Goal 9: Work hard, but take time to rest.

One of the hardest parts of losing my job is telling people what I do.

When meeting someone new, the first question that they ALWAYS ask is what you do for a living. The second question people ask is how many kids I have. Never fails.

Yesterday I went to the gym later than usual. Someone asked me why I wasn’t at work. I think people are just too nosy.

Two days after I lost my job some friends had a party at their house. Right off the bat, someone asked me what I do for a living. The question hit me hard and knocked the wind out of me. What? I didn’t have an answer prepared. I stumbled awkwardly through the whole story of how my husband and I sold our business last year and that the new owners recently eliminated my position unexpectedly.

My answer seemed to confuse people more. Is it a good thing that you lost your job or a bad thing? Yes, the answer is yes to both. Losing my job after working with my husband for 11 years was very hard. Not to mention that as a workaholic I wrapped a lot of my identity in my work. Yet it was a good thing because now I decided to write a book.

Now do I tell people that I am an author when they ask me what I do?? Then I have to explain what my book is about which is very personal and painful experience of growing up with a disabled sibling in an abusive home environment.

If I am a writer, I should be able to come up with a creative way to tell people what I do for a living in one word. If I tell people I am retired, that brings up even more questions since I look a lot younger than I am.

Then I decided to tell the next person who asks that I am independently wealthy just to get a good laugh. Would that shut them up?

The strange thing about not working is that I really don’t have any extra time. I am still running around like I am in a hurry. I keep a strict schedule. I drop my daughter off at school, go to the gym for an hour or two, write my book, then work on this blog. Plus I do other things like clean the house, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and run errands. Now I wonder how I was able to do all of this while working 30+ hours a week.

You know how the saying goes, ask the busiest person that you know if you want to get something done.

I’ve always been a workaholic. I feel very stressed out if I don’t accomplish enough in a day. Resting is a form of torture and usually only happens when I am sick. One day I had doubt about writing the book and said that heck with it, I am going to watch a show on Netflix. My daughter came home from school, saw me watching TV, and was concerned I was sick. She felt my forehead for signs of a fever and was worried about my health.

Relaxing is something I rarely do. But it is something that I want to learn how to do. I’ve always had the harsh workaholic task master of perfectionism pounding constantly in my head. If I learned anything from losing my job, it’s that I can’t let how much I am able to work control my life and dictate how much I am worth as a person. It is a wonderful way to avoid relationships and look like a martyr.

Working hard was something I was good at and I ran with it. There are few that top my work ethic and determination. But it controls me. I’ve learned anything that controls me isn’t good for me. I am no better than an alcoholic looking for the next drink. I am always searching for the next project, the next goal, and I am viewed as an inspiration and a hero for doing it.

I am afraid of success. What will I do next? Running marathons is not enough. How about a 50k? I drive myself to the ground. Are you proud of me now? What more can I do to prove my worth?

It is a great way to avoid intimacy. I am in the middle of something and am too busy to talk with you right now. What a safe place to hide.

If you give me a hard time, I will condemn you of your laziness with great pride.

Then I wonder why I can’t relax. I am worried and stressed when my mind is free.

Here I am, a workaholic without a job. I never ask for help. I do everything myself. I think I am beyond reproach, but I can’t run from myself.

I am starting to see a wonderful coping mechanism being torn apart. Maybe it is a good thing I lost my job because I am now faced with myself.

You can only outrun your demons for so long.

 

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.

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.

numb

Lost, that is what I would call him.

Never to be found?

Wandering around.

Trouble, the kind he might never find a way out of.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Homeless, yet at times living in my home.

It’s too cold to be sleeping on a park bench.

Sleeping on the floor in my son’s room.

Arms wrapped around the dog at night for comfort.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Bouncing from home to home…only 17.

Skipping out of school.

No hope?

Will he even graduate?

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

Numbing his mind with whatever he can find.

He could die on the streets and no one would lose sleep.

Numb, the word permanently etched on his face

under his eye with a vacant stare.

It’s been a long time since he cut his hair.

Keep him in your prayers because no one else cares.

He’s drowning and pulling others down with him.

We had to break free of his grip.

Our son, we can only help save one.

But he is not out of the water yet..

numb

Parenthood watch

We saw the first snowfall at our new house when the parents of Alex’s friend arrived on the chilly autumn Saturday afternoon. It felt rather ominous of what was yet to come, but at the same time brilliant and beautiful.

The other parents were concerned about how much partying our sons were doing. We decided to get together as a group with another set of parents and just talk, a support group so to say for parents of wayward sons. These boys are all good kids really. They just took a detour down the wrong path. They are partying and failing classes. They aren’t picking fights, stealing, destroying property…

I am making an effort to stop lying to myself. Part of that means facing the fact that my son may never go to college. I thought up to a month ago that he was going to college after graduating. Back when he was in grade school, Alex wanted to be an accountant. I had to ask the teacher to give him more challenging math. Then in middle school and high school, he barely passed math. In fact, he is failing his math class as we speak.

I lied to myself. I’ve been lying to myself for a long time. I’ve been telling myself that he is still that boy in grade school that needs more challenging math. But he really is the party boy that doesn’t give a crap about school. If we come down on him too hard for partying, then we fear that he will leave home and not even finish high school. It is very heartbreaking to see him waste his brilliant mind. It is so much easier to lie to myself.

I don’t have any control over the path he decides to take when he leaves here. It has been causing us a lot of grief. I hope and pray that he matures and grows out of it. Until then, now we have a group of parents that are just as concerned as we are. We might not be able to keep them from taking the wrong path, but at least we don’t have to deal with this alone.

Last night we had our first parenthood watch meeting. We shared our stories about our sons which were remarkably similar…

We are going to have a parenthood watch meeting once a month and exchanged numbers. It’s time for us to work together and do what we can to make things better. It’s not a lot of fun to deal with this alone.

 

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 4

Her OCD predisposes her to ruminate and obsess about anything.

I really had a hard time coping with the things that were happening in my life. At the time of the great isolation (the years my brothers and I were homeschooled due to Matt’s violent behavior at school), I reached to God for solace. I believe this faith and hope  prevented me from ending my life. I prayed that God would heal my brother and fix my family.

I was unusually devout as a teen. But then something horrible happened. After awhile every time I prayed, horrible images would pop into my mind. My prayers contained more obscenities than my brother Matt’s spew of Tourette’s. I felt horrible guilt over this and for awhile stopped praying altogether.

Then I became angry at God. Why did you do this to my brother? Why did you do this to my family? Why did you do this to my mother, the most devout person I knew?? How could you give us so much more than we could handle? Are you even there to hear my prayers? I was miserable and the flicker of hope grew very dim.

It took awhile to get through this rough patch. I decided to start praying again despite the unwanted thoughts and images that popped into my mind while doing so. Eventually it went away. Although I think I always had some degree of faith, I can’t say that I have a lot of trust in God or anyone. I realize that one of my biggest flaws is being distrustful.

I am probably a horrible example of what it means to be Christian. But maybe this happens to everyone sometimes? Kind of like the impulse to punch someone for no apparent reason? I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I thought I was crazy to have those thoughts. I tended to ruminate about it instead of just letting it go.

Now I think that it’s crazy if you act on the thoughts instead of just having them. A lot of times Matt acted on those thoughts. I was afraid that someday maybe I would be like Matt too and not be able to control those impulses. But so far that hasn’t happened in my life.

I think that God did hear my prayers for a healthy family. He just didn’t answer them until later in my life.

 

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…

 

Two steps forward, one back

Yesterday was a horrible day. At least some good did come out of it. Right when I was ready to publish yesterday’s post about my son quitting band, his band teacher called me. She said that Alex came to her and talked about all of the things that were bothering him about band. They had a good conversation and she said that Alex decided to stay in band, although at this time he is failing the class.

If the conflict is resolved(?), do I still post about it? I felt unsettled about the post anyway. Do you ever feel that way? Unsettled about something that you wrote? I told myself that I could always delete the post if I wanted to. I did that once before because I felt so uncomfortable, so sick about it, so unsettled like it was clawing too close to my demons.

Yesterday started off poorly. I got a text right away in the morning that one of the employee’s called in sick. I was planning on leaving a little early to pick Arabella up from her after school activities and staying home. Arabella invited 5 of her friends over from her old school for a pool party. I held off shutting down the pool for that very occasion. In the end, only one friend said that she could come over. She was on the way over when Arabella told her that I had to work later since someone didn’t show up. Her dad wouldn’t drop her off because I wasn’t there even though I would be home shortly.

I felt so frustrated. Having an employee call in last minute screwed up my day. I felt bad for Arabella. It’s hard to make friends at a new high school. I was hoping that she could still stay in touch with some of her old friends.

Then yesterday morning we had a staff meeting. I heard my cell phone go off. I jokingly said that it was the school calling only to find out later that it was. Hearing my cell phone ring during the work day always unnerves me. The school called to tell me that my son skipped out of school. When I got a hold of him, he told me that he just didn’t feel like going to school. I could hear some of his friends in the background and I could only surmise what they were up to.

I was so angry and upset that it was really hard to focus on what I was doing at work. Thoughts burned through my mind about him not even graduating from high school. I was furious. I called him and yelled at him. The conversation ended with me saying that if you can’t follow our rules then maybe you need to find another place to live. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he has it made. What I wouldn’t have given to have an easy breezy childhood like his.

I needed to maintain control, be calm and collected to brood and think. We told Alex that we would meet with him that night to have a little talk. I couldn’t leave work early and Paul had a board meeting after work. The responsibilities never seem to end. Paul did most of the talking during our conversation that night. He was calm, which I was happy about, although I did not feel that way. Apparently one of our new house rules is that our kids cannot skip school. Gosh, we are so mean.

I’m not sure if anything got through to him. But, hey, he is back in band. It’s always two steps forward and one step back with him.

I think once he graduates, I’m going to need a really long vacation. If I can make it until then without going absolutely out of my mind crazy!!