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Diane Zwick

from Loxahatchee , FL

My son was 18 months old when he had his first meltdown. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I learned. I was disciplining him for something, very mild (time out for a few minutes), and when I turned around to leave, he threw a fork at my head. I was so shocked I couldn't even move for a minute. So I picked him up, and took him to his room and said, “You stay in here mister, 'til I tell you to come out,” which looking back now is really funny. Little did I know how ineffective my words would become from this day forward.

I shut his door with him screaming blood-curdling screams, and went to the kitchen to catch my breath. He came out, picked up the fork, and threw it at my head again. I chased him to his room and when I got there, he was on all fours, rocking back and forth, sobbing. I was really scared. I knew something really strange was happening, but I didn't know what. So I said, “It's OK Zack, forget it. Here's your bottle, let's go watch TV.” But he wouldn't get up. Just kept rocking and screaming. I couldn't bribe him with anything. I was alone that day, and I started really freaking out. I called my friend, who lives in another state, and she sounded scared too. She asked, "He won't even take his bottle?" And I said, “No. It’s like he doesn't even acknowledge I'm here; he doesn't want me to touch him, or even look at him.”

It was so heartbreaking: this little 18-month-old baby this angry. I just sat in a rocker beside him for an eternity. (probably 30 minutes) Then he crawled up into my lap, took his bottle and smiled at me. I started crying so hard, because I knew something wasn't good. It happened again a few days later. His father came home in the middle of it, and went into the bedroom to see him huddled in a corner sobbing; the color just drained from my husband’s face.

My son is four now. I was lucky to find the CABF(Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation) website pretty quickly, and if I hadn't, I'm quite sure, my sanity would be gone by now. I found so much comfort and support there. I learned. I am still learning. It never seems to be enough or in time. I feel as though I'm doing damage, because I don't know as much as necessary. My son has “graduated” to trying to bite me like a rabid dog, digging his nails into my face, picking up huge objects and hurling them. And yesterday, my worst fear, unlocking his seatbelt, and pelting me with toys from the back of the van. I had to pull over and jump out and run into the street. People were looking at us; I caught him, and struggled to get him back in the car, and I was so scared people would misinterpret what I was doing and call child protective services. He was screaming so loud.

I came home and found this. I listened to "A Mind of Their Own", and just cried. Hearing the kids who are older, teenagers, talk about their poor, misguided parents, the kids frustrated because (bless their hearts) the parents don’t have a clue. It seems there is nothing you can do to make this better, to help them. But thank you for supplying a place for people to tell their story. Mine is just like so many hundreds of others, you start to think “They don't want to hear this. They're living this." But it does feel good to tell it because this is the only place you can tell it. I am dreading this day.

Thank you.

Looking back, what could have been done at the time to improve the situation? Treatment, medication, a different approach, or understanding from others around you?

I did everything humanly possible. I read everything in print. I lived on the computer. I found a psychiatrist as quickly as I could, which took a month, because even though I was crying on the phone, and my son was screaming in the background, the receptionist calmly told me that was the first available appointment. When I hung up, I cried even harder, knowing that's how much they cared about these poor children in crises.

He was put on 2.5 mg of Zyprexa and things did improve a little bit. He was at least sleeping now, and no nightmares.

I tried to educate my office about this, but of course all I got was "If he was mine, I’d slap him into tomorrow," and "You’re too soft. Let him know who's the parent" - worthless garbage, from people who could never understand unless they lived it. So I learned to shut up at work.

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