Amongst the weeds

I wouldn’t say that I am the overly jealous type, not about material things anyway. The biggest thing that causes me jealousy is relationships.

I felt jealous when your parents moved up from a southern state just to be closer to you. I should have been happy for you, but sadly that was not the feeling it triggered.

The last time I saw my parents together, they were fighting. My dad went almost a year without showering when my mother said she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she said that he must shower once a week or there will be consequences. On that day, my mom and I went somewhere. When we got back, my mom asked my dad if he showered yet like he was a small child. He did not and she yelled that he better hurry or he would be in trouble. I would never ask them for marriage advice.

My dad did not attend Alex’s graduation. He did go up north with the rest of the family (not including us). He sat around all weekend in his underwear. This bothered my SIL Carla greatly and she complained about him. Carla and my brother Mark helped clean out my parents shed. Carla said now that it is cleaned out a little, they can fill it with more crap. Or maybe they can buy another car. Carla said she would love to buy a hearse for my dad. It was funny, yet it was not.

I felt jealous when your brother told me he was going to move closer to home to help you and your husband raise your first child. I know your family will be there for you anytime you needed them. I could probably count on one hand how many times we were able to get away when our kids were little because we didn’t have anyone to help us.

I had to schedule my 3rd C-section to be in the hospital over the weekend so my husband could watch our other kids. He just started his business and had to work on the day our last child was born. After he came back from working a few hours, my mom dropped off our other two children at the hospital because my brother Matt had an appointment. Matt always came first, even on the day I gave birth.

I found someone else with demons. We hold each other’s hands as we walk through our own hell fires. Paul is the only person I can count on and I trust he will be there until he can’t be. We’ve had to rely on each other.

Paul never had a dad. His mom had a brief marriage when Paul was little, but she left her husband because she said he was abusive. Martha did remarry after Paul grew up and left home.

Paul did not have one single person from his family to invite to our son’s graduation, unless you count his step-dad. His step-dad Darryl attended but brought a new girlfriend that we met for the first time that day. Darryl has moved on with his life. Paul shared his grief over the thought that his mother will no longer be remembered. He is an orphan. His whole family is gone.

Paul grew up with a great void. I grew up in an environment of dysfunction and abuse. We had to rely on ourselves to survive. It gave us grit and strength beyond belief. But there was no one to turn to when we needed help or advice.

It’s tremendously hard to create a healthy family without having a firm foundation to build our house upon. You may envy our fierce drive and independence, but behind it lies brokenness, emptiness, and pain. Maybe you envy our financial success, our big house, and attractiveness. But I’ll tell you what. We both would give everything we have in exchange for a healthy family of origin.

It’s amazing that we survived and thrived as beautiful flowers among the weeds in which we were planted.

 

 

The rails

My husband says that life is sometimes like a railroad track. On our journey, the rails of good and bad happen side by side simultaneously. Life is never all good or all bad. Sometimes the great and the horrible bombard us at the same time. I’ve never felt like that was more true than it is now. I don’t even know what to feel anymore..

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. My go to feelings these days are anger and a deep sorrow. I thought maybe a weekend up north in isolation would force me to reflect what my problem is. I am not a negative person, but right now the rose tinted glasses makes me want to gag.

What is my problem? Why can’t I have a light and fluffy blog? Is that even what I want? Probably not…

I consider myself a realist. But what happens when reality doesn’t even seem realistic?

The funny thing is that I achieved everything I wanted in life. I’ve worked really hard to accomplish my goals. I’ve turned out better than I even thought I would. That should make me happy, but it only leaves me wanting more. What can I conquer next? I already have a wall full of medals in my dream house.

Some things have really hit me hard…the terminal cancer diagnosis of a close friend…the death of a close friend’s child. I feel like I can’t talk to them anymore about the good or bad. How can I complain about my teen throwing a drinking party at my house when her teen daughter is dead??

There is a certain isolation of not knowing what to say beyond…I’m sorry this has happened to you..Life is unfair..You are in my thoughts and prayers..What happens after you said this a dozen times? What happens when words run out to express your grief for them? Do you go back to talking about every day ordinary life? I don’t know what to say.

The death of Lisa’s daughter stings. It was so unexpected and tragic. This wasn’t my plan for either of my friends. A child shouldn’t die, a healthy person in their 40’s shouldn’t get cancer…Whereas, I have never felt healthier in my life. My body is a lean mass of muscle from running and working out consistently for the last ten years. I still get carded to buy alcohol when some of my classmates are getting asked for their AARP cards.

