Each week, millions of viewers tune into the hit show, 24. They watch as federal agent Jack Bauer of the Counter Terrorist Unit battles threats to national security, barely escaping with his life. The season unfolds in real time: each show depicts one hour; each season, 24. Every so often, a split-screen panel updates the audience about the parallel adventures of other key characters in the story, and, before commercial breaks, the tension is heightened as a digital clock ticks away the hour, the minutes, and the seconds. It’s a pretty electrifying hour of “must-see-TV.”

24 hours in the life of many children with bipolar disorder and their families is just as heart pounding: filled with threats, crises, and cliffhangers. But the hours are interminable (no one yells “Cut!”), there are no commercial breaks, and there is never a hiatus when the set shuts down and the cast and crew fly off to exotic locales.

No, this is real time 24/7. And because this intense struggle is so difficult for others to understand, we thought we would condense some of what many children and parents are experiencing, with the hope that one document reveals a day in the life.

6:30

The Day Begins:

Parents typically wake to an alarm and immediately face the day with churning stomachs and dread. Probably due to a phase-delay in the pattern of their children’s sleep, their sons and daughters typically have difficulty going to sleep at night, and they cannot be awakened in the morning. Parents have to mount a siege simply to get their children up and out the door. One mother described it like this:

Yesterday morning it took an hour-and-a-half attempting to get him up. We kept shaking him, beseeching, threatening, beseeching anxiously…. We even called his cell phone thinking he might pick it up for a friend’s call. He simply growled, muttered something we would have preferred not to hear, and turned over and went back to sleep.

We finally did see him rise from the bed and we ran the shower thinking that might wake him up. Ten minutes later we found him in the bathroom curled up on the bath mat, sound asleep.

While it may seem as if the child or adolescent is behaving in an oppositional manner, a great many of these youngsters actually suffer from something called sleep inertia.

What Is Sleep Inertia?

Sleep inertia is a transitional state of lowered arousal occurring immediately after awakening from sleep and producing a temporary decrement in any subsequent performance. Studies show that sleep inertia can last from a few minutes to four hours. Youngsters with bipolar disorder are far closer to the latter than the former. One 17-year-old girl described her attempts to get up in the morning this way:

I feel as though my insides are whining. I will do anything not to get up. Sleep is more important than anything in the world. I could sleep until 4:00 in the afternoon. I never think about it from my mother’s point-of-view. I don’t think anything. When I do get to school (after much yelling by my mother and me back at her), I have my head on the desk until somewhere around 11:00 in the morning. Right before lunch I seem to truly get up.

The “phase delay” of their 24-hour rhythms often makes these youngsters sluggish in the morning; more activated as afternoon gives way to evening; and then the rocket thrusters go off as bedtime approaches. Their energy level can climb so high, their thoughts often race, and they are unable to shut down and get to sleep. The next morning this same pattern begins again.

Several other facts make it difficult for a child to get up. The medications can be sedating; he or she may be depressed and chronically tired; or the thought of facing the school day may produce waves of anxiety or panic and the child may express somatic complaints (stomach aches and headaches). Parents are always forced to make a decision: Are the complaints an emerging “bug,” or is the child feeling excessive anxiety and trying to stay home where he or she feels more comfortable.

And this all happens before the orange juice appears on the table.

The bus ride to school can also be fraught with anxiety for the child, as he or she may feel singled out for teasing or bullying, and the noise level can be extremely irritating. Parents often have to drive their still-soporific children to school, risking being late themselves, and sparking anxiety about their own job security.

8:00

School Begins:

While some children look forward to seeing their friends in the morning and may anticipate certain classes or activities, the student with bipolar disorder is shouldering some serious impediments to any comfort level or availability for education.

In addition to morning sluggishness and the anxiety, many kids with bipolar disorder have difficulty interpreting social cues and may feel that other kids are finding them odd or out of step.

Author Tracy Anglada, in her upcoming book Intense Minds writes that:

Few children with bipolar disorder feel that they can relate to the outside world. In many ways they have difficulty relating to themselves. They don’t feel like they fit in, even with people who care for them. Especially during depression, the world seems to be passing them by, as if there were a barrier between them and everything else. Even in a room full of people they can feel totally alone.

