“The diagnosis gave us our freedom back,” says Laetitia Payen, mother of a boy with bipolar disorder

Deafening anger, rain of insults, beatings that don’t stop… and suddenly an avalanche of hugs and apologies. From a young age, Stanislas unsettled his parents and big sister with his unusual behavior. Autism, dys-disorders, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity? After many doctor visits and dozens of false leads, Stanislas’ mother, Laëtitia Payen, came to a surprising conclusion: her 5-year-old son was suffering from bipolar disorder. A disabling mental illness, especially when undiagnosed, that is rarely seen in a child.

Since then, the iconographer has been president of the bicycle club, which supports families of children and young people with mood disorders. After years of crises, doubts, guilt, homemade methods, readings and encounters, Laëtitia Payen wanted to tell her story My cyclone child, the taboo of bipolar children*, that just came out.

A trail “Too often excluded from the outset in France”

The goal is not to make a diagnosis but to suggest a lead “Too often in France, all the helpless parents who have tried everything, who have searched, consulted without finding any solution, are excluded from the outset.” On the occasion of World Bipolar Disorder Day 20 minutes caught up with Laëtitia Payen to ask her a few questions via video.

She recognizes it: nothing is easy in this obstacle course. However, Stanislas was diagnosed at the age of 5. And today, at 13, he’s fine and going to school. But is it too early to lock a child in a box and give them medicine? “The diagnosis was a relief for him. He told me “I’m not the bad guy”. The benefit of early diagnosis is to delay medication and use as little as possible. When we think of bipolar disorder, we immediately think of medication. However, it is the other way around. Whatever the case, these children will have labels and receive treatments, but often not the right ones, with high doses and hospitalizations. And tragedies: child suicide attempts, reports for parents and it can go as far as placement. »

That’s why she fights with her association Fahrrad for the support of parents… and the education of caregivers. “No parent wants to psychiatrist their child! Like many parents in the association, the diagnosis gave us our freedom back. It is a problem for people who do not face this disease. »

But the author reassures: “Not all children with behavioral problems are bipolar! The crisis of the opposition or the youth, it will pass. With a bipolar child, not only will it not go away, but it will get worse. »

* My Cyclone Child, Laëtitia Payen with Catherine Siguret, Flammarion, March 16, 2022, €19.

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