The story unfolds

So now the story unfolds. It’s been over a month since Arabella has been home from residential. She was there for over two months.

She is now writing her own story in a book that will perhaps never be written. We did our best. Now here we will remain as a landing pad when her wings are broken from life as sometimes happens when a bird first leaves the nest.

We keep telling ourselves that everything will be okay. Even if it’s not, we will still walk through it together.

On the rough days we talk of Paul’s mom. She made a good life for herself. She didn’t have much. She didn’t have a high school diploma but was always able to find a job. She raised a child as a single parent when she was right around Arabella’s age. She struggled with mental health issues, but she had her mother to help her and later in life she married a good man. She had a house to live in.

If Martha could do it, then Arabella has a good chance to live life independently. In some ways, I think that Martha was happier than most people I know. Ignorance is bliss they say. I don’t even think she knew she was not very bright or that she was mentally ill.

Arabella is out in the world now. She is finding her way, even if it is not the path I would’ve chosen for her. She is not out of the woods, but she is doing so much better. She wants to live now. Crazy can be fun and exciting. Normal is boring anyway.

I am closing this series. It’s been very challenging to write about my daughter’s mental health struggles in only the way that personal painful pieces can be. But I feel like it’s been therapeutic for me as well.

From here on out I might get a little light and fluffy for awhile. I might post about my travels, wedding planning (yeah!), or go back to writing about the fortune cookies I’ve amassed. But I’m not going anywhere. I just need to lighten things up after talking about such serious personal topics.

I can be fun too, but you guys probably don’t know that about me.

Gratitude week 78

  1. Oh my gosh guys, this is super exciting!!! My daughter Angel got engaged over the weekend. Finally some good news!
  2. Summer!! Even though it’s been raining hard the last couple of days. (We do need the rain though).
  3. My daughter Arabella paid us back the money she owed us and so far loves her new job.
  4. I had two appointments with my therapist this past week. The last couple of weeks I’ve been really anxious and am starting to have stomachaches again. I’m hoping to manage my stress better, so here is to taking steps to do that.
  5. Yesterday I celebrated the graduation of my best friend’s son. Again, I was able to catch up with some acquaintances that I haven’t seen since before COVID. It was cool and rainy so we huddled inside their garage most of the afternoon. But it was nice to celebrate with friends on a rainy day that I wouldn’t do much else on. I won’t take for granted celebrating with friends after last year with COVID.
  6. I can’t believe that it will be the 4th of July next weekend. I have plans to go up north with my family to celebrate. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen Luke and I haven’t seen my brother Mark and his wife since before COVID.
  7. Thunderstorms without severe weather.
  8. Oh my gosh, my daughter is getting married. How can that be??
  9. My daughter’s fiancĂ© Dan is a really great guy.
  10. I’m just grateful right now to be home and sleeping in my own bed.

Residential care

The first couple of weeks at residential were really rough. I was afraid that Arabella was going to get kicked out of the program. They told us while she was on the waiting list if she did any self-harm, such as banging her head against the wall like she did at her second inpatient stay, they would release her. She knew that because she was part of that conversation. She hated it there at first. She didn’t have any friends. They purposefully kept her alone to increase her tolerance in a safe environment.

We received nightly calls from her which were not always good. She begged us to send her expensive gifts overlooking the cost of treatment. She bragged about her arguments with staff and how she broke the rules. They had a hard time waking her up in the morning like we did. It wasn’t going well because she didn’t want to be there. She argued with us and hung up on us on multiple occasions. I was always waiting for a call that we should come pick her up and there was nothing they could do for her.

The first call from the therapist was rough because she said that Arabella made allegations of abuse against us which they had to report to social services. Nice! What were they going to do anyway? Take her away? I jokingly said to my husband that maybe then the county would pay for her residential treatment. But nothing ever happened.

Arabella caught on fast, but she couldn’t focus. She was easily distracted which lead to a diagnosis of ADHD. She improved greatly in the program after she was treated for this. I felt like this was a turning point in her treatment. She wanted to be there after that and wanted to get better. She could finally focus on studying and new hobbies.

Some other strange things happened while she was there. Arabella went into a dissociative state and freaked out scaring other patients. She didn’t know who she was or where she was. In this dissociative state, Arabella ate plastic which prompted more testing for pica. Dissociation can be a symptom of borderline. After this she had every single diagnostic characteristic of borderline. I wondered if this had anything to do with her eating nonfood items before. I was completely puzzled.

Before this I did not know she experienced dissociative episodes. She admitted to dissociating in the shower. She also said that she had episodes in her room where she looked down at herself and thought that she was a very bad person that didn’t deserve to live or a very good person. I found it very hard to understand and didn’t even know it was possible or likely without experiencing major trauma.

