Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Should I Or Shouldn’t I?

I always have an internal debate going on when I sit down to blog.  I have been a victim of hate mail and mean comments before and that’s caused me to second guess everything I post. As a result, I’m not terribly open with the struggles that our family is dealing with due to my oldest daughter’s mental illness. I do feel like I owe a bit of an explanation as to why I rarely post family information here anymore.

Sometimes it’s just too much to share. I don’t know how to process the situation and put it into words. I freeze up and want to defend her against everyone and everything. At the same time I think that if I could help one foster or adoptive parent by sharing our story that it would be worth the snarky comments I’m bound to get. I haven’t decided to share the entire story because it’s her story and it should be Alexis’ decision to share it. I’m only going to share the basics from my point of view.

Mental illnesses are covert and sneaky. There’s this huge stigma to having a mental illness. I’m not talking about depression. That’s become rather mainstream lately. I’m talking about serious, violent, mental illness. It’s a dirty little secret that many families deal with. We have felt so alone and isolated while parenting Alexis. We don’t go out much anymore unless both of us can be involved.

For example, I can’t pack all three kids up on the car and go to the park because I worry that Alexis will take off. If she does I can’t leave the other two children to fend for themselves while I chase her down. I worry about her behavior in public. I don’t consider myself thin skinned. I’ve never been the parent who was embarrassed to have a two year old throw a tantrum in a grocery store. However, it’s an entirely different ball game when the child is nine years old and weighs over fifty pounds.

We are not allowed to touch her when she’s angry because she’s already made false allegations of abuse to her teacher. The therapist and psychiatrist KNOW her behavior and that she lies just to lie and cause trouble. She honestly gets a thrill out of it. Her teachers don’t know that. She is able to manipulate people like nobody’s business. I don’t get angry at her for that. She learned that she had to do that to survive. It doesn’t make it any easier to see your reputation dragged through the muck though. Now her allegation is in her school file and every new teacher looks at me like I’m the dirt she tracked in on her shoes! Sigh.

Alexis was placed in our home at 3 years old and we adopted her right before she turned 4. In hindsight, there were signs and symptoms that she had attachment disorder and other mental illnesses. We just didn’t want to see them. We were so hell bent on helping her and loving her that we completely missed some things. Other things were dismissed by her therapists. “Oh, she’s just developmentally behind.” “That’s why she still has two hour long temper tantrums at 4.” Oh. Okay. Needless to say, we didn’t have her full history before she was placed in our home.

Don’t get me wrong, we would’ve still adopted her. We were in love with her before the first hour of our first visit was up. She was a precocious child with a sunny smile. She was just a “little hyper”. We brought her in to the psychiatrist after a year and found out she had ADHD. In the years that followed, she assembled a litany of other letters and diagnosis. (OCD, ODD, RAD, Bipolar Disorder, Dyslexia, Tricotillomania, Vision Issues, and Fine Motor delay.)

We kept searching for doctors and therapists to help but we’ve found a common denominator to all of these providers. Either they are too rushed, too uninformed, or too uninterested to help. Today we were in crisis mode and I desperately needed to speak to her psychiatrist. It took over four hours to get him on the phone. When I got him on the phone, I expressed my very serious concerns. He dismissed them and said she needs more medicine.

She’s 9 years old and is on four different psychiatric medicines. I think it’s too much and even though she’s on that many, I can honestly say that they are NOT working. She’s gotten extremely violent. Remember that I’m not allowed to touch her at all when she’s angry. Not even to hold her hand. So if she refuses to go to her room I have to send the other kids to their room for their protection. Sometimes we can’t protect them quick enough. I won’t go into instances but use your imagination and it’s probably worse than what you’re thinking.

We’ve had to install an alarm on her door so we can hear her if she leaves her room at night. She’s figured out how to unlock the deadbolts and chains on the exterior doors. Alexis has tried more than one time to run away. With her lack of attachment to us, I’m not sure that she would come back if she did manage to get out. Our home has been an absolute war zone. I am hyper alert and always on edge. Everything I do has to be done with her by my side. I can’t let her play with the other kids unsupervised. If she’s alone she hurts herself. Our lives have taken on a nightmarish cast and so has hers.

We are scrambling for solutions. I have read book after book on bipolar disorder, explosive kids, adoption, reactive attachment disorder, and any other related topic I can get my hands on. I have a binder with a behavioral record that I had to start after she falsely reported us. I take videos of her to prove that she’s behaving this way because she can put on an entirely different persona in front of others if she chooses to. We are at the point where her therapist and psychiatrist believe us. Thank God. The videos have really helped.

