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Old 06-08-2003, 03:19 AM
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Psychiatric hospitalization and children

I guess what I am hoping to find here is, not advice, but someone who has been through a similar experience and maybe, maybe can tell me that there is hope. I"ll try to make a very long story short.

In June of 2002, after a year of weekend visits, a little brother and sister (5 and 8 respectively) moved into our home, with our intention of adopting them. (We did not have any other children, and the legal adoption is still in process, due to annoying court delays). During the winter, Susie's (not her real name) behavior became more and more difficult--with major-league defiance, screaming and crying bouts, etc. In February, she told us that she was hearing voices that were telling her to hurt herself. This escalated until they were telling her to maim and kill herself...fortunately, an eight-year-old is small enough to overpower when she is trying to stab herself.

We had many harrowing scenes and trips to the ER. I'll leave out details...anyway, she has been hospitalized in a child psychiatric unit for nearly three months now, and has made good progress on a program of strict behavioral controls, a point economy with lots of good prizes available, and medication. (I know there are many people who are against psychotropic meds for children...but I wish you could have seen Susie at her worst times.)

The doctors are diagnosing her with post-traumatic stress disorder...from the abuse she suffered at age four, before she and her brother were taken into foster care. (Believe me, you don't want to know the details.)

They do have hope that, long-term, things will be better for Susie and that she will eventually go back to a regular suburban grade-schooler's life with us. We were preparing for her discharge within a week or so...and now she is relapsing into some of her old behaviors. This is Sunday morning, and she should be sleeping in her room next door...except that, last night, she "freaked" and refused to go to bed in her own room. She has been talking about vampires trying to get in her room. So my husband took her back to the hospital. We will call her there later this morning, and probably visit her on the unit later today.

It's just so hard....the ups, and downs, and hopes, and discouragements.....her little brother has been very upset by all this, and my husband and I, definitely not doing too well emotionally either. I am pretty sure that I could be diagnosed with depression at this point.

Is there anybody who has been through the psychiatric hospitalization of a loved one...who is willing to share a little bit of their experiences? I just feel so alone and so sad about all this. We knew that children coming into adoption from foster care had lots of emotional issues, but we did not expect to have to deal with problems of this magnitude.

Thanks for letting me vent.
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Old 06-18-2003, 11:07 AM
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I'm amazed that no one has responded to your post - even just for encouragement! Personally, I have not had anywhere near this kind of experience. I can't even imagine what you are going through. All I can say is that I think that you, your husband, and Susie's brother should speak to a professional therapist about what's happening and how to cope with it. I'm also curious as to what Susie's social worker says about all of this. Believe me, I admire you more than words can say for sticking by Susie through this. My prayers will be with you and your family!
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Old 06-18-2003, 11:21 AM
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Child Hospitalized

I know what you are going through to some extent. My oldest son is bipolar. Before he was properly medicated he would destroy our house. He threw things, broke things, used me as a punching bag, cussed us out(we don't cuss in our family), threatened us,etc. His first hospital trip was when he tried to kill me and his little brother with a steak knife. He was in the hospital for 8 days. Four days after he came home he was back again. That stay was 10 days. The last time (so far) was when he told his school counselor that he was going to kill himself. DH and I went to school to pick him up. He walked with us to the door of school and then took off running. DH ran after him while I chased him in the car. When we finally caught him, DH had to sit on him in the car. He refused to use a seat belt and kept head butting his Dad, the car window, the car seat, etc. At the emergency room it took 3 grown men to carry him into the hospital. He had to be strapped down to a table and was given a sedative. At the hospital (each time he was transported to the psych hospital by police, in hand cuffs, ankle cuffs and chains) he tried to punch his way out of the padded room and fractured his finger. He was there this time for 2 weeks. Right now, THANK GOD, he is on a bunch of medicines that are working. The only problem is he keeps growing (turns 15 tomorrow) and then his meds have to be adjusted each time. He's at the top end of the dosages on the meds he's on now. They will have to try other things when these stop helping which means more hosptials. One of the things that I've learned is to take time for yourself. I have a 6 year old son who is affected by this. He has nightmares all the time. He's become a very fearful child. It's hard not to focus on the child that is in crisis but the whole family needs to get their attention and know that they are loved too. The child not in crisis may act out to get attention like their sibling. I try to give my younger son attention every day and tell him that I love him and TRY to explain why his brother acts the way he does. If I can help write me at [email protected]
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Old 06-18-2003, 12:28 PM
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After reading your posts, my heart goes out to both of you. I wish I could offer some advice, but can only say that counseling is a must! I know it's helped me many of time understanding my now 13 year old dd. After two months of testing and counseling with a physcologist, she was determined to be severely depressed and has ADD. Again, people talk about medicating children, but with it, she is "fine", and without it, she fails daily in school, she talks about harming herself as well as others, etc. She has a real "anger management" problem that sometimes scares me. I hope she never goes through with some of her threats, but my nerves are shot at this point.

