Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Anxiously Anticipating Our Next Step—More Medication

Tonight I’m anxiously anticipating our appointment with my oldest son’s psychiatrist to determine what step we need to take next. Both our son’s psychiatrist and his therapist think it’s time to add more medication to help with his recent depression. So far, Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant has been offered since it has less side effects and is less likely to trigger mania. Unfortunately, our Psychiatrist doesn’t want to remove any of his current meds because it could make him unstable. He wants to get him through puberty before we try that. Uggg… more meds.

My husband reminded me that this could be a good thing and really help our son with his recent struggles. It’s not fair to let him suffer because I want things to be different. In a perfect world, we would never consider medication, let alone four, but we aren’t in a perfect world, I have to face our reality.

The other alternative suggested by our psychiatrist is having our son hospitalized. He feels that based on his violent outbursts and his expression of being “God’s mistake” is enough criteria to have him admitted.

When I expressed our concern that he wasn’t unstable and that hospitalizing him could do more harm than good, our Psychiatrist suggested that hospitalizing him may teach him that bad things happen when he acts violent.

I get his thinking, but this only takes into consideration one side of our son, on the other side, we have a child who has other issues that would become worse if we hospitalized him in his current state. Our therapist agrees.

I totally agree that if he was in a state where we couldn’t stop his violence, or he threatened us with serious danger, we would admit him. But I have a kid who is playing nicely with his brothers after a day of having fun in a field with a friend. His rage is long gone in his mind and he’s no longer being triggered by the stress of school. How can I admit him under these circumstances? Both my husband and I feel strongly that we won’t use hospitalization to “teach him a lesson”.

In the meantime, we need to discuss where we go from here, because “here” is no place to stay.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Today was Like Being in a Scary Movie

I didn’t plan to write tonight, but I think I need to in order to sleep.

Today my oldest son became violent towards me. He became explosive during homework time and threw a glue stick at my head. I ran up the stairs and told the other kids to run into their room and I followed them in. We slammed the door and I held it shut with my body. Moments later, my oldest son used a large metal box (a money box) and began slamming it into the door. It felt like a scene from a scary movie, the victims barricaded inside a room with danger trying to break the door down. I was angry and scared at the same time. I didn’t want him to break through another door, we still have a hole in his bedroom door from years ago and I was scared about how far he was going to take this.

As my anxiety increased, my other kids cried in fear as the metal box bashed into the door, my youngest cried out, “I’m scared Mommy!”

I tried to calm them and make them feel like I had it all under control. It was silly, because obviously I didn’t. But I wanted to minimize the trauma they were expereincing.

I called my husband on my cell phone from the room telling him to come home immediately, but he was 40 minutes away.


I couldn’t take the slamming anymore and decided to open the door to take the box out of his hands, telling my other kids to lock themselves in to stay safe.

As I opened the door he started swinging the box at me. He still had some control because he could have hit me in the head if he wanted and he didn’t. But he did hit my hand pretty hard as I tried to grab it. At that moment, I broke apart and started sobbing, begging him to stop. He looked at me blankly and smiled and said it was fun to him. Through tears I told him I loved him and that I knew he loved me and begged him to stop since he was hurting me. I told him that he was a good person and didn’t want to do this, he said he that he wasn’t and continued on. He said he couldn’t take the stress of school anymore.

I yelled back to my younger kids to call my husband’s best friend over. I knew that I was in over my head and I didn’t feel safe.

From there I tackled him to the ground and took the metal box away, pinning him to the floor while he scratched skin off my hands and called me a b!tch. I held him until our friend arrived, there he found me sobbing as I sat holding my son to the ground.

Thankfully, my son withdrew all aggression as soon as he arrived and remained on the floor without a sound or movement for about 15 minutes before he started to sit up. Our friend talked calmly to him until my husband arrived home.

