The Blanchard Bunch

The Blanchard Bunch

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bipolar Disorder SUCKS!

We've all joked about Mother Nature being Bipolar (Hello! Four seasons in one week!) or maybe even said it about ourselves when we've had one of those good/bad/good/bad days. It seems like an apt description of what's going on in our lives at that moment.

However, living with someone who actually has Bipolar Disorder is anything but a joke. Our youngest daughter, Kimmie, has been diagnosed with BD and we live with the effects every day. We've always known something wasn't quite right, but just assumed it was a result of all the trauma she experienced in her first three years before she came to us. The hope was that with lots and lots of therapy and love, she would overcome all the abuse and neglect she suffered and would get to be a nice, normal little girl. Sadly, that's not been the case.

Don't get me wrong, the trauma, abuse, and neglect have had a very serious and long lasting effect on her psyche, but there is more going on with her than that. We have an official clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with Psychosis as well as ADHD for her. Unfortunately, she is not one of the "soft" bipolar cases, as her doctor calls them. She has an extreme case. The way he described it was something like this: Think about people with asthma. Some of them have it under control and only need an inhaler after they've been exercising or are sick. Others have it so bad that they are in the hospital every week. Kimmie is on the end of in the hospital every week, and with as severe as some of her symptoms are, she may actually end up there.

She is allergic to the two medications that give the best results and allow for the most control over the symptoms, so we live day to day trying to find the right combination of other medications, the right dosages, the right words to help her through her day, the right ways for us to react when she just can't control herself, the best way for us to all survive the day.

She does get some good days, even great ones. She can be the most loving, caring, awesome little girl in the world. She is extremely smart and loves to read, especially about bugs and other creepy crawlers. (What is it with my kids and bugs???) She remembers almost everything she reads and can tell you about things in great detail. She has a very active imagination and her fantasy worlds are extravagant. She can come up with some amazing stories. On the flip side of that, she can come up with some amazing lies and excuses. She once had her entire class believing we were moving elsewhere and would have to fly on a plane to get there. I found this out when a note came home wishing her well and asking her to keep in touch and to enjoy the plane ride. Sigh.

Looking back, the signs started when she was barely 4. She hit her sister in the face with a doll and told us it was because the doll told her to do it. She said the doll told her that her sister didn't love her and she had to hurt her. Not your typical four-year-old's reasoning there, is it? We had already been dealing with her extreme outbursts of aggression and being out of control whenever she got mad. I can remember times when it took me, Todd, and Sissy holding her down to keep her from seriously hurting herself or someone else. She would hit, kick, bite, punch, head butt, scratch, pinch, scream at the top of her lungs,and try to bang her head as hard as possible against objects such as her dresser or the headboard.  She almost broke my jaw with a head butt once and almost broke Amanda's arm when she shoved it against the dresser. She is preternaturally strong when she is in one of her rages. It was awful.

We would try everything we could think of to get her to calm down, but absolutely nothing would work. She would just have to rage on until she literally wore herself out. As she got a little older, she would tell us, "My head won't let me calm down!" We didn't fully understand it then, nor do we now, but we believe those were the first manifestations of her psychosis/hallucinations. Once she had completely worn herself out, she would sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up as if nothing had happened. Sometimes, she wouldn't remember any of it, but we'll never forget having to watch her suffer through it all.

Because she's Bipolar, she sometimes sees and hears things that no one else can. Sometimes it's nice things like fairies and pretty lights, other times it's scary voices telling her to do bad things. It's always a bit disturbing and scary for her, though, no matter what.

Her last round of great medication stopped working sometime in November. She had three full months of full blown mania. Her body and mind never shut down. Not for a minute. She wasn't sleeping. She wasn't eating. She lost weight. She was all over the place. She was scattered. She constantly talked 90 miles a minute, even in her sleep, when she actually did sleep. She would sometimes fall asleep at her normal bedtime, but would wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours, aimlessly wandering the house. Her ADHD medication wasn't helping at all because her mania wasn't under control, so her doctor stopped that. She went from looking like a healthy little girl to a meth addict in those three months. It was horrible watching her health deteriorate, knowing that nothing we were doing was helping.

She was losing friends at school because she couldn't be still or quiet and was constantly bothering her classmates. Her teacher is an amazing lady who understands what Kimmie is going through and has worked with us to help her succeed in the classroom. I cannot give enough praise to Mrs. Best for all she has done for Kimmie and for us. She tried to explain to the kids, in terms they could understand, that Kimmie has an illness that keeps her from behaving sometimes, but that doesn't mean she's not a good person. She doesn't mean to be loud and bouncy, but she can't help it. That helped some, but kids are kids and they don't always care what the reason is, they just want their friends to be "normal."

