About Angela McClanahan, Author of 'Life With Bob' Blog
When I began my journey into this wild terrain called “Motherhood,” I thought I knew what I was doing. After all, I was a 28-year-old, soon-to-be college graduate with three younger siblings. I had years of babysitting experience and the gifts of critical thinking and research in my arsenal. Having a child surely couldn’t be any more difficult than having a puppy, right?
That was almost nine years ago. Boy, have I learned a lot.
My Child Has Bipolar Disorder
Although having a child isn’t a whole lot different than having a puppy, there are some distinct differences. When your child happens to have a mental illness, the differences increase exponentially.
Critical thinking and research have come in handy since “Bob” came into my life in 2001, and even more since his bipolar diagnosis in 2008. Being Bob’s mom has been a carnival ride full of ups, downs, twists and turns. It hasn’t always been fun. It has often been lonely. It has not been what I ever expected.
It has taught me I am not perfect, but I have more patience than I ever thought possible. It has taught me the world has a long way to go in terms of accepting mental illness as real and worthy of attention. It has taught me to appreciate my son for the wonderful person he is and hopefully will become, rather than dwell on what he is not.
Although I have chronicled our journey through various personal blogs, this is my first foray into the open blogosphere. If you are the parent of a child with bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness, I hope you will join me, and take heart in the knowledge that you are not alone.
Life with Bob: A Video on Parenting A Child with a Mental Illness
In this parenting video, Angela talks about the importance of having a blog that speaks to parents of a bipolar child, ADHD child, a child with depression or anxiety. Take a look.
McClanahan, A. (2010, July 26). About Angela McClanahan, Author of 'Life With Bob' Blog, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2010/07/about-angela-mcclanahan
Author: Angela McClanahan
Thank you so much for writing everything I'm feeling. I'm exhausted, we've had 12 different diagnoses in 5 years. Nothing is getting better, only worse. I am now exploring the thought of inpatient and it's breaking my heart. I believe my son has bi-polar as well but is only 9 so it can't officially be diagnosed so he has a laundry list of DSM diagnoses that all sound the same. How many ways can you say aggressive, unpredictable, and angry? Thanks for making me feel less alone tonight. It's been a particularly tough day. Hugs!
My nine year old son that's getting out of hands
Angela you story sounds like what my husband and I are dealing with our 9 year old daughter, Emily. Would you share information about inpatient facilities that you tried. We are currently dealing with crisis centers and counselors that do not take responsibility of sending us to an hospital that will assess and evaluate in a 24 hour basis.
I saw on facebook that you took some flack - misinterpretation and twisting of your words, criticism of your parenting, and you handled it very well, diplomatically, you are very strong.
I would have crumbled if those things were said to me and of my parenting. I already feel guilty enough, and yet I'm told I've done incredibly well, especially in light of the fact that I myself have bipolar depression, which has resurfaced due to all this stress. I'm told I'm also very strong. Yuck! You've got to be kidding me! I can barely survive, and just try to exist, moment to moment, until I have to get through the next moment.
I am not a fan of facebook, not strong enough to withstand that kind of misinterpretation and criticism.
Kudos to you for being able to keep your head held high in face of those comments of people who don't know you and don't understand. I would not have been stong enough to keep from taking it personally and being very hurt. I'm oversensitive enough as it is. I face enough failure and rejection here at home - I don't need to have it reinforced by strangers.
All these thoughts and feelings of these parents are totally my own.
All my friends, who all have normal children can only look at me, with their faces mirroring the sadness reflected from my own face. They have nothing to say, because they don't know what to say.
I am now in the grieving stage of losing my 13 year old boy. I live in the hope that he will change - he doesn't have to be normal, if he could just be a little bit happy. My 10 year old daughter and I have been his whipping boys for the last couple of years - we are evil, and any acts of love we show are twisted into trying to persecute him, hurt him, slander him, cheat him. I cry for the boy who still loved and trusted me, when he was in grade 4. My husband, never a man to break down, now cries also.
And we all live tormented, as my son lives within the torment of his mind. We are all prisoners and slaves to his illness just as he is.
Thank you for listening.
I know where you are, Sandy. Probably a number of people who have posted here know where you are.
