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.

Activated

I had a really good appointment with my counselor yesterday. I posed the question to her about how come I feel more anger towards my mom than my dad. After all my dad could be described as cruel, mean, and at times a downright evil man. My mom has nothing but good intentions and most would view her as a genuinely good person. What was wrong with me? It just didn’t seem right.

I was starting to do a lot of healing work before my daughter turned my dad in to the police. After that I was a real mess. I really didn’t know if I would get through it. But here I am today not all that upset with my dad anymore but still angry with my mom. Why is that?

My therapist said I did a lot of healing work. Some of the healing work allowed me to de-activate my triggers. The memory of the trauma is still there, but the buttons don’t work anymore when people try to push them.

When my daughter turned my dad in to the police, it re-activated my dad button. It’s taken me almost a full year to de-activate it again. Here’s the thing. After I moved out of the house, my dad was no longer cruel or mean to me. My relationship with him went from horrible to neutral, from hatred to pity. But once my daughter turned him in, the switch was re-activated. I remembered every terrible horrible thing he did. It even brought up memories protected by my inner child deep within. Then everything started back up again with the insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, hypervigilance, and depression. It was like I was stuck being a kid again and it was very frightening.

But since everything has happened with my dad, I’ve only seen or talked to him a handful of times. He seems sorrowful and downright pitiful. He lost weight. I can only view him as a weak sad old man whom his family has pushed away as a result of his own behavior. You can’t outrun reaping exactly what you sow. I’ve seen it tear him down into a broken elderly man. As a child I hated him so much I wanted him to burn in hell. Now that he is in hell, I don’t seem to want it as much.

But with my mom, I’ve tried to turn off the activation switch while she is using all her strength to keep it turned on. She has been a manipulative controlling martyr my whole life. Whenever I’ve tried to set boundaries she has marched right over them and made me feel guilty about it. She never liked my choices in friends, boyfriends, music, clothing, goals, etc…then she would take it a step further and try to change me into the person she wanted me to be. So of course I am angry. Her behavior has not changed. She is pushing all my buttons and I haven’t been able to de-activate the mom switch.

My parents are toxic people. They have always been toxic people. At this point I am not even sure what to do going forward. Therapy every day??!? I don’t want to cut them out of my life. I’ve had to take a few steps back though for my own sanity.

What my therapist said was profound to me. Now everything makes sense. I had to write it all down before I forgot about it.

Gratitude week 51

  1. Paul started working for a small family business. They had their office party at a hibachi grill this past week. It really was a nice time. Afterwards, Paul and I drove around to look at the Christmas lights.
  2. I finished reading a book on boundaries. I found out I have a lot of work to do. I find that I feel guilty setting boundaries with certain people (like my mom). Even blogging at times makes me feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling I need to work through to set boundaries and write about my life, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done something wrong. I never realized that before.
  3. This is a big one. My mom apologized to me this week. Last Sunday she came by my house, even though we can’t have Christmas and she doesn’t ‘visit’ because of COVID, and asked me why I didn’t answer when she tried to call me. She has a tendency to call at the worst times like when I am in the middle of making supper. She said she was having a hard time and thank God her sister Jan was around to help her through it unlike me. If she left a message saying she needed to talk to someone, I would call her back. This time she came over and angrily asked me what I was doing that was so important I couldn’t take her call. Her visit left me angry and upset for several days until she apologized.
  4. Christmas lights! I love them so much I might leave some up year round.
  5. Baking Christmas cookies. Yesterday I made roll out Christmas cookies with icing. Today I made Amish sugar cookies. I found some of my grandma’s old recipes that I will also try out in the next couple days. We are getting together with Cindy’s family on Christmas Eve and I am planning on bringing a lot of the food.
  6. It’s only 5 days until Christmas and I am pretty much ready for it. Now we just need some snow!!
  7. Our investment from selling our business finally came through!!! The dividend check should get us through for awhile! I’m grateful to not have to worry so much about money. Arabella just got on the waiting list for residential mental health treatment. Unfortunately it looks like our insurance will not be covering it and it is very, very expensive. It will be worth it if she gets the help she needs and her quality of life improves. It helps to have options available for financing it if we need to. I was really stressing out about it.
  8. We went out to eat this week to celebrate the investment. We had a really nice family time with our two oldest kids. Of course my mom tried calling while we were out to eat and I didn’t answer. Can’t win them all I guess.
  9. I’m grateful that I now have over 900 followers. I never thought I would get to this point when I first started. I read a book a couple years back from a blog of a lady that was training to run her first marathon. I thought, wow, I want to try blogging and running a marathon. Now here I am writing about personal things I never thought I would be writing about. And here you are right with me!
  10. I never thought I would be saying this but I’ve reached the point in my life that yoga and meditation sounds better than pounding my body by doing marathons. While I still want to run, I have no desire to race anymore. What is one more medal anyway? I no longer want to be on stage. I’ve had my lead roles. I no longer want to sing in front of people. I no longer long for high stress hobbies. My body is tired and wants rest. My mind is ready to embrace a slower pace. It’s time to try something new. I’m grateful to be ready to accept the aging me.

