Dreary days

Today is the fourth dreary and rainy (or some form of precipitation) day in a row. I’m feeling it to the deepest part of my core; the cold, the dark, being locked inside not able to get out and find the light. There is so much trouble in the world, so much trouble in the people that surround me. It never seems to end. It is heavy, denser than the fog.

Yesterday Paul and I stopped at my parent’s house before going out to eat with Matt for his birthday. It is something I have to prepare myself for like wearing a winter coat on a cold day even if it looks like it could be sunny and warm. I will be triggered. It will be hard. Sometimes I ask Arabella what it is like living with my parents. From the sounds of it, not much has changed. My dad roams the house in his underwear. My mom cleans up his messes.

Then there is Matt. Matt can not do complex tasks like washing the dishes, but he can do simple tasks. When Matt is home, my dad has Matt wait on him hand and foot. Matt go get me a cookie. Matt get me some water. Matt hand me my remote. My mom tells my dad that Matt is not his servant. Then mom gives Matt permission to wait on my dad to feel like she is in control. I don’t miss the games, the power struggle between my parents.

The visit home was uncomfortable. Paul said he really doesn’t want to go back again. I don’t either. My parents complain Arabella is messy. She is, yet they fail to notice the own mess they live in. My mom wants Arabella to leave, even if it means moving to an apartment with a boyfriend she has been dating a few months. Before my dad’s crime, my mom would’ve been aghast to the idea. But now there aren’t any morals anymore.

They are all hard to live with. But what’s even harder is to see some of their very own struggles manifested within my children.

That’s one thing we never thought of before having kids. I just looked at the autism in my brother; the violence, the voices in his head telling him to hurt someone. Maybe we didn’t examine our parents enough; their relationships, their modeling, their own mental health. Then add a random bio dad to the smorgasbord of genetic maelstrom. All I can say, as if it’s any consolation, at least what we are seeing passed down is not entirely foreign to us.

It is sad. Sometimes I feel like crying with the rain as it pours down.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last couple of years is acceptance. That doesn’t mean I will accept poor behavior. It means it is what it is. I am not going to be able to change things. An apple is an apple even if I want it to be an orange. It also means being mindful of triggers. A visit to my parents house may cause me to feel depressed, anxious, or even angry. If I can prepare myself in advance for the possibility of those feelings, it doesn’t hit me so hard.

Today, though, I just feel tired and blah. Under the weather I guess. It seems hard to focus and form thoughts into words that make any sense right now. This post did not go where I was expecting it to go, but that is okay. I can accept that as well, I guess.

There is no warm up in sight. The weather forecasters are saying it should be warm and sunny, spring like on April 1st. What a joke!

Navigating life

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t struggle with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares.

Why should I expect that to change? The likelihood of no longer struggling with these things is about as likely as me waking up one morning with schizophrenia. It’s probably not going to happen. I was thinking about these things while I laid awake the other night.

Some things have changed. I started taking medicine prescribed by my doctor to help me sleep at night. It works better than nothing. I still struggle with insomnia and nightmares. The insomnia part has improved, but the nightmares have not.

Do you ever have dreams where you are falling and you wake up before you hit the bottom? I don’t wake up anymore until I’m dead. Sounds strange, right? In the last week, I’ve had two dreams where I was shot point blank, heard the sound of gunfire, and woke up after I died in my dreams. The nightmares just seem to go on forever. In one of the nightmares I was shot while I was cleaning my house. I mean, seriously??

Then I got to thinking, people really don’t change either. Most of my childhood I believed my autistic/schizophrenic brother would become normal again. If only we could find the right doctor, the right diet, the right medication. I was waiting and hoping for this. God was going to heal my brother. I didn’t know what this was going to look like. Would he be able to suddenly read and write like me or was he going to start life over in his toddler years. I thought it was going to happen, but it never did.

