Bipolar disorder does have a genetic component, meaning if you have bipolar, your children are at an increased risk of having it themselves. But what does that mean on a practical basis?
How do you know if your child actually has bipolar or if you might be seeing something that isn’t there? Is the “symptom” you see an indicator or just normal teenage behavior? Join us as Dr. Nicole and Gabe discuss how to advocate for the children in your life and handle your own fears.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.
Find out more at DrNicolePsych.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.
Gabe: Hello, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.
Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.
Gabe: Dr. Washington, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you before, but I decided not to have children because of the inheritability rate of bipolar disorder. Now, I actually I decided not to have children because I was terrified that they would have bipolar disorder and that my bipolar disorder would infect them. And it was it was all very, very terrifying. And it’s not an uncommon feeling for people with bipolar disorder to be terrified of passing this on. But I want to be clear, that was the extent of my research. I had heard that people with bipolar disorder will give their kids bipolar. And that was just too much for me. And it was it was based on more fear than fact.
Dr. Nicole: A lot of people that I see who have bipolar disorder have zero family history. And I see a lot of people who have bipolar illness whose children don’t have bipolar illness. So, I don’t know that we are 100% certain on what to make of that. I think you have to think about those things if you’re family planning, if you’re at a stage where you say, hey, I have bipolar disorder. Do I want to pass this to children? And the numbers can be a little all over the place. So, you can look up on different sites. And one site may tell you if you have a parent with bipolar illness, it’s 10%. Another site may say up to 30%. We are so, we are still in that space of trying to figure out the brain. You know, it’s to me, that’s why I went into psychiatry. It is still the final frontier of medicine, if you ask me. It’s still that place where we still are a little bit confused.
Gabe: Dr. Nicole, I wanted to touch on that real quick because it’s just a real common thing that people talk about. Through the rest of the podcast, we’re going to assume that you made the decision to have children. The children are here and you’re worried about whether or not they have bipolar disorder.
Gabe: Now I have bipolar disorder. And looking backwards, just, you know, retroactively, I had the signs of bipolar disorder at 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. And for a while I was really angry at my parents for not noticing these signs. I was like, how could you not realize that I was so sick? And they said a lot of stuff that we don’t have time to get into. But one of the things that they said is, Look, here’s what we were looking at. We were looking at a teenager who thought he knew everything. We were looking at a teenager who would stay up for days at a time and then sleep for days at a time. And we were looking at a teenager who was loud and would never shut up. None of that said to us, this is bipolar disorder. And yet all of that says this is bipolar disorder. And I really realize that. Huh? That that the symptoms of bipolar disorder just look a lot like, well, teenagers. So, my question to you, Dr. Nicole, because I know that you as a psychiatrist, don’t want every parent who has a teenager who thinks they’re going to be the next Super Bowl winning quarterback or the next billionaire or I don’t know, the next Nobel Prize winner to show up with their kid and say, hey, my kid has grandiose thinking and they’re manic because they think they’re going to be a rich sports star. So, can you diagnose them with bipolar disorder? Because that would be equally bad. What do you what do you recommend to these parents? How can they tease it out?
Dr. Nicole: Yeah. I want to start with the equally bad, so I cannot even tell you how many adults I see who tell me. Oh, I have a history of bipolar disorder and I start digging through. Okay, how old were you? And they say, Oh, I was, you know, 17, 16, 15, however old. I said, okay, well, what was going on back then that made them think that you had bipolar illness? And they will tell me things like, well, home was chaotic. My parents had drug issues. There was just a lot of chaos. And I just was very angry and I had mood swings. Right. We’ve all heard that story. So, these are people who now that they are adults, they have their own lives. They’re out of that situation and they’re in control of things. And they’ve never had another episode like that, that anger, mood swings stuff passed. I just want to say we do a lot of harm and I think we do more harm by diagnosing someone unnecessarily because that follows you forever. It’s always in your medical record, it’s always there. Somebody’s always going to say, Oh, that person’s got bipolar disorder, and it could not even be true. So that the equally bad out the way, if you suspect that your kid has bipolar disorder, we have to take a step back and we have to think about it in the context of what’s going on. Bipolar is an episodic illness. Bipolar episodes are very different than who that person is at their normal baseline behavior.
