After every institutionalization we would try our best to get back into a routine. There was always a little bit of apprehension about returning to school, what to tell the other kids when they asked where she had been. She would be eager to get back to her routine as well, she missed her teachers her friends and the congregation. We would talk about what she could say when the kids asked and she seemed comfortable within herself with how she wanted to handle it.
I could sense her uneasiness especially after an institutionalization, but I would try to keep the morning’s light and fun like they used to be. We’d crank up the music and dance our morning away. I’d pray so hard those mornings for her to be okay, for her to have the strength to make it through the day. I would make sure to let the school know she was coming so they could expect her and help make her transition back into the school as seamless as possible. I would swallow down the lump in my throat, throw her a reassuring smile and she would hop out of the car with a goodbye and a wave. I would watch her until I couldn’t see her anymore hoping she would turn around just so I could see her face to know if she was okay.
School has always been a challenge in an academic way. Ranee gets special education services and special accommodations because of her learning disabilities and they provide occupational therapy because of the sensory issues. She also has a 504 plan which just means the school can make certain accommodations pertaining to her vision. She’s never had an issue socially the kids and teachers really like her. But as she was getting older for the first time she started to realize that she wasn’t keeping up. Kids would say things questioning her intelligence and it definitely hurt, she would take it to heart. As brilliant as she is, she was disconnecting from it, she didn’t feel smart. She would work so hard only to still fail a written test. Her comprehension fortunately is really good she can explain anything back to you and get the deeper meanings of things, she just couldn’t translate it to paper.
Her self-esteem was wilting away and we didn’t know it, she kept a light happy facade, we didn’t know how badly she was struggling with her emotions internally. The weight of knowing that now is crushing. Was I so distracted with the boys and the baby that I missed her drowning in her own insecurities? I ask myself all the time if we had encouraged her more, praised her more, would she still be in this dark place? It hurts deeply that she didn’t feel like she could tell us how sad she was. But what we’ve learned in this process so far is that she didn’t know what to do with those negative emotions her brain didn’t know how to process those strong emotions.
The school social worker Cindy* was wonderful about keeping in contact with us to check on her progress in the hospital. She voiced more than once how much she liked Ranee and how terrible she felt that she was going through this. She had developed quite a relationship with Ranee, she had become Ranee’s safe place at school. It started to be a reoccurring conversation. I would get a phone call on a Monday that Ranee was having issues and was in her office, she even asked me once if I gave her medication on the weekends . The mean people where speaking to her, in all honesty the things they would say where very disturbing difficult for a parent and a social worker to hear. For a young child it could be debilitating. We started to see first hand the hallucinations being related to her anxiety, they would be working on something that she would find challenging in class, she would start to get overwhelmed then the hallucinations would start. The strange thing was Ranee would never have severe hallucinatory episodes at home, it only ever happened at school. Sure she would hallucinate at home, but she wouldn’t break down to the point of being inconsolable like at school.
Her teacher allowed her to go see Cindy when ever she felt the need, and Cindy did her best to educate herself on how to help her, she would often call Ranees social worker at her out-patient program for guidance which I allowed and appreciated. She would try to calm her anxiety and try to get her comfortable enough to go back to class, if that didn’t work she would call me and I would come get her. Two of those episodes resulted in her going back into inpatient treatment. It started to become such a pattern, Ranee wasn’t getting much out of school at that point. She would have a couple of okay weeks just to end up in the hospital again for an extended stay
My legs would feel so heavy walking down the school hallway with the baby on my chest. It was evident that the staff was fully aware of Ranee and her episodes, it was a small school. When I would come to pick up Ranee from Cindy’s office the receptionists would give me there sympathetic glares and point me in the direction of Cindy’s office. The teachers I would pass in the hall gave weak smiles. I had been a regular at the school since Ranee started there two years ago I would volunteer when I could and pick up Ranee from school on the days I didn’t work. I had even been classmates with a lot of the teachers, still living in the town I had grown up in. There was sympathy but also some uneasiness, I could feel it. I asked Cindy if my assumptions where right and she was honest which I respect so much.
The staff was uncomfortable, they had never had a child with the kind of mental issues that Ranee was experiencing. They feared that she would act on the things the voices told her and that she would hurt herself or someone else. They where afraid if Cindy wasn’t there how would they handle Ranee if she had an episode. She was a liability. I can’t say I didn’t understand the uneasiness. But it was hard to swallow, this is my Ranee, my kind compassionate beautiful Ranee that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Their job is to teach, this is beyond that, this part is my job. She wasn’t fully stable and there was no way of knowing when things would improve. I felt bad to keep subjecting her to an environment that wasn’t conducive to her way of learning but also to an environment that seemed to keep aggravating her fragile mind. But I was a working mom, what could I do? The situation felt so helpless.
We where so exhausted from the institutionalization’s and the school episodes. I was trying to do it all and getting burnt out. Carmelo was suffering emotionally, seeing his daughter grappling with such heavy things was taking a toll on him mentally, he was visibly depressed. My supermom cape was severely tattered and so was my confidence in my mama skills. My house was in disarray my boys where living on processed food. I felt like I was barely keeping it together. I know I’m a good mom but I felt like there wasn’t enough of me for everyone and everyone was getting short-changed. Carmelo was the one that suggested it, I was only working two days a week sometimes three when I would work a Saturday, and we where paying for daycare which was a hefty sum. “I think you need to quit your job and home school Ranee, we can’t keep putting her through this.” at first I thought he wasn’t thinking clearly I couldn’t put the full financial burden of the household on him. I couldn’t give up my job.
Now we are not a well off family by any means. We don’t have 6 months of savings like the financial experts suggest. We pretty much live paycheck to paycheck. But I’ve been following blogs on living on less for years, I coupon and bargain hunt. Although not easy we would have to find a way to make it work. When we really looked at our budget, after eliminating the daycare expenses and adjusting some of the other non essentials we could absorb my income. The problem was did I really want to give up my job? No not really, I liked my job I had been there for eighteen years, my first real job out of high school. I had grown up there, I was proud of my abilities and I was good at it. In a strange way being a working mother gave me a sort of validation I didn’t get just from being a mom, it felt good to contribute to the family financially although I didn’t contribute much. But working was kind of my personal time also, my get away.
But when it came down to it, it was a sacrifice one that I was willing to make, for my daughter. Because that’s what warrior moms do, isn’t it? Our whole lives become about sacrifice even before that baby is placed in our arms. From conception our lives become the ultimate lesson in sacrifice. We sacrifice our bodies, sleep, sometimes our own aspirations and desires, for that little life we were blessed to take on. As a grown woman I see how my mother sacrificed so much for her children, to this day she still makes sacrifices for me. It’s only now that I can look back and fully appreciate it. I hold the same out for Ranee that one day she will look back and know how hard I’ve fought for her.