Tag Archive | Dysfunctional family

Where were you, mom?

A lot on my mind. As usual. A lot of back-story needed to explain this one.

My daughter’s party is over, and it went well, and the universe didn’t implode because I invited people into my house. I have to joke about it, but I want to make sure it is clear how big of a deal this was for me. When I first had my baby girl 10 years ago, I initiated play dates and invited other moms to my house. I can’t recall when or how it happened that I withdrew from everyone and made my home a sacred refuge, inpenetrable by the outside world. I just know that it happened.

It was such an unhealthy setup for me. For the first time ever, I had no need to deal with other people and so I often didn’t. I worked from home with a nursing or squirmy baby on my lap. I had no car. I loaded up babies in my stroller or sling and walked to the grocery store or the park – both just a few blocks away in my small town. I didn’t talk to anyone. Hubby worked crazy long hours to try and get enough overtime to support us. I barely saw him, and when I did, he was very tired. My babies were my only friends, well, other than WebMD and Dr.Sears and every other parenting advice I could find to make sure I wouldn’t mess up and kill my babies with something stupid.

I even took a break from therapy those many years while my kids were young. I was truly isolated. And at some point, I also don’t know how this happened, I let my Mother in. I mean she wormed her way into every thought of mine. She fed my insecurities and encouraged my negativity. Depression was all that I knew. Every cell in my body was sad and lonely and hopeless for it to ever be different. I lived to make my children happy, knowing I could never have it for myself.

Then my daughter turned 4, and I had my first flashback. I saw her, but I remembered me as a 4 year old, being tormented by my abusive father. Strangely, I remembered feeling pretty much the same way at age 4 as I did then – isolated, lonely, scared, and sad. I remember always feeling sad.

Not right away, but sometime in that year I returned to my therapist, and we started the long journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse and psychological trauma that was my past. With her help, I was able to eventually face each demon, name it, and remove it. She encouraged me to get out into the world and find joy for myself. She encouraged me to open up to Hubby and create a stronger relationship. She encouraged me to create healthy boundaries and get some distance from my mother.

None of this has been easy. Most of this has been heartbreakingly difficult. I have had to hurt people with my truth.

I am still confused about my mother, and what role she should have in my life. I know now that she will never truly be a mom to me, and I hate the part of me that still longs for supportive parents that actually want what is best for me.  I fear that is a hole that will never be filled, and will always hurt a bit.

After the wedding last month, my mom apologized to me for being a terrible mother. Her apology was in an email, but I know it was still difficult for her to write. I thought maybe, just maybe she could move on and start being real. I don’t why I thought that, and now I am almost embarrassed to have been hopeful again.

I finally found out what had been going on with my mom and brothers the weeks following the wedding. My mom lost it. she had a breakdown of sorts, as reality crashed in and she tried to take on the guilt and pain of allowing her children to be abused by our psychopathic father. She started cussing uncontrollably at my brother that lives with her. She started throwing away her possessions, one after the other, everything taken up to the curb. She said she needed a fresh start and wanted to remove anything in her house that reminded her of my abusive father, her ex-husband.

So it started with the dining room table. When I was about 8 years old, my mom started working at a fast food place to earn her own money. She saved her first few paychecks and purchased a nice table for 6 for our dining room to replace the table for 4 with the duct taped metal leg and the book under it to keep it from tipping over. I recall my father’s anger when he found out she had been shopping for a table without him. He went to the store and cancelled her order, saying that she had chosen the wrong one. He changed her nice hardwood table into a new formica topped one, he said this would be more durable. She had wanted a light pine tone, and he chose a dark, dark brown. She wanted slender, armless chairs to fit in to our tiny room, and he insisted on captain’s chairs for each end. But my mom was still to use her money for it, since she was the one that thought we needed it, but she was not allowed to get what she wanted. Years of bowing down to him made this no different – he was in charge, bad things happened when we disobeyed.

In the divorce, my mom fought for that table, feeling like she had won a trophy when it was given to her. But now, 25 years later, she no longer wants this memory and asked my brother to take the table to the curb.

Next was her living room. She had my father’s old recliner in there, something he had no room for when he moved into my brother’s house. That went out to the curb along with her vacuum (also used to be my father’s) and all of the video tapes in the cupboard that she no longer has  a VCR to watch them.

Next was her bedroom. Her comforter set was from a friend, given to her after the divorce, so that went out to the curb.

Next she threw away items that proved she had not been taking care of herself – so every towel with a worn spot, every sheet that lost its elasticity, and every garment with a hole or stain was tossed out.

She said she felt great to sit in the emptiness and purge the bad memories so she could start over. (I was listening to all of this on the phone. I had called her to let her know I had finished painting my mural and somehow I wanted to share my joy with her. One day I will learn this is not possible.) She also said people driving by were stopping and taking her items, and that made her feel good to be helping others who needed the things.

So what happens next? I bet some of you can guess, some of you know how dysfunctional families work. Who has always been the hero for my mother? Yup – my brothers. So for the next week I got emails and phone calls about everything my brothers were buying for her. They bought her a cherry dining room table with the chairs she always wanted. They bought her a new recliner, a new vacuum, new sheets – new everything. They swooped in and saved the day. No one was phased by her selfish temper tantrum. Not at all. This was normal to them, they all did what they always do, because it feels safe that way.

