A night in New Hampshire

It was time to head back south. We needed to check out of our Airbnb at 9 AM. Before leaving I needed to start a load of sheets. The notes also said to take the garbage to the curb. The dumpster was overflowing when we got there flies swarming in circles around the lid. It was expensive. The bed uncomfortably sagging so I would roll into Paul during the night. The coffee pot didn’t even work. I was wondering why it was full of stagnant water the first time I tried to fill it. But the host was nicer than most.

We had plans to spend one night in downtown Portsmouth at another Airbnb. This I assured everyone would be the nicest place because it had the highest price. From Bar Harbor, we decided to stop in Bath for lunch at a pizza place where I was able to order lobster on my pizza. Honestly I wasn’t crazy about the lobster on my pizza. It didn’t seem to belong on pizza next to my pepperoni any more than fish would.

After we sat down and ordered our pizzas, Arabella said she was ashamed of us for not feeding her. She was practically starving. WTF???!!?! She yelled at us that we never had food in the house and was embarrassed to tell her friends we wouldn’t feed her. She said all of these things while we were ordering our food. Her accusations of neglect and abuse were very upsetting to us. Then after lunch, we stopped at the grocery store (because where else would you take your kid if you are not feeding them???). She verbally attacked me in the grocery store in front of everyone.

Thankfully our trip was almost over. I was sad because I thought it would be a good time to bond with Arabella. Maybe if we take her on a trip she would appreciate everything we do for her. Maybe if she goes to a residential mental health facility that we pay for out of pocket she wouldn’t struggle as much with mental illness. The time for bargaining and denial passed. Our daughter was getting worse, not better. It was time to face that.

When we got to Portsmouth, Arabella was exhausted. She said she was going to take a nap and she probably wouldn’t be up in time for supper. At times she has been known to crash, sleeping 12 hours. Maybe she would wake up a new person. In the meantime, Paul and I decided to take a walk around town. There weren’t a lot of shops open so we didn’t stop. Instead we took a walk down by the river and crossed the bridge. Our mood one of mutual sadness. Something was really wrong with our daughter.

We came back to the Airbnb to pick up my mom and Arabella for supper. Arabella was still sleeping and didn’t want to go with. We went to another seafood restaurant. It was really busy and the service was slow. The bartender was also our server and waited on all of the tables around us. The food was unremarkable. The ambiance was nice though.

We got back to the Airbnb later than I thought I would. I brought back some extra food for Arabella in case she woke up and was hungry. When we got back, Arabella was up. She was dressed up wearing makeup and a mini skirt. She turned up her nose at the food I was offering and said she was going to go out to get something by herself.

Although the shops were closed, there was live music playing that we could hear outside of our bedroom window late into the evening. It wasn’t in the least annoying. I thought Portsmouth was a charming and clean town. I was really struck we were not approached by panhandlers at all on our trip. I think the biggest problem we faced was parking (especially in Bar Harbor). I can’t imagine trying to find a parking spot in peak season.

Most of the Airbnb’s we stayed at were old. Some of them were older than the state we live in. The staircase in the Airbnb in Portsmouth was so small there was no way you could carry a dresser up those steps. Comparable to where we live, the cost exceeded the quality. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a review saying it was too expensive because maybe that is the norm for the East Coast. The houses did have a lot of character though and it was an experience.

Gratitude week 91 and 92

  1. Arabella didn’t have strep the day before we left for vacation.
  2. The airline told us that our flight into Chicago would be delayed due to a storm, but we ended up getting to the airport in plenty of time to catch our connecting flight.
  3. My kids at home did not fight.
  4. My son’s roommate turned 21 while we were gone. Twenty one always scares me a bit because although they tend to party hard as it is, 21 takes it up a notch. They did have a party while we were gone but were safe and cleaned up after themselves. It’s the best I could’ve hoped for.
  5. I checked visiting Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire off my bucket list and maybe Connecticut as well. I can’t remember if I’ve been there or not and I’ve for sure been there now. I only have 11 states left to go before I’ve visited them all.
  6. Being back at home and sleeping in my own bed.
  7. Clean sheets.
  8. Fresh lobster. My mom, Arabella, Paul, and I ate a whole lobster for the first time on Paul’s birthday.
  9. We brought gifts home and Alex seemed really happy that we didn’t forget about his girlfriend.
  10. I’m grateful that my husband did most of the driving. The traffic was horrible and we ended up upgrading our rental to get a larger SUV which made parking (which was already bad) and driving more difficult.
  11. We did some hiking at Acadia State Park, shopping, and sightseeing. I have tons of great pictures I hope to share with you.
  12. My daughter’s wedding is now less than a year away. Angel asked me if I could help her with the wedding planning which I would love to do.
  13. We are going wedding dress shopping this weekend.
  14. There are several times when I felt like I was near my breaking point over the past couple weeks, but here I am.
  15. My mom did a lot better than I expected her to on this trip. I’m grateful we didn’t have any ER visits or major problems. Travelling with Arabella was rather challenging. We had to keep telling ourselves that this might be the last big trip we take with her since this was a high school graduation gift. We tried to make the best of it.
  16. Arabella has her psych evaluation this week. I am finally hoping for some answers.
  17. Fall and the beauty of falling leaves and letting go.
  18. Oh my gosh, I got carded at a restaurant. It’s been a couple of years now. I’m 47 but there is someone out there who thinks I could pass as under 21.
  19. I’m grateful for employees that show up for work. I thought Bar Harbor was a horrible place to park and bathrooms are really hard to come by. The public bathrooms are just filthy. There was a woman cleaning the walls of the bathroom stall. Someone made a mess I would prefer not to think about. It was very disgusting, but the woman cleaning was so pleasant about doing her job and keeping things nice for people that I gave her a tip. It felt good to bring her some happiness as she really deserved it for the thankless job she was doing.
  20. I’m back!! I will probably write about our trip over the next couple of days.

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.

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.

I’m done!

And just like that, I am finished.

My baby turns 18 today. I am no longer a parent of children. I mean, I don’t think that fact is going to change much. But I am officially done with the active parenting years.

Yesterday we picked Arabella up from residential. All day I felt very anxious. It was a mixture of the negative emotion of fear and the positive of excitement. I found there really is a fine line between the two. This isn’t an emotion I frequently experience together (it’s usually only negative anxiety).

I felt the same way when I got my first tattoo. I was terrified and utterly exhilarated at the same time. Afterwards, the terror of getting a tattoo was replaced with this feeling of complete peace and calm which is also something I rarely experience. My body and mind for the most part fails to relax together.

Or maybe if you can’t relate to anything I am saying, it might be similar to waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. That is like the whole experience on steroids.

Everything went pretty good yesterday. But I still feel anxious today. Some of it has burned off. Yesterday before we picked up Arabella I just felt off. It was a weird anxiety. I felt like something was wrong like a loved one was going to die. I felt like I forgot something really important. I felt rather jumpy and hyper-vigilant. That is how my anxiety manifested itself. But in all reality, I feel a tremendous amount of fear. Placing Arabella in residential was our last ditch effort to saving her life. We used our trump card. Now the rest is really up to her and that is scary.

I feel excited to start this new chapter with Arabella. It is what it is. I am excited to have all of my children close to home. I am a little apprehensive about their ability to live in harmony. The peace I long for alludes me like a poor man’s chase of the dollar. I will keep working on it. But as for now, I am happy that at least I am in touch with how I feel about everything going on.

I am anxious, and mysteriously that can be both a positive and negative experience at the same time.

Living in the real world

Right after Arabella started outpatient, I spoke to her case manager there and she told me of a safety concern. The case manager mentioned that Arabella talked about wanting to overdose again. She suggested that I search her room before she got home that day.

I have never been the room searching type of parent. It reminded me of that one time as a teenager my mom went into my room when I wasn’t home, found my diaries, and read them. Then she got angry at me for the things I wrote, some of it from many years before. I will never forget feeling upset over my privacy being violated for no particular reason. Even my innermost private thoughts were not safe. So I was totally against violating the privacy of my teenagers unless I thought maybe my children were unsafe.

I did a sweep of Arabella’s room that afternoon. I found some contraband, but I didn’t find a stockpile of pills. Granted my daughter is a bit of a hoarder. It made it harder to search every nook and cranny amongst the clutter.

But I did make sure that the pills in my house were hidden away out of reach. Nary a bottle of Tylenol could be found in my medicine cabinet at the time. This was problematic at times. Around that time, my son had his wisdom teeth removed. I had to keep his pain medicine locked up along with the Tylenol. It was a royal pain because it made it hard for him to manage his medication himself.

It’s hard to live in a world where I had to keep hyper-vigilant of every little pill and sharp objects. It wasn’t convenient for other family members. It was a lot of hassle and work. As if she couldn’t find a way around it if she wanted to. But that is the advice that every doctor gave me. Lock everything up. It wasn’t practical. I couldn’t lock up every knife and have my family ask for permission to unlock them if they wanted to make themselves something to eat. I felt guilty that I didn’t lock up every knife.

But sometime, somewhere my daughter was going to have to live in the real world.

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.

