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.

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?

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?

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?

Feeling tested

The last time we talked I told you that my daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential mental health treatment facility. What I didn’t tell you was that at the same time my other daughter Angel most likely had COVID.

Last weekend I briefly saw Angel’s boyfriend Dan. We were close to each other for a few minutes while I opened the sliding door we all walked out of. I was in close contact with my daughter Angel who was in close contact with her boyfriend Dan. Are you following me yet?

The next day Angel goes to Dan’s house. While she is there he develops a fever. She decides not to come home. The next day Dan has an instant test and tests positive for COVID.

To make matters more complicated, my mom stopped by with my brother Matt on Saturday. My mom and Matt both received all of their COVID vaccinations. Because of COVID, I have not seen my brother Matt since last June when my mom had a medical emergency and I needed to take him back to his group home. Once he returned to his group home, he couldn’t go back home until fully vaccinated. My brother Matt has not seen my daughter Angel or her boyfriend since Christmas of 2019 again thanks to COVID. After the visit, before we found out Dan was sick, my mom took Matt back to his group home. My mom and brother were not in close contact with us but they did give everyone hugs including Dan.

Monday morning Dan has an instant COVID test and tests positive. He gets really sick. His mother gets sick. My daughter Angel gets sick. So far his father is fine.

What am I to do? My daughter was scheduled to be admitted into residential care. This was her last chance to get into a great adolescent program. She will be an adult in 2 months and they said if she didn’t fill the bed she would lose the opportunity. She had to wait 3 months to get in.

I decided to call the COVID hotline. Not only was it a bad connection, but it was useless conversation. She told me that my situation was really unusual and complicated and that I would be better off calling my doctor or going on the CDC website. My husband and I fought over what to do next. We don’t see eye to eye on COVID. Words were said that weren’t meant.

Meanwhile, my mom’s COVID anxiety ramped up again. She called the group home, program, and case managers. Two of the people told her that Matt should be okay since he had both shots. What more could she do beyond that? Is he never allowed to see family again after everything was done in her power to prevent him from getting sick? Two of the people my mom contacted chewed her out. They said how irresponsible she was. One of them even told Matt he wasn’t going to be allowed home again which caused him distress. My mom was beside herself with worry about Matt. I tried to calm her down but I was worried myself about the ones who were already sick and what would happen next.

I was worried that my brief exposure to Dan would be enough to get me sick and then I would get Arabella sick and then she wouldn’t be able to go into residential. Or Arabella would get sick alone and spread it on to others in a hospital setting. A few days after Dan got sick, Angel got sick too. She got sick several days after I saw her last. I felt pretty confident that I didn’t get exposed from her. I felt iffy about Dan though. I did see him although we weren’t in close contact for very long at all. According to the CDC website I don’t think what we had was considered close contact but I still wasn’t sure because I saw him right before he got sick. But who knows? It’s not like I was keeping track of how far apart we were or how long he was in the room.

Thankfully I had Arabella tested for COVID right before she was admitted and it came back negative. Now it has been several days since I saw her and I still feel fine. I take my temperature everyday and I have been laying low. Everyone has been telling me I have to stop worrying about it and trust God. I’m trying but this has been really stressful. To be honest, trust wasn’t my first instinct. I felt angry. Of all times, why does this have to happen right now??

The first time my mom takes Matt out of the group home he gets exposed. Why God? Why? I sometimes wonder if my family is cursed. Arabella is healthy and everything ended up being alright. But still??!? It was horrible timing to go through a COVID scare. Plus I’ve been worried sick about Angel and Dan and his family. It’s hard knowing my daughter is sick and there is nothing I can do to help her. I’m feeling that way about both my daughters right now.

I ran over to Dan’s parents house today and dropped off some medicine, vitamins, and Gatorade. Angel is feeling a lot better already, but Dan is still pretty sick.

What a week! What a wreck it has made of me! I feel so tested.

Saying good-bye for now

It’s been a crazy busy week here. Yesterday Paul and I dropped our daughter Arabella off at a residential mental health facility. It was a bittersweet moment. I felt like a great weight had been lifted. This will be her best opportunity to get on the path of living a normal life. If I learned one thing, it’s never to take for granted your health mental or otherwise.

I spent the last couple of days getting Arabella ready to leave. She needed lab work at the doctor’s office, medication, a dental exam, and a COVID test. We also took her out to eat because she finished her high school curriculum. Then there was the process of packing and going through all of her clothes.

I wasn’t expecting to feel as sad as I did when we dropped her off. I had to fight off the tears at many moments and felt emotionally drained. I should be dropping my daughter off at college not at the psych ward of a mental hospital. It was very painful processing the can’t haves instead of the should bes.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before, my daughter has an eating disorder. It’s not what you think. She is a binge eater and weighs somewhere around 270 lbs. With her money she buys massive amounts of candy, cookies, and sweets. I am worried about diabetes. She gained 13 lbs. in one month. She is at her highest weight.

