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.

A candle lit for you

I lit a candle for you today.

I didn’t get the chance to know you very well.

Today was the day your family set aside to remember you.

But it has been cancelled now.

The rain falls to the ground in a downpour.

Soon it will melt the snow away.

Spring, they say.

But it is still so cold.

The water spills forth and floods the earth.

Will anyone cry that much for you?

I feel sad for you today.

I remember the little of your life you shown me.

Yours wasn’t the first death this year.

I fear it won’t be the last.

But today I lit a candle for you.

Together we will get through

The gym closed today.

I found out about it late last night when my pastor commented on Facebook. He said something like the one time he was thinking about going to the gym it was closed.

Exercise is a big part of the keeping myself sane routine. Addiction might be taking it a little far, but… More than anything I’m a routine addict.

Our trip to Florida we were planning for the end of the week is pretty much over.

The kids went to school today, but now the schools will be closed until at least the middle of April. My daughter works at Culvers and her work hours for this week have been cancelled.

The world is ending, yet here I sit calmly. I don’t feel like my anxiety is any more or less than normal. I’ve been dealing with a high level of stress and chaos since I was born. How is this any different? My husband is doing well too. We are not freaking out or buying massive amounts of toilet paper.

Yesterday I felt hopeful for a small amount of time that maybe our trip would still happen.

Today I am preparing for isolation. I am no stranger to it. I wish I had some control over it, but I do not. I like being alone. But I fear for the ones who do not.

I spent three years from 8th to 10th grade homeschooling. I rarely saw people outside of my family, much less my friends. That was before the days of cell phones. Right now we are safe. I’m not sending my children off to war. We will get through this.

Although I wish I could start my census job tomorrow. I would have more of a chance of finding people at home. Once this is all over, no one will want to stay home again.

Tomorrow starts the first day of the new normal. By the grace of God, structure, and routine will get us through. This might be the best memories we have together as a family.

We will be forced to get through this together and together we will get through.

Gratitude week 11

Wow, what a tough week to have gratitude…

1. My daughter Angel is feeling better after having a fever. She called the doctor’s office and they weren’t concerned about her having corona virus. My mom and I decided to just go on with life and attend the bridal shower today. However, we were told they didn’t want us there although my aunt with lung issues works at the hospital and her future DIL flew across the country to be there. Everyone there had the potential to be exposed which created hurt feelings from my mom.

2. Everyone in the family is currently healthy.

3. And more compliments on my hair.

4. My daughter Angel was offered and started a new job in her field. She will be graduating in 2 months.

5. I had a wonderful week with my daughter over her spring break. With her new job she insisted on taking me out to eat and paid for my lunch. I feel gratitude she is good with money and has a new job that will pay her bills.

6. I was offered a job with the census today.

7. I’m grateful for my husband and children.

8. I am grateful to be able to make fairly good decisions while under a lot of stress. We still have not decided whether or not to go to Florida on our planned vacation this week. I try not to let fear dictate my life, however still have the need to make realistic plans under the circumstances. The good thing is we developed a plan I am more comfortable with if we go. Angel will stay at our house while we are gone with our son Alex. I trust my adult children will be able to take care of things while we are away.

9. If we end up being stuck in our house for a month, it is a great place to be.

10. I am grateful to belong to an awesome church.

Getting viral

Life changed in the last 48 hours.

As if the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th in the same week wasn’t bad enough…now we’ve got a pandemic on our hands.

Just 3 days ago, life was normal for us. My husband had plans to see the Bucks game with friends. The girls had track practice. Clara had play practice. The girls were planning on going to state. We were planning our trip to Florida in the following week. Then upon our return, we were going to Angel’s recital. We were going to visit family for Easter.

Today we were planning on going bowling for my brother Matt’s birthday. Tomorrow is a bridal shower.

Then everything changed.

It seemed strange, but the basketball game was cancelled.

Then we found out my daughter’s college is closing until after Easter. The dorm rooms are closing and everyone was sent home. The recital cancelled. Graduation? Who knows?

Angel’s boyfriend Dan works at a hospital and developed a fever a couple days ago. Should we be concerned about corona virus or is it something else?

We had our friends over last night to plan our trip to Florida. Should we even go? Disney and Universal closed.

We received word yesterday that all of the schools in Wisconsin will be closing for almost a month after Tuesday. The track meets are cancelled. The girls aren’t going to state. Will they cancel the play? What about prom?

It’s as if someone took an eraser and wiped our plans away like they were insignificant.

People are panicking. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves.

Angel came down with a fever last night. Is there even a place where we can go for testing? What should we do? Angel has been waiting for the last two hours for a call back from the doctor’s office.

