Self-therapy breakthrough

Last night I dreamt about Matt for the first time that I can ever remember.

Yesterday I went to the mall shopping with Arabella and my mom. My mom spent most of her time worrying about getting back home because she had to give Matt his medicine. Frankly, it didn’t bother me much because I wanted to go home early because I hate shopping. It was my daughter Arabella’s choice for a girls day and she picked shopping.

As I mentioned before, my brother Matt is autistic and most likely schizophrenic as he hears voices that tell him to hurt people.

As a child Matt would:

  1. Have psychotic fits out the the blue where he would be violent towards himself or others. I don’t believe that this was within his control.
  2. Have episodes of anger where he would be violent towards himself or others when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do. I believe this was within his realm of control.

Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the first and second scenario. Matt did not have a lot of chores besides unloading the dishwasher. When asked to do that, he would sometimes hit himself on the head. Matt did have a lot of trouble in school. When asked to do his school work, he would often attack his teacher or his aide.

There was a time when Matt was schooled at home due to his extreme psychotic outbursts. The district sent a retired school teacher to our house. That woman was a saint because she was strict while loving. Some days Matt didn’t cooperate and she had to leave early.

Later Matt went back to the public school. At one time, my best friend was his aide. When asked to do work, he often attacked her just because he didn’t want to do it. One time after he attacked her, she called the police. They came to the school and hauled my brother away in handcuffs.

After that incident our lifelong best friendship dissolved. And I wonder why I have trust issues with friends??

I had a dream that Matt and I were at an amusement park. I was watching him. I told him that he couldn’t go on any more rides because he hurt me physically. My mom overruled me and said that Matt could go on the rides. I told her that if she wanted to have Matt go on the rides that she could take care of him. Matt was angry at me for saying no to him so he hurt me. He spit on me. Then Matt hurled himself off of the cliff. He landed grotesquely on the pavement below. I was afraid that he was dead or seriously hurt. But the feeling that I felt the most was guilt.

I woke up realizing for the first time that Matt hurt people when he was having a psychotic fit and when he had to do something he didn’t want to do. I feel angry that he was never told that his actions were wrong. It would’ve made me feel better, like there was justice, even if he had absolutely no control over it.

Matt had total control, but no one else ever saw it that way. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. Matt was in control of our house and he wanted things his way. If we were all packed up ready to go and he wanted to stay, we stayed. If we were all too hot to sleep but he wanted the fan off, it was turned off. Anything that could set him off was taken away. One Christmas a boyfriend gave me perfume, I threw it away because I wasn’t allowed to wear it because it might set Matt off. We had to live our life around the god of what might upset Matt. Matt had to have things his way or somebody was going to get hurt.

You have no idea what it is like to be forced to worship that kind of god or how it messed up my life. I am just beginning to realize.

Chaos reigned which is why I need to live in a controlled environment today. I like my schedule, routine, and organization. It is my security blanket. I like to control the temperature and lights in my house, etc.. I learned to have control over the little things to find comfort. The things that most people don’t care to have control over like the placement of an object on the shelf. It is safe. I go absolutely crazy if someone tries to take my control away which is not even a bit logical. It gives me extreme anxiety. Turn on the lights right after I turn them off and see what happens. It makes no sense.

I have also learned to have a great amount of control over myself. Me. No one I know can beat my self-discipline with the possible exception of my brother Mark. At times I make myself hard to love. I am tough. I have high expections on others and even higher expectations for myself. I embrace pain and deny myself pleasure. I guess that is what attracts me to long distance running.

I am too old now for a baby security blanket. I have to learn to be able to rest without it. But I can’t relax.

I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on my self-therapy.

This session is over.

Vegas, part 1

I am always filled with worry the first day…being so far from home and feeling less in control of the things I am not in control of anyway…

It was rough leaving. Paul had to slam on his brakes for a motorcycle in his blind spot after I screamed STOP on our way to the airport. It was stressful because at that point we were already running late in my book.

My youngest daughter Arabella blindsided me on the way out. She was starting a new job that same day and apparently didn’t fill out the online paperwork right. Mom, please help me… But I couldn’t miss the flight.

I was going to LV with my daughter Angel for a national singing competition. I didn’t want her to go alone…but to be honest, I always want to go somewhere I’ve never been.

