Hurt People Hurt People

​It’s been quiet here in Wondrland, and it’s not because I haven’t wanted to say anything. I’ve been wanting to talk about Mental Illness, and haven’t been certain how to approach the conversation. Cos, you know, that’s something you’re “not supposed to talk about”. But since there’s not a day that goes by when I’m not faced with evidence of mental illness in someone I know, including myself, I want to talk about it.

As you probably know, mental illness can be hereditary or it can be a response to events in a person’s life. Something that you may not be aware of (I wasn’t for a long time) is that a mental illness can begin to appear at any point in a person’s life. Childhood, adulthood, or any other time of life, things can begin to go…sideways. The part that matters most, I suppose, is when the “differences” start to be addressed and treated. 
When I began to have concerns about my child’s behavior, I was told  “that’s just how boys are!” and also, from my family members, “You were the same way at that age!” Which caused me to wonder if that’s just how the boys in MY family have always been, and if there was something going on with ME at that age that might have been handled differently, and had a seriously more positive outcome?

So I began searching the web for information to explain the things I was noticing in my boy.  I found a lot of answers to the questions that had been running through my head, and raised some new questions! For example, I had not been aware that symptoms of ADHD/ADD look very different in boys than they do in girls. I accredit this ignorance to the fact that nobody was talking about ANY kind of mental illness in children back in the 60’s and 70’s. At least, nobody my parents or I knew. 
I can’t even describe the feelings I had when I heard that when I was being punished for being “lazy” or “daydreaming” or “lying” about things I was POSITIVE I had not lied about, that it wasn’t my fault. As a young girl, I was disciplined for all of these things. Rigorously. And often. I now know that my Dad had been through essentially the same traumas when he was young.   Come to find out, I’d had the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder as far back as I can remember. Growing out of that period came the depression, “generalized anxiety disorder” and PTSD that have been my continual companions ever since. The realization that there was something unusual about the way my mind processed things motivated me to find out as much as I could about psychology. I knew I was different by the time I was about 12 or so, but didn’t know what “IT” was, exactly.  I’ll never forget the first book I read about a person my age that had a mental illness. “Lisa, Bright and Dark” told of the daily life of a teen girl who was behaving increasingly strangely, and how it was ignored, denied, and finally addressed. It shined a light on a part of me that I’d never taken out of the shadows before. It told me that I wasn’t the only one. 

You can find more info about Lisa, Bright and dark on Google or Amazon. (I tried to post a link for ya, but it doesn’t seem to be working.)

I remember my Dad asking me what I had to be sad about?! I had such a good life (and it’s not wrong, by many standards, I was VERY blessed), and I was so “ungrateful” I should be “ashamed”. And of course, I was. For a very long time. I’m not certain that I’ve gotten past that shame, even now.  It seems like a good time to write down what the difference between guilt and shame is. As I have come to understand it,  GUILT is the feeling I get when I’ve done something wrong, or BAD. SHAME is the feeling that I am BAD or WRONG. Period. How many times did our parents tell us “Shame on you”? I couldn’t tell you, but I did share what I’d learned about the difference, the next time I was told that I should be ashamed. 
So, it took years of discussion with my Mom before she accepted that antidepressants weren’t “drugs”, and they didn’t cause you to feel high. Thank God, she wasn’t so hesitant to get me to a counselor when I hit my teens, but medication was a tougher pill for her to swallow (see what I did there?). Several years ago she was even able to be helped by taking them for a while. I’m happy to say that she doesn’t seem to need them at this point. 

And so, now the generational “quirks,” we’ll call them, have shown themselves in other parts of my extended family. As the children grow into their teens and young adulthood, they’re giving (me) reasons to be concerned. I see the same symptoms that I showed at that age, and I can only hope and pray that the stigma and “what will the neighbors think?” won’t keep the adults from getting the kids to a Dr. of some sort. I understand that everyone is busy, running as fast as they possibly can to…I don’t know, rest? And I absolutely know that the cost associated with mental illness treatment can be intimidating. But guess what? If it HAS to be done, we find a way. (And if we’re not willing to address/treat the problem, we find an EXCUSE.)

I can’t help but think of my Dad, and his distaste (translated: refusal) in asking for help.  When I was probably about 10, I was at my Dad’s house and he was “partying” and dancing around, having a good time. I think Elton John was playing loudly on the record player. Well, somehow, Dad danced in the wrong place and caused the horizontal blinds to fall down onto his foot. THAT ended the dancing. For the next 2 hours or so, my stepmom and Grandma tried to explain to Dad that the end of his toe was BARELY attached, and he needed to get to the ER. He didn’t think it was that bad. He musta been HIGHHIGHHIGHHIIIGH. 