My children are all healthy and normal. I worried for years that I would have a severely autistic child like my brother. That worry slipped off the horizon many years ago to be replaced by other worries. But they are all normal worries that every parent has..

I have a wonderful husband. I have a great job. I am reaching the end of actively parenting three teenagers.

Yet, I feel this isolation. Change is hard, even if it is good. I love my new house, but I don’t know who my neighbors are. My youngest daughter will be going to a new school and doesn’t have any friends in the area.

I feel estranged from my extended family. I haven’t seen my siblings in months. We rarely talk.

I feel estranged from my church family with all of the controversy lately. My best friend Cindy left the church and we might too. All of my kids were baptized and confirmed there. Must everything change all at once?

My husband, aunt, mother, and son have been on a school trip for the last couple weeks. I haven’t seen them in almost a month. I spent a week in Vegas and when I got back, they left. It almost feels like they are gone from me too. Is this what it is going to feel like if I, in the natural course of life, outlive my husband and mom? This emptiness?

I’ve spent a lot of time alone in reflection this past month. It’s really dark and messy in there. I want to clean things up but I’m afraid of what would happen if I disturb the cobwebs. I have to be really strong to go into the deep, dark ugly places. I just don’t feel really strong right now. It’s not the best time to poke at my demons.

My family will be coming home tonight. Maybe my mood will improve. Maybe I will find my way out of this sorrow. Maybe I will finally accept change, the good along with the bad. I’m on the right track, I just need to keep chugging along..

 

Vegas, part 2

I had a lot of time to myself with not a lot planned on this trip…which equates to having a lot of time to overthink and worry.

While I was in paradise, my 3 closest friends were at home suffering. My best friend Cindy was getting attacked for standing up for something she believes in. My friend Lisa lost her child in a car accident while I was gone. My friend Jen has terminal cancer.

It wasn’t as much fun in paradise alone worrying about things I couldn’t control. I’m not used to being alone, but I think I will have to start getting used to it.

I spent time alone at the pool and watched people. I saw the lifeguard pick his nose and riffle through his emergency bag in boredom. Did he think he was invisible?

There was a man who was alone listening to his music on a speaker over the music that was playing getting drunk with a bucket of beer. Out of character, I really liked a song he was playing and approached the man asking what the song was. I didn’t know it would result in a deep conversation about the meaning of life.

Why are you here? Have you ever questioned your existence? Do you believe in God? If God exists, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? What are your thoughts on other religions? I’m still waiting on a sign that God is here…

It felt good to have a meaningful conversation. I left the pool as the man was ordering another bucket of beer.

I was feeling anxious again. It was all encompassing. I called home and my husband said that he was having a hard time and wished I was home. We just moved and put our old house on the market. Both of my children were leaving that weekend on separate trips. I was not going to be home to help them pack.

My son Alex is going on a music trip touring Europe. He called me that night. He just turned 18 last week and is a smoker. He is planning on taking his vape on the trip. He was worried it would be against the rules and regulations of the trip. I have extreme paranoia that he is going to be kicked off the trip for being a dumb ass. But he is 18 and can legally smoke if he wants to. Then he said when he gets back he is planning on working 3rd shift at the vape shop. My daredevil hell raiser son will be the death of me! I started praying awhile ago that he has a kid just like him someday. I feel bad because he always dates the sweetest girls.

My daughter Arabella is on a church youth group trip out of state. The day the kids left, the youth director resigned. She recently got divorced and moved in with her boyfriend. It is tearing up the church. Some people are taking the stand that it is not Biblical for the youth director to divorce her husband and move in with her boyfriend…others are saying that her private life is her own business.

The youth director made it sound like she was forced to resign. No one asked her to. My friend Cindy was the one that asked if marriage was not sacred in the church anymore. She asked how the youth leader was going to explain her new relationship status to the children she was leading. Cindy never called her to resign. Now everyone is attacking Cindy for questioning. They are calling her judgmental. They are calling her a hypocrite because she is divorced.

What most don’t know about Cindy is that her ex-husband started another family on the side while he was married to her. This is very painful for Cindy because she has children with her ex and wants them to view marriage as sacred with the backing of the church.

Why can’t my life and the lives of my loved ones be worry free???

Next time it will be more about Vegas, I promise..

Fortune cookie wisdom #13

The luck that is ordained for you will be coveted by others.

