Amongst the weeds

I wouldn’t say that I am the overly jealous type, not about material things anyway. The biggest thing that causes me jealousy is relationships.

I felt jealous when your parents moved up from a southern state just to be closer to you. I should have been happy for you, but sadly that was not the feeling it triggered.

The last time I saw my parents together, they were fighting. My dad went almost a year without showering when my mother said she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she said that he must shower once a week or there will be consequences. On that day, my mom and I went somewhere. When we got back, my mom asked my dad if he showered yet like he was a small child. He did not and she yelled that he better hurry or he would be in trouble. I would never ask them for marriage advice.

My dad did not attend Alex’s graduation. He did go up north with the rest of the family (not including us). He sat around all weekend in his underwear. This bothered my SIL Carla greatly and she complained about him. Carla and my brother Mark helped clean out my parents shed. Carla said now that it is cleaned out a little, they can fill it with more crap. Or maybe they can buy another car. Carla said she would love to buy a hearse for my dad. It was funny, yet it was not.

I felt jealous when your brother told me he was going to move closer to home to help you and your husband raise your first child. I know your family will be there for you anytime you needed them. I could probably count on one hand how many times we were able to get away when our kids were little because we didn’t have anyone to help us.

I had to schedule my 3rd C-section to be in the hospital over the weekend so my husband could watch our other kids. He just started his business and had to work on the day our last child was born. After he came back from working a few hours, my mom dropped off our other two children at the hospital because my brother Matt had an appointment. Matt always came first, even on the day I gave birth.

I found someone else with demons. We hold each other’s hands as we walk through our own hell fires. Paul is the only person I can count on and I trust he will be there until he can’t be. We’ve had to rely on each other.

Paul never had a dad. His mom had a brief marriage when Paul was little, but she left her husband because she said he was abusive. Martha did remarry after Paul grew up and left home.

Paul did not have one single person from his family to invite to our son’s graduation, unless you count his step-dad. His step-dad Darryl attended but brought a new girlfriend that we met for the first time that day. Darryl has moved on with his life. Paul shared his grief over the thought that his mother will no longer be remembered. He is an orphan. His whole family is gone.

Paul grew up with a great void. I grew up in an environment of dysfunction and abuse. We had to rely on ourselves to survive. It gave us grit and strength beyond belief. But there was no one to turn to when we needed help or advice.

It’s tremendously hard to create a healthy family without having a firm foundation to build our house upon. You may envy our fierce drive and independence, but behind it lies brokenness, emptiness, and pain. Maybe you envy our financial success, our big house, and attractiveness. But I’ll tell you what. We both would give everything we have in exchange for a healthy family of origin.

It’s amazing that we survived and thrived as beautiful flowers among the weeds in which we were planted.

 

 

Being in a better place

I met with my therapist this week.

She asked me what I thought about living in my old house. I told her that my old house wasn’t anything special but it suited the purpose at the time.

She then asked me what it was like living in my dream house. Did it change me at all? Do I feel like I am a ‘softer’ person? Did I give up some of my determination?

I said that I don’t think I changed at all.

To this she responded, what if you were a healthier person inside? Do you really think that it is going to change you for the worse?

She trapped me in my own thinking.

Maybe I could have inner peace without giving up some of the grit that survival awarded me with.

I did what I had to do in order to survive. But now I am stuck because I know no other way. It suited its purpose at the time, but I no longer need to live there.

Why am I so fearful of being in a better place?

 

 

Depression

As I was getting ready for the last show, I saw a car pull up to the theater long before the show started. It was a navy blue car, the same color, model, and make as my dad’s car. The passenger door opened and a very large man struggled to get out of the car with a cane. He had his head down, but I could see a mass of white hair and a long white beard.

I knew my mom was coming to the show. But was my dad? Would he finally tell me that he was proud of me? The man looked up and I realized that he wasn’t my dad. I felt sadness for what never was and what probably will never be.

