In the aftermath of Rowan's diagnosis at age six, she was angry. I indulged her anger, tried to help her manage her anger, to no avail. I hoped in time it would go away, resolve itself. Nearly 15 months later, it has not. If anything, it has intensified.
Last night was the very first night since diagnosis, that I stepped out onto the balcony for a cigarette, and sobbed with regret from having birthed a second child. The guilt accompanying the feelings was horrific. She can be a lovely little girl, and I love every ounce of her, so WHY was I regretting bringing her into the world let alone into our family?
I now live with a seven year old tyrant. She is verbally and physically abusive to her sister, to myself, to kids in the neighbourhood. I don't know HOW on earth she manages to keep it together during school hours.... at home, she most certainly does not even appear to try.
I feel that I enabled this unfortunate situation by wanting her to express her anger. I know from my own life experience, that nothing positive would come from her stuffing it. But I never imagined her anger would be a never-ending volcano, never knowing WHEN it would erupt, or how long the peace would last between explosions. THIS is no way to live.
I am embarrassed to show my face within the neighbourhood. Me, the woman who brought forth a beast, who screams at neighbour kids without prompting, who will bite and snarl so angrily that she breaks the skin and leaves a bruise on whomever her victim is. Doesn't matter how old the other child is. If Rowan is seeing red (and she often does) THAT child is in imminent danger.
I struggle with how on earth to quell the intensity of her emotion. I don't want to have to bite her back to teach her a lesson. Spanking is not the answer. I have been wanting her to talk to someone professionally since the early days of diagnosis. "She needs anger management skills" I would beg to whatever professional would listen to me.
Unfortunately, she doesn't have medical coverage for a psychologist. The wait list for a psychiatrist is daunting. What am I going to do with her, when her name sits on a waiting list for the next 18 mos?
As a single parent, with mental health challenges, I have been beyond reluctant to involve our family unit with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Up until the other week, when I showed up, unannounced and uninvited, begging for services to be made available for my child. I want more than anything to keep this family unit together, and more than that, I want this family to get along. I am exhausted of being the referee. Exhausted of having to worry for the physical well-being of my ten year old, who unfortunately, can't seem to recognize the bubbles of anger emerging from her little sister, until the hurricane is beating down on her in it's utmost intensity. I am tired of having to ship play dates to other homes, out of the fear that my youngest child will attack the playmate.
My parenting coach suggested that I install weather stripping on the inside of Rowan's door jam, to prevent her from slamming it shut. We are in a rental unit, with other tenants below us, and I cringe when she stomps her angry dramatic pounding feet. The drawback of a door that doesn't provide the satisfaction of being slammed: she pounds her tiny fists into the back of the door.
On top of everything else, I'm worried this child will get us evicted.
What was MCFD's answer? A parenting workshop for me. Oh yes..... let's start by blaming the mother. All evil must spill forth from my loins. So I took their pretty little workshop, and on session three, burst into tears that "this isn't working. My family is in crisis, this isn't working, and no one wants to step up and help me find the solution". Enter one parenting coach, who, within fifteen minutes of our first session, chuckled politely after me describing the behaviours and announced "that workshop isn't going to be remotely helpful for you". Validation. At last!
"You need to get a Child and Youth Mental Health Worker for them" he declares "Talk to your counsellor the next time you see her, and she'll plug you in". Except my counsellor has NO IDEA what on earth he's referring to. I get SO frustrated with the complex labyrinth of trying to find applicable resources for my girls. Like the situation isn't stressful enough to begin with. Let's send Krystin on the never-ending maze and see if she'll stumble onto the services herself. I feel like a rat in a labratory maze, seeking out the cheese. But the sad joke is on the "Krystin rat".... there is NO cheese. Just fumes of cheese that get me frantic thinking 'I must be close' only to be bewildered as I bounce off another plexiglass wall within this never ending puzzle.
Life with a special needs child shouldn't have to be THIS difficult. I wonder how much different our circumstances would have been today, had she been given access to a mental health professional DAY ONE of her diagnosis. All I want is my happy easy-going daughter back, not this pint-sized brute that pounds me with her tiny fists screaming at me about how evil I am, and how much she hates me. I *know* I am the biggest reminder of type one diabetes in her daily life. I am the one asking for her glucose number, I am the one wielding the syringe. I try to convince myself that it's not me she hates, it's type one diabetes. But her abuse of me, both physical and emotional is intensifying, and as it does so, my ability to compartmentalize is effected. What kind of mother raises THIS kind of child?? Maybe she would be better off somewhere else.... without me. I know that isn't true, and the guilt compounds from simply wondering if I am doing right by her.
So once again this morning, I took matters into my own hands. Surely the school principal (who I've always been fond of) must have SOME knowledge of the resources available for troubled kids. Of course, he was in a meeting, but I wasn't going to let THAT stop my quest for emotional wellness for my youngest babe.
I approached the new Vice Principal, who has not yet met me, but by the end of the school year will likely know more about us than I would care for. But I deal with it. Deal with not having any privacy, if that means getting help for Rowan. For Trinity. For myself.
I warned him upon our introduction "I AM going to cry during this meeting, thought I should break the ice and warn you now". Off he goes to fetch a large box of kleenex, and in the twenty seconds he is out of the office, tears are streaming down my cheeks in a seemingly never-ending flow. "See? I warned you!"
I give him the names of my children, their grades, and their classroom teachers. Set the foundation so he knows who my clan is. "Rowan was diagnosed as type one diabetic in August 2010" I begin.
"Does she pump, or does she do needles?" he asks. His face nearly Santa-like in it's kindness. Hallelujah! Someone who has an inkling of what type one diabetes is!!
"I'm a type two, so I understand". Oh he sucked out every ounce of hope I had from the above sentence with his Type Two proclamation. But then he redeemed himself "my adult son is Type one, and was diagnosed at age six". The same age as Rowan. Oh thank you God, he has a clue what I'm living with!
"You know that personality changes are a huge part of the disease" he begins "I know it doesn't make it any easier to deal with though"
The dam that holds back my tears dissolves, and the flood gates have opened. Thank you God, THANK YOU GOD..... maybe we're going to get somewhere here.
He asks me if she has been seen by a mental health professional. I tell him my tale of MCFD, the parenting workshop, the parenting coach.... all to no avail. I tell him that I am living in an abusive environment with a seven year old tyrant, and there are days that I just dread having to go to the school to pick her up. I dread having to be alone with her, which is no way for a mother to feel towards her seven year old. I have often joked with other parents, over top the dramatic flair of one of her diabetic rages "If I'm not seen or heard from again..... question the seven year old first". It might come out like a joke, but it's not. It's my flippant cry for help because it's nearly reached the point that I am afraid of her. Not for her. Of her. I am frightened that one day her anger is going to be too much to bear, and there will be grave consequences for our family unit. How on earth did the seven year old get so much power?
Oh that's right.... I handed it to her, on a silver platter. When I encouraged her to express her anger, but didn't effectively provide boundaries for it.
When I was describing the anger issues Rowan was experiencing, someone was brave enough to suggest that perhaps she was being sexually abused. I didn't think that could be the case, because she is with me except for when she is at school. There was an issue in the past with one of my children, and when said child brought it to my attention, I kept them safe, and took action. I clearly demonstrated that if you come to me with such a statement, it will not be doubted in any way, shape or form, and immediate action is taken for the benefit of my child.
When I inquired with Rowan if she was being touched inappropriately, her answer (in hindsight) made me smile: "No Mom, I'm NOT being touched by anybody. BUT I AM being touched by Type One Diabetes everyday! Every minute. AND THAT touching hurts. And NO ONE CAN MAKE IT STOP!" For a moment, I'm proud of my seven year old for being able to articulate that. But I can't imagine the sense of helplessness she must live with.
The good news is, I am going to the elementary school again Friday morning, to speak with their counsellor and the vice principal, heck probably even the principal as well (we're such a gong show that why WOULDN'T they want to be a fly on the wall?). To provide them with some insight as to what is going on at home, so the counsellor can work with Rowan to the best of her ability.
Please... please, oh please, let this be our shining ray of hope. I want my smiling girl back. I want our happy family back. I want Type One Diabetes gone, but THAT'S not going to happen anytime soon. But it shouldn't be a nuclear bomb that has exploded in the very centre of our home.