Tag Archive | denial

Mom’s memorial service

Mom’s memorial service was beautiful, but not in the way of music or flowers. I’ll try to explain and hopefully my words are not lacking in meaning because this post is important to me. I’ve waited to write it until I have a clear head and some rest and perspective.

I’m not done telling my surgery story, but this needs to be told next before moving on to the next day or it won’t make sense.

My mom passed away in March. My youngest brother scheduled her funeral during the week of my back surgery, in April, so I asked my oldest brother to arrange a memorial service I could attend prior to my surgery. The only day that could have all of my brothers attend with me, was the day before my surgery.

We got everyone up and dressed, loaded in the van at 6:30 am for the 2 hour drive to my moms church. My kids were all angels even at that early hour, I was surprised no one was too grumpy.

We arrive at the church just a bit early so they can have a snack before going in. As we are munching, my in laws arrive: mom in law, dad in law, sis in law, brother in law. I was so touched they drove out so far and so early to support me.

We enter the church and head for the restrooms. I am surprised to find them in the old part of the church, the gymnasium where mass used to be held when I attended as a child with my mom. I was prepared for flashbacks, but instead, I was filled with joy. My mom was there and it felt like a bright warm hug. That was our room and I felt so connected to her, even though it was an unused, dusty old gym now. The fancy new chapel was lovely, but meaningless to me.

I shared some memories with my kids and hubby, absorbing as much of that room as i could, then we headed to the small chapel where weekday morning mass is held.

I saw my oldest brother and sat near him. It has been many years since I’ve been in a Catholic Mass, but I found myself responding at times with the correct phrases. My kids were mesmerized and confused, and well behaved.

The priest mentioned my mom’s name as a lost soul and everyone prayed. The regulars all came over at the end to wish us well and comment on my beautiful family.

I looked for my other brothers and spotted them outside the door. I was afraid they hadn’t come. My youngest brother barely looked at me but gave me a hug. Middle brother asked me to come to his car, he had something for me. He had a photo album mom had put together for me in her last weeks of pictures of me and my brothers. He also gave me a vase I had given her as a gift, and some paintings I had painted for her.

I lost it. Uncontrollable sobs racked my body so hard I thought I might break right there in the parking lot. My brother looked so uncomfortable. He said he had to get going, he had an appointment soon. (He would be living on his own now, and had to see his caseworker daily)

When the others came out, we decided to go to breakfast at a nearby restaurant. We were seated when we noticed the man at the next table said hello with a smile – it was the priest that delivered our mass. He said our mother has been mentioned in mass every day that week. It felt extra special to dine with him, like mass was extended now.

We waited for youngest brother and realized he must not be coming. We tried texting but he did not respond. Oldest brother said this was typical behavior for him recently.

We all had a nice, warm, loving breakfast. My oldest brother was kind and gentle with me, showing understanding, and support. He shared some concerns about youngest brother, apparently attempting to swindle us out moms money. Not that she had much, but it seems he wanted it all left to him as the only good son, just like he managed with dads money. Wow, had he grown up to be a cold hearted manipulator? It looks that way. I don’t care about the money, a few thousand makes no difference, and I can’t believe he is willing to lie and deny to get it.

He says we had an idyllic childhood and are ungrateful and undeserving.

Oh….Idyllic must have a different meaning….

I am grateful my brothers were there to help my mom. But youngest brother prefers to think I’m a bad person, not that I was struggling and in need of help myself. I was not in a position to help anyone. But to believe that means believing my childhood was not idyllic…so he is stuck in denial where he is right, where he feels safe. It’s alright. I understand. I’ll be here if he ever feels safe enough to come out.

After much thought, I feel at peace about my mom. I feel connected in a good way, and like I was able to hold onto the good that she tried to do for us. I feel I see it clearly, the good and the bad. I accept the life we had. I’m happy she didn’t suffer long. I feel an immense relief now that both of my parents are gone. Like I can just live. Like I don’t have to expend so much energy protecting myself and my kids. I feel free.

Or more accurately, I feel I could be free now if I let myself. So I will continue with my therapy program to heal the roots of PTSD and I will see what happens.

Enforcing boundaries

Anyone lucky enough to have grown up in a healthy home, not an abusive one, has this beautiful gift (many beautiful gifts actually, but only writing about 1 today) of personal boundary knowledge.

Reaction of two people whose personal space ar...

Reaction of two people whose personal space are in conflict. See also http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:PerSpa1.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Up until a few years ago, I was not aware I had any boundaries. Growing up less than human removed my sense of self before I was ever able to establish one. I never knew I had the right to personal space as a child, there was no such thing. It wasn’t something I wished for either, because I never knew it could exist.

