In my feelings…

Last year, at about this time, my brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic meds. Slowly, the docile Matt that we came to love disappeared. It started with a grunt and a few twitches. The Tourette’s was back. Then he started flapping his hands again, the Autistic self-stim. It all would’ve been tolerable for his liver’s sake, I guess.

But then the old Matt came back in full force. He talked to my mom about wanting to kill my niece, my brother Luke’s daughter. He fantasized over scenarios of killing or harming her. The voices were back. He laughed at the things they told him to do. He had conversations with himself as he flapped, grunted, gagged, and twitched.

He had to go back on the medicine. It took months to wean him off and it would take months until it was fully effective again. In the meantime, Luke had to keep his little girls away from Matt.

All of this happened before…

He attacked my daughter at her birthday party when she was 4. That was before he was medicated and in a group home. After that happened, I cut myself off from my family for years.

Before that, it was me. It’s okay if he hurt me, we were the same size. It happened day after day for year after year.

I was told not to feel. Don’t feel…don’t feel…don’t feel. I got pretty good at not feeling.

My dad never told me he loved me or said that everything would be okay. He could sit in the next room laughing over something stupid on TV while I cried. He didn’t care. He looked at me with vacant eyes. He wasn’t there.

He didn’t hug me, nor did he hit me.

Then there was a switch that would go off somewhere in my dad’s mind. He would become angry. He screamed, he swore, and flailed out at everyone. He laughed at our fears and tears. He ridiculed us, called us stupid, and told us how much he hated us. My brother Luke got the brunt of my dad’s anger. But Luke rattled his cage.

My dad never said ‘I’m sorry that you have to go through this’. Instead he called us names like wimp, baby, or worse if we cried or showed any signs of weakness. I built a tough exterior around myself that wouldn’t even allow empathy in. For every punch, hit, or bruise from my brother, my mantra was that the physical pain would make me stronger. The bruises and scars have long faded, but the inner scars will always remain unseen to most.

My mother was the perfect mom. Except she had one weakness, Matt. She favored him over everyone and everything else. If Matt wanted to go, we went. If he wanted to stay home, we stayed. If Matt was hot and we were cold, she would crank the A/C. Matt couldn’t help it, she said. We had control over ourselves, he didn’t. Sometimes she was so blinded by Matt, that she would put other people at risk by his behavior. But, she cared.

A few months ago, my mom brought Matt up north for my niece’s birthday. I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication or if she was trying to force Matt back into Luke’s life once she deemed Matt as better. Both situations happened before. Luke and my mother got into a huge argument. He wasn’t ready to trust Matt around his daughter. My mother left crying.

This takes us to a couple of weeks back…my mom stopped by on a Friday night. I asked her why she was over. On Friday nights she goes to the group home to pick up Matt. She said that Matt wasn’t coming home because Luke was coming over the next day to talk…something about therapist…repressed memories…

I felt very anxious the next day. For a brief moment, I wept. I know how Luke feels. I’ve been there before. It rips you apart.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I had my last what I call post traumatic stress episode.

It started out innocently enough. I was decorating the Christmas tree. Then this memory came back, almost like an image in my mind that I couldn’t get out. With this memory came intense emotion…stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It lasted almost two days. I couldn’t sleep and when I did I had intense nightmares where I woke up crying and frightened. I had several nightmares a night. I felt intense fear, panic, and rage. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think rationally or otherwise. It was very horrifying.

I fell into a deep dark depression. I drove around aimlessly in my car. I had this strong desire to end it all. If I drove fast in my car and missed a turn…well…oh well. I screamed at anyone that tried to help me and pushed them away. I remembered. I felt the feelings I tried to repress 100x’s more powerful than if I would have felt them before.

I am afraid of this happening again.

My childhood…the flashbacks…those are the times my feet have swept the bottom of the ocean floor. I honestly don’t know how I survived, thrived in fact. I am completely ‘normal’, but my experiences in life are far from it.

The meeting with my brother was all very hush hush. He talked to my dad for 3 hours and my mom for 2 1/2. It sounds like there was closure and healing. At this point, it is hard to say.

Maybe I should talk to my parents too while I still have the chance.

But I’ve chosen to write about it instead.

A few bad eggs

I recently heard a story from a friend of mine regarding her son’s custody battle for his child. Although the mother was convicted of child neglect, she still was awarded primary custody of their child at this point. Let me tell you that their son is no saint either, but he wasn’t convicted of child neglect. The child’s grandparents are heartbroken. We all knew that the grandparents would step up as the main caregivers to provide this child with a stable home environment.

Why was the neglectful mother awarded custody of this young child? According to the judge, it was because the mother grew up poor with bad parenting. She was expected to turn out bad as a natural product of her environment. The father grew up in an ideal environment and turned out ‘bad’. In a strange way, it does make sense to me. The mother started out at the bottom and didn’t move far from there. The dad started out at the top…ideal…and dropped to the bottom. Who fell the farthest? Obviously the one that started out in the top environment.

