About our Daughter
I am mother to four wonderful daughters, ages 13, 15, 17 and 19, 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. She is in the very challenging teen years, and she is attempting a big public high school for the first time. In spite of the trials, she enjoys lacrosse, running, 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.
Monday, April 30, 2012
I am sure that many of you out there are aware that anyone can have a reaction to a med that is the exact opposite of what was hoped for in prescribing it. For example, Geodon made Caroline far more agitated and rageful, even thought it is given to address these very things. If your child seems to be getting worse, not better, on any drug, contact your doctor immediately before things spiral out of control. Even a sleep med like Ambien can have an effect like worsening insomnia.
Posted by Megan at 8:36 PM
Saturday, April 28, 2012
A dear friend recently reminded me of the fact that we must actively reject shame when we have a child who doesn't "fit" in with the world. We have to look shame in the eye and tell it good riddance. We must resist shame with truth. There is no other way to deal with shame effectively. Guilt is specific, related to specific acts and can be dealt with through confession, repentance, restitution, and true remorse. But shame is this horrible, nebulous cloud that colors our world with gray uncertainty. Shame makes us hide, hide our children and hide ourselves. We hide from neighbors, our closest friends, our church, and our schools when shame dominates our thinking. I know this ugly foe too well. I am afraid I struggle with passing shame onto my kids at times. Shames strangles relationships. The antidote to shame is always the bright sunlight of truth. The truth is that our children are gifts from God, each uniquely gifted. They are not mistakes. If they have a brain disorder, it isn't your fault. Even genetics are trumped by the truth that God is still sovereign, in my opinion. I believe this with every ounce of my being. When we are given a child with special needs, we are given the gift of empathy and compassion. I am the most judgemental person in the world, so it is no accident that God gave me a child through whom I have had to develop tremendous patience and long-suffering. And we must not forget that these beautiful kids suffer more than we do. They are the ones who experience the misunderstanding and rejection. They are the ones who have to rise above their limitations to succeed in life far more than we. I see them as very dear to God. I get mad when some of their parents don't go the extra mile to help them because they themselves are living in shame and "hiding" from the truth. I understand that temptation, but when we step into the light and accept that our child needs far more help than we alone can give them, then we are truly loving our child in the fullest sense. It is no accident that Caroline is doing as well as she is: a loving God is watching out for her, and we as her parents have tried to do everything in our power to help her, doing whatever it takes to give her the tools to succeed in life, even if the cost to us is great, both financially and physically. We haven't done this perfectly by any means, we have failed many times. But when you are committed to being your child's advocate in every arena, you know that you can be free of shame and guilt and leave the results to God.
Posted by Megan at 11:53 AM
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
After thinking about my post last night, I decided I needed to annotate it with the caveat that sometimes labels can be unhelpful. I am thinking mainly of when a child labels themselves and uses it to either beat themselves up that they are "less than" or when they use it to manipulate those around them. We often tell Caroline that although she is bipolar, and that means that she has to take certain kinds of medications and needs to understand how she operates, it is not the sum total of who she is. Bipolar disorder is part of who she is, but certainly not all of who she is. Nor would a child with Aspergers be encouraged to see themselves as "the kid with Aspergers" but rather a unique child of God with special gifts and challenges. The Aspergers label helps the parents and other caregivers to understand and interact with the child in a more helpful way, but no one should allow the child to use their diagnosis as an excuse for bad behavior. I know of someone with pretty severe PTSD caused by horrible childhood trauma. As a result, they have dissociative disorder, which, to put it simply, is when someone "checks out" of present reality when stressed out because they learned to do so when the nightmares they were enduring as children became too much. The most severe form of dissociative disorder would be termed "multiple personalities." I am no expert on dissociative disorder, but I have seen the danger of individuals wrapping up themselves up in this label and wearing it loudly so to speak, and expecting others to be able to interact with them with acceptance when they are dissociating. The end result is more isolation, not less. In other words, by showing too much affection for their "label" instead of the pursuit of wholeness, they tend towards manipulation of those around them and not towards real healing. This healing would be characterized by dropping the dissociating as a coping mechanism as it would be no longer needed. I would say this is where labeling becomes quite unhelpful and even something to hide behind.
