From the beginning

Strangely enough after Arabella went to residential I got asked even more (rather unusual) questions by the therapist. What was your pregnancy, childbirth, and Arabella’s early infancy years like?

When I got pregnant with Arabella I had a 4 year old and a 2 year old. I was also babysitting 50 hours a week for the next door neighbor’s kid who was 3. She called me mom. The neighbors worked all the time then every weekend they dumped their kid off at grandma’s so they could party with friends. The mom was harsh and I thought she was rather verbally abusive. The dad wasn’t the greatest either. The whole situation disgusted me, but I felt rather envious too. I rarely got a break from my kids.

Right before I got pregnant, my brother Matt heard voices to tell him to attack my daughter Angel which he did at her 4th birthday party. After he hurt her, I set a boundary with my mom that Matt could not be around my children anymore. My mom pushed back against that boundary and tried to force Matt back into my kids life which caused a lot of stress. I lost all help when I pushed Matt away because my mom had to care for him and he wasn’t allowed around my kids. My MIL didn’t help much at all. She could barely handle the one kid she had. Even my husband had to work the day our daughter was born because he just started his business at the time. He was a one man show and he was the one that paid our bills.

I was worried when I found out I was having another girl. I would have been more worried if it was a boy though. My brother was fixated on hurting little girls. But if I had a boy I worried he would be schizophrenic/autistic like my brother. I didn’t tell anyone the gender because it was too painful. Either way invoked worry that robbed me of the joy of pregnancy.

Arabella was breech. They told me it didn’t matter because she was to be my 3rd C-section. I felt really sick after she was born and didn’t even want to nurse her because I had a reaction to the pain medicine. My mom stayed with the older kids overnight so I could have Arabella early in the morning. Then she dropped the kids off at the hospital right after Arabella was born because Matt had a dentist appointment. I scheduled my C-section so I would be in the hospital over the weekend when my husband didn’t have to work because we didn’t have anyone to watch the kids.

A week after my C-section I was home alone with all three kids. I remember being a zombie hopped up on pain medicine after sleepless nights. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. Thankfully the neighbors got divorced and I wasn’t babysitting anymore.

I was constantly stressed because I didn’t have the help I needed. I didn’t take very good care of myself. I sometimes wonder if I caused this with all the stress hormones constantly pumping through my body. I ended up getting mastitis twice. I was sick all the time. Right after Arabella was born my grandma had open heart surgery. I took on all the holidays since my grandma wasn’t able to.

I had a baby that cried constantly day and night. She refused to be comforted. She wouldn’t take a pacifier. She didn’t suck her thumb or fingers. She didn’t want to be held unless she was nursing. The only thing that she responded to was the infant rocker and having music constantly playing on repeat in her room at night on the CD player. When the CD would stop at the end and go back to the beginning, she would cry.

I took her to several doctors. Did she have an ear infection? That was the only reason my other kids would cry at that age. Was she autistic like my brother? Colic? (I suspect doctors tell parents that when they don’t know why your baby doesn’t stop crying). Big surprise, they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. I nursed her longer than the rest of my babies. When I weaned her, she took her tiny fists and beat them against my chest while screaming. My other kids didn’t do that. Everything seemed wrong but nothing was wrong. It took her over a year to finally sleep through the night.

The therapist thought that Arabella always had emotional dysregulation and that her condition was genetic. She didn’t experience any out of the norm trauma (death of a grandparent). She was a lot like my MIL who did experience trauma. Or did she? I don’t even know anymore. And if trauma caused her mental illness then how did it influence her genes to pass borderline on to her granddaughters? There is so much that I don’t understand yet, but I do know that Arabella’s infancy years were tough and apparently that is indicative of future problems.

Residential waiting list

We received the call that Arabella’s name came up on the waiting list for the DBT residential program for adolescent girls. We had less than a week to get everything together. She had to be there within a certain time period or she would lose her place. This was her last opportunity since they said she could not be there after turning 18. She was less than 3 months until 18 which meant by the time she came up on the waiting list again, she would be too old for the program.

She abruptly ended her time with the outpatient program that she was in for 2 months. I had to switch a dentist appointment around last minute. Thankfully they were able to sneak her in earlier with short notice. The residential program needed her dental records. We ended up getting all of the paperwork together and appointments done as soon as we possibly could. It was months of wait, wait, wait then boom hurry as fast as you could to get everything together. Plus I had to work with the insurance company which was pretty much a waste of my time. We ended up paying for everything out of pocket which wasn’t cheap. We emptied Arabella’s college fund. She wasn’t interested in college anyway. Without residential we honestly didn’t know if she would live that long anyway. This was our last ditch effort to save her life.

