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!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wrightslaw.com: Educational Law and Your Child's Rights

www.wrightslaw.com. Check out this great website that will walk you through how to get your child's school to comply with state and federal laws for children with special needs.  They have a ton of resources listed, and articles.  I have posted a link to the right on this blog under Resources.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Automatic Pill Dispenser a Go!

We are loving the automatic pill dispenser we ordered off of Amazon.  The product is by Med-E-Lert and was $79.00.  So far it works great, only dispensing the right pills at the right time, signaled by a buzzer that doesn't go off until the pills are taken out.  Why we didn't try to find something like this years ago, I don't know, but we didn't know they existed until recently.  Technology certainly makes our lives easier, most of the time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Remember...

The day I was walking with then four-year old Caroline, who was already active to the extreme.  She would throw herself around the living room, or off of the jungle gym, and loved to wrestle her daddy.  Looking up at me with those big brown doe-eyes, she asked me with great seriousness how I thought God might use her gift of tackling some day.  Tackling?  As in sacking people?   I laughed and said I didn't know, maybe she would be a policewoman, or an FBI agent, or something like that.

Not much has changed.  She still craves physical activity to the extreme, which is probably due to her Sensory Disorder combined with the bp energy.  Thankfully, she has turned into an athlete instead of a gangster!  Hopefully she will continue sacking people in games and not in real life situations.  I was looking at a list of famous people with bipolar disorder, and so many of them are the composers, artists, actors, singers, and yes even some athletes, whom we would call the greatest achievers in their specialties.  There are some real advantages to being a deep feeler.  What would we do without Beethoven's symphonies or Van Gogh's art, or Rosemary Clooney's "White Christmas?"  I have great hope that Caroline's name will be among top achievers some day, in her own time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

6 Advantages to Homeschooling Your Bipolar Middle Schooler

First, let me say that homeschooling is not for every child or every parent.  You know your own situation better than anyone else and the needs of your child, so please don't make a decision to homeschool if all signs point out that you should not be doing it.  I am a firm believer in freedom of choice when it comes to schooling, so if your present schooling situation is working just fine, stick with it!  I am only listing these advantages because I felt like it, and perhaps there are some who might consider this option if school is presently a nightmare for everyone.

So here it goes:

Six Great Reasons to Homeschool Your BP Middle Schooler (or High Schooler, Grade Schooler, etc):

1.  Your young teen can sleep later and start work when their brain is actually awake.  We have heard of the scientific studies that concluded that teens actually do need more sleep than younger kids and that their naturally changing body clocks make it almost impossible to go to sleep before 11:00.  With sleep being such an issue for bpkids, this is a very nice thing indeed.

2.  Your child will be limited in their exposure to unwanted influences, which abound in middle and high school.  No, we can't protect them from everything, and they do need to learn to handle temptation, but at the same time, aren't these kids challenged enough already?  The kids your child might interact with will be easier for you to handle in most cases (sports, church/synagogue groups, homeschool classes, music classes, volunteer work, etc).

3.  You can be sure they get that mid-day dose of their meds!

4.  They can study their subjects at their own pace, moving faster if they want to on subjects that come easily to them, or more slowly for subjects that they find challenging.  With the very low tolerance for frustration bp kids have, the relaxed mood of school at home can benefit their ability to think things through calmly.

5.  NO HOMEWORK AT NIGHT!! I don't know about you, but I HATE the homework routine in the afternoons and evenings.  Take a tired kid who has been at school all day, using up what little self-control they have to make it through their classes, then they come home, grumpy, meds start to wear off in the late afternoon/early evening but if you give them their evening meds too soon they are too sleepy for homework, and what you end up with is a dreaded daily battle.  Add in sports or other activities, and the problem is compounded.  Caroline can do lacrosse all afternoon, and our home is much more peaceful.

6.  They can do most of their work on their own, using online academies, or if they can handle it, simply following your instructions using a company-written curriculum.  There are SO many great curriculums out there, and they are not all Christian-based, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

So those are just my thoughts, and I know that many out there will think that homeschooling is just a bad idea in general.  That's OK, I have seen amazing results in my sister's kids, and in many friends' kids as well, producing honor students at great colleges who are extremely well prepared for life in general.  I don't know how long I will homeschool Caroline because we all know how unpredictable life with a bp child can be, but for now, it is good.

