Category Archives: history

family

I think that word has very different meanings for me.

We were always taught separation. My dad’s blood family was all that mattered to him, so that’s all he acknowledged. Everyone else was just “shit”. He didn’t promote contact with anyone outside his immediate family of origin (foo). We were isolated from almost everyone else, and even within his own foo, bitch was top, then him, then grandma, then K. Mom factored very little. K’s husband, T factored very little. Moms family was just unheard of (he made sure of that). We talked a bit about them and to them, but overall, they were essentially non-existent (in his eyes anyway).

I’ve only recently (like maybe the last decade or so) gotten in somewhat more regular contact with one of my cousins. We chat online a bit, but I think I’ve only seen her maybe 6 times my entire life (and we lived relatively close, like maybe a 4 hour drive, for several years). I’ve seen her parents a few more times, but that was only after she & her siblings had grown up and moved out… even then, I think I can count less than a dozen times.

Tonight, my mom informed me that her brother (my cousins’ father, my uncle) had gone to the hospital for a head injury. Apparently, this happened sometime last week, and no one thought to tell us (at least my brother and I. Mom may have known, but she’s not big on communicating stuff like that about/with anyone).

When I found out, it hit me just how disconnected I am from my extended family; I have no real emotions around him being in seriously ill health… I’m not even all that connected to any emotions my mom may have around it (though she’s never been big on emotions either. None of my family has).

I feel like it’s wrong somehow, like society is generally connected with their families unless there’s been some big rupture. The only rupture was my father. I should be connected with my aunt & uncle & cousins, but I’m not… and I think I’m a bit resentful about it.

I see L with her family (it’s a HUGE family), and I feel like we got the short end of the stick.

My dad made enormous effort to keep us isolated from everyone.

It sucks.

So now I have no real connection to family. I get the concept that we have an extended family, but… it’s just not in my radar for the most part. And I’m mad.

His isolation enabled the abuses that happened night after night. His anger resulted in a fear of reaching out, or attempting to connect with anyone (after all, any connection would be promptly severed once found out). We weren’t allowed to care for anyone outside the little dysfunctional circle that happened to include his foo…

The dissociation doesn’t help any. I feel like I’m just floating in a world where I don’t belong (or even truly exist). People have no clue about so much of my life. Everyone’s merely an acquaintance. Aside of L (and as of today, our friend DO), no one knows I have a dissociative disorder. At most, they’ve been told I have ptsd, but no one knows what it’s from; they assume I served in the military…

Most everyone in my life sees this shell, this act. They might notice I hit some bumps along the way, but mostly, I’m either shy and awkward (99% of the time), or chatty and awkward. I’m the crazy animal lady with the pet snakes, who also does art here and there…

I feel like I don’t actually exist. I must just be a ghost floating around.

I never expect people to remember me from one meeting to the next, or care about anything about me. I’m the awkward tag-along friend you invite because you feel sorry for them. I’m the wife you tolerate because we come as a package deal. I’m really not sure why L married me. I’m just the awkward one tagging along behind her to family functions. I don’t deserve to be there, nor am I really wanted there, but I’m crashing the party…

I shouldn’t be here still. I have no purpose or usefulness… but here I am, tagging along in this weird body that feels like a poorly-fitting borrowed dress. If I think hard enough about it, I can kinda find some connection to the C they think they’re supposed to get, but… I dunno. It just feels like a suit, like pretend. That girl who graduated college? Not me. The one who had a career? Not me. The one with friends and family? Not me.

I’m just that shadow in the corner… nothing to notice or want to be around; no substance, no presence, no worth…

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Long-term effects of growing up around violence

…Well, one long term effect. For me.

I worry about and see anger in everyone. I want to appease it, and apologize for it, even if it has nothing to do with me.

Perceived anger frightens me.

Someone was trying to get in the front door of our complex, but it’s locked. They walked back around. I’m assuming they grabbed a key, then tried again. They looked frustrated when it didn’t work.

I started to become scared. I wanted to both hide, and walk over to see if I could help in any way.

It had nothing to do with me, but I reacted as if I needed to fix it because they were mad at me specifically (I’m not even sure the woman knows anyone is home in my apartment)…

My heart is still racing. I’m still ambivalent. It happened 20 minutes ago.

I’m doing nothing wrong. The woman isn’t here for anything related to me, yet I’m scared she will come in and yell at me…

G would have done that. He was (and is) unpredictable and volatile.

This woman is not G.

