Interview with Tracy Anglada -- Author and Advocate for Bipolar Children

I was reading a blog post the other day that I found through the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Association (CABF) by Tracy Anglada and it struck me -- hard.  I think the simple fact that this woman was raising 4 children, two of which were diagnosed with Bipolar was pretty amazing -- but when I read that her children inspired her to write a book about Bipolar, I knew we had something special in common.

When Tracy heard her children's diagnosis, like so many of us, she wanted a book to explain the illness to her then 7 year old son. That was not available in 2000 - neither was a book for siblings, a book for teachers, or a book that gave these kids a voice.

So she wrote them.

Tracy is the author of Brandon and the Bipolar Bear (also available in Spanish), Turbo Max, The Childhood Bipolar Answer Book, SWIVEL to Success (Bipolar Kids in the Classroom), as well as Intense Minds:  Through the Eyes of Kids With Bipolar Disorder and all of her books can be found on her website.

Tracy says, "That sad state of affairs lit a fire inside of me that would begin what has turned into a decade of advocacy. I'm proud to say that today mothers who are faced with the same news I was ten years ago have far more resources available to them. I'm happy to have been a part of that but I also hope that new advocates will still feel the same fire I did and make a difference for future generations."

As a mom, writer, author and advocate for my own children -- I knew that I needed to talk with Tracy to learn more about her, her family and Bipolar Disorder.  And lucky for me, she agreed.  She even agreed to give away a copy of TRHEE of her books -- Brandon and the Bipolar Bear and Intense Minds and SWIVEL to Success.  (Boy do I wish I could win this one!).

So, for those of you who are parenting, teaching or caring for a child like Gabriel -- with many labels, including Bipolar Disorder -- this one is for you.


Hi Tracy! Thank you for joining me here on HLW3B. Can you start by telling us a little about you and your family?

Thank you for having me! I’m the mother of four children – three busy boys and one beautiful daughter. My children range in age from 8 to 18 years old. After two of my children were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I realized how many resources were desperately needed to help kids with bipolar disorder and to help others understand them. I have spent the last decade helping to create resources for my own children and for others who would benefit from them. That has led to the writing of 5 books, numerous essays, articles, brochures, newsletters and to the creation of the BPChildren website.

How did you know your child was Bipolar? What are some of the early warning signs?

My son experienced his first major depressive episode at the age of 6. It is devastating to watch someone at that tender age go through such a difficult time. While we could clearly see that he was suffering from depression, we did not realize that this was the beginnings of the same illness that had plagued 2 previous generations in his family. While he certainly had some difficulties prior to this time, it was this first depressive episode that made us realize that he needed help. Later, I learned that up to a third of children who have depression may actually be experiencing the onset of bipolar disorder. Other early warning signs include anxiety, poor attention span, excitability, changing moods, numerous physical complaints without obvious cause and difficulty in school. Of course, not every child with these difficulties will go on to develop bipolar disorder, however, these warning signs coupled with a family history of bipolar disorder should prompt a parent to be watchful in case symptoms progress and to seek professional help when needed.

As you know, explaining your child’s behavior to their siblings can be very difficult. We struggle with this more and more at our house; trying to explain to my middle son Nick why his older brother Gabriel says and does some awful things. How have you handled this with your children?

Bipolar disorder affects everyone in the family! Our approach has always included open and honest communication with all of our children. Explaining the illness to the siblings in our family was so important to me that one of the books I wrote is specifically for siblings. “Turbo Max” helps siblings understand bipolar disorder and gives them some ideas on coping. It has also been important in our family for siblings to have the space they need and time alone with a parent. During times of instability, it is also helpful if the siblings have a place they can go for a little get-away such as with a grandparent or other relative.

Summer is a difficult time for families like mine; keeping a sense of routine and structure for my son can prove exhausting! I have found that summer school is very successful for him. What kinds of things work for you during the summer to prevent boredom and keep the peace?