At home, she can be very compliant, happy, helpful, upbeat, and occasionally, even quiet. She can also be argumentative, angry, defiant, depressed, loud, obnoxious, aggressive, and just downright mean. We never know which Kimmie we're going to get. She's just as comfortable yelling at us as she is giving a hug. Her disorder makes her think that she is going to be a famous singer and have millions of fans and all the money in the world. It also makes her think that no one loves her, that everyone is out to get her, that she doesn't deserve to have a family. That's the paranoia part of it. It's heartbreaking to have your seven year old tell you that she knows you don't love her and don't want her to be a part of your family. There are no words or actions that can change her mind when that's where her head is. During those times, she wholeheartedly believes what she's saying. This paranoia is one of the reasons people with BD are 20-30% more likely to die by suicide than the average population. I've seen some studies that suggest this number is closer to 60% higher. Either way, the statistics are frightening.

Over the past two years, we've worked more closely with her psychiatrist than we ever thought was possible. He's worked us in for emergency appointments, been on call 24/7 for emergencies, has read and reread her medical history so many times he can probably recite it by heart, all to try and find a way to help our little girl.

We've had some medications that worked beautifully for her. She was completely in balance and got to be a regular kid. She sat still in class, had perfect grades, was happy and smiling, loved to dance and sing, and just be normal. Unfortunately, these seem to only work for 3-6 months for her and then they stop working. Completely and utterly fail to do anything for her. At that point, it's back to the drawing board to see what we can do next. We thought we'd found the answer with Lithium a few months back. We were seeing a great reduction in her manic symptoms and she was eating regularly. It looked like we'd finally found something that would be a long term medication for her.

Then, one day after school, I noticed her slurring her speech. Over the next hour, she went from normal speech to completely incomprehensible babbling. We were at the ER for several hours while they ran tests and did blood work. The results were not good. She is allergic to Lithium. The effects only lasted a couple of hours, but those few hours were some of the scariest we've ever had as parents. We tried a different medication that can sometimes produce the same great symptom control. No go. She's allergic to that one, too. On top of that, her thyroid isn't working properly, so she's on a medication for that as well. Sadly, this is all too common in people with BD.

She's currently on two medications that have worked well in the past, but aren't doing so great right now. She just had blood drawn on Friday and we are anxiously awaiting the results on Monday so that we can see what the next step for her will be. The aggression is coming back full force and is now manifesting itself at school, a place where she's never shown aggression before. Once again, the ball game is changing and no one quite knows what the new rules are.

If you want to learn more about Bipolar Disorder, you can check out these websites:


Our Little Man, Gabe, was born on April 8, 2012. He weighed 3 lbs 13 ounces and was 16 3/4 inches long. He was born 9 weeks early and was addicted to drugs.

He went through a lot in his first month here on this earth. Horrible, horrible, horrible withdrawals. Feeding tubes. Breathing issues. Tremors. Reflux. No one there for him but the awesome nurses in the NICU.

We got the call about him on a Friday night. They needed a temporary 30 day placement for a baby that was getting ready to be discharged from the NICU. My friend Mandi and I went up there the next morning to see him for the first time. He was SO TINY!!! I was honestly afraid to pick him up. I'd never seen a real baby that small. All the baby dolls at home were bigger than him! But, oh my gosh, was he cute! I fell in love immediately. Over the next few days, Todd and the older kids and I visited him every chance we could get. We took lots of pictures. We sang him songs. We rocked him. I got to feed him his first bottle. That meant I had to learn the tricks to feeding a preemie, which is definitely not as simple as feeding a full term baby, but we figured it out. Sissy and I roomed in with him on his last night in the NICU. Todd stayed home with the hobbits and everyone else.

Discharge was a huge milestone for him. When we first met him, he weighed 4 lbs, 13 ounces. It had taken him almost a month to gain 1 pound. Four days later when we got to take him home on his 1 month birthday, he weighed 5 lbs, 13 ounces. He'd gained an entire pound since we started visiting him!! The nurses were so happy to see that and we all wished DCS had called us earlier so we could have spent more time with him and helped to ease and speed up his recovery.

We brought our little munchkin home and he fit right in. He did have some issues because of him being an NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) baby, but thankfully, for the most part, they weren't extreme. He had random tremors in his arms and legs that would last for a few seconds to a few minutes. He did have a few seizures, but they disappeared within a few months and the neurologists never could see them on their tests. Knock on wood, he's not had one since. He was hospitalized in June, when he was just two months old, for Meningitis. I took him to the doctor because he just wasn't himself. They trusted me enough to send him to Children's for a full workup. The doctors there decided they wanted to do a spinal tap because he was so you and had been so premature. We didn't even have to wait for the results; the doctor could tell while he was extracting the fluid that he had meningitis. We spent a week in the hospital while he recovered from that. The next month saw him develop a case of strep.  It was a very eventful two months with him!

