Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Up all night

Last night around 1 am,  I was making the nightly rounds, "buttoning up the house" as we call it.   I locked the doors, turned out the lights, and peeked in on my sleeping children.  It's a habit I've had since their first night at home, ten years later I still check to see if they are breathing.   Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find AK reading by flashlight.  A stack of books next to her bed, she excitedly announced, "Mom, I just can't stop reading! These books are so good."   I kissed her forehead, set the books off to the side, and encouraged her to go to sleep.    

As I shut the door, I smiled and then cried happy tears.  Sure, there is joy in her new found ability in reading, a skill that has been hard earned.   It's that two months ago, if I found her up at 1am reading, it would have sent the house in a panic, because AK without sleep was a time bomb waiting to go off.

Mr. Boy has asthma as his kryptonite and AK has her own kryptonite.  She has a rare form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that over the years has become crippling.   Over the past few months, AK had been trying to overthrow her demons.   In a regular day, her anxiety would overwhelm her, but on a day when she had not had a good nights sleep, she would become a wreck.  She would be inconsolable, violent,  and the whole family would walk on eggshells, just trying to get through the day.   It wasn't healthy, and it wasn't for a lack of trying.   Mr. Man and I had spent hours meeting with different therapists and doctors, all of them after a few sessions would tell us, "I am so sorry, I just can't help you."   AK's condition has biological roots, which makes it tough to treat.
 All of that changed in November and December.  While everyone was celebrating the holidays, my family was spending hours in psychiatrist and psychologist offices.   We did family sessions, individual sessions, and worked with a team of doctors who were determined to help us. It was the answer to many prayers and many sleepless nights.  Things got worse before they got better, but progress was being made. AK was learning some coping skills, we were learning coping skills, and we tried a treatment that was a long shot.  To everyone's suprise, it was helping, my daughter was starting to have the inner peace that she deserved.
On Christmas Eve, I couldn't help but post the above photo on Instagram of my family with the caption, "Dear Santa, Thanks for asking, but I already have everything I want."  And I truly meant it, I was watching my daughter thrive.  My whole family had finally exhaled the breath, I didn't even know we had been collectively holding for years. 

I had been putting on a brave face and have been chronically trying to downplay the struggle to the outside world. Growing up, mental illness was kept hush hush.   My father's mental illness was a family secret and somehow I thought keeping quiet about AK's struggles was the right thing to do. I can not describe in words the feeling of desperation when a psychiatrist would say, "I'm sorry, I just don't think I can help you."  When I finally wised up and started asking everyone I knew if they had any mental health professionals they could recommend, I found the crackerjack team my daughter needed. I'm putting this out there to the world via the internet, there is no shame in asking for help, no shame in mental illness.      

While I don't love the idea of AK staying up way past her bedtime reading,  I am no longer filled with anxiety of what the next day will bring and how to help AK cope.  I know that AK might be a bit cranky, but she will be okay and that makes me cry big fat happy tears.  Can you blame me?  


Tammy said...

you are such a fantastic mom! so happy for you, your family and especially for AK! :)

Melissa said...

I'm so happy for you. Yes, this whole "mental illness" business should be shared so much more than it is....BECAUSE most people have some form of something. I wish women would discuss depression more and how they help themselves. I wish us moms would ban together more about our teenagers and our littles. It's getting there...one story at a time. Thanks for sharing!!! xoxo

Kimmie said...

Thank you for sharing! We have struggled with my oldests ADHD & I understand the walking on eggshells. We finally have things under control & there is so much more peace & contentment in our home. And I know he feels better about himself & is getting his self confidence back :) As a mommy it makes my heart happy to see a happy twinkle in his eye :)

Kent said...

I'm so happy for you and your family, Wendy!

Tanya said...

That is great! I have a sister with a mental illness and it is just as you say tough for everyone. It just wonderful to have any kind of break through! So happy for you and your family!

Anonymous said...

We are so proud of all of you. Yes, mental health issues has touched most of us in one form or another! We are happy to hear how wonderfully you all are doing with AK's new methods of coping!


*christine* said...

I'm so sorry that you ever had to hear "I can't help you" from doctors. That's awful. But so glad you finally found the right someone who could.

And I love that she loves reading. I loved it as a child, and still do. It was my escape, it still is!