Jessica’s last words

I was so touched by this story I am reblogging it.

Her mission is our mission

On March 10, 2015,  my daughter Jessica took out a piece of paper and wrote out one last letter to me. She used a pink marker (her favorite color) as she jotted down her last thoughts. It was her last attempt to explain to me that life had gotten to much for her. That all the bullying and pain that she had endured from the previous year and a half had finally taken over her mind. Helpless and hopeless she ended the pain that she fought so hard to be free of. I know she didn’t do this to hurt me. She was ending her pain and what she thought was a life that couldn’t get better.img_8924-2

I carried a copy of that note in my purse for  3 years. I thought  about what the words meant to me and I decided to have her last thoughts      …

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Ask the Question. Ask the Direct Question.

I was heartbroken to hear of the suicide death of Anthony Bourdain.   I loved his shows about exotic cultures, food, and everyday life in faraway countries.  He always seemed so happy and had a life anyone would envy — traveling all over the world and writing about it for a living is my idea of heaven!  Many people would say the same thing about fashion designer Kate Spade, who also committed suicide earlier this week.

Depression and suicide doesn’t discriminate and can affect even those who seem to have great lives. We just don’t know what sort of inner demons Bourdain (and Kate Spade) struggled with.

If you struggle with depression or have suicidal thoughts or ideation, please reach out and talk to someone you trust. Don’t keep your depression a secret — it’s a medical illness, not something to be ashamed of.

Peace from Panic

(Trigger warning: this post discusses suicide. If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line in the U.S. at 741741)

Image result for images of anthony bourdain

This morning I woke up to the tragic news about chef and travel host, Anthony Bourdain. Death by suicide.

Heartbreaking. And after the shock earlier this week, the suicide death of designer Kate Spade.

My husband and I love to watch Anthony Bourdain’s show on CNN, “Parts Unknown.” He was an amazing storyteller. He traveled to both popular and remote places around the world to get his stories. My favorite episodes were when he visited unknown villages, and I learned about another culture’s cuisine and way of life.

In his interesting, quirky, and cool way, Anthony would sit with locals and have in-depth conversations over a meal. People opened up to him. He had a special way of delving…

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Anxiety spiraling into major depression?

Last week I wrote about my son’s dissociation episodes and panic attacks.   He got some anti-anxiety medication there, but they put him to sleep so they haven’t been useful to him, and the panic has not gone away.  He’s been able to manage it a little better, using some mindfulness tricks, but has not been able to see a doctor yet (he will tomorrow).  His two trips to the emergency room just told him what he already knew and gave him a few pills for the panic.

Since last Monday, he says he has had 14 panic attacks.  Today he tweeted this:

the last 2 weeks ive been in a very dark place. im constantly afraid, never happy. ive lost all hope and happiness. i feel broken. I’m only able to focus on my faults. making choices triggers panic attacks. im so fucking scared of life itself. help me.

This rose alarm bells so I called him right away.  He sounded alright but sad/down.   I asked him if he was having suicidal thoughts.  He said no, but he thinks about death a lot (suicidal ideation).   He also said it feels like someone else has taken over his mind and this isn’t him.   He can’t think of a specific trigger that would have set off the panic attacks.  It seems to me the attacks were and are part of a depressive disorder, possibly major depression, which is what it sounds like.

I made him promise not to do anything crazy.  He said he wouldn’t.   He did say he appreciates me calling him so much (it used to annoy him) and staying on top of the situation.   I’m glad he tells me everything, but I’m still really scared.   I can’t be near him right now, and that makes it worse.

At least he’s opening up and being honest instead of keeping everything inside.   I think opening up and talking about it is a good first step.   He also said he’s been thinking about checking himself into the hospital for a week or a few days.  I think that is probably a good idea, even though he will lose pay.

I’m asking everyone to send your prayers his way (or positive thoughts, if you aren’t religious).     I hate seeing him like this.

Guest Post (by Anonymous): Thoughts About Suicide and Selfishness.

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The following is a guest post from another blogger who kindly asked me if I would post this.  She is hesitant to link to her blog here, since her blog tends to focus on much lighter content, but still wanted to share her thoughts about this dark subject that’s a real issue for so many people who feel like all hope has been lost, as well as the people who love and care for them.     This blogger is not suicidal, but has been in the past.  I think most of us have considered it as an option at some point in our lives.   We need to stop judging them for it!   It isn’t helpful.

Thoughts about Suicide and Selfishness.

By Anonymous.

depression

The word itself can be quite triggering to some people… It is taboo and disturbing. What better proof of that, than the fact that I didn’t find the courage to speak out loud in my own blog?

Suicide is something that makes people uncomfortable. One shouldn’t even think about it. It scares, especially if you’ve had depressive episodes in the past. Doesn’t thinking about taking your own life mean you might be thinking about actually doing it?

I don’t think so. I don’t think you have to be a professional, working on serious research to give it a thought or two. I know a lot of people think about it, but just don’t share their thoughts. I am willing to open that door today. But I don’t encourage you to keep reading if you are not comfortable with the subject.

I’d like to point out that I am no professional about the matter. I am not a doctor, or a psychiatrist. I’m just a woman, who went through severe depression at some point in her life, and who had to deal with the idea of ending her days. I’m just the close friend of a good man who did take that step while he was living “The Life.”  But I think my view is worth being shared all the same. The following are just opinions, that you might agree with, or not.

From my experience, most people seem to see suicide as a cowardly act. You’ll often hear the classic “He chose an irreversible solution to a temporary problem”. But when you talk to someone who has just lost a loved one to suicide, the first thought resembles more “How could he do this to me?”

As a society, we tend to blame people who commit suicide of robbing us from someone we cherish. How dare that person be so selfish, that they would choose to leave their family and friends mourning them behind?

When I look back those dark days when I struggled between staying one more day or putting an end to my misery, I see things quite differently. I remember how much I thought about all the people that love me. Going through depression doesn’t mean forgetting your surroundings. If anything, those people were the only reason I hesitated. Had I been truly alone, I would have jumped in a second.

imfine

But I didn’t want my mother, my father and my brother to have to mourn me. Even if I seriously thought living without me would be a good thing in the long run. I knew no letter, no matter how long or how well penned would get them to understand I was right. No matter what I’d leave behind, they would end up suffering. And I could not stomach that.

