Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Brother’s Pain

Last night at a gathering of friends our son did something mean to his younger brother while standing in a room of onlooking parents.

Unfortunately I was in another room when it happened and another parent had to come and get me. I comforted my younger son then left for home once I felt we were safe to do so.

It was one of those unforgettable moments.

Thankfully our friends have an understanding of our situation and were very supportive. They even followed up once we were home to make sure we were ok and to offer us any help if we needed it, so I could not have expected a more supportive group. They really were awesome, but it was painful regardless.

As I drove home, I fought back tears, knowing that I had to hold it together long enough to get the kids in bed. As I spoke with my younger son, he shared how humiliated he was and even though it was bad what his brother did to him, he was hurting inside because, “of the looks of disgust on the other parents’ faces”.

I tried to comfort him, letting him know that people don’t judge him because of his brother’s actions and that he’s uniquely himself and nothing takes that away. I also reminded him that our friends were not disgusted with us, but shocked by the whole unexpected event.

The next day when I checked with my younger son and asked how he was doing, he responded, “Pretty good, if it had happened at home it would have been easy to forget, but I felt humiliated by it happening in front of the other parents.”

When I asked why that bothered him so much more, he said, “I’m afraid that all the other parents will think that you are not raising us right. But you are raising us good! I don’t want them to think we’re a bad family.”

It makes me sad that my younger son carries this burden in his heart. But I admire his incredible, forgiving spirit and rock solid resilience. May God bless his tender soul.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Starting a New Plan for Success

Today my husband and I met with our son’s psychiatrist to discuss a new behavior modification plan for our home. After years of living with a mood disorder, our son has rehearsed a lot of inappropriate behavior with the onset of every rage and anger outburst. As a result, this type of behavior becomes hardwired into his brain, then as stability is achieved, certain behaviors may continue because they’ve become instinctual. So the next step is to retrain his brain to respond appropriately. No easy task I must admit.

Unlike all other plans that involve rewards and consequences, this program allows free will, thus removing conflict from the moment, allowing our son to choose to take care of his responsibilities. If he doesn’t there’s no reward (like many systems), but what’s different about this system is that we then allow him to walk away from the responsibility while showing no signs of dissatisfaction. There’s no forcing him to do homework or making him do a chore.

The theory is that by forcing someone to do something you aren’t creating good habits, instead you’re breeding resentment. More than other systems, this mimics the real world. If you choose not to do a job you were hired for, you don’t get paid. Nobody makes you do the job, if they did, you would be filled with a lot of anger and be ready for a fight.

So in the future, our son will have responsibilities 3xs a day. There’s getting ready for school, then there’s homework after school, then finally there’s a chore after dinner. After our son completes each set of tasks, we do an inspection. We will not hover over him and scold him and beg him to do it. If he did it well, he gets a “pass” and has access to all the natural rewards in our home (like tv or video games). If he gets a “no pass”, he doesn’t get the rewards and we do not force him to complete the tasks, he can walk away. Later that day, he has another shot of earning rewards at the next inspection, giving him the opportunity to choose to be responsible with a clean slate.

We’re told that if we stick to the plan and take away all cohersion as parents and allow our son to freely choose to handle his responsibilities, he’ll choose to do it because he’ll want the rewards (minus some natural testing). Now what if our son chooses not to do homework but sneaks the rewards. Well the responsibility falls on us as parents to make sure he doesn’t have access to the rewards, even if that means removing them from the home. As our psychiatrist taught us, our job is not to control our son, but to control the rewards. What will follow will be more compliance, less conflict and overtime this will undo the wiring from the past.

A key for us parents is to not react to our son’s decisions when he chooses to walk away from responsibilities. If we do, we’re only feeding into our son’s desire for conflict, which continues the cycle of inappropriate behavior.

There’s a lot more to this plan, including the use of magic 1,2,3 for inappropriate behavior outside of expectations, heck I had to read a whole book on it, so I’m sure that this description is incomplete, but it gives you an idea of where we’re headed.

