Heartache and heartbreak

Parenting has not been anything like I thought it would be. I hear comments from parents about it being the greatest joy in their lives, the best thing they’ve ever done, or the purpose for their very existence – and I want to scream. It has not been the case for me, not even close. Parenting C – through no fault of his own – has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. I recognize how awful that sounds as well as the ramifications for saying it. I wrote this long before posting it; letting it simmer in its sadness and reality long before I decided to share it.

I do remember having a sense of joy in parenting when C was little, despite the complications and before most of his anger and venom had a target. I wonder, had that anger been turned toward the world and not me and sometimes Husband, if I would have had a different outcome than I am experiencing now. I’d like to think so.

But the reality is that it didn’t. We are where we are.

We have landed right back where we started, and far more quickly than I thought we would. A mere two months after C returned home, he is now back in an acute care psychiatric hospital. His behaviors have been escalating, culminating in my calling the police yesterday morning. They called in their psych team that rides with the force, and they elected to put him on a 72-hour hold.

I think both Hubs and I are pretty numb at this point. We have realized we need to find C alternative housing, as we have to be absolutely *perfect* in order to manage C’s behavior, and even when we are, it’s no guarantee. It is no way to live. We’ve been told that if C isn’t in the home, he is very unlikely to finish high school, which is part of why we hoped we could keep him at home for the next year and a half. But the cost is simply too high.

In the biggest act of radical acceptance I can muster, I recognize that this is the way it is, and it is unlikely to change. C is who he is. I hope that he will grow up and grow out of his current mindset, but he may not. My hope is that if we can find him some placement, he will settle in and blossom much like he did while in residential treatment. Given that his issues exist mostly in our home, I find this hope possible despite my nervousness about the unknown in his future.

So where do *I* go from here? If that isn’t the question of my life, I don’t know what is. I recognize that while I have come very far, parenting C is likely always going to overwhelm me in ways I am unable to overcome. I will continue to hope that we can help C become independent and that he’ll live a life that is meaningful to him, whatever that looks like. While I want that for him, I also know that it is what I need in order to have the same for myself.

 

 

 

 

May 25, 2019 at 10:45 pm 2 comments

The Other Mother

I am reposting my favorite post ever. It’s called “The Other Mother,” and it still makes me cry when I read it. Those feelings are always there, and always raw.

She watches mothers, constantly, and is fascinated by their sheer volume. She wonders if she will ever take up that much space again? She feels smaller than she used to, less a presence in the outside world, but more a presence in her own home. She feels dependent; on schedules, routines, the refrigerator, her child’s mood. She feels depended on for sheer life. She wonders what would happen if she were no longer here, and she worries about it. She knows kids can survive without mothers, but what about these kids? What about her kid? She wants to download all the information about her child from her brain to something else – just in case.

She watches mothers, on the playground, at the grocery store, and at school, wondering if they are even aware of mothers like her. What must their lives be like? She pictures their households, and pictures an easy life. Not easy as in simple, but easy as in normal. Are those mothers blissfully unaware of mothers like her? She reminds herself not to judge her insides by someone else’s outsides (she read that somewhere), but she can’t help but wonder what that normalcy must be like. Not normal in terms of her child being not normal, but normal in terms of just being a typical, average family. She gets lost sometimes in the added layers of complication of their lives; the trying to find the after-school activity that promises the largest chance of success for her child, the hope of her child finding a playmate that might become a real friend.

She watches mothers, and she reminds herself she wouldn’t change one thing about her child (he is perfect) save the chance to make things easier for him. It’s not that she doesn’t want him to learn the tough lessons, but rather that she wishes he didn’t have to learn so many of them. Where’s the equity? Why do these kids, already challenged, have to be challenged so much more? That’s what makes her cry.

She watches mothers, with a feeling she can’t quite describe building in her heart. It’s not envy, judgment, anger, self-pity or sadness. It’s distance. She feels on the fringe. She imagines that’s how her child feels most of the time, and that disturbs her most of all.

May 12, 2019 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

The Calm After the Storm

So things have settled down a bit. C is doing pretty well even though his room looks like a toxic waste dump. I just try not to look in there very often. It seems to work fairly well.

I admit, I’ve kind of given up and let go to some extent. I still make him come back downstairs and clean up the mess he leaves in the kitchen, but unless I remind him of each step multiple times, about 75% of them don’t happen. He still wants to spend his entire paycheck on Pokemon related things five minutes after said paycheck hits his bank account. I’m not sure what else we can do at this point to turn him into a fiscally responsible adult beyond our requirement that he save 50% of his money in an untouchable account. He still binges way too late at night, which is not good for his war-torn belly, but it seems to irritate me more that he’s so obliviously loud when doing so than the fact that he’s eating at 11 p.m. Yet I continue to have concerns about his health.

This is just who C is, and while I know this, I find it difficult to accept. What bugs me even more, however, is that our job as parents (in my opinion) is to prepare a child to be a functioning adult – have we done that? I’m not so sure, which is probably why I hang onto an urge to parent C. I find it a myth that parenting stops at 18 years old, but I also doubt the level of change *I* can bring about in C’s life at this point. I see stories about adult children living at home, needing their parents too much, and ultimately failing at many areas in their lives, and I make the mistake of reading the comments on those stories…bad move on my part. The little voice in my head starts asking what else I can do, what else I should do, what else I need to do.

Because ultimately, I want C to be independent (or I want him to be able to move out – it depends on the day how I word this goal). And not just independent, but safely, happily, and successfully so. Frankly, I’m not sure which of these, if any, can actually happen. And my mind goes back to him being my job and all the things he needs help with, and ugh, it’s a vicious cycle.

Then I remind myself I’ve done my best. I’ve done all the things. I’ve given it my 100% for C’s whole life. And I pat myself on the back a little bit and focus on the thing I can actually do, which is take care of myself and try to heal from the years and years of stress, drama, and pain. It is all I can really do, and probably the sooner I accept that little fact, the better off I’ll be.

May 1, 2019 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

Silence and Heartbreak

Many years ago, when C was in second grade, I experienced the single most traumatic event as his parent – even to this day. This is saying a lot, given his birth could not have been much more dramatic than it was, or all that’s occurred in the last several years. Even now, all these years later, I can still conjure up the pain of that day in vivid detail. It taught me a valuable lesson, however, about silence, trauma, and what it really means to be a Mama Bear. Moreover, when looking back on it, I am reminded that despite all of the frustration I have felt over the years at being the person who gives C the most while being the biggest recipient of his anger and despair, I would do anything for this kid. I might screw it up completely, but I’ll go to the ends of the earth to help him. If that isn’t being a Mother, I don’t know what is.

You can read about that day here. Be warned, it is a bit longer than usual, and perhaps a bit more painful. But silent? Never again.

April 24, 2019 at 12:06 am 1 comment

Mrs. Fix-it

I am undoubtedly harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I am a fixer, and recognizing that I probably can’t fix the situation we’re in with C brings me a lot of discomfort. In my mind, there is some flaw I could have repaired along the way that would have ensured a different outcome than this.

“This,” is a simple word that involves a complex set of issues and solutions. My tolerance level for all things C, surprisingly to me, is very low. I thought I would have recharged while he was gone, but instead I grew used to not living on edge, not feeling like drama was around every corner, and not feeling tense at any given moment. So happy was I, enjoying my own life for the first time in too long to remember, that any threat to that enjoyment brings me down further and faster than I would like.

What Therapist NC told me today is that I need to accept it. All of it. Accept that C is a challenge and always will be. Accept that I’m frazzled and fried and maybe am not capable of having a good relationship with C. Accept that I can’t fix everything. Accept, accept, accept. But don’t go so far into acceptance that it crosses the line into giving up and giving in.

Just where is that line? I admit I don’t really know. I have been badgered by the reality of life with C for so long that while part of me understands I suffer from compassion fatigue, the other part still thinks I can fix (or could have fixed) all of it. On one hand, I moved mountains for this kid, I know I did. I did everything humanly possible to prepare him for this life of his. I did all the things, I know that. On the surface, I can look at it all and know. But what I wonder, deep down, is if in doing all the things, I somehow lost sight of just being C’s Mom, and if that somehow had some effect on where we are now.

And there it is, that self doubt at which I am exceptionally skilled. NC says parents of kids in residential treatment think their kid will either come home totally changed or that their kid is incapable of change. I don’t believe I fall into either camp, really, because I still maintain that I’m the one I expected to change. Whether I changed too much or not at all, I’m not sure, but I know I’m the one I’m most frustrated with. One way or another, I think I expected too much, and mostly of myself.

Today NC middle-named me. Yes, he *actually* middle named me. Right before he told me I am good enough, I have done enough. In perhaps the most therapy-ish moment I’ve ever had with him, he said these words to me. And then he repeated them. And then again. I suppose I needed to hear them. The trick now is to believe them, even way deep down.