Later tonight my son made a sign and hung it on his bedroom door that said:

“God’s mistake’s room. I need more Lithium. Not me anymore”

Unfortunately, I got the call from his psychiatrist an hour prior telling us that his Lithium levels were therapeutic.


So where do we go from here?

* * *

Things can be really good when they’re good. But they can be really bad, when they’re bad. Today was one of those days.

Tonight I’m feeling short on hope. I feel traumatized over the intensity of his rage. I can’t help but think about what it may be like when he’s 16 years old, especially after today.

I’m sad over this entire event. I’m sad my son hurt me and didn’t stop when he saw me crying and begging him to stop. I’m sad for my younger kids who will now live with this memory and the anxiety it produced. I’m sad for my husband who wasn’t able to be there quick enough to rescue his family the way he would’ve liked to and I feel sad for my oldest son because I know he doesn’t mean to do this. I know he’s suffering inside and I don’t know how to help him.

Tonight I’m in tears feeling completely helpless.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rumor Has It...

Yesterday I picked my two younger boys up from elementary school when my middle son sighed deeply while settling into his seat.

I asked, “What’s up?”

With a look of annoyance he said, “Today all the kids in my class were talking about my younger brother, they said that he flipped desks and chairs over in class and that he pushed other kids into lockers. They were talking so badly about him, comparing him to the kid with autism that was moved out of our school, I told them that if he actually did that, we would have heard about it and that my brother is none of their business!”

Reluctantly, I responded with, “Well actually, this rumor is partially true. Yesterday your brother did flip over his chair and throw a book, but he didn’t touch any of the other kids.”

My middle child responded with, “Well it’s still none of their business!”

My youngest followed with, “Besides, we don’t even have lockers in our school!”

* * *

Oh boy, it seems the rumors have started. I can’t imagine what’s being said, but it’s kinda hard to defend him after he flipped his own chair. Lord help us!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Having to Hide from My Own Child

Friday I took my oldest son to get his blood drawn to check his Lithium levels to see if it’s still in the therapeutic range. He did really good, we didn’t have to use any of the soothing techniques, all he required was that he could do it lying down so he wouldn’t feel dizzy and pass out. After the blood work, we went to Target to reward him for his bravery with a $5 spending spree. Disappointment quickly set in when he found out he still couldn’t afford the Pokemon cards he wanted. After that, he started to escalate quickly.

Flash forward 10 minutes later, after trying to take him home, we’re running back into the store as my oldest son terrorizes his brothers, who are now screaming and running in fear. As I quickly approached the entrance, I told my two younger boys to run inside as I tried to block their brother.

Yes, people were watching.

As he started to follow me, I looked right at him and told him, “The security at the entrance will call the police if they see you acting violent!”

He retreated.

I immediately went inside and hid from my son.

Yep, I was hiding inside the aisles of Target from my 12 year old son.

It wasn’t so much that I was scared of him, rather, I know that the quickest way to de-escalate him was to be out of his sight.

I was right. After about 10 minutes he found us and was calm and ready to go home.

That evening I cried over the absurdity of it all.

Now I’m praying that the blood work will explain what we’ve been seeing lately and that we can do something about it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When the Past Starts to Fade

As a parent raising a child with a mood disorder, I’ve experience a lot of ups and downs over the years. As things get better, and thankfully they have, something peculiar starts to happen. I start to wonder how bad things really were.

I don’t think this is entirely uncommon, I mean one of the greatest hazards with people on medications is that they start to feel better and eventually forget how sick they were and quit their meds, only to later realize that they can’t function without them.

I’m not saying that I want my son to quit meds or anything, in fact it’s far from it. But as a mom I’m always asking, are we doing the right thing? Are we treating his illness as we should? Did we make the right decisions in the past.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get the answers to all those questions, instead we take it one day at a time. But I’m thankful today for all that I’ve documented over the years. When I question, “Was he really that sick? I don’t have to rely on my memory, instead I can pull out my behavior logs that I started over 4 years ago and read day-by-day what we were dealing with.

