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Who's On Your Team?

Teamwork is a vital part of managing bipolar disorder. But just what do I mean by "teamwork"?

It means working as a peer with your psychiatrist, therapist, pediatrician, spouse, friends, and family.

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 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 minutes...speak up.
  • 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.


Our Experience


  • 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.
  • Pediatrician: 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 steroids
  • 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.


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Last updated: 08/31/06.