Panic Sunday

That is how I ended up almost having a panic attack singing on the worship team in front of church on a joyous December morning.

I received a phone call from my daughter minutes before the service began. Grandma knows…the police didn’t arrest grandpa…guns in the house…a felon with nothing left to lose…depressed before…we need to get grandma and Matt out of the house…homicide?…suicide?

I received the two minute warning that I needed to go up and sing. I quickly said my good-bye as I threw my phone in my coat pocket and ran onstage. Maybe I should’ve taken some time off. When life goes to crap I tend to carry on with my plans. Maybe that was a mistake.

It was almost impossible to sing praises to God as I imagined my dad with a gun to my mom’s head. Singing may have calmed me in the past, but with each word my panic built to the point I almost ran off the stage mid song. I had a hard time keeping it together as the what ifs clanged in discord through my mind. It was agony to feel this way yet having to pretend that everything was fine. The service was being recorded and was live online. The whole world could watch me freak out.

I called my mom as soon as I could afterwards. She had tickets to see a show with Matt. She was going to pack her bags and come over after she took Matt back to his group home. With four teenagers in the house, I didn’t have an extra bedroom for my mom but she was welcome to stay here as long as she needed to.

I was still afraid of what my dad might do when she left. Should I go over there and try to talk with him? Was he angry with me because my daughter turned him in to the police? I called my brother Luke. He said if there was any chance that I could be in danger I shouldn’t go. It wasn’t like I had a car to drive anyway. The girls were in a matinee performance at the theater and needed to use my car since Paul’s truck broke down the day before.

Luke said he was going to give our dad a call and talk to him about Jesus just in case it was their last conversation. He said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t reach out. He also said it was time to tell our brother Mark and he would make that call as well. I decided it was time to tell my adult son Alex. Alex was very upset about the news and said he never wanted to see his grandpa again.

I decided we needed to keep the doors locked day and night just in case grandpa tried to come over and retaliate. I didn’t feel safe. We were on high alert. Later that evening my mom came over. I was relieved that she was safe. There was a lot of crying and whispered conversations behind closed doors. It was obvious that something was wrong. I told the children and people somewhat close that my parents were thinking about getting a divorce. It wasn’t an outright lie because it was possible, but it was far from the truth of what was really going on…

What? A crime

After a sleepless night, I decided to call my therapist’s office first thing Monday morning. What could it hurt? Surprisingly, she answered the phone. She was able to fit me into her schedule later on that day.

I was a mess. I was worried that all the healing work I had done would be undone with one swift traumatic blow. I had been in therapy alone for a couple months. I just started seeing a wellness nurse for my health issues. Would I fall back into a sick game of trauma Tetris?

My daughter was going to report my dad’s crime that night. I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t believe what had happened and was trying to process everything.

I did feel a little better after seeing the therapist. It’s totally crazy, but the only people I feel that can understand me are the people highly trained in dealing with trauma or have been there themselves. Those people are hard to find and are so terribly broken.

The following evening my husband and I met with our pastor and his wife. Our pastor said my ultimate goal was forgiveness. But I was not even at step one, acknowledging the fact that my dad is a pedophile. Anger burned inside my heart for my pastor. I felt jealous because he had the type of parents I wanted. I wanted more than anything to belong to a healthy loving family. He had no clue what it was like to deal with trauma. It wasn’t his fault, but I resented him for it. Although, in his defense, he had no idea what he was getting himself into and wasn’t trained for this.

No one really knows what to say. I don’t either. When your good godly father dies, I don’t know what to say to you. It seems insensitive to say that I wish I had a father like yours. It doesn’t matter if he is dead. Many times I wished my dad was dead. Then, perhaps, this hell will end. But will it if it is stuck inside of me? Maybe I will always carry this baggage long after the train has left. I suppose I will have the answer someday, but it doesn’t make me feel like a good person right now.

