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 New World and Me Too

Image result for quotes a change is coming

 

It’s been a while since I updated here, but the recent trend in outing men with a past that includes sexual assault, sexually inappropriate behavior, sexual abuse and misconduct is relevant given my having exposed Ed here …

Society is changing, redefining acceptable and unacceptable at a furious pace; gone forever is the naive notion that what happened in a man’s past has no bearing on today.  A man’s past has always mattered; people do not change – finally recognizing this as a collective can have only positive impact on society.

The solution, at least for now – in the early days of this revolution, remains exposure …

When I was about twenty years old, Ed won a cruise for selling a specific number of insurance policies, and he took me with him on this vacation.  The entire ship was filled with insurance agents who had sold the requisite number of policies, as well as their guests.

There was a woman – this is better than thirty five years ago, so I do not recall her name, but she was the guest of a colleague of Ed’s.  During the cruise, she became deeply offended by Ed’s unwanted touching – he would put his arm around her in group photos, try to hug and kiss her when she came to dinner, or when he saw her on excursions.

I told him to stop, that he was making her extremely uncomfortable, but he wouldn’t listen to me, and he didn’t stop.  She finally spoke up, after suffering through several encounters with Ed, and he thought she was, “extremely rude.” She did nothing but set him straight.

My wife’s own “Me Too” moment was given to her by Ed; just like the woman on the cruise, Ed was always touching and trying to kiss her …

and when I told him to stop, that his unwanted affection was making her uncomfortable, he acted as though she had the problem; he was, after all, only being friendly and polite.

Men like this do not alter their behavior, because they do not believe they are the problem.

Decent people have the right to know when they are exposed to those with a history of sexual misconduct. It’s that simple …

so tell your story, and hold them accountable.

A man’s past is an accurate prediction of that same man’s future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reconciliation: A Caution Based on What I’ve Learned

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You begin to heal when you say, “No more.”  It took me a long time to recognize that – to feel the efficacy within “No More.”  It happened gradually  — when I realized the balance of power had naturally shifted because I had grown up. Eventually, I shut the door and never went back.

For me, no contact was the answer, and I maintain I had no choice, but many abuse survivors don’t walk away – for whatever reason, they hold on to dysfunction, often enduring a lifetime of abuse.

The attempt at reconciliation with Ed was a mistake on my part – people do not change.  I still believe people can change, but it takes a level of focus and commitment few possess.  It’s hard enough to make subtle changes – to lose weight, or resolve to save more money; changing the whole of who we are is damn near impossible.  And when dealing with an abuser, the need is a change in everything they are.

So I’ll amend that; I believe we can change aspects of who we are, but we cannot change our essence or our core.  A man who can beat his child – brutally and without mercy, will always be that man …

Real change begins with deep personal reflection, devoid of any and all denial, and progresses to the assumption of full responsibility for what you did and for what it caused. Finally, it entails making amends – not just with yourself, but with everyone you have hurt.  This last part can take the remainder of an abuser’s lifetime …

and those imbued with the capacity to abuse aren’t the kind who invest themselves in taking care of the wounds of others – they remain readily able to inflict pain, but not to soothe it.

Reconciliation with your abuser is a risky proposition, and it almost always fails.  In the trial, we are reminded of the pain – it can be a living hell.

I went to dinner with my father, sat beside him at a ballgame or theatrical production; spoke of trivial things, and not so trivial things, but it never felt right – or OK.  I was always his child in those moments – something I did not want to be, something I never wanted to be, something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy; he was, and ever will be, the father who beat and tortured me, the man I so feared and despised.

I learned a great deal in our correspondence, the written word so revealing of who we are inside.  He was candid, very matter-of-fact in his narcissism and grandiose belief in who he is today – so delusional in his own certainty in who he is:

Excerpt – 10/25/2014

“I have been thinking that one of my favorite Plays , and recent movie, Les Mis, has much meaning to my life with Janet. (Janet, my sister with developmental delays) I’m not good at character names, but I ‘m sure you and Rachael (my daughter) 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.”