Depression, it hit me the hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. As I mentioned before, my childhood was the hardest period of my life. My brother Matt, who is less than 2 years younger than me, had some very serious health and mental health issues. He was violent towards me, towards others, and to our pets. He hit me, pulled my hair, and clawed my arms on a regular basis. I think he killed my cats. He threatened to poke my eyes out with a knife. The list goes on…seriously, just read the book once I finish it.

My dad was depressed too. He withdrew from the family. When he was home he would sit on the couch and ignore us while watching TV. If the house was too quiet, I worried that I would find him dead somewhere.

My dad is the most pessimistic person I know. His life mottoes are ‘sh!t happens’ and ‘life’s a bitch, then you die’. He never hugged us or told us that he loved us. We never had father-daughter ‘dates’. Nothing. Instead he told us that we were stupid and laughed at our feelings, dreams, and fears.

I consider myself a realist, which probably is just a nice way of saying pessimist. But I will never be like my dad. I will never tear someone else down to lift myself up.

My dad is everything I don’t want to be. He never took care of himself. He ate a lot of junk food. He never exercised. He weighs almost 350 lbs. He hasn’t brushed his teeth in years. He hasn’t showered in almost a year. He is lazy and hates to work. He doesn’t clean up after himself and is a hoarder. Once one building is full, it’s time to build another shed. He doesn’t finish anything he starts. My parents built their house in the 1970’s and the upstairs bathroom still has not been finished. Simple repairs lie in disrepair for years. He is even too lazy to bother getting dressed if he doesn’t want to.

Maybe that is why I do everything the opposite. I eat healthy, run marathons, can be a workaholic, try to maintain a healthy weight, get things done right away, and am a clean freak. I don’t like things that he likes just because he likes them. But the truth is, I am still his daughter. I can’t hide from that.

In early childhood, when my dad emotionally checked out, I was called up to the plate. I started trying to fix the problems at home. Nothing was kept from me. I was handling responsibilities that no child should have to handle.

A 6 year old should never have to watch her 3 younger brothers in the lake even for a few minutes. My youngest brother almost drowned that day.

A 13 year old shouldn’t be making the call whether or not the neighbor should come over and put our dog out of her misery when she was suffering a painful death. I made the wrong call and I have to live with that.

A college student shouldn’t have to help raise 3 teenagers. But that is what I was doing.

I home-schooled one year of middle school and two of high school so I could help my mom out. Even though I attended college in the drunkest city of the United States, I never went to a single college party. Most Saturday nights you could find me at home helping shower my disabled brother. Then I graduated from college, got married two months later, and right away started a family of my own. At times I feel like I am suffocating.

Sometimes I yearn to be the child I never was. In some ways, my kids are older than me. I gave them everything I didn’t have. The pendulum swung too far to the other side. I only told them the things they needed to know. I only let them be kids. I gave them few responsibilities and chores. I shouldered that responsibility so they didn’t have to. I was wrong. I realize that now. But how can we be functional parents if we both had nothing but dysfunction to model from?

I get depressed when I have memories of the horrible things that have happened to me. The PTSD depression is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Burying my painful feelings in the moment is a future time bomb. The feelings I’ve repressed have a way of coming out tenfold. The depression from that is intense and irrational. The urge to end it all is hard to fight. By the grace of God I was able to make it through to tell you about it. I want to say that will never happen again, but here I am stirring up my demons.

I actively mourn the childhood I never had. There is something joyous and magical most people experience that I’ve never had. It is utterly devastating. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over it. It is the kind of depression that no pill can cure.

My life is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be now, yet somehow I cannot outrun the demons of my past and find peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Emerging from the ashes

I am angry.

I am angry with my mother.

I am angry with Matt.

I am angry about my childhood.

I am angry.

There I said it.

It was difficult to admit and hard to post yesterday about feelings of anger. I must have edited the post a million times as the minutes slipped away. I cut and hacked the angry words away. I almost scrapped the post altogether. I thought about deleting it after I posted it.

Anger…I was taught that it was wrong to feel that way.

You shouldn’t feel angry, it agitates Matt.