Last summer, this summer

Maybe I was naïve to think after my son graduated from high school last year that it would be smooth sailing. Sometimes I can be like that, overly optimistic. And things were good for about a month. Then my life fell apart again in a different way.

It was last summer that my health went to crap. I found a new doctor and she was appalled that my last provider had me on 2 pills a day for a duration of 5 years for acid reflux. These were pills that should be taken once a day for a course of 10 days. She took me off my medication and had me scoped. She told me to take a few Tums for my gushing gut wound and sent me on my way. Besides being anemic nothing else was wrong with me.

But something was wrong with me. I’ve even had a doctor once say it was all in my head. She only said that once because I never went back to her again. Please if it is all in my head, fix it.

After being very strongly encouraged by my mother, I decided to go to a wellness clinic for allergy testing. I was found to be allergic to 22 foods. The biggest culprit was dairy. I said good-bye to my favorite comfort foods. But I still wasn’t feeling better.

I scheduled an appointment with the wellness nurse. She said I had a level of inflammation in my gut that she has rarely seen before. I had more tests done and started a treatment plan.

In the meantime, I discovered that I have Complex PTSD from childhood trauma. I have been seeing a great therapist. I have been working through my lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Meanwhile my life fell apart in other ways with family problems that really had nothing to do with me.

Over a month went by where every single night I did not sleep the full night. Some nights I would just get up and sit looking into the darkness. Nightmares were common. If only I could sleep then my problems would be solved. With help from both my therapist and wellness nurse, I am now able to sleep a couple of full nights a week. With sleep, my mood improved greatly. I was feeling a little less like a zombie.

Once again I become overly optimistic. I had more tests done. I’m getting better. I was going to finally be able to do the 30 day detox diet and get my allergies retested. I imagined myself this summer eating my favorite foods again. This summer it was going to be cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, pizza, cheese, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese curds, lasagna, and cheese. It was so close I could almost smell it.

I went into my follow up appointment last week with great expectations only to have them dashed. My results showed that only 5% of the healthy population got test scores like mine. I have several parasites. I also have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This means that I have good bacteria in the wrong place which interferes with food absorption. This could explain the anemia.

So now I am on an even more restricted diet. Limited sugars, starches, carbs, processed food, and fiber. Too much of these foods can make the bacteria grow and make me feel sick. Pretty much the only thing I can eat now is meat. If it weren’t for living with a meat and potatoes man and ham I would probably be a vegetarian. This has really taken the joy out of eating.

The nurse also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to kill off the parasites. It will help a little with the SIBO too. She said she only prescribed it to two other people but thought it was necessary in my case with my chronic gut issues. I was a little terrified to take the first pill. I read about parasite die off and it sounded miserable. So far I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel awful either.

It was hard going in with the expectation of good news. But I am on the road to recovery however long that might be. I know what I’m up against. It’s good to know it all isn’t in my head.

Gratitude week 13

I’m not the superstitious type, but week 13 pretty such says it all for me right now. I’m having a hard time feeling grateful. Whose stupid idea was it to do this gratitude crap anyway? Oh well!

Right now I’m supposed to be touring New Orleans for the first time with our foreign exchange students and family. Instead we got the news today that Clara’s parents want her to go back home to Germany. We are so sad it has to be this way. We also decided not to have our daughter be a foreign exchange student.

This week the last thing I put in pen on my calendar is gone. We will not be visiting my brother and his family for Easter.

The Europe trip open to students and their family that got cancelled is not refunding us all of our money. They are keeping almost 1/3 of the travel expenses. Parents are angry and a petition is being sent around to try to get everything but our security deposit back. It’s a huge mess.

My husband and I have been fighting like crazy.

Everything keeps breaking. Now my son is having problems with his car.

Need I mention the economy.

So…it might be hard to find ten things this week.. Here goes..

  1. We are all healthy.
  2. We have enough food to eat.
  3. I only left the house once this week. That being said, the only compliment on my hair was from my husband. Just for the record, the last time I colored my hair was in September. I started doing this before it became cool (the hair salon’s closed).
  4.  I spent some time working on our new business today and it felt good to be productive.
  5.  In some ways I kind of like not being so busy.
  6.  The weather is going to be nice this week, sunny and temps around 50. It is so hard to exercise outside when I am freezing so this will be nice.
  7.  We named our indoor pool Florida. We can go to Florida now.
  8.  I think I am doing pretty well holding things together.
  9.  We will only have 3 teenagers in the house, although I am very sad Clara is leaving early since we get along so well. But it isn’t good bye forever and she will be reunited with her family.
  10.  I had a couple nights this week that I slept fairly good.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.