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

Archive for July, 2014

The Skeptical Optimist

For the first time in many years, my son, CJ, has been excitedly (and anxiously) anticipating the new school year. As I type, he is sitting in a high school classroom for the first time.  I don’t know what is so different about this year. Maybe it is the change of buildings, maybe it is the fact that the slate is wiped clean and he can start fresh, maybe it’s that he got a few really amazing classes that will really engage and interest him…..I think it is probably the fact that we had a med change this summer and he has a more positive attitude about things.

Whatever the reason, for the first time in ages I have a little bit of hope that we will make it through high school. Although I try to get through each year, one at a time, I am a forward thinker.  I always have been.  By the time I was 13 I had my future planned out……..and no, it went nothing as planned.  My plans not working out didn’t deter me from always making a plan or writing lists to try to keep my thoughts and goals in order. So, of course, I think (and worry) about CJ’s future…….a lot.

Less than 3 months ago, he cried in my arms and said that it wasn’t worth it, that he just wanted to drop out then and there.  That, of course, was after a teacher had told him that it didn’t matter how hard he tried, he was going to fail.  I think part of what has helped my son this year was going to the open house last week and meeting some teachers that are ready and willing to help him succeed.  I am a true believer that teachers can make all the difference in the world.  It’s not always what they teach or the methods they use, but the attitude in which they work with their students.

Last night, getting ready for his first day of high school was so different than that night 3 months ago.  He said “Mama, did you think we would ever get here?”.  I told him we still had a long 4 years to go, and how well he does depends on how much effort he is willing to put in, but he is more than capable of doing anything he sets his mind to.  I know, that doesn’t seem as positive as it could have been.  I have found in the past that if I tell him he is going to do great, and he doesn’t, he is even more upset that he disappointed me… I err on the realistic side instead of the normal parental ‘my kid can do no wrong’ side.

Regardless of being a realist, I am going into this year with hope…….but no expectations. I know that all can change when he walks in the door this afternoon….but for now, it feels kind of good.


All is Calm, All is Bright

We are in our ‘calm’ season.  For us, summer is always a period of rest. I am sure there are many parents out there with special needs kiddos that understand.  We don’t have the stress of school, no early morning schedules, fewer rules to follow to get through the day. It is sad to say, but our calm is coming to an end.  Two weeks from now my son, CJ, will start 9th grade. He has insisted, as he does every summer, that this school year will be different. I have already seen how ‘different’ it will be.  Tonight, we had a debate over the necessity of his summer reading.  I didn’t push it; I have to rebuild my energy before I can begin the school battle again.  I am hoping that, if I can get him to pick up one of the books I found at the library, The Empire Strikes Back written as a Shakespearean play, the content will engage him. I am not ready for the coming weeks. I used to love buying school supplies and clothes for CJ.  Now I equate it with the dread I feel facing each morning of the school year. So, instead of letting the dread over-take me, I have decided to approach it in a completely different way than I have done in the past.  Instead of wasting the last couple weeks of calm, stressing about what is to come, I am planning a luau.  I figured we would start the school year with a little bit of fun for our family and friends. I know I can’t prevent what is to come, I know that school will soon engulf our lives with the anxiety that it creates for CJ, but what I also know is that my attitude needs to be positive or his surely will not be. So I will enjoy the calm for as long as it lasts.  I will sleep in, I will sit under my shade tree by the neighborhood pool, I will lose myself in a book, I will spend time with friends…….I will enjoy the rest of my summer vacation.

Waste Not, Want More

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with a gentleman.  We were discussing his middle-aged son that is living with mental illness.  It made me sad when this father hung his head and said, under his breath, “What a wasted life”. I wondered to myself “His life isn’t over….how can it be wasted?”.


Last week, my husband and I found ourselves at a memorial service.  It was for a young man in his late 20’s who had lived the last decade with schizophrenia.  Following a beautiful eulogy given by his sister, this young man’s father stood up to speak.  Instead of only talking about the happy memories or positive moments of his son’s life, this man spoke of his son’s illness. He spoke of how it changed their family’s life….and perspective.  He asked all of those in attendance to open their minds in regard to mental illness, to let their hearts outweigh their fear when experiencing a person who is living with challenges that we cannot fathom.  Because of his son’s life, other’s lives will be made better.  Even in death, his family will continue to advocate for him and others.  Even in death, his life is not wasted.


When I was young, I used to think that I would grow up and do something great.  I had so many things that I enjoyed doing that I really wasn’t sure what that great thing would be…..but I was sure it would happen.  That feeling of greatness ended after my first stint in college and I was convinced that my life would turn into something routine and stagnant…….wasted.  It all changed when I became a mom.

CJ was born 10 weeks early and he was a fighter even though he was less than 3lbs.  I would look at him in his incubator and think, he is my something great.  At that time, as most new moms do, I thought his greatness would be success, a doctor, a lawyer, an educator.  It didn’t take me long to realize that my son’s challenges might prevent him from the stereotypical ideal of success…..but it didn’t mean that his life would be wasted, I would make sure it wasn’t.


My son still has many chances to make a difference for himself. Should he choose it, he has the ability to do amazing things…..but regardless of what he decides to do in the future, his life is not wasted.  Because of him, my life is not wasted.  He has made me strong, he has made me resilient and he has given me a different perspective on the world.  He has made me a fighter.  I will spend my life fighting for him and for others with mental illness.  I will fight the stigma that is placed on mental illness.  I will educate anybody within the sound of my voice.  I will do this with the hope that, one day, this world will be a better place for people living with mental illness and their families that support them.

Regardless of our children’s abilities or challenges, it is up to us as their parents to want more for them.  Whether they make a difference in this world, or we do it on their behalf, we can make sure their lives are not wasted.

Help Request : Four-Legged Friends in Need

As you may have read in a previous post, there is an animal sanctuary not too far from where we live.  It is called the Noah’s Ark Wild Animal Sanctuary and it is located in Locust Grove, GA.  Usually, Noah’s Ark focuses on wild animals that have been abused or displaced.  Right now, they have taken on another group in need of help.  They have rescued over 30 dogs from a local puppy mill and will care for them until they are ready to be placed into homes (news report in link below).

Noah’s Ark works on donations only, they do not charge the public to visit their sanctuary or use their picnic/playground facilities. Everything they do, they do for the animals. It has become a goal of our church’s VBS this week to help Noah’s Ark take care of these dogs in need.  We are  collecting dog food, towels, blankets and monetary donations for them.  For my readers that are local, if you are in the Newton and Rockdale county areas, donations can be made at First Presbyterian Church in Covington.  If you are reading from a distance, donations can always be made directly on the Noah’s Ark website.

Thank you in advance.