Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Self-therapy breakthrough

Last night I dreamt about Matt for the first time that I can ever remember.

Yesterday I went to the mall shopping with Arabella and my mom. My mom spent most of her time worrying about getting back home because she had to give Matt his medicine. Frankly, it didn’t bother me much because I wanted to go home early because I hate shopping. It was my daughter Arabella’s choice for a girls day and she picked shopping.

As I mentioned before, my brother Matt is autistic and most likely schizophrenic as he hears voices that tell him to hurt people.

As a child Matt would:

  1. Have psychotic fits out the the blue where he would be violent towards himself or others. I don’t believe that this was within his control.
  2. Have episodes of anger where he would be violent towards himself or others when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do. I believe this was within his realm of control.

Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference between the first and second scenario. Matt did not have a lot of chores besides unloading the dishwasher. When asked to do that, he would sometimes hit himself on the head. Matt did have a lot of trouble in school. When asked to do his school work, he would often attack his teacher or his aide.

There was a time when Matt was schooled at home due to his extreme psychotic outbursts. The district sent a retired school teacher to our house. That woman was a saint because she was strict while loving. Some days Matt didn’t cooperate and she had to leave early.

Later Matt went back to the public school. At one time, my best friend was his aide. When asked to do work, he often attacked her just because he didn’t want to do it. One time after he attacked her, she called the police. They came to the school and hauled my brother away in handcuffs.

After that incident our lifelong best friendship dissolved. And I wonder why I have trust issues with friends??

I had a dream that Matt and I were at an amusement park. I was watching him. I told him that he couldn’t go on any more rides because he hurt me physically. My mom overruled me and said that Matt could go on the rides. I told her that if she wanted to have Matt go on the rides that she could take care of him. Matt was angry at me for saying no to him so he hurt me. He spit on me. Then Matt hurled himself off of the cliff. He landed grotesquely on the pavement below. I was afraid that he was dead or seriously hurt. But the feeling that I felt the most was guilt.

I woke up realizing for the first time that Matt hurt people when he was having a psychotic fit and when he had to do something he didn’t want to do. I feel angry that he was never told that his actions were wrong. It would’ve made me feel better, like there was justice, even if he had absolutely no control over it.

Matt had total control, but no one else ever saw it that way. Was I wrong? I don’t think so. Matt was in control of our house and he wanted things his way. If we were all packed up ready to go and he wanted to stay, we stayed. If we were all too hot to sleep but he wanted the fan off, it was turned off. Anything that could set him off was taken away. One Christmas a boyfriend gave me perfume, I threw it away because I wasn’t allowed to wear it because it might set Matt off. We had to live our life around the god of what might upset Matt. Matt had to have things his way or somebody was going to get hurt.

You have no idea what it is like to be forced to worship that kind of god or how it messed up my life. I am just beginning to realize.

Chaos reigned which is why I need to live in a controlled environment today. I like my schedule, routine, and organization. It is my security blanket. I like to control the temperature and lights in my house, etc.. I learned to have control over the little things to find comfort. The things that most people don’t care to have control over like the placement of an object on the shelf. It is safe. I go absolutely crazy if someone tries to take my control away which is not even a bit logical. It gives me extreme anxiety. Turn on the lights right after I turn them off and see what happens. It makes no sense.

I have also learned to have a great amount of control over myself. Me. No one I know can beat my self-discipline with the possible exception of my brother Mark. At times I make myself hard to love. I am tough. I have high expections on others and even higher expectations for myself. I embrace pain and deny myself pleasure. I guess that is what attracts me to long distance running.

I am too old now for a baby security blanket. I have to learn to be able to rest without it. But I can’t relax.

I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress on my self-therapy.

This session is over.

Healing wounds

My mom hasn’t been feeling well since she retired. At first, the doctor thought that she was having problems with her gallbladder. But instead, she found out that she has an ulcer which she attributes to the stress in her life. I think that working and keeping busy kept her mind off of it. I understand because that is how I cope.

It has been a rough year for my mom. It’s been hard since she took my brother off of his anti-psychotic medicine due to some health issues. Matt started hallucinating again and became fixated on wanting to hurt my brother Luke’s daughter.

My mom was looking out for the best interests of Matt and my brother Luke was concerned about protecting his family from Matt. This caused a lot of conflict.

It stirred the demons from our childhood within Luke. This was a very painful time for Luke. But it was also a catalyst for him to process, deal with it, and heal. I’ve found that the healing process is very difficult. It has forced both of us to deal with feelings that are unexpected that we have never processed before.

It is hard for my mom. She says that it is very hard to deal with a child that isn’t okay. She spent day to day just trying to survive. I can understand that more now that I have teenagers. I worry all the time about how the decisions my son makes will affect his whole entire life. It’s a heavy burden to carry worrying that your child is falling but nothing you can do will pick them up. I somewhat understand.

