A place for families struggling with mental illness. Support, Resources, Sharing Stories
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Another Utah holiday visit with Chloe in the books. It’s always hard for me to leave her alone, confused as to why we’ve sent her away in the first place. Yes, she knows that she hadn’t been making good choices with friends and wasn’t attending school but beyond that, her neurological deficits prevent her from anticipating or understanding what her future might hold when making these choices. She just gets swept away in the drama of the moment.
One of our assignments during our holiday pass with her was to identify A, B and C friends. A task that stressed her and Jeff quite a bit. Chloe because she felt judged by us, and Jeff because it was all he could do to control his emotions while reading some of the posts and conversations going on between Chloe and some of the scumbag predators and users out there.
Our therapist instructed us not to discuss the friends but to simply put them into categories. Then, we will start the process of talking about what qualities embody a good friend and what do not at some point during family therapy.
I’ve always known that Chloe struggles with understanding consequences and connecting the dots, but boy was it blatantly clear a few weeks ago in therapy. We were planning for our holiday pass in Utah and our therapist was trying to help Chloe identify areas in which she could have a successful visit with us, by learning from past mistakes from our recent Thanksgiving visit.
She was having a hard time relating the concepts and didn’t understand what last visit had to do with the upcoming visit. When our therapist asked her how she was feeling, she said, “It feels like you’re trying to trick me into losing my upcoming pass.” I was floored! I asked her, “Do you trust Jon (therapist)?” “I don’t know. I haven’t known him for very long,” she replied. I asked, “Do you trust mommy and daddy to make decisions in your best interest?” “I don’t know,” she replied.
It was heartbreaking for me on so many levels. First and foremost, she’s not sure she can trust us, which I somewhat understand as we’ve had to trick her twice to get her admitted to residential treatment. And, from her point of view, she’s not really sure why she needs to be there. Secondly, her deficits in anticipating the future and connecting the dots are plainly severe. I never really understood how much so until I saw her interaction with her therapist.
It has helped me do a little reflecting on what to expect as we move through our journey with Chloe in her program, as well as supports she may need moving in the future. She is only three months into her program, so she still has a lot of time to develop, mature and learn new skills, as do we. I will admit, I’m not a patient person and Chloe has certainly taught me that good things do come to those who wait and persevere.
We always love seeing Chloe and spending time with her when we get the opportunity. We had a lot of snuggle time during our Christmas visit with her as everyone, except Jeff, ended up getting sick with the crud. Jeff and I did share a beautiful evening walk to the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple on Christmas night, which was stunning. Chloe also got to share with us her favorite hamburger joint in downtown Salt Lake, Hires Big H, on our last evening together. All-in-all, lots of love and positive time shared, in between the sniffles and coughing.
Sometimes, you only need to look another direction to find gratitude, hope and love.
Most people love the holidays and look forward to spending time with family and friends. I enjoy the holidays, too, but the stress of parties, traveling and preparing for events, can leave me feeling drained and down. I’m also painfully aware that the anniversary of a friend’s death and the suicide of another friend’s daughter is right around the corner.
During the busy holiday season, it can be easy to miss signs that a teen may be struggling with depression and/or thoughts of suicide. It isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression and normal teenage growing pains. But teen depression goes beyond moodiness. It’s a serious health problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Fortunately, it’s treatable and an adult’s support can go a long way toward getting your teenager back on track.
- Watch for red flags, including irritability and anger
- Set aside quality time each day to talk face-to-face
- Focus on listening, not lecturing
- Encourage teens to spend time with friends
- Make sure he or she is getting plenty of sleep and exercise
Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers rely on parents, teachers or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the help they need. So, it’s important to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs.
While it might seem that recognizing depression is easy, the signs aren’t always obvious. For one, teens with depression don’t necessarily appear sad. Irritability, anger and agitation may be the most prominent symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens
Is It Depression or Teenage Growing Pains?
A certain amount of moodiness and acting out is par for the course with teens. But persistent changes in personality, mood or behavior are red flags of a deeper problem. If you’re unsure if your child is depressed or just “being a teenager,” consider how long the symptoms have been going on, how severe they are and how different your child is acting from his or her usual self. Hormones and stress can explain the occasional bout of teenage angst—but not continuous and unrelenting unhappiness lethargy, or irritability.
Suicide in Teenagers
Seriously depressed teens often think about, speak of or make “attention-getting” attempts at suicide. But an alarming and increasing number of teenage suicide attempts are successful, so suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken very seriously.