April 15, 2019 at 11:29 pm 2 comments

50 for 50

I have never been big on birthdays. Until this one. Tomorrow I will be 50, which feels like a massive milestone. From surviving cancer, to surviving parenthood, I feel like celebrating this as the big deal that it is.

A party is not for me, so I decided to make a list of 50 things I want to do in my 50th year. There’s nothing really huge on there – no Icelandic vacation or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail despite both being things I’d like to do – as ultimately I wanted to make the list achievable in this year.

Surprisingly, I have found the list somewhat difficult to make – figuring out 50 small but important things has not been an easy task. I’ve only come up with 29 thus far, but I keep adding things here and there. Re-learning Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor, something I could play when I was 17, is on there. Getting tattoo number four. Mastering a couple of yoga poses that have proved difficult after removing my tumor and lymph nodes also removed my ability to do a lot of things with my arm.

So far? I’ve crossed off four things on the list. Finishing the painting I talked about here a couple of weeks ago, making writing a habit again, playing piano again on a regular basis, and buying a pair of mermaid-scale printed boots have all been completed (I work with kids in the environmental education field…between those boots and the pink streak in my hair, I am *in* with the 5th graders).

Not on the list? Anything having to do with C. Nothing really having to do with Husband (except hopefully he’ll want to do some of those outdoor activities on the list with me). This list is all about me. Having put myself last on the list – or even taking myself off it altogether – for so long, I’m truly learning self-care for maybe the first time in my adult life. Taking up things I love once again – writing, yoga, piano – is an important part of reclaiming my own identity after kind of forgetting my own self for so long. It sounds like the ultimate of cliches, but I truly got lost in the job of making sure the person I brought into the world could survive in it.

Now the focus turns back on me. It is the key to my own survival, if I’m honest. So off I go to tackle number 17 on the list. Wish me well.

April 7, 2019 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Tears and Fears

Things have not been All Quiet on the Western Front, truth be told. The adjustment to having C home has been difficult to say the least, and his ability to slip back into old habits has proved exceptional. This I did not really expect.

Adding to the challenge has been my realization that the person I really hoped would change in the last seven months was me. I guess I thought C’s arrival home would bring with it a completely clean slate. Instead of feeling like I’m living with the dog that’s been biting me for years, I hoped the walls were gone and I wouldn’t have to protect myself.

It has not been so.

I have had a harder time with C being home than anyone else in the house, C included. For so long, I sacrificed so much that I often feel I have nothing left to give. The well feels dry. And that results in more detachment than I think is good for a parent-child relationship. Couple that with the sense that I have to guard myself with C in order to survive emotionally, and I’m left with something that feels less than good. There’s no fun there, no joy, no playfulness.

But here’s the thing. After a horrible weekend of many tears and fantasies of escape on my part, I arrived at the difficult conclusion that maybe I just can’t co-exist with C. I went from a 10 on the happy scale to a 2 in the span of a week of him being home. It shocked me how quickly and dramatically that happened. Yes, it’s early days, but I feel like I perhaps don’t know how to be happy if C is in the house. And then the guilt piles on, because let’s face it, what mother feels this way? Apparently this one does, and that leaves me feeling like I’m circling the drain. It’s a vicious cycle.

After a weepy message that resulted in urging from Therapist NC, I dragged my sorry self into therapy yesterday and laid it all out. The pain, the guilt, the frustration. All the dark feelings that make me feel like a monster. It was perhaps the most honest, intense session I have had, and there have been some doozies in the time I’ve been working with him. I figured I had nothing left to lose.

I left there in zombie mode, and that lasted the rest of the day. I felt drained and empty, but surprisingly calm after days of turmoil. I went to bed and slept better than I’ve slept in a week. And what do you know? I woke up this morning feeling better. I wonder if just by talking it out, and almost getting “permission” from him to feel the way I feel, it took some of the power of those feelings away. It’s almost as if by admitting all the horrible things and not being immediately struck down by lightning, I realized that maybe I don’t quite feel the way I think I do.

And that gives me some hope. Some hope that perhaps just by giving voice to all of this I can perhaps move past it. I know my relationship with C will never be easy and straightforward, but maybe – just maybe – it can be better instead of worse or even non-existent. There is a glimmer of peace in my heart and head again, and I welcome it so.

April 4, 2019 at 1:39 am 2 comments

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