Bipolar can be a Contrary Bastard – The Sequel!


I received some thought provoking replies to my earlier blog by a similar title.

One was from a step-mother to a 13 year old child. I felt for her and could feel her frustration on many levels.  It begged a few questions. Firstly, whilst one of the clichés, step children and step parents are often at loggerheads, particularly in the early teenage years. Then is it Bipolar? I mention this simply because everywhere I go I hear ‘ooh yes I have a friend who’s Bipolar’. It seems to me that it’s become the default diagnosis for any mental illness issues. So is what this lady is experiencing really Bipolar?- or is her step child just being a pain in the ass, an attitude heightened by the reaction to a new parent in their life? Entirely plausible I would say.

History is littered with shitty youngsters who turned out ok. One of the most famous is the semi fictionalised plays by Shakespeare, Henry IV and Henry V. In the former, he depicts – based on truth – Bluff Prince Hal as an utter reprobate, shagging, debauching, drinking, carousing and generally being an indolent little git. Then our nascent King grows up and dispenses with Falstaff and his drunken revelry, and metamorphoses into Henry V, one our greatest and most heroic monarchs. From a drunk to inspiring the troops with perhaps the most famous pre-battle speech in history!

I’ve written before about Teenage Bipolar – ref Teenage Mutant Bipolar Heroes – and it’s a difficult topic. Is that teenage angst and insecurity we all know about masking something more profound, or is the behaviour too readily diagnosed as Bipolar?  It’s a poser and no mistake.

Perhaps the way to tease out just what is going on is some classical parenting, rewarding, reinforcing and encouraging good behaviour with love and approbation, and sanctioning/punishing bad behaviour by withdrawal of overt love, and by taking away privileges. The kids who really have Bipolar may show few signs of being able to respond to this, as their mood swings go way beyond teenage nonsense and the need to get their elbows out a bit.

As the title expresses, it can be a contrary bastard, and cause much grief in the family. But more than that, it can be overwhelming if you cannot even be sure if they have Bipolar or not. If you become certain it’s Bipolar then I would suggest it takes away some of the stress, since you can explain the behaviour. And if it’s not Bipolar, then you can stiffen your resolve to sort it out, freed of the guilt that you might be seen as unfair and unsympathetic.

There is no doubt that some wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar may in fact revel in it as it gives them carte blanche to act badly and always have an excuse.

You need to have a plan, execute it with resolve, and see it through. Good luck.

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