Friday, March 5, 2010

Rages

I never imagined when I held my newborn son that someday I’d be trained by a therapist how to “hold” my son while he’s in a rage. If you’ve never witnessed a child you love go into an uncontrollable rage, let me try and paint you the picture.

You’re starting your morning out by feeding your children when you realize that you’re all out of bagels. Now most parents would just roll their eyes, add bagels to the grocery list, then search for another food to serve for breakfast. But for a parent with a mood disorder child, your reaction is much more intense. You start to feel panic and your heart races a little (as mine is now as I recall this common event), then you jump into deep waters as you tell your son that “sorry we’re all out of bagels”. Then you switch over to your defensive mode as you prepare for his response.

Now on some days, you’re elated to see that it’s no problem and that oatmeal will be just as good, then other times you watch with fear as your son starts to rev up. His tone becomes louder and he throws his dish across the counter as he knocks his chair over yelling “FINE, THEN I’ll GO HUNGRY SINCE THERE’S NOTHING TO EAT!!!” Then the behavior intensifies as he runs upstairs. As you follow, to get him back downstairs, he starts to throw stuff at you, then purposely knocks over furniture and begins throwing things at his brothers. In hopes to stop his progression, I use 1,2,3 Magic (a timeout method taught by our doctor). Once he gets to “3”, I tell him he has to go into a timeout. That’s usually where things become more severe. Within moments he’s punched or kicked one of his innocent brothers or myself. As you try and physically stop his punches by placing him into a hold, he turns into a wild animal. He begins to scream uncontrollably, he even begins to growl at you, while his head thrashes around, trying to “head-butt” you or he stretches to bite you, which he has many times. He uses his feet to stomp on your own feet and kicks at anything he can. With all the adrenalin that’s pumping through his body, he becomes much stronger than he normally is. The entire time you’re trying your best to remain calm (because if you escalate, he’ll follow). Having been there before, you know that things can get worse. You become afraid of your own child, yet are desperate to protect your other kids, taking all the abuse you can.

Being a petite woman, my son is fast approaching my height and it’s physically challenging to maintain control. I’ve been trained by our therapist to become a wrestler, to maneuver my body around my son’s so I can safely hold my son in a position while he fights against me, as we wait for his body to calm back down. This sounds so much easier than it is, I’ve found that I’m not very good at wrestling. In fact, recently I received a “head-butt” to my face that caused me to bite my tongue and bleed. I should’ve kept my head to the right of his, but when you’re in the moment, it’s so difficult to remember those small, yet important details.

Last summer, we were taught to put our son into his room and keep the door closed so he could let his rage out in a confined space away from other people, keeping us all safe. In our early attempts to do this, my son slammed a chair through his door, yep, I had chair legs pointing at me through a gaping hole he put in his door. After that, during timeouts, he’d use this hole to stab his play swords at me through the hole as I held the door. But quickly our therapist advised us to put particle board on the entire inside of his door so he could beat up the door without coming through it and to use a lock on the door to avoid the constant struggle of holding him in. The less interaction he had, the quicker he’d calm back down.

My son’s rages can be felt in advance with subtle signs such as irritability, rudeness or negativity, but unfortunately, you can’t tell the moment that will cause the explosion. Will it be the word “no” when he’s told he can’t have more cookies, will it be losing a game with his brothers, will it be over feelings of frustration over his homework or will it be the fact that I don’t have anymore bagels? Without knowing, we’re all learning to walk on eggshells.

But one thing is for certain, after a rage our son will return to his sweet, respectful and considerate self. If you asked him why he was attacking his mom, he’d say “I don’t know why.”

As I type this blog, it’s ironic that I was just interrupted by my son going into a rage. At this moment I’m still recovering. Thankfully, my husband just came home and took over. I’m sweating, my heart is pounding, my stomach is sick from the stress of the situation. My hand is swelled in pain from trying to hold the door closed after my son broke the lock on his bedroom door after I put him into his timeout. I was bit, hit, kicked. Shoes were thrown at my head and a toy with a sharp tip was held up like he was going to stab me with it. I was able to take it away. I know that downstairs, where the rage began, our house has been messed up with things thrown about. Emotionally I feel abused, I’m trying not to cry, I feel very sad for my other children who heard me screaming in pain. I’m still upset with my son right now, but in about 30 minutes, I’ll be able to let it go and once again remember that this is his illness, not my son that just attacked me when I tried to send him into a timeout for being mean to his little brother.

19 comments:

  1. It is ok for you to feel anger when your son has such a violent rage. No one could go through what you are handling without feeling anger at him and his illness. Crying is a great release and no one would judge you for it. Let yourself get angry and cry if necessary. They have a cleansing effect. And knowing that you are allowed to be angry, allowed to cry may help you through the next rage. I do worry, as your son grows, how you will protect yourself in the future.

