Sunday, November 18, 2007


I was recently surfing the internet when I saw a shocking headline. A thirteen-year-old girl had committed suicide due to a broken internet relationship. This girl had been sending instant messages to a young boy named Josh. After weeks and weeks of sharing all her secrets with this wonderful friend he told her that he did not want to be her friend because he had heard that she did not treat her friends well. She hung herself in her bedroom.

As it turns out there was never a boy named Josh, there was only a former friend, the friends mother and another neighbor. These three had created the boy to trick the girl. The mother said that she was involved because she wanted to know what the dead girl was saying about her own daughter on line.

Many of us have let the computer become a friend to our bipolar child. As I am sure this girls parents did the same. My own child spends a lot of time talking to friends on line. I had not thought about how susceptible he might be to a situation such as this. We all warn our children about pedophiles and adults that might pretend to be kids. I had never considered warning my child about other children. Yet he is probably much more likely to be harmed by a friend than a stranger. Bipolar children have such hostile and fluctuating tempers that they often anger other students without even realizing it.

When a child like mine and like this girl who choose to take her own life finally make a friend, weather it be on line or in life, they often devote themselves so totally to that person that the loss of that person can be overwhelming and unbearable. Bipolar children and teens never do anything half way. What does that leave when things change? We can hope that we have given them the coping mechanisms but that is not always the case.

What will I do differently having read this story? I will spend a little more time with my son so I have a better idea who he is speaking to on line. I will tell him about this young girl and discuss why she did not have to die. I would advise all of you to do the same.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Letter From A Reader

I recently received an email from a woman in Indiana. I am sure that many of you have words that can help her. I hope that by now she has found the DBSA support group in Valpo and is doing better.
She writes:
Not sure that this site is what I was exactly looking for. I have Bi-Polar 1 disorder and am looking for others to connect with to see why I have the social problems I do. I see a psychiatrist but I still run into several panic attacks and I depend on my significant other so much that he is feeling like I don't trust him. I am honestly just scared when he is away that I will have an attack and not keep it under control. What to do here in N.W. Indiana??????

First I would recommend the portion of the equation that you did not mention; the therapist. I would recommend someone that you are comfortable with and can connect with. Of course, Dr. Mary Zemansky is the first that comes to my mind. She is located in Chesterton and she is excellent. There are many good doctors and the most important thing is that you find one. The medication is just one piece and you have to connect all of the pieces to get the whole picture. I would also suggest a book entitled "Loving Someone Who Is Bipolar (Understanding and Helping your Partner)" by Julia Fast. This book will be good for you and your partner to both share.
You have to understand what your partner goes through. It is such a difficult disorder to share with someone. Even for those of us who are afflicted ourselves and have lived with Bipolar Disorder our whole lives it is difficult. At times I have to take a step back from my child and see that the behavior I am experiencing is the disorder not the child. Our spouses can be overwhelmed by our need for reassurance and constant companionship one second and the total lack of desire to be in the same room with them the next second.
Make an effort to see things from his side of the issue and try to find an out that will help you build your confidence. A DBSA meeting is a good place to find others who will relate to what you are experiencing and offer helpful advice. Any small group environment where you can meet others is a good place to start.
I hope this helps and I hope you have met with the great people at one of the support groups in your area.

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year, New Medication

New year, New medicine. We are trying a new medication. Due to set backs and difficulties during October my son has undergone some changes in medication. He is still using the Lithium that was started over a year ago and the Lamictal. He was taken off Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Strattera, and Benzapin. The relatively new Em/Sam patch was added. It is an MAOI so we have to be aware of what he eats and other over the counter medications he might take.

