Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview with Author Ka Hancock


This Wednesday, February 29th, is the last day to enter into the drawing for a free copy of the book Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock. I thought it would be fun to ask the author a few questions about writing this book and her experience with bipolar disorder. I think you’ll find the interview very interesting, check it out!

* * *

Welcome Ka to my blog! When I first heard about your book I immediately became curious about your experience with bipolar disorder and your inspiration to incorporate it into your novel.

What made you decide to write a book about relationships and bipolar disorder?
That happened rather accidentally, at least in the beginning—I needed what I thought was a good reason for a woman to give her baby to her sister rather than trust her husband to raise her. So I gave him bipolar disorder because there is a range of symptoms, many differing opinions on treatment as wells as a variety of medications. All this meant I had ample room within that diagnosis to create my character. Initially I thought he should be a complex man that would not be trustworthy enough to care for his child. Shame on me! As I came to understand Mickey Chandler, I soon realized that his mental illness was an empty argument and certainly no reason—in and of itself—that my heroin would not want him to have their child. So as I got to know Mickey, and he emerged as such a good guy despite his diagnosis, what started out as a mere character trait soon became a driving force in the story. Mental illness is of particular interest to me, and delving into Mickey and his relationship with the world was an exercise in discovery as well as appreciation. Bipolar disorder symptomology ranges from mild to debilitating and frequently cycles between these extremes. I characterized Mickey as having this illness but also layered him with an admirable core and great insight into his disorder—two imperative components of this story.

Do you have any experience with bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses?
I have worked in the field of mental illness for many years as a psychiatric nurse. I have come to appreciate the struggle of those challenged with this diagnosis as well as the families that orbit around them. Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, it can be hell on relationships, and medication compliance can be a huge challenge. And for those living with the extremes of mood and behavior, it can be crazy-making and very frightening. In a hospital setting, I have also come to appreciate the role of individual responsibility—meaning, as with any other chronic illness, BPD requires consistent attention—medication, therapy, and monitoring of symptoms. To successfully navigate this disorder, it requires an understanding of the diagnosis as well as an absolute commitment to treatment. Sadly, this is frequently easier said than done because this mood disorder is very seductive—hypomania does have its allure.

How did you research bipolar disorder for this book?
Lucy’s part in the story was easy; working with mentally ill patients has afforded me a front row seat in their care. I’ve certainly experienced the frustration; the strain on patience; and the clean-up after a breakdown, suicide attempt, or manic episode. Mickey’s part was tougher for me as I have not experienced BPD from the inside out. I relied heavily on the accounts of several people who have been brave enough to share their personal experiences. The best book I’ve come across that depicts the day-to-day survival of this diagnosis is An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jemison. I highly recommend it.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
I think the most challenging aspect was keeping Mickey true to life while conveying his experience with BPD. I did not want to get too clinical because I wanted the story to be accessible to anyone. I also did not want to diminish the experience for those who are living with it firsthand. Because this is fiction, I was able to manipulate what I needed with the goal of creating an enduring, likable man who also suffers from a mental illness. The same is true for Lucy, a woman who did her homework before she ever married Mickey. Building these characters—this marriage—was a labor of love that I hope will offer some insight not only to those suffering with BPD, but those who love them as well.

What do you hope to communicate through this story, is there a life lesson or experience you wanted to share?
I think what I really wanted to convey in this book is that there is worthiness and capability in everyone, despite a diagnosis of mental illness. Mickey doesn’t feel worthy of Lucy’s love or acceptance and nearly opts for a life without her, which would have been tragic. She came to understand his limitations, but also admired his commitment to treatment—that was key for her. Life is hard. A diagnosis of BPD makes it harder, so it requires harder work. That’s just a fact. The key to living successfully with this disorder often lies with treatment compliance—developing insight, taking responsibility, following through. In this work of fiction, that’s who Mickey was, and Lucy knew that beneath all his pathology there was a very good man, a man strong enough and resourceful enough to take care of his daughter.

