Tyler’s Bipolar FOH Story

 

I’m the mother of 3 boys, ages 19, 13, and 10. When my oldest was 9, he was diagnosed with “General Mood Disorder”, ADHD, and ODD, and later Anxiety & Depression. So by the time my youngest, Tyler, was born I had a little bit of first hand experience with psychiatrists, therapy, meds, etc. I have also worked in child care since my oldest was an infant so I have many years of experience in early childhood development. 

 

I could tell very early on that Tyler was different. I wasn’t sure how, but I just *knew* we were going to have challenges. By 3 years old the mood swings and aggression were clear. I couldn’t figure out what he was so angry about and the aggression just seemed to come out of nowhere. By age 4 his behavior was absolutely concerning. I took him for an evaluation by our public school district who found that he scored lower than average in the area of social/emotional but not low enough to qualify for early intervention services. I then turned to the company that my oldest was a patient of for “behavioral health” services. A therapist referred him for a psychiatric evaluation where he was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. Very soon after due the extreme aggression/rage/meltdowns he was having was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. At the time, as I understood it, he was given the diagnosis so that insurance would cover the prescription of Risperidone. Soon after, his therapist recognized signs of possible autism and  after another evaluation he was given the diagnosis of ASD as well.

 

Before entering kindergarten I contacted the school and expressed my concerns because I knew that school was going to be challenging for him. They began the IEP process right away but initially decided that he did not qualify for special education services. Within 2 weeks, literally, I received a call from the school psychologist who said they made the decision too quickly and would need to reconsider the IEP, which was then approved. Even with the therapy, meds, IEP, etc. Tyler continued to struggle. He had difficulties at school, daycare, and home. 

 

Sleep was always hit or miss for Tyler. He often had trouble falling asleep and would often wake up at crazy hours (1am; 3am) and not be able to fall back to sleep. He struggled with random bed wetting, peer interactions/maintaining friendships, and constant irrational anxiety. He feared the doorbell and the windows. He would not let me light candles for fear the house would burn down. He feared that a bad guy would jump into our backyard and break into the house and kill us all. He feared thunderstorms. I can’t even remember all the “weird” things he was afraid of but I remember thinking, “where did this come from?” The anxiety was intense and it was very real.

 

And then there was COVID… Tyler hated everything about remote learning but at least for that year and a half there were no school suspensions! He went back to in-person school in the fall of 2021 for 3rd grade, and that’s when things got really out of control. After a short honeymoon period the meltdowns/aggression/school refusal began again, resulting in multiple suspensions, a change in classrooms, and ultimately he was spending the entire day with a special education case manager one-on-one. When his doctor prescribed an antidepressant it immediately sent him into mania. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen! Needless to say he did not take that medication for long, but this confirmed the bipolar diagnosis.

 

I then focused on learning all I could about juvenile bipolar and joined a Facebook group for parents of bipolar children. It wasn’t long before someone in the group commented on one of my posts and mentioned Fear of Harm. After a quick Google search I came across a short video on YouTube describing FOH and that was the moment my life changed forever. I know that sounds dramatic but it is so true! I reached out and talked to Elizabeth, and more and more the pieces seemed to fit, I knew that I had finally found the huge missing piece of the puzzle, and she provided me with information that I was able to share with Tyler’s provider. When I first mentioned FOH to his provider she was unsure but after she did her own research she agreed with the diagnosis. Even before he was diagnosed I dove into the CMHRC community, joining their private Facebook groups, and online support groups. It’s strange because I’m not even the one living with FOH myself, but for the first time ever I felt like I had finally found MY people, this is where I belong. I was finally with people who truly understood my struggles and helped me to understand my own child and his struggles.

 

It’s been just over a year now and Tyler is doing better than ever! With the correct diagnosis/meds/treatment/cooling techniques/etc. and being in a special program at school for kids with emotional disabilities he is like a whole different kiddo! We still have bumps and still have our struggles but they no longer control our daily lives. I now feel like I know what is going on with him so I am better able to help him and to advocate for him. Instead of feeling hopeless and exhausted I now feel empowered and confident! Discovering FOH and the FOH community has given me hope that I had been missing for years and I now know that there are better days ahead!!  

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