My daughter was planned for and desired. She was our first baby. Paul and I were in love with her before she even arrived! However, as she got older things started to show there was something going on that created difficulties with our precious girl.
At age 2 she was a biter. By age 5, she was upset about not having any friends. No little girls at church wanted to play with her. By age 6, I started to realize that it was Alia's propensity to be too physical (lots of hugs and trying to pick kids up) that was probably turning kids off to her. By age 7, she was starting to be too physical with her brothers and seemed a bit "too wild" at times. All these we most wrote off to other things: too much sugar, not enough sleep, over excited, just being a kid, "some kids are like that", etc. But as Alia continued to grow up her symptoms worsened and we knew there was more going on.
Alia recently turned 10. We keep her separated from Josiah as much as possible because she bullies him. His bad behavior in direct response to feeling "under attack" from Alia day in and day out. We are doing everything we can to curtail her behavior but it is a moment to moment thing. She is hyperemotional and has anxiety. These create an environment where she can't function if she is called out for "being/doing wrong" or if she is required to do something she doesn't want to do. I'm talking complete meltdown. Being the eldest, despite our rules and trying to train the boys, her behavior has translated over the the boys using physical violence back to Alia when she attacks. They have been growing up watching how she does things and are following in her path. It is so difficult to teach them that they are held to a higher standard because they HAVE the capacity to use self control. To give Alia love and grace but NOT to behave as she does. Nothing seems fair to them.
To make matters worse, Alia KNOWS she behaves this way, but is powerless to stop it. She has stopped being remorseful about harming her brothers because it happens so often that feeling badly about it seems pointless. She mourns that her brothers don't want to play with her. She has bouts of depression where she verbalizes that she feels like a terrible girl and that God doesn't love her because he won't make this go away. I feel terrible for my sweet little girl that just wants to be normal and have friends and play and be happy but her mind and body don't obey those desires.
Most people including family and friends see Alia as a happy, high energy, little girl. Some might see a few symptoms and then assume that her parents just aren't disciplining her enough. But no one we know has admitted to seeing and believing she has any special needs--and that has been very isolating. Paul and I have been very frustrated at the amount of silent judgement that has come our way from people we know and from strangers. Yes, Alia CAN function quite normally and somehow that makes everyone think that her behavior is a fault of the lack of training from her parents.
We had an appointment with a second psychologist (first one spent 1 hr with her and gave her one test and then diagnosed ADHD-um, no) who did a 3 hour evaluation alone with Alia. We were hopeful. We had confidence that this doctor will see what we see and will be able to come alongside us to make Alia's life and ours better. That didn't pan out either. No one seems to be able to cut through the challenges she faces.
Homeschooling Alia is becoming more and more difficult. She is a grade behind in reading and math. She has so much trouble focusing. She does her schoolwork in a nearly constant state of " I don't want to" and " I hate this". I stay as cheerful as possible but firm in that she must complete what (Paul and I have agreed) is reasonable for her to complete each day. It just takes so much mental and physical energy.
Think about another 10 year old you know. Can they retrieve a Q-tip from the bathroom without leaving others all over the counter/sink for you to find later? When clearing the table, do they take their dirty plate and cup to the bathroom counter instead of the kitchen? When they are excited about an unexpected trip to the library do they injure two other siblings in their display of happiness? If the sibling next to them is making a funny noise with their mouth while coloring, do they jab them in the eye with a finger to get them to be quiet? A 10 year old? If someone else chose the board game playing piece that the ten year old wanted do they reach out and pinch the other person's hand just to express how angry they are? These are snapshots of our life with Alia. We have to always be prepared with constant redirections, constant vigilance to protect her siblings, and we need to be constantly 2 thoughts ahead of her to fend off thoughts/behaviors. Exhausting.
When she does something wrong she then lies, tries to split hairs, for example "I didn't hurt him" "yes I pushed him" "It was his fault he fell into the wall" -- This is real logic that comes from her and after a 15 minute discussion which is actually a calm (on our end) and an emotional (on her end) experience she finally sees the situation like we do and apologizes for it. Five to ten minutes later she'll do something else mean to a brother and we're back into the 15 minute discussion.
Right now, there are moments in our days when it is very hard to not be completely frustrated with Alia but we love her so dearly and just want our family to be a peace with one another. We need to be supported on this difficult road. We were hoping that getting an appropriate diagnosis (we don't care about the label) would mean we will have a direction to go to get the support we need and the help Alia needs to lead a more controlled and happier life.
I want the sweet girl that I know is inside to show on the outside more often. I want to spend more time enjoying Alia than I do protecting others from her. I want Alia to like herself and to feel confident and happy. To be able to play and enjoy other kids company and for other kids to see the fun Alia that is in there.
The 3 hour meeting with the psychologist rendered a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder with learning disabilities. Again, as Alia's parents, Paul and I do not see these as the root causes of her behavior. So we decided to come up with solutions for our own difficulties and not rely on a diagnosis to help us gain insight.
Over the course of the past year that we have traveled in Gracie, Alia has had periods of 3-4 months with very low symptomology. Then suddenly the negative behavior would spike again for 1-2 months. We have really stopped counting and are just living day to day. If we had lots of money I would have her see a Naturopath to see if it was some kind of issue internally like a food allergy, digestive problem, gland malfunction but that just isn't in the cards right now.
So, we just keep on loving our Alia no matter what she throws our way knowing that these difficulties make us stronger and help us to rely on God more.
I am aware that so many have problems worse than this to deal with every day but this is our family's story. I felt it would be good for me to write both so others know the struggle we have but also so Alia can be better understood and accepted. So that neither she as a child nor Paul and I as parents are looked down upon for our child's behavior...yes, we have had nasty looks and negative comments. Thanks for "listening" and trying to understand the challenges that Alia has and that our family wrestles with daily.
Do you or your kids struggle with a illness/issue that is undiagnosed and troublesome? How do you cope? I would love to hear about how some of you are dealing with a similar situation.