The “L-Word”

I grew up always knowing the “L-Word” referred to love.

That was until October 4, 2016 when the doctor told me my 11-year old Bipolar son needed to start taking Lithium.

From this day forward, the “L-Word” will forever mean Lithium to our family.

No parent should ever have to make the decision to put their 11-year old child on such a powerful drug. As a Mental Health Mom, of all the obstacles I’ve had to face with my Bipolar son and my Autistic son, this has been by far the most difficult.

I cried. Oh boy did I cry. Tears I thought would never stop flowing. Tears I knew had the potential to drown me.

I’m still trying to come to grips with it, as he has only been on the med for 7 days. One week. Such a short period of time and yet everything about my life is so different than it was a week ago.

I have a son on Lithium. I am inherently different at my core. And so is my son.

It’s interesting. If you have read any of my other blog posts, you know one of the main reasons I started the blog was to try and change society’s perception about children with Mental Health Disorders. To be one person who helps make a difference by breaking through the social stigmas that surround AMAZING kids like mine. To be one person who is not afraid to talk about her journey as a Mental Health Mom in an effort to help other moms in similar situations.

And yet, when I was trying to decide whether or not I should publish this article, I found myself falling prey to the same social stigmas I have been trying to break through. Quite an interesting pickle to be in emotionally.

Do I really want people to know my husband and I had to make the insanely tough decision to start our son on Lithium? What will people think? Will they think we are bad parents? Will they treat me differently? Will they treat my innocent son differently?

Then, after much reflection, I thought to myself WAIT A MINUTE!!!

I know people may judge me, or look at me differently,, and that is just going to have to be okay. This IS my NEW NORMAL and I have no choice but to EMBRACE IT.

Truthfully, I don’t expect most others moms to understand, and I pray to God they never have to understand. Look, the reality is just because my child looks the same as other children on the outside doesn’t mean my child is the same as other children on the inside.

While not as widely accepted by society at large as something like ADHD, Bipolar Disorder is a REAL Mental Health Disorder that impacts many children. This is not some over-exaggerated behavioral problem. This is a medically documented chemical imbalance in the brain. This is the real deal and it lives inside my son.

Now I’m not going to lie, my Momma Bear instinct right now is to grab my son up in my arms and just hold him for the rest of his life, but that’s not reality. We tried for months to bring his Hypomania under control with medications that aren’t as strong as Lithium to no avail. And while I wish, instead of starting him on Lithium I could just let him stay home all day and play video games to keep his mania at bay, that’s not reality. I wish I could let his world exist only within the 4 walls of our little house where he is safe from having to function in the outside world, but that is not reality.

I could do all these things but I’m just not that selfish.

I refuse to deny my son all the firsts, all the great experiences life has to offer, because I am worried about what other people might think. How I might be judged as a parent.

If somebody (adult or child) has Cancer, nobody questions their need for chemo or radiation. Certainly no one wants to put those harsh chemicals in their body but, if it prolongs and/or improves their quality of life, most people would support their decision to move forward with the drugs–cheering them on along the way with unwavering support.

My son’s situation is really no different. Without Lithium, the chemicals in his brain will remain unbalanced. We will not be able to control his Hypomania or stabilize his moods. We will not be able to improve his focus or his short-term memory loss.

If we cannot stabilize him, he has no quality of life. If he has no quality of life, over time, he will feel so depressed he will give up on life (this is the reality of Bipolar Disorder). That is not a risk I am willing to take just to ensure other moms aren’t whispering about me behind my back.

I cannot teach my son being Bipolar, and having to take Lithium because of it, is nothing to be ashamed of if I don’t lead by example.

I cannot teach my son to educate people about his condition, so they don’t judge him in silence, if I don’t lead by example.

I cannot teach my son it is critical to his quality of life to fully embrace his normal if I don’t lead by example.

I cannot teach my son he has an opportunity to make a real difference, and change people’s perception about children with Mental Health Disorders, if I don’t lead by example.

As a mom, I don’t have to like the fact that the new normal for my family that includes the “L-Word” but I do have to ACCEPT IT and EMBRACE IT. It is the only way to continue moving forward and avoid going to a very dark place.

I am choosing to stay positive. To be the light that shines through my son’s darkness. To be one person that gives hope to others facing seemingly overwhelmingly difficult decisions or challenges.

If I can do this, you can too. I’m no one special. Just a mom who loves her son and wants the best life has to offer for him.

And while I may not know where this leg of our journey will lead us, I do know I will be proudly standing by my son every step of the way…

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