Then, many years later, when his life was in a downward spiral because of his drinking and drug use, he again insisted that he didn’t need any help, thank you very much. If the helicopters would stop flying over his shed, and the spies would stop creeping around his house, he would have been fine. But just in case, he always had a loaded .38 handy. It takes some of us longer than others to have our denial broken down. Thank God he did get clean/sober, and the rest is wonderful history. 

So, it makes me think of Dad when I hear adults replying (re: getting their kids to see someone or see if perhaps medication would help) “Counselors are a waste of money” or, even better “We don’t have time”. I love what I heard James Dobson say about parenting older childen. He said that up until that time, it’s like you’re on a ship with them, teaching them the roaps and how to stay safe, etc. Once they get to their teens, we have to pick our battles carefuly, and just keep them from jumping ship. My kids have done infinitely better with negotiating the rough waters than I did, and I attribute that to their getting help when they did. I just happened to have personal experience  that allowed me to recognise the symptoms in my children.  

Depression in kids may not look the way you’d expect it to. Kids aren’t likely to necessarily let you see the depth of their despair. (I was told to stop being such a baby when I was unable to keep my sadness from coming out.) Kids and teenagers, AREN’T supposed to be continually sad or angry (anger is what we see when sadness isn’t “allowed”), and it’s not just a part of that period. Sure, moodiness is guaranteed to be a frequest visitor when the hormones are flying around, but that’s different from being angry or sad ALL THE TIME. The worst thing we as parents can do is to be overcome by pride, not wanting to find out what “they” would think. 10 or 20 years down the road, “they” won’t even be in your life, and if they are, they still won’t be as valuable as your child’s wellbeing. Right? 
I am sometimes hesitent to speak up about matters of mental health. I was shamed and punished enough to make it quite clear to me: act normal and don’t talk about anything. It’s still a subtle influencer on my decisions today.  I appreciate your taking time out of your day to read this. I feel strongly about these issues and I’m not sure if I am able to make that clear in my writing. So I throw it out there, and hope someone catches something they can use. 

What are your thoughts? Have you seen addictions and mental illness moving down your family’s bloodline? How is it dealt with, or is it?
From my cabin in the woods. 

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I didn’t know what I didn’t know

My Dad told me that getting sober is about growing up. One of the first things that I can remember becoming clear to me in those early days was that I didn’t know everything. The next step seems to have been realizing that it wasn’t important for me to be RIGHT. That’s been an on going lesson. 

When I became a Mother, I knew that I had no idea how to care for my child. I’d worked at Day Cares, and even become a certified Nanny at one point, but in the position I found myself when I became a parent,  I realized that I was pretty much clueless. I knew how to put on a diaper, sure, but there was so much more about which I had no idea. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now, almost 24 years later, I am convinced that I have no clue. By the grace of God my boys have turned out as healthy as they are. 

When I began working the steps with my Sponsor, I was apprehensive, having heard lots of those who’d come to the rooms before me talking about their struggles. Of course, I hadn’t begun my Stepwork, so I thought those people were a bunch of cry-babies. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I soon found out. 

When I was still calling the shots in my life, in Party Girl mode, I was always looking for something new. Something exciting. For a long time, the chemicals were enough to bring me to new and exciting lands (if only hallucinatory). After a while that wasn’t enough, so I chose more exciting places and more dangerous people with whom to run around. I suppose it was the adrenaline rush along with whatever drugs I used that made for an acceptable escape from the mundane and the depression that was a constant companion. I knew how to create distractions for myself, even if they were increasingly perilous. I was untouchable. 

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

Of course one can only live in that level of (drama) for so long before it starts to catch up with them. I don’t recall anyone talking to me about my drinking or using, but I suspect that’s just because I’d decided that wasn’t going to hear it.  More than likely, there were at least a couple of times that folks cared enough to try to get through my hard head. But I was skating along with relative ease, at the time. I refused to see the place that this lifestyle was taking me. I suspect that much of my cavalier attitude regarding the impending crash-and-burn was due to my complete lack of self-worth and my confidence that the hell I was living in was unavoidable.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

