This post has been percolating for a while, but I'm finally going to post it in the hopes that it will help someone else. I'll be including links, so you can read and evaluate for yourself. Remember, use your critical thinking skills and to note the source! Is it an independent study, a nutritional supplement trying to sell vitamins, a pharmaceutical website hoping you don't take vitamins? Some of the studies are very clinical and quite dry reading... take them in small doses!
My son was diagnosed with early-onset bipolar disorder (used to be called Manic Depression). He was on a prescription antipsychotic for
6 months. Now, his illness is managed solely by nutrition and supplements. Here's the story.
He's only been off the meds for 4 weeks, but his behavior scores at school have actually increased.
Before everyone jumps into the comments to flame me about bipolar kids, please know that I am not one of those moms that makes excuses for every little thing her kids do. My discipline is a mix of James Dobson, common sense, and St. John Bosco. With a little Dr. Ray thrown in. I truly, truly believe that many cases of "A.D.H.D." stem from institutionalized education designed for girls and not little boys, for auditory learners, not kinesthetic, and from bright children who are bored while they wait for slower kids, who happen to be the same chronological age and not the same intellectual ability.
(St. John Bosco's Discipline) St. John Bosco took hundreds of parentless boys off the streets - think Oliver Twist, but worse - and turned them into healthy, happy, productive citizens. His methods were endorsed by the Pope in 1854 - the only discipline method to officially be endorsed.
(Dr. Ray) Father of 10, psychologist, love his down to earth understanding of kids!
(Focus on the Family) James Dobson's ministry. Love Plugged In movie reviews, and Adventures in Odyssey!
At age 4, I decided there was NO WAY the kid would make it in a public school. There was also no way we could afford to put him in a private school. So I started my doomed attempt at homeschooling him. We started with "This is A. It says /a/."
When he was 5, we removed all of the furniture and the light fixture from his room.
When he was 6, we removed the bed as well. He would sleep underneath it because he liked the closed in spaces and was that terrified of his closet. He still didn't get that A made the /a/ sound, after two intense years of collages and flashcards and letter theme days and "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". This was a big lesson God taught me. I learned to read when I was 4, and thought that children who couldn't read by kindergarten had lazy moms. How I could ever have been that judgemental, I'll never know. But I was a snob in that department.
When he was 7, I sought treatment for an eating disorder - his eating disorder. He would eat everything in the house (raw spaghetti noodles, too). Then, he would say he was so fat he wanted to die. He told me if he saw a car driving down the road, he would jump in front of it so it would squish him. Then he wouldn't have to be fat. The child was small for his age, and you could count his ribs if he did a backbend. We put grates on his windows so he couldn't climb out or break them. We had padlocks on the pantries and a bicycle chain on the fridge. Turns out he didn't have an eating disorder. He has BiPolar disorder (BP). I was glad to finally get his diagnosis, since I had come to that conclusion independently based on my own research.
Also at age 7, he began attending a small private school with his brother. He was in a mixed Kindergarten/First grade classroom. His brother, a newly minted 6 year old, was in Kindergarten - and my son was placed there as well. Brother made progress - his teacher called him a model student. My BP son would have failed Kindergarten, except I withdrew him early because of a lot of complicated politics at the church. He was there on scholarship - my family has been associated with that church for quite a while, and although I didn't attend the parish, my brother, landlord, and several friends did. I cleaned the school twice a month and volunteered as part of tuition, as well. My son's first grade teacher, in her sixties and truly a gifted educator, agreed with me that something was seriously wrong.
Before he started school that year, I took him to our priest for a special blessing. Not quite a full exorcism, which requires an investigation and the approval of the bishop, but one step down from that. I really do think I explored every option. (well, I didn't do past life regression. I said I'm a quack, not stupid and crazy.) I read all manner of books, prayed, slipped Scripture verses under his pillow. Husband annointed the house with oil and rebuked Satan. (He's a Baptist turned non-denominational).
I had him tested by the local school district, who gave him the ironic label of "Significantly Identifiable Emotional Disability". I say ironic, because they did not identify the emotional disability, just called him SIED. But he did qualify for services, which, in that rural district and through the private school, was going to consist of twice weekly sessions with a social worker to work on self esteem issues.
