Sunday, August 24, 2014

Retiring Baby


It’s the night before the first day of school. Everyone is in good spirits, some more excited than others, but it’s good enough. My youngest sat in bed, cuddling his little blue bear, “Baby”. I smiled as I remembered the first time I gave him that bear. He was a small guy, maybe 3 years old. He was going to bed and experiencing his typical nighttime anxiety, not wanting me to leave the room until he was fast asleep. I sat at the edge of his bed and picked up the little blue bear and put it into his arms. He quickly cuddled it. I told him that he needed to be brave to take care of “his” baby. From that day on, “Baby” became part of the family.

As a mom of three boys, this teddy bear was uniquely special. None of my other boys owned a special doll or stuffed animal. It never crossed my mind that all kids didn’t do this, that is until I had all boys.

I remember the panic I felt when we first lost Baby. I thought he dropped him in a craft store while I pushed him and Baby around in the cart. But later that night, I was so relieved to find him safely tucked at the bottom of a closet. I think I cried I was so happy. This bear had become such a precious symbol of my youngest son’s childhood. It had become a treasure.

Fast forward to the night before school this week when my youngest calmly got out of his bed and carried Baby to the closet. Next, he reached up onto his tippy toes and placed Baby on the top shelf of his closet. Then he walked back to his bed, announcing that he was now retiring Baby since he was going into the 4th grade.

And just like that, the little blue bear was put back onto the shelf. He was dirty and worn at the edges, but he represented a job well done, helping my little one feel safe at night for all those years.

My husband heard of this big announcement and declared that we needed a special ceremony to properly retire Baby, so he pulled the little blue bear back down and asked us all to place a hand on him as he spoke sweet words. All the boys giggled at the silly ritual, but I couldn’t help but cry.

My little one was growing up.

I too, no longer had my baby.




Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Bipolar Cycles



Summer is coming to an end. Thankfully the boys did better than expected. I have to say it’s been our best summer yet, especially for my oldest. But we still experienced some highs and lows in what appeared to be bipolar cycling over a period of about 1 week.

It all started when my oldest son woke up in a really great mood. He was so happy about his latest computer interest. He talked excitedly about it, following me around the house, chatting up a storm.

That should have been my first clue.

My oldest isn’t usually this “up”. At one point, he didn’t even skip a beat when I closed the door in front of him to go to the bathroom. He continued on in a very excited tone telling me about all his incredible ideas. Throughout the day he continued to update me about his project like an excited child on Christmas morning.

Then day two started with a big shift.

Hello irritability.

My oldest became very argumentative and was irritated by everything we did. As his mood progressed down this path, I started to see old behaviors. Blaming others, initiating fights, threatening us. It was sadly familiar from his younger days that often ended with rages. As I tried to navigate his behaviors, I kept reminding him that this wasn’t him, but his moods being off. Understandably for him, none of that mattered since it felt real. Mood or no mood illness, he was in a mood to fight.

As the day progressed, I tried to help him identify his feelings as they related to his actions. In a calmer moment, he clarified that, “Everything and everyone is bothering me!”

His mood continued for a handful of days. Thankfully he never escalated into a rage. But after a few days we had a light bulb moment.

My son’s sleep patterns had changed during this time. Instead of sleeping in as he normally did all summer, to our surprise, he was waking up early every day because he no longer felt tired. It even surprised himself.

He was cycling.

Once it dawned on us, it put everything into perspective.

He went from a stable, easy going kid who slept in, to a kid who woke up early every morning and cycled between being too happy, to being very miserable.

It really helped once my husband explained this to my son. I think for the first time my son could see proof of his illness outside of his moods. “It’s all connected Mom! I’ve been getting up early every day that my mood has been bad.”

And just like clockwork, the very first day my son slept in, the planets aligned and I had my son back to normal and he’s been doing great ever since.

Even my son recognized the difference when he shared, “I’m feeling better today, my brother was leaning on me and it didn’t even bother me!”

It made me think of all those years and all those rages so long ago.

He was cycling then. 

It was harder to tell since I saw very little stability to know what “normal” looks like for him, but seeing this recent cycle and the return of old behaviors in such contrast to what we have come to now know as “normal,” has validated for me our decision to medicate.

You may laugh and think, “Validation? You still need that?”

Unfortunately yes. I don’t think I’ll ever stop asking the question, “are we doing the right thing?”

