Has my difficult child woken up from her long sleep? (long post!)

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well, yesterday I went over to see my difficult child's new place. There was a part of me that didn't want to see it, because once seen, then I would have to think about that in the long night bumming out that she is in an unsafe "dump." My SO said what he always says, which makes me laugh, "gird your loins!" So, I girded my loins and bit the bullet and went.

    OK, so I had to remember that her two roommates are young (30ish) guys. And, having 3 brothers I am aware of how guys live, so I had to take that into account. Dishes in the sink, a vacuum likely hadn't graced the floors in awhile, a huge back yard which needed some serious work, but OMG, it's a fairly nice place! She has the back room which looks like it was once a porch, lots of windows, a sliding glass door leading to a wooden deck with the potential of a fantastic garden right outside her door. Her own entrance, and it's very large too. And, all for $300 a month. Are you kidding me? This is a find! And, she found it on her own!

    I hung out for awhile, something I SERIOUSLY am not used to doing, I usually split pretty quick out of her life because I can't take the drama or the surroundings. But, it was a spring day, the sun is shining, she looks beautiful and we are just chatting about curtains, rugs, all the creative things she could do with this really interesting and unique space.

    As you may remember me saying, my daughter's husband committed suicide in 2000 and that was the beginning of the downward spiral. She subsequently lost her job, then her home, her two step daughters were taken away by the other grandmother and I got permanent guardianship of my granddaughter. Along the way she lost more too, friends, most of her belongings, etc. She made some seriously horrible choices and acted badly A LOT. Then came the jail time in January of this year and her staying with me for a few weeks and me having to step up to the plate with my new found detachment armor and setting some pretty distinct boundaries...... and then ultimately asking her to leave. Then, as you may recall, I left town for 2 weeks, leaving her homeless and living in her car with her 4 cats, the most challenging thing I've ever had to do as far as parenting is concerned.

    In anther post today I read someone make the comment about detachment being devastating, and I can say, from the depth of my being, 'devastation' is an understatement as to the pain in ones heart.

    However, while away, I think it all shifted (doing a happy dance here) and yesterday, there she is, looking like my daughter, the one I had to let go of so long ago, the pretty, funny, smart, healthy person she was long ago. Not to say, she isn't intense, and her own, unique self, but I had a (dare I say??) normal conversation in a normal way and it was NICE!

    I had been thinking about helping her pay for her storage unit to get what she has left of her belongings out. Yesterday, she was exhibiting the behavior of someone who is making attempts to start a new life. She was also having what I would consider "healthy" responses to external issues. I know how upset she's been to not be able to pay for the unit and it's been locked until payment is made so she couldn't access her belongings. I told her I would pay for it. We're meeting the guy today and she will gain access to the unit and be able to move her stuff into her new place.

    If what my therapist has been telling me about the difference between loving kindness and enabling is that with loving kindness you feel good and with enabling you feel bad, is right, then all the good feelings I got from saying I would help her, is more credence to that theory. It just feels really good. My difficult child is helping herself, and helping her to get her life back on some track, feels like the thing you would easily do for a easy child. And, another significant difference is that I don't feel resentment, I feel enthusiastic.

    I can't remember the last time I was with my difficult child when we just talked easily, (without drama) and I actually enjoyed myself and had no problem staying. She showed me material she is using for the windows, talked about stuff she has in storage which she can use to beautify her new place, she had a sense of pride in herself and I haven't seen that in so long. As I write this, there are tears in my eyes because I am so optimistic (although cautiously!) for her to start ANY kind of life where she feels good.

    I have always envied all the moms who got to share all those intimate moments and wonderful life adventures, like going away looking at colleges, baby showers, hanging out together, special times only mothers and daughter's share. My daughter's intensity, drama and the HUGE wedge between us, (my angers and resentments of her not fulfilling what my dreams were for her, and her angers and resentments at me for not seeing her underneath my dreams for her), kept us WORLDS apart. In addition, of course, to the bad choices she made which had a negative impact on me and everyone around her. The last 3 months have certainly been tough, no doubt about that, maybe 3 of the toughest months I've ever had. We went through so much, she and I, and I think, we came out the other side, just simply accepting each other. She is who she is. Is she who I thought she SHOULD be? No. I had to let that one go. She is herself. She will have to work out the rather large cavern between she and her daughter. But, that is their issue, not mine. I guess I've learned to love her the way she is. And, maybe she has done that with me too. Two strong women trying to find a bridge to stand on where the raging waters beneath don't drown them.

