At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? What were the defining symptoms that changed a former diagnosis of (you fill in the blank) to a final diagnosis of Bipolar?
Hey there Mama Bear!
What a complex question, as you probably already know. So much goes into the diagnosis of Bipolar, and as of my experience, starts with numerous either incomplete or total misdiagnoses. (Fun times I tell ya!) Let’s go in chronological order shall we? In today’s post I will address Early Onset Bipolar Disorder, also known as Pediatric Bipolar.
PDog’s (Mis)Diagnosis and the Quest for the Right PDoc
When PDog (for anyone who hasn’t read my bio, PDog is my son. Obviously not his real name, but for privacy reasons…we are going to pretend it is!) was about 4, I started to notice his sensitivity. At the time he was taking growth hormone shots. (Poor little guys was a 4yr old the size of an 18 month old…but so dang cute!) I thought maybe the hormones had something to do with his moodiness, but when I consulted the doctors they said that was not one of the side effects. They said he was probably just “A Sensitive Child”.
The following year he started the Young Five’s program at the elementary school. Right away we had issues. He had a hard time staying on task, little things would set him off (such as his snow pants not going on right or his boots) and the rest of the day would be shot. There were problems on the bus and at day care as well. (Thank goodness we had the BEST day care provider ever!) He began seeing the school social worker, but with him only being 5 yrs old they didn’t want to look into learning or emotional disabilities. As parents, we were frustrated, but both the teachers and the doctor assured us that he would probably grow out of it.
(Mmmmm McDonald’s frozen lemonade…sorry…Just taking a little sip of heaven. What? Why yes I do like to throw in little pieces of random to keep you on your toes! You’d think I was ADHD or something….wait…is that a sparkly pen?)
Kindergarten arrived, as did a whole new set of problems. In school he would have outbursts where he would scream or rip his paper to shreds. He rarely got sent home, but a call from the teacher was not uncommon. In one instance he even stabbed the principal with a pen. The summer before school started we had made a very difficult move after losing our house then downgrading to an apartment. The school social worker thought he was probably just having issues with all the sudden changes.
(Note…he was off the growth meds by this point as well…)
They put him on a rewards program where he would earn stars three times a day if he behaved. The problem was, if he did not earn a star the whole day would be ruined and there was no going back. Eventually he evened out a bit and the teacher kinda knew what set him off, so he was tolerable. Then winter rolled around as did winter break and for some reason once he got back to school, all the progress he’d made disappeared and we were back to square one.
At this point we had a meeting with the school social worker and the teacher. They decided we needed to send him to a PDoc (Psychiatrist) for a formal diagnosis before we could proceed any further. (Heaven forbid they just start an IEP.) My husband had just accepted a job in a new city and just as we were beginning to move forward with the school, a house became available for us to rent nearer to his place of employment and we decided it was best for our family to move.
So once again, new school, new teachers, new students. We researched the schools in the area and decided to go with a local Magnet Montessori School. We thought that the different style of teaching might make it easier for the little guy to function.
We were OH SO very wrong.
The school was part of the public school system and lacked the funding to deal with a child like him. He was sent home weekly because they didn’t know what to do with him (or didn’t want to deal with him…its debatable) He spent half the time kicked off the bus because kids would pick on him and he would give it right back.
Finally we took it upon ourselves to find answers. We saw a clinical psychologist who diagnosed him with ADHD and ODD. She saw the signs of Bipolar, however because she wasn’t actually a PDoc, she didn’t feel comfortable giving him that “label”. So she sent us to the pediatrician who prescribed Adderal.
That summer the best thing in the world happened. A new Charter School opened up and we were able to enroll the kids right away. As with ALL the schools prior, I spoke with the teachers, principal, and in this case the dean before the school year started about PDog’s issues. This helped to prepare them, but not enough. He and the Adderal did not get along.
He was anti-social. His moods would swing from high highs to super low lows. He threw chairs and desks and books and pencils. He had screaming fits and refused to do work. At first they tried to keep him there, but eventually we were back to him getting sent home. His outbursts became more and more violent and were more like rages at this point. We took him off the stimulants and sought a more professional opinion.
The first doctor was an intern at MSU. (big mistake) He also did not want to give PDog the “label” and felt it was more likely just ADHD, and that was probably (Probably! Seriously?) the cause of the mood swings. I even explained that I had Bipolar and that a lot of the things I saw in my son reminded me of myself, but he didn’t think that was the problem. He prescribed him this med used for cardiac patients and sent us on our way.
Not satisfied….and I refused to give him a drug that I didn’t know a thing about.
My husband researched and found a local PDoc that SPECIALIZED in pediatrics. He was our second gift from heaven. The first appointment was with my husband and I where we explained the things we had experienced with PDog. The second appointment he observed my son. Of course it happened to be on a low day and the little guy had a melt down right then and there.
I didn’t even have to share my opinions about what I thought was the problem, he nailed it on the head right then and there. He said all the symptoms, as well as my mental history, pointed clearly to Bipolar Disorder. He was completely comfortable with the diagnosis and we began treatment right away. (The treatment part being a WHOLE OTHER story, but I think I’ve written a long enough novel for this post)
The process was frustrating, however I’m thankful we were able to learn the truth so early on in his life. Hopefully we’ll be able to completely stabilize him before he adolescents. (Knock on wood…dammit why isn’t my desk real wood?)