Complicated Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day always creates such a barrage of mixed emotions for me. There was a lot of trauma, abuse, mental illness, and foolish decisions that marked my childhood. My mother was far from a perfect parent. Luckily, she does admit to that and seems to be really trying to be a better person now, but being around her always triggers so many memories, thoughts, and feelings – some good, some bad, some funny, and some tragic.

I think part of the issue is that my brain has a tough time seeing how she acts towards me now and reconciling it with memories of how my sister and I were treated while growing up. I do believe in forgiveness (within reason), and I do love my mother, but I doubt there will ever be a day in her company that doesn’t create confusion for me internally.

I write this post today to recognize those of us who struggle on Mother’s Day to even know how to feel…

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When Friends Say Cruel Things It Sticks With You

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It is strange how negative words can stay with us for a lifetime and hurt long after they are spoken. Today, I was reminded of a conversation I had way back in middle school. My friends and I were having a conversation about birth order statistics and how the oldest is often the smartest and most responsible in the family – which apparently was the case in all their families.

I mentioned how that hadn’t really happened in my family as I was the youngest and yet I was the one in the gifted program, the one who got straight A’s, and the one who was least likely to break the rules. My sister was very smart in her own ways, but not overly academic or intellectual.

One of my friends (or more likely a frenemy) replied, “Well, maybe your sister is the pretty one then.”

Before I could digest this insult or respond, one of my other friends chimed in assuring the group that my sister was no looker either, which made everyone laugh. I didn’t let on that I felt anything, but inside I was crushed. I felt ugly and I also felt bad that my friends had insulted and made fun of my sister.

To this day, remembering this conversation makes me feel ugly, plain, and rejected. I wish my friends had been more careful with their words.

Feeling Low After Lawyer Visit

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Today has been a rough day 😦 I had to get up early to go to an appointment with my lawyer to talk about my upcoming SSDI hearing in February. I woke up feeling exhausted, achy, and sick to begin with, my stomach and digestive system freaking out from the anxiety of the change in routine as they always do.

The meeting went ok, I suppose. The lawyer seems really nice and genuine, but the whole thing depressed me. For one thing, it isn’t easy to have everything that is wrong with you physically and mentally just laid out on the table for everyone to see. It isn’t fun facing the reality of my own limitations and self-perceived flaws. I know I can’t help having mental and physical issues, but it SUCKS to have to dwell on them and think about them more than I already do normally.

The lawyer wants me to try to get my doctors to fill out some forms to take to the hearing and that gives me high anxiety. I hate having to ask anyone to do anything, it is just the way I am. I have a deep fear of rejection. What if they say “no” when I ask them to fill out the forms? Then I will feel even lower than I already do. I know my doctors are caring people who try to help me and they will probably be more than willing to help, but my brain just can’t shut off the “what ifs”.

I came home from the lawyer visit, cried for a little bit, then crashed for a few hours in bed. I still feel like absolute crud, but am trying to get back into my normal routine. I am desperately in need of some self-love and comfort right now, but that isn’t easy for me to do.

Can Abusers Ever Be Reformed?

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This is a question I struggle with myself on a regular basis. Can abusers really ever change or is it just theater to try to pull you back in so they can mistreat you again? Should you ever let a prior abuser back into your life if they seem to have changed for the good?

None of these are easy questions and there are certainly many contributing factors that should be considered as well. Perhaps abusers who once had drug or alcohol addictions and have now gotten clean for a significant period of time will have changed enough to give them a second chance.

What about those who lived for years with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness and finally get the help they need? How much of the abuse was who they truly were and how much was the influence of the untreated mental illness? This scenario is one I personally have experienced to some extent with my own family. How much responsibility should they hold for the abuse, especially any times they may have actually dipped into psychosis?

I know many abusers find religion at some point in their lives and claim to have been completely changed. I must admit I am suspicious of this claim. Perhaps religion truly does change the hearts of some, but much of my personal experience has taught me that if someone is a bad person before they find religion, they will likely be a bad person after they find it. Superficialities may change, but does their behavior/attitude/actions?

Unfortunately, I have no real answers to the question of whether abusers can ever change, but I hope that they can. I would warn everyone to be cautious in extending an olive branch to anyone who has deliberately hurt you again and again, but I do understand the desire to believe in the power of change.

