My psych eval (25 years later) part 2

In discussing how she felt as a youngster, Alissa described herself as very depressed. She immediately identified family problems as a major concern including her autistic brother. She described her brother as getting violent in the past including hitting and scratching people. She said that she couldn’t have any acquaintances come over to her house. At one point in time he was so allergic to his environment that the family members parked at the bottom of the driveway and then walked to the house. She said due to his allergies she could not wear hairspray. All of her clothes had to be washed in baking soda. Alissa further indicated that her father was emotionally abusive. Alissa said that she witnessed her father hitting her brothers and that would bother her. She described her parents as fighting day and night. Another stressor she identified was the death of her dog who died a painful death because his intestines twisted. Alissa was present when he died. One of her neighbor’s friends said that they should have shot the dog prior to his death.

Do you notice anything unusual or is it just me??

I mention years of violence at the hands of my autistic brother. I mention my dad being abusive. I mention not being able to have friends over. I mention extreme and bizarre rules. I mention parents that always fought. I mention not being able to wear hairspray in the big hair days.

Those are major stressors that I had to deal with my whole childhood. Plus my brother being allergic to car exhaust and having to wash clothes and brush teeth with baking soda??? Does any of that sound like a sane and healthy environment to you?? And I’m the one with the psych eval?? It’s a wonder that I am a little angry and not stark raving mad.

Then I randomly mention being stressed out by my dog dying many years ago when I was 12 years old. It wasn’t just being there while it happened that was stressful, it was having to call the shots.

I remember taking the dog to the vet with my mother earlier in the day. No hope…taking her home to die. Why didn’t my mom put her to sleep? Didn’t she know how horrible it would be? It lasted for hours. Going into shock. Blood on the floor from biting her tongue. Wheezing and gasping for breath. Panting and shaking. The bile and blood. Us kids scared and crying. My dad in the next room talking on the phone laughing, disconnected.

Maybe we should ask the neighbor to shoot the dog. What should we do, Alissa? No, he is a mean man. He shot his puppy for chasing the chickens. I don’t want him to hurt my dog.

So I watched her suffer because I was afraid to pull the trigger. I said ‘no’ to my mother and she listened. But I was 12! I reasoned like a child. I didn’t want to have someone hurt my dog that liked hurting dogs. When I was 18, I realized I made the wrong call. Now at 44, I realize that I shouldn’t have been making adult decisions as a child. I often was called upon to help make adult decisions because my dad bowed out.

Try asking a child to make major family decisions and see how that works out for you.

I feel robbed, cheated. Maybe if I had a different life I would’ve been the carefree person that I wanted to be. It is hard as an adult feeling like I never had that time. Soon I will be talking with my parents and siblings about guardianship of my disabled brother. I feel burned out. I have always had to be an adult. I always had to be the caregiver at a very young age. Then I left home and had a family of my own.

Is it wrong to want to be done parenting once my kids leave home? Is it selfish to want to spend some time only having to worry about myself?

I am a horrible person. I don’t want to be my brother’s guardian. I want to be young and carefree. But I’m not sure if that life was meant for me.

My psych eval (25 years later) part 1

Alissa was referred for psychological evaluation at this time by her therapist…Alissa has a long history of outpatient treatment including an inpatient hospitalization at the end of December of 1992. Alissa has utilized a variety of medications including: Prozac, Pamelor, Anafranil, and is currently taking Wellbutrin. Alissa was referred for this evaluation due to concerns about her OCD and possible ADD.

The family system includes an autistic brother who has proved challenging for all family members. For a time period Alissa functioned as the caretaker for the brother…Alissa has had a difficult relationship with her father. The father reportedly has several indicators of a possible psychiatric disorder. Alissa’s mother will spend many hours a week working.

Alissa has had depressive and suicidal symptoms starting in the fourth grade…Throughout the meeting with Alissa it became apparent that she has had serious psychiatric symptoms for many years. Her condition is quite serious and of a chronic nature…At the time of this evaluation, she had reddened hands which she attributed to dry skin. Due to the OCD, this examiner speculates that the hand condition does reflect excessive hand washing. She stated that as a younger child she would wash her hands frequently, including before and after eating, and before and after using the bathroom.

