Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Big Question

Ok, I’m getting ready for our appointment with our psychiatrist tomorrow and I have a big question that lingers in my mind. Can you help me with it?

In the beginning, a lot of us parents saw serious symptoms in our children that led to the use of medication. As the child grows, their brains and disorders change, possibly bringing on more symptoms. How do you determine what symptoms are caused by the meds and what symptoms are caused by the disorder?

What complicates it more, I ’ve been told that when you treat obvious symptoms like rages, once the meds reduce this symptom, underlining symptoms will come to the forefront. So how does one know if the depression seen in your child is a result of the rages being calmed, allowing this symptom to be seen, or a side effect from the current treatment or the mood disorder getting worse, bringing on new symptoms as they age?

Some may ask me, “Why does this matter, as long as you treat the symptoms, you help the child?” 

I would answer that before I bring on the “big guns of antipsychotics”, as our pdoc refers to them, I want to make sure that we aren’t creating the symptoms we are now trying to treat. 

Ultimately, this is why a diagnosis helps me, it lets me know we’re on the right track, but without one, how do we make the right decision? What if my son has depression and anxiety, but the current meds are making him have rapid cycling, thus keeping him away from an antidepressant? Or, what if this is early onset bipolar disorder, but the fact that he isn’t showing typical adult symptoms of bipolar disorder, he isn’t given the full cocktail of meds required to end his suffering?

Help! How does a Mom make sense of it all?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Aftermath

I’m on the verge of tears as I write to you tonight. My house is a mess, chairs are tipped over and everything is disheveled from an episode my son had tonight. What hurts the most is the knowledge that my son is struggling and I don’t know how to help him.

After an amazing time with his Grandparents, my son felt his anger coming on and let it all out within an hour of being back home. Even though he had a great time, he talked about how much he missed me, as he punched at me. He talked about how much he missed his brothers while he ripped up their stuff. After about 1 1/2 hours of anger, he started to melt into sorrow where he repetitively cried out, “I want to go home”. I tried to comfort him, letting him know that he was home, but it didn’t help.

The best way to explain this episode is to compare it to a computer that malfunctions when overloaded. Even though he appeared to be having the time of his life while away, his body was holding in a good amount of anxiety that he needed to get out once home. During the episode, I saw anger that was violent towards me and towards himself as he bashed his head into the door. At times he was calm, but very mouthy and appeared to be having fun taunting me. Then other times, he was trying to scare me, followed by moments where he was agitated in his own skin. The episode ended with him feeling deep sadness and confusion.

Then he fell asleep.

I thought we were done for the night when I was able to get him into a warm bath and feed him dinner, but before I could even finish my own meal, he was up and messing with his brothers. For the next hour he struggled with feeling too much energy and acting mean, as he complained, “I feel like I need to hurt someone”, then writhing on the floor, desperately begging for this feeling to pass.

At one point, I was on the couch, silently crying as he laid on the floor, questioning when this will ever end. He shared that the doctors don’t work, the medicine doesn’t work, nothing is working.

Before he drifted off to sleep, he allowed me to hold him in my arms as I reminded him that there are peaks and valleys and that when he’s in the valley, there’s a peak around the corner. He just has to trust us to help him through it because we love him and will never let him go through this alone.

I wish the story ends there, but after he was asleep, I have two younger boys who are living in their own aftermath. Both are upset and heart-broken after counting the minutes for their brother to return home to then experience a meltdown so soon. My middle son explained that he felt so bad he wanted to punch someone in the stomach, but he knew that would be wrong. So I used this opportunity to teach my little ones to “let it out” on their pillows. So the boys began punching their pillows with every bit of energy their little arms could give, when I told them to, “Knock them out”, they began laughing uncontrollably, because “Mommy, it’s just a pillow!”

I was glad to see them recover a little from the day, but I know that it isn’t over. Just as my son said, “the doctors don’t work, the medicine doesn’t work, nothing is working.”

This is long road and I’m afraid we’ve just begun.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Grandparents Rock!

We’re so blessed to live near all of the boys’ grandparents. They’ve always been so supportive and loving to our family, doing whatever they can to help.

This week, we get to enjoy the shower of love when my oldest son gets to stay with my In-Laws for a fun overnight trip to their house with special activities planned just for his personality. This is a special thing they do for each of our boys during the summer. Then my middle child gets to go to my mom’s house for a few hours to take advantage of her cake decorating skills, as she teaches him how to make flowers out of icing. This leaves me with my youngest, allowing me to have some precious quality time doing what he likes without his big brothers taking over.

