Sibling bonds

I saw my mother-in-law last night…it was the first time I’ve seen her since she died. She told me that she would be there for me. But I wasn’t in my house…I was in my childhood home. My husband was there too. He was trying to fix something that was  not fixable..

I woke up crying at 4:30 AM. I feel it happening again.

When I got the news, I was driving my car. I wanted to cry.

Then I felt angry. I drove faster than usual. I wanted to punch someone. I almost wanted someone to hurt me so I could kick, punch, scream, and fight back.

When I got home from my swimming class, I wanted to go for a long hard run. But it was getting dark out.

I felt deep sorrow. It took me to some dark places. It brought back demons so ugly, dark, and evil that I couldn’t possibly outrun them by running hard.

How could we not see what was happening? When Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic medicine what did we expect would happen?

Matt was taken off of his medication because long term use was straining his liver..

Then started the sleepless nights of agitation. The tics and Tourette’s. The gagging and throwing up of meals. The extreme anxiety.

It wasn’t withdrawal. It wasn’t a virus. The old Matt was back. We just didn’t recognize him because he was gone for so long.

Don’t you remember Alissa? I used to read you books at night…books like Little Women. But Matt would pace the floors in agitation keeping everyone up until midnight. I had to stop reading to you. I had to be with him.

Then yesterday my mom told me that the hallucinations came back.

It started with a dream. A dream of Matt hurting my niece. In the dream, he killed her. He has become fixated on hurting her.

You see, I was Matt’s first victim. Year after year, day after day..it was me that he hurt. He punched me. He kicked me. He clawed me. He bit me.

After awhile, it seemed almost normal.

I wasn’t allowed to fight back. I wasn’t allowed to feel anything.

Then I grew up and had a little girl of my own.

Matt became obsessed with her…or I should say that he became obsessed with hurting her. What would happen if I held her head under water? What would happen if I twist her arm? Would she cry? The voices told him to hurt her.

Then one day he did.

He hurt my daughter on her 4th birthday. After my brother and husband wrestled Matt off of her, my brother Luke took Matt home. Matt went into a psychotic episode so bizarre. He muttered to himself for hours not seeming to be aware of his surroundings.

He still obsessed about hurting my daughter for years afterwards. I had to isolate myself from my family. I did not allow Matt around my daughter for years after that.

Then Matt went on anti-psychotic medicine and became a very peaceful loving person. He started giving hugs instead of bruises. Eventually we were able to reunite as a family once again.

But then this happened.

My mom decided to put Matt back on his medication despite the possible health risks.

Matt loves his family and doesn’t understand why he would want to hurt them.

My brother Luke is keeping his little girls away from Matt until he gets better again.

I never understood how autistic people could be violent. Hearing voices that tell you to hurt someone you love does not seem like a symptom of autism to me. But, a lot of autistic people I know who are violent are non-verbal. Would they be telling the same stories if they could talk?? How is this even possible?

I took the news about this pretty hard.

We will be okay. We will get through this again.

I just feel very compelled to share my story with you.

Please, if you are going through something similar…I would love to hear from you. I feel very alone in all of this.

 

Depression, my old friend

In response to my neighbor’s suicide…

I understand your struggle…

When I grew up, my childhood was very difficult. It was so difficult that the big people in my life could barely cope with the circumstances that they had to deal with. In early childhood I developed two friendships to help me cope, depression and anxiety.

Depression was a close friend of the family. My dad made friends with depression too. Sometimes when the house was really quiet, I was afraid of what he might do. My brother Mark found friendship with depression too. When he was a teen, my mom found several nooses in the tree. I knew the temptation. I knew the struggle.

In late childhood, I tried to break my friendship with depression but she fell in love with me.

When I became an adult, I learned how to live with my friend. I kept myself very busy so I wouldn’t have time for my friend to visit. I worked harder and harder. When my friend noticed I was free, she would visit me.

Have you ever been suicidal before? Do you know what it is like to be that depressed? I do. It is very frightening. Thoughts and images popping into my head of my own demise over and over again. Me in the bathtub with slashed wrists. Driving very fast into a tree. A loaded gun. An empty bottle of pills. Horrible, intrusive thoughts that invade my mind unwanted. The more I try to push my friend away, the more she clings.

Over time I learned how to cope with having a difficult friend. I am a workaholic. Keeping busy keeps her away. I have a strong faith that exorcises my demons. I try to outrun my demons by running 100 miles a month. I take massive doses of vitamin D over the winter months. I try to have something to look forward to. I find the support of family and close friends who have survived difficult times.

What can others do to help that haven’t experienced it? Listen without condemnation. Allow venting, even if it means listening to things you don’t want to hear. Don’t tell them to get over it even if it has been several years since they experienced the initial pain. Sometimes being a good friend is encouraging others to seek professional help.

Does that mean that I no longer get depressed? No. Sometimes when I go through hard times, my friend comes back to help me. A few months ago when I was having difficulties with my son, she visited me for awhile. I spent a long time staring off into space. This is very hard to explain, but when I stared off into space I felt peaceful. When you sink down low enough, sometimes you feel so empty that even the pain is gone. It is a very alluring trap. I had to pull myself out of that dark void. I feel sorry for those that struggle to break free.

Over the years, I learned a few things about my friend. It is okay to feel sad. Sometimes the negative feelings in our life motivate change. During difficult times and emotions, I tell myself that the feelings will pass. I also tell myself over and over that I have felt this way before and survived it. I know how to cope, how to get through.

