The only little hard part of our visit was when we were shopping for running shoes and ended up in Plato's Closet, an upscale consignment store for teens. The heavy-metal music and the confusion of the way the store was set up, and a wicked thunderstorm all combined to put her on edge. She doesn't do well with a lot of noise and confusion. She began to get grumpy about everything, and wanted to leave the store, which was fine with me. When we walked out, I couldn't remember where I had parked, so we were searching in the poring rain. Caroline became frustrated with me, but then quickly corrected herself and became very upset that she had become upset with me. She said she had promised herself she wouldn't get mad at me this weekend and felt like she had ruined her whole off-campus pass because she had failed at this promise.
I was sad that she was so perfectionistic about this, having an unrealistic idea that it was bad to become frustrated with someone. She has been taught to work on her "thinking errors," to catch them quickly and correct them, but she is confusing "thinking errors" with normal human emotions that we can't help feeling. Our emotions aren't wrong to feel, I told her, it's what we do with them. She couldn't seem to shake her self-blame and continued to sink in a downward spiral to despair over this. We really like her psychologist at Meridell, but we aren't sure if Hannah is getting the message about being balanced enough. Caroline said they only let them vent and cry for ten minutes or so, and then they have to pull themselves together and talk about how they are viewing things wrongly. Maybe she needs more time to just cry and get it all out.
Anyhow, I realized I had to put her in the car and take her for a little drive so she could get it all out, because she was stuck in the emotional vortex and we needed to talk about giving yourself grace. So we drove out past lots of cattle and cactus, while she sobbed about how hard it is to always have to be working so hard on your "thinking errors." I affirmed her and told her she had to let go of this perfectionism about relationships, that it didn't bother me in the least that she got frustrated with me, or that she was in a bad mood for a little while, because that is NORMAL, and to expect herself to always get it right is too great of a burden. God has GRACE for us, and we give grace to each other in our weaknesses. She cried for about an hour, and then she said she felt better, and after that she rest of the weekend went without a hitch.
One thing we are working on with Caroline (and all of our kids for that matter) is accepting boundaries when it comes to their "I wants." I have had a pretty unhelpful way of dealing with the tremendous stress in my life by shopping. Not big spending sprees, loading up on flat-screens, or designer hand-bags, but little shopping sprees, at discount stores, mind you, but more often than is wise. We are trying to really bring our kids on board helping them to understand that they have to help with our saving and spending goals by agreeing to accept the boundaries we give them when they "need or want" new whatever.
Especially with Caroline I have struggled with the "no" word. In the past, when she would have the downward-spiral "my life sucks," or when she had a new obsession that she just HAD to tackle NOW with all of the necessary supplies/equipment, I would cave into her just to keep the peace in our home. Anyone who doesn't have a bipolar kid may not understand how hard it is when you have a tornado in the house who can't find rest until their need for a mission fulfilled is satisfied may think I am just super-indulgent. The stress of caring for a child like this wears you down to the point that you develop unhealthy coping methods without meaning to, without even seeing it.
We talked about this pattern with Brandi, Caroline's RTC psychologist before we went off-campus, about the need for Caroline to be okay with "Sorry, I can't buy that for you now." She actually did great with that. When I told her I thought something was too expensive, or she already had enough shorts, or whatever, she was fine with it. I found myself wanting to spoil her though while we were shopping. I wanted to buy her stuff probably out of feeling bad about all she has gone through, so I still overspent my budget. But I told her that we wouldn't be able to do this at home, that things would be a lot tighter. She said she understood and that she would be okay. I am just glad this is out on the table now with her.
Well, the dishes are calling, so I will end with a quote from an amazing book I am reading by Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, examining the parable of the prodigal sons (yes, sons)
The first thing we need is God's initiating love. Notice how the father comes out to each son and expresses love to him, in order to bring him in. He does not wait for his younger son on the porch of his home, impatiently tapping his foot, murmuring, "Here comes that son of mine. After all he's done, there had better be some real groveling." There's not a hint of such an attitude. No, he runs and kisses him before his son can confess. It's not the repentance that causes the father's love, but rather the reverse. The father's lavish affection make the son's expression of remorse far easier" (pp 73-74).