Coming home again

It was the toughest hospitalization yet. We weren’t sure how things were going to go once Arabella came home again. We weren’t sure if we could handle it. But ready or not back home she would come.

Everything about the process was difficult, seeing the extent of her cutting for the first time upon admission. Even the need for 24 hour surveillance, the panic attacks. No one really knew what was wrong. How hard is it to do a psych eval? They just kept throwing more pills her way. She was back on one that she was taken off of before. She has depression, maybe bipolar. Too young for a diagnosis of borderline. Trauma, perhaps?

Even the ride home was stressful. Traffic was heavy and I got rear ended on our way home. My car got totaled yet the other driver had barely a dent. Now I needed to find a new car. So much for delivering packages for the holiday season. That was definitely out of the question now. Was getting another job an option anyway?

I felt irritated and overwhelmed by the time we got home. Arabella was being rather quarrelsome. I thought my car was totaled. I had all of these medications to figure out. It took a lot of concentration to figure out her pill regime. I was pretty shook up about the car accident. I really liked my car and didn’t want to have to buy a new one. I’d never been in an accident before. My neck hurt. I was really feeling out of sorts.

Paul seemed to focus on making things nice for Arabella when she got home. I think they played a game together. He seemed irritated with me that that wasn’t my focus. I was very crabby. It’s not often that you pick up your daughter from the psychiatric hospital and total your car on the same day.

Paul helped Arabella switch her room around. Once she realized she couldn’t go back to Jordan’s, she surprisingly adjusted really well to being back at home. Over the time she was hospitalized, Arabella’s pet frog died at Jordan’s house. I felt really bad about the whole thing and went out and bought her two new frogs. It was a really rough time, but some good did come of it. My daughter moved back home and once again enjoyed being here.

The blame game

After Arabella was in the hospital a couple of days, it was time for the family session.

In the meantime, Paul drafted a 4 page document stating conditions of Arabella’s return home on our part and hers. It revolved around mutual respect and listening, following the rules those types of things. There were ideas of healthy relationship building along with things that tear relationships down. It was filled with fun activities and rewards for working hard and also consequences such as loss of privileges.

Arabella didn’t want much to do with it. She wanted to leave the hospital and return to Jordan’s house. But right before the family session we found out that Jordan’s family did not want her back.

I had to brace myself for the family session when the therapist asked Arabella why she would rather be at Jordan’s house than her own. I was feeling defensive yet told myself that I also had to be open to her ideas. Maybe we were too structured. Maybe we weren’t structured enough.

I want to tell you a secret about being a parent of a child with serious mental health struggles. I always feel blamed. Maybe I was too hard on her. Maybe I wasn’t hard enough. I could probably give examples of times when we responded both ways. She is too entitled. I had too many rules. I just can’t win. Yes, one plus one should equal two, but sometimes the answer is 10. You should reap what you sow. But with mental illness it doesn’t always work out that way. One of the most frustrating things is feeling like I somehow caused this to happen. Oh, I wish I had that much control. If I did, she wouldn’t be struggling like she is.

Another thing that really bothers me is when people suggest that my daughter has a demon. How did that happen? It is very triggering because I saw the same kind of blame of my mom with my autistic/schizophrenic brother. How could a demon possess a little baby? My brother heard voices because he is mentally ill not because he is possessed. My parents didn’t do anything to willingly cause this in their child and neither did I. It makes me angry to think about it. But yet I myself look at other parents when their kids have problems and ask what they did wrong. Why is it so hard to accept that some things just are for no apparent reason?

So I tried to have an open mind at the family session. Arabella what did you have at Jordan’s house that you don’t have at your own? She answered that Jordan’s house was filled with noise and chaos. Jordan has three younger siblings that are always loudly playing or fighting. They also have several puppies running around. That wasn’t what I was expecting or worried about. I was afraid she would say they are more loving or caring, but no. Arabella is our youngest child and our pets are geriatric. That was just something we couldn’t give her, a house with puppies and little kids.

We told Arabella in that session that Jordan’s family did not want her to live there anymore. She took it hard and started crying. I was glad that she was dealing with her feelings about it in the hospital because I think that kind of news would’ve sent her over the edge at home.

What is true?

