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!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fingers Crossed!

Actually more like prayers sent up, but we have two very positive developments to report. One is that this new friend Caroline has made at the pool seems to be a keeper, we hope. She comes from a very nice family and lives nearby, and seems to be pretty wholesome. She and Caroline actually went to the mall together today and did very well. I have seen her mom for years at the pool and I think I have talked to her. I do hope that this new friend "Mallory" will stick around. I need to remind Caroline not to tell all right away, such as the fact that she is bipolar. Better to be safe than sorry.

The second bit of positive news is that another girls lacrosse camp has been planned for August! Yay! Another full day camp doing what she loves to do best! I sent in the deposit today and hopefully the weather will be cooler than the 100 degree temps we had just recently. It hurt to breathe last week.

Another thing we are awaiting is news about the homeschool classes starting Tuesdays in September at a local church. I sent off the registration forms along with a note explaining about Caroline's illness since I had to list any medical or behavioral issues. Hopefully they will be understanding and take us on our word that she is more stable than she has ever been. I need that break from her once a week and she needs the opportunity to make decent friends. One just never knows how others will react when you tell them your child is bipolar. Sometimes they may only have a negative picture of a violent person in their brains when they think of bipolar disorder if they are not educated about mental illness. Let's hope she can be warmly welcomed, but I am always expecting the worst even as I hope for the best.

Friday, July 30, 2010

One Flew the Nest

This morning we sent our oldest daughter off to Scotland with a group of teens from Cleveland who are going with Young Life to put on a camp for Scottish teens in St. Andrews. Putting one's firstborn on a place for an overseas flight is a little unnerving. I trust she will get there safely and have a great time, and come home in one piece. The house should be a little quieter for two weeks without her constant criticism of Caroline and her other little sisters. We love her though, bossy as she is. That's how big sisters are, right?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homeschooling Dilemma

I have homeschooled quite a bit over the last eleven years or so. I know a lot about curriculums. Right now I am having a hard time deciding what would be best for Caroline. She is so addicted to typing her novel on the computer that I am reconsidering having her do an online curriculum like K12 or Monarch because I am not sure I could trust her to do her school work and not be tempted to sneak more chapters into her book. She does love to read great books, so I am leaning toward using Sonlight at least for the literature and history. I don't love their language arts and writing program, which is based on the literature, so I checked out other curriculums like Alpha Omega, Greenleaf Press, Veritas Press, Abeka, and others, but it is very hard to find something as interesting and exciting as Sonlight. I may just have to pull together my own curriculum by piece meal.

I am doing all of this with fear and trepidation. Homeschooling seems so ideal in theory for bipolar kids, but I have not had the greatest experience with Caroline in the past. But she is more stable than she has ever been (always a relative thing) so maybe this time would be different. Maybe not. I just wish we could know where my husband is going to land a job, soon! His old job has ended and the search begins in earnest. Colorado is looking mighty good right now. But we really have no idea where we will land. Every now and then panic rises up in my throat from beneath the surface, but I kind of push it away, knowing that panic and fear never solve anything. God is in control and He has a plan. Just wish we could text Him and get an instant answer!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Kids Are Sick of Each Other

That's all. I think they have all reached their limit of summertime family togetherness. And the temperature reached 105 today tying a record from 1918. Heat plus boredom equals fighting. Time to get creative....

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mean Girls

I wish so much that we could just fast forward about five years so Caroline could skip all of the struggles with "mean girls." She seems to draw their attention wherever she goes and they hone in on her and make her their target--at school, at sports practice, at the pool, anywhere a group of girls is gathered. She is a beautiful girl physically, but moves awkwardly like she isn't comfortable in her own skin, and she talks much older than she is. Having no clue how to relate to other girls her age (you would think this wouldn't be true with three sisters!) she tries way too hard to "fit" in or does the opposite by ignoring subtleties and doing whatever she wants to do, which may be completely socially unacceptable in the mind of other teen girls. She was told to "go fetch" last night when her lacrosse ball landed at the feet of one of those "mean girls." I wasn't there but if I had been, I am not sure I wouldn't have gone over to "Molly" to give her a piece of my mind. I can see the pain in Caroline's eyes. I want to get her out of this place so she can start fresh, but I know that no where she will live will be devoid of "mean girls."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Leaning Toward Homeschooling, Theological Questions

I think it is time to decide what we are doing come September with Caroline. Not knowing if we are going to be staying here or not, or whether or not we can afford private school for her, I have decided to homeschool her temporarily until we have it figured out. She absolutely does not want to go back to her old private school. She has gone from pretty manic to pretty depressed right now. I am wondering how much the 150mg increase in the Seroquel may be contributing, or the Ciprofloxin that she is on for the UTI. Tonight we begin to titrate down the seroquel, hopefully to 400 mg again. Or maybe this is just the common pattern that mania is followed by depression.