Symptoms that Alissa currently endorsed include checking to make sure that she has turned off the lights on her car. Due to the distance involved it is a major inconvenience for her to go to the classroom building at college to the parking lot to check on her car. She did go to this extreme measure and when she got to the car realized that she had turned the lights off even though she was not consciously aware of doing so. At other times she will have to check numerous times to ascertain the exact location of her purse. At home she counts a short flight of steps constantly whether she is ascending or descending the steps. This seems to be a strongly ingrained ritual. This examiner believes that there are other examples of obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviors that Alissa is not acknowledging at this time…She does describe the checking behavior in terms of feeling she “has to” check.

Yes, it is true that I was very depressed at a young age. I remember people telling my mother that they have never seen such a young child so depressed before and that I needed help. But there weren’t many programs available to special needs siblings. I felt incredibly alone and disconnected from my peers. I started seeing a therapist in my late teens.

It was especially hard in grade school because my autistic brother was in the same school as me. They had a special ed room that was shared with the library. I don’t know whose dumb ass idea that was. It was never quiet in the library, although we were told to be. That probably made my brother’s behavior all the more shocking.

When I would go in for library, my brother was oftentimes flailing around as if he was possessed inside of the big ‘naughty’ box they put him in that was located between the classrooms. This caused my classmates to point, snicker, and laugh. It made me feel angry, sorrowful, and ashamed. He was MY brother. It was very painful.

I think I developed rituals to help me cope, to feel like I had an iota of control over my life. The hand washing ritual started when I was in middle school after I was almost attacked in the parking lot while I waited in the car for my mom to finish up with her support group for parents of special needs children. The support group was held in the library and sometimes the library closed before the meeting was done and I would meet my mom in the car. That hot summer night I felt like I was suffocating in the locked car while those guys tried desperately to get in. It was so hot, but I didn’t dare open a window. The car handles were dirty. I felt dirty. Hand washing made me feel clean and cleansed.

You would think that I would have issues with libraries or books. Sheesh!

I like to have clean hands, but I haven’t obsessively washed them in decades. I like things clean and I like to feel like I have control even if I don’t. My parents are hoarders. Our house was always chaotic and messy.

It’s strange how I can be obsessive without being addictive since they seem so similar. But I don’t want anything external to control me, yet sometimes the internal things still do. Sometimes I still have to check things..

To be continued…

 

My psych eval (25 years later) intro

I’m going to start a new series next week.

Alissa, why would you want to share your psych evaluation from 25 years ago? Are you crazy?? Good question fellow readers! Good question!

First of all, I don’t care what people think of me. I really don’t know if I ever cared. I gave up on that somewhere between my brother attacking everyone around me and my dad walking around the house in his underwear.

If you don’t care what people think, then why is your blog anonymous?

For some reason I can’t talk about this stuff with the real people in my life. Who wants to talk to people in person about their darkest days anyway? What a drag! I don’t want people in my life to see the shattered pieces of me. I think I managed to glue the pieces back together in a way that most people cannot see the cracks unless they look closely enough. I keep my demons locked in a back corner closet of my mind. It is only through writing that I can release them..

Alissa, you are pretty good at dodging the real question of why you want to share a part of yourself that could be damning.

I think that this piece of the puzzle offers the most hope. I was a real mess 25 years ago. How did I cope? How did I survive the constant stress? I spent a lot of time in fight or flight mode. I think that the mind shatters a little to survive. But what happens when you work your way through it?

We are going to take a little trip down memory lane right after I endured a great time of trial in my life. Then we are going to skip ahead to see how I am doing now. I think it is going to offer hope for others who are struggling.

Whatever you are going through won’t last forever, even though it might feel like it at the time.

Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

Change is in the air

The winds of change swirl around me as I enter the fall season of my life pushing me towards something new and different.

Over the last few days I’ve had to prepare myself for a lot of change.

I am preparing for my son to graduate from high school and leave home within the next year.

Yesterday Angel told me that she is not planning on coming home from college next summer. Then when she graduates, she wants to go to graduate school in Boston. Her time at home has come to an end. I am happy that she knows what she wants to do with her life, but I am sad that she is leaving.

Then a couple of days ago, our youngest daughter Arabella told us that she wants to be a foreign exchange student. She wants to spend her whole junior year of high school in a foreign country.

By next year at this time, we might have an empty nest. I am excited, yet nervous of the change.

Something else changed too. My mom is starting to have health issues. She has to go to the hospital this week for tests. It is very likely that she is going to need surgery. She might need to move in with us for awhile if she has surgery. My dad is not in the greatest health, so he wouldn’t be able to take care of her since she takes care of him.

