Triggered

Maybe my expectations were too high. I thought that my dysfunctional family of origin could handle being functional for a couple days. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

It started out okay. I headed up north with Angel after she was done working on the Thursday before the 4th. We were jamming to our favorite tunes that were cranked. A couple people waved as they passed us on the highway. People everywhere were excited to celebrate the first big holiday after COVID. The weather was going to be absolutely perfect. Who could ask for more?

Thursday went well. Angel and I opened up the cabin. A couple hours later my brother Luke joined us with his family. But after that pretty much everything went downhill. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. I had a plan for everything. The plan was if my mom slept well, she would drive up with my brother Matt. If she didn’t sleep well, they would hitch a ride with my husband Paul.

It looked like my mom left the house, so I got my nieces all psyched up for her to visit when my mom called me and said she wasn’t coming up. My brother Luke and his family were leaving later that afternoon for family camp which meant my mom wasn’t going to see them since she was feeling tired and anxious. This was really triggering since a couple weeks before my mom left my brother’s house right before my niece had her dance concert. Now everyone was angry and hurt. My nieces were so incredibly sad saying that grandma didn’t care about them. I was furious because I already had contingency plans A through F in place in case something like this would happen.

The new plan was that my brother Mark and his wife would pick up my mom after driving 5 hours. They were going to spend some time with my dad because Angel and Luke did not want to see him. Luke ended up going to pick up my mom instead. Everything got all messed up and everyone was upset.

Eventually on Friday afternoon almost everyone was up north. I thought the problems would end there, they didn’t. Arabella called to tell me that her car wouldn’t start and how was she going to make it to work the whole weekend. I told her she could use my car. Another problem solved.

My husband decided to help out by mowing the lawn since my dad doesn’t do anything to get the cabin ready for us. He is terribly lazy and now that he has this new heart condition he does absolutely nothing. He won’t even take out the trash now. He expects everyone to take care of him. But I digress. Since my dad didn’t mow the lawn, Paul did. The grass was so high that Paul did not see the metal line that the dog was tied up to and hit it. It got all twisted up in the lawnmower. Worse yet, it yanked the dog so hard that his collar broke. Originally Paul had him chained to his choke chain and I put him on his collar. Good thing because it probably would’ve killed him otherwise. I was very angry that my dog could’ve died.

That evening my brother Luke and my daughter Angel left. Angel was very upset before leaving. My brother Mark’s wife Carla did not congratulate her on her engagement. She made passive aggressive comments about Angel sleeping in their bedroom. She also said how she couldn’t wait to have steak with my dad. Angel took this as an attack. My brother Luke does not want his daughters around my dad nor does my daughter Angel after she found child porn on my dad’s computer and turned him in to the police. Angel felt like Carla was blaming her for this. After Luke and Angel left, my dad showed up which is another stressor. Matt and my dad are very difficult people to be around.

Carla screamed at my brother Mark the whole weekend. She yelled at him for everything like eating his cheese separately from the burger she cut the cheese for. She is incredibly controlling and verbally abusive. At one point she yelled at him so much that I was even shaking. It triggered my husband because his mom was the same way. He wanted to tell her off but we didn’t want to make things worse for Mark. Carla offered to take care of my dad and Matt so my mom didn’t have to. She was taking it out on Mark.

Paul and I tried to spend as much time outdoors away from everyone as we could. Sunday morning I suggested to Paul that we go kayaking. Then everyone wanted to go kayaking. Carla yelled at Mark that she wanted to go and why didn’t he plan that for her. Since the kayaks were Mark and Carla’s, we decided to pull the canoe out of the garage. My mom wanted to go too. We didn’t get far before she wanted us to turn around since she can’t swim and is afraid of water. Then she wanted us to take Matt so he wouldn’t be left out. Matt is worse on the water than she is so we said maybe later.

There were some good things that happened over the 4th. The fireworks over the lake were absolutely awesome. My aunt Jan came out with her husband and my son came up for the fireworks. But for the most part, I found the weekend with family to be very triggering. My anxiety was through the roof. I fell into a deep depression that took almost a week to pull myself out of. I felt like I was a child trapped in despair. It dragged me back to that feeling again. It was hard to see others triggered by the events too. I always liked being up north. As a child, it seemed like a safe and special place. But then I started to remember times when it wasn’t that way. It ruined my memory that there was any safe or happy place in childhood. The things I clung to were remarkably but unbeknownst flawed.

