Monthly Archives: February 2014

My Experience With Childhood Therapy

When I was a kid we went to a family therapist that was really great – Dr. Chalker.  I would have loved to go back to him in my adult life, but I’m fairly certain he passed away some years ago.

My parents were concerned with their marriage and dealing with my brother, so it was a rare event that I saw Dr. Chalker on my own.

On day, it was my turn to chat with Dr. Chalker all by myself.  His office was a magnificent and cozy cave of treasures earned over the course of his career.  The lights were dimmed, inviting a state of calm as I walked in.  I trusted him, but I was still nervous.  Nevertheless, sitting down on his big, extremely comfortable, couch was a treat.

Dr. Chalker sits in a chair across from the couch to speak with me.  I can’t help but stare longingly at the bookcases behind him, towers of knowledge filled to capacity.  On that same wall, in the left corner is a small desk, covered in a scattering of papers and a glowing lamp.  My favorite part of Dr. Chalker’s office was the bronze scarab perched atop the table between us.  The entire scarab came off of the base, revealing a dark felt lined compartment.  There was never anything inside, but I loved touching and examining the extraordinarily heavy little bug shaped desk ornament.  It looked like an ancient relic from a lost civilization and I imagined what I might hide there.

I don’t remember what we talked about that day, or any other day, really.  I suppose we spoke of things a five year old would talk about: school, home, my brother, friends, my parents.

Sometimes, while my mom and dad were in talking to Dr. Chalker without us, my brother and I used our free time to explore.  It seemed like no one was really ever around the office building, which made it all the more an adventure.  We would quietly sneak around, opening doors and going where we knew we didn’t belong.  There were trees along the main corridor of the building; an exotic jungle inside.  Upstairs was a break room with vending machines filled with candy and snacks.

The most curious thing we discovered was found inside a room off of the lobby to Dr. Chalker’s office.  It looked like a large egg shaped space capsule.  There was only room enough for one person to stand inside.  The big egg was lined with a soft red material and there were knobs for what I assume was a radio of some kind.  My imagination ran wild with the uses for the contraption, but I was too afraid to ask Dr. Chalker what it might be.

We stopped going to therapy rather abruptly it seems, and I can’t figure out why.  Why would we suddenly stop?  I can only assume it was because there was a real possibility that we would start to talk about what was going on at home.  Maybe we did start to tell, maybe there were signs of trouble, and Dr. Chalker confronted my parents. I’ll never know.

A Letter to My Mental Health Provider aka Oops I Did It Anyways

I have been debating for nearly a month about whether I should post this blog or not.  But that was before my current blogging adventure began.   My hesitation came from my own embarrassment.  Embarrassment about having mental health issues; embarrassment about seeing a mental health provider over the last several years; and embarrassment about the causes and effects of my mental health issues.  I can’t imagine why I would feel that way.  Could it be because mental illness is taboo and completely misunderstood in our society? Could it be because as I was dealing with some of the worst of my own issues, it was made clear to me that I should not talk about it with those around me, that it should not be something anyone knew about me, and, in a nutshell, that my career could suffer if I shared?  That could definitely be it.

What a load of crap.

Anyway.  The push to finally post this comes after reading that a psychiatric hospital in town is going to have to shut its doors to those in need of affordable mental health services because of Medicaid laws.  As I understand it, this psychiatric hospital is located within, but separate from, the larger hospital it associates with.   It offers emergency psychiatric services and accepts Medicaid from its patients.   However, in order to qualify as an emergency room and receive payments from Medicaid, the psychiatric hospital must accept all emergencies, not just mental health emergencies.  It hasn’t been doing that and, as a result, could be forced to close.

While politicians and lawyers debate about how and whether the law should be enforced, little concern is being shown for how this will affect the patients that rely upon the hospital for their mental health needs.  All of those psychiatric patients who were receiving quality specialized care (care that is, unfortunately, greatly misunderstood by physicians who don’t focus on mental health issues) are all going to be displaced.  This is bad.  Very bad.  Without immediate access to proper psychiatric care, mental illness can easily spiral out of control.  Do we need yet another mass shooting blasted across the national news to tell us this is true?

One of the worst things for someone suffering from mental health issues is to rip away access to their trusted providers.   Yet it happens all the time.  It happened to me recently.  After quitting my job, going on a 10,000 mile road trip, an emotional set of holidays, opening a business, and the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death, my fine tuned balance has understandably been a bit out of whack.  When my anxiety was getting to be overwhelming again in January, I figured I either needed a medication adjustment or just someone to tell me I was going to be okay.  So I called to make an appointment with my psychiatrist.

