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Guest Post by Laura A. – ‘My son’s best friend.’

I am delighted to be able to publish this ‘Guest Post’ which was sent in to us by Laura A.

As someone who experiences mental health challenges myself, and as someone who writes and blogs about them, and as someone who – running this mental health writer’s guild – who reads a lot of blog posts written by others who experience mental health I – like so many others – have a fairly comprehensive understanding of what mental health issues can be like for those who experience them firsthand.

this guest post however is written by a mother, and one who is obviously dedicated to the caring of her adult son who experiences mental health issues.  And thus it does, I believe, afford us a very valuable alternative perspective.

I therefore encourage you to grab a cuppa, sit back and read what Laura has to share through this wonderful post…

My son’s best friend!

I am my son’s best friend, but I don’t want to be.  I want my 19 year old son to have friends his own age….but he doesn’t have any friends so….I am my son’s best friend.

And what a responsibility it is.

He wants to talk all the time.  Discuss the slightest, even silliest thing.  He asks the craziest questions.  Questions about my childhood, his grandmother’s childhood.  Questions about our financial situation.  Why his dad snores.  The outfit I choose that day.  What snacks I bought for him.

Anything becomes a question.

I always answer his questions….and at times to be honest I don’t care.  I really don’t.  I’m so tired of his constant talking and questioning that I really don’t even hear him anymore.

But I listen, and listen, and listen.

You see my beautiful boy suffers from Bipolar Disorder.  How and when did that happen?  He was a very happy healthy little boy. He excelled scholastically, athletically and socially.  Up until he was about 15 everything was “normal” (or so I thought).   I was so busy taking him to practice, games, after school activities, friends’ homes that I wasn’t aware of anything changing.

But it was and boy did it come on like a ton of bricks!

One day in his sophomore year of high school he just couldn’t walk into school.

And so it began…

At first the doctor said it was anxiety disorder (omg….if only!)  “Anxiety Disorder” lead to depression….and his first intro to anti-psychotic meds……hello Prozac.

Then years of home schooling, then going back to school to only be home schooled again. Friends coming and going (mostly going).  Teachers, principals, school social workers, school psychologist….everyone had us on speed dial.

Now comes the manic stage…..the getting into trouble, the fights, the staying out late,  the smoking pot and “not so nice” kids hanging around our house….yep we had it all.

Let’s not forget to mention the doctors. Oh….gotta love them.  I’m convinced his psychiatrist of 4+ years is sick of him (seriously) his 45 min session is down to 15/20 minutes at best (at $250 a session it gets expensive very fast!). He has seen at least 7 therapists. Some he didn’t connect to others he did and would go to a dozen times and then stop.

The medicine is a topic unto itself!  There is a list mile long there. Some worked, some didn’t.  The side-effects for this young man were heart breaking!  Of course getting him to always take his meds was another torture.  I’d leave the meds out and go to work praying he would take them.  He could have been tossing them for all I knew….and he probably was!  He even did GeneSight testing to see if he could tolerate the meds he was taking.

Have I left anything out?  Of course….I can’t write this story without mentioning the hospital visits. The awful institutions (all private and very, very costly)!  These places were useless, well at least for my son they were.  He was so scared and lonely in them that he spent most of the time begging us to take him out.   I realize family visits are encouraged on weekends because there is little staff to take care of the patients and they need some type of company.  He came home from three facilities no better than when he went in.  But it didn’t end there, he blamed me and his dad for forcing him to go to these places.  That was his daily dialog….all day he complained how they ruined his life.  This went on for months.

So here he is now close to 5 years later and he is not any better.  I have read every article published about people with Bipolar.  I have gone to NAMI meetings and met with other parents and loved ones who have a family member suffering from this awful disease.  I have cried many days on my way to work wondering when, when will this end.  I have been encouraging to my son when he looks at me with tears and begs for answers.  I don’t even know where I find the words as many of these conversations have taken place at 3:00am, but that’s what a best friend does.

A best friend gets up, gives a hug and talks….and talks….and talks.  And a best friend discusses even the silliest of things….like what it was like to be a kid in the 60’s,  and why does dad snore.

[Editor’s Note: As I mentioned in my introduction to this piece, I am so very grateful to Laura A. for sharing this piece with us.

As someone who experiences mental health issues this piece impacted me on many levels.

