HOW FATHER’S SEE THE BP CHILD, HOW THEY REACT AND RESPOND?
HOW THEY REACT WITH MOM WHEN SHE TELLS HIM WHAT IS HAPPENING?
I sent out an email asking our members to contribute their real life stories to this article and nobody has sent me anything which confirms my thoughts on the topic.
Dad’s cannot see their children as anything but perfect, they don’t like to admit that their precious bundles have psychiatric disorders and need a life time of medical intervention, psychotherapy, play therapy and psychiatrists to keep them healthy or that the road to finding the correct mix or cocktail of medicines can take a very long time and may need to be tweaked throughout their lives.
Learning and accepting that one's child has bipolar disorder is shocking and is often followed by instability, school difficulties, and broken relationships with our friends and family. Diagnosis should be the start of a new season. With the disorder identified, focus can be made on treatment, education, and developing coping skills. Proper treatment is required to prevent stress being placed on family members.
In our case, my husband has accepted that our daughter has a problem and that she is better on medication but finds it difficult to accept that the diagnosis is that of a lifelong disorder. I get the impression that he often feels she is being naughty or pushing the envelope and that she has been spoiled. He sees her as cute, bright, super intelligent and a bit of a show-off and hopes that the behavior can be curtailed and that she’ll grow out of it. I think it is difficult for him to accept that the problems she has at school are related to the disorder and not just the child being difficult. I sometimes feel that he thinks I make excuses for her. I believe that he feels I am far too flexible with her behavior, that I do not punish often enough or forcefully enough and allow her to get away with far too much. In my mind, I don’t sweat the small stuff, I avoid an episode if visiting with friends, out in a public place or when my other daughter is studying but am learning to deal with an episode where it will not affect others. I understand that giving in to an episode inevitably gives the child her own way – as the active parent, I become exhausted, tired of battling and being defied on every turn and sometimes it is just easier to give in, but like I’ve said to others, husband, mother, anyone who is close to me, “Walk a day in my shoes, or two, or three and see how much resistance you can muster.” This is a difficult road, frustrating, rewarding, overwhelming, exciting, there are so many descriptive words that I could use. And one needs to be a step ahead of the child all the time because what works now, won’t in an hour’s time. You need to find a new consequence for each situation!
Working together and setting limitations within the family is imperative. It is important to set boundaries and to make these boundaries inflexible and not to own the child’s problems. Easier said than done. Dad’s, if you’re reading this, please help us to set the limitations so that we can be a united front, not be played off against one another and provide one another with the timeout and support we need.
For me, it’s important to educate myself on an ongoing basis, to share stories with other people affected by Childhood Bipolar Disorder, to join a support group such as BP Kids and Teens South Africa and to meet with members on a regular basis. This way it is easier to pass on interesting information to the child’s father, to help him to understand and know that other parents are experiencing similar if not the same circumstances – that we are not alone.
For grandfathers, the diagnosis is more difficult. There was no such thing as Bipolar Disorder in their day! Children were naughty, given a hiding, punished, sent to their rooms and I guess in worst case scenarios sent to boarding school or institutionalized. These children were labeled rebels, dysfunctional children and outcasts of society. If you spared the rod, you spoiled the child and children were definitely seen and not heard!
Luckily for our family, my daughters maternal grandfather has embraced the diagnosis, glad that there is a real reason for her difficult nature although feels that my life revolves around her to the detriment of my husband and older daughter. Paternal Grandpa has more difficulty accepting that his first born, beautiful granddaughter has a mental disorder. He asks questions of me which means that he is trying to grasp the illness. He wonders why she shows the disorder mainly to me. He also questions the fact that she’ll suffer throughout her life. He doesn’t want anything other than the best for her. I am fortunate that both grannies are educating themselves and are able to discuss their findings with their husbands which in turn makes for better understanding. As with me, the grandmothers are also “piggy in the middle” they try to pacify and divert attention during times of the child’s anger or defiance so that the situation can be dealt with appropriately.
It is very difficult to have to learn to change the tone in which one addresses the child, or the way in which discipline is meted out but it is necessary for the growth and success of these precious BP children.
ENDORSED BY THE MOTHERS OF OUR GROUP bpkidssa*
8 October 2012
HOW BP KIDS RELATE TO THEIR FRIENDS, THEIR PARENTS FRIENDS
AND IN TURN THE DIFFICULTIES WE AS PARENTS AND FAMILY MEMBERS
HAVE WITH OUR FRIENDS AND THEIR CHILDREN”
Our friends and their friends – an area of concern. These precious children of ours are wired differently – we know this and find it very difficult and tiring dealing with constant mood changes, aggression and the way in which thoughts are processed and we’re adults!
How do our little people interact with their friends? Are our children accepted? Do they play up more with one particular child than another, do some personalities get along better with the BP child, what goes on in their social lives?
I have noticed that my child gets long better with children older or younger than she and especially if the friend has older siblings and is used to being “bossed around” and controlled! She doesn’t like being put in a situation where she may lose so we encourage games where everyone is a winner. At school she is seen as the social butterfly but in reality she flits from group to group trying to fit in and be accepted.
Do we explain to our friends and the parents of our children’s friends that our children are Bipolar – well I guess it depends on the situation and the relationship you have with the parent. I have informed some parents and not others, I use my gut feeling when it comes to deciding who to confide in. As we have learned in the school environment, with teachers, some parents will work with you and support you and others won’t.
It is important to educate those who know – to involve them in this group and website so that they can understand your child’s disorder and treat them accordingly.
Here are some stories that I’m sure many of you will relate to.
Arum Lily - mother to 13 year old daughter
Unfortunately friendships across the board present a problem for my daughter and I.
If I may speak about my friendships first, I have to say that it becomes incredibly difficult to explain to friends who do not wish to understand, that my child does not “compute” like other kids do. That her life is dictated to by mood swings that she is unable to control at the best of times. It seems the “filter” between her brain and her mouth does not communicate often, and whatever pops into her head is spurted out of her mouth, whether it is an insult, a rude comment or something completely inappropriate.
This ends up in:
a. My friends becoming angry at the child for what she has just said and taking the child to task in my presence.
b. My friends looking at me as a bad parent and thinking that I have no control over my child.
c. My friends avoiding contact with me when they know my child will be with me.
d. My friends not inviting me to functions because they never know what my “naughty” child is going to do next.
e. My friends giving me unsolicited advice when they have no knowledge or understanding of the disorder. This makes me angry and defensive.
The next issue is the anxiety and stress that my child deals with, and this is what my friends do not understand:
a. If you invite us to a party or function that I have agreed to, I may cancel at the last minute so that I save my child from a bipolar rage or episode, and I save your child or friends and family from behavior that is unacceptable and uncomfortable to you and your guests.
b. Under no circumstances is it my intention to be rude to you, cancel at the last minute, nor as a slight to your preparations. I understand that you have gone to a lot of trouble- but my life is very unpredictable, and I have no choice but to protect my child whilst at the same time trying to protect my friendship and the possible discomfort you will feel when my child has uncontrollable behavior at your party or function.
c. Yes, this may also lead to me accepting and attending your function- only to have to abruptly get up and leave in the middle of a meal or at whatever time is necessary.
d. Yes, you may think I have no control- but at the end of the day, without knowledge of early onset bipolar disorder, it is difficult to explain to you that the bipolar child might look like a naughty kid to you, and I may look like a parent who has no control- but as the mother, I know the signs only too well of what is going to happen next. The worst is that the bipolar child will show the very severe aspects of bipolar disorder to MOM alone, but she/he can certainly make everyone around feel extremely uncomfortable. So- before it gets to that, we remove ourselves and our kids.
e. Sometimes, when invited to a kid’s party, the child will express extreme excitement and joy at attending the party. On the day of the party however, my child may have woken up with a very low self-esteem and then becomes incredibly anxious that everyone is going to hate her- judge her- mock her, and no amount of convincing will change her mind. This is the current mood she is in, and it is beyond her, and my control. I have no choice but to act accordingly, so that I protect her, myself and you from the ramifications of the mood.
f. Finally, I have to just say - I lose friendships because friends disagree with me on how to educate my child, refuse to try and understand what bipolar disorder and all its complications are, and provide too much unsolicited advice when they have no knowledge of the disorder. Life becomes easier when I don’t have the added stress of these so called friendships. In my opinion a true friend who values me and who I am, will make an effort to ask me, and then actually listen to what I have to say, and try their best to understand.
My child and friendships??? Not happening! Because of the lack of filter between brain and mouth, the insecurities, the low self esteem and the anger, my child will offend any potential friends unwittingly, until they dump her. And heaven help me if I should pay some attention to her friends, she will dump them instantly! Once in a blue moon, a friend will come along and have a compassion and level of understanding that is beyond his or her years, and despite being insulted and treated badly by my child, will always give a second and subsequent chance. As parents, we are thankful to these children and their parents.
IN A NUTSHELL FROM ME - IF YOU ARE MY FRIEND - PLEASE LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY. I VALUE YOUR FRIENDSHIP ENOUGH TO TAKE THE TIME TO EXPLAIN THE RAMIFICATIONS OF CHILDHOOD BIPOLAR DISORDER. IF YOU VALUE MY FRIENDSHIP, ALL I ASK IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND THAT YOU MAKE YOURSELF AWARE. MY CHILD AND I COME AS A PACKAGE DEAL. I HAVE NO CHOICE WITH HER, BUT WITH FRIENDS I DO, AND THE LOSS OF A FRIENDSHIP IS HURTFUL TO ME AND TO MY CHILD - WHO ALWAYS FEELS RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING ONE MORE THING TO MAKE MY LIFE UNHAPPY, EVEN THOUGH SHE IS UNABLE TO CONTROL HER ACTIONS.
Day Lily – mom to son of 13
My son has always had very few friends . He's never been the sharing type and it's always his way or no way so friends get driven off... it's hard because his older brother is popular - gets on well with mates, goes out, has girlfriends etc etc.... and the younger one finds it hard to understand why he isn't "normal" like his brother.
Lavender – mom to daughter of 6
I have had to explain her sudden changes in mood to her friends. These little people don’t understand why their friend suddenly hates them or tells them to go home or calls them names or won’t share or do anything that they want to do. I have been asked outright why my child gets so cross. I have suggested to little friends that they just walk away and diffuse the situation, play something on their own and come to me if necessary but not to antagonise and accelerate the mood.
More recently, she is becoming violent – she kicked her friend for copying her dancing. This is unacceptable behaviour and although it happens in the moment, needs to be spoken about and apologies are required either at the time or later on. This behaviour is based on being a bad loser and wanting to be the best and the centre of attention, so nobody can do it better than she can!
My child is not good in a competitive situation so we have to be careful not to put her in situations where she can lose because she will have an outburst. Those situations we make time for at home to teach the lesson of being a good loser. Even at home when playing a board game or doing an activity, she will give up rather than lose.