Both of my parents regularly violated my emotional and physical boundaries, it was my norm.

A few years ago I finally had enough knowledge, strength, and belief in myself to push away my still harmful parents. Yes, at age 35 they still had a hold on me. I am not ashamed of this, it is a simple fact. Several events came together to wake me up and release me from my delusional prison, way too many to list right now, from my earliest posts.

I realized quickly that I had to push away my AF completely. He had no remorse. He will never admit to being anything other than a perfect father, he says his only problem was he loved me too much. (did you just vomit a little? I did)

At the time, I also pushed away everyone from my family of origin, until I could sort out who was safe and who was not. My brothers respected the line and did not cross it. But my mom? At first she was outraged at the change. She was not able to step outside her bubble of perfection yet, her beautifully handcrafted world based on denial and lies. Every time I drew a line, she pushed it, and was often able to cross it. Until I built up enough strength to enforce my boundaries. The first time I kept her out, and me safe, was a huge victory. I was no longer helpless and powerless and it felt so good to get out from behind my protective fortress.

It took years, of her pushing, and me pushing back. It became an expected cha-cha, back and forth. Tiring? Yes, you bet. But worth it? Yes, unbelievably so. For something near miraculous happened. She stopped pushing. She let me take the lead and only came as close as she was invited. I didn’t answer every email or phone call. I stopped calling her so often. Weeks would slip by without her influence, and I started forming my own opinions, seeing the world with my own eyes. Once outside of her bubble, I allowed myself to be imperfect.

And then the miracle happened. At age 66, she popped her bubble. A series of events became undeniable, and brought out her mama bear instinct, and showed her she had a self as well. My AF had also removed her own sense of self, we were all hurt by him, wounds cut clear through our souls. You may recall the wedding from last October, the one with not one, but two pedophiles in attendance. Two pedophiles invited and warmly welcomed into the family celebration. Two pedophiles permitted access to dozens of cousins and nieces. I lost it that day. I could no longer play nice, and had an outward display of rage and loudly warned my brothers and mother of the harm of these men, and left the wedding. I said I could not control who they invited, but I could not be a part of it. I allowed my mother see my fear, my anger, and above all, she saw my pain.

For the first time, she saw my pain, and could not deny it. The magnitude was unbearable and changed her world. Why had I kept that hidden for so many years? Because I thought I had to. Because I didn’t know how to express it. Because everything was locked up deep in side of me.

Since that day, my mother has been changing. The lies have stopped. We have real conversations that include the ugly stuff, not all unicorns and rainbows. I still keep her at a safe distance, but I have noticed that her pushing is less like pushing these days, and more like polite requests.

I made a choice last month when I was in a severe PTSD crash of depression and suicidal, to let her know about it, after the worst had passed. At first she reacted badly and started calling and emailing constantly, and trying to get me to go back on meds.  I recognized that she wanted to help, not to control, and so I told her,

“I know you are trying to help, but my therapist and I don’t feel I need medicated at this time. The crisis has passed. If I weren’t coming up out of this, then yes I would seek out other measures. If you continue to push me like this I will have no choice but to push you away and keep you at a safe distance again.”

Her response did not come immediately. But I was overjoyed at her response, oh yes I was. She changed her tune, said she loved me, that she is there for me and asked if it was snowing. She backed off. She did not retaliate or manipulate. I dare say she understood. She had just slipped into bad habits for a bit there because she was fearful. I have to allow her to make mistakes, just as I now allow myself.

I felt powerful too. I know understand I have this power to enforce my own boundaries with everyone, all of the time. Relationships take 2 people, and the line is different with each person. I’m starting to understand this delicate social dance. Sure wish I learned all this as a teenager like so many do, but hey, I’m a firm believer of better late than never.

It is never too late to make a choice, make a change, and make it better.

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Speaking Up Is So Hard

But so worth it. The past few days have been tough, since I was completely drained from the weekend’s activities.  Speaking up, saying difficult things to someone’s face, telling them they are wrong – is never easy. Combining this with my own baggage: PTSD flashbacks, seeing my abuser for the first time in many years, fearing children I know and love are in danger of pedophilic grooming and future abuse, tough conversations with my family, missing conversations with others, and unwelcome messages too – I needed some recovery time.

I did not let it go, I sent emails after the wedding to clear up any confusion. I sent to all my siblings and my mom.

I had responses from my brother that was hosting the wedding, and see that he felt powerless and thought he was doing the best he could with no good choices open to him.

