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 Last Word

 

I have been stable for a long time now – years really.  Oh, I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and cycles in which stress and fatigue caused my Bipolar symptoms to recur, but I’ve caught it early and those symptoms were, for the most part, very mild.  No psychosis, no deep depression, no impulsive behavior.  If you just met me, and didn’t know I have Bipolar Disorder, nothing about your interaction with me would tip you off.

I am not a spontaneous person by nature, and I over think everything; logical almost to a fault, my emotions seldom get the better of me.  I almost never react in the moment.

But when Ed-the-Narcissist sent me the following note – prompting the ensuing exchange – on April 3rd, during the height of my sister’s most recent crisis, something inside me snapped:

Hi Tim,

 

I said I would go and see Elizabeth after Easter, but for got [sic] I had a jury summons for this week and have been selected to be on a jury expected to last up to 6 weeks.

 

I will get over to see her when I can, and wanted you to know my current limitations.

My reply:

Ed,

 

There was absolutely no expectation on my part that you would reach out to Elizabeth in any that matters; you are a coward, you have always been a coward.  You have not changed.  

 

Jury duty?  In what universe are you a representative of another’s peers? Who the hell are you to sit in judgement of anyone else’s behaviour or choices?  Are juries now comprised of criminals?  

 

My God, Ed … for once, just once, really look at yourself.  

 

His defense:

 

Tim

 

I have no answer for this, The court system has privy to criminal records, so between them and the DMV  jurors are reveiwed [sic] and selected.

And I am still in the jury selection process.

 

The last word:

 

Once again, you miss the point entirely.  I was not speaking of legality, I was speaking of morality – very different things. You are able to exist as you do in society today ONLY because of when you were convicted, and expungement.  Nothing will ever alter the fact that you are a rapist and child abuser, Ed.  Nothing.

 

Your daughter is ill, she will likely die, because of what you did to her.  The fact that you feel no obligation to face that within yourself speaks volumes about your character … today.  Your refusal to reach out to her in any way that matters makes you a coward – and far worse.  

 

No decent human being would condone your behaviour, then … or now. 

 

I haven’t heard from him since …

 

His immoral and egocentric choices didn’t trigger me – I didn’t get sick; I didn’t become depressed or manic – just irrevocably resigned to his complete lack of integrity, honor and character.  He no longer has the power to cause me even  a moment’s instability, and that’s a damn good thing for me to know.

I didn’t say anything to him that isn’t true, but I’d like to have been able to say it devoid of anger and frustration; you can’t win a battle, much less a war, with a narcissist – and I understand that now.   Anger and frustration have passed; lesson learned.

He will die without ever understanding …

and that no longer bothers me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Simple Conclusions

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I have spent most of my adult life trying to understand the terrible things terrible people do; glad to know that means I’m not one of them.

But I don’t think they understand either; in my experience, terrible people seldom realize they are, indeed, terrible.

They are disingenuous and phony; they fake their feelings – especially emotions such as love, regret, compassion and remorse.  They know they are different from others, but they don’t recognize or acknowledge the depth of their own darkness.

And that leaves the rest of us scratching out heads in wonder at the malevolent things they do and say.

Worst of all is Evil that masquerades as Benevolence.

Even in my childhood home, where abuse was the norm, Pat and Ed were occasionally warm.  I can remember bedtime stories, and sitting close to him on the couch watching TV — and she, though never nurturing, tried to soften the pain of a skinned knee with a bandaid and a pat on the head – the itch and discomfort of Chicken Pox with a baking soda bath …

But these acts of human kindness were confusing to me — so contradictory were they to the fear, pain and humiliation I’d come to anticipate and expect, that I didn’t understand them, didn’t know how to understand them.  How is my parents could be kind in certain moments, and cruel and dis-compassionate in so many others – most others?

It makes no sense to me still, and as a child it was its own form of abuse – emotional and gut-wrenching.

Time and time again they pulled the rug out from under me, time and time again they taught me not to trust them, not to believe them – kindness would become pain again soon enough.