I am learning to speak up in regard to friends. If you continue exciting my child, she will think you are her friend and treat you as such – you may get smacked, shouted at or pulled – you will not get the respect that I believe you should get. She sees you as her ally and once the excitement is over, there are going to be tears or anger to cope with.
If she has an outburst and heads off to her room – please leave her to get over her mood. If anyone should check up on her it is I. When she wants to be alone, give her the space to be alone. If she has spoken disrespectfully during an episode, do not try and reason with her – it is like speaking to an alcoholic when he is drunk!
When I explain to you about her disorder, please work with me. She needs boundaries but please don’t give her deadlines or expect her to react to a situation in the same manner as your children do, or you would – she won’t! She doesn’t know how to – she’s not wired like you.
If she’s not herself and being otherwise, rather ignore her than antagonise her with questions or trying to include her – she will come when she’s ready.
Please understand that I am the centre of her universe, she thinks that she owns me, is terrified that I’ll leave her and she will vi for my attention when you’re speaking to me. Even if I do bring along things to keep her busy, this doesn’t always work as she feels that I am getting her out of the way and that she will be missing out. It is just as frustrating for me as it is for you. Please let me handle the situation the best way I can and listen to me when I ask you to react in a certain way.
This is a life long journey for us and although we respect and love our friends, when we feel judged, a bad parent or helpless and our children are seen as unruly, rude and difficult, it hurts and it is sometimes easier to forfeit a friendship than to try and battle through misunderstanding.
Cosmos – mom to son of 9
My son struggles socially to make and keep friends due mainly to his condition. I am conscious of this and always try to maintain the friendships he has developed. People are sometimes scared of letting their children near my child.
Bouganvilla – mom to daughters of 28 and 18
My older daughter couldn’t give a damn what people think about her and she reckons what they see is what they get. She has got to a stage that she is quite “over” the reaction to the fact that she has bipolar. The added complication here is that she is gay and that alone was a tremendous hurdle to overcome and she lost many friends in the process. She is in the film industry so work is not always available and is very much seasonal. She has told me that she doesn’t mention the fact that she is bipolar as this could result in discrimination and not being awarded the jobs as they come her way despite the fact that she is a hard worker and dedicated there still seems to be a stigma attached to the condition as an adult.
My younger daughter has difficulty with her friends. Although they have been a great support throughout the last year and a half, at times they don’t understand why she feels depressed or why she has no energy to participate in some of the outings. Some have even told her to “get over it” which is certainly not the response a BP child likes hearing. She has also told them on a need to know basis so trust issues are a major for her right now. When she feels low the self mutilation takes over and then she doesn’t want to see her friends fearing they may ask why she cut herself so she tends to isolate herself until the wounds are healed!
I think that there is still a stigma attached to mental illness and particularly with people who don’t understand the condition and who actually make jokes about somebody if they are BP. Certainly some of my friends have absolutely no idea how to digest the news and we have also told only a few very close friends and others we don’t tell simply because they would run in the opposite direction! There are also times where we cannot accept social invites because she may be depressed and talking of suicide or cutting herself and we can’t risk leaving her on her own. Friends don’t understand this simply because in their mind she is 18 and should be fine on her own. It’s difficult having to say no to some, more than once, because they feel they are not good enough for us and the invitations eventually stop. Our circle of friends has become very small.
Tulip – mom to twin daughters – one with BP
Little Tulip and I have very recently been diagnosed as Bipolar. Already we’ve encountered a couple of run-ins, especially with my friends and family. It is so difficult (and tiring) to try and explain that my precious girl sometimes has no control over how she converses with others. I have been judged and found to be a horrible mother, who has no control over her 10 year old, and in turn she has been accused of being too big for her boots and arrogant, with no manners. Once, before diagnosis she yelled at a “good” friend of mine over some trivial thing and my “friend” reacted by screaming back that she wouldn’t hesitate in slapping her face if she EVER did something like that again!! This is a little, 10 year old girl, who has such remorse after an episode and an adult, taking her on. How unfair!! This is only one instance, but there have been MANY more…
Her friends are a total different ballgame. One day she is belle of the ball, with everybody LOVING her (her perception, again) and the next thing is everybody HATES her and is being nasty…Try and explain that to a 10 year old girl who wants to be little Tulip’s best friend.
Ok, on the subject of our friends and their kidlets…I am NOT allowed to give any attention to other children or speak to my friends or even her twin sister. That is perceived as total and utter betrayal. She feels that I hate her, and then inevitably she hates me - a never-ending cycle of screaming, acting out, and then sobbing with remorse for being a horrible child.
In our household, I feel saddest for my other girl – little Tulip’s twin. She has no idea how to handle her TWIN sister or the bullying (physical and verbal) she has to endure on a daily basis. If I so much as look in her direction, I am accused of only loving her, once again. It breaks my heart to see my “normal” little baby going through all this, and to know that in her mind it’s a constant dialogue of what has been said, how to interpret, what could have been done differently and that it is NEVER going to get better. It is not a cold, for which you take medicine and get better. You take your medicine, and it helps, but doesn’t take anything away. The worst part is that little Tulip hates herself and has asked me to either kill her, or help her kill herself, because she sees herself as a horrible child, who doesn’t deserve to be loved and cared for….
Aster, BP Mom with two children (unaffected)
“It’s your choice to be depressed, don’t you know that”. These were words spoken to me in 2012 by a friend who had tried to be of support to me – I suffer with bipolar depressive episodes – and try as I may I couldn’t make sense of that statement. This was a supposed “friend” and she was more or less telling me to “get over it” or “stop being a selfish brat” – that’s how I felt and thought.
Bipolar Depression is not, ever, a decision to be “crazy” or “depressed” it has its roots in biology and chemistry in the brain. Nobody is licensed to tell another to just “snap out of it”. The kind of person I am (and most BPs are) is that we put enormous pressure on ourselves and I found myself trying to please this friend and “making a choice to stop being depressed” As you can imagine it became more and more difficult to please this friend (especially that she was my boss and a hard task master) and resulted in me being hospitalised for a while. No one ‘tries’ to ‘get it’, it’s not catchy……..
Well back when I was a child this kind of reaction was still familiar to me when I would take days off school due to a ‘sore stomach’ or ‘flu’. I think my family just couldn’t cope with my depression and so their way was to just let me “stay at home” to “get over it”. But my family were very kind and caring and although I never had early onset bipolar, they were very aware that I was different to the other kids in the family – often at the last minute refusing to go out to play dates – being very vulnerable – refusing to socialise when this should have been a normal teenager phase – strange behavioural patterns – being bullied and teased at school. Well come to think of it now, I may not have chosen this disease, but a more perfect family I couldn’t have chosen. I do think that God has blessed me with this amazing family of mine who have been my saving grace.
At school I had my very nurturing elder sister who assisted me with things like becoming socially aware of physical changes as I don’t believe I was emotionally able to handle this on my own. And it is not “immaturity”; I just wasn’t able to handle the responsibility of these changes on top of all the other responsibilities and pressures. She didn’t understand how I felt but she cared for me and wanted to help and was of immense support to me. She still is. I didn’t relate to the other outgoing girls and often uncontrollable emotions such as low self-esteem, anger from the bullying, and taking things to personally caused me to become depressed and I wasn’t able to function normally. I can still feel those feeling some days and one of those particular girls lost her son last year to cancer and I wanted to wave my hands in the air and say “yay” we are now equal!!! But forgiveness is maturity as well I guess. So I let it go.
I do think that as an adult now that expectations play a huge role. Patience is required by me as well as my family in particular the caregivers. My younger sister said to me “it’s like having a fourth child” and this made me really sit up and think. She doesn’t blame me, not ever, though, but expects realistically as expecting too much is a recipe for disaster with me. Also she doesn’t expect too little either, she seems to find the balance and this manages my need for independence as well as providing support to me. My parents too are patient and I am lucky to have a partner who is very patient and extremely kind with a good heart. My sister’s friends who know me know me as a loving, kind person with a mental illness which has this name bipolar and they too understand. It’s been 17 years after all!!! My clients are my friends too and love me for my relationship which I have with their children as relating to little ones is a gift that I have and teaching helps with creating the outlet for my emotions and of course keeping me independent. I think that little children can be cruel (as I know from the playground in my experiences in teaching and in my experiences as a child) and especially if they put horrid names to the behaviour of special needs children, but hopefully with more insight and the desire to help children with BP, teachers will mend these bridges too. I know that bp children have to be supported from an early age so that they can one day go on to becoming as fully functional adults as possible holding down jobs, having families of their own to support. Special needs are just that and if they take time to do projects, study for exams, socialise properly (geez with the internet these days this is a real challenge to the parents and the children) especially because of the onset of adolescence, teachers and parents alike can form a support network and this will provide other normal children with insight, better understanding and patience. Those children who don’t get it will eventually get it one day!!
My other close friends also know that I know and understand that they are there for me with a sympathetic ear or whatever small needs I may have. This amazing website and the mediators who have started it and continue doing an amazing job I just love and think are wonderful people. They make me feel so special and never ever judged or stigmatised. Also the other “mommies” who use it as a support system are lovely. All the times that I thought that I was alone and now I know that help is just a click away and a kind word or advice helps me through. As a friend did say to me “you may not believe it but the way you are feeling will change” and “I understand you have a real illness and this is what causes those thoughts and feelings” and “Ange I think you should go and chat to your psychologist, you have a voice” or “Ange don’t think you are co-dependent, we all need help just pick up the phone, pick up the phone, pick up the phone” and “Ange we are here for you”………
Children learn skills from their friends. They learn to be leaders, how to share and work in a group environment. In all relationships there are varying phases including, happiness, pain, adventure, confusion etc. Children need to experience good relationships so as not to be left behind.
Many Bipolar children have wonderful senses of humour but also have traits that can annihilate friendships, especially when they like to continually be boss, win the game and perform when they lose. They need to learn how to be good friends. Encourage them to play games where they can get to know one another and where confidence can be gained.
If there is a difference in opinion or hostility, try to speak to your child in another room, remove him from the situation until he has calmed down. Sometimes, it takes being away from the situation and an explanation to get your child to behave rationally.
When getting to know friends and have play dates, it’s a good idea to include the other child’s mom and have a short time together until you can ascertain whether the children get along or not. If you see a situation developing, diffuse the situation before it takes hold. If your child starts to get tired or difficult or just not his usual self, cut the visit short to alleviate embarrassment, low self esteem or an ugly scene in public.
Birthday parties are a time when I feel that a parent should be present. It can be very overwhelming for a child to attend a party on his own. Often games are organised, prizes are handed out and a situation may arise where you need to pick up the pieces or diffuse a situation.
