Monday, February 28, 2011

Severe Childhood Mood Disorder

I recently read this article from a link provided by CABF and wanted to pass it on to you if you missed it. This article discusses the possibility of a childhood mental illness that is very similar to early onset bipolar disorder that may be affecting a lot of kids previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

I found the description of the child with Severe Mood Disorder to be very similar to our situation. I appreciated that this condition was described as being extraordinarily disabling to the child and their families. In previous reports of this illness,  I never felt that they truly appreciated the seriousness of the symptoms and the affect it had on children. I found it interesting that they found that these kids were just as impaired as those with bipolar disorder and I was also glad to see that they did acknowledge that bipolar disorder can occur in children.

Maybe this is the missing link we’ve been looking for. This would explain a lot if they determined that there was an illness that resembled bipolar disorder in children that would later become depression or anxiety as an adult.

I also thought it was interesting that in this article, Ellen Leibenluft M.D., mentioned that bipolar disorder in children may have a spectrum, that there may be overlapping brain dysfunction between severe mood disorder and bipolar disorder. (Moran, 2011)

The only question that is bugging me after reading this article is where does Bipolar II fit into all of this. Isn’t Bipolar II Disorder a bipolar illness without the mania? I understand it has hypomania, but that isn’t as easy to see. Hmmm...

So where does my son fit into all of this, I think only time will tell.

It’s exciting to see new research and steps towards better understanding and treatment, check out the article below:

Severe Childhood Mood Disorder May Be Unique Syndrome

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References:
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 2 Page 4

Severe Childhood Mood Disorder May Be Unique Syndrome
By Mark Moran
January 21, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

An Unquiet Mind


After discussing the possibility that my son may have bipolar disorder, our therapist suggested that I read  An Unquiet Mind by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. This is a national bestseller written by the Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who happens to have bipolar disorder herself. In this very poetic memoir, Dr. Jaminson shares her life from both the patient perspective and the healer perspective. She opens up about her illness, describing the energizing experience of mania and the deep hole of depression. Surprisingly, she also shares her personal struggles with resisting medication and her own suicide attempt.

I’m really glad I read this book and would highly recommend it to you. It’s a very intelligent perspective filled with deep emotions and raw honesty. I appreciated her openness about her decision to share her illness publicly and the risks she considered to her thriving career, as well as the intimate moments where she opened up to individuals closest to her. She tackles tough moral dilemmas about early testing of bipolar disorder and reveals her shock of a physician’s opinion about whether she herself should have children. She gives you the inside look of treating those with the illness as well as her own journey of finding the right balance with medication.

In one chapter she discusses that bipolar disorder “is not an illness that lends itself to easy empathy”. She explained that during rages or psychosis, it’s hard for those living with her to not believe that her behavior is “deliberate”. (Jamison, p. 174)

This really spoke to me. There are many times when I’m with my son during a rage and my body instinctually believes that my son is acting deliberate, being mean and vicious to hurt me. I’m challenged in those moments to believe that my son’s acts and words aren’t a strike against me, but an episode of his illness. As much as my mind knows that this is not true, my blood reacts as if it is. Reading Dr. Jamison validate this experience really helped me let go of the guilt that I have for these gut reaction feelings.

This book was also an eye opener for me. Reading about the war that one must fight to live with this disease made me realize how much I do not understand, how I could never really understand what our children are going through. To know that this accomplished, highly educated doctor whose life is dedicated to the research of bipolar disorder faced the same monstrous effects of this illness that ordinary patients have, made me realize just the beast that this disease is. It taught me that knowledge and experience alone can’t overcome this disorder and in her own words, “... one is beholden to medication that may or may not always work and may or may not be bearable.”(Jamison, p. 174)

In her eloquent way, she shares that love can not cure this illness, but it can act like “strong medicine”. (Jamison, p. 175) 

That is the hope that I stand on, that along with medication and therapy, our love will make a difference.

Read this book for yourself, you won’t regret it!

Find it at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Unquiet-Mind-Memoir-Moods-Madness/dp/0679763309

Barnes & Noble:
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/An-Unquiet-Mind/Kay-Redfield-Jamison/e/9780679763307/?itm=2&USRI=an+unquiet+mind

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References:
An Unquiet Mind
By Kay Redfield Jamison
1995


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Do You Tell Your Child?

I’m a huge fan of the tv show Parenthood. Next weeks episode is about how parents of an autistic child tell their son that he has Aspergers. It got me thinking about my online community and if you’ve crossed this bridge yourself. If you’re one of the few with an actual diagnosis, have you told your child what they have? If so, how did you do it? Would you do it again or would you do it differently if you had a second chance?

