Why MH Matters

My last post was in May. It’s now August and we went through the process to get residential treatment for A and this time she was approved.

You are wondering what changed, right? Well, I called Children and Youth on myself as a neglectful parent. Basically I told them that I cannot meet her immediate needs. We cannot continue to parent this child who is so unstable, we need intensive help. A was released from inpatient treatment on June 9th. It was about two weeks later until we had to take her for a crisis assessment because she had created a homicidal plan against my mother. She very clearly laid this plan out to me and since then we don’t allow the 2 of them to be alone ever. As a result of crisis visit, she was referred to a day program. Five days a week for 3 weeks she went to a program for therapeutic school basically. This gave us a break and kept my mom safe. This program ended for her on July 30th. Her current diagnosis: Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD, Anxiety

While in the day program she began to self-harm in the form of picking (dermatillomania aka excoriation). She has begun to rub her hand with her fingers until there is a burn mark. Then she opens the wound and digs deep into it. Her hands look very gnarly. She has also begun to open her bug bites or any other skin blemishes. It’s tough to look at her in this state of bloody picking. She is not bothered by the blood and enjoys the taste of it. I cannot relate to these behaviors and my attempts to medicate her wounds or cover them just escalate her mood and picking.

The insurance case worker referred her to 10 programs. We learned on Friday that 2 programs denied her for unknown reasons. One program wanted some additional information and we provided that. We expect that today we might get word from the one program who wanted more info. Adults and child are all waiting with baited breath to see what will happen. Not knowing what is happening is a huge stressor. These are the days when schools are determining when to return and how and we don’t even know if she is going to her public school, therapeutic school, or no school until RTF placement. It’s such a weird head space to be in.

Meanwhile C and I are in therapy for traumatized parents. We found someone who really understands what we have been through. She is working with us individually to build up our coping skills and strengthen our parenting. Now that CYS is involved, there is a chance that if a therapeutic program fails her, she will go to a group home. We are no longer confident that we can continue this fight all the time. We are depressed, scared, overwhelmed, and generally feel like horrible humans.

Updates of MH treatment

Insurance denied the psychiatrists recommendation for residential treatment. When I called to find out about it, the insurance representative told me “because she hasn’t hit you yet.” In the moment all I could do was cry. I really could not believe that was their recommendation, that she come home to us until she hits someone and then she can get a higher level of care. Realistically, wouldn’t they want to get her help with the aggression before she hurts someone. We filed an appeal. We don’t have a date yet for when that will be but the insurance rep is trying for some time between June 1-June 9th.

A is not happy with having to wait inpatient while this appeal works itself out. I wish there was an option to get her home while we wait and she could continue in the day program. Unfortunately that is not an option right now. She likes to control things and has not been calling us regularly to kind of put us in our place. I think she enjoys having the control over when we talk. Today we are supposed to have a video visit but no one has contacted us to schedule it yet so I am not 100% sure it’s happening.

I miss her and I am so frustrated about the idea of her coming home and continuing with the same unhealthy behaviors that are causing the rest of us to have anxiety and depression. We are experiencing blocked care and the idea of making ourselves vulnerable and letting her know we care is terrifying. I do not want to deal with her emotional assaults and disrespect. It sounds so easy to say “if she would just follow the household rules” but honestly if she could follow rules and be respectful she would have less meltdowns about being told no or getting chastised. If she could treat us like human beings, we would be more interested in spending fun time with her. She has literally scared us away from her and now we have to somehow work our way back.

I know this all sounds weird and you might not understand it but this is our life. We are controlled by the emotional whims of a 14yr old. It really is a horrible way to live. Especially now when we have no escape, there is nowhere to go to get away from the constant negativity.

I miss feeling connected to my kid. Then I wonder if we were ever really connected. I don’t know what is real or manipulated emotions at this point.

Mental Health affects us all

Here we are day 65 since the state shut down. It’s still weird to wear a mask when we go out. I hate feeling the air within the mask, it’s really creepy and claustrophobic. I know that people who are still working wear them for many hours at a time and I feel so bad for them and thankful that they are providing for the rest of us. I am still working at home and still doing school work.