Find a reason to go to parties if your child is of an age where he or she will be embarrassed – perhaps the friend’s mother could do with an extra pair of hands? You may be criticised for being over protective and a worry wart but you need to be there to ensure that all is alright and parents who are not knowledgeable of Bipolar in children need to realise that if they were in a similar situation, they would do the same.
It is important to note that Bipolar people when on their medication and taking care of themselves can make great friends. They’re happy, fun to be around and when older, a friend can support his or her Bipolar friend by caring for their unique needs and being aware of and perhaps discussing a change in mood. Close family and friends are usually the first to notice warning signs and you have to be able to converse this in an open, friendly manner without being critical.
Always remember that simple day to day activities that are taken for granted by non Bipolar people are very hard to manage so friends need to understand how the BP friend sees the world.
It is important to talk to your Bipolar friend and when involved in activities or outings ensuring that he or she is ok. Those suffering from BP have poor self esteem, so it a good idea to keep in touch on a regular basis and to affirm your friendship.
I hope that this has given some insight into the challenges of friendships and that I have given you some useful information.
Remember that we would love to hear your stories – help us to create awareness to help other parents, families and friends of Bipolar children and teens.
THE IDEA OF BIPOLAR DISORDER AND LIMITATION OR CURE
There are a number of professionals and people out there who believe that Bipolar disorder is curable, or a passing phase in the life of the BMD sufferer.
Our opinion, of course, and current research agrees, is that Bipolar Mood disorder can be controlled, but not cured. Tom Wootton of the Bipolar Network said, we can achieve Bipolar IN-order from the state of Bipolar DIS-order
Further to this, we saw an opinion in response to the “curability” of bipolar disorder, that mirrors our own views, and has been put across in such an excellent manner, that we thought we would share it with our members. It beautifully covers the fact that if Bipolar disorder is incurable, it does not mean that the BMD has to paralyse your life- and great achievements and success can still be within reach. The term “productive and fulfilling life” is dear to us, and used accurately. Success means different things to different people- so the term productive and fulfilling just says it all. Our very own Oscar Pistorius has said- “"You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are abled by the abilities you have".
POSTED BY JACO UWLAND;
“If a disease is incurable, it does not mean life is not achievable. That idea of limitation is the victimization of everyone who deals with chronic diseases and disability. At the same time denying that bipolar is a chronic illness is like saying the sun circles around the earth. No scientific evidence. Up to now the body of evidence points toward a strong genetic component, that means that as long we are not able to genetically modify people, we will not be able to cure bipolar <full stop>.
Does a disability like bipolar limit us? Yes and no; it prevents us to do certain things the majority of the people do, but it does not prevent us from doing things in general. We need to be and are more creative in life than most people who think they are normal. People with disabilities have proven throughout history to find way to compensate and sometimes even overcompensate for their disabilities. Wheelchair marathoners are nowadays so much faster than abled bodied runners, that they have to start 1.5 hours after the abled bodied runners.
Can people with bipolar lead normal lives? Maybe... however I would prefer to use the terms productive life or fulfilling life. A very large majority of people with bipolar are living very fulfilling lives and all of them have found their own ways to make their lives fulfilling. Some people are very successful and developed a program on how to deal with bipolar others people have written about their struggle/party/acceptance and I love to read those stories.
But let me be clear: people to claim to have a cure for something incurable and ask for money to disclose it, are nothing more than quacks and deserve no respect at all. Replace the word bipolar with homosexuality or lefthandedness and everyone will cry "shame". Quacks are feeding on the most vulnerable during their most vulnerable times with blatant lies. “
Posted by Jaco Uwland
HOW BIPOLAR CHILDREN REACT TO SCHOOL, HOMEWORK AND CARELESS REMARKS MADE BY TEACHERS
School is a topic that makes us shudder. Those of you who have non bipolar children will feel as frustrated as I do. My older child, now in matric has never, ever given one moments problem about going to school, was always ready to go, dressed and eager. Even now, she doesn’t like to miss school. Then surprise surprise, little bp daughter arrives and absolutely hates school and would do anything she can to get out of it. It’s a difficult, frustrating road and sometimes it would be so much easier to just give in but an education is imperative and it’s how we handle it that will make it easier.
I have some real life stories that you will probably relate to, again, it is wonderful to know that you are not alone out there dealing with your child. We need to educate our teachers and caregivers to deal with our children in an appropriate manner, not to antagonise them but to educate themselves and become knowledgeable on the subject of early onset bipolar disorder.
ARUM LILY- mom to 13 year old daughter BMD 1
My day starts off in the morning by lightly tapping on Little Lily’s door and gently saying wake up, time to wake up….. I do this every five minutes, until I get screamed at “I AM AWAKE!!!”- then I get the rundown on how brutal I am in waking her up in the morning and “JE**S CH***T, what do you want from me?
Then without fail, I get the news that we have a stomach ache, then we have a bad headache and so very nauseous. But Lily baby, you can’t miss school any more this year, you have had so many days off, you are going to fail. “I DON”T CARE” why should I go to school anyway, it just sucks, and I don’t learn anything there because school just sucks, and the teachers all hate me. One of these days I am going to run away and no one will find me, because seriously what is the point of going to school, the teachers don’t teach us anything, they are just useless and they don’t care about us.
That’s her reaction to school.
On the other hand- the school will not make any allowances for the fact that my daughter suffers from bipolar 1 disorder and is unable to process information like other kids do. When she is given a deadline, she shuts down completely. When she knows she has tests to write we go into rage episodes of self-loathing and hatred because she is stupid and no amount of learning or trying to learn is going to help her to pass. As the parent, I have to teach her gently, convince her that she can do it, and create stories around her work to make it interesting and to help her remember. As the parent, I am allowing her to do homework in different phases and not all at once, giving her breaks in between. I don’t expect this to be done at school. But if you let me know what she has to do, it will be done, and it will be done well. Sometimes I do not know of homework, because the subject has so overwhelmed the child that she will rather push it to the backburner and forget it exists.
What does not help, despite having spoken to teachers, and explained ad nauseum, provided written information and elicited promises of working with mom, is the fact that they actually DO NOT CARE….how sad, for the bipolar child, the mom, the dad, and all round, just sad.
When I hear that a teacher has used my child as an example in class, in front of the other students, as the failure of the year, and said that “she is sick and tired of my child and staying off school” I want to burst a blood vessel. When I hear that a teacher has asked my child when she will be leaving the school because they can’t wait, I want to blow a gasket. Do they even understand what this information is translated to in my child’s head????
This confirms the bipolar child’s personal thought of self-
I AM USELESS, I AM A FAILURE, NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY LOVE ME, I MAY AS WELL DIE, OR I AM GOING TO BE A FAILURE ANYWAY SO WHY EVEN TRY.
A very careless remark by a school teacher who does not understand the workings of the bipolar brain, is lethal to our children.
Yet, it could be eased so simply- just keep in contact with the parent. Maybe, just maybe we have all made arrangements for our children to go to your school because we have been led to believe you give a damn. Well, please show that damn. It’s worth it- it could save a child’s life, and a parent’s sanity. The spinoff is in fact that maybe the teacher him/herself could have a more pleasant day.
Well, in a nutshell, my child hates school, in a bigger nutshell, I hate school too. If there was an easier way for my child to get an education and some encouragement that she is not useless and a failure, trust me, I would be doing that rather. It is as hard for the parent as it is for the child.
WILL ANYONE EVER LISTEN THOUGH???
Now- we know that the bipolar child is not the easiest, especially in teenage years, and all the nonsense that goes along with being a teenager (times ten), but yes, IT CAN be made easier. Give my child encouragement, some praise for when she does try, and a safe place to be when she is overwhelmed. You will then be dealing with a pleasant and happy child that will want more than anything to please you. And let me know what she is doing wrong, when she misbehaves. Instead of humiliating her in class. I can help, I want to help. Allow me to.
COMMUNICATION AND UNDERSTANDING IS THE KEY HERE. MY CHILD HAS AN INCURABLE, DEBILITATING DISORDER. PAY ATTENTION TO THAT.
Lavender - mom to 6 year old daughter BMD 1
Since my daughter started grade one, we’ve had a battle each and every day. Day one was exciting, it was new. Day two until now, each morning, I wake her with hot chocolate with a meal replacement in it as she is a bad morning eater and is very slow to get up and ready for school. She’s sometimes in my bed and sometimes in her own but the routine is always similar but the mood varies. She procrastinates, doesn’t want to get up, makes it painful for all of us. She absolutely refuses to dress herself, so each morning, I dress my 25kg live doll, then we do hair, teeth and take medicine. Sometimes it’s easier and other days I’m exhausted before I leave the house.
Those mornings are caused when I’ve physically got to drag her out of bed and hold her in place to dress her while she fights me to get under the duvet again. Sometimes it can take up to 15 minutes to swallow one and a half tablets – I’ve resorted on a couple of occasions to giving the meds as I would to the dog – only with more struggle.
Each morning I listen to her asking to stay home because her tummy is sore, her head is sore, her body is in pain, she hates school and can’t she please just stay at home.
We have missed a couple of days due to being sick but it’s always difficult to decide whether the child is really sick or shamming. And when genuinely sick, it is important to get back to school as soon as possible otherwise a habit sets in and she tries to stay home for any reason. The rule is if she is sick, she stays in bed and is only allowed up to use the bathroom. I have explained that if she misses to much of grade one, she’ll have to repeat it and that if she’s bored now, it would be awful to have to repeat it and this seems to keep her going.
She is a bright little girl, is in the top reading group, has a good command of the English language and a vast vocabulary. She is funny, dramatic and eager to please and be loved – she loves being creative and hates maths – bonds in particular. Homework where maths is concerned is a trial. I don’t use plain numbers, I use items, so Darling, you have five puppies, add one and now how many do you have? Right, now take away two of the puppies and that’s your answer. It is imperative that I am creative and make it fun. If she can’t manage it in one session, we do it again later and often her reading is done in the car travelling home or to dancing.
Fortunately, she has a lovely young teacher who has known since the beginning of the year that my daughter is bipolar and she has worked with me and we are winning in the classroom. She is a loving, warm person who my little one thinks is too wonderful – she loves her teacher, buys her presents and feels loved at school.
She is seen as a sociable child, but I get a different story from little girl. It is difficult to keep friends when you are bossy and want your way all the time. What happens is she flits from group to group trying to fit in when in fact she’s seen as socializing well with all the other children.
In saying all this, I must not delay in speaking to her teacher and the principal about whose class she will be in next year because for us to have another good year, she needs another kind, understanding teacher who will work with us and her bipolar.
Rose – BP mom to son of 7
We should focus on the sensitivity of BP Kids – some time ago my son’s teacher said that something my son did was stupid. He did not make much of it at the time, but sometime later that evening he burst into tears and I eventually dragged out of him that Teacher had called him stupid.
