Tag Archives: psychosis

My brother: Chapter 1: Shotgun

My brother just had a shotgun wedding.

1. shotgun wedding
where one or both parties are forced into marriage due to an unplanned pregnancy
– Urban Dictionary

Everyone must know what that is, but for some reason I felt the need to google it.  Gotta love the Urban Dictionary.  So, I have a new sister-in-law!  That I barely know!  This is all fine and well.  My brother and I have always had a unique bond and I’ve always felt that he has some kind of 6th sense when it comes to me.  Well, maybe not always.  He came to live with my husband and I for a while after he almost drank himself to death and could not go home to live with my parents because after 3 times of this happening before, they finally shut their door to him.  My husband and I were happy to welcome him into our home with just a few adult rules, including “no drinking” for the alcoholic who wouldn’t admit he was an alcoholic.  My mother begged me not to let him live with me, swearing up and down that it would ruin our relationship.  “That’s impossible,” I’d tell her, “Me and my brother have a bond that no one understands… it is impossible to ruin.”  He lived with us for four months and witnessed a lot of the same problems between me and my husband that we still deal with.  At one point, he made the gigantic mistake of inserting his 2 cents into the “problem” that he presumed he understood.  He’s always really looked up to my husband for many reasons.  He said to me, “Sometimes you just have to let things go.  I hear you talking about the same one issue over and over and it’s exhausting.  That’s one of my pet peeves!  I hate it when people do that!  Just let it go!”

Maybe that was the point things started to change… but over the course of the last month he lived with us as he completely ran out of money and as a result became very anxious and unappreciative, he finally told me to “Shut up” and that was it.  I told him to get out.  My brother and I hadn’t fought since we were kids.  Adult fighting really is so much worse.  I hated it.  I had hated the last two months he was with us, because he had turned into someone I didn’t recognize again.  You can never really know a person until they live with you, though.  It’s the truth.  Living together as children, again, is very different from living together as adults.  He would sit on my couch and watch South Park and Reno 911 for hours.  I would come home from work, at a job I could not stand, and he’d be on my couch, laughing as if he didn’t have a care in the world.  I’d find myself asking his permission to change the channel on the TV that I paid for… the channels on the cable plan that I paid for.  He had ultimately no respect for what we were doing for him towards the end of his stay. And, much to my mom’s heartbreak, it definitely did ruin our relationship for a couple of years.  He never called me.  I didn’t exactly seek him out either, it was pretty hard to swallow the disrespect in the end mostly because I had never experienced anything but the utmost respect and friendship from my brother.  When he finally got himself back together and moved back in with my parents, he would always call my sister first if he needed to come to our town, which was quite often as he was prepping for the NAVY and had frequent check-ins.  It was painful – I’ll never know if it was painful for him because he has re-entered a shell over the years.  He pokes out now and then, usually when he’s drunk.  I’ve gotten an email or a phone call about how wonderful I am and how much he loves me in the last two years since he’s been in the NAVY now.