A entered psychiatric care on April 30th. There is no discharge plan at this point. She began self-harming and became really threatening and possessive of me. We got to a point where being around her was making us all stressed and tense. We couldn’t de-escalate her, the police couldn’t and neither could crisis counselor. So I took the next step of contacting a hospital to see how admissions were working. Due to Covid-19 they were doing direct admit without needing to go to emergency room. Within 2hrs we had her there and 3hrs later she was admitted. This was infinitely faster than previous hospitalizations that involved the emergency room. We have been known to wait for 48hrs in ER for a referral for a room. We can’t visit her due to the virus and health risks. It is really weird not seeing your child for so long. I miss her and I worry about how she is doing.

The psychiatrist has recommended her for a residential treatment program. We will have more information tomorrow about if insurance has agreed to fund that level of treatment. In order to get approved we had a meeting with the Social Worker at the hospital, her school counselor, our post-adoption counselor, her outpatient counselor, someone from the county representing “interests”, and the insurance representative. That is a lot of people to talk to about the most personal parts of your daily life. We were asked to describe her behavior and our feelings. I played a recording a recent outburst. Everyone got to ask questions and share information about their experience with her in therapy, at school, and in the hospital. It felt like we weren’t on the side of A, which is the hardest part of this. Advocating for her to get the best help possible often means that we are sitting across the table from her. Obviously, she is a teenager and doesn’t always understand what methods of treatment are available to help her acknowledge and work through the emotions she experiences. She is a “teenage toddler” in many ways in that she has no idea what’s going on emotionally or how to express it. It’s exhausting to have to be eyes on at all times. In a residential treatment program she will have those eyes at all times and (theoretically) they will be trained to deal with the highs and lows of her life. It’s going to be a new experience for us trying to be family if we aren’t living together. I can’t imagine what it’s going to look and feel like if she is out of sync with us for 6-9 months.

Right now it feels like life is on hold (1) because of the COVID-19 quarantines and (2) I have no long-term plans for my family. I also have no say in either of them realistically. At this age, A can decide what she wants and could refuse to go to a treatment center. We have had some really hard discussions with ourselves and our post-adopt support folks. What if one day we realize that we can’t have her at home? That her behavior is too dangerous and we can’t keep her or ourselves safe? That is my biggest fear- that I cannot protect her from herself or protect me from her.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and taking care of their loved ones.

 

Mental_health

Is everyone still alive?

Like everyone else, we are “stay at home, stay safe” over here in Pennsylvania. We are in week 3 of self-isolating and yesterday the governor expanded this order to the entire state. At least it won’t feel like those of us in city areas are the only ones feeling the loss of quality of life.

I am having a difficult time feeling happy or fulfilled when I can’t go anywhere but the pharmacy and grocery store. Both of those involved drive-thru so I am not even feeling the camaraderie of fellow sequestered humans. C and I are taking lunch break walks and that has been so great for my brain and for our relationship. Being stuck at home with two teens (niece and daughter) who are used to being way more social has been tough. Everyone is kind of cranky in their own way and being able to refresh my mood and connect with him has been good. Everyone needs a little fresh air and exercise right? We bought an exercise bike and need to assemble it so we have another form of exercise. C is doing a plank challenge also- that is NOT for me! I do not have the arm strength for all of that.

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Just a little walk

Coloring

Every homeschool parent dealing with frustration… screenshot_20200401-233725

..absentee writer..

When I read my last post I chuckled because it was 370 days ago. It could have been exactly one year if I had time to check in before now. Lol.

We adopted Aubrey in early January. It was a hellacious year leading up to that. Her mother died in November and we have not been able to stabilize from that. It’s been hard on all of us not having her around as a resource (for us) and as a distant parent for her children. We crowd-funded the funeral so that her children could say goodbye. Aubrey’s grandmother accused the foster/adoptive families of being the reason her daughter died (during the funeral). It’s been a real shit show lately with drama from her family.

Aubrey has been inpatient twice since August. Once for 6 days and the next time for 15 days. She’s emotionally escalated and her behavior reflects that. We weren’t even sure she would agree to the adoption. We put in notice to have her removed in August and they could not find a place for her other than a homeless shelter and who sends a 14yr old to a shelter with no supervision?! So we said “better with us than on the street” and agreed to fight through whatever the future brings. A few nights ago she attempted to run away. I was able to get her into the car and take her to the police station because she refused to go home, saying “you’ve really fucked up this time, I won’t be living with you.” So the police talked to her privately and then voila she was agreeable to returning home. We are trying to avoid having her hospitalized or involved in the child welfare system again.

