are true. They’re completely true. So in in the mid 80s and the 90s, my parents were like, Look, we don’t know what’s wrong with this kid, but mental illness wasn’t even on the radar. It nowhere, nowhere. Nobody thought it wasn’t even a it zero discussion. You want to talk about a huge mistake. Their child was exhibiting textbook symptoms of bipolar disorder and anxiety, and they missed them

Dr. Nicole: All right.

Gabe: Completely because they believed a stereotype they saw on television.

Dr. Nicole: And as a parent, I get the whole, you know, did I do something wrong? And really, it’s not about us. If our kids are struggling and they’re having some issue. But you’re right, back then we thought, oh my gosh, I must be a horrible mom because we read all this stuff about bad parents creating mentally ill children. It sounds like they were also very scared because they didn’t know what to do. And there was a lot of maybe ego involved because they thought that bad parents created these children and they thought, well, we’re not bad parents. Like he must just be a bad egg. And sometimes when you are in those kind of situations, you even behave in ways that that just aren’t even typical for you. Did you see your parents behave in ways that you had never seen? And how was that for you?

Gabe: It’s really hard to answer that question, of course, because I’ve got to use the memory of someone with bipolar disorder. And I think that that’s a real thing that people miss when they’re really, really mad at their families and their friends and things like this. They’re like, well, I’m reflecting back and you hurt me. Maya Angelou, whom I love. She says that you never forget how people make you feel. And of course, we all hear that as like, oh, if you make people feel good, they remember you and they make you feel good. And that’s what she meant. And that’s beautiful. Yeah, but it cuts the other way

Dr. Nicole: Uh.

Gabe: When people make you feel bad that that commits to your muscle memory as well.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: My parents often made me feel bad. They made me feel less than just being in the room with them, sucked the energy out of me and hurt me and made me feel like a terrible, terrible person. Sincerely, I’ve forgotten the question because as I as I’m just reflecting backwards on it, it starts to swell up in my chest. And it there was a part of me that’s like, well, I should just cut and rerecord it. But I want to share with you, Dr. Nicole, and in the audience it even now I love my parents. I do. And I want to make sure that everyone hears this. You trip over it. You trip over it. You’re just sitting there. Your mom says something that maybe she said or you smell a food that she cooked and you’re like, she was mean to me. She was horrible to me. And even though you’ve got now because I’ve reached recovery, I’ve talked to other family members, I’ve been through a lot of therapy. And even though I know it wasn’t as bad as I remember it, it doesn’t matter.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: The anxiety has already set in the cold, clammy sweats, and I can see where people who don’t understand what happened and have that that fuzzy bipolar memory and that feeling, and they’re just like, look, I’m going with my gut on this one. He or she is evil. They are evil. This situation is bad and I need to get out of here. And unfortunately, in some cases, not all, but in some cases, you’re running away from people who bipolar disorder got in between that relationship

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: And they’ve ended it because, again, you remember how people made you feel. And if you can never update that feeling, you’re lost for good. And it just. I’m 46 years old, Dr. Nicole. I made up with my parents a long time ago and it doesn’t go away.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah, it seems like it’s always still there and I wonder if it’s still there from both sides. I mean, I wonder if your parents also have things that they are holding on to and dealing with in their own way. I do think it’s important to remember that there are two sides, and what you may have perceived as a slight, maybe your parents didn’t. Who knows who’s right or wrong? I mean, it was 30 years ago. Who knows that this.

Gabe: I mean, they’re going to have to get their own podcast if they want to tell their side of the story.

Dr. Nicole: Who knows?

