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, December 29, 2009

Lack of Structure on Break a Problem

Without the structure of school, homework, and sports practice, Caroline feels a little lost. She complains about being bored a lot, and so we are doing a lot of taking her to the gym, and to the basketball court, or just out of the house. Today she forgot to take her morning meds, which we didn't discover until 2 in the afternoon! I am mad that she lost her watch which was programmed to remind her. We must get a new one for her immediately. We usually check and remind her, but everyone was so crazy today getting ready for company. Bill was mad and she was mad, and I was mad. Stress!!! I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Interesting New Approach to Psychiatry

Caroline's psychiatrist is really into a new approach to psychiatry looking at all of the neurotransmitters, not just serotonin, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. He uses a lab called NeuroScience, Inc, and their website is www.neurorelief.com. Check them out. He found that many of her neurotransmitters were awry, and her cortisol was off, and her progesterone was too low, making her estrogen dominant. He prescribes all natural supplements as well as traditional psych meds. He is hoping we can reduce the amount of meds she is on, and the dosages if possible. We shall see. I am initially a little skeptical, but if it works, that will be wonderful.

Let the Grousing Begin

Christmas is over, the presents unwrapped, the day cloudy, and all four of my kids are at each other's throats. Another week to go. At least Caroline is mostly behaving herself. Her older sister has no patience for anything, or anyone, right now. I am counting the days until school starts....

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

I am wishing you a Merry Christmas and a great New Year! May this year be filled with peace, as much as it can be, while you care for your challenging child. I am grateful that this Christmas is a much better one this year for our family now that we have a mostly stable child, so unlike last year when hope seemed so far away. I pray that if you are struggling this year with a child who isn't doing well at all, that you may find hope and help in the coming year, and time for yourself. Take care and hold your loved ones close, and remember that God holds us and our children in the palm of His Hand! "He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Prince of Peace...." Isaiah 9:6.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Tragic Passing

I am overcome by emotion tonight as we have learned that an old friend took her own life this past week. She had suffered many miscarriages, but she had finally carried a baby to seven months, only to learn that the had baby died. Without telling her husband about the baby's death, she checked into a hotel and committed suicide. Such a shocking and sad end to a beautiful life. The last time I saw her was at her wedding ten years ago. Now they are preparing for her funeral at the same church she was married in. We will miss her. She was such a gentle, kind soul. Depression sometimes wins, but she is still victorious, united with her Savior and her precious baby. We pray for her husband.

Christmas Coming

I was kind of harsh about those two girls in my last post. They are just middle school girls, I know. Sometimes when our children are threatened, especially the ones who are most vulnerable, we become harsh judges of other children. I did write them very nice Christmas cards, just to speak some grace to them because they surely need it, as do I.

Now that the Nutcracker is over, I can focus on preparing for this special holiday. We can lose focus so easily. As one of my three year old Sunday Schoolers said when asked what they were looking forward to this Christmas, "I can't wait to see the Son of God! But I haven't seen him yet!" We need to be looking for the One whose abundant grace is there always, to embrace our brokenness! As we remember that wonderful Gift this week, let's rest in knowing He came to give us hope and peace and to bridge that gap between His holiness and our great need for His holiness! Only He can supply that grace! The Giver of all good gifts speaks through the darkness of our hearts bringing us the light of His Glory in His precious Son. I am so very grateful for His mercies, new every morning! I cling to the Promise in a very broken world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Lot Happens in Ten Days

I am sorry to all who follow my blog for the long hiatus. Between Nutcracker rehearsals f0r my ballerina, and Christmas shopping, and one of mine sick with mono, I have been truly too busy to blog the last week and a half or so. Finally it is Saturday morning and I can sit down and write. Several significant things have happened in that time period, but I will start with a follow-up to the last blog about Caroline's "school troubles."

The boy that was the cause of so much anxiety and stress for Caroline was expelled. We are glad he is gone, but very concerned that he has a major mental disorder that is not yet diagnosed or misdiagnosed, because he was acting simply manic, really out of control. I really hope that his parents get the right help for him before it is too late. Caroline is much relieved about this as well as are her teachers. I knew that everyone was overwhelmed trying to teach him and care for him. Having been in the place where your daughter is asked to leave ("maybe this isn't a good fit for her") I know how painful this is for his parents, so I do sympathize.

With that situation behind us, another one reared its ugly head. There is only one other girl in the 7th/8th grade class with Caroline and seven boys. In the adjoining classroom of 5th/6th graders, there are two girls, one who is very young for her grade (skipped grades I think) and another one who is about eleven. They were at this private school prior to Caroline's arrival this year, and two of them were best friends, the one in Caroline's class and the eleven year old. Well, during the first few weeks of school, all was fine, with Caroline declaring that "Sarah" was her new best friend, and that "Lacey" was also fast becoming a good friend. But in the last two months, Caroline has come home with story after story of these two girls, really her only choice of friends, treating her very unkindly, saying cruel things to her, snubbing her regularly, to the point that Caroline has been sitting all by herself at a lunch table separate from anyone else. Of course, we are very concerned and upset about their behavior, and have been talking to her teachers and to the administrators of the school. They said they were trying to deal with this, but nothing was changing, only getting worse.

Finally, when they called her an outcast, and one said that they"didn't talk to strangers, " I had it. I called the administrators two days ago and basically said they MUST do something NOW!!! We were on the verge of looking for another school, which I think they picked up on. They sat these two girls down and asked them why they were abusing Caroline. They said it was because of an incident that occurred when I took all three of them to the mall three months ago, and let them go off together, with cell phones, while I shopped in other stores. They said that Caroline instigated a plan that the older girl and she would run away from the younger one and play cat and mouse.

I had no knowledge that this had happened, and when I pressed Caroline, she was adamant that she did not concoct that plan and that she only followed along because she wanted the older girl to like her. I didn't think that Caroline would come up with that idea on her own, and I called the administrator back, this time shaking with emotion, and told her that I was tempted to call "Sarah" myself and give her a tongue-lashing. I didn't of course. I am disappointed that Caroline followed her, and that I trusted this girl whom I was told was a "nice" girl. Never was I aware that this "game" had been going on--they had all seemed perfectly happy, having a great time. I figured since I was in close proximity and frequently checked on them that it was OK to let them shop by themselves. I was wrong. Caroline just wanted to be liked so much that she made a poor choices in a social situation when she knew better.

But the story that these girls gave as the "reason" they were being mean to her doesn't really add up. I think they are jealous of her, to be honest. She comes from a loving, intact home, is greatly loved by her teachers and coaches, is highly athletic, very pretty, slender, and is privileged to live in a very nice neighborhood. These girls come from very difficult home situations, are sadly obese, live in neighborhoods on the "other side of the track" so to speak, and probably pretty insecure.

Anyway, Caroline came home yesterday on the last day before Christmas break and said that she and the two girls had a pow-wow with the administrators, apologized to each other, and that everything was fine now. We shall see. I truly hope that things will change, but the older girl seems to be a schemer, and I don't trust her. We would hate to pull Caroline out of a school that seems so perfect for her academically. We will give it one more month, prior to the start of the next semester to see if these girls decide to be kind to her. She doesn't deserve such treatment. My mama bear claws came out!!

Oh, and Caroline's grades really plummeted these past two weeks. Wonder why. She was having trouble sleeping at night, and was dragging her feet every morning about going to school. I am hoping that enough has been resolved that she will be back to her A's and B's.

I have some interesting testing results to share with you done by a rogue neuro lab, but that will take a whole other blog.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

School Troubles

I wish I could say that everything at Caroline's school is simply wonderful, and that every day is smooth sailing. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and of course not realistic, although we always hope for the best. She likes her private school a lot, as do we, and her teachers love her. Well, four out of five of her teachers love her. We are having issues with her Spanish teacher, who seems to be a very bright young woman, from Spain, who speaks several languages, and can't be older than 25. I am remembering that just because you are good with languages doesn't make you a good teacher of a foreign language. Her assignments are completely frustrating to Caroline, and the rest of the class, because she is moving entirely too fast for a first year Spanish class and assigns work that is just too hard given their abilities. I know, because I myself took several foreign languages in high school and college, gaining proficiency in one and fluency in another. To top it off, there are a shortage of Spanish textbooks, so my daughter didn't receive one, which I only found out last week. They are on order, I have been told, but no wonder she is doing poorly! That news really irked me.

