I’m going to tell you a true story that I have not told many people. It’s the truth that I’ve hidden from everyone, even those closest to me for as long as I can remember. I’m telling this story because my threefold is celebrating huge milestones in their recovery and people don’t seem to understand why I celebrate these milestones instead of just saying ‘I’m proud of you.’
Celebrating the milestone of three, six, and twelve months being free of self harm behaviors is a BIG freaking deal for my threefold. It’s a big deal because we’ve been through hell trying to reach these milestones and we have taken the path to healing. After numerous hospitalizations, thousands of hours of therapy, a lot of self reflection, and deciding to fight for the future we have reached these milestones. It’s been a hard and scary journey, but the end result is so worth the celebration.
So that big truth and that scary secret I’ve hidden from even those closest to me is that I was the 14 year old girl that took a blade to her body trying to escape the pain. I was the 16 year old girl who starved herself for days at a time and purged everything she did eat to fit the stereotype that the world told me I needed to be in order to be beautiful. I’ve been the 25 year old who held a gun to her own temple and fought back pulling the trigger to escape the pain. I’ve also been the 35 year old who sat on a bathroom floor with a bottle of pills that could only find three reasons to hold me back from swallowing the whole bottle and chasing it down with the alcohol in my other hand. That’s the ugly journey of self harm, suicidal ideation, undiagnosed, and unmedicated mental illness.
I’ve also been the person who thought so little of herself that she allowed others to inflict that same pain onto me. I’ve worn the bruises and still bare the scars of the many times I’ve allowed people to use me as their own way to feel better. I’ve allowed my body to be torn apart by the men I chose over my own self respect. From cigarette burns, to being pushed down steps, to being clocked and choked. It’s a reality I’ve lived in for far too long. It’s a part of me now that I can’t erase. The hate filled words and the demeaning labels I’ve been told are burned into my brain. The many times I was told what I was and wasn’t became the only words I could hear. Those negative identifiers became the voices in my own head long after the people were gone.
I’ve been accused of attention seeking, it being a phase, and that I was just being too much. I didn’t get the help I needed at 14, 16, 17, 25, or 35 because I was told it was a me problem not an illness in need of treatment. My mother didn’t acknowledge it. My father didn’t see it. My ex-husband told me the medications made me worse and the ‘head doctors didn’t know me well enough to know what they were talking about. I’ve allowed everyone in my life around me convince me I wasn’t bipolar, even when the symptoms were obvious. Even after being hospitalized for 6 weeks to treat the symptoms I allowed someone to tell me the medication made me worse and it belonged in the garbage. So that’s where that medication went. I waited over 20 years to seek help for my mental illness. It’s not a life I can stand by and watch my threefold suffer through for themselves.
I refuse to allow me to be the barrier that stops my threefold from getting help when I know the dire consequences of that choice. I won’t be the voice in their head that tells them that they are the problem. I refuse to stand by and watch my threefold struggle like I did and live a life they don’t have to before they find a better way. Not when I have the power to help them find that life now. Not when the help is available and they show me they need it. I can see it, because I too have been that young girl struggling to find a person who would help me. I didn’t get that, but I will make damn sure they do.
I’m not glorifying this behavior by celebrating my children fighting for their future. I’m celebrating because there is cause for celebration when you overcome the bad and the ugly of mental illness. It took me too long to share my journey. I don’t want them to feel like they should hide theirs. It took me far too long to find the help I needed and if I can prevent them from taking the path I did, I will.
I celebrate the milestones because I know the struggle to reach the milestones too. I don’t talk about my struggle through self harm because it’s ugly and it’s the hard part that most don’t relate to. I haven’t shared it because everyone has told me that I’m the reason my threefold struggles. My threefold doesn’t even know most of my struggles and how bad it was. I never wanted them to see me as that person. It’s not a side I wanted to share and I don’t want them to believe self harm or suicidal ideation is normal. It’s not normal! It’s a sign of mental illness and the statistics that come with it are scary as hell.
