Establishing Your Child With A Psychiatrist Before Sending Them Off to College

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It is August and this year I am going to have two college boys. One who is going to be attending college for the first time. In our home we speak very openly about mental health and openly about mental illness and the possibility of how it could affect my children at any point in their lives, given the family history of mental illness and the fact that many times mental illness is genetic. They are also aware that the college years are where most mental illness will surface for the first time for an individual.

Before my middle child began his college career two years ago, we established him with a psychiatrist in case anything was to happen while he was at college. We wanted to make sure we were covered if an episode was to occur. He has ADHD and while his primary physician had always been able to prescribe him his medication, we knew that establishing with a psychiatrist would be the proper thing to do for a college student in case he was to have a situation. I am glad that hasn’t been the case and as of today he has had a great college experience and been able to handle the stress of college and mental illness has not surfaced in his life at this point.

This year one of my twins starts college for the first time. This son’s life has been touched by mental illness in the past and so the fear for me is much higher as we prepare for him to go off to college. When he was a freshman in high school, he went through a very deep depression that required a psychiatrist and therapist in order to get through the episode. I was very proud of my child because when he saw that he was not able to get past his depression on his own he reached out to me and he asked for help. Thankfully, our household rules of openly speaking about our mental health paid off for my child. He was able to get the help he needed and by the end of his freshman year he wasn’t as depressed and he was able to stop therapy and go off the medication for depression and return to his normal routines as a teenager and finish out his high school career almost normal.

However, I had noticed over the last three years that my son didn’t have the number of friends that his twin brother had. I noticed that he didn’t go out with his friends like his brother did. He avoided certain social settings, and he was just not doing things that normal teenage boys do. I noticed, but more than that my son started to realize he wasn’t doing those things either. He asked me once again as one of the most mature teenagers I have ever seen, to make him an appointment with the psychiatrist because even though he was taking care of himself physically and doing all the self-care he could he wasn’t able to break the grip that anxiety had on him and that he thought he needed to see the psychiatrist because it was a chemical thing that was wrong and he needed help to get past it before attending college on his own over 4 hours away from home. Once again, I established my son with a psychiatrist so he could find help before college.

College is a scary time for students. It’s scarier if students don’t feel they have the knowledge that their mental health is going to be okay while they are there. By establishing with a psychiatrist before they leave for college you take away a little of the fear. By knowing that you are going to do what you can to help your child feel their best by contacting doctors and getting them established with the doctor really can ease them into the college experience. I know it also puts my mind at ease to know that if a problem was to occur, I also have back up in the form of a great doctor to call. Do your part for your child if they have ever had issues with mental illness. Know where the medical facilities are on campus. Go over their options for while they are at school. Talk to them about what to do if they run into a roadblock, find themselves overwhelmed, or if they get depressed. Find out what your school’s resources are for mental health. If there are organizations on campus for support groups. Just do your part as a parent to prepare your child for the perfect college experience. College is scary but it should be the best time of their life. Make sure they get to enjoy it as that.

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The Challenge of Bipolar Disorder and Living with Delusions

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Being bipolar can be challenging. For me it’s partly because my mind refuses to shut off. When I’m not doing much and just being around the house, I find myself doing the one thing that makes most people break into anxiety: overthinking. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself in depression.

I spend so much time pressing out the thoughts that I have forgotten what an impossible task this is. Ironically, I wind up having to take medication to help my brain press out the thoughts now causing anxiety.

Fortunately for me, normally they work. However, sometimes the thoughts become so overwhelming that no matter how I try to distract myself, I can’t seem to manage to do so. Paranoid delusional thoughts can come at me so rapidly that even when I think I have the whole bipolar delusion thing figured out, I realize that ability goes and comes.

Most of the time my delusions are that people I know and are on my side do not like me. I think people who are trying to help me make things better are against me. I feel that everyone around me is talking badly about me and are having conversations with each other about me and the things they don’t like about me. I think every giggle they make with someone else, and every look they exchange has got me in the center of it. It’s as if I am standing in front of a class in my underwear. Except for me, I am not dreaming — at that moment it’s happening in real time.