After the treatment for ADHD and after her dissociative episode ended, there was a time of tremendous growth. She started working on learning and applying skills. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we were very fearful at first about whether or not this treatment was going to work. We had a lot invested in it and not just financially. I think our fear in early treatment was normal, we just didn’t know what to expect.

I think the residential DBT program was a lifesaver. It gave her (and us) more tools to work on some of her mental health issues she was struggling with. But we were also worried about how things were going to be when she got home. Would the skills carry over? Would she be able to live independently or would she need lifetime care? Again, we just didn’t know what to expect in recovery.

Gratitude week 75

  1. I found my favorite pair of sunglasses that I thought I lost.
  2. Summer!!! So last weekend we had a couple of days with highs around 50. This weekend the temps are in the 90’s. I am totally embracing summer so much so that I typically drive with the windows down. Also we are so cheap that we are planning on going the whole summer without A/C. The past couple days have been a test of that. I am totally happy that my husband is on the same page as I am as far as embracing the heat goes although it is a little on the side of crazy.
  3. I was able to spend a couple days up north as we opened up the cabin for the season.
  4. I am learning to live with the uncomfortableness of letting go. There is a certain freedom to be found in it after having to be responsible for others for so long.
  5. I just finished another self help book. After spending the last couple months reading that genre, I’m going to read a novel that I found in one of those little free book boxes up north.
  6. We are taking Paul out to eat tonight to celebrate him being on TV.
  7. We also started thinking of new business strategies and ideas to help us move forward with our business.
  8. Paul and I went to a session together with my therapist this past week that was really helpful and eye opening.
  9. Kayaking around the lake on a hot day and jumping into the cool refreshing water at the sand bar.
  10. We had a nice Memorial Day with Paul’s step-dad Darryl and his new fiancĂ©. My mom and all the kids were around too. It was nice to have a cook out and play some games. It seems like that doesn’t happen often enough. It didn’t happen at all last summer. It’s nice to see life getting back to somewhat normal.

Gratitude week 72

  1. Arabella came home from residential.
  2. Arabella already has a job interview for today to work as a bartender. It’s a great time to be looking for a job because everyone is so desperate for employees they may overlook her inexperience. **Since the first draft, she was offered a job in the bakery which she does have experience with. But she does have another job opportunity on the line so we’ll see what happens.**
  3. I can’t believe the day has come that all of my children are now adults as Arabella turned 18 over the weekend. I’m learning to let go. It can be rather freeing.
  4. The light switch turned on and it is finally summer around here. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it is warm enough for shorts. That is what I like about living in a climate with harsh winters, summer seems so wonderful.
  5. The boats are in the water. It feels good that the boating season is starting.
  6. We rearranged furniture yesterday and now my daughter Angel’s bedroom is downstairs and we have an office upstairs. We have been arranging things the last couple months and everything is finally starting to come together the way I like it. Angel will be happier too since it has been incredibly hard for her to find a house to buy or rent. She may be living with us a lot longer than she planned with the market the way it is. I don’t mind though…
  7. All my kids are living on my property (my son lives in the mother-in-law suite apartment in the detached garage). It’s nice to have everyone together again. Plus my mom is living here which is going smoother. I almost have a sense of family.
  8. I had almost 4 hours of therapy on one day last week. I think I am officially fixed (at least I can think that anyway).
  9. I met my friend Jen out for lunch last week. It was refreshing to get together with a friend I haven’t seen for awhile.
  10. I am writing this from my new office that faces the road with freshly blooming flowers and trees outside my window.

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.

Gratitude week 64

I have to admit I am feeling rather crabby today…so. I just feel bored, restless, and like my life lacks purpose. Maybe it’s an empty nest thing. I don’t know. I went from spending the last year trying to keep my daughter alive to her going into a residential care facility. I hate to say this, but maybe my purpose was keeping her alive and now I don’t have that purpose anymore. Not only that, but family therapy seems like kind of a waste at this point. It sure would’ve been helpful 10 to 15 years ago. But now with my baby turning 18 in less than 2 months, it seems a little late.

