Childhood bipolar disorder: bad news, in my case

When I was but a wee Nadja, I became symptomatic of childhood onset bipolar disorder. Of course, at this point, my dad was plenty crazy for all of us, and I managed to hide my symptoms to protect my mom from yet more stress. (This would became a recurring theme in my childhood.) I didn’t keep journals at the time, but I have a few vague memories. I mentioned a few of my outbursts in Childhood memories, childhood scars but I was symptomatic long before that. I was practically a textbook case for childhood onset bipolar disorder, especially when I look at this list from’s list of red flag symptoms of bipolar disorder in children (I’ll bold the ones I had):

Very Common Symptoms of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder

* Separation anxiety
* Rages & explosive temper tantrums (lasting up to several hours)
* Marked irritability
* Oppositional behavior
* Frequent mood swings
* Distractibility

* Hyperactivity
* Impulsivity
* Restlessness/ fidgetiness
* Silliness, goofiness, giddiness

* Racing thoughts
* Aggressive behavior
* Grandiosity
* Carbohydrate cravings

* Risk-taking behaviors
* Depressed mood
* Lethargy
* Low self-esteem
* Difficulty getting up in the morning

* Social anxiety
* Oversensitivity to emotional or environmental triggers
I cannot bold this one enough!

Common Symptoms of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder

* Bed-wetting (especially in boys)
* Night terrors
* Rapid or pressured speech
* Obsessional behavior

* Excessive daydreaming
* Compulsive behavior

* Motor & vocal tics
* Learning disabilities
* Poor short-term memory
* Lack of organization
* Fascination with gore or morbid topics

* Hypersexuality
* Manipulative behavior
* Bossiness
* Lying
* Suicidal thoughts
* Destruction of property
* Paranoia
* Hallucinations & delusions

Less Common Symptoms of Early-Onset Bipolar Disorder

* Migraine headaches
* Binging

* Self-mutilating behaviors– If picking scabs and biting of nails count, and I still do both of those things…
* Cruelty to animals

It got particularly bad when I was seven or eight, I recall. I had always been a bit of a melodramatic kid, and was prone to hysterics, but it got worse at this point. I would become enraged to the point of attacking other kids (usually my brother) and was often unable to stop for a few minutes. When on the playground, a kid called me a girl and I grabbed him by the throat, pinned him to the ground, and screamed at him to never call me a girl again. (Mind, I *am* a girl, but he used a rather derisive tone to which I took offense. This might also have been when I was going through puberty and was extremely uncomfortable with the fact that I am female, and was trying to will that away and become a boy. More on that later.) I once nearly tore my brother’s ears off picking him up by them. I’m sure he still has a scar behind one where the flesh actually tore, at which point I panicked and ran into the woods for a while. I was tremendously strong and all-around huge for my age, and my brother, being a little brother, knew all my buttons. I’m surprised we both lived to adulthood.

Another thing I am rather embarrassed to admit, though I know it is a textbook definition of childhood-onset bipolar disorder, is hypersexuality. I barely knew what it was, I barely knew what my body was doing, but I had thoughts that I still cannot cope with. And fascination with gore and morbid topics? I still do that. I like reading about serial killers on Crime Library and many, many other horrifying things. I love cop and forensic shows. I like looking at crime scene footage and car accident pictures, and yet I will be up with nightmares for DAYS because I have such vivid, horrible dreams afterward. I felt so sick and twisted, like I shouldn’t live with thoughts like I had. I hated myself and my mind, and I spent years with guilt so thick it suffocated me, bit by bit. I pled with God to take away the terrible thoughts, and he never did. Those symptoms still happen- hypersexuality when I’m rather manic, and morbid curiosity when I’m depressed- and I still feel sick at times about them, but the more I learn about my illness, the more I am able to cope with those thoughts and feelings.

Childhood is hard for children without mental illness. Growing up bipolar? I still say it’s a miracle I survived to adulthood. And it’ll be another miracle if I survive to old age…



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2 responses to “Childhood bipolar disorder: bad news, in my case

  1. Pingback: Recurring nightmares | prozacinmycornflakes

  2. Pingback: Recurring nightmares | prozacinmycornflakes

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