Residential waiting list

We received the call that Arabella’s name came up on the waiting list for the DBT residential program for adolescent girls. We had less than a week to get everything together. She had to be there within a certain time period or she would lose her place. This was her last opportunity since they said she could not be there after turning 18. She was less than 3 months until 18 which meant by the time she came up on the waiting list again, she would be too old for the program.

She abruptly ended her time with the outpatient program that she was in for 2 months. I had to switch a dentist appointment around last minute. Thankfully they were able to sneak her in earlier with short notice. The residential program needed her dental records. We ended up getting all of the paperwork together and appointments done as soon as we possibly could. It was months of wait, wait, wait then boom hurry as fast as you could to get everything together. Plus I had to work with the insurance company which was pretty much a waste of my time. We ended up paying for everything out of pocket which wasn’t cheap. We emptied Arabella’s college fund. She wasn’t interested in college anyway. Without residential we honestly didn’t know if she would live that long anyway. This was our last ditch effort to save her life.

To make matters far more stressful, we also had a COVID scare within that time period. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan tested positive then my daughter got sick with COVID as well. Once we found out he was sick, my daughter stayed with him at his parent’s house and didn’t come back home until she was better. It was a matter of life and death. If Arabella couldn’t go into the program because of a positive test I feared she would die. It was horrible and terrifying. FYI admitting your child into an inpatient, outpatient, or residential program is stressful and crappy as it is without the extra stress.

They ask questions such as how many suicide attempts have you made and when was the last one. My daughter answered that many times she cut herself so deeply that she was hoping not to wake up in the morning. They ask so many disturbing personal questions that no parent wants to hear the answer to. I suffered greatly the first time I saw the cutting on her arm. I had nightmares for days when I could sleep that is. It was very traumatic for me.

Thankfully Arabella’s COVID test came back negative and we all remained healthy at our house. I do think that the residential program has helped Arabella tremendously learn the skills that are needed to live a healthy and productive emotionally regulated life. We, as her parents, worked very closely with her therapist and the psychiatrist. We received a DBT parent workbook and listened to podcasts. It didn’t cure her. She is still taking plenty of medications. It was a very rewarding experience except for the cost. But as the saying goes…you get what you pay for.

Arabella was in the residential program for a little over 2 months. I’ve noticed a lot of improvements since she got back. It was worth it to give her a second chance at life. Now it is up to her what happens next. We did everything we could.

Making amends

A couple of weeks before Arabella made it on the waiting list for residential, she started to make amends with friends and family.

I received a text from Jordan’s mom saying that she wanted us to come pick up a big box of Arabella’s stuff from when she was living there. Jordan and Arabella were no longer friends. When we went there to pick up her things, Arabella wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Jordan’s mom. She wanted to know how she could make things right and be friends with Jordan again. It really was uncomfortable.

Arabella also wanted to get along with her brother. She bought him a monster and some candy and asked if they could talk sometime. It was really touching that she wanted to make an effort to renew most of her troubled relationships. But it was also scary. Was she saying good-bye because she was going to be leaving soon to go to residential? Or was she once again planning on ending her life?

I can’t really remember but I think she gave away some of her things. That struck a resounding chord of fear in me. What kind of good-bye was this going to be? I couldn’t help be feel anxious about it.

But then I remembered that she gave me back her pills that she was stockpiling. She also put a lot of effort into finishing her high school diploma. Would she do that if she was planning on ending her life. I justified her actions to quiet my fears.

She did work really hard to make amends with family and friends before she left. I’m really not even sure why. I guess she just wanted to leave on a good note. Maybe she just didn’t want us to forget about her while she was gone. More than anything, I’m glad it wasn’t anything I was worried it could be.

I gotta let that go

I’ve been feeling a bit off the last couple of days. I’ve been trying really hard to let go. I’ve been trying to stop policing. I’ve been trying hard not to get involved in other people’s problems. I’ve been trying to turn the sirens off for every little offense. But honestly, it’s not working out that well for me. I feel rather miserable.

I’ve been trying hard to let go of Arabella since she is 18 now. I went with her to her appointment to meet the new psychiatric nurse today since her doctor retired. After I was in the appointment for about 10 minutes, she got frustrated with me and kicked me out. I feel frustrated because she is not taking her medication like she should and because of that the nurse said it wasn’t working as effectively. But Arabella said she is a teenager that wants to live her life and not worry about taking medication. I really wish she didn’t have to take pills either.