In our son’s situation, we haven’t had “the talk” with labels and all. Instead it’s been an ongoing conversation, addressing symptoms as they appear. In the beginning our son would ask what was wrong with him, unfortunately we had no idea. When I look back, I think he was the one with the answers. At the age of 7, he would explain that he had two brains and that the bad side would take over the good side and make him do bad stuff.

At the age of 10, I’ve overheard him explain that he has an anger management problem. He tends to blame his mood challenges on his “anger”.

As he got older and we became wiser, we would help define his experience. For example, when he started to have episodes where he would cry for unknown reasons, we would explain that it was his “brain making mistakes”. When things became more intense, we started to give descriptions for his reactions, such as, “don’t be scared, what you’re feeling is anxiety, this will go away very soon”, or when he couldn’t sleep and was very impulsive, we explained that his brain was making him feel “too much energy” and then suggest that we go for a walk.

Once, my son asked me if he had bipolar disorder, because he’s seen books such as The Bipolar Child laying around the house. Since we don’t have an official diagnosis, we told him that the doctors didn’t know, but they believe he has a mood disorder, explaining that his brain makes mistakes about his feelings to different situations, making him feel angry or sad when he shouldn’t. We explained that this is something he was born with and it wasn’t his fault and that he should never feel ashamed about it. We also explained that his brain was still growing and changing and it was possible that his brain could outgrow this and if it didn’t, he would always have doctors and medication to help him.

I’ve also pointed out that his creativity may be connected with his mood disorder. I’ve explained that the unique way his brain is wired may also be the reason for his special ability to build and make cool stuff. I remind him that as much as he has challenges that others don’t, he has creativity like no other.

I don’t know if we’re handling this the right way or not, but I believe there are many ways to have this talk with your child. For us, it’s an ongoing conversation that is open and honest, while trying to remain age appropriate. I would love for you to share your experience and wisdom in this area, so please tell us, how did you tell your child?

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Son Does NOT Need an Exorcism!

After reading many of the viewer comments following Oprah’s episode on The Boy Who Tried to Kill His Mother, I was seriously annoyed by some of the posts. There were a lot of viewers who felt that Zach was possessed by evil spirits. With great concern, they urged the mother to take Zach to a priest for an exorcism. Other comments mentioned that Zach would be healed if he had Jesus and was in the church.

I believe these viewers were genuinely concerned and truly believed that what they were seeing was a possessed child. Their belief that the boy only had these issues at home was proof enough that their house was filled with evil spirits. I also think that it didn’t help that Oprah focused so much on the boy’s holistic therapy of lightness and darkness, I believe it may have reinforced the idea that the “negative energy” was evil spirits.

But as a mother reading these posts, I was offended. It once again reinforced the stereotype that my son, who himself has a mental illness, must be possessed. Personally, we’ve had a friend tell us that we should get an exorcism, because what my son had was surely brought on by the devil himself. Another parent I know was told that her personal sin was the source of her daughter’s illness.

It’s comments like these that make me realize how misinformed society is about childhood mental illness. It makes me feel like we’re living in the dark ages. On the flip side, I myself didn’t know much about it until my son became ill, so I don’t really blame people, but feel frustrated and helpless on how to change these stereotypes about mental illness. As long as people have these beliefs, our son’s illness won’t be taken seriously and he’ll be forced to live a life hiding his struggles so that others won’t be afraid and as his parents, we’ll be judged for treating him with medication.

Just for the record, we’re a Christian family who are actively involved in our church. Christ is the center of our home and marriage. Our children have been baptized. I pray over my son every night for healing and strength and we read God’s word together as a family... AND our son has a mental illness.

I do not believe for one second that a child that has mental illness is being used by satan, is channeling evil spirits or communicating with the dead.

These kids have an illness in their brain that causes their brain to function incorrectly. It’s something they most likely inherited, just like their eye color and smile. These kids didn’t become ill because they don’t have Jesus. As a Christian we believe that Jesus wants you to come to him by choice, thus the basis of free will.

I find it so odd that society can easily grasp the idea that if someone has a heart problem, they’ll experience problems with their heart or if they have eye problems they’ll experience problems with their vision, but in the case of someone having a brain problem, it’s hard for them to believe that the brain would not function properly, causing visions of monsters or triggering violent rages. The brain is the source of our moods, so why is it such a stretch that a brain illness can cause such outrageous responses in individuals who suffer with a mood disorder?

