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Old 08-07-2007, 09:42 AM   #1
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rose07 HB User
Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

As I read the posting of people who suffer from this illness, my heart goes out to them and I thought I’d share my story to give them hope so they can see that even though it may take some time to figure out the proper balance of medications, lifestyle, food, love, etc., there really, really is hope for a normal and fulfilled life. Today my son is almost 19; he lives a full and healthy life just like any teenager. If I didn’t tell you he was bipolar, you would never know. He is starting college this Fall and graduated from school with a 4.1 weighted GPA and honors. He has a girlfriend that adores him and so many friends, I have trouble keeping up with the names…but it wasn’t always like this; here is my story.

When my son was 9 years old he started running out of the house, acting up, always in trouble at school. At his school I felt like I was singled out as the mom of the “troubled kid”, the one that ended up in CSI almost daily. They kept asking what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t a good parent and the story goes on and on. When my son turned 13, my ex-husband couldn’t deal with it anymore and got himself a bimbo, bailed out on us and rode into the sunset.

Meanwhile, things got worse. I couldn’t understand what it was, I had never dealt with this illness so it was the blind leading the blind and as a single mom of two kids, without any child support…you can only imagine. Things got out of control, my son got into heavily smoking pot (now I understand he was trying to medicate himself), got arrested and things just kept spiraling out of control. His GPA went down to 1.1; he broke the record for skipping school so the school district kept harassing me “to do something about it”.

When my son turned 16, I realize things were going to get worse, not better. He got Baker Acted once by then; the school he attended kept sending him to a school for “troubled” kids…even though that absolutely and complete was the last place for him since it would had made matters worse, not better. So at that point I made a heart braking decision; I closed down my business, laid off 23 people, kept 1 person and moved my business into my house. Withdrew my son from school and decided to home school him…still thinking it was a combination of “bad friends” and a “behavior” problem; that he may be “acting up” because of the divorce.

The next few years were an endless story of therapists, psychiatrists, medications…nothing worked; the bottom line diagnosis was that I wasn’t a good parent (and I know I am a damn good one, so I knew in my heart that was not the reason). I nearly got my house foreclosed; I couldn’t keep up with my work and therefore with my bills since it took so much effort to keep my son safe. I had to file for bankruptcy because my medical bills were out of control…my life was out of control and I could not understand why. No one listened, no one understood, no one knew. Wrong diagnosis, after wrong diagnosis one day I was lucky enough to end up with a therapist that was bipolar himself, this was 2005 and my son was just turning 17. A day after meeting this therapist, my son tried to commit suicide and I Baker Acted him once again.

It took me nearly 5 years to put all the pieces together, saving my son became the meaning of my life. I dedicated endless hours to understand the illness, to accept it and to deal with it. One of the hardest things I had to live with was the fact that I had to understand that when he said hurtful things to me, he did not mean them and not taking them personally was a major, major step in the process. After realizing he was bipolar, I made a commitment to my son and to myself that he was going to live a fulfilled life and that he was not going to be a burden to society or the government; he was not going to live on disability nor was he going to feel sorry for himself. The first step was accepting the illness, then making sure that he accepted it and that it was just that and illness, it could have been diabetes or some other one; in his case it just happened to be that there was a chemical imbalance in his brain and that we simply needed to balance them, simple as that.

I have to tell you, that it takes inhuman amount of love, understanding, time, commitment, learning about the illness and perseverance. Not giving up when everything is going to hell is the key to battling this illness, you will eventually get it right but before getting it right you have to try numerous alternatives, doctors, and most importantly and uncanny decision that it will not defeat you, that you deserve better and that you CAN live a normal and healthy life once you put all the pieces together.

Today my son takes lots of vitamins, especially Omega-3; he eats healthy foods, goes to the gym daily; he has tons and tons of friends; he is drug free and takes 400 mg. of Equetro (200 in the morning and 200 before going to bed); he understand or at least is fully aware of potential triggers and avoids anything that may cause a bipolar episode. He understand his feelings so that when he sees a meltdown coming his way, we rehearsed numerous ways to deal with it and how he should proceed...I am 24/7 on call...but no longer afraid when the phone rings. He is a wonderful, loving son and I am blessed that it took an illness like this to bring the best out of him.