In addition, my dad is planning to share his talents by building electronics with my oldest and he and his wife love taking the boys geocaching for the day.

This gift of time is so priceless to our family. It allows each of our boys to feel special and enjoy one-on-one time with their grandparents, but from a medical standpoint, it helps us all recharge our batteries by having some stress free time.

Thank you Grandparents, you ROCK!

(and we love you a ton!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taking a Break from Lamictal

Well that didn’t last long. We were 6 days in on the new medication, Lamictal, when my son complained that he temporarily couldn’t feel his arms and legs anymore. This lasted for about a minute. Then last night, he woke up from a nightmare and had that same frightening feeling of not feeling his limbs.

Like most of our experiences, the doctor said that this was not typical with Lamictal. He explained that some people may feel tingling in the extremities, but to be sure, we should take a break from the Lamictal and try again in a week.

I tried to use this opportunity to ask questions about his medications and how we know the difference between what are symptoms from the disorder and what are side effects from the medication when it comes to things like depression and seeing monsters. He gave very generic answers that went something like this, “We just don’t know”. He then suggested taking him off everything to see what symptoms remain.

I could feel my skin warming up with frustration and dread as he went on to tell me that you never know, it could be helpful, but there’s always the risk that it could send him into the hospital. As he finished, he added that summer time is a good time to try this since he doesn’t have the stress of school.

When I asked more specific questions about my son, his response was that he didn’t know my son well enough to give me an answer.

Can you hear me screaming inside???

So I asked him about all the charts and logs I created recording my son’s experience over the years and if he could review this to get an understanding of his case, he cut me off and said that he would just talk to him to get to know him.

Yes, I’m really feeling angry at this point.

Then I asked him, “What can we do to make this happen, do we make lots of appointments with you?”

He casually said, “Yeah, I guess we can do that. I’m gone for a while, so I can see you in a month.”

This is our HMO at work. Brilliant.

Well you’d think the excitement would end there, but no. Tonight I just finished holding my son as he suffered a frightening panic attack.

Upon being startled by his brother, he went from having an overwhelming desire to scare his brothers, fighting an expression of elation mixed with suffering as he cried, “I look like I’m having fun from the outside, but I’m not on the inside, help me!”

Then he flipped out, going into full flight mode and frantically trying to get away as he rolled into a ball for protection. He screamed out, “kill me!” as he cried about all the bad thoughts in his head. Then purposely slammed his head on the ground many times and punched his forehead with his fist. Then with great anxiety, he tried to cover his eyes from all the “dark shadowed men trying to get him in his brain.”

As he started to calm down, he had the genius idea to ask for a video game to play so he could focus his brain on something other than all the bad thoughts. This really did the trick and helped him calm down and thanks to the recent melatonin dose, he fell asleep quickly after.

So here I am again, feeling frustrated and knowing in my gut that there must be better care out there.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

7th Annual Mood Disorder Education Day

Mark Your Calendars!

Last year I attended the 6th Annual Mood Disorders Education Day and was very glad I went. If you’re looking to hear the latest information from some of the top researchers in the field, you won’t want to miss this event. It’s open to everyone and it’s free! They even provide free parking and lunch. You can read about my visit last year on my post: My Visit to Stanford University

* * *

7th Annual Mood Disorders Education Day


When:
Saturday July 9th, 2011
8:30 am – 3:30 pm

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

More information can be found on their website, including the agenda and a link to register!
www.bipolar.org

This is a FREE event for anyone wanting to learn the latest on mood disorders with top researchers!
Pre-registration is required, do so on the website.

Complimentary food and drinks will be provided.
Free parking within walking distance.

If you have questions, Call Natalie Portillo at 650-498-4968 or nport22@stanford.edu

* * *

Plus you might make a new friend! I met Bug’s Mom from the blog My Sweet and Sour Girl  last year, it was one of my favorite parts, meeting another mom face-to-face that understood what I was going through.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dark Side of Innocence




“Killing yourself at any age is a seriously 
tricky business. But when I was seven, the odds 
felt insurmountable.”
— Terri Cheney, The Dark Side of Innocence


I just finished reading The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing Up Bipolar and had to immediately write a post to tell you about it. This is a memoir by Terri Cheney who wrote the New York Times best seller Manic, a memoir that revealed her adult struggle with bipolar disorder. After the books release, Cheney got an overwhelming response from parents of bipolar children wanting to know about the author’s childhood. Thus the motivation for her second book, The Dark Side of Innocence.