These viewers are quick to believe that there are real ghosts haunting a boys house, yet the acceptance of mental illness as being a real thing is a preposterous idea? I don’t understand.

So why does this annoy me so much? Because, if you believe that my son is having these problems because he’s possessed, you’ll hold judgement against my family for allowing my son to be treated by medication. You’ll judge us as being irresponsible parents and may even judge my son as being a bad seed. Because you’ll judge our family for not being under the wing of God and instead assume we’re living with evil.

That’s why I get offended.


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New post welcoming Oprah viewers to ask me any questions:



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oprah: The Boy Who Tried to Kill His Mother

We just watched the Oprah episode on the 7 year old boy who tried to kill his mother. I first have to say that I thought that the mother was very brave. I wouldn’t want to walk through the backlash she’ll have to endure and the judgements that will follow by making her story public. My husband made the comment, “what a very selfless act.” I would agree. I know most wouldn’t expose their child to this type of media, myself included, but each time a family stands up and pulls back the curtain on childhood mental illness, it’s a step in the right direction towards understanding and compassion.

I thought the boy was adorable and the parents very well spoken. I myself would’ve been crying in front of the large audience. I could relate to much of what the mother had to share, even the feelings of being scared of your own child.

I was very familiar to the video clips shown in the episode, it looked like a typical outburst. I remember thinking how sad it was that nothing I saw or heard was outrageous, it looked like just another day in our life. It was a reminder of how far from “normal” we’ve come.

I don’t know that the audience got a complete picture of what a rage looks like. I know that when things really get bad with furniture being thrown about or abuse towards the parents, it’s almost impossible to video tape how ugly and violent a rage gets. I imagine that just like our home, the boy’s rages are much worse.

I was curious if the child’s facial tics were caused by tourettes syndrome or if it was a side effect from his medication. I was also curious about all the other labels they have received over the years and what the final diagnosis was, or if they even had one?

What moved me to tears was the final video clip of the boy who was on Oprah 11 years ago for having explosive rages. In the clip he explained that he was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and due to a supportive family and the right medication, he’s been able to excel and use his illness in a positive way. He was a true inspiration and gave me so much hope. Watch his video clip with the link below, it will brighten your day!

So, what did you think?



* * *

New post welcoming Oprah viewers to ask me any questions:

Post: My Son Does Not Need an Exorcism!


* * *

Video clip of boy’s triumph over childhood mental illness:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Brits-Triumph-Over-Childhood-Mental-Illness-Video

Video clip of mother sharing her experience:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Exposing-Family-Secrets-of-Mental-Illness-Video/topic/oprahshow

Video clip of boy explaining how he copes with mental illness:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/An-Explosive-Child-Learns-How-to-Cope-Video

Their whole story:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Children-Dealing-with-Violent-Rage/1

Video Source:
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Feb 17, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Short on Empathy


Today was a rough day.

It just sucked.

I had to hold my son down.

He destroyed his brother’s handmade craft.

He threw things at his other brother, twice.

He cheated in the games he was playing 
and became violent when the kids didn’t want to play with him anymore.

I cried out loud as I desperately held his door shut during a rage.

And I cried some more after.

Today, I’m short on empathy. 

I feel angry, tired and simply pissed off at his behavior today.

Tonight, he told me he was sorry.

Now... I feel sad.

Watch Oprah on Friday!

A friend of mine just gave me a heads up about an episode airing tomorrow, Friday 18th. I myself haven’t seen the episode yet, but I thought I would share the info so you can set your DVRs to watch it.

It’s about a 7 year old boy who tried to kill his mother with a knife. Supposedly, he shares his story on what it’s like to live with mental illness and they discuss what may be causing his rages. Already, I’ve read comments on Oprah’s website questioning the mother’s motive for being on the show and exposing her child to this type of media, while others that were present at the taping commented on the mother’s courage and strength. It should be interesting.

I imagine many of you will be able to relate to this story, I look forward to hearing your reactions after the episode aires.

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Go to the following links to read about my reaction to this episode:

Episode Review:
http://mysonhas2brains.blogspot.com/2011/02/oprah-boy-who-tried-to-kill-his-mother.html

My son does NOT need and exorcism:
http://mysonhas2brains.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-son-does-not-need-exorcism.html

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Video Source:
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Feb 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carrie Fisher on Oprah

In case you missed it, Carrie Fisher appeared on Oprah today. I have to share I was impressed with her openness about her mental illness. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her 20s after a mental breakdown that led to a week stay in a psychiatric ward. Along with many details, I really appreciated her disclosure on her treatment with electroconvulsive therapy, letting people know that it isn’t like the scene from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Instead, she shared that it really helped her mind become clear, changing it from the cement-like state that even medication couldn’t help.

