Thursday, August 4, 2011

Meet Author Tami Lyn

Happy Friday Everyone! If you’ve been following my blog this week, you’ll recall that I’ve been sharing the book, Raising Stephen: One Day at a Time. In my previous post, I interviewed Stephen’s sister, Traci. Today, I’m so excited to share with you an up close and personal interview with the author of this book, Tami Lyn. Sit back and enjoy this post and at the end, please ask Tami any questions you may have in the comment section below. Tami was nice enough to agree to be available over the next week to answer your questions and hopefully you’ll walk away with more understanding and knowledge like I have.

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Hi Tami and welcome to my blog, lets start from the beginning.

When did you first realize your son was different from other kids?
He was on a lot of antibiotics as an infant and toddler and quite often didn’t feel well from frequent ear infections and strep throat. But from age 3 on I could really see signs that he got frustrated easily. 

What were his symptoms when he was a child?
Very impatient, hated to lose at ANYTHING, didn’t like being bumped into even accidentally, could go from 0-10 in an instant with his anger and increased strength. (Never seemed to care about the feelings of others during this time, or notice the hurtful things he would say). Didn’t like change, hated pant legs riding up—needed elastic hemmed pants, got very agitated with things out of place, mittens coming out of cuffs of coats, silverware not lined up next to plate “perfectly” before a meal or his room out of order. His blankets and pillow had to be just right before he could settle down to sleep. 

Did his symptoms change as he got older and if so, how?
With certain meds his obsessive compulsiveness decreased quite a bit, for example, a messy room was the norm, which didn’t bother him surprisingly! But his emotional symptoms worsened as he got older, larger and stronger. 

How did you learn that he had bipolar disorder and what helped the doctors reach this diagnosis?
His 3rd grade teacher lovingly hinted that maybe he should talk to a professional. This was put off for 2 years because my husband and I were not on the same page with a decision. In 5th grade he saw the school psychologist who recommended a therapist, who then recommended a psychiatrist. The first psychiatrist mis-diagnosed him as ADHD. The symptoms are quite similar and can look alike. With mental health, the diagnosis is usually the result of a lengthy questionnaire. 

What symptoms or events lead to your son’s bipolar diagnosis? How did they know it was bipolar disorder?
Because our son showed such extreme opposite behavior at times, teachers felt in elementary school that he should be seen by a professional. His mania consisted of immature symptoms, being the class clown, hurtful to others, too much rough contact during phys Ed, etc…  Later on, it was spending sprees. 

I’m not sure if he ever went a sleepless night, but he’d stay up very late at times having to finish some huge activity or project, such as, building something that was on his mind. He couldn’t rest until it was done. This happened in our garage once as a young adult when he actually built a bed frame out of wood. Even if he didn’t have the correct tools, he “had” to complete it; therefore it wasn’t as well made as it might have been otherwise. 

Has your son shown classic signs of mania? Or does his mania appear more as irritability and anger?
His more frequent mania is and was shown w/ anger and rages… sometimes lasting a week or so. He has sadly, burnt many bridges. 

Did his symptoms become worse as he got older? If so, at what age did this occur?
Because of his muscular and tall physical changes, his symptoms became more dangerous to others in his teen years and more harmful consequences to himself. 

Driving too fast and becoming promiscuous were our main concerns along with always worrying that he’d get into fights or run his mouth too much at work. He’s lost numerous jobs. 

Were you afraid to try medication?
YES… so afraid! But, it was the best thing we ever did. 

Did medication help and were you glad he took it?
We were very glad we finally tried medication and do not regret it. The tricky part is finding the right combination of meds. The patient also has to go to frequent doctor appointments, trips to the lab for blood work and so on. At times the child will need to take medications during their school day, which annoyed our son. As he got older he would privately not take his medication which would lead to poor choices, consequences and “self medicating” with alcohol and experimenting with some drugs.

Does mental health issues run in the family? Do you think that Stephen inherited it?
It runs on my husband’s side, I believe that yes, it can be heredity. We have a paternal 18 year old nephew diagnosed with the same emotional disorder as well. My husband also suffers from depression and suicide desires, especially recently which has been hard for me. 

What was the most challenging part of raising your son?
At first it was the “not knowing” why he behaved different from his sisters… we thought it was just because he was “all boy”. Once correctly diagnosed, it was such a blessing! I now knew that I wasn’t imagining what I observed! 

