Gratitude week 60

  1. I’m grateful that the arctic blast (two weeks of subzero temps) is now over!!!!
  2. With all the snow on the ground and the departure of the bitterly cold weather, I am able to exercise outside. I went snowshoeing this morning and am planning on going cross country skiing later this week. This is the first time I have been out this season.
  3. I’m grateful that my daughter’s frogs should be able to eat crickets now that it is warmer out. With the snowstorms and cold weather, the shipments for crickets has been severely delayed or the crickets arrive dead. After my daughter’s pets went a whole week without eating because we couldn’t find crickets anywhere, my husband bought some fishing worms for them so they didn’t starve. Yeah again for warmer weather!!
  4. My appointment with the wellness nurse went very well this past week. I graduated!! Yeah, I only need to go in once a year now. I went from having acid reflux, colitis, multiple parasites, SIBO, and over 20 food allergies to being back to a state of good health. Today the clinic called and asked if I would be willing to give a testimonial. I told them absolutely!
  5. I had lunch with my friend Jen this past week. I was kind of embarrassed though because I always order the same thing and the waitress joked with me that she didn’t even need to bring a menu because that’s what I always order. So much for being a wallflower!
  6. Paul and I went to our sailing club cruise planning meeting. Nothing feels better than getting out my calendar and scheduling the summer. We have some fun trips planned and are planning on crossing Lake Michigan for the first time in our sailboat.
  7. My daughter Angel and I spent the day together on Saturday. We went out to eat and had pizza at a restaurant that offers gluten and dairy free options. The pizza I chose was absolutely amazing. Afterwards we had vegan ice cream, again it was amazing. Then we spent the rest of the day thrift shopping. My big find was a murder mystery game that I haven’t played before. Once things settle down I’ll have to host a murder. I’ll also have to find a tape player as some of the clues are on cassette tape.
  8. My mom got her second COVID shot this past week. We have plans to visit the spa in a couple days. It will be nice to be able to visit with her again. Hopefully a lot of her fears will be put to rest.
  9. I just finished a wonderful book call The Daughter. I’m grateful to find a new author that I like. There is a quote from the book that I want to post later this week that I thought was profound.
  10. I am grateful for the opportunity to document my life mainly through writing but also through photography. I’m excited about starting the series regarding having a teenager with mental health struggles. Talking about my dad and now my daughter has been very challenging for me. But I know how beneficial writing has been in my healing journey and I am hoping that by doing so I can reach others who are also struggling with similar circumstances.

Right before the pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A year and two days ago

It’s been a year and two days since my daughter tried to take her life. It was on a day like today. It happened while I was sitting in the same spot I’m in today, writing my post oblivious to what was happening a couple rooms away.

It came out of nowhere. I blamed myself for not noticing something was wrong. Me, the hyper-vigilant one. I was focused on other things, other problems.

There was a fight between my daughter and our foreign exchange student Estelle. Before then things were great between them, better than I could’ve ever expected. Arabella and Estelle were best friends. We even signed Arabella up to be a foreign exchange student hosted by Estelle’s family. Then there was the fight. Arabella accused Estelle of trying to steal her friends. I thought it was temporary, petty even. They would work it out themselves. But a few days later my daughter tried to kill herself.

She tried to OD and laid down in her bed to go into a forever sleep. She was filled with horror and threw up the pills she ingested. She reached out to her friends, then she reached out to me. That is when she found me writing my post on a day just like today. She came into the room sobbing hysterically. I literally thought someone had died. She said it was a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. I don’t know why I believed her. We were na├»ve and new to her mental health struggles back then. We didn’t know what to do and certainly had no idea what would happen next.

One of the first feelings I felt was enraged. I screamed and kicked the garbage can across the room spilling its contents everywhere. I can’t remember a time of such anger and uncontrolled rage in myself. I wanted to punch a wall or through the glass in the door. Looking back it seemed like an unusual response because I usually suppress my anger. But that is what happened.

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like if she succeeded that night in February. Succeeded, what a horrible word to describe something like that. I don’t think I would’ve made it through to share my story. My demons could have me. I just wouldn’t have the fight to run from them anymore.

For a long time after that night, I would awake in the middle of the night to see if she was still breathing. I would watch for the rise and fall of the blankets. Sometimes I couldn’t see and would reach out to touch her gently as to not wake her reminiscent of the early years when I checked on my sweet baby to see if she was still breathing after she stopped crying out for me in the middle of the night.

Now there was a new fear that robbed me of my peace both day and night. Will my daughter choose life today? I rejoice that it’s been over a year and she is alive!!