I really think that I need to limit how much time I spend with my family of origin. I didn’t realize how much it would negatively impact my current state of mental health.

Current craziness

I didn’t sleep well the last two nights. Both nights I had nightmares. This morning I woke up crying.

The worst nightmare had to do with my dad. I was at his house but it looked like a cluttered maze outdoors. The worst part of the dream was when I passed by a small fish tank filled with beautiful fully grown aquatic animals. The sting ray really caught my eye. There wasn’t any water in the tank. I watched the beautiful creatures suffocate. Some had already turned to bones but were still gasping for air. It was very upsetting to me but I had to pretend I didn’t notice their suffering. I couldn’t do anything to save the creatures. If I gave them water they would still be crammed in a tank that was too small for them.

I usually have insomnia and intense nightmares where I wake up crying when I do sleep when I am under an extreme amount of emotional distress. But I feel relatively fine. It’s rather troubling because of the disconnect. Does my body/mind know something I don’t?

This week went okay, better than last. My husband and I went to therapy together. It went really well. I have been frustrated because my husband is constantly barraging me to share my feelings with him. I don’t always want to so he pressures me more to the point where I get really angry with him and tell him a whole lot of stuff that he doesn’t want to hear. It doesn’t work well. The therapist made the discovery that when I don’t talk about how I feel, it triggers Paul’s fear of abandonment. I thought he was just trying to be controlling. Once I understood his struggle, I felt more compassion for him because there are times I do totally withdraw into myself. I put up my walls then I hide behind them.

I struggle with Paul because he started drinking again a couple weeks back. He didn’t make it the full year like he promised. He is under the impression that he can control it now and it is not going to control him. I also feel a similar fear that when he hides there I am not going to find him and our relationship will eventually end. So I constantly police him and everyone else. It’s not that I am controlling either, it’s that I am afraid.

It’s been hard not to police Arabella since she got back from residential. For the first week things were great. So great I got my hopes up. Since turning 18, Arabella doesn’t really want me to manage her anymore. I can’t really blame her. But the problem is that she can’t manage herself. Without any structure she has been sleeping strange hours. Sometimes she doesn’t get up until mid-afternoon and takes her morning pills then. Then she takes her night time pills at the wee hours of the morning. One morning she was taking her bedtime pills when I was waking up. Then she complains that her meds are out of whack. I told her she needs to take her morning pills and evening pills at the same time every day roughly 12 hours apart. But she doesn’t listen because she is an adult and knows better than I do. It’s frustrating.

She also over drafted her bank account. She started gambling once she turned 18. She bought $70 worth of scratch offs and now she is in the negative. Then the next day she wanted to borrow some money and got angry when I told her no. She argued with me about a graduation party. She wanted to send out an open invite to everyone we know and have them bring a dish to pass. I told her that is not how it works. On her graduation she refused to take a lot of pictures, so I don’t have any pictures of her and I alone at all.

It’s been hard to let go because she can’t manage things without me and then hates me for it. But things haven’t been all bad. She has kept her room pretty clean since coming home. She also hasn’t been self-harming or suicidal which is great. Quite the opposite in fact. She has been talking almost non-stop about how wonderful and beautiful she is. So many people want her that she doesn’t know which one to choose. Everyone stares at her and talks about how beautiful she is. It is extreme, disconcerting, and a bit delusional. I’ll take it over self-hatred though.

Meanwhile, my mom came back early from her trip with my brother Luke. Apparently they are not getting along now either. My mom freaked out because she didn’t sleep well and asked my dad to come pick her up. She was supposed to stay for my niece’s dance recital but left. Then my mom took too many of her anxiety pills because she thought it would help her sleep then ended up going to the ER because her blood pressure went through the roof. On her paperwork, it says she went to the ER for an OD. I really don’t know what she was thinking. But that is the problem, when she doesn’t sleep she gets very anxious and irrational.

The good thing was that my mom was able to go to my daughter’s graduation. Originally the graduation was only open to parents and guardians, but then they changed it last minute to include up to 4 family members. Since my mom already made plans around not being able to go I encouraged her to keep the plans with my brother and his family. Maybe now I am in trouble too since my mom went to the graduation instead of the dance recital. She asked me not to post any pictures with her in them at the graduation and I said no.

Apparently Luke and his wife said some harsh words to my mom. My mom said that Luke said she shouldn’t be staying with me because she wasn’t my responsibility. He said I couldn’t handle it or something. I know he was trying to protect me, but it made me angry because he didn’t call me one time since my mom moved in to check up on me. So his opinion about how I feel doesn’t really matter. I’m capable of taking care of myself.

Okay, maybe my life has been stressful lately and that is why I am having nightmares again. I don’t feel more stressed than usual though. Although tonight I am going up north for a few days. My mom will be there with my dad and Matt so I’m not sure how relaxing that will truly be.

Who knows, maybe I’m having a nervous breakdown and I don’t even know it. Wouldn’t that be funny? I always had this fantasy that when I finally snap I’ll do something really crazy. But compared to everyone else, perhaps I am the boring one.

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.

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.

home again

Arabella stayed at Jordan’s house for about a week. She ended up passing all of her classes with the exception of creative writing. She didn’t want to come back home. In her eyes, we were awful people.

Once the pandemic started, Estelle drew closer to us. It must have been very difficult for her to be essentially trapped in a foreign country without her family. She was really looking forward to prom, something they don’t have at her school in France. She just started track, then everything ended. She couldn’t even hang out with friends. But she tried to make the most of her experience. We played a lot of games, did puzzles, went running together, found new recipes to cook, and did a lot of talking.

I think that the time we spent with Estelle made Arabella feel more anger towards us. What were we to do? We didn’t want Estelle to have a bad experience because of COVID and the girls no longer getting along. To make matters worse, Estelle’s flight home in June was cancelled and she was going to be staying indefinitely.

Estelle became like a daughter to me while my own daughter pushed me away. I tried to reach out to Arabella as much as I did Estelle, but my efforts were met with slammed doors and snarls of leave me alone. Once the fighting over missing assignments started, we didn’t know what else to do. I thought a few days away would help but she ended up wanting to live with Jordan’s family and made it miserable for us in our attempts to keep her at home.

I thought maybe a fun family project would help and bought paint for our wood shed. Maybe Estelle and Arabella would make amends and patch things up. But it didn’t quite work out that way. The whole time Arabella complained about how much I sucked as a mom. Eventually Estelle couldn’t take it anymore. She stood up to Arabella and told her how great I was. But in the process Estelle pushed Arabella and called her a bunch of horrible names.

So many things were happening at the time. My daughter Angel’s college graduation was cancelled. We didn’t know when we would see her again. The family didn’t get together to open the cottage for the season up north. That was partially from COVID, but had a lot to do with my dad. My mom got a call to pick up items from the evidence room. My dad’s main computer wasn’t there for pick up. We could only imagine how many photos were on there. My dad’s case was turned over to the district attorney and he could be arrested any day. I went with my mom to visit an attorney which was incredibly stressful.

I was absolutely miserable. The undercurrent of uncertainty and fear was hard to handle especially in the bubble of complete isolation.

School’s out for the pandemic

My daughter Arabella was on the honor roll. After the fight with Estelle, Arabella didn’t want to go to school at all. We had a hard, if not almost impossible, time getting her out of bed in the morning for school. She would cause everyone else to be late and they resented her for that. She stopped talking to kids who were previously friends or acquaintances. In fact, she skipped the lunch period altogether and started hanging out in the classroom by herself.

So it didn’t seem like it would be a really bad thing for Arabella when schooling went online. She didn’t really want to be there anyway.

Everyone at our house, however, seemed to have a hard time with online schooling. Clara stopped doing homework altogether since her parents wanted her to go back home to Germany. Estelle was even having a hard time finding motivation to study. Her year in America wasn’t going to count anyway and she was going to have to repeat the year when she went back home to France. She really wanted to be here for the social aspect. But track was cancelled, along with prom, our spring break trip, and everything else she was looking forward to. I couldn’t be too hard on the kids for being depressed that COVID shut their lives down.