She didn’t take her morning pills yet today. It’s almost suppertime. It is upsetting to me. Just because she is 18 doesn’t mean I can just turn off the worry switch. She is not totally capable of taking care of herself but gets really angry with me when I try to help.

She has another job interview tomorrow. She didn’t get the other jobs she wanted. She decided that she wants to tell all of her potential employers about her mental health issues during the interview. I told her that was a sure way not to get the job. I’ve interviewed people before. But what do I know? I got to let that one go.

My son turns 21 next week. He’s never been much of a drinker but now he is starting to drink. I realize that it’s not unusual for young folks to want to party and have fun. I’m trying not to blame my husband who modeled drinking too much. He cut back on his drinking, but he did start drinking again. I’m trying not to police it and nag him about it but it is hard. Sometimes I’m of the opinion to let them have fun and enjoy their lives and the next minute I want to yell at them to knock it off. Who am I to tell other people how to live their lives? But I will say something if I feel like they are being unsafe or taking things too far. But then again that makes me responsible to monitor them and frankly I just want to be responsible for me.

It’s hard to let go. My mom left to go back to her house for a couple days because she has doctor appointments with Matt. She is struggling taking care of both my dad and Matt. There is nothing I can do about it.

I watch as Angel struggles with anxiety. There is nothing I can do about it and I am probably the one that caused it. Today Angel told me she might not want to have children someday because of our family history of mental health struggles. It’s sad.

I am having problems letting go of my old pets. My dog is almost 14 and he has a hard time getting around. My cat is 15 with a lot of health issues. He pretty much stopped using the cat box. The vet said he is probably having arthritis pain and gave me pain medicine for him on top of his thyroid and arthritis pills. He is a very gentle and loving cat. I hate to put him down if I don’t have to. His favorite thing to do is snuggle on my lap every opportunity he gets. It’s really hard because he needs three different medications twice a day. I feel guilty leaving the house because he is hard to care for. When is it time to let him go? There is nothing I can do about aging and it makes me sad.

When can I let this all go and move on with my own life? I’ve been holding it for so long I don’t know if I can. That is really what I am struggling with right now.

Finding faith again

Arabella told us she was an atheist right after her first attempt. Being our youngest child, it wasn’t too shocking when she started to question the faith we brought her up in since her siblings did the same thing right around her age. Up until that point, she went to church with us and was involved. But that ended.

A couple months back, Arabella hit a low point. She only had one real friend that was willing to hang out with her. She met Kami at inpatient. Kami was the girl that told everyone she was going to jump off a bridge, but her car broke down on the way. It wasn’t meant to be. It seems like divine intervention to me.

Kami is a very kind and caring friend. Rumor has it that her parents met in rehab. They turned their lives around and became devout Christians. Sounds very inspirational. I never met Kami’s parents, but I’ve talked to her mom several times on the phone. She called to introduce herself to us and wanted to know the kind of people her daughter was hanging out with. I could tell that she truly cared for her daughter. I also found out that Kami was the oldest with several younger siblings. Her mother wasn’t used to letting go yet. It’s especially hard when you have a child with mental health concerns.

I did notice a couple of times when they would have sleepovers that the liquor bottles were lighter. I expressed my concerns to Arabella stating how dangerous it was to mix alcohol with prescription medicine. Again, experimenting with alcohol wasn’t something that I haven’t dealt with with teenagers before.

Then there was this guy that Kami was hanging out with who wanted to hang out with my daughter late at night at our house. I told her no. I didn’t want Arabella hanging around with guys alone at our house or while we were sleeping. I didn’t want her to end up in a bad situation or have to worry.

Apparently Arabella spent the night talking to this boy on the phone. The next morning Arabella tried to sneak out of the house. She didn’t want to tell me where she was going. She finally fessed up that she was going to go to church somewhere by herself. She spent the night talking to the guy about his experience with faith.

When she came back home she said she was a Christian again. It was a little confusing because she still wanted to be a stripper. To me the whole experience seemed surreal. I didn’t know if she really meant it or if she was trying really hard to please us so that we wouldn’t leave her too. There was a disconnect. It seemed disjointed in some way.

