If I had only known…. If I could do it over, I’d have been more patient. I wouldn’t have been so angry when she didn’t get potty trained until she was five. If I’d known she saw wicked faces glaring at her from the top of the stairs, I would have walked her all the way up to her bedroom every time she asked me to instead of standing impatiently at the bottom telling her to hurry up and get up there as she put her back against the wall and sidestepped all the way up keeping eye contact with me as long as she could. I would have smiled more and chided less. I would have been distracted less and held her more. When her eyes became huge and she ran to me with fear in her eyes I would have squatted down to her level and comforted her more instead of telling her to be braver. I’d bite my own tongue off now before I’d call her “Afraidia” again. If I had known that everywhere she looked she saw “shadow people”. If I had known that when she was hiding under her blankets her heart was racing and her hands were over her ears to drown out “the voices”. When she stared fearfully into corners of the room where I saw nothing, I wouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss it or to say, get used to it, there is a spiritual world and they ARE everywhere and it’s not a big deal. If I had known she wasn’t making it up when she said she saw a body hanging by a noose in her closet and refused to sleep in there after I built the bunkbeds inside of it….I would have told myself it was just stupid boards and a few screws and hours of wasted time. I would have comforted her instead of getting my feelings hurt and making her feel guilty for being afraid. I wouldn’t have told her I had cameras hidden in the house so I’d know which daughter was lying when something got broken or they’d gotten in a fight if I’d known that she already felt like she was being watched everywhere. I’d have not gotten so frustrated about the continuous battle over poor hygiene if I’d known it was just another symptom of her Schizoaffective Disorder. If I’d known she told her cousin she heard someone say “Do you think she can see us?” when she was taking a shower or that she heard heavy breathing in her ears when she was alone.
If I had known how truly difficult the simplest of decisions are for her, I wouldn’t have spanked her when she didn’t clean her room because she was overwhelmed. I wouldn’t have gotten angry with her and accused her of not trying so many times when she struggled with her schoolwork if I had known about the anxiety and the learning disorders. I would have focused more on the content of the things she was writing and told people, including myself, to shut up when they corrected her spelling every time she tried to share a story she had written. She tried for a little while to communicate with people on Facebook and every other comment was someone correcting her spelling. Even me. Even ME. So let me tell you now that if she misspells anything on this blog you just keep your mouth shut because I will block you permanently. I don’t care if she learns to spell anymore. I don’t care if she learns what the x stands for in Algebra. I DON’T CARE. I care that she’d give her own shoes to a stranger. I care that she will search frantically through her room looking for anything, ANYTHING that she can give to someone who comes to visit. I DON’T CARE that she doesn’t have any close friends her age. That her friends are much either older or much younger. I care that she loves old people and little kids. I don’t care that she wants to play Minecraft and wear costumes and be silly. I LOVE IT. I CHERISH THAT BEAUTIFUL, CHILDLIKE INNOCENCE.
I would have held her hand more and cuddled her more and pushed her less to do things she was not ready for or was simply incapable of doing. If only I had understood why the volume had to be turned up or down to an even number and she could only hug me in multiples of two or she’d never get any rest, I wouldn’t have “messed” with her and done things in odd numbers just to get a laugh. I would have noticed that I was laughing but she wasn’t.
If only I’d known that her chewing her fingers until they were raw down to the first knuckles and never taking naps was because she was suffering, SUFFERING from extreme anxiety and not just random bad habits. That the screaming, screaming, screaming and hours and hours of crying when she was little was not because she was spoiled or ornery but an external mirror image of the internal chaos. If only I’d known how hard it was for her to function in the simplest of ways I wouldn’t have continually told her to demand something of herself. It took every ounce of energy she had just to keep herself tucked in and get through another terrifying day of not knowing why she felt like she felt. She didn’t do better because she COULDN’T do better. If I’d only known that my own inadequacies magnified hers. My own lack of self-discipline and structure only made the disorder in her mind worse.
If I’d only realized sooner that my own hoarding, my own depression, my own manic periods where I didn’t sleep for three days at a time and thought it was just because I was in a “creative” period, my own anxiety that the world was going to end any day, my worries that the government was going to round us all up one day and lead us to the FEMA camps, my dread of public places and groups of people were all making her own disorders larger, I’d have gotten help for myself too. I’d have told people to stuff it when they told me to spank her more instead of laughing it off or considering it. I’d have probably dotted a few people in the eye when they criticized my baby and tried to “fix” her. She’s not an average child. She’s not typical. Only one percent of people have what she has yet I expected her to act like the other 99%. If only I’d known, I’d have laid off the criticisms like “You’re so beautiful BUT STAND UP STRAIGHT, You’re so smart, BUT YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION, You’re such a good writer BUT YOU NEED TO CORRECT THE SPELLING ON THIS….If I’d only known that the compliments were tiny and they were completely voided out by the criticisms that would get caught in a loop and play over and over and over in her head. I wouldn’t have been so impatient, so bitchy, so frustrated, so TIRED. If only I could take back the time wasted sneaking outside to smoke weed, convincing myself that I was doing it so I could be a better mother to her because it helped me to stay calm.
I wouldn’t have gotten angry with the doctors that told me her twitching and her shaking were not a neurological disorder after they saw her MRI. They told me it was psychogenic tic disorder and I dismissed it. I resented that they said it was her body’s reaction to anxiety. That her physical problems were caused by her mental state. In a way we were all correct – she has a chemical imbalance which causes mood disorders and psychosis (hallucinations and delusions) and even with that knowledge they still don’t know EXACTLY what is going on or what causes Schizoaffective Disorder. Only that it seems to be genetic. They can treat it with medicine and therapy but they can’t cure it. This is her life. I can’t even tell her whose genes she has beyond my own mother’s. I don’t know who my father is and my mom was adopted. If I’d only….If only I’d…..then I wouldn’t have sat in the parking lot at the psychiatrist with her today crying with her because she’d just played a song for me called, “Dear Mum” about a girl’s suicide note. I started crying halfway through the song and when it was over I said, “Promise me, please promise me you won’t EVER do that to me.” MY GOD, what is wrong with me?! Instead of apologizing to HER when she said she’s thought about suicide so many times and it’s been so hard not to do it, I said, “Don’t do that to ME?!” Dear God, please forgive me, please help her to forgive me, please help me to forgive myself for my selfishness. My self-centeredness. My beautiful, sweet, innocent daughter has spent her entire life feeling not good enough, not smart enough, not brave enough and she is sweeter, wiser, and more courageous than I could ever hope to be. So parent to parent, don’t make my mistakes, don’t compare your kid to other kids. Just love them. Just……love them.