Attacks!

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What is a Anxiety/Panic attack?  I myself have never experienced one but according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website), Anxiety/Panic attacks is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself) Listen to this podcast.
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”Fear of dying

A few days ago I received a phone call towards the end of my school day as I was bringing an ill child to the nurse’s office myself.  This phone call I received was from Ella’s school nurse.  I was fully expecting to hear something about her behavior but when the person on the other line said who she was I thought oh she must have a headache…WRONG!  The nurse began telling me that Ella had originally came down because of a headache and that she gave her some of her headache medicine and then she went back to class.  Then a little while later she came back down saying her heart was racing, she felt really hot, her hands and legs were shaking, Ella thought she was going to fall down her legs felt so weak, and that she felt like she was going to puke and couldn’t breathe.  The nurse then went on to explain that she believed Ella was having an anxiety attack.

I began to worry.  Ella has never had an anxiety/panic attack before.  I was wondering how she was handling it? What caused it? And if this was going to become a new worry now…

This past week was Ella’s first week with me since the end of October.  In past posts I have written about when she had tried to stab me.She has stayed solely with her dad with the exception of Christmas Eve and a couple days over Christmas break.  So I was very excited to have her back so to speak but I was also trying to be realistic in my mind with my expectations for the week.

As the week started I soon began to see that her anxiety was in over drive.  Visible tremors in her body (mostly hands and arms), short rapid breathing.  Her behavior started out excellent.  No disrespectful fits or defiance.  As far as what we did together we spent each night at home.  She did have dance but other than that we were at home.  We watched movies, did our nails, gave each other massages, and talked.  It was nice and unusual all at the same time!  It was almost “normal” mother daughter interactions!  I enjoyed it so much and I did not think about the future…about “I wonder how long this is going to last” or “I wonder if she has an ulterior motive?”  I just enjoy spending fun, engaging time with her!

During this week her sleeping was horrible.  Granted her sleep is always horrible! 🙂  However, this past week she was averaging about five hours a sleep a night.  Waking up in the middle the night pacing the hall or playing school in her bedroom.

Then on Thursday it all came to a head with her panic attack.  At first she didn’t want to talk about it.  Then she wanted to know if she was going to die because her heart was “racing so fast she thought she was going to die!”  So we talked through what a panic attack feels like and how you cannot die from one.  I tried to get her to tell me what she was thinking about before her panic attacked began but no luck.  She said she had forgotten.  So I let her plan our night so that she would calm down and relax.  She kept talking and worrying about having a heart attack, because that’s how she described her anxiety attack.

The next morning we were at here therapy appointment and she wanted to teach us about A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) and she showed her therapist and I this video:  Eagle Eddie and The Wing Team.  She spent most of the time teaching us about gun safety and A.L.I.C.E.  It was very clear that was what was upsetting her.  This made me sad because she was already extremely anxious to be back with me and then to add this on top of the already existing anxiety…it made me feel like I could not help her when I wanted to so badly.  Then it got me to thinking that so much of recovering from a mental illness is up to the individual suffering from it.  If he/she doesn’t want the help he/she will not receive the treatment in therapy.  Today was good for Ella overall in therapy she did a wonderful job indirectly telling us about her panic attack.  Towards the end when it was time to practice coping strategies for if it happens again at school she began to shut down.  She literally buried her head in the chair (a cushioned chair).  She did not want to practice her deep breathing or even talk about strategies.  I was just happy that in her own way she was about to tell us that she knew why she was so anxious the previous day.

Trying Times

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I feel like I’m having a panic attack.  I feel like I want to cry, like I want to scream and yell and hit something!  People that know me will tell you that I am never like that.  I am a very calm even keel person.  It takes A LOT to get me worked up about something.  Next week Ella and I are suppose to see a child psychologist together.  We are suppose to go into an observation room so that the psychologist can watch us interact.  Watch us to see if I may be triggering any of Ella’s behaviors or if there is anything more I could possibly do to prevent them and/or stop them. I was already feeling a little anxious about this.  I mean overall I feel like I have been a good mom.  Read the right books, done everything her therapist has asked, done all the “right” things.  So The thought of me having to do something with her behaviors made me sick.  I mean deep down I know it is not my fault that she is the way she is but when something like this happens…

Then what has brought on my anger is that I get an email telling me that the appointment will just be with me not Ella.  So the psychologist can focus her attention on working with me.  How am I suppose to take that?  How am I suppose to not feel like I am a horrible mother?  So I will go with an open mind because I want what is best for my daughter but no one knows what Ella is like but her family.  She is a master at hiding it.

