Monday, February 9, 2015

I know this...

This is what I know

I know that when you first discover your child has a mental illness, you immediately look back at your pregnancy and the child’s infancy to see what you could have done differently.

I know that when you discover the things you did that could/should have been done differently, you beat yourself up and walk around in a cloud of guilt.

I know that the more you study and research and learn about different things that COULD be wrong or are wrong, the more guilt you can inflict upon yourself for the myriad of things you just didn’t know or weren’t in a place to realize what you were doing at the time.

I know that eventually you have to cut yourself some slack…at least for that day.

I know that you make appointment after appointment after appointment trying to find the “magic” combination of meds, therapy, interventions…that will “cure” your child.

I know that when your child starts taking out his anger, frustration, and defiance on you, verbally, emotionally and physically, you take it and take it and take it, because you still think it’s your fault.

I know that the more you look and look and beg for help, the more you realize there aren’t many resources available and the advice you begin to get over and over is call the police, start a paper trail.

I know when you try to get advice from other well meaning parents, you hear, “be consistent”,  “I wouldn’t let my kid do that”, “he just needs more one on one time with you “, “I’d just do this, this and this…” And after you’ve tried ALL of these things and more, it still isn’t any better.

I know that the first time your son pushes you into a closet and won’t let you out and pulls you hair and threatens to hit you with his cast and you are TRULY scared for the first time, you still don’t want to call the police.

I know that the first time the police come to your house and talk to your son they say things to him like, “If you were my kid I wouldn’t let you talk to my wife that way.”  And he cries and promises to be “good” and says he’s sorry, you can’t bring yourself to actually have him go with the police.

I know that the psych evaluations they give in the emergency rooms are a joke and as you sit there crying, your son vacillates between telling you how sorry he is and how much he hates your guts and wishes you would die.

I know that having to go visit your child in the Psych  Center is  awful and heartbreaking, especially when he refuses to see you, and when he does see you, he’s so angry it washes off of him in waves.

I know that you start to walk around on eggshells because you just “don’t want to set him off” and your other children get angrier and angrier as they see their brother bully his way out of unpleasant tasks.

I know you secrete cortisol the entire time your pregnant because you are so worried about your older child and are in a continual cycle of abuse with him, so your unborn child marinates in stress hormones.

I know you become so angry you can’t look at your child, your spouse, or your other children without just wanting to either scream or cry.

I know that a baby born into a home with a mentally ill sibling will witnesses the abuse and rage and will become a toddler who can’t sleep, who can’t be away from me, who can’t tolerate any kind of change in routine, who cries often, who is easily angered, frustrated, scared or irritated, and who doesn't seem to learn as well as your other children.

I know that after many, many, many calls to the police, each one traumatic, several of them initiated by one of the siblings, because you are being hit, kicked, bit, spit on, and/or tackled, your child finally goes to live somewhere else for awhile.

I know that as the rest of the people in the house start to heal and begin to breathe normally, the guilt washes over you again because you can see the relief in your exhausted children’s eyes and are sure they can see the same relief in yours.

I know that even after your child is removed from the home several times and you know the drill, you still hope that THIS time is the time he’ll come back better able to manage himself.

I know that seeing and experiencing the old behaviors and attitudes start to surface again, this time with a bigger, angrier, stronger child, your heart breaks as you sigh your exhausted sigh and prepare to do battle for  the sake of your other children who shouldn’t have to live like this.

I know that PTSD counseling is expensive and painful and difficult to navigate when the trauma is still occurring.

I know that I will not give up on my son with mental illness, even when everyone else has, including him.

I know that this choice is exhausting and difficult.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Double Rainbow

We had a terrible hail storm the other night. You could see it coming, but when it hit, it hit hard and fast! There was a lot of destruction, with holes and dents left all over.  Many will be seeking professional help to repair the holes and dents, some they may not even know are there. Then it rained. It, too, was hard at first. Pouring down in sheets, then slowly, slowly lightening up, becoming a drizzle and then fading away. The sun broke out from behind the clouds, like a miracle, and there, right in front of our house was the most amazing double rainbow. Although there were leaves strewn from one end of town to the other, drifts of hail in driveways and gutters and a few small lakes where the water didn't drain well, everything smelled so fresh and looked so clean.

Mr. has brought in storms, ones we could see coming, but were still surprised at how hard and fast they hit and how destructive they were. We have had to repair many, many holes and dents, both physically in our home, but also mentally and emotionally in our psyches. We've had to seek the help of others to repair some of the damage to the smaller members of the family, where the damage wasn't as easy to see and get at.

The pouring rain felt like it would never end, drenching all of us and making it hard to slog through the mud. And when it started to lighten up, it took awhile to notice, because it happened so slowly.  But, the sun has started to peak and feels miraculous. So, here we are sweeping up the leaves, shoveling away the drifts and clearing the drains. But everything is looking and smelling so fresh and clean, and of course, there's a huge, beautiful double rainbow.

Thank you for all the prayers and words of encouragement you have blessed us with through this destructive storm season. I wanted to let you all know, the sun is shining at last.  And there just might be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Monday, February 24, 2014

6 weeks

6 weeks, that's how long Mr. has been home from the group home. 6 weeks of walking on eggshells, of wondering if the other shoe is going to drop, of hoping we're on the other side of this dark dark forest. 6 weeks of praising God for every minor conflict that doesn't turn major, and 6 weeks of looking forward to a brighter future in our house. 6 weeks of watching my childrens' relationships begin to repair and watching my younger ones not jump at every loud noise. I praise the Lord everyday for these pretty smooth 6 weeks and try to give myself a break from my constant vigilance...that's when it happens...just when I start to forget how bad it really was. A small disciplinary action for something he knew was coming and a TON of snow that needs to be moved and


The yelling, the nastiness, the just below the surface anger, the curse words, the disrespect, the oppositional defiant attitude ~ all of it, back, and with flying colors.

I wasn't prepared, I wasn't on guard, I just wasn't ready ~ and 6 weeks are down the toilet. Me not reacting in the calm, non-emotional way that seems to work with him and him, going from 0 to 60 in thirty seconds. The feeling that he actually feels relief to "not be trying" anymore and the look in his eyes that says he's enjoying this...

Was I really so naive to think this was never going to happen again? Did I really think he was "cured" when in all actuality, he's been in "remission".  I think I'm more upset with myself than him. He's just doing what he knows how to do, even though he has several new therapeutic tools under his belt, when push comes to shove (literally) we go back to what we know.  I, on the other hand, should have known this was coming, should have been reading the signs, should have been able to react better and protect my littles better. But, I let my guard down, I let myself believe...

I went to a pressure point massage therapist this week hoping for some sinus relief, and he pushed on a spot on the side of my knee that about made me jump off the table, it hurt so bad! He said, "Ah! you're tired. You need rest." I almost laughed, because I really felt like I WAS pretty rested. And if it hurts that bad now, after 6 months of Mr. being gone and 6 weeks of relative peace, what would that spot have felt like before?

Can I go back to that level of vigilance, to that level of "being on guard"? Do I have a choice?

No, I don't believe I do. I will do what needs to be done to protect my littles and also to start rebuilding, yet again, the relationship with Mr. To hope that the next time it will be 7 weeks or 12 weeks before my carefully constructed house of cards comes crashing down once again. To pray that the end of the dark forest is coming and the sun WILL eventually shine...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The 4th of July and Freedom

I sent my son to live in a group home yesterday. Actually, I didn't do it, the decision out of my hands. 3 assault charges in a year means a judge is making the decisions now.  He wasn't even able to make it a week into the summer before the anger and anxiety became too much and he assaulted me again. His younger siblings watched, crying and screaming in terror, and my 12 year old daughter had to call the police in order to protect her mom, again. Mr. Man  spent 22 days in jail, 7 days in a "half-way" house so they could open a Medicaid account for him, and he is now living in a house with 4 other boys and 2 girls, as well as, 2-3 staff, 24 hours a day. And all he's worried about is if he will get to go out for his birthday.

