The new normal

I’m doing okay with this isolation. It’s not that I don’t like isolation, I like having a choice. I was supposed to be on a beach in Florida right now.

Things are breaking down. The DVD player broke that I watch my exercise videos on since the gym closed. Thankfully my ancient laptop has a DVD player. Our main TV died. I don’t think it responded well to the surge of overuse. Or maybe it didn’t like being the bearer of bad news. Or maybe it got a virus. Oh wait, that only happens to computers.

We dug out some puzzles. After sorting the pieces of three puzzles in a row on the same day, all three were missing multiple edge pieces so I threw them out. Then Clara and I opened a brand new puzzle still in its plastic wrap and that was missing an edge piece too. We searched and searched but all I found was some dried up dog puke behind the couch. Now I remember why I hate puzzles. I had to walk away for a few days. The last remaining shred of my sanity was on the line. Seriously!!?! A brand new puzzle had 4 pieces missing.

This corona virus is the new crisis in my life right now. It’s not that bad really after the last couple months of crap going on. Being lonely and bored has been an adjustment. It’s hard to sit still and not to feel like I should be rushing around doing something. I almost feel guilty about sitting around while essential employees are working hard with people getting sick and dying.

I worry somewhat about my loved ones getting sick. I realize that my husband and most of my best friends are over 50. Having my mom, husband, and close friends all be older than me is slapping me in the face hard right now. It’s forcing me to look at death. Thankfully at this time all my friends and family are healthy.

My daughter Arabella got her old job back at the grocery store. The last couple weeks its been like the day before Thanksgiving there. They recruited her hard. They gave her a raise and put her back in the bakery packaging products and washing dishes. They told her customers would probably be rude to her. Arabella was happy about this. At Culver’s she used to run orders out to people’s cars. People treated her kindly and gave her tips whereas they chewed other employees out except for the ones with special needs. Then she started worrying that the customers thought she had special needs because they treated her differently than everyone else.

Our foreign exchange students are still here. They could stay if their host and real family still wants them to as long as school is in session. Online schooling is scheduled to start on Monday. They both realize they could be stuck here beyond the time they planned to go home. Estelle is feeling homesick and Clara was also crying about it this week. They are keeping a journal of their experiences and hopefully some day it will make for an interesting historical book.

It seems like all of our plans have been washed away. The trips we were planning are gone now. Financial security. Gone. Paul and I are working on starting a new business soon. How will that go in this economy? My structure and routine are gone. The gym is closed. I won’t even be able to see my daughter graduate from college.

I worry about death more. I even worried about what it would be like to become very sick from the virus. After running outside I felt a little wheezy from seasonal allergies. I wondered what it would be like not being able to breathe. My workouts are lackluster. Why bother? The races I might sign up for this summer might not even happen this year.

I have to hope that soon we will get through this and it will be on to the next crisis.

Enviable ignorance

This week my autistic brother Matt celebrated his birthday. He was rather upset he was not able to celebrate his birthday with family at the bowling alley like he has done every year for over a decade now.

His program he attends for autistic adults and children was also shut down. The group home he lives in closed its doors. They don’t have enough staff to cover the hours at the house where its residents were previously gone.

Matt was sent home disrupting his day to day routine just like the rest of us. This was rather disturbing for a population of people who don’t understand why the change is happening. But as they say ignorance is bliss. He is happy to be at home because he likes it there. He adjusted really fast to having my mom dote on him.

Matt wasn’t upset the day the police officers showed up at my parent’s house to talk to my dad. But that was the day the rest of our lives changed forever. You see, the police came on a Friday. That was the day Matt was scheduled to come home for the weekend and all was well for him.

Matt isn’t worried about the corona virus. He isn’t trying to stop touching his face. He is not worried that our parents who are in their 70’s might die. He just worries about whether his food will show up on the table when he is hungry just like a small child or household pet. He doesn’t have the responsibility of a family. He doesn’t even have to take care of himself.

In all honesty, sometimes I wish for that ignorance. Dementia doesn’t sound all that bad to me because who wouldn’t want to forget all of the bad things that happened to them. Maybe sometimes I just want someone to take care of me.

I wish I lived in a world where there weren’t so many things to worry about. I envy Matt’s ability to remain calm and worry free in times of great chaos and unpredictability.

