Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Walking in Circles

In just a bit more than 18 months, Danielle will become a legal adult.

In a year and a half, she is going to need to have a job, money saved up, and be ready to move into her own place.

She isn't going to be ready.  We know that.  I think, perhaps, on some level she even knows that, though she doesn't want to face that reality.  In her mind, she's going to turn 18, and suddenly, magically, have a great job, all the money and skills that she needs, and she'll be able to move out and live a successful, middle-class lifestyle.

It ain't gonna happen.

Danielle isn't going to be ready to live life on her own, but it has become abundantly clear to all of us that she isn't going to be able to stay here, either. 

We don't want to simply drive her to the local homeless shelter on her 18th birthday and drop her off.  Sure, it is an option, but it's certainly not a desirable one.  It's not the outcome we would choose for our kid if some other workable solution exists.  There has to be some kind of social service safety net for mentally ill youth to fall back on.

I have been told by several people, both online and in real life, that there are supposed to be transitional services for mentally ill youth.  Over the past few weeks, I've been making phone calls, but I feel like I am a hamster running on a wheel.  I call Agency A, who tells me to call Agency B.  I speak to a nice someone at Agency B, who tells me to go talk to the people at Agency A.  When I explain that I've already done that, then I'm told to go back and talk to the nice people at the county, because Adoptions Assistance surely ought to pay for something.

We've already talked to them, too.  When we spoke to them, we were given the basic message,  you adopted her, now she's your problem.

I feel like I am walking in circles, and going absolutely nowhere.

Today I spoke to a helpful person at an agency who said, "you just need to know what your rights are."  He suggested that if I just spoke to the right person, the gates would be unlocked and our kid would receive a ton of help.

It's all very well and good to say this, but he couldn't give me the name of the person I should talk to.

"Just go talk to someone in Adoptions Assistance," he advised.

He didn't seem to understand that there isn't "someone in Adoptions Assistance" to call.  This person doesn't exist, and in the past when we've called our former adoptions worker, she's been no help.

"I'm sorry, I can't help you," we were told.  She had no suggestions of where to go next with our troubles, either.

I found several agencies who, at least according to their Web sites, are supposed to help provide services to mentally ill youth.  Yet I have found, when I call them, that they don't return calls promptly, and even when they do they have no help for me, other than instructions to call the next agency.


Another Helpful Person told me something discouraging.  "Even if you get all these services set up for your daughter," she explained, "being that she will be a legal adult she'll have the choice of opting out."

So does that mean I should stop trying to find my kid help?  I know that if she gets into a transitional program, she'll no doubt have a hard time following the rules.  Will she even be willing to try?

I don't know.

I just keep making phone calls, knowing that my child will turn 18 long before she'll be ready to receive her high school diploma.  I keep calling people, hoping that we'll find the right gatekeeper to get our kid into some sort of vocational and independent living skills program so she might have a chance at a job and a self-sufficient lifestyle.

I keep calling, but I keep getting nowhere.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Online Comment Sections ARE a Joke

This morning, I found the following article on CNN:
Have online comment sections become 'a joke'?

In the early days of the Internet, there was hope that the unprecedented tool for global communication would lead to thoughtful sharing and discussion on its most popular sites.

A decade and a half later, the very idea is laughable, says Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.

I can't argue with Denton's position one bit.  Over the years that I've blogged, I've been on the receiving end of many nasty remarks.  Here's a quote from the above-mentioned article, that I found especially interesting:

[Denton] said that commenting on his own sites (which he's seen make reporters cry) has gotten so bad that he doesn't engage.

"I don't like going into the comments. ... For every two comments that are interesting -- even if they're critical, you want to engage with them -- there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic," he said.

Toxic.  Yeah, I'll buy that. I've gotten plenty of toxic comments over the years.

Here are a few quotes from anonymous comments that I've opted not to publish:
  • I truly believe Danielle had a lot of potential, but you are the worst thing that has happened to her.
  • You are SUCH a liar!
  • You are a negative, horrible person. You know it. Deny it all you want, but you know, deep down, that it is true.
  • You make me sick.
  • I hope you do get charged. No one deserves it more.
When I first started blogging, I kept my comments wide open.  Anyone could comment, and they would be published immediately.  It wasn't too long after I started that I began to get comment spam, so I enabled a captcha, which made it a little harder for blatant garbage to end up on my blog.  Eventually, I picked up my first troll, and then another, so I opted to enable comment moderation.  I've switched back and forth between allowing and disallowing anonymous comments, but I haven't entirely decided which I prefer.  Allowing anonymous remarks seems to invite more people to comment in general, but it does tend to increase the number that are purely insulting.

