Out of the shadows after 5 years

Hello everyone, I'm new to posting, but have been reading this forum for 5 years. I know, what took me so long? o_O This site has been so helpful to me the past few years. It's given me a lot of ideas and a place to feel like part of a community, even though I've just been reading your messages, and now I want to share our story and some things that have helped us.

I'm 55 and my husband is 52. He's my second husband and has ADD, anxiety and depression, but manages pretty well in spite of that. My first husband passed away many years ago when our son was 5 years old. Son is 24, graduated from college and is working as a waiter and has his own apartment. He has ADHD, but manages well and is able to support himself and is easy to get along with. My oldest step-son will be 17 in a couple of months. He's a typical teenager. The difficult child in our family is my youngest step-son who will be 14 later this month. He has bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety, sensory issues and some social and emotional developmental delays. He's doing fairly well most of the time now, although he's still not easy to live with. Biomom lives in the same city and shares custody so the boys go back and forth between households every week. She's fairly cooperative, although she can be rather self-absorbed and selfish at times. I don't particularly like her, but everyone's polite.

I remarried when my son had just started college and youngest SS was 7. It was really rough at that time as he had only been diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety and the psychiatrist had him on stimulants, which made his bipolar disorder much worse. He was constantly irritable and looking for a fight. He would rage for over an hour over insignificant things, like having difficulty getting his shoes on. He assaulted family members, teachers, other kids, and caregivers frequently. For some reason, he has never even threatened to hurt me, although he's yelled and sworn at me, but it was very stressful seeing him hurt others! That first year of my second marriage was my year from hell - even worse than when my first husband passed away - there were so many stressors. I lost my job, got married, sold my house and moved to a new city where my husband lived and away from my friends, my son went off to college, I started a new job and SS was spiraling downhill fast. I'm still not sure how I survived. Lots of self-care, spending time out of the house, talking to friends, and seeing an energy healer helped the most. (If you've never heard of energy work - it's things like acupressure, healing touch or reiki, and it's great for relieving stress.)

When SS was 8, he was admitted for a year of residential treatment They took him off the stimulants and put him on anti anxiety medications, which helped reduce his rages and aggression slightly. He was there for a year and then they sent him home because he wasn't making any progress. After a rough year at home, he was placed in a different residential treatment facility for a year. He was doing somewhat better there and was to be released, but then started to behave erratically and become aggressive. The psychiatrist there diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and changed his medications and the transformation was amazing. He was much more cheerful and no longer walked around with a big chip on his shoulder. He has only assaulted someone twice in the past two years, and that was under provocation. He still has severe ADHD and anxiety and is constantly hovering in your face and fidgeting and interrupting and socially and emotionally a few years behind his age group.

We're trying neurofeedback, which seems to be reducing some of those symptoms. I wanted to keep you all posted on how things go and share it with you.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Second Time! It sounds like you have been through so much. I'm glad you came out of the shadows! I'm glad to hear your SS is doing better. I can relate. My son is also bipolar and we went through some really rough years as well. Mine is also doing better but still very difficult, fortunately he is no longer violent.

It sounds like you have done a great job of taking care of yourself which is so important!
Thanks, Wiped Out and 2Much. I'm glad to be here talking to all of you. Although like everyone else, it would be nice if we didn't have to deal with these issues. I have learned a lot about how to help SS2 and how to take care of myself and set boundaries. The first few years, I wore myself out trying to do too much to help him and I had to learn to step back a bit and take care of myself first. Although he is my step-son, I've been the most proactive about looking for alternative treatments for him. My husband and Biomom are more conventional, but I've been able to persuade husband to try some new things. The medication change made the biggest difference, but we've also tried to eliminate red dye and reduce sweets and junk food. This is an ongoing struggle as he has very poor impulse control and stuffs himself with sugary foods whenever he gets the chance. SS2 will talk about how he wants to lose weight and be more careful about what he eats, but if there are sweets around, that's all he can think about.