I have to admit that I’m nervous, we’ve been through so many systems for behavior modification, but I’m intrigued about this one since it seems to tackle it from a entirely different angle.

Wish us luck!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Encouragement in the Night

Last week I hit an emotional low point. My husband was with friends, the kids were asleep in bed and I sat crying alone feeling overwhelmed with raising my son. It was a tough day where defiance was intense and solutions were scarce. I know all parents deal with this as their kids move into puberty, but in our case things can go seriously wrong in these moments and honestly, the years ahead scare me.

So I prayed.

I cried out to God to take over, acknowledging that we were not capable of doing this without Him.

Then as I headed up to bed I heard some music softly playing upstairs. This was a first since by this hour our house is completely quiet. As I peeked into my son’s room, I saw him cuddled up asleep and the glow of his iPod player illuminating his peaceful face. And there, playing over the speakers was the song “Our God” by Josh Ridings Band. As the chorus filled the room, I was overcome with emotion, I felt like God was reminding me of who He is and what He is capable of. I felt a peace come over me as I sat at my son’s bedside and praised God.

Here are the lyric to the chorus:

Our God is greater,
Our God is stronger,
God you are higher than any other.
Our God is healer,
Awesome in power,
Our God,
Our God.

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Hit play arrow below to listen:

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Check out BlogHer today, my post  Lessons that Build a Lasting Marriage was selected to be a featured member post in the Family topic on BlogHer.comon Monday, March 26, 2012 around 9 AM PDT.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the post now appearing on BlogHer:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When the Teacher is the Bully

Today my son came home from school in tears because one of his teachers called him “Debbie Downer” in front of the whole class. This of course made everyone laugh and now he has students calling him this name outside of the classroom.

I can’t tell you how mad this makes me. For a child with depression, calling him “Debbie Downer” in front of his peers is really no different than calling a child with a learning disability “retarded”? Her actions lack any compassion and consideration. While the teacher laughed it off, my son was dying inside. When he came home he fell apart emotionally and today is still replaying those words inside his head, even saying, “See I am a Debbie Downer” when upset.

What made the situation worse was that the principal responded with an email stating that the teacher did admit to calling him that name but was doing it because,
“She was trying to get him to open up and respond in a more favorable manner, which he did. There was no intent on the teacher’s part to make him stand out and the comment was not made to scold or punish him but was made light heartedly in an attempt to involve him in a positive manner.”
Huh? Are you kidding me? Honestly, it feels like they’re trying to cover their butt for a mistake the teacher made. In no way does calling a child a name in front of his peers “involve him in a positive manner.” This response is just lipstick on a pig!

Then in response to the fact that other kids are now calling him this name, the principal responds with an invitation for us to tell them who the kids are so they can address it. Which is ridiculous since the only reason these kids are calling my son this name is because the teacher did it, thus making it appear acceptable. If anyone needs to be talked to, it ’s the teacher!

As you can imagine I was pretty upset by this, mainly because I saw the impact this had on my son, it hurt him to his core, undoing all the positive work we’ve been doing in therapy.

Thanks to my rockstar husband, he decided to take things into his own hands and contacted the principal directly letting him know that he needed to cut the crap. He explained the impact this teacher had on our son, requesting that the teacher apologize to our son and to leave our son alone for the remainder of the year and in the future, she should refrain from using her “strategies” to help him open up.

In the end, the principal admitted that “sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong, it looks like this time, we got it wrong.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Latest in Lithium Research

Lithium is a naturally occurring alkaline substance that exists in trace amounts in the body. For the past 60 years, lithium salt (lithium chloride) has been used for the treatment of bipolar disorder, becoming the “gold standard” for treatment in adults. What has always been interesting to me is that for the most part it’s been a mystery as to how lithium actually works to stabilize moods. There’s some knowledge that it affects the phosphatidyl inositol cycle inside cells, helping with mania and depression. But thanks to the latest research, we’re learning a lot more.

Last week The University of Manchester announced their latest finding in lithium research claiming that body clocks may hold the key for treatment of bipolar disorder:

“By tracking the dynamics of a key clock protein, we discovered that lithium increased the strength of the clockwork in cells up to three-fold by blocking the actions of an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase or GSK3.
“Our findings are important for two reasons: firstly, they offer a novel explanation as to how lithium may be able to stabilise mood swings in bipolar patients; secondly, they open up opportunities to develop new drugs for bipolar disorder that mimic and even enhance the effect lithium has on GSK3 without the side-effects lithium salts can cause.”
— Dr Qing-Jun Meng 

Check out the research:

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The University of Manchester
March 13, 2012

The Bipolar Child (3rd addition)
Demitri Papolos, M.D. and Janice Papolos

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Shadow People

This past week my son started seeing visions of a shadowed man in our home. It’s been quite some time since he’s reported these sightings so it was unexpected to say the least. What was also peculiar was the number of times he saw it and the fact that he was stable in all situations. Unlike this week, his past sightings typically appeared when he was experiencing high anxiety or drastic mood changes, but this time, he appeared normal.

The first time the vision appeared he was calmly playing alone in his room. He said that he saw a shadowed man creeping into his room wearing red boots. When I asked how he saw the boots, he explained that the man was sneaking past his door with its boots leading the way and its head peeking from behind the door. When I asked what the face looked like he said that it had no features, it was just a black body like a shadow. He said that he looked away to see if it would disappear, but when he looked back the image did a “replay” with it sneaking into his room all over again.

Later that night he was eating dinner with our family when he quickly ducked his head down under the table. Then he cautiously peeked back up then returned to his meal. About twenty minutes later he mentioned seeing shadowed men again. Then my husband asked if that was why he ducked under the table when eating dinner and he responded, “Yes, I saw a shadowed man leap from the playroom into the dining room, then disappear.”

The next day when he was making his lunch he turned around and saw the shadowed man walking towards him from another room. He said he turned away and when he looked back the image did a “replay” with the man starting over and walking towards him again. He then left the kitchen to find me and when he ran up the stairs he peeked back and saw the shadowed man chasing him up the steps. Once he found me he appeared panicked and the image of the man was gone.

My son seemed to handle this pretty well. When I asked him if he was scared of it, he said, “Not really, I’m getting use to it since I’ve seen it before in the past. It just freaked me out a little when it was following me up the steps.”

As his parent I can’t help and wonder if this is his imagination, his mood disorder or a side effect. When I consider his scared reaction at the dinner table, it makes me believe that he’s really seeing something. Also, he wasn’t engaging in bad behavior and using the “visions” to distract me from giving him consequences. Instead, he was always in a calm state doing something ordinary in full daylight, so nightmares and nighttime shadows are not even a possibility.

Thankfully he went through the weekend with no visions and seems to accept it as part of his brain problem. As for me, I find it disturbing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Keeping a Strong Marriage in the Storm

“How do you keep your marriage strong?”

This is the question a follower recently asked me that inspired this 3 part series on marriage. I’m writing to you not as an expert, but as a woman who’s in a loving, healthy marriage, despite all the stress we face in raising a child with a mental illness. Like many of you, we face numerous nights too tired to pour into our relationship or our romantic evenings become unglued when our son goes into a rage before bedtime, but despite these challenges and more, we continue to take it one day at a time and focus on what has always worked for us.

The most important part of our marriage is our foundation in God. When we can’t even make sense of the pain, we each have a source we hold on to. I believe having this shared faith has helped us unite even when everything else pushes us apart.

We fight fair! This may seem silly, but we’re serious about this. We never call each other names or cuss at one another. We do have arguments, but we still respect one another in our differences. We know that once you say it, you can never take it back, so we bite our tongue. And as often is the case, any bad thoughts are completely unfounded once the stress is resolved. And never, ever, does the word “divorce” get used.

We like timeouts. Just like our kids, we give ourselves timeouts. When we become angry at one another, we often wait until we have cooled down before we discuss it. We may spend the evening avoiding one another, but once we calm down, we’re better able to express ourselves and we aren’t as critical of one another.

