Monday, March 28, 2011

There's a baby on the way....

Nicholas is going to have a baby brother in early June and he is so excited!!

His birthmom and her husband are expecting their first baby and we are all looking forward to meeting this sweet little one. Nicholas is just excited that he will have a brother even though he won't live with us! The kids and I had fun buying gifts for the baby last week and Nicholas picked out something extra special just from him. My kids think it's perfect that they each will have a brother and sister now - one that they live with and one that they get to visit and not have to deal with each day!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This really says it all

I'm copying something from the website because it pretty much sums up our life right now. I've avoided discussing the struggles we have because really who wants to be around a Debbie Downer and sometimes I too just want to escape into discussions of the latest American Idol or the price of gas.

But, this is reality right now. And well, sometimes reality stinks. Life isn't always rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes life is just tough.

This is a long read, but for those of you who are interested in where we are right now, this is it (more or less)

The Bipolar Child Newsletter
November, 2006 Vol. 23
In Honor of Mothers and Fathers of Bipolar Children

--Janice Papolos and Demitri F. Papolos, M.D.
In our book, and in almost every newsletter we write, we talk constantly about the burdens that parents of children with bipolar disorder must shoulder and overcome, all the while attempting to make decisions with the clinicians who work in an area of medicine that is still in its infancy.

But we've never composed a stand-alone list that lets others look at what the parents must grapple with and withstand--in all its stark and disturbing reality.

This list, sadly, cannot even be described as "exhaustive or complete," but as Mother's Day approaches, and Father's Day is just a calendar turn away, the parents coping with a child (or children) with bipolar disorder deserve special recognition and honor for their enormous valor as they:

Look at a very young and much-loved child with a nagging fear that something is seriously wrong.
Feel the external world bearing down on them, advising them to take multiple parenting classes or to tune into Nanny 911. Feel infantilized and ashamed as people offer up criticism and advice.
Accept that they need help from a professional, but feel a stranglehold of fear.
Come to learn that there are only 4,101 child psychiatrists in the entire United States--many wary of making this diagnosis.
Watch their child and other siblings besieged by an illness for which there is little diagnostic or treatment consensus in the field of psychiatry.
Receive multiple diagnoses such as ADHD, OCD, ODD, PDD, anxiety disorder, or simple depression.
Come to accept that the child has a very serious psychiatric illness and make the agonizing decision to begin a trial of medications (if they can find a psychiatrist who can treat their child, or who has open hours).
Read the package inserts of medications which list possible side effects, as well as frightening black-box labels, and watch apprehensively for any signs of serious trouble such as lithium toxicity, tardive dyskinesia, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, new-onset type-II diabetes, or pancreatitis.
Attempt to explain to a child how the doctor is trying to help and what the medications are going to do; subsequently they watch their child experience distressing early side effects that include nausea and diarrhea and severe drowsiness; or worse, the paradoxical effects that produce the opposite reaction of what the drug is being used to treat.
Deal with the disillusionment of a failed medication trial and explain to that child why those pills didn't work and tell him or her: "We're going to try something else," knowing that they may have to repeat that phrase a number of times and thus begin a new round of side effects.
Have to get a child who has a needle phobia to a lab for a blood draw to determine drug levels. (This experience alone could turn one's hair grey.)
Watch children's weight balloon upward and their self-esteem plummet as they take certain medications that can be very effective, but that may also cause weight gain.
Become an all too familiar face at the pharmacy, experiencing shock at the cost of each prescription.
Have to suffer the ignorance of people in the media, who--in a cavalier manner--discuss over-diagnosis and over-medication. Moreover, these parents hear certain clinicians in the field publicly utter insulting sound bites such as: "This is an easy way for parents to let themselves off the hook;" or "This is simply the diagnosis du jour."
Have to listen to the word "No!" from a child one hundred times each morning, but be unable to assert the parental "No" as it will predictably trigger a meltdown.
Suffer the physical abuse of a child raging out of control, and experience crippling shame because they can't manage their own child.
Are set adrift in a house that has become a war zone.
Deal with feelings that alternate from extreme anger at the child to the most unbelievable yearning to help that child, from anger at the outside world for failing to realize what is happening to them, to exhaustion in trying to deal with the child with some modicum of equanimity.
Become perplexed that their child often does well in the outside world, only to return to the safe harbor of home to rage at a parent (most often the mother), leading to the suspicions of outsiders that "Something must be going on in that household, and with that woman;" or "She seems so nice, but you never really know people;" or "He can keep it together at school, so he must be a very manipulative kid.
Have to mount a siege each school-day morning simply to get a child suffering a sleep/wake reversal up and out to school.
Hesitate to answer a phone, afraid that it will be the vice-principal in charge of disciplinary action calling to report an "incident" at school.
Come close to earning a degree in educational law so as to work with the school system. Keep in constant contact with the teachers and psychologist or aide in order to assess what's working and where yet another accommodation may help.
Waylay careers and reduce household income so a parent can stay at home to deal with the child and spend hours at doctors' and therapists' and tutors' offices.
Experience the heartbreak of knowing that their child is rarely invited to birthday parties. Conversely, if he or she is invited, the event might be overstimulating thus provoking some kind of meltdown, and effectively putting an end to any such celebrations in the future.
Fear that their child will become aggressive with kids on the playground or in the neighborhood, thus earning disdain and a cold shoulder from the other parents.
Want the world to understand, but fear that the stigma will further isolate the child and their family.
Attempt to explain the almost inexplicable to the siblings, and to help them cope with the chaos in the household. Feel overwhelming guilt that the family is always fractured as one parent goes to a soccer game while the other stays home with the unstable child; or that a rare dinner at a restaurant devolves into an embarrassing, abruptly-ended event as parents race the child and siblings home and away from disapproving diners.
Are paralyzed if a child becomes manic and hypersexual and says inappropriate things or makes inappropriate gestures.
See their marriages become shaky as the stress of coping with this illness leaves parents little time to relate to each other and most conversations begin to center around the problems of their ill child.
Listen with horror as their child screams, "I don't want to live anymore;" or "I'd be better off dead."

