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When do you let go?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I really need the advice and support of my spark friends on this one!
My youngest daughter Katie has struggled throughout her life with both personal and health problems since entering middle school. I have always been there to counsel her with difficult choices and to be there in times of chaos. We are particularly close because of this. She spent almost 3 years at home during her high school years with multiple health problems. These formative years were very tough on her emotionally for she was alone and unhappy, desperately trying to get well. She has been plagued by multiple health issues: beginning with non cancerous tumors that appear in unrelated parts of her body.
The first occurrence of this strange phenomenon began 10 years ago in the fibula of her left leg. She was a competitive dancer at the time and was continually having pain in this leg which we, at the time, thought it was from over stretching her muscles. After xrays were taken, we found that a tumor was growing inside the bone of her upper fibula and causing this area of the bone to become wafer thin and, therefore, fracturing constantly with over use. We were lucky enough to find a surgeon at Children's Hospital in Boston who specializes in Orthopedic surgery and oncology. As it turned out this tumor was benign and her fibula was packed with bone particle and has healed very well over the years.
However, things didn't end there. She was 12 at the time of her life and just entering middle school. Katie was, and still is, a beautiful, bright young woman with a quiet demeanor. She had several friends at the time that ultimately turned on her, as we see middle school girls are notorious for. She suffered emotional abuse throughout these years and became even more withdrawn. My husband and I were unaware of the extent of this abuse and felt that she wasn't making good friends because she was so selective and very shy. She kept herself busy with music and art lessons.
Entering high school, she felt that she would have a fresh start. This did not happen and she got to the point of physically feeling ill most of the time. Midway through her sophomore year she began vomiting uncontrollably for no apparent reason. We brought her to Children's Hospital once again and had every test possible performed to find out the cause for this unexplained malady. She lost a tremendous amount of weight off her already thin frame. As parents, we were frantic. Everything was ruled out, starting with eating disorders to cancer! At this point we withdrew her from her current high school and she was tutored at home for 2 years. It was a time plagued by so many health issues with the associated mental anguish that accompanies not living a normal life and be estranged from people her own age. During this time, she had several more surgeries performed to remove random tumors from her already ravished young body. She had thyroid nodules removed after developing a goiter, a cholesteotoma cyst on her eardrum surgically removed, and the list goes on. She saw neurologists, gastroenterologists, endocrinologists, and that list goes on as well. It was a tough time for all, but especially for Katie.
Finally in 2007, as she watched her peers graduate from high school and start moving on to college, she felt consumed with taking charge of her life. She was still not healthy but we supported her decision to go off to boarding school and try to get her life back. She had dreams of going off to college and living a normal life. Much to her credit, she got accepted into a prestigious prep school and tried to put the pieces back together in her life. However, she was faced with adversity once again. Being sheltered and shy over the past few years did not help her with already established friendships in her new environment. Katie is from an upper middle class background, but was in a school attended by the wealthy. These kids had such different moral values. Even though she dressed well and had traveled extensively herself, she felt like she didn't belong. Her health problems continued: fatigue, headaches, and the goiter became quite swollen once again even though her thyroid tested within the normal range . We finally found a doctor that looked beyond the levels and looked at her neck and physical symptoms and decided to take on this case. He administered medication that took effect almost immediately. Her neck swelling went down and her fatigue seemed to get better. However, her headaches continued. This was all during her time at boarding school. She managed to take her SAT's, graduate, and get accepted into several colleges which was quite an accomplishment considering all her set backs during her time at this boarding school. Her self esteem was still in trouble however and we worried about her constantly.
The stories of Katie's survival in this world go on and on. College has been difficult with establishing strong friendships and her health issues continue as well. Her sister is her best friend and I have remained a strong motherly connection. Katie is now 22, I still worry and don't know how to sever the strong emotional ties I have for her daily welfare. I don't want to cripple her growth in any way, but her background has made her so dependant and she is so fragile at times that I continue to mother her to the extreme sometimes. She does have a strong sense of commitment and has been "phoenix" like on so many levels. She has "risen from the ashes" and accomplished things we didn't think she ever could have given her experiences over the past 10 years.
This year, she is 3 credits short of being a junior in college studying a major that will lead her to many satisfying career choices. She is interested in being either a physical therapist or perhaps a physicians assistant. She will be doing internships in both as part of her Athletic Training major. She also puts in 100 hours per semester, rotating sports teams as part of her clinical experience. It has been a great opportunity, but she is still suffering from physical problems that seem to never go away completely. I sometimes feel like I am still raising that little girl that was hurting so much during those formative years. It is so painful to see her struggle so much and I want normalcy in her life more than I can ever say!
I needed to get this out in the open so that I can heal myself as well. I care so much that I can't let go when I know I should. This applies to all aspects of her life. I am so involved that I feel her pain even during her struggling relationship with her boyfriend. It is her first steady boyfriend and the first time she has been in love. The relationship has been very rocky since returning to school and I keep sticking my nose in where it shouldn't be at all. Unfortunately, her maturity level in this aspect was delayed because of life's circumstances. I keep encouraging her to make a clean break and she is having such a tough time doing that.
She is hurting on so many levels right now that I think the emotional aspects of this relationship are doing more damage than good. However, because of continued health problems and missing school once again, I am scared for her" will" to keep on trying. I spent 5 hours in the emergency room with her last night because of dehydration from vomiting. This brought back the horrors of her time in high school. Thankfully, it is nothing serious and is just a virus that just won't go away. She been sick for almost a week. Besides having this going on she is once again experiencing severe leg pain after 10 years. The sports medicine doctor associated with her college recommended an MRI after experiencing acute pain while running. The test revealed some abnormalities in the soft tissue surrounded the area near the injured fibula. She will be seeing her original surgeon on Thursday to see if this needs to be biopsied as her MRI report stated. We have been trying not to worry about the outcome of this since her various other tumors have always been benign and treatable.
Her life is in turmoil once again and I'm being the doting, worried mother I was when she was just a child. Am I crippling her growth by being this way? She has seen many professionals that were recommended for guidance with these emotional issues, but she comes away more hurt during these sessions.
The thing that keeps me grounded and hoping for a bright future for her is that she never gives up. She has been faced with so many difficult challenges during these 22 years and has never wanted to quit altogether.
My problem is that I am so involved with her life because of the circumstances regarding her childhood that I don't have a clue about when I should draw the line. I never want to abandon her to make difficult decisions on her own, but I also don't want to cripple her growth. It is such a fine line and it is tearing me apart. I want her to be happy and healthy and I don't know how to let go.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MEADSBAY
    What a wonderful mom you are- you and DD have been through so much in her life- it's harder to watch our children suffer than it is to be in pain ourselves.
    All that being said- you are right to agonize over how much help to give.
    She needs to know you are there for her (I'm sure she does) but she needs to be in charge of her life- and then you need to let her be in charge.
    I am in a similar situation but my 23 yr old daughter is mildly special needs and has a different set of problems. It is a daily struggle to lovingly push her out of the nest and set her free. And, yes, sometimes that means watching her make mistakes- but that is how we all learn as young adults.
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    3672 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/4/2010 10:20:16 PM
  • KARRYB1
    It's hard to say when is the best time to let go , but one thing we know is that your love and support is what she needs to help her through the rough spots. You have always been there and she needs to know that you always will. She will let you know if you are smothering her.
    I know I would want my Mom to be helping me cope if she could.
    Hang in there and stay positive. emoticon
    3673 days ago
  • TAMMYTH64
    Being a mom isn't the easiest job in the world. It's so hard to just watch anything negative happen to our children, no matter what age. At least she knows that you love her and that you'll always be there for her. She's still so young! All you can do is guide her and hope for the best. At least that is what I keep doing with my son who is also 22. So often, they don't want to listen but at the same time they need to know that you're there when they need you. Maybe, have a heart to heart with her and tell her that you're only concerned for her health and well-being and that's why you keep trying to help. I often tell my son that no matter how old he is, he's still my baby. It's hard for a mom to see her child go through tough times.