I think it’s brave of individuals like her that are willing to speak out about their personal experience, helping to break the stigma of mental illness or at least uncover some of the misconceptions the public has about it. From our personal standpoint, my son, who’s been a fan of Star Wars from the age of 5, got a huge kick out of learning that Princess Leia has a brain illness like he does. He responded with, “Wow, lots of famous people have it!”

As for me, I was moved by her mother’s comment about being worried about her daughter’s mental illness and who would protect her when she was gone. I too think about this, but I never imagined having these thoughts so many years later, I guess as moms we’ll always be worried about our kids and their illness, no matter how old they are.

For those of you that saw the interview, what did you think?

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If you missed it, you can get more details here:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Carrie-Fisher-and-Debbie-Reynolds/12

For the entire interview:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Carrie-Fisher-and-Debbie-Reynolds/1

Carrie Fisher “Strikes back” at mental illness: 
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2002/05/29-fisher.htm

Book excerpt where she discusses electroconvulsive therapy starting on page 4:
http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Carrie-Fisher-Wishful-Drinking-Excerpt/1

Video Source:
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Feb 11, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Boy Sent to Psych Ward Against Parent’s Will

This weekend I saw this news report about a 6 year old boy who was sent to a psych ward for a 72 hour hold because of a disturbing drawing he made and writing that he wanted to die while at a Los Angeles school. According to KSEE 24 News, the school had him evaluated and sent strapped into an ambulance to a psych ward where he was held for 48 hours against his will. The mother explained to the school that he had separation anxiety issues and that his father was being deployed to Iraq and that’s why he was upset and wanted to be home. She told them that she already had a therapist for him and would have him seen that day. But the power was taken out of her hands. (KSEE News, 2011)

My son has made these same threats, even wrote down on paper that he didn’t want to live anymore, but the situation was handled and it never required him being taken away from his family. Now I do think there are times this is absolutely necessary, but that decision should be left up to the parents and the therapist treating the child, not the school.

I know this is complicated because the school has a responsibility, but when a parent wants to take their child to his own therapist instead of being taken away from his family strapped down against his will, the school should’ve given the power to the parent.

I can understand the school requesting that the parent show proof of treatment before letting him attend class in the future, but to take a child that already has separation anxiety issues from his family seems to have caused more damage in the end.

Now the child won’t return back to school because he’s afraid they’ll take him back to a psych ward. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t want to go back either!

* * *

See the story here:
http://www.ksee24.com/news/local/Boy-Sent-to-Psych-Ward-Against-Parents-Will-115793344.html

References:
KSEE 24 News
Boy Sent to Psych Ward Against Parents Will
By KSEE News
February 10, 2011
Consulted: February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lovin’ Melatonin

After talking with our psychiatrist about my son’s sleep issues, he recommended trying melatonin before bed each night.

I have to say, we’re lovin’ melatonin!

My son went right to sleep the first night and woke up in such a good mood. Hang on, it gets better! Then after school he was full of happy stories and talked about how much fun he had. Later that day, he came up to me with his arms stretched wide and a huge smile on his face. When I asked him what he was up to, he gave me the biggest hug and said, “I feel soooo happy!”

To him it was obvious that the melatonin made all the difference, he even asked if he could have it every night. So far, after three days of taking it, we’ve seen a huge improvement in every aspect of his life. This is really exciting to us since the week started out with a wave of irritability and increased stress. Even Monday, my husband came home early to help manage him because we sensed he was very close to an explosion. But after taking the melatonin, he appears all refreshed, it was like a reset button, bringing him back to his normal self.

What I also love about melatonin is that it’s pretty harmless compared to the other medications he has to take. It’s an over-the-counter supplement that we grind up and put into his drink. I’m thrilled to see positive results without a list of side effects to worry about. I’m also reminded about how much our son’s illness is amplified when he isn’t getting good quality sleep. Good sleep is essential for his stability.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Melatonin has been shown to be effective in treating one form of depression, seasonal affective disorder, and is being considered for bipolar and other disorders where circadian disturbances are involved. It has been observed that bipolar disorder might have, as a “trait marker” (something which is characteristic of being bipolar, that does not change with state), supersensitivity to light, i.e. a greater decrease in melatonin secretion in response to light exposure at night.

