I have walked with more than one friend through the revelation of adultery and all of its aftermath, or husbands addicted to pornography, or scarred by childhood abuse. None of my close friends have any illusions of idyllic lives experienced without unexpected heartbreak or even tragedy. If you live long enough, something will break. So we are all broken people, but many don't acknowledge the brokenness or have ways of "coping" that only lead to more destruction in some form. I am thankful for skilled counselors and psychologists who help mend broken people and relationships.
About our Daughter
I am mother to four wonderful daughters, ages 13, 15, 17 and 19, 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. She is in the very challenging teen years, and she is attempting a big public high school for the first time. In spite of the trials, she enjoys lacrosse, running, 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.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I walked into the counseling office today for the weekly phone conference with Caroline and her counselor at Meridell, to find two of my good friends in the waiting room. They were there for different reasons, one was having her kid tested for educational reasons, and the other for counseling, I surmised. It is amazing how many of my friends have seen or are seeing counselors, (or need to be in counseling). Life is stressful, and our family spent the last seven years or so in counseling.
Posted by Megan at 4:54 PM
Monday, July 27, 2009
On Thursday I fly out for my visit solo visit to see Caroline at Meridell. I haven't been alone with her for any extended period of time since she left. Before that, I was pretty much with her 24/7 because we could never trust her to be alone by herself for more than a few minutes. The TV and the computer were the big issues. In spite of parental controls, she would manage to find her way into something inappropriate. Anyway, I am actually starting to feel positive about spending time with her. I hope she can leave the campus. Right now she could, but as we found out with the last visit, that can change minutes before we pick her up (very annoying.)
I am thinking tonight about a fifteen year old mentally ill boy who came here to the beach on vacation with his family. He has been missing for three days from the resort. He is very athletic, a cross-country runner (like Caroline) and apparently he went running on the beach three days ago, and disappeared. Dogs picked up his scent across the border at some beach houses in North Carolina. He has been without his medications for three days, which is disastrous for anyone with a mental condition, and I am sure his family is just desperate that they find him. It has been brutally hot the last three days. I am praying for his safe return. These sorts of situations brings fear into my heart, because I can completely see Caroline doing something like this. Life can be cruel. Join me in praying for this family.
Posted by Megan at 7:56 PM
Our church is starting a new ministry to families with special-needs kids called ACCESS. Yesterday the pastor's wife, a good friend of mine, and her new team of people, met with Bill and I to find out how the church good better serve Caroline and our family when she comes back. I am completely touched that they really care enough to want our input. We have a few other special needs kids in our church in the autistic range who will also be benefiting from this ministry, as well as future families who will bring kids (or adults) with physical or mental handicaps. They expressed that they wanted this to be an outreach not only in our church, but also to the community, and emphasized that they really want each family to decide things like do I want my child in the service with me, or do I need a shadow, or do they need to go to another room with someone to care for them there. I think of my sister with her two special needs sons, one with autism and a host of physical challenges, and the other with aspergers, and how difficult Sunday's are for her, because she really needs another person to help her and her husband is out to see for six months at a time. She could definitely use a shadow in the pews with her. This is the sort of thing our church wants to start up, and it will be an invaluable resource for so many. Thank you!
Posted by Megan at 12:14 PM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tonight is one of the two nights that Caroline gets to call home. As awful as it sounds, I always have this feeling of dread before I talk to her. I kind of don't really want to talk to her. It's like I've been pretending since early May that we don't have a bipolar daughter, and I have really enjoyed every minute of peace and normalcy. Wow, that is a sadly self-centered thought you may think. Pretty un-motherly. But if you don't know what it is like living with a bipolar kid, the daily extremes of stress that we endure, the crises du jour we can always count on, and the way that her presence skews our family experience toward the bizarre at times, then yes, I might seem cold and unfeeling. I have hope that things will get better when she comes back, that what she has learned there, along with new medications, and what we have learned while she has been gone, will result in a much more peaceful home life. Bill is more convinced than I am of this. I want to hope, but I am jaded.