You can judge me, but I am my own worst critic in the parenting department. I question if I am doing it right all the time. However, because I see their growth, their progress and their fight I know that I am doing exactly what I should to see them to a better life than what I had. I’m making that life for myself and for my threefold. We create our own path forward and the future is too bright to live in the darkness of the past. Don’t live your life waiting for the good, find the good in life. That’s the only way! Stay positive! ☮️❤️😊~M
Too often we are told that divorce is taking the easy way out. If you’ve been through a divorce you probably know that is the furthest from the truth. If you’ve had a divorce with children involved then you know that divorce changes everything. If you are divorcing a Narcissist then you probably have walked through hell to get to the finalization. Kids and a narcissist well you better be prepared to fight harder and longer and to be smarter and more patient during this process. You will be guarding and advocating for yourself, your rights, and for your kids. Divorce is difficult and can be emotionally taxing even in amicable proceedings. If you are divorcing a narcissist you’ve most likely endured varying psychological, physical, and/or financial abuse within your marriage. Making a plan and executing that plan in order to get out of the marriage was the first step towards a better life for yourself and for your children. You may not be aware that the abuse doesn’t end the day you walk out the door. A narcissist will continue to find ways to punish you for leaving. You will be on guard and continue to have to fight for your freedom, your healing, and your right to happiness through out the divorce. Leaving is hard, navigating the next year or more of your new life is harder. Be prepared for the challenges you may face by starting therapy as soon as possible, finding an attorney who is both honest with you and willing to fight for you, and seek support from the people around you. You will need a trusted and safe place to vent your frustrations. It’s the only way you will be able to remain calm and civil in your dealings with the narcissist.
The following is my account of my personal experience dealing with divorcing a narcissist. Not every piece of my story will match yours as we are all dealing with aspects that are unique to our family dynamic and our toxic cycle with the narcissist. This is not intended to replace legal advice or to serve as legal counsel. This content may be triggering.
If you can plan your exit strategy before you leave that is your best bet. It’s much harder to stay gone when there is not a plan in place on how you will escape. Making your mind up that you are done for good is step one. You must be done and be able to accept that no amount of counseling, effort, money or whatever would be enough to change your mind. If you haven’t decided this is what you want and need then you are not ready to leave. Empty threats won’t change a narcissist it will possibly trigger retaliation or a promise to change, but the love bombing and future faking will never last long.
I had decided months prior to having the conversation about separation that I was done. I began detaching emotionally. I had to plan. The following were steps I took when I was preparing my exit:
Find a therapist for self and for children
Have a way to support yourself and your family
Meet with a lawyer for advice and consultation
Talk to a trusted family member or friend, be careful who you give information to.
Will you leave the marital residence or will your spouse? Where will you go?
What assets and debts do you share? Make a list.
Document everything you recall up until present. Continue documenting and keeping records moving forward.
Be firm in your decision. Don’t be swayed by love bombing, future faking, or empty promises.
Be prepared for the conversation about separation.
Identify and notice the toxic patterns you both perpetuate in your relationship and communication.
Prepare for battle:
The first mistake I made was showing my hand and letting emotions rule my reactions. I allowed the toxicity to continue even after I had left because I didn’t see the full picture. I didn’t see the game. I still wanted to believe that there was a person capable of empathy and love behind the anger that was displayed. I didn’t even know what a narcissist was when I left. I just thought my ex was miserable and wanted me miserable too. After all misery does love company. He would push my buttons, he knew what would make me get upset and what to say for me to lash out. Not only did I give him the upper hand and fed into his narcissistic behaviors, I allowed him to be the one to control my mood and the mood of my threefold. We were anxious and tense and overwhelmed on “switch out” days. We would sit on pins and needles and it would take hours if not a full day for us to settle down after the interactions. It was awful. I made the mistake of agreeing to couple’s counseling as a way to coparent and communicate with him at the onset of the separation. In those sessions I felt safe to express my feelings and thoughts. After a few sessions this was enough to make him so angry he stormed out of the session, caused a scene, and left him on the defensive. It was only a day later that he had cleaned out our savings account and left me scrambling for reserves. A few days after that he filed for divorce, before I could. He filed for full custody of my threefold and charged me with inappropriate marital conduct. I was livid. A few days after that he had my threefold sit me down and tell me they wanted to live with him full time and have visitation with me. I was floored. I was reactive, emotional, hurt, scared and I was pissed. I had never been so angry in my life. It was time to fight, and if he was going to fight dirty then I was going to fight clean just to show I was the bigger person. I did nothing that he expected me to from that moment forward. I would fight for my threefold and fight with the truth. I didn’t need to manipulate my girls. They just needed a reminder of who had always been the parent and who always would be there. It wasn’t a show, a game. They weren’t pawns to hurt him, and I knew that there was no way that he had their best interests at heart. I did and I was ready to show them that I would be there for them regardless of where they lived or who they lived with.
Giving him the opportunity to file for divorce first was my mistake. He was allowed to claim whatever he wanted. He was allowed to file for full custody. It gave him the power in the divorce. It left me with the burden to prove that my threefold were best cared for by me. It left me to show that I had always been their primary caretaker. It made me fight for my rights to be their mother. I was reasonable and decided to contest the divorce, but I contested not with full custody in my counter petition. I countered with 50/50 joint custody and shared holidays. I didn’t retaliate but tried to negotiate the best interest of the girls. I was trying to show good faith, civility, and reasonable expectations. It didn’t work.
File first, but file fair
Don’t use or allow your kids to be used as pawns.
Future faking and manipulation are techniques used by the narcissist to sway you and the children.
Respond without reacting or retaliating.
Your children come first. Their best interest is the only thing the court cares about.
Document everything. Keep records, timelines, text messages, phone logs, and any interactions together.
Be as civil and cordial as possible in all interactions regardless of their attempts to make you angry or hurt you.
Mediation is Required
Mediation is required as the first step in most contested divorces. I made the mistake that this would be the day where things were finalized. I went in ready to fight for equal parenting time and birthdays. I wanted Christmas and I wanted to make medical decisions. I wanted to be the primary residential parent and have final say on education. I was ready to plead my case. I had a home and was in a great school district. I had made and taken the girls to every appointment for therapy, medication, physicals, sick visits, and dentist appointments. I was the one helping with school. I was the one that they counted on to be stable and they relied on for everything. I had already had one child full time refusing to live with him. My middle daughter, 2, refused to stay there after they had fought and it got nasty a few months prior. She rarely wanted to visit him. I supported her decision but didn’t expect the other children to do that too. Mediation was brutal. It was not the fight I expected. It was hard not to get emotionally charged. He agreed to everything with the kids, but it came down to money. He wanted part of my retirement a job I had only began 6 months prior to our separation. He wanted my vehicle even after he had my new car, but refused to make payments on it and it was repossessed while he had it. He wanted me held responsible for paying him for damages done at the apartment he wanted to keep and forced me to move out of, but refused to take my name off the lease. He wanted all of the possessions and would not budge on the smallest of settlements to resolve these issues. He also wanted me to acquire all the marital debt. He expected me to not file for child support and he did not want to pay arrears for the seven months prior. I should also take less than the state minimum for support and should not make it enforceable for three months so he could find employment because he was let go from his job. I was livid. I gave him everything he asked for except my vehicle and my retirement, but he refused to settle. I was angry and incredibly frustrated. I didn’t understand how he could think he had anything to gain by going to court. I was willing to do just about anything to not make my threefold go through a nasty court battle.
Mediation is not the end and is only for the courts.
Don’t go in with expectations of settlement.
Before you go to mediation decide what your bottom line is. What are you willing to and not willing to budge on.
Have an accurate accounting of all debts and assets.
Decide if you are holding on to something to be petty or because you truly believe it is rightfully yours.
Don’t agree to anything you feel uncomfortable with.
If you settle that’s it. You don’t get to revise your agreement after.
Don’t be a martyr and don’t sell yourself short.
Don’t show all of your cards. Hold some things until you see what they want.
Be firm. Stay tough. Don’t let them run over you. It’s not easy but don’t react to their demands regardless if you feel they are not fair.
You have a voice and rights. It’s easy to just agree to get it done but if you feel like you are giving too much it’s ok to say no.