She wants to move somewhere else and start over again where no one knows her past indiscretions. She is quite haunted by the things that she did in the past while manic, and her reputation has followed her, unfortunately. The poor girl. She longs to be accepted for who she is right now, not who she was before she went to the RTC. My heart breaks for her. I want to start over too for her sake. A new job, a new town, a new school, a new neighborhood, a new pool, and even a new church, though we would be very sad to leave our wonderful pastor and friends. But she can't seem to make inroads with the middle school kids because of her past. She is so very lonely that it just doesn't seem fair to make her keep going when it only reminds her of her aloneness.

So many changes ahead. I am overwhelmed by them, until I remember that God is in control and has a plan-- "It is well with my soul."

Our pastor's sermon today was on the problem of suffering and what we do when we are faced with serious trials. The age old question is "If God is loving and sovereign than why do good people suffer?" The answer to this important questions depends on one's world view. I think that there are basically three different views on suffering: "God doesn't exist, so everything is random and has no meaning" "God exists but is distant, not too concerned with us, and just kind of lets things happen as they will, maybe he will answer your prayers, maybe not," or "God is good, loving, personal, and sovereign and all of our trials do have a purpose, which is mainly to draw us to Himself instead of depending on ourselves and our own abilities, or inabilities, to make life work. There is joy in the journey and in the end, He will make all things right."

I know that many of you who read are not of the Christian faith, and honestly, I am honored that you would read this blog, and please know that the intention of my blog is purely to share our struggles and triumphs so others may be encouraged, not to convert anyone. But I am of the last persuasion, that this world is full of struggles, but not without purpose, in the hand of a loving, all knowing, all powerful God. I do believe that God cares about us and our daughter, and has a good plan for her life, but not without valleys. Right now I can see that Caroline is struggling to believe that God cares at all. And if I were her, I am sure I would be questioning too. Not many fourteen year olds have experienced such devastating events as she has, which have also led to social isolation. I want her to know that even when she can't see God's purpose for any of this (I don't either a lot of the time) that He does care, He will carry her, and there will be many joys ahead if she trusts in Him, keeps taking her meds, stays in school, avoids the wrong crowd, and sets goals for herself, like playing college lacrosse. We are looking ahead to high school and probably more trials, perhaps worse, I don't know. But we are committed to her and we believe that God is too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Schooling Undecided Again

With the loss of my husband's job, we are not so sure about what to do with Caroline starting in September as far as school goes. I found that when I told her private school about our situation and that we weren't sure if we could send her in the fall, I actually felt a wave of real relief come over me. I realized that not only does Caroline really not want to go back, but I don't want her to go back either. I hated the daily struggles she had with the badly behaved kids. Yes, it is weird that she wasn't the badly behaved one, but since she wasn't, having to deal with the antics of the out of control class room and the lack of more female students got very old very fast. Maybe that just isn't the place for her. Maybe we need to explore other alternatives seriously starting now. Not knowing if we are staying here or not makes me inclined to homeschool her until we know for sure. No, it is not ideal, but with the online homeschooling curriculum that Jane is doing, maybe we could try it with Caroline too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Camp Going Great, Tired of Being a Taxi

Caroline is participating in the marine science camp at our local aquarium and so far everything is going well. The 550 mg Seroquel has definitely had the desired effect and now I am wondering if we will be able to reduce the dosage without a recurrence of the mania. Sigh.

What I am struggling with the most right now is the fact that since my sixteen year old has a very active social life, I am having to drive her around quite a bit, dropping her there, picking her up there, in addition to all of her babysitting jobs. Combined with all the driving I do for the other three, I am in the car sometimes five to six hours a day, really, not exaggerating at all. I am growing very weary of never getting more than an hour at a time at my house to do the things I needs to do. So when Elizabeth gets her drivers license in December, I am hoping we can scrape up the funds to buy her a used car. My life would be so much easier with her transportation needs out of the way!

Caroline was found to have been telling very tall tales to some new friends, to try to get them to like her more. These were so far fetched that I am having difficulty believing that these new friends would believe them anyway. She admitted she was just trying to impress them, but we told her this is not the way to do it. She is so desperate for friends she will tell them just about anything to get attention. Great. I feel so heartbroken for her.