 

YA Book Review: “Without Tess” by Marcella Pixley

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“Without Tess”, written by Marcella Pixley, is one of the best YA novels I have read in a while. I rarely give books five stars when rating them, but this one I did. The story revolves around the main character (Lizzie), and her dead sister (Tess). Lizzie is the younger sister by a couple years and was only 10 when her older sister tragically passed away.

The real star of the novel is Tess. As you read through the book and relive vibrant memories Lizzie shared with Tess, you come to both love and sometimes dislike Tess. Tess was a true believer in magic. She was creative and passionate. She was both loving and loyal, but at times cruel and violent. She was mentally ill, and at times downright psychotic. This novel is a lifelike retelling of what it is like to grow up with an extremely mentally ill sibling. It addresses the love, the hate, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the guilt, and all the other emotions that come along with such a disturbing family dynamic.

I had a deeply personal connection with this book, both as someone who grew up with a mentally ill sibling, and someone who eventually lost that sibling, mostly due to that mental illness. At one point the book even made me tear up, which is extremely rare for any book to do. Definitely recommended!

Thoughts on Growing Up With Autism

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This post will contain a collection of short journal entries I wrote recently about what it was like emotionally to grow up with autism. These thoughts specifically dealt with bullying and (for me) the most confusing time of adolescence, which was middle school and the beginning of high school. By the last couple years of high school I had figured some things out and learned how to “pretend” to fit in a bit better, even though deep down I still felt like an oddball.

Here goes:

I hated always being the butt of the joke – even among friends. I was naive. I was gullible. I was trusting. Too many times I was set up for humiliation or embarrassment.

In an effort to avoid this embarrassment, I quit trusting anyone. I quit taking anyone at their word. I became suspicious. I struggled to identify sarcasm, so I started assuming ALL was sarcasm unless I knew someone well enough to tell the difference. 

Due to this struggle with recognizing sarcasm, how many “mean” comments did I take to heart that were meant in jest? How many cruel words that cut me to the core, were never even meant to be cruel? When boys would say they liked me and I would take it as them mocking me and choose to ignore them or laugh at their “joke”, did I instead end up hurting their feelings in an effort to save my own? 

Bullied for my weight during middle school, accused of having a lack of “feeling” or frustrating others who thought I didn’t care about anything because I suffered from selective mutism under stress, constantly feeling reminded that I wasn’t “feminine” enough – this was much of my teenage experience.  

The common thread throughout was that I unknowingly made myself a target for abuse. The way I dressed. The way I talked. The way I acted. I was so desperate for acceptance and approval, but I reached for them in ways that were socially unacceptable to those around me and ended up only painting the bulls-eye larger on myself.  

Kavanaugh & Ford: Thoughts on Attempted Assault, Trauma, and PTSD

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The last few days, I have come across a lot of stupid, ignorant comments about attempted rape and its potential aftermath on social media. In case you have been living under a rock, people have gotten very passionate about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court candidate and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who both recently testified in front of the senate about sexual assault charges.

I have seen many memes and comments about both the accuser and the accused, and while some of them are respectful in expressing their personal opinion, many have taken to maligning the accuser, calling her a liar, a political schemer, and even saying the assault wasn’t a big deal and couldn’t have been that traumatizing. I want to take a minute to say that just because an assault is not completed, does not mean it isn’t extremely traumatizing! I will use a couple personal experiences to illustrate why I feel this way:

When I was in middle school, almost every day I was chased by big, mean bullies who threatened to “kick my ass” or even “kill me”…they never did actually beat me up, but they TERRIFIED me. I was truly afraid for my personal safety. They made me dread going to school and I became hypervigilant about trying to avoid them. In fact, I remember having to time my afternoon trek to the school bus just right so that hopefully I wouldn’t cross their path, while also making it to the bus on time.

When I was 17, I was robbed at gun point while working at Burger King. It was the end of the night shift and the manager and I were leaving out the front door, when two males in black outfits and masks jumped out of the shadows, one of them pointing his gun straight at me. No, I wasn’t actually shot during the ordeal, but I had terrifying dreams and flashbacks long after. I could never work night shift there again. To this day, I am still afraid of home invasions and double or triple check the locks at night.

If I had been a victim of attempted rape, I’m sure that would have been another terrifying memory to live with. I wish people understood PTSD and how even attempted assaults can cause immense levels of trauma, depending upon the person and how they process events and react to them. Some of the events that I find most traumatizing, others might not understand, while other events I went through that didn’t phase me much (like my mother’s many divorces) would have rocked the world of other kids. I wish we didn’t feel the need to judge others for what hurts or scars them.