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!

Monday, May 25, 2009

All Quiet on the Home Front

I wish this feeling could last forever.  Everyone is so relaxed.  Bill is so much more relaxed.  I enjoy him more.  I feel like we are becoming a couple again.  We haven't restarted date nights yet, but we are laughing more, enjoying the beauty of summer in our backyard, without interruption by the whirlwind of drama that is our second daughter.  If our last conversation with her on Saturday night hadn't been so positive, I am sure I would be feeling guiltier for enjoying our family life right now.  She sounded again quite positive and so normal. Such a change in her voice, how she intonates and the speed at which she talks, not driven, but relaxed. Her roommate situation seems ok right now.  The first day the pool opened she couldn't go because a big thunderstorm rolled in.  Bummer.  Hopefully that won't last the whole weekend.

I am still trying to nail down the child care for our trip to see her next weekend.  Some of it is settled, some not. I am nervous because we haven't been that far away from our kids in about 10 years.  Like other parents of bipolar or special needs kids, date nights and time away is very hard to come by, for lack of a sitter who can handle the difficult child.  Plus it is hard to relax when you know that things at home are probably rough going.  You keep waiting for that phone call, which inevitably comes.  I think our last night away was a year ago, and it was kind of disastrous due to a number of factors.  Not a weekend to remember.  We have a gift card to a really nice restaurant we need to use.  And now that the laundry and the ironing are all caught up with my new help, and my house is consistently clean and picked up with the maid service, I feel that I can focus on the important stuff, like relationships and organization, and family fun.  Oh, and getting our house on the market.  I don't think I will give up the maid or laundry help after we have moved.  I just feel so much less stressed out and heaven knows that a less stressed out mom makes for a happier family.  When mom is happy, everyone is happy, that's my motto.  

Enjoy Memorial Day!  I have a daddy to remember who is buried at Arlington Cemetery, and this year I think I will actually get to visit his grave with one of my daughters, none of whom have even been.  Sometimes I think of all that has transpired since he passed away when I was in college, and I think he just could never have imagined fifteen grandchildren, four with either aspergers, autism, or bipolar disorder, and a bunch with severe ADHD, so many trials, and yet so much blessing.  I wouldn't trade my family for anything.  God has brought beauty from ashes.  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We think this is helping...

Caroline sounded much better last night, far more positive.  She did get a carefully picked roommate because they had another admission, and she was concerned about that, mainly because she is worried that her sleep will get messed up, or she will wake her up accidentally. We didn't want her to have a roommate at all, but I am sure that the business office of these RTCs push for full occupancy.  We have been adamant that she and her roommate be closely watched at all times.  Caroline is too fragile to take another mishap very well.   

Her meds have been adjusted, with an increase in the new one, Amandatine, and a decrease in her anti-psychotic, Seroquel (which made her gain so much weight), and a splitting up of her Lamictal (mood stabilizer) into two doses.  She said she feels like she has a lot more self control since the Amantadine was introduced, especially as far as anger goes, but that her brain is foggier.  She tells us that she isn't getting the math help she needs somehow.  It sounds like they are just handing her worksheets.  One more thing to look into when we visit.  We called the unit nurse today and she said that Caroline had some difficult moments yesterday, being very defiant toward adults, especially the night nurse.  She has already told us she doesn't like this nurse at all, that she is harsh, but we don't know if this is true or just partly true, or if Caroline is misjudging her.  Always hard to tell.  

I am really enjoying all of this time to myself every day, catching up on laundry, organization, and hopefully starting to paint rooms this week.  I am not looking forward to giving this up again when Caroline comes home.  And there is always that shock of the first two weeks after school gets out for the summer.  Yay for the pool!  Hopefully Caroline will be in school all day when she comes home.  I'm thinking about using the fall to start my own Ebay business, selling classic children's books.  We'll see.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weird Ad

What Madrid has to do with bipolar disorder is anyone's guess.  I've been there, but that's about it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unsettling Phone Conference with RTC

