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.

Coming home again

It was the toughest hospitalization yet. We weren’t sure how things were going to go once Arabella came home again. We weren’t sure if we could handle it. But ready or not back home she would come.

Everything about the process was difficult, seeing the extent of her cutting for the first time upon admission. Even the need for 24 hour surveillance, the panic attacks. No one really knew what was wrong. How hard is it to do a psych eval? They just kept throwing more pills her way. She was back on one that she was taken off of before. She has depression, maybe bipolar. Too young for a diagnosis of borderline. Trauma, perhaps?

Even the ride home was stressful. Traffic was heavy and I got rear ended on our way home. My car got totaled yet the other driver had barely a dent. Now I needed to find a new car. So much for delivering packages for the holiday season. That was definitely out of the question now. Was getting another job an option anyway?

I felt irritated and overwhelmed by the time we got home. Arabella was being rather quarrelsome. I thought my car was totaled. I had all of these medications to figure out. It took a lot of concentration to figure out her pill regime. I was pretty shook up about the car accident. I really liked my car and didn’t want to have to buy a new one. I’d never been in an accident before. My neck hurt. I was really feeling out of sorts.

Paul seemed to focus on making things nice for Arabella when she got home. I think they played a game together. He seemed irritated with me that that wasn’t my focus. I was very crabby. It’s not often that you pick up your daughter from the psychiatric hospital and total your car on the same day.

Paul helped Arabella switch her room around. Once she realized she couldn’t go back to Jordan’s, she surprisingly adjusted really well to being back at home. Over the time she was hospitalized, Arabella’s pet frog died at Jordan’s house. I felt really bad about the whole thing and went out and bought her two new frogs. It was a really rough time, but some good did come of it. My daughter moved back home and once again enjoyed being here.

The blame game

After Arabella was in the hospital a couple of days, it was time for the family session.

In the meantime, Paul drafted a 4 page document stating conditions of Arabella’s return home on our part and hers. It revolved around mutual respect and listening, following the rules those types of things. There were ideas of healthy relationship building along with things that tear relationships down. It was filled with fun activities and rewards for working hard and also consequences such as loss of privileges.

Arabella didn’t want much to do with it. She wanted to leave the hospital and return to Jordan’s house. But right before the family session we found out that Jordan’s family did not want her back.

I had to brace myself for the family session when the therapist asked Arabella why she would rather be at Jordan’s house than her own. I was feeling defensive yet told myself that I also had to be open to her ideas. Maybe we were too structured. Maybe we weren’t structured enough.

I want to tell you a secret about being a parent of a child with serious mental health struggles. I always feel blamed. Maybe I was too hard on her. Maybe I wasn’t hard enough. I could probably give examples of times when we responded both ways. She is too entitled. I had too many rules. I just can’t win. Yes, one plus one should equal two, but sometimes the answer is 10. You should reap what you sow. But with mental illness it doesn’t always work out that way. One of the most frustrating things is feeling like I somehow caused this to happen. Oh, I wish I had that much control. If I did, she wouldn’t be struggling like she is.

Another thing that really bothers me is when people suggest that my daughter has a demon. How did that happen? It is very triggering because I saw the same kind of blame of my mom with my autistic/schizophrenic brother. How could a demon possess a little baby? My brother heard voices because he is mentally ill not because he is possessed. My parents didn’t do anything to willingly cause this in their child and neither did I. It makes me angry to think about it. But yet I myself look at other parents when their kids have problems and ask what they did wrong. Why is it so hard to accept that some things just are for no apparent reason?

So I tried to have an open mind at the family session. Arabella what did you have at Jordan’s house that you don’t have at your own? She answered that Jordan’s house was filled with noise and chaos. Jordan has three younger siblings that are always loudly playing or fighting. They also have several puppies running around. That wasn’t what I was expecting or worried about. I was afraid she would say they are more loving or caring, but no. Arabella is our youngest child and our pets are geriatric. That was just something we couldn’t give her, a house with puppies and little kids.

We told Arabella in that session that Jordan’s family did not want her to live there anymore. She took it hard and started crying. I was glad that she was dealing with her feelings about it in the hospital because I think that kind of news would’ve sent her over the edge at home.

