pick me up

After Arabella was in the hospital for a week, it was time for her to be released. This time we didn’t have a family therapy session scheduled. They just told us to come pick her up.

This time it seemed like I sat in the waiting room close to an eternity. I wasn’t the only one. There were two other women waiting with me. One of the women was not memorable, perhaps she was only a figment of my imagination. The other woman looked like she got hit by a bus. Her hair was unkept and she wore pajamas. She spoke loudly on the phone as the rest of us politely tried not to listen. She sobbed as she told the other person how awful it was to find her son’s body then to see him taken away in a body bag. Somehow he lived and she was waiting for his transfer from the hospital to the psychiatric hospital.

I wanted to cry for that woman. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be that mom someday. Would I find my child dead or unconscious from a suicide attempt? I couldn’t stomach the thought but that was the deep water I was wading in. I can’t even imagine the horror. It ripped her apart. She couldn’t even think about doing the little things to take care of herself at that point. A story like hers is the reason why parents of suicidal children don’t sleep at night. The pain never ends until it ends and that is painful too. It seemed incredibly traumatic even though her child lived.

Arabella finally came out of the locked doors carrying a paper bag of her belongings. She was sobbing hysterically. She couldn’t even talk to tell me what was wrong. The other moms glanced her way. Was she really ready to come back home? The nurse came out with papers for me to sign and a new two sided medication list to be picked up at the pharmacy. When the old pills didn’t work, they just threw more her way. The nurse tersely said ‘good luck’ then turned and walked away.

What could I do about it? It’s one of the most painful things as a parent to watch as mental illness devours your child. There was nothing I could do but hope and pray I wouldn’t be in the same shoes as the other mom someday. But after three hospitalizations in the last few months how could I magically believe that things were going to be better after this one?

Gratitude week 62

  1. My daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential care facility and we are doing the best we can to get her the help she needs.
  2. I’m grateful for warm spring weather and sunny days. It makes me feel so much better even if there is still snow on the ground.
  3. I’m grateful to hear the birds chirp in the morning which is another sign of spring.
  4. I’m grateful to be able to see wildlife in my yard this week including birds, deer, and a red fox. I’ve never seen a fox in our yard in broad daylight. I was a little paranoid that as a nocturnal creature it might be rabid or something. But apparently after doing some research found out it wasn’t too unusual to see foxes during the day in spring.
  5. I’m grateful to be feeling healthy.
  6. I’m grateful that my daughter Angel had a mild case of COVID. Her boyfriend is finally starting to feel better today. It’s frustrating because if anyone is super careful about COVID as young folks they are. They don’t take any unnecessary risks. Then they got sick. There was a COVID outbreak where Dan works.
  7. I’m grateful to be able to visit my mom and go for a walk with her this afternoon.
  8. Although I feel helpless about Angel and Dan and his mom being sick, I’m grateful that I was able to help them out by dropping off medicine and other things they needed after being quarantined a week.
  9. I’m grateful that I cleaned out my daughter Arabella’s room. It makes me feel better. Even though she didn’t mind, I couldn’t leave it messy.
  10. I finished a really hard puzzle I have been working on the last couple of weeks. It makes me feel good when all of the pieces finally come together. Now if only that could happen in real life. Right?

Right before the pandemic

Maybe she was crying out but I wasn’t listening. Her problems seemed so petty, like the fight with Estelle. I had given her everything I wanted but never had as a child. In my mind my problems always trumped hers because I was shielding her from life’s real problems. I didn’t listen to any complaints about how hard she had it for anything.

But in reality I really was trying to protect her. She just didn’t know about it. I didn’t tell her anything about my dad. I didn’t tell her that several weeks back her older sister found child porn on their grandpa’s computer and turned him in to the police. She was a child. I wanted to protect her from that. She seemed so innocent, carefree, and happy. Why take that from her?

I developed a plan. Arabella was going to be a foreign exchange student. Maybe she wouldn’t find out about her grandpa until it was all over. But I was worried. There were a few problems with the plan for the children in my house to have the perfect childhood. The police could arrest him any day and then the world would know what kind of monster my dad is. Our foreign exchange students might get sent home. Their parents might not want them here although they would have nothing to do with my dad.

Then there was the part about me being a complete and total mess. I fell into a downward spiral of depression and despair after I heard about my dad. I suffered greatly from the blow and the trauma I experienced as a child resurfaced in the worst way. I knew I was suffering from Complex PTSD. But that knowledge didn’t stop me from going through what I did.

I pushed everyone away. I pretended everything was okay. But I wondered how anything could ever be fine again.

I experienced moments of extreme anxiety and hyper-vigilance. One day I thought I could try to calm myself by listening to music in my earbuds. Arabella came up behind me unexpectedly to give me a hug. I freaked out and screamed at her to not touch me and get away from me. I was horrified. I apologized and tried to explain to her not to touch me if my back was to her. But I could tell she didn’t understand. She felt rejected and I blamed myself for it.

After Arabella’s suicide attempt, we had a long talk. I decided to tell her everything that was happening with my dad. I told her that I was having a hard time with it and me pushing her away had nothing to do with her. Together we cried.

Inside, though, I was furious. If my dad didn’t screw up my life once again I would’ve noticed that my daughter was depressed. I didn’t call him on his birthday. I didn’t even send a card. I blamed him for what happened with Arabella. I was so focused on his mess that I didn’t even notice my own child was suffering.

I wasn’t doing well before the suicide attempt and I certainly didn’t do well after. I suffered severely from insomnia and nightmares for over a month. I thought I was going to lose my mind. That all happened right before the pandemic.

A year and two days ago

It’s been a year and two days since my daughter tried to take her life. It was on a day like today. It happened while I was sitting in the same spot I’m in today, writing my post oblivious to what was happening a couple rooms away.

It came out of nowhere. I blamed myself for not noticing something was wrong. Me, the hyper-vigilant one. I was focused on other things, other problems.

There was a fight between my daughter and our foreign exchange student Estelle. Before then things were great between them, better than I could’ve ever expected. Arabella and Estelle were best friends. We even signed Arabella up to be a foreign exchange student hosted by Estelle’s family. Then there was the fight. Arabella accused Estelle of trying to steal her friends. I thought it was temporary, petty even. They would work it out themselves. But a few days later my daughter tried to kill herself.

She tried to OD and laid down in her bed to go into a forever sleep. She was filled with horror and threw up the pills she ingested. She reached out to her friends, then she reached out to me. That is when she found me writing my post on a day just like today. She came into the room sobbing hysterically. I literally thought someone had died. She said it was a mistake and it wouldn’t happen again. I don’t know why I believed her. We were na├»ve and new to her mental health struggles back then. We didn’t know what to do and certainly had no idea what would happen next.

One of the first feelings I felt was enraged. I screamed and kicked the garbage can across the room spilling its contents everywhere. I can’t remember a time of such anger and uncontrolled rage in myself. I wanted to punch a wall or through the glass in the door. Looking back it seemed like an unusual response because I usually suppress my anger. But that is what happened.

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like if she succeeded that night in February. Succeeded, what a horrible word to describe something like that. I don’t think I would’ve made it through to share my story. My demons could have me. I just wouldn’t have the fight to run from them anymore.

For a long time after that night, I would awake in the middle of the night to see if she was still breathing. I would watch for the rise and fall of the blankets. Sometimes I couldn’t see and would reach out to touch her gently as to not wake her reminiscent of the early years when I checked on my sweet baby to see if she was still breathing after she stopped crying out for me in the middle of the night.

Now there was a new fear that robbed me of my peace both day and night. Will my daughter choose life today? I rejoice that it’s been over a year and she is alive!!

It was the start of a new journey. I was no longer just a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues, now I am a mother.

forgotten

One of the hardest parts about being a special needs sibling is being forgotten. It’s like I don’t even exist. Forgotten, no one would miss me if I was gone. It’s hard to get over the voice in my head that is on repeat saying that no one really cares about me.

