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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flag Day

Flag Day – obscure holiday that it is, is also Pat’s birthday.  I do not know the date in June designated as Flag Day, and I never have, but for some unknown reason I have never forgotten that Flag Day is also Pat’s birthday.

Mother’s Day, where Pat is concerned, does not leave me sentimental; in fact, if I think of her at all it is usually in realization that I feel nothing for her.  I don’t hate her – I don’t wish things could be different, but I don’t hate her; I don’t even resent her.  I simply feel nothing when faced with subtle, yearly reminders of her.

I have been told she is very ill; this news has left me unsympathetic.  I realize now ambivalence is a better descriptor of what I feel for Pat than is indifference; despite my having used indifferent for decades, ambivalent is more accurate: I may not wish any ill to befall her, but I also don’t care if it has.

Knowing I feel ambivalence, for anyone, was a sobering reality for me.  I’m compassionate, deeply so, and I care, in a humanitarian way, for everyone; I’m empathetic – occasionally to my own detriment, and yet, somehow, I am also capable of not caring at all – of feeling Pat may have finally gotten at least some of what she deserves.

My emotional response – or lack thereof,  was shaped by enduring years of her neglect, abandonment, physical and emotional abuse – and perhaps even a little of her own ambivalence and indifference.

Still, I don’t like how I feel …

I had a more difficult time letting go of my idealized notion of Pat than I did of Ed; she, at one time, had me all but convinced that all her wrongdoing, all of her flaws, all of her poor choices were Ed’s fault.   And in the end, after she divorced Ed, she justified everything she did under the guise of deserving to be happy – no matter who got hurt, because of all the suffering she had endured while married to him.  It was Ed’s fault she was an abusive mother, and it was Ed’s fault she slept with married men after he left – but nothing was ever Pat’s fault, or Pat’s choice.

She is a champion manipulator, and classic narcissist; God help anybody who believes she actually cares for them; she has no idea what love is.

I feel what I feel – I can’t change that, but it’s going to take me a while to become comfortable with knowing I’m ambivalent …

even where she is concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arduous Journey

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None of this is easy, if I have made it appear easy, I apologize for the unintentional duplicity.

Depression is hard, and mine has returned.  It isn’t as deep and dark as it has been, not by a long shot, but I’m not exactly myself either.  To top it off, I’ve been hypo-manic as well – and mixed states are hard to treat.  I’m taking Lithium and Wellbutrin, and balance is returning, but the process is slower than I would like and I can be impatient.  I’m still working, still engaged in life, still involved with my family and friends – and I still very much want to be; that isn’t a facade – I’m not just going through the motions this time, so I know it could be much, much worse than it is; the benefit to having been here before is recognizing the signs quickly, before they spin out of control and drag you into the abyss.

Naturally, because I hadn’t been depressed for a long time, my therapist and psychiatrist began treatment by assessing what had changed in my life; “what were the triggers and or stressors?”  The answer wasn’t immediately clear, but over the last few weeks it has become obvious …

Ed – having Ed in my life is what has changed.  That isn’t bad or stressful in-and-of-itself, but the thoughts and feelings it evokes can be.  I shared with my sister that he is trying now, and I can see it – the things he has done for my daughter are thoughtful and kind and would be for any grandfather, but all I can think of is how different my life would be, how different our relationship would be today, if he had valued me in the way he values building a relationship with her.   And that is just one example …

I still don’t know if people change; I’m beginning to think they just acquire a better mask.  I’ve seen glimpses here and there of the father I remember – a man quite unlike the man he sees himself as today.

Early in our email conversations, he mentioned that he “checked in with me mentally every year or so.”  Aside from not knowing exactly what that means, it baffles me; I am his son, did he not feel a sense of loss?  He also indicated that he “sought therapy for anger” – anger he believed to be directed at me for having ended our relationship … he felt anger with me? I was incredulous.  Then I remembered, and it didn’t take me long – anger was always his go to emotion.  Was he grieving our lost relationship, as any normal father would; did he replace the pain he felt with anger?  Would he even recognize this if it were true?

I don’t buy his not knowing exactly what he did to me, don’t appreciate his inability to look at life as it truly was while he was raising me.  The deeper we get into a new relationship, the more this concerns and bothers me.  I know some things are best left in the past, and I’ve let go of a lot in the months since we began speaking again – but I’m finding that the past is made relevant by today, and that bit of irony can be cruel, messy and complicated.