Gabe: They can pitch Healthline media. They got computers. They got this isw, it’s interesting that you say that. It’s interesting that you ask what they’re holding on to, because one of the big things that they’re holding on to is this this concept of the wrath of Gabe. Right. Think about bipolar disorder. Think about mania, think, think about anger. Think about teenage years. Think about uncontrolled yelling and screaming. This continued up until I was so I was 26 years old when I was diagnosed. This behavior repeated itself on and off in our relationship until I was 26 years old. Remember I yelled, I hate you at my mother. So, I just I want to make sure that the audience hears that for what I’m about to say. I haven’t had a wrath issue. I haven’t had a rage issue. I haven’t had an uncontrolled anger issue in 20 years. Yet when things get tense or whenever there’s like a family disagreement or I get even just a tiny bit upset about something, my mother will immediately say, Oh, the wrath of Gabe. We don’t need the wrath of Gabe. I’m like, I haven’t raised my voice to you in two decades. But it’s there that even though she’s forgiven me, even though the family has forgiven me, even though everyone loves me, they still remember those uncontrolled outbursts that won’t go away. And that’s just what I see on the surface. I haven’t, like delved in.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: We haven’t. I just I’m sure that they have much, much more to contribute. That’s just what I’ve noticed. And there’s lots of little things like that. Like you’re just you’re still holding me accountable and responsible for stuff that I did when I was very young or in my early 20s, before I was diagnosed, before I reached recovery, before I went to therapy, before I apologized. Yet you’re still hanging on to it. So, Dr. Nicole, I have to believe, it must go deeper.

Dr. Nicole: For both. For both sides. For both sides.

Gabe: Yes.

Dr. Nicole: It must go deeper. So, you say that you were diagnosed at 26, but at that point you weren’t still living at home with your parents? Your relationship wasn’t quite the same as it was when you were a teenager and living at home and going through all the things you described. What were they doing wrong then? You too, were living in separate places. You were independent. What kind of mistakes did they make at that time?

Sponsor Break

Dr. Nicole: And we’re back discussing the effects bipolar disorder can have on family relationships.

Gabe: Obviously, when you’re living apart, the mistakes are less. And they really did jump on board really quickly. So, there’s a little bit of a nitpicky factor in this answer. But one of the big mistakes that they made is they’re just like, well, you’ve got a diagnosis and you’ve got the pills. Be med compliant. Well, you’ve got a diagnosis. Just do what you’re supposed to do and you’ll get better. There was sort of a pickup yourself from your bootstraps kind of vibe because again, they didn’t understand that this was and I didn’t understand that this was measured in years. I thought recovery was go to the doctor, get the prescription, take the medication as prescribed, you know, med compliance, and you will be fine. And I kept having all of these setbacks and I felt like they were very judgmental of the setbacks. I felt like they were constantly looking down on me like I did something wrong. And that’s half correct. They were looking down on the setback. They weren’t looking down on me. They were they were worried about me. They were like, oh, no, he’s falling back into old patterns. Or oh, maybe he’s not taking the pills or well, he was showing such great improvement. Why did he stop? And that worry came to the surface. I interpreted that as, Oh, yep, Gabe’s a screw up again.

Gabe: Oh, look, there it is. He’s not doing what he’s supposed to do. And of course, even sometimes they’re, they’re, their little speeches about try harder or trust in the process or are you listening to the doctor or of course, my personal favorite. Did you take your meds today? It cut it really, really cut deep. Some of that’s not their fault. Right? This is just this is just how we understand it. The biggest, biggest, biggest, biggest, biggest mistakes they made is just they didn’t understand what was going on. So, they started repeating the stereotypes. They started repeating the stuff that they saw on TV. And it they didn’t understand that being committed to a psychiatric hospital is a trauma. It’s scary. And they said things when I when I would talk about it. And it takes a lot of nerve to talk about it. And I would talk about how infantilizing it was or how scared I was or how they locked me up against my will. Their number one response was always, well, it was for your own good. Well, it saved your life. Well, could you imagine if you didn’t go there? And I always liken it to my dad had triple heart bypass surgery. And the night before that surgery, he was scared.

