Holy Birthday!

Growing up my birthday never seemed too special. It always rained. My mom never had money due to Easter or taxes, so I never had a big birthday party with friends, and I usually got I.O.U’s for gifts. As a result most birthdays were spent fighting depression.

This year, both American and Greek Easter fell on my birthday making it feel holy to me. There were no family plans for Greek Easter, which was a first. One family member sick, one not speaking to me and two were homeless. The rest were scattered. I had decided it didn’t matter. My daughter and I would celebrate and that would be enough. No matter the circumstances I intended to celebrate my birth and the resurrection of Jesus.

I had to put aside my hurt feelings, my sadness, my anger and all my worries. The day before my birthday, I wrote this:

Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 49 years old. I wouldn’t have been able to convince my younger self that I’d make it this far. I couldn’t imagine even being 40.  I am entering Crone phase of life. A place of deep beauty and wisdom. I’ve begun my herbal studies. I’ve learned about and exercised boundaries. I’ve faced fears, and journeyed deep within. I’ve had a hysterectomy and learned that I still have sacred womb space. I have learned to love myself more despite menopausal weight gain, wrinkles, and family members alienating me because I won’t feed into negativity. I am learning everyday and these gifts will richen my life as time passes. I will become that beautiful bohemian gypsy in my mind’s eye. I will love unconditionally, and receive love. I will heal and be healed.  I will respect and deepen my relationship with Mother Earth, Great Spirit and the Universe. I will learn to listen to their whispers. Though my family is separated I feel content with my own celebration.

Though I realized that some traditions would be missed and recipes would have to be revised due to the fact that my daughter and I have gone vegan. I had to find a way to celebrate my culture, my spirituality and my birth.

I began the day with a purification bath with dead sea salts. I researched both Greek churches and Unitarian. I ended up at a Unity Church. I was going alone and fought much anxiety. They welcomed me lovingly and without judgement. When I got home I made myself a poster that read, “49&Feelin’Fine! My daughter and I had a blast baking vegan chocolate cake. For dinner, I kept it simple. Vegan Spanakopita and Greek Salad with Marinated Tofu. Surprisingly family members showed up to celebrate with me. We all sat outside and ate. The day was blessed with sunshine, laughter and love.

It’s not everyday that Jesus and I share a holiday. I reconnected with Spirit and myself.  It truly was a holy and magical birthday!18010615_10211671942901640_6132256117513424825_n

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Pure Panic

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This past Friday, I had a major panic attack. I hadn’t had one in a long while. They happen when my anxiety spins out of control. I have managed my anxiety pretty well; but, sometimes it sneaks up on me, and before I know it I am in pure panic mode.

When it rains it pours, and I was soaking wet. Last Thursday my niece had showed me a bedbug she found in the middle of the night. It’s been two months since that hell and now they were back. Friday my best friend and nieces dad was getting out of detox for alcohol and coming back to stay at my place. They both have been staying here because they are basically homeless. My best friend was drinking heavily again and we got into two nasty and emotional arguments. So, he went to detox. I really wasn’t feeling ready to have him back; but, he had no where else. Then out of nowhere my sister attacked me verbally and I felt deeply hurt. These things coupled with the fact that I had orientation on Sunday for my new herbal apprentice class stressed me out immensely.

My anxiety couldn’t be calmed even with xanax. My heart was pounding loud and fast. My hands shook and sweat poured out of me. I felt nauseous. I thought how am I going to do this course, with all of this going on? I can’t do it! I cried. I tried to do a meditation for anxiety and still couldn’t manage my panic. Fortunately, I had therapy that day. The first thing she had me do was ground. Put my feet on the floor feel the connection to Mother Earth. She said it’s okay to be scared, then the tears flowed. I was terrified. I was scared that this bedbug problem will never get under control. I was nervous about my best friend and I getting into an argument. I was stressed having less space in my apartment with everyone staying there. I felt depressed over my sister’s comments, and I was scared to take this class. My social anxiety was booming.  After grounding and crying it out, my therapist gave me some DBT interpersonal skills to work on to prepare for Sunday.