The latest call that made me think he was truly “back” involved the latest news.  He was drunk, and shaky and scared out of his mind.  The details don’t matter – what happens next does.  My brother and I have a wonderful talk and he admits for the first time that he knows he’s an alcoholic and that it is harder for him not to drink than it is for him to drink.  He tells me he is afraid of failing and afraid of screwing everything up – afraid of not being man enough to raise a baby or be a good husband.  He tells me all his fears and I pump him with the confidence I know he needs although inside I am crying in my fear.  I was so honored that I received that call; that he had reached out to me first.  He told me that he loved me and that he knew I would know just what to say to make him feel better about things.  I told him that I would do anything to help him because he had always been there to help me in my darkest hours.  I relied on him for my only support system many times.  And, he’s my little brother.  But numerous times when my mom and dad did not have the emotional capability to mother and father me the way they should have, my brother stepped up and did his part to be sure I knew I wasn’t alone.  The fist time I ever experienced major depression and felt trapped (because I pretty much was) in my parents’ dysfunction emotionally and physically, my brother invited me to go on a date with him… out of the blue.  He just asked me one day if I’d let him take me on a date.  It was honestly the first genuinely no-strings-attached nice thing anyone in my house had asked of me for as long as I could remember.  So, I said yes.  We rode the bus to the movies downtown, he bought me a single red rose, and we even held hands.  People probably thought we were actually on a date, it was so sweet.  I’m sure my parents gave him money and admired his gesture… they had told me just weeks before that I should consider how my depression was affecting my “little brother.”  It didn’t seem to be affecting him at all; he seemed to simply understand that I was very, very sad.  Sad enough to want to end my life.  He understood that I needed some positive human interaction.  He probably saved my life that night.  I’ll never forget it.  I didn’t really understand why he was being so nice to me – he was only 14 years old and I didn’t comprehend how he could be so tuned into the situation.  Especially, because my parents obviously had no regard for his emotional intelligence because they had no concept of “emotional intelligence” at all themselves, and certainly a 14-year-old child could not have the ability to think rationally for himself.  We’ve surprised our parents, many times over the years.

About 3 years later, I had to be hospitalized because I calmly explained to my roommate that when she left to take her exams the next day, I was going to take my entire bottle of Ambien sleeping pills and call it quits.  I was scared to call my dad to ask for the insurance information required for my stay, so my roommate did it for me.  I am pretty sure I have an idea of what he said to her that day, but she never told me.  She just told me “Your dad’s an ass hole, no wonder you’re here.”  Somehow we managed to get the insurance information, which means someone was able to convince my dad that I actually was in need of some serious medical intervention… that depression is actually not something people just make up for fun or boredom.  What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother was home the day my roommate called him and got to witness and hear out loud my father’s thoughts after learning that his daughter had been hospitalized for wanting to end her life.  I would come to learn that the words he first uttered were “What are people going to think of our family?”

Eight days later, my family was required to come in for a family meeting so that the doctors could be sure that I was going home to a safe environment.  Here’s out that played out: two therapists sat in the room with me as my family entered one by one, a small room full of chairs placed in a circle.  I stood up to greet them but every single one of them walked past me without even acknowledging my existence, except for my brother.  He was last to come in and he gave me the biggest hug you can imagine.  Again, he’ll never know that hug saved me because there’s no way to verbalize that to someone.  I’ve told him many times how much it meant to me… but there is no way that he could ever know how powerful it truly was.  It will not surprise you that approximately 60 seconds later, the head social worker/counselor looked at me and asked me to come outside the room.  “That was all I needed to see, honey.  Your entire family needs to be committed, save your brother.  You’re the sanest one among all of them.  We’re not going to have that meeting because what I just witnessed was enough for me to know that it is not safe for you to go home with them.  But you are ready to go home; do you have anyone else who you can stay with for now?  Is there anyone that you can call?”

And there it was… maybe for the first time in my life… some solid validation that I needed in a major way.  There were actual reasons for my depression, particularly this episode, that had nothing to do with my family.  They just couldn’t separate themselves or their need to “keep up with the Joneses” long enough to comprehend what was actually happening and what horrific parents they were proving to be in this particular situation.  But, my brother could and did.

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Reformation

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted and there are far too many reasons to explain why.  Ultimately, I am finding that blogging is getting harder instead of easier.  I realized that while I started this blog as an attempt to try and explore myself and write my own story, that instead I ended up writing the story of my marriage.  Which, I will never understand, has been easier.  The story of my bipolar marriage is not a fun one to tell, I struggle every day with what my love for my husband means and what his love for me means.  I struggle with the concept of a soul mate… whether mine really does exist out there.  I struggle with the lack of solid support in my life, I struggle with strength of self.  I struggle with the idea that I have settled for a life less than what I imagined it should be.  A very good friend remarked that having an oppressive marriage feels at times like your life is being stolen away from you, day by day, hour by hour.  I’ve felt that way.

