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!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Uneasy Revelations

Last night I read Caroline's novel in secret and became alarmed. She had previously been reading portions of it to us almost daily and it seemed OK, though a little heavy on violent action, which we had talked about. What I found last night was way too much sensuality, like that of those stupid grocery store romance novels. When she asked to use the computer again, I said no, and she became very agitated and belligerent. In fact, she caused quite a scene, reminiscent of times when she was very out of control with mania, during the really bad times of the past. I didn't sleep well at all last night, and ended up sleeping in until 1 in the afternoon today.

After our big argument and her loss of the computer, probably for some time, she came downstairs and handed me two handwritten notes, the first beginning with "I wish 4 (sic) hope, I wish 4 Love, I wish 4 Sanctification, I wish 4 understanding. I need hope. I need Love. I need shelter from the storm. I need a Savior. Where iz (sic) my Savior? Where iz my place in life? What iz God's purpose 4 my life? Why am I here? Who am I? What am I? Lord, will you protect me? Plz Lord don't leave me! God don't leave me here! Don't leave me here broken, scattered, homeless, lifeless, left to die all alone and unguarded. Don't leave me Savior."

I was relieved to read these words, and obviously she was reaching out to me, to us, and to God to ask for help. I am still very concerned that she is more manic than we have thought. I am going to take her back to the psychiatrist and ask for a med increase. And the psychologist appointment this week without a doubt will be addressing this turn of events. It could be worse, much worse, when I read of what some other parents have discovered about their bp teens this week (crack cocaine use, carving tattoos into their skin, etc.) But still, spending hours in her room, typing this trash, however well written, isn't healthy at all.

She had calmed down considerably this morning and afternoon, but the evening seems to always be the time for red flags. So we shall see.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Laughter is Good for Your Marriage

My husband and I went out tonight to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, a week late, but better late than never. We didn't really have set plans, just to go out and find a restaurant without a line out the door. We ended up at a Peruvian place my husband had never been to but I had already sampled. The food was great, very unusual, but the best part was that I think we spent most of our date laughing really hard over the silliest things. I mean we were in tears because we were laughing so much, probably annoying our fellow patrons. That is what I enjoy the most about my husband, his sense of humor. We share the same really juvenile amusements. I miss the way we used to laugh together so much more. With our crazy family situation, we need to find lots of ways to laugh at ourselves, our kids, our life. Not everything is gloomy or negative, but sometimes I can sound that way, I know. We often forget to push it all aside for a good time, just the two of us. Our kids will benefit from it as well.

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs

I just found out about this national organization that does a great job as a reference for most of the residential treatment programs and schools out there, from wilderness camps to medically based residential facilities. I wish I had known about this earlier. I will put it under Great Websites to the right.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This Could Be a Very Long Summer

With Caroline refusing to go to the pool, a mixed blessing, and all camp money already allocated for everyone for the summer, and most of Caroline's camps cancelled, I am looking ahead to the rest of the summer with some dread. I am hoping to get her hooked on reading other book series besides The Lightning Thief, since she has read and re-read those dozens of times. There are so many places to go and so many things to do around here, but with money very tight in our household, a lot of it is cost-prohibitive. So we have to focus on the free things, which include the beach, the library, and I am trying to think of other things. If you live in the Hampton Roads area, and you know of great free activities, let me know. Caroline still seems manic, too irritable and too hyper-focused, very snappy. She keeps thinking I am yelling at her when I am obviously not. I wish we had some lake house somewhere that we could escape to every summer, for a nice change of scenery, if you know what I mean. Dream on....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot, hot, hot!

The heat index has reached well over one hundred degrees here for several days. The heat is draining me completely. All I want to do is nap. And my back has been killing me. I fell all the way down my stairs on my butt a year ago and I think I broke my tailbone. Now and again the injury acts up and I can hardly walk. Ok enough complaining. It's just the heat. Stay cool!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Camp Cancelled, Really

Today we found out that this week's teen camp at a local Christian school got canceled for lack of numbers. They do have more kids signed up for a camp in a few weeks, so we have switched Caroline to that one in July. Bummer, though. The economy must be affecting the abilities of many people to send their kids to camp this year, as it did last year. Nothing is cheap it seems. The cheapest camps often are the ones that turn out to be not so great in our own past experience. My sister told me about one that is free, but I haven't investigated yet. It isn't for kids with special needs, necessarily.

Our church runs a camp for inner city kids this coming week, and many of the middle and high school kids are volunteering, but Caroline has not done well historically with this camp environment, even with our own church kids there. Half of the camp is taken up with sports, the other half with art and dance, but she has never liked it, and frequently I have had to take her home before the end of the day because she would be close to meltdown on many occasions. My youngest two will be involved in the camp. I guess I will just have to figure out something this week for she and I to do together. My oldest had previous plans to go to NC with her best friends. Maybe we will go to the beach here a bunch, or paint a room. At least Caroline will have evening lacrosse camp to look forward to this week. So much for my week long break from all four kids. I'll try again later this summer when my oldest is gone to Scotland. Just one week with no kids at home would be amazing.

