It’s not summer camp

Sometimes the friends you meet at the psychiatric hospital are not the best kind of friends to have. It’s not summer camp, you know.

But it was hard because Arabella missed so much school due to mental health issues that she needed to finish her education online. This meant that she had to drop out of the play she had a part in. She had to drop her extracurricular activities. She also lost the comradery with her friends from not attending school in person and being involved like she used to be.

She started hanging out with kids from the hospital. Some of them came from rough backgrounds. I know this because one girl was living in the homeless shelter and another at the domestic violence shelter. Another girl that she developed a friendship with made a serious suicide attempt right after Arabella visited her at her house. It really shook Arabella up because she was the last person to see her until she was found and the rescue squad came. Let’s put it this way, friendships formed in the psychiatric ward do not foster healthy relationships. But my daughter wasn’t healthy either and needed friends.

There was this one girl that was especially a bad apple and I will call her Ashlynn. She was into shoplifting and smoking. She pulled my daughter into it with her. I say this because my daughter did not do these things before she met Ashlynn. I do understand that my daughter is responsible for her behavior, but she is also easily influenced due to her fear of abandonment and own impulsiveness. Arabella decided to shoplift Christmas gifts for her old friend group. When her old friend group found out about the shoplifting, they had an intervention with my daughter and almost every one of her friends cut her out of their lives. I had no idea any of this was happening at the time.

What I do know and what I was able to piece together later was that Arabella came home very depressed from the intervention with her friends. She told me she was afraid that her friends were going to abandon her. It was not uncommon for her to feel this way whether it was a legitimate concern or not. I told her she should try some of her strategies on her list she made at the hospital to help her feel better when she was depressed. She decided to take a shower and listen to some music.

Afterwards, Arabella had a really good conversation with Angel and I. I thought maybe Arabella was feeling better. She seemed to be doing well. Maybe her strategies worked. I let my guard down. Big mistake.

After our conversation, Arabella went into her room and created a noose with one of her dresses in the closet. But she decided not to go through with it and called the crisis center instead. I had no idea what was going on until I talked to one of the people at the crisis center. It was terribly shocking. I thought she was doing better. My daughter wanted to go back to the hospital, but it was the weekend and my daughter was scheduled to start her outpatient program on Monday.

I opted instead to have the crisis center call her and myself several times a day to see how she was doing. I didn’t want her to lose her place at outpatient which took a month to set up to have her go back to the hospital which didn’t do as much to help her long term like I thought outpatient would. I set up new boundaries for her as well such as she could stay in her room by herself but needed to keep the door open at all times.

She was feeling better the next day and wanted to drive to her friend’s house but I said no. I didn’t want to let her use my car if she was feeling suicidal in any way. Obviously I couldn’t really tell or believe she was feeling better after the night before. But I also felt like I was punishing her for something she didn’t do wrong. Do I take away privileges for her doing the right thing by reaching out for help? That is something I always struggle with. I told her she could visit with a friend but she would have to come here and find her own ride.

We made it through but I’ve never been more afraid in my life having a mentally ill, impulsive, suicidal daughter that once only spent a whole week just at summer camp.

Gratitude week 69

  1. I’m grateful that my tattoo healed nicely.
  2. I’m grateful that I can now swim again. I had to wait while my tattoo healed. So basically I did not exercise at all since my tattoo. The weather has been cool and crappy. It even snowed a little since last week so I didn’t want to run outside. Plus I was busy taking my mom to appointments. I’m hoping for a better weather week and finding the time to exercise.
  3. Breakfast with my BFF.
  4. A mother-daughter date with Angel to go thrifting. I didn’t find anything too terribly exciting but it was nice to get away.
  5. My brother Matt came over for the weekend. Although I stressed about it, things went better than expected. It was nice to take some time to myself so I don’t go absolutely crazy.
  6. For rides on the 4-wheeler with my husband while he does the spring clean up on the yard.
  7. That my daughter Arabella seems to be making a lot of progress in residential treatment.
  8. This is a big one…I’m grateful that I survived getting a crown this week with minimal pain. I had laughing gas for the first time. Can you believe that instead of laughing I cried? I’m grateful for a dentist and assistant that went out of their way to be compassionate towards my history of experiencing dental pain and trying to make me comfortable through the process.
  9. The things I was really stressing about this month, the tattoo and crown, are over. I’m grateful for the relief that I feel that the fear is behind me.
  10. I’m grateful that my mom, Paul, and I were able to play a game last night. Things have been incredibly stressful since my mom moved in so it was nice to have a break from the heaviness.

