Tomorrow I will go with Darrin to bring Tabitha home. I've missed my daughter.
What I haven't missed is the constant stress of wondering if she's safe, not knowing how to help or support her, and wanting desperately to be released from the pain of daily life with her. When we left Tabitha at the managed care center, I felt as though someone had wrenched my guts out and I thought I might drown in the constant tears. Three months later I resurfaced. I had mourned the temporary loss of my daughter and begun to reassemble my life. I realized at that point that the thought of her coming back any time soon sent me into a panic attack that was completely unmanageable.
Nine months later, knowing she's coming back home, I still experience panic, but it's minor. I'm excited to have her home.
And I'm afraid.
I never want to feel that my life is not my own--that I'm held hostage to Tabitha's mood swings and tantrums and that nothing I do to regain control or prevent being sucked in is effective.
I don't want to wake up in the morning, dreading the day and wanting only to go back to sleep--forever.
I never want to be in a place again where, should my daughter threaten suicide repeatedly, my gut reaction is: Please. Please just do it so I can be released from the constant agony of not knowing if you will.
I don't want to feel that I must shield everyone I love from the nightmare of my life, that there is no help for me, that I am sentenced to sadness and desperation forever.
I believe Tabitha has made progress. I think acknowledging the sexual molestation that occurred when she was a child has helped. I think she will come home and try to make a good life for herself.
However, while Tabitha has been gone, I've made some decisions. Darrin's not thrilled with all of them, but he didn't bear the brunt of Tabitha's behavior the past two years. He just checked out--and I don't blame him at all. I wish I could have done the same, but probably, had I chosen that, Tabitha would not be coming home tomorrow, or ever.
Decision One: I am not Tabitha's therapist. I do not have to make anything better for her. She must do this for herself. She knows I love her and I support her. That has to be enough.
Decision Two: Should Tabitha's behavior begin to escalate to the point where it is clear that nothing I do or say is helpful, I will walk away. She is an adult now. It is her responsibility to find healthy ways to cope with stress. When she is calm again, I will come back.
Decision Three: Tabitha has at least three months of aftercare, during which she will have therapy visits through Skype and the phone. I insist that she carry through with this. There is also and eight-month option. If she needs further help after the three month mark, I will insist on the eight-month option. If she chooses not to take advantage of this (because she is an adult, she does not have to do what I say), I will ask her to find lodging elsewhere. I can never again live the life I had a year ago.
Decision Four: I will continue to make my health and healing a priority--perhaps above everything else. I must carry through with the physical therapy so that my body will again be whole, and I must continue to become emotionally healthy. I cannot allow Tabitha's homecoming to interrupt this process.
While I understand that the above list sounds egocentric, I also do not apologize for this. I nearly lost myself during Tabitha's crisis. Had she remained in our home even one more month, I worry that I might not have recovered.
Therapist asked me if I've been able to work through the trauma of many of the events. I think I have. I don't know that I'm finished. If you are reading this, I will say that what follows might not be something you wish to know, but it is something I wish to write. I suppose that's a warning not to continue if unpleasant details bother you. However, Therapist reminded me that part of healing is acknowledging not only what has happened, but how it has affected me. So the rest of this post will be random thoughts and memories. I'm purging.
After Tabitha left, I decided I needed to clean her room. It was filthy. She's never been good about cleaning it, but when her emotional stamina left, her room became unlivable. I threw away, half-eaten food, used tissues, wrappers of all sorts, used sanitary napkins--I was appalled that she had made many of the messes. There were stacks of paper filled with morbid, twisted poems that made her seem so unbalanced and extreme. I stopped reading and I threw the poems away. Then I came upon the saved stash of bloody tissues used when she was cutting. As is normal for me, I methodically and unemotionally placed the dark red tissues into the trash bag. Then I vacuumed the floor, wiped down the surfaces and left the room.
Later, I cried. What happened to my beautiful Tabitha? I think at that point, even though she had yet to tell me, I knew there was more than she was letting ut know. Her arms, legs, and stomach were laddered with scars. And I didn't know what that meant in terms of who I am. What could cause such an extreme need to cope? How could I, the overprotective mother, not know what happened? I was unable to go into Tabitha's room for more than a week.
I had nightmares. Lots of them. I was driving alone in my car at night. It was calm and quiet. Then I heard gagging noises and Tabitha was in the passenger seat. The seatbelt was twisted about her neck and choking her. I cried out, "Tabitha, take off your seatbelt!" Then I realized she was doing this to herself, carefully clicking the seatbelt tighter and tighter. She would lose consciousness briefly, then tighten the belt again. I woke up.
I was in my bed. Tabitha was at the care center. But I was left with the knowledge that the nightmare wasn't a nightmare at all. It was real. The memories would come flooding back, along with the knowledge that in the moment I felt nothing at all. I hadn't told Tabitha to take off her seatbelt. I changed directions and drove directly to the hospital, certain that at some point Tabitha would lose consciousness for a longer period of time, at which point I could release the seatbelt and she would live. This happened as we parked in the hospital lot. I released the belt and carried my daughter into the emergency room.
Much later, hours and hours later, while we waited to see if a room would be made available for my daughter, Tabitha said quietly, "Mom, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." She was crying. I don't remember moving toward her, but the next moment I was lying next to my daughter in her narrow hospital bed, holding her tightly. I stroked her hair and kissed her. I told her she was beautiful. I talked about all the things that made me love her. She sobbed and so did I. She said, "Mom, there's something wrong with me." I said, "Yes." She said, "I'm not getting better." I nodded. She said, "I don't know what to do." I felt my heart break as I said, "I'm sorry, Tabitha. Neither do I."
I think in that moment, I felt I had completely lost my daughter. I could do nothing more to help her. I had failed.
I remember the feeling of being beaten down, time and time again. I lost my job because I was unable to concentrate. The insurance denied all claims in regards to Tabitha's care and hospitalizations. People who know me would ask about her and when I would tell them of our desperate situation, it was too much. They would express sympathy and quickly close the conversation. My siblings and parents became overwhelmed with health and family problems of their own. Some of my support people outside of my family became busy with their lives and less available to me. I felt abandoned and hopeless.
Today is better. There are still nightmares and minor panic attacks. I have found out which people stick with me even when my life is messy and desperate. But I'm getting the help I need to heal. I feel optimistic while being realistic, which is normal for me. I'm in the process of cleaning up the financial mess created by Tabitha's problems. I no longer feel intense longings to dissociate. I also have to acknowledge that all of the positive movement has come at an incredibly painful price.
I don't know what the future will bring. At some point I will need to finish my emotional healing. Based on past experience, I'm fairly certain what I need for that. I'm also fairly certain that it will never happen. So I'm looking at my current state of being and wondering if it's "good enough." I think, maybe, it is.