For the overwhelming majority of suicidal teens, depression or another psychological disorder plays a primary role. In depressed teens who also abuse alcohol or drugs, the risk of suicide is even greater. Because of the very real danger of suicide, teenagers who are depressed should be watched closely for any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Talking or joking about committing suicide
- Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
- Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people might love me more”)
- Writing stories and poems about death, dying or suicide
- Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
- Giving away prized possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
- Seeking out weapons, pills or other ways to kill themselves
Get Help for a Suicidal Teen
If you suspect that a teenager you know is suicidal, take immediate action! For 24-hour suicide prevention and support in the U.S., call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. All calls are confidential.
Don’t Ignore the Problem
Depression is very damaging when left untreated, so don’t wait and hope that worrisome symptoms will go away. If you suspect that your child is depressed, bring up your concerns in a loving, non-judgmental way. Even if you’re unsure that depression is the issue, the troublesome behaviors and emotions you’re seeing are signs of a problem that should be addressed.
Open up a dialogue by letting your teen know what specific signs of depression you’ve noticed and why they worry you. Then ask your child to share what he or she is going through—and be ready and willing to truly listen. Hold back from asking a lot of questions (teenagers don’t like to feel patronized or crowded), but make it clear that you’re ready and willing to provide whatever support they need.
Tips for Communicating with a Depressed Teen
Focus on listening, not lecturing. Resist any urge to criticize or pass judgment once your teenager begins to talk. The important thing is that your child is communicating. You’ll do the most good by simply letting your teen know that you’re there for them, fully and unconditionally.
Be gentle but persistent. Don’t give up if they shut you out at first. Talking about depression can be very tough for teens. Even if they want to, they may have a hard time expressing what they’re feeling. Be respectful of your child’s comfort level while still emphasizing your concern and willingness to listen.
Acknowledge their feelings. Don’t try to talk your teen out of depression, even if their feelings or concerns appear silly or irrational to you. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad” will just come across as if you don’t take their emotions seriously. To make them feel understood and supported, simply acknowledging the pain and sadness they are experiencing can go a long way in making them feel understood and supported.
Trust your gut. If your teen claims nothing is wrong but has no explanation for what is causing the depressed behavior, you should trust your instincts. If your teen won’t open up to you, consider turning to a trusted third party: a school counselor, favorite teacher or mental health professional. The important thing is to get them talking to someone.
*Information courtesy of www.helpguide.org. Learn more at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml.
The holidays can be difficult for some people. The stress of our upcoming Thanksgiving visit in Utah with our daughter, Chloe, is slowly creeping up on me.
Chloe is receiving a four-night pass for Thanksgiving, so we decided to rent a house in Sundance, Utah. Jeff’s parents, my parents, Sophia, Jeff and I are all traveling out to see her and spend the holiday weekend with her. While I’m super excited, I also know Chloe needs an abundance of structured activities to keep her active mind occupied, and structure is not something that comes naturally to me while on vacation. Plus, the unpredictability of our visit and family dynamics have me a little on edge.
Below are some tips our therapist has recommended for a successful holiday with Chloe and family, as well as guidance from the professionals at Psychology Today and the Mayo Clinic:
- Plan ahead. This is a big one for our family to clarify expectations and set boundaries, not only with Chloe but our other family members.
- Experts suggest identifying specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Another primary goal for Jeff and me during our holiday with Chloe is to stick to our boundaries and say “no” when appropriate. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Family, friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Even recognizing and expressing that you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or stressed out can help take the edge off.
- If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress, too.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.Try these suggestions:
- Add healthy snacks or meals to your day.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Experts suggest:
- Taking a walk or stargaze at night.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Reading a book.
- Ask for help. Holidays are often a time people attempt to take on too much, do too much on their own. It’s OK to ask for help from family and friends. Whether for decorating, shopping, cooking, or a shoulder to lean on, ASK.
- Be good to yourself. If you’re feeling blue, pamper yourself, do what feels good, what you want to do. Try to take a walk, spend time alone if that’s what you want. Remember, this is your holiday too and you can be there for yourself just like you try to be for everyone else.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
We wish you a great Thanksgiving holiday! Gobble, gobble!
My thanks to Dee-Anne Everson at the Jackson County United way and Mail Tribune editor, Cathy Noah, for helping to educate others about youth mental illness and stomping out stigma and shame! It takes a village to make a change! Thank you!