The only thing I can suggest is to practice pulling in so tight inside your mind that you literally become your and hands and feet getting you through the day. Medicating doesn't change anything, it just slows you down so that you have little energy to get inside yourself and find the coping tools. Letting the pain at its worst wash over you is usually the best.
We must come to see the mentally disturbed child as a person rather than the child. If we can let the child go, we see that we really wish this sick person well. We don't love them the same way, perhaps, but we don't want anything bad to happen to them. It took me years to realize what letting go truly was.
It's really hard to do when we're bleeding all over the floor. But deep inside us is a place where we have the strength. It's truly a minute-by-minute mindset. These ill children have a way of coming from behind and grabbing us at the ankles. Then we go to pieces, and it takes a while to regain ourselves.
No, it isn't fair. It's horrible. At least with a retarded child there is a sweetness that is there, usually. With Bi-Polar and Borderline, the child can do so much damage.
But we must remain intact, Sandy. And that involves becoming selfish and pulling in and shutting them out until we can repair ourselves. I'm still working on it. But I know it's the only way to survive over the long term.
There is a book: When Madness Comes Home. You may find something there that will help.
All our thoughts are with you.
My heart feels for so many of you. Feels sadness, yes. But also - hope.
I'm just curious - a lot of the behavioral traits that are mentioned by caretakers/parents seem to be more of the batch ascribed to Borderline Personality disorder. I know there's overlap, co-current illness, grey area, etc., etc., but I was just wondering if anyone is referring to Borderline Personality disorder instead of Bipolar Disorder.
Of course, as is clear - no matter the label, everyone needs support.
Please take care, as best you can.
Just found this site. Have needed it for years. I am a 48 year old divorced mother of a 21 year old bi-polar daughter. I understand what the lady who said "whipping boy" means.
My daughter is the meanies, nastiest, cuss I ever have meet in my life. (next to my mother who had the same illness when she was alive). I believe the DSM refers to it as "agitated, irritability and anger"
She has finally received SSI (if anyone can live on $457.00) a month, and I am moving her out of my house to a college town about 45 minutes away. I will be so relieved when she is finally out of my house. I do not have hope that she will be successful, as she has failed so many time (moving out on her own). She wants to attend college. What I do know about my daughter is she knows how to get what she wants. I am hoping a college education is one of those thing.
I suffer from PTSD, depression and anxiety...She not only aggravates these conditions, she very well maybe the cause.
I feel suicidal, with the fear she will terrorize me the rest of my life. They say this disease is manageable, but only for those who work at it. It takes the right doctor, the right medication mix, the right therapy, and real desire to get healthier.
I have a fiance, that won't agree to marriage because of fear of my daughter. I really can't say I would blame him. I would not want to have to be apart of this drama that comes with the BP disease.
Yes, I am getting help. It's just, nothing changes.
Hooray for the mother who gave her son his meds herself. A bigger hooray for the boy that took the meds. Tried that one many, many times. Never has worked.
I am not sure the pain of this disease will ever be eradicated, unless an actual cure is found.
Hello. I am bipolar myself and have family with mental illness. I must say it can be expensive and frustrating but with the right meds taken every day life is good. I was fortunate that I was diagnosed the summer before senior year so I was not labeled by the school system. My mother god bless her gave me my meds herself at home til I snapped out of an episode. I admitted myself once after changing meds when I could not afford them. My psychiatrist said I would never drive or graduate college which I have done both. I have social anxiety which I have grown out of for the most part but I can get awkward quickly when I am upset or self conscious. I am happily married. My partner (opposite sex) was supposed to read a pamphlet on bipolar before we got married. After living with me for long enough decided to throw the pamplet out without opening it because by that time knew everything about me and how I handle my disorder. Having Children is another issue. I am afraid I will pass this on to my children. The important thing to remember is that every, Bob, Chris and Nancy whatever they are diagnosed as are individuals with their own personalities and who handle their situation differently. It can be difficult most antipsychotics are expensive and cause weight gain which can make you even more depressed. It may take awhile to get used to but eventually you learn coping skills to lessen the awkwardness and calm the emotional rollercoaster. My mom has gone through so much with her mother and my siblings. I took awhile to get where I am now, certain things took me way longer to accomplish but I did. And as much as I would rather not be bipolar I am thankful that my mom had me and has been so supportive. Thank you to all the moms out there dealing with this. hang in there.