One of the new things we are trying is neurofeedback to help with his ADHD and anxiety since he can't take medications for that due to his bipolar disorder. He had an EEG and they found that his brain is putting out mostly high beta waves so it's out of balance with the other 3 kinds of waves. Too many beta waves cause the brain to run at a really high speed, so he's super figity and thinking of dozens of things at once. It also causes irritability and anxiety. He has all of those things. We started weekly neurotherapy 3 months ago. He watches a simple video game, such as fish swimming, with electrodes attached to his scalp. The computer monitors his brainwaves and if his beta waves are below a certain level, the fish swim. If he can maintain it for at least 3 seconds, the fish jump and he gets a point.

At first it was really difficult to get him to do this. He fussed and complained about how boring it was, fidgeted in his chair and couldn't play the game longer than 2 minutes. We bribed him with a small amount of money for each session he attended. As my husband said, he'll be doing the right thing for the wrong reason, but eventually he'll do it for the right reason. Gradually he was able to sit and focus longer. By the 10th session, he was able to sit completely still for 10 minutes. The therapist was talking to me and he was able to ignore the conversation and focus on the game. This is a huge development as he was not able to do any of that before.

We have seen improvements at home and school as well. He has stopped fidgeting and moving constantly and no longer hovers anxiously around us all the time. He is less fearful and less negative. He was wetting the bed 2-3 times per week and has almost stopped completely. In the past 3 months, he only had one accident when he was sick and took some night time cold medicine before bed. He would also wait until the last minute to use the toilet, then rush to the bathroom and not lift the seat, so there was urine on the seat and the floor several times a day. He now pays more attention to his body signals and goes earlier and lifts the lid almost every time. It is soooo nice that our house doesn't stink all the time! There have been a couple of times where he took responsibility for his behavior instead of blaming others or outside circumstances. Since he never did that at all, that's progress. We still have a long way to go. He is still immature and somewhat narcissistic. However, we are hopeful that he'll continue to make progress. It usually takes 30-40 sessions to complete. I wanted to share this with all of you in case it would be helpful to someone else.

Also, could someone like one of my posts so that I can add a signature?

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Glad to hear that the neuro-feedback is helping! My son also can't take stimulant due to his bipolar. He is taking clonidine which does help a lot but the neuro-feedback sounds very interesting!
We're keeping our fingers crossed. It hasn't been a straightforward process. We've seen progress overall, but it seems to be two steps forward and one step back.
Yesterday, he fell in the snow and hit the back of his head right after husband had dropped him off at school and had just driven away. Another parent saw him and brought him into the school.The nurse checked him out and he was ok, but he was in a bad mood all day. When I picked him up to go to neurotherapy, he complained that his dad had driven away and that he "fell and no one cared". I tried to explain that his dad wouldn't have seen him, but SS2 thought that husband should have been looking in the rearview mirror to watch him walk into school instead of looking ahead to where he was driving. And he completely discounted the parent to took him into the school and the nurse who examined him. "No one cared." He was fussy and negative and complained about having to do the sessions. About halfway through, he announced that he was "bored" and started sabotaging the session, by deliberately tensing up his muscles, which throws off the sensors. Then he asked for a piece of candy as a treat afterwards, but I told him that he couldn't have it because he hadn't been cooperative.

His therapist is so good with him, though. She never loses her patience and she teases and cajoles him into getting something out of it each time, even if he's cranky and uncooperative. We will tell him that if he sabotages the session again, he will lose screen time as well as not getting any money for attending the session that week. Sigh…

