For patients and their families, dealing with mental illness can sometimes be like an obstacle course, and recognizing symptoms, obtaining a diagnosis and getting effective treatment can pose a challenge that can require warrior endurance.
For Nicole Breeden and her family, the journey hasn’t been easy, but with persistence, support and good medical care, the Clay High School senior has enjoyed success in school and extra-curricular activities, and is looking forward to graduating this spring.
It’s her successes that have led Nicole to focus her senior project on raising awareness and helping children dealing with bipolar disorder.
As part of her project – a requirement for the med tech program in which she is enrolled – Nicole has created an informative pamphlet about bipolar disorder, and will write a paper on the topic. She is also organizing a Warrior Dash-type fundraiser, “Runnin’ to Fight the Blues, a Benefit for Bipolar Disorder,” set for Jan. 19 at Pearson Park in Oregon.
“When she told me about her idea, I said, `Go for it,’” said her mom, Deb Blair. “I knew it might bedifficult and a lot of work, but this is something we know a lot about in a personal way.”
It was when Nicole was a young child that Deb started becoming concerned about Nicole’s behavior, she said. “She could go up to her bedroom, tear it all apart and 15 minutes later, she’d clean it all up and come down like nothing’s wrong,” Deb said.
Over time, Nicole’s outbursts became worse, prompting her mom to call the pediatrician. “One day, after a particularly bad day, I called the doctor and said, ‘I’m bringing her in…she’s out of control,’” Deb said. “By the time I got to the doctor, Nicole had calmed down and the doctor said, ‘She looks fine. Nothing’s wrong with her.’
“I had tears in my eyes,” Deb said.
Though Nicole was well-behaved and did well in school, her behavior at home continued to raise red flags, Deb said. “She’d be angry and out of control – much worse than a typical temper tantrum.”
Through sheer persistence, Deb finally got a doctor to listen to her concerns about her daughter.
“The doctor told me that Nicole likely had bipolar disorder, but they didn’t want to diagnose and ‘label’ her at such a young age, because it would follow her for the rest of her life,” Deb said.
The doctor prescribed anti-depressant medications. “After three weeks on the medicine, Nicole was like a totally different child,” Deb said. “Up to that point, she had never hugged anyone, but one day, she went up to my father – and I’ll never forget this – gave him a big hug and said, `Hi Grandpa. How are you?’”
Ongoing doctor visits and trial and error with anti-depressant medications helped, and Nicole went on to do well in school, participate in band, volleyball, track and other activities.
When finalizing the community outreach portion of her senior project, Nicole wanted something that would be fun, challenging and that would encourage physical activity. She decided on a Warrior Dash, that includes a 5K Dash and eight obstacles to conquer, including the big hill at Pearson.
The obstacles will include hurdle jumps, crawling under rope staked to the ground, walking a plank, running through tires, log-carrying, running up and down a hill, traversing a rope maze and running over a hill of tires.
When she was done outlining her plan, she created a PowerPoint presentation, which she delivered to the Pearson Park management staff. The presentation included information about bipolar disorder and about the various obstacles that would be set up by Nicole and her family. When park management gave the green light, Nicole put the plan in motion, creating a flyer and posters and, with the help of her mom, arranging for such things as portable toilets and paramedics to be on hand at the event.
Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. and the race will start at 9 a.m. Prizes will be awarded for the top three finishers. Water, sports drinks and hot chocolate will be available for purchase after the event.
Race-day entry fee is $25. All proceeds will be donated to the ProMedica Children’s Hospital Foundation to benefit children with bipolar disorder.
For more information about bipolar disorder in children, visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov and search for Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens.