Sometimes I feel as though my life has “Multiple Personality Disorder,” with multiple lifetimes occurring at the same time under the umbrella of one life.
(Let me reiterate: My LIFE, not my child)
Much like made for TV character that transforms from controlled to chaotic, kind to cruel, joyful to drowning in despair, our life has evolved into a hair raising, out of control ride…
Stable one minute,
completely derailed the next.
We find ourselves living in a constant state of hyper alert watchfulness.
We spend the minutes of our day always assessing, monitoring, and anticipating what sight, smell, sound, thought or memories will transform our life from calm, controlled and happy, to raging, fearful and hopeless.
It is a hard way to live, and the effect of past traumas on my already struggling son, can result in a whole family in crisis.
The last 24 hours have been surreal, and as I sat down to record the reality of our life I debated breaking the happenings of the last day between two blogs, one reporting the good and the other reporting the struggles, but I stopped myself. Our life can not and will not be compartmentalized. As much as I crave the order and control of defining my days in the black and white categories of “good days or bad days,” the reality of our life is that most days are a messy mix of trauma driven struggles and merciful moments of goodness and joy.
This particular pocket of time began Friday night with heartache.
We are all living out the effects of the early childhood trauma that has reduced my once happy boy into a child filled with despair and hopelessness.
At the root of Ozzie’s hurt is a deep-seated belief, a belief that was planted in his tender soul by abusive parents from the time he was small, that he deserves the abuse he endured, that he is not worthy of anything better, and as a result he has decided he will sentence himself to a life of hurt and abuse if no one else will meet that request.
“What won’t you just punch me?” he will yell in desperation,
“I just need someone to hurt me!”
When those desperate requests are answered with tokens of love, nurturing acts, and additional support, he lashes out in desperation, hurting the very people who are offering him a safe harbor from the pain.
His behaviors have escalated.
His desperation has increased.
He is determined to hurt.
He is terrified of being loved and will do anything to keep the thing he fears most, attachment to his adoptive family, at bay.
He is drowning in new flashbacks of horrific acts of abuse and is desperate to quiet the voices in his head.
All he wants is a way out.
All I want is to keep him safe.
So my life has become a 24/7 vigil, as I work to protect him from himself. Every possible threat has been locked up, and cameras have been installed around the home, allowing for extra eyes of protection on him at all times. I don’t walk away. I don’t take a break. I am on guard. Fighting for this child who can’t fight for himself.
Things escalated to a new level last Friday when he wrote out a plan of how he was going to take his life.
Back to the Emergency Room we went.
Back to be assessed and monitored.
Back to inpatient care for another stay and another shot at stabilization.
By the time the ambulance arrived to take him back to the juvenile mental hospital that he was discharged from just weeks ago, my heart was heavy… heavier than it has ever been. There I stood, staying goodbye to my child who looks and acts more like a ten-year-old than a 13-year-old, in the hallway of the ER at 4:30 in the morning, weary.
So weary of the fight.
So weary of the battles.
So weary of the constant vigilance.
So weary of trying to hold onto hope in the midst of hopelessness.
So weary of trying to keep my family intact in the midst of constant battles against the trauma of Ozzie’s past.
So weary of smiling through the tears and finding the good in an absurdly bad situation.
So weary of being the Mom…the one who must remain hopeful, positive, optimistic and strong. The one who must help everyone else ride the waves of RAD and help the other children process the secondary PTSD occurring in the home. Being the one who must help create normalcy for the rest of the family in a situation that is anything but normal.
But weary or not, we go on.
I climbed into the car, exhausted down to the tips of my toes, drove home and crawled into bed to get a few hours of sleep before a new day began. It was going to be a full day of packing for Girls’ Camp (where I will be serving as a level leader over the 7th year girls) and then our annual strawberry picking, because despite how crazy the night was the dawn will come and the show must go on. There are other people in my family who need me, so I wake up day after day, and keep on keeping on…
Praying for strength.
Praying for grace.
Praying for hope.
Praying for wisdom.
Praying for the capacity to forgive…
And praying that there was a caffeinated Diet Coke in the fridge to fuel my efforts. 😉
From suicide watch to strawberry picking in a 12 hour stretch…
because that’s how we roll.
Did I mention my life has Multiple Personality Disorder?
Over the last 7 or 8 years we have enjoyed the annual tradition of going strawberry picking as a family. It always seems to fall on the Saturday before Father’s Day, resulting in many strawberry themed treats for the day.
When we moved into this house we were introduced to Catalpa Farms by friends, when they invited us to go pea picking with them one year.
Since then Catalpa’s has been our go-to “you pick” farm in the area.
Saturday was chaos (understatement of the year!) and really not the ideal day to go berry picking, but knowing the unavailability of free Saturdays for the next two weeks, and knowing how short-lived strawberry season is, it was now or never.
