This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Home from the hospital - Now what?

Kitty came home on Friday. We had a quiet weekend (Boy was it hard to keep her home from Grandma's on Saturday night and have to miss our date night, but we knew she needed it). I decided not to send Kitty back to school until we'd made a plan with the school about how to proceed. . . . Tuesday morning, Kitty had a pdoc appointment - no med changes, but next appointment is in 2 weeks and gave us some quick dissolving Abilify tabs to use if Kitty starts to have a meltdown. . . . A couple of hours later we had a school ARD (to revise her IEP and approve further testing). Kitty had told me she felt uber stressed during her 2 general ed clases and lunch. "Plan B" was to rearrange the seating in the general ed computer class so that another child who is willing to help Kitty (less embarassing to Kitty than having inclusion help), to let her go the the learning lab when her general ed speech class got overwhelming, and we helped her think of several alternatives for who to sit with and where at lunch to decrease the stress. All of the rest of Kitty's classes are special ed so already have small class sizes and easier assignments. . . . Wednesday Kitty went back to school, and called me to pick her up right after lunch. Here's the e-mail I sent Thursday evening when I realized that things were not getting better, even on "A day" which Kitty told me weren't as stressful:
Hi guys, Well, obviously Plan B did not work. Here’s what happened from Kitty’s point of view: Yesterday, “B day” Period 5, DIMM (computer class): Went well. The seat change putting B (student) next to Kitty to subtly help her, Kitty claimed it helped. Period 6, Speech: Not good. It really upset Kitty that the teacher didn’t know what was going on (probably our fault for keeping Mr. J (Assistant Principal) after the meeting so he ran out of time to talk to the teacher). Kitty apparently did get to spend the time in the learning lab as planned, and went to some of her teachers to get makeup work to work on during this period. Lunch: Thank you Mr. J for coming up with a Plan C and D for this. Apparently the first option (asking her friend to eat outside) wasn’t an option because the friend was talking to Kitty’s ex-boyfriend, P, who likes to tease her. Second option (sitting with friend, M, in the cafeteria) didn’t work because M was in the hospital, but Kitty found another friend to sit with… until he left. Then Kitty hung out with another male friend, but got too close to ex-boyfriend who teased her about hugging the male friend. Period 7, Science: Kitty was given several make up assignments. This overwhelmed her and she called me to come home. She went to the AP’s office to wait for me – where Mr. J found her “vibrating” and moved her to a quiet conference room. Wednesday evenings we do volunteer work with kids and horses, so we went, but we had Kitty mostly do quiet work instead of working with her usual “exuberant” client. Today, “A day” Period 1, PE: Went “fine.” Period 2, English: Got fairly caught up. Took a test she "might have to take again." Felt it went OK. A Lunch: Sat with a quiet friend. Period 3, World Geography: Given a makeup assignment that the teacher told her needed to get done in class. Kitty didn’t think she could get it done and left to go to the nurse where she called me to come home. Kitty is feeling a lot of pressure (seems to be mostly put on herself rather than the teachers) to get caught up and do well. She doesn’t want to go back to school tomorrow and to just start with a clean slate on Monday (which starts the new 6 weeks). To lighten her feeling of pressure, I suggested talking to her science teacher about cutting back on the assignments, prioritizing them, working on them in the learning lab (since she doesn’t have an assignment in speech), and taking advantage of the fact that she has good grades to just coast through this. Kitty was still too overwhelmed. If I’m going to get Kitty to go to school tomorrow I really need someone to call me with a plan. She agreed that I could bring her in after lunch (since she hasn’t been to last period math yet), but she really wants to just skip it all. When I picked her up she was depressed and let me know she doesn’t feel “safe” (which means she is having suicidal thoughts again). Please call me at (###) ###-#### and let me know how to proceed. I’m also not sure who I should be informing/alerting when I pick Kitty up. Mary (###) ###-#### " Saying "no" is not being negative. Negative is saying "yes" to things that are destroying you."
I sent Kitty to school Friday morning and told her I would meet her there and tried calling EVERYone in the school, but couldn't get hold of anyone for quite awhile. In the meantime I talked with Hubby about what we should do. Oh my goodness, we are sooo on different pages. Hubby is having a really hard time with Kitty not getting over this and getting back on track. All my NAMI classes have reinforced to me that Kitty is going to take a long time to recover, but even I struggle a little with the feeling that she's "getting away with something" or never going to try to progress - learned helplessness. I think after a long talk, Hubby did realize that nothing has gotten better and in a lot of ways was worse. Kitty was declining and a hot mess of anxiety before she went to the psych hospital. The hospital exposed her to violence, kept her from her family, triggered memories of past trauma, increased her sleep med (which did help) and added an anti-depressant - which takes weeks to get to full strength. Now she's got make-up work and emotional healing to do, so of course she's overwhelmed. Hubby is still not convinced that picking her up whenever she feels bad is the right thing to do (she might not ever go back to school!). ******************************************* I FINALLY got hold of someone at the school and Kitty's casemanager sat with her for all of second period helping her prioritize and work on assignments. The CM assured Kitty that she would be given an incomplete in whatever classes she needed them in and she has until graduation to get it done (Kitty is only a freshman). The CM said Kitty was out of it, lethargic, sleepy and couldn't do things that normally didn't give her problems. The CM was convinced. I sat with her and the AP and we decided that Kitty will do half days for awhile (alternating between mornings and afternoons). Kitty's pdoc is willing to write a vague, open-ended note stating that Kitty needs to miss school - so we don't have to worry about truancy. I picked Kitty up after 3 period (there are 4 periods in a day). At least she made it a little longer today. She seems comfortable with the changes. ******************** On another note, Kitty has been obsessing about her "Super Sweet 16 birthday" for MONTHS. She wants this big, expensive party with lots of friends, and brings it up whenever she doesn't like what we're talking about (usually in therapy). She knows that we can't afford it and don't think she can handle having a lot of friends over. No matter what I do, she tries to work it into a big battle - sounding as though it's in a couple of days, instead of not for months. Finally her birthday really is in a few days. Today she quietly said she wants it to be just a family party. Still wants lots of expensive presents though!


