Saturday, September 17, 2011

Better Doesn't Make Everything Okay

About ten days ago, Paula over at NaCl H20 Times wrote about how tired she was of being knocked down, beat up, and judged.

[L]ast night I got blindsided again. Some really hurtful things were said about me and behind my back and I'm ready to runaway and never come back. I know that when you get knocked down, you're supposed to stand up again, but I'm losing the fight in me. I'm sick to death of being judged by people. I am tired of Christians being so dang mean. Those invisible knives that keep getting plunged deep into my soul are starting to bleed me to death.

I have only one thing to say to Paula:

I hear you, loud and clear!

I could say the exactly same thing.

Danielle has been home from respite for  about a month, and on medication for a little over three weeks, and things have been measurably better.  We've gone a month without major tantrums, threats or acts of violence.  Things have been really pretty decent, which is a huge change from the way things were before we sent her off to respite.  The break from each other and the new medication have made huge improvements in our child's attitude.

And that's great.  Things are a lot better.

But that doesn't make everything okay.  I feel this external pressure that I should somehow be automatically ready to "start over" or to "forgive and forget" about all the violence, threats, false allegations, and verbal aggression that has plagued our family for years.  I feel like family members, friends, and the so-called caring professionals think that we should be able to magically start over fresh, as if none of the things that have defined our relationship with our child had ever occurred.

Although I do have the capacity to forgive, I will never be able to forget.  I am too battered, bruised and traumatized to be able to put everything behind us and act as if it nothing has happened. I feel completely used up, and when it comes to my kid, I don't feel like I have very much left to give her.  I'm really very tired.

I shared this with our new therapist this week.  I mentioned during our family session that I felt like the past name-calling, verbal aggression, threats and acts of physical violence had completely damaged my relationship with my child.  I spoke of how when Danielle behaves nicely towards me, it feels insincere, as often she's putting on the sweet charm to convince me to give her something she wants.  I shared how I'm really struggling to have much in the way of tender feelings towards her, because of the horrifying abuse she's heaped upon us over the past few years.

The therapist nodded and claimed to understand.  She turned to Danielle and asked her if she wanted to improve her relationship with us.

Danielle was staring off into space, completely disengaged.  When the therapist called her on her daydreaming, she sat up with a start.

"What?" Danielle asked.  "Oh, umm, I guess so," she finally mumbled.

I found the session rather troubling.  Danielle was evasive and disengaged, and seemed unwilling to commit to the idea that violence and threats in our home are unacceptable.

There's no question that things are substantially better in our home, but that doesn't suddenly make everything okay, especially when it comes to our relationships.  A few days ago, Danielle came home from school, extremely upset.  Apparently one of her straight friends at school had called one of her gay friends a nasty pejorative, and she came home in tears.

I felt more emotion about the gay friend who had been the victim of the verbal bashing than I did about my own child's feelings of upset.  I imagine I should have felt more, but I'm to the point where I I've been kicked so many times that I do not have the strength to stand up again.  I cared that Danielle was upset, but I simply couldn't create much emotional energy to do anything about it.

"I'm sorry this happened," I told her.  I listened to her tearful explanations, but I didn't want to engage them too deeply.  I didn't have the emotional bandwidth available for a multi-hour conversation, as so many of her upsets seem to require.  I was facing a looming deadline, and I really needed to get back to work.

Some of my family members seem to think that I should be viewing Danielle's medication as some sort of magic cure that will solve everything that ails our family.  I don't think that a prescription can be the Holy Grail in that sense.  Yes, it's clear the medication is helping and making things better for us and our child, but it can't undo everything that's transpired.  Although the drug may very well help her mood, it won't suddenly improve her weak problem-solving skills, her lack of good judgment, or guarantee she will pass the state's required academic tests.

So better is really better, but it doesn't solve all our problems or magically make everything okay.


  1. I am so very sorry that you have gone through the same types of things I have. It's no fun. No fun at all. I'm glad the medications are working some and hope that it will be a continued path of success that you guys can build on. It takes a long time though. My son that was in residential for 6 months is just barely starting to earn my trust again after five months home. He really seems to have done a 180, but I'm still at the point I'm not trusting it entirely. I keep waiting for the bomb to drop, you know?

    Hang in there. I KNOW how hard it is.

  2. I hear you! Things had gotten so bad with my 18 yo last year that I just did not want to do one more thing for her. I didn't want to go to counseling and tell the therapist how she was doing - only to have her argue the entire time about how I said something incorrect or how I was just trying to make her look bad. I was sick of defending myself and I think I just got to the point where I didn't think we would ever be able to have a civilized exchange - so why keep trying? I even started to think in terms of well, of course she wants out of our house, she's burned every bridge we've built for her, she feels she can't earn our trust back and we didn't believe she was EVER sincere, she just wanted stuff from us. It was a discouraging period of time. I, in my own way, gave it all back to her. I stopped trying to force her to "try" and just calmly handed every problem she had back to her. When she wanted "to talk" and told me a problem she needed to have solved, I simply asked her what she was going to do about it instead of giving her suggestions (that she just ignored anyway). When she cried that she wanted to improve our relationship, I asked her what that would look like, how would I know she was making an effort? I wasn't cruel or uncaring, I felt I was more serene, more introspective - and I kept our conversations VERY short. I knew she tuned me out for the majority of our conversations, and I was just exhausted from years of drama. She took off at 18, made the exact mistakes I expected her to (she was very transparent, very easy to figure out) and now calls occasionally to tell me how terrible her life is, how I was right, how she should have listened, etc. The sad thing is - I don't care if she thinks I'm right NOW, I don't need to be. I would have been thrilled if she would have proven me wrong. I cannot shake the feeling of being manipulated by this girl, even when she's complimenting me. When there is so much hurt and anger piled on top of a relationship, how can a few days, weeks or even months of somewhat normal behavior undo it all? It's very hard to forget what life was like with your daughter at its worst, but everyone kind of does, or else it wouldn't be so hard and such a shock when things go bad again. No matter how much we say we are over it, the hurt just rears up when we least expect it. I do not blame you for being cautious.


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