Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Newsweek: Growing Up Bipolar

I read with interest Newsweek’s cover story, “Growing Up Bipolar,” for three reasons:
1) Ever since my former therapist handed me my adolescent journals, I’ve been coming to realize that I may have been bipolar as a kid;
2) I just attended the Johns Hopkins Annual Mood Disorders Research and Education Symposium, where Dr. John T. Walkup presented “Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents: Understanding the Assessment and Treatment Dilemma”;
3) I’m starting to wonder if my son David might be bipolar, and I’m very confused how to address this.
Reporter Mary Carmichael begins her article with these two gripping paragraphs:


Max Blake was 7 the first time he tried to kill himself. He wrote a four-page will bequeathing his toys to his friends and jumped out his ground-floor bedroom window, falling six feet into his backyard, bruised but in one piece. Children don’t really know what death is, as the last page of Max’s will made clear: “If I’m still alive when I have grandchildren,” it began. But they know what unhappiness is and what it means to suffer. On a recent Monday afternoon, Max, now 10, was supposed to come home on the schoolbus, but a counselor summoned his mother at 2:15. When Amy Blake arrived at school, her son gave her the note that had prompted the call. “Dear Mommy & Daddy,” it read, “I am really feeling sad and depressed and lousy about myself. I love you but I still feel like I want to kill myself. I am really sad but I just want help to feel happy again. The reason I feel so bad is because I can’t sleep at night. And dad yells at me to just sleep at night. But, I can’t control it. It is not me that does control it. I don’t know what controls it, but it is not me. I really really need some help, love Max!!!!! I Love you Mommy I Love you Daddy.”
This is the story of a family: a mother, a father and a son. It is, in many ways, a horror story. Terrible things happen. People scream and cry and hurt each other; they say and do things that they later wish they hadn’t. The source of their pain is bipolar disorder, a mental illness that results in recurring bouts of mania and depression. It is an elusive disease that no parent fully understands, that some doctors do not believe exists in children, that almost everyone stigmatizes. But this is also a love story. Good things happen. A couple sticks together, a child tries to do better, teachers and doctors and friends help out. Max Blake and his parents may not have much in common with other families. They are a family nonetheless. That is what has mattered most to Amy and Richie Blake since Oct. 31, 1997, the day their son took his first ragged breath.


After reading this, I went looking for the journal I kept when I was around 12. In it, I wrote:

I feel like I’m just looking at the world, not living it. And then I think, no, I’m just tired. I want so much attention sometimes, I’ll do anything, even kill myself. No, I want to live! I am normal! Two people are inside of me and I don’t know which is right. Help me, God. I say, help me!

I had never considered that I might have been bipolar even as a young girl until I attended Dr. Walkup’s presentation as part of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Research and Education Symposium. He said that it was common for bipolar disorder to exhibit itself in childhood as anxiety disorders and ADHD, and in adolescence as eating disorders, substance abuse, and severe depression. Sometime, usually in a person’s early 20s, she will experience her first mania. But typically it takes ten years to receive the proper diagnosis, after I person finally sees a psychiatrist.
For a minute there, I thought he had just read my diary.
As a child, I experienced acute anxiety peppered with just the right touch of OCD. In junior high, I struggled with anorexia. In high school, substance abuse. In college, I fell into a very severe depression. And sometime in my 20s I first experienced what I know now to be manic cycles.
Given all that, it’s very possible I was bipolar as a kid.
Dr. Walkup said that children or adolescents with bipolar disorder are often diagnosed with severe ADHD, agitated depression, severe anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, substance abuse, history of sexual abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome/effect, and schizophrenia.
It’s all really, really fuzzy. Gray and fuzzy. Explains Newsweek’s Carmichael:


Max’s prognosis has also grown more complex in the seven and a half years since [Dr. Joseph] Jankowski first labeled him as bipolar and hyperactive. “He’s oppositional defiant, he’s dyslexic, he’s ADHD, he’s OCD,” says Amy. “Give me an initial and he has it.” Bipolar children, especially those diagnosed early, often have such a litany of disorders. The bipolar brain tries to compensate for its weak prefrontal cortex by roping in other areas to help; these areas may now become dysfunctional, too. Child psychiatrists thus face an enormous practical challenge: they often can’t treat one disorder without affecting another one. “It’s like a balloon where you push on one side and the other side pops out,” says [Janet] Wozniak, the MGH [Massachusetts General Hospital] psychiatrist who helped define childhood bipolar disorder. With kids like Max, she adds, parents often have to settle for “just having one part of the symptoms reduced.”


That’s partly why it takes ten years to get the proper diagnosis. The majority of bipolar children have co-morbid conditions, suffering from a host of different symptoms.
Another reason for this delay, according to Dr. Walkup, is the different schools of thought between child psychiatrists and adult psychiatrists. Often those trained to see children have a simplistic understanding of bipolar disorder, and as he said, rarely is the disorder clear cut. Often, there are contributing symptoms and other diagnoses to consider. Many childhood specialists practice with a predominant psychological focus, and are close-minded to the evolving psychopathology in children. And finally, Dr. Walkup believes that because so many children have been diagnosed as bipolar in the last decade, there is a backlash and a resistance among child psychiatrists to slap yet another bipolar label on a kid.
Carmichael writes in Newsweek:


Many psychiatrists think that in the years since Max’s diagnosis, doctors have erred on the side of seeing it everywhere, mislabeling kids and creating a lucrative market for drug companies. Even one of Max’s docs says he thinks nine out of 10 kids with the bipolar label have been wrongly classified.