It is hard to fathom how these parents get through a day. Their reality is simply unimaginable to the outside world, and their lives--until their children are stable--are a virtual stew of guilt and powerlessness, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, confusion, blame, and shame. These are feelings that most of us would do anything to avoid, but all are feelings that a family who lives with bipolar disorder must endure for months and years at a time.

And yet, we see family after family find the help, learn to cope, steady their footing, and move on with their lives. And then we see them turn around and offer a lifeline of information and support to others who must walk the same path, only now no longer alone.

This is where we are right now. It is not where we will stay. Lance and I are very committed to doing the best we can for Leah and Nicholas. We have been entrusted with them and will do everything in our power and ability to give them the best chance in life.

We are not alone in our struggles. We all struggle with something -- some have very public struggles and some have private ones. Sometimes we keep things private that could be lightened by sharing with someone else and that is where I am today. I need to lighten my load.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Date night!

Tonight, Lance and I got to enjoy an evening out together! Yippee!

We went to see The Lincoln Lawyer, which I highly recommend. Good story and makes me want to read the book now.

We haven't always been good about getting a babysitter and making time for the two of us, but we are learning. This is something we have to make time for - we both needed it and it recharges me so much!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Looking thru a peephole

Right now, I'm only looking thru a peephole at life. I can only see a very small part of God's plan for Leah. I can only see the immediate frustration and challenges. I want to be able to see thru a telescope or binoculars and see the future. I want to see that hard work now will pay off later for her. But I can't. I have to trust God that he will lead us thru with just a peephole and a tiny little flashlight illuminating only moment to moment. This is the way we really should always live - in the moment - since that is all we really have anyway. But, when times are hard, we long for the future. I want to learn from the moment, I want to learn from the pain even when I don't think I can take it anymore.

I stopped blogging last year because of pain and changes that entered my life. Some of them were good changes -- a new church! and new friends! Some were hard changes - a move, moving away from sweet friends, but that is life - CHANGE!

We received a devastating diagnosis for our sweet daughter this year -- she has been diagnosed with bi-polar disease, ADHD, and anxiety. She was 5 when she was diagnosed. Five years old and facing very hard and very difficult things. Things I would take from her in a moment if I could. Lance and I have mourned deeply for her and for us. Mourned for the things that aren't and that may never be for her. We've cried, we've screamed, we've been frustrated. We've also tried to learn, comfort, and grow thru this experience. Some days, we've been very successful and can see much progress. And some days, like the last 2 weeks, we've done the best we can but failed miserably. But last night, I was inspired by another mother....

Nicholas is in Cub Scouts and their theme this month is compassion. A 23 year old young man who has the mental capacity of a 7 year old and his mother came and spoke to the scouts last night about their journey and I quietly wept thru the entire thing. She spoke of the heartache when they received a diagnosis that would change their lives forever, she told of the grieving, the praying, the drs visits and then she spoke of all the blessings that have come into their life because of the journey they are on. Her son is going to the Special Olympics this summer in Greece as a member of the softball team. Her boy who wasn't supposed to live past the age of 6 is now an employee at HEB and living alone in his own apartment and more than anything she said is that her son is the happiest person she knows. Her love and attitude spoke volumes to me. She gave me hope on a day when I really had little left.

We are only beginning our journey -- I feel like we are really still in the mourning phase, but someday, I want to be what that mother was to me last night. I want to inspire and give hope to someone else who needs it.