Denial and vexation

I have anxiety disorder and depression. With meds, I am functional. Without meds, I am frequently useless. I take my damn meds because I want to be a good Mother and wife and not drag everyone down into my maelstrom of batshit. I don’t like having a mental illness. It is not fun. However, being in denial about my illness and making everyone around me suffer so I can avoid a “label” is worse than not fun.

Two of my daughters have been diagnosed with mental illness. Lilo’s Asperger’s syndrome is not a mental illness, but the OCD and anxiety that comes with it is. Stitch doesn’t have Asperger’s, but she does have OCD and anxiety like her Mommy and big sister. This is nothing I “wanted” for them. I am often consumed by guilt because I feel like I gave them poisonous DNA. I wish they didn’t have these issues, and I would give both my legs to free them from it.

In spite of my preferences, they DO have these problems so I haul their tiny tushies to a therapist and she is working with them to teach them coping skills. The sooner they learn the techniques to manage their illness, the better they will be able to function in the future and it lessens the chances of their needing medication for it as adults. Do I enjoy paying for treatment? No. But it is infinitely preferable to having them suffer frequent and/or debilitating panic attacks for the rest of their life.

My parents don’t approve of all this “diagnosing”. They don’t want their precious and beloved granddaughters “labeled”. My Dad recently complained to Mom that I would take the girls to specialists “until I found something wrong”. Clearly I don’t want what is best for my daughters mental and emotional health. I just want to find trouble because I am neurotic and have Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Huh. Now here I was thinking that there was something problematic about the fact that Stitch was in hysterics the other night. She heard a “funny noise”, decided it was a ghost, jumped to the conclusion that it was MY ghost, ergo Mommy was dead.  She cried herself sick, and was almost inconsolable. It took me 1/2 an hour to get her calmed down. This happens, if not frequently, at least regularly. It’s been a week, and she is still fixated on it. She is still worried about what MIGHT have happened at Spock’s birthday party, which was 2 months ago. She is still stressed over Lilo falling down a YEAR ago. That is not “normal”. It is something that hurts her and if there is a way to make it hurt her LESS then I will crawl over broken glass in an open sewer to get it for her … and anyone who thinks that I am wrong for doing that can kiss my ass.

My mom is in her 60’s. She has ADD and OCD and anxiety and (I’d bet the farm) some other joyful things messing with her mental processes. She won’t go to a therapist because she is “too old to change” and “everyone would find out” and talk about her. She lives in Appalachia. Gossip is no small matter there. My mom is extremely focused on what other think of her, and demands external validation at every turn, so she choses the opinions of others over the reality of her needs. Therefore, rather than get help, she just lets the panic attacks take control. She misses birthdays, she misses opportunities to see her grandkids, because she is (intermittently) afraid to drive up here to visit. She has episodes of depression that render her non-functional. It has effected her well-being, and the well-being of her husband and children, for as long as I have known her.

Call me crazy, but I really don’t see that as a “better” option than acknowledging the problem and trying to manage it. 

Then there is my Dad. God love him and all his Asperger’s qualities, but he thinks that 95% of mental illness is just people being “weak”. He also categorizes learning disabilities as “laziness”.  He does this so he can join his wife in floating down the river of denial. He missed my depression until it had wrecked the my GPA and my health. He still argues that my youngest brother doesn’t really have a learning disability (ADD and mild dyslexia and auditory processing delay) because Charmer is doing just fine now. Yeah, that because Charmer was smart enough to figure out coping mechanisms as an adult.  Nevertheless, Charmer struggles with school and Dad’s disappointment have effected his whole life negatively. Yeah, that looks peachy. Pardon me if I don’t want my kids hung out to dry the same way, just because I want to pretend they have no problems.

I fear my failing my children WAY more than I fear social stigma or judgmental asshats.

I love my parents, but they shove their opinion on my parenting and the girls mental health where the sun don’t shine.


About Betty Fokker

I'm a stay-at-home feminist mom.
This entry was posted in daughters, life as I know it, motherhood. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Denial and vexation

  1. pinkpelican says:

    I have a nephew who has some “issues”, behavioral stuff that is, in my observation, out of place for his age. Now, he’s a sweet kid, he’s clearly bright, he’s loving, but he is also immature, flighty, and, in a family of avid & voracious readers, he has significant reading problems. I look at that and say, “You know, my brother has a reading disability … and these issues really seem to be excessive. Maybe he should get a little testing.”

    His problems have made school a misery for him. My brother & sister resisted testing him for a long time. I don’t know why … was it the expense? Was it not wanting to know? There’s an element of them not wanting to go through the school system for testing, for fear that if there’s a problem, it will “follow him” for his entire academic career.

    Well, DUH. It NEEDS to follow him, in the sense that the teachers need to know if he has special learning needs in order to be able to teach him in a way that works for him.

