On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I just Can't

It was mentioned in therapy yesterday and it has stuck with me. Just like any session, it is the offhanded comment that strikes a chord and resonates long after I've left the cozy confines of the therapy room.

"healthy family"

It's an interchangeable phrase for functional family, implying that the family works well together but with pizazz, each member able to switch roles easily. The sentiment supersedes the negative connotations of the term dysfunctional family because it goes a step beyond, as though a healthy family has achieved something greater, the ultimate prize if you will. A healthy family is like an acting troupe in which all the players can recite the lines of every part should one fall ill or forget his way through a scene. All for one, one for all; never giving up, never surrendering.

In this journey as a mother of a daughter with RADs, as with many of my friends who live the same life, the term "healthy" rarely escapes my lips. We are by no means a healthy family. Our daughter's extreme behaviors, erratic mood swings, volatile anger and unpredictable nature squelches any opportunity for healthy living. Her illness becomes ours in the same manner that a bystander can die of lung cancer due to prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke.

Following the same metaphor, in the absence of daily exposure to a carcinogen, our lungs begin to heal and regenerate. Without Sissy's presence, we begin to relearn the roles of a functional family that is progressing toward a healthy family. It always astounds me how quickly we reassemble, the remaining four of us. It also pains me greatly to know that it is my daughter that creates such terminal illness for all that dwell with her. I've said it many times in therapy, if not also on this blog, continuing with Sissy will be the death of our family. There is no other course, we will be a runaway freight train on a dead end track that dumps the whole lot of us into a ravine.

Can it all really just be one ill child that makes a potentially healthy family so dysfunctional? Can I really put all the blame at her feet? No. She is the product of her circumstance and her organic issues. Only she wields the power to change her course, to pursue healing and wholeness. But mental health and our great state have the power to make sure she stays in our home whether she chooses a path of healing or not. It becomes a death sentence. With Sissy in our midst, we will never be a healthy family. It isn't possible.

Oh, I lie awake at night thinking of ways I could better myself, ways I could improve my parenting, ways I could improve my marriage. I ponder my faith, my finances, my environment, my emotional state, my physical health and my friendships. I prod and poke and dig and sift through the vestiges of my brain and always, always I end with the same conclusion: there is nothing more that I have that I haven't already given. Quite literally, I have given my health to the cause of saving Sissy.

For weeks I could do nothing but sleep. Even now, after a second run of antibiotics I find myself cutting my activities short because of exhaustion and nausea. My body has said, "NO MORE." I can't sleep without medication, I can't live my daily life without medication, I can't make it end, I can't run away, I can't dissolve this crisis into thin air, I can't convince Sissy to heal, I can't. I just can't.

Each time she's gone to the hospital I've dealt with it in a completely different way. This time I'm befuddled that I'm not emotionally connected as in previous times. This time I truly am in self-preservation mode. As I told my therapist yesterday, it's been a paradigm shift. It is no longer about saving Sissy, it is about saving the rest of us.

Having grown up in an unhealthy family, the only thing I wanted as an adult was to have a healthy family and it still escapes my grasp. Without Sissy, it's possible. But how, just HOW do I live my life without my daughter? The bottom line is with or without her, there will still never be wholeness, wellness, healing or health. How do I solve a problem like Sissy? I can't.

I just can't.


Reighnie said...

That is exactly it. YOU can't. Only Sissy can if she wants to. As my daughter's therapist told me: "there is nothing you can do."

The finality of it is just incomprehensible. My mind can't wrap itself around it, but my heart... I know I have to save the others and myself.

Like you, I have given my health. I now have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. Both were stress induced autoimmune diseases (my body attacks itself). They will never go away.

My daughter will never not be my daughter. She will never not be in my heart and prayers but I know if I want my other children to succeed and to be able to break the family cycles, I need to let her go. As long as I am in the picture she will fight tooth and nail not to get better, she will blame it on me and she will never see that she had the power all along.

I don't know that things will change with me out of the picture but I am hoping they will. I am hoping and praying she will want to make the change and that is all I think we CAN do.

Heather said...

I know it's a small part of your post, but the phrase that hits me is, "Having grown up in an unhealthy family, the only thing I wanted as an adult was to have a healthy family and it still escapes my grasp." I, too, grew up in an unhealthy family, and only wanted to do better by my children, to have a healthy family. I'd never thought about how I have been denied that ideal. Even the healthy marriage I was blessed with is strained by the unhealthy challenges brought by our children, especially our daughter.

one more loss to mourn.

Becky said...

I wrote about the effects of my child on his healthy sibling - who is now suffering because of his impactful issues ...

When I researched effects of special needs children on their siblings ... google search returned "Dysfunctional Family." LOL! (That's a sarcastic laugh.)

(((Hugs))) to you.

Anonymous said...

Do you have an Amazon wishlist? Because, I know this sounds strange, but I'd love to send you something from it, just to brighten your day. I know I'm just some random internet stranger who's been lurking around here for almost a year now, but I know that getting wished-for things unexpectedly, no matter how small, is always a day-brightener. I wish I could do more for you and your family.

J Sam said...

I second the comment about an amazon wish list. It's a hard road and I've no clue how you do it, you amazing, amazing woman. If you'd rather not list an amazon list publicly, you can reach me at 2004.v.s@gmail.com.

Hang in there. I cannot imagine the tough stuff you go through.

J Sam said...

My first attempt didn't go through (I think)... so here's to hoping fit second time charmed. I second the comment about an amazon wishlust so I can send a teeny pressie to brighten your day!!

You're an amazing woman. I cannot even imagine how you cope... but somehow do manage to. I've never really written to an unknown blogger before. Hang in there. You totally rock!!!

Viv (PSU alumna too)

PS if you are not comfortable with putting the info in your blog, you can reach me at 2004.v.s@gmail.com