“Do you ever hear things or see things that others don’t see or hear?” the doctor asked with his lilting Nigerian accent. I explained what that meant, waiting for her to say no.
My frail little girl looked at the floor and nodded. My heart cracked in a hundred places. I was barely able to hold my face steady. I wanted to envelop her and protect her.
Dr. M. took me aside when E. went to get weighed. He quickly and gently told me that she was not psychotic but had Bipolar Disorder. Stress triggers mania in children with Bipolar Disorder under stress and audio and/or visual hallucinations can occur. Her hallucinations were bloody, gory dead people who spoke to her. What I thought was her talking in her room in play was her telling the people she didn’t speak their language or chanting to make them go away.
(Aspergers Syndrome was not diagnosed until a few months ago, though we approached her therapy “as if”. It was one of the biggest reasons she had been unable to verbalize what was happening to her.)
She was so tiny, all knees and elbows and made of little bitty bird bones. Weighing in about sixty pounds, her struggle with understanding the world, her body signals, social stuff and the trauma she’d been through for the last few years had taken a toll on her ten-year old body. The wish to die was her last resort, the end of her rope, her last “coping” mechanism.
Over the next three years Dr. M. and E.’s therapist, M, managed to bring my weary daughter back from the edge of a cliff called suicide. His warm, direct, smiling, down to earth approach began to thaw her shyness iceberg ever so slowly. He heard her when she talked and asked her how she felt she was doing on what ever-present medicine was in her therapy. He was quick to change medications when one was involved in a severe melt down. Always reminding us that medication was only one tool, that E.’s learning and growing were the power tools.
He heard her.
When I broke the news to her about a month or so ago that Dr. M. was leaving, she involuntarily yelled “Noooooo!” but caught herself and closed her face back up quickly. Having been left and hurt by so many, she’s learned to try to cut them off before the pain comes of separation or abuse. She has since conveyed a false, rehearsed kind of nonchalance to avoid the painful goodbye she knows is coming. I pushed the “Good-bye” issue because I would hate to see her have regret for not having closed up with him and taken the chance to show him what he means to her. I want her to know even the wonderful people who sometimes have to leave, do not all leave on a bad note or for bad reasons and it’s OK to love and show love even if someone is going out of our lives.
I am picking up a few things as well as a card in which E. will write some thoughts. I have some words I want to say, myself.
~Thank you for not letting her slip away into a dark obscure existence..
~Thank you for caring about other people’s children as well as your own.
~Thank you for hearing her even when she didn’t or couldn’t talk.
~Thank you for sharing the sunshine of your person to heal these little wounded birds.~But most of all~
~Thank you for not letting my baby die before her time or live without hope interminably.
E. is fourteen now. She is no longer dangerously thin. She laughs, a lot. She can more easily name her body’s and emotions signals now. She doesn’t want to die today.
I know I will cry when I say these things to him but they are bittersweet tears. They celebrate my daughters healing time with him, his new journey and the other lives he will touch just as profoundly. I pray angels surround him, his family and his life. I pray he will never know want and will always be cared for in the way he cared for my child.
Thank you, Dr. M.