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.

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.

 

The wedding of my best friend’s son

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There is a time in your life when you get invited to a lot of weddings. For a long period of time, that time was over for me.

Last year the last of my friends turned 40. Last year the first of my friends started turning 50.

It’s strange, I’m starting to get invited to weddings again. This time for my friend’s children. Ted turned 50 this last week and ended the week with his 25 year old son getting married.

Ted and Cindy are very excited that their son choose a wonderful partner to marry. I suppose as parents you couldn’t ask for more.

The wedding itself was held outdoors in a garden. It was a little stressful because it was supposed to rain. We could hear thunder in the distance all morning. I worried that perhaps I missed the call that the wedding would be moved elsewhere. We were in the boonies with limited cell phone reception. We brought umbrellas, but didn’t end up needing them.

Despite the forecast, the wedding went without a hitch unless you count the bride and groom. The ceremony itself was short and sweet. The longest part of the wedding was the procession with somewhere around 10 couples that stood up. The pastor was a newly ordained friend of the groom. There wasn’t a sermon. We didn’t sit long enough to shift around on the hay bales.

That evening at the reception hall, I felt a little old. I was tired. I felt rather mopey. Cindy was having a great time and dragged me out on the dance floor. I made a conscious effort to get out there and have fun. We were at a wedding, a grand celebration of love. I am a marathon runner for crying out loud. I can’t be sitting around watching the young folks dance.

I knew their son since he was little.

I really wasn’t expecting to feel nostalgic. I wasn’t expecting that I would need to hold back tears as the bride walked down the aisle with her dad. I wasn’t expecting to have watery eyes thinking about kids growing up and leaving. I wasn’t expecting to feel pensive and sad on a very happy day. Emotions can be funny that way…

I’m not ready for this.

This was the first wedding of a close friend’s child. I didn’t expect that it would be so emotional.

I love weddings…

 

Luke’s visit, part 7

Suppose that a little girl whom you were close to died.

In the first scenario, I want you to imagine that the girl died in a tragic accident and was killed unintentionally by one of her friends.

In the second scenario, I want you to imagine that the girl was brutally murdered.

How might you feel in either scenario? Would the loss of someone close be the same regardless of how she died? Could you blame someone if they didn’t intend to hurt another but did? Is it okay to be angry even if it was an accident?

It’s easy to be angry if that feeling was justified. But what if it is not?

Sometimes I feel angry at Matt. It is hard to justify feeling anger towards someone severely mentally ill. I don’t think that he intended to be violent towards us, his siblings. But the end result was the same, he ruined our childhood.

Luke said that when he was younger he told Matt to hit a wasp nest with a stick. Matt got stung.

We were told that feeling angry was bad. Yet we still felt that way.

Sometimes it was hard not to feel angry at our mother for favoring him so.

But isn’t it natural to want to soothe the baby that is always crying?

Luke said that he needed to have boundaries. He told our mom that he didn’t want to hear about Matt unless he asked how Matt was doing. Our lives don’t revolve around Matt anymore. It was hard to break away from that. But we needed to break away from that to heal.

It is okay sometimes to feel angry.

 

 

 

 

Luke’s visit, part 4

When we were young, my dad was a very cruel man. He is not like that anymore.

Luke said what terrified him the most was the train. It was one of his earliest memories. He remembers dad inching closer and closer to the tracks while the train was passing. He hid crying in the back window of the car as my dad and brother Mark laughed. He said I wasn’t there.

I don’t remember this being an isolated incident. I was there. I almost forgot about this. The train did not terrify me. I liked to wave at the man in the caboose when mom took us on walks. As kids, we lived near the railroad tracks. I found the sound of the train’s whistle to be rather soothing at night. We even saw a train derail in our lifetime, but not on those tracks.

I remember my dad doing other things like crossing the tracks right before the train passed. But I think he found much more satisfaction in waiting for the train to pass. He inched closer and closer until the front of the car seemed to kiss the side of the train car.

If you get really close to a train, it is squeaky and loud. The cars teeter and rock back and forth making an awful grating noise. Sparks fly. It seems like it could come off the tracks at any moment and destroy the car in a big ball of fire. My dad took the opportunity to scare Luke or any of us whenever he had the chance. I remember this happening several times with the train. I was there, but Luke does not remember that.

We couldn’t comfort our terrified sibling otherwise it would probably be our turn next. Compassion and empathy were not rewarded. In fact, they were more of a weakness. Laughter was probably the safest response. If you laughed or acted like it didn’t scare you, he wouldn’t do that to you. I often responded with no response. But Luke was terrified and I think he was too little to hide it.

My dad did other things to scare us in the car. He drove fast and laughed at us if we tried to put on our seat belts. He drove fast over hills. He would taunt us by saying that he had no idea what could be waiting on the other side of the hill. I was big enough to see out of the window, maybe they weren’t. There could be a family walking on the other side of the hill….a dog…another car and he wouldn’t be able to stop from hitting whatever could be on the other side. Sometimes he would drive up hills on the wrong side of the road.

