30 days

At some point on my long journey back to sanity I came to understand that the endless loop of obsessive worry and fear thoughts winding through my brain would never alter the fact that my daughter has a mental illness that I simply cannot control.  As much as I would like to, I can’t “crawl” into her head and make her believe that she is worthy of love and respect, that she doesn’t need a man to make her feel wanted, that her decisions are putting her life at risk, there are better choices, that she doesn’t have to be defined by her bipolar, that with help, time and hard work she will get better. I can’t make her decisions, I can’t live her life and I can’t keep rescuing her.

I came to accept that the challenges we were having with our daughter were simply too big for me to manage; I made the conscious decision to place her safely back in God’s hands.  I have faith that, although I don’t understand or like some of the things that have happened in her life, this is her journey and for every “bad” thing that has taken place, there is a lesson and a reason that we will come to understand.  I also believe that we attract what we think, and so I am choosing to think about my daughter as a beautiful, healthy and productive young woman, not as a victim who is suffering.

One month after her self-destructive and disappointing relapse, miraculously, our daughter is still clean and sober.  In fact, the morning after the setback she joined a women’s (huge step as she is just beginning to understand and appreciate the value of female friendships) 12 step group and is working the program hard.  By the grace of God, she has found another job (she found and lost 2 others while in BC) and is working 4-5 days per week; fingers crossed that this job will last and give her a much needed boost in self-confidence. Working at this job keeps her busy and prevents her from thinking of other, much more creative, albeit destructive ways to earn a living (more on this in another entry).  Her “house mother” is allowing her to stay where she is until they find somewhere safe for our adult child to live; her father is paying half of the usual monthly fee as a goodwill gesture.  My husband and I have stood our ground and have stopped providing her with financial support (another miracle given my history of co-dependence).  Truly, she is miles from where she was just 30 days ago and for that I am grateful.  Will this positive streak last?  History would say that it is highly unlikely; my growing faith in God tells me otherwise.

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Posted in addiction, bipolar, Mental health, parenting, pets, recovery, Self Esteem | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Seven months and $50,000+

After years of seeking help and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a treatment facility for mental health and addictions in Ontario (wait lists, one so long that they wouldn’t take any new names), we desperately decided to send our 23 year old daughter out of province to a private residential treatment center.  She would be undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder, an intellectual disability and addictions.  The plan was for two months of residential treatment. Our primary motivation for sending her away was driven by hope, her primary motivation for going was leniency in her sentencing for assaulting a police officer; in an altered state of mind, she thought it was a good idea to spit at a cop and then say “by the way, I have AIDS”.

When she was packing to leave, her primary concern was about whether or not there would be a swimming pool.  When I explained that she wasn’t going to a resort, her comment back was that for the money we were spending there should be a fucking pool – no concept; I thought it best to tell her to leave her “clubbing” clothes at home and when I could avoid it no longer, broke the news to her about the no cell phone policy that would be implemented the moment she entered the program.  There would also be no contact with the outside world for the first two weeks, and then only phone calls at specified times.  She panicked, swore she couldn’t do it, wasn’t going to go, there was no suitcase large enough to pack everything she needed, promised she would be better if she didn’t have to go.  We both felt like throwing up, although for very different reasons.

With trepidation and on the advice of her lawyer (see Ten Years) we made the necessary arrangements and on March 1, my husband and I drove her to the airport to see her off (a.k.a. make sure she boarded the plane).  Over a very civilized lunch, my husband asked her if she understood that upon her return from treatment, she would no longer be able to associate with her so called “friends”.  This news seemed to surprise her but she said all the right things and acted like she was ready to work hard and get better.  I was positive that she would change her mind about going and run off as soon as we were out of sight.  We watched her anxiously as she waited in line for security; she smiled, waved and blew us a kiss – off on another adventure albeit one without alcohol, sex or drugs.

