Reading your response made me tear up, because trying to undo damage I inflicted on my kids during a mental health crisis is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I know that my daughter, in particular, suffered damage due to both my shaky mental health and the resulting addictions. Additionally, because I fell apart, she was left with her father, who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (proudly) for far too long without me to protect her. Not only does she have justified anger regarding my breakdown, she has developed many of her dad’s narcissistic traits. She’s 13 and this all took place when she was seven, so I’ve had a lot of time to try and make amends and to counter his influence, but it’s a slow and painful road.
I struggle constantly to find the line between accepting the guilt and bearing the sole burden of blame for her unhappiness, and setting boundaries and an expectation that she treat me with respect in our home.
I DO feel terrible that she was hurt, and of course I want to kiss her boo boos and make everything better but that’s naive. The truth is that the world can be cruel, and life isn’t fair, and either we let that turn us bitter and distrustful forever, or we regroup, get stronger and learn new life lessons, and we press on. And at some point, we are all of us responsible for our own happiness or lack thereof.
Most people in my life let go of any lingering doubts that I have changed years ago. It doesn’t even come up. I’m not that woman today, and no one who met me now would guess I ever was. My brother is the exception. He got drunk this summer and forgot to fake nice with me, and I realized when I read his words that it won’t matter how many years I’m sober, or successful, or normal (ish) or happy or well. To him, it will always be 2009 and I’ll always be a fuck up. Even the ex, and my (even raging-er narcissist) dad have let that shit go. If anyone was going to beat me with my past forever, I figured it would have been them.
At some point, continuing blame today for something that happened years ago becomes both counterproductive and abusive, and it has to be addressed as such. I can only live in shame and regret over the past for so long before that leads me right back to what I crawled up out of, and I won’t go back there for anyone. Not even my daughter. I’ve begged her forgiveness, and been as fair and consistent a parent as I can. I’ve promised her that I’d never let those things happen again. Now all I can do is keep that promise. What she does with that is irrelevant. I’ve genuinely done all the footwork I can to become healthy and remain that way. That is ALL I can do.
My daughter has a great therapist, and we work hard at promoting an atmosphere of honesty tempered with compassion. It’s a struggle; empathy is something, for her, that must be taught and retaught. She is missing some vital stuff, and that does terrify me. I want her to know that she matters, and that her voice will always be heard by me, whether I like what she’s saying or not. She can be brutally honest, but as someone who wasn’t EVER allowed to disagree or speak up about what went on at home, I want her to know she can be transparent; that nothing happens here that carries the kind of shame she should want to hide. It’s not all roses and sunshine, but we progress. She’s carefully monitored for signs of bipolar disorder, and we work continually to modify the disordered thinking she’s come by honestly.
The bottom line, though, is this:
I have control over two things: my attitude, and my behavior. That’s it. She controls hers.
I do dread the day she requires medication to manage her moods; I know it’s almost inevitable. And I’m going to want to control that. And I can’t. All I can do is monitor, and guide. And pray.
I anticipate some really difficult days ahead, but I believe absolutely that on the other side, she and I will be okay.