Question about Bipolar


Well-Known Member
Is it common for people with Bipolar to have distorted memory of the past?

Our son J accuses us of being selfish, uncaring parents, etc. etc. This is so far from the truth it's almost laughable. He tells us that we made him live in "20 different houses," that we treated him as "an afterthought." When I have tried to remind him of the many happy events of our lives, he turns it around to make it negative and distorted or just brushes it aside. I'm curious-- Is this a common behavior?

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
My son has never been diagnosed as bipolar but with the mood swings he can get I have often wondered.
My son has his own recollection of his childhood and it does not match the reality of how it really was.
I have been told things over the years by others, things that my son has told them and I was always left shaking my head wondering why he would say things that just are not true. I have come to understand that this is part of how my son manipulates people into feeling sorry for him.


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Anyone can decide to distort the past for their own benefit usually. My siblings dont thinl my mother abused me or tjey CANT thonk so because they dont want her painted in a bad light.Doesnt make it true. She DID abuse me and tjey saw it.

I have a form of milder bipolar but the depressive part was quite serious before medications.

Unfortunately or fortunately I have a clear memory of my past. Nobody can trick me out of my experience. Yes, my sister has issues. Brotjer too. But tjey choose to believe a baby and child can abuse. That osnt mental illness. Thats what they NEED to think for them to redeem the Mother.In their eyes.

Only psychosis can distort yoir memory and that is most often believing the government is trying to kill you due to usually schizophrenic delusions and hallucinations.

Many of oir kids (and others too) lie aboit their childoods. They do it to get yoir guilt, money, make excuses for their own behavior etc. The readpns are infinite.

I call it Gaslighting. This is when somebody insisys the truth did not happen toaoe you feel crazy or bad. Or both. Its deliberate, not mental illness. Its to confuse you in a horrod way.

Your son knows you were good to him. Dont let yourself or him make excuses for his deliberate cruel lies.

Lopk up gaslighting in a search engine.
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Well-Known Member
I think we all distort our pasts to a certain extent - we all have to create a story that makes sense out of a whole lot of conflicting experiences. There is a lot of research on the unreliability of eyewitness accounts and how malleable our memories of past events can be. For our very troubled children, regardless of the diagnosis, I think there is a lot of psychological incentive to make their pasts seem much worse than they actually were, because they need to give themselves an "out" for how their lives have turned out. They need to point the finger and make it someone else's fault. How much they actually believe of their fictions themselves, vs. how much is deliberately lying to gain sympathy and manipulate others, it anybody's guess. I think a lot of times it's a bit of both. We can start believing our own lies if we tell them often enough.

I don't see this as much in my own kids, perhaps because there is an ACTUAL history of abuse that they can point to - they don't need to make anything else up. But I've definitely seen it in other family members and kids of other people I know.

I don't know how to combat this, outside of saying "That's not the way I remember that." They cling to these stories so they can avoid taking responsibility for their own lives.


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Hi Beta...
My son and I both have Bipolar Disorder. And yes I do believe memories can be very distorted...especially for one who is untreated. I liken it to having a low emotional pain tolerance. Everything is felt more intensely. Extreme highs and lows. So what may be common place for one child might seem abusive neglectful etc for the child who grows up with bipolar disorder. Also I think we tend to cling to is what we have known best in our lives. And so our memories tend to help justify the pain we are in now.
My son also distorts the past. He is finally treated (past year) but still wrestles with what we call the Victim Mentality! Everything is someone else's fault.
We ask him now how long will he remain in this victimhood? We tell him there is power in his choices! We try very hard to help him take some responsibility for where he is in life.
Anyway I know how difficult it is to deal with this mindset...and harder still with an untreated lack of maturity.
Hoping your son will one day own his choices just like mine.


Active Member
My brilliant, professional, no emotional issues 60 year old brother remembers the past incorrectly. He has always wanted for some reason to believe his father was not present and supportive and that is definitely not the way it happened.


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Thank you all for your insights. After reading through them all, I think there's a little of many of what was mentioned. J has always had a "victim mentality". It's always been someone else's fault. So I think he needs to re-write the past to justify his victimhood. I also think he "gaslights" at times. I know he has texted things about our other son, attributing comments to him that mirror his own abusive, negative comments about us, when I know from talking to our other son that he himself has very little contact with J, so I know he's trying to manipulate and drive a wedge between us and our other son.
J has not been diagnosed as Bipolar-he refuses to consider the possibility that anything is wrong, but his birth mother was Bipolar and the psychiatrist I work for has told me that he believes that he is Bipolar.
It just saddens me to think that all the family times we had, the vacations, the holidays, the outings, the birthdays, etc. are forgotten or possibly distorted in his mind. He tells us that he has no respect for us. Anyway, thanks for the feedback. I just wondered if some of you also experienced this same thing.

