Email to My Grandparents, January 10, 2003

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Hi Gram, Gramp & Sherry… 

Just a note to thank you very much for my Christmas gifts and money that you sent. You never forget about me no matter what seems to be happening in our lives. I appreciate your thoughts and well-wishes. 

I understand you’ve been talking with Dad about Jenna. I suppose I should fill you in on what’s been happening here at home. It’s kind of a long story, so take a seat and relax… 

Back in November of 2001, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which is a mood disorder caused by unbalance brain chemicals. I suffer from severe mood swings, ranging from acute depression to severe anxiety and irritability. I can bounce back and forth between moods very rapidly and have found them quite difficult to control. I have always suffered from this illness, as far back as the age of 12, but was never appropriately medicated until recently. In November 2001, I sought medical attention in order to get my illness under control. I started treating with a doctor here in Augusta that prescribed different medications for me. Over the course of about 4 months, he had prescribed 6 different medications, which I was taking all at the same time, and he didn’t take the appropriate amount of time to determine how each of the meds affected me or interacted with each other. Starting around February, 2002, my depression turned into mania (severe anxiety) and my behavior became more and more erratic, irritable, hostile and aggressive. It grew worse and worse with each passing day, to the point where I was isolating myself from Jenna and Kevin and the interactions I had with them were with marked anger, rage and hostility. These were all side-effects from the medications I was taking. I recognized what the medications were doing to me and pleaded with my doctor to change them, but he ignored my pleas for help. At the end of April, Jenna had become so uncomfortable, frightened and emotionally disturbed because of my unstable moods, that she convinced her guidance counselor at her school to call the Department of Human Services requesting that she be removed from my home. DHS concurred and removed Jenna around May 3, 2002. They placed her in my mother’s home to live for the time being so I could get my moods and life stabilized again. Jenna still lives with my mother today. She is attending Erskine Academy and is doing remarkably well considering the circumstances under which she began attending. This upheaval has caused incredible emotional trauma for myself, Jenna, Kevin and everybody who loves me. Immediately following Jenna’s removal I took myself off all of the drugs I was being prescribed and spent several weeks researching doctors who specialize in Bipolar Disorder. I finally found a great doctor in Biddeford who has an affiliation with Harvard Medical School and their Bipolar Research Program. He has prescribed only 2 medications for me—one to control the depression and one to control the mania. I am currently going off the medication for the mania as I have learned how to control it through behavior modification. Since November, 2002, I have been participating in psychotherapy to learn how to better control my manic episodes and lack of impulse control related to my mania.  I have felt so guilty for so long about my past behavior because I felt like I had done something wrong but I have spoken at length with my family and friends and they were finally able to convince me that I had done nothing wrong—the doctors were at fault for pushing so many different medications into me all at the same time and for not listening to how I said I was feeling. So now I am fighting to get my daughter to come home to live with me again but it appears that probably won’t happen. She seems to be happy living with my mother and she is especially happy attending Erskine Academy. I have decided that, although I will continue to work on myself and try to become “me” again, I do not expect to be a full-time mother again. I have found peace with the knowledge that I raised Jenna for 14 years, by myself as you know, and that I built for her a solid foundation on which she can shape the rest of her life. From what everybody is telling me, I had 2 years more than most parents do in influencing and shaping their children’s lives. I have nothing left to prove to DHS or any of the people scrutinizing my behavior. I have done a very good job raising my daughter and I am very proud of my accomplishments. 

I wrote this email to you because Dad has been wanting to explain to you why Jenna is attending Erskine Academy but he felt it was not his place to disclose the explicit details of my life, especially as shameful as they seem to be. I know you’ll understand and will give me your support, as you always have. I guess you know now why Jenna has not attended family functions with me nor will she be with me when I attend other family functions. I do see her from time to time but you know how teenagers are… they would rather be with their friends than with their family and me being ripped out of her life, as it happened, I don’t really have much control in telling her what she’s going to do or not do anymore. 

So, in a nutshell, that’s what my life has been like for the past year. Kevin and I are living separately for now so I can regain the inner strength that I lost during my illness. He and I are doing well considering what we have been through and will celebrate 3 years together in June. I still hope to marry him someday but that will be left up to God and destiny. 

I know you will offer me your support and love, just as you always have, and I want you to know that I appreciate it very much. Without the love and support of my family and friends, this last year would have been much more difficult to deal with than it was. 

I hope all is well with you and I look forward to reading a response from you soon. 

Love always, 

 

Gina

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