When we were registering for the program the intake worker cautioned that because our daughter was a “complex case” they could make no guarantees.  Gee whiz, nothing like setting low expectations; way to sell the program. Honestly, I felt like sobbing it felt as though I was begging the woman to take our daughter into the program. What I most certainly did not need was for the good folks at Edgewood to tell me her case was complex, what I needed them to tell me was that she would get better and that our living nightmare would come to a happy end.  They obviously could make no such promise.

Funny, I thought I would feel immense relief upon her safe arrival, knowing she would be in a safe place for at least 2 months and because she would not have access to her cell phone to call me when she was freaking out.  The most pressing feeling I had was fear; gut wrenching, heart breaking fear, and incredible, indelible  sadness.  What on earth was left for us if the treatment didn’t work?  After all, it seemed native to think that a 2 month program could heal a young women struggling with an intellectual disability, bipolar disorder and addictions.  I couldn’t bring myself to think about the end of the program – what would she do, where could she go, would she be able to get and more importantly, keep a job, how would she live.

Before week one was complete we had the first of many “crisis” calls, which were the result of a) the patient threatening to leave treatment or b) the treatment facility asks a client to leave.  Our calls came as a result of her inappropriate behavior and the threat to “expel” her from the treatment.  Calls which sometimes had to be delayed because the staff was unable to convince her to stop running through the halls screaming.  Calls that always involved tears, hers and ours.  Calls that left us completely spent; weary with anxiety and exhausted from dealing with one thing after another.  Whenever my phone rang and showed a 250 area code, my response was one of total mind numbing fear – would this be the time that they kicked her out and if it was, would I be strong enough to follow through on the boundaries I had been forced to set.

By the grace of God, she did indeed survive two intense months of in-patient treatment.  We were told that she was making progress, but it was very slow.  The clinical group consensus was that allowing her back to Toronto would jeopardize her sobriety.  We all agreed that her chances of success would be greatly enhanced by staying in BC longer with ongoing clinical and emotional support.  Her graduation from the residential program led to a two month stint in the extended care program.  In extended care, clients are granted a bit more freedom, but live under the watchful eye of two full time counselors.  Concerned emails replaced crisis calls – progress was slow.  Helpless and frustrated, it often felt like we were bleeding money and all of it was going to Edgewood – daily fee charges plus the patient needs a spending account, they need prescriptions, they need lab tests, none of it covered by the health care system.

By July, it was clear that she needed to move into a sober house regardless of whether she was in BC or Ontario.  What a relief it was when she agreed to stay in BC and move into a house for women in various stages of recovery. The “mother” of the house is a wonderful woman who seems to love our daughter as much as we do.  Finances would allow us to cover her in the house for three months, at which point our financial support would end.  This would give her 3 additional months to get her act together, find a job, line up a place to live and stay clean and sober.

Three weeks ago she celebrated 6 months sober; the day after her AA celebration she relapsed and had to spend the night in a women’s homeless shelter.

To be continued . . .

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Ten years

My 23 year old daughter was “officially” diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder about 6 months ago, that is to say that yet another psychiatrist completed an assessment and confirmed what I have known, with certainty, for the last ten years.

Ten years ago “normal” teenage mood swings became violent, almost nightly rages that inevitably would end with everyone in the house screaming, yelling, sobbing, and apologizing with promises not to lose control again.  Ten years ago was the first time I suspected, that my first born was binge drinking, abusing drugs; having sex and lying.

Ten years ago was the first of many, ongoing encounters with the police; the first hospitalization, the first time she said she wanted to die.  Ten years ago the diagnosis was severe ADHD with significant language based learning disabilities.

Ten years of advocating, sometimes pleading and begging for someone who could help us.  Ten years and countless appointments with 10+ “mental health” doctors, programs, social workers and agencies . . .ten years of switching medications, finding the medication in the garbage.  Ten years of chronic, almost constant gnawing, gut-wrenching fear; fear for her safety, fear for her health, fear for her happiness, fear for her seeming inability to manage her life and make good decisions.

