I've been living with a friend of twenty years and her thirteen year old daughter for about five years. I'll call them April (mom) amd Kaitlyn (daughter) just for the sake of brevity. Throw a couple of dogs and cats in the mix and it's constant chaos.
This morning April and I sat down with a worker from East Metro Youth Services and, after all these months of being involved with our strange family, she laughs and says that Kaitlyn is making herself a character in a book, and that is why she relates to me so well.
"If Kaitlyn were a character in one of my books I would have killed her off by now."
Of course everyone gets a good chuckle, but I'm not kidding.
April and I can see a light - a very faint light - at the end of the tunnel, but Kaitlyn thrives on self sabotage. It's been a very intense last few years.
I've been thinking for quite some time that I should write about what I actually know, and this includes mental health issues in youth. By some time I'm more meaning a decade, as I've been surrounded by these invisible disabilities most of my life. My brother, my sister, and now, Kaitlyn.
I thought I had finally moved away from it. Moved on. I'd grown weary of being a spectator and escaped the hellish existence that completely overwhelms and overtakes you. I thought I had moved past this when I left home.
That was fourteen years ago.
And it was a ludicrous pipe dream made out of sand on a perpetually flooding beach.
I'll rewind a few years and give the Readers Digest Compact Version, since I'm due at work in a few hours and this society is comprised of individuals with the attention span of a peanut.
Three years ago some genius thought it would be a great idea to take Kaitlyn off her seizure medication. They said she didn't have seizures. April said awesome, no meds, let's do it. Three weeks in and Kaitlyn was on a downward spiral. She was having accidents, being violent, and throwing tantrums over being told to brush her teeth. April asked for help. The medical community, backed by child services, shut her out. They said she was making it up, that Kaitlyn was being a normal teenager (at ten), and mom was making mountains out of mustard seeds.
On it went. Police attended eight times in 2013 because Kaitlyn was more violent, was uttering suicidal threats and was running off. She trashed the house, attacked her mom... You get the picture. All things that normal teenagers do at twelve. It was still mom making something out of nothing the doctors told us.
In November of last year the psych discharged Kaitlyn, despite increasing self harming behaviours and threats of suicide. She told mom that this was normal behaviour for a thirteen year old, that mom needed to suck it up and stop looking for something wrong. We were told to accept this as the new normal. That was November 16th.
On January 3rd Kaitlyn came home, relaxed and happy, took 55 pills, wrote a suicide note and went to bed. We found her some thirteen hours later; she was awake, her limbs were paralyzed and she couldn't speak.
You can say what you will about parenting skills. What kind of people wait thirteen hours before checking on a child, etc etc. The truth is, she had been checked on. Mom needed to get a necklace off her belonging to the neighbours son. Kaitlyn had been out of it, but that was normal for being woken up. There was no reason to suspect anything was awry. Don't judge.
Turns out she had found a prescription bottle from her seizure medication stashed in the far corner of the medicine cupboard. When weaning her off we would take the old one and put it at the top of the cupboard so there was no confusion. Most had been returned to the pharmacy, that one, for 400mg of Tegretol, had been pushed to the back. It was discovered during the blackout over the holidays when we were scrambling for candles after a nice storm levelled the power lines for a few days, right before Christmas.
April and I thought she had maybe taken Benadryl. It was the only medication in the cupboard that wasn't inspected while we waited for paramedics. It took twelve hours for the hospital to find out that it had been the Tegretol. At that time, the dose in her system was 120 units. Lethal is 81.
When Kaitlyn was well enough, she admitted to taking the Tegretol as well as a half a bottle of Valerian - the natural sleep aid. She assumed she would fall asleep and never wake up.
She was moved to the adolescent psych floor and put on mood stabilizers - but not without a fight. After five days she came home. And we all started to breathe and settle down into a new routine. Kaitlyn was laughing and joking. She was angry that we took her razor and doorknob, but she wasn't violent. No cops were called, no people were harmed. It was new. It was nice. It provided us with a very false sense of security.
In March the Tegretol finally vacated her system, and it was again, downhill from there. Police were called. She was walking in at midnight, having freak outs, stealing, lying, running off... We found notes about death and suicide... We were still waiting for the follow up appointment from her January discharge (Yes! Two months without being followed!). The facility where she has been a patient for seven years gave us the run around. Enter: Nightmare No. 2 in E flat, where E stands for everything.
More appointments ensued, this time with Residential Adolescent Psychiatric facilities in the area. Her paediatrician, who had been writing the prescription in the absence of appropriate psychiatric care, refused to renew it without the advice of a psychiatrist. We call the clinic, we fight with them, we get an appointment for June 16th - six months after a major suicide attempt. I know, right?
Thank God for the paediatrician - he referred her to another clinic and they saw her and assessed her on Friday, a week after the treatment center agreed to take her on - if she is willing to go, which she's not anymore.
We've been told that what she has is called Borderline Personality Disorder, and after much reading, we are breathing a sigh of relief. A small one, because the larger sighs of relief always seem to set her off. Apparently this is symptomatic.
There is no way to change what has happened, but I think a shout out to the medical community for stonewalling us is in order. Years of violence and watching the place get trashed, having everything that wasn't nailed down stolen (still happening - but that's another story for another day), years of being on edge and sleeping with one eye open or sleeping in shifts because we needed to make sure she wasn't running off in the night... It has devastated any ability for us to function as a unit. It has stretched out the bonds of family so far that the rubber ties that bind have started to snap and they will never be able to resume their "before" state. Mom has been sick, I have been sick. We have both gained, lost and gained weight as if it were unwanted facial hair. The tips of our toes ache and our floors are littered with eggshells.
But humans are resilient, so I have been told, and there's no going back now. Onward we must push, because the only other option is backwards, and why in the hell do we want to go there?
Enough for now, or I'll be late for work. Thanks for sticking with me.