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Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother – Part 3 – Drug Abuse

I remember answering way too many phone calls from the police station, asking for my Mom to pick up my brother. Speeding. Theft. Vandalism. Throwing bricks at moving cars on the highway-cracking windshields and causing accidents, but no deaths yet. Possession of drugs and drug Pairs of Fenala (I had to look up paraphernalia in the dictionary). My Mom searching his room after one of these phone calls, and tears coming steadily down her face,  and gathering all kinds of strange items, like pipes and vases (bongs) and bags of powder and grass from under his bed and in his closet. I would always just watch silently, trying to figure out what was happening in my house, but no one ever talked to me. Except to tell me not to tell anyone about anything.

Then one day, my Mom started packing my brother’s clothes into a suitcase and put it in the trunk of her car. Then she waited for my brother to come home and told him we were going out for tacos – something my brother still can’t resist. But we passed up Taco Bell. She said she wanted to try a new place, that we all needed a change. My brother said “whatever”. But he didn’t know about the suitcase in the trunk. I was so confused, but again, just stayed quiet. We pulled up to what looked like a hospital. Then she said to my brother, “They are expecting you. We want to help you. If you walk in there willingly, they won’t send you to jail. Please. Just walk in. There are guards that will catch you if you run. I don’t want you to get hurt.” I saw two huge men dressed all in white, but holding handcuffs. My brother turned around and looked at me in the back seat, a long, ghostly, searching look – but I had no answers for him. Then he looked at my Mom, and just got out and quietly entered the building. The two men grabbed his arms and escorted him away. My brother never looked back. Another man came out for his suitcase, and asked my Mom to sign some papers, but told her it was better if she just left. My mom took one last look at the door my brother entered and got back in the car to take me home. I hated her. I loved my brother. How could she give him away?

On the way home, we talked very little. We both cried – mine of out fear from not knowing, and her from fear of knowing her son had a drug problem. But all she said to me was, “Your brother needs help. They can help him here. We’ll come to visit him soon.”

The next day at school, my teacher asked me if I was OK. I was angry and embarrassed that she thought I wasn’t. Apparently my Mom had called her and explained that I needed to go to an intervention today and then will need to go every Wednesday to attend family counseling at the drug rehab center. I heard this from my teacher – not my parents. This teacher had taught my brother years ago and was “not surprised at all”.

I had no idea what an intervention was, but I was fairly excited to get to leave school. Although I was a perfect student, school was a long, tortuous, boring ordeal. My mom picked me up, and we drove, in silence, to that building where we abandoned my brother. This time we parked and went inside. My Dad was inside with my other brothers. We were all taken to a quiet room, and given instructions. We were supposed to convince my brother he had a drug problem, and to do this, we were supposed to list out everything he had done wrong recently. Things that were harmful, hurtful, or out of character for him. I didn’t want to get my brother in trouble, and I didn’t want to tell this stranger anything. The counselor handed out papers and pencils to write out the events, then left the room for a while. When he returned, he brought someone who looked like my brother, but seemed like only his outline, or his physical form. It seemed that his spirit had been removed. His eyes were cold and blank. He looked around the room at his family as if we were all strangers, and sat down in silence in the chair in the front of the room, facing the rest of us.

Then the counselor asked us to start reading our complaints. One after one, we all took turns listing his wrongs. Each comment made him flinch, like we were throwing knives at him, but stared stonily at the floor. My mom said “You stole money from my purse”. Flinch. My Dad said “You are failing your classes”. Flinch. My oldest brother said, “You kissed my girlfriend”. Flinch.  I didn’t want to read mine. I didn’t want to throw another knife. This seemed way too cruel. The counselor took my paper and read mine aloud. “You kicked our dog” That one was not just a knife, not just a flinch, it was like all his bones had been removed and he no longer had any structure in his body. He went limp and looked me in the eye with the deepest sorrow I have ever seen, and then looked away to blink away his tears. When he looked back at us again, the sorrow was gone. It was like he was gone. He listened to the rest without flinching at all. When all of our lists were complete, the counselor asked if my brother had anything he wanted to say back to us. He looked right at me, and whispered, “I’m sorry”. But he did not look at anyone else, just hung his head in shameful silence. The counselor thanked us for coming in, and escorted my brother back to his room. I watched him walk away, and saw the guard buzz the locked doors open for them to enter the residential hall. The counselor returned with a Doctor, saying they will start the detox tonight. That they will attempt to keep him comfortable and monitored for safety during withdrawals, and that the worst should be over in 3 days, but that they would keep him for a few weeks. Weeks – I was stunned. And then they handed Mom a bag with his belt and shoelaces, to prevent any suicide attempts.

I was in 5th grade. My brother was  junior in high school. I asked my Mom how he would make up all that school work? She just shushed me. No one told me anything, and no one answered my questions. No google back then, so I went back to the dictionary to look up everything I heard the doctor say. I went to the library and learned about drugs and detox. I was already in the habit of looking up my asthma medications and side effects, so I knew exactly where to go. I learned that detox was very dangerous, and that my brother’s heart could stop, and that it would be very painful for him to detox. That he would sweat and shake and throw up for hours. But I kept my knowledge to myself, as my mom read People magazine and pretended everything was fine. I prayed for my brother that night, prayed that he would survive the detox, that he wouldn’t be in so much pain, and that one day I would see him smile again.

Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 2 – Adolescence

Read part 1 here

I remember the detectives coming to our house when I was perhaps in 2nd grade, my brother then a freshman in high school. Two men, in black suits, asked for my parents when I answered the door. They had briefcases and badges, and some sort of walkie talkie/CB. They arrived in a plain black car. My Mom told me to go to my room while they talked. We had a one story home, and my room was just off of the living room,  so I pressed myself against my door to listen. I used a trick from Get Smart, I tried various objects on the door and wall to hear better, like a cup. I found the best way to hear was to lay on the floor and put ear near the crack under the door.

I heard the first detective ask a bit about my brother: What is he like? Is he an angry young man? Does he have any friends? Does he have any girlfriends? Any hobbies? My Mom started answering the questions, when My Dad stopped her and asked why they wanted to know. I had played with my Dad’s briefcase enough to recognize the “click-click” of the detective’s case opening. Then I heard some papers rustling, and the detective took a deep breath and said, “Your son is in serious trouble. Is he here?” (No, my brother was not home at the time)

I pressed my ear into the door crack so hard it was hurting my cheek, but I had to know what my brother did, and was feeling scared. The detective said, “Do you know an Ellen?” My parents said No. But I knew an Ellen. My brother had her over a few times, I thought she was really pretty, with short blond hair, bright blue eyes, pretty skirts, and one time she braided my hair for me while she waited for my brother to shower. I guess my brother thought she was pretty too, because I remember them kissing on the same couch where those detectives were sitting.

Ellen had complained about harassing phone calls, that were frightening her, and were escalating in severity. They said they traced the calls to our home, and made some recordings. They asked my Dad to look at the phone records and see how many times calls had been made. Dad simply said, “Thank you for letting us know, we will look into and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” The detective said it wasn’t that simple, and that they would need to take my brother “in” for questioning and possible arrest. My dad said they weren’t taking his son “in” any where, and that they should leave, that they had no right to come in here and accuse his family of anything. My dad said surely my brother must be friends with this girl and all the phone calls could be explained, and that phone records did not prove anything wrong was done. My dad used that voice with the detectives that always scared me in to doing whatever he said. It was cold and commanding, no emotions at all, but you could feel the hate underneath it. It was impossible to argue with that voice.

So in the era before cell phones, my parents had no idea where their teenage son was or when he would be home. I waited a while after the detectives left to come out of my room, knowing that if I came out instantly they might guess I was listening. My Dad got out a magazine and sat at the table reading, waiting for my brother to walk in the door. I got out a book and started reading on the couch, turning myself invisible, as was my greatest skill back then. My brother came in at last and Dad used that scary voice to say, “Sit down. Now”

“Who the Hell do you think you are, embarrassing me like this? Who the Hell is Ellen? And how dare you use the phone that I pay for you to use to make your dirty phone calls!”

“Huh?”

“Who the Hell is Ellen?”

“I don’t know” (I stifled a gasp – he was lying to my Dad!)

“You’re a lying sack of sh**, you stupid SOB. But you keep that story and you’re going to jail. They can’t prove it was you or your stupid friends using our phone to be mean. You called Ellen because you were dating, and then you broke up with her and she made up this story to get back at you. Right – Isn’t that how it happened?”

“Er – Yes. Yes that’s what happened”

———————————————————————————————————————————

I remember the day I came home from school in 4th grade and found my brother and his friends all sitting at our dining room table with towels over their heads, steam or smoke coming out of the towels. He said they all had colds and were breathing in the medicine. His eyes were vacant, glossy, and so red. I was frightened and just went to my room. I’m still not sure which drug they were using, guessing they had bongs under those towels though.

I remember when one of his friends dared him to see how far he could kick our little dog. He refused a few times, but those friends were calling him a pu**y and he had that distant look in his eyes again when he finally gave in. That tiny dog traveled a good twenty feet (looked that way to me anyway, like in slow motion) in the air before falling down in the grass. I scooped him up, and can still remember the look on my brother’s face as his eyes met mine, shame and grief, but he said nothing and got in the car with his friends. I was shocked. I just sat there holding my dog, who was fine, completely fine, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t understand how this brother, my sweet gentle brother who loved all creatures could be so cruel. What was wrong with him? When he finally came back that night, he saw me with the dog and just nodded at me. He looked relieved the dog was OK, but also embarrassed. He tried to tousle my hair and do gorilla sounds, but I pushed him away. I was so angry at him. He just shrugged and walked away.

My brother played guitar more than any other activity. He tried football and basketball freshman year, but gave up when my Dad would not attend junior varsity games, not when he can watch his older brother, star quarter back on the “real” football team. So no more sports for him. His good friends, not the ones that dared him to kick the dog, came over often to jam. They formed a band and started competing in “Battle of the Bands” and playing at the local fairs and such. They had dreams of being rock stars and moving to California. My brother could by then play anything by ear, tune his guitar perfectly by ear, and create complex compositions in the style of Yngwie Malmsteen – his idol. He had a huge crush on Stevie Nicks, and still does a bit. He got two after school jobs and started saving up: First he bought a mustang, then he bought an electric guitar, then an amp, then a foot pedal special effects board, then some recording equipment. Now that I think of it, he bought way too many things, really nice things in the matter of months,  for a high school kid. Did delivering pizza really tip that well? I’m now guessing he delivered more than pizza. More on this in the next post.

My brother is brilliant and would often tutor his friends on assignments, but rarely turned anything in for himself and his grades fell from nearly perfect to non-existent. Although he had the highest score in his class on PSAT, he just didn’t  or couldn’t care any more. Whatever he did was not noticed, or not good enough for my Dad, and especially never as good as our eldest brother. He skipped school often. He was suspended many times. My Mom just ignored it all, and focused on her perfect children. His failing could have been her fault, so in her world, he was not failing – he was fine. No one is sure if he was experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia at this point, but it is suspected that his behavior and early drug use could have been him trying to cope with what his brain was telling him. Maybe the hallucinations had started and drugs silenced them for a bit? Again, we’ll never know, because he can no longer access those memories.

Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 1-Pre-Adolescence

I’ve been thinking about my big brother, imprisoned in his own Schizophrenic mind. I’ve been thinking about our childhood, and if there were any signs his brain was in trouble. He definitely got in lots of trouble, but that’s normal for a young boy, right? Especially one living in a dysfunctional home. But I wonder if his extreme behavior may have been an indication of more than teenage angst and acting out against the hurts from abusive parents. I wonder how early the schizophrenia gave him symptoms he was too alone to share.

My big brother is quite a bit older than me, so I can’t speak as to what he was like as a young child personally, but I do have some stories others have told me.

Like when he set our house on fire before I was even born, when he was about 4 years old. I’ve been told that he took my Dad’s cigarette lighter and deliberately set fire to the shag (Yes, in the 70’s) throw rug. I guess both my parents were home, but busy with the newborn, and they saw him do it, but were too late to prevent it, as they said NO, the fire had already consumed the rug and moved onto the couch. My Dad’s black faux leather couch he bought himself with his raise when he became a manager. He has still not forgiven my brother for this destruction of his prized property. I was told no one was hurt, and my Dad put out the fire himself – according to him – but the fire department helped – according to my Mom. The house itself was fine, but everything in it was smoke and water damaged. It was a brand new house, in a nice suburban subdivision that my Mom got to pick out the design and layout and they had it built. Mom still says that was her favorite house and the fire was such a “shame”. They moved 7 times in the first 10 years of marriage, and that house was 2 before the one I called home.

My earliest memories of my brother have him about age ten I guess, making me about 3. I loved listening to him play guitar, he was already really good by then, able to play any melody he heard. He taught me to pluck out Twinkle Twinkle on it while he held it for me, and even let me use his lucky pick. He was not allowed to play guitar in school, so he chose clarinet. He learned that easily too, but never enjoyed it, and dropped it as soon as he could. Sometimes after school, he would allow me to try to make music on that clarinet, and would laugh warmly when it all it did was squawk. He’d pretend to step on an invisible cat every time I squeaked and squawked and we would roll with laughter. He always made me laugh. I adored him.

Also about that age, and the next few years, he did lots of silly tricks with me. He would put his hands around neck, while I held onto his wrists, and he would lift me up, by what appeared to be my head, but the weight was really supported by my hands on his. It freaked out Mom and she would tell us to stop. He loved animals, and often came home with live snakes and frogs, and when he didn’t he would bring home a wavy branch and hand it to my Mom saying, “Check out this snake I found” just to hear her scream and make me laugh. He would tousle my hair while making gorilla noises pretty much every time he walked by me. Anything to get me to giggle. And he hated when I got sick, which was way too often with my asthma and secondary infections from steroids. I spent much of my childhood with a fever, alone in my room. I have so many memories of him playing the guitar in my room to help me sleep, until the fever broke. He like playing heavy metal music, but for me, it was always a pretty gentle little song. Sometimes he even played my favorite songs from Mary Poppins or Sound of Music. He’d always stop playing and go back to his room when anyone noticed he was in there, like he didn’t want to be noticed or caught being nice.

This brother was always an outsider in our family. If I felt it, I can only imagine how alone he felt. I have some memory of him being “sick” and staying in his room for family events, like birthday parties. Every Christmas Eve, I remember opening my gifts, and not being surprised that he was sick again. My Mom would ask him to join us, but then just give up when he said no. We also often went out to eat without him. He’d just say “Nah” when asked to join us. He was the middle brother, a dull shadow under the eldest brother’s star status, and sweet and special like his little brother.

I remember him getting in trouble for wearing a sheik hat to school when he was in 5th grade, so I must have been about 3. He refused to take it off, so I got to go to school with my Mom to speak to the principal and take him home. Everyone was so serious and angry, and I remember laughing at my silly brother and not understanding why everyone was angry – I loved his hat. I had the same teacher when I reached 5th grade, and she told me he had been wearing that hat every day for 2 weeks when she finally had to make it stop. She figured he would get tired of it, but it became something more and he could not stop wearing it without threat of suspension.

It was also some time around this age that he molested me, just mentioning this in the timeline, not going into details today. I actually can’t remember much of this time period clearly, only isolated events. I do know that I was not afraid of him, and never told anyone, because I adored him so and either I didn’t want him to get in trouble, or I didn’t even know it was wrong. Plus, it was nothing compared to what my Dad was doing to me, so it seemed a normal part of life to little me. Dad encouraged his young boys to collect porn magazines and watch it on cable with him, making sure they knew women were only good for sex. Everyone in our house was overly sexualized and not permitted to keep our childhood innocence.

It seems like fifth grade was like a point of no return for my brother, and I really have to wonder if he was also molested by my Dad, and if that abuse caused him to start on me, or caused the short circuit in his brain chemistry that would later develop into Schizophrenia. But we’ll never know if Dad hurt him, since he can’t tell us, he lost touch with reality so long ago.  And I also wonder if his pre-puberty hormones triggered some brain changes at that time to start his decline. Again, only speculation.

As I grew taller and my hair grew longer, people started calling us twins, and I loved that. We had the same cheekbones, same green eyes, same fair skin and freckles, and the same auburn hair! His was long, wavy, and unkempt  like a rock star. Mine was long,  wavy, and unkempt like a tomboy. We’d also both stuff our wild hair into a ball cap to avoid brushing it.

