My daughter turned 16 years old last year, and at that time my ex-wife and I knew we had an issue. Since 5th grade, we knew our daughter had mental health issues and were optimistic that we could tackle this problem head-on. Here we are today and we were wrong, which can be defeating.
A quick review, my daughter has been to three different schools since 5th grade. Each one was to help her concerning your social anxiety, OCD, depression, sensory, and regression issues. Most of these, you know but what is regression? Well, if she gets a thought in her head that is negative in any way, she will physically and mentally act out in a younger manner. She can baby talk, shuffle around, cry on the floor, etc. It is painful to watch, and sometimes you want to cry with her, and other times you are so angry because it feels like she is doing it on purpose.
Over the years, we have learned that she has a fire alarm in her head. You know when a fire alarm goes off, and it’s loud and disturbing, making you act in a manner of small panic. Well, in her head, every time she has a negative thought, a fire alarm goes off! And from there, it could take anywhere from 5-30 minutes for her to use her DBT tools to get yourself back. She usually remembers nothing, and a lot of the time will apologize afterward.
So after many years of psychologists, psychiatrists, mental testing, IEP testing, special summer camps, hospital testing, two sessions of DBT (Diabolic Behavior Therapy), we kept getting the same answer: Your daughter is a complicated case. You see what makes it really “complicated” is that she is smart, she knows where she needs to be and how she should act. It’s like she is standing behind a glass wall and can see how she is supposed to act, but cannot reach that goal. It can be extremely frustrating to her and in turn, makes her even more regressed.
So here we are about to send her away to a residential treatment school. After many discussions, and then the hiring of a consultant, we are going to spend six figures for her to attend 12 months, at a minimum, away from us in Utah. Insurance going to help with the costs….nope. The school district…..nope. Even though she has an IEP, 5th grade was the last time she attended that district. This is a huge financial pill to swallow, but when it is your own child, you will do anything you can to help them.
The mental health aspect to us, the parents, and her 13-year-old sister are going to be a roller coaster of a ride. First, she will not be home for the Xmas holidays. We will go to her because she will be unable to leave. That basically goes for other holidays too until she reaches improvement goals with her treatment. At that point, home visits can happen. Just wrapping our heads around this has been draining, but it will probably get worse before it gets better.
As much as we want to get the help she needs, I think we all are going to have a feeling of guilt because our girl has been hard to live with for everyone. Silently I think each of us will have a period of relief because our days a lot of time is dictated by her behavior. This is definitely something we all will have to work through, but we also know that in the end, this is the best thing for her to succeed in the future.
Every time you think you have life figured out, it throws a huge turd ball at you, and then you have to adjust, change, and figure out the best way forward for everyone. Yesterday I was excited for her. Today I am anxious and tomorrow I will probably be depressed. The mental health drain might drive us to need more help too.