Monday, February 21, 2011

Add another journey

With children comes great joy but sometimes, great amounts of grief. From the moment we find out we are expecting, we make plans for our kids, dream for our kids, imagine that they will grow up to do great, monumental things, wonder if they will be the one that will save the world. When my youngest child was born, it took me 3 seconds to notice that she was a fighter, a strong little thing and I knew that if this child wanted to, she could be President someday. When my daughter hit toddler hood, she redefined the phrase "terrible twos" which stretched into the terrible threes and then the absolutely horrible fours. Not knowing where to turn with my strong willed, tantrum laden, absolutely defiant little girl, I insisted that she be seen by a therapist despite the protestations from her Dr. and several therapists who insisted that my daughters behaviors were absolutely normal. But, as a mother of two teenagers, I knew that what I was experiencing with my youngest was hardly normal. Now that I had finished my first round with cancer, I began my simultaneous journey with a child with a mental illness. I found a therapist who would see my daughter. Whereas it was validating to hear from a professional that my concerns were not unfounded, my daughters problems have proved to be a little more difficult to treat than with a simple pill. The only thing simple about this process was the fact that she was a text book case and easy to diagnose. Her diagnosis: ADHD and later on, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The Dr. wrote me a prescription for Strattera which worked for six months and then stopped working all together. All the while, my daughters behaviors escalated to the point where my home life slowly and surely eroded into chaos. When people ask me what ODD is, I describe it as "my child doesn't listen." "Well Duh!" they say, "What child does?" But ODD children don't care about consequences so it's difficult to dissuade bad behaviors with negative consequences. My day begins and ends with an argument. I argue with her about getting dressed. Then we argue about packing her backpack, brushing her teeth, combing her hair and taking her meds. Once in the car to school, we argue about how fast I drive. When she comes home, we argue about her doing her homework, eating dinner at the table, cleaning up her mess, taking a shower and then going to bed. When she is not arguing with me, she is irritating and provoking us. While we watch TV, she will turn it off, turn down the volume or stand in front of it. If one of us is on the computer, she will pull cords, slam her hands on the keyboard, unplug the mouse, the power cord or whatever will get us to react. We can't talk on the phone without her screaming in the background. At school, she constantly tries to provoke the teacher and recently, her behaviors have exploded into outright aggression towards other kids. I'm well known at my daughters school. When I call, they recognize my voice. Heck! Her principal will soon be on my Christmas card list. In the years that both older children spent at grammar school, I never met the principal once. In the year that my youngest has been there, I've been a weekly resident in his office. In many ways, this has been a harder journey than cancer and just as heart breaking as I watch my child struggle, be ostracized, and miserable and know that I have zero control and absolutely NO idea how to help her. Life with my daughter is difficult and some days, we are not living. We are just dealing with her and waiting for the minute she falls asleep so we could have a moments peace. When my daughter goes on weekend visits with her dad, I don't even want to leave my house because I enjoy the fact that there is quiet and calm in my home. Don't get me wrong. I love my daughter very much. I want her to be happy. I want her to have friends AND I want peace and normalcy. During my cancer journey, her outbursts were even more difficult to handle. I often thought, "this is NOT fair." I asked God why in the world He thought I could handle this. I told Him I AM THE WRONG MOTHER FOR THIS CHILD. THIS child needs someone with more patience. She needs someone who can be there for her more than I can. I cannot give her all the attention she wants and though I spent years studying Psychology, I can't control my own child nor can I even understand why she does the things she does. I hate who I am when she acts up as to relieve my own frustration, I scream at her to STOP IT! Screaming and us nowhere. nowhere. My baby is still suffering. I am still frustrated and still clueless as to what the answer is for her and for us. After an outburst at school this week, in which she hit multiple students, she wound up suspended. Suspended. As if that was going to punish her. She would go to daycare in the morning instead and eat cookies. She proudly handed me her paperwork and said "See! I don't have to go to school tomorrow." She was smiling. She had "won." She didn't want to be in school anyway. I called her Psychiatrist. He recommended I take her to the ER. Now that this line was crossed, he doubted that a suspension, an expulsion or anything of the kind was going to do a thing to deter my child's behavior. Inpatient, he felt, is where she needs to be. Which is where she is. My child, aged 6, is in a mental health facility. She's a baby, just a little girl with HUGE problems that neither she nor I know how to resolve and the night I signed the papers committing her to the care of a team of professionals, I felt such grief. Yes, my daughter is alive but I'm not naive and know that it will be a long time before she will be truly well. We are in for a very very long journey. I am still questioning God about handing me the care of this special little girl. Maybe one day it will be crystal clear for now, I am praying that she can be helped.
I love a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. When she misbehaves and is totally unlikeable, that's when I have to show her that I love her the most....kinda like God does.