The bad ones

Arabella wanted to leave, but as I mentioned before she didn’t want to be left. She wanted to use our car. She wanted to borrow money. She wanted to come home for Christmas. She wanted her reduction surgery scheduled in December. I said that I would cancel it if she wasn’t living at home because it was going to require at least two weeks of someone caring for her. I didn’t want her calling or texting every time she ran into a problem she couldn’t handle. If she didn’t want me in her life she had to let me go so I could get on with mine.

We wanted her home but we weren’t going to fight her anymore. She had conversations with Jordan’s mom about emancipation. They were ready to take her in rent free so she could escape her abusive home environment.

At this point I started wondering what was wrong with my daughter. It had to be more than just depression or anxiety. Arabella at this time started a relationship with her first girlfriend. She wanted to bring this girl home to introduce her to us. Her girlfriend was pretty, personable, and bubbly. She seemed really nice. Afterwards, Arabella called us on the way back to Jordan’s house. She asked her dad what he thought of her girlfriend. I think she was trying to bait us in some way to get in a fight. If she could get Paul upset then she would have justification for moving out. My parents hate me because I’m gay. It would just feed into this whole we are bad parents thing. Instead, Paul said that she seemed very nice. We even talked about having her girlfriend over for the holidays if only Arabella would make the effort to come home and have a relationship with her real family again.

What would cause someone to randomly hate their family? Not just her parents, but her siblings as well. To take it one step further, she attached herself to a brand new family one she only got to know a couple months before. They were perfect, every single one of them. I became convinced my daughter had Borderline Personality Disorder. She had almost every symptom.

Although never diagnosed, I always thought my mother-in-law was borderline. Arabella was her angel grandchild. Alex and Angel were demons. My MIL would fly into random rages with her husband, my husband, myself, and my children. We were either the best thing that ever happened to her or we were awful people. She was impulsive and at times could be a lot of fun. Her mood was all over the place, sometimes even on the same day. You never knew what you were going to get. We never could believe anything she said either.

Lately I’ve been also wondering if my own mother has borderline. She has this unusual attachment to my dad. After my daughter Angel turned in my dad to the police for child porn, my mom stayed. Now I suppose you might say someone could forgive their spouse and I understand that. But every single conversation with my mom is about how she can’t handle being alone. She now loves my dad more than she ever did. On occasion she mentions forgiveness and God, but mainly it’s about her fear of abandonment. She latches on to people that will never leave her like my dad and my autistic/schizophrenic brother Matt. This has lead to conflict because she is manipulative and tries to force my dad and brother on everyone because she doesn’t want anyone to leave her. (They have both hurt my siblings and I and our children). It makes her seem like a martyr and we are bad/selfish if we don’t forgive. Could that be borderline? I don’t even know.

I don’t want to make more of it than it is but I can tell you most would agree that my mother and MIL were neither sane nor rational. I saw those same patterns starting to emerge in my own daughter Arabella. Why did I think my children could somehow escape the mental illness that runs deep in both sides of the family?

I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with Jordan’s mom to express my concerns to her. I was worried for my daughter’s safety under her care. She was unstable, suicidal, and cutting. Jordan’s mom should know what she would be getting herself into. If she thought she would providing a safe place for an abused child to live (which is noble of her), she needed to know the truth. I told her my fears that my daughter was severely mentally ill. But I’m not really sure if she believed me.

After all, isn’t that what most abusers say?

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.