Everything and everyone is changing all around me. Yet here I am taking it all in. Letting go of summer and preparing for the winter. My house full of teenagers might soon be a geriatric ward.

I don’t like change very much, but I don’t have much control over the seasons.

I always thought that autumn is beautiful though. Its crisp cool air hits me like the truth. A warm blanket, a hot flash of flame, a crackling fire takes away the chill. The trees shine in brilliant color the beginning of fall, full of experience and nutrients. It is a time to sort and prepare. The end of the beginning, the beginning of the end. No longer volatile and stormy. No longer sunny and bright. But comfortable.

A noticeable change of seasons is in the air. The leaves are starting to change color. But as of right now, none of the leaves have fallen totally from the branches of my tree.

 

Paul’s first half marathon

This past weekend, my husband Paul did his first half marathon.

The event was held on the coldest day so far this season. When we left that morning, I had to scrape the frost off my windshield. The high temperature was in the low 40’s. When the race started, I could see my breath. It is challenging to know what to wear in that situation.

I wore a sweater over my running clothes. My ears were freezing so I tied the hood on my head. It was the kind of weather that I would do my running in the gym for. At least it didn’t rain, or snow. But it was a dreary day.

I dropped off my sweater with a friend half way through the race. I was still cold at some points, but it was manageable. My body cramped up and it hurt my lungs with every breath. All day I coughed wheezily.

I crossed the finish line before Paul. My body shook with chills from the cold sweat after the exertion from the race. I didn’t get my sweater back until later. I cheered him on as he crossed the finish line. We waited around for the results from the small town race. He placed, but I didn’t. I felt bad about it. If only I was a year older, I would’ve took 2nd. I beat myself up because I finished my half ten minutes later than the last time I ran a half several years back.

Paul said that I was his inspiration to run the half and that I also inspire other people to run. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. After the race, we huddled around a fire and under warmers with friends. I couldn’t warm up. It was rather miserable and my chest hurt. Our other friends ran the 5k. Everyone that I knew placed in their age group, except me.

Oh well! I am over it already. We laughed a little over how competitive I am.

I am so happy that Paul decided to run his first half marathon. I wonder how hard it would be to convince him that a full marathon is a lot of fun??

Meet me in the middle

I cancelled my son’s appointment for his annual physical today. He said now that he is 18 he no longer wants to receive preventative care from the doctor or dentist. He only wants to go in if there is a problem. I hope that works out well for him. I can’t see how it would. Maybe someone else will have better luck changing his stubborn mind.

My daughter in college, on the other hand, went to the ER several times last year. She went to the ER the first week she was back in college this year. They did every single test imaginable and couldn’t find anything wrong. I’m thankful that she is okay, but I wasn’t too excited when a $2400 medical bill (after insurance) arrived in the mail. She is starting to make payments on the bill, but really can’t afford to.

Why do they have to go to extremes in the opposite direction?? It’s driving me crazy!

Sometimes you just can’t win.

And to think I thought I would be done parenting when my kids became adults!

 

 

 

 

The brewer’s wife

Recently I met someone new under unusual circumstances. We met through our realtor, at a party she was hosting with a stranger at the stranger’s house. Generally this was out of my comfort zone as an introvert. Paul, the extrovert, said that he didn’t care either way if we went. It was rare to have a weekend evening free at the end of summer. Even rarer was that the introvert was all excited to go. I wanted to meet some new people in the neighborhood.

The party had an eclectic variety of home brews that were remarkably good. Paul said that he wanted to thank the brewer for offering up his marvelous beer. We had a long conversation with the brewer and he stated that he loved sharing his beer with friends. I jokingly asked him how we could become friends.

Skip a month ahead…I was planning Paul’s 50th birthday party. I was wondering what to do about drinks. I was already planning on having the food catered in. Then I thought of the brewer. I asked him if he would be willing to share his beer with us for the party. I offered to pay him which apparently was illegal. Whoops! I didn’t know. He said he wouldn’t accept money, but would do it for a friend. So we set up his kegerator at our house with 3 of his home brews.

After the party, we invited the brewer and his wife over for supper and to pick up the kegerator. Now the brewer’s wife is a doctor of psychology. Most of her clients are autistic. She also works with their families.