I began this post more than three months ago. My son is still on the EM/SAM patch and doing well. He is doing better in school and showing more interest and patients than with previous medication changes. So far we have not seen any major side-effects. The trembling that had been in his hands for the past several years has gone and he is once again able to write. I am not going to say that EM/SAM is a miracle drug; not by any means. I am realistic enough to know that there is no permanent "fix." As with all the other medications this is the honeymoon and it will end when the levels of this drug become toxic or he has a hormonal change that causes the results to change. For now I am thankful for this time. I have a child, who is for the moment, a normal teenager. He goes out and shoots hoops with the neighbor kids. I can leave him at home alone for an hour or two and not worry about what I will find when I get home.

I am sure all of you realize, but I will say it again, just because this combination of drugs is working for my child there is no guarantee that it will work for your child or even continue to work for mine. Bipolar disorder is very fickle. It is so unpredictable and after all of these years all that we can really count on is the fact that what we expect to happen will not be the outcome.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Set Backs

I have finally finished school and will attend graduation on November 3rd. It has been a long and exhausting process, but for now it is complete. My son has suffered a set back. After doing so well for the past year and getting off to a fabulous start at the begining of the school year. Perhaps it was the stress from the school load, the medication or just the change of season. I am not sure we will ever really understand what happens when the mind fractures or how to put it back together. Jordan, now 13, was on seven medications and had been stable and doing very well. Now he is down to three medications. When he experienced his latest episode the only answer was to eliminate a medication. There were too many in his system to add another safely. The psychiatrist chose to add the new EM/SAM patch which is an MAO Inhibotor. So that meant eliminating Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Strattera, and a portion of the Lamictal. It was a rough task, but Jordan survived it. He is becoming more stable on the new medication. He is back to school, but it will be a while before he reaches where he was before this latest episode. It is difficult when we can not understand what has happened inside the mind and why it took place so suddenly without notice. Perhaps it has something to do with the seasonal changes or puberty but I guess we will never know.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Only One Child, A Million Teachers

Thank you all for haning in there and continuing to check this blog on a regular basis regardless of the lack of new information. I am now in my last semester of school and have maintained a 4.0 so you know why I don't have the time to blog. As for life in Texas it is going well. Jordan managed to finish the seventh grade on the A/B honor roll. This just goes to prove to everyone that when someone tells you that your child can't learn and will never be sucessful don't believe them and let someone keep your child from being sucessful.

I am glad that I removed Jordan from the school he was in. I know that not everyone can move to another state, but you can make changes in your child's education that will help your child to be sucessful. Even if you can't afford a private school you do have a right to move your child to another school in the district where he/she has a better chance to get what they really need. It is really difficult to fight the school district even if you have experience in the area of education. The special education team in Indiana really made my life and my child's life miserable. As I look back now and have had more experience with a district where things are done by the book it is truely appaling what we went through in Indiana.

I want to assure all of the parents of a bipolar child, who are still struggling on a daily basis, that there is hope. I had been to the end of my rope and was ready to throw in the towel when I made a change in my childs educational future. Of course, I had made other changes prior to this one, that were not as sucessful, but I kept trying. I believed in my child and his incredibly intelligent mind. I refused to let educators tell me what was best for my child. They assured me that they knew all about "children like mine" and had worked with hundreds of them. I was told that my child was simply manipulative and needed to be punished until he learned to do as he was told. In Texas the educational system truely did understand my child and choose to educate him as opposed to disipline him. He was not suspended by the Texas schools but remained at school to learn and he did learn.

Jordan has grown so much in the last year and I no longer dread the beginning of the school year. I know that he will continue to thrive. We still have set backs, after all, the fact that he is bipolar has not changed; just the way he is being educated. What I really want to tell all of you is don't give up on your child. The fight can be hard and at times it seems you will never win, but press on because your child is the most important person in the world. Don't ever let anyone tell you that any child is incapable of learning. Perhaps the teacher's style is just not conducisive to your child's style of learning. There are millions of teachers but there is only one child, yours. Good luck to all as we move into the new school year.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Book Recommendation

What It Takes To Pull Me Through was written by David L. Marcus and published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. This was an inspiring book about the lives of teens, four in particular, who are committed to a fourteen-month program for troubled youth. Marcus guides us through their treatment and turmoil from within their group. Marcus tells us profound secrets of teens balancing on the edge between life and death. These teens have experienced events that steal childhood and force adult issues on children. Drugs, pregnancy, rape, overwhelming depression, mental disorders, eating disorders, sexual encounters, parental death, and teens out of control are some of the issues brought to light. Marcus guides us to feel the pain and the triumph of each teen. We yearn for them to succeed and we feel their anguish as our own when they experience a set-back.

In my personal opinion this is a heart wrenching story of kids gone wrong. It displays not only what can happen in the shadow of inner-cities, but also in the wealthiest suburbs where children are given every advantage. I would recommend What It Takes to Pull Me Through to every parent, especially those who believe tragedy only happens to other families, parents who think they know their children, parents who "“know", without a doubt, that their children always will come to them with every problem: this book is for them. This book illustrates what every parent fears most, the loss of a child. A loss, not to a tragic car accident, but to the slow and painful self-destruction of a teenager at the precipice of life and death; a childhood that never will be fulfilled due to over-indulgence by a consumer society that teaches money can buy happiness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Dumbing Down of American Education

What has happened to No-Child-Left-Behind? It began with so much promise but seems to have lost some of its zeal in the shadow of Iraq or Afghanistan. We may be able to turn out soldiers in America, but we slowly seem to be losing the ability to turn out scholars. No where has this become more apparent to me than a private college in Dallas, Texas.

The counselor was extremely helpful and worked diligently to get me enrolled. He gave me the information packet and assured me that it was a great program. I felt that I asked all the right questions. Is the program recognized by the ABA? He assured me that the program was accredited and job placement was assured, but not guaranteed. There is no accreditation. Upon seeing the counselor a few weeks into the program,he discovered that I was unhappy and he apologized profusely. He said that he just tells people what the college instructs him to. I even spoke to the President of the school to bring an issue to her attention, she assured me that she would call or email me with her findings. This was just more lip-service; I never heard from her.

I began the program with high hopes and high expectations, concerned that I would find it difficult to maintain my 4.0 in what sounded like such a comprehensive program. I naively assumed that the program would be worth what I considered the exorbitant price of nearly $30K for a two-year degree. I justified the cost in my mind by the convenience of the class schedule. It was geared toward adults with children and with jobs who were considering a career change.

I had researched and done my homework -or so I believed- until the first week of classes. I assured myself that I was over-reacting. There was no reason to panic just because many students in my Composition I class didn’t know what a verb was and could not pick one out in a sentence. The instructor seemed knowledgeable and professional, yet he too "dumbed down" his class. There would be no homework, nor would there be any long term papers; we would do most class work in pairs or small groups and the way to get an “A” would be to show up for class. The class continued to struggle through the syntax of the English language and I became the "floater," that would be the person who went around and helped others with their work. I knew I had much to learn about writing, but little of it would happen in this class.

The program director teaches my first class of the day. On a good day she is 30 minutes late. The first hour is usually lost to waiting and then conversation. Sometimes the second hour is dedicated to learning, but not always. I am continually asking myself, "What I am doing here?" a question the instructor asked me after a few days in class. An Intro Class was not what I needed after having finished the first year of a similar program in Indiana, but it was a requirement. I couldn't help but wonder how this school developed such a program! There are so many incredible programs in other areas that they could have modeled, but instead they seem to have flung together a high-priced imitation that is severely lacking in credibility and substance.

I have consistently dedicated myself to learning, whether I was enrolled in school or not I feel there is something to learn every day. Each book I read and every situation I encounter offers some knowledge that I didn't have before. Perhaps now I am to learn tolerance, patience-- or new ways to waste time and money! It is a shame that colleges don't have to abide by the same standards as public schools. I am too old to be a soldier.