There is something attractive about having a child like faith and sense of wonder in times of struggle. I want to be like a carefree child who dances and plays. I want my only worry to be about whether or not someone feeds me having the security that they will.

Yet I have been given the gift of reason. With this gift comes a great burden. Difficult decisions need to be made. It’s hard to break free from the stress and struggles that awareness brings.

I don’t want to be like Matt but sometimes I envy him.

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.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

Gratitude week 10

  1. Tomorrow my daughter will be home for the week for spring break. It will be the most time I’ve spent with her since last summer.
  2.  I’ve felt more relaxed and at peace this week than I’ve had in months after my therapy session. For a few days I felt like a normal person.
  3.  I got my hair cut.
  4.  I went out Thursday night with a new friend I think may end up being a good friend.
  5.  I am grateful for the warmer weather and sunny days.
  6.  In less than two weeks we will be on our way to Florida.
  7.  Last night I slept a full five hours. I have been dealing with insomnia for the past month and want to see if I change things up a bit I could sleep. My goal is to sleep 8 hours without waking maybe once or twice this week.
  8.  I am thankful that my husband is making his homemade pizza for me tonight. I’m grateful to have a partner willing to share life’s responsibilities.
  9.  I am grateful for time to spend reading this week. I finished Childhood Disrupted and The Orphan’s Tale. I’ve finally started making a dent in the books sitting on my to read pile for a year.
  10.  I’m grateful my mom found a new group of friends at the new church she is going to.

Gratitude week 8

I’m not going to lie…this past week has been the hardest week of the year so far. But, well, gratitude..

  1. And multiple more compliments about my hair. Really?
  2. Watching my daughter’s choir perform.
  3. Clara and Arabella making it to state.
  4. Surviving this past week.
  5. The guys returning home from an extended weekend fishing trip.
  6. Something to laugh about. My mom went along with Paul on the road trip to visit my brother. On the way back, my mom sat on a fish hook. My husband stopped at a Kwik Trip with a pliers to pull the hook out of the rear of her pants. She didn’t get hurt. I can just imagine how crazy that must have looked.
  7.  I had a long talk with Arabella about the trauma in my life and the things happening with grandpa.
  8.  I also talked to my best friend Cindy about everything happening with my family for the first time. She wondered how I remain sane, but I swear after this week I am losing it.
  9.  I met with our pastor’s mom over the weekend. She wants to mentor me. The funny thing is I had a dream one night that this was supposed to happen which makes me feel better about possibly trusting her. I don’t really know her well.
  10.  My cousin and I decided to do another 50k together.

PMSing during the full moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope. Estelle comes home, bad cramps.

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

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

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

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

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

Breathwork

Last week I started deep breathing therapy.

I have been a lifelong member of the insomnia and nightmare club. What I didn’t tell you, when I am really stressed out I also grind my teeth at night. Some mornings I awake with the insides of my cheeks all bit up and sometimes also have canker sores in my mouth. I hold my mouth tight and am somewhat surprised I haven’t yet developed TMJ.

My therapist was rather shocked with my insomnia that I don’t awake when I chew myself up. I guess I never thought about that before. How do I sleep through causing myself pain?

So we decided to try something new. With this therapy, I laid down on a massage type table without my shoes on. I also had on an eye mask and kept my eyes closed. I covered with a blanket. I was told to breathe deep in a circular pattern with my diaphragm. Every breath in caused my stomach to rise.

My therapist asked me to imagine my grandma standing at my feet holding a multi-colored ball. I needed to visualize the color moving up to the top of my head from my feet.

My therapist asked me what I was doing and how old I am. I told her that I am 3 or 4. I am looking at the books in the basket up north. I am coloring. I am coloring the book that has the pictures of the ladies with the long cigarettes from the Virginia Slims ad. The book is tall and narrow with glamorous women smoking cigarettes. I am getting crayons from the chocolate tin they are stored in. I am playing with dolls. I am filling up a bright turquoise container with lake water.

Do I feel tension in any part of my body? Yes, my shoulders. What do you want to do? I want to push it out, I want to fight. The therapist puts a pillow over my hands and I push as hard as I can against her. I am afraid to hurt her because I am very strong.

Where do you feel the tension now? I feel it everywhere. I feel trapped like I am being buried alive. Every year the weight is getting heavier and it pushes me down. The little girl trapped in the coffin is sinking deeper and deeper with each passing year. She can’t get out and feels sad.

