Update 1/11/22

Sorry if it seems I dropped off the side of the planet the last couple of days. I think COVID finally caught me. Or maybe I caught it? Besides having a fever for a day and severe body aches, my symptoms have been relatively minor. No sore throat, a slight cough, mild congestion, no problems breathing. It started out like the flu and is ending like a mild cold.

Practically everyone I know is sick or has been sick in the last couple of weeks with the exception of my husband. It’s crazy, but my husband in the last 26 years I’ve known him has only been sick once that I can remember with strep. I hope he stays healthy.

We decided to cancel our trip to Puerto Rico next week. They are at a COVID level 3 right now. Basically non-essential travel is not recommended. The government would track us while we were there. We had some friends who got stuck there an extra week because their flight got cancelled. For the money we were spending it sounded a lot more stressful than fun. I booked the trip on Expedia. The hotel is giving us a total refund, the airlines are giving us a credit for around half the cost of the flight. The real kicker is that I bought travel insurance and they said a COVID outbreak is not a valid reason to cancel the trip so we will not be getting a full refund. I am so pissed. What a waste of money that was.

Instead, we decided we are going to go to Las Vegas next week for half the cost of a trip to Puerto Rico. I am hopeful we will be able to go.

I am hoping to do my gratitude list within the next couple of days for the week. I just haven’t been up to much. Not only that, but we are in the process of having to make a difficult decision about our dog. He is 14 years old and is on 5 different medications just to keep him alive. His quality of life has been poor over the last several months and is declining. The last couple of days he has been having accidents in the house.

Today we called a couple of vets that do at home euthanasia. My husband had one call on speaker and I pretty much sobbed the whole time. Why do I feel a tremendous amount of guilt at the thought of putting him down when his quality of life is so poor?? Saying good-bye is always the hardest part of having a pet. I think it’s time, but it’s so hard to let go.

That being said, I’m not sure how much I will be blogging in the next couple of weeks. I will try to do the gratitude for this week and last. Other than that, we’ll see how things go. I just wanted to let everyone know I might be posting erratically.

Sifting through the ashes

There was nothing left after the explosion that left a crater sized hole in my heart. It destroyed everything I built.

I had dreams of what it was going to be like before it existed. I painstakingly wove together the blueprints within my very own walls. I laid out the best foundation I could build with the resources I had. Every day I devoted to it before it fully came into existence. I dreamed of what it would be like. I tried my best to make sure it was built right. It may not have been a magnificent palace like those who had rubies and gold but it wasn’t built out of straw like my own flimsy abode.

It’s all gone now. It’s hard to look back at what was. Were my dreams wasted? I just wanted what everyone else seemed to have, a happy home. All that is left are footprints in the cold concrete. There is a date next to it but it is weathered like an ancestral gravestone.

Every day I go back and sift through the ashes of what’s left. Baby teeth, thankfully not bones, left for the tooth fairy long ago hidden away in a drawer uncovered in the dirt. A teddy bear smeared with soot its fake eye hanging from a thread. A gift to you. I remember when it was brand new. But I can’t think of that now. A tarnished spoon.

Where within the gray ashes is the silver lining of hope? I search trying to find a sign. Maybe there is a flower about to root hidden underground safe from the blast. Maybe something good can come out of this. I dig and dig to find a joker from a playing card. What is the purpose? It’s useless scary and ugly discarded in rejection from a regular hand.

I keep searching for anything left. Maybe if I tried harder to fix the cracks before the explosion it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe it just wasn’t built right. Maybe some of my straw got mixed in with the brick. How come I didn’t notice? I thought I built it strong enough to weather the storms on the outside. But I didn’t weather proof the inside. Why would I even think I might have to? Would padded rooms keep it secure and safe from the bomb blast?

Why did this have to happen anyway? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It didn’t happen with other houses. Was it my fault? Was the builder to blame? I screamed at the hollow shell, my own emptiness echoing back. I wanted to shatter something but it appears as if everything is already broken.