Meanwhile, our marital life is numb/on the backburner. I think our tensions around parenting styles and trying to do everything right has exhausted us. We have different opinions on how to parent, how to de-escalate, and how to work to reconnect with her after the rages. C also struggles with feeling like I am disappointed in him, even when I am not. Working through his insecurity/self judgment and trying to build myself up is tough sometimes. I was really broken down after her run away thing earlier this week and I didn’t come home for like an hour. I just sat down the street and cried because I couldn’t face her. Meanwhile Cole wanted to decompress with me and I was in my own zone. I think we have different expectations for our emotional support. I tend to rely on my other friends and academic supports. I look for information, training, etc to come up with ways to deal with my feelings and confusion. He looks to me for comfort. I know, we can see mismatch at times but we are a perfect match.

In other news, I did quit full-time work to continue with my degree and work part-time. I am working at the church I was at almost 10yrs ago doing part-time outreach work. I am also an intern at an agency that works with aging individuals. I have learned a lot and I appreciate the experience. It’s been a good change of pace too. I am preparing for my final “Advanced” year right now. I have already secured my internship for 2020-2021 and am really looking forward to do policy work regarding the LGBTQ community. This is a perfect position for me and one I will grow and learn in. My current job contract ends in May and I am looking for another part-time job to fill in that space. These bills won’t pay themselves, ya know?

My mom is still living with us and her list of medical conditions continues to grow. She’s trying to move out and I am strongly against that because she has mobility issues, difficulty remembering things, and other issues that require some  level of assistance. I am scared to death of her going out on her own and falling and laying there for weeks or trying to drive herself somewhere and getting confused. Taking her to appointments and keeping an eye on her is its own part time gig.

Yea, so that is life in a nutshell. Lots of kid drama, mama drama, and school stuff.

I continue to be active on Instagram (@prissytale) but deleted my facebook 2 months ago.

The months went by

We did not adopt A in December as planned. In the weeks leading up to the “big day” she decided she was not ready. We had so many ups and downs between holidays and adoption day that we called it off. There was no reason to keep going on with all the feelings she was having. We aren’t going anywhere, she’s not going anywhere. We are all still together and planning to be living together long term. Her judge was very understanding of us needing more time. Her therapist is trying to help her come to terms with her feelings about adoption too. It’s hard for all of us when she gets so angry. I’ve done a good job of not taking in personal but I’ve reached a point where it always feels personal, like my personal wall has crumbles. Her teenage trauma induced antics really make me nuts sometimes- sad, frustrated feelings run through me regularly.

I started a new job in December and I’m working in child welfare now. That’s also extremely weird for me as I have never wanted to work with children, like ever. But my previous position was coming to an end and I wanted a choice in what I need next rather than being left hanging not knowing if I’d be unemployed because the grant was over or if the office would “find something” for me. So here I am in an office with 3 people who barely talk to me but who seem grumpy most of the time. There is no opportunity for making friends with people in my new department as interaction is truly minimal. Making decisions about children being removed from their parents, or from abusive foster parents, etc. is a big responsibility. I have pregnant clients who are in care and being abused by their partners, kids with serious medical needs who have foster parents who don’t know how to care for them, and kids with parents who tell me they don’t want them! It’s a lot of emotional stuff and a weight that is heavy.

Tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of my dad dying. I am still not grieving. I imagine one day a few years from now I will have a feeling of loss since I haven’t really had that since immediately after he died. At that time I felt like I had lost a “what could have been” relationship as he was distant from me and was also 1000 miles away so our relationship wasn’t tight. My siblings are much more affected and verbal about their longing for him and thier grief. It feels weird that I am not more upset or sad or missing him. I suppose in some way I had grieved the loss of real father-daughter relationship years ago.