We don’t expect a perfect life. We see marriage as a united journey through life, with that comes good times and bad times. We have an expectation that there’s no escaping this reality, we will have challenges in this life and together we can get through it.

We support each other’s interests. My man loves poker with the guys. I love the movies. My man loves spending the day on a golf course. I love the gym. We may not share the same interests, but we don’t stop the other from enjoying it.

We encourage each other to escape. When life at home is hectic and getting a sitter is out of the question (which is almost always), we encourage one another to get away with supportive friends. I have dinner with my girlfriends and my husband goes golfing with the guys. We make sure that the one staying home doesn’t complain and instead cheers the other on. Because a happy spouse is a happy life!

We forgive one another. Saying sorry goes a long way. My husband is great at this, but I’m always working on it.

We take over when the other can’t continue. There have been so many times where one of us has reached a point of meltdown with our son and the other person steps in and takes over. It’s kinda like handing the baton over during a marathon race.

We’re surrounded by healthy marriages. I believe you can learn a lot by example, seeing other marriages at work can teach you a lot.

We protect our marriage. My husband doesn’t give other women a ride home alone and I don’t chat with old boyfriends on Facebook. We act as if the other is by our side everywhere we go. This may seem silly, but we’ve seen marriages fail when these boundaries are broken.

We don’t expect all of our needs to be met by each other. If I’m not happy, it’s not my husband responsibility to make me happy. I also don’t expect my husband to listen to every feeling I have, that’s what girlfriends are for.

We laugh a lot! It helps that I married the funniest man on the block, but really we do laugh a lot, especially at ourselves.

We appreciate the small things. We may not go on fancy dates or extravagant vacations, but enjoying a frozen yogurt while watching the tv show Big Brother and discussing every moment together is really a perfect night. We don’t require much to make us happy.

We use the “five love languages” to communicate. When we first got married we both read the book, The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It basically outlines the five ways love is communicated and how we can act to make our spouse feel loved. The five languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. So in our marriage, if my husband notices that I’m stressed out from the day, he’ll do the dishes for me since he knows that “acts of service” is one of my love languages. I feel loved that my husband did the dishes, so in return I do something that falls under one of his love languages. If I had washed his car, an “act of service” I would’ve failed in making him feel loved since his love language is not the same as mine. Instead, telling my man that he looks hot and grabbing his butt is speaking his love language. In the end, we’re both loving one another the way we need to feel loved. This is an awesome marriage tool!

We date one another (sometimes). This is an area we really do cherish, but with our son’s illness and having 3 bouncing boys, getting a sitter isn’t always easy. So though we see this as an important part of our marriage, we both wished we could do this more.

We continue to work on our marriage. For us marriage is not something that happened when we exchanged rings, for us it’s an ongoing process. Recently we have committed to starting our day out praying for one another together. We haven’t been consistent, but we’re still trying and we’re working on other areas too. For us, we will never be done.

And I can’t forget, after being together for 23 years, he still brings me flowers for no reason, that’s gotta count for something right?

My husband often surprises me with love notes made out of everyday objects. The image on the left is kitchen spoons and a measuring cup and the image on the right is fresh oranges!

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Please share... what do you do to keep your marriage strong?

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The 5 Love Languages Book:

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Part 1 in my Marriage Series:
How Pain Can Divide Us

Part 2 in my Marriage Series:
Lessons That Build a Lasting Marriage

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lessons that Build a Lasting Marriage

My husband and I decided to share with you one of many challenges we’ve faced in our marriage and the lessons we learned with hopes to encourage any of you who may find yourself in a similar situation.

Like any good story, I have to start from the beginning. When my son was first diagnosed with mental illness, my husband and I took two very different paths to cope. 

I went into “fix it” mode. I started researching everything I could about my son’s symptoms, I read many books and was searching for answers in every direction. More than anything, I wanted to talk about it.

My husband on the other hand took a different path to cope. He began mourning the loss of former dreams. At the time, there were no games of catch or playing t-ball with the boys, instead there were only rages and walking on eggshells. And more than anything, my husband did NOT want to talk about it.