I lived so they wouldn’t suffer. As simple as that. I ached and fought my demons, day by day, night by night, just so they wouldn’t have to wonder why I chose to rest, at last. Even to this day, I sometimes wish there were words that could explain the pain that rips my very soul when depression hits.

Mental distress is as painful if not worse than physical pain. People who haven’t felt it can’t imagine how real the hurt is. It is not “just” a matter of dark thoughts you can chase away or wait to see go away. And although some people can go through therapy or use medication to make the pain lessen, I believe some others will suffer all their lives.

In some countries, laws give the possibility to people suffering from chronic physical diseases that leave them with no quality of life to choose to end their life with doctors’ help. It is even considered an honorable way to leave this world. I agree that people shouldn’t be forced to live, when the suffering is too much to take. We put down our pets so they won’t have to go through unbearable pain, why should we force people to put up with agony?

I am not encouraging suicide. I think it is a terrible way to die. To hurt so much that you’d rather face mankind’s worst fear is horrible. But I don’t understand why we still tend to blame those who get to that point. No one would blame a cancer patient for losing their fight against that illness. Why do we do so, with mentally ill people?

“They should have asked for help!” you might think…. Which doesn’t make sense to me either. Would you blame your mom for dying from an undiagnosed heart failure?

Some people struggling with mental pain do seek help. But from my experience, a lot of doctors don’t measure the depth of the problem. They can’t see it on a scan, a physical exam, or on an X ray. It is not really their fault, but treatment is often lacking, even if people reach out for help.

I think my point here is just that maybe we should consider suicide a loss like that of any other disease. Families and friends shouldn’t have to deal with shame, and shouldn’t have to play the blaming game. The deceased should be able to rest in peace…

Just rest in peace.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

sad_snow

I think it’s worse this year, but there are a few other things going on that are exacerbating my symptoms.   I seem to have a weird form of it, which starts in late July or August, when my body begins to notice the reduction of light, even though summer is at its peak. Even though I detest winter, my mood starts to pick up in late January or February, when my body notices the lengthening days. I’m at my best in April – June and at my worst in November and December. My SAD seems to imitate the sleep/wake patterns of hibernating animals.

seasonal_moods
Graph I made showing my moods throughout the year. This never varies much.

Here’s an overview of what SAD is, from mayoclinic.org.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications.

Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year.

Symptoms

By Mayo Clinic Staff

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. However, some people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

Major depression

Seasonal affective disorder is a subtype of major depression that comes and goes based on seasons. So symptoms of major depression may be part of SAD, such as:

Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Feeling hopeless or worthless
Having low energy
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Irritability
Tiredness or low energy
Problems getting along with other people
Hypersensitivity to rejection
Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
Oversleeping
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

Depression
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Weight loss
Poor appetite
Agitation or anxiety

seasonal-affective-disorder

Seasonal changes in bipolar disorder

In some people with bipolar disorder, spring and summer can bring on symptoms of mania or a less intense form of mania (hypomania), and fall and winter can be a time of depression.

When to see a doctor

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.

Causes

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Being female. SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, but men may have more-severe symptoms.
  • Age. Young people have a higher risk of winter SAD, and winter SAD is less likely to occur in older adults.
  • Family history. People with SAD may be more likely to have blood relatives with SAD or another form of depression.
  • Having clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of depression may worsen seasonally if you have one of these conditions.
  • Living far from the equator. SAD appears to be more common among people who live far north or south of the equator. This may be due to decreased sunlight during the winter and longer days during the summer months.

Complications

Take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if it’s not treated. These can include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • School or work problems
  • Substance abuse

Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated before symptoms get bad.

Original article is here.

 

Going insane: how I got diagnosed with BPD

going_insane

I thought I should explain how I got diagnosed with BPD. Although my out of control behaviors in 1995-1996 were due to prolonged emotional and mental (and some physical) abuse at the hands of my ex (on top of having been a victim of narcissistic abuse growing up), the focus of this article isn’t on narcissistic abuse or the way my ex behaved, but rather on my reactions and how out of touch with reality I actually became.

My memory of this time is sketchy and fragmented, almost dreamlike, so what I’m about to write may not flow together well. I believe my fuzzy memories of these two years were due to 3 things: (1) intermittent substance abuse, including alcohol; (2) being so out of touch with reality; and (3) I may have blocked out some of these incidents or partially blocked them out so they seem sort of grey when I think about them now, like a dream.

In 1995 my ex’s mother could no longer live alone so she came to live with us. At first things went smoothly, but she had Alzheimers and was deteriorating fast, and soon her care was left entirely to me. At the same time I was the stay at home mom to a 2 and 4 year old. My ex had started drinking a lot during this time, and said it was because he hated his mother (a malignant narcissist herself) and his behavior toward her was very abusive. He justified his abuse by saying she deserved it because of the way she had treated him. My children saw this behavior but in my emotionally weakened state due to his constant gaslighting, projecting and triangulating (he had turned most of our friends against me) as well as isolating me from those who could help me, I began to collude in his abusive behavior toward his mother. I didn’t physically attack her (he did) but in my frustration with things like her wetting the bed I would yell at her whenever he did and sometimes even when he wasn’t there. I also didn’t try to stop him when he used to spank her like a naughty child.

My ex was drinking heavily and smoking a lot of pot, and I joined him. At night, after the kids were asleep, we would often both be drunk and high. Sometimes his friends came over, who were all younger than we were (my ex’s friends were always younger than him). Sometimes things got wild. I was no longer attracted to my ex by this time due to his constant emotional abuse, so when I was drunk I openly flirted with his friends. I was unfaithful too, but so was he (I am definitely not proud of any of this, especially because I had young children at the time).

We fought constantly. One night, drunk, he threatened me with a gun. I ran down the street screaming and went and hid in a grove of trees for hours in the freezing cold. On several occasions I called the police and they would show up to fund us both drunk and didn’t know who to believe so they would leave and tell us to sober up. At this time I had no control over my reactions or my emotions. I acted more immature than my own kids sometimes.

