Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Peace and joy

It has been a stressful week in the season of thankfulness. I was out and about yesterday and overheard people freaking out about the fast approach of the holiday season…and my sister is coming from CA and she is always judging my decisions… cooking… stress… family. It seems rather ironic that the things we are supposed to feel the most thankful for seems to stress us out the most…family…

I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was in my 20’s. I took the baton from my grandma after she was no longer able to. My brother Luke stepped in to help out several times over the years. Looking back I don’t know how we did it.

I always get depressed this time of year. It never fails. I don’t know if it is just a lack of sunlight or the added stress of the holiday season. But this is when it usually starts and pretty much lasts all winter into early spring. But I am a functional depressive. I get out of bed and get stuff done like I normally do.

I have been having a really hard time lately. Alex decided to skip school the day before Thanksgiving break. Although half of the school may have decided to do that, he can’t afford to with his failing grades. Alex read the student handbook and found a loophole that as an adult he can pre-excuse several of his absences. I received a call from the school saying that he intended to do that, so we stepped in and told Alex that if he skips school he would lose his car priviledges over break and won’t be allowed to have friends over.

He skipped school and now we have a battle on our hands. I told him that the boy with the face tattoo could not come over for Thanksgiving as originally planned or stay with us over break. The boy can eat his Thanksgiving dinner at the homeless shelter for all I care. I am angry. Never underestimate the rage of a peri-menopausal woman. Why that coincides with teenage boy angst I’ll never know. One minute I want to hold him close and the next minute I want to smash his crap with a baseball bat! Happy Thanksgiving, huh??

I am also stressed out because Paul went to the doctor this week. He needs to have some tests done. I am worried about his health. Maybe it is nothing, but what if it isn’t?? What if something happens to him?? I told him yesterday that I am unhappy because I have not experienced a lot of peace and joy in my life. But the few fleeting moments I have experienced have been with him. I started crying and then moments later started to yell at him. What a hormonal mess!

The stress of maybe losing a life partner is terrifying. I am probably worried about nothing, but that is what I do.

Add the stress of a wayward son and my husband possibly having health issues with feeling like I am getting sick, having family over tomorrow, trying to find time to cook, covering for an employee who took the week off, less hours of daylight, feeling depressed and tired, aging, my baby getting her temps, getting ready for the holiday season, extra play practices for the musical, a teen minor with a face tattoo always hanging around our house, and raging hormones…Whew!

I know, I know…I really should be counting my blessings! I have a lot of those too.

 

Learning (to let go) the hard way

I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know when it all started, the specific moment when things started falling apart. All I know is that now we are in crisis mode and I’m afraid that we can’t put it all back together in one piece.

Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but I took a week off of writing last week. It wasn’t intentional. The previous week my son brought home a paper to sign up for honors band several hours away out of state. I hastily made arrangements. I cancelled plans and found someone to work for me so I could take him. I thought that maybe this was all he needed to get back into wanting to go to college for music. But I was wrong.

You may remember back in September that we toured a college for music and then a week later Alex dropped out of band. After talking to the teacher, he decided not to drop out of band. Now he got kicked out of band, but I am getting ahead of myself in the story.

I thought this would be a good mother-son road trip, a time of bonding. Two days before leaving, Alex said he didn’t want to go because he would be missing a party a friend was hosting because a couple more friends turned 18. I was unsure whether or not we would actually go, but we went.

I dropped him off the next morning full of hope. I picked him up a couple of hours later full of dread. He didn’t like it so he just walked out. His teacher called me angry. I literally felt sick to my stomach because I was so stressed out. What was I going to do? I just wanted to go home. But Paul was so angry that he would’ve kicked Alex out. Plus I spent a lot of money to rent a cabin and it was a really long drive home.

Instead I decided to stay. I spent the weekend talking to Alex. He opened up to me and for awhile I felt like everything was going to be okay.

On Monday morning, I talked to Paul. I told him that we needed to have more fun and let go. Life is just not fun anymore. To be honest, I’ve been feeling so depressed that I didn’t want to do anything that helps me deal with my stress. I didn’t want to blog, I didn’t want to run. Putting one step in front of the other seemed like it would consume too much energy.

Later on Monday, we got a call from the school. Tuesday we met with the principal and dean of students. Alex is getting kicked out of band. He is also failing 2 other classes and may not graduate. He was suspended several days for being tardy, but at least he is still going to school.

We have just been beside ourselves for the last week trying to cope. We are going to be meeting with the school counselor and even set up an appointment with a regular counselor to help our son. The good news is that our son is talking to both of us. Paul and I have been taking turns talking to him. For awhile we think he will be okay and then we are filled with anger and despair.

