Isolating fears

I wish life was back to normal. Or perhaps I should say I wish I could take my favorite things from my old life and mix it with the best things of this new world to form some sort of utopian society.

Since this whole thing started my mom has lived in great fear. She is so terrified that I don’t think she will leave the house if it means being around other people after the safer at home order is over in two weeks. I didn’t say anything up until this point but I might have to. I figured how can it hurt her if she wants to stay at home with my dad and autistic brother.

Now she is talking about getting a mask with a filter in it to wear under her cloth mask. She found some gloves to wear. This is only if she has to leave the house. Other people have been buying groceries. I’m wondering now if locking herself away is only temporary.

She does leave the house to go on walks with my brother Matt. The other day I was on the phone with her while they were out walking. She saw some kids on the path and freaked out. They quickly walked in the opposite direction in sheer panic.

It took me back to when I was a kid. My brother heard voices that told him to attack little girls. There was a period of 3 years where my brothers and I were homeschooled because Matt was psychotic. We avoided public places. If we were out and little kids would show up, we had to quickly pack up and head out. Nothing was wrong but it would only take a second for Matt to attack someone. Thankfully he is medicated now.

My grandpa had a tree nursery next to our house. Sometimes customers would show up looking at trees. We always had to keep on the lookout. If a potential customer showed up with little girls, someone had to call grandpa and then run out to meet them before they came to our house. Someone else had to make sure that Matt did not see the children outside. We had to be hyper-vigilant and work as a team to make sure no one got hurt.

Now I see the same type of paranoia in my mom. The children are potential threats. Even if they seem healthy they could be carrying a potentially deadly virus. Even if Matt seemed fine, in a matter of seconds he could potentially hurt someone. Even if it remains unseen, the threat is very real.

I see my mom very frightened and almost in a flashback of the other time we kept in isolation. I see the parallels of the fear and isolation.

I don’t think it is good for my mom’s mental health to stay in isolation much longer. My dad is very difficult to live with and needs care along with my brother.

I think my mom is going to stay in fear and isolation for a long time, longer than it is safer at home. My husband thinks she will stay in isolation until a vaccine is developed. Like my mom is going to trust a vaccine that is put out in record time. I probably wouldn’t even trust that.

I don’t want my mom to spend the last few years of her life not living out of fear. It’s hard to see her so afraid. I’m going to have to say something if it continues much longer.

Maybe tomorrow…

Yesterday I said maybe…Maybe school will start back up again. Maybe you can plan your birthday party next month. Maybe your best friend whose mom has cancer will be able to go.

Yesterday I said maybe, then yesterday maybe was gone. The governor cancelled school for the rest of the school year. The girls still have online schooling. But now everything deemed as fun is officially over. Tomorrow they were supposed to be going to prom.

It’s been a rough week here. Winter made a come back. There is a smattering of snow on the ground. It’s been cool and windy. I haven’t even been outside running this week. Everyone has cabin fever on steroids. It is a problem around here this time of year when we aren’t locked down.

It brings back memories of long ago. When I was in 8th through 10th grade I was homeschooled. My mom pulled us all out of school when my autistic brother Matt could no longer go to school because of his violent behavior. As a teen I lived in isolation for three years rarely leaving the house and rarely having anyone over. It seemed different then, maybe because I was a child.

I spent three years in isolation as a teen. It’s been a month now and I probably leave the house as often as I left the house back then. Maybe I have to examine that as part of my trauma experience. I’ll add it to the list.

I told myself I liked the isolation and really I think I do. I told myself that is what I wanted. When you can’t have what you need sometimes the best coping mechanism is to tell yourself what you have is what you want. You get used to it. It becomes normal.

Now everyone else is just as crazy as I am. The sanity playing field has leveled out. Maybe now you feel the anxiety that I always felt. Maybe the anxious introverts are now pulling ahead of the coping game. If you also struggle with depression, give yourself another point. Now the social anxiety people even don’t have to feel bad for not wanting to leave their house.

It feels strange to leave the house now. It feels strange to drive my car. I went to the store today to get groceries for my elderly parents. It feels strange, to call them elderly. It is hard to get groceries from someone else’s list. I’m not sure why.

I wore my mask that my crafty daughter sent me in the mail. I don’t mind wearing a mask though, although I couldn’t wear my glasses which made it harder to read the list. I don’t feel like I have to smile because no one can see my mouth.

Most of the people at the store wore masks. I don’t see little children anymore. That’s different. I hear more people fighting. That’s different too. It’s exhausting, but I don’t do anything to be exhausted for. When I get to my parents house, my mom opens the trunk to her car and I put the groceries inside. I wave at my mom and my brother Matt through the window. My mom looked different today like a wilted flower.

I wonder when all of this will end.

Maybe tomorrow…but yesterday I said maybe tomorrow too.

This stinking sinking boat we’re in

I think the numbness has worn off and it is starting to hurt now.

I’m struggling today. Just the other day I was thinking about how hard it would be to be trapped inside the house with toddlers. But, you know what, it is hard to be trapped inside with teenagers.

It came to my attention yesterday that my daughter Arabella is behind in her online schooling. I had a sneaky suspicion about that although she has never had issues with grades or school before. I didn’t think I would have to micromanage my teen. I would almost rather teach common core math to a grade schooler right now. It would probably be less frustrating.

I can imagine how hard online schooling must be for a teenager. It takes a lot of grit, maturity, and strength of character to have self-motivation. When your whole world is falling apart you still have homework to do. The world is ending, but math..