If there is BPD in your life, whether as patient or caregiver, I wish you peace and long bouts of stability. When you can’t attain those, I wish you respite and a shoulder. This blog is a good thing, Mama Bear. Thank you for hosting me.

Thank you so much Ka for sharing your book with us, I look forward to reading it!

* * *


So are you interested in winning this free book and be one of the first to read it? If so, email me your mailing address by Wednesday, February 29th. By Friday, March 2nd, I’ll draw one of your names and forward your address to Simon & Schuster and they’ll mail a free copy of the book to you after March 13th. (Sorry U.S. residents only).

Email me here to enter:
mysonhas2brains@gmail.com

Good Luck!


Don’t worry, I won’t be using your personal info, it will be destroyed after a winner is selected. Also, in an effort to have full disclosure, I’ll be receiving a free book too from Simon & Schuster.

* * *

Link to the book:
http://books.simonandschuster.com/Dancing-on-Broken-Glass/Ka-Hancock/9781451637373 

Author’s website:
http://kahancock.com/




Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dr. Drew Looks at Insanity Plea due to Bipolar State

I recently saw this video clip of Dr. Drew discussing the Hemy Neuman insanity defense case in the murder of Rusty Sneiderman. The accused killer claims that he gunned down another man when in a manic bipolar state. I thought it was an interesting discussion and I appreciated how one advocate used this as an opportunity to educate the public that individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to become victims of crimes than perpetrators and that there are wonderful treatments available for those suffering to maintain healthy lives. Also participating in the conversation was General Hospital star, Maurice Benard, who shared his experience with his manic bipolar state.

Check it out!

* * *

Video Source:
http://drdrew.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/24/insanity-plea-due-to-bipolar-state/

* * *

Only 3 days left to enter into the drawing for a free copy of Dancing on Broken Glass, see the link below for details!

http://mysonhas2brains.blogspot.com/2012/02/book-giveaway.html



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Giveaway!



This week Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books contacted me with a very cool offer! They’re willing to give one of my followers, THAT’S YOU, a free book from one of their upcoming releases. This fiction novel, Dancing on Broken Glass, by Ka Hancock is a story about a marriage coping with bipolar disorder and much more.

Here’s a peek inside the book:
Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.
Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.

So are you interested in winning this free book and be one of the first to read it? If so, email me your mailing address by Wednesday, February 29th. By Friday, March 2nd, I’ll draw one of your names and forward your address to Simon & Schuster and they’ll mail a free copy of the book to you after March 13th. (Sorry U.S. residents only).

Email me here to enter:
mysonhas2brains@gmail.com

Good Luck!


Don’t worry, I won’t be using your personal info, it will be destroyed after a winner is selected. Also, in an effort to have full disclosure, I’ll be receiving a free book too from Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Support is Mandatory!

It amazes me how many people I’ve made connections with regarding my son’s illness. And I’m not talking about online connections, but real, in the flesh people.

Over this year I’ve developed some deep, trustworthy relationships with women who have walked in my shoes. Sometimes we meet for coffee to get support or advice and sometimes we meet just to go to the movies and have fun. One woman is meeting with me to help me navigate the whole 504/IEP process in our school district and others are researching on my behalf. Some have made referrals to our current doctors and others have just prayed with me. Whatever the need, I feel these women are by my side. In the process I hope I can support them as well, but at the end of the day, I never realized how much I needed them until they walked into my life. I’m so grateful that they’re there.

Knowing how much these connections have helped me,  I recently arranged a fun outing for my son to get together with another kid who has the same challenges. I wasn’t sure how he would like it, but afterwards he told me, “I definitely want to do that again!” For him it was the first time he was able to connect with a child who could relate to his experience, he honestly was on “cloud 9” that night!

If you’re going through this alone, please try to find some support in your community. Check out local support groups, meet with your church or even open up to a close friend. It’s so important that you don’t go through this journey alone, you CAN’T do this alone!

Like medicine for my soul, trustworthy support has changed my life!