I miss my daughter….since the knife incident she has been living with her dad.  I miss her and am sad that she is too strong for me and I can’t take care of her.

 

Failing

Do you ever feel like a failure?  Like around every turn there is something or someone there to beat you down.  I am feeling this right now being Ella’s mother.  I feel like am failing her and possibly failing myself.  At each crossroads there is a barrier we have that stops us, sometimes we are knocked down, sometimes we are pushed, we still get up and push ahead, however it is daunting, frustrating, and draining.

A few weeks ago before Halloween the kids and I were carving pumpkins.  Ella has long ago proven that she is not safe around knives so she was not allowed to have a knife to carve her pumpkin.  I asked her to draw her face on and I would cut it out.  She was very upset by this and began yelling at me and calling me names, being disrespectful is putting it nicely. After cutting around the top, I set the knife down just for a second to pull the lid off and she instantly had it in her hand.  As soon as she had the knife in her hand she was trying to stab me with it.  It took me a few minutes but I was able to get the knife away from her and get her to her bed room however, this rage lasted for a good 3 or so hours.  Of course, according to Ella it was all my fault because if I would have just let her carve her pumpkin none of that would have happened.  Interesting isn’t the manipulating?

I was not the only witness to this.  He six year old brother also witnessed this as well.  What people may forget is mental health affects the whole family not just the person who is diagnosed.  After this incident he was worried about both myself and his sister because he is a very sensitive and compassionate child.  He wanted to make sure I was ok and if I was mad at Ella.  So we had to have a discussion about how I wasn’t mad because Ella sometimes thinks differently and can’t always control her anger. I was scared and worried and we talked about what those feelings felt like.  When we talked about Ella he wanted to know why she was angry and why she was mean to me and if she was going to hurt him.  We talked openly about his worries and that seemed to help.  Ella’s agitation lasted most of the day until after supper that day.  I then went on like nothing happened.  I knew if I brought it up again it would trigger her into another meltdown.  I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do or not….I also have been told to start calling the police…again I’m not sure if that is the answer where metal health is involved.  It is with anything when you are a parent to any child…wondering what to do, not wanting to “mess” your child up.  Feeling like a failure.

 

Frustration

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September is suicide prevention awareness month.  As one of my friends on Facebook shared some information about this topic I began reflecting upon my struggles with Ella.  My struggle advocating for Ella not with Ella herself, although, lets be honest she is a struggle at times :), but I love her regardless!!

I began thinking the last meeting I had with her school and how sometime her therapist and I disagree what is best for her.  I began thinking that I am ALWAYS advocating the best I know how to do.  (Ella has a mother who is quiet and timid and at times not the best advocate for her but I am getting better.)  I began thinking of all the stigmas there are with mental health still.  How hard it is to get help, especially in our schools.  Why is that?  I want Ella to be aware of her struggles, embrace them, love herself for who she is, look at her “weaknesses” as others or herself may see them and turn them into positives.  I want her to see that mental health doesn’t have to be so scary.

As I was thinking, I went back to school again.  My thoughts were on every school experience I have been expose to.  It saddens me that students that have documented mental health diagnosis and display their behavior at school are labeled “naughty”, even today.  Those “naughty” students have very little control over their behavior.  They do not want to be acting the way they are acting, standing out, ridiculed, in the principal’s office.  Teachers and administration need to work harder at getting to know their students, communicating with families, talking with therapists when appropriate, and working as a team.

Then there are the students who have mental health diagnosis who don’t display behaviors at school or display them and are very good at hiding them.  These behaviors may include narcissistic behaviors, manipulation, self harm, etc. That is when the school says it can do nothing.  Nothing to help.  How frustrating is that to hear as a parent?  How maddening?  So which is better a student that displays a behavior and gets a negative reputation because of it (and not every case is this way I know) or a student who hides a behavior a gets treated like a “typical” student so that the behavior continues.

Our children are in school more than they are with us during the school year.  Their teachers should be caring for them.  I know there are standards and lots of other pressures a teacher faces everyday.  I know because I am a teacher but I also know that the mental health of my students and the relationships I build with them are my first priority.  Maybe it’s because I have Ella and she has taught me this or maybe I have seen way too many children with mental health issues and want to put a stop to it.

As a parent, I think our school systems need to change the way the deal/treat/work/accommodate children with mental health needs.  As a teacher who classroom is set up for social/emotional learning to come first it makes me sad to see kids lose that as they get older.  All grade levels should have that as their first priority.  There has been many studies done to show that if the children have that as a solid base each year their learning will come.

Therefore, if September is suicide prevention awareness month shouldn’t we also be a little more aware to the children around us who are struggling emotionally?  Build relationships, advocate for them, accommodate for them if you are a teacher, validate their feelings.

 

 

 

 

More

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Ella’s behavior has been continually getting worse as she gets older.  More violent. More manipulative. More grandiose. More….more….more.  I am getting more drained. More tired. More worn out.

Some of her behaviors are: manipulation, narcissistic behaviors, violent (hitting, kicking, spitting), running away, self harm, and the list goes on.  It is exhausting to try to do the right thing.  To research and try and haul her here and there to therapy and different interventions that don’t seem to ever work.  To try medications that again don’t seem to ever work.  It is frustrating and draining and at times hopeless.

What do I do when my 10 year old already can beat up her mother?  I know she is not the only one.  However, I am treated like she is unusual.  A rare breed.  Mental health is so prevalent in young children today!  It is breaking up families.  Breaking the spirits of their siblings but no one wants to admit it. No one wants to provide resources or help!  No one wants to provide MORE!

What people don’t realize is that if we can intervene at a young age we can make a difference! Intervention is the key and the younger it starts the better the outcome.  We need to stop turning our heads and ignoring it!

I’m Back!

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Well it has been an extremely long time since I have posted anything on here.  There has been so many things going on in our lives it is hard to know where to begin.  First Ella has decided she does not want to be a part of this any longer.  When she shared this news with me I was not sure what to do.  Should I keep writing or stop all together?  The more I thought about it and what we wanted for this blog in the first place, to educate and make people aware of mental health struggles in children, the more I felt that this blog needs to keep going.  So I have decided to write this blog as a mother’s perspective raising a child with varying degrees of mental illness.  Some people in our lives disagree with me in calling anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, and ADHD a mental illness but they are in fact treated as such so I find no harm in facing the facts and the truth.  I want to teach Ella to love herself for all of herself and see positives in these “traits/struggles/disorders/illnesses”, to show others there can be less of a stigma attached to these terms.

Since our last post Ella’s behaviors have gradually been getting worse.  She ended the school year with a full psych eval through her psychologist and ADHD was added to her diagnosis.  So since then she was put on Straterra hoping that this would also help with her anxiety.  This medication did not help.  Instead it amplified  her behaviors.  Her negative behaviors skyrocketed while on this medication so we weened her off and she has recently started a different kind of ADHD medication that is not as normally prescribed as much as “adoral”.  So we will see how it works.  This is her first week on it.  I was told a reason she could not be on Aderol is because it can suppress appetite and she is not a big eater, is at times under weight, and has body issues/concerns already.

Now that I have figured out what to do with this blog my goal is to continue to write weekly if not more.

Nothing is Wrong

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This is a post I started in February but never published….

You know what has me upset tonight?  The fact that anyone with a mental illness, any mental illness…..wether that be anxiety, depression, PTSD (Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder), Bipolar, the list goes on…as long as you look “normal/typical” on the outside….you are considered “normal/typical” to the outside world/society. And then you add in people who do not know your struggles or your families struggles who need to stick their noses in your business.

There is an understanding of mental health as emotional health that relies on on the foundation of mentalism.  Mentalism is a set of assumptions that drive one’s

This understanding of mental health as emotional health is highly reliant on the foundational cultural model of mentalism, which is a set of assumptions that drive thinking about psychological and social phenomena in narrow individualist and personal terms . In this case, if someone doesn’t “have” mental health, the cause is considered to be a lack of personal character or motivation, and the solution is to summon the motivation to manage one’s own emotions. This model is also applied when people reason about children’s mental health.

I am extremely sick of hearing….”but she is so cute”…. “oh don’t worry, she will grow out of it”… “Oh my kids can be a handful at times too.”  Unless you have a child struggling with one or more of the afore mentioned issues you have NO IDEA what it is like.  And you have NO IDEA what those statements sound like to parents whose child kicks them, punches, them, bites, them, spits at them, screams profanity at them, etc.  And its not because

Ella’s Yoga

There are many ways or techniques Ella uses to calm herself.  One is by doing yoga.  It helps her use mindfulness to calm her mind.  There is a million things running through Ella’s mind at any given moment and sometimes one of those things will set off a “fit”.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Using yoga is not something Ella does independently.  She has it worked into her daily routine.  She continues to have difficulty knowing when to use specific coping strategies.

Here is a video of here explaining how she uses yoga during the day to help her.

Yoga for Anxiety

While video taping her she had a really good video going and her younger brother interrupted her.  This through her into a fit which I video taped.  Ella however did not want me to share that video on here.  So I am writing about it instead.  The fit…her screaming and crying wore her out so she looks tired and a bit wore out in the above video.

Anxiety and the Two Questions

I am sharing an article I have found about anxiety in young children.  It talks about the possibility of discovering that your child may have anxiety by simply asking yourself two simple questions. What do you think?

Ella’s behavior amplified the summer before her kindergarten year.  Her behaviors would be placed in a more extreme category.  As I write more of this blog you will learn more about her behaviors.  This article also talks about the importance of taking deep breathes which is a wonderful coping skill for anyone in need of relaxing.

Two Questions Article 

A great story for younger children preschool through first grade is Tucker Turtle.  He is a Turtle who gets mad and needs to learn to calm down by taking three deep breaths.  This story can be downloaded free here: http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/resources/strategies.html

tuckerturtle

 

A great APP for teaching deep breathing for young kids is “Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street”

Here is Ella to show you how to do deep breathing and why it is important. 🙂

How to take 3 deep breathes by Ella

 

 

 

July 28, 2006 Ella was born! She was hard work from the start. She wanted to be held from day one and she wanted me…..her mom….otherwise she was crying……even at night. She would not sleep at night unless she was being held facing out and bounced lightly up and down with my cheek resting next to hers. This lasted about her first 6 months. I was completely exhausted. I even fell asleep while teaching one day. Why was she so needy and sad? Well she had chronic ear infections until she received tubes at 9 months of age. She was also lactose intolerant. AND….she clearly had attachment issues with me as soon as she came out of the womb.

I did not know this then but now after self educating myself and learning with Ella through therapy….Ella has always had anxiety. She was born that way. She was as young as 6 months old when she started biting her nails. I just thought at the time, “Look how cute, my baby bites her nails.” I never thought that would be a clue as to what’s to come. (Now, I don’t mean that every child who bites his/her nails is going to be a wild, crazy, self harming, child running around the neighborhood! 😉 )

I remember being soooooo exhausted that first year…..as soon as she got her tubes, I was like thank you God!!! She slept through the first night alone in her crib……without me carrying her around. I was in heaven!! This did not last long. Soon after the tubes were put in the chronic diarrhea started. It was 6 to 10 diapers a day…..doctor after doctor…..test after test….for over a year.

Also during her first year we went through five different daycares so when our last one decided to close I decided to stay at home and do daycare myself.  This proved to be a great decision for myself and my children for the next five years!

She could not be left with sitters……she could not even be left in the church nursery.  My husband and I would teach on Wednesday night and Ella would cry for two hours straight in the nursery for us.  It was ridiculous!!!  Who does that!?  Apparently Ella! 😉

When she was around 2 she started chewing her tongue until it bled.  At the time I thought it was a terrible two thing…..know that I know she self harms I believe it was her self harming at an early age.  Her defiance began showing when she was potty trained.  She would pee her pants to get out of time outs.

As parents, you name it, we have tried it, Love and Logic, 123 magic, time outs, even spankings.  NOTHING works.  She is the best manipulator.  If you take something away she practically throws a party over how excited she is to see that item go away…..if you take multiple items aways and forget anything she will let you know.  For example, once she lost her Barbies and I forgot one, she later brought it too me and said, “Look mom you forgot this one!”  with a big smile on her face.

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(**DISCLAIMER: I deal/cope with Ella by using humor and at times my humor may offend people so I apologize ahead of time for this! 🙂 **)