It was the start of a new journey. I was no longer just a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues, now I am a mother.

Finding God?

Something else strange happened. A couple weeks after the police came, old friends of my parents showed up at their door. They hadn’t seen each other for about 10 years. The couple said they were sent by God. The man reached out to my dad and my dad accepted.

A couple months previous I told my dad that I hope he finds God before God found him. At that time my dad smugly laughed and said it was unlikely that would ever happen. Apparently he had a change of heart.

It was an especially confusing and difficult time for me. If my dad truly accepted Christ then I expected my phone to be ringing off the hook from his contrite heart asking for forgiveness. It didn’t happen. I had this salvation fantasy that we would have this new relationship and he would be the dad I always wanted him to be. My mom was terribly excited, but I wasn’t convinced.

My mom said that he reads the Bible and prays with her. Does he really read the Bible? Well…he listens to it when it is read. Does he really pray with you? Well…he says amen after I pray. Or is he just doing what you want so you don’t leave? My mom believes that my dad has faith. Now he is finally the man she wants him to be. She believes what she wants to believe despite evidence to the contrary. It’s helping her to love and live with him again.

You see, I think I wanted my dad to find God for me. Then everything would somehow be magical and perfect. I wanted to feel happy, but instead I felt betrayed. God loves my dad but he surely doesn’t love me. Look what happened.

I can be a fair weather Christian at times. When things are going well, I am pretty happy with God. When things aren’t going well, I don’t go out and seek God more like some people do. Instead I get angry. I shake my fist and ask God why he would do something like that to me. Why are you punishing me God? If you have complete control why did you allow this to happen? Are you even there? Don’t you care about me? What did I do to deserve this? Why? WHY???

I didn’t feel like God could love both my dad and me simultaneously. In fact, God was one of the few places I could find solace from my dad as a child. He mocked and laughed at my mother for going to church. I wanted God more because my dad wasn’t there. Faith was almost an act of rebellion.

I question if my dad has real faith. But that isn’t for me to judge. I have a very limited capacity to trust both God and man which makes me more skeptical. I didn’t expect my dad’s crime then his subsequent faith would shake my foundation to its very core. I had to go back and examine my life. Part of my foundation was held together with childlike beliefs which held no merit. I had to re-evaluate what is truth versus what is just a coping mechanism. It was a process I had to work through. I had no idea it would leave me questioning everything I ever believed in.

I had to separate myself from my parents and find my own way.

Self-diagnosis

24 Dec 2019

If you are reading this, it is over. I have nothing left to live for. My whole life has been a joke. Hell couldn’t be any worse than living at this point.

Why? Why did it have to end this way? There isn’t a day in my life that I feel joy or peace. It’s just un-relentless pain. Why would I want to continue down this path of suffering? I just want it to end. Every day its the same struggle to place one foot in front of the other. Every day I fight against this meaningless existence. I don’t want to do this anymore. I feel like I have nothing left here for me.

It took months to get over the initial blow. It was months and months of insomnia and nightmares like the one I described the last time I posted. I was having flashbacks of the abuse I suffered and oddly enough images of things I didn’t remember, fragments of dreams you could say. These flashbacks were incredibly painful and the urge to destroy myself in the process was overwhelmingly powerful. In some ways I was already gone, stuck in my own head. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but hopefully it will be the last.

I decided to write my way through the process. I was only functioning on one cylinder, but I was functioning. How could I tell anyone that I wanted to kill myself because my daughter found child porn on my dad’s computer? It wasn’t logical or rational anyway. Why destroy myself over a crime I didn’t commit? I was sticking to the cover story of my parents getting a divorce if people noticed something was wrong. They could find out the full story later when my dad is in prison.

I couldn’t live this way. I started researching PTSD when I found out about Complex PTSD. I found my home there. Everything I was going through started making sense. What happened with my dad was very triggering for me. I had to fight through this to get to the other side, healing.

How was I going to get through? I already was embracing a holistic approach to healing. I started seeing a therapist to start working through the trauma. I was working with a wellness nurse to heal the trauma that ravaged my physical body. I was seeking solace in spirituality. I was writing my way through the experience. I was doing what I was supposed to do to heal, but this was a huge crater in the road. I couldn’t trust anyone or any God. I never could and honestly don’t know if I ever will be able to fully. I’m even afraid to share with you because I don’t trust you either. I’m not even sure what compels me to share this in full honesty.