Hi Angela, my name is also Bob, and I have SUFFERED like your son with a
seriously disabling mental illness. My mother, whose name is Anne, lost almost all her calcium reserve when she had me. Also according to weather records in 1953, she carried me throughout that summer in her womb in my hometown's record breaking heat,( that still stands even today in 2010 of Pittsfield Mass). Upon coming out of my Mom's womb, it's been a nightmare for not only myself, but my Mom, Father, my siblings, (when they were younger), neighbors, friends ever since! If I was born today,(The 21st century), Doctors would at the snap of their fingers diagnosis my as having an autistic related disorder...which was practically unheard of or not even defined in the early 1950's. My hat's off to my amazing parents who had to deal with such strife of my difficulties..not to mention: raising/taking care of my 5, YES FIVE other siblings. My father, barley making it financially working a blue collar job...even though he was in a good, strong labor union, has had his share of layoffs/work stoppages from time to time, (at one instances 11 months)! My Mom, eventually had to get to work herself, too, first at a department store then, at a decent position at a local community college to help with financial hardships of raising us, and of travelling hundreds of miles trying to find the right school for me..which after two years of searching and almost that amount of time on a waiting list to finally be accepted at a private boarding facility called Devereux school in Pennsylvania...www.devereux.org.( Aside from the help of my parents, and local psychiatrist), If it wasn't for the help of then Senator Kennedy, who pushed for a disability bill for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, my parents would not afford the $7500.00/year tuition, (in 1966 terms) of the school...I would be in the "gutter" of some dirty, institution, were there would be mistreatment all the time. My Mom & Dad have certainty paid their dues.... I thank God for such caring parents as them. I am fortunate that I still have the privilege to see them in their retirement community in Florida, today, and thankfully there are both alive still. I now drive an automobile, and work PT from time to time to supplement my SSDI income. I now think of people my age in their 50's, and think, how they have their own struggles such as career, mortgage, kids/grandkids, and so forth, just as I think of my personal struggles with a mental handicap. Thank You for all who read this article...and best of luck Angela with your son, whose has a name synonymous to mine...Take Care & God Bless.
This comment is for the parents here who have talked about their worries for the future, for the time when they be old and die and leave their wounded offspring behind.
We have had those worries so often, for many years. We've changed a lot of provisions for our future in order to leave some kind of means for our son so that he won't be the complete responsibility of his siblings. You can never provide for everything, though.
Regarding the horrible grief you experience, day to day. What I'm about to say will sound very hard. We've been living with this problem for over 30 years. In that period of time, the way we love this son has changed. It's still love, but there has been a shift, an evolving, a letting go of some emotional attachments.
He forced those changes upon us, really. We have reached the point where we can admit to ourselves that we think about a life without this constant cruelty and pain. We can say, "This isn't fair. I hate this."
Do we regret that he was born? We regret that he's sick and in pain. But I no longer blame that on myself. When your love for the child reaches this stage of maturity -- sort of like married love goes through all kinds of changes -- you can see your sick child as a person who really isn't that baby you bore. Once that acceptances comes, that that person disappeared many years ago, judgment will be more sound. Decisions will be more objective and correct.
It's not that you don't love them, you just don't love them the same way. And it's a blessing, truly, to let those memories go. That child/person doesn't exist anymore.
I am personally still in the stage of backsliding to the old way and being vulnerable and destructible. I know when it happens. It's a terrible place to be. It makes me sick. I have to drag myself back to saying, "This is a very ill person. This is not the infant I gave birth to. I am here to see that nothing bad happens if I can."
As we become old and reach our final years, I think that most of those decisions will really be made for us. Irene, in my heart, I think we will be able to live with what cannot be changed and allow life to do what it does.
My heart weeps for all the pain borne by everyone who has posted on this thread.
Hi, my name is Sharon and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I have two children with Bipolar Disorder, a daughter now 18 diagnosed eventually at 14 after showing signs at onset of puberty at 11yrs and after a long long battle trying to get psychiatrists to listen. I could see in my son at 11 yrs also that something wasn't 'right' in the way he behaved and responded to things so by 12 yrs at him at the same 'good' psychiatrist however after 2 years of being with her and the psych thinking he had ADD he had a total manic episode and was impossible to live with and she finally diagnosed him as having bipolar/borderline personality disorder. I firmly believe that a lot of kids are being missed with this diagnosed until it becomes catastrophic to live with and am glad at such a young age your son Angela has at least been able to get the help these kids so badly need.