What does the little girl want? She wants to color. She has been trapped in the dark for so long. She tells herself she likes it there. But she tells herself that because the darkness is all she can see and all she thinks she will ever see as she sinks further away from herself. She wants to see all the colors again.

That night she goes home and colors. Coloring is fun. She colors the house pink. The things she finds scary, she colors black so she can’t see it anymore. But everything else is in brilliant unusual shades, like the sky is green and the grass is blue. Pretending is fun.

For two nights afterward she is able to sleep deeply.

My logical mind tells me this is all hokey. But my inner child has been trapped in the dark for so long she just wanted to see if it was safe to come out and play.

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.

 

I never wanted the dress

Last week the girls and I went prom dress shopping. I didn’t expect it to trigger emotions in me, but it did. I am so easily triggered now it seems.

My mom and I never went prom dress shopping together. One day she just brought home a prom dress for me. It was the ugliest light pinkest thing you ever did (or in this case, you didn’t) see. I hated it, but wore it anyway.

That evening at prom a “friend” told me another girl wore the same dress last year and that my boyfriend was planning on breaking up with me. I should have never went out with this guy in the first place. He was a complete jerk. During study hall, he would sit at a table in the library with his friends instead of me. I guess that wasn’t a big deal. But sometimes he sat at the table with a girl “friend” he flirted with constantly. She was way out of his league and had an obsession with polka dots. After that I hated everything polka dots when I should’ve hated him.

But anyway, sometimes when your dad doesn’t care about you or who you are dating you pick guys that are emotionally distant like your dad. The night of prom started out rough. Now I can’t totally blame it on the dress. Or maybe some would. My boyfriend’s step-dad really liked my dress and grabbed my ass when no one was looking. The whole night was a nightmare.

Then after prom, my boyfriend and I were headed to a party but got into a huge fight instead over the rumor he was going to break up with me. It was raining and we were pulled over at the side of the road arguing. Several people stopped to see if we were okay. It happened so many times that my boyfriend just told the concerned citizens we were fighting.

Why don’t normal things ever happen to me??

But anyway, the dress. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t pick the dress out. I didn’t even like it. I felt guilty for wanting something else, so I just wore it. My mom did spend a lot of money on it.

I felt that way a lot as a teen, though. I didn’t have any choice, although it seemed like I did. When my autistic brother Matt was home bound, my mom pulled my younger brothers out of school as well. I was entering 8th grade when this happened. She told me I had a choice between homeschooling and going to school. What I heard was…are you going to choose your family or your friends? I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had to pick family.

Instead of spending my last year of middle school with my friends, I stayed home in isolation. Then I spent my first two years of high school at home as well. The chasm widened between my friends and I, my peers and I. For three years I rarely left the house. I became a recluse. My mom became my best friend. My mom was jealous if I had other friends beside her. It’s still the same today.

When I turned 18, you might think I would’ve left home as fast as I could. But I didn’t even consider it as an option. How could I leave behind my best friend when she needed me? But I don’t have any regrets. Do you know why?? Because I never lived. I was never allowed to be a child, a teenager. I had to be an adult when I was a child. I had to emotionally support my mother. I had to take care of my violent autistic brother.

Mom didn’t want me to play the piccolo, so I played a flute instead. I wanted to take singing lessons, but got piano lessons instead. When mom didn’t like my boyfriend, she set me up on a surprise date with an ex-boyfriend she did like.

When I wasn’t perfect, I was punished. I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be manipulated and controlled. I could be guilted into doing things I didn’t want to do. I hated not having any control over my life. My mom even read my diary. She was mad at me for the things I wrote in it. I never felt accepted for who I really am and for the decisions I made.

Part of it was my fault. I thought it was selfish to live my own life. I never stood up for myself. I never said I didn’t like the dress. I never said I wanted to go to school. I just wanted to be independent and live my own life.

I wanted to play piccolo. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to choose my own clothes. I wanted to choose my own boyfriends.

I have a hard time as an adult making decisions and having choices. I sometimes still feel selfish doing what I want to do. But if I learned anything from this experience, it is to let my adult children live. Let them have their regrets. Their lives are not mine to control. But I will give unsolicited motherly advice.