Ten years of doing our best as parents to keep her happy and safe; ten years of feeling guilty, responsible, helpless and often hopeless.  Ten years of walking on egg shells, terrified that we might set her off; ten years . . . I cannot begin to imagine what hell it must be for her.  The euphoric ups the crashing down into the depths of despair and back again; the frustration, the risk taking, the reckless behavior, the user ‘friends’, the fear, the broken relationships, the lost or stolen cell phones and computers, the sadness . . . too much for anyone to have to bear; as her mother, living with and trying to manage her mental illness quite literally drove me to the brink of insanity.

Ten years and still drinking, doing drugs, getting into trouble with the police, hanging with lowlifes and engaging in sexual promiscuity.  Not exactly what a mother wants for her child.  My love is and always will be undying.   I do what I can to support her and we continue to look for the help she needs to become a healthy, happy, responsible adult.  At this point, she needs to make some difficult choices about how she wants to live her life.  I pray for her and hope that God will keep her in his care.

 

Posted in Anxiety, bipolar, Mental health, parenting | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Saying Goodbye to Samantha

We made the difficult decision to have Samantha, our 10 year old chocolate lab put down this week; we knew we were on borrowed time when, in November, she had to have  surgery to remove a large mast cell tumor that had burst through the skin on her side.  Six months post-surgery and her right side was covered by multiple large nasty tumors that were causing her to furiously itch and scratch, actually gnawing on her paws in a vain attempt to relieve the itching.  She could no longer lie on her right side, which annoyed her to no end, she limped, walks became more like crawls and she was clearly uncomfortable, but never complained. She was, as they say, a “trooper”. 

Her passing has, quite simply left a hole in my heart.

Max (Sam’s younger brother), has never been the “leader”, always followed Samantha.  He’s never had to wake us in the morning, begging for breakfast; he hasn’t ever had to “ask” us for a walk or for dinner –these were just some of the things Sammy was responsible for (I’m not certain he even knows how to ask us to go outside).  Without Sammy, he seems lost and overwhelmed, but mostly, like us, he seems sad. I hope he will bounce back in a few days; I worry about him becoming depressed.

When Sammy first arrived, I discovered that to live with a dog is to truly know, understand and appreciate unconditional love and undying devotion. The incredible joy dogs show when you simply walk back into a room, overjoyed to see you, it’s as if you are returning from some long lost journey (when it was actually less than five minutes).  Samantha and Max have helped me understand what it means to be present and “live in the moment “, to be joyful.  She was a gift, on loan to us, from God.

We did all we could to make sure that Sammy’s last week was filled with all of the things she loved.  Including two walks to the woods to see Tracy and play in the river with Max and Harley, endless treats, multiple walks, playing with her and “baby” (he favorite headless chew toy) and a trip to the cottage with more walks and swimming (the water seemed to relive her itching).  Seeing her so happy made our decision that much harder.  I prayed she would pass in her troubled sleep, I prayed for a sign that putting her down was the best thing we could do for her, I cried.  Hours before we were to leave for the vet’s,  Sammy was lying in the sun drying after her swim, I was looking at the masses on her body when I noticed that the largest tumor had finally broken through her skin; the sign I was waiting for had arrived.

I cry a little less with each passing day but have an emptiness inside that wasn’t there a week ago.  Samantha was a happy girl, full of love, kisses and demands (nickname; DIVA).  Her people, food, walks and Max were her priorities and they never failed to light up her eyes or make her tail slam into the floor or wall with glee.  Such a sweet baby; my heart aches to remember her last breath.  Samantha was, as usual, happy when she left us; an entire bowl of treats eaten (no sharing!), her head in my arms, tail wagging, looking into my husband’s Imageeyes, the one she loved and trusted the most.

We miss you Samantha.  Thank you for being part of our family.

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There is always hope

I am definitely struggling.  I can feel the seductive pull of depression, waiting for me, just around the corner.

