Dealing With Rage

(Note: This was a comment I left on – The Milk Keeps Spilling.)

We learned to perform what’s called a “therapeutic hold” to keep our son from hurting us or others or himself. It’s sort of like a wrestling maneuver, but will restrain someone so that they are immobile but not in pain. It worked well when Tim was 10. Not so much at 15, 6 feet tall, 205 lbs. It takes at least two of us to do it when he’s in full-blown rage at this size.

The violence of his rages was the primary driver to our decision for residential treatment. We’d had to have police intervention to assist us (and, luckily, we have a very understanding police force in our town that knows Tim and his history) to help us get him to the hospital on at least three occasions. We learned this the hard way, after suffering cuts, bruises, sprains, and, in my husband’s case, a chipped elbow bone after bearing the brunt of a violent rage.

What we parents of severely mentally ill children understand, but is hard for those witnessing it to get, is that the rage is not usually an attempt to actually hurt someone else, but an expression of anxiety, frustration, and plain sick-of-feeling-this-way-ness. Imagine how much frustration and anxiety my son must feel when he can continue to rage with 400 mg of Thorazine on board. That would bring down a large-sized adult male.

But it’s difficult to live with. We have a safety plan with our other two kids (both in their teens), where they are allowed to leave the house and go to either a designated neighbor or to the public library when Tim rages out of control, without asking before they leave. Once we have the situation under control, we know they are at one of those two places and can give them the “all clear” signal. It’s a horrible way to live, and our daughter is showing marked signs of PTSD from it. Another big reason for residential treatment for Tim.

Even through all this, Tim’s siblings don’t dislike him. Our daughter expressed to her therapist that she is both happy and sad that Tim is in residential. Happy because she knows she is safe and doesn’t have to withstand the delusional and bizarre behavior that comes with his instability, but sad because she and Tim, when Tim has periods of stability, are close confidants and excellent playmates. I was glad to hear that she, even at 14, can separate the illness from the brother. It’s incredibly insightful for anyone, let alone a young teen.

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  • Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 1:56 am

    your posts are just hitting me in the heart as the violence in my son is increasing almost daily. we are now going through a med increase as we try to stabilize him. i really relate to January's parents as I have discovered that if the minute he is home from school, we can start walking and go to the park for at least 2 hours i have been able to hold down the rages for now. it is exhausting to do every day, but it works. it is that constant stimulation. they just cannot get enough of it.

  • Anonymous September 11, 2009 at 2:04 am

    The teen years have got to be hard. They try everyone, even parents with average children.

    It's horrible to see KIDS have to take these types of medications and be ripped of their childhoods in hospitals and away from home. It's good you have a strong family structure and some outside help. It's also amazing that you found such a great place for your son to stay.! I hope he gets the help he needs to be productive and that some of this goes away after his teen years.

    I've met some adult schizophrenics who function quite well. A distant friend of mine can speak a bunch of languages and does beautiful artwork. This person takes what this person needs too. This person found control.

    I'm supposed to take 400mg of tegretol, and I'm an adult, but I don't do it correctly bc I need a job and its side effects are horrible! I'll just be the wicked witch of the west. God can forgive me later. I obviously don't need it THAT much. I've taken it randomly a few times. It worked, if only placebo without the side effects. How do these kids do it? They have to be super strong, not wimpy, that's for sure.

    Again, I can't imagine what you go through. I hope that your son and you both make it through these troubling times.

  • Chrisa September 12, 2009 at 1:52 pm


    I often think I could get through this if it wasn't for the violent rages.

    Until about a year ago, we had a swing in a big tree in our front yard that Tim spent a lot of time on. My father made it for him out of a 2X4 and rope – a nicely planed seat, splinter free, two metal loops on each end, thrown over a sturdy branch. Tim loved the repetitive motion of the swing, and would literally spend hours on it, every afternoon. Between that and the basketball hoop on the driveway, we could keep him engaged most days until the sun went down.

    But winter is another story. The park is not an inviting place when there's a foot of snow on the ground. And sledding only goes so far when Tim can't handle getting wet. Winter is a dark time for us, in more ways than one.

    I hope you have some success with med changes. I think about you often.

  • Chrisa September 12, 2009 at 1:58 pm


    Thanks for your note. These kids are incredibly strong, you're right. And we are lucky that we were able to get him in a good RTC, but I'm still reserving judgement on whether it will actually be a positive in terms of getting him to that functioning adult level some of your friends have achieved.

    You know, if Tim was just in a world of his own, talking to his "imaginary friends," painting in his room, I could live with that, indefinitely. I wish that's all there was to it. The rage against himself, us, others it what makes this disease so scary. I understand it, fear it, and accept it, all at the same time. I just couldn't continue to live with it.

