Thursday, May 17, 2012

To Hell and Back Again

Throughout late 2010 and early 2011, Prince Charming had been battling depression and anxiety.
He became incapable of caring for anyone...especially himself. 
(Being unemployed for close to 8months, to a man who based his entire identity on his ability to support his family and be an Internet Superstar, served as a crushing blow to his fragile ego.) 
He struggled emotionally. I struggled financially.
Despite it all, our relationship improved and we were able to make co-parent decisions easily and without conflict.
We agreed that it'd be best if I assumed full custody of Hansel and Gretel in Spring 2011.
Cinderella spent many sleepovers at her Aunt's and Grandparent's both of whom lived within her school district and were able to lend some support while PrinceCharming struggled.
When summer came, PrinceCharming asked Cinderella to spend it with her mother so he could focus on getting better. She agreed to give it a try.
Cinderella was now close to an hour North of me.
PrinceCharming landed a job, at an internet startup.
He then retreated into the city. Close to an hour south of me.
Summer came and went, and Cinderella was then enrolled in High School and asked to stay with Maleficent for her Sophomore year.
PrinceCharming decided that moving Cinderella into the city with him would not be good as she would be left alone most of the time with him working those crazy startup hours.
The adjustment was difficult on everyone...especially our three children who were not only separated from their Dad, but now also each other.

Maleficent's "custody" of Cinderella lasted all of four months.
It was four months too long.
During her exile, Cinderella endured isolation in the form of denied visits to my home, was subjected to regular bouts of Maleficent's verbal diarrhea on the state of her victimization at the hands of PrinceCharming, and was repeatedly forced to choose between her parents only to be called a traitor when she showed her disdain for living with Maleficent and Diablo.
(Oh and toss in a little blackmail too, as in "if you choose to live with your father. we'll tell your baby brothers that you abandoned them and will make sure you never see them again.")
After his (near fatal) accident, it would be two weeks before Cinderella was allowed to visit PrinceCharming in the hospital.

When she was allowed to visit my home, Cinderella started asking questions about what really happened between her mother and father.
"What did Mom do to cause her to lose custody of me?" Was it bad? It must be bad because a judge doesn't just take custody from a parent without good reason. Was I in danger of being hurt? Is she schizophrenic or something?"
Oh boy.
I answered without answering. Left it up to her to decide.
"Babe, you're old enough to see and understand for yourself. You know what you've witnessed and experienced."
It wasn't my place to tell her the details.
But she already knows.
And she is afraid of suffering the same fate as her mother.
Worried that she, too, will at some point be diagnosed with a similar behavioral disorder.
"Mom lives in her own world, that is not based on reality," she tells me.
Wow. It's like she has her own copy of the DSM IV-R hidden in her back pocket!

When we could get a visit, Cinderella's weekends with us were always bittersweet.
My house was once again filled with the cacophony of giggles and screeches of hyperactive kids, happy to have their missing Musketeer back with them.
The dinner table became a hub of cross-talk as we each competed to get Cinderella's attention and bring her up to date on what happened since the last time we saw her.
Inevitably it would end in tears as Hansel and Gretel sobbed when she had to leave, while Cinderella silently stressed over returning to her mother's.
Her bliss at being reunited with us was always so short lived.
The drive back was particularly difficult for both of us because of the specific instructions that I would NOT drop Cinderella off in front of Maleficent's home. Rather, she was to be brought to a gas station around the corner.
You see, apparently... Maleficent's road was PRIVATE and I was not allowed on it. Must be nice to have that kind of POWER, no?

Talk about being treated like the red-headed stepchild! And you people call me Wicked. Pfft!

I know.
But I deferred to Cinderella who was so fearful of her mother's tirades that I did not want to do anything to make her stay there any worse.
So I acquiesced for my stepdaughter's sake.
This wasn't about me, it was about her sanity and me wanting to spare her from as much grief as I could.
Cinderella was rescued from her prison tower on January 1st of this year.
It was on the heels of her acting out, as only teens can do to get attention - drinking herself into oblivion with some friends from her self-described "ghetto school" just to make herself numb.
"I wanted to not feel," she told me.
PrinceCharming arranged for a holiday visit to get her away from the toxic environment at her mother's. He asked if Cinderella could spend New Year's weekend with me, since she wasn't allowed to spend Christmas with her Family of Choice.
With us, she could get some sense of normalcy, see Hansel and Gretel and be in a happy family environment.
It was during her weekend stay with me for New Year's that ultimately resulted in PrinceCharming realizing he had made a terrible mistake in sending Cinderella to live with her mother.
We learned of how deeply she was being traumatized on a daily basis.
That short visit ultimately turned into a two weeks respite at my home while PrinceCharming made arrangements to have her transferred to live with my ex-inlaws.
At least there, she would have more involvement with Hansel, Gretel and me.
At least there, PrinceCharming would be allowed to act like a father, inasmuch as he is able.
As least there, we can ALL keep a close eye on this troubled girl and help to regulate her erratic emotions.

And so began another adjustment for her.
And one that hasn't been very easy...