It is our anniversary and Father's Day today, and I must say that I have been under the weather, and so my husband hasn't been pampered yet today. I need to rally for the evening. No cooking out at the pool since Caroline won't show her face there. We were looking forward to lots of family bonding time at the pool this summer, but once again, we have to alter our expectations and find other venues. Manic and depressive episodes and mixed states caused by bipolar disorder have a hateful way of ruining previously enjoyed places and events for years afterwards, just one of the lovely aspects of this thorn in the flesh. I wholly believe in redemption, but sometimes redemption is slow to be fully realized, depending on the offense.

Happy Father's Day!! You deserve it!!

Friday, June 18, 2010


The biggest problem we are having right now is that Caroline seems to not understand the word "boundaries" and "you may not cross them." She has been so lonely for friends that she has been taking off on her bike to a nearby park, where she has befriended a group of boys who skate there. Great. If we could afford to have her in camp the whole summer, we would. I am really hoping that this week at camp starting on Monday will result in a new friend or two to hang out with. This afternoon she was down at the end of our street on the banks of the river where another boy appeared with his dog. Too many ways and places for her to get in trouble around here. And we are not convinced the mania is completely gone.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Old Camp, New Experience?

Well, we opted to increase the Lamictal again, and Caroline responded immediately, with the mania quickly going away. We had run out of the Calm PRT so we couldn't try that option anyway. I love Lamictal, it is the greatest drug I think, for both mood swings and depression.

We have signed her up for a camp at a school she used to attend. The camp is for middle schoolers, and involves a lot of field trips as well as fun games, etc. She used to go to this camp when it was for grade schoolers and she loved it, but when she became unstable, it didn't work at all for her. Too many kids and too much confusion. We are going to try it again now that she is stable for the most part. I can't stand the worry about what to do with her every day until the evening lacrosse practices start. I really hope this works well for her and for us. The camp starts next Monday, when my two youngest also have camp. A break would be so nice!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mania, Again

The balancing act never ends. We have to watch her like a hawk when she starts to talk non-stop, tell tall tales, responds belligerently, and gets this very intensely "wild" look in her eyes. Another med adjustment is probably in order, though the doctor wants us to just up the Calm PRT. I want to trust his judgement, but sometimes I am hesitant about the herbal supplements. We know our kid so well, and if mania gets out of control, disaster follows. We will see how she is today when she wakes up.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Off Topic: Senior Pictures

Just for the uninitiated: in our area of the country, rising seniors often have professional portraits done to be put into the yearbook and to sit on your mantle for years to come. These are not JC Penny type photos, you know the kind, for $6.oo a sheet. These are pricey portraits, often shot on location (think beach, botanical gardens, museums) with several outfit changes, etc. I wish someone had told me at the beginning of last fall what this junior year would cost us. Can't wait to find out what senior year will be like!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don't Cancel Another Camp, Please!

Ok, so today the second of the three lacrosse camps Caroline was supposed to attend this summer got cancelled for lack of numbers which confounds me because lacrosse has become really big here. The soccer mom is now the lacrosse mom. But the good news is she will now be playing on two leagues this summer, which takes care of three evenings a week and most weekends.

She told me she is no longer interested in going to the pool because apparently some of the other teen girls there remembered her indiscretions from two years ago when she was manic and brought it up. I just knew that would happen. The good thing about this is that we don't have to worry about mr. 21 year old who has his eye on her. The bad thing is that leaves very few options as to how to occupy her during the day. Really, I've got to think of something. She is too young to have a job. She is too young to volunteer by herself at the SPCA. And as amazing as her writing a novel is (we are up to page 145) she can't just sit around all day typing. Aaargh!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Psychotherapist

Caroline met with her new psychologist today. I would say it went very well. I hope Caroline will really connects with her. Having one therapist consistently for a long period of time is vitally important to a bipolar kid and his or her success in so many ways.

Today was a bad day for me, from starting with a cloudy, dreary day, to dealing with some hard financial things, forgetting about two dental appointments, driving back and forth to three other appointments, to dealing with the three youngest kids at home bickering, the oldest of the four whining about senior pictures, travel plans, "I don't have enough clothes" and me having very little energy to engage them constructively. Just one of those days you would rather forget. I am feeling the letdown after the big end of school events, the award ceremonies, the parties, the gifts for teachers, etc. Jane took her end of the year homeschooling standardized test yesterday and did amazing, so at least that is behind us.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Danger of Antidepressants and ADHD Meds in BP Kids

I just wanted to post about the dangers of using ADs in bp kids, even Welbutrin. I have been doing some research on the effect of ADs on bipolar adults as well as children, and although there are psychiatrists who still prescribe ADs to kids, many will not because of their destabilizing properties (check out articles on PsychiatryOnline or Psychiatry Reviews on the web.) If you have a child who is diagnosed with BP disorder and has been prescribed antidepressants or stimulants, please reconsider using them. A mood stabilizer or two with an atypical antipsychotic seems to produce the best results for most bp children (see either The Bipolar Child or Straight Talk About Psychiatric Meds for Kids.) There are always exceptions, but this is a rule of thumb of sorts for psychiatrists who are on top of the latest research and treatment plans for pediatric bipolar disorder.