To make matters far more stressful, we also had a COVID scare within that time period. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan tested positive then my daughter got sick with COVID as well. Once we found out he was sick, my daughter stayed with him at his parent’s house and didn’t come back home until she was better. It was a matter of life and death. If Arabella couldn’t go into the program because of a positive test I feared she would die. It was horrible and terrifying. FYI admitting your child into an inpatient, outpatient, or residential program is stressful and crappy as it is without the extra stress.

They ask questions such as how many suicide attempts have you made and when was the last one. My daughter answered that many times she cut herself so deeply that she was hoping not to wake up in the morning. They ask so many disturbing personal questions that no parent wants to hear the answer to. I suffered greatly the first time I saw the cutting on her arm. I had nightmares for days when I could sleep that is. It was very traumatic for me.

Thankfully Arabella’s COVID test came back negative and we all remained healthy at our house. I do think that the residential program has helped Arabella tremendously learn the skills that are needed to live a healthy and productive emotionally regulated life. We, as her parents, worked very closely with her therapist and the psychiatrist. We received a DBT parent workbook and listened to podcasts. It didn’t cure her. She is still taking plenty of medications. It was a very rewarding experience except for the cost. But as the saying goes…you get what you pay for.

Arabella was in the residential program for a little over 2 months. I’ve noticed a lot of improvements since she got back. It was worth it to give her a second chance at life. Now it is up to her what happens next. We did everything we could.

Gratitude week 77

  1. After a couple of nights away and not sleeping the best, it is nice to be home and sleep in my own bed.
  2. My son turned 21 this past week and we got to spend a lot of time with him for his birthday.
  3. My husband, son, and a friend of his went whitewater rafting. I wanted to go last year but never went. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out because it was a lot of fun. Plus it was a hot day which made it so much better.
  4. It’s the first day of summer! Woohoo! Funny thing is that it is quite chilly here. I turned off the A/C and put on a sweater.
  5. Paul and I worked most of the weekend for our business. It was nice because some friends of ours stopped by to chat that we haven’t seen since before COVID.
  6. I am grateful to have a wonderful husband that is a great father to our kids. For Father’s Day we took him out to eat and toured a maritime museum. He had a really nice day. I’m grateful for all the great dads out there that make a difference in their children’s lives or men who step up and provide that guidance.
  7. I’m grateful that life seems to be back on schedule again. Some friends of ours just invited us to their Halloween party this fall. It’s nice to have some events back on the calendar.
  8. I’m grateful that my daughter seems to like her new job.
  9. I’m grateful that the pool guys came out today to put in a new filter. It’s always nice when broken worn out things are fixed.
  10. I’m grateful that I haven’t had the chance to be bored this summer. So far it seems to be going a whole lot better than last year. I’m sure almost everyone can say an amen to that!!

Making amends

A couple of weeks before Arabella made it on the waiting list for residential, she started to make amends with friends and family.

I received a text from Jordan’s mom saying that she wanted us to come pick up a big box of Arabella’s stuff from when she was living there. Jordan and Arabella were no longer friends. When we went there to pick up her things, Arabella wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jordan’s mom. She wanted to know how she could make things right and be friends with Jordan again. It really was uncomfortable.

Arabella also wanted to get along with her brother. She bought him a monster and some candy and asked if they could talk sometime. It was really touching that she wanted to make an effort to renew most of her troubled relationships. But it was also scary. Was she saying good-bye because she was going to be leaving soon to go to residential? Or was she once again planning on ending her life?

I can’t really remember but I think she gave away some of her things. That struck a resounding chord of fear in me. What kind of good-bye was this going to be? I couldn’t help be feel anxious about it.

But then I remembered that she gave me back her pills that she was stockpiling. She also put a lot of effort into finishing her high school diploma. Would she do that if she was planning on ending her life. I justified her actions to quiet my fears.

She did work really hard to make amends with family and friends before she left. I’m really not even sure why. I guess she just wanted to leave on a good note. Maybe she just didn’t want us to forget about her while she was gone. More than anything, I’m glad it wasn’t anything I was worried it could be.