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It’s 2:30 Monday morning. We’ve been tossing and turning all night. But it’s finally here. Time to get up and prepare for their arrival. We’ve been planning for this day for over two months. First, our visit with consultants in Portland, Oregon. Then, waiting for their recommendations. Finally, the best fit for Chloe would be at a therapeutic boarding school in Utah, an hour south of Salt Lake City and a 10 hour drive from our home.
The consultant advises me to call the school immediately to hold a spot and fly out to interview the program as soon as possible. I arrive there 10 days later. It’s a contemporary beautiful two-story home with an open kitchen and dining area, large living spaces with vaulted ceilings, small group class sizes, and what Chloe will love most, 15 horses and an equine program that is part of the curriculum. It doesn’t take long before I’m sold on the academic, recreational and therapeutic components of the program, as well as the warm and engaging staff.
Though initially in denial, we’ve known since January that this time would come. She had been doing so well. She was on track with school, focused and getting good grades, and there was finally hope that she would graduate high school.
Then winter break hit and too much idle time spells trouble for Chloe, whose brain lacks executive functioning, good judgment and impulse control. Poor decisions lead to more poor decisions and the reality for many of the “friends” she hangs with is that there is little structure and no expectation for them to attend school, work or plan for a future.
Then, one night, towards the end of winter break, Chloe is set up for a fight with a girl that is supposed to be her “friend.” Most likely, because of a comment she unknowingly and flippantly made. The video of the fight goes viral. Between the betrayal of her friends and the social media frenzy, it is enough to set Chloe back two years. She falls into a deep depression and funk. Her behaviors are reminiscent of when she was 10. She can’t focus at school and eventually drops out in late January for the remainder of the year.
Her 15th birthday in May is our next sign that she needs help. She has another set of friends. This time, one has a bad home life and stays at our house for refuge. She also uses drugs (not in our house) to escape her horrible home reality. Chloe feels bad for her friend and wants to help her, unable to see that the friend only uses her for money and to steal from our family to exchange for drugs. It takes Chloe about a month for her to realize that her “friend” will choose drugs over her every time.
The third and final indicator occurs in July. Again, new friends; every time one relationship goes wrong, Chloe desperately seeks new ones, hoping to find people she can trust, who are loyal and accept her for who she is. Unfortunately, the outcome is always similar. This time, she has unknowingly invited a dealer into our home. My younger daughter witnesses through an outside window suspicious activity among a few of the boys. Upon my arrival to the house, my youngest frantically tells me what she’s seen. I race into the house and into Chloe’s room and immediately find the evidence I need to kick these kids out of my house.
Again, feeling defeated and hopeless, Chloe writes a post, “…I’m always put down and I am never ever happy with myself. I always find a way to F@#% something important up and I don’t know how to stop it. I just wanna have a nice life but I can’t because I’m a mentally-challenged person. I didn’t even ask to be mentally-challenged, I was born with it…I’m literally so close to ending my life, you don’t understand. Yeah, I look happy on the outside but on the inside I’m just a disaster and disappointment.”
The next morning, Jeff and I have a session with our therapist and for the third time, she tells us Chloe needs intervention, otherwise we can look forward to a future of probable drug addiction, legal problems or worse, suicide or death.
We know this round of treatment has to be different than last time. One that’s specialized, focused on Chloe’s Asperger’s traits, bipolar diagnosis and all the other co-morbid diagnoses that come with it. We also know an equine component will be critical for her healing and learning. And, our family’s therapy and education will also be instrumental to her success. Though the $11,000 monthly tuition is daunting and almost cost-prohibitive, it’s the step we must take and we’re more than willing to sacrifice our retirement savings to make it happen.
Chloe is absolutely worth it.
I broach the subject with her after another fight in which she gets jumped by an 18-year-old girl. Again, there is a video that goes viral and the shock and trauma she experiences makes her once more question her life and existence. I tell her there are options. A school where she can study her unique learning style while experiencing an equine program. Raw from the attack and emotionally unable to cope, Chloe freaks out at the fact that we would even consider sending her away to a boarding school, “You don’t love me! You just want to get rid of me and my problems.” I tell her that’s not true and try to explain our fears for her future. But her neurological Asperger’s condition leaves her unable to understand my point or see the eventual consequences of her behavior.