The main reason I’m posting this tonight is this… my advice to anyone who is thinking about foster parenting or adoption is to educate yourself. The foster parenting classes did discuss RAD briefly, but Ronnie and I believed that we could love whatever hurt had been done to our children away. That’s not true. It just doesn’t work that way. Before you adopt, please read as many books about reactive attachment disorder as you can get your hands on. It is much less rare than originally thought. In fact, there are doctors that believe that every foster/adoptive child is at least mildly attachment disordered.

I’m not saying I don’t love her. God knows I do. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have adopted her. We wouldn’t be struggling on a daily basis to help her fit into a world that she feels is all wrong. We wouldn’t be arguing with our family members who think they know the best way to parent her. We also wouldn’t be subjecting our two youngest children to being abused by their big sister. We would’ve disrupted a long time ago.

Don’t get me wrong, Jordan was adopted at 2 years old and is bonded and happy even though she has physical disabilities. (Cerebral Palsy) I’m not trying to discourage anyone from adopting. There are so many children that need help. I'm just saying you should be informed and be prepared that everything may not turn out sunshine and roses. You may find yourself grieving for a child who is suffering and crying for a relationship that might never turn out the way you dreamed it would.

So now you all know the basics. When I disappear and don’t blog for a while, things are probably rough here at our house. If you’ve made it this far in my post I appreciate it. If you’re the praying kind, we would surely be grateful for any prayers. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer them. Please refrain from posting any unkind comments. I will not publish them and you’ll just be wasting your time. Thank you!

Plentiful Thank You


Nancy aka Homesclscrapper said...

oh sweetie...I am so sorry. I know you are battling this daily and I wish I could be there to help. all I can do is offer you a shoulder to cry on, and ear to listen, a silly joke to try and get you to smile. you know you all are in my prayers. hugs.

Shawna said...

Heather, I just wanted to say that my heart goes out to you, your daughter, and your entire family. I work with children that are in placement, and many of them are suffering from the same mental illnesses your daughter suffers from. It isn't easy and is definitely heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing your story. I know that it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, but in doing so, you are helping others. My thoughts are with you.

Cindy deRosier said...

Thank you for such an honest and heartfelt post. I can't fathom why anyone would leave a negative comment. How is it that some people have so much time and energy they can attack others? What a waste of the one life we're given.

I'm so sorry to hear things have gotten this bad. I can't even imagine it. When I was teaching, I had a student in my class (4th grade) for about 3 months who had many of the same struggles as Alexis. It was a nightmare, yet only from 8:30-2:30 five days a week (often less, as he was frequently in the office or suspended). I can't imagine living that nightmare 24/7. He was living with a foster family that had planned to love his problems away, but his extreme violence against them led them to have him committed to a hospital where he could get the help he needed. He was removed from my classroom by two men in white coats. It was tragic in many ways, but also for the best. I am confident that he would have eventually murdered someone if they hadn't made that decision.

I hope and pray that your family finds the right help for Alexis. You have my deepest respect.

Just Jaime said...

Wow, Heather. That is a lot. I've dealt with kids with RAD at my work and it can be SO difficult. I can't imagine dealing with this day in and day out. I will be praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Wow...what a difficult situation for you and your family.I think it's very brave of you to share something so difficult and personal. I think it's a good thing in the aspect that it may be a way for you to help others, or for others in a similar situation to know that they're not alone.

I hope that you're able to find the right doctors and treatments to care for Alexis to make life easier for her and your entire family.

Laurie! said...

It takes a lot of courage to post something as personal as this and I commend you for that. I'll make sure to keep your family in my prayers.

Michelle said...

I am without words to say, other than I am thinking of you. I wish there were some magic words or I had something to help you. I know you are doing all that you can. Hang in there. The best you can do is take it one day at a time. And.... I am hear if you need to talk - to vent.

Moondust47 said...

It is very brave of you to post this. I can only imagine what you are going through and will send all the healing and loving energy I can. I work with students as a school counselor and have met kids like your daughter with the onslaught of acronyms that ultimately mean nothing to you when you are the person trying to deal with them. All I can stop and think is how lucky she is to have YOU. She may never know it or admit it, but from all the love you just wrote on this one blog, I think she is very lucky.

All I can say is, take it one moment at a time. I've dealt with depression all my life and this is one lesson I've had to learn the hard way. Sometimes a day at a time is just too much...sounds like you're having one of those days. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts. And thank you for sharing. <3, Silvia

Wendy Rasbach said...

