Three Ring Circus - Not the Fun Kind


New Member
Things have been going smoothly since difficult child's discharge from psychiatric hospital in late November. Even the holidays went well - and that's saying a lot for difficult child.

The last week or so, he has turned, well, obnoxious. I wouldn't say he has been being rude - just obnoxious to the point of frustration. His tone of voice is sarcastic and condescending (sp?) - at home and at collaborative day.

I had my appointment with the new psychiatrist yesterday and we talked for almost 2 hours. It was like a soap opera in a way - reliving the past, etc. I laughed some, I cried some - you get the picture. She asked how he had been doing in the past month and I said mostly good.

Last night was a page out of the old book, however. difficult child had had a small incident at school which he insisted on talking about with me. I won't get into the details, but it was going okay - we were talking calmly. He said he had argued and yelled at one of the staff and I casually said 'you know that we have been working on expressing your feelings in a positive way and not in a yelling, argumentative, negative way, right?'. He then started using words that are not acceptable in our house - not curse words, just ones that we don't allow - and I calmly said 'I don't like those words' and he said 'yeah, I know, that's why I said it'. I told him he would not be having his 30 minutes of tv after his shower and then he really flipped. Immediately and horribly.

He screamed - he ranted - he raved. Then it got really ugly. He began using the old but never forgotten form of hateful talk. The 'you're a good for nothing mom' and 'you never loved me, did you'. I held a stoic face and detached. husband, on the other hand, decided to jump in - only he doesn't handle things in a calm fashion - he yells. He 'escorted' difficult child up to his room and then things got even uglier. Verbally only, but it was not fun. difficult child telling husband he is all sorts of things. husband getting pulled in and responding. easy child in the bathroom crying. husband decided to remove items from difficult child's room (a tactic we've tried before when difficult child was throwing things around) and did so - with difficult child screaming hateful things all the while. difficult child doesn't know when to stop - he just keeps on going with the hurtful statements - and saying 'okay, well, then take this too' and husband gets pulled in and says something like 'fine, I will and I'll take your _____ also'. ETC., ETC., ETC.

Long story short (I know - too late for that) - 15 minutes later - I asked difficult child to remain in his room while I go downstairs to talk to husband. And, then it happened. We fought. husband & I really get along fairly well - I can count the number of real arguments we have had on one hand. It boils down to the fact that after all of these years, his frustration over the situation came to a head. He is tired of the stress (join the club, dude), etc. It was a short lived fight, I am happy to report, although we haven't actually "kissed and made up" - we did revert to our own corners and did have a civil discussion before bed, so I guess that's something. I had to remind husband that difficult child is mentally ill - and cannot be held to the same expectations as a typical child. I (gently) said that if he were ill with another disease, he would be given some slack - and difficult child's illness is definitely one where some slack has to be given.

While I was downstairs, difficult child decided - still in his rage - that if husband wanted to take his things that he didn't deserve to have anything. He removed all of his blankets, etc. and put them in our guest room. Then, I found when I went back upstairs, he pulled his own mattress out of his room, around a corner and into the guest room!!!! I'm not even sure I could maneuver a twin mattress like that! I was in total shock. I think I still might be, although I have definitely moved on to a sadder state of mind. By this time, difficult child was berating himself for his behavior and wanted to run away and/or sleep on the floor because that's 'what he deserved'.

I got difficult child to take his medications and take a shower, while husband and I put his mattress and bedding back in his room. When he got out of the shower, we had a rational discussion at his request, but he doesn't see the severity of this episode or actually of any of the others.

Today, I am just discouraged. As we all know, I share husband's frustration and stress level, obviously.

And, one particular thing that has always bothered me about difficult child's actions while raging are the negative statements he makes. They are hurtful, but more importantly, I have no idea where he comes up with them. No one speaks to him like that - nor do we speak to each other like that in our household - or anywhere we go. And the sarcasm - jeesh!

I will call the psychiatrist today and tell her about the incident. She had instructed me to begin weaning difficult child off the seroquel this morning. I did give him the slightly smaller dose, but wonder if she will continue to go this route or not now. I am afraid a hospitalization may be in our near future again.

