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!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Still in the Hospital, Doing Better

Well, she may stay another night, but Caroline is considerably better than she was Saturday night.  Thanks for praying!  She is missing the first practice of one of the lacrosse leagues she is on, and she will miss her homeschool co-op classes tomorrow, again.  Poor kid, she just can't seem to get ahead!  Now my oldest is sick with some other virus.  I have cleaned and cleaned our house, and today the weather was so warm I opened all the windows, trying to get the germs out and clean air in.  We need change here!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Admitted to Hospital

This time for this awful stomach virus, not for psychiatric reasons.  Caroline got hid hard by this stomach flu last night and couldn't stop throwing up for hours.  With two more recent UTIs, and becoming rapidly dehydrated, the ER has admitted her this morning.  We will let you know how she does.  I spent the whole day in bed with this thing yesterday and am now dealing with a residual migraine.  What fun!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stomach Virus Strikes Again

No more winter please.  I got so sick last night with this stupid virus.  That makes four of us.  Hopefully my oldest two won't catch it.  I have lysoled everything in sight, every door knob, light switch.  These things are insidious!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Start of Lacrosse Season, Another Opportunity to Make Friends

And will she?  Sometimes she shoots herself in the foot by deciding ahead of time that she won't be able to relate to anyone, they won't accept her, they look at her weirdly, etc.  There may be some of this, but we think that a lot of the time she makes things harder for herself by putting up a lot of defenses early and by the fact that she misinterprets other's facial expressions, body language.  Social skills don't come easy for her at all.  Most bp kids really struggle to make and keep friends.  She hasn't had a close friend in over five years.  Her jealousy over her older sister's uncanny ability to make and keep dozens of friends, seemingly every month, grows more intense every year.  She has one potentially good friend through lacrosse, but it seems like their schedules outside of lacrosse are very conflicting.  Sometimes I wonder if we should let Caroline go to public school just for the bigness of the potential pool of friends, but then again that would bring so many new problems as well.  Helping her to navigate all of the hazards found in a large public high school might be more than I could handle.  I read so much on the CABF website from other parents about the endless and very scary problems of bp teens in public high schools that I am loathe to enter into that fray.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dreading When Her Meds Poop Out

Caroline has been on her present med mix of Seroquel, Lamictal, Lithium, Trileptal, and Amantadine for almost a year and a half now and this has been the longest period of relative stability we have ever seen--not one hospitalization!  Amazing!  We are praying that this med mix won't need to be significantly changed anytime soon, but we know that most kids do end up needing different meds eventually when one of them poops out, so to speak. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CABF Now Number One in the About.com Contest!

Keep voting.  We need to stay there!  See voting app to the right.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mother-Daughter Trip Interrupted by Virus

I took our youngest Mae away to a nearby city for a night so we could have some special mommy-daughter time to ourselves.  I always do this with each of my daughters when they get to about the age of 11 to talk about the upcoming changes of adolescence and have some bonding time over manicures or shopping or whatever.  Feeling the urgency to undertake this adventure sooner rather than later as Mae is rapidly developing, I made a last minute decision to go this past weekend, grabbing a great online deal on a hotel near a fun shopping area.  Unfortunately and unbeknownst to us, our family had acquired the dreaded 24 hour stomach flu before we left.   Mae spent the entire night away throwing up and continued through the morning, even in the car on the way home.  And Jane started throwing up while we were gone, so I came home to another sick kid and a lot of dirty laundry and bathrooms to clean.  Oh well.  We will press the reset button and do it again later in the spring or early summer.  Lesson learned:   skip weekend trips in January and February during the height of the virus season.  The risk hasn't been worth it!

A New Opportunity for CABF to Win Grant Money

CABF is number two right now in another contest to win a grant, this time from About.com.  Take a few seconds a day to vote at this link: About.com contest

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Interesting Article About Another Childhood Mood Disorder

CABF has put up on their website a link to a great article delineating the differences between early-onset bipolar disorder and another pediatric mood disorder that has been getting more attention as a distinct and separate diagnosis.  This disorder is being labeled Severe Mood Dysregulation (SDM.)You can read about it online at Psychiatric News under January 21st, 2011.   I think there are many kids who probably fall in this category who are presently labeled ADHD or bipolar.

Friday, February 18, 2011

CABF Looking for a Director of Development

The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation is looking for a Director for its fundraising activities.  The job is in Illinois.  If you are interested or know someone who is you can find the job description here:  www.bpkids.org/development-director-position . Maybe I should have my husband apply!  Just kidding.  I couldn't deal with the cold!


Well, so what exactly is going on with everyone?  Well, I think we have all been in recovery mode from what may have been the flu.  I got a flu shot and so did all my kids, but I think I still got it.  I am still so tired even though I am better.  And three out of the four kids got sick too.  I will be happy to say goodbye to February!

Our biggest challenge as of late has been getting Caroline to stay on top of her studies.  Give her an inch and she takes a mile!  I think my husband will need a major vacation at the end of the school year because he has borne the brunt of carrying her through the year.  Now I have given him her Algebra to manage in exchange for Science, History and English.  Maybe I will give Science back to him though.   She is doing a lot of physics this year which I hated in high school.  I think we have finally found the right approach to homeschooling her but we are unsure still about next year.  We are looking at a private school option akin to homeschooling in many ways as it is a university model school.   Decisions, decisions!

My husband is still navigating the whole military disability maze and at the same time trying to find a job back in the Navy for the short term.  We are entering our eighth month since he has worked.  We truly never imagined it would be this long!  Our health insurance runs out at the end of March and so we are feeling the pressure.  I just got an explanation of benefits for Caroline's prescriptions for the month of January, which included several 90 day bottles, but the cost to our insurer was over $4000!  Yikes!