Arabella didn’t want to come back home again. As we put more pressure on her to come back home, we received more push back.

She didn’t want to stay in her bedroom. We were willing to switch bedrooms. She didn’t want that either. We finally settled on changing her room around. We could rearrange the furniture or paint the walls a different color. It could be fun and exciting.

One day I called her at the hospital and she dropped a bomb on me. I can’t come home because I was assaulted at the house. What??!? Something happened at my house over a year ago and I knew nothing about it? And I was home??

There was this guy that Arabella was thinking of dating. They went on a couple dates. One time they just hung out together at the park. Then she decided to bring him home for supper. To me the relationship seemed odd because a few days later she told the guy that either they were going to be girlfriend and boyfriend or they weren’t going to speak to each other again. I told her that her response was rather extreme. My advice was that it was a good idea to be friends and then see what happened. But she didn’t want anything to do with that. He asked to kiss her and she declined. Then whatever relationship they had was over.

Over a year later, she told me that she couldn’t come home because this guy assaulted her in the house. I asked her why she didn’t tell me sooner. Why was she telling me this when she was making every excuse to not come back home? Honestly, I didn’t know if I believed her. I do think it is possible that he may have tried to touch her in a way that she didn’t want. Then why would he ask if he could kiss her? Why would he do something with me in the other room when he had the opportunity to do something when they were alone at the park? It didn’t make sense.

I felt afraid. She did accuse my husband and I of doing and saying things that we didn’t. Then she made accusations against this guy she was thinking of dating. What if she made similar accusations against my son, his friends, my daughter’s boyfriend, my dad, my step-father-in-law, or other family and friends? I felt sickened by the thought. I didn’t know what to believe and that is scary.

But what if it was true and I didn’t believe her? I literally felt sick about the whole thing. It was so confusing because I really think she convinced herself it was true. But yet I felt manipulated like she would do or say anything to stay at Jordan’s house. She didn’t know yet that they didn’t want her there. But we would be talking about that soon with the family therapist at the psychiatric hospital.

Gratitude week 67

  1. I’m grateful for a best friend who brought me a bouquet of flowers on Easter.
  2. I’m grateful that I didn’t chicken out and was able to cross getting a tattoo off my bucket list. This is something I was really anxious about. I was tempted to cancel the appointment. The tattoo artist was running late which also increased my anxiety. But it wasn’t all that painful. Going to the dentist for a cleaning is a lot worse. Maybe it was the release of endorphins, but the rest of the day I felt peaceful and calm, almost euphoric. The process didn’t take as long as I expected. My arm isn’t a big painful oozing pus open wound. To me it looks like I put on one of those sticker tattoos. I am in relatively no pain at all. A cartilage piercing was a lot more painful. So, the whole process went a lot better than I could’ve ever expected.
  3. I’m grateful that my son’s band is getting back together again. Someday soon I will get to see him play again.
  4. My mom is moving in with us today. I’m grateful that she seems to be on the path of healing. I’m still uncertain what this process will look like. I am rather apprehensive about the whole thing. Everything happened so suddenly that my head is still spinning. But this can be a good thing.
  5. Just an hour or two after my mom asked to move in, Paul’s step-dad Darryl stopped by out of the blue. He brought his new girlfriend, or should I say fiancĂ© as they got engaged the day they stopped by. Although it was only the second time I saw her, I think they will be happy together.
  6. I saw my cranial sacral/massage therapist this past week to help me relax before the tattoo. I’m grateful for other people that help me along on my own personal healing journey.
  7. I’m grateful that the grass turned green again.
  8. I’m grateful for change even when I say I am not. Sometimes I get bored of the same old routines.
  9. I’m grateful to have had a wonderful grandma to remember. Today would’ve been her birthday.
  10. I’m grateful for the good things in my life when I’m going through hard times.

A good move?

Tomorrow my mom is moving in with us for awhile. I know, I know… I am just as shocked as you are. Let me tell you, it’s been quite the week.

Last week I probably told you how my mom said my dad was the love of her life, that they are happy together, and now they even tell each other they love one another. This week the pendulum swung in the other direction. Now my mom is telling me that she wished she never married my dad. I am so confused. I can’t help but see the parallel between my daughter Arabella’s behavior and that of my mother’s. They often swing from bad to good or good to bad depending on how they are feeling at the time.

