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.

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.