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

Deafening anger, rain of insults, blows that do not stop… and suddenly, an avalanche of hugs and apologies. From his earliest years, Stanislas baffled his parents and his older sister by his unusual behavior. Autism, disorders, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity? After many medical appointments and dozens of false leads, Stanislas’s mother, Laëtitia Payen, came to a startling conclusion: her 5-year-old son had bipolar disorder. A disabling mental illness, especially when undiagnosed, which is rare to recognize in a child.

Since then, this iconographer has become president of thebicycle association, which accompanies families of children and adolescents suffering from mood disorders. After years of crisis, doubts, guilt, home methods, readings and meetings, Laëtitia Payen wanted to tell her story in My cyclone child, the taboo of bipolar children*, which has just been published.

A track “too often excluded from the beginning in France”

The aim is not to give a diagnosis, but rather to suggest a clue “too often excluded from the beginning in France to all the anguished parents who have tried everything, who have searched, consulted, without finding solutions”. On the occasion of the World Bipolar Disorder Day, 20 minutes met Laëtitia Payen to ask her some video questions.

She admits it: nothing is easy in this obstacle course. However, Stanislas was diagnosed at the age of 5. And today at 13, he is fine and is at school. But is it too early to lock a child in a box and give him medicine? “It was a relief for him, the diagnosis. He told me “I’m not the bad guy”. The advantage of early diagnosis is to delay taking the medication and give the least amount possible. When we think of bipolar disorder, we immediately think of medication. However, it is the other way around. In any case, these children will have labels and will receive treatments, but many times they are not adequate, at high doses, with hospitalizations. And tragedies: attempted suicide of children, complaints for parents and can even lead to placement. »

That’s why he fights with her bicycle association to support parents… and educate caregivers. “No father wants to psychiatrise his son! 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 assures: “not all children who have behavior problems are bipolar! The crisis of the opposition or of adolescence passes. In the 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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