At 3:15 a.m. that Monday morning, two intervention specialists arrive in a car to take Chloe to the Utah program. We give them her backpack and then head to her bedroom. My knees and hands are shaking, my heart pounding as I turn on the lights and introduce her to the two escorts that will take her to her new school. “I told you I don’t want to go, mom,” Chloe says. “I know,” I say, and the intervention specialists instruct Jeff and me to say our goodbyes and leave the house. We drive a mile to Jeff’s parents’ house, who are on vacation, and sit on their bed crying. “It’s not her fault she has this condition,” I say, painfully. “It’s no one’s fault, Andrea,” Jeff responds.
That Monday was miserable. Jeff and I sat in each other’s arms crying most of the day, wondering how she must be coping in a new state, a new place with people she doesn’t know. We hear from Chloe’s therapist that she’s doing well and is determined. We won’t have contact with her for two weeks and we will see her for the first time, face-to-face, six weeks into her program.
As I’ve said before, some of the hardest decisions in life are also the best. My oldest sister, Kelly, sent me an appropriate Christopher Robin quote the day before Chloe’s departure that I wrote on a note and put in her backpack, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
This week, Impulsive Irene came to visit. As many of you may know, having a mental illness doesn’t include just one symptom but a myriad of co-existing symptoms and diagnoses. So, while Manic Marge may be predominantly present one day, Anxious Annie, Impulsive Irene and Depressed Debbie may be lurking around the corner, ready to make their presence known at any moment.
About a week ago, I saw a Facebook post on Impulsive Irene’s account that said if she got 99 likes and 99 comments, she would get a new kitten. I sort of chuckled to myself, thinking, “Where does she come up with this stuff? She knows she can’t really get a new kitten, doesn’t she?” The thought quickly left my mind as I rushed to remind Irene that she’s not allowed to be on Facebook because she’s impulsive and makes irrational, thoughtless comments that can get her in trouble.
As if my reminder would instantly banish her from Facebook, I went about my business, work, life, etc… Then, a week later, like a memory out of a warped dream, Chloe comes bounding into the laundry room, shouting excitedly, “You have to get me a new kitten!” “What?!” I ask. “No I don’t. What are you talking about?”
“I got 108 likes and 101 comments! I get a new kitten,” she exclaims. “Well that was your post not mine. I had nothing to do with that,” I try to reason with her. Undeterred, she goes running off to Jeff to tell him the same thing, to which he responds, “We’re not getting a kitten, Chloe. We don’t need another animal in this house!”
That ended that conversation, so we thought. The same evening, Irene comes into my room to tell me she’s going to go hang out with a friend for a bit. “Ok,” I say. 10 minutes later, she calls me from her room downstairs. “Come here,” she says. “Where are you?” I say, puzzled. “I’m in my room. Come here.” I thought she was with a friend, I think to myself. I head downstairs and enter her room. From behind a pillow she pulls out a little fuzzy gray kitten. “Oh Chloe, where did you get that!?” I ask, bewildered. “A cat rescue house I found on Facebook.” “Ugh,” I say. “Your father is not going to be happy!”
Needless-to-say, daddy was quite angry. However, we did end up keeping the flea-infested kitten that had a grape-sized abscess on its chin. $98 and a vet visit later, Athena the kitten is flea and abscess-free and quite happy with Chloe and our other furry house friends.
Managing a mentally ill youth or loved one can definitely leave you drained of all of your patience and energy. I often feel like I’m running around in circles just to keep up with Chloe and all her “personalities” that come with her illness.
Below are a few tips that have helped me parent and manage Chloe over the years:
- Accept your loved one for who they are. They can’t change. You can’t change. You can only change the way you respond.
- Try to keep a sense of humor. While their behavior can be frustrating and seem manipulative, at their core, they want to be loved, just like everyone else.
- Remain calm. When you get upset, it triggers your loved one to get upset, too. When tempers flare, it’s difficult to think rationally and say things with an open mind and heart.
- Use empathy and listening to discover what they need or to help solve problems.
- Recognize that it’s not your fault, it’s not their fault, it is an illness that they need help managing.
If you need more support, Andrea with Bipolar Lemonade offers one-on-one sessions. CLICK HERE to learn more or schedule an appointment.
Even when we know Manic Marge is coming to visit, we feel like there is really very little we can do to prepare for her. You see, May is Chloe’s birthday month, and not so coincidentally, we also coin it Manic May. I partially blame Manic May on my husband and his family since every birthday in their family is celebrated the ENTIRE month instead of just the day. In fact, they even NAME the month after themselves, like “Jefftember” and “Raytober.” It’s no wonder Marge can hardly hold herself back when May rolls around.