We don't know if we are moving out of the area yet. Elizabeth and Caroline would really love to leave and go somewhere far from here. Near horses. We have lots of horses here, but a change of environment would be very nice for Caroline especially. Colorado is in the talks, as well as Texas, but we shall see where the best job offer lands us. Could be right here, but I think I am ready for change too. I grew up moving every few years as a military brat, and we have lived here for 17 years. We have loved many aspects of living in south eastern Virginia, but there are so many other places we need to explore!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Misunderstood Medication Directions

When we took Caroline to see the CNP at her psychiatrist's office last week, she gave us Seroquel samples in 150 and 50 mg. We thought she told us to start with the 50s and then go up higher as needed. When we didn't see big change happening with the 450mg dose, I called her to ask her what to do, and she said we were supposed to bump it up to 550mg to control mania and then slowly go back down. Oops. So we immediately bumped up her dosage by 150, and saw significant change within 24 hours. She is calmer, more controlled, not laughing hysterically, not looking "wild" in the eyes. Thank goodness. We are feeling better too. I just hope that nothing happened that we don't know about. Sometimes we find out about "incidents" several weeks later. We are also giving her the once a month Amantadine holiday. Now she needs it again, we can tell when she pops off for nothing, extremely irritable. Oh, the balancing act!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Barometer

How Bill and I are feeling is always a good barometer of how well Caroline is doing. Right now, she is not doing well. We aren't either. I can feel the stress level growing like a heavy weight each day. When my chest gets tighter and tighter with each passing hour, and I have a headache from the time I get up in the morning, I know that Caroline's meds aren't right. When Bill begins to look down at the ground in great exasperation while Caroline is raging, I know things are not going in the right direction. I hope another increase in the anti-pyschotic will bring the mania under control. I am fearing hospitalization might await in the near future if the Seroquel has simply stopped working. It is amazing how fast things can change in a week or two. The temperature outside has been around 100 degrees, with a higher heat index from the humidity. This can't be helping. My temper is just under the surface right now. I pray for a cool rain to fall and refresh us, dampening these smoldering fires.

The Day of Cancellations

That would be me canceling camps, tutoring, hair appointments, putting Caroline's private school on notice, etc. Bummer. But it's strangely OK. I feel better about reducing our expenses as much as possible than throwing money at extras. I have no desire to add to our debt, so now I am coming up with creative ideas to bring in income. Mae's ballet school is opening up a store on M, W, and Fridays and Saturdays, and I have asked to be hired, so I can work while she dances. I hope they consider me. We'll see. And I have so many clothes to sell. Best I get busy!

On another note, Caroline was discovered to have been visiting some bad websites. I don't know how, except that she must have discovered my password. I changed it to something very un-guessable. And she doesn't have the computer for at least a week or more. Discouraging, really. Maybe she needs more Seroquel, but it is still early in the dose increase.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Not So Good

Well, this day was looking really good until my husband informed me that he will be out of a job in about ten days. He is a reservist who has been doing active duty stints for some time, but the Navy is downsizing, and so he couldn't get his billet renewed, though he fought hard. So.....he needs a job fast, obviously. The military offers the best health insurance you could have, so it is a scary thought that we will be losing that. He may even look to go active duty with another service (not the Army or Marines however.) We will be able to keep the health insurance for six months without paying for anything, but after that we are on our own. My husband makes an excellent salary as a Naval officer, so we will be hard pressed to replace that income. Might be time for me to get a job too, or to sell our house and reduce our expenses. Blah! I have a pit in my stomach right now. We did this several years ago and added greatly to our debt load while he was unemployed. I know God will provide, but His timetable isn't always in line with our desires. Please pray for a quick resolution. My husband is a trooper. I am very proud of him! We won't tell the kids yet while we take a few days to figure it all out. I am wondering if we should keep Caroline in private school this year, or just try to homeschool her. That is a very big expense. We need wisdom.

Trouble Posting Comments

I am having trouble getting some recent comments to post, so if you don't see your comment, hopefully you will soon. Must be a google issue.

So Far, So Good

The increase in the Seroquel XR to 450 mg seems to be working. She seems calmer, more herself. And her first day at camp which is all day from 8:30 to 4:00 went very well, with no incidents, no negative feedback. Today they will be at the beach and pool. I am relieved that the increased Seroquel is allowing her to experience and enjoy a camp with a lot of socializing with other young teens in a Christian setting. Let's hope the rest of the week continues like the first part!

