I’ve always been the sentimental type. I don’t know why dates and anniversaries are so important to me, they just are.
Arabella was in the mental hospital for the third time over Thanksgiving. I didn’t feel like there was much left to be thankful for. For the first time, we didn’t get together with family over the holidays. It was just my husband, our other two kids, and my best friend and her family for Thanksgiving. I lost the spirit of joy and celebration. COVID tore everything apart that my dad didn’t put asunder.
It was the one year anniversary of the devastating call from my daughter Angel that she found child porn on my dad’s computer. Thanksgiving, that is when my mom gave the computer over to my daughter for her boyfriend to fix. It’s when everything started. I didn’t think the anniversary would be so difficult for me. Or maybe it was because my daughter was in the hospital again or that my whole family seemed to be torn from me.
It threw me back into a time of mourning, a grief so piercing that nothing could break through. It had been a whole year and nothing was resolved. My dad was still living at home. My mom was close to a nervous breakdown and stuck in the house with him. She would swing from feeling a tremendous amount of love towards my dad to wanting to leave but not wanting to be alone. She was terrified of the pandemic. Her anxiety was spinning out of control with her fear of dying along with a lifetime of trauma. She stopped sleeping at night. But there was nothing I could do to help her because she was afraid of me because of COVID.
My daughter Angel moved back home a couple months before Thanksgiving. I could see the fallout from her experience with my dad. She was not the same person she used to be. Before she was friendly, outgoing, and happy. That changed. She was not the same happy go lucky people person. She became anxious about social outings. She became rather cynical of life and the happy person I dropped off at freshman year of college was gone. The suffering caused mainly in part from my family of origin gave her some major trust issues. I wanted to protect my children from it but try as I did I couldn’t. I blamed my dad for the loss of my daughter. I didn’t share this with anyone but it was around that time when Angel got diagnosed with anxiety and a mild form of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Sometimes I wish that I would never see my family of origin again because of the extent of suffering caused by their hand. I feel a lot of guilt for feeling this way. I harbor a lot of anger and resentment for all the decades of pain and suffering they caused. Looking back, I can’t even say that most of my childhood trauma was caused by my dad. Most of it was caused by Matt. It’s super hard to have an autistic/schizophrenic brother that hears voices to hurt/kill pretty much everyone I cared about along with any unlucky stranger who was victim to his psychotic rage. I was never protected. I’ve lost so much I can’t even count the number of people I’ve seen him hurt.
Meanwhile, Arabella was in the hospital. Finally someone listened to what I was saying. My daughter Arabella was showing signs of having severe Borderline and they agreed with me. I didn’t feel blamed. They got her started on the waiting list for the residential treatment program that she is in now. How did I end up with two daughters with borderline right around the same time? Do you realize how chaotic my house is? I’m pretty sure my MIL had borderline and I suspect my mother has it as well. It does have a genetic component to it, so that makes sense. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
This last Thanksgiving was a huge trigger and I felt bad for not feeling thankful at a time of celebrated thanksgiving. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for but I couldn’t seem to find a way out of the suffering I found myself in.
Arabella adjusted to being back home surprisingly well. We changed her room around and I bought her two new frogs after her other one died while she was in the hospital. For awhile everything seemed to be going pretty well except in one area…school.
Arabella missed a week of school while she was in the hospital. Before that she attended school somewhat sporadically. Although very bright, she was slipping behind. School was a literal mess at the time. Some days school was in person and at other times it was virtual.
The time Arabella took off for ‘mental health days’ and having a week in the hospital started to snowball her down a slippery slope. Few of the teachers were understanding of her truancy before hospitalization and frankly I can’t blame them. It was frustrating for everyone especially since she previously was an honor student. I was constantly nagging her about school and graduation. What I didn’t realize right away was that Arabella was feeling anxious about virtual school because it came across as a disrespectful hatred of school. That attitude made us push more. The pressure to apply for college and have a life plan was setting in at this point too.
It was later that we found out she was terrified of being called upon by teachers. She had a hard time focusing on what they were saying online. When they called on her to answer questions she felt very anxious to the point of having panic attacks. Her feelings of panic was enough for her to fight everyone and avoid virtual school altogether. Once we found out what the problem was, we told Arabella to reach out to the guidance counselor.
It wasn’t long after that Arabella fell into a deep depression again. Paul and I took her in for a late night assessment one Sunday night. I was already in my pajamas and ready for bed when we had to take her in. Paul had to work the next morning. I really didn’t want to take her by myself since I was exhausted and knew it would be a long night. I was willing to do it by myself anyway but Paul decided to go with. This time we had her pack an overnight bag. No nightgowns. No tie strings on hoods or pants. No long socks. We knew the drill.
We got home close to 3 AM. Arabella started her third hospitalization, close to a month after her second. It was the week of Thanksgiving. At this point she missed so much school that I wasn’t even sure she would graduate.
If I could go back and change things, I would rewrite the whole story. I would throw out the manuscript and start over. I wouldn’t even be a character. My mom would still marry my dad. But I would change the timeline a bit. She would marry my dad before he went to Vietnam. She would be pregnant when he left with my brother Luke. There wouldn’t be a Matt, Mark, or me. Luke has had the most positive impact on the world. My dad would never return from the war. My grandparents would be heartbroken losing their only child. But they had Luke who is so much more than my dad ever would be. My mom would eventually move on with her life and everything would end happily.
Yet here I am, a part of me wishing I never was. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here. I could never leave my husband and children. Although I feel my sanity slipping. I have this feverish obsession to tell my story, all of it. I don’t even know why. It seems to be my purpose.
It’s been a week since my mom moved in. Over this week I’ve heard stories about my dad that I’ve never heard before that fueled my hatred for him even more. I think my parents marriage was a big mistake. I wish they never got married, but that leaves a big problem. If I wish away them, I wish away me. I was okay taking my mom in. I think she is safer here. I don’t even mind driving her to appointments. Yesterday I spent half a day with her in the ER because she had an adverse reaction to a medication.
It’s been an adjustment having my mom here. We’ve all switched up our routine a bit. My mom wants to help with household chores but more than anything ends up getting in the way. I want her to be able to fit within the flow of our life. Next weekend she wants my brother Matt to come. I’m not sure how that will all work out yet. I think she will want us to cater to him and adjust our home life around him which might not work out that well. I really need to have some time to myself once in a while. I need my space without feeling smothered or policed like a little child. I want life to be carefree without extra responsibilities. I long to break things but I am the broken one.
What has been really hard is helping my mom process her trauma. It’s not easy to see your mother in pain. My mom sobbed more days than she did not. I heard some things I would rather not have heard. It really has been triggering for me. There have been a lot of things that happened that my mom doesn’t even know about and I am not going to tell her. I feel re-pungent of the thought of sharing my trauma with my mother but even more so in front of my children. It’s painful to know my mother has been hurt and is not happy. It’s very heavy and it weighs down my soul.
It is especially hard because I probably should be taking this time while my daughter is in the hospital to strengthen myself for when she comes back home. Yet here I am completely depleted and devastated. Yesterday was prom at Arabella’s school. It pained me greatly that she will never be able to go. Her junior prom was cancelled because of COVID and now she is in the mental hospital. I felt sad to see all the prom pictures on social media. It is one more lost dream for my daughter. Her prom dress will forever hang in her closet never worn.
I am once again taking care of my mother when I need help. Will this suffering never end? I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Will I ever feel real joy again? It seems to slip through my fingers fleetingly at best. When will God intervene? His silence echoes I am alone in my darkest hours. I wish I could change things…
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.
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.
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.
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…