Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Brief Update

Sorry it has taken me so long to post an update on here. It was a very busy week and did not turn out as we expected it to. Mary is home from the hospital. We are far from being out of the woods, but at least the imminent crisis is over for the moment. The hospital did nothing to treat her medically, but we did have a really good "lightbulb moment" family meeting with the social worker there. It was really hard for her to be separated from us this time around and she cried every time we talked with her on the phone and every time we saw her. The separation anxiety kicked in big time and unfortunately I think that one of the things she learned through this experience is that "if I am a good girl, participate in group, and tell them that I am no longer wanting to kill myself, then they will let me go home." (We actually heard one of the counselors use almost those exact words to try and comfort her when she was crying!) We are trying really hard to focus on the positive things and remember that we are ambassadors in this dark place. It is hard though to not complain about what the hospital did or did not do while she was there. I realized that it is really hard for me to talk about it without being sarcastic and ugly. Sometimes it is going to be much easier for me to say nothing at all. After all, she thinks that it helped her, and in the end that is what really matters.

The lightbulb moment is a good and positive thing I can talk about, so here goes... We started the meeting talking about what a good summer Mary had. She was so stable and things went very well all things considered. When we started talking about what had changed and brought on all of this anxiety, depression, cycling, etc., I realized that school was the biggest trigger. Now I knew that before the meeting, but it hit me in a different way. I don't know if I can accurately describe it, but will try. For Mary, school has always been really hard. For the majority of the years that she has been in school, she has held it together all day long and when she would get home, she would have raging fits that would last for hours. That was her way of releasing the stress. People REALLY stress her out!!! Lots of noise really stresses her out! And school is full of people who are noisy. Now that she has had a time of stability to learn new coping skills, and she has matured enough to not be raging all the time, she is internalizing all of that anxiety and stress. It is building and building up inside of her until she feels like she is going to explode, thus the analogy she uses that her brain feels like a soda bottle that has been shaken up. She said that even when she is doing something that she really enjoys or has a particularly exciting day (at school or otherwise) she feels really stressed at the end of the day. She is a true introvert and the stress of being around crowds of people makes her physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted.

We have doctor appointments on Monday and Tuesday this week where we will be addressing the medication issues and start trying to figure out what we should do about school. There are many options out there. One option is to have her resume going to the local middle school for one or two classes and have the homebound services started for the other classes. That seemed to be working ok before the big crisis. If we go that route, we will need to work some time into her day at school for her to have some quiet, undisturbed, recharging time. Maybe listen to the lecture and then take her work to the counselor's office to finish it? If she can recognize when she is starting to feel the sensory overload and step back from it, that might make a huge difference.

Another option is to have her start going to class in the resource rooms. That is not the best option because she is probably above the level that many of those kids are at academically. But it would be a much smaller classroom environment which might be less stressful for her. And it might be good for her to be at the "top" of the class for a while to help her regain her confidence?

One other thing we are looking at is possibly putting her in a small private school. There are pros and cons to this idea. The smaller class size would be great and a Christian environment might be just what she needs to feel safer and more comfortable. On the down side, most of the small Christian schools around here probably would not have the staff training to deal with some of Mary's learning issues, nor would they necessarily be able to modify their curriculum to meet her needs. Another drawback to this option is of course funding it. Georgia has a special needs scholarship for kids who are in the public school but who would benefit from attending a smaller private school. We have passed the deadline to enroll in it for this year and if we pull her out, we lose the opportunity to get it next year. And changing schools mid-stream might be really hard for her.

Our last option would be to home school her. I know that many parents out there are successfully home schooling their bipolar children. I do not think that I would be one of those. I really feel that it might start out great, but when we got to something challenging or difficult, Mary would get frustrated with me for pushing her. I am not a great teacher and consistency is not always my strong point. I think that I would be too easily able to jump on the emotional bandwagon with her. I need to be able to be Mom and comfort her when she is frustrated, not add another thing for her to be frustrated with me about.

I am sure there are more options out there. These are just a few we are going to explore this week. If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to let us know.

Well, it looks like my brief update has turned into a long update and there is still so much to say. I guess I will save it for another day...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Processing Out Loud

I will go ahead and apologize up front. This post will be rambling and probably long. It may make no sense or follow any logical order...

