New diagnosis

I was very concerned about the things that were happening with Arabella.

On New Year’s Eve, she made a strange comment when we had some friends over. She told everyone that her dad was walking on the ceiling and laughed about it. No one else laughed. They glanced at me and looked at her as if she was crazy. Was she on something? Was she delusional? Was she just trying to get attention?

She said strange things before like the time she said that Jordan’s mom was her mom and I wasn’t. She said other things that weren’t true. At times I could classify her as delusional or paranoid.

Then there were other things like the eating of non food items such as plastic forks. The binge eating and weight gain. The extreme fluctuations between us being evil and the world’s best parents. She fluctuated that same way with herself. Sometimes she saw herself as fat and ugly. Then at other times she wanted to be a stripper and show the world how gorgeous she was. Sometimes she was gay and other days maybe straight.

Then there was the impulsivity. Money in her hands was money spent. The shoplifting. The need to be more extreme than everyone else. The cutting, the suicide attempts. All her relationships were turbulent.

She had unusual emotional reactions, laughing instead of crying upon the loss of friendships that once meant everything to her. She seemed almost manic. She had a hard time sleeping at night even with the sleeping pills. I wanted to tell the doctor that all of this happened within a month’s time. Perhaps her medication was off.

Arabella was in rare form when I picked her up from outpatient to take her to her psychiatrist appointment. She was bouncing off the walls. A combination of caffeine, candy, and mania perhaps? She couldn’t keep a constant thought. She talked about the heating ducts in the office. Things people really don’t care about. She was talking a million miles a minute and I was feeling frustrated. In my mind she was acting pretty crazy and I wanted her to stop. But did I? It was the perfect place to act like this. Every time before this visit, she was quiet and depressed. She couldn’t sit still. She told the psychiatrist that she had crackhead energy.

I explained to the psychiatrist everything I’ve been trying to explain to you. Something was really wrong with my daughter. He got it. He said it was obvious to him that my daughter had more than a case of depression. He said she had disordered mood, thoughts, and personality. He thought she had Schizoaffective disorder with Bipolar 2 along with Borderline Personality Disorder. I didn’t see it coming, really I didn’t.

Then he said that he was retiring. He didn’t have a replacement. He didn’t want to change her medication which was a mess and not even adequate for her new diagnosis. We would have to wait for residential to figure that out. He pretty much said good-bye and good luck.

I was heartbroken. I cried the whole ride home. How did I not see this coming? Schizophrenia?? My brother is schizophrenic. He hears voices.

I grieved for a long time. All my hopes and dreams for a normal life for her were dashed. I wasn’t even sure she would graduate from high school at that point. Remember when she was an honor student? I couldn’t stand to hear about the bright futures of other kids her age. Your daughter is going to college for physics. I’m spending my daughter’s college money for psychiatric care. Yup, hope she doesn’t kill herself.

I remembered the last play she was in. I cried not knowing it would be the last time everything seemed fine. I cried thinking about the last dance she went to where she wore a pretty sleeveless dress before she started cutting her arms.

I grieved for what was that will nevermore be. It was painful that somehow I could’ve caused this. Bad genetics, nary a sane soul on both sides. I was riddled with shame and guilt. I couldn’t understand why my daughter hated me. I was doing everything I could to help her. I couldn’t stand seeing other normal families doing normal things. I resented them. I envied them for what I didn’t have. I would give away everything I had just to have that one thing, normal.

My mom was very comforting at the time. She experienced a lot of the same feelings with my brother Matt.

Now I just had to wait. My life was in limbo in a chaotic holding pattern until residential, if she could make it until then.

Carrying a heavy weight

She gained 13 lbs. in a month.

Arabella wasn’t on any medications that could cause weight gain. She also went through periods of restricted eating. This really didn’t concern me as much because at the time she was easily over 250 lbs. I was more concerned about diabetes and other health related issues. She wasn’t eating meals with us anymore. I would tell her it was time to eat only to find her eating a bag of Oreos in her room. She only wanted junk food.

