What could’ve been

Last month someone close to me attempted suicide.

Maybe you noticed I didn’t write much during that time, maybe not. It’s been easier to write about crusty old scabbed over wounds than the ones currently tearing open my flesh. But now I’m ready to jump back into the flames of the fire that consumes me and threatens the very walls of my foundation.

Part of it I blame myself. I was where I spent most of my life, in survival mode. I was consumed by everything going on with my dad. It’s very bad and it sucked every ounce of energy, joy and peace out of my life. I thought about it every day and every night much like we are thinking about the corona virus. There is not a day that goes by we can completely purge this crisis from our minds.

I didn’t notice anything was wrong. If I did, I dismissed it as superficial (not as bad as what I was going through with my dad). When you are drowning, you tend not to notice if someone else is going too deep.

This person took a handful of pills and settled into bed for their last peaceful slumber. But it wasn’t like that, peaceful. Their life passed before their eyes taking a nightmarish turn. What have I done? Terror coursed through their veins as they struggled to purge the pills. Then they reached out for help.

When I found out, I screamed wildly with rage. I kicked the garbage can and assaulted the contents within. I wanted to put my fist through the wall, but restrained myself. For a few days after, my logic brain shut down. I forgot what day it was. I couldn’t process things in my mind that before I did with ease. My strong suit of structure shut down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. Fear coursed through me day and night making it nearly impossible to sleep.

I felt angry with my dad. After what he did, I didn’t think I would ever smile again. Did this person think I was angry with them because of my reaction to my dad? I pushed everyone away. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize they needed help until it was almost too late.

I’m not going to lie, this past year has been tremendously difficult. What little joy remained within me was destroyed after the suicide attempt.

I feel like the mistakes of others are ruining my life. My childhood was ruined and is not salvageable. I tried really hard not to let the things other people do ruin my life, but it is easier said than done. If I am going to wallow in despair my whole life from the mistakes of other people, I might as well just screw up my life myself.

I can’t bear the weight of this anymore. Have it back. I don’t want it. Call me selfish, but I just want to worry about myself.

Thankfully this person realized they made a mistake to try to end their life. They are now getting the help they need. But still my mind wanders to what might have been. What would life be like if this person was not around? It would be horrible to find them dead.  Gone forever. There is much sorrow in thinking of what might’ve been. Thankfully this is not how their story ends. If nothing else, I can take comfort in that.

Paper cuts

12/24/19

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 unrelentless pain. Why would I want to continue down this path of suffering? I just want it to end. Every day it’s 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 to. There is nothing left here for me.

The holidays are the hardest time of the year for me. This year especially with everything going on with my dad. It happens every year, the holidays come and like clockwork, I’m depressed. It seems like the season of light, joy, and merriment are the darkest times for me.

Why am I telling you this? I want you to understand what it is like even if you can’t relate.

This was a really bad episode of depression. My very heart was being attacked. Every time I have a heart attack I hope I will survive. You can’t tell me to be happy and count my blessings once an episode starts. Don’t you think I would if I could? It’s like telling someone who is drunk to be sober. Once it starts I can’t positive thought my way out of it. I have to work my way through it and it takes time.

I can be depressed for days, weeks, months at a time and not once feel suicidal. It’s a long lasting sadness. Sometimes I don’t feel depressed at all. Then there is the rare occasion I feel extreme intense depression. It generally is short lived ending within a few hours. It sometimes includes rage. Usually it has to do with a trigger, flashback, or extreme stress that throws me through a loop. Once it starts I can’t stop it until it is done. That is why I think I have Complex PTSD. It really sucks to feel like your emotions are out of control.

Later that evening, life went back to normal. We attended the candlelit Christmas Eve service. I was still feeling pretty down, questioning the existence of a God that allows evil, and couldn’t even bring myself to sing. But I was there. Then we had a Christmas Eve supper with Paul’s family. Paul’s family consisted of his step-dad Darryl and his girlfriend/fiancee/ex-girlfriend (it’s complicated).

Darryl and his SO got into an argument when he was walking her out to her car to leave our house. There was drama he wanted to get us involved in. Now my family causes the most drama by far, but not all. I’m going to tell you right now, I am so sick of the drama and stress our so called role models try to get us involved in.

I am done rescuing and trying to fix people. Right now it’s a full-time job just trying to fix me.

I learned now for the first time I am not responsible for cleaning up the messes of others. Not my problem. No longer my job. I am trying to heal me. Writing is a wonderful way to cope. Now when I feel over the top depressed, I’m going to write about how I feel. I am not going to do anything stupid. Although there is always a chance I might get a paper cut.

