I believe raising a child with any diagnosed ‘disability’ is difficult. I personally am only able to write about my experiences with having a child who has a mood disorder, they question bipolar for sure but due to his young age that ‘label’ hasn’t been ‘officially’ placed as far as I can recall from his records on file at his psychiatrists office. Raising a child with a mood disorder is not always fun and games, you have to deal with this child differently than any other.
One of my biggest obstacles raising a child with a mood disorder is trying to ensure that my five year old son doesn’t take after his seven year old brother’s mood swings simply by the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ mentality. My youngest is a healthy boy without any major medical issues, he doesn’t have any diagnosis for any mental health or other disability diagnosis. I honestly believe my youngest is full blown ADHD at times, but he is just a normal young boy with a lot of energy as well as curiosity about his world, however, he is also a young boy who looks up to his big brother who happens to have many medical issues and a diagnosis of a mood disorder. Telling a five year old that his brother has a mood disorder and his actions are due to that but are still unacceptable is not going to sink in. That fact alone makes parenting difficult with three children and one being diagnosed with a mood disorder.
My son with the mood disorder was an angry baby, sure he had his happy moments that were clearly documented on my YouTube channel back around age 2 you can see my son’s playing together and being super cute. It wasn’t always the case in our household though and it’s heart breakig to watch, even now, as your child struggles with mood fluctuations. As a growing boy his medication needs to be changed often, for once he had a medication that really worked but when it was time for a medication dose increase, that wasn’t an option. The prior medication my son was on had made him gain near 70lbs due to the side effect of increased appetite. The dose needed to be changed but instead we changed medications altogether to ensure that he was on a medication without the appetite increase side effect.
My son’s weight went down. He is slowly losing inches and getting taller, with this new medication he is no longer having huge bursts of appetite desires. I am thankful for that part of the scenario.
One of my other challenges as a parent raising a child with a mood disorder is that unless other people in society have lived with, dealt with or have a family member diagnosed with a mood disorder, they all think it’s just in our heads. That my son is normal, he doesn’t have any issues and all is fine. With that being said, sure if someone who has never seen him off of medication entirely sees my sons, he appears completely normal. The other side of my son is that he seems to have slight anxiety that also runs in the family, this anxiety inhibits his mood fluctuations while in school or other social settings for the fear keeps his mood swings at bay. Many of the school officials seem to have zero clue this year as to my sons diagnosis, something that must be addressed in our first parent/teacher conference and those who worked with my son the prior two years were amazing, compassionate and understood.
I find that I have great success raising my son when I am supported by people, both friends and professionals, who treat my sons mood disorder as a serious mental health disease. It’s a chemical imbalance but due to his brain still growing we hope we outgrows this and doesn’t end up having to be on medication for all of his life like his Auntie.
Each day is a new challenge, every few months it seems my son grows enough or builds up a tolerance to, the current dose of his medication and must have it adjusted. We have to take time to ensure that the mood swings are from his mood disorder and not any variable changes in his world too. It’s not just a matter of saying “oh he’s acting up with mood swings again, let’s get his meds increased”, as parents his Dad and I really have to take time to ensure that our son isn’t just “off” that week or day. It’s not an easy thing to do when this child can often have changes in school we are not aware of due to his teachers and the other school officials not really keeping an eye on him this year to notify us of any changes.
When my son is having one of his spells either due to a medication being too low or variables in his world he can’t it handle like people without a mood disorder, it drains me. I have to physically restrain my son in a basket hold in order to get him to take a time out, more often than not the normal ‘one minute per age’ doesn’t work right away with this boy as he takes a long while to chill his mood swing before he is seated in this basket hold without a fight. It takes all of my energy both physically and mentally most days to raise this child, and when this son is taking up that much of my energy, the other two kids are missing out.
I constantly battle with emotions and questions if this is creating issues with the relationships I have with my other two children but then I realize, no it isn’t. The children all go to sleep at some point and I am very aware of my other two children’s reactions to their brothers outbursts and mood swings. I keep a close eye on everyone to ensure that life stays happy for us all, but some days, just some times, I wish that my son never had this mood disorder. I wonder what his life would have been like up to this point without the mood disorder.
I then realize life’s too short to wonder what if and why, I simply do my best to not rip someone’s head off when they give me a look as if my son is just an ill behaved child; I usually let them know right away that he has a mood disorder so before you judge why don’t you think! Every parent and child struggles with their own issues, when you are a parent raising a child with a mood disorder your heart breaks because you are not only in a constant battle to hold your family together but in a constant battle with society to get them to wake up and acknowledge bipolar is real and it isn’t fun for anyone, especially the person diagnosed with it.
So next time you see a child or a parent at their wits end, near tears and having a difficult time – try to lend a compassionate look, hug or hand rather than a dirty look and pass judgement. We all are walking our own path, don’t judge what you don’t know or understand.