Pure panic had me in it’s grip for a bit; but, after facing the fear and letting emotions flow I felt better. I went to my Orientation and it went very well. Yesterday they treated again for bedbugs. My niece and best friend are looking for a place. I am not taking my sister’s comments personally, she has her own stress going on.  

All is good for the moment. Just breathe….

 

 

pic credit from holistichealthliving.com 

Parenting and Mental Illness

 

 

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Parenting is like the ocean. Somedays are rough and turbulent, other days more calm and serene. Learning to go with the flow of the waves is the challenge.

Being a single parent it often feels like you are alone and swimming against the current.

When you are a single parent with mental illness, raising a child with mental illness;  it feels at times like we are both drowning.

My daughter was 6 years old when my mother died and my mental breakdown followed. Despite struggling with deep depression, I swallowed my tears and used every bit of strength to provide for my daughter; but, there were times when I couldn’t move weighted down with sorrow. I think my sadness scared her because I was all she had, and my condition threatened our stability.

She was often emotional and had major separation anxiety since childhood. She often threw fits when I had to leave, and she hated night time. She cried to sleep with me most of the time. Family and friends would comment and suggest that I should get her on medication, or I shouldn’t let her sleep with me, or she needed help. I didn’t believe any of it. I just wanted to pacify her fear.

I started her in counseling when she was 10 years old as a preventive measure. She had been through some trauma and I thought it would be helpful if she had someone else in her life she could talk to.

When she was 12 years old she started cutting herself. I can not express the horror in my heart as my babygirl felt compelled to hurt herself. I have a memory of tucking her into bed one night and noticing some cuts at the bottom of her pajama leg, as I lifted the material up I discovered a whole paragraph carved into her skin. Nooo! Not again!

I have another memory of coming home from the grocery store, and as I opened the door, she was on the kitchen floor in tears, “Mommy, I didn’t want to do it.” “I can’t stop myself.” There was a large steak knife stabbed into the cupboard door. Cuts on her arms. She had taken handfuls of ibuprofen. To the hospital we went.

I was completely traumatized and couldn’t leave her alone at all. The school called several times a week for me to come pick her up, because she had hurt herself or had thoughts of doing so. That year she was placed in the state hospital five times and endless trips to the ER.

She continued in therapy, DBT groups and we had family therapy. She did really well using her skills to refrain from cutting for four years, until she turned 17 years old. The pressure of her approaching adulthood got the best of her. We have spent the last year in and out of hospitals and programs. She refuses medication, so there is only so much treatment that is available to her. She is now doing better but the depression and mood swings are mainstay.

Her anxiety about becoming an adult is partially my fault. She lacks confidence in her ability to take care of herself, because I have always protected her. I lacked in structure because of my own depression. I failed to discipline effectively because of her eruptions. I try not to beat myself up and I truly know I have done the best to my ability; but, still feel guilt.

Today I woke up to her crying and bellowing. I held her and let her release it. There is nothing I can do or say to make it better. I feel completely helpless. A few hours later she is crying again. It is draining and I wonder how much more I can take. Will she ever be able to be on her own?  I start feeling hopeless. Then I catch my own depression. The tricks my mind is trying to play on me. Trying to convince me that it is worse than what it is. Taking me to a dark place that is all too familiar.

Truth is, I can’t take away the pain, the fear or the mental illness. I can support and love her while she learns to love herself. I watch patiently while she figures out how to cope with her own mood. She went for a walk as I write. We both need space to calm our own minds. We are very close, too close maybe. Our feelings effect each other on deep levels.

Some days are filled with laughter and happiness. Days that are sunny and the surf is good.

Then there are others gloomy and gray, and we are pedaling water furiously just to stay afloat.

 

photo by LanWu on Deviantart

 

 

 

New Season, New Moon, New Beginnings

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Happy Spring everyone! Though snow is in the forecast for NH tomorrow, I can feel new life stirring around the corner.

It was an extremely drawn out winter for me. If you read my last update, then you know, between bed bugs, breakdowns and trips to the hospital, there wasn’t much time for myself.

No time for self means depression. Depression is inevitable for me in the winter; but, this winter was especially gloomy.

That’s behind me now. Spring is here, even though it’s taking it’s time to show.

There was a new moon this past Monday. Perfect time to set forth a new attitude.