I am alive, but what I want more than anything is to fully live.

 

The whole me

What does the whole healed version of me look like?

  •  Sleeps restfully without insomnia or nightmares.
  •  Does not let the bad choices of others affect me!!!!!!!!
  •  Energetic without anxiety.
  •  Quieted inner critic.
  •  Healthy, no more gut issues.
  •  Does not excessively worry.
  •  Relaxed, not always on alert for danger.
  •  Peaceful. Serenity. Tranquility.
  •  Wisdom to help self and others.
  •  Joyful despite circumstances.
  •  Able to feel and express feelings.
  •  Sets boundaries.
  •  Less black and white/all or nothing thinking.
  •  Able to admit faults, tolerant of imperfection in self and others.
  •  No longer tries to fix/control others.
  •  Unconditional positive regard.
  •  Works on relationships/trust issues.
  •  Funloving.
  •  Gratitude for what I have.
  •  Be able to see the best in others.
  •  Trusting, but not gullible.
  •  Takes better care of myself.
  •  No suicidal thoughts.
  •  Able to depart from a routine without stressing out.
  •  Able to enjoy accomplishments.
  •  Not let the past dictate my future.
  •  Not be triggered so easily by everyday things.
  •  No delayed processing of feelings.
  •  Work less, play more.
  •  Decisiveness.
  •  Saying ‘no’ more to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ more to what I want.
  •  Not being afraid to speak my mind or stick up for myself.
  •  Be honest.
  •  Embrace both my strengths and weaknesses.
  •  Appreciate everything I’ve been through and allow it to be an inspiration for the      healing of others.
  •  Deeper meaningful relationships.
  •  Being willing to listen even if I have to set aside my to-do list.
  •  Be patient with myself during the healing process even if progress is slower than I’d like.
  •  Get out of survival mode.
  •  Let go of things not worth holding onto.

Well, I think this is a good start…..

Compassion rages

After I heard the news, I felt both intense compassion and rage towards my father simultaneously. It’s really hard to explain because I can’t remember feeling such extreme polarity before. How can I still feel compassion towards someone who is so easy to justifiably hate?

He was a horrible father. He was the role model of what I didn’t want to be as a partner and parent. He hated us and called us stupid. I never felt like I was good enough. I never felt like I was enough of anything. Smart enough. Brave enough. Happy enough. It’s hard to feel like I was never enough, unlovable, despite my best efforts.

He tormented us. He laughed at our fears. Even worse, he taught us to laugh at our siblings shortcomings and fears. If we laughed, we wouldn’t be targeted next. We were pitted against each other for sport. How could there be unity? Most of the time it was safe to pretend not to care. I’m sorry I did not comfort you, brother, while you cried. I was just a coward trying to survive.

My dad is a depressed man. He lived a life of regrets. I see that now. He wasted his life in front of the TV screen, not playing ball with his kids. But I always felt calm if the TV was blaring when I came into the house. It was the silence I feared most. In the silence, I never knew if I would find him dead. Do you know how scary it is to feel that fear as a child?

He often flew into rages over nothing. He was abusive, but he is still my dad. When I was a child I hated him and wanted him to burn in hell for all of the things he did to hurt us.  But now I feel pity for the mess he has become.

I had to see him one day after it all happened. My mom hasn’t been well and needed me to give her a ride to the doctor for tests. After the appointment, I sat down with my dad. It was mostly small talk, the only real conversations I ever had with my dad.

I felt a lot of stress leading up to our visit. What would I say? Would the rage or compassion come out? I had to be wise with my words, but was coming up blank. Should I tell him what a fool he is? Should I tell him how some of his actions hurt me? Should I scream and yell at him like he did many times to me?

Instead I told him I loved him as tears poured down my cheeks. He told me he loved me too. I said I was sorry. He asked why. I said I was sorry that it had to be this way. This wasn’t what I would have chosen.

He looked sickly, like he lost a lot of weight. He is already in hell. That is what you get when you live a life you regret. What good would heaping a few more coals be for someone who is already burning in hell? I felt pity towards him. I never wanted to see him burn. I just wanted him to be a dad to me.

I don’t have any regrets over how I handled the situation. More than anything, I don’t want to live a life of regrets. I don’t want to be like him.

I don’t want to be his daughter, yet I am. My compassion rages.

 

Melting my ice cold heart

After I received the devastating news, I was filled with despair. Is there any other way to respond? I jumped on the roller coaster ride of a myriad of emotions before I had time to put on my safety strap.

I felt anger in its purest and rawest form. I pushed the people who were closest to me away lest my anger would boil over and scald them on the way out.

I felt the depths of despair. Would hell be any different than what I have been experiencing here?