Luke feels a lot of anger towards my mom for favoring Matt over him and even over the safety of his children. Matt will always be first in my mother’s life and I have come to accept that. I was once in Luke’s place when Matt wanted to hurt my kids. I had to have boundaries. I had to be the bad guy. I had to isolate myself from my family when I needed their help the most. I understand.

It’s not easy and there isn’t an easy answer. Some good has come out of it though. Luke started the healing process. We have been having a lot of deep conversations and working through this together. For the first time, we have each other. Sometimes good can come out of bad. This has given us strength that we never thought we had.

Matt has been back on his medicine for awhile and is passive again. The voices in his head have been quieted. It’s surprising how long it has taken for the rest of us to heal our wounds. Slowly, surely we are on the mend.

My psych eval (25 years later) parting thoughts

Sometimes the trip down memory lane does not take us down a smooth path.

I admit that this series was not easy to write about. I actually did most of the writing over the first weekend when I had more free time than I usually do to overthink things. I spent hours on the recliner under a blanket next to a cozy fire. I felt cozy on the outside, but inside I was stirring my demons.

At other times I wrote when I was very busy and didn’t have a lot of time to think. In those times, I felt nothing about what I wrote. Disconnected. No feelings, just the facts…but insightful none the less.

I started reading a new book I ordered online about growing up with a disabled sibling. I threw all caution to the wind and dove in. I felt miserable and moody. I pushed away everyone that tried to care about me. At one point I broke down and sobbed. People, this is not how I normally act.

I questioned if I was a worthy person. What is my purpose? I worried. I had bad dreams that my son found out about my blog and hated me. For a brief moment I contemplated deleting this blog altogether. It is way too personal. It is getting to the heart of where my demons lie.

One morning I woke up crying after dreaming that my daughter died. The nightmares came back.

I wondered if I could give the blog a mature rating. Then I laughed about the thought. Really? Is me blogging about my childhood unacceptable for children to read??

I felt anger towards my parents for the things they allowed to happen. I felt guilty for feeling angry. It wasn’t easy for them either. My parents are old and need me now. But where were they when I needed them? I still believe that my mom did the best that she could.

Writing heals my soul. But why does healing have to hurt so much??

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 7

Alissa would like to be close and affectionate with others but anticipates disillusionment from relationships. She lacks self-esteem and expects humiliation. Although she daydreams about what might be, her relations with others are sometimes passive-aggressive, causing others to view her as irritable and argumentative. Occasionally, she may attack others for their lack of support. In order to bind her anger, and to protect herself against isolation, she may become anxiously depressed and withdraw. Disposed to anticipate disillusionment, Alissa often behaves obstructively, and thereby incurs the disappointment she learned to expect. Feeling unjustly treated and misunderstood, Alissa acts in a touchy and negative manner.

Alissa is characteristically tense and edgy, however her apprehensiveness appears to achieve dysphoric levels that are sufficient to consider she is experiencing a clinical anxiety disorder. Ambivalent about her relationships, she struggles to restrain her resentments with partial success. The strain of isolation precipitates a variety of symptoms such as restlessness, distractibility, fatigue and insomnia, and stomachaches. Holding back her anger is stressful but discharging it is problematic in that it provokes others to react negatively towards her.

Wow, some of the things up to this point have not been very relevant to my current life. But these two paragraphs nailed it. This is totally me today. Although I no longer wrestle with low self-esteem or humiliation which I will attribute to how I was treated by my dad. My parents have always had what most would consider an unhealthy marriage. My dad was the king of passive-aggressiveness. I learned a lot from him. I am not here to blame him for my problems today, although I think I learned a lot of things that were unhealthy for my relationships.

I am tense, irritable, edgy, restless, argumentative, passive-aggressive, and angry. I am still like that this very moment of this very day. I find it very hard to express my feelings. Instead of expressing them, I do become withdrawn. I avoid. I walk away. I daydream sometimes that things are the way I want them to be so I don’t have to deal with my feelings. I stay busy so I don’t think about how I feel.

I don’t know how to express my anger in a healthy way towards others. Instead I lift weights or run marathons. I deal with it within myself and I avoid conflict with other people. But sometimes others need confrontation.

I’m afraid that if I express my anger over something I am rightfully angry about that others will be angry with me because I just don’t seem to do it right. I was taught that expressing anger and even feeling that way was wrong. I tend to be argumentative and passive-aggressive. Anger always has a way of seeping out.

But what do I do with this knowledge about myself? How do I unlearn something that is so ingrained in the foundation of who I am? Do I need to tear down my walls and start all over? Or is self-realization enough to better myself? Is this enough to keep growing, changing, and improving? I don’t know anymore… I still see myself stuck in some of the same patterns. But I am working on it. That will have to be good enough for now.

