- No one, without exception, is ever “fine” with a disease like bi-polar. That does not mean you need to jump in your car and confront your child. It means you need to determine what your child is really saying. And listen to it.
I hate being the bearer of truth sometimes, especially when trying to explain a difficult disease to someone who doesn’t have that disease. It is nearly impossible to explain all the intricate and detailed points of bi-polar. One, the disease is different for everyone, and two, what works for one doesn’t work for all. Your child is unique, treat them as such (careful here…read the truth about treating your child too).
However, there is something that I can tell you with the best intentions. “Mom, I’m fine,” means so many things and it is up to you as a parent to react accordingly.
The thing about bi-polar is that you are up and down. For some these ups and downs are relatively quick, it can seem one minute they are high as a kite and the next they are bummed out, staring out a window looking and doing absolutely nothing. Other times the periods can last weeks even months. I can only imagine a parent’s frustration, but know that there is frustration on the part of your child as well. No one wants to be up and down and all over the place. People look at you funny when you like that.
So, being fine is for the most part a way to tell you parents something without getting into all the intricacies of feelings and thoughts. However, it is important for parents to realize that what your child is actually trying to say could be any number of things:
- Mom, I’m fine. Translation: I don’t want to tell you all the details of my day/week/hour. I am tired of dealing with it, talking about it, worrying about it.
- Mom, I’m fine. Translation: You freak out every time I try to tell you what is going on, and I am simply not up to dealing with that today. You being upset is worse than the disease anyway, and I would really rather avoid it.
- Mom, I’m fine. Translation: You can’t help me. No one can help me. I give up. (This one is not good, but not necessarily a reason to call an ambulance.)
- Mom, I’m fine. Translation: I don’t know. I simply don’t know. And I don’t have the energy to figure it out.
- Mom, I’m fine. Translation: Just because I have a disease doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me. Quit treating me as such.
I will go further into how to treat a child with bi-polar later on. Let’s stick to what your child is really saying.
The truth is I have no idea what your child is saying. It isn’t my concern, and it’s not any of my business. However, it is yours!!! As a parent you have to walk a fine line here, and it is a difficult thing to do. You can’t get frustrated because your child isn’t talking to you, and you can’t panic because your child isn’t talking to you.
You can, however, find out more. And it is a balancing act (I really can’t say this enough). It takes guts to be a true parent to a child with bi-polar. It takes an amazing amount of work, worry and sheer nerve. There isn’t a path here mapped out for you, and I promise one thing, the moment you find something that works it will stop working. Every time.
Instead, don’t stop at asking “how are you?” Don’t accept the “I am fine,” answer. Dig carefully, but ask questions such as:
- It’s a beautiful day here, how about down there?
- Did you get my package? Did you like it?
- I have to cook for this picnic of your father’s. Any ideas?
Engage your child. Listen to the answers to mundane questions. That is where the frustration, the depression, the highs and the lows are going to come out. You will hear it in the sighs, in the laughter, and in the tears. It is important to listen beyond what your child is actually saying; and you can do this with the mundane. Don’t ask questions about their feelings, if they took their medicine, if they are eating right. Don’t do it, trust me it will only frustrate your child more. Instead, find your answers in the light and the mundane. When you are feeling depressed that is going to come out much clearer in the answer regarding what kind of weather are your child is having, then if you took the medicine today. I don’t know why this works, maybe because I personally, have been known to lie through my teeth directly into the face of my mother. And I am good at it.
Once you get an idea of where mentally your child is, you can react more accurately. Does you kid need to have a sleep over at your place? Would it help to take them to a movie? Should you send their father to them, to make them laugh and get their mind off things? (Dads are good for this!). How about suggesting something other than what they are doing? You can do it with them. But here is one hint: Unless they are in serious trouble, this is a time you need to ASK!!! Don’t assume and just stop by their house, it might truly be they need to be alone to work through this. You are a parent, and unless the child is going through teenage hormone angst, along with this mental disease (in which case, you have more problems) you have to respect your child’s space, and sometimes their desire to just say “I’m fine.”
Everyone gets to ignore the obvious for awhile. Everyone gets the chance to work through this disease their own way. And every patient gets to determine their own path. Sorry mom.
Parenting a child with mental disease, is not easy. There are no guidebooks that will tell you what works for your child (sorry, best-selling authors out there). Telling your friends and sometimes even family,can bring stigmas to not only you, but your child as well. It is a curvy, windy path without road signs. But as long as you try, as long as you want to help and can continue to give that to your child, you are doing just fine.
The truth: simply caring is enough. I promise.