Monday, February 15, 2010

The Early Years

It has been a long time since I entered the blogging world. For whatever reason, it is hard for me to keep up with journaling, let alone sharing my deepest thoughts with the outside world. I hope to make this a blog that highlights the ups and downs of parenting a bipolar child. It is my prayer that this reaches out to others out there who are hurting and feeling alone in this battle.

I apologize right now for the lengthiness of this first post. But, I feel like it is important to give a background of where our journey began and what has led us to this point.

Our story begins 11 years ago when we were blessed with the birth of our third child. From the very beginning, she had 2 very distinct personalities... very happy and very angry... and nothing in between. Now having 2 older children, I know that this is common in newborns. And really we did not think much of it at the time. But by the time she was 2, we knew that there was something not quite right. We were seeing more and more of the angry Mary and less and less of our happy little girl. There were also some learning issues that we noticed... she mixed up words and said things back words (ropejump instead of jumprope), she got her senses mixed up (Mommy it tastes good in here, when she should have said it smells good in here), and her thought process was often confused and jumbled up.

We blamed it on being a third-born child, so we tried every parenting trick in every book that was recommended to us. We blamed it on the upheaval that moving 6 times in 2 years can cause in a child's life (we spent time as missionaries in Honduras). We blamed it on the fact that she was no longer the baby anymore when her younger brother came along. We blamed our other kids for setting her off or aggravating her. AND we blamed ourselves. If only we were better parents. If only we were more consistent. If only we would do this or that... If only, if only, if only.

Finally I was desperate and cried out to God. I had an awesome plan, and I just knew that God would think that the plan was awesome too. I had decided that I could not do this. I could not in my own strength be a good parent. I could not change her and make her an obedient, patient daughter. "So", I told God, "You just need to change her, that way You get all the glory and I can say it is all God, not my awesome parenting skills." I think God laughed at me. "Oh, daughter, what lessons you need to learn." That Sunday at church, our Sunday school class was talking about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. They were so rebellious that God sent poisonous snakes among them and many were dying. When they repented, God had Moses make a statue of a snake and put it up on a long pole. Then when the snakes bit the people, they looked at the snake on the pole and cried out to God to heal them. He could have easily taken the snakes away. He could have easily removed the hardship from their lives. But He chose to keep the snakes among them so that they would remember their need of Him. I heard God in that moment. No, He did not speak audibly to me, but He whispered to my heart. "You NEED ME in this journey of life. Yes, I could miraculously change her, but I choose to use her, as she is, in your life to remind you of your need of Me."

At that point, we still did not know the seriousness of the issues we were dealing with. I suspected that maybe she had a learning disability that was making it harder for her to understand what we expected of her and what the consequences for disobedience were. We tried talking with our pediatrician about the behaviors we were seeing, but he really wasn't much help. His advice was to be more consistent, making sure that we communicated how we wanted her to behave and then follow through with whatever discipline we had threatened if she did not obey. By this time, she was spending hours every day in the bath tub because that was the ONLY place she was content. While she was in the tub, she would play happily. Shortly after getting out of the tub, she would be screaming and crying over some little thing that had upset her. Her crying would often last for hours on end, unless I put her back in the tub.

By the time Mary was 5, she was beginning to talk about how much she wanted to die. She was irrational most of the time, felt like everyone hated her, and was paranoid that people were purposely doing things because they knew that it would upset her. Her fears also exploded about this time. She was extremely frightened to be alone, afraid of loud noises, and was worried about every little scrape or scratch becoming infected. She was also very angry most of the time. She would threaten to run away from home and call us all the bad names she could think of. About this time, I came across a website about bipolar disorder in children. It was as if someone had been watching our lives over the past several years and had recorded everything. I cried, partly out of fear of what this might mean for our daughter, but also partly because for the first time, I did not feel alone in this. This was the beginning of what we now call our bipolar journey.