For months my poor husband would tolerate me downloading all the drama from the day when he got home from work and he couldn’t wait for us to have anything different to talk about, where as for me, I felt like we didn’t talk about “it” enough. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Then one night my son went into a violent rage and hurt me. I was destroyed inside. I started to cry and couldn’t stop. My husband on the other hand left for a drive once my son was asleep in bed.

As I sat alone in the house sobbing, I was crushed that my husband wasn’t there to comfort me.

What I didn’t realize in that moment was that my husband was crushed too. As a man, his natural instinct was to protect his woman. If any man had put a finger on his wife, they would’ve faced his wrath. But how does a man cope with the situation when the male that has hurt his wife is his 9 year old son?

What I didn’t realize that night was that we were both broken and I expected something from my husband that I myself wasn’t capable of giving.

Looking back, I believe my husband did the best thing. By leaving for a drive, it gave him the space to calm down and to straighten out his own conflicting feelings. It gave him the chance to heal, making him strong enough to support me.

Today my husband has the strength to hold me when I’m falling apart and hopefully he feels like he has the space to cope when he needs it.

It’s so easy to blame each another and to unfairly judge one another when your world is being turned upside down. I learned a lot from that night, I learned that though we both suffer from my son’s illness, we’re dealing with different wounds and sometimes we may not be strong enough for one another. That’s why outside support is so important. I’ve also learned that this journey requires us to adjust our expectations and if we remain kind, patient and honest with one another, we can come together much stronger.

As for our different paths, well we’re still human and we’ll always cope differently. But we’re aware of each other’s needs and try to bend for one another. So yes, my husband stills tolerates me rambling on with the drama knowing that it helps me and I work on sparing him ALL the details so we might have something new to talk about. 

In the end, I know our marriage is stronger for it.

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A special thank you to my amazing husband who was kind enough to “talk about it” so I could present both perspectives in my post! I love you babe!!!!

Check back on Friday when I share some practical examples of how we keep our marriage strong.

If you missed my previous post on marriage, here it is:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Pain Can Divide Us

I recently got an email from a follower who asked if I could share with all of you how my husband and I keep our marriage strong while raising a child with a mood disorder.

I appreciate this question, though I will admit that I felt inadequate in answering it, but then I realized that though things are not perfect and they never will be, after almost 20 years of marriage my husband and I are happily married and may indeed have a thing or two to share. Also, I realized that many of our marriages are at risk because of the challenges we face with our kids. Some studies indicate that the rate of divorce can be as high as 80%. This alone is good reason to get personal in hopes to help others who may be struggling.

Before I share what’s working for us, I wanted to share something that I learned from my pastor about marriages facing crisis. I was moved by this teaching and it’s given me a healthy perspective that I now apply to my own marriage.

My pastor explained that when marriages face crisis, whether it be due to an illness, job loss or any other painful experience, we must first understand that this shared experience of pain can do two things in a marriage, it can unite us or it can divide us.

To investigate this further, my pastor met with married couples in our church who have faced extreme challenges in their marriage and learned from them how the pain of their circumstances pushed them apart. I think this is so important to consider since many of us have faced this same disruption in our own marriage.

First, pain can threaten our safety. As a result, we may blame each other.

Pain can disrupt our life. As a result we may respond by withdrawing from the marriage, becoming no help to our spouse and our marriage goes on the back burner.

Pain hurts. So we hurt one another.

Pain makes us turns inward. So we no longer connect to those around us, instead we shut down.

Pain brings unmet expectations. As a result, we face disappointment.

Pain makes us judgmental because we expect others to respond the same way we do.

Pain makes us vulnerable. So we lash out with anger to one another or become overly sensitive.

Pain is hard to live with. So we leave the marriage to escape the pain.

And the list goes on...

So can you relate to any of these experiences above? I know I can!

Next, my pastor reminded us that we all deal with pain in our own way, so we need to offer grace to one another. Just as we ourselves are capable of behaving badly because we’re hurting, we have to keep in mind that our spouse is hurting too. Pain is the problem, not our spouse. If we start with that, we can create a foundation for our marriage that will allow us to unite instead of separate.

