Thursday, August 25, 2011


I’ve had a good cry on and off the last two days. With my boys still home from school due to the evacuations in our area, I tried to give them a fun day out. Things didn’t go as planned. But it isn’t what you may be thinking, my oldest wasn’t the challenge, it was my youngest.

I’ve been holding this concern for sometime now, but haven’t had the heart to write about it yet. I’ve been concerned that my youngest is developing some issues. About a year or two ago I took him to our therapist when he started to show some anxiety. He started to regress with his toilet skills and had problems sleeping alone. He was scared a lot of the time. It seemed like a no-brainer since my oldest was going through a period of violent rages. To say the least, they were very scary, so it seemed obvious that my youngest would have a hard time processing what was happening and according to our therapist, was most likely developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I understand that some readers may be thinking... “that’s ridiculous”, but you have to keep in mind that his exposure to unpredictable violence started when he was around 2 years old. Over the past 4 years, I specifically remember many occasions where my small child was terrified by his brother. There were times when our oldest would go into a rage and my youngest cried while covering his eyes with his little hands, trying to block out all that was happening around him. Other times, he would witness me being attacked as I yelled at him to go hide in his room. There were the nights where he would hear a rage for hours on the other side of his bedroom wall, flinching in fear at the sounds of destruction and the pounding that rattled his own walls. He’s been a victim of his brother’s impulsive behavior and now is conditioned to run whenever big brother appears upset.

So is it any wonder that he’d develop some fear and anxiety? I think most families living under these conditions would have some form of PTSD. Even today, I feel my pulse quicken when my son raises his voice, even if he isn’t getting out of control, my body seems to overreact.

But were starting to see more than just anxiety and fear in my youngest. At 6 years old, he recently went through a phase where he would repeat any sentence he said in a whisper right after. (Exactly like the boy in the tv series The Middle). It goes something like this:

Little Brother says: “I’m going outside to play.” then whispers, “I’m going outside to play.”

We’ve also had issues at school where he overreacts to other kids, gets angry over change and he appears on edge and screams a lot at the small stuff. He also experienced night terrors when younger and has had sensory issues for as long as I can remember.

But this past week, I’ve seen for the first time him having tantrums beyond normal behavior. It was like his brain gets stuck on something and he’s overcome and goes into meltdown mode. It’s not the same as a rage, it’s very different. He’s never malicious to others or exhibits predatory behavior like his older brother, it’s more like a child that has to have things a certain way to feel secure. For example, last night while tucking him into bed, he had a meltdown and couldn’t go to sleep because his fitted sheet wasn’t fitting his bed perfectly. To my observation it looked fine, but something was wrong with it and he couldn’t sleep because of it. This same scenario can revolve around his shoes, the carpet square he sits on in class or the foods he eats.

So today I made the decision to call our therapist. His response was, “It sounds like he’s developing the anxiety disorder OCD, lets schedule him an appointment.”

A part of me feels relief because I’ve been at a loss on how to help little brother and I look forward to getting some guidance. But my stomach twists as I write to you now because I feel sad and guilty as a mother. Could I’ve done a better job of making little brother feel more secure while handling big brother’s rages? Did all those hours of holding big brother during a rage or trying to keep him in a timeout leave little brother neglected emotionally? Was this unavoidable due to our family’s genetics? Or is this an aftershock of bipolar disorder in our home?

Either way, we’re moving forward to help this little guy and thanks to older brother’s recent stability, we can.


  1. Poor little guy. He probably does have PTSD. You may want to look up 'hyper-vigilance' and see if he is exhibiting those signs. I have PTSD from a rough childhood and suffered from hyper-vigilance and would count to try and calm my nerves. Eventually I was put on ativan to help me sleep as a kid. What your youngest is going through is certainly real and it is good you are seeking medical attention for the little guy.

    Hopefully after a longer stint of calmness in your home he will become more at ease.

  2. oh no :( maybe it's just a stress reaction that will work it's way through his system as his body is able to let down now that your older son is stable.

  3. Hugs, Mama Bear! I can hear your concern in your post. PTSD in families with bipolar children is real. I have no doubt that I have it and wouldn't be surprised if my daughter and husband have it too. I know just how it feels to have to send your little one away in order for you to handle a raging child.

    Whether your youngest ends up having a special need as well...whether from living with a bp sibling or from genetics...none of it is your fault. With a raging child you do the best you can. It's bound to have effects on the other family members.

