What is love?

By the end of last year, my life started to crumble apart. I was dealing with some serious issues with my dad. I reached out to God. Please God, if you are there, show me that you love me. Trust hasn’t always been my strong suit. But what I was asking for didn’t seem like much.

In February, someone I am very close to attempted suicide. Do you know the pain of feeling that one morning you might wake up and your loved one is no longer there? It’s pure hell. I stopped sleeping and battled insomnia for over a month with nightmares. Maybe if I was always vigilant, maybe if I didn’t sleep, than nothing bad would happen come morning.

In March, someone I knew decided to quit battling kidney disease. He died and we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral because this new virus was sweeping the nation. Later that month, we were planning on driving down to Florida to show our 2 foreign exchange students our country. The week we were leaving Disney World closed and we had to cancel our trip.

It was not the only trip that was cancelled. My mom, daughter Arabella, and I were planning on going on a school related music trip to Europe this summer. The company cancelled the trip and kept $1900 per person to line their pockets. The money they kept for all three of us was like one person went on the trip that didn’t.

We decided that our daughter Arabella could no longer be a foreign exchange student next year not only from coronavirus. When we sold our company, we took some of the profit as private equity stock in their business. We were supposed to get enough money to live on for the next couple of years the first quarter of 2020. We were going to use this to jump start a new business. It never happened and now we don’t know if and when it will happen.

Our financial security is gone. With the virus and the economy, it is a struggle to start a new business.

The schools shut down. Prom was cancelled. The track season that just started was cancelled. The musical postponed. My college daughter’s recital and later graduation was cancelled. The gym closed. I struggled to get a good workout because winter held on to the middle of May.

In April, one of our foreign exchange students decided to go home. It was during that time that I started taking an antibiotic prescribed by the wellness clinic which says a lot since they mainly treat with herbs and supplements. Ten days after the last dose, my body crashed. I was sick running to the bathroom 20 to 30 times a day, day and night for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. I pleaded with God to let me die. After being poked and prodded by several doctors and a colonoscopy later, I was diagnosed with colitis and sent on my way.

After the flare up, I was left with a hollow shell of a body. I am weak. I had to give up running. I am still sick. I can’t eat. I watch as my family members eat my favorite foods. In the last week alone I lost almost 10 pounds.

Meanwhile my daughter Arabella is packing back on all of the weight she worked so hard to lose. She went from an honor student pre-coronavirus to barely passing. I’m not sure she is going to pass all of her classes. I can’t blame her for feeling depressed since everything she was looking forward to is now gone.

Then I heard the news that the family business my great-grandparents built over 100 years ago burned to the ground. Although no longer owned by my family, a lot of my good childhood memories are tied to the building and my family that worked in it who are also gone. It was painful to see something they lovingly built destroyed.

There are things that happened this past year that I can’t even talk about yet. Somethings I will probably never share. It’s not even June yet. I’m not even sure if there is a God anymore. But if there is, right now I feel pretty certain that he doesn’t give two hoots about me. Or is God just taking the things I have away to show me what I already have been given?

What is love? Is it giving or taking away? Or is a mixture of both necessary for growth like sunshine and rain?

Okay, okay enough complaining for today. Tomorrow gratitude…

In sickness and in health

I wonder if wedding vows still espouse the traditional in sickness and in health. It’s been awhile since I went to a wedding, my own being almost 23 years ago. When I think of someone getting married, I think about young and healthy couples who probably don’t think that their love could battle health issues that might mess up their future dreams.

And the two shall become one. But what happens if one is sick? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately since I haven’t been well.

Currently I am drinking 15 liquid elixir shots and popping 21 pills a day of supplements. I’m getting sick of it. I still don’t feel well. I am now trying to eat two small meals a day. My stomach hurts if I get too hungry and it pretty much always hurts after I eat. It’s a delicate dance.

Over the weekend I ate only bone broth. It is disgusting. I watched as my family ate pizza, hamburgers, birthday cake, chips with nacho cheese, and ice cream. It was hard to watch especially since my bone broth didn’t make me feel much better. I got very weak. The last thing I wanted to do was clean the kitchen up after they feasted which is a chore that mainly I do. Thankfully I didn’t have to.

