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!

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.


2 comments:

Patricia Perkowski said...

I have a daugther with ADHD and letting your Mae suffering the conciquences of not doing her homework will only drive her to think she is again a failure. During our daugther's second and third grade years my husband would spend until midnight trying to get our daughter to do homework. Yelling at her does not work, niether does punishment. What you and I both know is that our girls need to break down the homework into manageable tasks. I used one of those science project trifolds to create a block from all disatractions, giving her a quiet place to work. She and I together decorated the outside, but left the inside blank, it was a great help. Then taking each bit of homework and breaking it down to steps made homework feel more "doable". She and would go over what was difficult and worked creating solutions...it all helped make homework time better.

Patricia Perkowski said...

I have a daugther with ADHD and letting your Mae suffering the conciquences of not doing her homework will only drive her to think she is again a failure. During our daugther's second and third grade years my husband would spend until midnight trying to get our daughter to do homework. Yelling at her does not work, niether does punishment. What you and I both know is that our girls need to break down the homework into manageable tasks. I used one of those science project trifolds to create a block from all disatractions, giving her a quiet place to work. She and I together decorated the outside, but left the inside blank, it was a great help. Then taking each bit of homework and breaking it down to steps made homework feel more "doable". She and would go over what was difficult and worked creating solutions...it all helped make homework time better.