Thursday, October 08, 2009

What's Been Going On

Those who’ve known me for a few years have probably noticed a change. I’m not acting like myself, and I’m even more scatterbrained and irritable than usual. Extreme mood changes are prevalent and I’m more contrary and combative. Also, I’m WAY behind on projects. There’s no excuse for not having the cookbook done, but there are reasons.

First off, the cookbook is behind in part because of a massive technological failure. The proofs, layouts, and software all resided on Chris's laptop. Chris's laptop's hard drive decided to fry.

Thank god we still have the pictures, and I'm a big fan of working out my recipes longhand.

The cookbook is also behind in part because mid-process (and a much more intensive process it turned out to be) the camel's back broke.

We're moving. We're not announcing where on this blog (many of you know already anyway) but we're leaving this goddamn hellhole.

Oh, we were planning on moving, in about 2 years. Then the bank merger happened and Chris started working 12 hour days so we decided we needed a bit more family recreation. Floating in the middle of a lake started sounding pretty damn good (what's that? my cell phone has bad reception here. sorry!) so we started looking into boats.

The weekend after we got Zoe we went looking at boats and eventually ended up at Lake Pleasant looking at sailboats. The kids and I started really getting into the whole idea at that point, and we spent some time crawling over a couple of MacGregor 26 sailboats.

In 110 degree weather.

Sometime around the finishing of the second gallon of water on the way home, Chris made an announcement. He was tired of living somewhere he couldn't leave the house 5 months out of the year, where he couldn't do what he wanted to do.

We were moving. ASAP. Actually, as soon as our lease ends on February 28th.

Only one problem. We're moving out of state. We can't found the company yet.

So no ISBN number for the cookbook.

The last reason for the cookbook being behind is extremely personal.

I'm emotionally ill.

The facade of having it together? Completely fake. Emotional stability? Hah.

Healthy behavioral patterns? Now you're just being funny.

I literally had a block in my head that said, "you can't do this. You're a failure, you'll always be a failure. What are you thinking? You can't do anything good. Everything you touch goes to shit."

HAD a block in my head.

I’m dealing with decades of emotional illness, persistently bad coping behaviors, aftereffects of abuse and neglect, and general insanity all at once.

Note I wrote “dealing”. Not hiding. Not pretending. Not suppressing. Not just trying to keep myself together. Dealing.

I blame Tahoe. I blame the lull in court action. I blame not spending every day worrying whether or not my children will have food or clothing, and I blame Chris for making that possible.

I also blame the bank merger, the stress of which drove Chris to consider getting a boat, then had us at Lake Pleasant in 110 degree weather looking at boats. This led Chris to declaring that goddamnit, we’re finally leaving this goddamn hell of a state. This led to me having a direction.

In short, I blame everything that has lifted my emotional and mental load to the point that I have the “luxury” of leaving survival mode.

I don’t think I’ve spent this much time outright bawling since my mother died. Memories are resurfacing; insights into just how badly I’ve bungled things and WHY are a daily occurrence.

Many of these memories are less than happy; when I told people that my first marriage was emotionally and mentally abusive I didn’t even realize how much I was UNDERSTATING the problem. Memories are reaching the surface that I’ve haven’t touched since I left; if I had, I doubt I would have had the presence of mind to fight for the kids. I’d be too busy off in a corner somewhere either bawling or completely detached from the world.

I’m also remembering how I got there in the first place, and how stupid I was to willingly walk into such a situation, and WHY. Understanding where exactly I messed up is ego-bruising, to say the least.

All of this however is a good thing. For example, I now understand why I think everything that goes wrong is my fault; one of the problems in my first marriage was my ex-husband's unwillingness to admit fault. Getting pregnant even though he knew I'd run out of birth control, refused to buy more, and refused to use a condom? So totally my fault. Taking the kids away from him? My fault, to the point that we're still in court to "punish" me.

That's just one example of the degradation and dehumanization shoved down my throat. My ex in-laws wanted to bring me "down to their level". Enough verbal abuse, emotional abuse, shoving into unwinnable situations, and isolation will result in complete dehumanization.

I think I got out just in time, and one of these days I'll write about how I came to the decision to leave, but now right now.

I’ve been trying to tackle one surfacing memory at a time and one breakdown at a time. Every day I feel a bit lighter, a bit more stable. A bit more human. It's been a helluva roller coaster, but I'm finally getting somewhere.

Thankfully my friends seem to understand, and since all but one came after my life started improving they’re a constantly reminder that things have changed permanently for me. The one exception I’ve known for 12 years and has been my best friend since we were 15 and she's been nothing but a help. Plus, when I think that maybe my memories are false, that maybe I'm exaggerating,she's been there to correct me (and very often tell me I'm not, it really was that bad).

Just KNOWING that all of this had a reason, that I'm not imaging what happened, that despite being surrounded by the insane I've got some kind of footing in reality HELPS. Helps so much. I'm starting to trust my thoughts, my conclusions, my judgments again. It's not that I was insane because everyone else was right, but that everyone around me was insane and wrong. This doesn't just apply to my ex in-laws, but to my family and the way I was raised as well. My parents made everything needlessly complicated, and formed a tiny little petri dish of a world that had NOTHING to do with the outside world.

Everything I ever learned means squat. Reality is so much better. Reality is what I knew all along, but nobody around me was willing to admit to.

Now that I don't think of myself as insane (or at fault for everything, or worthless), I see just how difficult I've made this whole process, and how soon I should be able to start shipping out. Cookbooks will be out before Black Friday, hopefully WAY before if I can continue to be this mentally stable.

As a bonus, for those of you who've seen the house, I've made tremendous progress is getting organized. I even found my Book of All Knowledge, the notebook my oldest recipes are written in, so THEY'RE getting added as well.

There is one last stress, however, and it has nothing to do with my mental and emotional state, but rather my father's.

Chris and I never wrote about the full circumstances of my mother’s death. It’s not that “death by infection and metastatic breast and ovarian cancer” isn’t correct; it is. The circumstances are just much more complicated than a simple diagnosis.

In reality, what happened to my mother was a mixture of her own procrastination and ignoring of problems, my father’s outright denial, the first hospital’s apathetic care, the second hospital’s apathetic care (minus one doctor), and the ambulance ride to the third hospital.

My mother was admitted to the hospital with fluid in her abdomen, and 6 weeks later she was dead. I've never quite gotten over the shock.

I watched her as the doctors did tests, waited forever to get results, declared breast cancer and performed a mastectomy. After months of not being able to keep food down (even in the hospital) she developed an infection, went into respiratory arrest, and died in the ICU. That's the short version.

NONE of this was unavoidable. My mother assumed the lump was a spider bite, even though it persisted for a year, and never got a mammogram.My mother spent months without an appetite and gaining weight without food intake. She hid her health problems from my father (and everyone else). Not until her distended stomach turned into a source of acute pain did she go into the hospital. Once at the hospital she refused to be "a bother" and attempted to make everyone ELSE'S lives as easy as possible.

Since my father believed her when she said it wasn't a big deal, my dad took her in, then retreated into his work. He wasn’t there to help her make decisions because he thought she was mentally competent.

She wasn't. She's been hiding her pain for months, if not years, as became obvious once we tried to untangle the business's finances afterwards.

I visited the hospital every day to see if she needed anything. She was almost always fine. I tried to talk to the doctors, but I could never seem to reach one of them. She always said they were waiting for tests anyway.

Until the day they scheduled her for a mastectomy, that is.

The day of I waited outside the surgical unit with my oldest brother. When the surgeon came out, he said it was worse than they'd feared. He estimated the cancer had been there for a decade.

All of a sudden my mother gave up the pretense.

My dad had no clue what to do, and leaned on my and my brother. Neither of us had authority to do anything. (As a sidenote, both of us now have power of attorneys for both our father and youngest brother, depending on who is more available in the situation).

My mother's recovery did not go well. She still couldn't eat.

The hospital tried to discharge her. She hadn't eaten for 4 weeks and they tried to discharge her.

My father and I fought the discharge won. The first time.

The second time he took her to another hospital.

Another apathetic hospital.

My mother lost the ability to speak. She started hallucinating. She still didn't eat.

One week later, we finally got a break. My mother's oncologist went on vacation and someone filled in for her.

This doctor took one look at my mother, one look at her chart, and transferred her to the best cancer unit in the state.

Thank God for University Medical Center.

Unfortunately, during the 2 hour ambulance drive she went into respiratory arrest. The paramedics managed to keep her alive (they didn't know she had a DNR) and she made it to the ICU.

I never had the opportunity to talk to my mother again.

4 days later my father and I made the decision to take her off life support. My father called my middle brother and told him to come down to see his mother; my brother said he'd be there in a week, they were driving and his wife wanted to visit friends on the way. My father called me, one step from falling to pieces.

Chris called my brother. All of a sudden my brother and his wife and kids were on a plane to Tucson.

2 days later while I was giving my father a break from her bedside, she passed on.

Afterwards I drove my dad to his guest room at a friend’s house. Picked up his things. Picked up my brother’s luggage to take to the house. BABYSAT MY NEPHEW BECAUSE MY SISTER-IN-LAW WAS TOO BUSY BAWLING OVER THE DEATH TO COMFORT HER HUSBAND OR TAKE CARE OF HER CHILDREN. Drove my father, kids, and nephew to my dad’s house. Called the pastor to make arrangements for my grandparents to be informed and for the memorial service to be held. Called all the other family members to inform them. Did the grocery shopping with 3 kids in tow so there would be food in the house. All in the day she died.

I made the cremation arrangements.

If it weren’t for Chris, I would have been a complete wreck. As it was, that month and a half almost killed me.

6 weeks of hell that could have been avoided. If my mother had been proactive in her health, if my father had taken control, if the first hospital had done more, if, if.

Chris “forced” me through the grief process, in that he prodded me until I dealt with and accepted my mother’s death. It was the kindest thing he could have done for me.

I’ve done my best not to dwell on it since, and to get on with my life. I could rail against the unfairness of the situation and seek out someone to blame. But I don’t.

That’s evidently my father’s job.

Since my mother’s death, my father hasn’t been quite all there. He spends quite a bit of time railing against the hospitals, blaming them for her death. When he’s not busy being enraged, he’s busy in self-pity mode.

In July (13 months after her death) my father went on an extended trip to his childhood home for a reunion. My aunt (his sister) and I hoped it would do him some good, and she did her best while he was there to help him through the process.

When he got back he seemed better, happier. I thought that maybe, just maybe, this scapegoat hunt he’d been on would be over.

A few days ago I called him, and he told me he was just about done with his project. He’d been going over everything that happened, and he was ready to take his notes and journals to the media and take on the evil hospital.


I’m pretty convinced at this point that my father has lost it. My hope that he would ever come back to reality and be a father and grandfather? Well that’s pretty much crushed. I can accept that, I knew it was a possibility.

Then he told me he needed me to read everything to make sure it was all accurate.

Yes, my father wants me to re-read my personal hell from day one in order to pursue his own version of vengeance.

I can’t do that. My memories are horrifying enough without reliving everything, much less while I’m dealing with other resurfacing memories.

I don’t know how to tell him that I can’t do it, without doing what I really want to do, which is tell him to look in the mirror and he’d find one of the people responsible there. Then, if he looked on the shelf he’d find another responsible party in the urn.

I don’t know how to tell him just how much worse this is making things for me and the kids. That it’s not bad enough that at 28 I’m motherless, my kids no longer have a grandmother, my unborn children will never have a grandmother, that for all intents and purposes they don’t have a grandfather. No, that’s not enough, I also have my father attempting to destroy me (intentionally or not) by having me relive the worst couple of months of my life.

I am completely heartbroken.

So if I seem a little out of sorts, crazy, or otherwise not like myself, that’s why.

The good news is, despite all of this, life is getting much better.