Gratitude week 65

  1. This past week has been pretty rough, but I made it through.
  2. I switched dentist appointments with my son because he had to work on the date his appointment was scheduled. I was supposed to go in Wednesday, but went in Friday. Thursday night I felt like I got something stuck in my molar but didn’t eat anything that could get stuck. I tried to get whatever it was out with no luck to find out at my appointment the next day that I cracked my tooth. So, now I need a crown. I have a ton of anxiety about this because in the past I have been known not to numb. I did feel my last crown and it is terrifying to me. But I am grateful I found out about the crack the day after it happened. I’m grateful that I will be trying some new things such as laughing gas to manage the pain. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never used that before.
  3. I scheduled my first tattoo. I am terrified about this appointment too. I am not as terrified about the pain as much as how I will handle it. Will I cry, scream, or freak out at these appointments? Or will I act like a proper stoic introvert?
  4. I’m grateful it is still March because I dread the upcoming appointments in April. I will be very grateful when they are behind me.
  5. I’m grateful that I was able to get a lot of writing in this week.
  6. I’m grateful that my new custom made wedding ring is coming in the mail tomorrow. I literally wore out my last wedding band.
  7. I’m grateful that my daughter is starting to make some progress in the residential program.
  8. I think I am also stressed out because it is Easter next week and I don’t have any plans. I’m feeling down because my daughter is in the residential treatment program and my other two kids aren’t getting along. My mom is a big ball of anxiety. My dad is a pedophile and my brother will never come home again with his children if my dad is around. I haven’t seen one of my brothers since 2019. Family holidays are more painful than ever before. I am grateful that although we didn’t get together with the extended family for Christmas, it was probably one of the most enjoyable holidays since my grandma was alive. Everything was simple instead of busy and rushed. I have hope that maybe this Easter will be quiet, simple, and enjoyable. I’ll let you know how it goes…
  9. With everything that is going on, I am not really looking forward to April this coming week. But it is a step closer to my favorite season, summer. This morning we awoke to snow and cold windy temperatures. I’m grateful that the difficult seasons make the lighter ones more enjoyable.
  10. I’m grateful that one of our favorite restaurants just opened very close to our house. Paul took me out to eat there after church today. Yum!

Not safe??

After Arabella’s hospitalization, I thought she would improve but she progressively got worse.

She quit her job at Culver’s. She said that everyone that worked there hated her anyway. She said that all of the customers loved her though. Arabella worked as a runner. She would run orders out to the customers. This was an important job after they closed indoor dining due to COVID. She said that almost every shift customers would give her tips whereas some of the other runners would get yelled at because their orders would take longer to fill. She said the customers were so nice to her that she wondered if they thought something was wrong with her. She almost wanted them to treat her poorly like the other workers.

Arabella got a new job a couple blocks from her friend Jordan’s house. She was doing food prep at a bar and grill. She wanted to go into culinary arts so I thought it was a good opportunity for her. But she also used it as an excuse not to come home. But mom, I have to work all weekend so it would just be easier to stay at Jordan’s house. But mom, I have school all week so it is easier to stay at Jordan’s house.

She came up with every excuse in the book not to come back home. When she did come home, she brought Jordan or other friends home with her. I can’t stay because I have to bring them back home. She started telling everyone she was not safe at our house. She made us out to seem like some sort of monsters. She freaked out having to be in her bedroom because she tried killing herself in there. We told her she could stay in Estelle’s room, but she said that there were bad memories in there from when Estelle tried to steal all her friends. There seemed to be some sort of PTSD mixed with paranoid anxiety about coming home.

We tried to get Arabella to come back home, but every time we did she tried to fight us. Meanwhile, Jordan’s family became her family. Everything about them was perfect. She even told the psychiatrist that they had perfect water. THE PERFECT WATER!!?! Seriously, what the hell? We have reverse osmosis filtered water and they have city water. Something was seriously wrong.

She started telling people that she wasn’t safe in our house. She accused her dad of beating our son for hours. She accused me of telling her that I wished she was never born. None of it was true and it was very upsetting to us. Did something happen that we didn’t know about? According to her, her parents and siblings were all mean and hateful people. She started telling everyone that and I think some people believed her. They started looking at us with mistrust, like we abused or beat our children. It was very painful, even more so because it just wasn’t true.