Also, the two other girls in her class have decided to be really mean towards Caroline, why, I am not sure, except that they are probably very insecure. Caroline has received a lot of attention for her academic and athletic abilities there, and she comes from an intact loving home, which neither of them have. The things they are saying to her are just awful, and I think it is time for a conference with her teachers to discuss this growing problem, as well as that of a boy in her class that they keep threatening to expel and don't. He sounds like he is either severely ADHD and unmedicated, or has conduct disorder, and that he isn't getting the help he needs outside of school. I don't know exactly, but Caroline says that when he is in school, he is so disruptive it brings her to tears, and that when he is absent, the whole class is relaxed and productive. I know what it is like to have a child that a school doesn't feel is a "good fit" and suggests you find another place, so I am somewhat sympathetic to the parents. But he is obviously not changing his behaviors and disrespectfulness. We have finally found a great school for our daughter, and if he is going to ruin it every day, something must be done. I think that he needs special services that this school can't provide. When you are paying money for your kid's education, you want to know that you are getting your money's worth.

Anyway, I am venting but I need to act on my frustration by picking up the phone and asking for a conference. I did send a letter to her Spanish teacher explaining Caroline's, and our, frustrations with the class and asked to discuss it further, but I want to talk to the principal about this too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Medicine Mistakes

You would think I would have this down by now, making sure that Caroline is getting the right medicine and the right dose every time. But somehow I am still catching myself making mistakes! I realized this morning that her morning pill box was missing the one of the two lithium and the 100 mg of seroquel wasn't there at all! For the whole week! I filled the boxes on Saturday, so my guess is that I mistook the lithium pills for the 100 mg of Seroquel, which is the same round shape and size, and both look the same color in the box. So I put in one "Seroquel" in each morning box, and then thought I had put in the lithium because I saw the seroquel in there and thought it was the lithium. That means that for about two or three days she has had half of her morning lithium dose and no seroquel in the morning at all!!

No wonder she texted me from school today and begged me to pick her up because she couldn't stand the way everyone was treating her! Yes, she was getting picked on, but normally she can handle it. I did pick her up early when I put two and two together. I am not a detail person AT ALL so I should just let my husband fill the boxes. He is so particular that it takes him FOREVER to do any task because it has to be perfect and checked over several times. So now it is his job, and I will just stick to writing in my blog.....

Intuniv Dosing

Someone asked me about what dose of Intuniv my youngest is on, and I forgot to respond. She is at the 4mg dose, the highest, without ill effects.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Team Sport Since Residential

Caroline's first basketball game with her school team on Friday night went relatively well. She got kind of over-heated over one opposing player's attitude, and had to sit out most of the second half to cool off, but she wasn't too fazed over it and continued to happily cheer for her team. We are just thankful she can play on a team and have fun doing it, so unlike the attempt last spring at club lacrosse when she was too unstable to deal with the pressure. She is looking forward to spring lacrosse again, and hopefully this time she will be able to hang with it. I remember telling her third grade school PE coach who saw her amazing athletic ability that she would never be able to play a team sport because her bipolar disorder made her so intense that every competition was seen as war to the death, and she would have horrible sportsmanship. So much has changed and we are seeing her not only able to play on a team, but being a great team player. Again, thank you God.

Oops! I accidentally deleted some comments!

