Father’s Day is Here

Father’s Day is a trigger for me due to the history I have with my father. I got through today by honoring the fathers that serve as examples to others.

Last night my husband and I got a date night and saw the Barenaked Ladies. We almost missed it because we had some serious issues with a sitter. I accidentally asked our sitter for Friday night instead of Saturday. It worked out in the end though. I had a blast and it was my 9th show and my husband’s 4th. I don’t know why I have so much fun, but I do. It’s not the same since Steven Page is gone because the other guys singing his parts doesn’t sound as good. I just found out Steven released a new album though and I have heard little blips and I love the content. It’s dark and it’s about recovery.

Father’s Day and my father

I don’t have any contact with my father so for me Father’s Day is a trigger to all of the verbal and emotional abuse that I experienced at his hands as a child. This year, I have used mindfulness and maybe a bit of the wise mind ACCEPTS skills today. I’m focusing on what is going on today, at this very moment, and today I see how loving my husband is towards our children. I see how happy they make him and how good of a father he is to the boys, both setting boundaries and comforting them.

I’m also making a special dinner to honor him tonight. I’m making baked ziti with salad. I also bought bread and ice cream cake for dessert. My 2 year old egg allergic son can eat it which was one of the reasons I bought it instead of a different cake. The sauce for dinner has been on the stove since about noon. I simmer it low and slow for hours. My oldest even helped me make it and he’s so proud of himself.

We have to call my father-in-law to wish him a happy Father’s Day and sitting here thinking about it is making me sad. It’s not the same wishing him a happy Father’s Day as it would be to my biological father as there should be two people that I’m wishing this to.

My four year old didn’t know I had a father for a while. He just assumed that I’d been born without one. I was doing our family tree and I had to explain that I had a dad, but he was mean and he hurt grandma. I told him that he’d never have to meet him. He has seen him thought at a family event. My father has never seen my youngest child, at least not in person.

This day makes me wonder whether or not I will regret not seeing him before he dies. Hubby says that I will never know how I will feel at his death, but he knows that nothing good will come of his re-entry into my life. My siblings have also cutoff contact with him and my husband rightfully feels that there’s a reason for that.

He gave me by bipolar diagnosis. I can trace it back at least 3 generations on his side of the family. One of my relatives was diagnosed as insane and wasn’t allowed to enter the US. My father is still in denial that he has bipolar disorder though which is one of the reasons that his children avoid him. Untreated, he is abusive and cruel.

I have two blessings to honor today though. My husband is the best father that I have ever known. He is loving, fun, kind but sets boundaries, and he makes time for them, even when work and other things get in the way. We also honor my father-in-law who raised my husband.

Mood Update

I got a big chunk of sleep though I still only got 6 hours which isn’t typically enough for me. I feel good today though. I’m neither up nor down. Right now, my anxiety is in check as well. Perhaps, last night’s fantastic date night is just what I needed to get back on track. I have also been consistently busy, but it was low stress. Structure has always been helpful. Hopefully, the pattern will continue. My husband and I agreed to a check-in tonight to determine if I need to call the psychiatrist to quickly nip any potential episode in the bud early. At this point, I think this weekend has warded the call and kept the demon in hibernation.

Am I in for an episode?

Sleep has been inconsistent and elusive and I worry that I may be in for an episode of depression or mania. There have been events around the end of the school year that have impacted my mental health as well.

I wonder if I am due for an episode. It’s been a week without a night of solid sleep. I’m still tired so that’s a very good sign for me. I need to get sleep though or I am going to swing one way or another and parenting while depressed or manic is very difficult. I can barely take care of myself and sometimes I cannot even do that. Thus, I’m trying to ward off the demon lurking in the shadows.

It started with missing my morning medications twice this week. My routine was thrown off and I just forgot. It wasn’t anything intentional and I would never intentionally skip any medication without speaking to a physician first. I know my illness cannot go treated without a medication in my case. I have tried and then I ended up fighting for stability for years. I’m not going to fall into that trap again where I think I can do without the medications or that I am better off without them for whatever reason.