The rains came and I cried along with it. It was once a beautiful house. Did you see the brilliant colors of the walls like a prism refracted in the brightest sunlight? Did you see it? Don’t you remember how it was? I should’ve inspected every room closer to see if the angles were off. Maybe I could have done something, anything. Maybe I could’ve tried harder.

I search for clues of why it happened in old pictures. You see, the house looked fine there. It was the same house when the shadows cast on it as it was in the bright sunshine.

I would give anything just to be in the house one more time. I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy it more before it was gone. If only I’d known. I want to drive in the driveway and see my house waiting for me to come home. I want you to wave at me through the window like you used to. Even an empty window would be alright if I knew you were still there. I’m not asking for much.

They say I should move on. I shouldn’t keep searching. But I cannot. Even in my dreams I am stuck there looking for things I might have missed. There is nothing left. It can’t be rebuilt. But that doesn’t stop me from going back. I remember what it was like at its finest. I can’t believe it is gone. I can never go back to the carefree days I spent dancing through the halls.

Nothing is the same. Do I think if I keep going back that one day everything will magically be put back together again? Why do I keep searching? Why can’t I let it go?

How can I go on missing a part of my heart? I don’t want to die but I can’t seem to live.

A gasp of fresh air

The day Arabella left us to move in with Jordan’s family is the day I started planning a vacation. Not only did all my vacation plans for 2020 fall through but I lost my daughter as well. She started calling another woman her mom. It didn’t matter what I said or did, I felt like my daughter hated me. On rare occasion, I was the best mom in the world but it had nothing to do with any effort on my part. Again, what I did or didn’t do didn’t seem to make a difference in how she felt about me.

It was hard to handle and I felt very depressed. So I started planning a trip. At that point, I didn’t even care if I had to cancel it. It was the planning and thinking about it that was the most therapeutic at the time because it allowed me to focus on something other than my problems. I had something on the calendar to look forward to. Besides my daughter was gone and I wasn’t sure if she was going to be coming back.

But she did come back home and burnt the bridge with Jordan’s family. After her most recent diagnosis I battled with myself about whether or not to go. My mom wasn’t going to help by staying at our house because she was terrified of COVID. My oldest daughter didn’t really want the responsibility either although she was already living at home. I felt guilty for wanting to get away.

I also felt like I was suffocating. Taking care of a suicidal teen with serious mental health issues was burning me out. I thought if I didn’t get away I would be sitting in a padded room myself or worse. At times it was so painful and grueling that I really didn’t want to live anymore myself. I wasn’t taking care of myself. The stress was so high that it seemed like all my husband and I did was fight and blame ourselves and each other for the problems we were having with our daughter. I seriously thought if I didn’t get a break and take care of myself and our marriage that I would not be able to handle it anymore.

We offered to pay for our oldest daughter’s therapy if she would keep an eye on things. I wish I was kidding. Plus my best friend was willing to do whatever it took to help if needed. We were not flying out of the country and were accessible by phone 24/7. So we went. Thankfully Arabella managed to get herself up for outpatient, took her pills, and didn’t have any emergencies while we were gone. Oddly enough, it was my other two adult children (Angel and Alex) that fought. Their relationship has been strained ever since. Sometimes you just can’t win.

But it was wonderful to get away. It was a breath of fresh air before the drowning started yet again.

New diagnosis

I was very concerned about the things that were happening with Arabella.

On New Year’s Eve, she made a strange comment when we had some friends over. She told everyone that her dad was walking on the ceiling and laughed about it. No one else laughed. They glanced at me and looked at her as if she was crazy. Was she on something? Was she delusional? Was she just trying to get attention?

She said strange things before like the time she said that Jordan’s mom was her mom and I wasn’t. She said other things that weren’t true. At times I could classify her as delusional or paranoid.