Hope everything works out for the both of you,

Many blessings to you and your family!
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Old 06-18-2003, 04:24 PM
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Hi Lewcas
My heart goes out to all of you.
It is very difficult to say from a distance how to treat your childs problems. Nobody should give any advise without knowing your child fully, as a lot of harm can be done. Each child is an individual and will respond differently, and while we may normally say try this, this or this when dealing with the usual behaviour problems of children you cannot do this when a child needs psychiatric help because anything that does not help will surely hinder.
I do understand how fearful you are and your feellings of hopelesness.
I am not an expert, especially not about psychiatric treatment in your country, which may be so different than ours. However I speak as the adoptive mother of a 20yr old who was also terribly abused as a child and is now in long-term psychiatric care. I fostered her from 3yrs and adopted her at 7yrs. I have fostered over 200 children over the past 19 yrs and I was also trained as a psychiatric nurse, although I worked with adults.
I have had children who have shown the same sort of problems as your child but have been able to live comparatively safely with help as their medication became ballanced and the only upsets now is when the medication levels need adjusting or when they sometimes get fed up with taking it.
With my daugher her severe symptoms didn't surface until she was 12 or so then she did not reveal that she was hearing voices and ended up in trouble with the police, hating me and the family because we tried to help.She started hanging round with the wrong people to try and stop us from finding out what was really wrong and by 15ys she was drinking and taking drugs. In her later teens she was pulling knives on people and moving round the country trying to escape the police. In her lucid times she would ring and beg for my help but then she would become paranoid and flee again. She was only diagnosed properly after being taken to court for threatening to kill a taxi-driver. Finally people listened to us and she is now receiving help. They have decided that her illness is probably genetic. Sorry this is getting like a novel. I just wnted you to understand why I'm giving you the advice that will follow.
What do you do?
You cannot change the past, only live with the present and hope for the future.
You cannot help your child unless you start by helping yourself first.
The next ones to help are your spouse and other children.
Decide if the love YOU have for this child is truly unconditional.
Can you love this child no matter what she does and no matter what criticism you get from other people.
If you cannot completely do this then you should not adopt her.
This may sound very cruel but she does not need someone who sticks with her because they feel sorry for her.
I have had people say to me that I'm lucky I only adopted my daughter, I don't need to be responsible and can leave her where she is.
(Like she is a dress you get fed up with and send to the charity shop!!!)
Please be sure that you can stay the course, accept that you may not be able to 'cure' her, but you can work to help her achieve her potential.
If you can do this then help yourself by getting into the frame of mind that whatever she does she is doing to herself, not you, and that she is unable to control her fears. Accept that what she is feeling is real to her. If she is saying that voices are talking to her don't ask what they are saying but ask what she is hearing. I use this opportunity to explain to my daughter that the voices are similar to what happens when we dreams or nightmares but she is having them when she is awake. Dreams seem very real but they are just our minds making up stories. I ask her to ring me when the voices get bad so that her mind can concentrate on talking to me. She does this and although it is hard to listen to her pain it does help her. The staff say that if she talks to me then she calms down quicker. At the moment this is the only thing I can do to help her. Maybe one day she will be able to return to life outside of the hospital. I don't know.(gosh I'm rambling again)
What I'm really trying to say is that you must try and always stay calm, speak quietly but firmly, it will help you and especially your son, if your daughter is in the middle of a fearful screaming episode then if you can stay calm then your son will draw strength from you. Never worry about other people seeing her this way and your son will learn not to feel embarrased about her. Don't let her illness dominate his life, while she is in hospital have days out and treats and don' t feel guilty about doing it without her.
Well that is the worst bit.
Now I may be able to give you some hope.
We have found when fostering that some children have been through so much that subconsciously they believe that things will never be good for them. They believe that at some point they are going to be rejected or hurt so they do things to destroy the situation themselves. Then it is their choice not something done to them. They don't even know why they are behaving like this which makes them more frightened. You have to keep showing them over and over again that no matter what they do you will not send them away. (Wow!! and they can put you through the mangle). The message is that we don't like the behaviour but we do like you, we have a mantra for this REJECT THE BEHAVIOUR - NOT THE CHILD.
Other children have not been able to react to the horrors at the time they have happened to them, they have become numb. So when the are in a safe place they get PTS. Again they cannot accept that things are going to be good. If there are delays in the adoption they see this as "here it is but you can't have it" and react badly. They are missing the ability to trust.
My daughter spent the first few years with us trying to be so good it was un-natural. The day after her adoption she had a strop and slammed the door behind her and banged her feet on every stair shouting I'm not your friend anymore. We were so excited we phoned her social worker to tell her. Why? because by showing a temper it showed that she now believed that we would keep her even if she was 'naughty'. She felt safe.
It could be that ,with help, your daughter could make a full recovery from the PTS.
Here endeth the lesson
Seriously though I cannot give you any advice better than love her unconditionally and never be ashamed or embarrased by her behaviour. If others can't accept it then tough! You will find out who your true friends are, but if you loose some where they worth having in the first place?