Dr. Nicole: So, if your kid is always kind of grandiose and thinks that they’re the best thing since sliced bread or your kid is always kind of breaking curfew and being defiant and staying up all night and has odd sleep patterns likely not to be bipolar illness. Right? Because it’s episodic. But if they don’t normally behave in that way and then all of a sudden, they are having these moments where you think, what is wrong with them? Are they on drugs? If you start questioning those kinds of behaviors because they’re different, that might be a time to look into an evaluation. You can start with your pediatrician. You know, the thing about when you have bipolar illness and then your kid starts behaving this way, it freaks you out. You’re very sensitive. You’re on high alert because let’s face it, I’ve yet to see a person who has bipolar disorder, who does not always side out of their kid because they always think, oh, like, you know, oh, they were angry. They yelled like, is this it? Is this their first break? Like, it’s this They’re a manic episode. They’re always worried. And what’s that thing about? If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, if you’re always thinking about bipolar illness and your kid starts acting out or doing something that’s a little bit off kilter for them, you’re going to think, oh my God, this is it. This is bipolar disorder. But it could be a number of other things.
Gabe: One of the things that terrifies me as a mental health advocate is the number of people who walk up to me and they say, I think that my child is X, or I think that my spouse is X, or I think that my friend is X, but because I can’t diagnose them, I don’t want to get them help. And I say, well, wait a minute, wait time. What do you mean you can’t diagnose? Well, I, I think that something is wrong. And, you know, I Googled it. I got on Healthline and I read some things, but I can’t quite figure out what to diagnose them with. So, I can’t I can’t get them evaluated. And I always ask like, why? Why do you think that? And they believe that they have to tell you what’s wrong. They have to walk in and say, Dr. Nicole, this is my child. They have bipolar two. Here are all the markers I am. I am now an expert just like you because I watched a YouTube video. Can you dispel that myth? We don’t have that in physical health, right?
Dr. Nicole: No.
Gabe: In physical health, we’re just like, hey, this this is this is my husband. He’s snoring. Like, we don’t know why he’s snoring. We just want him to stop. We’re not we’re not trying. We’re not looking up deviated symptoms. Why in mental health do people feel that in order to get their loved ones evaluated and oftentimes their children, they must know exactly what’s wrong with them or this bad parenting syndrome seeps in.
Dr. Nicole: I think we feel silly. We feel silly about taking our kids in and saying, hey, I think behaviorally something may be wrong with this kid. You know, my oldest child does not have bipolar illness, but he has some learning things that I noticed as a young child. So, we’re talking kindergarten, first grade, second grade. I noticed that there’s something off here. And the school didn’t believe me. They were like, well, he’s a good kid. He doesn’t get in trouble. He’s fantastic. He is a wonderful child. He’s great. He’s the nicest kid you’ll ever meet. But I knew something was wrong and I had to fight and advocate to get somebody to say, okay, yes, we’ll do the testing and then finally get a diagnosis to be able to say, See, I know. And I think as a parent, you know, when something is up with your kid, you know, you know, when you’re when your kid is a little off, you know, when their behavior is a little bit outside of what you typically see in children. And I think it’s always worth looking into. It may be nothing. It may be just that your kid’s personality style or their temperament is just a little bit different. And we just have to figure out how to work within that. But I say you still go. You tell them what you see. You don’t have to have a diagnosis. But if you say, I noticed that, you know, sometimes when we’re in situations where everybody’s happy, his happiness is just a little bit above everybody else’s happiness, but he’s not always that way. So, I’m concerned there’s something going on. I think you just describe what you see because nobody knows their kids like their parents.
