Vacation Week

Saturday night Yelena had a sleepover with a friend and came home late Sunday evening. Monday morning she slept until 12 PM! I can see her slipping into the teenage life. I think she was also really tired and had not slept much Saturday night. I didn’t wake her because I had a lot to do for our Passover Seder that night and I was grateful for the extra time.

Yelena’s father had offered to take her out to the farm to see the chickens in the afternoon which she usually loves to do but she said that she would rather stay and help me. I was pleased that she wanted to do that so I suggested we clean up a little before we started cooking, wash dishes, empty the dishwasher, etc. She said she didn’t want to so I suggested she go upstairs and take a shower. I thought she had gone upstairs and about a half and hour later my cell phone rang with a number that I didn’t recognize. It was Yelena saying that she was at our next door neighbor playing with legos. She came home right before our company came, took a shower and put some nice clothes on. A little while later she came into the kitchen with her two friends who live down the street. I greeted them and asked where their Mom was and they said she wasn’t with them and I asked them how they got to our house and they said Yelena came and got them. She had to cross the street to go get them and she did not tell me she was leaving. I’m not sure how to deal with her leaving the house without telling anyone…

We had 13 people at our Seder which included 5 girls around Yelena’s age and of course Elijah which made 14. Yelena didn’t get to bed until after 10 PM that night. Tuesday she went to a vacation program at the local Girl Scout Camp where she goes in the summer and loves. She had a therapist appointment on Tuesday afternoon so I picked her up a little early. When we got home she asked to watch a movie and I told her that she needed to do some homework before she watched any TV. For some reason, I think due to another impending round of MCAS, she got an inordinately large amount of homework over the vacation and they usually don’t get any home work over vacations.

Yelena had done some of the work over the weekend. I had asked her to do a little bit every day before she was allowed to watch TV. She spent about 15 minutes and then came upstairs and said “Can I watch TV now?” I asked to see the homework to make sure it was done and she showed me the pages which were incomplete and very carelessly done. It was obvious in several places that she hadn’t either read or understood the question and just wrote down a hasty answer. I commented on this saying that I would be happy to help her. She got snarly and rude and said “OK, now I have to go all the way downstairs and do some of this stupid homework and then come all the way upstairs again.” Which she did do but with no more of the questions answered than she had the first time. I decided to leave well enough alone and said she could watch TV for an hour.

At the end of an hour, I asked her to turn off the TV and to come have dinner which she did. We had some leftover chicken soup with matzo balls. She sat sideways at the table and held her bowl in her lap. When I suggested that this was not the proper way to eat soup at the table, she got snarly again, drank the rest of the soup right from the bowl and stormed out of the room. It was bath time and she ran upstairs and locked herself in the bathroom. She said, “I am going to take such a long shower that there won’t be any hot water left for you tomorrow morning.”  I had wanted to give her her medications so I tried to open the door (I can do it with a paper clip when she locks herself in). She threw all her weight against the door and refused to let me in. I added a ½ of an Ativan to her meds to try and calm her down and tried again. After I was finally successful in getting her to take the pills, she locked the door again and I decided to lie down on my bed and read rather than to continue with a battle of wills that wasn’t going anywhere.

After awhile, I heard the shower go on and then after about ½ an hour, I knocked on the door and said that it was time to get out of the shower and get her jimmies on. I opened the door and Yelena was standing in the tub covered with bright red nail polish. There was nail polish on the sink, all over the tub, the shower curtain and the walls. My immediate reaction was anger and I turned and went downstairs to get the bottle of nail polish remover and asked her to start cleaning the tub when I returned. After a couple of minutes I realized that I should be concentrating on cleaning her up and getting her into bed rather than cleaning the bathroom.  She had painted designs on her arms. I asked her what had happened and all she could say was that it was an accident and the bottle had spilled. I started to wash her off with acetone and she started screaming. For someone without sensory issues, acetone is a pretty powerful smell and she had it all over her hands and had a few small cuts on her hands that stung really badly. I went and got the other ½ of the Ativan for her. I concentrated on her face and hands and left her legs (that wouldn’t be seen at camp when she had her clothes on) for another day. 

