October 21, 2010

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop 10/21/10 - Fearing for The Boy's Safety is My Job

It's Thursday, so it must be time to play along with Mama Kat and her Writer's Workshop.

The prompt I chose this week: A time I feared for the safety of a loved one.

I've written many times about The Boy, and his challenges.

Mental illness is a bitch.

Since The Boy was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in February of 2002, there hasn't been a single day that I haven't feared for his safety - afraid that his illness would overwhelm his mind, and cause him to take his own life.

Nothing in life prepares you to deal with a six-year old who attempts to jump out a second-story window. I just grabbed him, pulled him in, and locked that window tight.

Or one who, in third grade, asks the school principal to call me so I can take him to a locked ward because all of his Spelling sentences were about suicide. He was admitted to a children's psychiatric unit that day.

He's medicated and those meds are carefully monitored, but I don't think he has had a symptom-free day. His Asperger's kind of complicates his diagnosis. And when we add the angst and moodiness of adolescence, it's impossible to know if a symptom is normal, or something that means a call to his psychiatrist.

I fear that his medication will cease to work. He's been on any number of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants. As he has grown physically, many adjustments in medications and dosages have been made. It's a balancing act - not enough of the drug, and he has a relapse; too much of any one drug, or a combination of drugs, and he's risking damage to his internal organs.

Lithium, which has worked for many patients, used to work for The Boy - until a doctor prescribed him a toxic dose. 

And even though the medications have changed him, and have scary side effects, I am grateful that they exist. So far, he's had seven admissions to psychiatric units to adjust the levels of the various drugs they want to try.

When he's in the hospital, I can worry a little less. He is safe there - and he can't get out. All personal belongings are searched to eliminate anything that could be used as a means to commit suicide. Shoelaces are removed, belts are prohibited. I even had to remove the spiral binding from a notebook before they'd let him have it.

Bipolar disorder is a bitch. And early-onset bipolar disorder is a more severe version of the disease.

He talks about suicide on a regular basis. It's up to me to decide whether it's just a fleeting feeling, or something to worry about.

The fact that he is ultra-impulsive makes even those fleeting feelings potentially dangerous. I ask him to promise not to do anything drastic - if it be for an hour, or a day.

I am ashamed to say that I use mother guilt as a deterrent. I have told him that if he dies, I will never really get over it, and will never really smile again.

I tell him about all the people who love him, and how they will miss him, and will not understand why he selected such a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

He used to try holding his breath, hoping that he'd die from lack of oxygen.

He tried to hang himself with his Nintendo DS car charger cord.

He's tried to drown himself in the bathtub.

He's lain down in the middle of the road, and hoped that cars would run over him.

He's threatened to stab himself in the chest. He's held a knife against his throat.

He's very anxious. His 'fight or flight' reaction generally trends toward flight - he sometimes bolts into traffic, even now.

How can I not be afraid for his safety?

Between ten and fifteen percent of bipolar disorder patients successfully commit suicide.

This study didn't help lessen my worries.  

I am grateful that The Boy takes his medication faithfully. He tolerates the drugged feeling and the hand and body tremors.

I had read that during adolescence, kids don't want to continue their medication - and typically, at age 16 in most states, there isn't anything a parent can do if their child chooses to stop treatment.

I am proof-positive that worry does not cause gray hair - God knows I've earned a headful.

And one of my lingering fears? Who will take care of The Boy when I'm no longer here?


  1. I can't imagine how hard it must be, but your love for him is so very apparent.

    And you just had to throw that last line in there huh? You just had to bring me to tears!

  2. I admire your strength and determination. I know what it's like when they go off of their meds, and mine are just ADD. Yours must be ten times what mine are. You are a great mom to stay on top of it all. And, yes, your love is quite obvious and I'm sure he is aware of it.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Oh my goodness. I saw your blog title and thought you must be hilarious...and you might be. But, this post isn't and I wasn't expecting it. My heart aches for you. I can't even begin to imagine what you must go through on a daily basis.

  4. I also, am amazed at your life. I am so sorry for the boy, and wish I had the answers for you. Be assured that we all care so much, and will be here in 'blog' land for you.

  5. Where is in the parenting book does it show you how to deal with this? Seriously, the worry that parents have to endure is never ending. I know you and your son were chosen for each other and the love you obviously have for him must be a comfort for him. Sending my best vibes you way- thanks for sharing.

  6. Reading this just breaks my heart, for you and your son. The worries you face daily have got to be so exhausting. I wish there was something the doctors could really do for him. *hugs*

    Stopped by via Mama Kat.

  7. I cant even begin to imagine being in your shoes & the fear you must have for your child. I know mental illness has such so much misunderstood about it - but for you, its still your baby, who is just suffering...

    what a strong women you are

  8. Total *hugs*
    I've read a few of your blog posts, (I just LOVE the June Freakin Cleaver title) and I guess never realized you were going through this, or at least not to this extent.
    If you ever need a shoulder, I'm a good listener. I was never the parent of a bipolar child, but I was a rather suicidal teen, and that aside... I'm just a good listener. Take some time for you (when you can) He obviously takes a lot of care and close watching. But you can't take care of your loved ones unless you take care of you.
    loves and best wishes

  9. I am sitting and crying at work!!!! I cant believe that this is so much to deal with and the feelings you have to juggle for both you and your son. I cant imagine what you are going through every single day and all I can give you is a prayer that God will keep you through the tough times! *HUGS* tissue please

  10. my, my, "Ms. Cleaver",, I came back to read this I missed this yesterday. My, my,,

  11. Hold on tight, to the Boy and your love for him. Sending positive vibes your way. This is the most poignant post I've ever read. Thank you, thank you!

  12. I'm sitting here crying. The only thing I can think of to do is pray for y'all and I will.

  13. This just hits me hard in the heart to read this. I don't know how you do it and manage to stay sane. Hugs to you and the Boy (though I know he wouldn't want them from me, I suppose). May he stay safe all the days of his life.

  14. This post is exactly what I deal with. My son was not diagnosed until age 16 though because of crappy psychiatirc care here. they kept saying he was JUST ADHD and I knew better. Rightnow they only have him on Seroquel after trying it and Depakote. My son has Bipolar NOS ( which makes it interesting medicating because he has tendencies of both types) Generalized and social anxiety ( he fears he won't fit in and will do life endangering things to get their respect which of course when he acts like they do they are no longer intereste, they want the daredevil, never knowing that their encouragement could be the one that makes him do something he can't escape), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( he was molested when he was 7, 2 deaths of major male role models and the hell of the previous 8 years of useless therapy) OCD and ODD. Life is interesting to say the least. I have gotten him started on a product called Reliv that has made HUGE changes for him. Althgouh still medicated he admits he does not have the thoughts jumping as he used to. He also admits it ihas helped him stay away from being so angry, the drive to rage is not as strong. Praying for you and your son..

  15. You are not just June Freakin' Cleaver... YOu are June Freakin' amazing!! Wow! That would take vigilance. There are mansions waiting for you on the other side. Wow! Seriously, wow!! Your son is blessed to have a mom like you and not me. Keep it up!

  16. Oh man...so you're basically dealing with medications and a son with suicidal thoughts for the rest of your life? That's it? No other solutions? What an absolutely helpless feeling!

  17. There are no words...I just cant imagine the fear you must feel, the helplessness.

  18. I was just visiting and read this post. Wow. I am so sorry for all you deal with. Truly. Mine has ADHD and Asperger's, and sometimes we wonder if it's bi-polar, but so far doesn't seem to be. No suicide attempts, but aggression. Lots of that. And he's only 5. I sure admire your attitude and hope things work out.


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