Walkup admits that in the past bipolar disorder may have been made too often for these “good” reasons:
1) We don’t have a better single diagnosis for severe treatable psychopathology;
2) As a diagnosis, it is a very “big tent”;
3) Medication treatments are readily available, maybe too readily;
4) Personality disorders and schizophrenia have fewer powerful treatments and may arguable have a worse prognosis
There are those that say definitively that bipolar disorder does not exist in children. Walkup challenges that claim with evidence that adults with bipolar disorder (like me) repeatedly note that they had symptoms when they were children (and lucky for me, I wrote the symptoms down so I had some material for a book, if I ever wrote one). Also, there are kids who exhibit the same types of symptoms as bipolar adults.
Thankfully, we have science and technology working for us.
Researchers like Peter P. Zandi, assistant professor in the Department of Health at The Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, are involved in a new family linkage study, the largest and most comprehensive study to evaluate the resemblance among relatives across a broad range of bipolar disorder characteristics. In the Spring 2007 issue of Johns Hopkins Depression and Anxiety Bulletin, Dr. Karen Swartz asked Zandi about the significance of his research, and if we are better able to untangle the mix of genetic and environmental factors that control bipolar disorder. Says Zandi:


We currently do not know what causes bipolar disorder. Our hope is that by figuring out what the different genetic pathways to the disease are, we may get a better understanding of how the disease process works and from this develop more rational strategies to treat and/or prevent it.
We are beginning to believe that the causes of bipolar disorder are heterogeneous. That is, there may be different causal pathways, and these pathways may lead to different subtypes of bipolar disorder that have distinct outward characteristics. If we can reliably identify these subtypes, we think it might help us to tease apart and identify the different causes of bipolar disorder.

Neurological studies, with the help of high definition brain scans, have helped researchers understand the brain activity in those children and adolescence with bipolar disorder. Carmichael explains in Newsweek:


Scientists now know that bipolar children have too much activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which regulates emotions, and not enough in the prefrontal cortex, the seat of rational thought. “They get so emotional that they can’t think,” says Mani Pavuluri, a child psychiatrist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. More than the rest of us, a bipolar child perceives the world as a dramatic and dangerous place. If he is shown a picture of a neutral face, he may see it as angry. Show him one that really is angry, and his prefrontal cortex will shut down while his amygdala lights up like a firecracker. The typical result: a fury that feeds on itself.

I think Carmichael, for the most part, did an excellent job in covering the daily struggles of a family living with bipolar disorder. Because most stories in the media dealing with bipolar disorder, in my opinion, only contribute to the stigmatization of this disorder. I respect all of the research she did for the article.
But I still shuddered at times, like after reading this paragraph:


There are scientists who have thought about the future of children like Max in great depth. Many still think bipolar disorder is vastly overdiagnosed, but they agree that those who have it face a long, rough road. Two years ago the NIMH released findings from a large study of kids diagnosed between 7 and 17. The ones who fared badly had an early onset of the disorder, as well as psychosis, anxiety, ADHD and a tendency to switch quickly between mania and depression. Max has all these. His chances do not look good.

Because I know better.
Actually, with all the research and technology available today, Max’s chances look good. And so do mine. And so do David’s if we find that he is, in fact, bipolar. If I learned anything from Walkup’s presentation, and from the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Research/Educational Symposium, it’s that there is still so much that we don’t know. But that’s a good thing. Because we are gradually filling in the holes of knowledge. With more research and studies, not to mention the use of high definition brain scans and other technology, psychiatrists and neurologists will be better able to diagnose and treat bipolar folks like me.
Our chances look very good.
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  • Larry Parker

    I sadly disagree, Therese. I don’t think the future looks good for Max, who obviously has profound issues (not least being something not investigated by all these doctors — possible developmental issues from the problem with his heart in infancy).
    But I am also a believer that it is very difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder in childhood.
    So many of the hallmarks that are used to diagnose bipolar are ADULT (or at least high school) behaviors — compulsive driving, gambling, drug-taking, drinking, sleeping problems beyond every kid’s “Mom, I don’t want to get up” or “Mom, I had a nightmare,” etc.
    (More in a few minutes …)

  • Larry Parker

    (Sorry, I lost my Internet connection …)
    I’m not a doctor or medical professional of any sort. But it concerned me when the article reported that, at one point, when Max was weaned from his medications, he became delusional. Yes, delusions can be a part of bipolar at its worst, but they are also part of another serious psychiatric disease more easily diagnosable in the young …
    (Note that, despite his weight gain, one of the medications Max most benefited from was Zyprexa. I’m just saying.)
    I also worry about the conflation of mood disorders with personality disorders (oppositional defiant disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc.). Those issues can really only be addressed with intense therapy and support; medicine does little good for those disorders, from what I understand.
    Like Therese, I too went through flights of fancy chronicled in journals that very much seem, in retrospect, like pre-bipolar behavior. But for me at least (even with a suicide attempt involved), nothing happened on a daily basis on a scale of what is happening to Max (and not least, his parents).
    PS — Therese, obviously it worries me that you think your son may have bipolar. I wouldn’t pry ordinarily, but since you raised the issue yourself, are there particular symptoms you are worried about?
    I know for myself, when someone acts in a curious manner like I do over a period of time, sometimes I suspect they have bipolar as well. And they could — or they might not, as well. Only a doctor can tell.

  • PegofMar1

    Instead, he was quiet for a few minutes, then he looked at her and said, “Your heart is the size of the world.”
    Wow! That hit my heart like nothing else. It was, to me, a really, really hopeful sign, too. Thanks, Therese, for posting about this article in Newsweek.

  • PegofMar1

    I should have made it clear that this was the last sentence (or near to) of the article.

  • Joelle

    Between my husband’s ADD and my Bipolar, we keep a very close eye on our two boys for signs. But the knowledge that treatment options are so much better and we are so much more informed make me worry less. Thanks for the article.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    As one who spent so many years in the public school system, I think the disorder most frequently overused is ADHD, and shudder knowing that many of those little tykes are dosed with a form of speed during the day and must then be dosed with a sleeping medication in order to get any sleep at night I understand that the day medication makes life easier for te adults involved: parents, school personnel and doctors, but I cannot tell you how many children I’ve winessed in a zombie-like state through the years. That was my reasoning when I refused to allow my own son to be medicated when the school counselors at his high school were pushing for me to do so, citing their belief that he was ADHD I did have him evaluated and he was diagnosed as ADHED, but I only allowed him to be medicated for a short period of two weeks, for exactly the reasons I stated above. It seemed to me too reminiscent of Judy Garland’s studio docs starting her on her long road to self destuction Instead I attended seminars on ADHD and shared other ideas with his counselor and do not to this day regret that decision. I’m not 100% anti-medication, as I myself take moodmedications daily, but I think it’s almost criminal how many “wa;king zombies” can be found wandering today’s playgrounds and school corridors.Behaior modification techniques worked well for both my son and the several students in my care who were diagnosed as ADHD. I’d hate to see bipolar disorder become the next “popular school-age diagnosis, but reading about Max makes me see the other side as well. his note to his parents brought tears to my eyes. He’s obviously a child who has learning abilities and can articulate himself in writing. It would be tragic if children as depressed as he had to be to write that letter were denied medication. I’m not sure where the middle ground is, but we MUST find it!! I, too, Therese hope new diagnostic tools will allow children who truly have a mood disorder to be identified positively and not see every child who “acts out” started on meds. I also share Larry’s concerns about your David. Please remember that no matter WHAT other professionals might say bout him, you and Eric were his first teachers and as such know him best. Trust your gut on this one and, as I know you will, have him evaluated and make prayerful decisions based on the results of those evaluations. Above all, DON’T sacrifice David just so the ducators in his life can be placated. some kids require more effort than others, always have, but that’s our JOBS, d***N IT! wHAT MATTERS is David’s present and future well-being and not an easier time of it for those professionals who work with him! I may be making incorrect assumptions here, but it’s been my experience that it’s usually the schools who startquestioning the possibility of a mood disorder. Your entire special little family will remain in my prayers on this issue; it’s really a family obstacle.

  • Lynne

    My own childhood memories were definitely suspect. The feeling of “Living in the glass bubble” things being not quite real. Isolation, depression, procrastinating suicide. Resenting authority, substance abuse, anything to make it feel better! My Mother and Father forever fighting over everything and nothing…Mom locking herself in her room…a lot! My older brother’s frequent violent temper and the physical abuse I endured…it’s a wonder I’m still standing. God knows but He’s not talking.

  • Lisa K

    I’m always unnerved by adults who they themselves take mood elevators or psychotropic medications because they have an illness, but their children are supposed to “suck it up” with only cognitive behavioral therapy as an arsenal. They are probably those same parents who took their kids out into the sun with no sunblock or sunglasses on eventhough they themselves had both on.
    Why are children supposed to suffer mental illness when we as adults are free to look at the full variety of therapies available? Children hurt too whether it is ADHD or manic-depression and we must be open minded enough to consider ALL the therapies at our disposal: talk therapy, exercise, nutrition and medication.

  • A Member of the BB Community

    Lisa K.
    I don’t believe you will find another member here at the BB Community that doesn’t agree with you.

  • Keith A Kimble

    it is my personal opinion that the trained medical professionals are looking and thinking sbout this in the wrong light . as an adult who is diagnosed wit h the stigma of mental illness / bipolar 2 i understand how others who are diagnosed feel and i feel for them because i know how difficult it is and can be . but it is my personal opinion that it is not us so called mentally ill people that there is something wrong with bout it is our society that is ill , unconscious, foolish , unintelligent , and for the most part dysfunctional .we are just different , not everyonne is the same , nor should we be , how boring this would be . amd modern psychology , still in its infant stagetells us this much . i think we people ,humans/ humanity need to step back from many of our problems including the growing problems of mental illness and reanalyze , rethink the entire situation as a wholeand start tosearch for and find more sane , real,logical, practical and rational remedies amd solutions to these very human problems . we are looking for the Quick fix , magic bullet, magic pill that will help us , but there isn”t one. what we nedd is to understand is that we as human beings are very sensitive and we are being forced to live in a very unnatural , unhealthy and chaotic world , and i have news for everyone it is not getting better but worse and Quickly . we are headed to some very dark times in human history so brace your selves and do what you consciously can to make it better for all of us . the problems of mental illness reQuire much more attention and resources to find any real or lastinh remedied, healing or solutions . and this simply isn’t being done. wealthy people are more apt to have success because of there vast resources to afford good and reputable doctors and treatment centers . from my expierience with this i woul reccommend alternative therapies such as the holistic and nutritional areas of the medical professions . a clean and positive / healthy environment also goes a long way as well does good healthy communication . ihope this is helpfulto those who read this , i know how hard it is , but do not fear or worry you are not alone in this . my thoughts and feelings are with you , keep your head up !!! good luck and god bless , sincerely , keith kimble /

