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Letter to the Editor: Writer brings awareness to bipolar



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May 02, 2012 - Dear Editor,

A few weeks ago one of my favorite neighbors visited with me and was open and honest. He mentioned neighbors were talking about my son's behavior and he asked why the Sheriff's department was at my home the previous week.

I have to admit, I first had respect for somebody being up front and sincerely honest. However, after discussing this with my wife we were sad, in some ways embarrassed and most of all disappointed. Even though we felt this way, we understood and were not surprised.

Our son has bipolar illness. Three out of 100 Americans have a bipolar disorder. Bipolar is a serious brain illness characterized by extreme changes in moods, thinking, and behavior between two poles-depression and mania. It is an illness, not a type of personality or a lack of character or self-control. Bipolar is a lifelong condition that can be managed with medication, education, therapy, support, and healthy habits.

As a Dad or Mom, you worry about protecting your kid. But, there are extra added layers of fears when you are talking about a kid with Bipolar or who has some special needs issue. You worry about them being bullied, about being treated unfairly. You worry about them doing the wrong thing in public and it being misconstrued.

The stigma of any kind of mental illness is rampant. Unless, you have a first hand knowledge of bipolar disease, there is simply no way you would understand the challenges that are attached, both, for the person with the disease and the family that lives with it everyday. When treated, individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are harmless.

Our family has never been exposed to anything like the illness and stigma of bipolar disorder. This is why we don't expect anyone to understand our challenges. You will not educate yourself on a matter that does not mean anything within your family circle. If your kid was diagnosed with Leukemia you would learn everything you could and seek the best help available.

This is what we have done for our son. Unfortunately, if my son was diagnosed with Leukemia I am confident everyone in our life would offer support in many ways. This would help in a potential recovery. The reality is when you have bipolar, you are viewed as less of a person and avoided by the community in general.

We are excited about the future. We feel confident that our son will finally get the right mixture of medicine and go on to live a normal life. This road to the right combination of medicines is a true journey.

We are not looking for sympathy, we are hoping for empathy from the community. By writing this letter I am hoping to create more awareness about a diseases that no person or parent should ever have to deal with. I am also letting my neighbors know that our son is getting the best care possible.

He is a good boy that is dealing with something most of us cannot imagine. Sometimes his confusion may be misinterpreted. However, under no circumstances should you be concerned about anything else but potential confusion. Our boy needs love just like any other child with or without special needs.

-Gary Halverson

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