As a high school in the mid-1990s, I was given the label of “lazy.” That’s what you call kids who skip school, never do the homework they’re given when they show up, and sleep on their desks. The consensus was that I just didn’t care, and everyone was right about that most of the time. I was just trying to survive until I could graduate. Were it not for my parents, I might have dropped out.
Of course, I wasn’t just apathetic, I was also suicidal, extremely emotionally needy, and obsessed with sex…oh, but I did lead the Bible study club.
I’d have moments when I decided I was going to totally turn things around, and I’d stop telling my problems to my teachers and start saying that all I needed was Jesus. I’d study like crazy, do my homework, and ace a test or two. It usually only lasted about a week, and then I stopped caring again. Of course, that was seen as me only playing mind games with my parents and the school staff. What made it worse was that my brothers were straight-A students. I’m pretty sure I got passed from grade to grade and eventually graduated only because my teachers didn’t want to teach a 25-year-old woman for the 10th straight year. After three perfunctory suicide attempts, my handlers decided it was time to send me to a shrink.
Dr. Z. was a 6-foot-tall, blonde linebacker of a woman with enormous Sally Jesse Rafael glasses who never looked at me or offered feedback. She was always at least 30 minutes late starting our sessions, and the only time I ever saw her smile was when I told her I had a schnauzer puppy. She concluded that I was depressed (after only 3 suicide attempts?) and put me on a little blue pill called Zoloft. It helped…a little. I wasn’t suicidal all the time, so it was good for something. But the weird ups and downs didn’t stop. I couldn’t keep up with the work. I couldn’t keep up with my life.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 24, I was still taking that little blue pill, and I found out that taking an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer can actually make bipolar worse. Oh, to know then what I know now. I wonder how different my adolescence would have been.
Bipolar disorder manifests itself differently in teenagers than it does in adult.
I had all the symptoms, but between social workers, guidance counselors, student interventionists, and a psychiatrist, the pieces never came together.
The fact that I am alive is evidence of God’s grace. I am grateful for the help I’ve received, and for the fact that I am a functioning human being. Yet, I can’t help but feel a little sad that I didn’t have the full teenage experience. So, please, if you think your child might be suffering beyond the typical adolescent drama, you owe it to your child and yourself to learn more and seek help.
Yes, our kids are over-medicated, but many are in pain and they don’t have to be. These are years they will never get back. Find out what is holding them back.