Manic Marge always makes her presence known the first week in May almost warning us, “It’s my birthday month, you know.” As if she’s entitled to do anything she chooses. We try to remind her that just because it’s her birthday month, she still has house rules to follow and expectations. But she can barely hold herself together.
The first week of May this year, Marge started with frequent visits to the park down the street to meet friends. “Be back by eight, Chloe,” I’d say as she dashed out the door. But eight o’clock would come and go and I would call her soon after, “Where are you?” I’d ask. “I’m having a conversation with my friends,” she’d say, annoyed by my inquiry. “Well you were supposed to be home at eight,” I remind her. “You better get back before your dad gets home from soccer practice.” 15 more minutes roll by when she finally saunters into the room where I’m paying bills and announces, “I’m really stressed at school so I think I’m going to stop going until I’m not so anxious.” “That sounds like a great idea, Chloe,” I say sarcastically. “How do you plan on graduating high school or holding down a job if you just ‘quit’ when you’re stressed out? Everyone gets stressed out, you need to learn to manage it.”
As frustrating as this dialogue is to me and Jeff, the fact is, her solution made perfect sense to her and the idea of “managing her stress” is a skill she can barely perform on her best days, much less on days she’s feeling stressed out and manic. It’s easy to forget that our mentally ill youth and loved ones have a disability because we can’t see it! In our rational minds, we can easily pass it off as lazy, willful and rude behavior, when in fact they are most likely expending a whole lot of energy just trying to hold it together.
It always helps to get some perspective with my own mental illness, too. As of late, I’ve been struggling with some depression. We have a lot going on at our house and something to do almost every night. The constant activity gives me little time to exercise and nearly no down time, which my sensitive mind needs a healthy amount of both. The free time I do have is usually spent sleeping. I have to remind myself and my husband that it’s my body’s way of healing itself and recovering. It is a good reminder that it’s okay to take care of yourself and listen to your body. Just as it’s okay for Chloe to listen to her body and respond as needed.
One of the best things we can do for a loved one that struggles with a mental illness is to try to provide support and compassion. Although, you may not understand what they’re going through, trust that they’re doing the best they can with what they have. Empathy works wonders in helping them solve problems and validate feelings.
Collaborative Proactive Solutions (CPS) is a great skill you can use with someone who struggles with a mental illness. You can find some examples in one of our other blogs or on the site of the CPS guru, Dr. Ross Greene, http://cpsconnection.com/CPSmodel.
For one-on-one support, schedule time with Bipolar Lemonade founder, Andrea.
“You just do the best you can with what you’ve got,” is how Alana Nichols describes her continued drive towards excellence and ability to earn three gold medals in both alpine skiing and basketball so far during her athletic career as a Paralympic. Her statement is so true and applicable to everyone we encounter daily. Even people who suffer from a mental illness do the best they can with what they have.
I watched Alana’s story on 60 Minutes Sports on Showtime recently. I was in awe of her unstoppable motivation to push her limits and challenge her athletic abilities daily. At age 17, Alana broke her back in three places leaving her paralyzed from the hips down. Her choices were pretty clear – shutting down and falling into a deep depression or figuring out how to put her phenomenal athletic abilities to work in her new body. She chose the latter.
While I love inspiring stories as much as the next, it made me reflect on how we rarely hear amazing stories of people with mental illnesses. It’s an invisible and shameful illness and is difficult to explain and describe. Even invisible illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart issues, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s garner much more compassion and sympathy than mental illness. People with mental illness are questioned about the validity of their illness and shamed into silence. Furthermore, support for those suffering or caregivers is slim to none.
I shared my feelings with a friend after I watched Alana’s story. My friend also has a son who suffers from a mental illness and lives at home at age 32. She is a speech therapist and told me of a couple and their young son she met with. The boy had recently been diagnosed by a neurologist with Tourettes. What she also noticed in his file was a chart note the boy’s pediatrician made about his mental illness, “He’s a boy. His behavior is boy behavior. Deal.” When I hear stories about my friend’s clients’ son, it makes it blatantly obvious why people are silenced into shame and often continue leading a miserable life without support or resources. If we can’t trust a doctor or health care provider for reassurance and support, who can we trust?
