Tag: Bipolar Parent

Bipolar in Children: Signs & Help

Does your child display mood swings? Are you concerned that your child may have bipolar disorder? To help understand the signs of bipolar disorder and what type of help is available for bipolar children, I have interviewed therapist Jessica Ives, MA, NCC, LCPC.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Child and Family Therapist and work at Life Counseling Center in Easton, MD. I specialize in children using play therapy. I am currently being trained to be a RPT (Registered Play Therapist) through the Association for Play Therapists. I’ve been married for 12 years and have 2 children.”

What are the signs and symptoms of bipolar in children?
“There are many signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in children but the confusing part is that these symptoms can also look like many other things as well. It’s important to get a diagnosis from a professional because bipolar disorder in children is difficult to diagnose. Some of the very common symptoms are rages, oppositional behavior, frequent mood swings, ADHD, restlessness, aggressiveness, depressed mood, risk taking behaviors, anxiety, racing thoughts, and low self esteem.”

What type of impact does bipolar have on a child’s life?
“Bipolar disorder can have a major impact on children. Children who suffer without treatment do worse in school, social situations, and have difficulty in the family dynamic. Without treatment kids can feel isolated, different, bad, or just not able to control themselves.”

What type of help is available for children who have bipolar?
“Help is available for children with bipolar. The first step is getting a diagnosis and getting treatment. A therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist can typically diagnose bipolar disorder. The child’s pediatrician can sometimes be the first step to getting help as well. They can often steer a parent in the right direction. A child with bipolar disorder needs medication and counseling.”

What advice would you like to give to a parent who has a bipolar child?
“Bipolar Disorder in a child is not the end of the world. There is help available but it is important to be consistent in getting the child treatment. Many parents just stop after their child seems better. Children need consistency, structure, and many attainable goals for them to keep focused. Bipolar disorder is manageable.”

Thank you Jessica for doing the interview on bipolar children. For more information on Jessica Ives or her work you can check out her website on www.jessicaives.com.

Recommended Readings:
Tips For Identifying Bipolar Disorder in Your Teen
Bipolar Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder

Letting Go of a Bipolar Family Member

Letting go of a family member with bipolar is a very hard thing to do but it is not as hard as one might think it is. Your household will go from chaos to peacefulness somewhat in just a few short weeks, once you all have adjusted to it. The first few days if you have children will be hard, as they will miss the other parent but they will soon figure it out, that the chaos that parent created is gone now as well.

Once your household settles down you will wonder what took you so long to let them go, you will feel the peace that has returned. You will sleep better, and feel better in so many ways after the initial shock is over.

Letting go of the bipolar parent means totally letting go, not accompanying them to counseling appointments, the store or letting them do anything for you. By having anything to do with that bipolar parent, you are giving them false hope of getting back together, if you do not have any plans to let them back into your life.

Cutting off all ties means all ties, and I mean all of them. Sign off any joint accounts if possible, get the house switched into your name only, and walk away with your head held high. You owe this to your children, who should not have to see their other parent take a downward spiral into mental psychosis that is so deep and very to scary for any children to see.

You owe it to your children to give them the best childhood possible and it is far better for them to remember their bipolar parent the way they before the mental illness began changing them in such a profound way. Children deserve as happy as a childhood that we can possibly make for them, and this does not mean trying to be two parents. Sugar coating the other parents' actions or behaviors for your children should not be done, nor should you put the bipolar parent down in front of the children in any shape. Trust me those children will see much more from the bipolar parent and they will draw their own conclusions. Children often clearly see which parent cares more for their safety and well-being.

Our family, as in the kids and I had to let go of their father because of his bipolar illness. He would often skip his medicine, thinking he no longer needed it, this became a huge problem for all of us to deal with, and I speak for my self as well as my children.

My youngest child is the only one who currently had anything to do with their father, but after many broken promises, he too is seeing that perhaps he needs to let go as well. As sad as it might be, he realizes that his father cannot really care for him or be the type of father he wishes him to be. That is what happens when you promise weekend visits and only actually show up once a month to get a child for visit time.

It is harder for this youngest son, because he was really too young to remember how his father was before the illness took over. My older children remember well, how this illness has taken a decent hard worker who had little time for them because of work, to a mean spirited man who yelled at everything they did.

He could not keep a job in the last few years we spend together as a family, so he took any job he could find, often sitting home collecting unemployment, and drinking. He would leave a job within a year because he did not like it often leaving the family without an income.

It seemed as if he thought he could come and go from our lives easily, often leaving for a few months and wanting back in to be a family. After the third time in as many years, I put my foot down and began a new life, a new life that did not include him. He was shocked to say the least when I told him no the last time, but he quietly went away and started his own new life.

I realized that by trying to keep the family together and helping a bipolar patient who did not want help were the wrong things to do. Once I cut all personal ties with my ex husband he also by choice cut all ties with our children, which is a shame in many ways, but now they are able to have friends over and are able to enjoy a peaceful home.

