It was unfair of me to post that- My daughter has Bi-Polar
To write a post of how I understand my daughter and have come to peace with Bi-Polar. It was unfair to all those parents whose children were just diagnosed, or have been only dealing with it for the past couple of years to run across this mother and her acceptance of the fact that her daughter has Bi-polar disorder.
It was unfair to the millions of people suffering with this disorder whose parents haven’t come to grips with it. Who feel mis-understood and not accepted by their family and friends.
It’s unfair because I left out the 13 years prior to that post. From the time she was diagnosed until just recently. So easy for me to speak now about how I have come to this place in my life, but it wasn’t always this way. No, it has only been this way for a very short time.
I like to stay where it is now because it’s comfortable, because when soldiers come home from the war,they don’t like to speak of what they had to endure before they got home. But the war changes us, and in order for anyone to understand it then someone who has gone before them must speak of it from the other side, the safe side, the coming home sort of speak. So that the soldiers in the middle of it can find hope in the resemblance of someone else’s life that was and is much like their own.
Some people will tell me comparing having a child with Bi-polar and war is not a fair comparison, that war is hideous and horrendous and you lose people you love in war. You children are sent somewhere far away to fight a fight they don’t understand or comprehend and you worry every single day that they won’t make it out alive.
You wake up every day wondering if this will be the day you get the knock on the door telling you that your child fought like a warrior but lost their life in the battle for freedom from the illness.
You hate this war, you don’t understand it, you pray for it to end.
This is exactly what having a child with Bi-Polar, Depression, Acute Anxiety is like. ( I don’t want to limit it to these diagnosis as I am sure it would ring true with 1000 others, Autism, Borderline personality etc, but I can only speak from where I am on the battlefield.)
You go through the same steps after diagnosis as you do with the grieving of a death. Please, don’t shrug your head right now and tell me it’s not the same , that my daughter didn’t die; because she did. The daughter I was introduced to when this illness took over her and the daughter I had for the 17 years before that were not the same daughter. I had to bury all the dreams I had ever had for her , for us, for our family and reconfigure an entire life for all of us.
Step one: Denial and Isolation
The first time I heard the words medication and Bi-Polar my brain froze, it shut off, it went somewhere else- it went through the first 17 years of her life, it played like a slow motion movie in my head .
I watched her being born , I watched her crawl and then take her first steps, I watched her smile and giggle , I listened to her first words, I watched her love and take care of her baby brother , her puppy, those smaller and weaker than her. I watched her thrive in school, become a straight A student, I watched her in baseball, basketball, cross-country, speech. I watched her being crowned Miss congeniality of her school. I watched her graduate with honors.
I heard her teachers at conferences telling me whatever we were doing as parents they wished they could bottle it because it was working – ( I heard myself say to those teachers “don’t give the credit to me, because I don’t want the fault when she comes crashing down”, like I somehow always knew , always in the back of my head I knew it was all going to crumble into pieces so tiny we would never be able to fit them back together again.)
And then I shut down. I couldn’t talk to anybody about it, I couldn’t read about it, I couldn’t write about it, I couldn’t let the thought enter my head because I couldn’t deal with reality of what was coming next.
I mentally put myself in the middle of an ocean on a deserted island, silent and alone, I cut off all contact . If I couldn’t touch it,then it couldn’t touch me.
Step Two: Anger
I could write about this one infinitely as it is something I still fight with every day. Your damn right I was angry, I was angry at everyone and everything. I was angry at myself, at her father, at our gene pool, at the doctors, at her. I was angry with God, I wept angry tears, I screamed angry words. I put a wall up so high nobody could break through it , climb over it or see around it.
I raged towards my daughter, like she had some sort of control over what was happening to her, how dare she do this, how dare she hurt other people, how dare she try to hurt herself. I hadn’t raised her to be ” this way”- how dare she.
Step Three: Bargaining
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control.
- If only I hadn’t taken her to the hospital
- If only I hadn’t let them give her any medications
- If only I had seen the signs sooner
- If only she had more of her brother’s laid back persona
- If only she had less of my emotions
- If only she had less of her fathers drive to be perfect
- If we give her everything she wants and needs she will see how much we love her and that will erase everything else
- If we give her nothing and let her hit rock bottom, she will snap out of it
- If we ignore it, it will go away
Step Four: Depression:
I know how that must sound, but it’s true. It’s like constantly preparing for the absolute worst possible outcome and trying to learn how to live with it. It takes away your ability to have a relationship with that person because you no longer know who they are, how to deal with them, what to say, what not to say, if what you say will push them over the edge.
All the possibility’s you think of in your head always end up with the same thought: they are going to die from this or kill themselves and I need to prepare for it now until it happens. Maybe, just maybe if I start shutting down now , it won’t be as hard when the inevitable happens.( Depression lies)
I wouldn’t allow myself to love anyone else’s children in the earliest days after she was diagnosed , our relationship was in tatters, I felt like a horrific mother and so I thought, there is no way I can do this to someone else’s child EVER. I loved her , gave her all I had and look what happened , I am a terrible Mother and don’t deserve the love of another child, nor could I ever live with myself if I fell in love with another child and then had to lose them like this. I would never survive it.
I had people believing for years that I sincerely disliked children, when really it was my deepest fear to be rejected by one again. To love another one so much only to have to lose them again.
Step Five : Acceptance
This is the stage I have been in for the least amount of time, I guess you always think once you make it to this stage you stay here forever, but you don’t, you flutter back and forth between all stages for eternity I would guess, but you spend less and less time in the other four stages and much more time here. Acceptance.
You have been through the war, you have the scars and the wounds to prove it. And you settle in to the after math, the acceptance of “it is what it is”. The lessons learned over the years of how to live the life that was given to you, the acceptance that no matter how much you deny, how angry you get, who you bargain with , how much you cry, nothing will ever change it.
So you come to peace with the diagnosis of this new life , you learn to look at your daughter now for who she is, not who you dreamed she would be.
You learn to listen, you start to see things you never noticed about her before.
Her lightness and her darkness.
She holds every characteristic you always wanted her to have and a hundred more you never dreamed of, and she fought like a fucking soldier to get them.
She is your Hero