Don’t Miss the Obvious

Knowing the Difference Between Defiance and Bipolar Disorder

missIn retrospect, I wonder how I could miss the obvious. In fact, looking back at my adult life, I think I’ve missed the obvious on more than one occasion.

For example, a student gets caught smoking weed in the dormitory and spends three hours going berserk and ends up in a police car headed to the hospital. Another young woman goes from model student one month to raging alcoholic the next and drops out two weeks from graduation.

A young man drags himself to class day after day, close to catatonic—does he really hate English class that much? Maybe he uses drugs and no one realizes it. Or maybe he’s just depressed. But the depression goes on and on and on.

A young lady living with us seems to change overnight from a friendly and engaged family member to a sullen and accusatory adolescent. Eventually, her behavior returns to normal for awhile, but I hear stories of her life after graduation, and they make me sad: drug abuse, brushes with the law, jail time.

I confess I used to think that each of these incidents reflected on the parenting skills of the families of origin. Until something similar happened to us—an everyday average Christian family who had a daughter dive into deep depression and shoot out the other side a frenzied, angry, unreachable adolescent.

What did I miss? Because I never educated myself about mental health issues, I confused desperate behavior for defiant behavior. My students and my daughter all acted out of character (given, I understood this much better when it involved my daughter’s out-of-character behavior), but no one seemed to understand that defiance and drug or alcohol abuse weren’t part of their normal make up.

Those things signaled a deeper issue—a breakdown in mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Don’t be like me. Educate yourselves before it is too late. It’s no coincidence that the onset of bipolar disorder happens in adolescence and that adolescents are the most likely to commit suicide.

There's no PET scan for #mentalhealth issues. Educate yourself. It's a matter of life and death. #mentalhealthawarenessmonth Click To Tweet

Find out about different mental health issues that can face young adults and anyone, for that matter. Learn to ask, “Is this reaction beyond normal?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to start keeping track of behavior that you observe. Don’t be afraid to have an open conversation with an adolescent that you love and worry about.

And if the behavior turns out to be nothing more than a bad day or a bid for autonomy—that’s great. At least you didn’t miss something that could make the difference between life and death in a young person’s life.

It takes a village to help those with a #mentalillness. Learn how you can help. #DoNoHarm Click To Tweet

warning signs

Please share the infographic or the blog post or both!  Let’s get the word out about mental health issues–they are treatable, but, but first they need to be identified!

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • A big YES! to all of this! I struggled with postpartum depression after my daughter’s birth and learned firsthand how real (and–thankfully in my case–treatable) mental health issues can be.

    SUCH an important message. Bravo!

  • You’re a good evangelist for mental healthier. Keep preaching it Anita!
    Debby recently posted…Five-Minute Friday: MISSMy Profile

  • You took me back to the good old days of Psychology classes in college but with a twist. : ) I know for me that I have only a 21 month old (even though they are hard to read sometimes) but sometimes it seems to quick to judge someone as bad behavior. Thank you for reinforcing what I have learned before but also adding something more personal to it. visiting from #9
    Kristina recently posted…Five Minute Friday- Miss- Missing the PointMy Profile

    • I wish I would have paid more attention in psychology class! I was so sure my daughter just suffered from an eating disorder…but the eating disorder was a symptom of something worse.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Don’t Miss the ObviousMy Profile

  • Keep on your bandwagon. It suits you.
    Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday: missMy Profile

  • great post anita:) i also loved the one earlier this week on ptsd. i learned a lot. since then i have talked to a friend whose son struggles with it. i grew up with a mom who was chronically depressed…long b/f antidepressants that are so prevalent.
    Martha Brady recently posted…GOD COMFORTS ME DESPITE ALL I MISS…My Profile

  • Anita, you rock. Seriously. I don’t deal with bipolar issues myself, but my mother-in-law does. I struggle with depression and anxiety. It’s beyond time for the Church to wake up and realize that these aren’t just sin issues (though there is definitely a spiritual element). Mental illness is a real, tough thing that should elicit compassion, not condemnation.
    Marie recently posted…Five Minute Friday: MissMy Profile

  • Thanks Anita for these great reminders about mental health! I too have a passion for mind wellness and caregivers and will be sharing this! Glad I stopped by from #DancewithJesus!

  • Anita, yes! Education really is key. I’m glad that I can share my story here later this month to hopefully help with the education piece. I’m so thankful for people who helped my sister and I understand moms illness better. Over in the 68 spot this week.
    Tara recently posted…Let’s Not Miss Out!My Profile

  • So important, Anita! Thank you for prompting me to educate myself, especially this month. I appreciate how you continue to share your story through your words. Impacting and transforming! Bless you, sweet friend. And Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!
    Julie Lefebure recently posted…Five Minute Friday – MissMy Profile