I idolized this brother and his cool long-haired friends for a few years, until he slipped out of my life. For the next few years, although we lived in the same house, I have very few memories of him at all. He pushed me away, no longer let me in the room when his friends came over, and most often, simply only came home to sleep. He even started forgetting to make gorilla noises for me. But sometimes, on very special nights, he would knock on my door late at night and ask, “Hey, Wanna see the moon?” Everyone else would be watching TV or whatever, and we would go out back to where he set up a telescope. He’d lift me up, because it was on a huge stand and too tall for me to see into. I remember the first time I saw the craters in the moon, jump right out through that telescope at me. It was magical. My brother explained all about the phases of the moon, told me the names of the craters and how they formed. Sometimes he would tell me about constellations, or meteors, or astronauts. I would get cold, but never complained, never wanting those special astronomy lessons to end. For years I wanted to be an astronaut myself – until many years later when I saw what they do at space camp and realized my motion sickness that prevented traveling to the super market without vomiting would most likely prevent me from successfully completing that G-force spinning simulator.

Best Place in the World to Be

19 years ago, Hubby finally took me on our first date. He was 21, in college, and working as a cook at a steak restaurant and never had evenings free. I was 17, taking my senior year of high school at a community college – where I met Hubby – and working at a pizza shop, a library, and the hospital. But we made time for each other.

After months of hanging out together on campus, studying together, eating lunch together, holding hands and staring at each other – it was finally time to see if this friendship could be something more.

I was so confused by him. He was unlike any boy I had ever known. He was sweet and gentle. He was content to just hold my hand and didn’t pressure me for anything more. I wasn’t actually sure he wanted to be anything but friends, but filling the role as my only friend at that time in my life, I was fine with that.

He put me in charge of choosing the movie. I called moviephone (no internet back then!) and found something I thought a guy would like. It was Ghost in the Machine, a sci-fi thriller. I wasn’t too nervous getting ready, I felt safe and comfortable with him. I was looking forward to it, to seeing him, to having a good time.

He knocked on my door, to my Mom’s apartment, where I had been living for a about a year at that point. He looked nervous, and much neater than I had ever seen him. And was that new shirt? (I think it still had a tag – hee hee) He was freshly shaved, not stubbly, except for his mustache, but that looked nice and trim. His long dark, nearly black hair was pulled back in to a ponytail. (Yes I fell for a ponytail man – Don’t judge me – I was a child of the 80’s I was also in love with every member of Van Halen, Poison, Guns ‘N’ Roses and every other bad boy of rock in those amazing hair bands) And he smiled a nervous smile. I giggled a little that he seemed nervous, but was flattered by it. I didn’t know then that I was the first girl he ever took to a movie, or ever wanted to date.

He put his arms around in me in a greeting-type hug, and whispered something like “Wow, you fit perfectly”. It was very sweet whatever he said. And then we headed to his truck. He held my hand as I maneuvered my weak leg up and into there, then closed the door for me. I gave him directions to the theater I had chosen and away we went, peeling out as he accelerated out of the parking lot in his little pick-up truck with a slightly oversized engine. We both miss that truck.

I marveled at how he could drive the entire time with only his left hand, since his right was not about to let go of mine. (Awww)

We walked in to the theater, and it was freezing cold. The snow on the ground has frozen stiff, and crunchy and squeaky. We both started giggling and time stood still as we “squeak-squeaked” our way down the treacherous sidewalk.  He held my hand, and kept his arm up a little to steady me in case my weak leg lost footing. It was natural to him to watch out for me like that – I didn’t ask, he just did it. And it felt natural to accept his help.

Cover of "Grumpy Old Men"

Cover of Grumpy Old Men

Finally inside the theater, and I scanned the movie showing times and felt panic. The movie I had selected was not there! And there was no movie right at that time. My heart was racing and I felt like a fool for messing this up. I told him the phone must have been wrong? I waited for him to be angry or call me stupid or anything like I was used to from other men in my life. But not him. He just said “No big deal, let’s just choose another one. How about ‘Grumpy Old Men’? That just started and might be funny” I said OK, but still was internally belittling myself and trying to figure out how I made this mistake.

Now I can’t remember if we got popcorn or drinks. I just remember sitting next to him in the dark, and the way he sat so close, closer than ever before, and basically held my entire arm, not just my hand. I snuggled my head on his shoulder and lost every worry as the movie started. It was a very funny movie, and the audience made it funnier. As the actors were ice fishing in a shanty, someone behind us kept saying “What in the world? How’s is he fishing in his living room?” We tried to stifle our giggles throughout the whole movie, in between wondering if he was ever going to try to kiss me. I wasn’t sure I wanted him to yet, but I was very confused why he wasn’t.

I can’t remember if he took me straight home or not. Perhaps there was a coffee shop? Or maybe we talked out in the truck a while? I can’t recall. But I will always remember our first kiss, on our first date. He pulled me in close, and just held me in his arms a moment, and then as we pulled apart, he leaned back in for that kiss. A very sweet, tentative, polite kiss, but it was enough to let me know he wanted more. And it was the first time I wanted more from him too.

We said good night, and I soon heard him spin his tires again as his truck left my driveway. I just smiled and whispered good night to him, still smelling his after shave, still feeling his lips on mine. The world was suddenly full of possibilities. This man was different. And he liked me.

Happy first date anniversary to my Hubby, who is still sweet, gentle, and taking care of me after so many years. I’d be lost without him, because he is the one to bring me back every time I lose my way. He is my lighthouse on a stormy sea. We always find our way back to each other, no matter how far we may drift apart. And we still fit perfectly in each other’s arms, best place in the world to be.