I will keep repeating that to myself until my inner kid believes it (or stops the panic)


Inconsistencies

It’s funny how my thoughts and opinions can be so different from one moment to the next.

I like raisin bran. I hate raisins. I know for sure I’m worthless. I fight for the things that matter to me because I matter. I’m seeking out adrenaline. I want nothing more than the safety of my corner of the couch…

It drives L nuts that she thinks she finally has me figured out, only to realize what she thought was accurate, is opposite to what I’m expressing in the moment.

They’re not all hugely drastic inconsistencies, but they are there… and they are enough to throw people off when they notice them.

Sometimes I wonder if my dissociation isn’t more than just spacing out. I know Dr C and I have had this conversation a few times, but right now I can’t remember what she said about it…

Part of me knows everything’s just an elaborate story because I’m just a bored teenager. I have a really active imagination. I can get lost in the books I read. I can picture what they talk about. I can feel the atmosphere, hear the sounds. It’s like watching a movie, but in my head… and the smells… they’re so real. Only I know I’m reading, so… I have a very vivid imagination.

When I was younger, I dreamt a huge white stallion visited me at night. He came back because of the horse shoe I found while playing in the backyard. He promised to keep me safe… it was such a realistic dream, but a dream none the less.

When we moved from Canada to Florida, I stopped talking as much. Before, in school, I would always get in trouble for chatting with my friends. Then we moved, and it all seemed pointless. What good were friends if you’d lose them anyway? And even if I did have friends, it’s not like I could talk about stuff. “You don’t talk about family business to outsiders”.

So I didn’t talk much. I listened. I became the good girl who didn’t talk much, and almost never got in trouble (there were two times, but i only really got in trouble the first time. I forged my dad’s signature on a note he was supposed to sign acknowledging that I missed a homework assignment. The teacher got really mad. She didn’t care that I begged her not to tell my dad; that my mom would sign the note, just don’t tell dad… she told him anyway. She thought I was being a brat about it, and wanted me to learn my lesson… joke was on her. Dad taught me how to properly forge his signature so next time I wouldn’t get in trouble. I cried that whole day, I was so scared. I didn’t talk the rest of the day in school… I learned my lesson, but I don’t think it was the one she meant me to learn. I thought he was going to kill mom he was so angry at her (because I embarrassed him & made him look like a bad parent). I can hear them fighting. I can hear her screaming to stop, to get off of her. But they weren’t fighting, they were just having “a discussion”…

It’s all a lie. I blow things out of proportion. That’s not what really happened. Nothing happened.

I used to read so many books that they refused to buy them for me anymore. I would get so lost, time meant nothing. Hunger meant nothing. Bodily sensations meant nothing.

I would devour a book a day, sometimes more than one.

He would tell stories to show how smart and learned he was. He spouted theories from physics and math and psychology and philosophy. He wanted to make sure we knew them, so we could make sure others knew we were better than them. No one was as smart as us, or as special, but he was specialest of us all, and smartest… only blood family mattered. The people who married in, or weren’t in his immediate family meant nothing; they were interlopers. They weren’t one of us… but no one was as worthy as he was. He deserved everything, and people should be honored that he paid them any attention at all, especially the interlopers… no one was as special and wonderful as he. Everyone outside the family was a stupid imbecile who didn’t know greatness if it punched them in the face. Everyone should do exactly as he said, because only he knew what was right and wrong, good and bad… and never talk about what goes on at home with anyone; can’t tarnish the family’s good name. Can’t bring him shame or embarrassment, or you get in trouble… mom got in a lot of trouble all the time. Anything that went wrong was her fault, and she could never do anything right. “How dare you give away my money?? MY money, that I slaved in a stupid foreign country alone for months for?? HOW DARE YOU?!”… “it was to your own kids”… “I DON’T CARE! IT’S MY MONEY. ALL OF IT!”…

I don’t want to remember the rest…


On using psych meds

… that Sarah Silverman tweet got me thinking…

There’s so much info and support out there for people taking meds, but nothing for people who react badly to meds.

I’m not sure I ever really talked in detail about my struggles with psych meds.

I tried them briefly in college, but came off of them after a short time (can’t remember why, or how long I was actually on them). Then, 4-6 years later, I was convinced to try them again. It was against my better judgement, but my therapist at the time was adamant that I needed them. I wanted to trust that she had a less biased view of things than I did, and that she was more knowledgeable about it all than I was. I battled her about it for several sessions before I caved and agreed to try them once again.

