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#MeToo: On The Other Side

At the age of 3, my father began sexually molesting me.

At the age of 5, the sexual abuse was replaced by physical abuse from my father and my mother.

At the age of 9, both my mother and father went to rehab for alcoholism.

At the age of 10, I finally knew what it was like to have a home after living in over 200 houses, more than 100 cities, fifteen states, and two countries.

At the age of 14, I was raped by a classmate my freshman year of high school.

At the age of 15, I started working two full-time jobs and single-handedly supporting my family because my parents flat-out refused to work.

At the age of 16, my parents decided to start drinking again. I took on a third job to support their alcoholism.

At the age of 18 I graduated high school at nearly the top of my class.

After my first year of college, I was told that I was not allowed to continue even though I had scholarships because “I wasn’t raised to think I was better than anyone else.”

At the age of 21, I was raped again … by the man who had betrayed me seven years before. My parents told me I deserved it, and was lucky that a man had paid that much attention to me since I was worth nothing. I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My birth certificate says that I was born on April 2nd, 1987 at 1:25 p.m.

I was born on March 30th, 2009 at roughly 9:45 p.m. when, at nearly 22 years old, I decided I had been through enough.

I am the adult daughter of two alcoholics who have been diagnosed by multiple mental health professionals as suffering from a variety of mental disorders.

My father suffers from Bipolar Disorder and severe Anxiety. My mother is a Paranoid Schizophrenic. Neither one has any sense of reality beyond their immediate perception of the world, and both are Compulsive Liars.

The man who raped me intimidated and frightened me into a silence I would not break for almost ten years. When I ran into him again, he introduced me to his wife and child as if we were old high school friends.

He contacted me after getting my information through old mutual friends and asked if we could meet to reconcile and so that he could apologize for what he had done. He never had any intention of doing so and in my own foolishness, I met with him and he forced me into the back of a car and raped me … again.

My parents told me I had to be lying, and that if I had been raped then I should consider myself lucky because that was more than I deserved from anyone. When I insisted that I was not lying and needed their help, my father smacked me across the face and broke a chair over my back.

I was almost twenty-two years old at the time and the only thing I remember after that was my youngest sister’s face. She was staring in horror and fear trying to figure out what to do.

I was the only one who stood up to the two of them. I defended everyone. I fought everyone’s battles and kept everyone safe. The thoughts in her mind were clear on her face: Who was supposed to protect me? How could they help me?

I had stayed for years thinking that I was protecting them. In that moment, I realized that if I showed them that all you could do was take the abuse and not actually do anything about it … then one day my little sister was going to be in my position … and no one would be around to help her either.

I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had nowhere to stay that night. I called up a friend and grabbed a ride, and crashed on a couch while struggling to find somewhere to live.

I went through months of endless torture and doubt while going through the trail that put my rapist in jail for what will be a very long time. I changed my address, my phone number, and all of my information so that I could cut ties with the life I didn’t deserve and start living a life that was not filled with fear, or doubt, or regret, or abuse.

Today, I am 23 years old.

I have a home of my own for the very first time.

I have sought counseling for the traumas I have been through in my life.

I have struggled with body image, self-esteem, guilt, and an intense lack of trust in people I care about.

I have cut all ties with my family, stopped supporting them financially, and moved on to start a life of my own.

I have found love in a man who is the best thing to ever happen to me. A man who would never raise a hand to me, who loves me in spite of my demons, and who has already supported and seen me at my absolute worst.

I have found peace.

I am not sharing my story to shock, horrify, or scare people. I am not sharing my story seeking sympathy although it is graciously received.

I am sharing my story because somewhere out there is a man, woman, or child who has faced demons that linger in shadows all around them. They may not feel that they are able to overcome them and they are utterly alone.

I am telling you my story to tell you this:

You are not alone. Ever.

No one is ever alone. There were moments when I wanted to give up and give in. Just tune out and wait for the worst to come so that nothing else as bad could happen. I figured there was nothing that could help or save me. I have been there.

I made it out and I am waiting for you with open arms on the other side. There’s plenty of room here.

Mommy Dearest

I’ve been debating joining Band Back Together since the day it opened. I was leery, because good goodness do I have a lot to say. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. And hard to let yourself. Some things are hard to pull out of the box under the bed. It’s not easy to give them attention or light, even if sometimes that is necessary.

So I’m here. And fuck it all. I’m healing. I’m better. I’m stable and mostly happy. I got shit to say.

My mom once showed me a song by Lucinda Williams called Sweet Side. She said it reminded her of me. Which is sort of bullshit. I’ve been pretty emotionally fucked up but never quite to that extent. In any case, I found it sort of ironic that my mom should point it out to me. She mistakenly believes my internal wounds were created when I was molested.

They weren’t.

They were her made by her alone. I’m honestly not affected by the molestation. I have been, but that pain has long since been banished.

The worst damage is the quietest.

It is the person who should love you unconditionally repeatedly telling you, “I love you, but….” It is being thrown out into the streets at the age of thirteen. It is being told you are insane; a bitch, violent, angry, a failure, unstable, and worthless in words and actions for most of your life. It is trying, with EVERY OUNCE OF LOVE in your child’s body, to gain the affection of your mother by any means necessary. Then, when that fails, to gain -attention- by any means necessary.

And when that fails, shutting off to the world.

It’s being sent away, over and over as a child, on the word’s “I can’t deal with you any more, you are going to your (Aunt’s/Dad’s/Grandma’s) house.”

It’s your insane family hosting an intervention.

To tell you to lock yourself in an insane asylum. For the horrific sin of being angry. When the forty-year old virgin who still hides in her mother’s attic, the woman who had seven kids (five outside of her marriage) lied about the whole thing, watched her husband beat and molest her children and ignored it willfully, and the former heroin addict tell you that you need help, something has gone terribly wrong.

Having one of the most insane stick up for you at the least expected moment. Finding shelter in his rage. Seeing the correlation. Black sheep meet black lamb. Those surreal moments that buffer you from the storm.

It’s moving in with your step-dad when your parents separate. Because he’s the better parent.

It’s being kicked out of your bedroom and moved into the corner of the living room, so your mother’s boyfriend can have an office. Or moving into the spider-infested, insulation-free shed outside. Because they are tired of you inside. Or a 3AM, walk outside to get to the restroom, because you aren’t welcome to live IN the house with the good people.

And finding the front door locked.

It’s a birthday party alone, while your family went on vacation (again) to New Orleans without you. During Mardi Gras. It’s a sweet sixteen where they haul in a musty old pull-behind trailer and tell you, “Happy Birthday, now GTFO” and you find yourself with a ‘birthday’ basket of cleaning supplies and a rank, disgusting trailer parked in the back yard. Your new home. Have a paper umbrella, it’ll make it right.

It’s making the (sane) decision to not speak to your mother, ever again, at seventeen. And being talked out of it. Stupidly.

It’s having the power cord leading to that same trailer be pulled repeatedly in the middle of the night by your mother’s boyfriend. Leading to HOLY FUCK IT’S COLD IN HERE. Leading to ‘Stop lying! He didn’t do it!’

It’s trusting, against your better judgment, to go home when your life collapses and you are sick and losing your mind. And finding yourself taken advantage of, and then thrown out. Again.

Of trying to get your life back together, only to have your money depleted entirely. Of going back to school only to discover that every day seems to result in another, “I TOLD you I couldn’t watch the kids, I have an appointment”

Of visiting a friend in California to get away from the building stress and anxiety, to find yourself homeless and stranded and papers being filed in your absence claiming you abandoned your children. Of having to explain to your children that you didn’t. And that you meant it when you said you’d be gone a week.

Of living in a shitty motel in the middle of the Mojave desert, subsisting on ten dollars a week in food to make it back to get your kids. In waiting a year to see them again because of your mother’s treachery.

Of gearing up for an epic court battle only to have her mysteriously drop them off with ‘a secret, don’t tell your mother’ and have your beautiful, sensitive daughter burst into tears because the pressure is too much. In hearing her, through her sobbing, explain that she’s afraid Grandma would be back to take them again in a month, because that’s what she said.

Holidays are bullshit. They remind me of the family I don’t have.

They remind me of going to Thanksgiving to drop off my kids to spend time with their Uncle, and be entirely ignored by my family. They remind me of being asked how much a vacuum was at Home Depot without a ‘hello’ or a ‘Merry Christmas’ preceding it and without even so much as a ‘have a nice day’ on leaving.

I spent the last two years with just my partner during the holidays. It’s been years since I so much as got a birthday card or a Christmas card. I don’t expect them, and I don’t need them. But I kind of wish I got them. It felt odd. It still feels odd.

This year, I’m going to cook a turkey, we will all will sit down to it and be thankful for what we have. And I will continue to love my children fiercely every day, no matter how angry and hurt they are inside. No matter how long their own healing process takes. No matter what silly, childish things they do. Even if they break something I love, or snark at each other in a hormonal rage, no matter if they make horrible decisions or great ones. I’m going to be there and love them.

The fact is, that no matter how much she’s done to me, no matter how much she has injured my heart, no matter how many times she’s screwed my life through her manipulations, I love her. She’s my mother; I can’t help it. I miss the love a mother is supposed to provide. I miss the safe haven. I miss the support system.

I miss the person you call when you are at your wit’s end and need advice. I have nothing like that. I’m it. I’m my own self-contained support. If a kid does something baffling, I’m on my own. If I’m drying out the turkey, I’m on my own.

I haven’t spoken to my extended family in years. I haven’t spent more than five minutes in conversation with my mother for two. My life has NEVER been better. It’s stable, I’m back in school. My kids are healing, slowly and painfully, but they are healing. We have our finances in order and our life is generally upwardly mobile. But still…

I want a mother so desperately it hurts.

And I can’t make that feeling go away, no matter how much I want to.

The Demons In My Brain

I’m not usually one to do stuff like this. I’m the creeper lurking in the corner wanting to make friends but never approaching anyone.

But I have a story, and I need to let it out.

I was your typical Midwest teen in 2006. I was 15, went to the movies with friends, spent all the time I could in the band room or wandering around the pastures surrounding our house. Life was pretty good. Then came that fateful day in February.

My half-brother got arrested for murder. My dad and I always knew he’d end up in an institution somewhere. He wasn’t raised in a good home like me and he had a hard life; we thought he’d get some time for burglary or car theft.

But never this.