 

Understanding Does Not Mean Instant Change

(content may be triggering today – explicit details of abuse ahead)

I am an impatient person. Sometimes I am a desperate person. It is not a feature of myself that I am particularly proud of, but it is true. And it is especially true about my recovery. I am soooo ready to be all better, to put all of the past in the past, but it simply does not work that way. Even though I understand the changes I need to make in my life, I struggle to make them. Why? Because I am human.

I am trying not to beat myself up about some setbacks in my healing process. Trying. See, I also understand I am human and imperfect, but it is hard to change the self-hating habits too.

Yesterday I started posting about my sexual healing journey. I finally feel like I can discuss these issues. I try to be happy with that, because that is huge, but I want more. I want to be better now! I want to stop thinking about my childhood trauma. I want the slimy tentacles of this past abuse to get out of my brain and leave me alone. I used to think I was so damaged by my monstrous father that I was also a monster. That kind of thinking led to a few suicide attempts about 10 years ago. I used to think it would be better to kill the monster within me, as I had no hope of removing it. Slowly, I started to see those tentacles were no longer living, but were deeply embedded like shrapnel. I had to get them out, but the digging was so painful, and required small recoveries from the process itself. Finally – I found the bottom and feel like I have the understanding to truly heal. (God I hope I found the bottom, but part of me thinks I probably haven’t and will have to dig and battle a bit my entire life)

Another mind-whirling section of The Sexual Healing Journey, by Wendy Maltz, showed how to identify and remove triggers from past abuse from our daily lives, and then from our sex lives. It had a series of questions meant to be helpful. And I suppose for someone who had experienced 1 attack, or 1 instance of sexual trauma, that this could be helpful. The idea is to (at least for now) never repeat something the abuser did. This makes sense in the case of rape or other brutal attacks. But nothing my Dad did to me all those years were physically painful, and were things that could be part of a healthy sexual relationship. Excluding every way he touched me would mean no sex life at all. OK. So gulp, breathe, keep reading.

Next section asked details about the abuse, like time of day, time of year, what I was wearing, what the abuser was wearing, etc. This part is meant to avoid triggers, and again, I could see how this would be helpful to a rape victim. The idea is if you were raped in the early morning while jogging through autumn leaves, that you may have more triggers in the autumn, in the morning, and while jogging or seeing people in jogging clothes. Makes sense. But see? I had some form of abuse every day, every time of day or night, every time of year, from age 3-16. Pretty much if Dad was in the room with me, I could expect to me groped, fondled, grabbed, or touched by some part of him. He could do these things in plain daylight because many of them would look innocent – I think. (I have to think this way or I can’t bear to think of my family members not protecting me) These are some of the memories I had to sort through while reading this book. Each example happened many, many times in some form throughout my childhood, not isolated events.

Example, if I would stand at the kitchen sink getting a glass of water, he would come up behind me, put his hands around me to fondle my chest and kiss my neck and ear and whisper horrid things (I still feel his breath on me, can still hear those words) if no one was looking, or if they were, he would wrap his arms around me and grind his pelvis into my rear. I assume it looked like a bear hug. I don’t know. All I know is a little girl should not know what her father’s erect penis feels like rubbing on her bottom. He’d bend his knees and slowly stand up so I could feel him the whole way along my bottom until his erection was in the small of my back. Then he’d walk off as silently as he approached. It would be over quickly, just a minute. But the nausea, confusion, and shame would last forever, until his next touch. That would be just one time during the day, a normal occurrence, a normal part of my life. I have memories of this particular action from ages 8-16, when I was tall enough I guess. When I was younger he did that same move only while I was lying down. When I was younger I thought it was his knee rubbing on me sometimes. (see how matter of fact I have to be – this was my life) So I don’t like being held from behind and can avoid this trigger.

Example, when I was little, maybe around first grade? I would often sit on his lap, as little girls do. Sometimes he’d get me to straddle just one of his legs and would bounce and push his thigh into my crotch, asking how I liked that. Or if we were at a table, he’d have one hand in my crotch or up my shirt, out of sight under the table, while we sat and played games with the brothers at that same table. He’d usually just grab and hold still, and I’d hold my breath, because I knew it would be my fault if he got caught. And I remember him getting caught and laughing it off, saying “Oops how’d that get there” and no one said anything else. Later he’d tell me we had to be more careful, that no one could know I was his special girl and I’d be in trouble, because it was very bad. I remember being so confused. I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know why he wanted to touch me or keep it hidden. I didn’t know. But I wanted to be a good girl and he was scary when he was angry, and so I helped him keep his secret.

Example, I used to have asthma attacks in the middle of the night. Or nightmares. Or I wet the bed. Or I would see scary things in my room. (I know now it was actually him hovering over my bed) Many things would frighten me. I have so many fuzzy memories of waking at night and then being comforted by Dad, but it took me years to realize he was the thing that had actually woken me in the first place. I used to think he had come to my rescue when I called out, but see, he was already in my room, that’s how he got there so quickly. On other nights, I would awaken and seek him out in his room. Mom would always say “Go back to bed” and offer no comfort. But Dad would open his arms and say “It’s ok, you can sleep on my side”. It felt so warm and safe in his arms, I’d fall right back asleep. I’d wake up with his hands inside my top, and his penis inside my underpants. And then I’d freeze and I know now that my mind left my body. I knew I had to be quiet. Good girls were quiet.

I used to feel guilt and shame about choosing to sit on his lap, or going to his bed. But see? I was not the wrong one. I was doing what little girls do. He was doing what monstrous, psychopathic pedophiles do. He used my love against me.

