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Several of my relatives have bipolar, and recently, I decided to learn more about it. One of the books that I read was His Bright Light by Danielle Steel about her son, Nick Traina, who had bipolar and ultimately died from it when he was only 19.
About His Bright Light by Danielle Steel
Nick Traina is Danielle Steel’s second child. Her oldest child was nine years old when Traina was born, and both Steel and her daughter considered Traina “their baby.” He was a bright, energetic child, but Steel knew from an early age that he was different. From the time he was four, Steel worried that something was “wrong” with him. By the time he was 12, she knew without a doubt that something was wrong.
The problem was that no one believed her. Initially, Nick presented as a precocious, fun-loving child. He saved his anger, tantrums, and other challenging behaviors for home. Steel was most concerned about his complete lack of self-control.
Eventually, a psychiatrist diagnosed him with ADHD and put him on Prozac. While that helped some, it obviously did not treat his bipolar. He wasn’t diagnosed as bipolar until 16 since no psychiatrist wanted to put a diagnosis on a child that young. What followed were a series of mental hospitals and visits to endless rounds of psychiatrists.
Finally, at 16, he was diagnosed as bipolar and put on lithium, which changed his life for the better, until he thought he was “cured” and stopped taking the lithium.
My Thoughts on His Bright Light
Wow. What a powerful, heartbreaking book. Nick Traina died in 1997, during a time when psychiatrists didn’t like to diagnosis people with bipolar until their late teens or twenties. Steel speculates how much better his life might have been if he’d been diagnosed earlier.
Now, kids are diagnosed earlier, which is controversial. However, after reading this book, I realized how useful this early diagnosis can be.
Steel certainly had her hands full with taking care of Nick as well as her eight other children and a full career. However, Steel had advantages, which most other families of children with bipolar do not have. Money was no object when it came to Nick’s hospitalizations, wilderness retreats, psychiatrists, and other help and therapy he needed. In addition, she could hire two men to stay with Nick for many hours a day to keep an eye on him as he got older.
She had so many resources that most families don’t have–and she still lost her son to suicide. If untreated, and sometimes while being treated, bipolar can be deadly. That is the message Steel wants all parents of bipolar children to know.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.
To read more of my book reviews about those who have bipolar, consider Educated by Tara Westover: A Book Review.