It has been almost 2 years, to the day, that I was hospitalized for Major Depression with psychotic episodes.  Two years, and nothing has been the same, and yet, many things remain unchanged. I simply cannot speak of my own journey without unwittingly sharing some of my oldest daughter’s.

I still and will always worry about my daughter, SA; she still makes bad choices and gets into troublesome situations.  What has changed is how I respond when I become aware of said “bad” decisions.  An example; in February, SA bought herself a ticket to see her favorite rap artist at a downtown bar.  She was over the moon excited, sure that she was, in fact, going to meet him.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  After consuming numerous shots (by her own account, it was only 7!) of lord knows what as well as some quantity of coke (as in cocaine), she was not allowed into the bar

By her own admission, she went “buck wild”; they had to phone the police.  Not surprisingly, she was arrested and spent the night in jail (only after spitting at one of the officers).  Certainly not one of her finest moments.  The “call” mercifully went to her father, who had the unenviable task of collecting her.

Instead of feeling and reacting with anger and rage, I simply felt sad and afraid for her.  The fear can become unmanageable really fast making it difficult to “challenge” some of the neurotic thoughts that run on a spool in my brain, like a bad movie.  Still, I do it, albeit with the help of my husband, therapist and girlfriends, and it helps, a lot.

I now know that I am not responsible for the decisions that she makes and it is not my job to “fix” her problems.  What I can do, is offer her love and support.  Where appropriate, I can advocate on her behalf and find where and how to access the supports she needs to have a chance at a highly productive adult life, if she so chooses.

There is always hope.  After years of, what I can only call suffering, SA has finally been diagnosed with Bipolar II.  My hope is with the correct medication and support, she will be able to keep a job and lead a happy life.

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The World Has Gone Mad

I’m definitely superstitiousWhen I was a child (and even into adulthood) I was, without a doubt, convinced that if I did not say my prayers, and include virtually all of my loved ones AND “all the people in the world who are suffering”, something bad would happen (or at the very least, nothing good would happen) and I would be directly responsible.  Talk about guilt (I could never suffer enough to compare with those caught up in the atrocities taking place all over the world) and anxiety.   Even now, when my sister emails me these crazy “send this to __ people or ___________ will or won’t happen”, I go mental.  I mean WTF, why does she send me these things?  Rationally I know that something happening as a result of not forwarding an email is absurd.  And yet, I am compelled to send those darn things on, just to be on the safe side.  The only way that I can delete these emails, without any risk, is if I don’t actually open them! I should probably mention that avoidance, coping by not having to cope, is one of my fallback behaviors, I have always believed, “ignorance is bliss”.   It’s one of the ways that I manage my interactions with one of my daughters.  To save my sanity I seriously limit the number and type of questions that I ask her so I may guide our conversations and stay is safe waters.

The horrors of the world at large, and the constant barrage of news, overwhelm me with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and guilt. It is simply too much to bear; seeing all of the tragedies play out all over the world.  My mind simply cannot comprehend the atrocities that are happening all over the globe.  How is anyone supposed to cope with all of the anguish and despair?    At this point in my recovery, I feel that I cannot risk exposure to even one more “issue” that could trigger the anxiety /guilt cycle which I have only just started to have some control over.   Instead of “owning” all of the problems in the world, I have been trying to embrace the adage of “Think Global, Act Local”.  Before I spiral out of control when I am overwhelmed by all of the news, I ask myself whether or not I have the ability to impact or change the situation.  If I don’t, I make a note to let the issue go, at least emotionally.  If I can take action, I take it.

I am working diligently to be mindful and “live in the moment”; for the most part, I’m failing miserably.  I stopped taking Abilify and started a new job about a month ago, which means I am a massive ball of anxiety.  The nagging, persistent, sick to your stomach, can’t breathe kind of anxiety.Anxiety that comes with that persistent, pervasive feeling of dread, knowing, with absolute certainty that something “bad” might happen at any moment.  I can’t get any relief, not even my tried and true breathing helps.   Sometimes, if I stop long enough to force myself to put things into perspective, I will grasp that my anxiety is something that I can control.  The trouble is that putting things into perspective usually doesn’t have a lasting effect. 

