A good move?

Tomorrow my mom is moving in with us for awhile. I know, I know… I am just as shocked as you are. Let me tell you, it’s been quite the week.

Last week I probably told you how my mom said my dad was the love of her life, that they are happy together, and now they even tell each other they love one another. This week the pendulum swung in the other direction. Now my mom is telling me that she wished she never married my dad. I am so confused. I can’t help but see the parallel between my daughter Arabella’s behavior and that of my mother’s. They often swing from bad to good or good to bad depending on how they are feeling at the time.

As I was driving my mom home from her visit, she said she was starting to feel a lot of anxiety as she got closer to home. I told her that was good. At least she knows what is causing her anxiety now. I promised to pick her up in a couple of days. She told me to bring an empty car. I hope I am not making a mistake.

When my daughter and her boyfriend turned my dad in to the police for child porn, he wasn’t exactly a pillar of the community. It wasn’t a long hard fall from a shiny pious pedestal. He was the object of pity, scorn, and disgust for many years. The last time I went to their house my dad’s corpulent body was clothed in a dirty t-shirt and underwear. That is correct, he was not wearing pants. He is unkept and has no self-respect. My mom informed me that he is yet to take a shower this calendar year. He doesn’t clean up after himself and has a tendency towards hoarding. I do not want to see the house after my mom leaves.

He was not a loving and caring husband or father. He never was one to say a kind word. He condemned others and tried to make them feel like idiots. He laughed when his family was hurting. He even made lewd comments to his grandchildren. He was never the guy to cheer anyone on from the sidelines. He rarely made an appearance at holiday get togethers.

I felt bad because Dan made a comment at Easter time that he was the one that ruined our family because he was the one (along with my daughter) who turned my dad in. How was he to know how things were before he started dating Angel. I told Dan that it wasn’t his fault, it was my dad’s fault. We just didn’t know how bad things had become.

After everything that happened, my mom has been tottering back and forth between love and hate for my dad. Once the pandemic happened, she was scared for her life and pretty much locked herself up in her house alone with my dad. She received relatively no family support because she wouldn’t let us in. During that time she saw my dad as some sort of knight in shining armor instead of the disgusting person that he is. It’s almost as if she developed some weird sort of alternate reality to deal with being trapped with him.

Now my mom wants to leave. I think it will be good for my mom to get away from my dad for a while until she can figure things out. Hopefully it will be a good move…

trauma

Arabella’s second hospitalization didn’t go well. She told me she had one of the worst cases of cutting they have ever seen. That says a lot since it was coming from professionals working in a psychiatric hospital.

Arabella wasn’t doing well in group time. She couldn’t focus. She started picking at her wounds which was triggering for the other kids. Arabella told them she would never stop cutting. This ended up getting her kicked out of group and she was sent off to work by herself on packets.

Not only did she scratch open her wounds, but she started banging her head against the wall. This landed her in a room with 24 hour surveillance. She started having panic attacks which included hysterical crying for long periods of time and throwing up.

I felt like the staff blamed us for her condition. Trauma they said. Trauma, I hate that word. It has so many meanings that it means nothing. The Holocaust survivors experienced trauma. Everyone in the world experienced trauma from COVID. There could be trauma from abuse anywhere from incest to someone speaking to you the wrong way. There could be trauma from being in a car accident, etc. What does it really mean anyway?

Paul and I were incredibly worried. How were we going to keep her safe at home when she found a way to self-injure in a psychiatric hospital. They offered useless advice such as locking up all of the medications and knives in our house. As if she couldn’t find a way around that if she really wanted to.

Jordan’s mom texted me and said that she didn’t want Arabella staying at her house anymore. It really scared her when Arabella was suicidal at their house. She said she couldn’t live with herself if something happened and it really was a stressful situation for their whole family. I think she realized what I said to her a couple of weeks before was right. They weren’t saving Arabella from an abusive home. They were enabling Arabella to not work things out with her own family that cared for her. Not only that, but it was the first time they saw that she was dealing with some serious mental health issues.

The evening that Arabella was admitted, we were hosting the first Bible study group at our house. I considered cancelling that evening and the class altogether. But we decided not to. If I decided to cancel things for every crisis or sleepless night, I would get nothing done. I just wanted some degree of normalcy in my life.