Please let me know how you all get on and if you need to vent anger, hurt, pain etc send it to me in an email 'cos at the end of the day it cannot hurt me like it could your loved ones. I'm an outsider but can become a friend when needed but with no strings.
Hugs to you all
Mumtomanyuk
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Old 06-18-2003, 04:37 PM
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mumtomany, what a beautiful and giving post. You are the kind of person that makes this world a better place! God bless you!
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Old 06-18-2003, 04:42 PM
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I have not, personally, gone thru a trial with my children such as you have described. It was, instead, my husband.
He had also been abused as a child. As far as I know it was contained to the hitting/punching variety, thought that is too much for a child to have to endure. He has had major problems with anger management. When he got closest to actually dealing with his problems, THAT is when it got the worst. When he started taking his anger out on me, we separated. We have been to several counselors. He went to a psychiatrist who put him on 3 different drugs at the same time. Two were psychotropic and one for blood pressure. They did not help. I went with him to a session at the doctor's request. The doctor did not seem at all concerned with the fact that his behavior toward me was still inappropriate while taking these drugs. He also treated me as a 2nd class citizen. This doctor came from a country where women are routinely treated as 2nd class non-citizens and altho I had given him the benefit of the doubt, I told my husband of the feelings I had. I had also informed them both at the session that my health and safety would NOT be dependent upon whether or not those drugs worked. I know that sometimes they are a Godsend, but in this case, they were only something to hide behind instead of taking responsibility for his actions.
As a grown man, he had to take himself in hand or lose his family.
We did alot of praying during that time and though things are never perfect in any marriage behind closed doors, it is a different world now. The person who had hurt him so many years ago had apologized many times and lives a life of regret. He just never accepted that apology or forgave, which means that he also never let go of the rage and hurt. He had a choice to make.
Which did he want to hold onto? The rage or his family?
It is not so easy with young children. Your child can probably hardly get a grip on life around her. I feel so sad for her. I just want to reach out and hold her. There was nothing wrong with her that made this monster do horrid things to her. I pray that God touches her and heals her of all the hurt that she has suffered. I pray that you are given the comfort and guidance and the strength to do what she needs you to do, whatever that may be. And may you be blessed for continuing to care for this child which might have been thrown back into a broken system if not for the love you have given to her.
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Old 06-18-2003, 05:27 PM
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Hi Debbie
Sorry I did not mean to leave you out, just got carried away.
I have been in a similar situation to you.
When my daughter (let us call her Helen) was 15 and a social worker had brought her back home we were siting round the kitchen table trying to sort out the situation, Helen was verbally abusing me and saying she wished I was dead so she could dance on my grave. The SW asked me if I had to put up with this behaviour all the time, this angered Helen. My other adopted daughter who was 3 at the time (but only the size of a 1 yr old) tried to hug her and Helen turned on her with her fist drawn and hate in her face. The SW was quick and grabbed her arm. (remember,at this time we didn't know she was ill)
Now when she has good days that haunts her and makes her feel so guilty.
The most hurtful thing was that people saw the child who was acting out and being so rude and abusive and didn't know the daugter who was so loving and close to me, we used to do everything together so much so that I used to worry that she didn't go out with her peers and would rather stay home with me. The change was so sudden too. I worked it out from the last day she spent really happy with me to the violent abusive child was only 6 weeks.
According to the doctors they will not give a child treatment or diagnose the problem until they are 18yrs. I believe this is too late. My daughter has scarred her neck, arms and stomach in the many times she has tried to kill herself (at least 15 times). As you say they grow out of the medication and eventually have to go on something else, hopefully one day a new drug will be found to give a long term benefit. Till then we manage each day as it comes.
Keep srong and well, your 6yr old needs you to show him the way.
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Old 06-18-2003, 05:48 PM
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Hi,
First I'd like to say that you are not alone. MY DS has not been hospitalized but he's come mighty close. After months of going from therapists and counselors that wanted to give me parenting tips we finally found someone to actually listen to what I was saying. Finally I found someone who said no it is not your parenting skills and yes your son has some problems.
After taking detailed notes on his behaviors and family historys etc we finally had a diagnosis. He has Early Onset Bipolar Disorder and he is ADHD.
He was "raging" and I was ending up bleeding and black and blue. He would talk vulgar and say awful things. Things we don't say in our house. He would go on this rage and then melt down and go hide in a corner and cry.. many time threatening to kill himself. I was so heartbroken and felt I had failed him. Not until we found a counselor and a doctor that help me understand the reason why he was afraid to sleep by himself... the horrible nightmares these kids endure is awful and the voices he was hearing I had no idea exsisted. They help me understand his cycling and help me to better understand how to help him.
He was having problems in school. The teachers felt like he was perfectly capable of doing the work just unable to concetrate long enough to do it.
I really did not want to put him on medication. It took some soul searching to come to the realazation that he probably did need it. We have started a treatment program and have seen much improvement. We still have out days but things are much better.
There is hope but it may take a lot of time and more patience that you ever thought you had.
Best of luck to all of you! Hang in there!
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Old 06-18-2003, 07:06 PM
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THANK YOU everyone for your replies...it really helps to know there are others out there.