After he was arrested, all these issues from the few years when he lived with us surfaced again, all the abuse he put me through before mom came home from work. My school never did Sex Ed, I didn’t know. For years they were buried…he hadn’t lived with us for awhile, but when he was arrested, the memories came back.

But I never told anyone, until now.

I failed my first class ever that year. I just didn’t see the point in doing any work when spring came around and my brother was in court and here I am in school while the people around me are complaining about how the school food sucks or how some teacher took their cells. On the outside I was the same as always, but inside I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I made it through the year, when my mom yelled at me about my D grade, I thought about ending it that night. Just swallowing a bottle of pills, but I was able to get online and talk over all the stresses with my internet. Life was stabilizing again.

Then came the day I can never forget, and I still have trouble talking about.

June 11th 2006, 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning, I got a phone call from my best friend.

She told me that 3 students from our school and our Spanish teacher were lost in the ocean while swimming on a school trip to Costa Rica. The body of one of the students had been recovered already.

Sunday, they recovered the body of one of my closest friends. The third student was recovered Wednesday. Sr. C wasn’t recovered until Friday.

All I remember for those summer days was sitting in front of the computer refreshing news pages, hoping and praying that maybe Andrew, Jessica, and Sr. C were still alive, then it was Jessica and Sr. C, then just Sr. C. Finally it hit me. Four people I knew, went to school with, acted in plays with, sang in the choir with, played in the band with, learned from.

Dead.

They lived in Kansas and they drowned in the goddamned ocean in Costa Rica.

It was 2 days before my 16th birthday and instead of going to a movie with friends or something on a Friday night I was sitting in a hot crowded auditorium with some friends and Andrew’s brother, crying, wishing it was all just a dream.

Saturday, I didn’t get out of bed. Sunday, my mother prepared all my favorite food for dinner, a beautiful cake, my sister was there, I didn’t eat anything. I got a car. I didn’t care.

Later that week, I was on a bus full of high schoolers heading down to Texas for Andrew’s funeral. Everyone thought I was okay, I acted normal for my friends. But when they played Amazing Grace at his funeral I lost it. Amazing Grace? What’s so amazing about a 17 year old losing his life?

The freshest memory of Andrew is sitting with him on the floor of the band room on the last day of school listening to Good Riddance by Green Day. Any time I hear that song, even now, 4 years later, I cry.

My junior year in high school things were back to a semblance of normal, but band didn’t have Andrew. That spring I started cutting because I was so sick of being numb and the pain let me feel something. It wasn’t deep. There are no physical scars, but it allowed me to feel.

Then I went off to college, started smoking to get away from my crappy roommates, slept any free time I had. I didn’t have a social life outside of band and my dorm room.

Next year in college, I rented a house with a friend of mine, and I started cutting again. One night, I finally left scars. The next morning, I called the schools Mental Health Services, the next day I was talking to a therapist. I told her part of the story, how my brother was a murderer and my best friend drowned in the fucking ocean. How I almost scratched my arm raw on the first day of classes because I’m so nervous in new situations. How I’m always afraid that the worst is going to happen. She didn’t try and give me coping mechanisms or advice, she just gave me pills.

The pills made me feel nothing, I went through that semester feeling like a shadow. I tried to tell her that I didn’t want the pills, she said they were the best option for me. So I stopped. They weren’t helping the depression, the anxiety, or the suicidal thoughts. I was on my own again.

During spring break, my significant other of 4 months cheated on me with another friend. She had the dignity to tell me but it didn’t really help. I started drinking, and picked up smoking again. I failed all my classes.

I am not proud of who I was, or of what I did. I have regrets and I can’t forget those regrets.

But I am stronger now. I switched schools and I’m back to living with my parents. I don’t really see my friends much anymore, but I’m becoming who I need to be. I’m trying to learn to cope with my feelings in a good way instead of just bottling them up inside.

I’m 20 now, an age Andrew will never reach. I haven’t seen my brother in 4 years. I can’t trust anyone farther than I can throw them (read: at all) but I am becoming me. I’m changing the path of my life, some days are bad, some days are good, and some days I wish I could crawl under a rock. I just have to keep telling myself that everyday is worth it, that I am worth it, and that in the end I will be me.

And maybe in years to come when I look back at the last four years of my life I can smile and remember good things that happened instead of seeing this crater left by that summer.

A Letter I Can’t Send: A Letter to My Natural-Born Brother

Dear Bro,

The last time we talked, you had so much blame. So much disdain for my decisions and actions. You had guessed my motives from the biased stories told to you from people who were angry with me at the time.

At no point did anyone say to me, “Katie, these things we’ve tolerated from you are no longer acceptable to us. It needs to stop or you need to leave.”

I respected the boundaries Casey gave me without any realization that my behavior was triggering Hali. Why would I think that Billy’s appearance would trigger her into a panic?

After several weeks of living peacefully – with both Lee & Hali’s permission to live in their backyard, coming inside only to shower and heat up microwave meals… suddenly, I received notice that I’d violated their boundaries.

I’d been coming by to shower in the dark of night, and I always announced myself when I arrived during the day. Rationally, I explained the reason for each person that I’d invited in. You thought that I didn’t deserve the opportunity to fix it so that I could ease Hali’s mind. I did not even garner enough of his respect to let me know by text, call, or taking a moment to walk into the backyard to tell me to my face that my presence was creating panic in his mom. He acted without taking into account my feelings, situation, or ability to show respect WHEN ASKED TO.