I blamed myself. I felt guilty for things I didn’t even do. What kind of parents have their child in a psychiatric hospital with severe cutting that will require plastic surgery to fix? We also decided to pull the plug on her breast reduction surgery scheduled for a couple weeks from then. We consulted several psychiatrists and the plastic surgeon’s office about it. They all advised against it. It would be a big surgery and we did not feel we could keep her safe. What if she messed with the wounds? It could easily become life threatening.

I didn’t feel relief with this hospitalization. I wasn’t sure that she could be safe from herself even there. I didn’t know how things were going to be when she came back home. She couldn’t even handle being at home before the hospitalization and now Jordan’s family didn’t want her back.

We were desperate for answers that we couldn’t find.

Thank God for masks, I guess…

I am at the age of being in the sandwich generation. Meaning I have a child that has not reached the age of adulthood and aging parents that are both in the need of care. I am stuck in the middle. It is different now than it was a couple of years back. The issues I’m dealing with now are more mental health related in nature. I’m finding it hard to take time for my mental health. I’m afraid I am starting to slip.

Although I only have one child under the age of 18, it has been very difficult because of her severe mental health issues. She is currently in a residential mental health facility. Some days I actually have a lot of hope and other days I struggle. Paul and I can’t make visits because of COVID, but we talk on the phone six days a week for 15 minutes and Facetime twice a week. Sometime the conversations don’t go well. Last night she begged for us to send her things and spent the rest of the time arguing then ended up hanging up on us. In those moments, I wonder what kind of return we will get on our tens of thousands of dollars investment. I know that sounds harsh. But is she going to come home and kill herself anyway? It’s easy to have hope when the conversations go well or when she isn’t here to argue with everything we say. I imagine her in an environment of constant healing where she will return healthy or at least more like she was before. But is that realistic? I can’t bear to think it is not.

It was hard this Easter because she wasn’t here with us. My mom decided not to come either. She said she was too tired despite me telling her a few days before that we could arrange for her to get a ride here and back home. She didn’t have to prepare any food. She could even spent the night or rest in another room if she wanted to, but apparently she didn’t want to. It was extremely disappointing. I found myself angry, sad, and confused. She didn’t have to do anything but show up, eat, and then go back home. She said once she got the vaccine she would visit. But where was she for the holiday? It seemed like a lame excuse.

She would bend over backwards for my autistic brother Matt. Although she was tired she helped organize a birthday party for him with his autism group to have lunch at a sports bar. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan had his 21st birthday party at a sports bar a couple years back and Matt has been talking about it ever since. Matt liked the music and the rowdy drunk patrons at a nearby table.

Right before the party, Matt got a rash. It wasn’t dangerous at all but it was painful, red, and itchy. Matt was really anxious and agitated about it. In response my mom also became very anxious about it. Their anxiety fed off of one another and festered bigger than the rash itself. Matt was like the kid on the playground that got hurt and waited to watch for mom’s reaction and he got one because she was freaking out about it. Matt was so upset that he did not want to wear the birthday button or really participate much in his event at all.

The coordinator of the autism group was trying to build some excitement in Matt about the button and the fact that my mom made him a cake. She told Matt that her mom didn’t bake her a cake on her birthday. I thought to myself neither does my mom. The whole party my mom catered to Matt. She helped him use the bathroom which he is fully capable of doing himself. She also cut up his hamburger into bite sized pieces. Again, something he was capable of doing. She babies him so much that it really is a disservice to him. Everyone needs to cater to Matt. Matt never has to adapt to his environment. He never has an opportunity to learn and grow for himself.

Sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy because I want to have a mom like Matt’s. She pretty much let the rest of us fend for ourselves. I want a mom to plan my party and bake me a cake. But she couldn’t even show up for Easter because she was tired.

The last time I saw my mom she showed me where all her passwords and special papers are. She is convinced that she is going to die soon. I thought about a week ago she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She wants me to take care of Matt like she does. She totally bypassed my dad in the whole process. I feel extremely burdened by it all. I can’t even spend a lot of time thinking about it because it is too stressful for me. Doesn’t my mom understand that I am already close to my breaking point? Instead of helping me through this, she brings me down.

