New diagnosis

I was very concerned about the things that were happening with Arabella.

On New Year’s Eve, she made a strange comment when we had some friends over. She told everyone that her dad was walking on the ceiling and laughed about it. No one else laughed. They glanced at me and looked at her as if she was crazy. Was she on something? Was she delusional? Was she just trying to get attention?

She said strange things before like the time she said that Jordan’s mom was her mom and I wasn’t. She said other things that weren’t true. At times I could classify her as delusional or paranoid.

Then there were other things like the eating of non food items such as plastic forks. The binge eating and weight gain. The extreme fluctuations between us being evil and the world’s best parents. She fluctuated that same way with herself. Sometimes she saw herself as fat and ugly. Then at other times she wanted to be a stripper and show the world how gorgeous she was. Sometimes she was gay and other days maybe straight.

Then there was the impulsivity. Money in her hands was money spent. The shoplifting. The need to be more extreme than everyone else. The cutting, the suicide attempts. All her relationships were turbulent.

She had unusual emotional reactions, laughing instead of crying upon the loss of friendships that once meant everything to her. She seemed almost manic. She had a hard time sleeping at night even with the sleeping pills. I wanted to tell the doctor that all of this happened within a month’s time. Perhaps her medication was off.

Arabella was in rare form when I picked her up from outpatient to take her to her psychiatrist appointment. She was bouncing off the walls. A combination of caffeine, candy, and mania perhaps? She couldn’t keep a constant thought. She talked about the heating ducts in the office. Things people really don’t care about. She was talking a million miles a minute and I was feeling frustrated. In my mind she was acting pretty crazy and I wanted her to stop. But did I? It was the perfect place to act like this. Every time before this visit, she was quiet and depressed. She couldn’t sit still. She told the psychiatrist that she had crackhead energy.

I explained to the psychiatrist everything I’ve been trying to explain to you. Something was really wrong with my daughter. He got it. He said it was obvious to him that my daughter had more than a case of depression. He said she had disordered mood, thoughts, and personality. He thought she had Schizoaffective disorder with Bipolar 2 along with Borderline Personality Disorder. I didn’t see it coming, really I didn’t.

Then he said that he was retiring. He didn’t have a replacement. He didn’t want to change her medication which was a mess and not even adequate for her new diagnosis. We would have to wait for residential to figure that out. He pretty much said good-bye and good luck.

I was heartbroken. I cried the whole ride home. How did I not see this coming? Schizophrenia?? My brother is schizophrenic. He hears voices.

I grieved for a long time. All my hopes and dreams for a normal life for her were dashed. I wasn’t even sure she would graduate from high school at that point. Remember when she was an honor student? I couldn’t stand to hear about the bright futures of other kids her age. Your daughter is going to college for physics. I’m spending my daughter’s college money for psychiatric care. Yup, hope she doesn’t kill herself.

I remembered the last play she was in. I cried not knowing it would be the last time everything seemed fine. I cried thinking about the last dance she went to where she wore a pretty sleeveless dress before she started cutting her arms.

I grieved for what was that will nevermore be. It was painful that somehow I could’ve caused this. Bad genetics, nary a sane soul on both sides. I was riddled with shame and guilt. I couldn’t understand why my daughter hated me. I was doing everything I could to help her. I couldn’t stand seeing other normal families doing normal things. I resented them. I envied them for what I didn’t have. I would give away everything I had just to have that one thing, normal.

My mom was very comforting at the time. She experienced a lot of the same feelings with my brother Matt.

Now I just had to wait. My life was in limbo in a chaotic holding pattern until residential, if she could make it until then.

Carrying a heavy weight

She gained 13 lbs. in a month.

Arabella wasn’t on any medications that could cause weight gain. She also went through periods of restricted eating. This really didn’t concern me as much because at the time she was easily over 250 lbs. I was more concerned about diabetes and other health related issues. She wasn’t eating meals with us anymore. I would tell her it was time to eat only to find her eating a bag of Oreos in her room. She only wanted junk food.

It struck a painful chord in me. I show I care about my family by doing nice things for them such as their laundry or cooking nice meals. It was triggering of childhood memories of my own mom working hard to cook nice meals only to have my dad ask her what kind of dog shit she made for supper. I feel hurt and unappreciated when my efforts are scorned. It takes a lot of work to cook supper and make healthy homemade meals for a family of 5 or 6. It makes me angry when my cooking is replaced by a cheap sugary substitute.

My dad also struggles with obesity and unhealthy eating. He does not exercise and now can barely walk. I saw how he struggles with his weight and I don’t want that for my daughter. Not only that but it is hard to care for someone who is elderly and prone to falls. He is over 300 lbs. and there is no way I could lift him.

What was even more concerning besides her obesity and binge eating of junk was that she started to eat non food items as well. She ate woodchips. She cut up a Capri Sun pouch and ate that. She ate paper and several plastic forks. What if that was to tear up her intestines? To me it seemed like a whole new way to self-harm. The doctors were puzzled by it as well. They ran all sorts of blood work but nothing could be determined what was causing her pica. Was it some strange side effect to her medication? Was it for attention?

One of the hardest things was that I didn’t have any control over it. She was twice my size. Although I could share with her my experience with healthy eating and exercise, she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, to this day I am not allowed to talk about it.

While she was in residential, Arabella still went through periods of eating paper and plastic silverware. Again, more tests were run and not surprisingly nothing was found. The best anyone could tell me was that she should take a multi-vitamin because she wasn’t getting any nutrients from what she was eating. Things haven’t really gotten much better since she came home. Her meals consist of chips, candy, cookies, and sugary foods. I can’t stand it really. I don’t know what to do about it. If I talk to her about it she gets angry with me. She tells me that I don’t understand and quite frankly I don’t.

I won’t take her shopping because she fills my cart with junk. I don’t mind buying some snacks, but I don’t want to fill my cart with them. When she has money, she buys her own snacks. It was hard when she worked at the grocery store because she would spend her paycheck there. It didn’t matter if she didn’t have money. Sometimes her friends would be her junk food junkies and bring her a new stash.

The therapist said that I shouldn’t be nagging her about it because it would cause her to feel shame which would cause more stress eating which would cause a perpetual shame cycle. Instead she should feel natural consequences, such as diabetes. Who wants their teenager to struggle with body image and health concerns due to obesity in a society that pressures women especially young women to look a certain way? I am in my 40’s and I still feel the pressure to look a certain way. It’s not as bad as when I was a teenager, but still.

My intention is not to fat shame my daughter. It’s hard to talk about because I’ve never really struggled a lot with my own weight. But it’s a big problem and I’m not sure she is going to be able to fix it. It’s going to have to be another thing I have to let go because there is nothing I can do about it. When I do try to help I only seem to make things worse.

Sometimes it’s really hard to let my adult children go and watch them struggle.