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  2. I can relate to a lot of this. Thankfully my girl doesn't become physically violent during her rages - she directs her rage at herself and inanimate objects - but it is like she's two different children sometimes... one minute she's screaming uncontrollably and throwing things, and the next she's apologizing and doesn't even remember why she went into her tantrum. I tell her that sorry means she's not going to do it again, but we both know that she can't control it, and that it WILL happen again

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  3. I also feel the walking on eggshells. I remember feeling it as a child when we never knew when my mother would explode. Now it is sickening that I have to relive it with my own son. I get so mad sometimes that this is happening. I don't know what any of us did to deserve it. I hate that my daughter now has to feel the way I used to. It isn't fair.

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    1. i could have written this! my mother was the same but we have done nothing wrong we only wanted a family and now we must face our particular challenges. i think a big source of relief is finding out whats wrong, i am still not sure if its mood d/o with adhd or somethning else.

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    2. I agree it would help knowing what is wrong, but unfortunately, it can take a lot of years before it becomes clear. I hope you find out sooner than later. Until then, just focus on treating the symptoms, either way, I think we can agree it is something your child inhereited based on your family history.

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  4. I am new to your blog and unfortunately, can relate to your important posts. As I read through them, I see lots of parts of my son. Thank you for writing, for having the courage to share.

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  5. Hi Sharon, I’m sorry to read that you too are going through this. Please feel free to reach out if you ever need support.

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  6. Hi,

    I have been looking all over the place for an explanation for what happens to my son. I thought I was the only one living with this nightmare of "having two sons in one". I feel so glad I found your blog! It gives me the energy to understand that it is not my fault as a mom, and that I need to react and get the help he needs without fear. My son is 7.

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  7. Anonymous,
    I’m so glad you found this blog too, I remember several years ago when I was trying to find out what was wrong with my son, I too had no explanation for what was wrong and felt so isolated. You are not alone here, please feel free to share your story with us anytime. I look forward to hearing from you again.
    Mama Bear

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  8. I am reading a lot of your story and thinking this is a lot like my own story. I have a 10 year old son who throws very bad rages. If we tell him NO over the littlest things watch out. He will kick holes in walls, cabinet doors, hit us, spit on us, kick us, knock things over and so on. Around age 3 we started to think things he was doing were not normal kid behaviors. So we took him to our pediatrician who diagnosed him with ADHD. Over the years we kept telling them we think it is something else, because known of the meds. are working, but they still say ADHD. I finally last year took him to our local Children's hospital, but they are still diagnosing him ADHD, ODD, and anxiety disorder. I really believe this child has a mood disorder, but known of the doctors will agree with that. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  9. I understand your frustration of doctors giving you labels that don't quite fit. I think we know in our gut as Mom's that it is something beyond the basic ADHD, I think doctors are just afraid to give the more complex labels.

    Our son was at first thought to be ADHD, after an exam on behaviors they ruled that out, but still sent us to ADHD classes. Then they used the ODD label. It wasn't until they saw behaviors charted for almost a year that they came to the conclusion that it was a mood disorder. Once they realized that his moods were not brought on by events and could happen any time of the day, even upon waking, they came to the realization that there was a chemical imbalance.

    If you haven't already, keep a chart of his moods. It may be what the doctor needs to see. But keep fighting for your son, we’re our child's only advocate. If it's a mood disorder, things will continue to get worse until he gets the right treatment, so eventually you'll get there, unfortunately not the way you want.

    So sorry this is such a struggle for your family. I hope you get there soon!

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  10. Hi, I am new to your blog but not your world. This is everyday in our lives too. We have a ten year old just like this. I was crying reading your story, ny heart breaks for your family yet, jumps to know we are not alone. Thank you,

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  11. Anonymous-Welcome to my blog, I’m so glad you found it because I know all to well what it's like to go through this alone. I hope you can find support here!

    Is your child being seen by a psychiatrist at this time?

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  12. Oh wow this sounds almost identical to my life everyday with my now almost 10 year old son. I love him so much but I feel like my life is hellish 99% of the time . He rages over everything broke his bedroom door he's very verbally , emotionally an physically abusive. :( I hope things start getting better but I fear that it will only get worse as he gets older. Thank you for your post it's nice to know I'm not the only one going through this.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re going through the same thing. I don't know if this gives you hope, but since me son started Lithium, his rages have almost disappeared. Once you find the right medication, you can end the hell you’re in. I wish you the best!

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  13. My heart goes out to you. Bipolar disorder is a difficult illness to deal with. I have bipolar but I didn't have any symptoms or effects until in my 20's. My heart goes out to children who have to deal with illnesses.

    I am glad he has a loving family and seems to be responding more favorably to his current medications.

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    1. Thank you Gerald! I’m sorry that you too live with this illness, I look forward to hearing from you again, maybe you can share some of your experiences and what has worked for you.

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  14. Just reading your blog for the first time. Found it while looking to see if any other moms blog about this (I'm thinking about it). This has been my life for the past 4 years. I could have written this post word-for-word (laughed at the memory of the holes in the bedroom door!). Medication has saved our family as well. We used to go through 4-8 rages a day, each lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Now, maybe once a month, and they only last about 15 minutes. Thank you for this blog.

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    1. So glad you found success with medication too. Not only does it help stop the rages, but it gives our kids a chance to develop with some normalcy. I think the rages really hurt our son’s self esteem. I wish we could have stopped them sooner.

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