For me, at the time, it was the desire to have children. I felt, based on some opinions off ill-informed medical professionals, that being on medication would result in children who had horrible birth defects. Later, talking to people who actually understood the research and work with people with mood disorders, I learned that no two medications are equal and neither are any two patients. There is solid data around the effects of medication in pregnancy and a patient can do research around these medications with their psychiatrist and, perhaps, more of an expert.

Lack of sleep is a trigger for depression, mania, and mixed episodes for me. I think that it might be time to take something to help me sleep. I need to do all I can to control an illness that is sometimes uncontrollable.

Speaking of the lurking demon

My son’s last day of school was Wednesday and there was a family day on Friday. My social anxiety was out in full force to the point where I had stomach problems all morning before the event. I couldn’t stay home because my son was looking forward to this for two weeks. He even knew the date on the calendar. I knew I didn’t have a physical ailment so that was out of the question as an excuse.

I didn’t let the demon win. I went to the event knowing my husband would be there for a time and I believed that would be helpful. In reality, his presence wasn’t helpful because we took a divide and conquer approach with the boys and we were separated most of the time. I avoided the other parents like the plague as I was petrified. I did say goodbye and thank you to his teacher who is not returning next year. I did it though. I went. I let my son play with his friends and do the various activities. My anxiety didn’t stop him from having a good time. The demon didn’t win.

I immediately felt better upon leaving. I was no longer shaking and my stomach had settled. I used this time as a learning experience for my son. He knows I have a mental illness and we’ve talked about it before. I explained that was really hard for mommy and that we should do those things that are hard for us. We should try to do those things that are not easy.

Final proud mama brag

My speech delayed vision impaired son had a perfect report card. I’m not sure how to refer to his vision problem so vision impaired might not be the correct terminology and if that’s the case, I’m sorry.

He had Ms for meets expectations for everything. The M means that the kids are kindergarten ready in those particular areas and the goal is to have all Ms in the June before Kindergarten. Well, my kiddo has another year before he enters kindergarten and I’m so proud!! I knew he was smart, but I’m so excited that his issues aren’t holding him back.

More Changes for the Big Guy

The big guy is facing some changes around his vision and speech therapy. I’m trying to figure out how to prepare him for potential bullies.

We went and selected glasses for the big guy on Saturday and he was so excited. We went in thinking we were going to be spending a lot less than we were especially with a 2 for 1 deal, but my big guy needs special lenses because his prescription is so strong for his astigmatism causing bilateral refractive amblyopia. His glasses are covered for 12 months for accidental damage, but it takes 10 days to get a replacement so we bought a backup pair with the heavier lenses.

We discovered his private SPL-T is leaving the location she is at due to her commute. I’m very disappointed because he just changed his SPL-T and SPL-TA at school a couple of months ago on short notice and school is ending so he is also losing that support. We are supposed to discuss setting up observation times for the new therapist when we go in to speech this afternoon.

The good news is that he is so excited about his glasses. His momma wears them and one of his friends also wear them so he thinks it’s kind of cool. His dad really needs glasses too, but they messed up his prescription and we can’t afford to buy a new pair out of pocket. Anyway, he is excited and he is looking forward to looking cool and being able to see.

The bad news is that I’m getting some flack about the fact that he’s going to wear glasses. I have been told to wait until he wears them in school and see if he still likes them then. First off, my kid who has a speech issue is loved by the kids in class. They even translate for him when the teachers don’t understand that he wants the black marker and not the blue marker. These kids aren’t going to suddenly stop being friends because he gets glasses. One of his friends even has glasses now.

Second, the kid cannot bead a string because he can’t see. He’s overly cautious on steps because he can’t see. There are things he just can’t do that preschoolers are supposed to be able to do because he can’t see and everyone thinks that glasses will open a new world to him. They believe that once he gets the glasses the whole world will open to him because everything will be so much clearer.

Potential Bullies…..Already?

I am wondering if my sensitivity is a mental illness issue or a mama bear thing. My son is in preschool and I am being told he isn’t going to like going to school because he’s going to get bullied because of his glasses.

The big issue is now I am truly concerned about it. I’m wondering how to talk to him about bullying and what to do if he his being bullied. I guess I would try to start from his perspective and I think it would be super important to validate what he’s feeling and experiencing. I want him to know that if something is being done or said that upsets him, it’s OK to feel angry or sad. I want him to know feelings are natural and a part of life.

I want him to know it’s not OK for others to be mean or cruel nor is it OK for him to be cruel. I want him to know that he should tell someone what happened that has made him upset. I don’t want him to think that he must hold these things in because it will make things worse because we want to help him to make things better for him. I also want him to know that we love him the way that he is and we want him to continue to be the sweet caring boy that he is and treat others kindly. I would also want him to know his momma and daddy will do whatever we can to find a way to discuss this with school and improve his environment.

Another thing I would want to talk to him about is how to handle those emotions. He and I have been working on deep breathing to settle when he is very upset. This has been extremely important and beneficial because there are times when he is crying so hard that I cannot understand the words that he is saying. The breathing has helped calm him enough to speak and express his feelings. We cannot help the situation if we cannot find out what the problem is.

think it will also be beneficial for him to find other ways of self soothing when he is hurting. I don’t have a solution for that as of yet. I know holding one of his toys is beneficial, but his toy doesn’t go everywhere and I’m not sure that would help in the long-term. I suppose I have time to figure out some other things to help him.

I guess these are the joys of parenting these days.

 

Thinking About the Dialectic

DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, has been a huge part of my therapy for the past 7 years or so. It has been the main therapeutic module that I have used and it has been the one that has shown the most success for me over the course of my lifetime.

A main idea of DBT is that of the dialectic. That idea is that universe is filled with multiple opposing sides and forces and that also leads to the fact that there’s also more than one to view a situation or solve a problem. It also has this idea that change is the only constant. Those two things, which I believe to be true, may seem a bit too philosophical; however, for me, they have been a big factor in my ability to adapt even when I am symptomatic. It’s something that my therapist and I walk through when things come up.

For example, I have two young sons, which is why this blog is called Being a Bipolar Mom, and there are times where things happen around them where we will test my perception or my problem solving abilities. For example, someone in my family will say something about my son’s speech sound disorder and tell me that he needs to have that fixed by kindergarten. I get angry because they make it sound like my son has something where it has a natural progression and we can say exactly when it will be “fixed”. I saw this as a shot at my son initially and I felt that they were placing way too much pressure on him.

Talking to my therapist, we were able to tease out details of the conversation that I may have misread because I was in mama bear mode protecting my son. I had the feeling of who the hell are they to say what my son should and shouldn’t do by such and such time and how the hell do they know if he is going to be able to do it or not?

The part that was missing was that they were trying to help. They told us they wanted us to send him for private speech therapy, which my husband and I were in the process of doing already, and that they were willing to pay for it. My mother-in-law used doctor google and informed herself of the horrible perils of a speech delay in K and how he won’t be able to learn to read, etc. Of course, she doesn’t know that my son can spell phonetically. He may not be able to say the sounds, but he sure as hell knows what they sound like. He can sound out some words too and he’s 4. Neither myself, my husband, his speech therapy team (2 SLP-Ts and a SLP-TA), nor his teacher think that he’s going to have any trouble reading as a result and think that we’re doing a great job with sound awareness.

Basically, in all of this, I learned that there was a disconnect. She was seeing his speech disorder as this horrible thing that was going to cripple him and that we should get him all the help that he needs. I heard it as you need to do more or he’s going to be illiterate. Part of that was that I let my mommy bear get out in front of me. I didn’t want him to hear any of what she said. The other part was that our communication was not clear. Instead of asking us about our son’s progress, she assumed that it was holding him back in ways it wasn’t. Instead of me asking her what she meant by paying for whatever it takes to get it fixed, I shouldn’t have bottled it all in getting more frustrated. We both wanted the same thing though.

Child Vision Problems and Mommy Guilt

My four year old has vision problems. We learned of them a few months ago and saw an optometrist who determined that he has bilateral refractive amblyopia or, in simple terms, two lazy eyes. The optometrist and I both felt that he saw well enough to go without glasses for a year just because 4 year olds are rough on glasses and because it wasn’t having a major impact on his life. The optometrist said we really have until 7 to fix the problem as his goal is to teach his brain how to see.

Enter today’s bombshell….

His vision is impacting his fine motor skills which is being seen at school. He’s in preschool and he cannot bead a string.

So he has to get glasses.

The doctor’s office is mailing the prescription based on our visit 2 weeks ago where they determined that he has a significant astigmatism in both eyes. Unfortunately, this is genetic as I also have astigmatism and I wear glasses. My husband has astigmatism as well and he wears glasses for the computer.

The good news that hopefully he won’t need them older and that his brain will learn to see based on the messages his eyes send. I’m not quite sure how it works, but I have done some reading so I do believe the optometrist.

Now I’m laying the guilt on myself.

I’m feeling guilty about the problems my four year old has between speech and now his vision. I don’t want to get any flack for this, but my doctors kept me on medication while I was pregnant with him. I had just gone through an 8 day inpatient stay 3-4 months before I got pregnant and they all thought that it was better for the baby that I be stable versus depressed as the risk of depression in pregnancy was higher than that of the medications that I was on. I saw perinatal psychiatrists and regular psychiatrists. I was in therapy 3 times a week. I was the most stable I had been for a really long time.

Now, logically I know that my husband had a speech problem as a young child so that is likely genetic. It has nothing to do with my medication. The kid is a chatterbox, but he’s difficult to understand.

Again, my husband and I both have astigmatisms and the optometrist told me it was genetic in my kiddo’s case. That means, again, that it had nothing to do with the medication that I was on to keep myself and my baby healthy.

In case you didn’t know, there are risks associated with being depressed during pregnancy to both the mother and the baby. One of the biggest is pre-term birth and another is low birth weight.

Here’s an article on it:

Depression in Pregnancy Doubles Risk of Preterm Birth

In the end, in my heart, I know I did what was best for my sons, myself, and my entire family, but every time something comes up or is wrong, I blame the medications. I have to let that go. I have to let that go.

A word of advice for any bipolar mamas.

I do strongly recommend that any pregnant women with bipolar disorder does extensive research about medications and sees the real specialists. My medication regiment was “approved” by both my psychiatrist and a perinatal psychiatrist. The perinatal psychiatrist was up on all the studies on the medications that were taken during the gestational period. She told me the risks, explained the research to me, and even went over what to expect after the baby was born. For example, I now know topamax isn’t safe during pregnancy for sure no questions while lithium is kind of an eh… because it slightly increases the risk of a heart defect that causes a hole in the heart that can be repaired via surgery.

I took neither of those medications. The one thing we knew about my medication is that my medication might cause cleft lip/cleft palate, but the research leaned more toward that being a non-risk factor as only 1 study of several including a long-term registry showed that there an increased risk of cleft palate when compared to the general population.

Oh, and we were also told that there was a chance that the baby may cry a lot the first few days and that I should get help with the night feedings. For me, it meant no breastfeeding, but again, it’s what I needed to do for myself and my family. A healthy safe loving mom is far more valuable than breast milk. Those boys need their mom and I do whatever I need to in order to be for them always. That includes doing things like taking medication, therapy, and not breastfeeding for me. It may mean different things for others based on their own situations, but that’s mine.

Expressive Speech Delay Worries

My oldest son has an expressive speech delay. He goes to preschool three days a week and he has speech therapy two of those days. He also goes to a private speech therapist one day a week. At 4, my husband and I understand around 70-75% of what he says. The milestone for this year was 100% intelligibility. People who don’t know him should be able to understand him and that is not the case. It gets frustrating for him.