Gabe: Right? He was scared. They’re going to they’re going to crack open his chest. They’re going to pull it open. They’re going to operate on his heart. This is a big, big deal. And could you imagine if my dad said, I’m really scared about having this this open-heart surgery? And we said, well, it’s for your own good. Your ticker’s not working. Oh, man, you could die if you don’t do this. What’s your problem? Why are you being this way? And I think when people hear it that way, they think, wow, that’d be really cruel. But when I say I was committed to a psychiatric hospital, I’m scared it’s going to happen again. I was scared then and this was a very traumatic experience. And it’s like, well, it’s for your own good. And they just wander off like it’s okay. These things were dismissive. They weren’t recovery focused or oriented. And again, I was I was I wanted just Dr. Nicole. I wanted and I want their pride so badly. I want them to be proud of me. And every time I had a stumble, I really felt they weren’t proud of me. And it hurt a lot. And I was feeling feelings that I had never felt before. So, it. It. It cut, cut, cut. Really, really hard.

Dr. Nicole: So, once you got your diagnosis and. Okay, now we have a reason now, now we can all wrap our hands around the reason. What was that like? Kind of coming to terms with all the bad blood you dealt with for all the years before? Was there a family meeting? Was there a therapy session? Like how did we put all this out in the open? Because there’s the elephant in the room. You are together. They know now. Oh, my gosh, this explains why he behaved the way he did. And they may have felt a little guilty about how they responded. And now here you are. Who knows? Maybe you’re forgiving, maybe you’re angry. Like, look, I have bipolar disorder and you treated me like blah, blah, blah. You know, how did we get to the space you are now?

Gabe: I want to tell you that there’s a joke that I give in my speech where I say that when I told my mother I had bipolar disorder, the first thing she said is, What’s that? So, I read her from the pamphlet, The definition of bipolar disorder, generic medical pamphlet definition. And she responded with, oh my God, I always called you my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Child. To which I responded, My God, Mom, that’s literally an analogy for bipolar disorder. It’s not a good moment for me because I realized my mom knew and she didn’t do anything about it. What kind of an evil mother sees her child suffering and does nothing? Swo, we moved into phase two, which is. Why didn’t you save me? It’s your job to save me. Why didn’t you protect me? It’s your job to protect me. You let me down. This happened because you didn’t teach me about suicide. This happened because you didn’t find me medical care.

Gabe: This happened because you left me alone. How could you? Now, again, I want everybody to stay focused on 26-year-old Gabe. Right. Recently diagnosed. That that that sat in me it’s sat in me that the reason that I went through this is because they didn’t help me. How could I frankly, I’m getting a little bit angry now if I’m if I’m if I’m being just they were supposed to protect me, Dr. Nicole. And at that age, at that point in my life, I still thought parents were magic. I did. I thought that they were all seeing, all knowing, all protecting. And they were heroes, right? Because they’re your parents and they’re infallible. This is my mindset, both because of my age and experience. And of course, you know, by bipolar disorder didn’t help. So, does your specific question of how did you get here? Slowly, very, very slowly.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: I, I wanted to cut my parents off. I never wanted to see them again. That that was as I was going through therapy and I was learning all this stuff that I did. Remember the Maya Angelou quote, you never forget how people make you feel. And they made me feel bad. And the number one reason they made me feel bad is because they reminded me of my childhood or frankly, I just did not do so well. Families are very complicated.

Dr. Nicole: They are very complicated.

Gabe: And it’s good that they’re complicated because I couldn’t cut off my mom and dad because if I cut off my mom and dad, I would lose my grandma and grandpa, right? If I cut off mom and dad, I couldn’t go anywhere that they were. Which means no, no more grandma and grandma. I’m not giving up Grandma and Grandpa. I love Grandma and Grandpa. They’re. They’re awesome. I also have siblings. I have aunts and uncles. I have cousins. You just. They’re all together. So, I just thought I would just do the cold shoulder thing.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm. Mhm. Mhm.