I pretty much let Estelle and Arabella manage their own online homework assignments. I mean, they were honor roll high school students. They were competent and capable of managing their own schedules, or so I thought. Plus, math..

We got a call from the school a few weeks before school was scheduled to end. They told us that Arabella did not do any assignments for a 3 week period and she might fail several classes. As you can imagine this was very upsetting to us. This put her on a tight timeline to finish her classes. Paul helped Arabella put a schedule together and they sat in his office together while Arabella tried to catch up. It was a very stressful time and it created a lot of conflict.

We still had a hard time waking Arabella up for class. She was so far behind and said she couldn’t focus to get stuff done. She was in so deep we didn’t think she could dig herself out. One day Paul lost it. After another day of arguing about having to do homework, Paul lost his temper and kicked Arabella out of the house. Arabella asked if she could stay by her friend Jordan’s for a few days. She promised she would work on her assignments there. I told her she could stay there for a few days until she and her dad cooled off with their arguing. What we were doing here wasn’t working anyway.

I was desperate. No one could tell me how to motivate a previous honor roll student who was struggling with depression through a pandemic get her homework done when all she wanted to do was sleep. Maybe a few days away would be a good idea. Jordan’s mom said it was okay. So I packed up my car with a couple days worth of clothes and all of her homework to drop her off a few days. I told her if she didn’t do her homework, I would pick her back up again. We would be monitoring her progress online.

Somehow she was able to pass all but one class her junior year. Creative writing, that is the class she didn’t pass. It kills me. Oh, the many of things she could’ve wrote about.

Feeling tested

The last time we talked I told you that my daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential mental health treatment facility. What I didn’t tell you was that at the same time my other daughter Angel most likely had COVID.

Last weekend I briefly saw Angel’s boyfriend Dan. We were close to each other for a few minutes while I opened the sliding door we all walked out of. I was in close contact with my daughter Angel who was in close contact with her boyfriend Dan. Are you following me yet?

The next day Angel goes to Dan’s house. While she is there he develops a fever. She decides not to come home. The next day Dan has an instant test and tests positive for COVID.

To make matters more complicated, my mom stopped by with my brother Matt on Saturday. My mom and Matt both received all of their COVID vaccinations. Because of COVID, I have not seen my brother Matt since last June when my mom had a medical emergency and I needed to take him back to his group home. Once he returned to his group home, he couldn’t go back home until fully vaccinated. My brother Matt has not seen my daughter Angel or her boyfriend since Christmas of 2019 again thanks to COVID. After the visit, before we found out Dan was sick, my mom took Matt back to his group home. My mom and brother were not in close contact with us but they did give everyone hugs including Dan.

Monday morning Dan has an instant COVID test and tests positive. He gets really sick. His mother gets sick. My daughter Angel gets sick. So far his father is fine.

What am I to do? My daughter was scheduled to be admitted into residential care. This was her last chance to get into a great adolescent program. She will be an adult in 2 months and they said if she didn’t fill the bed she would lose the opportunity. She had to wait 3 months to get in.

I decided to call the COVID hotline. Not only was it a bad connection, but it was useless conversation. She told me that my situation was really unusual and complicated and that I would be better off calling my doctor or going on the CDC website. My husband and I fought over what to do next. We don’t see eye to eye on COVID. Words were said that weren’t meant.

Meanwhile, my mom’s COVID anxiety ramped up again. She called the group home, program, and case managers. Two of the people told her that Matt should be okay since he had both shots. What more could she do beyond that? Is he never allowed to see family again after everything was done in her power to prevent him from getting sick? Two of the people my mom contacted chewed her out. They said how irresponsible she was. One of them even told Matt he wasn’t going to be allowed home again which caused him distress. My mom was beside herself with worry about Matt. I tried to calm her down but I was worried myself about the ones who were already sick and what would happen next.

I was worried that my brief exposure to Dan would be enough to get me sick and then I would get Arabella sick and then she wouldn’t be able to go into residential. Or Arabella would get sick alone and spread it on to others in a hospital setting. A few days after Dan got sick, Angel got sick too. She got sick several days after I saw her last. I felt pretty confident that I didn’t get exposed from her. I felt iffy about Dan though. I did see him although we weren’t in close contact for very long at all. According to the CDC website I don’t think what we had was considered close contact but I still wasn’t sure because I saw him right before he got sick. But who knows? It’s not like I was keeping track of how far apart we were or how long he was in the room.

