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!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sometimes She Really Surprises Me

Just when I thought that any compassion toward me had left Caroline, she proved me wrong by an extraordinary showing of concern.  I fell down the stairs this morning, carrying a load of laundry, and hit my tailbone so hard I thought for sure I had broken something.  She came flying around the corner to help me up, got ice without being asked, escorted me upstairs to my bed, brought me her phone so I could call her if I needed anything, then proceeded to go downstairs, clean the whole kitchen (with my apron on!) and made up a check list of what she could do for me.  She even brought me ibuprofen and water all on her own.  When I made it back downstairs hours later, the kitchen was spotless.  She can be so sweet sometimes, and industrious, if it is a mission she takes on that she really wants to do.  I just wish she was like this all the time.

Reflections at the Beach

Yesterday while I sat in the beach chair on a picture perfect day, I was close enough to a group of younger moms to hear their conversation.  I was trying to breathe deeply and relax and think about nothing, but their voices kept pulling my attention toward them.   They had in tow several toddlers and babies, happily playing at the water's edge, laughing and screaming when the waves would fill in the holes they had just dug.  The women were all beautiful, blonde, fit looking moms just enjoying the play date, having girl time.  The scene brought me back to a mere nine or ten years ago when I was that mom with my close friends, toddlers and babies playing under umbrellas on the beach, talking just like them about the best baby fashions, picky eaters, babysitters, non-existent sex, whether to have that third child, which preschool waiting list to get your child on now, etc.  That was a happy time, full of fresh experiences to take in with these new little people every day.

I listened with envy and sadness.  Life was so much simpler then.  We didn't think it was.  We looked at the moms with older kids and thought, wow, how great that you can actually read a book at the beach or pool instead of having to race after your child every second to keep them from drowning or eating too much sand.  I am so glad I didn't know then what was coming. Now, for perspective, my life is considerably more challenging than most mom's lives.  I am not discounting that just being a mom even to just one can be nerve-wracking. There is no more difficult job than raising children, of that I am convinced.  My husband tells me my job is much harder than his.  It takes everything you have and more.  And if you are trying to parent well, then just double the work.  

But add in a special-needs child, and your life is really not your own in any way shape or form.  You have a ball and chain around your ankle that sometimes feels like it weighs two hundred pounds, but is always there and will be for a very long time, into their adulthood.  You passionately love them, would spend whatever money you have to give them to best treatment and education possible (and often money you don't have), but at times you resent them and just want a week or a month to yourself.  

I am already planning some trips while she is gone.  One for Bill and I for our anniversary weekend, one for me to visit my old college friends, another with my rising middle schooler, Jane, before she becomes too cool for mom, and one for my oldest daughter and a couple of her friends to celebrate her sixteenth birthday.  That is a lot to cram in three months, but I feel the urgency of making up for what we haven't been able to do with Caroline in our midst.  And we will take her on a special trip when she gets back.

I have a new neighbor across the street who has quickly become a good friend of mine.  She has a baby and a toddler, and I often go over there to hold and love on her kids because it just feels so good to be close to that soft baby skin and those toddler ringlets you can't resist tugging at.  I am vicariously remembering the sweetness of those brief years.  That's why I love  that my nine and eleven-year old daughters still have huge imaginations, creating giant jungle scenes in their rooms with their myriad of plastic animals.  Or it may be barn week, where they pull out their solid wood barns and all of the fencing, creating amazing pasture scenes that go from one end of their large room to the other.  And somehow they know each of these hundreds of animals by name.  We take great delight in their girlhood, and we want to encourage their naivete as much as possible.  Jane will be in the sixth grade next year but we can't even picture it.  There is nothing middle-schoolish about her and we love that.  Our oldest grew up too fast much as a result of the chaos brought into our home by Caroline, so to see this lengthier transition with our youngest two makes my mommy heart happy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Settled

Caroline will be leaving Sunday morning for Meridell, we found out today. Bill will fly out with her early and she will be admitted on Monday.  This news is a big relief to all of us--it's always the not knowing that is the hardest.  Hopefully she'll do better on the two planes this time. 