She goes on to quote a young girl named Lee who says, “I would just stop, wherever I was, and watch the world exist, wondering how they all did it, and wondering why it all came so easily for them.”

Adding to their discomfort with classmates, children and adolescents with bipolar disorder often suffer significant weight gain from the medications they take, and-to put it bluntly-fat kids are rarely on the “A List” in terms of popularity. Their self-esteem is extraordinarily low. Their level of irritability is high and can be exacerbated by the chaos and noise of students pushing through hallways. The days are fast-paced with so many transitions and these youngsters lack flexibility and do not transition easily.

And this is the first 90 minutes of the day and academics haven’t even entered the picture.

(Split Screen): Meantime, the parents are at home or have reached work and are worried that every time their cell phones ring it will be the child pleading to come home (many of them suffer severe separation anxiety); or it will be the school nurse reporting that their child doesn’t feel well; or (the biggest fear), it will be the Vice-Principal in charge of disciplinary issues calling to discuss “an incident” in which the child lost control, or was irritable and disrespectful to a teacher, or got into a fight with another child.

On the other hand, some parents don’t have to worry during the school day, as their children seem to be able to keep things together in the outside world and save all their pent-up frustration and anger for the mother when they get home. (More about this later.)

8:00 – 2:45

The Longest Day:

If all students with bipolar disorder did well in school and achieved a sense of mastery in their work, they’d have a balancing force that would smooth out some of their anxiety and worry and frustration. But this is rarely the case. Many of these children have co-occurring learning disabilities (difficulties with reading, writing, and mathematics), and most have significant attentional problems. In addition, evidence is rapidly accruing that a majority of these children and adolescents have many deficits in the area known as “executive functions.”

What Are Executive Functions?

The frontal lobes of the brain (including the prefrontal cortex, which is a layer of tissue that lies just behind the forehead) are the most forward part of the brain. The frontal lobes coordinate speech, reasoning, problem solving, strategizing, attention, self-control, organization motor sequencing, working memory, and other processes central to higher functioning. Working memory-the ability to hold information in short-term memory while manipulating it toward problem solving or sequencing it in a logical order-allows human beings to tackle and complete tasks. All of these abilities and more are essential for success in the academic environment as well as all other situations in life, particularly as the child reaches middle school and beyond.

Many youngsters with bipolar disorder are severely compromised in these abilities.
These students can be so distracted by external stimuli and it is difficult for them to sustain attention and interest in the material being covered in the classroom. Many seem to get lost in space and time, and easily become bored. (Some kids will attempt to seek stimulation by becoming the class clown or by becoming provocative.)

Time is so indeterminable and fuzzy to some of these students that they can become confused as to when each class ends. Their anxiety increases and makes them irritable and even less available for education. (Educators could help in a major way if they quietly cued the student as to how much longer the class would last and could discretely inform the student as to where his or her next class was.)

And then there are the difficulties with written expression.

The Problem With Writing

There are no statistics, but it is estimated by some psychiatrists and neuropsychologists who treat and test children with bipolar disorder, that at least half of these children have disorders of written expression. The numbers may even be higher.

The problem for some children is language-based (and may co-exist with dyslexia); for others it is a motor outflow difficulty or a problem with fine motor coordination; and for many children with bipolar disorder the problem may be a severe difficulty in organizing thoughts, relinquishing original ideas and reformulating them; and marshaling the energy and attention to complete the task-the executive function deficits we spoke of above.

In addition, some students with bipolar disorder are so perfectionistic that they erase repeatedly and become extremely frustrated as the work proceeds at a snail’s pace and most remains unfinished.

Moreover, in a hypomanic state, the thoughts may race and ideas pour out faster than the motor or organizational controls; conversely, in a depressed phase, there may be a slow-down of thought and a paucity of ideas.

Any one of these problems will make writing a demand that will most likely be resisted-very vehemently-and with increasing frustration and anger.