All I wanted was my mom to come over for Easter. I was already sad that my daughter couldn’t be here. It’s not like she was on vacation. She is in a mental hospital. Her whole senior year went down the drain and I really don’t know what the future will hold. It is hard to take.

I can’t remember anymore what it feels like to feel joy. It’s been a long time since a genuine smile touched my face. Thank God for masks, I guess.

The downward spiral

A couple weeks after Arabella moved out, I received a call that I needed to pick her up and bring her to the hospital. She needed help and her plan was to take a cocktail of all her pills.

Her girlfriend broke up with her. There was constant fighting amongst her friends. And she lost her job at the bar and grill doing food prep because she was too slow. Her self-esteem dipped to a new low. She was planning on going to school for culinary arts but she felt like that door closed because she couldn’t do something easy without getting fired. In her mind there really wasn’t anything left to live for. She lost her family, girlfriend, and a job. Maybe her new family was starting to lose its luster too.

I picked her up along with some clothes and had her admitted into a different psychiatric hospital right away. They did a rapid COVID test and while we were waiting alone in the room together a security company had workers moving in and out of the room trying to service equipment. It was a strange experience because they tried hard to seem invisible when they were anything but.

My daughter needed to remove her jacket for admittance. That is when I saw her arms for the first time after I was told her cutting was superficial several months ago. I suppose you could almost say the cutting was superficial on her dominant arm. But her other arm was ruined. It was absolutely devastating to see what she did to herself after her first hospitalization. She was going to need plastic surgery to heal those wounds. There were numerous scars that went all the way up her arm.

I felt afraid and sickened by it. All the while the men were coming in and out of the room pretending to be oblivious to our suffering. I can imagine the stories they told at home later. This time I was able to go into the adolescent ward with her while she waited for her room. Another girl said hi to her. No one really seemed to focus on her arms. Parents were allowed to visit their children in this hospital at meal time.

I told Paul that Arabella’s cutting was really horrifying and he was going to have to prepare himself to see her. I’ve never seen her in this rough of shape before. It was hard for me to handle. Something was seriously wrong with my daughter. What were we going to do?

I felt extremely disturbed by everything that was happening. I started having sleepless nights again and nightmares when I could sleep. It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences for me as her parent. We were desperate for help but we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t sure if there was any hope left for her future or if they could even help her.

Life as we knew it went completely off the rails. Things were never going to be the same again.

Gratitude week 66

  1. It’s Easter! I’m grateful for the resurrection of the Lord.
  2. I’m thankful for friends we can celebrate the day with along with two of our kids.
  3. I’m thankful that Arabella is starting to do well in residential.
  4. I’m grateful that March is over and we are one step closer to summer.
  5. I’m grateful for beautiful weather this weekend. Yesterday I went for a run for the first time in a long time. This means a lot because I never thought my life would be like this. Before the pandemic, I went to the gym three times a week for intense workouts. Then the gym closed once the pandemic started. My routine that I thought I couldn’t live without abruptly changed. It’s been a year since I’ve had colitis. I was so weak for a month afterwards that I thought I would never run again. So, I’m grateful for good health, to be up and running again, and to know I can survive just fine without it.
  6. In some ways, I’m grateful I learned new things about myself during the pandemic. I also examined what I want to keep in my life and what I want to leave behind.
  7. I’m getting my first tattoo this week. I’m grateful that so far I am not letting fear stop me from something that I’ve always wanted to do. I am very nervous about it, but I think I can do it.
  8. I’m grateful that no one fooled me on April Fools Day. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle the stress of more (even if it is fake) bad news. I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer want to play pranks on people either. I don’t know if it’s a sign of me being too serious now or if I am just getting old.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to write this post sitting outside in the warm sun.
  10. I’m grateful we were able to take Angel out to eat for sushi for her achievements earlier this week. We were able to spend a lot of time with her this week and she went to church with us this morning.

The bad ones

Arabella wanted to leave, but as I mentioned before she didn’t want to be left. She wanted to use our car. She wanted to borrow money. She wanted to come home for Christmas. She wanted her reduction surgery scheduled in December. I said that I would cancel it if she wasn’t living at home because it was going to require at least two weeks of someone caring for her. I didn’t want her calling or texting every time she ran into a problem she couldn’t handle. If she didn’t want me in her life she had to let me go so I could get on with mine.

