Oh ... Really?

Category: Bipolarville

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Now It’s Really “For the Children”

The point at which I fell irretrievably in love with Sarah Palin came during a one minute segment in which she looked directly at me, and thousands of parents like me, and spoke to a matter very near and dear to our hearts ....

For anyone that has been a reader here for long, you will know that this is very personal to me. I have lived in a crazy place I call Bipolarville where I fought for the very life of my child ... battling schools, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies, TennCare, nasty neighbors, law enforcement, the juvenile justice system, all the way to the governor's office. I hope that Sarah really does continue to walk the talk on this especially, to make a difference for families like mine. One law mentioned that could be a great beginning is Ryan's Law. Given Sarah's past record of reaching across party lines to get things done, I would really love to see her pick up and run with the late Paul Wellstone's (D- MN) efforts for insurance parity, to mandate insurance companies cover mental illness treatment no differently than they do physical illnesses.

My son has, so far, made it through the nightmare of growing up with special needs. (Me, well, PTSD is not a stranger to my life) He is living on his own now, holding a job, paying bills, and I am thrilled to say, exploring Christianity. At one point, I was told that there was no hope for him, that he should be put away in an institution, that he would never amount to anything. It was hard to hang onto hope, but we did. Perhaps with Sarah Palin in the White House, holding on to hope will be easier for all of us.

Posted by LissaKay on 09/04/08 at 05:56 PM in ~ Bipolarville ~ Politics
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Saturday, June 17, 2006

School system guts mental health and advocacy program

It would appear that my son graduated from school just in the nick of time. The Knox County school system has decided to eliminate a major component of the special education services for students with mental illnesses and brain disorders. Holy crap ... I can't imagine trying to deal with the schools without the Bridges program.

'Bridges' program replaced
Knox schools substitute own mental-health plan after center's cost rises

By ERICKA MELLON, mellone@knews.com
June 17, 2006

The Knox County school system is ending a 14-year-old mental health program administered by the Helen Ross McNabb Center and replacing it with a less costly, in-house model.

John McCook, Knox County's director of special education, said Friday the district rejected the center's proposal to continue offering its program in the schools because the price tag doubled to about $1.27 million.

The decision has troubled several parents, who praise Helen Ross _McNabb's "Bridges" program for reforming their children's behavior. The program last year served about 250 students with conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

McCook said the district will be able to offer a similar program, starting July 1, for roughly $1 million. And the district likely will be reimbursed for part of the cost by TennCare, the state's health-care program, he said.

What this program did was provide each student with their own liaison. These liaisons are licensed mental health social workers, employed by the mental health center, NOT the schools, and were tasked with assisting their students and their families, providing support, information, advocacy and counseling. The true scope of what all they did would take too long to write out, but I will suffice to say that without my son's liaisons, we never would have made it. I seriously doubt that what the schools are proposing as a replacement will be anything but a pale imitation of what these folks were.

The biggest loss will be the advocacy aspect. Being NOT employed by the schools, the liaison were able to truly be on the students' side, to be their champion and advocate. For me, as a parent, that was invaluable because I could make my concerns known to the liaison, who could then present that to the people at the school. No muss, no fuss, no worry that I would get pissed off and yell at them ... which was a very likely thing to happen on several occasions. These folks really know how to get things done. And they were really *there* for the kids and families.

Posted by LissaKay on 06/17/06 at 05:00 PM in ~ Bipolarville
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Just a short little walk

We made it!


Proud does not begin to describe ....

I have some video too, but can't figure out how to get the file size down to anything reasonable ...

Posted by LissaKay on 05/18/06 at 01:26 PM in ~ Bipolarville
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We made it ... against all odds

Barring a last minute crisis, tragedy or meltdown, my son will receive his diploma at his high school commencement tomorrow. If you think that's not a big deal, take stroll through Bipolarville, then come back and read that first sentence again.

I will post up some pictures and maybe some video later.
Posted by LissaKay on 05/18/06 at 12:34 AM in ~ Bipolarville
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Peek Inside

If you watched Law and Order: SVU tonight, you got a small glimpse ... a tiny peek ... into what life with a teen with bipolar disorder is like. A snapshot of my reality.

