In honor of Bell Let’s Talk Day on February 12, 2013 I have decided to share my story with others. I am not writing this in a an attempt to gain any sympathy or look for anyone else’s thoughts on what has happened with my family over the past few years, rather I hope that it may help me to better accept it all and move further forward with it all.
Let’s start from a day that is very clear in my head October 27th, 2011. It was a morning like all the others of the past 2 months had been. What in most homes is a bit of a rough time, you know that time when you have to go into your child’s bedroom and tell them it was time to get up for school and you typically hear them groan, “Ah do I have to?” Unfortunately at this time in my home it was more of a, I just spent half my night crying trying to figure this all out and now we have to start this all over again. As you could imagine there is no such thing as a typical morning in a house with 4 young children in it, but mornings in our house were so far away from typical that I had no idea anymore what a good morning really looked like.
This morning turned out just like the many for the previous 8 weeks, I would get all the courage I had to step into my 8 year olds bedroom and tell her it was time to get up. Why? Because I knew that this was the beginning of what honestly felt like a bit of a freak show! Our daughter had hit a point where she refused to get dressed, everything she would go to put on would send her into a frantic rage, she refused to bath, she refused to brush her hair or her teeth, if I tried to help her she would begin hitting me repeatedly. Trying to convince her to eat breakfast was impossible and then the thought of getting her out the door to school was even worse. I had tried everything and some of those things are things that even I am not proud of. I had purchased every brand of underwear you could fine, purchased expensive clothes online that were supposed to be for children with sensitivity issues, offered her every bribe I could think of on the planet earth and still no success. There were days that I would drag her out the door to hope she would just head to school herself and other days I would be the one holding her hand dragging her up the side walk to get her into the school. And let’s not even talk about the day I got so frustrated with her that I actually put her out on our front step with not a stitch of clothing on to try and make her cool down. See I told you I am not proud of it all but I was at a place that I did not know where to turn. What my family was being exposed to in our very own home was events that were so scary they would send our oldest child outside to hide and not watch what his sister was doing. The hardest part was this only happened within the walls of our own home and no one else ever saw it. As far as the school was concerned she was happy and normal there so it had to be something at home??? So at last on that morning on October 27th when I had tried all I could think of I resorted to closing myself in my bedroom closet and crying the most uncontrollable cry you will ever know….
So let’s step back to what the years leading up to this day looked like. Our daughter was always that one who was just a wee bit more difficult than the others. Trying to get that girl to sleep through the night was a tough battle. Potty training, well let’s just say we were so glad to sell that house and move on cause I cannot imagine what those carpets looked like underneath! Time Outs, IMPOSSIBLE!!! So many things led to her having full out melt downs as a small child yet we always just called her the tough one, or the second child syndrome. You know we all have names or excuses for these things. Then at the age of three she developed problems with her vision. She began wearing glasses and had to patch her one eye every day. So now we felt many of her issues were due to her vision troubles and feeling self conscious of her patch. All these things happened and we always noticed them and commented on them we just never thought that there could be more to them. When she began to hit rock bottom after returning to school after summer holidays in September of 2011 we of course started to look at it as an excuse not to go to school. Then we tried to identify if there was issues at school she was hiding from. Nothing seemed to give us answers and we felt very alone within these walls of our own home. The place we should feel so safe and yet it had become a place we did not want to be. Imagine the fear in the eyes of siblings when they watch their sister go from normal to out of control in a snap of a figure and no one know why it happened or how to make it stop. After the struggles of hoping to find some answers at the school and not getting any I had begun to feel like I was a failure as a mom. I had no idea how I could continue on like this.
Finally one day I was given the option at the school to have our daughter see the Family Wellness Worker who visited there each week. I was willing at this point to try anything to get an answer. I will not lie, this family wellness worker turned out to be a gift to my family. She may never know it but she truly was and I can never thank her enough for what she did. I know it wasn’t much but after seeing nothing obvious at school she asked me if I minded if she stopped in at our house one morning to observe what occurred there. TO be honest I could not wait for that morning as we thought for sure our daughter would have a great morning because someone else would be in our home and to us that would be like a holiday to get through one normal morning. Well to our surprise, it was not a normal morning, she carried on as she had other mornings just not to the extent that we had seen some days. Finally the Wellness Worker decided to take control and she took our daughter by the arm and led her to her car and said, we are going to school now. Sad as it sounds it was a relief to finally have someone else see what we saw every single day. As usual, by the time they had drove the 4 blocks to the school she had calmed right down and got out of the car and headed off to class without question.
So as you can see a lot had been going on building up to the day of my break down but the worst ay had actually come only about a week earlier. I cannot remember the exact date but I know it was about 2 weeks prior. On this morning our daughter said the words to me that no mother ever wants to hear or even believed a child of this ago could say. While standing in our hallway 1/2 dressed and with the most angry look you could imagine on e her face, she looked me in the eye and said, “I Wish I Were Dead!” What do you ever do as a mother when you hear those words. The worst words, ones I never ever want to hear again in my life. What was this? Could she really do anything to harm herself that way? All the thoughts running through my head, I right away picked up the phone and called our Dr’s Office. All I had to say is, I have an 8 yr old daughter who just told me she wished she was dead, their response was, can you be here at 3? Of course I went thinking they could help give me answers and make this all end. Yet all they could do is direct us to a Mental Health worker. So we moved to that step.
We made many trips over that 2 weeks to spend time with the Mental Health Worker, a stressful time for both our daughter and my husband and I. It was very time consuming and at the end of the day we did not feel like anything they were suggesting was making a difference.
