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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The piece of the puzzle fell into place

My granddaughter has struggled fiercely these last two weeks. Can you imagine being sick with the flu for two weeks? Episodes of vomiting until there is nothing left in your stomach yet your stomach still insists on trying to vomit. In between these episodes your body aches and you suffer with alternating fever and chills. Fortunately you have a loving and caring mother. She wipes your brow with a cold wash cloth while you are upchucking in the toilet. She holds your hair back out of your face. She feeds you Popsicles as you start to recover and makes sure you don't get dehydrated by bringing you glasses of ginger ale. At first you are too sick to even finish a movie or play a game, but she keeps trying to help you feel better by offering some distractions. Gradually you are able to get off the couch and take a shower and get dressed, even though it takes all your energy. You are able to eat some toast and tea and begin to get some strength back.

Sadly, my granddaughter has struggled with a worse illness then the flu. She has been in the throes of a mixed state. Sounds strange, does it? Well, you would have to understand what bipolar means and how it affects children.

A mixed state is when symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time. During a mixed state depressed mood accompanies manic activation.

Mania is the word that describes the activated phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of mania may include:

  • either an elated, happy mood or an irritable, angry, unpleasant mood
  • increased physical and mental activity and energy
  • racing thoughts and flight of ideas
  • increased talking, more rapid speech than normal
  • ambitious, often grandiose plans
  • risk taking
  • impulsive activity such as spending sprees, sexual indiscretion, and alcohol abuse
  • decreased sleep without experiencing fatigue


Depression is the other phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of depression may include:

  • loss of energy
  • prolonged sadness
  • decreased activity and energy
  • restlessness and irritability
  • inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • increased feelings of worry and anxiety
  • less interest or participation in, and less enjoyment of activities normally enjoyed
  • feelings of guilt and hopelessness
  • thoughts of suicide
  • change in appetite (either eating more or eating less)
  • change in sleep patterns (either sleeping more or sleeping less)
This description is for adults but it will do. Now you will wish that my granddaughter had had the flu for two weeks. But her episodes have been full of crying uncontrollably, yelling, screaming, punching, pacing about a room, fixating on an idea and being unable to let it go, fearful thoughts, wishing she could die, feeling great guilt, wondering why she is here on this earth, kicking, scribbling childish pictures to represent her emotions, making messes, throwing things, unable to bear certain sounds, lack of appetite, and more.

Her mother (and at times, dad), have been there through it all. Holding her when she cries uncontrollably, cleaning up her messes, restraning her, reading to her, playing games with her, lying down with her at night so she can sleep, taking her to the psychiatrist, taking her to the emergency room and finding out that the psychiatric hospital has no bed for her, giving her medications, and more.


Today we took her to Acadia Psychiatric Hospital (yes, she and the hospital have the same name!) to be evaluated for a day program. We didn't get too far. The woman doing the intake was the type of person that really sets Acadia off. She managed to hold it together (barely) but wouldn't answer any questions so Kathryn did all the talking. There was nothing in the room for Acadia to do. She started to play with the mini-blind of the door and eventually decided to open the door and run out. I ran after her and was able to catch up with her in the hallway, but by then the alarm had been pressed and 10 to 15 people had magically appeared. When they told me to let her go she ran again and this time they restrained her. The intake worker had already told us that she believed Acadia should be admitted to the hospital. After a few minutes, they asked Acadia if she thought she could get up and go sit in a room and she said yes and they let her up. She held herself together for the next two hours while she was admitted, and while mom had to fill out paperwork. Only when we left did she cry and scream again.

There are currently 12 boys on the floor and she is the only girl. This is not the research hospital in Maryland where you can play video games and never have to do therapy. This is a place where you must realize you are sick and work hard to get better so you can go home again. This will not be easy for Acadia. She feels horrible and scared and wants it all to end.


There is hope. She has a Heavenly Father who loves her, who created her and from whom she can never be separated. She has parents who will give their lives for her and are sacrificing their lives every day to keep her safe. She has a church family that are caring and understanding. She has an extended family who pray and do what we can to be supportive.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Piece of the Puzzle


Sometimes life forces you to accept hard things and make difficult decisions. I have been batting around the words "mental illness" since 2004 when Anna was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I thought I understood what it meant and I accepted the fact that my granddaughter, Acadia, was bipolar. I agonized with my cousin as she went through months and months of darkness and depression. I watched my own son suffer from anxiety and have to be put on medication. But this week has taken me to a new level.

Acadia (9) took a turn for the worse this week. Her mom has written about the turmoil they have been living through on her blog. I am realizing that accepting that Acadia is bipolar means recognizing when she needs hospitalization. We don't hesitate to hospitalize a child who is in a diabetic coma, or has leukemia and needs treatment, or has epilepsy and needs testing. Why do we treat a mentally ill child any differently? Why do we think her mother can take care of all her needs when she feels like killing herself and thinks there are bombs in her house? Why do we think this is the worst thing that could happen to a child?

I think I know why. It is because we don't understand it. If a child has a known disease a doctor can treat her with all available drugs and treatments. But how do we diagnose a disease that affects a child's thoughts, moods, emotions, and self-control? How do we get this child to tell us what is going on in her mind when she is no longer sure what is real and what isn't. And then how do we treat it?

Well, bipolar in children is now a known disease. There are drugs and treatments. There are times when these drugs and treatments must be administered in a hospital. Will it be a perfect solution? No. Does every child with leukemia go into remission? No. Do treatments help 100% all the time? Of course not. Will we stop treating children with these childhood diseases? Absolutely not!


I am beginning to understand the child with mental illness, but only just beginning. I am willing to do whatever it takes to help Acadia. I am willing to see her admitted to the pysch hospital. I am not ashamed of it or of her. I don't see it as a failure on her parents part. I don't view it as our last resort. I see it as the next piece of the puzzle. I accept it as good, safe treatment for Acadia. I believe that God, in his grace, is allowing this for a season. I believe He will take care of her there. I believe good things will come of all this. Do I understand it? No. Do I cry? Yes-when I see the heartache in my daughter's face because she can't answer her baby's questions. Tears come when I pray and the heartache seems overwhelming and the puzzle is still there.