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Losing Dylan: the intake

Dylan, Bird and I were sitting in the intake office of the adolescent drug treatment program. The intake counselor was asking me questions about the admission when Bird interrupted. She asked the intake counselor, “Does Dylan have to be here?”

The intake counselor told Bird that they couldn’t hold anyone against their will. She seemed confused. In front of her were two female parents and Dylan, who was hissing and spitting like a feral cat. One parent wanted to admit Dylan and the other was trying to take him home. She hesitated and then said, “Maybe we should go talk alone for a few minutes?” nodding to Bird and I.

“Be careful,” Dylan admonished the intake counselor. “Jess is very manipulative,” he said, calling me by my first name.

The three of us went upstairs to an empty counselors office. I sat and said nothing while Bird went on about how she didn’t think Dylan needed treatment, it was only marijuana, etc. Bird wanted to know what Dylan’s rights were. I suggested we call Dylan’s substance abuse counselor, who I hoped would be able to set Bird straight. Luckily we were able to get through to her. The intake person put her on speakerphone. She told Bird everything I had already told her. He needed inpatient treatment. If he refused, when he appeared in court the following week, he would likely be sent back to treatment. Bird never takes my word on anything. But she seemed to finally be getting it that there was no way out of this.

We went back downstairs and Bird explained the situation to Dylan, again. Since it was coming from her he seemed to accept it. I started filling out the paperwork, which was at least 1/2 inch thick. Bird had not brought any of Dylan’s things, apparently assuming she would be taking him back to her trailer.

As I sat filling out the paperwork Dylan would occasionally erupt in anger, calling me expletives. He told the staff I was a drug addict, not him. He told the staff I had been giving him drugs. He told me over and over again how much he hated me, and that everything that was happening was my fault. It was clear that Bird and Dylan were in agreement that I had engineered this treatment experience as some kind of punishment for Dylan.

The admission process took at least a couple of hours. I said nothing to the verbal attacks that Dylan continued to throw at me. I was embarrassed by Dylan’s behavior, both towards me and the treatment staff. By now he had hurled expletives at all of them as well.

Once Dylan understood that there was no escape, he put his cigarettes and lighter on the intake counselor’s desk. Before she could take them, Bird reached her hand out and grabbed them, curling her long fingers around them as she slipped them inside of her coat pocket. As she did so she said, “Dylan!”, as if to correct him for wasting something valuable.

They gave us a tour. Bird kept making disparaging side comments to me about the place. She didn’t like the rules. She didn’t think Dylan should be subjected to the rules. The treatment center was an apartment building that had been converted into a rehab facility. As we walked through, I thought of myself when I was Dylan’s age. I didn’t think it sounded too bad to be housed with twenty co-ed kids who were fellow drug users. I also thought of my own treatment experience, which happened when I was 21.

It was finally time for us to go. Dylan was crying and clinging to Bird, still pleading with her to get him out of there. He hugged her and told her he loved her. He turned to me and said, “I hope you burn in hell, Jess.”

The big solid door of the facility closed behind us. Looking up I saw there were tears in Bird’s eyes. “I feel like we are locking him up and throwing away the key!” she said.

I tried to reassure her that we were doing the right thing. I reminded her that every professional we had spoken to had agreed that this was the right thing. He was safe and in fact, he wasn’t locked up.

Because my relationship with Bird had been strained for many years prior, we hadn’t touched in several years. Impulsively, I hugged her. “It’s going to be OK,” I said. “We will get through this together”.

That night I went home and I remember thinking that if I died that night, I would die happy. I felt like we had just done the most important thing in the world for Dylan. I honestly couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. Finally, there was a chance for him to find himself again.

I had no way of knowing that things were about to get worse, much worse than I had ever anticipated.



Losing Dylan Part 5

Dylan and I met for dinner at a local restaurant. I wanted to see him because I missed him. I wanted to connect with him if possible. A few days prior I received a call from the school police officer. Dylan had been verbally confrontational with him and then spat on his police car.