I had a response from my mom – apologizing for all the pain and agony in our lives, and for not being a better mom all along, for not protecting us from our abusive father. She has apologized before to me, but this was the first time I heard actual remorse in her voice and words. And I have to admit I don’t know what to do with it. I appreciate that she can do this, I certainly have had no apology from my AF. But deep down, I agree with her. I still haven’t forgiven her for allowing all of her children to be hurt. I know she was a victim too, but I just can’t excuse her completely. Maybe that will come if I see she has truly owned up to her part. I don’t know yet.

And then, drum roll please – I had an email from my abusive father himself. I don’t know why I was so shocked to see it. I don’t why I opened it. But I did. It was very short and simple, “Just a “Hi”  since I missed you two at the reception.  I was coming to say hello when the dancing got underway and negotiating The empty chairs would be easier but you folks were already gone. Maybe next time. Hope you enjoyed the evening.”

Sigh. Big, huge, freaking sigh.

This sounds nice if you don’t understand how to speak psychopath. I will translate.

“I know you don’t want to talk to me, and I know you are very strong now, so I couldn’t risk engaging you in front of everyone at the wedding. I was waiting until I had you alone to say something very unsettling and creepy and watch you squirm, because I miss that. I’m sorry I waited too long and missed that opportunity. So instead I’m sending you an email to see if I can make you feel guilty for turning your back on me, a weak, feeble old man that has been abandoned by his daughter. No one understands why you choose to turn your back on me and insist that things that happened so long ago still matter. No one believes a weak old man with white hair, an oxygen tank, and a wheelchair is a threat. I still think about you and your beautiful children and want to make sure you know that I do. Oh and I have new pictures of all you to ogle now and sell to my favorite online sites. Especially the little girls twirling in their skirts, everyone will love those. Hope you think of me, because I am always thinking about you and already plotting for the next time. ”

Whatever. He can’t hurt me anymore. So I opened his email so I could decode and use it as a tool to explain to others who may happen to read this, and learn how to be strong, and recognize manipulation disguised as normalcy. There was a time when this sort of email would raise no alarm bells in me, and I would feel guilty and confused and question my actions. No more. Ever.

Din Dong, that evil root is dead.

Which makes me think my AF is not yet dead, and I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed in his apparent strength and health. He was able to do anything he wanted independently, and held up a supersized camera for most of the evening. He was not so weak to not be dangerous, as my brother that lives with him has lead me to believe.

And then – an obviously missing response from these emails – is any response from that brother that lives with AF. Not a word from him at all – his denial bubble is so thick it may never pop. He chose to allow AF to live with him and 4 children, so he must choose to continue to believe the danger is minimal. Well, his new girlfriend got to see my reactions and heard me loud and clear, and I can only hope that they are having some conversations about it even if it doesn’t include a response to me.

Coping, Denial, Delusion – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 8

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

Snakes (M. C. Escher) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you cope with having a condition like schizophrenia? At the time, my brother was so lost inside his own mind that we were unable to explain his condition to him. So the label, with the full force of the stigma, was on our family, not him. I felt my mom was more concerned with keeping this a secret than actually helping my brother get better, but the way to contain this terrible news was also the way to help him. Lock him up in a mental hospital.

The next few years, my brother was in and out of hospitals as combinations of meds were tried and adjusted to control his symptoms and return him to reality – to us. When he was out of the hospital, he either stayed with us – Me, my mom, and the youngest brother (and more often than not, the youngest brother’s girlfriend who stayed with us even though she was in high school with me – because her father was an angry alcoholic, but that is a whole different story when I ever get around to writing about that brother, jeez so much to say, so many branches, and I am so impatient to get this story told) in our 2 bedroom apartment, or he would stay with my dad when my mom begged him to help and give us all a break. My dad then lived in a 3 bedroom house all alone, but was way too inconvenienced to take in his son.

I remember my mom crying one evening on the phone with my dad, after just hanging up with the hospital – they called saying my brother was again ready to be released. She told my dad she was at her limit and trying to keep things together and begging for my father to allow my brother to stay with him this time. When I first moved in with my mom, she gave me her room and moved her bed to the living room. But when my brother needed shelter too, she moved in to the bedroom with me, and my brother slept on the couch. My other brother and his girlfriend slept in the other bedroom. And sometimes, just to make life fun, my brother with schizophrenia’s girlfriend, the Madonna wannabe, came to stay with us too, because she NEEDED my brother and couldn’t live without him. All these lost and broken souls sheltering together for different reasons. What a mess.

At some point in there I graduated high school, 4th in my class, with several scholarships and awards. I only came home to sleep, and didn’t do much of that at all, I actually slept more peacefully on park benches or library sofas. I didn’t feel safe at home. I left for college, left the state, and thought I left all my troubles behind.

