It's been a while since I posted a Kain update. That's because life with Kain flows with the tides. Some weeks he is doing very, very well. Other weeks are absolute hell on earth. There is rarely anything in between. That's because Kain has been diagnosed bipolar, we've been told. See, read this here...Kain has pretty much everything on this list, with the exception of self-mutilating behaviors and cruelty to animals (THANK YOU LORD). The child described at the beginning? That would pretty much BE Kain.
I came up with a good metaphor for life with Kain. You remember the twister scene in the Wizard of Oz, right? Ok, work with me here...Dorothy is skipping home to see Aunt Em. The winds are picking up though, and so is the music. Trouble's brewing, you know it. She runs for dear life, looking for shelter from the storm.
That's me. I'm Dorothy. Kain's the storm. You follow? Come on, think the music from that scene in your head, "Duh da duh da duh dum, duh da duh da duh dum, DUUUUHHHH!" The house is spinning, the winds are howling,,,
this is Kain during a down cycle...raging tantrums because we aren't having pancakes for dinner even though it's Sunday, screaming at me because he thought I was teasing him when I hummed a song under my breath, yelling names at Maria during mass because she walked too fast on purpose. Then, the house lands. Thump. It's suddenly, shockingly, over. Even for Dorothy, she says, "Oh!", in this surprised little voice, remember? It's over. She opens the door in Munchkinland. "We welcome you to Munchkinland, tralalalalalala!"
And now Kain's in an up cycle. He's happy. More than happy. He's giddy. He feels good, after weeks of feeling bad, and he can feel the difference right away. He literally wakes up singing, "I feel so HAPPY today Aunt Mel", and I'm floored, because, I'm sorry, weren't we all mixing up the cyanide Kool-aid like 12 hours ago? WTH?
And that is life with Kain. Typically, anywhere from a weeks to a couple of months goes by before we get a twister, and then the giddiness which is accompanied by very good behavior. The behavior slowly becomes more balanced and normal again. He may have another giddy episode here or there, but eventually the twister comes again.
They (the psychiatrist/therapists) have been discussing this with me since the beginning. I have waffled back and forth with my acceptance of this over the last couple of years. Kain, after all, is not a child that woke up in an Ozzie and Harriet kind of environment with these symptoms. He's got a lot of reasons to be a bit, as my mom says, "Not Right In The Head". I'm not unfamiliar with bipolar disorder. There is a pretty extensive family history of, as the article stated, depressive disorders, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder. I'm not personally affected, but several close family members are, and I pretty much grew up with this. I'm very aware of how devastating it can be for both the person with the disorder and their families. So, in short, I don't *want* Kain to be bipolar. Accepting this means living with it long term, you see, and I would much prefer the problem to be a little more fixable, thank you very much. Plus, I figured it was a moot point. Whatever the cause of his behavior, whether it be chemical or environmental (bipolar disorder is actually thought to be both), we still have to deal with the behaviors. Does it really matter what the cause is?
Yes. Turns out, yes, it does matter, because we are much better able to handle his behaviors if we understand the cause. If Kain his hoarding bottles of maple syrup under his bed because of the carb-cravings and impulsiveness related to his disorder, we will deal with that quite a bit differently than if we think he's just being a defiant pain in the can. I handle his stream-of-consciousness 12-hours-a-day rambling conversations a lot differently if I know he is in a manic phase right now and just has to let some stuff spew out of his head than if I think he's just being demanding of my attention and getting on my nerves. Having a diagnosis doesn't make the symptoms easier to deal with, but it makes them easier to understand, and that, in turn, makes me more understanding.
It also makes me more proactive. Accepting a diagnosis gives me something to focus on, something to work with. It's something I can research, something I can learn about and gives me concrete things to help him with. This isn't going away. But I know what bipolar disorder looks like in adults. I know it is devastating. I also know that the symptoms CAN be managed, he can grow up to be a good person and functioning adult. In fact, some of my favorite adults in the world are bipolar. :)
And it gives my family somewhere to go. This disorder is very difficult for us to handle. When he is in a down-cycle we are all under enormous amounts of stress. We are, for example, starting Gregory Popcak's telecounseling service this week expressly for the purpose of help the rest of the members of our family deal with this disorder, because frankly, dealing with Kain's moods is enough to make us all feel pretty bipolar. Ironically, knowing this isn't going away is forcing us to find concrete and permanent ways to cope.
Instead of letting him feel shamed and despondent over behaviors even adults struggle to manage, I can let him know that I do understand how hard he has to work and actively help him find better ways to function. I resisted the diagnosis because I thought it would mean giving up hope for his future. Instead I find just the opposite. It's not his fault, and it's not my fault, that we haven't "fixed" him in the two years he's been with us. We will never "fix" him, and that was a pretty unrealistic goal. But we can help him. It gives me hope. We can help him. We can do this.