Trauma drama

Last night I was having a debate with Arabella. She said she believes that everyone experiences traumatic childhoods.

What??

So I gave her a scenario. Girl A spent her childhood as an incest victim. Girl B’s most traumatic experience was that she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas one year.

I asked her if both girls experienced a traumatic childhood. Arabella responded that they both did. I couldn’t believe it. Then she further stated that my childhood was no more traumatic than her own. I felt offended by her comments and am hoping that her viewpoint will change once she matures.

Arabella asked me if I knew anyone with a perfect childhood. I responded “yes” that I believe my sister-in-law Emily had a perfect childhood. Both my brother and I have flashbacks and at times PTSD from our childhood. It has been very painful dealing with this far into adulthood. Emily has been trying her hardest to help my brother through the pain he is experiencing.

The other day I told my husband Paul that maybe he is better equipped to help me than Emily is to help Luke because his childhood was less than perfect. He disagreed claiming that he has his own demons and voids to fill from his own childhood. He said that someone with a firm foundation is better equipped to help someone who is struggling.

Paul grew up without ever knowing his father. His mother was a teenage high school dropout when she had him. She was willing to work, but struggled financially due to her lack of education. She wasn’t very bright, and although she tried couldn’t earn her GED. We also suspect that his mom was mentally ill. She had a lot of symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Paul’s mother Martha was never a boring person. Sometimes she was a lot of fun to be around. She was exciting and when she loved you she made you feel like you were on the top of the world. There was a time when I was absolutely wonderful and I could do nothing wrong. She made me feel special, important, and loved. In those times, she was a very positive and encouraging mother to Paul. She told him he could do anything he put his mind to.

But there were times that I couldn’t do anything right. Everything was my fault. I was a horrible person. At times she was paranoid. She accused me a taking her boots and leaving a pair of boots that were just like hers but weren’t. She would scream and kick us out of her house. Nothing was ever her fault. Someone else was always to blame. She didn’t lose her job because she was always late, it was because someone was out to get her.

She couldn’t handle watching all of our kids if we wanted to get away for a weekend. She called the oldest two kids demons and our youngest an angel one of the few times she watched them. My son locked himself in the bathroom on the last day until we picked them up. Even her one on one time with the grandchildren turned into big fights. She got into huge arguments with everyone she was close to, then the next time she saw you acted like nothing happened at all.

Martha could convince anyone that she should be the mother of the year. She said things that weren’t true, but were absolutely believable because she believed them. I could go on and on. I don’t believe that Martha was a bad mother. She was just mentally ill. In some ways that makes it so much easier to understand and accept. As you can see, Paul has his own baggage. How can he help me? We tend to stumble along down this path together.

Paul and I did the best we could to be the best parents we could be with what we were given. We didn’t get a lot of help and support with our children and at times felt like we needed to care for our parents.

Paul said that Emily is better equipped to help her spouse through hard times because she has a good foundation to lean back on. Being able to relate is overrated. He convinced me and I changed my mind. Now if I could only convince Arabella and change her mind.

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.

 

Give it a tri!?!!

Last week I ran into Anna, an acquaintance of mine that completed the Ironman this year. She said that if she could do, so could I.

Anna had quite a few obstacles in her way to complete the Ironman. She injured her leg which made it nearly impossible for her to run over a few miles without pain. She had to take a lot of time off of training to get back on her feet again. She also has a demanding full-time job which required her to travel a lot and took up a lot of her training time. She is in her mid 40’s with 2 children. She didn’t feel prepared. She had a severe panic attack during the competition while she was surrounded by people in the water. She was tempted to give up, but didn’t.

Anna made it through, she persevered. One of the saddest parts of her competition was that she did not have the loving support of her family. Her husband stayed at home, not because he had other things to do but because he didn’t want to go. She only had a few friends accompany her, but not just for her since our mutual friend Cori competed too.

Despite the obstacles, Anna succeeded. Why can’t I??

Really, why can’t I??

I never saw myself competing in the full Iron, but Anna really made me reconsider.

Maybe I should have a new goal to complete the full Iron by 45. Then I could get my first tattoo, an Ironman insignia.

Thanks Anna for motivating me!

I am terrified, but I really want to give this a tri!

