I was going to wait till later this evening to write this blog, but I think the time is right now. For what it's worth I wasn't going to talk about this at all in a public way, because contrary to perception I don't share everything that happens in my life, or the life of my kids. But then I started thinking, what if by sharing this very difficult subject, I could help another person. Like the mom I saw today who did everything she could to keep her child from seeing her cry when he told her repeatedly that if she loved him, she wouldn't make him stay at the hospital. In that moment, all I could offer her was a simple affirming comment, "It is hard." and a look that indicated I understood her pain.
Do you know what it feels like to give up total control of your child? To trust that the people you are leaving him or her with will love them at least a fraction of the way you do? To trust that your child won't be irreparably damaged by a choice that you don't want to make? To walk away from your child, and have them screaming and crying for you not to leave, but you have to keep on walking to the other side of a locked door? To see your child suffering behind a wall of mental illness and past hurts and a destroyed sense of self worth and not be able to do anything to fix it? My guess would be a majority of you have absolutely no idea what that feels like. And I can promise you, having to leave your child in daycare or at the church nursery or with the babysitter is not the same as leaving your child in a mental health hospital, or even the same as your child being removed from your custody by Children and Youth. In this situation I don't have the ability to change my behavior in order for the situation to be corrected, I don't have the option of not going to a program or work in order to help my child through this. Saving my daughters life is my only option.
There are those who know the detailed history. For those who don't, what's important to understand is that my daughter is a product of the Foster Care System. And she was hurt, badly - both by those who were related to her, and the county that was charged with protecting her. As her Foster Parents we fought hard to do everything in our power to help her. It was because of my relentlessness that traumatic visits stopped at 2 1/2 years. And it was because of my diligence that she got any treatment at all while she was a ward of the state. I don't say this because I want kudos or praise. I say this because it's important to understand that even though she was in our custody for 3 years, we didn't have rights to protect her. All we could do was watch her crumble before our eyes and beg for help for her while politics took precedence. Rights were finally terminated and we adopted her in September of 09. We then had the right to seek out any and all appropriate treatments for her. And we did. The hurdles were and are still there though. A lot happens in the first 3 years of life that builds into who you are. We can't get those years back, they were stolen from her. When it comes to mental health, and mental health treatment with children, the field is riddled with lack of funding, lack of education and controversy. To find someone who knows what they are doing, and has experience with kids like my youngest, is harder then finding a needle in a haystack. We are two years into adoption and we have yet to find someone who knows, without a doubt, how to help this child. And the list of consulted experts is long and comprehensive.
Currently, my almost 6 year old daughter is in a mental health hospital. It's not like you see in the movies. Yes, it's loud at times, and there are kids with issues that are more explosive then my daughter's, but for the most part, it's a comfortable place. And the staff clearly care about the children. This isn't our first time at the rodeo either. It would take two hands to count the number of inpatient stays this poor kid has had in the last year and a half. I don't know how long she will be there this time. Her shortest stay was 2 weeks, and her longest was 4 weeks. But it doesn't matter how many times she has gone in, or how long each stay has been, because each time has been painful. Each time has been emotionally draining for all of us. And each time we have been left wondering if anyone or anything can help her.
I can't adequately describe to you how, as a mom, or dad, it feels to make the choices we have had to make. It's heartbreaking. But more times then most of us would like, you have to bypass your heart and make decisions with your head. Sometimes making the right decision for your child means making hard decisions, decisions that hurt. Decisions that you never thought you'd have to make. But diagnoses of mental health do that. We are supposed to not discuss them, keep them quiet, keep them within the family. We aren't supposed to talk about how many medications our child is on, or how their issues impact us. Mental health issues suck. If not adequately treated they destroy the person, and take out the family with them. But I need those of you in the thick of it to know this: I understand. I get it. I'm not afraid to discuss it. And I'm hurting too.
We are given these kids, through birth or adoption, and we are told that we are responsible for their life. That it's our job to give them the skills they need to survive in the real world. For parents with kids who follow societies game plan, that works. For those who stray to one extreme or the other, the reality is that we have to give them the skills to get through the next five minutes before we can even begin to fathom getting them into adulthood.
Again, I'm not looking for extra support or encouragement. I've been blessed with a support system that has shown me amazing grace and love when I have needed it the most. And I've been surprised by acts of love by people I never expected. I am also very aware that the ONLY thing I can trust is that God knew my daughter before she was a blip on the radar. It is through Christ alone that I am able to continue on day to day with the hope that my fears are opposite of His plan for her life. My point in sharing is that someone out there is finding themselves fighting to save the life of someone they love, someone who is trapped behind mental illness and a past they can't seem to escape. And I need that person to know that they aren't alone.