  • dawn

    My 8 year old son, is showing really bad signs of anger aggression, I currently have him seeing an in home anger management councelor and it helps very little. My son goes into rages when something makes him angry, he throws things, hits, screams so hard and long he tends to make him self sick, he wont listen when he gets this angry and he once took a butcher knife to his older brother saying he was going to kill him. I am frustrated and am not sure the homecounceling is working, he has been through a lot this past 3 years and he is the youngest of three the other two being 17 and 18.
    Does anyone have any advice as to what eles I may do to help him control his anger in a better way, in most instances I do know why he exzibiting such behaviour, but I am at a loss as to how to help him control his out bursts.

  • lollybaby

    I can relate to a lot that has already been posted.The grey fuzzinees the periods of phenominal ups the fearsome downs.I had some cognitive behaviour therapy after years of depression thoughts of suicide drifting drinking and unplanned pregnancies.What helped me most was a counsellor saying to me ‘You might be bi-polar.’ She told me that some people say that the highs are worth the lows which I recognised immediately.I live my own life and manage my condition I have children take no medication and talk myself throught the rough times yes I still have periods of depresssion but now value having an interesting brain.It is who I am why damp it down,why destroy it!!!

  • Gladys Wiliams

    I am on depakote, before that cymbalta. I also take xanax for my panic/anxiety attacks. I have 4 beautiful children,(one that i adopted at 17 because she was homeless) who constantly tell me what a wonderful mother I have been and how lucky they are. I don’t see that. I look in the mirror and see someone ugly. Kinda like someone who is bulimic, they think they are overweight. I wanta see this beautiful wonderful person everyone else sees. I also am OCD. I struggle daily. I work full-time and sometimes fight my way out of bed. Only because I need to provide for them. I am currently seeing a specialist. Only because I can’t go on wanting to kill myself. So many people don’t realize how hard iyt is to deal with this on a daily basis. I look fine on the outside but inside I’m crying.
    A lot of times I come home and I just go straight to sleep. I wake up and one of the kids has already cooked. My kids are older. My youngest is 15.
    I never post anything, but I felt compelled to do so. Just in case others feel the same way. You’re not alone. We just need to be strong and fight everyday!!!!!.

  • A Member of the BB Community

    ((((((((((Hi, Gladys Williams. Please feel “Compelled” to Bless Us All More!!!! ))))))))))

  • Carrie

    I currently fight with bi-polar disorder ANd OCD. I have 2 children, 1 a 13 year old girl, who now has depression issues. She is currently seeing a therapist who has helped her greatly. I also have PTSD and anger issues. My son is almost 2 and already seems 2 be having severe anger issues himself. My own mother took her life in 1995 and I was the one who found her. I am currently takin Abilify and it does seem 2 be helping. If anyone has any advice on how 2 help my children and myself deal with this severe depression I would greatly appreciate the advice. I battle daily 2 just get up and do the necessary things in life. But as for now the love of my children is keeping me going.

  • Lisa K

    Dear Carrie
    You are not alone. I have manic depression and also have a stsep son with manic-depression, a daughter with major depression and a daughter with ADHD. It is wonderful that you have the love of your children to keep you going. Some days knowing I had to make the mortgage payment was the only thing keeping me going. My advice? Talk therapy for the whole family, a competant psychiatrist including someone who specializes in working with children, a diet low in sugar and white flour, exercise (watch that though because for me exercise raises my anxiety and anger level) and consider if medications are appropriate. If one or more members of your family is physically violent because of a mental illness, medication is probably indicated (however, I am NOT a doctor). And for your two year old, give as much positive attention to him as you can stand, being depressed that will probably be hard to do for you, make clear boundaries and always…..ALWAYS….follow through on the limits you set.
    There are a lot of positive suggestions and a supportive community on BBGroup.

  • Calling All Angels

    Hi Dawn,
    My heart goes out to you. You must be feeling helpless and exhausted. I know I would be.
    You said that your son has “been through a lot these past three years.” Poor little guy.
    Children don’t have the social, psychological or developmental mental maturity to fully understand what has happened to them. For a child, experiencing trauma can change their world as a safe predictable place.
    The types of outbursts you describe in your son is often an expression of: fear.
    And the home counseling may only be addressing the symptoms- not the cause.
    A professional counselor can provide your son with a safe place to talk about what has happened and can refer you to other agencies or services if necessary.
    Dawn, (((you and your little guy))) will be in our prayers.