She is wanting to do many things right now that she will be missing this summer, like going to Busch Gardens, and the beach.  So we have been trying to accommodate her desires as much as we can, which for me feels very inconvenient, but I remind myself what it must be like for her.  
I am weary of dealing with her, so it's been difficult for me to be excited about doing anything with her.  She is no less grumpy and rude to me, which makes me impatient back.

When I took her to the beach today, I sat there in the beach chair, while she sort of wandered up and down the beach.  There were no waves to speak of, and  I could tell she was bored, but I never got up and walked with her, I realized as we left.  Why didn't I walk with her and talk about what she must be feeling, her fears?  A good mom would have extended that compassion, but I didn't, I thought to myself.  I should have.  My struggle with contempt of her kept me in my chair.  I love her, but I am so tired of interacting with her.  I hope my desire to spend time with her will return before she does.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Struggle with Shame and Grace

Several things took place today in my life to cause that ugly struggle with shame to pop up its head and shake a pointed finger at me.  The thing about shame is that it usually has some validity to its accusation, containing some truth.  That truth looms too large, wrapped up with lies, unless you look at it from the more complete, bigger picture.  I am learning to rely on the the bigger picture for my security, rather than the little instances that bring despair and embarrasment to my already over-the-top stressful life.  The bigger picture is who I am in Christ, "For in him there is forgiveness..." and his declaration of me, his ransomed, chosen, adopted child,  perfect in his sight forever because of what He accomplished on the cross.  

The first painful event happened at church. My youngest child Mae has a good friend whom she enjoys playing with after church when she can.  Recently Mae has had an enormous amount of catch-up work to do for school after being sick, not to mention she is severely impaired by her  ADHD.  Well, this little friend wanted to play with Mae today, but last night Mae didn't get enough homework done that she would be able to finish it all on Sunday evening.  So I had to call last night and say it wouldn't work out for a play date today.  Well, that was a pretty unpopular decision, leaving this little girl in tears because of the lost play date opportunity.  The tears part came at the end of church, when her mother, as graciously as she could, expressed to me that she didn't want her daughter to be used as a carrot for my daughter to get her work done.  I was taken aback by the sad scene, but I knew immediately that she was of course right and that this wasn't fair to her child to wait week after week for time with Mae, dependent upon Mae's industriousness on Saturday.  I felt awful of course, standing there seeing the tears and pain, especially because these are dear friends.  As my friend expressed her anger over my actions, hot shame crept up my neck to my cheeks.   

Then the quiet voice of grace said, you didn't mean to hurt her, you didn't know it would have this effect, you have learned from this, move on.  You can't dwell on your failures to love.  That will do you no good. Plus, you don't have the time to wallow in guilt, nor do I want you to.

After church, we had a family cookout to attend.  Well, Caroline has been in a bad way since last night.  She has become very anxious and depressed over the thought of spending so many months away, and the fact that her older sister continues to express verbally and in action her hatred of her.  Taking her to the picnic was a risk.  She really wanted to go, but once she got there, the rejection by her older sister (and her two friends) as well as her inability to relate to the other kids there, put her in a deeper funk.  She angrily stomped around, yelling, when approached, to be left alone, in spite of these kind people trying to reach out to her.  Ugly was definitely the word.  Finally, Bill left the cookout early with her before she did more damage. 

Meanwhile, that ghost of shame was breathing heavily down my neck.  I couldn't control her attitude or behavior, but I still felt responsible for her interactions with other people.  When someone tried to reprimand her for being short-tempered, I felt even more embarrassment when they were offended by her negative response.  I could see that they didn't understand that her ability to show self-control today was greatly compromised.  They meant well, but didn't know how to handle a an angry bipolar child.  They are brain-damaged essentially, which people often don't see.

While I struggled with hot shame over her state, the voice of grace and truth said, let go of your false guilt, you can't control every situation, and even if they are shocked by Caroline's behavior, it's not my place to convince them that she isn't just a spoiled brat but mentally ill.

After Bill and Caroline left,  my oldest, Elizabeth, 15, became another source of embarrassment to me.  She has been increasingly mouthy and rude to me these last few weeks.  I don't know exactly why this is, but I think she is angrily vying for attention in competition with Caroline and also she has reached the teen "I know it all" phase.  She complains all the time that I never listen to her, never pay attention to her important stuff, which is, unfortunately, partly true. Again, more guilt.  