Deni D

Well-Known Member
Beta, my son has bipolar disorder, so does his dad. People with bipolar disorder can be so very different from each other, like ice cream has flavors. In my son and his dad's cases the wild stories about the past come out when they are hypo-manic. When they are taking the proper medication and not self-medicating the stories disappear, at very least on the surface.

In my son's case when he was stable again and I have brought up behaviors he has displayed while hypo-manic, he didn't want to talk about it. It was embarrassing to him so I don't know how much he remembers of the stories. With his father, well he out right denied the stories when he became stable saying things like he would "NEVER have said anything like that!". And I do believe he does not remember. So I have a feeling the emotional tsunami while hypo-manic brings it out.

My son shows a strong victim mentality, but mostly as a victim of me. I don't remember his father doing much of that, well other than to tell people incredible stories of my miss-behavior towards him.

Because I know my son and not because I can say for any other bipolar person, if and when my son decides to take the path of taking care of his mental health and gets stable his distorted past will disappear from his mouth, and hopefully from his mind. I pray for the day I have to deal with moving on with no acknowledgment and no apology from him towards the opportunity to rebuild a relationship with him.

With the version of bipolar disorder I've dealt with it seems like normal times 10. All of us have our own "truths". My 4 siblings remember a different childhood than I remember but with our "different experiences" none of us have come remotely close to the disrespect and devaluing of my parents that I've received from my son.

It's heartbreaking and dumbfounding. I hope you can move forward and figure out how to not absorb his "life's story". I believe the reason you can't figure out a way to justify it when looking at the past to find a common ground to relate to him, to help him, is because even though he has imagined it in his mind ~ it's not real.


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The point is your four siblings had different childhood memories and they are not bipolar. As one with this label from the flawed DSM I dislke when behaviors that are not specific to bipolar are attributed to it.
The fact is, mentally ill or not (and you said you diagnosed your son, not a professional, probably based on what you read) many siblings have different memories of their childhoods because of us all being treated differently. I remember my mom calling me stupid and humiliating me many times with my brother there. We were close as children, he was there, and I guess he either didnt care or needs to blame me as a child for his mother's abuse. He adored (still greatly misses her after she has been dead sone fifteen years) and he was her golden child, the one she loved and even worshipped so she didnt abuse him ever. So maybe thats what he remembers...her worship of him. It never quit...he never married. Maybe nobody was as good as mother to him. I dont know.

But my moher neglected, ignored and treated my sister horribly until she was about 29 and she does not think our mother was abusive to us even though she was abused/neglected. And we shared a room. She was there when my mother shocked me awake at 3am to scream at me about something I thought had been resolved a month before. I guess that wasnt abuse to her. I dont know her version of our childhood. But she protects my mom.

My memory is of a terrifying bullying mean mother who cried abuse whenever I tried to fight back and her turning almost all against me. I was abused. Thats my unwavering memory. Three different ones.

This was not about bipolar memories.

I think many times there are NO memory glitches, just attempts to cause guilt....a means to an end. Not attached to an illness. Just an attempt to gain stuff from the does seem to really hurt many parents and make them believe they were deficient. Its too sad. But it is done by too many adult children to be attached to one thing.

People with bipolar who are not nice or need to twist reality or want to forget reality can do so. As can anyone else. And they do, for their own various reasons. I think it is mostly guilt inducing for the purpose of personal gain from their grieving, sad parents.
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J has not been diagnosed as Bipolar-he refuses to consider the possibility that anything is wrong, but his birth mother was Bipolar and the psychiatrist I work for has told me that he believes that he is Bipolar.
There are similarities in our situations. My 30 year old son is adopted, and biracial. While I am not biracial, we look like we could be mother and son. His birth parents had mental health diagnoses, but I always hoped they were secondary to drug use.

He has been angry and bitter too. At me. There was nothing in our relationship as he was growing up to engender this kind of anger. We had a loving relationship and he flourished. I was beyond mystified and dismayed when he could no longer sustain a loving relationship to me.

The thing is this: we as adoptive parents catch all of the anger that they feel for the birth parents who they feel abandoned them. My own son feels abused by his bio-parents who used drugs. He felt they damaged him in utero. He hates them. But they are not here for him to express these emotions to real people. I am here. And so I became the target.

