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

Don’t Touch My Stuff

I wrote yesterday about changes needed by all adults in order to help our kids navigate school. What about at home?

I know we, as parents, try to teach our challenged kids about appropriate social behaviors, cleanliness and manners. Sometimes they absorb our words…..other times it’s like talking to a brick wall.  They do the same things over and over again and it can drive you batty. I have found that sometimes we have to take a step back and look at the things they do from their perspective.  Sometimes, there is a method behind their madness.  It doesn’t always make sense to us, but it is there.

A place for everything and everything in its place

I don’t know if any of you remember, but there was an episode of the Jetson’s where Rosie the Robot had a bolt loose and ended up with OCD that got so bad she over-loaded.  Every time one of her family members moved something or made a mess, she sped after them saying “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

This is how I feel if I help my son clean his bedroom or game room.  I take so much time to help him organize that, once things are caught up in the tornado that takes 10 seconds to destroy a day’s work, I feel like bolts and springs are going to fly out of my ears, just like Rosie’s.

It is a common tendency among kids with mental illness or neurological disorders to be cluttered and messy. They fight us on the idea of cleaning up their mess.  If it is clean it takes them a matter of seconds to rip it apart again. Why do they do this?

I honestly don’t think they do this out of defiance…..well, not all the time anyway.  I think it is all about control. They can’t control the fact that they have this illness or disorder. They can’t control that their lives are dictated by doctor’s appointments, medication or ‘special’ classes at school. Their space is what they can control, what they can take ownership in.  Good, bad or ugly, sometimes very ugly, their mess is sometimes their constant…..their comfort……their control over a little piece of their world.

Don’t We All Want Control?

I did a little experiment this week.  I posed 5 questions to friends on FB and suggested they then share the questions to their friends, which some did. They were questions regarding things people tend to control in their lives. The first few questions were basics, Which way to you place the toilet paper roll? Do you separate your darks from whites while doing laundry? Do you keep your car clean? These all came back with simple responses. Most of the answers were, over, no and no. One word, straight to the point answers.

The last two questions I posed a little differently, How do you feel when somebody moves things around in your kitchen? and How do you feel if somebody moves things around on your work desk? These got passionate responses like ‘I hate it’, ‘leave my space alone’ or ‘don’t touch it if you want to live’.  If we are all so passionate about people touching our ‘stuff’, then why do we get so upset if our kids are passionate about their space and the stuff in it?


Since I have been thinking about my son’s messiness this way, it hasn’t bothered me as much.  Am I still going to try to teach him to be more organized? Yes. Am I still going to argue with him about food and garbage being left out overnight? Most definitely. Am I going to let bolts and springs fly out of my ears by getting frustrated with his clutter? I am going to try not to. After all, I need all my pieces and parts in order to survive this journey…….and to help him survive it, too.



Comments on: "Don’t Touch My Stuff" (2)

  1. I can’t say I feel your pain, because I am disorganized and messy, too. And so are my kids, although my son is doing better with his apartment. It’s a struggle.


    • Oh, I can be pretty cluttered at times, too, but my son takes it to a whole new level of destruction. Our biggest issue is dishes and food being left out, but we are working on it.
      Thanks for reading. 🙂


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