Family status is complicated when you are raising a teenager diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It has been complicated even before the diagnosis of all the irritations, separation anxiety, and tantrums. But often when I would raise this concern to her pediatrician, he would tell me to let her be, she’s just a kid. And so that is what I did.
“Family members need to verbally compliment one another,” said Brent Blaisdell, PsyD.
I Almost Lost Her Twice
Teenage years came unnoticeably, the critical stage where hormones go crazy, rebelliousness manifests, and peer pressure escalates. It intensified the challenge of raising my teenager. The psychiatrist made the diagnosis when she tried to take her own life, and it was her second time to do it. I thought she was just not in the mood sometimes, influenced by kids her age, and a bit choosy when it comes to making friends, just like how she was when she was younger. I never thought she was depressed and that puberty was forming a confusing scenario.
The psychiatrist told me that if it could have been appropriately diagnosed early on, her condition would have been a little more stable and would not come to this extent of threatening to bring about destruction in her life and our family as well.
Every Day Is A Moment Of Fear
I started to worry not just about her behavior but her diagnosis as a whole, and the likelihood that she might try to hurt herself again. Talking to her has become even harder as if I don’t know her anymore. She often locks herself up in the room when she’s home, would sometimes refuse to go to school, and sometimes will sneak the car out late at night with some friends. It’s worrying us that she might get into an accident.
“We fear the unknown, fear failure, even fear success,” said Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD.
We tried the best we can to keep her safe inside the house by locking up all the knives, hiding the car keys under our mattress, and taking turns in monitoring her. We tried talking to her, but she would often ignore us. Her safety is our priority. That’s why she is being treated for her condition.
Her psychiatrist prescribed some medications on a trial basis to see what would be best for her. I can’t help but worry about what would be the effect of all these medications on her kidneys and I have read how some children are harmfully affected by stimulants and antidepressants. Her pediatrician and psychiatrist are working together in helping her out and see what would be best for her. They even introduced us to some support groups who are experiencing the same ordeal as we are.
According to Simon A. Rego, PsyD, “What-if thoughts also become problematic when they cause distress or interfere with a person’s ability to function.”
It was then that I realized that our family is not in actuality that close and supportive of each other. The psychiatrist explained to us how significant family support is at this time in our daughter’s life. Getting involved in her illness will help her recover and accept the reality of her illness and will even allow herself to cooperate with the treatment and therapy.
The psychiatrist, besides conducting therapy for our daughter, focused on our relationship as a family and advised us that sharing a meal together is the first step to making the family closer. She explained the many benefits of how eating together as a family can rebuild our relationship and can help our daughter boost her mood, so that we may start to get along well again. It is the appropriate time for us to have not just a healthy meal but a healthy conversation with her, and depending on her mood, we can encourage her to do some things other than arguing with her to attend school. We should make it a time to share our stories and not to nag and discipline. It is supposed to be a bonding time to enjoy and open up without being judgmental.
Hearing this from her psychiatrist made me realize the importance of sharing a meal together which I have neglected since I started working again. I have ignored the fact that she still needs me, and needs me now more than ever. It could be one of the reasons why I don’t seem to know her anymore. It’s true that very rarely we gather together for a meal as a family and mostly we are tired and have no time to listen to her stories. So we never noticed that my daughter’s condition was worsening.
I am thankful to her psychiatrist that she emphasized the importance of sharing a meal with our daughter. She still has her rapid cycling of ups and downs, but we assured her that we are just here. When she feels depressed, I would encourage her to go out with me, either we eat out or visit a shop, and do our favorite thing together – even just driving around.
May this experience I had with my daughter (almost losing her due to neglect and not being able to diagnose her early on for her bipolar disorder) would serve as a wake-up call for other parents reading this. How important it is to always to be involved and to be aware of what’s happening to your teenagers. It may not just be a simple tantrum or sadness that is driving them crazy enough to think of suicide.
Andrea F. Polard Psy.D. said “Individuals whose behavior challenges, disrupts or are considered unusual are often the targets of aggression, and that aggression continues until those individuals change their behavior.”
Listen to your kids as you share a healthy and hearty meal and know them even more.