There is nothing fair about this. Nothing logical.

He has an emotional need to feel these feelings. And he needs a target. You are there.

As far as diagnosing bipolar on the basis of what you read or because a therapist says it sounds like it, I would be careful. That his mother was bipolar is important but not definitive.

I guess I would say this even though you did not ask: You need to insulate yourselves from his mistreatment of you. Nothing at all is gained by letting him use you as a target. You will never get him to see what he does not want to see. He is doing this because it functions for him. He will hold onto this thought pattern as long as he needs it.

We are the ones who need to hold onto the truth about our lives with our children. It is very hard, I know.
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Copa not all adopted adults are angry. Are many? Probably. I know Jumper, Sonic and Princess are not angry at their birthparents Except for Sonic though none were damaged in utero and Sonic is hard to explain...if you met him you would see how exceptionally kind he is. There just is no anger in his soul. He accepts all and doesnt have any interest in meeting his birthfamily. The others probably will one day...but they are not angry and have attached strongly to us. I think they will search after we are gone....and they have our blessings even to do it now, but they wont.

On the other hand, Goneboy definitely felt very hurt that his birthmother did not keep him. Nothing could sate his pain. He knew she had two girls she had kept, but that she was married to the father and that in Asia it was and maybe still is unacceptable to keep a child without being married to the childs biological father. Princess from Korea gets it and is not angry at her birthmother, but Goneboy was devestated. Later, after he left, I know he friended his birth family on FB and he is very wealthy and has visited his home country many times. Im sure he met them. I am not sure that he is completely healed though. Truly I hope he has. He has two boys and needs to be healthy for them. He is also a Hep. B carrier and it has not affected his life but he isnt or wasnt happy about it either.

Goneboy was so unable to understand family that he proposed marriage to Princess, our beloved daughter and HIS SISTER since her arriving in our arms at five months old!!! He said to her that it was okay for them to marry because they were not biologically related and he offered to change his name!!!

Luckily Princess was ours, one of the family, and was so horrified and traumatized by Goneboys romantic interest in her that she had been staying in his house, but moved out almost the next day with her boyfriend. She told Goneboy he is her brother and it was disgusting (her word) of him to ask her this. He continued to try to change her mind. And was angry at her for telling him it was not normal and she only loves him as a brother and he needs to leave her alone.

When she left him to bebwith eher boyfriend, whom he was very jealous of, Goneboy was not nice and was hurt. This was the beginning of him pushing all of us away and he was especially unfriendly to Princess which saddened her. They had bern close and now this had happened and he wasnt nice to her anymore. She was very confused.

Shortly after, he met his future wife, married, and left the family. So his adoption messed him up. He did not see why his sister since her birth would not marry him. His wife was very possessive of him and very obviously jealous of Princess so she made it worse. Obviously he had told her of his attraction to his sister and it caused more strife. Wife wouldnt even let Princess sit near him without plopping in his lap with her arms around him. It was uncomfortable. They looked and acted like lovesick teens and both were in their 30s. It was out of character for Goneboy.

There is a reason that half the children in therapy are adopted. I can see the disaster with your son Copa and his anger after learning he had gotten Hep B from his birthfamily just like I understand how Goneboy, not adopted until age six, can be unable to bond with parents, since he never stopped grieving his mother. And I even get it in a queasy way how he could think his sister was just another woman to pursue need to explain. Just but. To him, none of us were really family.

These things hsppened before we met them. These things made life harder for them. Goneboy did achieve financially. He was brilliant which was one reason his country wanted him in a family fast. He knew he was brilliant.

Very sadly, in my opinion, very early on we could tell he felt he could overcome the shame he admitted he felt at having been an orphan by making money, thus gaining prestige. Money means orestige in the U S. and THAT he picked up and decided to have lots of. That became his main goal in life. Always has been. He had no trouble achieving his goal even skipping college. He is a millionaire and was by 30 or so he said. But one thing he didnt do was lie. I believe this was true. He was very smart sbout finances.

My ex, the only family member he talks to because of ex's huge bank account, tells me about Goneboy, although he sees him just enough that he doesnt write him out of his will. A few times he saw Goneboy so seldom that ex wrote to him threatening to disinherit him and he came back quickly each time making excuses. My ex wants to believe Goneboy loves him so he excepts the excuses and as of right now Goneboy is in his will even though ex says he sees Bart as much as he sees Goneboy and Goneboy lives in his state and Bart lives in St. Louis.

