I just joined these forums and have a couple questions, though I guess they all boil down to one. Am I using bipolar as an excuse or not? I mean, at seventeen, a junior in high school, school is little more than a stressful pit of exhaustion, and that's for most people. For me, it seems every little thing builds on the last, making it difficult to get through some days. I'm on Abilify and Clonapin as needed and have been going through multiple med adjustments for two years now (diagnosed in October of '04). I hate telling my teachers I'm bipolar because then, for a while at least, they're worried something will happen in the classroom when I do my best to contain any outbursts, which doesn't always works, but works most of the time. I'm manic more than depressed and mixed more than manic. I tell my teachers I'm bipolar and when I can't do my homework because of an episode, I tell them that, too, but I always worry that they think I'm using it as an excuse. I'm taking advanced classes that my pdoc and tdoc both warned me would be a challenge while battling unstable bipolar, but I insisted and it's too late to back out now. Now that I'm through with my ramble, any advice would help...I know there probably aren't many, if any, teenagers on this board, but anything would help at this point, I think.
Welcome to the board.
There are a couple teens that post on this board, but not real often. Perhaps your post will encourage them to post more.
As the mom of a 25-year old with bp it sounds to me like you have a handle on your situation and are dealing with it. My son wasn't diagnosed until his junior year of college. Looking back I realize that he was manic most of his junior and senior years of high school. He was a high achiever, took many AP classes, played hockey at an elite level, was heavily involved in extra-curriculars, etc. I thought his behavior was just pretty typical for kids in his situation, and when he was up through the night, I just thought he was staying awake because he had work that he needed to finish. I didn't really worry about him as he appeared to be doing so well. Of course, he never told us that he had been very depressed the preceeding two years, or that he suspected something was wrong. We were very ignorant!! Somehow he was able to handle it all -- got into a top liberal arts college, finished in 4 years and graduated with honors. I guess he some how figured out how much he could handle without totally going over the edge. Life became much more difficult for him once out of college when he had to adhere to a "normal" 8-5 work schedule and start living in the "real" world." It took him the better part of 3 years and I think 4 pdocs to finally find the right mix of meds. He is stable now and is learning to live on a more traditional schedule.
You may be using your diagnosis as a bit of an excuse, but it sounds like you are mostly making it work for you. As you stated, being a teen isn't easy under the best of circumstances. Being bp on top of it makes life that much more of a challenge. If it helps any, going to college is usually easier. You can arrange your schedule so it fits your lifestyle and you aren't in class for as many hours a day.
Keep posting with your questions and comments. There are lots of great and supportive people on this particular board who will have things to share with you. regards, Tsohl
I was pretty much going to say everything the last post said. So i won't repeat it. From my own experience as a younger person with BP it's hard. I wasn't diagnosed until the first semester of my junior year in college so it has only been 5 months on the meds. Going through high school is hard while being BP. As someone who was but didn't know it... the whole thing was frustrating and no one could understand why I was so unstable. But I got through it. Give your teachers time to figure out how to deal with it. Or sit down and talk to them and tell them the best way to help you. People can be ignorant about almost anything, including BP, until they've had the opportunity to deal with it personally. The advanced classes are hard. But that doesn't mean you can't do it. I took multiple AP classes and did just fine in the end. College has been easier. I don't have to pay attention for long stretches of time, I can plan my classes around when I know I'll be ok, I know when I can get the most work done, and there are a lot of resources and people who are willing to help, especially at a small college.
Paige: About your advanced classes, I wonder if it really IS too late to back out, or post-pone? Only you can determine if you really want and are able to push through, or if you need a break so you don’t hurt yourself badly. Perhaps you already have experienced severe stress triggering severe episodes. I was so overwhelmed at 17 but didn’t have the diagnosis yet to explain some of how I felt and behaved. When it really did get to be all too much for me my senior year (have fibromyalgia, too), and I tried to go on a home school program for a quarter, some of my teachers accused me of just being manipulative. Ouch! In college, I would have a session of all A’s, and the next of all F’s—couldn’t withdraw so I wouldn’t lose financial aid. In the very long run, all that matters is taking the best care of yourself that you can, so you SURVIVE, and sometimes that can mean saying “no.” Oh so much harder than it sounds, I know, and painful to have to admit to limitations when you are young and should be on top of the world. Yet in one sense, you are fortunate to be learning this at your age, before (I assume) you have to worry about rent and such. You get a head start in trying to live successfully with this illness. I am so glad you have taken the plunge and post here, for the boards are a tremendous source of support and wisdom, and if you can’t have a physical support group, now you have a cyber one.