The downward spiral

A couple weeks after Arabella moved out, I received a call that I needed to pick her up and bring her to the hospital. She needed help and her plan was to take a cocktail of all her pills.

Her girlfriend broke up with her. There was constant fighting amongst her friends. And she lost her job at the bar and grill doing food prep because she was too slow. Her self-esteem dipped to a new low. She was planning on going to school for culinary arts but she felt like that door closed because she couldn’t do something easy without getting fired. In her mind there really wasn’t anything left to live for. She lost her family, girlfriend, and a job. Maybe her new family was starting to lose its luster too.

I picked her up along with some clothes and had her admitted into a different psychiatric hospital right away. They did a rapid COVID test and while we were waiting alone in the room together a security company had workers moving in and out of the room trying to service equipment. It was a strange experience because they tried hard to seem invisible when they were anything but.

My daughter needed to remove her jacket for admittance. That is when I saw her arms for the first time after I was told her cutting was superficial several months ago. I suppose you could almost say the cutting was superficial on her dominant arm. But her other arm was ruined. It was absolutely devastating to see what she did to herself after her first hospitalization. She was going to need plastic surgery to heal those wounds. There were numerous scars that went all the way up her arm.

I felt afraid and sickened by it. All the while the men were coming in and out of the room pretending to be oblivious to our suffering. I can imagine the stories they told at home later. This time I was able to go into the adolescent ward with her while she waited for her room. Another girl said hi to her. No one really seemed to focus on her arms. Parents were allowed to visit their children in this hospital at meal time.

I told Paul that Arabella’s cutting was really horrifying and he was going to have to prepare himself to see her. I’ve never seen her in this rough of shape before. It was hard for me to handle. Something was seriously wrong with my daughter. What were we going to do?

I felt extremely disturbed by everything that was happening. I started having sleepless nights again and nightmares when I could sleep. It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences for me as her parent. We were desperate for help but we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t sure if there was any hope left for her future or if they could even help her.

Life as we knew it went completely off the rails. Things were never going to be the same again.

Wanting to leave, not wanting to be left

Things really went south when Jordan’s parents went on vacation. Up until that point, Arabella was mostly going to school and staying mainly at Jordan’s house. The first day Jordan’s parents were gone, Arabella decided to take a mental health day from school. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t already behind on her studies and actually did something to improve her mental health like get out of bed. Things went downhill from there. She attended school one day that week. By the end of the week, enough was enough.

We decided we were going to pick her up and force her to come back home. Paul and I rang the doorbell at Jordan’s house and her grandma answered. She was very kind as we explained things. Arabella rode back home with Paul. We were afraid she might try to jump out of the vehicle in an attempt to escape. I followed them home in our car that we let Arabella drive. Yes, up until that point we were letting her use our car. But that was going to change.

I remember it was a miserable night. I could barely see out of the fogged up windshield from the buckets of chilly autumn rain. I felt a sadness of the uncertainty to come. We sat down with Arabella once we got home. It didn’t go well. She was freaking out that we forced her to come back home. I’ve never seen her so agitated in my life. She insisted that Jordan’s mom was her real mother and I was her fake mom. I thought in the moment that she was delusional and out of touch with reality.

It was getting late and I finally made supper. Arabella refused to eat with us. I did check on her often and made the decision although we took away her car, we let her keep her phone. When she made the suicide attempt, she reached out to her friends for help first. I didn’t want to take her phone away in case she needed help. Maybe that was a mistake because that night she ran away. She called a friend to pick her up. She jumped out of her bedroom window and she was gone. She called after she left and told me she was running away and we couldn’t make her come back. Sure enough, her room was empty and a cool breeze was coming through the open window.

It was late, almost bedtime. We didn’t know what to do. I reached out to a couple of her friend’s parents but they didn’t know where she was. Meanwhile, Paul called the Crisis Center and from their recommendation called the police. We were deciding whether to report her as a runaway. If she was actively suicidal, they would search for her based on her cell phone location. If not, they would list her as a runaway and nothing would really happen. She called me while Paul was on the phone with the police and told us she was staying with a friend we didn’t know and she was alright. We decided not to list her as a runaway.

Paul wanted to speak to her friend’s parent. At this time, it was close to midnight. Her friend’s mom talked to Paul but refused to tell us where she was. She screamed at Paul as if she was afraid we would come over and beat our child. I can imagine Arabella told everyone how she wasn’t safe at home. It was very painful to be treated like monsters when we were trying to act in the best interest of our daughter with severe mental health issues. We were worried sick.

There was nothing else we could do. At least we thought she was safe for the time being.

Another sleepless night…

A couple days later she ended up back at Jordan’s house. We told Arabella we couldn’t do this anymore. It was tearing us apart. If she wanted to live with another family we weren’t going to try to force her back home. She was almost 18. But we weren’t going to let her use our car or give her money. She could come pick up her stuff. We were exhausted and reached the end of our rope.

She wanted to leave, but was upset when we let her go.

The first hospitalization

Paul and I tried to get away for a few days for our anniversary, but it didn’t work out. I started the job with the census and would be training that week.

By that time, Arabella was on her second therapist. She was still feeling depressed and angry a lot at home. But at Jordan’s house everything was fine. I started noticing things I found unusual. Arabella started wearing long sleeve shirts in the summer. She even wore them to go swimming in the pool or the lake. When she was wearing shorts, I noticed a cut on her upper leg. I think at first she said the cat scratched her. I didn’t believe it and asked her what really happened. She said she cut herself with a scissors but didn’t really like it. I asked her if she cut her arms, but she refused to tell me or show me.

The evening before my work orientation, Arabella called me from her friend’s house. She said she wanted to make an appointment for an assessment with a hospital for her depression. I didn’t really think she needed it. She seemed fine at the time. But what would it hurt? So we scheduled the earliest appointment available which was 8 PM that evening. After we were screened for COVID, it seemed like Paul and I waited in the lobby forever. After we locked up all of our items such as purse, cell phone, and jackets in a locker they led us in through a locked door.

They told us that our daughter met the qualifications for hospitalization. Someone sat us down and talked to us with our daughter. Then I filled out all the paperwork. I asked about her arms. Was she cutting? Yes, but it was all superficial and would heal. They were going to help her and everything was going to be better.

We got home late that evening and I had to be up early for the work orientation. It all seemed surreal. I just admitted my daughter to a psychiatric hospital. But somehow I had to carry on. I had to be ready to start a new job and meet my new supervisor bright and early. I had to have a smile on my face when inside I felt like crying. But at least it was comforting to know that while she was hospitalized she wouldn’t kill herself.

Gratitude week 62

  1. My daughter Arabella was admitted into a residential care facility and we are doing the best we can to get her the help she needs.
  2. I’m grateful for warm spring weather and sunny days. It makes me feel so much better even if there is still snow on the ground.
  3. I’m grateful to hear the birds chirp in the morning which is another sign of spring.
  4. I’m grateful to be able to see wildlife in my yard this week including birds, deer, and a red fox. I’ve never seen a fox in our yard in broad daylight. I was a little paranoid that as a nocturnal creature it might be rabid or something. But apparently after doing some research found out it wasn’t too unusual to see foxes during the day in spring.
  5. I’m grateful to be feeling healthy.
  6. I’m grateful that my daughter Angel had a mild case of COVID. Her boyfriend is finally starting to feel better today. It’s frustrating because if anyone is super careful about COVID as young folks they are. They don’t take any unnecessary risks. Then they got sick. There was a COVID outbreak where Dan works.
  7. I’m grateful to be able to visit my mom and go for a walk with her this afternoon.
  8. Although I feel helpless about Angel and Dan and his mom being sick, I’m grateful that I was able to help them out by dropping off medicine and other things they needed after being quarantined a week.
  9. I’m grateful that I cleaned out my daughter Arabella’s room. It makes me feel better. Even though she didn’t mind, I couldn’t leave it messy.
  10. I finished a really hard puzzle I have been working on the last couple of weeks. It makes me feel good when all of the pieces finally come together. Now if only that could happen in real life. Right?