Reader Question: Children and Mental Health Diagnoses

question_markJust answered this great question from reader and advocate Judy Fryer on my live chat with  Martin Baker and Fran Houston for the launch of their new book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. (I often do live question and answer sessions on my Julie A. Fast Facebook account.) 

Julie, In the UK, the drs are very reluctant to diagnose children with a mental illness. It is very difficult to discern if a child is displaying signs of mental illness or being ‘naughty’. The danger is, we put their ‘ bad’ behaviour down to puberty and we miss the signs. Any pointers as what to look out for?”

Hello Judy!

The first step is to examine the family history and see if the child has symptoms that were seen in other family members. For example, bipolar disorder is a genetic illness. If you have a young child who is depressed at age 10, ask around and see if this happened to a relative. It may be the first time this topic has even been addressed, but it’s essential it comes out sooner than later. Here is a scrip you can use. “Our sweet boy Marcus is having some down thoughts about himself and why he can’t make friends. We have noticed that he is spending more time alone in his room and that he cries when we try to ask him a question. It’s so important that we get him help now. We are asking family members if they or anyone they know of in the family has had a similar experience. If this is the case, we can let doctors know there is a genetic predisposition to depression in the family and we can get Marcus the help he needs.” This can be done by email. All it takes it ONE PERSON being honest for a whole family history to come out!

Bipolar Disorder and Voting Anxiety


Bipolar disorder anxiety and voting.

It’s time to vote here in the United States and as always, I’m amazed at how anxiety can rear up and affect our ability to do the things in life we hold dear! Voting is an amazing right and experience, but for people with anxiety, it can be a stressful time. Here are a few suggestions that I used myself to get my vote recorded. We have a mail in ballot in my state and even thought I pushed the deadline close, I got my ballot finished and sent in!
1. Recognize that anxiety around voting is absolutely normal and you are not alone if all of the little dots and squiggles you have to figure out are causing you a bit of brain alarm. That is ok! You are normal!
2. Focus on how you will feel after you vote. Remind yourself that anxiety won’t kill you- even if it feels like it will. Getting out tomorrow and making a difference can create GREAT feelings afterwards. Not voting due to anxiety might be far more stressful if the illness wins.
I want to encourage all of us to vote- even if voting feels a bit overwhelming right now. As I say in Get it Done When You’re Depressed. You don’t have to feel motivated to get things done. You don’t have to feel good. You don’t even have to feel that you can make a difference! Instead, you can focus on the doing. Get out there and vote no matter what. Fight that anxious feeling and ask for help. Get someone to go to the polls with you. Ask for help to fill out a ballot if needed.
We can do this!
get it done cover

We Can Learn the Signs of Bipolar Disorder Mania

 We can do anything once we know what we are up against. When I was finally diagnosed with #bipolar disorder at age 31, I had an answer to the eternal question of, ‘What is wrong with Julie!?” This gave me a platform to change. I learned about the illness and came up with a management plan. It’s in my books. I use it daily. It works for anyone affected by bipolar disorder. Parents and partners are my focus and believe me, you can learn to help someone with bipolar disorder even if the person doesn’t want to accept your help right now.
You can- we can- anyone can learn the signs of this very obvious and easy to spot illness once the signs are listed. It’s not complicate to recognize bipolar disorder once you know what to look for.
Here is one of my most popular articles from BP Magazine called Letter from a Manic Person about the not much talked about dysphoric manic episode that plagues many of us with the illness.
As you will see in the comments, the most common response is, “Oh yes! I have seen this in myself or my loved one many times and I simply didn’t know it was part of the illness!”
Let’s educate ourselves about bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. We can change.

Bipolar Disorder and Brain Injury Poetry

A confession. As some of you know, I had a biking accident in 2012 where I severely injured by back and hip. Rehab has been rough to say the least, but I’m doing it. What I haven’t shared much as I am still processing the information is that I also experienced a traumatic right brain injury during the crash. It’s called a TBI. I can fill a book with all of the terrible things I have experienced due to the crash, but I would rather share some of the magical experiences that were a result of my concussion….especially…..
I have always been a writer and I can basically rhyme anything, but poetry has never been my talent. After the injury, the poetry flowed out of me in a torrent. I had to scrabble for paper and pen to capture the events that were happening in my head. Many of the words that come up are not real words. They simply rhyme. I just leave them as they are.
I thought I was simply going through a creative renaissance as I have written so much for so many years, but this is not a regular experience and I am researching the phenomenon and learning from it.
Straight Jacket
What was it like
To be obstructed?
When your body
Your mind over bucketed?
Your being ruck sucked and destructed?
To be confined
As your mind
Lept forward
It must have been horrid
Limbs held morbid
A life truly thwarted.
I can’t see if the poetry is good or self indulgent. I can’t tell what the public will think, but I can’t stop writing.
It’s not the same thing as mania.
Mania is rarely fully formed for me. I am OVERLY creative. I don’t finish much of what I start when I’m manic. The poetry that will be in my next book Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression comes out fully formed. Of course it needs a bit of editing, but it’s complete. This is an amazing experience for a writer.
Trying to distinguish the difference between my bipolar disorder symptoms and this brain injury has been difficult. I have charted my moods for 20 years and this helps a lot. I am researching the role TBIs have on anxiety as my main symptom after the accident has been severe anxiety around work. My depression and mania have not increased at all.
I wanted to share this in the spirit of growth. As we learn more about our brains, we learn how to help ourselves and those we love. How many of us with bipolar disorder also experience concussions and confuse our symptoms?
I should also add the that I had 13 bilateral ECT treatments in 2010 that further complicate the issue.
I have never seen and will never see bipolar disorder as a gift. It has been destructive for me. This brain injury could have been the same, and yet it opened up a new world. Maybe people who see bipolar disorder as a gift do have positive experiences from the illness. My poetry experience has reminded me that we learn from our mishaps in many different ways.

Bipolar Disorder: The Corkscrew, Garbage Pail Illness



People withbipolar disorder have depression, mania, anxiety, psychosis, ADHD symptoms and restlessness. You are not alone if you have these symptoms- sometimes all at once! I call it a corkscrew illness and the garbage pail illness. We have ALL of the symptoms of most major psychiatric disorders when we are in an episode. We are STABLE when we are not in an episode. Julie

Can you Create Happy Holidays When You Have Bipolar Disorder? Of course you can!

Illustration of Mother and Children Carrying Thanksgiving Dinner by Douglass Crockwell    

Do  you have plans for the Festive Season? Do you have plans for New Year’s Eve? NOW is a great time to work out who you will see and where you will be.  We are social creatures- as seen by the Santa mob below.  If you have a tendency to isolate and not take care of your needs during the holidays, what can you do differently this year? If you usually get overwhelmed and burn out during the holiday seasons, what can you do to voice your absolute right to say NO to what you can’t or simply don’t want to do? My goal is for all of us to glide through the next few months with ease.




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