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 She suffered emotional abuse throughout these years and became even more withdrawn.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.