I am on vacation. This is the first time I have flown since Delta imposed a $25 fee on each piece of luggage — which is really a slap in the face after paying an arm and two legs for a ticket.
Anyway, my resentment over the baggage fee melted — a little — when I saw the choice of in-flight movies and television programs. I found an HBO program called Diagnosis Bipolar. So, at 34,000 feet I learned what it was like to have a child with bipolar disorder.
I wish all the anti-psychotropic naysayers out there could see this program. These are the kids that are allegedly being drugged by pill-popping-happy parents who don’t want to deal, don’t know how to deal or aren’t willing to deal with their child’s bad behavior.
These are the legions of kids who just need more exercise and structure, less sugar and television and good old-fashioned discipline. They need consequences and “traditional” two-parent homes.
I was exhausted after just watching this program. We are talking about little kids who make sounds like enraged, caged animals when told to go to their room. They bite their siblings. They dislocate their parents’ shoulders and scratch and writhe and morph into terrifying supernatural munchkins when their mania kicks in. Or, they try to hang themselves from a bunk bed. They hear voices telling them to do things with knives.
They have no friends and they know it. They aren’t invited to birthday parties and never have play dates or sleepovers. Other parents tell their own kids to stay away from them.
Without fail, every single parent — and these were all two-parent “traditional families — said the last thing they wanted to do was put their kids on medications. They all said they worried terribly about the long-term effects of the drugs. And they all said the drugs seemed to give their child some relief.
The parents all said that they, too, are scorned by other parents. They get those “looks” at the grocery store when their child deposits herself in the parking lot and refuses to get into the minivan. The kids say it feels like there are little people in their head or that one side of their brain wants to do one thing and the other side wants another.
They have horrible, horrible dreams in which they are killed or kill. It was the worst possible childhood or parenting experience I could imagine. I know that the number of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased 4,000 percent since the mid 1990s. I know that not long ago it was believed that children were immune from bipolar disorder.
I know that bipolar is a label you do NOT was put upon your child. I have bipolar disorder and I know what the label means — and I am 51 years old. I did NOT want to take medications. I resisted and only changed my mind when I was at the bottom of a very, very dark hole.
I am glad the American Psychiatric Association wants to add a new diagnosis for some of these children in the upcoming DSM V. It is called temper dysregulation disorder. It is still a brain and biological disorder but not a serious, stigmatized label they will carry for the rest of their lives.
I am sure that this — as with anything that includes the words “children” and “bipolar” — will be controversial. I just hope before anyone makes up their mind about children and bipolar they would take a moment to consider the parents.
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Last reviewed: 11 Mar 2010