So back we are to October 27th. After I gathered myself enough to exit my closet, I did as many other mornings. I forded clothes on our daughter, pushed her to the garage and into the truck, pulled her out of the truck and did as the Mental Health Worker had instructed, I stuck to my guns and followed through in dropping her at the school and telling the teachers I would be back to get her at lunch as she had lost the privilege of their Halloween party that was taking place that afternoon. This was the hardest thing ever to do as her mom as I knew she loved to dress up and do these things but according to the Mental Health Worker she was just playing us and we needed to be harder on her and stick to our guns and take things away from her until she straightened out.
Then as the tears continued to poor down my face I came back home, walked to the basement to sit down at my computer and try to get some work done and my phone rang. It was the Mental Health Worker calling to see how things were going. BIG MISTAKE!!!! Let’s just say I told her exactly how things were going and then I continued to tell her that I completely disagreed with her idea that she was just testing us and that we just needed to be stronger parents. I told her nothing she had told us was making a difference and while taking a strip off the poor Mental Health Worker she finally interrupted me and said, I actually was calling to let you know that if you would like I have arranged to have her see a Child Psychologist next week. Well I did not see that coming but again I was willing to try anything!
So November 1st came. A day I was very scared of. Why? Because I was scared of what they may tell us this time. We sat down with the Dr first all together, my husband, daughter and I. He then asked for us to leave and he then met with our daughter for 1 hour. After the hour he had our daughter go play and spend 1 hour back with my husband and I. WOW what an hour that was. This Dr was able to describe our daughter to a tee after only knowing her for under 2 hours. He was able to outline with us all the parts of her life and explain them to us in terms we could understand. It was like he had always know our daughter and understood exactly what we were going through as her parents. You cannot begin to understand the relief that came over us that day. For the first time we felt like it was not us being bad parents or us losing our minds, we really were dealing with a child who had a Mental health Disorder that she could not control.
The Dr was able to explain to us that our daughter had a TIC Disorder. It presented itself in many different ways and she suffered from items such as anxiety, depression, OCD among other things. He then proceeded to tell us the options we had to place our daughter on medications. Due to the back ground my husband and I had with our home business and learning about Natural Health we had decided before even meeting with a Dr that if they offered drugs we wanted to know what other natural options there were. We refused to put our little girl on these horrible drugs without first trying all we could naturally first.
So the Dr gave us some ideas and helped breakdown for us what we needed to change in our life to help our daughter. Now this may seem silly as the 2 months prior this appointment seemed like years but it was amazing how knowing what we were dealing with and taking steps to make changes in the daily routines of our families life changed everything for us. Yes we still have some very difficult days but so much of the past makes so much more sense now that we know what we are dealing with. We used to think it was a lot of fun to plan Mystery Trips for the kids where we would load up in the truck and drive to an unknown location while they all tried to guess where we were going only to end with a gigantic meltdown from our daughter upon arrival. We had no idea that for her she needed to know in advance what was going to happen so she could plan for it all in her head. Now we know to give as much advance notice as possible to her before we do anything. Yes this can be hard in a crazy life with 4 kids but we do the best we can at letting her know what is happening each week. We also learned that she needs her own relaxation time away from others. She needs her own quiet place to go to after school to calm before adding more action to her day. How about the simple realization that crowds and loud noises send her off the deep end, so the simple step of having her bring Head Phones to listen to and to cut down all the noise in a hockey rink or to leave a crowded place soon as you see her getting tense. We also learned that the simple gesture of touch is something that can calm her right down when she has gone into a meltdown. If we reach our hand out to her in a calm way she will often grab our hand and you can feel her relax instantly. All of this was things we did not know about her prior to November 1st when we finally met someone who completely understood our daughter.
I know that today many people still do not believe that she has an issue. We have heard many things, we have felt that we have separated a bit from past friendships and we get looked at oddly sometimes when we make specific requests for our daughter. but the truth is, no one but the people who live under our roof truly know what we were going through and how hard it was to see someone we loved become a person we did not know anymore. I was always afraid of the word, Diagnosis, or giving your child a Label. Let me tell you I am not afraid of this anymore, without a diagnosis and without that so called label we would not be where we are today. I love my daughter with every inch of me and she is one fabulous little girl. She just is different in her own way and that is something that she will have to learn to live with her whole life. It has taken a long time to accept it, but we did not do anything wrong as her parents. Did we do something’s that may not have been right, Yes but we did not know what else to do or where to go. Our daughter was simple Screaming For Help and we as her parents had to allow ourselves to listen to this call and take the steps that lead her to a new outlook on life!
So now here we are, 15 months later and it is almost hard to believe we made it through all we did. Yes the teenage years scare me to death but we are armed with information that can help us all get through it together. Mental Health problems are not something to be afraid of. Life is so much easier once you find out what is really going on and finally meet people who know what you are dealing with and can help you cope and find strategies to make daily life easier. Also Mental Health is not just a problem adults deal with, I have learned that there is so much that happens with our children and we as parents don’t know the answers, we simply are doing the best with the information that we have at the time. I have to say that if I had accepted all the opinions I had from outsiders that there was not a problem, then I do not believe I would have the same girl in my life that I have today. I know that day I broke down in my closet was not a fun one, but it was one that had to happen so that I knew I was doing what was right and I was going to find out an answer because I knew I did not have your usually 8 year old daughter, but I loved her just the same and I was willing to sacrifice everything to find help beginning from the second I stepped out of that closet!!!