12:00

Lunch:

Unstructured periods of the day such as lunchtime and recess bring a host of other problems. Cliques sequester tables and team games, and the noise levels and chaotic atmosphere are overwhelming to such sensitive children. It might be best if they have a safe place in the school-the office of the guidance counselor, or a place in the library-where they can eat lunch or just relax.

2:30

Completion of the School Day:

As the time comes to pack up homework assignments and the books and papers necessary to complete them, students with bipolar disorder often have difficulty with the organizing and sequencing process that must take place in order to ensure all these materials are present and accounted for and find their way into the backpack. And if anything goes missing, the stage is set not only for failure with that evening’s assignments, but for tense times with the mothers and fathers who are expected to motivate their children and oversee the evening’s assignments. (Any IEP that is drafted for a child with these organizational difficulties should plan for a teacher or an aide to help in the packing of the back pack and should teach the student how to break down the required tasks for the evening and double check the materials they will need to complete them. In addition, most children should have a duplicate set of books at home.)

Many children will need a significant reduction in the amount of homework they’re expected to complete each night, or should have time scheduled into the school day when they can complete the assignments, as they are dealing with other problems as the afternoon and evening draw closer.

(Split Screen): Of course none of this takes into account the seasonal changes that occur for people with bipolar disorder. Like adults, many of the children and adolescents suffer seasonal dips or accelerations in mood: they may start the school year off well, but as the days of autumn shorten, the slow-down and lethargy of depression may catch them out, and the concentration that school demands begins to elude them. They may not care what the assignments are and lack the energy to contemplate them. Conversely, the lengthening days of early spring and the increase in intensity of the daylight may promote periods of increased energy. Thoughts may begin to race, the kids have a greater urge to move, and many ideas pour into their minds. Again, concentration becomes a problem and school may feel restrictive and a waste of time, and homework may be viewed as stupid and beneath them.

3:00

Getting Home:

Since the bus ride home can be wild and disturbing, thus making incidents with other children more likely, many parents (in most cases the mothers) pick their children up at school. And now, the child who has somehow managed to keep it together throughout a day that has brought anxiety, frustration, irritation, and a sense of failure and humiliation, is in the private orbit of the mother-away from all onlookers. This simple ride home can devolve into the hell-mobile-on-earth as the child makes unreasonable demands, insists on going here or there, wants this or that kind of food, and begins shouting, kicking the back of the parent’s seat, and exploding with a litany of foul language. The parent must attempt to de-escalate the gathering storm and drive at the same time.

Many pull over and try to reason with the child; sometimes this merely inflames the situation and the mother simply puts up with the abusive language and behavior and tries to get home as quickly as possible.

Some gratify the demands of the child to keep the peace (especially if the child is not yet stable or there are siblings in the car). The fury pouring out of their children at very close range is extraordinarily unnerving.

(Split Screen): If the child is able to take the school bus home, any welcome from the parent to the child may create an opportunity to vent. A simple “How was your day, honey?” may open the flood gates and a mother stands by while her son or daughter turns from the school day’s Dr. Jeckyl to the at-home Mr. Hyde. If the word “no” shows up anywhere in the mother’s vocabulary, the child may begin to tantrum and rage (and these rages can go on for hours).

Tracy Anglada in Intense Minds describes the microscopically-short fuse of youngsters with bipolar disorder. She says: “Anger is an emotion we all experience…if you get fired from a job, you get angry…if a car runs a red light and narrowly escapes slamming into you, you may feel angry. The anger associated with bipolar disorder in children is different. It is an internal state that requires no outside prompting. It has a fuel all its own. This internal anger is so reactive but with higher intensity and less restraint.”

One of the children we interviewed for our book gave a fascinating description as to how he feels when a rage gathers. He explained:

It comes out so quickly; faster than a knee-jerk reaction. It’s like electricity shoots through me. It’s like being struck with lightening. I feel rage and hurt and a need to strike back. I would be raging every day, multiple times a day, verbally abusive, nasty, negative, but very careful not to show it to the outside world.

A teenager described her rages this way:

I used to go to my room and punch the walls and I couldn’t stop crying. It was like a dream you couldn’t recover in the morning: You know something bad and worrisome has been a concern somewhere in your brain, but you just can’t remember it.

