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!

Friday, December 28, 2012

A College With One Class Every Three Weeks

There is a private college in our town, a very good one, that has an interesting approach to learning.  Instead of taking five or six classes a semester, you take one class at a time, lasting for three weeks.  So you only have that one class to focus on at a time.  Sounds ideal for kids with executive functioning issues or ADD.  We would love Caroline to go here, but don't know if she will be able 1. to get in, and 2. to keep up as this is a rigorous institution.  But they do have women's lacrosse, and she could live at home so we could monitor her meds and moods.  We have a couple more years but we are already scoping out possibilities for college now.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Struggling to Enjoy This

I am admitting I am really struggling right now.  With anxiety, depression, anger and disappointment.  I think that I had a lot of false expectations of what this Christmas in this new house, new town would be like.  Two of my kids are really resentful that we have moved here, that they are far from the home town they grew up in, far from their friends.  Nothing feels right to them.  I have picked up their negative emotions and responded with anger.  I want them to love living here because I love living here.  I longed to lived here.  I longed for positive change not only for Caroline but for myself.  Now we are here and we are getting much resistance.  I thought that Christmas all together here would be fun, filled with great family memories.  I guess my expectations were unrealistic, at least for this first year, having only been here six months.  I need prayers for peace in our home and for real joy.  And for patience with my kids.  And the ability to not take on their negativity.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Crush

I have a love/intense dislike relationship with Christmas.  I love the spiritual part of Christmas, and I actually love to give gifts.  But the hustle and bustle, the same Christmas songs played over and over ad nauseum, and the T.V. commercials designed to stir up our greediest inclinations all combine to make this season exhausting and stressful.  Today my husband was supposed to take the girls aways for the day to a huge beautiful mall an hour north so I could clean, finish shopping and wrap presents but Caroline doesn't want to go.    I am disappointed because I really wanted the whole house to myself, but honestly I understand why she would rather lounge than spend hours in crowded surroundings with noise and lights and people pushing.  Probably not the best environment for her.  So she will nap and watch T.V. and I will try to pretend I am alone.   Three more days.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Found a New Great Psychiatrist

So thankful that we were led to a GREAT new psychiatrist and nurse practitioner at an office very close to our home.  The first visit yesterday was a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Could not be happier with their attitude, availability, willingness to keep her on her present med mix, and the decor of the office.  Yes, the decor.  The other office was so depressing.  This office was decorated with fun and funky colors and accessories that made the visit seem like you were in someone's living room.  Why that struck me as a big plus, I don't know, except that I am personally very sensitive to color.  I crave beautiful colors and the other office was so drab.  We were also given the scoop on which of the adolescent psychiatry inpatient facilities were the best in this greater Denver area.  So glad to get this information.  We have learned that driving an hour to get the best treatment is worth it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Meeting, Big Decisions

We met with the IEP head, the principal, and with the teacher in question on Friday.  The teacher denied the practice of a "Survivor" like vote to decide who stays and goes in the groups.  Caroline has insisted this actually happens.  We aren't sure who to believe.  I want to believe both of them.

We made it clear, however, that Caroline has learned very little this semester in his class.  The offer was made of moving her out of his class to a computer based class for kids who really struggle with math.  And also they gave us the option of letting her skip taking the final exam, and just letting her present grade of a C stand.  We are taking this offer.  Caroline breathed  a huge sigh of relief when we told her this.  She needs to get out of his class regardless.  We like him as a person, he seems nice enough and caring, but the method of teaching Geometry simply doesn't fit her learning style at all.

The principal was hugely interested in helping Caroline to succeed at this school.  We feel he genuinely cares about her.