I've also had comments (which I haven't posted) from people complaining of my excessive "censorship" of the remarks I allow to appear on my blog.  Sorry to those of you griping, but I'm not going to allow my blog to be your public space to bash me.

In case anyone has forgotten, not all blogs or online communities are intended to be an area for public discourse and debate.  In my case, my blog isn't an open invitation for people to call me names or criticize my decisions.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but if they are disrespectful or insulting, I likely won't publish their comments.

When it comes to my blog, it isn't a democracy.  It's a benign dictatorship.  Like it, or lump it.  If you are rude, disrespectful, insulting, harassing, or threatening, I'm not going to publish your remarks. In fact, I might not even read them.  Lots of anonymous comments I briefly skim and don't even bother to read in their entirety.

So if my blog isn't really open to public debate and discourse, then why am I blogging?

I am blogging for one reason and one reason only: I'm telling my family's story as a cautionary tale to others. 

Adoption professionals would like people to believe that every adoption ends with a "happily ever after."  They often don't tell families of the real truths involved.  Often, caseworkers have very sick children on their caseloads, and it is in the state's best interest to get those children into adoptive homes as quickly as possible.  Even if these kids go out with adoption assistance packages attached to them, the cost to the state is still far less than it would be if a child stayed in foster care.

The adoption of older kids is simply a cost-saving measure for the state.  They save money because they don't have to pay out so much for child's care, and they get delicious incentive dollars from the Federal government for making sure all these poor, homeless kids go to great families.

Oh, and let's not forget that the Feds also send money to the state for the kids who are in foster care, as well.

So there's a lot of money involved in the system.  There's money that provides incentives to take kids away from families, and there's more money that provides incentives for social services to give those removed kids to new families.  In order to keep this massive child-moving machine in business, there has to be both a supply of so-called "needy" children, and a ready supply of helping families willing to take them.

Social workers aren't necessarily going to be honest.  They might lie about the kids they place in your care, they might lie about their histories, their families, or even the financial, emotional, medical and dental help you will receive.  Sure, there are some honest people out there, but there are enough incentives (try "get these kids placed if you want to keep your job") in the system that make it difficult for honest, motivated and hard-working people to stay that way.

So why do I manage to get so much criticism?  Because I've probably been far too honest about how damaging and frustrating this experience has been for all of us.  As a result, I've given people plenty of reasons to hate me:
  • Adult adoptees and former foster kids hate me because I am critical of my child's behavior
  • Adoption professionals and social workers hate me because I am critical of their lies and a dysfunctional system that needlessly injures everyone that comes in contact with it
  • Do-gooders who believe that my story couldn't possibly be true, or that every child's ugly, out-of-control, or mentally-ill behavior can be fixed by the right family, parenting techniques, therapy or magic intervention
  • People with rose-colored glasses who believe that unconditional love conquers all.

I don't believe, for one second, that I'm the only foster/adoptive parent out here in the blogosphere who has received ugly comments from trolls.  I also don't believe that I'm the only blogger who has been harassed by stalkers from the Internet.  I do think I am one of the few who has continued to tell my story, despite criticism, name-calling and real-world harassment, because I believe the story is important.

People need to know what they could be in for if they decide to become foster or adoptive parents.  There are too many training classes and too many social workers who are willing to obfuscate the real truth.  I know even the scariest of our training classes was a complete soft-sell of what might happen.  We were never taught how to deal with a kid who routinely raged to the point where we needed to call police, nor we were we told that if we had to call the cops, that they would respond with indifference.

The truth about the foster care system needs to be out there.  People need to understand that kids are unnecessarily being removed from their families and shuffled around through a system that damages them further.  Yes, there are some children who really need to be in the system for their own protection, but I think that number is far smaller than the number of kids who actually end up in care.  People need to understand that the kids who are in care now are far sicker than they were even 20 years ago. 

So it doesn't matter if you, my dear reader, think I'm the devil incarnate, a saint, or somewhere in-between.  It doesn't matter if you think I'm the best or the worst parent in the world.  What matters is that the myth that adoption always equals "happily ever after" is finally busted.

