Tragic Endings – When an Abuse Survivor Refuses to Heal

The dichotomy feels strange:

to be who I am —  to know I have mental illnesses and fully understand why I have them

and still recognize completely that my sister, despite our shared history of abuse, is responsible for what has happened in/to her life.

There can be no absolution when you refuse to get well.  

I live a life of total wellness today – getting to this point was difficult, arduous, exhausting and painful, but the alternative – losing my family – was unthinkable.

My sister has chosen to lose her family, and I will never understand that …

in part because of where I know she has been – I know what her childhood was like.  She should, today, value her own family above all.

I told her two years ago if she didn’t get help, she was going to lose everything;

she was going to wake up one morning and realize it has been years since she has seen her daughter – her only child,

because there is a limit to the amount of emotional abuse that child would be able to take, no matter how much she loved her mother.

I explained that her husband, who loves my sister to this day, wouldn’t be able to live with her toxicity forever, either – nor should he have to

and I offered to do whatever she needed – go with her to the hospital, stay with her, go to therapy with her – whatever it took,

but she said no, she didn’t have time.

I told her it was OK – that I understood.  I told her how much it sucks to have been beaten and violated as a child and then have to relive it all, to face it again, in order to get well …

I explained that it was completely acceptable for her to blame Ed and Pat for the illnesses and addictions she was battling …

but she couldn’t blame them for the abusive way she was treating her family now — she owned that; it was, and is,  all on her.

The latter pissed her off – left her cold, distant, cruel and vehemently defensive; of all the people in this world, I should have understood.

The truth is I did …

and I didn’t.

Not having a real family as a child has made me fiercely protective of my wife and children and the wonderful life we’ve built together  – and when they told me they’d had enough, that they couldn’t take anymore – that they were leaving if I didn’t get help, I got help – I checked myself into the hospital that day.  Getting well, and staying well, became a moral imperative for me.

So …

I do understand why my sister is sick.

But I will never understand why she chose to lose everything she has ever loved and valued rather than get well – like me, she finally had everything in life that matters.


I recognize that she made a choice – she had all the support and love she needed to face whatever she had to in order to get well.

She could have known a happy ending, but she chose tragedy.

A tragedy she owns from inception to end.





Maternal Estrangement

She is incapable of feeling love …

Anyone who is able to do to her child the things Pat did to me, as well as condone what Ed did to me, is incapable of feeling or giving love.

The love of a mother for her child is the purest emotion there is – I’ve see the awe in her eyes when my wife looks at our children.  I’ve seen her protect and nurture and cry for their pain.  I’ve seen her fear and panic when she thought their physical safety had been compromised. And I’ve seen her unable to contain her joy and pride in knowing who our children have become.  This is a mother’s love, and the confidence and self-esteem it gives to her child is immeasurable.

I didn’t know anything like this growing up.  Pat was physically abusive – a believer in terrible and humiliating beatings, but even worse; she was emotionally abusive.

In therapy you always get around to blaming your mother – I even pointed out how cliche this felt to the therapist who finally initiated my breakthrough, his response; “it isn’t cliche in your case, in your case it is true.”

You can’t abandon your child in a grocery store parking lot, or leave him home all alone and make him believe you’re never coming back without dire consequences.

You can’t leave him in a crib to scream for hours on end as an infant and expect the mother child pair bond to form.

You can’t allow his father to beat him without mercy and then have him believe you were his protector.

And you can’t control and twist his emotions for your own cruel gain and not have him fear the loss of your approval and love to such a degree he doesn’t become ill later in life.

If my therapist and I had to guess, Pat has Borderline Personality Disorder (this is ONLY a guess) …

She sensationalizes in the extreme – hyper emotional

She creates drama and tries to suck everyone around her in

One minute she loves (what passes for love in her mind) you and the next minute she hates you

She has no control of her emotions- they are intense and change frequently

She misinterprets interaction, falsely assuming insult 

She is given to dark depression

She was (is?) promiscuous

I left her house because she asked me to after issuing an ultimatum:

Pat had a penchant for married men, she’s had numerous affairs – been The Other Woman many times.   One night, my girlfriend (now my wife, Rhonda) was at our house at 2:00am when a very good friend, a very good married friend, of her parents walked through the front door without knocking and went down the hall to my mother’s bedroom. Rhonda isn’t dumb, no explanation for what was going on was needed.

She struggled with this emotionally … but she (Rhonda) decided not to tell anyone what she knew.  Pat even thanked her, through feigned and dramatic tears no less, for remaining quiet- telling her what a good girl she was … This scene made Rhonda sick.

Several weeks later, Pat was sure – had become obsessed with the idea, that Rhonda had told her boyfriend’s wife he was having an affair.  Pat was a mess; ranting and raving at me about the situation caused by my girlfriend. She cried, screamed and would not listen to reason.  I’d never seen her so upset, so dramatic, so ridiculous.

Rhonda, whom Pat had adored days earlier, was now public enemy Number One over something that hadn’t even happened.

Pat told me that if my girlfriend didn’t apologize to her, she would never be welcome in our house again … and then my mother, knowing how she was able to unhinge me emotionally as a child by disappearing and leaving me alone, left me alone for days … I had no idea where she was.