On Friday morning, Angel and two of her college classmates competed against some of the best singers in the country. We had plans to meet up together at the swimming pool once everyone was done to celebrate their hard work and relax. Her friend did not pack a swimming suit so they were going to buy one and meet us at the pool later.

Angel and I were poolside for 2 seconds when my phone rang. It seemed odd that Cori would be calling me out of the blue in the middle of the day. Immediately Jen came to mind, our mutual friend that was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. It couldn’t be a good call and it wasn’t.

Cori called to tell me that the daughter of a best friend of ours was in a car accident and didn’t make it. What?? It couldn’t be true! I cried the words in disbelief into the phone as the people surrounding me were smiling and having fun playing in the sunshine.

Lisa’s daughter just turned 16 a couple months ago and recently got her driver’s license. She was driving with a friend to work that morning when she missed the curve. She hit a tree and her car became engulfed in the flames that killed them.

Death! How unfair you are!

The police came to the house that morning to tell Lisa something that no parent ever wants to hear.

I couldn’t believe it was real. I still can’t believe that it is real. Maybe Cori was mistaken. These kind of things just don’t happen.

I checked the Facebook page of Lisa’s daughter. Nothing. Just a new profile picture of her looking away, staring out beyond the wooded hills. Prom pictures. Quotes about love, how fast teenagers become adults, and future dreams…

I thought of the fun times we shared…Sitting next to her on the roller coaster when I was so frightened I screamed the whole time, she was so brave…Sharing a passion for running and going to races with her mother and her. Her bright smiles and warm hugs..

Gone. She’s gone and it is so unfair. She was a beautiful young adult with a bright future. She truly was a good person. I wish I could take away Tom and Lisa’s pain. I couldn’t get it out of my mind..

It wasn’t long before Angel’s friends met us at the pool. I felt like I had to keep things together. It was a happy and exciting day for them. I had to try my best to keep it that way, but inside I was a mess. You just can’t be fine when you hear the news of a close friend’s child dying unexpectedly in a horrible way even if you are sitting poolside in the sunshine.

Ten minutes after Angel’s friends arrived, a kid puked in the pool and it was closed…

 

 

In the cold dark light of the full moon

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It only takes a little light to reflect the cold barren emptiness of a winter tree on the snow.

It has been cold in Wisconsin. The wind chills haven’t been above zero since who knows when..probably a couple of weeks. We haven’t noticed that much. We have been busy with the holidays.

We know the drill. It happens every year. It doesn’t snow when it is bitterly cold. The cars make strange noises when attempting to start. You don’t want to get a car wash or your car doors will freeze shut. Everything creaks, crackles, and moans under the heavy weight of the bitter cold. People die.

People die! I knew it would happen on New Year’s Eve especially. The reports of the deaths. I live in the drunkest state next to one of the drunkest cities in the United States. I predicted that if the Packers were having a better year, the death toll would be higher. The bitter cold usually starts this time of year, but this year it hit us a little early. It started over Christmas…the home Packer game…Christmas weekend and New Year’s Eve…the drunkest time of the year near the drunkest city in the drunkest state. The roads are hazardous not just for the cold, ice, and snow ya know.

Drinking is our culture. It just is. I am a big proponent of designated drivers, but sometimes you can’t trust that will even work. People get carried away. Blame it on the cold harsh climate.

I worried the weekend of New Year’s Eve. My daughter Angel drove to Madison to go to a party with friends. My son was who knows where. Every day I would be in touch asking where he was and what he was doing. Every day my son stopped home and my heart rejoiced that he was alive. It’s not always them I worry about…it is the others on the road. How do I keep them safe? It is surprising that I am letting go at all.

I worry about the drunks on the road. I worry about car trouble in the bitter cold remote areas with no cell reception. Or what if I am sleeping and don’t hear the phone? I worry about car accidents on slippery heavily wooded winding roads.

My deepest fear is that my children will die if I am not in control. If I don’t pay attention, they will be gone. If I don’t notice a problem, they will slip through my fingers forever. It is really rather horrifying since I am not in control. I never was in control even when they were babies. I couldn’t control if they got sick. I couldn’t even control if they decided to sleep through the night. As they got older, the feeling of being out of control grew and festered in my soul.

