Monday, December 22, 2008

Hope for Brennan, But Beyond My Comfort Zone

I promised when I kicked off this blog to keep you updated on Brennan's journey through a medical morass arguably as complicated as Lauren's, so I wanted to provide an update. You may recall from my previous post on Brennan, that it seems as if we're trying to put together a puzzle of candy spilled on the floor -- with no box picture to look at -- and occasionally, we find two pieces that go together. Last week, we found a couple more pieces. Whether they fit in this puzzle or not is yet to be determined, but it looks promising so far.

Brennan's psychiatrist has been meeting privately with Brennan every week over the last several months. He called last week and had a long conversation with Cristi. Well over a year after getting the bipolar diagnosis from the psychiatrist we fired, his current psychiatrist told us he's no longer confident of that diagnosis. He believes instead that it could be anxiety. We think there's a good chance he's right. Unfortunately, we're at a point that we want to believe that we're on to something, so it's not always easy to look at things objectively -- especially when you're dealing with an inexact science. I mean, if you go on a witch hunt, you're gonna find a witch, right? Let me share how we now believe some of these pieces might fit together.

Brennan gets frustrated easily, and avoids adversity or challenges at all costs. He won't play video games or build with legos, or play with Rescue Heroes, or anthing else most normal boys his age do. He basically doesn't like doing anything -- no, really! He always wants to know what to expect -- what's coming next. He's also a very poor problem solver (except for math -- he can do in his head what most of us require paper for) -- meaning if he gets something in his head about how things will happen, he can't then adjust (i.e., re-problem-solve) when things change on the fly. For instance, at lunch, Addison got down two glasses -- one for her and one for Cristi. At the same time, Brennan decided he wanted chocolate milk and went over to get some. Addison picked up the glasses and tried to move out of the way to give Brennan room to get his glass and fill it. Brennan thought one of those glasses was for him and went ballistic when Addison "ran off with it". When things didn't go the way he expected them to, he couldn't figure out why that might have happened, how to determine why that might have happened, or come up with an alternate plan based on this new information.

Perhaps it is anxiety. He does seem to always want to know what's coming next. He struggles with his school work -- reading, remembering concepts, handwriting, etc. At times, he gives us subtle indications that he feels inferior to Addison (e.g., "She can read better than I can"). Maybe poor problem-solving skills, insecurity about reading, poor short-term memory, etc. is really making him nervous. If so, his outward signs are subtle.

Assuming his psychiatrist is right, there is help -- or at least something promising to try. There's certainly medication that is primarily suited for anxiety (vs. the bipolar medicine he's been on). Perhaps more importantly, though, different (better?) parenting skills could help. The psychiatrist suggested that we work on briefing Brennan on the plan of the day, and talking him through what we're doing. We should also help him (preemptively) talk through the situations he's facing to help him figure out how to appropriately deal with them.

That all sounds very simple and obvious, doesn't it? The problem is that Cristi and I aren't talkers...just the facts, ma'am. My mother used to talk about everything (what we were doing, why we were doing it, who had decided we were doing it, what we were doing next, asking me what my opinion was, how that might impact the situation...) and then remind me of those things we'd already discussed. It drove me up the wall! For the record, it's not that I don't love my mother; we all have our idiosyncrasies, including me -- and she did always manage to know what was going on in my life and convey to me that she cared about what was going on with me...But I don't do that. The very thought of doing it just makes me cringe. Cristi is the same way. We're big boys and girls, though. We will have to retrain ourselves, but we'll take our Robitussin with merely a scowl on our face, and without complaining. If it will help Brennan, it will be worth it! Maybe that's why he's always been so good around my parents...

Of course there's no silver bullet here, and there are still lots of questions. We still have the problem of epileptic activity in the part of the brain that controls emotion and memory. (Sidebar: I incorrectly stated last time that it was seizures. Seizures have never been seen -- just abnormal brain waves, aka epileptic activity). How does that play in? What about the sensory-seeking behavior and the educational issues? Will new medicine help with the anxiety? I know what end state we're looking for as parents, but what end state are we hoping for clinically? At least we appear to be on to something new that holds promise. We continue to plug along, trying to put the pieces together, and using Brennan's doctors to help us. We pray that eventually we'll piece together the Hershey's bar with the peppermint and Jolly Rancher, and be able to give Brennan some relief from the demons plaguing him.


  1. wow, it looks like your family is on quite a journey. i am so thankful that you know the Lord and can cling to Him to get you all through this. May He continue to guide you, comfort you, and use this all for His glory. Blessings to your family.

  2. Tim and Christi,

    Aren't you glad we have a Lord and Savior we can cling upon. I constatantly cling onto Lamentations 3:21-24
    Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not CONSUMED!! Because His compassions fail not. They are knew every morning!! Great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, Says my soul, Therefore I hope in Him!! The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.

    You guys are in our prayers as you seek guidance and wisdom.


  3. Hi Tim,

    I am a HSing friend of Christi's and wanted to share that my eldest son (now 10yo) was similar with regards to knowing what was happening next and getting fair warning of change.

    Now he is older I can see that he has calmed over time but he is still a very "exact" child. If I say yes to a treat but then due to other circumstances have to forgo it he can get quite upset. I have learnt to say Maybe a whole lot.

    I hope you can find a balance between how much you feel comfortable saying and how much he needs to hear.

    Best wishes
    Jen in Oz