It struck a painful chord in me. I show I care about my family by doing nice things for them such as their laundry or cooking nice meals. It was triggering of childhood memories of my own mom working hard to cook nice meals only to have my dad ask her what kind of dog shit she made for supper. I feel hurt and unappreciated when my efforts are scorned. It takes a lot of work to cook supper and make healthy homemade meals for a family of 5 or 6. It makes me angry when my cooking is replaced by a cheap sugary substitute.

My dad also struggles with obesity and unhealthy eating. He does not exercise and now can barely walk. I saw how he struggles with his weight and I don’t want that for my daughter. Not only that but it is hard to care for someone who is elderly and prone to falls. He is over 300 lbs. and there is no way I could lift him.

What was even more concerning besides her obesity and binge eating of junk was that she started to eat non food items as well. She ate woodchips. She cut up a Capri Sun pouch and ate that. She ate paper and several plastic forks. What if that was to tear up her intestines? To me it seemed like a whole new way to self-harm. The doctors were puzzled by it as well. They ran all sorts of blood work but nothing could be determined what was causing her pica. Was it some strange side effect to her medication? Was it for attention?

One of the hardest things was that I didn’t have any control over it. She was twice my size. Although I could share with her my experience with healthy eating and exercise, she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, to this day I am not allowed to talk about it.

While she was in residential, Arabella still went through periods of eating paper and plastic silverware. Again, more tests were run and not surprisingly nothing was found. The best anyone could tell me was that she should take a multi-vitamin because she wasn’t getting any nutrients from what she was eating. Things haven’t really gotten much better since she came home. Her meals consist of chips, candy, cookies, and sugary foods. I can’t stand it really. I don’t know what to do about it. If I talk to her about it she gets angry with me. She tells me that I don’t understand and quite frankly I don’t.

I won’t take her shopping because she fills my cart with junk. I don’t mind buying some snacks, but I don’t want to fill my cart with them. When she has money, she buys her own snacks. It was hard when she worked at the grocery store because she would spend her paycheck there. It didn’t matter if she didn’t have money. Sometimes her friends would be her junk food junkies and bring her a new stash.

The therapist said that I shouldn’t be nagging her about it because it would cause her to feel shame which would cause more stress eating which would cause a perpetual shame cycle. Instead she should feel natural consequences, such as diabetes. Who wants their teenager to struggle with body image and health concerns due to obesity in a society that pressures women especially young women to look a certain way? I am in my 40’s and I still feel the pressure to look a certain way. It’s not as bad as when I was a teenager, but still.

My intention is not to fat shame my daughter. It’s hard to talk about because I’ve never really struggled a lot with my own weight. But it’s a big problem and I’m not sure she is going to be able to fix it. It’s going to have to be another thing I have to let go because there is nothing I can do about it. When I do try to help I only seem to make things worse.

Sometimes it’s really hard to let my adult children go and watch them struggle.

Bird crap

After Arabella came home from her third hospitalization, she missed a lot of school. Everything was a mess anyway with the school’s hybrid model of zoom classes and in person learning. Just a quick FYI, the hospitals do not allow school computers because of confidentiality purposes. After the last hospitalization, the new plan was to get Arabella into a long term outpatient program until she made the waiting list for residential. This posed a huge problem with school because the outpatient program originally did not offer built in time for education.

At this time, we were already into December. The end of the semester was a month away. The school decided to credit Arabella with a quarter’s worth of credits and she needed to finish the rest online. This was concerning because Arabella was in outpatient full-time and it only left her with the weekends to really put time into school and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

It was also the time to start applying for college. Arabella is a very bright child, but I had to mourn the loss that she wasn’t there yet. She changed her dreams and goals. She told us she wanted to be a stripper. Although she is a beautiful girl and her cup runneth over in the well endowed department (especially since we cancelled her reduction surgery), she was binge eating junk food and was struggling with her weight. Both legs a couple inches above the knees and her non-dominant arm were full of cutting wounds and scars. To be frank, I did not see it as a realistic career option. No parent in their right mind would want their bright intelligent daughter to be a stripper anyway.