Gabe: And what’s the worst-case scenario? Well, let’s play this out to its natural conclusion. Let’s say that you look at your child and you think, okay, it’s got to be bipolar disorder. I’m positive it’s bipolar disorder. You have you have armchair psychiatrists diagnose them. You take them to your Dr. Nicole. The Dr. Nicole evaluates them, listens to you, does all the stuff and says, I’m not seeing it. That’s the worst-case scenario, right? That you get different information, that you’ve come to the wrong conclusion or that nothing’s wrong and that maybe you’re as the parent I want to say holding the stick too tight. But I don’t want to conjure up this idea of, you know, hugging children too tight. But sincerely, do you think less of parents who bring their children in and say, I think my child has a serious and persistent mental illness. I think my child has bipolar disorder, and then you, during your evaluation, find out that, no, you don’t think they do. What is your side of this? Or I think that parents believe that that means they’re bad parents if they get it wrong and that you as the psychiatrist are thinking, oh, these parents just suck so badly. What do you think when this happens?
Dr. Nicole: Well, I never think that because I can be wrong. I have been wrong. There are times that I see a person and I just don’t see it. And then after seeing them for a while, I can go, oh, maybe this is what you were describing. The tricky part, the trickiest part about bipolar disorder, because it’s episodic and you can have such long periods of kind of normal mood in there. If I see somebody during the normal mood phase, if the if the kiddo is not able to give me strong criteria because they don’t remember what they were like, they think they were fine. If the parent is unable to give me the right words. So, I think words are important. I think when we advocate for our kids, we have to find a way to take deep breaths and take some of the emotion down because they’re our kids and we get very frustrated when someone is telling us that we’re wrong about our children’s behavior. So, I do think it’s important for us to take deep breaths and to try to stand back a little bit and to view it outside looking in as much as we can, which is so hard when it’s your baby who is going through this. So, I think the words are important. I think coming in and just saying, oh, he’s mood swings. And of course, I’m going to say, well, he’s a teenager. Like, don’t all teenagers have mood swings, you know, or, Oh, he just gets angry for nothing and he flies off and he goes off and it’s like, okay, well, he’s a teenager.
Gabe: Also teenage behavior.
Dr. Nicole: Yeah, you know, he’s a teenager. His sleep patterns off. Well, he’s okay. He’s a teenager. He thinks that he knows everything. Okay. Again, teenager. But if you can describe it in the context of this is not always typical. Like this comes in waves. This is very different. People around us notice and they respond. They ask me, is he okay? Because he’s still been a little off. Teachers ask me if he’s okay or she’s okay. I think the context is important and being able to advocate and use the right words. And sometimes parents don’t have the right words, but you always have to have to be open to the fact that maybe you are so fearful that they’re going to have bipolar disorder because you do that, maybe you’re seeing something that’s not there and that’s where the full workup comes up. Right? The full workup is, you know, are there substances involved? Right. Because if our kids are using and we don’t know, of course, they can look like they have bipolar illness because their moods can shift and fluctuate in behavior and energy levels and all these things. Some kids who have ADHD may look like they have bipolar illness because they’re all over the place and they can’t sit still and they’re impulsive and, you know, they interrupting people and all these things.
Dr. Nicole: So sometimes ADHD is what a person has when their parents says, Oh, I think my kid has bipolar disorder. And as they start as they start describing it, you say, Oh, I don’t that doesn’t sound like that. There is always also the possibility that is there something physical going on, right? Like, we always want to rule out physical health disorders before we jump to, oh, this kid has or anyone has bipolar illness or has, you know, schizophrenia or whatever it is, we want to rule out any kind of physical health, things that are going on. We want to make sure that that kid doesn’t have any kind of learning issues going on that are leading to some behavioral acting out. There’s just all these things. Kids are just not little adults. So many things can affect a child. What is home like if home is chaotic and stressful, there’s lots of abuse or witnessing violence or trauma. Sometimes people who have experienced trauma are just very angry, go off at the drop of a hat kind of people and they will get diagnosed as bipolar disorder because people will say, Oh man, their mood swings are out of this world, but maybe it’s trauma related. Maybe that’s a trauma response.