He has some form of a speech sound disorder. He understands what people are saying and he knows the words that he wants to say, but he can’t say the words properly.  He leaves sounds out, he makes substitutions, and he adds sounds and syllables to words. He has also begun stuttering which, at this point, is considered developmentally appropriate.

Anyway, we’re still working on the same sound as we were a year ago with some sounds added. The /f/ sound was the first sound that was tackled in speech and it’s still something that we are working on. He can now say most words slowly that begin with /f/ with a reminder. He says the /f/ first and then adds the rest of the word. He is SO proud of himself when he can do this, especially if he manages it without a reminder. We are almost to using it in conversation.

There are sounds he just cannot say because he cannot get his tongue to the right places yet. His private speech therapist gets into crazy positions with him to try to get him into a place where it will be easier to learn the physical piece. They laid down on the floor to try to get his tongue to fall back to produce the /k/ sound. They applauded when he made a gurgle sound because it means that he’s all that much closer to being able to produce the sound.

The rate of progression is frustrating and it is hard to see how frustrated he gets when people, especially family, fail to understand him. I’m concerned with his future. I know that speech delays and disorders can impact other areas of life and I don’t want that to be the case for him. He is so bright and he loves people. He loves to talk and play and creates these amazing games and stories. He is also incredibly sweet and I never want him to lose that due to frustration and feeling a little bit different.

There’s a Son #2

Well, it has been around 3 years since I last posted here on this blog. In fact, it’s 3 years since I have actually written anything. I am hoping to get back to this for an outlet and to share some of the things I have learned. Plus, I have gotten some new likes on Facebook so I figured it was worth pursuing again.

I had a second son since I last posted. His name is O and he’s 2 now. He is one independent ball of fire. We are having problems behaviorally already and that scares me given my history. My sister said that if we don’t get this fixed by 5 or something that he’ll end up in jail. I think it’s a huge exaggeration, but we did talk to his doctor who referred us back to early intervention for help. One of the major problems we have is the worry that he’s going to hurt himself. He literally runs from 1 wall to the next ramming himself into the wall. His EI coordinator is going to send a sensory expert out to try to come up with some ideas for him to get the same effect to calm himself without hurting himself. He doesn’t do this when he’s mad or anything. He just does it to calm himself. It’s almost unbelievable. He also hits, kicks, and bites. He does these things even when he isn’t mad because he thinks it’s funny when people get hurt. He hurt my husband – just walked up to him and bit his leg and laughed his little butt off. Last week, he climbed up a shelf to get one of the dog supplements and ate one. We had to worry about iron poisoning.

He is beyond independent. He is defiant and will test us at every corner even knowing what the consequences of his actions will be. I mean he will do things we tell him not to do right in front of us.

I also think of him as a highly sensitive person. I know 2 year olds have little impulse control, but this poor kid will have a tantrum and even after what seems like the end of the tantrum he will still need to be held and comforted. He has so much trouble regulating his emotions and calming down and nothing works except walking away and coming back when he isn’t violently kicking and pinching to soothe him. It can get pretty scary.

Basically, I fear that my second son is going to have some form of mental illness given his behavior now, but I also know he’s only 2 and there is a lot of time for change. My husband and I are not raising our children like we were raised. My home was quite hectic and unstable. We had lots of fighting and yelling. My husband’s home had no yelling whatsoever. His dad never once yelled during his entire childhood. He would drive away and come back when he wasn’t so angry anymore. He never heard his parents fight. This was the opposite in my house. Everyone over shared in my family and they kind of still do. They don’t talk about anything in his. We are working toward a happy medium in our home and most of the time I think we are successful.

My older son is quite the charmer and has a strong need for people to like him and to be accepted. He’s also more comfortable playing with the girls than the boys and his favorite color is pink. He is so sweet with a great sense of humor, but can be a bit sensitive around certain things – especially if he’s really tired. He also has an amazing imagination. He creates these “games” where you are a character using one of his pals. It’s almost like you are acting out a play with him and his stories can sometimes go on forever.

I will write another post about me and how I have been coping with life.