Friday, 14 October 2011

#Special Saturday post - Groundhog Day

My life feels like Groundhog Day – we've been here three times in three years. Chrissy’s escalating behaviours, placement not meeting her needs, with the backdrop of the funding dispute. Apart from last Sunday's completely nuts bender, which I think has kept me going through this week, I can still focus on little else. Chrissy's spate of awful impulsive/compulsive self-injurious behaviours (SIB) is continuing. (I'm not going to call them outbursts or meltdowns anymore these have a different, far more intense quality). When I look back at the short phone videos I've been taking to show her doctors, I can't bear to watch or listen for long. She is wretched in them, as if she is being tortured by something outside her control.

These behaviours have fallen into a pattern of going dramatically downhill for several weeks once a year. This year and last there have been meds changes. I can’t remember whether there were the year before but will look into it. How any placement can meet her needs when she's in this state, I don't know. They can only contain her. However, this hospital placement has been promising far more than it delivers for months now & the behaviours have only recently escalated. I don’t attribute them to the environment, which will have remained largely unchanged. As I've said, the Topiramate reduction is likely to be a factor, if not the cause of her unsettled behaviour. However, I would still like her behaviour charts examined to see when she became more unsettled, as a thyroid medication was introduced on 20 September, which correlates with the behaviour changes. I’m told that it’s a tiny dose & wouldn’t cause this sort of problem but, with Chrissy, I always make extra checks as she has such paradoxical & unusual reactions to medications, especially when they are first introduced or changed.

So on Tuesday, Chrissy was at home with my mum and I. It started off ok but, when I was holding her hand, I noticed it was twitching & shaking. She grew increasingly demanding & obsessive about when dinner was ready, what’s for dinner, the computer, DVDs etc. She made her usual ineffectual attempts at spitting & hurting me with slaps on the shoulder. Her obsessions led to three sessions of prolonged, impulsive/compulsive SIB. They were so violent & prolonged I rang the hospital for help – something I’ve never done before. Mum said she hadn’t seen anything this intense for ages, & observed how Chrissy seemed ‘possessed’ by what was happening to her, & wanted to stop but couldn’t.

When Chrissy had recovered she suddenly beamed at me but, even in between outbursts, the smiles were short-lived. She was generally more agitated & demanding than usual. At around 9, Chrissy let me bath her and put her to bed. She then sat silently on the toilet seat in the dark for about 20 minutes, & called me when she was ready to move on. If you intervene before she's ready she will kick off again. She needs to be left alone. I call these her ‘frozen states’ and they often occur between violent SIB. Mum & I were struck by how changeable Chrissy was overall. At one point we asked her what had been the matter; she smiled sweetly & said ‘I had a tantrum’ but wouldn’t be drawn further.

That night, she slept right through until 2pm the following day. We managed to avert any major crises until the car journey home where she became agitated and obsessive again, & kept undoing her seatbelt & trying to climb into the back. The hospital reported that there were further ‘behaviours’ later on and the following day. I also learned that they, too, had seen them occur without any environmental trigger. I was told that while we were away, she had even got out of bed at night, run into other patients' rooms & jumped on top of them - to occupy their beds rather than hurt them. This barging into other people’s rooms is something she's been doing at home. Chrissy then threw & smashed someone’s tv set & radio – first I’d heard of any of this. These problems at night are exactly what happened in her residential placement in West Sussex at the end of 2010. When she’s settled she normally sleeps well.

The compulsive/impulsive nature of Chrissy’s self-harming behaviours has never been examined. One of her psychiatrists put it down to ‘autistic crisis’ and another to ‘attention-seeking!’ Her psychologist put it down to 'jealousy' of another challenging patient! We've never seen any evidence that Chrissy experiences jealousy as such - I can only think it's an unfortunate choice of words. English isn't her doctors' first language. Her previous neurologist wanted her to see a specialist in movement disorders and tics. We’d asked for the referral to go ahead when she was admitted to hospital but, at the time, her psychiatrist felt that the Maudsley (who came out & assessed her) would be able to offer everything she needed. She also said that the medications Chrissy was on would be the ones used for tic or movement disorders.

We can only hope that Chrissy will emerge from this period very soon & that we'll eventually help her to achieve lasting stability again as she did during the last six years of her teens.


  1. So sad to read this, so hard on all of you. I describe my boy as 'fey' when he is in complete meltdown and it sounds a little similar to the way that Chrissie presents ((hugs))

  2. Aw thanks, hard to find the right description isn't it? I used to call them Chrissy's 'screamings' but she roars in them now! xx