Most of the children are so remorseful after these affective storms, that one mother told us that “His remorse is more heartbreaking than his rages.”

Certainly there is something poorly regulated in the central nervous system of most children with early-onset bipolar disorder. So many of the children have sensory integration problems, exaggerated stress responses, elation and irritability, depression and low energy states, poor impulse control, and low frustration tolerance, that it is no wonder that the confluence of these states and traits culminate in aggressive rages.

Because these children are so proud and often manage to keep it together in the outside world, people don’t believe that this charming child can turn so quickly in the home environment, and they are apt to jump to the conclusion that the child is manipulative, or that the mother is igniting the problem, thus placing a double burden on the already-abused mother.

It is more likely that the emotional ties to the mother are so intense and these children are so uncomfortable in their own minds and bodies that they unreasonably expect her to reestablish a harbor of safety, all the while withstanding their aggression.

One 14-year-old boy told us that the thing that infuriates him more than anything when he’s raging at his mother is when she turns away or does not look at him kindly. He cannot see that his actions are the catalyst of the painful encounter. When she turns away, he feels abandoned to his terror and loss of control. His mother should do something to lessen his overwhelming fear and to demonstrate her concern for his safety and protection.

Indeed, a sense of threat seems to pervade the waking and sleeping hours of these children, yet they are too proud to show their fear to the outside world and reserve it for the one person they know will never walk away-their mother.

(Split Screen): Not all children tantrum and rage, but whether they do or not, most are prone to boredom. They can’t seem to get invested in anything and whine and complain constantly about being bored. Because the children feel helpless and so often out-of-control, they desperately need to reconnect and escape from the intolerable feelings inside. Often they become provocative-they shake things up with other people to add that much needed spark that makes them feel involved and in control. They may tease and annoy a sister, or cause a brother to lose at Nintendo. They leave chaos in their wake. Meantime the mother gets to play bad cop and camp counselor all at the same time to redirect her very bored, disaffected youngster. (Video games and television may be the only activities that bring some peace into the household as someone has to prepare dinner or at least set the table for take-out food and oversee the homework and activities of the other siblings.)

6:00

Dinner:

This can be dicey as the youngster may be involved watching television, playing Nintendo, and not be easily disengaged or transitioned to the dinner table. Parents have a choice: they can demand the child’s presence, thus risking a full-scale blow-up; or decide that they have to pick their battles and it’s more important to have a pleasant dinner with their other children.

Some evenings all will flow smoothly; others will quickly disintegrate. Parents have to learn to live with the extraordinary unpredictability of their children’s behaviors. One father explained: “Things can be going along smoothly and then something would anger him and an attack would start for hours on end. We tried never to let our guard down, but he was often so charming and sweet that we would constantly express surprise when it happened. We are always walking on eggshells.”

7:00

Homework:

The time to sit down and organize and concentrate in order to do homework often coincides with periods of rapid cycling that can begin in the afternoon and early evening hours. The moods of the children cycle upwards: they become silly and giddy, their thoughts race, and it’s nearly impossible to get them to concentrate on homework assignments. And, as we saw earlier, any demand to return to an arena that is difficult and frustrating is bound to raise resistance and opposition.

Parents become extremely anxious about the work that will go unfinished and the children will score badly on tests (thus reinforcing their already-low self-esteem and demoralizing them even more). They also fear that the teachers will frown on their parenting skills. (Note: We have found that once teachers understand what is happening for the child and family, they do everything to help out. However, the teachers cannot be left in the dark as to what is happening to the child in the after-school and evening hours.)

9:00

Time For Bed:

Despite the parents’ best efforts to establish a slow-down of the day and to help settle the child for sleep, two factors will work against this happening: As we mentioned above, the minds and bodies of these youngsters are more active in the evening hours; and many of them are absolutely terrified of going to sleep.

They are prone to night terrors where predators stalk them, chase them, and kill them or their families in particularly violent and horrific ways. “I was being chased by a masked shadowy man and I got to the stoop of my house, and he kept stabbing me in the back-over and over,” said one boy “Or, I am being chased by headless men who are going to eat me.”

