Ten Years Later

Augusta, Gone: A True Story.  In this book is the evolution of a kind of madness that takes over a mother's inside mind when her teen ager flips to an alterate universe that defies reason.

I really started to lose my daughter when she was 14--I'd missed the earlier signs that might have averted disaster. To this day I don't think anyone fully understands how profoundly the trouble with her affected me.  It is clear, however, to insiders and observers it caused untold misery in our house. I can't remember most of the details of the progression any more.  I have no advice, realizing that every situation is as different as the child involved.  Some make it through to happy end, others don't. 

My daughter is 24.  We have made some kind of truce where I don't feel dread every time the phone rings and our communications often contain points of light that make me smile.  Still, she was married (for a year--no children, thank God) and divorced, she has not managed to get her GED, is constantly in financial difficulty I still can't help her with, and she continues to attach herself to boyfriends in ways that help her put off taking control of her life.  Counseling seemed to be working early on but the State therapist retired almost as soon as she started and, with no good replacement, the chance was lost. We put everything we could into supporting her interest in horses. At the barns, in the company of horses and that community, she was the daughter I knew (this is still true) but away from the barns, she reverted to her "bad girl" persona. I wanted to send her to a school but there was no money. Even if there had been, if the program had been one of those primarily driven by profit, or a philosophy that did not match her particular case, it would have been a serious gamble.  And then, at the point of considering that option things were at a critical point. I didn't have time to do the intense research (reading about and then visiting and spending time at the facilities) that, in retrospect, I think would be essential.

Today I exist with a kind of anhedonia that has left our marriage gasping. Every day I am painfully aware that I am glad my first born is across the country.  On the phone and with email I can tolerate her slow pace back to a world where life is an adventure to be savored. Close up today there is too much of her troubled time that is in evidence.  She is, for the most part for now, someone I would never willingly invite into my life--her way of being still largely alien to me on too many levels.

My first born. The one whose birth gave meaning to my life, the one whose every little detail astounded me, whose beauty left me breathless, whose humor and creativity lightened me, whose being inspired me--it haunts me that she doesn't seem to know this.   I don't know where I would be if my son, step-son and husband hadn't been, and continue to be, as awe inspiring, forgiving and loving as they are for this woman who is a shell of who she was ten years ago.
notthemama notthemama
51-55, F
4 Responses Jul 18, 2010

I'm laughing at the narcissism showing on my assumption that you are a mother and dealing with a daughter. Bravo for being tuned in and caring enough to fight for your child.<br />
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I'm not sure it's possible, or desirable, to expect a teenager to keep his/her pants on. I think late teen and early 20's is the time to learn about love and their bodies with sex as an ex<x>pression of love----preparing for a strong union that will last. Why else would they be so beautiful and alive, fully present? Accepting that premise however, parents need to be confident their children are going forward with a profound understanding that this early sex is not meant to create another human being and that in the 21st century it carries the potentially life threatening danger of sexually transmitted diseases. Meanwhile it is troubling to me that what's going on today is not only risky but also impersonal, aggressive and soul-less. I understand parents wanting to shut them down. <br />
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I think the answer would be age appropriate sex ed K-12, heavy D.H. Lawrence and the like in high school English, four-year child psychology and parenting requirement and aggression leaching/team building sports requirement K-12. Add Math, Geography, History, and the arts and sciences and we're working on a longer school year. I'm not sure that's a bad thing--by the time everyone gets home, business is done and focus can be on one another? Parents, relieved of worry about their latch key kids, more productive at work; kids able to take care of their socializing in a positive environment and weekends/evenings not needing to be taken up in "soccer mom" mode as all extra curricular lessons/sports happen at school again.<br />
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Adding to my last post: if you are having trouble being heard and/or told constantly "You don't understand", Anatomy of Peace might be helpful. The conversations and stories have a multitude of situations I think are typical of families in crisis around trouble with teens and these easily get one thinking about our part in all kinds of conflict from who is going to mow the lawn to why one's boss is so oblivious.

Must be seen as xyz is one of the no no's of living in truth/honestly. It comes from Anatomy of Peace (Arbinger Institute) which, now that I think of it, is probably responsible for the mind set I eventually acquired and is governing my general out look on a lot of things today.<br />
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Anatomy of Peace is explained by illustration through the story of a camp for wayward teens. That grabbed me immediately (I read it in a day, going back to it often) and seems to be a perfect vehicle for the lesson. Arbinger is out of Utah and I have to think Mormon. That in itself is part of the lesson I took away. In the end our faiths have no bearing on the fact of our humanity and that we have to live on the same planet--if we can't find a way to co-exist peacefully we are doomed in so many ways.<br />
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To your question of what I intended to write: It's hard to be up front about thoughts and feelings that are contrary to what one has been brought up to believe is right and proper--a mother is supposed to feel a profound connection with her child and if/when she doesn't, something is wrong with her. I want to be seen as a good mother.<br />
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Freud gave us the idea that Mother is at the root of all evil. But then, that was back in the day when women were expected, regardless of whether or not they could literally afford to stay home, to be the number one care taker in their children's lives. I think better than screaming we are getting a raw deal, we should put our energies behind schools requiring serious parenting courses whose aim is to get EVERYONE to think long and hard about the responsibility and focus needed, by both parents, when the decision is made to bring a child into the world--WAY beyond the care and feeding of an infant! <br />
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And...if the economy continues the trend we've experienced, there needs to be a serious re-vamping of priorities around work/child care. There is something seriously wrong with a system that has both parents working more than they are home with their families--worse for those two income families barely breaking even, if not slowly sinking, hopes tied to their children who barely see them.

I would not have been able to hear the advice in the book when I needed it. Being the ultimate co-dependent, I was heavily invested in seeing the smallest sign that things were improving and so believing the difficult changes were not necessary. Even if I had been able to hear and make changes then, I'm not sure it would have made a difference. I'm convinced my daughter's departure was instigated by what was going on in her head much more than what was going on at home. My dramatic words, as I read back over them now, play to the need to be seen as...The truth is I am settled in feeling my daughter today as I would a friend I need to maintain boundaries with. I listen and help her when I can (and it is appropriate), but I do not allow her to take over. My life is here and now. To be otherwise is to be a thief. Once I got that, and it took a LONG time, a thousand weights were lifted.

Thank you and wishing a better outcome. I am always on the look out for answers, waiting for the study that will result in our being able to catch these girls before they lose their way. I am convinced it has nothing to do with nurture, though a bad family situation exacerbates and hastens the split that I think is in a new category. In rare reflective moments (I cling to the hope this is evidence that she's growing up, getting ready to take back control), my daughter says she does not know what set her off, allowing that the excuses she gave at the time were lies.