Friday, April 30, 2010

Watch on TV: Discovery Health

I’m thrilled to share that Discovery Health is doing a 1 week series on mental health issues May 2-7, interviewing families living with mental illness. I’m excited about this because I feel so passionate about bringing public awareness to these so misunderstood diseases, thus allowing compassion where it’s greatly needed. The series starts this Sunday night. Here’s the schedule in Eastern time, so all those near me watch it at 6 pm!:

Sunday: Anxious @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)
              Enraged @ 10 pm (Eastern Time)

Monday: Woman with 15 Personalities @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)

Tuesday: Born Schizophrenic @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)

Wednesday: My Strange Addiction @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)

Thursday: Bipolar Mysteries: Families in Crisis @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)

Friday: Hoarding, Buried Alive @ 9 pm (Eastern Time)

I’ve highlighted Bipolar Mysteries because it’s focused on children and to be honest, from the clips shown on the website, looks a lot like what we see in our own family. So if you know someone who’s raising a child with a mood disorder or if you know my own son, I encourage you to watch this episode since it may give you some insight into our world. Sunday nights’ episodes, Anxious and Enraged may also be insightful, so set your recorders so you don’t miss it! Here’s a few clips from Bipolar Mysteries:

Kelsey story:

Chase’s Story:

For more info and movie clips go to the website at:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

29 Days

Sunday morning was the first rage since we increased my son’s medication. It’s been 29 days of peace and stability. This is the longest period we’ve gone, in at least a year, without a rage. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to feel what it’s like to live a normal life, where things don’t go to complete hell. After a while I started to forget how bad it was, I even started to imagine that he’ll outgrow his brain chemistry problem. That maybe it’s all going to be ok.

Then, on the way to church I’m quickly reminded how sick my son is. It all started with him picking on his brother and refusing to go to church. This lead to a rage that started at home, then once again as we approached the church’s building. I had to pull over the car just to regain control of him. Then once in the parking lot, he continued raging violently. At one point, I desperately scanned the parking lot looking for any families running late to church to help out, he was that out of control!

Thankfully my husband arrived minutes later in a second car and took over as I took my smaller children into their church classrooms. As I tried to sign in my youngest child (5 years), he refused to join his class as he hugged my leg, still terrorized by his brother’s rage, while I had tears streaming down my face.

A lot of church goers joke about Sunday mornings being filled with drama and distractions, as satan’s way of keeping you from church. For me, this morning was at the top of my list as being our worst Sunday ever. Unfortunately, even though I finally made it to service, my mind was still in that parking lot.

As I look back at all the progress that my son’s had, my initial response is disappointment that he’s had another rage. But the truth is, today was also a reminder of our life without meds. You see, before medication, these rages were occurring all the time, we were living this nightmare constantly. We were becoming desensatized to the chaos, expecting it to show up at any given moment. Now that we’ve had 29 days without a rage, I’ve started to see with new eyes how bad it had been. I wonder now how we’ve survived all those past rages, how did we live without medication?

So instead of being discouraged, I’m feeling pretty good. We’ve had amazing progress and as I’ve been reminded, the medication doesn’t cure my son, but helps him. I wish you yourself could’ve seen the smile his precious face has been wearing throughout this stretch of time, my son has been helped tremendously by his mood stabilizer and I’m anxiously anticipating the next 29 days or more to be filled with joyful peace. At least now I know it’s possible!

If you are currently using meds for your child, what’s the longest time you’ve gone without a rage?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

So Do You Come Here Often?

If you’re struggling to find answers to your child’s condition, you’re probably familiar with the bookstore’s selection of books, you know the one I’m talking about, the one right next to all the inspiring books on raising “normal” kids. This section has all the autism books, sensory disorder books and a pile of bipolar books. For many of us, these books brought answers to the awful things we’ve been living through. It was finally a place of understanding and support. We found our home base.

But once you leave this safe haven, you realize there’s a world of opinions contradicting all these resources. It seems the more I read, the more I realize that doctor’s don’t have a clue what’s wrong with our kids. It seems that so many medical professionals disagree with one another. Groups of society that think we’re bad mothers for falling prey to the pharmaceutical companies and the bad doctors that drug our kids. There are groups of doctors that believe that bipolar children don’t exist and others that believe that, not only does it exist, but it has many levels to it. There are articles written all over about the money made off this industry of psychology and how our children are victims to this greed. While other reports demonstrate how modern medicine has given a life worth living to those who struggle with mental illness. Now, there may be a little bit of truth to every perspective, but I just have to hold on to my own truth and what I know is that my son is suffering from an illness and thanks to his current medication is doing so much better.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

...And Glasses Too!

