Amongst the weeds

I wouldn’t say that I am the overly jealous type, not about material things anyway. The biggest thing that causes me jealousy is relationships.

I felt jealous when your parents moved up from a southern state just to be closer to you. I should have been happy for you, but sadly that was not the feeling it triggered.

The last time I saw my parents together, they were fighting. My dad went almost a year without showering when my mother said she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she said that he must shower once a week or there will be consequences. On that day, my mom and I went somewhere. When we got back, my mom asked my dad if he showered yet like he was a small child. He did not and she yelled that he better hurry or he would be in trouble. I would never ask them for marriage advice.

My dad did not attend Alex’s graduation. He did go up north with the rest of the family (not including us). He sat around all weekend in his underwear. This bothered my SIL Carla greatly and she complained about him. Carla and my brother Mark helped clean out my parents shed. Carla said now that it is cleaned out a little, they can fill it with more crap. Or maybe they can buy another car. Carla said she would love to buy a hearse for my dad. It was funny, yet it was not.

I felt jealous when your brother told me he was going to move closer to home to help you and your husband raise your first child. I know your family will be there for you anytime you needed them. I could probably count on one hand how many times we were able to get away when our kids were little because we didn’t have anyone to help us.

I had to schedule my 3rd C-section to be in the hospital over the weekend so my husband could watch our other kids. He just started his business and had to work on the day our last child was born. After he came back from working a few hours, my mom dropped off our other two children at the hospital because my brother Matt had an appointment. Matt always came first, even on the day I gave birth.

I found someone else with demons. We hold each other’s hands as we walk through our own hell fires. Paul is the only person I can count on and I trust he will be there until he can’t be. We’ve had to rely on each other.

Paul never had a dad. His mom had a brief marriage when Paul was little, but she left her husband because she said he was abusive. Martha did remarry after Paul grew up and left home.

Paul did not have one single person from his family to invite to our son’s graduation, unless you count his step-dad. His step-dad Darryl attended but brought a new girlfriend that we met for the first time that day. Darryl has moved on with his life. Paul shared his grief over the thought that his mother will no longer be remembered. He is an orphan. His whole family is gone.

Paul grew up with a great void. I grew up in an environment of dysfunction and abuse. We had to rely on ourselves to survive. It gave us grit and strength beyond belief. But there was no one to turn to when we needed help or advice.

It’s tremendously hard to create a healthy family without having a firm foundation to build our house upon. You may envy our fierce drive and independence, but behind it lies brokenness, emptiness, and pain. Maybe you envy our financial success, our big house, and attractiveness. But I’ll tell you what. We both would give everything we have in exchange for a healthy family of origin.

It’s amazing that we survived and thrived as beautiful flowers among the weeds in which we were planted.

 

 

Being in a better place

I met with my therapist this week.

She asked me what I thought about living in my old house. I told her that my old house wasn’t anything special but it suited the purpose at the time.

She then asked me what it was like living in my dream house. Did it change me at all? Do I feel like I am a ‘softer’ person? Did I give up some of my determination?

I said that I don’t think I changed at all.

To this she responded, what if you were a healthier person inside? Do you really think that it is going to change you for the worse?

She trapped me in my own thinking.

Maybe I could have inner peace without giving up some of the grit that survival awarded me with.

I did what I had to do in order to survive. But now I am stuck because I know no other way. It suited its purpose at the time, but I no longer need to live there.

Why am I so fearful of being in a better place?

 

 

Depression

As I was getting ready for the last show, I saw a car pull up to the theater long before the show started. It was a navy blue car, the same color, model, and make as my dad’s car. The passenger door opened and a very large man struggled to get out of the car with a cane. He had his head down, but I could see a mass of white hair and a long white beard.

I knew my mom was coming to the show. But was my dad? Would he finally tell me that he was proud of me? The man looked up and I realized that he wasn’t my dad. I felt sadness for what never was and what probably will never be.

Depression, it hit me the hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. As I mentioned before, my childhood was the hardest period of my life. My brother Matt, who is less than 2 years younger than me, had some very serious health and mental health issues. He was violent towards me, towards others, and to our pets. He hit me, pulled my hair, and clawed my arms on a regular basis. I think he killed my cats. He threatened to poke my eyes out with a knife. The list goes on…seriously, just read the book once I finish it.

My dad was depressed too. He withdrew from the family. When he was home he would sit on the couch and ignore us while watching TV. If the house was too quiet, I worried that I would find him dead somewhere.

My dad is the most pessimistic person I know. His life mottoes are ‘sh!t happens’ and ‘life’s a bitch, then you die’. He never hugged us or told us that he loved us. We never had father-daughter ‘dates’. Nothing. Instead he told us that we were stupid and laughed at our feelings, dreams, and fears.