She was sobbing when I put her to bed so I lay down with her for awhile and she started talking about how scared she was about the rest of the MCAS and how her teacher had told her to hurry up and put a lot of pressure on her and then wouldn’t let her go to recess. It’s mostly in our heart-to-heart talks when she is in bed that she is able to tell me a lot of stuff that has been happening to her. She said she couldn’t go back to school on Monday and she was really scared of her teacher and didn’t think she could manage the rest of the year. It was after I said goodnight to her and went to the bathroom that I saw the inside of the toilet which was covered in nail polish. How she managed to do that, I have no idea...

The next day was Wednesday. I had to pick her up a little early from camp as she had an appointment with her psychopharm nurse. After her appointment, we did a few errands and then headed home for dinner. When I suggested homework she started slapping me with a computer cable. She went into the bathroom to take a bath. When I went in to get her after she had been in there for 45 minutes (shades of the teenager to come), I saw hair lying all over the sink and the floor. She had cut her “sideburns” off and she had cut about a one inch square area right in the front center of her forehead down to the scalp. And she had also cut off her eyebrows. I asked her what was going on and she said it was an accident. She started to cry and say that everyone was going to laugh at her and tease her. She sat down stark naked on the floor of my bedroom and said “OK, please just kill me now. Please kill me. Just kill me. I don’t want to live.”  Another Ativan - I didn’t bother to cut it in half.

I said that I could do two things to help her, we could either shave off her whole head or I could cut some bangs to try to cover the bald spot, She said “OK, then shave my head.”
Never suggest something that you are not prepared to do… I cut bangs for her. She wore a baseball cap to camp for the last two days of the week. She has asked me a few times if I like the way it looks and I answered her question with a question: “Do you like it?” I think she kind of does like it. I’m not sure if she thinks it’s cool and very Goth or she likes it because it is different and will get her some attention. I don’t think she has any idea what kind of attention that it might get her in school. I asked her tonight if she wanted me to try to even out her eyebrows (she did a very choppy looking job) and she said no, she likes it the way it is. I modeled head bands and scarves but I don’t think she is going to want to wear any of it to school. The kids are not allowed to wear hats during the day at school and if an exception was made to the rule she would just stand out even more. I did send an email to the school today just so they would be ready for her on Monday:

Yelena has had an extremely difficult vacation week which almost required crisis intervention services on two occasions.  On the advice of members of her outpatient treatment team, who we will be meeting with on Monday morning, it was suggested that we inform you of the following before she returns to school on Monday.

Due to her emotional distress this week, she has been unable to focus on the vacation homework assignment packet despite our many attempts to encourage her with reward contingencies for her to accomplish some piece of it each day.  Each attempt has usually escalated into major tantrums. She is worried that she will be punished for not completing her homework assignments.

She has been engaging in concerning behaviors, such as cutting off her eyebrows and patches of her hair.  We anticipate that it will be again a struggle to get her to return to school on Monday both for fear of being reprimanded by her teacher (which she has already stated) as well as her usual hypersensitivity and anxiety about being teased.

We have tried to remedy the situation by cutting bangs to hide the bald spot in the front of her head and have discussed the wearing of a headband or scarf but we are not sure that she will want to do that on Monday. She has been wearing a baseball cap for the past few days and we know that she cannot wear a hat at school. And you can’t miss the eyebrows…

It will be helpful in getting her to school on Monday if we can tell her that we have already informed the school staff of all of the above and she does not need to worry. We will assure her that the staff at Plympton will be there to support her during this emotionally difficult time.

We also need to find out what the dates are for the upcoming MCAS because Yelena has already become anxious about it and we need to be able to console her by letting her know exactly when they are so she does not worry needlessly. She also reported that for the last MCAS that she was told she was taking too much time and that she missed recess as a consequence. We know she has accommodations for the test and hope that the future MCAS will go more smoothly for her.

Thanks for your concern and help.