Blood and death and dismemberment appear often in the dreams. One little girl told her mother that she dreamed that something very scary was pulling her under her kindergarten room, as blood began to flood the floor of the classroom. Many of the pictures these children draw in the daytime reflect themes of pursuit, weapons, and blood dripping from severed limbs and lopped off heads.

With such emotionally-charged imagery attaching to the dream state throughout the night, is it any wonder that these children are so often in combative and irritable modes during the day, and that they are absolutely terrified of bedtime?

Parents spend hours at their children’s bedsides at night trying to reassure them and make them feel safe and protected. Most of the younger children eventually sneak or force themselves into their parents’ bedrooms as they are too afraid to stay in their rooms alone.

Meantime, marriages are placed under heavy strain. The sheer exhaustion of having to deal with all of this (and the doctors’ appointments, the trips to the pharmacy, the huge expenses, the guilt about the other siblings, and the fears of what the outside world is thinking of them) leaves the parents with little time or energy to develop plans for their own needs and pleasures in life.

6:30 AM

A New Day Dawns

We hope that this snapshot of “a day in the life” generates understanding and compassion for the child who must tolerate this emotional turmoil and its consequences, and for the parents who are trying desperately to help their children and keep their families together.

Unquestionably, proper medications smooth out the cycling patterns, inhibit the rage reactions that seem so out of proportion to their triggers, and help dampen the period of activation that so often occurs in the late afternoon and evening hours. Therapists can help the children with many of their anxieties and fears and often-ill-fated social interactions, as well as help them scale back their extreme responses to people and events. Understanding educators can “take the hand of the child” and help relieve the worries of their days.

With everyone’s help, the ice upon which these children and their families skate will not be so extremely thin.

We’ll write again soon, but before we sign off, we’d like to tell you how pleased we are that the third edition of The Bipolar Child will be published this August by Broadway Books. This new edition is significantly expanded and covers the many changes that have taken place in the field of pediatric bipolar disorder in the past few years.

It is our hope The Bipolar Child, Third Edition will be extremely helpful to you and your children, and to their educators and treatment teams.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

All best,
Janice Papolos and Demitri Papolos, M.D.

Bibliography

Anglada, Tracy. Intense Minds: Through the Eyes of Young People with Bipolar Disorder. Victoria, B.C.: Trafford Publishing, 2006.

Papolos, Demitri, and Janice Papolos. The Bipolar Child, Revised and Expanded Edition. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.

17 Comments
  1. Jenna

    You posted an almost exact outline of my daily life. I am trying so hard to get my 11-year-old the help he needs, but the psychiatrists we’ve seen refuse to diagnose him as early on set bipolar, refusing to acknowledge it even exists, since the DSM IV doesn’t specify symptoms of Bipolar Disorder for children as being different of that of adults. The doctors have diagnosed him with a myriad of other problems, but I know in my heart he is suffering from early onset bipolar disorder and I don’t know how to get him the help he needs. The SSRI’s they put him on did not help, they just made him worse. He’s now on a mood stabilizer, which does help somewhat, but I feel that he may not be getting the proper help since he does not have the proper diagnosis.

    Reading your book, it’s like I’m reading about my own life with my child. Each morning is like preparing for the battlefield, and I wake up terrified of the coming hours. It’s good to know I’m not alone, that my son is not simply a bad seed, and that there is help out there. But I am at a loss of how to find it. Please email me with any assistance you might have.

    –Jennifer B.
    Durham, NC

  2. charmain

    You have described the last 33 years of my life with three children with virtually all of the above behaviors. They have actually all survived to adulthood (with many ‘bumps’, illegal drugs and some legal issues along the way with the boys) They were all diagnosed with ADHD as children, much to the disgust, distrust & denial of my husband. At 33, my daughter is divorced, has a 5 year old daughter with shared custody, is out of a job, has ruined credit & is trying to complete a Master’s degree and living an ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Both my 30 and 26 year old sons are still with us-one in the house next door & the other one literally living in the attic & trying to finish their own educations (at our expense). Life has, many times, not been kind to us in this ignorant corner of the world and Life continues to happen every day. They both take large amounts of Dexedrine to function at all, with close restrictive supervision by me because of abuse issues and both were placed, unsuccessfully, on Lithium as teenagers. I used to say, ‘if I can keep him from being killed or killing someone else until he is 14 (or 18 or 21 or 25 or now I don’t know) he will grow out of it’-both of them. Yet, they are not diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, nor is there any way to be able to monetarily afford to treat them anyway. (we are not ‘poor’, merely middle class caught in the middle). As well, there is virtually no effective therapy available for them here. They have, however, met an occasional compassionate and understanding person along the way and I am grateful.

