family, mental illness

The Hard Truths

Goodness knows I wish I didn’t have to face the hard truths. If there was a place I could hide from them I’d probably be there right now. Our daughter is not doing well. She isn’t getting any better. I’d like to protest and remember all the progress she had made. I’d like to remember the years where she was stable. I’d like to believe she is improving. Unfortunately that is not the truth of things. Her hallucinations are becoming stronger. I feel like our girl is slipping further and further away from us.

Mary is about to switch into a longer term residential facility. It will start with a 45 day diagnostic placement. Based on the recommendations of the program, she will stay with them for up to a year. We were lucky enough to get this residential school through an IEP. Without that we surely wouldn’t be able to afford this treatment. What we need is the truth of things. Will this next step help our Mary?

I also think we need to face a harder truth. Is there ANY treatment that would help Mary? Would anything else keep her safe at home? The answer is probably not. I think this truth is made so much harder by the fact that we had a few good years. She was relatively stable. She was relatively safe, at least physically.

I find myself seeking truths from other blogs. Does anyone else have a child who hallucinates voices that want her to hurt people? What do people do with children who are so mentally ill that they can never be left alone? Ever? People send me words of encouragement and I appreciate it. People also send some rather strange advice. I mean we have obviously tried in-home intensive treatment and every possible combination of outpatient programs, medication, and therapeutic strategies. (It seems unlikely that your magic oil will prevent Mary from stockpiling knives and trying to capture her brother alone in his room. I like essential oils but they are not a safety measure by any means.)

Truth is an evasive thing. I used to think almost anything could be found on the internet. This is not so. I simply cannot find stories of families like ours. Where are all the other parents of children with developmental trauma or attachment issues or Bipolar Disorder? Have they found any treatment that works? Or are we simply alone? This truth is a hard truth for me.

They are silent. Families like ours are silent in the truth of their struggles. They are silent about what they endure or how they fight against their child’s demons. I can find a hundred blogs about families with physically ill children. They are applauded for speaking their truth through the tribulations of cancer, diabetes, and rare genetic diseases. Not so for the parents of children facing mental illness. We are left in shadow and told to be quiet about our experiences. There is a shameful stigma to this kind of thing. People would rather not face this truth.

So I share our story. I don’t want others to feel alone on this road. It’s a difficult one but it exists for more children than just our daughter. We got hard news today in a meeting with the clinical director from the new residential school. They have an amazing, cutting edge program based on the latest research around complex trauma. However they don’t have good news. For a case like Mary’s the results are mixed. Many kids who are this dangerous need years of residential treatment to go home, if they ever can. Even the best treatment cannot work if she won’t try.

I have no answers. I have only truth. Only our truth. I share it with you so that hopefully some of you feel less alone.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


42 thoughts on “The Hard Truths

  1. C says:

    I would never wish this on anyone, but I am glad you are sharing your story. Other stories like you yours are incredibly rare for many reasons, but a big one is bipolar in children has only been recognized with in the past 15 years or so. Combine that with early childhood trauma that many believed could not impact a child because people don’t have memories from that early on. Mary isn’t necessarily new but the way she is viewed and the therapies available to her are. I wish Mary the best and hope that someone can fine a way to make her present so she can actively participate in the therapy. I know this isn’t exactly a hopeful thing to say but she may switch back after puberty just like she did at the onset.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. D G says:

    You’re not alone! I love your blog and read it as often as I can. I’m also a member of at least 3 Facebook groups with many many families experiencing similar incredibly tough situations (understatement, sorry)  Sending strength and a hugXx

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are not alone. We have plenty of experiences in our house all related to developmental trauma and mental health. I find that I have not quite found my voice entirely on this matter. I share what I can but often I’m so busy picking up pieces that don’t make sense and trying to center myself that I struggle to recount them through my blog. My writing is often watered down versions at best. It feels too painful to me. I’m sorry for that because I want people not to feel alone. The truth is no matter what the pain it is quite lonely eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michelle says:

    I am so sorry about your latest news. Ha k you for being so raw and honest and being that voice that maybe somebody else is looking for. I hope this residential program will help – I know that children do sometimes stabilize after puberty. Remember, her brain is still growing and all of these positive treatments she is having will hopefully start to counteract her negative beginnings. I work with kids with trauma (JRI) and I have seen that changes can occur. You are doing everything you can. Thank you again for writing, you are helping more people than you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michelle. The program she is going to is a JRI facility. It uses the ARC model among other things. I’m really hoping that she stabilizes to a safe place. It’s good to hear that changes ca occur. I need to remind myself that it’s possible.


  5. Anka says:

    For me, it’s so hard to know what’s fair to share. We also have a teen adopted from foster care who has severe mental health challenges and who has physically harmed people in our house. We also have fostered his 17-yo sister in the past, and currently have a relationship with her though she’s in an independent living program.

    I want to share “my side” of the challenges and fear and anxiety and safety planning, but I also don’t want others to feel afraid of my son. I don’t want my son’s challenges, or my response to them, to define him via the way I share. He does still live with us and (tries to) function in our school and church communities. So while I have a few close friends who know what’s up, mostly we only share very occasional family photos, and that’s it. I am grateful to you for sharing, even though I haven’t figured out the best way for myself. It’s so hard. Prayers (or agnostic good thoughts if that’s more your thing) for your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for being so open with us. I love someone who’s spent years working through issues with her child, and I feel like even I only get bits and pieces of what’s really happening. I don’t believe there are auditory hallucinations involved, but I’ll ask the next time we talk. Sending all the love and support your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Diane M says:

    My heart hurts for you and I wish I had words that would make this all better. A year ago, our son was arrested and taken to jail because he sexually assaulted his two younger siblings. No where on the internet could I find someone wiling to talk about being the parent of the offender and the victims. I know they are out there, right? But no one wants to talk about how your heart is ripped in two as you try to support all three kids. And the looks I would get from people when I said I was advocating for my son in jail….like I didn’t care about my other kids….and when I tried to comfort them and get them into counseling, I wondered how he was doing away from all he had known for the last 8 years….in a place where “bad people” lived. I felt utterly helpless, and at times hopeless. I kept asking “Where is the handbook for parents for when their kid goes to jail?” The jailer’s sort of smirked at me….sigh….guess we had to navigate this one on our own.

    Now, it is a year later, and our son is done with his inpatient residential treatment. He has “made ammends” with his siblings and he is welcomed back in our home. I have family members who wouldn’t attend Christmas with us because they thought he was unsafe around their babies. Even though it was public knowledge that his abuse was only in house. I know that there are people wondering how we could welcome him back into our home, after “what he did.”

    The answer is this….we love him…we love them….we need our family to be whole again. He needs our ongoing support, because even though he is chronologically 18, he is in reality maybe 15 or 16 years old developmentally. We can’t turn our back on him. Much like you will never turn your back on Mary. She is your child. No matter where she lives, no matter how she acts, you will always love her. Even when the future is unsure, and there is only the tiniest glimmer of hope, you will always love her…because that is what you committed to on the day you adopted her. Together Forever No Matter Whatever….that’s what we’ve told our kids. We will always be your support, even when you are the most unlovable.

    Hugs from a mama who has been down a similar road, but not exactly the same.


    On Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 9:09 PM, Herding Chickens and Other Adventures

    Liked by 1 person

    • Diane that is an extremely difficult story. Thank you for sharing your experience. I actually know of someone with a similar situation. Her older son lives in a residential setting now, permanently. He is still very much a part of the family. For safety reasons he can’t live at home with the younger children, though. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do in that kind of situation. I never imagined handling our situation before I got here.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The Ravelling Thread says:

    I don’t have any wise words or advice but my heart is hurting for you and I am sending so many good wishes that Mary gets the best help possible. Much Love and courage and strength for you.


