change the system

My daughter is going back to jail today. Trying to get her treatment was a big waste of time. They did change up her medicine a bit. They gave her something to calm her, help her sleep, and for PTSD. I want to know what gave her the diagnosis of PTSD. What trauma??

I called and called the treatment center. Sometimes no one answered the call. One time the nurse said I needed to talk to the therapist. I left several messages with the therapist. The only time she called me back was to tell me my daughter was being released. Apparently she is the only therapist for the whole ward. I asked to speak to a doctor but was told they were too busy because this was their third job. They barely had 5 minutes to talk to patients. From that 5 minutes, they allegedly gathered more information than the patients family who spent a lifetime with them.

Yesterday I finally found a nurse who was willing to listen. I told her my daughter was having delusions. The nurse said Arabella did not report having delusions. I told the nurse my daughter is not aware she is delusional. I told her my daughter is in jail for felonies relating to having delusions. I told her my daughter is suicidal because she made comments of life not being worth living once she is released. I told her I am afraid Arabella will kill herself or hurt someone else from the delusions she is having. I was feeling very hopeful after our conversation.

Then the case manager called and dashed every hope I had. I had plans yesterday afternoon which I was late to because of having to take her call. She said the likelihood of Arabella getting into a group home is virtually impossible. Even if I sell my soul and offer up my firstborn. She said I should look into a residential treatment facility. We decided we are not going to pay for that again. She gave me other numbers to call but said they probably wouldn’t talk to me because my daughter is an adult. She said my daughter will be released tomorrow. They think she is just trying to stay to get out of jail.

I am absolutely livid. The mental health system in the US is one big fucking joke. No wonder why there is so much violence. If only we had a system focused on suicide/homicide prevention and the treatment of mental illness!! My hands are tied. I’ve done everything I could do and it wasn’t enough. I’ll just watch as my daughter hurts herself or someone else.

I have lost all hope and faith in the system. I don’t have a lot of faith or hope left in anything. It takes a lot of courage to continue when everything I do seems pointless.

I just got home from taking my daughter back to jail. It’s very upsetting that she did not get the treatment she needs. Arabella said the therapist only talked to her for 5 minutes and only to ask her why she was in jail. The facility is very understaffed. Even Arabella felt she did not get the treatment she needed. She wanted help as much as we wanted help for her. On the way back to jail, I stopped at the gas station to get her pizza and soda. She won’t be home for Mother’s Day. They will be putting her back into isolation for the next 10 days. She will be spending her 20th birthday in jail in a cell by herself for 23 hours of the day. Something must be done to fix the broken mental health system. Stop the senseless loss of life. I am so pissed and motivated to fight the system and advocate for mental health reform. I had no idea how bad things are. But now that I know, something must be done.


We were misguided to think Arabella would receive mental health treatment while incarcerated. Everything was happening so slowly with the courts and before we knew it a month slipped away. Last Monday Paul started the process of calling around to see what inpatient programs would accept an inmate. She had to meet the criteria of being suicidal or homicidal to be admitted.

Tuesday Arabella called collect from jail. Paul and I connected our phones together so Arabella could talk to the intake person at the treatment center. She was in this inpatient program three times before and they said they would be willing to take her again.

Wednesday we had a phone conference scheduled with the lawyer. We told him Arabella would be accepted into a mental health inpatient program. He moved up her bond hearing and arraignment for Friday morning.

Thursday we followed up with the treatment center. They said they still had an opening since they were releasing several patients that very day. But they also said they weren’t sure if they would accept Arabella because even though she met the criteria several days ago she might not meet it when she came in. We really weren’t sure what was going to happen. What if they didn’t accept her? Would she come back home? Being delusional and self-harm didn’t meet criteria for admittance. They were worried she might be seeking treatment just to get out of jail.

Late Friday morning, Paul and I headed to court. I was so anxious I literally felt sick. My stomach burned. I felt like I was going to throw up and/or pass out. I saw my daughter for the first time in over a month in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. She was making small talk with the bailiff. He was asking her what she learned from her experience. After the lawyer came in, the judge was called in. My daughter pled not guilty to her criminal counts. Then the judge said he would release her to an inpatient treatment program. We were to be agents of the court and provide transportation to the clinic. If she was not accepted, she needed to go back to jail. Upon completion, she is also supposed to report to jail. I felt more secure in the fact she was not going to be coming home.

