I love bedtime for me. I love crawling into my bed, putting my head down on my pillow and shutting out the world. I do not have any trouble falling asleep. I have learned to take some deep breaths, think of happy things and drift off to blissful sleep.
But night time for Bryce and as a parent can be the Worst time of the day. It always has been. And I started thinking – is it like that for others? I googled it just now “Bipolar and Night time” and it is amazing how many other people say that they can hold it together all day, but when it gets quiet and you are alone – Boom – that anxiety and depression just take hold and kick into overdrive.
Terry and I have experienced this for years with Bryce. I can remember getting anxious that it was almost bedtime. Bedtime has been a sense of tension for as long as I can remember. There were a lot of times when Terry and I would play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who would have to put the kids to bed.
First Bryce had night terrors. Night terrors were scary because we did not know what they were, but as new parents we did what every parent did – call the pediatrician. Thank goodness for those nurse helplines that give you answers to everything from what do I do for a stuffy nose to what is this rash on my baby’s tush? We learned that night terrors are like nightmares on steroids, that your baby will seem awake when he is not and there is not much you can do but make sure that he does not hurt himself. Scary for sure, but ok, we got through that.
Then Bryce refused to sleep in his bed. He would sometimes sleep in the corner of his room or under the vanity in the bathroom. We could not figure out why. He just felt safer there.
Although Bryce grew out of these behaviors, the nights did not become any less stressful. We of course dealt with all of the typical behaviors – not wanting to go the bed, being afraid of the dark and monsters and wanting to sleep in our room. I know a lot of people have these problem, even parents whose kids do not have any type of diagnosis.
What is it about nighttime? There are endless strategies on getting your kids to go to sleep, teaching them to not be afraid of the dark, etc. There are also different theories on whether or not you should let your kids sleep with you, if you should stay in their room, etc. Everyone has to do what is right for them.
But while we had those typical behaviors to deal with, as Bryce got older, even on his good days, night time could be difficult. This is when he would ask the hard questions, when he would get depressed, when we would realize that even though he may be doing well, he really has a lot of sadness and confusion running through his brain.
Often, our days end like this –
“Mom, can I talk to you?,” He will ask coming out of his room even after we put him to bed. “I feel sad. My life isn’t worth living.”
“Am I weird? I think I am weird.”
“What will happen to me after you die? Will I be homeless? Who will take care of me?”
“Why was I born like this?”
“I am hearing voices. They are telling me to run away.”
All of these questions come at night. After we have put him to bed. When it is quiet. When the thoughts just go through his head.
So while night time is hard for everyone, “Can I have another drink of water”, “Just 5 more minutes”, “can you leave the light on” – our nights sometimes break my heart because I hear words that no mother ever wants to hear.
Of course, one might argue these are just stalling techniques and Bryce does not mean any of this because he is just saying it to get attention and more time at bedtime. Just like anyone asking for a glass of water. We wonder that all of the time? Why does this always happen at bedtime? Should we give these questions any validation? Should we worry? Although there are days when this happens earlier, it mostly happens at night. Why doesn’t he ask these questions or tell us these things earlier in the day? Is he just making it up?
I don’t think he is. I think he desperately wants to go to sleep and he can’t. He is a teenager and wants to sleep as much as possible, but he just can’t fall asleep.
Nighttime is quiet. Bryce is alone with his thoughts and he has been keeping it together all day. Once he is alone and it is quiet, it is harder to “keep it together” and stay positive. There is nothing else to focus on, to take his mind off of his tough feelings. He does not have his other coping mechanisms – video games, playing outside, crafts, etc.
Additionally, Bryce has a hard time falling asleep. Bipolar disorder interferes with a person’s circadian rhythm, the basic sleep-wake patterns in the brain that respond to changing light and dark as well as changing seasons. Since it is hard for him to get to sleep, he spends times laying in his bed not sleeping. This allows for various thoughts to creep into his head. Additionally, if his sleep patterns are disturbed, his moods can easily change causing depression or mania.
We have tried so many things – read a book, playing music, mindful meditations, Melatonin. On the worst nights, we do not have a lot of success with any of these, and sometimes have to give in and let him sleep on our floor or just wait him out until he falls asleep. He still sleeps with the light on. Some nights he does go right to bed. We never know what type of night it will be. We just have to keep consoling him, talking to him and hoping that the coping skills and discussions continue to work.
We try and maintain a routine as well. While sleep is important for everyone, it is extremely important for kids and adults like Bryce. All routines are. We continue to try everything we can. We do our best, just like we try and do everyday.
Thanks for reading.