As I was driving my mom home from her visit, she said she was starting to feel a lot of anxiety as she got closer to home. I told her that was good. At least she knows what is causing her anxiety now. I promised to pick her up in a couple of days. She told me to bring an empty car. I hope I am not making a mistake.

When my daughter and her boyfriend turned my dad in to the police for child porn, he wasn’t exactly a pillar of the community. It wasn’t a long hard fall from a shiny pious pedestal. He was the object of pity, scorn, and disgust for many years. The last time I went to their house my dad’s corpulent body was clothed in a dirty t-shirt and underwear. That is correct, he was not wearing pants. He is unkept and has no self-respect. My mom informed me that he is yet to take a shower this calendar year. He doesn’t clean up after himself and has a tendency towards hoarding. I do not want to see the house after my mom leaves.

He was not a loving and caring husband or father. He never was one to say a kind word. He condemned others and tried to make them feel like idiots. He laughed when his family was hurting. He even made lewd comments to his grandchildren. He was never the guy to cheer anyone on from the sidelines. He rarely made an appearance at holiday get togethers.

I felt bad because Dan made a comment at Easter time that he was the one that ruined our family because he was the one (along with my daughter) who turned my dad in. How was he to know how things were before he started dating Angel. I told Dan that it wasn’t his fault, it was my dad’s fault. We just didn’t know how bad things had become.

After everything that happened, my mom has been tottering back and forth between love and hate for my dad. Once the pandemic happened, she was scared for her life and pretty much locked herself up in her house alone with my dad. She received relatively no family support because she wouldn’t let us in. During that time she saw my dad as some sort of knight in shining armor instead of the disgusting person that he is. It’s almost as if she developed some weird sort of alternate reality to deal with being trapped with him.

Now my mom wants to leave. I think it will be good for my mom to get away from my dad for a while until she can figure things out. Hopefully it will be a good move…

I did it!

He lined us up in the laundry room that day. He took off his belt and snapped it. He said we were all going to get a licking with the belt if no one confessed. My brothers and I looked at each other in bewilderment. I didn’t do it.

Terrified but trying not to show it. It’s strange, I remember the sting but I can’t remember ever getting hit. I bite my lower lip. The teeth marks permanently indent.

Luke is taken into the other room first while Mark and I fight back the the horror of what is to come. Luke screams and cries for what seems like a lifetime until he yells ‘I did it’ and everything ended like it had never begun.

I never want to be that frightened again. I never want fear to stop me from doing the things I want to do. I got my first tattoo today even though I was afraid.

I did it!

trauma

Arabella’s second hospitalization didn’t go well. She told me she had one of the worst cases of cutting they have ever seen. That says a lot since it was coming from professionals working in a psychiatric hospital.

Arabella wasn’t doing well in group time. She couldn’t focus. She started picking at her wounds which was triggering for the other kids. Arabella told them she would never stop cutting. This ended up getting her kicked out of group and she was sent off to work by herself on packets.

Not only did she scratch open her wounds, but she started banging her head against the wall. This landed her in a room with 24 hour surveillance. She started having panic attacks which included hysterical crying for long periods of time and throwing up.

I felt like the staff blamed us for her condition. Trauma they said. Trauma, I hate that word. It has so many meanings that it means nothing. The Holocaust survivors experienced trauma. Everyone in the world experienced trauma from COVID. There could be trauma from abuse anywhere from incest to someone speaking to you the wrong way. There could be trauma from being in a car accident, etc. What does it really mean anyway?

Paul and I were incredibly worried. How were we going to keep her safe at home when she found a way to self-injure in a psychiatric hospital. They offered useless advice such as locking up all of the medications and knives in our house. As if she couldn’t find a way around that if she really wanted to.

Jordan’s mom texted me and said that she didn’t want Arabella staying at her house anymore. It really scared her when Arabella was suicidal at their house. She said she couldn’t live with herself if something happened and it really was a stressful situation for their whole family. I think she realized what I said to her a couple of weeks before was right. They weren’t saving Arabella from an abusive home. They were enabling Arabella to not work things out with her own family that cared for her. Not only that, but it was the first time they saw that she was dealing with some serious mental health issues.