Sometimes they feel bad for me. I get barraged everyday by well meaning loved ones with an are you feeling better yet. Sometimes they feel guilty for eating my favorite foods which I cannot have in front of me. Sometimes they care more about themselves.

Yesterday my husband went for a run and was apologetic to me. I didn’t enjoy running, I’m only doing it for my health. I feel horrible they are apologizing to me for doing the things they normally do. It makes me feel bad. But their normal behaviors are tormenting me because I can’t do it anymore. I think it is wrong for me to be upset about that. But it does upset me.

Oh, and another thing since I’m being totally honest here. It is hard to live with three teenagers in the house. The other day my daughter Arabella was eating cookie dough for breakfast at noon. My husband confronted her telling her she needed to eat something healthy. It was the right thing for him to do. Since then she has been angry at us and is once again slipping behind on her homework. I can foresee a lot of problems and confrontation with her in the near future.

Stress tends to make me feel worse. I have zero tolerance for stress right now which sucks because I see no end to that in sight.

Other than not feeling healthy, my mental health has been a struggle too. I used to cope with anxiety by running and keeping busy. Now I sit around and worry. I’m depressed because I don’t feel like I am accomplishing much. My husband gets irritated sometimes that he has to pull more of the weight since I’ve been sick. I don’t like it anymore than he does. It’s not like I’m trying to deliberately get out of doing my fair share. I’ve never been much of a slacker. No one in this house understands what it feels like.

I’ve been depressed because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling this way. Now I think I understand why in sickness and in health are a part of the wedding vows. Will I still be loved if I am no longer the person I used to be?

For better or for worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health…If you stay with someone long enough, you pretty much see it all.

Isolating fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

purpose

What is the purpose of struggling?

I’ve felt sick like this many times before. There were times in my childhood where I was in so much pain that I didn’t eat much for several days. I was deemed a picky eater. My parents yelled at me, at times forced me to eat until I threw up, and threatened to take me to the doctor. I really wish they did. Maybe I wouldn’t be in the predicament that I’m in now.

Maybe if I was an only child things would be different. My brother had special needs so mine were ignored. It was selfish of me to take care of myself. I mean, look at my brother.

I can’t blame my parents for everything. I once told a doctor about the things I was experiencing and she told me it was all in my head. Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe it still is. I have that fear. Maybe I will go in for the colonoscopy and they will find nothing wrong with me. But if it is in my head, you better lock me up because I can’t live this way much longer.

At its greatest intensity, the stomach cramps feel like I am in labor. That being said, I didn’t really get a lot of sleep last night. I was in too much pain.

What does this mean for my life going forward? I’m thinking about giving up running. I am not well. My running really took a downhill (or uphill) turn last year. But I did finish a 50k. I achieved everything I wanted to. Oh my gosh, will my life come down to walking and yoga? Shoot me now!

I have to think this physical struggle with my health has some purpose. I have to think my childhood trauma had some purpose too. Why is purpose so meaningful to me? Without it, what is the point?

My husband has been very supportive. I want to thank him for giving me the best years of my life. I know we annoy each other and fight sometimes, but I can always count on him. I guess that is as close as I can get to trusting someone in this life.

I have been struggling because I want to write about what happened last summer with my husband. But I don’t want to hurt him because he is a good person. He did give me the green light, but I would choose him over being transparent with you any day if I felt it’s what I needed to do.

The whole purpose of having a personal blog is sharing my story. The ups and downs and the bumps along the way. Maybe I can help someone else in this journey. Or maybe it just makes me feel better.

My story is the only thing that cannot be taken away from me. Unless I end up with dementia, of course, which I am convinced will be my demise. But until then I am going to keep writing.