Sometimes they get so extreme that I believe my biggest supporter is against me. Sometimes I am able to pinpoint what I have done wrong with my compliance plan for managing my bipolar and figure out quickly how I got off track and started down the path where the delusions began. Other times I struggle so badly that I know that no matter how well I take care of myself the delusions will never be more than a thought away. They, just like breathing, are a part of my life. I don’t get to decide to do it, when to do it, or how often they come. I have been told many times I am a likable person, so why I believe that others dislike me will always be something I don’t understand. My mother-in-law used to say, “Tosha, they have better things to think about than you.” Although though I know that’s right I still cannot make the delusions or the overthinking stop.

I try to keep myself busy throughout the days. I read, study things I find interesting, crochet (but there is a lot of free time for thinking while crocheting), play on Facebook or clean. Sometimes, though, when things are really coming at me fast, the overthinking and delusions won’t stop no matter how hard I try to repress them. When they happen, I tend to create the environment that I was trying to avoid. I will talk about someone, call them a name, because they are out to get me, or so my mind believes. I will make up a reason for my husband to be upset with me or me to be upset with him. I believe he isn’t loving me enough or we aren’t connecting anymore. I think since I have bipolar and my mind is always going that I need the reinforcement continuously.

Now that he and I are nearly 40 and our children are well into their teen years, life is slowing down and because of it, there’s more time to think. I have more time to develop problems that are not really there. I can normally get past them, sometimes convincing myself that I am overreacting. Every once in a while, though, I forget to check myself and the delusions create something out of nothing.

My husband is very forgiving. It might take him a day or so, but he tries to remember I am not always in control of the thoughts that bog down my mind. He tries to reassure me that what I am thinking isn’t happening. At times he has just refused to talk about something because he knows I conjured it up and he won’t fall prey to my mind like I do. I am very thankful for that. He has lived with me for long enough to know when I’m having delusional thoughts.

They can be strong or they can be weak, but I am never truly free from their torment. The biggest battle has been fought, though, which was the battle to know what the delusions were. I didn’t know at one time that the paranoid thoughts I was having had a name, and they were actually part of bipolar disorder. I was both relieved and scared to learn that what was happening to me had a name. Scared because it meant that I truly did have the disorder but relieved because if it had an actual name maybe they had developed something to help me. I was lucky treatment helps me get a handle on what’s happening.

I never wanted to be put on an antipsychotic, never considered what I manifested was psychotic behavior. Long before I figured out that the thoughts were actually delusions, my doctor knew what they were. He never told me they were bipolar delusions and common in the condition. He treated the symptom of the delusions, which, I believe, has more than once saved my life. I worked hard to find the right doctor. I had two other doctors before the one I have now. He listens to me and he doesn’t give me the same medications he gave the patient he saw right before me. He gives me the medicine I need to treat my symptoms. This means I am not taking medicine I might not need. He sees patterns in my behavior and helps me recognize what my mind is doing. I trust I am getting the right care.

When the delusions start, I know what to do. I know now that they will be there no matter what I do. My doctor said when it comes to medication we have it all right. I have to learn to talk about it and learn how to work it out for myself. I can’t depend on the medication to correct everything.

Today, because I felt guilty for overspending, I started to blame myself more than my husband blamed me. In fact, he had let the situation go. Then he talked to me a bit about my thoughts and did not feed into my paranoid thoughts of him being more upset with me than he truly was. Eventually I was able to see what I was doing.

More and more I am able to recognize the fact that I am overthinking a situation, that my mind is not being rational. I am able to warn my husband and let him know by saying, ”I am having a hard time not overthinking things today.” I am lucky enough to have found someone who says he will never understand why I do the things I do, but he will always support me through it. I am a very lucky wife.

So yes, overthinking is a bipolar symptom. I no longer walk around in a solid depression because of what I feel others think of me. I am able to be confident and have good self-esteem. I am able to be a leader and try to help others when they don’t think they can keep going. I don’t let the delusions win. I tell them who I am, and I don’t let them destroy things I have worked hard to create. I am able to remind myself that this is part of the disorder. What I am going through is going to be there sometimes, but I don’t have to let it control me. I make the decisions in my life, my mind doesn’t anymore. I know my mind thinks it is in control most of the time but I always remind it that I, not it, is the one with the ability to stay in control of the delusions.