The parent part of me felt that I needed to try to stop Dylan from where he was going. As a result of his actions, he was now facing charges in the juvenile justice system. His problems with anger and authority were likely to lead him to jail or prison, if he didn’t change his course. So although I was hoping for a connection, I also felt it was imperative to talk to him about his actions and the resulting consequences.

Bird dropped him off and Dylan strode into the restaurant with his usual swagger. He was wearing his long dark curly hair tied back in a man bun, and a tie-dyed bandana was tied around his forehead. His boots made him at least a foot taller than me. He was wearing beads around his neck and wrist. His eyes were dark and flashing. I could tell he was high on something. We ordered and he inhaled his meal quickly. We made small talk.

I mentioned the police incident. I tried to take the assertive authoritative role that had worked in the past. I expressed my concerns. And then it began.

“I’m not taking life advice from you, Jess“. Dylan had begun calling me by my first name instead of “mom” or “mama”. When he said my name he emphasized it. “You’re a horrible mother. You’ve never done anything for me.”

He began listing my failings one by one. I attempted to address each one, apologized and attempted to reason with him. His anger grew and then erupted. He jumped out of the booth and walked out the door.

I called Bird. “He just walked out. I don’t know where he went.”

Were you guys fighting? Bird said with an accusatory tone.

“I wasn’t fighting, but he was,” I replied.

“I’ll be right there,” she said.

Suddenly Dylan reappeared, reeking of cigarette smoke. The nicotine had diminished his edge by a small margin. He sat down and resumed his attack. Again I felt confused and unsure of how to respond. A lot of his complaints seemed to be related to the custody lawsuit Bird had filed against me two years prior. He was now claiming that during the time that he did not want to communicate with Bird it was because I had refused to allow him to. This story line and the distorted reality around it was infuriating to me. After trying to be calm and rational my anger boiled over and I said something flippant.

He flew out of the booth and walked to the door. Before he pushed it open he looked back at me and yelled, “Fuck you Jess!”

I sat there, shell-shocked. The other patrons in the restaurant were looking at me and squirming in their seats.

The woman who had been our server came over and sat next to me in the booth. She put her arm around me said, “I’m so sorry that happened. That must have been really hard.” She seemed to understand exactly what happened and had probably overheard some of our conversation while she was waiting on us.

I took great comfort in her gesture, a complete stranger offering compassion at the time when I needed it most.

Losing Dylan, part 4

As we left the counselor’s office Bird looked upset. I suggested we go talk in her truck. When we got there, Bird started crying. Dylan’s substance abuse counselor had mentioned that she was going to drug test Dylan. Through her tears, Bird said, “I feel so guilty because he is going to get in trouble for something I’m giving him. I’m like his drug dealer!” I assured Bird that although we had made mistakes, we could change what we did moving forward. She agreed to tell Dylan that evening that she would no longer provide him with marijuana.

The next morning I called her to ask how it had gone. She was vague, and finally said she couldn’t do it because it was late, and she knew it would cause a scene, perhaps leading to a sleepless night. I was disappointed but I attempted to be encouraging. I suggested that she could take him to 12-step meetings, as I had done so and he had enjoyed them. No, she said. Even if I stop giving it to him he will still get it from his friends. There is no way he is going to stop smoking weed. This is what teenagers do. This is what I did when I was a teenager.

We agreed on a few other things that also did not happen. The next time I saw Dylan he was angry and combative. There were dark circles under his eyes. He told me I needed to apologize for all the horrible things I had done to him. When I attempted to question him about those things he would take small pieces of huge incidents that had occurred during the two years prior. Out of context it did appear that I was a mentally unstable person unfit to parent. At one point he said, I talked with my counselor and she agrees that my problem isn’t weed, it’s you. 

I was honestly hurt and confused by all the anger he was throwing at me. He was painting me as a neglectful parent who never did anything for him. Just last summer I remembered feeling so good about where our relationship was at. But that was before school started, and his drug use escalated. But even right before he started staying with Bird, when he became so defiant, I still felt like we had a bond and that he saw me as his caring mother. I had never before seen this much hatred directed at me and it hit me to the core. I began to wonder if maybe he was right. He told me he wanted to live with Bird on a permanent basis. I told him he could do that if he wished.