The next hardest was never knowing what a day would bring, what mood he’d be in, how many times the teacher would call, etc… With increase in age, these behaviors became more risky, involving others, wondering if he’d fly off the handle at school, frequent fights, suspensions, the law, etc… 

Our son was always an AWESOME athlete. We’d attend every game excited to watch him use his great talents, but always a little anxious wondering if he’d go over the line with his tackles in football or using his great arm in baseball the wrong way, not to mention hearing comments from other parents in the stands. Our son had to be removed from games quite a few times for this type thing, as well as being insubordinate. 

Did you face ridicule from other parents regarding his behavior and how did you deal with it?
Other parents, as well as family members, simply didn’t understand what we dealt with. They just assumed we needed to increase disciplinary measures. We started seeking spiritual council for Stephen as well which helped some during the sessions, but hard for him to continue once home. 

How did you get support for yourself and family?
As we look back, now knowing how this affected our other children and our relationship as husband and wife, we should have gotten more council and therapy as a family and as a couple. I really regret that to this day. I would encourage everyone to do this.

Did your son’s disorder ever put a strain on your marriage? If so, how did you get through it?
I would hate for him to think he was a burden, but to be honest, yes it did, daily. I’d try and make our home a happy place, meal times, bed times, etc… we did have many laughs. I love humor and Stephen can be quite funny too! But the main issue in our marriage (then and still today) is that we do not agree on how to deal with our son. You must not allow bad behavior or condone UN Christ-like decisions. There should always be consequences for sin and rewards and blessings for obedience. This strengthens your child and helps them lean on God more and less on you. We to this day, do not agree on this, which, to this day is a strain on our marriage. 

Were you ever scared of your son?
Yes I was, but doubted he’d ever hit me. 

Did he ever physically hurt you or your husband during a rage?
Our son made scary threats to us, his weapon of choice is destroying others with his words, to the point of me uncontrollably shaking at times, he damaged many things in the home, but didn’t abuse us physically. He chased me upstairs once trying to get the cell phone out of my hand as I was calling 911. I’d lock our bedroom door at night, just to be safe in case he ever desired to carry through with his verbal threats. 

How did you make the decision to call the police for assistance? How did you feel about it after they came to your home?
As Stephen got older, one of his psychiatrists said to me, “Do not be afraid to call the police, if things escalate.” Well, that is the only thing that calmed him down and I was always glad I called. His one sister called before too, but his dad never would.

Were you ever worried that he might hurt himself?
Yes, and no. You have to take it seriously if they mention suicide, but Stephen hated pain, so I doubted he’d ever do that. He would get injured by busting a window, etc... in a rage, but not with suicidal attempts. As he became older and the trials in his life increased, he did contemplate driving off a bridge or into an oncoming tractor trailer before he admitted.

How is Stephen doing today?
Stephen will be 28 in a matter of weeks. He continues to keep me on my knees. He can be so awesome and dedicated to doing what’s right, but then, off his medications he goes and then the poor choices come, creating more grief for him and his family. He has 3 children and now a wife and 3 step children. They are having great problems staying together as of this writing. He is not getting treatment at this time for his illness. 

Now that he’s older and living his own life, what challenges do you face regarding his bipolar disorder?
We fear more for his safety, continued job losses and babies created. We just love being grandparents, but it can become quite sad if you let it. I’ve tried to think on the positive and give it over to God. I just hate to see a child with a broken heart, it kills me. 

How do you cope now?
I do a lot of designing and creating of home décor and fashion and accessories. Etsy has been a great place for me to display and sell my items. This is a tremendous “out” for me as well as writing short stories, gardening, enjoying our grandchildren…  I’m not sure what the future holds, but, believe me, nothing surprises me anymore! 

What made you decide to write your book Raising Stephen: One Day at a Time?
My desire to write the book first started as a sort of diary on the computer, and the more I wrote, the more God was leading me to share our story to help others maybe see similarities in their own lives, and also be a testimony because without God, this would be an entirely different read. One day as Stephen got older, maybe 14 years old, he said to me, “Man, my life could be a book!” I said, “Actually I’ve already started one.” That made him smile and feel special, I think. But depending on his mood on any given day, his feelings can change regarding the book. I asked him if I could get his permission to put it in a local library and he didn’t want me too, so I didn’t. I can understand that. 

