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Monday, March 10, 2014

Almost Four Years

Josh was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in April 2010.  That seems like a lifetime ago, and yet, those first two years are as fresh in my memory as if they happened last week.

In spite of the fact that I haven't posted anything here for months and months, this blog continues to get a massive number of hits each month.  That reality saddens me because it means that there are a large number of people who are effected by Bipolar in some way.

Josh remains off meds, but I continue to see glimpses of Bipolar working its way through his life.  He has dealt with several pretty stressful life events, and at those times he gets a bit 'wobbly'; he loses his temper easily and reacts in ways that are out of character for him and over the top considering the event that set him off.

I believe Josh self medicates with alcohol and recently he told me that he had been using inhalants (purchased legally at a head shop).  Of course, I was.......appalled, worried, disappointed.  He had stopped using the inhalants but he said to me, "It's a decision I have to make anew every single day.  It's not easy Mom."  As is true for most people who struggle with mental illness (or addictions), the goal for Josh is to "feel better or cope better".

Clearly his coping skills are not what they should be, but all of this is out of my hands.  Please don't read that as..."I wash my hands of the whole mess."  It's just that all I can do is monitor, advise and pray a lot.  I do all three.  Josh refuses to see a therapist to help in learning better coping skills, he continues to refuse medications and he continues to say that he doesn't have Bipolar.

I read a book this weekend, "Beautiful Boy" by David Sheff.  It's the story of his families experience as his son, Nic, struggles through Meth addiction.  It's a sad, hard book to read but much of it resonated with me.  My older son has struggled with addiction and as most parents of Bipolar children know, often addiction and Bipolar go hand in hand.  What some of my readers might find helpful about the book is the process that David Sheff goes through in finding that delicate fine line between worry and (relative) peace. 

You worry about your child, endlessly, and yet, you cannot stop living.  You don't know how much to do, or even what to do.  You can't sleep, can't eat, often can't function. 

Eventually you realize that you also can't live that way and you find that the Serenity Prayer is the ONE thing you can do, the ONE life line that is always readily available to you, and if you're smart, you'll use it and own it and be one with it.

"Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference"

There is nothing more than that.  It says it all.

To live with the specter of drug addiction or mental illness in our children's lives, the Serenity Prayer becomes our saving Grace.  Available to everyone and totally free.

It's easy for me to walk that fine line while Josh is (mostly) healthy.  If he ever cycles again, I hope that I'll come back to this blog and read these posts that I've written during the easier times and find the help I'll need during the bad times.

Your comments that tell of your own personal struggles continue to sadden me, and yet, I'm always thankful that some of you find hope in Josh's story.  I pray that you all can find that fine line and learn to walk it.


Mama Bear said...

Though it makes me sad, I appreciate your post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. My son is 21 and also bipolar. He refuses meds. He believes smoking pot is the way to go. It's heart wrenching and worrying. I cry a lot, sleep little. But I know that I need to let go. I can't make him take his meds. I'm relatively lucky, because he has only been manic twice in two years. However, those episodes were bad enough to get him put into a straight jacket. Phsychotic and delusional. I feel better knowing that others go through this heart ache and that I'm not alone. Xo

Anonymous said...

My son is also bipolar. Justin was diagnosed a longtime ago and even on his good days he is very imaginative. He refruses help. He is now in the hospital again claiming he is fine. I am afraid for my and my families safety. I don't know how a psychiatrist could say he is okay to be on the streets at this point. I can only hope they will hold him long enough this time to get the help he needs before I lose him forever. I love my son and it breaks my heart to see him this way knowing it may only get worse before it gets better.

Colleen Howell said...

my 18 year old son was diagnosed as Bipolar not sure which one because the doctor said he was not completely truthful when being tested but that he was sure from all the things we were saying he did was classic Bipolar Disorder. My son does not believe he has it and will take the medication some times but other times he will not. We can tell when he is not because of his behavior. My son hates me with a passion because it is me that had to step up and take control of the behavior and call the police, he was arrested 2 times because of his aggressive behavior towards me, I had the courts put him in the mental hospital that his doctor is at so that we could get him diagnosed with whatever was wrong with him. He blames me for everything wrong in his life he says he does nothing and yet I get him in trouble all the time. He loves his father but continues to tell me I am not his mother and will have a party when I die, he breaks anything of importance to me, I cry almost everyday. I no longer no how to handle him, he is happy with me one minute and pissed at me in another. We believe he is self medicating with alcohol or drugs sometimes as well. I don't know how he will take care of his self or if her will ever be able to keep a job. It hurts so bad to love him as much as I do and him not love me back. He was always so loving prior to this and then boom pure hatered.

Anonymous said...

I can fully relate. You are telling my story. My son Justin is almost 18. It has been a rough 5 years of drug additions, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and now early onset bipolar. My heart is so tight after reading these posts because there was a tiny part of me left that still had hope that it was the drugs and concussion and that he would grow out of it. No one grows out of bipolar. I just want to scream now for having my beautiful boy striken with such an ugly illness.

Anonymous said...

It is an ugly illness but the fact that you love your sons and worry about them and yet are trying to find peace is a testament to the human spirit. Try not to feel alone.

mother said...

I understand the pain. My son 31 recently diagnosed as Bipolar.Could you share what kind of symptoms of mania we may face

Have the T-shirt said...

For Josh the mania manifested as talking a mile a minute and switching topics so fast it would make your head spin. Also, the things he was talking about were.......strange. Some of them sounded really nutty, but some of them made a weird kind of sense....kind of. It was exhausting to be around him!

Of course, sleep is impossible for them which just makes the mania worse.

Also, I have heard over and over again that many people get suddenly interested in religion or The Tarot or something. They research it and talk it to death.

I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this.

Jen O said...

Hi, I hope you are still here!!!
Your blog is like finally finding a friend who understands... My son is 21, and has been struggling with mental illness since middle school. We've worked with countless psychiatrists and therapists to try to find the right tools to help him cope. His diagnosis (they're all kind of subjective diagnoses, aren't they?) is multiple anxieties, bipolar II, and possibly ADD. Currently, he's on lithium, lamictal, and propranolol. He's a junior studying physics at a very prestigious college that happens to be right down the road from us. It's been an enormous struggle. Academically, he's fine, but he deals with major anxiety with manifests as anger. He took one year of medical leave to try to get on track and has been back in school for about a year now.
Today, for some reason, I was just hit with how HARD everything for him is. He struggles with relationships, though he desperately wants to be loved and accepted. He panics at any sign of hardship (one bad grade on a homework or test) and my husband and I spend a lot of time going to take him to dinner and talk him down. Every single thing he wants comes with a major struggle. He's talking now of dreams of graduate school and astrophysics, and I just want to collapse. I just can't imagine him being able to cope with the stress of grad school and worse - one far from home.
I feel so helpless at times. He is such a juxtaposition of high achievement and struggle to cope with the day-to-day. My heart just breaks for him. I spend way too much time crying for the failures I see in myself - not recognizing the severity of his issues early enough. For reacting with anger and frustration myself during much of the tumult of his high school years. For, so far, being unable to help him find what he needs to keep this illness at bay.
You blog was like a nice hug. It's near impossible for me to stop trying to make things perfect, or even just better, for him. It seems so unfair to me that HE has to live with these challenges. It's hard hard hard for me to let myself let go enough to let him struggle and find his own way, AND for me to remember I have to live my own life too.
Thank you for this post.

Kevin Tacher said...

Thank you for sharing … I listen to you talk about it, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. I just can’t imagine how hard it must be….Depression With Anxiety