They say ...They say, life is what we make of it.
I don't know about that. There are so many things that can happen that are so far beyond our control. Maybe what “they” mean is how we react to what life gives us.
About a month ago, my life had spun way out of control. My 14 year old son has problems and issues that go back many years. He was thought to have ADHD, was diagnosed thusly at the age of about 8. He was living with his father at the time, and had begun to have lots of problems in school. He was taken to a clinic that specializes in treating ADHD. He was medicated with all kinds of different drugs .. about 6 kinds in two or three years. They did nothing to help him, made him worse, or turned him into a zombie.
Fast forward ... he now lives with me. His father was abusing him, physically and emotionally. We have been trying to help him heal the emotional damage that resulted from the abuse. But there were deeper issues as well. It wasn't until he finally hit rock bottom that we finally discovered what was really going on with him.
My son had been in and out of trouble for almost the last year. Trouble at school, with other kids in the neighborhood, his grades dropped from A's and B's to D's and F's. He would fly into the most terrible and frightening rages I had ever seen. He wanted to die and told me so several times. When he actually tried to kill himself twice within a week I had to act.
I took him to his psychiatrist, the one that prescribes his anti-depressant medication. He was almost immediately admitted to the hospital .. one that treats mental illness. He was admitted as an involuntary committment because of the suicide threats.
While he was there, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Formerly known as manic depression, Bipolar Disorder manifests itself with extreme mood swings. In adults, the time lapse between these swings can be weeks, months or even years. In children, the swings can come as often as minutes or hours. Often mistaken and treated as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder grows worse without proper treatment, and the ADHD medications only aggravates the condition.
But we finally had a name and reason for my son's outrageous behavior, and hope for controlling it with medications. My son now has a chance to make his life a successful one.
But we are not out of the woods by a long shot. He will have to have his medications adjusted monthly until he gets the right levels, and still changes from growing, going through puberty and even normal life experiences will require further adjustments.
Then he also will need to learn to live with this disease. He cannot drink caffeinated colas or coffee. He will also have to watch his sugar intake ... not a pleasant idea for a teen-ager. School will require extra effort always. He will need to develop more self-awareness so he can cope with the mood swings when they come.
As a parent of a child with Bipolar Disorder, I too face extra challenges. I have to make and keep doctor and therapy appointments, stay in close contact with his school so he will receive a proper education, be ready to face all kinds of weird situations, and try hard to maintain my own sanity.
Three weeks ago, he was discharged from the hospital. On these new medications, he is a completely different child than the one that went in a week before. And he continues to improve. I still see the signs of the disorder in him though .. defiance, apathy, low self-esteem. But I know that there will be set-backs and new challenges in the future. I can only hope that I will be ready and able to deal with them.
For more information:
Childhood-onset Bipolar Disorder Fact Sheet
Next entry: A Slap in the Face