Thanks for letting me vent. Sorry this has turned into such a long post.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

You have to remember that in the middle of a rage our difficult children are talking (screaming) off the tops of their heads. I've learned that while hurtful, many times kt & wm were embarrassed & apologetic about rages & things said.

Many times neither of them had any memory of what was screamed, what the start of the rage was or why they were being given consequences.

I believe I have a stone heart to the "terms of endearment" that are thrown my way when kt or wm blow.

Your husband is entitled to his feelings; he's entitled to be frustrated at his inability to parent & give consequences as any normal parent would. And he is entitled to be angry at the illness. As are you.

You & husband need to come up with a game plan; a united front for difficult child. Tag off to each other when difficult child is out of control. husband & I would tag off every 10 minutes or so during one of kt's infamous 5 hour meltdowns or wm's frequent rages.

husband & I never argue over a treatment plan that we have discussed & worked on. We agree that a plan isn't working. We have, however, learned to express our frustrations over the illness; over the roadblocks & other triangulations that the tweedles can & will throw in the mix. Things that will damage our relationship if we let it.

Find some time alone with husband. Work out some kind of plan & your responses to it. Back up husband in front of your difficult child, whether you like it or not. Discuss it in private, with-o anger after the situation.

I'm talking from very painful experience here. Don't let the illness damage your marriage.

Take care of you. :warrior:
So sorry to hear you had such a horrible evening!!! I can relate to what you said about husband not detaching from the situation. My husband has trouble detaching too. This obviously makes things so much WORSE!!!

difficult child 2 will just keep going and going and going, like the energizer bunny, if husband "feeds into" his tantrums. difficult child 1, prior to being put on Trileptal, would also keep raging but for different reasons. difficult child 1 LOVES conflict!!! He enjoys the utter chaos he causes. When calm, he says he sometimes does this out of boredom. Anyway, back to you...

I know how hard it is to stay detached. I exercise regularly so I can remain calm when difficult child 1 and difficult child 2 "loose it". Without daily exercise, I don't know how long I could remain calm listening to such endearing comments as "F-ck you, you B-tch"!!! Hang in there!!! I know how hard it is!!!

difficult child probably picks up the hateful comments from other kids and school. I know we certainly NEVER use any of the words that my difficult children use either. On a positive note, it is good that you and husband were able to talk about this afterwards. Although I am new here and don't know much about your situation, it sounds like you and husband have a good relationship.

Please do something nice for yourself today!!! I know this response probably hasn't helped, but I'm thinking of you and wishing you a peaceful night tonight... As I always say, "everything is subject to change...). Hugs WFEN


Well-Known Member
Without stating the obvious about how hard it sounds, I can relate to the rage and hurtful talking. When you rage (as I used to do) you feel so much hurt and anger yourself (and you aren't sure why you feel so extreme, and it scares you) that the horrible words just pop out; you don't mean them. The remorse afterwards is hideous. I used to sit in my room after a rage and think about how I could kill myself (not trying to scare you, this was ME, not him) so that I could spare my family from how terrible I was. I thought everyone would be better off without me, and I wanted to promise never to do it again, but I knew that when "it" took over, I'd do it again, so I couldn't promise. Your son showed remorse by thinking "I'm no good. I don't deserve anything at all. I hate me." (Just guessing his mindset). I would think about a medication adjustment. He's doing better, but he's still not 100% stable or that wouldn't have happened. Unfortunately, if he has early onset BiPolar (BP), he won't be in control of his moods 100% of the time, and he will likely have eruptions like that. At least they're lessening. I would remember not to take his words personally. I really doubt he means them. I never meant what I said, but my parents took it personally, and I had no relationship with my mom before she died. She would never forgive me, even though I was willing to take the entire blame in spite of having been mentally ill when I behaved that way. She just thought I was a "bad person." She never let herself know the person I was when I stablized on medications. I wish you all the best of luck.


difficult children can cause so much stress in a family, can't they? I think a long heart to heart discussion with your hubby -- away from the heat of the moment-- can really help. Have a plan you can both live with. If difficult child has a meltdown , maybe husband can take easy child to her room for reading time while you handle difficult child (since you are able to be less emotional in your responses to difficult child). Or any other plan that works for you. The point is to have plans and contingencies in place before an incident happens.

