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Memories

My story is coming to an end.  There will be no long breaks and I will finish it soon.  I thank you for hanging with me if you are still reading.

When I left off, I had described transferring to a new school and looking ahead towards new goals.  I enjoyed my time at John Glenn, but when I started school back in September something changed.  I missed my “small” Catholic school even though I felt like I hadn’t quite fit in.  My classes at John Glenn were a pretty decent size and for some reason I thought about graduating with 400 people and it didn’t appeal to me.  I did miss Ladywood and I did miss the relationships I had.  So yes, I transferred back.

But my senior year was different.  I came out of my shell more and was less hesitant to push people away.  I wasn’t the me I am today, but it was more like me.  I felt, for the most part, okay.  I was learning to deal with things differently.  Well, mostly.  Yes, food was still my comfort after dealing with stressful situations.

That year was also hard on my mother.  Her mother had been ill for quite some time.  I grew up living next door to my dad’s mom, so yes I was closer to her.  I remember my mom’s mom and have good memories of her, but I really wish I knew her better and we were closer.  She was close to my mom and she did not live far away at all.  She would visit us and we would visit her.  I have memories, somewhat cloudy, but memories of my mom taking turns with her sisters to stay with my grandma.  I have no doubt she was still self-medicating herself at that point in time, but she was able to help take care of her.

I feel so guilt ridden that I cannot remember the timeline.  I cannot remember how long my grandmother was sick for. I remember when she did pass we were all at the hospital together, being there all night as a family together.  I remember feeling bad that I wish I had known her better.

If there was something to just push my mom even further into a depression it was the loss of her mother.

The loss of a mother…I cannot put that pain into words.  I know this, of course, because I have lost my mother.

Now, I have to point out that I had 27 ½ years with my mother.  Good times.  Bad times. Traumatic times. Wonderful times.  I was lucky I had that long with her, despite all of the issues and problems.

But the loss of a mother.  I have said these actual words to friends before: “It just plain sucks.”

And it just plain sucks.  There are moments in your life, when you only want YOUR mother.  There are moments in life when you want to just call YOUR mother.  There are moments in life when you want to YELL at YOUR mother.

But she isn’t there.

At eighteen years old, I knew my mom losing her mom was hard.  I did not realize how hard it was until I lost my own.  For a person who was already in such a deep depression…who had already experienced so much loss and pain, I think it was simply too much for her at times.

My senior year of high school 1996 and beyond…there are so many memories.  So many “incidents”. So many hospital visits.  So much I simply don’t remember.

One memory in particular, an overdose, which it usually was, led us to U of M.  She had overdosed.  On what, I cannot remember.  I remember anger, from her and lots of it.  Anger that she was being taken to the hospital. Anger that she was being questioned about her mental health.  Anger that she was being asked if she had tried to commit suicide.

I remember approaching her to talking to her while she was in one of the emergency beds.  She had charcoal on her face and she was just SO angry.  The look that she gave me when I walked up, I will never forget it.  I always told her the same thing—that I loved her and I was sorry and we didn’t want to lose her.  But wherever she was at that point in time, it wasn’t my mom.

This particular visit had resulted in a discussion with the doctors about possibly committing her.  Did we think that she was a threat to herself?  Yes, we did, of course we did.  She was a harm to herself.  My dad didn’t want to lose her and my brother and I did not want to lose her.  I was eighteen at the time.  Yes, I was legally an adult.  I was mature in more ways than I wanted to be and I only wanted to get her REAL help.  I signed emergency commitment papers with the thought that she would be treated at U of M.

She was not.

She was transferred to a facility that to my knowledge, is no longer in use.  I will not mention the name, but if I gave the location many people would know where it was.  I was upset because I did not feel that my dad or I had been properly told about her being transferred because at the time they did not have a full capacity psychiatric unit.  She was transferred all alone.  I cannot imagine that ride.  And I cannot imagine what she thought when they brought her in.

I came to visit her and she would not look at me. She would barely speak to me. The people surrounding us were not like my mom.  Not really.  They had deeper and bigger issues going on.  She did not belong there and as soon as I set foot in there I knew that.  But couldn’t she see, I only wanted to help her?  I only wanted to save her.  I didn’t want her to die.  But she didn’t belong there.

Did I mention this was days before my graduation party from high school?

All I can remember then, was a race against time to try and undo what I had done, with the promise that she would get real help.  I remember phone calls and begging, and meetings.  But I cannot tell you everything in detail.  I can tell you that my party was on a Saturday and my mom came home on a Friday.  The party didn’t matter, of course not.  But it all blends together for me.

What do you do, when a loved one is trying to hurt themselves?  What do you do?  While I felt that I had no choice at the time, I regretted doing it.  It may have been the thing that saved her that night, but for so long my mother looked at me with anger.  I know she realized at one point I was only trying to help her.  But despite everything my mom and I had gone through, I hated when she was angry with me.

There are so many memories.  So many hospital visits that I can remember as clear as day.  But I know there are so many that I have blocked out.  Do you tempt recovering these memories?  Or do you leave them be?  I have sat here, trying to remember certain things, forcing my brain in any way I can…and then I think, some things are really just meant to be left alone.

Do I need more memories of my mother wanting to hurt herself?  Do I need another memory of her standing before me and my cousin with a gun to her head and me PLEADING with her not to pull the trigger?  Do I need another memory of finding her completely passed out wondering if she is dead or just drunk?  Do I need another memory of her having a seizure right in front of me because she took too many pills?

No, I do not.

What I need, I have.

Me, sneaking a peek at my mother’s journal on her bedside. She wrote about how much she loved me and my brother.

My mom comforting me.  About what I cannot remember. But my head is in her lap and she is rubbing my forehead.  I feel safe.

Her laugh.  A great laugh that came completely from within.  She could not fake a laugh.  If she was laughing, you knew you were getting the real deal.

Her telling me on my graduation day from college, how proud she was of me.  It was a major accomplishment for my family.  But she is frail at only 46 years old.  She looks aged and time has taken a toll on her body.  I have no idea that I will only have three years left with her.

Her wisdom at times most needed.  She was not perfect, but sometimes when I needed JUST the right advice, she was able to give it.

Her good memories, which far outweigh the bad ones.  Or I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

There are days, like today, that I would give anything to see my mom again.  To talk to her.  To just see her. But I know that will not happen.  So I write. I share. I open up and hope that my story can help someone.

Please, I am not trying to make a commercial out of this, but if you are struggling with depression or addiction there is HELP.  Trust me, people want to help you.  Seek it and find it.  Talk to your family.  Talk to your friends.  You are not alone, I promise you that.

My mom and grandma (her mom) on her wedding day.

My mom and grandma (her mom) on her wedding day.

wedding

Me, my mom, and grandma (dad’s mom) on my wedding day.

A ramble.

The comments and support I have had through sharing this is amazing.  So many of you have reached out to me to let me know that you appreciate my sharing.  Some of you have shared that you have gone through a similar experience, some of you have apologized for not seeing the signs, and some of you have just sent wonderful and heartfelt messages.  I truly appreciate them all.

Please, if you knew me back then, don’t apologize for not knowing.  I pushed most people away on purpose for that very reason—I didn’t want anyone to know.  Only certain members of our family even knew what a fraction was going on.  It was a very big secret for a very long time.  Could things have been done differently?  Of course.  But it isn’t anything to dwell on.  I’m not dwelling on this stuff now, just simply sharing.

The experience I described in my last blog was not successful (thank goodness) and I was left to wonder what to do.  I actually attempted to do something like that and I failed at it.  I remember falling asleep with a picture of my parents next to my head.  They were going through a very difficult time in their marriage, in addition to what my mom was struggling with.  I felt very much alone and withdrawn, and I felt there was no other answer.

I think back to that now, and I am unbelievably lucky that I survived that.  When I awoke, I remember seeing the picture of my mom and dad and for one minute believed that I had been successful at such a horrible thing.  But then the phone rang.  It was my mom calling to check up on me.  She had left for a few days (I can’t remember where she went) and she wanted to see how I was doing.  I remember crying with her on the phone, saying I missed her.  She promised me she was coming home soon (and she did).  I remember my dad being devastated with her being gone because even though it felt like they fought ALL THE TIME, he couldn’t stand to be without her.