    They are sensitive, brilliant and haunted.

    I, as you describe above, will never give up. Perhaps one day, in spite of ignorance and attitudes, they will all be happy. That is my daily prayer.

    Please continue with your efforts to help the rest of the world understand the lives of my children and with this understanding, my prayers (and the prayers of many other mothers) will be answered.

    Blessings and Peace Charmain

  3. javillgrl

    I feel like I just read my daily life in this article. My 7 yr old is diagnosed with ADHD and possible bi-polar. He is on so many meds. Some help some dont. Every day is a battlefield from morning until night. Weekends are even worse because the routine of school is gone. I also have to deal the added problem of his encropesis; which is purposely holding bowel movements for additional control over the family. I hope and pray everyday that he will grow out of it. Somedays I see glimpses of my son. He is funny and happy. But those time are short lived and far between. Good luck to all the parents dealing with this difficult disorder.

  4. Pamandmom

    This is my life with a newly diagnosed 14 year old female. I want the world to read this and understand we are doing the best we can do to help our child deal with her days.

  5. marsi

    Research your area. I knew my newborn was bipolar. It took until she was 14 to correctly dx her. I found a research group…that is where she got her true dx of bipolar. The others ranged from adhd, odd, depression…all given drugs that made it worse. Look for studies, ask in the community..search for a bipolar specialist…but when you know in your heart they are wrong…you just know.

  6. Erin E

    This is our life. More than we have ever been capable of verbalizing. I send this to teachers, social workers, school psychologists, ANYONE who needs to understand our daily struggles. It is by far, the best account of a day in the life in our home.

  7. Erin E

    I also must add that I often come back to this and reread myself. To recall what my poor 10 year old goes through, every day, day after day. It gives me clearer insight with each reading as to the sort of reality she lives in.

  8. debbie

    I felt like I was the one interviewed for this newsletter as this depicts my days with my now 18 yr. old son. When he was a child, I did get him diagnosed properly, but he is also developmentally delayed on top of ODD, OCD, ADD, paranoia, anxiety and Biopolar- each has their own symptoms and together they create havoc. I tried the holistic approach, it didn’t work and so many prescription meds caused horrible side effects. This is a long, tiring journey that very few understand. I was referred to another parent with children who had similar issues and he told me about the book, “The Bipolar Child”, which led me here. I am so thankful because now I see it’s not me, as I seem to be the “trigger” for my son’s outbursts and rage. I can see that so many other parents go through the same thing and that brings some peace and erases doubt. Now that my son is an adult, things have changed and his new doctor doesn’t feel he needs medication or a guardian. I won’t give up, I will keep insisting until we get him stabilized and hopefully on his own, or out of the home. It’s not safe with him here. For those of you struggling to get the right diagnosis or don’t agree with the one(s) you have, educate yourself, look for a child psychiatrist, call the mental hospital in your area for children and ask for recommendations. Get online and research doctors, facilities, and support groups in your area. If you have other children, remember they also need your attention and support. They are suffering too. Just remember, your “real” child is in this body controlled by this mental illness; you’ll see a glimpse of him/her once in a while that will offer you a glimmer of hope when you really need it. If you believe in God, pray, pray, pray, through him all things are possible.

  9. celeste

    Hi! My daily life explained! My son was diagnoses with ADHD 10 years ago and in the last 2 years our psychiatrist did not want to diagnose bipolar but put him onto anti-depressents and finely a mood stabiliser (my son is now 16). We have had a horrific time the last 2-3 years with substance abuse and depression. We went to another psychiatrist in January of this year who diagnosed my son with Bipolar, Hypomania, ADHD, OCD, anxiety and aggression. We are on the right meds and things are much easier to handle. But, it’s not easy living with a bipolar child (as described above in the article) and I have to condition my mind every morning when I wake up so that I can face the day!