My daughter is also a hoarder. She had piles and piles of clothes strewn all over her room. I helped her pack, hang up clothes in her closet, and start a get rid of pile. It took hours. In the process I found out that our cat has been peeing on the clothes in her room which created more laundry and garbage. It was so gross. She had the cat sleep with her at night so she didn’t feel alone which really wasn’t a problem until I found out he was using her room as a cat box. The hoarding, which I find so suffocating, comforts her. We overlooked some things (like keeping a clean room) in favor of promoting other things like graduating from high school and not killing herself.

Today I finished cleaning out her room. I took out three full garbage bags and three full recycling bags. It took half the day but it looks sparkling clean. She will absolutely hate it! In the process of cleaning I found a suicide note. Although I do miss her a lot already, I thought about how horrible it would’ve been to have to clean out her room for the last time if she went through with it. I know we are doing everything we can to help her get better. But I do wish she was at college. In a way it feels like she is. One month at a residential facility costs as much as a semester at my other daughter’s private college. I really hope it helps her.

Taking a break down instead

Maybe she just needed a break. That always makes me feel better.

We had a trip planned. Paul and I were renting a van to drive down to Florida. We were taking Arabella and our two foreign exchange students with us.

I imagined how perfect spring break was going to be. Sunshine and shorts after another long winter. Estelle and Arabella together on a long road trip becoming best friends once again. My daughter becoming a functional depressed person like I am. She said it was a mistake and wouldn’t happen again.

But our magical trip wasn’t meant to be. The week we were scheduled to leave Disney World closed. A new virus was sweeping through the nation. In my lifetime I’ve seen many viruses come and go, but this was different. People were panicking. We didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know what to believe. It reminded me of when HIV first came out and people were afraid to use public bathrooms. With a world of information at our fingertips, we still didn’t know what we were dealing with.

We debated whether or not to take the trip after Disney closed. Since we were driving, would we be able to stop to have sit down meals after a long drive? Some states were closing. Would gas station bathrooms and rest stops even be open? Was that the America we wanted our foreign visitors to see? What happens if someone gets sick? Could we get trapped somewhere? What if our decisions caused sickness and/or death in the children who weren’t ours that we were responsible for? The beaches in Florida started to close. We decided to stay home.

The high school closed and schooling went to online. The spring play, going to state, track, and prom all were cancelled yet the school work remained. Everyone felt the loss of what was planned that could no longer be. The beautiful prom dresses hung in the closets unworn. Time lost that could never be recaptured. Our German foreign exchange student Clara went home a couple months early whereas Estelle stayed an extra month.

I thought that Arabella and Estelle would be forced to work out their differences because they would have to be together all the time without much outside contact. It didn’t work out that way. Arabella withdrew into herself and snarled at me to leave her alone when I reached out. She would take long walks or drive to the park to sit by herself for hours sometimes after dark or in the rain. Estelle grew very close to me. She would fight with Arabella if she felt like Arabella was being mean to me.

Florida was gone. Arabella’s opportunity to be a foreign exchange student was gone. It was all she ever talked about for over a year. She was already signed up and the paperwork completed. Thankfully I could say that she wasn’t going because of COVID versus a suicide attempt. We were going to tour Europe in the summer, but that was gone too.

With everything that was lost, I’m grateful that we didn’t lose Arabella too.

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.

Gratitude week 53

  1. Yeah, 2020 is finally behind us!!
  2. I’m grateful for my best friend. She had her birthday this past week and I did something I haven’t tried since I was a teenager. We went to a shooting range. I was really nervous about it, but it was a lot of fun.
  3. Paul decided to quit drinking. Here’s to 5 days sober! Yes, he made it through New Year’s Eve. I’m grateful for the positive changes he is making in his life, in our life together.
  4. I’m grateful for the snow that blankets the ground. We had our first real snowfall of the season this week. It is really beautiful.
  5. I’m grateful that my routine mammogram came back normal.
  6. I’m grateful that my daughter Arabella will start attending outpatient tomorrow as we wait for residential care. I’m hoping this will be beneficial for improving her mental health.
  7. I’m grateful that my son will be getting his wisdom teeth removed tomorrow and will no longer be in pain.
  8. I’m grateful that I have all the holiday decorations cleaned up and put away.
  9. I’m grateful to get out of the house and go to the movies with my daughter and her boyfriend. We watched Promising Young Lady and it was pretty good.
  10. I’m grateful for clean sheets and warm jammies on these dark cold days.