- We made it across the bay back to our home port before the storm hit on my birthday.
- It seemed like absolutely everybody at the marina knew it was my birthday (even people I didn’t know). It’s probably the first time since I turned 40 that I am all birthdayed out. It was too much attention for this introvert.
- I met my son’s new girlfriend at my birthday party. She is really quiet and that is nice.
- Today I met my daughter Arabella’s new boyfriend. I did meet him briefly before when he came over at night and I was sleeping on the couch. I told him it was nice to finally meet him when I was dressed. Well that was awkward. I meant to say it was nice to meet him when I was awake (not sleeping on the couch in my pajamas).
- Summer!! After the storms on my birthday I couldn’t ask for better weather.
- I am planning Arabella’s graduation party. I am grateful to plan her party. As I looked at all of her pictures throughout the years I found myself really grateful that I am planning her graduation party and not a funeral. Worrying about death is one of the hardest parts of being a parent of a child with serious mental health issues. Graduating was a milestone worth celebrating, even if she is not heading to college like all of my friend’s kids.
- Over the weekend I went out to eat at the restaurant Arabella works at. I felt grateful that she has a job she really loves.
- I also went to a wedding show over the weekend with Angel, Dan, and his mom. I think within the next week or so we should have a date. I still cannot believe my daughter is getting married!
- Although I slept better on the sailboat, it is really wonderful to sleep in my own bed again.
- I am grateful for Angel’s birthday this week. We are planning massages and going out to eat at our favorite pizza place.
Okay, so maybe things aren’t going to be all that light and fluffy yet. I feel really irritated today. Maybe it’s just PMS or something.
Some days I can just let it go and other days not so much.
Yesterday my husband and I made plans to take my daughter Angel and her best friend sailing for her birthday. Apparently the weather had other plans. It ended up going alright anyway. But that wasn’t the problem. When we got back around 5 PM, I noticed that Arabella was still home. I thought she was scheduled to work at 4:30 PM. So I went to talk to her and found out she was supposed to work at 10:30 AM. She slept through her whole shift. So she missed a whole day of work and the previous two days before that she was late.
My husband and I were livid. The last thing we want is for her to lose the job that she says she loves. We again told her how important it was to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. After I woke her up she called work. Thankfully she didn’t get fired but I’m not sure how long that will last. They are very nice to her too and said she could wear a short sleeved shirt despite her cutting scars. They told her they don’t discriminate. She was really upset with herself and when I asked her if she wanted to talk about it she told me to leave her alone. Just like old times. She is upset with me but can’t do it by herself.
It really stressed me out.
Also, when we got home yesterday, we had the invisible fence lady at our door. I was on the phone with a client a few days ago when I saw my dog cross the road and almost get hit by a car. Our dog is almost 14 years old and is practically deaf and blind. He has been going right through the fence and onto the road. We had to do something. So they came out and turned the collar all the way up. Thankfully he is responding to it now. But it is hard to see him go downhill so fast. Our cat is 15 and not in much better shape. I don’t think either one will make it through another winter and it is hard to see both our pets decline.
Then if all that wasn’t enough. My mom came back yesterday. She is all stressed out because her tooth cracked and she had to get a crown, my dad now has some sort of heart problem, and my brother Matt had a CT scan because of some benign tumors on several organs. She only slept an hour last night and was a bear to deal with today. She wanted me to drive her to her appointment today which I did. But she was annoyed by my music saying it was too loud (it wasn’t) and clangy and asked me to turn it off.
A huge, huge pet peeve of mine is complaining about my music when I’m driving. It’s not a big deal if someone asks me to turn it down so they can talk to me. That’s no problem. I usually keep the volume down when I have passengers anyway. But saying they don’t like it and asking me to turn it off when I’m doing them a favor is another thing entirely. I just had the radio on quietly. Yes it was rock music. I hate her music too but never ask her to turn it off.
It kind of reminds me when my kids were young after I got past the stage of having to listen to that dribble Barney crap, I would listen to music I liked. When they complained, I told them that when they drove they could listen to whatever they wanted to. That came back to bite me because they can listen to stuff off their phone. In my book, driver picks the music whether I like it or not. Sometimes my husband will be really nice when he drives and tells me to put on anything I want. It’s like heaven to me.