I had trouble finding a psychiatrist I felt comfortable working with. I must have cycled through 5 or 6 before I found one who I felt listened & cared (read: didn’t try to push the same meds I reported as having not worked when I tried them; wasn’t cold or condescending; sat with me for more than 3 minutes before handing me a prescription). Sadly, she moved out of state after about 3 months, and my search began again.

I really don’t remember much of the details at this moment, but I do know at one point I was taking roughly 15 different meds up to 4 times a day. It started with one med, then another med to combat side effects, and another to augment the first, then another to help with side effects from the one helping with the original side effects, and so on.

The meds didn’t work for me. I kept getting more depressed, more anxious, and more suicidal. I cycled in and out of hospitals. Each time, they added meds, or switched them out, or increased doses, or all of the above. None seemed to help.

They started blaming me for complaining about the side effects. I was called willful and resistant to treatment. I was told I was being manipulative; that I didn’t actually want to be helped; that I was enjoying the depression; that I was not trying hard enough to get better. I was told I would never be able to live without medication; that I needed to accept it as a part of life… at one point, doctors told me that I would never be able to survive on my own because of my level of self-sabotage.

I was seriouslly depressed, constantly anxious, extremely impulsive, and actively suicidal 90% of the time, not to mention my mounting ptsd symptoms (an enormous difference from my demeanor when not on meds, but few people had seem me prior to starting them by this point. Even I was mostly convinced that I would certainly die without meds (which was honestly part of what prompted me wanting to stop them. At least if I managed to kill myself, the pain would end)).

During one of my last dozen hospitalizations, it was strongly suggested that I not be released back to my home, but rather permanently be sent to a residential facility, as I was an inherent danger to myself. The doctors were shocked that I had survived this long. Even less believable to them was that I had a successful life and career prior to my most recent hospitalizations. I had held down a full-time supervisory position, as well as 3 other part-time jobs up until that final year on meds. I would be hospitalized one week, then return to work as soon as I was released. I attended intensive therapy programs during first shift hours, and worked in the afternoons. I taught trauma informed care workshops. I attended professional trainings. I was very high functioning professionally even as I was crashing personally…

I was lucky enough to have family and friends on my side backing my insistence to receive more intensive treatment (mind you, this was 4 years after I started meds, and roughly 40 hospitalizations in by that time). I knew I was metaphorically drowning. I knew the treatment I was getting wasn’t sufficient (most psych units, even in psych hospitals, don’t offer therapy so much as physical containment), but I did not totally know what might actually help. Dr C was a great resource. She helped me figure out that a specialized trauma program would likely be beneficial. She’d also advocated strongly with the doctors at the local hospital to send me to a more intensive program. Between her, my family, and my own insistence, I was finally admitted to a trauma clinic, The Center at PIW.

There, I finally found some meaningful & intensive help. Despite reading my recent history, the psychiatrist agreed to help me come off all the meds. By the time I left there 2 weeks later, I had tapered off most of the meds. Those last ones I was able to come off of with the help of the psychiatrist at the day program I attended following my discharge from The Center.

The first day back to the IOP, the staff commented that I was doing the best they had seen since I first attended there 4 years ago. They said I seemed clear-headed, articulate, calmer… they asked what changed. When I mentioned I was tapering off the last 2 meds, they seemed incredulous. After all, how could the person who was so debilitated for so long be better not taking the thing they believed was her biggest hope at normalcy? Initially, the psychiatrist was ready to refuse treatment because I was refusing to take medication again, but upon seeing how differently I presented, I was allowed to stay in the program. I was, however, requested not to mention that I was no longer taking any regular psych meds. They claimed it was to avoid compliance problems with other patients in the program. I guess I was seen as an oddity.

After my shortest time “completing” the program (3 weeks or so), I was deemed stable enough to graduate. I returned to only doing individual therapy & the trauma group with Dr C.

Since that time (2011), I’ve only tried psych meds 3 times. Each time I noticed the impulsive drive to kill myself return in less than a week’s time. They faded just as quickly once I stopped taking the pills. The depression still hits hard, but suicide is no longer my first and only thought on how to deal with it. I’m also better able to avoid cutting (actually, I rarely think about using it as a coping tool these days).

Doctors still react with shock and disbelief when I deny being on psych meds despite my diagnoses. I’m pretty sure most believe I’m lying when I tell them I only take something for asthma and stomach issues. Even the neurologist did a side-eye when I mentioned the only 2 meds I take aside of the pot.

