Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Mom Thing: Dedicated to Roberta, Nanci, Lolli, and all the other MOMS

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.


Nanci Schiman said...

Thank you Cinda for speaking from the heart, for echoing the feelings that resonate inside of me, and for being a part of this club that none of us really wanted to join. We are moms of beautiful, talented, compassionate and loving children whose 'something' (everyone has something) is bipolar disorder. But that is just a piece of our children, it doesn't define them. Some days it overwhelms them and us, some days it's all consuming, but this illness WILL NOT get the upper hand. The inspiration of you, Linea, and so many other people who have come out on the other side strong and resilient is what keeps us going.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said Cinda! You, Nanci, Roberta and Lolli are incredible examples to everyone.

Angela said...

As I read this entry I wonder how it is possible that you could hear the words of my life. My daughter has Bipolar and currently is not stable the heartache of watching as she barely hangs on is indescribable. Finding anyone who even comes close to comprehending what our family experiences is nearly impossible. Thank you for shining the dim light of hope at the end of our tunnel. ~Angela

Cinda said...

Nanci, you said it well, "the club none of us really wanted to join", nor were we prepared for! Theresa, thank you, darlin'! Angela, thank you for your kind comments. I am so, so sorry that you and your daughter are experiencing the pain of this illness right now. There is hope. I invite you to join our "Linea and Cinda" Facebook page and also the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation if you haven't already. You are not alone in this battle. Your daughter is so lucky to have your love and support. I hope you, too, have support (and I know you have love!). Take care, Cinda

Martha Monfried said...

Cinda, thanks for sharing. You and Linea are inpirations. Whether we are mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers or children, those of us with loved ones with mental illness must have the fortitude and heart to stay the course to support and demonstate our love and concern. We can all work together to create a better life and world. Martha
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much" - Helen Keller
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success" - Henry Ford
"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Steve McLean said...

You give people, with or without mental health issues, a belief in the power of people. It is people like you and Linea who courageously and fearlessly talk about the issues you face. It is only through you and others that mental health stigma will recede and in its place will be understanding, compassion and support. Please keep up the great work you two!