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.
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.