Broken peace is

What do you want more than anything in the world?

I want to feel inner peace.

What does that look like for you? I want you to give it a color.

Peace is purple.

Now I want you to visualize releasing the painful feelings and replacing it with purple. Cover your whole body in purple. Let it radiate inside and out.

Little bubbles of red hot anger evaporate. Blue bubbles of sadness and despair evaporate. As they are released, the bubbles burst. The blue and red mix together. Purple peace rains down on my black and white world in brilliant color. My body is glowing purple.

Now I want you to embrace your inner child.

But I want her to be gone like the red and blue. I want her to take her pain, pack up her baggage, and never come back.

You must realize that cannot be done. Do not reject her like her dad did. Embrace her. Bandage her wounds. Wipe her tears. Accept her broken as she is. After all, she is you.

Especially special

Several weeks ago I attended my daughter Arabella’s first choir concert of the school year. It was our foreign exchange student Clara’s first choir concert ever.

I sat down in the theater only to have a teenage girl with Down Syndrome sit in front of me. In all honesty, sometimes I get triggered by people with special needs being a SN sibling. It brings up a smorgasbord of emotions.

The girl was so excited about the concert that you might think she got front row tickets to see Justin Bieber or whoever the hottest pop star is now. She waved her arms, clapped loudly, and cheered for every performer. Her family catered to her the whole show as if the show was about her. I didn’t find it too annoying, just triggering.

At this point, I thought, “Well, that figures!” because a few days before I was trying to free up some of my repressed anger related to being a SN sibling.

I personally think it is wrong to sacrifice for a SN child at the expense of the other family members. Children should be treated as equally and fairly as possible. It’s not fair to SN children to treat them like something is wrong with them either. I understand that SN children oftentimes need special care. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about parents that expect you to treat your sibling like every day is their birthday. It’s almost expected by everyone that you treat them like royalty because their disability royally sucks! You are supposed to be the one waiting on the sidelines to cheer them on when they participate in the Special Olympics. You are selfish for wanting to live your own life.

We went when he wanted to go. We stayed home when he didn’t. It didn’t matter how long it was planned. He was the god we were expected to worship. The life of our family revolved around him.

You are expected never to fight with your SN sibling. What kind of monster are you? You are expected never to feel jealous when they get all of the attention. You can’t cry when they hit you because damn you are so lucky to be normal. It is almost expected that you become a special education teacher because having a SN sibling changed your life. How noble.

You shouldn’t feel angry because your parents couldn’t afford your swimming lessons because they had doctor bills to pay. You shouldn’t feel angry that you had to drop out of the show because your brother had to be hospitalized. Why are you upset you lost your best friend because your brother attacked her? You can make more friends. He doesn’t have any friends. Why don’t you want him in your life after he hurt your child? He is your family too.

You are so selfish to want to have your own life! Ungrateful! Look at him. Do you think he will ever have a life as nice as yours? What is wrong with you? Nothing, unfortunately, I am normal.

These things cross my mind when I see you cater to your SN child. Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am a monster for feeling this way. I am not here to please anybody. In fact I might like you more if you hate me like I hate me. Just like everyone else and their damn expectations. Blah, blah, blah…

Blogging therapy is going well today. Yes, I can see that you are making progress processing your anger.

The show was over. Most people left the theater. After things cleared out, I stood in the aisle and took pictures of Arabella and Clara. The SN girl pushed by me and yelled at me to get the hell out of her way. Her family giggled as they passed me as if her rude comment was the cutest thing ever. Did I not notice the sparkly butterflies and rainbows that she farted out of her ass?

I would like to think that most parents would not shrug off their teenager treating a stranger rudely in public. But she is special, so she shouldn’t be corrected for her bad behavior since basic rules of etiquette apparently don’t apply. Isn’t everyone special and unique just like everyone else? I think I was taught that in school. Or is there a class of especially special specials??

My brother did things like this in public and worse. Sometimes he would physically attack strangers, children. Treating people poorly should never be acceptable. There should never be an excuse for that. That is what makes me angry. At the very least, teach your child it is not acceptable to treat people this way. Make them apologize. Apologize for them. Whatever, at least act sorry. I didn’t find it funny.

Of course, it had to be me that this happened to.

But I suppose if I was like everyone else, I would’ve brushed it off and forgotten about it already.

 

The path

It’s very important. That is why I got up before everyone else did, so I could tell you.

I am on a narrow path. It leads from my house to the backyard where there is a clothesline that I can hang my laundry on. There are two people on my path, a man and a woman. They walk down the path twice a day at the same time everyday. I’ve gotten used to them, their patterns.

