The big day that I have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading has come to pass. My daughter moved out this weekend, ending her 2-1/2 year journey since her return home from college. During our time together we have been the accidental witnesses to each others’ attempts to reshape our separate lives. Both of us have been in the process of starting over. My gradual recovery from a painful divorce and her gradual recovery from the eating disorder and depression that so severely disrupted her final years of college have consumed us during the past two years. Although extremely difficult at times, I may have finally reached the point of succumbing to the true meaning of letting go. As I put the pieces of my own life back together, I have learned the importance of caring for oneself in order to be of use to others. In the course of mending my own life, I have more easily begun to back off from trying to manage hers.
This past spring my daughter took the brave step of writing about her suicide attempt. It was hard for me to read her post, and I am just now realizing how much I have allowed one day of her life to define my idea of her as a person and to form assumptions about my role in her life. Since she experienced her first bout of depression at age 14, I have been struggling with how to best help her, and as I look back I can see that there were many times when I enabled rather than helped her. I often treated her like a fragile being and tried to shelter her from the consequences of her mistakes. Learning how to best help someone with mental health problems can be challenging, and I’ve tried to use the advice from this Familie’s Anonymous literature as my guide:
My role as a helper is not to do things for the person I am trying to help, but to be things, not trying to control and change his/her actions, but through understanding and awareness to change my reactions. I will change my negatives to positives; fear to faith; contempt for what he/she may do to respect for the potential within him/her; hostility to understanding; and manipulation or over-protectiveness to release with love, not trying to make him/her fit a standard or image, but giving him/her an opportunity to pursue his/her own destiny, regardless of what that choice may be.
I will change my dominance to encouragement; panic to serenity; the inertia of despair to the energy of my own personal growth; and self-justification to self-understanding.
Self-pity blocks effective action.
The more I indulge in it, the more I feel that the answer to my problems is a change in others and society, not in myself. Thus, I become a hopeless case.
Exhaustion is the result when I use my energy in mulling over the past with regret, or in trying to figure ways to escape a future that has yet to arrive. Projecting an image of the future, and anxiously hovering over it, for fear that it will or it won’t come true uses all of my energy and leaves me unable to live today. Yet living today is the only way to have a life.
I will have no thought for the future actions of others,neither expecting them to be better or worse as time goes on, for in such expectations I am really trying to create. I will love and let be.
All people are always changing.If I try to judge them I do so only on what I think I know of them, failing to realize that there is much I do not know. I will give others credit for attempts at progress and for having had many victories which are unknown to me.
I too am always changing,and I can make that change a constructive one, if I am willing. I CAN CHANGE MYSELF, others I can only love
I am grateful that my daughter came home to help my father during the months he was being treated for lymphoma. It was a blessing for all of us. During this time I have had the security of seeing her in passing each day while creating more distance as I navigate through my own life as an independent woman. I have been learning to let go and observe as she achieves the goals she sets forth. Despite her ups and downs, I have watched her build and maintain relationships, grow and learn in a nurturing work environment, finish her final classes, and ultimately land a wonderful opportunity to launch her dream job as a college coach. Because of her life experiences she has and will continue to provide support to the kids she coaches who are experiencing anxiety and depression.
As the time approached for my daughter to finally leave the nest, the push and pull between us was palpable. I have heard it said that one may actually create conflict with a loved one prior to parting in order to make the good-bye easier. In this case this tension between us made it easier to step back and allow her to do things her way. It was hard to watch what I classified as disorganization as she approached moving day. It wasn’t easy but I finally realized that I needed to back out and let her dad help her with the move rather than hovering over her in my usual fashion. It felt good to finally be able to tell her I would help at her request but would otherwise back off. I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to watch her pull out of the driveway with no arrangements for a permanent place to stay on the other end. It was a monumental step and a humbling experience for me to stay behind, allowing her father to be her primary source of support.
I hadn’t heard from my daughter for two days, and it came as a complete surprise when she called yesterday to tell me she had found a house and had already starting moving her things in. What a great lesson for me. Things happen even when I am not in control of them! I am amazed at the sense of relief I am now experiencing, knowing that I can provide her unconditional love without trying to micromanage her life. I am finally able to see that she has coping skills, tools, and many sources of support outside of me. More importantly, I am finally able to see that our lives are fluid and ever-changing. The key to emotional resilience is knowing that each moment is an opportunity to start anew, and our emotions and intellect are never in a permanent state of being, as this article about success from News.mic illustrates.