    I am hoping to be a part of her life now. Different then before, just try to enjoy her and what she tells me is important to her. It may be premature, but I do believe she is on a different path. However, whatever path she is on, I am only a visitor, I am not a cop standing in the middle directing it, like I used to think I HAD to do. I'm on the sidelines feeling pretty good. For the first time in about 12 years. Sigh.

    And, for those of you who responded to my post about my "empty" feeling, thank you. I am feeling much better. It is a phase in all of this, and truly it is odd, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel. All that space inside me which has been preoccupied with the care of others, mostly children, for my entire life, is now empty. Yikes. A good yikes though, a new beginning for me too.
  2. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I can't even remember how long it has been such I read such a happy post. An unexpected happy post. I have a genuine smile on my face for you and all your family. How wonderful it will be if she can maintain. Sending hopeful hugs. DDD
  3. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    Such a nice update. I truly hope she is finally moving on. She deserves to be happy after so much tragedy in her life. You deserve to be happy after so much worry and pain. Praying that she continues to look to the future wih happy anticipation. -RM
  4. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm smiling too! Such a great post to read. I'm so happy that things are going so well for your daughter, and for you, right now.
  5. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Such a great update! I'm happy for both of you. Hugs to you and congratulations for all the hard work and challenges you have successfully faced.
  6. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Hi RE,
    First, what a wonderful post. I love the "gird your loins" warning! You just sound relaxed, peaceful and in a very good place, and your daughter seems to be coming out of her long spiral.
    So can you tell me...what happened? Was there one particular thing that precipitated this rise for her? From reading your previous posts a month ago or longer, she was really out there for a very long time, and entrenched in a very sad lifestyle. Do you think living outside in the tent was the final straw? She really seems to have pulled it together, and seems very resourceful.
    I joke (halfheartedly) that my son needs a head transplant, but no one does that operation. It truly sounds like she had at least a partial head transplant (lol). After all that time, I'm just amazed. To what do you attribute this remarkable turn of events?
  7. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911

    That was truly an amazing read. Inspirational, hopeful, wonderful and well-deserved and earned for you both.

    Puts a tally mark in the - IT CAN happen column. Not easy by any means but look what 12 years of perserverence and prayers can do. I think a lot of times when our kids finally get to the lowest point in their life it's then they reach for the highest person they remember - and then the healing begins. Like flippin' flapjacks on a freshly painted wall - I hope this sticks.

    Happy for your happiness!
  8. Wow! What a wonderful and inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing that.

    Gives me hope that although this may be a long road with our difficult child that I can keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

    And a great lesson on having insight into my expectations of who I think he should become and who he may become.

    Thank you!
  9. FlowerGarden

    FlowerGarden Active Member

    Such a terrific update! I am so happy for both of you. Your post gives me hope that one day I maight have the same happiness.
  10. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    A truly amazing update! :)

    I'm so happy for both you and her. I hope she can keep her feet on this positive path without too many stumbles along the way.

  11. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks everyone, for your enthusiastic support!

    Calamity Jane- I've been pondering your questions, trying to put together in my mind, how it all happened. I tend towards being analytical myself, so the whys are always interesting to me. I don't think there was "one particular thing" I think it was a series of events and then changes which precipitated the shifts in my daughter. Bear in mind, that I believe she has some mental/emotional issues, but since she has never been diagnosed, I am only guessing. Since I grew up with a Bipolar Dad and a depressed Mom and have a Bipolar/Aspergers/Some type of amnesia sister and a paranoid schizophrenic brother in addition to nieces/nephews and cousins who are in some mentally ill category too, I have been privy to behavioral issues and I have also done a lot of research and then add in my own therapy and I think I have a fairly good take on what's going on. My guess is my daughter suffers from severe adult ADHD maybe PTSD, maybe bipolar.

    Then there was the mother/daughter issues we dealt with, my lack of acceptance of who she is, my contribution to her sense of entitlement because of my guilt over her Dad and my divorce, my enabling her and the resentments (on both sides) that creates, and all the trauma she experienced after her husbands death, all contributed to a cocktail of (pardon the expression) 'craziness' for her to deal with.

    My sense is that the incarceration was the initial wake-up call. Not posting bail was certainly a surprise to her since I had almost always bailed her out of most things. Then allowing her to stay with us but giving VERY VERY strict boundaries which I then ENFORCED. I had always been a soft-hearted parent who would not follow through on punishments. Well, those days were over.
    She was literally not given access to our home because of bad choices she made.

    In the time she spent with us, she and I had some really hard talks, where we both admitted our parts and really listened to the other. Because of the angers and resentments, that was really hard, but we did it. I believe those kinds of conversations do much to shift some concrete kind of thinking and offer a healing, for both of us.