Paul and I decided to go to a buffet for a quick lunch and then head to the jail to pick Arabella up. We thought we could just walk in and she would be ready to go shortly. Again, we were misguided. The receptionist said she did not receive paperwork from the court to release our daughter to us for treatment. She told us to take a seat and we ended up sitting there for 4 hours. Thankfully I brought a book with me because it was not my first rodeo at the mental hospital. At least I knew that would take a lot of time and was prepared to hurry up and wait.

Because of COVID, they no longer have in person visitation at the jail. Instead in the lobby they have kiosks set up where you can do visits on a computer screen. We sat in a row of chairs with our backs to the kiosks. People came and went. It was hard to focus on my book.

There was a mom with two toddlers running around the lobby. She kept screaming at them. Before she left she told the kids to say good-bye to daddy. It was a little quieter for awhile. Then there was a woman who came in that screamed and hysterically cried the whole time. She kept asking what the inmate wanted her to do with their shit. There was a lot of swearing and yelling so it was hard to sit with my back to her and read my book. At the end of the visit the woman was crying and telling the other person not to leave her. It was intensely personal and uncomfortable.

Then a mom and grandma came in to talk to a guy. Grandma said her cancer screen came back with good results. Their conversation was just an every day conversation about life. Another guy told someone to hang in there and that he was always there for her. There were multiple heartrending conversations going on at the same time. I never heard the inmates response because the conversations were over the phone.

Then people started coming in. One lady came in to get an electronic monitoring system. The receptionist said the person who does that was not in today and she would have to go back to jail. The woman said she could not be incarcerated because her lungs were too bad. She sat with us for awhile too along with another woman who was with her while waiting for the courts. Several guys came in for DNA samples. They received notification they had to come in Monday through Friday but when they got there they were told samples were collected on the weekends only.

There were signs on the wall telling people to report suicidal inmates which I thought was a joke. It is virtually next to impossible to get your suicidal inmate treatment. At 4 PM, the receptionist said the lobby was closing and we would have to wait in the night lobby which was unmanned. They still did not receive documents from the court and the courthouse was closing in a half an hour. We didn’t know what to do. We left a message for the lawyer and tried calling the courthouse with no luck. We thought about leaving. What if no one gets back to us because it is Friday night? And not just any Friday night, but the Cinco de Mayo night of a full moon.

People started being released. A young woman desperate and not sure what to do. Did we have a couple bucks for a bus pass? From everything I learned over the course of the last couple hours and months was that inmates are people too needing kindness and compassion. Then two men were released. They were a lot rougher looking. There was a big angry man swearing about not getting his Oxy back and an unkempt guy with a teardrop tattoo. I reminded myself they are people too. I was getting a little nervous but I didn’t want to show fear. I’m glad my husband was there. But they didn’t pay any attention to me at all. Then another man came out who walked close and stared at me. Finally Arabella came through the doors and we were on our way to the mental health center.

Arabella said she was in medium security at jail. Her cellmate was in and out of jail for manufacturing and delivering heroin, neglecting a child, prostitution, and stealing someone’s identity. She will be heading to prison for several years. It makes me nervous to think about the things she is learning in jail and the friends she is making there. And to think I thought the friendships she made in the mental hospitals were bad.

We arrived at the mental hospital and they were ready for Arabella with minimal wait. I again was misguided to think it wouldn’t take long since it took another 4 hours. Arabella arrived disheveled looking with a stained sweatshirt and granny undies that hung out of her short shorts exposing her cutting wounds. They took her back for the assessment which they said would take 45 minutes to an hour. Once again, I pulled out my book. Another couple came in with a teenage daughter. I guessed they were newbies since they didn’t bring anything to keep them occupied and spoke to each other in hushed worried tones. They wore the expressions of parents of the newly mentally ill. It’s so incredibly stressful. After awhile it wears on you and becomes just another part of who you are. You get used to it.

Two hours later, we ask if Arabella was still getting her assessment. We reminded the receptionist that although our daughter is an adult we need to be notified if they were going to take her because if not we needed to transport her back to jail. The receptionist assured us they would notify us. A psychologist on her way out stopped to talk with us. She told us they would know if our daughter was having delusions and be able to get her the proper treatment. She thought the system failed us and offered suggestions for support and resources we weren’t aware of yet.

Awhile later we were notified Arabella was going to be admitted. They said we could sit with her since it would be awhile before she could be admitted. She was in the back room singing. That is another odd behavior lately, randomly singing in public. The intake person let us visit for awhile locking us in with Arabella.

By the time we got home that night and ate supper it was close to 10 PM. We accomplished what we set out to do which was getting our daughter treatment. It took a lot out of us, though, and we feel totally exhausted. But sometimes being a parent is doing everything you can do to help your child.