In a society where pharmaceuticals run the medical industry, and they are the be-all & end-all of mental health treatment, not taking meds is seen as going against medical advice. Hell, we take away people’s basic human rights when they say meds don’t work so they’d rather not take any. They are deemed an immenant danger to themselves, and not competent enough to make rational decisions… all because something we are indoctrinated into thinking is the only way to treat mental health issues harms some people more than it will ever help them.

I can’t tell you how much I loathe the phrases “you just need to find the right meds or combinations),” and “the benefits outweigh the side effects.” Sometimes there is no right combination, and the benefits definitely do not outweigh the side effects (because for some, there are no benefits). I wish medicine understood this…

Maybe we need to start another movement; that sometimes meds do more harm than good, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing not to take them. There are several notations in my records that insist I’ll die within 6 months max if I were allowed to stop all psych meds, yet here I am, 7 years later, more stable than I ever was on the meds. Oh, and check it out, I’m still alive! Who knew that was possible?! 🤔

It’s time we stop forcing everyone with mental health challenges into a medication routine. They can definitely be helpful for some, but we also need to acknowledge that they can be detrimental to others.


Me at 20 (assignment for a self – discovery workshop) 

The assignment was to find a metaphorical image of ourselves at a selected age. I had originally picked the number 27 because she first had us just pick a number, without telling us what the number was for.

At 27, I was internally severely depressed, suicidal, and a general mess, but presented as very together to the outside world. I worked almost 80 hours a week. I was a manager at a group home. I had my external shit together… I would land in the hospital for a week, get discharged, and head back to work the day of discharge, or the following day. I worked full-time while attending intensive outpatient treatment around my work schedule… I can’t count anymore how many times I was asked how I could manage that so seemingly easily…

The perfect picture for that would be an ad for the exorcism movie (a b&w photo with a girl sitting in a room alone, her head facing the wrong direction, and the words “there’s a fate worse than death”… I kinda regret not bringing it now…

So yeah, that felt like a bit heavy, and a bit much to bring to this workshop.

The second age I picked was 20 simply because L picked that one. The image for it is an ad for The Good Place…

It’s perfect for me at 20. There were a few bumps, but I was generally unaware. My internal systems did a good job of convincing me everything was fine. I was oblivious except for a few things not going great (hugely depressed, but no real clue why. Trying to work on it in therapy and constantly getting the question “was there anything else?” Because the interventions that should have worked just didn’t…). So yeah, that works well for 20.


It feels weird; like part of me is still living back in the space that had me hospitalized so often. I get these little glimpses of remembering being in the hospital, and it feels so real in that flash of a moment. The other times, it feels like I’m living in both times at once, only I’m separated from the past by this frosted window. I know the gist of what’s happening, and I can kinda feel it, but it’s distant and away at the same time. It’s almost like knowing and faintly hearing someone watch a movie in the next room; I can hear it, I know the movie enough to mostly know what’s happening moment to moment, but it’s still something I’m not directly experiencing in the moment. The flashes of memory are like walking through the room for a moment and catching parts of it as I pass the tv. I’m not totally paying attention, but I notice it…

Yeah… kinda like that…

I’ve been remembering the various hospitalizations since Wednesday when Dr C brought up the drawing I left with her a few weeks ago… it’s not all restricted to the content of the drawing; its just all of the experiences mashed together. It’s not linear. It doesn’t really make linear sense, but it’s all memories of those times…

L had an unusually late chemo today, and there were a few times I really had to work to ground myself. I kept panicking that I was there because I was locked up, not because I was supporting L through chemo… being the only ones in the room, and it having gotten dark intensified the fears.

Psych hospitalizations are really dehumanizing. It didn’t matter that you likely already feel like crap; the process and experience make it all that much worse…

I dunno…

I hate when all of this comes up when I can’t actually process it for several days. I don’t know what to do with it. It pulls me in, even when I don’t want it to. I know I’ve been distant and spacey a lot today. I’ve been having a lot of trouble seperating from the memories. My brain is living in both times at once, and it’s distracting (even if I feel like I’m mostly in the present, it’s difficult to concentrate when the past is so “there” but indecipherable…).


Oh. I guess that makes more sense…

Dr C managed to piece together for me that today’s flashbacks were probably related to a duckboy anniversary i never really paid attention to: he stalked me at my college freshman year right around thanksgiving… i knew it was an event in our relationship, but i never really thought that it would cause ripples so far forward.  she hypothesized that, since it was finally the last interaction with him, it stuck with me. 

I guess it makes sense then that today’s flashback involved him…