It is a warm fall day, my favorite time of year. The windows are open and a breeze brings in the pungent smells of autumn. The sun is now lower in the sky than it was a month ago and most of the summer flowers have finished their work in the garden, but the mums and asters are still putting out their vibrant fall colors. I take a deep breath and savor the season.
The kids are off on the bus to school and I have a few minutes to read something inspirational before leaving home for my part-time job. Just as I settle down in my favorite chair with a book of daily readings and a fresh cup of coffee, the phone rings.
“This is Mr. __________ (my daughter’s school principal), Tammy came into school this morning crying and refusing to go to her classroom. She is now in my office. Would it be possible for you to come to school this morning for a short conference?”
UUGH! Again? What is it this time? Why can I not have just 15 minutes of quiet time to gather my thoughts, pray, and read something to brighten my day?
There are so few moments of peace these days. Tammy is not emotionally well and no one seems to know what is bothering her. My motherly instincts tell me she has a mental illness, but I cannot seem to get this across to her doctor. He keeps telling me it is just a phase, but this phase has gone on since she was two years old. I want to scream at him, “Don’t you see this is not just a phase? She has something very bad going on in her brain and I think she is mentally ill!” Nevertheless, who am I to put a label on my daughter?
Her third grade teacher is angry and frustrated with Tammy’s progress and is growing suspicious of our parenting skills. We are one month into the school year, and she has contacted me twice about what she calls “Tammy’s stubbornness.” My friends are rolling their eyes more often and asking questions about what is going on. My next-door neighbor came over just two days ago and started a conversation with, “You are wonderful neighbors, BUT, Tammy has been…” Every time the phone rings, I shoot up a quick prayer that it is not about Tammy. I am without any answers.
I try not to dwell on the negative, but the beauty of a lovely fall day just lost its glow and I am, once again, in a funk about my troubled child. As much as I hate discussing “the problem” with one more person, I feel I must go talk to her principal and tell him about my feelings of inadequacy and despair. I know he will not have answers either. He is a seasoned principal and will show compassion, however, he will expect me to come up with some sort of solution for Tammy’s disruptive behavior at school – something I am incapable of doing.
This was the continuing saga of the developing mental illness of my daughter, which lasted for 17 years before the diagnosis of bipolar disorder came. As I look back on this time of my life, I now realize God’s grace was the one thing that got me through it all.
Dorothy Ruppert – Author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”