Something was seriously wrong with our daughter. What, I didn’t know. But I was going to find out. I was convinced it wasn’t just a case of depression with anxiety. None of the medication she was on even seemed to help. What was going on?

Just a one time thing?

When you get admitted into a psychiatric hospital, they do bloodwork to determine if there are any health issues that could be causing mental health issues. Arabella’s vitamin D levels were really low and they also found a thyroid disorder. She has hypothyroidism which could explain some of her issues in losing weight and depression. In my mind, it was as easy as fixing those problems and she would be back to her normal self again. If only it were that easy!

They also put Arabella on a low dose of an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer. The mood stabilizer was meant to be a temporary boost to increase the effectiveness of the anti-depressant. She stayed in the hospital for a week. I really thought this was going to be a one time thing. Once her health problems were fixed, her mental health problems would go away. Or so I thought. We weren’t dealing with complex trauma since she had a relatively normal upbringing. Why couldn’t she just go back to being how she was?

When it was time for Arabella to leave, Paul and I met with her treatment team. They thought it would be a good idea for Arabella to have goals to work towards. The first time around they had a reward based system. Once she reached those treatment goals, her dad bought her a pet frog. I was a little more hesitant about the idea since I ended up being the one that took care of her beta fish.

Arabella was going to be attending an outpatient program for at least a week. She didn’t like her current therapist outside of the hospital, so we were going to be switching to a third therapist. She was also on a waiting list for a psychiatrist. She received the diagnosis of Major Depression with Anxiety.

In the meantime, Arabella had a meeting with our family doctor. The hospital requires an appointment be set up a couple weeks after discharge. The doctor retested Arabella’s blood levels and refilled her psychiatric medication but didn’t want to change anything. We also set up a consultation with a plastic surgeon for breast reduction surgery. She was having back pain and was uncomfortable with her body in general.

I started working full-time and her dad was working a lot of hours as well. I worried about Arabella when we were at work. If anything, I was a little less reluctant when she wanted to go right back to Jordan’s house. Arabella started to feel fearful at our house and was afraid she was going to hurt herself when she was home alone. Jordan’s older brother moved out to go to college, so they had an extra bedroom and invited her to move in. The school was over a half an hour from our house and a couple blocks from theirs. It was comforting to know that she had somewhere to go if the roads were bad in the winter, but we didn’t want her to live there.

Arabella couldn’t stand us anymore, but we still wanted her here.

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.

The revised new normal (3rd edition)

When the pandemic started, I had four teenagers living in my house.

Clara was the first to go. She went back home to Germany in April. Right after she left, I had colitis for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. It was not a good time.

My son Alex turned 20 in June. Part of the reason we decided to have a foreign exchange student was because my older two children were going to move out. Alex was pretty adamant that he was moving out right after graduation, but that didn’t quite happen. The day my daughter Angel moved out, the foreign exchange coordinator called asking if we would take another student. Talk about hitting me up on an empty nest day! We ended up hosting two students.

Alex, and his friends, didn’t interact with the foreign exchange students much at all. I was okay with that, really. Estelle was interested in a couple of my son’s friends, but they respectfully kept their distance. I guess I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with that. It’s been an issue before. When Dan started dating Angel, he was friends with Alex. That created some conflict. One of Arabella’s friends is also dating one of Alex’s friends. I suppose it’s bound to happen with kids close in age.

Estelle left on July 3rd, a couple weeks after her originally scheduled date. Arabella and Estelle never made up. Angel came home to say good-bye. I think she was worried about me because it seemed as if I was losing all my kids. I tried to keep busy.

Arabella gradually stopped staying at home as much. She pretty much moved in with Jordan’s family. I wasn’t happy about it and wondered if she was in a relationship with Jordan. We tried to move on without our foreign exchange students and her. Arabella spent the 4th of July with Jordan’s family although we invited her to come sailing with us. Paul, Angel, Dan, Alex, and I spent the 4th sailing and swimming. We didn’t go up north as was our tradition because my dad was there. We planned to watch fireworks from the boat that night. But even that was disastrous. After the second firework, the guy that was lighting them blew off his arm and had to be airlifted. Sirens blared and our spirits dropped.

The next weekend was my birthday which I celebrated with Paul, Angel, Dan, and Alex. Once again, Arabella didn’t join us. Jordan’s mom was celebrating her birthday too. Arabella went away for the weekend with their family. On my birthday she sent me a text that said happy birthday right before I went to bed. I didn’t get any gifts or card from her. The happy in happy birthday wasn’t even capitalized. There weren’t any exclamation points or cute emojis. I got the picture, I was just an afterthought. Jordan’s mom was hot stuff coolest mom of the year. I couldn’t help but feel hurt.

Life went on. The new normal became the new new normal revised. Clara left. Estelle left. Angel went back to her apartment hours away. Alex went back to living his own life apart from us under our roof. Paul started his new seasonal business. Arabella was pretty much gone. And I was left alone. In some ways, it was incredibly freeing. COVID cancelled all my plans and I no longer had to take care of 4 teenagers. I didn’t know what to do with the change. But I tried to keep busy.

home again

Arabella stayed at Jordan’s house for about a week. She ended up passing all of her classes with the exception of creative writing. She didn’t want to come back home. In her eyes, we were awful people.

Once the pandemic started, Estelle drew closer to us. It must have been very difficult for her to be essentially trapped in a foreign country without her family. She was really looking forward to prom, something they don’t have at her school in France. She just started track, then everything ended. She couldn’t even hang out with friends. But she tried to make the most of her experience. We played a lot of games, did puzzles, went running together, found new recipes to cook, and did a lot of talking.

I think that the time we spent with Estelle made Arabella feel more anger towards us. What were we to do? We didn’t want Estelle to have a bad experience because of COVID and the girls no longer getting along. To make matters worse, Estelle’s flight home in June was cancelled and she was going to be staying indefinitely.

Estelle became like a daughter to me while my own daughter pushed me away. I tried to reach out to Arabella as much as I did Estelle, but my efforts were met with slammed doors and snarls of leave me alone. Once the fighting over missing assignments started, we didn’t know what else to do. I thought a few days away would help but she ended up wanting to live with Jordan’s family and made it miserable for us in our attempts to keep her at home.

I thought maybe a fun family project would help and bought paint for our wood shed. Maybe Estelle and Arabella would make amends and patch things up. But it didn’t quite work out that way. The whole time Arabella complained about how much I sucked as a mom. Eventually Estelle couldn’t take it anymore. She stood up to Arabella and told her how great I was. But in the process Estelle pushed Arabella and called her a bunch of horrible names.

So many things were happening at the time. My daughter Angel’s college graduation was cancelled. We didn’t know when we would see her again. The family didn’t get together to open the cottage for the season up north. That was partially from COVID, but had a lot to do with my dad. My mom got a call to pick up items from the evidence room. My dad’s main computer wasn’t there for pick up. We could only imagine how many photos were on there. My dad’s case was turned over to the district attorney and he could be arrested any day. I went with my mom to visit an attorney which was incredibly stressful.

I was absolutely miserable. The undercurrent of uncertainty and fear was hard to handle especially in the bubble of complete isolation.

School’s out for the pandemic

My daughter Arabella was on the honor roll. After the fight with Estelle, Arabella didn’t want to go to school at all. We had a hard, if not almost impossible, time getting her out of bed in the morning for school. She would cause everyone else to be late and they resented her for that. She stopped talking to kids who were previously friends or acquaintances. In fact, she skipped the lunch period altogether and started hanging out in the classroom by herself.

So it didn’t seem like it would be a really bad thing for Arabella when schooling went online. She didn’t really want to be there anyway.