I had my first one on one conversation with the doctor. I ended up telling her a lot of things that I don’t even tell my closest friends after knowing them for years. I told her about the day on the lake that my brother almost drowned. That day, at age 6, I was left alone to watch my 3 younger brothers swim.  Alissa would certainly yell if there was a problem, but Alissa didn’t. I told her that since I was in grade school I felt like an adult.

I told her that I was homeschooled from 8th grade through 10th grade because my autistic brother was too violent to go to school. I told her that I lived my late middle school and early high school years in great isolation from my peers. I told her how I was a caretaker for my brother. Instead of going out with friends on a Saturday night, I helped shower my autistic brother. I told her that for many years I was a massive bruise from when my brother hit/hurt me. I told her the hardest part was that he never was told that hurting me was wrong.

I told her of my restrictions because those things could set Matt off. I wasn’t allowed to use hair spray, wear nail polish, or perfume. We had to dip our tooth brushes in peroxide and baking soda for awhile. I told her that my dad was abusive. I told her how I sometimes have flashbacks.

She said that lots of times special needs siblings have issues with addiction or depression. She said that the depression rate of special needs siblings is 50% compared to 6% of the regular population. But she said that the state lacks funding to have programs for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I find that very sad.

I told the doctor that I would be willing to speak to parents or siblings about my experiences. I told her if my story could help a couple others who are struggling, it wouldn’t all be in vain.

That evening, they left the kegerator at our house promising to get together soon to pick it up.

The next day I apologized for being so candid. I told her that I don’t usually share personal things with complete strangers about my life (outside of this blog). She told me that she was honored that I shared my story and that for everything I’ve been through it’s surprising that I am a solid person. (She also said she would be sending a bill which I hope she did not mean!!!).

She said that she was planning on finding a way for me to share my story of hope with others who are struggling. I’m not sure if anything will come of it or not.

I’ve always felt like my purpose is to help others…to write about it…to speak about it…

God works in mysterious ways…sometimes he works through beer.

 

The laundry fairy

This morning there was a commotion at the palace.

The prince said he did not want to go to school because his royal robes were filthy. Apparently this was the fault of the palace’s royal laundry fairy who didn’t sprinkle the garments with the magic dust that makes them pristine once again.

The royal family was told time and time again that only the soiled garments in the royal hamper will be collected for the sprinkling. The garments will not be collected from the floors of the royal chambers.

Friday night the prince put loads of dirty clothes from the past couple weeks into the hamper with expectations that they would be magically cleaned by the next morning. But Saturday morning, the laundry fairy flew off at the crack of dawn to run a half marathon. Then later that day, the laundry fairy had plans with friends. On Sunday, the laundry fairy only washes towels because that is what the laundry fairy does on that particular day.

Monday morning there weren’t any magically cleaned clothes for the prince and a verbal joust ensued.

The prince can put his filthy garments in the hamper every day or the prince can do his own laundry! What a royal pain!

The prince wore dirty clothes to school today.

 

longevity

My daughter Arabella is currently taking health as a high school class. A week ago she had to take a longevity quiz and just for fun she asked Paul and I the questions as well.

Today I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital waiting for Paul to complete an uncomfortable procedure that happens once a person reaches the magical age of 50. It gets one to think about life, and death.

At the beginning, I did very well on the longevity test. I smugly thought that I would be my family’s first centurion. I am doing a lot of things right. I eat my vegetables. I drink in moderation. I am not overweight or underweight. My parents are still alive. I take my vitamins. I go in for regular check ups. My cholesterol and blood pressure are low. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs.

Plus, I am a marathon runner. I mean, that should count for a lot more than exercising three times a week for a half an hour. Right??

I was feeling pretty good.

I am literally going to live forever. I probably won’t even die. I will be the only person to live forever without turning into a vampire first.

Then the questions took a bit of a negative turn…

Do you easily feel bored or depressed? Yes

Do you often feel stressed out? Yes

Do you always feel like you are in a hurry? Yes, yes, yes…

Do you listen to your body? No! When my body tells me to stop, my mind says push harder. Is that a problem??

Do you worry a lot? I am really starting to feel worried now.

My daughter said that according to the test, I am supposed to live to 85. Paul is supposed to live to 75 (with the average female living longer than the average male). So if her calculations are right, then I will outlive my husband by 16 years (he is 6 years older).

We’ll see…

The procedure went fine without any issues.

We might not know how long we will live (even after taking the health class longevity quiz and going in for procedures). But what we can do is try to make the most of the years we have been given.