Things were not getting better with Dylan. In fact they seemed to be getting worse. Dylan hated me and had convinced his counselor that I was the source of his problems. Bird was doing whatever she wished with Dylan regardless of my input. Dylan told me he was taking a break from psychedelics because he had taken “a lot” recently. I learned that the “structure” Dylan was referring to meant that he was still being given access to his favorite drug hangout every day after school.

I called the substance abuse counselor and she agreed to meet with Bird and I.

We arrived at the session and the first thing the counselor asked us was, “How did you two meet?” It seems like a good opening question. I don’t know if she knew that she was stepping on a land mine.

I looked at Bird, paused for a moment, and then told the story like I have for the last several decades. I should have let Bird tell it, but like I said, its automatic.

I was 19. She was 26. We both had girlfriends and we were all alcoholics. She and I would sneak kisses and gropes when our girlfriends weren’t around. Then we both got sober individually, met up again and had a year-long very tumultuous relationship.

Bird interjects, “And then we broke up….

Oh we broke up? I said with a head cock. She’d gotten me. It was decades ago that it happened but suddenly it seemed like a freshly opened wound.

Is that how you’re going to tell it? I turned to the counselor. She left me for my best friend, they got married and stayed that way for 15 years.

Bird scrunched her face in a scowl, “Well our relationship (meaning hers and mine) was really bad,” she said shaking her head.

At the time Bird and I had been living together in a house one block away from my best friend, Mel. I was working swing shift as a nurse. Mel was also a nurse and she was married to a cop named Berta.  Bird was unemployed as usual, and started spending her free evenings with Mel. I’m not the jealous type. Every time I’ve been cheated on I’ve been shocked because I missed all the signs. One night Mel called me at work. She tells me that she and Bird were having a dinner at a fancy restaurant in town and that Bird had gotten food poisoning and that I needed to go home to tend to her. That night definitely struck me as odd. But of course there were all the denials and We are just friends!

After that I think they knew the gig was about up and Bird said she wanted to talk with me. I made us coffee, we sat down and she announced that she was leaving me. Mel was leaving Berta, Bird and Mel were in love and they were going to get their own place. I’ll never forget that day. I said nothing because by now on some level I knew what was happening. But to hear her say it wounded me and I was hurt and angry. I threw my coffee cup against the wall and it smashed. She left. A few moments after she left I got a call from the person who had been Bird and I’s couples counselor. She told me that Mel and Bird wanted her to call “to make sure I was OK“. A few days later I came home to a house that had been emptied of Bird’s belongings.

Back at the time when it happened, Bird had said those very same words. “Our relationship was really bad anyway. It was uncanny. I could hear her saying it decades ago the same way she was saying it in the counseling session. The very same fucking words. It was like Deja Vu.

Oh, so that’s your justification?” I asked. I was really pissed by then.

“No, it wasn’t justification!” she says, her voice rising.

Next the butch appearing lesbian counselor says to the butch appearing Bird, “So you’ve been in and out of the picture with raising Dylan?” She said it in a non-threatening manner but I could feel Bird recoil and see her stiffen in her chair.

Then Bird turned to me and said, Would you like to explain to her why that is, Jess? her voice oozing with sarcasm. She had a look on her face like she had just Kinged me or something.

I was seriously flabbergasted. Bird never fails to surprise me with her interpretation of events.

Oh, wow! That’s where you are going with this? I was incredulous. She was going to start the “you kept me from my son story.” The one that isn’t true. The same one my son had begun telling.

I looked at the counselor and I said, Well, you’ve hit the mother lode here. This therapy isn’t for us, so I don’t really think we should go there.”

Counselor looks at me and says, “Well I think this is kind of about you two.” She gave us a few stories about how Dylan is a product of how we have raised him, etc.

And that’s when the shit really began to hit the fan.

I brought up how Bird had sued me in an attempt to gain custody of Dylan in order to return him to the drug using friends I had successfully moved him away from. Bird was communicating with Dylan on the fancy phone she bought him. She told him via text that she disagreed with my decision and that what I was really doing was to try to eliminate her from his life. Bird came to where we were for a visit. She came and took him two days in a row to spend time with him, which I freely allowed. A few days later I was served the papers. Looking further into Dylan’s phone and the text messages I discovered that Dylan and Bird had been planning this together for quite some time. To top it off Bird was posting things on Instagram indicating that her son was being cut off from her by her evil ex-partner.

