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~~~~ Accepting A Stepparent With A Mental Illness ~~~~

Ahhhh….……becoming a stepparent. Remember those kids in High School you know the perfect ones? Popular, good looking, wore all the latest styles (they seemed to have a different flippin outfit for everyday for at least a month!) had the perfect friends, car….and well just the perfect life! And those of us really shallow
ding-a-lings who secretly hated them but wanted to be just like them (or so we thought at the time).

I know right about now you’re most likely thing “and this has what to do with being stepparent?”. There is a point to this, no seriously there really is I promise! Anyway, thank the lucky stars, moon, heavens….whatever, we all grew up and realized how NOT important all that stupid, shallow High School stuff was!!

Well a couple of years ago I felt exactly like one of those shallow minded kids from High School. I became a stepparent, to be exact a stepmother and all the other stepmoms I knew were perfect (or so it seemed to me anyway). It’s like they were this special little clique and I guess my invitation got lost in the mail. They had their perfect little “Brady Bunch“ blended family. I really couldn’t stand that show.
GAG.

Even in a perfect world under the best of circumstances, blending a family with a new stepparent with minimal stress is tricky at best. And we all know we DO NOT live in a perfect world.

There I go, digressing yet again. I became a stepmom to two pretty great kids. Two boys who were just entering their teen years. I met my husband just about five years ago now and I met both boys just a few months later. They were nine and ten at the time. They visited on a relatively regular basis, so we had the chance to get to know one another. Since I knew that they would be coming to live with us eventually, the last thing I wanted was for us to be strangers to one another. The eventually turned out to sooner rather than later, they’ve been with us almost three years now. ☺

Now there’s just a few bits of itsy bitsy really just some teensy weensy information you should probably know.

To say it was a bit of an adjustment for both the boys and myself would be kinda like saying polar bears live in Florida and love to swim in the nice warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, yeah pretty much somewhat of an understatement. For starters, three of my children were adults, my youngest was 17 YO and I had two grandchildren. I was basically done raising kids!. Now I know I said I knew they would be coming to live with us, but I still had this overwhelming fear of “what did I get myself into” I love my husband so very much, I knew he was the “one” and that he was a package deal. Intellectually at the time I thought no big deal I can handle this; a piece of cake.

I was in no way prepared for the utmost, monumental fear and self doubt I experienced. I SO desperately wanted these boys to like and accept me while at the same time having expectations of them that I so naively expected them to understand. My older kids understood my structured routine from an early age and had age appropriate chores, as they grew older their responsibilities increased. They had to earn privileges. I figured most kids knew this, and any details the boys might need help with, I don’t know I guess through osmosis they would just get it from the older kids. (yeah, I know completely ahhh…odd and out of touch with reality thinking..heh heh)

Oh, and did I mention I have a mental illness? No? Oh my where are my manners?
Sorry about that yes I’m Bipolar1 w/Mixed Episodes. I was diagnosed some years ago. I’m in treatment and take my medication without fail. Since my diagnosis I’ve had a few relapses…one completely my own fault…I stopped taking my meds. Not too smart for a person who works in Mental Health, and I do patient teaching on this very issue. Well it’s a bit different when you’re the patient. Anyhoo, when the boys came I was quite stable. Those of you that also have Bipolar DO know that no matter how stable you might be, you might still have some mild symptoms.

Remember now I was adjusting as well and a tad stressed myself, teaching them about a schedule for chores etc,. We even got a dry erase board that took a bit of time getting used to…..now it’s still used for chores but also to leave cute little notes for each other.

As I was saying I was dealing with some stress as well that caused some very mild rapid cycling. They asked just about everyone but me. Their dad told them he’d let me explain and I would answer their questions. The one thing he did stress is that I was in now way dangerous. A few days prior to that my youngest was in my room with me just hanging out and talking when I noticed that he kept looking at my pill bottles. I keep them in a cute basket so I don’t ever forget to take them. I will forget if they’re put away in some cabinet. Anyway, I asked if he had any questions.

Oh my, did he ever!! First he wanted to know what I take them for. That’s one thing about my youngest…he doesn’t beat around the bush! ☺ My older son was home so I figured “ok lets do this”.

They both listened intently asking extremely intelligent questions from time to time.
One of the first things they said was “oh that explains why ya been kinda moody huh?” Their father and I both explained to them about “triggers” I told them about some of the ones I felt were age appropriate. They asked if they did anything that was a trigger. I honestly answered them about their bickering at each other and the said they would work on that. Ok folks remember we are talking about an eleven and twelve YO here!