You posted on another thread and it sounds like you have ALOT on your plate. Have you talked to your guidance counselor? If you are not classifed, there is something called a 504B that allows you to get some extra time and some adjustments so you can function better. Try to enlist the help of someone in the school - maybe the school psychologist or social worker - someone who can help you navigate through the school system and understands some of the issues you are dealing with at home.
It sounds like you have several full-time jobs right now and it is important that you ask for help so you don't have to shoulder everything alone.
You are in my heart, Paige. Please let me know if there is any way I can help.
I am a HS teacher and a mother of a 17 year old BP teenage girl. She, like you has taken on some tough courses becuase she is capable of doing the work. There are times when things get really overwhelming for her(like you). I have spoken to her teachers and have had to educate them on BP disorder. Very few teachers understand what the disorder is all about. However, they have been great at granting time extentions for her and have been as supportive as they can be.
My daughter many times hands in things late but at least she does them.
As a teacher myself, I will tell you that we have dealines to meet as well. But I have bent over backwards for kids that really show me that they are not taking my kindness for weakness.
Tell your teachers that you have taken on these courses against medical advice becuase you feel you can do the work. That you understand that they have deadlines to meet and that you will do your best to hand in your work in a timely meanner. (we feel good when our students understand how overwhelmed we are)
Give them a print out on BP disorder ( a brief one that describes what you go through) and tell them to please read it when they have a chance. tell them that you are concerned that they might think that you are using your illness as an excuse. (That goes a long way with us teachers)
My daughter has had my support and I have been an advocate for her. How are your parents with you?
My daughter is on abilify and lamictal. She has been stabilized now for a few months (she's unhappy about the weight gain on abilify-but her pdoc is trying to change her meds).
Paige, you sound like a very responsible young lady. Go to your teachers, they will listen. Try to get yourself stabilized. Don't give up on those meds and try to get your parents to speak to your teachers. (we teachers listen to parents and believe me, we have heard it all).
You should also look into a 504 plan. It is for students just like you. By law, I have to make sure that all the modifications on the 504 plan are met. (Your modifications would include time extentions). Go to your school psych. or counselor. ask for a 504 plan. It is your right!
I hope this helps. You did a good thing by joining this message board. we are here for you.
I have given my teachers a print-out on bipolar, and they do their best to understand - it's just hard for them sometimes. Most things I hand in on time or as close to as possible. I really appreciate a teacher's point of view on this, though, because it does help.
I'll ask my guidance counselor about a 504 plan as soon as possible. I actually talked to Mom about it last night...She's doing what she can for me, but she doesn't really get the whole IEP thing. I think she's under the same impression I was under until recently - that a 504 or IEP is just for handicaps like Down Syndrome and mental retardation and the like. My dad's not much help...he knows I'm bipolar, but isn't really involved in our lives enough to really get the full meaning of the word.
I think part of my problem was coming off of the Lamictal, which was helping, but I started having side effects so had to stop. I am still on the Abilify, and now Clonapin as needed for anxiety...I saw pdoc today and that's when she gave me the Clonapin, so we'll see what that does.
I don't know as much as I should about the programs, but my understanding is the IEP only comes through a classification process, which takes time and provides an extensive structural change, if needed, but the 504 can happen quickly. It is not subject to the same intensity of exploration that the classification process is and that the guidance counselor can request it him/herself. (does not require the entire Child Study team)
There are others who can speak more intelligently than me on this subject, but this is what my son's school has told me.