Kudos to the writers and director and all involved with tonight's episode for the accurate portrayal of some of the issues we deal with on a daily basis. This episode was about a teen girl who has bipolar disorder, and goes off her meds due to the influence of a popular rock star who campaigns against psychiatry. (Sound familiar? I think we've "Cruised" down this road before) While off the meds, she has sexual intercourse, then yells rape. When her lies are exposed, she gets manic, gets into a car (bad juju there, reason #1 why my son does not have a driver's license) and mows down several people, severely injuring 6 of them, killing a 14 year old girl.

The rock star spews more BS about how psychiatry is a conspiracy to control the minds of young people, and the meds are poisons ... and offers to pay the girl's defense costs. The girl adoringly hangs on his every word, convinced her parents are poisoning her. The DA agonizes about prosecuting a mentally ill person for actions caused by the illness, while knowing that the girl has to pay the consequences. In the end, they reach the best possible outcome ... if only life were so simple that all crises could be resolved in a neat 42 minutes. But, I digress ...

The girl portrays the essence of the bipolar mind so perfectly, I wept. The disordered thinking ... black and white, obstinant, bending reality to fit her goals ... logic meets anti-logic and the explosion leaves one totally boggled trying to follow along, saying "Wha ... ??? Huh?" The parents were perplexed, helpless, confused, exhausted ... yet, determined to save their little girl, whatever it takes.

Television being what it is, it cannot completely depict the entirety of the range of emotions that the parents of mentally disordered children experience, but this episode of Law and Order did a great job of painting this one portrait. Welcome to my world.

Posted by LissaKay on 05/16/06 at 11:01 PM in ~ Bipolarville
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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hoop Dreams

This ... is ... awesome. And if you don't need a tissue by the end of the video (click the pic), you don't have a heart.

image"This is the first moment Jason has ever succeeded (and could be) proud of himself. I look at autism as the Berlin Wall, and he cracked it." - Jason McElwain's mother, Debbie McElwain

Probably 90% of the those who view this video do not fully understand what this truly means for this boy and his family. For children with issues as big as autism, every day, every hour, every minute is a challenge. Every accomplishment, every success, every step forward is a great achievement. I listen to other parents, who's children are "normal" ... they beam when talking about Honors status, valedectorian, scholarships, athletic victories, amazing feats their kids have done. People with kids like Jason, my son, Cathy and Doug's Tommy, Michelle's Dakota ... we celebrate a "good" day, one without a meltdown, bizarre behavior in the grocery store, defiance, mania, rage. We celebrate when they do something that "normal" kids do everyday.

Another challenge we face is the stigma ... kids can be cruel. Horribly, terribly cruel. Anyone who is seen as different is usually treated horribly, especially in high school. Seeing the outpouring of celebration, excitement, support, encouragement and love from the other kids for Jason ... that reduced me to a blubbering mess of tears. That is what made this event super special for Jason.

God bless you, J-Mac ... and your family, your friends, your team and your school.

There is a follow up video too

Google Video appears to be down right now ... the links just go to the regular Google search page. The story and video are currently at CBSNews.com, but may not be there very long.

Posted by LissaKay on 02/25/06 at 03:09 AM in ~ Bipolarville
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Friday, November 11, 2005

An Understanding I Don’t Want to Have

Yes, I have been absent from the online world recently. My previous post gives but a small hint of what has been going on in my little world. I have turned into somewhat of a hermit ... unwilling and unable to engage in any conversation any more profound than the latest and greatest yarn sale. However, a local incident ... a school shooting, has moved me to put fingers to keyboard.

The following is what I left as a comment at Dr Helen's place. Dr Helen is also known as Mrs Instapundit. However, my interest in Dr. Helen is less political and more professional ... from her I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up ... I started down that path when I intended to major in psychology, before I went and got stupid, and got married, which interrupted my college education. Forensic psychology would be perfect for my analytical brain. Oh well ... maybe in my next life.

Anyway ... I said, in response to this post by Dr Helen:

In March of last year, I watched in horror as the events in Loudon County unfolded. A man, a husband, a father to be, deputy sheriff Jason Scott was gunned down by Michael Harvey. The prevailing thought I had was, There but for the grace of God, and lithium ...

Again, when I heard the news from Campbell County, the reports about the boy, the young man, who had taken a life with his own hands, I could not help but see many similarities in the behaviors between the shooter and my own son.