Bipolar Lemonade would love to hear your stories of stigma and shame associated with your or a loved one’s mental illness. Please share.
We also offer support through individual coaching with Andrea. To learn more or schedule an appointment with Andrea, click here.
It’s been awhile since Manic Marge has been at our house. We’re so used to seeing Anxious Annie and Depressed Debbie that when Manic Marge pops into the picture, we forget how colorful our life can become in a hurry!
As is typical when we see a large swing one way or another, there is usually a trigger that sets it off. Our recent visit from Manic Marge was prompted by my husband’s trip to Las Vegas. So, really, Sophia and I were the ones that got to experience Manic Marge in all her glory.
Manic Marge made her presence known Tuesday, one day before Jeff was to leave for Vegas. I’m at work and get a call from a police officer saying that Chloe (Marge’s “real” name) had posted some fairly violent comments on Facebook. In fact, the officer notified me, a month earlier, the police had handcuffed and arrested a student from a local high school for making similar comments. Only in his case, he directed the comments toward the school. Marge was smart enough to make sweeping generalizations about how she’d target half the town.
“What were you thinking?” I asked Marge. “It was a joke. I thought it was funny,” she said “Well, it’s not funny at all and we have a meeting with the officer this afternoon.”
Within minutes of hanging up the phone with her, she texted me and said that we’d need to meet the officer another day. She had to go help a friend with her injured horse. I called her immediately, enraged. “What is wrong with you? This is serious! You could go to jail for something like this! We will meet with the police officer this afternoon. You may not go off and help your friend with her horse.”
I met Marge and the officer at a school to talk. She immediately burst into tears. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I was supposed to go to Salem (four hours away) with my friend and now I can’t go because they couldn’t wait for me!” she sobbed. “Salem?!” I said. “I thought you said you were going to help your friend with her horse?” “Well I knew you’d say no but we were going to be back by eight tonight.” Exasperated, I said, “Chloe, Salem is four hours away and if they just left, they’ll be getting there at eight. You wouldn’t have been home until one o’clock in the morning!” Not concerned at all by having to talk with the police officer or by what she had done on Facebook, she said, “Well now it’s all ruined because of this!”
Later that night I calmly explained to Marge why I wouldn’t have let her go to Salem with some stranger that I didn’t know, to a location I didn’t know, to meet up with some other stranger that I didn’t know. I know, right!? It gets better.
Jeff was off to Vegas the next morning and I went to work as usual. I get a call around noon from Marge asking if her friend could come spend the night (it’s spring break, you know; even though she hasn’t been to school in more than two months). Fine, I agreed. I told her I would be going to exercise class after work and then needed to pick Sophia up from an event, take her to soccer practice, attend a parent meeting, and then I’d be home.
My class was from 5:30-6:30 pm and when it was done, I had eight missed calls from Marge on my phone plus a text, “Jenny and I are ordering Olive Garden online and you need to go pick it up and pay for it.” I call, “What did you order and what time will it be ready?” “We ordered fettucine, salad and bread sticks and it will be ready in an hour,” she said. Okay, I thought, the timing will actually work out fine. I went and picked up Soph from her event and dropped her off at soccer practice. I jumped on the freeway and got to Olive Garden in plenty of time to pay the bill and drop it off with Marge at home. I proceed to pay the dinner bill and it’s over $60 for two teenage girls! “What the heck did they order,” I ask the cashier. “Two fettucine plates, salad and 48 bread sticks,” she said. “48 bread sticks!?”
Sending back most of the bread sticks and fixing the order added another 10 minutes to my trip. I hustled home to drop the order to Marge only to find the house empty. “Where are you!?” I called her, frustrated. “We went with my friend to give her horse medicine and to Walmart,” says Marge. Irritated, I reply, “Well your hot food is here and waiting. I’ll see you after I get home with Sophia.”
More than two hours after her initial call for food, Soph and I return home from soccer practice. Again, no Marge in sight. “Where the hell are you?!” I call her cell. “We’ll be home in 10 minutes,” says Marge. 10 minutes pass, no Marge. I’m doing laundry when a half hour later I hear her come through the door. Marge comes sauntering to the laundry room with a box and small bag from Walmart. “What’s in the box, Chloe?” I ask. “I couldn’t leave them on the side of the road,” says Marge. “You didn’t find them on the side of the road. Don’t lie. What’s in the box?” “Baby bunnies,” she says. “Oh, Chloe! Where did you get them?” I sigh. “In Grants Pass. Look at them. They’re so cute.” “How many are there?” I say. “Three,” says Marge. “Your dad is going to kill you.”
