If you could see me right at this second, this very second, you’d say that I’m a mess. And, I am. I admit it. Tears and snot, an ever-lovely combination, are streaming down my face. Years ago that would have been a reluctant admission, but now, I am at the point where I am at the lowest of lows, and admission means nothing compared to the emotional concrete cherry on top of my already emotional mess.
I am struggling. I feel alone. Like, the most utterly completely painful form of pathetic alone. Because I feel like a failure. I have failed. I keep failing. I am just STRUGGLING.
My 17 year is suffering from (as yet not clearly diagnosed or medicated) emotional and hormonal anger disorders. Resembling bipolar. Hinted at as anger, and defiant teenager mood swings, but very, very much in a class of its own. Her mental health has now affected my own, and has badly damaged my communication, my marriage, my relationships, my work, and my hope that there will be an answer.
This is what it feels like to be a parent, to that sort of disease. An insight into how helpless it can feel. A prayer, that others will not feel alone and hurt, as I have.
It is NOT her fault. It isn’t. I know that. Mental illness is a very, very serious condition, in any form, and I truly believe that more support of every kind should be offered, not just to the people diagnosed, but their family members and friends. The silent victims. The shamed ones. It is an invisible ailment that affects so many people, but yet, none of us speaks up enough about it. Tonight, I am.
I’ve caught myself praying, “God, please don’t let this be the way my life turns out”, or “God, please don’t let this be the way HER life turns out”. I go through bouts of selfishness for myself, and selfishness for her.
My life is sooooo very different than I hoped, or expected. I have been responsible for many foolish decisions and irresponsibility, however, Id always poured myself into being the best mother I could be. Many times recently, I have wondered if God forgot about me, and my family, and I have questioned my faith, or even looked at being unworthy of His love, and deserved all I face.
My husband has even started seeing me differently. In all honesty, and using his own words, a less attractive version of me. That stung, deeply, to say the very least.
You see, I’m new to this part of parenting. I am learning about it as I go. Even with 24 years of parenting under my belt, this is new to me. I am trying to differentiate between “normal” defiant and nerve pushing teenager, versus the part of her that is battling an invisible disease, and leaves me wondering which version of my daughter I will wake up to today. She is mostly thunder, these days, with occasional outbreaks of sun. A far cry from the social and hilariously goofy daughter I miss. The one I try to conjure up when the “other” version of her is present. The hateful and resentful angry young girl, who yells obscenities, and basically, bullies emotionally, verbally, and sometimes, physically.
This is where I fail. This is WHY my husband sees me this way, because he KNOWS, I am NOT this woman. This failure. But, I am allowing it. This sort of treatment from a child I love so desperately brings shame to me. Someone who HAS been mentally and physically abused in a relationship. Only, this feels worse. I want to stop her, to love her harder, to discipline her. However, shame creeps in like a dark black cloud, and I hide it. I hide because I am embarrassed. I hide because I don’t want people to hate her. I hide, because no one else has a child like mine.
At least, that’s what I told myself. That’s how I “hid” this. It affected my showing up on time, or at all, for a variety of professional and personal engagements. It stopped me being the fun and social friend I was. It robbed me of joy. It robbed me of patience. It made ME angry. And yelling back and forth has not, will not, and can not make ANY of these things just go away. This is why I got to hear my husband tell me how unattractive I now am to him. That it is one of the causes we are bickering over insignificant things. Clearly, by isolating the issue so that no one would know, has done nothing but create havoc in the home. A home I share with my sister in law and her family.
This was another reason I didn’t speak up and out. Why I didn’t want anyone to know. I got caught in the woeful parent habit of compare and contrast. My niece, only a year younger than my daughter, is an excellent student. An athlete. Popular, vivacious, pretty, and has a great relationship with her mother. By contrast, my teen was skipping school to the point of having to appear before a judge, stealing things, sleeping all day, yelling, lying, sneaking out, and taking on numerous risky behaviours. I was torn between not wanting to be judged (as I have been) as a terrible parent to “allow” her to do these things, and also trying not to let them see her “bad” so that she wouldn’t be outcast. I assumed that would happen, anyway. This is where I got insecure and didn’t talk about any of it. When my day to day was over, Id retreat to my room, and pray the night would go without incident from my daughter. That if it did, she would “do it quietly”.
Needless to say, I haven’t hidden it too well, and it has now resulted in a long conversation, which was hell of embarrassing for me, and had to lay it all out on the table. The astute Debbie, the one before this all got so bad, would have realized that this is support. The one who is ashamed saw it as basically a form of torture and confessional.
Now I am awaiting appointments for her. I wait. I really find that hard. I worry. I wish still for no incidents, which is futile. Mental illness just does not get wished away.
She faces community service, mandatory anger classes, summer school, therapy, diagnosis, and medication. I KNOW this is all for her good. I want nothing more for her that to be the capable, successful, driven, and happy girl that I KNOW she is. My former honour roll and Presidents list recipient. She blames me. I see it. I blame me. I feel it. Her own father and stepmother blame me, but without being completely immersed in this picture, and with terrible communication between us about it, they are too far removed to see it, because it doesn’t “get that bad” there, you see. However, with faith and time, and a lot of help, and allowing my husband to help like he wants to (and I deny him) as well as my not continuing to hide it, will all lead to better days.
Why am I sharing this? It is important to me that my transparency leads to another mother or father not feeling as depressingly low as I have been feeling. To not bear the burden of parental guilt and shame alone. That this truly is not your fault, even when we do not make the best choices or strictest choices in punishment for their wrongdoings. Lord knows I have not. The once strong capable me, is not the sad, weepy and tearful snot covered woman that had to really get to the bottom of the pit with this. in order to begin to rise. Attractive picture, though, I know I AM still that woman that was independent, and attractive. Even though currently I am under construction emotionally.