My brother stabilized on his meds, and starting coming back to us. He was still altered, but could at least recognize us and take care of his personal needs, and seemed mostly OK. We were able to tell him about his illness, and the importance of taking the meds carefully every day. He understood. He decided to go live with his girlfriend again because she pressured him. My mom did not want him to go, did not want to risk losing him again, but he did go. My mom also seemed relieved when he left though.

He was difficult to contact, his girlfriend was controlling and I dare say abusive to him. I was not there, but I think that is true from what I now know. She made him “work” for his meds, he had to please her to get relief from the voices in his head. She would hide his meds and make him earn them back, taunting him. My brother sounded so sad and lost on the phone when he told me that. She threatened to send him to jail on many occasions, again, and again, he sounded so sad. He said he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong and why she got so angry. And then, at some point in the next year, I heard that I was an Aunt again. I had a nephew in a far away state, to an unmarried terrible woman. My brother freaked out. He told me on the phone, “Hey guess what, guess I’m going to be a dad . . .” and he just kinda laughed in an odd disconnected way. His schizophrenia became uncontrollable soon after this news. My brother needed rescued again, and hospitalized again. He was now suicidal and made a few attempts. I think he knew he could not be a father and it tore him up inside. He must have felt like a complete fuck-up. I am guessing, because that is how I felt just a few years later when I tried taking my own life.

None of us have ever met his boy – an unknown nephew and  grandson out in the world. I have seen pictures, strangely enough, from my father, who seemed to have an unusual relationship with the girlfriend, and I suspect he did actually meet him. I don’t know any details and only have suspicions. At age 18, when I plummeted into my first deep and dark clinical depression, my brother’s illegitimate son was just one more event I could not think about. Sometimes I feel guilty for not reaching out to that kiddo, my nephew,  but I know it was not up to me then. I am angry that my parents did not step up and do the right thing here either, but then, well, they certainly have a track record for not doing the right thing.

My mom’s actions were I think an attempt to try to protect my brother, although I am not certain it was for his benefit or if it was to keep our family secrets. My mom took in my brother, and cut off all communication with the girlfriend. She changed her phone number. She made it unlisted. She grew paranoid and started screening phone calls and looking outside before answering the door. She steamed all of our letters open before giving us our mail. She told very practiced lies to everyone. She created her own delusional world where her children were all safe – and begged us all to play along.

I was so lost in my depression at that point, and living with my boyfriend many states away that I don’t recall where my other brothers were living or how these events actually happened. I never went back home. Never. My boyfriend became my fiance, and then my husband, and I never had to go back to them. I tried to live my life on my own and move forward, but inside I was a complete mess, and felt like a fraud. The self-loathing was relentless, the depression and anxiety barely controlled – I felt like I could break at any moment, and only striving for an outward image of perfection kept me going. My own perfect world based on delusion and denial.

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Learn more about Schizophrenia:

Some articles about schizophrenia seem to show a link ( a link is not a cause, huge difference) between childhood trauma and psychosis. I don’t know what happened to my brother when he was little, but I think it was terrible. I only know what I endured, and that he was in the same house for years before I came along to distract my father. I think my brother was his first target.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102440.htm : “children who experience severe trauma are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia in later life.”

There is also a link to substance abuse. Most researchers don’t think drugs alone cause schizophrenia, but it is part of the story for sure. Many people with schizophrenia have substance abuse and addictions in their past. This article explains some symptoms and links fairly well.

Schizophrenics are not usually violent, they tend to be withdrawn and more dangerous to themselves. The media and politics add the violent misconception to the disease.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml : “”People with schizophrenia are not usually violent. In fact, most violent crimes are not committed by people with schizophrenia.7 However, some symptoms are associated with violence, such as delusions of persecution. Substance abuse may also increase the chance a person will become violent.8 If a person with schizophrenia becomes violent, the violence is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.The risk of violence among people with schizophrenia is small. But people with the illness attempt suicide much more often than others. About 10 percent (especially young adult males) die by suicide.9,10 It is hard to predict which people with schizophrenia are prone to suicide. If you know someone who talks about or attempts suicide, help him or her find professional help right away.People with schizophrenia are not usually violent.”

And of course there is a genetic component, something that makes one person more prone to schizophrenia than others.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/shared-genes-link-depression-schizophrenia-and-three-other-mental-illnesses-201303015944

Five seemingly different mental health disorders—major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (I think PTSD fits in here too!)—may be more alike than we think. A ground-breaking new study has identified a handful of genes that are shared by people with these disorders. This work could help find new and better ways to diagnose and treat mental illness.”