Check back with my next post when I go a little deeper and share with you a hard lesson I learned in my own marriage, then on Friday I’ll share what’s working in my marriage today. I hope it will be encouraging to you if you’re currently hurting in your marriage. Remember, you’re spouse is not the problem, pain is.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Can We Prevent Bipolar Disorder?

There’s good news for many children who were once labeled with bipolar disorder. Research shows that many kids who look bipolar as a child do not grow up to have bipolar disorder as an adult. Instead, they may have unipolar depressive disorders or generalized anxiety disorders. This encouraging research introduces many theories.

Many believe that one of the reasons for this occurrence is that some children have been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder, instead these kids have a different illness altogether. In response, the American Psychiatric Association is creating a new diagnosis that will appear in the DSM-5 guide called Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, for labeling kids that don’t fit under the “classic adult symptoms” of bipolar disorder.

I don’t doubt the above theory of why some “bipolar” kids don’t grow up to have bipolar disorder, but I also wonder if in addition, there’s another factor to consider.

Is it possible that our kids are showing the early signs of bipolar disorder, but because of early treatment with medication and therapy, their brains are rewired as they develop. I’ve been told many times that it’s hard to diagnose children since their brains are still growing and changing and many kids experience less severe symptoms as they grow older. Is it too far of a stretch to ask the question, “Are we able to change the course of early onset bipolar disorder in children with early treatment?”

Some would argue that bipolar disorder can not be cured or altered for once an adult is diagnosed, it stays with them for a lifetime. But we’re talking about “adult brains” that are already complete in their development. Is it possible that the illness can be altered in children?

I don’t claim to know the answers, I’m just curious and wonder what your thoughts are? As far as I’m concerned, we’re years away from having the research to provide us the answers. Even with a new diagnosistc label, I believe we’ll still have confusion. For example, if most “bipolar kids” grow up to have unipolar depressive disorders or generalized anxiety disorders, then how is the Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder label going to fix this? Won’t we now have kids with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder growing up to have depression or anxiety? How do we know what meds are right? What if our kids are responding to bipolar medication?

I read in the DSM-5 Development guide the following research:
The only treatment trial of SMD used lithium and did not show efficacy vs. placebo (Dickstein et al, 2009). 
SMD (Severe Mood Disorder) is the former name for Temper Dysregulation Disorder which is now Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. (confused yet?)

So if we consider our son’s positive response to Lithium, does that disqualify him from the new Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder diagnosis? What about all his other symptoms that aren’t included under the new label? Even though there’s a new diagnosis, we still find our son’s illness outside the diagnostic statistical manual. Where do we go from here? Wait for yet another new label?

It all seems so complicated, I don’t know what the answers are, I just have more questions. What about you, do you think the course of early onset bipolar disorder can be altered with early treatment? Is bipolar disorder an extreme form of a mood disorder illness on a spectrum of other illnesses, many yet undefined? Why isn’t a Bipolar 2 diagnosis applied to children that look bipolar but don’t have clear mania? Is it really as cut and dry as the diagnostic statistical manual makes it?

Whatever the answers are, I hope my son is one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have bipolar disorder as an adult. As in the case for all of us, only time will tell.

As a final note, I thought I would share what Dr. Kiki Chang said in a Frontline documentary filmed in 2007 called The Medicated Child:
These medications have effects on the brain directly—that’s how they work. But some of the effects on the brain could also be protective. In animal studies and cell-line studies, there’s some evidence that suggests that these medications have what we call neuroprotective qualities. They actually protect the brain against injury and insult. They may even help with healthy neuronal growth in certain areas. If that’s the case, perhaps finding the right medication early on can protect a brain against all these further insults of kindling later on and maybe even directly have some sort of neuroprotective effect, so that these children never do progress to full bipolar disorder. 

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Please notes that the American Psychiatric Association does recognize that there are real cases of bipolar disorder in children, this proposed diagnosis does not deny the existence of bipolar disorder in children.