Gabe: And I did. And we did the cold shoulder thing. I don’t they, they worked hard. I harder than I did. And here’s the thing that here’s the thing that that just experience. Forget about bipolar disorder for a minute. Let’s just talk about the aging process.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: At some point, you realize that your parents are just doing their best, that that they’re not infallible. They’re not all knowing that they make huge mistakes because they’re human. And that was what started working its way in slowly. Dr. Nicole this idea that. Huh, you know, my parents didn’t do this maliciously. They didn’t ignore their responsibilities. They just screwed up. And that helped a lot. But, you know, there was a moment there was a big watershed moment that really kick started the forgiveness.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm. I’m ready to hear about this. I love. I love forgiveness moments.

Gabe: I was leading a support group. And several people were talking about how their parents cut them off. The topic that was on the group’s mind that day is how people missed their parents because their parents abandoned them

Dr. Nicole: Mm.

Gabe: Just straight up abandoned them. They weren’t there. They wouldn’t take their phone calls. And even though they had reached recovery and were doing better and, in some cases, had grandchildren that their parents had never met, they just they just left. They just left because of I. I don’t think anyone listening to this podcast needs a list of reasons.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: It’s unfortunately all too common. And as I’m sitting there, I thought, huh, you know, their parents didn’t make the mistakes that my parents made because in order to make those mistakes, you have to be there. You have to be present; you have to be trying. You have to be throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. You need to be there to mess up. I it it never even occurred to me, Dr. Nicole, that parents could abandon their children. That’s how good of a job my parents did that it never even occurred to me that they could leave me. They gave me so much support, so much love, so much stability, and were there and in just so perfect in their in their support for me that it never even occurred to me in all of my anger, all of my rage, all of my bipolar disorder, all of my it never even occurred to me that they could leave me. I. I. It changed my way of thinking dramatically. Because I was like, Huh? Wow. That’s a. That’s a big, big, big, big. It was a lot to take on, and I saw things in a different light. I’m. I sincerely the thing that I put in my head every time,

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: Every time I mad at them is in order to be mad at them, they have to be present

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: And they’re present and they ain’t going anywhere.

Dr. Nicole: But that took a lot of years, right? To get.

Gabe: Lot of years.

Dr. Nicole: To get to that point. I mean, how many years are we talking that have passed?

Gabe: Oh geez. So, I was diagnosed at 26. I was probably 31

Dr. Nicole: Okay.

Gabe: When that happened. Now, again, I never cut off contact, but it was you know, it was it was tough.

Dr. Nicole: Okay.

Gabe: Cold, cold shoulders.

Dr. Nicole: We’re talking. I mean, we’re talking years of

Gabe: Yes.

Dr. Nicole: Very awkward family gatherings, very awkward family holidays, lots of other people having to bask in the awkwardness between you and your parents. Like we’re talking about a lot of stuff. And I, I hope that somebody out there is hearing you say it took years because I think that sometimes and especially I think I see this in people who do have illnesses like bipolar disorder, there’s always the like. But I want to fix it now. Like if it’s not great now I’m running. Like, I’m just not coming back. No Thanksgiving. Sorry, Grandma. Holla at you later. Um.

Gabe: Hallmark ruined us. Right.

Dr. Nicole: They did.

Gabe: Because everybody makes up quickly. By the end of the movie,

Dr. Nicole: It did.

Gabe: The weather matches your mood. The music matches

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: Your mood, the scenery matches your mood. Just everything is. And there’s like one big conversation. Everybody hugs it out and then it’s fine.

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: Like, it’s perfect

Dr. Nicole: Yeah.

Gabe: That that’s not real life. It’s a slow build.

Dr. Nicole: I wish that that was how we could just handle things and everything would be fantastic. But it’s not. It does take people a while to come around. It takes loved ones a time. And really, if you think about it, there’s forgiveness on both sides.