This morning we had our weekly phone conference with Bill and I, Caroline, her psychologist at Meridell, and her new psychologist here (her therapist of seven years is on maternity leave). We were five minutes late to the meeting, and we had not met her new psychologist until this morning, so we had to do some getting-to-know-you time before we could talk to her psychologist at Meridell. Unfortunately, the Meridell tdoc (therapy doc) was on the line already and was kept waiting for about 10 minutes while we tried to cover some ground quickly with Caroline's tdoc here. When we finally picked up the phone, I thought that the Meridell psychologist sounded a little annoyed since we were fifteen minutes late starting the phone appointment. So we rushed through the initial update and questions we had, trying to give our psychologist here some talk time with the Meridell tdoc. It felt a little less friendly than the other times we had spoken with her. I explained to her Meridell therapist I wasn't fond of the points and rewards system they had there, because there can be a lot of frustration for those whose problems are still medication related. Maybe we sounded critical and that put her on edge. She brought Caroline in for a rushed talk with her. I could tell immediately that, compared to our last conversation, she was down and emotional. She sounded like she was tired and basically cried and complained about everything the whole time, about how she isn't getting outside time because the other girls vote on staying in the gym, or she can't watch her favorite TV shows on Sat. morning, because the majority want to watch something else, and how she is getting no alone time at all, having group therapy three times a day with major drama ensuing each tie that she just wants to avoid. We felt pained listening to her as she went into a downward spiral. Her Meridell tdoc tried to get her to problem solve on all of these issues right then, but Carolien was in the "tornado"we call it, and we knew that trying to get her to reason would be futile until she was calmer. So we asked to just let her vent, which did help. She needed to feel heard, not to be fixed.

After the conversation ended, Bill and I both wondered if we had put her in the right place. She is an introvert who truly needs down time, away from others, and they won't let her color in her room, which is very calming to her, only in the noisy great room, and won't let her go running around the campus when she needs to exercise. This is a girl for whom exercise is hugely therapeutic. So with no alone time and no running time, she is hurting. The other RTC in Georgia had many planned outdoor activities every week, like canoeing, exploring caves, fishing, track and field, hiking, and a great ropes course, and horses. Bill wanted Meridell because he was so impressed with the neuropsych stuff, but I was leaning toward Inner Harbour in Georgia because I thought it would be a better fit, and still had the neuro psych approach. We won't do a knee jerk reaction, but if the structure is working against her rather than for her, we may need to change course. We'll see. And sometimes it is hard to know if what she is telling us is 100% truth, or perhaps her skewed view of things, which looks like paranoia and "everyone hates me." When we see her in two weeks, I hope we will get a better feel for how she is doing there and if it is a good fit.

Overreaction Disorder

That's what I have, after years of parenting a bipolar kid.  Now that she is gone at the residential treatment center, I am seeing how much I overreact to everything.  Sort of a PTSD response.  When Caroline is here, everyone walks on eggshells.  We never know what might irritate her next, sending her into paroxysms of emotional turmoil.  So she is not here, but I find myself reacting much too strongly to every annoyance, every misbehavior, with over-the-top responses.  At least I can see it, really see it now.  And I hate it.  I think I had nightmares all night last night after having a bad evening with our youngest, who is severely ADHD, and highly gifted, and does everything in her power to avoid homework.  I lost it at her yesterday, got down on her level, and asked her (loudly) why she does this every night, does she enjoy the results, does she see how this ruins our evenings!?  But she overreacts to every irritation, and so does Jane and Elizabeth, and I see it in my husband as well.  I don't want to blame Caroline completely--we are all responsible for how we respond to the problems of life--but we are all so tightly wound up from years of Caroline's unpredictability, we just spin out emotionally without warning.  

I was getting my nails done the other day, and the manicurist kept telling me to relax my fingers because I was holding them so stiffly and  he was having trouble getting the job done.  I realized that I was also holding my breath, feeling that fight or flight tension that I have lived with for so long.  I hold my breath a lot, unconsciously.  Sometimes, to get out of this head to toe stiffness, I will start singing some musical number, full out, usually from Les Miserables or West Side Story, because you have to breathe and use your diaphram to have good control.  After a few minutes of this, I feel so much better.  I haven't found a better deep breathing technique that works for me.  So I'll sing on! 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great Friend

I just wanted to post a note sent by a friend because it is probably the nicest letter of encouragement I have received in years.  She writes:  "You're a great mom.  A good mom feeds, clothes, and shelters her daughters.  A great mom is a parent and mother, always; isn't afraid of being unpopular, seeks help from experts when her own skills aren't enough, does the right thing, even when she's tired or doesn't feel like it, loves and cares for all of her daughters even when they (temporarily) say "I hate you!", gives herself a break to rest and rejuvenate, always shows a united from with great Dad.  You have our admiration and prayers..." Isn't that amazingly sweet?  She sent a note to Bill too, but I haven't read it.  I know that he took it with him on the day he had a meeting with our oldest's prom date to talk "man to man" about the evening.  I think he must have felt that the note was worth sharing with this young man as he considers his choices in life.  Her date told Elizabeth after the meeting, "Your dad is like the closest person to God I know."  Funny,  but we actually don't mind that he views him that way.  It's good to have a little fear of your girlfriend's dad in you--keeps you in line.  