Later that evening I received a phone call from the police. By then my nerves were shot. The officer asked me a lot of questions. What are the birth dates of your parents? Do your parents own guns? Did anyone else live in the house and have access to the computer besides your mom and dad? I told the officer that my disabled brother lives at home on the weekends. But I also told him that he cannot read or write which crossed him off the suspect list. I nervously answered all the questions asked of me.

The officer asked me to not have any contact with my parents until they talked to them. I thought I would be getting a call from my mom after my dad got arrested. But that is not what happened.

Survival; the lies I told myself

I’ve been depressed since I can remember time beginning. Maybe you would be too if you lived in my shoes. I told myself a lot of things that weren’t true. Survival, I thought childhood would never end. I said things to myself like at least I wasn’t sexually abused. If I was I wouldn’t have the will to live. Yet fuzzy memories tickled my mind. But if I couldn’t remember, it didn’t exist. Right?

It was bad enough that my psychotic brother terrorized our house. He was small and by any means did not look threatening. But when the voices in his head called to him he would fly into a psychotic rage. He clawed up my arms, punched, head butted, gave black eyes and bloodied lips, grabbed onto hair, twisted arms, kicked with an adrenaline rushed rage. I was not comforted, he was. I was told how lucky I was to be normal. I was punished if I wanted to retaliate or defend myself. Matt couldn’t help what he did, but I could.

When I was attacked at times I almost went into a meditative state. I repeated the mantra over and over in my head that this abuse was making me stronger like exercise. I told myself that all of the pain inflicted upon my body was good for me. If he punched and bruised my arms I thought in my head that my pain came from lifting weights. I was developing strong muscles and not being beaten and bruised. I think that is why part of my early healing involved marathon running and brutal body breaking workouts. My mind was already trained.

I never learned that touch could be comforting. Not only did my brother physically abuse me and those I loved, my father did as well. He would often squeeze my mother too tightly until she cried out in pain. My little brothers and I would try to get him off of her while he swung at us. I remember him hitting and spanking some of my brothers. He would tickle us until we wet ourselves all in the name of fun. Sometimes he would play ball with my brother for fun too. He would chuck the ball so hard he would hit my brother with it. The game usually ended when my brother came in the house crying while my dad called him a baby. But my dad never flew into a psychotic rage like Matt.

The most difficult thing to endure with my dad was the emotional abuse. He often told us how stupid we were. He had the innate ability to find the things we were most afraid of to terrorize us with. He would taunt us and encourage our siblings to laugh at us as well while we whimpered in fear. We were so frightened by our dad that we didn’t want to be left with him without mom because then he was merciless. If we tried to stand up for our siblings, we were targeted next.

My dad was evil. Does that make me evil too? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I tried to be good like my mom. She would take us to church. My dad would laugh about this as well. God was a big joke to him. But it was a place I could go he couldn’t reach.

I never learned to be comforted by touch or encouraging words. In fact, quite the opposite. Touch and nice words made me feel uncomfortable. It was foreign to me. No one ever said they were proud of me. No one ever said it was okay to feel angry when my brother hurt me. I could never say ‘no’ to make it stop. I wasn’t protected. Nothing was entirely safe, not my body and not my mind.

I couldn’t control the things that happened to me. But I could control myself. I could convince myself of the lies I needed to tell myself in order to survive. It wasn’t that bad. A good beating made me stronger. I should’ve noticed the signs. I was the one that didn’t protect myself. It was my fault.

But hey, at least I wasn’t molested. What I can’t remember doesn’t hurt me. Right?

Late night decisions

Dan and Angel started going through the pictures on my parent’s computer. It started innocently enough as things often do. My daughter sent me an old picture of myself with long hair. It reminded me of why I kept my hair short.

Paul took a call later that evening. I really didn’t pay much attention until he pulled me into our bedroom. He told me to sit down as Angel was going to share some really bad news. Angel was just home for Thanksgiving. How bad could the news really be? Was she pregnant and dropping out of college with only a semester left? Did she get bad test results from the physical she had at the doctor’s office the day after Thanksgiving? Why would they call her on a Sunday night? Maybe she had a really bad type of cancer and was dying.

My daughter was sobbing. She told me she was really sorry. I honestly didn’t know what for. Angel wasn’t the type to get into trouble. She told me that they found porn on my parent’s computer. Still not very surprising. My dad was a porn addict since I could remember. I relaxed a little. I’m sure it was shocking to see porn on your grandparents computer. But then my daughter threw a punch. But mom, there were images of children.

I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine what my daughter had to see. I was in a state of shock. Time moved slowly. It was hard to decide what to tell them to do. I called my brother Luke. He fell to the floor and sobbed in front of his children. What were we going to do? What a mess!

It wasn’t like I had it in my repertoire of traumatic experiences yet. What to do when your child finds child porn on your parents computer. I couldn’t really ask anyone because I never knew of anyone it happened to. I certainly did not want to google it. Frankly, I am a little frightened to even talk about it now a year later.

We could all pretend it never happened. We could protect my dad. We could destroy the computer and never talk about it again. They could return the computer and tell my mom to never show it to anyone again. But then we would be criminals, just as bad.

My daughter decided that after she was finished with school on Monday and Dan was done with work, they would go to the police department. Angel was going to file a police report against her grandpa, my dad. I knew it was the right thing to do, yet no one was comforted by the fact and slept well that night.

I was devastated. I thought my life was over from his mistake. I thought I would never feel joy again. My demons rejoiced in my suffering. I couldn’t even comfort my daughter because she was attending school 4 hours away. She was hurt. She would never be the same. My heart burned with hatred toward my dad.

I thought because I was no longer a child that my parents could no longer hurt me. Boy was I wrong. Childhood ended before it even really began, but the trauma didn’t. Now it was spilling down the generations onto my children. I could no longer protect them from how things really are. It almost destroyed me. But I am stronger now, strong enough to tell my story. I know it won’t be easy. I’m afraid. I feel sick to death about it. I mourn the hurt and crying children who deserve so much more…

The gift unwanted

If I could pinpoint the beginning, it would be today. Or maybe I should say everything became unraveled last year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That was the day everything became revealed that unraveled everything else. A new trauma that unwrapped the old in a dirty messy gift I didn’t want. I say gift because when I tell people they say it makes me stronger, a better person. I can’t blame them, it was the only positive thing they could think of saying. But maybe I just wanted to be average, normal.

It really started on Thanksgiving day last year. We had people over for Thanksgiving, more friends than family. Maybe if I’d known it would be the last normal Thanksgiving I would’ve felt less stressed out. But we didn’t have the lovely gift of 20/20 at that time.

My mom brought it with her. It sat in the corner next to the piano until my daughter Angel took it back to her apartment with her after Thanksgiving break. She was going to give it to her boyfriend Dan to fix.

I awoke from nightmares this Thanksgiving morning and wiped away my silent tears. I could tell you the day my life fell apart. It all started then. The anniversary haunts me. My demons delight. I barely survived the blow.

If only the snowstorm last year was a few days earlier. Could I have stopped it? Or maybe if I wasn’t so over responsible. Once my grandma couldn’t host the holidays anymore, I took over. It should’ve been passed down to my mom, then me. But I took it on. It didn’t matter that I was in my early 20’s. It didn’t matter when my husband had a cancer scare and needed major surgery over the holidays. It didn’t matter when I had newborns or 3 little kids underfoot. My husband and I did it all, sometimes my brother Luke relieved me of that responsibility.

I resent the fact that I always had to be the supporter but never got the support I needed. Or maybe it’s because I am a dumping ground for feelings and baggage I never needed to carry. I’ve been carrying boulders for so long it’s no wonder my back hurts.

A few weeks ago my mom dropped off pool shock when she cleaned out the garage from a pool she had operating 8 years ago. It only has a shelf life of 6 months and now I need to find a place to dispose of her trash. She stops by to drop off her junk but can’t visit because of COVID.

That’s what happened last year. She dropped off more junk. She had this laptop that was chock full of viruses. She wanted Dan to fix it and get her pictures off of it. The laptop came here with her on Thanksgiving. It sat at our house by the piano for a few days. Then it travelled home with Angel through the snowstorm several hours away.

Then this nightmare all started the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Oh how I wish it never began. The phone rang late that evening. It hit me hard like an unexpected punch in the gut that took my breath away. I called my brother Luke and he fell to the ground and sobbed in front of his children. After that day, it was hard to carry on.

On that day, my demons were stoked and I was scarred for life. The flames consumed me and the smoke kept me from seeing clearly. I thought I would never feel joy again. I kept myself hidden from the world. I continued the lie that everything was alright. I kept secrets.

But that ends today.