    Jani's back in the hospital this morning, and I feel for Michael and Susan. Some of these kids don't retain their strength as they get older, and end up harming or killing themselves, either as a result of the psychosis, or the inability to continue to deal with it.

    That's the scariest thing of all.

    I hope you can do ok without the meds – and I hope you have someone in your life that can warn you when you may need to reconsider. This isn't a disease you can manage alone. And you shouldn't have to do it alone.

    Best to you.

  • Anonymous September 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    well, thank you, Christa. Unlike Jani and your son, my body is incredible sensitive, and I'm wimpy about medicine.

    As a sibling of a teen, I will say, those years are EVIL for everyone. I understand that you just couldn't take it anymore. Some parents can't even handle their average teens. There's no fault on you.

    When I went into psychosis, it was like my brain dilated, allowing everything in, and it drove me mad. I wanted to die. It was too much! I'm not as strong as these kids.

    I don't have the same illness as Jani or your son, I don't think, as mine is mostly comical to others. I'm not a threat. My environment will drive me mad if I don't take abilify, 45mg. (Yeah, I'm on the light stuff.) I am Don Quixote. I even tried to save the world with my special powers… I made maps while I was in the hospital.

    I'm just depressed that it wasn't my thyroid causing it because I want my job back. Unfortunately, they only see these cases in hyperthyroidism, not hypothyroid in subclinical measures.

    well, blessings to you and your family.

  • Anonymous September 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    chrissa, you are so right about the swing. we have a wooden playset in the yard and he spends a lot of time on it. i have even started suggesting it when i see him get anxious and i can't think of something. i am telling him that maybe that will help you feel calmer. i have let him out there at 5 in the morning as long as he can be quiet. but yes, i am worried about winter. and yes, i feel i can deal with anything, but the rages just knock everything out of the water.

  • Chrisa September 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Hey – Wondering Numbers (I figure this is you?) – what's up with the thyroid? Did you get the free T4 numbers as well as regular thyroid panel?

    I had Tim tested with all the thyroid stuff, hoping to find a cause for this. No dice.

    Debbie – I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. I think about you a lot. Do you have good school district support? I shudder at what Jani's parents are going through.

  • Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 12:22 am

    so far the school is great. he does really well at school, however, as i have pointed out to them, he is passed around all day between his one on one, special ed academics teacher, o.t., speech, gym. they are all giving him tons of input and keeping him distracted. the trouble starts when he has free time, such as after school until dinner, so that is why we travel for 2 hours, it really helps. i think that as long as he is in the younger grades and they are fine with his constant motion and keeping him busy he will do o.k.. they walk him around the school or whatever he needs. he thinks it's great there.

  • Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Wondering Numbers

    Oh no, you responded…

    They treated me for hypothyroidism in the hospital, and I was still having trouble.

    Hyperthyroidism mocks schizophrenia, not hypo unfortunately, though hypo is laced in many people with this disorder and cause things like depression. It makes the symptoms worse, they told me. I still think there's something wrong with my hypothalamus causing everything.

    My pit gland is normal.

    Again,I asked about the thyroid and the doctor told me it would just make things worse, so they're watching it.I don't know, I just need a low stress job. I have difficulty holding one because I'm either a witch or I go into a spell and stop caring.

    When I was younger, they thought I had bipolar (not diagnosed) and I saw things, but that is normal in some children. In HS, I started wandering a lot at night and withdrawing from all but a few friends, locked myself in the basement and exercised a lot, too much. I starting running like 5 miles a day and the jumping that cost my family so much money.

  • Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Sorry, they finally told me I am schizophrenic. My thyroid dysfunction makes me question, even though it's subclinical, and I've talked to another girl with both disorders.

    Have they tested your son before 9am? I think that's how they caught mine.

  • Adelaide Dupont September 17, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Very interesting point about the hypothalmus.

    It is such a basic organ of the brain. There is a TV programme called Whatever which talks about its role in teenagers, bringing out the three chemicals: dopamine, serotonin and norphramine (cannot spell the last – it is an anxiety chemical).

    It is stimulated when somebody touches the person's skin. This is why skin-to-skin contact is so very important.

  • Anonymous September 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Interesting reply-and educational. Whatever it is, it comes and goes, and it jacks everyhing up. I become "disorganized" and nonlinear. Thus, I think it's something that's regulating me. I'm usually as honest I can be about it, but I'm not always myself (not different personalities), so it's difficult. I would rather have kept my personality clusters. I tried. I don't feel deserving of the care I receive, but I don't qualify for health care now so…