Tag Archives: behaviour

Mood River: Highs and Lows of Mood Disorders in Children

The murky waters of mood disorder

The murky waters of mood disorder

Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder

I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.

Please note that this post was originally published in 2013.

1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?

Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.

We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her paediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder.  At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter. 

2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?

I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:

  • severe irritability
  • night terrors
  • raging
  • oppositional behaviour
  • rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
  • sensory issues
  • carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
  • hyper-sexuality

Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.

toddler with red adidas sweat shirt

Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.

According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.

Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.

4) What advice can you offer parents?

My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mind to provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.

At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgement, I received love and support.

My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.

medication pills isolated on yellow background

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?

When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.

6) Anything else you’d like to add?

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.

Does any of this resonate with you? I thought republishing this post might help a parent or friend who has a child with a mood disorder.

Yours,

Lisa

 —

 

Stay Out of It!

unnamed (1)Since both of my children’s birthdays are coming up soon, I’ve been reflecting and feeling melancholy, thinking about their younger days and some of the lessons I’ve learned. 

When my son was younger, say 6 or 7 years old, like many moms, I’d set up or help facilitate play dates for him and my daughter. If anything went wrong, say an argument between the boys or teasing that went haywire, I’d often step in – not as a grumpy “hey, my child is perfect” tiger mom but just to see what had happened and if there was any good solution. Of course I did this with the best of intentions.

I soon learned (with the help of some shy advice from a neighbour) that stepping into your kids’ social life is generally a no-no. Almost always, my seemingly innocent intervention would cause more stress or headaches for my son and his friends.

So, now, unless it’s a really big deal, I try to stay out of it. Yes, it’s hard sometimes and, as he and my daughter grow, there will be times that their father or I will have to get involved. But, I think it’s helped that I can provide advice and support but not march in to “save the day” (which didn’t really work anyway).

What’s your take on getting involved with your child’s social life?

Doctor, Doctor

physician-symbol-hiThis is my final post for the 2015 Blogathon which was hosted by a professional freelance writing group to which I belong.

Thank you to those of you who hung on, read, liked and provided comments during the month. It was an excellent challenge but, truth be told, I’ll be happy to blog less frequently for the next little while.

Today my children and I had a doctor’s appointment. But, before I get to the crux of this post, let me back up for a moment… If you’re American (or, rather, if you’re not Canadian and not familiar with our medical system), you may think that finding a family doctor, booking an appointment, and seeking out appropriate medical treatment is easy-peasy. 

True, most medical appointments, treatments and interventions are “free” (paid for by tax dollars) but finding a family doctor in your area who is taking on new patients is no easy feat. And, booking an appointment with a doctor or specialist can take weeks or months. They’re that booked up!

My doctor works downtown and we are far uptown. Driving downtown, even for a short appointment, is a journey in itself.  Luckily, our doctor is an awesome woman whom we’ve seen for many, many years.  Today, it struck me how complicated medical intervention is for mental health issues.

What's around the corner?

What’s around the corner?

For example, let’s say your child has a broken arm: You drive to emergency, check in, have the arm x-rayed, diagnosed, casted and go to follow up appointments.

Or, let’s say your child has asthma. You have her tested, receive feedback, perhaps get a “puffer” or other medicine and learn to adapt. I realize it’s not always this easy but in many cases an injury or illness can be addressed directly.

Mental health conditions (for kids and adults) are generally never straightforward. Usually, other conditions have to be ruled out because there’s often no 100% accurate diagnosis. Then, even if a disorder is identified, say it’s ADHD or autism or schizophrenia or OCD, the treatment, counselling, meds, follow ups, etc. etc. are often tweaked and changed – possibly over the course of a lifetime.

“Wait and see” can be frustrating and tiresome for everyone involved. Sometimes a clean diagnosis (even for something scary) is less ominous than a “Well, we could try this but…” explanation with no real end in sight. Those of you who live with mental health challenges or parent someone who does will know exactly what I mean!

Perfect Teeth

perfectionMy son was just telling me he has “the worst teeth ever”. This is far from the truth – his teeth are only slightly crooked and will look fantastic once he gets braces put on in the next year or two.

I told him if he had perfect teeth he’d be too perfect as he’s already very handsome. I said this partly to boost his self-esteem but mostly because I believe it to be true: If someone looks or acts too perfect they don’t seem real to me. I have known people over the years who never seem to be in a bad mood and are always smiling or want to see the silver lining in every situation. While I appreciate this attitude for the most part, it can get tiresome. Someone who’s never down or feels guilty or grouchy is suspicious to me – what’s under the shiny coating?! It’s our human nature to exhibit a range of emotions.

How do you feel about looking on the bright side of life? Do you try to find the realism in all situations with your children and/or the young people in your life? How do you balance our quest for perfection with life’s hard knocks? I’m still trying to figure this out myself.

White Knuckle Parenting

Walking up the hill Kortright CentreToday was my kids’ last day of school. While I scratched my head in astonishment that yet another school year had passed us by, I also realized I had to give out the teacher gifts we had purchased and arrange other end of year activities – stat.

Excited to wait at the school door when they exited for the last time this year, the sky boomed with thunder and rain just as I jumped in the car  to pick ’em up (I’m too far to walk to the school). Other parents and grandparents stood by with raincoats and umbrellas trying to say good-bye as we all huddled against the rain.

Both my children are suffering from colds but I thought we should mark this epic occasion in some way so I offered to take them for frozen yogurt. We inched our way through rainy slick traffic only to find the local fro yo shop PACKED full of kids and parents. Sigh… back into the car we went.