The path is very plain. I only have the things there that I need to survive. No more, no less. One day a garden light is put a little way off my path. I think the two people put it there because they are the only ones I ever see on my path. But I didn’t see them do it. I really don’t know because they never speak to me. They just walk in silence across my path in the morning and disappear until they walk back in the evening.

Nothing happens for days after I notice the change. When I think it is safe to veer off the path to look at it, it becomes a vicious snarling dog. Every couple of days I notice another garden light is added. I am curious, but I have to get used to it first. After a while it almost belongs there and feels safe. Maybe I can look at another one just outside of the path I must not stray from. Once I do, instead of a vicious dog I see a golden retriever. I am very frightened because I can’t seem to differentiate safety from danger.

I cry out in terror. Seeing the dog, any dog, triggers the panic in me from the vicious dog. The people show up at an unexpected time and laugh at me because I am afraid of a harmless tail wagging golden retriever. I feel frightened and alone.

It was safer to never veer from the path. Instead I needed to be more rigid and structured to feel safe and find comfort. I must follow the same routine, the same pattern. Everything must stay exactly the same. Nothing will change and I will be safe. I’m not sure the people are safe, but they are predictable if I stay on the path. If I try to leave it, they are not safe.

Every day there are more garden lights. I don’t even notice them anymore. I stay within the boundaries. But one day something scary happens. The wind blew my laundry off the line off my path. I was responsible to care for my laundry. It was part of the routine that must be followed. I now have a dilemma, a conundrum of sorts. I have to grab my laundry, but I am terrified to veer off the path. Maybe if I grab it as quick as I can and come right back then nothing bad would happen.

Nothing happened when I grabbed my laundry, except I began to notice the world outside. It changed me. I began to see things differently. I went back inside my mansion and noticed for the first time that I was only using a few rooms. There were garden lights outside of doors that I was afraid to even go into. There was so much more out there to see, to be, if I didn’t let fear stop me.

Anxiety has a way of trapping us in what we know. It was important to cling onto at one time in order to survive. Now I see a whole new world out there to explore. There are rooms in my house I have yet to go in. Fear always stopped me. I clung to structure and routine. But there is so much more. Maybe it will be safe now.

The dream awoke me. It all makes sense now. I must write this down.

The floodgates have finally opened and poured onto my paper. I can write again. I am back.

 

Finding the key

I had a visit with my counselor to try brainspotting as an attempt to heal from the trauma I’ve experienced in my life.

I wanted to tell you about it before I forgot. It was a strange, almost mystical experience. My counselor asked me to bring in an item that would remind me of something tragic. I talked about the experience and then she had me follow a pointer with my eyes until I felt the strongest amount of emotion. I also had to focus on a part of my body that I felt that emotion in. I picked my stomach, because when doesn’t it hurt?

I was asked to visualize the negative emotions leaving my body. I thought of my grandma, that she was with me although she has been gone over 10 years now. I imagined blue birds taking the negative emotions from the top of my head from my straw like hair. Later I imagined that all of the negative emotions and pain that I experienced were worms that spilled out of my mind to feed the birds.

There was a great outpouring that the birds carried away, then later balloons came to assist the birds. I told my counselor that it felt weird. I was very skeptical and thought it was rather stupid at first. I am a very logical person, structured and rigid. There is no room in my mind for fantasy, make believe, imagination, playfulness, and magic. My world is not sparkly, it is black and white. My counselor said that is how I dealt with the trauma in my life.

After the appointment, I felt a sense of peacefulness that I can’t remember experiencing before. I did feel some brief intense anxiety that the birds flew in and took away. I slept for threes nights in a row without insomnia or nightmares. I even slept through a storm. I can’t remember how long it has been that I slept for three nights in a row without insomnia or nightmares. It was amazing.

But then it went away. The sadness settled back into my mind. Every time the balloons wanted to carry it away, the birds popped the balloons with their sharp beaks. Then the insomnia and nightmares came back.

There were two other times after that when I felt like the birds were taking out the worms and decay, on my first run after the 50k and when I was getting a massage.

Now, several weeks later, I am on lock down. The rational and logical part of my brain took back control. It is all rules and structure. There aren’t any feelings, good nor bad. I am back home where I feel safe.

But now I know there is another world of childlike wonder locked away somewhere in my mind. There is hope that one day I will once again be able to find the key to peace and serenity.

 

 

Unrest

I don’t want to do this anymore, this whole life thing. I want to hibernate somewhere, hidden away under cover.

I don’t know how I got to this point. I’m just tired of it. I’m just tired.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night. It was after midnight before I silently fell into slumber. This happened twice this week although this type of insomnia rarely happens.

I couldn’t stay asleep last night. I slept restlessly. I awoke several times. At 4 AM I had to go to the bathroom. This is the type of insomnia I call home.

I had one of the most intense nightmares that I had in a long time. I was a little girl. I was brought to an empty house because there was going to be a lot of blood, my blood. I went willingly because I knew I had to be the sacrifice. I was afraid. I was going to be hurt badly, but I would live through it. Before anything happened, the owner of the house came back. She looked like a grown up me. I told her that she needed to leave because she would get killed for being there. She tried to help me, we ran away. She was killed and I hid in the closet terrified knowing I would be next. Now we both were going to die because she tried to save me.

I awoke at 5:30, less than an hour before my alarm was going to go off.

Today is the day that my video is being posted. I didn’t know it until this morning. I hate the video. I want to destroy it. I feel so anxious about it.

Why do I have this need to tell everyone about the things I’ve experienced? I just don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to blog. I want to disappear off the face of the earth like I never even existed.

I thought of strange things. I remembered the book my mom used to read to me about Toad and Frog. They left the door open and winter came in. They were cold, sad, and lonely. They made soup out of their tears. It was almost as if the hauntingly sad child me came for an unwanted visit. But to cast her away would destroy us both.

I struggled to find the motivation to do everything I needed to do. Some days are like that. I’ve been stirring up my demons. But I was able to make it through. It is hard to do when my body and mind doesn’t let me rest.

Maybe tonight I will sleep.

Unrest.

 

Done, done, and almost done

I am so relived that all of the difficult things over my head this month are now done.

I finished my first 50k. I wasn’t sure I could do it. Being anemic and having a rough summer health wise made me really question my ability to get it done.

Today I sent in my video to the local autism chapter about what my childhood was like being a sibling of someone who was violently autistic. I also gave tips to parents on how to support their non-autistic children. I created a new Facebook account and a support page for siblings.

Making the video was very difficult, not just emotionally either. Somewhere in my mind I expected that I would look like someone on the news. I would be smooth, polished, and look like I was 25. The joys of being a perfectionist!

I found that I couldn’t make the video when other people were home. My husband walked in the room while I was recording and I had to start over. So I decided to tell everyone when I was recording to not walk into the room. But I could still hear the bass from my son’s music. The beat of the music banged in my head distracting me. I was paranoid that everyone could hear it.

Then I waited for the small window of time where I was completely alone in the house. I was still hoping that the dog wouldn’t bark. I created 3 fifteen to twenty minute videos on my phone. After I was finished, I watched the videos. They were okay. I was very critical of myself. Man, do I look old and tired. Look at those big black rings under my eyes. It was hard talking for that long in front of a camera without a script. Plus I was never one to like hearing recordings of myself singing or speaking.

Then I had problems sending the videos to my contact person because the videos were so large. It took me 6 days to figure that one out after a day and a half of actually making the videos. I wanted to wear the same shirt, hair style, and makeup to look like the whole thing was effortless. But trust me when I say it was not. I deleted more recordings than I kept.

Right before sending them out, I had a moment of sheer panic. It’s that awful feeling that you get before doing something risky, scary, but exhilarating. Would the videos be good enough? Would my best efforts suck? What would my family think? I feared success. I feared failure. My thoughts fluctuated between what I created sucked to everyone is going to know everything I never wanted anyone to know about me. I wanted to delete all of the hard work I put into this.

It is finished now. I sent them. Whatever happens, happens.

Next week I will go back to writing my book. I finished my research. I read about 40 journals written my myself, my mom, and the schools my brother went to. I read countless letters, notes, and articles about my brother. I even went back and reread my blog searching for clues. It’s done. I have everything I need to finish the book.

I am done, done, and almost done. If I heal and help other people in the process, it is worth it!

Brainspotting

I’ve realized a few new things about myself over the past couple days. The things I once thought were normal, or at least normal to me, I am questioning. I think I just got used to some things that are just not right.

There isn’t a day that goes past that I don’t think about the childhood trauma I’ve experienced. I wish I could just get over it or at best think about these things every other day. As a result, I’ve struggled with lifelong anxiety and depression.

But that isn’t all. I constantly experience exhaustion and fatigue. My doctor wanted me to go in for a sleep study when I was in my 20’s. I did and was told that I never went into deep sleep.

I started reading the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. I would highly recommend the book if you have experienced or are interested in trauma in general. One of the chapters talks about EMDR. EMDR is a therapeutic process in which someone focuses on a pointer moving back and forth while thinking of traumatic experiences. It somewhat mimics REM sleep which PTSD sufferers apparently don’t get a lot of. It is supposed to be very effective in healing trauma.