Dr. Nicole: So, we do have to do a lot of digging. But you as a parent, if you can come in as much as possible with a cool head and to be able to advocate for your kids. So, giving us context is part of that, like letting us know this is not who they are all the time. You have to give us context If you can even track their moods and you keep a mood journal on your kids, bring it in and say, this is what’s going on. Like this part of this is going on. And then all of a sudden this happened. I recently saw a teenager who actually their parent thought they had bipolar disorder, but they actually had premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Right. Because the week before their period, they were raging mood, swinging, yelling, crying, breaking things, getting into trouble at school for talking back, which is completely different for who they are. And the parents thought, oh, my God, like a week, a month, my kid’s having a manic episode. And we discovered it wasn’t that. So don’t feel silly about bringing them in because just because it’s not bipolar disorder doesn’t mean it’s not something else that we can actually help. And it doesn’t mean that it’s not bipolar disorder, but we won’t know if you never bring them in.
Gabe: I got to tell you, Dr. Nicole, I’m just imagining my mom keeping a mood journal on 16-year-old Gabe. It was like he was an asshole. He was an asshole. He was an asshole. He was a double asshole. He was kind of an asshole. He was an asshole. I just. But. But all joking aside, my parents did take me to a mental health professional when I was a teenager. Now, the first thing I want to remind the audience is, you know, unfortunately, I am. I am 46 years old. So. So we’re dealing with the thinking of the late eighties, early nineties So please bear that in mind as you hear my story. But my parents, they were I have to give them credit. They were pretty brave because they had no idea what was wrong with me. But something that you said earlier about how you just know they just knew. They didn’t understand words like bipolar disorder. They didn’t think it was mental illness. They just knew something was wrong. They told somebody and they’re like, Hey, you need to get him a mental health professional. And they did. The mental health professional did not judge my parents. I helped my parents a great deal. But they also didn’t diagnose me with bipolar disorder. And there’s a lot of people like me out there. There’s a lot of Gabe Howards out there who constantly say this phrase over and over and over again. Well, I saw a mental health professional when I was a kid, and they did nothing. Well, when I was a teenager, I saw the guidance counselor and they did nothing. When I was a kid. They had me evaluated and they did nothing. And that’s probably true for the eighties and nineties. What’s it like in 2020? If 15-year-old Gabe would see a mental health professional today, would bipolar disorder have had a better chance of being seen? I know there’s no guarantees.
Dr. Nicole: I think it would definitely be in the differential, so to speak. So, when you see your doctor and they in their head, they have this little list that we’re running of, what are the possible things this could be? I think bipolar disorder would definitely be in that list for any doctor today. I think we’re more comfortable, especially in those adolescent years. But we are still concerned about labeling a person in their adolescent years with an illness that we just can’t 100% say there are newer diagnoses out that can help kind of bridge the gap if we’re suspecting things like bipolar illness in a teenager. But ultimately that teenager can still get help. So, if you brought your mom, ultimately that teenager can still get help. So, if your parents brought you in today and they said, hey, something’s wrong, he’s off, I can’t do this mood swings. There’s this. There’s that doesn’t mean you can’t go see a therapist to try to work some of that stuff out. Sometimes I get patients who have been in therapy for years and their therapist will finally pick up on, you know, I think you could possibly have bipolar disorder, but sometimes that takes a while to pick up because, like I said, you can have long periods where you’re good. You can have these spurts of not doing well. It’s so unpredictable at times and especially in that age, and it’s hormones at play and there’s the world and oh, we just had a pandemic and you know, a lot of our kids are struggling socially with interacting and emotional regulation because of all the things that are going on, like there’s so much going on. But just because that person says I don’t think it’s bipolar illness doesn’t mean that that kid can’t still engage in some kind of mental health setting to at least have eyes on them. Because if I think something’s wrong with my kid, I’m going to have somebody laying eyes on them on a regular basis to be able to try to see what I’m seeing.
