Youngest Daughter’s GCSE results marked the beginning of a downward slope for her. In the days following the results I felt like I was walking a very high tightrope with no safety net. Everything I said or suggested (or even didn’t say or suggest) would be met with an explosion of rage and a slammed door. She was hurt and angry and the depression she’d been battling since the overdose attempt, now seemed to get a new vice-like hold upon her. The results confirmed her long-held belief that she was a ‘failure’ (this was her belief, nobody else’s, but there was, and still is, nothing I could do to talk her out of it).
The fact that we got E’s first email about selling the house just days after the results didn’t help matters. She was unsettled and insecure and the thought of having to leave her home upset her deeply. I tried to reassure her that we’d be fine. I pointed out that we’d moved a lot in the past and I’d always made sure she was ok. But, of course, this time her feelings about moving were all mixed up with her anger about her Dad and further confused by depression
She tried going back to school, but her depression, combined with the fact that her GCSE grades meant she was unable to do the subjects she wanted to do, meant that she was increasingly unhappy. In the end, we made the decision to withdraw her from full time education for the time being, to give her time to recover and to try and reduce some of the pressure she was feeling.
She decided to work on her art at home, and found a part time job. For a while, she seemed to be rallying a bit, but the continuing pressure from E to sell the house, followed by his withdrawing of money altogether in November, made her worse again. She still has days when she’s fine, but she also has days when she’s lethargic and uninterested in everything. Most teenagers’ rooms are messy, but hers seems to reflect the confusion and lack of control she feels over everything. I’ve offered to help her clean and tidy it, but, much as she wants her room to be lovely and a place she can relax in, she won’t accept any help to make it the way she wants it. There are still regular flashes of the madcap, funny, eccentric child she used to be but she seems lost and I don’t know what to do to help her find herself.
She’s now having counselling from CAMHS, whilst awaiting more intensive therapy, and whilst they are lovely (to me as well as to her), it’s hard to describe how inadequate you feel when you’re sitting talking to someone who probably understands more about how your child is thinking than you do. After her last session, her counsellor told me (with her permission) that her dad’s withdrawing the money and trying to force me into selling the house was making her have suicidal thoughts again.
This made me question how I’d dealt with the whole thing with the kids – I’d tried to be honest and reassuring, but maybe I’d made things worse? Maybe I just shouldn’t have said anything at all? I’ve always been honest, without being angry, with the kids about what’s happening with their Dad, but maybe that was wrong, maybe I should have protected them from everything? I also questioned the fact that I’ve tried to stop them saying anything or lashing out about what’s happening on social media. I’ve kept everything away from my personal pages, partly out of respect to E’s family, but also because I am just not comfortable with moaning about how rubbish everything is on Facebook.
Unlike me, however, Youngest Daughter has frequently wanted to put things out there and to tell everyone what she thinks of her dad. She’s also said many times that she’d like to confront him face to face, but she hasn’t done it when he sees the boys because she doesn’t want to upset Oldest Son. E continues to ignore every single angry text she sends meaning that she feels utterly frustrated and ignored. It sounds stupid, but all she really wants is her dad’s attention, but for whatever reason, he’s refusing to give it to her.
This combination of deep depression, rising anger and a mounting need to confront her dad met, in what some might describe as a perfect storm, on Friday evening when E was doing one of his regular online lectures.
I don’t normally pay any attention to E’s online presence, but for some reason, earlier in the week, I’d seen that he was due to give an online lecture via his company’s Facebook page. As I’ve mentioned, I have never publicly confronted E about anything, I’ve never contacted P or O (even though I have both of their email addresses) and I’ve certainly never embarrassed him at work. My reward for my fairness and decency has been being ignored, and ultimately being financially penalised for refusing to immediately agree to sell the house. It’s childish, but after the month I’d just been through, and seeing the state Youngest Daughter was in, I deeply resented the fact that E was just carrying on as normal, untouched by everything he’d done. So, I mentioned to a handful of close friends that E was live online that night. I think, given what he’d put us through in November, that there was a general feeling of ‘let’s make him squirm a bit’ among people. So, sure enough, as the lecture went on, my friends began making light-hearted, but harmless, comments on the Facebook feed. Heaven knows what E’s students thought, but there was nothing bad being said, my friends just made their presence felt. It was obvious that E could see who was watching and commenting and I think it made him uncomfortable, a little nervous, and probably a tad pissed off. Watching his discomfort, part of me felt a little guilty – as if I had unleashed a lynch mob – but then, as I saw the good natured silliness of the comments, I relaxed and began to find it funny.
The lecture had been going for about 40 minutes (I didn’t watch all of it – I’m not a total masochist – I was dipping in and out) when one waggish chum asked if ‘child maintenance was tax deductible’, to which one of E’s students, completely unaware of what was happening, very sincerely replied explaining that this was not a tax paper. This made me shout with very loud laughter, and immediately alerted Youngest Daughter to the fact that there was something going on. She looked at my phone, saw her dad was live and seized her moment…