They open Medicaid because it's $244 a day for him to live in this house, that's $43,920 for the 6 months he has been initially placed. We will be financially responsible for a portion of the cost, which they figure out through a formula according to the paperwork we are going to have to fill out. $43,920 and no guarantee that he will see this as anything more than another way we have "ruined his life" and cause him to hate us more. 

My in-laws are visiting from PA and we were able to get them in to see him the night before he went to court. They cried and said how gorgeous he is (and he is a good looking kid!) and wondered just HOW this happens. I have wondered the same thing, over and over. I begged for help for years, but it took 3 assaults to get it and still it may or may not be enough.

I have all 3 of my younger children in counseling...yep, the 2 year old too. One of the things that can cause PTSD in toddlers is when they watch their primary care-giver being harmed. We are considering sending my 12 year old to a different middle school, just so she doesn't have to feel like she has to follow behind her brother and his reputation. My 8 year old can't bear to have me out of his sight. He knows what time I get off of work and is calling within 10 minutes to see where I am and when I will be home. My oldest son and I were goofing around and fighting over a Peanut Butter Oreo (YUM, by the way!) and he fell on top of me. Even though we were laughing and goofing around, my 2 year old went into hysterics, crying and screaming. She was barely consolable. My sweet baby can't even watch us play without reliving her trauma.

Why does our system have to run so backward? Why do we have to be so damaged before we can get the help we need? And why do I feel guilty that I am looking forward to time at the cabin this 4th of July weekend and the freedom I feel because I know there won't be any physical assaults or fights or power struggles? How do I explain to my children, who are incredibly angry with their brother, that although I am angry too, he is still my son and I love him with everything in me? How do I convince my husband, who hasn't spoken to his son since that night, to participate in his son's "rehabilitation"? 

The intake worker for the group home commented that their goal will be to help me step out of a "treatment minded" role with my son and into a parental role. How do I do that when it seems to all be tied together? All of my training and education makes me "treatment minded", so I think it's how I parent...who knows. Just another detour down this long and winding road. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A big pile of "should"

I "should" have all my laundry caught up after a 3 day weekend, and I "should" have a clean kitchen, having solved the mystery of  the "weird" refrigerator smell, and I "should" be have gotten my oil changed and my tires rotated (I'm only 2000 miles past due) ~ but alas, I did not do any of these things.

Instead I spent time having breakfast with a dear friend, celebrating my oldest son's graduation, having a bar-b-q with my parents, my grandparents and my brother's family, catching up with a friend who made the 4 hour drive to see my son graduate, and sleeping...lots and lots of sleeping.

I "should" be thrilled to have been offered a full time position in the school where I have been working, and truly, I am thrilled, but there's a big part of me that is worrying already about all the "shoulds" that are to come next year.

Why is it that I can have all these grand plans, plans to paint the house and plans to clean out all the excess crap (which we do have alot of) and plans to get out exercise 3 days a week and in the end all I want to do is sleep? Am I depressed? Anxious? Avoiding things? I think the answer to all of these questions is a resounding yes!

I am depressed, because no matter how many inspirational quotes I read, or how many other people I talk to, I still think I "should" be a super-woman. I "should" be able to work full time, deal with my mentally ill child, along with my other 4 children and the man-child I am married to and still have time and energy and the "want" to deal with the laundry and the kitchen and the tires. Even I am writing this, I am internally guilting myself about not being "super"!

I am anxious because in 3 days it is going to be summer, and summer for my child with mental illness is a huge challenge. And he is that much bigger and stronger and more defiant and angrier than he was last summer and as much as he hates school, the unstructured time of summer is way too much for him. Along with the fact that he will most likely make choices that incur consequences that will make his world shrink even smaller. I am anxious that even with my  plans to paint and clean and exercise, the best I will manage is to drag a comb through my hair and feed my children something unhealthy before we head to the pool, where I will read and play with my baby.

