Dear Dad: I Live With Depression

I live with depression. I do not have depression.

I live with my father who suffers from bipolar disorder.


I am now 24 years old. I hadn’t lived with my dad since I was six, and my mother since I was 18. My father, who had a pseudo-presence in my childhood, has had bipolar disorder as far back as I can remember. It has greatly affected his physical and mental life.

About 14 months ago, my dad decided to quit Iran for good and move back to Canada. A few members of my family came and spoke with me about living with him, and how much it would help. I was doing a post-university internship, so the decision was easier. 14 months later, and I am still here.

I do not really have a way to verbalize and sum the way it feels to live with a manic depressive. You see the contrasting range of emotional feeling by the exact same personality on a consistent basis. You learn to semi-understand that periods of highs can be followed by periods of lows in a moment’s notice.

You live with frustration and admiration.

My father’s disorder has left him emotionally unstable and dependent. As a result, he lives a very unhealthy physical life. His diet is poor, he drinks too much and he smokes profusely – after bypass surgery. My father’s life has become cyclical in a worrying way. Fortunately or unfortunately, he has enough money to never work again, which means that he can forever support and maintain his lifestyle.

Worst of all, his life is without a motivating purpose.

The pressure I have felt in the past 14 months has been very unique to me. At times I feel like a weight is crushing my chest. Suffocating me to the point I cannot hear myself think.

Trying to help my dad leave the house when he’s been inside for five straight days is taxing. Seeing my dad doped up on anti-depressants is one of the most sorrowing feelings. Then, suddenly, hearing my dad’s boastful laugh feels like a dream.

It is tiring.

Conversely, watching my dad as he forces himself to shave, shower and leave the house in the middle of a depressed episode is one of the most encouraging feelings I get.

The stigma that depressed people are ashamed about themselves is authentic.

Years of living and learning about his own condition has not curbed his feelings of being a burden. Every passing year he understands himself better, but he rarely admits the hurt it puts on him. Still, I see his effort and even the smallest positive change puts a smile on both our faces.

It is inspiring.


I cook and clean around the house, and run small errands. Most importantly, the hope is that my presence provides a positive energy and stability to his life. He has to adopt my sleeping hours, eat whatever vegetables I cook, and have someone push him about going out and being active.

I know that at times I cause more damage than good, however. I get frustrated when the depressed episodes go on too long. The pain of seeing someone suffer oddly manifests. I channel this frustration in unhealthy ways, and it causes friction in our relationship. It isn’t just down to pain, however, as some of it feels like resentment.

I get overwhelmed living with someone that can be manic and depressive in the same day.

People have told me it is great that I am living with my father. That I’m able to help someone deal with their bipolar depression.

Am I helping? Sometimes, I don’t think so.

I could be a lot less resistant and more sensitive. I feel I take one step forward and two back – when we are moving laterally, really. I don’t do it because people tell me what a great person I am. I don’t do it because I feel it is my responsibility. I don’t do it out of love. I’m not certain, but I feel the deep rooted reason I do it is that…

I’m too worried about the guilt of him dying if I’m not around.

And I don’t know how I feel about that.

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  1. I instantly started crying when I read the topic. My dad was bipolar as well, he passed away a year ago and honestly, for the longest time starting from when I was a teenager I thought life would be so much better if he was GONE, and now that he is, I sometimes find it hard to breath. LITERALLY. He was manic and depressive and by no fault of his own sometimes violent, but he was my dad. I have two brothers and living with him was hard on all of us. But I think being the only daughter and expecting that special father daughter bond and not even getting a glimpse of it made it so much harder on me.
    Reading this was like someone filmed my life and decided to write about it. We lived in Dubai for 23 years, I moved to Tehran with my mom and my brothers each had their own life, so he was alone for months on end and the guilt crushed me. I used to visit him every couple of months and most of the time was spent on encouraging him to do the things you had trouble making your dad do; shaving, sleeping better, going out more often, etc.
    The last time I visited him I noticed that he couldn’t form complete sentences and that he couldn’t hold anything with his left hand, I had to practically drag him to the doctor. The doctor told me he’s had a stroke and it’s serious. I packed his bags and brought him back to Iran with me. Me and my mum, spent a year looking after a man who was emotionally unavailable most of our lives, but gave him all the love and attention in the world and slowly realized this man loved us in his own way and we were too caught up in our own lack of love that we didn’t see it. He passed away peacefully in his home, surrounded by his loved ones, but I can’t stop thinking of how life would have been different if we understood him more and helped him more. I miss him. He was smart and funny and looked after his family, I wish his family had looked after him a bit more.
    Thanking for sharing your story. I don’t feel as alone as I used to.

  2. do we as persians even believe in mental illness? i’ve had persian friends jokingly say, “lol, depression, anxiety, blah blah blah, these are white people diseases!”

    for some time i thought there was something severely wrong with me, that i was persian and also clinically diagnosed as Major Depressive Disorder recurrent and Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety. could it be that our culture is such that it has no time for people who have no visible injuries? i mean, i deal with my shit as best i can and none of my friends or family know about my struggles and i get by, but it kinda makes me think about all the military and civilian personnel during the iran-iraq war who suffered ptsd as a direct result of the war and the fact that it’s probably never been acknowledged or even recognised by the medical council of iri. my dad literally says “you have to be a little cracked and crazy yourself to be a psychologist”, and i’ve heard sentiments like this time and time again from all walks of persians… i really have no idea where i’m going with this, but this article really struck a chord with me and i wish you and your dad and your family all the best.

  3. Neda: I want to thank you. Not because you commented on a piece I wrote, but rather I took quite a bit away from you.

    These days I’m trying to acknowledge my inner-most thoughts. Not to anyone in particular, but to myself. Honesty with oneself is proving to be complex and layered. Sometimes I do wonder if I see my dad as a burden.

    I read your comment repeatedly today. I looked over sentences again and again. The range of emotions I felt from the beginning to end was diverse. I need to work out how I view/feel my relationship with my dad, but one thing that I can say for certain is that you gave me a lot to think about. Like yourself, I don’t feel as alone as I used to.

    Merci Neda jan.

  4. Mercury,

    I believe you’re definitely on point questioning whether depression is acknowledged or not. However, I don’t know if Iran is that much farther behind in accepting it. My own personal opinion, of course, is that depression faces a strong stigma across western culture. Many people in N.America still view depression as a sign of weakness, which is completely false (as you’ve alluded to). Furthermore, I know that depression is starting to be accepted within Iran; as are psychiatrists, treatments, anti-depressants, etc.

    Depression faces a long, uphill battle in being acknowledged, but great strides have been taken in the past 5-10. It will be interesting to see the direction Iran, and Iranian people, take.


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