Triggered

Maybe my expectations were too high. I thought that my dysfunctional family of origin could handle being functional for a couple days. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.

It started out okay. I headed up north with Angel after she was done working on the Thursday before the 4th. We were jamming to our favorite tunes that were cranked. A couple people waved as they passed us on the highway. People everywhere were excited to celebrate the first big holiday after COVID. The weather was going to be absolutely perfect. Who could ask for more?

Thursday went well. Angel and I opened up the cabin. A couple hours later my brother Luke joined us with his family. But after that pretty much everything went downhill. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. I had a plan for everything. The plan was if my mom slept well, she would drive up with my brother Matt. If she didn’t sleep well, they would hitch a ride with my husband Paul.

It looked like my mom left the house, so I got my nieces all psyched up for her to visit when my mom called me and said she wasn’t coming up. My brother Luke and his family were leaving later that afternoon for family camp which meant my mom wasn’t going to see them since she was feeling tired and anxious. This was really triggering since a couple weeks before my mom left my brother’s house right before my niece had her dance concert. Now everyone was angry and hurt. My nieces were so incredibly sad saying that grandma didn’t care about them. I was furious because I already had contingency plans A through F in place in case something like this would happen.

The new plan was that my brother Mark and his wife would pick up my mom after driving 5 hours. They were going to spend some time with my dad because Angel and Luke did not want to see him. Luke ended up going to pick up my mom instead. Everything got all messed up and everyone was upset.

Eventually on Friday afternoon almost everyone was up north. I thought the problems would end there, they didn’t. Arabella called to tell me that her car wouldn’t start and how was she going to make it to work the whole weekend. I told her she could use my car. Another problem solved.

My husband decided to help out by mowing the lawn since my dad doesn’t do anything to get the cabin ready for us. He is terribly lazy and now that he has this new heart condition he does absolutely nothing. He won’t even take out the trash now. He expects everyone to take care of him. But I digress. Since my dad didn’t mow the lawn, Paul did. The grass was so high that Paul did not see the metal line that the dog was tied up to and hit it. It got all twisted up in the lawnmower. Worse yet, it yanked the dog so hard that his collar broke. Originally Paul had him chained to his choke chain and I put him on his collar. Good thing because it probably would’ve killed him otherwise. I was very angry that my dog could’ve died.

That evening my brother Luke and my daughter Angel left. Angel was very upset before leaving. My brother Mark’s wife Carla did not congratulate her on her engagement. She made passive aggressive comments about Angel sleeping in their bedroom. She also said how she couldn’t wait to have steak with my dad. Angel took this as an attack. My brother Luke does not want his daughters around my dad nor does my daughter Angel after she found child porn on my dad’s computer and turned him in to the police. Angel felt like Carla was blaming her for this. After Luke and Angel left, my dad showed up which is another stressor. Matt and my dad are very difficult people to be around.

Carla screamed at my brother Mark the whole weekend. She yelled at him for everything like eating his cheese separately from the burger she cut the cheese for. She is incredibly controlling and verbally abusive. At one point she yelled at him so much that I was even shaking. It triggered my husband because his mom was the same way. He wanted to tell her off but we didn’t want to make things worse for Mark. Carla offered to take care of my dad and Matt so my mom didn’t have to. She was taking it out on Mark.

Paul and I tried to spend as much time outdoors away from everyone as we could. Sunday morning I suggested to Paul that we go kayaking. Then everyone wanted to go kayaking. Carla yelled at Mark that she wanted to go and why didn’t he plan that for her. Since the kayaks were Mark and Carla’s, we decided to pull the canoe out of the garage. My mom wanted to go too. We didn’t get far before she wanted us to turn around since she can’t swim and is afraid of water. Then she wanted us to take Matt so he wouldn’t be left out. Matt is worse on the water than she is so we said maybe later.

There were some good things that happened over the 4th. The fireworks over the lake were absolutely awesome. My aunt Jan came out with her husband and my son came up for the fireworks. But for the most part, I found the weekend with family to be very triggering. My anxiety was through the roof. I fell into a deep depression that took almost a week to pull myself out of. I felt like I was a child trapped in despair. It dragged me back to that feeling again. It was hard to see others triggered by the events too. I always liked being up north. As a child, it seemed like a safe and special place. But then I started to remember times when it wasn’t that way. It ruined my memory that there was any safe or happy place in childhood. The things I clung to were remarkably but unbeknownst flawed.

I really think that I need to limit how much time I spend with my family of origin. I didn’t realize how much it would negatively impact my current state of mental health.

