The Toll

This was supposed to be posted days ago, but this piece has taken quite some time to write. I’ve gone back and forth a million times about whether or not I’m brave enough to write about and post the things I truly want to write about right now, and I want you to know that this decision wasn’t easy. I worry about backlash, ridicule, and hate, but the things I wish to write about are important to me and maybe, just maybe, to others as well. I read anything and everything, whether I agree with it or not and I know that others are most certainly not the same, especially at this point in time.

And that’s okay, we’re all different and that’s what makes humanity beautiful, but it’s the hate I see, that’s making it ugly and that’s really what scares me off. My only hope in writing and putting these things out there is that someone who needs to find this, knows they’re not alone because I’ve experienced this far too often in my life and it’s not a great place to be. This topic is a hard one, but a necessary one and, apparently, our family isn’t the only family that has been affected in this way. If you are one of them, please, please, please know that you’re not alone.

My mother and husband have been telling me to grow a bloody set and get on with it, and my sister left me with her full support after I told her what I’d planned to do with this blog before she passed, and standing on the sidelines hesitating was never the intent. I’ve had much time to reflect since we lost her 2 years ago, and the things that stand out about her is her bravery in speaking up and out, and her continued unwavering support of others until her very last breath. So today, I’m going to stop fretting and just put it out there.

Lola, my first born and eldest daughter. Giver of gray hair, oddly spaced bald patches, and a horrible, habit that includes long drawn out exasperated sighs of frustration and an eyeball roll that’d make the possessed jealous. She’s our pride and joy, and no, I’m not being an asshole right now.

I know that last summer, out of complete and utter frustration and a total disconnect from my own kid, I found therapy in writing about the things that I wasn’t going to do to her but really wanted to. If you want to read about my insanity, these posts about pirates and scary clowns, pretty much sum up my decline. I admit, I’ve often employed humor to deal with the many things that have hit me square between the eyes over the years and I know that sometimes it may not have always been appropriate, but when you’re at the end of your rope, sometimes you just gotta let go.

If you know me personally, you’d know that appropriate and I are not good friends…nope, we’re just not that into each other and sadly, it shows sometimes. So yeah, some of these were not my finest moments of motherhood, but if I may say, there was indeed a light at the end of that tunnel…a year and a half long one, but it was there. And that light, well… it popped out of nowhere, just days before we moved. All I can say is, thank goodness for miracles.

2020 with children… enough said

I admit, there were many nights over this past year and a half that I either didn’t sleep, or didn’t sleep much. Some mornings, I awoke in a panic after falling asleep when I desperately felt like I needed to be awake, worried that my oldest daughter might not be breathing when I went into her room the next morning. No fucking joke. A family who is very close to us, lost their loved one to suicide last summer, out of the blue, and it’s something I’ll never forget, especially when I saw the devastation that hit his loving family (especially his children).

I never thought that things would get as ugly as they did during this time, but then again, life has a funny way of throwing shit at you when you least expect it. I digress, I’m sick of random, flying bags of shit that seem to come from out of nowhere, hitting and splattering all over us. All I was thinking was give me a fucking break life…will ya? That said, I guess I shouldn’t have been completely surprised and I should’ve paid a little more attention to the history.

In writing the entertaining things that I wanted to do to my kid after the shit she was putting me through, I acknowledge now that I was beyond frustrated because I couldn’t even relate to her. I attest, parenting isn’t easy, and I often wonder which generation of children will arrive with manuals tied to their ankles…or a QR code stamped next to the expiration dates we all have printed under the unseen area beneath our left ass cheek. It’s there, I swear…it has to be.

I’m terrified of the world I live in right now

I want to say that when I was in the midst of all of this chaos, I wanted to write, but I was afraid. I wanted to put this out there because I genuinely do care about other people and want no one to think of me as selfish, but I know that I am not alone and am most certain that there are others who have or are experiencing the same situations. To put it lightly, shit has become ugly in the world and for some of the things that I think makes us human, I’ve been wondering…where the hell did compassion and empathy for everyone go?

I know that when shit was really hitting the fan, I searched, yet again, on the Google machine, seeking any and all information because we’d been completely cut off from people all over, due to lockdowns. Most of my conversations were in person and usually at school with other parents before all of this, so I just want to say that going through this completely alone and having very few accounts to read about online, was a horrible, severely isolating and, desperate experience. This is a child, a human being, and apparently it doesn’t and didn’t matter, despite all of the bullshit I’d read about everyone being in this together…complete and utter bullshit.

So, I did what I always do, and I looked around. Thankfully, I managed to come across a few parents who bravely talked about the situations they were facing with their children, many facing backlash and being called selfish, but persevering in their endeavor to get the word out that this was happening in many places. I just want to say thank you to the few that were brave and did write, despite all of the ugly fucking backlash that you may have faced (comment sections of major newspapers particularly).

My gratitude to the brave who extended me a lifeline despite the ridicule and the hate

If I may say, you provided at least a single, brand new thread for me to hang onto after the rest of mine had frayed and broken. I am grateful for you. Thank you.