This is a very natural way for a BP child to handle a situation like this: he will not act straight away, but play with the thought in his mind and then become very emotional about it. Being through this myself gives me a better understanding. The fact that my son attends a private school also helps as situations like this do not occur regularly. The teachers are sensitive to children who are emotional due to Mental Disabilities.
I can imagine that situations occur more regularly in Public Schools, due to the increased volumes of learners as well as the fact that teachers are not as attuned to the special needs of Mentally Disabled children.
Bougainvillia – mom to daughters of 28 and 18
My 18 year old has lost two years of high schooling. She was taken out of the school situation (in grade 11 in 2011) at the request of her psychiatrist as she was unable to concentrate for too long a period, her anxiety levels were at an absolute peak level. She was convinced that everybody was looking at her and that she was ugly and it was at this point that her self mutilation was at its highest. She would cut her arms so that she could feel the pain to feel alive - so she told me. I was on suicide watch many times because she had already formulated a way to kill herself ;-( she was also being bullied which didn’t help and even approaching the school principal etc had no results despite spelling out her condition to him.
I enrolled her in a private school earlier this year with a smaller class but unfortunately she still didn’t cope. Her legs were continuously on the go (restless leg syndrome) which in itself is a distraction for others and again she wasn’t comfortable being surrounded by kids of her own age. Her self esteem was non existent and once again the self mutilation started which resulted in another hospital admission for ten days.
She would wake up in the mornings with stomach ache or a migraine just about anything to avoid going to school. Sometimes I would get her to the school entrance and sit for at least fifteen minutes talking to her to encourage her to go in the front door and more often than not, I would have to turn around and go back home because she didn’t have the confidence to sit in the class. Her marks at the private school were really good in fact much better than they were in the previous school which I thought would be an incentive to try but that wasn’t what she wanted to hear and she would often end up in tears if I insisted that she should at least try the morning and if she couldn’t cope we would fetch her. Needless to say this also interfered with both my husband and my working life and it seemed like I was always taking time off work to rescue her which didn’t go down too well with colleagues and bosses who don’t understand BP disorder.
Together with her psychiatrist and psychologist we have considered home schooling as an option for the year 2013. We live in faith and hope.
She has now lost two years of schooling and her friends are presently writing matric and preparing for their matric ball so I see another emotional roller coaster coming my way as she is feeling quite left out of the hype and excitement that she could have had if she was still in school. And so the fight continues.
Bluebell – mom to daughter aged 11
Schooling is a nightmare! Firstly she can’t wake up in the morning, often falling asleep 3 times after being woken even after eating breakfast. She has been late for school more than 110 days this year already!
She doesn’t write her homework down in a book and is constantly in detention for not having brought her books or done homework. She struggles to make friends and currently has only one, who has been brilliant in sticking up for her at school. She tends to be bullied a lot, she’s a soft child with an abundance of compassion, which is often to her own detriment. She will cry when she sees a beggar in the street as she feels so sorry for him.
I have spent most of her school years defending her from teachers bullying. This year I have had numerous run ins with teachers that pass unnecessary comments about the child, pick on her, use her as negative examples to the rest of the class and generally don’t care to understand that she does have a condition. The fact that she appears no different from any other child as she may not display in front of them what she is feeling as she will control it to avoid embarrassment at the time, doesn’t mean she or I won’t suffer the consequences later. I am the one who ultimately deals with the breakdown, anger, depression and not wanting to live as its too hard at the end of the day!
Her Grade 2 teacher was incredibly kind and had a wonderful way with my daughter. She had a friend with 2 bipolar children so knew how to handle the child is a positive manor, which in turn helped me. Wish there were more teachers like her.
Yesterday afternoon and last night she had 2 episodes, which were spurred on by her being in trouble at school and having to spend today’s breaks outside the office. The episodes got completely out of hand with her telling me that she had a terrible day at school and her teacher hates her, into my making her life terrible at home and accusing me of not wanting her.
Daylily – Mom to BP son of 12
Since preschool days, school has always been an issue with my son. He never conformed how the teachers expected him to. He is always challenging.
He doesn't participate in galas or sports days and that isn't accepted by the teachers either.
Within 3 weeks of Grade 1 I was asked to take him for an assessment for ADHD. He was subsequently diagnosed and put on Ritalin. With no real effect.
He repeated Grade 2 in the Remedial Unit at the school he was in at the time. This was, in my opinion, the worst schooling year he's ever had, even though he wasn't yet diagnosed Bipolar. I had to deal with a teacher who never gave him any credit, no matter how much he needed it. That year was the same year the child in Gauteng attacked another child with a sabre sword... After an incident at the school a few days after during which my son was boxed in a room and not let out he subsequently threw a chair and lashed out despite me having told them on numerous occasions that he has big issues with personal space and feeling trapped - I was told that my child would be like the one in Gauteng one day. Needless to say I was horrified as he was only 8 at the time and this was from the Head of a Unit that was supposed to be more qualified in dealing with kids who needed extra assistance.
When he was eventually diagnosed in Grade 5, I was asked to give a guarantee that he would never have a rage at school - I removed him as it is an impossible expectation.
He has always had teachers tell him that he won’t achieve, he just isn't good enough at anything. Over the years it’s taken a huge knock on his confidence.
However since his diagnosis 18 months ago he has been through four other types of schools. He is now in a small home based home-school environment after three months of no school. Even this is proving rocky as he needs to settle back into routine.
On the homework front this is a battlefield. It always ends up in a shouting match and takes hours and hours to complete - instead of the normal 45-90min depending on what needs doing. He finds it almost impossible to sit still in the afternoon and concentrate. My heart breaks for him because I can see he is tired and unable to cope. It's a very difficult situation to try and balance. I know the homework is important but I can also see that he can't cope with it. I'm hoping as he gets older he is able to find a balance and cope better with the schedule and what is expected of him.
I find schooling to be a very trying exhausting process for all of us. The stress of waiting for the next explosion at school, trying to keep him on track with his schedule, participation in school events and homework all take their toll.
Trumpetbell – mom to ADHD and BP son of 9 and ADHD son of 11
As a mother of two boys 9 and 11, I have battled tremendously with the school and teachers just merely getting them to understand. Both boys suffer from ADHD and my youngest has bipolar added to the mix. This has been extremely challenging as very few teachers understand. I find he has been picked on and humiliated to the extent we had to change schools.
On the average day I battle to get him up, he either has tummy ache, complains his whole body is sore, a headache you name it I hear it. After what feels like drawing water from a stone we are off to school.
When I fetch him from school I find a very agitated child, he will either come straight to me burying his head in my stomach just needing a cuddle, or I have the extreme where he is in a rage and I know that afternoon is going to be hell.
Homework is one huge fight, and he ends up with nothing done. I approached the teacher, the standard HOD, the principal, anyone who will listen as I explain the situation, but it felt like my words were falling on deaf ears and merely being humoured. His teacher told me he would constantly want to leave the classroom, trying to escape a situation that he could not deal with. He would hold the pencil in his hand and snap it out of frustration every time the teacher shouted at him, and naturally the teacher took this personally. I explained to the teacher numerous times what was happening and how to deal with it. I even told them that at worst case they must please call me. It got to a point where I was seeing the teacher every week just to find out how things were in the classroom.
To my utter disgust a week before I decided enough was enough and took them out, his teacher was rude and nasty about my son with him standing right behind me listening to every word! To me this is unacceptable. What happened to teachers who did this job because they cared? What teachers do not realise is how they handle a situation with a child with this condition has a snowball effect, my child will become depressed, feel worthless, have manic outbursts.
He participates in group activities with the class wonderfully but when it comes to the work off the board etc. he battled, his position was made no better by the teachers constant remarks that he would fail, the children laughing and teasing. He often wandered the playgrounds looking for his older brother as no other children wanted to play with him. He is one of the gentlest, kindest children I know, but once pushed his manic episodes are violent, aggressive and extreme verbal retaliation is used. He will sit and cry after and episode not understanding why this is happening to him.
The other kids then picked up on this and started picking on him. Older kids would pick on him calling him names and insulting me knowing this would trigger him. I found myself in a situation which I will never forget; I went to collect my boys from school, on arrival they were not there. My niece told me they had been in a fight and were in the office. So assuming boys are boys I went to find them in the office. Only to walk into a hornets nest! My son was antagonised to the point they got him to snap. The older boys thinking this was humorous continued taunting him whilst two other boys filmed this on their phones. After watching the video I was devastated, all the principal could say to me was “but did you hear his language”, I then proceeded to tell him this is what I warned all the teachers about. I was told my son would receive demerits for swearing which I said was fair enough as he still needs to know there are boundaries and consequences. Much to my disgust nothing was followed through, nothing ever solved. And the teacher who pulled him by his arm like a dog was seen as ‘ok to do’. This is the 4th incident in 1 year!
My point to this is that not only are they picked on and misunderstood by teachers but children pick up on their ‘weakness’ and as a result bully them. And even more frightening is nothing is done about this.
I have given the information regarding bipolar in young children and teens to his teacher to read, and help him better understand and cope. But to no avail, my son became a burden. Both my children were referred to a remedial school. After applying and waiting 4 weeks for the GED to approve the application, it was declined. The lady from the remedial school told me that what my children need is an environment where bullying is controlled for first and the teachers are patient and understanding. This is sadly lacking in most schools. It was suggested if finances allowed, to put them into a private facility. We are lucky enough to be able to do this, but what about the hundreds of other children that desperately need a teacher to give them some patience and understanding?
We have since moved schools, I have two changed children and the younger, who was humiliated constantly told he was failing and never felt good enough, is now a changed child. He wants to go to school, he loves school work now. If I look at his books from a month ago and compare them with what I see now there is a phenomenal change.
Yes we will have our days where he will have episodes but they are so mild compared with what they used to be. He has been empowered by teachers who care – now that just proves our point as parents. We cannot be everywhere, so we rely on the teachers and school system.
As the parent of a bipolar child I know better than anyone else the challenges, strain and hardships suffered. But at the end of the day all we are asking of the teachers and school system is patience and more importantly understanding! This problem is being diagnosed more often in young children today, so making the teachers aware and educating them on this condition is not asking too much, it will benefit them and with their help a significant change can be made.
So as we see from these stories, our children all resist school in some way or another. We need to have open relationships with teachers and principals in regard to Bipolar Disorder in children. Our children need to be in mainstream school, they are not disabled or special needs children but children who are intelligent, funny, moody, entertaining, perfectionists with a fear of failure and terrified of humiliation. They speak their minds and are often chastised for being rude, cheeky, precocious or badly bought up and disciplined when in fact they are dealing with a life long condition and crying out for understanding and support.
Knowledge of the disorder and the best ways to handle and teach children with this disorder is what is important and we hope that with our website up and running and our efforts to raise funds which will enable us to create awareness, do talks at schools and other events, we will be able to spread the information that will help our children to have the education that they deserve.