Thankfully I had Arabella tested for COVID right before she was admitted and it came back negative. Now it has been several days since I saw her and I still feel fine. I take my temperature everyday and I have been laying low. Everyone has been telling me I have to stop worrying about it and trust God. I’m trying but this has been really stressful. To be honest, trust wasn’t my first instinct. I felt angry. Of all times, why does this have to happen right now??

The first time my mom takes Matt out of the group home he gets exposed. Why God? Why? I sometimes wonder if my family is cursed. Arabella is healthy and everything ended up being alright. But still??!? It was horrible timing to go through a COVID scare. Plus I’ve been worried sick about Angel and Dan and his family. It’s hard knowing my daughter is sick and there is nothing I can do to help her. I’m feeling that way about both my daughters right now.

I ran over to Dan’s parents house today and dropped off some medicine, vitamins, and Gatorade. Angel is feeling a lot better already, but Dan is still pretty sick.

What a week! What a wreck it has made of me! I feel so tested.

Right before the pandemic

Maybe she was crying out but I wasn’t listening. Her problems seemed so petty, like the fight with Estelle. I had given her everything I wanted but never had as a child. In my mind my problems always trumped hers because I was shielding her from life’s real problems. I didn’t listen to any complaints about how hard she had it for anything.

But in reality I really was trying to protect her. She just didn’t know about it. I didn’t tell her anything about my dad. I didn’t tell her that several weeks back her older sister found child porn on their grandpa’s computer and turned him in to the police. She was a child. I wanted to protect her from that. She seemed so innocent, carefree, and happy. Why take that from her?

I developed a plan. Arabella was going to be a foreign exchange student. Maybe she wouldn’t find out about her grandpa until it was all over. But I was worried. There were a few problems with the plan for the children in my house to have the perfect childhood. The police could arrest him any day and then the world would know what kind of monster my dad is. Our foreign exchange students might get sent home. Their parents might not want them here although they would have nothing to do with my dad.

Then there was the part about me being a complete and total mess. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and despair after I heard about my dad. I suffered greatly from the blow and the trauma I experienced as a child resurfaced in the worst way. I knew I was suffering from Complex PTSD. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going through what I did.

I pushed everyone away. I pretended everything was okay. But I wondered how anything could ever be fine again.

I experienced moments of extreme anxiety and hyper-vigilance. One day I thought I could try to calm myself by listening to music in my earbuds. Arabella came up behind me unexpectedly to give me a hug. I freaked out and screamed at her to not touch me and get away from me. I was horrified. I apologized and tried to explain to her not to touch me if my back was to her. But I could tell she didn’t understand. She felt rejected and I blamed myself for it.

After Arabella’s suicide attempt, we had a long talk. I decided to tell her everything that was happening with my dad. I told her that I was having a hard time with it and me pushing her away had nothing to do with her. Together we cried.

Inside, though, I was furious. If my dad didn’t screw up my life once again I would’ve noticed that my daughter was depressed. I didn’t call him on his birthday. I didn’t even send a card. I blamed him for what happened with Arabella. I was so focused on his mess that I didn’t even notice my own child was suffering.

I wasn’t doing well before the suicide attempt and I certainly didn’t do well after. I suffered severely from insomnia and nightmares for over a month. I thought I was going to lose my mind. That all happened right before the pandemic.

A year and two days ago

It’s been a year and two days since my daughter tried to take her life. It was on a day like today. It happened while I was sitting in the same spot I’m in today, writing my post oblivious to what was happening a couple rooms away.

It came out of nowhere. I blamed myself for not noticing something was wrong. Me, the hyper-vigilant one. I was focused on other things, other problems.

There was a fight between my daughter and our foreign exchange student Estelle. Before then things were great between them, better than I could’ve ever expected. Arabella and Estelle were best friends. We even signed Arabella up to be a foreign exchange student hosted by Estelle’s family. Then there was the fight. Arabella accused Estelle of trying to steal her friends. I thought it was temporary, petty even. They would work it out themselves. But a few days later my daughter tried to kill herself.

