last night, my prince and i went for a walk and then we went to celebrate national ice cream day appropriately. we came home and sat down at about 9:30, flipping through the channels as we started to wind down our weekend/week of just us. (it usually feels like a vacation coming to an end.)
He started with “well lets try to remember this week is the kids’ vacation. they’re on summer break. this is their childhood. let’s not get worked up when they leave their socks out or don’t do things correctly right away or just let them bug us. let’s try to remember that these times are short…” and continued on with this spell about the days being limited.
and i told him i wanted to.
and that it doesn’t always start because a sock is left out. it’s usually an accumulation of many things and the sock is what puts me over the edge.
when it’s Prince & I, he sees me and hears me and fully understands and honestly, usually agrees with my frustrations as a step mom.
When all four of us are together, he is defensive dad and has his armor on for his kids and his defense is up against ME. and i can’t get through to him or let him see what’s happening. it feels like i’m married to two people- he probably feels the same about me. that our lives flip flop so much that we are different people week on/week off. that is tough.
and the conversation stopped when i shared that this is how it feels. he didn’t have anything to add.
So here we are. Monday of a new week. still waiting for the referee’s recommendations on custody. still waiting for push back from their mom.
She wants to take them across the state camping this year, just like every other year. We always accommodate. we have driven FAR to accommodate this and help out. we give up our days and time, sacrifice the precious time we have with them to let them have fun. this year’s a little different.
my prince asked if we should get them for the 4th, since she is usually at a social event and she never responded to the two texts he sent asking this. so he acted the same way with her request. we told her that she could have them at 5 on sunday. we’re not giving up more of our time anymore.
her parents both wrote nasty things about him and i in their letters to the referee. nasty things that make us not want to accommodate, if they feel we are so awful and unpredictable. why would we? why should we? why try to be so flexible when we can’t ever have it reciprocated.
i’m so tired of the constant battle of being a blended family. whether it’s between the kids and i, my husband and i ABOUT the kids, their mom, the grandparents.. whatever it is that week. i’m just tired of it.
so here’s to this week.
i’m praying we have good temperaments. that we can enjoy our meals together and we can have some fun while we get through these days.
that’s the best i can do.
10 days post- custody interview
Kids were with us, which i think helped US. We don’t bash their mom or her family, plus we had the day before off of work, so we had some good, quality time together.
15 is back and forth. More than usual.
On Saturday, his sister came over with her son and he put on Netflix.
We don’t have Netflix. His mom does. We don’t allow her stuff at our house. Never have. We have fought this battle for 4 years and I’m certain we will do it until they move out. We do not want to use her accounts at our house. We have Hulu, Amazon and whatever comes in over the air. We have plenty.
I told him no. He threw his hands in the air. Slammed them back down onto the couch and tells me how unreasonable I am.
My prince asked him to help with something, his response was to take the waterbottle that was in his hands and throw it at the couch. stomping away.
I asked him to take his BLUE MOON ice cream- I use caps lock because it’s like the stainiest of all stainy ice creams in the world- and eat it at the table. THE KIDS AREN’T ALLOWED TO EAT ON THE FURNITURE. EVER. This isn’t an unjust rule. They are MESSY and I don’t want to ruin the only nice things we have. So they eat at the table or they don’t eat. Harsh? not really. Does the 15 year old think so? Yes.
He quit speaking to me. Told me I don’t even like him. IF we spoke, it was all attitude.
I’m so over it. It’s hard to say “Yes, let’s keep throwing money at this custody thing for these people who f*cking hate me.”
11 surprised me by buying me a pillow. “For my back and stuff.” One of those ones that has the little arms that you lean against on a bed or floor. He bought it with his own money.
and he made me a card.
Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary. i bought him a box of chocolates like these as a simple, easy gift. there’s too much going on right now to have time for real gifts, or to even enjoy them. chocolate is always good. there is always time for chocolate.