Well, we just found out that our son needs eye glasses. I’m thrilled to see that he has a good attitude about it, he even woke up early this morning because he was thinking about getting them. Once I explained to him how his world will look different with a pair of glasses, he’ll see details that he’s never seen before and be amazed when he can read all the way across Target (something I remember experiencing myself when I got glasses) he has been very excited.

But, there is this little piece of me that is sad. Not that I don’t think he’ll look adorable with his glasses, but that he’ll be teased by his peers. We all know how cruel kids can be and with our son’s mood disorder, he already is having a hard time making friends and fitting in at times.

I know I can’t protect him from life, but did he really need yet another thing to feel different?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Anxiety Attack & Angry Mama!

Yesterday, my son cried out as he grabbed his chest, he began to tear up as he complained that his “heart was bouncing around in all the wrong places”. He also said that his heart and brain were pounding too hard and his ears stopped working.

My first thought was that his blood pressure may have dropped, then with greater concern I was worried that he was experiencing a side effect from the medication. One of the severe warnings is chest pain, so I’m sure you can understand why I was worried.

Within moments it seemed to pass. After talking to his doctor during an examination that evening, she felt he was having a panic attack, brought on by his anxiety. This made sense, since we’ve seen an increase of anxiety with our son over the past year and he seemed very upset after school that same day. I don’t know what’s going on right now with him. The last two days he’s had some rough moments of being very emotional, not angry, more sad and overwhelmed. He also had another bad nightmare, which the doctor explained is usually brought on by anxiety.

So I left the doctors, with yet another disorder (Anxiety Disorder), and to be honest, feeling very angry and frustrated with the doctor. I wasn’t going to write about it now, but I’m feeling pissed off! I asked her once again if she knew what my son had, what was the cause of all these disorders. She told me that I wasn’t going to find out until he was an adult. As we talked about a possible diagnosis, I mentioned something about his depression. Her response had me floored, she said “He has depression?” I could just scream thinking about this now. It’s so hard to trust a doctor that says “I don’t know what’s wrong with your son and you won’t know for years”, but to have her prescribing potent drugs to my son and not be familiar with my son’s case is just astounding!!! This isn’t the first time this has happened with our pdoc (the doctor that prescribes the medication). Previously, I sent a fax days prior to an appointment, outlining our son’s symptoms along with family history and when we met, she prescribed him medication, then admitted that she received but never read the documents.

Then she went on to say that I should just think happy thoughts. WHAT???? I don’t come to these appointments for therapy or positive thinking. I come for information, for medically sound decisions based upon my son’s symptoms. I have to make sure that these powerful drugs, that may have an affect on his body years later are the right drugs for his illness. And to be told to just keep increasing his medication if his recent struggles get worse is a decision that I question when she appears to be uninformed about his case and the therapy that his therapist has been focused on.

I’m looking forward to my kickboxing class tomorrow, I have a lot of anger inside that I plan on getting out. In the meantime, I’m still trying to decide how to proceed from here. If you’ve dealt with this yourself, what did you do?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the lessons I’ve had to learn is to not sweat the small stuff. This is a good lesson for everyone to grasp, but for a parent with a child suffering from a mood disorder, it’s mandatory. Seriously, you have no choice but to let go of your expectations and embrace what you can.

If you know me personally, you may be laughing and say... “yeah, she really needs to learn this”, but I’ve honestly come a long way in this area. Just a few weeks ago when my son was kicked out of the children’s church, he was forced to join us in the “big” church during the sermon. At one point, my husband and I looked at one another with a look of “oh well” as our son was crawling under his chair and doing who knows what down there. There was a time when I would’ve scolded him for not sitting in his chair, being a visual distraction to those around him, but in that moment, my husband and I were thinking...“at least he’s quiet and not causing a problem like he was a moment ago”.

