If you read my last blog post, you will know that I was heading off to Kenya to spend a week with orphaned elephants in Ithumba. I can honestly say that this was the most amazing experience of my life! We went with a company expert in arranging these types of trips (www.prestige-promotions.co.uk) & visited the orphanage and stockades run by The David Sheldrick Foundation ….if you ever have the chance, spending time with these beautiful animals in their natural habitat is humbling and life affirming!
Anyway, I was so worried about leaving Lizzie; it felt like having my right arm cut off, that she couldn’t possibly survive without me. Well, of course, she did! I came back to reports from her and from her Dad and her doctors that she was doing really well. I was sceptical…but it’s true! It’s as if that magical switch I have focused on for so long, has finally been flicked. To say I am a tad euphoric is an understatement!
I have, however, spent the past two weeks not daring to believe that my little girl is progressing; that she is well enough to come home soon. But we are now beginning to look beyond hospitalisation! We have visited a therapeutic school about half an hours drive from our house: it has only 16 pupils, all of whom are boys, but she is really happy with the school and we have applied for a place. It offers the perfect stepping stone for Lizzie: she cannot return to mainstream school now as her anxiety is too high for that environment and after 18 months out of full time education, the pressure would be too great. But she is a smart kid and the opportunity to progress with her GCSE’s whilst being supported with therapeutic care with experts who understand, who “get it”, is one we cannot afford to pass up on.
All being well, we should be looking at her being discharged within the next 5-6 weeks! I am, naturally I think, terrified! One of the main reasons she is hospitalised is because she needs to be safe. In fact, this has become a safe place for her and she has always been anxious to return after leave: the pressure on her to keep herself safe of her own accord is taken away whilst she is there. I am more than aware that she has become somewhat institutionalised and will in fact find it incredibly difficult to leave there permanently, but it is a small price to pay for her safety, and for her recovery. We are now ever reliant on the support network around us to guide us through this transition, to minimise it. But my fear is that we have created an unnatural environment and her recovery has occurred within that environment; will she continue to recover when that safety net is removed? Is she strong enough to fight this? We cannot keep her there forever so only time will tell.
As a family we are terrified. The other night, whilst on home leave, Lizzie reacted badly to an emotional incident by self harming. It was the early hours of the morning and she woke her younger sister in distress, fearing she may need stitches. I love that my children are so close but I am grief stricken that my eleven year old has to endure this painful, warped “normality”. (If you choose to judge me on access to sharps in our home etc then a) you know nothing of the ends a person who self harms will go to and b) don’t bother, I judge myself harshly enough!). We view this episode as a relapse; one we can build on and learn from to minimise this type of reaction in the future.
We have agreed to an extended family therapy session next week, with as many of our brood present as it has been possible to orchestrate! I think it is so important that they air their fears about Lizzie’s return home and to understand what she needs from them, certainly in the early days. I have little doubt that we will all be in need of therapy for a long time to come.
On the whole, Lizzie is calm and rational now. She has explained that whilst she feels she has recovered, is beating this episode of her illness that has dogged her for almost 2 years, that what we can’t fix is the way she is wired. To her, this means that she will always suffer from suicidal ideation & she firmly believes she will one day succumb to it. For me, I have learnt that suicidal ideation is about not wanting to live, which is absolutely not the same as wanting to die. You can feel so worthless, so pointless in your life, in the greater universe, that you really don’t see why you should continue the fight to live. But this does not always result in an overriding urge to actually die. I have told her that I believe her 100%: that it is OK to have this view and to give herself permission to believe this and continue her fight know it. It is when the belief starts to become the objective that we have to worry. Right now, my daughter’s objective is not to die….and I’ll take that any day of the week.
Stay Strong x