Current craziness

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.

Isolation

I felt very isolated from my family. My brother Luke’s wife Emily gave me a call several weeks before Christmas. Their household had COVID in November so no one was concerned much about that with them. They were planning on renting a place close by and visiting for the holiday. Before that, I didn’t talk to my brothers much about what was happening with Arabella. I hate being the person who only calls with bad news. My brother Luke pretty much has a panic attack every time he sees my number on his caller ID as it is.

We set up a date to get together. Then I told Emily about the struggles I’d been having with Arabella. A week later my mom told me they decided not to come for Christmas. I can’t be sure, but I think it had a lot to do with Arabella. My mom said she wasn’t going to come over here for Christmas because of COVID, but she still could’ve spent time with my brother and his family because they were no longer a threat for her. The other issue is that my brother will not step foot in my parents house with his children as long as my dad is alive or living there. I respect his decision, but it still hurts. I can’t help but think that some of the reason he wasn’t coming home was because he didn’t want his children around my daughter.

I felt very isolated at a time when I could have used the support of friends and especially family. I don’t particularly care if I ever see my dad again either. My kids want nothing to do with him. The relationship with him was strained long before my daughter found child porn on his computer.

There was also a time when my brother Luke and I wanted nothing to do with our brother Matt either due to his mental illness. When he was hearing voices to attack/kill our children, we had to keep them apart for the safety of our children. But I never quite knew how it felt as the mother of someone who is severely mentally ill. It is painful and isolating to feel like we had to handle this by ourselves. I haven’t seen my brother Mark since 2019.

When I was a teenager, my brother Matt was so violent that he was homebound from school. They sent a retired school teacher out to our house. Because of this, I was homeschooled in almost complete isolation from 8th to 10th grade. My brother Matt was psychotic and my dad was always this greasy guy. How many friends do you think I was able to bring home?? Plus we lived in a hoarding house. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a pleasant place to live and I couldn’t stand it. I literally wanted to die and childhood couldn’t end soon enough for me because I was so miserable. I lost a lot of friendships because my brother attacked pretty much everyone who was in our house or who came to it.

I am no stranger to isolation. It was different back then. My family were the only ones that lived in isolation. Everyone around us had relatively normal lives. Kids went to school. Adults went to work. The world moved on without us.

When I heard my brother changed his mind about coming to visit for the holidays, I was heartbroken. When Arabella’s friends dropped like flies I felt a crushing sadness because I knew the isolation that was to come.

There is a difference in not being able to visit and not wanting to. The sense of abandonment in that is hard to overcome. But yet I understand it because I’ve stood on both sides of it.

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.

If I could change things…

If I could go back and change things, I would rewrite the whole story. I would throw out the manuscript and start over. I wouldn’t even be a character. My mom would still marry my dad. But I would change the timeline a bit. She would marry my dad before he went to Vietnam. She would be pregnant when he left with my brother Luke. There wouldn’t be a Matt, Mark, or me. Luke has had the most positive impact on the world. My dad would never return from the war. My grandparents would be heartbroken losing their only child. But they had Luke who is so much more than my dad ever would be. My mom would eventually move on with her life and everything would end happily.

Yet here I am, a part of me wishing I never was. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here. I could never leave my husband and children. Although I feel my sanity slipping. I have this feverish obsession to tell my story, all of it. I don’t even know why. It seems to be my purpose.

It’s been a week since my mom moved in. Over this week I’ve heard stories about my dad that I’ve never heard before that fueled my hatred for him even more. I think my parents marriage was a big mistake. I wish they never got married, but that leaves a big problem. If I wish away them, I wish away me. I was okay taking my mom in. I think she is safer here. I don’t even mind driving her to appointments. Yesterday I spent half a day with her in the ER because she had an adverse reaction to a medication.

It’s been an adjustment having my mom here. We’ve all switched up our routine a bit. My mom wants to help with household chores but more than anything ends up getting in the way. I want her to be able to fit within the flow of our life. Next weekend she wants my brother Matt to come. I’m not sure how that will all work out yet. I think she will want us to cater to him and adjust our home life around him which might not work out that well. I really need to have some time to myself once in a while. I need my space without feeling smothered or policed like a little child. I want life to be carefree without extra responsibilities. I long to break things but I am the broken one.