Our family isn't the only post-adoptive family who is suffering. There our countless families, across this great nation of ours, who are suffering the indignities brought on by a combination of sick kids, and a lack of post-adoption support.  Most of these families suffer in silence, while a few end up on the national news because a disturbed child murdered someone, or a distraught and desperate couple ended up relinquishing their kid in a horrible and dramatic way.

Families adopt children because they want to do the right thing.  Sometimes, they find out too late that the adoption wasn't the right thing to do, but the system gives them no option, short of abandoning their child and facing charges, to undo those mistakes.  Well-meaning families who end up in over their heads shouldn't be judged as bad people, as they are now by the system.  They deserve support, respite and help.

Instead, they get only criticism and blame until their child does something really terrible, and everyone cries, "why didn't someone do something?"

I'd argue, in almost every single case that hits the national news, that someone did try to do something.  The problem is that the something done wasn't enough to get a very sick and dangerous child hospitalized before he could do something terrible.

Going back to my original theme for today's post, which is that online comment sections are a joke, the truth is that the Internet emboldens people to say really horrible, critical things that they would never dare say to your face.  It's easy to make an uncaring, ugly, or insulting remark, because it's unlikely you'll face any social consequences for doing so.  If you tell a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker something hateful, something will happen.  If you leave a nasty remark on someone's blog, you might walk away hoping you hurt someone's feelings, but even if you do, it's not like they can strike back at you.  You are just a random person coming from a random IP address out there in the universe.  Not many people are going to spend the time and effort to trace your IP and contact your hosting provider to complain about your behavior.

So yes, Mr. Denton is right.  Most online comment sections ARE a joke.  I keep mine open because I still get a few comments that are supportive, interesting and sometimes thought-provoking.  It's those remarks I treasure.

All the rest, I just push into my spam folder.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Will Danielle Leave When She Turns 18?

In response to Is it Better to Disengage than to Argue?, ricecakesandredemption asked:

I'm just curious -- do you really think Danielle will leave when she [is] old enough?

The short answer to this question is yes.

There are several reasons why Danielle will leave when she's 18.

The first reason is very simple: Danielle doesn't want to live here.  She frequently talks about how she can't wait until she's 18, and she can move out.  She regularly fantasizes about a world in which she doesn't have to live with us and our "stupid rules."  She looks forward to the day where we (and everyone else, for that matter) won't be able to tell her what to do.

She wants to leave, and she has several escape plans in mind.  She consistently expresses a desire to leave the minute she is able.

In all honesty, I'm not sure how workable any of her plans are.  The main idea is that she will move in with other people.  Some variations involve her moving in with friends, while others involve living with members of her birth family.  I'm not sure how any of these plans will work out, as our friends have already told Danielle she's not welcome to move in, and her birth family isn't capable of providing her with a stable living arrangement, even if they were willing.

Even if she does manage to convince someone to allow her to move in, she's going to have a big surprise coming.  Nobody is going to be willing to allow her to live there for free.  She's going to have to get a job and support herself, and it's clear she has no idea of the difficulties that face her.

I'm not going to bother trying to argue the merits of her exit plans with her.  She'll find out how workable they are in a year and a half from now.  For her sake, I'd like to hope that things will work out.  Based on our past experience with her behavior, I fear they will not.  Danielle is handicapped by that magical thinking that gets in the way of her seeing the true reality of the world that faces her.

I believe that Danielle will leave, of her own volition, when she turns 18.

That, I think, would be the best possible outcome for all of us.

If it turns out that Danielle doesn't leave when the time comes, it won't be because she is freely choosing to stay here.  She will stay because she will have realized that life in the big, bad world is too difficult.  She won't choose to stay here because she wants to be here; instead, she'll be staying because her plans to move out and be independent have been foiled for one reason or another.  Living here will be her undesirable second choice, and I can only see that as being a breeding ground for conflict.  She will be angry that her plans haven't worked out, and I foresee her taking her disappointment out on us.

Given that, if Danielle doesn't move out under her own power, she will move out with our encouragement.

The sad reality is, even when things are going relatively well around here, it's not good enough.  Sure, making it through an hour, a day, or even a week or two without a major temper tantrum is a huge victory.  When things are calm, and Danielle is not breaking things, she's a lot nicer to live with.