Gratitude week 76

  1. Arabella found a waitressing job! I am grateful she has a job now.
  2. I forgot to mention this one sooner…Last year my mom, Arabella, and I were planning on going to Europe with the school group on a music tour. Because of COVID the trip got cancelled and the tour company kept $1900 per person. Hundreds of people joined a lawsuit against this company and we won. We got our money back. I can understand if the company kept a couple hundred dollars as a processing fee for the work done, but $1900 that a lot of students (and parents) worked hard to earn and fundraise for. I’m grateful for justice.
  3. Friday night we went to a surprise birthday party for the guy my husband works for in the off season of our business. It was held at a bar and grill that had a live band. We ended up seeing a lot of people we knew that we didn’t see since before the pandemic. Everyone was dancing and partying like it was 1999. It was so nice to see everyone and hear live music again.
  4. We had our first graduation party for the summer this past weekend as well. Again, it was nice to see people I haven’t seen since the pandemic. Although I’m not much of a social butterfly, it’s nice to have the choice to attend parties again.
  5. My son is turning 21 this week and I have his birthday all planned out for him. (He wanted me to plan everything which totally surprised me!).
  6. Talking about birthdays, my brother Mark called me today to wish me a happy birthday. Funny thing is, it’s not my birthday. He was off by a month. But it was great to talk to him since I haven’t seen nor talked to him since before COVID.
  7. I also talked to my brother Luke and saw my brother Matt over the weekend. I haven’t gotten this much attention from my brothers since before COVID. Strange but nice!
  8. I spent the last couple of days up north. It was nice to relax, read a book, go for a walk, kayak, and swim. Last night I spent the evening up north by myself. It was a little creepy since a storm blew through at night. I can’t remember the last time I was truly alone. I didn’t really like it. But I did like to eat what I wanted to, listen to the music I liked, and just do whatever.
  9. I totally whipped my mom playing cribbage. I know, I know. But I enjoy being competitive.
  10. Summer!!!! I totally broke down and put on the A/C. In my defense, we had the earliest heat wave ever recorded. We had a good week of hot and humid days in the 90’s. Some summers we don’t even see temps in the 90’s, very rarely in June. It hardly gets over 80 in June. But apparently not this summer when I wanted to make it without air conditioning to save money. But I love it hot and want to spend as much time as possible pool side, at the beach, or on a boat.

Waiting in the uncertainty

One day Arabella handed me a baggie full of pills. Inside was a month’s supply of sleeping pills. I didn’t understand. How did this happen when I watched her take her medication every morning and every night? I couldn’t imagine it would be that easy to stockpile pills while under supervision.

She gave me the pills because she said she was no longer planning on using them to kill herself. She said she was surprised that I never found them after outpatient said I should search her room. I also remember the late night text from Jordan’s mom saying that she had pills and was planning on using them.

Arabella said that on some nights she wouldn’t take her sleeping pills but instead would drink energy drinks so she could stay up all night. That is what she did to finish high school. I don’t understand why she would even want to do that. At the time she seemed rather manic and didn’t feel the need for sleep. But she didn’t feel like killing herself either. I would almost prefer mania to suicidal depression.

But was she really bipolar then? She told the doctor she couldn’t sleep at night even with the sleeping pills. But she didn’t tell him that she wasn’t always taking them.

I’m glad she handed over the sleeping pills. I finally felt some peace after hearing that my daughter was going to OD on pills but never being able to find anything.

The hard part was that her psychiatrist thought she could be bipolar but said he was retiring and just left us. He never put her on medication that would manage bipolar. At residential, they didn’t think she was bipolar. At home right now, she seems manic.

Over the past year, my daughter has had 6 different possible psychiatric diagnoses. It seems to me that the experts don’t agree. She still needs my help to manage her medications because she is not taking them properly. I still don’t have the answers that I need. I’m not sure what the future holds as far as her care goes. She is having a hard time finding a job because it is obvious that she has some serious mental health issues if you have a conversation with her. I don’t know where to turn.

But as for now, she gave me the pills back. She seems manic which presents itself with other safety concerns. At least she isn’t suicidal at the moment.

But now what? She wants me to butt out because she is an adult now. I can’t in good conscience walk away. I really would like her to have psychological testing for a firm diagnosis. The jury is still out whether or not she is going to be able to live independently and take care of herself someday. The uncertainty and lack of control over the situation is hard to deal with. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see and hope she doesn’t do something to destroy herself in the meantime.

I gotta let that go

I’ve been feeling a bit off the last couple of days. I’ve been trying really hard to let go. I’ve been trying to stop policing. I’ve been trying hard not to get involved in other people’s problems. I’ve been trying to turn the sirens off for every little offense. But honestly, it’s not working out that well for me. I feel rather miserable.

