The day after Thanksgiving

As you could tell from my last post, I was rather stressed out about the Thanksgiving holiday this year. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving the boy with the face tattoo showed up at our house and we had to kick him out because our son is grounded from having friends over. We were so stressed out that Paul and I wanted to cancel Thanksgiving altogether.

The strange thing was that it ended up being one of the nicest and most peaceful Thanksgiving’s ever. There weren’t any fights or problems.

I had to work late on Wednesday, but Angel came home from college and helped do some cooking with her boyfriend Dan. Paul made the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. Everyone else brought a dish to pass. My brothers Luke and Mark didn’t make it over this year. But both of my parents came out with Matt which was surprising since my dad hardly ever comes out to family functions. He was even on his best behavior.

My mom even had boundaries with Matt. She asked him if he wanted more food and told him that he needed to get it himself versus waiting on him hand and foot. Before she would bake him a special meal, serve up his food, cut it into smaller pieces, go get him more food if he wanted it, and then clear his plate after the meal.

Paul’s step-dad Daryl and my Uncle Rick also came out. They have a lot in common and get along really well. After supper, we played cards. Angel did not play because she had homework to do and crafts to make for sales on her Etsy site. She is so much like me it is crazy! She is off volunteering today, so hopefully she will have time to play some games tonight.

Arabella had to work Thanksgiving morning and all day today. My girls are very industrious and for that I am thankful.

Even Alex sat with the family most of the day. Later that night he played the piano. It has been a long time since he played. I’d almost forgotten how beautifully he plays. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he didn’t want his friend over for holiday break. He is a totally different person around friends versus family. Today he rode his bike to a friend’s house since he is grounded from his car.

It is a beautiful day though. We have temps in the low 40’s. It is windy and sunny. I decided to take a run outside today on a new route. That is the fun thing about moving. There are a lot of new and exciting running routes.

Finally I’ve been able to keep my head above water and grab a few gulps of fresh air.

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 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 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 hopeĀ  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 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.

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…