Thursday, March 26, 2009

4 Days and Another Chapter

Monday marks the beginning of another chapter in our lives. Daughter is beginning her transition home after living apart from us for the past year. So let's start from the beginning...or somewhere kind of close.

My daughter will be 17 in a few months. She's always been an exhausting child. What I mean is, always demanding attention, constantly on the move, a total energy vampire. At the same time, she's a total ray of sunshine ~ laughing, brightening up the room and bringing unique ideas to the table. I noticed a change in her behavior starting in 5th grade. I KNEW something was different, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. I attributed it to her age and the onset of puberty.

I kept this opinion throughout her 5th grade year while I tried different discipline tactics, tried to keep her engaged in activities and went bald on 1/3 of my head from pulling my hair out. Somewhere between 5th and 6th grade, almost overnight, she began stealing, lying, grades began dropping. My once happy child suddenly became defiant and hateful. Never happy about anything. I felt like such a failure as a parent.

Knowing something was wrong with her and having grown up with a Bipolar sister, I took her in for a professional opinion. The diagnosis was anxiety and mild OCD. I chalked it up as a bunch of bull and left. After all, how he could come up with that after only spending 10 minutes talking to her blew my mind.

Things got progressively worse to the point that I just wanted to send her to live with her Dad. I was exhausted and out of options. At the end of her 7th grade year, I noticed several cuts on her wrist that clearly weren't any kind of accident. I questioned her over and over and got no where with her. I went through her room one day and found a suicide threat, some really dark poems she'd written and a few letters to some of her friends discussing her cutting. Needless to say, I freaked out. There's just no other way to put it. I called our family doctor because I had no idea what to do. He suggested taking her to the ER once school was out and explaining what I had seen and found. He said this was the fastest way to get her help because she needed to see a Psychiatrist but the waiting list for those was over 6 months long.

That started a LONG, LONG road to Nowhere Street. Over the next 2 1/2 years, we'd been to 3 psychiatrists all who told me it was me with the problem and she was a perfectly normal teenager. Somehow it was all my fault. We took her to the ER 4 times for suicide threats and notes. They kept her once overnight and a second time for the weekend. I spend countless nights looking for her, calling friends to see if they'd seen her when she wouldn't come home from school or never showed up for curfew. The police were called numerous times to report her as a runaway. She began skipping first a class, then entire days of school. She was getting straight F's even if she was in class. She was so defiant and ugly at home that I'd spend my nights crying my eyes out and praying for a miracle. Her cutting worsened. There were times she cut so deeply that she almost needed stitches. She began self tattooing and piercing herself.
The pain I saw in her eyes was almost enough to kill me. I just had no idea what was wrong, what had gone wrong or how to help her.

Every where I turned for help, I was turned away. She wasn't "bad" enough for services; she was just "lazy"; let her do what she wants, she'll come around; you aren't a good parent; you don't discipline her; you don't show her enough love....I felt like I was jumping through hoops and getting beaten at the same time.

Finally, on our 5th visit to the ER in a year and a half, the male nurse who was helping us told me, "You've been here too many times for this. I can't believe nobody has helped you or looked into this. I'm going to go through your daughter's file and I'm going to get both of you the help she needs." I started crying. FINALLY! Finally somebody was listening to me.

Long story short, we ended up with a social worker from the county to help get her the services she needed, a psychiatrist who placed her in a summer program to test and diagnose her, a family therapist, a personal therapist for her, and an IEP at school. Her diagnosis was ADD, severe depression and anxiety. She was put on medication to help those things. We went on like this for a year with some things getting better, some things worse.

Last year at around this time, I had to call her in as a runaway again when she never showed up after school and I got a phone call from school saying she hadn't been in school all day. None of her friends knew where she was or had seen her. At around 8 pm, I got a tip off from a friend and had the police go and pick her up. It was the deputy that noticed the severe & long cuts on her arm and wrist again. He strongly suggested taking her to ER again and calling her therapist and social worker. They ended up keeping her in the Adolescent Mental Ward for a week while her social worker and I ironed out what to do.

I was given two options: 1) Voluntarily place her in a group home or 2) Wait it out, stay on the same path and wait until it becomes court ordered.
Being at my wits end with her and running out of time to help her straighten out her life (she was a month away from turning 16), I opted to voluntarily place her in a group home an hour and a half from where we lived.

I cried for 3 days straight. I worried about doing the right thing for her. I worried about if she'd be safe. I grieved for the little girl I had lost somewhere along the way. The little girl who had laughed and been silly. The little girl who had worn my high heels around the house and sang worship songs. The little girl I had held in my arms. The little girl who had my heart and soul. I had to believe I was doing the right thing. Had to believe God had a plan I couldn't see & He had in all in control.

The past year has been hard and long. It turns out that it was the right decision. It's been harder for Daughter than for the rest of us. She's done a lot of soul searching and digging. She's learned a lot of hard lessons. She's had to look at herself in a way that's hard for anyone to do.

On Monday, she moves back home during the week and goes back to the group home on the weekends. She'll be finishing off the last quarter of school at her own school. She left with straight F's and is coming back with A's and B's. We are all excited for this chapter to begin and also to close it and start on the next chapter.

She hasn't cut since last August. She laughs and is silly again. She wears my high heels and sings again. Though now the shoes fit and its definitely not worship songs she sings. I hold her in my arms and snuggle with her. OFTEN. We talk, we cry. I'm learning from her everyday.

And that little girl still has my heart and soul...woven tightly in every fiber of her being, held together with tears and laughter and love.

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