But even that isn't really enough.  As I wrote about before, peace doesn't mean that things are perfect around here, or that they are even all that good.  Danielle is still difficult to live with, even when she's not exploding all over the place like the cement mixer featured in the show Mythbusters.  She is still uncooperative, argumentative, disrespectful and unpleasant, and I do not see these behaviors changing any time in the near future.

Even if Danielle was somehow able to magically transform herself into a cooperative, agreeable, respectful and pleasant young adult, we still have the more fundamental problem of her impulsiveness and poor decision-making skills.  She is grossly irresponsible, and even if all of her unpleasant characteristics were to suddenly disappear, we still have the problem of being completely unable to trust her.

At 16.5 years old, Danielle cannot be left alone in our home even for as long as it would take for us to go to the store.  I don't see this magically changing when she becomes an adult, so I find myself wondering how her continuing to live with us could be workable.  If she's 18, we can't very well force her to go with us everywhere we go, yet we can't trust her to stay home alone when we aren't there.

Even if Danielle's decision-making skills weren't called into question, we still have the problem of the kids with whom she chooses to associate.  With the exception of one friend, the kids she chooses are not the kind of people we want around our home.  These are kids who, at least in my day, would have been called "troublemakers."  I don't feel safe inviting them to our home when we are here, and I certainly wouldn't want them over when we were not.

For all of these reasons, all signs point towards the exit when Danielle turns 18.

I can't say I feel good about this reality.  I know that Danielle is unprepared for life as an independent young adult.  I also realize that, for all the reasons I've explained above and a few that I choose not to share publicly, her continuing to live here is unworkable.  She is on a collision course with a destiny we had hoped adoption would prevent.

When Danielle becomes an adult and we are no longer required to support her, the rules of the game change.  Right now, we tolerate living with a mentally ill, and physically and verbally aggressive person because the law says that we must.  Once we are relieved of that obligation, why should we continue to tolerate her unsafe behavior? 

Asking an abusive young adult to leave our home, if she doesn't choose to leave on her own, isn't about being mean.  It is about responsible self-care and being safe in our home.  If we don't feel safe with her staying here now, while she is still a technically a child, how is that going to change when she's an adult?

It isn't going to change.

Knowing that Danielle isn't and likely won't be ready doesn't make me feel very good about this decision.  It pains me greatly as I recognize she is likely going to repeat many of the same mistakes made by her birth mother.  It makes me sad to know that I can't help my kid.  I feel great anguish when I recognize she is the horse, dying of thirst, even though she is standing chest-deep in a fresh, clean river.

I can't make Danielle change.  I can't cure her mental illness, nor can I force her to become interested and motivated to learn.  I can't change her past.  I can't fix her.  We've done our best to help her, but clearly it hasn't been good enough, nor will it ever be.

This isn't about throwing our kid out in some form of vindictive punishment for her difficult behavior over the years since her adoption.  This isn't about retribution, or even about whether or not we care about the kid.  We do care.  This is about the fact that our current situation isn't safe, nor will it be safe after she becomes a legal adult.

How long should we have to live in a situation that is not only abusive, but isn't safe?

Our answer is that we won't live this way one day longer than we are legally required to do so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is It Better to Disengage than to Argue?

For the past few days, I have been pondering the following anonymous comment left on Peace Doesn't Mean Perfect:

If a horse dies of thirst while standing belly-deep in potable water, whose fault is it?


This morning, Claudia over at Never a Dull Moment wrote a post entitled Watching in Silence and Self-Doubt.  In that post, she wrote the following:

And so I ended wondering if maybe the hardest thing about the transition to adulthood for my kids is just watching in silence as they make huge irreversible mistakes. Warning them does no good -- I've been trying to teach them and show them the way for years. Reasoning with them doesn't work either. Sometimes even their own bad experiences don't help them learn.

I'm not intending to be negative here, just trying to process my own thoughts. Which is better? To express myself and be ignored or to keep my mouth shut? The results are the same, but which is better for me?

Later in her post, she asks the following question:

Would love to hear your thoughts as to what you have found is best: Does it work best not to invest emotional energy in repeating yourself to someone who refuses to get it -- or to not invest emotional energy in keeping your mouth shut.