    And … it turns out he has ADHD & a learning/reading disability. He’s way behind where he should be, because he didn’t get the early attention I think he needed. I can definitely understand the fear of the stigma that comes with diagnosed problems, but I look at from a different direction. I mean, we already know he’s a great kid. He’s sweet and loving and funny. A diagnosis isn’t going to change who he is or the great kid we know and love. It’s just vital information that gives the adults in his life a stable foundation on which to try to build a structure for him that WORKS for him, that helps him learn, that gives him the tools he needs to grow in the fabulous, independent, self-sufficient, confident adult he deserves to become.

    I’m not judging my brother & sister-in-law. I live away from my family, I’m not there to help out or observe on a regular basis. They love the little guy and want what’s best for him. and you know, I’m not a parent myself. I haven’t faced making those choices. I just hope at this point in time that the knowledge they have about him helps make things better from here on out …

  2. Kate George says:

    Yep, I definitely think my life could have been a little easier if someone had acknowledged that my differences from the rest of the family maybe could use a little investigating, instead of just telling everyone I was left brained and sensitive and leaving it at that.

    There is something very different about the way I process the world.

  3. Robin says:

    You are an awesome mom and, yes, your parents can shove it. It’s way, way better to do this now than to wait until your kids’ lives have fallen apart. You just keep doing what you’re doing.

  4. Jill Q. says:

    Good for you for breaking the cycle by getting help for you and your little ones! I think recognizing an issue is really such a huge part of the battle. As scary as a “label” (for lack of better word) sounds, confronting an issue head on and dealing with it is usually so much easier (and stress-relieving in the long term!) then twisting and turning yourself into knots over it in an effort to “be normal.” Whatever that means!

  5. tinapj says:

    We learn how to be good parents by example, and sometimes that means not doing what our parents did! You are a great parent.

  6. Michelle says:

    That all sounds so familiar to me! My dad was in the military, so we moved around a lot, but he and my mom came from the same very small town in Arkansas. The fear of people talking about them never left either one of them. My uncle stayed in the small town. He lost his job at a bank sometime in the eighties and my aunt made him take his car to his mother’s apartment every day he was out of work so that the neighbors wouldn’t know.

    Since I viscerally recognize much of what you’re describing here, I’m going to recommend a book I just discovered last week that has already been revolutionary for me in dealing with my family. It’s The Narcissistic Family by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman. Neither of my parents had (has for my mom, who’s still alive) narcissistic personality disorder; that’s not what the book is saying. It’s about a narcissistic family system in which the needs of the parent system (looking good for outsiders, mitigating anxiety and/or depression, external validation, etc.) are met by the kid(s) rather than the parents meeting the needs of the kid(s). There are two kinds: overt, where there can be physical needs not met and gross neglect, and covert (which was my experience) where everything looks hunky-dory even on the inside of the family until you really start to look at the patterns.

    I’m also going to say something to you that my therapist said to me when I was afraid of being like my mother in relation to my anxiety/depression (not that you fear you are) and I honestly couldn’t tell her how I am different: You are different not only because you are seeking treatment and help for your children, but because you are seeking it for yourself. You are leading by example.

    You, my friend, are a wonderful mom.

  7. bethanylcm says:

    As someone who got her label as an adult and whose mother (in what was well-meant but badly advised) treated therapy like a punishment for me (i.e. “there’s something wrong with you, you need to be on medication” “I’ll go if you’ll go with me, this isn’t just me, Mom” “No, there’s nothing wrong with me. It’s all you. I’m a good mother”) which meant I didn’t go until college when a friend took it on himself to walk me to the therapist’s office for a few weeks until I could go on my own, you’re a good mom for getting your kids help and for normalizing therapy. Regardless of labels, it’s just a good thing to be comfortable with therapy.

    Also, not sure if I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but do your kids have a copy of “All Cats Have Aspergers”? LOVE the ADHD/Dogs one and my cousin (who has mild Aspergers) received the cat one from his mom after a student in her special ed class received a copy from their parent. It’s really nice for normalizing.

  8. I support you. Stay strong. I let my mom’s harsh, severe, judgments of me as a mother effect my kids life more than once and I’m sorry for each and every time I caved. Never doubt that in your mother bear love for them, you know what’s best.
    My mom was also motivated more by what other people thought than her and her childrens welfare.
    I hate that people think ld is laziness. Both my gkids have it and having been home school back up teacher I can tell you, they learn; but they learn differently. Period. End of story. If you think you know different, fuck you.
    Stay strong, sister. And I’m so glad you have SB in your corner and your girls have the two of you.

  9. lunarmom says:

    What others think of me has NEVER even crossed by mind. When my babies need help I go get it. And you do too. THAT is what makes a great mom.

  10. auntcarrot says:

    Ah, and don’t forget the loci of control. If learning disabilities are laziness, you can control it. You stay in charge. If mental illness is weakness, again, the control is yours. If, however, a learning disability or mental illness is reality, then, perhaps, just perhaps, you don’t have control over every aspect of your own life. That possibility is a scary, scary place for a lot of people.

  11. lora96litdiva says:

    oh what julie said. a lot.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s