Sorry, Meg, if your last comment did not appear. I was trying to manage comments from my blackberry and I pushed the wrong button! Caroline has been a tough gal to keep stable, and yes she does tend towards very bad depression. We used to see much more of the mixed states, but I think she is outgrowing that manifestation. It is amazing that you can manage your child's bipolar disorder without medication. Is he on any all natural substances?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Caroline Gets Creative Writing Recognition

This is truly wonderful because this is the girl who nearly failed the sixth grade last year, refusing to write anything. She was assigned in English to write several pages of an alternate ending for a historical fiction novel. Her book was "Anacaona" from the The Royal Diaries series. Her teachers said that her piece was the best they had seen in years. They published it in the school newspaper, the only one out of the middle school! Here is a sample:

"Filled with fury and terror, my mind whirling faster than the strongest hurricane, we fled from our stronghold, Maguana, my home. We have run quietly, but swiftly, all through the night. I fear for my people more than myself. We have not made camp because of the wolf-like pack of pale-skinned men and their lightning metal rods, firing every now and then, jarring us back from our excruciating pain and weariness from this long journey. Even I am beginning to tire."

I just had to brag on her, because she has come so very far. We have to thank Meridell again for restoring her academic confidence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Extended Release Lithium Works Better

We were right about needing the extended release Lithium, and Caroline is getting through the afternoon and evening much more smoothly since switching. This is good because the afternoon and evening are when everyone is trying to do homework, get ready for some activity, etc., and having a hypomanic Caroline isn't helpful. She has her first basketball game this Friday, and is pretty excited.

"I'm the Only Normal One, I Guess"

This is what Jane, my twelve year old said to me the other day, noting that she is the only child in our home not taking any medications. Well, normal is relative, and truthfully, I often think she needs to take something for her OCD problem, maybe an anti-depressant or the like. I am holding out because she is certainly functional, just really annoying when she cleans up everything while you are still trying to use it, or continually asks if the kitchen is still clean, or dumps out your coffee when you were still drinking it, or when she melts down, crying and stomping around, when you place something foreign on her perfectly made-up bed. Yes, she is just a little obsessive. We talked to the psychologist about it yesterday, about her need for control because life has felt so out of control for so long. She sees it but doesn't really know how to stop freaking out over everything when things don't go her way. Teaching her to be flexible and to be okay with imperfection is going to take some time. She will be very unhappy in life if she doesn't learn that life doesn't go the way you plan it most of the time. God has a way of interrupting our plans with His.

Intuniv Continues to Make a Big Difference

Mae's general disposition continues to improve dramatically. The Intuniv ADHD med is a miracle drug, I've decided! I don't think we had a single meltdown yesterday, which is a record. She wakes up pleasant and happy, gets dressed without being told, packs her bag for school, and when I pick her up from school she is again pleasant and happy, so unlike what these two scenarios were like for years, when she has been snappy and ugly, yelling at the drop of a hat. Her brain is obviously getting what it needs now to function. I feel myself relaxing more around her. Hopefully this will have the desired effect on all of us, instead of that walking-on-eggshells feeling. Thank you, God.

(I have put the link to this med website in my "Great Resources" tab below)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Cards

Do you send Christmas cards, with an annual letter, maybe including a family photo every year? We used to, until our lives became so chaotic starting back around the time Caroline was four years old or so that I would start the task, and never finish it. I have several boxes upstairs of hundreds of prints of annual family photos, in envelopes, never addressed, some with stamps, some with the family letter, but all never sent. My dear friend Wendy who also has a bipolar/Aspergers child said she has the same stack of years of Christmas cards and photos, also never sent. We laughed and said we should send them all out this year with each of the old photos so everyone could see our good intentions. Last year I finally had it with my own lack of communication with my close friends of years past and individually wrote to each of them, with the most recent family photo enclosed. It felt SO GOOD to finally accomplish something that had been just too hard to do. And honestly, I was reaching out because we had experienced one nightmare after another regarding Caroline that year, and I was at such a low point. I received some wonderful replies and was thankful that my friends were forgiving of my silence over the last seven years. I wonder if I will be able to accomplish this task this year. We still need that family photo, which no one ever thinks is a good picture of them. Who cares, it is just a way of saying "Hey, look, we are still alive, the kids are growing, and we love you!"