Thursday, October 6, 2016

When your child has a mental illness


                 When your child has a mental illness

I am going to be open and honest here in a way I never have before. I have had not one, but two children diagnosed with a mental illness caused by a genetic condition. This was not the life I chose for them, but in life we don't get to pick and choose ideal situations, do we? My children were diagnosed with ADHD (Attention deficit disorder), ODD (Oppositional defiant disorder), and one has separation anxiety and the other generalized anxiety disorder. I have been very lucky that my older daughter has grown out of and has had awesome treatment for these disorders and besides the generalized anxiety is so much better!My seven year old though,... I don't know she'll ever be 100% better. I pray for her, I work witheady her, she gets the help she needs (She has an awesome team that works with her), but sometimes that's just not enough. This post I am going to focus on my younger daughter as it seems she is the age most kids begin getting diagnosed.

Devony was a toddler when she started showing her differences from other kids. She was stubborn, hard headed, mean, very inappropriate, and would pick up on any negative thing and run with it. We used to joke that we were banning her from hanging out with the teenagers because she acted like one. I have videos of her flipping out as a baby even! I knew something was wrong. I just didn't know what. I probably should have since her older sister had the same conditions, but Devony was so much more severe. Still she was my baby. My joined at the hip child who looked to me for everything. Her big blue eyes and cuddly nature snowed me into believing it was all in my head and then came prek.

School was hell. Maybe not as much for her as for me. My husband hated picking her up from prek because the teacher always had him wait to last to get her as   she had done something almost every day. I was that mother who started to think maybe the teacher just didn't like her. I mean come on, sure she was hyper,but it couldn't be that bad, right? Even her ped said she's just active.

I was so excited for kindergarten. It had to get better right? Nope, it only got worse. We always got the she's so cute, she says the damnedest things, but something is wrong. She can't sit still, she can't express herself properly, she can be mean, she doesn't do well with her peers.... Was this school out to get my baby too?

First grade. Devony had the most amazing teacher. She was able to sit with us and was just open and honest. She explained things in a way that made me really see something was wrong. This same teacher had her sister and noticed the similarities. It clicked then. My God, I had two of them! Two kids with a disorder than can make them criminals, drug addicts, make their lives so difficult. The teacher sat and explained how far behind Devony was and how she was ready to go to bat for my child to get her the help[ she needed. Tears flowed down my face as it all became clear. My baby's life was about to change dramatically and damn it, it wasn't fair! It wasn't fair that I had to do this again, that she had to go through this, that she was suffering mentally and even physically. She's already been through so much with grade 4 kidney reflux and a duplex system. I wanted to hug her teacher. I will always be thankful to her and later the  principle and social worker at the school who made her feel normal and okay. Who encouraged her and built her up, but that's a post for another day.

Within a week I had Devony into be looked at by mental health specialist for children. It took about three months to be told what I already knew. My daughter was mentally ill and would need a lot of treatment that includes medication (that can have horrible side effects), therapy, monthly meetings with a nurse practitioner to adjust medication and add more as needed. She'sin a smaller class because she can not read and may have some other learning disabilities. That's just the medical part. Now let's talk social impact on her.

When a person sees Devony out and about or listens to her they see a "bad kid" a kid who says horrible things sometimes and lashes out when she feels threatened. They see a child who has a meltdown that can put the most tired two year old to shame. We are talking hours of crying like a newborn if she feels like she isn't getting something she should have or if her senses become overloaded with sites and sounds. She can cry like a newborn for hours at a time. There is nothing harder than holding your child as she screams like that and not knowing how to help her. I had no idea what to say the day she told my mother matter of factly she was going to die and be put under a dead stone (she meant headstone). How do I explain to people why my 6 year old would look at them and say things like I don't like him/her or the way they look. Two weeks ago her doctor walked into the office and Devony said "Oh so we speak English now". My husband now refuses to ever take her back again.  It killed me the day her IEP report came and it said "She's fine as long as she has taken her medication" or hearing her say "I couldn't help it I didn't get my medicine today".

There are more children diagnosed in this country with mental health now than ever before. More kids are growing stronger by the  fact people recognize the issue! I am thankful that Devony gets a little better everyday. That I get that awesome privileged of seeing how sweet, loving, and kind she is capable of being. I am growing strong enough to say on bad days this is not her this is just the bad wiring in her brain. I love enough to fight daily for her and find what is best. To look into new treatments and ideas. I love when parents reach out to me and we connect in a way only other parents with kids like ours can. When I see a child melting down in public I don't look at the mother with disgust, but understanding. My prayer is that more and more attention is brought to the world of childhood mental health. That parents won't be scared to reach out for help or worry about the stigma put on their child and yes, there is one.

I do worry about Devony's future. I hate how the world will view her, but one thing will always
remain I will love her harder, because she needs it. I will fight for her with ever ounce of me being because that's what a mother does. I will never give up. I will never back down. I will make her life the best it can possibly be! Every time she pushes away I will pull closer.To all the moms and dads out there fighting the way I am. I see you and I am with you., There is a whole community of us out there seek us out!

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