There were many times I thought I could make my ex see what he was doing, how he was hurting my threefold, and what I felt we could do to resolve the problems. I was so wrong. I would basically beg for settlement and plead for him to do what was in the best interest of the kids. I couldn’t have seemed more pathetic or more weak in those moments. I gave him the power every time and gave him the control over the trajectory of the process. I postponed trial dates, filing for support, and all court involvement. Why did I do this? I didn’t want to go to court! I didn’t have any doubt I would win. I just didn’t want to put my threefold through the stress and anxiety of court. By this time my threefold were all living with me full time. He was inconsistent with visitation and had stopped all attempts to help financially. I would call him and ask if he was planning to see the girls. I would call him and ask for help. I would call him and tell him how he was affecting the kids. I would cry and try to find some part of him that still felt something anything so he would close this chapter of our lives. I tried to bridge the growing gaps in his relationships with my threefold. I would think I was making progress and that I had gotten through to him. I would go to my lawyer and draw up a settlement for him to review. Each time I would give him everything he asked for, but the only thing I couldn’t budge on was my vehicle. I needed that vehicle to get to work, get the kids to and from everywhere, it was the one thing I couldn’t give in on. I was still giving him the power I made three offers over three months and received no response or refusals each time. I was getting no where. I was getting played. I was getting the run around. He was stalling and I didn’t realize it. I was just buying time and wasting the retainer money I had paid my lawyer. I didn’t realize it until I decided to set boundaries for myself and my threefold.
Don’t negotiate with the narcissist
Don’t assume they care
Set trial dates and file for support after mediation.
Don’t use your retainer to negotiate more settlements.
Make them come to you and meet you where you are.
Don’t contact them, beg, plead or try to find solutions.
Don’t let them control the process.
Communication should be limited and don’t give more information than they ask for.
Boundary Setting Bad Assery:
I had finally reached my limit of trying to work with and coparent with an inconsistent and low level person. I was done being the person who always bent over backwards. I would no longer be complicit in the abuse of myself or my threefold. We deserved more. It was about time I demanded to be treated with respect and that I be given the common courtesy of communication without attacks. I didn’t want to be the bad guy, but I was tired of being the one that rolled over and gave in. I finally was ready to stand my ground and I wasn’t going to back down. I filed for a support hearing. I then contacted him letting him know that he could have two scheduled calls per week and my availability. I told him communication was to go through me and not the girls. I told him I need 72 hour notice of his intention to have parenting time so we could schedule that with the girls. I told him requests would be denied if he did not submit the request in the required time frame. I refused the implementation of a schedule he requested and told him if he wanted consistency he needed to submit a settlement to his lawyer. I told him he could no longer expect my compliance with his schedule as I had three kids and my own schedule to adhere to. I was done with him calling the shots. I didn’t want to hurt anyone but I was hurting the kids more by allowing him to decide on a whim and leave them wondering when they would see him or if he would be calling. I was tired of being the beck and call girl. He pushed back on my boundaries and I just continued to resend them to him highlighting the specific boundary he was crossing and what actions he would need to take for me to be able to honor his request. Each time I held my ground he got more irritated and saw the balance of power was shifting.
Set boundaries early and hold them
Allow the boundaries to remain enforced in order to pressure the narcissist to settle or negotiate.
Do not violate rights of the other parent when setting boundaries. Make sure you are giving them access to any and all information about the children.
Make them accountable to a schedule that works for you and the children.
Your responsibility is to your children not to your ex. Focus on being consistent.
Setting boundaries is allowed even if you aren’t used to it.
Be prepared for the narcissist to want to talk to you and to have seemingly sincere apologies. They are manipulating you, don’t fall for it.
Expect the Unexpected:
After setting boundaries the time between phone calls was longer and requests for visitation were nearly never but always last minute. I had expected the boundaries to pressure him to make a move to negotiate or make a plan with his lawyer. I did not think asking for what I felt was more than reasonable of 72 hours for visitation requests would be his reasoning to stop seeing the girls all together. His attempts became few and far between. Days turned into weeks, then into months and our hearing was due to come up soon. Out of no where I get a text from the ex asking to speak with the girls. I obliged. He said he needed to speak to me first. He said he was going to admit himself to a treatment facility to get help. He managed to hurt the kids with his handling of delivering the news. All three girls needed emergency therapy in the days following that call. Then, get this, he didn’t go. He put them through the ringer and hurt them for him not to follow through, again. They were angry, hurt, disappointed and everything between. I had to cut off communication all together at that point. I felt he was only inflicting more damage.
