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My constant companion, Snuggles

I had one suicide attempt after another. I was in and out of hospitals and ended up in the ICU on a couple of occasions. I remember once that upon my return from the hospital, Bryce said, “my god, Michelle, they told me they did not know if you would survive.” We were told that I would be sick for the rest of my life, requiring medications, doctors, therapists and psychiatric hospital stays. I heard a voice tell me that this would not be the case, which was fine with me as my attitude was “oh, hell, no.”  When I informed my husband that the day would come when I would be well and not require meds and doctors, he looked at me as if I were merely dreaming. Although it took a few years and much hard work, that day arrived. I recently asked Bryce if he remembered me telling him that and he responded yes. My response was “well?” He said, “yeah, yeah” with a look that said another of my premonitions came to fruition.

Unfortunately, a successful pregnancy with a beautiful baby boy did not help my mental illness. My downward spiral continued, causing much stress on our marriage and our sons. My paranoia got the better of me and I left my husband. This ended up in a divorce which never should have occurred. The stress was too much on John and our baby, Christian.

Christian ended up having severe behavioral problems due to his confusion. Even babies can sense when something is wrong and my poor baby boy could not figure out what was going on with his mother. He began with constant crying which developed into banging his head on the floor, violence towards family members and eventually acting out in school. He ended up in special school programs with them giving him an alphabet soup diagnosis. None of this seemed to help and the schools trying to get my unique and artistic son to fit into society’s box only made matters worse. We were told that we would be visiting him in jail when he was a teenager. Typical of our son, he proved everyone wrong. Around the age of 12 he began to change and eventually did a complete turnaround without medication or therapists. He is now  a wonderful and loving young man with the biggest heart that I know of.

After my marriage ended the boys and I moved in with my mother. This upset Bryce greatly because he felt this was very bad for the boys and me. He was right about this, but with no money, I had nowhere else to go. Our divorce proceedings were long and difficult and the custody battle even longer and more difficult. Bryce did his best to prove my illness was so severe that I could not raise Christian. Custody switched back and forth but Bryce’s stress caused him to do things which ended up with me having custody.

The boys and I ended up getting a place of our own. Unfortunately, trying to work, raise my boys and keep a home, was very stressful and did not help my illness. After a few years I ended up receiving disability. I realized that being a working single mother with a mental illness was difficult and I did not make much money working. I felt embarrassed to apply for disability but my bitterness at having to leave my sons all day with someone else only to end up not being able to make ends meet, thus causing the depression to worsen, made me realize that it was the best thing to do.

The custody proceedings had not yet ended because Bryce was persistent and we eventually ended up agreeing to joint custody with Christian alternately living two weeks with me and two weeks with his father.

The house we were renting was sold and we needed to move out. I tried to rent an apartment but they needed a cosigner. My mother refused to do this even though it would not cost her a cent. The boys and I moved back in with her yet again. My mom was not good at understanding children with behavioral problems. Christian was afraid of no one, especially authority figures. This angered my mom to no end and she could not put up with my son. The other thing my mother always desired was me all to herself without my spouse or my children. Christian’s behavioral problems and my mental illness were the perfect excuse for her and she talked me into having Christian live permanently with Bryce because the situation was causing my mental illness to become worse (so she said). I told Bryce that I felt it best for Christian to live with him full time; however, I would not give up my half of the custody.

Although Christian lived with his father and paternal grandmother permanently, it did nothing to improve his behavior. He was still confused about our family situation and he continued to act out.

John and I continued to live with my mom. I was still in and out of hospitals, seeing doctors and therapists and taking a cocktail of medications. All the while Bryce and I were at each others throats. I hated him yet loved him at the same time.

The medications I was on did not seem to help. In fact, they seemed to make things worse. The side effects of the antipsychotics were so severe I was embarrassed to go out in public. My hands remained in a knotted twist at all times, I was puffy and overweight, I could not stand still and danced around like a child who had to go potty, the tension in my body was so body I could not relax, I had constant dry mouth and had to drink liquids continuously and the antidepressants made me suicidal.

