My daughter first began hearing voices when she was 8 years old. Parental rights had finally been terminated, the adoption was final, and I thought the worst was behind us. When the voices first began, I was concerned, but not panicked. She was seeing a counselor, who was monitoring the situation.
Gradually, fear began to take over her life. She began moving around the house to sleep, seeking someplace where she would feel safe. For a while, she slept in my closet (which was barely big enough for her to lie down.) Eventually, she ended up in my bed, and finally, she couldn’t sleep unless she was in full contact with me, which certainly didn’t help me sleep. Then she developed a fear of the bathroom. It got so bad that she wouldn’t go into it without me, and the only way I could get her to bathe was if I let her shower with me, and I stood between Daughter and the drain.
Gradually, Counselor found out the source of her fears. She thought she was going to be sucked down into the drain, where her molesters would be waiting. Finally Counselor told me I had to take her to see a psychiatrist. Counselor went with us, and introduced us to a supportive, compassionate woman. She started daughter on a low dose of antipsychotic. Psychiatrist told me I had to arrange different after school care for her, as the daycare home she was attending had lots of toddlers who were the same age Daughter had been during the abuse. She explained that was triggering her post-traumatic stress disorder. I also did battle with the school, to get her out of the regular classroom (where a boy had mooned her class and she thought snakes were living in her desk) and into the emotionally handicapped program. These changes brought a miracle. I didn’t realize how exhausted I had been until the first day I was able to take a shower alone. Her fear of the bathroom was gone, and she soon returned to sleeping in her own bed.
The anti-psychotic worked for about a year. We had moved to a different state, and she had a new school with a wonderful teacher. One day her teacher called me, concerned. Daughter was insisting that there were bugs crawling all over her, and especially on her back. The teacher looked at her back, and not only weren’t there bugs; there wasn’t any sign of irritation. When I told her new psychiatrist about her symptoms, he immediately ordered her admitted to the psych unit. He wanted to switch her from her older anti-psychotic to one that had just come out, and he wanted to do it in the hospital. She was 9 years old when she made her first trip to the adolescent psych unit. Leaving her there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But the new medication worked wonders, and the bugs vanished.
I know there are many who don’t believe in psychiatric medications for children. I have had parishioners ask me how long I’m going to keep her on all those drugs. When she was diagnosed with diabetes and I saw headlines linking Risperdal to diabetes, I questioned if by allowing her to take these drugs, I had somehow caused her diabetes. A wise friend asked what the alternative would have been. Then I begin to remember. I remember the time the voices instructed her to take a knife to her bedroom so she could kill me and then commit suicide. I remember the nights she’s spent camped out on my bedroom floor because she didn’t feel safe in her own room. I remember the day she tried to hang herself in our front yard. I remember, and I give thanks to God that there are medications that can stop the voices and give her some peace.