The next thing I recall in the session was Bird saying, “Yeah, you took Dylan to Cali, and how did that work out for you!?”

Bird and I argued about what did and what did not happen in Cali. At one point I stood up because I was so angry and because the wound of that time period reopened. I didn’t yell, but I was very animated in expressing myself, perhaps lending credence to Bird’s characterization of me as being the “crazy one”.

The counselor pressed on, she turned to me, and said, “What about you, Jess? All I hear out of you is, “I’m ill, I’m sick.” She put her hands up in the air when she said it to give it a little dramatic flair.

When I mentioned that I had been disabled by an autoimmune disorder in 2013, she said, “Mm, hmm” and what I read from her was. “You don’t look disabled.” I bet I didn’t look disabled at all that day. I had put on therapist clothing, done my hair, put on my eyebrows and came prepared for battle. I stood for at least half of the session, until she politely told me to sit down. I clean up well. And if I was going to go down, I was going to look good while I was doing it. It is perhaps both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness that when the pressure is on I rise to it, even if the cost is the health of my body.

At one point when I was talking animatedly, Bird turned to the counselor, leaned in, pointed to me with her long bony index finger and said, “You see, this is why I can’t talk to her.” I recall the counselor saying, “Jess, I think what you just said to Bird was condescending. And then she turned to Bird and said, …“And I can see that you are already beginning to shut down”. Poor little big Bird.

The counselor mentioned her own relationship with her partner, and how they had always stuck together in their parenting styles. She also said that her kid had ADHD like Dylan and that they had addressed it with diet, “even though giving him a medication would have been the easy way out”. At one point she said, “It’s just like the straight parents, it’s not any different because we are lesbians”. She told us we needed to work together and that I needed to support Bird in being strong.

I looked the counselor directly in the eye and put my hands together resting my elbows on my knees.

I’ve been trying to make her strong for decades, and it hasn’t worked yet, I said in a flat tone. Later I felt bad for saying it, but it was absolutely factual.





Losing Dylan, part 3

At first I thought that Bird and I were going to be able to work together. I asked her to attend a session with Dylan’s substance abuse counselor and myself. Bird has always been wary of therapy. The last time we were in therapy together she walked out in the middle of it and never returned.

When I arrived Bird was sitting in the lobby. She looked weary and scared and I took some pleasure in that. She barely acknowledged me.

How’s it going? I asked. What I really meant was How is Dylan doing? Dylan was staying with her full-time by then. She had always asserted that she was the better parent and now she was getting her chance to prove it.

Busy... she says trailing off, shaking her head. Bird will never answer a direct question. She will respond with something vague, or ask why the question was asked.

Doing what? I asked.

Taking care of a 15-year-old, my mother, and trying to find a place to live….

I said nothing. Bird is always beleaguered with some issue or another. She’s been living in a trailer she pulls behind her truck for at least six years. If you ask her why she will tell you she did it for Dylan. She wanted to be close to him and was forced to move to California to do so.

In spite of Bird’s obvious limitations, she holds a certain power over me. I know she wouldn’t have it if I didn’t give it to her. When we first got together I was 19 and she was 26. Because of abuse I encountered when I was young, I’ve always been afraid of anger that comes from an intimate partner. When they get angry I go into overdrive trying to prevent the rage and violence that will surely follow. It happens automatically and I’ve never been able to control my response. It’s as if it was programmed into me. Don’t let Daddy get mad. When Daddy gets mad, bad things happen. 

My first relationship was with a boy in high school who had a drinking problem that led to domestic violence. Later, my first relationship was with a woman who was also abusive. I’ve always been attracted to darkness. I was attracted to Bird the first time I met her. It was like two magnets locking into place.

Bird’s father had made a huge impact on her. He did not accept his gay daughter or her masculine tendencies, which presented at a very early age. Bird’s father was the chief of police of the town she grew up in. Once Bird told me about an incident in which her dad had held his gun to her mother’s head during an argument.