Very determined to make me believe he was different, he played upon my compassion and empathy – he tried desperately to manipulate my feelings:

October 12, 2014

“Tim,

I came back early from my retreat at the Camaldise Monastery at Big Sur, I usually go off for a retreat at least once a year and alternate between Big Sur and the Monastery of the Redwoods, west of Garberville.

I usually go to get away for a few days where I can just be alone – fitting for the Introvert I am. The first day is mostly meditating and falling asleep as I meditate and simply catching up on needed rest. So why is this important?

During one of these sleeping meditations I woke up and realized I was crying. At 1st, I thought I was happy because of the wonderful “family” e-mail I had received before I left for the monastery. It took only a few seconds to realize that was not it at all, I was extremely sad. It was because into the middle of the ideal family e-mail spanning 20-30 years, there was a period of horrific pain, anger and mental distress for which I was responsible, and the pain hurt

.

I got up, closed the door to my room and sat with that pain, crying some more, then sat there and thought how I was going to say this to you. I came home a day early, thinking the long drive would help me decide how to tell you and arrived late last night. I was too emotionally drained and tired to put this down in words last night so I went to bed and am writing it now. This is how it came out.”

 

When considering reconciliation with an abusive parent, there is a ten-point check list to determine your own readiness, but perhaps the single most important consideration is this:

  • Have we both experienced significant emotional growth and change since we estranged? Or, are we the same as we were at the time of our estrangement?

 

I will say that it is crucial that you have grown and healed, but it is far more important that your parent has grown – and this growth MUST include the ability to accept without comprise all of what they did, all of what it caused – and they must be willing to make it right, whatever that entails FOR YOU! And all of this must be sustained throughout the course of any relationship that follows.  

Be careful if it seems too easy – never have the words “if it seems too good to be true it probably is,” been more true.

Be alert and ready to recognize false remorse, manipulation and gaslighting.

And don’t feel like you have to forgive until you are ready – and if that time never comes, understand that that is OK.

Just as it took time and contemplation to understand exactly how damaging my abusive childhood was, it will take time to fully process the impact of my failed attempt at reconciliation with my father:

It’s painful to realize your parent is a monster …

but it’s even more devastating to recognize that in the years of estrangement, all they have done is sharpen their claws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Shattering the Silence

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Silence is a big part of the problem – silence in families, silence among friends, silence in society.  Silence allows abuse to continue generation after generation. Silence allows Abusers to get away with their crimes.  Silence keeps victims locked inside their own internal prison.  Silence is dangerous – and for me personally, silence is now equal to moral bankruptcy.

Telling the story isn’t easy, especially true because it involves facing the stigma of mental illness, but it’s easier than feeling powerless the way I did every minute of every day of my childhood.  I was silent for a long time, and when I was silent I was angry because I still felt victimized … and this anger eventually became the source of the psychotic rage that deeply hurt my family.  No child should ever see their father as mine have seen me, and no wife should have to live through what mine has.

Silence led to self-destructive thoughts and behaviors — it even led, briefly, to suicidal-ideation.

Silence is inherent to the condition of the Abused Child – we know better than to tell anyone anything.  Even today the thought of the beating Ed would have given me for telling someone what he and Pat did to us fills me with profound anxiety and paralyzing fear.  Beatings were not only painful physically and emotionally, they were humiliating … Silence was the only option.

And that fear of Ed – it is unreal how alive that phantom feeling can be, even now.  It isn’t logical, and I know that, but it lingered and tied me to silence for a long, long time.

The shame and humiliation played their part, too.  Silence as an adult is rooted [in part] in protection of identity and ego; I didn’t want people to know my mother abandoned me, or that she beat me or threw water in my face – those things are degrading and demeaning …

And I didn’t understand how talking about it could help.  It was bad enough to have lived through it once, I didn’t want to relive it through discussion or analysis …

What I’ve learned:

Silence protects … the Abuser

Silence further damages the Survivor

If I’m courageous in breaking the Silence, I am courageous because I have to be.  Silence was eating away at me, devouring my soul and my humanity bit by bit. I was apathetic and withdrawn – trying to avoid remembering my childhood consumed all my emotional resources.  Flashbacks leaked through and into my loving family relationships, causing me to act in shameful ways.  I became someone I didn’t recognize and didn’t care to know.  Silence was all there was to being me for a time …

And breaking that Silence set me free to heal and recover and share; there is catharsis in telling your story.