Our long term goal is to have counsellors on our panel, to have a fund available to assist parents who do not have the financial resources to get the correct diagnosis and medication for their children and very importantly to set up schools that will cater specifically to educate children with Bipolar Disorder.
That is all from me today. We’d love to hear your comments and views and hope that you are gaining as much support and information from this website as we intended.
31 August 2012
HOW HAS YOUR BIPOLAR CHILD AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR PARTNER, OTHER CHILDREN AND YOUR FRIENDS?
We all have to manage our children in our relationships with our partners, our other children as well as our friends. Those in relationships with a person who suffers from bipolar disorder must be prepared for the sudden changes, which can appear for no reason at all and try to be non-judgmental, remain on an even keel and supportive.
Sometimes coping at home and socially is a difficult issue so we will cover some stories of how other parents are affected and cope and hope that this will bring some peace to you, although as BP parents, we know that nothing works for too long and we have to remain creative, firm, set boundaries and keep looking for new ideas.
Lavender – mom to daughter aged 6
I am her possession and she cannot bear the thought of anyone being more important in my life that she is.
It makes for a difficult home situation especially where siblings are involved. Even a sibling in the late teens does not understand or like the fact that they have “lost” their mother to the younger child, especially in our case where the age gap is 11 years.
We have a separation anxiety problem so my little girl wants to be with me most of the time - when I spend time with my husband, my older daughter, friends, anybody who takes my attention away from her, she feels threatened, becomes jealous, interrupts conversations and tries her best to be centre stage. Bedtime is no different. She wants to sleep with me and if she’s not with me, will come and get me through the night which interferes with the entire family’s sleep patterns and the marital relationship.
I find that the only way I can spend time with my older daughter, is to put on a movie that little one will enjoy and get her involved in that without her knowledge of my trying to spend time with her sister. Then I can have time to help older child with homework or have just special time. Fortunately I do have grannies nearby who have my little girl for a night or day and night when the time allows but it’s not always viable or the time constraints are too tight especially when I’m testing my older daughter on work for a test.
We have times that are so bad and the atmosphere so thick that in desperation big sister says that the little one isn’t her sister – she doesn’t want anything to do with her – she feels that she uses her disorder as an excuse to get her own way. With matric underway, she refuses to educate herself about the problem, won’t look at the website, won’t read anything about it, won’t join the group – says she wants nothing to do with it, although I’m finding that slowly I can tell her about certain situations that other moms are dealing with which helps her to understand that she isn’t the only sibling who has to deal with a difficult, mom-thieving little sister. That is evidence of pure frustration because on the other hand, she is only too happy to jump in and discipline which I do not believe is the answer to the problem. For me, I am the parent and I’d rather my girls build their relationship but I’ve been told by my matriculant that it is so difficult to watch your beloved mother being ‘abused’ and ‘disrespected’ by a younger sibling.
True friends are not fussed about the behaviour of your child – they learn to deal with your child the way you’ve explained and don’t offer advice and tell you what to do – rather they live with you through your battles, commiserate and support you. I’ve also learned to accept help from my friends. Nobody offers to look after your BP child if they don’t want to, so take them up on their offers.
It is sometimes necessary to change arrangements or plans to fit in with a mood swing. A child cannot “snap out of it” as many unenlightened people may think.
We have arrived later than expected at a function or visit, have left early or not gone at all and that’s fine.
If we’re at the shops and she has a wobbly, then we go home.
Whether we’re at a friends home or having friends visiting us, I may disappear to the bedroom with my daughter for a while to calm her down and then rejoin the conversation or visit but always inform friends that if I decide it’s time to leave, please not to nag me to stay. I know what is best for me, my child and the other guests.
There are sadly some people that I no longer visit – I find it too stressful and people who are not aware and understanding of my child’s challenges make it very difficult for me to visit because I continually feel that my parenting skills are on trial and that my child is being labelled badly behaved and bad mannered.
I need to socialise with people who understand Bipolar or are willing to learn about it and the challenges it brings, who listen, watch, support but don’t try to tell me how to handle the child that I have raised since birth.
My biggest piece of advice to parents of BP children is to do what works for you and never feel judged or guilty. You were the parents that were given this child because you have the will to cope.
Bluebell – mom to daughter aged 11
Relationships! What are those? I don’t have relationships… don’t get me wrong I’ve tried, but very difficult to expect someone, anyone for that matter to tolerate that which you have no control over yourself. My daughter will NOT allow me to date, she has repeatedly told me that I don’t need anyone in my life as I have her and she wants me all to herself. Until a year ago having a conversation with someone of the same sex was enough for her to physically turn my head, interrupt continuously and altogether make it damn near impossible to chat at all! Now I must try having a relationship? You have got to be kidding. The reality is that I did try recently to date and my daughter had a full on rage, was rude and ignored the guy, refused to acknowledge his presence and was just bloody awful. I eventually decided that I would lie about when I was seeing him and now don’t date at all. I can’t see any man sticking out this long and troubled road… and based on past experiences of how the little one has reacted, if I were them I would run like hell… hmmm… explains a lot!
Then we have those relationships with friends and family, all strained, the child throws a strop or spends a day glaring at someone who passed a comment that she didn’t approve of and that tends to put strain on friendships at the best of times. Also it has become more difficult to ignore as the child gets older, in younger years she could have gotten away with it more. I have lost friends (and family) over the years, the good ones always came back luckily, however it’s been a tough road of constantly defending my child and my reactions. I find to this day, I still get nervous before any function or gathering as you never quite know what, or who, will trigger a bad reaction and put me in a sticky situation, often it’s easier to decline.
Having said that, and the child being diagnosed 5 years ago, my friends are more aware, have witnessed more than they would have liked and for the most parts are understanding, supportive and helpful when there is an issue.
My social life and plans change without hesitation if I can see that my daughter is grumpy or may possibly throw a wobbly. I try and avoid taking her to places she doesn’t want to go, which isn’t always possible, but the repercussions are not worth going through. If we happen to be out and the mood changes I tend to leave and get home as soon as possible. She has to sleep approximately 12 hours a night, so this has to be planned carefully… especially during school week, she is in bed by 6.30-7.00pm so that I can let her sleep as long as possible, she is horrid when tired. I lack in patience and am very strict as this is the only way to keep some control… which again is tiring. I have lost friends and family over her diagnosis and behaviour which is not acceptable often, however uncontrolled. Until I met Arum Lily it was easier and safer to stay home instead of putting myself into an embarrassing situation in public.
Day Lily – mom to son of 12
There's only two years between my sons but I have two stepsons that are 19 & 21 and it's very hard... you never feel like you are a good enough mom - I'm always letting my eldest down - his whole life has been "mommy just has to see to your brother", "I know I promised but you can see your brother can't do it and mommy can't leave him", "Sorry love I'll make it up to you next time....." my heart shatters for him because he just has never had me except for the first two years before the little one arrived...
The older brother also butts in on the disciplining and doesn't always understand he's just making it worse... it's a maturity thing I think... and I think in their own way they trying to help... plus they've watched us do it all the time.
Big brother is so sick of it all being about the little one.
Cosmos – mom to son of 9
My son who has BP amongst other things (ADHD, anxiety) is an exceptionally demanding child.
Parenting a child that for all intents and purposes appears outwardly "normal/ fine" is the hardest 24/ 7 job you will ever have, it is sometimes all consuming, especially when their medication is being changed.
This often leads to you having little or no time for your partner and even less time for yourself. As this condition is very unpredictable and the child's behaviour is erratic at best, it is difficult to plan anything. My son is also very possessive and demanding, resulting in a tug of war of who gets to spend the most time with mommy. This continual roller coaster of emotional turmoil that you feel drains you and often leaves you with little motivation other than the desire to sleep.
All of the above do not contribute to an easy or stable relationship and frequent disagreements with your partner can become routine. As a mother you tend to be defensive of your child. Often you don't know why or what the triggers are for an episode but you know it is not them, it is the illness you are dealing with (believe me it is hard to remember this when they are in a full blown rage). You are as a mother also human and you also suffer from conditions brought on from raising a child with this condition. A significant number of these children do not respond well to normal disciplinary methods. Often you have to be adaptable and this can be difficult for a partner to understand or apply (especially if they are strict disciplinarians themselves).
Your first instinct is to want to help your child and protect them since they do not have the ability to control themselves - this is a biochemical imbalance after all. Very few people understand a BP child or how to handle them. They see a brat. A child that is rude, unpredictable and prone to temper outbursts, mood swings and aggression. It takes a special kind of person to see the child behind the veil of the condition. Fortunately, there are people that DO understand and are supportive. However, often, only a few.
To say that a relationship takes strain when you have a child with all these problems is an understatement, due to all the above factors it sometimes feels like it is a miracle that you can maintain a relationship or have the time or energy for one. I have had to go to therapy with my partner and he has been to the doctor himself and now understands the extent of the problem. This does not make it easier to deal with although it does make it easier to understand sometimes why the child is behaving in a completely irrational way.
As for friends there are only a few that you will feel comfortable around if your child has an episode. I will only expose my son to people that I believe understand the problem, if they don't I won't bother with them as the effect is too negative. I have practically gone into seclusion with my child especially when he has been through changes in medication because it is too difficult to try and contain him, especially in someone else's home. Instead I will take him out and meet my friends at a place that is neutral and where there are facilities for children to play and use up their energy in a positive way. I find that the easiest for all.
I am lucky to be blessed with a family that is understanding and supportive, my son has such a special bond with his grandfather (I call him the child whisperer!). I firmly believe that it is acceptance of the condition that helps your child the most, easier said than done. It is however heartbreaking to know that your child suffers from a condition that can cause so many problems in their lives. That you can do everything you can and they still don't get better, it is difficult for the entire family to see a beloved child endure these changes.
My fiance has always been supportive and tried to be there for me even in the most adverse circumstances. I will always be thankful and amazed that he has stayed. We lived together for a year but unfortunately my son was going through such a trying time - he had not been diagnosed as BP and was only being treated for ADHD. This resulted in such a severe reaction to the medication that he had to have an MRI and EEG. My fiance and I bore the brunt of my sons fury. As a result he extended his lease for another year.
That is the extent that my child having BP affected my closest relationships. On a fundamental and profound level.
I am eternally grateful to all who have been there for me. I love my son and will never give up on helping him live with BP. My only wish is for him to have a happy, relatively stable life.
Rose – BP mom to BP son of 7
Phew! How much harder can life get? On top of rushing around to get the ordinary day done, it is important to TALK to a BP person. (I do not only refer to children here, as I am a BP adult.) We do not like surprises! So you need to prepare us on as much as possible in advance. If and when my husband does not keep this in consideration, it does not only upset me, but my son as well.