  • Ana R. Gueits

    My heart goes out to all…My youngest daughter is bipolar, and had fibromyalgia. She has a big battle on her hands..As a mother I can only be there for her. I make myself available for her 24/7 and so far that has seemed to help along with her medication. I will add you all to my prayer list since as a mother I can see the pain my daughter is going through. Trying different meds every three months hoping that one will work…Bless you all!

  • A Member of the BB Community

    We’re all always here for you -even if it’s to vent.
    You’re both in our prayers, and ((((((((May God Bless you and your daughter! ))))))))

  • jane Sauzan

    Can someone answer a question for me. IS it possible that someone with bipolar disorder appear to be outwardly normal in certain circumstances and then have violent outburst sporadically unexpectedly.
    I have a relative that appears outwardly to be a nice ,sociable,friendly person. However, in situations with familiar people or those that this person feels that they can bully- this person will have a sometime violent outburst. Unfortunately because this person appears so sociable in public-no one believes me when I tell them about the violent outbursts and I am being alienated from the rest of my family because of this. I am getting no support and I am told that if this person has a violent outburst then I must be giving them a reason to do so. THis person is violent in front of me because we have a long term family relationship and chooses to do so when no one else is around so that everything can be denied.
    Has anyone else experiencedthis type of situation and is this a type fo bi polar disorder?

  • Leighton

    I have experienced the same thing from a violent bullying older sister. The most recent incident was in a hospital emergency room, so she did not exercise discretion to attack me only when no one else is around. She is 63 years old. She lives in another state so I don’t usually see her. My family never protected me from her; our parents left her in charge of us three younger children. My brother referred to the recent incident as a “sideshow”. I have forgiven her, but I learned that she came to visit my daughter and her new baby recently, and my daughter left the baby alone with her. Is the bullying going to be only towards me? So far as I know it has not been directed toward anyone else over the decades.

  • Kimberly

    After reading I think that maybe I was a bipolar kid — but being of african/native american descent — we are encourged to rely of faith
    now I suffer from sever anxiety – panic attacks and now since my mother’s death in March of this year they have gotten worse…. I am on
    xanxa — but just tried to quit…was not a good feeling —I feel lost
    and confused…I am not working now and don’t have health insurance but
    I learned it is hard to get help… this was a good site for me..maybe
    when I go back to the clinic i can tell my doctor about my feelings — which she really doesn’t care about — but what the hey.

  • Sara Puchinsky

    I believe that it is very important for children to grow up despite the impediments they each face. If someone is told “you are different and it’s not your fault and you can do whatever makes you feel good as long as society will accept it,” then you have “special education” and the child no longer needs to deal with the limitations that schools and family and, eventually, work will entail.
    I think people are diagnosing kids, the kids are helping their parents get social security disability benefits to “help the family get along” now that they have this sick kid, and there is no end in sight–the kids think they are special and should be treated with kid gloves all of the time. I think it’s a system that the psychiatric community thrives on financially. It would be best to wait until the kid is at least in high school. I worked in special ed and lo and behold there was a kid in there, 6th grade, who was “bipolar.” His mood appeared to always be agitated, defensive, etc. because, guess what? His body is just trapped in a chemical straightjacket and he’s still growing.

  • Calling All Angels

    Hi Kimberly,
    I’m glad to know that you are going to a clinic. However, if you feel your “DR, doesn’t care” that will only add stress to your situation. First, see if you can change doctor’s. If not…
    Here is a “Grocery List’s” of things you can do:
    * Check your local Yellow Pages for Community Health Center’s. They’ll refer you to a Mental Health Department. Mental Health Organization’s charge on a sliding fee and only what you can afford.
    * If you have been diagnosed with a Mental Illness (E.G. Anxiety, Depression. Bi-Polar etc.) you can try for Temporary Disability.
    * If you are receiving Public Assistance you may get help through your State Medicaid Plan.
    * Through a toll free number:
    1-888- 477-2669 or:
    Both are user friendly. :-)
    The PPA provides a single point of access to more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs that could provide help on more than 2,500 medicines. 180 listed are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. If you are prescribed a prescription try PAA first.
    You are Not a “what the hey” to us. We care about you.
    Every person reading this will be offering up a prayer for you….*+ Kimberly.+*