You shouldn’t feel angry, he can’t help it.

You shouldn’t feel angry, you are normal.

You shouldn’t feel ANGRY!

You shouldn’t feel angry…

You shouldn’t feel…

I didn’t feel…I stopped feeling. I was numb inside. I could no longer feel pain, but could no longer feel joy. I was empty inside. I became devoid of color. I lived in a cold, barren desert. No more tears, no more laughter. I could stare at the same spot on the wall for hours. I was sinking inside of myself.

My mom sent me to a therapist.

How do you feel, Alissa? I don’t feel.

Yes, you do. Take a look at the feelings chart. I don’t know.

Over time I started to feel again. But the feelings right away weren’t good. I felt everything that I wasn’t trying to feel before. It was a dark place. I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it through to the faint light in the distance. Sometimes the empty void called me back. You don’t want to feel if you have to feel like that.

It was a long journey to get to the place I am now.

I had to lock away the demons that tore at my soul. But I still kept the key.

Sometimes, in the dark of night, the flame from the fire that burns through the keyhole draws me in. I’m curious if I can stoke the fire without getting burned. I keep looking in. I pick at old wounds to see if they still hurt. The scars are starting to fade.

I’m holding the key. I feel strong enough now to slowly unlock the door…

I think the person that emerges from the ashes will make walking through the fire worthwhile.

 

 

Journal 5, part 2

5/2/1991

I’m only going to eat one meal a day or else I will be sick. When I was younger this worked all of the time until I felt better..

It is true that sometimes the needs of the ‘normal’ kids get swept under the rug when there is a special needs child in the house.

I know now that I have been a lifelong sufferer of GERD. I didn’t know this as a child. All I knew was that I had stomachaches all of the time. When it was really bad sometimes eating made me feel sick. I felt like I had a fire in my chest. Eventually the acid crept into my throat, gave me frequent canker sores in my mouth, and wore down the enamel on my teeth as a child. My parents threatened to take me to the doctor if I didn’t eat, but they never did.

My brother Matt also has GERD which was made worse by his gagging from Tourette’s. He frequently threw up his breakfasts. There was a time that the valve completely closed between his stomach and intestines. He couldn’t keep down any food and had to have the valve surgically opened again. In the meantime, he dipped below 90 lbs and he almost died.

Whose needs were more important??

Not only did Matt suffer from GERD, he also has autism. He engaged in a lot of self-stimulating repetitive behaviors such as rocking and flapping his hands together. At one time he had to wear a helmet on his head because when he became agitated he would hit his head with his fist. He was hypersensitive to touch. He would scream when he had to have his teeth brushed. He had to be sedated to go to the dentist for cleanings. He would only tolerate having 1/4 of his teeth cleaned at a time and eventually his teeth rotted. He has difficulty communicating and understanding emotions.

He suffers from Tourette’s. He would gag when eating and constantly make sticky saliva sounds with his mouth. His body would twitch and he repeatedly blinked his eyes.

He suffers from schizophrenia. He hears voices that tell him to hurt little girls. Sometimes the voices terrified him. He had nightmares. He would talk to the voices and laugh at the evil things they would tell him to do.

He is intellectually impaired. He cannot read, write, or do simple math.

He has issues with anxiety.

Matt made anything that my brothers and I struggled with minor in comparison.

There was a 3 year period when Matt was not allowed to go to school because of his violence. After that time period, he had very limited exposure to the outside world up until he was placed on an anti-psychotic medicine that eliminated the voices and the violence towards self and others.

My mother did not want my brother institutionalized in a place for the violently mentally ill so she pulled him out of most situations where he could hurt others. That did not stop him from being violent towards me at home. He grabbed a knife and threatened to cut my eyes out. He punched, scratched, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair on a regular basis. Who protected me?? Who reported his violence against me? No one.

I want to say that I handled it like a trooper, but I did not.

I withdrew into myself. I became very depressed. Although childhood goes by fast, it seems to take forever when you are being abused. I wanted out. I cried myself to sleep at night. I woke up crying in the morning after being awoken by nightmares.

