If you’ve been reading this for any length of time, you are well aware that my daughter has ADHD and a sensory issue. Something I DON’T talk about very often though, are her physical issues. She has a very weird and difficult to diagnose gastrointestinal disorder. I’m not going to go into details for the sake of her privacy and my sanity, however, I will tell you what it’s like to be bipolar and have a kid who’s plumbing isn’t hooked up quite right.
The emotion I feel the most often is guilt. I feel a crushing sense of guilt and defeat because I feel as though somehow, I am the one who did this to her. As though there was something I did, some great rage or lull I had when she was in utero that made her tiny parts come together incorrectly. Was it that time I had sushi? Or that time I fell into a depression and slept for three days? Maybe I laid on my left side too much and she got squished? What exactly did I do to hurt her?
Even parents who aren’t Bipolar suffer from these feelings of guilt. I think from the very first second you see that positive test, your guilt levels rise. For the rest of your life, your actions really have consequences that could ruin a life OTHER than your own. Scary.
Besides the guilt there is often a serious anger. Why my kid? With all the other things that happen in our lives, why MY KID? This feeling is always followed by that familiar weight of guilt the second we walk through the children’s hospital doors and I realize I have no idea what it is to truly suffer. At the end of the visit, I will walk my daughter right out of those doors again, get back in the car, and she will sleep, unencumbered by tubes and wires and beeping machinery, in her very own bed. The selfishness of my feelings is often overwhelming. How dare I be upset that there is this hiccup in her health? But don’t I have a right to be angry? There is no “winning” in this situation, just getting by.
Today, she is missing school because of her problem. This is the fourth time this year so far. And today, we are getting by. One hour at a time, but we’re getting by.
After a while, we noticed that our dear little offspring was losing weight. A lot of weight. And fast. We knew this was a potential side effect of the Adderall, but we didn’t think it would be such a large amount. Her pediatrician switched her to Vyvanse which has a smaller chance of loss of appetite and, therefore, weight loss. So far, the one pill in the morning is working some serious wonders. We can DO things again. Does she still flip out sometimes? Yeah. Does your kid? Yeah. One of the hardest things I have had to do during all of this mess is keep myself in check. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to slap someone for telling me what’s is or isn’t safe for my kid. Oh, there are risks with giving an upper to a little girl? YOU DON’T SAY! I’m aware of these risks and have weighed them against her constant suffering. She might hate me for it later. But, she might also hate me later for not buying her a pony. So, if you choose to medicate, or not medicate, go organic, buy drive through, shun sugars or pile on the Peeps: good job! You are doing what you think is best and I cannot and will not judge you for it. We all make mistakes, and as parents, especially as mothers, we need to support and lift up instead of dragging our peers through the mud.
The other night, my husband and I watched old home movies with our daughter. In the videos, she was just a baby. Mostly smiling, laughing, wiggling around like babies do. Where was I? I barely remember this time in my daughter’s life. Before the diagnosis; before the medication; before the occasional level headedness that I now enjoy. I DO remember spending a lot of time out of the house. Working, running “errands,” anything really to get me out. I hated life as a new mother. Some days I would call my mother or mother in law to take her, just so I could lay in bed and sleep. My husband would come home and find me still in bed; I would mumble something about not feeling well and would tell him where he could find our baby. Looking at the videos is cutting for me. On one hand, I get to see these little snippets of life that I missed due to my illness. I can see how happy she usually was. I can look at how messy our house was in the way that ALL new parents’ houses are; and laugh at the chaos. However, I mourn the time I lost with her. The disdain I felt at parenthood. The irritation and the anger I felt every time she cried. There was a lot of “faking it” in those early days.
Now, I see my daughter for who she is: the joy of my life. Of course I still get irritated and angry with her; but there is no more faking it. I can smile genuinely at the life we have because of her. Her quirks and nuances fill my heart and sometimes I can’t help but cry over what an amazing kid she is. I know a lot of parents feel this way about their mini-me’s. But after spending so much time in darkness, the light that my child gives off is so immense that my heart can barely stand it.