Wanting to leave, not wanting to be left

Things really went south when Jordan’s parents went on vacation. Up until that point, Arabella was mostly going to school and staying mainly at Jordan’s house. The first day Jordan’s parents were gone, Arabella decided to take a mental health day from school. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t already behind on her studies and actually did something to improve her mental health like get out of bed. Things went downhill from there. She attended school one day that week. By the end of the week, enough was enough.

We decided we were going to pick her up and force her to come back home. Paul and I rang the doorbell at Jordan’s house and her grandma answered. She was very kind as we explained things. Arabella rode back home with Paul. We were afraid she might try to jump out of the vehicle in an attempt to escape. I followed them home in our car that we let Arabella drive. Yes, up until that point we were letting her use our car. But that was going to change.

I remember it was a miserable night. I could barely see out of the fogged up windshield from the buckets of chilly autumn rain. I felt a sadness of the uncertainty to come. We sat down with Arabella once we got home. It didn’t go well. She was freaking out that we forced her to come back home. I’ve never seen her so agitated in my life. She insisted that Jordan’s mom was her real mother and I was her fake mom. I thought in the moment that she was delusional and out of touch with reality.

It was getting late and I finally made supper. Arabella refused to eat with us. I did check on her often and made the decision although we took away her car, we let her keep her phone. When she made the suicide attempt, she reached out to her friends for help first. I didn’t want to take her phone away in case she needed help. Maybe that was a mistake because that night she ran away. She called a friend to pick her up. She jumped out of her bedroom window and she was gone. She called after she left and told me she was running away and we couldn’t make her come back. Sure enough, her room was empty and a cool breeze was coming through the open window.

It was late, almost bedtime. We didn’t know what to do. I reached out to a couple of her friend’s parents but they didn’t know where she was. Meanwhile, Paul called the Crisis Center and from their recommendation called the police. We were deciding whether to report her as a runaway. If she was actively suicidal, they would search for her based on her cell phone location. If not, they would list her as a runaway and nothing would really happen. She called me while Paul was on the phone with the police and told us she was staying with a friend we didn’t know and she was alright. We decided not to list her as a runaway.

Paul wanted to speak to her friend’s parent. At this time, it was close to midnight. Her friend’s mom talked to Paul but refused to tell us where she was. She screamed at Paul as if she was afraid we would come over and beat our child. I can imagine Arabella told everyone how she wasn’t safe at home. It was very painful to be treated like monsters when we were trying to act in the best interest of our daughter with severe mental health issues. We were worried sick.

There was nothing else we could do. At least we thought she was safe for the time being.

Another sleepless night…

A couple days later she ended up back at Jordan’s house. We told Arabella we couldn’t do this anymore. It was tearing us apart. If she wanted to live with another family we weren’t going to try to force her back home. She was almost 18. But we weren’t going to let her use our car or give her money. She could come pick up her stuff. We were exhausted and reached the end of our rope.

She wanted to leave, but was upset when we let her go.

The revised new normal (3rd edition)

When the pandemic started, I had four teenagers living in my house.

Clara was the first to go. She went back home to Germany in April. Right after she left, I had colitis for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. It was not a good time.

My son Alex turned 20 in June. Part of the reason we decided to have a foreign exchange student was because my older two children were going to move out. Alex was pretty adamant that he was moving out right after graduation, but that didn’t quite happen. The day my daughter Angel moved out, the foreign exchange coordinator called asking if we would take another student. Talk about hitting me up on an empty nest day! We ended up hosting two students.

Alex, and his friends, didn’t interact with the foreign exchange students much at all. I was okay with that, really. Estelle was interested in a couple of my son’s friends, but they respectfully kept their distance. I guess I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with that. It’s been an issue before. When Dan started dating Angel, he was friends with Alex. That created some conflict. One of Arabella’s friends is also dating one of Alex’s friends. I suppose it’s bound to happen with kids close in age.