I try to let go and let God, but then grab the reigns back again chaffing my hands not able to get a grip. This worry, this anxiety, has been a constant thorn in my side. I feel if I let go of my little iota of control, then my children will die and I am responsible. It is completely illogical and irrational as most fears are.

Do all mothers of teenagers feel this way? Or do I just take it to the extreme since I am anxious to begin with? Or maybe having 3 teenagers is enough to set the sanest person over the edge?

Race-A-Peril

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After we got back from the triathlon, we were planning on sailing a full moon race. I was rather excited to check two races in one day off of my bucket list.

But the strong winds from the morning of the triathlon increased throughout the day making sailing conditions very treacherous. We thought the race would be cancelled but never found out for sure since we spent the evening in the ER instead.

But that will be a story for another day..

I typically compete in triathlons or running. My husband races our sailboat. Sometimes our race paths intersect and I can be found on the water and he on land.

Last night I was part of my husband’s sail race crew along with our friend Jerry. It was a lot cooler and windier than we thought it would be. We were sailing in rough conditions with 3 to 4 foot waves.

For a time, we were slightly ahead of a boat that always wins. They were alongside of us and fell back after we turned.

We were headed on a straight course to the first buoy in the race when disaster struck.

I knew something was wrong when, just like that, we were hurled off course.

A pin snapped. The rudder broke. We spun in violent circles while being struck by waves that rocked our boat and crashed upon the bow. The boom swung and the wind whipped our sails. A line from the main sail broke free and was swirling around overhead like a lasso.

Paul started the outboard motor. The rudder smacked back and forth into the motor’s propeller. Jerry and I worked on getting the jib sheet in as we spun in circles. Then Paul struggled to get the boat in irons to take down the main sail. Then the guys lifted the heavy rudder out of water while trying to maneuver the boat.

After taking the main sail down, the situation became less perilous. But we weren’t out of the woods(?) yet. Paul had to steer the boat back in to the harbor without a rudder. He had to rely on the small outboard motor. His arm was sore from the waves and strong winds that he had to arm wrestle his motor against.

To get back we had to go against the flow. The boats that were racing behind us were coming towards us to get to the racing buoy.

Finally we were able to limp back to shore. Paul had to steer the boat into our slip and it wasn’t going to be easy. There were rugged rocks and a cement wall to navigate around in the strong wind. He hollered to shore for help…but he was able to get us into our slip like a pro.

There were other boats with problems last night.

Another boat had issues and started to come into the slip sideways almost colliding with nearby boats.

The wind ripped another sailboat’s spinnaker in half.

It was the most exciting race ever!

I was happy that the rudder didn’t give out when we were alongside the other boat…we might’ve crashed. Also, the ER visit prevented us from racing this last weekend if the strong winds wouldn’t have. If the rudder broke at dusk 5 miles from shore in strong winds and waves who knows what could’ve happened!

I had a great time. There was no lasting damage. The problem is relatively inexpensive to fix. No one panicked, got hurt, or died last night.

After it was all over, we had a drink and reminisced about our previous perilous sail when we were beginner sailors…the accidental overnight sail…(maybe I will share the story with you all again). Jerry said it was one of the top ten memorable stories of his life. It was one of mine too.

I will not forget last night either.

I love adventure, but I am not a big risk taker.

I have to say that there is something totally exhilarating about challenges that push my mind, body, and stamina to its limits to get through…A sense of danger…Flirtation with failure.

Racing…competing…how I love the thrill of it!

I’ve learned to expect the unexpected.

No race is ever the same…even if it is the same race.

We didn’t finish the race, but we survived the night.

I will count that as a win.

 

Drowning, my fears – 911, poison control, and other parenting mishaps

I, myself, have never been afraid of drowning. Maybe I would’ve been if my brother drowned that warm spring day.

It is a topic of conversation that never goes away. Why did my mom let my dad talk her into leaving the 6 year old me in charge of watching my 3 younger brothers alone in the water? Was I always the protector or did I become that way? 

