**Possible Trigger Warning**
I would be lying if I didn’t say the past few weeks have been extremely difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat how excruciatingly painful having one of my threefold away from me has been. Having such limited contact, and very little information on how they are doing is by far one of the most difficult challenges I have faced as a mom to my threefold. Even though I know 2 is safe and being cared for, it’s hard to not worry and feel like I should somehow be able to do more. I want to hug her and comfort her. I want to see her smile and I want to hear her laugh. Hell, I want to hear the whining and be pestered about going and doing. I want all the things I took for granted while she was here with me. I miss the late night talks and the good night hugs. I miss the drowsy I love you’s and the death glares. I didn’t think it was possible to miss anyone this much. It’s an ache that is only stifled by the less than 75 minutes per week I get to speak to her. The rest of the week I am focusing on trying to busy my thoughts and my mind as not to dwell on everything. I’m seeking out the good in hopes it will outweigh the bad, some days I win that game others I struggle to find the positive. I’m sure of one thing that in this moment she is safe. They all are. That is the only thing that keeps my eyes from drowning in the tears and allows me to surrender to the exhaustion and submit to a few hours of sleep.
I’m not sure if this will get easier as the length of time just means it has been even longer since I hugged her. I can only equate this feeling to a sense of grief or loss. I’m not sure I can imagine the loss of a child completely and I truly hope that particular nightmare is never a reality I have to endure in this lifetime. I am fearful of it though. I am fearful of mental illness weighing too heavy and trauma crawling out from the depths of my threefold and stealing one of them from me. That’s after all, how we got to where we are now. Thankfully this time we sought help before it was too late but not before it ravaged 2’s mind, body and spirit.
Right now I am living for Tuesday’s five minute phone call, Wednesday’s hour long family therapy session, and Thursday’s twenty minute visitation with 2. It’s been hell on earth. Sometimes when I call to check on her as I do daily I want to scream at the nurse because I don’t want to hear “no changes from a nursing standpoint” one more time! I know they are just doing their job, but that’s my kid! I need to know if she is sleeping ok. I want to know if she ate that day. I want to know what chapter she is on in her Twilight book so I know when to ship the new one to her. I need her to know that I called. I need her to know I love her. I need to hear it too. I want to tuck her in and kiss her forehead while she sleeps when I check on her. I need to know if she is making friends and make sure she is being my sweet girl. I need her to tell me about her day and laugh as she does impressions of her group therapy counselor or cry as she tells me that one girl is so mean to her. I need more information about my kid than the clinical check mark of “no change.” I get one update weekly from the therapist on how she is doing mentally, on Tuesdays before family therapy. I have no timeline for length of stay. I have very little information other than a day to day schedule of activities and therapies. I feel completely in the dark and it is frustrating. There isn’t anything I can do. I can only hope that this care will bring her home to me and that when she returns she is better able to live life with a new appreciation of her many blessings. I pray that she finds a semblance of peace with her mental illness and is able to live life with mental illness instead of mental illness living her life for her.
I need 2 here with us. Life isn’t the same without her here. 2 is the missing piece to my puzzle, she is meant to be with me. She makes everything right. They all do, I need all of them for the balance to be right. I’m not sure how to make this work without her. She is just as important as 1 and 3, PPP and BK. The world is off kilter when any piece is not around. I honestly wonder how parents don’t see their kids. Maybe it takes being told you can’t and losing access before you can appreciate it although I’m not sure who would choose this. Then again, I guess in a way I did choose this. I allowed it. We’ve been through hospitalizations but for some reason this hurts more. Maybe it’s the not knowing. Maybe it’s the realization that there is no time frame for this type of care. Maybe it’s the reality that people with mood disorders make up nearly half the patients needing inpatient psychiatric care. It could be the knowledge that more than half the patients admitted to inpatient care are readmitted within 3-12 months of discharge. Mental illness is the leading cause of hospitalization in adolescents. I’m afraid to my core when I am told that 2 is more than 50% more likely with a mood disorder to make a plan and complete suicide. Then with her LGBTQ factor of identifying in that community increases those odds to a shocking 70%. She is also more likely to suffer from a substance abuse problem trying to escape her own feelings and self medicate or during an extreme manic episode when risky behavior is more likely. Her team feeds me these bits of information in doses so I can swallow them down easier and reflect on them. You research a little too much when you are trying to understand a new diagnosis as well. It’s all so heavy. It’s all so scary. It’s all too real.