But anyway, here I am back to letting everyone else’s problems bug me. I don’t even want to go up north this weekend to be around family anymore since they all carry so much negative energy. I am looking forward to seeing my brothers Mark and Luke but my dad, Matt, and my mom aren’t very relaxing to be around.
When can I live my own life and let everyone else’s problems go? Seriously!!?!
So now the story unfolds. It’s been over a month since Arabella has been home from residential. She was there for over two months.
She is now writing her own story in a book that will perhaps never be written. We did our best. Now here we will remain as a landing pad when her wings are broken from life as sometimes happens when a bird first leaves the nest.
We keep telling ourselves that everything will be okay. Even if it’s not, we will still walk through it together.
On the rough days we talk of Paul’s mom. She made a good life for herself. She didn’t have much. She didn’t have a high school diploma but was always able to find a job. She raised a child as a single parent when she was right around Arabella’s age. She struggled with mental health issues, but she had her mother to help her and later in life she married a good man. She had a house to live in.
If Martha could do it, then Arabella has a good chance to live life independently. In some ways, I think that Martha was happier than most people I know. Ignorance is bliss they say. I don’t even think she knew she was not very bright or that she was mentally ill.
Arabella is out in the world now. She is finding her way, even if it is not the path I would’ve chosen for her. She is not out of the woods, but she is doing so much better. She wants to live now. Crazy can be fun and exciting. Normal is boring anyway.
I am closing this series. It’s been very challenging to write about my daughter’s mental health struggles in only the way that personal painful pieces can be. But I feel like it’s been therapeutic for me as well.
From here on out I might get a little light and fluffy for awhile. I might post about my travels, wedding planning (yeah!), or go back to writing about the fortune cookies I’ve amassed. But I’m not going anywhere. I just need to lighten things up after talking about such serious personal topics.
I can be fun too, but you guys probably don’t know that about me.
The first couple of weeks at residential were really rough. I was afraid that Arabella was going to get kicked out of the program. They told us while she was on the waiting list if she did any self-harm, such as banging her head against the wall like she did at her second inpatient stay, they would release her. She knew that because she was part of that conversation. She hated it there at first. She didn’t have any friends. They purposefully kept her alone to increase her tolerance in a safe environment.
We received nightly calls from her which were not always good. She begged us to send her expensive gifts overlooking the cost of treatment. She bragged about her arguments with staff and how she broke the rules. They had a hard time waking her up in the morning like we did. It wasn’t going well because she didn’t want to be there. She argued with us and hung up on us on multiple occasions. I was always waiting for a call that we should come pick her up and there was nothing they could do for her.
The first call from the therapist was rough because she said that Arabella made allegations of abuse against us which they had to report to social services. Nice! What were they going to do anyway? Take her away? I jokingly said to my husband that maybe then the county would pay for her residential treatment. But nothing ever happened.
Arabella caught on fast, but she couldn’t focus. She was easily distracted which lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. She improved greatly in the program after she was treated for this. I felt like this was a turning point in her treatment. She wanted to be there after that and wanted to get better. She could finally focus on studying and new hobbies.
Some other strange things happened while she was there. Arabella went into a dissociative state and freaked out scaring other patients. She didn’t know who she was or where she was. In this dissociative state, Arabella ate plastic which prompted more testing for pica. Dissociation can be a symptom of borderline. After this she had every single diagnostic characteristic of borderline. I wondered if this had anything to do with her eating nonfood items before. I was completely puzzled.
Before this I did not know she experienced dissociative episodes. She admitted to dissociating in the shower. She also said that she had episodes in her room where she looked down at herself and thought that she was a very bad person that didn’t deserve to live or a very good person. I found it very hard to understand and didn’t even know it was possible or likely without experiencing major trauma.
After the treatment for ADHD and after her dissociative episode ended, there was a time of tremendous growth. She started working on learning and applying skills. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we were very fearful at first about whether or not this treatment was going to work. We had a lot invested in it and not just financially. I think our fear in early treatment was normal, we just didn’t know what to expect.
I think the residential DBT program was a lifesaver. It gave her (and us) more tools to work on some of her mental health issues she was struggling with. But we were also worried about how things were going to be when she got home. Would the skills carry over? Would she be able to live independently or would she need lifetime care? Again, we just didn’t know what to expect in recovery.
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.
We received the call that Arabella’s name came up on the waiting list for the DBT residential program for adolescent girls. We had less than a week to get everything together. She had to be there within a certain time period or she would lose her place. This was her last opportunity since they said she could not be there after turning 18. She was less than 3 months until 18 which meant by the time she came up on the waiting list again, she would be too old for the program.
She abruptly ended her time with the outpatient program that she was in for 2 months. I had to switch a dentist appointment around last minute. Thankfully they were able to sneak her in earlier with short notice. The residential program needed her dental records. We ended up getting all of the paperwork together and appointments done as soon as we possibly could. It was months of wait, wait, wait then boom hurry as fast as you could to get everything together. Plus I had to work with the insurance company which was pretty much a waste of my time. We ended up paying for everything out of pocket which wasn’t cheap. We emptied Arabella’s college fund. She wasn’t interested in college anyway. Without residential we honestly didn’t know if she would live that long anyway. This was our last ditch effort to save her life.
To make matters far more stressful, we also had a COVID scare within that time period. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan tested positive then my daughter got sick with COVID as well. Once we found out he was sick, my daughter stayed with him at his parent’s house and didn’t come back home until she was better. It was a matter of life and death. If Arabella couldn’t go into the program because of a positive test I feared she would die. It was horrible and terrifying. FYI admitting your child into an inpatient, outpatient, or residential program is stressful and crappy as it is without the extra stress.
They ask questions such as how many suicide attempts have you made and when was the last one. My daughter answered that many times she cut herself so deeply that she was hoping not to wake up in the morning. They ask so many disturbing personal questions that no parent wants to hear the answer to. I suffered greatly the first time I saw the cutting on her arm. I had nightmares for days when I could sleep that is. It was very traumatic for me.
Thankfully Arabella’s COVID test came back negative and we all remained healthy at our house. I do think that the residential program has helped Arabella tremendously learn the skills that are needed to live a healthy and productive emotionally regulated life. We, as her parents, worked very closely with her therapist and the psychiatrist. We received a DBT parent workbook and listened to podcasts. It didn’t cure her. She is still taking plenty of medications. It was a very rewarding experience except for the cost. But as the saying goes…you get what you pay for.
Arabella was in the residential program for a little over 2 months. I’ve noticed a lot of improvements since she got back. It was worth it to give her a second chance at life. Now it is up to her what happens next. We did everything we could.
A couple of weeks before Arabella made it on the waiting list for residential, she started to make amends with friends and family.
I received a text from Jordan’s mom saying that she wanted us to come pick up a big box of Arabella’s stuff from when she was living there. Jordan and Arabella were no longer friends. When we went there to pick up her things, Arabella wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jordan’s mom. She wanted to know how she could make things right and be friends with Jordan again. It really was uncomfortable.
Arabella also wanted to get along with her brother. She bought him a monster and some candy and asked if they could talk sometime. It was really touching that she wanted to make an effort to renew most of her troubled relationships. But it was also scary. Was she saying good-bye because she was going to be leaving soon to go to residential? Or was she once again planning on ending her life?
I can’t really remember but I think she gave away some of her things. That struck a resounding chord of fear in me. What kind of good-bye was this going to be? I couldn’t help be feel anxious about it.
But then I remembered that she gave me back her pills that she was stockpiling. She also put a lot of effort into finishing her high school diploma. Would she do that if she was planning on ending her life. I justified her actions to quiet my fears.
She did work really hard to make amends with family and friends before she left. I’m really not even sure why. I guess she just wanted to leave on a good note. Maybe she just didn’t want us to forget about her while she was gone. More than anything, I’m glad it wasn’t anything I was worried it could be.
One day Arabella handed me a baggie full of pills. Inside was a month’s supply of sleeping pills. I didn’t understand. How did this happen when I watched her take her medication every morning and every night? I couldn’t imagine it would be that easy to stockpile pills while under supervision.
She gave me the pills because she said she was no longer planning on using them to kill herself. She said she was surprised that I never found them after outpatient said I should search her room. I also remember the late night text from Jordan’s mom saying that she had pills and was planning on using them.
Arabella said that on some nights she wouldn’t take her sleeping pills but instead would drink energy drinks so she could stay up all night. That is what she did to finish high school. I don’t understand why she would even want to do that. At the time she seemed rather manic and didn’t feel the need for sleep. But she didn’t feel like killing herself either. I would almost prefer mania to suicidal depression.
But was she really bipolar then? She told the doctor she couldn’t sleep at night even with the sleeping pills. But she didn’t tell him that she wasn’t always taking them.
