I remember the day the ultrasound revealed that I was having a baby girl. I wept, not out of happiness. The world is cruel to girls and women and there’s so much to worry about; rape, harassment, abuse, domestic violence, etc. (not that those things can’t happen to boys). Society demands that girls and women be thin and gorgeous, wear ridiculous clothes designed by men to oogle the female body (thinking about the crop tops and booty shorts that seem to be in every clothing store lately).
There were so many external factors that had to be considered in her safety. I didn’t realize that I might be the biggest danger to her.
The condition is the most likely psychiatric disorder to be passed down from family, with genetic factors accounting for 80% of the cause of the illness. When the psychiatrist told me that, I immediately felt a sense of guilt. I was sure I would pass this on to the Bear.
I’ve always been very open with my daughter about all things, my past and my mental illnesses. It was important to me that there were no stigmas or myths in our house, that we would be educated and able to help each other and anyone else in crisis. I wanted her to build a capacity for empathy and compassion for anyone she came across that society deems ‘crazy’ or ‘nutty’.
When she was 9 years old she went through a rough patch of anxiety which is common for that age. Children start to understand the concept of death and according to her psychologist she was worried that I would pass away when she wasn’t with me. She would be inconsolable if we were separated. She refused to go to her father’s house. It was heartbreaking for everyone involved. Therapy helped and she was able to rebound back to her bubbly self. But I worry…was that an indicator?
When I received my diagnosis, we sat down and had a very honest conversation. I told her about the condition and how it needed to be treated with medication. I explained that I likely inherited it from Grandpa Robert and that there was a chance that she might get it from me. I apologized and cried a bit.
I told her that we needed to keep an eye on her moods and that if she ever felt like she was depressed or worse, that she needed to talk to me. She was approaching her teens and that was when my symptoms first started manifesting. I assured her that if she ever needed help, we would do whatever needed to be done. I didn’t want her to suffer like I had.
She’s 13 now. Gorgeous, funny and smart. It’s hard to tell how she’s doing sometimes because she has full on hit the teenager moody stage. She can spend entire days in her bedroom, coming out only to scavenge for food like a feral animal. When she graces us with her presence she can be super amazing, smiling and cracking jokes. Other times she can be shrouded in brooding sarcasm and rolling eyes (lord help me).
I check in with her often though, asking how she’s doing mentally. There are fights with friends and boy drama, hormones and girl stuff to contend with. It’s a lot to navigate. I hope she knows that I’m here for her. I worry though. I guess I just need to take comfort in the fact that I’m aware of how this presents in teenagers from my own experience. That I’m watching and waiting to see if she falters. My little Bear…
Stay tuned for my next post, ‘Gifts From My Father’…