We’re very hopeful that this may be the final link for some consistent stability, heck a few months would be nice.

Happy Friday Everyone!

* * *

More on Melatonin:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin
http://organizedwisdom.com/Bipolar_Disorder_and_Melatonin



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Waunakee High’s “Psych Ward” Dance Routine

If you haven’t already heard the recent reports about the Waunakee High’s “Psych Ward” dance routine you can watch the clip above. I know there’s been a lot of strong emotions and hurt feelings over this, but I think that the end result is more positive then negative.

I say this because I don’t think these girls set out to be disrespectful to the mentally ill, but rather this is a result of a bigger problem in society. Society doesn’t see mental illness the same as they do cancer or other diseases. They also see the mentally ill as a character in a scary movie or a homeless person on the street that they can’t relate to. In fact, I’ve read many comments from the public saying that these girls didn’t offend anyone because the mentally ill are “too busy talking to themselves on the street and don’t care about such political correctness”. This in itself demonstrates the sad perspective that those with mental illness don’t matter.

What society doesn’t understand is that mental illness is everywhere. I can guarantee you that someone who has witness this performance has in one way or another been affected by mental illness or know someone that has. Until mental illness is understood, offensive attitudes will continue.

Personally, this performance is offensive because it demonstrates the negative stigma surrounding my son’s illness, it’s messages like these that keep fear alive when regarding mental illness. We’ve experienced first hand how this stigma has damaged my son’s personal relationships, so it’s unsettling to see a dance team make a mockery of my son’s illness to energize a crowd or make a bold statement.

But as much as this performance was in poor taste, it was a reflection on the attitudes that exist today. That’s why the parents, the students, the administration and coaches didn’t stop the performance, because they didn’t recognize the harm they were causing. They didn’t know who they were hurting. But as life often has it, we learn best from our mistakes.

As a result of this performance, there’s been another opportunity to educate the public about mental illness and who it affects. I imagine that many eyes have been opened to the suffering experienced by those with mental illness as this story has spread through the internet. Just browsing through news links, I’ve read story after story of parents who are raising children with serious mental illness. For some reading about this performance, these comments may be their first exposure to the hell that these children are living in and hopefully what will follow will be compassion and increased sensitivity on the matter.

Now for the ugly side of all of this.

I can understand not knowing better and allowing the performance to take place at the basketball game. But once the performance became public and they were made aware of how offensive the performance was to others, I’m disappointed that they chose to continue with the routine at the state competition, even with the modified costume.

I understand more than most the amount of dedication and hard work those girls put in. I myself was a dancer that performed in state competitions, then after high school I worked professionally as a dance choreographer for these performances. I know that these girls gave up much of their free time to prepare for the competition and were very excited to perform and show off their talent, but under these circumstances I think it would’ve been better for them to drop the routine all together.

I believe that teaching good character is more important than any trophy one could win. I can’t hold you responsible when you don’t know any better, but once you know that you’re being hurtful to others, you must be responsible for your actions. Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing and learning that through this experience could’ve been the best lesson taught to these dancers.

* * *

Read more details here:
http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/health_med_fit/vital_signs/article_c8afffb0-3097-11e0-af24-001cc4c03286.html

http://www.channel3000.com/education/26776382/detail.html

Video Source:
Channel 3000
“Crazy” Dance Upsets Mental Health Advocates
Jessica Arp reports
February 7, 2011
http://www.channel3000.com/localvideo/index.html?v=33526

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Contagious Nightmares

This morning when I woke up my middle child (8 years old) he appeared started and began to cry. When I asked him what was wrong he said through tears that he was having a bad dream. As mother’s do, I gently reminded him that it wasn’t real and that it was only a nightmare.

My son responded with, “Yeah, but this could come true.”

When I asked him what his dream was about he said, “Big brother was in a rage and was attacking me and my little brother and you and Daddy couldn’t help us”.

It was then that I realized that nightmares caused from a mood disorder are contagious, you only have to be around someone with the disorder to have nightmares like this.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

When I’m Not There...

Tonight my son had a hard time going to bed after a fun day. He wasn’t going into a rage, just struggling internally with feelings of anger and stress because he couldn’t get himself to sleep fast enough. We tried massaging his head, listening to ocean waves, turning the fan on, then turning the fan off, we tried all the regular methods, but his mind was having trouble settling down. At one point he started crying, saying that he wished he could take Seroquel.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might remember that we tried Seroquel for about a month but had to quit because it made him severely depressed. But one of the benefits that my son clearly remembers is that it sedated him at bedtime, I mean it just knocked him out to sleep and he loved that.