P.S.  If your child isn't stable at all, not only will homeschooling be close to impossible, but any school situation will likely prove untenable.  Stability allows these kids to think, learn, focus, and gain academic confidence.  Seek stability first, then decide on schooling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Off Topic: A Cure for Eczema and Psoriasis?

Caroline has suffered from both severe eczema and psoriasis for the last several years, mainly affecting her scalp.  We took her to the dermatologist several times and got prescription creams, gels, shampoos but nothing would solve the problem.  If she missed one application of anything, the inflammation would come right back in a day.  A few weeks ago, I introduced a Hair/Skin and Nails supplement, thinking it might help her acne.  Well, it hasn't had any effect on her acne, but her eczema and psoriasis have disappeared completely!  This supplement, found at most drugstores, contains high levels of B vitamins as well as Biotin and other things not found in a daily vitamin.  Whatever it is, one or more of the ingredients has had the dramatic effect of healing her skin.  Just passing this along to anyone who might be interested.

I Remember...

When Caroline was in the first grade, she had spelling words to write out for homework.  One night she was very intent on this assignment, head bowed, tongue sticking out, focused on every letter.  When she was done she showed me her work.  Well, it was pretty amazing, because she had written all of the words upside down and backwards on purpose just to see if she could.  We were impressed with her creativity, but I am sure her teacher wasn't so impressed.  Just one of the many quirks of our out-of-the-box thinker like so many bp kids are!  Creativity tends to accompany mood disorders.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Undiagnosed Diseases Program at NIH

If you have a child whom the docs are struggling to correctly diagnose, who seems to have not only psychiatric but severe neurological problems, and isn't responding to any medications at all, you might be interested in this program. They only accept referrals from other doctors who are baffled by a mystery case. Usually bipolar disorder in children is pretty recognizable, so this would be for a child who has neurological issues that your own pediatric neurologist(s) can't figure out after many tests. Sometimes bipolar- symptoms can be caused by other brain abnormalities. Looking back on our own experience, I think that any psychiatrist who has a child brought to them with bipolar symptoms should ask for a neurological work up before concluding they have a mental illness. You would just hate to miss something like that! Just thought I would pass this on.

Trying Krill Oil from Mega-Red

I am switching my kids to krill oil to see if 1. they will take it more often since it is in a much smaller tablet and 2. they can take fewer pills because the krill oil is more highly concentrated than regular fish oil. I bought some at Walgreens today because they had a special of buy one, get one free and an in-store coupon for $4.00 off, so I paid about $18.00 for two bottles of 60 pills each. I am supposed to start out with just two or three pills a day for two weeks, and then back down to just two a day. I will let you know how this goes. I am especially interested in seeing if this has an effect on my youngest daughter and her severe ADHD.

Can You Say "Automatic Pill Dispenser?"

I ordered one last night off of Amazon for $70, complete with unlimited alarms, buzzers, dosing options galore, and locking mechanism. I will let you know if it is worth the money!

Caroline is missing her homeschool supplementary today because she slept poorly again last night. Arggh again!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Messed Up

Caroline is simply that right now: messed up. Since she missed that morning dose a few days ago, her sleep has been affected, and today she AGAIN missed her morning dose because she felt sick when she woke up, so she went back to bed. I didn't catch her in time to give her the meds. Then she came back downstairs a few hours later, still feeling bad, laid down, said she felt nauseated, so I gave her imodium, told her to rest before she took her meds since she said she thought she would throw them up. This was around noon. I had to run out to the grocery store but I called her a little while later to ask her to please take the meds now. I come home an hour later to find her gone on a walk with the dog and her morning meds in the bowl. What!!?? Oh, I was piping hot mad. When she got back, I lit into her about not taking them and that it was almost 2 o'clock now. She finally took them, but the rest of the day she was really "off" meaning belligerent, spiteful, reactive, and defiant about everything. She even snuck away to play wall-ball when I went to work, after I told her she couldn't, ignoring the school work that was due tomorrow. Arrggh!!! I sent her to bed early to get up and finish everything in the morning.

I hate days like this. And I won't even go into the machinations I went through to get my youngest to do her homework before ballet, and it still didn't get done.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Something You Need to Know...

If your child has been hospitalized several times in one year, and he or she can't seem to achieve stability for any length of time, you might need to consider a residential treatment center for a period of time where the docs can safely experiment to find a med combination that really works, and where your child receive intensive behavioral counseling as well. But do your research! Don't send them anywhere that isn't highly rated by other parents and known for their results. And no, you won't be harming your child irreparably by sending them away to get better, if it is a top-notch facility that is run like a center for sick kids and not like some boot camp. Meridell is tops on my list, but there are some other good ones all across the country. Check out the list to the right for RTCs.

Preemptive Dosing

With the approach of the end of September, I can tell that Caroline is beginning to swing up little by little. She is much too focused right now on her book and on practicing wall-ball for hours every day. So we have increased her Seroquel (with the doc's permission of course) by 50 mg again, up to 500mg. Already she is acting more "normal." I want to do everything I can to stay several steps ahead of the fall swing. She is doing so well with homeschooling right now, and with the supplementary classes she is taking, which are World History, Writing, and Spanish II.

I am pretty stressed out today. Working part time in the afternoons and early evenings several days a week after homeschooling in the morning is stretching me thin. My house keeps getting dirtier. As soon as my husband gets a job, I hope to scale back my hours to one or two days a week for a couple of hours. My house needs me and so do my kids! I don't know how you working moms and single moms do it!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Off Topic: Left-Handed Writing

I don't know how many of you out there are lefties, or have a child who is, but I have just discovered something that has helped me tremendously. We lefties often have messy handwriting because we are holding the pen or pencil at weird angle, and pushing it across the paper instead of drawing it across the paper fluidly. I just started a new job, and I have to write much more legibly than I have been doing at home. So, knowing that I write beautifully with a calligraphy marker for some reason, I decided to buy myself a more expensive ball point pen specifically labeled "smooth writer."

Well, what a difference! I can write so much more neatly and easily with a pen that flows easily. My husband couldn't believe the difference either. I usually just use whatever Bic pen is around, the cheap kind that come in a 10 pack, but I guess I need to invest more money in good writing instruments. I am so happy that I don't have to struggle with handwriting anymore. Only took me nearly forty years to figure that one out!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Remember....

Sitting in the parking lot of a grocery store, about 18 months ago, sobbing so loudly that a man walked up to my car and asked if he could help me. I could barely talk, I was crying so hard. I had had a particularly difficult time with Caroline (this was prior to her going to the RTC) and I had lost it at her, screamed at her, drove off to the store, and then sat there, feeling the dam break. Wracked with sobs, I was in complete despair over having a bipolar daughter to raise. I hated my inability to stay calm that day, and felt like I hated her. He asked me what was wrong, and I am sure he thought I was a war widow or something, since this was on a military base. I replied emphatically, "I hate being a mom!" I don't think he knew what to say to that, but I think he offered some words of encouragement. Poor guy. I was crying so hard that I am sure I freaked him out. I was touched that he would stop and try to comfort me, but nothing would console me that day. Thankfully we all got a break about a month later when she went to Meridell for four months.

Now, I enjoy her mostly. But there was a time...

Anti-Convulsants Deplete Vitamin B Link to Page

I posted the link to the article to the right under Resources. I hope this helps!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Anti-Convulsants Deplete Vitamin B

Another mom on the CABF support group shared this bit of info with us. I have Caroline on a B-complex vitamin every day, and now I am very glad we have been doing this for years. I didn't know about the effect of drugs like Trileptal, Topomax, and Lamictal. I found a University of Michigan Health System article detailing which drugs can deplete which nutrients. This article is found under Health Topics Knowledge Base. B-6 is the vitamin most affected by these anti-convulsants. I would think it wise for any child on these medications to take vitamin and calcium supplements, as well as the Omegas just as a precaution.

How Can We Fix This Problem? And a Weird Dream...

