Every now and then I get a glimpse that I am not alone in our fight here behind our front door, and it selfishly feels good and is freeing. Then I get a little sad, because I realize someone else has a life that is hard, frustrating, heartbreaking, and more than a little overwhelming. I don’t wish that on anyone. I had a Momma break-down-without-anyone-noticing moment recently when my mask was called upon to really do a a hell of a job protecting my dignity. I wanted to break down in tears and instead had to continue to sit and be not just mom, but a smart, intelligent parent who appeared to have a clue what was going on in my daughter’s life. I am supposed to know those things after all. I am ashamed to say, I realized that I have misunderstood some of what my daughter has told me for 15 years of her life. I got what she said, but I never understood the severity of it. It was during a standard question and answer portion of her medication review with her psychiatrist, and it hit me like being slammed into a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. It’s a normal monthly appointment where we check to make sure the meds she’s taking both works for her still and that there are no questions, health changes, and that all the “understoods” are actually understood. So when the doctor said, “Do you ever feel like you are being watched,” the answer is always yes. My daughter feels on display constantly. Anywhere we go she feels like it’s a red carpet moment. She feels unable to blend in, instead feeling intensely that all eyes are fixed on her at all times. It can be overwhelming just running in the store to grab a gallon of milk. Running errands is fear-facing therapy sessions for us.
But when she said, “yes” this time, she added an explanation that changed everything. She said that it was hard for her to simply change the wallpaper on her iPad because she was afraid what “they” would think, so she always chooses something that she thinks won’t be “judged” when seen. I asked if she meant seen by her dad and I, or her brother and sister. She said no… she meant by “them.” Reality began to dawn on me, because she has no contact with anyone except us on a daily basis, and after a long question and answer session, we arrived at an understanding that she felt, though never having seen the movie, “The Truman Show,” she was Truman, and every camera possible was hidden somewhere unseen, and somehow it was even possible to look through her own eyes and see what she sees and watch her every move. It was as if she were a personal reality show that could be watched, “The life of Lindsey” show, and all of THEM were watching it all the time, day and night. THEY were not nice either, but harsh and judgmental. THEY were always looking to pick her apart. There was never a time someone was NOT watching her. My brilliant daughter has to sit just so in her room where she does school tucked away, so that who ever is watching will see her working away diligently and not judge her lazy or stupid. She has trouble just relaxing and not performing for “them” constantly. She feels their eyes like you do when you get a sense of someone staring at you and the hairs on your neck stand up. She is overwhelmed and taxed to the max somedays and she doesn’t even know why, all she knows is that the feeling of someone peeking around the corner or watching from the corner of the room, just out of sight, is so intense she is almost unable to function. I can not imagine living under that stress. She didn’t realize everyone didn’t feel that way. She assumed everyone did. Now many things suddenly make sense. It makes sense and I am intensely sad. I knew that once she had great trouble with worry about being watched and we put a special lock on the bathroom door, thinking this would fix it. It fixed the fear of someone coming in, but never the fear of someone watching. I thought if she knew no one could come in, then she would not feel someone was watching anymore. The fact I never truly understood the extent of her personal hell just brought me to my parenting knees. Honestly? It brought me to my human knees. I would have been broken if it were not my own child. The fact it is my own girl just breaks me in ways I can’t put words to. Then I came across a book I have to go find. I want to go get it for my daughter and for me to read this summer. Not an easy read, but one I really want to dive into. It’s called “Remnants of a life on Paper” and is written by a mother with her daughter’s diary as they traveled through the difficult roads of growing and struggling together with Borderline Personality Disorder. Found over at http://remnantsofalife.com As is so often the case, ours overlaps with eating disorders and BiPolar Disorder, and OCD. For whatever reason, these disorders all often come on the heels of each other. Maybe because they all play off anxiety and fears.
Regardless, it is hard for my kid. It is hard for me, my husband, and her siblings. It is tough for our extended families to understand our life at home. It’s hard to explain because we have all gotten good at masking up the reality, going to visit and enjoy the outing, then coming home to reality and dealing with the vast array of fears and anxieties that come with trying to live every day life.
The hardest thing however is the complete stupidity that exists outside these walls of ours. The lack of understanding of what mental illness is. It’s not just a few kids who decide to go on a killing rampage. It’s a beautiful girl with long red hair, with a mass of freckles, strikingly gorgeous green eyes, and the only thing killer about her is her smile. She can knock you flat with her grin. She can take your breath away with her giggle and her laugh will flat out make you wish you could do anything, instantly, to gain it one more time, to hear her laugh with abandon. This girl is amazing, brilliant, artistic, and I’m not just being a mom here, she is precious and needed by this world. She struggles to even put her toe out into it, because she knows how harsh it is. Mental illness is just chemistry of the brain that makes if function differently than the majority of the population. It makes it harder to do “normal” things and harder to think clearly. It does not mean less intelligent nor stupid. Just gonna keep plugging away at loving my girl, and you have a friend here if you need one. Know I understand how hard life can get behind that pretty exterior door you shut when life gets rough. But being there for your kid matters. And that is the most important thing you can do. Just love them and be there. Day after day. We will get through this thing called life, together.