My mother stopped by yesterday right before Angel got sick. The bowling birthday party is cancelled for today. I decided not to go to the bridal shower because my aunt whose future daughter-in-law it is for has some serious lung issues.

We are supposed to leave in less than a week to go to Florida. Our friends still want to go, but I am the only one that no longer does. I want to go, really I do. But is it wise? Our discussion got rather heated. Everyone is extremely emotional about this. We don’t know what to think or do.

What happens if my parents get sick while I am gone? They don’t have to worry about that. My closest brother is 3 hours away and has health issues.

What happens if we get sick on the road? What if we need to be quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What if we get stuck somewhere? What if we can’t find restaurants that are open? What if we can’t find a place that has food and toilet paper? The what if list goes on and on.

Yes, we want our foreign exchange students to see America. But is this the America we want them to see? Life seems different now. People are not at their best.

I have images in my mind of the apocalypse. Check points with people in contamination suits. We will be taking our visitors to a dystopian world. Tylenol and test kits.

Right now the allure of an adventure is gone. I think it is safer to stick with what we know even if it means being stuck at home for the next month. It’s hard because we were really looking forward to our trip.

Maybe we are already sick and don’t even know it.

 

Losing my reality

I felt good for about a half a day this week. I told my husband to enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s been a rough last couple of weeks. It’s that time of year again where I am reminded of the anniversaries of the deaths of three loved ones. I especially remember my grandma who seems so far removed from me now that it is hard to believe she even existed.

In this past week I’ve heard about the deaths of the wife of a friend and the daughter of an acquaintance. Both died unexpectedly, tragically. They were both young, upper 20’s and lower 30’s. They both left behind families, very young children.

Then there was an acquaintance this week who told everyone via Facebook he was going to stop kidney dialysis. He is in his 30’s, had a failed transplant, has no family, and can barely make ends meet because of this. I have to question, is it suicide? I want him to want to live, but would I make a different choice in his circumstances?

Death is in the air and the sorrow of it is making me sad. So I gladly breathed in a reprieve from the anxiety I was feeling if but for a few hours. I thought just maybe I would sleep for the night but to no avail. It’s been almost 3 weeks now since I slept a full night. The exhaustion of it is almost relaxing to me.

I can’t relax. Depression is the closest thing to relaxing I do. My body resists all attempts to relax me. I sometimes wonder if local anesthesia doesn’t work for me because my body literally fights off all attempts of relaxation. Maybe it is just a crazy thought.

I was in hypervigilant mode for two weeks. It was awful. One day my daughter came up behind me unaware to hug me. I freaked out and screamed at her to get away from me. Later I talked to her in a general way about the trauma I experienced as a child and explained to her how startled I was by her unexpected touch. Even my husband tried to comfort me by touch and I told him not to touch me.

I tried to explain to my daughter why I had a hard time with touch and she got mad at me. She told me I was overexagerating and that her life is just as hard as my life was. I tried to give her the kind of life I wanted as a child and it is painful to hear her say that. It’s hard to have compassion for the trivial things.

Sometimes my autistic brother would attack us while we were sleeping. Is it any wonder that I cannot find sleep? My brother beat me on the daily and I was not protected or comforted.

Being physically abused wasn’t the worst. Even my dad’s verbal abuse wasn’t that bad. Being called stupid frequently didn’t end my world. What really hurt was the psychological terror. My dad seemed to have this innate ability to know what our deepest fears were. When we were little he would force us to do things we were afraid of. Then he would laugh at us when we showed fear.

My dad would torment us in the presence of our siblings. We weren’t allowed to be angry or cry, then we would get it worse. In fact, the more we laughed and taunted our frightened sibling, the better it would be for us. Compassion or kindness was punished.

We were terrified of my dad. My dad was especially abusive when our mom was not around. I don’t even think she knew about most of the abuse. At best, he would ignore us and watch TV. Sometimes my mom threatened to leave my dad. We were so terrified of being alone with my dad that it was my brother Mark’s job to beg her not to leave.

I built this wall of strength around myself. My dad robbed me of compassion, tears, and anything perceived as weakness. I can do anger, but I cannot cry. My mom cried and  was too weak to stand up to my dad or my violent brother.

But yet I am weak, yet I am vulnerable. In the whole healing process, I’ve lost a part of my knowledge of normal and real. Is this normal or is this normal to me? Am I not safe or do I just think I am not safe? Am I reading people right?

For example, I told you about the old man at the gym who complimented me on my running and looks. Perhaps it is creepy, perhaps he is just a lonely old man. He seems to know my patterns now. I saw him watch me when I was in my exercise class. When I am running, he gets on the treadmill next to me and starts talking to me.