In the early years of our relationship I would never have considered Bird to be abusive. I came from relationships where that had taken place and she was different. She had a drinking problem, yes, and when she drank she would sleep with other women or disappear for days at a time. Once she threw all of my belongings out of her house into the front yard. That was the extent of it.

Years later we were living together again. It was about a year before Dylan was conceived. Bird was working over the road as a truck driver, which meant she was gone for extended periods. This worked well for our relationship because it also was a bond formed out of desperation and fear of abandonment. When she returned we would have heated reconnection sex. A few days later she would leave again.

As a result of her absence, I became more independent. We heated our house with a wood stove and I was used to making the fires, and doing any other things that were required around the house. When Bird returned we would get in arguments because Bird felt that she should be in charge of things like starting up the stove. Tensions grew, and one night erupted.

We were in the guest room at our house for some reason. Perhaps the argument started in another room. It was late and I can’t remember what the argument was about. At one point Bird was very angry. She got close to my face and yelled, “Is this what you want? Do you want me to hit you?” Then she drove off in her truck.

I never spoke of the incident until now. I thought it was probably my fault. After all, I was unreasonable. It was my pattern to become involved with people who were abusive. Maybe I did want her to hit me. I wasn’t sure. Maybe I provoked her, I cannot recall.

But years later, after the relationship ended, she admitted that she used anger to control me. It was a rare admission for Bird, who normally keeps her real self hidden away. She isn’t comfortable with emotion and I channeled and expressed hers as part of our relationship. The relationship carried many unspoken contracts. I would make Bird feel like a man and protect her male ego. She needed me to need her and I did. I needed her to take care of me and she did.

So as we prepared to enter the butch-appearing lesbian counselors office, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wanted to be able to be non-reactive. But I’ve learned now that to attempt to be non-reactive to Bird is the same as trying to prevent the knee-jerk reaction that happens when I sense anger. Maybe it’s because I gave control of myself over to Bird at such a young age. Maybe because of her height she can appear daunting. Maybe because she abandoned me in favor of Dylan after he was born. Maybe because she has been overly critical of my mothering in an attempt to gain favor with Dylan.

Whatever the reason, interacting with Bird leads to me feeling reactive. Even now, when we are alone, I am subdued and submissive in her presence. Even if she is in my home. I trip over myself trying not to upset her, knowing that if I assert myself I will be suppressed. I choose my words so carefully because I know if I tell her not to do something, she will make it her mission to do just that. If I criticize her choices she shares it with Dylan to prove how mean I am to her. It seems as if I should be able to stand up to Bird. But as soon as she gives me that one look of disapproval, all of my reasoning melts into the ground.

She is my Dad, she is mad and bad things are going to happen. 

I came to the therapy session determined not to let the stick of dynamite I carry inside me to get lit. I did ask the universe for help in maintaining my cool, and in not feeling threatened by Bird. I knew if I was triggered by her and started yelling the battle would be lost. She would sit there smug and satisfied.

The lesbian therapist appeared and ushered us into her office.

She started telling us about Dylan’s substance abuse which we were both well aware of. Bird’s gifts to Dylan after their visits now included several grams of marijuana and a pack of American Spirit Cigarettes. I knew I couldn’t stop Bird so I didn’t even try. So yes, I was complicit. The counselor stressed the importance of intervening now, before Dylan graduated to IV drug use.

Then she sat back in her chair, legs spread wide, and said, “So, Dylan tells me you two hate each other“.

My explaining self jumped in, suggesting that we had differences in the past but we had worked through them. I’ve always been the designated speaker in the relationship. Especially in situations like this, I should talk less and force Bird to reveal herself. But again, it seemed automatic.

The counselor started talking about how happy Dylan was to be living with Bird in her trailer and that he had the structure now that he so desperately needed. She told us how Dylan had come to his session so thrilled that Bird had made him a sandwich to take to school. I’ve always hated making lunches. This one goes to Bird, she’s quite good at it. She used to make them for me.

