Did you know that children can actually only control two things in their environment? Two things. What they put in and what they put out. Meaning, they can control the food they take into their bodies and the waste they put out. Everything else lies in the hands of someone else; a parent, teacher, guardian, circumstances. Therefore, when they feel as though they need to regain control of their lives, they may very well choose to stop doing one of these two things. When my daughter was seven she stopped doing both. Seven!
When Things Get Out of Control
My mom was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma just before my daughter began kindergarten in 2010. We had just had a new baby the year before, and now I was going to need to become a key caregiver in my mom’s battle, and, thus, be away from home more than usual. Plus, I had the new baby that needed my constant attention. All of this as my daughter began school… after knowing her older siblings were homeschooled. It was a lot to take in.
In April of 2010, we began to note that she was spending several minutes of her day in the bathroom at school as well as at home. She made frequent trips to the school nurse and often complained about a stomach ache at home. A trip to the Gastrointestinal Doctor told us she had Chronic Constipation. Little did we know it was just the beginning.
By December things had deteriorated more, and the first week of January 2011 she spent a week in the local children’s hospital. It was at this point that she was diagnosed with anorexia and our real journey began. They sent us home with a prescription for Lexapro and that one medicine turned our world upside down.
The medicine threw her serotonin into toxic levels and we endured fits of rage unlike any I have never seen. She would become angry at the drop of a dime every afternoon when she walked in from school. We began to prepare for it but cringed when it would actually start. She would cuss and scream at us. Bite and kick if we got near her. When I tried to call her by name she insisted I call her, “Master of Evil.” I cried and cried as I held her… my hands holding her arms criss-crossed over her torso and my legs entwined over hers to keep her from breaking lose. My teenage son would help while my oldest daughter kept the other girls away from the seeing what was happening. My husband would rush home from work and an hour or so later we would all cry together once it stopped. This, again, was every day! We were at a loss.
This continued daily for over 2 months until it escalated to the point where she threatened to kill both me and our baby. It was at this point that SHE begged for help… and my husband and I had to make the tough decision to have her admitted to a children’s psychiatric ward.
A week in the psych ward and she was able to come home. Her psychiatrist worked with us to wean her off all the medications and we were able to find our daughter again within the shell of what her body had become. By Thanksgiving of 2011, all of the fits stopped, she was eating once again, and our now 8 year old was back on track.
In fact, the following year she got perfect attendance at school. Even the school staff wanted to cry with us. After seeing 7 doctors over the course of the previous school year, 2 hospital stays, and numerous absences through it all… this was a HUGE feat.
She still struggles with the Chronic Constipation and may always depend on her own ability to let go of that control. But, we have learned to work with it and help her through those times when it is at its worst. It is manageable. Her desire to not eat at all was not easy for us and, obviously, dangerous to her body. We have come a long way over the past 2 years and plan to continue to move forward.
Here are a few tips we have learned along the way in order to help our daughter:
- Family Meals – Although we have always made it a point to eat together as a family, it has become such a much bigger priority. We are able to catch up with each other on our day apart, as well as monitor more closely the food intake.
- Quality Time – We have discovered that of our 5 children, the daughter mentioned above yearns for quality time more than the others. We try to do special projects with her. She enjoys crafts so she has her own box of crafting supplies. We have even set her up with her own blog where she writes to keep herself busy and can share her own thoughts.
- Personal Attitudes – We have asked our teens, and have become more mindful ourselves, not to use derogatory terms about weight. We simply encourage healthy eating by using positive reinforcement and do not belittle anyone for their eating habits.
- Open Communication – I believe the most important thing we can give our children is time. Time to listen when necessary and to have open lines of communication is often lost in today’s busy world. I try to always stop what I am doing and give them my undivided attention when needed. Kids need to know we really care to hear what they have to say.
- Quality Treatment Team– We have found that having the proper treatment care throughout our journey was essential. At one point we immediately removed her from one facility and fought with all we had to get her moved to another. We had to. Our daughter actually snuck away to find a phone to call us. She had been given shots of medicine we had not authorized and was sleeping on a cot behind the nurses’ station. Even at 7 years of age she knew this was not the way it should be. We could not agree with the way the treatment was going and were able to find a good treatment team elsewhere to help us with the battle. Our 7 doctors, including a psychiatrist and play therapist, became our springboard for concerns and ideas, and they learned from our experience as we went along. We are forever grateful to the quality medical team she had working for her throughout the process… and even still today.
Learning your child has any sort of medical disorder can be heartbreaking. As a parent we want nothing more but for our children to lead a happy, healthy life. Sometimes they just need a little more guidance to get there. I am more than willing to fight that fight for my children… and will continue to do so for my daughter. Knowing that she had the best medical care and treatment team was essential. Not to mention, her school staff had to be supportive through all of her appointments and hospital stays.
That is why programs such as Sage Day School are vital for children facing these struggles.
Sage Day School provides the kind of safe, small, therapeutic and challenging educational community that helps children and adolescents reconnect with family, friends and community. Sage Day integrates social, emotional and academic growth through the collaboration of students, families, teachers and therapists to empower and prepare students with the skills needed to realize their potential and achieve success.
Allowing students to discover their confidence in an environment conducive to their learning needs is essential to helping them succeed. Developing the skills they need to move forward will only enhance their therapy and restore them in their healing. I know I am grateful to learn of such a school that provides quality care for those searching for assistance.
I am also thankful we were able to get my daughter the timely help she needed. And that we learned how to become better as a family as we walked with her through her journey.