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, September 29, 2009
We are seriously considering putting our youngest, Mae, back in school. My eleven year old is a dream to homeschool, eager to please, wants to get everything done on time, does more than she needs to, and I enjoy teaching her. Mae, on the other hand, is giving us a major run for our money. We are trying the ADHD med Focalin, but I am not seeing a big difference in the meltdowns. She is more focused, but still much too emotional over everything. She is very rigid in her thinking, and demanding, crying a lot. Working with her feels like torture, so we are trying to find a way to put her back in private school. I am much too stressed out everyday to the point that I think I am getting an ulcer, and I feel frozen with anxiety. With all we have gone through with Caroline, I just can't put myself through the ringer again. Mae was fine in school last year behaviorally, but she would bring home a lot of undone schoolwork if she wasn't on the ADHD med. I guess I need to give myself a break. Maddie cleans the kitchen for me all day long, so she is a balm to my sould. I hate the thought of giving up only three weeks into the school year, but I was willing to try it, and she was excited about it, but the honeymoon has work off and the writing is on the wall. I can only take on so many commitments and the accompanying stressors.
Posted by Megan at 1:47 PM
Monday, September 28, 2009
Glad we have a psychology appointment today for our youngest, who has severe ADHD. Besides being incredibly distractable, she is now raging over everything and nothing, all day long. I don't like this, because this is what Caroline did a lot at this age. I am so stressed out I feel like I am having a panic attack right now. We have been secretly filming her so the psychologist and psychiatrist can see how bad she is. I am suspicious of the purely ADHD diagnosis. I hope she isn't bipolar. I don't see the ADHD meds working to reduce her rages at all. I told Bill I may not be able to homeschool her if this continues, because it is unfair to Jane and to me.
Posted by Megan at 3:18 PM
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
With Caroline in school all day (hooray!) I have plenty of time until she and Elizabeth get home in the afternoon to focus on Jane and Mae. Their behavior with us and with each other and their older two sisters has deteriorated to the point that I have determined to bring them in line as quickly as I can. Homeschooling doesn't work if the kids aren't going to listen to you. Actually Jane listens fairly well and is eager to get her work done each day. She is a hard-working students and loves to write so she is not the big problem.
Mae, on the other hand, is severely ADHD, and we have struggled with her behaviors for a long time. She is overly perfectionistic, constantly daydreams, doesn't want to do what she is told, and would rather create her own project of the moment. She is incredibly smart, so she often makes up for her lack of diligence with her high IQ. However, this won't carry her forever. Yesterday, I took her to see our old counselor at Eden who has known Mae since she was three. I was looking for help on how to tame this wild beast. I was starting to worry that she is bipolar too. She doesn't meet the checklist, so I knew she probably wasn't, but possibly some other mood disorder? The counselor said no, we just really have to get her ADHD med in her consistently, which we were and then weren't. Then, we can work on the behaviors which would likely be considerably lessened.
So today I gave her the full dose of her Focalin, dissolved in orange juice, and told her enough messing around, take it or else. She did, after I had to make it very clear that this wasn't optional. The result: when it kicked in she was remarkably calmer, and got all of her subjects done in the proper time without my cajoling. During the previous homeschooling days she was still on subject number two at three in the afternoon.
Okay, the counselor is right, and most of her problem is an under-stimulated brain. And yes, I just need to enforce the rule of taking her medicine every morning. Yesterday she exploded or melted down eight times before noon. Today, she had about four major outbursts before the medicine kicked in then only a few hiccups after that. Why am I so stubborn?
She will be seeing this counselor once a week to work on some of the behaviors that have developed out of having a chaotic home life living with a bipolar sister, as will Jane for her OCD problem. Jane has declared that the kitchen is her kitchen and starts freaking out if I start cooking and leave something on the counter, like measuring spoons. I mean a full blown temper tantrum. First it was her room, now my kitchen. Poor kid. I know this is a reaction to feeling like life was out of control when Caroline has been unstable (a lot), and she is grasping for a sense of control over what she can control. Unfortunately, this isn't helpful to her and drives us all crazy.
Caroline has been feeling less depressed yesterday and today, which is a relief. I think it is going off of the Flexeril for her back (can cause depression), and maybe the increase in Lamictal. Who knows. I find it funny that presently she is the most stable-acting kid in our home. Her sister's are more difficult to deal with right now than she is! I hope that continues, although I would like to see her sisters dealing with their issues so we can all just RELAX!
Maybe then I will sleep better and stop waking up with migraines.
Posted by Megan at 3:39 PM
Sunday, September 20, 2009
On Friday Caroline stayed home with back pain, but then spent the morning throwing up a little while after taking her morning meds, possibly because she took them on an empty stomach, or maybe a stomach virus. As a result, she probably got very little of those meds, which has now thrown her into instability yesterday and today, with bad depression showing its ugly head. We are preemptively increasing her Lamictal, which has anti-depressive properties, because she does tend toward depression in the fall anyway (so do I). I love fall weather, but fall means mood lability in a bipolar child. So discouraging!
