Struggling Parent

by Chris Myers
(Camden, NC.)

I have an 11 year old daughter who was diagnosed bipolar many years ago.

We have read just about every book available and consider ourselves very well educated on the subject. Over that past few months our daughter has become increasingly angry and violent coupled with statements of wanting to kill herself and harm other family members. We are currently working with her doctor with med changes, but not much has worked. I guess my question is at what point should we consider a more residential treatment plan?

We try every parenting technique recommended and it continues to grow worse. The smallest of things set off the anger fits and they have become a daily event and are all consuming for the family. There do not seem to be a lot of resources available in our area of NC. Any advice would be much appreciated. We are quickly coming to the end of our rope.

Hi Chris:

I don't know the particulars like your treatment providers do, but I can tell you my opinion in general.

I think residential treatment is an option if entrenched family dynamics are contributing to the behavior. Sometimes the intensity of those dynamics require that the child is out of the home to break some of these dynamics.

Residential treatment is also helpful in creating routine and ritual for children when it is difficult to do that within their family. Children and adults, as you know require routine and structure to help regulate them.

However, residential treatment has to be carefully planned and if a child has separation anxiety it can be intensified and make things worse. This is also the case with hospitalization and I can attest to this. Many of my kids who have severe anxiety develop PTSD when hospitalized in an inadequate setting ( which most of them are these days!) SO really, the pros and cons need to be carefully weighed!

If their is any availability of respite for you, that might be a better initial option. I'm sure you probably have explored this option but there may be a way to think out of the box.

Good luck!!

Kristen McClure

Comments for Struggling Parent

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Jul 12, 2011
not fully diagnosed
by: Anonymous

I adopted my husband's granddaughter after her parents abandoned her at five months. She is a wonderful, bright, creative 11 year old, who was unusually intuitive, and extremely vocal from a very young age (fluent speaker by 18 months). But she has shown many of the symptoms of Bipolar. Around age 2 she developed the most frightening night terrors, screaming for hours but not awake. At 4 she developed severe nervous facial tics and was put on haliperidol for about three months.The tics were much reduced but she began to become chubby. It was after that that she began terrible temper tantrums, and extreme anger attacks, way out of proportion to any possible cause. In between she is sweet,loving, funny and delightful but I'm constantly on edge because her mood can change in the blink of an eye to extreme rage. She has had anger therapy, psychotherapy and has been seeing a child psychiatrist for three years. He has diagnosed her with social anxiety, then ADHD, and given her a variety of psychiatric meds, all of which work for a while, but then tail off in effectiveness. She can go from being on top of the world to believing herself utterly worthless and fit only to die - all in the space of half an hour.

Her biological family includes suicides, drug addicts, alcoholics and others with dangerous sex habits. I am determined that a healthy and loving home will help her to overcome her genetic background. None of the doctors she has been to have diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. What do you think?

Mar 10, 2010
You are not alone
by: Kris

I guess that one of the first things that I would like to share with you is that you and your family are not alone. You are not alone in the pain, the frustration, the confusion and really the overall exhaustion and toll that all of the complex demands of raising and managing these very unique children takes on you as a Mother but also the family as a whole. I know that there have definately been times (more than I care to remember) where we have felt sincerely overwhelmed or where we were not sure what the next possible step could be.

One of the things I did think of while reading your story is that I know from our own experience (Our son is age 12 and is diagnosed with BP and ADHD) We definately learned the extreme importance of making sure that we stay current with our sons Therapy sessions just as much as we do with his meds doctor. The 2 really do go hand in hand. I am not sure if your family is currently utilizing this tool or if you are how often- but we have found that it truly is indespensable in helping my son to ultimately make progress in his behaivor modification.
I have to agree with the doctor's comments- be very cautious of any form of treatment center or even hospitalization. These resources in themselves are not bad but we found from our sons personal experience with them that it truly can do more harm than good in the aspect of the possible trauma that it inflicts on the child.

If you perhaps have trusted family, friends, or others in a support group that you trust that you can perhaps gain some additional support from or even an "evening or weekend off" this in itself can be a huge source of relief for you as the parents or other typical siblings that may live in the home, but for your ill child as well. More often than not they are just as tired and are wrecked with feelings of guilt for the tole that it takes on mom and dad and the family to care for them 24/7. It also is good for them to see that although you are always there to support and guide them through these tough times as they navigate through this illness- that it is equally as important that the family be a priority as well, and your marriage.

Finally- another thing to consider as you are working with your Doctors on any meds changes would be that you mentioned that your daughter is 12. There may be additional "forces" so to speak that are temporarily making this particular time difficult for her to adjust. The onslot of puberty and monthly fluxuations with her hormones alone can through off even the most effective meds. Also you might consider checking to make sure she doesnt have a slight thyroid issue. This too can lessen or change the overall positive effects of her medications.

It is so great as a parent going through many of these same daily challenges to see and hear from brave parents such as yourself who is truly going to battle each day for your child- Thank you for sharing your story and the best of luck to you and your dear daughter!

Feb 04, 2010
by: Daisy

I feel your pain and struggle. My son is 12 and diagnosed bipolar,ocd and odd as well as sensory issues about age 5. So we have been dealing with this along time as well. I have had to look into residential treatment options also in the past. As of today I havent had to go there yet. Our current psychiatrist says when i ask him how far do you go before resid treatment he says you just do as much as you can with med changes and therapy. I sometimes feel I have had all I can possibly take but then you know the good thing about bipolar is tomorow might not be the same as today. When its bad its really bad but when its good its good. Work with your doctor and therapist as much as you can. Take on as much as you can take on. But when it comes to your safety and sanity and your childs safety its ok to make that call. I wish yall the best and may tomorow be a better day.

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