Unlike the rest of us, when we try and settle down, we can use our mind to calm us, such as imagine the ocean waves crashing at the shore. Or we can read a book to make us ready for sleep. But for my son, his thoughts during these times always turn to scary images and he can’t read since his mind can’t stay focused on the page. We’ve even tried having him write or sketch, but he said last night that being creative just increases his energy, so he’s left with a lot of frustration that escalates as he starts to panic about not falling asleep fast enough. This in itself becomes a vicious cycle.

But during this time I’m by his side, watching every move he makes and trying to keep him steady and calm. It’s almost like a a game of chess, he makes one move and I react, thinking three steps ahead of him to facilitate the best outcome.

But seeing him tonight, crying and wanting to take Seroquel, a medication he knows made him feel bad in the long run made me nervous. I couldn’t help and think about what will happen when he’s older and I’m not there to help him through these struggles. Will he resort to something that can be harmful in order to get his brain to sleep? Will he hurt himself in the process?

Watching him struggle is painful to see, but to think he may have these kind of nights and I won’t be there to help him just frightens me and makes my heart ache. How will he do this alone? Will he be able to reach out for help when he needs it? Will he be ok when I’m not there?

Good night and sweet dreams my precious boy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shhh... Don’t Tell?

Yesterday, we met with my son’s therapist and after discussing how to navigate friendships with other kids as my son gets older, our therapist strongly encouraged us to tell our son to keep his illness private. He explained that it wasn’t my son, but the world that has a problem with mental illness and that if friends of his found out, even a best friend, the parents would have a problem with it and would end the relationship. He explained that we needed to take this decision of disclosure out of his hands until he’s an adult.

I’m struggling with this today. First off, we’ve tried very hard to help our son understand that his illness is nothing he should be ashamed of, that mental illness is like any other illness and that many other people suffer just like him. He’s felt comfortable in the past to tell a friend about his illness and at the time I let him know how happy I was that he had a friend he felt close enough with to open up with.

On the other hand, we’ve already seen relationships end when his friend’s parents found out about his illness. This is devastating and hurts deeply.

So even though I understand the reason first hand, I can not imagine sitting my son down and telling him that he should keep his illness private because the world doesn’t understand. I can not imagine how this can be done without bringing on feelings of shame and self loathing.

This whole situation disgusts me.

I feel angry at the world for this stigma.

I feel sadness that my son needs to keep his illness private when he wants to share.

I feel scared and nervous about where we go from here, so I’m reaching out to you for your thoughts and any experience on how you’ve handled this with your own children, and if you have regrets either way.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It Feels Good

I’m so happy to report that things are going pretty good. My son has shown so much more control on his mood swings, I’m not sure how much is due to his mood stabilizer and how much is due to his maturing brain, either way, we are thrilled to see this progress.

Just last night my son said that it was getting easier to handle moments of anger. On several occasions I’ve found him off in a room by himself relaxing and watching tv quietly. When I asked him what he was up to, he said that he needed to go to a quiet place and distract his brain since his moods kept changing on him from happy to sad to angry. I saw this as huge progress. When he was younger and his moods were cycling, he would feel so bad inside that he exploded on all of us, now it seems that he’s getting a better sense of what’s happening to him and is taking steps to help himself feel better.

We’ve also been using a therapy technique of calling out his mood swings so he can recognize it in the moment. He calls his anger “The Governor”, so whenever he starts to become irritable and defiant due to his mood swings, we just remind him that he’s listening to The Governor and remind him that his brain is making mistakes. More than once we’ve been able to calm him back down or have him agree to go to a place alone to calm himself back down. This is a big step.

As for getting to sleep at night, we’ve seen a handful of nights that he complains of feeling tired for bed, but his brain has too much energy and won’t let him sleep. So on these nights, he gets free reign to do what he needs to do to help him sleep. Just last night I gave him a head massage and he was out like a light.

In school, I’ve started to notice that when his moods are off, he complains of being teased more at school and kids bother him more. I wonder how much is truth and how much is his perception of things when his moods are off. Anyone observe this with their own kids?

It’s been 15 days since our last episode of rage, it’s funny that once things calm down, it seems like 15 days was 2 months ago, I had to count the days in our chart twice since I was sure that it was much longer. I just think that a little peace and stability in our home goes a long way.