So of course I had to read this book, though I’ll admit I haven’t read Manic yet, but I couldn’t resist finding out what her childhood was like. I think a part of me is always researching, trying to find the answer to my son’s symptoms. I don’t know that I’ll ever find one, but I’m certain that I’ll learn something along the way.

I’m excited to share that I loved this book! I’m not a writer, but speaking from a “Mom” perspective, I found her words to be eloquent, smart and painfully honest. She successfully brings the reader into the tortured mind of a bipolar child, while bravely bringing public awareness to this awful disorder.

Having lived her entire childhood undiagnosed, even hidden from her parents, she faced what she called “The Black Beast” all alone. From hopeless depression to bouts of mania, she found herself controlled in every aspect of her life. Unfortunately, her remarkable grades and success in school camouflaged the pain she was living in and her desperate need to be rescued.

Like so many undiagnosed individuals who suffer from mental illness, Cheney turned to alcohol from a very early age, just so she could “tame” the beast and used self harm to appease it’s cravings. She also battled obsessive hypersexuality and attempted suicide at the age of 7. Like many children, her rages were only seen by her mother, remaining a dark secret from the rest of the world.

What moved me the most was her final 3 pages, when she faces the reality that she was surrounded by so many adults that never came to her rescue. She gives what I like to think of as a “gift of words” to us parents who may be questioning the medical treatment of our children. I’ll let you read it for yourself because for me, it’s the crescendo of the book. So if you’re one of those parents, questioning if only for a second if you’re doing the right thing for your child, drop everything and go read this book today!

* * *

Find her book here:
http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Side-Innocence-Growing-Bipolar/dp/1439176213

References:
The Dark Side of Innocence: Growing up Bipolar
Terri Cheney
2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Starting Lamictal

We are 3 days in with Lamictal. I don’t know that I can report it’s effectiveness anytime soon, since it takes weeks to get to the therapeutic dose, but I’m happy to share that my son is free of side effects.

As for the rages, well that’s another story. We had a fantastic day yesterday, but tonight he went into another rage. Fortunately, thanks to my husband, I have my energy and emotional strength back. In my last post, I Surrender, I had to ask for help. I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband that came home and made dinner for the kids, while taking over all parenting, so I could recover from my day. For the record, I never gave up on my son, I will forever be by his side, but to be an effective parent, I realized that it’s vital to take a moment to recover. I so often make the mistake of refusing to ask for help because I hate to burden others, but I’m slowly learning that this is a marathon, not a sprint, so I need to pace myself and ask for help when I need it.

With my energy restored, I made it a point to tell my son that we love him during the rage and that we were trying to help him. So many times, I’ve found it easy to get caught up in the argument, but now, I’m trying to work on saying a whole lot less as he rages, while reminding him that he’s loved, even if he’s trying to hurt me.

After his rage, he started to have what appeared to be rapid cycling. As he went from crying, to a small giggle, then back to crying, all in a matter of 1 minute, he desperately cried, “help”. When I asked him what was wrong, he softly said that his moods keep changing. I continued to comfort him as I reminded him that this was going to pass before he feel asleep from the exhaustion of the rage.

As I reflected on the moment, I desperately wished our psychiatrist would give me comfort on what was happening with my son.

* * *

Happy Father’s Day to my loving husband. Thank you for being my strength when I am weak. I love you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Surrender

Today was a really bad day.

I called my husband at work, crying and waving the white flag. Please come home.

I surrender.

* * *

Things have gotten much worse over the last 3 days.

Day 1: It started out with our first rage in over 2 months. As I held my son down on the ground, he screamed how he couldn’t hold his anger in anymore, while his younger brothers cried in fear. Once his nightly melatonin took affect, he fell asleep on the couch. Just 45 minutes later, my husband woke him up to move him upstairs into his bed. As he began to awaken, he punched a fist up at my husband while his jaw clenched down with anger, all while his eyes remained rolled back into his head from sleep.

Day 2: After a fun day of swimming, his anger returned. He became impulsive and destructive, having to be held down again as he complained about his anger returning every evening.