For awhile after that it was like a Butch-on-Butch conversation. Bird was enjoying the praise. Bird practically pounded her chest while she declared that she was capable of setting strong boundaries with Dylan. The counselor told us that Dylan staying with Bird was the best situation for him and that it should continue.

The counselor asked Bird, “Have you seen how he treats her?” nodding her head in my direction. Bird said nothing. The counselor went on, telling me that living with Dylan was the same as being in an abusive relationship.

I felt somewhat validated by her words. For the first time, I felt seen.


Losing Dylan, part 2

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 10.07.47 amIn order to tell this story properly, I’m going to have to give my Ex a name. I’m going to call her Bird. One because she would hate it and two because she is very tall and moves like an ostrich.

Bird and I were together when Dylan was born and has been present in his life since then. Bird has a female body but identifies herself privately as male. Bird comes across as meek and socially awkward. When necessary, she collapses into a pool of tears and plays helpless. Her greatest asset, other than her height, is that she is incredibly skilled in the art of deception. She lies as easily as she breathes.

Dylan began seeing the substance abuse counselor weekly but was no longer participating in school. He would go, but refused to do work. He was leaving early every day. One night I allowed him to spend some time with friends with a curfew of 10:00. He called me around 9:30 and told me he wanted to stay the night with some college kid he met who I didn’t know. When I said no he said he was going to do it anyway. It was the first time he had been that defiant with me. I slept uneasily. For the first time in 15 years, I didn’t know where my son was or who he was with. I had no way of knowing if he was safe.

The next morning he came home and acted as if nothing had happened. I didn’t know what to do. How was I going to parent Dylan if he refused to comply? He was insistent that he should be able to “live his life” which meant not following any rules and coming and going as he pleased.

Desperate, I asked Bird for help. She agreed to take him for a while. I had reservations. When problems arose with Dylan she would always assert that I was at fault. When Dylan was verbally abusive towards me Bird implied I deserved it. Since the very beginning Bird has been quick to criticize and slow to offer support. Two years prior Bird had attempted to wrench Dylan from me by filing for legal custody.

Bird insisted her intervention was just that of a concerned parent who wanted to provide for her son. With the exception of three months in 2015 Bird has never provided child support to me. I’ve allowed Bird to live rent free with me multiple times. This would only work as long as I didn’t see any one. Bird could date freely but I could not. Once when I did begin seeing someone she started parking her camper in the driveway, and refused to come in the house. She would have huge emotional meltdowns and leave long verbally abusive messages on my voicemail. I’ve loaned Bird money that she has never paid back. A lot of the things I did because I wanted Dylan to be happy. I knew that when Bird was emotionally unstable it would trickle down to Dylan.

Bird did not prevail in her attempt to rescue Dylan from me. For at least a year after that she and I were estranged. Dylan was angry with Bird because I told him that she had been promising him things she couldn’t deliver. He told me he didn’t want to talk to her anymore. After about 4 months he said he wanted to call her. I allowed it because it didn’t seem right to me that he would cut her out of his life. They reconnected and eventually I allowed Bird to take Dylan for a visit. I insisted that Dylan meet her at a store nearby and that he not reveal our address. I knew that if Bird knew our address she would try to serve me with papers again. Responding to a lawsuit is a costly and frightening ordeal. If you don’t respond, the other side will most likely prevail. I had recently borrowed money from a friend so that I could pay rent. I was desperately poor, which made me vulnerable to any legal action Bird might take.

I had begun going to the food bank because I didn’t have enough money to feed us. Bird gave $20 to Dylan at the end of their visit and said, “Make sure that this is for food for you, not for your mother”.

Bird has always done what she wants to do with Dylan, no matter what I say or do. She allowed him to watch R-rated movies when he was 5, and took him to see the Hunger Games when he was 8. If I objected, (and I did), she would tell him that he could no longer do those things because I was controlling and overprotective. As a result, Dylan would be angry at me. He would always come home from his visits with her angry and defiant. He would also return with presents galore. It started with huge stuffed animals. Then it was video games and another fight about Black Ops. Eventually it became electronics and an $800 iPhone. I was never consulted about these purchases, and to deny them would mean attacks from both of them. They had a secret and private relationship that excluded me.