We wanted her home but we weren’t going to fight her anymore. She had conversations with Jordan’s mom about emancipation. They were ready to take her in rent free so she could escape her abusive home environment.

At this point I started wondering what was wrong with my daughter. It had to be more than just depression or anxiety. Arabella at this time started a relationship with her first girlfriend. She wanted to bring this girl home to introduce her to us. Her girlfriend was pretty, personable, and bubbly. She seemed really nice. Afterwards, Arabella called us on the way back to Jordan’s house. She asked her dad what he thought of her girlfriend. I think she was trying to bait us in some way to get in a fight. If she could get Paul upset then she would have justification for moving out. My parents hate me because I’m gay. It would just feed into this whole we are bad parents thing. Instead, Paul said that she seemed very nice. We even talked about having her girlfriend over for the holidays if only Arabella would make the effort to come home and have a relationship with her real family again.

What would cause someone to randomly hate their family? Not just her parents, but her siblings as well. To take it one step further, she attached herself to a brand new family one she only got to know a couple months before. They were perfect, every single one of them. I became convinced my daughter had Borderline Personality Disorder. She had almost every symptom.

Although never diagnosed, I always thought my mother-in-law was borderline. Arabella was her angel grandchild. Alex and Angel were demons. My MIL would fly into random rages with her husband, my husband, myself, and my children. We were either the best thing that ever happened to her or we were awful people. She was impulsive and at times could be a lot of fun. Her mood was all over the place, sometimes even on the same day. You never knew what you were going to get. We never could believe anything she said either.

Lately I’ve been also wondering if my own mother has borderline. She has this unusual attachment to my dad. After my daughter Angel turned in my dad to the police for child porn, my mom stayed. Now I suppose you might say someone could forgive their spouse and I understand that. But every single conversation with my mom is about how she can’t handle being alone. She now loves my dad more than she ever did. On occasion she mentions forgiveness and God, but mainly it’s about her fear of abandonment. She latches on to people that will never leave her like my dad and my autistic/schizophrenic brother Matt. This has lead to conflict because she is manipulative and tries to force my dad and brother on everyone because she doesn’t want anyone to leave her. (They have both hurt my siblings and I and our children). It makes her seem like a martyr and we are bad/selfish if we don’t forgive. Could that be borderline? I don’t even know.

I don’t want to make more of it than it is but I can tell you most would agree that my mother and MIL were neither sane nor rational. I saw those same patterns starting to emerge in my own daughter Arabella. Why did I think my children could somehow escape the mental illness that runs deep in both sides of the family?

I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Jordan’s mom to express my concerns to her. I was worried for my daughter’s safety under her care. She was unstable, suicidal, and cutting. Jordan’s mom should know what she would be getting herself into. If she thought she would providing a safe place for an abused child to live (which is noble of her), she needed to know the truth. I told her my fears that my daughter was severely mentally ill. But I’m not really sure if she believed me.

After all, isn’t that what most abusers say?

Wanting to leave, not wanting to be left

Things really went south when Jordan’s parents went on vacation. Up until that point, Arabella was mostly going to school and staying mainly at Jordan’s house. The first day Jordan’s parents were gone, Arabella decided to take a mental health day from school. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t already behind on her studies and actually did something to improve her mental health like get out of bed. Things went downhill from there. She attended school one day that week. By the end of the week, enough was enough.

We decided we were going to pick her up and force her to come back home. Paul and I rang the doorbell at Jordan’s house and her grandma answered. She was very kind as we explained things. Arabella rode back home with Paul. We were afraid she might try to jump out of the vehicle in an attempt to escape. I followed them home in our car that we let Arabella drive. Yes, up until that point we were letting her use our car. But that was going to change.

I remember it was a miserable night. I could barely see out of the fogged up windshield from the buckets of chilly autumn rain. I felt a sadness of the uncertainty to come. We sat down with Arabella once we got home. It didn’t go well. She was freaking out that we forced her to come back home. I’ve never seen her so agitated in my life. She insisted that Jordan’s mom was her real mother and I was her fake mom. I thought in the moment that she was delusional and out of touch with reality.