Then there were other things like the eating of non food items such as plastic forks. The binge eating and weight gain. The extreme fluctuations between us being evil and the world’s best parents. She fluctuated that same way with herself. Sometimes she saw herself as fat and ugly. Then at other times she wanted to be a stripper and show the world how gorgeous she was. Sometimes she was gay and other days maybe straight.

Then there was the impulsivity. Money in her hands was money spent. The shoplifting. The need to be more extreme than everyone else. The cutting, the suicide attempts. All her relationships were turbulent.

She had unusual emotional reactions, laughing instead of crying upon the loss of friendships that once meant everything to her. She seemed almost manic. She had a hard time sleeping at night even with the sleeping pills. I wanted to tell the doctor that all of this happened within a month’s time. Perhaps her medication was off.

Arabella was in rare form when I picked her up from outpatient to take her to her psychiatrist appointment. She was bouncing off the walls. A combination of caffeine, candy, and mania perhaps? She couldn’t keep a constant thought. She talked about the heating ducts in the office. Things people really don’t care about. She was talking a million miles a minute and I was feeling frustrated. In my mind she was acting pretty crazy and I wanted her to stop. But did I? It was the perfect place to act like this. Every time before this visit, she was quiet and depressed. She couldn’t sit still. She told the psychiatrist that she had crackhead energy.

I explained to the psychiatrist everything I’ve been trying to explain to you. Something was really wrong with my daughter. He got it. He said it was obvious to him that my daughter had more than a case of depression. He said she had disordered mood, thoughts, and personality. He thought she had Schizoaffective disorder with Bipolar 2 along with Borderline Personality Disorder. I didn’t see it coming, really I didn’t.

Then he said that he was retiring. He didn’t have a replacement. He didn’t want to change her medication which was a mess and not even adequate for her new diagnosis. We would have to wait for residential to figure that out. He pretty much said good-bye and good luck.

I was heartbroken. I cried the whole ride home. How did I not see this coming? Schizophrenia?? My brother is schizophrenic. He hears voices.

I grieved for a long time. All my hopes and dreams for a normal life for her were dashed. I wasn’t even sure she would graduate from high school at that point. Remember when she was an honor student? I couldn’t stand to hear about the bright futures of other kids her age. Your daughter is going to college for physics. I’m spending my daughter’s college money for psychiatric care. Yup, hope she doesn’t kill herself.

I remembered the last play she was in. I cried not knowing it would be the last time everything seemed fine. I cried thinking about the last dance she went to where she wore a pretty sleeveless dress before she started cutting her arms.

I grieved for what was that will nevermore be. It was painful that somehow I could’ve caused this. Bad genetics, nary a sane soul on both sides. I was riddled with shame and guilt. I couldn’t understand why my daughter hated me. I was doing everything I could to help her. I couldn’t stand seeing other normal families doing normal things. I resented them. I envied them for what I didn’t have. I would give away everything I had just to have that one thing, normal.

My mom was very comforting at the time. She experienced a lot of the same feelings with my brother Matt.

Now I just had to wait. My life was in limbo in a chaotic holding pattern until residential, if she could make it until then.

What if…tomorrow

My husband and I are still planning on going on our trip tomorrow. Worse comes to worse we only are a couple hours from home by plane and thanks to modern technology we can be reached by phone. The world won’t end without us (but it is a good idea to stock up on toilet paper and be prepared anyway).

I wrestled with myself about going. I have to fight the guilt I feel about going away. What if something goes wrong at home while I am gone? What if my daughter kills herself? What if someone gets in an accident on the icy roads? What if someone gets sick? The what if scenarios swirl around in my head so fast I can barely catch up with them.

What if????…………………………………

But the truth of the matter is that life goes on without me. I could die in a plane crash tomorrow. Okay, maybe that was a little too close to home. Do I have control over the virus, accidents, decisions of others, acts of God and fate itself? No. Sometimes I feel like I have to be responsible for things I can’t control anyway.