I am avoiding things because they are hard and uncomfortable and are going to lead to big changes in the near future, and although I just read a quote saying "I can do hard things", I don't truly believe that I can.

Maybe the key to avoiding a big stinking pile of "should", is saying I WILL get this one thing accomplished today, and leave the 1001 things I should have done alone. And being ok with the days where all I WILL get done is dragging a comb through my hair and making sure my kids have enough sunscreen on. I think that is the key...maybe I "should" go get a duplicate key made for those days when I lose this original  and am floundering in a pile of "shoulds".

I definitely don't have an answer, or even a question really, just some thoughts. And a long summer stretched out in front of me...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Knock on wood

I look back at my last post and am amazed that it's only been 6 months. It should be longer, when your life gets turned half way around, time should speed up to match your emotions. I have learned in the last 6 months that I am an abused woman, I think, act, and react to situations like a woman who has been abused for years, and in a way, I guess I have.

It starts out in little ways, you know. A suggestion here, a request there, a look on a face, a tone of voice, and all in the name of keeping the peace you find yourself letting go of ideas and beliefs that  you KNOW are right. A comment that is said as a "joke", but is really a veiled put down.  An attitude that says, "if you'd just do it right, everything would be ok.", and you NEVER seem to get it right.  It's weird, how words and actions can make you feel beat up and beat down. The saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" is an utter lie. Words hurt. They cut and pummel and break and shape you into a person you hardly recognize as who you once were.

And then, then you have a son who sees and hears the comments and reads the looks and his mentally ill mind interprets it just a touch different. Where he hears a joke that seems to demoralize women, he takes it as permission to totally disregard women and see them only as a means to an end. Where he sees a mother bend and negotiate with his father, he interprets that women don't deserve respect and can be pushed into your will. And he grows, until the day he is bigger than his mom and stronger, and that's when you go from being emotionally abused and mentally degraded to actual, physical abuse.

I found myself second guessing all of my choices, because I knew which ones would end up in a physical confrontation. And then it was that everything became a physical confrontation. I was wrestled to the ground with my arm behind my back, kicked in the ribs, spit on in the face, bit and verbally abused for taking my son's phone away. He did all of this in front of his 3 younger siblings. My husband never seemed to believe the lengths to which our son would go, the abuse and physical threats that were a daily occurrence in the house. Just another small abuse, to not be believed and to be told I was over exaggerating what was going on. However, this night, hubby called and heard what was going on as my daughter was on the house phone with 911 and my youngest son begged his brother to leave his mom alone and my baby screamed because she was so scared.

My son went to jail that night, in October, and he did not return home until January 11. Alot of work has gone on between my husband and I, the entire inner workings of our marriage and the way we communicate with and to each other and to our kids has had to change. My son has promised me that he made a promise to himself that he would never let himself "go there" again. So far, so good...knock on wood.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sunny side down...

I had to press assault charges against my son this week. I had to call the police, tell them I was afraid of my son and have him arrested. Is that 100% accurate? No, I am still bigger than he is and can take him if I needed too, but the fact is, he took it to the next level. He pulled my hair, pushed me against a wall, threw things at me, and threatened to hit me. Knowing that if I let it slide this time, next time would be that much worse, I sent my own child to jail. Hoping against hope that THIS is what it's going to take to get him to "see the light". Praying, praying, praying...

I wish I could say I was in as positive a spot as the last time I posted. I am not. I am tired, worn out and just plain pissed off. Mental illness just sucks. I don't want to offend or take anything away from a parent who's child it physically handicapped or who has a chronic illness, because those things come with their own sets of difficulties, prejudices and pain. But, at some level, I think at least people can see the issue. They may be unkind, but it can be chalked up to insensitivity, stupidity, or not enough education. With a mental illness, you have a person who looks normal, talks normal, walks around interacting normally, and then WHAM, not so normal. I have been told, by people who love my son and me, good caring people, who do not have a clue , that if I just loved on my son a little more, paid him more one on one attention, got him more involved in things,  "focused on the positive", got him "the help that he needs", or was stricter with him; that this would all go away. Like his mental illness is  my fault, that I did not parent this child correctly. That I picked favorites and he is not it. Bullshit.

My neighbor and his son watched my boy being taken away by the cops this week, now the neighbor kids is telling my daughter that my son is a "piece of shit". No knowledge of what happened or anything, just judgement for having to be lead away in handcuffs.

We're that house. The house with all the yelling and door slamming and cops outside...Not the white picket fence I dreamed of, that's for sure. I wanted to be the house that all the kids came too, where everyone liked to hang out and everyone called me "mom". But, we can't because we have a secret, we have a person living in our house that may blow at anytime, for any reason, damn the consequences. So, instead of being the FUN HOUSE (!) that everyone wants to come to, we're the FUN HOUSE like you see at carnivals, where something could jump out at you from around any corner.

If any of my other kids want to have a friend over, it's never a spur of the moment thing. We have to plan it out, have a Plan B in place, and then make sure Mr. has somewhere else he can be. We can't let him have friends spend the night because when he gets up in the morning, and he's embarrassed about taking his meds, so he waits and "forgets" to take them, or I take them too him and we have a whispered (supposedly) fight about how he doesn't need them, he cannot hold himself together and it's a huge uncomfortable mess. The kid leaves kind of wide eyed and wary, and they never stay again.

Last year, my in laws came to visit. I was getting ready to have the baby and they came out to help and spend some time with us and the kids. We had been telling them about what was going on, trying to give them a head's up, I guess. They were on the "well if you'd just spend more time, money, attention, on him he'd be fine" team. And for the first week of their visit, he was fine. But then he got tired of his routine being messed up and anxious because we had extra people in the house and a new baby, so he started acting out. Typical stuff for him, yelling, threatening, slamming doors, stealing, running off, arguing, calling names, bullying the younger kids, etc. My poor MIL was devastated. She and my FIL would try to get into the middle of things between my son and I, to help. Yeah, that went well. Or tell me to just wait until D got home from work and let him handle it, Ha!  Those poor people walked around for the last half of their visited looking shell shocked and walking on eggshells. My MIL even said she "pitied" me. Bless them, we love them and they are very good to our kids and us, but they just had no idea. And the level of tension in the house for the time they were here was palpable.

I'm not sure what we'll do when they come back, in all honesty, Mr. will probably go stay with my parents so his routine won't be as interrupted. Even as I write this, I think, "that's ridiculous!", we all have to deal with our routines being messed up and being inconvenienced some times, that 's life. But, the reality is, if we want to have a peaceful, enjoyable time, Mr. needs a place to go every night and wake up every morning without all the "extra" people and stuff going on.

My marriage isn't even a marriage right now. We are like a triage team at a hospital, just trying to patch up the bleeding and keep everyone moving. We have differing viewpoints and background experience and knowledge  with mental illness, so we are definitely coming at it from different angles. Actually, we just don't talk about it. My husband cringes every time I call him at work, sure it's me about to tell him another "something" has happened. So, we just don't talk. He wants the counselor to just get it through Mr.'s head what needs to be done and how he needs to act. I keep saying that Mr. has all the information, he just chooses not to use it at crucial moments when he should. D goes to work every day and works hard and grinds it out, I stay home and get called a F-ing B and have doors slammed in my face; knowing that the smallest request is going to be a negotiation proportionate to the Treaty of Versailles. So, D and I are not talking, we are existing, for the time being.

Today, my trying to "look on the bright side" and "get my Zen on", is not going so well. I am trying to love my child the way he needs and will accept, all the while being told that he doesn't love me, he doesn't want to live here, he hates me, Satan would be a better parent, and that I am a stupid F-ing B who should die and go to hell because everyone would be happier. And this little "pep" talk gets played on  a daily repeating loop. So, today, I am tired, frustrated and pissed off. Maybe tomorrow will be better...