Let me preface this with a disclaimer.
Neither I, nor my son, his father, or any of our family are looking for pity. What we are looking for is to educate the masses that mental illness DOES affect children. It also affects their families.
Tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox. (By the time this posts, it will be passed the VE.) We’re already experiencing longer days. That alone throws many of us for a loop. Especially Autism families. For families like ours, it’s something more.
If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know that my son is Autistic. He also lives with Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. I’ve spoken written many times about his major depressive cycles. As a matter of fact, the big one is right around the corner. That’s what Spring brings to our family each year.
However, I don’t believe I’ve ever written about his manic cycles. At least not in depth, nor on this blog. Which brings me to why I’m sitting here writing tonight. At the moment, my son is quietly playing with his action figures. This is the longest I have seen him sit still in days.
If you’re familiar with Autism, you know many Autistics don’t tend to sit still for long. They stim too. My son does both, but when he’s in a Manic cycle, they’re more extreme. I used to tell people that while I loathe Bipolar Disorder, I would take a Manic Cycle over a depressive one any day of the week. That changed this weekend.
Until just yesterday, I have never noticed what an extreme Manic episode was. You see, when my son (and many others) are in (what I thought to be a) manic cycle, they’re uber happy. They tend to talk non-stop, whether it makes sense or not. They ramble on, going from one topic to the next, and rarely stop for air. (I’m not exaggerating.) When you add Autism into the mix, stimming is virtually non-stop as well. My son doesn’t sit still at all when he’s manic (hypomanic.) Sleep is nil. It lasts for a few days or so. Many would look at my son during this time and think of Autism and ADHD. So as you can see, this would be preferable to watching your loved one so depressed that they can’t function. As I recently learned, this in fact tends to be more of a hypomanic cycle.
Until yesterday I have only ever seen my son in a hypomanic cycle. I had yet to witness full blown mania. Without going into specifics and embarrassing my son, let me explain it in a way that I can still protect his privacy.
My son went from the above “symptoms,” to a grandiose version of them. Then suddenly, he snapped. Something so little, so trivial, sent him over the edge. I’ve seen my son have so many meltdowns, that they really don’t even phase me anymore, but this, this was different. Writing this right now is making me sick, but this, this was terrifying.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look in his eyes. His face read rage, fear, and utter lack of any idea of what was happening. Liam’s father wasn’t here. It was just him, my older (step) son, and myself.
This outburst (for lack of a better term) was directed at his brother. I was reprimanding Liam for something, and he saw his brother smile. That was it. That was all it took. He was on him like a feral dog on his first meal in weeks. Before my mind could fully process what was happening, I jumped up and yanked him off his brother, put him on the floor, and applied some of my weight for pressure.
He was screaming, but in just a few moments I saw MY SON come back to me. (You see, THAT wasn’t my son.) His body hitched with tears and I let him up. He ran into the kitchen and hid in a corner.
It took a bit for me to calm him down. I did what I always do after he has a meltdown. I let him tell me what he needs. (Which happened to be some squeezing and singing.) He kept repeating that it wasn’t his fault. That WE are bad and made him angry. That isn’t my boy. My boy always owns up to his actions. He always tells on himself if he does something naughty. But last night…. last night he blamed us. After that, he went straight into self loathing.
He kept repeating that he was “bad,” and “no good.” When he was more calm, I offered him a drink, “I can’t have a drink because I don’t deserve to drink.” My heart was breaking. I kept reassuring him that he wasn’t any of those things. My older son just sat on the couch, completely dumbfounded and shocked at what happened in a split second.
We both talked to him about it. We told Liam that we understand HE wasn’t in control. That he wasn’t in trouble, BUT that he HAD to try his very best to be in control. He went back to being hyper, stimmy, and talking.
A few hours later it happened again. This time because they were having a Nerf war, and his brother hit him with a dart. Within thirty minutes the whole situation was better. My husband came home. The only way he knew something horrible has happened was the looks on mine and our older son’s face. Liam was just playing and being Liam.
When Liam left the room I cried. I bawled and tried to explain what happened to my husband. Snot and tears were flying. I’ve rarely seen a clueless and helpless look on his face, but last night, that’s all he wore. Today we all have walked on eggshells. For fear of another manic outburst, or him delving to the bottom of a depressive cycle.
I know many may read this and think, “you’re the parents, you’re in control, not him!” The truth is, NONE of us are. Right now, Bipolar Disorder is in control.
So, tomorrow morning we’re putting in a crisis call to his doctor. We need to make a plan. We need to find new ways to help our son, because he, and us, do NOT deserve to live like this.
Edited to add: As of today he is doing much better. An appointment has been made with an emergency plan if need be.