So I am left with the damage.

I startle easily, actually scream if someone touches me unexpectedly, or a loud noise, or even a quiet noise can startle me to the point of nausea if unexpected. Some days this response is extreme, and a simple “Mom?” from my child can have me scream and jump onto the ceiling fan. I forget where I am , what I am doing, and it takes several minutes to regain composure. It takes several hours for the heart pumping, choking and adrenaline to wear off.

Some days I don’t want anyone to touch me at all. Including kids and Hubby. No hugs, kisses or snuggles. Not even a shoulder tap. On those days I can’t stand to go to shopping, for fear a stranger will get too close and send me into a panic. I hope my kids still feel loved on these days. I do my best to connect in other ways, without touching, but some days I just can’t do that either. I know Hubby struggles on these days, as I pull away from his return-from-work kiss. He’s supposed to understand and not take it personally, but I know that must be nearly impossible. I would be hurt if he did the same to me.

The part that really stinks, is the no-touch episodes come on with no warning. I can be going along fine, enjoying – no cherishing – snuggly moments and then BAM! Terror! I can’t breathe! Stop touching me! I try to contain this terror and not frighten the kids, and get myself out of the room, usually to work on the computer or do dishes or some other natural sounding excuse. Sometimes Hubby doesn’t know that is why I left the room and comes over to rub my shoulders or sneak a kiss or playfully swat my bottom. I still freeze sometimes. I can’t always tell him to stop. I just gulp and pull away and make him ask what is wrong.

 

I Solemnly Swear Never to Endanger Humanity by Parallel Parking

I intended this post to be Part 2 of the Ghosts of Therapists Past. But as I continued that story, it really just became about my Senior Year of high school doubling as a freshman year in college, the year in between therapists. And then it really became the struggles of how I learned to drive with a handicap in my Juior year.  So I changed the title a few times – These words are the ones that wanted to come out today. Sometimes we have to write the story that wants to be told.

My Senior year of High School was therapy free. I thought I was fine, and had put all my troubles behind me. I focused my attention on being perfect and getting into college. I left High School and attended a community college full time through a state funded program. I got permission to overload my courses and take an extra class each semester to cram more in, free college credits I was thinking. I had decided I was going to be an engineer, something fabulous and impressive in the medical field, so I added volunteering at our local hospital to my schedule. (How I hated that! I started in pediatrics and it broke my heart to see sick kids. I tried cardiology, and it broke my spirit to see naked old men – they have no modesty left)

I didn’t want to ask my parents for money, so I had two jobs – one at the library and one making pizzas. (I started working at age 15 with a fake birth certificate my Dad made for me so I could stop costing him so much money and actually be useful) Well 3 jobs if you count the odd babysitting jobs here and there too. I gave myself $2 a day for food. I had more, but I wanted to save my money for college, and to limit my calories. I didn’t know it, but I was basically anorexic then. I would pack one piece of fruit in my backpack for breakfast, and then buy a taco from Taco Bell, or a baked potato from Wendy’s for lunch. I only drank water.  In between meals, my main fuel was actually Tums. (I had my first stomach ulcer that year, and self-treated it with a few Tums each hour before giving in and seeing a doctor the summer before college.) Mom usually had something at home for dinner to make for myself or reheat. I left each morning about 5am, and returned home each evening about 11pm. This schedule allowed me to do all my homework on campus, go to work, and volunteer, and also allowed me to avoid seeing or speaking to my Mom – pretty much ever. Sometimes she would be sitting in a chair waiting for me to come home, and say something like “wow, you’re out late tonight” And I would say “Yup” and go get ready for bed.

But I need to back up and describe how I got myself this freedom. To have my own schedule I needed my own car.

While I still lived with my Dad, I saved up and bought an old car from my Dad’s mother and paid my own gas and insurance, and nearly daily repairs for that lemon. Ironically it was actually yellow, though theshade was more banana milkshake than lemon colored. That car leaked from every orifice and I had a jug of water for the radiator, quarts of oil, tranny fluid, and power steering fluid that I topped off every time I started it – but that’s how I met my handy Hubby (and a few other guys that wanted to rescue a pretty girl and impress me with their car knowledge, but don’t tell Hubby that), so no hard feelings. OK, that’s not true. Lots of hard feelings. How did my parents think it was OK to let their girl drive something so unreliable? One night, after an evening class, I headed home from campus about 10pm and my car died in the middle of the parkway. I coasted it in to a parking spot and walked home, alone, in the snow. Made it home about midnight or so, and Mom just said “You’re home late” and I just said “Yup”. I got up extra early the next day to walk to my car – I brought extra water and oil. The battery had died, and I managed to flag someone for a jumpstart. I was terrified to be late for class, but made it just in time. All the walking, especially in the cold, caused my leg great pain to be dragged that far past the fatigue point. I didn’t worry about the pain though, pain was a constant in my life. I worried that the twitches from irritating the nerve would cause me attention. I did my best to hide my flaw. I never asked for help or complained, just handled whatever life threw at me.