Mumtomany, a lot of what you say is very relevant to our situation....although the legal stuff is being held up, we had an "adoption covenant" ceremony at our agency in February, at which we all signed papers saying that we were a permanent family. Not legally binding, but pretty intense emotionally. Susie was hearing voices for months before that, but she never revealed the fact to us until after the ceremony. We, and the treatment team, have taken this as a sign that she finally felt safe enough with us to let us know what was going on.

Meanwhile, we go day to day. We had Susie home on a weekend pass again last Saturday, but after dinner she started hearing the voices again, crying, trying to get to the kitchen knives, and hitting herself hard on the head. Our instructions have been to take her back to the hospital (15 minutes away) as calmly as we can, so we did. She did have an interview for a "transitional" day program on Monday; she has been accepted, and when she is discharged from the hospital she will live at home but attend this 6-day-a-week program for a month. Then we go from there to ?????

Susie's little brother is in counseling already, and my husband has been under psychiatric care for a long time for bipolar disorder (fortunately, quite stable and doing well--and yes, we are able to adopt, with a note from his doctor). I have been resisting getting help for myself, but I have an appointment with a psychiatrist in a few weeks....I checked in the DSM and I pretty much meet all the criteria for a major depressive episode at this point.

I'm very tired..gotta go to bed...as DH tells me, I can't be any good for anyone else if I don't take care of myself.

Thanks again.....
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