So she proceeds to be loudly demanding and petulant, whining in front of all of these friends of mine about the heat, wanting to leave, talking too loud, basically showing no respect for me at all.  Once more, I felt my neck get hot as I tried to handle her immaturity while everyone stared rather shocked at her audaciousness.  They even called her on the carpet in support of me.  The sad thing is that when she is not with me, she is mature, respectful,  delightful.  I hear this all the time from her youth leaders, teachers, the parents of her friends, the people she babysits for, all astonished by her maturity, respectfulness, leadership and competence. Thus I wanted to justify her (and myself) right there on the patio by stating, "She's really not always like this!  There is a completely different side to her that you guys never see.  She is just like this with me and her dysfunctional family." 

Instead, I silently resolved to get her in line starting that minute, she would understand that in no way would she be able to speak to me like that again.  Shame filled my heart as I left the cookout and I took it out on her verbally all the way home.  Later that day she apologized sincerely for her rudeness and said she knows she really needs to work on her attitude toward me.  

The heavy weight of guilt drags on me daily, accusing me of letting  my other three fall through the cracks discipline-wise all these years while we have spent so much time and energy managing Caroline.  I so wish our life as a family could have been so different, so much more controlled and peaceful.  God did not give us that, as much as we want it. Instead, we are visited daily by the torments of an angry, depressed soul who needs more medications than most elderly people.

But the soft voice of God's grace said to me, give yourself a break.  You did what you could.  You are not a bad or lazy mommy.  You are being given time this summer to spend with your other children, and you can work on whatever needs working on then.  They are my kids anyway, not just yours. I have to listen to that voice. 

I wasn't listening tonight when I was so harsh with my youngest, who struggles greatly with staying on task.  Homework takes her FOREVER, driving me and Bill crazy.  I am at a loss as to what to do except to stop the ineffective pleading, threatening, and enticing her to get her work done, and just let her experience the consequences of not taking homework seriously.  Her new ADHD med doesn't seem to last long enough after school to get her through the homework hours.  I struggle with feeling embarrassment about her failures, like I am the one being graded, not her.

Presently, Caroline is downstairs screaming and raging, kicking things, throwing things, why I don't know.  We've never called the police to our home, maybe we should tonight because she sounds like a wild banshee.  I wish she could go to the RTC tomorrow.  

Now I need to read a bedtime story to two anxious little girls.  They said just now that Caroline is scaring them and they want a safe home to grow up in.  Wow.  What a dart that is to my heart.  Isn't that the last thing you want your child to struggle with?  I am looking forward to a summer with of relative peace.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We've Made a Decision

After talking on the phone to the admissions people at both Meridell in TX, and Inner Harbour in GA, we decided that Meridell is the better fit (we hope).  If we can get all of the paperwork done by Monday, she should be going mid-week.  She has all of her bags packed and ready by the door.  This will be a good change for everyone.  And I will finally be able to get ready to put our house on the market so we can hopefully be in a better school system for Caroline by the time she gets back in the fall or whenever.

Last night I went out with some girlfriends to dinner and had a blast.  We didn't talk about Caroline and the whole RTC thing at all.  Just laughed and ate amazing Thai food.  That was a refreshing time to just relax and have fun.  I needed that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

RTC Approved

We heard from the insurance company today and they approved our request for RTC for Caroline.  Now we just need to choose between the two programs, and find out who has the first available spots.  I am very relieved.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

One Step Closer?

We got everything faxed to the insurance company and our case manager said we would probably hear something by tomorrow.  Caroline was in tears today over the wait--she is sad about all she will be missing, and the longer the wait, the harder it is.  I hope that all of this can happen by the weekend.    

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vacation: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I don't quite know where to start with this post.  So much has happened in a week.  I have had less energy to write because I've been sick with pneumonia and a sinus infection--yes on vacation.   The business of life explodes on you when you come back from a trip. Not one sticky note stands back and says with great sympathy, "I think we should give her a break because really she hasn't even caught her breath,"as I wish they would.  

The vacation was, on a scale of 1 to 10, about an 8 with a lot of 1s and 2s in between.  Travel with four kids is hard, but add in an angry, impatient, overstimulated bipolar teen and you've got a real adventure.  For the most part, she held it together when it mattered.  But the plane ride home turned into a little nightmare for about 15 minutes when she decided, in the Dallas airport, that she was not getting back on that plane for anything.  

We had risen very early that morning, around 5:30 I think, so she was sleep-deprived and over being squished into an plane seat for hours.  Claustrophobia is a major issue for her.  Should have thought of that when I picked the seats.  Next time I will definitely choose the ones behind the bulkhead where there is more room.  Just before boarding the plane home, she began to have the biggest public meltdown, crying and getting that wild look in her eyes she gets when she is totally losing it.  The attendents were literally calling the last passengers onboard, when I looked at Bill and said, "She can't get on this plane--we can't risk what might happen if she does this on the plane."  I handed him their tickets and shoved the others down the ramp, hoping that she would be able to calm down enough to get on a later flight.

Well, they did, after a few hours of de-stressing in the airport.  I am realizing that we were pushing all of her limitations the last two days of the trip, and that we needed to plan more down time the last day, or do a direct flight, or plan more layover time.  We are learning.

The kids did have a delightful time swimming with the dolphins at SeaWorld and doing the Disneyland thing.  Caroline was able to enjoy herself as long as she could not be tied down by her little sisters, so Bill took her, and I took the others.  My sister and her kids met us at Disneyland so that was very helpful to have some extra hands, especially because I felt so sick.

In Riverside, we had some special time with my Mom and my stepdad who has Alzheimers.  We spent Easter with them, and for the most part we had a great time.  Caroline struggled with boredom at being at a senior community, but we got her through it.  

One of my favorite times of the trip was seeing one of my very dearest friends, whose oldest son has Aspergers and is bipolar.  We hadn't seen each other in over nine years, maybe ten, and we have been living parallel lives.  Having dinner with her and just pouring out our hearts to each other was such a treat.   To have a dear friend understand exactly what you deal with day to day is a huge gift.  

Our last day of the trip we spent driving down the CA coast from LA to San Diego, stopping at a nature preserve on the beach, where we found out you could rent cottages.  There were tidal pools filled with huge starfish and sea anemones which delighted the kids.  I just sat there on the beach, looking at the sun setting, feeling sick, but enjoying just being, instead of moving.  

Now that we are back, we are still trying to move the RTC process along.  I found out that we faxed the application to the wrong person so we have to re-fax everything.  This has delayed the process by a week.  Bummer.  Caroline is edgy and defiant, very bored, wanting to move ahead with this next stage of her life.  I am so burned out on working with her that I am not doing anything but whatever I have to do to keep everyone else on schedule, so she is just kind of left to wander right now, but I know that can't last long.  She craves structure, so hopefully I can get my ICal up and going and create structure!  I am not good at that. 

My downstairs looks like a tornado hit it, with clean laundry everywhere, and suitcases, and mail from the week.  I hope I can get some time tomorrow to work on the chaos.  We'll see.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vacation Tomorrow--California Dreamin'

Well, tomorrow we leave at 7:05 am to fly to CA for our big California Adventure.  I am really not convinced that bringing Caroline is the right thing.  She has been awful again today.  She just never smiles, is never happy, always angry.  Bill says a vacation in a fun place like Sea World and Disneyland is just what she needs.  I am concerned her mood will just continue and she won't be able to enjoy it and will make everyone else miserable.  If that happens, she and Bill will fly home early (my desire).  I want to be together as a family but I am over her attitude.  Her sisters are sick of her too.  Meridell says that beds are opening up next week, so I hope that when we get home, she will be able to go immediately to Texas (or Georgia).  We are all feeling that we have reached the end of tolerating her misery.  She needs help fast.  Pray that there might be a break in these clouds.  

The Helpfulness of an Online Bipolar Child Support Group

I joined an online support group through CABF and it has been a wonderful resource for me.  The other moms (maybe 95 or so) have such a wealth of experience and knowledge about cycling and medications and RTCs.  I have learned a lot in the last four weeks, especially about which of Caroline's meds take care of what.  You might think I would know that, because they are labeled either mood-stabilizers, or atypical antipsychotics, or antidepressants, or whatever, but certain of these meds are better for depression ,or for mania with agitation, or for the spring ramp-up, etc.  Something I read recently has prompted me to ask her pdoc to increase the level of one of them, and I am going to ask about increasing another.  I guess some of them have a certain therapeutic level that often isn't properly reached.  Each child has their own chemical make-up, but Caroline's is so sensitive and yet stubborn too.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Have a Dream Too

Who cannot know the gripping speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington DC, calling for equal rights for all men and women in our country.  "I have a dream..." is still regarded as one of the greatest speeches of all time.