To say I was pleasantly surprised doesn’t even begin to describe the relief I felt that they accepted me and being Bipolar without thinking I was “crazy” or judging me. Then I felt this absolutely, stupendous incredible pride!!! ☺

I’ll never forget (and I seriously doubt they will either!) the day I totally “lost it” with them. We had spent the entire day together. The mall, Gamestop, all three of us had our hair done. They had never seen a color weave done with all the foil etc,. At first all they could do was complain, then they started getting interested handing Lisa the foil, giving their opinion about color, and basically just enjoying themselves. However they had been bickering through out the day and I had to warn them several times. They each got their hair done, which they thought was just the coolest thing ever!! They were used to going to the barber, which is just fine for boys, but this was like a treat for them. They each have very different types of hair. They have a mixed heritage so each uses different products on their
hair. So by now it’s late afternoon and our adventurous day continues. The plan was to stop at Sally’s Beauty Supply to get their shampoos, conditioners, relaxers more special conditioners….yes they are spoiled, but I want them to learn how to take care of their hair.

Their dad is out of town five days a week and a great deal of things is my responsibility. Remember the bickering? Well we almost left Sally’s empty handed. Toward the back of the store the aisles end and there’s a bit of area on each side
just before you reach the back area for employees, they made for nice little corners…….oh yes I did! And it must have worked, we didn’t leave Sally’s empty handed.

A few more quick stops then it was home for pizza and movies…..our little family night. I was so pleased the bickering had stopped…..until I turn off the engine of the car. They started in at Mach 2…who was going to carry what ……..what kind of pizza….what movie to watch first…and on & on it went!

So finally we get in the house, car unloaded. Now the bickering is about who puts what away.

BREAKING NEWS
MT. SAINT CATHERINE ERUPTS
IN THIS BREAKING NEWS STORY MT. SAINT CATHERINE ERUPTS!
AFTER SOME YEARS WITH NO ACTIVITY FROM THIS VOLCANO
IT JUST SUDDENLY ERUPTS. HOT, MOLTEN LAVA IS GUSHING
OUT OF THE MOUTH OG THE VOLCANO WITH RECORD SPEED AND
AMOUNT. OFFICIALS ARE SAYING AN ODD COMBINATION OF TWO
DIFFERENT PRESSURE SYSTEMS AND TRIGGERED A REACTION
INSIDE THE VOLCANO’S NATURAL AIR FLOW. THAT’S ALL WE KNOW AT THIS POINT. AS WE LEARN MORE WE WILL BRINGIT TO YOU FIRST. THIS IS MARYBETH SMITH WITH BPDO TV REPORTING LIVE FROM CYCLE RAPIDS CITY….BACK TO YOU SAMMI
In my loudest, firm but not yelling voice “STOP IT THIS INSTANT” they both just
Turned around and stared at me in shock! “I REALIZE I’M NOT YOUR BIRTH MOTHER BUT I AM YOUR STEPMOTHER AND YOU WILL RESPECT ME!! ISTHAT
UNDERSTOOD?” They both nod their head yes with a look of bewildered panic.
I told them to go outside and think about the way they acted.

I locked them out of the house for about 45 minutes. When they came back in they each gave me hug and said they were sorry. I accepted their apologies and told them about the essays they’d be writing tomorrow.
I wanted a two-page essay on respect for your parents, all the things they have that other kids don’t have and what they should be grateful for.

Present time; they have a very good understanding of what bipolar is. I’ve seen them do searches online, if I say something negative about myself they make me counter it with something positive. My younger boy asks me every couple of days
If I’m remembering to take my meds. When I have a med change he wants to know about it and asks questions.

While I was going through this last extremely severe depressive episode they were attentive without being annoying. They tried to make sure I ate each day. Part of this episode was in the summer while they were home from school. If I had insomnia
One or the other would sit up with me at night watching T.V. until I fell asleep on the couch and when I did, they’d cover me with a blanket and sleep on the other side of the couch (we have a huge sectional) with me in case I woke up from a nightmare or night terror as I would often have both while depressed. They gave their dad daily reports while he was out of town. I could go on and on but this is already such a long post!

I really hope you all take the time to read it. These are two pretty normal teens when it comes to normal teen stuff. They get in trouble and disciplined just like any other teen.

But when it comes to their stepmom and her mental illness…..they handle it better than many adults I know!

They are extraordinarily caring and sensitive and have taken the time to learn about my bipolar disorder. They are truly two exceptional young men.
~~~~I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART S & G~~~

One thought on “Author Post

  1. This is an awesome post! And, it brought something to light for me. We have never really explained to our boys (11, 10 and 8 YO) what BPDO is and why I cycle moodwise, etc. Also, I have never really paid attention to what triggers me or causes me to be ‘off’. You know what I mean by that. I think I need to pay more attention to that. I am not a step-parent, but I admire your strength to do this. And bless those precious boys!

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