I have other things to consider. My husband’s parents both died in their mid-60’s. My husband is within 10 years of the death of his first parent. That is sobering as you all know how fast 10 years can fly. I can’t put time back in the hourglass once it is gone. My mom isn’t even within 10 years of her dad’s death if you don’t count her mother dying during childbirth. It could be realistic that my mom outlives my husband. I have been considering these things. You just don’t know how much time someone has so you had better make the most of the time you do have.

To make matters worse, since Paul didn’t know his dad we don’t even know how he died. I was tempted to order a death certificate just to know. If it was diabetes, I would cut back on the sweets in the house. Paul said it was worse to know because then I would be difficult to live with and he would be right. Sometimes I feel like knowledge is power just like those damn TV shows said when I was a kid. Who do I think I am? God??

All of our days are numbered and there is nothing I can do to change that. I try to be as healthy as I can but that doesn’t stop time. I still can’t stop doing unhealthy things like worrying all the time.

Some day life will go on without me. The clock is ticking and I want to make as many memories as I can. My husband is important and I shouldn’t let a bad case of the what ifs stop us from getting a much needed break. It’s time to start packing!

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.

Activated

I had a really good appointment with my counselor yesterday. I posed the question to her about how come I feel more anger towards my mom than my dad. After all my dad could be described as cruel, mean, and at times a downright evil man. My mom has nothing but good intentions and most would view her as a genuinely good person. What was wrong with me? It just didn’t seem right.

I was starting to do a lot of healing work before my daughter turned my dad in to the police. After that I was a real mess. I really didn’t know if I would get through it. But here I am today not all that upset with my dad anymore but still angry with my mom. Why is that?

My therapist said I did a lot of healing work. Some of the healing work allowed me to de-activate my triggers. The memory of the trauma is still there, but the buttons don’t work anymore when people try to push them.

When my daughter turned my dad in to the police, it re-activated my dad button. It’s taken me almost a full year to de-activate it again. Here’s the thing. After I moved out of the house, my dad was no longer cruel or mean to me. My relationship with him went from horrible to neutral, from hatred to pity. But once my daughter turned him in, the switch was re-activated. I remembered every terrible horrible thing he did. It even brought up memories protected by my inner child deep within. Then everything started back up again with the insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, hypervigilance, and depression. It was like I was stuck being a kid again and it was very frightening.

But since everything has happened with my dad, I’ve only seen or talked to him a handful of times. He seems sorrowful and downright pitiful. He lost weight. I can only view him as a weak sad old man whom his family has pushed away as a result of his own behavior. You can’t outrun reaping exactly what you sow. I’ve seen it tear him down into a broken elderly man. As a child I hated him so much I wanted him to burn in hell. Now that he is in hell, I don’t seem to want it as much.

But with my mom, I’ve tried to turn off the activation switch while she is using all her strength to keep it turned on. She has been a manipulative controlling martyr my whole life. Whenever I’ve tried to set boundaries she has marched right over them and made me feel guilty about it. She never liked my choices in friends, boyfriends, music, clothing, goals, etc…then she would take it a step further and try to change me into the person she wanted me to be. So of course I am angry. Her behavior has not changed. She is pushing all my buttons and I haven’t been able to de-activate the mom switch.

My parents are toxic people. They have always been toxic people. At this point I am not even sure what to do going forward. Therapy every day??!? I don’t want to cut them out of my life. I’ve had to take a few steps back though for my own sanity.

What my therapist said was profound to me. Now everything makes sense. I had to write it all down before I forgot about it.

Gratitude week 51

  1. Paul started working for a small family business. They had their office party at a hibachi grill this past week. It really was a nice time. Afterwards, Paul and I drove around to look at the Christmas lights.
  2. I finished reading a book on boundaries. I found out I have a lot of work to do. I find that I feel guilty setting boundaries with certain people (like my mom). Even blogging at times makes me feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling I need to work through to set boundaries and write about my life, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve done something wrong. I never realized that before.
  3. This is a big one. My mom apologized to me this week. Last Sunday she came by my house, even though we can’t have Christmas and she doesn’t ‘visit’ because of COVID, and asked me why I didn’t answer when she tried to call me. She has a tendency to call at the worst times like when I am in the middle of making supper. She said she was having a hard time and thank God her sister Jan was around to help her through it unlike me. If she left a message saying she needed to talk to someone, I would call her back. This time she came over and angrily asked me what I was doing that was so important I couldn’t take her call. Her visit left me angry and upset for several days until she apologized.
  4. Christmas lights! I love them so much I might leave some up year round.
  5. Baking Christmas cookies. Yesterday I made roll out Christmas cookies with icing. Today I made Amish sugar cookies. I found some of my grandma’s old recipes that I will also try out in the next couple days. We are getting together with Cindy’s family on Christmas Eve and I am planning on bringing a lot of the food.
  6. It’s only 5 days until Christmas and I am pretty much ready for it. Now we just need some snow!!
  7. Our investment from selling our business finally came through!!! The dividend check should get us through for awhile! I’m grateful to not have to worry so much about money. Arabella just got on the waiting list for residential mental health treatment. Unfortunately it looks like our insurance will not be covering it and it is very, very expensive. It will be worth it if she gets the help she needs and her quality of life improves. It helps to have options available for financing it if we need to. I was really stressing out about it.
  8. We went out to eat this week to celebrate the investment. We had a really nice family time with our two oldest kids. Of course my mom tried calling while we were out to eat and I didn’t answer. Can’t win them all I guess.
  9. I’m grateful that I now have over 900 followers. I never thought I would get to this point when I first started. I read a book a couple years back from a blog of a lady that was training to run her first marathon. I thought, wow, I want to try blogging and running a marathon. Now here I am writing about personal things I never thought I would be writing about. And here you are right with me!
  10. I never thought I would be saying this but I’ve reached the point in my life that yoga and meditation sounds better than pounding my body by doing marathons. While I still want to run, I have no desire to race anymore. What is one more medal anyway? I no longer want to be on stage. I’ve had my lead roles. I no longer want to sing in front of people. I no longer long for high stress hobbies. My body is tired and wants rest. My mind is ready to embrace a slower pace. It’s time to try something new. I’m grateful to be ready to accept the aging me.

Caring for Matt

It’s been at least a decade since I took care of my autistic brother Matt in my house. A few things precipitated this change. Initially I stopped providing weekend respite care for my parents after Matt was violent towards my daughter.

There may have been a few times I took care of Matt and my mom took my kids although it wasn’t much of a break. It was difficult raising 3 little kids without having much for family support. My mom had to take care of Matt. My brothers didn’t live close. My mother-in-law could barely handle raising the one child she did have, my husband. I found myself bitter towards parents that could dump their kids off and get away every now and then.

But the biggest change for me as a care provider for Matt was when my parents placed him in a group home. I was no longer needed to help out, until now that is. Matt’s group home was closed since the virus started. It is now open but if he goes back this month, he is not allowed to leave.

Originally my mom wanted me to stop by the house every night to make sure Matt was okay under my dad’s care. I told her it would be easier for me to have him stay with us for almost a week which is longer than he has ever stayed with me before.

I told my kids that Matt was coming to stay here for awhile but they wouldn’t have to adjust their lives around him. If it didn’t work out, Matt could always go home and I could check in on him everyday. One of my kids called me selfish for saying that our world didn’t revolve around Matt.

As a child my whole life revolved around Matt and if I had to tiptoe around him in my own house it wasn’t going to work. No other family member is willing to step up and offer to take him in for almost a week. That should count for something.

The whole experience went better than I expected. Although Matt is no longer violent, caring for him is not easy. He is on a special diet. I needed to make separate meals for him. At certain times of the day his medicine needs to be ground up and put into applesauce. He doesn’t have table manners. He farts and belches at the table. Sometimes he gags on his food especially if you bring a napkin near him.