    Then I left town. While away, I wrote her an email after she let me know she had, in my opinion, reached her bottom the night she was cold and hungry in her car with no money. My SO keeps bringing this up, so I will mention it, he believes what I said in the email was a factor in her turnaround, I said, "honey, this is not who you are." That's it. He felt that that line really reached her because it was from my heart and it was true. Right after that, while we were away she began making changes.

    So, in a 3 month period there were many changes. One thing I've learned in my therapy group and here, is that we, as parents, have a lot of difficulty in the process of letting go of our kids. It is clearly the hardest thing any of us are asked to do, and we hold on in so many ways, no judgment here, just what I see in myself, and in others, letting go is against everything we know to be real and good. I really needed so much help and support to do that, it has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. For me, and I want to be clear that this is my particular path, we all have different kids with different issues, so we all have to come to our own conclusions, but for me, it was also letting go and detaching from what my own desires/thoughts/beliefs/judgments/criticisms/"mother rightness" about who my daughter is and what her best path is. For me, the detachment process was certainly about letting her go into her life, but it was letting her go her own way, even if it meant living in her car with her cats. My judgments of that (and there were initially many) were irrelevant if that is what she chose.

    My group therapist taught me a lot about my own part of all of this, my own very strong ideas about how life is, what the "right" way to do life is, to do anything is. My daughter showed me that I was not accepting who she was. She was crying one day on the floor of the room she was staying in, and I think I mentioned it before, she was pleading with me to see her, not through my mothers eyes, but to really see who she is. And, you know what, I did. Maybe for the first time. Underneath all my enabling and non acceptance of her, my guilt, my resentments, my angers at her for not doing (pretty much) anything "right." I think that day was another turning point. I had a therapist tell me that kids will do almost anything to have the approval of their parents.

    Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is that not only did my difficult child change, but I changed too. The biggest change? Acceptance of her and her choices even though I didn't agree with them. I can set boundaries around her choices for me, but I needed to accept the choices she made for her. I didn't have to agree with them. So, for me, my part has been about acceptance. The only power I ever really had was to change myself, my expectations of her, my stance on what is right for her, and to let go. When I add it all up, I guess I believe that in letting go of all of it, and changing my way of looking at it, and accepting her for who she is, was my way through it and perhaps, my difficult child's way out. Time will tell.
  12. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Well-Known Member

    Dear RE,
    WOW...what a journey for all of you. I know I can learn so much just by reading and then re-reading your post. It's simply amazing. If she hasn't pursued it already, it might be beneficial for your daughter to see a therapist on an ongoing basis, to continue getting her bearings. If this works out, what a gift it will be for your granddaughter. Thanks for sharing your very moving story and for your kindness to everyone on this board.
  13. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What a wonderful post and I can feel your emotion. For me the difference is when they are helping themselves we don't mind helping them, I don't consider it enabling at all. I am so thrilled that you were able to enjoy the time together. It has been a very long road, you've been through the worst of times with her and I am so hoping you are now entering the best of times.

    Yay for difficult child and may it continue.

  14. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you. It's unlikely that my difficult child will go to therapy, I would just love it if she did, but, she does not believe in therapy and that is one of those dreams I had to let go of. However, you mentioned my granddaughter. Now she is a gift. She has seen me go through all of this, and her mother too, I have explained it to her, honestly, always letting her know how valuable her feelings are and how none of this was her fault nor could she have made a difference in the outcome. I have also always respected her boundaries with her mom, and yet let her know that mine, as a MOM are different. I've told her what it's like to have a child who is difficult and does bad things, but how it never impacts your love for them. She can't really get that until she has kids of her own I think, but she always listens. She did the most amazing thing when we had a family talk, my difficult child, my SO, my granddaughter and me. She said everything that was inside her to her mom that day. She got right to the point, told her mom exactly how she felt. At the end, when we were alone, she said, "I told Mom everything I ever wanted to say to her." She looked visibly relieved and different. In that moment I thought, she is going to be just fine. If I had had that opportunity when I was 15 with someone supporting me to tell the truth and unburden myself to the source of the pain, I would not have needed 20 years of therapy. I am very proud of her. With all the trauma in her life, losing her Dad when she was 3 1/2, losing her mom to insanity, losing her sisters to their other grandmother, and then landing with me, she could have gone down a very different road. But honestly, she is a really happy kid, does very well in school, has healthy good friends, is charming and funny and very likable. I raised my sister and my daughter and they both succumbed to some kind of mental illness, and boy did I blame myself for that for a long time. But I don't anymore, and my granddaughter is showing me that I can do some parenting right and the results can be wonderful. She is a gem, a joy and she brings both my SO and I a lot of laughter and fun. (Sorry, I just had to brag a little about her. Thanks.)