Getting through the hard times now

My dad is still with us. However, yesterday we found out Paul’s uncle passed away from lung cancer just like Paul’s mom and some of her other siblings did.

Arabella had her court date yesterday. Her suffocation and strangulation felony was dropped. One of her other felonies is now a misdemeanor. She currently is being charged with one felony, substantial battery. So, one felony and three misdemeanors. To get into mental health treatment court she can’t be convicted of violent crimes. I’m not really sure how it is all going to pan out. She is still in jail. We are not sure when she is getting out.

One of the things bothering me lately is that anything can really be used as a weapon if you want to use it that way. For example, Arabella cracked Will’s head open with her cell phone so much so that he needed staples. I’m not feeling very hopeful right now about her future. She crossed a new line when she hurt someone else and I can’t trust she won’t do it again.

She is still delusional, but not to the extent she was before. A couple weeks back she had decoded the Bible and God revealed the meaning of the seven seals to her. She said she needed to get out of jail to share the revelation with all the local pastors and preach in churches.

Her first court date she was rocking her body clutching a Bible. She looked stark raving mad. It’s hard to see your child like that. I find the religious delusions difficult to handle. It just seems so unfair to me. Whereas, my husband took comfort in these delusions. She believes in God and whatever happens we’ll see her again some day. Now her delusions focus on traumas she never experienced and everyone in the family having rare mental illnesses.

It’s been a rough week and we kept ourselves busy volunteering and spending time with family yesterday. Volunteering at times can be hard because we really see the full extent of human suffering. There was a woman whose husband just walked out and left her with 6 little kids. It’s hard not to feel emotional when I see so much suffering all around me. Most of the time it’s rewarding to be able to offer some kind of help to the suffering.

I feel like I am close to my breaking point. I don’t think I could handle anything else right now. I’m so afraid something else horrible will happen and I won’t be able to go on. Just one more thing could push me over the edge right now and it’s scary.

It’s been a hard week weather wise. We had a 50 degree drop in temperature and both my arthritis and colitis are acting up. Two of my brothers got blizzard conditions where they live. Thankfully we just got a dusting of snow. My stomach has been aching every day. Maybe it’s from all the stress. How do I know if I have an ulcer? I have acid re-flux and colitis already. But how do I know if I have an ulcer? Is the pain different? I don’t want to go in, do all these tests just to tell me I have what I already have. Then they will send me home and tell me to get plenty of sleep (insomniac), exercise (can’t run anymore because of arthritis), and manage my stress. Nobody can help me take away this stress.

I’m grateful for the supportive people I have in my life. Last night I just sat in my room alone and cried. My best friend called and offered me support. It helped me get through another day. I know I can talk to my best friend, my daughter Angel, my son Alex, and my husband. Yesterday I had conversations with all of them. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I still have my writing to do, a purpose. My son says he wants to have 8 kids, and my daughter Angel wants 6. Not sure if that’s going to happen, but maybe I’ll be a grandma soon. Next week my husband, friends, and I have a road trip planned to Traverse City. Good things will be coming in the future, I know it. I just have to get through the hard times now.

Resilient and resourceful

I went to bed last night not knowing if my dad was going to live through the night. I knew by late afternoon an ambulance took him to the hospital. Right before bed, my mom called and said my dad was going through kidney failure and she was unsure if he was going to live through the night. I didn’t sleep well.

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to think about my dad dying for awhile. At least until my daughter is out of jail. A million different scenarios whirled around my head. I don’t know how I feel about my dad dying, our relationship is complicated. I received an update this morning the doctors drained 3 liters of fluid from my dad’s kidneys and his kidneys are functioning better. He will not need dialysis. But I don’t think he is out of the woods yet. I don’t think he will ever go back home though because my mom can’t take care of him anymore.

I’m not sure if I will ever see him again. I can’t remember the last time I saw him. Was it this calendar year? I can’t recall. As of right now, I don’t have any plans of seeing him or saying good-bye. I feel as if I have said everything that I need to say. But maybe I’ll regret it some day. I don’t think he has much time left. But who really knows?

Tomorrow Arabella has another court date. It’s a preliminary hearing which from what I gather will be a determination whether there is probable cause for the 3 felony charges she is facing. I’m not really sure what is going to happen. She has been in jail almost a month already. The only thing I’ve determined is nothing is certain and nothing happens fast.

Thankfully I had an appointment with my counselor this afternoon. She said I needed to come up with a plan. That is something I can do. Beyond that she said what she knows about me is that I am resilient and resourceful enough to figure out pretty much anything I’m going to have to face. By the end of the week, my daughter could be out of jail and my dad could be dead. There is so much uncertainty.