Yesterday I went out to eat with my mom. At the restaurant, my mom noticed our previous dentist sitting near us. He lost his license to practice dentistry over a decade ago. He wasn’t the first provider that we had lose his license either. Let’s just say when traditional medicine didn’t heal my autistic brother, my mom went the alternative medicine route and some of those doctors were quacks.

My mom went over to talk to our dentist about Matt. She showed him all of Matt’s most recent pictures. On the way out, we said good-bye. I told my mother that the dentist probably remembered me. After all, I was the patient with the small mouth that no dentist could numb for fillings. My mom talked to the dentist some more about Matt, then asked the dentist if he remembered me.

The dentist said that he did not remember me. He had a very large practice and wasn’t expected to remember every patient. I was in his office so often that I still remember his secretary’s name. It was like a kick to the teeth. The polite thing to do would’ve been to lie. Yes, I remember you. How are you doing now? Instead he asked for my mom’s phone number because he would like to schedule a time to come out and visit Matt.

I told my husband about the interaction and he was rather appalled. But I told Paul this was the typical response.

As a teenager, the rare time I was with family friends or family, they would pepper me with questions about Matt. They asked how my brother Matt was doing with the same sympathetic frown on their faces. I was barely holding it together, but no one ever asked how I was doing or how my other brothers were doing. Yeah, just trying not to swallow a whole bottle full of pills here. But who cares?

As a child, I wanted something to be wrong with me so that I would be loved too. My babysitter told me if I wore her thick glasses and looked in the mirror, I would need glasses too. I wore her glasses looking in the mirror with a metallic gum wrapper covering my top teeth with a paper clip. I wanted to be special too.

I had a lot of stomachaches as a child. I could barely eat I felt so sick. But I wasn’t as sick as Matt. I didn’t need to go to the doctor. Matt’s valve between his stomach and intestines closed, and he almost died. What was I bellyaching about? I just wanted attention.

But as I am currently facing health issues, I wonder if I am just being paranoid. Maybe it’s just me wanting attention. Maybe it’s nothing and I am just crazy. I am probably just being selfish to focus so much on myself. Look at Matt.

It was always that way. It will probably always be that way. Seriously, who cares anyway? My thoughts and feeling don’t matter. I don’t know why I even bother.

I remember a special occasion with family several years back. We were supposed to go around the room and share something special that happened in our family over the past year. My mom spent 20 minutes in tears talking about all of Matt’s medical needs. She did not once mention that my brother Luke, who wasn’t there, got a HUGE promotion at work that year.

We are the forgotten ones. It makes me feel both sad and angry, hurt. But it was always like that. I should be used to it by now.

I didn’t feel that way about my dad. He pretty much checked out altogether. But in my mom’s life, the sun will around revolve around her special son Matt. Our accomplishments don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Matt hurt us or our children. We should all work together to worship our god Matt because his life sucks.

My mother is a great person, a martyr perhaps. I feel guilty for my disloyalty. But the one thing that grieves me deeply, far beyond the memories of the physical pain of being attacked by Matt, is being forgotten. It’s hard to get over feeling like no one cares about me. Sometimes it’s hard to be caring towards myself. I feel selfish for sharing my wants and needs.

Forgotten.

 

Write, right?

It’s been a busy week and I haven’t really felt like writing.

Most of the time I have no qualms about throwing it out there. But for some reason this week I’ve felt impersonal. I want to keep my distance and my thoughts to myself. I worry that I’ve already shared too much.

I feel frustrated. My thoughts are fluctuating about my writing. One day I have great confidence. My book will be a bestseller and I can’t wait to chronicle my descent into despair. The next day I want to walk away from it all and not open myself up to be vulnerable to the world.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has been as personal as mine is going to be.

Word has gotten around that I am writing a book. I got a call from a publisher this week. She wants to meet for coffee to discuss my book. She said that memoirs are flying off the shelves right now. She wants me to send her a sample of my book. I am thinking about turning her down, but I am not sure if that is a smart idea. She is a small publisher that mainly publishes works of fiction.