  • Sabrina

    My son started displaying symptoms of depression in when he was 5 years old and it truly started when my I lefy my manic husband. I was terrified when I walked into the bathroom, to check on him during his “tub time”, only to find him holding himself under the water, eyes open, I knew he was trying to drown himself. I just couldn’t believe it. I contacted a child psychiatrists he started seeing her and eventaully I conceeded to put him on meds. Over the past three years my child has seen the psychiatrists fairly regularly. She has mentioned that she think he is bipolar. I just didn’t want to believe it!!!! I visited a web site that she recommended but quickly left the site as the information was all to SCARY! That was at least a year ago.
    My son is now 9. We have 3 more weeks left of 3rd grade. He has come along way this year but is really struggling with what he calls anger he can’t control. If he is playing wiht some one, rough housing, having a good time, and he accidentally gets poked or hit to hard on accident he immediatly get angry and then is consumed by the anger and can’t play anymore. He told me last night that he doesn’t know why he does this and that he wants the feeling to stop. I told him we would work on it together and he immediatly aske me how. I told him we would get some more books and work on what the books suggest. He is a very nice and loving young man. He doesn’t like it when the other children are mean to him or his peers. When kids call him names or don’t want to play with him he is hurt to the core. My son was recently at a sporting event, he came up and sat down by me in the bleachers, he seemed very upset. I asked what was wrong and he told me that his buddy knocked his snow cone out of his hand and then laughed about it. My son then told me that that really hurt because he really wants to be friends with that boy. I didn’t know what to do or say. I wanted to ask him if he punched the kid, but that wouldn’t be right…..but as a parent of a child that lets other kids hurt him, it’s hard, hard to watch him be hurt time and time again and not know how to stand up for himself.
    He used to come home from school crying almost everyday, telling he that he is a freak and that no one likes him. He is emotionally stronger now, physically stronger too and that scares me. I am afraid that one of these times some kid is going to you know what out of the other kid. Now he comes home from school and tells me that he does not want to play in his last 4 baseball games becasue the kids are mean to him. That one of the boys teased him about something, it hurt his feeings and he just really does not want to be around the boys on the team.
    I suppose I didn’t need to write allof this, I initially wanted to write because I had a question about brain scans. Should I make a request to our psychiatrists for a brain scan? What about a blood test? If there is something I can do to help my child I am willing to do it.
    I know there is hope for him, I just can’t stand seeing him hurt —–

  • Clare T

    I have a good friend (62) that told me early on that she is bipolar. I knew something about it having studied abnormal psych in college. She seemed to be functioning pretty well and our relationship was good as long as she was on Lithium. About 6 months ago her GP said that her kidneys were being effected badly by the Lithium. Her psychiatrist changed her meds and shortly thereafter, she ended up the psych ward of our local hospital. She had had a psychotic episode. They have tried her now on many meds and she keeps going up and down. She has not been stabilized. She constantly accuses everyone else for her problems, especially her husband and her daughter (Her daughter may also be bipolar but is in denial). My friend is paranoid and if you say anything that she can take as an attack, she blows up and becomes very defensive. It is straining our friendship as well as on her marriage. Her husband recently had a heart attack. And when you talk to him, he says he is barely “hanging on” at home. The psychiatrist won’t talk to him. He treats her with kid gloves and goes along with anything and everything she says or wants just to avoid her blow-ups. He recently taped her during one of her blowups and when he played it back the next day, she couldn’t believe that was her, but she said she’d call her Dr. The Meds weren’t working, she said. I never know what to expect when I speak to her! HELP!!!!

  • Michele Marie

    I just read what you have written about your son and I felt that I should write you. I have never written on any type of blog or chatroom, EVER! The reason I am responding to you is because I want for you to know that you are not alone. My son is 10 years old and has very signifigant mental illnessess. He began seeing a psychiatrist at around the age of two because of severe anger issues. I was always of the belief that children should not be on drugs. We tried to just do behavioral therapy but by the time he was 3 we had no choice but to put him on medication because he had no impulse control and was running out into major roadways in front of cars. Since then my son has been in several in-patient hospitals and even ended up being in a state psychiatric childrens hospital for almost two years beginning at the age of 5. He has been back home now for almost two years and he goes to a special school that is part school and part hospital. He recieves daily therapy, both individual and group, as part of his school curriculum. We are still struggling to find the right combination of medications to help him and it is very difficult at times to handle the stress that comes along with having a special needs child like this. People look at me sometimes when we are out in public and he has a melt down like I’m a horrible mom. I’m sure that you have had this same thing happen. I used to be convinced that maybe I did something wrong. In time I had to learn that beating myself up was doing him no good, or me for that matter. Having a child with a mental illness is a difficult enough thing to deal with. Just try to surround yourself with good Doctor’s and therapist’s. Make sure that the people in your life are good people and don’t allow the negative people even around you or your son. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone! It is a slow, long and very, very hard road. It does get better, and then it will get worse, and then it will get better again. My point is that you are the best asset to your child. Try to be consistent. Try to stay calm (LOL). Most important never give up! Anytime you need to vent, whether it is just someone to listen or scream or cry, please feel free to e-mail me at I have been through just about everything a mother with a behavioral mental illness child can go through and I only wish I had known someone who could understand. I do understand. God bless you and your son as well as the rest of your family. Keep smiling! Hope to hear from you.
    Michele Marie

  • CindyC

    I think my daughter might be bipolar. She is now over 21 years of age. She doesn’t do drugs, etc ( never has, that I know of ), but she has highs of “buying” and “wreckless sex” almost in an effort to feel better. It’s like living with Jerkyl and Hyde… You never know who she is when confronted. She can be extremely sweet in one breath and “say the wrong thing” and she can become extremely defensive. All in the same day, within an 8 hour period. Because my mother in law recently passed with alzheimer,and I have 3 sister in laws on antidepressants, I wondered if there was possibility that this could be inherited?

