Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Journey of Hope and Healing...

It has been just over a year since we admitted Mary to Hillside. The changes brought about in her are remarkable. In October, Mark & I were privileged to be a part of making a video at Hillside about our journey there. It truly is a video of hope and of healing...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Closing a Chapter...

If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be a weepy mess when it was time to say our final goodbye's at Hillside, I would have thought you were crazy... and I would have been wrong! It is amazing how attached we (I) have become to the people there. They have walked with us through some of the most difficult days we have experienced as parents. And they did it in such a way that made us feel supported, like we were part of the team, and they helped equip us to continue on the road to recovery.

Mary has been out of the inpatient program for almost 3 months. She has worked her way down from 3 days of intensive outpatient therapy per week to final discharge last week. She is continuing to be able to use the skills that they have taught her. She encourages us to use those skills as well and will be the first to point out when we need to practice some things. She has had moments of frustration and she handles it in proportion to the situation. We continue to see her growing and changing and branching out of her comfort zone to try new things. I could not be more proud of her hard work and all the changes that we see in her.

Here are a few pictures of the final discharge day...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Coming Home!

It has been a very LONG 90 days. We are very happy to announce that Mary is set to be discharged from the inpatient program on Wednesday afternoon. She is a completely different person coming out than she was going in. The changes in her are remarkable! She went into the hospital a scared little girl and is emerging a mature young lady. I know that we still have progress to make, and there will still be bumps in the road, and at the same time I am deeply thankful for this place of healing!

Our next step in this process will be an intensive outpatient program. This will involve her being at home with us during the night and attending her school, then returning to the hospital 3 afternoons a week for 3 - 4 hours each day. We will slowly decrease this time spent at the hospital as she continues to improve her stability and integrate into the community. I have to admit that it will be hard for me to say good-bye to this place as we move forward. Each person that works there has touched our lives in numerous ways and has offered such great support.

I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest 3 months of our lives. It never got any easier to drop her off after a therapeutic home visit or to leave her after visiting her there. We would just pray as we were leaving, pray for the hospital staff and residents, pray for the community that the hospital is in, pray for Mary's light to shine in the darkness. We can't express enough gratitude for those who have supported us through this process. All of your prayers, meals, cards & letters, emails, hugs, and financial contributions did not go without notice. We have truly felt loved and cared for by each and every one of you. So, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you!

Ways you can pray over the coming months:

- Pray for Mary's transition home, that it would be a smooth and peaceful one.

- Pray for continued progress as we enter the outpatient program.

- Pray for safety as we travel back and forth to the hospital more often during this transition time.

- Pray for good family relationships to continue and for healing to take place as a family unit.

- Pray for Mary as she leaves behind a place that feels secure. I think that for the first time she feels like she has a sense of belonging, that she is not "different" than everyone else.

- Pray that the skills that Mary has learned will continue to work effectively for her.

- Pray for continued medical stability. It is wonderful to see her stable after so many years of struggling.

- Pray that the insurance funding would come through for the intensive outpatient program. Praise that they did agree to pay for their portion of the inpatient program!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It Doesn't Get Easier...

Today marks the 5 week point of Mary being in a RTF. I can say that it has NOT gotten any easier to walk away in that 5 weeks, but it has gotten more manageable. It breaks my heart every time we have to say good-bye, and a little piece of me gets left behind with her when we leave. I am still not "okay" with this, and at the same time, I wholeheartedly believe that it is the right thing to do.

Mary is making good progress. She has been tapered off of some medicines and new ones have been introduced. It is a game of remove one med, wait a week or two, add a new med, wait a week or two, etc. As the medications work to balance the moods from a medical standpoint, the therapy that she is receiving has been working to help her regulate those moods from an emotional standpoint. She still has days where she is completely off, and foul, and rigid in her thinking and actions. But she is also having days where she is engaged, and fun, and learning new things. We are thankful for all of those good days and try to be thankful in the bad days as well, knowing that is where the real growth occurs. They have to see the full spectrum of her emotions in order to really help her. She has been moved to a different unit which is more home-like in the hopes that it will be less stressful for her. It is a less volatile environment in this unit. She seems to be enjoying it so far.

We have been going through training in the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as part of Mary's treatment. We are learning phrases like radical acceptance, mindfulness, emotional mind, validation of others and ourselves, how to ask for something effectively, how to diffuse a situation, and many other things. It has been fascinating to learn more about our brains and how to accept where we are in life, while at the same time working to change it. Mark & I were discussing how Christ deals with us in a very similar way. He says to us "You are evil and full of sin (radical acceptance of where we are)... AND... I love you enough to have paid that price for you and to change you from within (change)". He is mindful and fully present when He deals with us and doesn't let His emotions change how he interacts with us. He communicates clearly in His Word, describing the problem (sin), explaining how He feels, asking us to accept Him and telling us the rewards that await when we comply. He doesn't ever apologize for the law that He has set down, but is compassionate and understands the impossibility of us ever fully obeying that law. I am so thankful for a savior who is a perfect example of the skills that we are learning. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn how to be a better parent to all of our children.