But wait – I’m not done yet. Here’s the real clincher, the whole point of my story today. In that phone call, my mother blamed me for her troubles with my father, and that it was my fault she had to associate with him and have all of his stuff in her house. I don’t remember verbatim, but I’ll try to quote her here.

“I’m done pretending to get along with that man. I don’t want to ever see or think about him again. Even if it is what my children want. For years I smiled and put up with him because it was what you wanted, because you insisted he should still be a part of our life. Well, no more. I’m done”

So if this isn’t clear, she is obviously referring to a 16 year old me. When I was finally brave enough to tell her what he was doing to me, and asked her for help. I wanted to be safe, but I could not bear the thought of ripping my family apart. And my father still had control over me. I was terrified of him and did what he asked. Oh yeah – and I was a kid. Don’t forget that part mom. It was supposed to be your job to take care of me, to lead the family, to show us what to do. So yes, I am fully aware that while I was living in denial of the horrors of my first 16 years of life, you added the burden of saving the family on me too. So kudos to you for blaming the 16 year old me for ruining your life. Mighty fine of you. And sadly not that shocking that you could create an entirely new delusional world to fit your needs and have you blameless and saint-like. Again. All is right in your world again. You cry and your sons buy you stuff.

I explained all of this to my therapist last week, and her jaw dropped. When she recovered, she asked me to say what I want to say to my mother to her. I thought for a bit, and I thought I would have so much. I thought I would have tears, but I only have anger, a sense of injustice. All it comes down to, then and now is a simple –

Where were you?

Where were you when I needed you? Where were you all those years? Where were you when we needed a mom? And now, still now, you choose to hide in your delusional world, and force those around you to see you as the victim and use their love to get what you want, feed your need. I’m sorry, but I won’t play along. I will never board your pity train. I wish you well – but from a distance. So many years I looked to you and my big brothers for clues on how to behave, how to survive. I find it amazing that you say you were all looking to me, and that I steered you wrong. That now, after all these years, it is still my fault in your eyes. But I know better now and won’t be falling into that trap again. Ever.

So I am moving on here too. I have been able to pull myself up from the abysmal pit of despair – without the support of my parents. I have been able to overcome fears and phobias instilled by my parents. I have been able to feel love and share love – despite my parents.  As much as I may long for a supportive hug from parents like I see on TV, I know that is not mine to have. I also know that I am strong enough to succeed without it.

It really isn’t about them any more. This is my story now. They may have written the first book for me, but now that I have the pencil, I’m erasing the twisted side-plots before they take over. The first book was about pain, isolation, sadness, abuse, depression and despair. This book I’m writing is about family, friends, hope, goals, hard work, progress, and growth. This book is about life, and all of its beautiful imperfections. Mostly though – it is about love – true, unconditional, spirit soaring love. And everyone knows that the powerful, cold hearted characters never win in a love story. Nope, the pure of heart underdogs are the winners, every time.

English: Halo

The saintly glow surrounding my mother’s delusional perfect world (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dances With Pedophiles

Get ready for a post full of pain.  I’m angry and hurting and not quite sure what to do with it, or how to find peace again. I’m still struggling with what is right.

I made it to my niece’s wedding. (See this old post )

The day itself was lovely. My niece was so obviously happy and in love, full of hope for her future. It was amazing to share her special day. I just wish I didn’t have to share it with two known pedophiles.  Yes two. This family has two abusive grandfathers, one is my father, and the other is my sis-in-law’s father.

I was prepared for my own abusive father to make an appearance. I was feeling strong and knew I could handle it. I was completely taken aback to see the other grandfather there, and seemingly welcome. Just 2 years ago, he was caught touching a few of my nieces. They stopped talking and visiting at that time. I guess they asked the bride not to invite him, but she did anyway – since the grandfather had never violated her and she had nice memories of him and missed him.

So let’s paint the picture. It was nice small wedding, in a tiny chapel, and then a fairly small reception hall. My own abusive father did not attend the wedding (I personally think he fears the lightning bolt may strike him down if he dares enters a church) but the other guy did – all smiling and proud like he owned the place and nothing was ever wrong. I felt like a hand was gripping and crushing my heart when I saw him there. But I focused on the ceremony and how happy the young couple looked, and how much in awe my own children were since this was their first wedding. (I did not like the old churchy phrases in the vows of her submitting and obeying her husband, but I didn’t dwell on that)

After the ceremony we had a couple of hours before the reception, so we explored the quaint college town. After a stop at McDonald’s, we visited a tiny candy shop with many flavors of popcorn, a cool antique shop, and an art gallery/store with many amazing handmade items like wooden boxes, felted creatures, mobiles, candles, etc. We were all truly enjoying our time there. I was not feeling nervous at that point. (Although the interesting and over-friendly shop owners in the small town made me wonder if I was actually in a Stephen King novel at one point)

We knew in advance that this would be a dry reception and had made the necessary preparations. Hubby bought a dozen little airplane or mini-fridge sized bottles of whiskey. We dosed our sodas before going in, and filled my purse and his pockets with extra bottles. Not that we couldn’t make a few hours without drinking, it was for the fun of it. We felt like we were in college and sneaking a drink became a fun distraction for us. We’d sneak off to the restroom and have a secret shot, and giggle together while the pastor and best man spoke of the evils of drinking.

After the long, way too long, toasts and introductions, I heard a waiter say they needed to make room for a man in a wheelchair. They were making room at the table next to mine, right behind my seat. Yup, you guessed it. In came my abusive father on his motorized scooter, with his mini oxygen tank. His emphysema makes him unable to stand any more. I looked out the window and at my kids across my table as I heard the scooter behind me. I did not turn around. Hubby put his chair closer to mine and sat with his arm around me.

Somehow we had our dinner, with a pedophile directly behind us, and another a few tables away. My daughter asked “Is that Grandpa?” and pointed behind me. I said yes without turning around. She looked away and went to talk with her cousin, completely uninterested in him. My boys didn’t even ask. My youngest doesn’t even know who he is. I felt so good that they would never be a part of his world, never miss him, and never know him. So happy I was able to do that for them. Even if he is still alive, there will be no confusion about wanting him invited to special events.

Then my little guys needed a potty visit. I went with all 3 kids out to the lobby. As I waited outside the Men’s room for the boys to finish up, I saw my abusive father, my brother and his youngest son heading outside. I was curious but not worried since my brother was there. When I got back to my seat, my mom said she overheard my abusive father asking the little boy to go out to his van! She said she told my brother right away and he went along with them. No idea what that was about, and I’m not letting my thoughts wander too far about it. Needless to say that brought me up to high alert level and made me question if we should stay, but everyone else was having a good time, so I should be as well, right?

Dinner was over and the happy couple had their first dance. It was so sweet and tender, I was bursting with joy for them. And then it was time for the father-daughter dance. I saw my brother head out onto the dance floor, but then my mind turned him in to my own father, and I was immersed in a flashback. Instead of my brother and my niece, I saw my father and I dancing at my own wedding. I felt my father’s hand on my back as we danced. I felt the crowd watching us, so few of them knowing our secret. But the ones that did, let me dance with him, so I took my cues from them. And then I was back to current time, the flashback passed, but I was afraid I was going to scream, cry or vomit. I told Hubby I had to get out of there. We rushed out of the room and went to sit in our van for a while. My vision restored, my fear passed, and was replaced with a deep seated anger – nearly rage – that I was out here suffering while the pedophiles were in there having a grand time. So I steeled my nerves, downed another mini-whiskey, and went back inside.

Like anyone raised as prey, the first thing I did upon re-entering the room was locate my children and the two predators. I realized I shouldn’t have left them and felt so guilty. They were fine, more than fine, dancing with their cousins and not even aware I had left the room. My Mom was watching them and motioned for me to join her. I wasn’t ready for that and shook my head as I scanned the room for the predators – the scooter-bound one was taking picture after picture of the children dancing (vomit rose in my throat as I thought about them lustfully viewing those pictures later) and the other was on the dance floor, twirling one of my nieces (She was 18 and seemed to miss her Grampa). Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and only I was suffering or worried. Although I am used to this now, it is still surreal to feel like the crazy one. The only one with problems, why can’t I just relax and have fun? That’s what they say to me, not to let these creeps have power over me, to ruin my day. I tried to eat the wedding cake and convince myself that we were all OK and safe, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t take my eyes off those men for a second.

My other brother brought his new girlfriend over to meet me, and I cringed. I didn’t want to meet her, and I had no energy left for small talk. She started asking questions and demonstrating ownership of my brother, with her hands all over him, and telling him where to sit and stuff. I don’t like her, and view her as manipulative, though I don’t really know her. But I’m an expert at spotting fakes. I was ready to leave, and about to leave soon, and told the kids just a few more dances. They were having a great time and hadn’t seen their cousins in nearly a year. To them – nothing was wrong. I so much wanted for them to have this wonderful memory and begin thinking about falling in love some day.

But then something was terribly wrong. I felt it before I saw it. The other grandfather left the dance floor, and walked over to one of my nieces (about age 13) that was holding my youngest niece (about age 2) who had fallen asleep in her arms after making her pretty dress twirl and twirl the hour before on the dance floor.  Her grandfather held out his arms and though I could not hear him, obviously asked to hold the littlest one. I watched in horror as my niece easily handed over the tiny sleeping girl and went off to dance, never looking back, never thinking twice, never viewing any harm or threat in the situation.

I lost my mind. It’s a good thing the music was very loud, because I screamed, “Oh hell no!!” and then “I can’t fucking do this any more, I have to get out of here!” and I ran out of the room blinded with rage. Hubby followed me again, made sure I was OK, and then went back in to tell my brothers and my mom.  I paced around the lobby liked a caged lion ready to attack, so full of adrenaline that it felt like my heart was thumping in my head instead of my chest. It took every ounce of energy I had to remain outwardly calm and not cause a scene. I just needed to feel safe, and to know those little girls would be safe.  And to stay grounded in reality. Why was no one else upset? Why?

My brother and sis-in-law were shocked when I went back in there, pointed at the grandfather holding the little girl, and said very clearly, “This is not OK. I can’t pretend that this is OK. I love you, but I have to go now. Please keep your kids away from him. Please.” I walked around the room, fists clenched, my fingernails digging in my palms to keep me grounded and present, and hugged everyone and said goodbye with the best smile I could still manage. Luckily everyone was so busy chatting or dancing, and the music was so loud, I don’t think anyone noticed a problem. It made sense for us to go, we had a long drive home.

I went back out to the lobby while Hubby gathered our kids and belongings. My mom came out to wait with me, and kept rubbing my arm and telling me it was all OK, that everyone was watching the Grampas and no one would let anything bad happen here. She insisted they were safe. Every time she touched my arm I had to control an urge to punch her or her push her right through the door. I was so sickened that everyone was more concerned about appearances, that they actually thought it was OK for that man to hold that sweet little girl. And what about the girls he touched? What were they thinking? I’m sure they were minimizing what happened, and thinking it must not have been so bad if Mom and Dad allowed him to dance with them now. Those mixed messages are so dangerous and can open the door for that man to contact those girls in the future. They listen to him because he is an adult. Even though that teenage niece knew what he had done, she didn’t think twice about giving her little sister to Grampa. It’s just Grampa. Yes he’s weird, but that’s just Grampa.

———————–

And now I’m so confused. I spoke with my brother the day after the wedding, and he said he felt he didn’t have a choice here, not a good one anyway. He said his adult daughter invited the grandparents even though he asked her not to. He said he had everyone on high alert and was shocked at first that his daughter listened to Grampa so easily. But then again we weren’t shocked. Children rarely defy adults, we’re just not wired to do so. He said Grampa was watched much more closely after I left, but that they could not tell him to stay away from the children. They said he is angry and unpredictable and would have no problem making a scene and ruining the wedding. So for fear of a scene, a toddler was held by a pedophile. Because it was ok, calm down, everyone was watching, so nothing bad could happen. Why am I the only one that thinks something bad already happened? Why do they allow these people to control them, to do things they know is wrong, to avoid a scene, and actually protect the abuser? Should they have put their foot down and demanded the Grampas not be invited? And then he said that my own father had no formal invitation, that he showed up anyway. I’m not sure I believe that. I think the young bride acted the same way I did, and wanted an image of a perfect wedding, which for her needed to include grandparents. For me, at my wedding, it had to include my father or I would have had to tell hundreds of people why he wasn’t there, and I was unable to do that yet. My delusional world of denial was the the only thing that kept me alive at that point.

But now, me now, would I have done the same for my own daughter’s wedding? Would I have allowed this man to touch my youngest daughter to keep things going smoothly for my oldest? No. Never. If it were my own daughter in his arms, you better believe there would be a scene. Even if it made me look like the crazy one. Maybe they’d accuse me of being drunk. Whatever. It’s bad enough that these creeps get to enjoy viewing children. No way would I allow them to get within arms reach.

But for them – I played along. I can’t change them, I can’t protect every child, and it isn’t up to me to scream pedophile. No one would believe that charming man, smiling, laughing, and dancing with his grandkids was actually plotting out ways to get them alone. At least this man will go back to his own state and leave us all alone. But I still feel responsible and like I let down my nieces some how. Like I should have done more.

Damn these men for putting this burden on us. Damn them.

 

Mildly Creepy or Sign of Abuse

I guess I survived the dreaded visit with the in laws. If survived only means I am still living and breathing. I feel icky and ashamed, and confused by my creepy brother in law.

I’m not sure I acted as the new and improved me. Not as the me that stands up for myself and those around me.

I was dreading the visit with a creepy brother in law. He has always given me the creeps. He has an infantile sense of humor, loves practical jokes at the costs of others. He is consistently disrespectful to everyone, but especially women. The first time I met him, nearly 20 years, he grabbed my butt a few times and make sexy looks and comments to me while I was there with my then boyfriend, his brother in law. This is my hubby’s sister’s husband. He also took many photos and videos of me and the other girls there, aiming and focusing in on body parts as we walked around unknowingly. He has untied his own wife’s bikini top in front of family gatherings on multiple occasions. Makes me sick, but she just laughs and giggles, and seems to appreciate his attention.

Well, I’m pretty sure he is up to his old tricks. We were celebrating a few birthdays, cousins of different ages, from out of state gathered at Grandma’s (Hubby’s parents). As kiddos were blowing out candles, Mr. Creepy was taking photos – supposedly of the kids and such, but I am nearly positive he snapped one focused on my cleavage. He was standing next to me, slightly behind me, and all of sudden the flash was on me, and I saw the camera was not pointed at my face, but down my blouse. At that moment, my 5 year old was blowing out a candle on his cake – so I did nothing, said nothing. Then I saw him go around the table and focus his camera on my other sis-in-law’s (not his wife’s) behind as she walked out of the room. Again, I felt icky, but said and did nothing, and continued with the party, smiling with the children, but now with a guarded sense of hypervigilance to remain out of his camera’s view. I felt naked and reduced to an object – no longer a person, no longer his sister in law, but a toy to satisfy his need for cheap thrills. Was I supposed to call him on it and make his actions obvious to the children?

Once the “Happy Birthdays” were done, I told Hubby what I thought was happening. Hubby was angry a little, frustrated, said sorry to me, but otherwise did nothing. We were all eating birthday cake. Were we supposed to sneak away and accuse him of being creepy? I know he’d either deny it or laugh it off as no big deal.

I was already planning to leave, knowing my tolerance would be up for that atmosphere, but this incident soured the remaining time. And then when I went out to the front porch, I see this creep with his 12 year old daughter on his lap, slapping her butt. I felt nauseous and wanted to run, and well, basically I did run. I drove home and the spent the evening alone (Hubby stayed overnight there with the kids) barely sleeping, watching TV and eating junk food, punishing myself for not speaking up.

So I messaged the other sis-in-law, the one he took a photo of, just to let her know. No response from her yet. I’m not sure how big of a deal to make here, but I’m not going to be quiet and tolerate assholish behavior.

The thing I hate the most here, is feeling like a confused child. Just like when my abusive father grabbed me in plain sight, but no one seemed to notice. I looked around to see if anyone saw or reacted, and then doubt myself, maybe the camera wasn’t aimed down my blouse. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe I was hoping he’d find me attractive so I need to confirm it. And then of course, back to my dear old friends – shame and guilt.

Hubby’s sister seems to think her husband’s antics are cute or fun or something, she always laughs it off, like “oh well, that’s just how he is”. She told me he took their daughter out and bought her a skimpy bikini that she would have never approved, but she felt she could not take it away after they spent the day shopping and her daughter loved it. I wanted to tell her that yes, yes she could say no to them, and should if it made her uncomfortable – but I didn’t say that.

Why is it always up to me to do the right thing?! Why am I the moral compass of my entire world? I want someone else to take the lead for once.

How much trouble am I supposed to stir up in people I see once every few years? Should I get involved or just grin and bear it? Am I over reacting at his creepy behavior? Is he just an immature asshole and I tend to see signs of abuse every where? Or is it that I am expertly able to recognize them?

Ick, ick, ick. Not sure what to do.

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

Connected events – finding our worth

So much to say. My life is evolving at exponential rates. After being stuck, trapped, motionless for so long, I am amazed by what is happening around me.  (The best part is at the end, so skip down there if you’re short on time)

But of course I can’t sit back and watch, I must explore and analyze and see how events are connected. Because they are connected – everything is. Kind of like the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon theory. If you are not familiar, read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon

 

I’m going to list out some things on my mind, and then maybe detail them later. For now I need some room in my brain to get through today’s tasks, and I’m feeling too cluttered in there.

First I need to talk about my marriage. But I’m struggling to find the words to express what it feels like to accept that I am loved. (I am loved!) I realized I used to live each day, each moment, waiting for him to hurt me or throw me away. A simple argument would ‘prove’ to me I was terrible and unworthy, and I would wait for the divorce papers. I abused myself when he didn’t, thinking he surely wanted to, and that I deserved pain, but that he was too good to actually do it. That is so twisted. I see that now. Why did I hate myself so much? Why? Why does abuse in childhood lead to self loathing? Pretty crappy survival mechanism if you ask me. More on this later.

Next I need to talk about my brothers. Our roles, the ones we filled in our dysfunctional childhood home, are dissolving. The eldest brother, the invincible, aloof, super-star, shows his vulnerabilities and admits to anxiety. He has become a good friend and another link in my support chain when things go swirly for me.

The youngest brother, that took in my father, into his home, with his own children there, and then took in a girlfriend and her children – well –  I am still quite pissed at him. But trying to accept this reality and still be his sister. He asked last week if I would be able to join them for a sibling portrait to give our mom for Mother’s Day. All my brothers live a few minutes from each other, and I live about 2 hours away from them. I said I would do my best, knowing this photo would mean a lot to my mom, to show her we are still a family, no matter how strained. We had the day/time/location planned (I had some irritation that they chose a place close to them, no thought of meeting in the middle, but let that go) and I was ready to do this. As the day crept closer, I was feeling anxious. And then anxiety turned into fear. Why? Why was I afraid to do this? Well, I had some thought about being in a photo and trying to smile. Would it come naturally? I thought not. The photo for mom means nothing to me. I love my mom, but it is an aching love, as there is a huge hole in my heart where her love and protection should be. And then the thought of being in the photo with the brother who molested me, and the other brother that is sheltering the father that molested me, well, guess what? My fear turned into anger. I am not afraid of these men. I am angry for the lifetime of shit and pain.

So the evening before the portrait, I was considering canceling it. It just didn’t feel right for me to drive 4 hours to be in some photo with a fake smile. But before I could, there was an email from the brother with schizophrenia. He says he needs to cancel, that his pills were just adjusted and he’s not up to going out. Phew. I slept well that night. (Yes I felt relief and off the hook, this brother cancels most things, so I was not overly worried about him, he has extreme social anxiety, and I wonder now if he also didn’t want to be in the photo for reasons similar to mine)

But then in the morning, an email from the brother that had this photo idea – he says he wants to wait until 4pm, the time I told him I would have to leave to get to our 6pm appointment, before canceling, to give the other brother time to change his mind. What? My stomach knotted up and I felt dizzy. I really did not want to go now. And then more anger. How dare he put so much pressure on my sick brother? I think of how much courage it took for him to write that email to us, to let us down. So I decided to let the pressure off of both of us. I canceled too.

Now the interesting part here is the first email I drafted came from my old habits. I wrote a long detailed explanation with all my reasons that I could not make it, and was addressing it to only 1 brother. I didn’t want to let him down. Ugh – and ugly. I erased all that BS nonsense, hit reply all to go to all brothers, and simply stated that I could not make it, and maybe we could try again another time.

Still no reply, and that was last Friday. That’s OK.

Guess mom will get her Happy Mother’s day e-card from me again this year. It’s better this way, to hug her from afar.

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So that was longer than anticipated, see I knew I had too many thoughts up there. I hope you’re still reading, because this next part is amazing.

My brother with schizophrenia has taken a stand against our father. I found out he has not seen or accepted calls or emails from him for many months now. It has been so sad to watch my brother trying to squeeze love out of the  soul-less being I call my father. My father has been using him for years for trips to doctors and pharmacies, since his emphysema has him stuck in a scooter with constant oxygen flowing. My brother would tell me how my father insults him, calling him terrible names and laughing (I cringe to think of that laugh, can still hear it and feel his breath on my ear).  Well, I guess my brother reached his limit. He said No – to our father. This is not an easy thing to do. I guess it has been 3 months now and still my father punishes him with emails and unanswered calls, but my brother has realized that he has the power not to answer. (Joy for my brother!) Now I don’t know, but I have a feeling that my insistence on an abuser-free holiday dinner this year gave him strength to follow suit. I’m not going to discuss this with him, so I’ll never know. But what I do know, is he also found a bit of self-worth.

All I can say, is it is about. damn. time. For all of us to know our own worth, and not let this shell of man we are forced to call our father torment us any longer. Not sure how to get the message to the brother that welcomed him into his home. I know he’s sorry, and can’t find a way out. I recommend an exterminator.

 

Go West Young Man – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 6

Little is known about the years my brother lived in California. Or at least little is known to me, for a few reasons. His contact with me personally was limited to a few seconds on the phone every few months, or a quick letter in the mail. And everything was always “peachy” his word for life was great. The other reason little is known for this part of his Bio, is that my memory is terrible for this time in my life because, well, this was a terrible part of my life.

I can’t tell this story well, I think, because I can’t completely go back and put myself into these memories. So I will instead list all of the events that were happening in my home while my brother was in CA.

  • My parents divorced when the 2 years were up that my Dad had given my Mom to become independent. That day my mother came home from work to find all of her belongings in boxes and suitcases on the front lawn, and the door locks had been changed. She did not have a place to stay yet, and stayed with friends until she could find an apartment. They got a 1 bedroom apartment together, he slept on the floor at first. My other brother moved out to stay and support my Mom with his Fast food money.
  • I had back surgery to straighten my spine and woke up paralyzed from the surgery. My dad denied me the physical therapy at the hospital and told the doctor’s he would do it himself, because he wasn’t about to pay thousands of dollars for me to exercise. My dad’s sexual abuse on me worsened in that period since I could not walk away from him – being paralyzed, and from being alone in our house with him. I can barely type these words here, so moving on.
  • My dog “disappeared” (I now know my Dad took her away, but he let me search in vain for months)
  • I started menstruating. The joy soon wore off on that one.
  • I started high school as a limping freak with a leg brace and a cane. My one leg had come back mostly strong, but the other still dragged. I was not able to join any sports or wear pretty shoes.
  • Dad sold my childhood home and moved us to an apartment in another city, but told me to use my Mom’s address at school so I didn’t have to change schools too. I hated lying.

My brothers knew very little about me. Even my Mom knew very little about me. I felt alone in the world. My Mom did not ask for custody or even visitation – she just left me. I did not share any of these details in my letters to my brother in CA. I now know that he did not share his troubles with me either.

In his peachy letters to me, he sent me trinkets, once a ziploc baggie full of sand and shells from the beach. Another time he sent me a few guitar picks that he said belonged to members of Poison. A photo of him sitting in the “O” of the Hollywood sign. There were others too, but I can not recall. I cherished those items once, though now I have no idea where time and many moves have put them.

But I now know:

  • He was in a terrible motorcycle accident, hospitalized for many weeks, and that my parents knew but never went out to see him.
  • He lived on the streets/beach for much of his time in CA.
  • He had many girlfriends.
  • He tried every drug ever created.

At some point before we sold our house, my oldest brother moved back home – with his college girlfriend. He was asked to pay monthly rent to my father to move back into his own home at age 19. While they were there, they all decided we would take a family vacation that summer: Me, my dad, my oldest brother, and my brother’s girlfriend. They decided we should go “Out West” and see Vegas, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and my brother in CA.