If it was up to me, I would blot this year right off the calendar. Some of the things that happened are too painful to write about, and you know the kind of personal dribble I scribble.

I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t right now. Maybe, mayday.

I felt the panic rise up from within me to awaken me in the morning. I wondered what horror each new day would bring. Once again, the nights are sleepless and the nightmares are terrifying. My stomach hurts, I cannot eat.

I shake my fist at God. Why do you hate me? Is it because I am dumb? Maybe I am not perfect enough and you want to zap me? I feel like a June bug drawn to the light, flying into the fiery flames of hell. Every time I cry out, you are not there. Are you laughing at my feelings and making sport of my fears? I thought you would want to take care of me, protect me? Am I worthy of love?

Or am I confusing you with my earthly father? He is probably not the best reflection of God. I don’t even have to count on a full hand the good memories we had together. Maybe the father-daughter bond is just a magical fairy tale meant for other people. To me it is just bondage, another trap I can’t get out of without a lot of pain. I don’t want to think you are like this God, but it’s hard to see you any other way because that is what I was shown.

I labor in vain trying to change my circumstances. Maybe if I pick up the pieces, I could try to make a complete puzzle out of this. But I am too broken. I can’t change or fix things. I can’t make it work.

God, the unchanging lighthouse or rock. The deity that is a firm fortress.  He is the lighthouse that draws me in as I am starting to drown and rescues me. He is the large rock I can grip onto as I’ve built a wall around my self.

God has to be inanimate and unfeeling. It’s the only way I can survive this right now. I can’t see him as a person, because that is too scary. If he is swayed by feelings, then I will think he is out to get me and the people I care about.

Why the blizzards that leave me cold and locked inside? Why the storms? Why not warm summer days of smooth sailing? I need something to warm my heart. I need something good to come out of this brokenness.

I want this ice to melt.

Especially special

Several weeks ago I attended my daughter Arabella’s first choir concert of the school year. It was our foreign exchange student Clara’s first choir concert ever.

I sat down in the theater only to have a teenage girl with Down Syndrome sit in front of me. In all honesty, sometimes I get triggered by people with special needs being a SN sibling. It brings up a smorgasbord of emotions.

The girl was so excited about the concert that you might think she got front row tickets to see Justin Bieber or whoever the hottest pop star is now. She waved her arms, clapped loudly, and cheered for every performer. Her family catered to her the whole show as if the show was about her. I didn’t find it too annoying, just triggering.

At this point, I thought, “Well, that figures!” because a few days before I was trying to free up some of my repressed anger related to being a SN sibling.

I personally think it is wrong to sacrifice for a SN child at the expense of the other family members. Children should be treated as equally and fairly as possible. It’s not fair to SN children to treat them like something is wrong with them either. I understand that SN children oftentimes need special care. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about parents that expect you to treat your sibling like every day is their birthday. It’s almost expected by everyone that you treat them like royalty because their disability royally sucks! You are supposed to be the one waiting on the sidelines to cheer them on when they participate in the Special Olympics. You are selfish for wanting to live your own life.

We went when he wanted to go. We stayed home when he didn’t. It didn’t matter how long it was planned. He was the god we were expected to worship. The life of our family revolved around him.

You are expected never to fight with your SN sibling. What kind of monster are you? You are expected never to feel jealous when they get all of the attention. You can’t cry when they hit you because damn you are so lucky to be normal. It is almost expected that you become a special education teacher because having a SN sibling changed your life. How noble.

You shouldn’t feel angry because your parents couldn’t afford your swimming lessons because they had doctor bills to pay. You shouldn’t feel angry that you had to drop out of the show because your brother had to be hospitalized. Why are you upset you lost your best friend because your brother attacked her? You can make more friends. He doesn’t have any friends. Why don’t you want him in your life after he hurt your child? He is your family too.

You are so selfish to want to have your own life! Ungrateful! Look at him. Do you think he will ever have a life as nice as yours? What is wrong with you? Nothing, unfortunately, I am normal.

These things cross my mind when I see you cater to your SN child. Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am a monster for feeling this way. I am not here to please anybody. In fact I might like you more if you hate me like I hate me. Just like everyone else and their damn expectations. Blah, blah, blah…

Blogging therapy is going well today. Yes, I can see that you are making progress processing your anger.

The show was over. Most people left the theater. After things cleared out, I stood in the aisle and took pictures of Arabella and Clara. The SN girl pushed by me and yelled at me to get the hell out of her way. Her family giggled as they passed me as if her rude comment was the cutest thing ever. Did I not notice the sparkly butterflies and rainbows that she farted out of her ass?