I was turned away.

One would think that a mental health provider would be keen on helping its patients when they actually need it.  Wrong.  Unfortunately, I’m sure this is the state of affairs across the United States.  Either way, it pissed me off enough that I found whatever email address I could on their website and sent this (from my new work email address just to make a point):

Dear Sir or Madam,

I don’t typically write Complaint letters to companies on my own behalf.  I complain enough for other people; it’s my job.  Complaining about my own life is neither worth my time or energy nor good for my mental health.  In any event, I ask that whomever is on the receiving end of this pass it along to their supervisor, or whomever else, who can pass it along to the President/CEO/whatever his/her title is, of —.

I am an abuse survivor coming to terms with some really awful shit.  I had a psychotic break two years ago and am barely keeping it together again.  I’m terrified of a relapse and want to see Dr. — for a medication adjustment or to have him tell me I’m fine.  I don’t trust many people, but Dr. — is amazing, and I really need to see him.

Unfortunately, however, I have missed 3 appointments in the 2 years or so I’ve been coming to —.  Before, I could afford to pay the $150 fee and would have had no problem.  But, unfortunately, I just had to quit my big fancy lawyer job (and I say that facetiously, I really do – I lack self importance, I’m just very angry at how the situation went down) to open my own firm so I can handle my anxiety and depression more effectively while I deal with my issues.

Well you know what, what if those 3 stupid appointments I missed were because of my depression when I couldn’t drag myself out of bed?  But I was too proud to admit it and too depressed to make the call.  Or on a day when I was too busy at work, dealing with anxiety, and forgot I even had the appointment, even though I got an appointment reminder.  It happens.  We all have lives.  But not many people with lives as crazy as mine have the mental health issues I have.  To be turned away by my physician’s office really bothered me.

I have a hard time paying your company $150 more of my dollars when the therapists there have no clue how to deal with real life problems.  The one good therapist I had; the only one I really trusted with my emotional shit, left and I haven’t been able to find another good one there since.  I tried to keep my business with you, because I had such success until then, but now I can’t see my doctor over a measly $150?  Now that’s insanity.

You are a mental health facility.  Don’t you realize that for someone like me, not being able to see my physician when I REALLY need to sends me into a panic in and of itself?  I don’t call on doctors unless I really NEED them.  Plus, if someone goes into a panic over not being able to see their doctor and they end up in a psychotic break like I had, they might not maintain as much control as I was able to when I went through my own a couple of years ago.  That could have serious implications for your company, when all they needed was a simple medication evaluation.  Call your lawyer and ask him.  It’s a possibility, under the right circumstances.

I tried to explain to the gal on the phone, without breaking down or being rude, that it was really important for me to see Dr. —, but that I couldn’t afford to pay the $150, and they wouldn’t make an exception.  I would gladly pay the $150 when I can, but not now.  Now you’ve lost business.

I will be okay, but having to find a new doctor because of some bullshit policy, when I have paid a lot of money to your company over the last couple of years and the complete lack of sensitivity to a person’s mental health – what you SPECIALIZE in, is ridiculous.

I’d be happy to post my opinion of — out on the Internet, but I’m hopeful that you guys rectify the problem first and let me see my doctor.  That’s all I want.

I got a response from the CEO of the company less than four hours later telling me I could see my doctor.  Huzzah!  I didn’t feel the relief I thought I would, though.  Actually, his email just pissed me off even more.  Why?  Instead of apologizing, instead of acknowledging that the matter was not handled with the delicacy or professionalism that it should have been, the CEO chose to say nothing.  I never did see my doctor and I will never go back there.

No one should go there.  Ever.

Although I said at the time that all I wanted was to see my doctor, what I really want is for people to stop tiptoeing around mental health issues, to get educated, and to treat those with mental illness with kindness and respect.  Mental illness is just like any other illness, just in the brain.  Let’s get it together, people. #rantover

The Real Story, Part II

I started going to therapy as an adult in April 2010 I believe.  It could have been 2011, I know it was April.  I was having a hard time dealing with my boss at the time and knew that going from being so busy with school and work to just working would be a difficult transition.  Plus I was paranoid that my parents were going to find a way to screw up graduation.  So I talked a lot about that.  Then, of course, there was the Bar Exam.  I wanted to have my mind straight for that so I could pass on the first try.  During therapy, things came out about my childhood, but my therapist was really good about not making it the focus of everything.   I liked him a lot.

