Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Navigating My Daughter's Mental Illness: The Diagnosis (Part 2)


This is the second article in a series about NJ's daughter's mental health illnesses and the importance of destigmatizing these diseases so we can all do the hard work of connecting affected people with the help they need. Thank you for sharing your story, NJ. If you missed Part 1 of this series, please click here.

“Mom, I’m scared!” 

I could hear the fright in her voice on the other end of the phone. It was 2 a.m. I didn’t sleep with my phone off anymore - in case of a night like this. I stayed on the phone with my daughter until I reached the top of my stairs and could see her. I was somewhat relieved when I could reach out and embrace my daughter and try to comfort her. What was she so afraid of? It took some time, but she was able to tell me that she was hearing voices and seeing things. I was able to convince her that everything was okay and had her come down to my room and sleep with me. Once I got her settled into my room, I called into work and then sent a text to my daughter’s counselor. I crawled into bed, unable to fall back to sleep, as I didn’t know what the morning would bring.


I must have dozed off at some point because I was startled awake by my phone ringing again. It was the counselor calling me. I answered my phone and quietly left my room so as not to wake my daughter up. I gave her counselor an overview of the night's events. It was her recommendation that I take my daughter to a children’s psychiatric hospital for further evaluation. 



I could feel my heart shattering. Those are words that no parent wants to hear. 



I called my mom so I could let her know what was going on and make arrangements for my younger daughter. The next step was to tell my daughter that I was taking her to the hospital so we could get more help. That didn’t go over very well with her. The closest children’s unit was almost two hours away.


We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. We signed in through the children’s emergency department. They called us back to triage, and we had to explain what had brought us into the hospital. It was difficult for me to find the words to explain it. 


We survived the triage portion, miraculously. I felt so clouded and foggy at this point. Another nurse came out and called us back but wanted to speak only to my daughter at this point. They took some labs and talked with her for a few minutes. When she came back out, they took her phone charger away and checked over her clothing for other items that may resemble anything that could be of danger or used as a weapon. I was kind of in awe, but it made sense. They finally decided that they were going to admit her. The whole process took twelve hours.


They took us up to the unit and room where she would be staying. It was going on 11 p.m. They went over the rules and how things work and what we could expect. The following day, we would have a team meeting with the doctors and social workers. One of the hardest things I have ever done was leave my child at that hospital. She was so angry. I don’t remember much of the drive home that night. I was thankful for not having to drive because I cried the entire way home. It was all such a blur.


I returned early the next morning for the team meeting. We gave the doctor and social worker an extensive overview of our family history and events that led us up to this point. We had a short family counseling session. She was still so angry at me for making her stay. The anger was exacerbated the team's decision that she should stay 7-8 days in the unit. My mom and I visited with her for a while longer after all the meetings. They wanted to get her involved in some group therapy sessions. I felt this was a good idea. She, however, did not. I left, again, that evening in tears.



The next morning, we met with the doctor again. This time, she had some suggestions and a diagnosis. They diagnosed my daughter with Major Depressive Disorder with Psychosis, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and an eating disorder. I felt much like a zombie at this point - like I was living in some terrible nightmare. Twelve-years-old and such a big diagnoses. They had planned to manage her with medication at this point. I learned that lack of sleep is essentially what brought on the psychosis. She hadn’t slept in 3 - 4 days before I brought her to the hospital. The medications were for depression, anxiety, and to help her sleep. She felt like a walking pharmacy. I felt like a terrible mother because I hadn’t realized what was going on in my home. She hid things so well...


During the remainder of her stay, we had more family counseling sessions. Some of them went well and others not so much. She became even more bitter because her father wouldn’t come see her. She was able to work on schoolwork and participated in some art and music therapy groups. Those were good for her because that is where her passion lies. She is crazy talented. 


I was starting to feel like we were making good progress. With the right medications and counseling, we could really manage her and help her to feel normal. Little did I know at the time, “normal” was something we would truly never feel again...


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