The forgetting-to-take-her-meds problem? She forgot to take her meds yesterday morning, which was not discovered until the evening, because I was at work, and Bill was juggling taxi rides for Mae, Jane, and Elizabeth all day for their various activities. She was high as a kite by this morning. I even gave her half-doses last night of the meds she missed on top of her night meds, and she was up half the night. This morning she was belligerent, sassy, laughed when she shouldn't have (at her own meanness), and Bill and I were freaked out because this was the worst we have seen her in a very long time. She had been so stable, and then wham, she is out of control. She took her morning meds this morning, again with a little more thrown in, and she came back down this afternoon. I am just worried that this may carry over into Tuesday and she will have to miss her homeschool classes. I do not want a repeat of last year when she went manic in October and was kicked out of the classes she had just started at another co-op.

We have her meds all laid out in a big pill box, quite visible. She knows when she is supposed to take them, and I have a timer on my Ical and on my Blackberry. I just bought her another watch so she could have her personal alarm, but she promptly lost it like she lost the previous two. I was in a hurry to get out the door yesterday morning, so I put the box in front of her, and told her to take her meds before she left the table. She didn't. I guess I should have called her to double-check, but it seemed so obvious. I think that is part of the disorder, is the disorderliness of their thinking processes. She is very forgetful.

Anyway, hopefully all will settle down quickly, and we can get on with business.

Husband still doesn't have a job. I am more than a little nervous, as his last paycheck is this Wednesday. He is looking into unemployment benefits, and we may eventually have to tap our Roth IRAs and 401ks, which is a last resort. He is kind of down these days, feeling a little lost in this whole process.

I had a really bad, vivid dream last night night about a mad scientist type of guy who was trying to kill my kids, one by one, as I did all I could to outwit him, defend them, hide them, fortify our house, etc. I was winning, but exhausted. Does this sound like an analogy?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


So far, so good. I am enjoying the more relaxed atmosphere in our home without worrying about Caroline's behavior in school. She is a little freaked out by her Algebra I class at the homeschool co-op. I don't like the text at all, and I can see why she is stressed out. There are so many other truly wonderful and easy to understand math texts out there, so why the teacher chose this one, I don't know. The book is jammed packed with superfluous information, in my opinion. I may pull her out and allow her to just do the math on the computer using Teaching Textbooks. The class is a two hour session once a week covering five lessons at a time, so the pace is quite challenging. Maybe she just needs to work at her own speed. There is a lab science at the same time as the math class so I could switch her over.

I am trying to balance working Monday, Wednesdays, and Friday afternoons, and Saturdays at the ballet shop at Mae's studio with all of my responsibilities at home. The small paycheck is very helpful right now with my husband out of work. This has been such an expensive few weeks with all of the school supplies, back to school shoes and clothes (considerably less than what we would normally buy) and start up costs for various classes and sports.

My husband is still looking hard for a job that will meet our needs both financially and lifestyle-wise. He doesn't want to travel away from us for long periods of time or commute a long distance. I hate the not-knowing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Breathing Easier, School Options

With my oldest daughter starting her senior year on Tuesday, and my youngest daughter already in school, I am breathing easier these days. I am really looking forward to homeschooling Caroline and her younger sister Jane together this fall. I actually really like the control I have over what my kids are learning, being sure that they are reading classic books, moving ahead in math more quickly, and helping them to learn at their own pace. I love history and science and I find that when they learn without all the stressors of being in "school" they are more relaxed and enjoy learning about the world a lot more. I think that is why my kids do things like write their own books and the like because they equate reading and writing with fun instead of drudgery. Homeschooling is not for every mom or every kid, but if it works, it is wonderful. I will be sad when I will finally put away my "teacher" hat someday. Time flies by so quickly, as evidenced by the fact that our oldest will be off to college next year. Wasn't she just five, creating her own "computer" out of a cardboard box? Playing dress up on a daily basis? Begging me to read to her one more toddler book for the hundredth time?

An important note: if you wish to homeschool your bp child, just know that unless they are mostly stable, this may not work well. Find the right med mix first before you try this unless you have no other good options, and then I would say to enlist the help of another "teacher" in the form of a tutor for certain subjects, or enrolling in an online school so you can keep on task as much as possible. And you can stretch school into the summer if you lose a lot of time during the more unstable periods of the fall and spring.