Friday, August 17, 2012

Crushed and Broken Hearted—I’m Not Giving Up on My Son!

What can I say about today.

I still feel an ache that’s tearing apart my heart, the pounding in my chest as I hold in tears all day.

Today our therapist said the words that I’ve dreaded to hear.

“I recommend a group home.”

Like a punch in the stomach those words fell at my feet, I refused to hold them, to even consider their meaning.

So you may be wondering what happened. It’s not as bad as you think, or is it?

We’ve had a rough week as my son has been trying to cope with the stress of middle school starting next week. Small things like not having a place for his lunchbox in middle school and considering a switch to paper bags for lunch leave him unsettled, tipping a balance in his world since things will be different than last school year.

His response is the same, he takes it out on us. The usual stuff, taunting, causing his brothers to scream, “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Combine that with a long summer of less structure (modification plan not enforced enough), too much time with his brothers and boredom and we’re left with a stew of yuck.

We go through our usual steps. We try to calm the situation, but when he doesn’t want to comply the situation escalates, usually with a smile on his face. I have to lock him out of the house where he can calm himself down away from us. Usually he fights us and pounds on the door, then minutes later he goes for a walk, plays with the hose or builds stuff outside in the backyard. Once I see that he appears settled, I let him back inside with the family.

Theses aren’t wild rages like the past, it seems to be intentional acts. He feels bad inside so he wants us to feel bad too. When he doesn’t feel in control of his feelings, he likes to take control of his surroundings by creating conflict with us. It’s a pattern of behavior that’s hard for him to break and hard for us to endure.

Today our therapist got a first hand look of this pattern. As we discussed his recent behavior at home, I could tell that he didn’t like the direction the conversation was headed, so he started picking on his little brother right in front of her (all 3 boys were present). As he initiated the conflict, his little brother responded with screams and fits. He continued. The therapist tried to encourage my son to stop the behavior, to make better choices for his own happiness, but my oldest continued to escalate, all with a smirk on his face. I think he was pleased to see that his actions were successful at stopping the therapy session, now he was in control.

As the session went on, the pattern continued to get more intense. Nothing dangerous, just completely defiant. She explained to him that his parents may need to send him to a group home if he doesn’t learn how to manage his behavior. He then started to throw legos at his brothers, I watched the therapist intensely to see how a “pro” handles these situations. At times my son took off, leaving the office, but would return to continue his disruptive behavior. Another time she asked him to leave the office, which he seemed to receive as a moment of rejection, only escalating his behavior. When he started chasing down his screaming brothers the therapist told us to get in the car and leave our son with her, hinting that I should return in 10 minutes.

As I gathered my younger children together and moved them to the car, my middle son grabbed me and with tears in his eyes said, “You’re not going to send him to a group home are you?”

I explained that it was only a threat the therapist made and that we would be back soon and that everything was going to be alright.

But I was lying. I didn’t know if it was going to be alright. As I pulled into a parking lot down the street, out of sight from the therapist’s office I bowed my head in prayer. I started to imagine the worst. I was terrified that my son would go into a violent rage with the therapist and she would call the police. She doesn’t know him like we do, so she may not know how to handle it or what triggers to avoid. Would he get arrested? Would my son hurt her because he felt abandoned by us? As I peered down the street I felt dread and begged for God’s help.

After 10 minutes, I pulled back up to the office and I saw the blinds to the bathroom window disheveled, then a moment later, my son’s face peeking up at us. As I approached the door, the therapist greeted me and told me that she had a talk with my son and was recommending a group home. Then proceeded to escort my son out of the bathroom and into our car telling me she will call me with the contact info for the home.

Feeling overwhelmed and in shock about the whole situation I nodded my head and climbed into my car.

I didn’t want to scare my kids anymore than they were, so I refused to cry, though that’s all that I could think to do.

Once home, my son explained that the therapist locked him in the bathroom and talked to him through the door. He cried as he explained how frightened he was and how he thought that we were leaving him forever and that she was taking him to a group home.

When we got home there was a message on the machine from the therapist informing me that she had already contacted a crisis group home that could take kids from 4–6 weeks. Because he was only 11 years old, she needed to seek approval for him since they only accept kids 12-18 years.

At this point I was confused, why was this necessary? Why did his defiance indicate a need for a crisis center? He wasn’t doing any serious harm or damage? He wasn’t manic, even she agreed. The situation started to feel like a run away train that was headed down the wrong tracks.

Later that night, the therapist called me and informed me that he was too young for the home. During the call I explained that we were not ready for this step but we’re looking for tools to help our son within our own home. She respond, “Oh, I thought you needed a break and some more help with him.” She said that I didn’t have to do this alone and that there would be 5 adults at a group home that could take him for behavior modification.

WHAT????

I have so much more to say on this, but I want to spare you every detail. But I can say that both my husband and I feel strongly in our gut that having our son leave our home for behavior modification would be the worst thing for him. His deepest pain comes from feeling rejected (an experience caused by a sudden end to his most precious friendship 4 years ago—due to his illness), we all agree (therapist included) that this rejection has led to the predatory behavior we see today. If we as his parents send him to a group home, he would experience another rejection, only deepening the hole that we’re trying to come out of.

My son has a lot to learn—years of living with a mood disorder has destroyed his self esteem. Combine that with his challenges in processing feelings and a habit of responding in the only way he knows how, with anger, he needs time to heal, to cope and to learn new ways of responding to stress while being surrounded by the love and support of his family.

Like a dog with a torn in its side, it will bark, nip at our feet and behave in an unpleasant manner. Solving the problem with a cage will not help the dog, instead the thorn will only dig deeper. If you want to help the dog behave well, you need to start by removing the thorn from his side.

That’s what my son needs, his thorn is a deep rooted belief that he is not worthy of friends, that he has made too many mistakes to be loved and that he will never get better. I believe if we can help my son by removing his thorn, we will at the same time be able to teach him not to bark.

This is my son, a child I love dearly. I see the angry person, but I also see the boy with a broken spirit. I am not giving up on my son. I’m not looking to be rescued, I just want to help my son.



36 comments:

  1. Wow...I can't imagine the mental strain your family just endured but I do have a few thoughts on the whole thing. Before you dismiss the idea of a group home go tour one. They are not what you would think. My best friend was sent away to a group home at 15 and it saved her life. She was smoking meth, drinking, stealing, and struggling to cope with being raised by her grandparents and thrown aside by her mom. The group home gave her a new way of thinking. I saw a more positive person growing within her and now 15 years later she is a teacher for group homes and regular schools, teaches spinning classes, and keeps a very spiritual outlook on life.

    Now her story is not an every case scenario...see, she wanted to get better. Ask your son if he is ready to get better and how far is he willing to go to get there. How far are you willing to let go of control and trust that there are others who may have more tools to utilize with your son to bring out the best in him.

    Tough choices...and as always I do not envy your situation.

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    1. You're right that these are tough choices, I too have seen a teen get better with a group home, I don’t envy any parent that has to take that step, even if it is the best step to take, it has to be such a difficult decision that takes courage.

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  2. I am so sorry that you had to go through this with your therapist. It sounds like nothing was different, only that she witnessed first hand what you are living with. For her to act as she did was completely inappropriate and invalidating and just plain wrong on so many levels. Just because it was new to her doesn't change anything.

    Please rememember and have confidence that you and Papa bear ARE the professionals when it comes to dealing with your sons. You do know best and you should always trust your gut. You guys are awesome and those three boys are so lucky to have you!

    Betsy

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    1. As always, your feedback is so appreciated! You make a good point about the behavior being new to her, if anything the behavior was minor for where we’ve been--I don't understand the direction she took and regret going to that appointment.

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  3. Oh Mama Bear - My heart goes out to you. Just from what you say, it feels to me that the therapist was so presumptuous to threaten your son with the group home banishment without suggesting to you first that this might be a "next step" (which in my opinion IT IS NOT.) I can imagine just how he must have felt. Knowing the sensitivity that your middle son has, I know this was just as scary and devastating to him also. She (the therapist) does not see the love, support and encouragement that you ALL give to your son. He is going into a scary part of his life and for ANY pre-teen, this is very hard. Just hang in there, rely on your real support, God, and feel confident in the fact that you and Papa Bear are doing everything in your power to guide, love, and stand behind all the "stuff" it takes to raise all three of your boys into the great men they are going to be. ( Oh boy, does that sound like a "Grandma" or what?)I love you!

    Mama Bear's MIL

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    1. Thanks Mom for always being there for us--Love you bunches!