savior no more

Active Member
Thank you for sharing. Your SS2 sounds a lot like my son. It is hard watching the struggle and trying to find resources to help them function better in society. I too had to bribe my son with $ at times for various treatments, i.e. vitamin therapy when he was in third grade, right/left brain physical therapy integration for a year in 4th grade.
Part of the "bored" is the ADD in my opinion. My son also couldn't be treated adequately for his ADD due to the underlying mood disorder. I finally had SPECT imaging done on him when he was in sixth grade that showed the "ring of fire" ADD that showed basically all of his brain lit up when trying to perform tasks. I recently had him re-evaluated in September to have an updated evaluation. ADD and impusliveness still a big part of his problem. At nineteen he doesn't want to take the medication as it makes him feel badly, but if he would ever stick through the first part of getting acclimated, he would do better. His solution as of late has been mehtamphetamine - which I detest because it is so toxic to the brain. From what I understand, once the mood is stabilized a medication can be added to address ADD. My son was never neurotypical and was very sensitive to the medications.
When he was in the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for eighteen months I wish they could have found a medication to address the ADD, however, they did address the mood disorder which stopped the explosive rage. Hopefully with time the brain can adjust and find ways to overcome the ADD.
I have walked your walk and just want to send encouragement to you when the going gets rough. It's not pretty or fun, but somehow I get through one day at a time and even have learned to find happiness in spite of his problems.

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
Welcome to the conversations, second time around! I'm glad you found ways to survive that first year of your second marriage when your whole world turned inside out and backwards. I've had some years like that, too.

The neurofeedback therapy sounds promising. I'm glad the therapist works with your step-son well.

I suspect he was more upset that his fall didn't garner more sympathy than anything else. He fell, it hurt, but "no one cared." The nurse took a look at him, realized he had a minor bump and sent him back to class. Maybe he had already played out a different scenario in his mind where he was allowed to nap all day or go to the hospital via ambulance. He was Mr. Grumpy because the world didn't go the way he imagined it would.

At school, we have to do a lot of ignoring kids' complaints of my head hurts, my stomach hurts, so and so is bothering me. Yesterday, I walked a kid in to the gym to get water who had been running on the track. He was moaning and groaning about his back hurting. The reality was that he didn't want to run/walk laps on the track. He felt ignored that no one cared about his aching back. School can seem pretty harsh some days.
Thanks, Pigless and Savior. I think it's true that he wanted a big fuss made over him. That post is a year old and I can really see a lot of changes in him since then. We did 30 sessions of neurotherapy and it has helped a lot. He's much less anxious and fidgety and hasn't wet the bed for over a year. He was able to spend the day alone at home yesterday with his older brother while his dad and I went to work. He wasn't happy about it, but he did it.

He's still not the easiest person to live with. He gets stuck on things and gets upset over small things, and it's hard for him to entertain himself. He also talks at you rather than with you. I think he may have Asperger's traits as well, but he's never been diagnosed with it. However, overall, he's made a lot of progress.


Well-Known Member
He gets stuck on things and gets upset over small things, and it's hard for him to entertain himself. He also talks at you rather than with you. I think he may have Asperger's traits as well, but he's never been diagnosed with it. However, overall, he's made a lot of progress
If your sig is accurate and he's 14... be warned: the next two years can be... insane. Literally. Puberty sends some of these kids off the deep end in a different direction.

I hope it doesn't go that way for you. Just we watchful - we missed the initial signs of trouble.


Active Member
The neurotherapy you describe sounds interesting. I have been trying to think of ways to help my stepson learn to control his impulses. He sounds a lot like your SS14. Our family counselor recommend in-patient treatment because of SS10's explosive rages, but the children's hospital won't admit him if he's not raging at the time of admission. We're scheduled to start evaluations soon. I'll be sure to ask about neurotherapy.


Well-Known Member
Our family counselor recommend in-patient treatment because of SS10's explosive rages, but the children's hospital won't admit him if he's not raging at the time of admission
And if he's in the middle of a rage, how on earth are you supposed to actually get him to the hospital.

I hate these kinds of insane rules.

pigless in VA

Well-Known Member
I was thinking the exact same thing. You cannot transport a child who is raging. Hold up there, Junior! Put a bookmark in that tantrum, so we can drive you to the hospital. :fishbashsmile: I couldn't even get Ferb's rages on video. He would immediately stop when I brought out the camera. I brought the camera out a lot after I discovered that.