The kids find my box (oops, i bought two. they’re $10 and buy one get one! how can i not?) of chocolate and ask for some. and at first i say no, it’s an anniversary thing……. and it’s not even unwrapped yet.
and then seconds later i change my answer.
I say, well. today IS our anniversary, and that also means it’s the anniversary of us officially becoming a family……… so it’s kind of like your day, too. however.
mother’s day was just three days ago and i didn’t even get a wave, a hand written note, a text message. nothing. so it seems like you don’t really view me as your step mom…. so why should you get to partake in my anniversary goodies?
and then i say, YES. you can. because i care for you and want you to have good things.
but i’m also not shy enough to tell you when you hurt me.
and then 15 asked when Step Mother’s day is.
so we’ll see how Sunday, May 19 goes.
maybe this was wrong. maybe i shouldn’t have guilted them into it but…………… i dont really care. i don’t need a lot. i just wanted to be WISHED a happy mother’s day.
also, my father in law just passed away two days ago and our little fam could use some prayer.
it’s no secret that Mother’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. but i think i’m giving in and declaring it my least, this year. i’m over it. i’m tired of it. it wears me out, it puts my emotions on a rollercoaster and it isn’t fair to anyone involved.
i woke up yesterday with a half smile, thinking that even though the kids weren’t with us (this is the first year since we’ve been married that she’s had them for mother’s day), i might wake up to a flower on the counter or a small note. something. i quickly realized i was wrong and it was just another Sunday morning in our household. an added bonus of “happy mother’s day. i’m sorry my kids don’t appreciate you.”
after we crawled out of bed, let the dogs out and scurried to get ready, we headed down to see my Prince’s parents at about 9am. his dad is not well and his mother is practically living there with him, going on 9 weeks now. i remind him that she can’t really have flowers in a hospital room, so we need to find her something else. we find a unique candy store along the way and pick out some old candies she’d love. our drive in is slow. what is normally 90 minutes felt all of four hours, somehow. very slow. we stopped at the world’s worst Tim Horton’s & aimed for one of those “mom coffee’s” but they don’t serve almond milk. and their warmer was broken. and their credit card machine. and the drive thru line was out to the road. and they forgot my timbits. so $30 later, we finally hit the road again. we spot an antique festival on the way, my favorite, and vow to check it out on the way home. this week’s our anniversary and we decided that every year, we will commit to buying one trinket that represented our year or what we’re looking forward to in the next year. we have a type drawer that we use as a shelf to display them on. this is our anniversary date.
we pull up, jump out and walk up to the room. Prince and MIL spend some time in the hospital room. i haven’t gone in the last couple times- we have to be gowned up to go in his room and something has wigged me out by having to do that. so i sit in the waiting room and i pray. i always peek at him when the locked doors swing open, he’s the first bed you see. sort of on display. i only like it when i’m in the waiting room- i don’t like that he’s front and center.
the waiting room is full. too full to talk. so we meander downstairs again, i buy my husband and his mom a coffee to talk over. eventually we get bored of that and go on a walk around the entire hospital. lugging around mom’s candy and sodas. we bore of that and find lunch. it just feels like everything took so long. lunch was a shared salad, shared fruit and shared chicken salad- it took an hour. it’s already 3:30pm.
we go back up to see dad again and prince & mom go in the room for over an hour. the waiting room is still too full. i sat in the corner to avoid people. someone sat directly next to me. and across from me. and diagonal. yelling. kids are jumping off of chairs. i just want to be home. isn’t it my day, too? this is more important. definitely.
we get home at 720. my dogs have been in their room for 9 hours, they spent long days in there all weekend. most ending with messes. theyre mad at me for having too many busy days. i walk in and realize the house isn’t clean. the clothes are still dirty and i am exhausted. and i have a scheduled event at 8pm that i have to be camera ready for. so i run and sweep, shove laundry in, pull laundry out, fill the dish washer, change the trashes, prep for my live, and try to figure out what other chores are completely necessary to begin a new week. Sweep the porch- this is an important one.
Prince is reading a book on the couch, with his feet up.
I cried in the laundry room.
I am certain that the only way mother’s day will ever have anything to do with me, the step mother of his children, will be if i ever birth my own. and that is quite scary.
Before I share this, I have to tell you that this is the most accurate and relatable thing I have ever read about brain injuries. In 2012, I was rear ended while sitting stopped at a red light. My body rocked back and forth about 4 times before stopping, my head included. I was sitting in a relaxed position, driving to class to take a test, after my office hours at church. It started to mist a little bit and it was cold and dreary looking. The truck that hit me was going about 45 miles per hour. The girl driving was on her cell phone. I saw her look at her phone and panic just seconds after her truck hit mine. She didn’t jump out of her truck to see if I was okay. I panic cried and then composed myself enough to put it in Park, jump out and walk to her door to tell her I didn’t feel right and we should pull into the Arby’s we were in front of, instead of staying parked in 5 lanes of traffic. My bumper was bent, but not terribly. I am forever grateful to have been in my truck that day. Any lesser of a car would have resulted in far worse damages to my vehicle and myself. After sitting in the Arby’s parking lot for about fifteen minutes, waiting for the cops to arrive, my neck started to tense up, my back started to tighten, and my knee started hurting. My knee hit the door or my steering wheel, i’m not really sure. I wanted her to know that I was hurt, so it wasn’t a surprise if the cops mentioned it to her. she scoffed. i went in to use the bathroom, since my 20 minute drive to school had now turned into a couple hour delay. The cops came, issued her a ticket, i declined an ambulance, the cop made sure I was okay- I should have had the ambulance come and check me out. I can’t remember his face- I remember his smile and one expression he made, when he told me the other driver was an idiot, but I can’t remember the rest of his face. Just a dark blob in my memory. I called my dad a couple of times crying. While I waited, I looked up my teacher’s office phone number and told her what had happened and that I’d be late to class. No response. I didn’t have e-mail on my phone yet, so I didn’t know what else to do.
When I got to class, finally, my teacher had seen my message and told me I didn’t have to take the test if I didn’t feel like I could. I brushed it off, accepted the test and then immediately knew something was wrong. I looked at my paper and it was blurry. I couldn’t make out the words very well. I could hear every tap of every student’s pen and pencils on the paper, every shake of a leg, everything. and it was overwhelming. Then, we turned the tests in and did group work. My group knew something was wrong with me, maybe I had mascara wiped across my face- i don’t even know. I think my professor told them that I was in an accident before I got there. I tried to tell them about it, but my words were jumbled. They stared at me with confused looks and tried to help me through my sentences. I just had to shake my head and ask for grace that day.
After going to the ER the night before, i went into my Saturday computer class and was shocked. I hadn’t really tried to use a computer yet. Smart Phones weren’t as addicting then as they are now, neither was facebook, so I hadn’t looked at my screen too much. I hadn’t tried to do a lot but sleep. I had been in meetings at the end of the week and hadn’t noticed much more than what had happened in my Thursday class. I got to school, sat at my computer, logged in to take my test and walked out. I had to go back in after a few minutes and explain to my teacher that I couldn’t be there and didn’t expect it to be this bad. I was nauseous. My head was overwhelmed. I wanted to cry after just looking at the screen, not even attempting a task. She was graceful. She was so kind to me throughout the rest of the semester- she gave me extensions and always checked in on me. I was so thankful.
To this day, I get overwhelmed by screens. I work at a computer- I have to wear the blue filtered glasses or I get headaches. I have to stop and decompress every day. I have to take myself out of loud situations often. I cry easily. I cannot be scared anymore, or I’ll fall into a panic immediately. I scare easily. I am jumpy. I am anxious. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I hate lights and noise. I can’t watch fireworks and in the Incredibles 3, the Screenslayer made me cry. My husband cradled me in his arms and helped cover my eyes while I cried in the theater. There’s been a few movies we’ve watched that have car accidents in them. I’ve slithered down to the bottom of my seat and covered my eyes. I’ve screamed and ran out of the theater, but mostly I’ve cried. I get overwhelmed and i cry. That is not like me.
I am emotional now. I can’t control my emotions anymore. I had a concussion and a closed head injury. I had (maybe still have?) extra fluid on my brain. My brain produces too much fluid and causes extra pressure, which is where the overstimulation comes in. It was so bad when it first happened, when I went outside in December, I could feel it FREEZE. No exaggeration. There was a cold liquid in my brain that i’d never felt before. That was the weirdest feeling of my life. My brain was a slushie.
Reading this made me feel a little bit human. A little bit like someone else might get it. Someone else understands the desensitization that i’ve undergone. Someone else knows the change. Someone else knows the ache of it. I mourn a part of me that is gone. I mourn for the toughness I used to have, the thick shell. She is gone. I mourn for the ability to control emotions or suppress them. I mourn the control i once had.
this is so relatable to me. and if you know me or want to, you should know that this is part of who i am.
NOT DEAD BUT GONE: HOW A CONCUSSION CHANGED MY GIRLFRIEND’S PERSONALITY FOREVER. – LORI FOX
It’s strange the way that, in a crisis, your mind stops filming and starts taking polaroids; essential snapshots of sound and color and light you can hold at arm’s length afterward.
There is the call from Gabrielle*, her voice frantic: I have been in an accident, please come, please come right now.
There is me standing on the frozen street, staring at the car sprawled across two empty lanes with the driver’s side door crushed and hanging ajar, like an unfinished thought.
There is the blood and hair, stuck to the inside of the window in the bitter, bitter January cold.
There is a paramedic talking to me. There is red glass from busted tailgates strewn across the road, shimmering like hot coals as we get into the ambulance.
There is Gabrielle on a stretcher, with her neck in a brace and her lips pale and bloody. There is her hand, slipping into mine, squeezing.
In the hospital waiting room a police officer explains to me that Gabrielle made an illegal left-hand turn and was struck by a vehicle traveling the same direction, and that the driver could not possibly have stopped.
She has a concussion, the doctor tells me as he uses a curved needle – gleaming under the sterile lights of the emergency room – to stitch her scalp up.
I come home with Gabrielle leaning heavily against my side and we wobble through the doorway of our apartment.
In bed with the lamp turned down low, she sleeps, deeply, the way old dogs or sick children sleep, so solemnly and quietly you feel compelled to see they are still breathing.
Stitches glisten black and damp and raw against her white scalp. I whisper in her ear – I love you. You are safe. I will protect you, no matter what. I turn off the light and cry, quietly, because the doctor said not to wake her.
For the first few days after the accident, things were exactly as we were told they would be. Gabrielle suffered terrible headaches and nausea, worsened by external stimuli – sound, light, strong odors – and motion. Gabrielle was unable to do more than lie on the bed or sit up in a chair.
After a week these initial symptoms began to abate, but other, more complicated ones sprang up. Her body was healing, but something in her brain appeared to be malfunctioning. She was having difficulty expressing complex thoughts, which made her angry and confused. She would often stumble trying to explain her feelings, flailing for words, or burst into tears of anger when met with a task that used to be easy. She would snap at me and blame me for things that weren’t my fault, like a broken cup, a malfunctioning printer, the phone ringing. Making choices caused her intense disorientation. Our first trip to the grocery store together, a week after the accident, selecting from the rows of products – as well as all the people, lights and music – was too much sensory data for her to process. She shut her eyes and leaned against my chest. I had to take her back to the car and shop alone. When I returned, she was curled up against the window with her eyes closed, exhausted.
Gabrielle had lost the intuition as to whether 10 minutes or 10 hours has passed. She would wake up three or four times in the night, irritable and anxious, because she was uncertain how much time had passed. The only thing that would help her get back to sleep was if I read to her, which often meant rereading the same few pages over and over, because she did not remember what she had just heard. In this broken way we enjoyed André Alexis’ masterful Fifteen Dogs together. It took two months to finish it. I still cannot bear to look at a copy.