Rhonda asked me the other night what I wanted from Ed now, and I replied; “I want him to be a dad.” The deeper meaning behind those seven words is this:  I want him to feel something about who he is to me; I want it to matter and to be important to him — I want him to view fatherhood like I do … and that just can’t happen; he has no idea how to be a father, much less a dad.  So I have forgiven him this shortcoming, but I’m still left with a man who makes almost no sense to me.

He has apologized to me, to Rhonda, to our children – and we all appreciate that, but I don’t think he has any understanding of the depth of what he did; how can he?  He refuses to engage, to remember.  He likes who he thinks he is now, facing the monster he was would be hell, but for his apology to have the meaning it should have, he needs to do this.  I need for him to do this – on his own, deep soul-searching – a willingness to face who and what he was.  A willingness to feel my pain, and my sister’s.

And it would mean a lot if he’d do some research, find out how to support a family member with Bipolar Disorder – if my child were diagnosed with an illness, any illness, I wouldn’t rest until I’d become an authority on the subject.  This is what dads do.

Reconciliation is a One Step Up and Two Steps Back process;  many, many stops and starts all predicated on the past as it is reflected in today.

It isn’t easy, it’s more complicated than anything I have ever done before.

Lesson Learned

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I once had a therapist who asked me to try to find a good memory for each bad memory I had of my childhood – I didn’t have near enough good memories to make the exercise productive, so she changed gears:

Find the good that came from the bad …

“I learned who and what I did NOT want to be.”

This answer appeased my therapist, but the wisdom was born of injustice:

Aren’t parents supposed to be role models?

All parents make mistakes, but overall shouldn’t a man be able to look back over his childhood and find far more good than bad?

Aside from feeding me, clothing me and giving me a place to live, I don’t see that my parents felt any obligation at all to their children, which is mind boggling, really.  If you bring a child into this world, do you not bear some obligation for their happiness and emotional well being?

Ideally, what we do for our children we do out of love, concern and caring, but obligation is an absolute inherent to the parent child relationship …

In the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up, parents spanked their children.  Few people stopped to consider whether or not they should, they just did it – it was what they knew because their own parents had spanked them.

My own view on spanking is resolute – it is wrong.  It is a terrible way to instruct and guide because it teaches the child nothing of value, and it is cruel.  You’re also playing with fire; no one knows the emotional breaking point of an individual child – when the pain, emotional and physical, is too much; when discipline, however well-intentioned it might have been, crosses a line and damages the child.  Hitting is wrong – you’d be arrested for hitting an adult, what makes it OK to hit a child?  Aren’t you, as a parent, morally obligated NOT to harm your child, not to cause him pain?

Even with my personal view on spanking falling so close to the extreme, I don’t think I’d have held an occasional, mild, non-humiliating spanking against my parents – as I said, when I grew up spanking was routine …

but we aren’t talking about spanking here, we’re talking about beatings – and not occasional beatings either.

We’re also talking about abandonment, humiliation and neglect of my emotional needs.

I had no idea what I wanted in life, or who I was, because my parents did not help me discover these things – did not live up to their obligation.  Did not love, care for or nurture  …

Seriously, Dear Reader, we are talking about egregiously bad parents here. And their cruelty, neglect and emotional torment led to a lifetime struggle with Bipolar Disorder.

My parents did, however, teach me one thing of value — their actions screamed this lesson at me night and day for the whole of my childhood:

Do NOT be like me.

They did not break the cycle of abuse themselves – far from it, but they did, through their own thoughtless and abusive parenting empower me to do it.

The end does not justify the means;

I am not the kind of man who needed to be taught through cruelty how NOT to be cruel to his own children.

Still, there is immense satisfaction in knowing I am not only better than Pat and Ed …

I am a good, kind and compassionate father.

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

Off All Meds

As I mentioned briefly in a post earlier this week, I am off all meds – which initially scared the hell out of me; my mantra had become, ‘Stable on Meds IS Stable.”

 

As I do not want to give anyone false hope of ever being Med Free, or mislead anyone in any way, I would be remiss not to explain;

these are the questions I have received from my readers, as well as their answers and explanation.

 

Do I have Bipolar Disorder?  Yes.

Am I currently sick?  No.

Is it typical for a Bipolar patient to ever know a Med Free life after diagnosis?  No.