But is it the best for the child? Probably not. I think that the grandparents should bypass the crappy parents altogether and fight for custody. They are so hurt and torn up over this decision. But it will probably be the child that suffers the most.

That leads me to ask…Are children that are raised in an ideal environment expected to turn out better? Should they naturally be better parents since they were shown how? On the flip side, should it be acceptable for someone to be a bad parent after growing up in a substandard environment?

Should I be expected to be a bad parent from growing up under less than ideal circumstances?

Since my husband grew up poor without a dad, does he get a parenting pass?

Does society expect us to fail miserably at being parents?

But does that give us an excuse not to try?

Why would we want the same life for our children that we had?

How can someone parent a child in ideal conditions and yet have a child that turns out ‘bad’? Likewise, how can someone raise a child in substandard conditions and still have a child that turns out ‘good’? It’s a great mystery to me..

Neither Paul nor I grew up under ideal conditions. Yet we try to provide an ideal home for our children. Have we ever seen that? No. Do we know what the hell we are doing? No. I really hope that we are judged by where we started.

Sometimes the way we grew up hinders us as parents. It becomes another demon to outrun. We want our kids to grow up in a home environment we never had. Yet by doing so the pendulum swings too far to the other side and we end up spoiling our kids. Sometimes I resent the fact that they don’t appreciate how hard we strive to give them this sacrifice…building something out of nothing. There is a huge gap between what they have and what we did. There is no bridge between the gaps, no connection. The scale is so full on one end that they can’t view our emptiness.

I also have some really serious issues with conflict due to how I grew up. I understand that confrontation is sometimes a necessary evil of parenting, especially with teenagers. What I wasn’t expecting was it to trigger extreme anxiety within me from growing up in an abusive home. I admit I am not the most relaxed peaceful person…but I avoid conflict at all costs. I even avoid conflict at the cost of disciplining my children when they need it.

I attempt to stop my husband when he tries to discipline the children in a healthy way because it sets off panic within me. Sometimes I hide things from him. I try to paint things better than they are just because I cannot stand the feelings conflict triggers. So my kids can walk all over me. I have taken away all of my husband’s power and my own. My unhealthy desire for a lack of conflict ends up creating more conflict.

It is hard to be a good parent when you grew up in a less than ideal home environment. Where do you turn for sound advice? Imagine being a father when you never had one. Maybe our kids won’t turn out the way we want them to. Maybe the gap is too wide to cross. Maybe we will always struggle. I don’t know, but I can tell you this…we tried our best. I hope they realize that when they look back someday.

Autism’s sibling, journal 3 part 1

Now I am ready to tell you about myself, my family, and you will understand everything..

Everyday Matt would be violent. He would bite me and claw up my arms. I have the scars to prove it, although they faded a little because he’s a little better. But it was awful. Everyday he would be uncontrollable. It was always me he hit.

Once he had this thing about men with beards. He would scream and be awful. Once Matt, mom, and I went grocery shopping and Matt saw a guy with a beard. He got really mad. When mom was checking out, she had to hold him down on the floor because he could hurt someone. 

Or how about the time when we had to move the knives because he took one out and threatened to stab my eyes out.

Or when my mom got a bloody lip because he threw his head back on her. She started crying and it really upset me when I heard her say, “What kid would do this to his mother?”.

The stress was unbearable.

I couldn’t have any friends over because they might have on a fragrance and he might react. So you could say that I never really had many friends over because he would hurt them or me. I couldn’t wear any hair spray or anything with a fragrance.

Other times he would hurt small kids.

We had to do different things. We had to get unfragranced soap, shampoo, deodorant, and laundry soap. We had to close the windows when there was an east wind because the auto exhaust would bother him.

He couldn’t leave the house. He had to eat special foods. We never had anyone over because Matt might hurt them.

He can’t read and when he was younger, he couldn’t talk. He would do weird things like grind his teeth and hit his head. He broke about 5 stereos, one of mine, one of mom’s, and the rest were his.

He couldn’t go swimming because of the chlorine. He would be wild for two or three days in a row. He threatened to run away.

Alissa, 1990

Over time, I have forgotten the magnitude of the stories written by a younger me.

To be honest, something has been scratching at my mind since I stirred up my demons.

My last post was on locker rooms of all things..Talking about locker rooms seemed to bother me more than it should have..Memories swirl through my mind. My mom taking a too old Matt into the girls locker room? There weren’t options back then like there are now. A too old screaming autistic boy in the ladies locker room would have been memorable back then, but I don’t remember more than a flicker.

There are whispers quietly echoing through my mind, but I can’t make out the words.

I am nervous as I type.

Do I really want to remember?