My Matthew and Me

I live with an amazing little man named Matthew. He happens to be my son. He also happens to be an extremely complex little guy. He wouldn’t like me calling him ‘little’, by the way. The thing is, though, he IS little. Compared to this great, big, scary world we live in he is tiny. Even compared to other boys his age he is small (physically). He will always be my little boy, my little man.

There’s a specialness to the relationship between a boy and his mother. I really believe that. In many ways, I think my relationship with Matthew is even *more* unique because of his challenges. Oh he certainly has no shortage of those! He’s only 12, just a baby in the scheme of things, and yet he has a list of medical issues longer than his name. He takes many pills every day, though thankfully not as many as he was taking a year ago! He knows how to set up and use a nebulizer, how reconstitute injectable meds and prepare a subcutaneous injection, he knows how to use inhalers of various kinds, and how to use the emergency injection device that could save his life if he comes into contact with almonds or peanuts. He knows first-hand what a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction is (and hates them, of course). He is very familiar with the deep, dark depths of despair, and no that is not an exaggeration unfortunely. He doesn’t need to read Jekyll and Hyde… he lives it daily.

He rides a major roller coaster of emotions and energy, with sometimes dozens of highs and lows both in a single day. His bipolar disorder alone would cause this, but to add to the complexity, so would his systemic Lyme disease and bartonella infections. He starts each day with a handful of pills and an inhaler. He ends each day with another handful of pills, an inhaler, a nasal spray, and an injection. Often he spends the time in between using the nebulizer every couple of hours.

This roller coater of emotions and energy levels combined with the difficulties breathing, the hayfever symptoms, and often physical aches and pains all adds up to one very troubled little boy. My heart aches for him over all the struggles he has in his life, knowing there will be even more in the years ahead. I only wish I knew more how to help him. I know he feels all alone because he tells me that no one knows what it’s like to have all these problems. I really wish he could meet a strong Christian boy or man that has dealt with bipolar and maybe some other medical issues as well that he could talk to. Mom’s ok, but sometimes a little guy like mine needs something more.

I don’t know but what his extremely high intelligence makes things even worse for him. He understands so much more intellectually than most kids his age. He’s also got a strong independant streak in him that if controlled and funneled correctly could make him a very great leader. Especially since he is also full of strong compassion for others. He just feels and does EVERYTHING so much more intensely than most everyone I know. I guess that’s to be expected with bipolar disorder, but goodness! I don’t know how to help him control and direct those strong passionate feelings in constructive ways. I really think his heart just tears in two sometimes thinking about others lost soul’s, and then other times it seems like his heart is just exploding with anger at the world and everyone in it.

You would think that suffering from depression and anxiety myself I’d be able to help him more, but that’s just not the case. I *feel* for him. I *understand* him. I *think* the way he thinks (really, it’s uncanny how alike we are), but for the life of me I don’t know how to teach him to DEAL with this disorder. I know for myself I pretty much just ‘go with the flow’ and that’s ok for me. That works because I don’t get the super intense rage and anger nearly as often as he does. For me, my emotions/moods are *almost* ‘normal’ or ‘stable’ the last couple of years at least because of my being able to decrease drastically my bacterial load (which was only aggravating the mood disorder) and also taking an antidepressant.

For a lot of people with bipolar an antidepressant alone is a big BAD idea, as it throws their moods even more to the ‘high’ side. On the high side it isn’t all peaches and cream and rose-tinted glasses. Not even close. Being too ‘high’ can bring the major rage problems, extreme insomnia, complete lack of impulse control, and sometimes even a loss of a sense of reality. Every person with bipolar is different, of course, and so the ‘high’ look different for every person. For Matthew, he has all the above along with super irritability and a super-inflated sense of self (he’s the best _____, the most _____, etc). His highs tend to last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

When I’m in a low period (and these used to last for weeks or months at a time) I’d have no energy, no interest in anything. I get super paranoid about everything, and I feel completely worthless and horribly guilty… about everything. I feel guilty doing anything for myself, I feel guilty for not doing more for others, I feel guilty for feeling guilty! I’ve been down so deep I literally hoped I would die and tried to passively commit suicide many times. Thankfully, for *me*, taking an antidepressant has limited (by a LOT) the lows. Not only the depth of the lows, but also the frequency, and the length of them. Nowadays I’ll feel blue or a little down on myself for a few days maybe, but I haven’t hit rock bottom since starting the meds, nor do these lows last anywhere as long as they used to.

For Matthew, he was put on an antidepressant as well, and it *did* increase the highs… or at least the problematic symptoms of them. Or maybe it didn’t actually increase them, but it let them be noticed more, as the lows were better. He has ADHD on top of everything else, and so the lack of impulse control and ability to pay attention to his school work meant we added a med for ADHD. The impulse control has definitely been helped, but it’s not perfect by any means. He’s currently off the antidepressant and we’ve increased his bipolar meds, but he’s still not stable. Plus the increased dosage has caused another problem… extreme sleepiness.

The poor kid can’t seem to win for losing! I love both my kids so very much, but there is a very distinct difference in parenting them. I know all kids are different and therefore parenting is different for every kid. I get that, I do. But my goodness parenting these two is even more extreme than night and day! Meagan is a pretty easy kid to parent, even with her discipline difficulties and she does have some as all kids do. Matthew on the other hand… NO parenting technique in terms of discipline seems to work with him. We’ve tried everything we know to try and the kid still seems to be floundering in the giant sea of life. It’s like he’s never been able to even learn to tread water, let alone float, or swim. Meagan might tire out sometimes, or get lazy with her swimming or whatever, but all in all she keeps her head above water, and is at least heading in the right general direction.

I just pray Matthew will keep trying to hang on to whatever life raft he can reach and keep trying to figure out the whole swimming/floating/treading water thing. Sometimes he seems so discouraged and tired of trying hang on, that I worry he’s going to just let go one of these days and sink.


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