Our Journey Through Childhood Mental Illness

children bipolar adhdFrom the day he was born, my second child, Dylan, was a handful. At first I thought it was me that was the problem. I had a 2 year old, a baby, we were 3 months from moving to a new house and I had just quit my job to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. It was a lot of “new” things all at once!

As Dylan got older, I noticed he was very different from his brother. I didn’t expect them to be the same because no two children are, but he was very demanding of my time and energy. He started walking at 9 months, was seldom a “happy” baby or child, and was very hard to be around. I felt guilty! Guilty for not being able to make my child happy.

Guilty that I didn’t enjoy being around him.

By the time he was in 4th grade, my husband and I had been experiencing severe ups and downs with Dylan for years. Not just normal tantrums or conflicts. We knew his behavior wasn’t typical for his age.  For several years up to this point, I had been talking to his doctor about his behavior. I had been reading books on “defiant children” and “strong willed children” and children with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). I was trying to educate myself on how to handle a child with his behavior.

I was trying to make myself a better parent.

I talked to his teachers about his behavior at school. They all loved him! In fact, during a lengthy testing phase of Dylan’s behavior, his 4th grader teacher said she “wished she had 25 of him in her class.” So, once again, I was feeling guilty about not being a good parent, and I blamed myself for his behavior.

I will spare you most of the details, but after visiting with his pediatrician, a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist, Dylan was diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar one week before his 9th birthday.

I felt relieved. It wasn’t my bad parenting!

All those years of people giving me advice on his eating, sleeping, punishments and activities were making me think I wasn’t a good mom. All those dirty looks I got when he misbehaved in public were not because I was a failure. But I was also deeply sad for him. I now worried that the world would label him and treat him different because of his mental illness. There is such a stigma to those two words…mental illness.

My husband and I are both in the medical field, and we knew enough to not jump to medication. Dylan went to therapy after his diagnosis with no improvement. The therapy actually frustrated him more! So, after months of no improvement, we decided to put him on medication ADHD and Bipolar. What a difference that made! It was like night and day for him and our family. Dylan had always monopolized our time and now he wasn’t the center of attention! The stress in his life and in our house was finally reduced. Hallelujah!

Dylan is now a 15 -year-old Sophomore who still gets straight A’s! He’s active in his school and has lots of friends. He’s HAPPY. I’m going to say that again…HE’S HAPPY! His sense of humor has developed into one that is fun and sarcastic.

For this once worried, guilty mom…that is the best “medicine” in the world!

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2 Responses to Our Journey Through Childhood Mental Illness

  1. Traci Addington December 3, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    Thanks for sharing it was inspiring, and especially important to hear since mental illness is more common than many know. Your personal story helps with reducing stigma.

  2. April Lucas December 4, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    Your family’s story will help others; it provides hope and encouagement. You and your spouse are very fortunate to both have medical backgrounds and to know this is treatable illness. Merely because people reading this might want to know where to turn: Families can ask their health care providers, or schools for specific resources. People might call Sedgwick County COMCARE 24/7 crisis line 316-660-7500 for more info or referrals if as parents the need more information and options. COMCARE has sliding scale for payment and even helps underinsured or those without insurance. Thank you for being brave and spreading hope! #nojudgement #raiseawareness

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