I always wanted a dad who paid attention to me. I am starving for that. I am so hungry I might ingest things that aren’t safe for me to take in. Because of my hunger I reach for anything offered and I seem to no longer be able to distinguish if it is good for me.

I’ve seem to have lost some of my discernment.

That’s probably why I wasn’t prepared for what happened next…

 

 

My salvation fantasy

I used to find solace in God.

I prayed and yearned for my whole family to seek serenity there.

Then a miracle happened. My dad really made a mess of his life. Before this every time he invoked the name of God it always had a damn after it. He laughed at my mother for her faith. He sneered at the very essence of God. He knew a lot about theology and always could find a loophole in our faith. It was easy to seek sanctuary in a place where my dad refused to go.

But then my dad sunk to the very bottom. It was the only way he could open his heart. He started listening to my mother’s words about God. He started reading the Bible. He shed a few tears. He said a few prayers.

Soon afterward, God sent old friends of my parents to their door. My mom didn’t recognize her old friend. They haven’t seen each other in 15 years. The friend said that God had my parents on her heart. She came over to invite my parents to a Bible study at their house. They knew my dad didn’t believe. They had several heart to heart talks with my dad and he was very receptive.

My mom even tried out their church which has a low sensory room for people on the autism spectrum to participate in the service. My mom could take my brother to church without worrying about whether he was going to act appropriately. It seemed like the hand of God was all over this.

It was everything we ever wanted. Right? Then why does it seem like the closer my dad becomes the further I am cast away? Seriously who wants their parents to go to hell if they sincerely believe in God??

But this was not how I played it out in my mind. I thought the first thing my dad would do once he became a Christian is give us a call and ask us for forgiveness. He would apologize for the abuse he heaped upon us. Then we would have a great father-daughter relationship. He would all of a sudden be everything he wasn’t. He would be loving, supportive, encouraging, and would want to get to know me and love me the way he never had.

But it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t even close. My phone isn’t ringing off the hook with his bright shiny new clean heart. I didn’t receive any handwritten letters in the mail. I haven’t even spoken to my dad in two months. I was deceived by this salvation fantasy in my head that if my dad accepted God everything would be perfect.

I know this is going to sound crazy because isn’t this after all what I prayed for. More than anything, I feel abandoned by God. This is not what I wanted, nor expected. I feel like maybe there is still a God out there, but he doesn’t love me.

All I wanted is one person to reach out to me. I, myself, am drowning in sorrow. Just show me God’s love, tell me he hasn’t left me. I sought but found nothing.

I just wanted a normal loving family. Is that too much to ask for?

I can no longer find solace in God because now my dad is there. Spending an eternity in heaven with my dad sounds like hell to me. I can’t hide under God’s wing anymore. It is no longer safe.

I am not at peace. I have stopped seeking. I can no longer pray.  I don’t even want to go to church. I feel very confused and afraid. It’s strange, I never thought my dad finding faith would threaten everything I’ve ever believed in.

PMSing during the full moon

Yeah, if the title doesn’t say it all…it’s been a rough week.

It all started earlier this week. My daughter Arabella and our foreign exchange student Estelle got into their first huge fight. I could tell they were angry, but my daughter wouldn’t say anything and Estelle simply muttered that my daughter has issues as she stomped off to her room to go to bed.

The next morning they didn’t talk to each other, but spewed their hatred towards each other onto me. What is going on?

Later that morning Estelle texted me, we need to talk. My stomach dropped. The worst case scenarios painted their way through my head. Bang, triggered! Maybe my daughter smacked her one. My daughter just applied to be a foreign exchange student at Estelle’s house. Maybe they no longer wanted her there. Maybe Estelle no longer wanted to be with us. How was I ever going to fix this?

The negative energy was so intense like a couple warring black cats hissing and sending their razor sharp claws down the chalkboard while howling at the moon.

My anxiety went through the roof. I just wanted my depression to come back. Please stop.

The insomnia and nightmares are back. I awake at every little noise. When I do sleep, I wake up crying from the nightmares. I feel like a super caffeinated zombie. Anxiety on steroids. Tired, but on high alert. Restless. Fidgety. Exhausted.

The ringing of my phone startles me. I turn my ringer off. I’m afraid that someone is at the door, but no one is there. My skin crawls. I feel like I am being watched, but no one is there. Sometimes I turn around fast just to make sure. My back is better against the wall where I can see the whole room in case of an attack.