I diagnosed myself with Complex PTSD. Part of me is in denial of this. Maybe I didn’t have it that bad. You see, my dad never sexually abused me. The few people I’ve told about his crime assume this though because they have outright asked me. Instead my dad treated me like I didn’t exist. He didn’t hug or hold me. He didn’t protect me from the teen boys when they came knocking. He didn’t tell me I was special or that he was proud of me. He didn’t protect me from my psychotic brother’s physical attacks. Nothing. That is how his addiction robbed me. He mainly made lewd comments to me and my children.

I tried to act like he was a good man. I didn’t tell my children much about my childhood. I tried to protect them from that. Maybe I was wrong. Angel found out the hard way by finding porn on his computer. I can’t imagine the images she saw or how damaging that was for her. I couldn’t even help her. She was a senior in college 4 hours away. She found this right before finals. She was struggling and I couldn’t help her. Thanks a lot dad.

I’m thankful I made it through and am ready to share my experience with you no matter how difficult it is.

Nightmares of my inner child

Alissa came to me in a dream. She told me she was very frightened to go back into the camper. She had to go before and she doesn’t want to go back again. She can’t go back anyway. If she tells anyone, the cat will die. She shows me an image of a black cat with its neck cut open. There is dried blood matted on its fur.

She said she could tell about things outside of the camper. She showed me an image of herself naked on the rope swing that hung on the big tree outside of the camper. Her long hair was in piggy tails.

She told me that she was me. She said I might find pictures of me.

I felt disgusted with the girl but I left her alone. She was crying and felt like she was in trouble for what she did. Maybe she is the reason the cat died.

This was just one of the many nightmares I had over the next couple months as I processed everything that happened with my dad. I wrote this dream down immediately upon awakening. It was especially horrifying as I awoke in a state of panic with tears streaming down my face. It felt incredibly real.

Guilty!

One thing I wasn’t expecting was to feel guilty for my dad’s crime.

I felt paranoid. I worried that the police were going to come to my house and confiscate my computers. Maybe they were going to investigate me. I knew the fear was irrational since I’ve never done anything the police would take an interest in. All other family members that I talked to about it felt the same way. It was like his dirt rubbed off on the rest of us. We all felt familial guilt for a crime only one of us committed.

The bar was set low. It didn’t take much to step over it. I wanted more for my children, for my brothers and I. I wanted a family name they could strive to live up to. Would we be looked down upon for the sins of our father?

Would they take our foreign exchange students away? I would feel a moral obligation to report a conviction to our coordinator like she told us to if the case should arise. She did have an exchange student that wrote letters to an exchange uncle in prison who was removed from the home she was placed in. Maybe they would get removed since they saw my dad once or twice before I knew of his crime. I was not planning on having them around my dad again. My brother Luke was also not planning on having his pre-teen daughters around their grandpa ever again. Do you know how difficult that was especially around Christmas time? I hope not.

I didn’t want to see my dad again either. The children were what I was living for. Otherwise I might not have bothered getting out of bed. I had to have them up and ready for school in the morning. I had to force myself to be excited, to give them a memorable Christmas. The kids are really what kept me going. I had to be alive for them. What if they were taken away? How would I explain things to their parents? Was I going to be punished for his crime? Does the trauma never end?

I felt like I received a life sentence for a crime I didn’t commit. All happiness and joy were striped away. I was guilty for a crime I didn’t commit. Guilty until I could prove to be innocent.

Panic Sunday

That is how I ended up almost having a panic attack singing on the worship team in front of church on a joyous December morning.

I received a phone call from my daughter minutes before the service began. Grandma knows…the police didn’t arrest grandpa…guns in the house…a felon with nothing left to lose…depressed before…we need to get grandma and Matt out of the house…homicide?…suicide?

I received the two minute warning that I needed to go up and sing. I quickly said my good-bye as I threw my phone in my coat pocket and ran onstage. Maybe I should’ve taken some time off. When life goes to crap I tend to carry on with my plans. Maybe that was a mistake.

It was almost impossible to sing praises to God as I imagined my dad with a gun to my mom’s head. Singing may have calmed me in the past, but with each word my panic built to the point I almost ran off the stage mid song. I had a hard time keeping it together as the what ifs clanged in discord through my mind. It was agony to feel this way yet having to pretend that everything was fine. The service was being recorded and was live online. The whole world could watch me freak out.

I called my mom as soon as I could afterwards. She had tickets to see a show with Matt. She was going to pack her bags and come over after she took Matt back to his group home. With four teenagers in the house, I didn’t have an extra bedroom for my mom but she was welcome to stay here as long as she needed to.