My counselor said I needed to come up with a plan for how to deal with the possibility my dad may die soon. I told her as of right now I don’t want to see him. I told her if he calls me and asks to see me, then I would see him. The next time I plan on seeing him is in a casket. I know it sounds harsh, but he never invested anything into our relationship. He is an abusive pedophile and most of the family wants nothing to do with him. The whole situation is very sad and not at all what I wanted.

The second plan I need to come up with is a safety plan for when Arabella comes home. So far I have two items on my plan. The first is to have my cell phone on me at all times in case my daughter tries to threaten or harm me so I can call 911. The second is to lock my door while I sleep at night. Beyond that, I really didn’t put too much time into thinking about it.

My therapist said I needed to look around my house and see what can be used as a weapon. Put away the knives sitting on the counter in the rack. Anything easily accessible. I remember having to do this as a kid when my schizophrenic brother pulled a knife on me and threatened to poke my eyes out. Sadly, it’s nothing new. The therapist said I should focus on removing items easily reached in an argument versus items my daughter could use to kill herself.

Back when my daughter was 17, her outpatient program told me she was planning on killing herself. They said I needed to scour her room for anything she could use to harm herself. I didn’t find much. She was too smart for me. She took disposable razors, took the blades out, and hid them in a gum wrapper in a pack of gum. She told me that later. I could never adequately protect her from herself.

The best I can do is protect me from her now. I have zero faith self-defense would work. She is twice my size. I learned a lot about psychotic rages from my brother. He is close to my size and when he was raging he had super human strength. It was unpredictable and could happen at any time. It could not be prevented. There weren’t any signs despite our hyper-vigilance.

Matt is being treated for his schizophrenia and the medication he is on works. He no longer hears voices telling him to hurt or kill people. Arabella is not being treated for schizophrenia. She is dangerous until she is if anyone will listen to find out what is really happening. Her delusions are very real to her and she becomes very agitated when we don’t believe what she does. Both times she ended up in jail was after bouts of going off her meds. So they do work somewhat. This is what life is like when family members are seriously mentally ill. My parents struggle with mental illness too. I love them all, but they are hard to deal with.

It’s really been a lot to handle. I’m sick of the stress. But as my therapist said, I am resilient and resourceful. I just don’t want to have to be.

Solving communication issues

Last week Paul and I had our couples therapy appointment. I think we had a breakthrough regarding some of the communication issues we have been having.

What I need from Paul is to be relational. I want to know he feels the same way or has some of the same worries so I don’t feel alone in my suffering. Paul wants me to give him hope by telling him everything is going to be okay and offer encouragement. For the longest time, we have been giving each other what we would want for ourselves. That has proved to be a frustrating experience all around.

The second time Arabella went to jail I felt very fearful for her future. There is a myriad of feelings involved when your child is incarcerated. I have been feeling despair, hopelessness, anger, guilt, anxiety, uncertainty, shame, and fear. Nothing really associated with ‘positive’ feelings about any of this. Now I usually keep these feelings to myself and go into a nice dark corner to lick my wounds. But my husband has been rather distraught by my isolation so through therapy I resolved to tell him how I feel instead. He found he didn’t really like what I was feeling.

When I am feeling despair, his response is to trust in God and everything will be okay which usually makes me quite angry. What is wrong with me? Why does he seem to have this faith that I don’t? How am I supposed to get out of survival mode if all I am doing is trying to survive? Who is the person I was supposed to be if I didn’t have childhood trauma? Trusting? Trusting in God? How do I have faith when I feel if God exists he doesn’t really care about me? Maybe he doesn’t exist at all. Why does he allow so much suffering? Why do my prayers go unanswered? If I have already given control over to God, why is he choosing this for my life?

In therapy, I told Paul I really wanted him to try to be relational, like talking to a best friend. I don’t want him to fix, solve, or tell me everything is going to be okay. I want him to commiserate with me that sometimes life really fucking sucks. He has been making the effort. He said he also has doubts about God, feels despair about our daughter’s future, and questions why there is so much unnecessary suffering in this world. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Paul wants me to give him hope and tell him everything will be okay. This has been a struggle for me because it doesn’t feel authentic. I don’t know if everything is going to be okay. Arabella might end up killing herself, hurting someone else, and being in and out of jail or mental health treatment centers the rest of her life. It’s very likely the life she will end up living. I think I will outlive my daughter. Where is the hope in that? I have been trying to offer up hope and encouragement even if I don’t believe it because that is what my husband needs.