I’ve been unable to avoid the political sh*t-storm in recent weeks, try as I have. This post was prompted by learning the truth about a situation that had been sold as a seriously unfathomable act by a candidate. The original information wasn’t (clearly) reported as having been (spun) by their adversary, so I took it as the truth. It was pretty outrageous. I thought this person was as big a scumbag as I’d already decided that their opponent was. Then I stumbled across the truth. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
It’s my own fault. I’m too comfortable hearing about unethical behavior to actually look into it, to find the truth. Laziness, I guess. But as the Day of Reckoning draws nearer, I’ve begun to concede that I ought to gather some information before I go pull a lever. I lot of times in the past I’ve been able to just watch for my associates (politically in-the-know people) to summarize the facts, and go from that. But this time it’s just not that easy. I’m beginning to know what I don’t know. Once you know a thing, you cannot unknow it. As much as I prefer to be ignorant about the goings-on of the “powers that be”, I’m coming to believe that not only is ignorance NOT bliss (crazy, right?), but that ignorance in these matters may give me something else to answer for in the Grand Scheme of things. And that list is already WAY TOO long for my liking. 

Let’s get busy and learn about the people who are vying for control of our great country. Four years in the hands of an idiot has proven to be more costly than we the people can afford. 

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ 

I have learned many little tricks to assessing where my head is, I mean, whether I’m thinking like I did in the Old Days or thinking with my “right mind”. I was taught early on -maybe you’ve heard this, too – that my mind is like a bad neighborhood at night: I don’t want to go there alone. I knew intuitively (?) from the get-go that I could not trust my own thinking. 

When I arrived at treatment, I had gone through everyone I’d known and come up with the following:

I couldn’t trust my parents

I couldn’t trust women

I couldn’t trust men

…and finally…

I couldn’t trust myself.

So it was easy for me to grasp the concept of “I no longer have a drinking problem. Now I have a thinking problem.” I definitely needed to re-learn how to think.

You can’t think your way to sober living…

While I was in treatment, IOP and residential, I began to learn about the different styles of “Unhealthy thinking” (ie Stinkin Thinkin). The list is fairly long, so I’m just going to touch on a few, here, followed by an example or explanation of my understanding of what it means. 

1.    Personalisation – also known as hypersensitivity – This involves blaming yourself for any and everything that goes wrong, even when logic tells you that you’re only partially responsible, or even not responsible at all. This kind of thinking has you feeling guilty WAY too often, and apologising when you have nothing to apologise for. One common example of this is when you blame yourself for someone else’s poor choices. 

I am responsible for everything inside of my skin. I can’t control anything outside my skin, with the possible exception of my kids, and, really I’m pretty powerless over them most of the time. 

2.    Catastrophising – this is when a person makes mountains out of molehills.  Another way of saying it is “pole-vaulting over mouse turds.” Teenagers are great for this sort of thing, and since we tend to stop growing emotionally when we begin our addiction, that can cover we in addiction recovery as well. This reminds me of a boyfriend who always told me I was too dramatic. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I do. The best way I have come up with to stop this kind of thinking is to take my emotions out of it, and look at the situation with only my mind/logic/intellect.  (I do this at times with sarcasm, I think. Probably not the best approach, but it helps ME.) After that, I usually will go to the EXTREME possible outcome, which is just ridiculous. For example, I work with a woman who does this. Last week she had a hangnail that she’d picked, and although it wasn’t bleeding, it was (a hangnail, remember, so pretty tiny) raw-looking. She showed it to me and did her hyperventilating act, and asked me  in her trembling voice if it was going to be alright. I told her we’d probably have to take the finger off.  Sarcasm might not have been the best response, but I think you get the point. I put a bandaid on it and she is still alive as far as I know, and still has all of her digits. 

3.    Black & White thinking – Also known as All-or-Nothing thinking. This style of thinking is where you see everything as good or bad,  wrong or right, with no in-between. The word “moderation” just doesn’t exist in an alkie/druggie’s vocabulary. When me Dad got sober he would talk about how he used to say “Moderation is for wimps!” The example that comes to mind is the way an alcoholic drinks. If you’re going to offer them one, you’d better be ready to share the rest with them. The sad and funny thing about that is, many of us relapse because we convince ourselves that we can have “just one.” How crazy is that? I never wanted one of ANYTHING, before, and now all of a sudden I was going to calmly moderate? One of anything just irritated me. The thing that helps me to avoid this kind of faulty thinking is that I force myself to imagine the thing in a gray area. My instinctual thought was “he’ll either be dead or he’ll recover” (in the case of my Dad’s surgery to cut out the cancer), well, guess what. I forgot to consider that maybe he wouldn’t die right away and he wouldn’t be healed. I hadn’t ever imagined for a second that what would happen was actually in the middle of those two things. So now I force myself to remember that gray is a perfectly possible outcome, most of the time. (Just not where addiction is concerned. Period.)  