Day 3: I woke him up in the morning and was startled to see his expression. His eyes looked feral, filled with rage as he stared at the wall, while he laid motionless. His only words were, “I still have anger”. As the day continued on, he was impulsive and explosive, while threatening his brothers, and at times even growling at them to scare them. At bedtime, he was crying because he still felt angry and had too much energy to sleep. Thanks to the Melatonin, we were able to get him to bed.

Today’s erratic behavior brought up a lot of emotions inside of me. I was frightened, sad, angry, overwhelmed and disappointed. At one point, I started to cry and I couldn’t stop crying. Sometimes, rages feel like just another rage, other times they feel like all the rages combined.

I think having 2 months without rages made me lose my defensive edge and I started to let my guard down. Once things began to escalate and objects were thrown against the wall, I started to crumble, feeling every scream to my core.

Then... I surrendered.

* * *

Thankfully, our psychiatrist called today and has ordered the Lamictal for us to start. After pointing out that I couldn’t even get through a phone conversation with him due to my son’s threatening behavior, he encouraged us to take this next step. He advised that we should get things under control now, instead of waiting until he’s older and stronger. I also recognized that my son is suffering with all this anger and it wouldn’t be right to allow it to continue if we can help him.

Please pray for my boy that he doesn’t have a bad reaction to Lamictal, this next step scares me.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blessings

One of my followers sent me the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. It’s a song Laura wrote as she waited on God to answer her prayers while her husband faced a brain tumor. I was moved to tears, I find her words to be encouraging and also a reminder that our blessings don’t always come when life is going well, sometimes we are blessed as we walk through the valley.

Above is a video clip of Laura explaining the background of this song and her own journey of examining if God was blessing them by not answering their prayers.

You can hear the whole song here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ

* * *

I know for me, there are blessings today and more to come. But one that comes to mind is the blessing of my son’s smile. Seeing my son smile brings me such deep joy. After walking through our valley, I never take for granted the expression of happiness that comes from my son. His smile lights up his whole face and makes his eyes shine bright. What to others may appear ordinary, for me they’re extraordinary blessings from God.

Looking back, have you felt unexpectedly blessed through your own journey?

* * *

Thank you Nancy for sending me this song!

Video Provided by:
Uploaded on YouTube by  on Feb 10, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sweet Dreams

Yesterday at the pool, my son jumped out of the water and ran up to me. As he stood there dripping water off his suit, he shared that he loves to sleep at night. Interested in his urgency to share this detail I asked, “Why is that?” With a smile on his face he said, “Well first of all, when I’m sleeping I feel all comfortable in my covers and when I dream I don’t have an anger problem!” Then as quickly as he arrived, he jumped back into the pool.

I sat there with his words sinking into my mind... “when I dream I don’t have an anger problem.” It dawned on me then that he lives with his mood disorder 24/7! I guess it never occurred to me that it’s always there with him and that he’s “holding it together” more than I previously thought.

Thanks to his mood stabilizer, his terrible nightmares are almost a thing of the past, but to know that his only true relief from symptoms is during his sleep left me feeling sad. It also made me wonder if we should be doing more for him by adding another medication, such as Lamictal, or is this just a reality for those with mood disorders? Is there really no escaping it? How do we know when we’ve done enough and this is as good as it gets, verses taking the risks of more side effects to make things even better?

Can his life be as sweet as his dreams? Or are we just dreaming?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Routine is King!

Almost one week in and still standing! Today was a little rough, boredom is bringing out some irritability and explosive behavior in my son. Unlike last year, he isn’t like this the whole day. He may have moments of being excited about organizing his legos and has big plans of making lego videos, but later he’s screaming at his brothers and stomping around the house looking tortured because he’s bored. It appears that he shifts to a place in his mind where he can’t get enjoyment from things, so activities that once seemed exciting no longer hold their appeal for him.

I spoke to my son about maybe adding another medication and he seemed interested. We decided to monitor his moods for now as we pray about this, before we make the call to our pychiatrist for Lamictal.

One thing that is helping us as a whole is having a routine. My son specifically asked for a schedule of what we’ll be doing each day and at what time. He said that it stresses him out to not have a schedule. So that’s exactly what we’ve been working on this week.