 

 

 

Gratitude week 16

  1.  I created an Instagram account that I can use to stay in touch with Clara.
  2.  I have been sleeping a lot better which greatly improves my mood.
  3.  I helped Paul shave his head. What better time to try out a new look?
  4.  I was able to de-clutter some of my house which always feels good.
  5.  All of my family members are healthy and safe.
  6.  I am finally off of the antibiotics.
  7.  This whole virus thing coupled with a resurge of winter is forcing me to change. I can no longer hold onto structure, work, exercise, and routine addiction. It is painful to go without it but sometimes growth hurts. I am so bored that maybe I will try a new way of doing things that I wouldn’t have otherwise done if not forced.
  8.  Maybe it’s time to slow down and let go. Maybe life is more than tasks, goals, bucket lists, and achievements.
  9.  Now is the time to redefine purpose and meaning.
  10.  I feel motivated to write with even more truth. Maybe now would be a good time to start working on the second edition of my book.

Maybe tomorrow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder when all of this will end.

Maybe tomorrow…but yesterday I said maybe tomorrow too.

This stinking sinking boat we’re in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would it kill you to be nice?

What if I told you that my son had a couple of friends overnight last night? Would you lecture me and call me stupid?

What if I told you that the two boys were brothers who got kicked out of their house by their single mother who went off of her medication for severe mental health issues? What if I told you that when she is like that she is violent towards her children? Would that change your mind?

What price is too high to pay for human kindness?

What if I told you that the day our foreign exchange student went home Paul asked the coordinator if there were any other children in dire need of a place to stay? Who willingly takes on more teenagers in a time of crisis? Who steps up to take the children who have nowhere to go?

My best friend Cindy took in a teenage boy who is friends with her son. He was going through a hard time at home. Yesterday Cindy took this kid to the ER for what might have been kidney stones. Would you risk getting sick by taking someone else’s child to the ER right now?

What if your parents were in need of groceries and were afraid to leave the house? Would you spend over two hours in the store to get them everything that they need even if you didn’t have a mask to wear?

All of these things happened within the last couple days. It’s the new moral dilemma. Do you put yourself at risk to help others? There are so many people who are struggling right now.

What price is too steep for human kindness? Seriously, I want to know. Is the risk too high to help others if you are healthy? Would you donate blood? Would you try to make a difference in this world even if it means you might get sick?

I think of all the doctors and nurses who are stepping up to save lives at the price of losing theirs. What is that worth? There are many people out there making a difference in other peoples lives.

Would it kill you to be nice? Maybe it would this year.

At Eastertime I reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us. What would he want from us? I think he would want us to be caring and kind towards the other people he placed in our lives. In times of struggle it’s hard to do nothing if there are people out there that need help.

 

scratch this

My husband woke up with scratch marks on his neck yesterday morning. Five red raised welts caused by what looks like a left hand based on the markings. He didn’t wake up. He only knew because it burned while he was taking a shower in the morning.

I didn’t wake up either. We both slept deeply that night. That was the day we woke up very early to take Clara to the airport. We were both very exhausted. I knew I slept deep. I had that awareness. Did I have a nightmare and not wake up this time? Did I attack him? It had to have been me. He would have had a hard time scratching himself at that angle with his left hand. Plus I am left handed. Could’ve I attacked him without either one of us realizing it?

I have been keeping busy since Clara left. After she left I cleaned the house. The day after I met with my therapist. Afterwards I went grocery shopping for my mom. She completely quarantined herself since the coronavirus. She is freaking out. She will not leave the house even to go to the store.

The first couple weeks friends and family dropped off food at her house. This time I told her I would go. It felt like my obligation as her daughter. Plus with the special diet, I felt like I was probably the one person who could get her the items she wanted. She sent me a picture of two full handwritten pages. It took me 2 and a half hours. I got her 11 bags of groceries so they should be set for awhile.

Paul didn’t want me to go grocery shopping at first. He was angry and wanted my mom just to eat the food everybody else does. He was worried that I would get the coronavirus and have a weakened immune system because I am taking antibiotics. At his prompting, I called the pharmacy who told me it wasn’t a concern.

I haven’t been feeling the greatest. I have been feeling very tired, nauseous, dizzy, and have a headache from time to time. These are all common side effects of the medication. Also if I mix the medication with ANY alcohol (even with aftershave the label says) I could have a very serious reaction. So I stopped taking the elixirs from the wellness clinic because they have alcohol in them.