But.

In the beginning of my blog journey, I wanted to to explore myself.  I wanted to tell my stories.  I didn’t want to harp and hound my marital circumstances.  I don’t think they will change, regardless of what drastic measures do or do not happen.  I don’t think my marriage is ever going to change.  I think this is the life I chose for myself and am still choosing to live in for the moment and so that I need to make the most of it.  I don’t mean this quite as cliche as it sounds.  It just is.  I’ve not accepted inexcusable behavior, nor will I fight for myself any less.  I am a different, stronger person than I was when I met my husband and that is irreversible.

For now, I need to stop focusing on what I can’t change.  I need to focus on what I can change.  The blog was titled “the colors of me” because I wanted to tell my stories.  I have so many stories to tell.  Telling them will no doubt bring me closer to myself.  I need to be there, I need to understand what makes my heart beat before I go blaming someone else for not making it beat stronger.  My strength needs to come from within.

I have come a long way in my search for understanding.  I’m still young and I have a long life ahead of me.  I also have a past that is filled with family secrets, denial, shame, fear, hypocrisy, tragedy, and abuse.  I need to write these stories down.  I’ve told them… many times… to many friends and therapists.  I don’t think I’ve ever told them to myself… so I’m going to make a promise to myself to start telling myself these stories in an effort to get to know myself through them.  They are ugly stories, but they are necessary truths that I must embrace.


The Sentimental Drunk

Every day, it gets easier for me to call things like they are.  I really only see my mom these days when there’s a birthday or a holiday involved.  Lots of people are around to keep things traditional and wonderful and we appear from the outside to be as close as ever.  My family has always been all about appearances.  It took me years of therapy to realize this and I’m still learning about the depth of denial and vanity that exists in our family.  But, it is what it is.  I have learned, for the most part, to love my parents for who they are and I choose regularly to remind myself of their good traits.  I do the best I can to keep those forefront in my mind and to be thankful for ways in which they help when they are here.  I know that no parent is a perfect parent.

With that said, let’s get to the truth of the here and now.  I worked hard in therapy to forgive my parents for many things.  At one point when I was exploring why they are still able to have such an impact on my emotions on a semi-regular basis, we discussed that this is not a situation in which I have to muster forgiveness for something that happened years ago and the effects fade (for lack of a better term) or at least improve over a period of time.  It isn’t something I can exactly “put behind me” when “it” is a series of behaviors that still happen on a very regular basis.  As in, every time I see them.  On the rare occasion that my mother is able to visit on her own, it is maybe once a year that she stays for more than 24 hours; she cannot leave my dad for more than that.  During those times, and on the occasional evening phone call when my dad is out of the country, I feel like I have a mom again.  She listens, she responds, and that “mother” voice that offers unparalleled comfort, is alive and well.  If my dad is in the house, even if in a different room, her voice is that of a distant and removed mother.  She doesn’t listen, she hardly responds, and if it is, it is not a response that she would typically offer, but instead one that my dad would approve of overhearing.  It truly is sickening.  It’s heartbreaking for those who hear about this dynamic for the first time… everyone has sympathy and wants to talk about how “wrong” and “abnormal” this is, but then we always finalize the thought process with the age-old understanding that every family has its dysfunction.  I realize this.  And, this happens to be my family’s (ha! one of them!) and it so happens this is the one of them that is particularly affecting me lately.