When picking him up from the gym’s childcare after only being there an hour, the teacher said my son had called her a “bitch” and refused to stay in a timeout. Now, I was disappointed and made him apologize and he got his DS taken away for a few days, but I had to let it go. In the past I would’ve been mortified and felt like I needed to prove to this childcare worker that I wasn’t a bad parent and that my son truly wasn’t a delinquent, but I’m learning that I have to let these things go.

I have to let go of the fact that I have holes and dents in my walls and that my son screams hateful words at me. I have to let go of my pride as my son wears dirty sweats to school because he doesn’t like how the clean ones feel. I have to let go of my guilt when my son is once again late to school because he was fighting us at home. I have to let go of my standards as my son refuses to eat well balanced meals (something our doctor advised us to do since we had bigger issues to battle). I have to let go of my expectations since typical fun events often turn out sour. I have to let go of my desire to be judged a “good parent” when the outside world is watching me handle outrageous situations. Can you relate?

Now, some of you may be thinking that we shouldn’t stop parenting, even if it’s a challenge, but I promise you we aren’t. We’re working with our son everyday, it’s just that we’re working on much bigger issues and we can’t spend all our energy focusing on the small stuff. I was relieved to see that in every book I’ve read, doctors address the fact that typical parenting methods don’t work for these kids and as parents we have to change our expectations, we have to let go. We’re also reminded that if children can do better, they do.

So instead, I enjoy the good times, even if it’s just a moment. I’m thankful to be in our home, dents and all. I kiss my son goodnight right after I’ve been attacked. I make his favorite “green pasta” (Garlic chicken pesto pasta) and green apples all the time since I know he’ll eat well, with no complaints. In general I’m learning that I’m not in control of all that happens around me, a hard lesson for a type A personality, but I have control on my attitude about it. So I’m working on that, putting my expectations aside and deciding not to sweat the small stuff! It may take me a lifetime to master this, but every time I do, it’s so worth it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Is a Mood Disorder?

At this time, my son’s been diagnosed with a mood disorder, depression and impulsive control disorder. The doctors are using these labels until they figure it out.

As a parent, I’m using support resources for bipolar children since they best describe our life right now. From the moment I read “The Bipolar Child” by Demitri Papolos, I knew I’d found our “home base” since the children in this book seemed to best match our son, so much so, I felt like the book was about our family. This is pretty common since I’ve seen other “mood disorder” families participating on the child bipolar websites for support. Recently our therapist thought that he appeared to be bipolar and the psychiatrist is giving him bipolar meds, but neither want to give a final diagnosis since he is so young and it is so hard to tell what type of mood disorder he has.

So whether his mood disorder is finally diagnosed as Bipolar or Depression, we know that he will need medication, therapy and support either way. If you’re living this and have your own insight you want to share, I’m all ears!

I know that some close to me may be reading this blog and may be wondering what a mood disorder is, so here’s a definition from the Children’s Hospital Boston website:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Recuperating and Rebuilding

The last few weeks have been a time of recuperating. Our son is doing good with the recent increase of medication and life feels...normal.

I’ve really noticed the wear on my body lately from all the stress. When you’re in the middle of chaos and stress, you keep moving forward, but once you stop, your body doesn’t want to get back up. It reminds me of my college days, I would study with such intensity before my finals, then once semester break hit, I would come down with an illness. Sound familiar?

This just happened, nothing serious, just a bad cold and a feeling of not wanting to do anything. I’ve felt so run down lately and if you know me personally, you’ll know I’m a gal constantly on the move. So I’ve decided to listen to my body and rest. I’ve even put projects on hold so I can be LAZY!

The other thing that has taken place is my son and I have started a hobby together. We got hermit crabs! I say this is a hobby, because once you start, it can be addicting. We’ve spent a lot of “together” time researching crabs and their habitats and creating a pretty cool tank with 4 crabs. We enjoy it so much that we want to upgrade to a 28 gallon tank and get some softball size crabs. Now I have to admit, the crabs are a lot of fun, but spending quality time with my son that doesn’t involve therapy has been such a treat, it has been a time of rebuilding our own relationship and filling my heart with happiness.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Keeping It All Together

We’re starting to see very subtle changes in our son. Over the last three days he’s been showing small signs of stress. Last night he even said he felt like the medicine wasn’t working anymore. But he’s also back at school after vacation and transitions are always a challenge so I wouldn’t call this a set back, but it does raise a red flag that I’m watching closely.