It was time for the support hearing and I had prepared my case. Unfortunately, I had been waiting for word for the whole week beforehand to get word of if he had been admitted to a treatment facility or not. I was forced to contact him as I had no other way to get information on what to plan for. I had finally given up and did the prep work. I didn’t know what would happen. I knew there was no hope of receiving support, just wanted it on the record. He was in a losing situation. He had positioned himself to lose. I knew that I would not need anything but to be honest about what had been happening since day 1. I was just waiting for confirmation from my lawyer that we were proceeding as planned. My phone rang with a call from my lawyer. I was told he was granted a continuance as he claimed he did not have the mental capacity or stability to move forward. He could control the situation and keep me begging for help if he played the mental health card. With the knowledge of how seriously I take mental health he found a way to exploit me. I was completely shocked. I was angry and wanted nothing more than to tell him how pathetic I felt he was for pulling that card in the midst of the true crisis I had been forced to manage as a single parent of my threefold. I didn’t retaliate I simply rescheduled and have been no contact since that time with him.
The Never-Ending Saga
It’s been well over a year that we have been separated. It’s been over a year since divorce was filed. I have moved on with my life as much as I can. I’ve been through hell so far this year. My threefold has been through even more than I have. We’ve been trying to find our way forward and trying to heal from the abuse and trauma we have endured. It’s been hard when someone is trying to continue holding you hostage in the past. It’s been a crazy and rough year. We have had multiple hours of therapy, psychiatric treatment, trauma intervention, crisis management, hospitalization and have come to terms with mental illness. I’ve learned a lot and have worked hard to be the best mom I can and give my kids every ounce of myself. In the midst of this year we have gotten closer and gotten stronger.
My Final Piece of Advice…For Now:
Lastly I can’t stress this enough, the court doesn’t care about you. It’s all about the kids. Do not play the role of the victim. Don’t assume that the court will acknowledge your personal pain or the abuse you have endured. It has to be about how the other person’s behaviors have negatively impacted your children. How the decisions made have been against the best interest of the children. If you are looking to get some sort of peace from speaking out about how you have suffered or that you will gain some sympathy, you won’t. Do not let him or the court have any reason to question if you are mentally able to raise your children. As soon as you victimize yourself you only set yourself up for more evaluation, questions, oversight, and allow your mental health to be a concern and a topic of discussion. Do not give them the ammo to use against you. The next part is even if you truly believe whole heartedly that you are dealing with a narcissist do not accuse the other parent of being a narcissist in court. This will only give cause to the court to ask for psychological evaluations and leave you open to being accused of parental alienation. Narcissists are known for being able to play a part when needed. They will never get a diagnosis based on a single evaluation. It takes time to uncover these traits.
We’ve been through the most devastating lows and some incredible highs. I’ve found that I am stronger and incredibly resilient. I’ve been inspired by my threefold and their ability to over come every single obstacle that has been placed in their way. I’ve discovered the true definition of narcissism. I’ve named our trauma as abuse, a word considered dirty and not allowed in the past. I’ve learned more lessons than I can count. I’ve found support from unexpected places. I’ve made it a mission of mine to help others struggling with mental illness, to give people hope, and make sure that others know that they are not alone. My intentions are to offer support to others that don’t have someone who understands the real life challenges of dealing with trauma, abuse, mental illness, divorce, coparenting, or a narcissistic personality. We share to spread awareness and erase the stigma that these issues have surrounding them.
This is only the first part of our story. It’s not close to conclusion. Let my mistakes and my errors in dealing with my divorce guide you to a better way forward in yours. I haven’t been more empowered and more defeated in my life. Divorce is hard and draining. It’s not the “easy” option. Proceed with caution and remember document everything. Good luck! My part 2 should be interesting. ☮️❤️😊~M
⚠️****Trigger Warning**** ⚠️ ⚠️ Please proceed cautiously . If in recovery this post could be triggering.⚠️ ⚠️Disturbing Images⚠️
⚠️****Trigger Warning**** ⚠️ ⚠️ Please proceed cautiously . If in recovery this post could be triggering.⚠️ ⚠️Disturbing Images⚠️
The following was written by #2 in my threefold. She is 13. The past year has been a rollercoaster for her and for all of my threefold as we have fought mental illness. 2 just got home from being inpatient at a psychiatric resindential facility where she has received crisis intervention and trauma therapy 24/7 for 7 weeks. She is progressing while showing amazing courage and strength to move past the illnesses she has been diagnosed with.
