Motherhood · pediatric mood disorders

My Son Is A Child, Not A Bipolar Diagnosis

My son snuggled against me, on the beige leather couch, trying to get comfortable and forget the sensory sensation of his legs sticking to the fabric.

Sweet boy,” I murmured, and smoothed his unruly hair.

The psychiatrist was instructing us in all the things.

The medications we needed to try.

The possible side effects.

The school options.

The therapies necessary.

The long-term likelihood of substance abuse and  high percentages of suicide.

The calendar of appointments set.

The blood tests.

My son is a child, not a bipolar diagnosis.

As she talked, I became acutely aware of how often she said his diagnosis, over and over again.

Because he is bipolar…

When a child is bipolar…

Being bipolar means…

Mental illness and pediatric bipolar disorder require…

Sitting there on that couch, it felt like one word would define my child for the rest of our lives.

My son is a child, not a bipolar diagnosis

Bipolar

I have been hesitant to share this particular diagnosis.

The world is not friendly to the mentally ill.

The fear and shame associated with this diagnosis, have been new and unfamiliar to me.

Autism

Anxiety Disorder

Lupus

Dyslexia

Sjogren’s Syndrome

Learning Disorders

ADHD

I have heard all of these diagnoses in reference to one or both of my two sons.

It wasn’t easy to hear them, but it didn’t feel shameful.

It wasn’t fun to hear them, but it never felt like a life sentence.

It wasn’t what I wanted, these diagnoses, but they all felt like something I could handle.

Pediatric bipolar disorder has been a much different experience for us.

I am not sure when I will be able to really share it all.

I am not even sure that I want to.

But I think it would be wrong to not publicly acknowledge that we are dealing with a bipolar diagnosis for my sweet ten-year old son, my baby.

How could I possibly choose to withhold this information, when I have tried so hard to be transparent about all the rest?

What message would it send to my son, when he is old enough to read my words?

That somehow a bipolar diagnosis is more shameful than all the rest?

That having a bipolar diagnosis is somehow different, and more unspeakable than his brother’s autism diagnosis?

That a bipolar diagnosis is beyond the scope of my unwavering belief that my children are fearfully and wonderfully made, exactly as they are, no matter what the brain function?

The reason why pediatric mental illness feels so different for us, is because no one talks about it.

The reason why our psychiatrist is so focused on the disorder and not the child, is because so little is known about how to really help the child.

And this is exactly why I will write, as much as I can, about our experiences with pediatric bipolar disorder.

I pray I will do it in a way that encourages other moms. I hope I can do it in a way that protects my son’s privacy. I know I will do everything I can to write in a way that protects his heart.

My son is so much more than a bipolar diagnosis.

It feels like this diagnosis has changed everything.

But the truth is, at a most basic level, it has changed nothing.

My child is still a child.

I am still his mom.

And together, we will do what we have always done.

We will work to figure out what works.

We will pray.

We will fail.

We will love until it hurts.

We will cry.

We will celebrate success.

We will take the next step.


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22 thoughts on “My Son Is A Child, Not A Bipolar Diagnosis

  1. Oh sweet mama. With all you are already dealing with this is so much. So very much. Thank you for always sharing with an such a humble honestly. Prayers of wisdom and peace for you as you navigate this new diagnosis.

  2. My now-grown niece was diagnosed with both bi-polar and anxiety as a teen. Her mom (my sister) is the one I run to when I need someone to vent and or get advice from about my daughter. Diagnosis, regardless of the age, is tough. Yes, your kid is still your kid and the problems haven’t changed because of a name, but sometimes that very name can be very overwhelming. Thank you for having the courage to share. May people be encouraging and not unkind.

  3. I have followed your blog for some time and I often share it in my blog. I know you will handle this with the same grace you’ve handled everything else. My husband and I have 4 kids and I recently got a tattoo to represent my two (step) kids who both have autism. I considered adding puzzle pieces and decided if I don’t want the world to define who they are by autism, I’m not doing it either. I now have a beautiful tattoo that’s shows who they are diagnosis or not. Your kids may have diagnosis’ but it doesn’t define them. Mental illness should be treated no different than any illness. I fight this everyday and will continue for your family, my family, and those who need us for backup everyday. Much love.

  4. I had the same feeling when I finally got around to getting a diagnosis for my eldest’s Aspergers. It was just a name that sort of described why he did things in particular ways or why he wasn’t able to cope in some situations. Having that name sort of helped me to not be so frustrated at the differences between him and his three younger brothers but it didn’t change how I parented him. I did the same thing you say. I loved him, we talked, we worked it out. And I didn’t read any books on his “label”, I just loved him and parented him where he was at. I was afraid that those books would turn me from emotional caring mum into logical labelling mum. He didn’t need that. I still gleaned things at times from a variety of resources but only as required if I hadn’t been able to figure out what I could do for him. I recognise that your situation is different but I just wanted to share that sometimes all the experts in the world on a topic will still not know your son’s heart like you do. Yes, get information, collect ideas and understandings of his “label” but don’t focus on it, he is still a boy needing his mum for love, support and acceptance.

    Best wishes,
    Jen in Oz

  5. The psychiatrist said my son has a hard time staying grounded in reality. He’ll ask me if I’m his mom, says he feels like he’s in a dream, feels cut off. In times of stress he’s thought people were trying to poison him or harm us. He’s getting help and has made progress but sometimes I get scared as to what his future will look like. Thank you for your post!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Gail. My son has had similar experiences over the past year. It can be so scary, but it is encouraging to know we are not alone!

  6. Thank you for being real. I have a son who I go round and round about seeking professional help for. For now we’re doing ok, but it’s always in my mind that some day we may need more help. Thank you for sharing your struggles, I appreciate reading your insights.

    1. I appreciate your kind words, Bethany. I know what you mean about having it in the back of your mind – for us, it was clear when it was time for help, and I am not sorry that we waited.
      Praying for you and yours this morning!

  7. Thank you for these words. 💙
    Love,
    The mom of an amazing, hilarious, compassionate 11 year old, who also happens to have DMDD and ADHD.

  8. You know, I have a different perspective that may be helpful. After years of the shame of hiding my mental illness, and not knowing what was wrong with me, it seems to me that your son is ahead of the game. Good job, Mama! A diagnosis is a good, empowering thing!

  9. As a newly diagnosed homeschooling mom of 4 I can say that for me, admitting to depression was and is easier than admitting to others and to myself that I am bipolar. People at least THINK they understand depression but with bipolar people often only think of extremes and rarely do they know even the tip of the iceberg as to what bipolar can all entail and the suffering it can produce.

    I hope and pray that you can find the help your son needs now and in the future as his needs change. What a blessing he has in you, his mom, who is willing to face a tough diagnosis with so much love in her heart. Thank-you for bravely sharing this often hidden struggle.

  10. I needed this. Thank you. My son is more than misophonia. He is a child. My younger son is more than the puzzle I can figure out. He is a child. It is so hard to remember when we’re trying to find solutions and help our families survive, when both children are hurting and feel awful. Thank you. Hugs, friend.

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