It’s not summer camp

Sometimes the friends you meet at the psychiatric hospital are not the best kind of friends to have. It’s not summer camp, you know.

But it was hard because Arabella missed so much school due to mental health issues that she needed to finish her education online. This meant that she had to drop out of the play she had a part in. She had to drop her extracurricular activities. She also lost the comradery with her friends from not attending school in person and being involved like she used to be.

She started hanging out with kids from the hospital. Some of them came from rough backgrounds. I know this because one girl was living in the homeless shelter and another at the domestic violence shelter. Another girl that she developed a friendship with made a serious suicide attempt right after Arabella visited her at her house. It really shook Arabella up because she was the last person to see her until she was found and the rescue squad came. Let’s put it this way, friendships formed in the psychiatric ward do not foster healthy relationships. But my daughter wasn’t healthy either and needed friends.

There was this one girl that was especially a bad apple and I will call her Ashlynn. She was into shoplifting and smoking. She pulled my daughter into it with her. I say this because my daughter did not do these things before she met Ashlynn. I do understand that my daughter is responsible for her behavior, but she is also easily influenced due to her fear of abandonment and own impulsiveness. Arabella decided to shoplift Christmas gifts for her old friend group. When her old friend group found out about the shoplifting, they had an intervention with my daughter and almost every one of her friends cut her out of their lives. I had no idea any of this was happening at the time.

What I do know and what I was able to piece together later was that Arabella came home very depressed from the intervention with her friends. She told me she was afraid that her friends were going to abandon her. It was not uncommon for her to feel this way whether it was a legitimate concern or not. I told her she should try some of her strategies on her list she made at the hospital to help her feel better when she was depressed. She decided to take a shower and listen to some music.

Afterwards, Arabella had a really good conversation with Angel and I. I thought maybe Arabella was feeling better. She seemed to be doing well. Maybe her strategies worked. I let my guard down. Big mistake.

After our conversation, Arabella went into her room and created a noose with one of her dresses in the closet. But she decided not to go through with it and called the crisis center instead. I had no idea what was going on until I talked to one of the people at the crisis center. It was terribly shocking. I thought she was doing better. My daughter wanted to go back to the hospital, but it was the weekend and my daughter was scheduled to start her outpatient program on Monday.

I opted instead to have the crisis center call her and myself several times a day to see how she was doing. I didn’t want her to lose her place at outpatient which took a month to set up to have her go back to the hospital which didn’t do as much to help her long term like I thought outpatient would. I set up new boundaries for her as well such as she could stay in her room by herself but needed to keep the door open at all times.

She was feeling better the next day and wanted to drive to her friend’s house but I said no. I didn’t want to let her use my car if she was feeling suicidal in any way. Obviously I couldn’t really tell or believe she was feeling better after the night before. But I also felt like I was punishing her for something she didn’t do wrong. Do I take away privileges for her doing the right thing by reaching out for help? That is something I always struggle with. I told her she could visit with a friend but she would have to come here and find her own ride.

We made it through but I’ve never been more afraid in my life having a mentally ill, impulsive, suicidal daughter that once only spent a whole week just at summer camp.

Gratitude week 70

  1. And just like that, April is over and we are one step closer to summer.
  2. Last night I had a long honest conversation with my mom and I think it helped us both in our healing process.
  3. After the heavy conversation, my mom, husband, son, daughter Angel, and I played Jackbox games online. We laughed a lot and everyone got along better than they had in a long time.
  4. Although this week is starting off cool and rainy, it was nice to have a few warm weather days over the weekend to get outside and enjoy the nice weather.
  5. I’m grateful for rummage sales in the summer. My mom and I went to a couple over the weekend. My big score was finding a boxing bag stand. My son has had a boxing bag for over a year without a stand which is basically useless. So now he has a stand for it. Guess who bought some boxing gloves? Yup, me!
  6. I had an appointment with my therapist this past week and she thinks that having my mom live with us for awhile would be a good opportunity for growth and healing for me.
  7. I’m grateful to go out for lunch with my best friend and go dress shopping for our children’s graduation from high school. We both found our dresses 15 minutes before the store closed.
  8. I’m grateful that Paul is doing a great job at his new job. We went out on Friday night with the people in his office to celebrate.
  9. I’m grateful that my daughter Arabella will be graduating at the end of the month.
  10. My new car has been absolutely naked without bumper stickers. I’m grateful to have found one that I like. It says something along the lines of ‘trying to decide if I am a warning or an example in today’s world’. Seemed kind of funny.
  11. My husband and I were cleaning out Arabella’s frog cage and one of her frogs got away. He wedged himself into a crack under the bottom of the sink. Thankfully Paul was able to pull him out before he got trapped and died back there. It was a moment of sheer panic though.