Heather, I can't imagine...
There are times when I get so frustrated and worried about my girls' behavior, but your daily struggle really puts it into perspective. I am the praying kind, and so I will pray. I am sorry for all that your whole family has to go through (including Alexis).

Sand and Sunshine said...

My dear friend, I am sorry this is such a difficult time in your life. I know it isn't a bad week, a bad month, or even a bad year. It just is what it is. You give your 120% and then you have to dig down deep to find more somewhere to give just because you're her momma and that's what momma's do.

Cindy - FL said...

Wow, I'm not sure what to say, except I think you are doing an admirable job!
As the mother of a son who was born with Down syndrome (32 years ago), I can relate to some of your issues, but thank God he is loving and affectionate (sometimes a little too affectionate, particularly with what are "strangers" to me, since he knows no stranger). I am also a single mom as my ex-husband and I divorced shortly after he was born, and he's not really in his life.
Does your family help you at all, with anything other than "advice"?
I wish you and your family the best of luck and will keep you all in my prayers. God bless.

Jordan McCollum said...

I'm so sorry you're facing such a difficult time, with negative comments from people who know nothing about your life. Just today I was reminded how happy it makes me every time I see your smiling face (on the Internet, of course), and wondering if there was something special we could do for you.

I'll be praying for Alexis and your family to find peace. Good luck!

(Jordan from Wayward Girls' Crafts)

Heather Landry said...

Thank you very much to all of you who have commented on this post. I have sent private replies to many of you if I had your email or have commented on your blogs in return. The only one I couldn't reply to is Cindy so I'm going to do it here.

Our families try to help but some of them do not understand the severity of her mental illness. When she stays with them to give us a break they allow her to do whatever she wants. That means that when she comes home she doesn't want to get back into her regular rules and routine. It almost isn't worth it because her behavior is so much worse when she gets back home.

Tammy said...

Thank you for being so transparent and allowing us to come along side you and lift you up. I can't even imagine how hard this is on your family. I will remember you and your family in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear that you and your family are experiencing difficult times. I hope and pray things will improve. Take Care!

margaret said...

Heather, you have to be a saint. I know I couldn't deal with your situation. Hope your other 2 children remain safe as well as you and hubby. What is going to happen when she is older and bigger physicially??? My heart goes out to you and prayers also.

Paisley Petals said...

Came to your blog because you have me inspired to begin a new digital scrapbooking project... What a post to start with! You are an amazing mama and I wish the best for you and your family. I can't wait to do some more poking around ;)

Joy said...

All I can say is the same thing I've said many times before, I admire you so much. I cannot imagine how you cope.

My daughter just gave me a beautiful granddaughter last week. I was so pleased that her dr and midwife took her depression very seriously. They put her back on meds immediately and warned her not to miss any doses. They told her that with her history post partum depression would hit her hard so she must be vigilant with her medication and talk therapy and support groups for new moms. I was impressed by their understanding.

I also cannot believe people take the time to leave mean comments, that just disgusts me.

Heather you and yours are in my prayers.


Vija said...

Heather, I wish I could be there to lend you a hand or at least give you a hug in person.
I have always admired you and how you deal with all these never ending problems you are faced with so positivly. To learn that you would receive hate mail just brings me to tears. I am so very sorry that you have that to deal with on top of everything else.
My niece, who passed away earlier this year, had mental & physical disabilities and I was very involved with her upbringing. I remember only too well the challenges that my sister & BIL were faced with and the many many difficult times they had with her.
I hope you can find the right treatment for Alexis so as to make life at least a little easier for ALL of you.
Thankyou for sharing...I hope the saying " a burden shared is a burden halved" applies.

Pamk said...

i love how honest your are. Adoption is not all roses and sunshine with older children and sometimes it happens at the beginning and sometimes later. My sis adopted a child and it was great until she turned 16 the everythink went to hell in a handbasket pardon the expression but she is older now and they were able to work through her issues. I can't imagine what your going through but I'll keep you and yours in my prayers and to all the da's who make unkind comments well they go take a flying leap. Until they walked a mile in your shoes they don't know.

Amanda Sevall said...

I'm proud of you for speaking honestly about your journey through this with Alexis. Hang in there Heather - you're such a good person and a great mom. There's no doubt in my mind you have and you are giving her the best chance possible in this world and forget all those small minded people who have nothing better to do than to cut people down. Just hit that delete key and ignore them! :)