More about crazy…

February 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I’m finding that writing/thinking about my mom triggers me pretty fast, so I have to take these posts in small bites.

Let’s just get to the nuts and bolts of it:

Mom married Max circa 1969. I was 5 years old. They were introduced by one of her sisters. He brought me into their bed within a few months. She didn’t argue at first, but later when it became apparent he was more interested in a child than her, my mother did argue. He insisted, she just shrugged her shoulders and left me to him. He took nude pictures of me. She said nothing.

She eventually left him. Why? Because he had been hiding money from her. She was livid, furious… and she divorced him. Did she leave him for molesting her 5 year old child? No. But she left him over money.

She would get on a subject, and she could NOT get off of it. It would go on for literally DAYS. She got onto the subject of his hiding money from her and how abusive it was, and how sorry for herself she felt. I was in my mid 20’s by this time, with two little girls of my own. I sat and listened to her …

“You just don’t know! I have suffered with him! He was so abusive to me! My life was HELL with him! Do you REALIZE how much money he had hidden from me?!?! That money is just as much mine as his! I’m going to get him tho, he’ll HAVE to give it to me!”

After literally over an hour of this tirade…I snapped. I just snapped. I was driving her home from an appointment. My 2 and 4 year old little girls were in the back seat.

I said “What about me mom?”

and she turned and looked at me, “what do you mean?”

I said, “What about what Max did to ME, mom?”

She turned to look out the window and said “Oh, THAT. That’s not my fault Lisa. I didn’t know he was doing it. You should have told me. It’s not the same. He’s ROBBED me Lisa!” and she began to go on again about the money.

Me:  “NO. NO. You were THERE mom. YOU WERE THERE”

She just kept on about the money. I got angry…angrier… I tried again to MAKE her talk to me…she used her standard “You’ll understand how hard this divorce has been on me when you’re older”.

I pulled into the next parking lot, turned to her and said “get out.” She looked shocked. Tried to guilt me ‘You just don’t understand what I’ve been through Lisa!” I screamed, literaly screamed at her to GET OUT OF MY CAR.

I drove away. She called her sister to come get her. I continued off and on for 10 more years to try to have some kind of relationship with her, but the only relationship she ever wanted was one where she was the center of the universe.

Next:  Spotting a pedophile at a distance…


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So, define crazy….

February 12, 2009 at 12:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

I am not an expert on schizoaffective disorder. I can’t give you a textbook example…..but I can tell you what it was like growing up with my mother.

My mom thought everything was about her. Literally, everything. If you were speaking to someone and she came into the room – she assumed she was the topic. If you were speaking on the phone, it MUST be about her! And in her mind…it had to be nasty.

Every holiday was “her special day”. On “her special days” there had better be an adequate offering. A card – she flipped it over to see how much you paid before she opened it and if it was less than $5 in the ’70’s it wasn’t enough. Christmas, a poinsetta. Easter, a lily. Both had better have several blooms and a generous amount of buds as well. I recall the Easter I was 13 or 14, Max didn’t get a ‘nice enough’ lily and she threw it at him. I can smell the potting soil if I think about this incident too much. Of course – I was the one who got to clean up the mess!

My birthday was also “her special day”. I’d better make sure to make her feel appreciated.

She didn’t like strangers, more so when she was in one of her depressive states. I remember being about 10 (she would have been 40) and she needed kotex. We went into the store, and she gave me the money to go through the line and purchase them – because all the checkers happened to be men and she didn’t want “him looking at me”.

Conversely, any attention from a man made her “light up like a christmas tree”. She adored attention from men and flirted outrageously when possible. She viewed most women with suspicion, and all my childhood, I recall her having only one friend at all. She rarely went out unless she was with her sister or Max.

She felt that she always was on the “short end of the stick”. That she was always last.

There’s more, but that’s enough for today.

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The School Counselor

February 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I don’t remember why I went to the school counselor. I remember it was 7th grade…I was miserable at school. I didn’t fit in. I was far from popular…I was picked on – my clothes weren’t stylish, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry….I was horribly introverted…I probably had “pick on me!” written all over me.

