Paused…

I lost a lot of relationships because of COVID.

New friendships that never got the chance to bloom because they were never watered. What do we do now? Start where we left off? It seems awkward.

I’m more selective now anyway in where I go and what I do. The community theater had it’s first show in almost two years. I didn’t go. I didn’t want to chance getting sick right before our trip. I didn’t want to do group things all that much before all of this. Now I’m less inclined. Is it worth my life? Or is it an excuse to stay isolated?

After our vacation, I have two fun things planned for the rest of the year. Wedding dress shopping with my daughter. And a Halloween party hosted by a doctor who always had this fantasy of becoming a DJ. We haven’t seen our doctor friend since before COVID. He sent the invite out in June when we thought this whole thing might be over soon. I’m kind of expecting that it will be cancelled too. I bought the costumes. I am a cop and my husband is a jailbird complete with ball and chain. Will this friendship start where it left off? I don’t know.

I crossed the family reunion and family Christmas party off my calendar. I didn’t expect to lose family members from COVID either, yet none of them physically died. Instead of feeling rejected, I’m embracing it. I no longer want to do things out of obligation. Now I don’t have to.

I have a hard time with the small talk anyway. Lately I was asked if my parents were still alive. I don’t want to talk about my parents. Then there are the people that don’t know my daughter Arabella is having mental health struggles. I get asked if she is going to college. The only test she is going to be taking soon is her psych eval. I don’t want to talk about my daughter. I literally almost started crying when asked how she was doing by a friend I haven’t seen since pre-COVID. I hate small talk and try to change the subject. I don’t want to talk or even think about painful things when I am with other people. But hey, my daughter Angel is getting married next year. Isn’t that wonderful?

I wonder what is going to happen with some of the newer friendships now. I am not the same person I used to be. I wonder what is going to happen with family when this is all over. No hard feelings, right? I am hurt right now and I don’t even want to hear about anyone or anything for awhile. I just don’t care.

I don’t know how things will ever be the same. I try to convince myself that the isolated introverted version is the new better me.

Here are my plans. I plan on holing myself up for hours every day writing and finishing my book. I’m planning on doing some projects around the house such as weatherproofing our deck. I want to start working on remodeling the garage where my son is living with a couple friends. It already has a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a kitchen. It isn’t finished but maybe it will be.

My mom asked me to help clean out her shed. I told her maybe in the spring because I have my own projects to work on. I can’t keep putting my life on hold for everyone else. I have my own mile long list.

I’m really not sure what will happen with these relationships after this whole thing is over. My social circle got a whole lot smaller. But the relationships I have with the people in this circle are much more meaningful. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

It’s also changing because I no longer have kids in school. There aren’t any sporting events, shows, or meetings to go to anymore. I am no longer a school mom that does school things. I don’t drop the kids off and head to the gym anymore. I don’t even have a gym membership anymore. Sometimes I wonder what happened to some of the people I crossed paths with often.

Sometimes I wonder if they think of me.

Free choice

I always assumed one basic premise about myself. Happiness to me is being calm and peaceful. But calm and peace usually ends up making me feel antsy, bored, and depressed. So is it really my key to happiness?

I told you how I was feeling depressed last week. To be honest, a lot of the reason besides the end of summer was because I felt hurt that I was no longer invited to the family reunion next month. Our household, which is pretty reflective of our state and country, has a 50% vaccination rate. All unvaccinated family members are no longer welcome to be a part of the family. I confronted my mom about this. I asked her why she didn’t say something as none of her children besides Matt (who isn’t even going) will be able to participate in the family event. I suggested an alternative of getting tested and wearing masks, the response was vaccinated only. I am no longer upset with my mom as she did try.

You see, I would’ve brought 6 people to the family reunion. Now my mom doesn’t want to go either. So 7 people aren’t going that would’ve been going. That means the cost per person is going to go up significantly for the people still choosing to go. Now another aunt and uncle may not be able to afford to go because he has to pay a crap ton of money every month for insulin. He told me that he doesn’t even care if I go because he is trusting his shot will protect him which actually kind of scares me.