New season, new moon, new beginnings!!!

Next month, I will be starting an herbal apprentice course. I have wanted to take this course for around 16yrs. So, it’s a big step. I am terrified, but the kind of fear that comes when you feel deep inside you will change.

I will definitely keep you posted on my progress.

Speaking of keeping you posted…I feel terrible that I haven’t blogged much.

I am so proud of myself that I finally started this blog and managed to hold onto it for a couple of years. I am always thinking of things I want to write about; but never make it to fruition.

With Spring’s renewal I renew my dedication to my blog. I vow to spend more time and effort into my blog and my writing.

I have finally made it to the point where my mental illness can no longer hold me back.

It may stop me in my tracks. It may take a day from me here and there. It may even break me at times; but, it can not stop me.

Everyday I begin again.

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Update: Chaos, Upheaval and Change

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Happy 2017 Everyone!  I feel like I am still purging 2016. I hate that I haven’t blogged in so long; but, my life has been in a constant state of chaos.  If you read my last update, then you know last year was a rough one for me.  After my meltdown, I regrouped and started prepping for winter by going back on my antidepressant (Wellbutrin) and increasing my Vitamin D. I always get depressed in the winter, so I figured preparing better might help. The holidays were around the corner which has its own stress; but, somehow wipes away when family gathers and laughter and love fill my heart.

I had a few good months after my last update; but, then December hit me hard. My daughter was sinking into a depression. I believe part of it was because she was feeling anxiety and pressure becoming an adult. She turns 18 in June. She dropped out of her DBT group, and then her dance program. She loves dance, so this was a big red flag. We started talking about residential treatment; but, here in NH there isn’t much available, especially if you don’t have money. She decided to try medication. The psychiatrist put her on Seroquel. She hadn’t slept in weeks, and the first night on the medication she slept like a baby, and it warmed my heart. She also started seeing her counselor twice a week instead of once. Things felt better for a second. Then she started talking to and meeting up with a couple of older men she met on the internet. Talk about a mother’s nightmare. I absolutely insisted on meeting the first guy who was 22years old. I had them meet in the mall figuring it is a public place, got his full name, address and telephone number. The second guy she snuck out to meet.

I woke up in the middle of the night to a person laying on my floor with their arm outreached for what I figured out later was my purse. They had a black hat on and a flannel. I reached down and touched their head, and questioned, Serenity? I thought it was my daughter and she couldn’t sleep again, and came in to  curl up as she has so many times before. The second I touched their head, they took off swiftly, ran down the stairs and out my back door which was left open a crack. Not fully awake, I quickly assumed it was Serenity and she was sleepwalking on her Seroquel. I searched the neighborhood, calling her name. After about 15min of trying to find her, I knocked on my sisters door and she and her son came over my apartment as I called 911. Shortly the police were over taking her description. I said she was wearing a black hat; but, then I saw on our stand the only black hat either of us own, and her flannel was hanging in the hallway. Now, I was confused and unsure what she was wearing. The officer took my info and went searching with flashlights through the neighborhood. To no avail, they had to call in a dog to search. I gave the officer her pillow case to have the dog sniff out. Again, no Serenity. The fire department came and used thermal imaging to try to find her. No success. They finally concluded that she must have took off and they left. I remembered her saying she met a 25yr old online, and now I was terrified what may become of her. About 5am, Serenity came through the back door. By this time, I had picked up my other sister too. As hard as it was adjusting to both my sisters moving close to me, I sure was happy to have their support.

“Serenity!” I screamed and threw my arms around her. Where were you? Why were you in my room at 1am, on my floor? She admitted she had snuck out to meet this guy; but, she swore it wasn’t her on my floor, and that she had left around midnight. It dawned on me that there was an intruder in my room and was reaching for my purse. I called the police to report she was home. The officer came over and gave her a gentle lecture about the fact that nothing good can come out of a 25yr old man meeting a 17yr old girl in the middle of the night. He went on to tell her that I swore by her and believed she was sleepwalking, and that they used about $5000. worth of resources trying to find her. Serenity at this point was crying. She gave us the guys name, and my sisters and I went on the internet to search for him. He had a lot of dark stuff on his Facebook page. I was extremely concerned. I wondered if somehow the intruder in my room was connected to him. Regardless, I told Serenity that it IS connected; because of she left the back door open. I could’ve been robbed, raped or killed. I grounded her and we had an appointment the next day with the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist wanted to increase her Seroquel. He explained that the medication isn’t at a high enough dose to help with her mood disorder. At this point I am a mess, and she is out of control. I know medication isn’t going to solve this. We saw her counselor right after the psychiatrist. She told us about an intensive outpatient program for teens. Great. Serenity and I were arguing and when we got home she ran up the stairs, smashed her full length mirror, grabbed a shard and cut her arm all up. I hear her screaming mama, and I see the blood, the mirror, I fall to my knees, and call 911….again.