Borderline Personality Disorder – Borderline Tendencies

I have an interest in understanding Borderline Personality Disorder.  My therapist believes my mother may have the disorder – this based on the manifestations of my own illness; I have Borderline Tendencies when triggered – I also believe BPD, or Borderline Tendencies may be an underlying factor in my sister’s inability to maintain a healthy emotional perspective in certain situations.

My therapist believed in John Briere, Ph.D.’s philosophy when considering Borderline Personality Disorder juxtaposed to PTSD in the abuse survivor: “If one considers post-traumatic stress to consist, in part, with intrusive thoughts, feelings and memories that are triggered by some sort of reminiscent stimulus, often followed by attempts by the affected person to avoid such triggers and their emotional effects, then a close cousin of PTSD might be Borderline Personality Disorder.” (entire reference and article: Treating Adult Survivors of Severe Abuse and Neglect:  Further Development of an Integral Model: http://www.johnbriere.com/STM.pdf ) See section entitled Borderline Personality Disorder Reconsidered.  

My PTSD includes a number of Borderline traits … not enough to meet diagnostic criteria for BPD, but enough to see the possible relationship between PTSD and Borderline tendencies clearly.  I am triggered by implicit feelings and memories of early trauma, especially if I perceive abandonment.   And my reactions include the reliving of unprocessed childhood events – they are relationship centric and embedded in an attachment disturbance, not the sensory stimulus often associated with PTSD.

This definition for BPD: “A pattern of intensely hyper-emotional responses, especially to situations that trigger abandonment fears.  It’s a pattern of demanding, critical and chaotic relationships instead of cooperative communicating.  It’s a pattern also of misinterpreting situations as hurtful that are in fact benign, with the misinterpretations occurring either while the situation is happening, or in retelling the events later.  It also may be a pattern of attractive and highly competent-appearing social functioning at times alternating with periods of intense and inappropriate angernarcissism, and explicitly hurtful behavior (to themselves or to others).” Is the one with which I am most acquainted, it is the one my therapist used in reference, but …

I honestly know less about BPD than I do any other condition related to child abuse survivors.  It seems so challenging to fully comprehend, and  having tendencies is not the same as having the disorder itself – still, having tendencies along with my [possible] family connection is enough to compel me to understand.

 

 

 

 

The Role of Therapy

Eighty percent of all people referred to Mental Health Services have histories of child abuse, eighty percent; thankfully therapies have evolved to successfully treat survivors:

Briefly, meds – they are often a first line defense necessary to stabilize and/or treat underlying illness caused by abuse.

I take Depakote, Wellbutrin, Ativan and Abilfy to provide symptom control for Bipolor Disorder, Depression, Anxiety and Psychosis/mood swings, but these illnesses aren’t the only residual effects of an abusive past …

I also have  had severe trust issues, abandonment issues, dissociate symptoms – symptoms only therapy can address:

I spent my childhood in a state of hyper-vigilance, always trying to assess the mood of my parents, always in expectation of the next beating or emotional outburst.   This hyper-vigilance is common among abused children;  it increases physical safety – if you can anticipate you might be able to avoid, and it  consumes all your cognitive energy –  a positive because thinking introspectively [if you are an abused child] is intensely painful emotionally.

By contrast, children in safe environments do not spend their time in a state of hyper-awareness, instead they learn introspection and how to process their individual identity.

When I first entered therapy I had little self-awareness, little ability to predict my own reactions in emotional situations, and very little insight into the effects of the abuse I knew I had suffered.  I never really considered what I wanted or needed – not only had it never mattered in my parents’ house, but I didn’t know enough about myself to know what those things might be.

