Questionable truth

My first memory was of my dad standing over my autistic brother and hitting him while he flailed back on the floor. They were in the kitchen and on that day I remember my brother screaming and the cupboard doors rattling. He must’ve been 3 because I was around 4. My mom stood in the doorway a few rooms away holding back my brother Mark while I stood by her and watched.

That’s how my life started out. Many well meaning people who would rather not get involved told me things such as God is in control and God will never give you more than you can handle. No one prayed more fervently than me. God if you are in control, please make it stop. But my dad never became the loving father I wanted him to be. My brother never became normal. Did I do something wrong? Did I pray wrong? I couldn’t understand why things didn’t change when I so badly wanted them to. I tried my best to be perfect but still nothing changed.

There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I wondered what would happen when I finally broke. But that didn’t happen either. I became angry at God. If he wasn’t going to control things, I sure was going to try to. I became pretty good at controlling myself, others not so much.

For a long time I carried the burden of over responsibility. I can clearly remember when that started. I was 6 when I watched my younger brothers swim in the lake by myself. That was the day my baby brother almost drowned. I always thought that it was my fault until many years later when I realized how young I was. Maybe it even started before then, but I can’t remember. I always felt like I was responsible for things I didn’t have control over.

It became my job to try to fix things. I became a pretty good problem solver and counselor, but that should never be the responsibility of a child. In essence, I took the place of my dad because he only reacted with anger over issues and never stepped up. Still I prayed every night that things would change, but they never did.

If God wasn’t going to change things I was going to try to. But that didn’t really work so well for me either.

Then I thought maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. It’s time to throw away the childish coping mechanisms that I clung to. It’s not very realistic to think God is going to force my dad to become the father I’ve always wanted him to be. He had that choice and he threw it away.

The last post I talked about how strongly I felt about the freedom of choice. But maybe I don’t really want that. Maybe I just want God to sweep down and take control of my dad so he loves me.

Just because I want something to be good or perfect doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. My idea of God being in control and taking all my problems away when I can’t handle them anymore is incorrect.

Lately I was looking at my new 2022 pocket calendar. Inside there were little fun things to write about. One was to write down your favorite memory you had with your dad. I was stumped. I thought and thought for a long time. Nothing.

But for the first time, I didn’t blame it on God. I blamed it on my dad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to continue having a relationship with someone who hurt me. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him either. But I struggle with the thought that I am causing pain and that somehow this is my fault.

I am still confused about my relationship with God. What’s the purpose of prayer if God doesn’t answer them? My husband says that prayer is supposed to make us feel better about the situations we are in versus changing the situation. That is hard for me to understand because for me feeling better means things will change. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.

Maybe I am healing and growing if I am questioning things I always thought were truth.

The price you pay

Right before Paul left to go back to work away from home a couple nights, we had an argument about the COVID vaccine. We weren’t on the best of terms when he left. But nonetheless, he called me that night and everything seemed to be alright.

It was the next day that was a problem. I found out on Facebook that someone we knew was going to be at the same place Paul was with his clients. I commented on their status to say hi to Paul if they saw him. Now these people are really nice but are heavy drinkers. Part of the argument too was over Paul drinking. That evening the people we knew sent me blurry pictures of Paul saying they found him. He didn’t call me that night like he usually does. Now going through my head were a lot of scenarios. I thought perhaps something happened to him or maybe he met up with these people and had too much to drink.

While I was waiting, my mom called. She said that she and her siblings decided that no unvaccinated people were allowed to go to the family reunion in a couple of weeks. I was no longer welcome. I was angry but I didn’t know why. After I processed it I realized why. That excluded my brothers and I from attending as we were planning on doing. She could have suggested the plan that all unvaccinated people needed to get tested before attending and abstain if they were sick. They could wear masks. That has been the protocol for a lot of events. But I hardly think my mom would suggest something that someone else might not want even if it excludes her whole family. Maybe if Matt couldn’t go she would put up a fight. She never stood up for us with anything and that was triggering.

I was also angry because she is the one that drilled into us as kids that chemicals of any kind were bad. While our cohorts were guzzling down Kool-Aid, we weren’t allowed to drink the Kool-Aid. Artificial colors and flavors were of the devil. We didn’t have Twinkies or any of that stuff in our house. Fluoride was bad so we had to rinse our toothbrushes in peroxide and dip them in baking soda. I wasn’t allowed after awhile to take the green fluoride rinse that was wheeled into our classroom on the little carts about once a month. Just another way I was the weird one.

My mom took it a step further and also said what Matt ate caused him to be violent. He ate something with dairy and had a reaction that caused him to attack a stranger. We didn’t have milk or cheese often at our house. We weren’t allowed to drink it at school. Chemicals and allergens caused his hallucinations. We had to be extremely careful about food in our house. Because of the Agent Orange his body couldn’t handle any more chemicals. They ripped out the wood stove because wood causes allergies. We couldn’t have a Christmas tree because of allergies. Tree pollen caused violence. I literally freaked out once I got into the real world where people used chemicals liberally.

Imagine my surprise when my mom and Matt were the first in line for the shot.

Now she says I can’t be around the extended family if I’m not vaccinated? But it’s okay for her to live at our house.

I also realized not only do I have a lot of fear but I’ve lost a lot of hope. I thought that life would be back to normal by now. I thought if we did our lockdown and wore our masks everything would settle down. But I don’t see it ending anytime soon. Not only that but there are so many negative things happening in the world right now that it’s easy to feel discouraged. I’m sick of people arguing about who’s vaccinated and who’s not. Can’t we just agree that we don’t know when this is going to be over and everyone is doing the best they can? No, let’s fight about it because you didn’t make the decision I did and I’m right.

People are ending long term friendships and families are torn over this. When is it going to end?

Then my mom told me that my brothers were planning on getting together the following weekend to work on a huge project at the cabin. Again, this left me upset. They didn’t even talk to me about it and I know they will be complaining that I don’t do my fair share. I’m not going to be around when they want to do the project. We could’ve set up a time where I could help along with my husband, son and his buddies, daughter and future SIL. I could’ve offered up more manpower but they didn’t bother to ask me.

I didn’t sleep hardly at all that night. I was furious. I thought my marriage was in trouble. I entertained the thought of not seeing my family for another year of holidays. I started thinking seriously about leaving. I wanted to go to an area where no one knew my name. I was at a point where I just didn’t feel like I could take it anymore. I was done with COVID. I was done with being responsible for people and situations I have no control over.

I was still angry at my husband the next morning when he called. He apologized for worrying me. He said he got back late and didn’t want to wake me. He said he is so afraid that something is going to happen to me because I didn’t get vaccinated. I worry that his drinking is going to hurt him too. We were only worried about each other. Once I understood that, I felt a little better.

Living in fear

My mom called today. Her counselor told her that she backslid since she went back home. She hasn’t been staying with us since before Arabella’s grad party a couple weeks back. Paul and I were gone on our sailing trip then Arabella got COVID otherwise she would’ve been here. To be honest, I think it’s better for me when she is not here. She still doesn’t feel comfortable coming over because of COVID although I’m pretty sure she would be fine at this point. Then Paul and I have another sailing trip planned for next week so I told her maybe after Labor Day. She was distraught that we would be gone. She said she couldn’t handle being around my dad and she was too afraid to be alone up north. She was going to call her siblings to see if she could stay there.

COVID, Arabella got the shot and tested positive. She was really sick but responded well to the antibody infusion. My daughter Angel got sick too. She didn’t get the shot but had COVID a couple months back. She tested negative and a few days later lost her sense of taste and smell. So she quarantined along with her sister because she thought it could be a false negative. So it’s likely that Paul and I were exposed before and after we came back from our trip although we limited contact when we got home after we found out.

A couple days after we got home, we went in to be tested. Paul had no symptoms and was vaccinated. He tested negative. Two days after I got home I had a low grade temp, body aches, and this general feeling of malaise. I did not get the shot. I tested negative. I have no way of knowing this but all I can say is that I think my body was fighting it off. I started feeling better in 3 days. But was it a false negative? I decided to stay home and quarantine too just to be on the safe side.

But in all of this, I noticed something I haven’t noticed as much before until now. Fear. Sure, everyone was afraid when the virus first came out. We pretty much all did what we could. We did the lockdown. We rarely ventured out and if we did we had our masks on. We got tested if we felt sick and even if we didn’t. I’ve had 3 negative tests now.

Then the vaccine came out. Some people wanted to be first in line. Some people wanted nothing to do with it. I think this is where a lot of the trouble started. People started choosing sides. Right now the last I heard our state has a 50% vaccination rate. We are right down the middle and I feel it right down to our own house. People are hating and name calling. Now some medical facilities are forcing employees to get vaccinated. This has really caused people to be up in arms and protests. The fighting around here is more vicious than it was during the election. I don’t know how that is even possible.

What ever happened to my body, my choice? Oh wait, my bad, that is the slogan for another social issue. But seriously, if you want to get the shot get it. If you don’t, don’t. There is never going to be 100% compliance especially if it becomes forced. When there are elections 100% of the votes don’t go to one candidate. If you want to get the shot and trust the science, then trust your science. If you want to trust drinking bleach to protect you it’s pretty stupid but that’s your choice as well.

But as for me, I am afraid. I am afraid to get the shot because once I do it I can’t change my mind. I’m not saying that I will never get it but I want to see the research first. I want to make an informed choice backed by data. That’s my choice. I am not a trusting person. If I feel forced before I am ready I probably won’t.

I spent most of my life afraid. I grew up in an environment where we didn’t trust. My dad was a Vietnam vet. Ever since I was little I thought I had poison running through my veins called Agent Orange. I felt lucky because Matt had a lot more than I did and ended up the way he did. My mom was terrified of chemicals. We weren’t allowed to wear mosquito spray because it was poison. I remember staying at my cousin’s for a week one summer when I was about 12. Her mom sprayed us with mosquito spray even though I protested. I remember where we were. It was dusk and we were at a ball field by a playground. I thought I was going to die.

When the farmer’s sprayed chemicals we had an hour to evacuate the area in sheer panic. We had to pay attention to signs that the area was decontaminated such as several days would pass or there was a rainfall. We didn’t park the cars in the garage. Fresh newspapers weren’t allowed in the house because they smelled of chemicals. We did not spray our lawn or kill weeds with chemicals. That was poison that once we got in our system we would have a hard time getting out. I’ve never used weed killer. I wouldn’t even know how. I’ve realized over time that my mom was paranoid about these things. Other people don’t seem to be quite so concerned about it so that tells me that maybe all chemicals are not the devil. We lived in an extreme chemical free environment for Matt.

Then when my oldest daughter was born the study came out that linked autism with the MMR shot. My mom threw all the other theories away and jumped on that bandwagon. She didn’t want my kids to get vaccinated. I did get all my kids vaccinated but at my own pace. I especially waited on the MMR shot. Because what if it was true?

So as far as the COVID shot goes, I’m just not ready yet. Neither are my brothers or their families. No doubt COVID is a real threat. But I just don’t trust the shot yet. My mom, however, was the first in line to get the shot for herself and Matt. It’s as if she threw away everything she taught us and left us wondering if any of it was true. It’s hard to break myself from the fear that if I get the shot I will die. I’d rather take my chances.

But regardless of whether we are vaccinated or not, we all live in fear and that is not a good place to stay. I give it zero stars.

Threats of imaginary monsters??

I was never safe. Matt was autistic/schizophrenic. He was the most dangerous when he was hearing voices. You could almost always tell when he was hearing voices because he would mutter back to them. Sometimes he would laugh in a way described as purely evil like a villain in a superhero movie except without the superhero. He was in his own psychotic world he couldn’t easily be pulled out of. He would become incredibly agitated in this state. His ears would turn red and his eyes constrict as if possessed. He was small but had superhuman strength in those moments. It was a matter of time before he hurt someone. Those were the days when we couldn’t leave the house with him. It was too dangerous.

Matt was also violent when the voices were silent especially when he had to do something he didn’t want to do. The most common thing he would do was pull someone’s hair, mainly mine. When I say he pulled my hair, it was more than a little tug. He would latch onto a fistful of hair and yank while his victim screamed trying to get away. I would’ve thought I would’ve lost more hair than I actually did. Typically it would take at the optimal two people to restrain him and try to peel his hands off of their head. I’ve done it many times. I’ve also been the victim of his attacks countless times because I was the only one in our house that was little and had long hair.

There were also times Matt would attack for no apparent reason. Here are some of the things I’ve seen him do as a child to myself and others, some strangers. He gave black eyes, bloody lips and noses, head butts, scratched up arms, pulled hair, kicked, poked eyes, slugged just to name a few. I was often seen sporting bruises and clawed up arms. He threatened me with a knife. He tortured my pets. He was so violent that he was not allowed in school for several years, the school sent a teacher out to our house. Hence the home school years. The police were called when he went back to school. He was arrested. Somewhere there is a mug shot of him.

Matt being violent was a common (at times multiple daily) occurrence throughout my childhood. He ran around like a wild child. We were not safe day or night. My mom took him to every doctor she could find in desperation but it wasn’t until he was in his 30’s that an anti-psychotic medicine removed his violent tendencies and rendered him docile.

Being autistic, Matt was extremely hypersensitive. He could not tolerate his teeth being brushed. This was very problematic because his teeth were rotting. My parents tried the best they could but he usually screamed every night when it was teeth brushing time. Sometimes my mom couldn’t do it and asked my dad for help. My dad would get angry, manhandle Matt and forcibly brush his teeth. This made Matt incredibly agitated. He didn’t dare attack my dad because my dad would give it back. A lot of times Matt would harm himself mainly by beating his head over and over with his fist.

There were journal accounts written by my mother of Matt attacking our sleeping youngest brother Luke. Imagine a little child awoken from sleep by being hit with a fist. Sometimes Matt would come into my room at night when I was trying to sleep with his fist raised at me.

But here is where I was lucky. Matt and my two other brothers had to share a room. I had my own room. But being a child, I was too frightened to sleep with my door closed and locked. There were demons and monsters hiding under my bed and in the closet. There were murderous dolls in my room just waiting for me to close my eyes. There were kidnappers outside the window. There were things that could get me if I slept with my door closed. As a child I was so afraid of the imaginary things that I was unable to protect myself from the real threats.

Now I am an adult and have long outgrown the threats of imaginary monsters. When I am up north with my extended family I am usually the last one to go to bed and the first to arise. Unconsciously I must feel safer that way. To this day I am a light sleeper and awake to every noise hyper-vigilant of every possible threat. I wish I could say that I outgrew the need to protect myself like I outgrew the threats of imaginary monsters. My body never overcame the fear that I was not safe.

But I am safe now.

The full story…coming soon

I got invited into the popular group once in middle school. They gave me a handful of candy. I threw it away.

I could never bring them to my house anyway. The outside of the house was brick, big and beautiful. But inside was another story altogether. I couldn’t do slumber parties and sleepovers.

My dad roamed the house in his underwear. He answered the door that way. On occasion, he mowed the lawn that way. Sometimes he would even get the mail that way. The truth is that he was more interested in porn than his own wife and kids. He never hugged me, held me, or told me that everything would be okay. Maybe it was a good thing he had an aversion to touching me.

Our house was a hoarder’s paradise. Piles of magazines and papers littered all seating surfaces, our table, and floors. My mom hoarded food so there was always rotting food in the fridge. There were cupboards full of food, a fruit cellar, freezer upon freezer, refrigerator upon refrigerator. But we knew the newest food was always in bags on the dining room floor. There was always a stack of unwashed dishes on the counter full of you guessed it rotten food. The whiff of rot hit you as soon as you entered the door.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there was always pee on the bathroom floor and a dirty sink. My dad was a greasy guy in more ways than one. He rarely showered and criticized us for showering daily as if we were the strange ones. My dad didn’t brush his teeth but wiped them on the hand towel so I always had to strategically plan where to dry my hands in a spot I thought would be the cleanest. I don’t know how I ever survived the 8th grade hand washing compulsion.

Then there was my brother Matt. He was the school ‘retard’. That’s what my classmates called him anyway as they mocked his bizarre behaviors. He heard voices that told him to attack other children and he listened. He ruled our house and my mother bowed down to him. Anything for Matt. Never mind her three other kids.

We had crazy rules to live by for the sake of Matt. For example, no one could come into our house that was wearing perfume. That is why you could find me before middle school started ratting my hair in the middle school bathroom along with the girls that changed their clothes into outfits not allowed out of the house. My unscented hairspray had too much scent. For awhile we had to brush our teeth with peroxide and baking soda. We had to shut the windows if there was an east wind blowing auto exhaust fumes into our house. We didn’t have A/C back then. My mom even took down her brand new curtains because of the formaldehyde and hung old blankets on the windows. We had to take shelter if a neighbor was spraying his fields. The air purifier ran constantly. But none of those things stopped the voices or the attacks.

So you can see I had to reject the popular kids before they had the chance to reject me. I hand selected a few close friends but in the end I lost them anyway because of Matt.

I hated my life. I didn’t belong. To make matters worse, kids looked at the outside of my big brick house and thought I was richer than they were. In high school I drove a bright red Firebird. I was an exceptionally beautiful child voted most likely to be a supermodel by the graduating class which did nothing to help me fit in when boyfriends of potential friends flirted with me. People envied and hated me for the things they saw outside. Things that I didn’t have any control over. In a heartbeat I would’ve given it up to just have a normal healthy family.

The kids at school could never see the pain and sadness inside of me. After awhile I stopped caring about what people thought. I hated small talk and following all the stupid rules anyway. I said screw them and became a rebel, strong and unreachable. When I got hurt, I retreated to the corner and licked my wounds alone. I had to take care of myself because no one else really cared.

I am still the same person. I try to play the best game with the hand I’ve been dealt. On the good days, I thank God for all my blessings. On the bad days, I reject God because I feel he has rejected me. I can’t sing that God has been good to me all my life when I don’t believe it. Why do I feel like God hates me when I try hard to be a good person? I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect but it didn’t matter.

What is the purpose of pointless suffering? How has it made me a better person? How does it help anybody else? There will always be a part of me that feels alone no matter how many people are around. Maybe God will always be off in the distance and uncaring just like everybody else. I can’t seem to reach him either. I could never find a way to connect to normal people. My life has been way too crazy. I’ve had very different life experiences.

I will never be the motivational speaker that others seem to be. I am not the one who will tell you my anxiety went away by praying more or that my depression was cured by positive thinking. I don’t have the answers, just more questions. I am a broken person that will never be put back together right. Before my brain finished developing I experienced trauma more than compassion and love. I didn’t have that one teacher who made a difference in my life.

What can I say? I have a lot of trust issues. Who else has my back better than me? How am I supposed to trust?

Maybe someday I’ll get it right. Maybe someday I won’t feel angry anymore. Maybe even someday I will trust. But one thing I do know for sure. Soon I will be telling the full story. And it’s far from boring…

From the beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the borderline

I’ve always been the sentimental type. I don’t know why dates and anniversaries are so important to me, they just are.

Arabella was in the mental hospital for the third time over Thanksgiving. I didn’t feel like there was much left to be thankful for. For the first time, we didn’t get together with family over the holidays. It was just my husband, our other two kids, and my best friend and her family for Thanksgiving. I lost the spirit of joy and celebration. COVID tore everything apart that my dad didn’t put asunder.

It was the one year anniversary of the devastating call from my daughter Angel that she found child porn on my dad’s computer. Thanksgiving, that is when my mom gave the computer over to my daughter for her boyfriend to fix. It’s when everything started. I didn’t think the anniversary would be so difficult for me. Or maybe it was because my daughter was in the hospital again or that my whole family seemed to be torn from me.

It threw me back into a time of mourning, a grief so piercing that nothing could break through. It had been a whole year and nothing was resolved. My dad was still living at home. My mom was close to a nervous breakdown and stuck in the house with him. She would swing from feeling a tremendous amount of love towards my dad to wanting to leave but not wanting to be alone. She was terrified of the pandemic. Her anxiety was spinning out of control with her fear of dying along with a lifetime of trauma. She stopped sleeping at night. But there was nothing I could do to help her because she was afraid of me because of COVID.

My daughter Angel moved back home a couple months before Thanksgiving. I could see the fallout from her experience with my dad. She was not the same person she used to be. Before she was friendly, outgoing, and happy. That changed. She was not the same happy go lucky people person. She became anxious about social outings. She became rather cynical of life and the happy person I dropped off at freshman year of college was gone. The suffering caused mainly in part from my family of origin gave her some major trust issues. I wanted to protect my children from it but try as I did I couldn’t. I blamed my dad for the loss of my daughter. I didn’t share this with anyone but it was around that time when Angel got diagnosed with anxiety and a mild form of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Sometimes I wish that I would never see my family of origin again because of the extent of suffering caused by their hand. I feel a lot of guilt for feeling this way. I harbor a lot of anger and resentment for all the decades of pain and suffering they caused. Looking back, I can’t even say that most of my childhood trauma was caused by my dad. Most of it was caused by Matt. It’s super hard to have an autistic/schizophrenic brother that hears voices to hurt/kill pretty much everyone I cared about along with any unlucky stranger who was victim to his psychotic rage. I was never protected. I’ve lost so much I can’t even count the number of people I’ve seen him hurt.

Meanwhile, Arabella was in the hospital. Finally someone listened to what I was saying. My daughter Arabella was showing signs of having severe Borderline and they agreed with me. I didn’t feel blamed. They got her started on the waiting list for the residential treatment program that she is in now. How did I end up with two daughters with borderline right around the same time? Do you realize how chaotic my house is? I’m pretty sure my MIL had borderline and I suspect my mother has it as well. It does have a genetic component to it, so that makes sense. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

This last Thanksgiving was a huge trigger and I felt bad for not feeling thankful at a time of celebrated thanksgiving. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for but I couldn’t seem to find a way out of the suffering I found myself in.

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.

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.