I have a dream too.

I have a dream that one day scientists will find a cure for early-onset bipolar disorder.

I have a dream that one day bipolar children will be treated compassionately by their families, teachers, neighbors, and lawmakers, and will have equal access to all the services they need.

I have a dream that one day there will be the ability to determine exactly what medications each child needs according to sophisticated brain imaging technology. 

I have a dream that Childrens Hospital of the King's Daughters will open a beautiful, cutting edge child psychiatric unit for the children of Hampton Roads, offering the latest in acute care, as well as residential care, including neuropsychiatry, neurofeedback, and therapies such as occupational, recreational, art, music, animal, and yoga, as well as a huge, wonderful playground.

I have a dream that these special children will no longer have to suffer from social isolation, embarrassment, shame, and educational difficulties because of the amount of school they miss because of their illness.

I have a dream that this terrible handicap will one day be eradicated so that all bipolar people are free of this dream-robbing disorder.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bipolar Disorder is Messy, Literally

One of the most frustrating things about having a bipolar child is that they make continual messes, everywhere.  There are several reasons for this.  One is that they have documented executive function deficits, meaning the area of the brain having to do with organization and planning is greatly impaired.  Thus, her room, after being cleaned and organized (with my help too), by the next day looks like we never touched it. Clothes that were folded and organized in drawers will be strewn all over the floor, bed, dresser, closet, clean mixed with dirty.  It is as if she has not an organizational bone in her body.  This is not a parenting problem, because although there is always room for improvement, my other daughters manage to keep things in their rooms fairly picked up--at least they know where to find things. 

 She, on the other hand, loses things regularly throughout the day, doesn't know which gym bag is where, and when she looks at a pile of homework, her brain can't pick it apart to see just one assignment at a time.  She flips out because her brain is so disorganized on the inside.  We have to create order for her very often, which is typical of all bp kids.  She needs tight structure throughout the day, which, with three others to take to doctors appointments, go to their school events, help them with homework, etc, I can't provide enough.  My life is very unpredictable because of the competing demands of everything and everyone.  I would love to have a schedule that stayed the same every day, that I could fully control, but I've had to give up that idea.  Anytime I try, I am defeated.  Every day, something comes up that was not planned.  I feel like I have given up on my own natural inclination to be efficient and organized because I am only frustrated by my attempts.

Messes go beyond her room.  She will start on various projects, especially while manic, that involve paper, scissors, tape, glue, or dirt, shovels, muddy clothes,  or drawing pads, pencils, erasers.  This wouldn't seem outside the norm, but everything she does is bigger than life.  If she is obsessed with something, she has to do it full tilt.  And she definitely doesn't clean up after herself well at all.  I will ask her several times, but she's in another world.

And then I am so preoccupied with managing her and keeping her safe and caring for the youngest two that still need a lot of help with whatever, that days will go by when I have not done the laundry, so it is spread all over the house.  Or basic organization goes kaput.  I hate my house so disorganized and unkempt.  I asked a friend once who knew my house before Caroline really got bad, prior to age 7, if my house used to look like this.  She said no, not at all.  I was relieved because that is what I thought.  I remember loving to organize after the kids went to bed, maintaining a certain order as best I could.  

Oh, the maid service I hired didn't work out because it took them too long to do one floor, for a big chunk of money.  So I decided to get a weekly housekeeper that can stay until the work is done and can do laundry too.  I am not apologizing for this at all.  I must regain some order here.

