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, 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.

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