Imagine the challenges of puberty and teenage life, and then add bipolar disorder. It is a demanding existence. School is a huge stressor for Cathy's daughter. She has yet to write an exam or finish a whole semester in a regular classroom. Our local hospital has a mental health classroom for teens. Cathy has also utilized tutors that come to their home. When her daughter is well, she is an A student, but large assignments send her into depression. As with adults, she suffers from weight gain. Cathy explains how that is horrible for a young teen and wreaks havoc on her self-esteem. She has been told that regular exercise will help but as anyone fighting depression knows, finding the energy for that is almost impossible. One of Cathy's worst fears is her daughter's suicidal thoughts – there are many and some were quite serious. Cathy has even had to leave work in the middle of the day to check on her daughter out of worry.
Cathy talks about how her daughter has lost almost every friend she's ever had. Losing friends is also common among adult patients but friendships are so important to teenagers and their lifestyle. Her sleep is disrupted and she spends many days just laying in bed. Medication has been hit and miss but does seem to help a bit. Cathy is fortunate that she has a very close relationship with her daughter. She describes herself as being her anchor in the storm. She relies heavily on her for everything. Cathy has done something very smart – she has started psychotherapy herself. She describes it as being very emotional but knows to be able to help her daughter she needs to stay mentally healthy herself.