We arrived home, the kids dumped their bags, lunch packs, locker paraphernalia and shoes at the front door. We walked up the steps and what do we find? A big pile of cat vomit. Could this day get any better?!

I’m happy to say we turned it around. After a “surprise” dinner (hot dog mushroom bean tomato stew on garlic bread) we tried to rush my son to his baseball game (which was of course cancelled due to the rain). My daughter and I then walked to the LCBO to pick up a bottle of wine for my neighbour who was throwing herself a birthday party. We stopped in, wished her a happy birthday, said hi to neighbours new and old and now we’re home, along with a calm sky.

I hope your kids’ last of day of school is less epic.  Happy summer!

Shake It Up For ADHD

adhdAre you aware of the advocacy group CADDAC (Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada)? This organization (and its sister org CADDRA) is a useful resource for parents, families, psychologists, educators and those diagnosed with ADHD themselves.

Today, on the CADDAC blog, there’s a useful explanation of a new University of Mississippi study indicating that movement actually helps facilitate learning and growth for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. From the study: “Hyperactive movements associated with the disorder may allow children with ADHD to enhance their cognitive abilities.”

This makes sense in many ways as many of us (even those without ADHD) feel the need to stand up, “fidget”, tap fingers or toes, twirl hair, or bounce up and down to get our creative juices flowing.

Sitting still for long periods of time not only inhibits healthy development and may cause severe health implications but, for children with ADHD, it can cause stress and dissuade imagination and working memory. 

Is positive thinking the key for kids?

Here’s more from U of M: “By allowing the hyperactive behaviors to continue, children with ADHD are able to increase their arousal and remain alert in the classroom. Yet conventional teaching and treatment methods demand ADHD children remain still, and the ability to focus on the lesson is lost in the child’s struggle to focus on not squirming or fidgeting, said Sarver.”

These days, many educators and teachers (at least in our school board) better understand that occasional movement, special seating arrangements, more frequent “health breaks” and re-imagined dynamics not only allows all students to more fully enjoy school but allows those with ADHD to fit in, become more engaged and reach their full learning potential.

While meds like Adderall or Vyvanse may work for some, others might be interested in choosing an alternative to Western medicine by way of natural supplement. Here’s an informative article that may shed light on questions about supplements: https://www.cognitune.com/best-natural-adderall-alternatives/

Please note: This article was shared by agreement with myself and Cognitune.

Vapid

city

Her smile is as plastic as her shoes.

She looks at me with vacant eyes.

“Want some gum?” She says with creamy teeth and pink pearl lips.

When she talks her eyes never settle on mine.

“What’s new?” She says, uninterested.

The sun glints on her white-yellow hair bringing out hints of the dark brown underneath.

“Gotta go.” She gets up and tugs on her skirt, giving me a half-smile as she walks away, checking her phone.

Father’s Day Blues

fathers-day-300x300If you’re in North America, you’ll know today is Father’s Day.

While this is a joyous occasion for many families, there are others for whom Father’s Day brings grief, indifference or painful memories.

Stemming from a quick peek at Facebook today, I see that many are happy (me included) to reflect heartfelt wishes to fathers who are present and also tender words for those fathers who are no longer around – both literally and figuratively.

For children living with divorce, adoption, death or who are estranged from their dads, occasions like this spark sadness. Many will be spend today celebrating or reflecting on good times with loving fathers yet many others will reflect on “what could have been” or “what should be.”

What does Father’s Day mean to you?

Idle hands?

Busy bee“The majority prove their worth by keeping busy. A busy life is the nearest thing to a purposeful life.”

I had already decided to write about our culture of “busy-ness”  today and then spotted the quote above. Rather ironic when the focus of this post is the complete opposite idea.

Earlier this week, a colleague posted a link to this memorable New Yorker article about “Mr. Ravioli.” It’s a clever, insightful piece about a young girl’s imaginary friend; I encourage you to read it when you can take some time to absorb the tale

In fact, I realize this topic is coming full circle as the school year comes to a screaming halt. You see, this year, due to work flexibility and our kids’ ages, we decided to leave more gaps in their summer schedule.

When our children were younger and both parents were working full-time, we would either enroll our two kids in day camps, hire a nanny or babysitter, go on vacation or some combination of all three.  This year, they’ll both attend two or three weeks of camp but, as of now, have a lot of free time on their calendars.

I’m thinking (perhaps naively) that flexibility during the summer will allow more time to read, play with friends and wander around outdoors. It may also cause less stress for parents who don’t have to arrange pick ups, drop offs and lunches/swim suits/towels/dry clothes.

Careful of the admonishment recently doled out about overly zealous helicopter parents preventing optimal physical health in children, I’m hoping that a solo walk to the park or to friends’ homes will do the kids – and my bottom line – some good. (By the way, I’m not rolling my eyes in response to the report that finds children need more fresh air and exercise. However, I am leery of putting more pressure on parents who are already feeling all kinds of stress.)

How do you feel about our culture of busy-ness? Do you think parents and kids are overly scheduled and under creative? Are you able to give your children some freedom over the summer to explore their own interests? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Om

Managing the Storm

Managing the Storm

She sat dead centre in the storm.

Make it all right she said.

I already did. You’re here now.

The calm was like nothing she’d felt before.

It sat in her heart.

Her soul was full. Calmness.  A new sensation.

Angels drew closer.

She could hear their hearts beating.