I’ve had two serious relationships since Bird and I parted ways 13 years ago. With each one, Bird made it her mission to align Dylan against them and against me. Bird’s biggest fear was that she would be replaced. In spite of sharing custody with her willingly and without reservation, she always presented herself as the hapless victim of a controlling lesbian bio-mother.

When Dylan was born Bird had the intention of adopting him, thus making her his legal parent. For two years after Dylan was born, while we were still together, she had the opportunity to do this. She never followed through. At the time I had no intention of cutting her out of Dylan’s life. It was clear to me that their relationship was important to him, and that is what guided my decisions. It frustrated me that although I gave Bird virtually free access to Dylan, she projected her fear onto him that at any moment, they might never see each other again. Their attachment was founded on this desperation. And my role was set as the person who could pull the trigger, most likely out of spite.

When Dylan was five I was preparing to move to California. I had met someone there. I was completing graduate school and preparing to start my new career. I felt that the move would be good for both myself and Dylan. I had told Bird when I began graduate school that at the end of it I would be leaving the state for better job opportunities. I had been trying to convince Bird to come with us. Bird hated California and said she didn’t want to live there. I wanted to provide a good life for myself and my son and I was his sole provider. I knew that I could make a really good living in Cali, almost double what I could have made if I stayed where we were.

At the time Bird and I were sharing custody 50/50. When she told me that she had gone to see an attorney regarding legal custody I was angry. I was willingly sharing custody with her and not asking for any support. I had no intention of keeping Dylan from her. She wanted something from me in order to facilitate her agenda with the attorney. I refused, knowing that she was trying to gain legal rights to prevent me from leaving the state.

I had no idea at the time that Bird would later use this event as evidence in her story to Dylan that I had refused to grant legal rights to her due to my controlling nature. Or that she would convince him that if only I had granted her what she was entitled to, his life would have been so different. It would have been so much better.



Losing Dylan, part 1

Like so many things, it began with a phone call. I was in a therapy session and I had forgotten to silence my phone. Seeing that it was my son’s school, I answered it.

A school administrator’s voice informed me that Dylan arrived to class reeking of marijuana and was refusing a backpack search. Would I agree to the search?

When I arrived at the school the police were already there. I wasn’t surprised that Dylan was using marijuana at school. By now, Dylan smoking marijuana all the time had become normal. The only time I would see him not high was in the morning when I took him to school. I would give him 5 bucks for lunch which he would then use to purchase marijuana, mushrooms, or LSD after school. I suspected this but at the time I didn’t want him to go hungry. He had gotten so thin that at one point his pediatrician wanted to put him into an eating disorder unit.

The principal informed me that if Dylan did not agree to the search he would be presumed guilty and be put on a substance abuse diversion agreement that would prevent him from getting expelled. I did not permit the search because I had no idea what they might find. I also had no idea what would happen to Dylan as a result of what they might find. They insisted that by refusing the search I was enabling him.

We signed the diversion agreement which required Dylan to meet with a substance abuse counselor for an assessment. I felt it was useless because I knew Dylan had no interest in stopping his substance use. However, I wanted him to avoid expulsion. When we arrived I was somewhat relieved to see that the counselor was a butch-appearing lesbian. It gave me hope that this visit was not going to be a complete disaster.

She began to question Dylan about his substance use. He began to get angry and I interjected something, afraid of where this was going. He said something to me, I can’t remember what, telling me I needed to shut up. The counselor continued to press him and I warned her, again fearing Dylan’s impending outburst. She told me she could handle it and kept going. I took what by now had become a familiar position in medical appointments with Dylan. Head down, hands over eyebrows like blinders. Try not to get hit by flying shrapnel.