* * *

Please share, where have you found your support?

* * *

Links to Support:

NAMI:
http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Find_Support/Education_and_Training/Education_Training_and_Peer_Support_Center/NAMI_Support_Group/Default1066.htm

DBSA:
http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=support_findsupport


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Basking in the Joy

With the warmer temps and increasing sunshine, we’ve seen an unexpected joy with our son.  He seems so much more relaxed and happier overall. I would compare this to the months that followed the start of Lithium. But as winter came in, so did the irritability. It wasn’t constant, but just enough that we longed for those previous months.

But today, my husband and I both commented on the change in our son. It’s hard to explain and to an outsider it may be impossible to notice, but my husband nodded in agreement saying, “I know exactly what you’re seeing, I’m seeing it too!”

Now I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I’m secretly wishing that as spring comes in, we’ll return to that bliss we experienced for so many months before winter.

In the meantime, I’m basking in the warmth of my son’s joy today.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Words of Affirmation Heal

In my last post I shared with you a list to my son expressing my love. What I didn’t share was his intense reaction. When I gave it to him, he read a few lines then immediately jumped up from his chair and ran to me and gave me the biggest hug saying, “Thank you!”.

A moment later he fell to the floor in tears.

Once he recovered, he told me that sometimes when he feels so happy, sadness takes over. So at first I thought it was just related to his brain being off, but when I shared this with his therapist, she gave me a different perspective.

She explained that because his illness makes him do a lot of things he regrets, he doesn’t feel worthy of such loving words. Even though he can come across as a bully on the outside, inside he’s hurting deeply.

As I thought about this, I remembered a comment he made under his breath after being mean to his brother a few days prior, he said with self loathing, “I’m a monster!”

Then I realized why my son’s reaction to the love note was so intense. Even though we give him positive words, it will never be enough to compete with his negative self talk. His “love tank” is empty most of the time and needs to be filled up with words of affirmation to make him feel worthy of being loved.

Thankfully, telling my son how much he’s loved is an easy thing to do. The challenge is being able to express affirmations on days when he displays a lot of negative behavior due to his moods being unstable. It’s not that I don’t love him in these moments, it’s just harder to express it. But seeing that list, now hanging on his bedroom wall where he carefully pinned it, is a constant reminder that in order to heal, he needs to hear that he is worth it.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Love My Son...


In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to tell my son:

I love your smile.

I love your creative mind.

I love your long eyelashes that make every woman jealous!

I love that you’re not afraid to say that you hate sports.

I love that you take enjoyment out of inventing things.

I love that for you, a “special night” is cuddling on the couch with your Mom or Dad.

I love that you’re brave enough to try things that scare you.

I love that you’re brave enough to tell us “No” when it’s too scary.

I love that you keep photos of your Mom and Dad in your room.
(even as you get older with friends hanging out in your room)

I love that you save the encouraging notes I write you.

I love that you truly appreciate the things we do for you.

I love that you are a master organizer.

I love that you like to shop with me.

I love that I never have to ask you to clean your room.

I love that when you’re feeling great, you surprise me with a hug.

I love that you embrace jammie day to the fullest.

I love that you like to cook waffles for the family at dinnertime.

I love the expression on your face when you’re at the ocean.

I love that you now crave Chipotle burritos. 
(after years of hating the loud noises in the restaurant)

I love that you aren’t afraid to call a friend.

I love that you enjoy old family photos and home movies as much as I.

I love that you still ask me to tuck you in at bedtime and pray with you.

I love that you tell me about your latest crush at school.

I love that you feel comfortable to ask me ANY question.

I love that you keep trying even after you mess up.

I love that you forgive me when I don’t handle things well.

I love that you trust me.

I love that you are my son.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Left My Dignity at the Door

There I was, in the principal’s office, with tears running down my face. Yep, I was losing my composure right there in his office. As I tried to explain why I was so upset, I could see THAT look in his eyes. You know the one, where people think you’ve completely lost it and they use that exaggerated calm voice to regain control of the situation. It’s probably in the manual for all principals under the title, “How To Calm an Out-of-Control Mother.” And even as I was considering how ridiculously this situation was, I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. I officially left my dignity at the door.