I don’t have to wonder how it is I got sick, the miracle would have been if I hadn’t.

From what I understand, child abuse is multi-generational in my family, as it is in most where it exists.  It breaks the child, who later breaks his own child, and so it goes on and on and on.

It is important to talk about.  It is important to remember, especially how you felt if it happened to you …

It is in knowing how we felt that we are able to stop the cycle – to love and nurture our own children so they will be whole and able to do the same for their children someday.

Ed once said he couldn’t recall ever having beaten me with a wire coat hanger – he remembered how much those hurt when he’d been beaten with them as a child and had told himself he’d never use a wire coat hanger to beat his own child.

He used belts and sticks, what is the difference?

It was OK for his parents to beat him, just not with a wire coat hanger?

NO!  It wasn’t OK for them to hit him EVER, with anything!

And it wasn’t OK for him to hit me EVER, with anything!

Guess I was the first member of my family to think this abuse thing through to its logical conclusion, the only correct conclusion.

My mother, too, was subject to humiliating, painful and abusive ‘spankings.’ She was also shunned by her parents for getting pregnant out of wedlock at seventeen, which leads me to believe she may have incurred other forms of emotional abuse in her childhood.  She, my sister and maternal grandmother are, and always have been, so much alike …

and still I cannot fathom doing the things my parents have done – to anyone, much less my own children.

Terrible people perpetuate the cycle.

It is, to my mind, that simple.

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.

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.

Dear Aunt Laura – An Abusive Home

Dear Laura,

Now that I have worked through your comment emotionally, I want to respond as objectively as possible.  Please keep in mind that complete objectivity isn’t possible for me – not when I need to delve into my childhood to explain, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

I grew up in an abusive home.  Truth be told, I grew up with parents who probably suffered from their own mental illnesses; no healthy person does the things they did to their own child.

Your recollection,  “when you an your sister came to our house , I saw not a boy who was beaten ( you were about 11) but a happy handsome young man.”  is not false, but it is naive to think it representative of a larger picture – or of our family life as a whole.

There are three iron-clad rules in an abusive home: Don’t talk.  Don’t trust.  Don’t feel.  If I had trusted you, and told you the truth – that my parents beat me, that they were obsessed with how we appeared to the world outside our home – that we knew better than to tell – that they abandoned us, neglected my younger sister’s medical/psychiatric needs – and you didn’t believe me, didn’t take me far away – Ed would have beaten me within an inch of my life, and Pat would have let him.  No, Pat would have expected him to.  There is no exaggeration in my words …

What you saw is what Pat and Ed wanted you to see.  The truth was this:  Pat and Ed drank –  to excess, they were functional alcoholics. Ed was cruel and not involved in our lives except when we needed ‘discipline.’  He didn’t care what we felt, thought, wanted or needed – he told us this – he didn’t care.

Pat sat on the couch at night, drinking cheap wine through a straw – this she told us she had to do to face going to bed with Ed.  She was miserable, and everyone knew it, but instead of trying to solve her problems, she took them out on her children.  She beat us.  She abandoned us.  She threatened us with one of Ed’s beatings if we were too needy or difficult.  She was cold and unfeeling.  Utterly detached emotionally.

This was my day-to-day life, Laura.  Every. Single. Day.  My childhood was a living, breathing nightmare.  An abusive home, even in those moments of relative calm, is an insidious place – dark and terrifying.  In fact, the calm was worse than the storm in some ways because I knew from a very young age that the calm couldn’t last, so I just hunkered down and waited for the beating I knew was coming.  The environment is toxic …

It made me a victim, not only within those walls, but at school.  I was bullied because psychologically being a victim was comfortable for me; at home I was Ed and Pat’s victim – they were the bullies, at school other children were.  And Ed had a Golden Rule – I was not allowed to fight back; I had to stand there, literally, and take whatever abuse the school bullies were giving out.  “Turn The Other Cheek.”  If I fought back, Ed beat me violently.  He wanted me to be a victim – it made me easier to manipulate and control.