We've been pondering some of the same things and asking ourselves the same questions when it comes to our child, and the answers are not easy.

Although Danielle is still a minor, and the mistakes she is making now have less consequences to her than those made by Claudia's adult children, she is making decisions that will affect her future.  She doesn't engage in school, she refuses to even try to find a job, and she does her best to create an environment rife with conflict both at home and at school.

She needs to get an education, she needs to get a job to start saving for her adult life, and she needs to find a way to get along with people who are in positions of authority.

But she doesn't have the desire to do any of those things.  She is surrounded by resources and people who want to help, but she is like the horse standing belly-deep in potable water who is dying of thirst.  I feel like, at this point in her life, there is a crowd of people surrounding her, encouraging her to drink, but her lack of trust, her stubbornness and her mental illness are preventing her from taking even the tiniest sip.

We see an ugly, unpleasant future for Danielle.  She does not see it.  Her youth and mental illness combine to create this perfect form of magical thinking.  In her imagination, all the knowledge, skills and experience she needs to live a perfect life will be magically imparted to her on her 18th birthday.  She is absolutely convinced she will find a good job (doing what?) that will pay her a great salary (how?) and that she will be able to afford all the trappings of a middle-class life.  On her 18th birthday, she expects to move out to a fully-formed life that includes her own place to live, groceries, and a brand-new $50,000 SUV.

It's certainly nice that she can dream, but if she's not able to put any sort of action in place to work towards that dream, it will never happen.

At the most profound level, Danielle doesn't understand that action = achievement.

So my wife and I have found ourselves at the very heart of Claudia's dilemma.  Do we continue to invest ourselves and our emotional energy in trying to make Danielle understand the errors in her thinking, and why the world doesn't work the way she so desperately wants to believe,  or do we give up and just keep our mouths shut?

How do you teach someone who, for whatever reason, can't or won't get it?

I don't know.  What we have learned is that trying to teach Danielle all the skills she needs to learn brings forth too much conflict in our home.

An example of this is that Danielle needs to learn to cook. When she gets out on her own, she's going to need to have a basic understanding of cooking, shopping and household management skills.  We've tried to teach her, but our efforts have been met with nothing but resistance and arguing.

So we've given up.  We no longer make any effort to teach Danielle how to cook.  Instead, she'll take a home economics class at school next year.  Then, it will be up to her teacher to instruct her in those basic skills.  We hope she'll absorb the lessons she desperately needs at school, but we've realized that we can't teach her.  She prefers to argue and create conflict rather than learn from us.

The answer to Claudia's question, at least for us, is to disengage.  It is better, at least in terms of family peace, to keep our mouths shut than to try and teach lessons to someone who isn't willing to receive them.  That doesn't mean that we don't express (and enforce) our household rules.  It just means that we don't keep harping on Danielle about her future.  We've explained what the world is really like, and if she seems receptive, we'll repeat a lesson if asked, but we have pretty much stopped trying to convince Danielle that we are right.

She'll learn those lessons herself, when she turns 18 in just a bit more than a year and a half from now.

Of course there's one additional thing to ponder in all of this.  Exactly who benefits by this policy of disengagement?  Certainly we do, because it's our blood pressure and stress levels that are kept low by refusing to engage in a battle of wills.  Still, I wonder if it's the right thing for Danielle, because she still needs to learn certain lessons about life.

So, the larger question is, do we battle our way through the next 18 months, trying to force Danielle to learn certain life lessons, or do we give up to keep peace in the house?  Our fear is, given her extremely oppositional nature, that even if we did fight the battle, the lessons won't sink in.

At the end of the day, we are choosing peace in the house.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birth Control for Teens

In response to The Psychiatrist Backs Me Up, an anonymous commenter wrote:

I wish every parent of teens would put them on birth control. The birth control shot (not naming names) is amazing. A teen might have a hard time remembering to take a pill everyday, or to take/remove/reinsert another form of birth control. The shot can be a scheduled, and has little side effects. I don't know what Danielle is on, but GOOD CHOICE! America has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world. And the stats are that children born to teen parents are more likely to be raised in poverty (and remain in poverty), they are more likely to go to jail, etc.

Pregnancy is preventable!

Good job! Every parent should make sure their child is aware of their birth control choices, and has selected one that works for them!

