I don’t do a whole lot of what you’d call personal blogging on this site. I stick to reviews and discussions of my work and various bits and pieces of writing- or publishing-related trivia that some people seem to find interesting. Occasionally I’ll talk about my son. Today is one of those days.
You’ll recall my son turned thirteen in October. I know they always talk about how “they grow up so fast,” but I’m here to tell you that’s not an exaggeration. I honestly have no idea how we got from the sweet little boy we had to the raging, hormonal teenager who lives in our house now. It’s not a transition I hoped for or dreamed about and it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.
I mentioned last week that from the ages of about 23-39 I was a wild man on the internet. I picked fights with regularity, was rude and unforgiving even to people who were my friends, and was generally unpleasant in a way that causes me great shame today. You may wonder what’s changed between now and then, and I will tell you now, though I have never discussed it openly before: I have bipolar disorder.
Specifically I have Bipolar II, which is a less extreme manifestation of the illness. Not something to be trifled with, certainly, but I have never been so manic that I’ve seen things and heard voices, nor have I ever been so depressed that I needed radical therapies to get moving again. That said, I’ve been in some dark places and I’ve made a lot of poor decisions when manic. I was an entirely different person before I got treatment, and I hardly recognize the person I was then.
My son, as you well know by now, has autism. We knew from a fairly early age (about six) that his autism was also accompanied by bouts of aggression. This isn’t uncommon among autistic children and adults. It wasn’t until my son was nine that I knew the root cause of my own issues, and even then I had some difficulty putting two and two together. Bipolar had cost me so much during my lifetime, from good friends to family, that I refused to believe that my son, who was already laboring under a significant handicap, might have this problem, too.
It wasn’t too bad at first. Like I said, we knew aggression was an issue, and a dose of a specific medication seemed to curb most of that. As he grew older, he was diagnosed with ADHD — something else that’s very common among autistic children, sad to say — and got a couple more medications to help with that.