My son is autistic. Autism is on the forefront of many media outlets nowadays, so you know what that is. He also suffers from a mental illness. I'm not talking about autism here. I'm talking about pediatric bipolar disorder.
I'm sure you've heard of it. You've probably even heard it joked about. Did you know it affects kids too? Well it does. It steals away moments of their childhood and rips out their parents hearts.
Children who suffer from BPD differ from that of most adults afflicted with it, because they cycle so rapidly. (Cycling is when they switch from mania to depression and so on) *refer to chart* These cycles can occur numerous times in one day.
Have you ever seen the meme that said, "How much do you charge for a ride on your mood swings?" I used to think that was funny. Now I find it offensive. Maybe because I watch my child swing between moods so frequently some days.
Here's the break down of mania vs depression:
Symptoms of mania include:
- euphoria (elevated mood)—silliness or elation that is inappropriate and impairing
- flight of ideas or racing thoughts
- more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
- irritability or hostility when demands are not met
- excessive distractibility
- decreased need for sleep without daytime fatigue
- excessive involvement in pleasurable but risky activities (daredevil acts, hypersexuality)
- poor judgment
- hallucinations and psychosis
Symptoms of depression include:
- lack of joy and pleasure in life
- withdrawal from activities formerly enjoyed
- agitation and irritability
- pervasive sadness and/or crying spells
- sleeping too much or inability to sleep
- drop in grades or inability to concentrate
- thoughts of death and suicide
- fatigue or loss of energy
- feelings of worthlessness
- significant weight loss, weight gain or change in appetite
Being a woman, we know how mood swings can be. We live with PMS every month. But this is different. More extreme. A person/child with BPD will go from laughing, and incessantly talking your ear off, to angry, crying, screaming, and so on. They can become violent too. Take 3 or more of those symptoms above, and they happen all at one time. Then the child will cycle to other end. (refer back to arrow chart)
(Now add that to autism. It's quite explosive some times)
People have asked me if I was ever afraid OF my child. No. NEVER. I'm afraid FOR my child. Stereotypes. Negativity towards mental illness. Misinformation of these illnesses especially in children doesn't help either.
My hope is that by reaching out, exposing myself, sharing our life, I can help spread the word. I hope that even ONE person reads this, and says, "I'm not ashamed of my mental illness!" So they can help by spreading the word.
I want to help make that change for mental illness awareness. Pediatric mental illness awareness.
My son is almost nine. We are starting to have more rough days than good. We're working on finding medications that help his BPD and don't hinder him in general. It's not easy. It's rough on him. Rough on us. We've been faced twice with the possibility of hospitalizing him. (once when he was 5 and last spring, he was 7) The nearest psychiatric hospital that can take children is FOUR hours away! So not only do we need more people speaking out about mental illness in children, we need more service providers in all areas. Parents facing the decision of having to admit their children to psychiatric hospital, shouldn't be faced with the worry of how far away it is. (That was a HUGE concern for us. My son has major anxiety issues and can't be away from me for any amount of time.)
I try to talk about BPD every chance I get. I try to reach out and let people know what it is. How it affects my son, myself and our family. To protect him, and do his story justice, I ALWAYS ask what I can post, and what he wants to keep secret. He almost ALWAYS lets me post his "story" exactly how it happens. He's quite the advocate for a child.
But I find myself holding back. I ask myself why all the time. I'm a very upfront and blunt person. I hold back though because there is such a negative stereotype surrounding mental illness, and I'm afraid people will peg my son as something he's not. After all, first and foremost he's a little boy. A little boy with a lot on his plate, but a little boy none the less.
We've already dealt with bullies. Sometimes on a daily basis because of where we live. We had to pull him from school because they didn't have the patience to be kind to him. We've been in and out of therapies, social skills groups (autism) and so on. Through it all, he keeps on. He wears a smile and he is such a fun loving kid. He has taught me so much! On days where I can't take BPD any more, and I start to cry, I think of how it must feel for him. He has to fight his own mind. I don't. I just have to be there for him. I just have to be his mom.
Whether or not you know someone afflicted with bipolar, try to educate yourself on it a bit. Teach your children to be kind and accepting of the kids that don't seem quite like them. Teach your children to speak kindly to everyone, no matter how different they seem.
Also, if you think you or someone you love may be suffering with bipolar disorder, PLEASE speak to your doctor. Do not be afraid. Do not be ashamed. None of us are perfect. We all have a battle to fight, yours is just different than mine.