I am going to admit that the decision to encourage Danielle to go on birth control was not an easy one. Although I don't really consider myself to be a religious person any more, I still believe that sex outside of a solidly-committed relationship should be discouraged, and that underage teen sex of any kind is inappropriate.

The truth is, I don't want my kid to be having sex.  I don't want to think about it.  I want to be able to say, "wait until you are married," or at least "wait until you turn 18," and have her obey me without question.  I want my kid to abide by my morals, follow our rules, and not make mistakes that will impact her entire future.

But of course I can't do that.  Danielle is oppositional to the extreme.  If I say the sky is blue, she'll try to argue that it's any other color besides blue.  That's just Danielle.

So for me to say, "don't have sex," and honestly expect that she'll abide by those rules is downright foolish.  Sure, I can make it as difficult as I can for her to have alone time with anyone of the opposite sex, but that doesn't mean that someday she won't find an opportunity to sneak off and do something we will all regret later.

My struggle was this: how could I reconcile the fact that I felt like putting Danielle on birth control condoned behavior of which I disapprove?  I didn't want to be sending my kid the message that underage sexual activity is permissible, because I feel strongly that it is not.  I didn't want to appear to be the parent who, while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, says, "Don't smoke, it's bad for you."

In the end, I realized that I probably couldn't reconcile what I felt were two opposing ideas.  Instead, I looked at it from a totally different perspective.  I realized that it is more important for Danielle not to get pregnant, than for me to stand behind my ideals of underage chastity.  When I finally came to the understanding that Danielle is going to do what she's going to do, irrespective of my expectations, then deciding in favor of birth control became an easy decision.

I don't want to raise Danielle's children, especially while she is still a minor.  I don't want her to be saddled with the burden of a child she's ill-prepared to raise.  Since I can't control whether or not she becomes sexually active, the only thing I can do is make sure she's on a relatively fool-proof form of birth control.

Now that she's starting on psychotropic medication that can cause significant birth defects, contraception becomes even more important.

At the end of the day, we had to look at outcomes, over any particular moral stance we might have.  We are still doing everything we can to discourage Danielle from underage sexual relationships, but knowing that we might not be completely successful, this seemed to be the better, wiser plan.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Psychiatrist Backs Me Up

While we were in our meeting with the psychiatrist, I was very glad to see that she backed me up on something that has become a small point of contention in our house.

Last school year, Danielle came home and reported that she'd done something highly inappropriate with a boy.  We reported it to the school, who promptly investigated, and we never did find out for sure if this was a story Danielle had made up, or if it was something that actually happened.  During that same conversation, Danielle expressed a desire to do more private things with this particular boy that could result in pregnancy.

We had a family discussion, and we agreed that Danielle should go on some type of birth control.

Since that decision was made, Danielle has had a certain amount of buyer's remorse.  She's experiencing some annoying, but not serious, side effects from the birth control method she selected, and she wants to stop, now claiming that she's not sexually active.

Although we are sympathetic to Danielle's complaints, we have been unsupportive of her stopping birth control, since she has frequently demonstrated that she is untruthful.  Is she sexually active right now?  It's hard to know.  Although I'd like to think she doesn't have much opportunity to be sexual, since she's not allowed to date, and she's never left unsupervised, that doesn't mean that she couldn't sneak off and do something anyway.  We know of one girl who had a pregnancy scare because she and her beau had found relative privacy under the school's stadium bleachers.

Could Danielle do something like that?  Absolutely.

She needs to be on birth control for everybody's protection.  She's not ready to parent her own child at age 16, and we don't want to be grandparents responsible for raising our child's child.

But now, there's an even more important reason for Danielle to be on birth control. Apparently, the antidepressant and mood stabilizer she has been prescribed are both thought to cause birth defects.

During our meeting with the psychiatrist, I mentioned the type of birth control Danielle was using.  The doctor was obviously pleased, since she was planning to discuss the issue with us, and announced, "Oh, that's the best one!"

Danielle rolled her eyes and started to complain.  The psychiatrist looked puzzled.

I briefly explained that Danielle was on birth control because we thought she was sexually active, while Danielle interrupted and vehemently denied that she had been, contrary to statements she'd made to us previously.

At that point, the psychiatrist put a quick end to the debate.  She explained to Danielle that she requires all of her teen patients, whether they are sexually active or not, to be on some form of birth control.  Since Danielle is already using what the doctor feels is the best available, there is no room for further negotiation on the subject.