Don’t get me wrong. I am happy about the decision she made. But it all seemed a little chaotic to me to constantly be swinging from one side to the other. She didn’t seem to really know who she was so she became what everyone else was or wanted her to be. That concerned me.

I never did meet the guy that walked her back to faith. But I am happy that her friendship with Kami is still strong. I know that Kami struggles with her own problems, but she is not the type to bring everyone else down. Kami was that one friend that stuck with her when no one else did. I am grateful for that.

I am glad that my daughter decided to find her faith again. I think it will help her get through the hard days ahead. It’s okay that things aren’t perfect or understandable at this point. I have to accept that and let go of it.

A gasp of fresh air

The day Arabella left us to move in with Jordan’s family is the day I started planning a vacation. Not only did all my vacation plans for 2020 fall through but I lost my daughter as well. She started calling another woman her mom. It didn’t matter what I said or did, I felt like my daughter hated me. On rare occasion, I was the best mom in the world but it had nothing to do with any effort on my part. Again, what I did or didn’t do didn’t seem to make a difference in how she felt about me.

It was hard to handle and I felt very depressed. So I started planning a trip. At that point, I didn’t even care if I had to cancel it. It was the planning and thinking about it that was the most therapeutic at the time because it allowed me to focus on something other than my problems. I had something on the calendar to look forward to. Besides my daughter was gone and I wasn’t sure if she was going to be coming back.

But she did come back home and burnt the bridge with Jordan’s family. After her most recent diagnosis I battled with myself about whether or not to go. My mom wasn’t going to help by staying at our house because she was terrified of COVID. My oldest daughter didn’t really want the responsibility either although she was already living at home. I felt guilty for wanting to get away.

I also felt like I was suffocating. Taking care of a suicidal teen with serious mental health issues was burning me out. I thought if I didn’t get away I would be sitting in a padded room myself or worse. At times it was so painful and grueling that I really didn’t want to live anymore myself. I wasn’t taking care of myself. The stress was so high that it seemed like all my husband and I did was fight and blame ourselves and each other for the problems we were having with our daughter. I seriously thought if I didn’t get a break and take care of myself and our marriage that I would not be able to handle it anymore.

We offered to pay for our oldest daughter’s therapy if she would keep an eye on things. I wish I was kidding. Plus my best friend was willing to do whatever it took to help if needed. We were not flying out of the country and were accessible by phone 24/7. So we went. Thankfully Arabella managed to get herself up for outpatient, took her pills, and didn’t have any emergencies while we were gone. Oddly enough, it was my other two adult children (Angel and Alex) that fought. Their relationship has been strained ever since. Sometimes you just can’t win.

But it was wonderful to get away. It was a breath of fresh air before the drowning started yet again.

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.

I’m done!

And just like that, I am finished.

My baby turns 18 today. I am no longer a parent of children. I mean, I don’t think that fact is going to change much. But I am officially done with the active parenting years.

Yesterday we picked Arabella up from residential. All day I felt very anxious. It was a mixture of the negative emotion of fear and the positive of excitement. I found there really is a fine line between the two. This isn’t an emotion I frequently experience together (it’s usually only negative anxiety).

I felt the same way when I got my first tattoo. I was terrified and utterly exhilarated at the same time. Afterwards, the terror of getting a tattoo was replaced with this feeling of complete peace and calm which is also something I rarely experience. My body and mind for the most part fails to relax together.

Or maybe if you can’t relate to anything I am saying, it might be similar to waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. That is like the whole experience on steroids.

Everything went pretty good yesterday. But I still feel anxious today. Some of it has burned off. Yesterday before we picked up Arabella I just felt off. It was a weird anxiety. I felt like something was wrong like a loved one was going to die. I felt like I forgot something really important. I felt rather jumpy and hyper-vigilant. That is how my anxiety manifested itself. But in all reality, I feel a tremendous amount of fear. Placing Arabella in residential was our last ditch effort to saving her life. We used our trump card. Now the rest is really up to her and that is scary.

I feel excited to start this new chapter with Arabella. It is what it is. I am excited to have all of my children close to home. I am a little apprehensive about their ability to live in harmony. The peace I long for alludes me like a poor man’s chase of the dollar. I will keep working on it. But as for now, I am happy that at least I am in touch with how I feel about everything going on.

I am anxious, and mysteriously that can be both a positive and negative experience at the same time.

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…

Bird crap

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not too late

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

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

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

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

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

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

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