by Emily

My son, Jake seemed to start out fairly typical as a young child.He was shy with strangers and did have more than his share of separation anxiety when he started preschool and kindergarten. He has always been very creative with lots of ideas and projects he liked to work on.

The problem incident that stands out in my mind the most from early on is a rage he had at about age 3 at a movie theater. He went into an unbelievable tirade when we could not exit the theater through the same door we had entered.After finally being able to get him in the car and home, it continued for another hour or so. I had no idea what was going on with him at the time. Now, I realize this was the beginning of obsessive behavior which has been a big part of his bipolar picture.Related to this he became increasingly inflexible about transitioning from anything he was currently "obsessed" and working on to do other necessary things.

He did well in early elementary school,although he was increasingly hard to get to bed and to get up in the mornings. He also had much anxiety and fear about being alone at night and we always had to lay down with him when we could finally get him to bed.

About age 10 or so, we started seeing other changes,such as increased irritability and oppositional behavior especially after school and when he was hungry,over tired,etc. After starting middle school everything escalated even more. Raging, with aggression and destructive behaviors at home after school became frequent. His inability to function at school became apparent. He was not able to deal with the extra organizational requirements of middle school, ie, using a locker,changing classes and keeping up with a variety of assignments,due dates,etc. Efforts to meet with teachers, keep up with communication with an assignment agenda,etc. were of minimal help.I now recognize these difficulties as deficits in executive functions as his illness took hold. He had behavioral incidents that year that we had never had before. His daily work and grades plummeted. We did consult with our family doctor that year feeling depression was a factor(we had illness and deaths in our extended family during this time frame also). The family doctor started him on an

antidepressant and mild anxiety med to try to help with his sleep problems.We also started some private therapy for him to try to help with the ensuing organizational and social problems. He did well on end of grade testing and was promoted.

The first few weeks of 7th grade were horrible with extreme hyper, raging,and destructive behaviors after school, inability/refusal to do any homework, escalating to hallucinations and complete school refusal. We began care with a psychiatrist, met with teachers, and decided to remove him from public school. He has been homeschooled since age 12. It has been a lifesaver for us to be able to follow his interests and our own agenda for his learning and not to have the stress of the school agenda as we have gone through several years of med trials,side effects, a hospitalization, various levels of mania and one severe depressive episode.We have gone through many harrowing experiences associated with his mania/impaired judgement episodes, too many to mention here. A few are his making napalm in our carport and trying to light it, unintentionally getting involved with a bad kid in the neighborhood leading to some theft from our residence,him getting out at night on one occasion getting charges and landing us in court.During manic episodes he has been up at night moving furniture, ordering things on the internet,taking apart lawnmowers and other manic activities. We have had to at times, lock doors and sleep with the keys, try various programs to block him from the computer, and arrange our work schedules to keep him supervised. I work nights and my husband works days.

At 17, he is now semi-stable after finally getting a good med mix shortly after he turned 15. It is still very challenging at times with milder mood cycling and sleep disruptions along with some obsessivenss and occasional hallucinations.. Everything is more manageable with the right meds and levels of those meds.He remains a very creative person and now is able to channel it more productively. He is a guitarist,songwriter,movie-maker,poetry and storywriter, and aspiring computer programmer. He is still catching up those years of extreme instability and requires much more supervision and daily help than most teens. We are grateful for the professional help we have received and the right meds that have helped stabilize him.

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