BY JOHN S. TAMERIN
Perhaps few are greater than the profound illness of a child and the helplessness that a parent feels. I don’t know if the challenge is greater or less when you are supposed to know something about how to solve the problem, and then you discover how helpless you really are. As the parent of a child with bipolar disorder, I know what that feels like.
I have been a board certified psychiatrist for over 35 years. I have treated hundreds of patients, conducted research, published scientific papers, sat on distinguished panels and taught medical students and residents the art and science of psychiatric evaluation and treatment. Presumably, I, of all people, should have been prepared for this challenge. But the truth is I wasn’t.
"Presumably, I, of all people, should have been prepared for this challenge. But the truth is I wasn’t."
John S. Tamerin
My child received the appropriate professional help, but a lasting solution was less attainable. At first I was not able to recognize and admit that it was not just my child who needed healing. I needed help as well. For quite a while, I chose not to talk about the issue, rather than honestly face my personal anguish and shame with the issue itself and its seeming insolubility.
When I couldn’t find anything to help my own child, I thought perhaps I could do more to help others with this disease. So I looked for support programs that might motivate other patients with depression and bipolar disorder to seek treatment and stay with it. A colleague of mine told me about DBSA. With help from the national office, a few of us started a chapter in Greenwich, Connecticut. At that time, it was the first and only chapter in our state.
"Our small group in Greenwich has helped many people, but I believe that the person it has helped most is me!"
When faced with extreme challenges, we may pretend to ourselves that we can do it alone. But we all need help from others. I discovered in the group how much I needed to admit to myself and to others how sad, scared, overwhelmed, angry, helpless and confused and even despairing I had become.
I never realized how much I, myself, needed the support, the wisdom and the guidance of other parents and patients. I found this and more in the DBSA group I had helped to create. I also discovered compassion, objectivity, subtlety and courage. I learned all of this from a warm, loving and wise group of fellow travelers.
Together we learned not only how to cry but how to laugh. From despair we learned to rekindle and renew hope and in helping others we learned how to ultimately save ourselves.
John S. Tamerin, M.D.