Past my limit means that I literally passed it like months and months before this point.  Drove right by it without even stopping, waved.  “HEY!  There’s my limit!  Annnnd there it goes.” 

Violet was in the therapeutic day school.  She continued to decline.  We tried psycho-analysis, CBT, talk therapy, incentive programs.  She was absolutely miserable every second, not one milli-moment of a break from intensity.   

We took her to Cornell, NYU, etc.  They dosed her up on a trial-by-error slew of drugs.  Anti-depressants, ADHD meds, mood stabilizers, neuroleptics, we tried it all.  Still miserable.  Now she was on Abilify, gaining weight and STILL MISERABLE. 

She could not control her emotions.  She would misinterpret just about everything at all times and could not have anything BUT an elevated, intense, disturbing response.  Because her reaction to things was irrational, talking her down was a moot point.  She began to refuse to do certain things, and with a child that is 135 pounds at 10, it felt aggressive.  A door-slammin, wall-hittin, thing-throwin, great time.  NOT.

I was beside myself.  We all were.  I felt totally out of control.  My other kids were on edge.  They would anticipate her doing aggressive, disruptive things and then their pre-emptive reactions would trigger MORE upset in Violet.  I was yelling a lot even trying to insist that she STOP yelling, which is completely backwards.  The volume in my house was at a 10 at all times, and was an absolute nightmare to exist in. 

I felt like my marriage, my relationship with each of my kids, my sense of sanity and self was completely dissolving in front of my face.  AND, I felt out of options.   

Her school called and told me I wasn’t crazy, she was struggling even more and needed help.  We hired an educational consultant to talk about the last remaining options.  I had already looked into some state-run therapeutic boarding schools, which were absolutely out of the question.  NOT A FIT for Violet.  But I realized our status, Violet needed to be removed from the house if she continued to struggle, for everyone’s sake.  The dysfunctional cycle was self-perpetuating and completely unhelpful for Violet too. 

The meeting with the Educational Consultant?  OMG I think I cried the whole time – she must have thought I was nuts.  She asked me a totally benign question and instant tears.  We discussed private therapeutic residential schools, and the locations that served Violet’s young age group were SO hard for me to even hear.  California, Utah, Idaho, Washington, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.  WHAT???  I wanted to visit her every weekend, not have to FLY somewhere, she was 10! 

Next on the docket were Wilderness Programs, which some of the schools required prior to entry.  I loved everything we learned about them, until she told me that Violet would go away and we wouldn’t be able to see or speak to her for 60-90 days. 

SAY WHAT???  How could I even contemplate that?  “Yeah…wellllll…we will think about that, but we have a lot of summer plans, so maybe like the beginning of the school year, September.”  This was May.

She said to us, “Really?  That long?  I think you will find if you really need this environment, you won’t want to wait.  I could have her placed next week.”  After that meeting, I sobbed FULL-BODY-CONTORTIONIST-SOBS for the 2-hour drive home.

School called again.  “Violet needs help.  I don’t think it can wait.  I think she needs to go somewhere in the next 2 weeks.” 

How do you describe when your stomach falls out, hits the floor, falls through the floor and crashes straight through the other side of the Earth?  That was me.  Despair.  Desperation.  And grief.

I knew what we had to do, but this was the absolute most difficult thing I have ever endured.  Wilderness it was.  I cried through every phone call - to parents, to educators, psychologists and the directors.  I cried through the mountains of paperwork, all over my husband’s shoulder, my mother’s, my friends’.  This was my first real encounter with despair.

She was to leave the following Wednesday, 6 days away.






I recently got a ton of old home videos put on a hard drive and was obsessing over watching them.  First one to hook me?  Violet was 4 and a half years old.  I didn’t even recognize her.  She had this little high voice, and she was so cute, funny, silly and sweet to us, her sister and brother. (please add a baby boy to the fam)  Thennnn, I watched about 35 more and I began to see little things that I remember being “trying” and it was freaky to see how they overtook the sweet moments, the older she got.  Hello stomach knots.

Eggshells.  That is how I have to describe living the decline.  I felt like at ALL times, I was ready for something to happen.  It started out seemingly small - a hug to the baby that was a little too hard, my husband getting upset, then me feeling like I have to defend her.  A toss of a toy that just happens to knock over a lamp and falls too close to the baby.  A silly shaking dance that ends up knocking a table, things spilling everywhere and breaking glass.  A mean look, a nasty voice.  An argument, a random scream.  Disrespectful words, door slamming, stomping, screaming, throwing things. 

It escalated.  She grew in size, volume and aggression.  The amount of occurrences multiplied until they were daily, sometimes many times per day.  There was so much yelling by her, then eventually me.   

“VIIIIIOOOLEEETTT!!!!!” - my other kids would whine ad nauseum, the default statement.  Then my instantaneous reaction to rush to their defense - fully expecting that she DID in fact do something intimidating (even if she didn’t).  The cycle of dysfunction fell on top of itself and spun around and around again like clothes in a dryer.

Violet was in a special ed school, seeing a therapist, on meds.  The neuropsych assured us her reactions were NOT by choice - she had a brain full of chaos.  She was 9, then 10, and hormones were surely not helping.  We ran through babysitters like crazy – none of whom could handle Violet.  More feeling bad about herself, more stress for me.    

We would battle over homework, going places, bedtime.  She was constantly annoyed, irritated and bored.  I would end up letting her watch TV or stare at her computer just so I could have a moment of quiet.  My attention was so always on her and it felt like my other kids were getting ‘the shaft.’  Not only did they have to deal with constant negativity and disruption, they weren’t the focus of the attention, ever. 

Violet was always SO great one-on-one, but how could I do that while having two other kids who would ALSO love some alone time?  Vi also had the old “hole in the bucket” syndrome.  No matter how much we filled it with hugs, encouragement, special time, things – it would last like 5 seconds, then back to angst.  Nothing was enjoyable for very long.  Vacations, dinners, celebrations - everything was shadowed with anxiety. 

When I wasn’t attempting to control Violet from an outburst, I was just SO sad.  I cried a lot.  It just kept getting worse and I did NOT know how to get out of the place we were in with her.  I felt like a terrible mother, a bad wife.   

I lost perspective.  It was affecting my ability to function.  I had tears at-the-ready any second of the day.  The anxiety, resentment and guilt it caused in my marriage was bonkers.  Thank god we love each other so much, because this was and still is - the ultimate trial for our family.  My husband was the stepparent, and without a biological father participating, he has been left to deal with the brunt of this – financially and emotionally.  (he is THE man)

I must have called my own mother DAILY to cry and say, “I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW TO HELP HER.  I can’t take having these feelings about my own kid.  She just seems to be getting worse and worse.  Every second of every day is just SO full of anger it is SO sad Mom.  I just don’t know what to do.”

The Decline, we never caught a breath.


It gets hopeful soon I promise!!!  1 more entry to Wilderness:)