I’ve been trying hard to let go of Arabella since she is 18 now. I went with her to her appointment to meet the new psychiatric nurse today since her doctor retired. After I was in the appointment for about 10 minutes, she got frustrated with me and kicked me out. I feel frustrated because she is not taking her medication like she should and because of that the nurse said it wasn’t working as effectively. But Arabella said she is a teenager that wants to live her life and not worry about taking medication. I really wish she didn’t have to take pills either.

She didn’t take her morning pills yet today. It’s almost suppertime. It is upsetting to me. Just because she is 18 doesn’t mean I can just turn off the worry switch. She is not totally capable of taking care of herself but gets really angry with me when I try to help.

She has another job interview tomorrow. She didn’t get the other jobs she wanted. She decided that she wants to tell all of her potential employers about her mental health issues during the interview. I told her that was a sure way not to get the job. I’ve interviewed people before. But what do I know? I got to let that one go.

My son turns 21 next week. He’s never been much of a drinker but now he is starting to drink. I realize that it’s not unusual for young folks to want to party and have fun. I’m trying not to blame my husband who modeled drinking too much. He cut back on his drinking, but he did start drinking again. I’m trying not to police it and nag him about it but it is hard. Sometimes I’m of the opinion to let them have fun and enjoy their lives and the next minute I want to yell at them to knock it off. Who am I to tell other people how to live their lives? But I will say something if I feel like they are being unsafe or taking things too far. But then again that makes me responsible to monitor them and frankly I just want to be responsible for me.

It’s hard to let go. My mom left to go back to her house for a couple days because she has doctor appointments with Matt. She is struggling taking care of both my dad and Matt. There is nothing I can do about it.

I watch as Angel struggles with anxiety. There is nothing I can do about it and I am probably the one that caused it. Today Angel told me she might not want to have children someday because of our family history of mental health struggles. It’s sad.

I am having problems letting go of my old pets. My dog is almost 14 and he has a hard time getting around. My cat is 15 with a lot of health issues. He pretty much stopped using the cat box. The vet said he is probably having arthritis pain and gave me pain medicine for him on top of his thyroid and arthritis pills. He is a very gentle and loving cat. I hate to put him down if I don’t have to. His favorite thing to do is snuggle on my lap every opportunity he gets. It’s really hard because he needs three different medications twice a day. I feel guilty leaving the house because he is hard to care for. When is it time to let him go? There is nothing I can do about aging and it makes me sad.

When can I let this all go and move on with my own life? I’ve been holding it for so long I don’t know if I can. That is really what I am struggling with right now.

Finding faith again

Arabella told us she was an atheist right after her first attempt. Being our youngest child, it wasn’t too shocking when she started to question the faith we brought her up in since her siblings did the same thing right around her age. Up until that point, she went to church with us and was involved. But that ended.

A couple months back, Arabella hit a low point. She only had one real friend that was willing to hang out with her. She met Kami at inpatient. Kami was the girl that told everyone she was going to jump off a bridge, but her car broke down on the way. It wasn’t meant to be. It seems like divine intervention to me.

Kami is a very kind and caring friend. Rumor has it that her parents met in rehab. They turned their lives around and became devout Christians. Sounds very inspirational. I never met Kami’s parents, but I’ve talked to her mom several times on the phone. She called to introduce herself to us and wanted to know the kind of people her daughter was hanging out with. I could tell that she truly cared for her daughter. I also found out that Kami was the oldest with several younger siblings. Her mother wasn’t used to letting go yet. It’s especially hard when you have a child with mental health concerns.

I did notice a couple of times when they would have sleepovers that the liquor bottles were lighter. I expressed my concerns to Arabella stating how dangerous it was to mix alcohol with prescription medicine. Again, experimenting with alcohol wasn’t something that I haven’t dealt with with teenagers before.

Then there was this guy that Kami was hanging out with who wanted to hang out with my daughter late at night at our house. I told her no. I didn’t want Arabella hanging around with guys alone at our house or while we were sleeping. I didn’t want her to end up in a bad situation or have to worry.

Apparently Arabella spent the night talking to this boy on the phone. The next morning Arabella tried to sneak out of the house. She didn’t want to tell me where she was going. She finally fessed up that she was going to go to church somewhere by herself. She spent the night talking to the guy about his experience with faith.

When she came back home she said she was a Christian again. It was a little confusing because she still wanted to be a stripper. To me the whole experience seemed surreal. I didn’t know if she really meant it or if she was trying really hard to please us so that we wouldn’t leave her too. There was a disconnect. It seemed disjointed in some way.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy about the decision she made. But it all seemed a little chaotic to me to constantly be swinging from one side to the other. She didn’t seem to really know who she was so she became what everyone else was or wanted her to be. That concerned me.