I am greatly relieved.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psychiatrist Visit

After what has seemed like forever, we finally got Danielle in to see the psychiatrist.

We were there for a couple of hours.  We met with the doctor privately, and then Danielle met with her. At the end of all of this, we have a new diagnosis, as well as confirmation of other ones that have been bandied about.

The psychiatrist also agreed that a change in medication was warranted.  She suggested that we change anti-depressants, and add a mood stabilizer to Danielle's regimen.

I am both frustrated and relieved.  We have felt that Danielle would benefit from a mood stabilizer for a very long time.

I'm glad she finally got it, but I am also tremendously frustrated that it has taken this long.

Although I don't believe that this medication will cure all that ails Danielle, I am hopeful that it may be enough to take the edge off.

At least we can hope.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Peace Doesn't Mean Perfect

As I mentioned in my post last Thursday, we've been going through a relatively quiet period at our house.

It doesn't mean that Danielle is doing all that well.  She's still doing a lot that's less-than-desirable.  Although she's not arguing about doing her chores as much right now, she simply doesn't do them, or if she does do them, she doesn't do an adequate job.  Just about every day I find garbage she's thrown on the floor, or dirty dishes she's put back into the cabinet without washing them first.  If she does clean the kitchen, she'll only clean part of it, and leave visible dirt in easily seen areas.

It's frustrating.

And then, of course, there's the matter of her report card.  Although she has acceptable to good grades in her elective classes, the grades in her homeroom class stink.  On her most recent report card, she brought home a D- minus in one class, and she's failing another.

When I contacted her homeroom teacher to ask why Danielle is failing, I was told that the problem isn't because of Danielle's lack of ability.  Apparently, she comes to class, sits in her seat, and absolutely refuses to do any work, despite the staff doing everything they can to try to motivate her.

Danielle simply doesn't want to do the work, and nobody can make her do it.  She would rather refuse, just to win the control battle at school, even though this works to her detriment in the long run.  If she can't read, write and do basic mathematics, she will struggle in her adult life.

How is someone who is barely literate going to get by?

I don't know.  It's very, very sad.  Danielle's obstinate behavior only hurts herself in the long run.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Disappearing Shrink

For the last two weeks in a row, our therapist has cancelled.

Last week, it was because the therapist was sick.  This week, it's because she realized we've run out of authorized sessions, so she has to contact the powers-that-be to get authorization for more time.


Danielle has been disappointed that our sessions have been cancelled.  I've been a little concerned about the lack of sessions, but it's happened to work out that other things have popped up that would have conflicted, so it's probably just as well.

Fortunately for a all of us, Danielle has been going through a period of decent behavior.  It's nice to be able to catch my breath.  It's nice not to be moving from crisis to crisis to crisis.  Things have been so peaceful around these parts that I've actually had time to spend with my parrots, and to sit down and read.

Reading?  I never get to do that.  In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you the last time I've been able to sit down and read a book that wasn't work-related before now.

I am thinking it might have been Girl's Guide to Homelessness, ages and ages ago.

So it's incredibly nice to have a break from the tantrums, rages, and defiance.  Of course as nice as it feels for us, it has to feel good to the kid, as well.  I can't imagine that toting all that rage and violence around feels very enjoyable.

Still, I find that I can't fully relax.  As good as things are, there's a part of me that feels like I have to keep my guard up.  I feel like I am walking on eggshells, because at some point I'm going to inadvertently say or do the wrong thing, and Danielle will explode all over us.  It would be nice to be able to think, "Hey, we are finally past all of this," and move on.

But it's not that easy or simple.

In the past, when we'd fall into these quiescent periods, we'd optimistically think, "Hooray! Things have finally started to turn the corner."  Unfortunately, it seemed as if the mere thought was enough to trigger the next explosion.  Every time we started to feel or act like we were a "normal" family, we would be paid back with explosions, temper tantrums and threats.

So we don't try to pretend we are normal, anymore.

Over the past few weeks, the realization that I can't fix my kid is becoming clearer and clearer. I can't change her, nor can I make her do what I want.  Instead, I've been focusing my attention on other things.  I've been pursuing hobbies, which I haven't done in years, and putting my energy into the things in my life that I can change.

All of these have nothing to do with my kid.