Did everyone in the family support you writing this book?

Was it therapeutic for you to write this book?
Yes, it was. But, some parts were hard to relive. I have enough for a second book, but doubt I will.

Were there any unexpected lessons learned in the process of writing this book?
Well, as far as the actual process, I was surprised at how difficult it was to get published and find an honest publisher, and I was totally blown away when I realized you had to pay THEM to get a book published. I would do it differently if I were to do it again. I did a lot of research the first time, but I would do more the next time. I do have a children’s book I’d love to get published, which is my next desire. It’s about 3 children who are very similar to my own children, go figure.

Were there any regrets in writing it?

Reflecting on all you’ve been through in raising your son, what would you do different? What would you do again?
I would get counseling for myself, which I never really did. Whenever we’d leave Stephen’s counseling sessions, we always felt so much better, closer and hopeful! It helped a lot and if we could have afforded it more often, we would have. It is a must. Medication alone is not the answer, although that is another must. 

Always have a sense of humor. 

Always remember, most of your plans will get interrupted and changed if you are living with a child with a mood disorder. Their mood tends to set the tone for your home.

Try to keep other stressors at a minimum, simplify your life in other areas, because you’ll need that respite. 

What wisdom can you share with moms like me, who are still raising children in our home with mood disorders?
Please, please, please, keep loving them and telling them daily if not hourly, they need to hear that you love them, repeatedly. 

I would also suggest writing a journal of your thoughts and concerns, prayers, etc… 

Also, seek counseling for yourself and talk to other moms with similar situations. 

Have a hobby and close friends to talk to. 

Remember God entrusted you, knowing you are the perfect parent for your youngster. Give him praise and thanksgiving, even in the bad times. 

The good times got me through, record every one! 

God bless you! 

Thank you so much Tami for doing this interview with me, it’s such a blessing to ask such deep questions after reading your book. I truly appreciate all you’ve done in trying to help families like mine. I wish only good things for your family and hope to hear from you again!

As for my readers, please leave your questions for Tami below and have a great weekend! 

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  1. Tami, Thanks for taking the time and doing this interview with Mama Bear, and sharing your story via your book.

  2. You are welcome Heather, our son has given us so much joy among the hard times.

  3. WOW, With tears in my eyes I write this! I just found this blog after reading an email with the blog I'd on BPKids. This is our life here. I've just read it in both your stories. My 10 year old daughter diagnosed bipolar, OCD, ADHD by the age of 6. On depakote for only 3 months what a blessing for that short time. Then her father refused all treatment for her. It was then I came to find out through a therapist that they felt her father was bipolar,ADHD . He still refuses help for hi self and our daughter. I am now remarried to a special man who is both loving and firm. My daughter has done well even without the mess. But well for her is so different than it is for our other kids. Her well means she can get through maybe a half hour playing with kids before aggravating them. She has found a few girls who will put up with her on limited basis. And was even invited to 2 birthday parties this year! A first! Surprising to some her mania phases are more difficult for me to deal with. Exhausting. But her angry times, depressed times are starting to grow longer. They last days now. Where we used to only have hours. I don't know where we are headed. Every minute, second, can be the most difficult. I pray all day, everyday. I will keep you all now in my prayers as well.

  4. Anonymous-Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, I can't imagine the challenges you face with your daughter's father and his resistance to meds. it must make it so difficult! Thank you for your prayers, I will be praying for you and your daughter tonight!

    -Mama Bear

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Your post will keep me on my knees as well.
    I urge you to do your best to seek medical help for your daughter. The struggles you are going through with her now, will only get worse as she ages.
    Such a blessing she received 2 b-day invites. That means SO much! Our son too, only had 1 friend at a time and for short periods.
    Please think ahead, now that you can see signs of her disorder. It will not go away without treatment...continue to love her and tell her that hourly, but stay firm with consequences.
    I'm so happy you have your new husband by your side for support.
    God bless you sister,
    Tami Lyn~

  6. MB This is a wonderful interview. It shows how brave you are despite everything happening around you day in and out. May Allah give you strength to stand and continue to remain steadfast. We all have been facing difficult times and let me assure you are a brave strong woman. I salute you Tami