I am not ready to deal with this yet. I want to take my time and write a great book before I worry about finding a publisher. Then I feel bad because I have some good friends who wrote great fiction books and haven’t been able to find a publisher.

The end of the summer, I will be public speaking about being a sibling with an autistic brother. My contact said that once I have my book written, she had someone interested in publishing. I would prefer to publish my book in the mental health memoir genre. Now I will need to reach out and contact them to see what my options are. It is all very confusing as a first time author.

All I want to do is write my book and not worry about anything else right now. The publisher said that if I finish writing a book, I will find myself in the 1% of the population who has. That is rather exciting, but I have no interest in being an author.

I just want to write my book. I’m not sure what I’m going to do after that. I can see myself doing public speaking and being an advocate for families, especially siblings, of the disabled. But I haven’t even done my first public speaking stint yet. Maybe I won’t like it. Maybe I won’t be good at it. The thought of public speaking about something this personal is starting to fill me with anxiety.

I’m not sure where this path is going to lead me and I am filled with doubt. But I think I need to keep writing.

Write, right?

Outrunning my demons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trauma drama

Last night I was having a debate with Arabella. She said she believes that everyone experiences traumatic childhoods.

What??

So I gave her a scenario. Girl A spent her childhood as an incest victim. Girl B’s most traumatic experience was that she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas one year.

I asked her if both girls experienced a traumatic childhood. Arabella responded that they both did. I couldn’t believe it. Then she further stated that my childhood was no more traumatic than her own. I felt offended by her comments and am hoping that her viewpoint will change once she matures.

Arabella asked me if I knew anyone with a perfect childhood. I responded “yes” that I believe my sister-in-law Emily had a perfect childhood. Both my brother and I have flashbacks and at times PTSD from our childhood. It has been very painful dealing with this far into adulthood. Emily has been trying her hardest to help my brother through the pain he is experiencing.

The other day I told my husband Paul that maybe he is better equipped to help me than Emily is to help Luke because his childhood was less than perfect. He disagreed claiming that he has his own demons and voids to fill from his own childhood. He said that someone with a firm foundation is better equipped to help someone who is struggling.

Paul grew up without ever knowing his father. His mother was a teenage high school dropout when she had him. She was willing to work, but struggled financially due to her lack of education. She wasn’t very bright, and although she tried couldn’t earn her GED. We also suspect that his mom was mentally ill. She had a lot of symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Paul’s mother Martha was never a boring person. Sometimes she was a lot of fun to be around. She was exciting and when she loved you she made you feel like you were on the top of the world. There was a time when I was absolutely wonderful and I could do nothing wrong. She made me feel special, important, and loved. In those times, she was a very positive and encouraging mother to Paul. She told him he could do anything he put his mind to.

But there were times that I couldn’t do anything right. Everything was my fault. I was a horrible person. At times she was paranoid. She accused me a taking her boots and leaving a pair of boots that were just like hers but weren’t. She would scream and kick us out of her house. Nothing was ever her fault. Someone else was always to blame. She didn’t lose her job because she was always late, it was because someone was out to get her.

She couldn’t handle watching all of our kids if we wanted to get away for a weekend. She called the oldest two kids demons and our youngest an angel one of the few times she watched them. My son locked himself in the bathroom on the last day until we picked them up. Even her one on one time with the grandchildren turned into big fights. She got into huge arguments with everyone she was close to, then the next time she saw you acted like nothing happened at all.

Martha could convince anyone that she should be the mother of the year. She said things that weren’t true, but were absolutely believable because she believed them. I could go on and on. I don’t believe that Martha was a bad mother. She was just mentally ill. In some ways that makes it so much easier to understand and accept. As you can see, Paul has his own baggage. How can he help me? We tend to stumble along down this path together.

Paul and I did the best we could to be the best parents we could be with what we were given. We didn’t get a lot of help and support with our children and at times felt like we needed to care for our parents.

Paul said that Emily is better equipped to help her spouse through hard times because she has a good foundation to lean back on. Being able to relate is overrated. He convinced me and I changed my mind. Now if I could only convince Arabella and change her mind.