Bird crap

After Arabella came home from her third hospitalization, she missed a lot of school. Everything was a mess anyway with the school’s hybrid model of zoom classes and in person learning. Just a quick FYI, the hospitals do not allow school computers because of confidentiality purposes. After the last hospitalization, the new plan was to get Arabella into a long term outpatient program until she made the waiting list for residential. This posed a huge problem with school because the outpatient program originally did not offer built in time for education.

At this time, we were already into December. The end of the semester was a month away. The school decided to credit Arabella with a quarter’s worth of credits and she needed to finish the rest online. This was concerning because Arabella was in outpatient full-time and it only left her with the weekends to really put time into school and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

It was also the time to start applying for college. Arabella is a very bright child, but I had to mourn the loss that she wasn’t there yet. She changed her dreams and goals. She told us she wanted to be a stripper. Although she is a beautiful girl and her cup runneth over in the well endowed department (especially since we cancelled her reduction surgery), she was binge eating junk food and was struggling with her weight. Both legs a couple inches above the knees and her non-dominant arm were full of cutting wounds and scars. To be frank, I did not see it as a realistic career option. No parent in their right mind would want their bright intelligent daughter to be a stripper anyway.

She changed her tune a little over time. She still wanted to be a stripper but would settle as a bartender in a strip club. Again, most parents would not want their previous honor student to aspire to be a bartender as a career choice. She thought that maybe just maybe if she let her cleavage show, she would get good tips. Or maybe she could find a rich older man to be her sugar daddy. It was all very troubling to say the least. As you could imagine, I was not happy about it at all. I would be happy at that point if she would be able to graduate from high school. I was really worried about that as well.

It was right around the time that her old friend group started to fall apart. Arabella started hanging around friends she made in the hospital. We wanted her to have friends because it meant a lot to her. Another FYI, sometimes the friends you make in the psychiatric hospital are not the best kinds of friends to have. She started taking on the (new to her) destructive behaviors of this new group of friends.

This is a huge problem I see. Where do people with serious mental health issues make new healthy friendships? Birds of a feather flock together and makes us as parents good targets to get crapped on. But I will continue this in the next edition of my life is a total sh!t show…

It’s not too late

It’s been quite the adjustment with my mom living with us. The first week or so it has been rather triggering. I needed to tell her that I did not feel comfortable as her daughter to process her trauma or our shared trauma with her. I also do not feel like it is a good thing to process your trauma with your children or your grandchildren. The jury is out on Paul yet whether or not it is a good thing for my mom to process her trauma with him. I feel like it is important for her to talk about these things and let them out, but maybe with a sibling or a friend.

It got frustrating for me because my mom talked about a traumatic incident of mine regarding my dad as the delivery guys showed up with my new refrigerator or right before I went in for a crown. She bombarded me with my trauma/problems at times where I was already under a high amount of stress with no consideration with what I was going through at the time. I did not want to talk about some of my most traumatic moments in life as a delivery man was about ready to ring my bell or as I was freaking out about my dental appointment.

Not only that, but my mom has had my brother Matt over last weekend and will this weekend as well. That is okay, I said once a month is fine to have him at my house. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is her babying him. It’s my house and it is hard to feel comfortable in it with her here because she doesn’t always like the things I do. She doesn’t like my music or some of the shows I like to watch. She doesn’t like it when other people come over. I know I should have more of the attitude of this is my house and my life and I am living it the way I want to. Too bad if you don’t like it. I have no idea how long she is planning on staying either. I find myself getting very annoyed about these things and I have been trying hard to say something so it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it does.