In a weird way, I don't feel anxiety about the near future at all.  I don't know why, except that I know that God is in control somehow in all the chaos.

The biggest bright spot for me right now is that my youngest daughter Mae, who has severe ADHD, is agreeing to take her meds and is determined to get better grades in school.  Yay! Finally!  And I never have to worry about Jane, as she gives 150% in anything related to school, work, etc.  Elizabeth is looking forward to graduating from high school in June and college in the fall.  Right now we are trying to figure out a car for her.  Sharing my car with her is driving her and I crazy as there are too many conflicts!

When it comes to a car when Caroline is able to drive, I want to get a car that has a built-in limit on speed.  And a way to track the car too.  Sad, but the thought of a bipolar teen driving is kind of scary.  What if she is manic and drives 100 mph in a 35 and gets arrested or worse?  These things do happen.  She won't be driving at 16 anyway.  More like 17 and only if we think she is truly ready.

Well, I am at work, so I should sign off.  I hope you have a peaceful weekend, and if not, that you will have hope for peace in the near future!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Been Sick

Sorry for the hiatus.  I have been really under the weather, and haven't had a clear head to write something meaningful.  Soon!

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Hate Being Sick

I really do.  Laying in bed all day because I don't have the energy to do anything else.  And so much to be done.  I am over winter and illness!! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Off Topic: Divest Yourself of All Vacation Homes Before Filling Out College Financial Aid Forms!

This advice is sort of tongue in cheek, but seriously, we have encountered an unexpected problem in applying for financial aid for college.   A few years ago, my husband's dad turned over the ownership of a small cabin in the Shenandoah to both my husband and his sister.  He did this because he was trying to protect his few financial assets and apply for Medicare to pay for his wife's expensive Alzheimers care.  All was fine with this arrangement until I went to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) last week and realized that even though we own this cabin in name and have never actually used it since our honeymoon, we had to list this fully paid for property as an asset on the form.   We are entitled to half of the potential proceeds from this little outdated shack in the woods should we sell, so I had to list half of its value, which we could, in theory, use for college.  Ugh!  So our EFC (expected family contribution) that came back from FAFSA was much higher than it would have been had we not owned this property.  The FAFSA doesn't look at the value of your primary residence, only secondary homes and bank accounts.  Lesson learned is we should have thought about this situation earlier and asked to sell the cabin back a few years ago, as my husband's dad has been too incapacitated to use it himself--it just sits there collecting dust.  Oh well, can't change anything now, but we might try to sell the cabin this summer to avoid this problem next year when we have to apply for financial aid again.  Let this be a word to the wise in case you might inherit something of this sort in the future!  The good news for us is that the GI Bill will pay for most of our daughter's college expenses, so we are going to be OK, a real blessing especially now that my husband has been unemployed for half a year.

To My Little Sister's Credit....

Just a postscript that the wonderful person who took our grumpy bipolar teen for the night while we went away was my little sis who has two boys on the autistic spectrum and two little girls as well.  She is amazing and we are so grateful for her!!!  Thanks Jen!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Great Night Away Except for.....

My husband and  I managed to go away for a night on Saturday to a very nice boutique hotel on the water in a quaint little town in the country about 40 minutes from our home.  Great accommodations, restaurant, views.  The only problem was our decision to farm out our kids to four different locations before we left.  Big mistake.  We spent three hours before we actually left our house driving our kids to this place and that, and driving back to this place and that when they had forgotten some important item.  By the time we actually left town we were exhausted and very late.  Then we had to drive back by about 12:30 the next day.  So while we had a nice time when we got there, the time was too short to make any big dent in our need for time away.  And add to this the fact that Caroline forgot to take her morning meds until late in the afternoon the day we were to leave!  So she was all out of sorts for the next 24 hours, leading to her calling us the next morning while we were trying to have a nice breakfast, very upset over this and that.  Ughh!!  Seems like we were thwarted at every turn!  We have decided that in the future we will just try to have someone come over to stay with all of our kids, giving us more time together instead of playing taxi, and also that we need two nights away, or at least a full 24 hours, to make it worth the effort.

We are very convinced that the strength of one's marriage is dependent upon nurturing this bond through time spent together apart from the kids.  Being intentional about focusing on our relationship has taken on new importance.  We have made this a big priority after seeing so many of our friend's marriages fail because their focus was only on raising their children together, not on intimacy with each other.  And when you have a special needs child, this becomes even more imperative!  We will try this again sometime around our anniversary.  Weekly date nights have become a regular event for us in the meantime.  I highly recommend this even if it is just coffee at McDonald's!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Wrightslaw Educational Advocacy Conference in the Virginia Beach Area in March

If you live the Hampton Roads area, which includes Williamsburg down to the Outer Banks of NC, Wrightslaw is bringing a Special Education/Advocacy conference for parents and educators to the area in March 31st.  Check out www.wrightslaw.com for more information.   I may go but haven't decided yet.

Time For An Increase in a Med?

We think we see signs of mania creeping in, and given the time of the year, this would not be surprising.  Early February has always been a tricky time for mania.  I think we will ask the doc about a preemptive increase in either the Seroquel or the Trileptal.   When she begins lying, taking her sister's things, acting secretively, we know that she might be ramping up.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Off Topic: Great Book to Navigate Financial Aid for College

I have been perusing, no studying intently, a great book called Paying for College Without Going Broke, by the Princeton Review.  The 2010 version actually walks you through, line by line, how to fill out the FAFSA form required by all colleges for anyone applying for financial aid.  Priceless!  Great advice worth a lot of money in savings!  Amazon is the place to shop to find it.