At the hospital, Serenity is as sweet as pie. I am angry inside and not falling for it. I can’t believe this is where we are at. She hadn’t been this bad since 12-13yrs old, when she had to be hospitalized 5 times for self harming and suicidal thoughts. The good thing was she was ok. I was hoping she would get admitted somewhere so they could help her stop this path of self destruction; but, Serenity knew what to say to keep herself out of the hospital, and we agreed on trying the outpatient program that her counselor had mentioned.

At this point I am feeling distant, angry and hopeless. We are normally very close; but, I couldn’t even talk to her. On Christmas morning, she breaks down because I had been so closed off from her. I hold her while she cries, and outpours her emotions. I cry with her. Then we agree that we will try this outpatient program, and that we will get through this. First, we are going to have a great Christmas. After we have our Christmas morning we are all heading to my brothers and our family will be together.

My sister video calls me and says her son fell down the stairs and they’re going to the emergency room. All I can see is my little nephew with a neck brace on in the back of an ambulance. I honestly snapped inside and went on auto pilot. We got to the hospital and thankfully my nephew is okay. He got a staple in his head. My daughter and I are starving and went to the cafeteria. She looks at me and says she wants a turkey sandwich. We’ve both been vegetarians for almost 2years. Let’s do it I replied. Finally, we are all leaving the hospital and head to my brothers where we had an incredibly beautiful Christmas.

The day after Christmas, my other sister who wasn’t feeling well enough to make it to our brothers, says she is moving back to Pa. I was extremely concerned that she would move back and use drugs again. It was too much to handle and I told her to give me a day. The next day I managed to go say goodbye to her and hear her out. She explained that financially she could be making strides in Pa. and she had a safe, supportive environment to go to. She missed her kids. My daughter and I exchanged hugs and tears with her and she left.

The very next day pesticide control was coming to inspect my apartment and confirmed my fearful suspicion, bedbugs. We had less than a week to bag up every belonging, and were instructed to buy mattress covers, and get ready for treatment. I dug into my small savings to purchase the covers and then went into physical exhaustion bagging up and laundering our entire apartment.Not to mention I was already emotionally spent. My BFF/brother in law was now staying in the living room with us for a few days, because he was having trouble at home

The morning they came to treat, I was throwing up. I had to get my 3 cats into the car and stay out of the apartment for 6 hrs. I asked them if I should throw away my furniture, and she said she had no opinion and that they were going to treat it. On the third and what was supposed to be the last treatment, I am informed that both mattresses, and my living room chair and couch are infested, with adult, babies, and larvae, and that they had been feeding. Now, I had to throw away all my furniture. Plus, they said I had to relaunder everything, and my place was too cluttered. I had to move my things into a storage. I was exasperated. Why didn’t they tell me this before? How was I supposed to afford a storage? Even if I could afford a storage, I knew I had clutter that needed to be tossed. IMy sister made an appointment with the health inspector for me. I went in circles trying to get some answers. Basically, the landlord was doing minimal action in order to be legally compliant. In reality, they should be treating the whole building and preferably heat treatment. Regardless, it didn’t change the fact that I had 5 days to complete these instructions. I spent 4 days, from morning to night sorting, tossing, crying. They came to treat again last Monday.

Meanwhile, my daughter started the outpatient program. Because she refuses meds, the insurance won’t cover it, so we have to pay each day she goes. Last Friday, she called me from school with thoughts of self harm. I picked her up and she went to her program. A few hours later, I received a call that they feel she needs a crisis evaluation, she is having suicidal thoughts. We spent two nights in the ER and Sunday she was admitted to a treatment hospital in Vermont. I was hopeful that finally she would get therapy she needed; but, again because she refuses meds she is being discharged tomorrow.

This past Monday, pesticide control came to do an inspection and finally got the good word that they didn’t see any bedbugs. However, I am leery, and will be very careful unpacking our things. I am also wondering when I do get furniture again, will they resurface? Are they hiding in the walls waiting?

So, my friends, this is why I haven’t blogged in awhile, and these are just the highlights. Presently, I am sitting on my bean bag chair next to my air mattress with everything I own in clear plastic bags. I await a family meeting over the phone with my daughter, and the hospital staff. I am on my third cup of coffee, and feeling more tired than ever. Last year was hell, and this year feels the same thus far. Outside my personal life, it seems the country is feeling some radical chaos itself. President Trump and all the upheaval is felt by all of us.

I pray that soon the sun will shine on us again. That all this change will even out and life will be bearable. That the chaos and upheaval will pay off in a way that was never suspected. Here’s to 2017.

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Update: Post Meltdown

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“On the outside, I appeared  untroubled. I smiled and remained calm. On the inside, I was screaming, crying, frustrated, and clawing away at my skin.”

Every now and then there will be a sequence of life predicaments that overwhelm and paralyze my nervous system. During these periods, it takes every little bit of my energy and focus to remain grounded and in touch with my own realities. I want so badly to write, to blog and to share while I am in the midst of pain, yet, I have not reached the point where I am able to do that yet. That is why my posts are sometimes sporadic and I post these updates to share where I’ve been.

Fortunately, I’ve come far enough in mental illness recovery that I am able cope and survive these tests; but, it is not without the deep pain that growth and change bring.

I was barely recovered from my hysterectomy when I got my new diagnosis of DID. Then I began working on my rape traumas. As if there weren’t enough to process, an array of events followed, that eventually led me to a major meltdown. Beginning with my sister coming to stay with me.

My sister and I have had a topsy turvy relationship through the years. We had a difficult childhood and we were difficult children as a result. Her and I share an immense love for each other, coupled with intense resentments. We open one another’s doors to our pasts and therefore, we are huge triggers to each other. We will be getting along joyously for awhile and then eventually, we always end up in an argument and not speaking until the next time.

When she called me in June and stated that she wanted to move back to NH from Pa. I offered her to come stay with me. Part of me thought that maybe it was time we started working on our relationship and confronting our feelings about each other. I felt ready. Plus to be perfectly honest, I wanted a distraction from therapy, DID, and myself in general. A few days later she drove herself, her son and whatever belongings she could fit into her car and arrived at my front door. I was already full of anxiety but was distracted by my love for her and my nephew.

The second night she was there, we bonded about some of our emotional issues and our traumatic past. We giggled and reassured each other. Sisterly love at it’s best. She shared a fragmented memory of hers that suggested possible sexual abuse from our father, involving me. I have absolutely no memory of this and the worst part was I couldn’t even be sure that it didn’t happen. With DID and suppressed rape memories, I had no reason to not believe her. I cried myself to sleep that night in horror that my daddy abused me.

In an attempt to find truth and heal, I decided to include a separate note in my yearly fathers day card, apologizing that I hadn’t called in awhile because I’d been dealing with some suppressed traumatic memories in therapy. Then I added, that my sister shared this memory with me, and I asked if it was true. I of course immediately followed it with I’m sorry and I love you, recognizing my own constant desperate need for his approval.

Meanwhile, I had two birthday parties to plan for my daughter. One at home with family and one at a roller rink for friends. This was very important to me because following them, she was going away for three weeks to visit her father and family in Alaska. I knew I wouldn’t have much quality time with her before she left, because of the chaos of school ending, her birthday and planning for her trip, on top of the fact that our home environment temporarily lacked the personal space we were used to.

It was the evening of my daughter’s birthday when my sister found out that I had confronted our father, she was extremely upset with me, saying she’d never share anything again with me. I explained that I had a right to know. We did work through it and continued to celebrate a lovely evening. That night I lay down, drained on all levels, too tired to process it all and cried myself to sleep again.

