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, www.bpchildren.org – 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 two of her books Brandon and the Bipolar Bear and Intense Minds to two lucky HLW3B readers (one book per reader).
Here is how you can win:
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!
And leave your email address so I can contact you.
OK, once you have commented, you are officially entered.
The contest will run from 4/14/11 to 4/29/11 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.