If I wonder how bad things got, I can pull up a few videos I recorded during rages or times of psychosis and see for myself, years later that, yes, things were really that bad.

To my own surprise, I’ve written 556 posts over the past 4 years. If I ever wonder what my thoughts were or what decisions we had to make, I can read for myself, it’s all there in my blog.

Does this make a difference?

Yes—for me it does. Life can make the past fade and emotions can twist your memory. But I can praise God now that after all these years, we are doing the best we can.

This week I contacted my oldest son’s psychiatrist about getting his Lithium levels checked since lately he’s appeared depressed. As he says, “I just haven’t been feeling happy for about a month.” The recent rages—even another one last week—have demonstrated that he indeed is struggling.

As I pondered the possibility of a medication adjustment, one that should be expected as he enters into puberty, I was struck with a passing moment of fear.

What if these meds hurt him. 

This obviously wasn’t the first time I’ve considered this, this has always been part of the equation when it comes to making a decision about medications, but none the less, it’s a real concern parents like myself have to face. We face it not once, but for the life of our child.

At times, the weight of this concern can lay heavy on my heart.

Tonight it was.

But then I sat at my computer and I pulled up a video of my son at the tender age of 10 (before Lithium). I watched with intensity as I saw my young child thrash around on the ground in a rage that was an hour in the making. With fresh eyes I saw suffering to a degree that most parents will never see. I saw my son begging to die.

As he thrashed on the ground, swinging punches and trying to bite his Dad, he screamed out,

“Nothing is working, so why can’t I just kill myself!”

“My life is useless!”

“I would be better dead than alive!”

“I just want to kill myself!”

I started to cry.

I remembered.

There are no easy decisions. As parents trying to make the tough decision about medication, it will often feel like there are no “right” decisions. There will always be risks involved. There are no guarantees. I don’t know how our story will end. But tonight I can rest with the peace of seeing with my own eyes, why years ago we put our child on medication.

Because he was suffering.

* * *

If you’re a parent who is facing for the first time a child with unstable behavior. I highy recommend that you keep a journal or track behaviors in a mood chart. Over the years, these notes have not only given me peace, but they have been used to track medication effectiveness and symptoms through the years. My son’s mood charts were paramount in my son getting diagnosed with a mood disorder, they along with his escalating behavior showed the therapist day-by-day what was happening. As a parent, these records have been a huge hidden blessing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Being the Last One Picked

For Halloween I signed my youngest son up to participate in a Pumpkin Pass with his 3rd grade class. The way it works is that the teacher drops the pumpkin off at one of the student’s doorstep, then that student picks one person off the class list to pass the pumpkin to by leaving it at their doorstep the following day.

Well I completely forgot about this game until the day before Halloween when the class pumpkin showed up at our door. The boys jumped out of the car with excitement to see this unexpected gift. When we realized what it was, my youngest son shouted with anticipation, “Who do we pass the pumpkin too?”

I pulled out the class list that was carefully tucked under the pumpkin and with disappointment I realized that every student had been crossed off the list. We were the last ones picked.

I realize that someone has to be the last one, but honestly, this didn’t surprise me. My little one is different than his peers. He interacts in a unique way, has a short temper and often plays by himself at recess. During class time, I have observed him talking bluntly with his peers, he doesn’t always see the social boundaries that his classmates observe. It made sense to me why he might be the last one picked, but for my little one, this was the first moment that he seemed to recognize that he may be different.

“Why was I the last one picked?”

He walked away with his head down and heart broken.

