Managing My Girl’s Tough Bipolar Weeks

Tough week here. My 9 year old forgot to take her meds once last weekend, and she spun into a pit of moody darkness for the rest of the week. It’s just part of the job with a neuro-atypical child, these zero-to-sixty meltdowns. It’s the crappy part of the job. Here’s how I handled it – the good and the bad alike.

A child's bipolar can be dizzying

The Good

I noticed her changing mood and tense, agitated actions pretty early on. I’m learning to read her better and I could tell by the tone and volume of her voice, along with her more rigid body motions, that it was going to be a bad week.

We strategically dropped most of our activities for the week. Transitions are extra-hard for my girl when she’s agitated or depressed, so I made as few as I could this week. I also lowered the sensory load at home. Leaving more space for the mood and managing it well allowed me to relax into what I had to to do help her.

I used ambiance effectively to bring calm. Parents with children dealing with Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism are generally masters at this. We families of bipolar kids learn much from those two groups so we can help our kids in sensory melt-downs that come with a mood shift. I put my daughter in a warm bath with lavender essential oil and low ambient lighting every day after school. It took physically moving her toward calming activities as she’d enter the house yelling each afternoon. One time I just had to get in the bath with her to keep her there. That was the worst day, but she pulled out of the week’s agitation by that night, so it was worth it.

The Bad

I did NOT take care of my own mental and emotional state like I needed to. In the past, I’ve gotten some respite care and flown my mom out to help during the big, longer-lasting mood storms. Somehow I had amnesia this time and just kept hanging on, thinking I could do this on my own. NOT a good idea.

I ignored my own physical signals of distress. When the migraine came on Thursday and didn’t leave until Friday night, I STILL didn’t ask for help. What was I thinking? I was thinking I could change my daughter… I was trying to control the situation and rely on the tools and routines we’ve developed over the years. They help my girl through her valleys, but I still have to take care of her mom during the high-emotional-output weeks.

I left my husband out of the struggle and didn’t connect with him all week. We all know how this can be, moms. We get so into our role as caregiver that we push our supportive relationships off to the side. I needed my husband all week and my tunnel-vision to help my daughter get through the swings kept me isolated.

The Outcome

After 5 days of intensive sensory-oriented, mood-managing, sibling-distract-and-protect-mode…. my girl came out of her funk. She’s back to her spunky self and is engaging her life again. And I finally curled up in hubby’s lap and cried. I needed that MUCH sooner in the process. And I’m so very glad he doesn’t hold it against me when I wind up tighter than a knot in the midst of therapeutic parenting for our girls!

How do you manage escalated moments with your kids? How do you maintain your connection with things that help you and with your spouse during those times?

In mental health,


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