19 days

“When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling” E. Kubler-Ross

 

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The wilderness: her temporary new home in Duschene, Utah.

It’s been 19 days since my daughter was taken away.

It’s been 28 days since I received the franctic call from her father telling me our kid was out of control and she needed to be taken away to a far off place as soon as possible.

On March 14th, 2017 the kid and I had one of the most un-nerving encounters we had had. I’ll explain later but this ended up in me calling her dad saying to him if he didn’t come get her, one of us would be gone in the morning (and by that I meant me). Her dad came upset I was messing up his night, after much arguing took the kid to his house and that was that. I was shaken to the core. That night I didn’t sleep. Or the night after that. I had failed. I had completely failed at parenting. I let a 17 year old do to me what I had been fighting for years not to let adults do to me.

Our family counselor (FC),  whom we had been seeing for almost four years on and off recommended that she stay with her dad for at least two months. Two months would be perfect to give us some breathing room and possibly ‘fix’ our relationship.  She quickly agreed that separation was paramount to rebuilding our relationship because of how the kid had become in the last year.

What ensued in the next couple of weeks were texts from my daughter asking me to kill myself, telling me what a disgrace I was, and those were the nice texts. A week of pure hell. Everytime my phone dingged I didn’t know what to do. When I saw her name I didn’t even want to read it. She was working hard on punishing me for ‘sending’ her to her dad’s house and boy was I paying the emotional price for it. I lived with an abusive set of parents and by this time I was feeling the same way I felt when I lived with them as a child.  I even told my daughter this. I was sick of being treated like someone’s punching bag and after having done so for a long time I was done being her punching bag.

Everyday I got calls or texts from her dad. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes he would call me a total of 15 times per day because he didn’t know what to do. Now I know, he never dealt with her so I know he needed a learning curve but holy baby Jesus, I didn’t expect it to be like it was.  The phone calls would go like this: “did you know…?!” (yes I knew, I’ve told you that she says/does that often, you just thought I was exaggerating). “How in the world does she think…!!!?” (yes I know, that’s how she’s been the last year or so. I’ve brought it up to you but you thought I was being overly dramatic). “WTF is wrong with the way she acts!!!????? (exactly! I’ve been telling you …well you know the drill).

March 27th was the day. The day that set the wheels in motion to change my life as I knew it.  The kid had confided in his girlfriend about everything that had been going on in her life for the last 12 months. Drugs, alcohol, breaking and entering just for shit and giggles, drag racing, you name it. Her dad called me franctic saying she needed to get out of here. She needed to go to a far away place, far from these kids, and reset her way of thinking. He put me to task and being the dutiful, task oriented person, I spent the next 96 hours doing just that.

I scoured the internet. Boarding schools? too late in the year.  Progressive schools? Would not take her in with alcohol or drugs in her system. Therapeutic boarding schools? She needed a psych evaluation and this would take time, plus I thought ‘my daughter is not nuts, she doesn’t need that at all!’ But time we didn’t have because what we had was a kid growing more and more frustrated with us and she was a ticking time bomb. I secured the services of an educational consultant and she quickly told me what to do. After an hour long conversation and quick background on my daughter she suggested wilderness therapy in one of three places. Thing is those three places were already on my list so it made the choosing that much easier. A few phone calls later, she was all set to go to Second Nature in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, UT.

From March 27th until April 5th, I cried everywhere and all the time. At the gym I would burst out crying on the treadmill. In the car. At the grocery store. At a restaurant. At the drive through. I cried everywhere and at the drop of a hat. I didn’t sleep. I had nightmares. I just couldn’t believe what was happening and what I had done to get us here.

And then it was just a matter of waiting for the day to come.

Peace & love

Weekly Call #2

“Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.” – Unknown

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Utah’s night sky in the middle of the wild.

This week we had our weekly call with the therapist. I still don’t quite know what to make of her.  She’s somewhat of an enigma to me.  Whenever she says something that comes close to a negative connotation about my daughter I want to reach out and shake her even though I agree with her- (but I mean this in the nicest possible way because I’m an adult who plays well with others and would never do this of course). It’s just heard to hear it straight especially when you’ve played pretend for so long. Sometimes I think- she doesn’t know my kid; he’s spent a couple of hours with her, no need to pass judgment!  (just yet). And then other times I think- how could I have been so blind to not see this myself?

But I stay quiet and take it all in while taking deep breaths…something I’ve mastered in the last few weeks.

She tells me the kid internalizes everything (true) and has not really shared anything except the superficiality of the work. She shows up, she does her job, doesn’t interact much and goes back to her self made little tarp cave.  Going through the motions in hopes of being declared ready to go home. Having learned from the master of illusions, she’s really good at pretending I’m told. She knows what she wants to portray and she is working hard at it. Not letting her guard down at all. As she said this I go back to all the times I told my kid ‘never let them see you’re scared’ or ‘don’t show all your cards at once’. Sounded like good advice at the time- but damn, she’s good.

She told me about Easter, about her school work- she had to read Ophelia Speaks and then write about at least five chapters that touched her the most and why.  Again, the ones she chose were all directly related to me.  She wrote about the chapter titled “Mothers” and she said it touched her deeply because she read conversations we have actually had- like me asking her why she felt the need to treat me so badly to impress her friends.  And what followed was a half page apology for her behaviors despite my sacrifices.

She also chose “Disintegrating Foundations” about divorce and it was sad for me as well. She stood by me and chose me and will continue to stand by me. One parent being left alone despite it all and she hopes that someday her dad meets her halfway when it comes to their relationship.  The last one I’ll talk about is “Death in the Family”. This one bothered me the most. She confessed that she’s been having horrible nightmares that I die while she’s gone and she will forever regret our last goodbye because it wasn’t a goodbye at all and she never really told me her true feelings which she hopes she can convey with her written word. This broke my heart.

Even though she keeps asking me to come home something about her letters this week was different. She shared so much about the stars and the night’s sky (asked for a map of the stars so she could figure them out) and how she’s never seen such beauty. She shared so many different anecdotes about nature and being so far away from everything and everyone, I got a different feeling from her.  She went on and on about the beauty of it and how she wished she could share it with me and I could see how bright the stars shine and how she can’t believe we live in this type of place that affords such beauty.

She was able to ‘bust a fire’ with a bow and the pride in her writing was shining through. As a reward she was given all the ingredients to make smores- and the way to this kid’s heart is through chocolate so I think even with all her written hatred of this place, deep inside she’s getting something out of this for herself.

During the conversation between the kid and the therapist, after some time of quietness, the therapist said to her: “you know, you can’t expect your parents to do all the work and you just stay here and do or say nothing”.  To which she responded: “I know my mom would…and she’d go to the moon if she had to go get me.” Even though she was being sassy I loved hearing this- she knows I love her and how much I love her and how I would move mountains to get to her if I needed to.

But right now I know this is where she needs to be so I’ll just sit still.

Peace and love.

Back to then

“Too much love never spoils children. Children become spoiled when we substitute presents with presence.” Anthony Witham

To pick up from before, so back in Florida, we all tried to play nice. Be a well oiled ‘broken’ family and pick up wherever it was that felt ok without anyone infringing on anyone else’s space.

The kid and I have always been thick as thieves. And closer than Lucy and Ethel.  As a baby she never had the horrible 2s or 3s. We’ll skip over her colicky period because that wasn’t good for me at all but as a kid she was a pleaser. Anything to make me smile. I always wondered if everything I had gone through when I was pregnant with her had made her into who she was during these years. A mediator. A planner. A helper. A pleaser and a do-gooder.

When she was 6 and we were back in Florida her dad was busy with his new wife and new child. The wife turned out to be a nightmare. She was always jealous of my daughter. Her dad was not allowed to spend any time alone with my kid unless the new baby came along or unless he included everyone in the family.  The dynamic changed quickly for my kid and she didn’t like what was happening.  There was never any time for one on one. And per the stories my kid told me, when she went to his house she was just supposed to play computer games and tend to herself.

I tried to intervene but I was met with accusations that I was spoiling my kid, that she should know how to share etc. But my only request was that they at least spend one or two hours doing something with each other. Alone.  To this day, I can tell you with 100% certainty that has never happened. I dont know why.  We only lived three miles away but they only saw each other maybe every other month or more. And each time it could never be one on one time. Either a girlfriend tagged along, another child, or another ex. I never understood it but I did see my young kid, develop into a young angry teen when it came to matters of her dad. Our story is a whole other thing but the discontent with her dad started to rear its head here and there. What breaks my heart the most but makes me proud is the fact that she was always forgiving.  And it didn’t help I always made excuses for him so that she wouldn’t get angry or disappointed or heart broken. But despite my efforts she still went through all these emotions just the same.

She learned quickly what I had known for a while. Her dad choses to fix things by throwing money at them. Sad and upset? here’s some money go buy a pony. I hurt your feelings? Here let’s go get you a new Playstation. That was their pattern and I knew it because it was the one I shared with him as well. In the end he was more of a fun uncle, or Santa Claus than a father and neither one of these personas could bring the happiness to  my daughter’s heart that she needed the most. In turn, I also went into super compensating mode. We’d always travel to far off places alone and I’d give her more than I could afford to give her just so that she would have an experience like no one else. It wasn’t a ‘keeping up with…’ thing, it was more of a ‘don’t run away from me thing…please…I was begging’.

Little did we know we were creating someone who was going to give us a run for our money when she turned 13. As she got older, her attitude and my world started changing. All along I had gone in and out of two quasi-relationships because I didn’t feel they suited ‘her’ and now in my third relationship in the last 13-14 years I knew with her behavior brewing this one had an expiration date that was looming in the near horizon.  I just didn’t want to deal with anyone who took my focus away from creating an illusion of perfection. If that doesn’t make any sense it will later.

I became more and more focused on my daughter the more she started pulling away and became more hell bent on keeping our relationship as it was rather than letting it evolve as it should have.  I didn’t want to lose my baby girl. I lost sight of everything I had to gain instead: a life long friend on the other side of the teenage years.

To be continued…

Peace and love

 

29 Pages

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux

 

My daughter’s first week at her ‘boarding school’ (what I’ve told friends) aka wilderness therapy program, was the longest seven days I’ve ever gone without breathing much. I was on cruise control.

Weirdly enough, the first night after she was taken from home I had a crying session in the shower- God bless my S.O. who has had to experience me going through this hell all in the early stages of our relationship.  He truly deserves a trophy and I’m so thankful for him.  He stayed with me and after the crying stopped I slept. I slept like I hadn’t slept in years: soundly and at peace.

I spent the next few days still in shock wondering ‘what had I done to my poor child?, did I do the right thing?, did we have to go to this extreme?, why did I listen to her dad?’  All these things going through my head over and over again.  The guilt has been beyond measure. I had betrayed my child in a way she would never forget. I felt like a crack addict looking for her next fix except my “fix” was finding answers. Talking to people who knew my story: our counselor, the program’s director, the program’s counselor, the parent coordinator, our educational consultant, her dad, the transporter, anyone who could give me insight as to what I had just done.  I drove every single human within dialing or texting distance nuts.

Our first bit of homework was to write an Impact Letter to her.  This letter is described as a crucial tool in the program. It describes the events that led to our decision to send her away, needed to contain powerful emotional content and how her behavior had affected my life. In a nutshell the laundry bag of things.  She in turn, would read this letter aloud to her peer group because it creates a powerful emotional experience. It allows students and staff to hear my perspective and compare it with what my daughter has relayed as to the reason why she’s there. At first it was hard to even begin but two days letter I had about four or five pages of ‘raw’ material and off it went.  Then it came time to hurry up and wait before I even got a response.

And then at exactly 1pm on Wednesday the 12th, the pictures came. And she was smiling. And she looked HAPPY! I thought to myself, “WTF! I DID send her to the wrong place she thinks she’s at fucking camp rubbing sticks together, making fire and she’s SMILING!!!” In truth, it was a huge sigh of relief to see her smile. It was a huge sigh of relief to see her be ok. It was huge to see her being her and most of all I really saw my kid behind those glasses. For the first time in a while her eyes didn’t look angry at me. Or annoyed. Or pissed off beyond belief. She just looked like herself. Without any pretenses.

And at around 8pm I broke down completely. At around 7:30 I received her letters.  29 pages- 24 dedicated and addressed to me and five to her dad. Her dad was pissed that she only dedicated four pages to him but in truth her pages to him were angry. And truthful. He hasn’t been there for her so ‘who gave him the right to have a say in sending her to that place?’ she said. Her letters to him were angry but sad. Sad in the way that a girl longs for her dad and he fails to notice. Sad in the way that you can tell all along she’s been wanting something from him- not money, not things, but presence, hugs, attention and love. Something she really hasn’t gotten from him.

And when the therapist spoke to us she said the reason she wrote me so many letters was because she was trying to manipulate me. An inside joke came quickly to me- my daughter has always referred to therapists as ‘the rapists’ and yes she raped all the warm fuzzies I had from those letters and she tried to undo my feelings of pain but I fooled her because I know my kid. She has a good heart. She can be a HUGE pain and somewhat of an a-hole but she’s still my kid.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from her letters:

“You don’t know how much I want to see you right now and give you the biggest hug and tell you everything is going to be ok.” (sidenote: she hates hugs)

“I just want you to know despite all of this I love you so so so much. I miss you so much too. You are a vital part of my life. If you died I wouldn’t know what to do. You are my reason for living and you are the most caring person.”

“You are the boss woman in my life. You get shit done. Don’t be hard on yourself and know everything I’ve said out of anger is not true. You’re a pretty awesome mom.”

“I’m sorry”

“I’ve never been this dirty in my life and I dont know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I believe I permanently have dirt on me.”

“Surprisingly with all this dirt, my pimples are gone. It’s kinda rough out here and I can tell you for sure my feeling of homesickness is not going to go away”

“They gave us colored eggs to take care of like babies. Mine is blue and I drew a face on it. Update: I broke the egg so I could eat it. I didn’t realize that there was a prize if you didn’t break it. Guess this relates to working on impulse control.”

It’s been two weeks since she’s been gone, three weeks since this whole debacle started and I still haven’t been able to go into my daughter’s room. I can’t face her stuff.  I have delved into closets in an organizational frenzy but they quickly dissipate if I find something of hers. Having my daughter taken like this feels like a death. Something I hadn’t really planned for and some days are really lonely (like Easter and how I expect Mother’s Day to be) and other days are ok.

Today we speak to the counselor so we shall see if there is any progress from the week before. And the story shall continue…

Peace and love

Where to even begin?


“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems but that is the only option we have if we want to get out of problems.”- Subdoh Gupta

 

I’m stressed and anxious so I write. My life is a huge jumbled mess right now- an oxymoron of sorts.  If it weren’t for the couple of things going right at this moment, my tunnel vision would have taken over and I probably wouldn’t be here enjoying some moments of peace, sharing with friends and hell, sometimes even laughing.

I honestly don’t know where it all went wrong but I do know when things started to go wrong. Does that even make sense?  It does to me. I guess I can start at the very beginning:

April 1, 1999 I jokingly told my then fiance, “guess what? I’m pregnant”.  He was in Boston for business while I tended to the home in Florida.  Thing is joke was on me. Upon his return and before my first visit to the doctor he told me he no longer wanted a relationship with me. He went as far as asking if he were to ask me to end the pregnancy, would I do that?  Talk about a punch in the gut.

From that moment on, I knew I was in this on my own. No matter what happened after that moment, my decisions all centered in trying to figure things out and fast. No matter how much pain I was going through, I needed to stay positive. I needed to be sharp and I needed to survive.

I went home for a few weeks, trying to clear my head. I came back to the US but went to Boston where it had all begun, not Florida and started my journey as a single mom with baby in tow.  The father, we’ll call him D, was in and out of my life throughout my pregnancy.   What is supposed to be the happiest moment in most women’s lives, was a lonely and sad one for me at times. As it got closer to my daughter being born, D came back around and said he would be willing to work it out for our daughter’s sake.

My daughter was born on a cool December afternoon and the minute I met her, she changed my life forever. I had never felt love until I met her.

Life with D was not without problems as was expected. Ours was not a healthy relationship so eventually, even before my daughter was two, it was over. After a quite contentious custody battle, and a marriage later (D married someone during this process) it was done. Or so I thought.  What ensued were continous battles- and not even because D wanted to see our child. Mostly because he still wanted to punish me for eventually leaving the relationship for one reason or another. Despite the reality of the situation, he said it was me who ‘broke’ our family.

During the custody battle I also met someone- and that relationship, even though it did not materialize the way I had hoped for during that time, turned out to be the catalyst that changed my relationship with D into what it is today: we actually get along. And we can actually work together like a well oiled machine- now parenting? a totally different story. Either way, that’s my beginning.

To be continued…

Peace & Love

 

April 5, 2017

April 5, 2017 was the day in which my life changed forever.

All the smoke and mirrors I had set up to make sure everyone thought that my life as a single mother was a complete success, came down at exactly 6:55am when my 17 year old daughter was carried against her wishes into a rental car by two strangers and her father.  My last memory of her was her screaming, kicking, and being held by all her limbs while she tried to wrestle these three huge people off her.  Barefoot, in her PJs she wailed so loud neighbors came out.  They shoved her into the car, she bumped her head and in she went like a prisoner in her own front yard. Windows closed but I could still hear her screaming at the top of her lungs.  Funny how everything was now out in the open for everyone to see.  Our “quiet” little life was no more.

She was off to a wilderness program.  I was numb- and still am because I can’t seem to process how in the hell we got here. Never even imagined we’d be in this place in our lives.

I had often joked that I was so happy I kept my daughter nourished and happy for 17 years because I have a hard time keeping anything else alive. In truth, my soul had been crushed for years. It was exhausting to keep a secret, and I was sick of secrets so it all had to come out at some point. I just never imagined it would all turn out to be this way.

This is my story. A story of a single mother who raised a lovely child, a sweet tween who then turned into an oppositional, challenging, manipulative, destructive and aggressive teen.