Caroline spent most of the weekend depressed over the lack of friends at her school.  She was crying because she has no one to sit with at lunch.  And apparently some "mean" girls have said some things to her that I will be keeping an eye on.  She doesn't always share with us everything that happens during her day.   And her sister, whose friends are in some of Caroline's classes, is quite angry at the thought of Caroline talking to them and possibly embarrassing her.  Sometimes we wonder if we should have just tried to put them in separate high schools from the beginning.  There as a big reason we never put Caroline and her older sister Elizabeth in the same middle and high school.  We knew they needed their space.  Maybe this is true for Caroline and Jane.  We want them to love and support each other, but this is not the usual situation.  Jane hears things all the time that Caroline has said that are huge exaggerations or even lies and she is just so sensitive.  Her friends ask her about these tall tales and she just wants to hide under a table.  We are working with Caroline on truthfulness.  She exaggerates because she feels so badly about who she is right now that she wants to be someone else, someone that people will like.  But she doesn't always see the consequences or can't seem to stop herself.  I confronted her on some of these things a few days ago and her response was defensiveness and denial. This is something that will really hurt her in relationships and jobs so we have got to help her get control over this.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflections on the Shooter at Newton, CT

We don't have a lot of answers yet as to why this young man decided to take out his rage on his mother and then 26 innocent people, most of them small children in such a horrific way, forever altering the lives of so many.  We have heard the terms "personality disorder" and "Aspergers Disorder" tossed around by the media.  At this point, it isn't clear what this young man's issues are.  But what everyone needs to understand is that the motivation behind his rampage was far beyond a personality disorder.  He had likely been deeply wounded somewhere, somehow, and in addition he likely had a mental illness and was unmedicated.  I feel that this is yet another sad example of what happens when those who are "different" are marginalized and shunned.  Hopefully this will focus more attention on the need for people to reach out to the lonely and alone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Kindred Spirit

It is very hard to find that local friend who knows and understand one's struggle with a special needs child, and one who has dealt with public schools and all of the hoops one must go through to get what your child needs.  Our Sunday School group has proven to be a great source of friendships in a very short amount of time, and very wonderfully, I am getting to know another family who has been there, done that with their son, who is now in college.  In college!  What a prospect! Today we met for coffee and I was so very encouraged by her story of how they went through hell and high water to get him what he needed in school, all of the therapies they paid for so that he could succeed and graduate from high school, all of the IEP meetings, even resulting in two teachers getting fired for their classroom practices that put obstacles in front of not only their son but other children who struggled as well.  And his dream of going to college was what kept him going.  I feel I am going to learn a lot from her experience now that she is "on the other side." Her son has lived at home while going to college, but he graduates this December with an associates degree and is going on to a four year college next.  All through high school they kept their sights on simply getting a degree, but not a GED because too many doors would be closed to him by doing so.  I needed to hear all of this today.  Praise God for His perfect timing!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Proud of My Girl

With finals starting this week, Caroline has thrown herself into studying for them with gusto.  She has typed out a study schedule to cover all the bases.  I am so proud of her tenacity.  Considering how difficult this semester has been in every way, she is remarkable for not giving up.  That she would dedicate herself to doing as well as she possibly can on these exams has really surprised me.  I didn't have half of her zeal in high school.  I am just praying that she won't have any med issues or health issues that will interfere with her actually taking the exams.  But I guess that is what the IEP is supposed to cover.  We have a meeting this week to decide on changes for next semester's classes.  We may ask her to be put into a different teacher's math class if we can't get him to change the way he operates.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Trying Hard Not to Explode Over This One

Caroline revealed to us tonight that this math teacher, whom we heretofore liked, has yet another humiliating practice.  Each week the students are divided into work groups to do projects and even tests together.  What we did not know is that after a test, the group is told to vote the one student out of the group who they do not want to remain in the group.  In other words, the kids who draw down the group grade because they aren't getting the material are voted out.  What the hell??  Sorry for the language but how is this encouraging a positive classroom environment.?? This is humiliation!  This isn't Survivor, this is a classroom full of kids who are struggling to learn and like math!!  I immediately emailed the principal because I have had enough!!   Am I overreacting? I don't think so.  This is just wrong.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Illegal According to FERPA

A friend of mine who is a teacher informed me tonight after I shared about this teacher's practice of sharing the A grades with the class and commanding applause that this violates a federal law concerning student confidentiality.  The law is under FERPA, which I need to research, and prohibits sharing student's grades in the classroom.  So I emailed the principal and brought this to his attention.  He is looking into it.  I really don't want to get this teacher in trouble, I just want him to change how he rewards the A students to a way that is private.  After sharing this problem on Facebook, without revealing the teacher of course, I got a large amount of feedback expressing shock that this teacher would do this.  So I guess I am not too far off in my concern.  We shall see what happens next.