With that, I’m going to be brave and finally write and talk about my daughter Lola and I am just going to warn you that I’m done holding back. If you can believe it, I…yes me…have been holding back in everything I’ve pretty well written thus far. And you know what? That isn’t doing an ounce of good, and honestly, I set out to write for a reason, so here goes nothing…

I can say that teenagers during the most normal of times, I’ve heard, are trying, but in the middle of a lockdown situation, well, I still haven’t quite come up with a way to describe it yet. Full blown, humongous, circus sized shit show of epic proportions attempting to be contained within a vessel the size of a ring box comes to mind (Pandora’s Box would be an accurate description), but maybe that’s just me. My only comment as of late includes being thankful for surviving this next level, fucked up bullshit, followed by someone please get me a fucking t-shirt proclaiming this achievement and a very tall, stiff drink cause…damn.

Don’t discount the past

I think I’d mentioned about Lola dealing with something called Trichotillomania before, back in grade 3, because she’d had trouble dealing with violent outbursts from kids in school and just couldn’t take it. She was afraid of getting hurt and seeing the outbursts were scary to her. School made her anxious enough and this just sent her over the edge. She’d ended up seeing a psychologist, but eventually, she finally found her own ways to cope.

In saying all of this, it was suggested that eventually down the line, Lola could venture into cutting. We’d kept it in mind, but our daughter couldn’t stand having scars or any kind of markings on her skin, so after seeing that behavior, we’d sort of felt secure that that form of self harm might not become an issue. Now, I could provide information, but I’m not going to do that. I encourage others to do their own reading because the journey in learning about the things that have affected my life, took me to places and realizations I’d never considered and that has changed everything for me.

I can attest, that the things I’ve found along the way to the information I’ve sought over the years, completely opened my eyes. I feel that if I’m not willing to spend 5 minutes to educate myself, I am robbing myself of the knowledge that could affect me down the line and thus, has become important in my decision making process. What you do now, can affect the future, I am living proof and certain I’m not alone in this realization.

It all began in January

Lola managed to get herself to a place of balance after she struggled with her anxieties, those many years ago, and we thought things were better after the fact because she’d discovered coping mechanisms and knew her triggers. Now, fast forward to January 2020 when she ends up quite ill with pneumonia in both lungs. She was down for a few weeks and of course, it took some time to bounce back from it. If I may say, this has always been the case with pneumonia, it kicks your ass and unfortunately it takes time to recover, if you ever fully recover at all…pneumonia is no joke (I would know).

So, Lola fell behind and unfortunately she never bounced back academically. Her recovery took a some time and she was constantly fighting me about getting the rest and proper nutrition she’d needed to bounce back, and we at that point we figured it was just good old…teenage rebellion. No matter, lockdowns happened a while later (March), and we didn’t say a thing to her about grades not counting from that point on, but she still refused to do a thing. We’d attempted to maintain a schedule at home, but nothing seemed to stick (everything was chaos in regards to just what the hell was going on) and normalcy of course, was tossed out the window…for the 3 of us left at home anyway.

During this time, Lola began to sleep all day and was up all night (despite my best efforts, this happened rather quickly) and I worried because she wasn’t having much contact with anyone anymore and that loneliness, bothered me. She rarely came out of her room and any interaction with any of us suddenly became volatile (I’ve dealt with raging hormones, but this was different). To make a long story short, we eventually ended up with a child who completely dumped school and all of her friends, while managing to seek out other kids over social media (because that’s all they were left with for any kind of interaction with other human beings), who weren’t exactly the same kinds of kids she’d been hanging out with previously. As I’d said before, my kids were probably the last kids in their grades to get cell phones, but being isolated and not wanting to talk on a home phone prompted us to reconsider, and of course, that was the tool they utilized pretty much all of the time (we’d started off with rules, but the phone eventually became Lola’s alleged lifeline and we struggled to take the damned thing away, which she began using at night…we had to choose our battles at this point because things had become desperate after so many months of this).

I’m not proud of these moments

I just want to say that I used to have kids who played outside and met up to play with other kids in person almost daily. Overnight they became completely different, because they had to. Honestly, this isn’t a good thing (I’ve never seen anything like what I see now… social anxiety, maybe?), and I don’t think we’re ever going to get back to this kind of natural human interaction and I feel for future generations to come. If you are face to face and say hello to someone younger than you and they don’t know how to respond…this is probably why.

They’ve been robbed in my opinion. My kids won’t even go outside and try to meet new people here (there are tons of kids walking by and in the area all of the time which should’ve made meeting new people here very easy, but alas…) because that’s not the way it’s done anymore they tell me. I know what being socially awkward is like, but this, this is a whole new ballgame and I think we’ve lost the most basic skills of communication…mark my words, this is a detriment to society.

Anyway, back to it, after this up all night and sleep all day stuff, Lola began running around town and hanging out with kids older than her, ones we’d had no clue about. And, before we knew it, she was sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night (she was 13 at the time and one of those nights she snuck out with 2 other boys…and…apparently had a chat with a police officer who thought nothing of these kids being out on their own at 4 a.m.) and our once peaceful and loving home became filled with hate, vitriol and sometimes violence. Yes, I am admitting this, VIOLENCE. This was NOT NORMAL for us and caused so much damage to my family that it is beyond difficult to write let alone read after it’s been written.

Feelings of guilt and being on trial for the last 5 years… welcome to my life

Before I go any further, I want anyone who’s reading this to know that before any of this guilt came to be, I still feel guilt every single day for all that’s happened before all of this. Guilt that I couldn’t have kids easily because I feel it was my fault, guilt for my child having cancer, guilt that she had to go through the barbaric bullshit that she had to to survive, guilt that my oldest child felt so much pain and helplessness and there wasn’t a thing I could do to help her, guilt for my sister dying, guilt that I’m not there every day for my nephews, and guilt for even being alive to name a few. I feel like I’ve been on trial for at least 5 and a half years and I don’t think people consider the personal hells that others live daily, especially before opening their mouths and regurgitating their opinions (do people really form their own anymore?) when they have absolutely no idea. Has shame gone out the window too?

