The new normal

I’m doing okay with this isolation. It’s not that I don’t like isolation, I like having a choice. I was supposed to be on a beach in Florida right now.

Things are breaking down. The DVD player broke that I watch my exercise videos on since the gym closed. Thankfully my ancient laptop has a DVD player. Our main TV died. I don’t think it responded well to the surge of overuse. Or maybe it didn’t like being the bearer of bad news. Or maybe it got a virus. Oh wait, that only happens to computers.

We dug out some puzzles. After sorting the pieces of three puzzles in a row on the same day, all three were missing multiple edge pieces so I threw them out. Then Clara and I opened a brand new puzzle still in its plastic wrap and that was missing an edge piece too. We searched and searched but all I found was some dried up dog puke behind the couch. Now I remember why I hate puzzles. I had to walk away for a few days. The last remaining shred of my sanity was on the line. Seriously!!?! A brand new puzzle had 4 pieces missing.

This corona virus is the new crisis in my life right now. It’s not that bad really after the last couple months of crap going on. Being lonely and bored has been an adjustment. It’s hard to sit still and not to feel like I should be rushing around doing something. I almost feel guilty about sitting around while essential employees are working hard with people getting sick and dying.

I worry somewhat about my loved ones getting sick. I realize that my husband and most of my best friends are over 50. Having my mom, husband, and close friends all be older than me is slapping me in the face hard right now. It’s forcing me to look at death. Thankfully at this time all my friends and family are healthy.

My daughter Arabella got her old job back at the grocery store. The last couple weeks its been like the day before Thanksgiving there. They recruited her hard. They gave her a raise and put her back in the bakery packaging products and washing dishes. They told her customers would probably be rude to her. Arabella was happy about this. At Culver’s she used to run orders out to people’s cars. People treated her kindly and gave her tips whereas they chewed other employees out except for the ones with special needs. Then she started worrying that the customers thought she had special needs because they treated her differently than everyone else.

Our foreign exchange students are still here. They could stay if their host and real family still wants them to as long as school is in session. Online schooling is scheduled to start on Monday. They both realize they could be stuck here beyond the time they planned to go home. Estelle is feeling homesick and Clara was also crying about it this week. They are keeping a journal of their experiences and hopefully some day it will make for an interesting historical book.

It seems like all of our plans have been washed away. The trips we were planning are gone now. Financial security. Gone. Paul and I are working on starting a new business soon. How will that go in this economy? My structure and routine are gone. The gym is closed. I won’t even be able to see my daughter graduate from college.

I worry about death more. I even worried about what it would be like to become very sick from the virus. After running outside I felt a little wheezy from seasonal allergies. I wondered what it would be like not being able to breathe. My workouts are lackluster. Why bother? The races I might sign up for this summer might not even happen this year.

I have to hope that soon we will get through this and it will be on to the next crisis.

Enviable ignorance

This week my autistic brother Matt celebrated his birthday. He was rather upset he was not able to celebrate his birthday with family at the bowling alley like he has done every year for over a decade now.

His program he attends for autistic adults and children was also shut down. The group home he lives in closed its doors. They don’t have enough staff to cover the hours at the house where its residents were previously gone.

Matt was sent home disrupting his day to day routine just like the rest of us. This was rather disturbing for a population of people who don’t understand why the change is happening. But as they say ignorance is bliss. He is happy to be at home because he likes it there. He adjusted really fast to having my mom dote on him.

Matt wasn’t upset the day the police officers showed up at my parent’s house to talk to my dad. But that was the day the rest of our lives changed forever. You see, the police came on a Friday. That was the day Matt was scheduled to come home for the weekend and all was well for him.

Matt isn’t worried about the corona virus. He isn’t trying to stop touching his face. He is not worried that our parents who are in their 70’s might die. He just worries about whether his food will show up on the table when he is hungry just like a small child or household pet. He doesn’t have the responsibility of a family. He doesn’t even have to take care of himself.