I can relate to your evening; we've had some like that, too. My husband takes things personally, while I have learned that a non-emotional response keeps things from escalating.

I do see some positives in this situation, though. Your son was able to discuss this in a calm manner last evening and he saw his part in the problem and felt remorse.


Jamie, I'm sorry you all had such a bad night. When my difficult child 1 is in a mood, he does all the things you describe. And yes, we don't talk like that in our household either. When my difficult child 1 gets like that, he is not himself. It is the illness talking. And I believe that kind of "talk" comes from a place of emotional despair.

Since no one else brought it up, you should be aware that Zoloft can cause the kind of manic rage you described. Our psychiatrists have told us that it can typically occur at the 3-week or 3-month mark. If your difficult child has been on Zoloft for about 3 months, you may have your answer about what's going on. You should definitely ask the psychiatrist if Zoloft could be making things worse.

Hope today is a better day.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I'm sorry for your rough night. I can relate to the hurtful horrible stuff and wondering where it comes from. I too exercise to destress but sometimes it is still so difficult. Others have given some good advice. husband and I do a lot of tag teaming-we can usually tell when the other has had enough. It's important to find some time alone together.

Sending many hugs your way.


Active Member
Jamie, a few things jump out at me.

You said, "one particular thing that has always bothered me about difficult child's actions while raging are the negative statements he makes. They are hurtful, but more importantly, I have no idea where he comes up with them. No one speaks to him like that - nor do we speak to each other like that in our household - or anywhere we go."

We have had similar problems. When I analysed the language difficult child 3 was using, it was stuff he'd had directed at him, at school. I even had a teacher (who knows us well and should have known better) write in difficult child 3's communication book, "he will not keep friends if he calls other kids ':censored2: retard', you must stop him from saying things like this." Of course he wouldn't have heard terms like this at home, but the inclusion of "retard" told me that difficult child 3 had been called this by some other young charmer at school, and now HE was being blamed for apparently dreaming up the label.

What happens to out kids when they get upset or frustrated - it can blow their whole day out of the water. At the very least it can make them touchier and easier to set off. He was explaining things to you and you interrupted him to correct him. It's a task-changing thing again. Our kids HATE to be interrupted; to have to change tasks or directions; to have to stop what they're doing. of course tat have to learn to adapt to these changes, but a kid who is already on the brink of meltdown but trying to hold it together can be much more easily set off.

You said difficult child doesn't know when to stop - that's what he needs the adults around him to be able to stop. That doesn't mean the adults forcing HIM to stop, just the adults refusing to engage with this negative behaviour.

Have you read "The Explosive Child" lately? It does sound to me like in situations like this the 'hateful remarks' should be Basket B stuff. Walk away from this when he's in a rage or if it's likely to provoke one, but deal with it later when he's calmer and you're not going to set him off.

Analysing this, he was already upset when he got home, but holding it under control. He was explaining to you about his day, when you corrected him. That set him off at a lower level, t hen you consequenced him before he had calmed down enough to cope - that is what set him off. Then husband stepped in and escalated the consequences as difficult child's behaviour was also escalating.

You need to sit and talk with husband. What are the consequences for? Are they punishments? They don't usually work. Are they natural consequences, or are they likely to be interpreted as parental revenge? If the latter (which is how I would have interpreted them if I were an immature, raging difficult child) then all you're teaching him is to react with vengeance when someone wrongs him. Not a good lesson.

I do think that at the moment there are some things you need to let go. Instead of saying, "those are words I do not want to hear in this house" (which is setting you up for him to 'take vengeance on you' by deliberately aggravating you) I would ask him, "Where did you pick up those words from? Who has been talking like that to you?" In this way, you are still on his side supporting him and can be rightly indignant when he tells you he was called those names himself (highly likely).

