Growing up, Jane Fonda didn't know her mother had bipolar disorder, but the experience affected her deeply. And, when Fonda was 12, her mother died by suicide. In a new interview with People, Fonda explained what growing up under those circumstances was like and how she came to have empathy for her mother later on.
“If you have a parent who is not capable of showing up, not capable of reflecting you back through eyes of love, it has a big impact on your sense of self,” Fonda said. "As a child, you always think it was your fault…because the child can’t blame the adult, because they depend on the adult for survival. It takes a long time to get over the guilt."
When she was working on her memoir, Fonda learned more about her parents and was able to access her mother's medical records. “When you go through that kind of research" and find some answers, she explained, you can get to a place where you know that you weren't responsible. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t lovable," Fonda said, "and the minute you know that, you can feel tremendous empathy for them. And you can forgive."
As SELF wrote previously, bipolar disorder is characterized by shifts in energy, mood, or activity levels.
These shifts often present as contrasting periods of extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). But there are different types of bipolar disorder, which present with different patterns of mood changes. Bipolar II, for instance, is characterized by intense lows but less extreme mania ("hypomania") than what is typically seen in people with bipolar I.
Today, bipolar disorder is usually managed with a combination of medication and therapy. But when it's not well managed, bipolar disorder can interfere with a person's ability to live their normal life and can affect their work or relationships.
If someone else's mental illness is also affecting you, don't hesitate to seek professional counseling or guidance through a support group. If you grew up with a parent with a mental illness, as the National Alliance on Mental Illness notes, it's crucial to seek help and find your own ways of addressing your needs in adulthood, including by developing self-care behaviors and identifying triggers that you associate with any trauma you experienced as a child.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.