Gabe: And we’re back discussing what you can do if you think your child has bipolar disorder. One of the themes that has come up through this podcast is that it’s not quick. It’s not one appointment, it’s not one email, it’s not oh, I explain the symptoms to the doctor and boom, it was taken care of. We talk about these things almost like they’re simple, right? When I tell my story, it’s this goes to this goes to this goes to this. And that’s great for storytelling and it’s captivating for the audience. The problem is, is I don’t think that sometimes people realize that in between the this this and this is a year is 18 months is three years. That’s a long time with a lot of symptoms, with a lot of trauma and damage. And I love podcasts, you know, I love podcasts, Dr. Nicole. But even as we’re sitting here talking about it, we’re like, Hey, see something? Say something. Take your kid to a psychiatrist one. Like, that’s super easy, right? I just I know for a fact that I can call Monday morning and I can have my kid at a psychiatrist Monday afternoon. They’re there. There’s no pre approval process
Dr. Nicole: Of course. Of course.
Gabe: There’s no 6 to 8 week waits there. It’s super easy. I really want all parents to understand that this is not a quick thing and you’ve got to be tenacious about it. And I also want parents to understand that the answers are going to be shifting and changing, especially in the beginning, especially as their children grow. And I think that being nimble is really super important. I worry when I read, you know, I read articles like Six Things to Look Out For with your kids, and I think those six things are correct. I don’t want to please read those articles. And if again, if you see something, say something. But I’m reading like 800 words that’s describing a child with a potentially serious and persistent mental illness. And I think, wow, can we really boil this down to a half an hour podcast to an 800-word article? Is that possible? I’d like to know your thoughts on this, because I go back to my decision based entirely on emotion and fear. And I worry that many parents, they’re playing the same game based on their emotions and fears. And even as best as we try with podcasts and blogs and articles where I think we might be playing into that fear, what would you like parents to know? Because ultimately, like you said, they’re just they’re just desperate to help their kids.
Dr. Nicole: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. You can start with your pediatrician. That’s a great place to start. Pediatricians can then kind of guide you in the direction of where they think you should go. You’re absolutely right, though. It could take two months to get in to see a psychiatrist, especially a child and adolescent psychiatrist. They are in such high demand. It may be three months or longer before you can get in. Maybe it’s not covered unless you see the pediatrician first. So, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. But that’s why I say I’m not in a hurry to make a diagnosis. I will completely be vague, which frustrates people at times, but I would prefer to be vague and take my time to know what I’m dealing with. Then to put that in somebody’s chart, that will be a diagnosis of record like forever following them. So, I want to make sure that I feel pretty confident about it. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t times that I see a person and I say, Oh, I walk in the room and 5 minutes later I can say, I’m pretty confident this person has bipolar disorder. Sometimes some people are able to give you a wonderful narrative of how disruptive their bipolar illness has been and they can really point to, Oh no, I have these episodes where I do this and this and that, and I stole my parents’ car and I would never do that.
Dr. Nicole: And I don’t even know what I was thinking. And I had blah, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, you know, but sometimes you don’t know. And that’s okay, too. It’s okay for you not to know. So, you know, it’s the parents. I would just say, be patient, right? Just be patient. Let’s make sure there’s nothing else going on that could be that could look like bipolar disorder, but not actually be bipolar disorder. Because remember, just because you have it, it doesn’t mean that you will pass it on. Yes. The chances are higher that you will have a kid with bipolar illness than somebody else who doesn’t. But as Gabe said, nobody in his family has bipolar illness, yet, here he is. We all know. We know somebody who has it, who doesn’t have family history. We know somebody who has it and has strong family history. We don’t know what to make of that. So just be patient. Take your time, be okay with the unknown, which I know is very difficult. You would like somebody to tell you this is what’s wrong with my kid. This is a treatment plan. This is what’s going to happen. But we don’t always know. And we both have to be comfortable with that because I don’t like it either. Like I like to know for sure, but sometimes I just don’t. And I’m very comfortable saying when I don’t.