But Goneboy spends NO holidays or special days with ex snd ex has to go to Goneboys house to see him and his family. Goneboybeont go to ex's house. Ex is frail and sick and its hard for him to drive, but that is Goneboys rules, his excuse being his boys, who are not too young to travel an hour anymore. 8 and 6 I think. But he says its too hard to drive an hour with them. So he prevails.

I also know Goneboy works about twelve hours a day and that his wife complains she doesnt see him enough. Likely he is not normally bonded to that family either. Bonding is hard for him. Being adopted and at such a late age affected him deeply. I can remember how deeply Inloved him but he never loved me back.

Another twist tonthe story. Although I dont know why, Goneboy once boycotted ex for over three years. Didnt seesHIM either. After Bart moved to St. Louis, ex was scared of only having Princess around for medical emergencies and he called Goneboy and talked him into having a relationship with him. These details I never got except bare bones. But Goneboy was going to completely cut out his father too. How ex talked him out of doing so I never asked. I refused to beg and grovel. I suspect ex did along with mentioning how much money he had inherited. Goneboy can never have enough money. That may have done it. Could have been something else. I will never know. My ex is losing his memory now and probsbly couldnt remember even if I asked, and I wont.

So that is our story.i never told the whole thing before and not sure why I am sharing all this now. But it felt good to get it out.

Copa I certainly understand J's anger. Goneboy is angry too. It can happen with adopted kids. Not always, but the numbers show they have more problems.

Big hugs!!! I do hope things work out in the end. I believe in your case they can.
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Active Member
Personally I think that manipulating the truth, consciously or not is common to our kids. I don't think its related to bipolar or specific to bipolar however. If my kid said well maybe I don't remember it that way because of x diagnosis I'd say stop looking for excuses.

Think of it from the opposite direction. Don't we all know people who remember everything "with rose colored glasses". We don't look for a mental illness. I submit that to some extent or another we all have distorted memories. If we're angry the memories may be more negative, if happy more rosy.
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My son has talked about memories of his that really baffle me, as far back as when he was four years old and onwards. Some of the things he says I said or did could possibly be true, although unlikely, and other things I find inconceivable. But I don't recall any of them.

He told me that when he was four we were sitting in my bedroom and I told him that I had stolen him from the hospital. I don't remember saying this and can't imagine why I would, even jokingly. But he also described the bedroom and the way everything was arranged and it pretty much added up to my image of the same room. So it really makes me wonder if there is at least a modicum of reality behind that memory.

He also says I called him a meth head after he confided in me about his addiction. I cannot conceive of my saying that. He said that when we got off the phone he cried and his roommate had to comfort and console him. I just cannot believe those words "meth head" would come out of my mouth. Addict, yes, or something of that nature, but not a hurtful even insulting term like "meth head." So I'm completely confounded on that one.

I don't know how to respond when he says these things. I can't say he's remembering wrong or imagining it or making it up, because I honestly don't know if he is or not. He did tell me he has an eidetic (close to photographic) memory...but on googling I have read that it is more prevalent among very young children up to 12 or 13 years or age and almost nonexistent in adults. So is it possible that his brain stopped developing when he was a young teenager and thus enabled him to preserve his eidetic memory?

That doesn't really answer your question other than to say that yes, it happens frequently with my son. Whether it's a part of his bipolar disorder or has another cause I have no idea.

Deni D

Well-Known Member
The point is your four siblings had different childhood memories and they are not bipolar. As one with this label from the flawed DSM I dislke when behaviors that are not specific to bipolar are attributed to it.
I think it’s more like negative aspects of someone’s personality or poor coping mechanisms are more apt to come up when someone is not in a good place mentally. In my son’s and his father’s cases it’s when they are hypo-manic. And in their cases they really do rewrite history when they are unstable but the stories go away when they are stable.

I don't know how to respond when he says these things. I can't say he's remembering wrong or imagining it or making it up, because I honestly don't know if he is or not.
I’ve questioned my memory many times but as the stories have gotten even more outrageous I don’t do that anymore.


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At age four his own memory, mentally ill or not, can be unclear. I have a spooky memory alone in a bedroom with an uncle that, if I wasnt being logical, I could think of as him possibly sexually abusing me.

But I wasnt even four yet. I remember where I was sitting and even young Uncle's stoic face as he scared me.
We WERE in a bedroom together and he WAS trying to scare me with making me think an imaginery person named Boops was on our apartment ceiling making creaking noises. That much is clear and did scare me . But he never got sexusl with me, although the atmosphere was right for that. He didnt do that to anyone ever. So obviously he didnt go that far with me. My logic knows this.

If I was somebody else trying to guilt a parent or trick myself I could say he sexually abused me in that closed bedroom. But I dont fill in the blanks about things I dont remember. Your son probably has a fuzzy memory of four years old.

And if you ever said "you could become a meth head and Im.afraid" or 'your behavior is like a meth addict" he could have decided to alter your words to make you feel bad.

You know your reality. Dont let anyone make you doubt it or feel crazy.
Dont let a very troubled man gaslight you. You clearly remember how things were when he was a child. Nothing he says that is untrue makes him right. Manipulation. Gaslighting. Dont buy into either.

Love and light,!
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Tired out

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When I have tried to remind him of the many happy events of our lives, he turns it around to make it negative and distorted or just brushes it aside.
My ds has no diagnosis and the more I read the more I think that my ds is just a self centered brat. No adoption, no fetal drugs, no history of mental illness on either side of our family. There are manipulative self centered people in our extended family. My grandmother and youngest sister very manipulative. I used to think my youngest sister was bi-polar but she has somewhat grown out of her behavior , I don't think you can grow out of being bi-polar.
My ds has come up with all sorts of stupid things. He has told others outside the family some of the stories and they have come back to us. Why he wants to make us look bad I don't know. The only thing I can think is that he is trying to make us look bad to excuse his own behavior. He knows his behavior is wrong and he is trying to justify it.

So that is our story.i never told the whole thing before and not sure why I am sharing all this now. But it felt good to get it out.
SWOT. Your family has been through a lot. So sad about Goneboy that he only finds self worth in money.


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Thanks, but I understand it. As a young boy he would say "People like you if youre rich." He also had made many comments of how bad it is to be an orphan in his country of origin. Where he came from having a family name (bioligical) is everything. You are norhing without a name and people, at least at that time, would not adopt in that country for fear of inferior genes. Sounds silly to Americans but it was and maybe still is cultural. So by age six he knew he was considered lesser than. And he was determined to have status in this country and go home to his country of birth with lots of money. I guess money talks in all countries.

I get it though. He was truly ashamed of his orphan status and would have felt better if, say, a doctor would have adopted him.

He never liked that WE were working class (my ex didnt get money until he inherited later in life) and Goneboy hung out with his friends whose parents were rich.At their homes. In many ways, wevwere a mismatch for him.

Goneboy is very troubled but not bad or in any way evil. With his background, he was destined to be confused but he turned to Christianity to belong. And he is super religious and when he isnt working at his company, he is working at his church. Yet his love of Jesus has not moved him to come back to us. Or to spend more time with his current family of choice.

Even so, with a traumatic background, he is functioning at a high level, at least in providing very well for his family. He is in the process of moving to one of the richest suburbs in Illinois and having the house built. And his last house was nice with sn inground pool to boot.

It has been so long that he could never come wouldnt work. Our family is stable and set and Sonic and Jumper barely remember him and his degree of religiousness is extreme.... he gets VERY offended if one swears or slips up and says "Oh God" and is against all except Christian TV and will walk out if, say, a movie is on. Plus Princess will never forget his marriage proposal. And all the kids know about it. It has been so long my grief is over and I am not willing to risk it again.

So he is truly Goneboy, but it was his decision. I would never disown my own child.

And thats all of his story that I know. I think, as did my psycholigist, that adopting an older child is risky...I would not have done it if I had known as much as I do now about the early years snd attachment.
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Copa, yes you are right about insulating myself from his abuse. I keep him blocked on my phone, although I confess that every few days or after a week or so, I'll unblock him if we haven't heard from him just to make sure he's alive and not in jail. My husband checks the Denver website for arrests. Pretty sad.
I just heard from him this morning, still calling me an F--- b----ch, whore, selfish, stupid. So, same old same old, I guess. As long as he is untreated, he will be in the throes of his rage and we will be his targets.


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Beta, I'm so sorry he is so cruel to you. I think you are right to remove yourself from situations where you are a target. It sounds like he is lashing out at you because it's easier than facing up to his own problems. If it's all your fault he's off the hook. Take care of yourself and give yourself space to feel peace and safety. Hugs.


Active Member
My husband checks the Denver website for arrests. Pretty sad.
I did that frequently when my son was in Chicago if I had not heard heard from him for several days or weeks. I might be better off than you though. M son can be very cruel and hurtful but when it suits him or when he's more rational he can be very likable and even lovable at times.

I know and feel your pain. It's sad when we have several options but none of them are good ones. Peace to you.