It's hard, but do try to NOT react. If he's trying to shock you and upset you, don't let him win. NEVER let him win. But sometimes the best way to not let him win is for you to not engage in any battles that you are uncertain of winning.

I can understand husband's frustration. My husband gets like that too, sometimes, and all h*ll breaks loose. I HATE feeling like I have to be the peacemaker. Having to do that too much makes it really hard to parent consistently between the two of you.

Can you get him to read this thread with you? I really wish I could get my husband to drop in and visit for a chat with your husband. Sometimes blokes need a shoulder to cry on too, some other fella who understands.

The whole aim of this parenting game is to do the best for the child. I find it interesting that your difficult child decided to punish himself further by dragging all that stuff out - he was still raging, but was angry with himself. He had acted impulsively, given way to the anger he was trying to hold in, and had totally blotted his copy book. But as time passed he was probably feeling really bad (while still angry!) and raged at himself. I think you and husband did a good thing to put his room back together, at least with his bedding. It was a very loving thing to do, under the circumstances, and could well have helped difficult child begin to get control of himself again. And difficult child asking to talk about it - VERY good.

It sounds to me like he's a very sad, confused and probably bullied child at school. Boys his age can be really mean and it's probably a struggle to cope. Getting in trouble over the Tamagotchis - the task-changing thing again, it's probably a big reason for the school banning them. When he's calm he would understand the reasons, even if he resents them. But it sounds to me like the teachers need to be more supportive over task-changing too. I do know that when difficult child's aide focussed on supporting task-changing, difficult child's stress levels did go down. They would go right back up again if a teacher got 'heavy' on "I said, do it NOW!" which would tip difficult child 3 right over into mammoth rage out of frustration and anxiety. Then when he got home from school I had problems to deal with a great deal like this evening you had.

Good luck. It does sound to me like your son has problems he's not able to really explain to you (maybe he doesn't fully understand them himself?) and this is making your job a lot harder. But I also see signs in there of a kid who KNOWS when he's done the wrong thing, AFTER he's done it, and who is frustrated with himself. He is having trouble controlling himself but he IS trying and at times partly succeeding. He wants to be good but it's not at all easy for him and so sometimes he feels that he's just a bad kid at heart (which he isn't - he sounds to me like a very law-abiding citizen,given the chance). But life isn't always fair to our kids and it's a struggle to not only learn what is right, but to do it.

I hope you can sort out some strategies with husband and difficult child. It's too exhausting for all of you to have to go through this sort of stuff too often.



New Member

I think it's great difficult child has been so good for so long. I'm so sorry you had this incident with him.

I agree with a few things here. #1, I think Linda is 100% right about you and husband being on the same page. If you're ignoring what's going on, husband should be too. You're right, husband is playing right into difficult child's hands. #2, I know very little about Zoloft, only what psychiatrist and I have discussed, but he has told me exactly what smallworld said. It can cause big time rages in kiddos. Dylan is on the Lithium, too, and it's been a savoiur.

I'm sure there is no easy answer here. I don't have alot of advice because, although Dylan raged, I never heard the hateful words (doesn't mean he wasn't thinking them though :blush:). He'd just cry, wail, scream (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh), but never verbally took it out on me (just physically, lucky me LOL).

I remember one time when Dylan was about 7, he picked up the dining room table. Not a $99 Wal Mart table. My GRANDMOTHERS dining room table with TWO leafs in it, and pitched it across the floor. That was during a rage. When he's not raging, I can't even get the kid to carry a gallon of milk without complaining :smirk:



New Member
First, let me thank all of you for your caring, heartfelt responses! I knew I would get the been there done that sort of advice that I truly needed.

Things have calmed a bit and husband and I have discussed the matter - probably at a greater length than he wanted to - lol. We usually are on the same page - the other night was an exception in that instance - and husband regrets it. Said it just overcame him - the chaos of it all - and difficult child was being extremely rude, crude, obnoxious, hurtful and disrespectful. In the past, most of the larger episodes were in school - not at home. I was the one called to school, so I am the one who has learned to detach - learned to become hardened and stoic to the statements and insults. It is really only in the past 6 months or so that difficult child's meltdowns have reached that point at home. So, by default, I am years ahead of husband in the detachment lessons.