Specific ways you can be praying:

* That Mary will continue to stabilize and learn the skills she needs.

* For Mary's safety (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) while she is away from us.

* That we can be a light in a place surrounded by darkness and a witness of peace in the midst of turmoil.

* For good friendships and relationships with the other patients and the staff.

* That our insurance would see the medical necessity of this treatment and agree to pay for her stay at the RTF.

As always, thanks to all of you who have prayed for us and supported us through this trying time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Body of Christ...

When we admitted Mary to the RTF a couple of weeks ago, I made the difficult decision to resign my position as director of children's ministries at our local church. I knew that with the added time on the road to visit her and for all the extra therapies involved, as well as the time involved in helping her truly heal and recover once she is discharged, that I would not have the time that this job (and the church) deserved. Sunday mornings seem to be a prime time to visit her and I haven't yet learned how to be two places at one time. With all that has been going on, we haven't been to church as a family in months and I personally haven't been in several weeks. In all honesty, if left to myself, it is during these hard times that I am tempted to pull into myself...to lock the doors and draw the drapes and try to hide. I hate drawing attention to us, to the difficulties that we face, to the hard time that we are going through. After all, who wants to constantly be "that family" who is in crisis?!? We don't ever want to be a burden to others. We don't want to "need" anyone else. This burden is ours to bear and we don't share that burden willingly.

But God, in His sovereignty, has put us in a body of believers who won't let us get away that easily. From the moment that we admitted her to the RTF we have been surrounded by people who have sent texts, fb messages, and emails to encourage us. We have been the recipient of numerous meals and generous donations to help with medical costs and travel expenses, and many of those have been given by those who don't have extra to give. We are humbled by the love that God has shown us through His church body.

Today, I am thankful for the Body of Christ!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't Just Pray For Me...

..."Pray for the other kids who are in here with me!" That was Mary's answer last week when asked by a friend who was visiting her with us "What the biggest thing that she wanted people to be praying about?". She has such a heart for those around her who are hurting. Her biggest prayer concern right now is not for her own safety, her own comfort, or her own adjustment. It is for the other kids in her unit who are hurting and don't know Jesus. Oh that I could have such a heart for the hurting and lost!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Start Selling Those Cattle....

Today was a long day for us. Most of it was very good and positive. After a very rough start there, Mary is now settling in well at the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF). She is starting to trust the staff and make friends with the other patients. She has been there almost a week. At times it seems like it has only been a day or two and at other times, it feels like an eternity. We have had a lot of opportunity to watch the staff at work with the kids and are impressed with their ability to handle the toughest cases with grace and kindness. My heart is still heavy for her and the long road she has ahead of her, but I feel like I can breathe without the excruciating pain that was present last week.

One of the main things on our agenda today was the master planning meeting. The best thing I can compare it to was an IEP meeting but with all the medical and behavioral terminology thrown into it. It was great to set some measurable goals for Mary to achieve which will be an outward sign of the inward healing that is taking place. It is good to know what medications we will be taking away and what medications we will be trying next. It is good to meet all the team players and know that we are all on the same page. One of the things that was mentioned to us today and kind of took my by surprise was the idea that Mary could possibly be high functioning asperger's in addition to all the other diagnoses that she has. I know that asperger's and autism are commonly part of the mix with bipolar kids, I just had never thought that Mary fit into that category. It is something we will have to explore further but would explain part of why she has been so difficult to medicate.

The next step of the day was our first family therapy session. It went really well and I think that we will all like working with the counselor who has been assigned to our case.

Everything was going along so well... until we got a call from the admissions department regarding our insurance coverage. UGH!!! We knew going into this that our insurance would most likely not pay for everything. We were not prepared for just how little they were going to pay. Don't get me wrong... I am extremely thankful that we have insurance and for every penny that they will pay. Everyone has been very helpful in trying to cover as much as possible so that our out-of-pocket expenses would be manageable. However, the cost at this point looks insurmountable. And yet, what choice do we have??? This is the ONLY viable option for her health and recovery right now. Can we put a value on her life???? Can we say, as her parents, that our pocketbook will only cover this much, so you have to go without the care that you need??? The thing that frustrates me the most is this... if Mary had cancer or diabetes and had to be hospitalized for months at a time to receive medical treatment and recover, it would be covered by insurance. But because this is a mental health issue (which is still just as biologically real as cancer or diabetes) the insurance puts limits on what they will pay for. They can put a value on her life just because her health issues are not as visible as other health issues, even though they are just as deadly.

As we were driving home, God whispered to my heart and reminded me that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. This comes as no surprise to Him. He's got a plan. He is a God who makes the impossible, possible. I need to trust Him in this. In my human nature, I have asked Him to start selling off some of those cows because one of His children desperately needs the cash. I'm sure He got a chuckle out of that...