I held my body tight like I was always bracing for impact. I cowered like a dog that was beat too much. My shoulders were held tightly up to my ears. I suffered from insomnia. I fell asleep easily but was typically awake from 2 to 4 AM. In the middle of the night, I suffered from muscle pains. I had to wrap pillows and blankets around my legs. I think my muscles were finally trying to relax in the middle of the night and it hurt.

I suffered from anxiety and worry. I was angry. I developed structure, rituals, and routines to feel like I had some control over my environment. For awhile, I was a compulsive hand washer. I washed my hands so often that they cracked and bled.

With everything going on at home, I couldn’t concentrate at school. My grades were horrible. I was put on a high dose of ADD medicine. It helped me focus, but made my skin crawl. I scratched my skin until it bled, especially on my scalp. I scratched until I pulled out scabs with big clumps of hair.

I was exhausted most of the time.

I was a mess.

That was a long time ago.

I survived.

I am strong now.

I am healing.

I feel ready to fight my demons.

 

Just a mirage..

There was a time when I was really thirsty…I allowed a mirage to deceive me into thinking my thirst would be satiated.

The blind date didn’t start well. Mac came to my house to pick me up with another couple. Once we got on the road, I noticed that they were drinking. They were nervous when a cop passed by and stopped at the nearest gas station long enough to drop off their empties.

It was the early 1990’s…I couldn’t call for a ride home..we were planning on going to a bowling alley, but it was closed. We drove around aimlessly until the driver was almost out of gas. When he went in to pay for gas, his girlfriend went through his wallet. She found the number of another girl and freaked out. She got behind the wheel and pulled recklessly out into traffic. She pulled over on a side road and tried to smash the windows with her purse. Then she ran off into the night. We spent the rest of the night trying to find her…It was awful and I told Mac that I didn’t think there would be a second date.

But Mac pursued me relentlessly. He was charming and it was flattering at first. He made me feel like I couldn’t live without him. He was going to rescue me from my troubled home. It wasn’t long before we moved in together. I knew that my family wouldn’t approve.

Things went well at first, although Mac was into gambling. There were nights we went out that he just had to stop at the casino. He said he would be a few minutes as he left me in the car taking the keys with him. It was cold sitting there what seemed like forever in the winter. Security came to the car a few times asking if I was okay..Really, it will be just a few more minutes..

One night Mac went to the casino most of the night, but had to be to work by 7:30 AM. I left early that morning for school, then I went to work. When I got back home it was 7:30 PM. Mac was still sleeping. He thought it was morning, but he missed a whole day of work. Apparently, it was my fault.

It started slowly at first…a shove, a push..Then he started to say mean things…words that even my daddy didn’t say to me. I threatened to call the police. He told me that he would tell them that I stole money from him. He gave me his work checks to cash. I didn’t place the call. It wasn’t that bad anyway…just a little bruise.

He was threatened that I was going to college. He thought that I would leave him so he tried to sabotage me in any way he could. He told me that my papers were stupid. He cut down my ideas. He even deleted a paper that I wrote right before I had to turn it in to class. Thankfully, I always wrote out a rough draft on paper first.

Things got really bad. Mac grabbed me by the neck and threw me against the wall. I spent a lot of time hiding in the closet crying. It reminded me of growing up. There were times that I was kicked, punched, scratched, bit, or hurt by my brother Matt every day for a long period of time. I started having what seemed like flashbacks. I sat in the closet with my arms around my legs terrified.

I wasn’t allowed to feel angry about what happened to me growing up. Matt couldn’t help it. I was lucky because I was normal. I couldn’t retaliate. This is how I became numb to all feelings. This is when it began.

I told myself with every punch and bruise that it was making me stronger, like I was lifting weights. That’s how I convinced myself as a child that it was good for me. It was my mantra that helped me survive.

I didn’t want violence in my life anymore. This was no oasis in the desert. I had to leave Mac.