In all honesty, sometimes I wish for that ignorance. Dementia doesn’t sound all that bad to me because who wouldn’t want to forget all of the bad things that happened to them. Maybe sometimes I just want someone to take care of me.

I wish I lived in a world where there weren’t so many things to worry about. I envy Matt’s ability to remain calm and worry free in times of great chaos and unpredictability.

There is something attractive about having a child like faith and sense of wonder in times of struggle. I want to be like a carefree child who dances and plays. I want my only worry to be about whether or not someone feeds me having the security that they will.

Yet I have been given the gift of reason. With this gift comes a great burden. Difficult decisions need to be made. It’s hard to break free from the stress and struggles that awareness brings.

I don’t want to be like Matt but sometimes I envy him.

What could’ve been

Last month someone close to me attempted suicide.

Maybe you noticed I didn’t write much during that time, maybe not. It’s been easier to write about crusty old scabbed over wounds than the ones currently tearing open my flesh. But now I’m ready to jump back into the flames of the fire that consumes me and threatens the very walls of my foundation.

Part of it I blame myself. I was where I spent most of my life, in survival mode. I was consumed by everything going on with my dad. It’s very bad and it sucked every ounce of energy, joy and peace out of my life. I thought about it every day and every night much like we are thinking about the corona virus. There is not a day that goes by we can completely purge this crisis from our minds.

I didn’t notice anything was wrong. If I did, I dismissed it as superficial (not as bad as what I was going through with my dad). When you are drowning, you tend not to notice if someone else is going too deep.

This person took a handful of pills and settled into bed for their last peaceful slumber. But it wasn’t like that, peaceful. Their life passed before their eyes taking a nightmarish turn. What have I done? Terror coursed through their veins as they struggled to purge the pills. Then they reached out for help.

When I found out, I screamed wildly with rage. I kicked the garbage can and assaulted the contents within. I wanted to put my fist through the wall, but restrained myself. For a few days after, my logic brain shut down. I forgot what day it was. I couldn’t process things in my mind that before I did with ease. My strong suit of structure shut down. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t write. Fear coursed through me day and night making it nearly impossible to sleep.

I felt angry with my dad. After what he did, I didn’t think I would ever smile again. Did this person think I was angry with them because of my reaction to my dad? I pushed everyone away. I’m so sorry I didn’t realize they needed help until it was almost too late.

I’m not going to lie, this past year has been tremendously difficult. What little joy remained within me was destroyed after the suicide attempt.

I feel like the mistakes of others are ruining my life. My childhood was ruined and is not salvageable. I tried really hard not to let the things other people do ruin my life, but it is easier said than done. If I am going to wallow in despair my whole life from the mistakes of other people, I might as well just screw up my life myself.

I can’t bear the weight of this anymore. Have it back. I don’t want it. Call me selfish, but I just want to worry about myself.

Thankfully this person realized they made a mistake to try to end their life. They are now getting the help they need. But still my mind wanders to what might have been. What would life be like if this person was not around? It would be horrible to find them dead.  Gone forever. There is much sorrow in thinking of what might’ve been. Thankfully this is not how their story ends. If nothing else, I can take comfort in that.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

Getting viral

Life changed in the last 48 hours.

As if the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th in the same week wasn’t bad enough…now we’ve got a pandemic on our hands.

Just 3 days ago, life was normal for us. My husband had plans to see the Bucks game with friends. The girls had track practice. Clara had play practice. The girls were planning on going to state. We were planning our trip to Florida in the following week. Then upon our return, we were going to Angel’s recital. We were going to visit family for Easter.

Today we were planning on going bowling for my brother Matt’s birthday. Tomorrow is a bridal shower.

Then everything changed.

It seemed strange, but the basketball game was cancelled.

Then we found out my daughter’s college is closing until after Easter. The dorm rooms are closing and everyone was sent home. The recital cancelled. Graduation? Who knows?