I declined, and was then accused of child abuse. It seems that putting dear son in the shower to help snap him out of his 6 hour rages is abusive. I thought not giving your child a bath was abusive, but I guess I'm not a trained social worker. A child voluntarily taking a bath is ok. Making them do it is not. Go figure. I think it's because the school district, one ofthe less affluent, wasn't going to get their federal funds for my son unless they provided some sort of service for him, and they were trying to pressure me. Ha! I am not easily pressured, swayed, or influenced. I believe I am what people call mule-headed.
Anyway, throughout all of this, I was working 2 jobs, then 1 job, had a baby, and spent several months with my husband working out of state to support us. Still seeking treatment through the medical establishment. Finally getting a diagnosis. My husband and I made the decision to put dear son, age 7, on antipsychotic medication. A dangerous proposition, especially as this was an off-label use (that medication has been approved for use in autistic children over this summer, however). However, bipolar disorder has a 15% fatality rate (from suicide), not counting shortened lifespans from alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and risk taking behaviors, which BP's do at an astronomical rate. He had already talked about killing himself, and we ended up having to lock the knives up for a while, with the food, since I kept finding them in his room. Remember, this kid was a scrawny 7 year old, not a troubled teen!
A few weeks went by. Dear son, always the special one, will not take medicine or pills. Those little Triaminic strips were my lifeline when he's snotty! Unfortunately, they don't come dye free, but then again, he hasn't been sick since we started the supplements and probiotics, so maybe he's finally getting a healthy immune system. He's also the biggest wimp. So, we figured out how to put the pills in a spoonful of applesauce - sometimes several spoonfuls - and tweaked the dose and the timing. The medication made him more normal. Able to stop himself before he got mad- and when he got mad, it was all over. Could be 4-6 hours before he was coherent again, another 2-3 before he was a little boy again. He had those rages several times a week. He is about 18 months to 2 years behind in emotional development, plays better with 6 year olds than 8 or 9 year olds, and I think a large part of this is the time he missed when he was raging. He would rarely remember anything that happened, would express surprise at broken toys, would ask me what happened to the wall... he literally had 15-20 hours a week of his entire life missing.
The medication gave our family a break. It allowed my spirit, as well as his, to heal. I had a heart for my son again. I had been praying for years - literally - to love him the way I do now. So much damage is done, however, when I would spend hours holding him in the basket weave hold while he thrashed and spit and bit and said all manner of nasty things. Everything was on hold all of the time because of him. Property was damaged, meals destroyed, siblings caught in the crossfire, and many trips were not taken. Family relationships were affected as many thought I was too easy, should spank him more, needed to crack down, needed to be consistent. Even though my other children were turning out pretty good. Others in my family thought I needed to lighten up, relax, give the kid a break. I couldn't win for losing. My dear son also developed quite and acrimonious relationship with his grandmother -but a detailed look into her family relationships will probably never appear on this blog!
The meds helped us heal, and allowed us to get on with our lives. I took dear son out of school in April. He turned 8, I quit my job and was home with him, again trying the homeschooling to catch him up. Husband went out of state for 7 weeks, we moved across the country, and dear son started in a wonderful special education program at the public school. His class has 5 students, 2 adults (teacher and assistant), and is designed specifically for children who are behind grade level due to emotional/mood problems. It is truly a godsend! Everything I love about dear sons class, however, I hate about Son #2's. I believe I've ranted previously about Everyday Math and invented spelling, so on with the BP story.
The medication sabbatical, and a training system detailed in "Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach", really helped us get our feet back under us. The credit system from the book has since been dropped, but it allowed him to see he could do better. It allowed me to replace my mental image of him, to see he could do well, even excel, be normal, have a conversation. It was exactly what we needed. However, I wasn't comfortable giving him this medication for life. There are serious side effects, including heart disease, high cholesterol, and long term use can cause diabetes. I kept looking for a better way.