I’ve had nightmares about him driving fast or going up steep hills not knowing what could be on the other side. I think it was also the root of my struggles with a fear of driving, especially hills. I was afraid of hurting someone. I was afraid of not having control over that. I couldn’t see what was ahead of me.

Today I am obsessed with conquering my fears. If the fear wins, so does my dad.

I built a big wall around myself. I have a thick shell. But maybe somewhere inside is that little girl who is kind and caring.

I don’t think that my mom even knew about the things our dad did when she wasn’t around.

 

Luke’s visit, part 1

It happened, our meeting, almost 4 months after I sent the impersonal ‘happy birthday’ text to my brother Luke. He replied that he wanted to talk sometime in person, about our childhood, if I was up to it.

It happened the end of last year for him. He wasn’t going to lie to himself anymore. It happened right after our brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic medicine and threatened to kill Luke’s daughter. The memories flooded back with strong emotion.

I understand, I take it in in small doses until I can’t swallow it anymore. But Luke took it in with one massive gulp. He set aside everything that he used to help him cope and embraced the pain.

He told me that he thought no one cared about us. No one had our best interests in heart. We were physically abused by our disabled brother Matt and verbally abused by our dad on a consistent basis. No one once said that they were sorry this happened to us. We were just expected to take it.

I agreed that our dad did not care about us. I did not agree that our mom did not care about us. I said that I thought she did the best that she could under the circumstances. But did she? Or am I just telling myself that to help me cope?? What is wrong with lying to yourself a little to make you feel better?? What is wrong with coping mechanisms if they are healthy and actually help you cope?

My mom always put Matt first over our safety or the safety of our children. Matt was like an idol we were forced to worship. Our wants and needs always took the back burner.

I feel angry sometimes. Luke does too. He said I should feel angry. But I don’t feel angry at my dad although he was a terrible father. I feel angry at my mom although I think she was an amazing mother.

There is an inconsistency there.

Things don’t add up with what I think and how I feel.

What kind of parents have a 6 year old (me) watch my 3 younger brothers swim at the lake even for a few minutes?? That was the day that my youngest brother (Luke), who just turned 2, almost drowned. I have carried the heavy weight of responsibility since then. I was not allowed to be a kid. I had to be an adult.

Luke said he was sorry that all of these traumatic things happened to me. He asked Paul if I was okay. He asked how I cope. Paul told him that I cope by running. He didn’t mention writing or this blog. I’m not ready. I’m not sure if I will ever be ready. But I am ready to start delving into the past again…slowly…

I don’t want Luke to worry about me…I think this time our brother Mark is the one that could be drowning. Maybe if we can reach him, we can help pull him out.

 

The rails

My husband says that life is sometimes like a railroad track. On our journey, the rails of good and bad happen side by side simultaneously. Life is never all good or all bad. Sometimes the great and the horrible bombard us at the same time. I’ve never felt like that was more true than it is now. I don’t even know what to feel anymore..

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. My go to feelings these days are anger and a deep sorrow. I thought maybe a weekend up north in isolation would force me to reflect what my problem is. I am not a negative person, but right now the rose tinted glasses makes me want to gag.

What is my problem? Why can’t I have a light and fluffy blog? Is that even what I want? Probably not…

I consider myself a realist. But what happens when reality doesn’t even seem realistic?

The funny thing is that I achieved everything I wanted in life. I’ve worked really hard to accomplish my goals. I’ve turned out better than I even thought I would. That should make me happy, but it only leaves me wanting more. What can I conquer next? I already have a wall full of medals in my dream house.

Some things have really hit me hard…the terminal cancer diagnosis of a close friend…the death of a close friend’s child. I feel like I can’t talk to them anymore about the good or bad. How can I complain about my teen throwing a drinking party at my house when her teen daughter is dead??

There is a certain isolation of not knowing what to say beyond…I’m sorry this has happened to you..Life is unfair..You are in my thoughts and prayers..What happens after you said this a dozen times? What happens when words run out to express your grief for them? Do you go back to talking about every day ordinary life? I don’t know what to say.

The death of Lisa’s daughter stings. It was so unexpected and tragic. This wasn’t my plan for either of my friends. A child shouldn’t die, a healthy person in their 40’s shouldn’t get cancer…Whereas, I have never felt healthier in my life. My body is a lean mass of muscle from running and working out consistently for the last ten years. I still get carded to buy alcohol when some of my classmates are getting asked for their AARP cards.

My children are all healthy and normal. I worried for years that I would have a severely autistic child like my brother. That worry slipped off the horizon many years ago to be replaced by other worries. But they are all normal worries that every parent has..

I have a wonderful husband. I have a great job. I am reaching the end of actively parenting three teenagers.

