I recently got a ton of old home videos put on a hard drive and was obsessing over watching them. First one to hook me? Violet was 4 and a half years old. I didn’t even recognize her. She had this little high voice, and she was so cute, funny, silly and sweet to us, her sister and brother. (please add a baby boy to the fam) Thennnn, I watched about 35 more and I began to see little things that I remember being “trying” and it was freaky to see how they overtook the sweet moments, the older she got. Hello stomach knots.
Eggshells. That is how I have to describe living the decline. I felt like at ALL times, I was ready for something to happen. It started out seemingly small - a hug to the baby that was a little too hard, my husband getting upset, then me feeling like I have to defend her. A toss of a toy that just happens to knock over a lamp and falls too close to the baby. A silly shaking dance that ends up knocking a table, things spilling everywhere and breaking glass. A mean look, a nasty voice. An argument, a random scream. Disrespectful words, door slamming, stomping, screaming, throwing things.
It escalated. She grew in size, volume and aggression. The amount of occurrences multiplied until they were daily, sometimes many times per day. There was so much yelling by her, then eventually me.
“VIIIIIOOOLEEETTT!!!!!” - my other kids would whine ad nauseum, the default statement. Then my instantaneous reaction to rush to their defense - fully expecting that she DID in fact do something intimidating (even if she didn’t). The cycle of dysfunction fell on top of itself and spun around and around again like clothes in a dryer.
Violet was in a special ed school, seeing a therapist, on meds. The neuropsych assured us her reactions were NOT by choice - she had a brain full of chaos. She was 9, then 10, and hormones were surely not helping. We ran through babysitters like crazy – none of whom could handle Violet. More feeling bad about herself, more stress for me.
We would battle over homework, going places, bedtime. She was constantly annoyed, irritated and bored. I would end up letting her watch TV or stare at her computer just so I could have a moment of quiet. My attention was so always on her and it felt like my other kids were getting ‘the shaft.’ Not only did they have to deal with constant negativity and disruption, they weren’t the focus of the attention, ever.
Violet was always SO great one-on-one, but how could I do that while having two other kids who would ALSO love some alone time? Vi also had the old “hole in the bucket” syndrome. No matter how much we filled it with hugs, encouragement, special time, things – it would last like 5 seconds, then back to angst. Nothing was enjoyable for very long. Vacations, dinners, celebrations - everything was shadowed with anxiety.
When I wasn’t attempting to control Violet from an outburst, I was just SO sad. I cried a lot. It just kept getting worse and I did NOT know how to get out of the place we were in with her. I felt like a terrible mother, a bad wife.
I lost perspective. It was affecting my ability to function. I had tears at-the-ready any second of the day. The anxiety, resentment and guilt it caused in my marriage was bonkers. Thank god we love each other so much, because this was and still is - the ultimate trial for our family. My husband was the stepparent, and without a biological father participating, he has been left to deal with the brunt of this – financially and emotionally. (he is THE man)
I must have called my own mother DAILY to cry and say, “I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW TO HELP HER. I can’t take having these feelings about my own kid. She just seems to be getting worse and worse. Every second of every day is just SO full of anger it is SO sad Mom. I just don’t know what to do.”
The Decline, we never caught a breath.
It gets hopeful soon I promise!!! 1 more entry to Wilderness:)