Miz Kizzle said...

Does Kitty know anyone who actually had a "super sweet sixteen" party with all the expensive trimmings? I'm talking about IRL and not some teenage celeb she saw on TV?
Does she understand that you have limited resources and you can't afford a big blowout of a party?

Tracey said...

Blogger ate my post. Awesome...

As I was saying...

I don't know... I can't help but think that to some degree if Kitty is being treated like a mental patient she will act like one. I find I have a lot of success with my 14-year-old daughter by reinforcing the idea that she's a "normal" teenager. She's not, of course... she came to me at age 11 with RAD, PTSD, ODD, ADHD, possible Bipolar, and of course a long history of trauma and loss. She was angry and violent and destructive and off in a fantasy world most of the time. She was in a group home and on the verge of being declared unadoptable. But she has come SO FAR, and she's not been hospitalized or placed out of the home at all since she's been here. She talks often about how when she was at the group home they used to restrain her, and they would take her to the crisis center whenever she acted out, and that was so scary for her. Without that fear here she just seems more able to talk about her feelings rationally. Not always, but often.

She's also off all meds. She was on five when she came to me, and often seemed sleepy and out-of-it. And now, though she may "feel" her feelings more, it lets her deal with them. And I can't tell you how much that has helped. It hasn't always been easy but it's been so worth it.

I know all kids are different but I can't help but think that learned helplessness is a valid concern here. I praise my daughter for being "normal" and reinforce how far she's come and how proud I am of her and she just beams. She still has her moments, of course, and plenty of them. But we talk about why the behavior occurred and what she could do differently the next time. She never has the fear that if she messes up or expresses an emotion or whatever that the ambulance will come and take her to the scary hospital. That's got to be weighing heavily on Kitty right now.

As for school... My daughter became a zillion times more happy and successful in school when I STOPPED being involved. When I was involved she would leave class (and the building), have tantrums in the classroom, one time she even tried to strangle herself while sitting at her desk. Finally I basically just threw up my hands and told them to deal with it, and oddly enough that has made an enormous difference for everyone. She actually started to realize that it's easier and much more fun to be normal at school. What a concept! Now, just one year later, she's in all regular ed classes, has friends, is involved in clubs and sports... her grades could be better but we'll get there. Overall she's doing great.

So... I'm just letting you know what worked for us. I'm not trying to be negative, just trying to say what I see from a distance. Hang in there... you rarely see such a dedicated and involved mom, adoptive or not! Your kids - all of them - are incredibly lucky to have you. I will keep Kitty and all of your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Sarah said...

wow! What a lot to deal with! I haven't blogged about it much, but I have also been helping my son transition back to school after a week long psych hospital stay. He is doing pretty well, and I have been very fortunate the teachers are listening to me. He won't tell them he needs help, or that he is overwhelmed- he just bottles up those feelings to unleash on me when he gets home. The biggest key for him has been having the teachers break down and prioritize the assignments for him. A packet full of past-due work --even easy work-- is much too overwhelming. It sounds like you are already doing that and then some! Good luck, I hope something works and she manages to cope and succeed at home and school both!