Schedules and Your Bipolar Child: How Sleeping and Eating Effect Moods

Early onset bipolar disorder in children is similar to bipolar disorder that adults experience except for that fact that children may experience rapid shifts in moods on a daily basis. Children with bipolar symptoms like this also experience low arousal states in the morning with increased energy in the afternoon and evenings. Because of these symptoms, keeping your child on a schedule can help them learn how to cope with their disorder.

Many children with bipolar disorder are unable to calm down at night and fall asleep. Their energy levels are much higher than children who do not have bipolar disorder. Parents need to recognize that in order to avoid irritability, angry outbursts and other defiant behavior, adjusting your home to accommodate your bipolar child is in everyone's best interests. Some doctors may prescribe a sleep medication but often that can be avoided by trying some other methods to make your child's space more conductive to sleep.

Keeping a routine is essential for patients who have bipolar, not just children. If a parent of a bipolar child teaches them soon after diagnosis how to keep a schedule, they will grow up with it as a way of life. Living a chaotic life only makes the symptoms of bipolar harder to deal with.

The first thing for a parent to do is to create an environment for their child that is free of distractions. Their bedroom should be free of video game systems, television and any other electronic device that they could use to distract themselves from sleeping. If you do not want to remove their television from their bedroom just make it a rule that it is not turned on after a certain time. Calming music can help a child wind down so using an iPod, CD player or even a radio is something that a bipolar child should have in their bedroom.

Lighting is another issue. Room darkening blinds or curtains can help to keep distractions down. Room temperature also needs to be considered. A small fan sometimes helps to drown out noise and lull a child into sleep. Many bipolar children have issues with being overly sensitive to fabrics. Comfort is essential in whether or not you can fall asleep and stay asleep. Don't assume that buying a pillowtop for your child's bed will make it more comfortable for them. Some bipolar children prefer a harder surface to sleep on. Have them shop with you for their blankets, pillows, sheets and anything else that will help them to be able to feel comfortable.

Using an all-natural sleep aid like Melatonin can help with many bipolar children. You should ask your doctor about this before giving it to your child but many parents see a difference in how their child falls asleep and awakens when taking this supplement.

Another routine that needs to be enforced is regular meals. Getting a bipolar child to eat a good breakfast when they have difficulty in awakening may seem impossible but it will help greatly. Aim for something whole grain that will be filling and provide energy in the mornings when they need it the most. Even a grab and go breakfast like a bagel will give them the benefits of having breakfast. It is already proven that children do better in school when they start their day off by eating breakfast.

Watching their sugar and especially caffeine intake is important also. Encourage healthier snacking by keeping fruits and vegetables handy. Cut back on "bad" foods and eventually, they will not miss them. Make sure they eat meals even if they are not hungry. Smaller portions at frequent intervals may work better when it is possible to do so.

These are just two things to consider when working on a schedule for a bipolar child. Paying more attention to their sleeping and eating will show a big difference in their moods. It will make dealing with your bipolar child easier.

Bipolar Disorder, Fear of Harm, Medication Symptoms and Accommodations


Could You Be Bipolar?

About two months ago I was diagnosed with bipolar syndrome. While this worried me I felt relieved… finally, an explanation for the constant emotional rollercoaster. Could you be suffering from this syndrome?

Most people have emotional ups and downs, but people that suffer from bipolar syndrome can't control these extreme emotional changes. One day you might feel extremely down, tired, despondent. Nothing seems to go right and the slightest problem leaves you feeling like nothing will be right again. The next day you might feel full of energy and creativity and might start acting a little reckless. Many that suffer from bipolar syndrome go on shopping sprees, embarrass themselves in public by doing things they wouldn't normally do, stay awake all night because they have too much energy… the list goes on.

Some that suffer from bipolar syndrome have such swings several times a day. Imagine that! Someone who is bipolar is both depressed and suffering from mania. These are some of the possible symptoms you could suffer:

This is how you might feel when you are "down":

  • You down or sad for no apparent reason.
    • You are losing interest in activities and things you used to enjoy.
    • You feel discouraged, guilty, or insignificant.
    • You sleep too much or can't sleep at all.
    • You gain or lose a lot of weight.
    • You have no energy and feel tired al the time.
    • You have problems making the smallest decisions or concentrating.
    • You think about killing yourself.

This is how you might feel when you are "up":

  • You have a lot of pent up energy.
    • You don't sleep as much.
    • Your mind jumps around and your thoughts are constantly racing.
    • You are very easily distracted.
    • You chatter a lot more than you used to.
    • You feel on top of the world.
    • You want to do everything at once but don't get anything done.
    • You do things you don't usually do that might be risky and out of character.

