Dear Dr. Archer,
My 21 year old daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago when she was hospitalized. She's been hospitalized two more times since, with one being two weeks after her initial discharge, and the other being exactly one year later. The first year she was in denial, but during this last hospital stay she accepted her diagnosis.
This past year we have been working very hard to keep her well. She has a psychologist and psychiatrist, and we go to a family therapist. I go to two different parent support groups in my town, and we've completed the D.B.T. classes.
She's still in college and doing very well. She has a part time job, working 3 days a week for a total of nine hours weekly to keep her busy.
Our worry is summer when she has no school. This past weekend she had a very difficult time, to the point where I had to physically restrain her because she was attacking me. I know it's her sickness that is causing it, so I try not to get too upset, but it still hurts.
Today she told me she wasn't doing well and didn't want to get out of bed. She is on spring break this week, and this is why the summer is worrying me so much.
I'm hoping she can pick up more hours at work, but she is only per diem and she has SSI and can't work too many hours -- up to 20, I believe. Any psychological input would be appreciated. We live in Massachusetts.
It sounds like your daughter is in excellent hands and is getting very good professional medical help. You are to be commended for that.
Do not panic with summer approaching. This can be a wonderful break for your daughter to do something totally different, even exciting. If she's able to extend her hours at work to make extra cash, great.
Her time that is normally spent at school could be spent volunteering at a number of wonderful organizations.
The first one that comes to mind is an animal shelter. Not only will the employees welcome her, she will have interaction with animals which can be very therapeutic. From walking dogs to interacting with cats and kittens. If she likes animals she should enjoy this worthwhile project.
Does she enjoy children? Volunteer at your local women's shelter to help work with little children while their moms take a break or learn a vocation. Again, the staff would be very grateful for the help.
Does she enjoy the elderly? Again, senior homes are filled with wonderful men and women who would love someone to talk to, or someone to read to them, or play a game of checkers.
My suggestion to you, Angela, is to talk with your daughter and decide what would be best for HER. Something that she enjoys so that she would thrive during her summer break.
I strongly suggest you both read how she can change her life for the better BECAUSE of being bipolar. Channeling her traits in the right direction can make all the difference.
From your letter, I'm very optimistic about your daughter coming out on top, as long as she knows her strengths and uses them to her advantage. Best of luck to you both and keep us posted.