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!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Which problem do we focus on first?

I haven't written in a while because my younger two have been out of school for a week and we have all been adjusting to a new routine--for me one with less time to myself to write.  This is the first summer in many years where the first few weeks have not been stressful at all as far as my kids go.  Normally, the beginning (and for that matter the rest) of summer have been something I dreaded.  The other three would be content with camps, hanging out at the pool, being with friends, or just each other, while Caroline would be impossible.  She would whine everyday about having no friends and nothing to do, which was correct.  She might have attended one lacrosse camp, but wasn't interested in any other camps, and didn't do well hanging out at our pool.  She wouldn't relate well to the other middle-schoolers there and often ended up making a fool out of herself.  Summer just meant endless stress for me, no rest or relaxation, just vigilance every day as we tried to manage our bipolar daughter.  I hated summer. 

This time, without Caroline here, I feel quite relaxed physically and mostly mentally, but I have a new worry that I can't stop thinking about.  During our last phone conference with Caroline's psychologist here and at Meridell, we got to the subject of school in the fall.  We have been planning a move to a different public school district so that we would have a public school for Caroline to attend, finally.  But as we brought up the subject, both her psychologist in Texas and the one here were adamant that public school would not be the best place for her.  Their reasoning was that she needs a small class size, but that an ED or Spec. Ed classroom wouldn't be right for her because she is so smart, motivated and high-functioning (now) but vulnerable.  Truly Caroline does sound better every time we talk, so much more settled and content, and mature.  We are amazed at the change in her, how self-aware she is, how hard-working she is in school and on dealing with her own issues.  They recommended that we look for a small private school for her.  

Immediately I am anxious over this whole thing.  I would love for her not to have to go to public school because I know that is not the best learning environment for her, but we have been through the rounds of private school and homeschooling and we have come up empty on success stories.  Or it would be fine at first, she would be happy and productive, but then she would become manic and do inappropriate things that made her never want to go back.  We know that it is unrealistic to think that she won't have other manic episodes this year.  She has every year, without fail.  I hope that Meridell can find the very best med combination that will keep her stable for a long time, but as she grows, her chemistry will change, I am sure. 

So I keep racking my brain for a good solution.  With the housing prices still falling, we may not be able to sell our house.  So what do we do with the others whose school situations are also up in air?  We don't want to send them to the public schools in our district because we have already experienced enough to know that isn't what we want for our younger kids.  So that means if we don't move we are looking at possibly three private school tuitions!  That wasn't in the plan at all.  I think I would have to go to work.  We could rent, which now looks like the best option financially.  We stand to lose too much if we sell, as do many other Americans in this economy.  

I am pretty sure  I know which private schools I would send the younger ones to, and the oldest would stay at the public high school where she is doing so well.  But what about Caroline?!  I wish there was some easy solution staring me in the face.  If I knew she would be stable this year, I would put her in a nurturing Christian school, but would they even accept a bipolar student?  They don't have to, and she doesn't have the greatest track record as far as consistency.  Is public school going to be a safe place for her or one of too many distractions and temptations.  When I read in the emails from the bipolar support group about what other bipolar teens are getting themselves into in public schools, I shudder to think of Caroline facing those same temptations.  She is a great kid at heart, and wants to walk the straight and narrow.  But she never does well around kids that are going the wrong direction--she gets sucked in right away.  And somehow she lacks discernment about which are the right kids to hang with.  The secular private schools around here are too challenging for her academically.  So I am quite stressed out over making the wrong move and about the financial implications.

That said, if we did do private school for Caroline, we would still pursue services through the city community services board.  She still needs occupational therapy and probably one-on-one tutoring for math.  I found an organization here in our area called Southeastern Skill Builders that helps kids like Caroline with social skills by forming groups and taking them on outings, have group therapy, practicing reading social cues, etc.  A new group for her age starts in August.  I hope we can get her in there.  She definitely needs social help, so maybe she could finally make and keep a nice friend.

But the really good news is that Caroline continues to thrive, and we are getting some nice down time as a family.  Soon we will start family therapy to help everyone learn better ways of interacting with Caroline and dealing with the stress of having a mentally ill sibling.  We definitely need that!

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