Sunday, September 27, 2009

And Then There Were Two

I have to say that I have approached this blog with the philosophy that Kelsey's story is now mine to tell, as though she abdicated it to me. I feel speaking out about her and how we handled her disease (or didn't handle it, as the case may be) is what I have to offer to other parents, and that I have an obligation to put it out there. I need to tell it for my own sake, there is no doubt; to work it out, spit it out, deal with it and then to move on from it if I can. But, in addition, I truly hope some parent comes to me someday and says their son or daughter is on the way to recovery partially because of something I said or wrote. That I somehow spurred them to act where they might not have done so otherwise. That's my little dream. But, with Marissa, her life is still, thankfully, playing out. So, I figure I should allow her a measure of privacy and not go into the complete gory details of her teenage years without her permission. I believe I can tell you about the parenting side and the things we went through together, and you can allow your imagination to fill in some of the details I don't feel she would want me to write out. The thing about it is, if you can imagine it, she probably did it. This sweet, diminutive, doe eyed girl fell down a very deep, dark hole for a long time. Whenever we would introduce ourselves to a new group in her various treatments, there was an audible shock when she would tell her brief history. Parents, particular fathers I noticed, would come up to me afterwards and ask if it was true. They seemed to find it hard to believe that such an angelic creature could be in that fix.

Most of you who know me know her as well, and vice-versa, since, perhaps oddly, her struggles never pushed us apart, and hence you probably know most of it anyway. Where Kelsey rebelled and pushed herself away from us, Marissa never really did. Different personalities coupled with us being in a different place in our own evolution as parents. None of us left in our family are blind to the reality that Marissa received some advantages to Kelsey's having blazed a trail. Of course, we still made mistakes. Early on, when Marissa's actions were more episodic than truly addictive, I reacted in my typical totally clueless manner. I think I may have even said to her, "I can't believe you're doing this to me." If I didn't say it, I thought it. And, let me be clear here, I am now very well aware that neither of my two daughters were trying to do anything to their father or me. They were merely trying to struggle through issues and feelings that they were way too young to handle or understand coupled with addictive personalities. And, then, as I think I've touched on before, once I did catch a clue that my children needed me more than they needed to know I was a successful businesswoman, I swung the pendulum too far the other way. Marissa and I have often joked that if you look up the definition of co-dependent in the dictionary, our pictures would be there. She would tend to retire into isolation to try and avoid placing herself in situations where she knew she would be tempted to relapse. I, for my part, am naturally shy and will tend to retreat to a very small world if I let myself. So, we would be each other's company, doing just about everything together. Of all the things I've worked on as a parent of troubled teens, that's been the hardest. Keeping her close seemed to be the safest thing to do. But, trying to let go of that led her to choose initially a college clear across the country and now, even though she's enrolled locally, it was a no-brainer that we would place her in the dorm. I'm not all that anxious to work through my co-dependent issues right now, but her young life has been interrupted enough by all of this, and she needs to spread her wings a little and live her own life. Ironically (notice I use that word a lot - our lives seemed filled with irony), she engaged in the most dangerous of her activities right under my nose in this very house. So, keeping her close didn't really work for us. Having her enrolled in a Lutheran private college seems to be the better option.

I will say this about my daughters and their addictions of choice: they both dabbled with an array of things to try and self medicate, if you will. Kelsey, in the end, chose the eating disorder as what suited her best. She still had issues controlling alcohol, she still cut, and she dabbled in drugs probably more than I knew, and I knew enough. And everything was exaggerated because her health was so compromised because of the bulimia. Marissa, on the other hand, chose another path. But, not before dabbling in all those behaviors first. That natural competitiveness in them turned dark and deadly. In probably the most complex twist in our family dynamic, the two girls who truly loved one another more than anything or anyone else in the world and hated to see the other one suffer, were constantly trying to one-up each other. Whatever bad, self-destructive thing Kelsey would find to do, Marissa would up the ante. And their father and I were scrambling around trying to pick up the pieces and keep them breathing. It would not have been easy even if we had better parenting skills from the beginning. And obviously, in the end, we didn't succeed. Those were dark days. I always was grateful for Mother's stubborn sense of independence back then. Adding her care to the mix would have done me in. As it was, I neglected her in ways I would like to think I would not have otherwise done. I am paying the price for that stubborn streak now, but I know it kept me from just caving in for a long time, so I remain thankful.

You know, often in the last year, friends have said to me, most sincerely, "God only gives what you what have the strength to handle." My response has consistently been, "I think God over-estimates my strength." I would like to submit a vacation request to God to quit giving me things to "handle" for a little while. But, I think the response might be that I need to make do with the little gifts I get, like two Super Bowl titles in the last half decade, and continue to walk the path I was meant to walk, no matter how rocky it is. So, maybe I'll modify the request to just ask for a little help with my fantasy league team this week. Being in last place isn't helping my coping skills any.

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