Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Bipolar Cycles

Summer is coming to an end. Thankfully the boys did better than expected. I have to say it’s been our best summer yet, especially for my oldest. But we still experienced some highs and lows in what appeared to be bipolar cycling over a period of about 1 week.

It all started when my oldest son woke up in a really great mood. He was so happy about his latest computer interest. He talked excitedly about it, following me around the house, chatting up a storm.

That should have been my first clue.

My oldest isn’t usually this “up”. At one point, he didn’t even skip a beat when I closed the door in front of him to go to the bathroom. He continued on in a very excited tone telling me about all his incredible ideas. Throughout the day he continued to update me about his project like an excited child on Christmas morning.

Then day two started with a big shift.

Hello irritability.

My oldest became very argumentative and was irritated by everything we did. As his mood progressed down this path, I started to see old behaviors. Blaming others, initiating fights, threatening us. It was sadly familiar from his younger days that often ended with rages. As I tried to navigate his behaviors, I kept reminding him that this wasn’t him, but his moods being off. Understandably for him, none of that mattered since it felt real. Mood or no mood illness, he was in a mood to fight.

As the day progressed, I tried to help him identify his feelings as they related to his actions. In a calmer moment, he clarified that, “Everything and everyone is bothering me!”

His mood continued for a handful of days. Thankfully he never escalated into a rage. But after a few days we had a light bulb moment.

My son’s sleep patterns had changed during this time. Instead of sleeping in as he normally did all summer, to our surprise, he was waking up early every day because he no longer felt tired. It even surprised himself.

He was cycling.

Once it dawned on us, it put everything into perspective.

He went from a stable, easy going kid who slept in, to a kid who woke up early every morning and cycled between being too happy, to being very miserable.

It really helped once my husband explained this to my son. I think for the first time my son could see proof of his illness outside of his moods. “It’s all connected Mom! I’ve been getting up early every day that my mood has been bad.”

And just like clockwork, the very first day my son slept in, the planets aligned and I had my son back to normal and he’s been doing great ever since.

Even my son recognized the difference when he shared, “I’m feeling better today, my brother was leaning on me and it didn’t even bother me!”

It made me think of all those years and all those rages so long ago.

He was cycling then. 

It was harder to tell since I saw very little stability to know what “normal” looks like for him, but seeing this recent cycle and the return of old behaviors in such contrast to what we have come to now know as “normal,” has validated for me our decision to medicate.

You may laugh and think, “Validation? You still need that?”

Unfortunately yes. I don’t think I’ll ever stop asking the question, “are we doing the right thing?”

But tonight I can rest in peace knowing that, yes, we are doing the right thing for our son.


  1. The need for validation even after all these years is very normal even for the most typical parent of he most typical child. You tell out aloud and articulately what many folks keep for themselves or express differently.
    Why do many "normal" parents brag about their child typical/above-average abilities ? Why so many parents become obsessed with normalcy ? It's a way for them to seek a validation they so desperately need, but they are too insecure to say how bad they need validation about their choices.

    So, if the most typical parents with the most typical children need validation themselves, why doing so about your SN children would be wrong ? So, having children with SN would take away the right for normal feelings of motherhood ?? This reasoning does not add up nor makes sense !
    If perfection does not exist in raising typical children, it does not exist in parenting children with SN.
    People behaving this way with you are only trying to be more royalist than the king, as we say in France. This general behavior cannot harm you unless you buy into it.

    So, your need for validation is as normal as drinking water because you are thirsty, or eating because you are hungry.
    Having children with SN does not change this very human feeling of motherhood.
    You are more aware about your feelings because of your circumstances. Being more aware about them and the raising children with SN does not change your need for validation into an illness.

    So, enjoy your imperfect parenting :)

  2. This is so similar to our summer. It was a great summer with a few ups and downs except for one week that felt like old times. We never did figure out the trigger for sure but I have some suspicions. As far as the medications, I too will never stop wondering if this is the right thing. Every few months I go through a "what if this is all a big mistake" moment. It's good to know I'm not alone!

    1. Yep, I’m right there with you Erin!