I consider myself a realist, which probably is just a nice way of saying pessimist. But I will never be like my dad. I will never tear someone else down to lift myself up.

My dad is everything I don’t want to be. He never took care of himself. He ate a lot of junk food. He never exercised. He weighs almost 350 lbs. He hasn’t brushed his teeth in years. He hasn’t showered in almost a year. He is lazy and hates to work. He doesn’t clean up after himself and is a hoarder. Once one building is full, it’s time to build another shed. He doesn’t finish anything he starts. My parents built their house in the 1970’s and the upstairs bathroom still has not been finished. Simple repairs lie in disrepair for years. He is even too lazy to bother getting dressed if he doesn’t want to.

Maybe that is why I do everything the opposite. I eat healthy, run marathons, can be a workaholic, try to maintain a healthy weight, get things done right away, and am a clean freak. I don’t like things that he likes just because he likes them. But the truth is, I am still his daughter. I can’t hide from that.

In early childhood, when my dad emotionally checked out, I was called up to the plate. I started trying to fix the problems at home. Nothing was kept from me. I was handling responsibilities that no child should have to handle.

A 6 year old should never have to watch her 3 younger brothers in the lake even for a few minutes. My youngest brother almost drowned that day.

A 13 year old shouldn’t be making the call whether or not the neighbor should come over and put our dog out of her misery when she was suffering a painful death. I made the wrong call and I have to live with that.

A college student shouldn’t have to help raise 3 teenagers. But that is what I was doing.

I home-schooled one year of middle school and two of high school so I could help my mom out. Even though I attended college in the drunkest city of the United States, I never went to a single college party. Most Saturday nights you could find me at home helping shower my disabled brother. Then I graduated from college, got married two months later, and right away started a family of my own. At times I feel like I am suffocating.

Sometimes I yearn to be the child I never was. In some ways, my kids are older than me. I gave them everything I didn’t have. The pendulum swung too far to the other side. I only told them the things they needed to know. I only let them be kids. I gave them few responsibilities and chores. I shouldered that responsibility so they didn’t have to. I was wrong. I realize that now. But how can we be functional parents if we both had nothing but dysfunction to model from?

I get depressed when I have memories of the horrible things that have happened to me. The PTSD depression is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Burying my painful feelings in the moment is a future time bomb. The feelings I’ve repressed have a way of coming out tenfold. The depression from that is intense and irrational. The urge to end it all is hard to fight. By the grace of God I was able to make it through to tell you about it. I want to say that will never happen again, but here I am stirring up my demons.

I actively mourn the childhood I never had. There is something joyous and magical most people experience that I’ve never had. It is utterly devastating. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over it. It is the kind of depression that no pill can cure.

My life is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be now, yet somehow I cannot outrun the demons of my past and find peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doubt

Would you be willing to hurt people you are closest to in order to help strangers?

Fear that is toxic. Anxiety whispers an endless echoing rhyme. Worry incessant. Doubt creeps in like a vine that entwines the wrestling demons running around in my mind.

I’m not sure I can do it. It’s too risky. Who do I think I am? Do I really think this will be a bestseller? Do I really think that my poison will be a tonic? Do I really think that my story is going to make a difference, change things?

Really, Alissa, you couldn’t even save your own family.

The thoughts painfully pierce my poorly healed wounds. The scabs tear away and bleed onto my parched paper skin. The memories scratch at the demons inside. They wreck havoc on my mind. Tears slip from my eyes.

Now I understand why there aren’t a lot of siblings telling their stories. I get it now. It is too painful. If the story is going to be effective, I have to be brutally honest. But that honesty is going to hurt, not just myself but other people.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a lady from the local autism group. She wants me to be on a panel representing siblings of autistic children in front of a group of parents. There are not a lot of programs available for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I think that is very tragic if a child needs help and doesn’t receive it because they aren’t special enough.

My goal is to write a book about my story as a sibling. I want to advocate for siblings. My thought was to write a book and donate a certain amount of the proceeds to go towards helping siblings that are struggling through support groups and therapy, etc. Just how it is all going to come together is not totally known to me at this time. I would be willing to donate my time and money to help other’s struggling through what I’ve experienced.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some answers. But as for today, I never want to write again. I want to delete my blog. I want to throw the book that I started into the trash. I feel unsettled, almost angry and sad. Restless.

I am at a crossroad of sorts. Will it make a difference? Am I just picking at scabs and bleeding out into my words? Will it heal me? Or will it hurt me and those I love? Should I just let it go?

Will I be able to help others? Am I being delusional that I can make a difference? Would it be worth it if my story can help someone contemplating suicide if  my family turns away from me? Maybe my vision is too grandiose?

I am absolutely terrified, but I think it will be worth it.