I think the biggest strain on a relationship involving a BP child is the fact that it is extremely difficult to wean this child out of your bed. Mommy has to stay with the kid until she is sure the child is fast asleep. And mostly you fall asleep before the child. And Dad has passed out, alone in bed. This puts horrendous stress on any relationship. Sex that should strengthen a relationship becomes a frustration (or rather the lack of it becomes a frustration). I do not care to recall the number of arguments that we have had because we were in the mood to get intimate and were then interrupted by a wandering little boy. This creates strain as both parties get to the point where they feel: my partner does not care about me anymore. And also, you sometimes feel very frustrated, because this child keeps interfering in a relationship that should be sacred between two people.
Arum Lily- Mom to BP daughter of 13
After reading all of the above, I feel that all I can add is ditto ditto ditto- this is exactly what I go through as well. Whilst my child is the biological daughter to my husband, even he has difficulty in fully understanding what “mom” has to put up with. Strain is easily caused between us, because he may think I am being too soft, too rigid, too whatever. How do you explain fully? To anyone? We have to go with the tide- read the signs- react BEFORE all hell breaks loose. And we have to do this daily, sometimes a few times a day. Unless you live with a bipolar child, how on earth are you supposed to understand? So perhaps my contribution can just be in the form of some advice to friends, family, partners, colleagues:
PLEASE DON’T JUDGE US- if we say we can’t visit today, or we are late, or we cancel at the last minute- please forgive us. If our child does not behave in the typical way you expect your child guests to behave, forgive us. If you wish to ask questions- please, feel free to do so, we are more than happy to explain. We want to keep our relationships, we want to keep our friends, but instead of unwarranted advice and judgement- help us to help you understand- and forgive us our trespass. We are trying to keep the BP child from emotional turmoil, we are trying to protect ourselves from the stress that comes along with this turmoil, and we are also trying to keep everyone else around us happy. We wish it was different- but it isn’t.
Your UNDERSTANDING that we are doing the best we can, is all we ask for.
So, it seems that in preparing this article, BP parents need to spend some quality time with their spouses without their children. Many of our BP children have anxiety and separation issues and like to be in close proximity to mom. Many of them take a long time to surrender to sleeping in their own beds and many still sleep in the parent’s bed in their early teens. Trying to force the child to sleep on his or her own and to “cry it out” can be counter productive in that it may accelerate the problem and could cause more harm than good. It is important to keep the adult relationship’s fires burning without the fear of being interrupted by a child looking for comfort from mom. Those of you who are lucky enough to have a support system to use, make use of it once in a while to get away together for a romantic sojourn. A trusted babysitter could also work and if in your case it doesn’t, then a day off work together to have uninterrupted time to go out on a breakfast day, just spend the morning lazing at home or at a spa is a good second place.
Where the family also consists of other children, it is imperative that uninterrupted time is given to the other child too. As parents, we battle to come to terms with the diagnosis and as in the previous article, feel drained, exhausted, tired and often shattered from living on egg shells, well imagine how the sibling must feel without the maturity to deal with the problem surrounding the BP child. It is a difficult relationship to grow because the non BP child often feels anger and resentment towards the other child. The non BP child needs to be protected to a certain degree and given tools to cope with the sibling. As with the parental relationship, I suggest special one on one time with the other siblings where quality time, chatting and bonding can take place.
Where friends are concerned, the best advice that has been gleaned from this research is to see those friends who support you and understand your situation, who make you and your child feel at ease and comfortable in their midst and who do not take offence if you change plans at the last minute. True friends will stick by you through the ups and downs. Remember to take them up on an offer to give you time off from your child.
Another item, I wish to mention is that many of us are perhaps too tolerant of the behaviour displayed by our BP children and I believe usually because we’re exhausted and have lost our mojo hence having to look after our health too.
We need to distinguish between bad behaviour and bipolar episodes. These children can control themselves to some extent and need to be reminded of respect for elders and property, the household animals and our domestic workers. Although it is sometimes easier to give in, it is important to put rules into place that are absolutely non-negotiable and bear a consequence. As with a person who has a problem with alcohol abuse, it is no good trying to talk to a child in the midst of an episode, but it is worthwhile discussing it thereafter and finding out what tipped the child over the edge and if the emotions could have been channelled in another direction altogether. Hopefully as our children grow older and more mature, they will have learned to monitor themselves and recognise an oncoming episode and control it in an appropriate manner.
Well, that is all I have for you on this matter and hope that it helps some of you understand that you are not alone in this world of Bipolar Disorder. Please feel free to share or discuss any parts of this article.
WHY BIPOLAR CHILDREN FEEL THAT THEY ARE AN UNWANTED BURDEN AND OFTEN FEEL THAT THEY WOULD PREFER TO DIE
It’s a topic that is close to many of our hearts and too close to home for others, but something that needs to be addressed as traumatising as it is.
BP children say and do things without being able to control themselves. They hurt themselves, their families and friends, sometimes the household pets physically hurt or they may hurt feelings causing emotional damage. Mothers and fathers question themselves as caregivers and parents to these children, their siblings watch them rule the roost, their friends don’t understand the sudden changes in mood or behaviour and these actions lead to consequences.
After an episode, rage, temper tantrum, bout of sadness, these children feel that they make our lives terribly difficult. They feel so remorseful and sad about what has been said and done that they often say that they would rather be dead, would rather never have been born or that they should be gotten rid of.
As a parent this is just the saddest remark to listen to.
BP children have a low self-esteem. They are not good team players, do not lose easily, do not like competition and like to be the most important possession in our lives.
Anything said or done that challenges their sense of comfort, their self worth and ability can lead to any one of the above statements, or others, being made.
Learning a new skill or hobby or section in the classroom can lead to feelings of being uselessness if not grasped immediately. The BP child is quick to say that he or she cannot do something. The feeling of failure is so great, that it’s better not to attempt a project than to make a mistake or feel that it is below standard.
Day Lily – mom to son of 12
Mom, I’d rather die so that you don’t have to suffer.
Lavender – mom to daughter of 6
Mom, you know what I’d like best for my birthday? I’d like a new life – I hate being like this.
Beat me, beat me, throw me out into the street, you don’t deserve to have a child like me.
I don’t want to take my medicine – just get rid of me and get a child who doesn’t have to take medicine
Mom do we have a gun in this house? I want to shoot myself – I’d rather be dead than angry. Wouldn’t you rather be dead than angry?
Arum Lily – mother to daughter of 13
I noticed that baby lily would tell me that she just wanted to lie down in the street and let a car ride her over, almost as soon as I came into her life. She would complain bitterly of boredom and say she wishes she had never been born.
As I got to know her better I had statements like " I am going to kill myself, because there is no point to life" or I would have a case of "I am a failure, I will never amount to anything in life, so I wish I could just die."
After a rage, she will scream at God, and ask him why He made her this way, and why cant he just take her back to heaven and send her back in a normal body and mind. She knows that she has done wrong, but she also knows that she can’t help herself, so frequently thinks the best solution for everyone around her would be to die.
She once asked her psychiatrist to please give her enough tablets that would make her go to sleep and die, so she would never have to wake up again. When he asked if she didn't think the people who loved her would miss her, she replied that we would soon get over it, and live a far better life without her.
When things are going wrong at school, she wants to drop out, sees school as a waste of time and energy, and when told she cannot drop out, she also threatens to kill herself and wants to rather die than face the hardships of school.
She self mutilates, by cutting herself, which she says makes her feel better, and often stands with a knife or scissors at her throat- and she asks me to help her push it in. She goes as far as telling me that if I loved her, I would do this one thing for her.
She has jumped out of our car while we are driving, knowing full well that she could be run over and killed. She then says it is exactly what she wants- to be run over and die.
She has asked me a number of questions about death, and still does. She wants to know all the varieties of how to kill yourself, and how it would feel. Obviously I give her the worst case scenario and tell her how extremely painful it all is. I feel that this is better than ignoring her, and also better than saying I don't know. I know she is afraid of pain, so I make it sound as painful and uncomfortable as I possibly can. I also tell her about living after attempted suicide, and the repercussions of becoming brain damaged. I never know if I am doing and saying the right thing- but it’s all I have. I tell her constantly that if she had to die, it would make my life less than worth living, but that does not seem to affect her at all. It's a case of- "If I am not there to witness it, then it’s okay"
On the flip side, she is also fascinated with death and dying of others. She has asked me to drive over a pedestrian so she can see what its like to be run over. She plays bizarre video games at friend's homes, and she loves to run people over when playing the Simpson’s game.
Rose – BP mom to BP son of 7
For those of us who have BP, we (mostly) feel that we are such big failures, we are not even capable of having a decent friendship, let alone a successful relationship. Remember we think very little of ourselves – but we normally do not show it.
Should you have the opportunity of meeting me you would most probably think I am a very successful, well presented, educated woman, with the world at my feet. And in a lot of ways, this is who I am. But to me, it does not feel that way. I cannot understand why people see me as confidant. In my work environment, the couple of temporary staff here believe that I am this wonderful, composed person and that I am well built with a great dress sense – I feel the total opposite! This is just so typically BP. We just do not feel worthy of anything good, and especially not worthy of anybody’s.
Oh, and on the suicide thing? On good days, many of us with BP consider suicide on a daily basis and have to develop a sense of humour! When I am not on the correct medication, or when my dosage needs to be increased I have regular suicide plans. When I am on the right medicine, and the correct dosage I do not feel this way. Because I love my husband and son dearly, I monitor my moods and feelings, as well as my medication very closely to ensure that I do not do anything that would affect their lives and also mine.
Talking about wanting to die, asking why they were born or wishing they were never born must be taken very seriously. Even quite young children have the ability to kill themselves – or may take risks that could lead to death like running in front of a car, balancing on a high wall or roof pitch.
If your child is at risk of suicide and has shown warning signs, or talking about it, do not leave him or her alone. Seek the help of your psychiatrist right away. People often talk about suicide before they attempt it, so pay close attention to what they are saying and take them seriously.
Some warning signs of suicide include:
· Talking about suicide
· Always talking or thinking about death
· Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
· Saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
· Worsening depression
· A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
· Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
Evan Perry, a bipolar boy who died at age 15 left this suicide note for his parents, listing six reasons to live and six reasons to die before he jumped to his death from their New York Apartment:
How sad that this young boy had six reasons each to live or to die and life was still so difficult to face that he chose to die.
His parents were film makers and made a documentary about his life called Boy Interrupted which is highly recommended by us – it brings home the danger of bipolar disorder.
Try to forge a close relationship with your BP child and keep it that way. It is hard to hear what goes through their minds, but important that they talk to you now as youngsters and this will be very helpful to them in the future.