Is it possible for a Bipolar patient to ever know a Med Free life after diagnosis?  Maybe, under certain circumstances.

Is it possible that I will not remain asymptomatic?  Yes.  But that is true even on meds.

 

My background is well documented, but here is the recap in brevity:

I was an abused child; physical and emotional abuse that caused my Bipolar Disorder

I estranged myself from my abusive parents in young adulthood and never looked back

My life went well – college, career, marriage, children … until I began having bouts of Depression in 2003 following the suicide of my best friend.  I did not treat this depression.

By 2006 I was cycling between mania and depression but didn’t realize this until

2009 when insomnia – I literally did not sleep for a full week, led me to my doctor who diagnosed Depression.  Not knowing I was, in fact, Bipolar, I took anti-depressants without a mood stabilizer which caused a psychotic breakdown.

I have been hospitalized –  partial inpatient one time, and I have been under the care of a psychiatrist since September of 2009.

I have been sporadically stable since early 2011, and wholly and consistently stable since mid-2012 following my hospitalization.  I had a very brief manic episode in the fall of 2013, but it was not stability threatening because I caught it early and my doctor adjusted my meds accordingly.

 

Spring 2014 – present:

 

Not feeling depressed in more than a year, I did some research and consulted with my psychiatrist about the possibility of dropping the anti- depressant, Wellbutrin, from my meds; she, at the same time, noted I hadn’t been manic for months either and asked if I would like to drop Depakote as well.  We discussed and I researched – my wife researched, we spoke to our kids and got their feelings, and then decided as a team we’d try no Wellbutrin or Depakote, but we’d keep Abilify, my anti-psychotic.  The weaning process took about six to eight weeks …

and I felt better and more emotionally stable, on just Abilify, than I could remember ever having felt in my life.

In early fall, bolstered by my success and happiness sans Depakote and Wellbutrin, and tired of paying the very expensive copay for Abilify, I discussed with my psychiatrist the possibility of dropping it as well.  Here I met concerned resistance, but a pragmatic willingness to work with me in giving it a try …

again there was the weaning process, and again there has been tremendous success.

I have no delusions that this means I no longer have Bipolar Disorder – that is a lifetime diagnosis.

I also fully understand that if I am presented with certain stressors, my brain will react biochemically with mania or depression or both.

What has changed is …

I know why I have Bipolar Disorder now.  I know what it is, what it does to me, and how to effectively treat it.  I recognize the early signs and symptoms and understand a call to my doctor is mandatory.

I have accepted my diagnosis …

I would never again deny I was sick, or delay treatment.

 

Please understand, deciding to try life Med Free isn’t for everyone … for the overwhelming majority of people with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, meds are a non-negotiable must for the rest of their lives.  

Never, never, never attempt this without the advice of a psychiatrist who knows you well and is willing to work with you to achieve a positive result.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Return to the Wound

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I am recognizing how true this is  – “You cannot disown what is yours.  Flung out, there is always the return, the reckoning, the revenge, perhaps the reconciliation. There is always the return.  And the wound will take you there.”     Wherever there is.

When I first learned about the far reaching effects of child abuse – the life long struggle survivors face, the mental illness caused by an abused past, I was enraged. To have lived through it, to have survived it and gone on to happiness despite my horrific childhood had been such a victory for me – such an accomplishment.  And it suddenly felt as though none of that mattered – life was about one more injustice, one more struggle, one more uphill climb.  The past was never really gone, it could come back without warning and destroy me.

I was suicidal then.  What was the point in living if everything was outside my control and could simply be taken away?  My wounded heart, soul and mind were in need of a respite that just wouldn’t come – instead, they returned over and over again to the pain of my childhood.  For years I hadn’t thought about my parents, or my past, and all of a sudden I couldn’t keep the flashbacks from happening — PTSD is cruel, and the effects of PTSD exacerbate Depression.

Depression is my biggest nemesis – that and anxiety.  I don’t think clearly at all when I’m battling them.  I’m irritable, paranoid, unreasonable, delusional and psychotic; my therapists, doctors and family telling me that I could reclaim my life, that I wouldn’t be sick forever, that everything was going to get better went in one ear and out the other.  I was incapable of holding on to hope …

And just about the time I reached the end of my rope, the meds began to work … and my calm and balanced mind allowed therapy to work.

Eventually I understood and accepted that

it always goes back to the wound,

and wherever the wound takes you.

“You cannot disown what is yours.”

But you can [through therapy] learn not to give it any power in your life.

Psychotic Depression or Bipolar Depression?

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“It’s a bit like walking down a long dark corridor, never knowing when the light will come on.”  –Neil Lennon

There’s Depression – which is the type of Depression most people with Depression have.  And then there’s Psychotic Depression, otherwise known by its clinical distinction; Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Features.  The second type of Depression is far less common than the first – My Depression is Major Depressive Disorder; Recurrent with Psychotic Features.

Psychotic Depression is characterized not only by the symptoms of Depression itself, but also by hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there) or delusions (irrational thoughts and fears).  At the time of my diagnosis, I had irrational thoughts and fears  my behavior reflected — yet even in those moments when I was truly crazy, I had an awareness that I was.  I knew what I thought and believed wasn’t right, I knew my behavior was out of control and wrong , but I was powerless to change any of it; I literally had no control over my own mind and knew that I didn’t.  My feelings of victimization (now not by my parents, but by my own mind) and guilt over what I was doing to my family caused intense self-loathing which did nothing but fuel the depression – the cycle was endless and utterly surreal.

I have had two full-on psychotic periods – the first was actually horrific;  the second led to my hospitalization before it became horrific (thankfully) because my wife just couldn’t take anymore.  Going through my life retrospectively with my psychiatrist, we know that I’d actually been having occasional mild psychotic episodes since my teens.  With Recurrent Psychotic Depression, each recurrence tends to be increasingly more severe than the last, making the illness and subsequent need for care more and more obvious – mine should have been diagnosed long before it was.

I will never know for sure how my parents missed all of this — probably a combination of our having no bond or relationship; I certainly did not trust them or share my life or feelings or problems with them, and  their own detachment; they existed within their own problems and screwed-up lives.  We were the classic Dysfunctional Family.

When I left that toxic environment, my life got better – I was happy.  Eventually, I had a successful career and a wife and kids and all the benefits of an upper-middle class existence.  Stability and happiness offered a respite, a kind of very real remission.

Yeah, I was cyclically moody and challenging to live with every once in while – aren’t we all?  My wife suggested I see someone – a therapist, occasionally – but the period of moodiness would pass and life would return to normal very quickly.  I was emotionally stable so I was able to care for her feelings and make right anything I had made wrong during my moodiness, thus closing the cycle; normal adult behavior in an emotionally mature and healthy marriage …

But when you’ve been abused, there are potential triggers everywhere.  And when you closed the door on that abuse as I did, without working through it fully, those triggers fire automatic weapons …

And when all of that is combined with hormones that are suddenly imbalanced due to the onset of middle age and Metabolic Syndrome – a common middle age ailment in Abuse Survivors, the automatic weapons morph into time bombs …

All of a sudden:

the remission was over.

The respite had ended.

My life did not work.

I was psychotic.

It is my understanding that when a patient who has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder; Recurrent with Psychotic Features subsequently receives a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, the first diagnosis is dropped.  Bipolar Depression is the new designation, but this hybrid diagnosis typically occurs during late adolescence, not in middle age.  Maybe I should inquire about an updated diagnosis …

In the end though, it’s just a label – and since I don’t let my illnesses dictate my life,  I don’t really think it matters what anyone calls it.

Just as long as it responds to treatment, I’m good.

Bipolar Diagnosis

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 My psychiatrist said, “You’re Bipolar.”  And I said, “Now tell me something I don’t already know.”

It took a long time to be accurately diagnosed, and by then I was tired and frustrated by the process; tired of thinking it was one thing only to be told it was something else, too.  I was never inaccurately diagnosed with anything, but they kept adding to it; Major Depression was first, then came Anxiety Disorder, which was followed by Dysthymia and PTSD … at that point, it looked like we’d reached the end of my illnesses.   It was February of 2012.

But we hadn’t we reached the end;  Bipolar was the final piece of the puzzle – and the definitive diagnosis came in October of 2013, although it was not the first time it was suggested …

The first time a psychiatrist suggested that I was Bipolar was in June of 2010, and I rejected it completely.  I did not want to own this diagnosis, not in any way, and the Psychiatrist who used the dreaded ‘B’ word did so during our initial session.  She was not the first psychiatrist I had seen – and her predecessor had rejected Bipolar Disorder over and over again – to top it off, her abrupt approach did not inspire confidence, so her opinion was easily rejected by me — even though I was a raging lunatic at the time.

My wife was still patient with me in those days, she still hadn’t reached the end of her rope, and she believed I needed to be allowed to control my life and my circumstances to the extent that I was able.  Although she agreed with the diagnosis, she wasn’t sold on the doctor herself either – so  she didn’t press the point then; if I wasn’t ready to accept, she’d wait.

During inpatient treatment, we broached the subject of Bipolar Disorder more than once, but they were reluctant to make that diagnosis — despite the fact that  I had been manic, I had even been manic on anti-depressants, and my moods were wildly unpredictable …

They kept going back to my marriage, which had been rock solid for more than two and a half decades at that point.  There was no pattern of instability.  And I didn’t engage in reckless behavior …

Only I did.  The truth is, I did:

Because of  our relationship dynamic, and our complete acceptance of the other’s sexuality, neither my wife nor I recognized my hyper-sexuality as reckless behavior; she knew I was exhibiting symptoms of hyper-sexuality –  I refused to even see it that way at the time – but because it hadn’t caused problems in our relationship, my therapist and psychiatrist discounted it as symptomatic of Bipolar Hyper-Sexuality …

As for lacking a pattern of instability:  there was no pattern of instability because my wife had  found ways of coping with my sometimes ridiculous behavior and ever-changing moods …

Their reluctance to diagnose was based solely on a marital dynamic they saw as antithetical to the concept of long-lasting, loving marriage …  and my wife does not exemplify the archetype of a Bipolar spouse.

Fast forward to September of 2013.  I wasn’t unstable, but I was definitely ‘off.’  Slightly irritable and a bit uncooperative in interaction, I made an appointment with my psychiatrist – during which time I told him my wife still suspected Bipolar Disorder.  He increased the Abilify and told me to have her write him a letter detailing why she thought I was Bipolar.

She never had to write the letter.  Ten days later, while she and my children were on a trip, I did something that forever put to rest the idea that I am not Bipolar …

But it shouldn’t have had to come to that.  I appreciate a psychiatrist who doesn’t jump to conclusions, but your life shouldn’t have to fall apart over and over and over again before they understand your situation as atypical – yet still indicative.

A psychiatrist can’t accurately assess my state of mental health based on my wife’s devotion to her family …

Or on a relationship dynamic he can’t understand.

Confronting an Abuser and Denial

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If you’ve spent any time in therapy due to residual feelings from childhood abuse, you know all about the desire and need to confront your abuser(s).   Some days this need is so strong it borders on compulsion …

I have yet to meet a therapist or psychiatrist who recommends confrontation.  All of mine have said Abusers Deny, it is simply part of who they are.  If they admit at all, they minimize – or worse, they blame you for being a bad kid so they had to beat you.  A true abuser will [almost] never admit to anything – and this denial, if you confront, actually allows the abuse to continue; it is emotional abuse because you are left devastated – your world rocked by denial you know to be false.  

I’ve thought a lot about this – and Silence Shattered has certainly proven the Abusers Deny theory to be true in my case, at least with Pat, and Ed’s prior admission included blaming his parents – which is tangential to the entire point of admission being part of assumption of responsibility.

So, what are we looking for when we confront?

An apology?  Maybe, but could anything they say ever be enough?  Could an apology erase years of living in fear and pain?  Could it take away Depression or Bipolar Disorder?  Would an admission of guilt leave you emotionally healed?   No.

When we confront, we are after an emotional response from our Abuser.  We want to see guilt, pain, remorse – something.  We want to know they understand what they did and what it caused …

but they will never understand – they are fundamentally incapable of understanding.

They have no awareness of what they did, and if they do – they [often] do not see it as having been wrong or damaging.

They do not think as we do.

Personally, I am far better off without my parents in  my life.  I do not want a reunion or reconciliation, and wouldn’t even if they did. Further,  I would disbelieve the sincerity of any apology or emotional response they offered; I know who they are and what they are all about  — I know the face they hide from others.

But, as my therapist pointed out, integrity and accepting responsibility for what I have done – and making it right whatever that takes – is a foundational principle of my life; I have high standards for personal accountability and this impacts everything I do, feel, think, say — am …

I know they will never understand – hell I know they CAN’T understand, they are psychologically incapable of understanding, so for them to be able to assume any kind of responsibility is impossible.

But given who I am, I can only know and accept this truth …

I will never be able to feel it.