Over the past several days I have been thinking a lot about the path to healing, both physically and emotionally. For me, I have been battling physical pain, to the point I am seeing a physical therapist to help alleviate or manage my pain. This process very much falls into the “no pain, no gain” category, as I am in more pain now as I am working muscles and pushing myself in ways I’ve avoided for a long time. I am confident that sticking to the program and trusting in my therapist things will get better.
On the emotional side, over the same few days, the situation with my friend Jane’s stepdaughter Mary has taken a painful turn. As I have talked about in many previous blogs, Mary is not a typical 16-year-old girl. She is very withdrawn, makes no effort to fit in socially and claims she has no need for friends or relationships with anyone who doesn’t share 100% of her interests. She is very artistic and talented, yet prefers to create and keep her work to herself, not share with others, even family. Unlike most girls her age,she has no interest in clothes, opting to wear the same clothes day after day, regardless of how dirty they may be. She will go days without showering and even when she does, usually to appease her father or Jane, it is obvious she has not used soap or washed her hair. To say the girl is a “mess” is both figuratively and literally true and an understatement. Since I have known Jane, Mary has transitioned from family therapy to one-on-one therapy, seeing both a therapist and psychiatrist who prescribed an anti-depressant/anxiety medication to help her manage day-to-day without completely shutting down emotionally. Sadly, these steps have made little to no impact, at least not when Mary is in Dick and Jane’s home.
Yesterday, when Jane went up to turn off lights and shut doors, as the girls are back in school and she wanted make sure the dogs couldn’t get into anything (neither Mary nor her sister Sue are known to keep their rooms clean). On the floor, just inside the door was Mary’s journal. Now, many may say that reading a journal is a huge invasion of privacy and I tend to agree. However, in this case, with the lengthy path to help this girl, with all methods seeming to fail and she seems more miserable than ever, a glimpse into her how she is really feeling could be very beneficial. Let’s just say there was a lot of insight gained, all sad and tragic. And that is where the pain comes into play.
In my previous posts I’ve focused on Jane and how her relationship, or lack their of, with Mary has affected her. This is because I too am a stepmother, I see things more from Jane’s point of view because it is so similar to my own. But today it’s about Dick, the pain he has experienced trying to help his daughter. I honestly can’t imagine how this man felt seeing his daughter’s feelings in black and white. Some of what she wrote, a few with illustrations to accentuate the emotion, were hard for me to read. How can someone so young, so privileged, so loved feel this way about herself, her family and the world around her? This girl is convinced EVERYONE hates her, that is a failure as a human being and yes, she mentioned on more than one occasion that everyone might be better off if she was gone/dead. Luckily, the suicide of a former classmate in the past few weeks made her realize, sadly for the first time in a year, that dying is not what she wants, so that is good sign, but the fact that she has been harboring these feelings, keeping them a secret from her parents and therapist is disturbing. Just last week her therapist suggested that Mary reduce the frequency of her sessions, that she was improving. Nothing in this journal suggests that and its far more likely that Mary has found a way to convince her doctor that she is better off than she is to avoid therapy.
Dick made a point to talk with Mary last night. He did not tell her he knew about the journal, he was hoping to open a dialogue and touch on topics found within the pages without confessing he had read them. She had no interest in talking or addressing the obvious fact that she is clearly unhappy. This morning, Jane checked and Mary had written in her journal last night, clearly annoyed by Dick’s attempts to talk to her and feeling that it was her responsibility to make everyone feel better when they all hate her. The illustration of a “Happy” Mary saying she was tired or not feeling well along with a “Crazy” Mary who knows she is hated and how life would be better for others without her. This is CLEARLY not a girl who is well-adjusted and “fine”. I feel for Dick, he has tried everything he knows to help, followed through on all the professionals suggestions and yet, the most painful revelation of all is his child is hurting, more than even he realized, and nothing is helping.
I hope this family can gain some peace after all this pain, but my guess is there is more pain to come before it gets better.