About Me

I am a single mom of three amazing boys!  All three of my sons entered my family through adoption.  All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

mental health

It is interesting to me that you can be sick with any kind of illness and people are sympathetic, offer care and support and word spreads through the community and well wishes are shared. Mental health however is the unspoken illness, the illness that is not shared. The secret that is well kept and well hidden. Unfortunately, while I have lived this year hoping that we were going to be able to ward off mental illness and that maybe with medication Matthew would quickly get better, on Friday things came to a head, and his demons and struggles are becoming more and more obvious everyday.

Matthew's aggression at home is nothing new. He is a 116 pound 8 year old, with the developmental level of a 5 year old, and the emotional capacity of a child even younger than that. How does your average 4 year old deal with life's frustrations? How do they cope with being told "no"? Now quadruple the child's weight, and add the life frustrations of an older child- homework, complex relationships ect...and you have a ticking time bomb.

Apparently on Friday life at school exploded. It was over the silliest thing- a "tow token" from gym class. Matthew had taken 2 and was supposed to only have 1. Like all of our favorite toddlers, he truly believed that if he said he had 1 then he could magically make the second one disappear. So he "lied' to his teachers aide, then he lied to the teacher, but of course they knew the whole time he had more than he was supposed to. As a consequence, he was told he could no longer have any "tow tokens" and the scene was ripe for an explosion.

Matthew lunged at his teacher's aide, and screamed obscenities throughout the classroom. As he and his teacher walked down the hall, he tried to get out the front door of the school. I was called to come pick him up, since he couldn't ride the school bus, and the team and I met. Unfortunately, as he and I were leaving school, he was still unable to settle. We barely made it outside before he hit me in the back with his backpack and ran through the parking lot towards the road. IN order to keep him and I safe, I brought him back into school and he returned to the quiet room. For me this was an eye opening experience. Sadly his agression was nothing new to me, but I have always thought that it was my fault, and second guessed myself- if only I had ......., I could have stopped the agression by....., but as I watched his teacher, the social worker and the principal all help him get to the quiet room, it was obvious. What I ahve been trying to do alone, requires 3 adults at school. What I ahve tried to do to calm him, has made him uncalmable by 3 licensed adults at school. The reality that we were dealing with real demons became obvious. The reality that we BOTH needed help smacked me in the face.

After another 45 minutes went by and Matthew was still unable to settle down, the teacher, social worker and principal helped guide me to the reality that it was time to call the mobil crisis unit. Three of the nicest people came to school, and met with what was now a very calm Matthew. However, even in seeing him calm, it was obvious that this was a child in distress, and so we were told that the next step was the Capital District Psychiatric Center (CDPC).

I have never felt as hopeless and afraid as a parent as I did when he and I ended up at CDPC. You ring a buzzer to get in, and you are locked inside. Even the door to the bathroom is locked. You are no longer free, you have to ask for everything. Thankfully some of the nicest people on earth work in this facility and they made a challenging situation as easy as possible.

The Psychiatrist met with us at CDPC and it was again determined that Matthew needed more help- the plan was to find him an inpatient setting for a while in order to get his medications adjusted. LOcally there are 2 Psyciatric HOspitals. One is private and can whichever cases they choose, but on Friday they had no beds. The other is public but you have to be 11 to be a patient there. That left me as a single mom, likely taking my oldest child to a Psychiatric hospital at least an hour away, and balancing the care of my 6 year old and 3 year old between their grandparents, friends and babysitters depending on the day and time.

Overnight Friday night, I adjusted to this reality- that a hospital was likely the best choice for Matthew. That he deserved the best, and that the other boys would be ok. I knew that my job would be ok, and that I am surrounded by amazingly loving, caring people.

Sadly, at 8 AM Saturday morning, this plan was changed. The new Psychiatrist came in, met with Matthew, and aksed him a few questions. He determined, that Matthew is too low functioning to be successful in a hospital setting. That he requires a very structured, regimented outpatient program and needed a new medication. However, he was unable to prescribe the new medication. The Psychiatrist he sees is not available on Saturdays, and we were discharged.

Thankfully, Matthew is doing well this weekend. I have had the support of amazing people in my world, and Monday AM I will call his doctor and a plan will be created. Unfortunately, the system is completely broken.

If you break your arm, you go to the hospital and receive care. if your appendix bursts you receive care, but if you are tormented by demons, if your brain does not work the correct way, there is no where to go, no one who can help, and you are left to wander through the system, hoping to gather support and help from people you meet along with way!

When I started my family, this is not at all what I envisioned for us. My hope will always be that this is a blip on our radar and medication will help Matthew. This blog is my way to share our journey and ups and downs in life. This is where we are currently....struggling through the mental health system, with our heads held high, because I refuse to be embrassed taht it is my sons emotions that are broken.


  1. Lara VazquetellesApril 25, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    How lucky your boys are. While this may not have been the path you saw yourself on, what path would Matthew have already traveled were it not for you and where would he be headed. No matter what, he knows he has you in his corner and that is all that will ever matter - no matter where he is!! You have and will no doubt continue to make good desicions for yourself and your family. Stay strong!!!

  2. Amie, I'm so sorry to hear of Matthew's struggles (and yours). I agree, your boys are so lucky to have such an amazing and dedicated mom as you.
    I'll be thinking about you--I hope you find some help.

  3. As reading you blog line by line i am confident that you are Matthews guardian angel. He would not be able to get better if it wasnt for you.

  4. (((Amie)))
    You are a wonderful mom. And you are right, the system is COMPLETELY broken. You are doing the RIGHT thing though. You are persistant and not going to take NO for an answer for your amazing sons! I recently read about a family going through the same exact thing. Has anyone mentioned that the current medication could be causing the prolonged rage? Maybe or maybe not.
    We had a serious issue last week with another child at school "touching" Johnny. I'm still dealing with it in my mind. But I have been very open with Johnny.
    It never ends does it???

  5. I am so sorry you have to deal with all of this Amie. How impossible and how lucky Matthew, David and Jacob are to have such a wonderful and strong mom. You are amazing!

    Have you been in touch with your local NAMI chapter? I work with the ED of NAMI NH and I know they have been incredibly helpful to a friend of mine who's navigating the mental health care system with her mother-in-law. Perhaps they can help you navigate our broken mental health care system.

    Please know I'm always here for you, thinking of you guys often and just a phone call away.