So anyway, here is my list for this week:

  1. Spring!
  2. 1,000 followers!
  3. I think my son broke his little toe this week. He could barely walk, but is starting to feel better.
  4. My mom took my brother Matt to the ER today as she thought he might have scabies again. Thankfully it’s not that and doesn’t appear to be anything serious, although his rash is really bad.
  5. Stimulus checks.
  6. Our refrigerator bit the dust. Unfortunately the first place we went had the fridge we wanted on back order due to COVID with no arrival date in sight. This shouldn’t be news to me, but apparently COVID also caused a refrigerator shortage. Thankfully we were able to find a new refrigerator at another store, but it will take almost a month until we get it. I’m grateful in the meantime that we have a chest freezer and a drink cooler we can put food in. So we didn’t have to throw anything away.
  7. I was finally able to get in to see my therapist this week.
  8. Paul took me out to eat at our favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate 1,000 followers.
  9. My best friend and I went out for corned beef and cabbage yesterday. I’m grateful since I didn’t think I would get any since I didn’t go out for St. Patrick’s day.
  10. Today my mom, Matt, and I went for a walk and yesterday Paul and I took our dog for a walk. It’s nice to be able to start getting outside more. We did get some snow this past week but it’s pretty much all gone now.
  11. I’m grateful that Paul assembled a chair for us to sit in on the front porch. Then we can watch other people who have a life come and go. Okay, I’m busy but am starting to feel this empty nest thing.

Saying good-bye for now

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

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

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

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

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

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

Activated

I had a really good appointment with my counselor yesterday. I posed the question to her about how come I feel more anger towards my mom than my dad. After all my dad could be described as cruel, mean, and at times a downright evil man. My mom has nothing but good intentions and most would view her as a genuinely good person. What was wrong with me? It just didn’t seem right.

I was starting to do a lot of healing work before my daughter turned my dad in to the police. After that I was a real mess. I really didn’t know if I would get through it. But here I am today not all that upset with my dad anymore but still angry with my mom. Why is that?

My therapist said I did a lot of healing work. Some of the healing work allowed me to de-activate my triggers. The memory of the trauma is still there, but the buttons don’t work anymore when people try to push them.

When my daughter turned my dad in to the police, it re-activated my dad button. It’s taken me almost a full year to de-activate it again. Here’s the thing. After I moved out of the house, my dad was no longer cruel or mean to me. My relationship with him went from horrible to neutral, from hatred to pity. But once my daughter turned him in, the switch was re-activated. I remembered every terrible horrible thing he did. It even brought up memories protected by my inner child deep within. Then everything started back up again with the insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, hypervigilance, and depression. It was like I was stuck being a kid again and it was very frightening.

But since everything has happened with my dad, I’ve only seen or talked to him a handful of times. He seems sorrowful and downright pitiful. He lost weight. I can only view him as a weak sad old man whom his family has pushed away as a result of his own behavior. You can’t outrun reaping exactly what you sow. I’ve seen it tear him down into a broken elderly man. As a child I hated him so much I wanted him to burn in hell. Now that he is in hell, I don’t seem to want it as much.

But with my mom, I’ve tried to turn off the activation switch while she is using all her strength to keep it turned on. She has been a manipulative controlling martyr my whole life. Whenever I’ve tried to set boundaries she has marched right over them and made me feel guilty about it. She never liked my choices in friends, boyfriends, music, clothing, goals, etc…then she would take it a step further and try to change me into the person she wanted me to be. So of course I am angry. Her behavior has not changed. She is pushing all my buttons and I haven’t been able to de-activate the mom switch.

My parents are toxic people. They have always been toxic people. At this point I am not even sure what to do going forward. Therapy every day??!? I don’t want to cut them out of my life. I’ve had to take a few steps back though for my own sanity.

What my therapist said was profound to me. Now everything makes sense. I had to write it all down before I forgot about it.

Gratitude week 50

  1. My husband got his braces off this week. Now too bad he has to wear a mask…
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire on a cold day.
  3. I’m grateful for pajama days.
  4. I’m grateful for my new followers (and the ones who have stuck with me for awhile).
  5. I’m grateful that I was able to do a lot of writing this week. It’s been a rough week emotionally though. I’m not sure if it is because I’ve been thinking and writing about things a lot…or that this time of year is triggering…or a massive amount of stress…or that we are not getting together with family for the holidays this year. But here I am with the hope that things will get better…
  6. I’m grateful for my husband’s work Christmas party tomorrow so I have a reason to get dressed up and polish my nails. It’s hard to want to look nice when so many plans have been cancelled. It’s like, why bother? Pajama day every day…well not quite but you know what I mean.
  7. I’m grateful for Christmas lights.
  8. I’m grateful for my grandparents. Today it’s been 20 years since my grandpa passed away. 20 YEARS! I lit some candles for him and told my kids a few stories about him.
  9. I’m thankful that my son installed some sort of music app on my computer. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own music. I’m thankful that my kids can help show me how to use it because it seems very challenging.
  10. I grateful for a really good appointment this past week with my counselor.