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

The Never Ending Duel

Most kids have interests and hobbies that they focus on. Whether it be sports, music, art or games, everyone can find something to fill their free time with.  Parents of kids with neurological disorders or mental illnesses know that things go a little farther than ‘interest’ in our worlds.  Our kids are more than interested in something, they are usually obsessed.

Obsessed: To think and talk about someone or something too much

My son’s obsession is called YuGiOh.  It started as a Japanese manga series, which then turned into a dueling card game, video games, movies and graphic novels (aka comic books…….although I have been told multiple times that manga and comic books are two different things….they’re really not).

This obsession started when a family member bought him his first card deck about 9 years ago. It became part of his daily language. It was all he would talk about to me, to family members, to teachers.  My son has so many cards now that I don’t think I could count them……truthfully, I wouldn’t want to try because that would mean I would have to gather them from every corner of my house.  His main deck has his most prized cards in it and goes everywhere with him, whether he will be playing or not.

Some people have learned to use this obsession to their advantage.  My son has had teachers bargain with him, if he would do his classwork, they would sit down with him during free time and he could teach them YuGiOh.  He has also had therapists use it as a way to communicate with him during counseling sessions by asking him what he likes about it, or if he connects with certain characters.

I have tried to understand this game, to participate in this obsession with him.  I just can’t wrap my head around it.  My son laughs at me and tells me that it’s as easy as playing UNO….it’s not. For anyone out there that has seen a dueling game, you know that each card has its own set of functions, which can make things quite confusing.  It amazes me that a kid that can’t remember his multiplication facts, can memorize all of these cards and their rules.

I sometimes wonder if this game is a metaphor for our life. I am battling for every little bit of normalcy I can create in our lives. As much as he says he loves normal moments, he fights them on a daily basis. It makes me think that this obsession of his has taught him how to live life in a constant duel.

Maybe I should have pushed Legos on him a bit more.  If he was obsessed with those, maybe he would feel like building things up instead of breaking them down……..

………but then again, Legos can be really painful when you step on them in the middle of the night while trying to navigate the disaster of a bipolar kid’s bedroom.


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