If you would like to share your thoughts and feelings on this topic, we would love to hear from you. Remember that this is a safe platform for you to be able to share emotions and feelings and perhaps find help and be able to help others in a similar situation.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL/ EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS
MOTHERS, FATHERS, SIBLINGS, GRANDPARENTS, IMMEDIATE FAMILY AND CAREGIVERS OF BIPOLAR CHILDREN SUFFER FROM
With our website up and running, more and more questions are being posed to us by members and non-members alike.
One of the questions that has been raised a number of times is “what physical and mental/ emotional symptoms do mothers of Bipolar children suffer from.” We have researched this topic and have also extended it to include the symptoms suffered by anyone who has a large role in the care or life of these children, including grandparents, siblings and other immediate family members as well as caregivers.
You will see below stories from moms, dads, grandmothers, aunts and a day mother who were brave enough to share their stories.
Lavender – mom to daughter aged 6
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia last year 2011– all stress induced. My symptoms, from which I have suffered mostly since the birth of my little girl, include depression, anger, guilt, muscle pain, foggy brain, fuzzy sight, heart palpitations, irritable bowel, headaches, tiredness all the time, craving starchy foods and others. Many years of anti depressants and now Cymgen seem to keep the symptoms at bay.
I suffer from loss of memory, loss of concentration and complete memory blanks and most days feel so much older than my 46 years.
Arum Lily – mom to daughter aged 13
I have had hypothyroidism for 21 years which causes clinical depression and fatigue amongst other things, so as a preventative measure I have taken Cymgen for seven years to keep the depression and fatigue at bay. Due to the stresses of dealing with my BP daughter, the fatigue has worsened and I find that my hair also falls out at an alarming rate, a symptom of HypoT, but under control unless I am under undue stress. I also have loss of memory, heart palpitations, extreme fatigue, the feeling of wanting to crawl into a dark corner. Sometimes I shock myself at how angry I get at the world.
I have developed high blood pressure and high cholesterol fully stress related. I have a family history of very low blood pressure and previously I had to carry effortil with me so I would not faint when it dropped.
I get such huge stress knots in my shoulder that pinch the nerves in my neck along the cervical spine. The pain from my neck right down to the tips of my fingers is excruciating.
I suffer from extreme bouts of anxiety and panic attacks from time to time, and I am well on my way to becoming an insomniac. I believe this is caused through years of playing musical beds, trying to get my 13 year old child to sleep in her own bed for any length of time, or at all- and when sleeping with me, being constantly kicked and punched and pushed off the bed by her, in her sleep.
I am constantly tired, always have a headache, and find that after being a disgustingly healthy person all my life, I am suddenly catching colds and flu and sore throats at the smallest gust of wind. I believe my immune system has been compromised due to extreme stress. I also find that I am much quicker to anger than I ever was before- and this is due to the injustice I see around me, in other people dealing with my bipolar child- without trying to understand her, or her disorder.
It’s called brain exhaustion, burnout, stress! Sometimes I feel ancient! I have definitely aged physically in the last 12 months.
Bluebell – mom to daughter aged 11
At what age can Alzheimers begin? Any episodes drain me, I feel like the life has been sucked out of me and I can’t function and often have to go and sleep or rest. I suffer from loss of memory, incredible anxiety and have become an insomniac. I also burst into uncontrollable bouts of tears when I feel that I can’t take anymore. Extreme exhaustion is my main problem with her mood changes.
Day Lily – mom to son of 12
As a result of all the stress I developed diabetes. It is genetic but mine has shown at least a decade early. I also had to have a hysterectomy as stress was causing cramping where I was immobile for days and bleeding for up to 20 days a month. I developed severe anxiety disorder have panic attacks and battle with insomnia.
Trumpetbell – mom to son of 8
I had my tubes tied at age 26 and this year (2012) my PMS is worse than ever, I have hectic period pain and the bleeding is so bad. I feel so drained that I just want to sleep and in the last couple of months the tiredness is shifting earlier and earlier.
Bouganvilla – mom to daughters of 28 and 17
I suffer from insomnia and it’s during the night that my thoughts race all over the place so I am quite sleep deprived and irritable at times.
I bet some of those stories sound just like you? So from reading the above true stories and from research on the topic, it can be deduced that the following list covers many of the symptoms and feelings that are experienced by mothers of bipolar children:
Insomnia – having a busy brain and not being able to sleep
Loss of Memory
Loss of ability to concentrate
Diarrhoea and or vomiting
Craving certain foods
High blood pressure
Stress knots and spasms in various muscle groups
Sore throats and colds
Severe PMS, cramps and menstruation lasting longer than deemed normal – up to 20 days at a time
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of wanting to crawl into a dark corner
Feelings of Anger
Extreme love and hate for the child and your spouse
Feelings of I can’t cope
Feelings of I can’t do this anymore
Topaz – father of daughter aged 6
I write this as the father of a young girl diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I have always known that she’s a difficult little girl, and it’s hard for me to accept sometimes that she has a psychological problem. I have to keep reminding myself when she’s hyper that she’s not being naughty, she can’t really control herself. Even as I type this, I wonder whether we as parents have not been slack or too tolerant with her discipline. But this perhaps is a throwback from my own upbringing – while not repressive, it was certainly not overly tolerant either, and I got my fair share of hard discipline from my parents. However, discipline strategies my parents used that worked on me, do not work with my daughter.
I feel guilty when I have to reprimand or punish her, as I work away from home, and try to have quality time while I am at home. I feel more guilty leaving my wife to deal with the stresses on her own. I’m grateful however that we as a family have the means to send her to therapy and buy medication. If I were not working out of the country the financial burden would be a lot heavier.
I am aware that the professionals my wife has consulted are in agreement regarding her diagnosis, but I think I need to accept it on a subconscious as well as rational level.
I love my daughter beyond words. She is a handful at times, but she has brought a lot of love and joy to my life.
Quartz- father of daughter aged 13
The most difficult situation I have found in my entire life, was having to accept that my beautiful, youngest daughter was not perfect. And that she was diagnosed with a disorder that would consume her entire life. I work away from home, and after I went through all the stages of absolute denial and anger, the fear set it and that is where I still find myself. I am terrified of receiving a phone call to say that something has happened to my baby, or that she has harmed herself.
I do not look at information much, and even avoid reading my wife’s reports to me, because it scares me too much. I know I cannot hide from it, but right now, I find it too difficult to face it in it’s entirety.
I live an anxious and fearful life, being away, and have the need to make contact various times during the day to ensure that all is okay. If my messages are not answered immediately, I enter a state of sheer panic. My fear also encompasses the thought of what will happen to my daughter as she gets older and becomes a woman. What does life hold in store for her, and what future awaits her.
Dad’s certainly do not display physical symptoms to the same extent as mom’s but in most cases, the mothers are the primary caregivers and the fathers are exposed to very little of the problem.
Feelings of shock
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of frustration
Feelings of panic
Feelings of denial
She is 17 years old and the sister to 6 year old bipolar sister and says she finds her sister annoying and disrespectful but because she has no other sibling to make a comparison with cannot say anymore.
Siblings are very nervous to say too much about their BP brothers and sisters. From interviewing mothers with more than one child it seems that the “normal” children become tired of all the attention being given to the one who suffers from BP, they find the stress at home difficult to deal with, they disown their problematic siblings when a wobble happens in public and they miss their mothers who seem totally absorbed with the other child. They are also protective of their mothers who they see being emotionally and physically battered by these angry, sad, happy, mood swinging, troubled souls.
Hibiscus – grandma to child of 6
When my son told us that we were going to become first-time Grandparents, we were ecstatic, and our joy knew no bounds when our little granddaughter arrived. Naturally, we loved having the family here to visit, and grandpa used to walk in the garden with her, singing her to sleep.
As she grew, it became obvious that she is as bright as a button, loved being read to and entertained. As a family, none of us spoke “baby” to her, and she has an incredible vocabulary, always using words in the right context.
Grandpa showed her the correct way to grip a pencil (at about 2 years) and she loves drawing and colouring. As an educator, I was delighted at her progress.
However, she has always had erratic sleep patterns, and this is one of the areas that affects us when they visit. She will not go to bed unless Mom or Gran is with her, and this cuts into a lot of “adult time”, as she fights sleep. By the time she finally drops off, Dad and Grandpa have both gone to bed.
During the day, she is very demanding of my time, wanting me to be with her all the time. I find myself exhausted at the end of the day, both physically and emotionally. Grandpa is finding it a bit difficult to handle her the way BP kids should be handled, and sometimes gets frustrated when she is having a “moment”. This results in a stern reprimand for her; she cries and shouts and stomps off to another room. I find myself being “piggy-in-the-middle”, trying to explain to Grandpa, and also defending him to my little girl while trying to calm her down. Luckily, once she is over it, she is as loving as usual.
I have been reduced to tears when she has been particularly nasty to me, and really don’t know how to handle the situation. There have been times when I feel that the visit is getting a bit too long, and...” isn’t it time for her to leave yet!!??” I feel REALLY GUILTY when I feel like this towards her, as I love her to bits, but sometimes don’t like her very much.
At the end of it though, although we are drained when she leaves, she is ours, and WE LOVE HER.
I hope that through this website we can get strength and encouragement from other Grandparents, knowing that we are not alone in our feelings.
Dahlia- grandma of child of 6
Our new granddaughter was born in December 2005 and from early days was a difficult baby, unhappy, cried a lot, had bad sleep patterns and was happiest with her mother.
As bright as a button she sailed through nursery school – loved being on the stage – did well in everything and became an avid book fan and could read before she started in Grade 1.
When she comes to spend a night she sleeps on a mattress next to my bed – that is the worst thing – the sleeping. She fights sleep and will stay awake as long as we do. I have learned not to make a fuss or be regimental. If she sleeps on the couch so what! Same with bathing and it really doesn’t matter when or even if she misses out all together. Having her now we never know how she will be. She loves nature and the outdoors so we “do“ that. If she is kept busy we have plain sailing – so we play cards, games, colour in etc.
She eats well and will have a little of the things she doesn’t really like – so have no problems there. She walks on the walls and loves running around and balancing on the curb stones, which is par for the course! “No” is a difficult word for her to obey – but one sets boundaries and tries to keep within them.
We love her but find her emotionally tiring and are learning not to make a fuss or do things to cause an upset – which seem to be getting much less, and if distracted don’t last for long.
We are all learning to cope better and she certainly has improved on the medication.
Her mother is definitely her life line and hopefully having been diagnosed early, she will learn to control her anger and live a normal life.
Some grandparents are more actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives than others and it seems that many shy away from having to deal with this problem either because they’re not sure how to or cannot cope or have strained relationships with their children and grandchildren bought about by the misconceptions that the child is bad-mannered and naughty or that the parents aren’t doing their jobs right.
Although bipolar disorder is a fairly modern-age diagnosis, it has been around for years and may never have been diagnosed in the past. Long ago, people were labelled mad or crazy and were either ostracised or locked away in lunatic asylums – that is those who didn’t do themselves in.