Along with these symptoms you might feel some more extreme ones. There are two types of Bipolar syndrome, Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The basic difference is that Bipolar I is more severe and might come with mania episodes that might land you in the hospital. When you suffer from Bipolar II, you can still function, although with more difficulty than someone that doesn't. Someone with Bipolar I could also suffer from hallucinations and psychotic episodes.

You don't need to feel bad enough to go to the hospital to believe you might suffer from bipolar syndrome. If you feel your ups and downs are making your life more difficult than it should be, consult a therapist. The evaluation usually takes about an hour and then you will most likely be referred to a Psychiatrist for further evaluation and possible treatment with prescription drugs.

Don't let another day pass without knowing for sure. If you strongly suspect your emotions are taking you for a ride, why should you continue suffering?

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder where the person affected experience extreme mood, energy level and behavior changes. It is common in adults and children. However, doctors who specializes in treating bipolar disorder in children claim that not all children with bipolar disorder are diagnosed with one and treated with proper medication. That is why, it aggravates as time passes by.

Part of a child’s growing years is mood swings. But, if it affects the child’s ability to function, it is a whole different story. Usually, a child with a bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood changes which categorize into two – manic(extreme happiness) and depression (extreme sadness). For manic bipolar disorder, a child usually manifests symptoms such as severe changes in mood like for example, your child is unusually happy in a minute then, he becomes irritable, angry or aggressive after. Also, your child may feel increase level of energy with little amount of sleep without being tired, easily distracted and talks fast without stopping. As for depression type, a child can manifest symptoms such as frequent crying, over sleeping or over eating, can’t cope with rejection, feelings of worthlessness or thoughts of death and suicide.

Usually, children with bipolar disorder is at greater risk to have anxiety disorder and attention deficit disorder. At this point, it is more difficult for parents and doctors to diagnose bipolar disorder in a child. So, as much as possible, parents should be aware of their child’s condition as early as possible for early treatment and prevent chances of recurrence. If you think your child shows odd behavior, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. Knowing the disorder at its onset can make a huge difference to your child’s condition. Also, the knowledge about the disorder will help you as a parent know the different ways to approach his mood and behavioral changes which can be a huge impact to his recovery.

A Peek into a Kid's Life Who Had a Bipolar Parent

Growing up with a bipolar dad, it wasn't easy for me. I was close to my dad at one point and time, but when he would have these manic episodes, I would stop trusting him and it got to the point where I just avoided him even when he wasn't in a manic state.

My father was always very private when it came to anger, feelings, worries, or fears. He was one of those you'd call a bottler- he'd push it all down and bottle it up- and when it finally exploded it was like some monster came out of the bottle. He'd claim that my brother and I were supposed to die and he was supposed to kill us because Jesus told him to, so from the age of 5 on, I had to recognize the signs of a 'spell' and learn what to do.

We lived in a small town- you know one of those where everybody knows everything even though you don't want them to, so I got a lot of weird looks growing up. I had friends, but only one or two very close ones really knew what was wrong with my dad. Growing up, I only knew one other person with a bipolar parent- who was really the only person who really understood. My dad taught high school so you can only imagine what I went through when he was hospitalized and then everyone would come up to me asking questions. This one time I remember this girl I didn't really know or like all that well came up to me and asked point blank- "did your dad have a nervous breakdown?" I really didn't want to get into his actual disease- bipolar disorder, because I really didn't like folks knowing all that. I just said yeah, and to that she said "I would too dealing with all these kids."

It wasn't easy growing up- a lot of folks just didn't understand bipolar disorder and you know- we just got deemed as 'crazy'. My dad's 'episodes' sort of became these urban legends so to speak because you'd hear all these crazy rumors about what he did while he was in his manic state. One rumor that did happen to be true was he wrestled a gun away from a police officer and pointed it at my brother. People would make all these claims and of course, nosy folks would ask you about it, so I just got to where I denied everything.

For a long time, especially when I was in school, I denied all the claims and never talked about anything that went on- ever. It was just some part of my life that flared up every once in a while and then I'd deal with it and try to forget it- but for a while after every manic episode there'd be a strange 'transition' after my dad came home from the hospital and I'd be on pins and needles thinking he'd have another manic episode- then it would get back to normal and as the years went on, the episodes came more and more often.

Of course, with every episode there were warning signs- but then after the fact we'd go back and realize that what he was saying really was a warning sign and we should have gotten him to a hospital before he became so violent- but with that you'd ask him if he was alright and he would just say yeah- so if you forced him into the hospital you'd have a manic episode on your hands anyway. So, you were dammed if you did and dammed if you didn't when it came right down to it.

And yes, for those of you out there wondering- he was on medication. Has been for over 20 years now. It hasn't been the easiest thing to go through either. It's just sort of a trial and error thing- it's like here- take these pills and see how you do- if that doesn't work then we'll go to another pill. He's had allergic reactions, gotten immune to his dosage after taking it so long and having an episode and they'll increase it. It's for sure been a rough ride.