Alex now has a dream to go into business. We are trying to keep that dream alive to motivate him. But it has been hard. Paul’s blood pressure has been sky high. I’m afraid to stress him out any more than he already is. I have been having stomachaches. Plus I have been struggling with depression. All the things that help me cope healthily I want to push away.

I feel very anxious and panic when I hear the phone ring. I have become paranoid that something bad is going to happen to him. I am not at peace in my life right now. I think people view us as crappy parents. But we are trying everything in our power to help our son succeed. We are trusting that God has a plan for him.

I am trying to take care of myself so I can help him. He is 18. Isn’t my job over? Is this why letting go of children into adulthood is so hard? Why do I feel like I am sending a two year old out to play in traffic? Is any of this normal?? He wants to leave, but he is just not ready. It’s so hard to let go when the future is uncertain. I will be able to do that a little easier once he graduates, if he graduates. Right now I want to fix and control.

I have to learn to let go even if things don’t go the way I want them to.

 

The boy with the face tattoo

The last several weeks have been very unsettling for Paul and I. We reached a fork in the road and we don’t know what way to turn.

We both feel that by being blessed with financial security, we have an obligation to help others living in poverty. We currently sponsor 4 children in third world countries and help supply for their most basic needs. We can send a check in the mail every month and pat ourselves on the back for the children we help but will never see. It seemed so easy until the boy with the face tattoo shattered our perception of what it means to really help others.

How can we help others far away yet turn away someone in need in our own front yard?

He ran away/got kicked out of his house mainly because of the poor decisions he was making. Do we really need another teen in the house with issues? Why do we feel like it is our responsibility to provide for his care? We discussed being foster parents to this boy, taking him in as a surrogate son. Yet, we have a problem with him being alone in our house all day while we are at work and the kids are in school.

He was living at our house off and on for a good month. He also has been staying at the houses of different friends.

Do we take him in or do we let him sink or swim?

He needs so much help, probably more than we can provide.

  1. He quit going to school and studies online. Someone needs to monitor that he is doing his work in order for him to graduate.
  2. Rehab at the very minimum counseling. I’ve seen him completely wasted several times. The last time we saw him like that, we thought that his path was going to lead him to addiciton or ODing. How can he afford drugs? Is he selling them? Do we want to invite all of that into our house? Can we demand sobriety? Is that even attainable for him without professional help?
  3. He needs to learn very basic life skills such as cooking and budgeting. He needs clothing.
  4. He needs basic doctor and dental care. What happens if he gets sick?
  5. He needs to learn how to drive in order to get a job and maintain independence once he becomes an adult.
  6. This is a big one. He needs to have his tattoo removed from his face. Tattoo removal costs a lot of money, but he will have a really hard time finding a job without it removed. Who on earth would agree to tattoo the face of a minor? It makes my blood boil to think about it.
  7. This boy tends to make bad decisions and gets into fights, although we’ve known him since he was little and he is basically a good kid. The odds are really against him for succeeding. He was raised by a single teen mom and also has a disabled sibling which really pulls at our heartstrings from our similar experiences. They have nothing which is really not much to run away from. He might rather live in our house. Do we allow that?

If we take him in are we enabling him not to work things out with his mother? Do we really want to accept that kind of responsibility? Do we have the energy to deal with this? Will he have a bad influence on our other children living in our house? Why do I feel like I need to fix him? Is that realistic or do I just want to feel like a heroine? Why do we need to take him in or cast him out? Why can’t he just stay once in awhile if he needs to?

We need to make hard decision and have firm boundaries. Sometimes we have to confront. Why is this so unsettling? Maybe it would be for anyone not used to dealing with these issues?

We don’t have a problem with him staying at our house when we are home. But the other day he was at our house without our permission. We felt angry and violated that he snuck in. What is he doing by himself in our house?? What do we do?

Do we call the police? Do we drop him off on his mother’s doorstep? He is her responsibility, not ours. I feel angry that she is shirking him off on everyone else. Is it her fault or did he run away? I can’t blame her for not wanting to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean I want to either. Could she get in trouble with the law? Will her other children be taken away? Would our son ever talk to us again if we turn him away? Could we be in trouble if he stays? Does anybody really care anyway??

At this point, there are more questions than answers. This has really pushed us over the edge. Paul set up a first meeting with a counselor to help us deal with all this crap. We also have a lot of inadequacies as parents from growing up in unhealthy and difficult homes. We are very high functioning broken people. I wish we had all of the answers, but we keep striving to grow and improve which is all I can ask for.

