If you are a new visitor to my blog, may I suggest you start at the beginning of our journey with Bipolar by visiting my archives

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Almost Four Years

Josh was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in April 2010.  That seems like a lifetime ago, and yet, those first two years are as fresh in my memory as if they happened last week.

In spite of the fact that I haven't posted anything here for months and months, this blog continues to get a massive number of hits each month.  That reality saddens me because it means that there are a large number of people who are effected by Bipolar in some way.

Josh remains off meds, but I continue to see glimpses of Bipolar working its way through his life.  He has dealt with several pretty stressful life events, and at those times he gets a bit 'wobbly'; he loses his temper easily and reacts in ways that are out of character for him and over the top considering the event that set him off.

I believe Josh self medicates with alcohol and recently he told me that he had been using inhalants (purchased legally at a head shop).  Of course, I was.......appalled, worried, disappointed.  He had stopped using the inhalants but he said to me, "It's a decision I have to make anew every single day.  It's not easy Mom."  As is true for most people who struggle with mental illness (or addictions), the goal for Josh is to "feel better or cope better".

Clearly his coping skills are not what they should be, but all of this is out of my hands.  Please don't read that as..."I wash my hands of the whole mess."  It's just that all I can do is monitor, advise and pray a lot.  I do all three.  Josh refuses to see a therapist to help in learning better coping skills, he continues to refuse medications and he continues to say that he doesn't have Bipolar.

I read a book this weekend, "Beautiful Boy" by David Sheff.  It's the story of his families experience as his son, Nic, struggles through Meth addiction.  It's a sad, hard book to read but much of it resonated with me.  My older son has struggled with addiction and as most parents of Bipolar children know, often addiction and Bipolar go hand in hand.  What some of my readers might find helpful about the book is the process that David Sheff goes through in finding that delicate fine line between worry and (relative) peace. 

You worry about your child, endlessly, and yet, you cannot stop living.  You don't know how much to do, or even what to do.  You can't sleep, can't eat, often can't function. 

Eventually you realize that you also can't live that way and you find that the Serenity Prayer is the ONE thing you can do, the ONE life line that is always readily available to you, and if you're smart, you'll use it and own it and be one with it.

"Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference"

There is nothing more than that.  It says it all.

To live with the specter of drug addiction or mental illness in our children's lives, the Serenity Prayer becomes our saving Grace.  Available to everyone and totally free.

It's easy for me to walk that fine line while Josh is (mostly) healthy.  If he ever cycles again, I hope that I'll come back to this blog and read these posts that I've written during the easier times and find the help I'll need during the bad times.

Your comments that tell of your own personal struggles continue to sadden me, and yet, I'm always thankful that some of you find hope in Josh's story.  I pray that you all can find that fine line and learn to walk it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

And Now it's Fall

Josh had a few small 'bumps' after moving in with his girlfriend.  It was a very stressful adjustment for him, and there were a few times when his reactions were.....not good.

He also lost it at work one day and was in fear of losing his job.  Everything worked out in the end though.

The further away from meds he gets, the more convinced he is that he was misdiagnosed.  I'm not a health care professional, but I feel strongly that he was not misdiagnosed.  I feel that Bipolar will negatively effect his life again sometime in the future.

I'd LOVE to be wrong.

Enough time has passed since Josh went off his meds that I have begun to let go of that low grade worry that I have carried around.  No matter how hard you try to let it go, even though you know it's all out of your control, there remains a niggling worry, but mine has become less and less.

I continue to be broken hearted by the emails I receive and comments left on this blog from people who have also been negatively effected by Bipolar.  It is such a difficult path to walk and I admire so much the people who live with it and find a way to create a normal life around it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Spring is Here

Josh continues to do well, but I'll tell you that I still find myself occasionally waiting for the other shoe to fall, so to speak.

He and his girlfriend are moving into a new apartment together next weekend.  He has been a little stressed by this, hoping that he's not making a mistake.

We've had many talks where I've tried to inform him of the realities of living with someone else.  "The first year will be a little more difficult than you might imagine, it takes time to adjust to living with someone else.  Just keep in mind always how much you love her and don't let the little things get to you."