But tonight I can rest in peace knowing that, yes, we are doing the right thing for our son.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lithium 3 Years Later—Life is Good.



I’m sitting at a small, wooden desk, nestled into the corner of a beach house with an ocean view. A cool breeze drifts through my window smelling sweet like honeysuckle. Sunlight is dropping into the meadow creating an orange glow in the tall grass surrounding the house. In the distance I can see a mother deer tending to her babies, keeping watch as they nibble on the golden grass. I can’t complain about anything, life is really good right now.

We are 6 days into our week long vacation. I’ve been present, basking in the love of my family. Are things finally perfect? Nah, we still have the occasional meltdown from our youngest who’s easily overwhelmed and our boys still have a gift for finding the other’s weak spot, but considering our journey, life is pretty darn perfect right now.

The month of July marks the 3rd anniversary of our oldest son being on Lithium. Some of you have asked if we’re still seeing the benefits. I’m happy to share that we are. Our oldest continues to thrive in so many areas of his life and he contributes his success to Lithium. While packing for this very vacation our youngest had a friend over and I warned my oldest about the consequences of messing with his brother’s guests and my oldest quickly reminded me, “Don’t worry mom, I won’t do that, remember the last time that happened I wasn’t on my medication.”

He’s right, I don’t need to worry so much anymore. My oldest, now 13 years old (and taller than me) is getting so much more self control now that puberty is settling in, maturity has been a big helper. Sometimes I wonder if he still needs all his medication, then I’m reminded that he does when I see a small crack in his stability. Recently I experienced this when we were in line at a Starbucks. While waiting for a snack, his blood sugar was dropping and he started to have rapid mood changes. He started crying with tears running down his cheeks and seconds later he dropped his head back with uncontrollable laughter. All while strangers looked on. I haven’t seen these mood changes in years, so it surprised us both to say the least. Once he ate and his blood sugar stabilized, he was back to normal. Like I say, we only see small cracks.

My oldest finished his 7th grade year with honors. But that wasn’t his only success. He also did a class presentation all on his own, in front of his peers (a major victory) and socially he has grown too. He has a girlfriend. You might be surprised that I find this to be a good thing. It’s really helped with his self confidence and self esteem. It’s also exposed him to a bigger group of friends, opening up his world a little and giving him the confidence to go to events such as school dances. Their relationship is very innocent, which makes me happy, but I can see how much he has blossomed because of it. He seems to stand a little taller and feels like he fits in more at school. Years of living with a mood disorder can destroy a persons self esteem, but having a girl tell you that she likes you and knowing that she will stand by your side at school goes a long way in allowing him to see that he has value in this world and it’s more than just his mom who thinks so. Don’t we all need that?

Puberty has infected more than just one boy in my house. My middle son, at 11 years old, is already going through puberty and the changes are even more dramatic. Suddenly girls have become the most important thing in his life and the social circles just took on more importance. Gone is the sweet boy and inward comes a young man flexing his muscles and making sure he has on the best looking outfit as he rides by the house of the girl he loves. And texting, well let’s just say that it’s become his first line of communication. Oh man, my boys are changing so fast. I feel like I can’t keep up!

My youngest is doing pretty good. We’re still working on his emotion control. He tends to scream at a drop of a hat and his anxiety is strong too. We’re also trying to work on his social skills, helping him communicate better and we’ve reduced his electronic time to force him into the real world. Ironically, taking away his electronics hasn’t always stopped him from disconnecting from others. Just the other day I found him lying flat on his back on the couch with his eyes closed. When I asked him if he was ok he said, “Yep, I’m just paying a video game inside my head.” I wish I could say that this was the first time that this has happened.

While sitting on the beach earlier today, I watched my middle son fearlessly dive into the crashing waves and swim into deeper waters with confidence. Trailing behind I watched my oldest who’s always more cautious and my youngest whose anxieties keep him from trying new things, slowly inch further into the deeper water. Both keeping their eye on their middle brother. If middle brother was safe in the ocean, they too would be. I watched as my middle son recognized their timidness and joyfully called out to them to join him. They trusted him and followed.

In that moment I recognized that my boys are not on this journey alone. Beyond my husband and I, their middle brother is helping, along with their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their teachers, their friends and even their girlfriends. They are surrounded by people who love them, who are helping to lead the way, no matter how deep the waters get. 