Dylan began to close his eyes, breathe loudly and clench the arms of his chair. He flew out of his chair and threatened to destroy her office. She told him to leave and he did, slamming the door behind him. I apologized for his behavior. She said she was shocked by the way he had spoken to me. To me, it had become normal. She told me he needed treatment and I told her I didn’t think he was ready. She agreed, and told me that if he acted like that in treatment they would throw him out. However, she insisted that some kind of an intervention was in order. She told me that by not allowing the search to take place at his school I had made things worse. She suggested that I should welcome the intervention of the juvenile justice system. She said I needed to set strong boundaries with Dylan and call the police or send him to the youth shelter if he didn’t comply. I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t want to be one of those Dr. Phil parents who called the police to discipline their children. And I couldn’t imagine sending him to a shelter, no matter what the circumstances were.

There was a knock on the door and Dylan reappeared, seeming to have gained some composure. I was surprised she allowed him back in. She told him she was going to make an exception and take him on as an outpatient to see if she could prepare him for treatment. If he attended the sessions with her he could avoid expulsion. I thought it was a great solution and agreed wholeheartedly.

to be continued

Just like my mother

I miss myself. I miss the person I was when I began this blog about 6-7 years ago. I honestly thought I would never find myself this lost again. I remember during that time I felt much differently about myself. Sure I was depressed, but seriously, when am I not depressed?

When became a mother I felt like I could no longer be myself. I had to be someone else. A person with no wants or needs. A person that was everything that my mother was not. The most important things I thought about were that I wanted my son to know without a doubt that he was loved. I felt that no matter what was going on with me that I must always show up for my son. I wanted more than anything else, to raise a son who was kind and compassionate towards others. These were my ideas.

I imagined a relationship with my son where I would be able to teach him and help him navigate the world. Most importantly I wanted him to be able to avoid many of the things that I had experienced. I wanted my son to love me and see me as his mother. I never imagined any of the things that have happened. I never imagined my son would turn on me. There are a lot of people who I never imagined would turn on me. But turn on me they did, over and over again.

In each instance it seemed that people found me or my behavior unacceptable. First I lost my Dad, who was the only person that ever made me feel like I was supposed to be on this earth. Then I lost my sister who I once believed loved me unconditionally. That loss created more disconnection and estrangement, with my two other siblings, with nieces and nephews. Then my mother died and any remaining ties were severed.

Then I lost my health, my job and my career. With that, I lost my self-esteem, or what was left of it. I lost my home and then I lost the person I was going to marry. After that I lost California, sunshine, and my church. I was more alone than I had ever been. Then I lost another friend. Through all of that, my love for my son and my desire for his happiness were the only things that tethered me to the earth. And now my son is gone also. He tells me I am a horrible mother, that I’ve never done anything for him and that I need to be held accountable for all of my wrongs.

He tells me I am just like my mother.

I imagine all of these people in my head as a collective group. They are always there taunting me and reminding me that I am worthless and that I don’t deserve love. If I say anything about the hardships I have encountered over the last few years, I am ridiculed. I’m just making excuses and playing the victim. My son tells me I have failed him by being sick and depressed all the time. My siblings tell me I am getting what I deserve. They tell me I’ve always been self obsessed, spoiled, and moody. I’m unreasonable and irrational. I have anger issues and I can’t be trusted around children. They criticize my parenting and tell me it’s no wonder my son is in a treatment center. Who wouldn’t end up with problems with a mother like me?

I don’t remember anymore what it feels like to be loved. I long for even just a whiff of that feeling. I want to bury my face in it and breathe as deeply as I can for as long as I can. I want to lose myself in it and consider the possibility that I am someone other than who they say I am. I want someone, anyone, to see me as useful or worthwhile or anything other than what they believe me to be.

I’ve tried fighting. I’ve tried fighting clean even when others are fighting dirty.  I’ve tried suiting up and showing up. I’ve tried being strong. I’ve tried sharing my feelings desperately hoping for acknowledgement or validation that never comes. I’ve tried doing everything that others tell me to do in service of my son. I’ve tried letting go and I’ve tried holding on. Nothing seems to have helped. Most things I’ve tried have caused me additional hurt.

I don’t want sympathy or pity. What I really want is to have people in my life who value my friendship and don’t make me question my worth. I want people who I have things in common with and who share similar belief systems. I want to put the nightmare of the last 7 years behind me. I want to believe that it’s not too late to rebuild myself again and rise from the ashes.

Mostly I want to be free.

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