My son has bipolar disorder plus an alphabet soup of co-morbid disorders ... ODD, OCD, PTSD. He came home today after spending 3+ weeks in a court ordered evaluation at a mental hospital (Peninsula, for you Knoxville area locals). He had a total belligerant manic rage in front of deputies, and even insisted that he be arrested. Whether it was a cry for help, or a bid at self-destruction, I do not know. But fortunately, we are back on the path to stability, and hopefully, a productive life for him.

I see the same things in all three boys ... backed into a corner, with no way out, instead of taking a sensible path of surrender or simply stopping the behavior, they lash out instead, seemingly mindless of the consequences that will befall them by escalating the situation. Perhaps the only thing that kept my son off the front page of the Knoxville News-Sentinel is the lack of access to firearms. Maybe he could have stopped himself before it reached that point, perhaps I could have seen the signs well enough in advance. Or maybe not. Maybe we just got lucky, got a judge savvy to mental health issues instead of one that just wants to throw these kids away, and he got this last chance.

Living in this bizarro world of Bipolarville as I do, tuning into the skewed and screwed up thought processes of the bipolar brain my son has, where crazy is "normal" and "normal" is some alien planet many light years away ... I hear the details of Ken Bartley's life and his rampage, and I understand. God help me, I understand.

I see the seeds of what sometimes turns into Michael Harvey and Ken Bartley in other kids too. Some turn it inward, and simply self-destruct. Some seek out relief and solace in drugs and alcohol. The lucky ones, if the word luck can be used in this context, they face a lifetime of medication, therapy, being different and of struggle. But there are those few, like Michael and Ken, in whom the seeds grow into something so dark, so evil, so deadly, most of us cannot even fathom the motivations that bring them to that point.

I cry tonight ... for Jason Scott and Ken Bruce, their loved ones, for Gary Seale and Jim Pierce and everyone else these boys have hurt. I cry also for Michael, for Kenny and for my son and thousands of other youths everywhere who are in pain, who's lives and futures hang in the balance ... and for the system that is systematically failing every one of us. ALL of us suffer for this failing.

Posted by LissaKay on 11/11/05 at 01:30 AM in ~ Bipolarville
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Monday, July 25, 2005

When it rains it pours

There are days when I truly understand the mindset of those who end up on a roof with a sniper rifle taking potshots at passersby below ... the last few days I can really relate. Not that I actually would, but I can understand the hysterical frustration of being backed into a corner with no way out ...

I've been nervous as crap lately because I had to buy the car ... a car payment for the first time in many years! And work hasn't been going as well as I had hoped recently. Money is a bit snug these days, not strangulating tight, but I have to watch it carefully. Then, I find out that I am somehow going to have to cough up a rather tidy sum within the next few weeks. From which orifice I am expected to haul this from, I know not, but the penalty for not doing so is one that gives me chest pains to contemplate.

Full-on, long-ass rant below the fold ... you have been warned.

Posted by LissaKay on 07/25/05 at 01:07 AM in ~ Bipolarville
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Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Deepest Cut

The Latest Craze? Michelle Malkin seems to think so, that teens cutting themselves is a "fad" inspired by celebrities, like Christina Ricci, and a pop music genre known as "Emo". While I respect Ms Malkin and find myself in agreement with her more often than not, on this subject, she is way off base. When I first read her articles, I was stunned into disbelief and at a total loss for words. It has taken me a full day to put my own thoughts together.

Michele of A Small Victory tackles the subject here and here, and while she does a marvelous job at shooting down the theory that cutting is caused by music or the emulation of celebrities, like me, she struggles to put into words the true impact of children harming themselves. It truly is something that defies explanation, comprehension and reason.

Why would a child want to hurt him or herself? Why? To take a razor blade or other sharp instrument and cause oneself to bleed ... cause oneself pain ... WHY? To be cool? To impress one's friends?