Linda: I agreed with husband that we both have the same frustrations, etc. I try to encourage him to attempt to not take it personally - and I never discuss tactics in front of either of our kids. Usually we have a good tag team thing going on. I think the situation just got the best of him that particular night. And, difficult child often doesn't remember things he's said or done during a rage - he has done that since kindergarten. He will remember bits and pieces later - kind of like a "oh yeah, I said that, didn't I" and he does feel remorse. But I know that he doesn't mean them and that they are definitely not thought out expressions for sure. husband and I came to the realization that 99% of our conversations are difficult child related - we are trying to come up with a plan to get out to dinner a couple of times a month alone - working out the sitter arrangement. Since we don't have anyone regular, we rely on my mother and/or sister to sit with the kids on the rare occasion we do something alone. It is a priority.

EmptyNest: difficult child calmly just told me last night at bedtime that two of his slightly older classmates have sort of been "ganging up" on him at school - especially in their p.e. period. We talked about ways to deal with that and hopefully (crossing my fingers, etc.) he will put HIS plan into motion.

MidwestMom: I know that I too have said things in anger that I didn't really mean - and definitely felt remorse for them afterward. Anger is a natural emotion. We began weaning difficult child off seroquel yesterday morning - after the meltdown. I called difficult child's new psychiatrist yesterday morning and she said to be thankful the meltdown was before we started weaning him and not after, so that we were sure the episode wasn't due to the medication change. I guess she's a 'silver lining' psychiatrist. God love her! Actually, I really like the new psychiatrist - she simply said that if he is still this unstable on these medications, these medications aren't working. Period. We'll have to hang on and see what the future holds in that department.

Kate: We almost always can talk rationally about things with difficult child a bit after a rage. It is really almost like he has been "depressurized" and is so laid back, etc. He kept apologizing to husband profusely yesterday afterschool. husband kept saying it's okay difficult child - now, let it go, but I think it goes back to the profound remorse.

Nomad: husband & I discussed seeing a counselor - just the two of us. I think it would be helpful. The stress level is understandable. psychiatrist seemed confused that we could manage to hold together some level of "normality" in the household at all. When I told her that difficult child doesn't know (we think), but that we sort of adjust things based on his level of capability to handle situations she seemed shocked. I cried. I told her that this was "our Normal".

Smallworld: difficult child has been taking the zoloft for just about 2 months now. Actually, husband and I both agree that this has been the smoothest period of time we've seen with difficult child. We never saw the major improvement on the lithium and/or seroquel that we expected. I know that all of the medications can have unfavorable side effects, but so far, we think the zoloft has been the medication we have seen the most improvement with difficult child on. Again, we sit on pins and needles and watch that closely, too.

Marguerite: I own the Explosive Child, but it may be time for a re-read. We have lots of things in Basket B, believe me. And, some things that were in Basket A have been overcome, etc. I will have to dig the book back out this weekend.

Janna: The strength factor when we're mad can be amazing, can't it? I am really not sure how he got that mattress out of his room, around a tight corner and into the guest room, but he did. All without making tell tale noises. Scary. When difficult child was very young, he didn't express statements while raging - just the yelling you describe with Dylan. Those came a bit later.

The thing is, this type of rage is pretty typical for our difficult child. I don't imagine that it's caused necessarily by any of the medications that he is taking. By the same token, I agree with psychiatrist that probably the seroquel and perhaps even the lithium aren't really doing that much good for him either. It's a very discouraging situation.

Poor difficult child. He managed to find one positive about Wednesday nights chaos - he said "Mom, a good thing is that it happened at home and not at school, right?". Poor kid. It really does seem like these meltdowns are something that build up and build up in him like carbonation and then explode. I do believe he has an anxiety disorder - he worries about everything - including the next meltdown - constantly. I think sometimes he is waiting for the next one and is almost relieved when it has happened and it is over. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, thanks to all of you for reading and for responding. I know that I could not get husband to get on the site and read things, but I will relate some things to him.

Thanks again - you all are great. :wink: