There is such a stigma about mental health, we hear so many stories about people with mental health issues that have been untreated, or gotten lost in the system only to end up in terrible situations. There is a mask that people with mental illness wear not wanting to let people into the fact that they are struggling. The struggle is constant, the symptoms can be managed but there is no cure, and the side effects from medication can take a continuous toll. But no one wants to really talk about it, or knows how to talk about it.
During Ranee’s last institution stay, a well-meaning friend asked Carmelo “do you think there’s hope for her”? The question infuriated me, what did that mean anyway? Of course, there’s hope for her, and for any child dealing with any sort of issue or a culmination of issues as in Ranee’s case. The hope for all our children is that they can overcome the obstacles they’ve been dealt with dignity, strength, and happiness. The hope is that not only will we learn to educate ourselves and our families but hopefully, that friend’s teachers and peers will educate themselves too. To lose hope would be giving up. I am a warrior mom, warrior moms don’t ever give up on their children. Yes, there is hope for her.
My daughter is like most other nine-year-old little girls. She’s spunky and vibrant, funny, kind and compassionate. To look at her you would never know the madness that is going on in her brain or that she has learning and sensory issues. She is so much more than all that, she asked me this last week if one of our close friends knew about her. I said yes they know you’ve been struggling with some things, but they also know that you’ve been working on your cooking, (she’s a great little chef) and that you got a new puppy and are being home schooled now. She needs to learn that she is so much more than this. She’s fine she just sees and hears imaginary people
Last week was a really momentous day for her in her out-patient extended day program. She’s been in this program for six months since her first hospitalization. The goal is to help her learn to cope with her strong emotions that cause her to hallucinate, to help build up her confidence and talk about her feelings. We find the more she talks about her feelings the less she hallucinates, in combination with medication to help manage her chemicals it seems to be working. She’s learning that it’s okay to have negative emotions and how to process them. She’s been in and out of the program because of the hospitalizations and the kids come and go, it’s a constant revolving door children with all kinds of issues and backgrounds.
It’s always been a struggle for Ranee to express herself in the groups or join into the different activities, she listens and watches, sometimes she can get past herself and join in but it’s difficult for her. This past week she shared in the group why she’s there, she put it all out on the table for everyone to see. And to her surprise there wasn’t much of a reaction, just praise for talking about her feelings. She said the kids didn’t care, I explained to her it wasn’t that they didn’t care it just didn’t change how they felt about her. “You are still you,actually” I said, “you just see and hear people who aren’t real sometimes when your emotions are too overwhelming” I smiled as I saw her processing this in her mind. The smile she gave me in return made my heart soar.
A diagnosis is not a definition of a person, I still havn’t been able to get a clear diagnosis. Regardless of a label that’s put on her the goal doesn’t change. We need to build her up, get her the resources she needs so that she can be a kid. Ranee is and will be so much more than the mean people she battles in her head. The different obstacles she faces to navigate through her life, will just be obstacles but we will find a way to get over them, under them, or around them. That is my mission as her mom and for all my children,
be what you are,
be who you are,
let your life define you.