More and more though, it’s thought that there’s a genetic link. That you are more likely to develop bipolar if a close family member has the condition. So what about MK? Does this mean he’s going to have to battle with his mind every single day in life in the way that I, and many others do?
Where does it come from? Why do we have it? Have I put my precious MK at risk?
So many questions, yet so few answers.
Despite ongoing research, the exact cause of bipolar is not yet known.
At the moment all we really know, and in fact even this isn’t definitive, is that it may be caused by an imbalance in the level of chemicals in the brain.
More and more though, it’s thought that there’s a genetic link. That you are more likely to develop bipolar if a close family member has the condition.
So what about MK? Does this mean he’s going to have to battle with his mind every single day in life in the way that I, and many others do?
This plays on my mind enormously. I watch over the moods of this incredible little creature more closely than he watches Peppa Pig.
Has my innocent, kind, loving little boy been put at risk from the very person who is meant to protect him from danger, upset and hurt?
And I find the whole observing of his moods to be a really hard balance to keep.
Funny that. I have bipolar. Balance isn’t a word that is immediately associated with me!
The difficulty I have is that whilst I do want to keep an eye on him, I worry that I may start seeing symptoms of bipolar that are not there.
His mood can flip more quickly than Mark Foster could do a flip turn in the swimming pool. One minute we’re howling with laughter as he zips down the lane on his little electric car, then the next he can be breaking his heart and feeling angry and frustrated when he notices the horn on said little black car isn’t as loud as the one in my car.
His world has just ended. His car is rubbish. He hates it.
He storms out of it and is “never going in it again”. That’s bad enough, but to top it all, yours truly has to navigate the bloody thing back home, bent double so that I can press the accelerator pedal to the floor.
That’s normal five year old behaviour though, isn’t it? At least I think it is. I hope it is.
I want to allow him to be himself and not to over analyse everything. But I worry.
Five year olds are meant to suddenly leap off the sofa to run wildly around the house, entirely out of control, oblivious to their surroundings and making more noise than a room full of trombonists. Aren’t they?
Yes of course they are.
He’s a perfectly normal five year old, displaying perfectly normal five year old behaviour.
It’s normal for children to feel down, irritable, angry, hyperactive or rebellious at times.
He’s still a baby. It’s hard enough for us adults to make sense of our emotions, farless little boys like MK.
And he should be given free rein to be that little boy. To explore his emotions. To flip from being deliriously happy one minute to being inconsolably upset the next.
It’s normal. I know that.
And the reality is that although bipolar can occur at any age, it’s most often diagnosed in older children and teenagers.
That said, in my case the symptoms were there from a very early age.
Although I didn’t receive an accurate diagnosis until the age of thirty five, it was always thought that there was some form of mental illness there.
I was treated for anxiety and depression at first, but everyone missed the fact that I was battling with bipolar.
At times I’ve felt hugely frustrated about that. How different life would have been had I received the correct treatment earlier?
How much devastation and upset would have been avoided, or at least minimized, if I’d had the right meds and therapy when my body and soul were crying out for them?
The reality is though, that on average it takes an incredible ten and a half years to get a correct diagnosis in the UK. How alarming is that?
Plus, before that life changing moment, bipolar sufferers get an average of three and a half misdiagnoses.
I find that terrifying, but more than anything, I find it just so desperately sad. Such needless suffering.
So if this genetic link is true, how come I have bipolar? No-one else had it before me.
Or maybe they did.
It’s always possible that it was present and went undiagnosed. I think that may well have been the case actually, but I’ll never know. Mental illness used to be such a taboo subject that far fewer people used to seek help.
My grandparents’ generation endured at least one World War, and from what I understand, going to the doctor with a fluctuation in mood would have seemed self indulgent given the loss of life and the cruelty that they had witnessed.
Of course it would not have been self indulgent. But I do get it, despite the almost unbearable emotional turmoil that living with an untreated mental illness would have caused.
I guess it doesn’t really matter where my illness came from.
But where MK is concerned, the stats speak for themselves.
There is a genetic link, and little MK has a greater chance of having bipolar than he would if his mummy didn’t have it.
I try to keep it in proportion. I think I do.
Perhaps I can steer him in the direction of safety by providing stability, love and conversation? Or am I being unrealistic. An imbalance is an imbalance.
Every time my brain spirals out of control and tries to convince me otherwise, I remind myself that he’s got more chance of being well than of not being well.
The risk that a child with a parent who has the diagnosis will develop it, is put at about ten to fifteen percent.
On first discovering this statistic I panicked. This is a high percentage, surely? Much higher than I would have guessed. But it’s got to be kept in proportion.
To get ten to fifteen percent in an exam would have meant a fairly epic fail. It would have meant that you barely registered on the ladder of success.
Incidentally, it pains me to say this.
I’ve spent thirty one years trying to convince myself that the fourteen percent I got in chemistry at school was ok! The fact that it was suggested I reconsider my subject options and swap to art should really have told me something!
So, ten to fifteen percent is a low percentage. It’s the lowest mark possible in the old UK marking system. Ah well! Test tubes and Bunsen burners were clearly not my strength.
I guess all I can do is carry on with what I’m doing with MK.
Talk to him about how he feels and keep an eye on him. Be the one who’s there to hug him tightly, wipe his tears, and kiss his little forehead when he’s sad and confused.
To laugh with him when we’re doing silly things and when he does dances and sings to ‘We will Rock You.’
This boy is so precious, as every child is to their parents.
And at least if he does develop a mental illness, his mummy is in the best position possible to understand what he’d be going through, and to hold his hand in battle.
For now though, all I can do is hope against hope that I’ve not been too generous. That I’ve not given him the worst gift ever with no gift receipt.
Be well. x