I usually don't post on the weekend, but I think my bipolar depression may finally be over. I've spent most of the day thinking about its impact on my 18-year-old son. As you undoubtedly know, when a depression ends (and I'm hoping this one is truly over), everything changes. As a parent, while you want to focus on your children's needs (no matter how old they are), it's very difficult when you're struggling to survive.
I wasn't diagnosed until my son was four years old, and for the next six years, the medication made me so sick that I felt I missed so much of his childhood. Yes, given the circumstances, I did the best I could, but it wasn't enough--no matter what anyone says.
And things didn't change. There were new doctors, new medications, and a steady stream of depressive episodes followed by hypomanias. This current depression hit in November--another holiday ruined--and has hopefully ended but it is now six weeks after my son has left for college. Because I was so sick, when I think of the isolation of those last few months, and how stressed I was about helping him prepare to leave--it truly makes me ill.
I'm sure he's experienced difficulties I can't imagine although we never sought family therapy because I didn't want him to feel like we were a "mentally ill family." In my experience, everyone has such a negative view of bipolar disorder--doctors and therapists alike--that they've lost the ability to approach it from a problem-solving perspective and to help provide answers and services rather than a lot of meaningless conversation and ineffective medication.
In fact, my family didn't need therapy as much as accurate information, a treatment protocol that worked, and support services. What I could have used were psychiatrists who actually admitted they had no idea how to treat bipolar depression but were spending as much time as I was trying to find the answers, psychologists who understood common behavioral patterns and symptoms and could provide helpful advice, an insurance policy that actually covered the costs of the treatment, and a Wellness Manager to help oversee the illness and aid in evaluating the care, as well as a host of other services.
When it comes down it, the best thing I could have achieved for my son would have been to get well. My mistake wasn't that I didn't try hard enough. No one tried harder. It was that I felt like I couldn't speak up because of the stigma of the illness.
But, today, as I thought about my son and how much I love him, I realized that it's time for one last huge effort. Medically, I have strong ideas about how to heal myself and it's time to find the people who can truly help me. Morally, it's time to speak out about the travesty of bipolar treatment.
When I think of my husband and son and the heartbreak and disappointment we have had to endure, I don't want that to happen to other children and their parents. It is my love for my son that enabled me to survive the darkest days of my depressive episodes. It is my love for my son that will help me chart a new course as a bipolar advocate.