It was getting late and I finally made supper. Arabella refused to eat with us. I did check on her often and made the decision although we took away her car, we let her keep her phone. When she made the suicide attempt, she reached out to her friends for help first. I didn’t want to take her phone away in case she needed help. Maybe that was a mistake because that night she ran away. She called a friend to pick her up. She jumped out of her bedroom window and she was gone. She called after she left and told me she was running away and we couldn’t make her come back. Sure enough, her room was empty and a cool breeze was coming through the open window.

It was late, almost bedtime. We didn’t know what to do. I reached out to a couple of her friend’s parents but they didn’t know where she was. Meanwhile, Paul called the Crisis Center and from their recommendation called the police. We were deciding whether to report her as a runaway. If she was actively suicidal, they would search for her based on her cell phone location. If not, they would list her as a runaway and nothing would really happen. She called me while Paul was on the phone with the police and told us she was staying with a friend we didn’t know and she was alright. We decided not to list her as a runaway.

Paul wanted to speak to her friend’s parent. At this time, it was close to midnight. Her friend’s mom talked to Paul but refused to tell us where she was. She screamed at Paul as if she was afraid we would come over and beat our child. I can imagine Arabella told everyone how she wasn’t safe at home. It was very painful to be treated like monsters when we were trying to act in the best interest of our daughter with severe mental health issues. We were worried sick.

There was nothing else we could do. At least we thought she was safe for the time being.

Another sleepless night…

A couple days later she ended up back at Jordan’s house. We told Arabella we couldn’t do this anymore. It was tearing us apart. If she wanted to live with another family we weren’t going to try to force her back home. She was almost 18. But we weren’t going to let her use our car or give her money. She could come pick up her stuff. We were exhausted and reached the end of our rope.

She wanted to leave, but was upset when we let her go.

Gratitude week 65

  1. This past week has been pretty rough, but I made it through.
  2. I switched dentist appointments with my son because he had to work on the date his appointment was scheduled. I was supposed to go in Wednesday, but went in Friday. Thursday night I felt like I got something stuck in my molar but didn’t eat anything that could get stuck. I tried to get whatever it was out with no luck to find out at my appointment the next day that I cracked my tooth. So, now I need a crown. I have a ton of anxiety about this because in the past I have been known not to numb. I did feel my last crown and it is terrifying to me. But I am grateful I found out about the crack the day after it happened. I’m grateful that I will be trying some new things such as laughing gas to manage the pain. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never used that before.
  3. I scheduled my first tattoo. I am terrified about this appointment too. I am not as terrified about the pain as much as how I will handle it. Will I cry, scream, or freak out at these appointments? Or will I act like a proper stoic introvert?
  4. I’m grateful it is still March because I dread the upcoming appointments in April. I will be very grateful when they are behind me.
  5. I’m grateful that I was able to get a lot of writing in this week.
  6. I’m grateful that my new custom made wedding ring is coming in the mail tomorrow. I literally wore out my last wedding band.
  7. I’m grateful that my daughter is starting to make some progress in the residential program.
  8. I think I am also stressed out because it is Easter next week and I don’t have any plans. I’m feeling down because my daughter is in the residential treatment program and my other two kids aren’t getting along. My mom is a big ball of anxiety. My dad is a pedophile and my brother will never come home again with his children if my dad is around. I haven’t seen one of my brothers since 2019. Family holidays are more painful than ever before. I am grateful that although we didn’t get together with the extended family for Christmas, it was probably one of the most enjoyable holidays since my grandma was alive. Everything was simple instead of busy and rushed. I have hope that maybe this Easter will be quiet, simple, and enjoyable. I’ll let you know how it goes…
  9. With everything that is going on, I am not really looking forward to April this coming week. But it is a step closer to my favorite season, summer. This morning we awoke to snow and cold windy temperatures. I’m grateful that the difficult seasons make the lighter ones more enjoyable.
  10. I’m grateful that one of our favorite restaurants just opened very close to our house. Paul took me out to eat there after church today. Yum!

Not safe??

After Arabella’s hospitalization, I thought she would improve but she progressively got worse.