The goal of therapy was to facilitate self-exploration and self-reference – as opposed to my usual process of defining myself primarily in terms of others’ expectations or potential reactions.  Abuse-focused therapy allowed me to gain a greater sense of personal identity.  Key to this therapy is Socratic Questioning – I was guided through the process by a series of open-ended questions designed to gently get me thinking about early experiences and perceptions, the options that were and were not available to me at the time of the abuse, my feelings and reactions surrounding events in which I was victimized, and what conclusions I formed about the abuse through my answers to the questions … equally important, I was encouraged to examine my feelings about current things, abuse related and otherwise.  Because the external directedness needed to survive abuse works against self-understanding and identity, I had to be taught to explore how I felt about myself and others through therapeutic support and manifest acceptance.

Therapy disarmed my triggers, something no drug in the world could do.  I see things as they are now, not through the distorted lens of a hurt and fearful child.  I won’t tell you that I no longer clinch at the thought of being abandoned, I do – but I’m able to rationalize now, able to tell myself that isn’t going to happen – separations from my family are temporary and  nothing to worry about.

I’m no longer made angry and frustrated by things outside my control because I no longer assume the worst will happen if I’m not orchestrating.  I accept what happens and move forward from there – without the stress, rage or drama of a traumatized mind.

I know myself now.  I trust myself now.  The faulty thinking I learned as a child – through exposure to my parents’ faulty thinking and my own hyper-vigilance is gone, replaced by healthy coping skills and a self-reflective, introspective thought process.

Therapy helped me moved from Survival, to Healing and Recovery.

 

 

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.

What is Happening to Me?

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I had no clue what was happening to me – it’s crystal clear in hindsight, but at the time I was lost.

In retrospect, I know I had been depressed for a long time. I had Major Depression I should have been treating, but not knowing or understanding anything about Depression, I chalked it up to aging and mid-life crisis:

Aches and pains; aging

Anxiety; mid-life crisis

Night sweats:  aging and hormones

Lack of stamina: aging

Blurry vision:  aging

Short-term memory impairment:  aging

Inability to concentrate:  aging

Fatigue: aging

Apathy: tired – part of aging

Irritability – part of aging and being tired all the time

On and on this went for better than two years – my wife saying, “You need to see a doctor.”  Me saying, “What for?  I’m getting older, this is all normal.”

And then came the late summer of 2009:

First, I could no longer maintain emotional stability.   Exhausted from battling severe depression for so long, I no longer had  the emotional resources to maintain proper perspective or complete self-control; my moods and feelings fluctuated, sometimes from minute to minute. I was irritable and prone to angry outbursts that didn’t make sense to anyone other than me.  And then, I could not sleep;  Not.  At.  All.  I saw a doctor for the first time after almost a week of sleeplessness.  He took one look at me and said, “Depression.”

I took  meds for Depression and my life became a nightmare.  Rage filled out of control behavior, which of course we now know to be the result of Bipolar Me taking anti-depressants (a definite No, No for those of you who may not know this – as part of a ‘cocktail’ with a mood stabilizer to balance things out, anti-depressants may be OK – alone, probably not) I had no control over my thoughts, feelings or actions — and no idea what was happening to me.  My character changed completely.

I had moments of psychosis that were like  flashbacks to my childhood, but not exactly;  In psychotic moments, I behaved as my parents had; I became distant and cold, emotionally abusive and cruel. I ranted, raved and raged. I said and did things I would never, ever say or do.  In those moments, I was gone.  My subconscious was in control and all it knew was the violent, cruel abusive behavior I had been subjected to as a child.  It was surreal and frightening …

Today, I thank a God I do not believe in for mercifully disallowing me to remember much of what I said and did during this time – and for giving my wife and children the capacity to understand, and forgive.

Then, I was lost completely because I  had no idea what WAS happening COULD  happen, to anyone.

It was called “A Complete Psychotic Breakdown.”

And it happened because I lived with the constant emotional strain of untreated Depression and Bipolar Disorder for years:

Breakdowns are not the result of weakness – on the contrary; breakdowns are the result of having been too strong for too long.