I could really use a mother right now.  This morning, my mom took care of my little one while my husband and I slept in.  That was very kind!  I got hope and went down to see what kind of schedule they were on in hopes that just maybe, they’d be willing to stay for a full 24 hours and let my husband and I have lunch together, outside of the house.  I, for some reason, am still a little under the impression that if we had more alone time, things could be better – even now.  I was about 90% sure that my dad would be ready to leave as soon as he could – but there’s always that psychotic hope in me that they’d be able to chill out for an hour or two more.  I didn’t even have a chance to ask if they’d be okay with this because after about 3 minutes of sitting on the couch with my mom, my dad said, “So, are you ready to go, hon?”  And, there it was.  It didn’t surprise me at all, but it still stirred up some anger and disappointment.  I didn’t bother asking anyway, because, I’ve done that before and it almost always makes it worse.  My dad went to pack the car, and my mom and I had about 2 minutes of bonding time.  Here’s how it went:

“Your eye looks swollen honey.”

“Well, I’m getting old (half joking)… it’s just bags.”

“No, they look bloodshot…”  This was followed by a look of concern.

“Yeah, they always look like that in the mornings lately.  I’m tired.”

Here, I got the mom stare… the inkling of engagement and concern.  I’ve learned not to latch on to this, but my tears apparently haven’t learned that kind of self control yet.  Because, as soon as she looked me in the eye and said, “Are you okay?”  I couldn’t lie without them falling out!

“I’m okay.”  Not sure why I can never leave it at that, tears or not.  I tried to think of a way to sum up my life for her in the 45 seconds left of our bonding time.  So, I just said,  “I’m stuck; but I’m okay.”

And, my favorite part is next:

The concerned, sad look came over her and she said, “Oh, honey.  We’ll have some alone time in a couple of weeks where no one can interrupt us.”

Now, let’s talk about how many times I’ve heard that promise.  There was absolutely no reason we couldn’t have had some uninterrupted mother-daughter time right then.  No logical reason, anyway.  But, my dad was tired and ready to go and that’s all that ever matters.   I may have already posted about this once, but about 10 years ago my mom wrote me and my siblings a letter that very clearly laid out the emotional map for our lives.  She said a bunch of things about how wonderful and loving my dad is, about how much he had done for her, and then, proclaimed from the codependent hilltops (I am not exaggerating here), “…so I hope that you can understand that if given a choice in life between you and your dad, I will always choose your dad.”  This is not word for word because I don’t think it’s in my best interest to actually dig the letter out (I’m not sure why I haven’t burned it by now), but this is what it said.  I didn’t believe it either at first.  What mother would ever say that to their child, even if she had the thought?  What mother would feel like she had to choose between her husband (the father her children) and her children?  If a woman feels that that is a choices she has to make… something is VERY wrong.  Tragically wrong.  Well, welcome to my life.  This is how my mother lives hers.  It isn’t as if she had a moment of insanity and didn’t mean it how it came across.  It was clearly well thought out, intentional, and prophetic.  What is still amazing to me is that I’d pretty much been watching the transition from her “choosing” us and “choosing” him for years, I just didn’t think it could be a conscious one.  Up until that point, I’d started to really see my mother submit to my dad in ways that went against her basic self-worth.  My mother used to be a strong and independent person.  She used to do what she had to do to make things happen for her children.  I saw her stick up for us and for herself many times throughout my childhood.  I watched her continue her education amidst teaching my dad that just because she was far surpassing his, this did not mean that she was going to leave him in the dust.  The last true moment I can remember of my mom talking about her fight to stand up for what she believed with my dad was when she got her doctorate degree and he was having a moment where he felt the need to ask “Why is this so important to you?”  My mom explained to me that my dad was insecure in this area of his life, but that she was not going to let that hold her back or stop her from pursuing her ultimate dream of obtaining that degree.  I could not have been more proud of her.  After a series of events, however, all of that changed.  Every year, I see less and less of that strong woman my mother used to be.  All my sister and I see now is someone who has almost no individuality and certainly no strength left to hold my dad accountable for his own issues.  Instead, she takes his on.  She chooses to sympathize and explain away his alcoholism, his selfishness, and his denial (which is the cause of it all).  It truly does not matter how hurtful this behavior is, because in her mind, my dad is the most selfless, loving, sensitive man she’s ever known.  So much of my anger is towards my dad, and I suppose at least 2/3 of it can be attributed to the resentment that has built up over time for the fact that he stole my mother from us.