Estelle left on July 3rd, a couple weeks after her originally scheduled date. Arabella and Estelle never made up. Angel came home to say good-bye. I think she was worried about me because it seemed as if I was losing all my kids. I tried to keep busy.

Arabella gradually stopped staying at home as much. She pretty much moved in with Jordan’s family. I wasn’t happy about it and wondered if she was in a relationship with Jordan. We tried to move on without our foreign exchange students and her. Arabella spent the 4th of July with Jordan’s family although we invited her to come sailing with us. Paul, Angel, Dan, Alex, and I spent the 4th sailing and swimming. We didn’t go up north as was our tradition because my dad was there. We planned to watch fireworks from the boat that night. But even that was disastrous. After the second firework, the guy that was lighting them blew off his arm and had to be airlifted. Sirens blared and our spirits dropped.

The next weekend was my birthday which I celebrated with Paul, Angel, Dan, and Alex. Once again, Arabella didn’t join us. Jordan’s mom was celebrating her birthday too. Arabella went away for the weekend with their family. On my birthday she sent me a text that said happy birthday right before I went to bed. I didn’t get any gifts or card from her. The happy in happy birthday wasn’t even capitalized. There weren’t any exclamation points or cute emojis. I got the picture, I was just an afterthought. Jordan’s mom was hot stuff coolest mom of the year. I couldn’t help but feel hurt.

Life went on. The new normal became the new new normal revised. Clara left. Estelle left. Angel went back to her apartment hours away. Alex went back to living his own life apart from us under our roof. Paul started his new seasonal business. Arabella was pretty much gone. And I was left alone. In some ways, it was incredibly freeing. COVID cancelled all my plans and I no longer had to take care of 4 teenagers. I didn’t know what to do with the change. But I tried to keep busy.

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.

Gratitude week 31

  1. I’m back after a short break! I’m grateful I didn’t fall off the side of the planet too. But isn’t the Earth round? Who knows anymore…
  2. Summer! I can’t get enough of it. Seriously, why do I still live in the frozen tundra??!?
  3. I’m grateful to have a wonderful spouse to enjoy 23 years of marriage with.
  4. I just started the census job yesterday. It feels good to be out working again. I’m trying to put in 40 hours a week. I’m hoping I can still find some extra time in the day to blog.
  5. I am grateful most of the people I’ve talked to have been nice for the census job. I have a new appreciation of people who go door to door unannounced, even more so now during the pandemic.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband and I were able to get away for a couple days of sailing for our anniversary.
  7. I’m grateful that my loved one ended up being released from the psych ward the end of last week. This person has some previously undiagnosed medical issues that may have been contributing to the depression they were experiencing. Not to mention this whole time period in general has been stressful. I am hopeful they are starting on their healing journey.
  8. It’s my moms birthday this week. I’m hoping I can talk her into a visit and maybe sailing.
  9. My daughter is visiting this weekend so I am looking forward to seeing her and can’t wait until she moves back home.
  10. It’s been over a year and a half since I worked so I am grateful to be contributing to the family income. Plus I have been feeling nervous/anxious/excited about working again even temporarily. A little excitement at my age never hurt anyone.

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.

Gratitude week 20

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, so at this point having a weekly gratitude list is probably more important. I have to remind myself of the good things that are happening in my life.

The wellness nurse put me on a liquid diet over the weekend to try to calm my gut. I lost 7 lbs over the weekend. I haven’t been feeling well and I’ve been weak and tired to boot. It takes the energy of a 5k just for me to put the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Sometimes I have to take a rest after doing nothing.

This past weekend I packed up all of my running gear and put it in another room. It’s a painful reminder of what I cannot do. I haven’t cancelled the 50k I was planning on doing with my cousin late summer. Maybe, a miracle…

It’s been hard because I’ve always been a go go go person, type A all the way. I’ve really been trying to hide from the world how sick I am. It’s been pretty easy to do with this virus. I want people to remember me as strong and healthy.  I feel so discouraged because what I once was no longer is.

