About 18 and a half years ago I found out I was pregnant and immediately went to the book store.
Because there is no event in life so sacred that you don’t need a book to tell you how to get through it, or at least give you a little advice for the trip.
What I found was “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” It was the go to book in 1997 and I dutifully bought my copy and began my investigation into the weirdness that was pregnancy. I made it all the way to the nutrition section which told me while eggs are not a problem for pregnant women or their babies, we should probably not eat them because, you know, you don’t want to make your spouse and other people in the family jealous.
To be honest, I was never in love with being pregnant, but having some nutrition Nazi tell me, even though my body was on its way to being purloined by a tiny dictator with no appreciation of personal space or the proper placement of feet around a bladder, that I should have any concern whatsoever for a person who is not being assimilated into the pregnancy borg, was more than I could take. In the trash it went, and I relied on mostly firsthand accounts and a beautifully photographed booklet my sister-in-law sent me that showed in utero pictures of each month of pregnancy.
By the time I was pregnant the second time the “Girlfriend’s Guide” had been written and a friend passed it to me in a plain paper bag like it was some sort of NSFW book or film. It was funny, irreverent, more honest than WTE, and even though it was filled with some stuff that was just not right for me, it was the right book at the right time.
I find myself thinking about that today because my son hit another rough spot in his recovery and despite my brave face of “two steps forward, one step back is still forward progress,” I’m really not so cool with it.
I feel like I need a book, a book about what to expect when your child is in recovery or better yet a girlfriend’s guide.
I require the nitty gritty of what is going to happen and how I may feel about it. I need to know if after 6 month of good progress a stumble is the end of the world or just par for the course. I want to know if my incredibly intelligent child is playing us. I have to know if I am enabling or being compassionate.
I would like to hear if my husband and I will ever find our way back to the same page again.
I need a girlfriend’s guide to your child’s addiction/eating disorder/mental health issue. Something written and concrete that I can go back and reference when my emotions flare. I want to read about someone else who has been through it and come out on the other side.
This assumption that there is “the other side” is the part that is throwing a wrench in the works. It is comforting to think that this is something that can be overcome, vanquished, at the very least resolved. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is just another stop on the continuum, that mental health is only a journey and not a destination.
And I am so pissed off by that. So incredibly angry, even as I am spouting my positive bullshit.
I just want it to be okay, as my husband said just one week without drama. But life is never okay. It just is. No judgement, no regret, it just is. And the powerlessness that this engenders pisses me off to no end. The what-ifs and no-fairs and all the other judgments race through my head like mini neuron tornadoes, throwing shit around, flattening hopes, razing dreams, and occasionally revealing some far off pinpoints of light.
I am worn down by the journey, by the process, by the fuckupedness of watching my child suffer these slings and arrows. At the same time, I’m grateful that it is these trials and not others that have been put before us. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that it can always be worse. I want to know what others have done, what their journey looked like, it’s killing me to not know if my response is “normal” or at the very least appropriate.
My husband and I are never farther apart than when we are processing our feelings around this issue. Not because we don’t both feel as intensely or care as much, but because the differences in temperament and perspective that are usually a refreshing breeze in our marriage become obstacles to consensus. The intensity of the situation inhibits rational thought and positive communication. These differences in temperament come to the forefront and flash like blinking neon signs in front of us. Daring us to believe that we are right and they are wrong. It takes so much energy to put priority on the marriage, but if we don’t we know we won’t have the framework or the energy to support the children.
It’s a huge game of whack a mole. It’s all fucking smoke and mirrors and I’m having a hard time rising above the futility of it all. Finding or creating meaning seems impossible. Touching the hope that was just there yesterday feels like a labor of Sisyphus. Who can do this, who can bear this burden, who can watch their child bear this burden?
I know I have to. I know I will; I know I am. But surely someone has been this way before and has left a description, a road map. Hell, at this point I would take bread crumbs.
That’s the book I want. But it hasn’t been written. There is a lot that has been written about situations like mine, but not that book. I’m skeptical that it can be written, although I am positive that it is a big gaping hole in the cannon of self-help.
There are no pat or comforting answers for this journey. There is only the less than helpful assurance that it is just another kind of work we do, and we may all come out better for it, or maybe not.
So I guess it means I will have to continue to write my story, even while I’m feeling pissy because I can’t skip to the end or just put it away for a few moments. I’m going to keep slogging through and doing it. And when I write my book I will add a baby elephant video that I can watch with my daughter (I guess it will be an e-book). I will include a conversation with my son about nothing important. I will make sure I write in a respite or two for my husband and myself. Then I will turn the page and see what happens next.
(c) 2016 Gigi Quinn
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