Monday, June 2, 2008

Thoughts on Growing Up Bipolar

There have been many responses to Newsweek's recent article, Growing Up Bipolar in many of the blogs I read over the last couple of weeks. I wasn't going to comment on this, as much of what I have to say on the subject has already been said extremely eloquently by thememoryartist.

However, I do have a few thoughts on the subject...and I'm not looking for a fight here, I'm just wondering out loud...as it were...

The subject of the article, a ten-year-old boy named Max, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the tender age of two, and has since been on 38 different meds. The thing that struck me the most about this article was the part where Max said, "I don't have any control."

How many children who are growing up on psych meds grow up with the idea that they are not able to control their emotions...and how damaging is that belief? It strikes me that it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I wonder how many of these children manage to achieve any sort of emotional development whatsoever, when the very emotions they need to learn to deal with are dulled and blunted by the medications. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with one's emotions in a reasonable, intelligent manner. But if you've never been allowed to have an authentic human emotional experience, how can you be expected to have any level of emotional maturity at all?

What happens when these children, some of whom have surely been wrongly diagnosed reach the age of majority and say, "Screw you and your pills, I'm done."

Once you stop the meds, your emotional life comes back full blast. I know I had a rough time coming off my bipolar meds, and I did it at the age of 40, and had been on them for less than two years. My ability to handle emotions was already developed and in place.

I wonder how damaged these poor kids are going to be when they finally see the world without psychotropic blinders...and how much therapy they are going to need in order to live comfortably with their newfound humanity. Certainly their lives are going to become far more complex once those layers of emotional experience are added back in. And the skills needed to deal with those emotions won't be there because they've never been needed--the medication has done all the controlling.

And don't even get me started on the brain damage aspect. These medications can cause detrimental changes in a fully developed adult brain...how much damage can they do to a young, developing brain?

Nobody knows.

But I imagine we're going to find out as the current generation of "bipolar" children reaches the age where medical decisions such as whether or not to continue taking these medications become theirs and theirs alone.

12 comments:

thememoryartist said...

The thing that struck me the most about this article was the part where Max said, "I don't have any control."

Yes! That was quite striking. I agree. I think it goes along with the way he's being taught to think about his illness, whatever that illness is. It's the line they're feeding him about it being a brain illness that he has no control over and for which he "cannot live without" the drugs. Very sad way to shape a child's identity.

The thing is, this won't necessarily be up to these children whether to take the drugs or not as they reach the age of majority. Organizations like Treatment Advocacy Center and NAMI are fighting hard to change the laws so that people with histories like Max can be force medicated. It won't be his choice alone. He may never have a choice.

Jazz said...

He may never have a choice.

This is so wrong on so many levels.

There is so much ignorance out there...Parents need to think long and hard about the repercussions for their child before buying into the bipolar diagnosis.

It may be easier in the short run to medicate a child like Max...but I shudder to think what kind of future he has to look forward to.

Mariah said...

Two? They diagnosed him at two? Seems awfully young to me, but I don't know what the "normal" age is, or what the criteria are for diagnosis, but two-year-olds are barely talking.

Annie said...

I agree with your comments and want to add my perspective of being a therapist who worked with children. There are so few pdocs who know how to work with meds with children it is alarming. In the past I was on a number of meds that changed "who I was". I have seen that confusion with children and it broke my heart.
I am now on helpful meds and feel ok. I trust my pdoc for the first time ever. Thanks for the post! Annie

Jazz said...

...two year olds are barely talking

I know...When I read the article I was thinking back to my own children at two...At two, all you can really do is look at the behaviors and guess...the child can't tell you what's going on, and even if he/she is talking, they don't have the language to tell you what they are going through or whether the treatment is making them feel better or worse.

Jazz said...

Annie--
I've also gone through the experience of meds changing "who I am", and I can't imagine how much more frightening it must be for a child, whose sense of self is only just beginning to develop.

It breaks my heart, too, to think of the confusion these poor kids will grow up with.

Clueless said...

Oh, I don't know if I am more angry or sad. Developmentally, a child at two does not have control and it is up to the parents to assist that child in learning how to be in control by setting limits. A two year old is all emotion when they feel and it is up to the parents to assist the child to know that there is more than feeling going on...and I could go on, but I won't. Just one things, I have a real soft spot for mental illness issues, but sometimes it gets taken to far in society where we blame instead of taking responsibility!

Jazz said...

Clueless--
I agree. There is a shocking lack of accountability in society these days.

Coco said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this Jazz, it makes sense to me that these kids are not going to know how to manage their emotions once they get off the meds. It's a frightening thought.

Unrelated to this, are you able to access Gianna's blog? I tried today and it seems to now require a password. Any thoughts? ~coco

Jazz said...

Coco--
Gianna has taken her blog down for the moment as she has been harrassed by some nasty anonymous commenters. As far as I know, she is calling it quits for the time being as these commenters are upsetting her a lot. I believe she still plans to leave the blog up as a resource, but comments will be closed.

Stan Cavers said...

Dearest Jazz:

I feel adamant that kids that cannot make a rational choice of self determination should not be subjected to psychotropic medications until they have developed fully physically, physiologically, and with complete brain development. I would even go as far to say it should be made illegal to prescribe these medications to the developmental population. It’s become fairly obvious by now that no matter how effective a drug might be in theory or displayed temporary results; the quagmire of long term detrimental effects on the mind and emotional stability are now just beginning to be known, and that news is not good in any way, shape or form from an comprehensive and overwhelming data resources with the concerns of the child population in mind. We need to stop using are youth as Ginny pigs for the psychiatric community to experiment upon.
It has never been about treating an actually illness in the whole scheme of things anywise; since they don’t know enough about how the brain functions to treat the actually condition. They are only treating perceived symptoms and behavior through drug intervention. These so called professionals are just throwing darts in the dark when it comes to treating child and adolescent mental health conditions. If this isn’t criminal in intent and results, then at the very least it’s unethical and a misuse of limited knowledge and a professional violation of the “ do no harm” oath each of these so called doctors have swore too. Let our kids be who they are, kids are never going to be perfect behavior angels and fit in the psychodynamic models created by the mental health community. I happen to believe in enhanced parenting skills, the gift time, limit setting, direction, consequences, and as a last resort some adequate counseling until a child has developed to a mature enough level to make rational choices about what poisons they choice to place in their bodies for mental health conditions. We are only beginning to understand the horrific long term side effects of many pyscotropic medications. I would say please do not destroy another generation of our most precious of all resources in the name of pharmaceutical greed, ignorance, and promotion. That’s my personal and common sense position on this issue.

Yours truly

Stan

Jazz said...

Do no harm.

They used to believe in that, didn't they? I wonder what's happened, that so many of these would-be healers seem to have lost their way.

Pharma involvement, anyone?