    You'll get through this! Hang in there!

    Big Hugs!
    3673 days ago
  • ELLFIN3
    You say your daughter has seen professional for the emotional problems, but have you seen anyone who maybe can help you to help her? You need to help her, but you must also take care of yourself! If you are not healthy you can not help her!!! I will say a prayer for your family that you can get through this and that your daughter can get to a healthy normal life! My Sister went through something like this being so sick and the Drs could not determine what was wrong. She then had her gallbladder out! She continue to be sick for about 9 months, she lost her job. She finally went back to the gastro Dr who told her to have the gallbladder out and he changed her meds and she is doing wonderful! This is what I pray will happen for your Daughter! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3674 days ago
  • LAURELSPARK
    You are in a tough spot..............I wish I could offer some profound advice, but I can't. My middle son is an underachiever/partier but we have given up trying to help him. At 24 he is still "lost" but we just can't pull the strings any more. Hopefully, he will "wake up" before he messes his life up too much.

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    3674 days ago
  • LIGHTERME86
    I don't have any real advice but thought I would say something! I am so sorry she has had to go through all of that. I am just a few years older than her and if it was me I would want my mom to speak with me so that I could tell her what I wanted. So I think you should just sit down and talk with her and let her tell you what she needs from you. And let her know that if she ever needs help or just to talk that you are there. This way you are both on the same page an understand each other. It would probably be good for both of you to talk because she may be feeling the same way. Not knowing how to break loose from you as well! Hope things get better for her & you Soon!!!
    3674 days ago
  • NOTABOUTHEFACE
    Poor thing has gone through so much in her life. I think you've established that you'll always be there for her, there should be no question of that in her mind. Encourage her to step outside of her comfort zone. It's not always fun at first but she can learn a lot from that. Maybe find things that she's interested in and see if there's a class, group, etc for it. (Cooking, scrapbooking, book clubs, etc) If you find she's always coming to you for advice and you think that could be hindering her, be there for her but ask "how do you think you should handle it?" Let her talk it out with you without actually giving her your opinion so that she'll eventually realize she *does* have the coping skills to make decisions on her own in on the spot situation where maybe she might shut down in her shyness before.

    It is hard to let go or know when that is but you can also do it in a way that she doesn't know it's happening until she looks at the back of the bike as she rides away and realizes the training wheels are off.

    Good luck!
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    3674 days ago
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