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Mental Health Day: Lessons Learned from a Bipolar Dad

Chato Stewart blog for World Mental Health DayToday, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day.  Interestingly enough…it is also the day my Father was born in 1933.  My Dad lived with Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression) that was not entirely diagnosed till about a year before he died in 1996.  It was out of control most of his life and growing up in the unstable, toxic environment lead to many problems.

When my father was balanced, he was the most loving and caring person, but that time was short-lived.  I grew up in a divided home between extremes of sanity and insanity.  My siblings were not spared the toxicity of home life.  Yes at times, far too often then now, we turned on each other like ravenous dogs at the kill.

I am able to look back at that time and reflect on many different twists and turns that led me, my brother and my sisters to survive.  One thing that saved us was finding faith in a real hope for a better future.  It was that new-found faith that helped take my proverbial “demons” away.

When I was able to adhere to biblical examples, I found peace and balance.  NO, I’m not preaching religion as a miracle cure. What I do believe is that we all have our burdens to bear and with professional help and medication/therapy (herbal or cognitive) and with faith based on facts (not credulity)…we can find recovery.  I also know for a FACT that as we grow older our symptoms get worse!  For a few lucky people, they might have periods of “remission”… But when it–the mood disorder comes back–it comes in hard swinging both fists!

For a time I lost my faith…my self-loathing pushed me into a decade-long Depression with hills and valleys. I lost years and attempted suicide or as one therapist put it, “multiple suicide attempts.”  I lead a life filled with constant disappointment and then drinking to numb the pain…I became my father.

Without having a plan of action, plan to fail! My father, my Bipolar Dad, never had a plan for recovery because he refused to accept his diagnosis. He would read books on “mind over matter” and other hokey ideas that never gave him control.  In fact, it was the opposite.  He became more violent.  Now, that could have been from all the drugs and pain killers he had to take for his 3 crushed disks in his neck from a job related accident.  But to a kid, you don’t take that into account. All you know is if you spill some milk, you’re going to be beat with the belt. Then, hear a guilt-ridden apology filled with the asinine belief that hitting me was because he “loved me.”

This was a wedge between my Bipolar Father and I, one that I would not really comprehend for another 30 years later.

Why do I share this with you?  Because today is  World Mental Health Day [Mental Health Awareness Day] and I cannot help thinking “what IF’ my Father had access to information about Bipolar and Depression and Mental Health Disorders like we do today.  (IF things would have been any different?!)

We have so much at our fingertips.  I know, I should not think about the things I cannot change, but I can work on changing the cycle of Bipolar in my family.  That is why Mental Health Day celebrated on October 10th reminds me of my Father and to…keep working on being better than just a Bipolar Dad!


Stopping Medication and Having A Near-Death Experience cartoon by Chato Stewart

Death: So, I hear You’re planing on Stopping your meds…

Caption: Stopping Medication and Having A Near-Death Experience


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Check out who made the list of top 10….I’m number 4!
Mental Health Day: Lessons Learned from a Bipolar Dad

Chato Stewart

Chato Stewart has a mission, to draw and use humor as a positive tool to live, to cope with the debilitating effects symptoms of mental illness. Chato Stewart is a Mental Health Hero and Advocate. Recovery Peer Specialist board-certified in Florida. Chato is the artist behind the cartoons series Mental Health Humor, Over-Medicated, and The Family Stew - seen here in his blog posts. The cartoons are drawn from his personal experience of living with bipolar disorder (and other labels).

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APA Reference
Stewart, C. (2012). Mental Health Day: Lessons Learned from a Bipolar Dad. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Sep 2012
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