Gratitude week 81

  1. We made it across the bay back to our home port before the storm hit on my birthday.
  2. 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.
  3. I met my son’s new girlfriend at my birthday party. She is really quiet and that is nice.
  4. 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).
  5. Summer!! After the storms on my birthday I couldn’t ask for better weather.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. Although I slept better on the sailboat, it is really wonderful to sleep in my own bed again.
  10. I am grateful for Angel’s birthday this week. We are planning massages and going out to eat at our favorite pizza place.

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.

Everyone else’s problems

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!!?!

The story unfolds

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.

Residential care

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.

Residential waiting list

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.

Making amends

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.

Waiting in the uncertainty

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.

I gotta let that go

I’ve been feeling a bit off the last couple of days. I’ve been trying really hard to let go. I’ve been trying to stop policing. I’ve been trying hard not to get involved in other people’s problems. I’ve been trying to turn the sirens off for every little offense. But honestly, it’s not working out that well for me. I feel rather miserable.

I’ve been trying hard to let go of Arabella since she is 18 now. I went with her to her appointment to meet the new psychiatric nurse today since her doctor retired. After I was in the appointment for about 10 minutes, she got frustrated with me and kicked me out. I feel frustrated because she is not taking her medication like she should and because of that the nurse said it wasn’t working as effectively. But Arabella said she is a teenager that wants to live her life and not worry about taking medication. I really wish she didn’t have to take pills either.

She didn’t take her morning pills yet today. It’s almost suppertime. It is upsetting to me. Just because she is 18 doesn’t mean I can just turn off the worry switch. She is not totally capable of taking care of herself but gets really angry with me when I try to help.

She has another job interview tomorrow. She didn’t get the other jobs she wanted. She decided that she wants to tell all of her potential employers about her mental health issues during the interview. I told her that was a sure way not to get the job. I’ve interviewed people before. But what do I know? I got to let that one go.

My son turns 21 next week. He’s never been much of a drinker but now he is starting to drink. I realize that it’s not unusual for young folks to want to party and have fun. I’m trying not to blame my husband who modeled drinking too much. He cut back on his drinking, but he did start drinking again. I’m trying not to police it and nag him about it but it is hard. Sometimes I’m of the opinion to let them have fun and enjoy their lives and the next minute I want to yell at them to knock it off. Who am I to tell other people how to live their lives? But I will say something if I feel like they are being unsafe or taking things too far. But then again that makes me responsible to monitor them and frankly I just want to be responsible for me.

It’s hard to let go. My mom left to go back to her house for a couple days because she has doctor appointments with Matt. She is struggling taking care of both my dad and Matt. There is nothing I can do about it.

I watch as Angel struggles with anxiety. There is nothing I can do about it and I am probably the one that caused it. Today Angel told me she might not want to have children someday because of our family history of mental health struggles. It’s sad.

I am having problems letting go of my old pets. My dog is almost 14 and he has a hard time getting around. My cat is 15 with a lot of health issues. He pretty much stopped using the cat box. The vet said he is probably having arthritis pain and gave me pain medicine for him on top of his thyroid and arthritis pills. He is a very gentle and loving cat. I hate to put him down if I don’t have to. His favorite thing to do is snuggle on my lap every opportunity he gets. It’s really hard because he needs three different medications twice a day. I feel guilty leaving the house because he is hard to care for. When is it time to let him go? There is nothing I can do about aging and it makes me sad.

When can I let this all go and move on with my own life? I’ve been holding it for so long I don’t know if I can. That is really what I am struggling with right now.

Finding faith again

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.