What it's Like for Me to Be Bipolar

People often look at me as having a deathly disease when I tell them that I have bipolar disorder. They look shocked because I don't show any signs of being out of the ordinary. I don't take medication and I rarely show that I even have something wrong with me! So how does this disorder affect my life? It honestly doesn't.

I found out I had this disorder when I was fairly young. Apparently when I was a small child, my guardians were concerned about certain behaviors I would portray around other children. I would sometimes be fine one minute and be completely sad or angry the next. It baffled my aunt and uncle, so they took me to the doctor. The doctor then told them that I was born with bipolar disorder. Sometimes I'll have certain outbursts and mood swings out of nowhere.

Throughout the years of being completely normal, I come to find that bipolar disorder doesn't affect my life at all. I don't take medication because this is who I am. Why would I want to change something that is meant for me to experience? I'm so glad I got to write something like this. I want people to know that having this type of disorder doesn't mean that I'm not able to take care of myself, or seriously incapable of being with other people without causing a scene. People watch too much television and think that when someone has a disease or some sort of other disorder they are completely inadequate to communicating normally with others who don't have this disease.

Honestly, the only symptoms I have are slight mood swings every now and then. Bipolar disorder has done hardly anything noticeable at all for me, quite frankly. I have the ability to be sad when I'm supposed to be, be happy when I'm supposed to be, etc. I know it may sound strange, but I can pretty much control how I am suppose to feel, so nothing seems out of the ordinary. If you have any questions about being bipolar or how people like me deal with it, you can do your research online or ask someone who may have it. Just a warning however, you may be surprised who does have bipolar disorder. Your best friend could even be bipolar, you never know!

Life with a Bipolar Child: a Mother's Story

My nightmare started about three and a half years ago. It was at this time that things with my son started going down hill. I really hate to use the word nightmare in this case however, this is what best describes the journey and the fight that I have had to endure up to this point.

About half way through his kindergarten year, I began suspecting that my son had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At this point I was assured by his teacher that she didn't think he had it. She only thought his maturity level was not that of his peers, as is often the case with early kindergartners.

Toward the end of the year, his grades had started to drop and he had become a distraction to the class. His teacher had started reporting to me the problems she was having with him. He would no longer stay seated to do his work, would run about the classroom, refuse to stay on task and blurt out answers to her questions that were not even related to the topic she was teaching.

By the end of the year, I had a conference with his teacher. At the conclusion of our meeting, we came to an agreement that it would be in his best interest if he was retained as a kindergartener again the next fall. Again we discussed the possibility of ADHD. At this point, his teacher thought it would be a good idea to have him tested for it. This is how my journey began.

A few weeks after meeting with his teacher I was finally able to get my son in to see our family physician. After a quick exam and several questions, we had a diagnosis of ADHD. A few minutes later we walked out of his office with a prescription in hand, and thought that all our problems were solved. Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

My son had been on his medication for just a few short weeks when his behavior took a turn for the worse. The scary thing was that his behavior was becoming more erratic with each passing day. His behavior at home for the most part was pretty good. Taking a trip out in public however, was different story. At first when my husband (step father to my son) and I would go somewhere with my son, he would just start asking for things like any typical child. Regardless of whether or not we allowed him to get anything, our outing would always end in a huge temper tantrum. I'm not talking about the whining and crying kind of fit. My son would literally throw himself face down on the floor flailing, kicking screaming and hitting. Not only was this totally unacceptable, but it was also extremely embarrassing. Eventually as this became a problem, we just started leaving where ever we were at to avoid the situation all together.

As weeks went by his behavior got even worse. Dining at a restaurant would usually end up with fits thrown, drinks spilled and food thrown on the floor. Going grocery shopping became a longer task than what it should have. At almost six year of age, most children would have graduated from sitting in the shopping cart. We tried letting my son walk with us beside the cart and in the end we would inevitably spend most of our time having to look for him. It had become his new game to run away from us or hide inside racks of clothing at every opportunity that he had.

Tired of the never ending search to find him, he once again resumed his place in the seat of the shopping cart. This tactic worked for a brief time before he started to grab things from store shelves and throw them on the floor. He would clean off an entire shelf with just a sweep of his arm. We even went as far as trying to walk down the middle of the aisles so that the shelves would be out of his reach. As you know, grocery stores are a very busy place so it was impossible for us to stay in the center of the aisle the entire time we were shopping. And so it continued that things flew from the shelves as we walked by. The final straw came when he decided to start hitting other shoppers as we walked past them. We even tried taking turns sitting out in the car with him, but that failed to work to. It was at this point that we decided we could not take him to a public place again. Our only option was to rely on my parents to keep him when ever we needed to go somewhere. It was hard to get used to the fact that our outings would now have to revolve around my parent's schedule, but it was the only choice that we had.

