Friday, August 20, 2010

It's Only August... But October is Coming

It figures that when I post good news, harder times are sure to follow. It has been a much harder week here for Mary. A little bit of background for you on the post title...

Typically the first few months of school are pretty good and then we hit October. I can only think of one October since Mary was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder that has been stable and good (really I can only think of one October since she was a baby that was good). Usually around the middle of October, the cycling begins with depression. Now when Mary starts to cycle, it is pretty rapid. In fact her official diagnosis includes the words "mixed" meaning that her depressed thoughts and her manic thoughts co-exist and cycle so rapidly that it is hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. What we have noticed is that in the fall her cycling tends to be more toward the depressed side and the spring the cycling leans more towards manic. And really the only way we can tell that is her energy level. Her symptoms are pretty much the same for each thing, but one will usually be a little more dominant. One way we look at it is this: Mary is part of a huge pendulum that is swinging back and forth from one extreme to the other (depression to mania and back again). That pendulum also includes a freely spinning ball which turns on its own axis and spins sometimes every few minutes, sometimes every few hours, sometimes every few days, etc. That ball represents her moods within the huge arc of the pendulum. She can cycle from manic to depressed and back again in a matter of minutes sometimes, but overall the mood is moving towards one side of the pendulum. We usually have a couple of months in the "in-between" where the pendulum has swung back from one extreme and is gearing up to move towards the others. These are our more stable periods. Thankfully the use of mood stabilizing medications has made the huge arc slow way down so she has fewer days at either extreme and more days in the in-between phase. They have also helped regulate that spinning ball so that the mood shifts every day are less dramatic and more manageable.

So, what do I mean when I say October is coming? This week I have noticed more anxiety and depression creeping in. It is a little bit early for this to start, we are only at the end of the second week of school. I was really hoping for another month or six weeks of stability. Don't get me wrong, Mary is handling it well so far. We are not deep into the cycles. She is not raging or threatening suicide. But she is just very down and stressed. Every day this week she has asked me about the possibility of homeschooling her. She has NEVER wanted to be homeschooled before! She said she is getting homesick at school and she misses me. This morning when we pulled up to the school to drop her off, she started crying and just could not pull herself together enough to get out of the car. We dropped everyone else off and then she and I took a few minutes to go to Target and walk around. She was able to calm down enough to go to school with the idea that if she became too overwhelmed, she would call me and I would come get her. In the evenings this week, she has been extra cuddly and needing that reassurance. I love having her be snuggly and want time with us, but I wish it was not because she is feeling so sad.

So, what do we do?!?!? I think that she would really miss school if we pulled her out. I think she needs that social interaction and she especially needs the extra help and teaching skills from an unbiased outside source that the teachers provide. I think she would be bored after the first week and want to go back to school. And if we pull her out, I don't know what would happen to the IEP? Would we have to start back all over again to get her the accommodations that she needs? I am working 2 part time jobs that I really enjoy. I am going to school myself for the fall. If I homeschool her, when would we be able to fit that into the routine? Can we qualify for the homebound education from the school system? What would be best for her? These are all questions that are running through my head as I sit here and ponder what to do. And it isn't even October yet...

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Week of School

Last week was the first week of school for all the kids. Overall, it went very well. After Mary's meltdown at the open house, I called a meeting with all of her core teachers to make sure we were all on the same page. It went really well and I feel like everyone knows a little bit more of what they are dealing with. The only really negative incident happened on Thursday when one of her connections teachers called to tell me that she had made Mary cry in class. She explained that there were several kids in that class who are always goofing off and making everyone behind schedule, so she had really been pushing the whole class to get into class on time with all of their materials ready. On Thursday, she had "yelled" at the kids (Mary says this teacher yells a lot) once again about not being on time, and Mary just could not take it any more. She broke down and cried so hard that the teacher excused her from the room. On Friday Mary was just "off" in the morning and dragging her feet about getting ready. I asked her if she was okay and she said she just didn't want to go to that class anymore. I realized this morning why that particular incident probably upset Mary so much... she HATES being rushed. If the teacher is feeling rushed and is pushing that onto the kids, of course it will set Mary off. I am debating whether to have her pulled from that class and moved to a different connections class, but hate to do that after just one week and one uncomfortable incident. I told her to try it one more week and we will see how she feels about it. The thing is that I think this could potentially be one of her favorite classes. It is a home-ec type of class and she just loves to cook. But if she is constantly feeling rushed, she won't enjoy it at all and that just saddens me.