Thankfully, the next day without dad passes with no harm, no foul and Marge plays happily with her bunnies. Friday rolls around and her friend comes over for the night again. This time, they want to go out with some other friends. Asking the standard questions, “Where are you going? With who?” I agree, stating that she needs to be home by 10 pm. About an hour after she leaves, she texts me and says that she and her friend are going to stay the night with another friend, who I trust. However, I was a little suspicious because of all the lying, so I messaged the mom to check it out. I didn’t hear from the mom but I was pretty sure Marge was up to something. I told her that the friend’s mom said that there were no plans for a sleepover and that she needed to come home immediately. “No!” she curtly replied and then sent a long paragraph about how we never let her have fun and we always say no. I called and told her she needed to talk to me next time and that I would let her stay out a little later. “Be home by 11 pm,” I said.
1:15 am rolls around and in comes Marge and her friend. Needless-to-say, the next day I took the baby bunnies to the local animal control center and firmly said, “No!” when she asked to go out again the next night.
I could go on and on about the mental health reasons she did what she did but quite frankly, I’m exhausted. And, if you know anyone who’s ever been manic, your’re smiling and shaking your head. Off to take a nap!
Managing a youth with a mental illness is challenging and a struggle to say the least. Andrea with Bipolar Lemonade provides support for families with a mentally ill loved one. Click here to Schedule An Appointment.
HALT – Do you know what it means? It’s a great technique for anyone to use to manage emotions and moods, but it’s especially useful for those with the mental illness.
HALT – Never let yourself get too:
Makes sense, huh? Have you ever noticed how much any of these, when ignored too long, can really affect your mood. For those with a mental illness, managing HALT is critical to avoiding major relapses and keeping a healthy balance in life.
HUNGRY – As you probably know, the food you eat can have a direct effect on your energy level, physical health and mood. And when your blood level drops or spikes, it can also have a dramatic impact on your mental stability. For those who struggle with depression, some vitamins and minerals may help with symptoms. These include folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc and omega-3. Experts agree that regular meals and snacks, combining a protein, nutrient-dense carbohydrate and healthy fat, is the key to a balanced diet and mind.
ANGRY – Anger is a normal human emotion that can cause slight irritation to a strong rage. Suppressed anger can be an underlying cause of anxiety and depression, which can disrupt thinking, behavior patterns and even physical health problems. It’s important to learn ways to manage anger and stress.
- Use deep belly breathing as a way to calm and center yourself.
- Use positive self talk and words that combat angry thoughts, like “relax” or “slow down.”
- Be assertive calmly and directly instead of aggressively about issues you have with someone.
- Seek out the support of others to talk through your feelings.
- Keep a log of when you feel angry.
- Use empathy to put yourself in someone else’s place.
- Learn to laugh at yourself.
- Seek professional help if you feel your anger is affecting your relationships or your health.
LONELY – Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but long periods of loneliness or social isolation can have a negative impact on your health as much as obesity. Research suggests that people need to attend to loneliness in the same way they would their diet, exercise or how much sleep they get. So what should a lonely person do?
- Recognize the loneliness.
- Understand what the loneliness is doing to your mind and body, so you can do something about it. Studies show that loneliness increases the risk for death by 45 percent and the chance of developing dementia by 64 percent.
- Respond to your loneliness “safely.” Social media isn’t a substitute for face-to-face contact, but it’s better than nothing. Sometimes it’s best to sign up or join something that’s a bit outside your comfort zone. You may be nervous or self-conscious at first but it’s typically worth it.
- A therapist can also help if loneliness comes with anxiety or depression.
TIRED – Sleep is so critical to the good mental health of everyone. Sleep deprivation for someone managing a mental illness can trigger depression, manic episodes and psychosis. However, everyone needs a good night sleep to think clearly and keep your mood in check. If you struggle with falling asleep or staying asleep, below are some tips that might help out. Consult a health care provider if you have more serious sleep challenges.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
- Establish a bedtime ritual.
- Avoid caffeine after 1 p.m.
- Eat on a regular schedule and avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
- Exercise daily but try to avoid strenuous exercise right before bedtime.
- Play soothing music or read.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Place lavender oil on your pillow or by your bedside.
Andrea with Bipolar Lemonade can provide support through one-on-one services. Click here to Schedule An Appointment.