I find it so hard to believe that we have gotten to this point again already. Almost 6 months to the day of Mary's release from the hospital, we had to re-admit her. She spiraled out of control so quickly this time. And the things she was saying and doing were scary, super scary! Scary enough that we had no choice but to take action and get her extra help. I know that it will be a good thing. She was ready to go, asking to be taken back to the hospital in fact. We held off until the weekend was over because from experience admitting on the weekend wastes time and money. We felt like we would be able to keep her safe at home, and we did. But it was not without cost. She is so suicidal right now and that scares me. We made the right decision.

The road back to the hospital was not without ups and downs of it's own. We really struggled with putting her in the same hospital she was at before. The outcome of the last inpatient treatment was overall okay, but we really had some struggles with getting information and getting on the same page as the hospital staff. We looked into a couple of other hospitals in the area. The one we really wanted to go to would not take her until she is 12. Come on, really? She will be 12 in 2 months! Our pdoc even called them to see if there was anyway they would take her. A big fat NO. So we looked into a new psychiatric hospital which is about an hour and a half away. From the website it looked very promising. They do lots of art therapy (Mary LOVES art). They only have 12 kids on the unit at any time, so more one on one care. I called and spoke with some of the people there and just got a great sense that this would be an ideal place for her. Problem was that there were no beds available at the time we called. By 3:30 in the afternoon there was one bed available and our pdoc called to reserve it for us. We were loading up in the car when she called back to say that the only way they would consider taking Mary is if we went to an ER first and were referred to them that way. Talk about a waste of hours of time and hundred's of dollars. And who knew if the bed would still be available after our hours in the ER. So we ended up back at the same hospital we were at in April. At least this time we went in knowing what our goals are and what we expect the hospital to do. We made sure that her pdoc was involved in the whole process and she has been talking with the pdoc assigned to Mary while she is in the hospital. I am hoping that we are on the same page from the beginning this time. They did do blood work this morning, but at least they gave her a sedative before hand like we had asked (no really we demanded) that they do. Unfortunately the sedative did not work, she fought them, was traumatized, suicidal, and remembers the whole thing. This particular medication is supposed to act as an amnesiac, guess it didn't work.

I was holding up okay until we spoke with Mary tonight. She was very sad and just wanted to come home. She misses us tremendously. Part of the depression this time around has involved severe separation anxiety, so it should not surprise me that she is feeling this way. I know that she needs to be real with the staff while she is there. I know that if she is all peaches and cream they won't really be able to help her. I know she is in a safe place if and when she becomes suicidal again. She needs to be there in that safe place to learn better ways to cope with this overwhelming desire to die, while she is feeling sad and alone. I know all these things, and yet my heart is breaking right now. I want to be there to comfort her when she is sad. I want to shield her from the uncomfortable things. I want to hold her and tell her that it is going to be okay. I so long to be able to take this away for her. I find myself challenging God... if you are who you say you are, then show yourself here.

We get to go see her tomorrow night. I am so looking forward to holding her in my arms and seeing her. At the same time, I think that it is going to be hard on her and on us. She is so homesick that I am afraid that she is going to spend the night begging us to take her back home. I have visions of us having to leave her there screaming for us not to leave. I pray that I am wrong. I am praying that it is a great visit. I am praying that she is brave and strong and encouraged to continue. I am praying that I can be strong and encourage her instead of giving into my own desperate need to hold her longer.

We have not talked with the doctor yet, so I have no idea what time frame we are looking at. I don't see how anything will be accomplished in less than a week. I would not be surprised if it is more like 2 weeks. I hope that the doctor will call us tomorrow morning. I am gathering school work and letters from friends to take with us when we visit her.

I guess I will end this post with a request for prayer for us right now. Please pray that God would use this time in all of our lives for His glory, that we would see His hand at work, and that we would be at peace. I want to remember that I am an ambassador for Christ in a dark and lonely world. That world for us right now includes the children's ward in a psychiatric hospital. Even though my own heart is full of questions and apathy at times, that is just the place where He can use me the most. All of Him and none of me. I know that He is who He says He is and that He is never late.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Feeling Set Adrift

It is decision time as to whether to continue with the homebound services. The new semester started today and Mary really, really wants to add in connections classes. The problem is that if we do that we lose the homebound services and I am left teaching Language Arts and Science. I am so torn right now. Part of me thinks that we should go ahead and add in just the connections and I will do the best I can in teaching her the other two subjects. Maybe it would just be for a week or two until we can see how she tolerates the extra stress? If she handles it well, we could try adding in one of the other classes. And part of me thinks that maybe she is ready to go back a full day? But I would really hate to push that on her if she is not ready. I don't want to take two steps forward just to take ten steps back. Knowing that she goes down the suicide road when she becomes uncomfortable makes me hesitate to add in more than one class. I am so worried about making a bad decision, and I shouldn't be. Nothing that we add can't later be taken back if she doesn't adjust well. Sooooo, what do we do?!?