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Great Chat

Just talked to Caroline tonight and she sounded WONDERFUL!  She sounded so normal, just chipper and positive, and lots of good reports about school and her behavior.  I wanted to cry.  She said she is sleeping well now, and is reading her Bible a lot, remembering verses throughout the day, and stayed out of the drama during group therapy.  She said she remembered to use some of the skills that her psychologist taught her about when she is in a stressful situation, to first observe what is going on around her and try to stay neutral, rather than just reacting. That is a first.  She started the amantidine yesterday so maybe this is helping her to not just freak out but to think.  Sure hope so.  Can't wait to see her in two weeks!  

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Now for the rest of you...

I am struck so much by the bad attitudes and behaviors our other children are displaying, and were displaying before Caroline left.  I've developed some bad habits of dealing with them, a lot of avoidance or anger.  I need a parenting overhaul.  There are so many books I've wanted to read, so I think I'll take advantage of the pool and bring along some great parenting books.  Not so relaxing, but practical.  I'll let you know which ones I feel are the best as I read them.  My kids are so precious and I don't want to screw them up more than they already are. :)  There's always therapy....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

First Phone Conference

On Tuesday morning, Bill and I had our first phone conference with Caroline's psychologist at the Residential Treatment Center, along with her psychologist here in her office.  The first discussion was about the results from the CEEG with evoked potentials. What that means exactly is complicated but basically they looked at her brain's electrical activity in response to stress, and they found abnormalities in the conductivity of signals between her left front temporal lobe, which has to do with emotion and executive functioning, and the part of the brain that governs reasoning and impulse control, the higher thought processes.  So what happens is when she gets upset, she gets stuck in a seizure-like state because the frontal lobe isn't sending proper signals to the part of her brain that would help her think through a problem and strategize, and find a way to cope.  So that is why she freaks out so much and seems unable to do anything but hyperventilate, rage and meltdown without an ounce of self-control no matter where we are.  The doctor asked permission to put her on Amandatine, a drug used primarily for Parkinson's disease.  This electrical misfiring is not directly related to being bipolar at all, the neuropsychiatrist said, but is a separate brain problem.  He feels if he can get those signals to get to where they need to go with the help of this med  that she will be much better off in all of the other areas with which she struggles.  

Her psychologist at Meridell also related that she was doing much better compared to the previous evening.  Caroline said that after her meltdown the night before, she received a very encouraging letter from our pastor, which was very comforting.  She said she is carrying her Bible around to remind her of God's love for her when she is stressed out.  That is good to hear.

 One of the things that she is having the most trouble with is her sleep.  She is not sleeping well at all, which we wonder if it is because of the stress of it all, or if they have changed her sleep meds, which we would not be happy with if they did not consult us.  Sleep has been a major issue for years and she has been sleeping well on her present med mix for months.  

She says that she keeps losing points on this rewards system because she is so tired in the am that she just wants to sleep, and so misses some of school and gets points deducted.  That does not sound fair to us, especially when her new med makes her doubly sleepy, and they give it to her am and pm. 

Also they are giving her the pm meds right after dinner, which means she will be wanting to sleep within half an hour, thus missing the evening activities.  We've got to talk about that too.

She sent the sweetest letter to us today, including individual greetings to each sister, even telling her older sister how much she loves her.  The letter started, " To My Beloved Family, I want you to know that you guys are always in my thoughts.  I miss you, love you, and I hope to see you guys soon..."  Pretty sweet.   She can be so sweet and affectionate, but that all but disappeared this year.  I hope that does come back while she is there.