Also I think it’s important to note that the guide also clarifies that youth with SMD (now Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder) are as severely impaired as those with BD.

DSM-5 Proposed Justification for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (Once called Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria)

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder:

The Medicated Child Frontline Interview Transcript:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2 Thumbs Up!

Things are going pretty good this week. Last week we were dealing with a lot of defiance, but this week it hasn’t been a problem. Once again, leaving me with the question, “Was he unstable last week or just pushing limits?” It seems the older he gets, the harder it is to tell since we’re now moving into more adolescent testing. When I’m in the moment I tend to think that he’s just pushing limits, laughing at me as he flat out defies me while trying to pick a fight with everyone. But when I think back, I recall the moment of sadness that preceded the defiance. Then when I consider this week and how he’s respectful and following directions with a great attitude and trying to be a good big brother, it makes me question how much was mood related and how much was just preteen behavior. I suppose it’s often a little of both.

On the upside, therapy is still continuing weekly and it’s been fantastic. Last week I was able to participate in a session and I was so impressed with how in tune the therapist was. She seemed to follow my son’s reactions like a choreographed dance, if he went one way, she gracefully followed. She had a gentle way of engaging him whenever he would shut down, it was pretty impressive to watch. Even though we covered some tough stuff during the session, she was able to put a smile on his face by the time we left. I’d have to give our therapist 2 thumbs up!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meet Wayne

I’m excited to share with you an insightful interview with Wayne Smith. I found Wayne through his twitter posts that often provide helpful information about bipolar disorder. Once I visited his website,, I became more interested in his story because he experienced his first symptoms as a child. If you’ve been on the internet long enough, you may have come across a lot of information that claims that bipolar disorder can not exist in children, so naturally I was intrigued with his story. Today, Wayne has graciously agreed to do an interview with me so we can all learn a little from his own personal experience. Enjoy the interview!

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Welcome Wayne to my blog! Before we start, can you share a little about yourself?
My name is Wayne Smith and I am 42 years old. I am separated from my wife and she wants to be divorced. I served as an associate pastor in two churches for 10 years. I have a masters degree in religion with a specialization in pastoral counseling. I live in metro Atlanta and have my whole life, with the exception of 3 1/2 years. I struggle now primarily with severe anxiety. I feel like I am stabilized with my medicaitons with the exception of this. I believe in the power of prayer and plan to invest more time in prayer to help with my anxiety.

What is your official diagnosis?
Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is what my doctor has told me. I cycle to the point of being in the classification of ultra rapid cycling bipolar disorder.

How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was 36 when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Did you have a previous diagnosis that turned out to be wrong or incomplete?
I was diagnosed several times with various things. My initial diagnosis on my first visit to a psychiatrist was ADD. My next psychiatrist diagnosed me with severe depression and borderline psychosis. Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When I was 37, I was diagnosed with rapid cycling.

How old were you when you first started experiencing symptoms?
I remember experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder at age 4. Some psychiatrists say this isn’t possible. My psychiatrist, who is a neuropsychiatrist, told me that it is possible. Besides, I know it because I lived it.

As a child did you realize that something was wrong with your mental health?
I did not realize what the problem was. I’ve always known that I’m different. I didn’t know what to call it when I was young. I thought I was just unlikable and weird. I thought that I had problems socially because I was inferior. I had no idea that I had a mental illness.

Did anyone in your family recognize that you were suffering?
My parents knew I was depressed when I told them I was in the 7th grade. Actually, I didn’t use the word “depressed” I don’t believe. I remember telling them that I had been thinking about killing myself. They took me to a psychologist twice and I never returned. He said he couldn’t help me because I wouldn’t talk to him. He apparently didn’t know what he was doing.

What were your symptoms as a child?
As a child I was very anxious. I stayed depressed much of the time. I felt shame. I felt inferior to the other kids. I didn’t like myself. And I still don’t. When I was manic I would get on my friend’s and family’s nerves. I didn’t know why I kept annoying them until they were mad. I knew I did it. I just didn’t understand why. It was very embarrassing to me to have a friend yell at me for annoying them.