In just those few short months since my son had started taking his medication, our life was anything but normal. One thing that didn't help the situation was the fact that my ex-husband (who also has ADHD) would not accept the fact that there was anything wrong with our son. Because of this, he refused to give my son his medication on the weekends that he had visitation. Now we had this poor little boy who was bouncing back and forth from being medicated, to not being medicated. It kills me to say this, but my son was a mess. Feeling like total failures and not wanting my son to continue living this way, my husband and I decided that it was time to seek professional help.

We quickly found a therapist in the local area and began taking my son there. And even though it was expensive to do so, we knew that this was what he needed most. Before the first appointment I contacted my ex-husband and gave him all the information so that he could meet us there should he decide to go. Not that it was any surprise to us, but he never came to the appointment nor did he ever call me to find out how things went.

At this first appointment it was confirmed that he did indeed suffer from ADHD and would benefit from individual therapy. Immediately the therapist set him up for weekly visits. After we were done talking to her, we were taken to see his new medication management nurse (simply known as meds management). She immediately took him off the medication that our family doctor had prescribed him. What we thought was a drug to treat for ADHD, was actually an anti-depressant, which may also be used to treat for ADHD. In some cases anti-depressants can actually make the symptoms of ADHD much worse, as was the case for my son.

Within a few weeks of my son being on a new medication, his behavior started to improve. With much relief, we were finally able to take him with us again when we went somewhere. He still liked to run away from us when he had the chance, but after a few embarrassing moments of him being attached to one of those toddler leashes and he soon stopped. It was great to know that things were no longer being knocked off of shelves and that fellow shoppers were no longer at risk of being pummeled by his small fists.

Once again it was time for school to start back up. Over the summer we decided that my son might benefit from going to a private school. Though it was more expensive, it was more structured and offered all day kindergarten eliminating the need for daycare. When school started, my son was very excited about it and made friends quickly. For now things were going great and we couldn't have been happier.

Every week for several months, we made the trip to the therapist's office. Slowly my son's symptoms began to improve and we were able to decrease his therapy to once a month. During this entire time my ex-husband was not involved in any aspect of his therapy. If anything, he was the cause of my son having to resume his weekly therapy sessions once again.

It was around this time that my son no longer wanted to visit his father. In fact he seemed down right scared about it and would scream and cry when my ex-husband would come to pick him up. My husband and I knew that something was horribly wrong, but my son wouldn't tell us what it was. His behavior when he came back home after the weekend was very erratic. Once again my son became uncontrollable. Due to my ex-husbands drug and alcohol problem, I had been trying for the last few years to get his visitation with my son to stop. Unfortunately, the courts didn't agree with my way of thinking.

One day while my son was in therapy, he revealed to his therapist the reason for not wanting to visit his father. About the time that his fears began was the same time that his father got mad at him, threw him on the couch and punched him in the stomach.

Now that we knew what was causing his fears, it was time to take additional action to help protect my little boy. The therapist immediately called Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS). They are the agency that takes care of child protective services. My husband and I also decided to take my ex-husband back to court to try to get his visitation stopped once again, or supervised at the very least.

As it turned out, SRS proved to be worthless. They sent one of their agents out to visit with my son while he was at school and we only found out about it one day when my son casually mentioned it to us. SRS never even bothered to contact us to let us know what the outcome was, so we decided to called them ourselves. We were told that the only thing that they did was contact my ex-husband by phone. We were also told that no action would be taken based on the fact that my son was so young and there was a possibility that he was making it all up. This was so unbelievable. After working our way up to the highest person in charge at the SRS, the outcome was still the same, nothing was going to be done to protect my little boy.

Now most people would have just refused to allow their child to go for visits. I have actually done this on several occasions and was later told by the judge that if it happened again, I would be thrown in jail. This would only result in my ex-husband getting custody of my son, and I would never let that happen.

Later on after the paper work was complete, we proceeded to court. After several months and several more trips to court, my ex-husband temporarily lost visitation with my son. Though this was the result of his continuous failure to supply the court with information requested by my attorney, and not for the abuse of my son, we were still happy. I only write of this part because my ex-husband has and continues to be a key factor in my son's decline in behavior and his regression in therapy.

We were very eager to see how well my son would do now that his father was temporarily out of the picture. Even if it was only for a short time, this was better than nothing as my son's behavior was only continuing to decline. I am not one to believe that children should be separated from their parents, but in the event of abuse and neglect (even medical neglect for that matter), the child is better off with out their parent.

By this time my son's behavior had gotten so bad that we really didn't know what to do anymore. His tantrums had now turned into rages and some times they were even violent. One time in particular that I remember was when he kicked me in my stomach when I was eight months pregnant with his sister. He had also become quite destructive. He would use what ever he could find to poke holes in the walls of his bedroom, his mattress, and the wood frame of his new bunk bed. At times he would be in such a rage that he would bang his head on the walls, he would try to strangle himself and once even jumped off the top bunk in an attempt to hurt himself. Normally by the time his rage had ended, he had no memory of what had just happened. This is what scared me the most.