4.     Magnifying and Minimisation – This often is a go-to for a person not actually ready to quit. You’ll hear things like “I had X, Y, & Z, but I didn’t have my favorite drug!” or “I relapsed part of Monday, part of Tuesday, and part of Wednesday.” or “He gave it to me.”From the tone of their voice, I am pretty sure this seemed like a perfectly good comprehension of the events. The reality of the situations was A), you relapsed, and it doesn’t matter on what, because any of those things could kill you or send you to prison and B), You only relapsed for “part of” those days because you didn’t have money to buy more? Or because when you were coming down you don’t consider that to be the same as being high? and C), He didn’t hold you down and force you to do it.  

As far as addiction goes, regardless of what the focus of the addiction may be- with the possible exception of food addiction, there is no middle ground. You’re either clean or you’re not. You’re either living in an addict’s brain or you’re living in a recovering person’s brain.  

OK, that’s probably enough to chew on for now. If this has been helpful to you in any way, or if you think it could help someone else struggling with an addict or an addiction, please share.  
     

The life-changing events of my time living in Europe

As a young Midwestern girl, I dreamed of living in Europe for as far back as I can remember. The countryside was far greener, the people more friendly, diverse and interesting, and even the architecture was amazing when compared to the cookie-cutter neighborhoods to which I’d been accustomed. It looked to be just about Heaven, as far as I could tell.
My friends and I sought to expand our knowledge and understanding of the (small but hard) world around us via copious amounts of weed, alcohol, and acid, while dreaming of our eventual lives -doing all those same things, of course- overseas. Heck, I was young enough then to believe in the dreams of my friends, if not my own.

Listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, The Lizard King, and of course, The Wall, we gathered our ideas of what was, and what had been, and what could be…
So, when I found myself in a position whereby all I had to do to get to The Promised Land (Europa) was get my live-in boyfriend, who was signing up for the Army, to marry me, I somehow made that happen. As young as he was, I’m pretty sure it was via bedroom intimate private “negotiations” that he was easily persuaded.
After he left for boot camp, I spent that period and the 6 months after that smoking, snorting, dropping and  drinking everything I cound get my hands on.
The codependency and depression of my youth exploded, and I went into a pretty fast, downward spiral. Then, to my in-patient “hospital” stay. It was more like a spa, I suppose, than what I’d imagined a psychiatric place to be, and I remember feeling relieved, somehow. Within those walls, I could Just. Be. Me.
After a week to get “stabilised” (I supposed that was the intention, or maybe just supervised detox) on antidepressants, they cut me loose. I hadn’t felt it necessary to talk about my previous chemical intake, and as I left, it felt like an aside when someone suggested  I check out Alcoholics Anonymous.

Meh. That wasn’t my problem! That was my solution!!

Soon after returning to my little studio apartment, I realized that the medication was causing me to blackout sooner, so of course, I nixed the Prozac. (Duh.)

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The house where I lived. Gotta love Google maps!!

Upon arriving in Frankfurt, my husband took me to (of course) one of the usual bars in Saxenhausen. I had a really large glass of Pils (German ale), and a hit of acid. (Right about now was when the music began playing from when Dorothy discovered the Emerald City)

I had effin arrived!!!

It was in most ways, every bit as magical as I’d imagined.
The experience of living in Germany and seeing bits of France (and Amsterdam of course) sealed in my heart a longing to return, which even 24 years later, hasn’t subsided. It would be tres interesting to go there clean & sober, no?!

The short story of what comes to my mind when I think of how that year & a half changed my life forever is this:
My Dad took the opportunity to come for a week (or two?), during which we did some site-seeing…the experience of his driving on the auto-bahn left me with a quote I’ve not yet forgotten. We were headed toward France at the required break-neck speed (so it seemed at the time), and decided that we weren’t necessarily on the road that we wanted. Dad quipped “Well, I’m not sure where we are, but we’re really making good time!” (It may have been more hilarious because I was HIGH. You can be the judge.)
Dad had put together only a few months of sobriety at this time, and in hindsight, I’m positive I was set-up; maybe not by Dad, but nonetheless. He “needed me to help him find a meeting” in Germany. He knew I wasn’t ready to quit, yet. But he needed to get to his safe place, and I know he wanted to share this new fanily with me.
I left that meeting feeling confused and somehow hopeful.
That was one way my life was changed. My first AA meeting, in Frankfurt, Germany.

A few months later, the other life-changing event of my time in Europe.

I discovered I was pregnant.

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Blessed and confused

Posted from my cabin in the mountains.