Yet, I feel this isolation. Change is hard, even if it is good. I love my new house, but I don’t know who my neighbors are. My youngest daughter will be going to a new school and doesn’t have any friends in the area.

I feel estranged from my extended family. I haven’t seen my siblings in months. We rarely talk.

I feel estranged from my church family with all of the controversy lately. My best friend Cindy left the church and we might too. All of my kids were baptized and confirmed there. Must everything change all at once?

My husband, aunt, mother, and son have been on a school trip for the last couple weeks. I haven’t seen them in almost a month. I spent a week in Vegas and when I got back, they left. It almost feels like they are gone from me too. Is this what it is going to feel like if I, in the natural course of life, outlive my husband and mom? This emptiness?

I’ve spent a lot of time alone in reflection this past month. It’s really dark and messy in there. I want to clean things up but I’m afraid of what would happen if I disturb the cobwebs. I have to be really strong to go into the deep, dark ugly places. I just don’t feel really strong right now. It’s not the best time to poke at my demons.

My family will be coming home tonight. Maybe my mood will improve. Maybe I will find my way out of this sorrow. Maybe I will finally accept change, the good along with the bad. I’m on the right track, I just need to keep chugging along..

 

The second half of the weekend roller coaster ride

After church on Sunday, we went to visit our old friends Harv and Kate. Our old friends as in friends that are in their 80’s and not as in old friends we’ve known since the 80’s.

Harv and Kate invited us over under the guise of having us share our adventures in Thailand with them. They have been all over the world but have never been to Thailand. Despite being older than my parents, we share many common interests with Harv and Kate including traveling, sailing, singing, theater, the love of the outdoors, and being hard core intellectuals.

Once we arrived, I noticed in sheer panic that I forgot my phone at home. During this time, I missed the call from my friend Jen preparing me to see her with her new cancer diagnosis later in the evening at our children’s band concert. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Harv and Kate said that they had a surprise for us. We weren’t going to be eating lunch at their house as expected. They said they were taking us on a mystery date. Kate said that one time Harv took her on a mystery date and they ended up in Missouri. Wait! What? I got a little nervous when we started heading south. Not to mention that Harv went through a couple of stop signs.

Now Harv and Kate are by far the happiest married couple that I know. Although they have been married longer than I’ve been alive, they act like a couple of newlyweds. They said that they often plan surprises for each other to keep their relationship alive. Maybe Paul and I will have to start doing that.

Soon we arrived in a small town to a hole in the wall bar/restaurant/theater/art gallery/hotel that was 150 years old. Harv and Kate surprised us with a dinner theater show that Harv and Paul performed in together years ago. We had a marvelous time. When we got back to their house, they wouldn’t let us leave until we saw Kate’s drawings, they watched our son’s solo and ensemble performance, and we set up another date to tell them about our Thailand experience.

That set us on the road with just enough time to grab my forgotten phone on the way to the concert. I didn’t have time to call Jen back.

Arabella, my mom, Alex’s girlfriend, Paul, and I attended the concert that evening. We saw Julia sitting by herself and invited her to join our crew. Our other old friend Vince showed up. He sat down next to Julia. He asked Julia if she was married. She replied, “Not happily”. Her husband never attends their children’s events, just like my dad. Julia told Vince that it was so nice that he could come out to watch his grandson perform. Vince told her that he wasn’t related to us.

That can be the awkward thing about unconventional friendships…people always think we are related. He is not your dad?? No, my dad takes no interest in my life and Paul never had a dad. At this point, we don’t even bother explaining all of this anymore.

Paul invited Vince over to our house after the concert to watch the video of Alex performing at S&E. That was before we ran into Jen, before I found out that she has terminal cancer. I cried all the way home. I cried while Vince was at our house watching the video of our son perform. I cried myself to sleep. I was still crying when I got to work the next morning.

For so many years, I stuffed my feelings. I don’t remember crying when my grandma died. I told myself that she was still alive. For years, I crammed all of my bad feelings in some back closet of my mind. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel. After a while, I could no longer pick or choose what feeling I put behind the door…all feelings got locked up until I became completely numb to life.

After awhile I got sick of living in the empty void. Eventually I opened the closet door and all of the old junk of emotions came crashing down on me. I sorted it out. I processed it. I dealt with it and lived to tell about it. It was only then that I started to live again.

This time I told myself that I was going to deal with my feelings. If I’m sad, I’m going to cry. If someone can’t handle me crying because I found out a close friend is dying, then why would I want that negativity in my life??

But I didn’t cry in front of Jen, in front of her husband and children, in a public place. There is nothing I can do to heal her. But I am going to her house later on this week to see if she needs anything to make her last days happier.

So there you have it…I have a new friend with lupus, an old friend (15 years) with cancer, and 3 old friends in their mid-80’s.

Just because our time with others may be short doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t forge relationships…because, who knows? Nothing is guaranteed in life. Might as well start living every day to its fullest.