This also means I stopped taking Ashwagandha which helps maintain proper cortisol balance. The last time I went off this my PTSD symptoms went haywire. I asked to be put on it again after I figured out what changed. This time I feel fine off it or so I thought. Now I noticed that I am startling easy to noises. The anxiety and hyper-vigilance is starting to kick back in.

But even more troubling, I feel paranoid. Maybe Clara left because she wanted to get away from me. My therapist is angry at me. My best friend is out to get me. She is going to blab everything I’ve ever told her out to the world. My husband doesn’t love me, he doesn’t care. Yesterday when I called my brother Luke for his birthday I felt like he didn’t want to talk to me. At times I am afraid to talk to you.

Wait! It isn’t logical that everyone started hating me simultaneously. The problem isn’t them, it’s me. I’m being paranoid but it feels so real. I see it clearly now. I have another week to go to heal my body before I can go back to healing my mind. I hope I don’t totally lose my mind before then. At least I have awareness which I suppose is some consolation. It was more than I had yesterday.

Now if I could only figure out how my husband got scratched while we were both sleeping at night. I just hope I am not up all night worrying about it.

Last summer, this summer

Maybe I was naïve to think after my son graduated from high school last year that it would be smooth sailing. Sometimes I can be like that, overly optimistic. And things were good for about a month. Then my life fell apart again in a different way.

It was last summer that my health went to crap. I found a new doctor and she was appalled that my last provider had me on 2 pills a day for a duration of 5 years for acid reflux. These were pills that should be taken once a day for a course of 10 days. She took me off my medication and had me scoped. She told me to take a few Tums for my gushing gut wound and sent me on my way. Besides being anemic nothing else was wrong with me.

But something was wrong with me. I’ve even had a doctor once say it was all in my head. She only said that once because I never went back to her again. Please if it is all in my head, fix it.

After being very strongly encouraged by my mother, I decided to go to a wellness clinic for allergy testing. I was found to be allergic to 22 foods. The biggest culprit was dairy. I said good-bye to my favorite comfort foods. But I still wasn’t feeling better.

I scheduled an appointment with the wellness nurse. She said I had a level of inflammation in my gut that she has rarely seen before. I had more tests done and started a treatment plan.

In the meantime, I discovered that I have Complex PTSD from childhood trauma. I have been seeing a great therapist. I have been working through my lifelong struggle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Meanwhile my life fell apart in other ways with family problems that really had nothing to do with me.

Over a month went by where every single night I did not sleep the full night. Some nights I would just get up and sit looking into the darkness. Nightmares were common. If only I could sleep then my problems would be solved. With help from both my therapist and wellness nurse, I am now able to sleep a couple of full nights a week. With sleep, my mood improved greatly. I was feeling a little less like a zombie.

Once again I become overly optimistic. I had more tests done. I’m getting better. I was going to finally be able to do the 30 day detox diet and get my allergies retested. I imagined myself this summer eating my favorite foods again. This summer it was going to be cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, pizza, cheese, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese curds, lasagna, and cheese. It was so close I could almost smell it.

I went into my follow up appointment last week with great expectations only to have them dashed. My results showed that only 5% of the healthy population got test scores like mine. I have several parasites. I also have Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This means that I have good bacteria in the wrong place which interferes with food absorption. This could explain the anemia.

So now I am on an even more restricted diet. Limited sugars, starches, carbs, processed food, and fiber. Too much of these foods can make the bacteria grow and make me feel sick. Pretty much the only thing I can eat now is meat. If it weren’t for living with a meat and potatoes man and ham I would probably be a vegetarian. This has really taken the joy out of eating.

The nurse also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to kill off the parasites. It will help a little with the SIBO too. She said she only prescribed it to two other people but thought it was necessary in my case with my chronic gut issues. I was a little terrified to take the first pill. I read about parasite die off and it sounded miserable. So far I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel awful either.

It was hard going in with the expectation of good news. But I am on the road to recovery however long that might be. I know what I’m up against. It’s good to know it all isn’t in my head.