Yes, these are not my proudest moments, but when you fear being punished (they’d threatened hefty fines for breaking restrictions), what the hell do you do? I felt for Lola, she wanted to go out and be a kid, even though she was hanging out with kids we didn’t want her to be hanging out with, but she had to be locked in at home and she was physically fighting us because she thought it was us and our rules (which they weren’t, obviously). It got to the point of what the fuck do you do?

For reference, we lived near people who’d had no qualms in the past about calling by-law to turn people in for parking their cars in front of their house. These same people work for our provincial health services and some worked with the police, and we were afraid…especially when our kid just up and took off. They never did call on us, but there were times I caught the judgemental staredowns as they glared at us from across the street. It appeared that we were the only ones having these issues and because of what many of them do, I thought there’d possibly be some kind of understanding but no, only judgement.

More and more and more

The situation was beyond fucked up and although we knew that being a teenager was rough, Lola just couldn’t handle what was going on. My kids were going through hell, both of them… all of us, and I highly doubt that it was just our family dealing with this bullshit insanity. Lola, it seemed, was dealing with it the worst and I hated every single moment of it.

After the summer ended (I’m surprised we survived) and the kids were finally allowed to go back to school and into sports (this was a fucking joke and I’m not apologizing for saying it), we vowed to get ourselves back on track, and my kids clung to this return to normal like their lives depended on it…I swear, their lives did and I’m not kidding. We welcomed the structure and normalcy, but it wasn’t long before that got tossed, yet again. Lola was getting back into sports, thankfully, and school started off not bad, but she quickly fell back into not giving a shit and was missing school entirely or going very late if she did, not even a month in.

By this time, she had become best friends with a girl 2 years older than herself (meaning, when this friend wasn’t hanging out with her boyfriend or other friends or was in crisis mode, she was best friends with my daughter…yeah…great bestie). 2 years difference can be very different, depending on the person, and this young lady was far and beyond where Lola was in life, in terms of experience. It wasn’t long before Lola had a meltdown of epic proportions on the way to school one morning at 11 a.m. (which, of course, any day that we managed to get her to go to school involved a huge fight), whereby she angrily showed her father the large amount of light colored slits going up her arm and that’s when we really knew that she was spiraling. You know what, that was shocking the first time we’d seen it, almost the same numb/shocked feeling we had when the pediatrician told us he suspected Caelan had cancer, I’m not kidding.

We knew, but had no idea how to help

We knew things were bad, but we didn’t think they were this bad. She hated life and had made it known. We did everything in our power to try and help, even offering her professional help, but at the end of the day she needed to want and accept it, otherwise, forcing it on her would’ve caused the divide between us to grow. Our biggest fear was that divide would get so big that we’d never reconnect again.

After this meltdown, she finally asked for help. We had no idea where to even start looking, but decided to call the school immediately to see where to go from there. I think the craziest thing about all of this was constantly hearing that we weren’t alone. We never saw it for ourselves, but we were informed that this type of thing was happening all over.

I still can’t believe others did not see this as a big problem. Hello, is anyone out there?! Kids suffering like this and the nonchalance coming from adults just brushing it off and saying you’re not the only one is appalling. You know, my heart hurts for anyone suffering and I think everyone has suffered in some way or form since all of this started, but saying that kids are resilient and will get through this, followed by basically walking away and doing nothing to really help them, is cruel and heartless.

Help is always available…if we’re open, which we don’t know when that will be…

The school counselor became involved and said she’d be able to help…yeah…right. We started there, but this lady was only helpful if Lola was in school, and guess what…not long after we enlisted her help (the very next day in fact), our school was almost completely shut down. Yeah, story of my life right there.

This wasn’t helpful in the least and in fact, added enormously to the problem. Lola sunk even further because she (alone) wasn’t allowed to go anywhere, but the rest of us could (makes sense, doesn’t it…believe me, other parents said the same thing), but it wasn’t long before both of my kids ended up having to stay put. You know…I’m just going to say it…this was fucking stupid and really added to my bullshit meter going off. So, the girls’ couldn’t go to school or to their sports, and I ended up running around coaching my kids’ team without them because they weren’t able to be there to play because they were in quarantine, but not me…makes a helluva lot of sense, doesn’t it? On top of all of this and of course, Lola didn’t get along with another girl on the team (I know my kid is no angel, but, after seeing the wonderful things this young girl displayed on TikTok about Lola and a number of other girls while feigning innocence), I had to agree that she was not being a nice person.

Anyway, this girl rubbed Lola’s nose in the fact that she was the top scorer, but Lola had only made it to 3 games while this young lady had made all 14 (because her school managed to avoid being shut down), and that didn’t sit well…my kids loved to play but were denied. After this extra garbage was added to the pile, my daughter withdrew entirely and she solely began to rely on the only friendship she’d had, with the older girl who appeared to not be in such a great place herself (the literally hundreds of neat, straight scars on her arms that I caught sight of and her extremely bony figure made me wonder how this young lady was faring).