  • Terri

    I can understand Sabrina’s frustration over her son being picked on. My son is also the same way and he would try to get even by grabbing something sharp to use as a weapon. I had to hide things in the kitchen. Luckily, he has outgrown that stage of using things as weapons, but just says it without acting on it.
    I tell him that people are sometimes mean and just to ignore them and to go back to his own state of happiness which is playing video games or watching cartoons.
    At the age of 7, his friends turned into having “clicks” and he refused to participate in it. Since then, he has pretty much become housebound after school and on the weekends. The only thing that he wants to go out for is for fishing in the summer and sledding in the winter. He is now 13.
    His older brother (2 years) is very intelligent but uses negative and derogatory words, such as “retard”. I can’t break him from saying it as much as I can’t break the other from being OCD, ADHD, Autistic, or bi-polar.
    So the older creates more stress here. But, now has used reverse psychology by saying, “If you don’t feel you need to be in alternative school then stop acting like a retard”. My younger can and will co-operate, he just refuses to do so. Plus, he knows that no one can make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. He manipulates the system because he is aware he can do so. It’s nobody’s fault. He expresses the exact methodology, faults and failures of it and even offers solutions to the problems. He doesn’t want to be in it but refuses to do the minimum necessary to get himself out of it.
    His thing is he has always hated school and being in close proximity to stressful kids, teachers, books, activities. He embraces being by himself and can only do one thing or think of one thing at a time. He has memorization issues, especially with math.
    He is bright, but in a different way. He is good with facts, such as animal sciences and natural sciences and physical science. He hates repetition and writing.
    The problem with kids with disorders is that they cannot interact with society appropriately. And for the woman who says kids get thrown on drugs for no reason to collect a check, needs to visit the home life of these kids. My child wanted to throw himself down the stairs for no reason at all at age 5. Nobody in my house taught him that.
    Having temper tantrums is one thing, trying to kill themselves is another.
    Having genetic traits from one or both parents or skipping from other generations is a constant threat to the viability of this world.

  • Lisa Machat

    I have just left the E R ….I took my 25 year old daughter there for maybe the 50th time in the last 7 or so years…Trying to keep my mind busy I decided to check my e-mails and your bipolar alert got my attention…My daughter seems to be the typical bipolar…Very intelligent, bordering on genius, extremely charming and charismatic, besides being very beautiful….As a baby and young child she was such a joy! Everything you could ever dream for your child to be….At age 14 she started to turn into someone else..Her father and I thought it might be the beginnings of adolesant angst…When she was 15 she ditched school with an older boy and got into a terrible car accident…She was the passenger and the only person hurt when the boy driving failed to see a red light and 3 cars plowed into the passenger side the car….Her pelvis was broken, right arm snapped, back and neck injured and head hit very hard. Thank god she had a seat belt on or the injuries would have been much worse if not deadly. That was Febuary of 1998 and since that day our lives have never been the same..After her rehabilitation she became a speed addict. Her father and I got her immediate help that summer and sent her to a teenage drug rehab for 6 wks. She started a new high school in the fall and got into a new rich kid\Hollywood crowd. Always able to score straight A’s and the admiration of her teachers in school we thought she was doing well…But I now know that almost every day she was high on coke and or ecstacy at school…She was accepted in NYU as a math major and I helped her to relocate to NYC [the city where she was born].At NYU she started self medicateing with vicodin that she got legitably perscribed from school hospital…It didn’t take long for her to stop school after one semester and return home….Complaining of back and hip pain I went with her to many doctors and specialist. After a while she caught on to the way to manipulate doctors into perscribing all kinds of pain killers and ptsd meds.A pain doctor put her on 250mg. of morphine immediately and she was only 19 but able to see these doctors with out her parents knowledge. We would put a stop to these doctors…but in time she would only find others or the originals would bypass our warnings to stop. At this time she was also seeing an addiction therapist and snorting speed or coke in his bathroom during the sessions. Eventually my daughter became a full on drug addict..I can’t recall the amount of times she has attempted suicide and the numerous stays in hospital phsyc. wards in the last 7 years. Of course she has been diagnosed bipolar and she has tried all the different meds accross the spectrum and never had any success…I have seen her become something I can’t understand.. She recently got out of jail after serving 8 mos. and this was her third time staying in jail .She is currantly on probation and on her fifth month in sober living…In the last week I have been aware of a struggle that is on going with her emotions and irrational thinking….At the advice of her psy. and parole officer she is summiting herself for a medication adjustment….but that has always led to more over medicating in the past [hospitals love to give pain killer shots!] Yet I am forever hopeful that this time will be different and my daughter will finally be ready to begin to get it right…..I have never written about our problems before I guess I’m reaching out for some answers…I’m so frustrated with it all…a mom 4 ever

  • Anonymous

    Get tested for sleep apnea before accepting bi-polar as a diagnosis. Prayer for panic attacks, or xanax if it helps. Don’t get labeled.

  • Afraid of the Dark

    After years of struggle, being diagnosed BI-POLAR. I got tested for sleep apnea. I have not had a problem in over 6 years now because I am sleeping. Think about how sleep deprivation can ruin you. Kids have it too.
    PLEEEEEEEESE! Get tested for sleep apnea, PlEEEEEEEEESE! People who are bipolar only want to sleep! Listen to us, we’re tired, we’re afraid to sleep, we have nightmares. GIVE THEM MEDICINE TO SLEEP and get tested for sleep apnia!!!! I beg you! I beg you!
    Let them Sleep! Don’t call them lazy! They are exhausted!