Also, when she calls, I am always fearful that she may be down, or angry, or homesick, and I feel inadequate to help her, or to fix anything for her. When I think about what it would have been like if I, at the age of 13, had to leave and live away from my family for months with other mentally ill kids, I experience a deeper sense of sympathy. I love her deeply, but I don't often feel this love on the surface. I act toward her in love and with words of comfort, but often it feels forced. I feel love for my other girls much more often. Love is a choice, it's true. Feelings come and go.
Like my commitment to my husband til death do we part is a decision to act in love towards him always, regardless of how lovable he is. Sometimes he makes me so mad I could scream, but he is mine and I have to remember always that we are better together than alone. We are a team, even if we disagree. That's the worst. When we are in profound disagreement, I flip-out inside. Normally we are pretty harmonious, so when we can't agree on something really important, it feels like the end of the world. I have learned to be patient and to let him go through all of his machinations when he is trying to decide something big. I can't interject too much, or he just digs his heels in. Usually, he comes around to my point of view on his own. I try not to say, "I told you so." I just nod and smile. Men. They forget about our intuition sometimes (with my hubby more often than not.)
Anyway, I digress. We will see how tonight's phone call goes. I need to get over myself and focus on her needs.
Posted by Megan at 7:01 PM
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Caroline sounded down on the phone today, and kind of foggy. She kept forgetting things she wanted to say. The doctor at Meridell now has her on a 1300 mg dose of Trileptal, her new mood stabilizer. He believes that most docs don't increase Trileptal to high enough doses to really be effective especially with angry outbursts. The only problem is that Trileptal gave Caroline marked drowsiness several years ago when we tried it and she would sleep every morning in class. I will be interested to see how she is responding when I go out to see her in ten days or so. School starts up there in a week, and obviously if she falls asleep in class for an hour every day like she did, the Trileptal will need to be decreased. She really needs the structure of school. We could tell that without that daily exercise for her brain, she was beginning to slide behaviorally. She has had a more difficult time staying on level, or moving up for that matter. This is a child who simply needs regular mind and body exercise. She kind of implodes without them.
She was asking about whether or not she would be coming home to the same house. We have been talking about moving for a while now, and due to the falling home prices, our plans were delayed while we figured out what we wanted to do. She said she doesn't want to come home to the same neighborhood, which has not been a safe place for her, but that she wants to at least say goodbye to her room. I understand how she feels. I don't completely want to leave my cozy house, but I also wish I could just snap my fingers and presto we were in a different house and neighborhood. Life is more complex than that, at least for us right now. Throw in that our oldest really wants to continue at her present high school because of their course offerings and friendships and has been quite vocal about it. She says everything revolves around Caroline, that we have to move because of her bipolar sister who ruins everything.
The truth is, our moving isn't all about Caroline, only partly. We've got lots of other reasons to relocate. Doing so won't be easy for us after sixteen years of planting roots, but we feel like the needs of our family dictate moving. Ugh, I hate this. Now I feel rootless, unsure that I will like living anywhere but "home." It's only fifteen miles away or so, but it feels so much farther than that. Our small city has wrapped it's fingers around us with its web of relationships and memories tied up with favorite haunts. Longest I've ever lived anywhere.
But it's not like I ever see any of my friends during the week anyway, except for my neighbors on my street, and then only now and again. With my kids being older, I don't even hang out at the pool anymore that much. I really only see people I know on Sundays at church, so that won't be any different. Having a bipolar kid to contend with precluded my getting to go to the mid-week women's bible study, or meeting up with a friend for coffee. Our schedules are so different. So really, seeing my buddies happens on the weekends or evenings, maybe. Life was so much more connected when I had little kids. There were a lot of stay at home moms in my neighborhood and we hung out all the time, the kids all playing together. Now, the kids are all in school and the moms are all at work, or busy with whatever, like me.
I need some momentum. Maybe some new music to get me going. Having my younger girls at camp in two weeks will help. I forgot how unproductive summer is with everyone underfoot.
My quote for the day, (or my whole life) courtesy of Sara Groves: "Something's changed inside me. Broke wide open, all spilled out, til' I had no doubt, that something's changed... And I cannot fake it, and I cannot make it, and I can't afford it, but it's mine." (Something Changed from Add to the Beauty.)