He was a younger counselor, and an observant one. He saw something in me…saw something was wrong in my situation. I tried to skate around my mom’s craziness…but he prodded a bit. I’d never had an adult LISTEN and not rush to blame me for my mother’s actions. I let down my guard a little. He suggested a group he was facilitating…said it would be a safe place to talk. But…it was 1977. He had to have consent for me to participate. He sent home a form. My mom took one look at the form and blew.

“He thinks your crazy, you know. That’s what this is about. He thinks you are crazy and you need therapy. Well you’re NOT going! I’ll put an end to this.” The next day when I went to school, he called me into his office, told me my mom had refused consent and vaguely said I shouldn’t be coming into his office unless it was an emergency. The next time I did go to his office….he looked up from his desk and an odd look crossed his face and he said “I don’t have time to talk to you anymore Lisa, I’m busy.”

I’ve no idea what she said to him. Whatever it was, it was enough to convince him to shut the door to me. I didn’t bother going back to any more school counselors.

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Coping Today

February 10, 2009 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

How do you get past being sexually abused as a child? How do you get past your parent’s mental illness?

Those have been key questions for me, especially over the last 25 years.

I was diagnosed as having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around 6 or 7 years ago. At first, I was rather disbelieving. How could I have PTSD? That’s something soldiers get from battle, isn’t it??

But through therapy, my own research and talking to other incest survivors, I have come to better understand my diagnosis.

A short list of things that help me, personally:

1. Antidepressant. Helps me with better coping tools. I took Paxil for many years, but after so long, I began to feel a much smaller range of emotion – I wasn’t depressed all the time, but I was having a hard time finding pleasure in everyday things too. I now take Lexapro and while I still struggle with some anxiety on it, the coping ability is better.

2.  Therapy. I’ve been in and out of therapy for 12 years. I’ve had awesome therapists, uninterested therapists, and all in between. Talking – about all those things I’ve never been able to talk about – made a difference.

3.  Pursing my passions. Dance and knitting being the most prevalant. Doing something I love every day.

4.  Forgiving myself – this wasn’t my fault. Some days I have to say that 100 times before I can begin to grasp it.

Next:  Extreme self – centeredness leads to a break

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Shining Stars

February 5, 2009 at 11:51 pm (Uncategorized)

While I’ve begun to detail how the adults in my life left me to make my own way growing up with a parent with mental illness and the absuse/incest, there WERE adults who made a difference for me:

Aunt Jean. Aunt Jean was my dad’s younger sister and was only 18 years older than me. She was educated and chic, and I thought her very glamorous. She always encouraged me artistically and helped me many times through adulthood. My mom was very jealous of how much I loved aunt Jean and one day when I was about 10 thought she would change how I felt about her by telling me Jean had become pregnant and had given the baby up for adoption. This didn’t make me love Jean any less….in fact, it created a belief that probably helped me survive:

I then made up my mind I was the baby Jean had given up for adoption.  By this time, my mother’s behavior was so odd I couldn’t believe we were related. Holding the idea that Jean was my mom – well, I suspect it gave me sanity and will to live…

When I was 18, I asked Jean if she was my mom. She told me she wished she was…but she wasn’t. I lost Aunt Jean to cancer in March 11, 2008, my 45th birthday.

Jean was a shining star for me and without her, I don’t know how I would have survived emotionally.

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Where were all the adults?

February 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

The first therapist I ever talked to about the abuse/incest said “My God! Where were all the adults in your life?”

Good question.

Aunt Liz lived across the street from us when mom married Max and the abuse began. Max once told her he “didn’t see anything wrong with family members ‘making love’.” When I was in my late teens, she brought it up and asked if he had molested me. When I said yes, she said “I thought so.”  So….why didn’t you do anything about it? Her reply? She was afraid my mom’s mental illness would come to light and I’d be taken away. Frankly, I think the “mental illness coming to light” was the big concern. You have to remember this was a family that worked hard to hide her odd behavior and appear “normal” at all costs.

Mrs. First-Grade-Teacher. I cried every day of first grade. I was timid in the extreme, I flinched if an adult made a sudden move. Rather than wondering WHY I was like that…she simply despised me. To compound the matter, Max was…drumroll please…a school bus driver who drove for my elementary school. When she brought up my crying, he told her my mother wasn’t “quite right” and that I probably wasn’t either. In front of me….he said this right in front of me!