Gabe: Let’s talk about the stigma and discrimination. One of the things that’s come up often through this, this conversation is you don’t want to put something in a chart that’s not true. You don’t want somebody to get diagnosed with something that that’s going to follow them around in their medical history for ten years. You don’t want people to get misdiagnosed and suffer from that stigma and discrimination of just this. It’s not an uncommon conversation when we’re talking about bipolar disorder. But now you’re a parent. Job number one of parents protect your kid and you think to yourself, okay, I think that my child has bipolar disorder. So obviously, job number one, protect your kids. I want to get them help. But now I’m afraid that they’re going to lose out on getting into a good college, getting into school programs. They’re going to be judged by their peers. They’re not going to be able to make friends. They’re going to be just every single stigma and discrimination, things that most people living with any sort of serious and persistent mental illness already understand. But I really worry that a parent hearing that would be like, oh, just no, no, everybody’s against my kid. The health care system is against my kids, friends and family are against my kids. It just it’s it seems like it might be too much. What words of I I’m sort of asking you to reassure parents that they’re still doing the right things, even though we are aware of this potential.
Dr. Nicole: First, we’re going to take a step back and we’re going to think about what kind of harm could this do for my kid? So, peers have no real reason to know that your child was diagnosed with bipolar illness. It may be a conversation you have with your child, like, hey, this may not be something we talk about with everybody because everybody doesn’t respond well. We don’t want you to have to deal with undue stress because of this. Some teens may decide, no, I have this. I’m not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed. And they may decide to share. And there could be consequences of that sharing. I was more so talking about the stigma of health care system. So, you have bipolar disorder in your chart and then the next doctor sees you and they just say, oh, this person’s got bipolar disorder and they just keep it moving and they don’t take the time to necessarily evaluate, Is that accurate? Is that true? But because it’s followed you for ten years and because you’ve taken the medication for that illness for ten years, every person after that initial person who diagnosed you just keeps it going, keeps it going, and nobody thinks to look. I always second guess people’s diagnoses. I don’t take them for face value because they’re not mine. I question my own diagnosis. Sometimes if I’m treating somebody and it doesn’t seem to be going well, I will step back and say, Whoa, whoa, whoa. Like, what are we doing here? I may have been mistaken. Let’s reevaluate. So that’s what I was talking about as far as it following you. And we let’s face it, the medications for bipolar disorder are a little more intense than the treatments for depression and or ADHD or these other things.
Dr. Nicole: And if we don’t have to put our kids on these medications, then why would we? I think we would want to make sure that we were pretty accurate. So that’s what I mean by, you know, it just follows you and it’s there forever. And then, of course, you know, it may not stop you from going to college because your college admissions team won’t have access to your medical records. But let’s say you want to get disability insurance in the future. It’s going to be in your diagnosis, it’s going to be in your record. And that may cause you an issue, you know, when you grow older. But as a kid, I think the bigger issue is kind of how peers will react. Do we share? Do we not? Will teachers react to you differently if they learn? Because you may have to tell a teacher, hey, he was diagnosed with bipolar illness. Sometimes he’s going to have times where he’s a little bit more often. Others. When that happens, we’re going to do this. You know, we hope our teachers won’t treat our kids different, but maybe they will. We don’t know. We have to take a step back and decide, who do we have to share with? How much do we have to share, how vague can we be? How can we protect them, like you say, protect your kids at all costs? What can we do to best protect them?
Gabe: And to put it another way, what we’re actually talking about here is the choice of entering an imperfect system where we’re aware of that imperfection or doing nothing. That’s those are really the two choices that we’re talking about here. There’s not a third one, correct?