She changed her tune a little over time. She still wanted to be a stripper but would settle as a bartender in a strip club. Again, most parents would not want their previous honor student to aspire to be a bartender as a career choice. She thought that maybe just maybe if she let her cleavage show, she would get good tips. Or maybe she could find a rich older man to be her sugar daddy. It was all very troubling to say the least. As you could imagine, I was not happy about it at all. I would be happy at that point if she would be able to graduate from high school. I was really worried about that as well.

It was right around the time that her old friend group started to fall apart. Arabella started hanging around friends she made in the hospital. We wanted her to have friends because it meant a lot to her. Another FYI, sometimes the friends you make in the psychiatric hospital are not the best kinds of friends to have. She started taking on the (new to her) destructive behaviors of this new group of friends.

This is a huge problem I see. Where do people with serious mental health issues make new healthy friendships? Birds of a feather flock together and makes us as parents good targets to get crapped on. But I will continue this in the next edition of my life is a total sh!t show…

If the dress fits…

As if the weekend shopping in Chicago wasn’t torture enough, the girls and I went shopping again a few days later.

We didn’t intend to go prom dress shopping that day. Back when Angel was a junior in high school, the going rate for a prom dress was $600. We decided to go to a bridal/prom store just to get some ideas. Thankfully (due to internet competition) the going rate for a prom dress is half as much as it was a few years back.

Estelle, our foreign exchange student from France, fell in love with a dress on the mannequin. It shimmered white like freshly fallen snow. Once she put it on, she didn’t want to take it off. It was the second dress for Clara, our foreign exchange student from Germany. However, my daughter Arabella tried on dress after dress until the sky grew dark and the cows came home in Wisconsin.

Last year right after Arabella’s 16th birthday she decided to go on a diet. She was over 250 lbs. Since then she lost around 45 lbs. Sadly none of the weight fell off her chest with a cup size halfway through the alphabet. None of the dresses fit her body shape. It’s been a problem since middle school. I was really concerned she might not find a prom dress in a dress store full of options.

Arabella found a dress she liked. The store took her measurements and said they may be able to special order it in her size. I was concerned that the dress, although pretty, would not fit her right even in her size. By this time the other girls had their dresses purchased and were in bags. The clerk looked up the dress she wanted to order and said it wouldn’t be delivered until April, the week of prom. Apparently shopping three months in advance is not enough.

At this time Arabella was close to tears. The clerk kept bringing out more and more dresses, big sizes that were 20+. I’m so sorry for you bigger girls out there. The dresses were hideous. Seriously, who wants to go to prom looking like a zoo animal?

Then Arabella found ‘the dress’. It looked like something Cinderella would wear to the ball. It was shimmery light blue, size 16. I was worried she would be crushed if the dress didn’t fit her. She was already close to tears. Thankfully it fit and she looked like a princess in it.

One last thing the prom store does is make sure that no other students from the same school wear the same dress. Before leaving I had to make sure the dress she loved was still available. The clerk said even if it wasn’t available, she could buy it. The clerk felt bad dress shopping was so difficult because of her body shape. The other girls had an easy time because they have an average body type. I never appreciated being average as much as I do now.

Later that evening Arabella begged me to allow her to get reduction surgery. She hates her body and how she looks. For this, I feel sad. Body image is hard enough for a teenage girl as it is. Reduction surgery is a major surgery and at this point I don’t think I want her to go ahead with it until she is an adult unless she is having serious back problems. Parenting can be hard when you don’t know what you are doing.

 

Pound away

My daughter wants to lose 100 lbs.

She blames me for her weight gain, and for part of it I blame myself. She was pretty settled into her life when everything changed. I told myself that she would be able to adapt since she is the one that likes change. Plus it was a positive change. Change for the better should be easier, right? To think I thought that the pets would have a harder time adjusting than the humans.

She always lived in the same small house up to that point. She went to the same school where she knew everyone since 4k. She had a group of friends that she fit in with. Plus we weren’t moving far away so she could still see them if she wanted to.

When we moved, everything changed. Arabella started her sophomore year at a new high school. I told myself that it is a nicer school and it is. Some of the kids from her old school decided to go to that school out of district. It’s a bigger, better, and richer school with more resources.

When I drop Arabella off at school, I would say that half of the cars in the student parking lot are nicer than mine. Of course, that probably doesn’t make it easier to fit in.

She doesn’t have as many friends as I hoped she would. She only had two friends over for an hour or two and only went to one friend’s house since school started. She hasn’t been invited to any sleepovers or birthday parties. Meanwhile, her old friends are having sleepovers that she wasn’t invited to.

Arabella eats when she is lonely and bored. She gained about 40 lbs since we moved less than a year ago.

She is right around my height and needs to lose 100 lbs to be right around my weight. I never knew what to do about it. I never had those kind of struggles. We don’t have a lot in common. Sometimes we don’t get along. It seems like we either get along great or don’t get along at all.

It’s really not fair, I have so much in common with my older two children. They never struggle with their weight. In fact, I think my oldest two children are too thin. I haven’t had to deal with this issue before.

It is frustrating because I just want to tell my daughter to stop binge eating junk food. But I know it won’t be that simple. It would be like her telling me not to worry when I am having a panic attack.

I just can’t relate. I’m the type that doesn’t eat much when stressed out. The last thing I want to do is give her a complex by saying the wrong thing. She is loved no matter what, I just want her to know that even if nothing changes.

Last night Arabella and I met with a coach for a weight loss program. What a racket that is! Since she is a minor, we have to get the doctor’s approval first. She wants to start with the most restrictive diet for her weight loss plan. It would involve cutting out dairy and fruits. I am all for it if she has the stamina for such a rigorous routine.

I really hope this works for her. But I think it will be a lifelong struggle. Right now she wants to go to school for culinary arts after high school. I just want her to be at a healthy weight. Right now she is not healthy. She is starting to have back pain. The heavier she gets, the harder it is for her to be active. As a runner and someone who places a high value on health, it is hard for me to watch her struggle.

I am happy that she has decided to take a step in the right direction and will do anything I can to help her achieve this goal. I have no doubt this is going to cost a lot. But it could cost even more not to do anything at this point.

 

 

Thailand, Day 9

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We left the hotel early in the morning to take a speed boat to the Coral Island beach. Today we were going to spend most of the day on the beach. I couldn’t wait. The water was a brilliant color of sea green with a white sand beach. The water was a perfect temperature. Every few minutes we felt a slight stinging sensation on our skin. We thought that it might be from tiny jellyfish. A couple of times we saw hundreds of small fish jumping up out of the water being chased by a bigger fish.

We set up our towels on comfy lounge chairs before the other hordes of tourists started pouring in. It was close to the Chinese New Year and there were many tourists in the area on vacation from China.

While at the beach especially, and in other places, I noticed something different. I noticed that the Asian people at times walked around with parasols. They wore long sleeves and pants even on the hottest days. Where they not hot? I thought maybe they were more modest than the rest of us in bikinis and shorts.

Our tour guide said that the Thai people do not want tan skin. In their culture, having tan skin means that you are out in the sun a lot working like the poor people. In fact, they have a big market for selling skin bleaching products. The only thing I bleach is my hair.

Where I’m from, if you are tan it means that you have time for leisure. I went to the tanning bed before my trip. I was quite the contrast to the Asian women who have dark hair and light skin. There was a single girl in our tour group that was getting hit on because she had pasty white skin.

It really made me question my own standards of beauty. I personally believe that having bleach blonde hair and dark tanned skin is beautiful. I want a -10 inch waist and the body of a Barbie doll. Thank you Mattel for creating an unattainable masterpiece of beauty perfection. Now being in my mid-40’s and having 3 C-sections, I am not going to be too hard on myself. But I honestly feel like crap about how I look when my summer tan starts to fade. I would go to a tanning bed year round if I didn’t feel like it was unsafe.