(Yes, we are getting her doctor's approval for increasing the Lamictal--very important.
Posted by Megan at 10:18 AM
Saturday, September 19, 2009
This week with Caroline was challenging. She is doing very well academically and behaviorally in school, but she is being plagued by a new recurrence of severe back pain. She experienced her first problem with this last fall, in the middle of a run, when she abruptly quit and said her back hurt her terribly. I had to help her hobble back home, and one thing led to another, until she was in such severe pain that she landed in the hospital for three days. The docs did one test after another and couldn't find the reason for her pain. They released her and she was sent to a pain management doctor, who correctly diagnosed her with muscle spasms caused by a pelvic joint problem. He injected her trigger points with lidocaine, which helped a lot, and then she had physical therapy for a few months, which alleviated her pain by about 75%, not completely.
Because she left for the RTC in early May, and didn't really run all summer, her back issue went unnoticed, until she returned and started running again. She immediately had to stop and now can't do PE either because any physical activity sends her into spasms. You can only imagine how frustrating this is for her and for us. She can't run fall cross-country, and she has missed school because of the intense pain, only two weeks into the year.
We took her back to the pediatrician, but we ended up at the pain management doctor again, who again injected her with lidocaine, addressing the symptoms, but not the underlying problem. The physical therapist she is now seeing pointed out an abnormality in her spine about mid-way down, as did the massage therapist, and the physician assistant at the pain clinic. Now we are going to take her to a friend who is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon to get his opinion. I want to take her to a chiropractor, but that isn't covered by our insurance at all.
Poor kid! She comes back ready to jump into life and school and sports, and is immediately set back by this mystery problem! She is sick of this and so am I. Can't she just for once have smooth sailing for more than a week? Aaaargh! (It's National Talk Like a Pirate Day) Nothing seems fair for her.
Posted by Megan at 8:16 PM
Monday, September 14, 2009
Back in March, I said I was forming a local Tidewater Area support group for parents of kids with early-onset bipolar disorder. I never got it off the ground, because I saw that there are NAMI support groups here. However, I really wanted to form one associated with CABP because I think that would be much more suited to the specifics of EOBD. Adult-onset bipolar disorder is so different from what our kids experience that I want to be under the CABF umbrella with all of their expertise from which to borrow. I received a survey just recently from CABF asking if I wanted local CABF groups to start forming, and I checked yes of course.
Posted by Megan at 5:47 PM
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I must say I do see real change in Caroline since coming back from the RTC. She is much more mature acting, much more quick to calm down if upset, and just much more pleasant to be around. I am grateful. She is stressing me out far less than my younger two right now, who need major discipline. Can you say basic training?
Posted by Megan at 4:32 PM
Saturday, September 12, 2009
We have finished the second week and Caroline has continued to thrive at her school. No big homework meltdowns, no anxieties about getting up and going to school. Yay! She has one new good friend she has made, and the teachers say she seems to be quite able academically. Couldn't ask for a better report.
Yesterday was my oldest's sixteenth birthday. We were able to give her a really nice party at a pizza place which made up for last year's birthday which got railroaded by a meltdown by Caroline. Whew! I think she feels like all is amended for after last night's success. I am so glad because she kind of held that grudge against Caroline for a year. Now we can move on.
Posted by Megan at 12:51 PM
Monday, September 7, 2009
One thing I have definitely noticed is that unlike how I slept all summer, which was great, so much so that I dropped two of the sleep meds I was taking, I am now back to needing three sleep meds and having lots of nightmares. I wake up and I can tell I have been grinding my teeth. Subconsciously, I must be more stressed out than I feel. When Caroline was away, we all felt so relaxed, and so sleep came easily. Now, just her presence brings on anxiety. She is better yes, but she will always be bipolar, and always have struggles greater than the average kid.
Right now she wants texting back, which we had taken away last fall after some unfortunate texting that got her dismissed from the homeschool coop she was in. She wants to feel like a normal teen who does normal teen things. I wish that for her too, but the but the boundaries will always be tighter for her. She said that she always feels like she is in Elizabeth's shadow, which I am sure must be very hard. For that reason I am especially glad that she will not be in high school at the same time as her older sister. Holding her back in the fourth grade was a good idea just for that reason. Caroline will need her own space.
Posted by Megan at 4:10 PM
Friday, September 4, 2009
I haven't written in a while because instead of getting up in the morning and grabbing time on the computer before my kids are up, I have been trying to get into the "school routine" which means computer time comes later, and sometimes that's at night when I am toast, and I just want to collapse into bed, instead of writing on my blog.