I had been searching for answers for him for years. Through lots of research, I settled on a plan. At first, I banned sugar. Turns out the real problem was the fake food dyes that sugary kid treats contained. Now he can eat sugar - as long as it's in something natural! Lucky for him, his SAHM is taking up baking again.
Now, his diet is no artificial food dyes (Red #40, Yellow #5, Blue Lake, etc.). No MSG. No petroleum based preservatives (BHT/BHA/TBHQ). They put those things in the bag that keeps cereal fresh! Should we really eat these? No artificial sweeteners. I use Equal to kill fire ant mounds in my yard. Again, can this possibly be healthy? I've got a ton of links, and books, that helped me come to this conclusion - you are what you eat, and what you don't eat. I'll try to post them sometime in the future. I also am making my way through my 6th bout of Gestational Diabetes, so nutrition and health is very interesting to me.
(Side effects of food additives)Next, I treated him for a condition known as Pyroluria. It's standard to treat BP people in the Netherlands for this, but in America, big Pharma would never allow that! I'm down on the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA, and my skepticism grows everyday - again, that's another story (did you know a major sponsor of the American Diabetic Association is Hershey? And Cadbury-Schweppes, the creme egg people?). Now, pyroluria is a vitamin deficiency - like scurvy or rickets. Specifically, it is a B vitamin deficiency, and usually zinc too (B vitamins and zinc are linked in their metabolizing process). Often, there is a copper toxicity. Too much copper displaces the zinc. There is a simple urine test for this, but it costs $70 and I haven't had it done. In one study, interestingly, almost 7o% of schizophrenic patients, and 80% of alcoholics were diagnosed with pyroluria, and their symptoms improved or disappeared once they started taking the vitamins! Alcoholism and bipolar are well known to be co-morbid, that is, appearing together, and the current theory is that many bipolar people use alcohol to self medicate.
(Links to studies on apartame)
(Links to studies on MSG)
(More on MSG)
(Anecdotal evidence, plus recipes and resources)
(The Straight Dope on MSG) (this is like Snopes.com)
(Studies on BHA/BHT/TBHQ)
(Omega-3 influences mood)
(Omega-6 fatty acid linked to depression) Omega-6's replace Omega-3's if deficient
(Double blind study - BP cured or relieved)
(Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain)
Now, the kid, as I mentioned, would probably die before swallowing a pill, so I searched high and low and found chewables without food dyes in them for the B vitamins and Zinc, and he takes Coromega, which is like a spoonful of orange pudding in a little packet. Acidophilus is naturally chewable.
That's the story of our journey into, and out of psych meds. I'll try to keep this updated with links to my other, future posts where I detail my sources, research, and anecdotes.
We are successfully treating bipolar disorder through nutrition. Dear son can read at grade level now, and is in a mainstream classroom for math and science. He loves school and gets good reports and progress reports. He knows many sounds for A - apple, father, ate, and the silent one - read (past tense). He is teaching himself cursive (so he can read my notes to his teacher, I suspect!) and also teaching himself to draw from books and online tutorials.
He's a regular kid again! Thanks be to God.
Books that helped tremendously: (plug it into my Amazon link on the right side to be taken to ordering info and reviews)
No Greater Love, by Mother Teresa
The Explosive Child, by Dr. Ross Greene
The Myth of the ADD Child (and 50 ways to help them), by Thomas Armstrong
Eating Well for Optimum Health, Dr. Andrew Weil
The Strong Willed Child, Dr. James Dobson (didn't help with dear son, but sure did for brother #2 and sister #3!); The Difficult Child, by Stanley Turecki
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A Kempis
The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer. (The old one, not the new 2006 one. The new one uses things like cream of mushroom soup - can't do that if you're avoiding MSG! The old one tells you how to make everything from scratch. I got mine new in 1997.
Transforming the Difficult Child, The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser I was truly desperate to try this approach, but something had to give. I thought it was a miracle short term, we used it for 3 months when I was home alone and husband was out of state. It helped us "reset" our expectations, and our other discipline works very well now.
Tags: Family Life, Nutrition, Special Needs, Bipolar, Mama Says