Helping People Fills The Void and Isolation

Last Updated: 24 Feb 2019

After putting up protective walls to avoid revealing my true self, I finally felt comfortable in sharing stories about my adult son’s bipolar diagnosis.


Life is a series of teachable moments. I am definitely a person who wears their heart on their sleeve and sadly it has been crushed over and over. I tend to be surrounded by crises. Whether it involves my own son, my friends, or my job, it is always there. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t want a little piece of normal life, and sadly, I am not even sure what that means anymore.

I look at life so differently now. I can’t help but overcompensate by being a nurturing person to everyone around me. On a subconscious level I think I don’t want anyone to ever feel the pain and isolation I have gone through, and if I can help minimize that for someone then I am going to do it, even at the expense of losing a little piece of myself. I know this is not normal thinking but when has anything in my life been normal?

Helping people fills the void and isolation I constantly feel from dealing with this diagnosis with my son. Ever been in a room full of people and feel completely alone? That’s what most days used to feel like. I am not ashamed of my son and I speak very openly about him, but I often find that people will change the subject. When it continuously happens you start to become extremely guarded.

It has also brought upon a lot of insecurities. I have discovered that I am afraid to let people get really close to me. I have formed a protective barrier around myself. Especially when it comes to men. I fear the judgment. I never know when, or what, to tell someone about my son. I often question why someone would date me when they can date someone who has a more ”normal” life.

I never used to feel good enough. Superficially, I appear confident, but inside I am afraid if I tell them about all the dark truths of the journey with my son they will judge me or prey upon my vulnerabilities. I tend to get caught up in the “what ifs”. What if they just feel bad for me? What if they just like me for ‘what’ I am and not ‘who’ I am? What if they see the hell I go through?

A few months ago I had a conversation with my best friend who told me that if I never put myself out there then I will never find true love again. It really got me thinking. Not just about the true love part, but just learning to be comfortable with my true self. At the end of the day, I got to be me. Those who want to be in my life will stay for the right reasons and those who take advantage of my kindness will have to live with themselves and karma. I can’t walk around in fear of the ‘what ifs’.

I am a true believer that everyone comes into your life for a reason even if we don’t know what that reason is at the time. Recently I met a person and as we started to become friends I was very open about my life with my son. Anytime I go into the emotional tragedies about my son’s diagnosis, I can feel a tidal wave of anxiety flush through me. I usually wait and watch for the negative facial expressions, but oddly there were none.

For the first time in a very long time, I was very comfortable sharing my stories about my son’s bipolar. The good, the bad and the really ugly. I could actually be ME. My true self. I didn’t have to pretend. Their reaction wasn’t judgment or awkwardness. They just listened and gave support. I finally felt safe.

It had been a long time since I felt safe with anyone new in my life. My walls were slowly coming down. My insecurities slowly started to fade. They started to make me believe in myself again. I am not defined by my son’s diagnosis. I am a mother who loves her son. Having people believe in you makes you start to believe in yourself. They see me. The real me. And that is a good feeling.


About the author
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
  1. So glad I found this page – its helpful to hear of others struggles, what has worked and what has not been helpful. I am not too far into this journey with my 23-year-old son. Will check back in often…..

  2. My son was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 21. He was always highly intelligent and talented and loved his family. On a recent visit, he saw us only twice. He claimed that he was too busy to see us. Our hearts are broken as we love him very much, but the change in him is difficult to navigate. Most of the blogs still present a rather pretty picture of this illness. The anger and the irritability he expresses can be very damaging to all of us. He claims he is on his meds and is seeing a psychiatrist, but he really wants to be left to his own time. How can a mother deal with this loss? Often I question if it is indeed his personality and that he has changed. This is a very difficult life.

    1. I am having the same experience with my BP son now. He is 26 and has been suffering for many years with improper diagnosis. We just got him through rehab and recovery from a very long MDD and we were in touch every few days. About 2 months ago (seemingly out of the blue) his psychologist asked us to not contact him unless he contacts us, and we have been respecting his need for independence (although he doesn’t work due to a variety of issues, sleep being the main) It’s so hard knowing your adult child is struggling and all you can do is send money. I love him and miss him so much.

  3. I am finally coming out of denial about my 16 year old daughters condition. There will be no magic medicine, no miracle treatment. She will cycle through this and sometimes it will be terrible and hard. Her safety is always a concern. My heart breaks for her pain. I am hoping to be loving and supportive without enabling her and learn to keep my own emotions in check. My job as her mother is to help her move forward to the best life she can have. She’s a beautiful sensitive musical intelligent and creative young woman. It breaks my heart to see the happy child and early teenager she was. I Mourn the loss and the dreams that went with that and must now open my mind to the possibilities of the future in a radically different way. Can anyone relate? Is anyone farther down their road that can offer wisdom?

  4. I have a daughter that is the rapid cycle bipolar.. I read these post and I feel better to know that I’m not alone.. I have been dealing with this alone for the past ten years.. in and out of rehab and hospitals and the violence.. I have been to a shelter three times.. I’m tired.. I have tried everything to help. She goes gets on meds and comes out and right back off.. it’s affecting my health.. my well being.. I have adrenal fatigue.. stressed induced mono.. heart attack and a tiredness that sleep don’t fix.. I have bad thoughts.. it affects my job.. my family.. what do I do.. when does it end when the other person isn’t willing

  5. I totally understand what you went through about letting someone in. My son of 12 is bipolar and I’m a single dad. Its hard trying to find someone that understands what you’re going through as a parent. Here recently he’s been getting more irritated and angry at school. They’re practically sending him home at least 2 days a week because he won’t comply with the teachers. I’m at my whits end but I will not ever give up on him. I could really use some help and he could too on controlling his anger issue.

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