From my posting on the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation Blog:
The thing about bipolar disorder is that it lifelong. It may finally submit to treatment and be tamed for years. It may stay docile or, more likely, it will come out of hiding and snap or bite at times. It may be dormant but it does not go away. This frightening fact hit me hard as my daughter, Linea, and I were working on our book. She had become extremely ill. She was suicidal. She was hospitalized. She had ECT. She was finally able to go back to school. End of story. Great, happy ending and one that I wanted to believe. I wanted to call it good and end it there. Yet that wasn’t the end and I wasn’t prepared to continue the fight.
We don’t get a guide to parenting when we are handed our newborns, let alone parenting a child with a serious mental illness. Even though I may have been prepared in my professional life, I wasn’t prepared for my own daughter’s plethora of symptoms beyond the initial “stability”. Continued depression, extreme anxiety, mania, cutting, eating disorders, alcohol and drugs. I thought it was over after the first hospitalization. Hadn’t my beautiful daughter been through enough? I struggled to understand how and why “it” couldn’t just be treated and why it wouldn’t lie down nicely for a long, long rest. But, like an autoimmune disease, there are flare-ups as well as times of raging symptoms.
Eventually, like any chronic illnesses we all began to make peace with it. Of course I wish with all my heart and soul that Linea did not have bipolar disorder, but she does. Linea slowly began to understand her illness and her body and began to not only accept it but began to work towards stability. Through hours of talking, listening and reading each other’s words I began to trust Linea. I began to understand how desperately she wanted to live, and not only live, but live well. She began to partner with her doctors and we all slowly accepted this new reality.
As she moved into young adulthood I began to realize and accept something else. I could not and cannot be with her every minute, keep her safe at all times, prevent her from harm or make decisions for her. What I could do was everything in my power to assure an honest and close relationship so that she can tell me what she needs and I can do the same. We can discuss and agree to interventions and treatment if it is needed and if she is unable to make decisions for herself. We can have a support network in place composed of family and friends to catch her if it is ever needed. There are no guarantees….actually, there are few guarantees with much of anything. But there is trust and faith, and we are doing everything possible to assure the best possible outcomes for her.
The older I get the more I realize that I have so much left to learn so I can only offer my thoughts from my own experiences and my work. It has become easier as Linea becomes more confident of her abilities to manage her symptoms. We have all been through a process that has strengthened our commitment to each other as well as to something bigger than ourselves. Yet we know it is not over. But we are in a place of relative peace with this illness. It’s the way it is. It’s “not fair” and I still beg that “it be given to me, not her” but that won’t happen. I can only travel with Linea on the “vast journey” (Linea) of hers, trust her, stay steady and try my hardest not to worry about the future. It doesn’t do much good anyway. Life in the moment is much sweeter.