Personality Changes with ADHD Meds

A friend called me to tell me that she noticed how different Mae was at her daughter's birthday party. She was subdued, introverted, not spastic and bubbly like she normally is. We saw this happened with our oldest when she was on ADHD meds. She became grumpy and subdued, instead of the hyper but cheerful child we had known. This effect was so bad that we took her off of the meds and she hasn't been on them since, but she has still managed to keep a 3.5 GPA in high school taking AP and IB level classes. She obviously didn't need them that much.

But Mae is a different story. Her grades were definitely being affected by her ADHD, with lots of unfinished homework, missing work, late work, etc. And her sisters couldn't stand her because of her fits of anger over nothing. So the meds aren't optional for her. Yes, she is far more subdued, and quiet, but for our family this is much better than the explosive meltdowns. And her grades went up. So we are just going to have to deal with the change in personality for now. The trade off is worth it.

"It's Summertime, and the Living Ain't Easy"

A schedule is what I need. Anna was right about that. I am not a naturally schedule-driven person. I was years ago, but I have devolved. Which isn't great having four kids. Caroline is bored already, as expected without school to occupy her, camps don't start until the end of June, and yesterday was a prime example of me getting caught with my pants down. I have to be two steps ahead of her all the time or I get run over. She woke up super late, and I was completely foggy all day yesterday too. The weekend had been a zinger, with one event after another, and I was wiped out. She decided that she just HAD to go to the mall, by herself, and see a movie. Not so much. I wasn't going to let her roam the mall at 14 by herself. And I was suspicious of her motives, since this 21 year old guy at the pool has an interest in her. I checked her text messages, and sure enough there were texts between him and her, but not about meeting to see a movie, just about a teen pool party. But I was alarmed and told her that she may NOT text him, talk on the phone, etc, and if I caught her texting him, that would be the end of texting. She protested greatly that she did NOT like him, they were just friends, what did we have against him, etc. Well, for one thing he is 21, and he definitely likes her, we can tell. He has PDD and so is on the level of about a 14 year old intellectually, but he drives, and is lonely. She is lonely for friends, so this is bad news. I want my own pool in my own backyard. Really.

So back to the mall. She became so fixated on seeing "Marmaduke" and I was so sick of her pestering that I said fine, I would let her go to the movie if I walked her in there and bought her ticket and if her 10 year old sister went along. She was okay with that, and it turned out that her desire was completely innocent, not ulterior motives, so in the end all was good. But I am alerted now, and this is why she has so few freedoms. A bipolar kid needs to be held very close to avoid all kinds of dangers, as we have learned.

But a schedule for Caroline definitely would help with laying out every day for her, so there are no surprises for me or her, no last minute "I have to go see that movie now or I will die," kind of stuff. Let's see, there is the gym, chores, walking the dogs, supervised pool time, the beach, museums, how about art lessons?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On the Other Hand, Panic

But I am still dealing with renewed intense anxiety myself. I think it is because school is over for three of mine, one down to go, and that means lots of unstructured time, more opportunities for sibling bickering, and much less time to myself. I get that tight-chest, can't breathe feeling. I hate it. Time for more meds--for me! Joking, sort of....

What is that Sound?

It is the sound of silence. Since we introduced the Vyvanse/Intuniv combination to Mae, our youngest, the house has been so much quieter. Gone are the meltdowns, the screamies, the whining. I LOVE it!!! Mae seems much happier too because she is better liked by her whole family. No summer breaks from these meds. Now we can focus on her behavior (disrespectfulness) and expect real results!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Intuniv + Vyvanse= Amazing Results

Our youngest daughter, Mae, who is severely ADHD, was put on this combination last week. Oh, how I wish we would have tried this combination earlier in the year! It would have to be the last week of school that we discover that Vyvanse in the morning (20mg) and Intuniv at bedtime (3mg) produces a calm, focused, sweet child consistently throughout the entire day! The homework struggles completely disappeared. The kid can focus with all kinds of distractions going on, without even looking up! Yay!!! And no meltdowns or explosions over anything! I guess this is exactly what she needed. I am so very relieved to know that we have the right tools to help her succeed in school and stop feeling like a failure!