  9. miccig1 says:

    My son has been in residential over two years. There has been little to no progress. In fact he has not even been able to meet basic requirements, does not choose to participate in his therapy or school and had increased in aggression towards staff and peers. He also shares psychotic features that you have mentioned. We no longer have a return home goal because we also have an obligation to keep our younger children safe and he has attempted to act on his homicidal ideations when he lived at home- no safeguards we attempted were successful and we are all lucky to be alive. I have a few close friends who share very similar struggles but you are correct- there is not much out there for our kind…. it is indeed a long, lonely road.


    • Thank you for sharing your story. It is a lonely road but your comment makes me feel less alone. Our daughter has attempted to act on her honicidal ideations. It wasn’t taken very seriously on the inpatient unit. It wasn’t until the PRTF where she actually began discussing it. I’m hoping RTC helps her. I’m not sure how we would continue to find it or what would happen down the road. I want to believe our girl can be safe someday. Best of luck to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. C says:

    I was in a Residential as a child. I can’t speak from a paren’t perspective only from mine. It’s incredibly difficult to be there. Some staff was amazing while other staff treated us terribly. I think that after a while some kids get comfortable just stop participating and start acting out. The programs work if kids and families stay engaged. I was able to benefit because I used the program and was able to bond with people. Some kids are unable to do that for various reasons and they should be addressed. I wish your son and your family all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. silveryew says:

    I am so sorry to hear this is happening. I have been reading your blog and know that you are desperate to have her home and how incredibly hard it has been for all of you to have to live this way. Not just for her safety but also for your own.

    I have nominated you for the Britain Blog Award for Mix-Niche Blogs – you can read about it here and take part, if you wish:


  12. Heila says:

    Hi, I came across a book that I thought you will find interesting: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk. If you read the reviews on Amazon there is a good summary of what it is about. Apologies if you know all of that already, I just found it illuminating.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Melanie says:

    I happened across your blog and read this post. I sooo understand! I have 2 kiddos, adopted from Ukraine. My 10yr old son sounds like your Mary. He is still in our home and it is becoming increasingly difficult. I don’t think anything can prepare a person for this type of behavior. It is causing incredible strain on my marriage and taking a toll on each family member personally. Yet to the outside world, he is a social, charming, handsome kiddo (hmmm… as I type that, the word psychopath comes to mind). My family thinks we are crazy – so strict and intolerant of this poor child. I’ve quit trying to explain what life is like at our house. I prayed for this child, begging God to let us bring him home and knowing that He moved mountains to make that happen. I find myself questioning what His purpose is in a situation like this and yet, there must be one. I love my son fiercely and I am committed to helping him heal, if that is possible. But, I am not sure how we will survive the next 8-10 years, given what things are like right now. I have no answers, I just want you to know that you are not alone.


  14. Thank you for sharing this. I have an adopted son like your Mary. We are working very hard right now to obtain resxidential treatment for him. It’s so hard to explain to other people. Yes. He can be polite and sweet and hold intelligent, insightful conversations. Yet, at home, he is a terror. I sm scared of him. I live in terror that he will find a way to burn down our house or kill one of his brothers….or My wife….or me. I understand where his issues originate, but I’m no longer convinced that anything can help him. It’s hard. I’m so sorry that you are going through this with your daughter.


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  17. JK says:

    Well, actually my husband and I both blog about our journey with our child. She also has attachment disorders, anxiety, bipolar (though they refuse to diagnose anyone younger than 22 with that here), and violence. My blog isn’t private but my husbands is. We use it to track our progress with our adopted girl. I keep mine open for the purpose of allowing others to see us, if they can find us. You’re welcome to read if you’d like, but I certainly don’t mind if you don’t. Where your child turns her aggression outward, mine turns hers inward. Both are terrible. Thank you for writing!

    Liked by 2 people

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