Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thoughts on my Brother

I woke up this morning with this incredible ball of sadness in my stomach and memories of my brother swirling in my head. My brother has been dead since 1992 so that doesn't normally happen. I've long since passed the grief stage. So as I was lingering in my high thread count sheets I was left to wonder why I had such vivid thoughts about him. I began to wonder if maybe someone in the blogosphere was struggling with a child and needed to hear his story. For you see, I believe in ghosts and I believe that people find things when they need them.

So here's my brother's story:

My grandmother was a non-treated bipolar manic-depressive. She would end up in the hospital every few years when it got really bad for electro-shock therapy treatments, but other then that, she was left to her own defenses. My mom grew up ducking and covering from her mom's strange behavior and developed her own coping devices which left her later in life coping with clinical depression. This background information is very important to my brother's story since bipolar depression can be genetic.

My brother came out of the womb as an unusual baby. He was high need and very withdrawn. As soon as he could talk he lied. He could not tell the truth if he was forced to. You could ask him what was in his hand and clearly see it was a banana, and yet he would say it was a baseball. At the age of three my mom found him in the bathroom trying to "shave" with a straight razor. He started on drugs at an extremely early age. He brought home a joint tucked into his 3rd grade report card. He skipped school starting in 5th grade and had trouble maintaining friendships. He was sullen, argumentative, cycled from either being very excitable or very lethargic and would go through long periods where all he wanted to do was sleep. My parents were beside themselves.

They sought help from counselors, doctors, psychologists, ANYONE, but no one helped them. No one believed at the time (and people still don't) that a child that young could suffer from bi-polar. I didn't realize my parents frustration until I had E (who suffers from anxiety). I took E to a psychologist and told him about my brother and he told me even today most doctors won't label a child as bipolar. Doctors are only now coming around to the fact that, yes, a child not yet a teen can be bipolar.

My brother ended up committing suicide at the age of 25. He had told me all of his life he would not live past 25, so it was not unexpected. In fact, it was much like that of a cancer patient's death. When he died, yes, my family felt grief, but we also felt a sense of relief. Our family had been set free from the waiting.

So anyway, as I was preparing to write this, thinking there was someone out there who needed to hear this, I looked up bipolar in kids. I read through the symptoms to refresh my memory of the things my brother exhibited. He only exhibited about a 3rd of them. BUT....I realized the person who needed to hear this was ME. I have a boy in my class who the lead teacher has washed her hands of. She can no longer manage him and to be honest, I am having great difficulties as well. I've only once had a child I couldn't connect with and he had severe Asperger's and we even managed, but this child is out of control. When I read through the list, he has about 75% of the symptoms. The one that really stuck out was the hypersexuality. This child is the most sexual 5 year old I have ever seen and it scares me. So now I am left to wonder...Do I fight my lead teacher's belief that I label children and take the chance and speak up? Or do I whisper in the ear of the child's teacher for next year my suspicions and pass the buck?

Anyway...maybe my brother is happier now.


Jeannie said...

I'd put the bug in the next teacher's ear. I think your lead teacher is an idiot. Labelling is only a problem if the labels are tattooed on the kid's forehead - otherwise, they may be a valuable means of categorizing for a purpose. You are able to recognize a child's needs and work with them with that in mind. This is not a bad thing. If that label sticks beyond it's need or you can't recognize other qualities the child has, it might be a problem. I think you could be doing the child a favour by informing the next teacher. Is there any way you could mention your concerns with the parents?

charli-tan said...

over 80% of the kids I work with are disgnosed bi-polar. They are all under ten.. it is becoming much more en vogue to diganose younger but the jury is still out on the appropriateness of the diagnosis at a young age. The issue is that the symptoms look different in younger children then they do in adults or older children.
In terms of the child in your class, I think I would put a bug in the teachers ear... if the child has an issue it needs to be addressed, label or not.

Bubblewench said...

I would bug the next teacher. You've had enough issues w/the current to not cause any more waves there.

Bubblewench said...

I'm really glad you shared the story of your brother. I think that its important that everyone realize that bi-polar can occur in young children. It could be a life saving diagnosis.

Sorry for 2 comments, realized I didn't finish my thought on the last one.