I would like to think that most parents would not shrug off their teenager treating a stranger rudely in public. But she is special, so she shouldn’t be corrected for her bad behavior since basic rules of etiquette apparently don’t apply. Isn’t everyone special and unique just like everyone else? I think I was taught that in school. Or is there a class of especially special specials??

My brother did things like this in public and worse. Sometimes he would physically attack strangers, children. Treating people poorly should never be acceptable. There should never be an excuse for that. That is what makes me angry. At the very least, teach your child it is not acceptable to treat people this way. Make them apologize. Apologize for them. Whatever, at least act sorry. I didn’t find it funny.

Of course, it had to be me that this happened to.

But I suppose if I was like everyone else, I would’ve brushed it off and forgotten about it already.

 

The path

It’s very important. That is why I got up before everyone else did, so I could tell you.

I am on a narrow path. It leads from my house to the backyard where there is a clothesline that I can hang my laundry on. There are two people on my path, a man and a woman. They walk down the path twice a day at the same time everyday. I’ve gotten used to them, their patterns.

The path is very plain. I only have the things there that I need to survive. No more, no less. One day a garden light is put a little way off my path. I think the two people put it there because they are the only ones I ever see on my path. But I didn’t see them do it. I really don’t know because they never speak to me. They just walk in silence across my path in the morning and disappear until they walk back in the evening.

Nothing happens for days after I notice the change. When I think it is safe to veer off the path to look at it, it becomes a vicious snarling dog. Every couple of days I notice another garden light is added. I am curious, but I have to get used to it first. After a while it almost belongs there and feels safe. Maybe I can look at another one just outside of the path I must not stray from. Once I do, instead of a vicious dog I see a golden retriever. I am very frightened because I can’t seem to differentiate safety from danger.

I cry out in terror. Seeing the dog, any dog, triggers the panic in me from the vicious dog. The people show up at an unexpected time and laugh at me because I am afraid of a harmless tail wagging golden retriever. I feel frightened and alone.

It was safer to never veer from the path. Instead I needed to be more rigid and structured to feel safe and find comfort. I must follow the same routine, the same pattern. Everything must stay exactly the same. Nothing will change and I will be safe. I’m not sure the people are safe, but they are predictable if I stay on the path. If I try to leave it, they are not safe.

Every day there are more garden lights. I don’t even notice them anymore. I stay within the boundaries. But one day something scary happens. The wind blew my laundry off the line off my path. I was responsible to care for my laundry. It was part of the routine that must be followed. I now have a dilemma, a conundrum of sorts. I have to grab my laundry, but I am terrified to veer off the path. Maybe if I grab it as quick as I can and come right back then nothing bad would happen.

Nothing happened when I grabbed my laundry, except I began to notice the world outside. It changed me. I began to see things differently. I went back inside my mansion and noticed for the first time that I was only using a few rooms. There were garden lights outside of doors that I was afraid to even go into. There was so much more out there to see, to be, if I didn’t let fear stop me.

Anxiety has a way of trapping us in what we know. It was important to cling onto at one time in order to survive. Now I see a whole new world out there to explore. There are rooms in my house I have yet to go in. Fear always stopped me. I clung to structure and routine. But there is so much more. Maybe it will be safe now.

The dream awoke me. It all makes sense now. I must write this down.

The floodgates have finally opened and poured onto my paper. I can write again. I am back.

 

My son’s graduation

It happened on a rare perfect day in Wisconsin. The temperature 75 degrees with a light breeze under partly sunny skies. No rain, no muggy humidity.

I’m not sure why we felt so stressed out that morning as my husband and I snapped at each other. Maybe the perfect conditions was a sure sign to be cautious that something might go wrong.

Last minute Alex couldn’t find dress pants that fit and had to borrow a pair of Paul’s. I was worried that he would be late for school one last time.

We sat with family on the bleachers in the gym. I tried to keep an open mind, yet inwardly I judged.

Did the people in front of us manage to have some of the few empty seats because they purposely didn’t shower? I ended up sitting behind them because no one else could stand the smell.

Then there was the mother with the ripped jeans and crop top like she was attending her daughter’s graduation from pole dancing school. I was appalled. I am not big on fashion, but made sure to buy myself a new dress. There are some things that one must simply look respectable for.

There was the child that sat behind us with an incessant whine.

Well at least they were there showing their support which is more than my dad did. He decided not to attend.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was filled with anxiety.

I was worried all week that I would get that knock on my door with a certified letter stating that my son did not meet the requirements to graduate. I imagined myself full of shame as I explained why my son’s name wasn’t called at the graduation ceremony when people came bearing gifts at his graduation party. But I emptied that anxiety just to fill it with more.

