As a mother, my ... told me that ... just wasn’t right. Most doctors blew off my concerns about my ... Deborah. They said the behavior problems were just ... twos” or “extra fa
As a mother, my intuition told me that something just wasn’t right. Most doctors blew off my concerns about my daughter, Deborah. They said the behavior problems were just “terrible twos” or “extra family stress” from my divorce. I knew from the time of my pregnancy that something was different. Even the labor and delivery was unusual. By the age of two Deborah was displaying explosive behavior, head banging, screaming during the night and kicking walls. Her first psychiatric evaluation was at the age of 2 ½ and came back “normal”.
As Deborah got older the behavior continued but was somewhat manageable, with very creative parenting techniques and close monitoring. By third grade she was diagnosed with ADHD and medicated. This helped somewhat but I still sensed that something wasn’t right. A second opinion showed four additional diagnoses of OCD, ODD, depression and anxiety. Additional medication was helpful for the behavior but there were always side effects. School was becoming a challenge. Grades were inconsistent and Deborah continued to show no interest. Things seemed to hold steady for a few years.
Then, August 2000, the situation took a turn for the worst. Deborah, then 14 years old, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Also known as manic depression, this mental illness is characterized by drastic mood swings. The bipolar, along with the other disorders completely changed my daughter into someone that, at times, I hardly knew. When we were first told of the diagnosis, I was somewhat relieved that there was a reason for the extreme and bizarre behavior we were witnessing. However, my life became an emotional rollercoster.
As a mother, I immediately felt that if I tried hard enough I could “save” my daughter from this awful illness. I figured that if I tried hard enough I could “fix” everything so that her life would be “normal” and she wouldn’t have to suffer. Most of what I was doing had been very good for myself and the rest of my family. However, Deborah was in denial and wouldn’t accept any of the help that I offered her. That was the painful part because as a mother, I wanted to reach out and protect her.
I began a crusade of educating myself, joining parent advocacy groups, going to conferences, reading books, collecting information, networking with other parents, networking with the school, and going to counseling. I immediately went on Family Medical Leave from work and began working a reduced schedule so that I could closely monitor Deborah until she was stabilized. I still feel that all of these things were very positive. However, I tried to push all of this on my daughter and expected her to react positively to my assistance. She didn’t, she felt controlled and smothered and lashed out even more. This was so painful for me because I wanted so desperately to protect her. I slowly realized that Deborah must want to be helped – nothing could be pushed on her.
Deborah was not doing well in school and there were so many options available to help her succeed. Again, she was not receptive to anyone’s help and out- patient counseling was not effective. I was constantly fighting the urge to push my knowledge and ideas on her. Because, after all, “mother knows best”. Instead I tried to be subtle with her – then I would retreat to my bedroom and cry. I struggled between elation – when she was in a good mood, anger - when she wouldn’t speak to me, and hate – when she was swearing at me.
I continued to network and educate myself, remembering to do it for myself and not push it on my daughter. I tried to take care of myself and to not give up my whole life because of this illness. I slowly recognized the positive things about this situation. Like, how it caused me to reprioritize my life and take a stand for what I believed in. I did a lot of soul searching and made some personal decisions that I had been putting off. All of this placed me way outside of my comfort zone and it wasn’t a good feeling. But, like life itself, it’s a process. It’s personal growth.
I actually must thank the Lord for this whole situation because it has helped me in so many ways. Things are so much clearer to me now and my path is much more obvious. I am not the one with the illness but I am going through a personal growth so astounding that I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. My heart aches for Deborah and each tear I cry represents my love for her. I would like to share my experience with her, make her aware of how I feel and what I’m going through. However, she’s not ready to hear it. I would love to see her go through a similar growth. Maybe she is, in her own way. Or maybe she’ll look back years from now and realize that she gained something from all this. I know my life will be painful for awhile but I will continue to survive. I pray that all the pain will be worth the gain.
Monique Rider is a Life Coach and Personal Trainer. She owns Trinity Coaching Services, a company that offers fitness training and personal growth services to clients worldwide. To learn more about Monique please visit her website: http://home.talkcity.com/workoutpl/trinitycoachingservices/ or email her at: Monique_Rider@msn.com