I am trying hard to face all of the feelings that were locked away for so many years. Writing has been very therapeutic. Maybe if I write honestly about my experiences and struggles, then others won’t feel so all alone. I am okay. You will be okay too. Find a way to cope. Be understanding toward others that struggle. Maybe it will prevent one more unnecessary death.

Judged

I always thought that I was a really good judge of character. Don’t we all? I have heard people admit that they are selfish, lazy, unorganized, vain, but I don’t recall anyone ever saying to me that they are a bad judge of character. Why is that?  Do we want to see the best (or worst) in people despite contrary evidence? I have been struggling with this concept lately. I think most people are embarrassed to admit that they were wrong about someone’s character when their hearts were broken or money was stolen.

I met Jake a couple of years back when he still was a boy. The first time I saw him, he was walking his dog by our house. At the time, I thought maybe he would be a good friend for my son. One day I just happened to be looking out the window when Jake walked by. I just let my dog out and was looking towards the road when I saw Jake’s dog drag him over the meet my dog. In the process, Jake got clotheslined on our mailbox. The dog further dragged him into the ditch. Jake laid wounded on the grass with blood coming out of his neck. I freaked out. I sent my oldest daughter out to get him while I panicked. Eventually I bandaged up some of his wounds and gave him a warm washcloth to put on his scraped and bloody neck. I tracked down his muddy mutt and loaded them into my car to give them a ride home. Welcome to the neighborhood!

A few days later, Jake’s mom sent me a note thanking me for taking care of her son. I still have it which is remarkable because I throw everything out. Over the years, Jake and my son became very good friends. I always liked Jake. He was courteous, quiet, happy, friendly, and kind. He always thanked me when I gave him a ride to school. He was the kind of kid that I wanted my son to hang out with.

Then this summer, things changed. Jake grew into a troubled teen. He was no longer happy. He stopped thanking me for rides. He went to the gas station and stole a pack of cigarettes. His parents made him return them and apologize to the owners. He was grounded for over a month from everything. Then one cool rainy night, he ran away which I blogged about previously. He vanished for almost 48 hours, then went back to school like none of it ever happened. He was present, but not quite there.

A few days after Jake went back to school, his mom texted me with concern. She said that a teacher asked the students to draw a picture of what they were doing for the weekend. Jake drew a picture of himself alone in the corner of his room with his knees folded and his head down in despair.

Then a few weeks later, a note came home from school stating that a student talked about bringing a gun to school. Apparently, a boy had created a hit list with 6 names on it and stated that he was going to bring 7 bullets to school. It was Jake. Jake said that he didn’t mean it, but he was sent away for a couple of weeks for treatment.

Last week I saw Jake walking his dog when I went on a long run. I asked him how he was doing. He smiled and replied that he was doing good. I just have to wonder if his smile was sinister or sincere. I always liked Jake and thought he was a good person. I still want to believe that despite all of the contrary evidence. How could I be so wrong?? In my mind, he is still the sweet and caring boy that I first met years ago. Not the troubled teen that he has become. I have been having a really hard time with this. I feel unsettled, I want to trust him again but can’t. I feel thankful that the troubles with my teens are trivial in comparison. I worry about his family. I pray that Jake can find the friendly and happy boy he once was.

The dark unfeeling cardboard box

When I was a young child, I never really liked school a lot. Sure, there were some bad teachers, some good, and some everywhere in between. But it really wasn’t that. It was never that. It had more to do with Matt, my autistic brother. Being less than 2 years younger than me, I could never get away. The school really didn’t know what to do with Matt. He was the first autistic child to come through the school district. When he couldn’t function in a regular classroom, they cut the library in half to make it a special ed room.

For a long period of time, Matt was nonverbal. Oh, he did scream and cry but he did not talk. He was uncontrollable. His teacher at school set up a naughty box for him between the library and special ed room. Almost every time we had library, my brother was in the box screaming and flailing around. The box seemed high at the time because I was so little. When my class lined up to look at books, the kids could peer into the box. Most of the time the kids laughed and I hated them. I put my feelings in a big box that seemed even bigger than the box that Matt was in. Many times I would rather be trapped in that empty box devoid of feelings, life, and light than to face the pain of the real world.

For a long time I floated around in my own little world. How could I make friends with my classmates? How could I like the kids that called my brother a retard? I went deeper and deeper into that box. I stopped eating. I didn’t talk to anyone. I started failing my classes. The only thing that touched my heart was music. I had this focal point that I would always stare at so I didn’t start crying in that class. I was so lost. My mom was very concerned, she had the school counselor talk to me. She was a wonderful person who tried to help me make friends and talk about feelings.

My mom wasn’t in much better shape herself. Mother daughter outings with the extended family ended up with my mom sharing with the family how much she hated autism and all of the things that Matt did or didn’t do. The family just wanted relaxation and fun. They were uncomfortable that my mom was crying and needed their support. They stared at me all the time. When I was alone with family, they peppered me with questions about if my mom was ok and how was Matt. I didn’t feel like anyone cared about me. Most of the time they were just trying to help without being very helpful.

One day Matt started talking again. He told stories of how his teacher in the grade school was abusive towards him. She shoved him under her desk and sat down at her desk squeezing him in there. He also said that the teacher would place him face down on the floor and sit on him making it hard to breathe. My mom asked me if this could be true, she was very upset.

After everything that happened, my mom tried to keep my younger brothers sheltered from going to school with Matt. She sent my brothers to parochial schools and schools that were out of our district. I wonder if that had anything to do with me not responding well to being in school with Matt. Did I save my younger brothers some pain? I hope so.