When my own daughter started having mental health struggles a couple years back, I thought the same thing. If only I found the right doctor, the right medication, the right inpatient program, outpatient program, etc.. Surely an expensive residential treatment facility would do the trick. But it didn’t cure her. It didn’t take her mental illness away. She is not the same person she was before. She will never be that way again. She may decide to end her life someday and I have to accept that and love her where she is at. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

After my dad committed his crime, there was a period of time where I was under the impression that he accepted the Lord and was a changed person. I wanted so badly to believe that was true. I thought maybe he would finally be the kind of dad I always wanted. But guess what? Nothing changed.

If I pray more and have enough faith, then my anxiety will go away. I used to believe that too. Maybe something was wrong with me because when I prayed for my struggles to go away, they didn’t. I don’t believe people anymore when they tell me those kind of things. It sounds like a gimmick to me. God is bigger than that. I don’t see God in that way anymore. I think faith is a wonderful coping mechanism. But I think people do more harm than good by telling others if they do certain things then their sibling, their child, their parent, or they will not struggle anymore.

Miracles do happen, but they are truly one in a million. I’m better off accepting that the way things are will probably be the way things will always be. If I look at it that way, my life makes a lot more sense. Look at the patterns of behavior. It’s very simplistic, but for me it was a real aha moment in the middle of the night. People don’t change. They may grow and mature over time like a baby turns into an old lady. But it’s still the same person with the same strengths and weaknesses with a little more wisdom and mindfulness on how to navigate life.

Wishes

I wish I could say my good mood has lasted but alas it has not.

I can’t pinpoint anything major just a general feeling of disappointment. Our furnace is still out, plus our boiler for our pool and hot tub are out too. We live in a big old drafty house. Something always needs fixing it seems. Thankfully we know what the problem is with our furnace and it is under warranty. We went from having to get a new furnace this morning to having to pay a couple hundred dollars to have it fixed this afternoon which is great. But I spent my whole day dealing with this and not all of the problems are fixed yet. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a switch that I can turn on to make everything work again.

I feel frustration about COVID and how it is tearing families apart for yet another holiday season. I’m angry about family attacking family over politics and vaccination status. If you don’t believe what I believe then you aren’t welcome to be a part of this family anymore but I still care about you bullshit. I’m so angry I want to cut some extended family out of my life forever. The sad thing is at one time I actually thought they might have cared.

I’m sick of hosting the family holidays. I’m angry that my mom never took it over after my grandma was unable to do it anymore. I’m angry I had to take on the responsibility in my mid-20’s after looking at my daughter that age and thinking about what I had to do at her age. I’m angry I never got to be a child or even a young adult without having to parent my parents who just never seem to be able to handle life without burdening their children.

I’m angry for the crime my dad committed. Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary. I’m angry that some family members brush it aside as if it never happened. I’m angry that some family members harbor anger towards my daughter for turning him in. I’m angry my dad is so shitty of a dad and grandpa he will not be invited to my daughter’s wedding. I’m terribly jealous of people who have supportive parents. Neither my husband nor I have had that. I’m angry my husband and I have a hard time with relationships because no one ever taught us anything useful. What the hell is normal??

I’m angry that my relationship with Arabella is not what I want it to be. I’m angry she wants me to stop telling people she is delusional when she accuses me of starving, abusing, and torturing her. I’m angry that people feel they need to choose sides. I’m angry people question whether or not I’ve been abusive. I’m angry that I have to worry whether or not she will be alive tomorrow.

I’m angry my mom favors my brother Matt over everyone. I’m angry that he abused me as a child and I was never protected. I’m angry that my dad never taught me I was worthy of love and instead told me how stupid I was. I’m angry that I have to live with the aftermath trauma created in my life. I’m angry that I live in fear and am unable to trust.

All these things have been very painful for me. I’m this close to telling people off. I’m not sure what I need to do to get over this new bout of anger. I feel triggered thinking about family. I’m not sure what is wrong. Tis the season I suppose. I did say this time of year is hard for me.