I never did meet the guy that walked her back to faith. But I am happy that her friendship with Kami is still strong. I know that Kami struggles with her own problems, but she is not the type to bring everyone else down. Kami was that one friend that stuck with her when no one else did. I am grateful for that.

I am glad that my daughter decided to find her faith again. I think it will help her get through the hard days ahead. It’s okay that things aren’t perfect or understandable at this point. I have to accept that and let go of it.

She graduated!

I’m really grateful my daughter earned her high school diploma. There was a time when I might have taken it for granted that she was graduating. I had her ideal future all planned out after all. Her high school graduation was going to be her first but not last. You see, she is a very smart girl. She was an honor student. Surprisingly she still graduated with honors.

Things went downhill with the pandemic. Maybe we would’ve been able to manage her mental health issues better if COVID never happened. I guess we will never know.

Online schooling is not for the smart but unorganized extrovert. It was hard for her to stay focused. Even when school went back to in person she had problems. She missed so much school because of her hospitalizations that she had to go back to online school again. It was December right before Christmas break when she finally got set up to do schooling online. She didn’t want to start school when every one else was on break so she didn’t. Right after the new year started, she went to outpatient full-time. They didn’t give the kids the opportunity to do schoolwork at the time because it was a privacy violation.

That left Arabella with weekends and evening to finish school and that wasn’t going to happen. The outpatient program cut Arabella back to part-time so she could work on school. She was months away from graduation and hadn’t even started yet. I was afraid she wouldn’t graduate. Hopefully she could get done before she made the waiting list for residential.

Then one day she decided to finish her online schooling. She literally worked on it all day and stayed up all night to complete classes. I did want her to finish but didn’t think her obsession was healthy. I even told her several times that it was okay to take breaks. At that pace, she finished it in no time. It was one less worry I had about her future.

Later we found out in residential that she has ADHD. She was finally able to focus once it was treated. She also got into some new hobbies such as painting. For a long time she felt like she wasn’t good at anything because of her inability to concentrate. Plus both of her siblings have a raw talent for music that she doesn’t have. She didn’t feel like she had a place or purpose compared to them.

I felt terribly sad that a lot of the issues she was having with school and concentrating were fixable but we just didn’t know. Honestly, I also thought before that ADHD was kind of a cop out diagnosis. Sometimes I thought it was just a matter of being more disciplined. But now after I’ve seen how focused she is, I think I was wrong.

Now I also see that I missed the same symptoms in my son. For boys the doctor said it presented differently. The boys would rather be defiant saying they hate school instead of feeling like they are stupid. I wish I would’ve known some things sooner. Maybe I still could’ve changed things.

I have the same thoughts about Arabella going to residential and learning DBT. I wish I had known what I know now sooner. But you can only do the best you can with what you have. I have to let that go.

I am excited that Arabella graduated. She had a lot of obstacles with her mental health over the last year and a half. Paul and I are planning a trip to Maine with her this fall to celebrate. Hopefully it will make up for some of the things she lost along the way. She was supposed to be a foreign exchange student this year. That didn’t happen.

She is a high school graduate now. It is the first step into her future, a future she decides. It may not be what I choose, but it is a step in the right direction. I am happy for that.

Gratitude week 75

  1. I found my favorite pair of sunglasses that I thought I lost.
  2. Summer!!! So last weekend we had a couple of days with highs around 50. This weekend the temps are in the 90’s. I am totally embracing summer so much so that I typically drive with the windows down. Also we are so cheap that we are planning on going the whole summer without A/C. The past couple days have been a test of that. I am totally happy that my husband is on the same page as I am as far as embracing the heat goes although it is a little on the side of crazy.
  3. I was able to spend a couple days up north as we opened up the cabin for the season.
  4. I am learning to live with the uncomfortableness of letting go. There is a certain freedom to be found in it after having to be responsible for others for so long.
  5. I just finished another self help book. After spending the last couple months reading that genre, I’m going to read a novel that I found in one of those little free book boxes up north.
  6. We are taking Paul out to eat tonight to celebrate him being on TV.
  7. We also started thinking of new business strategies and ideas to help us move forward with our business.
  8. Paul and I went to a session together with my therapist this past week that was really helpful and eye opening.
  9. Kayaking around the lake on a hot day and jumping into the cool refreshing water at the sand bar.
  10. We had a nice Memorial Day with Paul’s step-dad Darryl and his new fiancĂ©. My mom and all the kids were around too. It was nice to have a cook out and play some games. It seems like that doesn’t happen often enough. It didn’t happen at all last summer. It’s nice to see life getting back to somewhat normal.