So far we have mealtimes, bible studies, public outings, reading times, free time and even my cleaning times all scheduled for the week. Each morning I let him know what to expect for the day, keeping some things like “library day” and “swim day” on the same days each week.

I have to admit, it feels good knowing what to expect and it helps keep me on my toes!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Schools Out... Now What?

Now that its summer, what shall we do? So far, we plan on swimming at the clubhouse, spending time at the lake, visiting the library, doing a little geocaching, getting tours at local businesses like the cupcake shop, attempting to have playdates and...

Do you have any ideas?

Lets help one another out and share our ideas, list what you plan on doing this summer in the comments section below, I can use a few ideas, it’s going to be a long summer and boredom can be very cruel!

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Salute You Sister Soldier!

This past weekend my husband and I went on a date to the movies. As I was getting out of our car in the movie theatre parking lot, I heard the screams of an adult woman. I quickly searched the parking lot to see what was going on when I saw a woman thrashing around in the rain and screaming beside a car stopped in the middle of the road. At first I thought... Oh No! I think she may have been hit by the car in the parking lot. But a moment later, an older woman approached her quickly, taking the screaming woman down to the ground and placing her into a hold while remaining calm and in control. Within seconds, she had the security there to assist her as she directed them what to do, as she lovingly stroked the face of the screaming woman, while holding her to the wet pavement. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that this wasn’t an accident, but a rage of some sort. And even though we were a distance away, I could tell by the older woman’s actions that this was not something new, but instead something she was very experienced in handling.

I have to say, I felt a connection to this older woman, even though we were complete strangers and I was a parking lot away, I felt like we were “sisters soldiers” fighting a secret war. My husband and I didn’t stick around since things were under control and we didn’t want to make them feel more uncomfortable, but I couldn’t help but think of this woman throughout the weekend and how impressed I was with her ability to handle such a stressful, public episode with strength and love.

So, to the unknown woman and all my other “sister soldiers”, I salute you in doing one of the toughest jobs I know, while keeping your head held high and letting your love shine through when it’s needed most.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Alone

Today is the last day of school. It’s been a crazy week filled with end of the year parties and games. For most kids, it’s the best week of school ever. But for my son who has social anxieties, to say it’s difficult is an understatement. Yesterday, he had a BBQ on campus that lasted 3 hours. That’s 3 long hours of unstructured time, filled with the pressures and stress of how to fit in with the other kids. When I asked my son how it went, he said it was good. When I asked him what he did the whole time, he said that he mainly sat alone away from everyone.

As we discussed it further I acknowledge that it must be hard to mingle with the other kids so I offered a suggestion of sitting closer to the group so that it would be easier to get included in the activities. His response, as he choked on his words with tears was, “When I sit close to them I feel more sadness because I see all the fun they’re having, so I feel better sitting away from them.”

Ahhh, I get it. He sits at a distance as a defense mechanism. Now it makes since.

I grabbed him in a big hug and held him close, wishing I could magically take away all these struggles. I realized then that he’s been walking around with a brave face, putting up with it all and being strong. Just a day prior, he complained that two girls from a lower grade had approached him and called him a “freak”. At the time, he seemed to be handling it pretty well as he went on to tell me about something fun in his class. But seeing him break apart last night, I realized then that he’s built a strong wall to survive and is doing his best to keep it together.

Today, I’m struggling on how to help him. I can’t see this kind of socializing continuing. How does a kid get through school alone. How do I help him “fit in” and feel more comfortable? My concern is that if it continues, he will become even more isolated and ostracized by his peers.

I really need your help with this one. What should we do?


* * *

Photo provided by:
Candy de la Peñahttp://www.sxc.hu/profile/candygrrrl

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meet “In the Pink”


I’m so excited to share this post with you. One of my followers, “In the Pink” , has agreed to do an online interview with me, letting me ask all those deep questions many of you parents want to know about someone who is living, as an adult, with a mood disorder. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for her complete honesty and willingness to share even the toughest moments in her life. I’m encouraged to see that even though she has been through so many challenges, she’s living a good life with her fiance, planning a future filled with the dreams we all wish for our kids.

* * *

Welcome “In the Pink”, let’s start this interview with your background.

Q: What mental illness are you diagnosed with?

