These Speak for Themselves …

Letter from Ed dated: 10/24/2014  (Marie is Ed’s wife, Jeff is her son, Sally is Jeff’s wife)

 

Tim,

 

Marie didn’t know much about the “beating”, because I didn’t remember them in the same contex as you did, or in any contex for that matter, and therefore didn’t tell her about those

 

I had told Jeff about being in jail, but not why or anything else in your blog

Sally knew only what Jeff had told her

 

 

Marie’s biggest fear was something like the blog coming out into the public eye and what it might do to us personally, so it wasn’t ever talked about PERIOD!  A big part of my decision of when and how to reach out to you regarded Marie and how she felt. For me right now I can say I’m glad this is out. I’m glad you have taken the stand you have – Abuse of any kind in unforgivable- , but yet you are open to a possibly 2nd chance to see what can come of our explorations

 

 

We were at the movies when Jeff called Marie and said he needed to talk with her alone immediately, and so that is how your blog exploded into the spotlight. I’m saying this to let you know how much of a surprise all of this was for everyone. They had read almost the entire blog. Their immediate emotions were all over the chart: Anger, shock, uncertainity, disbelief  and on and on.

Jeff and Sally were looking at the blog for the 1st time and were asking what Marie knew, how much she knew and what was true. Marie told them what she knew and when she came home told me that Jeff would be over in the AM to talk to me about what he had read and to have me answer all his questions. He arrived about 7AM and left somewhare around 10:30 AM. The next day, Marie and I went to Jeff and Sally’s to continue to confront everything. I sat and answered everything I could, as openly as I could, and as bluntly as I could. I told them I would take as long as they needed over as many visits they needed to answer everything they would ask.

 

 

As far as I know, Jeff has not read anymore of your blog. Sally did for awhile, but I’m not sure if she does.

 

This is the synopsis of how the discussions of “Who I was” went with Jeff amd Sally

 

The “Who I am” response came several days later in a e-mail late in the night. Apparently they had done a lot of talking about the blog, and our conversations.

 

The e-mail was very short. It said “We still love you”

 

I cried when I read it

 

Ed

 

 

My reply – composed in two parts:

Ed,

 

The first part of this was written not long after I read your note – I didn’t try to control my feelings or my response, and the result will be immediately evident.

 

Are you saying you don’t remember beating me … ?

 

And, exactly what did you say to these people to explain my absence from your life for 30 years?  You beat me, Ed.  I didn’t want to be anywhere near you … No context for explanation to Marie, what context do you need?  You were violent and out of control – in the note where you admitted this, were you lying?  Are you now recanting?  Do Jeff, Marie and Sally know the truth now?

 

Every single word on my blog is the truth.  Every. Single. Word.  I wish to God it weren’t …

 

And you were worried about Marie’s reaction – you violently beat your son, caused mental illnesses I will live with for the rest of my life, immeasurable pain and suffering to my family – and you were concerned about Marie, Jeff and Sally … ?  Worried about the problems this was going to cause in YOUR life?

 

Dear God listen to yourself.  All of this, everything is your doing. Do you ever think about what you’ve done – what has happened to me because of it?  When does it stop being all about Ed …?

 

This isn’t about Marie, or how she felt, not in any way … this is about a life she wasn’t part of, something she should thank God for every day.  You’re afraid I have enough printed, tangible information to destroy your life – I assure you I do, but you can relax, I won’t use it;  I even held off on the blog for a very long time because I didn’t want to hurt Marie – enough innocent people have been hurt because of you …

 

You don’t give a damn about me, or what you’ve done … all you care about is protecting yourself, your life now.  You’d like very much for me to stop blogging … That is why you contacted me now.

 

How could I ever have believed you’d changed?

 

This morning’s reaction isn’t much different, but here is your context:

 

The beating (no quotation marks Ed, it was a BEATING) in which I shit all over myself happened on Greenwood.

 

While you and Pat were at work, Elizabeth (my sister) and I allowed the neighbor kids into the house to play – in the process of running through the house, I ran into the open dishwasher door and broke it.  When you found out I was asleep … you woke me up, brought me out to the living room screaming at me in rage.  We had just trimmed the trees and the still green branches were stacked up outside the house – you went outside and got a particularly long one, folded it it half – still green so it was flexible, and proceeded to literally beat the shit out of me with it.  I begged you not to Ed; begged you.  I pleaded with you to tell me how many times you were going to hit me, you said, “I’ll tell you when I’m done.” Pat did dishes not 20 feet from us, utterly oblivious to my screams. You beat me so violently I not only lost control of my bowels, I couldn’t walk without pain for days.  The bruises were scary as hell – and this is documented in my school file because one of my teachers saw them … I was so afraid you’d find out I told him.

 

More context:

 

The day of the church  picnic – we still lived on 6th street so I couldn’t have been more than eight, but I think I was about six, when you shoved me to the ground for not walking fast enough – you were livid with me, marching me home with my neck pinched between your thumb and fingers … remember what happened when we got home?  I do; after my bath, you beat me, naked, with your belt.  You held me down and you beat me – a six year old.

 

More?  Why not?

 

We were having dinner at Pat’s parents house … Butter had made zucchini which didn’t turn out – it was mushy and slimy and disgusting; no one liked it.  But you forced me to eat it … I was like five at the time.  Everyone told you not to make me eat it, but you wouldn’t listen. I gagged, choked, cried and pleaded with you not to make me, but it didn’t matter to you – nothing I needed or felt ever did.  I told you I felt sick, that I was going to throw-up, but you wouldn’t stop – and when I threw up on the table, you grabbed me, pulled down my pants and beat me violently.  Everyone there remembers this …

 

More?

 

Do you need more?

 

This kind of thing happened ALL THE TIME.  You were unspeakably cruel, Ed.  Violent and sadistic. I would plead with you, sobbing, not to hurt me, not to beat me – and when that failed I would beg you to use just your hand – you always told me, no because you didn’t want to hurt your hand.  You would drag all this out – you enjoyed the pleading, my fear, my pain, my anguish.  And when you’d finally start beating me, I’d plead with you to stop – scream until I’d screamed so hard I had no voice left.  You beat me until I felt sick and exhausted. And then you leave alone, traumatized.  Cast aside … you were done.

 

Need more context?  Want more background … I’ve got it.  Just ask me.

 

Tim

 

Letter from Ed dated: 10/25/2014

 

Tim,

 

It’s 4 AM and I can’t sleep, awake thinking about your e-mails vs your blog. It took me time but I realize there are great differences between how you write and how I write. You are 1st person, direct, focused, black and white and brutally honest. I write in the 3rd person, in allegories, and honest in a more indirect way. My manner of writing I can see frustrates you a lot. It is like Mare when I’m talking she is always telling me to get to the point. I find that that is hard for me and when I do many time the story loses it depth and meaning. But it works best for  me, so I’ll apologize in advance.

 

I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, has much meaning to my life with Janet. I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and (my daughter’s name) can follow along.. I’m thinking Janet and myself.as the characters the ex prisoner and the woman’s small child. If I hadn’t stepped up to take care of Janet she would have remained in the State Hospital system and would have died simply a lost sole and her beauty and love cloistered from the world.

 

Janet, Pesh, has always been and always will be the greatest love in my life. Marie knows this and doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when i say this. I am truly sorry you didn’t get to know her. I felt lost without her when we took her to the hospital in Glen Ellen, I went there twice during her 15 day isolation period after her induction into the facility, even though I was told when we left her and again each time I came I could not see her, until after the 15 day period. Then for the next 4-6 years I was always anxious to go and see her, but could barely stay awake for the drive back home. It wasn’t until part of my first counseling sessions I found out my sleepiness was because I felt I was deserting her each time I left. I never got over that I just knew what was causing it.

 

Pesh grew physically and mentally in the following years, she learned to walk, help dress herself, be able to go to the bathroom by herself, because she was such a loving and delightful child and was picked out from the other 50+ individuals in her “cottage’ by some of the staff who worked with her one-on-one more than some of the others. One woman literally took her home with her to be with her and her family on weekends. Although she never learned to talk she could understand most everything being told to her. When the state decided, under Reagan, to release individuals out of the hospital into the community, she was moved into her 1st group home.

 

I digress, Janet always recognized my voice and lite up like a beacon whenever she heard my voice. She did that for her entire life, we had a bond of love that for me has never been unequaled in its depth of pure love. It was from her I learned the meaning of acceptance – not only of her but myself by myself first- the meaning of unconditional love, something like the unconditional love you have for your children, the joy of life without any encumbrances, where one is dependent on others for almost everything She was dependent on me for her physical well being, I was dependent of her for my mental well being .

Janet and I had a bond where I knew what was going on with her, in my heart, even while she was physically miles away from me. I would show up where she was when she needed me even if the hospital or where ever couldn’t reach me by phone. I even knew she had died 15 minutes before Marie and I got to the hospital on the day she died and said in my heart to her “Hold on we are almost there”.

 

I know some of this might sound a bit strange, but it is still part of who she is to me today. People out of love and respect to Marie and I at her funeral said very kind things, no one realized that for Marie and I she would always be with us – never gone and we were not sad or lost

My being part of her life to see how she changed everyone around her by her love and expressions of joy, is something that opened my heart to the  chance for me to change and grow from what i was as you know me to what I am today. God was gentle enough for me to let me have her for 48 years. This may not mean anything to you in a black and white world, but it means everything to me in my life of who I am today.

We have a memorial to her here inside our home still today.

 

Ed

 

My reply dated: 10/25/2014

 

Ed,

 

I am trying to calm down …

 

I don’t struggle with the way you write, I struggle with the way you think …

 

Yes, I’m brutally honest.  I have to be.  Had to be to get well.

 

You are not Jean Valjean – not even close.  Les Miserable is our favorite production, we’ve seen it all over the world – in many different languages even.  Can sing every word, read the book and the script – (my son’s real name) in the original French.  It disgusts me to hear you compare yourself to Jean Valjean.  Did you know Victor Hugo was excommunicated for writing that character … ?  Perhaps if you’d read the book you’d understand a bit better what you are saying.

 

Your love for Janet is a wonderful thing, the best of you, always.  But a more fitting tribute to her than your words would have been in loving and caring for Elizabeth and I in the same way.  Had she not had the deficits she did, you’d have treated her no differently than Elizabeth and I, and she’d be in our shoes today …

 

I will never forget the day we left her.  NEVER, EVER.  I was heartbroken.  And I was scared to death …. I didn’t understand why you didn’t just beat her – she had been bad, so just beat her and take her home.  You didn’t leave us, Pat did that.  I was confused and traumatized and literally terrified of what would happen to her there — it had to be worse than a beating or we wouldn’t be there.

 

This is what was going on inside me while you were worrying about ONLY yourself and how you were feeling.  I don’t struggle with the way you write, Ed.  I struggle with what you say.  And Feel.  And how you think.

 

You were utterly despicable, a terrible father … and whatever you have become, you still will not face my feelings or the things you have done.

When you can do that, when you are ready to do that, please let me know.

 

Tim

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Stop Talking and Start Communicating

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In the last several days, I’ve done a lot of thinking about my correspondence with Ed.  I’ve noticed that he seldom answers my questions, and he almost never addresses what I tell him directly – I’m talking about the kinds of things no father should ignore.  He has not inquired about my sister, his daughter whom he has not seen in more than thirty years, and he will not address the reality of his criminal past, the rape charges, with me … this even after I told him exactly how this time in his life affected me.

Thirty years ago, I exited his life for reasons well detailed on this blog – and I never looked back.  I never really thought about what he would do, or what had happened to him; he destroyed his family and in so doing made my childhood a living, breathing nightmare; I just wanted him far away from me.

I’m not bothered because he has a family – a wife, step-son, step-grandchildren – I actually hope he has learned to value the people in his life and treat them as he should.  I am not vindictive … I didn’t want anyone, even Ed, to spend the rest of their life alone.

But people are not replaceable.  I am not replaceable.  He spent the first eighteen years of my life fucking it up – literally, and when the mess he made was too big to clean up, he just went out and acquired new people.  Was I his Starter Son?  The one he could screw over then kick to the curb?  Sure, I did the walking away, but what choice did I have?  What choice had he left me?

He has said he didn’t know why I simply stopped talking to him, I don’t believe that.  What follows is an excerpt from a note I sent him earlier in the week, a note he has not yet responded to:

I don’t know how you would raise me today if you were given the opportunity to turn back the hands of time, but I’d like to think it would look nothing like it did.  You once asked me – I think I was about sixteen, if I thought I’d been fairly treated by you as a child; the question caught me completely off-guard – I wasn’t ready for it in any way, so, to end the conversation, I lied and said, yes.  The truth is this: by that point in time, I was already having nightmares and flashbacks of the beatings, and I had already seriously contemplated suicide. Ironically, I actually felt guilty for lying to you in that moment – like I had done something wrong.  I don’t believe, and haven’t for a very long time, that you’d have asked me that question if YOU believed you had been a good father.  

This isn’t something any man who loved his child could or would ignore.  And he was there … he knows what he did to me, and he knows it was wrong.

Ed lost his son because of choices he made and his own morally bereft parenting.  He has never known his grandchildren because I had to protect them from him – even if I had found some way to interact with Ed personally, I would never have left him alone with my children.  The man he calls his son is not his son.  The grandchildren he claims, are not his grandchildren.  He threw away any chance at knowing those relationships when he beat his children and raped his daughter’s friend.

I struggle with impunity – Ed has done things no man should be able to do with impunity, and yet, somehow, he has managed.

This all began, this blog that is, when I discovered that Ed’s biography at work was untrue; the son he claims, the only child he claims to have, is not his child. After everything this man did to me, and everything it caused, not to be recognized was just too much for me.  I was his helpless, vulnerable victim throughout my childhood – to be utterly disowned after the hell he made me live left me feeling well beyond worthless – and it confirmed what I had always known; I never mattered to him.  And now he had forgotten all about me. You can’t just drive your children away and then replace them like they never  existed.  What kind of man does this?  What kind of man doesn’t recognize how wrong this is?

When Ed reached out to me about five weeks ago, one of the things he said he would do is update his bio on his employer’s website – he said it would take about two weeks for the changes to update … to date there are no promised changes.  It’s easy to say the words, “I’m sorry,”  but I’m really not seeing any evidence of remorse.

Out of concern for his step-grandchildren, I let his step-son know about Ed’s past, and Ed has shared with me that his step-son was angry, and his step-daughter-in-law was concerned. I’m sure that could not have been easy for any of them – but Ed has told me all is well now; he sees the children with and without their parents present all the time, and that my notification to his step-son: “made me (Ed speaking) confront the “who I was” to the “who I am” in front of them.”  The thing is, he hasn’t confronted me with that yet – and I’m becoming a little wary of what that might mean; he was a salesman in his first life, with his first family, and the thing he sells best is himself – and he could, in those days, be anyone he chose to be in order to close the sale.  He was a Master Manipulator …

Shouldn’t he, at the very least, address how the rape charges and his going to prison affected me?  Shouldn’t he respond in some way to knowing that at sixteen I was suffering nightmares from, and flashbacks to, beatings he gave me?  Shouldn’t knowing I had already contemplated suicide make him feel something?  I’ve been patient; I suggested we try forming a new bond and reconnecting somehow before we take on the tough issues, but wouldn’t you think addressing my feelings – not the issues themselves – would further that approach; help us to reconnect and bond?

He talks to me, but he doesn’t say anything.

Child Abuse: A Zero Tolerance Policy

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When I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, there were no public service messages or billboards depicting the evils of child abuse and directing you to CPS if you were a victim, or knew of a victim.  Teachers, and others who worked with children, were not yet Mandated Reporters – the world was a different place.  The foster system existed, and children were removed from their parents in the most heinous of cases, but it took a lot more than the suspicion of a teacher or other concerned adult to warrant an investigation.  And the foster system itself was a problem – abuse occurred within the system as well, making anyone who suspected abuse fearful of reporting it; the belief was that unless a child’s life was in danger, he was better off in his parent’s abusive home than he would be in foster care.

As a child progresses through the school system there is file that follows him year to year, this file contains copies of report cards, discipline records, reports on any special services he needs or receives – and it also contains commentary by teachers and principals and counselors summarizing their experience in working with the child. When you come of age, the school district is obligated to allow you to view your file – most people don’t know this, and most wouldn’t care to view their file even if they did, but I had a keen interest in mine …

Several of my teachers suspected physical and emotional abuse – in fact more noted a suspicion of abuse than didn’t.  My high school counselor, who worked with my sister as well, wrote a detailed psychological profile of our dysfunctional family that was spot on; extreme physical and emotional abuse, as well as the trauma I experienced due to my father’s rape charges, figured prominently in her assessment of my emotional well-being and social functioning.  My middle school principal noted that my parents were highly ineffective in their role as parents, likely abusive emotionally and physically, exceedingly self-absorbed, unaware and unconcerned with the torment I faced from bullies on a daily basis.  And an elementary teacher stated that while my parents weren’t uninvolved in my education, it was her belief their interest wasn’t genuine, but used to cover up abuse and drinking prevalent in the home. Today teachers are mandated reporters and would have to report this to CPS.  Thank God.

When my wife was teaching elementary school, and when I was teaching high school, we were required by law, as stipulated in our contract with the district, to report any suspicion of abuse – and we received training on how to recognize it.  It’s difficult to fire a tenured teacher, but failure to report isn’t over-looked.  We’ve come a long way in reporting, but reporting isn’t enough; by the time there is a need to report, the damage has been done.

I don’t think I will ever understand what a makes a parent able to hurt his/her child – the concept is so foreign to me it is literally inconceivable.  I know the profile of an Abuser, and I know the psychological ‘why’ and ‘how,’ but I don’t understand it on a human level because it is inhumane.  I can’t excuse it.  I can’t examine the problems the parent is facing in his life and overlook the pain and suffering his abuse brought to his child because it is in adversity our true character is revealed and defined – no matter what is happening in a parent’s life, child abuse is wrong and it is unacceptable.  I can’t forget.  And I can’t forgive … I have far too much personal integrity to be able to do that.

The legacy of  child abuse is mental and physical illness, broken estranged families, multi-generational suffering and unimaginable pain.  Whereas we’ve made progress in reporting abuse, and our response to its horrific reality is becoming more appropriate,  we need a Zero Tolerance policy for child abuse, period.

Abuse, Perception and Reality

““One of the best ways of repressing emotions is artificial certainty.”
–Stefan Molyneux

 

When I saw my sister for the first time in twenty-seven years, the abuse we suffered as children was something we discussed; our memories were largely similar. Different abusive events happened to her, and we weren’t always beaten for the same things, but the beatings themselves were a constant, and we had virtually identical recall of how they occurred; pants down, wooden spoons, belts, wire coat hangers; screaming, pleading, excruciating emotional and physical pain.  We  had the same memories of the abandonment our mother favored.  We shared a common fear of our father, something we were both sure our mother exploited.

When we were little, our parents took us to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, and somehow my sister and I got separated from our parents.  I was the oldest, and she had looked to me for support and  assurance, but we were both afraid; she, turns out, was more afraid than I was.  In recalling this event, even at forty-five years old, she was absolutely sure our parents had left us on purpose; It still caused her extreme emotional trauma to recall that day and tell me she had actually believed they were never coming back for us.  I, even as a child, understood in some vague way that abandoning us was something ONLY Pat did; Ed was there so I knew we’d been separated from our parents unintentionally, and I confidently understood that they’d be back for us … this event did not scar me, but it certainly scarred her.

We are all different.  Even when we belong to the same parents our perception of the same events can vary, as can the way in which we integrate those events into our lives. I was able to discern that Ed wouldn’t abandon us, my sister was not, and the result is a discrepancy in the way we view what happened that day.  In her mind, it was abusive parenting, in my mind it was innocent.  She isn’t wrong – Pat caused us to fear abandonment intensely — but I am not wrong either; Ed would never have abandoned us.

This event traumatized my sister, and she perceived it as abuse, so it was; it is just that simple.

One more time:  if you think you were abused, you were.  No one can tell you you weren’t …

Conversely:

There is a caveat here for those who were abused, but now deny;  your body and your mind remember even what you can’t or won’t recall, face, reconcile and accept – and you are affected by the pain and trauma you suffered as a child; pain and trauma that is reflected in your adult behavior, your values and your beliefs – and especially in the way you treat[ed] your own children.

 

Your denial is a bold proclamation of the truth – a truth the rest of us see and understand all too well.

End Denial and You’ll End Abuse …

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“The initial trauma of a young child may go underground, but it will return to haunt us.”  –James Garbarino

I am coming to understand a few things very clearly:  child abuse is definitely multi-generational, denial allows it to continue, and abusers don’t always understand what they’ve done – they should, but they don’t.

There are those in my extended family, along with Pat, who are reeling – what they’ve read here has induced a kind of panic, a frantic need to hold on to their denial no matter the terrible personal cost today.  They will stop at nothing to avoid facing the truth.

Their truth is complicated and painful – it involves accepting that they were, in fact, abused children themselves, and that they went on to become abusive parents. This two-fold denial has become a shield protecting them from tremendous emotional pain and anguish.

When you are a child living in an abusive home, denial allows you to survive.  My parents told me I was bad and that I deserved to be beaten, it was all my fault; believing them provided a sick kind of comfort – a way for me not to recognize them as the monsters they truly were.  Our Abusers teach us to deny – denial is ingrained for victims of child abuse.

For the victim turned perpetrator, denial becomes the ultimate protector of the mind; locked inside are secrets so terrible they have the power to cause tremendous emotional upset and pain, perhaps even destruction.

Ed accepted a long time ago that he was a terrible father, but he didn’t know just how terrible he was until he read this blog.  His awareness pre-read was vague; it was there, but it was not clear.  He has also understood for some time now that he, himself, was abused as a child.  He wasn’t in touch with his own childhood reality in time to break the cycle for his children, and therein lies the tragedy; it is this understanding, this acceptance of our own childhood pain and trauma that allows us to successfully disengage from abusive patterns and behaviors – it is the key to breaking they cycle.

I remember how I felt as a child – the physical and emotional pain delivered by people who should have loved me and cared for me.  I remember the feelings of betrayal and the intense vulnerability.  I remember the rage I felt in being their victim.  I remember knowing there was nothing I could do about any of it. And I remember the conscious choice I made to stop denying; I hadn’t deserved any of it …

It is not easy to see your parents for who they are when who they are is so terrible.  It takes immeasurable strength to disavow everything they stood for.  To embrace your own philosophy and confidently proclaim your belief that hitting and love are antithetical.  To know that abandoning your child is harmful and wrong on every conceivable level.  To understand no parent has the right to play with a child’s feelings, emotions or mind – or attempt to make him hate the other parent no matter what the other parent may have done …

There are no easy answers here, but abuse and denial go hand-in-hand; to end one, we must end the other.

The Essence of Love

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Strong, self-assured people have boundaries – hard lines and definite limits for what they will accept and tolerate from the people they allow into their lives.  They know who they are, what they want, and where they are going.  They make life look easy – not because they never have problems, but because they always find solutions.  My wife is one of those people.

I came into this relationship with more than my share of emotional baggage, baggage I had no clue what to do with.  It isn’t that Rhonda didn’t have her own issues and neurosis, she did, but she also had her life together, and she was a problem solver, a doer — I was not, my coping skills were nonexistent.  I couldn’t problem solve, and I couldn’t think beyond a limited scope of time.  No one had ever taught me how to live successfully – I was good at surviving, but I didn’t know how to live.

When she asks me now what it was that made me fall in love with her, something I did in English class when we were fourteen years old, I don’t always have a ready, eloquent answer … but when I reflect I realize that I’d never before known anyone so confident, so self-assured, so prepossessing- and those traits were so alluring to me they were almost mesmerizing.

When we began dating shortly before my twenty-first birthday, I knew she was the only woman in the world I would ever love in all the ways that I did – in all the ways I had since I was a sophomore in high school – but I soon came to understand that it was far deeper than that; she actually knew herself, she knew what she wanted from life, and she could cope with all of its disappointments and trials … it was like she knew a secret.

Turns out it wasn’t a secret at all, there was no great mystery – it was all a matter of a very simple thought process; a formula for Problem Solving and Life:

Problem Solving:

1.  Identify the Problem.

2. Determine the Outcome You Desire

3.  Take Steps Toward that Outcome

Life:

“Thinking in terms of scope and sequence, of viewing your life as a whole”  she told me,  “picture it as if it were a movie; now ask yourself, how do I want the movie to end? …  You have to live your life so you know the ending you desire.   Life doesn’t just happen to you, it is created and crafted by the choices you make.” 

My wife’s life philosophy is profoundly existential, and it is ever evolving and growing; she knows what she thinks and believes.  I will never be as deep or as complicated as she is, but I will always appreciate and respect her process, always be grateful she shared it with me and taught me how to adopt it as my own … it made my life work before I got sick, and it allowed me to reclaim my life after I was well.

Our lives are enhanced, even made whole, by the people we bring into them, and sometimes by the people we must exclude from them.  I was sick when Rhonda told me she would die for me, but she wouldn’t live for me … 

I can only imagine the courage and strength it took for her to say those words, and mean them …

in that terrible moment, she simply had no choice.

Inability to Love

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I have said here that my mother doesn’t love – doesn’t know how to love, doesn’t even know what love is; I sincerely, and very sadly, believe this to be true.  I don’t know  why she is as she is, I never have; I concede now that I have never really known her.  I recognize Pat only in psychological profile – something necessary for my own diagnosis, before that she was a complete enigma to me.

I do not think she is inherently evil, or even bad per se, but she doesn’t know how to love – doesn’t understand love as we do.  Her internal process is unique, and it appears to be flawed in ways that cause pain and damage to those she should value, respect and protect; it leads her to act in ways thinking, feeling people simply cannot comprehend.

She issues edicts and ultimatums, and when they are not honored she cuts you out of her life – snidely, sarcastically, suddenly and cruelly – with no emotion at all.  She can, and will, turn on anyone at any time – I’ve seen this happen several times in my life; I’m seeing it happen right now.  I have been the object of her disdain, been disowned and forgotten for not bowing down to her – for not honoring her demands.  She knows not of loyalty, no one is sacred.  If you love her, God help you.  If you want to keep her in your life, never, ever cross her.

For reasons I do not understand, Pat doesn’t want anyone in my extended family to speak to me, and she damn sure doesn’t want them to have a relationship with me. She says it is because I ‘tell horrid lies on the internet,‘ but even if her false perception were true, shouldn’t she simply state her opinion, love her sister – my aunt who wants to have us both in her life – and go on?  We, adults, can have meaningful, viable relationships with people on opposing sides of the same important issues.  The saddest part of this story is:  I told my aunt when she first contacted me in July that this would happen; I cautioned her and asked her to make damn sure she wanted to get to know me again because my mother would never tolerate such a relationship – she would see it as betrayal and act accordingly.  I don’t know Pat in a personal way, but I am intimately acquainted with her psychological profile …

Nothing has changed.  Thirty years ago she created drama around something that never even occurred, issued an ultimatum and hasn’t seen me since.  Now, she is creating drama around a situation that isn’t even a situation and cutting her sister out of her life for good and all.

That isn’t love.  If she can so easily dismiss people – her son and her sister – from her life [over perceived slights that are factually non-existent] who is sacred?  Who in this world can believe they mean anything to her at all?  This is the kind of thing I knew I had to protect my children from … unstable, turbulent relationships characterize this woman.  As does a lack of loyalty, genuine warmth and caring, and an inability to demonstrate love as the rest of us understand it.

Her abusive parenting cost her her son.  Her denial is upping the ante – she has a frantic need for everyone to see her as she sees herself, but her actions just don’t support this view.

It is sad, tragic even, when people disallow real love in their lives.  The inherent vulnerability of love is tremendous, we all know that, but what is the alternative?  A life where control and manipulation masquerade as love – as caring and concern, until one day you go too far and demand something another is unwilling to give so they choose to leave you rather than live their life according to your desires?  Your misconceptions?  Your inability or unwillingness to see and understand the truth?

In my case, I’d have ended up estranged from my mother even if it hadn’t happened when and how it did – I just do not like her, cannot forgive her, would never, ever have allowed her around my children and could not trust her with my feelings and emotions … but my aunt is a different story; she loves my mother, genuinely.  She cares about her and about what happens to her.  She accepts her for who and what she is, flaws (and we all have them) and all — isn’t that the kind of person Pat should want in her life?  The kind of person she should value most?  The last person in the world she should discard?

Dealing with Depression

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Depression, and the anxiety that often accompanies it, is the most difficult mental health issue I face.  I’m one of the lucky few for whom bipolar mania doesn’t present many real obstacles – in fact, I’ve almost always been able to direct and channel mania productively, but depression is my nemesis – it is like a never-ending, terrible storm that I am caught in the middle of with no hope for escape.

Depression, even without psychotic features, is darkness, and it envelops me so completely I can’t remember what light is.  I can’t concentrate, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m irritable and endlessly tired; my entire body aches physically, but the physical pain is slight compared to the emotional pain – and there is no escape from the emotional pain, it is pervasive and agonizing.

I’m a strong man, I know I can survive almost anything when I’m well.  When I’m well, I focus on – literally picture in my mind – the end of any crisis; that place where everything is OK again; the storm has ended and I’m OK, I am still standing.

When I’m depressed, I can’t picture the end – because it doesn’t exist for me.  The emotional pain compounds daily, washing me – the strong, capable me, away – second by second, minute by minute, hour after lonely hour until I’m adrift at sea and the storm is raging and I am simply lost with no hope of ever being found.

Try as I might  to write them, words don’t do justice to depression… it is dark and it is terrible.

But I’ve found there are things I can do, things that actually help:

Catch it early and adjust meds

Exercise hard, endorphins are a depressed person’s best friend; I go to the college football stadium near my house and run up and down the stairs daily

Listen to music I enjoy

Make myself go to work

Devote extra time and attention to practicing martial arts

Spend time with positive people who understand depression

Disallow myself, to the degree that I am able, to disengage from life

Focus on finding a viable solution to any problem I am facing – embracing a problem only exacerbates my depression

Even when I struggle to hold on to the message, I remind myself over and over again that the storm will pass …

Giving the Devil His Due

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I’ve said a lot of negative things about Ed, my father, here.  I use this blog to work through my pain, anguish and anger over having been raised as I was – in an abusive home, and I’ve detailed the abuse and resulting estrangement and mental illness in detail.  Writing is cathartic and liberating for me in ways nothing else has been, and breaking the silence is both important and necessary, but today I won’t be sharing something Ed did wrong, today I need to acknowledge something Ed has done right:

He did not deny.  When confronted with his past, and what he did, he stepped up and said, “Yes, I did that – I hurt you – and I’m sorry.”  He has even taken responsibility for causing my illnesses as well as the pain his abusive parenting ultimately caused my wife and children – his grandchildren. He is working to do whatever he has to do to make this right, and to hopefully have me back in his life.  That says a lot about his character today, and what it says is overwhelmingly good.