What has been really hard is helping my mom process her trauma. It’s not easy to see your mother in pain. My mom sobbed more days than she did not. I heard some things I would rather not have heard. It really has been triggering for me. There have been a lot of things that happened that my mom doesn’t even know about and I am not going to tell her. I feel re-pungent of the thought of sharing my trauma with my mother but even more so in front of my children. It’s painful to know my mother has been hurt and is not happy. It’s very heavy and it weighs down my soul.

It is especially hard because I probably should be taking this time while my daughter is in the hospital to strengthen myself for when she comes back home. Yet here I am completely depleted and devastated. Yesterday was prom at Arabella’s school. It pained me greatly that she will never be able to go. Her junior prom was cancelled because of COVID and now she is in the mental hospital. I felt sad to see all the prom pictures on social media. It is one more lost dream for my daughter. Her prom dress will forever hang in her closet never worn.

I am once again taking care of my mother when I need help. Will this suffering never end? I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Will I ever feel real joy again? It seems to slip through my fingers fleetingly at best. When will God intervene? His silence echoes I am alone in my darkest hours. I wish I could change things…

The downward spiral

A couple weeks after Arabella moved out, I received a call that I needed to pick her up and bring her to the hospital. She needed help and her plan was to take a cocktail of all her pills.

Her girlfriend broke up with her. There was constant fighting amongst her friends. And she lost her job at the bar and grill doing food prep because she was too slow. Her self-esteem dipped to a new low. She was planning on going to school for culinary arts but she felt like that door closed because she couldn’t do something easy without getting fired. In her mind there really wasn’t anything left to live for. She lost her family, girlfriend, and a job. Maybe her new family was starting to lose its luster too.

I picked her up along with some clothes and had her admitted into a different psychiatric hospital right away. They did a rapid COVID test and while we were waiting alone in the room together a security company had workers moving in and out of the room trying to service equipment. It was a strange experience because they tried hard to seem invisible when they were anything but.

My daughter needed to remove her jacket for admittance. That is when I saw her arms for the first time after I was told her cutting was superficial several months ago. I suppose you could almost say the cutting was superficial on her dominant arm. But her other arm was ruined. It was absolutely devastating to see what she did to herself after her first hospitalization. She was going to need plastic surgery to heal those wounds. There were numerous scars that went all the way up her arm.

I felt afraid and sickened by it. All the while the men were coming in and out of the room pretending to be oblivious to our suffering. I can imagine the stories they told at home later. This time I was able to go into the adolescent ward with her while she waited for her room. Another girl said hi to her. No one really seemed to focus on her arms. Parents were allowed to visit their children in this hospital at meal time.

I told Paul that Arabella’s cutting was really horrifying and he was going to have to prepare himself to see her. I’ve never seen her in this rough of shape before. It was hard for me to handle. Something was seriously wrong with my daughter. What were we going to do?

I felt extremely disturbed by everything that was happening. I started having sleepless nights again and nightmares when I could sleep. It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences for me as her parent. We were desperate for help but we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t sure if there was any hope left for her future or if they could even help her.

Life as we knew it went completely off the rails. Things were never going to be the same again.

Our first family session

We had our first family session yesterday for our daughter’s residential treatment program without our daughter. We were able to meet her therapist online whom we all really like.

I told the therapist about everything that happened with my dad. I told her that my oldest daughter Angel found child porn on his computer and turned him into the police a couple of weeks before Christmas. I told her how I was devastated by the news. But I had to put on a happy face because we had two foreign exchange students and I wanted nothing more than to give them the perfect American Christmas. I didn’t tell my daughter Arabella about my dad either. Childhood is sacred to me and I wanted to keep it that way for her.

In essence, I was the one that pushed Arabella away. I told her everything was okay but she could tell it was not. Then there was that day when I was in hypervigilant PTSD mode. She came up behind me to give me a hug. I didn’t know she was there and freaked out when she touched me. I screamed at her to get away from me. Later I tried to explain things, it wasn’t her it was me. I still didn’t tell her what was wrong and she still felt rejected.

Not long after that she accused Estelle of stealing all of her friends away. She just didn’t fit in. Estelle was this super cute petite popular French girl with a vivacious lust for life. Arabella was the strange, klutzy, overweight, socially awkward, friendly girl with a good heart. She couldn’t compete.

When we sold our business a couple years back, we bought my dream house complete with an indoor pool. I would’ve killed to have the life we have given her. She, though, wanted to kill herself. She started going to a new school her sophomore year. Arabella wanted to give it a try. She was always my kid that embraced change, adventures, and new experiences. She was very adaptable. But the school was very cliquey and she didn’t fit in. Her junior year we brought in two foreign exchange students. We thought it would make it easier for her, but it didn’t in the end. Instead she felt rejected by me and her peers.

When she started to experience depression, I asked her what she had to be depressed about. After all, I’d given her the perfect life. She didn’t have to live with a greasy pedophile dad. A mom who stayed with him so she didn’t have to be alone. She didn’t have to live with an autistic/schizophrenic brother who heard voices to kill pretty much everyone I was close to in my life plus countless random strangers. She didn’t have to deal with having a lazy ass dad who was barely employed. She didn’t have to live in a filthy hoarding house that no one feels comfortable in. I could probably go on…………but won’t. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you probably got the picture.

I simply just wanted my kids to be kids. I wanted to protect them from the chaos and insanity that ruled my life as a child that somehow has a way of still spilling into my adult life. I was very upset that what I had worked hard to give her wasn’t good enough. She should be happy. She didn’t have any reason not to be, except….well…..genetics.

The daughter

Romantic films have happy endings. In real life only the beginnings are happy and nothing ends well. But then, nothing really ends.

The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

I picked up the book The Daughter at the airport in Chicago as I was waiting for my flight. I brought a book with me but almost finished it on the long layover. I bought the book because it looked intriguing. I know, I know, one should never choose a book by its cover. I didn’t know the author. How risky!

The main character of this fictional book was a physician whose daughter went missing. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t. I’ll just tell you that I really liked it and think you would like it too. It struck some heavy chords such as if I wasn’t so busy at work I would’ve known something was wrong with my daughter.

Blame. It’s so easy to get into that trap as a parent. I’ve asked myself many of times what I did wrong. Maybe if I was paying more attention I would’ve known my daughter was depressed. Maybe she wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Maybe she wouldn’t have mutilated her body so badly from cutting that she needs plastic surgery to look like she did before. But maybe, just maybe, I am part of the reason she is alive right now.

It’s hard not to blame yourself as a parent in the transition from everything’s normal to there is something really wrong. It’s easier to brush it off as a one off even though the patterns indicate it’s clearly not. We tend to trick ourselves into believing everything is fine and blame ourselves later when it’s obviously not.

At the end of the book I read the write up on the author. She is currently a full-time physician and mother of five. In her free time she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in writing and wrote a couple of books, one is a bestseller that I didn’t read yet. How impressive is that?? The author has a brilliant mind and it comes through in her writing. I loved the above quote from her book. Her quote pretty much sums up why I don’t like romance novels. Sometimes life is messy and things don’t work out in the end. I read a book a couple of months back that was a real mess but everything magically worked out in the end. I hated it because it offered false hope and not real life.

My favorite genre of books are psychological thrillers, mysteries, and dramas. I love reading self-help books too because who doesn’t want to fix themselves and everyone around them?!? I also love the classics, historical books, and survival stories fictional and non.

I don’t always want a happy ending. I want real characters and personable honest people. What are you really thinking and experiencing? I want problem upon problem. I want to know how people handle adversity. I don’t want things to magically work out in the end. I don’t know about you, but that is not how my life has been. I want to analyze how people deal with difficult circumstances. I want to know about the things you don’t want to tell anybody.

I finished my book that I was writing. It’s been over a year now. I even sent it off to test readers. But things changed. Since then I found out about the crime my dad committed. My daughter started struggling with serious mental health issues. I was no longer constrained to writing about my experiences as a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues. I could now write as a mother.

I am hoping to process everything I’ve experienced within the past year and write about it on my blog. From there I would like to incorporate it into the first edition of my book. To me it’s not all about happy endings, it’s about learning to live with what we have been given. There is beauty to be found in tragedy. That is where real stories of hope, courage, and inspiration lie.

Right before the pandemic

Maybe she was crying out but I wasn’t listening. Her problems seemed so petty, like the fight with Estelle. I had given her everything I wanted but never had as a child. In my mind my problems always trumped hers because I was shielding her from life’s real problems. I didn’t listen to any complaints about how hard she had it for anything.

But in reality I really was trying to protect her. She just didn’t know about it. I didn’t tell her anything about my dad. I didn’t tell her that several weeks back her older sister found child porn on their grandpa’s computer and turned him in to the police. She was a child. I wanted to protect her from that. She seemed so innocent, carefree, and happy. Why take that from her?

I developed a plan. Arabella was going to be a foreign exchange student. Maybe she wouldn’t find out about her grandpa until it was all over. But I was worried. There were a few problems with the plan for the children in my house to have the perfect childhood. The police could arrest him any day and then the world would know what kind of monster my dad is. Our foreign exchange students might get sent home. Their parents might not want them here although they would have nothing to do with my dad.

Then there was the part about me being a complete and total mess. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and despair after I heard about my dad. I suffered greatly from the blow and the trauma I experienced as a child resurfaced in the worst way. I knew I was suffering from Complex PTSD. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going through what I did.

I pushed everyone away. I pretended everything was okay. But I wondered how anything could ever be fine again.

I experienced moments of extreme anxiety and hyper-vigilance. One day I thought I could try to calm myself by listening to music in my earbuds. Arabella came up behind me unexpectedly to give me a hug. I freaked out and screamed at her to not touch me and get away from me. I was horrified. I apologized and tried to explain to her not to touch me if my back was to her. But I could tell she didn’t understand. She felt rejected and I blamed myself for it.

After Arabella’s suicide attempt, we had a long talk. I decided to tell her everything that was happening with my dad. I told her that I was having a hard time with it and me pushing her away had nothing to do with her. Together we cried.

Inside, though, I was furious. If my dad didn’t screw up my life once again I would’ve noticed that my daughter was depressed. I didn’t call him on his birthday. I didn’t even send a card. I blamed him for what happened with Arabella. I was so focused on his mess that I didn’t even notice my own child was suffering.

I wasn’t doing well before the suicide attempt and I certainly didn’t do well after. I suffered severely from insomnia and nightmares for over a month. I thought I was going to lose my mind. That all happened right before the pandemic.

Still waiting…

We were expecting something to happen at any minute when COVID hit the nation. Nothing happened. Would they delay pressing charges?

The detective told me they found 20 images on the laptop. That was before they took my dad’s main computer. I hardly think that would be overlooked. We are talking felony charges, a hefty fine, and my dad spending the rest of his life in prison. It’s hard to process. Would I go to the trial? Would I visit him in prison? Write letters? A part of me doesn’t want to worry about that until it happen.

When the pandemic hit the nation, my brother’s group home shut down temporarily and my brother came home. My mom became paranoid about the virus. She pushed almost everyone away. Yet she was stuck at home with my dad and brother, both who needed care. I watched my mom start to slip. It wore her down and she stopped sleeping. She started taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills but none of it really worked. She ended up having a bad side effect from the medication and ended up in the hospital.

I took my brother back to his group home. Once they took him back he was not allowed to come back home and hasn’t been home since. Meanwhile, my mom stayed at home locked in the house with my dad. She started doing strange things. Sometimes she wanted to leave my dad, then at other times she told me that my dad was now the love of her life. He held her at night when she couldn’t sleep and helped her through it. He comforted her from the pain he caused her. It was all very bizarre and I had to wonder if she had some sort of mental illness that went beyond anxiety. No one would blame her for wanting to leave. But staying?

In June, the police department contacted my parents and said they could pick up some of the items from evidence. They printed off the photos on the laptop for my mom like they said they would. That is how this whole thing started. My mom’s laptop crashed and she wanted to save her pictures so she gave it to my daughter’s boyfriend to fix. The police printed off her pictures but kept the laptop as evidence. They also kept my dad’s computer. I can’t even imagine how many images were found on there.

This set us off to feeling upset, angry, and on edge again. It could be any minute, any time that they would receive a knock on the door. I accompanied my mom to visit the lawyer to get her affairs in order. The conversation about my dad was very uncomfortable. In the end, she didn’t end up doing anything.

I think part of my mom’s decision to stay with my dad was because she didn’t want to leave the house she has been living in for the last 45 years. Also, if he is arrested and goes to prison she really doesn’t have to go through all the work of moving. The house would be hers.

But there was a part of her that pressured us to accept our dad. Your dad loves you. Your dad is praying for you. She wrote birthday cards where she went back to cross out the I and wrote WE love you. Sometimes she would talk to me on speaker phone and I didn’t know my dad was listening to the conversation. Sometimes she would prompt him to say things to me…tell your daughter that you love her. It was uncomfortable and disturbing. I honestly think that both of my parents might have serious mental health problems.

It’s been over a year now. Still nothing has happened. The first 7 months were especially challenging. With COVID and my dad we haven’t gotten together with family for over a year. I didn’t even talk to or see my brother Mark in 2020. The family cabin has fallen into disrepair. Our hands are tied because our dad owns the cabin. There have been miscommunications and hard feelings. It sucks!

It’s messed up but I’ve been processing it. I realize it could all unravel at any minute. But until then I’ll be waiting for the ax to drop. As the song says, sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.