We weren't out of the woods with him after that. He started having some trouble with asthma-like symptoms. We've been able to control them with his nebulizer, thankfully, and his last few illnesses haven't triggered those symptoms.

We learned over the summer that our little man would become adoptable and DCS wanted us to adopt him. OH MY WORD were we excited! He is (we think) the sixth baby by his biological mother. His other siblings are with a biological dad, and two adoptive families. For various reasons, placing him with any of them was out of the question. However, that didn't stop one of the foster families from trying to gain custody of him. I'm going to make a long story short and say the foster mom was certifiably crazy and there was no way in the world we were going to let our munchkin grow up in that environment. Thankfully, DCS agreed, as did the court system. We happily, happily, happily able to adopt our little man on November 14, 2012.

Because of his prematurity and drug exposure, he was a little behind in development, but was still within normal limits, so he did not require nor receive any specialized therapies. We just played a lot and had fun!

Gabe had the thickest, curliest hair I'd ever seen. He also has two very prominent cowlicks on the back of his head. They look like dueling hurricanes and cause some pretty cool curls. They also make getting his hair cut a little bit of a challenge.

Gabe loves his family and we love him! He is definitely Derrick and Sissy's favorite! Those two spoil him tremendously and let him get away with just about everything. Candace is an excellent big sister and is always looking out for him and playing with him. Kimmie hasn't figured out how to play with him and not for him yet. He gets so excited asking if Daddy is home. When Daddy does come home from work, Gabe is the first one to greet him with lots of squeals, hugs, and kisses. He is definitely a Daddy's boy right now!!

Over the past year he went from a scooting baby to crawling everywhere, to walking, and now running everywhere. He is developing his speech and has quite a few favorite words: Daddy or BaBa, Hereyougo, Momma, Sishe (Sissy), De-ick (Derrick), Canish (Candace), Kee (Kimmie), Sta she (Star Ship, used for Star Trek: The Next Generation), Lightning, Mater, Dusty (for his favorite movies: Cars, Cars 2, and Planes), Veggies (Veggie Tales), Lar Boy (Larry Boy from Veggie Tales), Lilly, Izzy, bye-bye, Doggie, Chip, Cheeeeee (cheese), and just now I duv you (I love you!)

He loves watching Veggie Tales and we now own the entire collection. We also own Cars, Cars 2, and Planes because of him. Gabe is fascinated by cars, trucks, and trains of all types. He has his own large collection, which was added to by Derrick giving him his own collection of cars from when he was little. He's now getting into loving on his stuffed animals, which is beyond adorable. He's had his own baby for a long time now because he kept stealing his sisters' dolls. He's a very conscientious Daddy and gives her lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

He's old enough now for the toddler Zoo classes, so I signed him up and we've been enjoying our weekly jaunts to the Zoo, even though it's been super cold most days. He loves the animal toys she brings for them to play with each week. He absolutely loves the actual animals she brings in and is always the first one in line to pet them. He's also the last one in line so he can pet them again. So far, he's gotten to pet a ferret, a bearded dragon, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. I do believe he was the only person in the class to actually touch them. *shudder* We have a lot of fun after class going around and seeing all the different animals up close. His favorites seem to be the elephants and lions, although he did show a bit of interest in the baboons last week.

There are days when I look at him and he reminds me of Derrick at that age. This is especially true where his love for animals, and their love for him, is concerned. He's super smart and understands almost everything that's said to him, so even though he can't use all the same words, he knows what you're telling him. He's a little daredevil, but he doesn't like having things on his hands, just like his big brother. He's one of the most loving children you'll ever meet and loves to be held. His favorite bedtime song is Barney's "I Love You, You Love Me" and we sing it multiple times every night. We also sing it whenever he's feeling out of sorts and needs a bit of a cool down period.

He'll be 2 (oh my gosh, how did that happen so fast??) in just a couple of weeks. He's already perfected his temper tantrums, so that's one thing we can check off our list.

Our Little Man has come so far in just two short years. He's now over 31 inches tall and weighs 26 1/2 pounds. He loves to eat, something that he couldn't do his first month here on earth, and isn't afraid to try new things. Especially if those new things are on someone else's plate! God has given us a little miracle and we can't wait to see where the next few years take us with our munchkin. :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Long time, no see!

I can't believe it's been almost two years since my last post. Well, in a way, I can. Life took over in a big way. Here's a quick overview, and because I'm in a writing mood, I'll probably write up some blogs about the big events and stuff I find interesting now over the next few days.