I was seldom, if ever, happy.  But I knew how to make everyone believe I was.  Fear is a powerful  motivator, and I was terrified of what would happen to me if I was the cause of anyone outside our house discovering what went on in our family.

You saw us so infrequently, Laura … there is no way you could have gotten a sense of what our lives were all about.

I am sorry your son doesn’t remember the good that you did.  I don’t know why that is in your case, but I do know why it is in mine:

I was too busy trying to survive the bad – the every single day bad – to make mental note of any good.  And now, looking back, I can recall so little good that it feels like there was never anything but horror and pain.  And fear – all encompassing ever-present fear.

I’ve been through hell because of what Ed and Pat did to me.  Hell.  I have medical evidence that proves conclusively that I have Bipolar Disorder, Major Clinical Depression, PTSD and Dysthymia — ALL BECAUSE OF CHILDHOOD ABUSE.  I’ve had brain scans and hormone level tests; I have Metabolic Disorder –  a common comorbid ailment of mental illness caused by abuse.  My ACE score is a solid 8, and should be 9 – I still haven’t claimed sexual abuse although I know beatings like those I received are, in fact, sexual abuse.  I’m a textbook case of someone who was abused as a child and ended up with mental illness.

Please understand, when I say beating – I mean violent, savage beating; no mercy.  When I tell you that Ed was cruel – I mean devoid of compassion, empathy and the ability to feel the pain of others, including his own child.  When I tell you that Pat abandoned us – I mean it literally; she did this purposely – she made us believe she was never coming back.  When I tell you that the environment of our home was toxic, I mean it; it has made me sick.  There can be no ambiguity here – I was horrifically and purposely abused as a child, by Ed and Pat.

I know how difficult all of this must be for you to hear, believe me I do.  And my goal to raise awareness of the connection between child abuse and mental illness – something I must do for my own healing, was bound to intersect with your love for Ed.  Love Ed, Laura; he’s your brother – you’ve known him all of your life.  If he is a good brother, I am happy for you.  I wish he had been a good father, but the truth is – he wasn’t.

Although I know you meant well, and your idea of who Ed is is very different from who I know him to be, it was hurtful to read words that indicated my memories may be false.  I lived it every second of every minute of every hour of every day year in and year out, and when people imply that it didn’t happen, it is emotionally devastating.  And, quite frankly, that kind of thinking is what has allowed abuse to flourish and thrive generation after generation.  Ed claims the reason he beat me was that he was severely beaten by his parents [your parents] as child – if that is true, it is time to shine a light on the atrocity.  It is time to heal.  It is time to commit to ending the cycle, forever.  If it isn’t true, what does that say about Ed’s character?

 

With love and respect,

Tim

 

 

 

A Long Way to Go

We, as a society, have come a long way in our battle against child abuse since I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s …

If a mother abandoned her five or six year old son in a grocery store parking lot today, she would be properly arrested.

If a father shoved his five or six year old son to the ground  in anger and impatience today, a passerby would video tape it, it would go viral, and he would rightfully be arrested.

If a 7th grader tried to commit suicide at school today, CPS would get involved, investigate the home, find the parents to be physically, emotionally and sexually abusive functional alcoholics, and remove all children to a safe environment making sure the 7th grader who tried to kill herself got the mental health care she needed while there was still a chance that she could be saved. The parents would be arrested, thank God.

If a twelve year old boy showed up for school today, barely able to walk with deep bruising on his butt and legs from a savage beating with a tree branch, the gym teacher – teachers being mandated reporters – would make a report and CPS would remove all children from the home and then have the parents arrested without further ado.

We’ve come a long way toward increasing awareness and punishing abusers, but that only solves part of the problem; until we stop the abuse from happening, not just intervene once it has, the damage will have been done …

Child abuse often leads to a life long battle with mental illness, preventable mental illness …

And as much solace as I take in knowing that people like Pat and Ed are being punished for their crimes today,

I would much rather find true peace in knowing no child would ever again know the horror of abuse …

or the aftermath of mental illness.

We can do better.

We have to do better.

 

 

 

Therapy

My journey to wellness has involved five therapists and four psychiatrists – I’ve had mediocre care, good care, very bad care and exceptional care.  And I’ve learned a lot …

It is all about finding the right therapist and psychiatrist for you.  Good care isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition; bad care for me might be good care for you, and vice versa.

I research voraciously – I have to know why.  I’m not a passive patient – I take an active role in my care and I expect my health care team to respect and encourage this.  I expect them to listen to my well considered opinion and discuss treatment options with me — I do not want my care and treatment dictated to me, especially when it comes to meds.  No one knows my body or my mind better than I do.

I currently have exceptional care from my psychiatrist, and have taken a break from therapy.

At a certain point, I realized I’d gotten all I could from talking to a therapist – at least for the time being.  I know this could change as feelings are uncovered – healing from PTSD caused by child abuse is a life long endeavor, and managing depression and bipolar disorder require constant vigilance, but for now I take my meds, adjusting as necessary, and practice the coping skills I’ve learned along the way … my life is peaceful and I am happy, no talk therapy required today.

Early on, I had a therapist who was bad for me; she suggested that my view of my maternal grandparents could not be accurate given my mother’s behavior.  I kind of dismissed this – the idea that my grandparents had been in any way abusive was hard for me to believe; as a child, their house was the only place I felt safe.

But I recently learned through speaking to my maternal aunt that she had been abused by her parents as a child.  It certainly wasn’t comparable to the abuse I suffered, but it was definitely over-zealous physical discipline on the part of my grandfather, and emotional abuse on the part of my grandmother.  I don’t know if Pat was subject to the same, and it doesn’t excuse her treatment of me if she was, but it does make my therapist right; my grandparents were not exactly who I thought them to be.

The one exceptional therapist I have had, I had during my hospital stay. He was insightful, caring, encouraging and genuinely interested in my recovery.  He respected my approach and my process and he tailored our sessions around my need to understand why I was sick; he connected all the dots …

and then developed a treatment plan specific to me.  It worked – and I don’t think anything else could have.  Once I understood I became a willing participant in my recovery – wellness no longer felt impossible; I knew it was actually attainable.

Therapy can be a grueling experience, and it has to progress at the proper pace; my early therapist may have been right about my grandparents, but I was unstable and fragile at the time she suggested this – I couldn’t process it and, in fact, considering it then did far more harm than good.

So, find the right therapist.  Don’t give up until you do.  It isn’t easy, there is a shortage of them – and finding an exceptional therapist can be damn near impossible …

But somewhere, there is a therapist who is just right for you – and when you find him or her, take an active role in your treatment – I honestly believe this is the only path to wellness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Now?

Dear Reader,

First of all:

I write as time permits – sometimes several posts in a day, and then I use the calendar on the Publishing tool to post for me at a preset time. I don’t pay much attention to what gets posted when – and I don’t actually write every day.  I work.  I spend time with my family.  I read, make beer, practice martial arts, cook and travel. I watch Game of Thrones and House of Cards. I journal for my emotional well being, but I’m not a prolific writer – although I’ve been made aware that it appears I am.  Alas, I’m not – all hail a calendar that will post for me.

Another thing that has been brought to my attention: my writing has taken on an angry tone.  I suppose it has.

Being comfortable with my own anger is something I’m working on, and it really isn’t easy.  Anger was a big part of my depression, and my family got hurt because of it, so I’ve become Anger Aware.  I don’t get angry anymore, and I haven’t in over two years.

But I’m learning that I have a right to be angry with Ed and Pat

And I’m at a point in my own journey where I can embrace this anger in total wellness … so I am in complete control.

I would like to be angry with my parents directly, but that would only give them a platform for further abuse – they would deny all wrong doing.

So, I’m angry here.

Outraged here.

Furious here.

Why now?

It’s safe now.  I control it, it does not control me.

I’ve finally come to a place where I can unravel and determine how I feel about things without the lingering cloud of PTSD to color my thoughts and conclusions.

I see it all for what it truly was …

And I know exactly where it all led.

Why now?

I’m well.