Last night, I threw a party for my little guy’s birthday.  After everyone left and we were cleaning up, my dad broke into his fairly regular routine of sitting back and reflecting on how proud he is of his children and how happy he is about, well, pretty much everything.  But, it usually centers these days around how proud he is of his children.  This is a very strange and confusing thing for me.  Up until last night, I guess I’ve been thankful for these moments.  Regardless of the fact that he’s drunk as hell every time he has them, I generally welcome the compliments that come my way.  My dad and I are a lot alike and I like to think I got most of his good traits (sigh).  He also has a strange distrust and underlying frustration and anger towards me because as far gone as he is in the denial department, I think he senses that I can see right through him and it makes him nervous.  Perhaps that is why he can particularly never relax when I’m around.  I can’t relax when he’s around either, so we’re even, I guess.  Last night, he called me over to him for a tearful hug and it felt more like a routine than it has any other time.  I went through the motions: hug him, let him hug me tighter, hug him tighter back, let him cry and tell me how wonderful I am.  For some reason this time I asked him what was wrong (ha!) and he said, “I’m just happy!  Nothing’s wrong,  I’m crying because I’m just so happy.  I love watching you and your brother and sister living your lives and being such wonderful, happy people.  You know how wonderful you are, Karen?  I’m so proud of you!”  He tried to lock eyes with me this time and get me to enter this drunk, happy world with him, and instead, I just disengaged and told him, “Thank you, dad.”  I continued cleaning, he didn’t miss a beat.  In his mind, we’d just shared a father/daughter bonding moment.  He felt even better and even more accomplished as a father.  I’m not saying he never did anything for me – I know he worked his ass off so I could have anything I wanted as a kid… but those were just things.  I’d much rather still have time with my mother today, perhaps some detox for him?  Perhaps some compliments instead of insults when he isn’t drunk?  Perhaps some anti-anxiety meds for him?  Sigh.

I think this most recent visit from “The Sentimental Drunk” angered me because he felt so proud in that moment – through that lens of denial the alcohol gives him – that allows him to sit back and pat himself on the back and feel like he’s accomplished as a dad.  Last night, I really felt like telling him that he could thank my therapists for my wonderfulness.  I am finally realizing just how fabulous I am.  So, when my dad asked me how I liked the flowers on my table and I replied, “They are very pretty, Dad…. kind of like me… ya know?  I’m just sayin’…”  He turned to my brother and said, “See what I mean?  That kind of confidence you all have makes me so proud.”  Ha!  It actually made me laugh out loud that he thinks he can take credit for that.  It actually makes me want to tell him that he’ll need to write me a check for about 10,000 dollars, which is probably low-balling it for how much all my therapy and trips to the hospital have costs before he can take even partial credit for it.

Confidence is something that I’ve only known in the last couple of years.  I may not sound like it now, but I have more of it now than I ever have.  That is why I am so lonely lately.  I finally have boundaries and walls built around me that I never had before.  I’m finally protecting myself.  And, I know these are healthy and necessary walls.  I have even returned to the gym and am getting physically stronger as well.  Man, does it feel good to take a boxing or weight lifting class!  I think it was the missing element for quite some time!!  Also, I have this blog that allows me to lay it all out there and feel accepted and understood in a small way!  I know I don’t have many followers, but every comment and every “read” validates and excites me!  And, that is something!  The point of this blog was to do just that!  I’m currently not in therapy, so getting all of this out of me is important.  I’m proud of myself for finding a way to do it.  And, it is working.  So, if you are reading I can’t thank you enough!  Even if you don’t leave a comment, it really encourages me just to know that people are popping in and out from time to time.

Every one of these things gives me strength.  Ya know, I am wonderful, Dad.  I’ve worked my ass off to be this wonderful.  🙂