He had also started being very mean to animals. He was always trying to hurt our two family cats who he had previously loved so much. He had once been mean to my sister's dog and several times to my parent's cats. One time while he was visiting my sister, he beat a frog to death with a baseball bat.

To make matters worse, my son was once again having problems in school. Not only were his grades dropping again, but he was picking on the other kids, yelling and screaming in class and occasionally having crying spells as well. Trips to the principal's office were happening almost weekly. The school that he attended still used the paddle, so you would have thought that the threat of this would have been enough to keep him in line, but it wasn't

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, we didn't know what to do or where to turn for help. People that we talked to (other than the professionals) all claimed that we were being too hard on him. If only these people could have seen life through our eyes, then maybe they would have a better understanding of what was going on with my son. This was not a normal child that we were dealing with.

After nearly a year of therapy and having changed medication a few times, we felt like we had reached a dead end. My son was no longer making progress and his therapist seemed as if she had run out of ideas and the motivation to help him. We knew that there was something wrong with him, but we had no clue what we were dealing with.

Finally the nurse who was in charge of my son's meds management suggested that we seek treatment at a different facility that would be more capable of helping us. She told us that we could have him tested to see if he would qualify for what she called the Severe Emotionally Disturbed waiver (otherwise known as an SED waiver). With this waiver, my son would have a wide variety of services and not just therapy. The waiver would also provide him with a state medical card that would cover all medical expenses that our insurance didn't cover. I knew in my heart, that this is what my son needed.

Within a week I had gotten an appointment to have my son tested for the SED waiver. Normally it takes about two weeks to get the results back to see if you qualify for the waiver. With my son we found out in just two hours. This should give you a pretty good indication of how bad thing really were. This was very depressing for me, but at the same time I was also very relieved about it because I knew that we would be getting the help for him that he so desperately needed.

A few weeks later my son had a new therapist. From the first time that we met her, we could tell that things were going to improve. My son and his new therapist hit it off better than he did with his old one. Building a good relationship with your therapist is necessary for successful therapy to take place. We were also placed with a new meds management nurse as well.

By this time we had gotten another diagnosis. We found out that not only did he have ADHD, but he also had Bipolar. After reviewing all of the symptoms, this now made perfect sense. I knew that my ex-husband had ADHD and was also manic depressive, which I learned was just another fancy name for Bipolar. My son has most likely inherited his mental health problems from his father.

Our fist meeting with our new meds management nurse proved to be a positive one. Not only was she very informative, she was also open to any suggestion that we had. At this time she thought that it was best to keep him on his current ADHD medication, being Concerta. She also gave him a new prescription for an anti seizure medication called Gabitril. Anti seizure medications are often used to help treat the symptoms of bipolar.

A few weeks after starting therapy with his new therapist, we had our first of many meetings. These meetings are known as "wrap around" meetings. It was at this time that we found out about the variety of services that would be available for my son and for the family as well. It was now time to meet our wrap around team.

The most important person on the team of course is the therapist. We learned that not only would she be providing therapy for my son, but she would also provide family sessions. These sessions are time set aside specifically for the parents to update the therapist on their child's progress, ask any questions they may have, or for the therapist to give advice, tips or strategies on how to deal with the symptoms the child may be experiencing.

Second in line would be his meds management nurse. Not only does she prescribe medications, but she also communicates with the therapist and the family to make sure that the medications are working as the should without any side effects.

My son was also provided with a case manager. This person is in charge of gathering any needed information; helps take care of any forms and paper work that needs to be done. She is also in also the one in charge of scheduling the wrap around meetings and the treatment plan meetings. In our eyes, the most important thing provided by the case manager is the time spent with my son. She visits with him for about an hour and a half each week. During the school year she visits him at school and does home visits during the summer. These visits are often spent working on anger management and coping skills. They also work on other things like how to behave while out in the community and different strategies to help keep him on task in the classroom.

My son was also assigned an Attendant Care Worker. This person does much of the same community based things that the case manager does, with the exception that he gets my son for a longer period of time. To me, I think it is very similar to what you would get from the "Big Brother's and Big Sister's" program. To this day, my son really enjoys all the time that he gets to spend with his Attendant Care Worker. During the school year, he is also provided with an additional Attendant Care Worker that works with him in the classroom as well.

We were also assigned a Parent Support worker. The role of the Parent Support worker is pretty self explanatory and an invaluable asset to any parent dealing with a child that has ADHD/Bipolar. My Parent Support worker provides us with up to date information about medications, discipline strategies and classes on a variety of subjects. She comes to our house once a month to check on how things are going. She will also provide transportation to appointments and meetings if needed. She is even available just to talk if things aren't going well and I just need someone to talk to. Over the past two years my Parent Support worker has probably been the best form of support I've had so far.