So I guess in some ways it has been beneficial to have our lives fall apart so we are able to rebuild it into something better. There really hasn’t been much Paul and I haven’t been through in life and if we survive it, maybe we can help others.

I didn’t sign up for this..

My daughter is still in jail. I think I am finally getting used to living in a constant state of uncertainty. I’m not sure when she is getting out. It could be next week. It could be a couple months.

This week Paul and I went to a support group for families who are dealing with family members with mental illness. Every single family there who has a mentally ill child Arabella’s age or older have or have had an incarcerated child. I found this to be shocking. We weren’t the only ones. Which makes me wonder how many mentally ill people are in the criminal justice system. And, how messed up is that? Because our child (and many others) is an adult, we could not get treatment for her unless she was a threat to herself or others. What a joke! And then, even if they hurt themselves or someone else, it is still hard to find treatment. Poor ratings from me for the broken mental health system.

My teenage adult daughter has been sitting in jail facing 3 felonies for the last couple weeks. Nothing new is happening with her case. She is just sitting there so she can’t come home and screw up her life some more. We got her a lawyer. We don’t want our daughter to be a convicted felon, we don’t want prison, we want mental health treatment. But her meds aren’t right. Although some are better than none, I guess. Both times she ended up in jail she was off her meds because she felt like she didn’t need them.

Talking to the other parents in the support group, I wonder if jail is just going to be a part of her life now. If it is, this will be the last time we get her a lawyer. We have spent so much money on her treatment already. Her two month stint in a residential treatment facility almost cost as much as a 4 year college. We’ve already paid the lawyer over $1,000. It isn’t fair to our other children and it isn’t fair to us because it is eating away from our retirement. Plus life goes on. We are paying her half of rent. We just found out she owes a lot of money for taxes because her online ‘modeling’ job didn’t take any money out.

I think my daughter is going to fail on probation. She is going to have to take her meds, be on time, have no contact with Will, and observe absolute sobriety. I would be a fool to think her prognosis is anything but poor. Plus, in the state she is in, she could harm herself or someone else all of which she has done before.

After she gets out of jail, Arabella is moving back home. It’s that or be homeless as she has nowhere else to go. We need to develop a safety plan because I’m not sure if I’m safe. My daughter is twice my size. She tried to strangle her boyfriend. What if she does that to me? I have to come to terms that my life could be in danger. Am I willing to risk that? I think I am prepared to die. I will probably have to keep my phone on me at all times and lock my bedroom door while I sleep at night. I will have to be aware at all times. Some of the parents in the support group got large dogs to alert and protect them.

My husband is gone a lot for work in the summer. At times he mentioned quitting his job so I’m not home alone. But I don’t want him to do that. Maybe we are worried for nothing. Maybe everything will be just fine. But we have to think about these things now. I don’t know if I will be able to call the police unless it is really bad. Growing up my mom tried to protect my autistic/schizophrenic brother at all costs. We had to protect Matt from the police when he attacked us or others. I grew up thinking calling the police was wrong. I just don’t know if I can do it. But I also think my mom didn’t handle things correctly. This has been triggering in so many ways.

I wish I could say I have been able to get it off my mind, but I can’t. If it is not front and center, it’s still percolating on the back burner. Some days are better than others. I’m starting to get used to it.

Back to jail

I was half expecting Arabella to be at our house when I woke up Saturday morning. It was a blustery morning, the expected two inches of snow turned into over a foot of snowfall. Paul got up a few minutes before me and I asked him a question as I started making my coffee. He told me he needed to talk to me and I had better sit down. Not the best thing to hear right away in the morning. Paul said Will texted him to tell us our daughter got arrested again.

Friday night, Will and Arabella went to a show. I was worried about Arabella because she was extremely delusional for the past few days. I knew she was looking forward to going to the show she got tickets to for months. On Saturday, my plan was to talk to her about admitting herself into the hospital. I also thought it would fall on deaf ears just like us telling her she needed to take the diversion offered to her to dismiss her criminal charges. I had to try even if she got upset with me. But it was too late.

This is what I was able to piece together. Something that was said at the show set off Arabella and she got very upset. At the show, she was overwhelmed because she was collectively able to go into the minds of everyone there and feel all their pain. She began to talk very loudly during the show and Will told her to shut up. They left the show early. Arabella drove home and Will walked a couple miles home.

When Will got home he was very upset because they left the show early and he did not want to listen to Arabella preach to him about how she decoded the Bible. He tried to get Arabella to take her medicine but she refused. She grabbed him by the neck and started choking him. Then she held him face down on the floor and told him she was doing God’s will. He managed to get away and called 911.