When I went up north with my mom last week, she was invited to her sister’s cabin nearby for cards. My mom told me that some family members were even wary around her because of our family’s vaccination status. I talked to my aunt and she said that she had her grandbabies to worry about. Seriously!! As if I was going to sneak into her kid’s house (which I have never been to) and cough on some innocent sleeping babies (one of whom I’ve only seen once) which will end up killing them (which I’ve never heard of a baby dying from COVID). As if I’m a filthy leper out to kill babies and infect grannies. But hey Alissa, no hard feelings. Yeah that makes me really want to get vaccinated. NOT! Why bother getting vaccinated anyway if you are going to push away your family and live the rest of your life in fear? That’s not living.

Now before I go any further I want to say that I am happy my mom got vaccinated. She is living in a lot less fear than before. But I strongly believe that getting vaccinated should be a CHOICE. If you don’t believe that than this post is not for you. Don’t even tell me how pro-choice you are if you feel people shouldn’t have control over their own bodies. As you probably now realize by the tone of this post, I am not the calm and peaceful person that I say I want to be. I am not going immediately to get a shot to keep the peace to belong to a group that really never helped me through any hard times in my life anyway. To put it very mildly compared to the thoughts in my head, screw them. Bub-bye!

I feel bad for my kids because they really don’t have any family. My mom is the only person I consider family now. I had to really examine my relationships with others in this process. I don’t even consider my brothers close family anymore. They are Easter and Christmas brothers. I only see or talk to them a couple of times a year. Besides his step-dad, my husband doesn’t have any family either. My kids don’t even know any family members with our same last name besides my husband and I. It’s sad.

Through this experience, I learned I am not calm and peaceful. I can’t just let it go like my kids said I should. I still have a lot of fight in me. It gives my life purpose and strangely I don’t feel all that depressed anymore. Everyone should have free choice. They should even have the freedom to make the wrong choices. If I am wrong, I am willing to live (or die) with my choice.

YOU should make choices for YOU. Not me, not your family if you are an adult, not your employer, certainly not your government, and not even your church.

YOU.

The price you pay

Right before Paul left to go back to work away from home a couple nights, we had an argument about the COVID vaccine. We weren’t on the best of terms when he left. But nonetheless, he called me that night and everything seemed to be alright.

It was the next day that was a problem. I found out on Facebook that someone we knew was going to be at the same place Paul was with his clients. I commented on their status to say hi to Paul if they saw him. Now these people are really nice but are heavy drinkers. Part of the argument too was over Paul drinking. That evening the people we knew sent me blurry pictures of Paul saying they found him. He didn’t call me that night like he usually does. Now going through my head were a lot of scenarios. I thought perhaps something happened to him or maybe he met up with these people and had too much to drink.

While I was waiting, my mom called. She said that she and her siblings decided that no unvaccinated people were allowed to go to the family reunion in a couple of weeks. I was no longer welcome. I was angry but I didn’t know why. After I processed it I realized why. That excluded my brothers and I from attending as we were planning on doing. She could have suggested the plan that all unvaccinated people needed to get tested before attending and abstain if they were sick. They could wear masks. That has been the protocol for a lot of events. But I hardly think my mom would suggest something that someone else might not want even if it excludes her whole family. Maybe if Matt couldn’t go she would put up a fight. She never stood up for us with anything and that was triggering.

I was also angry because she is the one that drilled into us as kids that chemicals of any kind were bad. While our cohorts were guzzling down Kool-Aid, we weren’t allowed to drink the Kool-Aid. Artificial colors and flavors were of the devil. We didn’t have Twinkies or any of that stuff in our house. Fluoride was bad so we had to rinse our toothbrushes in peroxide and dip them in baking soda. I wasn’t allowed after awhile to take the green fluoride rinse that was wheeled into our classroom on the little carts about once a month. Just another way I was the weird one.

My mom took it a step further and also said what Matt ate caused him to be violent. He ate something with dairy and had a reaction that caused him to attack a stranger. We didn’t have milk or cheese often at our house. We weren’t allowed to drink it at school. Chemicals and allergens caused his hallucinations. We had to be extremely careful about food in our house. Because of the Agent Orange his body couldn’t handle any more chemicals. They ripped out the wood stove because wood causes allergies. We couldn’t have a Christmas tree because of allergies. Tree pollen caused violence. I literally freaked out once I got into the real world where people used chemicals liberally.

Imagine my surprise when my mom and Matt were the first in line for the shot.

Now she says I can’t be around the extended family if I’m not vaccinated? But it’s okay for her to live at our house.