Friday, June 13, 2014

10th Annual Mood Disorders Education day


Well it’s that time again, time for Stanford’s Annual Mood Disorders Education day. I’ve had the privilege of attending this event many times and each time it’s a wonderful experience where I meet new people and learn new things about mood disorders in adults and children. If you’ve never been and live in the area, go now to the website to register and save yourself a spot. This is a FREE event, plus they serve you complimentary refreshments (bonus!).

Here are the details:

When:
Saturday June 28, 2014
from 8:30 am–2:30 pm

Where:
William R. Hewitt Teaching Center
370 Serra Mall
Stanford University
Stanford CA, 94305

Register: https://mded.eventbrite.com

Contact: Kathryn Goffin at kgoffin@stanford.edu

This event is free. However, they do ask that you register. Information about the event, including directions and a map, are on the registration website.

* * *

Here is a link to my review of last years event:

Unfortunately I’m disappointed to share that I won't be able to attend due to a prior commitment. But I still hope to post videos of the event once they become available online. If you yourself attend and want to do a guest post to share all that you learned, I would love that! Email me!

* * *

The Bipolar Disorders Clinic is part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. We offer on-going clinical treatment, manage clinical trials and neuroimaging studies, lecture and teach seminar courses at Stanford University and train residents in the School of Medicine.

Clinic Chief Terence A. Ketter, M.D. is internationally known for his groundbreaking research on the neurobiology of mood disorders. More »

The Bipolar Disorders Clinic is also part of the Stanford Mood Disorders Clinic. Please see the Mood Disorders Clinic Brochure to learn about the clinic's vision and exceptional doctors and researchers, who specialize in the understanding and treatment mood disorders.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Boogie Men and Young Imaginations


Last year I wrote a post about my oldest son overcoming his fear of Slender Man. Today I was surprised to see several urgent emails in my mailbox from NBC Nightly News and the Today Show wanting to see if I would be willing to share my son’s experience about Slender Man on camera.

This comes after the arrest of two 12-year-old girls who allegedly stabbed their friend 19 times. Acccording to NBC news, the girls blamed their violent act on Slender Man.

I quickly declined the interviews, but asked my son about his feelings of Slender Man today.

First I should note, never did my son think Slender Man was real, instead, it was something that creeped him out until he bravely faced his fears in the woods one evening. For us, Slender Man was an opportunity for our son to face his fears head on and experience the peace that followed.

Today my son no longer fears Slender Man. He was actually surprised when he heard the news story saying,“Why would those girls want to kill someone for Slender Man? Slender Man is a character in a game that you run from—that doesn’t make sense!”

Gone is Slender Man from my boys’ imaginations, but we’ve faced other online mythical creatures since then. Such as “Jeff the Killer” a mythical creature who tells you to “go to sleep”, then once you do, the creature kills you. For about a month, this made sleeping a challenge for my youngest who then feared falling to sleep.

I’m not going to blame the internet for these experiences, though they’re scary and unfortunate, they’re nothing new to our society. When I was a kid, I was terrified of dolls that could kill you or poltergeists that came out of tv sets. As far as I’m concerned, there will always be boogie men and young imaginations. 

If you ask me, Slender Man did not cause this crime. I think it’s a waste of time to put all of our focus on Slender Man and shame the creators of this mythical creature.

Instead, we need to dig deeper and put our energy where it will make a difference. 

Let’s stop looking at the cartoon and look at the girls before us.



In case you missed my original post, here it is:

'Slender Man' Cited in Stabbing Is a Ghoul for the Internet Age

Friday, May 23, 2014

Discovery Health Psych Week: Must See TV




Link to Video Above:
http://www.discoveryfitandhealth.com/tv-shows/psych-week/videos/bodhi-faces-his-own-demons.htm

It’s mental health awareness month and Discovery Health is doing their annual Psych Week. Each day they will be uncovering different mental illnesses and show how people are coping with them. If you aren't able to view this programming on your tv, check out Discovery Health’s website for the many video clips available for previewing.