It has been almost two years since we made the switch to his new therapist. Our life still seems like a roller coaster ride at times. My son still has drastic mood swings that are only made worse when his father is in his life. Over the last two or three years, his father has been in and out of his life. He has never been involved in any of his therapy or wrap around meetings, which has not helped any. His father is very uneducated about ADHD and Bipolar. I honestly believe that if he knew more then he might have a better understanding of how to parent his son.

About six months ago my son's behavior started to decline rapidly. It seems like each time this happens (something commonly known as cycling), a different behavior comes out. This time he actually started hitting me. The first time it happened, it was just a hard slap on the arm which was totally unacceptable. Each time that he has a melt down (as I call it) his violence towards me gets worse. Now when ever he has a melt down, he comes at me with swinging fists. He tends to go for my face, and once he starts punching me, he doesn't stop until he is either restrained or his rage is over and his energy is spent.

Sometimes I see some sign that he is on the brink of a melt down, such as clenched fists, heavy rapid breathing and just a certain look in his eyes. Other times there is no warning at all and it just happens. It is for this reason that I have had to learn to act fast for my own protection. Restraint is about the only thing that really works.

Along with hitting me, my son also likes to throw things. He has thrown a dinner plate at my husband's head which shattered and flew everywhere. He has also thrown other things such as an alarm clock, picture frames and toys. Things have gotten so bad that anything within his reach becomes a weapon.

I stress to those that doubt, we do discipline our children. My son is the second youngest of six children in a blended family. With our other kids, we were able to stick with your typical everyday discipline that most parents use. We constantly have to change our discipline strategies with my son. We have tried every form of discipline we could think of, from grounding, yelling, positive reinforcement, sticker charts, and sad to say, even the good old fashioned spanking. What will work one month won't work the next month. You name it; we tried it, with the exception of using the belt. That is something that I just don't believe in doing. We have had to be very creative in our techniques. Most of the things that we try fail to work for very long. We try to keep my son as busy as we can as this seems to keep his melt downs to a minimum, but there is only so much that we can do. We have had him in psycho-social summer camps and he has also played on a few different sports teams. He seems to enjoy them, but unfortunately they do not go year round. We would love to get him in an anger management class, but we haven't had any success finding one for children as young as him.

With his recent decline in behavior, I started doing some more research to see if there was something different that we haven't tried yet. Upon reading different articles and from talking to other parents of children with ADHD and Bipolar, I learned something new. Often times when treating a child that has ADHD and Bipolar, the medication used to treat ADHD, can actually make their Bipolar symptoms worse. This is exactly what I thought was happening with my son.

Again we made another appointment with his meds management nurse. After reviewing his symptoms, his nurse thought that there was a pretty good chance his ADHD medication (at the time he was on Stratera) was indeed making his symptoms worse. She decided that it was probably best to take him off the Stratera and treat only for the Bipolar.

The medication that he is currently taking for his Bipolar is a mood stabilizer called Abilify. Since the medication change, his behavior and mood swings have gotten better. The fact that his biological father hasn't been in his life for over three months now also helps improve things, but I'm sure that this is only temporary.

Something that most people don't know is that the symptoms of bipolar for an adult are totally different than that of a child. This may be a big part of the reason why there is so much conflict on the subject of juvenile bipolar. It is commonly confused with ADHD because so many of the symptoms of juvenile Bipolar are similar to those of ADHD.

Something that I have realized I must come to terms with is the fact that this is a life long mental illness. It can and does affect my son and our family, as well as his social and academic life. This unfortunately is something that goes with the territory and can't be changed, only improved upon.

If you or someone you know has a child with Bipolar, I urge you to get educated and get all the professional help that you can get for your child. Many times children with Bipolar are left untreated and if their symptoms are severe, it could possibly lead to suicide. If the child is having problems in school, you can always request an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 (which is similar to an IEP, but is mainly a behavioral plan based on a medical diagnosis). We tried to get and IEP for my son however, he did not qualify. We were on the other hand successful in getting him a 504 which has really helped him out academically.

Over the past three years the most important thing that I have learned is that education is the best weapon you can have when dealing with a child that has Bipolar. The more you know the better off you and your child will be. No matter what happens or what you're told, never give up on your child. There have been plenty of times that I've just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and walk away, but I simply can't give up on my son. He deserves the very best for his future. My son is too young to fight this battle on his own, so I must battle for him. He is the reason why I continue my journey.





