What is it like living with a 19 Year old Bipolar Son?

What is it like living with a 19 year old Bipolar II son?

  • Exhausted
  • Scared
  • Pissed off
  • Annoyed
  • Trapped
  • Drained
  • Alone
  • Guilty
  • Overwhelmed
  • Hopeful
  • Positive
  • Responsible
  • Anchored
  • Terrified
  • Grateful
  • Willing
  • Stupid
  • Crazy
  • Tired
  • Blind
  • Disappointed

I had to walk away after making that list. Why? Because the Me in me wants to reread it and make sure I didn’t leave anyone else’s feelings out. I mean, I am writing this and I want people to relate, so I had better put something in here they can identify with, right? Did I list your emotion…the one you are feeling today? Right now? A few minutes ago?

The point is I do not know how to describe what it is like to live with a bipolar teenager anymore than a bipolar teenager can describe to me how he is “feeling”.

I do not walk on egg shells anymore. I walk on land mines.

I do not know from one day to the next…from one hour to the next…and god help me, from one minute to the next, what my day will look like.

I can take a good guess at what you might see if you were on the outside looking in! A FT working mom, with one kid away at college and a lazy, good for nothing teen boy who sits at home, raiding the fridge, blaring loud music and caring about nothing but if his car is clean. Wow…typical, huh? I wish. I wish it were that easy to describe. I wish it were like that…because THEN I could say, “Dude! Get back into school, get a job and pay rent, or get the hell out!”

Right? I mean, isn’t that what we are supposed to say to our kid when they are 19 and not doing anything with their lives? Get the hell out?

What most, if not all, do not see is that I live with a 19 year old boy (man…sorry), that has a chronic condition called Bipolar II and ADHD. Hmmm. So? What does that mean? It means that I can plan to attend the family reunion 5 months from now, pay for the cabin, and schedule the time off, and when that date comes CANCEL all my plans because my son is in the middle of a cycle. “What is that? A cycle? Oh, come on…we all have ups and downs, good days and bad days.” Yep, we do.  But my son has extremes…His highs can last days…no sleep, no eating, no rest, no calmness…just anxiety and compulsions and conflict and angst. Oh, and then, when THAT part of the cycle is coming to a close, briefly I get to spend some time with him before he FALLS…falls into that deep, dark abyss that I cannot fathom…and God knows I try. He is down for the count…for days maybe…who knows. I don’t. He doesn’t.  It is what it is.

The deep abyss is the scariest…because it is like I have him on a lifeline and I need to monitor his depth. If he goes too deep, too quickly, he can get sick…very sick and very fast. He can die. So I have to hold that life line and use my judgment (God forbid it is off kilter that day) as to whether or not to pull him back or let him work it out. I have to be strong, whether or not I want to be. I don’t have a choice. My boy needs me and I am holding his lifeline in my hands.

His depressive states, when they get deep, are exhausting…for both of us. He knows what is going on, and knows he has to wait it out, and is loving toward me, epithetic to a point.  Recently, during one of his darkest moments, he couldn’t sleep and his head was spinning. It was 3am and he woke me to say that he was going crazy. We sat on the couch as he tried to explain the craziness that was going on in his head. This was the first time that he really, really tried to verbally articulate what was going on at the moment. It was incredible. I could see he was physically in pain, but to have him put it into words was almost poetic. It was dark and hopeless, and at the same time eloquent and beautiful. All I could really do was just sit and listen. I gave affirmation when I concurred with his thoughts and suggested alternatives when he got hung up on something. It was a beautiful, dark hour of time that I spent inside my son’s mind with him. As we returned to our rooms, he stopped and gave me a hug and thanked me for listening. It was a different thank you. It was a relief thank you. A new kind of thank you.

Yes, there are days and moments that my son is “balanced” and yes, I treasure them. Those are also the days that I am most criticized…and perhaps it is warranted…I do not know. My son does little around the house, unless he is feeling well. THAT is viewed by outsiders as manipulating me…a spoiled brat who only wants to do what he wants to do. I don’t know anymore. Maybe. Maybe not. I do know that when he is balanced, he is kind and giving and supportive and wants to chat and watch movies and doesn’t complain about folding the laundry or loading the dishwasher.

Am I living with a brat, a bipolar depressive soul, a bipolar manic? Every day is a new day. Maybe he has a new girlfriend and is happy. Maybe he just broke up with her and he is sad. Maybe his buddy screwed him over. Maybe he is facing an ethical question and doesn’t want to discuss it. Maybe I pissed him off and he doesn’t want to confront me. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s the recent med change. Maybe it the movie we watched last night. Maybe it was that text from his cousin. Maybe he just wants to give up and die. I do not know.  I have to take each “episode” separately, as they come.  We, together, try to figure out what IT is…that is causing IT.

Truth is…I am living the life that we both were dealt and both would change if we could. I know nothing. And at the same time, I know a lot. Yeah, the negative adjectives used above fit, but so do the positives….and I hang onto the positives.  My son is not the only one affected by his condition. I am, too. At times, I KNOW I am not equipped to handle this life…and at other times, I feel blessed because I KNOW I am not given more than I can handle. Maybe this is MY gift. Maybe this is MY journey. To help my son. Who knows. 🙂

5 thoughts on “What is it like living with a 19 Year old Bipolar Son?

  1. I don’t know if I can put into words how this post affected me…. well I just can’t only that as a person with BP1/Mixed is that I understand the bipolaree & his caregiver. Makes me wonder how others around me really feel even when they express support, just makes the guilt infinite for being a person w/ BP. I do know I can’t stop crying and am wondering for the first time in 5 or 6 yrs if it really worth it to keep trying. I get so tired. The scariest part is I thought these ideations would never come back to torment me and the not knowing if I can conquer them. Thank you so much for your raw honesty in this post Patti.

  2. Wonderful post Patti! Thank you for sharing your story and experience. My 9 yr. old son has a mood disorder, we don’t know what type yet, but I often wonder what lies ahead for me as a mother of a teen son with mental health issues.

  3. I am so sorry if I triggered something. My intent with sharing where I was coming from was to say what I wanted to say to my Mom, without saying it to her directly. While I love her dearly, she is unwilling to see the truth. In her mind, I was never raped, so therefore there are no issues for me to deal with and therefore no need to discuss it…ever. Now, with my son, in her mind, he doesn’t have an illness…he is a lazy, Mama’s boy…so we don’t talk about his disorders, or issues, or anything. I support everyone who is going through some sort of mental illness, whatever it is called, and at whatever level. I believe you. I hear you. And I am here to tell you that yes, I am affected, but I am still here…learning right along side of you. <3

  4. Dear Patti, I don’t know how I would cope with yours and your son’s life, especially with the added ongoing pain of your mother just not being there for you emotionally. I wish you the very best.
    Catherine, it will pass, it will pass. However much it feels like this is it forever it will pass. I am just coming out of the worst 5 years ever and this year has been the worst. But it is slowly getting easier. I pray that you have the strength to wait it out.

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