So, after a hard, traumatic previous 12 hours, we rallied as only the McCleerys can, gathered our strawberry boxes, and headed to Ohio.
Grace had spent the day working, while Molly and I packed and prepped for Girls’ Camp. At the end of Gracie’s shift, we drove over, picked her up, and drove out to Catalpa’s for some strawberry picking.
Since we arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon, there was no one left in the field (pickers or field bosses) so we had free reign to pick anywhere we wanted in rows 1 and 2.
We are accustomed to arriving early in the morning with dozens of other families and being given a small stretch of field to strip clean. It was kind of fun to be able to roam freely and have the farm to ourselves.
Since Ozzie was back at the hospital, it was just the six of us picking. We knew we only had an hour until closing so we made quick work of berry picking.
The job moved at a much quicker clip than usual, with the freedom of being able to move around the field, searching for untouched patches thick with strawberries.
What a beautiful crop they had this year. The strawberries were large and sweet…a rare combination.
One of the many reasons we love this “you pick” farm is because of their encouragement to “eat as you pick.” The kids love biting into sun-warmed, just-off-the-vine berries. It becomes a “one for me, one for the basket” dance of indulgence as the strawberry cartons slowly fill.
We did well. In our hour, we managed to fill 24 quarts to overflowing…
And I felt my heart lightening and my soul healing a bit under the rays of the afternoon sun.
We finished at 5:00pm and headed back to the front to pay and treat ourselves to our traditional berry picking reward for our hard work: homemade strawberry slushies.
Made from crushed ice and their home-grown strawberries, this sweet nectar of the gods is incredible…a perfect way to end our strawberry picking fun at Catalpa Farms!
Then it was back home for hours and hours of cleaning, hulling, chopping and canning of strawberry treats for us to enjoy in the upcoming year.
From heartbreak to happy moment,
The tides turn as quick as that…
All within 24 hours.
A sweet end to a bitter beginning.
On Friday we left the house at 10:00am and didn’t return until 2:00am. It was a very full day filled with an abundance of blessings.
Our day consisted of strawberry picking, a graduation party, a school bus inspection, a two hour drive to pick up Tyler’s biological brother for a weekend visit, an unexpected request to babysit two of our little friends for the weekend, and an evening at the drive-in movie theatre to see “Finding Dory!”
That is a lot of crazy crammed in one day, but we pulled it off!
Due in large part to Toby!
Not every man would so willingly take on as much as my man does. He is a living example of being “all in.” He doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t waver. He doesn’t run. When asked to take on three extra kids over Father’s Day weekend he just smiles and says, “What’s one more? …or three more?” 🙂
I think I won the husband lottery and have no idea how I got so lucky. Our life is often crazy and messy and loud and chaotic but there is no one I’d rather be navigating it with than this man. Today, as I write this blog and try to catch up on recording all that happened this weekend, I reflect on the blessing of my husband. Today is our 19th anniversary and I can’t help but think how boring my life would be without him.
It was Toby that called Friday morning from work and told me to have the kids dressed and ready to go. He was done at work and suggested we go strawberry picking as a family. It was a beautiful day, sunny and not too warm, a perfect day to be in the fields.
We drove out to Catalpa Grove Farm. Friends introduced us to Catalpa’s six years ago and it has been our go-to “you pick” farm ever since.
This was Ozzie’s first time picking strawberries with us since we didn’t make it out to Catalpa’s last summer. He was very excited and the kids were eager to share the experience with him.
When we arrived we stopped at the front booth to pick up the wire baskets that hold our quart containers. Then we drove out to the fields where we were assigned the rows that we were to pick from.
We were told to pick as much as we liked (The cost was $3.00/qt) and to enjoy sampling the strawberries while we worked. 🙂
It took us about an hour to pick 24 quarts. Each person was given three quart containers to fill when we arrived, and then those who finished first helped fill the last few.
As I knelt in the wet hay that lined the aisles,
with the sun warming my shoulders and the scent of strawberries in the air,
I counted my blessings…
All 6 of them
with strawberry stained lips.
Everyone had a good time picking, visiting, and sampling.
When we were done we headed back to the front gate to pay for our haul
then we parked and headed inside for another Catalpa tradition:
Catalpa’s yummy strawberry slushies have become our annual reward for everyone’s hard work in the field. They are made from the strawberries grown there and are a delicious, cold treat.
After enjoying our slushies we drove back home to put the berries in the fridge to keep until we could process them on Saturday morning,
before we headed back on the road for the remainder of the day.
The next morning, with the “help” of 8 children we cleaned, cut and prepared 24 quarts of strawberries for jam and freezing.
Half the strawberries were turned into jam (30 jars of jam) and the other half were bagged for future recipes and to be used to make smoothies.
Even Harley got to enjoy the fruits of our labor when we gave him the bowl of strawberry foam that was skimmed from the top of the jam.
All in all it was a “Berry” good day!