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!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Medications Aren't the Panacea

Some of you may be thinking that we are awfully quick to medicate our kids, as if we have a knee-jerk reaction when any one of them is acting out: they are misbehaving, so they must need a medication to keep them in line. Let me reassure you that we do not believe that the first answer to any behavioral problem is medication. Consistent discipline, loving rebuke, and lots of boundaries are the foundation for solid parenting. To throw a drug at a child but not address their behavioral and heart issues adds up to poor parenting. But if a child meets the criteria for a mood disorder, or an attention-deficit disorder, then to not provide that child with the right medication so their brain can do what it is supposed to be doing is but can't because it is lacking in certain brain chemicals, is in my mind, a type of child abuse. Unmedicated kids with ADHD, bipolar disorder, Asperger's often come to be viewed as the trouble makers at school and at home, their relationships marred by behavior which is neurological and chemical in origin. A child who is constantly receiving rebuke at home and in the classroom because they can't focus, can't sit still, can't act with appropriate manners in different situations, will soon be a discouraged, defeated child who decides early on he or she can't succeed in anything, and will have few friends, and fewer opportunities to excel in life.

I do highly tout the use of natural brain-boosters like the Omega 3s and 6s found in fish and flax oils, and exploring vitamin deficiencies, protein deficiencies, and the like, because we are organic beings who are greatly affected by what goes into our bodies. And good psychological counseling is a MUST for any family dealing with a severely challenging child because the strain of caring for them can be overwhelming, and the child also needs to be able to work on his attitudes and behaviors in a safe environment. Great parenting gurus are out there with wonderful books offering sound advice for correcting negative attitudes and behaviors--I couldn't list them all. We have certainly read many of them ourselves, and taken many parenting classes, some good, some not so good.

But as much as some would like to think that strong-willed kids just needs more discipline from likely over-permissive parents, I would ask you to withhold judgement if you do not walk in our shoes. And if you have a child with whom you are struggling beyond the norm, please do not refuse to consider medication because so many kids are "over-diagnosed" and "over-medicated." Think about the fact that many children have diabetes and you would not withhold medications from a child whose pancreas wasn't functioning --that would be abuse outright. You are not doing your child any favors by withholding what may a huge part of the answer to his problems. Read up on neurology and how the different areas of the brain interact and control many of our emotions and behaviors, and how abnormalities in certain areas affect outward behavior. We can control many of our decisions and actions, but there are reactions and states of mind that are outside of our control if our brains aren't functioning properly. Sometimes you have to undergo a lot trial and error with medications (we have done years of this), but if you love your child, you won't stop trying until you have found what works so he or she can fulfill their God-given potential.

We live in a fallen world, and this means that we are frail humans living in a messed up world, with often messed up bodies and minds. The good news is that we have the gift of wonderful medicines and doctors that humans for centuries past have not had the privilege of using, so be thankful, and do what is best for your child!

I'll get off my soap box now.


Accidental Expert said...

Beautiful post! You have said this all so eloquently. Medications are not the answer alone, but are part of a bigger mix.

BTW hows the new medication working out? We're looking into the same one for our daughter.

Caleb and Emily Designs said...

Thank you for your level-headed post. I believe this too, and am encouraged to hear it from another.


Cinda said...

Well said!!! In addition when kids' brains are off as in ADHD, bipolar and other brain based disabilities they are also falling further and further behind academically and socially. School becomes a place of misery. 65% of kids with emotional and behavioral disorders drop out and they drop out because they are not stable! The tough thing is to hang in there long enough to find the right combinations of meds to suit the child. My daughter (of whom you are aware!) had over 14 med trials before finding the right combination. At the time she was an overachieving (still that) college freshman on a scholarship studying classical piano. The girl that never drank or did drugs finally said "to he%$ with it, why not self-medicate? The doctors are trying to kill me anyway!" She is now in a great place and stable. She calls her doc when things need adjusting and has a whole list of things she does to keep herself going. She says that medication keeps her stable enough to benefit from skills training, therapy, life style change (yoga, running, meditation) and cultivating supportive friends. Without the meds she was unable to do this. Sorry this is so long (as usual) but one last note. If the medications are causing unbearable side effects or side effects that make life less enjoyable more tweaking needs to be done. It is a long process and frustrating at times but as you say, criminal not to address medications for these illnesses in our children. Good job!