Angel’s boyfriend Dan works at a hospital and developed a fever a couple days ago. Should we be concerned about corona virus or is it something else?

We had our friends over last night to plan our trip to Florida. Should we even go? Disney and Universal closed.

We received word yesterday that all of the schools in Wisconsin will be closing for almost a month after Tuesday. The track meets are cancelled. The girls aren’t going to state. Will they cancel the play? What about prom?

It’s as if someone took an eraser and wiped our plans away like they were insignificant.

People are panicking. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves.

Angel came down with a fever last night. Is there even a place where we can go for testing? What should we do? Angel has been waiting for the last two hours for a call back from the doctor’s office.

My mother stopped by yesterday right before Angel got sick. The bowling birthday party is cancelled for today. I decided not to go to the bridal shower because my aunt whose future daughter-in-law it is for has some serious lung issues.

We are supposed to leave in less than a week to go to Florida. Our friends still want to go, but I am the only one that no longer does. I want to go, really I do. But is it wise? Our discussion got rather heated. Everyone is extremely emotional about this. We don’t know what to think or do.

What happens if my parents get sick while I am gone? They don’t have to worry about that. My closest brother is 3 hours away and has health issues.

What happens if we get sick on the road? What if we need to be quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What if we get stuck somewhere? What if we can’t find restaurants that are open? What if we can’t find a place that has food and toilet paper? The what if list goes on and on.

Yes, we want our foreign exchange students to see America. But is this the America we want them to see? Life seems different now. People are not at their best.

I have images in my mind of the apocalypse. Check points with people in contamination suits. We will be taking our visitors to a dystopian world. Tylenol and test kits.

Right now the allure of an adventure is gone. I think it is safer to stick with what we know even if it means being stuck at home for the next month. It’s hard because we were really looking forward to our trip.

Maybe we are already sick and don’t even know it.

 

Gratitude week 6

  1. People are still complimenting my hair. I receive the most compliments after a sweaty workout or when I have unbrushed hat hair. What!!?!
  2.  My son had a dentist appointment this week. As an adult, I passed along the reminder I received on my phone. I DID NOT tell him when to get up or where he needed to go (thinking he would know and I would be the annoying mother hen if I did so). He ended up getting lost and was going to be late. I called the dentist office as a courtesy…my son got lost and will be a few minutes late. The lady who answered was really snippy with me and said he needed to reschedule. This freaked me out because I worry a lot about my kids being late. Thankfully, when he got there about 10 minutes late they still took him for his appointment. Despite all of my worry, everything ended up turning out fine.
  3.  My daughter Angel came home from college for a visit and spent the night on Friday. I haven’t seen her since Christmas Day.
  4.  The big fight between Arabella and Estelle is over. There is relative harmony in my house right now. There was even a brief moment this weekend where all five of my kids were talking and laughing together.
  5.  I am grateful to have a husband who is following his dreams. He is taking classes this weekend and starting a new career. I am really excited for him and proud of all his accomplishments. He really motivates those around him. It’s never too late to try something new.
  6.  I was grateful to watch Arabella and Clara perform at solo and ensemble this past weekend. I love to watch my kids perform.
  7.  I felt grateful to go on a date with my husband before he left. I was able to order a pizza with goat’s cheese and afterwards ordered dairy-free ice cream. The food was unbelievably good for being vegan/dairy-free. The ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus it was nice to go on a date alone with my husband. It’s been awhile.
  8.  I found a dress for my daughter’s college graduation. In a few months, my oldest will be a college graduate. I am excited for her future. She already has a job lined up and might be moving back to the area within the next year.
  9.  I am thankful to live close to the store. As I was making supper Friday night, I noticed one of the ingredients was rotten. I opened an unexpired canned good that was moldy inside. Thankfully I was able to zip to the store and back without having to eat too late.
  10.  I am thankful for my organization skills. I like to plan ahead and leave early. Although my mom and kids gave me some crap about it this weekend, things don’t always go as planned. I like to plan for that. You never know if you are going to get into an accident, hit a deer, or a random meteorite might hit the Earth (JK). The solo and ensemble event was at a school I was not familiar with. It took awhile to find a parking spot. There weren’t many signs directing us to the right sites. Then last minute, both of my daughter’s events were moved up to an earlier time. I got us there with less than 10 minutes to spare. You’re welcome! It takes a lot of organization to effectively manage a large family.

