Jessie vs Mental Illness – To the Victor Go the Spoils

mentalMental illness has been such a destructive force for Jessie, that has seen her life stripped back to its bare bones. She became unable to cope with human contact and attending school became altogether too much for her. Living in the dark of her bedroom, she only came out only for food or the bathroom. She shut right down and pretty much closed herself off to the world for close on 12 months.

Her re-emergence has been a slow and gradual process, but she’s been able to do it in her own time. Because of this, she’s been able to create strong foundations for herself. No-one has built them for her, she’s put in all the hard work, making them pretty sturdy. Her time’s been well spent researching all about bipolar and anxiety as well as positive coping techniques. Jessie’s level of insight into herself and others is amazing and is continuing to grow.

♥ After refusing professional help for many years, appointments are now requested, willingly attended and well utilised.

♥ After being fired from a job at 14 because she was too quiet and shy, she’s now making new friends where she works in customer service. She has to deal with all types of pesky people, some of them quite rude. Just the other night we we’re talking about how resilient it’s helping her become.

♥ After missing probably half of her education since Year 4, being educated at home has allowed Jessie to get back into her studies. She plodded along for the most part but I’ve spoken with 2 teachers who have both said how much things have changed over the last 6 months.

mentalI’d been contacted a few weeks ago as Jessie had won a Principal’s award for her mockumentary she made for English. I was also told that her gothic poem has been printed in the Year Book! That was a good day, made even better seeing Jessie really happy as well. I haven’t seen her outwardly care about her results like that for a long time.

Last week I had a call and a letter to say Jessie was getting another award and could we attend Presentation Day so she can “be presented with her ‘portfolio’ of awards”, whatever that means. It sounds impressive but we joked it could be a plastic sleeve folder with one award. …’To be added to’!

The icing on the cake for Jessie was being accepted into a talent academy. It’s such an awesome opportunity for her and who knows what doors it could open. This will give her training and exposure to agents, and she’s really excited but keeping her feet firmly on the ground. I’ve been receiving emails from Star Now for a few years. The interest’s been there, just not the self esteem.

I’m so rapt that she finally has the confidence to be moving out of her comfort zone. It shows that mental illness no longer holds the monopoly. It hasn’t gone away, but Jessie knows her triggers and symptoms and has a good grasp of her emotions. She’s learning to control the symptoms of her mental illness, instead of them controlling her. And she so deserves these outcomes.

She’s said to me that she’s waiting for it all to fall apart because things don’t go this well for her. Luck has had nothing to do with her academic achievements I reassured her  – they have come from her decision to put the effort in. Her acceptance into the talent academy was due to her creativity and the immediate impression she made at the audition. Jessie has her own green screen and has starred in her own short movies for years. She has earned loads of merit awards throughout  her school years for her stories and poetry. Writing is something she has always enjoyed, even when not engaged in school.

I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. I’m feeling more and more confident that she’s not only going to be okay, she’s going to be awesome. Even during her last full on manic episode where she didn’t sleep for two days, she decided to use it to her benefit. She washed all her bedding, did a big clear out of her wardrobe and drawers, tidied and cleaned her room and did a week’s worth of schoolwork. She was so productive which I think helped her keep it together. By having tasks to focus on, her energy was directed instead of being scattered.

It takes great courage, determination and inner strength to overcome the challenges Jessie has faced in her young life. Like an iceberg, people only see what’s above the surface. However what’s unseen is the largest part of the equation. People like to make judgement on what they see, presuming they understand and are therefore entitled to do so. Jessie’s learning to recognise her worth and not allow others to undermine her achievements. Unlike her mum, others opinions no longer affect her so negatively and this is going to help her immensely in life.

The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.






Life Raising A Bipolar Child/Teen

raisingI’ve been asked to write an article on what it’s like raising a child with bipolar. With so many complexities involved I’m having trouble deciding where to start.

It’s been seven years since Jessie first began experiencing overwhelming emotions and raging tempers. Those years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s been exhausting, distressing, trying, heartbreaking, intense, humorous, enlightening, complicated, stressful and confronting.

raisingI like this meme. It’s true! But on a bad day it makes me laugh, even if it’s a just a chuckle on the inside. I’m getting better and better at this negotiation with swinging moods and thought processes, however there are still times when I go on strike. Well I try.

