One Family’s Journey With Bipolar Disease

Bipolar is a subject that few people understand, actually that statement fits just about every disease involving the brain. We tend to avert our eyes and minds from anyone who is not quite like us. Those of you who know me, know that I write pretty unconventional reviews. I read to learn and understand, it matters not one iota if the book is fact or fiction, there is always something to be gleaned from within its pages.

My first exposure to this disease was while working in a homeless shelter, Bipolar was not an uncommon issue. That is not to construe that all homeless people are Bipolar, nor all Bipolar sufferers are homeless. However if you look at some of the ‘fall out’ from symptoms, manic depressive behavior, compulsion, susceptibility to addiction, anti social, and often egocentric behavior patterns, it is easy to see how many sufferers do indeed end up on the streets.

My wife and I befriended a young man, in fact for several months he lived with us. He had no reason to be homeless, he just felt helpless in his plight. He was smart, articulate, artistic, and while I never had the opportunity to learn his IQ, I would say that it was above normal. A young man that most would view as having a great career potential. But that was only on his good days. Many days were not so bright. He would hide in his room, carefully avoiding human contact, disconnect his computer from the internet from fear of attack from some unknown assailant.

OK, having given you all a lecture, for which I apologize, lets talk about Mommy I’m Still In Here.  Kate McLaughlin is a happily married mother of three.  A caring husband Mark, and three great kids, Chloe, Michael, and Monica, this seemed like an idyllic existence, the American dream.

In retrospect Kate realizes that many warning signs were put before her, yet chose to ignore them, the exuberance of youth covers a great deal of ground. Eventually though, Chloe does start to unravel, behavior that was not in keeping with the happy young girl growing up. Moody obstreperous teenagers are the norm, every parent will attest to that! Hormones and peer pressure make for a brutal combination. But what happens when the problems don’t go away, instead they take on more disturbing  facets?

With the entire family now having to deal with an increasingly irascible Chloe, they head to the medical world. The prognosis is not good, Chloe is Bipolar, a simple word, but one with an encyclopedic length definition. Worse yet, while the condition is well known and documented, the treatment varies from patient to patient, an effective drug for one, is a failure for another.

The family enters what can only described as the dark ages, nothing seems to work, drug after drug is tried, some show short term benefits but long term losses. I am sure that there were moments where Kate McLaughlin doubted the medical fraternity. The results of their experiments were about as successful as applying leeches! Yet Kate persisted, giving succor in what seemed a losing situation. After suicide attempts, an almost broken marriage, somehow she has continued to keep going. Chloe continues to move forward, but it is in small steps, weeks of improvement and normalcy are wiped out in seconds.

The time spent with Chloe during the worst periods took valuable time away from the rest of the family, younger son Michael seemed the embodiment of the perfect young man, good grades, polite, outgoing, and gregarious. However all was not fine, once again those telltale signs had been missed. While Chloe had avoided drugs and alcohol, Michael embraced them, Chloe confined her violence mainly towards herself, Michael was more outgoing. In one episode he came perilously close to death at the hands of an armed police unit. He was lucky that it was a Taser and not a gun that what used to subdue his knife wielding behavior.

With two children suffering from Bipolar, Kate and Mark McLaughlin can only wait and watch to see if their third child Monica will follow in the path. There is apparently a 75% chance that young Monica will follow in this well trodden path. As Mommy I’m Still In Here points out the early warning signs of this disease are easy to miss, and dismiss, by the time that you realize there is a problem it has already reached epic proportions. Kate McLaughlin’s experiences have been that the watershed occurs when the child is 15 or 16, I do not know if that is the norm.

Mommy I’m Still In Here is an important book, it is easy to sweep the subject of Mental Health under the rug. It is actually as acute and incapacitating as a physical problem, yet it is often ignored.

I would be remiss in not explaining the title of the book, the title says it all. Bipolar is not a constant. It is not like the ‘Trade Winds’ that took the early explorers to discover the world, it is instead it is the shifty wind that sailors hate. They never know where the next puff will come from, or if that next light puff will turn into a hurricane. The title for this great book comes from a comment made by Chloe while in hospital after a very bad episode “Mommy I’m still in here” she entreats. This young lady loves her family, understands the problems she faces, but cannot find a solution!

You can get your copy of this well written, and insightful book from Amazon. Kate also has a web site that you might wish to visit.

Simon Barrett

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