John left for college in August of 2006. I dropped him off at Miami University Ohio while bawling my eyes out while John rolled his eyes in embarrassment. During his Freshman year John realized that he did not fit in at Miami and was uncomfortable there. He asked me if he could transfer to Case Western Reserve University and live with my mom and me. I agreed without realizing that this transfer would cause John to lose all of his scholarships.

The older John became the more of a loner he became, just like me. He became more and more independent and spent much time in his room. All three of these things were things that irritated my mother. My mom and John grew further and further apart.

I ended up in the hospital during Christmas of 2008. John called me in the hospital to tell me that he was moving out of grandma’s house because we wanted to spend time with his father and was moving in with Jack. I was suspicious of this but thought maybe I was being paranoid again. I told myself that it was a good thing that John wanted to spend time with his dad.

When I returned home from the hospital I sensed immediately that there was something very wrong. John would call but he did not come to the house to visit. After a couple of months my mom became extremely angry because I did not ask what was going on. I did not ask because everyone in the family was giving me the same story that John had. I ignorantly assumed that if there actually was something I needed to know, someone would tell me. My mother then gave me her version of the argument she and John had. She claimed that John was so angry he was near to violence and she was afraid him. I did not buy this as I have never seen my son get violent or anywhere near it. I admit that he could have a sharp tongue and be sarcastic; however, violent? No. My mom told me that she had to kick him out of the house.

I later learned from my sister that John was living in his car and would go to her house to shower. When my mother learned that John was showering at my sister’s, she said to my sister, “you never told me he was showering there.” My sister, being the one of the four of us to most likely speak her mind, responded with “he is my nephew and this is my house. Why did I need to tell you?”

I did not get to see John until May of 2009. I was heartbroken and even more depressed. The person I was closest to in this world had disappeared into thin air while I was locked up in a psychiatric hospital. I was so depressed about my sons being gone that I again tried to kill myself and ended up back in the hospital. We were very bad with our emotions in my family and this topic went undiscussed. All I wanted was to be with John and Christian but I felt I was a bad mom and they deserved so much better. With both of my sons gone, I felt that this was proof that I was correct in this assumption.

I had always dreamed that when John moved out on his own, I would help him find his first place, help him decorate it and make things for his new home. This was not to be. The first place he lived after living in his car was in the dorms of Case of Western Reserve University, which caused his school loans to be even higher than need be.

In May of 2009, John came to get his mail and take me out for Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was the most important day to him. More important than my birthday or Christmas. When John pulled up in the drive (he was not permitted in the house), I ran out to hug him and he scooped me into his arms. We hugged for quite a while. I returned to the house to get ready for our evening out and John left to do some errands and then would return to pick me up later. Upon reentering the house, I saw fire coming from my mother’s eyes. She said, “he has never hugged you like that before.” I told her that when we have gone extended periods without seeing one another, he does. She then told me that she was upset that I had not reprimanded John for the argument (I had not yet heard his side of the story) and she hinted that I should not have anything more to do with my son. For the second time in my life I stood up to mother and replied “he is my son.”

John took me to a very fancy French restaurant. We had a wonderful time and John told me his side of the story. Typical of my mother, she accused John of having an attitude, which is something her paranoia caused her to accuse us all of at one time or another. The difference this time was that when John said he did not have an attitude, he stood his ground, which is something his mother, uncle and aunts would never do. We rarely defended ourselves to her in order to keep things as peaceful as possible. Both of my sons, however, believe in defending themselves and standing up for themselves. So, the fact that John would not agree that he had an attitude ended up culminating in a horrific argument. This gave my mother the perfect excuse to kick him out. Now both of mys sons were gone and she had me to herself. I ended up staying there until I was 47 years old. Others convinced me I could not afford to move out and I had myself convinced of this lie and the lie that I had to stay and take care of my mother.

Whenever I was out without my mother, she would always call me on my cell phone. Should I not pick up, she would call back repeatedly. I remember being out doing errands when I became stuck in a traffic jam and ended up being gone longer than I had intended. My mother called angry, demanding to know where I was.

I was once at a church picnic with my friends. I had known these people for years and trusted them all so I set my purse down, with my phone in it, and went to relax and socialize by the pool. When I left the picnic I checked my phone. There were 8 calls from my mother. She was angry and asked why I did not pick up. When I told her I set my purse down, she became even angrier and said I should not trust those people and keep my purse with me. I told her they were all my friends and I trusted them.

Once I stopped over at my very close friend’s house. I was only going in for a moment so I left my purse and phone in the car. My friend and I talked in her kitchen for approximately five minutes. When I returned to my car there 7 calls from my mother.

When my first hospice patient crossed over, I attended his funeral mass. I had turned off my phone during the mass but made the mistake of leaving it on vibrate. During the mass my phone began to vibrate noisily over and over again. People began looking around and I became terribly embarrassed. I went outside to check my phone. There was an angry message from mother: “Michelle, where the hell are you? I know mass must be over and you are socializing again.” I have never been one to do much socializing.

Although my mom had a dog, she wanted to get another. It always seemed that she loved her dogs more than her family and this was a huge problem with my dad. I remember them arguing about it once. My mom asked what I thought about getting another dog. I told her I did not feel it was a good idea because one dog was enough. My mom had a habit of asking my opinion and then doing the opposite. I ended up spending much time driving her around looking for a dog. One day she became upset at not having another dog yet and was determined to get one that very day. We ended up at a pet shop where she bought a Havanese puppy. I knew this was not a good idea because she was getting too old and tired to take care of and train a puppy. I had been under the assumption that she was getting an adult dog.

It ended up that she could not take care of the dog and the responsibility of care and training ended up being mine. Naturally, the dog became very attached to me and followed me where ever I went. This made my mother jealous and she told me that she could not afford the care of the dog and he was now mine. I ended up with a dog I could not afford and my mom used him to control me. I ended up resenting the dog for a very long time; however, he is still with me and since I have had a home of my own, my resentment is gone and I would not live my life without him.

I had to drive John to the airport early one morning. Again, this upset my mother and she used the excuse that the dog barks when I am not around and he would wake her up. I told her that I would then take Snuggles with John and me to the airport to rectify the problem. This worked out well as Snuggles enjoyed the adventure. It was the first time John and Snuggles met. They have been fast friends ever since.

One day John mentioned that he and I had not been on a road trip together for years. He told me that he wanted to take me on a road trip to Boston. I was elated and told all of my friends and siblings about it. They were all excited and happy for me. My mistake was telling my mother. She responded with anger, saying “I am not taking care of your dog again while you leave.” John and I never ended up going on that trip.

One day, while I was picking up Christian at Bryce’s house, their St. Bernard attacked me. I ended up in the emergency room getting stitches and my left arm in a sling. They gave me oxycodone, which is something I do not care to take but I was in so much pain that I took them. They caused me to sleep quite a bit which was another thing my mom felt she needed to control. She told me if I slept too much I would not sleep at night. In my opinion, if I was taking oxycodone, I would be able to sleep at night and anytime. She was constantly waking me up when I fell asleep. This made me very angry but I could not show it and held it in. After I began to feel better and no longer needed the pain medication, John and I decided to spend the day in Little Italy and have lunch. Since I was a child my mother would have a predetermined time which she felt I should be home by but would never tell me what that time was. When I did not return home by that time she would be angry. When I returned home from our outing that day, I was “late”. My mother was angry and used the excuse that I needed to rest due to my injuries from the dog attack. I felt as if I could never win and this was yet another excuse to keep me from my son.

After Bryce’s mother crossed over, he needed even more of my help with Christian, which was something that made me very happy. I wanted to be involved with my son and this helped greatly in improving my depression. I felt like a “real mom” again. I began picking Christian up from school, driving him to doctor’s appointments, to friend’s houses, etc. My mother began to complain that Christian and Bryce were taking advantage of me. I thought “huh?” I am his mother. This is what mothers do. It is not only my job as his mother, it is my honor  and great pleasure. This is another time I ignored her and continued being my son’s mother.

My family was going to the park one weekend. John had asked me to go to the movies with him. Naturally, time with my children was the most important thing to me. My mom became very angry and we ended up getting in an argument. I went to the park but was very upset the whole day.

I sacrificed my husband and my sons. – Michelle

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