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Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Piece of the Puzzle

Sometimes life forces you to accept hard things and make difficult decisions. I have been batting around the words "mental illness" since 2004 when Anna was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I thought I understood what it meant and I accepted the fact that my granddaughter, Acadia, was bipolar. I agonized with my cousin as she went through months and months of darkness and depression. I watched my own son suffer from anxiety and have to be put on medication. But this week has taken me to a new level.

Acadia (9) took a turn for the worse this week. Her mom has written about the turmoil they have been living through on her blog. I am realizing that accepting that Acadia is bipolar means recognizing when she needs hospitalization. We don't hesitate to hospitalize a child who is in a diabetic coma, or has leukemia and needs treatment, or has epilepsy and needs testing. Why do we treat a mentally ill child any differently? Why do we think her mother can take care of all her needs when she feels like killing herself and thinks there are bombs in her house? Why do we think this is the worst thing that could happen to a child?

I think I know why. It is because we don't understand it. If a child has a known disease a doctor can treat her with all available drugs and treatments. But how do we diagnose a disease that affects a child's thoughts, moods, emotions, and self-control? How do we get this child to tell us what is going on in her mind when she is no longer sure what is real and what isn't. And then how do we treat it?

Well, bipolar in children is now a known disease. There are drugs and treatments. There are times when these drugs and treatments must be administered in a hospital. Will it be a perfect solution? No. Does every child with leukemia go into remission? No. Do treatments help 100% all the time? Of course not. Will we stop treating children with these childhood diseases? Absolutely not!

I am beginning to understand the child with mental illness, but only just beginning. I am willing to do whatever it takes to help Acadia. I am willing to see her admitted to the pysch hospital. I am not ashamed of it or of her. I don't see it as a failure on her parents part. I don't view it as our last resort. I see it as the next piece of the puzzle. I accept it as good, safe treatment for Acadia. I believe that God, in his grace, is allowing this for a season. I believe He will take care of her there. I believe good things will come of all this. Do I understand it? No. Do I cry? Yes-when I see the heartache in my daughter's face because she can't answer her baby's questions. Tears come when I pray and the heartache seems overwhelming and the puzzle is still there.