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.

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.


My crazy busy mommy life

I have been very busy lately.  Tuesdays, J and I go to classes at Gymboree an hour away.  That basically eats up 3-4 hours of the day.  Wednesdays we go to therapy and that is also an hour away and eats up a lot of the day.  Fridays we go to swimming lessons and that is an hour long on Fridays, but is close to our house.  I am working on Saturdays which is also an hour away and we have been moving since the beginning of September.  We finally have all of our belongings in the new house, but we still aren’t completely unpacked.  The house is coming together nicely though.

My moods have been unpredictable lately.  I have been very sensitive to little things.  I will be totally happy and laughing one minute then so angry the next.  Then, 2 minutes later I will be very sad and break down in tears.  At first, I attributed this to PMS.  This is not a typical type of bipolar set of symptoms for me.  They aren’t long-term mood changes that appear to be chemically triggered.  They are specifically associated with different stimuli and triggers.

I had Mirena placed and I contacted my doctor to see if Mirena could contribute to such mood fluctuations.  She said it’s possible, but highly unlikely.  She had me schedule an appointment with the social worker in her office to dig into the cause of this problem.  This has me thinking.

I honestly wonder what the causes are.  Is it that I’ve got a 7 month old who is starting to teethe?  The only way we could calm him this evening was to blow bubbles.  Is it the move?  I don’t know anyone here and my husband has been obligated to go to more client events for work.  I feel lonely and sort of overwhelmed on days where I have no help with Jimmy V.  I was also physically ill a few weeks ago and I’m still tired and a bit sick.  I wonder if that’s not contributing to it as well.  I have been sleeping when Jimmy V is sleeping as often as I can to try to regain my energy.  I don’t think I should still be fatigued from a cold or from the flu a couple of weeks after being sick.

I guess long and short is I don’t know what is causing my mood issues.  I really wish I did.  My therapist and I are trying to tease it out.  I’ll track my cycle and see if the mood shifts go away.

I also need to meet some other parents of young children in my area.  I need things to do.  Being alone with a baby all day every day is so hard! I have a visiting mom who will stop seeing me November 1st because I’m out of the region.  Advice for meeting new people?  I tried finding a baby playgroup, but there were too few people for the group to start.  Hopefully, there will be a group in November.  I was going to join a gym that’s like a YMCA, but they wanted too much money for the first month. I got a free month family pass though so I am going to use it.  They also gave me information about a “matinee membership” which is good for Monday – Friday 11 AM – 3 PM which would work pretty well for me especially since they have child care.  Maybe I’ll meet some people there.

I need to stop having these crazy mood fluctuations.