Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hard lessons for my ego

My oldest daughter is 17, and was diagnosed with Bipolar last year. I do my best to be supportive of her, and to be helpful as she learns to navigate life with this new information. I am learning the hard way that intent does not always equal success. 

I organised for my daughter to attend a group therapy type activity after school one afternoon each week of this school term, thinking that it would be helpful for her. She went the first week, even though she was nervous and reluctant to go. 

She came home and told me she didn't want to go again. I began trying to convince her that this group was going to be great and helpful and that she just needed to give it a bit longer. 

As the week went on, I could tell she was becoming more and more anxious about going back. She felt like I was forcing her to go. She felt uncomfortable there, and the anxiety she was experiencing over it was far outweighing any possible benefit she could gain from being there. 

I was wrong.

It was tough to admit. But it was true. I had made a judgement on what would be good for her based on what had helped me in the past. And I had been wrong. 

I spent some time thinking through it all. I started with thoughts like "of course, what would I know?" and "I'm probably making a mess of everything and not being supportive of her at all" because I was feeling defensive and I was overtired at the time of the conversation during which I realised I was wrong. 

My thoughts gradually moved around to things like "well, fine then, if she thinks she can do this alone she can stop using me as her get-out-of-jail-free-card when she's not coping" because my pride had been hurt and I was thinking irrationally. 

Then slowly I became more rational. What if she is right? What if she can do this on her own? What if she is more like her dad than me in this regard and she actually doesn't find it helpful at all to talk things through with a group of people? Just because I do well with that sort of thing doesn't mean she will.... or should. I realised that she needed me to let her make decisions like this so she could own her support mechanisms. I had to concede that there is no point me pushing things on her that she doesn't want. I had to admit she is competent. She is capable of making choices like this and I needed to let her do that.

So I had to swallow my pride. I had to admit that it was not my decision to make. I told her it was entirely up to her whether she went back or not. 

It was hard to do. I really do like to think that I know what I'm doing. I like to think that I am helpful and supportive and can contribute positively to my daughters journey. It was hard to admit to myself that I may not be achieving this goal. But following her lead released her from a huge load of stress and was the right thing to do. I am glad I realised before I caused her much hurt for the sake of saving my ego. 

Maybe all she needs from me at this stage of her life is for me to be her get-out-of-jail-free-card when she realises she has been wrong. And I can be cool with that. 

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