This morning was a little bit harder. She was sad and moving at a slow pace getting ready for school. She was even a little teary when I dropped her off. Thankfully she had one of her best friends there to encourage her. She told me when she got home that she was really depressed this morning and very tired. She seemed to be better this afternoon. I am hoping that a good night's sleep tonight will make tomorrow morning easier.

An update on the medication front... We did decide to put Mary back on the anti-anxiety medication. It became very obvious after being off of the medicine for a week that the anxiety was returning big time. She was having trouble making decisions, beginning to worry about little things, and very "on-edge" about everything. She was having separation anxiety and I could not even go to the store without her calling every few minutes asking when I was going to be home. The tears were coming much more frequently and she was also starting to feel the suicidal thinking creep back in. The final straw came when she went out on the lake with some friends of ours for the day. Later that evening, the dad (who also happens to be our family doctor) emailed me to tell me that Mary just did not seem right. He confirmed all the things that I had been seeing at home. She has been back on it now for just over 3 weeks and it has definitely eased the anxiety of starting middle school. I am really glad we caught it before it became a huge issue and that it had enough time to get back to therapeutic levels before school started.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So It Begins...

Open house was today for Mary's middle school. She has been soooo excited about starting middle school. All went really well at the school until we met the last teacher of the day. All of Mary's classes are co-taught classes which means that there is a resource teacher in the classroom with her to help her and any other kids who qualify for special education services. We have explained this probably a dozen times and she seemed fine with it. However when we met her last teacher, the resource teacher who is going to be in there with them was not in the room. She has her own classroom which she teaches in when she is not being a co-teacher and it happens to be a small "resource" room. We went to her classroom to meet her and Mary immediately began to get nervous. She realized that it was a resource room, not the regular education classrooms. One of her biggest frustrations in school this past year and her biggest fear for this coming year is that she will be pulled out from the regular classroom for testing, reading assignments, small group study times, etc. So, Mary started asking questions about what a co-teacher does, what does that mean for her during the day, and would that mean that she would be pulled out of class? Of course this teacher does not know Mary and has not been given access to her IEP yet, so she did not know that being pulled out is such an issue. She started to talk to Mary about how once a week there is a group of about 9 kids who will go with her to her room for reading time, then to computer lab and then back to her room for homework help. That was the match to the fuse! Mary got very upset and told her that she absolutely WOULD NOT go out with her, that she was in NO WAY going to be pulled from the classroom, etc. She refused to leave the room until the teacher could promise her that this would not happen, which of course the teacher could not promise. So, we left the school with Mary in tears and threatening to punch any teacher or administrator who tried to force her to be pulled out from classes and I was close to tears myself.

I am sure that this will all work out fine in the end. I realize that being in middle school we are going to have to advocate more for her and that there will be more red tape that has to be gone through. She is going from a small elementary school that serviced maybe 50 students who have an IEP to a middle school that probably services a couple of hundred students. And I know that these teachers here don't know her the way her elementary school teachers did, but they will get to know her as the year goes by. Oh but I long for her to have a smooth transition, for her to feel like a "normal" kid for once. There is a fine line between protecting her from the frustrations that I see lurking around the corners (lockers that won't open, crowded halls, difficult homework, etc., etc., etc.), and letting her experience middle school as any other kid would. I have to fight for her and let her know that we are on her team, but also step back and let the system do it's job. She wants to be treated like any other kid... as long as that doesn't involve doing something that makes her uncomfortable. And we are left walking that tightrope trying to find our balance.

Tonight I am praying for a smooth transition over the next couple of weeks. I am praying for Mary to be flexible, not rigid, for her to be willing to try new things. I am praying for her teachers and the administrators at the school to have compassionate and understanding hearts towards my child. And I am also praying for peace in the midst of what could become a storm of hurricane proportions if the transition is not smooth, that our family would be a light to those around us, and that we trust the ONE who is ultimately in control of all things.