When I was a little girl, my autistic brother was physically violent with me on a daily basis for years. Sometimes while I was trying to sleep at night, he would come in my room and threaten me with violence. As a child, I slept with my door open. You see, I was afraid of the monsters in my closet and the ghosts under my bed that would attack me when my door was closed. I thought like a child. I feared illogical demons instead of credible threats to my safety.

The stress hormones pumped through my veins with a steady beat day and night. My body learned to never relax. I had to be alert for danger at all times. Deep sleep wasn’t safe.

I started paying attention to my sleep patterns lately. They’ve been the same as long as I can remember. I don’t have problems falling asleep, but I can’t seem to stay asleep. I usually awake between 2 and 4 and stay awake for an hour or two. I try not to think because then I might as well get up because I won’t be able to fall back asleep. Sometimes I get up and walk around.

Usually once or twice a week, I have bad dreams. It seems when I am just about ready to go into REM sleep, my body awakens me. Even though the danger is gone, my body is still on high alert.

I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a nightmare when I had a dream. When things are really bad, I experience insomnia and intense nightmares together on the same night. These are the nights that I wake up sobbing, can’t go back to sleep, and if I do I have nightmares again. Thankfully it doesn’t happen all that often.

I am exhausted, but can’t relax. My anemia is making things worse. I lack energy and can’t seem to think straight.

My counselor is trained in brainspotting, which is an offshoot of EMDR. Next session I am going to give it a try and see how it works. Maybe I’ll finally be able to get some sleep. Even though a pattern of insomnia and nightmares is normal to me, I don’t think that it is normal. Maybe there is nothing I can do about it, but I’m going to try.

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?

 

 

Trauma drama

Last night I was having a debate with Arabella. She said she believes that everyone experiences traumatic childhoods.

What??

So I gave her a scenario. Girl A spent her childhood as an incest victim. Girl B’s most traumatic experience was that she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas one year.

I asked her if both girls experienced a traumatic childhood. Arabella responded that they both did. I couldn’t believe it. Then she further stated that my childhood was no more traumatic than her own. I felt offended by her comments and am hoping that her viewpoint will change once she matures.

Arabella asked me if I knew anyone with a perfect childhood. I responded “yes” that I believe my sister-in-law Emily had a perfect childhood. Both my brother and I have flashbacks and at times PTSD from our childhood. It has been very painful dealing with this far into adulthood. Emily has been trying her hardest to help my brother through the pain he is experiencing.

The other day I told my husband Paul that maybe he is better equipped to help me than Emily is to help Luke because his childhood was less than perfect. He disagreed claiming that he has his own demons and voids to fill from his own childhood. He said that someone with a firm foundation is better equipped to help someone who is struggling.

Paul grew up without ever knowing his father. His mother was a teenage high school dropout when she had him. She was willing to work, but struggled financially due to her lack of education. She wasn’t very bright, and although she tried couldn’t earn her GED. We also suspect that his mom was mentally ill. She had a lot of symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Paul’s mother Martha was never a boring person. Sometimes she was a lot of fun to be around. She was exciting and when she loved you she made you feel like you were on the top of the world. There was a time when I was absolutely wonderful and I could do nothing wrong. She made me feel special, important, and loved. In those times, she was a very positive and encouraging mother to Paul. She told him he could do anything he put his mind to.

But there were times that I couldn’t do anything right. Everything was my fault. I was a horrible person. At times she was paranoid. She accused me a taking her boots and leaving a pair of boots that were just like hers but weren’t. She would scream and kick us out of her house. Nothing was ever her fault. Someone else was always to blame. She didn’t lose her job because she was always late, it was because someone was out to get her.

She couldn’t handle watching all of our kids if we wanted to get away for a weekend. She called the oldest two kids demons and our youngest an angel one of the few times she watched them. My son locked himself in the bathroom on the last day until we picked them up. Even her one on one time with the grandchildren turned into big fights. She got into huge arguments with everyone she was close to, then the next time she saw you acted like nothing happened at all.

Martha could convince anyone that she should be the mother of the year. She said things that weren’t true, but were absolutely believable because she believed them. I could go on and on. I don’t believe that Martha was a bad mother. She was just mentally ill. In some ways that makes it so much easier to understand and accept. As you can see, Paul has his own baggage. How can he help me? We tend to stumble along down this path together.

Paul and I did the best we could to be the best parents we could be with what we were given. We didn’t get a lot of help and support with our children and at times felt like we needed to care for our parents.

Paul said that Emily is better equipped to help her spouse through hard times because she has a good foundation to lean back on. Being able to relate is overrated. He convinced me and I changed my mind. Now if I could only convince Arabella and change her mind.

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.