Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We are all damaged...

I'm a Grey's Anatomy fan.
Somewhere along the line Meredith uttered this phrase, the title of this post, and it has stuck with me.

"We're all damaged, it seems. Some of us more than others. We carry the damage with us from childhood, then as grown-ups, we give as good as we get. Ultimately, we all do damage. And then, we set about the business of fixing whatever we can."

I believe, like Meredith that we are what life makes of us, not passively of course...we certainly have choices and those choices lead us to or from certain experiences.
We start off with a certain amount of innate potential and that combined with our environment and experiences ultimately make us who we eventually become.
No sense in whining about it; get up and keep moving. 

Real life gets complicated pretty quickly...

The Head of My Household and I both have a long history of family members with anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.  I mentioned his brother in yesterday's post...he has hit rock bottom and is facing divorce, the loss of his home, his children and his job.
Please continue to pray for him.

We also have had our own personal experiences with anxiety and depression. 
My first full-blown panic attack was two years ago.  I was in San Francisco alone on a business trip, and I literally thought I was going to die.  I sat up all night waiting on my heart to explode from beating so fast and so hard.  I debated for several hours whether or not to have the hotel staff call an ambulance...my anxiety had reached such levels that my body was physically fighting back. 

I don't remember when I first began having symptoms of anxiety that was out of control.  Like everything else, the first signs are subtle...not to mention the fact that stress and anxiety are normal parts of life.  I look back now and realize that I even had signs of postpartum depression after my youngest was born in 2004.  I remember sitting at my desk googling, frantically trying to find an answer for what I was feeling.  A year or so later I read Brooke Shields' book about her own journey through PPD and SOBBED.  She was me.

I fought medication for quite a while, feeling as if it was a cop-out, a sign of weakness, a crutch, etc.  Even after the first panic attack, I think it would have been easier to admit that I had a heart problem rather than an anxiety problem.  Isn't that silly??
Once I gave in, it took a few weeks to adjust to the meds and to get the amount just right, etc.  but I can't tell you how much better I finally felt and still feel...the dosage is such a small amount that it doesn't "fix" anything.  I'm still learning each and every day how to handle stress and anxiety, but the meds certainly help me to keep things more level.  That was almost two years ago.

Given our history and family tree it is not surprising that the Head of My Household and I are now neck deep in helping our older girls deal with some of their own emotional issues.

I'd certainly seen the signs of stress and anxiety in both my older daughters for quite some time.  When you're a parent, you try to keep up with how your kids "deal" with life, change, and things that just don't go their way?  When you yourself have dealt with anxiety or stress that is out of control and you have more family members than not dealing with the same issues, you also become much more sensitive to possible signs in the children you gave birth to. 

A year ago we found out that our oldest was harming herself (cutting with razor blades, push pins, etc).  The first time she cut herself was in the 8th grade; she did not harm herself on a "regular" basis by any stretch of the imagination and she was not trying to kill herself, but she was searching for a way to feel better.  She could deal with the physical pain much better than her emotional pain. 

Because of our family histories, the Head of My Household and I knew we had to get her some help.
Our oldest began seeing counselors and a psychiatrist who specialize in adolescents over a year ago.  This summer we have also found an incredible therapist who is working with us on a weekly basis to "hit it hard during the summer" as she puts it. 

My middle child carved the word "HATE" into her arm the day before we left for Destin.  I'm not exaggerating.  A week later in the therapist's office, you could still see the outline of the word in detail...there were places also where she had dug deeper and made even bigger injuries.  My middle child did this with a needle.
She is now also involved in weekly therapy sessions for the summer.

Because they are both underage, I'm required to take part in at least some of the therapy with them.
I'm not complaining.
Both girls have opted so far to have me in the room with them most of the session.
It's like free therapy for me :)
I am also glad that they trust me and see my presence and our relationship as vital to their healing.

Lest you misunderstand, let me reiterate something.
My home is a happy one.


How can it be happy if you have two children who are cutting themselves to deal with emotional issues?
How can it be happy when you just said that you fight anxiety every day of your life?
How can it be happy when you have more than a few family members who have been or are going through these very same issues?

Here's how I understand it.

Even if no one in your immediate family has addiction issues...
Even if you're not being abused...
Even if you live in a middle class, pretty normal little family with  mom and a dad who love you and each other...
Even if your a regular chuchgoing family...
Even if you have nice clothes...
You can still need help dealing with life.
It's not a death sentence.
It's not anything to be embarrassed about.
If you had Diabetes, you'd treat it.
If you have crippling anxiety, you treat it as well.

