One Mom Balances “Fixing” and Accepting Daughter’s Bipolar Diagnosis
Lucy* opens up about her family’s ‘scary and gut wrenching’ long road of emotional ups and downs in dealing with their teenage daughter’s bipolar disorder II.
Tell us about your daughter’s diagnosis…
Growing up she had some signs of ADHD, but she was a very happy outgoing kid and a good athlete through school-age years. Depression started in 10th grade; “weird” happiness, grandiosity (hypomania) in 12th grade and then intense irritability. We both started researching what could be wrong and we both came up with possibly bipolar disorder. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, along with major depression and anxiety.
Please describe what you and your family went through personally during this time…
There were many times we were all walking on eggshells. We had many sleepless nights and lots of tears. The stress of dealing with this reality and trying to keep our lives as normal as possible was immense. At times, it still is. Our younger daughter often got the brunt of the irritability symptom and I felt the need to protect her. We have worked hard to make sure she knows that she deserves her best life, but also to help her understand that what her sister goes through isn’t anyone’s fault and that we all have to work towards acceptance and healthy relationships.
As a parent, what’s it like to go through this experience with your child?
So scary and gut wrenching. It’s been a long road to acceptance. I kept trying to “fix” it. We have had many emotional ups and downs and I continue to be scared of the future and what it holds for my daughter.
What treatments are now successful?
During our journey of trying to find the right med(s), one of the mood stabilizers triggered an immune deficiency; this led to having to deal with a number of specialists: a neurologist, immunologist, hematologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, and endocrinologist. My daughter is currently seeing only a psychiatrist and getting ready to see a hormone specialist. She has been through multiple medication changes and had genetic testing through her psychiatrist to better judge specific meds for her particular genetic make-up.
She takes pharmaceutical medications as well as supplements for mood, depression, anxiety and general health. It has been a long road getting to this “meds-cocktail” and we wish she didn’t need so many, but it is working the best for her after years of trials and testing. I think it’s important for parents to know how much testing we have done and that we have been willing to look outside the box for therapies. We continue to read up on current med trials and studies regarding other ways of dealing with this.
As a mother where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes in waves. We take big steps forward and many steps back. I have read so much and talked at length with my daughter’s psychiatrist. I have close friends who know the situation and I have leaned on them when needed.
Your most valuable coping strategy?
Being open about the struggles with people I trust.
How has this experience changed you as a person?
I have a new appreciation for parents of children with special needs. I don’t feel the need to brag and put my kids on pedestals. I feel I’m more open to understanding people’s differences and am very empathetic now towards other parents. My expectations and dreams are different.
Most important lesson you’ve learned?
Taking life one day at a time. Finding a balance between acceptance and trying to make things better. I also read a lot about bipolar disorder, which has helped me with acceptance of our new reality.
What advice would you give other parents?
Don’t lose yourself! Keep as much of your own life and dreams as you can and don’t let bipolar take over your life.
What do you wish could have happened differently in the medical system to help your daughter?
I honestly just wish there was a cure … or at least a way to more easily deal with this and to make life easier for all involved.
How is your daughter doing now?
She continues to deal with anxiety at times and is often tired due to her immune deficiency so she only works part time. Her life is basically good after a few years of significant struggle. She takes a lot of medication, but we have accepted that she is better with them than she is without them. It really is a rollercoaster, but I have hope that she is accepting her reality and is working towards a healthy life.
*Lucy, not her real name, shares her “happy and active” life with her husband, two daughters (ages 18 & 21) and a dog in a suburb of South Central United States. She hopes to help other parents understand the struggles of living with bipolar disorder, while finding hope through loving and helping their kids find and live their best life.