Now lets rewind a bit so I can share what happened to leave me in such an embarrassing mess.

As most of you know, I’ve been working with our school to determine if we should pursue an IEP for my son before he enters into middle school so that we can get the Study Skills class for him to do his homework at school. This seemed like a reasonable solution to a major trigger for my son. My concern is that if homework battles continue to escalate, his rages may jeopardize his future.

On Thursday, the principal informed me that due to his current state test scores being average, he wouldn’t qualify for the IEP. And even if they did test him, they wouldn’t run all the tests, instead they would only evaluate his academic skills and ignore all other testing, including those that test for executive and motor functions (areas that can be a deficit for bipolar children).

He encouraged me to contact the middle school to discuss options under the 504 plan. He explained that after discussing my son’s case with the school psychologist, they determined that it was a possibility that he could receive the Study Skills class under the 504 plan.

So the following day, I did just that. My call was placed with the head of the 504/IEP plans at the middle school. She shared with me that we absolutely could not get into the Study Skills class without an IEP. Then she told me, “And you can go back to your principal to tell him he is wrong!” When I asked why the elementary principal and school psychologist told me it was a possibility, she responded that it was because of all the politics and the cutbacks. She then went on to share how she lost her job for next year due to these cutbacks. I respond, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Then we went on to discuss other options for his homework, such as reduced problems and longer deadlines, but she followed that with, “but none of these options work, the kids still fall behind in the end.” The other option presented was an exploration class that comes with additional math homework.

When I asked her if she could tell me more about the Study Skills class in case we were able to get an IEP, she became very inpatient with me. She then demanded to know what illness my son had and why he needed these accommodations. I explained that he had a working diagnosis of bipolar, but we started our 504 plan with the diagnosis of mood disorder, depression, anxiety and impulse control disorder a few years back.

Then her tone changed and she became very skeptical. She asked me what type of bipolar diagnosis he had, if it was 1 or 2. I explained that the last 2 psychiatrists and 2 therapists think it may be bipolar 1. I then explained that getting the Study Skills class can be a huge help to him because he’s able to hold it together at school, but once home, he can’t hold it in anymore and goes into rages over the stress of homework.

In a very condescending tone she said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing! If he was bipolar, he wouldn’t be able to hold it together.”

Her words felt like a slap in the face. Another person who knows nothing about my son or his symptoms, doubting what is painfully our reality. She might as well have called me a liar.

In response, I felt a desperate need to convince her. I started by citing all the resources that support that bipolar kids can hold it together in public and further explained that they weren’t free of symptoms, rather they were just using restraint to avoid a public rage. As she continued to question the validity of my son’s illness, I began explaining all of his symptoms and episodes. This I deeply regret because it was none of her business.

She then went on to trash our former HMO saying that they were horrible at making proper 
diagnoses. I tired to explain that our new HMO supports this same working diagnosis and that our current psychiatrist suggested that we get an IEP before middle school starts.

The conversation ended with her telling me that, “If his grades are good at the yearly review the middle school could decide to take away his current 504.”

What???

When I tried to ask her more questions about this, she said that she refused to answer any more questions. Her exact words were, “I have spent 30 minutes answering your questions, I am done talking with you!”

I then asked, “Who then do I ask these questions? You’re the head of the 504 plans!”

She respond, “Call the district and they can answer all of your questions.”

I responded with, “Ok, thank you, I appreciate your time.”

Don’t ask me why I said this, I was confused and completely devastated that I was put into a position to defend my son’s diagnosis, but also, because I was still trying to be polite.

So there I am in the principal’s office asking to speak to him about this call, when the first thing he tells me is, “ I just received a call from the middle school principal who was told by his staff that I had called to demand that my son be placed into the Study Skills class.” He then went on to lecture me on how I need to approach the middle school gently and not be pushy and demanding because this will lead to them not wanting to work with me.

