Thursday, May 31, 2012

Play Therapy

My son continues to see his therapist every week. Today he came into therapy upset because of stress brought on from end of year activities mixed with a substitute teacher and a school routine that’s no longer in place.

My son was determined not to participate in therapy, but like a miracle worker, his therapist empathized with his feelings, sharing that she too was having a bad day, then quickly moved on to a “brain game”. Instantly I saw my son perk up and off he went into her office, only to return with a smile. As he left her office I heard her gentle reminder, “Remember, we all have bad days, but we can choose to do something about it to make it better.”

On the way home my son shared that he was no longer upset and realized that the brain puzzle game he played allowed him to forget about his stress and now he was feeling better.

One can never underestimate the power of a good therapist. This therapist could have so easily headed down a path of lectures with my son, but instead she taught him a valuable lesson on how to cope with a bad day by simply giving his brain something different to think about.

As a bonus, the games she has my son play all require him to think several steps ahead, slowly rewiring his brain pathways to think before acting. This is truly play therapy!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Psych Week on Discovery!

Starting Sunday night, the Discovery channel is airing their Psych Week series. Hosted by Carrie Fisher, the topics include agoraphobia, sexsomnia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, hoarding, OCD and multiple-personality disorder.

Here are a few that may interest you:

Bipolar Mysteries
Sunday, June 3 at 8 PM ET/PT
This episode has the story of 7 year old Chase. You can read the interview I did with his mom Kristen here (See the comment section of the post for her response) or watch the video below:

Born Schizophrenic: Jani’s Story
Sunday, June 3 at 9 PM ET/PT
See Jani’s Father’s blog here:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Perfectly Normal

We just finished a great weekend and look forward to no school tomorrow, I love sharing how normal things have become for us.

This weekend we had a BBQ with friends, then tonight we sat around a fire pit in our backyard roasting marshmallows for s’mores and watched the stars above while our middle child read aloud stories of greek mythology to us.

It felt so perfectly normal.

I love normal.

Wishing you all a wonderful family day!




Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mental Illness in Jail Due to Cutbacks

I read another story about how state cutbacks are affecting the mentally ill by placing them in jail for long periods of time without their medication while they wait for a bed to open up in state mental hospitals.

These stories hit me deep in my gut. I don’t know if it’s the mistreatment of those with mental illness, the injustice of our system or deep down a fear that my son will face this in his future. Whatever the source, I wish there was something I could do to change it.

The article shares that the number of people with mental illness landing in jail has increased nearly 50% in the past 6 years. It takes an average of 3 to 6 months in jail before a bed becomes available in a mental hospital. During this time these people are frightened and without their meds, as a result, their illness becomes worse.

This makes me sick. How can we protect our children from this fate? One of the challenges shared is that some individuals lose services that were once available to them as children once they become 18 years old. Now they’re on their own and without services. How do these people get help?

Read what one mother shares in the story:
Green, a registered nurse, says her daughter has been sick since she was a little girl – at the age of four, she tearfully told Green that she didn’t want to be alive anymore. By six, she was hearing voices. Now her family watched, helpless, as she waited in jail, off her medication and increasingly lost in her delusions.
 “I guarantee that with no help, she will end up dead or in the system,” Green said

This story is just devastating. My heart aches for this mother and all those who have lost their children to this system of injustice. I pray this doesn’t happen to any of our children.

Read the entire article here:
http://centerforhealthreporting.org/article/mentally-ill-languish-jails-due-budget-cuts-lack-beds893?page=0,0


* * *

References:
California HealthCare Foundation
Center for Health Reporting
By Jocelyn Wiener
http://centerforhealthreporting.org/article/mentally-ill-languish-jails-due-budget-cuts-lack-beds893?page=0,0
Originally Appeared in The Modesto Bee
Date Published: May 21, 2012
Date Consulted: May 24, 2012


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

8th Annual Mood Disorder Education Day



This is a wonderful event that I’ve been fortunate to attend the past two years. They always have great speakers and even better, time to ask researchers face-to-face the questions you can’t wait to ask. If you live in the area, I encourage you to check it out, it’s free and even includes lunch! Keep in mind that you’ll need to register to attend.

When:
Saturday July 28, 2012
8:30 am–3:30 pm

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

Check out the schedule and details at the following link under “Speakers and Topics”:
http://bipolar.stanford.edu/

* * *

Here are my posts about the past two events:

My Visit to Stanford University 2011:

My Visit to Stanford University 2010:




Sunday, May 20, 2012

Meeting Middle School

Recently my son had a field trip to the middle school where he’ll be attending next year. As you can imagine, we were a little apprehensive about this experience since it was a bigger campus, new staff and new kids. But we were pleasantly surprised that it went so well. As he said after the tour, “I loved it!”

