Courtney - posted on 04/14/2012 ( 15 moms have responded )
Nothing prepares you for the day you walk in on your daughter having sex for the first time. Not even the twenty minute painful drive home on your lunch hour because you’ve just a gut feeling that something’s not right. Not even the hints that you didn’t want to admit you saw in her behaviors in the months before, not even the signs – no amount of denial or coy efforts to address it with her in passing could possibly prepare you for what you already knew was happening.
Nothing prepared me for the day she tried to kill herself two years before that. And nothing could have prepared me for the helpless feeling that nearly destroyed me during the four days she was on psychiatric lock down. And no amount of reading or counseling or even the fact that I was a counselor myself at a residential facility for at risk teenage girls prepared me for the day I admitted my daughter into a 10 month residential Christian program 5 hours away.
Nothing I did to help her worked. In four years I took her to counseling, we put her on bi-polar disorder medication, I admitted her into a renowned Christian treatment program for almost a year, and even sent her to visit family after she graduated, for a whole summer, to see if they might be able to influence her – give her a new view, a new outlook. I tried medication, therapy, residential program, and even enlisted the help of family and friends. I bought books, we wrote together, we did everything that I could possibly think to do as a mother whose daughter continued to fall into a black pit of despair, depression, and self-sabotage.
Instead of getting better, she had sex with strangers she met online, she got pierced several places, she started doing drugs, she left home, and now – with less than 5 weeks to her high school graduation I don’t even know if she’ll get her diploma.
Truth is, even as I write this now, I don’t know where my daughter is.
Nothing prepares a mother for this.
Not even her own experience as a run-away teen who left home at the age of 14. Even with a history of living on the streets, depression, mania, and self-sabotage as a teenage girl … I am still not prepared to help my own daughter. Even with a degree in Psychology, even as a support group counselor and at risk teen girl expert, and despite having two other teenagers who are extremely well rounded and successful .... I am at a total and complete loss.
After years of seeking help and doing just about everything possible, now I am faced with a legal adult who has left the nest and while before I “felt” helpless .. at least she was under my roof – at least I could face her, at least I knew she was safe and was eating and going to school; even if she screamed at me and hated me every day for it. Now … she’s just gone. And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
Friends try to help, “Tough love is the only way.” The church stands in stoic faith, “We will pray. Sometimes, prayer is all you have.” My significant other tries to keep me distracted, but doesn’t relate. I feel isolated in my sickened and worried state. I have two other teenagers at home who look to me, who need me desperately, who are angry that despite how much their sister has hurt me and them as well; I still cry every night for her.
Nothing prepares you to grieve like this. To fear like this. To question yourself as a mother, and fight through every moment of everyday with the exhaustion that comes with sheer terrified worry.
I am a professional 37 year old mother with a degree in Psychology and I am the mother of two other teenagers who are extremely successful and are both leaders in our community. Often times, in conversations with others I’ve heard comments like, “There’s always one child that gives you the most grief,” or, “It’s amazing how you can raise all of your children the same, but they all turn out so differently.” In my grief and guilt I’ve had friends tell me, “Don’t blame yourself … look at your other two teens, look how successful they are – and it’s because of you, so it can’t possibly be your fault that your daughter struggles the way she does.”
Yet, that knife turning gut wrenching feeling still turns my stomach. I could have done so much better for her. Surely, I am responsible for this just as much as I am responsible for the success of my other children.
For four years I tried to help her. Then, in a single seemingly insignificant moment, it all changed.
Grounding, tough love, rules and constant guard over her had not worked. Strict contact with her teachers did not help. She had isolated herself from everyone I knew who could help me with her.
She sat in front of me just over a month ago and I said, “There will be no discussion anymore. The time for talking is over. I will give you two choices and you will have five minutes to make one of them.”
I kept all emotion out of it as I explained her first choice. She would be grounded until she graduated in two months, she would do her chores, she would get good grades, she would not leave the house unless for school activities. She would earn her car back by doing extra things around the house. I would give her a cell phone back. I would agree to pay for her first semester of college after she graduated and even help her to move out, either to dorms, or with roommates. The advantages of staying at home and abiding by the rules were stated.
Then, I took a deep breath.
“The second choice is that you believe you are ready to be an adult and can graduate from high school, get into college, and pave the road to a successful future all on your own without my help. If this is the case, you will pack your bags and you are free to go. I will not give you money, your car, a cell phone, or any financial support from that moment on. You will go as an adult. I will always be your mother, and I pray we will always have a good relationship. But the second choice is one you take on your own.”
She stared at me for a few moments … void of any emotion at all. Inside I was a shaky mess and in a state of utter panic. Surely, I kept thinking as those seconds passed, she is not so far gone that she would walk out. I gave her four minutes and then said, “You have one minute.”
She stood up, looked at me, then said, “I’m going to go pack.”
Suddenly, standing before me was my little toddler with long curly locks and big dark almond eyes, every youthful memory and every dream and every hope … even a hint of her giggles came rushing back – throwing me into a tailspin, as if I were watching her step in front of a moving train … and could not save her. It stole my breath. I couldn’t speak. She walked upstairs and left me sitting in shock.
It has been six weeks since that night.
I am sure I’ve stood up from this chair and moved since then.
I couldn’t tell you how.
For every mother struggling, grieving, and afraid for her teenage daughter right now … I write this. Not because I believe the words will heal, and not even because I think there are answers.
Mainly … it’s because while I still sit here, in this chair, in the company of my laptop … it’s all I can do to just simply reach out.
If you’re out there too …. I sure would love the company.