Unfortunately, our dogs ate her new gerbils yesterday.  Murderers.  We won't be telling her about this, you can bet.  Before she comes back, we'll just slip in some new ones and hopefully she'll never know.  Our dogs are in BIG trouble. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Shoe Dropped Last Night

After I posted my blog last night, I was headed off to bed when the phone rang.  Caroline was in hysterics about two girls on her unit who were harassing her. She could not be calmed down, but just ranted and hyperventilated about how this wasn't going to work, that we had to come get her RIGHT NOW, she couldn't keep up with the points and rewards system.   Bill and I were not ready for this, but we knew that something would happen sooner or later.  We talked to the nurse about the situation, assured Caroline that in our phone conference tomorrow with her psychologists both here and there that this problem would be addressed, etc.  Nothing we could say made her less hysterical.  I asked her if they had made a med change, but they hadn't.  She just sounded so unreasonably paranoid.  The meeting today starts in about an hour, so I am hoping she is better today and that we can come to a resolution.  I am afraid that the constant begging to come home that we have dealt with in the past has started now, and that wears us down so fast.  As a parent you know this is best for them, but your heart breaks anyhow when your child is so far away and so distressed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Actually, No

With Mother's Day just behind us, I had a thought about something that happened on Sunday.  Right after the church service ended, a friend who sat in front of me wished my Happy Mother's Day, and commented that it must be really hard for me this year, because of Caroline's situation.  Actually, no, I replied, it's been great.  Sadly, I really have to say that I am enjoying not having her around right now.  I feel guilty saying it but I am so much more relaxed, our home is so much calmer, and there isn't that constant anger component that she brings into our lives. We love her tremendously, don't get me wrong, but this feels so nice, to be a "normal" family, with "normal" problems, like where to get a prom dress hemmed at the last minute, or why did you put your best nightgown over the gerbil cage last night because they shredded it.

I have so many friends whose families are pretty normal.  Maybe an ADHD kid here, maybe some learning disabilities there, or sibling rivalry, but nothing that would make you want to jump off of a cliff.  I have at times felt like jumping off a cliff, ok maybe just getting in the car and never coming back, when hope seems nonexistent and you have nothing left for the next minute, day or week.  Those are the times that feel like hell, as if God is nowhere, and you are left wondering why He allowed you to have kids at all.  I mean, didn't He know this would be impossible?  That my worst side would show most of the time because everything she does pushes me to the edge?  That my husband and I wouldn't know what a date night is, for years?  
That my other children would develop their own psychological issues because of the chaos?  Life is so unfair, isn't it?  

Yet, we must push forward, and trust that the end will be better than the middle, and that God does exist and does care, and has a plan.  I'll take these small breaks, this time of being able to breath finally, instead of holding my breath all of the time.  I'll take the regular business of life, and know this is only a season of quiet for now.  Relative quiet.  Can't be too quiet with kids chasing each other around the house or backyard squealing happily, or not so happily, especially when the raising of caterpillars is at stake.  

A dear friend called me on Mother's Day and left the sweetest message saying I was the best mom ever, and I was so touched.  I am not all, but sometimes when God gives you lemons, you make lemonade or you sink into paralyzing despondency.  I appreciate her encouragement.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

More good news from Caroline

Tonight we talked to Caroline and what an encouragement it was to us!  She spoke with excitement about her new best friend "Laura" who has been there since December, and the great  school, and how she is reading a lot, watching no TV, doing all kinds of physical activity.  We couldn't ask for a better report.  She said she has lost weight already, which I could tell she was very happy about.  The only complaint she had was that they wouldn't let her have her photograph album, which I don't understand why, and we told her we would check on this.  She had filled up this album with a large amount of pictures before she left, so I know this isn't going over well.  She said they hadn't changed any of her medications yet, but had taken blood.  I told her I am sure they are letting her adjust to her new surroundings right now before they get into med changes.  

We know that there will be rough patches ahead in spite of her initial glowing reports.  She did say she had a meltdown two days ago, which kind of made me feel relieved, because I'd rather she act out now than save it for a month from now.  Don't know why I feel that way.  Maybe because that is reality with her and I feel like she is still herself?  Not that I want her to freak out on people at all, but everything has been so positive I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Her little sisters picked out postcards for her today.  They didn't get the part about leaving room for the address, but they had fun writing all over them.  

My mom is visiting and staying in Caroline's room.  I had to muck it out before she came, and today, after pulling her bed away from the wall, I found her gold ring!!! Here we thought she left it at Busch Gardens, and it was in the house all the time!  And before she left we bought her another purity ring since it was so important to her.  Oh well, I will wear it to remind myself every time I look at it to pray for her.

You May Have Noticed...