Her anxiety is through the roof. She wants me to take her to the ER when she feels very anxious. She wants to quit taking her medication. She has had several serious adverse reactions to medications. Then an ER doctor prescribed her a medication for anxiety that could cause irreversible dementia in elderly patients. I have to question what the hell they are thinking. Some nights my mom only gets an hour or so of sleep at night. After several days of that, she is a mess. She doesn’t want to take the meds that could cause dementia and I don’t blame her for that. The nurse put my mom on a new anxiety med and after several sleepless nights she wanted to quit taking it because it could cause insomnia. I told my mom that she needs to keep taking it and that she already had insomnia before taking it. So now when she wants to go to the ER or quit taking her medication, I tell her to call her doctor’s office first if she doesn’t want to listen to me. It has been all very frustrating for me.

A couple of days ago, after several nights of severe insomnia, my mom gave my son Alex money to go to the smoke shop to buy some CBD gummies that a friend of my son told her about. My son brought back a couple of gummies. One of the labels was so small I couldn’t even read it with a magnifying glass. My mom popped a couple of gummies and tried to go to sleep.

The next morning my mom was not up when I got up. I almost had a panic attack myself. What was I thinking having her take a couple of gummies from a product from a smoke shop where I couldn’t even read the label? My God, what if she was dead? Should I go in and check on her? She had an appointment that morning. What should I do? I thought long and hard about what it would be like if my mom were to die under my care. She is an adult and can do what she wants, but I would feel some responsibility for her and so would my son if something went wrong. We don’t know what we are doing, but do the doctors that she is seeing? They push her on through and give her some nasty meds that could be habit forming and cause dementia. Seriously, is that the best that science has to offer?

I think after worrying that my mother was dead I was able to change my perspective a little. I’m not as annoyed. I have more compassion. I have to be honest and genuine with myself and her. I was able to see my therapist this past week and she said having my mother live with us was an opportunity for me to heal. This could be a special time together to mend some wounds and find some sort of closure before she is no longer with us. I now have the opportunity to say everything I wanted to say. It is not too late. I have to keep that in mind when I am frustrated.

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?

Over the borderline

I’ve always been the sentimental type. I don’t know why dates and anniversaries are so important to me, they just are.

Arabella was in the mental hospital for the third time over Thanksgiving. I didn’t feel like there was much left to be thankful for. For the first time, we didn’t get together with family over the holidays. It was just my husband, our other two kids, and my best friend and her family for Thanksgiving. I lost the spirit of joy and celebration. COVID tore everything apart that my dad didn’t put asunder.

It was the one year anniversary of the devastating call from my daughter Angel that she found child porn on my dad’s computer. Thanksgiving, that is when my mom gave the computer over to my daughter for her boyfriend to fix. It’s when everything started. I didn’t think the anniversary would be so difficult for me. Or maybe it was because my daughter was in the hospital again or that my whole family seemed to be torn from me.

It threw me back into a time of mourning, a grief so piercing that nothing could break through. It had been a whole year and nothing was resolved. My dad was still living at home. My mom was close to a nervous breakdown and stuck in the house with him. She would swing from feeling a tremendous amount of love towards my dad to wanting to leave but not wanting to be alone. She was terrified of the pandemic. Her anxiety was spinning out of control with her fear of dying along with a lifetime of trauma. She stopped sleeping at night. But there was nothing I could do to help her because she was afraid of me because of COVID.

My daughter Angel moved back home a couple months before Thanksgiving. I could see the fallout from her experience with my dad. She was not the same person she used to be. Before she was friendly, outgoing, and happy. That changed. She was not the same happy go lucky people person. She became anxious about social outings. She became rather cynical of life and the happy person I dropped off at freshman year of college was gone. The suffering caused mainly in part from my family of origin gave her some major trust issues. I wanted to protect my children from it but try as I did I couldn’t. I blamed my dad for the loss of my daughter. I didn’t share this with anyone but it was around that time when Angel got diagnosed with anxiety and a mild form of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Sometimes I wish that I would never see my family of origin again because of the extent of suffering caused by their hand. I feel a lot of guilt for feeling this way. I harbor a lot of anger and resentment for all the decades of pain and suffering they caused. Looking back, I can’t even say that most of my childhood trauma was caused by my dad. Most of it was caused by Matt. It’s super hard to have an autistic/schizophrenic brother that hears voices to hurt/kill pretty much everyone I cared about along with any unlucky stranger who was victim to his psychotic rage. I was never protected. I’ve lost so much I can’t even count the number of people I’ve seen him hurt.