Correcting a completely reversed sleep schedule is hard

Things only got worse, and Lola holed up and hardly ate while continuing this day and night sleep schedule flip flop. There were days that she’d declare that she could fix it and would stay up all night and all day, only to crater and sleep for 12 plus hours straight and then repeat the process of up all night, sleep all day again. She would desperately try to fix herself, but she just couldn’t. Having the looming threat of being locked down at home any minute, didn’t help the anxiety she faced either.

We’d begun to search her room for drugs and cutting objects because the cuts began to multiply, with some getting deeper. The changes we’d been seeing in her weren’t good and the school counselor was, of course, no help (the quarantine period was nearly 3 weeks long by the time they did all of the supposed tracing and as the days were added from the original 2 weeks, Lola sunk further into a depression). Lola’s teachers were trying to do everything in their power too, never giving up hope, even as things continued to go south. Even my co-coach was reaching out and trying to call and text her to see how she was doing and to provide support in any way that she could (I can’t thank these amazing people enough for all they did, even though my child rarely reached back).

We tried to help our daughter, but nothing we did was helping. The pattern of removing razor blades from her nightstand one day and finding a new stack of dismantled pencil sharpener blades or separated multiple blade disposable razors a few days later continued, with more tissues covered in straight blood lines stashed with them as well (her friend was supplying them). I found an ice pack the one day and wondered if she really wanted to be doing this to herself, while thinking about how the hell to ask about these things without setting her off. The helplessness and despair Clem and I were feeling was probably nothing in comparison to what Lola and even Caelan were experiencing. Unfortunately, I’d said to Clem that that this was far beyond the school counselor’s and our own scope and we knew we were at the point of having to seek further help.

Christmas was bad (I can’t think of anything else to call this) and we barely managed to make it through the holidays (I don’t even want to write about the holidays, but I’d like to say that after the kids returned from their first lockdown at the beginning of November, they returned for maybe a month before being locked back down at home again in early December, which made for a very trying month). Once classes finally resumed (Lola returning a week after Caelan had started…I’m sorry…none of any of this made any difference in our community if I may say), I went in to clean her room and finally saw the weeks of food and plates that had accumulated because I wasn’t allowed in and could only gain access when she was away. It was the orange juice that had spilled all over her bed that she’d left for well over 2 weeks that she’d been sleeping in that really bothered me. That, and the cuts that appeared on her thighs, not long after this.

It just kept getting worse

Again, the cuts were shocking, but that all changed again when I saw the letters carved deeply into the delicate skin higher up on her leg when the leg of her shorts that she was wearing slid down while she adjusted herself to sitting up on her bed (I actually got to go in and say good night to her that evening for the first time in a long time). She’d also carved an image on the side of the bottom of her wrist as well. That one almost looked like it was burned into her skin. I finally got brave and asked about her cutting one day, but she didn’t give me much.

I noticed that the light she had above her bed had been dismantled, and she admitted to basically electrocuting herself with the live end. I think the hardest thing to hear was about her liking the feeling of holding her hand over a flame and enjoying the shock from the cord that powered her light. I’d been trying to read up on all of this, but I struggled with wrapping my head around how she seemed to enjoy pain when she never did before…at all. While reading up on the cutting, I was also attempting to understand and figure out this up all night, sleep all day, what I call pandemic induced state, and I just couldn’t believe that this was happening. There wasn’t much, but what I’d read, made me angry beyond angry that this was happening to our kids.

In addition to this, I never felt safe leaving Lola at home by herself, and that was confirmed when Clem and I moved a security camera into the kitchen to keep an eye on our very old fur baby when we had to go out for something together. When the camera was set off and I was alerted by my phone, it showed Lola sneaking a peek in the liquor cabinet…yup…typical teenager…but in her state, I worried if this was going to be used as more of a numbing element than a fun time. The camera shut off before we saw if she took anything, and we decided that leaving her alone wasn’t a good idea and locking up the alcohol was a necessary precaution. Although we never confronted her (we’d decided earlier that we needed to have some peace while living together under these conditions and were only picking certain battles), we knew we needed actual proof that she’d been drinking before even thinking about bringing this up to her…things had become extremely delicate by that point.

Pivotal moments

Eventually, as all of this continued, Lola had a disagreement with her friends one spring day, and ended up ousted from her alleged friend group for speaking her mind. It was devastating for her, but she was fed up with the all of the bullshit and drama. As we’d tried to give her her space over these difficult times while working on our own understanding, we’d still hoped that if she ever needed anything, she knew that she could come to us.

I’m relieved to say that thankfully, she did. The disagreement with her friends confirmed that she still considered us when things got rough because she confided in us that evening. That helped to ease some of our worry. At this point and at the very least, we knew that if shit got really bad, she’d come to us…hopefully.

Of course, after a brief cooling down period, Lola went right back to these friends after she stayed up all night making amends apparently. It wasn’t long before things really began to change, and I feel like there was a major lightbulb moment transition that had happened shortly thereafter…I don’t really know what it was, but things started to change. Just a few weeks before we decided to start looking for a new place, our daughter finally broke down and asked for real help…yet again.