You may notice that I am allowing some companies to advertise on my blog.  Please understand that I am not trying to capitalize on the trials of our precious daughter, but rather to accomplish two things.  First, many may find this blog via Google by searching out "bipolar daughter" because they are looking for support and encouragement about their own loved one.  Once my adsense request is approved, the advertisements that show on the sidebar will change to those provided mainly by pharmaceutical companies and other relevant entities which are trying to forward research for treatments and a possible cure for this terrible disorder.  People new to this whole bipolar thing may feel overwhelmed by the myriad of medications needed, so this could be helpful to learn which meds do what.  

Secondly, we have spent a tremendous amount of money on our Caroline paying for medical bills, private schools, and many different activities that we thought would be therapeutic for her, such as horsebackriding, art, sports etc.  These expenses have impacted our finances to a significant degree.  Because I cannot work outside the home while caring for her at this important stage of her life, I have limited options to bring in extra money.  So if a few extra dollars come in to help, that's great.  I don't expect to be earning a whole lot off of my blog.  And truly, I just want to share with whoever wants to read about our trials and joys in raising this special needs daughter. So please don't be offended.  I am just glad you are reading....Megan

Friday, May 8, 2009

So Far So Good

From phone conversations with Caroline, and her Meridell Achievement Center psychologist's observations, she seems to be doing really well so far at the residential treatment center and is quite enjoying certain aspects of it, like making new friends.  She continues to attend the charter school without too many bumps.  The only negative thing we heard today was that she chose to not attend the group therapy session.  That doesn't surprise me.  She is holding onto a lot of shame and fear, and going into a group intimidates her tremendously.  She couldn't handle attending the girls' small group through a local church for the same reason, even though the female leader really reached out to her and wanted her to stay.

Since she has been gone these last few days, our family life has been considerably calmer.  Not that the younger two don't fight, or that our oldest doesn't drive us crazy with all things related to being a teen, but in general, we are all much more relaxed.  I am enjoying this sense of freedom, that I can actually chose what goes on in my day to some extent, rather than always feeling that my day to day life is completely out of my control, dictated by whatever is going on with Caroline, whether a mood swing, or a crisis she got herself into, or the doctor's appointment du jour, or some new obsession that she MUST attend to NOW or she will DIE.  The verbal abuse that was coming from her mouth probably as much out of habit as the characteristic bipolar irritability had become intolerable to both of us.  

The younger two continue to express concern for her and miss her, but my oldest said today how happy she is that the food in our house doesn't disappear right after I buy it, that she can come home from school wanting that leftover Thai food and it is still there in the frig.  She truly resents the way Caroline has been eating us out of house and home.  I spend a huge amount of money on groceries each month, even with bargain hunting and coupons.  The Seroquel she is on gives one a tremendous appetite, which has been obviously happening to Caroline.  She would not stop stuffing her face, especially with carbs, more specifically peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, several a day, and whatever else she could sneak, ice cream, sweets, etc.  Her cholesterol skyrocketed to a scary 225. This binge eating had become quite the battle, one I never wanted to engage in with any of my daughters.  I never wanted to make an issue out of food or weight.  The others, who are all slender,  I let snack when they want to on mostly healthy things up to a certain time in the afternoon, but I was starting to be a control freak about Caroline's snacking habits.  To see your formerly slender, athletic, and fit daughter gain 15 pounds in three months, lose all interest in physical activity (when she used to go running every day on her own volition) makes you worry and want to step in before life-long damage is done.  I wanted to get a lock for the frig and pantry.

I am especially sensitive to this because I was overweight as a tween, and I have never been able since then to stay a stable, healthy weight without a lot of effort.  It's like once you gain those extra fat cells, you keep them for life and they just want to get bigger.  So with all of the difficult things Caroline struggles with, I didn't want obesity to be one of them.  I never heard her describe herself as fat before or ever express concern about her size, but she has recently been saying she is fat and bemoaning the fact that she can't fit into the brand new clothes I just bought her last month. To be a middle schooler is hard, but to be overweight and awkward feels like death.  I know.  And add in a gorgeous, slender older sister and you have a real self-esteem problem.

The RTC does offer plenty of exercise opportunities, with a pool, regular PE, use of the gym and the outdoor sport fields.  That, combined with their strict snack and meal schedule, will hopefully help her slim down.  And I hope they take her off of Seroquel and find another anti-psychotic without this side effect (most of them do make you gain weight, fast).  