Dr. Nicole: No, no, there’s not a third one. I could be afraid that I’m going to have a car accident and just stay at home all the time. Or I could go somewhere and live life and know that the roads aren’t perfect and that accidents happen. But I still would choose every day to get on that highway than to stay at home doing nothing. None of this is going to be easy and sometimes unfair. You know, you think, well, why do I have to educate all six of my child’s teachers about bipolar illness and what it looks like? You know, why? Why do I have to do that? And the answer is just. Because you’re trying to protect your kids. So, you’re going to educate everybody who has a direct influence or impact on your child’s education, which is a huge part of who they are as a teenager. So, if my kid’s in high school and we think they have bipolar disorder, I am meeting with every teacher. I am going to become bipolar educator of the year because I am educating every teacher, guidance counselor, because we’re going to have a plan in place, because we have talked time and time again about having how having that team is so important when you’re dealing with this illness. So, if your child is having these symptoms, if your child is diagnosed, and even if they’re not and they’re just having other issues that we’re trying to tease out, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling or calling the huddle and say, hey, this is what’s going on with them. This is what we’re seeing. You know, if you see this, call me. If this happens, let me know. You know, if there are issues, please tell me. But I want everybody to be educated and on the same page. And it’s exhausting to try to do that for your kid. You think I’m not getting paid to do this? Surely there’s a counselor somewhere that can take care of this for me. But at the end of the day, it’s my kid and I want to make sure it’s done appropriately and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page. Exhausting. You will be tired, but it will be well worth it if your kid can come through this as successful as possible.
Gabe: I want to give a big shout out to all the parents out there. I do not have children, so I cannot give this to you from the parent perspective. But I do have parents and I was a child with bipolar disorder. And I can tell you unequivocally that my parents did everything wrong. I swear if there were two choices and one was right and one was wrong, my parents made the wrong one. And for a long time, there was a there was a lot of resentment. There was a there was a lot of hard feelings. There was a lot of anger. I, I, I do not want to downplay how broken my family was for a while because of all we went through, because of bipolar disorder. And then one day, I was sitting in a support group and I started talking to all of these other people in the support group, and their parents had left them, their families had abandoned them. Their support systems were gone. They had gave up on them. And I realized in that moment that, yeah, my parents made every mistake in the book. I just I want to make sure that gets out there. But in order to make mistakes, you have to be present. In order to make mistakes, you have to be trying. In order to make mistakes, you have to be there.
Gabe: And that is when I realized that, yeah, yeah, my parents were there. They were there and they were trying. And that that, that one thing alone saved the relationship with my parents. And it’s why we have such a good one today, because the fact that they loved me enough to try meant more to me than the trauma of all the mistakes that they made. And I just want to get that out there to all of the parents who don’t know what to do and are afraid of making mistakes, because for me and my family, then making that mistake and trying meant more to me than them being handcuffed by indecision and not trying to do anything. How that relates to your situation, I have no idea. But as long as your family is still healthy and alive and intact, there’s always the opportunity to make amends for past indiscretions. And I know that Dr. Nicole has seen it in her practice so many times. People show up and everybody is just at odds with each other. And then years later, everybody’s doing great. And I want to make sure that that that gets out there more so than the trauma of what happens. Dr. Nicole, any last words before we I always say head on into the sunset.
Dr. Nicole: [Laughter]
Gabe: I don’t know why I watch a lot of Westerns with my grandma.
Dr. Nicole: I like sunsets.
Gabe: That’s all I know.
Dr. Nicole: I like sunsets. I like sunsets. Yes, I do think it is important to mention that your child, your teenager, however old they are, should be as active in this process as possible. So sometimes as parents, we just go in to fix it mode and we just go into Something’s wrong, I’m taking you somewhere and we’re getting this fixed. It’s a great idea to just sit them down and find out how do you think you’re doing? Like what? How do you feel about all of this and get their input? Because often they’re very insightful about what’s going on with them. And you have to also remember they too, might be afraid that they have bipolar disorder based on what your diagnosis is. So, it can go both ways. That fear can go both ways. And it’s important to just acknowledge that and let them know that you will be there to support them. And if indeed it ends up being that, that who better to support them through it than somebody who’s been through it. So just important to remember to keep them involved as much as possible.
Gabe: Dr. Nicole, thank you so much for being here and to all of our listeners. Thank you for being here as well. My name is Gabe Howard and, well, I live with bipolar disorder, but I also wrote a book called “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” It’s available on Amazon, or you can get a signed copy with free swag by heading over to my website, which is at gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms @DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.
Gabe: And listen up, everybody. Can you do us a personal favor? Share the show with your friends, family or colleagues. Share us on social media. Hell, send a text to somebody. Share us in a support group. Because sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next time on Inside Bipolar.
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