Sam’s story begins in 2007 when, after nine long months of feeling like I had an acrobat in my stomach, his entered the world. From the moment he was born, Sam was constantly moving, crying and irritable, but also very happy and content.
All seemed normal until my husband and I attended Sam’s preschool conference. As all parents do, we expected to talk about coloring between the lines while receiving a picture of our family and piles of still dripping paintings.
What we did not expect was a concerned look from his teacher and the words ADHD to come out of her mouth. As all busy working moms do, I instantly contacted our pediatrician. I was going to get to the bottom of this! Now, if you are a strong and determined woman like I am, you know being told “there is not much I can do” is not an acceptable answer. However, in that moment, that was all I had.
The next couple of years would include several doctors, medications, navigating a school system, working out extracurricular activities with skeptical looks, making and losing friends and many days and nights of fear, embarrassment and shame for Sam and our entire family.
In 2014, Sam was hospitalized for a week after making threats to harm himself and being so out of control that my husband and I had no idea what else to do. A few other out-patient hospital trips followed during 2015. Sam’s teachers were wonderful, but getting the School District to issue an IEP (individualized Education Program) involved many meetings and forceful conversations. Things were not getting better. Medications would work and then not work, therapy sessions would go well only for Sam to turn around an hour later and not be able to stop screaming for the rest of the night. All the love in the world could not help this boy. My heart was breaking, but I didn’t know what to do.
In 2017, things turned for the worse when Sam developed tardive dyskinesia after going off one medication and starting another. This side effect resulted in an extended stay at the UI Stead Children’s Hospital and many doctors, again, not knowing what to do.
I was at a breaking point. Sam could not live like this. There had to be a better answer than “I don’t know or let’s try this for a little while and see what happens.” My Uncle offered to make some introductions with a well-known psychiatrist friend, and the next thing we knew, we had an appointment with Dr. Mani Pavuluri at the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Psychiatry. Before Sam and I headed to Chicago for the appointment, I read Dr. Pavuluri’s book What Works for Bipolar Kids: Help and Hope for Parents cover to cover three times. For the first time in five years I felt HOPE!
Dr. Pavuluri confirmed what I had feared while reading her book. Sam had not been on the correct medications for his disorder for quite some time. We are still going through a bit of trial and error with her, but we keep getting closer and closer. Each time, more and more HOPE.
Thank you for letting me share Sam’s story. We are just in the beginning chapters and I know we will continue to have many more ups and downs. If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone and it does not have to consume your life. I hope you will keep reading and share ideas with me as we go through this journey TOGETHER as parents of amazing children.