The pain and the frustration woven within the words of this piece are as evident as the love, concern and compassion that binds the thread that sews them there.  Love, concern and compassion which so many parents of those who suffer from mental health issues know and demonstrate only too well.  And yes, pain and frustration which they also know too well.

And as someone who has striven (most of my life) to protect my family, including my parents, from the ‘fall out’ of my mental health issues.  (Doing so to the extent of excluding myself from them.)  I am acutely aware that the experiences and difficulties expressed within this piece, can – if allowed – cause some of us to feel guilt for what we – as a result of our mental health issues – may feel that we have or are putting our loved-ones through.  

But of course, I have no doubt, that this was not Laura’s intention on writing the piece.  And in truth the child (whether adult or not) with mental health issues did not ask to have those issues, any more than the parent of a child with mental health issues asked to have a child with those issues.  

This guild exists as a community for those who write about mental health in order to fight the stigma attached to it and in order to raise awareness of the issues associated with it.  This piece, I believe, raises awareness of an aspect of mental illness and mental health which, sadly, too often goes overlooked.

My heart, my respect and my prayers go out for Laura and all that she and her son are experiencing, and indeed for all parents of children (of whatever age) who experience these difficulties.  And I hope that this piece will encourage other parents who are experiencing such difficulties and let them know that they are not – despite how it feels – alone in their struggles.]

  

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5 comments on “Guest Post by Laura A. – ‘My son’s best friend.’

  1. This post is heart breaking and beautiful. Thank you, Bold Kevin, for publishing this, and thank you, Laura A, for writing it.

    One of my sons was diagnosed with bipolar as a teenager. Hospitalized twice, and heavily medicated for years. Now he is 36, off all meds, working at a steady, good paying job, and engaged to a lovely young woman. My son still has some emotional ups and downs, but they are nothing like the extremes he had in his teens and early twenties.

    I was diagnosed with bipolar type 2, around the time I turned 40. After nearly a decade of trying every bipolar medication available, I went to a different psychiatrist, who gave me an extensive battery of psychological and physical tests (which is something that was not done, by the psych doctor who initially diagnosed me with bipolar). At the end of several days of testing, it was determined that I do not have bipolar disorder, but I do have a severe case of Post-traumatic Stress, anxiety, and depression.

    My blood work that this very thorough psychiatrist also ordered, found that my iron was far too high. Further tests revealed that I had Hereditary Hemochromatosis, which causes very high levels of iron to build up in one’s body. Toxic levels of iron will eventually adversely affect every organ, including the brain. Now that my iron is kept in check, I no longer have any symptoms of bipolar.

    But I still have PTSD. Although I have come a long ways on my healing journey since my PTSD was diagnosed in 2003, I am ceaselessly searching for new avenues of healing.

    A few months ago, I read about the efficacy of neurofeedback eeg brainwave training in treating PTSD. I have had about a dozen neurofeedback treatments so far, since I started this treatment in February, and the difference is amazing. It’s almost a miracle! My husband and his 44 year old daughter, who lives next door to us, are astounded at the difference in me. Recently, a woman at our church told me that she is now recommending neurofeedback to everyone she knows. “I can see the difference on your face and in your eyes!” she exclaimed.

    My neurofeedback therapist has told me that NFT works for bipolar, autism, depression, anxiety, dementia, strokes, learning disabilities, head trauma, and really all kinds of brain-emotional-mental disorders. He told me that he has used neurofeedback on 4 people with schizophrenia, “and they don’t have schizophrenia anymore.”

    Unfortunately, neurofeedback is expensive, and health insurance typically does not pay for it. We are having to pay for my treatments with credit cards. But it is so worth it. Oh, how I wish it were available to everyone who could benefit from this! I hope to persuade my son to give NFT a try, as well as my husband, who is on disability for PTSD, caused by combat in Vietnam.

    One unexpected (to me) benefit of neurofeedback is that I no longer have any physical pain! I will soon be 64 years old, I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in my spine, my physical pain was very bad for years — but now I have no pain at all!

    I will be writing a post on my own blog soon, about neurofeedback. Thank you again, Kevin, for the wonderful work you do.

    • Hi Lynda Lee,

      Many thanks for getting in tough and taking time to comment.

      It really was a wonderful post wasn’t it.

      As for what I myself do, it really is nothing and certainly not enough 🙂

      Kind regards and God bless you.

      Kevin

  2. You can feel the pain behind the words in this. I love the honesty in this post and my heart does go out to Laura. Thank you for sharing.

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