When fear calls

I called my daughter that Sunday morning right before church started.

She was worried about suicide…or murder/suicide. After everything that happened, I shared her concern. What could I do about it?

I had been scheduled to sing that morning with the worship team. I ended the call abruptly as I saw everyone head up to sing.

I worried. Maybe this is good-bye. Maybe I will never see my parents again. It’s a horrible feeling especially when I had to act happy and sing on a live recorded feed. I felt so fake.

Smile! I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out. I started shaking. Smile. This could be the last day he is alive, they are alive. My God, the horror. Twenty minutes later, I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. Everything in my body told me to run off the stage. Flee. I had to stay. Everyone was watching me, in church and even online.

Maybe they would think I was having stage fright. I wish that was all it was. I couldn’t tell anybody. I wanted to drive out to the house. But the day before the car broke down, the only one free that afternoon. Plus I was asked not to because my family didn’t feel like it was safe.

I wanted to ask for prayer that day. But my husband was not in church that morning. He got asked by a friend of mine to help her out with something in place of her husband who spent the night in jail. I told him that helping out someone in need was more important than attending church. He agreed.

Shallow, I suppose. If I left the stage for prayer, it would be obvious. Then people might wonder if I was having problems with my husband because he wasn’t there. It could be misconstrued and gossiped about. I didn’t want that.

I called my brother Luke when I got home. Although he was treated the worst by our dad, he was the first to try to pull dad out of the grave he dug. That day my mom took my brother Matt back to his group home and stayed with us for several days. I made sure the doors were locked and became hyper-vigilant to signs of trouble.

Sometimes I wish my only stress was worrying about the holidays. The simple worries of getting that perfect gift. I couldn’t even think. Or worrying about hosting parties with special diets. Or having 4 teenagers in my house. Anything but this.

We are all worried. You’ve been depressed, suicidal before. Now you have a reason to end it all. Is this the only way your heart will change? Will your curses to God change to cries for help? Maybe this is the only way. But it’s not what I wanted for you, for the rest of us.

It’s been a month since I initially wrote this. I feel anxious. Tomorrow I will be singing on the worship team for the first time since this happened. I don’t want to do it anymore because it is triggering my feelings of fear. I understand why people seek isolation in times of despair. So many seemingly innocent things trigger bad feelings and memories associated with them. I’ve been trying to see my world as it really is but at times it is utterly terrifying and I question everything I blindly believed before.

What else could go wrong??

Seriously, what else could go wrong?? Have you ever muttered those words to yourself only to regret them a few minutes later?

It’s been one of those days.

After I got home from running 5 miles at the gym, I got ready to wash a load of towels. So far, so good. I grabbed a dirty towel off the rack in the bathroom and went to turn off the light. The light switch is next to a door frame made of rough wood. As I was turning off the light my finger went down the wood frame and I got a splinter under my nail. It was extremely painful.

I got out the tweezers and tried in vain to get the splinter out. After a half an hour I sent a text to my husband to come in from his office to help. He tried a couple times, but it was so painful I started crying.

I decided to call the doctor’s office, but they were fully booked until like August or something. This is a horrible story, but I was thinking about a friend of ours that had a sliver under his fingernail that got infected. A couple months ago he ended up having to get his finger removed from that infection.

I decided to go to fast care. I didn’t want to have any more problems over the holiday. When Paul and I got there, they said that they didn’t have the tools to help me. So we walked around the store while I thought about what to do next.