She tried to OD and laid down in her bed to go into a forever sleep. She was filled with horror and threw up the pills she ingested. She reached out to her friends, then she reached out to me. That is when she found me writing my post on a day just like today. She came into the room sobbing hysterically. I literally thought someone had died. She said it was a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. I don’t know why I believed her. We were na├»ve and new to her mental health struggles back then. We didn’t know what to do and certainly had no idea what would happen next.

One of the first feelings I felt was enraged. I screamed and kicked the garbage can across the room spilling its contents everywhere. I can’t remember a time of such anger and uncontrolled rage in myself. I wanted to punch a wall or through the glass in the door. Looking back it seemed like an unusual response because I usually suppress my anger. But that is what happened.

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like if she succeeded that night in February. Succeeded, what a horrible word to describe something like that. I don’t think I would’ve made it through to share my story. My demons could have me. I just wouldn’t have the fight to run from them anymore.

For a long time after that night, I would awake in the middle of the night to see if she was still breathing. I would watch for the rise and fall of the blankets. Sometimes I couldn’t see and would reach out to touch her gently as to not wake her reminiscent of the early years when I checked on my sweet baby to see if she was still breathing after she stopped crying out for me in the middle of the night.

Now there was a new fear that robbed me of my peace both day and night. Will my daughter choose life today? I rejoice that it’s been over a year and she is alive!!

It was the start of a new journey. I was no longer just a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues, now I am a mother.

Maybe it was the fried eggs

Maybe it was the fried eggs.

It’s been a rough couple of days since we got back home. There is so much to catch up on it makes me wonder if it was worth it to get away.

This morning our dog stopped eating. I think it might be time for him to cross the rainbow bridge. Angel said that he didn’t eat much on one of the days we were gone. Maybe he got into something or someone else fed him I thought. When we got home everything seemed to be fine. Yesterday I took him for a walk. Then he got sick later that night. He pretty much stopped eating and is shivering a lot. I called the vet and got him an appointment for Friday afternoon. I got the number for the emergency vet just in case.

I feel sad that his end may be near. He’s been a part of our family for the last 13 years. If I think about it too much I want to cry.

Maybe it was just the fried eggs. That is what my son said.

Yesterday there was a big fight, or maybe it was the day before. It wasn’t over something that big. Each of the kids had chores to do while we were gone. I told them, however, that they were in charge of cooking and cleaning the mess for themselves. Angel is pretty anal. She cooked and cleaned up right away. Alex not so much. He tends to procrastinate and that is where the trouble started. Angel got on his case about cleaning up his mess and he didn’t respond all that well to being told what to do by his older sister.

I thought it was relatively minor and everything would blow over once we got home. Boy was I wrong. Angel and Alex got into a huge fight. I felt like I was their referee. Although I sided more with Angel, I could understand why Alex did not want to be told what to do by his sister. The fight devolved into name calling and ended when Alex threw a fried egg at his sister.

I took each kid aside and had a conversation with them about the fight. I listened to their point of view, validated it, and encouraged them to work it out. There are things that both of them did wrong and it pains me to see them wreck their relationship over a petty little fight. Neither one would hear of it though. Angel said she was moving out and staying at her boyfriend’s house with him and his parents for awhile. Apparently they never have conflict at their house like I do at mine.

When I finished talking to Alex I told him he needed to clean up the mess he made with the eggs. But by the time we finished our talk he lucked out because the dog gobbled it up.

Fast forward to today. My son thought maybe the dog was sick because he ate the eggs. I googled if eggs were bad for dogs. I found out that eggs are good for dogs especially ones with upset stomachs. It’s not the eggs. If only the answers were that easy to find.

I wish I could tell you by the end of this post that everything is fine but it’s clearly not. Instead of talking things out with her brother, my daughter avoided it by leaving. It’s probably something that I would do. Oftentimes I also avoid talking about problems with people I am upset with. My son didn’t seek out his sister and apologize either. They were getting along so well before we left, better than they ever did before. Then everything fell apart. It’s very upsetting to me to have such conflict and strife between them.

I don’t know what is wrong with our dog either but I don’t think it was the fried eggs.