As much as I find him completely adorable, incredibly imaginative and sweetly quirky. I’m afraid his peers may not always see these qualities. I’m worried what the years ahead will bring, when kids lose their tolerance for the differences in one another and when “coolness” takes priority. What will he experience then? Will he always be the last one picked? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Surprise Adventure

I just got back from a surprise adventure. It all started when my brother-in-law offered to fly me in to surprise my sister for her 40th birthday party. At first my chest tightened. Yikes! That would mean I’d have to get on a plane again. It’s been about 10 years since my last flight and since then I’ve casually declared I’d never fly again. But this was an invitation I could not refuse. As I considered my options, I had to do what I coach my kids to do everyday—take slow deep breaths and move through the fear. Heck, if I could make my son face his fears with the locker room at school, the least I could do was get back on a plane!

So I accepted his generous offer and asked if I could bring my middle son if I bought his ticket. I figured that it was worth getting the most out of this trip if I was going to fly again. The last time I flew I took my oldest on the plane, and now it would be my middle son’s first opportunity to fly, plus it would give us four whole days of alone time where I could shower him with one-on-one attention without the distractions of his brothers. It’s tough being the middle child, especially if the siblings have special needs.

My brother-in-law graciously accepted my offer and our secret plan was under way.

As we drove to the airport, I admit I had butterflies, but once at the terminal, I was completely into “mom mode” and had no time to worry about my fears, instead I spent the time showing my son what an airport looks like, with all the silly souvenirs and modern artwork. A true test came while in a gift shop when the tv news reported a shooting at an airport near our final destination. I watched with concern as travelers frantically pulled their luggage as they ran from the terminals. I took a long, deep breath and redirected my son to the quaint coffee shop nearby. At that moment I started to feel confident, I can do this, no problem!

While in flight, I watched my son politely engage with those around him. Soaking in delight as the stewardess complimented his politeness and patience. Then to top it off, the woman next to us gushed about how lovely my son was. At that moment I started to giggle inside. I was “THAT MOM!” You may know what I mean. For one small, sweet moment, I was the mom who appeared to have it all together with her “perfectly-behaved” child. LOL! It felt damn good, but I have to admit I felt like a fraud. Pushing aside those silly thoughts, I looked at my lovely middle child and gushed inside.

As the plane took off, I felt calm and excited for our adventure ahead. I couldn’t wait to surprise my sister. What I didn’t expect was that after surprising my sister, my brother-in-law surprised me and my son by announcing that he was taking us all to a beach house for the weekend.

It was such a wonderful, unexpected surprise!

The weekend was so nice. It was great to spend time with my sister and her family and to have so much time with my middle son. So often my middle son goes with the flow, allowing the needs of his brothers to take priority.

Just the week before, while shopping for halloween costumes in a store, my oldest started to have a lot of anxiety about his costume choice. It came down to one costume having gloves and the other not and he just couldn’t decide between the two. Time dragged on, and the stress levels escalated. I could feel a meltdown fast approaching. Then out of nowhere, my middle son said, “You can have the gloves in my costume. That way you can get the costume you really want.” Instantly my oldest son threw his arms around my middle son, giving him the biggest hug. I quickly followed with a hug, so thankful the drama had ended peacefully and overwhelmed with pride as I saw one son sacrifice for another.

Unfortunately, my middle son sacrifices too often for the others. As much as I try to make it up, by serving in his classroom, taking him on “Mommy dates” or getting him into sports. I knew that this weekend was going to be a very special, unique opportunity. It was now my turn to spoil him.

Spoil him I did! He got his favorite snacks (beef jerky) and soda when he wanted, all “mom limits” were lifted. He enjoyed trips in a kayak with his uncle and tons of fun boogie boarding with his cousin. In the end, it was all that I hoped for. We shared some very special moments and I got to watch him enjoy life to the fullest without a care in the world.

As the trip came to an end, the final destination was at his own request. He wanted to stop on the boardwalk to get souvenirs for his brothers who he couldn’t wait to get back to. He said, “As much as my brothers scream at me, I can’t wait to see them, I miss them so much!” I realized then, that after all we’ve been through, we’re not damaged or broken. Instead we’re stronger and more connected than ever. And boy, is my middle son a blessing to us all!