I startle as my husband placed his hand in consolation on my back. I jump not sure whether to fight or scream. Don’t touch me. Is there danger? Is there someone there who shouldn’t be? I know it is not rational, but I can’t stop feeling anxious.

I have to take my mind off of things. Is that picture crooked on the wall? No, a half an inch too high on the left. Is it centered properly? Is that a fingerprint on the glass? Is that dust? Is that dirt?

Estelle comes home and wants to spend the evening at her friend’s house on a school night. She doesn’t want to be here anymore. Maybe she will leave us? The girls still fight. They hate each other. Maybe it was a bad idea to take two extra teenagers into our house.

The next morning I miss a call from the school. Oh my, maybe the girls fought it out in their one class together. Culinary arts. Pots and pans hitting each other over the head. A knife fight, perhaps? Suspended. Expelled. Sent home. I feel like I am going to throw up.

Nope. Estelle comes home, bad cramps.

I told the girls separately they need to work through the issues they were having together. Then I left to run errands. When I came back, the girls were laughing and hugging each other. Sisters. The love and the hate. Fighting over friends. One blocking the other on their socials. No big deal but fighting like it was the end of the world.

But me, triggered, stressed out for days not even sure why. The minute my therapist saw me yesterday she knew I was not myself. She said if she didn’t think I had PTSD before she can certainly say I have it now. The conflict between the girls triggered me. In my house growing up, all of that negative intense energy meant someone was going to get hurt. It’s almost as if it triggered the fear response before the violence occurred and I got stuck there.

I felt a lot better after my appointment. I had a nice chat with the girls about PMS. Their fighting, their moodiness, their ability to fly from tears to laughter yet back again within a few seconds. Guys, sorry but hormones suck!

My mind goes haywire this time of month. I feel things more. EVERYTHING hurts. My skin itches. It is easier to be triggered. Everything comes out of my mouth in anger with what to me sounds like normal words. Anxiety. Irritation. Anger. Depression. PTSD. Oh my gosh, stay away!! Warning. I am totally crazy! This month so much worse than others.

PMS? The full moon? Fighting. Screeching. Scratching. Screaming. Howling. It’s a good thing my words don’t speak.

Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

Brainspotting

I’ve realized a few new things about myself over the past couple days. The things I once thought were normal, or at least normal to me, I am questioning. I think I just got used to some things that are just not right.

There isn’t a day that goes past that I don’t think about the childhood trauma I’ve experienced. I wish I could just get over it or at best think about these things every other day. As a result, I’ve struggled with lifelong anxiety and depression.

But that isn’t all. I constantly experience exhaustion and fatigue. My doctor wanted me to go in for a sleep study when I was in my 20’s. I did and was told that I never went into deep sleep.

I started reading the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. I would highly recommend the book if you have experienced or are interested in trauma in general. One of the chapters talks about EMDR. EMDR is a therapeutic process in which someone focuses on a pointer moving back and forth while thinking of traumatic experiences. It somewhat mimics REM sleep which PTSD sufferers apparently don’t get a lot of. It is supposed to be very effective in healing trauma.

When I was a little girl, my autistic brother was physically violent with me on a daily basis for years. Sometimes while I was trying to sleep at night, he would come in my room and threaten me with violence. As a child, I slept with my door open. You see, I was afraid of the monsters in my closet and the ghosts under my bed that would attack me when my door was closed. I thought like a child. I feared illogical demons instead of credible threats to my safety.

The stress hormones pumped through my veins with a steady beat day and night. My body learned to never relax. I had to be alert for danger at all times. Deep sleep wasn’t safe.

I started paying attention to my sleep patterns lately. They’ve been the same as long as I can remember. I don’t have problems falling asleep, but I can’t seem to stay asleep. I usually awake between 2 and 4 and stay awake for an hour or two. I try not to think because then I might as well get up because I won’t be able to fall back asleep. Sometimes I get up and walk around.

Usually once or twice a week, I have bad dreams. It seems when I am just about ready to go into REM sleep, my body awakens me. Even though the danger is gone, my body is still on high alert.

I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a nightmare when I had a dream. When things are really bad, I experience insomnia and intense nightmares together on the same night. These are the nights that I wake up sobbing, can’t go back to sleep, and if I do I have nightmares again. Thankfully it doesn’t happen all that often.

I am exhausted, but can’t relax. My anemia is making things worse. I lack energy and can’t seem to think straight.

My counselor is trained in brainspotting, which is an offshoot of EMDR. Next session I am going to give it a try and see how it works. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get some sleep. Even though a pattern of insomnia and nightmares is normal to me, I don’t think that it is normal. Maybe there is nothing I can do about it, but I’m going to try.