I had irrational fear that my son would end up punching someone instead of shaking their hand as he received his diploma. I still thought that maybe he wouldn’t graduate as he received his diploma. There was a part of me that was very unsettled. I felt fear that there could be a school shooting during the graduation. Sadly, I no longer feel safe in large crowds of people.

I saw my son’s friends come in that attended another school. Included in the group was the boy we took into our home that stole from us. I felt uncomfortable.

My brother Luke asked my daughter’s boyfriend Dan if he was having flashbacks of his own graduation there. He said, “Yeah, more like PTSD”.

The graduation ceremony was boring. It was hard to see, the nearby projector didn’t work and the microphone kept cutting out if the speaker didn’t have their mouth right on the microphone.

The guest speaker was a doctor of neurophysics. She showed pictures of herself and spoke of all of her amazing accomplishments in a monotone voice. I thought to myself that I needed to get out of all graduation ceremonies I can in the future.

After the ceremony was done, I felt very happy and giddy. I was ready to go out and pop champagne in the school parking lot. Would that be against the law? Never mind, I didn’t have any champagne. I hugged boy B’s mom. We did it! We convinced our boys that hated school to graduate. I can’t quite explain the feeling. I felt like I almost got hit by a bus, but at the last second got away. That feeling of just escaping disaster. My son was also the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time.

Afterwards, we had family over at our house. It was so nice that we were able to play games outside and sit on the patio with a fire.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. We are happy that our son graduated. I can’t tell you how relieved I am.

 

 

BAD (Battling Anxiety & Depression)

I’m always in a battle with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is what wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Depression is what makes me feel tired all day.

Anxiety is my all.

Depression is my nothing.

Anxiety is gales of nervous laughter.

Depression is a hurricane of endless teardrops.

Anxiety makes me care too much.

Depression makes me not care at all.

Anxiety fears death.

Depression cheers on self-destruction.

Anxiety worries about the future.

Depression agonizes over the past.

Anxiety overthinks.

Depression can’t concentrate at all.

Anxiety overachieves.

Depression labels me worthless.

The battle rages within.

Hopefully someday I will win.

Going home

Today my mom and I went to see Matt for his birthday. He spends the day at a program for autistic children and adults. While we were there, Matt’s caregiver asked him to tell us about his special morning in a high pitched sing song voice reserved for a small child. Everyone was optimistic and cheerful, except me.

I felt such sadness I could cry. My brother should be meeting up with his friends for his birthday, or maybe going out to eat with his wife and children after driving home from a long day of work. His normal isn’t right.

I feel such grief every time I see someone with a developmental disability, especially my brother, that I don’t want to be there. I feel guilty for visiting out of obligation. Visiting makes me think about the families and all of their lost dreams. He shouldn’t be putting stickers on a chart for good behavior, he is a grown man. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I feel tired today. I slept good last night. But the night before was restless with nightmares. I was triggered by the developmentally disabled girl backstage. I heard people ask her sister what was wrong with her. I remembered all the times I was asked that about my brother. I got sick of explaining after awhile. They never asked about me.

Then I dropped my mom off at home. I went in and said hi to my dad. He didn’t get many birthday cards or calls this year. I wonder if it will be his last. He looks so old and weak. He rarely leaves the house. No one really cares about him much anymore, certainly not my mother. I want to reach out and help him. But he was a very cruel father. Why should I care? Why is it so painful to see the consequences of his bad choices when I was one of the people he hurt?

I walked through the house. There are still clothes from the 1980’s hanging in the closets. Hoarders. Piles of mail on the table. The same linoleum lies on the floor from my childhood worn with holes in it. Bags full of food line the floor. Dirty dishes clutter the counters. Nothing must be thrown away, but much more to be collected.

I feel depressed. But writing about it makes me feel better. I am starting to process how I feel and why I feel the way I do. I feel sad that my family is broken and nothing I do can fix it.

On the way back home, I drove through town and did not avoid it by driving through the outskirts. I drove by my Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold’s house. I drove past the area where my grandparents lived. I remembered how the town looked when I was a child. It was alive then with parades and festivals. But now it is a ghost town. Small town businesses closed. New houses stand where old homes once stood.

Everything has changed. But I still remember how it used to be back when my aunt, uncle, and grandparents were still alive. The town was alive then and that’s how I want to remember it with my loved ones alive in it. But that is not how it is anymore.

That is what it is like going home. The broken things still have not been fixed. The town and relatives that made my life magical as a child are no longer there. Emptiness.

Writing helps me process the way I feel. I think I understand why it is so hard to go home. Maybe you would feel the same way.