Everyone at our house, however, seemed to have a hard time with online schooling. Clara stopped doing homework altogether since her parents wanted her to go back home to Germany. Estelle was even having a hard time finding motivation to study. Her year in America wasn’t going to count anyway and she was going to have to repeat the year when she went back home to France. She really wanted to be here for the social aspect. But track was cancelled, along with prom, our spring break trip, and everything else she was looking forward to. I couldn’t be too hard on the kids for being depressed that COVID shut their lives down.

I pretty much let Estelle and Arabella manage their own online homework assignments. I mean, they were honor roll high school students. They were competent and capable of managing their own schedules, or so I thought. Plus, math..

We got a call from the school a few weeks before school was scheduled to end. They told us that Arabella did not do any assignments for a 3 week period and she might fail several classes. As you can imagine this was very upsetting to us. This put her on a tight timeline to finish her classes. Paul helped Arabella put a schedule together and they sat in his office together while Arabella tried to catch up. It was a very stressful time and it created a lot of conflict.

We still had a hard time waking Arabella up for class. She was so far behind and said she couldn’t focus to get stuff done. She was in so deep we didn’t think she could dig herself out. One day Paul lost it. After another day of arguing about having to do homework, Paul lost his temper and kicked Arabella out of the house. Arabella asked if she could stay by her friend Jordan’s for a few days. She promised she would work on her assignments there. I told her she could stay there for a few days until she and her dad cooled off with their arguing. What we were doing here wasn’t working anyway.

I was desperate. No one could tell me how to motivate a previous honor roll student who was struggling with depression through a pandemic get her homework done when all she wanted to do was sleep. Maybe a few days away would be a good idea. Jordan’s mom said it was okay. So I packed up my car with a couple days worth of clothes and all of her homework to drop her off a few days. I told her if she didn’t do her homework, I would pick her back up again. We would be monitoring her progress online.

Somehow she was able to pass all but one class her junior year. Creative writing, that is the class she didn’t pass. It kills me. Oh, the many of things she could’ve wrote about.

Gratitude week 64

I have to admit I am feeling rather crabby today…so. I just feel bored, restless, and like my life lacks purpose. Maybe it’s an empty nest thing. I don’t know. I went from spending the last year trying to keep my daughter alive to her going into a residential care facility. I hate to say this, but maybe my purpose was keeping her alive and now I don’t have that purpose anymore. Not only that, but family therapy seems like kind of a waste at this point. It sure would’ve been helpful 10 to 15 years ago. But now with my baby turning 18 in less than 2 months, it seems a little late.

So anyway, here is my list for this week:

  1. Spring!
  2. 1,000 followers!
  3. I think my son broke his little toe this week. He could barely walk, but is starting to feel better.
  4. My mom took my brother Matt to the ER today as she thought he might have scabies again. Thankfully it’s not that and doesn’t appear to be anything serious, although his rash is really bad.
  5. Stimulus checks.
  6. Our refrigerator bit the dust. Unfortunately the first place we went had the fridge we wanted on back order due to COVID with no arrival date in sight. This shouldn’t be news to me, but apparently COVID also caused a refrigerator shortage. Thankfully we were able to find a new refrigerator at another store, but it will take almost a month until we get it. I’m grateful in the meantime that we have a chest freezer and a drink cooler we can put food in. So we didn’t have to throw anything away.
  7. I was finally able to get in to see my therapist this week.
  8. Paul took me out to eat at our favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate 1,000 followers.
  9. My best friend and I went out for corned beef and cabbage yesterday. I’m grateful since I didn’t think I would get any since I didn’t go out for St. Patrick’s day.
  10. Today my mom, Matt, and I went for a walk and yesterday Paul and I took our dog for a walk. It’s nice to be able to start getting outside more. We did get some snow this past week but it’s pretty much all gone now.
  11. I’m grateful that Paul assembled a chair for us to sit in on the front porch. Then we can watch other people who have a life come and go. Okay, I’m busy but am starting to feel this empty nest thing.