  • Lynne

    Hello Kimberly, Welcome to our dysfunctional but optimistic family. You certainly are NOT alone in your daily struggle. So many of us here are in that same rocky boat. I’ve always found good advice and useful suggestions from this blog. Best of luck with the ones you’ve found thus far! You hang in there girlfriend!!!

  • Sabrina

    Where do I go on the internet to read these blogs?

  • Carmen

    Thank you so much for this article. My son is 22 and recently diagnosed as bipolar. As a child, he was diagnosed with ADHD….but I always insisted there was something bigger going on. It breaks my heart that he went through all those years, knowing he was different, wanting to BE different. Now his medication is making him gain weight so he is saying he’s not going to take it anymore. He cycles rapidly but seems to stay mostly on the manic side of things. When he DOES get down – he gets WAY down – but it doesn’t last long.
    Anyway – thank you so much. At least now we have a name for things. He was struggling with knowing it’s a medical condition or thinking that he’s somehow crazy. I love this kid so much – it’s hard to watch the struggle.

  • Sue W

    I would like to find out more information on some different kinds of treatments, ie medications being given for Bipolar Disorder. I often wonder if my doctors even know what they are doing. Also some are so expensive that the drug companies should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Rachel

    Get on lithium the mineral. Stay off processed foods. White flour, white sugar, wheat, anything you eat all the time. Eat just rice, cooked vegetables, and chicken.
    Get sunshine.
    Get out and talk to people.
    When you are angry, imagine an ice cube melting in your head. Praise YHWH when you are angry, and it will melt away.
    Do something you love.
    When you are sad, praise YHWH. He will give you hope.
    Help others so you will find joy.
    Have yourself tested for food allergies. Does breathing in the smell of bread make you choke? You could have a wheat allergy.
    Do you crave something? You most likely are allergic to it.
    Bread will make you obsessive.
    Wheat allergies are most common in America.
    Rice allergies are most common in Asia.
    Too much of anything becomes a poison.

  • Your Name

    Hello to All and May God Bless us with Love, Patience, Support and Guidance. I continue growing in knowledge and enlightenment of this mental illness/disorder from the BB community and also at Hub Pages, by writer, Akeejaho, a man with Bi-Polar illness. His stories of growing up and into adulthood with the evolvement of his illness are sure to inspire many. He is always willing to answer any questions and his experience and knowledge in natural health and healing will bring hope to the very many of us who have had bad experiences with the “usual” prescription medication often over-used to treat symptoms only. Good luck and God’s Peace to All!

  • Elaine

    Thank you for this blog post. I also read the Newsweek article, and between that and this blog post, I feel even more confident in my own suspicion that I was a bipolar kid – I wasn’t officially diagnosed till I was 28. While I was infamous in my family for my temper and quick mood changes, I also can see in retrospect some of the OCD-type tendencies (particularly around food) and anxiety. I was really good at hiding it, though. My bipolar is mild – type 2 (hypomanic, mixed phase) – but it was wonderful when I finally got treatment to find out that I was right all along: I actually have a cheerful, laid-back disposition! I always knew I did, but no one around me could see it.
    Because this is beliefnet, I want to add that my faith/religion was ambivalent for me. I made a few really lame “suicide attempts” but never seriously tried, because I really believed God would send me to hell if I did. (Ironically, once I wrestled my way through that one and came to believe God would not reject me if I killed myself, I suddenly became very certain that I wanted to live! But that was much later, in my mid-20s.) I also encountered some judgmentalism in my churches, and internalized a lot of guilt over things like my temper and swearing. At the same time, I always felt close to God (in my better moments, anyway) and knew deep down that the distorted images of God I had (which I now know were due to my disease) were neither true nor what I really believed. It was a continuous struggle, but in retrospect, I can see that my faith ultimately sustained me. I just wish people in church had been better equipped to help instead of hurt (though they usually meant well). But that was the ’80s! Now, in my church work and also in seminary I’m very open about my illness, because I think it’s important to both remove the stigma and to educate people/raise awareness so that they might be better prepared to help instead of hurt. People who work in religious institutions, and especially those who work with teens, need to know when something’s actually not a spiritual problem and needs to be referred – and also they need to be very conscious of how easy it is for anyone, but particularly an emotionally ill teen, to internalize guilt and shame in a way that can be very destructive spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically.

  • sue ingram

    I’m with the most natural, non-toxic ‘medication’ possible for treatment for Bipolar. However, I am not too sure what is being advocated here as effective treatment for Bipolar. In my own experience of severe depression within family and friends circles, I believe there are many treatments available that don’t have to involve heavy, addictive drugs.
    Tryptophan has been an enormous help for those not able to sleep as well as those requiring a lift to their mood. My own description after having used Tryptophan for a couple of weeks to help with an over anxious, sleepless time was a feeling of ‘mild euphoria”. This was besides the fact that it helped me to sleep deeply without waking at 2m and not sleeping again until 5am. It also helped a friend of mine who said that it saved her marriage and her job!
    Besides taking something, one thing that has helped me to understand how to help those with depressive disorders, was advice given many years ago. This was that the best way to know whether or not you are dealing with a depression requiring medical help or not, was to subject the relevant person to scenarios that would normally uplift their mood. eg. an extrovert ideally requires friends around, and someone who responds positively to music of their choice. If this does not lift their mood at all, then consider getting additional help.

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