This I Believe

Martha - St. Louis, Missouri
Entered on March 28, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness

Once again I lay upstairs, sick for the second time within the same amount of months. As I consider my illness of sinus and cold, I can’t help myself for wondering what triggers this? Yes there is hair and pet dander and mites, and whatever the allergists tell us are there, in our houses. But I also feel something else, a presence in our house, an atmosphere.

My daughter stayed out all night without calling. Again. Each time this happens, my husband and I “know” without speaking, communicating those messages only those who have been together forever can decipher. We know what this means.

She is 27 years old. Many parents of 27 year olds are celebrating graduations, marriages, and grandchildren’s births. We have not, and wonder if we ever will. For us, each day our daughter is alive is a miracle. Our daughter has a mental illness and drug addiction, and our lives with her have never been one of watching her grow throughout her teen years, celebrating proms, graduations, marriage, careers, etc.

The bipolar was diagnosed a few years ago, and her ongoing addition to crack has multiplied the complications for recovery. Since the age of 15, our daughter has been abusing drugs in some form, in progressively serious increments. To self-medicate, to drown her pain, to slowly kill herself? I have struggled with all of these thoughts. I doubt if I will ever know the answer to this. What I do know is that we, I, cannot continue to have her in the house. So in 2 days, she is moving out. My baby girl, who I have loved, rocked, fought with, and worried over, is going to be finally gone.

I know where she will be living, for we have paid for her first months rent just to get her out of the house. Both my husband and I are painfully weary of the lies, the broken promises, the hopes built up and crumbled like so many small foundations struggling to stay together, only to be broken apart.

So as I listen to my 27 year old daughter make noises like someone older, in charge of her life, the “I can handle it” young woman, I look beyond the mask she has erected, and as I do, my heart, this area of my chest, hurts so badly I can hardly catch my breath. I see beyond to the little girl, the lost little girl that won’t let anyone help her. I am sick all over again.

And I do see this as a sickness of heart and spirit, this illness, a sickness of a mother’s heart. The grieving of what could have been. And not just a sickness of a mother’s heart, but of a woman’s heart. The heart that loves without boundaries, expectations, or limits. The woman’s heart that gains strength from its very vulnerability. The woman’s heart willing to take this pain and, somehow, transmute it into love, acceptance, and peace, in a magic of alchemy.

This woman’s heart grieves for the years lost, the coming years of pain waiting for this child/woman of mine to begin to heal herself. And the inability to help her, other than to grieve, cleanse my heart and soul for the time when I may be called into service. But until this time I let go, I must let go, for my hearts survival.

This is a small part of what someone goes through that is trying to help a loved one with Bipolar and/or a substance abuse problem. So many times the focus is on the person that has the mental illness. The above article is a result of many years of therapy, individual and couples, as well as groups, trying to discover what the best way to help our daughter, and what part or role we might be playing in keeping her sick. I now try to help others cope with their own loved ones mental illness and/or substance abuse.