I saw my dad in pain and heard my mom in pain and I it dawned on me how much more in pain they would have been had I been successful at such a thing.  Even though I felt low enough to attempt it, it resonated with me that I wasn’t successful.  I saw and felt their pain, and never once  attempted to do such a thing again.  It didn’t mean I had answers.  It meant at that point in time that was not my answer.  As low as I felt, and as distraught as I felt, I believed there was a reason I survived.  Even though I wasn’t sure what the reason was yet.

I am not a perfect person.  I am certainly not a perfect mother and I know I was not a perfect teenager.  Yes, I had to deal with a lot of issues going on at home.  But I am sure, on more than one occasion, my nasty side came out.  I know it did.  I remember having fights with my mom and dad.  My mom especially because a lot of moms and daughters fight during the teenage years.  But at one point, I took on the role as caregiver and our roles were reversed, for lack of a better word.  No matter how angry I got at my mother, I still felt empathy and sympathy.  I still wanted to fix it.  I think I accepted that this was my world and there was a reason I was put there.

I survived school, but did not thrive in it.  It wasn’t until my senior year (more on that later) that I came out of my shell somewhat.  I did what I had to do to get done.  I even attempted to ask for help from our guidance counselor, which I am sad to say, was not helpful at all.  Her solution was for me to go to my room and work on my homework when my parents were arguing or my mom acting strange.  That only solidified to me that no one could really help me.

When I would find the empty pill bottles of Xanax, Vicodin, and Esgic, I called each and every pharmacy and asked to speak to the pharmacist.  I told them that my mother had a drug addiction problem and begged them not to fill her refills anymore.  Some listened, I think…or I hoped.  But one pharmacist blatantly told me that she was going to get the prescriptions filled somewhere, so why not there?  I am still stunned by this comment today.

I called individual therapists and doctors in the yellow pages, begging for help.  They all told me the same thing—and they were correct.  That I could make any appointment for my mom, but that it had to be up to her to change herself, and if she was not ready, she would not change.

I cried at my mom’s bedside and begged her to change.  Begged her to stop.  BEGGED her to stop.  “Please mom, it doesn’t have to be this way.  I can help you. I can help you.  I can help you.”

I couldn’t help her.

A memory came to me, while writing this.  My biggest fear is that people will see my mother as a monster, which she was not; in any way, shape, or form.  She didn’t get the right help.  But my mom was not a monster.  She was loving, affectionate, and kind…until she lost her strength.  Her resolve.  Her will to live.

I was playing on the merry-go-round, I think in the fourth grade.  When I jumped off my knee hit it in just the right way and I sliced my knee straight open.  I had to have stiches put in and went to the doctor’s office, the one that she actually worked in.  She held me, the entire time, while the doctor put the stiches in.  She rubbed my forehead when they put the shot in and I cried in pain.  She comforted me.

Another memory flashes.  I had an asthma attack after or during a basketball game.  But she is there, calming me down, making me breathe, and talking me through it.

My senior prom night.  We joke around in the front yard and take pictures.  She tells me I am beautiful.

My wedding day flashes.  She tells me that she is so happy for me, and can’t wait for me to have babies.  I laugh with her and joke…”Mom, I’m only getting married.  No babies yet.”

My graduation from college.  The first one in my immediate family to finish a higher degree.  She is proud, but she is ill.  But she is still proud.

April 28th, 2005.  I am driving to the hospital and a feeling overwhelms me that I cannot and will not be able to ever describe in words to anyone.

She is gone.

March 2nd, 2007.  2:36 am in the morning.  My son is born, followed by my daughter in one minute. I think of my mom.  How I wish she were here to be in this moment.  To hold me and tell me how beautiful my babies are.  To hold both of my babies, but especially my baby girl, whose middle name is after her, and tell her that life will be different.

It will be.

Christmas morning, 1980 something.

Christmas morning, 1980 something.

Family pic, 1980 something.

Family pic, 1980 something.

 

My babies.

My babies.

Ripping off the band-Aid

I have been writing this entry in my head for days, or trying to write it as I still am unsure where to begin.  To be honest, I thought about chickening out because that is how difficult it is for me to talk about.  But I am no chicken and though this is hard, I still feel that it needs to be done.

What I share will mean different things to different people and I cannot control what people will think once they hear more  of my story.  If I can ask one thing—I ask you to not feel sorry for me.

My mom was a wonderful and loving mother.  She had often told me stories that growing up, her own mother ended up divorced and single, having to raise four children on her own.  While her mother was able to provide for them financially, she wasn’t an overly emotional or affectionate mom.  My mom never spoke badly about my grandmother, and in fact, I believe they had a good relationship until my grandmother’s death.  But she missed the extra affection.

My mom wanted something different for me and my brother.  She told me time and time again that she always wanted to know that we were loved.  I have fond memories of my mom brushing my hair in front of our wood burning stove or rubbing my forehead to help me fall asleep.  I remember wonderful talks with her—talks when I felt I could tell her anything.  She succeeded in letting us know we were loved in many, many ways.

At one time, she was also involved in our extra-curricular activities.  She was the leader of my brothers Boy Scout troop and my Girl Scouts for a period of time.  She attended field trips and was our lunch mom.  By these accounts, she would seem like any normal mom.

I thank God for these normal memories—and these normal moments.  I use the word “normal” loosely because really, who is perfectly normal?  But without these moments of “normal”, I feel that my life would have turned out much differently.

I went to a Catholic elementary and high school.  From kindergarten to the eighth grade I pretty much grew up with the same people, give or take a few.  When I look back, I have fond and wonderful memories, especially of elementary school.  When I think back to this time, around sixth or seventh grade, is when the not so great memories start.

My first memory of something being amiss—and I didn’t realize it until later, was finding my mom in our laundry room—on the floor, in her bra and underwear, passed out.  I woke her up.  It was morning, time for school, and I think I had just wandered down to the laundry room to get something and I found my mom like that.  At the time, I remember thinking it was funny.  I was a child after all, and it wasn’t until later that I started to put things together.  I had no idea what drunk looked like at that age.

I would later learn (all through high school and beyond):

  • What drunk looked like
  • What “high” looked like
  • What Esgic was (prescription medication)
  • What Vicodin was
  • What a seizure looked like from an overdose of medication
  • What it looks like when someone gets their stomach pumped
  • What Xanax was
  • Where one would hide pints and fifths of vodka and whiskey
  • What several suicide attempts look like and how to stop them

I would also learn (as an adult, as her daughter, and as a mother myself)

  • My mother was in pain
  • She didn’t know how to get help
  • I didn’t know enough to get her the help she needed
  • She tried very hard, lots of times to get better
  • What years of abuse does to your body
  • Forgiveness
  • Acceptance

I hate to throw all this out there in bullet points because they are not bullet points.  They are significant parts of my life that have shaped the person I have become.  I wish I could forget some of them.  Truthfully, some memories are gone.  But some stand out as clear as day, as if they only happened yesterday.

I will stop for today and continue tomorrow.  Please, if you are reading this, be patient with me.  I am going to share the “why” of it.  Why my mother turned to this dark place in her life.  I find it near impossible to share all of it at once because there is simply SO MUCH.

Where have we been?

Yes, it has been some time since Jason or I last posted.  The tail end of the last summer was a crazy ride.  I wanted to update our readers that we ARE here and we ARE doing great, things have just been beyond hectic.  Some of these events include:

  • Us completing our second Warrior Dash
  • Rachel traveling to Arkansas to visit friends
  • While in Arkansas finding out that our daughter, Sabrina, required an emergency appendectomy
  • Jason flying to Arkansas for above surgery
  • Us traveling home as a family
  • Jason traveling for work
  • For the first time ever, Rachel traveling for work
  • Labor day mini trip

So, yes, it has been insane.

At the end of July we participated in our second Warrior Dash and had a BLAST!  We had several people come up to us and tell us they had watched and loved the episode.  It was great to really meet people and see what people thought of our episode.  The race itself was so much fun!  We are looking forward to planning better next year so we can have an even bigger group next year.  It is a such a fun race and a group of people makes it even more fun.  This year Jason and I ran it together.  This race was very different this year, as we weighed so much less than last.  The obstacles were easy and it was just more relaxed in general.  Plus it felt awesome to do the race because we wanted to, not because it was a challenge.  We plan on doing this every year!

warriordash

The day after the Warrior Dash I drove the kids to Arkansas to visit friends while Jason was traveling for work.  We lived in Bentonville, Arkansas for two years and we made some great friends while we were there.  It had been some time since we had been there, so I thought a trip would be fun.  It was, until two days in and Sabrina became ill.  At first, I thought it was just a stomach bug or food poisoning.  Anyone that is a parent knows that these things sometimes just happen.  But as Tuesday night wore on and into the late evening, she kept complaining of stomach pain.  She didn’t even want to roll over.  I had been getting a more “uneasy” feeling as the night wore on and I knew something was not right.  Since we used to live in Bentonville, I didn’t even call our old pediatrician, but just took her straight in first thing in the morning.  The doctor examined her and told me that he suspected appendicitis.  Though I’m not a doctor, when he told me, I had a strong feeling.  It was the same feeling that drove me to take her to the doctors that morning–something wasn’t right.  She was very sick and in so much pain.  It wasn’t like Sabrina at all.  Thank goodness we had good friends to lean on during this time.  We went straight to the hospital and after a CT it was confirmed that she had appendicitis and she would require surgery.

Though Sabrina is great now (and fully recovered), it was horrible to go through.  As a parent, when your child is in pain you simply want to relieve in.  In this circumstance, my worst fear (and only means of recovery) was surgery.  Though I knew it my head it was a routine procedure that is preformed around the clock at hospitals, this was my baby.  My SIX year old baby, who would have to go under anesthesia.  But, thankfully, everything turned out alright.  You could tell even the very next day that she was feeling better.  I am so very grateful that it was something that could be fixed.  And, if we weren’t home at least we were traveling to a place that had great friends and support.

hospital1

hospital

After that fun trip (ha ha), the kids and I were happy to be home and just “be” for a little bit.  However, Jason’s travel schedule has been somewhat insane.  I can’t even keep track of all the places he has been this summer, but some of them are Seattle, Nashville, Virginia, and Texas, just to name a few.  Then, just two weeks ago I headed back to Conway, Arkansas (flying this time) to go for training for my Rhea Lana’s event in October.  So that was a new and different experience for us, since this is really the first time I am heading back to work (other than photography) since the twins were born in 2007.  It was a bit of a switch for our schedule, but Jason is an awesome dad and stepped up to the challenge.

While I have loved staying home with Sam and Sabrina, it was really exciting to think about new challenges ahead and me going back to work.  You can read more about Rhea Lana’s here, but I am SO excited to be bringing this to Michigan.  I LOVE these sales–consigning my clothing, volunteering, shopping–and now, I get to bring one to Michigan and to all our Michigan moms and families.  I cannot wait because I just know moms will love it!

To wrap up our crazy summer we decided to take the kids to a mini vacation to a local water park.  It was nice to just get away, even for a day, with the kids before school started.  Sam and Sabrina had a great time, no one got sick, and we had some awesome family time.  It was also fun to remember not too long ago we would have avoided such a water park, or went there and wanted to hide because of our shape.  No more.  We can both climb the stairs AND go down the slide with no problem.  I know that these kind of memories cannot be replaced.  They will never remember mama and daddy sitting the fun stuff out.  Nope.  They will remember us playing, splashing, and sliding, right along with them.

water3water1water2

 

Jason also has been taking the kids to the track to run with them.  Sam, especially, LOVES to run.  I know most kids like to run, but he loves it.  And he is fast.  I’m not saying that because I’m his mom.  The boy is fast and loves to run.

samrun

 

One of Jason and the kids.  Just for fun. :)

football1

Sam and Sabrina head back to school tomorrow for first grade, so hopefully we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming!