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.

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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.

Therapy and DEAR MAN

Last night, I had therapy and I spoke of some communication breakdown issues that I have been having. Of course, I didn’t actually KNOW that was the issue until we sort of teased it out. We did some role playing using the DEAR MAN skill primarily. So, this is how it went:

D – Describe the situation using a non-judgmental stance. (We through a little GIVE in here with gentle manner.) It’s important to us that we get to see you and we appreciate that we have the opportunity to stay with you when we are there. The house is 2 bedrooms though and there are four of us. It can get crowded and we are also on our family vacation making memories.

E – Express. We appreciate your hospitality, but feel like we are putting you out. It gets crowded after some time and this really is our only trip so we really want to make some family memories. Plus, the boys don’t really have playgrounds or any areas to play because you live in a 55 plus community.

A – Assert. Ask for what you want. We really would like it if we could spend half of the time in your home and the other half of our trip in a hotel. It is rare for us to get the opportunity to stay in a hotel and the boys enjoy it.

R – Reinforce. Tell them what’s in it for them. It must be difficult for you to have 4 additional people in your home. This will give everyone some space while we get to spend time together. Plus, if we stay at a hotel we are more likely to spend more time in town.

M – Stay Mindful. Be a broken record and stay on track if the subject is changed. We really appreciate the opportunity to stay with you and we really love spending time with you and we really would like some space for some of the trip.

A – Appear Confident. Maintain eye contact. Use a strong voice. Go in believing that this is going to be a success.

N – Negotiate. We are flexible as to how we split the time between the hotel and your home. Lets figure out what works best for everyone. (If they don’t agree to splitting the trip 50/50.)

So, now I have roleplayed a scenario with DEAR MAN that can be useful. My above example isn’t really perfect because I’m not going off our exact words unfortunately. It’s close enough though.

The stigma won’t silence me

I haven’t blogged in years until yesterday and there is a huge reason for that – stigma. I had been told that based on my publicly blogging about my mental illness that I was not employable. She found out that I had bipolar disorder around the same time and told me it didn’t change anything, but suddenly I was unemployable because I had an illness. She compared it to people sharing images of themselves partying Girls Gone Wild style and it has hurt me since. My life is NOT a party. It’s not a choice. I have to cope with the challenges placed before me due to my illnesses and I am continuing to learn and implement skills to do so.

I have mentioned that I have bipolar disorder. I received a bipolar disorder type 2 diagnosis in 2002 which was later changed to bipolar 1 with mixed features. I have also been diagnosed with various forms of anxiety with the latest being anxiety NOS or anxiety not otherwise specified. My anxiety typically revolves around people and social situations though which is why my main anxiety diagnosis has consistently been social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia with panic. The anxiety stuff for me is confusing.

In 2010, I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. At first, when they were doing the screening I was confused. I thought of course I have these symptoms. I have bipolar disorder. Then, I learned that they are not one and the same and the stigma facing BPD is even more extreme than that of those with bipolar disorder. Insurance isn’t even required to cover it to the same degree. People with this disorder are seen as needy manipulators, even in some psychiatric literature.

Over the course of several years, I have developed DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, skills to help me handle the emotional extremes, the abandonment fears, the outbursts, the self harm urges, and all of the other qualities that I scored high in during my screening. Now, I only have traits. I don’t have enough of the symptoms to classify as having BPD. I still have the attempts to thwart real or imagined abandonment and emotion regulation is an ongoing learning experience.

So, now that you know about my issues, I want to share an article written by NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall about the stigma around mental illness. I found it well written and it inspired my post.

Brandon Marshall on the Stigma around Mental Illness

This said, I’m no longer going to give into the stigma. I am going to tell my story, still anonymously, but I’m going to tell it. Once I know I can handle the negative reactions of the ones that I love, I will share with my name and shout it from the rooftops. I have nothing to be ashamed of and no one else with a mental illness should be ashamed either. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say that I had cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, or a host of other illnesses. I’m not going to be ashamed of this any longer. My kids are going to know that their mama is a strong woman with an illness who isn’t afraid to admit it.

My adventures, failures, and successes

It has been a long time since I have written about myself. In the past 3 years, I have not only had a second child while seeing my other son grow, but I have also had my share of ups and downs with my illness.

After O, my youngest, was born, I ended up with serious mood issues. In fact, I started having hallucinations and I was so depressed and anxious. I got sent to this AMAZING partial hospital program for women with perinatal mood disorders and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I brought my baby with me and the therapists helped me bond with my son and gave me the skills that I needed in order to be the mother that I wished to be. It is one of 2 programs of it’s kind and I cannot say how grateful I am to have had that opportunity. They also tweaked my medications while I was there.

My son had some serious issues when he was first born. He had too much amniotic fluid because he was born via c-section and he didn’t get to have it all squeezed out during birth. He couldn’t be laid down flat without gagging and choking. Well, my husband ran to get food the day after he was born and my mom was changing his diaper. He stopped breathing and began turning blue. The nurses didn’t respond to my page right away because they were busy with other patients so my mom ran into the hallway yelling that my little guy was turning blue. Then, after sort of failing to really get food allergies, we discovered that he was allergic to milk and soy. We later discovered that he’s also allergic to whole eggs, not just the protein that most people are allergic to. So we had an interesting start.

I didn’t have a therapist for part of this time and when I did go back we went back to focusing on DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, skills as they had been so helpful in the past. This was definitely the right decision for me as they have helped me through many tough times.

Most recently, I have been using GIVE and DEAR MAN quite a bit. GIVE is for maintaining a relationship while DEAR MAN is a skill of assertiveness for asking for what you want or saying no to a request. Using them together has been very beneficial, especially for my marriage. I can word things in a way so that I’m not being aggressive with my husband, but I can ask for what I need. My husband tends to default to I always screw up and this has sort of prevented that in some instances so we can actually talk about a situation.

We also renewed our vows for our 10 month anniversary last month. That also required some self soothing skills to get through the anxiety the few days before when things were still being prepared. I was finding things that I found calming and relaxing and doing them.

Oh – and I’m recovering from a concussion that I suffered 4 weeks ago. Things are finally so much better, but taking care of the boys and grocery shopping and a few other things bring back the symptoms so I’m doing the things that don’t cause symptoms to flare and avoiding others. I have a babysitter until Friday in the hopes that everything is A-OK starting next week. I’ll have a positive update on my condition soon hopefully. When I had my CT scan 2 weeks ago, the doc said it was going to take time and rest so time and rest it is.