I was still afraid of what my dad might do when she left. Should I go over there and try to talk with him? Was he angry with me because my daughter turned him in to the police? I called my brother Luke. He said if there was any chance that I could be in danger I shouldn’t go. It wasn’t like I had a car to drive anyway. The girls were in a matinee performance at the theater and needed to use my car since Paul’s truck broke down the day before.

Luke said he was going to give our dad a call and talk to him about Jesus just in case it was their last conversation. He said he could never forgive himself if he didn’t reach out. He also said it was time to tell our brother Mark and he would make that call as well. I decided it was time to tell my adult son Alex. Alex was very upset about the news and said he never wanted to see his grandpa again.

I decided we needed to keep the doors locked day and night just in case grandpa tried to come over and retaliate. I didn’t feel safe. We were on high alert. Later that evening my mom came over. I was relieved that she was safe. There was a lot of crying and whispered conversations behind closed doors. It was obvious that something was wrong. I told the children and people somewhat close that my parents were thinking about getting a divorce. It wasn’t an outright lie because it was possible, but it was far from the truth of what was really going on…

The day after the police came

The day after the police came was the large extended family Christmas party. We showed up a little late since we were having vehicle trouble. In fact, Paul dropped us off at the party while he tried to figure out what was wrong with his truck.

When I walked in I saw my mom hugging a relative and crying. I was looking for signs that she knew something was up with my dad. Crying at a family Christmas party was not outside of the norm. It happened so often as a kid that relatives prompted me to be a good girl and take care of my mother.

My dad didn’t show up to the Christmas party. That wasn’t out of the norm either. He didn’t show up for Thanksgiving at my house. He didn’t really take an interest in family gatherings. Sometimes he stayed home with Matt so he would have a good excuse not to go. He couldn’t use Matt as an excuse anymore because Matt was there and no longer violent thanks to anti-psychotic medication.

I wasn’t feeling very festive last year and really didn’t want to go. But it was important to keep up the appearance as if everything was normal. This was not unusual for me either. Trying to muster up some fake smiles while my life was falling apart. Yeah, just found out my dad is a pedophile which triggered traumatic memories but hey life is great because it is the Christmas season. I’m good, how are you?

On a quest to find vehicle answers, Paul’s truck broke down and we had to have the vehicle towed to a garage. Perhaps this could be my excuse for the forced smiles. Yeah, I’m worried about something else.

Something seemed a little off with my mom. She said she needed to talk to me about something important. Did she know?

We ended up getting a ride home from some relatives that lived near us. I tried calling my mom later but she didn’t answer. She called me back when she got home but didn’t talk about anything important. What was going on?

Too toxic

My mother; the martyr, the saint. She put up with a lot of crap. But she was never at peace, never carefree. Her jaw clenched. She never smiled. Yet she was always beautiful in a sad way.

I don’t think my mother is sane.

We used to have Christmas in our house. But that ended when Matt became allergic to the tree. We couldn’t have a tree in our house. We couldn’t have Christmas at our house. The only thing that remained was a strand of broken colored lights on the garage roof. Then my mom told my grandma she couldn’t have a tree in her house that year either.

My mom told my aunt she couldn’t mop her floor with chemicals if we were coming over. That was simply too toxic for Matt. My mom was the one who had us bathe in apple cider vinegar as children. It was to get the toxins out from the Agent Orange because my dad was in Vietnam. That was why we were all sick, especially Matt.

That was why we didn’t drink Kool-Aid. Too many toxic artificial flavors and colors. That is why the air purifier ran both night and day. Too many toxins. That was why they ripped out the wood stove. That was why our house was always cold. The new curtains were tore down and replaced with old holey blankets.

That is why we couldn’t have cars parked in the garage. We had to be careful of the breezes. If the wind was blowing a certain way, the windows had to be shut because of the auto fumes. If the farmers sprayed their fields, we had to evacuate within the hour while Matt wore his charcoal mask.

We brushed our teeth with baking soda and peroxide. We couldn’t wear anything with a scent, certainly not perfume. Newspapers weren’t allowed in the house. The print was too toxic. No markers, no nail polish…no, no, no, NO! No fun. No living.

I thought this was how everyone lived, in fear of toxins.

My mom called the farmers and yelled at them for spraying their fields. She called the county and yelled at them for spraying the ditches. She called the school and yelled at them if they gave Matt ‘toxic’ foods. His diet was so complex only she could figure it out.

My mom confronted my dad when he came in the house wearing his snowsuit after snow blowing the driveway because of the exhaust fumes. But she never confronted him for hurting their children or regarding his addiction.

Today I no longer live in fear of toxins. It’s the toxic people who scare me.