Abusers deny – this is almost Universally true.  Pat is denying, and she is wrecking havoc with the lives of extended family members because they have chosen to include me in their lives again … it is tragic, emotionally devastating and never-ending when an Abuser denies.  (more on this to come)

I am, all at once, faced with a parent who has done the right thing, and a parent who never will do the right thing – so I clearly see what comes from both sides of this terrible equation.

It takes strength and courage to step-up as Ed has, strength and courage most Abusers never find.  His acceptance of responsibility for what he did, and for what it caused, means a great deal to me – far more than I ever thought it would.

A man should not be defined by his mistakes, but by what he does to make them right.  

He is trying to make them right, and I am not the kind of man who would fail to acknowledge that.

I Did Not Teach Her This – Ed, Pat Do You Know What You’ve Done?

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Untitled Work, written by my seventeen year old daughter yesterday, left me in tears … and deeply contemplative.

My daughter is a senior in high school, and she is home schooled – there are many reasons for this; the demands of her rehearsal/training/performance schedule top the list now, but there were other reasons in the beginning; our desire to travel frequently, and the fact that she has dyslexia and needed one-on-one attention chief among them.  We don’t home school outside the system, which can make getting into college difficult, so we have access to incredible classes and resources; on Friday mornings she attends a writing workshop for high school juniors and seniors called, Finding Your Voice.

Finding Your Voice is a nationally acclaimed program, and all instructors must go through an involved training and certification process before they are given access to the curriculum –  it is actually much more than just a college-prep writing class; all the prompts and all the lessons are designed specifically to get teenagers to access and work through their complicated thoughts, ideas, feelings and beliefs through the process of writing.  The curriculum was written and designed by educators in collaboration with adolescent therapists, and for many kids it is extremely therapeutic.

Yesterday’s lesson was aimed at getting the kids to think about someone who causes problems in their life, someone they don’t like – someone they may even hate.  The prompt that followed was simply to address those feelings via the written word.

Before I got sick, my kids knew very little about my family.  They knew I hadn’t seen my parents in many years, and they knew why in brevity; my parents were abusive and I chose not to have them in my adult life because of that – but I didn’t give them details.   I didn’t give details to anyone then, but even if I had I wouldn’t have shared them with my children – that just wouldn’t have been the right thing to do …

My mother, if she dislikes someone, devotes herself to doing all she can to ensure everyone in her life dislikes this person too – she has no loyalty to anyone, no concern for who gets hurt, or  for whose life she turns upside down – and even though I’d have been telling the truth in speaking of her (and Ed) negatively to my children, I did not want to be like her; catty, petty, shallow and vindictive.

And this unwillingness to be like my mother – to model her ridiculous, reprehensible behavior for my children, was in addition to the fact I felt I had to protect them from the very disturbing details of my childhood, which was the right thing to do … until I got sick.

At that point, I could no longer protect them – no one could.

I knew my daughter had been deeply affected by my illness, and  that she now, due my illness, knows the details of my childhood, but I didn’t realize she actually hated anyone until she shared her writing, tears and feelings with me yesterday.  This is the sweetest, kindest child in the world – she is absolutely precious, and to hear her speak with such conviction of such terrible things as hatred was heartbreaking for me.

I did not teach my daughter to hate.  The cycle of abuse – the multi-generational denial and silence and acceptance did that.

I live this life and I am still baffled and confused when faced with the far-reaching, in fact never-ending, affects of child abuse in a family.

I broke the cycle; my daughter is valued, loved, pampered, spoiled, adored – she has been given every advantage in the world, and  her physical and emotional safety has been protected to a degree I cannot begin to describe.  She has been taught to love, to exemplify tolerance, acceptance and compassion …

but even with all that I couldn’t protect her from knowing what it is like to hate people, or from feeling the impact of child abuse in her own life.

Where does the madness of abuse end?