Guest post: It’s my fault what’s happening to my daughter

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from a woman I know, who needed to write and needed to do so without attaching her name to it. She asked me if I’d publish it. While the journalist in me says “no anonymous sources,” this is different. This is her story. And it’s scary and brave and all sorts of other things, and it might resonate with some of you. I know she isn’t alone. So I decided yes, her story should live somewhere and why not here with all of you? I decided maybe it might help someone else. Maybe someone else might help her. So here it is.

The house is quiet, as everyone sleeps soundly.

Everyone but me.

Sleep eludes me, as it does every night. My mind just won’t stop thinking.

About everything.

I feel the anxiety in my chest, tightening its grip with every minute that passes.

Part of my story is this: I was diagnosed years ago with mood disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Before treatment, I experienced periods of depression and periods of great enthusiasm and energy.

But always sleep eluded me.

Thankfully, now, I feel almost “normal” with antidepressants, a mood stabilizer, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication. It’s a cocktail I take every day.

Because it works. Because it allows me to live my life.

But as I lay awake this night, every night, the feelings of intense guilt invade my thoughts.

It’s my fault, you see, what’s happening to my daughter.

I believe I have passed on my mood disorder to her, to my 10-year-old baby girl.

My love for her is indescribable. That’s a given, right? A guarantee.

But recently her extreme moods have escalated to the point that I am 99 percent sure she has early onset bipolar disorder.

One side of my beautiful daughter is sweet, extremely intelligent, caring, funny, talented. Loving.

But on the other side of my amazing little girl, her moods are explosive. They change without warning.

One day last week, she became agitated because a tiny speck of carbon from the water filter made its way into her drinking glass.

She came unglued.

A horrible, unspeakable rage erupted from this little girl like you wouldn’t believe. The screaming was piercing and never-ending.

It was MY fault, she said, that the speck of carbon ruined her drinking water.

The water glass, of course, was thrown across the kitchen.

I tried my very best to calm her down – I just want so badly for her to find peace.

But it continued.

She tried to tear the blinds from the window. She raked her fingernails across the leather couch. Books and toys went flying.

I sent her to her room, where the destruction continued. Everything was knocked from her desktop and dresser; her brand new iHome smashed against the wall. Her desk chair thrown across the room.

And always this shrieking, this piercing scream that seems to never end.

Sometimes, these “fits” or rages continue for two hours or more until she can’t scream any longer and her voice is all but gone.

I am always incredulous when, a few moments later, she emerges from her room, seemingly unaffected by what just occurred.

She is even cheerful as she goes about her chores or completes her homework. After this, she may run laps through the house with boundless energy.

Other days, she may come home from school and retreat to her bedroom. I will find her in her bed, in complete darkness.

For hours.

I turn on her light (how can she not want light?). But she always goes back to the darkness. She prefers it somehow.

She has even told me she feels this world would be better off without her.

And so sleep eludes me this night, as it does every night.

I am aching for my daughter, for this little girl who has lost her way and doesn’t know how to find the light.

I am ready to face this long road of intense psychotherapy and medications with her. But it is scary, oh-so terrifying to know she may have to cope with this illness for life.

I just keep assuring her there is nothing she could do to cause me to love her any less. Ever.

Yet sleep eludes me.

The guest author would appreciate comments – of support, encouragement. Of hope.

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12 thoughts on “Guest post: It’s my fault what’s happening to my daughter

  1. Hugs….It’s a scary road you face, but one that will be best faced as a family, full of love and support and no judgements as you together figure out how to help her find the help she needs and see she is always loved and valued.
    Praying for you and your daughter.

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  2. What courage it takes to share the details of your life and the raw reality of your fears. This was written so well. I know nothing about the journey you have in front of you but I hope that someday, something feels easier. Thanks, Veronica for sharing your blog.

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  3. Oh, mom. That’s so hard.

    My only encouragement is to say that what’s working for you will also work for her. Nobody wants to put their kids in therapy, on meds, but it’s like Vitamin C or Sudafed when they have a cold — the best thing for their bodies and hence their minds.

    I’m telling this to myself, too, because I’m pregnant and I have a chronic and often fulminant disease that’s landed me in the hospital too many times to count. And I think, this is genetic, what if I pass it on? The idea is horrifying — to make someone else go through this. But my baby will also go through the good things about life I love, even if she/he has my disease. That’s the reason to do any of it after all.

    Thinking of you.

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  4. My heart just aches for you. Thank you so much for your bravery in speaking up about this. I’m sure there are many others who struggle in silence with their kids. I can’t speak personally of dealing with such strong emotions so I won’t try to belittle your post by talking about minor temper tantrums. I pray that you find peace and help for your wonderful daughter.

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  5. This is heartwrentching. Our children are such an extension of ourselves. When they hurt we not only feel their hurt but we feel what a parent does…the overwhelming, life moving need to “fix” it. When we can’t easily step in and fix it, we own it and wear it and live it. I hope this mother can get some help for her daughter, find some peace and most importantly stop blaming herself for this. We all know, as mothers, if we could prevent our children from ever feeling pain physically and emotionally, we would do just that….this mother didn’t do this to her daughter but her daughter is blessed to have her on her side to fight with her.

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  6. Let me begin by telling you that I truly know EXACTLY where you are. I, too, have mental health issues. And when I started seeing them in my daughter, the guilt and anguish I felt were overwhelming. Sometimes, they still are.

    My daughter’s tantrums were off the chart from the day she was born. During the “terrible twos” (and threes), she would knock over tables and break lamps; we ended up turning a spare room into a “tantrum room,” a place she could go and not hurt herself or anything else. It was the only way we could manage. By age 3, we were seeing a behavioral therapist once a week — only to be repeatedly told that she didn’t respond the way other children did and they weren’t sure what to do.

    All our babysitters eventually refused to take our daughter — she was just too difficult to deal with and damaged things in their homes. My husband and I never had time just to ourselves. Eventually, we found out we were expecting, but our joy at having another child was tempered with fear: would the new baby have the same issues as our daughter? How would our daughter react to the new baby? Would the new baby be safe?

    A month into kindergarten, the school called us in and insisted our daughter had ADHD. I fought the diagnosis very hard, but eventually relented and allowed her to be put on meds. Our life went from bad to horrendous in the blink of an eye! We spent a year and a half trying different meds and combos of meds, but nothing helped.

    Finally, after our daughter tried to push our toddler through a glass table, we connected with a psychiatrist who was knowledgeable about early-onset bipolar disorder. The suggestion that our beautiful daughter could have such a horrible disorder broke my heart. What could the future hold for her? Surely all our hopes and dreams for her to have a bright future seemed to go down the drain with her words. But I couldn’t have been more wrong!

    My daughter is now 10 years old and thriving! She is bright, creative and intelligent. She has her ups and downs, to be sure, and we constantly have to work with the school to make sure she is getting her work done, especially during depressive episodes. Yes, she takes a cocktail of meds that sometimes makes my head spin, and we have times when her growing body means that we have to go back to the drawing board to figure out meds. But she is happy, she is productive and people regularly comment about how mature she is. I never imagined we would be here. Most days we feel like a “normal” household with two happy kids.

    We still have battles, and we do have daily reminders that we aren’t truly “normal.” Psychiatric meds are expensive, and insurance fights us on the number of visits we have to the psychiatrist and counselor. Counseling is a routine part of our lives. We have to be vigilant for the signs of mania and depression so we can ward them off sooner rather than later — something that will get harder as she heads into her teenage years.

    And when events like Sandy Hook happen, I cry for reasons that others do not. I pray that my daughter continues to take her meds, that she keeps talking to people, that she never follows her abnormal brain chemistry down a path that alters her life forever.

    Hang in there. If you truly believe something isn’t right, seek out help. Seek out the BEST help — we’ve learned, sadly, that if a mental health professional has immediate openings, that’s usually NOT a good sign. Hold out for the ones that are hard to get into. Trust your instincts.

    And know this isn’t your fault, despite your own personal history. Instead, believe that it is possible God placed this beautiful creature in your hands, knowing that you could personally relate to her struggles, and raise her with compassion and love.

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  7. Thank goodness she has you with all your experience and wisdom. She will need you, and will – someday – be infinitely grateful her mom understood her better than anyone else.