 

I want you to think of the most beautiful person, the most talented athlete, the richest acquaintance, the biggest blogger you follow, and the most intelligent person that you know…Close your eyes if you must…

They are lucky, right? I mean, otherwise you would be as great as they are.

Admit it, you are jealous just like I am.

Don’t we want what makes them great?

But they have struggles too.

Maybe we just can’t see them.

The most beautiful girl has the best of luck. She can get any guy that she wants. She knows that her beauty has opened many doors that for others are closed. But she feels alone because no one seems to get past her looks and see the real beauty inside of her.

The most talented athlete has the best of luck. He is sure to win almost every game. But no one sees the pressure to perform, to continue being the best. His fans only love him when he is at the top of his game.

The richest girl in the room has the best of luck. She throws the biggest and best parties. When she goes to bed at night she wonders if the same people would be her friends if she was poor.

The biggest blogger has the best of luck. He scribbles some dribble and has over 100 likes. He spends hours every night responding to the hundreds of comments of people that he doesn’t know and not sure he would even like. He starts writing to appeal to the masses and losses part of who he is in the process.

The most intelligent girl has the best of luck. She aces every test. It comes easy to her to succeed. But she has no one to talk to because they don’t understand things at her level. She is expected to solve everyone’s problems and to do more than her fair share in group projects at school and at work because she is so much smarter. She often feels overwhelmed with the weight of her responsibilities.

All of these people have haters.

They have people that would give anything to be more like them.

So no one cares, no one listens..

There are things that are not acceptable for them to ever talk about to people who aren’t as “lucky”..

Oh, poor you…you can get any guy you want and you complain that they are only interested in your looks….I wish I was half as beautiful as you.

Poor you, you always have to perform at the top of your game and can’t handle the pressure…I wish I was coordinated enough that people would want me on their team.

Poor you, you are so rich that you can afford anything you want…Who cares if your friends are real?? I wish I could just pay my bills on time.

Poor you, you are so popular online that you have to take hours of your limited time to respond to every comment. I wish a couple of people would read what I write.

Poor intelligent successful you, you have to be surrounded by idiots all of the time…because face it, no one is as smart as you. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard for something that comes easy for you.

Even the “luckiest” people in the world have their struggles.

But why bother listening because we already know how wonderful it must be to be them…The grass is so much greener over there that I can’t even see how it blends in with the weeds..

Maybe being average is not so bad after all…

Would you rather?

Would you rather…be hurt or watch someone you love get hurt?

I’ve been overthinking again.

Maybe the dreary weather has been making me all dreary inside.

It was my childhood.

I feel alone.

If I said I grew up with an alcoholic parent, many of you could relate. But my parents rarely drank. It wasn’t that.

How could you understand?

My autistic/schizophrenic brother Matt hurt me again and again. He threatened me with a knife. He kicked, clawed, bit, hit, scratched, pulled my hair, and punched me on a regular basis without consequences.

My dad was either depressed, angry, or apathetic. He neither hit nor hugged me, but he tore me apart with his words.

My mother was more concerned about Matt than anyone else. If a person needed to pull Matt off of someone he was hurting, she was more concerned that their hands would grab onto him too tightly.

I lost my best friend from high school because Matt hurt her. I was the maid of honor in her wedding, but she wasn’t invited to mine. My mom said, “Oh well, you were going in different directions anyway.” But I didn’t have a choice in the matter.

I always defended my mother and her actions. I can’t seem to see that she did anything wrong.

I always demonized my dad. He never did anything right.

My parents fought a lot. Luke and I sided with my mom. Mark sided with my dad.

There must’ve been some coping mechanism in place to view someone as all bad or all good. Any thoughts to the contrary are declined. I can’t seem to break through it.

When Matt grew up, he threatened to hurt or kill our children at some time or another. Did I expect things to be any different?

How could I feel angry at Matt when he is severely mentally ill? His mind thinks like that of a young child forever.

So I walk this journey of healing alone, or so I think.

I was thinking about it this morning. My brothers Mark and Luke lived through this hell with me. I always thought I had it the hardest because not only was I expected to be a caregiver, I was at the receiving end of most of Matt’s attacks.

But then I thought about something else…

Is it easier to be hurt or is it easier to watch someone you love being hurt and not be able to do anything about it??

I know, I am starting to sound like the horrible ‘Would you Rather?’ game that my daughter has. Would you rather stab yourself in the eye with a needle or nail your hand to the table??