He surprised us when he told us how students were divided into a groups to decorate a person with tin foil for a fashion show. The group chose him and he went along with it. Then to top the day off, after the kids covered him head-to-toe with foil, he was told he had to walk across the stage in front of several hundred kids, all from different schools to show off his team’s “foil outfit”. When I asked if he walked across the stage he said, “Well my bottom lip was shaking and I felt like I was going to throw up, but I did it anyway.” I could tell from his expression that he was so proud of himself! As for me, I had tears of joy filling my eyes. I was so proud of him and was overwhelmed with hope for what’s to come.

There’s something to be said about a fresh start. Middle school here we come!




Thursday, May 17, 2012

Marybeth on WebMD!


Our very own Marybeth of Ask A Bipolar website and my dear online friend and fellow blogger was featured on WebMD this month. She shares her complicated experience in making and keeping friends over the years as she struggled with her bipolar symptoms. This is a topic that I’m very familiar with since our son has faced this challenge many times already as I’m sure your own child has. Go check out Marybeth’s post today and join in on the conversation!

* * *

http://blogs.webmd.com/mental-health/2012/05/mood-swings-of-a-bipolar-friendship.html


* * *

Other places to find Marybeth:

International Bipolar Foundation:
http://www.internationalbipolarfoundation.org/search/node/Marybeth

Bipolar Magazine:
http://bphope.com/bphopeblog/author/Marybeth%20Smith.aspx




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Let’s Talk About It!



It was brought to my attention that some people don’t support suicide prevention fundraisers because they fear that giving attention to suicide may actually promote it, resulting in people committing suicide.

This is absolutely wrong.

The only shot we have at preventing suicide is to talk about it. In no way does asking a person if they’re having suicidal thoughts give them the “idea” to commit suicide. It is so important that we understand this. Instead, we need to realize that if a person is having these thoughts, the only way we can help them is to give them the opportunity to talk about it so that they can get help.

Please, if you think someone is suicidal, reach out to them. It may not be easy, but regret will be much harder to live with later.

If you yourself are having suicidal thoughts, please call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also call the lifeline to speak to a crisis worker on behalf of someone you’re concerned with and they can help you take that first step in reaching out.

Be a lifeline and help save a life!

* * *

Here is another helpful resource:
Kristin Brooks Hope Center, 
1.800.442.HOPE
http://www.hopeline.com 



Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gifts of Love

This year I got the best gifts for Mother’s Day. My dear husband gave me a pretty necklace that represents my boys, my youngest made me a painted clay pot with glitter, my middle child made me a candle that smells like vanilla and my oldest made me a bookmark with a card that spoke volumes. He wrote:
“Happy Mother’s Day Mommy,
I love you so much, sorry when I hurt you in rages 
but even then I still love you.”
I found his card to be sweet and a little sad. I know without a doubt that he regrets what’s happened in the past and I know that it was his illness that brought these things on. But as his mother I want to make it all better. I wish I could remove the guilt he now feels. But I also recognize that his feelings represent a place of healing for him, because he’s now able to show empathy for others and can see how his actions have hurt others. This is a good place to be, but on Mother’s Day, I wish he could just feel like a regular kid.

Boy do I love this son of mine... to the moon and back.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother’s Day (escape)

This weekend it’s Mother’s Day. YAY!!!! (doing a happy dance!)

Besides getting handmade gifts from my sons, which by the way I LOVE, Mother’s Day is a day of escape to recharge my batteries. I get to leave the house, kid-free and do whatever I want for a whole day. My supportive husband takes care of the kids and encourages me to pamper myself a little and take my sweet time doing whatever my heart desires. For some of you, this opportunity may bring wild plans and adventures, but for me I look forward to simple stuff like a quiet meal and a movie with some window shopping (ok, maybe I’ll buy a little something for myself). Whatever the day brings, I’ll enjoy some peace followed by an evening with all of my boys!

Happy Mother’s Day Moms, I wish you all the best, you truly deserve it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Positive Side of Bipolar Disorder

I thought I would share this article with you about a new study by Lancaster University that took a look at the positive experiences of living with bipolar disorder. I find this type of study fascinating and encouraging.