 
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Old 08-07-2007, 09:56 AM   #2
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Wow, that's great that your son turned out so well. I'm seventeen and things are really on-and-off stability-wise for me. I'm still working on getting the right meds and dealing with personal issues from my father to my future. I've finally learned that meds don't solve everything, but they are still going to be a major part of my life, as will be psychotalk therapy and working on coping skills to avoid self-injury behaviour. I was hospitalised last March and it really opened my eyes to what is really important - my health. Before that, my priority seemed to be everyone else's well-being and my schoolwork. My health had taken the backseat as if it wasn't important at all, but I was just avoiding it to avoid the pain and to pretend that the moodswings didn't exist...which really didn't work. :S But your story is hopeful and I'm sure others will find it just as uplifting.

~Paige
__________________
Bipolar Ultradian Cycler
400mg. Lamictal
600mg. Seroquel
1mg. Klonopin
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I'm not crazy ~ I'm mentally interesting!

 
Old 08-07-2007, 10:14 AM   #3
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Thank you soooo very much for sharing your story. Us moms on board here KNOW what you are talking about and we are all tenaciously doing all that we can do to make sure that our kids have the happy ending that you just described. Your story is filled with the hope and love that we all strive for as we bring our children through this storm that is in their brain....calming it and equipping them with all the tools needed to keep it at bay and from rising again to a point of affecting their lives in a destructive way.

As you say....they are truly capable through self awareness and the support of loved ones to lead wonderful productive lives.

Thank you so much Rose for sharing your story....it is well worth telling and you should really be proud of all that you have done to stand by your son in love and unconditional support.

You are truly a wonderful mom and your son is sooo very lucky to have you.

Love and many blessings to you ~ Goody

 
Old 08-07-2007, 10:39 AM   #4
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Rose,
Thank you for sharing your story. As Goody said--as a mom who is going through this with a child, there is nothing we won't do for our child to help them.....your son is lucky! If I thought that someday my daughter could be drug free and even partially drama-free----it boggles the mind.

You are amazing---and you give me hope.
Liz

 
Old 08-07-2007, 10:57 AM   #5
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Wend68 HB User
Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Hi Rose,

Welcome and thank you for your story! Wow, what a fantastic mum you are!! You should be so proud of yourself, your son is very lucky to have such a devoted mum!

It is so nice to hear of the success stories when so many on this board are struggerling to cope with this awfull illness whether they have BP or care for someone who has it!

I hope you keep posting, your experience and knowledge on this disease will be very much appreciated for those here who are still looking for stability!

wend x

 
Old 08-07-2007, 12:34 PM   #6
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Wend68:

It will be my pleasure to shed any little bit of light into this puzzling illness. As you can imagine there are hundreds of experiences therefore I will share them little by little. One of them was that I became obsessed with patterns; I watched when the meltdowns or episodes would take place. If there was anything specific that would trigger them. I kept charts of episodes and what had happened right before it triggered.

A few things that became incredibly obvious were things such eating patterns; I noticed that between 11 and 11:30 he would get very, very hungry and if he did not get food into his system at that moment, he would get very upset and as the anger grew he would start losing control. When I prepared his IEP at school, I made sure that the teachers would allow him to eat during this time whether it was lunch time or not and he carried (and still does) protein bars with him at all times.

Another one was nightmares. I began to realize that when he started having very vivid nightmares; it was an onset to a manic episode. Therefore every time he had a nightmare, he needed to tell me so we would know how to prevent an episode.

Another one that I recall vividly was early mornings. Waking up early is a major problem for bipolar people. I negotiated with the school that he'd be allowed to arrive to school half hour late without getting punished for it; we worked his entire schedule around it. I even took a lawyer with me to the ISP planning to make sure he was safe and that anything that might be a "trigger" could be prevented in case the school gave me a hard time.

 
Old 08-07-2007, 02:59 PM   #7
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Hi Rose,

I have read that getting good sleep and eating healthily and regularly is very important, that is a very good example of how a simple thing can have such an effect on someone who has this illness! It's good that your son was able to make you aware of the triggers so you could avoid an episode, communication is a big problem I have with my boyfriend who is BP1, we could avoid so many frustrating things that turn into bigger problems if only he would realise if he had communicated with me in the beginning then we could avoid alot of the times we fall out! When he starts to feel bad he tends to go very quiet, we live about 250 miles apart which doesn't help and when this happens I worry about if he is ok, when I don't get a reply I get very frustrated and end up having a go, then I feel bad as I then feel guilty for being mad at him and try to remember it's because he is not well and probably just needs to be alone and have some space until he feels better but it's so hard sometimes. I so wish he would just open up a little and let me know that he is ok.

wend x

 
Old 08-07-2007, 07:14 PM   #8
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langlee HB User
Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Dear Rose,

I just wanted to thank you for sending your post when you did. It came to me at a time when I really needed it and I appreciate it. It reminded me again that this is a journey and, like all journeys, it will have its obstacles and detours, but we are on a path towards better health for our children. We may be weary travellers at times (maybe most of the time), but until our children are where they need to be, we cannot rest.