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Am Very, Very Imperfect, Trying to Love Imperfect People

A reader just commented that I need to be careful in how I am describing our daughter Caroline, not to pin her with the label "bipolar" but rather to state that she is a young teen who struggles with bipolar disorder. It doesn't have to define her. I agree completely, and agree that I can be too negative at times about how her disease impacts our family. I appreciate constructive criticism, and there is always room to grow. I don't parent perfectly, I don't treat my husband the way I should each day, I don't love my friends the way that I want to, and I don't call my mom as often as I should. I fall down every day in the job loving and disciplining my kids and have to apologize to them regularly. In fact, I would probably think I was doing a pretty bad job as a parent knowing all of my failures if it weren't for the fact that all of them tell me how much they love me, appreciate me, tell me I am the best mom ever, including Caroline though not every day, especially now that she has hit the throes of the teen years. But she has told us time and again that she is incredibly grateful that she has such supportive, loving parents compared to so many of the bipolar kids she has met in psych hospitals and the residential treatment center. She has seen a lot of them already on drugs and alcohol because their parents didn't recognize that they had bipolar disorder early enough and they were self-medicating. Or they come from homes where they are abused physically and emotionally.

She is a great kid, amazing really. To have endured what she has endured, and to still be marching along in school, in sports, in life is a testimony to her God-given tenacity and the faith He has given her, though tossed by storms. We have it easy compared to many situations out there: we have health insurance that pays for almost everything; a loving, faithful husband, who has a job; my kids are doing pretty well considering the chaos that has visited our family, I have three wonderful sisters, a supportive mom, great psychologists, a great psychiatrist, and a great church that cares deeply for our family, and God carries us all along. It could be so much worse.

And it could get worse; I am not naive to think that Caroline will get through high school completely unscathed. We will pray and try our best guide her and provide all that she needs to be successful in life, to that we are fully committed. I apologize if I have given the impression that we are primarily victims of her disorder, or of her in fact, when we are actually all in this together and all of us have our issues. I have a ton, so I truly can relate to her struggles. I was hell on wheels in high school myself, been there, done that when it comes to anything really, so I do share with her when I really messed up as a teen so that she understands that messing up here and there doesn't disqualify you from a great future in the least if you keep going back to God's abundant grace.

So please feel free to share constructive comments. I am open. Really.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You Must See Toy Story 3, With Your Kids!

I saw Toy Story 3 with my three youngest girls the other day at a matinee, including Caroline. The movie was everything I thought it would be, but better. If you are a parent of a child of any age, but especially that of a teenager, you will be moved to tears by some of the scenes. Honestly, I was sobbing at the end when....well, I won't spoil it for you, but you will want to hug your kids tighter after the movie ends. And maybe you won't want to let go. Enjoy!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Med Change

Caroline has continued to ramp up, to the point of alarming us greatly. On Wednesday, she saw the tdoc, to whom I explained our whole last week, with the dark leanings of her novel, the sensuality, her obsessions, the non-stop stream of consciousness chattering (which is exhausting), and the increase in defiance. She said she would talk to the nurse practitioner who works with Caroline's pdoc (they are all in the same practice), about the symptoms and how we are uncomfortable at this point with relying on increases in the Neuro Science supplements to "fix" things.

Today we met with the nurse practitioner, who we love, and she agreed to go up on the Seroquel, the antipsychotic. We had discusses the pros and cons of increasing the Trileptal (already at 1800mg) or the Seroquel (at 400mg presently) and concluded that the Seroquel would probably work faster. With her first summer camp approaching on Monday, we need to get the mania under control ASAP. So we will see how this goes, as we try first a 50mg increase tonight. Seroquel has the unwanted side effect of rapid weight gain, but with Caroline's activity level , she has managed to drop to a size 1 lately, so maybe she will be OK.

She spent this whole gorgeous afternoon at the pool playing lacrosse with some folks, and when she got home, she showed us her newest friend, a nice girl, on her phone. She is now meeting a lot of the "normal" kids at the pool, and beginning to make some progress in the friendship arena. I wish I knew all of their parents, though. I am very keen on knowing the parents of any friends she makes because I can usually gage whether or not she would be "safe" hanging out with them based on what I know about their parents ideas of boundaries, freedoms, movies, etc.

I am exhausted by this week, I must say, and finding myself turning to my props for stress relief, which is usually buying things. Not a great habit to have at all. But at least they were items on the small scale, but I still have to watch myself. Sometimes I don't realize how stressed out I am until I come home with purchases and realize that I am feeling out of control too. When Caroline spins up, the whole family gets stressed, and everyone's weaknesses show in a big way.

Must turn in now. Good night!!