Living this experience reminds me of repairing a broken vase. After picking up all the pieces, a specialist recommends the best glue to put the vase back together. Once the pieces are back in place, I fill the vase with water and fresh flowers. For the first week, I’m enjoying the beauty of this vase and make plans for all the things I can do with it. Then out of nowhere, the vase has a small leak, water begins to dribble down the sides. I start to panic, only a little and try to figure out if I used the wrong glue, or if I just need more glue? Making the wrong decision either way can cause the vase to fall apart and I want to do everything I can to prevent that from happening.

So last night, in order to repair our son’s “small leak”, we increased his medication a very small amount. We are praying that this is what he needs to keep it all together.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

That Funny Feeling...

My son has been doing great with the new medication. We’ve only seen a little bit of trouble, but not even close to where we were. I think a lot of it is conditioning. After you behave a certain way for a while, it becomes a habit. So I know if the medication continues to work, our son will be able to “practice” much better responses to stress and in time it will become natural.

I’ve even noticed this phenomenon with myself. This past week my son was sitting on my lap during church and I had this strange feeling of fear. You see, his head was just inches from my face and lately I’ve been head butted in the face by him. So I found myself feeling a little anxious that his head may hurt me. I know this sounds strange and at the time I didn’t think much about it, I just had that funny feeling in my stomach. The best way to describe it is, if you’ve ever been bitten by a cat multiple times, you feel a little timid cuddling up to the same cat for fear it may bite you again.

I feel almost guilty that I feel this way around my son at times. But I remind myself that it’s just a natural form of conditioning and in time, just as my son is learning to not overreact to things in his environment, I will learn to not overreact to my son. Just because he is raising his voice, doesn’t mean he is going to go into a rage and cuddling him won’t result in a face wound. I just have to give us some time to acclimate to our new, much better relationship. In the meantime, the next time that funny feeling comes back, I’ll have to pull my son closer and wait for that feeling to pass.

Friday, April 2, 2010

We All Have Our Critics!

For years I’ve been researching my son’s illness. During this time I’ve come across many articles about childhood mental illness and medicating children. What bothers me often is the critical view and lack of compassion I see in society. Below I’ve listed actual comments left by the general public regarding parents using medication to treat their child’s mental illness. Check it out:

Haven’t we found enough ways to give kids excuses to give up and blame something else for their problems? Buck up parents, turn off the TV, be good examples, and quit looking for pills to give your kids so you’re satisfied that you’ve done all you can do to help your poor babies. Think of them as poor sick babies and that's all they’ll be their whole lives!

My experience has been that meds are predominantly given to boys who don’t behave the way teachers and parents want them to. Who dominates the classroom and the parenting? Women. Draw your own conclusions.

ABSOLUTELY disgusting. Giving a 6 year old drugs?? Let’s get real, here. You may as well be sending them out to a street corner to ask for meth! Do you really think, that because a doctor prescribed it, it’s safer? Huge misconception! You’re in for a rude awakening and so are your children. I feel VERY sorry for them.

You’d rather have your kids be perfect little overachieving robots than being... kids?

Most are mentally messed up by parents, family, and home situations that don’t take them into consideration or care. Drugs very often are the shortcut to parenting. 


Ouch! That kinda hurts. I wish I could show the world what we’ve been living through. If they were there when my son wanted to kill himself at only 7 years old or saw the bruises he created on others during a rage, would they think differently? If they saw that we’re dedicated parents and that for the past 2 years we’ve been trying everything possible before turning to medication, would they still judge us so harshly? If they heard my “medicated” son say that he now feels happiness inside instead of anger and sadness, would they support our decision to use meds?

Why is this so different than a parent giving insulin to a child with diabetes or giving a child with a heart defect daily medication? Why are these parents praised for providing essential care, while I’m looked at with disgust?

Believe me, turning to medication is a very scary step. I’m aware that there are risks with side effects and that we don’t know the long term impact of these drugs on our kids, but what other choice do I have. Changing his diet, fish oils, exercise, parenting techniques, therapy and love didn’t help my son. If left untreated, he may die. So until science can find a better way to rescue my son from this illness, I have no other choice.

I know I have my critics, but if they were in my shoes, what would they do?