I would rather not be hurt at all. But, I would rather be hurt than to watch a loved one suffer and be powerless to do anything about it.

I recently came to the realization that my younger brothers are victims in this as much as I am. The sound of me crying is etched in their minds. They are haunted by the same demons.

It was my brother Luke’s birthday this week. I wished him a happy birthday and this is how he replied…when we have time, I would like to talk more in depth about when we grew up if you would be open to that.

We never really talked about it, our childhood, in depth.

He wanted to know if I would be open to talking…

YES!

I am not alone, my brothers were there right with me.

 

What is the meaning?

Are you there God? Just show me a sign. Let me know that I am not walking alone. Sometimes I feel alone.

I am angry dealing with a rebellious 17 year old. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this. Maybe it will be like the time when his buddies and him mooned his classmates at recess in grade school. I laugh about that now.

Even though I am angry, I still feel love. He is a good person. He said that most teenagers would jump at the chance to have a cabin to party at with free alcohol. Perhaps that is true. He didn’t partake of the property destruction.

Last week my son texted me about saving a bird. He saw it as he was leaving for school flapping on the ground. The bird hit the garage door and was bleeding from the head. I tried to save it, but it was too far gone.

Doesn’t God care for the sparrows? Doesn’t God care even more about me?

I have been thinking a lot the past few days. I don’t think I feel angry about my current situation as much as I do about the past. It brings me back to a time that I didn’t feel like God was there for me, for my mom..

My mom is right up there at the top of God’s most faithful servants list. I, perhaps, am at the top of the doubting Thomas list.

You see, my mother’s life has been difficult since her first premature breath in a foreign country. I can almost understand if God is not there for me…but my mother??

She had to deal with 4 teenagers at a time…two that were severely depressed. One that was into alcohol and drugs…and my brother Matt, the Helen Keller of mental illness…anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, and tourette’s. He was often violent. My dad was also depressed. When he wasn’t depressed, he was angry and cruel…

God, were you with my mother the many nights she cried alone??

Does what I went through have purpose?? What is the meaning? Did I even help one person live another day besides myself??

Are you there God? Can you show me a sign?

 

Autism’s sibling, journal 3 part 2

One time when mom’s old friend stopped by, Matt threw rocks at her car and she left..

What I don’t understand is why the nice friendly Christian ladies at church didn’t offer to give us an hour break from Matt. We never got a break. I only had two friends that lived with me, my two cats. But Matt was mean to them and they eventually ran away. Life with him has been hell. Even though Matt is small, he is very strong.

I also have a lot of nausea. Once my depression and nausea got so bad I couldn’t eat. Nobody cared about me. Nobody cared about Mark either. They cared about Luke because he was a troublemaker and got a lot of attention. Sometimes he would even be as bad as Matt.

What I hated most was talking to relatives. They always asked how Matt was. That really hurt because it is like I don’t exist. Usually people ask how you are. But imagine if they asked about your brother and not you. It hurts to know that people really don’t care if I’m alive.

I remember when the three boys were wild at the table. Mom had to feed them. Mom and dad would fight. Mom would get upset and go upstairs to cry. I was her best friend. I would talk to her and tell her that things would be better tomorrow, but it never did. There were always more problems or more doctor bills. Things are better now, but I still feel the pain and it’s holding me back from being happy.

I had a friend that stayed over once in awhile until Matt kicked her. She never wrote back to me after that.

Alissa, 1990

Isolation…being completely alone…emptiness…a cold barren winter devoid of color….loneliness…the crying of the wind…sadness…the darkest days of the year.

Isolation…for three years Matt had a school teacher come out to the house to educate him. He was deemed too violent to attend school. My mom took a leave of absence from work and pulled my younger brothers and I out of school as well. Sometimes we only left the house once a week to go to church. I spent a lot of time alone in my room writing in my journals.

Emptiness…Robbed of joy and childhood magic…My dad couldn’t handle the stress…he was there physically, but he was gone emotionally…I had to step up to the plate…the firstborn…the caregiver…the fixer…weighed down with adult worries…numb to pain, numb to joy…Pushing all feelings away…left empty inside…Not able to feel anything.