A few weeks ago, my brother told me that he has nightmares of me watching him drown. How can he remember? He just turned two. I remember everything that happened that day. I stood on the dock paralyzed with fear watching my brother gulping water and gasping for air. As he flailed his arms, my 3 year old brother exclaimed excitedly over and over that he was swimming. My autistic 5 year old brother stood in the shallow water flapping his hands oblivious to the surrounding peril. 

I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t seem to move. My mom came back to check on us and saved my brother. I knew that I failed because I couldn’t protect him.

I never was afraid of drowning. I was afraid of watching others drown.

Fast forward another 6 years to when I was 12. I watched my baby cousin in their swimming pool while her mom was at work. She was sitting in the water on a pool chair. She fell off the chair backwards into the water. I grabbed her leg and pulled her out. I was so happy that I didn’t panic and let her drown. But everyone else seemed so angry. My uncle got scolded from his wife for letting me watch my cousin in the pool. No one seems to remember that I protected her, that I didn’t let her drown.

Fast forward another decade after I had children of my own. We were told as new parents to never leave your baby unattended even for a few seconds in the bathtub. If the phone is ringing in the other room, let it ring. I suppose this is not a problem anymore for the new generation of parents.

Then my kids got older to the age where I didn’t need to sit and watch them bathe. I could go in every few minutes and check on them. One day I checked on Arabella in the bathtub after there was an unusual period of silence. I opened the tub door to find her floating in the water fast asleep. For a brief minute, as I gazed at her motionless body, I was terrified that she drowned. It was the most horrible anxiety ever. I thought that I failed to protect her.

After that happened, I worried that my children would drown. I never liked my kids taking showers when I was gone or asleep. I mean, they could slip on a bar of soap, hit their head, and drown. I don’t let them go swimming alone. I feel the need to keep an eye on them when they are swimming in water.

Even having my 3 kids swim together at the beach in front of me in shallow water wasn’t enough. I looked away for a minute and then there were 2 kids. My youngest wandered off from her siblings and couldn’t be found. It was a large beach with a lot of people. In just a few seconds they got distracted and separated. I ran up and down the beach combing the water until she was found safe. Another terrifying moment. 

So I worry. Worry makes me feel like I have some control, that I will be prepared for the worst that could happen. I worry about the things I can’t control. I feel like I am responsible for everything that happens. I am the protector. Sometimes I even try to control when I need to let go. It leaves me a nervous wreck. 

Within this last month, my daughter became an adult. My son turned 16 and got his driver’s license. Sometimes I can’t even tell anymore if my worries are rational or irrational. I don’t know anymore. 

People that don’t worry tell me not to worry, to worry about things I can control, and that I need to trust God more. Believe me, I wish I was a carefree person. I have an extreme fear of failing to be a protector. When something goes wrong, I blame myself.

I want to relax. I want to let go. 

But sometimes the worry drowns me.

Cha cha changes

  

I just got a hair cut. Seven inches of golden tresses fell to the floor. They were swept up and thrown away. Gone.

My life is changing. I have no control. I just turned another year older. My daughter will be an adult this week.

I still have control over some things, like my hair. I haven’t had my hair this short for over a decade. What was I waiting for?

I took half a day off on Friday to get my hair done. After the hair cut, I felt stressed because things were out of control at work while I was gone. In the matter of two hours, I had 5 voicemail messages and my email was blowing up with problems at work. Big time Tetris. I find it harder and harder to take any time off because I end up paying for it later.

Then I ran into someone that I know. She said she was not doing well because her husband lost his job. That really put things into perspective for me. I have a job. We can pay our bills. This business is going to pay off big time. I just have to make sure the stress doesn’t kill me first.

We had our daughter’s graduation party this weekend. I spent the rest of the afternoon on Friday running errands for the party and preparing food. The party itself went great. The event was rather uneventful which was really good. We had enough food and drinks. The weather was great. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. It didn’t rain. Really, what more could we ask for?? I admit, I had a lot of anxiety beforehand. This was the first party that I planned with so many people attending. Seriously, what was I worried about? Everything turned out.  

We had the party up north at the family cabin. Everyone pulled through to prepare and help clean up which I really appreciated. So many family and friends offered to bring food. 