Every once in a while, I forget she isn't here and start thinking about something including her and then realize she won't be here.  Like for Mother's Day, or for the big opening day party at our pool, or the summer lacrosse camp she loves.  Still, this is the way it needs to be right now.  She's better off and so is her family, for now.  I know that now I need to focus on where she will go to school next year and what we need to do to get there.  I feel like the fall is somewhat up in the air, with our house not even on the market yet.  Elizabeth went ahead and filled out her course schedule for next year at her present high school in case she stays where she is.  I hope everything falls into place for us to be out of here by Sept. 1st but I am thinking contingency plans just in case.

I did make one step of progess today:  I attacked with vengeance the weeds in our back yard that had threatened to take over all of my hard work from last year.  Insidious weeds, invading my flower beds, I will take back my hydrangeas!  Gardening is one of my favorite stress-relievers (besides a pedicure.)  When I am out there looking at the azaleas, coneflowers, wysteria, forsythia, and all of the irises and lilies, I feel so peaceful and happy to be working hand in hand with God to create beauty.

Speaking of beauty, my youngest Mae gave me an early Mother's Day gift today.  It was a framed picture she had drawn and colored of a rose with thorns.  Above she had written"Beauty and Pain."  She is nine, mind you.  But that is what life is, is it not? Great beauty, and great pain.  You can't have one without the other on this side of life.  I thought a child her age wouldn't get that, but she does.  I was kind of arrested by this depth of insight.  Thank you little Mae.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What I Know So Far

Many have been wondering how Caroline has been doing at Meridell, and I apologize for the silence.  Truthfully, I have been sleeping a lot during the day, and night.  I think after she left, my body called it quits.  Being constantly hyper-vigilant most of the time around Caroline is more exhausting than I probably even know.  I just can't seem to get up and going since Sunday, no energy whatsoever.  Poor Bill has taken up the slack, so now he is exhausted.

The hand-off to Meridell went very well.  Caroline did not even cry when Bill left.  She seemed chipper on the phone that night with me, and Brandi her therapist there, has reported that she is doing well thus far.  She went to school the first day she was there, which was surprising to us, and went the next day as well, but then got over-stimulated and had to leave early.  They will be adjusting her academic regimen and scope and sequence based on the testing they will be doing and her sensory needs.  

We did have a great phone conference with Brandi yesterday (Brandi talks just like one of my dearest friends so I liked her instantly),  just telling her whatever we felt she needed to know to understand how Caroline thinks/responds and why, and also about her self-esteem issues, the hard things she has been through this year that completely put her in this pit of despair.  She took down notes the whole time and said to please call her anytime, and that she wanted us to know that they would keep Caroline very safe there, after she heard about a recent hospitalization where she was not safe from herself or others.

Her little sisters have expressed sadness that she is gone, the youngest saying that she was her favorite sister.  I need to clean her room out, since my Mom will be staying there next week.  I haven't really gone in there.  

We will have weekly phone conferences with Caroline, Brandi and Caroline's psychologist here starting next Tuesday.  Then, the last weekend of this month we will fly out to see her and have more consults with her psychiatrist and therapist there.  She gets to call us on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I think the next week will be harder than Caroline is showing right now.  Lots of adjustments to make like following a strict schedule.

We are looking forward to seeing the results of the brain imaging and advanced EEGs.  I have been reading a lot of recent research on the CABF website about how the bipolar brain has differences in structure and blood flow and electrical activity.  Their brains definitely show signs of atrophy in the grey matter governing emotions, impulse control, etc.  Something about smaller amygdalas, where they just found that kids with autistm have unusually large amygdalas.  There is so much they are learning about these brain-based disorders, and the genes that have a role in them.  Now if they can just find a cure!

On to laundry.....more tomorrow.

Monday, May 4, 2009

First Day at RTC

Caroline and Bill finally arrived at Meridell this morning, after a difficult journey of missed connections and bumped flights.  They spent the day checking in, getting all of the paperwork right, which involved me faxing a lot of extra medical info today.  She sounded chipper this morning, but I imagine that the goodbye this afternoon was very hard.  My husband has a very tender heart, especially towards Caroline, and I am sure he cried after leaving.  Life here is already less stressful, but we will miss her at times.  

