Jessica was 3 months off her 6th birthday when her life turned upside down.
All of a sudden our little girl lost a lot of weight, was having terrible mood swings and was drinking gallons of water. At first we thought she was coming down with a bug, but a quick visit to the doctor resulted in a week-long stay in hospital and a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.
A couple of months later we received confirmation that she also has Celiac disease. All of a sudden there’s a long list of foods she can’t eat, finger pricks to do and injections needed. Then came the anxiety, Jess went from loving school, to refusing to let me leave her there, or with babysitters. She would grip onto me for dear life, her confidence was gone and with it also went her sense of humour. She was scared to go to sleep at night without one of us sitting with her and no longer wanted to do all the things she used to love. She started putting herself down, saying “she was dumb” and that she didn’t want to live anymore.
Our now 9 year old had hit rock bottom, and it was having a big impact on our whole family. Her two siblings were starting to resent the extra attention she got; the older one was having to take on far too much responsibility for her age, and our younger one was missing out on the attention she should have been getting as she started school.
Thankfully this was when True Colours entered our lives, and we will be forever grateful
True Colours Support
Kyra Lindsey, a True Colours counsellor specialising in working with children, worked long and hard with Jess. It took time to build Jess’s trust and get her to open up, but without those weekly sessions I don’t know where we would have ended up. Sometimes it felt like Jess was just going there to play or do art – but I quickly realised the benefit of the play and art therapy. It was surprising how things came out with the aid of dolls and role playing. Jess quickly found that it was a safe and happy place where she could talk about anything, and that it was OK to share things with Kyra that she didn’t want to share with Mum and Dad, mostly because she didn’t want to upset us.
Seasons for Growth Program
The ground-breaking moment for Jess though, was the Season’s for Growth program that True Colours ran. Taking part in this program with a group of kids similar in age made Jess realise she truly wasn’t alone. This was huge! Whilst their illnesses or reasons for being there were all different, they were all experiencing the same feelings, and that was OK. Things started to fall into place for her and the skills she learnt on this program she has taken with her and is using them in her everyday life. Her teachers have commented on this. Jess is now able to talk about her feelings, along with the “how’s and why’s”. She has regained her confidence, and we feel like we have our Jess back. She has a great sense of humour and is back doing the things she loves – can you believe she is running, swimming, playing hockey and is currently planning her costume for the Tough guy/gal mud run.
Support for Mum
True Colours also helped me. As Jess’s Mum my biggest hurdle was making people understand that Jess was not just playing up or being naughty and that her anxiety was real! I wanted people to know that the changes in her behaviour stemmed from two chronic illnesses, both which have daily implications on her life. NOBODY likes needles, and realising that this was “her life”, forever was too much! Telling her to “stop being naughty” only made the situation worse.
Suddenly, I was experiencing the Kiwi “hardin up” attitude, and honestly I was surprised by the people who were like that. I didn’t know how to react to it. I shut down and stopped talking to people, including my own family, because they didn’t understand; and I was too exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to correct people – that’s my biggest regret, it was just easier to say “whatever, we’re fine” and carry on. Kyra helped me with that too, sometimes all you need is a friendly ear to listen and acknowledge what you’re going through, and remind you that you’re doing a good job.
You never truly understand until you’ve had to go through something similar yourself.
All we can do as parents is try our best. I know that every family that has ever and will ever go through True Colours is doing their best, and I admire each and every one of them. Thank you to everyone at True Colours and everyone who supports them, you really are changing lives.