He has poor hygiene. He is a messy eater and soils his clothes. He often wears his clothes inside out and/or backwards. He doesn’t change his clothes often. He refused to shower which he would need assistance doing. He wouldn’t ask for help after using the bathroom and made a mess on the floor. I had to floss his teeth and big clumps of food came out of his mouth which made me feel nauseous. He made a total mess out of the bathroom he used. In all honesty, it did trigger feelings of hopelessness in me.

Not only are my parents hoarders, but they rarely cleaned the house. Cleaning up after Matt would be like fixing up a house before you knew a tornado was going to hit. I didn’t even feel completely relieved that everything was clean after I cleaned once he left. I can’t always clean up messy feelings inside by cleaning the filth in my house.

I felt guilty when I wasn’t spending every minute taking care of him. Most of the time he would sit on the couch and stare off into space when I wasn’t interacting with him. I felt the ingrained need to please him because his life is so sad.

I found his favorite movies and put them on for him to watch. We went on walks together. I talked to him about the shared good memories from childhood. I talked about places and loved ones that long since passed. I talked to him about the things only a sibling would know. All these things helped ease his separation anxiety from my mom. I think things went really well, as good as I could have hoped for.

As a sibling, I worry a lot about what life will be like for Matt when my mom is no longer here. My parents are getting old. It is comforting to know that maybe he will adjust with my help. Matt will probably never be easy to care for but I think he would do well with me. I was impressed with how well he adapted to his new environment. It felt good to be able to help my mom out. In some ways it was nostalgic and strangely comforting for me as well.

 

Deadbeat Dad Greeting Cards

Today is my dads birthday. I thought of creating a new line of greeting cards as I searched for the perfect card at the grocery store. I know, grocery store. I should’ve went to Hallmark. But that would’ve probably been a bigger waste of time. I could’ve spent hours searching every single card and still go home emptyhanded.

Maybe I should’ve just said the hell with it. My dad never sent a card or called me on my birthday. He never took me out to eat for the said event. He never bought me flowers. Yada, yada, yada. I bet he doesn’t even know when my birthday is. Yes, he was a bad dad and doesn’t deserve recognition.

I am reaching out to him because I am a good person.

The first card I opened had a greeting that said something like this…you are the reason why I am who I am today. Yeah, you are the reason I am in therapy. Nope! Next!

The next card…you are the perfect role model. Yeah, for how not to be. Nope!

Card after card spewed the most ridiculous sap. After I’ve exhausted all the dad cards, I looked at cards for step-dads, like a dad, and grandpa cards. It was all the same over the top scribbled dribble.

I can’t be the only one that feels this way.

After I rejected all the dad related options, I started looking at other cards. The funny cards are no better. Seriously, poop cards never have been funny. They just remind me of all the crap you put me through.

Cards for guys with hot ladies….yeah, why not piss off my mom too.

Cards with a get out of jail free card inside…Might be acceptable for an incarcerated dad.

Cards that make fun of old people…that’s just wrong!

Cards about drinking, sports, or golf…That might work for some dads. But my dad isn’t into any of that.

I ended up getting a birthday card with nothing written on the inside. That’s just as bad. So I wrote something generic in it. Happy birthday Dad! Enjoy your special day.

Now most of you are probably wondering…Why not text? My dad has a flip phone and does not get texts. Darn! Why not call? I haven’t seen or talked to my dad in almost three months. I don’t want to break that streak. (I have valid reasons)! I hate talking on the phone anyway and even more so if it is awkward small talk.

I think the obvious solution here is starting a new business. The Deadbeat Dad Greeting Card Company. There will be various levels of cards. I could color code the envelopes on a scale of one to ten to correspond with the cards. A one would be for the worst dad all the way up to a ten for the perfect dad. Then you wouldn’t have to waste your time reading all the cards. You pick your number and find the envelope with the corresponding color.

Now the cards don’t have to be just for dads. They could be for your wife, kids, siblings, teachers, etc… People could even find the perfect card for their ex. Win-win. Now I can still be a good person even if you don’t want to be.