Posted by Megan at 7:35 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I know some parents who have really tried to avoiding labeling their "special" child. Usually the reason lies in the fear of somehow attaching a negative association to them, perhaps to be viewed by others as "that" child who has "x" syndrome, thus affecting how others treat them or how they might view themselves. I personally feel that resisting a label can do more harm than good. And here is why: if a child is struggling with some major differences, obviously stands out from their peers, and ends up in the Principal's office, or in the psychologist's office, because they can't seem to "hang" with school or their sports team, or the neighborhood kids, or work at their academic level, then seeking a proper diagnosis will lead to the right therapies, medications, and educational interventions that are BEST for that child. I know of one parent who for many, many years has resisted "labeling" their child, which in this case means getting a solid diagnosis for their child's severely oppositional behaviors, and as a result, the child isn't on the medications they obviously need to be on in order to function and he keeps shooting himself in the foot, so to speak, at church and at school, creating those negative associations by default. I think Christians especially struggle with this issue because we can over-spiritualize problems. Let's call labeling what it should be: a real diagnosis for very real problems. A diagnosed problem can be treated effectively with either medication or counseling or both! A diagnosis denied, i.e. : "My child doesn't have Aspergers, or ADHD, or Bipolar Disorder, or a Sensory Processing Disorder, they are just a little strange, kind of introverted, or really impulsive, have a problem with anger, etc., and we just need to get control of this through more discipline or prayer, we'll be just fine." Oh how I cringe when I hear this! Maybe it is the lay psychologist or psychiatrist in me. Help your child! Stop living in denial that they need more help than what mainstreaming can give them! You are doing no one a favor by resisting a label. Does a label mean that they won't succeed in life or rise above their issues??? No, absolutely not! But to just coast along and hope that they do better eventually won't help your child in the least! Be a parent, suck it up, and go back to the psychologist or psychiatrist or educational therapist and LISTEN to them. Get them the weekly therapies they need, the medications that can help them function and stop over spiritualizing their issues or downplaying them!! The brain is an organic, living thing, no less structural and chemical in nature than your pancreas!! I get so frustrated with folks who won't go the extra mile to help their child because they are afraid of a "label" or of medications or they are too prideful to admit their child needs major intervention. Prayer is wonderful, but God also has given us highly effective medical and counseling resources right in front of us and if we don't use them we are looking a gift horse in the mouth. Ok, I am off my soap box now.
Posted by Megan at 7:22 PM
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Caroline is eligible to go to prom at the small private school in which she is still officially enrolled as a homeschooled student. So we are allowing her to go since the poor kid has basically been sitting at home since October, no lacrosse, no friends with whom to interact. Today we went prom dress shopping and she was so very happy. I made an appointment to get her hair done too. With all she has been missing, I am happy to give her the chance to do something really special and to feel like a princess for once. I think her older sister is jealous even though she has no reason to be. The girl went to three senior proms! Time for the little sisters to have their time in the spotlight.
Posted by Megan at 7:48 PM
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Oh, this child is so easily distracted! We have only another six weeks before the end of school and I am really having trouble keeping her on task with homeschooling. Her head appears to be in the clouds. With spring break and my mom visiting from CA, we are already behind. And now I have to go out of town to help our college student pack up her dorm room. Then we will have one more in the mix! It is amazing how much less crazy our house is with one gone, even though it still seems pretty crazy. With four home, everything is just multiplied: the laundry, the dishes, the mess, the appointments, and so on. And we are supposed to be showing our house soo. Yikes!
I guess what I am very grateful for right now is the fact that Caroline is stable. If she weren't, this would be impossible.
I guess what I am very grateful for right now is the fact that Caroline is stable. If she weren't, this would be impossible.
Posted by Megan at 8:20 AM
Monday, April 9, 2012
For those of you who celebrated, Happy Belated Easter! I was driving back from the Outer Banks last night, listening to Indelible Grace, singing along, just joyful that Christ has not only risen, but lives now and forever, to redeem the lost, to make all things new by His power. Isn't that what we long for? For God to make everything right? For Him to "resurrect" what is dead? When you have a child who suffers from an as yet incurable illness, you long for the day when they will be free of it. Easter is a yearly reminder that freedom is here and is not yet. I believe that Caroline will be free of bipolar disorder someday, if not in this life, than in the next where there are no more tears, no more suffering, but true healing, true redemption. Even if you don't share my beliefs about Jesus, I know you wish for a world free of mental illness. Why do we long for something we don't have? Maybe God put that longing in our hearts, because we know that this world is not as it should be, that something is wrong, something is terribly broken. I believe He did give us this innate sense that things should be different, good, whole, pure, fair. He has put eternity in the hearts of men. Ecclesiastes 3:11
Posted by Megan at 3:29 PM