Posted by Megan at 8:29 PM
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Last night I decided I actually am missing Caroline a bit. She is so funny, and affectionate when she is doing well. Enthusiastic about everything when she is happy. She always tells me how great a mom I am and how lucky she is to have us as parents. She thanks us a lot for what we do for her. Our other three don't express that to us as often. Caroline knows, after meeting other kids with bipolar disorder, that her family situation is usually far better than what other bp kids have. She has two parents who love each other, have taught her faith in God, and who have shown her a lot of grace and love. I miss her encouraging words and my running partner! I have been running a lot more and wondering if I could actually keep up with her now. Well, probably not. She is usually way ahead of me while I am yelling for her to wait.
Posted by Megan at 5:48 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009
I just received in the mail yesterday Caroline's end of the year report card from the Texas charter school she is enrolled in at the RTC. Her grades were pretty average, but the really great news is that they promoted her to the seventh grade! Hooray! We were concerned that she might be held back but she worked very hard the last quarter and was able to catch up in all subjects. She will still need some one-on-one attention for math and grammar, but she is going to be okay. Thank you Lord!
Posted by Megan at 12:43 PM
Thursday, July 9, 2009
My husband called up the private school Caroline had attended for one week in April. We had really liked the school and it seemed like such a great fit for her, but she was not well enough to make it work, and she freaked out and refused to go after three days. Well, after regaining her academic confidence at the RTC, and gaining some great coping skills through therapy, she might be okay to try it again. The headmaster left a message for us saying he was looking forward to having Caroline there in the fall. That was a surprise! I thought surely they wouldn't want her there. But maybe they saw the situation for what is was: bad timing. I hope this might work out. She greatly needs a small classroom with individual attention, but not an ED or special ed class. She is so complicated!!
Posted by Megan at 9:22 AM
Monday, July 6, 2009
This is just a side note but Caroline wasn't exaggerating when she said she lost twenty pounds. She really has, I guess from the reduction of the Seroquel, and the very strict meal schedule. She is quite happy about going from a size 9 to a 3. I am happy for her because weight issues for girls, especially in middle and high school, can be so traumatizing, especially when it's really not something you can control. She will be at a better advantage when she returns to cross-country and lacrosse too.
Posted by Megan at 1:30 PM
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Much to our dismay, Caroline was dropped down a level at Meridell the day that Bill flew out half way across the country to see her. He found out about this after he arrived at the hotel and was about to drive to the RTC. The level drop meant that he was unable to take her off campus at all. Needless to say this was a huge blow to both Caroline and to Bill. He is very angry still about this, which I share. He managed to keep her as busy as he could on the bare-bones campus. There really isn't much to do there beyond the pool table, the basketball court and the pool. He had to make a big effort to make the weekend fun for the both of them. Gone were the plans to take her to Austin, to get her nails done, to go shopping, to go out to eat. She really needed that time away to be refreshed for the next month and she didn't get that. Bill even applied for a three hour waiver on Sunday, but her counselor there denied it by phone. But the next day, Monday, she is back up to the level where she could have gone off-campus, twelve hours after Bill left. Is that not ridiculous? We had more faith in Meridell to be accommodating to parents who are coming from a long way away and can only come once a month. We feel slighted. I mean, come on. During previous hospitalizations, there has been a law of dimishing returns with Caroline, where if she begins to really struggle with homesickness and cabin-fever, her behavior takes a dive to the point of no return. All behavior modification becomes a moot point. We really hope this doesn't happen. Bill said she handled the blow as best as she could. He didn't talk negatively to her about her counselor or about Meridell, which would have been counter-productive. I may fly out in two weeks to take her off-campus myself. I'd like to charge it to Meridell, though I know that won't happen.
On a positive note, Caroline told me something on the phone that I found to be very encouraging. She asked if I remembered when she was younger and her older sister would have friends over, and they would be in her room, and she would do everything possible to annoy or anger Elizabeth: knocking on her wall, on her door, initiating conflict, etc. She said that she realizes now how obnoxious that was and she feels bad about it. I related that to Elizabeth. I hope she can see that Caroline won't always be "the enemy." Elizabeth actually asked if she could go out to Texas to see her next time. I think mainly she wants to see a place she hasn't been before, but maybe she really wouldn't mind seeing Caroline. I am not sure we can afford that right now. Maybe we can't afford not to, I don't know.
Posted by Megan at 7:02 PM