The evening that Arabella was admitted, we were hosting the first Bible study group at our house. I considered cancelling that evening and the class altogether. But we decided not to. If I decided to cancel things for every crisis or sleepless night, I would get nothing done. I just wanted some degree of normalcy in my life.

I blamed myself. I felt guilty for things I didn’t even do. What kind of parents have their child in a psychiatric hospital with severe cutting that will require plastic surgery to fix? We also decided to pull the plug on her breast reduction surgery scheduled for a couple weeks from then. We consulted several psychiatrists and the plastic surgeon’s office about it. They all advised against it. It would be a big surgery and we did not feel we could keep her safe. What if she messed with the wounds? It could easily become life threatening.

I didn’t feel relief with this hospitalization. I wasn’t sure that she could be safe from herself even there. I didn’t know how things were going to be when she came back home. She couldn’t even handle being at home before the hospitalization and now Jordan’s family didn’t want her back.

We were desperate for answers that we couldn’t find.

Thank God for masks, I guess…

I am at the age of being in the sandwich generation. Meaning I have a child that has not reached the age of adulthood and aging parents that are both in the need of care. I am stuck in the middle. It is different now than it was a couple of years back. The issues I’m dealing with now are more mental health related in nature. I’m finding it hard to take time for my mental health. I’m afraid I am starting to slip.

Although I only have one child under the age of 18, it has been very difficult because of her severe mental health issues. She is currently in a residential mental health facility. Some days I actually have a lot of hope and other days I struggle. Paul and I can’t make visits because of COVID, but we talk on the phone six days a week for 15 minutes and Facetime twice a week. Sometime the conversations don’t go well. Last night she begged for us to send her things and spent the rest of the time arguing then ended up hanging up on us. In those moments, I wonder what kind of return we will get on our tens of thousands of dollars investment. I know that sounds harsh. But is she going to come home and kill herself anyway? It’s easy to have hope when the conversations go well or when she isn’t here to argue with everything we say. I imagine her in an environment of constant healing where she will return healthy or at least more like she was before. But is that realistic? I can’t bear to think it is not.

It was hard this Easter because she wasn’t here with us. My mom decided not to come either. She said she was too tired despite me telling her a few days before that we could arrange for her to get a ride here and back home. She didn’t have to prepare any food. She could even spent the night or rest in another room if she wanted to, but apparently she didn’t want to. It was extremely disappointing. I found myself angry, sad, and confused. She didn’t have to do anything but show up, eat, and then go back home. She said once she got the vaccine she would visit. But where was she for the holiday? It seemed like a lame excuse.

She would bend over backwards for my autistic brother Matt. Although she was tired she helped organize a birthday party for him with his autism group to have lunch at a sports bar. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan had his 21st birthday party at a sports bar a couple years back and Matt has been talking about it ever since. Matt liked the music and the rowdy drunk patrons at a nearby table.

Right before the party, Matt got a rash. It wasn’t dangerous at all but it was painful, red, and itchy. Matt was really anxious and agitated about it. In response my mom also became very anxious about it. Their anxiety fed off of one another and festered bigger than the rash itself. Matt was like the kid on the playground that got hurt and waited to watch for mom’s reaction and he got one because she was freaking out about it. Matt was so upset that he did not want to wear the birthday button or really participate much in his event at all.

The coordinator of the autism group was trying to build some excitement in Matt about the button and the fact that my mom made him a cake. She told Matt that her mom didn’t bake her a cake on her birthday. I thought to myself neither does my mom. The whole party my mom catered to Matt. She helped him use the bathroom which he is fully capable of doing himself. She also cut up his hamburger into bite sized pieces. Again, something he was capable of doing. She babies him so much that it really is a disservice to him. Everyone needs to cater to Matt. Matt never has to adapt to his environment. He never has an opportunity to learn and grow for himself.

Sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy because I want to have a mom like Matt’s. She pretty much let the rest of us fend for ourselves. I want a mom to plan my party and bake me a cake. But she couldn’t even show up for Easter because she was tired.