Good luck. The 504 might be just the ticket. (By the way, with a diagnosis of bipolar, you most likely could be classified, but you might not need that anyway)
There are several moms on this board (I'm thinking of Hope and Goody, who is away this week, in particular, but there are probably others, too) who have kids that are high school age and who are in the throws of trying to find the right meds to treat their bipolar. They both have checked into the various programs that are available and have lots of good information. So I would encourage you to post with your questions, no matter how small or trivial you might think they are! They both have big hearts and have lots of good advice. There really are a lot of resources out there. It's a matter of knowing about them and how to access them. Hope you're having a good day. Regards, Tsohl
We haven't heard from you in awhile. I was thinking about you and was wondering how you are doing and how things are with your mom. This can be a tough time of year. Please know that we're here for you and hope things are going ok. best regards, Tsohl
Things are still rocky here, if not worse. Mom's and my therapist came and took all excess meds. from mom because apparently she was thinking about od'ing. The therapist and I had a bit of a run in and not sure if I want to see her again - she's done nothing but help in the past, but this time it just upset me...probably because I needed it, but for now, I don't want to see her anymore. School's been hard, but the break is finally here. I scraped my arm twice in the last week purposefully, though without drawing blood, from the stress. I've since removed the gadgets I used from my immediate reach. Haven't told mom - she has plenty else on her plate at the moment.
And talked to my school counselor about a 504 Plan and she said that seeing as my teachers are nothing but understanding, it wouldn't really be needed but to pursue it if I really felt it necessary. I'm not sure if I will or not. She was saying it's a really long process and wouldn't even go into effect until my senior year...but she's very supportive of whatever I decide to do.
I'm on Ativan during the day and Klonapin at night for anxiety and it's semi-working...when I remember to take it. I have difficulty remembering the daytime Ativan because it's been weeks since I was on a daytime med.
I think that's about it....There might be more that I don't remember...if so, I'll post later.
I am far from an expert on meds, but I don't think you are on any mood stabilizer. The two drugs you mentioned are usually used for anxiety. Do you see a psychiatrist as well as the therapist that you mentioned? It sounds like all the stress with your mom and school is catching up with you and that's why you had a brush with cutting. Please mention this to your health counselor soon. I think you need to try some new meds. If you can get a handle on the feelings of wanting to self-harm before you really get involved in it, it will be much easier to avoid the behavior in the long run. Please keep posting and I hope you'll look into finding some new meds that will help you to feel better very soon. I'm sure things seem very bleak at the moment, but you can feel and be much better. Know that you're in my thoughts. Best, Tsohl
I second Tsohl's recommendations about the meds. Even if you were not bipolar yourself, the stress of dealing with everything on your plate could cause you to falter. Finding the right meds to help you is necessary for your well-being.
You were extremely smart to get rid of the things that you used to scrape yourself. Self-injury is a very dangerous path and it is far too easy to fall victim to it. Definitely mention it to your therapist.
In terms of the 504 - my son's school led us to beleive it was not a long process. However, sounds like your guidance counselor and teachers are being supportive. You might want to ask your guidance counselor if you can get the process started, especially if it takes a long time, so it's avaialbe when and if you need it. If you don't need, all the better, but you don't want to be in a situation where you do and you can't get it. There is also information about the 504 online.
Sorry to hear that things are not in a good place right now, but keep posting. We are all here to help in any way we can. Hopefully, the vacation week will give you a much-needed break.
I'm also on Abilify...Lamictal was working as well for a while, but then I started having side effects and when I stopped that, things started getting worse...Currently, I'm on Trazedone for sleep, Clonapin for anxiety at night, Abilify for a stabiliser, and Ativan for anxiety during the day. Since I started the Ativan, things have started to get better. I can definitely see a difference when I'm on it vs. when I've skipped it (it's an as-needed basis).
I know the self injury path is a dangerous one - a good friend of mine did it for a while but finally quit. It got bad with her for a while, though, so I've seen what it can do. Aside from the occasional slip-up, I'm pretty good about not using that as a coping method - I usually binge on caffeine instead. :S
I'll look into getting a 504 Plan started...Hopefully I won't need it, but it might help me get disability options in college also...Thanks for the advice, and I'll keep you posted as much as possible.
Today went pretty good actually. First good day in a while. Not sure I'm ready for Christmas, but it'll come whether or not I'm ready so I will take it one step at a time and get through the day as always.