On our first visit to Dr. Y., he spent approximately 30 minutes with us. We told him of Zack’s strive for perfection, his need to be perfect, first at everything, and his OCD tendencies. This led him to believe that Zack had an anxiety problem, which is true, but it is so much more. I have learned through my research that many of the behavioral disorders children have are rarely a single problem, they are usually accompanied by other issues.
DrY. began to write out a prescription, which we reluctantly filled believing it would miraculously give us an even tempered, easy going, and compliant child. This medication was an anti anxiety med. called Luvox. Dr. Y also suggested we take Zack to a therapist for “play therapy” to help him deal with his frustrations and anger when things are not going smoothly for him. During games, play, coloring, whatever the task may be he would become increasingly irritable and frustrated if everything would not go just as he wanted. For instance if a Lego would not fit just perfect he would get angry and either throw it across the room or destroy it, or if coloring and he went outside the lines he would tear it up. When he played games with friends he always had to win, be first in line, and never get out (like in dodge ball.) If any of these things happened he would loose control, cry, yell and refuse to be out, and erupt into a full blown rage.
I remember one occasion at the playground when he was about 5 he was trying the monkey bars and kept falling off at a certain point, however he would not give up, he repeatedly tried, even when his hands were covered with blisters until he was able to cross the monkey bars completely without falling, all the while becoming angrier with himself, and more determined, but never giving up. I have found that Zack’s worst enemies are frustration and boredom. If either of these two “bad guys” shows up we are all in trouble.
At the time of starting the first medication he was at the end of the school year of 4k, doing well, never any behavior problems (in school). We had noticed that he was becoming increasingly hyper, moving all the time and fidgeting. Then one day his teacher called and said he was becoming unruly in class and not obeying her, a problem she had never encountered with Zack. This was a sign to me that the medication was causing these problems, a call was made to the doctor and the Luvox was discontinued, and another medication started.
At this time we visited my parents and my mother put me in contact with a friend of hers who always claimed to have had a child very similar to Zack, irritable, angry, defiant, moody, violent, and would rage. While talking to this lady, also a psychiatric nurse, she suggested that Zack could be bipolar, to which I replied “no, he doesn’t fit, I know the definition of the illness and have seen the patients in the hospital, and he carries none of the symptoms.” Zack was not hyper or manic, he was not depressed he did not talk very fast; he did not go into periods of depression. This very knowledgeable lady then informed me that bipolar disorder in children looks very different than it does in adults. Children exhibited the disorder in different ways such as irritability, anger, defiance, and prolonged rages, all of which did fit Zack.
This information peeked my curiosity so I began doing some research on bipolar illness, specifically in children. The most highly recommended book on the subject was called The Bipolar Child, by Demitri Papolos, M.D. and Janice Papolos. I headed to the library to check it out, to find it had a waiting list, so I waited.
In the meantime Dr. Y started Zack on an antidepressant medication called Zoloft, it too caused his behavior to be worse rather than better and again his teacher called from school. During an appointment with his Therapist we discussed these latest problems, at which time she too suggested I read The Bipolar Child, and especially the information on the various medications. During our conversation she informed me that some medications, especially antidepressants can cause a person with bipolar disorder to become manic, or loose all ability, what little they may have, to control their impulses.
I made the decision to discontinue this medication also, again feeling that no meds were better than the results we were having now. Dr. Y. thought we should try another medication called Neurontin, an anticonvulsant medication. This was prescribed because some studies have shown it to be used as a good antianxiety agent. Against our better judgment we agreed to give this one a try also, hoping again for a miraculous cure for our child’s rages and behavior problems. At this time we were on our way to the beach for summer vacation with my parents and hoping the new medication would allow us all to have a relaxing and peaceful holiday. Little did we know…..?
The storm began after 3 days on Neurontin. This turned out to be not any other storm, but a full blown hurricane in Zack terms. The book had finally come in and I read it constantly during this time, on the ride there and every minute in between, most of the time it was through tears. After reading probably the first two pages I realized what my son’s illness was, without a doubt, the pages described him to a T. Everything t hey wrote, the moods, the personalities, the anger, the mood swings, over reacting to minor things..it was scary. It was like the author was living in our home and writing about Zack. (continued)
Zack and his mimi
- The Bipolar Puzzle: Kids and Bipolar Disorder (psychcentral.com)
- Bipolar Affective Disorder (healthhype.com)