We did not know what was happening to Gabrielle or why while all of this was happening. All we knew for sure was that she was not like this before the accident and that the changes had to be related. It was only later, through research, that we came to understand the mechanics of the change.
A concussion is, at a fundamental level, a bruised brain. Imagine you have a mason jar that is full of thick liquid and just big enough to accommodate a peach. If you shake the jar violently, the peach sustain multiple impact points. When you take the peach out, the bruised places are visible. If you cut into the bruise, you will see the damage spreads beyond the area around the impact sites.
In a peach, these bruises taste bad. In a brain, these neurons are now “bad”; they no longer function the way they should in the context of their neural network, interrupting – and sometimes changing – the flow of information which regulates not only basic body functions, but the building blocks of who were are. This damage is thought to be largely irreversible.
The doctors in the emergency room and in her single follow-up appointment told us Gabrielle’s concussion was not severe. According to Paul van Donkelaar, a professor at the University of British Columbia and specialist in the behavioral and psychological effects of brain injury, the severity of a concussion doesn’t necessarily indicate how a person will be affected by it. “Just because [the concussion] is mild doesn’t mean the outcome is mild,” he told me. This is partly because we don’t fully understand just how far the damage spreads beyond the initial site of impact. Understanding of how the brain is damaged during a concussion is a rapidly evolving field of study, he said, but unfortunately many doctors, especially those in small towns like the one we lived in, often lack the specialized and updated training necessary to properly identify and treat concussions with the most up-to-date resources.
Gabrielle and I knew none of this before her accident. We were sent home from the hospital with a single sheet of paper that read “How to care for someone with a concussion” at the top.
I lived in a state of chronic exhaustion. I worked from home as the editor of a small weekly paper – a job which demanded consistent overtime. I often slipped out of bed after Gabrielle was asleep to edit copy or return emails. I was never “off-duty”, either at the paper or for Gabrielle.
I realize now I should have asked for help, but even if I had, I don’t know to whom I would have appealed. Her parents lived on the other side of the country and did not speak English. Doctors often did not believe Gabrielle when she tried to tell them what was wrong with her. Our friends could not see the seriousness of the problem; Gabrielle could appear to be frustratingly normal for brief stretches of time, only to completely break down later, when there was only me there to see these things.
I began drinking heavily. I lost so much weight I started missing periods. I took caffeine tablets when I had to drive, because I was so sleep deprived I worried it was unsafe. I often thought of leaving her; once I even went so far as to pack my truck and drive out of town. I got outside the city limits and turned around. I felt that as long as I believed in her, she would get better.
Then, six months after the accident, I went camping for three weeks without her. Gabrielle didn’t want me to go but I felt I had to start taking care of myself again. I was gone for less than two weeks when she cheated on me.
She told me she had met someone and had been unfaithful, very calmly. She was not calling to apologize; she was calling me to ask if I would mind if she did it again.
She said she had simply not been thinking about me. It was only cheating if she didn’t tell me about it, she said. We were not in an open relationship. We had been together for two years. I did not yell. I did not cry. I just kept asking, over and over, How could you do this to me? I was stunned. The last time I had come into town, she had begged me to end my vacation early.
She held on to her curious logic with childlike tenacity, warbling between emotionless repetition of her beliefs – it wasn’t cheating, she had done nothing wrong – and angry outbursts. She accused me of not loving her, claiming I had only taken care of her to control her. She said, over and over, that she owed me nothing.
She was half-right. She didn’t owe me anything. But I loved her more than I had loved my own health and happiness.
At the time all this was happening I was hurt so deeply I was unable to see the familiar pattern, one I had observed countless times since her accident: confronted with something emotionally and cognitively difficult – her behaviour, my emotions, her breakup – she was shutting down, flattening out and then, when pushed beyond what she could tolerate, lashing out.
I believe she genuinely did not understand what she had done was wrong; she was not in a place where she could organize the linear events of how her actions had affected me, could not process my own reactions, could not handle the emotional, social and intellectual intricacies being asked of her. She was possibly as hurt and confused and frustrated as I was.
I balk to write that; it seems patronizing or dismissive. But I think back on the way she treated me after the accident – her inability to see when I was exhausted, the way she would lash out at me for things I couldn’t possibly be responsible for – and I cannot help but believe that. I don’t think she understood what the words I was telling her meant or felt the emotional impact they should have drawn.
Following this, I spiraled into a black depression; already taxed to breaking by six months of caring for Gabrielle, I had no emotional reserves left for this blow. It took me almost two years to understand that the hurt was not just heartbreak, but that what I was feeling was grief and loss. Someone had, as I intuited, actually died. I expected that, in exchange for my labors, I would get my girlfriend back, or at least a close approximation of her, but I was wrong. It must have been a terrible burden for her – the new her – to carry that expectation.
The woman I had known and loved – Gabrielle of the easy smile and quick laugh, Gabrielle of the fingers on the back of my neck as we drove – was dead. She had died the moment she made a careless mistake and turned without signaling, when her head had struck the glass and neurons began to die.
We have no place in our culture for this kind of grief; when someone dies, we have a funeral, and everyone comes and holds the people who are left behind and says We are so sorry for your loss. This was unavailable to me. I faced this grief alone. Gabrielle was still there – it just wasn’t the her I had loved. That woman is gone and she is never coming back.
maybe i am a little too much. too forward. too direct. too needy. too involved.
we’re in the throws of custody arrangements for 11 and 15. everything that has occurred in our household since we filed paperwork has been e.g.g.s.h.e.l.l.s.
i have to be on my best behavior, because “this is the time they’ll think about if they get spoken to at court” or that quite possibly “this is what they’ll go back and tell her when they see her again.”
well. they’re talking back. they’re not doing any work in the house (i.e. chores). they’re not doing anything productive (tablets. tv. video games) and they’re driving me up a wall. i can justify a yell or two at them. especially for the disrespectful crap.
oh well. that i can tolerate.
15’s birthday wasn’t too long ago and everyone came over for dinner to celebrate. 22 just bought a motorcycle and rode it out. then it got cold and very dark and the lights didn’t want to turn on, so he borrowed our truck to take home and parked the bike in the garage overnight (in my spot, i might add.) no big deal. My prince invites 22 and his girlfriend to come to church with us in the morning, since they’ll already be making the drive back out. “We’ll see” is the response he gets. Prince tells him what time we think we’ll be home, so we can make plans and he can figure out when to come. Nothing strange.
We get home from church and lo-and-behold, our truck is back and a bike is running in the driveway. This is odd. Our house was locked. Our garage was locked. 22 doesn’t have a key. 22 finagled his way into our house (aka broke in) while we were at church and his girlfriend was rushing to pack their bags and trying to leave. We make these observations as we pull in and are still in the car. I announce that i’m going to yell at them. Only 15 objects.
So i get out. i ask him how he got his bike out if the house was locked and he chuckled and said, “Magic!” and i proceed to tell him to not do that sort of thing. why couldn’t he have texted us and let us leave a door open for him or just let us KNOW he was doing that instead of intentionally coming when we were at church and trying to leave before we got home? I got in his face a little because he didn’t have the decency to shut his bike off. Girlfriend doesn’t speak. Prince doesn’t speak. I’m shaking.
A mere two weeks ago, we did have someone come in our house unannounced and unexpected. it was a very unsettling feeling and not one I want to re-entertain. 22 is not mine. 22 hasn’t ever tried to get to know me. 22 doesn’t really come around as it is.
22 didn’t come to easter. 22 ran his mouth at his mom’s easter and 19 told us about it.
i’m so frustrated that i am in the wrong for being upset that someone came into my house. MY HOUSE. unannounced. unwarranted. i am in the wrong for speaking up and for getting mad that this happened. the story would be different if he were active and involved in our lives, but he’s not. the younger kids sometimes say he’s not even really their brother, since he’s never around.