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

The Sound of Silence


I have been telling myself that I would continue writing when I had something positive to say…..and that hasn’t happened lately.  I reminded myself this morning that the reason I am writing this blog is to let other people know they aren’t alone in this struggle with mental illness.  That being said, I know I shouldn’t be waiting for something positive…..and to just write what we have been going through.  Sometimes it’s just so hard to put my frustrations into words without sounding like a big old whiner……which I am trying very hard not to be.

Since this past fall I have been dealing with what is known as ‘Caregiver’s depression’.  It is something that has hit me so hard that I don’t quite know how to handle it.  Having dealt with CJ’s challenges for so long, it is something I experienced in very small amounts before….but never quite like this.  In truth, I am feeling like a failure as a parent, a wife…..and well, really just a failure in general.

I wonder if I didn’t get hit with this before because I always thought we were moving forward.  I have been advocating for CJ for years to get him the right medical care and educational opportunities….but I was doing it without a formal diagnosis.  It wasn’t until 2 years ago that we got his bipolar diagnosis.  It feels like I was fighting for so long to find out how to help him…..and now that we know, he is fighting me.  I know the steps we need to take to make sure he is on the right path…..but he doesn’t seem to want to take those steps. I keep wondering where I went wrong in this process.


CJ started his new school this week.  It is the perfect scenario for him.  Small classes, quiet setting, understanding staff.  He has even said how much he likes it, he has not had a problem with any students or teachers. He even signed up for spring baseball and seems very excited about it.  Yesterday morning he woke up and refused to go.  Having dealt with this for years, I know the signs when he is in the midst of anxiety, depression or a manic episode, one of which usually causes him to refuse to attend school….this time it was just because of a teenage ‘I don’t feel like it’ attitude.

Just when I thought I had convinced him to get out of bed and get ready, is attitude became obstinate….almost like he was now going to refuse to get up simply because I was telling him he had to go. He then forced himself into agitation.  He has a way of pushing himself over the edge. There is sometimes a fine line between normal irritation and irrational behavior.  Just like the saying goes ‘if you force yourself to smile, eventually you will be smiling for real’… can happen in the opposite way as well.  When he forced himself into this state he ended up getting aggressive with me.

It has been months since he has been violent towards me directly.  Usually it is during a manic episode.  When he has calmed down, we discuss his behavior and the consequences of that.  He is always remorseful and apologetic. This time, he made the choice to get violent. He chose to hit me.  It wasn’t an impulse control issue, it wasn’t a fight or flight issue….he was in no way threatened… why did he choose to hit me? I think he was hoping to intimidate me to feel like he was in control……which didn’t work because I stood my ground.  Actions like this make me worry for me, for any woman in his future and for him.  What makes him think abusing someone is ok?

He then pulled out the victim card, saying that I didn’t understand what it was like to be in his shoes and I didn’t understand what having bipolar disorder does to him.  I had to remind him, as I often do, that bipolar disorder doesn’t hinder your ability to make choices.  He chose to hit me. He chose not to go to school. These are choices, not a symptom of mental illness. He then told me to get out of his life…..this is something he tells me quite often……so I did.

Consequences by losing privileges doesn’t seem to affect CJ one bit, so the consequences of his action had to be something different.  I took away me……his constant, his comforter.  He has been informed that, for this weekend, he will not ask anything of me.  If he wants to eat, he must prepare it himself, if he needs clean clothes, he must wash them himself.  I will not drive him anywhere or talk to anybody’s parents on his behalf to make plans. There will be no snuggling when he feels alone, there will be no pep talks about life, there will be no emotional connection. He attempted to apologize to me following these instructions, but I would not accept it.  I told him to take the weekend to think about it so that he doesn’t give me a blanket apology just to make himself feel better.  I want him to understand how our choices affect other people…..this weekend I am making a choice.  I will be here in body, but not in spirit.

I don’t know if this approach will be good or bad.  In truth we have only spoken 2 sentences to each other since I explained the rules for the weekend.  It has been quiet….it has been nice not to argue…..but it has been sad.  I know it has only been 24 hours and he is probably enjoying what he considers freedom…..but I am hoping that the enjoyment doesn’t last and he starts to realize all that we do for him.  Maybe, just maybe, he will understand that abuse, in any way, shape or form, is unacceptable and will hurt those around you so much that they will eventually distance themselves from you.


Comments on: "The Sound of Silence" (8)

  1. NotAPunkRocker said:

    Empathy like and hugs to you. I was just thinking about you this week and wondering how things were going. ((HUGS))


  2. I am sorry for your frustrations, sadness, anger and pain, SC. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and plan with us here, and I hope the process was of some solace to you.

    I most of all wish for you all that the absence of his mom as his main support system in so many ways will make CJ think more about his actions in the future.

    Take care. You have friends out here. Don’t forget that. — Mark


  3. Good luck parenting teenagers is so hard I can only imagine how hard it must be to parent a teenager with bi polar. You are doing a great job, stay strong I am sure he will realise that he went to far hopefully this will be a good lesson.


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