I think my mouth dropped open in shock.

Then the tears started to fall as I explained that I didn’t make any demands but instead was devastated that I had to defend my son’s diagnosis.

For the record, I can guarantee you that the mother of the girl diagnosed with lupus in my son’s class would’ve never been put in the position to defend her child’s diagnosis to the school administration. Instead, the school created a fundraiser to help with the costs of treating her illness.

Mental illness is painful in many unexpected ways.

* * *

My experience ends with an email from the middle school principal asking that I not contact the district but would really appreciate the chance to talk with me after the break. As for me, I regret crying.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sick and Tired.

Do you ever feel sick and tired of it all?

I know... that’s a dumb question.

However, that’s where I am tonight. There was no rage or major issue. It’s the days, hours and minutes all combined sitting on my shoulders. It’s the feeling that the challenges will never end. That my son’s illness is a part of every aspect of our life. Every conversation, every decision and every action.

I feel tired from having the weight of every major decision being followed by yet, another important decision. Then there’s the education required for each step. Having to research medications, doctors, therapists, 504s and IEPs, it feels never ending. Then I must study parenting techniques and nutrition from yet another recommended book. All while charting every behavior and mood. I seriously feel like I could get another college degree at the end of this journey.

When I first started blogging I came across another blogger who goes by the name of “Accidental Expert”. I love that name. We truly become experts in an area we never intended. Unfortunately, the process is exausting and the days end with your child mouthing off at you.

Then there’s the battles I fight. The battle with my son’s moods, the school and the insurance companies. Along with the battles I break up between siblings and playmates. Tired. I feel so tired.

But I have hope, because in the midst of all this, God has the ability to restore my mind and repair my heart. He’s done it many times over and He continues to give me the strength to climb the next mountain. So on nights like this, I hold on tightly to his promises:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Treatment of Mentally Ill Teens in Prison

http://youtu.be/wjYD8Y2SJ2I

Video above is mother Lois DeMott advocating for her mentally ill son who entered prison at 15 years old. See Part 2 below.

I read an article this morning about the challenges that those with mental illness face when incarcerated. It was disturbing and left me feeling overwhelmed.

The article starts with a corrections officer finding a 19 year old (who entered the prison system at 15 years old) with known bipolar disorder, banging his blood-stained walls with his head. He was placed in solitary for up to 4 months. Sometimes without the medications prescribed by his psychiatrist.

This alone caught my attention, how is it that those with mental illness go without their medications while in prison? From my own personal experience, a person with a serious mental illness who is not receiving proper treatment can become defiant and in some cases destructive. But rather than treating the illness to stop the behavior, correction facilities use punishment, further escalating the prisoner’s unwanted behavior.

This past September, this prisioner was punished for damaging prison property when he ripped up his bed sheets to hang himself. Instead of treatment, he received a fine and loss of privileges.

These punishments can unfortunately lead to longer prison sentences and from my own belief, abuse of the mentally ill.

So who do we blame? Well we can’t directly blame the corrections officers who’s biggest job is maintaining safety. I understand that they’re overwhelmed with this difficult job.

I’m sure the blame can be assigned to many areas, but who will fight for reform?

His mother.

Lois DeMott is on a mission. According to the article, she cofounded Citizens for Prison Reform, a group that lobbies for legislative reform in Michigan.

I can only imagine the mountain she has to climb, but I’m so thankful that she’s fighting this fight for not only her son, but for many others that are facing prison time with mental illness.