I also have some hard feelings about acquiring that car. I never thought much of it at the time, but with my new eyes, I see how terribly I was treated. So I need to back up again and explain. Nothing like telling a story in reverse. (Bear with me – I have no idea where these memories are coming from today – best to just let them out)

My spinal injury in 7th grade had left my right leg weak and withered and slow. I could walk, but with a slow pace, and with extreme effort and concentration I could step on my left leg firmly to painfully drag my right along. I could not drive a regular car with my right foot. They put a restriction on my learner’s permit, that I could only drive with a left-foot pedal. My dad did not believe this was true, and made me try, for hours on hours, when I still lived with him at age 15 to make my noodly leg push the pedals. Back then I had no spatial awareness of my leg, the disconnected nerves made my brain think my leg was missing when I was not looking at it. So to watch the road, and not my foot, was just impossible and it slid right off and would get wedged under the pedals, requiring my hands to pull it back out. He put a full glass of water on the dash of his car, and said I could drive his car if I didn’t spill any water. A drop always spilled as soon I touched the gear shifter to reverse, and he would laugh, saying he didn’t know why “we even let women learn to drive at all”. Then he would get cold and furious and told me I wasn’t trying hard enough and I just wanted to be difficult and special. He seemed to think that I dragged my leg around for all the great attention. Yes, Dad, I loved being called a freak and laughed at by cruel adolescents.

English: Dual controls for student driver cars...

My driving instructor had to be brave and ride in my handi-cap adjusted car – no dual controls for him (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My dad was pissed, and was not going to be driving his gimp around forever, so he made some calls for me and found a place that sold handicap equipment for cars. I remember how irritated my Dad was that he had to deal with this. He told me that pedal would cost $600 and that he’d have to drive to the next state to get it. Not sure how much of that was true now, since I still use a left pedal and get it quite easily. It turns out I am not the only annoying gimp in the world that wants to drive. (dark humor there, sorry, to avoid getting angry) So I saved my money, the $600 plus gas money for him to drive so far for it. I even took him out to dinner that week to repay him for his kindness in wasting a day for me. I realize now he probably was just avoiding shipping costs and purposefully adding to my guilt. But it sure worked then. So then I had this pedal, one step closer to every teenage dream of freedom and driving. But Dad would not have that thing installed in his car, no way would he have a reminder of my weakness in his own car, and no way would he allow them to drill holes in his floor to do it.  A few more months of saving and I had a car. I called the driving school that all my friends were going to, and was denied. They did not have instructors certified to work with handicapped students. Sigh. Lots more calls and I found one that would take me, for twice as much money as the others, since I was obviously a liability.

And then came the driving exam. I passed the course, but only had driving time with my pedal with my instructor. My Dad would not drive in my car with me to practice, as he did not accept that I needed that “handi-crap” pedal (he had so many terms of endearment for my impairment) and would only help me if I was willing to do it the right way. He put a full glass of water on the dash of his car, and said I could drive his car if I didn’t spill any water. A drop always spilled as soon I touched the gear shifter to reverse, and he would laugh, saying he didn’t know why “we even let women learn to drive at all”.  I think I did that twice before giving up on him. So I took the exam with just a few hours experience with my pedal. The left-foot pedal is mounted on the left of the brake pedal with a bar that extends across the floor and attaches to the actual accelerator. I needed a specially certified exam proctor as well, and had to wait for one to be available. My test went fairly well, though I did bump each cone during the maneuverability portion, having never attempted this before. The proctor passed me anyway, but made me promise I would ever attempt to parallel park. I promised – and actually have held that promise to this day. I will walk several blocks just to avoid a parallel parking situation. Humanity is safe from that one threat at least.

The Ghosts of Therapists Past, part 1

I have been seeing a therapist for 20 years now. From age 16-36, wow. (I mean some form of mental health professional, not the physical therapists for my back and leg injuries – that story is coming soon) I have learned how to get the most out of therapy by preparing for it first, being honest and targeted within it, and then being gentle with myself afterwards. That’s not how it started though.My attitude towards therapy has changed over the years and so has my actual therapist. Many times. Meet my first 2 here.

When I was 16, and finally able to ask my Mom for help, to get me out of my abusive Father’s home, she made him pay for a therapist for me. This was ugly for many reasons. I was not ready to deal and heal. I was moved from a psychopathic pedophilic Father’s home to a passive-aggressive narcissistic Mother’s home. My life was not instantly better, and honestly not much improved. It was actually more difficult, because now my Father was angry and unpredictable to me.  I was much more afraid of him than when I lived with him and basically knew what to expect. And my Mom was a complete stranger. We had barely spoken our entire lives, and barely saw each other since they divorced 4 years prior. So I had to put my trust into all these adults that I did not actually trust.

Mom drove me to this first therapist without telling me what we were doing. She seemed to have forgotten that by age 16 I could actually read quite well, and knew what building we were entering. I could tell she was nervous, but determined to be strong, to do the right thing. I asked her if I had to go in, and she said Yes, that I needed help. I didn’t understand at the time just how much help I needed, or how anyone on this planet could help me. Mom went in by herself first, for just a few minutes, then we swapped. I wonder what she told them. How to sum up my  life and needs so quickly.

My first impression of my first therapist was that she was just like my Mom, only older and a professional. Old, graying hair swooped out asymmetrically, patronizing smile, strong perfume. She asked me to sit and pointed to a chair, and then just stared at me. I gave her a polite smile, then looked at her book shelf. “Oh Crap” I thought as I read those origins of psycho theory titles. Then this stranger, this very smelly stranger, (I still hate strong smells, highly sensitive, I just wanted to open that door for fresh air) said, “How are you dear?”

I looked her right in the eye, and gave her my best and often practiced “you are an idiot too” look that I gave most adults in my life. Then I answered her first in my head. “How do you F-ing think I am? I’ve been molested for 16 years, my mom never cared until I made her, my Dad is now pissed, I told my boyfriend too and now that’s all weird, and I’m afraid all the people at school will know, and now I have to live with my Mom and everything is different, and all I want to do is leave this crazy life and go to college and start my real life, not this pretend hell I have lived so long” And then I said out loud, boldly, “I’m fine.” And looked away, showing her I did not need her.

