On Raising a Child With Bipolar Disorder: The Realness of It All
I remember those words loud and clear. “I believe Curtis has early onset Bipolar Disorder.” Huh? What did you just say? Ummm…..no, I think you are talking to the wrong parent. But in reality, that doctor did have the right parents and that was us. Us meaning Roy and Shari F: the parents of Curtis! We are now the parents of a child with a formal diagnosis.
Many, many feelings took place over the next few weeks. We knew our child had a problem, but come on, it couldn’t be Bipolar Disorder. But it was and it is and it’s real. And it brought a sense of grief. Why grief you ask? Well, we started to grieve the fact that our son will not live a typical child’s life and will always have significant struggles. He had already been through so much from the time he was five years old and now you throw this at us, too? Curtis has never been a ‘typical’ child. He has always had struggles from the time he was eighteen months old.
We knew early on there was something ‘wrong’ but couldn’t pinpoint it. He threw tantrums, but not the ‘typical’ tantrum an eighteen-month-old should throw. These tantrums were scarey and they made no sense whatsoever. We tried to discipline him. We used all the methods were taught at parenting classes but nothing worked. NOTHING!!!! He was tearing our house apart at three-years-old and leaving dents and/or holes in our walls. He would punch, hit or kick people for no reason. It was awful. We went to several ‘professionals’ but they all said nothing was wrong because our other children were well-behaved so he should be, too. We spent thousands trying to get him the appropriate help.
We moved to Oregon when Curtis was four-years-old. What we didn’t know is that we had some horrific days ahead of us.
Curtis went into a state of despair and we could see it. But we didn’t know what to do. Would anybody listen in a new place to live? We were at wits’ end trying to find him help and then it happened. His despair got the best of him at five-years-old. He lit our house on fire with a paper towel and candle lighter. Why? Because he wanted to kill himself and jump into the fire hoping it would happen. Thank God he didn’t do that and just our garage and part of our house burned. As a result, the Early Onset Firesetters Program director at the fire department helped us get the right help for Curtis. It was about time somebody believed us! It took far too long.
To make a long story short, it still took over two years to find the right diagnosis for our son! Finally, when he was entered into intensive outpatient services did he get this formal diagnosis.
We realize that Curtis will never be ‘normal’ so we had to find a new normal. That’s not as easy as it sounds. New normals are hard to form sometimes and we have struggled. He will always require extra support in many ways. We have taken numerous classes on how to help him and parent him effectively.
But let me say that I am OK with him and his diagnosis. I, too, as his mother have Bipolar Disorder. It can be passed along sometimes. He is eccentric. He has a specific beat to his drum and he is one special kid.
The only thing I don’t like; he has suffered too much in his short life. I hate that. He doesn’t understand why he is the way he is now. He knows he’s different.
And again, that grieves this Mommy and Daddy’s hearts.