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Caroline Leaves Tomorrow

Today wasn't a very eventful day.  In fact, I think I was avoiding eventfulness today by being gone most of the afternoon, getting a pedicure, or helping Mae with her giant ancestry project due on Monday.  Honestly, I felt extremely stressed out from the time I woke up and still do feel that crushing anxiety I sometimes struggle with.  I am sure it is about Caroline leaving for months.  We had a nice dinner for her tonight, chicken and dumplings, and the girls gave her cards (even Elizabeth, at my prompting) and we gave her a journal to write her thoughts in.  I also took her to pick out a new purity ring, since she lost hers at an amusement park last Saturday.  It is silver, with two hearts intertwined, diamond chips to make it sparkle.  I hope they let her wear it.  She really wants to have it on.  She feels insecure somehow without it. 

She had a hard time today, very agitated, worried about whether she had packed everything. Watching her try to pack and "organize" is painful.  Her executive function deficits really show when she needs to think and plan.  It is as if her brain goes haywire and starts smoking if she is asked to look at a situation and figure out what needs to happen in which order.  She is pitiful in that way.  I hope the RTC will help her in this regard.  Well, they have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow so I'd better get off to bed too.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Letter for Caroline

I wrote a letter tonight for Caroline to open her first night at Meridell.  I thought I would share it with you...

Dearest Caroline,

I wanted you to have a letter from me for your first night at Meridell.  I know you must be feeling very scared and lonely and homesick already.  I am praying that God will be your comforting Father tonight.  We will miss you so much.  Contrary to what you may think, we are not sending you here because we are tired of you, or don't love you as much, but because we DO love you SO much!  We want you to have every opportunity to heal and grow so that the rest of your teen years might be a little less tumultuous.  We want you to achieve your dreams, and never be held back by bipolar disorder.  You are a beautiful, smart, funny, loving girl who brings us so much delight.  When you are happy, we are overjoyed.  I look forward to your letters and phone calls, and I can't wait til our first visit with you.  When I look at pictures of you growing up, you are just so precious to me!  God has given you many talents and gifts and we look forward to seeing how He will use them to bless many others.  I had a lot of fun on our Mother-daughter birthday weekend, seeing you get all pretty for your dinner.  You ARE feminine and beautiful--don't ever believe the lies of the enemy who wants to convince you that you aren't.  You are His dear child, and He will bring beauty out of ashes.

With so much love and hugs and kisses,

Your Mommy

Down to the Count

Caroline leaves for the long-term residential treatment center in two days.  Well, less than that, more like 36 hours.  I am experiencing new feelings of sadness about her having to leave the circle of our family.  As dysfunctional as it is at times, it is a tight circle where we have always valued each one of our daughters.  Life will be a little empty without her, as it always is when any one of them is away for more than a few days.  This is definitely the best thing for her and for us, but it will be hard.  

Whenever she has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the past, I initially think I will get so much done while she is there, but that never has happened.  Instead, I enter this zombie mode, numb with exhaustion from events leading up to the hospitalization and grief that her life is so unfairly hard.  I don't become energized and industrious, but walk around in a fog.  I really hope that I can snap out of that this time because truly I have so much to do.  We need to paint our house, organize, fix the flowerbeds, and everything else that needs doing to put our house on the market.  We want to be in a new school system by September 1st, even if that means a contingency contract.  

I remarked to her today that she may not be coming back to this house that we have lived in for six years now, and how did she feel about that.  She didn't really say that she would be sad,but seemed ok with it, considering how small her room is, and how messed up some of the relationships with our neighbors have been.  I hope to be able to surprise her with a room painted in her favorite color with new bedding--a fresh start.  

I bought her a journal today to give her as a present tomorrow at her last family dinner for many months.  I am making her favorite meal and she wants cherry pie.  I think we will be quite sad tomorrow night.  I can feel my heart going in that direction.  I insisted that Elizabeth, her older sister, be there at the dinner, even though I know that being with Caroline is that last thing she wants to do.  Too bad, this is important.  

One thing I have definitely felt is this slow relaxation of my whole self, slowly, starting in my head and spreading out to every part of my being in the last two weeks.  I think it is because the responsibility of schooling her has been lifted off of my shoulders, we know she is going to be getting great help, and so I have been so much less stressed out from 8 to 3, just going about my business and letting her relax too.  I have been in this straight jacket of stress for so long, that now that I feel it coming loose, I have a new peace in my soul I haven't felt in years.  A taste of normal, maybe?  I'll take normal daily stressors, like homework, and laundry, and bills, anytime over bipolar rages, or running away, or trying to bandage up a wounded soul.