My therapist was great, but he left and got a job at the Veteran’s Administration.  I couldn’t find a good one after he left.  The therapists I saw always ended up talking more than a third of the time or tried to tell me how to think or make me go through my history again instead of reading my file.   I needed to be the one talking.  I’m usually going to come to the right conclusion, I just needed guidance when I say stupid things, like I’m an idiot, or I feel like shit, or I downplay my success, etc.  No nonsense.  I have a great therapist now, but it was difficult to deal with the aftermath of what was to come by myself.

At the end of 2011, I had a nearly physical altercation with my mom after she threatened to commit suicide, cops were involved and the whole bit (a huge slap in the face to my family getting cops involved).  I acted purely out of concern, but my mom saw it as an attack.  She went on a terror, threatening me, telling me how much of a spoiled brat I was, that she disowned me and I would be alone for the rest of my life.  Pretty hurtful things.  The physical altercation also brought up a lot of those old feelings and memories I had when I was a kid.  I was completely and utterly terrified for the next two months or so until I finally lost my mind.

I was doing everything I could to make myself feel safe and to stop the anxiety and panic.  I got an alarm system, convinced my mom would try to come over and do something to me, my house, etc. (she had come over once before after a fight we had, but I wanted nothing to do with her, so I changed the locks – she was more than pissed, threatened me, called me names then too).  I wasn’t sleeping well, I was under a lot of pressure at work being a barely licensed attorney and dealing with another less than kind boss, I had just started a new business with a couple of friends.  My life was supposed to be good, but my childhood was crashing back down upon me.

I tried to keep it together when I went out of town for the first time with my boyfriend for Christmas in 2011.  I tried to keep it together at work.  By mid-January, I was failing miserably.  Thankfully I had a great mentor at work who helped me.  I took a couple of weeks off and thought I was okay.  I was wrong.  I tried to continue working, but the anxiety just kept piling on.  I wasn’t sleeping, my medications weren’t working well, and I was not holding it together anymore.  When I first had that moment of clarity that what my mother had done to me was a form of molestation, I went to the hospital.  I should have stayed there, but didn’t.  It wasn’t long after that that I lost my mind.

There came a point in March when I finally broke.  I didn’t sleep for a week straight; I was hallucinating and having delusions.  I did plenty of weird things, got dumped, freaked out my best friend and lost her for a while (she’s back in my life thank goodness).  The worst for me personally was when I asked my brother to come over and give me something to help me sleep.  When he got to my house, I had just gotten out of the shower and I quite literally could not force myself to get dressed.  I was convinced he had brought my mother over, and she was going to come upstairs to see me naked or hurt me or something.  Every time he would try to come upstairs, I would scream at him to take her away.  It makes me sad to think about it and I hate that my brother saw me that way.

Things have not been the same for me since early 2011.  My career has not suffered in the long run, thank goodness, but learning that my brain could fail me in that way, discovering that even I could lose touch with reality and be without control of my emotions, thoughts, mind and body, combined with the fact that I am finally suffering the real consequences of my childhood abuse has been gut wrenchingly difficult.  I hope I don’t go back to the dark scary place that is psychosis as I start working through all of these issues with my new therapist.  Only time will tell.

The Real Story, Part I

Where to begin?  I’m 31, have a Mathematics degree and a JD, a crazy dog named Freckles and two silly cats, am closer with my brother and his family than I have been in years, have amazing friends, am loved by many, am learning to love myself, just opened my own business, am overweight and have been since I was 10, have anxiety and depression, had a psychotic break almost two years ago, and am a survivor of mental, physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

I don’t speak with my parents much anymore, though they live about 15 minutes from me.   My parents were my primary abusers, my mom in particular.  She beat my brother up with a 2 x 4 (yes, a piece of lumber), put a gun in my first boyfriend’s face, made me shower with her until I was 17, described her sex life with my father in gory detail when I was far too young, confided in me about an affair she was having when I was a teen (again, in gory detail), and made me stand in the corner like a toddler just before my 18th birthday.  My dad is just as culpable as my mom.  While he promised at one point never to hit me again and kept that promise, he still hit my brother and perpetuated my mother’s punishments.  He didn’t do anything to stop her and participated in one of the worst traumas of my childhood.

