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!