Monday, August 17, 2015
Mental Illness - Discovery
How and when did our journey into mental illness with my daughter start? That really is a hard question. I have no idea. We still speculate about when Madelle became sick. When she was two, her dad left for Iraq leaving her with an emotional mom and two brothers. When her dad came home, he fought his own sickness in the form of PTSD. Our lives stayed in a state of chaos for another couple of years. Second grade was an entire year of dealing with two extreme bullies. Her first memories of panic attacks come from third grade. She is now going into the seventh grade.
Yes, as a two year old she threw horrible fits, but a lot of kids do. She cried and complained a lot in second grade, but who wouldn’t. I remember her panicking in third grade, but we really thought she had overcome that through changing schools with great success. The girl continuously amazed us with her good grades, amazing musical talent on the sax, and enjoyment of softball. Sure, she had her emotional moments, but she is a sensitive kid. I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal.
I felt like the worst mother in the world. I had been feeling our family was in a state of crisis, but I hadn’t acted on it. In December and the first part of January, she was acting out, but I kept thinking it might be the teen years hitting. She just started middle school. I secretly hoped it was just typical behavior. I was wrong.
Another question we have is how did we not see our daughter’s pain? I really don’t have an answer for that either. Though over the months of talking, I think she partially hid what was going on. A while back she told me that she didn’t know her thoughts weren’t normal. Since they started at such a young age, she has never known healthy. That breaks my heart. A rock song about death and suicide helped her to realize her thoughts were not normal or healthy. She finally knew she was miserable. This is when she started acting out in December. She finally identified she was messed up. She wanted to be happy, but she had no words to express this rationally. In frustration she lashed out at me and at herself. Luckily, God sent her an angel.
Madelle finally told her friend that she had thoughts of death. Her friend told her she had to see the counselor if she didn’t tell us. Madelle didn’t want us to know and didn’t want to tell the counselor. Her young friend told her she didn’t have a choice and she walked Madelle to the counselor’s office. If I were to look back at my morning pages (journal), I probably have the date written down when the school counselor called me. The counselor told me that my baby girl was depressed and hating life. I have since thanked that friend of Madelle’s and have thanked her mother. I think our story might have been very different otherwise.
Through this entire process, I have shed many tears. My self-esteem as a mother plummeted considerably. How did I not just take her to a counselor her entire life? Instead I thought I was handling it all so well. I have been taught about all the signs in my education degree and while being a soldier. How did I miss it? The reality is that I just did. We all missed it. Her school counselor thought Madelle would be fine in a month or two. We were too close to the situation. Madelle was so strong and worked so hard to be normal that she convinced us all. I wonder how many others suffer in silence because they are fighting it or have no words to express their pain.