In the meantime, my aunt Jan texted me saying I needed to take care of my mom. The devastating news I got was about my family. I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t right now. Anyway, I was kind of upset about the text. Why do I need to take care of my mom? I am also going through hell.

While we were in the store, my aunt Jan called Paul. She wanted to make sure I got her message and Paul told her how he felt. He said that I have been taking care of my mother since I was a little girl. Who is taking care of Alissa? Why ask me about my mother? Why focus on my autistic brother? No one ever cared enough to ask how I was doing. I was just expected to be strong to take care of everyone else.

Paul told Jan that I have my own family now. I have 4 teenagers in the house. Alissa just needs to take care of Alissa because she is having a really hard time now too. It felt good to have someone stick up for me. But it didn’t feel good to have a personal conversation in the store while I was stressed about my finger.

Next stop, urgent care. The lady at the front desk asked me if I wanted to pay for my care. I mean, not really. Who does? But I wasn’t in the mood to make wise cracks.

Thankfully I was able to get in right away. The doctor tried in vain for a half an hour to get the splinter out. It was very painful because he had to dig in my nail bed. I was bleeding.

He said I had a couple options. First, I could do nothing. It most likely wouldn’t come out on its own, but it might. He could give me antibiotics. If it got infected or continued to be painful, I could contact a hand surgeon to have it removed. Or he could give me anesthesia and keep trying to dig deeper under my nail. Even then he gave himself a 50% chance to be able to get it out.

I just wanted it out, so I opted for the anesthesia. The anesthesia numbed my finger, but it still hurt. It was just like going to the dentist. I could feel everything even though they gave me enough anesthesia to take out my tooth. The doctor gave me a second dose of anesthesia. I could still feel pain, but it was muted a little.

I felt like I was going to pass out. I was in pain off and on for a couple hours at that point. I felt sick although I didn’t eat hardly anything all day. After another 20 minutes of poking underneath my nail, he was able to get it out.

While I was there, I heard screaming in the background. Someone else was vomiting nonstop, and another guy went into cardiac arrest. Call 9-1-1. When I got back to the reception area, it looked like a crime scene. There were several squad cars and ambulances. People were huddled together crying.

I debated whether or not Paul and I should burn our clothes after our trip to urgent care. Who wants the plague for Christmas??

Then I came home and did a head lice check on one of my kids. Thankfully, I didn’t see anything. Oh, and I almost hit a deer picking up the girls from school.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if it is safe for you to be reading this.

 

 

My pretty mask

I panic as I sit here waiting. I know I have catastrophic anxiety, but in all of my worry I never imagined this.

Waiting is terribly hard when you know something bad is going to happen. This time it really is. I hear the time bomb ticking its countdown in my chest. I want to stop it but I can’t. I just have to brace for the explosion and pick up the pieces when it is done.

The panic sets in. Maybe somehow this is my fault. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe I could’ve stopped it. Will I get in trouble? This paranoia is making me crazy.

I feel angry. I am broken already. PLEASE STOP MESSING UP MY LIFE! Will it never end? Sometimes I secretly wish you were dead. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I am supposed to protect you, yet you never kept me safe.

I am so sad for what I didn’t have. Everywhere I go it is rubbed into my face. Maybe my life would be better if I wasn’t in it. I can’t stand feeling this way anymore. I’m drowning, alone. I reach for your hand, but no one is there. I grab at whatever comfort I can find as I go under.

My therapist says I need to break this conditioning. But maybe somehow it is my fault. Maybe somehow I can fix things. I don’t know what to do. But I know what you will do. You will ask me to be a doctor when I’m not even a nurse. Did you forget that I am hurt too? How did I get chosen to be the bellhop for your baggage? Will you never stop ruining my life?

I want to feel joy. I long for peace. But you never set me free. I am foolish enough to think I am getting away when I stick my arm outside of my cage. I fear I will always be trapped here. How can I get out of this? Every time I think I’m out, I’m still locked inside.

The numbness is wearing off too soon, the pain isn’t gone yet. HELP ME! I want to hide in the dark empty void of my mind. But you said it is not safe in there anymore. The demons live there that ravish my soul. But can’t you see I am already in hell? I’ve gotten used to the warmth of its raging fire. Now I’m so cold.

You can’t let them win. Feel joy in your times of sorrow. I wish I could. I feel like I am going to throw up.

Is my life some sort of cosmic joke? Funny, but I’m not laughing. God, what is the purpose?

You mar me with your filth until I can’t even see the goodness in me anymore. I could wash my hands of it a million times and still see the dirt you left behind. I want nothing to do with it.

I want to be on a warm beach somewhere serene. But even there I will find no solace, no escape. Everywhere I go, you come with me.

I see your reflection every time I look at myself in the mirror. My beauty mocks the ugliness inside. It oozes out of me. I wish I was ugly on the outside so no one would notice me.

I put on a smile and say everything is fine. I wear my pretty mask with all the glitter and glitz. I’m okay. I’m good. How about you?

Why am I not happy all of the time? I seem to have it all.

It’s amazing how easily people believe the lies they want to hear.

I’m glad you like my pretty mask. But I have to ask. When will the show end? I’m getting tired of acting normal.

I finished my book!!

Last night I finished my book, my life story. It stirred within me many mixed emotions. I felt like I was covered in a blanket of deep sorrow, yet at the same time I felt joy. It’s been a journey of remembering and releasing in words previously unexpressed.

Last night I sent my book to two test readers, a friend who is an author and a friend that is a child psychologist who works specifically with autistic children. I also sent a copy to my therapist. After I receive feedback, I will edit my book again. Then I want to send my book to my husband, my daughter Angel, my son Alex, and my brother Luke. After that, I am going to find a publisher. Then I will share it with you.

Perhaps this will start the healing process, perhaps not.

I figure if I can do some really difficult things (like running a 50k or writing a book revealing my trauma), then I probably can figure out a way to do something almost everyone can do. Relax. Heal. Let go.

I have been working with my therapist on brainspotting. I shared my first session with you and that was a very positive experience. After that session, things took a dark turn. I have been releasing all of the negative garbage I’ve been holding inside. It stinks! I’ve been working hard on trying to express my feelings. It has been painful, yet beneficial. Through this process, my lifelong struggle with insomnia and nightmares has gone away.

For a long time, I understood myself. I know what triggers my depression and anxiety. I understand the attacks of my trauma on my well being. But I’ve never known what to do about it. Visiting a therapist is taking the next step. Self-awareness is important, but it isn’t a catalyst for change.

I’m trying to give up control. It’s not like I had any in the first place. Just like being a clean freak never seems to make the dirt go away. Being a control freak doesn’t give peace and serenity to the voice that cries out for it. Worry is a waste of time. It doesn’t bring me peace.

I am trying to figure out who I really am. For most of my life I lived in survival mode. Now who am I? The person I needed to be to survive? Or who I really am? It’s hard to be myself if I don’t know who I really am. It’s a new time for self-discovery and growth. I want to fully experience my purpose in life.

I started meditating. Maybe I will try yoga. I always burned my anxiety off by hard workouts at the gym. This is how I process my anger. I am going to keep this, but add to it by including relaxation exercises.

I am going to read a Bible verse a day. This will incorporate inspiration for spiritual healing and growth. I want to trust God more. I also want to trust the people that care about me even if it means I might get hurt. I want to cultivate meaningful relationships. I want to cut off unhealthy relationships altogether, and if I can’t then I’ll set healthy boundaries.

I also started visiting a wellness clinic for physical healing of my body. My nervous system took a big hit from the long term stress. I suffered from stomach and GI issues my whole life. I’ve been working on avoiding the foods I am sensitive to and rebuilding my gut for optimal physical health.

If I can train my body for a 50k, I can train my body for growth and healing. My book is done, but I will never stop writing. The story hasn’t ended yet. The best is yet to come.