The girls were supposed to go to prom this weekend. They had appointments to get their hair done. Now their beautiful dresses hang on a rack in the back of a closet. I could go on and on. The musical. Concerts. Going to state. Track. Spring break trip. Goofing around with friends. ALL GONE!

Why bother when the only thing left is the thing about school that most teenagers don’t want to do?

I have been angry. YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I have been frustrated…impatient. How do you help your teenager cope with disappointment? Now my daughter dug herself into a hole she might have a hard time getting out of. How do you deal with that? Should I ground her from her phone? She hasn’t seen her friends in a month. What else is there to take away?

How can you be upset with someone for feeling depressed right now?

It is hard to deal with disappointment if you never learned to deal with it at this level before. My daughter clearly is not at her best. All she does is mope around and eat junk food. Over the past year she worked really hard to lose 50 lbs. Now she is packing on the weight again and it is awful to see.

Our remaining foreign exchange student is not fairing much better. She has been sleeping a lot and not eating much. She hardly weighs anything as it is. It’s hard for her to find the motivation for school as well since this year does not count for her when she goes back. This is no longer the American experience she paid a lot of money for.

Also, her mother was going to visit in June and they were going to go back home together. Estelle just found out that her mom won’t be coming and she is not even sure she will be able to go home as planned. So far her departure is the only remaining thing left planned on my calendar.

So here we sit. What do I do? My just do it mentality is not working. I see everyone around me falling apart and I can’t motivate them. I’m trying to be supportive and understanding but it isn’t working well.

I’m not sure what to do about it but I can’t be the only one in the same stinking sinking boat.

Outrunning my demons

Arabella skipped school today. She was very upset and was crying this morning because she did not get cast in the next community theater show.

For some reason, it brought back memories for me of the time I tried out for a community theater show when I was a couple of years younger than her. Maybe it’s just because I am almost to this point in my book.

I remember sitting outside in the sunshine with other children that summer working on my lines. I got the part of a princess. I was a pretty little girl with the sun hitting my long golden hair. I was happy and excited about my part. It made me feel like I really was a princess.

But something went wrong. My brother Matt had to spend the summer in the hospital. I had to drop out of the show because my brother was really sick. (It took me 20 years to audition for another show).

After that, my whole life changed. My brother became home bound after getting out of the hospital. I saw the paperwork for that yesterday. The original paperwork gave him a period of 2 months to be educated at home. But he was home bound for over 3 years. My mom quit her job and pulled my other brothers and I out of school as well. It was the time of the great isolation. Few people were allowed to come in and we rarely went out.

I am making excellent progress on my book. I try to work on it several hours every day. There are usually one or two days a week when I cannot. Right now I am over 30,000 words and am nearing the halfway point in my story.

I’ve decided to title my book ‘Outrunning my Demons’ with the subtitle of ‘What Life is Really Like with a Mentally Ill Sibling’.

I know my daughter is very disappointed right now that she didn’t get a part in the show. I feel bad for her. But in a few days she will be on to something else. She probably won’t even give it another thought a couple months from now. But I will always remember the summer, over 30 years ago, that I could no longer be a princess.

Luke’s visit, part 6

I don’t like it when people touch me, neither does Mark.

Luke has always been an affectionate guy.

Maybe it just boils down to personal preference. We had the same upbringing.

We remember the bite marks on our arms, the scratches, head butts, eye pokes, kicks, punches…that we received from our autistic brother Matt.

My dad seemed afraid to hit or hug me. He would tickle my brothers and I which was miserable because he just wouldn’t stop when we told him to.

Touch was not usually a good thing, but I did like my grandma’s hugs.

My dad was not gentle in any way. He would squeeze my mother in hugs too tight until she would cry out…stop you are hurting me. Her cries would draw in my little brothers. They would jump on my dad and try to get him to let go while he swung at them like pesky mosquitoes. It was all a game.

Now Luke was a mama’s boy, which really seemed to bother my dad. If anyone tattled on Luke, he would get it. Mark and I never got spankings, but Luke always seemed to get in trouble. He hated my dad and did a lot of things to bother him like cutting the cords on his electronics. Mark and I never really did the things that would fuel my dad’s anger.

There are some things I feel bad about. Sometimes my dad would fly off the handle with Luke about minor things that I tattled about. There was also a period of time that Luke looked to me to be a second mother. He clung to me and I pushed him away.

There were times when my dad was a little rough with Luke and Matt. But most of the scars came from Matt. He would out of the blue attack someone. It would bother me that no one told him what he was doing was wrong. In fact, if we tried to defend ourselves or retaliate, we were punished. He couldn’t help it, but we could.

It was always hard to see Matt hurt someone, stranger or friend. Sometimes we could see the signs beforehand that he was was agitated. I always felt guilty that I couldn’t stop it from happening. Sometimes I felt responsible for it. Maybe if I noticed sooner, I could’ve stopped it. Why should I feel responsible for my brother’s actions?

His actions had a direct effect on my life. It was the reason that friends weren’t allowed to come to our house. It was the reason I lost friends. It was the reason for my isolation. Matt was so violent that he wasn’t allowed in school for 3 years. A teacher came to our house for Matt. My mom pulled us all out of school. I spent one year of middle school and two years of high school at home. I only saw my friends a couple times a month.

My cats became my friends. Sometimes Matt would hurt them. If they tried to come in the house, my dad would pick them up by the tail and throw them out. But I always let them sneak in my bedroom window.

There was nothing normal about my childhood. Yet here I am trying to live a normal life.