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Telling your kid....that *he's* bipolar?

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by Tigger » Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:45 am

Hi all-

My son knows that he has a mood disorder (he hates that term) but doesn't know that it's bipolar. We haven't told him yet for a couple of reasons. One--he's 11 and we didn't want him to google "bipolar disorder" and freak out over what he'd read (i.e. suicide) and two--in the beginning we weren't sure it *was* bipolar and the pdoc and tdoc were telling us that it could resolve into unipolar depression as he gets older.

But, he's clearly bipolar and I think given our family history (my grandmother was bipolar, I've got clinical depression, nephew is schizoprenic and other nephew is autistic/bipolar) that he's got bipolar. He doesn't have depression.

Before he goes to middle school next year I'd like him to know. We do talk about the disorder quite a bit--we talk about symptoms and he can name them. He's very good at that in fact. We just haven't said "bipolar."

Thoughts on this discussion? I don't want this to be a big "reveal." I'd like it to be a low key convo. Has anyone done this before? I'm going to read through the thread below on telling your child that *you* have bipolar disorder, but I thought I'd see if anyone has an experience to share.

Thanks all. And just to reiterate, he's been dx for a year and he's 11 years old. 12 in August.
_______

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Meds: 300mg Lamictal; 300mg Lithium; 10mg Abilify; .50mg Risperdal
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by AvantGarde » Fri Mar 10, 2017 9:56 am

I think, and this is just my 2 cents, you shouldn't emphasize the label but let him understand the label through the symptoms. "You know your highs, you know your lows" kinda conversation, explain that the racing thoughts have a reason, he can recognize his symptoms and then a label is just needed for the doctors, not for him.

You can show him yourself websites that are focused on the good part of bipolar that is treatment, and come up with ideas with him on how to cope with his symptoms, instead of his label.

Well, this is what I think should be the best approach. Hope others have more to give. I have some experience working with kids with mental disorders and the ones who have insight mostly focus on the symptoms.
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by Tigger » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:37 am

Very interesting. I completely see your point. To be honest, I'm trying to avoid a scenario where he realizes that these symptoms = bipolar disorder and then he wonders why we didn't tell him. See what I mean?
_______

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by AvantGarde » Fri Mar 10, 2017 10:46 am

I understand. If he recognizes the symptoms as just a checklist for the label, the crash must be less hard. I think it's always terrible, even for grownups, especially because we don't have our parents to guide us, to accept we have a mental illness.
If he already accepts it, it should be less hard just to accept which is it. Of course, bipolar can be worse than depression, which is what he thinks he has now. But it isn't always the case, sometimes depression is worse than bipolar depending on the person.

If he's strong enough to accept the depression label, I think he's strong enough to accept the bipolar label. It's just a matter of seeing how the symptoms meet. You can go over the DSM-V (it's available online) for both depression and bipolar with him and see what he thinks and go from there.

Explain that the label is only important to the doctor, so he knows what meds work or not, with a better diagnosis comes better treatment and even stability.

Edit to add that I didn't read your premise right :lol: Maybe don't wait so long to tell him, he doesn't need to be in the dark. Things are only big if we make them big, if you make it appropriate for the circunstances, then he'll understand.
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by Tigger » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:09 am

:lol: Yeah. I just don't want him to think we suck and have kept something from him.

I like the whole "label is for the doctor's purposes" line of thinking.
_______

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by AvantGarde » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:13 am

You should be fine :)
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by Mocha » Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:26 am

Tigger, I thought of something else......you know how other kids at schools can be alsolute shitasses........Maybe you can let him know, that no one at school has to know.

btw.......I wonder why he hates 'mood disorder' so much. Seems like he would like it better than 'bipolar'.....when you tell him, that is.

I'm so outta the closet about having BP........but when I think it's no one's damn business, someone I don't know very well, or like, I will say 'mood disorder'...fuck 'em...... :lol: ..
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by Alison » Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:37 pm

Just a quick question, may I ask how you figured out with the docs that he has BP? Our doc said kids don't show it that young, and I feel that my son (12) does but they are only willing to diagnose with depression and anxiety. I'm sorry I know that has nothing to do with your concerns about telling your son. My opinion on that is my kids prefer me to always shoot straight with them. I want them to be open and honest so I am the same to them and that works for us and helps dismiss anxiety of wondering if there is more to tell. But that's just me and mine, best of luck with what works best for u :)
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by Tigger » Sat Mar 11, 2017 7:55 am

Mocha I'm totally with you on the disclosure thing with friends. He also has ADHD and has only told a couple of his closest friends about that diagnosis. I've never told him to keep that to himself but he seems to have the sense to keep his private info private. I'd make sure he understands that some friends might have a hard time with the BP info.

Allison kids can absolutely show symptoms of bipolar disorder. My son was diagnosed after displaying rapid cycling of depression and hypomania, including mixed states. Juvenile BP doesn't look the same as it does for adults, which can make dx tricky and lead to years of misdiagnosis. We are very, very lucky that we had a pdoc at the time (for his ADHD) that recognized it for what it was. And trust me, we were skeptical. Got second and third opinions. We've since switched to a different pdoc that specializes in juvenile bp disorder and there is no question that he has it. Do you chart your child's moods? It can make it very clear what you're dealing with. The other thing is that most children have co-morbid dx that can muddy the water when it comes to an accurate dx.

When we read books like The Bipolar Child we said "that's not our kid." He didn't have the explosive tantrums or ODD. But, as someone on this board rightly pointed out to me a little while ago, adults with BP don't all display symptoms the same way either, so why would kids? Good point.

Check out the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation for info. http://www.jbrf.org/what-is-juvenile-bipolar-disorder/

On Mocha's recommendation, I checked out The Balanced Mind Parent's Network and joined one of their private list servs. I had to pay to join the community, but I don't mind. It's private and people share info such as doctors, struggles with dx, challenges with parenting, etc.
http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=bmpn_landing

Good luck Allison!
_______

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