2017; A Wrap

In rereading, I realized my last regular post here was almost one year ago; some things have changed, others have not.

I’m currently well, in fact I don’t think I have ever felt better in my life.  I understand that even when symptoms aren’t present, the underlying condition isn’t gone, merely dormant, but it is great to feel this good.

It’s been just about a year since I last heard from Ed – he tried being assertive, which was downright laughable; I informed him that not only had I done nothing wrong, even citing the valid legal argument and precedent behind my position,  I had kept all of his email, and his notes were quite damning in a legal and personal sense – replete with confessions after all. I then let him know that any potential suit he brought  against me would be met by my suit against him; he let it all go, just as I knew he would.  Ed’s a coward, making a grand show for people he wants the world to believe he cares for. He is infinitely pitiable and disgusting.

It’s Christmas again, which means family parties and events in healthy extended families – not so much in mine.  My wife has been in contact via text messages with my sister these last couple of weeks, but other than that we’ve not been in touch.  My aunt still hasn’t seen my mother (but has remained in very welcomed contact with me).  To the best of my knowledge, there will be no rekindling of family ties this holiday season.

An article I stumbled upon recently stated the holidays were infinitely painful for those estranged from family, but I have never seen evidence of this in mine. For the most part, I think my parents, especially Pat, felt well rid of me by the time I cut ties with them; if they felt differently, they did not share or elaborate.  And me, well I was far too busy enjoying my first taste of true happiness to feel saddened by the estrangement, even in those first few holiday seasons.  Now, many years later, I cannot imagine any of us miss the others just because it’s Christmas. This fact speaks volumes as to the depth of dysfunction that was always so much a part of who we were as a family.

I have given extensive thought as to the direction Silence Shattered will take in the new year.  I will be posting frequently again, with a focus on my original mission: to explore the link between child abuse and mental illness; the evidence is conclusive, compelling, and it must be shared.

Last week, I was contacted by a contributor to BetterHelp.com, the largest online platform for counseling services, and asked if I’d share as infographic on Silence Shattered, as well as a link to their depression resources.  The infographic is forthcoming in an upcoming post, and the link is below:

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/depression/

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lesson in Forgiveness

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In his somewhat less than fully coherent email earlier in the week, Ed attempted to teach me about the importance of forgiveness.  In a brief note of follow up yesterday, he again reiterated his belief that forgiveness is necessary for healing.

There are a few key things about forgiveness Ed doesn’t seem to understand, for example: There are people who should not be forgiven – namely those who would take forgiveness as a sign that they weren’t so bad after all; this way of thinking opens the door to rationalization of their past, and future, behavior.  Ed has never understood the breadth or depth of what he has done; forgiving him before he fully comprehends would be downright self-destructive for me.

The problem inherent to forgiveness is that the power resides in the transgressor’s hands. The psychological impact of forgiveness on the forgiver is determined by whether or not the transgressor has made amends.  Forgiveness without amends leaves the forgiver with diminished feelings of self-worth.  To date, Ed has not sought to make anything right, he has sought only to move on.

Pain is deeper and longer lasting when the transgressor intentionally caused it – repeatedly.  This cannot be overstated; when you repeat a destructive behavior time without number, you did not make a mistake – you demonstrated something real and lasting about who you are.  Forgiveness for this [child abuse] is a process, and it is dependent wholly and entirely upon the transgressor’s sincere acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility for ALL wrongdoing, and their  forthright desire to make amends for what their behavior caused.

Despite Ed’s belief in forgiveness as a panacea, it isn’t simple.  I am not simple.  My self-respect, peace of mind, and understanding are not based in my forgiveness of my father; and to forgive now would leave me despondent because he has not earned it.  Any benefit I could derive from forgiving him would come through his personal growth and desire to make right what he destroyed.

The kind of forgiveness I’m speaking of takes time and concerted effort to earn.  You don’t close the cycle and end the abuse quickly or easily, and those you have harmed need to know they are valued, treasured, cherished and loved now as they always should have been; they need to know it is safe to forgive.

Forgiveness is sobering, and honest.  And while we embrace the sentiment, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” it cannot be universally applied.  We cannot reap the benefits of forgiveness alone, we need the full and complete cooperation of our transgressor, and therein lies the quandary; those with the capacity to destroy the lives of their children seldom, if ever, see the need to repair.

So you see Ed, the ball is most definitely NOT in my court.

Narcissistic Parents

Several months of recent correspondence, as well as occasional visits during this time, have given me a very good understanding of who Ed is today; the same man he has always been – a child abuser, coward, rapist.  He is also, in my informed opinion, a narcissist who suffers from cognitive dissonance and self-aggrandizing delusions.  He has not changed, but he has become adept at hiding who he really is, rendering him capable of surviving among the good and decent people in his life today.  He, in some ways, is the luckiest man alive; the Teflon-Man nothing ever sticks to, and he is so good at selling himself; there is a different version of Ed for every man, woman and child in his world – past and present.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen or spoken to Pat since early 1983; she attended my wedding in 1986, but the only exchange we had that day was her telling me that she approved of the new me – whatever that meant.  I  kept my distance; I didn’t want to know her anymore.

There was a time when I knew her far better than anyone else, and despite our lack of communication for more than three decades, this, I have found, is still true.  In fact, I actually know her – I don’t think many other people do …

Kind, thinking, good people assume we all share basic values, and our understanding of mothers comes from the precept that all mothers love their children.  We believe that every mother is dedicated to nurturing and guiding her young children, and is desirous of a solid, affectionate relationship with her children when they are grown.  Mothers who do not reflect this archetype are virtually inconceivable to the rest of us.

When my aunt contacted me after decades of estrangement, she was excited to share with her sister that I had responded to her message wishing me a happy birthday.  My aunt thought my mother would be happy and excited too – she thought perhaps this might give my mother hope that one day I would speak to her as well.

My aunt didn’t understand then that my mother is the antitheses of the mother archetype.  She didn’t love and nurture when I was little, and she damn sure didn’t want a relationship with her grown up son who had lived the truth she had lied about for almost three decades.

When my aunt came back into my life, Pat simply shut her sister out of her life.

I may not have recent personal communication with my mother to offer as support, but the evidence is pretty compelling; she is the same abusive, narcissistic drama queen she has always been.

I used to wonder how Pat could possibly be happy, given everyone she has hurt, but now I understand that she never cared to begin with.  She put on a passable face, said the right things for a time, behaved like people she knew who actually did love and care for their family, but it was never real for her – and her love  was never, ever genuine.  It’s easy to be happy, despite the pain and damage you have caused, when you never cared about anyone other than yourself to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled: A Letter To My Parents

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Pat and Ed,

It is sometimes difficult to remember that your treatment of me was never about me, and always about you.  You so often told me I was bad I believed it myself.  And because I was bad, I deserved every act of abuse you levied against me. Today I see clearly just how fucked up you were – and still are, but as a child I took responsibility for everything you did to me.

I was twenty years old when I began dating Rhonda, and she was the first person I ever told about the beatings and other abuse.  I was ashamed to tell anyone; by then I knew what you had done was wrong, but it was humiliating to speak of. I was conflicted emotionally, and I didn’t yet understand the abuse viscerally, so I kept it all inside.

When I say Rhonda was the first person I told, I mean she was the first person I told other than Lois (my maternal grandmother) who questioned me about the bruises I had on my ass and legs when she was giving me a bath one night – I may have been four or five; “Daddy spanked me,” was the answer; she expressed her disgust – her hatred of Ed, but nothing more than that.  And then there was the gym teacher who questioned why I could hardly walk after the beating Ed gave me with the tree branch – I told him my father had spanked me a little too hard, but that I had deserved it. I actually took responsibility for that violent, rage inspired beating; I protected you, Ed.  It was years later, when I was an adult and had access to my CUM folder from my school years, that I realized exactly how many people knew you abused your children – and, of course, exactly how reviled they were by you.

It was a different world then – you could get away with abusing your children.  Most people believed that unless a child was in danger of losing his life, he belonged with his parents.  No one yet understood that the assumption of love inherent to that belief – a blind faith that all parents love their children and would never knowingly cause them harm – was fallacious in many cases.  No one was ready to face the stark, cold and bleak reality that for some children, parental love is nonexistent. Love in our home was a concept –  a word we used, but a feeling and emotion none of us knew or understood.

Ed, you speak of your affinity for Janet in a way that borders on unhealthy obsession – and you beat Elizabeth and I without feeling or remorse.  There is so much contradiction and conflict in this picture of your character I have no idea where to begin; it troubles me to the very core of my being.  When you speak of how you felt when we left Janet in institutional care – how difficult that was for you emotionally, I cannot feel empathy for you because you are the same father who tortured your other children.  How am I supposed to reconcile this?  It makes no sense.  If you actually did feel a deep connection to Janet, why did it not extend to Elizabeth and I – were we not your children, too?  Did we not deserve to know a kind, loving and compassionate father?

And Pat, even to this day you deny, so you haven’t stopped abusing.  You blame much of the content of this blog on my having Bipolar Disorder, which is despicable even for you.  I’m told you may be sick, and if you are sick, I’m sure you believe the cause to be your broken life – the stress and pain you have endured along the way.  I’m in no position to dispute the truth in that belief; I know all too well there are limits on what one can endure, and what happens when we’re taken past the point of no return.  Odd to think that maybe – perhaps, we’re in the same metaphorical boat – and you actually put yourself here too. If you are suffering the effects of what you have done, and those effects have manifested in illness, you and you alone bear the responsibility.  I did not write this story, Pat, I’m just telling it; you have always been unfeeling – incapable of empathy or remorse, love or affection – motivated only by what is best for yourself; I pity you, I always have.

You were young, and you  had no business having children.  Your marriage was less than ideal, and built on a shaky foundation.  You had an ill child and no money.  I understand all of that, but it does not excuse anything you did to Janet, Elizabeth and I – it never has and it never will.  At the end of the day, you destroyed your own children.  I have grieved for who I was meant to be – the boy you killed, who never got the chance to exist – the man he would have become.  I have mourned the absence of a mother and father throughout my life – all I had were tormentors who, in the end, were too stupid or blind or self-deluded to understand why I left and never came back.  And I have walked through hell and back to save myself after you made it crystal clear in my childhood that I couldn’t count on anyone else, least of all you, for love and support, or even a family and a soft place to land.

I would love to be able to say in honesty, “I’m over it; I have no desire to hurt back, no need for hatred or vengeance or retribution, but I can’t; it will have to be enough to say in honesty,”I will never avail myself of hatred or vengeance or retribution.”  Although all are owed, deserved, and ordained by the principle of Karma – I will not be that force.

I look at my children and know they are, quite simply, the best part of who I am.  There is nothing I would not do for them, no lengths I would not go to ensure their happiness and well being.  My life – my marriage, the kind of father I am and will always be, is what is supposed to be, what is meant to be.  If you fail your children, you have failed at life itself. What right do you have to a happy life if you betray and harm your child?

But, I will not be that Karmic force in your life, no matter how much I may want to be, because I will not be that man in the eyes of my children.  

Tim

Dear Timothy,

This is difficult for me, not because the circumstances are so complex – although they are.  And not because my thoughts and feelings are a twisted, tangled unrecognizable mass I have struggled to unravel and understand time and time again – although this statement is also true. It’s difficult because I love you, and watching you fight to be the man you are – separate from the disease you did not choose, is a nightmare for me.

It would be hard enough for me if Bipolar Disorder had come into your life – our lives, through nothing more than genetic predisposition, but that is far from our reality.  Your parents gave you the disease through years and years of abuse; physical and emotional – and let’s not forget every psychiatrist and therapist you have seen maintains you were sexually abused as well.  So your condition was preventable; for you Bipolar Disorder did not have to be.

For as far as I’ve come, any sort of relapse, however minor it may or may  not be, sends me back to square one in my own ability to cope with your condition.  And my square one is intense anger with the people who caused all of this:  Pat and Ed.

My notion of Ideal Father is you, the man who has loved and nurtured and cared for our children so completely and so well you are, to my mind, the very embodiment of the Ideal.  When I think about abused children, or of children being abused, I am immediately horrified and confused; how could any parent harm their own child? These people, your parents, are the antithesis of you.

I remember the day in the hospital when it all just came pouring out of you.  Pre-illness, I had seen you cry less than a handful of times in our lives, so your sob-laden unburdening was gut-wrenching for me to witness and hear.  Details that sickened me so completely I threw up in heaves in the ladies room before driving myself home.  I had always known you were abused, but until that morning you had spared me the graphic details, and hearing them felt like I had been shot in the stomach – the pain was physical.  At home, I cried harder than I had ever cried before in my life, and I screamed like some sort of wounded animal.  I don’t know how long I laid on our bed in tears, fetal position, trying to process your memories of the terrible things Pat and Ed had done to you.

I do know that when I got up, I was angry.  Actually, I was in a state of virtually uncontrollable fury.  In addition to all I’d heard from you that morning, we had a diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder, Dysthymia, PTSD and Anxiety Disorder – all of which were caused by Severe Child Abuse.  You’d come into this world healthy and whole, and your parents destroyed you.  The people who were supposed to love you, care for you and protect you had caused you such emotional and physical pain they had altered your brain chemistry and set you on the road to mental illness.  The injustice was all too much for me, and I felt vulnerable and powerless in that moment, but I loved you and was determined to help you recover.

In the beginning, I researched like a woman possessed.  I had to find a way to make our lives work for our family.  Finding our new normal took some time, but eventually it did happen.  Occasionally the illness would find its way into our day-to-day lives, but we were learning to cope as a family and happiness returned.  Nothing has destabilized our lives in the way the initial breakdown did, but minor relapses are inevitable and we’ve not escaped them entirely.

Although challenging for me always, your relapses were easier for me to cope with prior to Ed coming back into our lives.  It isn’t Ed as he is now; old and harmless, its knowing what he was and what he did to you, a helpless child — HIS OWN HELPLESS CHILD, that torments me now.  From afar physically, and at a distance in time measured in decades, I had found a home for my anger with him; it isn’t that I wasn’t angry, I was, but he’d been cut out of our lives like a cancer so long ago I simply thought he’d paid the ultimate price for what he had done; he had no contact with you, his only son, and he’d never even met his grandchildren.  That is a terrible price to pay – I cannot begin to imagine not seeing my children, not being permitted to know the grandchildren I will one day have; if that were to be my future, I’d say kill me now, truly, because I Know I could not live with the pain.

But Ed doesn’t feel that pain, and I don’t think he ever did.  God help me if I’m wrong, but he feels no pain at all in knowing what he did to you, or what it has caused; no pain at all in decades of estrangement.  He said words you told him he had to say so he might know you today, but there is no emotion behind them from what I can see. He doesn’t know or understand what it means to be a father, doesn’t feel – has never felt the pain of his child.  My God, he knows how emotionally ill Elizabeth is, or has been – has he reached out to her?  Has he offered her the apologies he owes her?  Whether she wants them or not, she deserves them.  Has he done this?  He says he intends to, but when?  What has he EVER done right as a father?

Last week, when you told me you were actively trying to forgive Ed, I was shocked; stunned beyond belief.  You went on to explain that you understand forgiveness to be for you now, but what about your principle; Child Abuse is Unforgivable?  I cannot imagine how difficult all of this is for you today.  How do you reconcile Ed with your concept of what it means to be a father?  A father, to your way of thinking, is full of integrity, patience and wisdom.  A father loves his child unconditionally.  A father would lay down his life for his child.  A father teaches, nurtures and guides.  A father pays for lessons and classes and college – supports his child’s dreams and aspirations so his child can discover who he is and learn to take care of himself in this world.  Is Ed ANY of that – has he done ANY of that?  He does not deserve you as a son.  He doesn’t.

Right now, because now has seen you struggle a bit, I cannot help but think of everything I know he did to you.  I hear your screams and pleas not to be beaten, even though he never did.  I understand you never really had a father, only a tormentor.  I see where his inadequacy led.

I will find my footing again soon enough, and I support you fully in forgiving your father even though I don’t think I can.  It’s hard for a wife to see her husband as a broken little boy, especially when that little boy grew up to be you, the most wonderful man in the world. You are a hundred times the man he will ever be, and as a father there can be no comparison – you are a father, he never has been.  What you have accomplished in your life amazes and staggers me, because you did it ALL on your own.

If you want Ed to be a member of your family, he will be part of mine – that’s how this works.  I will be gracious and giving, understanding, polite and cordial, but I will never believe he deserves you.

You have said so many times, ‘This isn’t about blame, it’s about knowing why and understanding.’  I see how true that is for you, how good and decent a man you are, but I struggle not to blame, and often I fail.  I am sorry.

You have never believed that people change – you’ve always believed they can change, but never that they actually do.  Do you still believe this?  Has Ed changed?  If you were five years old, would you feel safe in his care?   If our children were little, would you leave them alone with Ed?  These questions haunt me now; they are probably unfair of me to ask you, but I need to know your answers.

I don’t know Ed, I have never known Ed; I know only what I’ve been told, and none of that has ever been favorable.  Everyone from Pat to his girlfriend to a client of my mother’s – people I don’t know or scarcely know, warned me about him when we were dating, and now I know exactly what he did to you – help me understand why we are here.  Please.  Tell me you believe he is no longer a man who would hurt his  own child.  Tell me that and I’ll believe it, too.

This is all so hard for me, and I know Ed is trying – I truly do see it, but it doesn’t change the past.  Injustice, feeling vulnerable and powerless has always been next to impossible for me to process, and I’m angry because Ed, in my  knowing what he did to you, makes me feel all three. I feel twisted and torn and like I have to protect you somehow.  Ostensibly I know this is absurd, you are a grown man, and he is an old man, but I just can’t shake the feeling.

Has he been honest with the people in his life now?  Did he tell his sister the truth when she attacked Rachael, or did he take another, easier road to resolution?  Did he blame you?  Did he blame Bipolor Disorder and what Laura ignorantly believes to be true? Did he defend you by telling her the truth  about what he did to you, regardless of whether or not she would believe it?  Or is he a coward?   I need to know what you think and what you feel about all of this.  Your feelings are real, valid and they do matter.  They always have, even when your parents told you they didn’t.

You say I am your rock and your support, that you couldn’t do this – successfully manage Bipolar Disorder without me, but the truth is this:  you are my strength, even when you were desperately ill you were my touchstone and my life.  I simply adore you.

Help me understand Ed as you do, help me to see your reasoning in giving him this precious second chance.  I need to know how and why you feel as you do.

I have loved you since the beginning of time, and I will love you until the end,

Rhonda

In Reaction to Denial and Harassment …

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I don’t know if anyone can explain what’s its like to be an abused child well enough to make others understand in a real or visceral way.  It isn’t just abusive events, it’s an every day awareness that you are helpless and vulnerable – at the mercy of people who are devoid of empathy; people who are supposed to love you and care for you.  It’s knowing that at any moment the violent and painful things that have happened before, will happen again.  It’s an ever-present feeling of anxiety, of being on the edge – of knowing all too well what happens when you make a mistake and behave like the child you are.  It’s a dark and insidious feeling you cannot escape, and it never goes away, never eases for even a second.  There is no respite, no shelter or calm. There is only fear and unrelenting comprehension that what you fear most will happen again, just as it always has — the only question is when.

Children cannot process trauma, it damages them and changes who they are – it literally alters their brain chemistry.  Beatings are traumatic, and they are permanently etched on my psyche.  I have no idea how often one of my parents hit me – when something happens daily, or even just frequently, it becomes part of the tapestry of your life; beatings in my house just were.  And along with the trauma of the beatings themselves, I had to live with the fear, pain – both physical and emotional, and the intense humiliation that went along with them.

I have no idea at what point it all became too much for me, when an adult diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Depression and PTSD became part of my future, and my destiny.  No one knows how much is too much for a child to bear and still end up being an adult who is well, and whole.  The affects of abuse –  extent of damage and long term impact on mental health aren’t the same for every victim.  Every child has his own breaking point, but once it’s been breached, negative mental health consequences are inevitable.

You can either accept that for the truth it is, or you can’t, but …

I’m growing very tired of people who deny, and who defend abusers – and the extent to which some will go is remarkable, and even illegal. A grown-up who attacks a child in verbal assault – her argument devoid of all critical thought and invalid in every way possible – her words designed only to wound and inflict pain on said innocent child – has crossed a line that should never be crossed.  No matter what she [the adult] thinks or feels or believes, attacking a child is degenerate.

 What my aunt said is so ludicrous it isn’t worth my time to defend, but my daughter was left feeling vulnerable and confused – my daughter who is unaccustomed to hostility, or adults who behave like children, was harassed and antagonized by a woman she has never even met – a grown woman who should know better than to say and do what she said and did.

My daughter, at seventeen, knows more about Bipolar Disorder, Depression, PTSD and Anxiety Disorder than most non-professionals will ever know.  She has been through hell because of what these illnesses caused; she knows what they are and she knows EXACTLY how I got them.  She has had trained professionals, many trained professionals, explain to her why her dad got sick …

but she is seventeen, and the idea that I am not seen as I truly am is challenging for her.  She knows I’m fine now, as I have been for most of her life; I’m stable, happy and emotionally satisfied.  She knows my memories are not distorted, or false.  She knows and understands, but she also knows she should not have to defend me to anyone, nor herself against wild accusations.   And she should not have to endure a verbal assault, especially one devoid of merit, truth, or even reality from someone who refuses to see things as they are and clings to erroneous, incomplete and untrue ‘information’ as though her life depends on it.

But that’s just it, her life – and the life of all who deny and refuse to recognize the truth, does depend on disbelief.  These people must be appeased and placated or they’ll be forced to face the truth in their own childhood, or worse – the childhood they gave their children.  My aunt isn’t defending my father, she is defending herself.  Nothing else could explain the vehement nature in which she spoke to my daughter.

We all do the best we can to manage our lives, and sometimes denial is the only thing we can do to get by – to make our past emotionally tolerable, to assure us that today has meaning, or is different somehow – but denial does not alter truth.

Anyone, including my aunt, is welcome to say anything they like TO ME – I opened myself up to potential scorn, ridicule, disbelief, insult, anger, indignation, denial, and accusation when I decided to tell my story in a public forum – but my children did not.

If you decide to confront me, know that I will not appease and placate you as others have.  I will not bow to your denial, or your self-righteous need to be heard.  I will not turn away from the truth I lived, or compromise for the sake of your comfort.

I know what happened to me as a child, I lived it every day.  I know who and what my parents were, and are.  I know what comes from abuse, it’s part of me now …

And nothing you can say or do, no amount of denial or refusal to see the truth can change that …

Although I honestly wish it could.

The Link Between Child Abuse and Mental Illness

Harvard Research Study:

Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse contributes to virtually all types of mental illness.

Now, in the largest study yet to use brain scans to show the effects of child abuse, researchers have found specific changes in key regions in and around the hippocampus in the brains of adults who were maltreated or neglected in childhood. These changes leave victims more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the study finds.

Harvard researchers led by Dr. Martin Teicher studied nearly 200 people aged 18 to 25, who were mainly middle class and well-educated. They were recruited through newspaper and transit ads for a study on “memories of childhood.” Because the authors wanted to look specifically at the results of abuse and neglect, people who had suffered other types of trauma like car accidents or gang violence were excluded.

Child maltreatment often leads to conditions like Bipolar Disorder, depression and PTSD, so the researchers specifically included people with those diagnoses. However, the study excluded severely addicted people and people on psychiatric medications, because brain changes related to the drugs could obscure the findings.

Overall, about 25% of participants had suffered major depression at some point in their lives and 7% had been diagnosed with PTSD. But among the 16% of participants who had suffered three or more types of child maltreatment  — for example, physical abuse, neglect and verbal abuse — the situation was much worse. Most of them — 53% — had suffered depression and 40% had had full or partial PTSD; 38% had received a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.

The aftermath of that trauma could be seen in their brain scans, whether or not the young adults had developed diagnosable disorders. Regardless of their mental health status, formerly maltreated youth showed reductions in volume of about 6% on average in two parts of the hippocampus, and 4% reductions in regions called the subiculum and presubiculum, compared with people who had not been abused.

That’s where this study begins to tie together loose ends seen in prior research. Previous data have suggested that the high levels of stress hormones associated with child maltreatment can damage the hippocampus, which may in turn affect people’s ability to cope with stress later in life. In other words, early stress makes the brain less resilient to the effects of later stress. “We suspect that [the reductions we saw are] a consequence of maltreatment and a risk factor for developing PTSD following exposure to further traumas,” the authors write.

Indeed, brain scans of adults with depression and PTSD often show reductions in size in the hippocampus. Although earlier research on abused children did not find the same changes, animal studies on early life stress suggested that measurable differences in the hippocampus do not arise until adulthood. The new study finds that the same is true for humans.

The findings also help elucidate a pathway from maltreatment to PTSD, depression, Bipolar Disorder and addiction. The subiculum is uniquely positioned to affect all of these conditions. Receiving output from the hippocampus, it helps determine both behavioral and biochemical responses to stress.

If, for example, the best thing to do in a stressful situation is flee, the subiculum sends a signal shouting “run” to the appropriate brain regions. But the subiculum is also involved in regulating another brain system that, when overactive during chronic high stress such as abuse, produces toxic levels of neurotransmitters that kill brain cells — particularly in the hippocampus.

It can be a counterproductive feedback loop: high levels of stress hormones can lead to cell death in the very regions that are supposed to tell the system to stop production.

What this means is that chronic maltreatment can set the stress system permanently on high alert. That may be useful in some cases — for example, for soldiers who must react quickly during combat or for children trying to avoid their abusers — but over the long term, the dysregulation increases risk for psychological problems like depression and PTSD.

The subiculum also regulates the stress response of a key dopamine network, which may have implications for addiction risk. “It is presumably through this pathway that stress exposure interacts with the dopaminergic reward system to produce stress-induced craving and stress-induced relapse,” the authors write.

In other words, dysregulation of the stress system might lead to intensified feelings of anxiety, fear or lack of pleasure, which may in turn prompt people to escape into alcohol or other drugs.

With nearly 4 million children evaluated for child abuse or neglect in the U.S. every year — a problem that costs the U.S. $124 billion in lost productivity and health, child welfare and criminal justice costs — child abuse isn’t something we can afford to ignore.

Even among the most resilient survivors, the aftereffects of abuse linger forever. Not only are such children at later risk for mental illness, but because of the way trauma affects the stress system, they are also more vulnerable to developing chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

We can do better for our kids.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Written by Maia Szalavitz for Time;  Health and Family

 

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 …

Just Sad I Think …

It’s been a surreal day; my head is full of random disconnected thoughts that I’m afraid will never coalesce into an articulate post, but I’m going to try; right now I need to write …

In reality, I guess it’s been more than a surreal day – my thoughts and feelings have been disordered since Ed emailed me last Friday; my cousin’s revelation earlier today merely added to the storm currently raging in my mind.

I’m not sick, in fact I’ve never been more well.  I’m not depressed – sad, but not depressed.  I’m not anxious or manic.  I’m not having flashbacks, but those could easily come now I’m sure …

I’m just so sad.

It’s tragic, all of it.  Violence, abuse, denial – an entire family, through God knows how many generations, whose solution has been to sweep it all under the rug and pretend everything is well.  There was no abuse.  There is no denial.  There is only “False Memories” and now a man – their nephew or son who cannot let go of the bad and focus on the good … 

There was no good.  And even if there had been, it wouldn’t change the bad – wouldn’t erase it or its legacy; mental illness is forever, it isn’t curable.  And it isn’t a choice.

Their thinking is flawed — I know that’s ironic coming from someone who has experienced psychotic depression, but it’s true; their thinking isn’t sane or rational – it isn’t even based in common morality.

Is this why they saw rape in the way they did?  Is this why they believed a fourteen year old girl could give consent?  Is this why they excused Ed’s repugnant, degenerate behavior?

Lord help me …

I never saw it, but did my father beat my mother?  He beat his children, did he beat her too?   I am no fan of my mother, but a man who will hit his wife and children is capable of anything … anything.

And the silence.  Keep the secret no matter the cost – keep it now, keep it forever.

Fuck the kids – their feelings don’t matter.  Lose control and beat them, they’ll get over it or they won’t; makes no difference either way.  We’ll just say their memories are false …

Or that children deserve to have “the fire whipped out of them.”

I am out of words,

FOR NOW.

But I will not be silent.

I will not pretend.

I will not let go of what I didn’t ask for to begin with and could not keep from coming back even though Once Upon a Time I did, miraculously, manage to turn my back on it all.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multigenerational Abuse

I’ve been concerned for some time that the abuse in my family was multigenerational (I am speaking of my father’s family specifically).  Comments made by a paternal aunt indicating she had “the fire whipped out of her” by her mother – and that she “deserved it,” as well as her belief that her son has false memories of his own childhood – false memories she ignorantly and wrongly attributes to his his having Bipolar Disorder – in addition to Ed’s admission that he was “severely beaten” as a child – led me to believe that abuse is woven into the tapestry of our family …

This morning I awoke with confirmation; a cousin left the following comment on my Facebook page:  “Both my sister and I have been suffering from depression for over a decade caused by being abused by our parents. So I’m with you all along with this matter.  I guess it’s a family tradition.”  This is a cousin who lives in Japan, a cousin I have never even met because she was born after I became estranged from Ed.  She is young – the courage it took for her to make this admission humbles me.

This is not a scathing review of my family, it is a plea to end the abuse.  I write this post trembling and in tears, it gives me no pleasure to have been right.  I did not want my uncle in Japan, a man I admired, to be like my father – just as his daughter did not want her “Uncle Eddy” to be like her own.  We both wanted someone to believe in …

This is how it goes generation after generation.  The abuse, followed by denial, allows mental illness to grow and flourish – to permeate the very foundation of a family.

Enough!

Enough!