I also realized not only do I have a lot of fear but I’ve lost a lot of hope. I thought that life would be back to normal by now. I thought if we did our lockdown and wore our masks everything would settle down. But I don’t see it ending anytime soon. Not only that but there are so many negative things happening in the world right now that it’s easy to feel discouraged. I’m sick of people arguing about who’s vaccinated and who’s not. Can’t we just agree that we don’t know when this is going to be over and everyone is doing the best they can? No, let’s fight about it because you didn’t make the decision I did and I’m right.

People are ending long term friendships and families are torn over this. When is it going to end?

Then my mom told me that my brothers were planning on getting together the following weekend to work on a huge project at the cabin. Again, this left me upset. They didn’t even talk to me about it and I know they will be complaining that I don’t do my fair share. I’m not going to be around when they want to do the project. We could’ve set up a time where I could help along with my husband, son and his buddies, daughter and future SIL. I could’ve offered up more manpower but they didn’t bother to ask me.

I didn’t sleep hardly at all that night. I was furious. I thought my marriage was in trouble. I entertained the thought of not seeing my family for another year of holidays. I started thinking seriously about leaving. I wanted to go to an area where no one knew my name. I was at a point where I just didn’t feel like I could take it anymore. I was done with COVID. I was done with being responsible for people and situations I have no control over.

I was still angry at my husband the next morning when he called. He apologized for worrying me. He said he got back late and didn’t want to wake me. He said he is so afraid that something is going to happen to me because I didn’t get vaccinated. I worry that his drinking is going to hurt him too. We were only worried about each other. Once I understood that, I felt a little better.

Gratitude week 83

  1. Remember last week how I said that Arabella’s boyfriend broke up with her? Well…I found out about the break up on a Friday night and hung out with her until I went to bed around 11 PM. Arabella said she was going to be okay because her friend Kami was going to come over and hang out after I went to bed. I just found out a couple days ago that on the way home from our house that night, Kami fell asleep and totaled her car. I am grateful that Kami is okay after the accident. The last teenager I knew who fell asleep driving died.
  2. I’m grateful for more time with my cat. He was sick the past couple of weeks and I thought I might have to put him down. He is also 15 years old. But it turns out he has an eye infection and will be okay. I do think he used up one more of his 9 lives over this. He is one of my all time favorite cats.
  3. My daughter Angel and her fiancé have a wedding date picked out. They have an appointment with a wedding chapel this week and if all goes well I think they will be ready to book the hall.
  4. Tomorrow Paul and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary.
  5. Paul has been working out of town the last couple of days and sleeping on our boat. He forgot his medicine at home so I went and surprised him after work. He was really happy that I thought to bring his pills to him and to see me unexpectedly.
  6. Since I went to the boat Friday night, we were able to play cards with out boat neighbors and it was a lot of fun.
  7. Paul had to work again early Saturday morning, so I drove back home, fed the pets, took a shower, and headed up north. I was able to visit my mom, brother Luke, niece Gracie, and my aunt Jan and her husband. Then this morning I headed back home and will be heading back to the boat to spend a couple days with Paul for our anniversary. I’m grateful that for the most part I’ve overcome my fear of long distance driving. I don’t think I could’ve done all of this otherwise.
  8. Yesterday up north we were able to find a new hiking place. I’m grateful that it was on the water and the bugs weren’t bad. It was nice to spend time with family.
  9. My mom bought me some blueberries for my birthday and Dan brought over some zucchini from his garden. So I made blueberry muffins and chocolate chip zucchini cake which everyone loved.
  10. Summer! It’s cooled off considerably around here. I turned off the A/C. It almost feels fall like, but it is very comfortable because the humidity is gone.

