A Mother’s Story
I am sitting here in tears and at the same time applauding the efforts of your foundation for tackling an issue that previously did not seem to have a name. Years ago, my daughter Tya exhibited a great deal of the symptoms that bespoke of a mental disorder but nothing conclusive could be applied. I have six children of which Tia is the second born and I noted early on that Tia was a rambunctious kid with a great deal of energy but who also possessed a dark side that I could not fathom at the time. Even in pre-school and kindergarten, teachers who tell me that she was the one who “acted up” in class. And even though she charmed them most of the time, it was when those dark moods hit that drew the most with response to negative reactions. She attacked other children, she was the one running, jumping and doing the more dangerous pursuits on the school playground. She often acted as the aggressor if someone bullied her older sister and she fought those battles as well. Twice she seriously hurt her little brother (pushing him off a terrace-20 ft drop which led to 7 stitches to his head –she was 5, and plowing him into the wall and busting his head while playing ball in the house out of anger-she was 8 and he required 5 stitches to his head).
At around age 7, her sense of self started to erode and I could not figure out why she was behaving as though she was not loved. She did not want to stay with me after I made a geographic move from one part of the country to another and she began to really acted out so badly. She refused to go to school and declared that she would rather be with her aunt and uncle, so I sent her back to live with my sister in the city that I previously lived. It did not go well with her there as her disruptive behavior intensified and my sister and her husband sent her back to me. I took her to a child clinician who saw her twice a week to allow her to discuss her feelings and to do “constructive art” and writing. She told the clinician that I hated her and that I loved her older sister more than her and that I punished her often (she was punished as a consequence for breaking household items on purpose or striking a sibling in one of her moods) “for nothing”. As a result, the clinician lined up against me, the parent, as an enemy to my own child and our discourses when I received follow up after each visit were often hostile in nature. I was angry, hurt, frustrated and fast running out of solutions. A final straw came when I was carrying my sixth child and Tya was discharged from her school by the Assistant Principal who did her daily rounds with Tya by her side because none of her teachers would have Tya in their class, The Assistant Principal contacted me at home and said that they could no longer continue with things as they were and I had to come and get her because they had nowhere to put her at school (this shows you how far we have come in some school districts that now try to address these issues once they recognize them). I went to the school and picked her up and with my bulging belly, whipped her until I was tired. I was taking care of my five children, plus my other sister’s three children in addition to being pregnant, on welfare and alone with no resources. I had reached my breaking point. I no longer trusted clinicians who were supposed to help me with my daughter, but made me out to be an ogre, so I supposed I did act the part that day. That evening was a parent-teacher conference and I showed up with Tya in tow and the other children and the welts were observed all over her and the school, in obvious consternation, called the city Child Protective Services, who showed up at my home later that night with two police officers and 4 Child Protective Services staffers. At first, I was incredulous that there were officers at the door saying that they received a report of abuse of children living in the apartment and I told them that no one was being abused and they must have been mistaken. They later returned with a warrant and removed all of my children and with me traveling in another car, went to the local hospital where all the children were examined for signs of abuse. None were found except on Tya. We all were released to go home, me and Tya with a court date to establish whether she should be removed or not from our home. In the end, the child advocate and the judge determined that it was a onetime event and said that there was no reason to remove her, but asked me if I wanted her to go to a foster home to give us both distance and I agreed readily. I was tired and after being accused of criminal behavior despite the fact that I had taken my daughter to be seen for help for her condition, I was offered no other recourse and no support at all.
Her condition became progressively worse as she got older with all the symptoms that I have come to know as bi-polar and manic behavior, the most disturbing being the sexual acting out and the physical attacks on family members. Today, she is 30 years old with a 5 year old son and a 6 month old son and another on the way in about 4 months and I despair that she will ever get help. She only just went to a clinic after acknowledging that “something is wrong with me” but history shows that these trips will only last as long as it takes for the next episode to happen and the fact that she is pregnant, has a under 1 year old child and a 5 year old that is exhibiting signs of ADHD is very disturbing indeed.
However, the fact that this condition has been recognized is heartening because more attention is given to it and proper treatment and support can be provided to the child and parent as never before. There is still some ways to go, but at least this is a start. Thanks for letting me share my story.
“Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation”