Despite our current level of chaos life keeps going, we roll with it, life isn’t going to stop for anything or anyone so we continue to move ahead with our routines as best as possible. As stressful as the day-to-day stuff is we look for moments to rejoice in. We are ecstatic that Ranee has finished her extended day treatment program. She’s been in this program for 8 months which is much longer than most. Because of all the institutionalization’s it’s taken her a bit longer to complete because every hospitalization was a little setback. She’s been anxious to finish, so many kids have come and gone while she’s consistently been there working on herself, making progress at a slow and steady pace. There are different levels of completion for the Fences day program it’s earned based on the effort that’s put into the recovery. There is a goodbye, a goodbyeuation, or a graduation, earning a graduation is the highest honor. Ranee earned a graduation, she has waited so long for this, she has gotten what she needed from the program. Now comes the true test leaving and putting her new-found coping skills to the test.
She’s had some major moments to be anxious about lately, which would typically trigger her hallucinations but she’s done well. Somethings working whether it’s the medication or putting to use her coping skills or both. I’m just relieved that for the moment she’s doing well. She’s made some major strides, not just emotionally but intellectually Everyday I see her confidence grow, we’re figuring out what learning techniques work for her, she’s realizing again that she’s smart. Putting a name to her learning disability has really helped her, she understands better that she’s not unintelligent she’s dyslexic we have an explanation now for why she struggles, and we have a better direction where to go educationally. We’re working on teaching her in ways that she can understand and retain. Homeschooling has made the way for us to tailor her learning style for what works for her. It’s given us some control again, she’s learning new things and starting to recognize her own strength and intelligence.
We don’t know what the future holds for her mentally, we’ve received different diagnosis’ from different professionals two hospitals and neuro psych testing diagnosed her with unspecified early onset schizophrenia spectrum and one hospital and one psychiatrist diagnosed her with Major anxiety and depressive episodes with psychosis. So what does that mean? Nothing. It means she meets the characteristics for certain mental health conditions and her symptoms are consistent with certain mental disorders but really her diagnosis at this point only tells us that she is a child with a mental illness. We waited so long for her neuro psych report, it was such a process to get that testing done, and then such a process getting the results once the testing was done.. Especially working with a doctor that turned out to be anything but professional. When the report finally came all 32 pages of it, it still left gaps and holes. For a while, I thought having a diagnosis would give us some sort of clarity that all the answers were within that diagnosis. We sought out different doctors and specialists and testing but it all brings us back to the same place. Here, right where we are.
As she grows and develops her mental issues can become worse or change into something different. There’s no way of knowing really, we just have to watch and wait. Everyone is in agreement that her case is complex, it’s not clear-cut, it’s complicated. What I do know is that we’re not going to stand around just waiting for the next major mental crisis we’re going to live life to the fullest and take advantage of the good times. And the bad times that are destined to come we’ll roll with that too. For now, we can build up our arsenal of tools, grow in our knowledge of mental illness and learning disabilities, so that she has the resources at the ready for if and when she needs them. A diagnosis or a label is not going to define who Ranee is or who she’s going to become.
We were led into a meeting room in the top floor of the Fences building, a room I had never seen before. It was lined with windows and the sun shone in greeting, us with its warmth. It had a brightness and warmth unlike the other therapy rooms downstairs. Around a large table sat the staff and the other children that wherein the program weathering their own recovery journeys. Ranee sat in the middle bouncing in her chair beaming with pride she had combed her curls out into a frizzy jumble of curls atop her head the light hit her natural blond highlights in a way that made it look like she was radiating light. Her smile and the brightness in her eyes was magnificent. My daughter was literally beaming. Empty chairs awaited us on both sides of Ranee, she directed us to the appropriate chairs me at her side Alexander on her other, Carmelo at the head of the table Charlene on my lap and Christopher to my right. Simone greeted us and told us about the graduation ritual everyone goes around the table and says something that they like about the person being honored something they notice they’ve changed and something they hope for their future. I was moved as her siblings and peers expressed themselves and showered her with compliments and well wishes for her future. When it came Carmelo’s time to speak he was overcome with emotion his tears freely flowed, he was still coming off of his own mental crisis, so his emotions were running quite high. The other kid’s eyes got wide with wonder, most had never seen a man cry. When he was able to get his bearings he assured them his tears were tears of joy for Ranee, they all chattered among themselves none of them had ever seen someone cry happy tears before either. The staff explained that’s what love looks like sometimes, sometimes it comes out in happy tears. The smile never left Ranee’s face.
To hear the staff express their feelings and observations about Ranee and how far she’d come was so encouraging, these people had been with us daily in a more personal way than anyone ever had before, we all carried her through the ups and downs these people had become such a fixture in our lives. They had been there for us as a family as much as they had been there for her individually. Especially Simone, Ranee’s case worker. I thought how difficult it must be to go through this process with these children and then have to let them go, to build this bond with them and then send them out into the world hoping that you’ve done the best for them. It’s like being a parent sending your child off to college or off into the workforce or marriage. I could see the pride on Ranee’s face knowing that she had done well by Ranee, she had guided her and given her the resources that she already possessed but just needed to find within herself. She had given us the resources and guidance to get Ranee back.
I thought back to the beginning when Ranee would be having an emotional episode and cry out for Simone, I was so hurt almost bitter that my child would want the comfort of a virtual stranger over me. But in this moment this day as Ranee spoke about the child she had originally met and who Ranee was now I understood and was grateful, Simone was the professional she had walked this course before with other families and children. Her eyes met mine it was as if she was handing the reigns back over to me, she had only taken them from us for a moment she was just guiding Ranee through this tricky course with us by her side. After everyone gave their well wishes it was time for presents and cake the guest of honor got to pick the ice cream and cake flavors she had asked for a lemon ice cream cake and the staff had done well to oblige only to find that there’s no such thing as a lemon ice cream cake. They were able to hunt down a lemon ice cream with bits of lemon cookies in it was delicious and met Ranee’s approval. They gave her a science kit and a kit with Alaska-themed figures and a notebook with letters from all of the staff, she gave hugs to everyone and the ceremony was over. As excited as Ranee was I could see in that moment as we exited the building that it was bitter-sweet she had just a glimmer of uncertainty. We have to set new routines now and help her stay on a healthy track as much as we can. Now that her days’ will be freed up a little more I’m looking forward to finding new adventures and things to explore we look to the future with excitement and hope, she’s been set up with a therapist and med doctor. So she will have ongoing support. And of course, she will always have us, the support of her family. After all, I am and will continue to be her warrior mama.