I used to sleep during the day and wasn’t as good a mother as I could have been. I was testy, impatient and neglectful. I loved my kids dearly, but just didn’t have the emotional stamina or energy to deal with them more effectively or lovingly. (I tried to make up for that later).

Soon the dissociative episodes began. Sometimes things looked weird. People looked like they weren’t real and they seemed demonic. I began to have delusions of reference. I had the weird sensation of unrelated events or conversations somehow referencing exactly what I was thinking. I felt like I was outside my body a lot, as if I was watching the events of my life unfold instead of being in them. This began to happen when I started distancing myself from my emotions into a “comfortable numbness.” (This is common in PTSD and BPD). But it wasn’t comfortable–it was horrifying. I think I was unconsciously protecting myself from feeling too much emotional pain. The abnormal had become normal, the insane had become sane, the evil had become good. I walked through my days in a sort of fog, but not all the time. Occasionally, when triggered, I would come back into myself and “go off” on my ex and experience a tidal wave of unbelievably painful and intense emotions. Instead of spending my evenings doing quiet things with my family, I spent that time on the computer in chat rooms, talking to men. I imagined I fell in love with one or two of them. My emotional reactions to these online entities I had never met were as intense as if they were actual relationships, but all of it was fantasy. To me it felt real.

I couldn’t sleep at night, but would sleep most of the day away. I didn’t take care of the house and only did the rudimentary necessities for the kids, in between taking care of my ex’s mother’s almost constant needs. I lost patience with both her and the kids easily. We ate cereal and yogurt most nights for dinner because I didn’t have the energy or wherewithal to cook anything.

I started a job after awhile at a hotel. I had a short affair with the disc jockey/maintenance man there. I wasn’t in love with him but I enjoyed the kindness he showed me, that my husband wasn’t giving me. One night he confronted me about it and I confessed everything. He didn’t seem upset but admitted he was having an affair too. Strangely, we did not fight about this. I really didn’t care whether he loved me anymore; I was convinced he hated my guts.

I quit my job on a whim even though we needed the extra income, because my ex had squandered over $100K we got from the sale of his mother’s house. One day I just decided not to go in anymore. I didn’t even bother to call, which normally is out of character for me. I started doing really crazy things. One night after a really bad fight I went into the closet in the master bedroom and sat on the floor crying for what seemed like hours. My ex didn’t seem concerned and went out instead. I don’t know why I was doing this; I felt like I had lost my mind and there was no reason for doing this. I had no idea what I was doing; I was just reacting to my pain like a wounded animal. The episodes of dissociation and delusions of reference became worse. I imagined everything–even voices on TV or songs on the radio–were coded messages that referenced something in my life. This is impossible to explain if you haven’t experienced it but it was very strange and disorienting.

delusions_reference

One day shortly after the closet incident, I left the kids in the house with him and decided to go driving. I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, but I suddenly thought it would be a good idea to drive at 90 mph (the speed limit was 65 mph). Normally I’m a very cautious driver but during this time I had thrown all caution to the wind. I wasn’t suicidal in the sense of making a conscious effort to kill myself and I didn’t even contemplate suicide, but I was taking huge risks with my life. Miraculously, nothing happened, not even a pullover by police. I returned home feeling exhilarated from my crazy drive, but immediately that feeling disappeared and I was hit with the horror of my reality and started screaming irrationally and throwing things against the wall just to hear them break. I don’t even know what set this tantrum off–probably nothing at all, but I had this overwhelming desire to act out my excruciating emotional pain. I had no control over myself at all. When I thought about my behavior later on, I was horrified. I wasn’t even drinking anymore by now, so I wasn’t drunk. I was just insane.

My ex told me I was crazy. He always did anyway. But I really was crazy. He told me I should commit myself to a mental institution–or he would. To his surprise (and mine) I agreed. In that moment of clarity, I realized how crazy I had become (due to his emotional abuse of me, but that didn’t make me any less crazy). I allowed him to drive me to the mental hospital, which turned out to have an excellent program and engaging activities. I felt relief in entering that hospital and spent the next three months there. My Axis 1 diagnosis was Major Depression and anxiety, and my Axis 2 diagnosis was BPD, as well as substance abuse. I was also diagnosed with PTSD. I received daily therapy–both individual and group, as well as DBT classes–and I was put on Depakote (a mood stabilizer), Prozac (for the depression) and Klonopin (for anxiety). I stabilized during my stay but I wasn’t as committed to using the DBT tools I learned there as I became later on. I remember calling my mother from the hospital and telling her what was wrong with me, and her attitude was like, “so what? You need to be a mother to your children.” She didn’t even know I was in the hospital. So much for maternal support.

I had mixed feelings about returning home. I was overjoyed to see my children, but wasn’t too happy to see my husband at all. I really just wanted to stay in that hospital for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to face reality.

Fortunately, my mental state never got that bad again, but his abuse was to get much worse. He used my descent into the madness of severe BPD and major depression as an excuse to punish me for “having gone batshit insane” when I should have been a better mother and wife to him.

I still have a lot of guilt and shame over the way I neglected my children when they were so young and helpless. I wonder sometimes how much my not being there for them may have damaged them.

When I look back even earlier at my life, I can remember similar incidents of being totally unable to control my emotional reactions to stressors and triggers, with periods of almost robotic numbness and dissociative episodes in between outbursts. It was a pattern I was familiar with, but it reached its pinnacle in 1995-1996. I had a relapse in 1997 and spent a week in the psych ward at the regular hospital, and got the same exact diagnosis as the year before. Over the next several years, while I was still married to my ex, I spent most of my time in a state of emotional numbness, living on “automatic pilot.” It wasn’t until I finally got the POS out of my life that I felt safe enough to begin to let myself feel emotions again–but this time with mindfulness and acceptance instead of allowing my emotions to control me. I still have a long way to go.

The curse of the Aspergers/Avoidant/Borderline triad.

social_isolation

Today I attended a beautiful Pentecost mass that was held outdoors. The day couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples. Unlike the disciples, I didn’t experience a sudden spiritual epiphany or dramatic change in my heart, or start speaking in tongues. But as always when I attend mass, I felt God’s presence around me (if not actually IN me) and felt surrounded by peace and light.

I looked at the tall trees gently swaying in the distance, their bright spring greens illuminated in the bright sunshine against the azure blue sky, and asked God to change me, to let the Holy Spirit flow inside me and fill me with its divine gifts of empathy, unconditional love, and joy. I asked Him to make me a better person who can connect with other people on a meaningful level–and having those gifts would make it so much easier for me to do that.

The truth is, I feel that I’m lacking in all three of these gifts. I do not have NPD and therefore have no desire to act in evil or toxic ways to others, but due to my other disorders–only one of them probably not due to abuse (Aspergers)–I often feel like there’s an emotional blockage keeping me from really being able to connect with other people, to really being able to empathize and feel WITH them the way people who have not been abused and do not have these disorders can do.

This particular triad of disorders is a tragic one. Even having one of these disorders cripples you and isolates you in various ways from others and can lead to a lonely life lacking in meaningful relationships, but having all three at once is devastating. It’s so hard for me to connect with the rest of humanity except on the most abstract level and as a result I’m often so very sad and lonely.

First, being an Aspie (the only disorder I was probably born with) makes it almost impossible for me to read social cues normally and although I can socialize well enough online (because it doesn’t require me to “think on my feet”–I have time to think through what I want to say or how to respond), in the day to day physical world my Aspieness makes me appear awkward and sometimes slow when I am forced to socialize, especially with neurotypicals who don’t understand people with Aspergers, so I avoid people. Due to my awkwardness I was a frequent target of school bullies, and it didn’t take long to learn that it was best to just keep my mouth shut and say nothing. I became painfully shy, fearing ridicule and humiliation. The old adage, “Tis better to say nothing and have others believe you are daft than open your mouth and remove all doubt” has been my motto most of my life.

aspergers_cartoon

The other two disorders I have–avoidant AND borderline personality disorders–I am certain were due to years of abuse by my narcissistic mother and to a lesser extent, my codependent father who colluded with her most of the time (although I never really doubted his love for me). The AVPD (a Cluster C “anxious” personality disorder) only exacerbates my Aspergers. They feed off each other.

Avoidants shy away from social contact because of their low self esteem and overwhelming fear of rejection. As a result they are usually painfully shy but can even seem aloof or cold. Avoidants are not schizoid though (people with Schizoid personality disorder dislike other people and prefer a hermit-like lifestyle; they don’t care how others regard them): on the contrary, we WANT friends, we WANT meaningful relationships, we WANT romance, we WANT others to like us–but our fear of engaging with others due to possible rejection keeps us isolated and alone. We build a protective shell of aloofness around ourselves so we can’t be hurt. People with AVPD are risk-averse, and are likely to be underachievers due to their unwillingness to take risks that may expose them to social embarrassment.

An Aspie with AVPD is nearly–or is–a social hermit, but not out of choice, like a person with schizoid personality disorder. Making friends–a skill that comes so naturally to most people–is something most of us never mastered well, if at all. Even having a relaxed conversation or opening ourselves to another human is like rocket science to those of us with both disorders. It’s a wonder that I was even ever able to engage in romantic relationships and have a family. Of course, all the men I dated and of course the one I married were narcissistic, mirroring the toxic dynamics I had with my family of origin.

avoidant_pd
Like the girl in this cartoon, I can relate to all of this, even the refusal to play charades! I was always terrified of that game because it requires a level of being able to read social cues and an ability to think on your feet, two qualities I don’t possess. And of course, the fear of risk-taking and humiliation.

And that brings us to my borderline personality disorder. BPD is not usually marked by overwhelming shyness or social awkwardness; in fact most borderlines are quite socially adept. But their disorder, like an Avoidant, is fueled by a deep-seated fear of rejection and almost always has its roots in childhood emotional abuse or neglect, as do all the personality disorders.

Borderlines long for close relationships and actively seek them out, but then push others away if they sense the other person might pull away or reject them first. They overreact to slights and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection. Like a narcissist, they can be difficult to deal with because of this type of selfish oversensitivity can lead them to engage in some of the same antisocial behaviors and game playing people with NPD or even ASPD are guilty of, though not usually to the same degree because people with BPD have a conscience (even if it’s stunted in some) and don’t normally actively seek to hurt others. There are exceptions though–I was shocked and dismayed to read that both the murderer Jodi Arias and serial killer Aileen Wournos were both diagnosed with BPD, though in Wournos’ case, she was also comorbid with ASPD. Still, most borderlines, when they are made aware of how they have hurt their loved ones, feel remorse–but their guilt and shame can make them feel worthless and lead to self-destructive behaviors. It is not a fun disorder.

Though Borderlines are more likely to be self-destructive instead of deliberately destructive to others, this self destructiveness causes huge problems in their ability to form meaningful relationships, and due to their “go away–come closer” way of relating to others, their relationships are usually stormy and short-lived.

lucy_charlie
Sometimes I feel like either Lucy or Charlie Brown (who I’m pretty sure would have AVPD), and sometimes both of them at once.

I am cursed with the overwhelming shyness and social anxiety of Aspergers and AVPD, but during the rare times I have been able to form relationships or friendships, sooner or later I push those people away in some form or another–not because I want to, but because I either become so afraid of rejection I reject the other person first–or more frequently, unconsciously do something to make the other person leave me. BPD is very maladaptive to the sufferer–it tends to bring on the very thing the Borderline fears the most–rejection.

I was diagnosed with BPD in 1996 during a three month long hospitalization for major depression. At the time, I also had PTSD from being a victim of abuse by a malignant narcissist husband, who gaslighted me constantly and even tried (but eventually failed) to turn my own children against me. During that hospital stay, I was given a copy of Marsha Linehan’s excellent manual for BPD, “Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder.Dr. Linehan is a borderline herself (she had originally been diagnosed with schizophrenia but felt her “schizophrenia” was really a manifestation of her BPD). The techniques in the book are a form of DBT (dialectical behavioral training) which teaches the Borderline patient to act mindfully–to think before they act and consider consequences, because Borderlines (unlike people with NPD) act on impulse when they feel threatened.

linehan_book
Linehan’s excellent manual can be ordered here.

Linehan’s book helped immensely and since my long-ago hospital stay, I have learned to control many of my borderline symptoms. In fact I have become so good at it I rarely fly off the handle the way I used to or overreact to the degree I used to do. I still have my copy and have recently begun doing some of the excercises again because I still know there’s a LOT of room for improvement.

Like NPD, BPD doesn’t just go away. All personality disorders are incredibly hard to cure because they have become so much a part of the individual’s personality. There are still many times I unwittingly either push other people away OR get too close (or do both at the same time); I still have problems with understanding where other people’s boundaries begin and end. I also feel like there is a wall there keeping me from really being able to empathize with other people in a normal way. I can empathize in an abstract sort of way (it’s hard to explain what I mean by that but the empathy I do feel is sincere). It’s just so hard for me to connect on a meaningful level because I fear rejection so much. I want to be a friend to others; I want to make others happy; I want to be able to fully share in their emotions, good or bad–but I find it all so hard–not just because of my BPD, but my fear of engaging with others in the first place due to Aspergers and AVPD. This triad has been a huge curse all my life. But at least I know what my problem is. I’m what you would call “complicated.” I have my work cut out for me.

hope

Having all three disorders has made my life incredibly difficult and my relationships–when they exist at all–have been stormy or don’t last. But I don’t feel that I’m beyond hope. In fact, I’ve been feeling much better about myself since I started blogging and accepted God into my life. I do feel that He is changing me in a very meaningful and deep way. Maybe it’s not happening as quickly or dramatically as I had hoped, but it’s happening. I am feeling more ability to empathize with others and feel moments that come very close to pure joy. I have always had a great capacity to feel guilt and shame, so that has never been a problem. For a person with a Cluster B disorder, my conscience is probably TOO well-developed. I apologize for things I haven’t even done. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my existence. I hate the idea of being a bad or evil person. I like it when I know I’ve made someone else happy. Those times when I can make others happy are becoming more frequent, and I think that’s a step toward healing. I’m also happy to report that my lifelong problem with envy appears to be disappearing. Envy is so toxic–mostly to the person harboring it. It’s a great relief to have that particular monkey off my back most of the time now.

So today’s celebration of Pentecost had special meaning, because even though I wasn’t knocked to my knees by the Holy Spirit, I felt a deep sense of peace, centeredness and just “being in the moment” that has always eluded me. I felt a genuine desire to become a person who can make a positive difference in the lives of others and can feel unconditional love even for those I do not know well. Now I just need to overcome my fear of engagement with others, but I have faith that in time that will happen too, and when that happens, a whole new world will open up to me as the walls I built at an early age begin to crumble and reveal the me I want to be–which is really the me God meant for me to be.

Never give up hope. Ever.

Why you should never jump into a new relationship after narcissistic abuse

The Wheel of Abuse

cycle_of_violence
Not all abusive relationships involve physical abuse. Emotional and mental abuse can be every bit as damaging, and sometimes more so. (Click image to make larger).

A new friend of mine (a survivor of several abusive relationships with narcs) and I were talking on Facebook. Rather than try to paraphrase, I’ll quote her directly–and then give my own opinions.

Friend:

“I realized he [her malignant narcissist ex-boyfriend who she’s still in minimal contact with but who is still trying to gaslight her and get her attention by stalking her on Facebook] did everything on that wheel except for the Economic abuse. He started to subtle test the boundaries…and realized I wasn’t game. Although I believe he probably still believes I’ll contact him again. It’s amazing, [Lauren.]

The more time your away, they stronger you feel. Your self-esteem comes back slowly. I get those frightened moments when I think my new boyfriend will just Abandoned me out of nowhere. I understand why the Psychopathic free support group did not recommend a relationship right away. They know you suffer from PTSD from the aftermath of this abuse. It’s difficult. I find myself having dark flashbacks. I also believe you have to be careful and choosy about your women friends and surround yourself with only kind people. We are fragile and vulnerable after this abuse.

My reply (My original reply was short–I embellished it when I wrote this post. I hope my friend sees it).

These are all great points. It makes sense to stay out of relationships if you’ve just escaped from an abusive one because of the PTSD you probably have or even worse problems such as major depression–you need time to find yourself and work on yourself. You need time to be selfish and not have to answer to anyone because you’ve been giving, giving and giving some more with nothing to show for it in return.

We’re mentally and emotionally exhausted and need time to recover, just as if we’re recovering from any illness. We need to not have to be responsible for someone else’s welfare or self esteem or happiness for a while before taking the plunge into a new relationship. We need to take care of ourselves and find out who we are–whether that means going to therapy, writing a journal, turning that journal into a public spectacle like a blog or video diary, taking up martial arts, yoga, or finding God. We need time to heal.

Jumping into any new relationship–even with a non-narc–when you’re this vulnerable is almost guaranteed to fail and retard you in your self growth, and if you’ve been attracted to another narcissistic abuser (which is common in codependent, PTSD and Borderline women), you may wind up much worse when all is said and done.

We’re like addicts. Narcs need their narcissistic supply; we codependents need our narcs. Let’s face it: Narcissistic suitors (male or female)–at first–make us feel alive, vital and fulfill our wildest romantic and sexual fantasies (when they are trying to trap you as their prey). In a weakened state like PTSD or depression, your judgment is not going to be great and you re going to be VERY suggestible. Most likely, you’ll also become unconsciously attracted to a romantic partner who reminds you of the narc you just left (or who left you). He made sure you can’t forget him easily, even if he was terribly cruel at the end.

anime
Anime drawing (artist unknown).

Also, we tend to be attracted to the same type of person anyway. So if you’re usually or always attracted to narcissists, then most likely your taste is not going to change.

Getting involved too early after the end of a relationship with a narcissist is dangerous. Even with a non-narcissist, old patterns will still come up and you will be hypervigilant and suspicious of your new partner, causing them confusion and eventual discord. If you’re falling for a non-narc, that’s a good sign, but if you just left an abusive relationship, please wait. Envision a giant red STOP sign. Be friends instead. Now’s not the time to get involved beyond that level. If you met someone who truly cares for you, they won’t mind waiting a while and being friends with you.

If you’re already falling hard for someone, I know it’s going to be really hard to resist the pull of a new romance. It’s a powerful force, built into normally-wired people’s genes.