I’m glad she handed over the sleeping pills. I finally felt some peace after hearing that my daughter was going to OD on pills but never being able to find anything.
The hard part was that her psychiatrist thought she could be bipolar but said he was retiring and just left us. He never put her on medication that would manage bipolar. At residential, they didn’t think she was bipolar. At home right now, she seems manic.
Over the past year, my daughter has had 6 different possible psychiatric diagnoses. It seems to me that the experts don’t agree. She still needs my help to manage her medications because she is not taking them properly. I still don’t have the answers that I need. I’m not sure what the future holds as far as her care goes. She is having a hard time finding a job because it is obvious that she has some serious mental health issues if you have a conversation with her. I don’t know where to turn.
But as for now, she gave me the pills back. She seems manic which presents itself with other safety concerns. At least she isn’t suicidal at the moment.
But now what? She wants me to butt out because she is an adult now. I can’t in good conscience walk away. I really would like her to have psychological testing for a firm diagnosis. The jury is still out whether or not she is going to be able to live independently and take care of herself someday. The uncertainty and lack of control over the situation is hard to deal with. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see and hope she doesn’t do something to destroy herself in the meantime.
Arabella told us she was an atheist right after her first attempt. Being our youngest child, it wasn’t too shocking when she started to question the faith we brought her up in since her siblings did the same thing right around her age. Up until that point, she went to church with us and was involved. But that ended.
A couple months back, Arabella hit a low point. She only had one real friend that was willing to hang out with her. She met Kami at inpatient. Kami was the girl that told everyone she was going to jump off a bridge, but her car broke down on the way. It wasn’t meant to be. It seems like divine intervention to me.
Kami is a very kind and caring friend. Rumor has it that her parents met in rehab. They turned their lives around and became devout Christians. Sounds very inspirational. I never met Kami’s parents, but I’ve talked to her mom several times on the phone. She called to introduce herself to us and wanted to know the kind of people her daughter was hanging out with. I could tell that she truly cared for her daughter. I also found out that Kami was the oldest with several younger siblings. Her mother wasn’t used to letting go yet. It’s especially hard when you have a child with mental health concerns.
I did notice a couple of times when they would have sleepovers that the liquor bottles were lighter. I expressed my concerns to Arabella stating how dangerous it was to mix alcohol with prescription medicine. Again, experimenting with alcohol wasn’t something that I haven’t dealt with with teenagers before.
Then there was this guy that Kami was hanging out with who wanted to hang out with my daughter late at night at our house. I told her no. I didn’t want Arabella hanging around with guys alone at our house or while we were sleeping. I didn’t want her to end up in a bad situation or have to worry.
Apparently Arabella spent the night talking to this boy on the phone. The next morning Arabella tried to sneak out of the house. She didn’t want to tell me where she was going. She finally fessed up that she was going to go to church somewhere by herself. She spent the night talking to the guy about his experience with faith.
When she came back home she said she was a Christian again. It was a little confusing because she still wanted to be a stripper. To me the whole experience seemed surreal. I didn’t know if she really meant it or if she was trying really hard to please us so that we wouldn’t leave her too. There was a disconnect. It seemed disjointed in some way.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy about the decision she made. But it all seemed a little chaotic to me to constantly be swinging from one side to the other. She didn’t seem to really know who she was so she became what everyone else was or wanted her to be. That concerned me.
I never did meet the guy that walked her back to faith. But I am happy that her friendship with Kami is still strong. I know that Kami struggles with her own problems, but she is not the type to bring everyone else down. Kami was that one friend that stuck with her when no one else did. I am grateful for that.
I am glad that my daughter decided to find her faith again. I think it will help her get through the hard days ahead. It’s okay that things aren’t perfect or understandable at this point. I have to accept that and let go of it.
I didn’t sleep well the last two nights. Both nights I had nightmares. This morning I woke up crying.
The worst nightmare had to do with my dad. I was at his house but it looked like a cluttered maze outdoors. The worst part of the dream was when I passed by a small fish tank filled with beautiful fully grown aquatic animals. The sting ray really caught my eye. There wasn’t any water in the tank. I watched the beautiful creatures suffocate. Some had already turned to bones but were still gasping for air. It was very upsetting to me but I had to pretend I didn’t notice their suffering. I couldn’t do anything to save the creatures. If I gave them water they would still be crammed in a tank that was too small for them.
I usually have insomnia and intense nightmares where I wake up crying when I do sleep when I am under an extreme amount of emotional distress. But I feel relatively fine. It’s rather troubling because of the disconnect. Does my body/mind know something I don’t?
This week went okay, better than last. My husband and I went to therapy together. It went really well. I have been frustrated because my husband is constantly barraging me to share my feelings with him. I don’t always want to so he pressures me more to the point where I get really angry with him and tell him a whole lot of stuff that he doesn’t want to hear. It doesn’t work well. The therapist made the discovery that when I don’t talk about how I feel, it triggers Paul’s fear of abandonment. I thought he was just trying to be controlling. Once I understood his struggle, I felt more compassion for him because there are times I do totally withdraw into myself. I put up my walls then I hide behind them.
I struggle with Paul because he started drinking again a couple weeks back. He didn’t make it the full year like he promised. He is under the impression that he can control it now and it is not going to control him. I also feel a similar fear that when he hides there I am not going to find him and our relationship will eventually end. So I constantly police him and everyone else. It’s not that I am controlling either, it’s that I am afraid.
It’s been hard not to police Arabella since she got back from residential. For the first week things were great. So great I got my hopes up. Since turning 18, Arabella doesn’t really want me to manage her anymore. I can’t really blame her. But the problem is that she can’t manage herself. Without any structure she has been sleeping strange hours. Sometimes she doesn’t get up until mid-afternoon and takes her morning pills then. Then she takes her night time pills at the wee hours of the morning. One morning she was taking her bedtime pills when I was waking up. Then she complains that her meds are out of whack. I told her she needs to take her morning pills and evening pills at the same time every day roughly 12 hours apart. But she doesn’t listen because she is an adult and knows better than I do. It’s frustrating.
She also over drafted her bank account. She started gambling once she turned 18. She bought $70 worth of scratch offs and now she is in the negative. Then the next day she wanted to borrow some money and got angry when I told her no. She argued with me about a graduation party. She wanted to send out an open invite to everyone we know and have them bring a dish to pass. I told her that is not how it works. On her graduation she refused to take a lot of pictures, so I don’t have any pictures of her and I alone at all.
It’s been hard to let go because she can’t manage things without me and then hates me for it. But things haven’t been all bad. She has kept her room pretty clean since coming home. She also hasn’t been self-harming or suicidal which is great. Quite the opposite in fact. She has been talking almost non-stop about how wonderful and beautiful she is. So many people want her that she doesn’t know which one to choose. Everyone stares at her and talks about how beautiful she is. It is extreme, disconcerting, and a bit delusional. I’ll take it over self-hatred though.
Meanwhile, my mom came back early from her trip with my brother Luke. Apparently they are not getting along now either. My mom freaked out because she didn’t sleep well and asked my dad to come pick her up. She was supposed to stay for my niece’s dance recital but left. Then my mom took too many of her anxiety pills because she thought it would help her sleep then ended up going to the ER because her blood pressure went through the roof. On her paperwork, it says she went to the ER for an OD. I really don’t know what she was thinking. But that is the problem, when she doesn’t sleep she gets very anxious and irrational.
The good thing was that my mom was able to go to my daughter’s graduation. Originally the graduation was only open to parents and guardians, but then they changed it last minute to include up to 4 family members. Since my mom already made plans around not being able to go I encouraged her to keep the plans with my brother and his family. Maybe now I am in trouble too since my mom went to the graduation instead of the dance recital. She asked me not to post any pictures with her in them at the graduation and I said no.
Apparently Luke and his wife said some harsh words to my mom. My mom said that Luke said she shouldn’t be staying with me because she wasn’t my responsibility. He said I couldn’t handle it or something. I know he was trying to protect me, but it made me angry because he didn’t call me one time since my mom moved in to check up on me. So his opinion about how I feel doesn’t really matter. I’m capable of taking care of myself.
Okay, maybe my life has been stressful lately and that is why I am having nightmares again. I don’t feel more stressed than usual though. Although tonight I am going up north for a few days. My mom will be there with my dad and Matt so I’m not sure how relaxing that will truly be.
Who knows, maybe I’m having a nervous breakdown and I don’t even know it. Wouldn’t that be funny? I always had this fantasy that when I finally snap I’ll do something really crazy. But compared to everyone else, perhaps I am the boring one.