In The Genes?

I rarely write about my big girl, my 18-year-old, if you have read my previous blogs you may be aware that she has not lived with me for 11 years now, it has been a hard slog to get to the point where we are now, that she has made the journey alone to come and visit is something I have waited many a year to happen, and I never thought it would.

My daughter has complex needs, at 18 she finds general life hard to cope with, going shopping is an extremely difficult thing for her to do, her self-esteem, her nervousness due to being unable to count change or follow a shopping list, makes day-to-day life a struggle. Until recently she was unable to take a bus alone.

She has in the past self harmed, and at one desperately low point, made an attempt to take her own life, thankfully it was a feeble attempt, more a cry for help and attention then having thought it through.

My daughter’s diagnoses is still a mystery to me, perhaps on the autistic spectrum, definitely  some severe mental health issues.

She struggled for years through the school system, could never keep up with the work and had little or no friends.

For many years, and still today I hold myself partly to blame for the person she has become and the struggles she faces, even if I am told over and over, even if I rationalise with myself that even if she had been bought up in a stable environment she may still have difficulties I still hold myself partly to blame. When she was a very young child I became very ill (mentally) and she lived with a family member following my divorce from her father, living there, even as a small child she was always aware of her difference, knew she was not one of them, she then went to live with my ex and his new wife, again she felt that they to would reject her, they tried their best but sadly the professional help and support both she and they needed did not arrive for many years, by then the damage had been done. Over the years people have asked me why I did not go to court, why would I sit back and let her live with my ex in another town, seeing her only every 4 months or so, just for a day trip.  I did not have a choice, from the very beginning at a time I was unable to care for myself let alone my daughter I was told this was the best for her.  Due to my mental health decline,  I knew that if I had indeed gone to court to fight for custody I would not stand a chance. There have been so many times that I wanted with all my heart and soul to grab my daughter and run away with her, but I have known that she can not handle change, that it was best for her to stay there, and so for 11 years I have put my own pain and hurt aside and have done what all parents would hopefully naturally do, the best for the our children.

Around a year ago, after a drastic few months when my daughter walked in to a main road in the hope of being knocked over, she was finally accepted and funding was found for a specialist college, a place where each student is given the chance to be the best person they can, gardening, music, life skills, making mugs, bags etc to sell are all part of the daily timetable, for the first time in her difficult life, she is happy, she feels in her own words ” she has come home” when attending college, she is also the most able in the college which has contributed to her self esteem slightly rising.

Today, as always when she leaves I am full of a heavy sadness, saying goodbye to her, after spending just over 24 hours with her its always painful.

she has been on medication for a while now, after a bout of self harm her step mum realised she needed to be on medication and thankfully it is helping, but I see myself in her in so many ways, last night she noticed a book I have on Bipolar and she asked me to get it for her as her Dr has begun to suspect she may have it.

It was a mixture of relief and sadness for her when she told me this, relief that finally things may start making sense for her, and sadness that I have passed my mental health issue to her.

I have written a blog re Bipolar and obsessive thinking, and this was confirmed for me during a conversation with her, she explained to me that she went through a period of not sleeping, not eating, crying non stop as she struggled with obsessively thinking about a boy in her college, she could not concentrate on her lessons, she began to self harm again.  It was as if I was hearing someone describe my thought process when having an episode of obsessive thinking.

Whilst the pain for her is still there, so is the hope for her, the fact that she has a diagnoses, the way she thinks and acts explained via the Bipolar “label” will eventually make her life a lot easier, she has the advantage of knowledge so young, and even though it is not something any average 18-year-old would want for themselves for her it has given her courage, she can accept her diagnoses, and work with the experts to encourage her to lead the best life she can.

Interestingly, it has given me a sense of closeness to her that I did not have before, it is sad for her that she has experienced in her life so much pain and suffering, but I can now help her, through my lived experience of bipolar I can help her, empathise with her, know that with the correct help and treatment there is no reason she should not live a happy, fulfilling life.

How I wish that my daughter did not have any mental health issues, that she would never have to struggle with her thoughts and feelings, that her self-esteem was high, that she sees what I see, a beautiful young lady with so much to give, a girl who has a bond with children whom have special needs, a teenager who has had to fight for everything and has accomplished so much ( for example teaching herself sign language so as to be able to converse with a little girl she looks after, something she hopes to continue doing and eventually having a profession as a sign language interpreter in a hospital etc), but as she grows I see a positive future for her.

