I had no choice because his behavior was so out of control. People would come up to me in supermarkets when he was two and say, “Why don’t you spank him, why don’t you just spank him?” He was putting holes in walls at age two and it was outrageous, his behavior was so outrageous that I mean I had to be a total idiot not to recognize it. I didn’t get any support because his paternal grandparents said, “Oh, he’s just being a boy. You know and he’s doing this because you’re a single mother and because you work full time.” But, I knew there was something wrong, when he was one and a half he beat up a six year old, pummeled. I knew that was not normal behavior.


My Support System
I don’t have any immediate family, my parents and brothers died thirty years ago, and I can say without exaggeration that I have gotten zero support until I moved to a new state. I have retroactive self-pity when I think about it. I lost friends because of Cody’s behavior and our world became so narrow. He wouldn’t leave the house, he would beat up kids constantly, and he had no friends ever. So, we ended up having a relationship that was much too close because I had to meet his needs for friendship since he had no friends. Nobody helped me when I had to take him out of school because he tried to kill himself, not one of his classmates parents’ called me to see how he was. My suggestion is that you seek out another parent of a child with special needs, parent group, or therapist to find others with similar experiences and insight. The minute you start talking to other parents who have kids with the same issues you realize that you are somewhat normal and that it’s not your fault and that you have someone to relate to. That’s really helped me tremendously.


Telling people about my child’s depression
I’m very up front maybe to a fault, but my attitude is I don’t want anyone to say “He’s acting a little strange” or “Why is he standing in line punching his mother like this, doesn’t she realize that he shouldn’t?” That isn’t acceptable behavior, but if you have a kid who’s out of control or who’s bipolar you are used to such a range of behaviors that you’d be shocked at what you start considering normal behavior. So, I’m very upfront about it and tell people he has bipolar. I also make recommendations to people such as, he needs eleven hours of sleep, exercise every day, and you must be calm with him because if you yell at him that could set off a rage. Who knows what people are saying behind my back but that’s the way I prefer to do it, just to be totally up front. I use humor a lot and joke about him having his bipolar moments, even in front of his friends.


Sharing the pain
I think it’s important for kids to feel their friends won’t reject them if they know the truth. Sharing the “pain” helps all people; lightens the burden for the afflicted child and hopefully teaches compassion and removes the stigma of mental illness for everyone else.


Even the emotionally healthy need help
What can you do to help yourself, the helpless parent? For me, getting psychiatric treatment for my depression for the first time, at the insistence of my son’s charismatic psychiatrist, and telling my son that I was getting help, were critical for his recovery. But even the emotionally healthy need help– my husband, too, the rock of our lives, needed support to understand all that was happening around him. Take all the help for you that is offered– seek it, if it isn’t.