Summer is always a two edged sword. On one hand, it is difficult because of the change in routine and more time together. But we also find it less stressful because there isn’t the pressure of school and homework. We are using this summer to make some needed medication changes. So for now, we are planning very low key activities and remaining flexible. The kids are involved with volunteer activities in our religious organization. This gives them purpose and a sense of accomplishment in an environment of friends. We have also given each of the kids extra responsibilities around the house to stay busy and have included the bowling alley as a fun way to release some energy. We use one night a week for a ‘no electronics’ night where we can come together and play games or read. My son has also found some odd jobs for friends. This has given him something to focus on and a little extra spending money.

Tell us about your website, – what can we find there?

Visitors to the BPChildren website will find pages for kids that include mood charts, tips for kids, posters, coloring pages, articles for children, and a talent showcase. We also have numerous newsletters that have featured stories about children with bipolar disorder. Other sections of the website include information for parents, teens and teachers. Our page for teachers has a free downloadable brochure and frequently asked questions. We also have a 20 minute audio/video slide presentation on our home page. I hope you will come and visit and please be sure to become a fan of BPChildren on Facebook where we post current news.

Thank you Tracy for taking the time to speak with me here today! Your personal experience is invaluable for parents like me – and knowing that we are not alone and that there is hope for our family is a precious gift!


Now for the free part!

Tracy is giving away a copy of one of her THREE books Brandon and the Bipolar Bear, Intense Minds and SWIVEL to Success to one lucky HLW3B reader (One book per reader).

Here is how you can win:

1. You will need to follow this blog publicly through Google located on the top of the right column or via RSS/email (please indicate in your comment which one you use) and

2. Post a comment for Tracy -- tell us which book you want and why -- she will be reading and responding, so feel free to ask other questions too!

3. Leave your email address so I can contact you.

OK, once you have joined and commented, you are officially entered.

The contest will run from Monday 6/28/10 to Monday 7/05/10 and will end at 7pm PST. The winner will be selected by random drawing, and emailed (don't forget to leave your email address!!).  If you do not respond, a new winner will be drawn.

Please take the time to tweet and share this on Facebook to help spread the word, awareness and help to families who need it.

Good luck!


Tired Mom said...

What an AMAZING story of hard work and determination! It's crazy, in my mind, how we find ourselves on a completely different path than the one we had originally planned for ourselves. Our children truly are our inspiration. You've done an excellent job Tracy! And thank you Hartley, for sharing this!

Cassandra Sines said...

I just signed up for following through Google.

I have all of Tracy's books, but would be happy with any of them and I could pass it along to someone else!

Chynna said...

Had to come back twice because it hits close to home with me too. =)

As a daughter of a mom who lived with bipolar her entire life, and no one brave enough to help her, thank you.


PS: Hartley, you don't have to enter me. Give the prize to someone who REALLY needs it right now. xo

tracy said...

Tired Mom - Yep, our lives get turned completely upside down and then we realize that we ended up where we needed to be all along.

Cassandra - Awesome! I love that you are willing to share. :)

Chynna - Hugs to you. So many needed this help a long time ago.

~ Kristen said...

Thank you for this interview Tracy and Hartley!

I would love to be able to donate a book (any) to our local Children's Therapy Center (Dynamic Family Services) here in Kent. We have been blessed with a wealth of information from them on SPD and I go in and read up and always seen parents and teachers doing so as well. To be able to help build the library with amazing resources like this would be wonderful.

I follow via RSS Google reader, Have a great holiday weekend!

Dannielle said...

Thank you so much for posting this interview. I could definitely use the sibling book, "Turbo Max." I am the mom to four beautiful girls. My 7 year old daughter has been diagnosed with Bipolar, Sensory Processing Disorder and Anxiety. My heart goes out to her when I see her struggle, but it also breaks to see the impact on her sisters. I haven't found a good sibling book for the girls and this one would be great. Thanks for the inspiration.

Hartley said...

Hi everyone,

I am getting ready to choose winners and I realize that many of you didn't leave your email address -- if you want to win, please do so by the end of the day. :)


marythemom said...

Waaah! I'm so far behind in my blog reading. I know it's too late to participate in the contest, but I'm looking forward to exploring this website. Myself and my two adopted children have bipolar disorder (they also have many other disorders). I have 2 younger kids who do not have it (yet?). It runs strongly in my family. It's really hard for them to understand their siblings.

Mary in TX
Just in case! - mbrush at austin dot rr dot com