I JUST WANT MY DAUGHTER
A heartfelt story of a mother's
struggle to overcome fear, confusion, anger, guilt and
frustration in the midst of her daughter's battle with a
devastating mental illness. How we came to terms through love,
courage, perseverance and hope as we struggled to learn how to
live with Bipolar-1 Disorder.
This is a work of non-fiction.
Character's names outside of immediate family have been
modified to protect their anonymity. All other names are
accurate and events are written to the best of my knowledge and
Copyright © 2009 B.C. Levinson
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may
be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means
electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or
any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be
invented, without the written permission from the author,
except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in
connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine,
newspaper, or broadcast.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication
ISBN : 144213979X
EAN-13 : 9781442139794
Printed and Published in the United States of America
Additional information, please
For my grandson, who has brought
such immense joy to my life and brought us through a time when
joy was something needed so greatly. Thank you for being a
constant precious miracle. I cherish you most of all.
For my daughter, who continually
inspires and motivates me in my own struggle with the
insignificant burdens of my world. Thank you for understanding
my many failures and appreciating my heartfelt efforts. You
make me so proud.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
My quest for a form of
The perfect child.
A great pre- teen.
A confident Young Lady.
The beginning of something
Finding the right meds.
Thinking she's okay?
Everything falls apart.
Re-stabilizing to Pregnancy.
A child is born.
The transformation begins.
Can she do it?
My hope continues.
A new beginning.
CHAPTER 1 August 1999
Saturdays are my oasis, a reprieve
from the incessant heat of another week at work. Sleeping later than usual, sitting on my
back porch and slowly sipping coffee is my way of finding balance.
Days where there's no problems to solve, no crisis that can't wait.
Saturdays I'm usually just like a kite, floating in the breeze but
this morning nothing seems to be going right, somehow things feel
tense and scattered, all at the same time.
As I climb the stairs to check in on
Steph, the quietness in her room makes me uneasy. As I reach the
top of the stairs, I notice the usually sparse living area is
cluttered with what appears to be, most of her belongings. I'm
bewildered by the lack of neatness that has always been her
trademark. Stepping over piles of crumpled clothes and a homecoming
corsage that has held a prominent place on her bulletin board for
almost a year; I approach the darkened corner room. Having two
teenagers, the lack of commotion only magnifies the quiet
stillness- moms just know silence can be deafening.
"Steph honey, are you up yet?"
Peering inside, I scan the walls and shelves. For a moment, I
assume she must be reorganizing her room again. Gradually, I become
aware of the emptiness of what was once a perfectionist dream. It
feels odd to me that her favorite comforter is bunched up in the
far corner, but a closer look reveals messy strands of chestnut
hair and one white knuckled hand.
Standing there in her doorway, I
almost miss her clutching the comforter like her life depends on
it. Staring off into space, she is mumbling, her eyes as vacant as
her room, saying nothing and everything. For a moment, it feels
like I have walked into someone else's room, that I am looking at a
stranger. I stand there blinking, looking around to find something
that reveals some sense of normalcy. Nothing about this picture
seems right in my mind, only the corsage and the familiar comforter
pull me back to certainty. In this moment, on this Saturday, I know
Steph has slipped away, to where, I don't know-but I would do
anything to get her back. Seeing her so out of her element,
trembling uncontrollably, I realize I don't know who is frightened
more, me or my little girl.
This particular Saturday will always
make me think of a fierce storm. Warnings are always given but like
many who get caught off guard, I've ignored them. I didn't
understand the magnitude of the danger it could bring, I'm still
not sure what is happening. Now as I'm staring in the face of this
storm, I can feel its power tearing and twisting at my papier-mâché
fortress. Our lives are crumbling before my eyes and I don't know
where to turn.
Despite all the warnings, I find
myself totally unprepared for the devastation this storm is
bringing to my home. Being an
accountant and office manager, analyzing and solving problems come
easy for me so this shouldn't have caught me by surprise, but it
did. Even the phrase there's a method to my madness annoys me. I'd
rather just eliminate the madness. Of course when it comes to my
daughter, to do away with the madness I must first acknowledge the
chaos. Denial can be such a potent word.
All my life I have been told that
there are solutions to all problems. Yet, I have somehow failed to
see that there is a problem even as it unfolds before my eyes.
Well, that's not entirely true, strange occurrences have become
commonplace for quite a while. It's just that my inability to
accept Steph's uncharacteristic behaviors lately has steadily
paralyzed me into uncertainty, something I don't readily like to
The world is crashing down around me;
I can't breathe or even think straight. Every parent goes through
periods of denial when their mind tells them something is going
wrong but their heart says "no- not my child, it will pass." The
saying "Love is Blind" often applies to not only those of us who
are love sick in a rocky relationship, but also to mothers and
fathers of children with problems you as a parent can't see
objectively. Often times you will be the last one to accept the
reality of coming truths.
Recently, I have struggled with the
thought that maybe I'm just a panic-stricken mom, clinging to
control as my daughter reaches for independence, that I'm making a
mountain out of a mole hill. I have convinced myself it's just a
strange phase she is going through; still I should have taken a
closer look. I've had to fend off hundreds of pressing questions
and comments lately. Now, I suspect those warning signs should have
been much more obvious than I've wanted to admit. Stubbornly, I've
held on to the belief that nothing was really wrong, not with
Steph, it will pass.
And now that my world is in chaos,
the sheer gravity of it has slapped me in the face; my mind is
forced to see things as they are. It has only become more
confusing, desperation is setting in. Then, just as my mind begins
to inch ahead of my heart, seeing things with a bit more clarity, I
find I no longer trust my own instincts as a parent. When you know
something is going horribly wrong with a loved ones mind, how do
our instincts react?