Grad school is still kicking my ass! I am a 4.0 but still so overwhelmed. A doesn’t let me forget that I “only care about school and not about me.” So I have guilt about the time commitment but also I do make adequate time to do fun things with her or talk to her or whatever. I am working on finding my field placement right now and that’s just another huge time suck that I don’t know how I will be able to work it in. I feel like quitting work and taking out huge loans would be the smarter way to go than trying to work full time, school full time, and comlete a 16hr a week internship. Blech. Has anyone done it this way and survived? There must be success stories!

I am here

So I spent a while away from this space because I lost my damn password. I hope that I didn’t miss too many exciting events. What you have missed with us..

We have an adoption date. It will be the 1 year anniversary of the day we met her. Only 3 more months until we are her legal parents. In the meantime, we have met other significant adults in her life and are building relationships where we can, and where they are reciprocating. A has struggled a bit with peers at school and in general friendships don’t come easy to her – she’s the type to push people away and be the “bad” kid so you don’t have a chance to get to know her. She’s working on that.

I am in grad school and it’s kicking my ass! These 7 week intensive classes are gonna be the death of me. I ended up stepping away from Instagram and from Facebook for a while because I don’t have time for it. Every free second is focused on school work these days.

And work work. I don’t know how much longer I will be in my current position as I am about to run out of clients so I will have no work to do. It’s a weird position to be in, My supervisors are trying to come up with a plan for me because they don’t want me to go to another unit just yet. I don’t want to go anywhere else either. I love my colleagues in this unit (Even the mean ones) and can’t imagine being somewhere else right now. Plus, I really need the flexibility this position gives me for leaving early as needed and getting things done with A.

That’s the quick and dirty for now. Hopefully I’ll be back on the wagon soon now that I have updated my password.

One month in

A moved in a month ago and we are still doing ok. I need to and want to write a lengthy post but tonight is not the night.

Happy moments: laughing and dancing while on vacation, her ridiculous exaggerated stories, asking me to fix her hair, injuring herself and running to C for comfort.

Frustrating moments: anything dealing with social media and socializing, the constant attitude towards me, feeling inadequate.

Sad moments: her asking us to explain words we consider common but that she is unaccustomed to, teaching her about her body and realizing she has no knowledge of how parts work or their names, and her ache for her family that we cannot give right now (court ordered stay away against her family).

I love her and am so glad to be able to give her some peace and an affirming environment. We are all continuing to grow.

We have a date

On June 11, A moves in with us. After 6 months of visits we are making the transition to being a family. PA agreed to take custody of her and now the states are figuring out the transfer of her insurance and other administrative things. She will finish school on June 8th and then have the weekend to pack up and say her goodbyes. We are waiting to hear back from the school district about registration. There are so many administrative parent things I need to do!

I feel nervous more than anything. I’m anxious about her feelings and ability to relax and care for herself amidst all this. Everyone talks about letting kids have their feelings and learn to move through disappointment or difficult times. I don’t know how to watch her struggle like I think she will. After several years in the same home and her entire life in the same community, this is going to be hard. Though she knows us we aren’t as predictable to her as her foster mother. I worry about my own emotions as we adjust to adding a member to our daily lives but I worry about her more.

There have been issues with her foster mother recently opening up visits with her first family. On Monday we attended a hearing where the judge issued a stay away order against all natural relatives. He was clear the foster mom will face repercussions if she continues this contact. I think she is trying to give A space to say goodbye or whatever before she moves but it has likely been what has caused her regressing with us. I’m really annoyed that this contact started so close to her moving in with us. We can never compete with the love for her family and we wouldn’t even try. But we do need to bond with her and help her feel secure in our family.

I am going to be a mother person but I bristle when someone calls me mom. Is that normal? I don’t ever expect A to call me mom so other people saying that is weird.

This photo was taken on a dog walk last weekend.

Mothers Day

Never a fan of this day and the reminder that I couldn’t carry a pregnancy full term. It’s also the anniversary of when my mother-in-law died two years ago. Our hearts are very heavy over here. I’m hiding in bed rather than face my family.

A is with us this weekend and we have had a mostly great time. She had C take her shopping for mothers day gifts- her idea. She picked items out for my mom and her foster mom but nothing for me. I’m trying not to take it personal but I’m human and I have feelings. This was going to be my first mothers day with a kid in the house and now I want to go back to ignoring this day.

C bought me these intention cards and the image is today’s randomly chosen card. It speaks volumes. May I find meaning in the discomfort.