I guess part of my distress in trying to make a good decision is linked to my spiritual walk, or lack of it lately. I feel like I am in a spiritually barren place right now. I am questioning beliefs that I have had for most of my life. I wonder what the purpose of all of this suffering is? The universe is so big and we are so small and insignificant, does God really care? And if He does care, WHY? I find it hard to sit through a service and concentrate. For the first time in probably 8 years I am not involved in any type of Bible study at church. My current schedule makes it almost impossible to be in a study this year, but I do miss the accountability that comes with being in a regular group of ladies who are praying with and for each other. I also find myself in a state of apathy much of the time. I feel unmoved by my spiritual state. Usually worship songs can bring me to tears, but I just feel dead inside. All of that adds to my questioning. If I really love God, shouldn't I feel more affected by all of this? Is my apathy a sign of my spiritual deadness or is it a mode of emotional survival?

I know the solution is to make time in God's word a priority not an afterthought. I think that deep down I am fearful that letting myself feel anything will lead to the dam bursting. That one little hairline crack can lead to a flood of emotions that maybe I am not ready to deal with right now. As a parent of a bipolar child I have had to condition myself to put on my game face, don't jump on the emotional roller coaster with my child, build up a tolerance for words and actions that would otherwise be considered abuse if it was coming from anyone but my daughter. So, instead of feeling all of the bad along with the good, I put on my "liar face" and say all the right things, not really feeling any of them. One of my favorite authors, Nancy Kennedy, has an acronym for the word fine... Fouled up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Exhausted. I think that pretty much describes me right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I think God made a mistake when He made me...

Those are the words that I heard from my daughter not once, but twice today. Talk about heart breaking! What do you say to that? I tried to reassure her that God made her perfect and that He has big plans for her life. She is here for a purpose and that we love her. She is beautiful inside and out. But I don't think that much of it got through the fog of depression that is settling into her brain.

I know it has been a long time since I updated this. I have thought of lots of things to write about, but have found that life is rushing by at the speed of light and I just can't find the time to sit down in front of the computer. It is funny, I went to a ladies conference this past weekend and one of the speakers was a comedian who was just great. She did touch on birth order in her routine and made mention of the "baby" of the family who had probably come with their mom and was sitting by them right now. Of course I am the baby of the family and I was sitting with my mom. That was all great until she said that it was time for the babies to go out and get a job. It was all I could do not to stand up and say but I do have a job... not one but two part time jobs, plus I am going to school, being a wife and mother, oh yeah, and raising a bipolar child. I could still laugh at the stero-type of the baby in the family. But it did get me thinking.

So the short version of what has happened in the past month is that we were able to get hospital/homebound services for Mary, and she is attending school part time (for the last 2 classes of the day). We are up for re-evaluation on those services now and have to make some decisions as to what to do. If we add in any more classes, we lose the homebound services. But if we don't add them in, she will be disappointed (she was looking forward to art and creative expressions) and will have to wait 9 weeks before we can think of adding them again. She is not stable enough to handle a full day of classes, so that is not an option. We are still adjusting those medications to try and level out the anxiety issues. Obviously we are not there yet.

One interesting (or terrifying?) thing we have learned about the way that Mary thinks... when ever she becomes uncomfortable with any situation, no matter how minor, her brain automatically jumps to the "I don't want to live anymore" thoughts. Most kids would think that this is the worst day ever, maybe tomorrow will be better? Or that person really upset me, I am mad at them. Or I am really uncomfortable/unhappy about this, I want it to change. But with Mary it is an automatic I want to die. Or another one that we hear- I will never trust that person again. We are working with her therapist and here at home to try and help her brain not jump to such dire conclusions. Obviously we are not there yet with that either.

So, back to her comments to me today. She is really struggling with depression this week. It could be all kinds of circumstances that have led up to this. I was gone this past weekend (and I am almost never gone). Mark left the day after I got home for a couple of weeks. School could or could not change in the next two weeks? We went up on the anxiety medication and the last time we did that I noticed an increase in suicidal thinking for a couple of days. AND... it is October, a historically hard month for her. I guess it is just a matter of watching, waiting, and praying for improvement. And preaching to myself the same thing that I am telling her. God has BIG plans for all of this!