When I hear the above statement, sometimes it angers me but other times it makes me happy because it means that Princess is so stable that others don't see anything wrong. Sometimes I want to shout and scream about all of the unspeakable things my family has had to endure. Society wants a cure for cancer. I want a cure for mental illness.
Lest anyone think that I am exaggerating about my daughter's problems, I'm going to give you a glimpse into a day into our life.
July 21, 2013 did not start out like any other day. It was like many other days that summer. From almost the minute Princess woke up, she was ornery and uncooperative. Her birthday party had been the day before. She was still upset that only one person came to her party. Early on my husband and I decided to stay home from church because we sensed that things would go south rather quickly.
Around 11:00 I had to call the county's crisis line to ask someone to come out to evaluate Princess as she was becoming hostile, angry and aggressive. Shortly before this she had been chasing after me and attacking me with her stick pony. Anyone who says to just pull it out of her hands has no idea how strong a child fueled with anger and adrenaline can get. I once had a police officer tell me that we just needed to spank Princess and she'd be fine.
Anyway back to the story. The crisis counselor told me that she'd have someone call us back. They knew us well because we were having a lot of problems with Princess. They had just closed the file on our case because they couldn't fix it in three weeks. One of their specialists had made the statment that our house was chaotic and that we let Princess "rule the roost." Again merely a parenting issue.
Sorry I keep getting side tracked but this is important history to understand what happened next.
The head psychiatrist who oversaw our whole county's mental health crisis line called me back to say that they would not be coming out to our house that day. I said, " What if I get a black eye or a broken arm?" He replied that they still would not come out.
Unfortunately some medicine that I had given Princess to calm her down was very short acting so it wore off after only a couple of hours.
During this time I had been texting some friends and family asking for prayer. They were people who I knew we could count on. One of them asked if she and her husband could come over to see us to give us a breather and offer support. After some discussion, my husband and I decided to agree to letting them come over.
About 30 minutes later Clarice and Richard came over. Clarice had brought a birthday present for Princess. Princess and I oohed and ahhed over it while the guys were outside taking a breather on our back patio. Princess became agitated because she wanted to show Clarice the new doll she had just gotten for her birthday but Clarice and I were talking so she had to wait. For the first time ever, she attacked someone other than my husband or I. Clarice was left with scratches on her arms. Princess got distracted by the swing outside and asked to go play on it. I agreed and all three of us went outside. Princess was only on the swing a few minutes before she left our property and started running barefoot down the street. I was certain she was headed for her friends house a few blocks away. I tried calling the child's mother while Clarice went looking for our husbands.
Before I knew it the friend's mother was calling me as I was calling her. She called me very concerned because Princess was hiding under a bed and had made some alarming statements.
My husband got in our car hoping to get her and put her in it because he knew she would not willingly walk back with him. After Princess refused to get in our car, I had no other choice but to call the police even if I didn't think they could help us.
Twenty minutes later the police had still not arrived and by this time Princess had run off again. We really were not sure where she went.
I called the police again and was told that they were busy with other calls. Finally they arrived after my second call. By this time Princess was now back on our street but was in different neighbor's house hiding under the bed in the master bedroom.
Our neighbor, Jim and his wife, Betty came outside to talk to us. About the time the police finally arrived, Princess was on the move again. She moved into the neighbor's tent trailer so that is where the police officer talked with her. When he came over to the front yard where we were all gathered, he said that Princess recognized there was a problem and agreed to go to the ER.
Princess wanted to ride with Clarice and I so the guys took our car and followed us. By this time we were starving and Princess had fallen asleep in the back seat so we grabbed some fast food and proceeded to the ER. Once we got to the ER, Princess was an angel. This is how many ER's see kids like mine. Then they are assessed and sent home again. What the doctors don't realize is that children are rapid cyclers so it would just be a matter of time before she would rage again.
After triage, we were sent to a holding room in the ER and sent our dear friends on their way. Previously when Princess had been in the ER it was party time with TV and ice cream. What kid wouldn't want to show their best side in that situation? This time I told Princess there would be no TV. This set her off. Before I knew it lots of ER staff were in the room trying to subdue my child. It was not a pretty sight. Well after that the staff were pretty much on our side. They told us that since they had witnessed a full bown rage for themselves that they would advocate for us with the crisis team assessor who would make the call whether or not to admit her to a behavioral hospital. I was still not convinced since we had been at the ER four times in the last month and had been sent home all four times. This time when the evaluator came, she read the reports, and saw my daughter had been subdued, she decided not to interview my daughter as had been their previous practice. She felt there was enough evidence to admit her. Now the difficult task was finding a bed for her. If they were unable to find her a bed, she'd have to stay in the ER for up to three days until one was found. Even though we live in surburbia, there are only 13 beds available for kids my daughter's age. After many phone calls and hours later, we were told that a bed had been found almost an hour away in another county. By the time we got my daughter checked in it was 6 a.m. the next day. My husband and I were exhausted.
I wish I could tell you that after that hospital stay, they found the right medications to bring her to stability. What happened instead was that, she had three more hospital stays over the next two months. She would be in a hospital for a week to ten days, come home for a few days, become unsafe again and have to be admitted again. Thankfully, my daughter's psychiatrist is forward thinking and wanted Princess to try the new wonder drug but this wasn't until October.
In mid October we began to see a beautiful child emerge. We knew she was there all along but the fog of mental illness was clouding her.
This summer Princess has had two major successful events. She had an awesome birthday party and a fantastic time at VBS (Think Sunday School Summer Camp for a week.) She's also doing pretty normal things like going to the beach and a baseball game.
We may not be going on any fabulous vacation any time soon but I'll take what we have over the trips to behavioral hospitals anytime.
I know all to well that Princess' current medicine regimen could stop working at any given moment. I am also aware the teen years are coming. They bring additional challenges to kids with mental illness because their hormones get out of sorts which in turn affects the balance in brain chemistry. For today I choose to not look to far into the future. For today I choose to focus on all of the blessings that stability brings into our lives.
The next time someone says that my child is typical, I just may thank them for that compliment but in my heart, I know how hard all of us have worked to get Princess to that point.
*Please note: All of the names mentioned here are fictitious but the people and events are not.