April 9 Gabe was born, although we didn't know it yet. :-)
May 5 We met Gabe for the first time. He was the smallest baby I'd ever seen in person and I was honestly afraid to pick him up.
May 9 We got to bring him home from the hospital!!!
June 14 Todd and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary
August 10 Derrick turned 18! Holy cow, where did the time go?????
August Teen-ish The hobbits started 1st grade
August 29 Kimmie turned 6
September 10 Amanda turned 16
September 21 Sissy turned 18
October 3 Candace turned 7
October 21 Marked the 6 year mark of my mom's passing
November 14 We officially adopted Gabe!!!!
December 25 Gabe's first Christmas

January 1 Chris ran away from home
January 9 Chris turned 18 and showed up on his Grandmother's door step, where he still resides
January 25 Duckie was born, but we didn't know it yet
March 15 Duckie was place in our home and we would happily get to be his temporary family for the next 9 months
April 9 Gabe turned 1
April 26 Derrick and Robin started dating
May 8 Amanda ran away with her boyfriend and was gone for 14 hours in the pouring rain
May 9 Amanda came home and swore to us and her therapist she'd never run away again
May 10 Amanda had someone take her from school to the runaway shelter downtown, where she refused to speak to me (until she was told she wasn't going to get any of her things she left behind until she did) and from where she refused to leave. Lots of ugly things happened to our family because of that. I may or may not share all of them in a blog...
June Amanda spent this month with a respite foster family
June 13 The family went to the beach!! It was the hobbits' and Gabe's first time at a beach and they LOVED it!!! We WILL be going back!
July Amanda was abruptly returned to us by the respite family because she was disrupting their home and causing issues for their children
August 10 Derrick turned 19
August 12 The hobbits started 2nd grade, Amanda started her Senior year, and Cara came to stay with us for a little while. :-)
August 29 Kimmie turned 7
September 10 Amanda turned 17
September 21 Sissy turned 19
October 3 Candace turned 8
October 21 Marked the 7 year mark of my mom's passing
November 19 Cara turned 18
Thanksgiving Jacob came to stay with us for a while
December 2 Amanda left school without permission and was suspended for 3 days. She told us they made a mistake because she was there all day, but we later found out she left with her supposed to be ex-boyfriend, who also got suspended.
December 6 Duckie went to bio parent's home on a trial home placement
December 17 Cara went back to her mom's
December 25 Derrick and Robin's first Christmas together and they got to spend it here.

January 8 Woke to Amanda's supposed to be ex-boyfriend's mom knocking on the door asking if we knew where Amanda was because her son had run away again. Double checked the house and discovered she was gone. He went back home a month later, but as of this writing, we've still had no contact from her.There is a runaway petition filed, so local law enforcement are looking for her and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are helping with the search.
January Gabe discovered the world of Cars, Cars 2 and Planes. Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Dusty are his favorite characters. He still LOVES his Veggie Tales with Bob and Larry, but we watch a LOT of Cars and Planes now.
January 28 It was so frigging cold here that our road froze and we couldn't get out of our house. Unfortunately, the boys were at work and had to walk home in 15 degree weather that felt like 8 degrees with 3 inches of snow on the ground.
February 3 Kimmie started having neurological issues caused by her bi-polar medications. We quickly discovered she is allergic to the ones that actually help and work, so now we're back to trial and error and a lot of manic days and extreme inappropriate behavior.
February 8 Amanda's boyfriend returned home, but refused to give any details about where she is or might be.
February 21 Gabe got his Lightning McQueen big boy bed and slept very well in it the first night!
The rest of February Gabe and I stayed sick with one thing after another
February 24 Jacob turned 19
February 27 Our Pretty Girl, Tara, joined her furry brothers and sisters at the Rainbow Bridge. She was an absolute sweetheart and I miss her terribly every day.
February 28 Jacob moved to Colorado to live with a bio uncle
March Snow, snow, snow! Seriously, it's supposed to be spring!!!
March 8 Jacob came back home from Colorado
March 11 Jacob went back to Alabama to live with his Grandmother
March 18 We took a temporary placement of 3 little boys. They are absolute darlings and I would have kept them in a heartbeat if we'd had the room. It was Spring Break for the hobbits, so they did Zoo classes every day. We took the boys to the Zoo the days they were here. Some days were too cold to stay more than a few minutes, but others were perfect Zoo weather!!
March 28 Kimmie had a ROUGH day at school because of her Bi-Polar disorder. Thank God for understanding teachers and staff. her issues will cover a blog (or 12) of their own.
March 28 I decided to get back to writing, even if it's only a little bit at a time. And, that's where we are now. :-)