Today...I want to write to my oldest daughter, who is currently in jail in Florida, this letter from me to her. Before that let me give some background. Her mother and I dated briefly, 6 weeks in Wisconsin in early 1991. I moved back to Chicago and her Mom to Florida. That Thanksgiving she called to tell me I was a Dad and ask if I was going to be involved, she made it clear it was all or nothing. I had seen the effect of being a single Mom on my sister, even with a lot of support and I also felt a sense of responsibility so I jumped in with both feet. I dropped out of college and moved to Florida in 1992. Yeah, not one of my better moves.
There is a whole story on the 3 summers of failure where her Mother and I tried to make it. The last summer was the one she snuck away in the middle of the day, leaving me stranded alone in a cabin, and flew home. Bianca was almost 4 then. It was a few days later I received the bipolar diagnosis later dismissed as a "Mimic" bi-polar episode. Because Bianca's Birthday was in September, I got to have her 3x in that year. Each one 4-8 weeks. These visits continued through age 12, every summer for 2 months and normally either Thanks or Xmas. We were very close, I provided structure for her that she didn't have, yet craved from her Mom. Age 12-13 the contact stopped. She wouldn't talk to me her mother wasn't helping by spending the child support money on her self and then telling Bianca I was calling to yell at her, which was both not true and very unfair. A month before turning 14 is when the State removed Bianca from her mother.
My wife and I didn't hesitate in agreeing to take her in. My wife and her got along really well and she was my kid and I loved her. I am not going to lie, it was unbelievably tough and we almost gave up several times. Bianca is bi-polar, the one that is more manic and her mood tended to permeate throughout the house. We had an 18 month stretch where she was clean, went on a mission trip and was baptized. Shortly after that she began doing drugs again. My own admission at that time of smoking pot made it easier for her I am sure.
As I was focusing on rebuilding my marriage in early 2009, Bianca and I began to drift apart. The last year was painful as I didn't have enough to give her, my wife was pregnant and still recovering from her own depression and my son was newly diagnosed Aspbergers and Tourette's. Soon after leaving our home Bianca began having real legal problems. Not any that serious but the culmination has ended up with her in jail. I haven't physically seen her since shortly after my youngest's birth, so almost 4 years now. It's been very hard to watch her struggle knowing I just didn't have anything to offer and she wasn't willing to do some hard work on her own. Her resiliency can be a double edged sword. It's nice to have it but it makes it tougher to reach the "rock bottom." In light of my own new found diagnosis, if I could write her a letter it would look something like this...and maybe she will see this one day
Hi Sweetheart, I sure miss you. Had I known the last time I hugged you this much time would go pass...I wouldn't have let go.
We have some interesting news for you. They finally figured out what is wrong with me :-). As you know we have always wondered about my own bi-polar status. Even though it never quite fit there were some questions. Well they have diagnosed me with Borderline Personality disorder. I'm not sure how much you know about this and I would encourage you to google it to read about it. It really has some bi-polar tendencies with the primary difference being the length of time emotions rule the mind. For you, episodes could last days or weeks while for me it could be minutes or hours, always followed by a need for reconciliation. I know you saw it :-) It almost always stems from trauma and a "broken" brain. You know where mine comes from as we have talked often of Grandma's attempted suicide.
We always knew we were a lot alike :-) Now it's documented ;-). It's been very hard for me to accept this, not intellectually because it fits perfect, more emotionally. Like you and I talked about with your issues, it seems like having a good understanding makes others diminish the seriousness of the disease. Like knowing about it makes it easier to control- which we both know isn't true. Remember when we watched the Untouchables together? It's like Sean Connery says "Lots of things are half the battle, losing is half the battle."
There some things I need to say to you. This is hard on many levels darling, first because I must both seek your forgiveness and expose parts of me to you that I don't like. Secondly, I am still your father and this disorder doesn't change that. I have given willingly to you anything I have. If you can send me an e-mail address I will send you a much longer letter with some of the symptoms, etc...
Bianca, you need to know that my anger is not your fault. You have no responsibility whatsoever for my actions. Decisions I made are not your fault and they never were. I love you so much it hurts. You were my first and by default you will ALWAYS be Daddy's little girl. Mostly I am sorry for how close we would get and then something would come between us and between our own issues they could really escalate to over blown issues. I never stopped loving you. I never will.
As your father I always wanted to protect you. It was hard on both of us when you were a kid and your Mom would intermittently threaten to send you to live with me. That was really tough. I know how much you craved that structure and felt so loved and accepted when you would visit. It was always the same. You were SO excited to see me, Ashley, Lisa and grandma. You were such a good kid but as we would approach the day before you left each time, I would notice a distance from you and I knew that was your way of preparing to leave one environment for another, both so different from each other. I'll never forget the summer of 1997 when I was taking you to the airport I saw you crying. You were about to turn 6. Immediately I tried to console you, tell you how much I loved you. You told me to be quiet because it was making you sad, then you turned the radio up. Do you remember this? The song playing was "Don't speak" by No Doubt. We just cried together as we listened to the words and drove to the airport, each hurting. It was the first time I began to see you as your own person. I still mist up when I hear that song.
Here is a link that is a really good resource by the way and a second one that is an Open letter from a BPD to their family and friends
I wish so much we could go back to when you were baptized, I wasn't walking with God at that time and to not attend your baptism is a burden I will carry till the day I die. I read your face book messages and even though you talk a lot about faith, sweetheart it's also walking the walk, which we all know you can do. I know your in jail, I don't know which one or who to even check with. I don't know if and when you will see this. I do want you to know I love you so much. You are still so young and have so much to offer the world. What I can offer you is my love, support and you knowing how special you are to me and always will be. This is the day of your baptism and I can see love for others in your face along with God's love, hang on to this and know until we meet again, you are in my heart