I maintain, our healthcare is a heaping pile of bullshit here

We called the school again to see if they’d had any other recommendations after Lola had allegedly (she really didn’t have any meaningful contact with this counselor) spoken to this counselor, and we got a call from someone higher up who said we were doing exactly what we should but there really wasn’t anything more they could offer. Plus, and again, we heard we weren’t the only ones experiencing this. I’m surprised that this doesn’t disturb people the way it should…and why wasn’t any of this considered when this course of action was decided upon…experts were allegedly consulted, were they not? (You’d think that during the very first 2 weeks to flatten the curve that they would’ve considered the toll of these lockdowns…but no. Provincial healthcare websites promoting bingo cards consisting of activities to help with your mental wellbeing during a lockdown, doesn’t help when someone is losing their livelihood, their loved ones, their sanity, their hope, their will to live or whatever else you want to put in here because the list is endless…seriously…and before I get really nasty, I’ll end it here.)

We knew, from past experience that going through provincial healthcare for a referral to a psychologist would take far too long (I’ve spoken to someone recently who is on a waiting list for her son and I believe she said it was going to be well over a year…I’m not positive, but I think she’d said closer to 2 before her son would finally see someone. I will reiterate from before, the healthcare system has been broken for a very, very long time and it’s nothing new). Lola wasn’t in full on crisis mode in that she’d admitted that she had no intention of taking her own life, but she was struggling badly and needed to talk with someone, and that didn’t include us. We respected that, and at the ripe old age of just about 14, knowing and acknowledging when you’re in over your head and in need of help, was really big of her.

Clem and I immediately started to look for someone who could really help (if that’s possible, I honestly don’t know) and landed an appointment about a month and a half from booking, backed up because yet again, there were a lot of kids with many of the same issues they‘d said…I’m sorry…I still can’t fucking believe this is our society…what a disaster, for everyone. We managed to get in to see a student and we jumped at the opportunity because she was the closest lifeline available. We managed to survive the first appointment, whereby I didn’t sugarcoat shit and explained everything because I felt it had just piled up and the lockdown situation just seemed to push us all over the edge.

Baby steps

I don’t love when these psychology type people fight to not give you the look of, oh, that’s fucked up, but seem to be a little overwhelmed…that’s not really comforting actually. They need to know what they’re dealing with and I know Lola wasn’t happy, but all I kept saying was, I just want my daughter to be happy. I never threw her under the bus and I think that surprised her. The week following, she managed to make it to school and almost on time for the short 4 day week they’d had…we have no idea why, but were just happy to see something different than what we had been (we’d also heard that the lockdown we’d just come out of just a week or so prior…yet again, should be the last and we let our kids know that…maybe that helped?).

Clem and I hoped that Lola would continue, but she fell apart the following week. She did try and I have to say, I’m proud of her perseverance. Having a schedule like she’s had for the last year and a half isn’t easy to correct overnight, but she was trying. These were huge steps for her, and my hope, although a little hesitant, was being restored in little bits. She began to attend school more often and not nearly as late as time went on.

When we’d found our new home and said we were moving, things got a little rocky and Lola was refusing to move because of her friends. We decided to tread lightly and hope that she’d come around eventually, but we weren’t going to hold our breath. She hadn’t come with us when we were out house hunting despite the fact that Clem and I had told both of our kids that they were going to have a say in everything, but Lola never bit. Because she hadn’t seen the house prior to us making the offer, we asked if she wanted to join us for the inspection a few weeks later, and surprisingly, she said yes.

I had to be strong and stay the course

We pulled both kids from school early that day because it was important for Lola to see the house before moving day, and I’ll never forget the moment she saw it. At first she was trying to play it cool, but we saw a small glimmer of excitement in her eyes that she didn’t want us to see, and I thought that maybe we were in the clear, but that was a little premature. It wasn’t long after Clem left with the inspector that Lola broke down on me in our new, soon to be kitchen. I hadn’t seen this emotion come from her in a long time and it was hard, and I admit, I was a little worried that she might begin to revert despite her progress.

I felt horrible and began to have second thoughts, even worse than the buyer’s remorse I’d felt the night we’d made the offer. I felt for her, but I explained that I thought a fresh start would be good and Clem and I had made sure to say that the girls could visit back home and have their friends over any time (we really didn’t want Lola to be hanging out with some of these kids, but what were we going to do?). We said we didn’t want to hurt anyone and were sensitive to the girls’ needs first and foremost, but this was a necessary step in our healing process. They seemed good with that, but Lola was still adamantly against moving, period.

We left it all at that and were careful when discussing the move, especially when Lola would spit out the bullshit that the kids she was hanging out with would tell her about everyone being on meth here, or that she’d be jumped because she was best friends with her bestie and so on, which was just stupid and ridiculous, but we kept quiet anyway. As we packed, things began to change a little over time, and Lola said a thing or 2 here and there about her new room that gave us hope that she was coming around, but she’d still follow up with not wanting to go. I was worried about even getting her here because she refused to pack and said she was staying with the house. I thought that was funny, imagine a realtor showing a house with a teenager stuck in her room and then saying that she came with the house…could you imagine?!

A breakthrough

Anyway, near the middle of June, when Lola had final exams, things really seemed to change. We’d been trying to get her to talk to her teachers throughout the year and to try and get her assignments finished and handed in, but as things stood, she was failing. I was worried because she was moving to a brand new school and honestly, she isn’t stupid…rebellious and lazy yes, but stupid…no. No matter, she still needed to get some pretty high marks on her finals and she knew it.

I can confirm that she did study, but the night before her first exam, she fell asleep around dinner because, of course, she’d been trying to get herself turned around in the sleeping department and it wasn’t as easy as she’d thought. At 1 a.m., as I was finally heading to bed, the door to Lola’s room flew open and she came flying out in a daze while having a meltdown over falling asleep while studying. This was the first time in a long time that I saw my daughter panic over school. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in natural consequences and the lessons that follow, and I took this as a good sign.

