Following is a reposting of the 2nd part of our diagnosis journey. As I look back over those early, traumatic months it brings up many feelings. Though this particular writing reminds me of anger and sorrow, it also reminds me of the strength we can draw from each other when its least expected.
I left off our Diabetes story at the point Nikki was released from the hospital. We get home and are a feeling a mixture of relief in just being back in our own house and complete fear that we won’t be able to take care of Nikki and the worst will happen.
Of course, there was our other daughter, Amber, to consider as well. One thing that can and often does happen, is that the chronic illness of one child can completely over shadow the needs and even the existence of your healthy child(ren). I will touch more on that in future writings, but I would like to say that Amber is another of my heroes.
There is so much involved in the day to day living of life with diabetes that I won’t try to go overboard in details. Instead I want to touch on a few milestones. For this posting, the milestone is acceptance.
I mentioned in the first writing Nikki’s anger toward me. That is sort of putting it mildly. I would say that in her 5 year old mind she bordered on hating me, at the time. Of course, I didn't blame her. Her anger at having Diabetes was totally directed at her mommy. She was not capable, at such a young age, to identify her feelings and/or give a voice to them; so they naturally came out as anger directed at the person who she thought could fix everything, mommy. The outbursts were frequent and increased in violence. The final outburst came about a month after her diagnosis, during a trip to Kroger.
We had finished our grocery shopping; Amber was at home with Daddy so it was just Nikki and I. She decided, for no particular reason (and I believe there really wasn’t one) that she was not going to get in the car with me to go home (I think she felt so out of control that she was trying to control whatever she could, namely me). Up until that point, I will admit that I indulged her anger toward me because I felt so guilty that she had this thing to deal with; so I overcompensated in inappropriate ways. Anyway, she stopped about 8 feet from our car and said “I’m not going home”. I told her, most likely in a very sappy tone of voice, that we needed to get home because she had to eat. Looking back now, I believe that comment was the trigger for her almost instant and complete emotional meltdown.
She started trying to kick me. A light bulb went on in my head and I realized that I was losing control of my 5 year old. It suddenly occurred to me that having diabetes was no excuse for public temper tantrums. I picked her up. Those of you who have ever had to pick up a 5 year old in the midst of a temper tantrum, have an inkling of the strenghth they can have; combine that strength with an overwhelming anger and terror at not really knowing why your parents are constantly sticking you with needles, making you eat when you don’t want to, not letting you eat when you do want to, etc. etc. and you get a minature Incredible Hulk.
People stopped and stared at us; most likely convinced that I was (a) kidnapping an unwilling victim or (b) a terrible mother; at that point I didn’t care. My only objective was trying to get this little person into the car. I finally succeeded, and then it took another almost half hour to get her into the car seat. I backed out of the parking spot and began the short drive home. About halfway there Nikki managed to get herself out of the carseat and was attempting to get out of the MOVING car. I just kept going. I drove the last 2 mintues to the house with one hand on the steering wheel and one and on the door lock in the back seat, with Nikki biting my hand, and I don’t mean a nip, my hand was bleeding.
I get her home and by then yes I was fussing at her; we get inside and I just collapsed on the kitchen floor in tears. I began sobbing, really sobbing and she suddenly stopped being angry at me and just looked. After a couple of minutes I felt her little hand on my head. I looked up at her and it was in that moment we reconnected .... through our tears. We continued crying and holding on to each other. I think it was then that Nikki realized I hated what was happening to her as much as she did. Obviously, a 5 year doesn’t process information in that way but that was the jist of what she understood in that pocket of time.
What I learned from all of that is this: You have to be strong for your kids. To me that meant -- at the beginning of her diagnosis -- not falling apart before, during or after a crisis. You don’t want your kids thinking about how mom will act once the crisis is over, that will only add to their stress. So I kept it all in. The message Nikki got from me was that I was okay with her having diabetes. She thought it didn’t matter to me. Showing and sharing our feelings with our children is a good thing, when done appropriately. They need us to be human. They need us to say "I'm sorry" when we screw up, or when they are hurting. Sometimes they even need to see us cry. Sometimes they need us to cry with them. Nikki never had another outburst after that day.