My Girl

“Oh no, she can’t go anywhere else. We can’t transfer her anywhere else. State mental hospitals are the end of the line for adolescents. She’ll stay here until she can she can go home or to a long term residence,” announced Chaya’s therapist in the hospital.

This was after a trial visit at home for Shabbos, where she flipped out and became aggressive, biting me, throwing things at my husband, and trying to swallow a battery, which prompted my husband to call Hatzoloh on Shabbos and a trip to the ER and back to the state hospital.

They would not send her anywhere else.

This is the end of the line.

This is the “new normal” for us now. We’re six months into this, five months of continual hospitalization in 3 different hospitals. Chaya has turned from the sweet chassidish girl who never hurt another into a raging, angry, sometimes violent teenager who has patience for nothing, whose mood swings from threatening to kill herself or someone else one moment, to smiling and laughing like normal the next moment.

A classic case of bi-polar they tell me. Lithium doesn’t work so great. You can’t diagnose a child with bi-polar another doctor tells me, she needs a good anti-anxiety/anti-depressant SSRI. But that’s what started all this – a bad reaction to Prozac. So go back to Lithium says another doctor. My head swirls and I just want my girl back.

She has picked up terrible mannerisms at these hospitals. She talks in her “gangsta” voice, recites the lyrics to the most sexed up and violent secular music, and tells me she wants to get corn rows.

But she still eats the OUD meals the hospital gives her and is mostly tsnius. She keeps some form of shabbos. When she’s feeling good I can see her still there.

When she’s feeling bad, all the feelings come rushing at once and she can’t process them. All she wants is to be back in the hospital where it’s safe. I ask myself, why doesn’t she feel home is safe? Where have I failed her? Why can’t I fix my girl?

My husband reminds me, this isn’t your fault. She has a chemical imbalance in her brain. She has a whole host of crazy relatives on both sides. An uncle who cut his arms as a teenager. A grandmother who has had psychotic episodes and bi polar. A great grandmother with anxiety, and another who committed suicide with too many sleeping pills in her 70s. All we can do is wait it out. Try the meds until they work. Go to family therapy. Do what we can to make her want to come home.

Meanwhile at home, all the other children have taken a big sigh of relief. The house is much calmer and quieter without Chaya there. On the one hand they love her and miss her. On the other hand, they are not missing everything that comes along with Chaya. They are blossoming, but as Chaya’s youngest sister told me, “I want her to get better, but I don’t want her to come home because then she will get all the attention again.” It’s positively heart breaking.

And I feel guilty because I also feel how much calmer it is without her home. When I look back now, I can see that probably she has been sick for at least a year before she was hospitalized but we simply didn’t know better.

I don’t know what the right thing is – for her, for us as a family, for my own self. I am terrified to bring her home and then she tries to kill herself again.

I have no one to talk to about this. My closest friends know but I am careful to make sure that not a single yenta knows. I would like to think some day Chaya or her siblings would like to get married. One doctor told us if we take the longer treatment route that can mean it might be just a “one episode” and it won’t happen again. But I’m more realistic. I fully expect at least another 1-2 hospitalizations again before she gets to 18. And then what?

My mind reels with all the possible bad things that could happen to her. My therapist says there’s a clinical name for this, “Catastrophizing”. At 18, she can stop taking meds, she can move out, all sorts of bad things could happen to a girl reads on a college level but whose social skills are so lacking that she frequently tests as 6 years old.

One of my good friends who knows what’s going on, currently has a child in a long term residential school in Utah. She keeps telling me we should put her in a longer term residence. I’m not ready to give up my child. I want to believe she can get better. I want to believe she can come home. I want to believe she can return to school.

I don’t have a lot of hope. I feel scared. I want to give up trying. But how can I give up on my child? I am feeling so alone. I want Hashem to heal her – a refuah shelaima b’karov mamash. I want to have faith. But the reality is, the facts are, the science shows, she will probably never be 100%.

I just want my girl back.

Listen to the audio version here.

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  1. Anonymous July 20, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    OMG so sad! My heart is with you dear mom!

  2. Chaya Esther (Heidi) Ort July 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    I felt my heart drop when I read the first sentence of this piece. My heart goes out to you, dear writer. This was me 14 years ago. It’s uncanny how just how accurately it describes our tortured journey with our daughter. She is 28 now. Her first hospitalization (of so many I lost count) was when she was 14. A myriad of in-and-out patient programs, therapists, doctors followed. My story is too long to go into in this comment but I can offer you some hope:

    She is the biggest gift in my life, my best teacher and my hero. The road was, and is, rocky, treacherous, and painful. I have never seen anyone work so hard on themselves in my life. She has grown into the most G-d-centered, kind, wise and beautiful person I know. Of our 5 children, she has struggled the most, by far, but she is also the one who, in a funny way, is the most evolved, mentally, spiritually ad emotionally, and also the most grateful.

    Here’s what I have learned, based on what worked, and did not work, for us: 1. Her health and wellbeing trumps EVERYTHING—shabbos, kosher, chinuch….everything.
    2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It works.
    3. Stay calm and centered and be stalwart for your other kids.
    4. Cultivate inner simcha, your emunah and bitachon. It is the best thing you can do for her, for yourselves and for your other children.
    5. Just keep doing the next right thing.

    Everything is going to be ok in the end. If its not ok, its not the end.

    Sending blessings. B’sorot Tovot.

  3. Gittel July 20, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Feel for you and davening that things should get better..please look into mercury toxicity ..i know it’s easy to give advice,..please get the book medical medium and try to implement some of the dietary suggestions in the book for heavy metal detox…it can’t hurt and will improve immunity

  4. Sasha July 20, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    I truly believe Chaya will get through this and grow up to be a woman who has all the things that you want for her, and she wants for herself. I have a close family friend who, by all accounts, was a complete mess from around ages 13-20. A handful of mental disorder diagnoses , extreme anger issues, a whole slew of problems. In an out of therapists, doctors offices, and hospitals. His family was constantly stressed, it caused issues between the parents, between his siblings, etc etc. No one was ever certain what would be with him. By 19 he he ended up spending some time at a very good in-patient psychiatric hospital out of state.

    Fast forward a few years, things started coming together. The years of therapy, the right mix of meds, and probably just aging out of the intense teenage hormones all started working for him. He re-enrolled in school, caught up on everything he’d missed, and then continued his education on from there. Now he’s really excelling in a profession he loves and feels super on-track emotionally. And if you ask him about it, he’ll readily admit that he had a hard time as a teenager, and it took him a while to get his life together. My heart goes out to you, this must be so so brutal. And I understand why in the moment it’s hard to imagine anything else. Even if nothing else to try to protect yourself from more crushing disappointment. But Chaya is still young, and a lot can change. You’ll get her the help she needs, and she WILL improve. She should have a refuah sheleima immediately, and your whole family should only hear good news.

  5. Rochel July 20, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Please know you and yoir daughter are not alone. Please take a look at emotions annonymous. It’s helped alot of people.

  6. It will get better July 25, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    My family went through a similar time with a family member of ours with the same diagnosis as your daughter. Im writing to offer a little encouragement to you in this difficult time. Please G-d it will get better. It might not be easy or a smooth ride but it will improve, more than you can imagine from where you are today. As hard as it is, stay strong and dont lose hope. With the right combination of meds and therapy things can get a lot better.

  7. dont lose hope August 8, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    This is so sad I’m so sorry. I wish there was something more comforting i could say but I’ve watched someone close to me go through bipolar episodes and its truly terrifying. My older brother went through something similar when i was 15, he was 18 though and thats a typical age for bipolar onset, when its a child its more difficult to treat unfortunately. He was in hospitals too, he had two psychotic episodes and some pretty bad depressions. I know this may not help you bc everyone responds differently to medication, for some ppl the meds dont work so well, but when he found the right medication and finally realized he had to take it his whole life he got better. he hasnt had a psychotic episode since he was 19 or 20. He’s 28 now and he got married a month ago. Maybe this will give you a glimmer or hope for your baby girl i dont know but please don’t lose hope.


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