Only problem is, I’m a softie, and this is my daughter. I admit that during some of our rockiest times, I’d thrown out some tough love to make my point, but I’d always felt horrible after. She definitely got the point that she knew that she shouldn’t fuck with her mother, so despite feeling bad, she knows where I stand. Regardless, I’m not a heartless bitch.

I hope I never have to repeat school ever again

For as exhausted as I was that night, I’d always said that I’d be there for her. I made sure to let her know that I was tired and that I hoped she’d learned her lesson. She agreed, so I said I’d stay up and help her. All I can say is, my mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, especially in the wee hours of the morning, and math…well, it’s still math.

She had a hell of a lot left to study, but we soldiered on. Clem even joined for about 30 minutes around 3:15 a.m. and we managed to get Lola feeling a little more confident. She thanked us profusely and said she never wanted to do this again and would be handing in assignments from now on too. It sounded like things had definitely begun to change…I guess we’ll see if it’s true shortly.

I offered to help Lola study for the rest of her exams, and to my surprise, she accepted. Clem helped with the social studies part after a while because I kept making shit up about drunk explorers getting lost in the ice floes and having to eat the crew members who died because you don’t tempt fate with nature…and oohhh the hideous outfits, ha! That, and the fact that the winners always write the history books, and really, do we actually know the whole story (yeah, I know, I’m horrible)? We hadn’t spent that much time with our daughter in well over a year and if I may say, I really enjoyed it despite the chaos at the time.

She managed to finish school this year, a big win in my book

The one study night, she confided in us that she didn’t feel safe going to school after her exams were done because for some reason, she was now afraid of some of the kids she knew. We thought it was odd, but she said something to the effect that they weren’t her friends anymore and she basically decided to break it off with most of them. We didn’t question her, and felt that there was no harm in keeping her home for the last 2 days. She promised to pack and I thought that was a hell of a deal, and I can say that she did pack…a little.

On the last day of finals, I dropped her off at school and wished her luck. I told her to call or text when she was done so that I could pick her up, and before I knew it, it wasn’t long before I was on my way to get her. When I stopped in front of the school, my daughter hopped in and looked like she’d had a good cry. The teachers that we’ve known for many years, who absolutely love our kids, had wished her well at her new school and reminded her that they were proud of her and that they were only a phone call away. Lola had passed all of her finals (she did way better than she thought she would and I think even her teachers were surprised) and was happy to be done.

After hearing about this, I was taken back to the conversation I’d had with her homeroom teacher just days before Christmas, who was always there for all of us, constantly reminding us that our daughter was still the amazing girl she’s always been. Lola despised her, but this teacher was her biggest advocate. At the end of the year, before the last day, Lola finally admitted that she’d put her teacher though a lot of shit and had felt bad. The send-off that they gave her, was one of the kindest gifts they could have ever given, and I hope she never forgets it.

Inspired by my own daughter

I don’t celebrate mediocrity and I’m sure I’ve written this before. My kids know this too, and know that if they work hard, that’s all I ask of them in regards to school. Honestly, I want my kids to think critically and outside of the box. Some people roll their eyes when I say this, but I fully believe that this is what’s most important and not the bullshit curriculum we have here.

Lola didn’t pass all of her classes, but the lessons she’s been left with, many adults can’t even wrap their heads around. Am I proud? After all of the shit we’ve gone through over the last year and a half with her, I’d say so…damn proud because while she sat at the kitchen table eating lunch with me that day, she told me this…

I deleted most of my social media and kept only the 13 or 14 people that I know are good friends. I need a break. None of this was good for me.

Talk about mind blown. I swear, I won’t forget this moment. Coming from the mouth of my teenaged daughter, who would’ve thought?

I finally felt like I could sleep at night again

Yeah, we had a bit of a moment together after she’d said that, and I was relieved. After all of the horrible and shitty things that we’d said about and done to one another over this past year and a half, I made sure that she knew that Clem and I are proud of her and that we love her. We say this to one another every single day, as many times as we can, and it has never mattered if we were in the middle of a fight or pissed off and mad, this, is a main staple in our home. It takes a big set to acknowledge what she has and then follow through and do something about it, and if I may say, that’s not being selfish, that’s called being accountable and responsible.

It doesn’t seem like much to most, but if people understood what life is really like for kids nowadays (this whole social media replacing face to face human contact thing over the last while is the furthest thing from natural and I can’t imagine how these kids even survive being kids nowadays) and the impact of this year and a half (I know that every generation has faced and overcome adversity, but this is like nothing I’ve ever seen), you’d be proud to hear this from someone who has struggled like she has too. Most people, adults included, can’t even see when they’ve hit this very same wall, let alone know or take the steps to help themselves or even acknowledge that something they’re doing is causing them harm. She’s 14, and to me, that speaks volumes.

I know it’s normal for parents to worry about their kids, but this, this has been something like no other and the mental health toll I’ve seen is BIG, and much bigger than what’s being reported if you ask me. And believe me, I get it, I really do. I had been wondering the other day, if these lockdowns had never happened, would Lola have gone down this path? Clem and I don’t think it would’ve become this bad…not by a long shot.