I could write an entire book about that “vacation”, but will summarize here. All 4 of us crammed into my Dad’s car, and he did ALL of the driving. He has never been a passenger. He would load up on coffee and cigs and drive straight through the night. We crossed several states without stopping to sleep or shower for days on end. I did my best to freshen up in diner restrooms. My dad smoked continuously and I coughed continuously, or held my breath to avoid coughing, as he yelled at me every time I did. I’d have asthma attacks in the front seat, use my inhaler, while they all laughed at me. Our first hotel was a rustic cabin in Yellowstone park, 1 room, 2 beds, no water or electricity, that would have cost more. I was pretty sure my Dad wouldn’t touch me while my brother and girlfriend were in the room, but not positive. I slept sideways by his feet, like a dog, wheezing all night in the thin high-elevation air. By morning, I was sick and dizzy. I could barely stand. I apologized to them for walking so slowly, between my limp and the no oxygen thing.

We went to a bear safety class, mandatory for all visitors to the park. The ranger saw me and told me about the high elevation and that I was getting mountain sickness. My Dad said that was stupid made up BS and we were staying for the 3 days he paid for. My brother and girlfriend hiked through the parks, while I would make it to the trailhead and just sit there enjoying the beautiful park anyway. I saw geysers, blue pools so beautiful, but sulfur smelling, I saw a moose, an elk, so many birds, and even a Grizzly cub! Luckily my Dad did believe in bears, so we wisely got back in the car and far away from baby bear before Mama arrived.

Next stop was Vegas. I clearly remember the moment I could breathe again, as we went down and down out of the mountains. Until the  A-hole decided we needed to climb Pike’s Peak. Luckily, his car also had trouble getting enough oxygen so we went back down before reaching the summit. I was gasping, but it wasn’t until his car was sputtering that we turned around.

I was not impressed with Vegas at age 14. My dad bought me makeup and a short skirt, and told me to pretend I was 21 and that I left my ID up in the room if asked by security. He said it would be more believable if I was alone playing the slots, so he actually went off to play poker. I actually got away with it a few times, but I thought the slots were dreadfully boring and the room too smoky, and so just took my book or sketchpad to the restaurant or stayed in the room when my Dad was not using it with a prostitute. At least the room had electricity and water, oh how great that shower felt! Turns out the room was free if Dad promised to gamble enough.

And then I saw my brother, for the first time in years. He had driven from CA to meet us in Vegas! He looked so thin, too thin, and taller than I remembered, but had the same long hair and amazing, yet sad, green eyes. He barely recognized me in my 21 yr old costume, and just whistled, and said “My baby sister grew up while I was away”. He smiled and hugged me. I’ll never forget that hug.

We followed him back to his house in CA, and his van died in the extreme heat on the highway. They attached a tire to the bumper, and we pushed his van all the way back to his house, my Dad stopping every time his own car went into the red zone. My brother’s roommate clung to the ladder on the back of the van to relay messages from my brother to my dad. It was very exciting to me, and I laughed so much, more than I had in years.

My brother’s house was amazing! Just 2 blocks from the ocean, which I got to stick my toes in – it was so cold! I didn’t even wonder how he afforded such an amazing house at the time, but found out later it was owned by a drug dealer, and my brother and all his roommates were working for him delivering drugs with pizzas. Girls would come and go in this house, that could have came straight from MTV videos, wearing fur coats with string bikinis underneath. One girl sat on my brother’s lap, kissed him right in front of us, then said “see ya later” like that was a normal way to say good-bye. They had an in ground swimming pool, with a 6 foot iguana living in it.

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That night, my brother took me to the Hollywood sign, and I have a picture of myself sitting in the “O”, just like him.

We then said good bye and started our long trip home. I saw the painted desert, Grand Canyon, Arch of Missouri. We covered so many states so my Dad could brag how many he covered in so few days. At the end, his coffee wasn’t enough, and he started veering off the road. My brother had the audacity to ask to drive, to give dad a break, which only started a screaming match of how he has no respect.

My CA brother stayed there for another 2-3 years, without much contact. We heard he lost that beautiful house, heard of a few arrests, heard of a few girlfriends, and heard of a few gigs for his band. My next post will tell the story of how he came back home, and how that hug in Vegas was the last time I looked in my brother’s eyes without the foggy veil of schizophrenia.

Life After Rehab – Biography of My Schizophrenic Brother, Part 5

Eventually, one day, my brother was deemed to be rehabilitated and my family was supposedly all supportive and not dysfunctional now, so he was sent back home with us. The weeks in rehab passed with little outstanding events to recall, except for the one day my brother started a fire in his room.

I was home with Mom when they called, so I finally got to go beyond the buzzed locked doors and see the room where my brother had been living all these weeks. When we entered his room, he was just reclining on his bed, arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling, like this was the most carefree peaceful vacation spot. He looked up at us, said his usual, “Hey” and looked back up at the ceiling, like we were interrupting the show. The counselor showed us a dark spot on the wall near the electrical outlet, and said Mom had to pay for the damages, then looked at my brother, and said thankfully no one was hurt.

Mom went out into the hall to talk with the counselor, leaving me alone with my brother. I was staring at the scorched mark on the wall when he said, “I just wanted a cig. It was late and I couldn’t wait until morning smoke time, so I lit one here” I remember him laughing as he told me the story. “It was cool, the spark grew so big, guess I used too much paper this time, but it was cool, like a fireball – Fooomp!” He smiled and laughed and called himself stupid, but in a gentle way. I asked him how, feeling proud of him. He said he used a pencil, that lead is conductive to electricity and usually just sparks a bit, not a big Foomp like this time. Then he laughed again, “At least I still have my eyebrows – I jumped back real quick.” I laughed with him. Wow it was so great to hear him laugh. Was he all better now? And it felt great to hear his secret for starting fires, like he was  so cool like MacGyver and also a bit like we were partners in crime. We got to take him home that day – a few days early, I think they didn’t want any more fires.  And he had convinced them all he was better, with his gentle joking and good attitude.

It was beyond tough for him to return to school with his new reputation. Everyone knew where he had been, or thought they knew, and rumors had spread of all kinds of things. He was getting through it, day by day, until something happened at school. Our high school had a courtyard where the teachers and older students went out to smoke (Remember when that was allowed?). Every year, A Mama Duck would nest in the bushes out there, and parade her little ducklings past all the classrooms. My brother told me about them, and even took me there once after school to see the newly hatched babies. He was so gentle, and showed me how to stay back and stay quiet to not scare them. We brought them some bread and just enjoyed the cute little show in silence.

Mama Duck-1395

Mama Duck-1395 (Photo credit: MSMcCarthy Photography)

The next day after school, my brother was distressed. I didn’t know what was wrong, but he was just sitting and rocking on his bed, this terrible look on his face. He saw me, and just said, “No matter what they say, I didn’t do it. I’d never. I couldn’t.” And then he took off out of the room, got in his car and left. I had no idea what was wrong. Until the phone rang, and I overheard my Mom speaking to someone, she had to go into the school, but no, she didn’t know where my brother was right now.

Someone had stomped the ducklings. With their feet. Cruelly, and disgustingly stomped and smashed the entire fuzzy little family. The Mama Duck was going berzerk, that’s how the Principal even noticed. And someone had blamed my brother for this horrible deed, saying they see him out here often, and well you know his past. Everyone easily believed that “the druggie” did this. I knew he didn’t. But I think that was the final straw for my brother. He stopped trying to fit in, like it was pointless if everyone thought he was so terrible.

He got back into drugs. He started a car radio theft ring – they busted him with 5 in his locker at school. He sold them to buy the drugs. He was locked up a few more times, sometimes my parents let him stay in jail overnight – to teach him a lesson. He got really thin and pale, and his green eyes no longer sparkled. He stopped looking at me, or anyone else. He left our world, no longer able to cope. If he was home, he was alone in his room , door locked, and his electric guitar screaming out what he himself was unable to express. He still went to school, off and on, but only took Home Ec – 4 sections of it – his senior year, just to get enough credits to graduate. His graduation was not a huge celebration like our oldest brother’s, more like a ‘Thank God you actually did it’ dinner, at a Mexican restaurant, of course, so he could get his tacos. And the only reason he stuck it out and finished high school, was so he could follow his dreams of being a rock star. He knew he would get a better job in California with a high school diploma. He left us just days after graduation. Just got in his car with his guitar, a duffel bag, and a dream, and he left our small town where everyone had labeled him a murderous, loser druggie, and believe me – he did not look back.

I was in Middle School then, when he left. I was 11. My parents were planning to get a divorce. My Dad was scheming to get me to live with him, to convince me Mom hated me still, and to make me sign those custody papers. My mom put a twin bed in their bedroom and slept there next to dad in the big bed now. She started going to college, in preparation for the divorce. My dad had that all planned out too, gave her 2 years to live there with us, get an associate’s degree and learn to support herself. My scoliosis was advancing, the brace was not working, and my doctors were discussing surgical options. And now 2 of my brothers were gone, one in college and one in CA. My other brother was now in high school and drifted away from me, too busy with his friends and girlfriend to talk to me any more. I hated it at home, and did everything possible to avoid going there. I rode my bike everywhere, to the mall, to the library, to the park, to my friend’s house. Sometimes I just rode with no destination, just to feel like I was moving, and stuck in my own personal hell.

It was weeks – yes freaking weeks! – before my brother called us from California. If my parents worried about him, they sure did not show it. In fact they seemed relieved that he was gone, that they were no longer responsible for this failure. My Dad made it clear he would not support any losers in his house once we were 18. The call was long distance from a pay phone, so it was brief. He was OK, had a nice apartment with his band mates, and sold his car for a motorcycle. He had a job delivering pizza, and had lined up a few gigs for the band. He had slept in his car or on the beach the first few weeks until they found a place to live. He said the tacos were amazing in CA! He sounded – happy.

That made me happy, but I missed him. And I was jealous, so extremely jealous – he was free. He got out of this house. That’s when I became even more determined to be a perfect student, get a scholarship, and go to an amazing college. I wanted out. I wanted to prove myself to the world, show everyone I wasn’t a stupid worthless girl like my Dad said. I wanted to be famous and the best at something, win awards for my writing and poetry, cure cancer, be the first asthmatic female basketball MVP, design rockets, and maybe even create world peace too, ya know, in my free time.