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Parents of Bipolar Kids Community› Parents of Bipolar Kids Articles› Bipolar disorder looks different from different family members' perspectives
|Bipolar disorder looks different from different family members' perspectives|
|Written by lotsoflittleones|
|07 June 2009|
Teens' perspectives on why they behave in these erratic ways:
"I'm fine; everyone else is crazy."
"If I'm crazy, so are my friends."
"I'm so screwed up, life is hopeless."
"It's the kid's fault-he's a bad kid; he's lazy."
"It's all my fault; I'm a bad parent."
"It's the environment-the teachers are too hard on her."
"His friends are bad for him."
"There's something wrong with her brain."
"My brother is a jerk."
"She just does this stuff to get attention."
"All my parents care about is him and his bad behavior."
"I can't wait until I don't have to deal with her anymore."
Sixtee-year-old Justin was breaking rules at home, ditching classes at school, and had most recently run away from home to spend a few days with his friends. Though his friends slept after being out all night, Justin stayed up and wrote lyrics for a new song he'd been working on. He believed he would be a great rock star some day and that having to obey a curfew and go to school was interfering with his plans. When he returned home, he was angry and sullen and then exploded and started yelling when his mother tried to talk to him. His father stepped in and tried to restrain him, but Justin knocked his father down and ran out of the house, still yelling. Later his friends dropped him off at a party, where he got drunk. Because the party was full of high school kids, the police were called. They took Justin to juvenile detention for being drunk and belligerent. When his parents picked him up, he began angrily talking about being stifled by them. He then threatened to kill himself if they made him go home with them. His parents took him to the emergency room for a safety evaluation.
Each major player in this case study had a different explanation for Justin's behavior. Justin believed his parents were responsible for his erratic behavior, faulting them for not supporting his dreams of becoming a rock star and wanting him to toe the "corporate" line.
Justin's parents were initially confused and angry about his behavior. In their eyes, he appeared disrespectful and rebellious. As time went on, they became fearful. When Justin got belligerent and threatening, they knew his behavior was more than they could handle safely and decided to get help. After the latest blowup, they felt sad and guilty, knowing that Justin was in a lot of pain and they couldn't seem to alleviate it.
Justin's 14-year-old brother, Zach, thought Justin was being a jerk. He didn't understand why Justin was being so hostile to their parents when Mom and Dad were just trying to keep Justin safe. Zach silently vowed that he would never be like his brother and decided he would be the "good" kid to give Mom and Dad a break.
Justin's friends said he was just a typical teenager-trying to find himself and figure out where he was headed. They did admit, however, that he was "hyper" and hard to keep up with.
The hospital staff saw many of the signs of bipolar disorder in Justin and admitted him to the hospital for observation. The facts that he needed less sleep than his friends, that he had grandiose ideas of rock stardom, that he bounced between sullen irritability and rage, and that he had threatened suicide were all consistent with the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.
Taken from the book, "The Bipolar Teen", by David J. Miklowitz, PhD and Elizabeth George, PhD
I think we can all relate to this story. Justin is all over the place. His behavior is irritational, although he feels it's justified. How many times have we gone through this with our own children? Maybe our situation wasn't as intense as this one, or maybe it was ten times worse. The fact of the matter is, we have all been there.
The perspectives are all very different. As parents, we go through a sort of grieving process. There is self incrimination, denial, placing blame on environmental factors and finally, the reality of the situation. This is a neurological brain disorder. It is no one's fault. It is what it is and we start to truly deal with it.
Siblings play such a tough role in this situation. They can't fathom what is happening to their family. They harbor such hostility towards the bipolar sibling. They truly believe it's all made up to get attention. They feel left out and abandoned at times and some even become psychosymatic, making up ailments to gain attention of their own. Our teenager daughter always says she can't wait until she doesn't have to live with her bipolar brothers. When deep down we know she loves them just as they are. She enjoys them and sticks up for them on a regular basis. She's their biggest cheerleader. My 8-year-old is just confused and can't wrap his head around why his brothers act like this. Then there's our 5-year-old who just loved them dearly and is completely unaffected and unaware.
Finally, most importantly, there is the bipolar child. The child who deals with this condition every single day. The one who longs to be "normal", whatever that may be. My son's perspective changes with his moods. Somedays, he is of the mindset that we're all nuts and he is completely rational. Even though, he is the one terrorizing the house and everyone in it. In "clear" moments, he cries about how much he has hurt the people he loves most in this world. Then there are those depressed moments, when he truly feels he can't deal with any of this anymore.
This is an exhausting, emotionally draining, roller coaster ride. Together, one day at a time, one shared story at a time, one kind word, one gentle ear, we are going to rise above this. We will send our children out into the world as well informed on their illness as we possibly can. We will equip them with the tools they need to lead healthy, productive lives. I truly believe this... Together we can make a difference. We can change our perspective, the perspectives of our loved ones and enlighten and uplift one another.
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