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  8. This really must have been difficult to write. One never knows what someone else is going through just by looking at them. I am sorry you are going through this, but because you are keenly aware she needs help I think you will get through this. The brain is an organ that can have illness like any other organ. Sometimes an illness can only be treated, but not cured. There is no shame in this. No shame on your part. Sometimes when problems overwhelm us we have to live one day at time or even one hour at a time. Problems can bring solutions. You are a wonderful advocate for your child. Surround yourself with people who do not judge you, are sensitive and supportive. Find a support group. You have hit a bump in the road, but things are going to get better. Pray for the strength and wisdom to persevere. Pray for peace in your heart. You will be in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

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  9. Oh, dear. I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. It sounds like a nightmare, both to have to deal with it for yourself, then for your daughter. That said, you have no way of deciding what medical conditions are passed down to your children, which means this is not actually your fault. I think you know that already, though — on some level, at least. The good news is that you have some idea how she feels, and what may help her, based on your own experiences. This can make you a very strong advocate for her — something many children lack. You can use your experience to fight for her and help her, and together you can get through it.

    Am sending good thoughts to both of you, so you can make the best of this heartbreaking situation.

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  10. Oh holy cow. First of all, don’t allow yourself to really believe that it’s your fault. Not sure if that was said in gest, at your daughter’s anger, or if you truly believe it. It’s not. Hereditary maybe, but you didn’t design those genes in a petri dish.

    I went through similar stuff with my son when he was 14ish (now 18). His room was on top of mine and I didn’t sleep because when he went into a rage it might as well have been the house falling in. It was devastating. To watch. To hear. To be so damn helpless. He raged. Holes in walls. Mattress across the room. Knuckles bruised.

    And then he’d come out and look at me in wonder because I’m sure I looked like there was a grizzly bear in my face. Theoretically there was.

    But even when he didn’t rage I worried that it would come at any time. We all lived in fear of when “it would happen.”

    I’ve always heard that that very comment “the world would be better off without me” can be a very clear sign that she has had thoughts of suicide. That is nothing to push aside at this point. YOU need help immediately.
    My son finally grabbed a knife and ran to his room saying that “the world would just be better if I was gone” I called 911 and they took him for eval. It was a cry for help. A symptom of issues that I knew were going on at his dads and had been fighting. But his cry for help was the catalyst in changing the direction in my son’s life. I am now thankful that he finally took such a awful/scary/devastating stand in his life to change his path.

    I hope that you have the strength and ask your friends for the strength to help you help your daughter. It’s that “put your own oxygen mask on first”. It will be ugly and yes, everything – even the snow – will be your fault.

    But, I promise you once you can get even a little pinprick through that 10 foot wall, it will start to crumble. We actually were required to get him into anger management and then we did family counseling. NO meds. And the doc stopped short at diagnosing bipolar (thankfully) because I hate meds, would have given them to him if the doctor suggested, but the doctor instead found *the reason* and it helped. It’s been a long road to deal with by myself and there was never a day where I didn’t worry that he would slide backwards, but on Feb 1 my 18 year old baby moved out into his own apartment and he could not be happier. I worried about him being alone with all of these impulses, but no more….. It’s been almost a month and perhaps moving out on his own is the best thing for that kid. It has repaired our relationship 10 fold.

    So there is hope. Don’t let go of that. Be prepared to walk straight through that fire though. There has to be something in everyday life that is stressing her out to the max. And then that fleck tips her off. It’s just too much and she knows you’ll never leave her that is why she is ‘comfortable’ taking it out on you.

    Good luck for you. If you need help you need to reach out and feel free to email me at (Jill) singlemomonabudget@yahoo.com

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  11. We live in a society where mental illness is not taken seriously or worse–stigmatized–but we are in a better place than we were many years ago…even as recently at the ’70’s and ’80s. (Have you ever read, *And I Don’t Want to Live this Way* by Deborah Spungen (mother to Nancy Spungen of *Sid and Nancy* fame?) I compare your story to hers and she had few resources and those that were available were … off.

    I am happy you were given this outlet to share these thoughts. You are not alone. Please reach out to those closest to you, even if it’s just so that you can take a drive for an hour at night to get away. Your daughter is yours for a reason. No one else could do for her what you do for her. Do not blame yourself.

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