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Top 5 Struggles of Parenting a Bi-Polar Child

Updated on July 9, 2012

Mental Illness Affects Families of the Patient.

I have a bright, beautiful, engaging daughter, that can pull a complete about face and become a destructive force that would give Mother Nature herself a run for her money. She has Bi-Polar Disorder and has been struggling with the illness most of her life.

I can not pretend to understand how difficult it is for her to live her life. I can only pray for her safety, and hope that she comes to terms with it, and continues on her medications. She is 26 years old, and you may wonder why I titled this "Top 5 Struggles to Parenting a Bi-Polar Child". Let me explain.

Struggle # 5 ; No one understands the depth of your issues.

. I can only speak on this topic from personal experience, this was my 3rd daughter, and she was in the same environment as her sisters. Some days thought, she did not like routine, she did not cooperate or play well with others. She was moody, explosive, and would hold her ground no matter what. I would try to talk to friends about my problems with her and they just repeated " all kids go through phases, she'll grow out of it" or " it can't be that bad, you must be just over tired". Eventually I just stopped talking about it. I blamed myself and felt that I must be doing something wrong. Was I treating her differently? Was I magnifying the situation? Was I too tired? I mean, I did have 3 young children.

Struggle # 4 Conventional parenting simply does not work.

I began to look at the structure of my parenting. We had routine, the girls were early risers, usually up by 6 AM. I was a stay at home Mom at the time, and spent my day with them, playing, teaching, interacting. Even at 2 years old, she could be so defiant. Bedtime was a nightmare, there were nights when nothing worked. We had our end of day procedures, supper, bath time, story time and bedtime. Some nights she would kiss and hug her sisters and snuggle into bed like and angel, and other nights she would scream and fight for hours. I tried more attention, less attention, removing distractions, giving consequences, giving rewards, even bribery.

Struggle # 3 Doctors and Psychiatrists do not like to label children Bi-Polar.

As she got older, we tried behavior charts, chore charts, allowances, discussion, family counseling, behavioral foster placement, and finally medical intervention. She was out of control behaviorally, and becoming a danger to herself. It was tearing my heart out that I could not get through to her, and I did not know what to do to help her. She was hospitalized for a week on an adolescent psychiatric unit, and they gave her a diagnosis of depression and said she was just acting out. They treated her with medications and suggested more therapy and behavior modification efforts at home. Had they treated her then for Bi-Polar Disorder, I believe they would have saved her from years of self harm and destruction.

Struggle # 2 It goes from bad to worse.

Well, I thought the worst of the struggle was over as we survived the early teenage years. I was wrong. She became sexually promiscuous, began high risk taking, using drugs, and pregnant at 17. She did not finish high school, and could not hold a job for long. She would go through her ups and downs, doing fine for a while and then falling apart again. Life felt as though it were wrapped in a tornado. We helped her get settled into an apartment, close by us, to be a support for her and her baby. She enrolled in a graduation recovery program through the school and began taking classes again. We thought she had finally settled down. Not so, she never finished. She has attempted to get her GED a number of times but has yet to accomplish it. She met a young man and got married, they had 2 children. Along with her daughter they made a fairly happy family for a about 2 years. When my daughter had her next big episode, she threw away her marriage, and her sons, and ended up at our door with our grand daughter. We had them move into our tiny 2 bedroom apartment, and then she began to cycle more rapidly. We took care of our grand daughter, and did our best to help her Mom. There were behaviors that we simply could not accept, and we had to draw a line. We told her she had to see a doctor or move out. At 22, she went to see a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder and given proper medications. It was like a whole new world. We finally had some hope. She could even see the difference in herself. Unfortunately, the side effects of the medications are not pleasant, ( weight gain, dry mouth, lower libido)and she stopped taking them. The roller coaster began again. To make a long story short, there were many situations that came and went. This time though, we let her go, and our grand daughter stayed with us. Mom has shown up over the last 5 years off and on to stay for a while, but it always ends the same. She won’t stay on her medications and she cycles out of control ,up and down and up and down. Our goal now is to set healthy boundaries for her and make her responsible for her own situation, even when it breaks our heart. We protect our grand daughter and provide a stable home for her, and trust that things will get better.

Struggle # 1 Our children willl always be our children.

We love them with all of our hearts, even when they break them. Hence the title.


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    • Lifes 2nd Chances profile imageAUTHOR

      Colleen Lyon 

      6 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      Sage in a Cage, thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, many times families with SED children suffer in silence. I appreciate the fan mail also. Take care, C.

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 

      6 years ago

      I just wanted to thank you for highlighting your experience of parenting a child with mental health issues. As a psychologist I can see that, quite often, not enough support is given to the wider family in situations such as yours.

    • Lifes 2nd Chances profile imageAUTHOR

      Colleen Lyon 

      6 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      kristyleann, I appreciate your struggle with this disorder. It is a hard road. You sound like you have a high level of self monitoring ability, which is a very good thing. Sometimes, the older medications will work for patients that do not respond for long on the newer medications. I know for my daughter, one of the most effective "older " drugs they tried was Haldol. It is usually used for schizophrenia, but has been effective for other disorders as well. Keep on top of your symptoms, keep a diary or journal, and ask someone you trust to review it periodically for signs of medication ineffectiveness. This can be like an early warning system for you, and can let you bring it to the attention of your doctor early. Best wishes for your continued good health. Take care, C.

    • kristyleann profile image

      Kristy LeAnn 

      6 years ago from Princeton, WV

      I have bipolar disorder myself (type 2) so I generally stay depressed rather than get manic a whole lot...but I do still get manic from time to time. Anyway, I can actually relate to a lot of this post. I've been to college on and off and on and off since I turned 18 (I'm 28 now). I always make good grades but I just find it so hard to follow through with things. I got diagnosed when I was about 23 and they put me on Wellbutrin and Lamictal and for the first time in my life I felt normal. I went back to college, made dean's list, kept a job as an EMT at the same company for 2 years (until then the longest I kept a job was about 3 months)...unfortunately about a year later the lamictal just stopped working. Then they put me on depakote and I did great again for another year until it stopped working as well. So my issue isn't having bad side effects (thank god) but figuring out some kind of "game plan" so to speak about how to prevent my life falling apart every time the meds stop working.

      I really hope she is able to find something that will help her. Bipolar disorder is a horrible thing to have. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

    • Lifes 2nd Chances profile imageAUTHOR

      Colleen Lyon 

      6 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      Sadie423 thank you for taking the time to read my hub and for your comments. It is a complex situation when you suspect a child shows signs of Bi-Polar. There does not need to be a history in the family, although it often happens that there is. I wish you well with your son, and I hope you get some really good support for the both of you. Take care, C.

    • sadie423 profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      I have wondered over the years if one of my boys suffers from this. We have depression in our family, but no one I know of who is bi-polar. Only time will tell. Thank you for sharing your story.


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