What if I don’t help anyone and end up alienating myself from my family? Do I have the strength and courage to do what needs to be done?

I have my doubts.

My psych eval (25 years later) part 8

At times Alissa had the appearance of as if she might cry at any moment. She said that she cannot remember many things and cannot remember portions of her childhood. She may pull back in therapy and treatment when things are going well, discontinuing experiences that might have proven gratifying. She may defeat her chances to experience events that can promote growth and change. It is cautioned that therapists should not set their goals too high or press changes too fast as Alissa cannot tolerate demands well.

Sometimes I wonder what you would see in me if you met me. I bear my heart and soul, but you can never look into my eyes. What would you see if passing by?

I find it very troubling that as a teen I said I could not remember portions of my childhood. What still lurks beneath the surface? I find the thought terrifying.

You know what the funny thing is? I am a blatantly honest person, yet I am the biggest liar. I’ve been lying to myself for years. I have been working lately on being honest with myself even if the truth hurts. When traumatic events happened, I told myself that those things didn’t happen.

I locked my feelings behind a door in my mind. Many years later, the door unexpectedly opened and I experienced the feelings many times worse than it may have been. I just couldn’t handle the truth when it happened. I could barely handle the memory of it. I have many such demons behind many such doors. I am afraid.

Telling myself the truth has been causing me to have a lot of anxiety. What is real? What is not real? What if something that I thought was not real is really real? What do I do about it given the new information? I have been lying to myself for so long that it is hard to tell what the truth is.

Reading this psych eval has really opened my eyes. In many ways I have progressed greatly in 25 years and in other areas I have only crawled a few baby steps.

My brother Luke said that emotional development is stunted at the age that the trauma starts. I laughed about this. My first childhood memories and most of my childhood memories in general are very traumatic.

Am I an emotional infant?? Maybe I am. I am still stuck in the trust vs. mistrust stage of development. I can’t talk to friends about this because I don’t trust them. If they get too close, I push them away. But what is to be lost by trusting a few trustworthy people? I don’t understand myself sometimes.

A few of my family members have sought counseling and have reached out to me to do likewise. But I am stubborn and proud. Remember that Alissa does not tolerate demands well. Ha! It’s true, I don’t.

I went to a counselor a couple years as a teenager. She always talked about the feelings chart. I remember that because I didn’t have any feelings at the time. I don’t know why I stopped going. She said that I had the second worst childhood of anyone she has ever seen. I remember that too. I really liked her and hope she never felt like I left because of her.

I was always comfortable growing and changing at my own pace. I don’t want a diagnosis or to be made to feel like something is wrong with me because of the experiences I went through. But maybe if I went to a counselor I could grow and become a better person faster. I don’t know. I will think about it.

 

My psych eval (25 years later) part 5

Alissa described herself in the past as feeling very depressed including having the same nightmare over and over. One of the nightmares involved being kidnapped and another one included drowning and having her feet trapped in weeds which dragged her underwater. She dreams of cats scratching her and a cat would be ‘possessed’ and she fears being bitten and clawed by the cat. Alissa has a nightmare of a bird pecking her and eating her. The morbid content of the dreams would suggest the presence of a depressive disorder.

I remember the repetitive dream that I had as a child. It was dark and I was the last in a line of people walking through a crime ridden large city. There was total silence, no cars, no colors, no other people besides the dark images I was following. Somehow I was walking to my grandma’s house, but every time I was almost ready to make it to her brightly lit front door someone would grab me from behind and kidnap me.

I had dreams about falling and drowning.

Watching my 2 year old brother almost drown was very traumatic for me because I was supposed to be watching him. Granted, I was 6 when I watched my three younger brothers ‘swim’ in the lake. For the longest time after that I felt like a failure. When I was 12, I watched my baby cousin in a swimming pool with other adults around. She fell in and I rescued her. I felt so happy like I redeemed myself.

It was also traumatic for me when my dad held me in the weeds because I was terrified. That could explain nightmares of my feet tangled in weeds. But I don’t remember ever dreaming about Matt or how he hurt me.

At times in my life I went through periods of insomnia and nightmares when I could sleep. It’s not too unusual for me to wake up crying an hour or two before I needed to get up. This is the place where my loved ones die. This is the place where the people and animals I love turn on me. This is where I almost die.

But I remember also having dreams where I would soar and fly above it all. It wasn’t scary. It was exhilarating and free. I didn’t have to be trapped by the things that frightened me.

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) 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.

Luke’s visit, part 6

I don’t like it when people touch me, neither does Mark.

Luke has always been an affectionate guy.

Maybe it just boils down to personal preference. We had the same upbringing.

We remember the bite marks on our arms, the scratches, head butts, eye pokes, kicks, punches…that we received from our autistic brother Matt.