Today there is a much better understanding of the disorder, and although incurable at this stage, it is manageable provided the right doctors are consulted and the correct medications administered.
The symptoms and feelings that grandparents seem to suffer from are as follows:
Exhaustion both physical and emotional
Feelings of Frustration
Feelings of guilt
Divided between grandchild and spouse
Fluctuation of feelings
Bergamot, aunt to 6 year old girl
My niece is 6 and seriously hectic! I think she’s a really amazing kid… bright, funny, cute…. And then suddenly you say or do the wrong thing and you must face her wrath! I thought my sister didn’t set good enough boundaries and when away on a family weekend in January I thought I’d try my hand at it as I was simply tired of seeing the child being rude and wilful to everyone (including her mother, sister, my parents, her sister’s friends, etc). Anyway…my efforts failed and simply led to her regressing back to the crawling stage which made me feel really, really terrible. I also realised that I simply couldn’t win the fight with her and started to realise what my sister deals with all the time. The sad thing was that it made me like her a bit less…or at least not be as inclined to spend time with her.
Anyway, we just had a party and we were concerned about how she would behave ..but she came along and she was fun and sweet and we all enjoyed having her along …just had to remember not to do anything to initiate a scene. So that’s the trick I guess, which goes against my gut-feel … try to keep the peace, don’t antagonise her and things remain calm. How one does this on a continuous basis though, I am not sure! It’s a whole lot easier being an aunt.
Thistle – aunt to year 9 old boy
Having a bipolar child in a family can be somewhat daunting. Most outsiders don't understand the child's behaviour at the best of times, as they assume that the child has no manners, or that they are rude and demanding. You often receive glares from other parents that don't have children with problems, judging you, as you seem to be a bad parent. Little do they know, that from a family's perspective, trying to discipline the child is often futile, and as such, you simply have to learn how to adapt to the child's behaviour, and treat the child according to his or her moods. To have experience, or to see first hand how absolutely challenging this tactic can be for the parents or care givers trying to manage or discipline the child involved, would be an understatement. I know that when I spend the day with my nephew, that it takes every ounce of patience that I have- most situations have to be overlooked, so as to not compound the problem, or to avoid a scene .
My sister having to deal with the challenges and developments every day with a child that suffers from bipolar disorder, amongst other things, is at the best of times difficult. The exhaustion and emotional distress of not being able to help her own child, or not having the solutions to make her child stable. The strain of the random emotional outburst from the child, can put a severe strain on the strongest relationships, and it takes real strength of character to hold a family unit together.
Also, the frustration and despair experienced by all the care givers within the family- not knowing which is the best method to teach the child, or how best to integrate the child in society, or how to handle the emotional outburst or the pure frustration from the child himself.
Needless to say, having a child in the family with problems of any kind, requires love, communication, plenty of understanding, patience, tolerance, and above all, a massive support structure.
This so demonstrates how family members believe that they can help without understanding the full implication of the problem. It is easy to look at the problem from the outside and offer advice and help but seeing only part of the problem makes it difficult to understand. As we know, with BP kids, they often mask their behaviour when others are around so that mom is often looked on as being too lax or overprotective. Once a diagnosis has been made, it makes it much easier for everyone concerned to cope better. There is a kind of relief in knowing that there is a reason for the child being the way they are and they are no longer judged. Then education can start on what the disorder is about and how to handle the child.
Feelings of frustration
Fluctuations of love and dislike of the child
Feelings of guilt
Child Minders and Day Mothers
Mexican Poppy, day mother to girl now 6, from 11 months to 3 years
This baby girl had been to another day mother before she came to me on the 22nd November 2006 at 11 months old.
When she arrived, she was from the onset headstrong and knew what she wanted when she wanted it. She would demand attention but if kept busy she was fine and would play as long as she was stimulated but got frustrated if other kids could not keep up with her. As she grew, she preferred to be with the big children – they were more stimulating for her. Some days she would be fine and then she would change and become more demanding. She wanted my assistant to be at her beck and call at all times.
Her mom would arrive and give her to us and I could see she wanted to run away. Girlie would be fine and I did not understand what mom’s problem was. She was not a naughty child but different and could be the sweetest loving child and suddenly change and be very aggressive. She is very intelligent and I think was bored at times as she was so advanced.
I said to mom at one stage there was something wrong and that she needed to be checked out. I could not pin point the problem but knew that she was not naughty – she loved boundaries and discipline but sometimes rebelled - I even joked about BP.
She has a warm loving disposition but changes in a minute. She can be very loving but needs attention and time constantly otherwise the aggression comes out. In answering her questions, we had to explain and give her time to absorb what was being said – we could never fob her off, she always wanted to know more – an enquiring mind.
The problem between the sisters was apparent and she needed her big sisters attention but not just hastily. She was irritating as big sister was also trying to cope with the little one’s demanding ways.
She needed us full time and at times it was frustrating and very tiring. We felt sorry for mom and family and did not know how to help. Mom and girlie went for counselling and still it did not get better. She wanted to be on my assistant’s back much of the time which resulted in terrible neck spasms for the poor girl. I would have to insist that she was returned to the floor, chair or wherever she could be placed.
She hated taking medicine and would spit it all over us.
As she got older she seemed to understand but seemed to get very angry at times and did not know how to handle anger. She was a little perfectionist and if something wasn’t right – the temper flared.
When she was angry or didn’t want to eat something, she would tell us that would be sick. She would then pick a place – pillow or doll usually and then proceed to vomit to show that she was in control. Another time when she was extremely tired, I put her on the bed to sleep and she said that she didn’t need to sleep and that if I left her she would poo in the bed, well she did just that.
She used to make us feel so frustrated at the end of the day. We were doing everything we could but it was never enough. She was sometimes so tired but would not have a nap if she didn’t want to. She was the most loveable little girl who displayed mood swings and ups and downs throughout the time she was will me which was until she was three and ready for pre-school.
I believe that the original day mother accelerated her problem by leaving her on her own when she craved attention continuously. I believe that the child felt abandoned and unloved in the situation and that her separation anxiety is worse because of it.
It seems that those people who care for our children are more objective and see what perhaps we don’t. It takes special people to deal with our BP kids and we have information to hand to teachers and caregivers to make their interaction with our children easier.
Feelings of frustration
Feelings of exasperation
Feelings of sadness
Feelings of love and dislike
In our experience, an exhausted brain can either make you laugh or cry!
Lavender put leftover dinner into a Tupperware container and then placed it back in the Tupperware drawer. Her ice cream landed up in the fridge and she quite often stops at a stop street and stares blankly into space before being prompted by an irritated hoot or one of her daughters to drive on!
On the not so funny side, she arrived at a client to give a verbal report on some climate surveys that she’d completed the previous week and couldn’t remember anything about the interviews – thank goodness she had the written report to refer to. Many times, to make sense of a new labour law or when writing training material, Lavender has to read and reread information and documents to fully understand and absorb the information.
Arum Lily stopped at a red robot, pulled out her remote control and tried to change the robot to green. Then became confused that it was not changing. More recently she tried her damndest to place a serviette in the dishwasher and got quite agitated when it would not stand up straight! Last week she poured a whiskey tot for her husband and then filled up the glass with wine!
Rose, bipolar sufferer and mom to a bipolar child also reads and rereads documents, articles and books to make sense of them, especially when she’s tired. She has stopped at green robots, and just sat there after the red light has turned green. She sometimes gets to work in the morning and can for the life of her not remember how she got there.
Well that’s all for now. We hope that you have had some giggles and some relief reading this article. It helps to feel that you are not alone in your suffering…….that the aches and pains and feelings are part and parcel of raising a special child. As tough as it is and will be, we are supposed to be given what we can cope with – sometimes I wonder – but through this website, we hope to create a supporting community of people who want to learn more, who care for one another and support one another during the daily challenges.
We will continue to email the members in order to gather information on various topics so that we can give you more enlightening information.
Hi Lee and Elisa,
I would like to get a message across to friends and family.
Please...we know you love us, and you want to help- but more than your help- we need your understanding. Our bipolar children do not process information as your own kids do. When our kids are insolent to us- please allow us to handle it. We are embarrassed as well, but if you reprimand the child, as kind as your intentions towards us is- you are making the situation much worse for us and for the child. The bipolar child cannot process that you are reprimanding them because you are an adult- they see you as attacking them and thinking they are hated and despised. They already have a problem once they are being what is termed"rude and abrasive" by others, so once you get involved, they lose it completely.
In a nutshell- we are asking you to UNDERSTAND rather than judge, complain or give us well meaning advice. We love you and also need to speak to you- but we cannot unless you know a little of what bipolar is and how it makes our children react to certain outside influences. Ask us- we are more than happy to explain to you.
No- we are not lazy parents as claimed by someone- we wish we could discipline our children in the way a normal child can be disciplined. But we CANNOT. We have had to learn how to change our methods of discipline to fit in with the complicated mannerisms of early onset bipolar disorder, and how our children can process what is happening around them.
Thank you, we hope you understand and can empathise, and give us this gift of understanding instead of criticism.
Thanks so much Lee.
Yes it is a struggle and I am just so glad at least "it" has a "name". My oldest daughter is able to control her symptoms with the medication but there are times when she has a wobbly.
my youngest daughter has been hospitalised twice in the last 18 months and it is soul destroying to see how she has struggled. she has now missed two years of schooling and we hope and pray that she will be able to continue with her schooling come the new year, probably home schooling.
I have always wondered if there was a support group because as parents we feel completely helpless and its not like we can say - here is a disprin and it all goes away ;-((
Hopefully I can pluk up some courage to tell our story on your site.
I’ve been looking at the website since I mailed you – Wow – what a wonderful site and such an achievement – you and Elisa must be proud of what you’ve done – such a help – I’m feeling quite emotional reading it as it has confirmed so much of what I know as the parent and it’s so nice to have back-up……I’m certainly going to pass it on to the grandparents, teacher and school social worker and will also let Prof Lasich, our psychiatrist know about it as well as our psychologist Jenna Oertel where Pippa is having neurofeedback on a weekly basis – now session 40!
I will certainly keep in touch and join your online discussions.
REPLY TO SHARON:
||Date: 20 Jun 2012 09:00:08 GMT|
Comment: People with bipolar often lead very difficult lives because their mood is so unstable and it is incredibly difficult for them to maintain consistent behaviour. Bipolar disorder is one of the very few depressive disorders that is believed to be the result of true organic disturbance (many depressive disorders are believed to result from a high degree of social influence). Those suffering from true bipolar disorder are not 'spoilt brats'.
Comment: Remember, just because you do not understand what it is does not mean it does not exist or that is over exaggerated. I suggest you research any terms you are unsure of before you post a question which may offend people.