How did these symptoms make you behave?
I was slower in motion than the other kids. I was annoying and fearful of making friends. I became a total loner in high school.

How did you experience mania as a child?
My mania as a kid manifested as being extremely hyper to the point of annoying the daylights of those around me. I never had sleep problems with it then. I have always behaved kinda recklessly, which is consistent with mania.

Were the symptoms constant or did they come and go?
My symptoms would come and go to a degree. I would say 80% of the time I had symptoms

Did you have trouble sleeping as a child?
I never had any problems going to sleep or staying asleep when I was young. However, I had recurring nightmares that stayed with me for years.

What symptoms affected you the most as a child and how did it affect your childhood development?
Anxiety and depression affected me the most. I was anxiety ridden a lot of the time. I was depressed to the point of being physically exhausted. I often could barely put one foot in front of the other. It was laborious to live. This resulted in me growing up thinking something was wrong with me. I had a very low sense of self-worth. I didn’t think I mattered to anyone and to be honest I didn’t matter to myself. I just wanted it all to stop... but it wouldn’t.

Did you use medication as a child to treat symptoms?
I was not medicated until I was in college in 1999.

Do you wish you did?
I think if I could have had the right doctor medication would have been helpful. But I didn’t know I needed it. I just thought I was one big loser.

As an adult, what symptoms do you struggle with today?
My most dominating symptom is anxiety. I am overcome by it. Depression is a major issue as well. Mania causes me to not be able to sleep like I should sometimes.

Did your symptoms change as you grew from a child to an adult? If so, how?
My symptoms worsened as I got older. They snowballed in 2003–2004 to the point of me having a nervous breakdown.

You mentioned on your blog that you have rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Can you explain what this is like for you?
Ultra rapid cycling means I can go from suicidal one night to manic the next afternoon. I can then return to depression that same day. It’s a roller coaster ride that doesn’t seem to have an end.

Did you have rapid cycling symptoms as a child, if so, is it the same as what you experience today?
I did have rapid cycling as a young person. It just has worsened since I have become an adult.

At what point did you receive treatment for your illness?
I initially sought treatment before getting married with a therapist. It didn’t solve the problem. But, to be honest, nothing has solved the problem.

What has helped you?
The most productive treatments have been the mixture of Geodon, Wellbutrin, Klonopin, Lamictal and a prescription sleeping pill.

What forms of treatment did not work?
I had 20 something ECTs that were utter failures and a waste of time. I did not receive a benefit worth mentioning from them.

Do you have a family history of mental illness?
Yes I have a history of mental illness. My grandmother on my mom’s side has struggled with depression for years. My grandfather on my mother’s side was institutionalized for bipolar disorder. My mom suffered with depression and anxiety for years. She is better now.

Besides medication, what gets you through the tough times?
God gets me through the tough times. If it wasn’t for Him, I would be dead. My children also get me through. If it wasn’t for them as well I would be dead.

Can you share with us a little about your website
I started the website because I’m not only bipolar but have a master’s degree in pastoral counseling. I thought I could help people.

What would you say to parents of children who are struggling with bipolar disorder or other mood disorders?
Pray for your kids. Listen to them. Always be there for them. Take them to a neuropsychiatrist if you can find one in your area as opposed to a psychiatrist. Get them into therapy when it is appropriate. Love them unconditionally. Don’t stop seeking treatment from as many doctors and therapists as necessary before you get proper help for them.

Thank you so much Wayne for sharing your story! I encourage all of my readers to check out Wayne’s website, it has a lot of helpful information! You can send him an email by going to the “About Me” page on his website listed below. He would love to hear from you and hear about your story.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Melody from NY who won a free copy of Dancing on Broken Glass from Simon & Schuster. Thank you to all who participated by entering into the drawing. I hope to have another drawing in the future!

Happy Friday Everyone!

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Check back on Monday when I share with you a very personal interview with Wayne Smith who was diagnosed with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder at the age of 36, but has experienced his symptoms since he was a child. I think many of you parents will find his story very interesting.