The First Hour of a Day with a Child Who Has Bipolar Disorder

When the alarm goes off, it seems as though I have already been thinking all night in my sleep about the five phone calls I will have to make in the morning… 1) to the psychiatrist to make an overdue appointment, 2) to the pharmacy to renew several prescriptions, 3) to the teacher to explain why the girl’s homework isn’t completed, 4) to the sitter to arrange for her to come over while I attend an IEP meeting the following week, and 5) to the lab to ensure that the doctor’s order for the monthly blood test has been received.

I reach over to turn off the intrusive sound and I stretch a bit to wake up. I hear the patter of twelve-year-old feet entering my bedroom. She asks for the third consecutive morning if I can drive her to school so she can get another thirty minutes of sleep. She whines about her headache and tummy ache. I tell her I have a full schedule and do not have time to drive her to school today.

She stomps out of my bedroom. I remind her to take her medications, which were placed in a little dish on the counter the previous night. I know that if she doesn’t take them soon she will begin talking nonstop in a high, squeaky voice and I’m not in the mood for it this morning. She ignores my request and goes straight through the kitchen and down the hall to her bedroom. As I slip into my robe, I shoot up a quick prayer for the endurance and patience I will need for the day.

The coffee pot spurts out the dark roast and the heavenly smell fills the air. I long for just a few minutes to wrap both hands around a 14-ounce mug of hot brew while I take a moment to watch the sun rise and collect my thoughts. But, not until the front door slams shut and she is on her way. Right now, there is a lunch to pack, laundry to start, a breakfast to make, and the usual missing items of clothing and homework to locate. These items will usually be found shoved under beds and stuffed into drawers alongside random papers, fingernail polish, pencils, underwear, paper clips, gum wrappers, and who knows what else.

I peek down the hall to see if there is any movement in the girl’s bedroom. She is wrapped in two blankets looking up at the ceiling. She complains loudly that it’s cold in the house and demands that I light the fireplace. I glare at the nine pills in the bowl and think how I would hate to swallow them twice every day for a lifetime. However, I am fully aware that if the girl doesn’t take them it will cause serious consequences that none of us want to face.

Panic sets in as I realize she now has 25 minutes to get dressed, eat breakfast, and get to the bus stop. Trying to pry her from hibernation, I ask in a loud voice what the girl wants for breakfast. She slinks into the kitchen, dragging the two blankets behind her and plunks herself down at the counter. I place a bottle of water down and point to the medications, but she ignores my gesture and tells me she wants toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk.

She asks for the millionth time why, unlike her friends, she has to live with bipolar disorder and ADHD. I don’t have an answer, so I just keep smearing peanut butter. I can’t blame her for asking – often, I too ask the same question. She is now talking incessantly about things that occurred the previous day at school as she jams the breakfast into her mouth. She gets up abruptly and rushes off to get dressed. (The medications are still in the bowl.) I want to scream, but instead I throw the first load of laundry into the washer and decide I’d better get dressed, just in case she misses the bus.

Five minutes later, she is in the kitchen frantically brushing her hair, gathering the scattered homework, and recovering her MP3 player from under the table. I look at the medications again and yell, “TAKE YOUR MEDS!” She gulps them down with one swallow of water, grabs her backpack and jacket from the floor of the front hall and storms outside leaving the front door wide open to the cold autumn temperature.

There on the kitchen table is the permission slip for an upcoming field trip which needs to be returned today. I quickly snatch it up and race to the door waving it in the air and motioning for her to come back and retrieve it. She runs back up the driveway, grabs the slip, nearly ripping it in two, and runs right past me to her room to find her mittens. I glance at the microwave clock and calculate that if the bus is just one minute late today, the girl will still be able to catch it and I won’t have to drive her to school again. I shut the door, lean against the wall, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. If I wait three minutes and she hasn’t come back crying and screaming, it means I can have my cup of coffee before making the phone calls. Three minutes elapse without her appearance and I gaze upward in thanksgiving.

That is the first hour of my day living with bipolar in my house.

About dorothyruppert

Author of two books - God Placed Her in My Path - Lessons Learned From the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder -Sixty Days of Grace - God's Sufficiency for the Journey
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