  10. Peggy

    Dear Jenna, My heart goes out to you. We are going through the same thing with my precious grandson.

    Peggy ftom VA

  11. Peggy Hannis

    Wow! You have perfectly described my life. I am sitting here crying because you have said EVERYTHING that I go through everyday, especially the parts about others not understanding and often wondering why the kid only goes nuts at home. All I can say is wow!! and thanks. I will be printing this and handing it to teachers and others so they get a better picture of what is going on. Wow!!!

  12. Finally!! Someone, people, others do know what raising a child with bipolar disorder is like. I have never found anything that comes remotely close to describing the life my family has endured for the past 15yrs. I agree with the others about printing this out and handing it out especially to those who say “its our parenting”. People have no idea how taxing this disorder is on the parents of bipolar children. They think the child is just being manipulative. My daughter is the most caring, mild, kind hearted, soft individual. She had never deliberatly been manipulative. It’s a real emotional disorder that no one understands unless you have been involved closeley to someone who is bipolar.
    Thank you for this article and for those of you who posted as well.

  13. Lynn

    I just found this. Like other posters this is a pretty accurate snapshot of life with my son. Not every day but lately most days. I appreciated getting to see it from his side. His father and I sought help with a local children’s mental health centre. After a few hours of us providing background and then a session with him included, the advice we got was that his room was to be his safe place and when he started showing signs of anger he could go there to calm down. Not a time-out as a punishment but a time-out just until he was calm. I couldn’t believe it. It was like they hadn’t heard a word we said. If we suggest he go to his room he refuses, usually swearing and swinging at me no matter how I phrase it or what tone I use.

    I continue to seek out help and guidance to teach him the skills he needs now (he’s 9) to live a productive and happy adult life. Seeing this site and the description and the other posts tells me that we are not alone in this struggle. Thank you.

  14. Sandy

    Like so many others, I find you have described my day. I am particularly grateful for this little passage, “It is more likely that the emotional ties to the mother are so intense and these children are so uncomfortable in their own minds and bodies that they unreasonably expect her to reestablish a harbor of safety, all the while withstanding their aggression.”
    It really helped explain my son’s behavior – really aggressive toward me, but when I try to get away from him, he cries out, “Don’t leave me!” with real distress.

  15. Elizabeth Parke

    I started reading this book yesterday and instantly knew this is what my 8 year old little boy has. Our lives have been a new for the past 6 months. He’s been in and out of the ER, and Children’s Hospital(who diagnosed him with ADHD ). He was recently put on Zoloft which has made him so much worse. I will fight for my son, he hates feeling like this. He’s always saying how sorry he is, and that he wants to die. I hope I can get the dr to listen to me about what I’ve learned reading this book. So tired of hearing that he too young to be diagnosed with Bi polar. In my heart, I know this is what he has. I feel sorry for all of you because I know how difficult it is too try to live a normal life. It’s impossible. Our lives have been turned upside down. I had to quit my job to take care of my boys. My oldest is Autistic and has Tourette’s. Best of luck to all of you and your families.

  16. kim

    This sounds like a day with my 6 year old son. Recently adhd & asd have been crossed out & he currently attends mental health team in our home town. I have been researching early onset bipolar & just know this is what effects my son. Although it seems UK is far behind on mental health issues & I am already struggling to get help for him! Seems most doctors here don’t believe mental health problems, such as mood disorders, occur in children. So glad I came across this site, as it is helping me understand more about my child.

  17. Korin

    Wow, that was my routine schedule when I was young and even still as I got older. I’m 17 and have Bipolar NOS and I still expierence this, even as I type this I’m waiting to fall asleep even after taking my tranquilizer. I just want to let you parents know that no matter what your kid says to you out of anger, don’t take it too seriously. The anger just is so much that it makes you feel like you want to destroy something or hurt something, but after you do it makes you just feel awful. My dad started to learn that it was helpful to just grab means hug me when I started getting like that or make me work with him in the garden.

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