Mac read my journals. He tore out pages from them and threatened to send them to my family if I left him. Most of my relatives were very traditional minded, all law and no love. Anything less than perfection was not tolerated. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be disowned by my family. I had already lied to them about ‘shacking up’ with Mac. I was screwed.

He also used my journals to blackmail me in other ways. I bought new tires for his car after he wasted his paycheck at the casino. I had to leave.

One winter day while Mac was at work, I packed my things and left. But Mac didn’t leave me. I would wake up in the morning to flowers left under the windshield wiper of my car with notes begging to take him back. He would come to my house while I slept.

A few months later, I moved in with a friend a block away from Mac. He started hanging out with my roommate. She fell for his charm. He got back into my life again and we became friends. One night he invited me to a party with our old neighbors. I remembered the fun times we had.

When Mac walked away for a few minutes, an old neighbor came up to me and said…I know what he did to you…Leave and don’t come back..

I left.

Several months later, I received a package in the mail. Mac returned all of my scandalous journal pages.

It was finally over.

The accidental overnight sail

I originally posted this when I first started blogging two years ago…the mishap we had this week sailing was partially due to our adventures a few years back when we originally weakened the pin to the rudder…Enjoy! We sure did…many years later.

Last summer my husband and I bought an old 25 foot sailboat. After about a month of ownership, we decided to take three of our friends out for a 3 hour tour. The day before I bought brand new water shoes for the trip. But we had one small problem the evening of the cruise, not enough wind.

It was a warm July evening. I wore my capris and a t-shirt. After supper, the wind picked up out of nowhere. We were ready for the quick sunset cruise out to the lighthouse and back five miles from shore. Once we made it to the lighthouse, the wind was really whipping and there were three foot waves. We thought it would be a really great idea to see how fast the boat could go. We did get the boat to go fast, faster than we have seen it go since. The problem was that the boat went fast in the wrong direction. When we got done testing the speed, we were 15 miles north of where we were supposed to be and it was getting dark.

In the meantime, my friend and I needed to use the bathroom. We had a toilet on board, but we didn’t know how to use it. After using the facilities, we were supposed to pull a lever to empty the contents into a lower compartment. We didn’t do that. As a gracious host, I had my friend use the bathroom first. When it was my turn, I opened the lid as we hit a wave and spilled the contents down my legs onto my new water shoes.

Great, now I am soaked in my friend’s urine. No problem, I had extra clothes on board, right?! Well, no.

Now it was dusk and we were lost.

The depth finder was not working, the GPS coordinates did not take into account that there was land between point A and point B, we had no maps, and our cell phones all died.

To make matters worse, we were almost out of gas. We were in deep water! Every time we tried getting close to shore we would ground out, using what little gas we had left to get ourselves out.

When we went out to deep water we hit some big waves spraying us with water. I was freezing after being soaked with urine and water not to mention the drop in temperature after dark. I used the spider filled sail cover to stay warm.

One of our thrill seeker friends thought it would be a good idea to dance around on the wet bow much to his wife’s dismay. They ended up falling asleep at midnight.

My husband spent the night steering the boat while his other buddy and I worked the jib sheet. Our minds started playing tricks on us and we were afraid of hitting dark objects in the water. At 5 AM I couldn’t take it anymore and had to go to sleep. Geez, all that and I missed the sunrise!!

In daylight we were able to get back to shore. We almost made it to the harbor when we ran out of gas. My husband jumped into the water and had to swim the boat to shore.

We made it home at 7 AM the day after our three hour cruise. My body was swaying back and forth for the next couple of days. The day after we got back I decided to go for a 6 mile run even though I was still swaying and felt like crap. It was the hardest run ever because I ended up coming down with pneumonia that day.

What did we learn from our (in)experience? I am now toilet trained, we carry extra gas, extra water, food, and bought an additional battery charger. I have extra blankets, sweaters, sleeping bags, shorts, pants, coat, robe, and rain gear that stays on the boat just in case we are foolish enough to have another accidental, overnight sail.

We probably should’ve just thrown out an anchor for the night. But what fun would there be in that??