Most teenage girls in the 1980’s spent a lot of time slathering themselves in baby oil or dark tanning oil and laying out. At that time, no one ever told us it was unhealthy. Paul and I went to the tanning bed before this trip. We didn’t go because we thought it would make us look nice. We did it because we are very adventurous outdoors and didn’t want to burn. We did get a little pink on the day we spent at the beach.

We had a glorious time at the beach. We got back to the hotel in mid-afternoon. Paul really had his heart set on getting another massage. Our tour guide told us that if we wanted a massage that we needed to look for a Thai massage and not a body massage. If you went to the body massage place, you would be entering a brothel.

We went to an upscale massage parlor, but they were booked for the day. We walked around town until we found a place that offered Thai massage. They had one opening for a massage bed and one for a chair. I took the chair massage. Paul was led to a massage bed that was separated from 2 other massage beds by a curtain. I was seated out in the main area. My masseuse only knew limited English.

While I was there, I watching the bugs climb up the wall and saw a girl at the bar next door curling her eyelashes for the night. It didn’t seem like they spraying down any of the tables or chairs between clients. I did feel some comfort when a courier dropped off a see through bag of clean towels. A new masseuse came in and changed her shirt in front of Paul because there was nowhere else to change into her work clothes. She jokingly told him if he looked, she would charge him.

After the massage, we walked down to the end of the street. There were rows and rows of bars with at least 50 girls lined up waiting for a man that night. They were scantily clad, some dressed in sexy school girl outfits. It was early in the evening and they were just sitting there waiting watching as we passed by. We walked by a body massage place and saw signs of 3 for the price of 1. I really don’t know the difference between the prostitutes in the body massage parlor and the girls waiting at the bar.

The 2 nights in Pattaya, we saw some very young attractive Thai girls eating fancy meals with corpulent repulsive old white men around 40 years their senior. Although totally acceptable in their culture, I had a really hard time with this. What two (hopefully) adults consent to do should really be no concern of mine… I kept thinking of how I would feel if my teenage daughters went out with a man older than my husband. I couldn’t get past it.

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This was our last picture of our view of the city in daylight. Tomorrow we are heading home.

A big problem

My daughter was 12 when I received the first comment about getting reduction surgery for her. It was from a well meaning relative. That was still during the days that I could shop for her in regular department stores..

When she turned 13, I started taking her to specialty stores for plus size girls. While there she grew tired of trying on garments and threw a fit about wanting to go play. I got several looks. My 13 year old daughter looked like she was 20. She always looked older than her age. This always created harsh judgment when she acted her age.

Although Arabella is my youngest child, she is often mistaken as my oldest child. The first time visiting a new dentist, Angel who is 5 years older was taken into the pediatric section and Arabella was taken to the adult side. People commonly mistake Arabella for college aged instead of Angel which drives Angel crazy. Recently while visiting Angel on campus, a guy offered Arabella a drink thinking she was older. These things happen all of the time.

About 9 months after our first visit to the specialty store, we had to visit again. Arabella said that her undergarments no longer fit. It has been impossible to buy clothing. Arabella wears the smallest plus size pants. She cannot buy fitted shirts because they don’t fit. She has to wear baggy shirts that make her look like she is wearing a mu mu. What teen would like that?

Swimming suits are impossible too. Arabella has been too embarrassed to wear a swimming suit without a shirt over it. Formal clothes are next to impossible. Finding a prom dress will be difficult. Arabella’s body is too disproportionate. She is all tummy and chest.

I get a lot of looks when I take her shopping. Am I really her mother…they must wonder. She doesn’t look anything like me or my side of the family. The largest women in my family have C cups, until now that is.

I think people stereotype me to be like the mom from the movie Spanglish…You know the type..the runner, thin, athletic, blonde always harping at her daughter to lose weight. I try to not be like that. I just have so much knowledge to share. Sometimes when she asks, I offer her advice which doesn’t end well for me. I just can’t win. Sometimes my daughter hates me. We are opposites. We clash. We don’t even look alike.

To make things worse, Arabella’s older sister Angel is just like me. When she was younger, people called her my clone. She looks exactly like me, has my mannerisms, has a similar personality, and we get along really great. This has been a struggle. I don’t want to play the favorites game. I don’t think parents ever what it to happen, but it does…

Last week Arabella told me that she will have to go back to the specialty store. Her undergarments no longer fit. I took her in for measurements again. She now fits into the largest size they have available. I’ve run out of options. This is the only store I know of in the area that has the larger sizes…I might have to start buying online if she continues growing. She is only 14.

I asked the clerk what would happen if she loses weight…That might not change her size. Plus Arabella told me she is having trouble in gym class…when she moves, she falls out. She can’t even exercise without issues. Plus she is terribly self conscience because there are hot guys in gym class.

If she loses weight, but not chest size, that would be just as horrible. Then my daughter would have the body of a porn star.

What am I supposed to do??

Apparently I haven’t even been washing the garments correctly. I am supposed to wash them in a garment bag and then hang them up to dry. What do I know? I have no guidance here.

Oh, and did I mention cost?? One garment costs $50.

I had to special order her garments. They don’t have any that they think is her size in stock.

What am I to do?? What am I to do?? I asked the store clerk. She suggested I make an appointment with Arabella’s pediatrician.

I refuse to let my daughter get reduction surgery until she is an adult. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. She doesn’t want surgery.

It is a big problem.

Another late night visitor

I received another late night knock on the door this week. Surprisingly, it wasn’t for my son. It was the neighbor girl Abby who was crying bearing gifts of cookies and a handwritten apology note for my youngest daughter Arabella.

I found out there was a problem when I picked up the girls after school. Arabella wasn’t talking to Abby and Abby had no idea why. Arabella mentioned something to me later about the girls having friendship issues due to their extreme differences in body shape. Abby is in 7th grade and is very tiny. Some of the kids were teasing her saying that she looked like a kindergartner. Arabella is in 8th grade and is on the hefty side. I can see a future of her always struggling with her weight.

It is open to debate, Abby may or may not have said something about rather being small than fat. Arabella may have found this offensive.

Abby’s mom sent me a message wanting to know why Arabella was upset with Abby. I responded that they were having a discussion about body image. Abby’s mom replied that Abby admitted to saying some not very nice things to Arabella. In response Abby’s mom said, “I can’t believe this. I’m incredibly sorry. I’m just mind blown and upset. Abby has always been so sweet and considerate and I have no idea where this came from. I sincerely apologize.”

Then Abby showed up at the door crying offering her apologies.

Wow!

Abby’s mom was very stressed out by the whole situation. To be honest, it didn’t really phase me.

Abby is the oldest child. They are going through this whole middle school yucky time for the first time. Arabella is my youngest child. We have been down this road several times before. We have received worse knocks on the door.

Abby is a good kid. I didn’t want them to get worked up too much over this. I told them that sometimes people say things they don’t mean or that they regret later. No hard feelings..

I remember my middle school days. It is a terrible time for kids. It seems like everyone has to fit into the same cookie cutter mold.

When I was in middle school, I was the smallest in my class. One day I wore my green stretch pants to school and everyone called me frog legs. I bemoaned the fact that at 13 I was still asked if I was under 10. The adults all said that someday looking young would pay off for me (it did).

Some of my friends had braces and glasses. For awhile, I wanted that too. I remember walking around the house with a gum wrapper held on my teeth by an opened up paper clip. I also wore my babysitter’s glasses and looked at myself in the mirror which she said would cause me to need glasses. Apparently, she was wrong. (Why do I remember such crazy stupid things??)

I think the middle school years are the hardest. Especially if you are really short, really heavy, have a big nose, can’t afford to wear the right clothes, or are different in any way.

Woe to the popular kids too. They have to jump through a lot of hoops to stay popular.

I am soooo happy that this will be my last year as a mother of middle schooler.