It has been stressful, but little did I know more difficulties were on the way…

Healing wounds

My mom hasn’t been feeling well since she retired. At first, the doctor thought that she was having problems with her gallbladder. But instead, she found out that she has an ulcer which she attributes to the stress in her life. I think that working and keeping busy kept her mind off of it. I understand because that is how I cope.

It has been a rough year for my mom. It’s been hard since she took my brother off of his anti-psychotic medicine due to some health issues. Matt started hallucinating again and became fixated on wanting to hurt my brother Luke’s daughter.

My mom was looking out for the best interests of Matt and my brother Luke was concerned about protecting his family from Matt. This caused a lot of conflict.

It stirred the demons from our childhood within Luke. This was a very painful time for Luke. But it was also a catalyst for him to process, deal with it, and heal. I’ve found that the healing process is very difficult. It has forced both of us to deal with feelings that are unexpected that we have never processed before.

It is hard for my mom. She says that it is very hard to deal with a child that isn’t okay. She spent day to day just trying to survive. I can understand that more now that I have teenagers. I worry all the time about how the decisions my son makes will affect his whole entire life. It’s a heavy burden to carry worrying that your child is falling but nothing you can do will pick them up. I somewhat understand.

Luke feels a lot of anger towards my mom for favoring Matt over him and even over the safety of his children. Matt will always be first in my mother’s life and I have come to accept that. I was once in Luke’s place when Matt wanted to hurt my kids. I had to have boundaries. I had to be the bad guy. I had to isolate myself from my family when I needed their help the most. I understand.

It’s not easy and there isn’t an easy answer. Some good has come out of it though. Luke started the healing process. We have been having a lot of deep conversations and working through this together. For the first time, we have each other. Sometimes good can come out of bad. This has given us strength that we never thought we had.

Matt has been back on his medicine for awhile and is passive again. The voices in his head have been quieted. It’s surprising how long it has taken for the rest of us to heal our wounds. Slowly, surely we are on the mend.

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Lost, that is what I would call him.

Never to be found?

Wandering around.

Trouble, the kind he might never find a way out of.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Homeless, yet at times living in my home.

It’s too cold to be sleeping on a park bench.

Sleeping on the floor in my son’s room.

Arms wrapped around the dog at night for comfort.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Bouncing from home to home…only 17.

Skipping out of school.

No hope?

Will he even graduate?

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Numbing his mind with whatever he can find.

He could die on the streets and no one would lose sleep.

Numb, the word permanently etched on his face

under his eye with a vacant stare.

It’s been a long time since he cut his hair.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

He’s drowning and pulling others down with him.

We had to break free of his grip.

Our son, we can only help save one.

But he is not out of the water yet..

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Fall

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Things have been a little rough around here the last couple weeks. So I thought I would lighten it up a little with a picture I took this past week.

Try not to overthink like I do…Why is there a field of pumpkins when Halloween is next week?? I guess that one is really not my problem…Instead I’ll enjoy the beauty of my second favorite season.

So enjoy this carefree post while it lasts… Stay tuned because next week might be a little dicey.

But as for today I am not slaying my demons. Tonight I’m going to a costume party. I can wear a mask and be someone else for awhile. Sometimes life can be frivolous and fun. My husband says that although there is no doubt I am crazy, I am the fun type of crazy.

Life is always an adventure! Enjoy the ride!

My psych eval (25 years later) part 5

Alissa described herself in the past as feeling very depressed including having the same nightmare over and over. One of the nightmares involved being kidnapped and another one included drowning and having her feet trapped in weeds which dragged her underwater. She dreams of cats scratching her and a cat would be ‘possessed’ and she fears being bitten and clawed by the cat. Alissa has a nightmare of a bird pecking her and eating her. The morbid content of the dreams would suggest the presence of a depressive disorder.

I remember the repetitive dream that I had as a child. It was dark and I was the last in a line of people walking through a crime ridden large city. There was total silence, no cars, no colors, no other people besides the dark images I was following. Somehow I was walking to my grandma’s house, but every time I was almost ready to make it to her brightly lit front door someone would grab me from behind and kidnap me.

I had dreams about falling and drowning.

Watching my 2 year old brother almost drown was very traumatic for me because I was supposed to be watching him. Granted, I was 6 when I watched my three younger brothers ‘swim’ in the lake. For the longest time after that I felt like a failure. When I was 12, I watched my baby cousin in a swimming pool with other adults around. She fell in and I rescued her. I felt so happy like I redeemed myself.

It was also traumatic for me when my dad held me in the weeds because I was terrified. That could explain nightmares of my feet tangled in weeds. But I don’t remember ever dreaming about Matt or how he hurt me.

At times in my life I went through periods of insomnia and nightmares when I could sleep. It’s not too unusual for me to wake up crying an hour or two before I needed to get up. This is the place where my loved ones die. This is the place where the people and animals I love turn on me. This is where I almost die.

But I remember also having dreams where I would soar and fly above it all. It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating and free. I didn’t have to be trapped by the things that frightened me.

My psych eval (25 years later) part 4

Her OCD predisposes her to ruminate and obsess about anything.

I really had a hard time coping with the things that were happening in my life. At the time of the great isolation (the years my brothers and I were homeschooled due to Matt’s violent behavior at school), I reached to God for solace. I believe this faith and hope  prevented me from ending my life. I prayed that God would heal my brother and fix my family.

I was unusually devout as a teen. But then something horrible happened. After awhile every time I prayed, horrible images would pop into my mind. My prayers contained more obscenities than my brother Matt’s spew of Tourette’s. I felt horrible guilt over this and for awhile stopped praying altogether.

Then I became angry at God. Why did you do this to my brother? Why did you do this to my family? Why did you do this to my mother, the most devout person I knew?? How could you give us so much more than we could handle? Are you even there to hear my prayers? I was miserable and the flicker of hope grew very dim.

It took awhile to get through this rough patch. I decided to start praying again despite the unwanted thoughts and images that popped into my mind while doing so. Eventually it went away. Although I think I always had some degree of faith, I can’t say that I have a lot of trust in God or anyone. I realize that one of my biggest flaws is being distrustful.

I am probably a horrible example of what it means to be Christian. But maybe this happens to everyone sometimes? Kind of like the impulse to punch someone for no apparent reason? I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I thought I was crazy to have those thoughts. I tended to ruminate about it instead of just letting it go.

Now I think that it’s crazy if you act on the thoughts instead of just having them. A lot of times Matt acted on those thoughts. I was afraid that someday maybe I would be like Matt too and not be able to control those impulses. But so far that hasn’t happened in my life.

I think that God did hear my prayers for a healthy family. He just didn’t answer them until later in my life.

 

My psych eval (25 years later) part 3

Alissa described herself as never being able to concentrate during school. She said that she can remember reading things and not knowing what she had read immediately thereafter. She said now she tries to write everything down but at times she will read her notes and not believe that she actually attended the lecture. Alissa will study at home a great amount of time in order to figure out what is going on in her classes. She loses her attention when classes are boring. Her thoughts will wander to thinking about what she has to do and other items. She acknowledged while sitting in class that she will brush and flick her hair back which she feels is a habit that would be difficult for her to stop, as well as picking at her clothes. She denies symptoms of alopecia, or hair pulling.

I had a very hard time concentrating at school.

My home life was chaotic all of the time. It was never quiet. I spent a lot of energy ruminating and worrying about how to fix situations that were outside of my realm of control. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

I remember around that time the doctor gave me the highest dose of ADD medicine prescribed. My ability to focus while medicated was unbelievable and unparalleled before or since.

But at very high doses my level of anxiety was unparalleled too.

One of the biggest things that my brother Matt did to me as a child was pull my long hair. He would pull my mother’s hair or really anyone with long hair. Mainly he would pull my hair and it hurt. I thought he would pull my hair out. This went on for many years.

When I was on high doses of ADD meds, my skin itched and crawled. I was jittery like I had way too much coffee. My anxiety was through the roof and I began to scratch my scalp. I picked at my scabs and small clumps of hair would come out. I was constantly playing with my hair. At the same time, my brother was pulling my hair.

I had to stop the nervous tic. If my brother didn’t pull all of my hair out, then I certainly would. Instead I refocused my energy on plucking my hair off of my pillow or clothing.

Meanwhile, my brother still pulled my hair. One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran to my room with my scissors and cut off my long hair. He wouldn’t be able to pull it if it wasn’t there.

But my brother still pulled my hair and I was still afraid that it would come out. He pulled it so hard that my scalp hurt. As long as I had hair, he kept pulling. It was a lot easier for him to pull when it was longer though.

Then I stopped taking my ADD medication and along with it stopped constantly playing with my hair. Sometimes though if I am really nervous I will catch myself playing with my hair.

Thankfully it didn’t seem like I lost a lot of hair.

I can only imagine what I could have done if I had more focus or less problems to worry about.