Well the experiences of raising a child with these issues is what has shaped us over the last 12 years. So it is my aim to not relay the direct experiences, but more to focus on what happened as a result of our family life during these years.
During this journey of ours, I attended a class sponsored by NAMI. We had a curriculum to follow, but the interesting part of each class was when we got off on a tangent. In these tangents, everyone had their own contributions to make, and these thoughts were much more interesting to me than the textbook material.
One lady told us that when she was driving home from work, it was her fantasy to just keep driving....and driving and driving...to an unknown, far away destination. I laughed inside, because I had the exact same fantasy.
I eventually signed up to teach a class, and found that even as a teacher, I felt the same way I had felt as a student - that the tangents and side comments were much more valuable than the class. So I decided I was better suited to lead a support group.
You hear the most amazing things in a support group. People open up to you and say things they would never say to their closest friends or family. Why? Because there's a comfort involved - we all GOT each other, and this created an automatic acceptance. It's an amazing thing, really.
Many of the comments people made stuck with me. One dad told about how he had spent his Thanksgiving. He had friends in from out of town, and they brought their kids, and it was kind of mayhem in the household. It was too much for his son, who had exhibited some symptoms of ADHD but was now way beyond ADHD. His son grabbed some knives and started throwing them. So his dad got him in his car and took off for the hospital. On the way, his son pulled the lighter out of the car and started pressing it against the dashboard, creating burn marks. Dad was so frazzled, he just turned to his son and yelled "I don't know who you are, but I want my son back!" His son was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was put on meds, and it took several months, but he finally calmed down and started acting more like himself. One day out of the blue, when his son was in a calm state, he looked at his dad and smiled and said "I'm back, dad."
One lady talked about how her bipolar son loved carbs, and we all discovered we were observing the same thing in our own kids. She mentioned coming home one day to a huge pan of "cheese potatoes." Someone asked what those were, and she said he made a giant batch of mashed potatoes and added Cheese Whiz. And everyone agreed that it sounded like a good dish. And we would laugh and discuss what carbs our own kids craved.
While there are countless textbooks out there to read, nothing could top the accidental topics that came up that made us laugh, almost made us cry, and just gave us a different perspective on our lives.