A week later, after successfully throwing the roller skating birthday party for my daughter; I saw her off  for her trip with tears in my eyes. The same week, my sister confessed that the situation with our dad, may not be what or how she remembered. Exasperated, I sent a message via Facebook to my father apologizing.

By the end of the third week that my sister was there; my body was in extreme pain from sleeping on the recliner. I had given her and my nephew my room, because I thought it’d be easier for them. I was in physical therapy already for my C spine arthritis. The stretches and massages helped a great deal; but didn’t entirely alleviate my symptoms. l couldn’t sleep, I was overtired, in pain, missing my daughter,wondering about my dad, if he would respond, the list went on, and I honestly didn’t know how I would keep going.

The whole time I was in therapy twice a week, as I worked through my different parts, personalities and triggers that surfaced with all that was going on. The rape traumas and EMDR was put on hold right before my sister came. My therapist thought there would be enough going on, and she was right! I also decided to not confront the possibility of my father’s abuse at this time. I had no memory of it and now my sister wasn’t sure either. Therefore, I said to my therapist, “Unless of course he dies, I think that I’d like to put this aside.”

My father died three weeks later. It was a cruel cosmic joke. He died the same day my daughter came home. It was extremely unexpected, He was in great health and traveling the world, living his life. Then one day, on his way to meet his sister for their weekly coffee date, he lost control of the vehicle, ran off the highway and tumbled. He was dead when the EMT’s got there. They say he didn’t suffer. He had no seatbelt on but he was sober, which means a lot, because of his alcoholic history. They think he may have had a heart attack or stroke. In which case, my father would have probably wanted to not survive. He would rather die than be invalent. He was a very proud man.

My sister was settled in her new apartment in the building next to mine. When I came home with the news, we clung to each other desperately in hysterical tears. Only the comfort of my sister could help me confront this unbelievable reality. For my sister and I, it was even more unbearable with the open wound from confronting him and not hearing back from him. The only thing that brought us comfort were the words our Aunt, “Your father was just talking about you both a few days ago, and said how beautiful your hearts are.”

My system shut down and I was on auto pilot. On the outside, I appeared untroubled. I smiled and remained calm. On the inside, I was screaming, crying, frustrated, and clawing away at my skin.

It would take all I had to get through the services. My sister and I got into arguments all the way through; but, I figured we all grieve differently and I tried my best to just let it go. I knew that I’d be processing the loss of my dad for a long time. We all would be.

A month later was my sister’s birthday. I wanted to throw her a belated welcome home/birthday party. However, we got into another huge argument. Something snapped in me. I’d been on thin ice for awhile. I ran to my room, slammed the door, and couldn’t stop screaming and crying. The worst part of this meltdown was I felt unsafe. I wanted terribly to hurt myself. I picked up a pair of manicure scissors and contemplated where I’d cut myself. My mind was gone. Though there was a small voice telling me not to. I absolutely couldn’t cut myself after my daughter struggled with self harm. I dropped the scissors and fell to my knees and prayed. I hadn’t had that strong urge of hurting myself since my teen years. I helplessly cried and prayed for what seemed like hours. The cleansing brought relief; but, I was aware that this had been a major meltdown.

Luckily, I had therapy the next day. She saw it as progress. She said that this part of me surfaced because of the work we’ve been doing. This part of me obviously felt safe enough to show itself to be healed. It was hard to believe that darkness and desperation was progress; but, I went along with it.

My meltdown was a month ago. I am not only better; but stronger and wiser. I am relieved it happened because for years I’ve been fearing another breakdown. Now, I know I’ve come to far to let it tear my life apart. I have been working with this part of myself that wanted to self harm. She is where all my anger and rage has been stored. She is what I considered my dark side. I am learning to balance this and will write about it in another post.

Since this meltdown, my other sister moved to NH as well. She was struggling with grief and addiction; but, she is doing better now. My family has seen some hard times. The loss of our dad was the loss of our last parent. Both our half siblings and us lost our mothers before this.

It’s a strange point to be at in life. An adult orphan. All we have is each other now. Our family will continue to persevere, because our love for each other is stronger than any resent or blame, and our parents are smiling angels shining down on us.

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