He sat at the desk in his darkened, upstairs bedroom fooling around with a pocket knife the first time he cut himself on purpose. He made a small slit on his forearm. Then another and another. Before long, he had doodled an hourglass shape into his flesh. Drops of blood trickled across his skin like the tears he could not shed.
A feeling of relief washed over the troubled eighth-grade loner. It made him momentarily forget that cruel classmates called him fat and spread false rumors that he was gay.
The cuts filled the hollowness inside. It was a rush but not a high. He was no longer numb. He felt alive.
His mother's voice shook him from his trip to normalcy. She needed him to take out the garbage. He didn't bother to hide his fresh wounds. She saw them and scolded him. She told him it was satanic and to never do it again.
Bruce Howell, now 19, can't explain why he drew a blade across his arm that first time. But it gave him a feeling he came to desire.
"It's like someone going out and having a cigarette," he said.
Self-injury, particularly cutting, is a secret plague among young people across the country as a way to cope with inner turmoil. Some burn themselves. Some hit. Most cut. They say it eases their emotional pain, clears their minds or calms them down.
Some use cutting as self-punishment. Others do it to assert control when everything seems to be spiraling out of control.

Cutting isn't new. It isn't a fad. It isn't cool. It is a sign, a symptom of much deeper issues. Cutting, or self-injury is common among those who are afflicted with some mental disorders, like bipolar, severe depression, borderline personality, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD, and also among those who have experienced severe trauma, like abuse or sexual molestation. What all these disorders or illnesses have in common is they all cause the sufferer to experience extremely deep, horrific internal turmoil, anguish and pain. Some, who are able to verbalize their thoughts on cutting, have said that the pain caused by the razor blade changes the focus of the pain to something external, something that can be seen ... and dealt with. A distraction, if only temporary, from the incurable internal pain. There's an old joke about a fellow who is complaining endlessly about a toothache. His fed-up wife finally stomps on his foot. As he hops around tending to his wounded foot, she says, "Now that old tooth doesn't hurt as much, does it?"

Posted by LissaKay on 02/24/05 at 03:08 PM in ~ Bipolarville
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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day

Near and dear to my heart ...

Bipolar disorder is a devastating illness that effects the entire family. I have been through the dark hell of bipolar with my son ... he was unstable and on the brink of total disaster a little over a year ago. It was only because of my persistence and determination to not let the bipolar monster take my child from me that he is now being treated appropriately. I certainly did not receive much help from schools or the medical community. I had to kick up quite a fuss to get what he needed. I also had to battle the stigma and public misunderstanding of mental illness. That is a battle that may never end ...

I have been contacted by a local television station reporter about doing an interview on teen-agers and the dangers of anti-depressants and bipolar disorder. In the past, the parents interviewed spoke from the shadows, as if they had something to hide. If this interview does happen, I will not hide ... I have nothing to be ashamed of and neither does my son. I hope this happens ... I hope that it touches at least one struggling family and encourages them to seek help. There is no shame, there is nothing to hide. But there is everything to lose by allowing shame to keep one from seeking the help they need.

Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day, was introduced in 2003 to raise awareness to consumers, family members, and friends, either living with or yet to be diagnosed, on what the illness is and how to seek treatment and recovery. This year, Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day is being acknowledged on Thursday, October 7.

A survey was commissioned by NAMI and Abbott Laboratories in an effort to better understand the issues surrounding mental illness and bipolar disorder. This survey focused on the college age population, a critical age for education, awareness and diagnosis. The survey was conducted during June and July 2004 and assessed the views of 1,033 college students, 1,028 parents of college students, and 282 bipolar disorder patients.
Students reported the warning signs of mental illness at alarming rates, yet few parents are aware of these behaviors in their children. 50 percent of students rate their mental health as below average or poor, while 25 percent of parents report their student’s mental health to be in this range.
The survey found that mental illness is a major concern for the college student population, yet half of all students report receiving no education on mental health issues before starting college, including education from family, friends, teachers, counselors, or clergy. In contrast, nearly 75 percent of parents report having conversations about mental health with their children.

In addition, parents and students alike report many misconceptions about mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. Although bipolar disorder is the result of a chemical imbalance and can be treated and managed with medication and therapy, 35 percent of parents and 48 percent of students believe the disorder is at least somewhat attributed to a character flaw or weak willpower. In addition, more than 70 percent of parents and students would be uncomfortable to some extent if a close friend or family member was dating or marrying a person with bipolar disorder.

To find out about Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day/National Depression Screening Day events in your community contact your local NAMI.

For more on my son's journey out of the darkness and my battle to bring him out, see the posts in the category "Bipolarville."

And if you or someone you love needs help ... get it. There is no time to lose.

Posted by LissaKay on 10/07/04 at 03:06 PM in ~ Bipolarville
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