* * *

Part 2 Video (discusses prison stay and treatment):

http://youtu.be/UHdEgGj-bu4

Detroit Free Press Article:
Jeff Gerritt: Mentally Ill Get Punishment Instead of Treatment
http://www.freep.com/article/20120205/OPINION02/202050442/PUNISHMENT-INSTEAD-OF-TREATMENT-Hundreds-of-Michigan-s-mentally-ill-inmates-languish-in-solitary-confinement-lost-in-a-prison-system-ill-equipped-to-treat-them

Humanity for Prisoners:
http://humanityforprisoners.blogspot.com/2008/11/mentally-ill-kids-in-prison.html

Resources:
Detroit Free Press
By Jeff Garritt
Published: Feb. 5, 2012
Consulted: Feb. 7, 2012

Video Source:

Uploaded on YouTube by  on Aug 25, 2009

Uploaded by  on Aug 13, 2009



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Should We Pursue an IEP?

I recently asked our school if we could create an IEP for my son so we’re more prepared for middle school and also so my son can be placed in a special study class that will allow him to do his homework at school with staff support. Our principal responded that he didn’t think it was necessary since my son already has a 504 plan with accommodations. He also felt that the 504 suited my son better and provided more choices as far as accommodations in the regular classroom setting. His concern is that the IEP would put him with kids that are more behind than he is and who would model unwanted behaviors.

My problem is that the middle school told me that we needed an IEP to get the study skills class next year.

To support his opinion, the principal pointed out that my son is performing well under the 504 plan. I then shared that he’s currently receiving a D in math and almost all homework struggles are around math assignments. I explained that bipolar kids can have learning deficits in the areas of executive function and working memory making math with multiple-steps difficult. I told him that I wanted him tested in these areas to see if that’s why his homework is such a struggle and why he’s now even failing math tests on purpose just to get the exams over with.

The teacher felt that it’s just a lack of motivation on my son’s part. But when I read about the executive function and working memory problems in my resources, it explained that most bipolar kids will do good in english and spelling but struggle in math, even having a hard time keeping math facts memorized. It also pointed out that often teachers and parents assume that the kids are lazy and not trying hard enough, when in fact they can’t tackle what appears to be an undoable task.

I was wondering, have you had your child tested for an IEP?

Do you regret having an IEP, wishing you stuck with a 504 plan?

Did the IEP testing reveal any learning disabilities? If so, what kind?

I would greatly appreciate it if you could share your experience as I try and navigate these uncharted waters with our school.



Thursday, February 2, 2012

On the Right Path with Therapy

Today my son met his new therapist, even though I liked her, it was important that he felt the same too. In the past, the therapists have always spent their time talking to me and advising me on how to manage my son’s symptoms. But today was a completely different experience. My son spent the entire time alone with the therapist. I have to admit, the control freak in me kept wondering what was going on behind the closed door, but when I saw his smile after he walked out, I was thrilled.

She seemed to have a great connection with my son, as she walked out she shared how much she loved talking to my son, saying how smart he is and how talkative he was. She encouraged us by telling us that lithium is most optimal after 9 months at the therapeutic level and we’re still a few months away from that, so we have good things coming. Then she explained to us the healing ability Lithium has on the brain and how my son has a bright future ahead.

At the end of the appointment she explained to me that his time with her would be kept private and that he could share whatever he wanted on his own. I think this was really great for my son, it made it about “him”, he was now part of the process instead of adults talking about him. Then she booked us another appointment next week. I asked her how often she wanted to meet since our old HMO only met once a month and she laughed and said, that’s not therapy, no I’d like to meet once a week. Once things get better we can go once every few weeks.

After our appointment my son looked relieved and very happy. He asked me if the therapist believed in God. I said, “I don’t know, why?” He said, “Well she told me that God has given me some special gifts, you know, how creative I am and how I build stuff all the time.” He then said, “she asked lots of questions and said that we’ll play games too. Next time I get to build stuff during our appointment!”

I can tell that he really loved the experience and was already establishing the trust needed for these sessions. When I asked how she compared to all the other therapists we’ve met, he responded, “She’s the best, none of the other doctors ever really talked to me before.”

I’m so happy today, I feel like we’ll being experiencing therapy for the first time, the way it needs to be done. I think it’s terrific that she’s building a relationship with my son by spending the time with him and meeting every week. I also love the fact that this is “his therapy”, I finally feel like we’re on the right path and my son is going to lead the way!