Till recently having a diagnoses of a mental heath disorder such as bipolar was a shameful secret, but now, I see how happy she is to have been given an explanation of how her mind works, and this is an attitude we can all take a lesson from.

The pain of separation

There are times when being apart from my daughter is tougher than others.

Today was such a time, my family are all out of town, at my cousins wedding, my cousins son happens to be getting married to my ex husbands niece, which is lovely for everyone involved, except, well, me. See I could not go to the wedding, I was told in no uncertain terms that I am excused from attending as my daughter, my ex husband and his wife would all be there.  Though understandable that it may be awkward to see my ex the pain does not stem from that, the pain is knowing that my daughter, the girl who I carried, the girl I gave birth to, the girl who I lost so many years ago when just a child would be embarrassed to have her mother at an event where her family, her friends and peers would be.

My child, on the cusp of adulthood in so many ways, yet in my heart and mind still the 7 year old who left 10 years ago to live with her father does not want to be seen with me in front of the above mentioned. The grief that causes me is to difficult to explain.

Thinking with my head, not my heart it is understandable, she is 17, she is full of self esteem issues, her hormones are all over the place, she feels she is being looked at all the time, but my heart is once again pulled out and ripped apart, as it has been over and over and over again since she has left. I feel that those around me think that I am fine when they tell me not to attend certain events, not to go to certain places as my daughter has come to town for a bit and has no time to see me.

It was never decided via the courts that my daughter would go and live with her father, rather after a long battle with bi polar, and a breakdown, and after living with family members for many years it was decided by family that she would go and live there, I have nothing but good to say about her step mother, I know she has tried her hardest, over and over through so many years she has helped , loved and cared deeply for my daughter , I know that at 7 years old my daughter was a disturbed and emotionally charged child, I know it is not my fault that I was unable to care for her, but still the pain never goes, and now, after all these years, the tragedy is….I do not know her, sure we speak on the phone, sure she is getting older and now comes to visit me more often, Yes it is easier as I do not need to make the exhausting train journey every 3 months to visit her for just a few hours, but still I have lost so much. I have lost her childhood.

The story of what occurred is long and probably very boring to you, but I wanted to share some thoughts on mothers apart from their children.

We are the exception to the rule, if you do an internet search on support groups for mothers apart, you will struggle to find one.  MATCH http://www.matchmothers.org (mothers apart from their children) seems to be one of the only ones I could easily find, whilst on the other hand a search for Fathers apart support groups gave me pages and pages of websites, to the extent that when searching for mothers apart, google automatically changed the search to fathers groups.

I do not want to diminish the suffering of fathers who have been through no fault of their own separated from their children, their anguish and pain and feelings of guilt, helplessness, loss and despair is one I can relate to well, but they have support, a lot more support than us mothers do.

Statistically, only 10% of children from divorced homes live with their fathers, which means that 90% of children are with their mothers or other care givers, this statistic easily gives the picture of why their is so little support for mothers apart.

Lets be honest, you meet someone, a mother, the mother is separated or divorced, she has children, do we not automatically assume the children live with her? Is our reaction not one of ” does their father ever see them” when people ask me how many children I have, and I say 2, the question is often asked why I have such a large gap between them, the answer is because I have been married twice, the next question is usually along the lines of what schools they go to, do they get along etc, it is never in anyones mind to ask if they both live with me, whilst if I was a father and was asked the same question would it not be a very different reaction, more one of ” do you get to see your children often”

When a mother is separated from their child, it is assumed the mother is unfit, that she may have been abusing the child, an alcoholic, etc. When we meet a single father are we not so full of praise for him for doing a “mothers job”.

It is in our psyche, it is how we are hard wired, no matter how liberated society may be, to think that a mother is the one bringing up children.

When one hears that a mother is apart, she is considered negligent, she is considered a failure, she is considered an outcast.

My crime, was my illness, my crime was a breakdown, my crime was letting her go, yet the reason I commited that crime was because as a mother I knew that I needed to let her have the stability, the care, the love, the enduring and heartbreaking love to let her go.

I have missed so much, I never made her lunch for school, I never bought her uniform, I never took her shoe shopping, I never sat with her and did homework, I never cried with her, I never listened as she learnt to read, the list goes on and on.

My plea to you, understand that mothers apart do not ask to be apart, it is the most heart-breaking thing that could happen to a mother, I have experienced the pain of the death of a baby and I have lived through my daughter being separated from me, the pain of loosing a child through death is everlasting and eternal, but it can be understood, one is never judged, it is a tragedy, but loosing a child who is living is indescribable.

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