Here is their schedule:

Monday May 26th:
8 PM: Born Schizophrenic: Jani's Story
9 PM: Born Schizophrenic: Jani's Next Chapter
10 PM: Born Schizophrenic: Jani and Bodhi's Journey

Tuesday May 27th:
8 PM: The Woman with 15 Personalities
9 PM: The Town That Caught Tourette's
10 PM: 20/20 Mysterious Minds

Wednesday May 28th:
8 PM: This Is Autism
9 PM: I'm Pregnant And...OCD
9:30 PM: I'm Pregnant And...Bipolar
10 PM: 20/20 Mysterious Minds

Thursday May 29th:
8 PM: Hoarding Buried Alive
10 PM: 20/20 Mysterious Minds

Friday May 30th:
8 PM: My Strange Addiction
10 PM: Sleep Sex

Saturday May 31st:
8 PM: Born Schizophrenic: Bodhi's Story
9 PM: 20/20 Mysterious Minds

Sunday June 1st:
8 PM: Hoarding: Buried Alive—10 Biggest Hoards Marathon
10 PM: Hoarding: Buried Alive Season 5 PREMIERE


http://www.discoveryfitandhealth.com/tv-shows/psych-week

Saturday, May 10, 2014

You are Mighty Because You Mother!


A friend shared this powerful video with me, and I wanted to pass it on to you.

* * *

You are mighty, because you mother!

Wishing you all a day of peace. A moment to love and feel loved, even if the storm is over your home. Even when it doesn't feel like it, you are making a difference. Though the illness creates chaos, and the child throws daggers at your heart. Your love is felt. It is remembered. It is making a difference every day.

If not now, someday you will see this. I promise.

Stay strong my mamas, you are not alone. I am beside you, cheering you on.

Happy Mother’s Day to the moms who I have never seen, but feel everyday.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

* * *

Link to Video:
http://youtu.be/Xa-7jtvi7J4

YouTube Video Published: Apr 8, 2013
Download at http://JourneyBoxMedia.com/mighty
Based on a blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker you can get her new book, Surprised by Motherhood here http://amzn.to/1qYhMyi Described as "rocket fuel for weary mamas," this is the perfect Mother's Day gift. Read the first three chapters for free over herehttp://lisajobaker.com/surprised-by-m... She invites you to connect with her on Twitter at @lisajobaker. Great video for Mother's Day.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I Admit It, I’m Weak.


Lately we’ve been working hard on restricting electronics for all kids to help our youngest try new things and experience life beyond a screen. It’s been going pretty well, but I have to admit that I cheated today.

After spending all day Saturday breaking up fights, even forcing my oldest to “go for a walk” after his escalating behavior, and putting my youngest in his room for a long extended reading time after he trashed his room in anger. I needed a break from the constant bickering and stress.

I had deadlines I needed to get done in my home office and I needed to work in an environment that was peaceful and stress free. Plus the husband was out of town so I was on my own.

I admit it, I was weak.

So today I lifted the ban on electronics for the entire day.

And it was pure bliss.

Sometimes you have to do what works.

Even if there’s shame involved.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Return of the Rage


It’s been over 4 months, but last week my oldest son went into a rage again.

As a result, he now faced our new consequence for the first time:
He lost his bed, all forms of electronics and the privilege of riding in the front seat of the car for the entire week.

My son has been doing exceptionally well lately, like REALLY good, so this came as somewhat of a surprise. But over the years I’ve learned that a person is never cured by their medication, there will always be breakthrough symptoms from time-to-time.

This rage came after two days of increasing intensity in him. He explained it like this to me, “For the past two days I have a feeling inside that I want to fight someone. Yesterday I was getting into an argument with my brothers but Dad resolved it, but I still came back at them, just because I wanted to fight someone.”

I noticed that as his behavior escalated, he was doing everything he could to provoke me. For 45 minutes he attempted to escalate the situation, but I ignored his behavior or I tried to redirect him, but it seemed even then that no matter what I did, he was going to go into a rage.

It’s that Dr. Jeykell, Mr. Hyde syndrome. Mr. Hyde was in the house and he was grinning at me as he tipped furniture over, taunted his brothers and threatened to break things. His opposition was at an all time high, but I wasn’t going to bite his bait. Unfortunately that just encouraged him to up the ante.

The tipping point for me was when he grabbed a glass bottle and was threatening to throw it over the balcony onto the tile floor below. The last thing I needed in this situation was broken glass all over, so I grabbed the bottle from him as I wrestled him to the ground.

Then the battle began.

He swung punches at me, bit me, and scratched my arms up pretty bad as I tried to keep him on the ground.

I really wanted to avoid going here, but as my son later explained, “The rage was going to happen and there was nothing you could do to stop it.”

As we wrestled on the ground, my middle son called an adult friend to come to the house as well as my husband (who works 45 minutes away). I knew that I probably only had 10-15 minutes in me to hold him down, he’s taller than me now and much stronger. Plus I was already bleeding a little a few minutes in, so I knew we needed to get this under control quickly.

At one point he dug his fingernails into my forearm and was grinding them deeper into my skin. It felt like an animal had my arm in it’s teeth and was refusing to let go. I started to cry over him, begging him to let go of my arm, explaining that it was hurting me, but he only dug in deeper.

After a few minutes of trying to hold him down, my middle son came into the room, grabbed his brother’s legs and helped hold him down. As he held him he calmly said, “This is not you right now, this is your illness. Please stop hurting mom.”

Thankfully, as predicted, having my husband’s friend stop by de-escalated the situation quickly.

What followed when my husband got home was the removal of my son’s bed from his room to the garage, signally the beginning of his week long of consequences. This is our effort to teach our son that violence is never acceptable and won’t be tolerated. We explained that he’s managed to learn to “keep it together” at school, he’ll have to learn that skill at home too.

As usual, our son seemed renewed after the rage. The chemicals released in his brain during the rage seemed to “reset” his brain. He was handling his consequence well, even made a makeshift bed in his room and borrowed books since he’ll have a lot more free time without electronics.

The true test will be if he remembers this long week of consequences and chooses therapy steps over a rage the next time he feels like he needs to fight someone.

Only time will tell.

* * *

Today marks the end of the week long consequences. The bed has been returned and life is continuing as usual. I thought it was worth sharing that our son never once complained about his consequences. I find this surprising, in fact, I was prepared for a rough week. But instead, he was great. He seemed to accept his consequences and made a good effort to earn it all back. I’m pretty proud of him.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Praising God


The last time I wrote here I was in a pretty bad place. I was facing a lot of fear regarding the future of my family. We were facing the uncertainty of my husband’s job along with the concern that he had an incurable cancer.

It all started when my husband’s routine blood work came back with markers for a possible blood cancer. As his primary care doctor put it, “I’m concerned about Multiple Myeloma—a cancerous situation.”

Over the past month my husband went through further testing all while we faced the uncertainty about his future employment. This period brought me to my knees to say the least. It felt like my foundation was falling apart, forcing me to lean on my true and only foundation, God.

I prayed through tears, fighting my mind as it imagined the horrible. One day I was so overwhelmed with all we had been through and was angry that we were facing the possibility of so much more that I attacked our kickboxing bag with a vengeance, letting my anger out with intense screams (something I picked up from my boys’ therapy sessions). I have to admit that it felt damn good! The only downfall was the embarrassment I felt when I realized that my neighbor was standing on the side of the house, next to my room and probably heard the entire thing.

I wish I could say that I was strong and was able to put my worries aside, but honestly, I felt like I was holding on for dear life. I was sicker than I’d hoped to be during this period of uncertainty. I think it had been too much stress for too long over the years. In my weakness, I leaned on God.

Then we got the results of another lab test for my husband and our concerns for cancer were heightened. But in God’s faithfulness, we got a call from my husband’s company securing his position the very same day. It was perfect timing, God knew that we were drowning under the weight of it all and He took that concern from us.

Flash forward to the weekend before my husband’s oncologist appointment and our home was filled with dread and anticipation. You could feel the heaviness in the air. Then I got a call from my biggest client telling me that she was quitting her business, thus I’d be losing the work. Follow that with my son’s staph leg infection from the Molluscum Contagious virus he acquired and you end up with my last post “Stop the Pain.”

So tonight I can share that our trip to the oncologist turned out better than expected. After reviewing all the lab results, the doctor was able to determine that my husband did not have cancer. In fact, he’s a pretty healthy guy. It was a false alarm.

PRAISE GOD!

Then later that evening I got a call to learn that my former client’s business was being bought out by another person and I would be getting my work back.

PRAISE GOD AGAIN!!

So you may be wondering, did I learn anything by going through this expereince?

YES! This experience gave me great perspective. I was able to see first hand how much my family is loved by family and friends. It made me appreciate the simplest things, it clarified the things that I love most. It made me realize how much I depend on my man, how much I need him, how deeply I love him. It also made me realize that I can lose everything in an instant and though I may remain broken in pieces, God is there to help me. He is always by my side.

It also reminded me that even though I’ve been through a lot of challenges over the years, I live a very blessed life.




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