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  4. Get a new therapist. Once they open that discussion they won't change and you'll end up being written up as a parent who doesn't support the treatment plan; been there, done that. Your son has learned how to manipulate the family and has behavior issues with control; sending him to a RTC before any day program at a inpatient psychiatric unit is offered is not typical. Group homes for that age are generally foster kids. Get someone to come to your home and work one on one with the child and the family; coaches that are positive--the therapist did damage enough. Good luck.

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    1. Thanks, we may have to consider a change, for just the reasons you mention!

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  5. Allowing your son to go to a group home is not sending him away. It is not giving up on him. It is most definitely not abandoning him. What it is, is allowing him to be in a place that will provide the structure he needs at this time. It is allowing him a safe place to do the work he needs to do right now.

    Group homes are not intrinsically bad.

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    1. You're right that they are not intrinsically bad, I’ve seen it be good for another kid. I hope that it didn't come across that way in my post. For us right now, with his age and what we are dealing with, we feel it wasn't the step for him.

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  6. It is my opinion that your son is way too young for a group home. If you put him in a home with kids up to 18, he will get abused. It is a sure thing. And he will experience rejection that will stay with him forever. Wait until he is a teen for that step, if you need it. It is to be expected that he will become a complete mess over the idea of middle school. Don't expect anything less. Middle school was a complete test of patience for us and we ended up homeschooling - and it helped a lot. You might want to consider that option. Also, he will need an IEP. That 504 isn't going to do it as he may need a modified day and some ebd classes where he gets a lot of support.

    Hang in there, Mama. It is the end of the summer and all kids are wild as March Hares right now. It's like taming wild beasts to get them back into a routine. Things will settle down as school begins and you can see how it all sifts out. At least then your other sons have some place else to go all day and some structure and something else to focus on. Then you can see what is really going on with the oldest.

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    1. I couldn't agree with you more Meg, I appreciate your perspective on this because know you have the experience, thank you so much for responding.

      "Things will settle down as school begins and you can see how it all sifts out."

      Your advice couldn't be more true! i think the anxieties of school starting were what drove my two kids wild the last weeks of summer, now that they have started this week we've seen a complete turnaround, proving that the group home under this situation was definitely not needed.

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  7. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about this. I think sometimes the way the outside world views the behaviors is more terrible than the behaviors themselves...

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    1. I agree, it caught me by surprise how caught off guard she was, it was like, hmm, he isn't responding to my calm voice telling him to "please stop" so he must need a group home, you'd think there would be some other step before such extreme measures.

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  8. I don't know what the answer is, by any means, but the way your therapist handled the situation that day doesn't seem appropriate: an idle threat of a group home, having you leave with his brothers and him not knowing if or when you would return, etc. I'm a firm believer in listening to your gut and if something feels off, trust that.

    I've been reading your blog for awhile and you seem so tuned in to your sons and what might be helpful for them. I think if it was truly time for a group home you would know it in your gut.

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    1. Thank you Kim, so often my confidence drops when I get in front of these professionals, they make me question all that I am doing and make me doubt what I know to be true. I need to remember that we know our children best and we sometimes have to fight for what's best.

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  9. "Group homes are not intrinsically bad."

    They ARE notorious for being medication only "therapy"; and not at all age appropriate for this 11 year old at all. The therapist was out of line calling, out of line using that as a 'tool' to frighten the child, the therapist in my opinion, did damage to the entire family as a result, and should be fired...

    Do not use people to support your family who insist on breaking it apart.

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    1. I love what you said and look forward to discussing this with her:

      "Do not use people to support your family who insist on breaking it apart."

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  10. Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments, I have turned to them throughout the day and appreciate them so much! I’m sorry for not responding to you all, I hope to soon. My brain is just too fried from all the emotions and stress, along with my son’s meltdown at the doctor’s today when trying to get immunizations, which we left after an hour without getting them since he was so distraught. We will see our psychiatrist next week and I will discuss his meds for his stress to see if there are any necessary adjustments. In the meantime, I am so thankful for this community and for those that emailed me today, you have given me just what I needed. Love you all!