My mother is a master manipulator.  She and my father have gambling problems and my mom has done a lot of things I believe are designed to keep her habit going.  She borrowed money from me the minute I had a job.  We didn’t have milk in the fridge because my parents were broke, but they went out that same night and gambled.  My mom stole from her grandmother when her grandmother was sick, took money her mother intended for a funeral in case she died while having major surgery, and now as executor of my grandmother’s estate, my mother is self dealing, hiding things from her brother and sister, and holding on to trinkets that my grandmother wanted my brother and I to have just because we’re not acting like the children she wants us to be.  Money came up missing, I’m convinced it was my mother.  Jewelry also disappeared.  Again, I’m convinced it was my mother.   I stay out of the estate drama as much as I can, because it only makes me sad, angry, and want to get involved.  I know I can’t get too involved for my own sanity, so I don’t.

Back to my childhood.  My parents were in law enforcement and that power was used quite often to keep us quiet as kids.  Who would believe a child over a cop?  No one.  We knew that from a young age.  My mom had no qualms about using her gun, gun belt, hand cuffs, or knives to intimidate and scare us kids.  It was terrifying.  I have memories that are incomplete, and I have a hard time trusting my own mind when it comes to certain things that happened in my childhood.  I try not to dwell on them, because I know instinctively that the missing parts are probably not good, but sometimes I really want to know.

My brother was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and was reportedly (by my mom) a borderline sociopath, that beat me up more than the average brother does his sister.  I was smart and knew what sociopath meant and knew it meant he was potentially dangerous.  My brother also molested me on one occasion that I remember.  I’ve sort of moved past the hurts my brother caused, because I know he was a kid.  He lived through what I did and got even worse abuse (he took the brunt of the physical abuse for both of us).  My mom kept us apart for a long time even as adults (we both thought the other hated us because of how my mom would twist things around).  I’m grateful to have him in my life and so grateful that our relationship is growing again, because he’s the only one that truly understands what I’ve been through and was the only one there for me when I went bat shit crazy a couple of years ago.  In any event, my parents routinely left me with him at night while they went and gambled, telling me I had to take care of him.  My parents knew how he was while they were gone, but they still left us alone together.  I very rarely felt protected and safe.

One of the worst memories I have from my childhood is the drowning incident.  I was young, probably 7.  My brother is 4 ½ years older than I am, so he couldn’t have been more than 12.  My brother apparently stole some money that was intended for Christmas.  It couldn’t have been more than $200 and I went with him to spend it.  I don’t even remember what we bought, but I do remember going to the 7-Eleven down the street and maybe Kmart.  We probably got candy and stupid things.  As punishment, my mom and dad threatened to drown my brother and forced me to watch.

We were all scrunched into the hallway bathroom at my parents’ house and my dad was standing by a full bath tub holding my brother’s head inches from the water.  My mom was encouraging him, yelling at my brother.  My brother was scared, but I don’t remember him crying.  I couldn’t watch my dad kill my brother and I feared I was next, so I ran out of the bathroom and sat on the living room couch.  I didn’t know what to do.  My mom wasn’t having any of that; I was just as guilty.  She forced me back into the bathroom and hand cuffed me to the towel bar.  I was powerless, scared, and couldn’t believe my eyes.  I don’t remember how it ended (we both survived), but something changed in me after that.

There are plenty of other bad moments I could go into, but my memory is so fuzzy and untrustworthy, and I’ve given you more than enough to say that my childhood was messed up in a lot of ways, I’m sure.  At least for the moment. To be clear, there were good moments too.  My parents encouraged us to do well in school, they showed us love when they could, we had family dinners, listened to music and played games.  My dad put bad people away in jail and my mom kept them there.  They were my heroes in a lot of ways.  What a mind fuck.  We also went to therapy for a while when I was young, but it stopped abruptly at some point.  Not sure why other than to assume my parents feared we would tell what was really going on at home.

I have spent my life ignoring the obvious, denying my feelings, and pushing everything negative down into that dark chasm of my soul that no one could ever reach, including myself.  It has affected every aspect of my life and I am a broken soul.  I hope to sort through the pieces now that I have the freedom to do so, but I’m terrified that the real story of my life will finally tear me to shreds.

Here I Am Again

After an interesting therapy session this morning, I decided that it was time start a new blogging adventure.   I have more thoughts to release into the ether than I will ever be able to share anywhere else.  So, here I am.

This blog will be a behind the scenes look at who I am and why I am the way I am.   It will be more personal than anything I have ever shared publicly.  This blog will likely offend some, change relationships, trigger unwanted memories, and alter my perceptions.

This is going to be tough to do.   I’m scared shitless.  But I need to do this for myself and my sanity.