    It's wondeful that you are getting your youngest help right away. I'm sorry that you have to add this to your load of worries and stress level. Let us know what you find out from the therapist.

  4. In the pink- I looked up hyper-vigilance and could relate to the part where it talks about one having a high response to stimuli and high sensory sensitivity. That is interesting stuff! I can see that in my little boy.

    Meg-I'm really hoping that's the case. That's why I decided to get a therapist involved now before these behaviors become "locked-in". I hope with our home being more calm, my little one can regain a sense of safety and let go of his anxieties.

    Jewell-Thanks for your encouraging words. I’ll let you know what I hear from the therapist. It will be interesting to see how he works with a young child.

  5. Hi Mama Bear,

    I'm sure that your son (and probably the rest of the family as well) is suffering from PTSD. I think anyone who lives through the rages we have dealt with has to have some form of it, especially since most of this happens in our own homes, where we are supposed to be the safest.

    You are doing a wonderful job caring for your children's emotional needs!


  6. Well, Mama Bear, this just stinks - regardless what the source. I hate that you now have additional issues to manage in an already full plate. I can't speak to the PTSD, but I adopted three boys from the same birthmother (2 different birthfathers) and unfortunately, they all have the genetic wild card. Two are bipolar, and my youngest....well something mood related is definitely on board. Plus, they have a sister who is being parented by the birthmother...and she, too, has it. So, it does happen. But, regardless, you didn't cause it, nor did you make it worse. IT JUST IS. The day I was finally able to accept our plight - just accept it because it already is - I was able to let go of so much negative emotion. Be strong, my friend. We'll journey on - together. And one day you'll realize the gift you are to them, and the gift their illness is to who you will grow into being. (Notice: I didn't say we'd be grateful for this experience! Ha!)

  7. Don't beat yourself up for even a minute. We are doing the best we can as mothers, and it isn't easy for any of us. Throw in a child with emotional problems, and things get even more challenging! You are doing everything you can to keep all of your children safe.
    My other child is only three months old, but all the violence and screaming that goes on with my 5 year old is bound to affect him. I am hopeful we will get my sons rage under control before it does any serious damage to his brother.
    Hang in there, and know you are a wonderful mother to all of your children.

  8. Sarah, Boxturtle & Jessica- Thank you! thank you! I needed the pep talks today, you reminded me that I am doing my best.

  9. Be nice to yourself and forgive.


  10. Oh, Mama Bear! So sorry to hear this!!! There is no doubt that those who live with and love the bipolar child suffer in many ways. You are definitely doing the right thing seeking help for your little man. I pray that the sessions go well and that you find quick answers and relief for him (and for you). Hugs!

  11. Big hugs to you. You are absolutely not being ridiculous about the whole PTSD thing. We just had a therapist at the house the other day who seems to think we all have some PTSD because of my son's out of control behaviors.

    It breaks my heart, but I firmly believe it is always best to know the truth, whatever it may be. When you do, you can start to work on possible solutions.

    Hang in there!

  12. I am so thankful that you have this blog. So many times I have come here and just felt comforted in that we are not alone. I have written before but it has been awhile. I have 5 kids ranging from 24 to 7. My 10 year old is the one that is the biggest challenge. I have spent it seems years holding him during his rages. Have gotten kicked, bit scratched, spat upon, everything that you have endured it seems. He was on tenex, but now is on only Concerta, Trileptal and melatonin. After a relatively calm summer and a few months since major meltdowns which we were having regularly before the trileptal, he is slipping again. I can see the effect on his younger brother, who we also had to rush out of the room, during episodes and his older sister who unbeknownst to me had started cutting herself about 2 year ago (she is 14). My husband and myself have nearly had meltdowns ourselves due to the stress and it is hard to live with the fear that this will never end.

    I am so sorry that you are going through so much, but know that you are not alone. As I said my son is ten now and although he is only 80 something pounds when in a rage he is incredibly strong and belligerent. Afterwards a meltdown he is such a different child I don't even know what to say.

    You are a good mother, you do your best. Things are as they are. Sometimes there are no easy fixes and that is the way it is. It is nobody's fault and there is no reason for blame. At least that is what I try to tell myself, sometimes it is hard though.

    Hang in there.

  13. Terri- Thank you so much for your words today, they meant a lot to me. I too feel so much comfort that we’re not the only family going through this. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me today, it meant a lot!