Now my daughter is sitting in jail facing 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanor counts. At the time of her arrest, she was completely out of touch with reality for over 3 days. We tried to get her help but no one would do anything unless she hurt herself or someone else because she is an adult. Paul, Will, and I tried to file a petition for involuntary commitment but it was denied. Apparently when she was suicidal two week ago and the police were called that didn’t count because they had a safety plan in place for 24 hours. We detailed her week of delusions, didn’t count. We recounted her violence against Will which didn’t count because the police report didn’t say it was mental health related. Apparently being totally out of touch with reality, being suicidal, and choking someone isn’t enough to get someone committed. I have at least 5 people who would testify she needed help the week she was arrested.

I don’t know what it would take to prove my daughter has mental health issues. She is only 19 and was hospitalized 4 or 5 times in the psychiatric hospital, was in an outpatient program several months, went to a residential program for two months, went to the ER several times for delusions, burned through a dozen counselors, tried a dozen different medications, has self-harm scars on most of her body. We are not trying to say she is mentally ill to get her out of going to prison. She is mentally ill and needs help. At this point I don’t care if she goes to prison as long as she gets the treatment she needs.

I went back on my phone to find proof via text of her delusions. Her first suicide attempt was February 15, 2020. Two weeks before that her texts indicated her mental condition was starting to decline. I didn’t know that yet at the time but going back it was clear. Before then everything was good, everything was normal. I sat and cried for about 10 minutes going through all the old normal texts of friends and dances and pictures before the cutting. I wondered to myself what the kids are like in other families before they became schizophrenic. Like the day before tragedy happens, we never remembered the last normal meal when we were all together and everything was normal and fine.

We wonder how things went so terribly wrong. The mental health system is failing miserably. My daughter has had one steady psychiatrist for 4 months in the last 3 years. He was the doctor that said my daughter most likely has borderline with schizoaffective disorder with bipolar 2. Then he said he was retiring and there wasn’t anyone to take his place. Borderline! Bipolar! Schizophrenia! Alone those are hefty diagnoses. But combined and facing 3 felonies no one has to tell me her prognosis is poor. I live with the fear that someday I might outlive my daughter.

Right now we are hoping for a psych eval in jail and inpatient treatment. We could bail her out but I’m afraid she will kill herself. I am afraid she is going to go to her apartment and hurt Will. I’m afraid she might hurt me. I’m afraid she might run away. I’m afraid she might do something stupid and get herself into more trouble. There has been a lot to think about. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride. It’s been a very difficult process full of uncertainty. At least we were able to hire a lawyer and we’ll see how everything goes.


The first indication there was something really wrong was when she came over in the middle of the night on Tuesday and knocked on our bedroom door waking us up. Arabella yelled outside the door that she needed to go to the ER. She was terrified she was starving to death. Her body was eating itself. Arabella is obese. No one in their right mind would think she was starving to death. She went to the ER. We tried to go back to sleep but didn’t have much luck.

Arabella came over very early Thursday morning because she had to tell me something. She told me that an old friend of ours who we haven’t seen in over 10 years raped her psychically while she was unconscious as a child. She could tell he was also raping his daughter (someone she never met) from looking at his Facebook pictures. She was ready to call CPS. She told her sister this and her sister said it wasn’t true and that she couldn’t ruin this nice man’s life by making false accusations.

Arabella then said that Angel was controlling everyone. Angel turned everyone against her except for the other family she moved in with for awhile. We were all deceived. But she also loves Angel because she has Stockholm Syndrome towards her. Angel could force her to laugh and smile. She could cause other people to hurt her.

Arabella told us she has Multiple Personality Disorder. She also has PTSD and when she does she has the ability to go into other people’s bodies and think their thoughts and feel their emotions. Through this she can understand other people’s lives.

Friday morning Arabella came over very early once again and excitedly stated she decoded the Bible. She understands it now. She talked animatedly about complex theological concepts sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes not so much. She said that Mary was raped. She would not allow us to speak. She said she was born again and is a new person. She didn’t feel like she was herself anymore.

Besides being out of touch with reality, I was very concerned at this point she was not sleeping or taking care of herself. She said sleep was something that mortals like me needed. My daughter was gone and there didn’t seem to be a single thing we could do about it because she is an adult. She is finally trusting me again and I was afraid any efforts on my part would break that trust and I would once again be a threat. Everything felt surreal. I can’t believe this is happening and I keep second guessing myself.

Later that afternoon, I just happened to look at my find friends to see when my husband was coming back for lunch. I noticed Arabella was at CPS. I tried to talk her out of reporting our old friend. I panicked and called their office. Angel also called their office several days before warning them that her mentally ill sister believes someone has been sexually assaulted but was not. She was also accusing other people of sexual assault whom she has never met because of her ability to go into the minds of others.

I think my daughter is schizophrenic. My brother is schizophrenic. My cousin is schizophrenic. Little did I know the worst was yet to come…

Dream triggers

Last night I had a dream that I took 2-year-old Arabella to my parent’s house knowing everything I know now. For most families it probably wouldn’t be a nightmare, but for me it was. I didn’t feel she was safe around my dad without me and I had to go to the bathroom. I remember waking up with the knowledge that I had opened the door and once open it would be hard to shut all the way again.

It wasn’t the first time I felt this way in real life. My brother Matt heard voices that told him to hurt people, mainly little girls like me. He listened to those voices throughout my childhood and into my adult years up until he was medicated and those voices stopped.

In May of 1997 I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in both human development and psychology with an emphasis in counseling. I was fresh out of college ready to change the world, or at the very least fix my family. In August I got married and by October I was pregnant. I applied for a couple jobs that I didn’t get. So I decided to continue to be a caregiver for my brother. I didn’t want to put my baby in daycare and I had zero family support. I was the family support for my family of origin and I was since I could remember.

Everything worked out well for awhile. I was able to care for my baby and Matt. Matt didn’t hurt babies. But then my baby grew up and I got pregnant with my second baby. Matt started obsessing about my daughter Angel. He asked what would happen if he twisted her arm or held her head under water in the bathtub. By the time my second baby was born I no longer felt it was safe so I stopped watching Matt.

I still had Matt be a part of my children’s life for big things like Christmas or birthday parties. It was on Angel’s 4th birthday when Matt attacked her in a room full of vigilant adults. With as many watchful and experienced eyes, we couldn’t stop it from happening. Afterwards, I told my mom Matt was not allowed around my children until they were big enough to defend themselves against a grown man.

A month later I was pregnant with my third child, a girl. I kept the sex of my child a secret because Matt was always more fixated on hurting girls than boys. My mom knew I was having a girl because if I wasn’t I would’ve told everyone. That was probably true. I was worried if I had a girl she would get hurt and if I had a boy he would turn out like Matt. I felt screwed either way.

Then the time came for me to have my third child. It was a scheduled C-section. I decided to have the baby later in the week so my husband wouldn’t have to work and could watch the other kids over the weekend while I was in the hospital. He had just started his own business which was the only means of supporting us financially so he couldn’t take time off. In those days, working out of the house was not yet an option.

My mom stayed overnight the night before then dropped the kids off at the hospital the following morning so she could take Matt to the dentist. She wasn’t going to help me further unless Matt could come along. I don’t know if I can ever forgive her for that. Less than a week after having a major surgery I was home alone taking care of a colicky newborn, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old.

For the next several years after the attack my mom fought back hard against my boundaries of no contact. I was constantly stressed out during my pregnancy and for years afterwards by her actions. My mom at times would randomly stop by just to have my kids wave to Matt from the window. She was constantly trying to get Matt back in our lives again. She was always offering up help if I would just accept Matt in again.

Last week Paul and I were meeting with our couples therapist. She talked about trauma and how it could start even in the womb. This therapist also saw my mom and both of my daughters. She told me she thought I experienced trauma in utero. Maybe there is something I don’t know. But all I could think about is that I am to blame for Arabella’s mental illness. I am to blame for her being a difficult baby because all of the stress hormones surging through me while I was pregnant. I know I shouldn’t think that way but I can’t help it. Never mind the smorgasbord of mental illness coursing through my husband’s and my genetics we already knew about and the random smattering from an unknown bio dad.

After several years, I opened the door. I allowed Matt over for a brief period of time during Christmas at a party I was hosting because yes I was hosting all the family parties in my 20’s. That was okay, but other things were not? My brother Luke had some of the same issues I had with my mom and brother Matt.

The dream awakened all of this within me. But now it also has to do with my dad. All I could think about is one of the images Angel told me about that she found on my dad’s computer. It was a photo of a naked little girl crying. That was one of the tamer pictures but maybe the one that hit me the hardest for some reason. I keep imaging that little girl as myself, the picture of what my inner child must look like alone, vulnerable, and crying. By the time these images were found and my daughter went to the police, my kids were almost fully grown. Luke, however, had two little girls the same age as the images of the children. It felt like it was starting all over again but this time instead of being Matt it is my dad. All of our children with the exception of Arabella have not seen or spoken to my dad in over three years.

I’m not sure if I will ever get over the trauma. I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life stuck in other people’s problems, people who should of been my rock, comfort, and support which were not.

8 days

Another dream, this time where the past meets the present. My best friend, not even invited. Not by my side as the matron of honor. Never to see or talk to again. I had a dream she was not invited to my daughter’s wedding. How could she be when she was not invited to mine?

I felt the pain of those left behind. Before it was Shelly. She was supposed to be my matron of honor. I was the maid of honor in her wedding. But along the way life happened and screwed it all up. You see, Shelly needed a job and my brother Matt needed a teacher’s aide in his special ed classroom. Maybe that’s where things went wrong. Matt was physically violent and at the time he was a full sized adult.

Matt didn’t like school much and had the tendency to hurt someone when he didn’t want to do school work which was quite often. One day after attacking Shelly at school, the police were called. The police came to school, handcuffed my brother, put him in the back of the squad car, and took him to jail. It was something my mom always warned us about. Watch Matt carefully he is an adult now and if he hurts someone he could get locked away forever. I haven’t been able to get over my fear of the police. Every time I hear a siren my heart races.

My mom was sick with fear for Matt. He was facing assault charges which were eventually dropped because he was incompetent to stand trial. I never spoke to my childhood best friend again. My mom flippantly said, “Oh well, you were going separate ways anyways.” I was going to college and she was working with my brother. But I wanted the choice.

My plan was to go to school to become a counselor. Then I was going to fix my family. That was when I was young and dumb enough to think I could. I already felt the weight and responsibility. If I only knew Matt was going to hurt someone before he did. I could have stopped it. It’s my fault he attacked someone because I was not vigilant enough. If I believed it was my fault, I also believed I could fix it.

I felt guilty on my wedding day because I didn’t want Matt there. I didn’t want Matt to hurt someone. When I got married, Matt was going through some serious health issues and my parents thought Matt could die which intensified my guilt. They got a room for him in the hotel we had our reception at. After the ceremony, which he didn’t attend, we had the photographer come to the room to take wedding photos with Matt. We were gone so long some of the guests chided us about what took us so long as we were coming down from the hotel room.

Now it’s my dad who is not invited to the wedding. I can’t say I blame my daughter for not wanting him there, but it’s still painful. What if people ask where he is? He was pretty sick a month ago and in my mind I thought maybe he would die and free me from the shame he brought upon us. It’s a horrible thing to wish for. As if I will ever be free from the pain he caused me. My counselor said if asked I could tell people he is not well enough to go. If further asked, I could tell them I will talk to them about it later. I am good with the plan. It’s the last thing I want to talk about. It’s my mom I worry about. She has a tendency to overshare and play the victim making it all about her when the focus should be on someone else.

Call me a slow learner, but I just figured out this year I can’t fix people. In fact, I don’t have any control at all. I thought I could fix my family of origin but they are way too beyond broken to be put back together. I can’t even fix myself. I tried to fix my husband when he was drinking too much. I felt like it was my fault. I was responsible for him. It was my job to fix him. How easily it was to jump back into my old role. At times I even thought he was drinking just to hurt me. He has been seeing a counselor too which has been helpful, but I think it will be something he will always struggle with. At times I can’t blame him. If drinking took away my pain, there wouldn’t be enough I couldn’t drink.

He thought he could fix me too. He thought he could be my knight in shining armor. He thought he could bring me out of the dark spaces I hide within myself. He tried to make me happy so he could fix my depression. Why didn’t my fear and anxiety go away? Didn’t I love him? Didn’t I trust him? Wasn’t he something to live for? Couldn’t I just stop feeling that way? Couldn’t he just stop drinking??

We couldn’t fix our parents, both of us having parents with addiction/mental health issues. We couldn’t fix each other. We can’t fix our kids who all show signs of addictiveness and/or familial mental health struggles to some degree. That was a hard lesson to learn. There is nothing like having to watch someone you love hurting. I wanted to do anything I could to take the pain away from them. It’s harder as a parent, especially being the mom, because there is a huge sense of responsibility to fix your children. How often is the finger pointed at the parents when the kids struggle? (I can tell you with a daughter who has Borderline, it’s a lot even from professionals that should know better). It’s even easier to blame myself.

I guess if there is any silver lining in this, we have been waging war against these demons for a long enough time to know how to fight them in the best way possible. It wasn’t the first time someone I was close to wasn’t invited or wasn’t well enough to go to a wedding. My best friend wasn’t invited to my wedding and I never saw her again. My own grandpa didn’t go to my wedding because he wasn’t well enough. I can only control what I can control. It’s not easy, but there is some peace in knowing when to let go.