To make matters worse, the weather hasn’t been cooperating here in Wisconsin. We had snow flurries on Mother’s Day and record low temps this past week. Since yesterday it has been very cold with temps struggling to reach 50 degrees. It’s also been very windy and by the end of the day we are supposed to have a total of 3 inches of rainfall from the last couple days of rain. Everything is flooded. The weather guy keeps saying every week since the beginning of April that the following week will be nice but it never is. I really hope that the weather makes my gratitude list next week.

Here is my list for this week:

  1.  My daughter Angel made a surprise visit home this past weekend. She hasn’t been home in over two months. It was very comforting to have her around when I wasn’t feeling well.
  2.  My baby Arabella turned 17 this past weekend. She ended up having a nicer day than she thought she would.
  3.  Since Angel got a nice job, she decided to lease a vehicle and gave us back our old car for Arabella. Although the car is older than she is, Arabella now has a car. It was nice to see her all excited about it and take the time to vacuum and care for it. Now Arabella doesn’t have to borrow my car for school or work. I will not have to drop her off or pick her up anymore which will be less stress on me.
  4.  Today I can eat something besides bone broth. Yeah!
  5.  I talked to Paul’s friend who has colitis and got a lot of advice from him. It does feel good to know I am not alone in this despite the fact I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
  6.  I had good appointments with the wellness nurse, counselor, and mentor this past week. I am making progress on my healing although at times it doesn’t feel like it.
  7.  Estelle found her lost Nintendo Switch. I was very worried once it went missing that it was stolen.
  8.  I got my new t-shirt in the mail.
  9.  Paul put our sailboat in the water last week. With all of the wind and rain it hasn’t been sunk, damaged, destroyed, or cast away yet.
  10.  My aunt tested negative for Covid. Yeah, it’s only pneumonia! Seriously though, my uncle has lung issues and they were around other older family members with health issues. So it is a good thing. I was worried that the coronavirus might wipe out several of my family members.

Certain uncertainty

If we traveled back in time to January 1st of this year, I would imagine quite a few of you had inspiring goals and new years resolutions for the new decade. It’s 2020, finally we would have a clear vision of the future we wanted for ourselves like never before. This year was going to be the best.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like change. Maybe it’s not even change that I don’t like. I mean, I’m always striving to be a better person and that involves change. What bothers me more than anything is uncertainty and not knowing what is happening.

If you asked me in January what I would be doing this weekend, I would have told you that I would be attending my daughter’s college graduation. At the time, nothing except death or being deathly ill would have kept me away from her special day. I found the perfect dress to wear. Maybe it was a little too dressy, but it was on sale. I should’ve been going in to have my nails done to match the dress and getting my hair done.

But that brings me here to today. I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Me, the person who has to have a plan. The person who schedules spontaneity 6 months in advance.

As most of you know, I just went through a 10 day bout of colitis. I went through expensive and uncomfortable tests to get some answers, some certainty, about my health. The morning of the procedure I brought along all of my paperwork from the wellness clinic. The doctor brushed me off with the comment that he does not approve of me seeking help at a wellness clinic and refused to look at the tests that were done.

I thought that the doctor’s bedside manner was horrible, but if he had the answers and could help me I didn’t care. When I called the doctor’s office on Monday expecting answers the nurse said that I had colitis but they have no idea why.

The doctor’s office told me something was wrong with me but they have no idea what. Is this going to happen again? What can I do to prevent this if I don’t even know what caused it? What the hell is going on? I was sick and all you can tell me is that I was sick?? Yesterday I fell into a deep despair. What is wrong with me? I wanted an expert to give me answers so I would know what is happening in my life. I want a plan that I can follow. I want to have a map to see where my life is going.

If I learned anything in 2020, it’s that everything is uncertain. It’s been a big lesson for me to learn. Everything I took for granted as certain has changed. It’s okay to grieve what has been lost. Then it’s time to continue on down the dimly lit path.

It’s time to throw away my security blankets of structure and routine. The only thing I can cling onto is that uncertainty is certain. That is now a big part of my life. I can’t be afraid. I have to think of this as an opportunity for growth. It’s time to strengthen the non-dominant hand I’ve been dealt. Maybe going with the flow won’t be all that bad. I DID say I wanted to be more easy going and laid back. Of course I wasn’t expecting to achieve that goal by having everything literally wiped off my calendar.

I’m being forced to change but maybe I will be a better person because of it. At least that is what I’ve been telling myself.