My children are happy children...they are learning that they are not "crazy" as much of society would have them think.
They are learning that life is tough and sometimes we have to put on our big girl panties and get through it.  More importantly they are learning to accept themselves for who they are...not someone else's idea or an image in a magazine.

My daughters' issues are not the same, so their therapy is separate from one another; however, as their mother, I attend both sessions each week.  These are my babies and I will do everything in my power to help them get better and learn how to go on with their lives and ENJOY life. 
We are fortunate to be able to devote this much time to our daughters' needs this summer.  I will devote the rest of my life if necessary.  It's just what we mothers do.

I must be honest though, therapy is emotionally exhausting, and I need a space to discuss how I'm handling all this.  I'm choosing my blog to do that.
My daughters are not regular readers of my blog, but they do check in every now and then. 
They know that I will be writing about them, and they approve.
I will not, however, discuss anything here about them specifically that would jeopardize their progress so far or their trust in me.
If our experiences can help one person realize that human psychology is just as important as human physiology, then my work here is done. :)

More soon...


  1. Oh Patti, I'm so sorry you're all going through this. I'm crying reading your post because it hits so close to home for me. My oldest daughter had similiar issues and still struggles with her life at 23 years of age. I won't go into the hell we've been through here, but just know I know what you're going through.
    My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. You're a great mom to be so devoted to helping. I know it's what we do as moms but still, it needed to be said.
    Hugs to all of you. If you ever need another mom to bounce things off of, I'm here.

  2. Thanks, Paula...I have no idea what's ahead of us, but we will take it all one day at a time. As sad as my brother-in-law's situation is, it has helped my girls see that this runs in our families and they are lucky in some sense to be getting help now before things get out of hand. Both are good kids, good grades, active in school stuff, etc. so I just want them to have every weapon in the arsenal to fight against this disease that seems to be passed on from generation to generation. The time that we've spent together this summer in therapy has also strengthened our relationships with one another as well...that's an unexpected perk to all of this sadness. We'll get through it...thanks for your kind words. :)

  3. You just left a comment on my "Remembering" post at my blog...
    and I came over to your blog to see who had left me such a kind comment.
    I just can't get over how much we have in common. I feel like your words are describing my life in so many ways.
    I look forward to getting to know you, and you will remain in my thoughts and prayers. Your family is so very blessed to have you in their lives.
    To new friendships...

  4. Patti,

    Would you please ask your daughters to read the comments here? I would like them to know some things:

    1. I have written about anxiety and a little bit about the depression my almost-ex husband suffers from but he would be SO upset if I wrote about it anymore (now that we're no longer a couple) but every time I wrote about it SOMEONE WAS HELPED.

    2. Your daughters are no braver than their mom. I thank you for that. Thank you for being a parent who lives out her life as an example.

    3. Knowing that young girls experience these things helps me as an educator. I need to know what girls are doing, what they're thinking, and how I can offer support. I can't fix them and it's not my job. They are WHOLE already and I merely exist to give them my shoulder, a tissue, and a trustworthy adult. Your girls have already helped me with that by you sharing here.

    4. I know you're a new reader to me and your blog is new to me, too. I think you're pretty awesome.

  5. If we can get three through adolescence without facing any of this I will be truly amazed. My FIL was a bi-polar alcoholic as is my BIL. My husband "just" has chronic depression and ADHD which is well controlled with a daily dose. I have SAD and have to take something all winter or I crawl into a cocoon and try to hibernate.

    So the genetic markers are all lined up and prepared to pounce on my kids. But I won't be blogging about it - y'all are braver than I am!

    I hope everyone is feeling healthy soon.

  6. Hang in there, Patti. Hang in there, Patti's family. I'll be thinking of you.

  7. Wow.

    How brave of you to be so transparent. One other glimmer of hope for you and Mindee and anyone else out there is that you know your family and therefore know who has what to keep an eye on it. I'm adopted and have no family history at all. Although, my husband has enough icky stuff on his side to watch out for, I think that's plenty. Maybe not knowing has helped me more...I don't know.

    But I do know that I grew up in a happy family and VERY blessed but sometimes got so overwhelmed I would hurt myself. I'm reading a book called The Highly Sensitive Child and learning not only a lot about kids but myself, too. I'm going to talk about it on my blog soon.

    Thanks again for being real.