My 16 Year Old Son

by Carol

My son was experimenting with marijuana at age 14 so I put him in a residential treatment program for 34 days. The Psychiatrist diagnosed him with cannabis addiction and anxiety. After his stay he went to live with his father for a brief time and received another psychiatric diagnosis of Bipolar NOS.

I didn't want to believe this new diagnosis and felt it was in error because the FIRST Psychiatrist never mentioned any mental illness. Later, my son started "using" again and being verbally abusive to his father so he ended up at the airport calling me to pick him up later that evening.

Since then he's been on Depokote and had Abilify (30mg) also added to his meds. Some days he is drama free, most days he calls me horrid names, slams doors, punches things and other sulks around the house. The biggest difference now is I get an apology at least despite the eruptions. I almost feel like having no hope at all so I don't get disappointed. He's so credit deficient in school he will be lucky to finish on the 5 year plan. I slowly have had the life sucked out of me despite having read and educated myself on his condition and most importantly tried to separate his behavior from his illness.

After three years of dealing with residential treatments, brief adolescent psychiatry hospital stays, and daily skirmishes I am wiped out. What I need to hear of is HOPE. What is medication suppose to do for him? Thanks for letting me vent...this is one merry-go-ride I want to be off.


I don't know if your son's diagnosis is correct, or if he is appropriately medicated , but it is possible he is not getting all of the help he could with meds.

What should medication do?
Medication should balance out the mood swings so your child can function better. Your child should be keeping a mood journal, the journal should indicate the frequency of the mood swings and you should be able to determine the symptoms of the mood swings. So if for example he has a symptom of boredom, you should be able to identify that with mania. Then the doctor can get the report, for example that the child is bored every night from 4-7, and make med adjustments based on that info. The meds should be tweaked until the moods level out and symptoms are more manageable.

Cursing and slamming doors are not unusual in children that have bipolar disorder. The parenting approach should focus on conversations with him when he apologizes about how the two of you can move forward with different interactions in the future. If you haven't been trained in RAINBOW parenting, check out

my website or google it!

Here is an example dialog around door slamming and cursing. This should happen when he is calm.

Mom: "We need to talk about what happened earlier"
Child: "I'm sorry I slammed the door and called you....".
Mom:" What were you feeling when that happened..."
Child;" I was mad because you were trying to force me to...."
Mom: "First lets figure out if there was anything else going on that made it difficult to handle stress. Were you hungry? Did something happen during that phone call? How was school?"
Child: "Nothing else happened, but the teacher at school hates me and won't do anything to help."
Mom: "Let's try to figure this out. I know it feel s like we can't fix it, but there is a way to get through this together. I know it feels out of control and you are angry, but we have to keep trying to communicate better. I know we can do it, and things will get better if we just work at it."

I know this is idealistic, but the idea is it is an ongoing process to work on developing the communication skills, coping skills and hope in your child that is required to move forward. You have no choice but to have hope, because without it you are nowhere. Unfortunately you also have to create that hope for your child.
School: Many children with bipolar disorder are unable to graduate school on time, in fact, some are unable to attend normal school and get their GED, or are homeschooled. Just because they don't graduate on time doesn't mean they don't graduate. I have had several of my children go back in their 20's and get their GED and go to community college. Developmentally children like yours are often several years behind. This does not mean that they aren't capable of success, or that they aren't intelligent, just that they are slower than the average child to come into their own.

Hope: The challenges your face are overwhelming, this I understand. It is not uncommon to feel hopeless . Hope by definition is to expect with confidence or trust. In absence of evidence it is challenging. I can tell you with certainty, that if your child has bipolar disorder, it is by no means a diagnosis that precludes him from having a successful, happy life. It may not be the life you had envisioned, or the success that you had envisioned.

If you are feeling hopeless, go get some help for yourself so you are better equipped to deal with the challenges of raising a special needs child. You need support to help you to summon up the energy to help your child.
Good luck!
Kristen McClure

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Dec 11, 2014
I want off the roller coaster too NEW
by: CB

I have a bipolar husband and it has been a very rough ride, and now all three of our children, 24, 18, 14 have been diagnosed with IED,ODD,bipolar. My oldest recognized she needed help and got it, my youngest was on meds but now refuses to take them. It is my middle child I struggle with the most. She has no female friendships,will only hang with guys, breaks all the rules, wrecked two of our vehicles becomes physically aggressive, went from straight A's in school and having dreams and aspirations to failing classes, developing an eating disorder,being a liar and manipulator,mood swings you name it. Our finances are strapped so tight with the counseling which she just puts on a show for anyway, my husband actually went into an episode from the stress and had to have his meds adjusted. His bipolar I have learned to cope with over the years. It hasn't been easy as his manic states almost bankrupted us along with the hypersexuality and affairs. We even got divorced and re married. I could seriously write a book or have a reality show.I just want to have a normal family with normal children and I want them to be happy and successful but my middle child is going to fall flat on her face and just won't accept the help everyone tries to get her.

Jan 26, 2012
Hope NEW
by: Anonymous

There is HOPE. I have never read about rainbow parenting but I have been practicing it for years by accident. :) What I have found worked best for my child was empowering her. I "allow" her to cuss at me but never to hit when she is angry. I do this because I understand she needs that release. And I tell her its OK by me, that I understand and I am on her team and go right ahead and call me whatever you need as long as you don't hurt yourself or anyone else. This sounds very simplistic but it does work. Once you and your son become a team agaisnt Bi-Polar (or rage or whatever is going on) he will want to work with you instead of agaisnt you. Right now he feels like its him against the entire world. Give him hope and you will find your hope.

Jan 26, 2012
Stability NEW
by: Anonymous

I have a special needs son who is diagnosed with ADHD and depression. He was expelled three times during high school, suspended numerous times, arrested several time and had a DUI in which he totalled a new car when he was sixteen.

It drove me into a nervous breakdown where I was diagnosed with bipolar. Being properly medicated has returned my functionality. It took nine months to get the meds right and I take six meds, but I am better. I never want to go back to where I was before meds.

Your son can be better too with the right mix of medications. Be patient and communicate with his pdoc (psychiatrist) truthfully his symptoms and struggles. My son was able to graduate through a credit recovery program in his school district. He did have to take the GED, but he got a regular diploma. Please ask your school district about programs like that. Some courses can be taken online too, but I believe there is a fee for them.

Be sure to take care of yourself. Therapy might really help you. There are online support groups for both of you which are free. NAMI and DBSA have local support groups too. The online support group I am familiar with is There are many other groups there as well.

Don't give up hope. Nurture yourself. You both need you to be strong in a trying and exhausting situation. Exercise, take candlelit bubble baths, get a massage regularly, etc. Love yourself and hope will return. Take care.

Jan 26, 2012
Wow, I Could Relate NEW
by: Anonymous

My son is now 18, almost 19 and was very similar to your son at that age. His anxiety was not addressed, but he did receive the bipolar NOS dx. He did not want to believe that one, and sadly, had some people, including professionals, tell him that teens do not have bipolar, they are just delinquents. :-(

He has become more insightful and does say frequently that he is pretty sure he is bipolar. Adults WITH that same diagnosis have told him that they are almost sure he does.

The bad thing is, his rages, anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol use have worsened. He has been homeless, is now living with friends, gets questioned by cops on a regular basis on the street, has pending charges for drug paraphanlia, etc.

I must say I believe he could be doing better if he had been treated more effectively when he was 16-18. His dad was no help--with a dx of bipolar himself, he and my son would fight, sometimes physically, and he would tell son that neither one of them was bipolar, that it was just Mom's fault and Mom thinking she knew so much about mental illness, blah blah blah. Other days, usually when he was under the influence, he would tell my son that yes, he was quite sure that they both had bipolar! He would not get help or encourage son to get help. Ironically, I left my husband but son stayed there. I think it was more because he felt betrayed by my leaving and shaking his world up, but also because he could be nearer to his friends who all use drugs.

He had a very hard time with high school. His original dx was ADHD, which he probably does have comorbid with the bipolar. He also would lose his temper with teachers and students and had a lot of sensory and anxiety issues including stomach aches, not liking how his clothes felt, hating the smell of the school, etc. No one really encouraged him and even having an IEP did not help him. He wound up dropping out, but is now going to GED classes and is almost done!

I worry about him a lot, but I feel hope some days. My biggest hope is that he will finally seek help again. He wants me to help him get some regular dr's appointments, and possibly an appt with a psychiatrist.

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