Meanwhile, Arabella was in the hospital. Finally someone listened to what I was saying. My daughter Arabella was showing signs of having severe Borderline and they agreed with me. I didn’t feel blamed. They got her started on the waiting list for the residential treatment program that she is in now. How did I end up with two daughters with borderline right around the same time? Do you realize how chaotic my house is? I’m pretty sure my MIL had borderline and I suspect my mother has it as well. It does have a genetic component to it, so that makes sense. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

This last Thanksgiving was a huge trigger and I felt bad for not feeling thankful at a time of celebrated thanksgiving. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for but I couldn’t seem to find a way out of the suffering I found myself in.

Gratitude week 69

  1. I’m grateful that my tattoo healed nicely.
  2. I’m grateful that I can now swim again. I had to wait while my tattoo healed. So basically I did not exercise at all since my tattoo. The weather has been cool and crappy. It even snowed a little since last week so I didn’t want to run outside. Plus I was busy taking my mom to appointments. I’m hoping for a better weather week and finding the time to exercise.
  3. Breakfast with my BFF.
  4. A mother-daughter date with Angel to go thrifting. I didn’t find anything too terribly exciting but it was nice to get away.
  5. My brother Matt came over for the weekend. Although I stressed about it, things went better than expected. It was nice to take some time to myself so I don’t go absolutely crazy.
  6. For rides on the 4-wheeler with my husband while he does the spring clean up on the yard.
  7. That my daughter Arabella seems to be making a lot of progress in residential treatment.
  8. This is a big one…I’m grateful that I survived getting a crown this week with minimal pain. I had laughing gas for the first time. Can you believe that instead of laughing I cried? I’m grateful for a dentist and assistant that went out of their way to be compassionate towards my history of experiencing dental pain and trying to make me comfortable through the process.
  9. The things I was really stressing about this month, the tattoo and crown, are over. I’m grateful for the relief that I feel that the fear is behind me.
  10. I’m grateful that my mom, Paul, and I were able to play a game last night. Things have been incredibly stressful since my mom moved in so it was nice to have a break from the heaviness.

Lacking focus

Arabella adjusted to being back home surprisingly well. We changed her room around and I bought her two new frogs after her other one died while she was in the hospital. For awhile everything seemed to be going pretty well except in one area…school.

Arabella missed a week of school while she was in the hospital. Before that she attended school somewhat sporadically. Although very bright, she was slipping behind. School was a literal mess at the time. Some days school was in person and at other times it was virtual.

The time Arabella took off for ‘mental health days’ and having a week in the hospital started to snowball her down a slippery slope. Few of the teachers were understanding of her truancy before hospitalization and frankly I can’t blame them. It was frustrating for everyone especially since she previously was an honor student. I was constantly nagging her about school and graduation. What I didn’t realize right away was that Arabella was feeling anxious about virtual school because it came across as a disrespectful hatred of school. That attitude made us push more. The pressure to apply for college and have a life plan was setting in at this point too.

It was later that we found out she was terrified of being called upon by teachers. She had a hard time focusing on what they were saying online. When they called on her to answer questions she felt very anxious to the point of having panic attacks. Her feelings of panic was enough for her to fight everyone and avoid virtual school altogether. Once we found out what the problem was, we told Arabella to reach out to the guidance counselor.

It wasn’t long after that Arabella fell into a deep depression again. Paul and I took her in for a late night assessment one Sunday night. I was already in my pajamas and ready for bed when we had to take her in. Paul had to work the next morning. I really didn’t want to take her by myself since I was exhausted and knew it would be a long night. I was willing to do it by myself anyway but Paul decided to go with. This time we had her pack an overnight bag. No nightgowns. No tie strings on hoods or pants. No long socks. We knew the drill.