Unfortunately there’s no-one to take over, so even on strike, I’m always on high alert. That speaks a lot about my personality though. I worry too much about the what-ifs. Worrying is not only counter-productive, it chews up much needed energy. Despite knowing this, it’s my number one barrier to a peaceful mind. Accepting the fact that I no longer have control is something I’ve struggled with. Having to let go and realise that Jessie’s life is actually hers now, is hard! I want to fix everything, I wish I could. But I can’t. Jessie needs to find her own way, and learn to work things out for herself. Being so protective, it can be upsetting for me to take that step back at times.

raisingJessie’s aggression and verbal abuse was incredibly difficult to cope with in the first few years. The work I’ve put in to learning about what is happening for Jessie, along with teaching her new skills, has seen that aggression almost dissipate. She is now 14 and it’s been three years since I’ve required Police assistance. It’s been three years since she has been sectioned by Police under the Mental Health Act.

Communication is now our strength instead of being our downfall. It has taken time, but I have no doubt it has enabled us to move on in a positive direction from such tumultuous times.

With growing maturity Jessie is also taking responsibility for herself. We’ve both learnt the importance of repair after an argument. A big part of that is forgiveness – forgiveness for self and the other party. With Jessie now feeling safe with her emotions, she is able to apologise if she has been rude or has snapped at me. She also has an acute sense of empathy which she is becoming more and more comfortable showing. Taking blame out of picture changes the whole dynamic, it’s amazing.

Raising a child with bipolar has been life changing. I have learnt so much about myself and so much about how to be the best parent I can be. Jessie is a quirky kid and has expanded my mind with her thoughts and experiences. As much as times can still be difficult, I actually think most of that comes from societies perception that our life is not ‘normal’. These labels apply pressure to get your child back into a ‘normal’ life – but who is to say what is normal?

Perfection is not a requirement for love in my heart.


manic depression

Manic Depression and its Evolution to Bipolar.

manic depressionManic depression was the name previously given to the mood disorder, bipolar. Back in the late 1800’s the work of Jean-Pierre Falret, a French psychiatrist, led to the term Manic-depressive psychosis becoming the initial name for this mental illness. He identified the “folie circulaire”, the circular insanity of manic and melancholic episodes, interspersed with periods of balanced emotions. It’s interesting how the word psychosis has been dropped. Variations on the bipolar spectrum are now taken into account.

German psychiatrist, Emil Kraepelin,  was the next to officially define and classify psychosis. In 1902 he differentiated two main types of psychosis – mood and thought. Consequently, ‘manic depression’ he used to describe mental illnesses that centred around emotion and mood. ‘Schizophrenia’ (then called manic depression‘Dementia praecox’ meaning premature madness), he classified as mental illnesses to do with thought or problematic cognitive function.

History saw another important step in the evolutionary ladder to the distinction of manic depression. In the early 1950’s. German psychiatrist Karl Leonhard first introduced the term bipolar. He did this to differentiate unipolar depression (major depressive disorder) and bipolar depression.

1980 heralded the year the term manic depression was officially changed in the classification system to bipolar disorder. This came about with the third publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

So Why Change the Name Entirely?

  • The main reason seems to stem from the stigma attached to the word ‘manic’. Especially relevant, it denotes crazy, out of control connotations which psychiatrists wanted to steer away from.
  • Bipolar sounds like more of a clinical term and less of an ’emotional’ term. As such, it was another way psychiatrists thought would help reduce stigma.

Well that was the theory anyway. Having a daughter who is bipolar, that term is just as emotionally charged these days, at least in the teenage world. The term is used flippantly to describe a change in emotions or a change of mind. It is used just as flippantly as a derogatory name given to someone who has had a change in emotions or thoughts.

  • With the classifications becoming more defined, bipolar would include and exclude mania dependent on the type of bipolar. Manic depressive stereotype excludes by definition those types of mood disorders without manic episodes.

There are four types of Bipolar disorder recognised in the DSM-5. They are:

  • Bipolar I disorder. This type has manic or mixed episodes lasting at least a week. Manic symptoms need to be severe enough to require hospitalisation. Depressive episodes are often present as well.
  • Bipolar II disorder. Hypomanic, or depressive episodes are present, however no manic episodes.
  • Cyclothymic disorder or Cyclothymia. This a milder form of bipolar with both hypomanic and milder depressive episodes for at least two years.
  • Bipolar Disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS). There are symptoms of bipolar present but the criteria for any of the above three types are not met. This type is diagnosed when the symptoms are not normal behaviour for the person.

manic depression

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