But this week has been a good one as far as Caroline's first week of school goes. We had a smooth transition to the new routine, and she seems to be just fine with everything. Of course, that could change, but we sure hope it won't. She has already made a new friend, who I have been told by the principal is a good choice for a friend. Her class is made up of ten kids, and only three of them are girls, including Caroline. They are doing some placement testing to determine where everyone is at in writing, reading, spelling and math. I like the fact that they ability group each major subject.
The only hiccup was that this morning my husband, who normally makes sure Caroline is up for school on time, slept in because he didn't have to go to work today. For some reason, Caroline forgot to set her alarm, and so it was about 7:00 before he woke her up, and school starts at 8:00, so she kind of freaked out and was ranting and raving about how she would never be ready in time. This is our kid who never spends time in front of the mirror primping, or straightening her hair, or fussing over what she is going to wear. She just normally throws her clothes on, which she picked out the night before, eats a quick breakfast, and she's off. Bill was having a very hard time reasoning with her about how she was creating a crisis for nothing. I came downstairs and could see that he was losing it with her tantrum, and I told him I would handle it. She went to lay down on the living room couch, and I sat down and told her she was being completely self-centered and needed to straighten up and stop torturing everyone. I left the room, and she came into the kitchen a moment later, completely calm and apologetic. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't.
So she went off to school and had a great day, except for the fact that her back is really giving her a problem again, and she has been complaining about it enough this week that I did take her to the pediatrician. He said to take her to a chiropractor and a massage therapist. We took her to get a massage, and the therapist said that her back was the tightest one she had worked on in a long time. She said her muscles up and down were all in tight knots and she could hardly do anything because it hurt Caroline too much. Her recommendation was to take her to a chiropractor the next day, and to come back for another massage session in a few days. Only problem: our insurance doesn't cover chiropractic or massage, so we would be looking at five or six hundred dollars a month out of pocket. We are not in the position to do this, so we called the pediatrician back and said we wanted a referral for the physical therapy place she went to before almost a year ago when this problem first occurred. They gave us a referral, but it wasn't to the same doctor, but to a p.t. place unknown to us. My husband got really mad, because I did ask for this doctor specifically (the pediatrician had given us the original referral last year) and they didn't get this part, even though I left a detailed message twice. He drove down to the pediatrician's office and stood there until he got the right referral. What a pain! At this point, her back is too messed up (again) for her to engage in fall sports, which is such a disappointment. If it's not one thing, it's another.
Yesterday a woman tried to frame me for "damage" done to her car in a Costco parking lot. There were two tiny specks of paint missing from her rear bumper, specks the size of these letter I am typing, which she said I was responsible for because my front bumper was touching her back bumper. I knew I didn't bump her car when I pulled in (she was backed two feet into my space and the Costco video of the parking lot showed that I didn't move her car) and later when I looked at the pictures I took, it was obvious that my license plate wasn't high enough to have chipped those two tiny bits of paint from the bumper. She was just looking for money I think, and I was convenient. I was sooooo upset that she wasted an hour of my time accusing me of something that I didn't do. I don't get people like that at all. No sense of grace or priorities.
I just had to vent about that.
I am gearing up to homeschool my two youngest starting on Tuesday. One of our subjects will be "communication skills." They have developed terrible habits of relating to each other and to us, and we are determined to "retrain their brains." With Caroline having so much more self-control, we now turn our attention to the two imps who have gone under the radar so long. My oldest is finishing her third novel for her AP Language class, and she also starts on Tuesday. I can't wait until everyone is in their routine so I can feel like I am in control again. Yes, I am a control freak of sorts, and there is something about a daily schedule that makes me feel much more secure inside.
Speaking of daily routine, before Caroline went back to school, I was having to write out her daily schedule on a big white board in the kitchen because it was driving her crazy not to know what she had going on every hour. Once I had everything written down, her mood improved a lot.
We are having to decide whether to pick up with seeing Caroline's previous psychologist, whom she saw for six years, or stay with the one she has had through the summer via phone conferences, and now in person. We love them both, and so we are quite torn. I think we will still with the present psychologist because our family saw her over the summer and she has been doing some great work with our other three kids in family therapy. However, I am thinking that I still want to have her previous psychologist involved somehow, because she is such a dear friend to us, did an amazing job, and has gone the extra mile for us time and again. Perhaps I will see her just for myself.
I just remembered that we had another hiccup this week with Caroline refusing to go to the social skills therapy group again because she declares she has learned all the social skills she needs to know, and just wants to be a "normal" middle schooler, not one that has to go to these "therapies." We can't force her to go by throwing her in the car and making her go in, but hopefully she will change her mind. I think she was a little turned off by the fact that she was the only girl there, and the only one that talked. Maybe I should have asked earlier if there would be any other girls in the group, and waited to sign up Caroline until there was.
Off to bed!
Posted by Megan at 8:04 PM