So we should not have sent her to school today after she missed a whole morning's dose yesterday.  We discovered around bedtime that she had forgotten to take her morning meds.  I can't give her both her morning meds and evening meds at the same time because that would be dangerous, so usually we try to break up the missed doses among the next day's meds, spreading them out.  But that wasn't enough to get her through the morning and she called me from the bathroom at school having walked out of a class seething mad over her geometry teacher's style of teaching.  He always points out the students who got As on quizzes and tests and has everyone applaud for them and they get homework passes.  This drives Caroline crazy.  She thinks she is being humiliated along with all the other non-A students.  What do you think about this practice?  I have mixed feelings about it.  He also plots all of the grades on a bell curve, without the names, but she thinks that everyone knows she is the one with the lowest grades.  She is a little paranoid.  Anyway, finals start next week so hopefully she can get back on track this weekend.

The IEP is Working, So Far

I am glad to say that the IEP accommodations for Hannah seem to be working.  She may not be doing great but the accommodations for which we asked are being implemented.  Yesterday I contacted the Special Ed head (who has been truly wonderful) to tell her about how Hannah bombed the last geometry test because she was "off" and froze up at the beginning of the test and that we were asking the teacher for a retake.  She contacted him to make sure he would allow this.  He contacted us per our request and agreed she could retake it.   Whew!  He also said that she could have as much time as she wanted for tests, including the final next week, and she could take it in study hall if she wanted to.  So we are quite happy with this.  Now, whether she will do better on the retake or do ok on the final is not guaranteed.  There are so many factors that determine how she does:  are her meds right, did she get enough sleep, how will her short-term memory issues affect her recall??

So far she doesn't have any Ds of Fs for the semester.  We are praying that this will be true after the finals too.  Poor kid, she is so stressed out.  Life isn't fair to her, but life isn't fair really for most of us.  I tell her it could be so much worse.  I don't know if she believes me but it is true.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The "Alternative School"

There is a school here, a charter school, just around the corner from our house practically.  The mission of the school is to provide a positive learning environment for kids with learning differences.  The reputation of the school, as I have heard from other people, is that it is a "last resort" school for kids in danger of dropping out of high school.  It is very small and very structured.  I want to look into it and believe that it might be right for Caroline, but the kids look pretty emo if you know what I mean.  I don't want to make snap judgments, but we don't want her hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Sigh.  Nothing easy here.

Full Blown Panic Attack

Caroline had a major anxiety attack tonight over the coming finals in Geometry.  She apparently feels completely lost, despite the two to three times a week Mathnasium sessions.  She says that the teacher moves fast, he doesn't explain things well, he humiliates the kids who don't get it, etc.  I emailed him earlier today and the Special Ed head who wrote up her IEP to try to get to the bottom of these complaints.  She thinks she bombed a test today after freezing in the beginning.  Now she is worried she will fail the finals and her hopes of playing lacrosse on a high school team as she has dreamed will be lost.  We are pretty worried about this too, only because the hope of playing lacrosse is what has kept her striving academically.   There isn't much else in her life that is positive.  Tonight she was getting so worked up, crying, angry, freaking out.  Not a pretty scene.  She says her short term memory issues stem from the concussions.   I don't know that the concussions are the main problem so much as the meds that slow down her thoughts.  

This whole fall foray into public school has given me a new understanding for the first time why sports might be truly advantageous to disadvantaged youth or to the child who isn't a genius.  I never really got this before.  When a child has very little in their lives that seems good and positive, playing on a team and being successful there might be the only incentive for trying harder in the classroom.  Having a gifted athlete who struggles so much academically,  I now see why one cannot just dismiss an obsession with a sport as superfluous or even a waste of time.   But the academics have to be there.  We are doing everything in our power to help her get there, including hiring a Biology tutor, and now a private Geometry teacher.   I am praying she can hold onto her grades so she can pursue her dreams.