Bob has a genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder through me. Looking back, I realize that I started showing signs of depression at age 13, but I know that it is hindsight that allows me to say this definitively. If I didn't have bipolar now, then all that depression in my youth would be attributed to normal teenage moodiness in a kid with issues.
One reason it took so long for me to be diagnosed is that I don't really show many signs of mania. Normally this would mean I just have depression, but with my strong family history of bipolar they call it bipolar with hypomania. What signs of mania I do have, I've always assumed were normal. Most of my friends would occasionally stay up all night to cram for exams or work on a project, or get psyched up to go clubbing when they were tired. What I didn't realize was that they were using caffeine or drugs, not chewing a piece of gum.
I was tested in college for bipolar/depression, and was told that I didn't have it. I was told instead that it was a "learned behavior" from growing up with a mom with bipolar disorder.
I've learned through reading The Bipolar Child that bipolar in children is often different than that of adults. That's why we didn't recognize the symptoms in Kitty and Bear. In kids, bipolar can be much more rapid cycling (between mania and depression). Mania can also be seen as irritability and anger besides just the elevated mood and hyperness that seems to symbolize classic mania.
So lately 14 year old Bob has been showing some signs. Super silliness for several hours, crankiness for no reason, mood swings, depression and sleep issues... but all could also be explained by the fact that she's a young teenage girl.
I decided it was time to talk to her about it. I mentioned that her behavior could be totally normal, but I needed her to watch for the more scary symptoms like suicidal impulses or feelings. She assured me that she didn't feel suicidal.
A week later she told me that she was getting worried that she did have bipolar disorder. I wasn't seeing signs that it was interfering in her life, and it's not like there's a blood test she can take to show she has it, so I told her we'd keep monitoring the situation. I again asked if she was suicidal and she said no. I sought reassurance that she'd come to me if she was, but she couldn't promise me that. Whoa!
We talked about how she needed to talk to me if she felt depressed, especially suicidal. If she felt she couldn't do that then she needed to talk to somebody. She mentioned her friends, but she's smart enough to understand and acknowledge why that isn't really an option. We talked about the fact that if you have suicidal impulses then driving a car could be really dangerous. She's not driving yet, but she's closer.
We don't have health insurance and I know most doctors probably wouldn't do anything for a moody teenager anyway, so I'm going to just continue to keep an eye on this. Hopefully nothing will come of it all.