Alex brought up his new girlfriend to meet the family. Now that he has his license he can drive the old moped that is up there. He gladly drove to the gas station for ice and whatever was needed. I am afraid though that he drove it too fast. He wants to get a motorcycle someday. Oh, that kid is going to be the death of me yet!

Angel had a great party. I am sad that she grew up so fast. She was so much fun to raise. Next month she is leaving to start her own life. I feel happy and sad at the same time. So many aspects of my life are changing. I don’t have control over time. But I do have control over my hair. Well, most of the time anyway.

299.00 Infantile Autism, paragraph 9

…Matt perceives expressions of anger as being extremely threatening to him and dangerous because they mess his life up, so there are big scary things like tornadoes or thunderstorms. So when he talks about tornadoes and thunderstorms, essentially what he is talking about is concerns over loss of control; loss of control of his bad feelings, loss of control of his temper and an inability to do things that he would like to be able to do. What he is doing is where previously he would strike out, he is learning to inhibit his striking out toward other people although he still does strike out physically toward mom some. Now he will slap his legs or hit his head. He does these in the context where, for example, he is told to do something that he doesn’t want to do like setting the table, clearing the table or going to bed…

First of all, I think that this paragraph is really inaccurate.

Matt was afraid of storms which was related to his feelings of a loss of control. Load of crap. I remember several really bad storms coming through as a kid. The power would go out and my mom would shut every curtain and shade. Sometimes we had to take shelter in the basement. As children, we were afraid. This is a completely normal response. However, Matt did have the tendency to ruminate about things after the rest of us were over it. In later years, I joked around with Matt about us being storm chasers. Storms were exciting and excitement is fun.We both liked watching storms in the later years.

In those early years, there were a lot of things that tended to set Matt off. He would have meltdowns from loud noises, people showing strong emotions such as fear or anger, making him do things he didn’t want to do, or simply for no logical reason at all. The storms included all of the ingredients that would set Matt off.

Matt inhibiting his striking out towards others was another load of crap. Matt was 8 when this was written. He would spend the next 15 plus years of his life striking out at others. The next five years after this was written were the most intense periods of striking out in his life. I don’t remember him striking his legs, but he did hit his head often. I remember a time when my mom was working at the kitchen table with my younger brothers. Matt was sitting on the floor and repetitively banging his head forcefully against the wall. It was impossible to concentrate on homework or anything while this was happening. The head banging behavior was so severe that my parents had to strap a helmet on Matt’s head.

He was also violent towards others. I have seen him repeatedly kick people. He scratched my arms until I had cuts and bloody scratches up and down my arms. He punched me in the upper arms. As a child, I told myself that this would make me stronger. I have seen him throw his head back into my mother’s face. He gave her a bloody lip. When Matt was excessively violent towards himself or others, my mom would try to restrain him. She would be punched and kicked for her efforts. She also had more bloody lips and black eyes. He twisted my daughter’s arm. It took two adults to pull him off of her. He struck out at the teachers at school that were trying to help him learn.

Matt’s signature move though was hair pulling. Typically, he would pull someone’s hair and not let go until someone removed him. In general, this required one or two people. My mom always screamed at this time because she worried that Matt would be hurt in the process. During these meltdowns, it created a very strong fight or flight response in us. I have a really hard time when there is conflict in my house of any kind because it elicits within me the same response that I had as a kid. It terrifies me. I don’t respond normally.

Many times throughout my teenage years, I was a victim of this hair pulling. I loved having long hair. After years and years of this, I couldn’t take it anymore. One day I went to my room with a scissors and chopped off 5 inches of hair after I was attacked. It was traumatic and horrifying.

I found the last sentence of this report to be true. Matt would strike out when he was told to do something that he didn’t want to do. It was hard for my parents to make him do anything because that meant someone was going to get hurt. Oftentimes, Matt would strike himself in the head with his fist. Plus with his tactile sensitivity, he would not allow my parents to brush his teeth without a fight. Every single day was a struggle, but my parents refused to institutionalize him. My mom was against this strongly. There was a time when the doctor threatened to commit him. My mom had to pull him out of all social settings to avoid this, but he still hurt me. He hurt my friends. He hurt my mother. He hurt my cousin. He hurt my daughter. He hurt his teachers. He hurt total strangers. I stood helplessly nearby while I watched them cry.

