So I've been thinking about my Matt, is he even a difficult child anymore??? probably not at all despite him determined to quit school at the end of March. Anyhow, this got me really thinking over here, when my mind spiralled to how I'm about to have my oldest fly from the nest and how he's turning out. I realized I've been "difficult child" type behavior free, for the better part of about 4 years !!!! Then I got to thinking about the major upsets that caused drama and crisis in my/our lives through the near to 12 years I've been a member here. And the list has shrunk FAR beyond no longer having the major anguish and strain of raising a difficult child. 1) My bipolar mother and I. Our toxic relationship dwindled the past few years where finally I could make the decision and be at peace with the decision, to eliminate her from our lives completely. There's a hole somewhere that wishes for her, but in the manner I've dreamed and hoped she COULD Be, not so much as anyone I can miss since she's never been any kind of mother. Rather she was the source of acute ongoing pain inflicted often deliberately at her hands. 2) My difficult child brother and I. Ditto to above about my mother. I didn't really post about this but my brother became more unstable and more toxic and abusive in the months leading up to Christmas. I kept basic contact briefly with him during December to not cause upsets over the holidays. In the first days of the new year, with the holidays wrapped up, I sent him a long email. Full of heart but also full of the truth that as much as I love him, I don't like him. We dont' click or have anything in common. I find him abusive as do my children. We don't and can't respect his lifestyle choices. I cannot continue to participate in the court proceedings for his attempt to gain full custody of his daughter. And the big message was that I can no longer hold a relationship with him. That I wish him all the best and hold no ill will etc. He has respected my decision and didn't even bother to respond (which I'd hoped he wouldn't so that was really good). I do believe he has hated me for a long time and this was a good out for him as he can tell others I've turned my back on him (coming up looking rosy and whatever he wants ppl to think of him) while also gaining the right to not contact me. I feel confident he won't be popping up. 3) I've cried buckets in fear for my half sister who I thought I'd never meet. I worried if our sexual predator father hurt her, had access to her, if she had a good life etc. Now I not only know that my father has not harmed her, but she also found me on her own and she spent over 2 weeks with us this past holiday. That hole is filled where she was missing and a new joy is in our lives having her a part of our family. 4) I found peace following my fathers family (aunts, cousins and my grandfather) tracking me down via facebook and getting to know them for the first time. I found support and understanding from them. I learned sadly they were all victims of my father, and yet there is a solidarity in our shared history that helped all of my aunts and I to begin bonding quickly. Having only 2 family members around (other than s/o and my kids), this gap in our lives where family resides is being filled up with people. And this time, with good healthy relationships and with people who want to share our ups and downs and just love each other and be there for each other. What a difference from a lifetime of foster care, from a 16 year old girl alone on her birthday finding an apartment, from that too-young single teen mom who struggled to do college and work and parent all alone, from that 30 something adult I became, emeshed in abuse from my own family. 5) S/O is doing so well with sobriety and I cannot be prouder of him. He did drink twice over the past couple/few years and each time I saw him return home a beaten man. It called to him, he caved, he instantly felt such shame and regret. He learned through those couple times that alcohol is not what he once thought it was for him. He has grown so much this past 6 years we've been together. He now loves himself, is a proud man, holds family more important than anything, has put a stop to unhealthy relationships and thrived in healthy ones (with me, family etc). He has weathered upheaval in his career (Twice!) and rose to the need to find a way each time with success and actually come out ahead both times now. He is so balanced and healthy and simply happy. Alcohol I think was a true crutch most of his life. His sobriety was very precarious for a while, but it no longer is as he has found his own path to what makes him truly happy as a man. What a ride it was early on let me say. But gosh he is the man I cannot imagine my life without (although I was prepared fully to do so if he had not stopped drinking). We are giddier as a couple today than we were in the height of infatuation in early days. He is my best friend. 6) I hated being told I have MS, but what a relief to know, to be able to decipher what was happening in my body. to have it taken seriously and stop beating myself up over thinking fatigue was just laziness, memory stuff was me being thoughtless, etc. It's a cruddy diagnosis but it could be much much worse and as I grow more accustomed to the "new normal" as my disease progresses, I'm finding that all this other joy in my life kind of boys me up on harder days. I can face it each day, (though I do struggle some days) because I can allow myself to focus on what I need. No more drama from difficult child, or BiPolar (BP) mother or difficult child bro or whatever to take all of my energy. I no longer have to sneak time to take care of myself. I can make myself the focus when I just really need to. And instead of criticism for doing so, I have family and a partner and children who just do what they gotta do to get by without me doing whatever, but also who will do things for ME to make it easier for me. HUH?? Really?? So .... stress? Meh. I have days. I've had a fair share last year with all kinds of koi with my bio father (well learning things about him etc), with my brother etc. But you know, I'd come here or talk to s/o and vent it out. Some days have a bit of a cry and weep the pain out. Then I'd brush up, think to myself if I can't control it well just roll with it because it isn't changing. Then I'd go on about my day or week or whatever. This tells me I'm no longer living in "reaction" mode that I did for most years I've known you all (and long before, probably life long since childhood if I'm being painfully honest). I can take a deep breath and let myself be hurt by something, or worry about something, then just go about the art of living. And smiling. And laughing. Of being loved and loving those special to me. I don't carry a 500 lb burden on my shoulders anymore. I think the most poignant part of this little epiphany is this: For every second of anguish and torment and pain and sorrow and fear and stress over difficult child for a 13 year period of H$@$ ??? I have gained future decades of peace. difficult child and I climbed the wall out of both of our mutual dark places and we have both found a fledging path we know is better than the one that we are on. Helping difficult child find a semblance of peace (he's still a work in progress) and fighting that fight with and for him, all that stress etc? It gave me the ability to decide to eliminate the other stresses. Once I had peace with difficult child in our home, I wanted more peace. I wanted only healthy people and a healthy life. If someone had said 12 years ago to me as a new member that in just over a decade I would be the happiest I'd ever been, that I'd have a peace I've never had inside, that I'd be in love with my best friend, that I'd have a disease that eats away at me but somehow just roll with that and not obsess about it, that I'd break the bond that tied my mother and bro to me, that I'd have my baby sister here in my life and have gained a entire family as well that are amazing people? That I'd laugh 99.9% of the time and cry that less than 1% of the time? That I could go weeks without any real sort of stress? I'd have laughed so hard and asked what novel of fiction that was dreamed up in. I know I'll still have pain in my life and stress and gosh I'm sure you all know I'm about to have a fit about difficult child quitting school etc. But you know, all that I went through with my difficult child gave me life tools I never had. It also inspired me to know that if I expected and was able to get more out of difficult child, I could expect and get more out of all my lifes relationships. And tough loving difficult child's butt out the door all those years ago didn't break me. It didn't kill me. It did teach me that sometimes you gotta do it. And it paved the way for the past year or so and my ability to cull those unhealthy people from our lives and be happy about it instead of in mourning. I gotta say this too, cheesy as it is. I mentioned at the start of this post that Matt really hasnt' be a true difficult child for a long time. I smile as I type right now. When I joined 12 years ago I had to ask what difficult child stood for. And I wasn't sure if I was comfortable posting personal things to strangers on the internet etc. Then someone responded with its meaning. Matthew's name means gift from god. THen I find out that is the meaning here for difficult child. I find myself still often referring to him when I post here as difficult child. I think thats because to me, he's always going to be my own difficult child. Yup, I know. Cheesy. But just thought I'd explain why I went on calling him difficult child through this post. He was a gift. He is a gift. I actually believe had I not gone through all of this with him through the years, I'd never have gotten healthy enough to choose living over existing and suffering.