About Me

I am a single mom of three amazing boys!  All three of my sons entered my family through adoption.  All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mental illness, even when life is better it is still a struggle

I got my 3rd email today that  Matthew again had a perfect day at school!  I only wish I knew what had changed.  I started to get all excited, maybe the new behavior plan was the key to helping Matthew.  Maybe it was the medication change.  Maybe it was because he was happy to be home.

As I started to get caught up in all of the reasons life could be better, I realized that I have to be cautious when I find explanations for or take credit for things being better, because then it is easy to take blame for or assign reason for when things fail.

What has become exceedingly clear to me is that Matthew is a child who struggles with bipolar disorder and this along with his fetal alcohol syndrome are the explanation for his behavior struggles.  Of course, as with every child, Matthew needs consistency, he needs calm parenting and he needs structure.

Like all parents, there are times I excel at being calm, and providing structure and times when I am not so good at it.  I am realizing more as I see Matthew these last few days that he responds to my parenting very differently depending on his moods and it is his moods that create the struggle.

Tonight I got home at 6:00 and started dinner, helped Jacob to make a hat for hat day, watched David build a structure with boxes while giving him tape and listened to Matthew sing 3 songs and ask me to help him download music from itunes.  There is only so much any one person can help to make a hat, hand out tape and listen to songs while being talked at by 3 children before a mom goes crazy.  I asked Matthew to please focus on the computer and told him that I would help him download the music in 10 minutes if he was patient for 10 minutes.  I then tried to get the other 2 boys to be more independent so that I could get to Matthew.

Unfortunately, in the first 2 minutes of waiting, Matthew asked me 3 more times to help him download music and as dinner was starting to burn I was fried and told him he could not download music tonight.  I waited on eggshells.  Would this bring an explosion?  Hadn't I promised not to say no?  What happened to me being patient?  It was his earned time on the computer....why hadn't I had the other 2 boys wait and helped Matthew.

Then, an amazing thing happened, Matthew just got up and walked away from the computer and came in to the kitchen.  He apologized for asking so many times for my help.  

My behavior has not changed....I have to remember this because I have wasted so much of my time blaming myself for Matthew's behavior.  I have cried myself to sleep more often that a parent should, because I have thought I was a horrible parent.  I am just getting to the point that I am realizing that my parenting is pretty consistent.  It is Matthew's reaction to my parenting that changes based on his mood which is controlled by his mood disorder or bipolar disorder.

On Saturday when Matthew was struggling all I said to him was let's go to the grocery store to buy stuff to make cookies (rather than going to the grocery store to get a cookie) and he had a 2 hour tantrum.  Today, he dealt with not being able to download a song and losing a part of his earned computer time by apologizing for his behavior and moving on to play in the play room.  There is no predicting when he will change or what will send him into explosion.  There is no predicting when he will cycle again back into an aggressive cycle and when we will again all be in crisis.

What is important for you to know is that even now when Matthew is at his best, and he is truly better than he has been since October or November, he is still Matthew.  He is still a very exhausting force to be with.  Since he took the Lithium he has developed a hand tic, so now not only is his entire body in constant motion, but his hands are constantly wiggling. 

From the minute he gets up in the morning until the second he leaves for school, and the minute I get home at night until he actually falls asleep he is talking or showing me something or wanting to tell me something or singing to me.  He wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night to talk to me.  He goes to sleep telling me just one more thing.  I am taking time right now, while he is happy, to enjoy his one more things.  I am loving watching him enjoy music and enjoying his drums.  When he is happy he plays drums a lot.  When he is cycling downwards, he stops playing music.

Right now he and Jacob are playing a lot of music together.  it is these times that I hope that Jacob holds on to so he can get through the rough times.  I am telling myself throughout each day that I have to enjoy this time.  I have to treasure the smiles, and the happy sounds that Matthew is sharing so that I have that next time he is struggling.  I have to cherish our hugs and even his over the top laughter because it beats his anger. 

Matthew is a person of extremes.  He is over the top, he is the true description of  larger than life, but in his happiness, I can enjoy his laughter.  In these moments I am hanging on tight because I have missed his smile.  His whole being is constant and loud and intense, but the intensity right now I can deal with and I treasure after the last few months of struggling.

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