She quit her job at Culver’s. She said that everyone that worked there hated her anyway. She said that all of the customers loved her though. Arabella worked as a runner. She would run orders out to the customers. This was an important job after they closed indoor dining due to COVID. She said that almost every shift customers would give her tips whereas some of the other runners would get yelled at because their orders would take longer to fill. She said the customers were so nice to her that she wondered if they thought something was wrong with her. She almost wanted them to treat her poorly like the other workers.

Arabella got a new job a couple blocks from her friend Jordan’s house. She was doing food prep at a bar and grill. She wanted to go into culinary arts so I thought it was a good opportunity for her. But she also used it as an excuse not to come home. But mom, I have to work all weekend so it would just be easier to stay at Jordan’s house. But mom, I have school all week so it is easier to stay at Jordan’s house.

She came up with every excuse in the book not to come back home. When she did come home, she brought Jordan or other friends home with her. I can’t stay because I have to bring them back home. She started telling everyone she was not safe at our house. She made us out to seem like some sort of monsters. She freaked out having to be in her bedroom because she tried killing herself in there. We told her she could stay in Estelle’s room, but she said that there were bad memories in there from when Estelle tried to steal all her friends. There seemed to be some sort of PTSD mixed with paranoid anxiety about coming home.

We tried to get Arabella to come back home, but every time we did she tried to fight us. Meanwhile, Jordan’s family became her family. Everything about them was perfect. She even told the psychiatrist that they had perfect water. THE PERFECT WATER!!?! Seriously, what the hell? We have reverse osmosis filtered water and they have city water. Something was seriously wrong.

She started telling people that she wasn’t safe in our house. She accused her dad of beating our son for hours. She accused me of telling her that I wished she was never born. None of it was true and it was very upsetting to us. Did something happen that we didn’t know about? According to her, her parents and siblings were all mean and hateful people. She started telling everyone that and I think some people believed her. They started looking at us with mistrust, like we abused or beat our children. It was very painful, even more so because it just wasn’t true.

Something was seriously wrong with our daughter. What, I didn’t know. But I was going to find out. I was convinced it wasn’t just a case of depression with anxiety. None of the medication she was on even seemed to help. What was going on?

Just a one time thing?

When you get admitted into a psychiatric hospital, they do bloodwork to determine if there are any health issues that could be causing mental health issues. Arabella’s vitamin D levels were really low and they also found a thyroid disorder. She has hypothyroidism which could explain some of her issues in losing weight and depression. In my mind, it was as easy as fixing those problems and she would be back to her normal self again. If only it were that easy!

They also put Arabella on a low dose of an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer. The mood stabilizer was meant to be a temporary boost to increase the effectiveness of the anti-depressant. She stayed in the hospital for a week. I really thought this was going to be a one time thing. Once her health problems were fixed, her mental health problems would go away. Or so I thought. We weren’t dealing with complex trauma since she had a relatively normal upbringing. Why couldn’t she just go back to being how she was?

When it was time for Arabella to leave, Paul and I met with her treatment team. They thought it would be a good idea for Arabella to have goals to work towards. The first time around they had a reward based system. Once she reached those treatment goals, her dad bought her a pet frog. I was a little more hesitant about the idea since I ended up being the one that took care of her beta fish.

Arabella was going to be attending an outpatient program for at least a week. She didn’t like her current therapist outside of the hospital, so we were going to be switching to a third therapist. She was also on a waiting list for a psychiatrist. She received the diagnosis of Major Depression with Anxiety.

In the meantime, Arabella had a meeting with our family doctor. The hospital requires an appointment be set up a couple weeks after discharge. The doctor retested Arabella’s blood levels and refilled her psychiatric medication but didn’t want to change anything. We also set up a consultation with a plastic surgeon for breast reduction surgery. She was having back pain and was uncomfortable with her body in general.

I started working full-time and her dad was working a lot of hours as well. I worried about Arabella when we were at work. If anything, I was a little less reluctant when she wanted to go right back to Jordan’s house. Arabella started to feel fearful at our house and was afraid she was going to hurt herself when she was home alone. Jordan’s older brother moved out to go to college, so they had an extra bedroom and invited her to move in. The school was over a half an hour from our house and a couple blocks from theirs. It was comforting to know that she had somewhere to go if the roads were bad in the winter, but we didn’t want her to live there.

Arabella couldn’t stand us anymore, but we still wanted her here.