 

My psych eval (25 years later) part 6

Alissa is functioning in the above average range of intellectual ability. The disparity appears to be that her academic grades do not reflect this level of intellectual ability. The possibility of a learning disability exists as well as an attention deficit adversely effecting her scholastic achievement. Alissa does not seem to have an internal sense of herself as an individual with a high IQ level. Her degree of effort expended seems to exceed what would be necessary for her current level of achievement. She should be able to complete her classes fairly easily with some modest effort given this IQ level.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a really hard time concentrating on my studies with everything that was happening at home.

I never thought of myself as smart either. My dad frequently told me how stupid I was. I guess after awhile I believed him.

Sometimes I would play piano and sing. I even wrote some of my own songs. My dad would come home from work and tell me to stop banging on the piano and caterwauling like a dying cat. I didn’t think I was good at anything.

Now I have two children who are gifted at music. I wonder what I could’ve done with my talent if it was encouraged.

After being homeschooled between 8th through 10th grade, I joined high school choir. My choir teacher did not like me. I think it had something to do with my depression and having a violent disruptive autistic brother. There were just some teachers that didn’t like me because of who my brother was. She told me that I wasn’t good enough to compete or perform solos. I wanted to be in jazz choir, but didn’t bother auditioning. She missed the opportunity to positively impact the life of a struggling student and I admit I still look back on this in anger.

I wanted to sing in college choir, but I was told that I wasn’t good enough too many times by then to even try.

Many years later I started singing in front of people and they asked if I was the top student in high school choir with my voice. What?? I always thought I could sing but never was told I was any good at it.

Right around 4th grade is when my depression started. I loved music and always had to stop myself from crying during music class. I often stared off into space to keep it all together. My grades slipped and my parents got very angry with me. My mom took away my dolls for a semester.

My mom didn’t want me to try new things because I might fail. I felt like I had to be perfect. I couldn’t be loved if I was not perfect. I would be denied the things I liked if I wasn’t good enough to earn them. I don’t admit fault. It is hard to think that I am not good enough. I started striving to achieve. I’ve accomplished a lot in life, but still can’t get over feeling like I am not good enough. Maybe I will always be hard on myself.

My dad told me I was stupid and my mom wanted me to be perfect.

I don’t believe I am stupid or have to be perfect anymore. In that way, I think I have succeeded.

But sometimes I look back at the sad child and wonder who she would’ve been if things were different.

 

 

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 3

Alissa described herself as never being able to concentrate during school. She said that she can remember reading things and not knowing what she had read immediately thereafter. She said now she tries to write everything down but at times she will read her notes and not believe that she actually attended the lecture. Alissa will study at home a great amount of time in order to figure out what is going on in her classes. She loses her attention when classes are boring. Her thoughts will wander to thinking about what she has to do and other items. She acknowledged while sitting in class that she will brush and flick her hair back which she feels is a habit that would be difficult for her to stop, as well as picking at her clothes. She denies symptoms of alopecia, or hair pulling.

I had a very hard time concentrating at school.

My home life was chaotic all of the time. It was never quiet. I spent a lot of energy ruminating and worrying about how to fix situations that were outside of my realm of control. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

I remember around that time the doctor gave me the highest dose of ADD medicine prescribed. My ability to focus while medicated was unbelievable and unparalleled before or since.

But at very high doses my level of anxiety was unparalleled too.

One of the biggest things that my brother Matt did to me as a child was pull my long hair. He would pull my mother’s hair or really anyone with long hair. Mainly he would pull my hair and it hurt. I thought he would pull my hair out. This went on for many years.

When I was on high doses of ADD meds, my skin itched and crawled. I was jittery like I had way too much coffee. My anxiety was through the roof and I began to scratch my scalp. I picked at my scabs and small clumps of hair would come out. I was constantly playing with my hair. At the same time, my brother was pulling my hair.

I had to stop the nervous tic. If my brother didn’t pull all of my hair out, then I certainly would. Instead I refocused my energy on plucking my hair off of my pillow or clothing.

Meanwhile, my brother still pulled my hair. One day I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran to my room with my scissors and cut off my long hair. He wouldn’t be able to pull it if it wasn’t there.

But my brother still pulled my hair and I was still afraid that it would come out. He pulled it so hard that my scalp hurt. As long as I had hair, he kept pulling. It was a lot easier for him to pull when it was longer though.

Then I stopped taking my ADD medication and along with it stopped constantly playing with my hair. Sometimes though if I am really nervous I will catch myself playing with my hair.

Thankfully it didn’t seem like I lost a lot of hair.

I can only imagine what I could have done if I had more focus or less problems to worry about.

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.