My dad seemed afraid to hit or hug me. He would tickle my brothers and I which was miserable because he just wouldn’t stop when we told him to.

Touch was not usually a good thing, but I did like my grandma’s hugs.

My dad was not gentle in any way. He would squeeze my mother in hugs too tight until she would cry out…stop you are hurting me. Her cries would draw in my little brothers. They would jump on my dad and try to get him to let go while he swung at them like pesky mosquitoes. It was all a game.

Now Luke was a mama’s boy, which really seemed to bother my dad. If anyone tattled on Luke, he would get it. Mark and I never got spankings, but Luke always seemed to get in trouble. He hated my dad and did a lot of things to bother him like cutting the cords on his electronics. Mark and I never really did the things that would fuel my dad’s anger.

There are some things I feel bad about. Sometimes my dad would fly off the handle with Luke about minor things that I tattled about. There was also a period of time that Luke looked to me to be a second mother. He clung to me and I pushed him away.

There were times when my dad was a little rough with Luke and Matt. But most of the scars came from Matt. He would out of the blue attack someone. It would bother me that no one told him what he was doing was wrong. In fact, if we tried to defend ourselves or retaliate, we were punished. He couldn’t help it, but we could.

It was always hard to see Matt hurt someone, stranger or friend. Sometimes we could see the signs beforehand that he was was agitated. I always felt guilty that I couldn’t stop it from happening. Sometimes I felt responsible for it. Maybe if I noticed sooner, I could’ve stopped it. Why should I feel responsible for my brother’s actions?

His actions had a direct effect on my life. It was the reason that friends weren’t allowed to come to our house. It was the reason I lost friends. It was the reason for my isolation. Matt was so violent that he wasn’t allowed in school for 3 years. A teacher came to our house for Matt. My mom pulled us all out of school. I spent one year of middle school and two years of high school at home. I only saw my friends a couple times a month.

My cats became my friends. Sometimes Matt would hurt them. If they tried to come in the house, my dad would pick them up by the tail and throw them out. But I always let them sneak in my bedroom window.

There was nothing normal about my childhood. Yet here I am trying to live a normal life.

 

Luke’s visit, part 5

I don’t understand why he did the things he did. I don’t like to think about it, much less write about it. It makes me feel incredibly sad to tell you all of these things.

We didn’t travel much as kids. The only place we ever went to was the family cabin up north. I can’t even remember one family meal at a restaurant. Matt’s violent and disruptive behaviors made it nearly impossible to be welcomed anywhere.

I didn’t like the weeds in the water at the lake. Oftentimes, we would walk to our neighbor’s cabin nearby to swim. They raked by their dock giving them a sandy beach. They knew my parents and were okay with it, although I never remembered asking and they always glared at us.

There was that one time that my brothers and I thought it would be a great idea to throw the neighbor’s decorative rocks off the end of their dock. They were so angry. We were too little to get them out of the water at the end of the dock, the water was over our heads. My mom didn’t swim.

After that unfortunate incident when my brother almost drowned, we were always watched more closely in the water. It was my dad’s idea for my mom to put me in charge as a 6 year old of my 3 younger brothers in the water. They thought I would holler if something went wrong, but instead I froze when Luke went under.

After that, my mom would sit on the neighbor’s dock in her lawn chair to watch us swim. Sometimes if my mom wasn’t able to be there, she would send my dad. He was never really happy about that.

We didn’t have fun playing in the water with dad. He would grab our ankles while we swam under water and yank us back making us choke, sputter, and gasp water. It was all a game, like tag, you see. He seemed to think it was fun.

He thought it was terribly humorous that I was afraid of weeds. He grabbed my little body and planted my feet far away from the sand into the weeds. The few minutes he forced me to stand there seemed like hours. I was so terrified feeling the slimy weeds and what I imagined slithered underneath. Even to this day, I rarely like my feet to be uncovered.

I cried in terror and when he finally let go, I ran as fast as I could through the weeds to shore. All the while, he called me names and threw mucky weeds, a dead fish, and sticks at me. Then he swam back to our cabin through the weeds. He said that I was such a baby for being afraid.

But I still loved the water. I wanted to learn how to swim really good. My mom gave us basic swim lessons so we didn’t drown but said I couldn’t take the advanced class because they had doctor bills to pay for Matt.

Last summer I swam across the lake up north. I swam right through the weeds even though I was scared. I even competed in a Half Ironman. But I always remained a beginner swimmer.

My brother Luke’s daughters are really good swimmers and are on the swim team. My oldest niece, who is just 10, competed in her first triathlon this year. Luke set up a mock triathlon course for his girls up north. At least I am glad that he is the father that our dad never was. They have been given so many opportunities. They don’t have to grow up being afraid.