I have to learn to rely on doctors and therapists to help me identify behavior patterns that are subject to re-admission. I have to learn mood charting and how to watch for certain signs of mania and depressive episodes. My daughter, my 2, has to be medicated and this changes her presentation it softens some of the hard edges and dims some of the fire. Learning that your kid isn’t just “spunky” or “opinionated” or that the good moods you enjoyed so much were actually symptoms of manic episodes is so hard. I don’t know who 2 is without a mood disorder. The days she thought she was on top of the world, invincible, active, talking 90mph, impulsive, expressing massive self confidence and argumentative were not good days. The days where she was numb, barely able to express the emotions, cutting at her legs to take back a grasp on her reality, crying for what seemed like the smallest things, and shutting herself away those were depressive episodes. I knew that much. I just didn’t know where the medium was. I didn’t know which kid I was getting from one day to the next and I didn’t understand the fluctuations. I’m guilty for not seeing this sooner. I’m her mother. How did I not know that 2 was presenting with clinical symptoms of a mood disorder like DMDD, bipolar, and MDD? How did I miss this?
Mood disorders aren’t like mood swings, well they are but much more intense shifts and longer periods of depression can mask the manic episodes. Knowing they have been struggling with a deep dark depression makes you thankful for those seemingly good days. Even if it means they do 100 things they never finish at least they are doing something. Even if they talk 90mph about 90 different things in 5 minutes flat, you are thankful that they are talking. Even if the extreme self confidence and the invincible outlook is outlandish and exaggerated at least they are being and speaking positivity into themselves. It’s different in kids than adults. It’s not all delusions or total psychosis like we sometimes see in adults with mood disorders. 2 is not going to present like another person even of the same age. Mood disorders have varying degrees of severity and affect their victims differently. It’s a struggle to understand it. 2 doesn’t decide when to cycle in and out of depressive and manic episodes. She isn’t in control of it, she is experiencing an onslaught of emotions and feelings that for a 13 year old are not only difficult to understand but also she is unable to regulate them appropriately, express them in ways that are healthy, or communicate them to the people around her. This is why she is in residential care. To help her recognize her cycles of mood, recognize triggers, recognize the signs that she is about to cycle, and come up with strategies to help her cope when she is cycling. I am also needing to learn. I am researching relentlessly what signs could be that she is about to enter a depressive or manic episode. I am researching what tools we can use at home to help her. I am looking into the best treatments and ways to give her all the support and love I can as she faces an uphill battle that is likely to be life-long.
I am trying to allow the reality and gravity of the situation to sink in. Explaining it to others is difficult especially when you can barely grasp all of the information yourself. It’s imperative that others can notice the signs and symptoms of episodic cycling so that the people around her can help her to work through it. It’s going to be difficult for two to explain to peers, teachers, family and friends but it will have to be done in order to keep her as safe as possible. Unfortunately not everyone will be compassionate or sympathetic. Some won’t think it’s worth the effort and some might decide to make their exit. Hopefully 2 will understand that this is when we find out who truly wants what is best for her and who her true “ride or die” people are. I pray daily that she gets all the support and love of the people who say they care, but I know in reality there will be people who thinks she is “drama” or that this is done intentionally for attention or is a phase. There will be those that want to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do, how O should parent it, what treatments we need, and that judge us both for her symptoms. There is always someone. We, 2 and I both, have to learn that not every person will understand or educate themselves. Some will leave. And that’s ok. We don’t need the fair weathered support of those who only stand by us in the good. Some people are brought into our lives so we can learn to accept what we need and decide what we deserve. Some people are lessons. What matters is that we recognize the ones who are blessings.
Today is Thursday. I will be anticipating anxiously my twenty minute visitation where I can see her face via video chat and talk to her about “normal” things instead digging deep into diagnosis, trauma, and coping like in therapy or the rushed “I love you’s, I miss you’s” of our five minute phone call once per week. I’m anxious to make sure she is ok, especially this week as she learned Tuesday that her grandmother passed away, the last bit of family she was close to on her dad’s side. She was devastated and I had to tell her over a video chat four days after it had happened because we needed to make sure she had the support team accessible and they weren’t her team over the weekend shift. I had to make arrangements for her to attend the service virtually in hopes that would offer some closure while not being able to physically attend. I can’t describe the intense emotions and desire to hold her, hug her, comfort her in any way and not being able to. To see the amount of grief and pain she was in and not be able to put my arms around her was by far the hardest part of this so far. Then to worry incessantly about how she is doing and not being able to check in and get anything but the clinical updates is near torture. I don’t know how to parent like this, but I am doing my best. She is safe. Right now that thought is the only one that gives me comfort. We will make it through this and maybe 2 will be the exception to the mood disorder, but I have to prepare to fight the battle with her. Mental illness sucks! It’s a beast. It’s unrelenting. We are strong and we will keep fighting because what other option is there? We don’t quit. It’s not in our DNA, we keep going in faith. We choose faith. It’s bigger than any struggle we will ever face. We know what we are capable of and we know that we are going through this particular journey because it is meant to serve a higher purpose. Even if we don’t know what that higher purpose is and even on the days we can’t quite find the good, we know that this is all happening for a reason. One day that purpose and reason will become visible. For now we keep the faith.
Sources of statistics and information regarding mood disorder can be found at the following: