I was married for 15 years and out of that marriage came one son who is now 14. He’s quite a hand full in that he’s unpredictable. You never know if he is going to be charging forward or hiding in his dark room listening to creepy music. I have seen his condition worsen during the last two years, and some of my friends have suggested he might be bipolar. His father was extremely abusive – I still do not know the full extent of his abuse since my son doesn’t want to talk about it. If you were his mother, how would you handle my son? ~ At Wit’s End
Dear At-Wit’s-End Mom,
I must say, I feel for you. These are very difficult years for you, and I know it seems they will never end. But understanding makes all the difference. The thing I picked up on right away was your comment that he was abused, but you don’t know the extent of it. If – and I’m only saying “if” – there was any sexual abuse, you will need a counselor’s help. Fourteen-year-old boys cannot admit vulnerability at a time when they are trying to become men.
Ask around, get references, call some of these counselors who specialize in sexual abuse. You may thing abuse is abuse, no matter what kind. But that is not true. Verbal abuse stays in your son’s mind forever. And sexual abuse – well, let’s just say something dies in a boy who is sexually abused, especially if the abuser was his own father.
But while you’re trying to find a counselor, let’s learn something about those who have experienced several kinds of abuse during their formative years.
Abuse survivors are people of extremes. For them, it’s all or nothing. One day they may spend hours with a toothbrush, cleaning a small spot to perfection, and another day their room may look like a bomb hit it. If an obstacle confronts them, they will either rally every ounce of energy to overcome it, or they will retreat to their beds to hide. They just can’t seem to strike a balance as they stumble through life.
At fourteen, your son has times when circumstances decide what’s going to happen in his life, and he feels totally powerless – without any control whatsoever. He can’t run to Mommy. That would not be manly! And he can’t run to Daddy. He’s the abuser. Maybe his behavior seems similar to bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t mean he is bipolar. It means he’s an insecure teenager who is struggling to feel some personal power – that power that was taken away from him during all of those abusive times.
Talk to your son in a non-threatening way. Sometimes the car is the best spot for these kinds of talks. Share with him those times when you were mistreated and felt powerless. Tell him you have learned to “Stand still and know that I am God.”
Keep telling your son about his Heavenly Father who loves him no matter what he does. He won’t hear you, at first, but keep telling him anyway. Talk about Jesus who was God in human form. Tell him how muscular and masculine Jesus was, how he worked as a carpenter and loved children in a healthy way. You just never know what will turn the light bulb on in your son’s spirit.
And should you find out he is, indeed, bipolar, you will need to make sure he takes his meds on a consistent basis. Too many bipolars begin to feel better and then stop taking their meds. But whether he’s bipolar or not, he will need a good counselor – I would suggest a kind male – who counsels according to God’s Word. I suggest you read How To Tell to determine if a counselor is, indeed, administering biblical counseling.
I know it seems this will never end, but God will give you the strength and wisdom to be there appropriately for your son. I will be praying for you, as will my readers. (They’re very good about that.)
God bless you, At Wit’s End-Mom!
(c) 2009 April Lorier