A Day in Our “Private Paradise”

I am sitting in a prestigious ocean town on a picture perfect 75-degree day, surrounded by palms and abundant fruit plants. The skies run blue as far as the eye can see. The lawn at the back of our house, lined by unique pine trees and flowering vines, has been described as a secluded paradise…Your Own Private Park, the words on the flier read when we bought the house...it was vast and idyllic, a place where an entire soccer team of kids could run and laugh, cool off in wading pools, toss frisbees and practice games, jump in bounce houses for birthday parties, share barbecues, and make memories to cherish a lifetime…the fact that it was lined by trees and “private” meant it was safe; our kids could grow up without cares and dwell in the magic of just being children. Now, fifteen years later, the yard is decorated with Grecian motifs, ornate pots, and fragrant plants — reminders of our Mediterranean honeymoon.

Not far away, children laugh and collect opalescent shells on white-sanded beaches. Surfers catch waves. Young women beautiful as mermaids cross the sand sipping boba drinks and laughing…Families gather around fire pits to cook, play bocce, swim together, and snuggle in enormous cotton towels after the sun goes down.

Not us.

My daughter, even more graceful and lovely than those mermaid-like girls who cross that shimmering sand, has just turned 18, the age most kids are when they pack to leave the house for good, enroll in college or travel through cities in faraway places like Europe or Bali to chase their dreams…my daughter scored as Gifted on many levels throughout her years of school. She has a voice so unforgettable she sang at Carnegie Hall in her freshman year of high school. She began designing fashion outfits when she was just eleven. And because of her impeccable style, sense of humor, and sunny disposition, she makes a large circle of friends and acquaintances wherever she goes. She actually draws better than most artists I have encountered. In fact, she taught herself to draw in just one month the summer before her sophomore year. People tried to buy her artwork that summer, but she wasn’t selling.

The work itself: Alice in Wonderland, trapped in a death cavern that leads only to a greater labyrinth. Alice’s eyes are filled with blood and she can no longer see. In bloodstained smock and apron, she reaches both arms high as she can and fights to break free, but she is smaller than those demons that surround her. And it is nighttime. A night so dark it will never end.

This work of art, her first masterpiece, is essentially a self-portrait. You see, my daughter suffers most days from indescribable internal demons. Demons I cannot see, defeat, or begin to comprehend. In fact, it is on the most beautiful days, days exactly like today — the days that remind me of my own childhood laughing on the beach, throwing Jarts after swimming in tide pools, sharing homemade chocolate cakes with my father’s family as we sang to Ella Fitzgerald and the moon prepared to fill the sky — that my daughter, Malia, suffers the most.

And being the lovely, magnetic social creature she is, Malia does not believe in doing anything alone…and to make certain she will not be alone, she takes all of us with her.

My daughter suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.