Gratitude week 82

  1. Today I had my upper endoscopy re-check. Everything looked normal, so I’m grateful for that. I still feel a little doped up so bear with me if I start cracking bad jokes.
  2. Angel, Dan, and I got massages for Angel’s birthday.
  3. Since my massage was way earlier than theirs, I hung around until they were done and then they followed me to the restaurant. Why I’m grateful for this is because apparently both blinkers and break lights weren’t working. I didn’t even know it. I’m grateful that I didn’t get into an accident while my rear lights were out.
  4. Arabella’s boyfriend broke up with her. You might have been wondering if I thought he was a jerk or something to be grateful for this. I am not that mean. What I am grateful for is that her response was appropriate. She was sad and crying, but she wasn’t depressed and didn’t self-harm. She said that she knew she wouldn’t feel this way forever and that she was okay. I truly felt she handled it well. Her boyfriend is leaving for college soon and that is apparently why they broke up. I am truly grateful she is handling the break up better than I expected she would.
  5. Summer!! Oh my gosh, the weather was perfect this past weekend. We spent the weekend up north for Angel’s birthday and had a lot of fun.
  6. I achieved my sailing certification. Although sailing is my husband’s passion a lot more than mine, I wanted to know what to do in case there was an emergency.
  7. Now that I finished reading my sailing certification book, I started reading the book Educated and it is really good. I really want to dig into some really good memoirs as I want to edit and rewrite my own book soon. Wow, I really used the word really a real lot.
  8. My mom is making supper tonight.
  9. I’m grateful that my husband took me to my appointment today.
  10. I’m grateful that my daughter might have a wedding date picked out this week. Then the real fun starts…the wedding dress shopping will be so much fun!

Spending my birthday with my (fake) dad

It was Paul’s fault really. I told him not to tell anyone that it was going to be my birthday, but he did anyway.

We needed to sail our boat back to her home port after some routine maintenance. We made plans to sail the boat back with Harv and Kate. It was meant to be a fun little trip until we heard about the high chance of severe weather. I was almost happy when Kate cancelled coming on the trip because of back problems. I probably mentioned this quite awhile back, but our good friends are in their upper 80’s. I was afraid if we hit stormy weather that Kate would get hurt as she is rather small and frail.

Harv asked if another buddy of his could go instead which was fine. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM on my birthday so we could try to make the trip before the storms hit. It was going to be an adventure everyone was up for. Harv and his buddy were probably sailing before I was born. Along with my husband, I thought there was no group of experienced sailors that I would rather risk a storm with. The weather was perfect that morning. It was warm with a brisk breeze. We caught the wind and were able to sail back with an hour and a half to spare before the storms hit.

We made it back to the marina at lunch time. Harv treated us to lunch. But that wasn’t all. He surprised me by making me a cake. Instead of frosting, he covered it with tapioca pudding. They sang happy birthday to me. Harv only put 8 candles on the cake so it was a little short. But they were trick candles. Every time I blew them out, they relit. After we enjoyed his cake, he pulled confetti poppers out of his bag. When you pulled on the string confetti would pop out. Harv and I had a confetti fight until there was confetti everywhere. We all laughed and had a good time.

Harv (and Paul) worked really hard to make my day special.

I felt happy that Harv took the time to think of me and make me a cake. But underneath it all was a whole mess of hurt and sadness. My own dad didn’t acknowledge my birthday in any way. He didn’t call or send a card. He never did. He never bought me a birthday gift much less bake me a box cake. In that one act of kindness, Harv was more of a dad towards me then my dad will ever be and that hurt.

I thanked Harv and gave him a hug. Harv’s friend joked and said that Kate would be jealous. I told him that I didn’t need another husband. I already have a wonderful husband. What I really needed was a dad. On that day, Harv was my fake dad and it really was a great birthday.

After Harv and his buddy left, the storms came rolling in. I always love a good (not damaging) storm. It’s the way my birthday is the majority of the time, stormy.

Gratitude week 81

  1. We made it across the bay back to our home port before the storm hit on my birthday.
  2. It seemed like absolutely everybody at the marina knew it was my birthday (even people I didn’t know). It’s probably the first time since I turned 40 that I am all birthdayed out. It was too much attention for this introvert.
  3. I met my son’s new girlfriend at my birthday party. She is really quiet and that is nice.
  4. Today I met my daughter Arabella’s new boyfriend. I did meet him briefly before when he came over at night and I was sleeping on the couch. I told him it was nice to finally meet him when I was dressed. Well that was awkward. I meant to say it was nice to meet him when I was awake (not sleeping on the couch in my pajamas).
  5. Summer!! After the storms on my birthday I couldn’t ask for better weather.
  6. I am planning Arabella’s graduation party. I am grateful to plan her party. As I looked at all of her pictures throughout the years I found myself really grateful that I am planning her graduation party and not a funeral. Worrying about death is one of the hardest parts of being a parent of a child with serious mental health issues. Graduating was a milestone worth celebrating, even if she is not heading to college like all of my friend’s kids.
  7. Over the weekend I went out to eat at the restaurant Arabella works at. I felt grateful that she has a job she really loves.
  8. I also went to a wedding show over the weekend with Angel, Dan, and his mom. I think within the next week or so we should have a date. I still cannot believe my daughter is getting married!
  9. Although I slept better on the sailboat, it is really wonderful to sleep in my own bed again.
  10. I am grateful for Angel’s birthday this week. We are planning massages and going out to eat at our favorite pizza place.