Out of Control Stress

Now Caroline has really gone into a full-blown manic state, which we now see she has been ramping up to for weeks now.  We may have to admit her to an acute psych unit until she is more stable to go to RTC.  In which case, neither she or my husband get to go on the SeaWorld/Disneyland vacation we have planned and paid for much of it beforehand.  We did get travel insurance on the airline tickets, which we will always do now.  I am really really stressed out about Caroline's crazy behavior, and my youngest is really acting out, and my oldest is running a 102 degree fever.   This is so very hard.  I was filling out Caroline's  Merridell application today and there was a section to check off previously tried meds.  I checked so many boxes.  About 14 actually.  Then there are the seven psychotrophic drugs she is on now, plus a few others for asthma and severe eczema.  And the boxes I checked for anger and agitation, plus lack of focus were numerous.  I sure hope the RTC things happens soon.

Moving a Step Closer to an RTC

Today we met with Caroline's psychiatrist's P.A. who had gotten the health insurance paperwork, and agreed that an RTC would be a good move for Caroline.  Her psychologist sent over her evaluation to add to the documents needed.  I think we have a good case for approval, but we'll see what happens.  We have decided that the RTC in Texas, the Merridell Achievement Center, is our top choice based on their neurobiological-based psychiatric approach, using brain imagery and scans to guide choices of medications.  I would love for them to do a med wash where they basically start all over again from scratch, because she is on ten different medications.  We leave for a big vacation on Saturday and I am just hoping she will be able to handle it.  She's acting a little too happy/irritable right now (rapid cycling?) so are bringing things to calm her down if we need too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Health Insurance: The Other Necessary Evil

I am venting here.  We are trying to find the very best Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for Caroline that we can possibly find, one that has specific criteria that are important to her health and to us.  Some of the best ones are far from us, like in Texas, and Colorado, Wisconsin or Georgia.  We are willing to fly out there if that is the best scenario for our daughter.  Tricare, our health insurer, has an approved list of RTCs that they will pay for.  Some of our preferred RTCs are on the list, but our psychologist just told us, having dealt with Tricare before, that they will probably only approve the one closest to us, which we had already struck down based on what we saw on the website.  We really would like to take her to a place that has brain-based therapies such as neurofeedback and brain imaging based therapies, and equine therapy, which is so helpful to her and calming.  I am just mad that we are bound by someone else's opinion in some office somewhere who doesn't know our child.  The one in our state doesn't have horses and looks undesirable compared to some other RTCs.  I guess we'lll see.  This will be about a two week process now.  And we don't want to see her once a week actually, which Tricare requires, because we now feel that she will make better progress if she realizes we are not able to take her home every time we go up there (big problem before).  One great RTC in Texas only wants family visits every 8 weeks, which sounds  about right to us.  I mean, WE need a break too.  Her family is tired and exhausted and we need her to be cared for by others for a spell.  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Scarcity of Connection

One of the things I have struggled a lot with in the last few years is that fact that when we are going through a hard time with Caroline (pretty much all the time), I can always count on my sisters, my mom, my neighborhood friends, and our pastors to call us, bring us meals, ask me out to coffee, or for a glass of wine, but the people that you would think would reach out to you, don't.  My closest friends in town seem silent, but my more "fringe" buddies are the ones lending a hand, doing my laundry, calling, sending emails.  Some of them may be reading this and wondering which group they are in.  It's not that all of my closest friends avoid me, it's just that a lot of them do.   Let me just say, don't be afraid to call me, or send a note, or invite me to coffee.  I would love to spend time with you or chat briefly.  Even just knowing that my close friends at least read my blog once in a while would be comforting.  I guess this is what a lot of people experience when they have cancer or something.  No one knows what to say, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or they feel completely inadequate to help so they shrink back, hoping maybe that the suffering one won't notice.  I've done that to other people myself.  I have two huge regrets regarding two friends who both died of cancer, well, three actually.  I was so busy with four little ones at the time, that I felt unable to be of great help, so I kept a low profile and hated myself for doing it (still haunts me).   I know this post is kind of brutally honest, but I am speaking not only for myself, but for anyone out there who is going through the valley and feels like people fade away.  Suffering is hard, but loneliness through suffering is harder.  