Now, I was twenty-one years old and could take care of myself, but PTSD and severe abandonment issues being what the are, I nearly lost my mind – which is exactly what Pat wanted to happen.

Rhonda calmed me down, but she rightfully refused to apologize to my morally devoid mother for something she didn’t do.

When Pat came home, she refused to speak to me civilly – she was cruel and cold, catty and biting, and finally she told me to choose – “Rhonda or me.”

I chose Rhonda, and Pat told me to leave her house.

I can only imagine what a shock my choice had to have been for Pat, abandoning me and then freezing me out, withholding even polite interaction, had always worked in the past.  Not being able to manipulate me was definitely new for her …

I knew when I left I’d never go back – it was a vague  feeling, but it was absolute.  Within weeks, I felt better than I ever had before – being away from my mother was like having the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders.  I could breathe, for the first time ever, I could breathe.

I didn’t have to walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting Pat.  I didn’t have to worry about her passive aggressive behavior, or her calling me a prude for my silent disapproval of her having sex with married men, most of whom were wealthy, prominent citizens in our community- their money and position being what she prized above all.

And I didn’t have to spend all my energy trying in vain to get her to love me.  I finally accepted that she never had, and never would love anyone other than herself.

I don’t even think she knows what the word love means.

The one thing I’m sorry for is not staying in touch with my mother’s sister.  I have missed her …

But when I left home, it was all or nothing — I couldn’t risk being pulled back into Pat’s nightmare.

My Sister Con’t: Facing Reality and Treatment

Strength of will and determination are personality assets that drive us toward success and achievement of goals.  Properly directed and channeled, good things come as a result of perseverance, grit and a dauntless will.

However, these traits can become a serious hindrance to therapy and wellness if the Child Abuse Survivor is hellbent on not facing reality;  to get well, we must face why we are sick.

When someone with an abusive past is suffering current addictions, but is determined NOT to face or treat the underlying cause for the addiction, treatment is doomed to failure.  At this point, strength of will is no longer an asset, it has become a detriment of monumental proportion.

Facing our Why We Are Sick is never easy – it’s painful and exhausting. It makes us remember when all we want to do is forget, and it makes us confront when all we want to do is run.

Reliving the nightmare that was my childhood was the most gut wrenching, soul torturing experience of my life.

But you can’t run forever, not if you want to hold on to your life; not if you want to keep your family …

and not if you want to get well and end the emotional pain in a way that actually works.

Thankfully, I didn’t turn to drugs and/or alcohol as my sister has.  Not having an addiction to cure when I stopped running made my recovery much simpler and easier than her’s will be.

But that tenacity of her’s, that backbone and fortitude, will serve her well in recovery …

If she ever decides to face what she is actually recovering from.







Reflections on My Sister

For whatever reason, the judge released my sister from a mental health care facility yesterday …

She wasn’t ready to do the work required to get well; I’m not sure she even knows how sick she really is.  At least while she was being cared for as an inpatient, I didn’t worry about her immediate danger from another attempt at suicide.

She and I were estranged for many years – 27 to be exact.  There are lots of reasons for this;  byproduct of my having no relationship with our mother, something she has – at least in a strained way – despite our shared loss of contact with our father.  My own inability to deal well [in my younger years] with my sister’s emotional problems, now diagnosed as Unattached Syndrome – and the fact that our family was so dysfunctional we failed to bond as siblings cannot be discounted either.

She emailed my wife, whose social media presence makes her easier to find than me,  just after Christmas two years ago.  I was in the midst of my own mental health issues at the time, but with some coaxing from my wife, agreed to give a brother/sister relationship a try …

I found out she was married and had one child, my niece who is a delightful young lady just two years older than my own precious daughter.

I met her husband, a great guy who is devoted to my sister and their family in ways I applaud and respect …

But my sister is ill – she needs help she is refusing to get, and that means she is at risk of losing everything she has; her child, her husband, her career, her home … her life.

I know mental illness from a personal perspective, and yet I cannot reach my sister – can’t help her husband and child to convince her to get help before it’s too late.

I’m worried about her, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do.

Sometimes it seems like we’ll never transcend the legacy of pain and abuse … but I also know that we must accept responsibility for our own here and now.

The question is:  if she doesn’t realize how sick she really is – the illness itself, in essence, keeping her from seeking treatment, how do we guide her to a place of acceptance and responsibility for herself and her actions?

How do we help her get well?

My Sister …

Tried to kill herself ten days ago, this isn’t the first time, but it was by far the most serious.

She was in ICU for several days, and is now in a mental health facility … but she doesn’t want to be there, claims she hasn’t time for treatment.  There is a hearing later today and a judge will decide the course of further care.

She is a wife and mother, has a career she can be proud of – and everything in the world to live for.  My hope is that the judge makes the right decision for her … but even with that I know she will have to do the work required to get well, and right now she is unwilling.

She has Unattached Syndrome (she told me this last summer) – Lord knows what other mental health issues she battles; I could venture a guess, but it would be only a guess, so I’ll leave it at that …

She drinks too much.  I assume she does this to escape the pain she feels in being who she is … maybe this was learned; our mother used to sit on the couch at night and drink cheap wine through a straw from the bottle – something she told us she did so she could face going to bed with our father.

I’m coming to realize just how ill my parents were …