About our Daughter

I am mother to four wonderful daughters, ages 17, 19, 21, and 23, and wife to the greatest husband on earth. God has given us a special child to raise one who was diagnosed with early-onset bipolar disorder at the age of seven, though she showed signs of it from the age of fifteen months. She also has ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorder (sensory seeking), Dyslexia, and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder-NOS, all typical comorbidities for a bipolar child. In spite of the trials, she enjoys lacrosse, running (finished her first marathon in October of 2014!), and reading and writing her own books. I will share with you the many joys and sorrows we have faced and will face in the future with the hope that you may find better understanding about this mental illness caused by both chemical and structural abnormalities in the brain. I desire that you will be encouraged by this blog if you are also dealing with a bipolar child. Thank you for reading and sharing in our journey.

How Did You Know She Was Bipolar So Young?

I wrote a long explanation of how we came to this bipolar diagnosis in a child so young under my post of March 19th of 2009. If your child or a child you know bears similarities, please seek out a good psychiatrist and don't wait for "things to get better." Often they will simply get worse, and the longer a child is unmedicated, the more damage their brain can accrue. Early diagnoses and treatment are key to providing these children with a chance at a successful life later as a teen and an adult.
Never change, start or stop a medication without the approval of your child's physician!

Friday, February 27, 2009

We all needed a break

This afternoon my husband took "Caroline" with him up to DC to visit grandparents.  Thankfully, she was very chipper today, much different from last night when she tanked again.  She even did her math and writing with actual enthusiasm this morning.  And she voluntarily has been reading Freedom Train, a book abut Harriet Tubman that makes me cry.   What a relief I feel when Caroline is cooperative like this--it gives me hope. It does seem as though she is really having a hard time from about mid-afternoon until bed.  We think this is a medication problem that needs figuring out.  If the increase in Lamictal doesn't take care of this, we need to consider other solutions.   

With my oldest "Elizabeth" gone on a field trip all day, that left me with just the younger two all afternoon and evening since they had a half day.  We thoroughly enjoyed just being the three of us out in the spring like weather.  I could tell they liked having a break from their bipolar sibling.  I needed it too, badly.  They often seem stressed out by the daily drama she brings, but they express it in different ways.  The youngest "Mae" shows true concern and love for Caroline when she is bad off and will breakdown sobbing if she threatens to run away.  The third oldest "Jane" expresses a lot of anger towards her and embarassment.  She often tells me she doesn't want her at any of her school events because of the way she acts and looks.  I get mad at her for lack of compassion, but I understand how she must feel.  At her old school, kids would talk about Caroline, who was two grades ahead, and tease her about her "crazy" sister.  She was very distraught over this.  We decided that Jane did not need to be in the same school with Caroline, so we are sending her to a private school next year while we try public school with Caroline.  They both need their own space, and being only 20 months apart, that has been difficult to provide.

Some of you may wonder why we are homeschooling Caroline when it is so hard and often interrupted.  Well, we have tried Christian school,  public school, and a private school specializing in kids with learning disabilities, and a Christian homeschooling coop.  The Christian school couldn't handle her bipolar behaviors; the public school provided her with too many temptations  and she was quickly sliding into the wrong crowd; the private specialty school was not challenging enough for her and the school population was  overwhelmingly boys; and she made some big mistakes at the co-op while she was manic, and was asked to leave.  At this point, homeschooling on our own is the best option until we can move into a better school district, which is our goal this summer.  She wants to be able to start fresh in a new environment with new friendship possibilities, but she also expresses fear that she won't make good choices again because she is so eager to fit in.  She worries she will end up compromising everything she believes just to have a friend.  We are fully aware that this could happen, and we would choose homeschooling our daughter over losing her to drugs, sex, goth influences, etc.  Unfortunately, bipolar kids tend to be attracted much more than the average kid to every bad thing you can come up with.  There is an E.D. class at the middle school we are looking at (emotionally disturbed) but she freaked out about that possibility because she knows what it's like to be surrounded by bipolar teens after her last two hospitalizations, and it wasn't pretty.  We prefer her to be mainstreamed also, but we don't know what the future will bring.

But tonight, the stress is lessened and I am thankful for a husband who shares this burden equally. He is my hero.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sigh of Relief

So this was a better day.  Caroline is sleeping, the house is quiet, everyone is in bed and I am thankful for a day when she was happy.  

