Living with a Monster: Mental Illness and Parenting Part 1

Post 1 of 3

Well, I guess it is a sage adage that the “HITS keep coming–and they don’t stop.” Since Sophia, my second daughter, turned 14, it’s just been one whirlwind disaster, followed by another. My beautiful daughter, Sophia, suffers from Impulse Control Disorder, depression, and anxiety. There are no words to describe how beautiful she was as a young child or how genuinely playful and sweet I remember her to be.

Her personality was so unlike mine that it seemed so easy for me to love her. Anya, my oldest and I, are so much alike that we often struggled with the definition of authority inside our home. Anya often felt she was the adult, and I was the misbehaving child. Sometimes, even at 19, she rants or begins to lecture me about what I should have said or did in that moment. I immediately shut her lecture down with my well practice harshness. We have experienced this dance so many times over the years.

It seemed that each time Anya and I launched ourselves into our inappropriate banter that Sophia was always quiet, stoic, and wide eyed. She always looked so happy afterwards like she was the winner of the argument. She viewed herself the winner because she never caused me to argue, time after time.

I assumed that is why she looked happy, smug like a silent winner of our arguments. Now that I reminiscence on her silence, I ask myself: what was she actually doing? Was her intention merely to remain quiet so that she didn’t draw attention to her own frailties?

Could it have been that we bored her devious mind? All I seem to do lately is ponder the what ifs, but I realize that searching all of memories of Sophia’s childhood will not help her now.

I need to narrow my focus. Her behavior drastically changed on in 2018. Sophia received a cell phone from her dad for Christmas 2017, but Chris and I were adamant about our daughters not having cellphones until they could drive. Unfortunately, I let her have it. In February 2018, her dad called to ask that Chris and I meet with him and his wife to discuss Sophia and issues concerning the cell phone.

Chris and I will never be the same. I saw the tears run down his face when we saw the sexting texts and photos that she was sending several different guys who were much older than her. For two years, she was not able to have a phone. However, the lack of a device did not stop her other drastically dangerous behaviors.

October 6, 2018, Sophia convinced her friend who was a novice driver to take the Ranger out of our yard and ride on the dirt road. Her novice friend wrecked our Ranger with all but one of our children, including our cousin’s daughter on board. Sophia lied on the side of the road wounded and dirt covered with gas pouring all over her head. Her right foot dangled, sharply to one side while her tibia and fibula remained jagged and broken outside of grated skin. Her wound gaped open with broken shards sharply jutting outside of her skin. I chose to life flight her and her friend to the Navicent Children’s Hospital. Her friend suffered a serious concussion, and Sophia survived a five hour surgery to place a rod and screws into her leg.

She spent three days in a hospital and four months on hospital homebound. It took her wound two years to heal, and her leg hurt constantly to walk on it. She finally walked without limping or swelling after a year and a half.

Sophia’s wound October 2018

During her rehabilitation, her mental health deteriorated quickly and drastically. I called a psychiatrist after she returned from her dad’s house during the homebound experience because she was so horribly depressed and had obvious symptoms of PTSD. The nightmares and the panic attacks haunted her daily. My sweet little girl with an addiction to electronic devices was now broken mentally.

Her new doctor switched her medicines for depression, anxiety, and PTSD so many times in the first six months of 2018. We searched for the right combination to help her. She went to her doctor monthly and saw her therapist. However, by November 25, 2019, she was angry and suicidal. We spent the week of Thanksgiving last year worrying about her while she spent the week hospitalized at Coastal Harbor in Savannah. The devastation of watching your child cry constantly and ask to die breaks a mother’s heart.

She seemed a little better initially after her hospitalization. Unfortunately, within a month, she was anxiously picking her skin so that she had small, bloody whelps all over her arms and legs. She would pinch the skin between her fingers, and Sophia explained to her psychiatrist that her nervousness stops when she picked at the skin on her arms and legs. She continued to gain weight. Her grades suffered.

The light was no longer in her eyes. All these symptoms and problems should have made me scream: “DON”T MAKE IT WORSE!” I never learn. I gave her a cell phone for Christmas 2019 since it had been two years. Certainly, she had learned from her mistakes, but I did not understand that my child was an addict yet. This is a new discovery–a recent scab to pick. Regretfully, I did not yet understand what Impulse Control Disorder was, nor how it affects Sophia’s behavior. I did research, but the signs were foreign to me. Obviously, I was in denial.

Our family members lives were about to implode.

To be continued on Post 2

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I am an English teacher, mother, and wife, but I love to write. I feel that I am blessed to be able to use my talent to write about my children's books, poems, short fiction, and parenting. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about my experiences with beginning a writing career while focusing on my children and my job. I look forward to comments and to hear from my readers!

3 thoughts on “Living with a Monster: Mental Illness and Parenting Part 1”

  1. I know how you feel I was in denial for 32 years, now I have accepted my daughter is bi-polar and schizophrenic and without medication I fear she will be dead due to her angry outburst in public and constant talking to whoever she is seeing, even her voice changes. But with medication she is able to live some resemblance of a “normal” life, but she always thinks she no longer needs the medicine when she gets better. I am praying for you! Love you sweet lady you are a wonderful mama!❤️


    1. Ms. Shelia,

      I haven’t even considered how she will choose to take meds and treatment as an independent adult. I am praying that teaching her good coping skills now and having her work with her therapist will continue when she moves out. You never know. Praying for you, Ms. Shelia!


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