Scattershot My Bipolar Family a Memoir by David Lovelace

Scattershot a memoir by David Lovelace about growing up in a bipolar family is interesting and very dark. I have read a number of memoirs written by individuals who suffer from bipolar including Madness and Manic I liked both of these better then Scattershot. I do not know if it is because Madness and Manic were written by women so it was easier for me to relate to the stories (I do not have bipolar but like everyone else alive and walking around with some insight I have my own insanity) or if it was because in Scattershot there was a much greater focus on David's family and his interactions with them and in fact his running away from the illness that really did rob him and the rest of the family a younger brother and sister and both parents of a life that had any true peace.

The author writes a lot about his relationship with his father and also the relationship between his mother and father. Lovelace's father is a very religious man,a fundamentalist Christian who spends most of his life believing that he can cure himself and his wife (who may be bipolar or may be schizophrenic they family is never really able to get a true diagnosis) by prayer and through God. Needless to say this does not work out and the book opens with Lovelace finding his mother on the floor of a very filthy apartment dying in a state that can best be described as catatonic. The elder Lovelace had gone off of his own medications and then altered his wife's medications, switching from pharmaceutical prescriptions to B vitamins and soy protein shakes.

David's mother ends up at the hospital being treated for dehydration and something other then a stroke. Once again the family is never really given a true diagnosis. Lovelace spends a number of days trying to have his father committed which is much easier send then done even with a telephone call from the family psychiatrist who informs the hospital that the elder Mr. Lovelace needs to be committed. After a number of failed attempts along with his father's increasing mania David is finally gets a involuntary commitment order and his father is brought to the hospital by the police.

The book then goes back in time to when the author experienced his first depression and subsequent mania. Being rightly terrified of what awaits him he escapes going to colleges and Colorado and then down to Central America where he can feel himself slipping off the edge but being unable to stop it. While one can imagine the horror going on in the author's own head he spent months sitting in the sun and on a beach and while I am aware it does not matter where you are if there is no quiet within your own mind it was a little difficult to have sympathy for someone who had the ability to spend months sleeping in a hammock, going snorkeling, having sex and smoking pot.

Lovelace finally has a full manic break and ends up committed in California. His father arrives and brings him back home where he gets on some medication and meets a girl. After a few months of medication Lovelace decides he can handle his disease without the medication and moves to Manhattan and becomes part of the squatter movement. Marijuana along with hard work and being surrounded by a bunch of crack heads and others with significant mental health issues allows Lovelace to feel normal and he spends more time ignoring his illness and self medicating.

Another break and he ends up back on lithium and this time with a good shrink and the acceptance that yes he along with three others in his family suffer from bipolar and it is a disease that must be managed and will never be cured.

I must say with his acceptance of his own illness comes an acceptance of his parent's illness and with this acceptance a sense of responsibility and love. I do not know if I would have the patience or the mental health needed to care for two parents who not only had issues related to age but also issues related to bipolar/schizophrenia especially when Lovelace was given limited tools to cope with life as a child.

If you are interested in mental health issues and how they affect individuals and families then you need to read this book. With that said I would not say this book was uplifting nor does it give a lot of hope. Lovelace does not have a life that I envy.

Medicine is often helpful in the treatment of mood cycling, Bipolar disorders, in children along with help for the parents in learning more effective ways of managing the behaviors the disorder tends to bring about. There are, however, some important obstacles that can prevent a child with such a problem for obtaining a thoughtful and accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Firstly, most parents know that young children can all be moody sometimes, Consequently, it is not unusual for parents to be slow to bring concerns about mood, as they may be impacting a child's behavior, to the attention of their pediatrician or to that of a mental health professional who has special expertise in dealing with children. Many parents, quite understandably, see the symptoms, are distressed by them, but persuade themselves that the child 'will grow out of it.' Maybe, and maybe not.

The risk of the condition being undiagnosed and untreated is great. Things tend to get worse and more difficult.

Parents and their fears and hopes are not the only obstacle to a child getting effective treatment for a bipolar disorder either. Pediatricians are, generally, not well trained or versed in the nuances of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, some Child Psychiatrists as well as Pediatricians are reluctant to utilize the class of medications most often effective with bipolar disorders, a class of medicines called, "Mood Stabilizers." This is understandable as few of these many medicines have been subjected to intensive clinical trials with children.

Physicians who use them with sparing cautiousness with children have found them to be often effective as a component of an overall treatment plan for the child. Having worked with such children and collaboratively with physicians who specialize in using medicines with them has confirmed this idea experientially for me over many years of direct clinical practice.

Often, children suffering from Bipolar Disorders are misperceived as being 'stubborn,' 'very moody,' 'manipulative,' 'provocative' or just plain 'bad.' This is an often preventable tragedy as where the condition truly exists, by definition, that patient, be they adult or child, lacks the biogenic capacity to fully defeat the disorder's impact no matter how motivated they may be.

Does Bipolarity exist in children? Most certainly.
Is it treatable? Most usually.
Will it self resolve without intervention? Possibly, but the likelihood is not promising.
Is it difficult to ask for help for a child? Always.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do may turn out to be the best.