We had a Skype call with Damian tonight. After his “restraint” episode on Thursday things got worse. He was suspended from school on Friday for fighting. Then he raged through Saturday and Sunday. We were unable to visit him on Sunday because he was still on suicide watch.
We let the kids know at our family meeting tonight that Damian was still struggling. The usual questions ensued, then Noah started to cry and laid his head down. When we asked him what he wanted to share he said, “We’ve been through this like a thousand times, it’s just really hard to keep hope when it just goes on and on. I mean I don’t even know him anymore”.
The reality at this point is that our family has become a functioning unit without Damian. It has been almost a year that he has not been a daily part of our family. When he comes home he will not be the same and none of us will be either. I am always thinking in my mind, “we are losing Damain” but honestly we have already lost him. The real thought is, “will we ever get to know him again?”
Today Damian did not have a “good” day. I received the call from Devereaux on my way home from work. Damian was being “restrained” and they were trying to determine if he needed to be admitted to the nearest psychiatric hospital. When a restraint needs to be used Damian is physically held so that he cannot harm himself or others, today it was both. After two hours and many phone calls with updates. Damian was given an injection of Thorazine to end the restraint and to avoid another hospitalization. He is now safe on suicide watch in a drug induced sleep. Now, feed the kids, do 6 different sets of homework, get everyone in and out of the shower all while pretending that this didn’t just happen to my son- yeah right.
When Damian comes home will he have a therapeutic school to go to?
Yes changes need to be made but we need GNETS. Read the article link below for the media and the DOJ’s take on the GNETS program. Georgia is the only state in the country to operate and fund schools that are meant to provide a stop-gap to children having to be educated in residential care. Are they segregated, yes. Are they the best solution, no. Are some children unjustly placed in these programs, yes and we should be working to move those children out. But the alternative for Damian and many like him would be residential care until he is 18 years old, with no chance or hope of reprieve.
This is what we wrote to the GA Superintendent and Director of GNETS.
My husband and I are parents of a son with severe emotional behavioral disorder (SED) brought on by Bipolar Disorder. He was in a self-contained EBD classroom From Kindergarten-the middle of 4th grade. He was then referred to the North Metro GNETS program through 5th grade. He was then “stepped down” to a self contained EBD classroom for 6th grade. Unfortunately his BiPolar Disorder worsened and after 8 psychiatric hospitalizations in 3 months he was referred by his psychiatrist to a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility. Upon discharge 3 months later “The Bridge” GNETS facility coordinated his return from residential care. Unfortunately 1 month later his BiPolar Disorder made it unsafe for him to stay at home and he was referred back to residential care. His upcoming discharge in November of 2016 will again be coordinated with “The Bridge” GNETS program.
Even with supportive parents, family, medications, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and state provided wrap-around services our son would not be able to function in school without GNETS. We do not believe that the DOJ or the Georgia public fully comprehend what life is really like educating or living with a child with severe mental illness. We do not believe that parents of children with SED have considered the alternative to GNETS, which is residential care.
With GNETS parents have a chance to keep their children at home with their family. Without GNETS our 13 year old son and our family would face the hard reality that the rest of his childhood and education could only be provided in a residential facility. A facility which is hours from our home, hours from our family, and hours from our love. Having our son educated in the Least Restrictive Environment is GNETS. He may not not be with “typical” peers during the day, but at least with GNETS we have the hope he can stay with our family and community. We just want to be together as a family and GNETS gives us the opportunity to hope.
We wanted to share with you our support and never ending gratitude for Georgia’s North Metro and The Bridge GNETS programs.
Garrett and Debra Cronnelly
5881 Deer Crossing Drive
Sugar Hill, GA 30518
AJC article on the GNETS program where Damian goes to school, when he is at home.
Its been about a month and a half but our son is starting communicate with us! We are getting more than 1 word responses and he has been initiating conversations with his siblings. We are beyond excited to have him try!
He is still struggling to maintain his behavior safely and home visits are still not going to be possible :(.
But we will take any kind of effort on his part as a positive sign!!!
Please take a moment and send some more cards or notes of encouragement. It is a highlight of our Sunday visits when we can share that so many people are loving him!!
Debra Cronnelly 5881 deer crossing drive, Sugar Hill, GA 30518
Beautiful posters for Damian sent by my wonderful friend Julia! Made my heart so happy to know he has so many people caring about him.
We may be lost and hurting, but we are NOT alone!
I stayed up until 2 am on Friday night to watch the meteor shower and wish on every one of those streaking little lights.
One of them must have worked because we had a good visit with Damian today. He was calm and controlled throughout the 2 hour visit. We loaded him with self praise (you should be so proud of yourself, etc) being ever so careful not to say we are proud of you. We have learned the hard way that praise not directed to himself can be easily manipulated. Example, “I don’t care if you like what I’m doing”.
At this point talking with Damian is a dance of emotion words. Saying I miss him, gives him power over my emotions. Saying I’m proud of him, gives him power to claim deniability. Saying I’ll see you next week, evokes abandonment. His mind turns ordinary conversation into a battlefield.
Damian’s set discharge date is 11/15/16. Which will mean that in the last 8 months he will have been at home for only 38 days. September 13th will be the one year anniversary of his psychotic break. He will have been in a Bipolar cycle without end for a full year.
Leaving him today was excruciating. He held my hand until the last moment when they led him back behind 3 separate locked doors.
I am feeling lost and sad today. I miss him so much that I had to take his picture from the side of my bed and place it in my closet.
Work has been a blessing and a curse. I can no longer slip into my bedroom during the day to have a cry or scream into my pillow. I miss that.
When I work, I can focus my energies. I can keep the door in my mind for Damian sealed shut. But as soon as I am in the safety of my car, he bursts through that door with a force that only a child can inflict on a mother. He was at Hillside for 3 months and the time flew by . But now at Devereux every day crawls slowly by. It’s only been 1 month and it feels like an eternity.
We are no closer to being allowed home visits as Damian’s behavior is still not safe enough yet. Every time we speak with him he tells us he is ready but refuses to put his actions/skills into practice.
Just drink the water Damian. How about just a little sip?
Damian’s CBAY coordinator actually said these words to me, “How have you been doing Mrs. Cronnelly? It must be nice to atleast get a break (from Damian).”
First, no she was not on drugs at the time. Second, this is a woman who works with mentally ill children and their families everyday. Third, she presents as a generally knowledgeable human being who has a masters degree in Social Work. Fourth, she was not drunk.
I am not a politically correct guru, I do not fuss about labels or words spoken in good faith. But this comment sent me over the edge (albeit not hard to do lately).
I responded….”If Damian had Cerbral Palsy and I had to care for him 24/7, then he had to go to the hospital for an operation. Would you say to me, “I know this is hard, but atleast you get a break?”
She responded with a quick, “Well of course not, but…”
I interrupted the rest of her sentence…”Then why you would even think to tell me “atleast I get a break” is outrageous, hypocritical, and completely unacceptable. Never, ever say that sentence to another parent again, do you understand me?”
It would be easier to not share our story, but easy is not a luxury we have anymore. Please pass our story to anyone you feel it may help, give them my email and tell them to reach out to us!
The following news segment was done 2 years ago and we are still no closer to understanding.