Thursday, September 1, 2011

Should I have known?

I am immersed in the edits of the book that my daughter Linea and I have written together about our journey through bipolar disorder. As I work back through more than 300 pages of writing, I am struggling with the questions that the editor keeps throwing at me in the margins.

“How did your daughter convince you she didn’t need to see a therapist?”
“How did she talk you out of seeing a psychiatrist for two more months?”
“What were you thinking when she convinced you she was feeling better and that she should go on her planned trip outside the U.S.?”
“How were you so shocked by a potential diagnosis of bipolar disorder when you teach about it?”

I had to give a lot of thought before formulating my response. How had I not known?
When an illness is beginning its invasion, it can enter quietly, mysteriously, or with great fanfare. Reading back through the chronicles of the years leading up to her diagnosis, yes, I can now see it coming during those early years. But at the time, we never suspected a severe mental illness was on its way and that it would try its best to destroy her. I am sure you know exactly what I mean as I struggled with this.

In that time and place, I think we convinced ourselves that it (this depression, soon to be diagnosed as bipolar), was due to stress from school, worries about her future, fears for her struggling friend, all wrapped up in her drive to do and be her best. In looking back, there were indicators of what was to come but at the time these were merely hazy suggestions, whiffs of a more serious illness lurking.

After many discussions of a diagnosis and a major crisis, we met again with Linea’s psychiatrist. Linea sat there without speaking and I finally asked him, “How will we know if it is bipolar disorder?” He said, “We will have to wait and see.” I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my heart hurt as we left his office. Wait for what? It felt frightening and overwhelming and I didn’t know if I could keep from simply lying down on the floor and weeping. But I didn’t, and together we all “waited”. Eventually the pieces came together, the diagnosis aligned with her symptoms, and the treatment began to work. There was hope and recovery and stability.

I share this because I know now that we did the best we could given how this illness unfolded into her life. I also know that we wouldn’t have done anything differently had we known. We were present to her and with her, we listened, we waited and we trusted her to ask for help when she could, and when she couldn’t we made decisions for her. It has been painful, and I would give anything for my daughter not to have this diagnosis, but I also know that it has changed us all in many incredibly positive ways. She is an amazing young woman and every day I am so very grateful for her life. I wish you peace in your own journeys.
(posted on the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation website under Blogs)


phylbean said...

My heart sits outside and ponders how any mom can return high-hitting serves such as these questions - mind boggling and so impressed by both you and Linea and your abilities to be so forthcoming to tackle such wrenching experiences in full light... love getting to know you more and more...

Kimly B said...

Thank you for sharing all you do. It is so obvious how much you love your daughter unconditionally. For all of us on this path it has been such a learning experience. Linea is blessed to have you as a parent :)

Neitcha said...

I think all parents end up with the same question when they start thinking back. We all say "I should have seen it" or "why didn't we get help sooner". If there were one magical marker that told us that what we were seeing was a brain disorder, all of our loved ones would get help sooner. Maybe some day there will be a blood test or some other diagnostic tool that will quickly give a diagnosis. Don't beat yourself up over it. As we say in Family2Family "you can't know what you didn't know". I can't wait to read your book!

Cinda said...

Thanks my friends! The journey is so much easier with friends and family walking with you. I actually had a great conversation with our editor last night (midnight in NYC!) about this. She had great words of wisdom in addressing the difficulty of looking backwards (the great "hindsight") with perspective while staying true to what was happening at the time. So I am inspired to continue with the work. Thank you for your support!!!

suelmayer said...

Wow, those were some hard hitting questions and although our situations are different you are not alone in trying to answer them. No matter the situation we all wonder if we should have known something about our child that wasn't immediately apparent but developed over time. We all wish we had that hindsight but life doesn't happen that way, often times we learn as we go and that is why I often say "Life Happens" and we need the experiences to get us to the diagnosis or to open our mind that something we didn't want to happen to our child is indeed happening.

Anonymous said...

I found this blog through CABF and am subscribing. Very much looking forward to reading your book.

I am a special educator and also have a child who has bipolar disorder.

Good luck to both you and your daughter in the next phase of your journey.