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) 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 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…

 

In my feelings…

Last year, at about this time, my brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic meds. Slowly, the docile Matt that we came to love disappeared. It started with a grunt and a few twitches. The Tourette’s was back. Then he started flapping his hands again, the Autistic self-stim. It all would’ve been tolerable for his liver’s sake, I guess.

But then the old Matt came back in full force. He talked to my mom about wanting to kill my niece, my brother Luke’s daughter. He fantasized over scenarios of killing or harming her. The voices were back. He laughed at the things they told him to do. He had conversations with himself as he flapped, grunted, gagged, and twitched.

He had to go back on the medicine. It took months to wean him off and it would take months until it was fully effective again. In the meantime, Luke had to keep his little girls away from Matt.

All of this happened before…

He attacked my daughter at her birthday party when she was 4. That was before he was medicated and in a group home. After that happened, I cut myself off from my family for years.

Before that, it was me. It’s okay if he hurt me, we were the same size. It happened day after day for year after year.

I was told not to feel. Don’t feel…don’t feel…don’t feel. I got pretty good at not feeling.

My dad never told me he loved me or said that everything would be okay. He could sit in the next room laughing over something stupid on TV while I cried. He didn’t care. He looked at me with vacant eyes. He wasn’t there.

He didn’t hug me, nor did he hit me.

Then there was a switch that would go off somewhere in my dad’s mind. He would become angry. He screamed, he swore, and flailed out at everyone. He laughed at our fears and tears. He ridiculed us, called us stupid, and told us how much he hated us. My brother Luke got the brunt of my dad’s anger. But Luke rattled his cage.

My dad never said ‘I’m sorry that you have to go through this’. Instead he called us names like wimp, baby, or worse if we cried or showed any signs of weakness. I built a tough exterior around myself that wouldn’t even allow empathy in. For every punch, hit, or bruise from my brother, my mantra was that the physical pain would make me stronger. The bruises and scars have long faded, but the inner scars will always remain unseen to most.

My mother was the perfect mom. Except she had one weakness, Matt. She favored him over everyone and everything else. If Matt wanted to go, we went. If he wanted to stay home, we stayed. If Matt was hot and we were cold, she would crank the A/C. Matt couldn’t help it, she said. We had control over ourselves, he didn’t. Sometimes she was so blinded by Matt, that she would put other people at risk by his behavior. But, she cared.

A few months ago, my mom brought Matt up north for my niece’s birthday. I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication or if she was trying to force Matt back into Luke’s life once she deemed Matt as better. Both situations happened before. Luke and my mother got into a huge argument. He wasn’t ready to trust Matt around his daughter. My mother left crying.

This takes us to a couple of weeks back…my mom stopped by on a Friday night. I asked her why she was over. On Friday nights she goes to the group home to pick up Matt. She said that Matt wasn’t coming home because Luke was coming over the next day to talk…something about therapist…repressed memories…

I felt very anxious the next day. For a brief moment, I wept. I know how Luke feels. I’ve been there before. It rips you apart.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I had my last what I call post traumatic stress episode.

It started out innocently enough. I was decorating the Christmas tree. Then this memory came back, almost like an image in my mind that I couldn’t get out. With this memory came intense emotion…stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It lasted almost two days. I couldn’t sleep and when I did I had intense nightmares where I woke up crying and frightened. I had several nightmares a night. I felt intense fear, panic, and rage. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think rationally or otherwise. It was very horrifying.

I fell into a deep dark depression. I drove around aimlessly in my car. I had this strong desire to end it all. If I drove fast in my car and missed a turn…well…oh well. I screamed at anyone that tried to help me and pushed them away. I remembered. I felt the feelings I tried to repress 100x’s more powerful than if I would have felt them before.

I am afraid of this happening again.

My childhood…the flashbacks…those are the times my feet have swept the bottom of the ocean floor. I honestly don’t know how I survived, thrived in fact. I am completely ‘normal’, but my experiences in life are far from it.

The meeting with my brother was all very hush hush. He talked to my dad for 3 hours and my mom for 2 1/2. It sounds like there was closure and healing. At this point, it is hard to say.

Maybe I should talk to my parents too while I still have the chance.

But I’ve chosen to write about it instead.

One step at a time…

When I first met my future husband, I had a jar full of pills on my dresser.

It contained the remnants of unused anti-depressants…Zoloft…Prozac the pill that made me crazy…Anafranil the pill that made me sleep more than I was awake…Paxil, Pemelor…the list goes on…Dexedrine I couldn’t focus at school…Lithium…I remember getting my blood drawn. Weight gain, weight loss, a pill that I needed to eat extra salt…I had round red pills, small white pills, and capsules…even at the highest doses, none of them helped.

Apparently a pill couldn’t cure a crappy childhood.

Paul wanted me to throw the jar out.

I said a lot of negative self talk out loud. I am so stupid. I am so dumb. I am a klutz. I am unlovable. I echoed the words that my daddy said to me. Paul said for every negative thing I said about myself, I had to say 3 nice things about myself. I broke that habit with his help.

I had a tendency to self-destruct. I gravitated towards pain and denied myself joy. I was a harsh taskmaster. I was angry. I was depressed. I am still like that but I express it in healthier ways…like running.

I saw therapists. To be honest, some of them were a joke. How would you feel if you didn’t have an autistic, schizophrenic brother that liked to hurt you? Geez, I wouldn’t know…What would you do if you had a magic wand?…Is that a realistic therapy goal? Maybe I could get a fairy godmother too…Oh, don’t forget the frog that turns into a prince. With me, reality has always been the best approach.

I had one therapist that was really great. She made me talk about feelings..What feelings? I don’t have feelings. I feel nothing…not happiness nor sorrow. I am completely numb. When the memories and feelings came back I was completely devastated by the mess I found.

I went to college with the intentions of becoming a therapist. I wanted to fix my family. I wanted to help others like me. I am 43 years old and have not found one single person in this world that grew up with an autistic/schizophrenic violent brother to help by my experiences.

One day I got rid of the jar of pills on my dresser. My brother asked what I was on because I seemed normal. I was on my own…No more therapy, no more pills…just the love of a person that cared enough to listen.

I slowly started the healing process of recovering from a difficult childhood. It has made me a stronger person. I am no longer outrunning my demons…I am facing them…slowly at my pace…one step at a time…

Since those first few unsteady steps, I must’ve ran a million miles.