Thanks for reminding me.

Hope, who is getting up off of the side of the road, dusting herself off, and moving forward again

 
Old 08-08-2007, 08:53 AM   #9
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langlee HB User
Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Rose,

I do have a question for you. What would you say was the turning point for your son? Obviously, you put a tremendous amount of time, unconditional love, and heart into helping him, but at some point, he had to own the process of helping himself to get better. When do you think that was?

Any insight would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Hope

 
Old 08-08-2007, 10:02 AM   #10
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Hope:

That is actually an excellent question. I believe it was when he hit bottom (legally, emotionally, financially, etc.) and he realized that his future was truly and honestly in his hands and that he was the only one who had power over his destiny. By this time he had experienced both worlds, the good and the bad, and he realized that the decision was riding on his shoulders, not anyone else's.

It was only then that it all came together. He had to choose between having a normal life, be a college kid, have a career, etc., etc....but that would take work, not just physical and mental but that also meant quitting drugs, taking his medication religiously, changing his eating and sleeping habits, learning how to manage his illness, etc., etc....or he could keep going the way he was and have a troubled life, who knows what dark destiny was awaiting for him just around the corner...but eventually he had to see both worlds...the ultimate decision was his and only his.

 
Old 08-08-2007, 10:21 AM   #11
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langlee HB User
Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Thanks for responding to this. As a parent, was there anything you were able to do to expedite the process? There are days I can see my son having the wonderful life he was meant to have and days where I fear the dark side of him will carry him into an abyss he can't climb out of.

My son seems to teeter on both sides, still trying to stay in his "regular" life, but is drawn to a darker, more dangerous place. He does not exercise good judgment in terms of keeping himself safe and, although he has done really well conquering the substance abuse, I know it still calls to him at times.

When did you start to see the change and what were the signs?

Again, any insight would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Hope

 
Old 08-08-2007, 10:29 AM   #12
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Rose ~ Your story is soo inspiring and gives me hope for both my daughters. It seems that we have just reach stability with our 16 year old but she still possesses that "emotional immaturity" which makes me worry about her having insight enough to realize how far we have come and the challenges that lie ahead in maintaining that stability. She still is of a "teenage mind" and we know how that in itself could be her greatest enemy. Just a little over a week ago she snuck out of the house for a night of fun with her BF and admitted to having a little tequila. On our way to the pdoc yesterday we spoke about drugs and alcohol and how she had so much more to lose than her friends....that I understood how teens like to experiment and party but how very dangerous that could be in terms of mixing with her meds and affecting her overall stability. I also shared with her what many share here about drugs throwing them into psychosis or a delusional state. She responded by telling me that she had that happen to her a while ago when she drank.....that she felt like her bones were coming out of her body and she thrashed the entire night and that her sister helped her through and how scary it was. I commented on how there is a chance that she could have a permanent psychosis and that she should take this all seriously, that her entire life could change in an instant for making one stupid decision.

So.....we still have far to go and hopefully my daughter will in the next few years come to the realization for herself how precious her stability is and how far she has come to ever put it in jeopardy. I worry about her going away to college and all the partying and her not being able to resist that. But right now we are concentrating on the two years I have left to educate her and help provide her with the insight and reinforce her self awareness so that she will remain stable and have the great future that she is sooo deserving of.

I have another daughter who is a beautiful 18 year old who is about to begin her second year of college. She did wonderfully her first year except I do have my concerns about her having some underlying condition that affects her behavior that I have concerns about since she was 14.....she gets great grades, holds a steady job but is not one to follow rules, is always in the fast lane, parties and takes risks that worry me....seems that she is experiencing both the good and bad side of life as you say. Your story regarding your son gives me hope that perhaps my older daughter will come to a crossroad in which she must choose what she will have to do with her life as well. And I realize that now that she is almost 19 she will have to come to that realization herself. She knows I love her and have my concerns, I just don't know what else I should do for her.....she doesn't see anything wrong but when life slows down I get a glimpse that she realizes that something is up as well. As long as she keeps her life busy all is okay....when it is quiet she is miserable and would "rather die".

So....Rose, your story is full of hope for both of my daughters. And you came here just at the right moment, as Hope already shared, when I needed a good dose of that hope!!!

God's blessings to you for fighting the fight and for getting your son to where he is today. My hopes are that the same will happen for our kids that they may have the strength and wisdom that you have instilled in your son to have the wonderful life that he has today.

((((HUGS)))) ~ Goody

 
Old 08-08-2007, 11:02 AM   #13
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

One thing I have learned through this process is that no matter how much we love them and how much we do for them, eventually it has to be their call. I remember reading a book early in the process (I am breaking my head trying to remember which one it was since I read so many) but I remember one thing vividly and I have lived by that rule ever since this book came my way: If whatever my son is doing, will put him or others in danger then I take severe action, otherwise I don't let it get to me. This does not apply to normal kids, I have a 13 year old that lives with stricter rules that apply to most kids (I made sure he fully understood his brother’s condition and why I treated his brother differently so that he would not resent me or him; my little one was a major player in the process).

So, there is no black and white rule, there is no speeding process, there are no shortcuts. This is a lifetime illness; this is not going away tomorrow or day after (unless somebody comes up with a cure). Therefore Hope, don't look at it as a destination, but more as a life style. There are many, many pieces; medication and therapy are just two of the many pieces…them alone don't do anything. Allow your kids to make their mistakes, allow them to be kids...only and only when you see they are in danger to themselves or to others then take severe and drastic actions, otherwise let little things be just that…”little things”, otherwise you are going to drive yourself insane. We live a happy, loving, normal, full life; a far cry from the tantrums, yelling, crying, punching holes in the wall, running away…sometimes they feel like far, far away dreams.

 
Old 08-08-2007, 11:32 AM   #14
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Wow! Your son has definitely overcomed the odds. I'm glad he has/had the courage to let you in on his problems. When I was in high school, I would skip school daily, smoke in the hallways, and start fights. Not to mention my hypersexuallity. The thing is, no teachers ever told my parents. I never got in any trouble at school for doing the things I would do. I remember my junior year in high school. There was a peticular class I would skip. I would actually go to class, ask if I could go to the restroom and not come back. Eventually, the teacher caught on and he would tell me I couldn't go. I went anyway. He never sent me to the principal's office, never called my parents. We had a security guard in the back of the school and one in the front of the school. I knew exactly how to work the one in the back of the school. I never had a "pass" to leave, I just told him I had to leave. Usually with a cigarette in my mouth. I had really good grades up until that year. I had never done any drugs either. That all changed as well. I definitely had more mania than depression, but knowing what I know now, I would say that I was rapid cycling. I take all of my medications as prescribed. I will admit that occasionally I forget a dose. I take a multi-vitamin and walk for excercise. I have found that exposure to sunlight is very important. I try to get atleast an hour a day. The last several years I have also splurged and taken myself on fantastic vacations. I went to Turks and Caicos last year and The Dominican Republic this year. I have also been to Aruba. I "glow" for a month after I go on vacation. I go by myself. I don't want to answer to anybody, worry about what anybody else wants to do, etc. It's just me and the beach for a week. It's very theraputic. Anyway...I've gotten carried away again. Good job with your son. You ARE a great mother.

 
Old 08-08-2007, 11:43 AM   #15
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Re: Mom of bipolar teenager – I’d like to share my story

Goody:

One important part of the process was meeting my son half way. Meaning I made sure I ALWAYS listened to him, whether I agreed or not. I had few rules that were important to me (as I explained in the previous posting) and I made sure he was 100% clear on what those important rules were.

The first thing I did is never, ever let him control my emotions (as you are aware ODD is a big part of bipolar). I listened stoically and objectively, once I understood what he wanted, I negotiated with him so that he felt his feelings and wishes were respected and at the same time he learned that life is a two way street.

This accomplished two things, one he learned to respect my rules (they were few but totally non-negotiable) and he learned that you don't have to scream and yell to get what you want as long as what you want is not unreachable, destructive or unsafe. This took a lot out of me because I also had to learn to give in on things that were trivial but that sometimes as parents we don't see that way...I guess an example was that if he had 3 clean tests he was allowed to have a tattoo on his back (something he wanted for a long time)...I hate tattoos but having him drug free was more important so I also learned the difference between triviality and what really mattered...I can go on and on but this brought so much peace, communication and love into our lives...we became so close that at one point he chose to stop the therapy because our relationship was so close, he felt he accomplished more talking to me than talking to a total stranger.

 
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