15 year-old with possible bipolar disorder

by Melissa Flowers
(Tallahassee, Florida)

My name is Melissa and I have a step-son named Sean who we fear may have a bipolar disorder. I am a nurse and have worked around some bipolar patients, but never children/teens with the disorder. My husband, Jim, informed me that his ex-wife, Sean's mother, had terrible mood swings, violent outbursts, and fits of rage for the entire length of their marriage. He didn't know what it was and left the marriage. She continued to abuse the children until she was forced to get anger management through the courts. However, Jim and her have 3 boys, who by all accounts appeared mentally stable, despite the abuse. Sean, though, has been showing increasing signs of what his mother has. Sean will wake up and we have to guess as to what his mood will be. He might be quiet but polite for a few minutes and then shift into a rude, cold, insensitive mood and stop speaking to us. He seems to be annoyed by my 7 year-old daughter, Sophia, and will pick on her in very mean ways. We have tried talking to him, correcting him, redirecting him, but nothing works. I am starting to feel a rift between me and Jim because Sean's behavior causes stress and strife in the household and sometimes Jim overlooks it as if it will just go away. I think he is hurt that his child has a problem and he doesn't know how to deal with it. We don't have insurance and our income is limited. We know he needs help and we want to get him help, but he is mean to me and my daughter, and it is difficult to deal with since I am a step-parent and not the birth mother. Any advice you could give would be appreciated. Thanks!

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