**One thing I’ve always wondered is what Ironmen do after the big event is over (since they literally invested years into the sport). I asked Anna and Cori what was next on their list. Neither seemed to know. Anna said that Ironman recovery wasn’t all that bad. But she also said that she wanted to take some time to heal. Cori said that she would do whatever. I really don’t understand, but maybe someday I will.**

 

Autism’s sibling, journal 2, part 4

I was my mother’s best friend. Before I was a teenager, I knew about every problem in the house. I helped solve them. I heard about financial concerns, marital problems, parenting issues, and autism galore. My advice was sought. I fixed things. After my dad checked out emotionally, it was like I became the other parent. I was never allowed to be the child. My mom had a hard time making and keeping friends because Matt’s violent behavior scared them away. He scared away many of my friends too, so I really couldn’t blame her.

So I deliberately planned that when I became a parent, I would allow my children to be children. They were never going to hear about my adult problems or issues. In fact, I haven’t told my children much about my childhood at all. I only told my oldest daughter about this blog since she is almost an adult and is old enough to know. Maybe someday when I am ready and they are old enough, my other children will be told.

My mom had a really hard time without the support of my dad and a few close friends. She often times would cry while listening to Christian music as she was driving. Sometimes she would do this while I had friends in the car. It embarrassed me to the point that I really disliked Christian music or relaxing piano music that would cause an eruption of tears from my mother.

Once my mother took my brothers and I to a Christian concert when we were little. She cried almost the whole time. We were bored and screwed around to the point that she had to leave the concert early. She was so angry and upset with us that she cried most of the way home. I wish she had some friends that she could have enjoyed the night away with.

Now I like some music that I wouldn’t want my kids to listen too. Music that is angry, dark, or downright nasty. Music that modern day teens might like and not an old lady like me. Sometimes my kids will test me. Bet you don’t know that song. Yes, it is Eminem singing ‘Till I Collapse (good running song by the way). Wow, I am such a cool mom. With the bass cranking out of my window, you would think that my daughter would be happy with me dropping her off right outside of the middle school. But, alas, I am an embarrassment. Sometimes I even embarrass myself.

Disabled family cohesion

Yesterday was my daughter’s last high school holiday choir concert. My mom went and some close friends. You can really tell how close your friends are if they offer to go to see your child perform. I really appreciate that. Our family is a little more sketchy. My mom makes it out to 99.9% of my kids events. My mother-in-law says she is going to 50% of things and usually would cancel out last minute and make it to 20% of things. I think that not showing up at all is better than saying you are going and not showing up or giving a lame excuse not to go. My dad and brothers are very sporadic about showing up to events.

My kids all have late spring/summer birthdays, so year after year I would throw a family party for them all at one time. A couple of years back I decided to cancel the family birthday party due to lack of interest. I felt very frustrated and angry about the whole thing.

Then a couple of days ago I really started to examine the reason why there is this lack of cohesion within my family. Then I remembered every time that we went on family vacations together, all of the times that we went out to eat as a family, the hugs, the laughter, the times that my whole family came out to see my concerts, my graduation. Then I realized that none of that happened. No family vacations, I can’t remember ever going out to eat as a family when I was young. Those things didn’t happen.

This is what REALLY happened. My mom had to find someone to take care of my brother Matt to come to my events. Lots of times my dad would stay home with him. Matt has autism and Tourettes. Taking him out in public to an event such as a concert or graduation was nearly impossible when he was younger. He would often have a melt down in public. He was hyper with a lot of anxiety that he would have a melt down. His anxiety caused his tics to be worse. Tics included hand flapping, eye twitching, and throat clearing. At the very worst, he would injure himself or others and had so much anxiety that after going to an event he would be nervous and throw up for two days afterwards. People were a lot less sympathetic towards those behaviors back when I was young.

So my brothers and I grew up living separate lives. We went to separate schools. We did not support each other. We never learned how. Luke didn’t go to my college graduation or party that followed it because he chose to be with his friends instead. When Luke graduated from college, I went but had my husband stay home to help take care of Matt. When Mark graduated from high school, I didn’t go and went to work that evening instead. Mark never went on to school and I missed his only graduation. It was only later that I learned that family events are important but I can’t go back.

But I can move forward. I can show my children how important it is to support their siblings. I can encourage them to attend their events. I tolerate them saying that they are bored. When is it going to be over? Is it almost done? I am trying to teach them this lesson now so they won’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.

It took me a long time to get over the hurt, depression, and worry involved in extended family events. I can finally say that I get along with my parent and brothers the best that I have ever gotten along with them. I do see my brothers, especially Luke, making more effort to have a relationship. Matt has an easier time going out to events. Things are finally coming together in my story.

 

 

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.