A: Bipolar Disorder type 1, ADD and PTSD

Q: What are your symptoms?
A: (I will focus on my bipolar symptoms):

Mania Symptoms: insomnia, agitation, anger, hearing music, shadows play tricks on me, paranoia, pressured speech, spending sprees, inability to stop focusing (I have permanently scared my face because I thought I had a pimple and also wouldn’t fall asleep till I finished a 500pg book I started the same day) hyper sexuality, decreased need to sleep, extravagance, feeling on top of the world, self assured and take on many tasks at once with gusto and charm.

Depression Symptoms: always tired, crying, thoughts of self mutilation and suicide, major feelings of guilt, lack of sexual desire, inability to make a decision, lack of confidence or drive, feels as though I am melting into the furniture, lack of vitality or assuredness, inability to thrive, lacking a zest for life or a care to live, focusing on shortcomings and decreased care for anything... it hurts to be depressed.

Q: When did you get this diagnosis?
A: I was Diagnosed Bipolar at 21.

Q: Did you have other “labels” prior to this one?
A: I was labeled depressed at 15 and sent to my first therapist at about 11 years of age.

Q: Is anyone else in your family diagnosed bipolar?
A: Yes, my brother and grandmother on my dad’s side of the family.

Q: Do they lead fulfilling lives like you do?
A: No. My grandmother never took medication and committed suicide at around 44 years old. My brother also refuses to take medicine and has attempted suicide, been hospitalized against his will 4 times, cannot hold down a job and lost custody of his children. This is why I cannot stress enough the importance of taking medicine.

Q: What meds are you currently taking and are you finding success with them?
A: My meds are very, very good for me. I take Lamictal 300mg for mood stabilization (my saving grace) Abilify 10mg for mania (very good antipsychotic) Cymbalta 60mg for depression and anxiety (love it), Trazadone 100-200mg and Rozerom 8mg to get to sleep as needed.

Q: Have you ever had a bad reaction to medication?
A: Yes, Seroquel caused me to go into convulsion, Zyprexa caused severe weight gain, Ambien made me sleep walk, eat and try to drive.

Q: How long have you been taking medication?
A: Since the age of 13, sleep medicine and anti anxiety meds.

Q: What do you dislike about your current medication?
A: Weight gain of Abilify, lack of sex drive and that’s really it.

Q: Are you in therapy ?
A: No

Q: What helps you the most?
A: Medicine

Q: What do you still struggle with the most?
A: Currently, it is lack of self confidence and sleeping too much.

Q: How old were you when your symptoms started and what were your very first symptoms?
A: I can remember not sleeping at the age of 5 and being sent by my school to therapy at the age of 9 for anger and rage.

Q: What symptoms did you have as a child?
A: Self harm, anger, hostility, hyper sexuality, decreased and increased need for sleep, lack of a sense of calm and hope.

Q: Did you experience mania as a child? If so, was it different than the mania you experience as an adult and if so, how?
A: Yes, I experienced mania. I had lack of sleep, increased drinking of alcohol to get myself to sleep as a kid, hyper sexuality and rage. Now as an adult, I’m still hyper sexual, I still have a decreased need for sleep and also rage. But I also spend more, become overly talkative and take on more hobbies than I know what I can do with.

Q: How old were you when you felt mania?
A: I recall feeling increased energy as young as 8 years old or so. I began drinking a glass of wine from the Franzia box in the fridge at about 12 years old to get to sleep. A clear cut mania didn’t happen till I was about 15 or 16 and I stopped sleeping for a few days and didn’t want to sleep. I even stopped eating for a while and felt so on top of the world. It was such a wonderful time. To this day I still drink beer on occasion to calm my nerves when I’m getting angry manic.

Q: Did you know early on that there was something wrong with your brain?
A: Yes.

Q: What did you struggle with most as a child?
A: Depression, rage and self harm.

Q: When did you face your most challenging time during this illness? How old were you and what caused it?
A: When severely depressed I struggled with cutting myself and also hurting my family. I wanted to kill my parents and burn down our house as a child.

Q: You mention “self harm”. Can you tell us more about what would cause you to do this?
A: Causes of self harm are more internal than you would ever imagine. I would get home from school and just rage on myself for being so weak and insecure. I began to punish myself for being so weak by cutting with a razor or steak knife or paper clip. Anything I could mark myself with. As if I were branding myself as socially unacceptable.

Q: What else would you do to “self harm”?
A: Usually I would cut myself but also I would slap myself on the face or yell hateful things to myself.