The sorrow of friends lost

Arabella lost almost all of her friends. She didn’t get invited to her best friend’s birthday party. Her best friend and another girl would still hang out with her but at the risk of being ostracized by the rest of the friend group.

Arabella decided with some guidance to let her friendship with Ashlynn go. Ashlynn continued to make poor choices. One night when Arabella was there, she decided to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to hang out with some guys. Then she lied to her parents about it. Ashlynn was spiraling out of control. Once I found out about the shoplifting and smoking I told Arabella I didn’t want them to hang out anymore. Arabella did not fight it but agreed with me that this friend was going in a direction she didn’t want to go.

That left her with just one friend, a girl she met in inpatient called Kami.

Arabella tried to connect with a friend from her old school. But it wasn’t long after she left to visit this friend that she came back home. Her friend told her that she changed and asked her to leave saying she didn’t want to be friends anymore. I would’ve expected tears when Arabella got home. But instead, there was laughter. Arabella laughed at all of the friendships she had lost. I really started to worry when not only did she not cry, but she acted as if something really wonderful happened.

Yes, my daughter did change. She was no longer the easy going happy go lucky girl we all knew so well. I wondered if this is what it is like when someone who is relatively normal suddenly slips into psychosis. What happens to friendships if someone suddenly develops serious mental health issues in the late teen years? Almost every single interpersonal relationship she had became very rocky.

It made me feel incredibly sad. My daughter is severely mentally ill and it pushed away all of her friends. Forget a minute about the sappy Facebook posts that say if you are thinking of ending it all give me a call. I am that friend you can call in the middle of the night crap. I want to tell you a hard truth. When you actually hit rock bottom even most of those friends are nowhere to be found.

Mental illness is ugly. It’s robbed my daughter of so much. I can’t even blame some of her friends for leaving her either. She really wasn’t all that different from Ashlynn, unhealthy. It is very painful to watch as a parent. I wanted so much more for her.

Another sleepless night

Arabella wasn’t invited to her best friend’s birthday party. After the falling out with the friend group, any remaining friend she did have was pressured by the group not to be friends with my daughter. They said she was too toxic and kept a list of her wrongdoings.

The weekend of the birthday party, Ashlynn invited my daughter overnight. I thought it was a good idea because I didn’t want her at home alone depressed thinking about how she was abandoned by her friends. Arabella was running out of her medication and there was a snafu with getting the prescriptions filled earlier at the pharmacy. Arabella would be out of two of her medications the following morning. Since her friend lived close to an hour away, the only option was to pick up her pills before the pharmacy closed on the way to her friend’s house that Friday night to have them the following morning.

Everything seemed to be going alright. It was a typical Friday night. Paul and I were watching a movie and I fell asleep on the couch. If I had been in bed with the ringer off, I would’ve missed the text at 11PM. Jordan’s mom texted me saying that Arabella told another friend she had a plan to OD on her medication. I woke up really fast.

Immediately I called Arabella, thankfully she answered. She was alive and seemed to be alright. At the same time, Paul called the crisis center. We came up with a safety plan.

It was one of the hardest things as a parent. We were thinking about picking Arabella up from her friend’s house. But by that time it was close to midnight and the friend lived almost an hour away. We didn’t want to disrupt their family if we didn’t need to. Plus we were exhausted. We decided with the help of the crisis center that we needed to have Ashlynn wake up her parents to lock up Arabella’s medication. We knew Ashlynn, but we really didn’t know her parents. It’s asking a lot to wake someone up in the middle of the night to make sure your child is safe at their house. I felt maybe they would understand because after all Arabella and Ashlynn met at the psychiatric hospital.

Ashlynn’s mom was really understanding but that didn’t make it any easier for us to do. Hey stranger, can you make sure our daughter is safe at your house? Lock up your knives, alcohol, and pills. It was a responsibility I never wanted to place on another parent. I wondered if after that night their friendship would be over. That was before I learned Ashlynn was a bad influence and wanted the friendship to end.

Paul made plans with Ashlynn’s parents to pick up the locked up pills and escort Arabella back home in the morning. It was another sleepless night…

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.