“I wish I was dead so I could stop feeling like this!”- Audrey, 8 years old
Yes, before life was ever complicated or hormones or boys or the angst of the teenage years started, my sweet child wished for death. She didn’t understand the anger, the confusion, the pain, or how to reconcile knowing she was different but not knowing HOW she was different. She had just begun to experience all the wonderful things life had to offer in the microcosm that was her world in our small town in Northern Utah.
Audrey had always been a little “different”. I had inquired over her early years about various attributes that seemed a little off but was always told that since she was developing within the norm that I shouldn’t worry, so I tried to squash the feelings of concern and did my best to be a good mom. She was loving, active, a little quiet and reserved, but enjoyed life. She had a great imagination and in general got along well with her younger sister, Laila.
As she got a little older, her silly and playful demeanor started to give way to surprising anger and an overall feeling of being difficult for the sake of being difficult. She was had become overall unpleasant with moments of normalcy in between. Meltdowns, refusal to wear certain clothing, anxiety at new or unplanned activities, and a lack of empathy or understanding of other people’s feeling began to appear. These emotional highs were eventually followed-up with crying, guilt, and serious feelings of worthlessness. I didn’t understand what was happening to my daughter, so I clearly couldn’t expect her to explain it me nor understand it herself.
It was at 8 years old she began outpatient therapy. It seemed to help even her mood out and gave me and me husband tools on how to deal with her in the most effective manner possible. This type of therapy went on for 4 1/2 years with adjustments being made as her symptoms changed in type and severity. Her only official diagnoses were unspecified anxiety, mild depression, ADHD inattentive type, but these didn’t explain the meltdowns and the mood related issues. Over these 4 years, we watched her slowly change from a flourishing child to an awkward, insecure, and floundering young lady. We were beginning to have explosive arguments that came out of know where and stemmed from what would be considered small issues to your regular child.
Finally, at almost 13 in March 2015, Audrey came to us (her parents) and admitted to wanting to die and having tried to do so on several occassions. This would be the first of three emergency admissions to the adolescent mental heath unit over the next 8 months. The first stay was 4 days with a one month period of recovery. Her second admission lasted 17 days due to the severity of the incident that put her in the hospital and how long it took to stabilize her. Her diagnosis was changed to anxiety, depression, and Disruptive Mood Dyregulation Disorder. After that she was in a residential facility for 2 months due to how much she had deteriorated mentally and emotionally. My husband and I had little to no resources or help in educating ourselves in this change of behavior and diagnoses. Her residential facility was not tailored to her specific needs and she came home in July of 2015. From there we put her in a day treatment program; she attended school half-day and then had theraputic activites for the other half. She had group, one-on-one, and family therapy, and came home at night. She attended this program for 6 weeks and made some progress, and eventually went back to her regular school in the fall just 2 weeks after it started. While she had made some more improvements and showed signs of making a cognitive connection to her behavior and how it related to it effected her path in life, relationships, and future- we were guardedly optimistic. We had been able to get a full psychological examination by a highly recommended and respected clinic in our area.
Six weeks after leaving day treatment Audrey had her final admission to the inpatient unit. It was the worst night of my life, and one she actually barely remembers. Multiple police officers were involved, a physical altercation, an attempt at hitting my husband with and iron fence rod, trying to run away at 10 pm in her nightgown and barefoot, & cocking back to punch a police officer. She actually threw an item at a social worker and ended up with security posted outside her room.This stay lasted 21 days and less than a week later we got the results of her psychological testing back. She had co-occuring diagnoses of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, anxiety, depression, and emerging traits of Borderline Personality Disorder.
The entire word stopped and everything made perfect sense but was also spinning out of contro at the same time. The hospital would not release her without a long term treatment plan due to the threat she posed to herself and others (at the time). This resulted in her admission to the state mental health hospital. She was gone for 6 months. Audrey lost out on the last 6 weeks of 7th grade, basically all of 8th grade, missed out on a couple family trips, could not come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, and missed visiting her dad during her normal visitation time. She missed her sister’s birthday.
So, what is Trapped Amazingness? It’s the person and possibilities being suffocated by their mental illness. It’s all the abilities they poccess but cannot execute because of the strangling set of emotional and mental ties that hold a person back on every level of life. It’s the loss of friendships, the institutionalized behavior that a child develops after being hospitalized for 6 months. It’s feeling like you’re labeled as “broken” forever and not being able to do anything to change their minds. Trapped Amazingness is losing the passion you once had for things like music, art, and theatre because of not wanting people to see “YOU”. It’s making incredible, amazing, and mind-blowing progress in your therapy but ending up in the same place in your head- paralyzed with fear, filled with doubt, angry for no reason, and wishing you could avoid the whole world.
Trapped Amazingness is all the beautiful things Audrey is and able to do being wrapped tightly in her head, stuck as ideas and dreams. Trapped Amazingness trickles down to the effects it has on her sisters and family. It’s trying to explain to family and friends the situation she’s facing, and the situation your family is dealing with. Trapped Amazingness is breaking down the walls of being stigmatized. It’s knowing she may miss out on the wonderful, beautiful, and life changing places, chances, and people of this world. Even more troublesome is that Trapped Amazingness is having her light shadowed enough that the world may end up missing out on a truly amazing young lady with so much so offer.
Don’t get me wrong, we now have hope for Audrey’s future. She has a real chance to live a productive life and accomplish those goals and dreams. We have faith that since she has come this far, God will take her even further. I’ll explain the changes that took place during her treatment in another blog.