Instinct has played an enormous role
in all humanity since the beginning of time. We are all born with
these impulses that are designed to help us survive as a species.
Behavior patterns that do not appear to have been learned kick in
magically, by some unknown trigger. But are they really magical or
is it through trial and error that we learn to act subconsciously,
only repeating what works?
These types of instincts can easily
be observed in a variety of examples. The fight or flight response
is a result of an adrenaline surge our body instinctively sends to
help us combat threats. The craving of high calorie foods has been
instinctively developed over millions of years simply to insure the
survival of our most fit species. Babies use the simple instinctive
tactic of crying to get parents to jump to the rescue, insuring
their needs are met. Our overwhelming desires to procreate,
nurture, protect and safeguard our children have all developed as
instinctive behaviors in order to secure future human
But do we have the instincts we need
to respond to situations so completely out of our realm, such as
mental illness. I know some of the instilled responses can be an
enormous help to me as I grope for direction. However, I have also
been designed with instinctive emotions which govern my heart,
sometimes getting in the way of my logic thought. These feelings
and impulses are colliding in a frantic jumble, making it difficult
for me to sort through this crisis in a logical manner. In the
midst of this nightmare, can I know how to hold on to my own sense
This has come out of nowhere-Crazy,
Looney, Nuts, Twisted, Psycho-you name it, I'm thinking it. I know
someone is not of sound mind, but which one of us is it? I don't
think I have the instincts needed to deal with an issue so
completely out of my realm; I'm not at all sure what the issue even
is. What I do know now, in this moment, something is horribly wrong
with my daughters mind. This thought is so foreign to me, so
unknown to me, my emotions are suffocating me.
All these emotions cloud my mind,
then like a life raft, somewhere in the midst this turbulent
nightmare my mind drifts to phrases from my past. They're just
words, but I want to cling to them the same way Steph is clinging
to her comforter. The same way my family has always clung to these
phrases to survive life's storms. Phrases my parents have taught us
that have become such a mainstay in our lives for years. So I tell
myself that is what I must continue to do, to cling to those
Like most mothers, after a little
practice I quickly began to look at myself as the fix-it Mom, the
go to gal. My baby gets hurt, and I'm there with a kiss, bottle of
peroxide and a band-aid to make it all better. Just tell me someone
hurt my child and I become the Mama Bear no one would ever want to
encounter. You've got a question, I've got answers. I'm the
twentieth century heroine of the world, and the conquering leader
of troubling times. I'm the epitome of the super-mom. That is,
until I stepped out of the fog and see how utterly lost I am, see
how totally helpless and clueless I am, as I did today.
What would have prepared me for the
greatest challenge of my life?Oh I've had my share of trails and
troubles, suffered loss in one form or another as much as anyone I
guess. And like most people, I found ways to deal with them.
Although I must admit sometimes it seems more in spite of me as
much as through my own efforts. But this is not a topic that was
covered in those baby classes I took. In the entire library,
amongst all those books about baby names, how to raise an obedient
child, what to feed them, how not to spank them, toilet training
and breast feeding, where does it explain how I as a parent, can
cope with my child's mental illness?
I don't know where to turn. Who can
understand what's happening? I certainly don't. I'm not sure I can
even remotely describe what's happening. Is there anyone out there
that can tell me what's going on? And if you're out there, how will
I find you? If I find you, how will I be confident of anything you
say? I need someone to tell me what to do.
Anger, fear, confusion, frustration,
panic, resentment, disappointment, hopelessness, these and many
other varieties of emotions are flying through me all at once. I
must look like a chicken with its head cut off, running around the
farm yard, or one of the salmon of the northwest trying to swim
upstream in an attempt to reach an unfathomable goal.
Nevertheless, I instinctively know in
my heart, I must remain the rock, the safety net and protector,
because someone more important to me than all the gold in Fort Knox
will need me to stand with her. I must never tire, never stop
seeking answers, never leave her unsupported, always be
conscientious of my reactions and most of all never ever turn my
back. I will do all these things gladly with my whole heart and
What I didn't expect was that the
path on which I was about to embark would be the emotional
equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. I only wish there was a
manuscript to follow, an instruction book to use as a guide, even a
small check list that will give me the direction I am so apparently
We parents all have trials and
heartaches in the course of raising our children. With the rise in
mental health issues in our country, you may have found yourself in
my shoes. My heart goes out to you with a sense of camaraderie for
the continual anguish we share. My purpose in telling this story is
not to advise or suggest in any way that I know the answers to your
questions relating to these illnesses. I only want to communicate
that you are not alone in your suffering and uncertainty. I want to
share with you a sense of hope and inspiration that is so
desperately needed to survive this type of crisis.
I am not a doctor or psychiatrist nor
do I have any medical training. I'm just a Mom, a mom with a child
in a crisis. I have thought a lot in the past few years about the
importance of telling Stephanie's story. Knowing what I know now,
seeing what I've seen, understanding things a little better now, I
have decided it is just the right time.
Selfishly, I believe this adventure
may be therapeutic for me. As if putting it all down in print will
wash away some of the frustration I have set aside this past
decade. I'm not at all confident I can put my thoughts to paper, in
a manner that will have any clarity for you, as a reader. This
story makes little sense to me some days, with confusion and
self-doubt reining over my world so much in these past years. But I
will endeavor to pour from my heart the account of this challenge
as best I can. Maybe it will give us both a better perspective if,
I start from the beginning.