When you have an adult child living with bipolar and who’s in crisis it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of the moment.
I am far from a perfect parent. I have yelled at my son, called him names, and even thrown my own temper tantrum. These are things that I am not proud of, but no one gives you a handbook on how to raise a child with bipolar.
We have been in therapy since my son was around five years old. Having experienced different therapists, it has really given me valuable tools to use when dealing with my son or other people in crisis. There are many things you learn going to therapy: how to not just listen but hear what the person is saying. To pause before responding. To use a lot of “I statements.” To be more empathetic towards one another. All of these have been valuable tools over the years and probably helped keep my own sanity.
One of the greatest gifts raising a son with bipolar and going to therapy has taught me is to be a very selfless person. As I have mentioned before, bipolar is extremely selfish. It took a lot of introspection to get to this place. I am never going to win the proverbial tug-of-war with this diagnosis. I had to learn to let go of all those ideologies I thought would make me a great parent and start listening to my instincts.
I learned that getting caught up in these emotions only brings more pain. This is not to say I don’t feel anything. I am human. I still get angry, I still feel sadness, and I still cry; but if I am in the midst of a crisis I have to be able to keep my head above water or I will drown.
Think about it this way: As a police officer, IF every time I responded to a crisis call and I started to cry because I was injecting my own personal issues into it, how would that outcome be? People would probably think I was unfit for duty and should be removed from the street.
My job is to calm a person down, make them feel safe, and get them to treatment. Of course, in a lot of these situations, I do reference my own life because I am aware it helps the person understand that I can relate to their struggles, but I have to avoid the emotional part if I want the outcome to be successful.
A lot of those skills apply to my own personal life. I have to learn to change hats as a parent. During a crisis I can’t always be his friend, I can’t always agree, I can’t always placate him. I have to take an unbiased approach to what is best for him.
I have called the police on my son a few times. There isn’t a worse experience than when you are the police and you have to call the police. It can cause emotional turmoil. I didn’t want to ask for help, but I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own. Are my own colleagues going to handle this situation well? Are they going to judge me? Will they be talking about us in the locker room? There is definitely a lot that went through my mind as I picked up the phone and dialed 911.
I also knew there was a risk that he would fight them. I had to tell them to do whatever they had to so they could protect themselves. Thankfully he didn’t fight them. I love my son and I was heartbroken watching them put him into a wagon and take him to the hospital but I knew that I was saving his life.
For those moments I was very robotic. Not because I had to be to save face but I knew if I brought all the emotion that was flooding into my brain into it I would not have been able to function to get him the help he needed. There is always plenty of time left to cry later.
I can feel later but in the midst of a crisis, I need to put my emotions to the side.
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
I’m an expert in bipolar management, yet I still have frequent mood swings and deal with symptoms regularly. Shouldn’t I have “solved” this by now? Shouldn’t I have “recovered”? Bipolar Disorder, Expertise, & Mood Management I’ve been writing books about bipolar disorder management since 1998, and my webpage started in 2002. How is it possible...
It won’t be hard to say goodbye to 2020, given all the challenges it brought. But New Year’s Eve itself might be difficult, especially if—like me—you are single and anticipating an emotionally charged time with potential mood swings. That’s why I am planning ahead for what to do—I want to ring in the new year...
It’s interesting to watch the cascade of emotions that arise when the world is changing around us. Even people without bipolar are feeling the roller-coaster emotions that those of us with bipolar live with naturally. I’d like to share some prompts and strategies that are helping me find peace amidst the chaos. In the last...
Mood symptoms such as overspending, hypersexuality, anger attacks, and self-isolation hurt those around us. A simple apology is just the starting point of making things right. When Our Actions during Bipolar Mood Episodes Harm Others Olivia S. of Colorado got up one morning to unexpectedly find two of her four grown children in her living...