One thing that I found to be refreshing with my son’s therapist is her constant, weekly reminder that though my son struggles with bipolar disorder, he is gifted in other areas. Each week she ends his session with him demonstrating his advanced skills in certain mind games that leaves the rest of us in the dust. We also take time to hear about his latest creations and inventions at home. He always leaves the session with a spark of optimism. This alone is priceless therapy!

I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the challenges this illness brings, but as most of us know, some of the greatest artists, performers, writers, inventors and more have been individuals living with bipolar disorder. I think the key is to learn how to “live” with it, working through the tough stuff and embracing the gifts.

But it all starts with knowing that one has these gifts.

* * *

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and recognize your unique gifts or positive experiences, please share, I would love to hear about it!

* * *

PSYPOST article:
Research explores the positives of bipolar disorder.
http://www.psypost.org/2012/05/research-explores-the-positives-of-bipolar-disorder-11468

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Payday!

Part of our behavior modification plan is a weekly payday. At the end of each week we evaluate how our kids did, reviewing all inspections and any poor behavior such as hitting, threatening or as you can imagine, the list goes on. Based on the evaluation the kids can earn up to $3.00 (yes, we’re high rollers here) but if they didn’t pass most of their inspections or if they hurt someone or cussed, they earn less or no money.

The purpose of the weekly evaluation is to provide some long term goals for choosing good behavior where the 3 daily inspections aim to work on short term goals. So if our son doesn’t pass a morning inspection, he loses privileges for a few hours, but has an opportunity to earn the privileges back at the second inspection in the middle of the day. The weekly evaluations can address bigger issues or repetitive behaviors. Plus if my son fails a single inspection, he has motivation for getting back on track, knowing that the weekly evaluation will take into account any rebellious behavior. The result of all these steps is a more peaceful home since we’re nagging and scolding a lot less and conflict has been greatly reduced.

Since we’ve started the program our son has earned less than $3.00 each week, coming at no surprise to him since each week he assumed he wasn’t getting paid or at the most earned a $1.00, but always earning just a little bit more.

But this week, he earned the whole $3.00! What was even more amazing was that it was a very busy week in our home, lots of stuff going on and I was working from home on a project that gave more than enough opportunity to get oneself into trouble, but he rose to the occasion and did awesome.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was or how proud I felt. It was the best $3.00 spent!

As for my son, he was beaming from ear to ear.

* * *

Oh, in case you were wondering how our payday went with our first garage sale, we made almost $450! It’s pretty surprising what people will buy. The boys had a lemonade stand and made $35 over 2 days. It was a pretty successful weekend and was fun to have our family working together for our family vacation fund.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trileptal Alert

For all those parents who are using the generic liquid form of Trilepal, oxcarbazepine oral suspension, I got a call from our pharmacy this week when trying to get a refill and was told that it’s been discontinued.

You can still buy the name brand “Trileptal”, but under our plan it came in at $90.00. So if you’re currently using this medication, you may want to contact your pharmacy to see if this affects you before you’re low on supply. As for us, we’re going to switch to the pill form now that he knows how to swallow a pill.

I wish you all a great weekend, we’re getting ready for our first garage sale and the boys will operate a lemonade stand. Our hope is to make enough profit to have a family vacation this summer at the ocean. Wish us luck!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

To the Parents Who Make a Difference

May is Mental Health Month. To many organizations this is a time to reach out to the community and educate others about mental illness.

For me, it’s been a time to get involved. This week I’ve joined a fundraising effort to help raise money for suicide prevention for a small town. It’s been a fulfilling opportunity to use my skills for a cause that feels close to my heart, yet at the same time, I’ve had to look into the eyes of another mother who has faced my worst fear, losing a child to suicide. This past year she lost her son to suicide and like many parents, it was without warning. Hearing her story is heartbreaking to say the least, but through her pain she has demonstrated incredible strength and passion to help others so families can avoid such devastation. 

After this community has lost more than a handful more to suicide this year, she along with two other families that lost their kids have decided to do something about it by creating this fundraising event with hopes of saving lives. They do this without any experience or national organization to back them up. They simply jumped in with both feet, ready to step out of their comfort zone, so they can make a difference in their community at a time when their own pain is still so fresh.

As my friend said through tears, “I want to make sure that no other mother has to suffer the way I have, I will do whatever I can to make that happen.”

And if you’d spent anytime with her, you’d know that she’ll most certainly make a difference. 

I’m so grateful for her and other families like her who through their own pain pull themselves off the ground to make a difference for us. Thank you... from the bottom of my heart.


* * *

More About Mental Health Month: