Throughout Sophie’s life she has been immersed in the chaos that comes from raising a special needs child. She was never an easy baby like Aubree, but she was a ray of sunshine as a toddler. A peace maker, always wanting to please and make those around her happy. She was such a blessing at a time that I really needed one.
It was around age 4 that I started to notice a change. She wasn’t as happy. She wasn’t as adjusted. And she started to act like her sister. Her tantrums put Aubree’s to shame. And her relentlessness knew no bounds. Juggling between the two of them was overwhelming and I felt a sense of loss from my happy peacemaker child.
Things got extremely difficult for a lot of years, as it is still ongoing. Aubree was very demanding and needed constant attention. (From trying to climb on the roof out of her window with a group of my neighbors watching and trying to get into my house to warn me, to escaping the house almost daily and putting herself in danger) Which always put Sophie on the back burner.
At night when it was quiet I would mourn. The loss of a typical family life. The loss of a typical childhood for my children. The loss of my sweet-tempered babies as mental illness took its hold. The neglect that Sophie must be feeling with all the demands of Aubree. The challenges that Aubree was faced with that I had no idea how to help. But most of all my inadequacies to fulfill their individual needs. How could I even start to do that when I had no idea what they were?
So we focused on Aubree. Her needs felt more immediate. More severe. And I couldn’t handle doing more than that at the time. I alway told myself that soon it would be Sophie’s turn. Soon she would get the help she needs.
Incident after incident happened with Aubree. There wasn’t a break. A relief. It was consistently constant. And it felt like I would never have “the time” to help Sophie. Since she wasn’t getting what she needed, she regressed. Her tantrums got worse. She demanded attention, but got it in the most unpleasant ways.
During this time Aubree was getting on medication. We saw a glimmer of hope and thought again, as soon as Aubree is more stable (surely she will be once she’s taking medication) it’s Sophie’s turn. We wanted to see what of her behavior was learned from Aubree and what, if any, were her own challenges.
The medication did alleviate some of the intensity, and at times felt like it was working miracles. But, as medication goes, it’s not a cure and we still had overwhelming demands with Aubree.
It became very obvious that the behavior Sophie had, was a direct reflection of her sister. The behavior was learned. Which means it can be unlearned. (In theory) But as obvious as that was, it was just as apparent that the feelings building up to her behavior problems were intense and the only way she knew how to express it was by what she saw from her sister. As much as there was learned behavior, there was also something else. Something out of her control and something that needed attention, and needed to be addressed.
We kept waiting. We saw progress in Aubree and wanted to see how it impacted Sophie. If she was able to handle herself with out the stress of Aubs. I did a lot of observing. One on one, and together. She most certainly does better when it’s just her. But what I found is that it didn’t change. It didn’t matter if Aubree was around or not. She still got flooded. She still became overwhelmed and unable to cope. It was time. I couldn’t put it off any longer. And I still feel so guilty for how long we did wait.
Sophie had her first official visit for a Psych evaluation. To determine possible diagnosis and a treatment plan. Sophie was so excited. She was going to an appointment just for her. For her wellness. It wasn’t too long into the appointment that she realized it was quite boring, but she still reveled in the fact that it was all for her and her alone.
It turns out that my sweet little girl is just a big ball of anxiety. She was diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) Separation anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder) tic disorder (caused by anxiety) and trauma.
It was such a relief to take her in. To talk about her needs and what the future looks like for her. Her experience with emotions are just as intense as Aubree’s, but because of how they present themselves, the “why”, Sophie’s will be a lot easier to treat. Unlike Aubree’s illnesses that battle and fight against each other, Sophie’s go hand in hand. A silver lining to be grateful for.
A heavy weight has been lifted as I proceed into treatment for both my girls. The chaos of all their different appointments and different track schedules, using intervention tactics at home, my wellness and appointments are nothing compared to crushing hopelessness of the unknown. The knowledge of what my girls need individually to succeed is invaluable and as we progress my knowledge snowball gets bigger and bigger.