The following are the words she is asked me to post as her update:
“If you’ve been reading this for a while then you should know my moms side and what she knows about my situation, i believe for people to really understand adolescents with mental illnesses they should hear the parents perspective and the child’s. So here is my side and understanding. If you don’t already know i’m the second daughter. My mom has talked about me a good amount of time so i guess some of y’all should already know somethings about me. I struggle with, complex post traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety, combined adhd, dmdd- dysfunctional mood disregulation disorder, social anxiety, major depressive disorder, odd- oppositional defiant disorder. In the past year i’ve been to two acute mental hospitals, one php (partial hospitalization), and one residential program. I’ve struggled with self harm on and off for about a year, at first in November of 2020 when i first started self-harming i wouldn’t go deep i was barely cutting skin. In late November early December of that year i got sent to my first facility i discharged from there and temporarily stopped self harming. At first i started self harming because i was overwhelmed my parents were getting a divorce, i was struggling with my sexuality, my school was virtual, i had lost control of what seemed like everything in my life. Me self harming was me taking control. I was abused as a child and the last time i was physically hurt but my abuser was January 2021, though not only was i physically abused i was also mentally and verbally abused which occurred a lot more often. just about my whole life all i knew was pain, which is one of the reason i believe that caused SH (self-harm) to be something i depended on. I’ve been ask why i didn’t immediately ask for help in this situation i did try and seek help. One night i decided it would be better for me to tell someone (other than my older sister she knew i told her in august when i first started) i was staying with my father that week and i struggled to hit i told him that i was self harming to be exact i had cut my hair that day so i tried to form some kind of joke to tell him what i had said was “my hair isn’t the only thing i cut today” it took him a minute to understand but eventually he did . what he told me though still bothers me today (at the time i was mildly suicidal) he had said “wanting to kill yourself is a natural human feeling” so i took that and used it to minimize the situation, eventually though my mom told my therapist at the time and then i was admitted. I relapsed in january this time was the very first time i cut so much you couldn’t see my thigh, i continued to cut through out the span of 2 weeks when my mom found the a blade. She informed my therapist and decided i could stay home. This kept occurring until june it was a cycle i would stop for a while then start again mostly not getting caught but sometimes i would. The week of june 9th i selfharmed before a thearpy session i didn’t have time to clean up the blood on my leg so i threw on some pants and left in the car my mom saw the blood dripping down my leg and drying, she didn’t understand why. I had been out of depression states for months at that point i had a suicide note in my phone i had already made plans and had tried to end my pain, i was tired of trying, i got to the point that i kept everything in inside i was completely numb and was ready to end my battle, self harming was a temporary fix to my numbness and eventually it stopped working i had lost my drug. when i compare SH (self-harm) to drugs it’s because that’s what it was for me my high was being lightheaded SH made me happy i couldn’t go without it, it’s an addiction. once it stopped working i was at the point where i had no reason to live. I got admitted into another hospital and then partial and then residential with no break, though i’m proudly able to say i haven’t selfharmed since june ninth, and i don’t want to or plan on self harming. Though my future is unwritten so i guess we’ll see what happens.” ~2
⚠️****Trigger Warning**** ⚠️ ⚠️ Please proceed cautiously . If in recovery this post could be triggering.⚠️⚠️Disturbing Images⚠️
In January, I remember how angry I was. I was angry with myself, her father, her sisters, and I felt like I didn’t know what to do. When she was admitted after Thanksgiving, she only had surface wounds. I was terrified. I spoke to her therapist and her father and we all agreed 2 needed to increase therapy and go to her psychiatrist for med changes. I was hopeful. I began checking in often, having others check in when I couldn’t and we immediately implemented the safety plan that we had formulated. I didn’t know, though I hold guilt for not knowing as a mom I felt like I should’ve stopped this or prevented it. After her first hospitalization I became more aware. After this major incident and without me being informed of the abuse I became diligent.
⚠️****Trigger Warning**** ⚠️ ⚠️ Please proceed cautiously . If in recovery this post could be triggering.⚠️. ⚠️Disturbing Images⚠️
****Trigger Warning**** The day she was admitted for inpatient acute hospitalization June 9th, 2021.
We had good weeks and then set backs over the next few months. I continued to implement her safety plan hoping if I just kept making sure the access was gone then we would make it through this. Never in a million years did I think that she was going to the extent of breaking kitchen glasses, picture frames, using wire from notebooks, blades from pencil sharpeners or screws out of shelves. That’s when I realized that phone cases hid the blades, plants housed sharp objects, trash bags had been hidden in the attic with bloody towels amidst whatever other trash she was throwing away. This was “addict behavior” in every way. Lies, bribes, empty promises of change that were all intended to be kept, but she just couldn’t follow through, she was deep in the dark place. She was losing hope, but I kept fighting even when she didn’t know how. Even when all I could do is cry and call her team to guide me through how I should handle each instance, I held onto the promise of a better life for my threefold.