After all I’ve written and have been reflecting back on, I want to say that I refuse to go back from where we just came. As a mother, I refuse to accept it and I’m sorry if that offends people, but I won’t allow these things to happen to my kids again…for me, these are the worse things when people say there are worse things that could happen and if you’ve read anything I’ve written about in regards to all that’s happened in my life before all of this…I just don’t know what to say anymore.

Accepting the gift of a fresh start

In the days before we moved, Lola finally came to us and said that she was happy that we were moving. She also said that she was looking forward to the change and that it was long overdue. The anxieties Clem and I had about trying to formulate a plan to get her room packed up and get her into the car on moving day, dissipated rapidly…thank fuck for that.

I’d had nightmares that once she’d finished the full bag of Mickey D’s that we’d cleverly thrown into the backseat of the car to entice her to get in, that she’d try to jump out of the moving vehicle when she’d realized that we were officially moving. Yeah, not kidding! The things we had to contemplate were getting a little wild there for a while. I’m happy to say though, we made it…we all made it.

As we’re still trying to get unpacked and settled in, I managed to whisk my girls out of the house and off to the mall for some retail therapy the other day, before the new school year starts. They’d been asking…begging to go, because they want to enjoy normal experiences and be normal kids who get to hang out at the mall (I know, not cool hanging out with me…I mean I do have a credit card and all… but hopefully they’ll have friends that they can go with soon), but I have to say, they’re not comfortable at all being anywhere near people, and this is completely fucked up to me. They keep bleating about social anxiety and although they were anxious, I think they had fun, but their constant huddling next to me while being riddled with palpable anxiety is quite concerning (they weren’t the only ones…I’m even having difficulty, especially after Caelan’s friend’s mom and her 2 kids were basically verbally attacked by someone because they weren’t wearing masks, which aren’t mandatory here…that scares the shit out of me). Apparently, we’ve got a long way to go to get everyone back to feeling comfortable being around one another again…all of us included.

I am hopeful…pessimistically so

I’m not in denial of anything (I do my homework and have for a very long time), but I know that my kids need to have a normal school year…like how it was before all of this. I’m not trying to trample on anyone, and I want folks to know that we stayed home when told and did everything that we were asked, even to the detriment of our own kids’ well being (ours included), when many others just kept on going without a second thought while bitching out others who did the exact same thing (carefully) and I have to say, we’re done. Our province declared that we have to learn to live with this (they’ve finally…finally admitted that the lockdowns caused more harm than good, but I’m terrified they’re going to continue to flip flop), but others (I get it, they’re terrified) are fighting to keep all of these measures up and I’m sorry, but the toll I’ve seen in my own little family, my loved ones, friends, and even in talking to my new neighbors the other day is…I don’t even know what to say…tragic and immense?

I don’t know for certain if Lola is still cutting (I haven’t seen any new cuts and she’s back to wearing short sleeves and shorts once again), but she’s still struggling with this odd sleep schedule and I’m hoping we can get it worked out enough for her to attend school full time. She claims that another kid all the way across the country is the one who helped her, and I am thankful, but I hope that she realizes that while being given advice is one thing, acting upon it is wholly another. I hope that she continues to heal, but I know that this will have a lifelong effect and that relapse can and often does reoccur. Stability helps and I hope to hell that this is where we’re headed because I worry that Lola, especially, won’t do well if we end up reverting and locking back down once again.

At some point, life needs to move forward (for those who are afraid, please understand that I know fear, but I also know that this is no way to live). The consequences of continuing the way we have, are too much and I’m sorry to say, but I refuse to continue this way, simply because we can no longer. My children’s lives (and I’m thinking about others too, not just myself, so please don’t think I’m selfish because that couldn’t be further from the truth and I’m terrified to even say any of this, but it’s gone past the point of necessary in being said) are worth more than any of this and I feel like if I don’t speak up and share what we’ve gone through (which is only a single aspect of what we’ve experienced during this…whatever the hell this is because let’s be honest, none of it makes any sense at all anymore), who will?

8 thoughts on “The Toll

  1. I read it all but have no constructive comment.  You know better than I.  My 13-year old granddaughter has gone through some of the same.  Yes, school being shut down did not help.  I wish I could just give you a giant hug.Chuck Sent from Mail for Windows From: The Hopeful PessimistSent: Tuesday, August 17, 2021 10:46 PMTo: chuckwords00@gmail.comSubject: [New post] The Toll thehopefulpessimist posted: " This was supposed to be posted days ago, but this piece has taken quite some time to write. I’ve gone back and forth a million times about whether or not I’m brave enough to write about and post the things I truly want to write about right now, and I wan"

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chuck!

      My apologies! I found this is my spam folder! I’ll be more diligent in checking that from now on 😣.

      Thank you for reading, this was a very long one…as usual I suppose lol. I am so sorry to hear that about your grand daughter. It kills me to know that there are many out there suffering like this right now. This barely scratched the surface but at least it’s out there if someone needs it. I hope that our kids (and ourselves) will all heal and be able to move forward positively from here.

      I always accept hugs lol! I think we all need need a few 😊. Thank you for that! Sending positive vibes your way and especially to your grand daughter 😊.



  2. Try that again😣
    I am so sorry that your family went through yet another shit show through this pandemic. I cannot relate as my family actually came through this relatively unscathed but I feel for all who suffered.

    I have been through hell and back more than a few times in my life – as a child, an adult, a parent, and as a grandparent – and now I can honestly say that I am so strong and resilient for having been through it all that I do not regret anything that life threw at me. I honestly believe that you and your family will find yourself in this same place one day. You aren’t the quitter types. 💞 I hope for the best for all of you.

    I also admire that you can write so openly of your experiences. I would like to write more openly on my experiences, but of course it would come back on my family as well as myself if the wrong people read about stuff we went through. I will never do anything to cause them more grief than they have already been through.
    Take care, Ali – huggs!
    And if you ever – ever need to talk, nothing will shock me and I would never judge. Let me know and I can send you my cell number, so we can text offline. 💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anne 😊

      I want to thank you profusely for your kindness and never ending support, you are an amazing human being 💕. I am grateful.

      I’m truly happy that your family has managed to go through all of this unscathed and am relieved that many others did as well. We ran into a few other families we know, and at least 3 confirmed that they were struggling with the exact same thing with their kids (interestingly, they had other things happening in addition to this as well). I now wonder, how many others are out there?

      This week (1st week back at school), revealed just how much this has changed my kids entirely. It has also presented a few more challenges that we will face for the next while, but I don’t think it holds a candle to what we’ve just gone through….🤞. We’ve had our challenges before, each unique, and will strive to overcome.

      You’re exactly right about resilience and most of us that have gone through our challenges…we ain’t no quitters lol 😉. We will persevere while becoming more compassionate in the process…that is my hope 😊.

      I admire your strength and positivity in life and daily I find peace in the lessons life has taught me, as you exemplify in your writing. You are living proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel, while many of us have no idea what truly is behind your thoughts and insights…amazing.

      I too am absolutely terrified to write freely and completely understand how you feel because I am afraid of the same. This post was, so far, the most difficult thing to write, especially when I was re-reading it. I’m not proud of what happened, but it did. Things are completely different now, thankfully, but man did shit get ugly. Clem and I (and the few parents we spoke to) agree that things never would’ve been this bad had things been different. Community is so important.

      Unfortunately, what I write isn’t what people always want to hear, but again, this is my reality. The things I write about may not affect everyone, but it may for some. As I keep saying, we’re all unique lol and that’s a beautiful thing.

      All I can say is, loneliness creates despair, and desperation is never good. I have been there and just hope to reach others no matter how ugly or how many disagree…again, this is reality for some of us unfortunately.

      I appreciate that Anne! I should do that, just to get to know you! 😊

      I fell offline again because Clem up and decided that he wanted to move our office to town NOW on a whim, instead of waiting LOL 😂. Once I get my feet under me…again (we have nothing left to move now, so I hope that this means things are finally…dare I say ‘settled’…I hope so because my ass is no longer dragging, it has fallen off lol). I’ll send my info! We can have virtual coffee lol! 🤣 🤣

      I appreciate you reading and supporting me in this journey, thank you. 😊 I again, look forward to doing some catching up on what you’ve been doing…I last heard something about a wedding and I believe a new baby….such beautiful gifts! I swear, much of my sanity comes from reading from you and the many other writers out there and I have been missing it….badly. I now have a new office and I look forward to indulging while pretending to be busy working lol…the boss can’t fire me….we’re married LOL 🤣!

      Take care! 💕



      1. No problem, Ali. And thank you – if I can be a light at the end of anybody’s tunnel that is so amazing and so humbling.
        You have every reason to be proud of yourself – you and all of your family. You have faced every challenge life has thrown at you and you do persevere. And… I do believe your daughters will both work through everything. (With you as a mother I don’t see them quitting anytime soon either. )😉
        My cell no. Is (306) 539-0725. Texting is best. I do not answer strange numbers for phone calls. Actually I do not answer any calls. I keep my cell on vibrate as a habit from the work world and half the time my phone is in the bottom of my purse where I would not hear it anyway. 😂.
        I am going for tests tomorrow and a CT scan next week. When those are done, my surgeon wants to get my hernia surgery done ASAP. If I don’t answer right away, I am not ignoring you. Just caught up in our health system.
        Wedding party was great. Two babies on the way – one grand (Logan) and one great-grand. 😁

        Take care💞

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for saying that, Anne and I do truly believe that the ‘beacons’ out there like yourself are vital and important in this world.

        I have hope for the girls in the future. They are strong and have learned many things the last while and I hope that sticks with them throughout their lives. I know that there are days that I wish we’d never experienced these things, but we wouldn’t be the people we all have become if we hadn’t…I guess that’s the real prize at the end of the day.

        LOL! Thank you for your number! I will definitely reach out! You and I are too much the same in regards to phones lmao! 🤣🤣 I forget to turn my bloody ringer on and I tend to leave my phone in places where I never seem to be able to find it when I need it 😕. Sometimes I don’t even know why I have one lol! I’ll fire you off a text and we can keep in touch that way!

        I do hope surgery goes well and that you’re back to well again soon. Life sucks when you don’t feel good.

        Congratulations! 😊 That is so exciting! I’m trying to go back and catch up with all of the good things I’ve missed. It didn’t take long for me to get pulled away from my enjoyment today lol but I’ll be hoping back in soon lol! Be on the lookout for a text from me soon! 😊

        Take care!


      3. Will look forward to it Ali. If you send my your email address I can send you the Readers Digest Condensed version of the shitshow my life has been over the years. Just so you know I do understand and so you don’t go imagining the we are a bunch of axe murderers. Would like to say I have never swung an axe in my life but we lived up north. Swung an axe and operated a chainsaw. 💪🙄


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s