The last time I saw my mom she showed me where all her passwords and special papers are. She is convinced that she is going to die soon. I thought about a week ago she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She wants me to take care of Matt like she does. She totally bypassed my dad in the whole process. I feel extremely burdened by it all. I can’t even spend a lot of time thinking about it because it is too stressful for me. Doesn’t my mom understand that I am already close to my breaking point? Instead of helping me through this, she brings me down.

All I wanted was my mom to come over for Easter. I was already sad that my daughter couldn’t be here. It’s not like she was on vacation. She is in a mental hospital. Her whole senior year went down the drain and I really don’t know what the future will hold. It is hard to take.

I can’t remember anymore what it feels like to feel joy. It’s been a long time since a genuine smile touched my face. Thank God for masks, I guess.

The downward spiral

A couple weeks after Arabella moved out, I received a call that I needed to pick her up and bring her to the hospital. She needed help and her plan was to take a cocktail of all her pills.

Her girlfriend broke up with her. There was constant fighting amongst her friends. And she lost her job at the bar and grill doing food prep because she was too slow. Her self-esteem dipped to a new low. She was planning on going to school for culinary arts but she felt like that door closed because she couldn’t do something easy without getting fired. In her mind there really wasn’t anything left to live for. She lost her family, girlfriend, and a job. Maybe her new family was starting to lose its luster too.

I picked her up along with some clothes and had her admitted into a different psychiatric hospital right away. They did a rapid COVID test and while we were waiting alone in the room together a security company had workers moving in and out of the room trying to service equipment. It was a strange experience because they tried hard to seem invisible when they were anything but.

My daughter needed to remove her jacket for admittance. That is when I saw her arms for the first time after I was told her cutting was superficial several months ago. I suppose you could almost say the cutting was superficial on her dominant arm. But her other arm was ruined. It was absolutely devastating to see what she did to herself after her first hospitalization. She was going to need plastic surgery to heal those wounds. There were numerous scars that went all the way up her arm.

I felt afraid and sickened by it. All the while the men were coming in and out of the room pretending to be oblivious to our suffering. I can imagine the stories they told at home later. This time I was able to go into the adolescent ward with her while she waited for her room. Another girl said hi to her. No one really seemed to focus on her arms. Parents were allowed to visit their children in this hospital at meal time.

I told Paul that Arabella’s cutting was really horrifying and he was going to have to prepare himself to see her. I’ve never seen her in this rough of shape before. It was hard for me to handle. Something was seriously wrong with my daughter. What were we going to do?

I felt extremely disturbed by everything that was happening. I started having sleepless nights again and nightmares when I could sleep. It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences for me as her parent. We were desperate for help but we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t sure if there was any hope left for her future or if they could even help her.

Life as we knew it went completely off the rails. Things were never going to be the same again.

Gratitude week 66

  1. It’s Easter! I’m grateful for the resurrection of the Lord.
  2. I’m thankful for friends we can celebrate the day with along with two of our kids.
  3. I’m thankful that Arabella is starting to do well in residential.
  4. I’m grateful that March is over and we are one step closer to summer.
  5. I’m grateful for beautiful weather this weekend. Yesterday I went for a run for the first time in a long time. This means a lot because I never thought my life would be like this. Before the pandemic, I went to the gym three times a week for intense workouts. Then the gym closed once the pandemic started. My routine that I thought I couldn’t live without abruptly changed. It’s been a year since I’ve had colitis. I was so weak for a month afterwards that I thought I would never run again. So, I’m grateful for good health, to be up and running again, and to know I can survive just fine without it.
  6. In some ways, I’m grateful I learned new things about myself during the pandemic. I also examined what I want to keep in my life and what I want to leave behind.
  7. I’m getting my first tattoo this week. I’m grateful that so far I am not letting fear stop me from something that I’ve always wanted to do. I am very nervous about it, but I think I can do it.
  8. I’m grateful that no one fooled me on April Fools Day. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle the stress of more (even if it is fake) bad news. I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer want to play pranks on people either. I don’t know if it’s a sign of me being too serious now or if I am just getting old.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to write this post sitting outside in the warm sun.
  10. I’m grateful we were able to take Angel out to eat for sushi for her achievements earlier this week. We were able to spend a lot of time with her this week and she went to church with us this morning.