We got home close to 3 AM. Arabella started her third hospitalization, close to a month after her second. It was the week of Thanksgiving. At this point she missed so much school that I wasn’t even sure she would graduate.

Gratitude week 68

  1. Clean sheets!
  2. We finally got our new refrigerator delivered.
  3. I was finally able to find two vintage paintings to complete the set at our cabin up north. The paintings of the father and son have been on the wall for decades and we spent many decades searching for the mother and daughter. I finally found them. It will make for a wonderful Mother’s Day gift for my mom.
  4. On the flip side, I decided to sell my road bike and found a buyer two days after listing it.
  5. I am grateful for some time away from the house to have a cook out with friends.
  6. I’m grateful that my tattoo is healing better than I expected.
  7. I’m grateful that my husband has been really helpful and patient with my mom since she moved in. It’s been a huge adjustment but I am glad that she is starting on a journey of healing.
  8. I am thankful that warmer weather is on the horizon. It did snow a little after my last gratitude writing. It’s been dreary, windy, and cool which doesn’t do much to lift my spirits. But hey, it’s been easier to keep my tattoo out of the sun when it’s not shining.
  9. I’m grateful that my daughter is learning a lot of skills at residential.
  10. I’m grateful that I washed my windows and that job is over. Now we are ready for the warm weather. I even got out my spring clothes and got rid of clothing that I don’t wear anymore. It always feels good to spruce up the house and get rid of stuff.

If I could change things…

If I could go back and change things, I would rewrite the whole story. I would throw out the manuscript and start over. I wouldn’t even be a character. My mom would still marry my dad. But I would change the timeline a bit. She would marry my dad before he went to Vietnam. She would be pregnant when he left with my brother Luke. There wouldn’t be a Matt, Mark, or me. Luke has had the most positive impact on the world. My dad would never return from the war. My grandparents would be heartbroken losing their only child. But they had Luke who is so much more than my dad ever would be. My mom would eventually move on with her life and everything would end happily.

Yet here I am, a part of me wishing I never was. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here. I could never leave my husband and children. Although I feel my sanity slipping. I have this feverish obsession to tell my story, all of it. I don’t even know why. It seems to be my purpose.

It’s been a week since my mom moved in. Over this week I’ve heard stories about my dad that I’ve never heard before that fueled my hatred for him even more. I think my parents marriage was a big mistake. I wish they never got married, but that leaves a big problem. If I wish away them, I wish away me. I was okay taking my mom in. I think she is safer here. I don’t even mind driving her to appointments. Yesterday I spent half a day with her in the ER because she had an adverse reaction to a medication.

It’s been an adjustment having my mom here. We’ve all switched up our routine a bit. My mom wants to help with household chores but more than anything ends up getting in the way. I want her to be able to fit within the flow of our life. Next weekend she wants my brother Matt to come. I’m not sure how that will all work out yet. I think she will want us to cater to him and adjust our home life around him which might not work out that well. I really need to have some time to myself once in a while. I need my space without feeling smothered or policed like a little child. I want life to be carefree without extra responsibilities. I long to break things but I am the broken one.

What has been really hard is helping my mom process her trauma. It’s not easy to see your mother in pain. My mom sobbed more days than she did not. I heard some things I would rather not have heard. It really has been triggering for me. There have been a lot of things that happened that my mom doesn’t even know about and I am not going to tell her. I feel re-pungent of the thought of sharing my trauma with my mother but even more so in front of my children. It’s painful to know my mother has been hurt and is not happy. It’s very heavy and it weighs down my soul.

It is especially hard because I probably should be taking this time while my daughter is in the hospital to strengthen myself for when she comes back home. Yet here I am completely depleted and devastated. Yesterday was prom at Arabella’s school. It pained me greatly that she will never be able to go. Her junior prom was cancelled because of COVID and now she is in the mental hospital. I felt sad to see all the prom pictures on social media. It is one more lost dream for my daughter. Her prom dress will forever hang in her closet never worn.

I am once again taking care of my mother when I need help. Will this suffering never end? I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Will I ever feel real joy again? It seems to slip through my fingers fleetingly at best. When will God intervene? His silence echoes I am alone in my darkest hours. I wish I could change things…