On occasion, my mom expresses feelings of guilt for taking a normal childhood away from three healthy children for one broken child. After everything that we have been through, I still think that she made the right decision. We made it through and all have a greater appreciation of life.

human

Today I’m sick. 

My body aches. I’ve been up half the night. I haven’t been able to eat or take more than a sip of water. 

I’m afraid that I will miss my daughter’s senior banquet tonight.

I will miss my last training run before the marathon that I had planned for today.

I am too sick to work. 

Being sick is wrecking all of my plans. I don’t like this. I want to fight it. 

I don’t have any control. I’m (gulp) only human.

I must rest…..

A little down

I think I am depressed. 

One of the signs of depression is losing interest in hobbies. What if you just can’t do the things you enjoy anymore?? 

If I spend too much time at work, type a lot (write), shuffle cards, or work jigsaw puzzles my carpal tunnel acts up. My hands ache. I need to wear a brace. If I exercise with weights, sometimes I can’t grasp them. Several times a week my hands just let go of items and I drop them. I’ve dropped my phone several times. Lately, I’ve dropped containers of foundation or eye shadow shattering them into powder so I have to throw them out. I have problems opening lids on jars. 

Sometimes my acid reflux gives me a hoarse voice and sore throat which makes it very difficult for me to sing, another hobby of mine.

I have enjoyed running and competing in races, but now my knee hurts so much that I might have to cut back or stop altogether. 

It seems like everything that I really enjoy doing to deal with my stress is being taken away from me. 

I feel depressed that my daughter will be graduating from high school in a few days. She is a lot like me. We have so much in common and have become close friends. Now she will be moving several hours away and starting a new life without me. I am happy for her, just sad for me.

My relationship with my other two kids sucks. My son is currently failing all of his core classes. He is angry at us or depressed when we give him consequences. The hard part is that he has a brilliant mind, but is too lazy and unorganized to put any effort into his studies. I have no control over this. My youngest daughter and I have nothing in common at all. She takes pride in annoying me and arguing with everything that I say.

Work is stressful. Running our own business, having employees, and demanding customers takes a lot of energy.

My mother-in-law has terminal lung cancer and at best has a few months to live. 

I am starting to see my own parents age in new ways that worry me.

Every organization that we belong to thinks that they are the only organization that we belong to. Everybody wants our time, our money, a life blood commitment. 

My husband and I have both been irritable and stressed these last couple of months. I honestly don’t know how much more of this we can take. Instead of people helping us through these difficult times, they drain us of whatever we have left.

So, yeah, I guess I am feeling a little down. 

  

Is my run over?

I feel like I am letting go of my dreams.

For a long time I held a handful of colorful helium balloons. Today I let them fly off into the air. Maybe I still grasp a few in my hands. But they are shriveled up like oxygen got in them….breathe…I can’t let go of all of my hope.

Saturday I had a wonderful run. I ran 18 miles without stopping except for a short bathroom, gu, and water break. I was fast. I had the stamina I spent months training for. Life was good. At the end I felt a twinge of knee pain, but it went away after a day.

Yesterday was my first run of this week. I ran 12 miles. The first 6 miles went pretty good with my knee brace on. I had to walk 3 out of the last 6 miles. Afterwards, my knee felt fine.

Today, I decided to go for a 6 mile run but only made 5. The first mile or two I felt a twinge of pain in my knee with my brace on. Then it started getting worse to the point that I needed to walk. I was afraid that by pushing on I would get hurt. At this point, I was halfway home regardless of whether I decided to keep walking or turn around. I tried calling my husband to come pick me up but he didn’t answer.

I was feeling so angry that I wanted to take my arms like a baseball bat and knock over mailboxes. I also wanted to kick over the garbage containers that littered the side of the road. But I convinced myself that further injury probably wouldn’t help my cause. It probably would piss off the neighbors, provide them with entertainment, or I would end up crossing off going to jail off my bucket list.

The marathon is 3 weeks away. I am going to try to take it easy for the next week or two and see what happens when I try running again. Right now I am not even fit to run a 5k.

I am so disappointed. There is no way that I am going to be able to run a marathon if I can’t even run a few miles without pain.

The real kicker is that my knee feels fine right now.