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, June 7, 2009

Setting Goals for our Family

During our weekly meeting/phone conference with both Caroline's psychologist at Meridell and our local psychologist, Bill and I discussed setting some goals for our family while she is away to try to undo some of the bad patterns of relating the girls have developed in reaction to Caroline's unpredictability.  We can't blame everything on Caroline's mental illness, but certainly we have all developed our own negative and destructive (and self-protective) ways of relating to each other.  Not that it's all bad--we have a healthier family than most I think because we have a healthy marriage, and we adore our kids, but we are a wounded family, wounded by circumstances and our own selfishness to which we are all inclined.

I have been thinking about how the different members of our family "fit," what each person adds to the family in terms of personality and gifts.  I have been struck by the thought that Caroline really hasn't "fit" at all.  I don't mean this in a disparaging way, as if to say we don't want her to be a part of our family, but rather that she has brought little to our family that has been positive in the last few years, and thus has been ostracized by her sisters, held at arm's length (maybe more like a ten foot pole), and my way of keeping the peace at home had been to put her in the car and take her elsewhere, leaving the others behind.  Not the healthiest way of dealing with her, I know, but we have been in desperation mode for years, and in the moment, when she is melting down in a way that frightens her sisters, the fight or flight mode kicks in, and I grab the keys and tell her to get in the car, and we go for a drive until she is calm.  So her sisters resent her as the person who takes Mom away from them, and they are at home picking up the pieces.  This scenario certainly looks as though the person with all the power in our family is Caroline.  

So we need to take back the power in our home, with Mom and Dad firmly in charge, and invite each child to take their place in our home as equal siblings, to feel secure and assured.  Obviously this is easier to say than do, but with the positive changes we are seeing in Caroline, we hope that it will be easier than before.  Her sisters will have to adjust to the difference in her, as well as adjust to our better ways of handling them.  We have begun to talk to the younger two about all of this, and that we expect them to grow in some maturity this summer.  

Our oldest needs some intense counseling, we have decided, because the seeds of resentment were sown more deeply in her.  Caroline wrote her the sweetest letter, expressing that she is aware of how bad things have been between them and that she wants to be reconciled, to be friends, not just sisters.  With all that Caroline has experienced, her emotional IQ is pretty high compared to her older sister.  Resentment and anger stunt us if they are not dealt with, and the result is emotional dwarfism.  I think Elizabeth feels at her core, that she needs to reconcile, but she is afraid when she hasn't been able to trust Caroline one bit.  I don't blame her at all, but the last thing we want for them is to be enemies as adults.

Anyway, back to how Caroline fits into our family, her role so to speak--whereas she hasn't played a positive role in our family in years, we feel that she can in the near future, especially as we hear the changes in her voice and demeanor when we talk to her.  I remarked to Bill last night after she hung up that she actually sounds like a normal teenager now.  Gone is the pressured, depressed speech that we had become so used to hearing.  She sounds so healthy and happy now, like she was so long ago.  I am remembering now how funny she can be, and how compassionate she is.  I think her role will evolve as she brings her beautiful gifts to the table.  I don't expect that she won't be bipolar, but I can feel hope now that our family can include her emotionally and physically, no longer isolated, but together with us where she belongs.  

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