I worry that this major life change will cause him enough stress to cycle.  I worry that we won't get through April without a cycle.  I worry, I worry, I worry.

And then.....

I let go of my anxiety and remind myself how far Josh has come and what he's had to overcome to get here.  I know that he is mindful of his mood and his sleep.  He mentioned to me one day a few months ago that he thought maybe he'd been "a little manic" the prior evening.

"I realized I was chattering away, but, I'd had trouble sleeping the night before and so I got myself to bed and I've been fine since then."

I'd love to pull his girlfriend aside and let her know the things she should watch out for, but that's not my place.  Maybe Josh has told her enough that she has an idea what is possible, or maybe she's taken it upon herself to acquire some knowledge on the subject?

All I know for sure is how proud I am of him.  He has matured so much and taken control of his life, which means that it's easier for me to let go of that need to TRY to control a situation that is largely out of my control anyway.

We live.  We learn. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Heading Towards Spring

Josh continues to be OK off of his medicine.  I would say that he's not quite as good as he was while on it, but he's doing OK.

He's completely supporting himself, is maintaining a relationship with his girlfriend and the two of them got a kitten that he keeps at his apartment.  He's been amazingly responsible and manages to keep his collective shit together.

I feel truly blessed.

But spring looms right up ahead there, and I'm concerned for him.  Nothing would make me happier than to see him sail right through March and April, but history tells me that the likelihood of that happening is slim.

And if he does cycle, I have no idea how far down he'll allow himself to get before he reaches out for help.

I do know one thing.  I've learned so much over the last couple of years and I know that this is HIS journey and that HE gets to make the decisions about his life.

I also know from past experience that he has a breaking point; a point that he reaches where he feels he can't go on in that state any longer and he asks for help.

He has shifted back into denial about having bipolar, but he's a very intelligent young man.  I think if he were faced again with hypomania, he'd recognize it for what it was.

I continue to be heartbroken by the comments and emails I receive from other parents who are struggling through life with a bipolar child.  It's a difficult path to walk and 'the system' does such a poor job of educating and supporting both the patient and their loved ones.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two Long Years

Here I sit, just a little more than two years after Josh was diagnosed with Bipolar II.

A year or so in he was still in complete denial, then almost a year on very successful medications, and now, several months with no meds.

I see the changes in him, with no meds, but he's doing OK.  He's snippy, with me and I'm sure with the people he works with.  He complains about work when he calls me on his breaks, but when I see him, he seems mostly happy and normal.

I'm not sure what to think to be honest, but I can tell you that I feel like I'm holding my breath.

If I'm correct, and Josh cycles seasonally, I would assume he'll remain in his present state until we move into spring next year.  Then again, a major stressor coming alone might send him cycling?

Right now the hardest part of this for me is knowing HOW GOOD...no...HOW GREAT...he is on meds.

I've made it clear to him that my financial support is over.  He is in a position to more than support himself as a Dog Groomer.  If he cycles and somehow loses that job...he's on his own.

"You have a lot at stake here Josh, I just can't imagine why you'd want to jeopardize all you've built."

The only small hope I hold onto is that a year ago, when he was suffering through hypomania, HE came to ME and asked me to help him find a doctor, feeling like he couldn't live like that.

I just hope that he gets to that point sooner this time if he cycles...you know...before he destroys this wonderful life he's built.

I'm so proud of how far he was able to come, against some pretty difficult odds (bipolar and the economy).  I got a good long glimpse of who Josh is capable of being as an adult; responsible, caring, kind, loving, fun and fun loving).

I want him to be his best, and to me, he's his best self ON MEDS.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Life Sentence

I haven't written here in a LONG time because my life has been full of changes and Josh has been doing so well.

He continues in his job as a Dog Washer and generally loves it.  He really does like dogs more than most people! 

He has made new friends at work and actually has a girlfriend.  He acts very responsibly in all areas of his life; keeping his apartment clean, getting oil changes...basic things we all do, but things I didn't even realize that Josh cared about doing.  He's paying his own living expenses (although I'm still paying about half his rent and his health insurance and medical bills).

A couple of months ago I noticed a change in him.  He seemed 'moody' and 'touchy'.  He wasn't tired and he wasn't hungry (two things I know of that create a mood shift for him).  I asked him if he was still taking his medicines and he told me he was.  The next weekend when I saw him, he admitted that he had quit taking his anti-psychotic.  He hated how lethargic it made him feel.  He had been to the doctor that week and told the doctor that he'd stopped the medication.  His doctor said that he was actually going to stop his anti-seizure medicine, but since Josh had stopped the other, they'd just see how that went.

Josh lost his 'shine' when he stopped that medication.  That glow he had, the ever present smile and obvious joy in his face went away.  It made me sad to see him in this diminished state, but slowly, as his body adjusted, he seemed to get better; not as good as he was on the medicine, but better.

Josh is going to Grooming School in mid February.  He has mixed emotions about this.  He has favorite breeds of dogs, like boxers, labs, german shepherds, etc, and those dogs don't get groomed, just bathed.  He'll miss working with his favorite dogs.  Secondly, Groomers aren't on salary, they make a 50% commission.  The Groomers at his store make almost twice what he does, but that's only if they have enough work.  Thirdly, Grooming School is 'free' (you have to buy about $600 worth of tools) but you have a two year commitment with the store and if you don't honor that commitment, you have to reimburse them for the education (a lot of money).

I encouraged Josh to go to Grooming School, arguing that he can still see and 'play' with his favorite dogs who are being bathed, as he has time in his schedule, and I told him that he NEEDS to make more money, that I'm just about finished subsidizing his existence.

And then.....he told me last weekend that he's going to stop taking his anti-depressant.  I'm not just unhappy about this, I'm pretty pissed off at him too.  I know it's his life and his decision, but I think he's doing what so many Bipolar people do.....derail their progress because they think...in their heads...that they're doing FINE and will NOT acknowledge that the medication is what's keeping them fine.

I told him how I felt, I reminded him that when he asked the doctor to add the anti-depressant, IT was what  HE said made him feel better.  I reminded him what his life was like before the medication and pointed out how far he's come since he began treating his Bipolar.  And I told him that THIS was the worst possible time to experiment with his life...just getting ready to start Grooming School...just beginning to really be able to support himself.

Deaf ears.  It all fell on deaf ears. 

I said my peace, made the best points I could make and told him, "Your life, your decision, but I cannot continue to support you, so if this causes you to cycle, you are on your own."

I'm going to have one more talk with him.  The tools he needs for school, he can buy at his store and they will deduct the cost out of each check, but all the groomers say their tools suck and break and have suggested he buy his tools on his own elsewhere.  He asked if I could help him buy the tools and he'd pay me back.  Of course I'm willing to do this, but I think my willingness to help him out financially ONCE AGAIN, is going to have a stipulation placed on it and that stipulation is that he make no more medication changes until early summer (he tends to cycle in the spring).  Of course, he can agree to this and then not really take the medicine, but if he does that and things go haywire, he's gonna have to deal with the consequences.  And if he feels I'm strong-arming him, he can buy the tools at the store and have them deduct the cost from his checks.

All of this reminds me that this Bipolar stuff is really a life sentence, and not just for the poor person suffering the disorder, but also for every single person who cares about them.

And I care deeply about Josh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Response to a Comment

On this post, Robin commented about Josh's violent behavior a year ago and questioned his rapid cycling early this spring.

Robin, when Josh was violent it turned out to be the result of the anti-psychotic that he was on.  It is one of the side effects.  When he stopped the medication, ALL the violent behavior ended.

When Josh was cycling up and down so quickly, he wasn't on ANY medication at all and hadn't been for 9 months or so.  He was experiencing quite a bit of stress in his life at the time.  This is when he actually sought medical help for the first time and the doctor said he was experiencing hypomanic episodes.

Does that clear it up?

Thanks for the comment