He says I disrespected him and his parent’s house. Did I? Partially, yes.

I acknowledge that I did not understand that my actions within my surroundings (and the authority to bring guests (even short-term ones) in) were triggering others, but I was NOT incapable of rational understanding. My behavior was deemed unacceptable by Casey who never told me.

I am deeply hurt that everyone around me was so offended, angry, and unable to deal with my choices, yet too afraid for my sanity (or lack thereof) to confront me from a place of care, love, concern, and protection.

I am hurt by your actions and inactions as well, Sir.

You talked to people who knew me without explaining my version of those events and should have told them that my motives shouldn’t be impugned, as I wasn’t being malicious.

And when you diagnosed my “irrationality” to Casey, you didn’t tell him that we had had a conversation a while later (after my rational ability to understand had been restored by the State) when I explained my ACTUAL intentions and acknowledged that I could see now that people did not trust my ability to make sense at all.

I was hurt that you made no effort to tell Casey that I had given reasons/excuses as my actions were based on a skewed and warped sense of reality at the time.

EVERY ONE IS THE PROTAGONIST OF THEIR OWN STORY AND HAS A BIASED PERSPECTIVE.

I cannot accept that you understand me “better than anyone” because NOT A SINGLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION YOU SOUGHT HAD ANY CONTACT WITH ME AND AT NO TIME DID ANY OF THESE *IRREFUTABLE* SOURCES actually understand my motivations.

They cast me into a pile that they deemed “unacceptable to have any contact with” and I was left even more alone.

You resent that I – from your perspective – manipulated Mom & Dad into giving me money that I should have been ashamed to ask for?

You actually have the nerve to tell me that you love me and care about me SO much that you MUST protect yourself from any contact with me. Those two statements are BOTH true I understand that, and I’ve respected that – you’ll notice that I haven’t asked for anything from you since.

You are NOT a professional psychologist trained to diagnose whether or not I was, at the time, able to understand reality. You said that your experience shook you so badly and made you believe that I cannot appreciate any viewpoint but my own. This is not true.

What I find ironic is that you actually believe that you have SUCH a powerful brain that you – taking Casey’s word for what happened – are the SOLE AUTHORITY of your Sister. That is SICK AND OFFENSIVE.

You have no understanding of any person’s story but your own. This summer, I tried to understand the motivations of people around me and compare motives with actions.

Was I naive and taken advantage of?

Yes, however, I learn from my mistakes.

Unlike the people I was hanging out with, I had no problem acknowledging my mistake, explaining the reason for it, and promising that would not do so again. I truly believed that ALL people have dignity and value in this world and I believed that everyone’s decisions MAKE SENSE TO THEM at that moment.

I’m able to see others’ actions, disagree with them, but acknowledge that their perspective makes sense to them, even if I find their logic or assumptions wrong. Validating their actions were reasonable to them and then offering a minor change of perspective or asking a question to clarify their motivations and feelings at the time. Unfortunately, people began to think I was manipulating them. They distrusted who I was; they began to treat me as a a threat to their understanding of the universe.

I was very much hurt that my *only* natural sibling was incapable of contacting me for the 18+ months that I found myself homeless.

You offered no indication of care – or acknowledgement of gratitude – that you’d lived with me for 2 years without any income, you understood and appreciated my explanation for wanting you to stay – that I couldn’t live with my only brother homeless – while it was in my power to prevent it. I’ve strived to make you feel as though you were family and I’d always do all I could to ensure that you were safe and loved. You threw my generosity into my face. When I expressed ANY expectation that you contribute to the well-being of the household, in the form of dishes, other cleaning, money (when you had it), or an indication that you had any interest in adding to the comfort and happiness of the people around you, all I got was silence.

How did your sense of “honor” survive when presented with the *exact same* circumstances, but reversed? When I became homeless, you found yourself incapable of allowing me anywhere near you for longer than a few minutes at a time; you insisted upon resenting me for my inability to take responsibility for my life.

Throughout, you happily took Matt’s side. Your sister’s understanding of reality was so far removed from any you could comprehend based upon your limited experience and NO training or treatment experience. You disregard any external wisdom I have learned from talking to others about their experience.

You are so terrified of mental illness that you hide in your monastery of ceramic and Sony PlayStation and justify that being without any responsibilities to anyone – not even those (you say) you love and value – somehow makes you a superior judge of the human condition and supremely qualified to pass judgement upon those who fail to meet your standards.

I accept that my actions have landed me in this situation, and I am aware that your response to stress and drama is escapism and distress-avoidance. You run the fuck away from a situation you cannot fit into the neat little compartments that you believe all humans should conform to. Any deviation from those neat little boxes you quickly label, categorize, then promptly disregard terrifies you. You become a shadow of who you want to be, and my insanity terrifies your sense of the destiny you believe you control.

You are disappointed in me; that I did not meet your expectations for what you “expected” from me. It’s as if you felt no guilt about fucking off all of the family because Mom & Dad could fall back on me – a child they could be proud of.

Somehow you believe that I’d had some kind of idyllic life for a small moment. This meant that you were absolved of any guilt for your own lack of ambition and sloth, because you avoided confrontation and uncomfortable emotions your entire life, and sunk into early drug use to escape your feelings.

You don’t understand my life and my choices. You’ve never asked me (without accusations) about my life.

The only real message I got last month is that you do love me and were aware of my existence and the lifestyle I had fallen into. You had so much anger and disappointment in me, but honestly, you weren’t acting like caring family member reaching out to see if he could help, without approving of my choices I’d made, but that my behavior was so frightening that you avoided me. You wanted an acknowledgement that I hadn’t made good choices and an apology for the pain you’d been through because of it.

You take my choices very personally, Mike, though I’ve never held you responsible for my fuckups. I have respected your desire for distance and no contact. I had no desire to make you uncomfortable. I’ve only experienced your encouragement and care after I’ve made a mistake and you believed it wasn’t your place to say so, though your mindset is truly remarkable. It’s too bad you’re a coward for not speaking up.

You’re a smart person, Brother, but you don’t show respect to me.

Respect is believing what I tell you – or at least giving me the benefit of the doubt that I am not lying. Your experience of living through my mania is valuable to me, especially. However, you expect me to understand events EXACTLY the way you do.

I don’t.

I had my reasons and I went through enough hell – without any indication that you cared. You took over ten years to find a full-time job and never asked for anything that would inconvenience anyone else. That is your code. But you have NEVER even ASKED me how I define right and wrong –  because your understanding of the world is rigid, all or nothing, black and white, and while you understand that other people have different needs and desires, you have no respect for my choices because I don’t adhere to your rigid belief system.

You have no interest in understanding me or my story, Mike. You’ve never asked me for my motivation behind a choice you didn’t like, you only told me I was wrong after I’d done it. Life isn’t easy and I don’t have all of the answers.

You say I destroyed you. If this is true, I sincerely apologize that my crazy was so traumatic that you feel I have irreparably damaged you.

What I don’t understand is how you continue to internalize and make my choices ALL ABOUT YOURSELF.

Do you understand that my choices were made without you?

You are not my victim, Brother. And I am not yours. People do change over time – we heal and grow or we stagnate and stop learning because we are comfortable and complacent. I don’t know at what point you stopped believing that you were capable of change, growth, or positive change for yourself.

i don’t know when you decided that YOUR experience was the only one with meaning or value. I don’t know when you decided that you were too far removed to add any perspective or for your insight and opinion BEFORE I made decisions. We are evolutionary ultra-social creatures designed to live in community with one another. But researchers are wrong, in your opinion, because the fittest survive what?

Hell. And come out stronger.

The strongest people I have come across over my plethora of identities and lifestyles, the strongest are those who’ve been through the kind of hell that I put myself through. But they made a choice not to be victimized by their life story. They found the lessons and found ways to contribute – I have struggled with this.

Leslie asked me on the phone in January, which was “what does Brody (my boyfriend) give you, Katie?”

I paused briefly and answered: he gives me an interest in the future and a vision for what kind of life I want. He gives me a reason for the struggle and value for the journey that brought us together. He’s the smartest man I have ever known and the only man whose perspective I use; his viewpoint is a barometer of my ability to interpret reality.

He gives me safety and respects my viewpoint. He’s the only man who’s EVER told that me I was wrong and why. He cares about me and loves me – not in spite of my crazy, but BECAUSE of it. He has no reservations or “despites” in his love for me. I love, accept, and understand him in of fundamental way that NO ONE has ever done.

But you don’t care about that.

You believe that you’re “destroyed,” but that was not my doing, Little Brother.

The only control we have is in our response to the things we perceive. You’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s perspective. You don’t care what anyone thinks. You don’t get value from painful reflection.

Fine.

You are dead.

Because you don’t value any other person’s existence, and because you have declared yourself the sole arbiter of Morality and Honor without any interest in what others might think, you are, indeed a God to yourself.

And I have my own understanding of how the Universe operates. You have no use for my concept of God and your memory of me is not what you heard or were told about.

Sorry to disappoint you.

I’ve learned and grown and changed and I have more understanding than you EVER will of the way people DESERVE to be treated. I find value for their experiences and perspectives. You aren’t interested in my experiences and I think you’re terrified that the role you’ve put me into isn’t accurate, that you cling the me that you valued but never treated with any dignity.

Goodbye, Brother

I will always hope and pray that you find some growth, happiness and/or reason for your existence beyond your pain and escape from it. I will always hope that any report I get of you will be positive. You don’t believe in Luck either, so I hope you find what has eluded you.

–Your “Big” Sister

Danceband On The Titanic

There is a picture of me, somewhere out there, probably still on my dad’s phone unless they’ve turned into Christmas Card people, in which case, the picture is most definitely out there in the world for all to see.

I hope it is not.

I didn’t see the picture until I was 5 months sober, staying in the unfinished basement at my parents house, grateful that I was no longer homeless, while I hunted for a job. Before this, I’d been staying there after a stint at a ramshackle, rundown motel, the kind of place you probably could dismantle a dead body, leave the head on the pillow, and no one would think anything of it. But it was my room, and despite the lice they gifted me, I loved it. Until money dried up and suddenly I was, once again, homeless. I’d moved in there after I was discharged from the inpatient psych ward, in which I was able to successfully detox after a suicide attempt. Got some free ECT to boot.

(WINNING)

Despite what you see on the After School Special’s of our childhood, I didn’t take a single Vicodin, fall into a stupor, and become insta-addict – just add narcotics! No, my entry into addiction was a slow and steady downward spiral of which I am deeply ashamed. It’s left my brain full of wreckage and ruin, fragmented bits of my life that don’t follow a single pattern. Between the opiates, the Ketamine, and the ECT, I cannot even be certain that what I am telling you is the truth; what I’ve gathered are bits and pieces of the addict I so desperately hate from other people who are around, fuzzy recollections, and my own social media posts.

About a year and a half before I moved from my yellow house to the apartments by the river, Dave and I had separated; he’d told me that while he cared for me, he no longer loved me. While we lived in the same house, we’d had completely separate lives for years, so he moved to the basement while I stayed upstairs. I’d been miserable before his confession and after? I was nearly broken. Using the Vicodin, then Norco, I was able to numb my pain and get out of my head, which, while remarkably stupid, was effective. For awhile.

Let me stop you, Dear Reader, and ask you to keep what I am about to say in mind as you read through this massive tome. I’m simply trying to make certain that you understand several key things about my addiction and subsequent recovery. I alone was the one who chose to take the drugs. No one forced me to abuse opiates, and even later, (SPOILER ALERT) Ketamine. This isn’t a post about blaming others for my misdoings, rejecting any accountability, nor making any excuses for the stupid, awful things I’ve done. I alone fucked up. My addiction was my own fault. However, in the same vein, no one “saved” me but myself. There was no cheeky interventionist. No room full of people who loved me weeping stoically, telling me how my addiction hurt them. No letters. Nothing. It was just me. I was alone, and I chose to get – and remain – sober.

The delusions started when I moved out, sitting in my empty apartment alone, paralyzed by the thought of getting off the couch to go to the bathroom. Always a night-owl, I’d wake at some ungodly hour of the morning, shaking. It wasn’t withdrawal, no, it was pure unfettered anxiety.

It was the aftermath of using so many pills, all the fun you think you’re having comes back to bite you with crippling anxiety and depression.

Which is why I’d do more.

Yes, opiates are powerful, and yes, I abused them, but things really didn’t become dire until I added Ketamine to my life.

Ketamine, if you’re unaware, is a club drug, a horse tranquilizer, and a date rape drug. You use too much? You may wake up at some hipster coffee bar, trying to sing “You’re Having My Baby” to the dude in the front row who may or may not actually exist. In other words, it’s the best way to forget how fucked you are.

The delusions worsen as time passed. I could see into the future. I could read your mind. I was going to be famous. I was super fucking rich. In this fucked-up world, I could even forget about me, and the life that I’d so carelessly shattered. I remember sitting in Divorce Class at the courthouse, something required of all divorces in Kane County, weeping at all that I’d thrown away – using a total of three boxes of the low-quality, government tissues. I left with a shiny pink face and completely chapped nose and eyes that appeared to be making a break from their sockets. I went home, took some pills, took some Ketamine, and passed out.

I retreated ever-inward. I didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t share my struggles. I was alone, and it was my fault.

The hallucinations started soon after Divorce Class ended and my ex and I split up. He’d left my house in a rage after a fight and went to live with his sister. I got scared. His temper, magnified by the drugs, the hallucinations, and the delusions, grew increasingly frightening. Once he’d moved out, the attacks began. I’d wake up naked in my bedroom, my body sore and bruised, and my brain put the two unrelated events together as one – he was attacking me. It happened every few days, these “attacks,” until I found myself at the police station, reporting them. I was dangerously sick and I had no idea.

My friends on the Internet (those whom I had left), sent me money for surveillance cameras. I bought them, installed them – trying to capture the culprit – and when I saw what I saw, I immediately called the police and told them the culprit.

The videos in my bedroom captured an incredibly stoned, dead-eyed, version of myself, violently attacking myself, brutally tearing at my flesh. In particular, THAT me liked to beat my face with one of my prized possessions – a candlestick set from our wedding, take another pill or hit up some Ketamine, then violating myself with the candlestick. It lasted hours. I’d wake up with no memory of events, sore and tired and unsure of how I’d gotten there.

I’d never engaged in self-injury before – not once – so the very idea that I’d hurt myself was unbelievable, but right there, on my grainy old laptop, was proof of how unhinged I’d become. Charged with filing a false report, I plead guilty.

In early September of 2015, I decided to get fixed, and made arrangements with work to take a few weeks off to do an inpatient detox, and, for the first time in a long time, I woke up happily, rather than cursing the gods that I was still alive.

It was to be short-lived.

Several days later, sober, I was idly chatting with my neighbor about her upcoming vacation (funny the things your brain remembers and what it does not), standing by my screen door, when karma came calling. It sounded like the shucking noise of an ear of corn, or maybe the sound that a huge thing of broccoli makes when you rip it apart – hard. It felt like a bullet to the femur. I crumpled on top of my neighbor and began screaming wildly about calling an ambulance, yelling over and over like some perverse, yet truthful, Chicken Little:  “my leg is broken, my LEG is broken!”

I don’t remember much after that. I woke up in (physical rehab) and learned that my femur (hereafter to be called my “Blasfemur,”) had broken, fairly high up on the bone, where the biggest, strongest bone in your body is at its peak of strength. Whaaaa?

The doctors and nurses shrugged it off my questions, with a flippant “It just happens” and sent me home, armed with a Norco prescription, in November, to heal. I added the Ketamine, just to make sure.

A couple of weeks later at the end of November, I was putting up the Christmas tree with the kids and my mother. It was all merry and fucking bright until I sat down on the couch and felt that familiar crunch. Screams came out of me I didn’t know were possible, but I’d lost my actual words. My mother stood over me yelling “what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” and I couldn’t find the words. I overheard her telling my babies that I was “probably just faking it” as she walked out the door, my screams fading into an ice cold silence. They left me alone in that apartment where I screamed and cried and screamed. Finally, I managed to call 911 and when they asked me questions, all I could scream was my address.

I woke up in January in a nursing home. When I woke up, I found myself sitting at a table in a vast dining room, full of old people. For weeks to come, I thought that I’d died and gone…wherever it is that you go.

This time, I learned, my (blas)femur and it’s associated hardware had become infected after the first surgery, which weakened the bone, causing it to snap like a tree. They put me all back together like the bionic woman, but the surgery had introduced the wee colony of Strep D in the bone into my bloodstream, creating an infection on meth. I’d been in a coma for weeks. Once again, I learned to walk, and once again, I was sent home in late January with another Norco prescription. The nursing home really wanted me to have someone stay with me to help out, but I insisted that I was fine alone. In truth, I had nobody to help me out, but was far too ashamed to tell them.

The picture I referenced above was taken some time in May, as far as my fuzzy memory allows me to remember, after my third femur fracture in March. This time, I’d been so high that I fell asleep on the toilet and rolled off. Glamorous, no? Just like Fat Elvis. Luckily, my eldest son was there and he called 911 and my parents to whisk him away. I remember my father on the phone, telling Ben that I was a liar and I was faking it. I was swept away in the ambulance for even more hardware, and finally? A diagnosis:

HypoPARAthyroidism.

It’s an autoimmune disease that leaches calcium from the bones, resulting in brittle bones. It is managed, not treated. There is no cure.

But, I had the answer. Finally.

After my third fracture, I once again was sent to the nursing home, and quickly discharged with even higher doses of Norco, when my insurance balked, I’d used up all my rehab days for the year. By this time, I’d lost my apartment, my stuff was in storage (except the things that we’re thrown away, which my father gloated about while I was flat on my back) and my parents let me stay with them, which was about the only option I had. They couldn’t really kick me out if my leg was only freshly attached. I feel deeper into a depression, self-loathing, and drug abuse as I realized what a mess I’d made with my life. How many bad choices I’d made. How many people I’d hurt. How much I’d hurt myself. How much I loathed myself. How I once had a life that in no way resembled sleeping in my parents dining room. How I’d been a home owner. How I’d been married. How lucky I’d been. How I threw it all away. My life turned into a series of “once did” and “used to.”

The only one who hated me more was my father.

While we were once close confidants, in the years after my marriage to Dave, his disdain had become palpable. My uncle had to intervene one Christmas, after my father mocked me incessantly for taking a temp job filling out gift cards while I was pregnant with Alex. It may seem normal to some of you, this behavior, but in THEIR house, NO ONE was EVER SAD and NOTHING was EVER WRONG. WASPs to the core, my family is.

When I moved back in, broken, dejected, and high, our fights became epic. For the first time in my life, I stood UP to one of my parents. Then, I was promptly kicked out.

Guess I’m not so WASPy after all.

I want to say that the picture was taken around May of 2016, but my estimate may be thoroughly skewed, so if you’re counting on dates being correct and cohesive, you’ve got the wrong girl.

This is a picture of me, though you probably wouldn’t recognize me. I am wearing the blue scrubs that you associate with a hospital: not exactly sky blue, not teal, not navy, just generic blue hospital scrubs. These are, I remember, the only clothes I have to my name. I was given them in both the hospital and the nursing home, a gift, I suppose, of being a frequent flier, tinged with a bit of pity – this girl has no clothes, we can help. Whomever gave them to me, know that you gave me a bit of dignity, which I will never forget. Thank you.

I am wearing scrubs, the light of the refrigerator is slowly bleaching out half of my now-enormous body, as opposed to the darkness outside. There is a tube of fat around my neck, nearly destroying any evidence of my face, but if you look closely, you can make out my glasses, my nostrils, my hair cascading down. My neck is stretched back at nearly a 90 degree angle from my body, my head listlessly resting on the back of my wheelchair. My mouth gaped wide, which, should I been engaging in fly catching, would have netted far more than the average Venus flytrap. I am clearly, unmistakably, and without a single shred of doubt, passed the fuck out.

It is both me and not me.

High as i was, I don’t remember a thing about the photo being taken. But there I was, in all my pixelated glory.

By the time I saw the photo, I was once again in my “will do” and “can do” space. I’d kicked drugs in September 2016 and had found a job that I enjoyed. I stayed with my parents while I began to sort out my medical debt and save toward a new car and an apartment of my own. My spirits were high, my depression finally abated to the background, and I was tentatively happy. I’d apologized until my throat was sore, but my fragmented memory saved me from the worst of it, but I was not forgiven. I don’t think I ever expected to be. And now, I never will.

It’s okay. I can’t expect this. I know I fucked up.

My father, who’d actually grown increasingly disdainful of me, the more sober and well I became, confronted me when I came home one day after work, preparing to do my AFTER work, work.

My mother shuffled along behind him, Ben, the caboose. All three of them were in hysterics, tears rolling down their cheeks as I sat down in my normal spot on the couch. After showing them a video of two turtles humping a couple of days before, I eagerly waited to see what they were showing me.

What it was was that picture. Of the not me, me.

They could hardly contain their laughter, my father happier than ever, braying, “Isn’t this the best picture of you?” and “You PASSED OUT, (heave, heave) IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE!” punctuated, with “I’m going to frame this picture!” The tears welled in my eyes while my teeth clenched, they laughed even harder at my reaction.

Like I said, if they’ve become Christmas Card sending people, this will be the picture of me they show, expecting others to laugh uproariously. Before I moved out, in fact, my father made certain to show the picture to anyone who came over. “Wanna see something hilarious?” he’d ask. Expecting memes or a funny cat playing the piano, they’d agree. I could see it when they saw it, my dad chortling with laughter, nearly choking on his giggles, the looks on their faces: a mixture of confusion and pity. Even in my drug-hazed “glory,” I’d never felt so low.

Maybe that picture is splashed all over the internet, in the dark recesses I don’t explore, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s hung on their wall, replacing all of the other pictures. Maybe it’s not.

Maybe we’ll meet again.

Maybe not.

Enabling A Narcissist

Adult Children of Narcissists have a tough go of it.

This is her story:

The following was a response I wrote on a message board about the topic of enabling, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ it happens, and how Narcissists and abusers get others to do their bidding. This was written from my personal experiences, growing up with a Narcissistic Mother and watching this scenario play out many times over.

Narcissists thrive on confrontation.  They bully their way by having a tantrum anytime they don’t get what they want.  They turn up the heat enough to obtain it.  The heat rises until they get it.  In short, they learn our boiling points, find our buttons, and study our weaknesses.  They keep hammering away until they get what they want.

It’s pure ruthless persistence on a target they’ve studied for years, but they also come across tactics that generally work.  When they don’t get what they’re after they commonly rage to scare you into giving in, or attempt guilt or sympathy ploys.  Their purpose never wavers,  and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.

Simply, a Narcissist or abuser will keep hammering and chiseling down until their targets are just plain WEAK.  They do that by isolating the target from healthy relationships with anyone outside their control.  And I mean close relationships, people that you’d bear your heart and soul to. People that would be out for YOUR good, that you’ve built a long-time trusted relationship with.

ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) often say they were forbidden from having friends, bringing friends to the house, and tightly controlled telephone usage.  It is designed to create enough distance between you and others so such a relationship can never form.

Abusers detest anyone who may have more influence over you than they do.

If such a relationship already exists in your life, abusers will seek to drive a wedge between you and that person.  Divide and conquer. The abuser creates enough stress on the relationships to create doubt in the other party.  They swoop  in to become the new ‘reality’ by inserting their perceptions on the weakened target.

My father is an enabler because he’s been trained by my mother to be. She hammers him by exploiting and over-blowing any little offense she can muster (creating conflict) to show how right she is, how awful she has it, etc. She hammers at him until he relents. She does the same thing to my siblings, through personal confrontation and phone calls. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I remember as a kid, we all knew it was just easier to give my mother what she wanted than deal with her rages.  If an abuser does that enough, they are training us to just give them whatever they want, because we know what’s in store if we don’t.  It’s cost/benefit analysis, isn’t it?

Welcome to the hammering machine. I knew that other people would take bad news better than my mother.  So if I got caught in the middle of something between her and someone outside the family unit, she always won because even though I may lose greatly on something involving that person, it was easier than dealing with my mother’s rages.

There’s the birth of an enabler.

There comes a point where you just can’t deal with fighting them anymore, especially when you live under their roof.  Even though we move out, that brainwashing has been reinforced for years, and continues into adulthood. Give your abuser what they want, or there’s hell to pay.

And even though we’ve moved out, Ns make sure they insert themselves in everything, don’t they?  They appear to be interested in us, invade personal space, demand personal information, run amock over boundaries. The Narcissist is making it known that they have a right to everything about us, and will not stand for anything less than EVERYTHING. It’s so they can continue to insert their perception of reality into their target’s lives and retain control.

They continue forcing themselves onto the target, through phone calls or unannounced visits. If you’re never allowed to (or given the space to) think for yourself, how can you?  Narcissists hinder this process as much as possible. It’s why they set themselves up as ‘always right’. If you control all the cards and all the information, it’s easier to manipulate things to your benefit. Thus how they move into the second stage of life.

It’s also important to note that everyone has a breaking point. Some much faster than others, due to the nature of the relationship (such as family friends, distant relatives). Others thrive on gossip and drama…but Narcissists know how to spot their targets and say the right things to obtain what they want.

In short, enablers are Narcissists’ servants. It’s like an abusive dog-owner. The abuser controls the entire environment. Some dogs will cower, some will fight back towards the owner. Dogs that fight back will be beaten more severely until they cower, are neglected, or are gotten rid of. But either way most will still protect the territory. They distrust everyone because of what history has taught them.