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Residential Treatment Center

Bill said last night he could see the wisdom of sending Caroline away to an RTC for a period of time.  I have been online researching and also asking other moms of bp kids about their experiences with long-term RTC stays.  I've gotten some good recommendations.  Nothing in our state looks that great, so we are looking at ones in Utah, Georgia, Texas and Vermont.  We have specific criteria for what we want, including equine and occupational therapy and lots of true professionals running the place, not a boot-camp type of a place where anyone could work there.  She doesn't need to be yelled at, she needs structure and affirmation and caring people.  We have to contact our insurance company to get pre-approval and also get her doctor to sign off on this.  We may be taking her as early as this week, so I have a lot of phone calls to make.  She knows we are looking at this and she actually isn't put off. She feels pretty helpless right now.  I really don't want her to miss our CA trip, but we will just have to see.

Friday, April 3, 2009

This May Be a Wash, or Worse

I don't know where to start because a lot has happened in the last 24 hours.  I'll just say that Caroline has already decided she doesn't like this school, or any school for that matter.  She has given up hope that she will ever be able to go to any school because of the fear that she will embarrass herself and have to leave, lose friends, etc .  She in general is acting hopeless about her future and gets angry when we try to assure her that she does have a hope and a future.  The school has offered for her to go only half days next week with no homework, but she says she has already been making up stories about herself to the other kids, and feels like a fool (tall tales a very much a part of bipolar disorder).  

Yesterday culminated, after I had to pick her up after only being at school for about 45 min, in her packing her bags and running away.  She took pics of our family, her med box (she knows that they are very important), and took off on foot and walked down through a very bad part of town (murders and shootings daily) for several miles, traipsed around the coffee shop area on the other side, make her way over to another part of town after visiting the zoo.  She was gone for about an hour and a half.  We had called the police, but thankfully someone spotted her before they did and I was able to get her in the car and take her immediately to her psychologist.  We tried to process what was going on in her head but it was hard--she seemed not to understand or care about the danger she was in. The psychologist said when Caroline left the room that she felt strongly it was time to consider a long-term residential treatment program.  I actually agree this time.  If she refuses to do school, there isn't much else we can do. 

I was completely nauseated when we couldn't find her, just numb as I printed out photos for the police to help find her.  I think I've had the last straw.  She is just driving everyone crazy and we are losing time.  Bill believes the school could still work for her, but I think she is convinced it won't.  

In the mean time, my husband's dad has been deathly ill, in and out of the ICU and rehab facilities for 8 weeks now.  The stress of Bill being gone a lot during these weeks of Caroline doing poorly has pushed me to the edge.  I begged him not to go this weekend.  He agreed, but of course if his dad takes a sudden turn for the worse again, he will go up there with my blessing.  

We are going to CA next week to see both family, Sea World, and Disneyland.  We so need a vacation.  Just to play together and swim with the dolphins.  Caroline may not be at her best, but I'll just give her Ativan if I have to.  If she goes to an RTC, it would be right after that, after we line up funding because it is about 11,000 to 20,000 a month!  Insurance would pay for maybe 90-120 days of it, but we would have to find the rest.  An ideal stay is 6 to 12 months. There are some groups that you can finance through .  We'll do anything to help her get back on the right track so we don't lose her to despair, drugs, whatever.  She is at a critical juncture and we have to act.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Third Day...better

Bill decided to let Caroline sleep until she woke today.  I was not so sure about that, because I was afraid she would wake up mad that she wasn't on time.  He went off to work, and Caroline woke up a half hour before school started, and she was furious indeed.  Thanks honey.  I knew she needed more time to wake up, so I told her I would take her to breakfast.  We went to a coffee shop, she ate, and then said she really needed to go back to bed.  It is so hard to know sometimes what is fear and what is real need.  But knowing she can't function well tired--she didn't fall asleep last night until 10:45 apparently even with her sleep meds--I decided not to risk having to pick her up again.  She did go back at 11:00 and stayed til 3:00 without incident.  She was just fine when I picked her up.  

She must be anxious or something, because normally her sleep meds knock her out and keep her asleep all night.  She is trying to do her homework now after lacrosse practice and she is freaking out again over the work load, even though her teacher said not to worry, just finish what you can.  Her teacher had called me last night to find out how she could help Caroline to have a successful time there.  She was great, very compassionate and understanding.  Today, I dropped off a brochure from the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation which was penned just for educators on the types of accommodations these kids need in class, one for her teachers, and one for the principal.  I hope they read them because I think they will be helpful.