I knew that we were headed in two possible directions. 1. Back to inpatient or 2. Her following through to completion. I could handle not seeing her if I knew she would be coming home, but not never again. A couple weeks was nothing against never seeing her again. Well obviously she was admitted, 12 weeks did feel like forever sometimes but I found comfort in knowing if nothing else she’s safe. I realized that diligence and my awareness weren’t going to be good enough and that I had to make the people around her aware too. Furthermore, I found that I had to lead by example. My therapy is important. My medication regimen is a must. My self care routine has to be completed. I learned that there are no perfect days, but our attitude towards life is everything. Most importantly I learned that this will be a long journey, but I can set the example, do my best, and meet my threefold where they are each day. After all a mother’s love is limitless.
Tomorrow 2 starts a new treatment program and we are going to keep working on being the best we can each day and to lean on the people around us in our dark times. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to be not ok. Learn from it, grow from it, and eventually everything will make sense. We were meant to be in this situation, the dark times will help us lead others to the light. We are strong. Every single one of us! We are enough! ☮️❤️😊~M
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I remember this saying and it is oh so true. Counseling Today states that a child is twice as likely to develop a severe mental illness if their parent has a severe mental illness. My threefold and I did not win the genetic lottery by any means. We have all the illnesses and sometimes the list gets excessive and explaining them to others is exhausting!
Personally I struggle with major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, and complex post traumatic stress disorder. If that isn’t enough for one person, then imagine a 17 year old (1) with the same disorders. Better yet imagine a 13 year old (2) that has all of these plus disruptive mood disregulation disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety, and manic episodes. Although we are pretty sure the mania, major depression and ADHD will eventually morph into one diagnosis of bipolar II sooner or later. At least that’s what the doctors tell me. We have a combined total of 5 psychiatric hospitalizations to date. 4 of which were for my middle daughter (2) and 1 for myself. I am by no means a qualified mental health professional, but from personal experience and experience with my threefold I have highly educated myself on mental illness and all of our very complex diagnoses.
With me personally I know I have to be careful with my stress level, my medication, communication, conflict, sleep and a billion other things. As an adult I am very aware of my triggers. Though my C-PTSD can be uncovered as I am working through my trauma. Sometimes though I’m just in the wrong state of mind that I will intentionally put myself into a triggering situation. I guess my thought is to face the fear or I am looking for a reason to fight. I need it. That’s such a crappy thing to admit, but it’s true. Sometimes I need to scream at someone so I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I get all “bish, I wish you would, I’ll burn your mother loving clothes!” Real talk. Maybe I’m alone in that sometimes I just need to let it all out, no filter, but with all the apologies afterwards. I need to have someone reel me back in and make me see that my disorders are on the fritz. Other times I’m honestly triggered and it comes at the worst times. I get highly emotional when I’m frustrated and can’t see my way to a solution. I close off. I shut down and sometimes it takes a shit ton of love to knock these walls down that I build. I shake and want to run in confrontation and my voice cracks. My easy confidence I am usually carrying bolts and sometimes I bolt with it. That’s all the C-PTSD and anxiety. I ignore problems and hope for the best. That works, at times, other times it’s stored in my bomb kit waiting for me to push the “blow up shit” button.
My depression is managed with medication mostly. I am thankful for that. It’s been a while since I’ve had a major depressive episode and wow those are not pretty. They look like calling in days upon days or finding an “excuse” to go home. They consist of days without showering and numbing out the pain with sleep; an excessive amount more than what is required. Closed doors, dark rooms, what I eat is in bed and there isn’t much that will move me out of it. Those episodes make me look like a bad parent, because in those moments I don’t care. God, I hate to admit that, but the only thing I want is peace and I can’t find it. I can be totally honest that I have been known to try to find it in the bottom of a bottle. That’s not recommended because it will give you an escape but it leads right back to where you started. It’s not there, I’ve looked in several at different times in my life. I’ve questioned my purpose, my place and tested my will to live on more than one occasion. That’s not normal. If you know how you would…if you did…and seriously contemplate doing it. GET. HELP. Suicide is no joke and it is not a temporary fix for your current pain. No matter how bad it gets! I mean that with all of my soul. The only thing that has kept me alive in those darkest of times was the thought of my children wondering what they did wrong or my family questioning how they could’ve prevented it. Nothingis permanent. Not your feelings. Not your situation. Not your circumstances. I say that from a place of love, because I know all too well the depths depression drags you to when you’re in the dark place. Its hard. I promise it will get better. You hold the cards, play the hand you’ve got and then get a new deal, that’s all we can do. It’s a carousel and it never stops spinning. We can’t be ashamed to speak up and tell the people around us what it looks like when we are in the dark place. That’s how we get help. That’s when we need help.
Having mental illness is one thing parenting mental illness while coping with your own mental illness is another. I can’t say what it is like for those that don’t have mental illness, I’m not sure, but I imagine it is still difficult to parent. My threefold has their own unique triggers and mental illness presents differently in everyone. Just because my kid that has 8 diagnoses, or the one who has 4 diagnoses acts a certain way does not mean their symptoms, triggers, or treatments will be similar to mine or anyone else’s. Sure, we’ll have some similarities, but there is no cookie cutter medicine or therapy that works for everyone. It’s honestly all trial and error. I never thought that any of us had mood disorders. Turns out we all do! What I believed to be “mild” depression was actually major depressive disorder or MDD. MDD is in fact a mood disorder. I never knew that until I researched it and began digging into the disease after I was told that by my psychiatrist, then 1 and 2’s psychiatrist also said it. I thought depression was depression and I had that “run of the mill” typical blah, yuck depression and have had it since I was 14. Who thinks that’s normal? Me. I thought it was a phase or situational for 1, and she “managed” on her own fairly well. I thought 2 would grow out of it, or that she just had severe ADHD and depression- not “mood swings” or hypomanic and depressive episodes. What’s that? I thought 2 was the only person suffering with attention issues, nope turns out that MANY people get attention issues accompanied by major anxiety as added perks of C-PTSD. We are ALL very different but we ended up very much the same.
Mental health has so much to do with how much you truly want to get better. It has more to do with perspective and willingness to commit to your betterment. Medication IS a commitment. Therapy IS a commitment. Working on yourself IS a commitment. It’s costly of time, sweat, money, tears, and sometimes you take two steps forward to go ten steps back. It’s perseverance as much as anything else. My therapist poses a pertinent question. “How is _______ serving me?” How does my anxiety serve me? How does depression serve me? What benefits do I get? It’s really a deep question. How does it serve me? I benefit by feeling I can use it as a reason to not want to do something or to get out of commitments occasionally. An excuse for bad behavior or acting irrationally. To guilt someone to do something I don’t want to do or feel I can’t do. To receive sympathy or attention when I don’t feel like I’m getting what I need. It can become very toxic and definitely come off as disregarding of others and that it’s always about me. However, I am aware that other people have feelings and cannot constantly allow myself to be controlled by my mental disorders. It’s a different power to take ownership of your own behaviors and not constantly say “I’m sorry I flipped out on you I have _______ and it triggered a bad reaction.” No. This is more accurate: “I said it, I didn’t mean it, I’m aware that I probably hurt your feelings please forgive me. I will work on it.” I have to take ownership for what I am doing and quit allowing myself to give the power over to mental illness.
I think I am able to better parent and be more understanding about mental illness because at 14/15/16 I was a “cutter”. I have MDD so I know what to look for and although I blinded myself for years to the reality of it I now can see clearly. I can pinpoint the onset of a depressive episode for any of us now. My threefold talks to me and is open with me about their struggles, their triggers and their warning signs which is helpful. I still get irritated when we can’t participate in certain things, but I know and have an understanding that C-PTSD and their own severe anxiety are better left at bay when they’re not pushed too far past their comfort zone. I know now that mania is not a “good” day. It’s being egotistical, self centered, hyper focused for small bits of time, starting but never finishing, having grandiose sense of self and abilities, and acting incredibly impulsively. There are so many more signs of these disorders, but the list would just go on and on. You’re strong. Remember tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it yet! ☮️❤️🙂
***if you haven’t read this post on what has been happening this next one will likely make little sense! Start HERE***graphic content please proceed with caution.
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: