Carrying a heavy weight

She gained 13 lbs. in a month.

Arabella wasn’t on any medications that could cause weight gain. She also went through periods of restricted eating. This really didn’t concern me as much because at the time she was easily over 250 lbs. I was more concerned about diabetes and other health related issues. She wasn’t eating meals with us anymore. I would tell her it was time to eat only to find her eating a bag of Oreos in her room. She only wanted junk food.

It struck a painful chord in me. I show I care about my family by doing nice things for them such as their laundry or cooking nice meals. It was triggering of childhood memories of my own mom working hard to cook nice meals only to have my dad ask her what kind of dog shit she made for supper. I feel hurt and unappreciated when my efforts are scorned. It takes a lot of work to cook supper and make healthy homemade meals for a family of 5 or 6. It makes me angry when my cooking is replaced by a cheap sugary substitute.

My dad also struggles with obesity and unhealthy eating. He does not exercise and now can barely walk. I saw how he struggles with his weight and I don’t want that for my daughter. Not only that but it is hard to care for someone who is elderly and prone to falls. He is over 300 lbs. and there is no way I could lift him.

What was even more concerning besides her obesity and binge eating of junk was that she started to eat non food items as well. She ate woodchips. She cut up a Capri Sun pouch and ate that. She ate paper and several plastic forks. What if that was to tear up her intestines? To me it seemed like a whole new way to self-harm. The doctors were puzzled by it as well. They ran all sorts of blood work but nothing could be determined what was causing her pica. Was it some strange side effect to her medication? Was it for attention?

One of the hardest things was that I didn’t have any control over it. She was twice my size. Although I could share with her my experience with healthy eating and exercise, she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, to this day I am not allowed to talk about it.

While she was in residential, Arabella still went through periods of eating paper and plastic silverware. Again, more tests were run and not surprisingly nothing was found. The best anyone could tell me was that she should take a multi-vitamin because she wasn’t getting any nutrients from what she was eating. Things haven’t really gotten much better since she came home. Her meals consist of chips, candy, cookies, and sugary foods. I can’t stand it really. I don’t know what to do about it. If I talk to her about it she gets angry with me. She tells me that I don’t understand and quite frankly I don’t.

I won’t take her shopping because she fills my cart with junk. I don’t mind buying some snacks, but I don’t want to fill my cart with them. When she has money, she buys her own snacks. It was hard when she worked at the grocery store because she would spend her paycheck there. It didn’t matter if she didn’t have money. Sometimes her friends would be her junk food junkies and bring her a new stash.

The therapist said that I shouldn’t be nagging her about it because it would cause her to feel shame which would cause more stress eating which would cause a perpetual shame cycle. Instead she should feel natural consequences, such as diabetes. Who wants their teenager to struggle with body image and health concerns due to obesity in a society that pressures women especially young women to look a certain way? I am in my 40’s and I still feel the pressure to look a certain way. It’s not as bad as when I was a teenager, but still.

My intention is not to fat shame my daughter. It’s hard to talk about because I’ve never really struggled a lot with my own weight. But it’s a big problem and I’m not sure she is going to be able to fix it. It’s going to have to be another thing I have to let go because there is nothing I can do about it. When I do try to help I only seem to make things worse.

Sometimes it’s really hard to let my adult children go and watch them struggle.

Isolation

I felt very isolated from my family. My brother Luke’s wife Emily gave me a call several weeks before Christmas. Their household had COVID in November so no one was concerned much about that with them. They were planning on renting a place close by and visiting for the holiday. Before that, I didn’t talk to my brothers much about what was happening with Arabella. I hate being the person who only calls with bad news. My brother Luke pretty much has a panic attack every time he sees my number on his caller ID as it is.

We set up a date to get together. Then I told Emily about the struggles I’d been having with Arabella. A week later my mom told me they decided not to come for Christmas. I can’t be sure, but I think it had a lot to do with Arabella. My mom said she wasn’t going to come over here for Christmas because of COVID, but she still could’ve spent time with my brother and his family because they were no longer a threat for her. The other issue is that my brother will not step foot in my parents house with his children as long as my dad is alive or living there. I respect his decision, but it still hurts. I can’t help but think that some of the reason he wasn’t coming home was because he didn’t want his children around my daughter.

I felt very isolated at a time when I could have used the support of friends and especially family. I don’t particularly care if I ever see my dad again either. My kids want nothing to do with him. The relationship with him was strained long before my daughter found child porn on his computer.

There was also a time when my brother Luke and I wanted nothing to do with our brother Matt either due to his mental illness. When he was hearing voices to attack/kill our children, we had to keep them apart for the safety of our children. But I never quite knew how it felt as the mother of someone who is severely mentally ill. It is painful and isolating to feel like we had to handle this by ourselves. I haven’t seen my brother Mark since 2019.

When I was a teenager, my brother Matt was so violent that he was homebound from school. They sent a retired school teacher out to our house. Because of this, I was homeschooled in almost complete isolation from 8th to 10th grade. My brother Matt was psychotic and my dad was always this greasy guy. How many friends do you think I was able to bring home?? Plus we lived in a hoarding house. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a pleasant place to live and I couldn’t stand it. I literally wanted to die and childhood couldn’t end soon enough for me because I was so miserable. I lost a lot of friendships because my brother attacked pretty much everyone who was in our house or who came to it.

I am no stranger to isolation. It was different back then. My family were the only ones that lived in isolation. Everyone around us had relatively normal lives. Kids went to school. Adults went to work. The world moved on without us.

When I heard my brother changed his mind about coming to visit for the holidays, I was heartbroken. When Arabella’s friends dropped like flies I felt a crushing sadness because I knew the isolation that was to come.

There is a difference in not being able to visit and not wanting to. The sense of abandonment in that is hard to overcome. But yet I understand it because I’ve stood on both sides of it.

Gratitude week 73

  1. My daughter Arabella will be graduating this next weekend.
  2. I just booked a trip to Maine for a graduation gift. Arabella, Paul, my mom, and I will be visiting this fall.
  3. I just got my hair and nails done. I’m grateful to take some time out for myself.
  4. Arabella has another job interview today for a server/bartender position.
  5. We had an open house this past weekend for our seasonal business and it went really well.
  6. The weather was also perfect.
  7. We had the opportunity this past week to see some of our elderly friends that we haven’t been able to visit with for awhile.
  8. I’m grateful that my mom was able to take a trip with my brother and his family.
  9. I got my new crown put in this week. I’m really grateful that whole painful dental procedure is over.
  10. I’m grateful to be entering into my favorite season…summer!!!

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.

Gratitude week 72

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

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.

Finding hope

Tomorrow we are picking Arabella up from the residential behavioral health facility. I feel excited to see her tomorrow. It’s been over two months since I saw my daughter last.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was feeling a little apprehension as well. I wonder what things will be like when she gets back home. The past year has been very difficult with my daughter’s mental health struggles. To be completely honest, I feel a lot of guilt over writing about this. But the whole purpose of this blog for me is to write about the personal things I struggle with. Right now I’m struggling with parenting a teenager with mental health struggles. Believe me, I wish it wasn’t that way.

I think placing her in a residential facility was our last ditch effort to save her life. Her level of impulsiveness, self-harm, and suicidality was so high that I don’t think she would’ve had a chance out in the real world as a newly minted adult. I don’t know what things will be like when she gets back. I know there is going to be an adjustment period for all of us.

I don’t expect Arabella to be cured. But I do know we did the best we could to try to support her through her struggles. She did make a lot of progress over the last couple months. I hope she continues to grow when she gets home. I think it’s important to keep an account of the way things were to be able to chart her healing and growth on her journey. We’ve also learned a lot in the process and are waiting for the new post residential adventure to begin. I think it has been a very positive experience and I’ve found hope in the fact that Arabella is doing significantly better.

Living in the real world

Right after Arabella started outpatient, I spoke to her case manager there and she told me of a safety concern. The case manager mentioned that Arabella talked about wanting to overdose again. She suggested that I search her room before she got home that day.

I have never been the room searching type of parent. It reminded me of that one time as a teenager my mom went into my room when I wasn’t home, found my diaries, and read them. Then she got angry at me for the things I wrote, some of it from many years before. I will never forget feeling upset over my privacy being violated for no particular reason. Even my innermost private thoughts were not safe. So I was totally against violating the privacy of my teenagers unless I thought maybe my children were unsafe.

I did a sweep of Arabella’s room that afternoon. I found some contraband, but I didn’t find a stockpile of pills. Granted my daughter is a bit of a hoarder. It made it harder to search every nook and cranny amongst the clutter.

But I did make sure that the pills in my house were hidden away out of reach. Nary a bottle of Tylenol could be found in my medicine cabinet at the time. This was problematic at times. Around that time, my son had his wisdom teeth removed. I had to keep his pain medicine locked up along with the Tylenol. It was a royal pain because it made it hard for him to manage his medication himself.

It’s hard to live in a world where I had to keep hyper-vigilant of every little pill and sharp objects. It wasn’t convenient for other family members. It was a lot of hassle and work. As if she couldn’t find a way around it if she wanted to. But that is the advice that every doctor gave me. Lock everything up. It wasn’t practical. I couldn’t lock up every knife and have my family ask for permission to unlock them if they wanted to make themselves something to eat. I felt guilty that I didn’t lock up every knife.

But sometime, somewhere my daughter was going to have to live in the real world.

Gratitude week 71

  1. On Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to have a wonderful mom.
  2. I’m grateful for my children. Mother’s Day is different this year. I transitioned out of celebrating the day with younger kids to being more of an empty nest mom. It’s no longer a day of dressing my girls up in fancy cute dresses and homemade gifts and cards on pink colored paper. I’ve come to expect that things have changed. My youngest daughter is still in residential and my oldest daughter has to work. My son will be over later for supper. Maybe we can play some games or something. I do miss the times when they were little and cute but I don’t miss all the work it was.
  3. I found my mom a really awesome gift that we have been trying to find for many years. It’s nice that we can spend the day together.
  4. My daughter Arabella will be coming home this week after staying at a residential mental health facility for the last couple of months.
  5. Arabella will also be 18 this week, so……all my children will be adults as this new week ends. It’s hard to believe that my years of active parenting are now done.
  6. It’s still been very cool here. One day it even hailed. But it does look like it will finally warm up by the end of this week.
  7. My mom has finally been sleeping better. I’m grateful for her healing process.
  8. I’m grateful that Paul was able to help my mom out with Matt’s finances so she didn’t have to hire an accountant at tax time. My mom took us out to eat to thank him for his help.
  9. I’m grateful to have a husband who is gifted in finance because that is one less thing I have to worry about. We have very similar spending habits and thoughts about money.
  10. I’m grateful that I won a $25 gift card at church today just for being a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the great moms out there!

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…