But remember, even though it feels like the most exciting, heady, intoxicating rush you ever felt, that feeling won’t last: what you feel is infatuation, a crush–actually caused by changes in the brain that act like a euphoric drug. That’s really what it boils down to.

infatuation-vs-love1

Infatuation so soon after an abusive relationship is really just a form of transference onto a phantom “therapist” [the person you are infatuated with] when you are at your most vulnerable. You’re looking for someone to rescue you. There is no Prince Charming. A love relationship cannot rescue you from yourself, your memories, or your PTSD. By its nature, it can’t. You are the only one who can make you well, with the help of therapists, counselors or another other trusted person who is not involved sexually or romantically with you.

So be patient, wait until you heal yourself and feel more confident. Then if you fall in love, dive in and enjoy it–and with any luck it might turn into the real thing.

Thank you to Mary Pranzatelli for this idea.

Targets and Victims

victim

I found another blog today written by a survivor of a sick family of psychopaths and sociopaths (I’ve added the site to my list of resources under the “Info and Support” tab in the green bar in the header. I know I’ve written about this before, but this is one of the best lists of the traits of potential targets and victims of psychopaths I have seen yet. I have just about every single one of these traits, unfortunately. From an early age, I was trained to be a doormat. I learned that lesson too well.

BEFORE: TRAITS of a Potential TARGET

Below are the traits most commonly attributed to a sociopath’s target. Every person is inherently different, and that includes each target and the traits that are most pronounced in the individual. An individual would definitely not need any of these traits to be preyed upon.

This is not an attempt to diagnose anyone.

Shyness
Difficulty communicating
A lack of self confidence
Wanting to please
A belief that if you love enough the person will change
A belief that if you love enough the relationship will succeed
Difficulty establishing and maintaining boundaries
Not being able to say no
Being easily influenced by others
Wanting to be rescued from your life situation
Wanting to rescue others from their distress
Being over nurturing particularly when not asked
Feelings of shame and self doubt
Low self-esteem
A lack of memories about childhood or periods of adulthood
A lack of motivation from within and being motivated by others

AFTER: SYMPTOMS of a Relentlessly Abused VICTIM

This is a very accurate list of symptoms experienced by someone who has had their psyche brutally victimized by a sociopath. With that said, this list is not all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be part of any diagnostic function, whatsoever. These symptoms can also be triggered by many other conditions or events.

The source of this data is from ongoing research, but the majority of the data is derived and confirmed from personal experience … the key word being “majority” There are some symptoms listed here that I have not experienced at all, though they have been mentioned enough for me to accept them as potentially common.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced even a few of these symptoms, seek professional help. Keep in mind, though, that not all “help” is equal. If the professional you choose does not seem to relate to your needs as you would expect or desire, keep looking.

Emotional paralysis
PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Suicidal thoughts or actions (indirect homicide)
Loss of interest in life
Loss of energy
Insomnia
Anxiety
Depression or Severe Depression
Numbing of feelings
Disinterest in having a relationship
Panic attacks
Irritability
Increased anxiety from being alone
Increased anxiety from being in crowds
Mood swings
Source: sociopathicstyle.com [confirmed by personal experience (50+ years)]

Held hostage: living with the enemy

trapped

Finally, I’m getting around to posting this last part of my story. It will be in two parts, because it’s going to be so long.

After Michael kicked me out of our home in 2003 (which by that time was in foreclosure), I had no job, no place to go, and no friends or family who would take me in. Michael told me I couldn’t take the children with me, and since I had no place to go, it was obvious that for the time being they would have to stay with him.

I had just been released from the psychiatric center for Major Depression and severe PTSD, and I still wasn’t all there. I was medicated too, so that numbed my emotions even more. So I didn’t try to fight his demands, even though I could have. I could have gone to the local chapter of Helpmate, an organization that helps battered women. Even though I wasn’t battered physically (usually, unless he was drunk), the type of abuse I had just suffered was even worse because it was so insidious and soul destroying.

As for the children, I didn’t think there was anything I could do. I had no place to go, and couldn’t them with me to wherever I’d have to stay.

I had 30 days to leave. I wanted to leave right then and there, but my daughter’s 10th birthday was coming up so I wanted to stay around for that. But the next two weeks were torture. Michael and his flying monkey Rachel amped up the volume to full blast on their mind games and gaslighting, and the shitty car I had access to was taken away from me so I couldn’t leave until they wanted me to. Rachel took away my car keys. If I needed something, I had to ask for it. I was a prisoner in my own home. I’m convinced they wanted to keep me around just to torment me.

My daughter’s birthday was miserable. Molly was depressed. Michael and Rachel used her to triangulate against me and my son, who was also treated horribly. I think a part of Molly hated being in this role, but she knew she didn’t have a choice if she didn’t want to become a target herself. It was an awful thing to do to a child.

I left the next day. I had $1,000 in my pocket and the old car. Michael and Rachel didn’t say goodbye. Ethan wept quietly in his room. Molly said goodbye but didn’t hug me. Paul was the nicest. He came over to the car window as I was pulling out of the driveway and whispered “you don’t deserve this.” I don’t know if I was imagining things or not, but I thought he had tears in his eyes. Paul was a nice guy, but was very weak willed and as much under Rachel’s control as I was. The only difference was he wasn’t a target. He had pretty much kept to himself the whole time they lived with us, staying out of the hate campaign but not fighting against it either.

So I drove 11 hours to New Jersey, where an old friend was letting me stay with her for a week. Somewhere in Pennsylvania, I became fatigued and had to find a motel to stay in for the night. In my room, I thought about the gravity of what had just happened. I thought about my children and wondered if I’d ever see them again. I thought about how emotionally damaged they both were by Michael’s mindgames. I thought about Ethan’s love of Twix bars and his silly grin and hair that stood straight up when he got up in the morning. I thought about how sweet Molly could sometimes be and the way she still slept with her threadbare puppy at night. I thought about the way they both ate cereal straight out of the box. And for the first time in many months, I cried.

car

But I had to keep going, somehow. The next day I met my friend in New Jersey and accompanied her on her pet sitting job. I helped her with the animals. The animals were therapeutic for me, and I felt almost happy when I watched them or stroked their fur. I felt like they understood me and what I was going through. I would have liked to stay with my friend longer, but it wasn’t possible, and after a week I drove back to North Carolina, and crashed with another old friend for about a month. Things didn’t work out too well and the friend resented my having so much “stuff” (I had only brought 4 bags out of the car) and finally told me it was too crowded (it was a one bedroom apartment) and I would have to go.

I was almost out of money. In the nick of time, I found a job in a gas station and moved into the local women’s homeless shelter. The shelter actually wasn’t too bad. It was midsummer and there was no air conditioning (and I had a sore tooth that later had to be pulled but the pain kept me up at night), but the rooms were okay, and I only had to share my room with one other woman, a crackhead in her 60s. We didn’t get along. So I stayed out most of the time, if not working, then just going to the library, walking around the mall, or driving around. A few times I went to church to pray. I didn’t have the money or energy to do anything else. There was no room in the room for any of my stuff, so I kept everything in the car. I had to bring up my change of clothes from the car every night and lay it on the bed for the next day.

During this time I had several conversations with my parents. My mother feigned sympathy but offered no help. She kept asking me “what are you going to do about the children?” or saying things like “A good mother would keep her children with her.” Oh, the hypocrisy was stunning–these words coming from a woman who had given up her own two daughters for a man. She knew I could do nothing and had no place to take them. I think she was deliberately taunting me by bringing it up all the time and making me feel like a horrible mother.

It was my father who finally came through. In spite of his drunkenness and physical punishments of me as a child, I don’t think he was psychopathic. Under all that anger, I think he cared about me and the children. But he was deep down a weak man who always allowed himself to be manipulated by narcissistic women. The first time I had asked for his help, his wife (a narcissist who controls all their funds) said no. She told me I was an adult and had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and shouldn’t be asking them for help. I never felt so unsupported. No one cared!

As a requirement for staying in the shelter, I was seeing a counselor, who asked me if my parents would help me pay for a small place I could take the kids. I told her they would not, but she took it upon herself to call my father anyway. Somehow hearing a professional voice instead of mine convinced him, and his wife grudgingly agreed to help me pay for an apartment on a month to month basis.

So I moved into a cute one bedroom. During this time, the kids had been living with Michael, and because our home had been foreclosed on, they had all moved to a rented house in town. I found out my poor son Ethan was required to do all the work and made to sleep in the basement. He didn’t get one of the bedrooms, though everyone else did (even though the two girls had to share). Ethan was constantly taunted about being gay (even though he was years from coming out). When he fell down on his bike one day, Rachel just stood and laughed at him. This shattered my heart.

The kids moved in with me. Ethan was thrilled, even though he had to sleep in the living room (Molly and I shared the only bedroom). At nearly 14, he was developing a love of computers and spent hours playing with the boxy old desktop I had picked up at Goodwill. We had no Internet (I couldn’t afford it, or cable either) but he had loads of games he would play and he opened up Word to write poetry and song lyrics. He was a quiet and well behaved kid, who also loved to ride his bike and sit outside on the tiny deck, watching nature. He was fascinated by weather, and set up a little homemade weather station outside he had put together with a kit.

computergeek

Molly was sullen and clearly didn’t like being with me anymore. She thought I was boring. Molly was then and still is addicted to chaos and all too often, the wrong kind of excitement. She can be a drama queen. She may be borderline or God forbid, even narcissistic, but she, like me, has been diagnosed with severe PTSD.

It was 2004 and Molly was 11, turning into a physically beautiful girl, but preteen angst mixed in with hatred for me, fueled by the brainwashing she had received. Our time together was awkward and forced. When I’d tell her to do something, she’d refuse or make a sarcastic remark, usually repeating something Michael and Rachel had said about me. Most of these things were lies. The worst was when she told me Michael and Rachel had told her the reason I left was because “your mother is selfish and doesn’t love you anymore.” I was stunned by this incredible lie. I told Molly it wasn’t true at all, and I loved her very much and she shouldn’t listen to them, but I don’t think she was convinced. To this day, there’s a rift in our relationship due to their gaslighting and triangulation that made her believe I didn’t love her. It’s gotten better and she does realize now she was lied to and manipulated. But the wounds haven’t completely healed and it’s still having repercussions in our relationship and her behavior today. She is also showing disturbing early signs of being narcissistic. But more on that later.

I wasn’t thinking straight and was making terrible choices. I got back together with the man who had gotten Michael and I in trouble for the marijuana 3 years earlier. This was a huge mistake, as he tried to take over and criticized how I was raising my children, who he thought were spoiled. They both couldn’t stand him, and after a few months, I decided I couldn’t either, and gave him the leave ho. He continued to call me for a couple of years after that, but after a while, I just started hanging up on him. Finally he gave up.

In the meantime, Michael was trying to worm his way back into our lives. Rachel and Paul had thrown HIM out of the house, and he started love bombing me and the kids, acting all simpering and apologetic, even saying he was sorry for everything he put me through. He bribed me to let him live in our tiny one bedroom by promising to be a better dad, and cooking dinner every night. He also had a job and offered to help me pay the bills. Mainly because Molly did seem much happier with him around (and I believed his empty promises) I stupidly conceded.

Michael didn’t become abusive this time, but he became loud. He was never a quiet person, but he was smoking pot constantly and when he was high, his voice became loud and he blasted his horrible music. The downstairs neighbors, who were elderly, complained the the landlord several times, and we were finally asked to leave.

Luckily I had a better place to go with the children, and the timing was perfect. The apartment we were living in had been a month to month arrangement, and my father had told me he could no longer afford the rent payments (actually his wife just didn’t want to foot the bill anymore). I didn’t earn enough at my job at the gas station to pay the whole rent, so we had to leave anyway.

I had been working with an organization called Interlace, which works with single mothers and children who have been victims of abuse. They’re a fantastic organization, and they provide free housing on an 18 month basis. The only thing they required was covering the utility bill, being available for weekly home visits and attending monthly group meetings. The group meetings were fun. Dinner was always served, and after the meeting, there was usually some group activity, usually involving arts and crafts, that both mothers and their kids participated in. They also sponsored group picnics and other events.

So we moved into a clean, well kept 3 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment with more storage space than I’d ever had in my life. There were two levels and there was even a tiny room (really an oversized closet) under the stairs that the kids had a lot of fun redecorating into a little private domain complete with large pillows, stuffed animals (both kids still loved their fluffies) and an old black and white TV that actually worked.

There were rules too. The most important one was no overnight visitors, even family members. That didn’t stop Michael from trying to manipulate and sweet talk his way in. He convinced the kids (even Ethan) that we were better together as a real family and they needed a dad. I told him it wasn’t allowed but he promised to be quiet and never answer the phone or the door. I was so broken down and afraid of him I broke the rules and said yes. Every day I was terrified we’d be discovered (we could have been thrown out), but we never were. Fortunately the weekly home visits were scheduled ahead of time, so I always made sure he was out when the counselor came over. No one suspected a thing, and the neighbors didn’t care.

But Michael didn’t stay long. After a few months, he started acting cranky again, and he was out a lot more. I didn’t mind his absence, but Molly did. She was still sullen and snippy and her grades dropped from A’s to mostly C’s and D’s. She acted like she didn’t care about anything.

It turned out he had a girlfriend. She had her own apartment and asked Michael to move in with him. Strangely, I was jealous. Or maybe just resentful because I felt I’d been duped and used. After all the hell he put me through, he actually dared to leave me? But overall, I was relieved–until one day Molly told me she wanted to live with him and not me.

Molly had been spending a lot of time with Michael and his new girlfriend (I’ll call her Heather) and always seemed in a much better mood after she had been with them. She spent less and less time at home, and there came a point where I hardly ever saw her anymore. Michael and Molly both told me Heather was a much happier and more positive person than I was, and they both preferred her company to mine. Later it turned out she was a drug addict; that probably explains the “happiness.”

Molly said if I didn’t allow her to live with them, she would hate me forever. Oh, she was good at manipulating her mom–she had learned from the best. She actually cried and said if I made her stay she’d be so miserable she might kill herself. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I allowed it.

punkgirl

Finally, in early 2006, the divorce came through. I had agreed to joint custody, not wanting to anger Michael and fearing what he might do if I “took his kids away from him.” I also didn’t want Molly to hate me by not allowing at least partial custody. So although technically we both had joint custody, the kids were allowed to choose. Ethan remained with me and occasionally visited Michael and Heather (when they wanted him around, which wasn’t often–he got on their nerves), and Molly of course got to live with them.

If I had any idea of what was actually going on in their home (I was so naive and trusting back then), I would have grabbed my daughter and ran.

Michael was regularly drinking again, and now mixing alcohol with pot AND pain pills. Heather turned out to be a pill addict and also a heavy drinker, and a number of times Molly couldn’t get to school because no one was sober enough to drive her (and there were no buses in the rural area they lived in). There were parties every weekend, where Heather’s friends, a motley crew of crackheads, meth addicts, drunks and assorted addict, came over to the house. Molly was only 12 going on 13. But that didn’t stop Heather from letting my daughter try “just one pill”or have a drink or two.

The police were called on a couple of occasions because of the fighting. Michael and Heather got into violent arguments. Unlike me though, she wasn’t afraid of Michael. She finally reached her limit and one night tossed him out, along with all his belongings. Molly had to come back home with me, but by now she had developed a taste for both drugs and alcohol, thanks to Heather’s “education,” and became worse than ever.

pills

Michael disappeared after that. I had no idea where he was and none of us, not even Molly, heard from him. Molly hated this and missed her father, but I was relieved and secretly hoped he was dead.

At the gas station, I was promoted to assistant manager, and although were were still pretty poor, I could afford a few nice things now and a new car. Our 18 months in the Interlace apartment were up, and just in the nick of time, our Section 8 came through. We moved into a charming Craftsman style two family house. We rented a three bedroom apartment on the ground floor with a front porch and a deck in the back. Section 8 paid half of the rent. And we were finally allowed to have a pet–one dog only, but that was fine. Daisy, our dog who had been a gift for Molly’s 6th birthday, been living with Heather and Rod (and various friends before that), but she was growing older and was a little arthritic, so she came home to live with us. Daisy was so happy to be home.

Molly’s drug problems were beginning to affect her at school, and her behavior at home was becoming frightening. She started wearing long sleeves all the time and when I asked why, she changed the subject. But one night I saw red marks on her wrists and forearms. She was cutting herself. When she was in 8th grade, she was caught at school with several Klonopins (she said she had gotten from her dad), which she was sharing with her friends. She was caught, and suspended for two weeks. It was at the end of the school year, so even though she got her diploma, she wasn’t allowed to attend her own graduation ceremony.

I was slowly becoming fat. I smoked too much. I was stressed and miserable, and other than work, I had no interests except eating, reading crappy novels, and watching court shows and sometimes movies on TV. I was becoming the “slovenly” mother Rachel had accused me of being several years before. I was emotionally numb, yet also prone to to occasional fits of anger that at times became violent. Either nothing affected me, or it affected me too much and I overreacted. Most of the time I felt like I was an autopilot, just going through the motions of life. There was no beauty or joy in my world, and all I could see ahead was a vast emptiness that stretched out until death. But I plodded along like an ailing cow, accepting that this state of affairs was normal. In fact, I was showing symptoms of unresolved PTSD.

My only ray of hope anymore was my dog Daisy, and my son Ethan, who was becoming a sort of guardian angel to me. By default, he was now the man of the house, and became a responsible teenager, getting himself up for school and always at the school bus on time, and always doing his homework. He had always been a B and C student, but he began to apply himself more and started getting A’s and even on the honor roll. When he was home, he was quiet and spent most of his times on the computer playing video games, posting on entertainment and racing forums, and setting up his own car racing forum. He also started making short films with his beloved new digital camera my father had bought for him. From the get go, it was evident he was talented. Soon he transferred from the regular public school to an adjunct school that specialized in computers and technology.

The more mature Ethan became, the worse his sister got. She was addicted to MySpace (we’re up to 2007 now, and that was still the most popular social network of the time) and without my knowledge, met a man online 7 years older than herself. Ben had been in prison for fraud, but passed himself off as a “good guy.” He wasn’t.

I need to take a break and eat something, so I’ll post the next part of this story in a little bit.