Having a son with both bipolar disorder and autism isn’t easy. One mother shares her story of an evening with her son, the struggles that accompany her daily life, and why she feels so lucky to be his mother.
Parenting Special Needs

An Evening With My Bipolar and Autistic Son

Having a son with both bipolar disorder and autism isn’t easy. One mother shares her story of an evening with her son, the struggles that accompany her daily life, and why she feels so lucky to be his mother.

By Courtney Barnum of A Legion For Liam

Last night was a rough one here at the House of AuSome. Liam got upset with me because he wanted to watch a certain movie and I told him it was inappropriate for him. He got mad. So mad that he shut himself up in his room to pout. For AN HOUR!

Liam is never too far from me. He won’t stay anywhere and always follows me around the house. You get the idea. I was shocked that he was gone for so long and I just let him pout.

It came time for melatonin and he still wasn’t speaking to me. I waited half an hour for his gummy to kick in and told him I was going to bed. He wrote me a note saying he wasn’t talking to me and he was going to sleep in the living room.

Again I was flabbergasted because we share a room. He can’t sleep by himself and, for any of us to get any sleep at all, sharing our room was the only course of action. But I told him I understood. I bent and kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

I walked back to our room. As I was standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth, I heard the pitter patter of little feet. Then two little arms embraced me with such force that I staggered for a moment.

I looked down to see his face. It was all red, tears flowing down his cheeks. He started to heave with heavy sobs. I quickly rinsed my mouth and managed to walk him, his arms still grasping me with all his might, over to my bed. We sat and he immediately climbed into my lap.

My heart sank. He hasn’t cried this hard since his last severe depressive cycle. That was last year. They can come at any time and we are always on pins and needles—fearing it could come any day.

I started softly and asked him questions. “Are you okay? Are you still angry with me? Do you understand why I said no? Do you know how much I love you?” He wouldn’t speak; only answering with nods.

You see, if he were having a meltdown, I wouldn’t be barraging him with questions. I know that would only make it worse. With a dual diagnosis such as Autism and Bipolar, though, it’s usually one or the other. Or one making the other worse. For instance, if he has a meltdown and screams nasty things at us, he sometimes then goes into a depressive cycle because he feels bad for his behavior. Or, if he’s in a manic cycle, he is so high energy and stimming off the walls.

He started pushing against my body to rock him. And so we rocked like that for a good 40 minutes. The crying became softer and then stopped all together. I took a moment and I silently thanked God. Seeing your child in a major depressive cycle literally sucks all the life force out of you. I pray every day that it will skip this season and we won’t have to watch our son in mental agony.

He asked for the Kindle and we sat and played a few games together. We laughed. We giggled. I kissed his gorgeous forehead. He told me he was sorry. He told me he was sad because he was afraid he hurt my feelings and he doesn’t like to do that. I smiled and assured him that, believe it or not, I, too, was a kid once. And I, too, had been in a similar place with my parents.

He handed me the Kindle, snuggled into my arms, and fell asleep. I left him like that for a bit. Staring at his peaceful face. Silently wondering how I got so lucky as to be his mom. With all the struggles, the good days and the awful ones, I wouldn’t trade this child, or my life with him, for anything in this world!

This post was originally published on A Legion For Liam


About Courtney

Courtney is a SAHM. Her son Liam is 9. He’s autistic with a dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. Courtney homeschools him and runs a Facebook page to create awareness for ASD and BPD. In her spare time she runs a local autism support group. You can read more from her at A Legion For Liam.