Gabe: That is the part that I want to make sure people hear. My parents, they made every mistake that they really could except that they didn’t make every mistake. Right? They never abandoned me. They never left me. They never stopped trying to help me. Whenever I called, they came a runnin’. And yet I still describe that as my parents made every mistake that you could make. And what I mean is and what I’m not great at saying is they made every mistake as it pertains to mental illness. They made me feel less than. They stigmatized me. They made me believe that it was my fault. They ran no interference for their suicidal child. And this is the this is another big thing. Dr. Nicole, when you when you talk about those moments that change everything, I was I was sitting I was sitting at an event and I was I was the keynote speaker for the event. But they had a couple come up and speak before me. That’s usually how it works. You have like multiple speakers at an event. Why am I explaining speakers and events to people? It’s but this this family, it was a mom and a dad and they came up and they talked about their child and their child just happened to have a lot of similarities with me. Life of the party, their first born, you know, very loud and gregarious and they just and everybody and here’s the kicker. Everybody remembers him as the happiest person they knew

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: And remembered his past tense because their son died by suicide and they didn’t know. And they have made it their life’s mission to educate other people because they don’t want other families to have to stand up there and look at this from their position. They want families to be educated so that they can spot the symptoms, they can spot the signs and they can they can help. I, I really saw my parents in them and thought that could be them. And I was in a place in my recovery at this point and even in my own age and experience and understanding of the world, where it really hit me, this idea that they could have lost a child and seeing this family and they’d given this speech before and, you know, they’ve still got the tears and they’re reading from the script and it’s still it doesn’t go away. And then I reflected back to my grandmother and grandfather who lost two children in adulthood and how it’s impacted my family, losing my two aunts. And it never goes away. And I thought, oh my God, that this could have happened to my family and this these could be my parents.

Dr. Nicole: Mhm.

Gabe: Yeah, that’s got to be horrifyingly terrifying for them. The fact that they came so close and yet did nothing. So, they’ve got to be beaten themselves up to and in the then questions became bigger, right? Like, hey, did you feel bad for punishing me? Yeah, I felt terrible. Oh, well, good. All right, Now, now we’re. We’re. We’re making some progress here. I felt terrible, too. And I. Dr. Nicole, I’ve said it before, and I want to say it again. I feel like this is the perfect place.

Dr. Nicole: Uh huh.

Gabe: I am only here right now talking so openly about this because I had their permission.

Dr. Nicole: Right.

Gabe: I am only sitting here right now because I have their permission. So many families are like, don’t air the dirty laundry. Don’t you dare embarrass your father. We worked hard, you know, you’ll make your grandmother cry. There’s no support. My family was like, go out there, trash us. You know, I haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet. Like how my mom got pregnant in high school. She loves it when I tell that. But. But seriously, my parents were like, go out there, throw us under the bus, because if it saves a family, it’s worth it. The support that I have is incredible. And I dismissed it as meaningless.

Dr. Nicole: Gabe, I can only imagine what your family gatherings are like now compared to, to back then. I think they’re probably pretty fun. I can only imagine. I need to meet your mom one day. We need to have a sit down. We need to have a chat. So, we’ve talked a lot about what your parents have done wrong, and I just want to touch a little bit on. So, I’ll start by saying this. A lot of times when I’m taking care of people who have bipolar disorder, they will blame everything on everybody and everything of theirs is because of their illness. Like everything they did wrong is bipolar. They’re all good. Bipolar is bad. Their family is horrible. Did you have to do some work in there where you had to figure out how to take some responsibility for any things you did that you couldn’t attribute directly to? Oh, I was manic or oh, I was depressed during that time.

Gabe Howard: All right, listeners, we are out of time, but I want you to tune in to the next episode to find out what I say next. And Dr. Nicole will even talk about what my parents did right. My name is Gabe Howard and I’m an award winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. I’m also the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations,” which you can get on Amazon. However, you can get a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me just by heading over to gabehoward.com.

Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms @DrNicolePsych, as well as my website, DrNicolePsych.

Gabe Howard: And while you’re waiting for the next episode’s continuation of what my parents did wrong, wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe. It is absolutely free. And listen, can you do us a favor? Mention this podcast. Do it in a support group, do it online, do it on social media. Hell, send somebody a text message because sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next time on Inside Bipolar.
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