Tonight my husband and I are meeting with a new pastor. We are thinking of leaving our church. My faith has been horrible the last two years since I found out about my dad and with my daughter’s mental health struggles. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much support from the church. I acknowledge they are not responsible for my faith but at least offer me some guidance besides forgiveness of those who have hurt me.

If you can’t help me because you never experienced any struggles in life I can understand that as I am not an idiot. But don’t make me feel bad for something I didn’t do. I have yet to pray away my PTSD. Don’t say I don’t have enough faith to overcome my anxiety. Maybe, just maybe, I had to be this way to survive and now I’m trapped in it. I don’t know how to be any other way because I don’t remember life before the trauma started. I don’t have fond childhood memories with my parents and siblings. I wish I did.

I like the person I am but I am getting tired of the bullshit.

Sifting through the ashes

There was nothing left after the explosion that left a crater sized hole in my heart. It destroyed everything I built.

I had dreams of what it was going to be like before it existed. I painstakingly wove together the blueprints within my very own walls. I laid out the best foundation I could build with the resources I had. Every day I devoted to it before it fully came into existence. I dreamed of what it would be like. I tried my best to make sure it was built right. It may not have been a magnificent palace like those who had rubies and gold but it wasn’t built out of straw like my own flimsy abode.

It’s all gone now. It’s hard to look back at what was. Were my dreams wasted? I just wanted what everyone else seemed to have, a happy home. All that is left are footprints in the cold concrete. There is a date next to it but it is weathered like an ancestral gravestone.

Every day I go back and sift through the ashes of what’s left. Baby teeth, thankfully not bones, left for the tooth fairy long ago hidden away in a drawer uncovered in the dirt. A teddy bear smeared with soot its fake eye hanging from a thread. A gift to you. I remember when it was brand new. But I can’t think of that now. A tarnished spoon.

Where within the gray ashes is the silver lining of hope? I search trying to find a sign. Maybe there is a flower about to root hidden underground safe from the blast. Maybe something good can come out of this. I dig and dig to find a joker from a playing card. What is the purpose? It’s useless scary and ugly discarded in rejection from a regular hand.

I keep searching for anything left. Maybe if I tried harder to fix the cracks before the explosion it wouldn’t have happened. Maybe it just wasn’t built right. Maybe some of my straw got mixed in with the brick. How come I didn’t notice? I thought I built it strong enough to weather the storms on the outside. But I didn’t weather proof the inside. Why would I even think I might have to? Would padded rooms keep it secure and safe from the bomb blast?

Why did this have to happen anyway? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It didn’t happen with other houses. Was it my fault? Was the builder to blame? I screamed at the hollow shell, my own emptiness echoing back. I wanted to shatter something but it appears as if everything is already broken.

The rains came and I cried along with it. It was once a beautiful house. Did you see the brilliant colors of the walls like a prism refracted in the brightest sunlight? Did you see it? Don’t you remember how it was? I should’ve inspected every room closer to see if the angles were off. Maybe I could have done something, anything. Maybe I could’ve tried harder.

I search for clues of why it happened in old pictures. You see, the house looked fine there. It was the same house when the shadows cast on it as it was in the bright sunshine.

I would give anything just to be in the house one more time. I’m sorry I didn’t enjoy it more before it was gone. If only I’d known. I want to drive in the driveway and see my house waiting for me to come home. I want you to wave at me through the window like you used to. Even an empty window would be alright if I knew you were still there. I’m not asking for much.

They say I should move on. I shouldn’t keep searching. But I cannot. Even in my dreams I am stuck there looking for things I might have missed. There is nothing left. It can’t be rebuilt. But that doesn’t stop me from going back. I remember what it was like at its finest. I can’t believe it is gone. I can never go back to the carefree days I spent dancing through the halls.

Nothing is the same. Do I think if I keep going back that one day everything will magically be put back together again? Why do I keep searching? Why can’t I let it go?

How can I go on missing a part of my heart? I don’t want to die but I can’t seem to live.

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?