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  11. I agree with Kim. I think the therapist was way out of line. Why would she use the idea of a group home as a threat? Totally unprofessional the way she handled it. Have you looked into a program like UCLAs therapeutic day program? They are excellent and you can find ways to force your insurance company to cover it. Also, instead of a group home (which I don't think would be appropriate for your son....like someone else said, they are usually full of foster kids and kids with trouble with the law)... Instead, have you looked at a residential treatment center, like for example, Teleos in Utah? Look them up. I have heard excellent things about that place. And a place like that would not be at all "giving up on him". It would be very much the opposite. The Balanced Mind Foundation has online support groups available for families considering a RTC, maybe you could speak with some other parents and see what you find out. Wish you all the best.

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    1. Cassie do you have info on how to force insurance to pay for mental health treatment? We're getting the run around from our insurance.

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    2. Thanks for the tips! If we ever need something outside the home it's nice to know these places exist!

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  12. Oh, Mama Bear-I feel for you and your son!! I would just echo what some of the other commenters have already said, that it seems like the therapist was over-reacting if this was her response to the situation. And even if his behavior had warranted being put in a group home, bringing it up the way she did with him and his brothers in the room seems insensitive and unprofessional. As you said, his behavior doesn't sound that surprising given the stress of starting middle school. I dread the end of summer and that first month of school every year. I can only imagine what it will be like when Bug starts middle school next year. Thinking of you!

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    1. I couldn't agree with you more about the therapist overreacting and bringing up such a heavy decision in front of all the kids. That made me so angry!

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  13. Hi
    Hi My Name is Jenna
    Your son is a brave courageous fighter, and an inspiration.
    I was born with a rare life threatening disease, 14 other medical conditions, and developmental delays. One of my disorders is bipolar, and I do have major behaivours that are hard to handle, my doctor put me on Clonazpan and that has helped me kidn of settled me down.
    Tis a lesson you should heed,
    Try, try again;
    If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try again;
    Then your courage should appear,
    For, if you will persevere,
    You will conquer, never fear;
    Try, try again
    who invented fire? some bright spark
    http://www.miraclechamp.webs.com

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    1. Thanks Smilen Champ for your words of wisdom, I look forward to checking out your blog!

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  14. All I can say is I love you and I love your family. You and your hubbie are the only ones who can decide what is best for your family and your son, and I am confident that you will! Stay strong, stay sane, and try to take care of yourself. Love you.

    Your sis.

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    1. Love you too Sis, thanks for always being by our side!!

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  15. this post just really tore me up!! I know what you are going through from experience. My wife and I made a promise to each other and to our daughter that we would not hospitalize her without her permission. It sounds crazy, but twice she has begged us to take her to get hospitalized...she felt that miserable. She is unable to be hospitalized because of her mood disorder, however very few hospitals offer partial hospitalizations or intensive outpatient therapy...if you want recommendations just email me. I wish there were something I could do for you...tears are in my eyes...from a father of a wonderful daughter who struggles also...kris

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    1. Thank you so much Kris, I admire your commitment for your daughter, it’s hard to fight a system that believes that things should be done differently. I hope to hear from you again!

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  16. I am reading your blog for the first time because I have an 8 yr old son whom I suspect has some mood disorder. I have no advice, just wanted to say God bless you. Keep praying. I will pray for you all, particularly your sweet scared boy.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading, I appreciate your prayers and happy to share that today was a great day, I look forward to sharing more in my next post!

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  17. oh mama bear , it sounds too harsh to understand why a therapist would suggest something like that!!
    to be honest with you i do not think your son is bipolar ,he could just be a very sensytive child ,who might have some bad side affects to some of the medicatition he had in the past .
    Try to give him some time to mature ,kids change .

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    1. I hope you’re right, that would be awesome!

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  18. WOW... Is all i can say to this. after a horrible year and not being able to stablize him medically we had to put my son in a RTC program. My son is 8. He was there 4 months and let me tell u it was the hardest decision that I ever had to make but I needed that help. Thier dad is an absentee father so even though we are still married we live very seperate lives. So when I had to make that decision I had to look at our situation. We had to send him out of state which was a 2 hr drive away that I would make every weekend. we were only able to see him on the weekends and spoke everyday on the phone. In the long run it was the best decision for me and my other 3 kids. They needed a break from the toture thier brother had put them through. He doesnt resent me for it although at first he was upset. But our rtc uses DBT therapy which I highly recommend. it teaches them to see life in a different perspective. I would see if there are any therapist who specialize in DBT.

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    1. I’m so glad you found something that worked for your son, I can only imagine how difficult that decision must have been, but I’m glad it had such a positive result!

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