I’m fairly certain that no one “chooses” to be anxious.  There is nothing fun about anxiety or having a chronically distracted, racing mind that simply won’t shut off.   I often wonder where the 3 months of treatment has gotten me.   Honestly, treatment did give me tools to help me live with my anxiety, I simply have not incorporated any of them into my daily life, I haven’t made using the tools a habit, not even breathing.   I know I should get my binder out and review all of the really good information that was provided at each class.   Perhaps looking over the notes I took will be the impetus I need to get back on track.  I certainly hope so, living this way is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.

 

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Unwanted thoughts

Unwanted thoughts keep popping into my head; need to keep myself distracted so as not to get caught up in the never-ending vortex of worry and guilt.   No matter what has taken place in the past, I am and always will be, a mother first.  I believe that the thoughts that I am having are not necessarily “abnormal” wouldn’t any mother who is living with and sometimes through something difficult with their child would also be plagued by guilt and anxiety?  I think they might.

My tendency is to catastrophize things, it is the rare occasion in deed when I don’t believe the worse can, and probably will happen.  No matter that I rarely have evidence which supports the catastrophic thought that is haunting me.  Sometimes, even my breathing cannot quell the fear that tears at my heart.

The “guilt” thoughts are the most dreadful, the most useless.  All of these invaders drive me to want to fix everything that is precarious in SA’s life, what mother wouldn’t want to make their children’s life easier if they could?  I’m torn apart, knowing that SA needs to continue to learn to live her life independently and responsibly.  How can she possibly succeed if I intervene in every aspect of her life?  The answer, of course, is that she cannot.  Everyone forgets that she lives everyday, with serious learning disabilities, most of which involve language processing – imagine, language is at the heart of all we do – no wonder she is frustrated so much of the time; she can’t find the words to articulate.  SA also manages her life with almost no working short-term memory with very low test scores in longer term.  Honestly, what she has accomplished this far in her life, it’s amazing !  She honestly cannot fathom why she has lost so many jobs; she is convinced it has nothing to do with her, and yet, she feels badly about this and herself.  She needs fulltime work; she just hasn’t been able to find the right fit. May someone kind come into her future.

I don’t know enough about her particular “challenges” to be able to plainly explain them to her this would at least help her understand where some of her frustration comes from.  What she really needs is consistent, open, honest guidance from someone she can trust.  She feels as though all of her doctors have abandoned her and is skeptical of going that route again.  In her mind, I also “left” her, which I can certainly understand.  Every time we are together, she wonders if she will do something to cause me to go away again (she hasn’t said that, but has said words to that effect.  In her heart, I think SA knows she needs help and really wants it; she simply doesn’t know what to do or who to ask for help.  My heart aches at the prospect of the world of hurt that could be in store for her.  I am keenly aware that for my own health and well-being, I cannot be the one she relies on to help her out of whatever situation she is dealing with.

The guilt comes when I start to wonder why I can’t simply “deal” with the situation in a detached and loving manner, which would help protect me from myself?  All signs point to those useless core beliefs, “I’m not good enough”, “I am a bad mother”, because wouldn’t a good mother find her child the help she needs and wouldn’t she let her live back at home???????   I know I can’t do those things, the last time I tried, I quite literally, lost my mind.  She isn’t even asking to come back home, nor is she asking for anything unreasonable….I really need to give her more credit and go back to the STOP, Challenge, Change method of managing my thoughts (so easy to say, so difficult to do).  This is the exercise where I visualize a great big red STOP sign, challenge the thought (what evidence do I have to support or not support the thought) and then change the way I am thinking to something more reasonable.  Seriously, if I would do this regularly, I think I might be able to manage my sometimes lethal thinking.

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