On Your Team?
is a vital part of managing bipolar disorder. But just what do I mean by
It means working as a
peer with your psychiatrist, therapist, pediatrician, spouse, friends,
Let's examine this team:
- Psychiatrist: This is an important
person on your team. If you allow him/her to dictate what medicine
your child takes without input from you, you put yourself in a
subordinate position. And you don't want that! They are just people,
just like you, with less vested interest in keeping your child
stable and healthy. They often get 'stuck' on one or two medications
and aren't willing to try others. If this happens and their meds are
working, find another psychiatrist. That's why you have to think of
them as a peer.....you need to be able to move one without feeling
you are doing something wrong.
- Therapist: This can be the most
important person on your team. If the therapist and your child or
the therapist and you don't 'click', move on, or address it with the
therapist. Both you and your child need to be able to open up,
confess it all to this therapist. And the therapist should develop a
good strong relationship with your child.
- Pediatrician: If you find a
pediatrician that knows much about bipolar and the medications
involved, that's great! Otherwise, you will have to take care of
that part of your child's health care yourself. But remember to ask
about any medication a pediatrician gives your child......does it
interact with the bipolar medications? Don't be shy, they can't keep
up with everything going from child to child every 15
- Spouses: This is vital, your
spouse must be an integral part of the team. Even if your spouse
can't go to doctor appointments or therapist appointments, keep them
up to date with medications, progress and/or setbacks. Talk about
your child's mood with your spouse. Make sure your spouse knows your
child is manic today or depressed this evening. It can make a huge
difference in how they interact with the child. You don't want a
manic child getting screamed at by a tired, worn out spouse on
his/her last nerve!
- Friends: It's up to you, but I
recommend being open and honest about your child's disorder. If a
friend can't deal with it, well, they aren't a friend. If you hide
it from everyone then it seems like a "big dark secret" about
something bad. If they had cancer you wouldn't hesitate to tell
people would you? Friends can be there to listen while you cry or
vent over the day's events. They can take you out for a massage when
you need it. They can take your child when you have to be somewhere
else. But they need to know what they are dealing with.
- Family: How close are you to your
family? Emotionally and physically. Think about that. If you live
close and your family (or in-laws) baby-sit, they need to know what
is happening with your child. If your child has a hard time getting
through the holidays, imagine not telling your family the child has
bipolar disorder? They will all think you are the worst parent in
the world, and tell the truth...isn't there one or two of them that
would love to label you as a bad parent? If they don't understand
about bipolar, go armed with websites, books, whatever it takes to
help them understand.
Psychiatrist: We went
through 4 psychiatrists in the first year. I couldn't stand up to
some, others were just wacky and didn't believe me when I reported
the problems we had at home.
- Therapist: We got lucky
with our therapist, she and I clicked, she has a "no nonsense"
attitude with my daughter which, surprised me, works! I wouldn't
trade this therapist for the world.
We live in a small town so our choices are few. The pediatrician is
a big believer in specialists so he doesn't take on more than he can
handle. I do wish he knew more about bipolar. I am always having to
ask if a medication will interact, or reminding him she can't have
- Spouse: I got
lucky there too. My husband was diagnosed with ADD as a child so he
is able to identify with my daughter's pain in being different,
having to take medicine, etc. Often he understands her much better
than I do. He only goes the psychiatrist and therapist appointments
when I ask. But he does step up to the task when asked. He's a great
guy, dad and husband!
- Friends: Lucky
again! Before we knew my daughter was bipolar I had a friend with a
like-minded child. She and I often cried on each other's shoulders
through infancy, toddler hood, pre-school and later. Her daughter
grew out of her difficulties, matured, mine didn't. She still is a
great friend and a great help. I have many other friends and none of
them ever turned away from me because of my daughter's problems.
- Family: My
husband's family lives on the farm with us. His parents surprised us
when we told them our daughter was bipolar.. They have an employee
(family business) with bipolar disorder. And he's worked for them
for a long time. They told us they know when he is off his meds, and
they knew a lot about bipolar. They cried with us and they help us.
My mother-in-law is amazing, she will be here whenever I call and
need help, especially when my husband is out of town. She never asks
questions, she just takes my daughter to her house and keeps her
overnight for me. One sister-in-law is a special ed teacher, so she
understands. The other was a homeschooler, so more understanding.