Blessings In A Mother's Tears by Monique Rider
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.
© 2001 By Monique Rider