Somehow an hour passed with her asking stupid questions, like

“How is school”

“Fine”

“How are your grades?”

“Good”

“What do you do after school?”

“Work”

“Do you have any good friends?”

“Yes”

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw her a few times a week to play 20 questions each hour. Finally one day they took me to a different room down the hall, and introduced me to a different therapist. I saw “hypnotherapist” among her titles on the door. I was immediately thinking of Bugs Bunny holding a swirling disc and saying “Look into my eyes, you are getting sleepy . . .” I also thought, “well, this could be fun” and this room did not smell like old lady perfume. It smelled spicy, but gently, like cinnamon toast. And she had a rainbow of throw pillows piled on a chair in the corner. And her books were less Freud and texbook, and more Oprah and Buddha and color therapy. I finally looked at the woman leaning over her desk, she was much younger, less smelly, had nice brown hair and caring eyes. She did not ask me anything. She gave me one of those bright colored pillows to hug on my lap, put on some oriental type music, and just watched me. Then she told me about herself. I learned that she was married, but did not have kids yet. She had some cats and dogs, don’t recall the details. She never asked me anything, and so I never spoke that entire hour, other than hello and goodbye and a few nods of understanding. I left feeling very proud of myself for costing my Dad whatever she charged and never saying a word.

The next few visits with her, she had me do various relaxation exercises. We never spoke of my Dad. She taught me how to flex and relax my muscles and breathe deeply. She taught me how to visualize happy scenes. She wanted me to feel good, and I liked her, so I told her it was helping. All these fools thought they could “cure” me in a few hours. Kids are so resilient, and I must be ok I had good grades in school, right? I even let her think she was actually hypnotizing me a few times. She was trying so hard, I just couldn’t let her think she had failed like the first therapist. And I didn’t want to fail either, I wanted a good grade in therapy. I just didn’t know the goal, they gave me no rubric or syllabus, so I didn’t know what to do  in there. And I hated it. I just wanted to be left alone.

One day I went in and she asked me to choose a pillow and place it on the floor. I raised my eyebrows, but did it. Then she asked me to lay down with my head on the pillow. And close my eyes. I did not like that, but I did it. I felt so stupid and exposed lying there. Then she took me through the relaxation narrative we had been doing in the chair. It actually felt really good. And then she started some counting nonsense, and said when she got to 3 I’d be even more relaxed. And kept doing that, over and over until she said I was now at the deepest state of relaxation possible. She asked what color my thoughts were. ?? I stifled a giggle, so she wouldn’t know I was NOT completely relaxed and hypno-anythinged. Instead I very calmly said “Green”. Then she asked me to flex different muscles, and would ask me the color of my thoughts in various states of flex/tension. I said colors to her, and she said “ahh” each time, like it made perfect sense. I thought she was completely looney tunes, and that I could probably help her more than she helped me at that point. She eventually brought me out by reversing the counting, relaxing commands. I played along. She was just so nice and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

I don’t remember how I stopped therapy, if they pronounced me better, or I begged enough to stop, as it was interfering with my busy schedule, or perhaps my Dad and insurance stopped paying. I just know I stopped going after a few months. That was my junior year of High School. I found out I had enough credits to get out of high school early. I was determined to get out of my Mom’s home, get out of this city, and leave them all behind. I went to a Community College my Senior year of high school and thought everything would be OK if I just worked really hard and didn’t have to look any of my peers in the eye any more. I wanted a fresh start, where I was normal, and no one knew I was broken.

I did start using some of those relaxation techniques each night to fall asleep, but didn’t really get good at it until many years later. I was basically trained by my situation to never sleep deeply, always waiting for my Dad to enter my room at night. Afraid to sleep and wonder what he was doing before I woke up. Hated that sense of confusion and powerlessness. He typically left shortly after I was awake and pushed him away. He did it that way to make it seem like I was in control of ending it. Like he only did what I wanted and stopped when I wanted. Sick bastard. I understand this now – I didn’t then. It worked on me. It worked. I would try to barricade my door without being obvious by leaving toys or books in front of it, because he would get angry if he knew I was doing it on purpose. I would try to stay up all night and sleep at school or friends houses. I still have sleep issues and likely always will. But it is a bit better now when I can convince myself I am actually safe.

And I have always used my mind to mentally escape wherever I was. I got through years of abuse, and years of boring classes that way. I have always had my mind elsewhere. Always creating stories and poems in my mind. Always creating wild vacations and meeting amazing people in my mind. Always seeing myself as brave and heroic, exploring new lands, and doing fantastic things in my mind. I daydreamed of living in the rain forest, just me and my best friends, a tiger and a macaw, with a crazy modern lab hidden in a primitive tent to research new species and cure cancer. I dreamed of that until I found out the rain forest is full of spiders. Big hairy spiders. Then I switched my dream to biomedical engineering in an American facility without spiders, and my cats waiting for me at home. I saw myself at award banquets, and people with back injuries like mine thanking me for my research that allowed us all to walk easily again. I also saw my Dad in prison, forever, watching me excel on the news. I actually still struggle to keep my mind in the here and now. That is also getting better too.

And so I am preparing to see my current therapist tonight, what sparked the memories for this post. I am now being completely honest with her, not needing a good grade, and not caring if she feels like she is doing a good job with me. No longer sabotaging my own therapy and healing and growing more this year than ever in my life. I have more moments now looking forward to future moments, rather than dreading how to survive yet another day. Life is mostly good right now. Feels so good to realize that.