I don't have answers

A new day.  I am so thankful that children forgive so readily.  I was not a nice Mommy. Yesterday was definitely a day I would like to forget.  "Caroline" seems happy this morning.  Hopefully that will stick for the rest of this day.  She starts lacrosse practice tonight, which she is quite excited about.  Sports have definitely been her escape, her bright spot of achievement in her life.  She craves movement and challenge.  Cross-country starts next week.  This has been a boring winter for her, having been unable to play a winter sport due to her extended illness, and we all suffered for it.  She was made to run, climb, jump.  Right now she is quietly reading a book, a happy sight for me.  She is so very bright--if only we can get her through this year, and the next, and the next.  Last night she was screaming that her life was nothing, she was nothing. She raged, asking why her life had to be such a mess, and she wanted the answer to why she hurts so much NOW!  She didn't want to hear how we see a bright future and a hope.  Sometimes she believes it, often she doesn't.  We have to believe it for her.  Sometimes I need others to believe it for me because I go numb when she is in so much pain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When it Feels Like Hell on Earth

This was the kind of day that made me want to just scream.  For a long time.  I haven't posted for a while because after the first post I felt too vulnerable, like maybe I don't really want to do this.  My daily life is so far from peaceful, or predictable, because I live with an emotional tornado.  "Caroline" was doing better, after recovering from being in a psych hospital for over a month, and then she got sick with strep.  Within a day or so of starting the antibiotic, she began to slide backwards into anger and depression with daily ugly explosionss.  We remembered that in the past we had to increase her mood stabilizers during a round of antibiotics,  so we did and she got better.  But then, after finishing the antibiotics, her other sisters came down with strep, and she got reinfected too, so she has been on yet another round of stronger antibiotics, so more mood swings.  Then to top it off, although I am usually careful when sorting her numerous pills into her weekly pill box, but I discovered, much to my horror, that I had accidently left out her 200 mgs of lamictal, only giving her 50. So you can imagine what this week has been like.  I couldn't just give her the 250 mg she had been taking because a sudden increase with this med can cause a horrible thing called Stevens-Johnson syndrome where your skin falls off.  So I have been slowly titrating it up, but she was truly suicidal tonight.  We didn't take her up to the hospital in Richmond because we felt that she will improve dramatically within a few days with the higher dose of lamictal.  If she doesn't we'll have to readmit her to be safe.

School.  What amount of school she has gotten this year has been so sporadic that she and I are both a little panicked.  We keep picking up and then she tanks and we lose a day, and then a sister has a doctor's appointment, or Caroline has one of her many, many doctor appointments etc.  Or like today when I slept so poorly last night that I was a complete zombie and had to take a nap, but couldn't sleep because I had to take lunches to my younger kids.  The whole afternoon  I just felt sick from the lack of sleep.  Then Caroline really took an emotional dive when her sisters got home.  The first blow was when my oldest declared that two boys were vying to take her to the senior prom.  Then she did something that Caroline viewed as a selfish snub. She began to  absolutely fall apart.  She kept saying her life was so awful, and she would never have friends, and she will fail in school again, and she just wants to live far away from her sisters because she feels so alone.  She was explosive and angry and just desperate, crying that she just wanted to go to heaven.   

I feel like everyday is a battle to keep her alive, not just getting her through sixth grade or these tumultuous middle school years.  I truly feel like I am constantly trying to keep her from killing herself before her life gets better.  Yes, she has had an awful six years of being asked to leave schools, losing friends, hospitalizations that gave her PTSD from the incompetency of the staff, the rejection of her sisters, the loss of a childhood from age 7 to almost 13 now.  

She stopped playing at the age of 10.  She just lost that ability to imagine and pretend and just relax and play.  Instead, she was driven to manufacture great "projects" that would have such a stranglehold on her she could do nothing else.  Our next door neighbor thought it was just brilliance, but I knew, from my mother's heart, that she was not free to play anymore.  Something had taken over her mind and now she could only perform missions.  I feel even sadder now as my 9 and 11 year old girls play for hours with their barns and horses, making  up wonderful adventures.  The contrast is stark and heartbreaking.  

I am so tired of being on this rescue mission day after day.  Rescuing her from scholastic failure, from failure to even keep one friend, from failure at home with her shattered relationships with her sisters, from the failure to live a full life and have hope that things will get better.  Everything about her is awkward, painfully so.  She has no fashion sense, so she will leave the house looking pretty odd, which doesn't help other girls to like her.  She doesn't know how to manage her curls, and so she looks disheveled and unkempt, even though I try to help her.  She doesn't carry herself with any sort of poise at all--in fact she kind of stomps and throws herself along in a way that sometimes reminds me of cerebral palsy.  I think it is the sensory integration disorder she has.  I have spent so much money on trying to help her look more "in" because she has so little going for her in terms of social skills, but nothing lasts long.  She just goes back to being sloppy and disheveled.  I love her so much.  She is the apple of our eye.  It is very painful to see her struggle with every aspect of her life.  Please pray for our struggler.