I spent most of this week in utter despair. I felt lost and confused and as close as I’ve ever been to hopeless in my life. The parenting gauntlet was brutal and I was not sure I was really capable of standing up to the oncoming onslaught that was coming in wave after wave.
My assumption in having a child was that, no matter WHAT issues, challenges, or problems that arose, I would somehow be the perfect match for them. I assumed that kids were matched up to parents somewhere in the sky so that the parents were equipped to handle and help each child perfectly. Yeah, I know, wake up kid, that isn’t how it works.
Successful parents have one very distinct difference from ones who aren’t… they simply refuse to give up on their kid. Period. They learn what they have to know, go where they must go, do what needs done, but they NEVER, EVER, GIVE UP.
My daughter, now 16, battles a daily war against her genes and physical chemical make up. She has been blessed/cursed with genes from both sides of the family which give her the level of Bipolar Disorder she deals with. She has OCD issues and struggles with Avoidant Personality Disorder. She has a host of anxiety disorders and she finds it a struggle to just leave home. While all of this is hard, the thing I’ve found the hardest is her way of venting it, releasing the pressure valve, her way of punishing herself for being who she is… self harm.
Of all the things that I do, correctly responding to self harm is the hardest. I must say I didn’t do a great job one recent past weekend. I am ashamed to say I kinda lost it. Maybe it’s what needed to happen, I don’t know, but regardless, it’s harder than hell to do it without guilt in the end. It’s an obvious cry for help, but I find it makes me intensely angry. I want to just say, “TELL me whats going on. ASK for help. DONT mutilate your beautiful self! PLEASE!!”
I found the word “HORRIBLE” carved into the flesh on her arm. She’s carved HELP before. The words are even more upsetting than the act. You are NOT horrible, my beautiful child. I am RIGHT HERE; just come to me for the help you are asking for by carving into your flesh. I am not a parent who is distant, who is absent, who is unreachable. I am here at every single turn.
The Avoidant Personality Disorder is the only clue I have as to why she continues to avoid the one person who is most plugged into her every mood and cares most deeply about them. Per PsychologyToday.com, “In avoidant personality disorder, the person is persistently tense because he or she believes that he or she is socially inept, unappealing, or inferior, and as a result fears being embarrassed, criticised, or rejected. He or she avoids meeting people unless he or she is certain of being liked, is restrained even in his or her intimate relationships, and avoids taking risks. Avoidant personality disorder is strongly associated with anxiety disorders, and may also be associated with actual or perceived rejection by parents or peers during childhood.”
Reality isn’t the focus here. Her version of it is. All I can do is love her and show her that I’m here and loving her, and consistently do this till she believes it, I guess.
This last weekend, over Father’s Day, we went to a RibFest downtown because the thing my husband loves most is Ribs. Then we went to a movie at a theater the kids had yet to enjoy, one with recliners for every seat. She wanted to do this. She wanted the family outing. She is very much trying to be a part of the family and wants to be with us.
The stress of the bajillion people who attended RibFest heaped a layer of anxiety upon her that she wore like a 120 lb rucksack on a trek through the desert, uphill. By the time we were seated in the theater, 30 minutes into our movie, her body gave into the stress fully. It didn’t matter the stress of the RibFest was over and we were in a dark theater, essentially alone. Stress works itself out whenever it chooses, and it doesn’t choose perfect timing as a rule.
“Mom, Sis is crying and she’s having trouble breathing.” My middle daughter had come over to my seat and interrupted my movie viewing. We were seeing the new Jurassic Movie. It was LOUD, and therefore I heard none of my daughter’s distress three large, reclined seats over. I traded seats with my son.
“Breathe baby, breathe…be calm. It’s gonna be okay. Tell me what’s going on. No, breathe in slowly, tiny breaths. Now relax your muscles.” I put my hands on her stiff limbs and tried to make them still. Her arms were stretched out hard as boards and her legs were moving on their own in spasms. It wasn’t a seizure. It was a mass panic attack. Her body was attacking her and it was without a trigger this time around. Well, the trigger was not present anyway; it was long gone.
She was flushed hot inside but clammy to the touch, she had a headache, felt like her body was shivering/shaking, and as if millions of ants were crawling through her veins. She was more scared by her body’s reaction by the minute. She was breathing in bursts and not being able to breathe made her able to breathe even less. The panic rolled like a snowball downhill, gaining size and speed. Calming her was critical or we’d escalate and need emergency care right here and now.
Slowly I was able to calm her and as I rubbed her arm we sat together and let the movie end and the guests leave. We dropped the kids off at home, a friend, who may as well be family, came and stayed with them while my husband and I took her to the ER for rounds of tests to rule out anything physical. In my heart I knew it was the last draw.
This has been building for weeks. Over little or nothing my daughter would stress out and panic, be unable to make simple choices, and just getting dressed would take her eons, in a completely different way than the normal teen, “I don’t know what to wear,” way. It was more. A kind of more that I can’t give you words for. You’ll just have to trust me. She has a 15 year old sister and I get the differences, okay?
My daughter’s body had been having medicine issues and reactions, and she’d been mucking around with not taking them because she hated how they made her feel; then not eating and taking meds on an empty stomach if I forced the issue… it all landed us where we were right then.
It was time to deal with it. It was past time. And if we truly loved this kid, we’d do what was right and say enough was enough and we’d not only figure out the ER visit issue, but deal with the meds and deal with the core issues and the reasons behind needing the meds.
So we admitted our daughter to the Behavioral Health Hospital that night, against her will, and walked away. We loved her enough to make her stay. We love her enough to insist on her working through the tough things she needs to address in order to get well. We know she CAN do it if she decides she wants to. The key is to WANT to. Sometimes if you love your kid enough, you will do what is best, not what feels good.
And I’ve never been more broken in my entire life. Day after day I lay fractured, in pieces, trying to put myself back together and be a parent to my other two kids. An amazing set of friends stepped in and took our kids, so we didn’t have to be parents at all. We could just fall apart. And so we did. A lot.
And now? Now we are getting stronger. A little more each day. And with God’s help, the love of our friends and family, and supportive staff and doctors, our kid is gonna come home and we are gonna try this again, and this time we are gonna make it work.
Why am I so sure? Because I refuse to FAIL.
I will never, ever give up.