Loneliness…Friendships were severed. When friends came over, it was a disaster. We only had people over once or twice a year and it usually did not go well. My mom and my cats were my best friends. I had more pen pals than actual friends, it was safer…the friends we had went away and never came back…

Sadness…My mother, the kindest and most compassionate person that you would ever meet. I think that it truly hurt others when they had to kick us out of public places because of Matt’s violence…he hurt someone…I have to kick you out…you are welcome back again, but give it some time…Those were the years when I saw my mother’s tears more than I heard her laughter.

Isolation…being completely alone…emptiness…a cold barren winter devoid of color….loneliness…the crying of the wind…sadness…the darkest days of the year.

I spent three teenage years completely alone..Those were the darkest years of my life. Years that I don’t talk about.

 

Not a special Olympics type of story

For many the holiday season triggers memories of joy and happiness. For me, this time of year triggers some sort of post traumatic stress response. I realize that now. Wow, and it only took me 19 years to figure it out after I earned a degree in psychology.

I feel like I am back to normal now, whatever that is..

For the first time in my life, I was able to write down exactly how I felt while I was going through it. It wasn’t easy to relate. I think I have some sort of post traumatic stress response to certain triggers. It sounds absolutely crazy, I know. Most of the time triggers elicit a response of depression for a day or two at most.

I think this happens more often than I realize, but not quite as severe.

After I left my childhood home, I fell into a deep depression that lasted for several years. I also picked up anger and anxiety to put in my baggage along the way.

I don’t blame anyone for what happened.

I remember starting to feel angry last week at Thanksgiving when my mom was giving me a hard time about taking Prilosec for my acid reflux. She really wants me to get allergy testing and offered to pay for it. I have been reluctant. It’s not that I disagree, it triggered memories of growing up.

Matt was supposedly allergic to everything. We couldn’t even have cars parked in the garage because of exhaust fumes. We couldn’t have curtains because of the formaldehyde. For awhile we weren’t allowed to use toothpaste.

Personally, I think that my mother’s response was too extreme. She would have extreme anxiety if Matt was exposed to any allergens. She would scream at my dad if he came in the house smelling like exhaust fumes. She called the nearby farmers and screamed at them if they sprayed their fields without calling her first. She even called the county and yelled at them when they came by spraying the ditches.

My mom seemed to think that controlling Matt’s environment would stop him from being violently autistic. But nothing seemed to stop his violence towards himself and others, namely me.

I think that my mother has and always had good intentions. She is worried that I will die from kidney failure, a supposed side effect from the Prilosec. I will have to tell her that my daughter Angel has already offered me her kidney when mine fails.

My mom was always there for me when I was a kid. She was the one who helped me pick up the pieces of my broken mind after Matt was violent. She also helped my brother Mark out when he experienced a similar response to mine. The task she was given was not easy to do.

I don’t blame my dad, despite his cruelty. He was as much of a victim as the rest of us.

I don’t even blame Matt. If you met Matt today, you wouldn’t believe a word I have told you. He is now docile. By some miracle, he grew out of his violence.

The last time that he hurt someone was 14 years ago. He attacked Angel on her 4th birthday. After he attacked Angel, it was a time of great emotional turmoil for me. I cut Matt out of my life completely for a few years. He wasn’t allowed around my children.

His psychiatrist threatened to have him committed to a place for the violently mentally ill. It was one thing when a child was hurting other children, but it was entirely different when a grown man was attacking children. In response to this, Matt was home bound once again and kept out of public where he could hurt someone and get committed.

I was already feeling edgy about my mom pushing the allergy testing on Thursday. Then my visit with my dying mother-in-law on Saturday made me very anxious. Then the sadness over Angel going back to college and the trigger of the Christmas tree was enough to set me off into this deep dark spiral downward.

I feel horrible about talking to you about this. I wish I had a great special Olympics type special needs sibling story to tell you. I feel tremendous guilt that I don’t.

I haven’t met anyone else who has had a similar experience to mine. If you are out there somewhere, I want to tell you that there is hope. This was the only thing that kept me alive as a teenager and young adult. I prayed fervently and had hope that someday there would be a better life for me where I could experience joy.

I firmly believe that you cannot fully experience joy without experiencing sorrow. I have found that joy in abundance. I experience life at a much deeper level than I think I would have if my life was easy breezy. No small talk here, just the blatant honest truth. There is value in being able to honestly share the sorrow that I experienced this week. I need to accept what I have been through and the emotions that accompany it.

There is hope! If opening myself up and allowing myself to be vulnerable helps just one person hold on for another day, it would be worth it. You are not alone! There is hope…

Trust that tomorrow will be a better day.