Q: Did your parents find out about this “self harming” and if so, how?
A: No, not to my knowledge because they both worked and by the time they got home I had calmed myself down and would be so embarrassed by my behavior that I kept it secret and only scarred myself in ways that looked like I fell or you couldn’t see it.

Q: Did you ever think about suicide or try to commit it? 
A: Yes, I have thought about it many times but never went through with it, ever. I cannot imagine leaving my loved ones with that kind of pain.

Q: Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, what was that experience like for you?
A: Yes, twice and the first stay they kept me over three months, the second time just one week. Both stays were good experiences because I was happy to be getting help. In fact, I see those times as a sort of vacation because I was finally able to get my meds worked out and had no fear of hurting myself or others.

Q: Can you share why you were hospitalized and who made the decision to do it?
A: The first time was because I was abusing pain pills and drinking so I was kicked out of my house and told to go to rehab. I was there and detoxed for 11 days then went through treatment for a month. After that time they noticed my behavior changing so I was sent to the psych unit and released 60 days later diagnosed as bipolar instead of depression. Ever since being put on mood stabilizers, my life has been so much better. I’m like another person. It’s such a good thing. The second time, I admitted myself into a mental institution because I was going to kill myself if I didn’t. I was so full of anger, depression and hate for myself that I was going to drive my car off a bridge. Turns out, I needed an antipsychotic and I have been much better since that hospitalization. I’ve not been back to an institution in over 7 years.

Q: How are you doing today?
A: Pretty good, though I’m still somewhat depressed from my most recent depressive episode. I’m sleeping too much and “easy to cry” but day by day I feel better.

Q: Besides medication, what gets you through the hard times today, what tools do you use?
A: Routines, rituals and small obligations such as having to take my dog out to potty or taking a shower and putting on perfume. Calling my best friend of 15 years and crying on her shoulder over a cold beer. All these things help to ease me into thriving even when I do not feel up to it. I also tend to meditate by laying flat on my back and lighting a candle or wearing a scent that comforts me such as my grandma’s favorite perfume Red Door. It’s amazing how powerful a sense smell is to finding peaceful memories and states of mind.

Q: Now that you’re an adult, is there a way your parents can help you as you struggle with your symptoms?
A: Yes, by being compassionate and adaptable. Example is that I missed Mother’s Day because I was in a deep depression. Instead of being mad she was understanding and concerned but not to the point where I felt babied. She let me reschedule Mother’s Day and give her a present without bringing up my inability to be normal and celebrate on the actual holiday like everyone else. The trick is to act as if the abnormal behavior is not a big deal, is normal, and keep on trucking, despite the bumps in the road a mood disorder brings. Don’t make a big scene about the odd behaviors because I know it makes me feel very ashamed and small.

Q: Do you plan on having children?
A: Absolutely and I know I will be a wonderful mommy despite being mentally ill. My only concern is passing my illness onto my children.

Q: What has been your greatest life lesson learned through all of this?
A: That I am not the only one who has ever felt this way and it is indeed okay to want to self harm or hurt others so long as you never act on it because acting on it will never make anything better. The urge is merely a way of expressing rage you don’t know what to do with. So paint, run, dance, meditate or go swimming, anything positive. Going inpatient is a good way to correct medication and see things through a new light. Bipolar is not an end all diagnosis, just a speed bump in the road.

Q: What are you the most proud of?
A: That I am engaged to a man who loves every part of me, I speak openly to anyone about my illness who is interested to know, I am a productive person who works part time, that I am an awesome friend, that I have an associates degree, and that I gave myself a chance to live by never committing suicide. I am proud that I have stuck with medicine and found the right cocktail. I am proud to be me.

Q: What would you say to other parents whose children are struggling with mood disorders?
A: Be patient...very patient, be strict and be kind. Do not let us walk all over you in our rages but be gentle, do not let us expect less of ourselves because we are ill, do not expect miracles, but do not be afraid to expect our best. Love us and teach us to love ourselves no matter how low we feel. Be an optimist to the core. I really wish I had better answers but this is what I know. Bipolar disorder is what I have and in a sense it is part of who I am so do not ever expect me to not be bipolar as you should never expect your children to not be bipolar. Maybe the best advice is to throw all expectations out the window.

Thank you so much “In the Pink” for sharing your life with us and for being so supportive of families like myself. We really appreciate you!


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