However, the help for parents - the understanding from both friends, family and the community is not there - not anywhere that I can see and so we turn to the internet to reach out to each other as it is a VERY LONELY road.
Thank you ladies for sharing your stories - hopefully together we can build our own 'community' and reach out and help each other.
Hi,My name is Laura. Our son,Brian is 26 and living with us. WE live in Israel,difficult to make it on your own,however..that can be just another excuse I use to cover "him" and "myself"..sigh.
WE noticed trouble brewing at age six. We took him to therapy. He was defiant,argumentive and exhibiting defiant behaviors in school. We were called constantly. I later decided to put him in special classes (with the guidence of the school social worker). later as more defiance surfaced...we baker acted him. This is the place that diagnosed Brian with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. That we would have our hands full.
He refuses therapy. He is working now,full time. We don't ask anything of him because of his "personality". He is not loud. He is manipulative. Here we are in our sixties...wishing I could suggest he find a place to live..and simply can't get myself to do tough love.
Ladies: I am hopeful to read some of the information and comments on this blog. I have a 29 year old with schizoaffective disorder and an 18 year old with ADHD, depression and agoraphobia with a "normal" son in-between. I also have a husband with mental issues. Life certainly didn't turn out the way I thought it would, but life DOES go on. Sometimes the burden of all this seems overwhelming. Only my faith sustains me during those times. Again, I look forward to hearing some of the ways other folks deal with these issues.
I too understand...I have a great looking son, a man of age 29 with Schizophrenia...to me, he is still my baby. He is the youngest of my three children. I wonder many times, what will happen to him when my husband and I are gone...my one daughter was diagnosed with MS, so she can't worry about him and my other daughter has her problems too. I'm not sure what I can do for my son, except to give his medication and hope he will not get another episode of madness. His voices make him say and do things I am afraid of most of the time. I thank God for my husband who can control him...what will I do alone with my son??? God help us...
Our son has bi-polar disorder, but we have no niche to fit into because he's 45 years old and an adult child, also. The combination of the two presents very unique problems. The only thing I can contribute is that I, as the mother, have found myself becoming my son's "whipping boy" for the past 20 years. This is a verbal and an emotional abuse, nothing physical. I don't know about other parents who have become victimized, but I seem to have developed a PTSD condition -- kind of like shell-shock, as it used to be called. The fear-place I go to when his voice raises makes me almost disfunctional.
I would like to convey my best wishes to long-term caregivers of the emotionally ill. It is so important to protect your own emotional health. If there is help to be had for caregivers in this situation, I've yet to find it.
I'm reminded of the lyrics to an old song..."when one kind word meant more to me than all the love in Paradise."
When one is very low, on the bottom, any support at all is welcome, even if it's only to say, "I understand." To all parents going through this, I say with all my heart, "I understand."
Big hugs to you, Linda. It's important for caregivers to take care of ourselves, too, but often that's easier said than done. Thanks for your comment--please take care of yourself!
This is great, Angela!!!!!
Anyone have a direct email contact for Angela? My son is 8 yrs old with ADHD, ODD and other personal challenges which have been evident and escalatind since he was 2-3 years old. His mom is in denial so that makes proper evaluation and treatment on an outpatient basis impossible. I live in Florida and have not been able to identify an inpatient facility for a 30-90 inpatient evaluation because of his age. It seems like 11 years old is the youngest age any facility will accept in Florida. I'm willing to admit for inpatient evaluation anywhere in the country if anyone knows a highly regarded facility or staff. Thanks!
I'm so sorry to hear about your difficulties with your son. We do not have an email address for Angela, and I'm afraid that I don't have many answers for you regarding your question. Have you contacted your local NAMI group (National Alliance for Mental Illness)? NAMI is an excellent contact for mental health resources in your area. They can tell you about the local facilities and doctors, and also provide support groups for parents. I've found NAMI parents to also be an excellent networking resource and very open to helping whenever they can. The Resource page here on the HealthyPlace site has the numbers to reach NAMI. In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck with your son.