Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

I have been told by many doctors and psychologists not to take things my son says or does personally.  This can be nearly impossible to do at times.  It’s especially hard when he says cruel and hurtful things to try to get me to lose my calm. In the middle of major meltdowns or manic episodes, I am usually able to keep my cool and help guide him to a better place.  The times I have challenges in this aspect is when his actions affect others.  Like when I know he is going to make us late for an appointment, or to school, which will then delay his doctors or bother school friends that get upset if he is not in class.  I also tend to get more upset if I know that he has damaged property or hurt feelings.  These are the things I don’t process easily.

Master of Manipulation

My son knows how to push my buttons, he knows when I am at my breaking point and will use it to inch me over the edge.  I am well aware that this is not a bipolar thing…..this is a 13-year-old thing.  I joke all the time that I am the president of the ‘I Hate 13’ club.  I am pretty sure I hated 13 when I was 13. The problem in our life is that a normal teenage action can turn into something more.  There are days when something as simple as waking him up in the morning can become an epic battle.

My son is aware that I tend to be a bit frazzled in the mornings.  He knows that I stress about getting him out the door and he will use that to get me frustrated. Like a lot of teenage boys, there are mornings when my son will simply refuse to get out of bed.  How do you challenge that? He is not a little kid any more.  I can’t pick him up, get him dressed and put him in the car.  He is taller than I am and I can’t quite figure out a way to handle this type of situation….yet. We have attempted both reward and consequences.  In that time and moment, he simply doesn’t care what he might lose or gain. It’s also in those moments that he knows that I am at a loss. I am still trying to teach myself ways to stay relaxed in these situations. Until I figure that out, he knows he can use this to try to control my feelings……but I am not supposed to take it personally.

No Place Like Home

Ever since he was little, if my son is in the midst of a meltdown, he gets destructive.  It started with physical violence towards me.  Usually kicking and scratching until I bled. As he got older, he would punch walls or throw things. When I remarried, we moved into my husband’s house which was surrounded by many flowers.  If my son was in a fit of rage, he would go outside and behead the flowers, simply because he knew we enjoyed them……but we were not supposed to take it personally.

Growing up, my son would always tell me that all he wanted was a normal life in a normal house with two parents.  When we purchased our new home in GA, my husband and I were so excited to have this beautiful house that we could create that type of life in.  The day we moved in, we set up a game room in the basement for my son.  It didn’t take long for him to start taking out his anger on the walls. Within six months of living here, I had to spackle and repaint the walls in the basement and in his bedroom.  I have watched him when he takes a stick or golf club to the walls.  He gets this look on his face that challenges me to stop him.  He knows it will upset us to damage this home that we have worked so hard to have…….but we’re not supposed to take it personally.

Making it Personal

In an answer to our holey wall problem, I have taught my son how to spackle.  I also got him involved in a painting project in the basement.  We created life-size silhouettes of him and his best-friend all over the walls (pictured above).  My hope when doing this was that he would take personal pride in the space and will be less likely to damage it.  Since we have done this last November, he has only put one hole in the basement wall, so it seems to be working.

I know that I have been told time and time again not to take things personally, but sometimes I think it is important for things to be personal. My son needs to understand how his actions make other people feel.  He needs to know the hurt and pain he can cause to the people who love him.  Walls can be spackled and painted, but it’s not so easy to repair a damaged heart.

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Comments on: "Don’t Take it Personally" (4)

  1. Up until the end I wanted to give you a big, long hug….then you taught him how to spackle and I nodded and said, “Good for YOU!” The painting? I love the creative idea. Once again, “Way to go!” In the end I still want to give you a big, long hug 🙂

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  2. It always amazes me when my son who has processing issues, seems to come up with very personal jabs at me when he wants to change the subject. Those jabs are hurtful.

    Like

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