The most significant, and I now realize outrageous, lack of adult intervention lays with Max’s cousin, we’ll call him Larry. Larry was pretty high up in the ranks of the State of Oregon employees. He’d been some kind of a counselor for many years for them and at that time headed the department or something similar. 

One day we were at Larry’s house for Sunday dinner. Larry was an amatuer photographer and had his own darkroom in the basement. Max trotted me downstairs to show Larry some of the “portraits” he’d taken of me. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear the pictures were nudes. Larry looked at them with a shocked look on his face and said “Max! Never ever show these pictures to anyone! You could get in a lot of trouble!”.

Not one word about “Max, you shouldn’t be taking this pictures of Lisa!” Just, don’t get in trouble.

This is where I got the title for this blog. What about Lisa? The adults in my life ignored what was going on, protected themselves, protected my mother, protected their cousin….What about Lisa?

Next:  The Shining Stars in the Darkness

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Keeping Secrets

February 3, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

One of the hardest things I had to come to grips with was: Why didn’t I stop what was happening to me?

It seems obvious, I was a child of 5 when the incest began. It’s not the child’s job to stop it – it was the adults around the child who should have stopped it.

Nevertheless, I struggled with that guilt for 20+ years.

When it began, I was told it was a “secret” that I “played” with Mommy and Max in their bed or took baths with Max. Having had no father allowed in my life hardly at all, I was eager for a Daddy! I simply believed that this is what mommys and daddys and little girls did. I didn’t question not to tell….there were many things in my life I wasn’t supposed to talk about, having a crazy mom meant there were lots of things I was told not to talk about at school or to other people and I suppose it just didn’t seem strange to me then.

The first time I remember breaking the secret was not because I’d realized what was happening was bad or wrong. I was at my mother’s parents house and I told my grandma that “Mommy and Max and I …” apparently going into detail about Max’s anatomy and ejaculation. My grandmother called my mom into the room and confronted her. My mom began screaming that I was lying, that I lied all the time. My grandmother was quiet for a bit and then the discussion was over. Many years later, she told me she knew it was the truth because how else could a pretty sheltered five year old know such detail about sex or ejaculation? Why didn’t she do something? Why didn’t she protect me?

Because she had spent 38 years protecting her mentally ill daughter and chose to continue to protect her rather than her 5-year-old grandchild.

When we returned home from grandma’s house, my mom went on into the house and Max said he was going to “take care of the tattletail”. He took me into the garage and beat me, after which he took me back into his bed. It was a huge lesson to me – Don’t tell the secret.

At this point, I honestly still had no idea it was wrong. All I knew was I had told the secret and been punished. I was certainly not going to tell the secret again.

Next:  Adults in high places…who didn’t step up to the plate

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Knights in Shining Armour

February 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

My parents divorced when I was three.

My father told me once that his decision to marry my mother was the first and only time he can remember going against his parents. It was the 50’s, he was just out of the Army from serving in Korea and he had a girl and he wanted to marry her. His father said he didn’t think it was a good idea…that it wasn’t a good match. But my dad said for once he was bull headed and did what he wanted to.

He said he knew within two weeks he had made a terrible mistake. But, again, it was the 50’s. No one in either of their families had ever divorced and he felt he was just stuck in the marriage. After nine years, I came along.

Three years later, in 1967, he said he walked out one day. He didn’t know when he left if he was leaving for an hour, the night, or forever, he  just knew if he didn’t walk out the door, he would kill her.

A bitter divorce followed. My mother moved herself and I 150 miles away, and proceeded to block attempts at visitation. My dad would travel to come get me for visitation, and she would meet him at the door and tell him her plans had changed and he couldn’t have me. He was struggling with income and couldn’t afford an attorney, and chose not to fight it. So I saw very little of my dad growing up.  A few days on odd spring breaks or a night or two during the summer.

My mom hated him for leaving her – the ultimate insult to her mind in those days. She wanted me to hate him too and told me many stories of how he had been cruel to her, cheated and lied, how he didn’t pay child support because he didn’t love me, didn’t want visitation with me etc. No matter what she said tho, in my heart I knew different. I knew my dad loved me. I didn’t know if those other things were true, but I knew he loved me, period.

One day when I was about 16, she called and told me to look in her dresser for something and call her back. In looking I found a bundle of envelopes – all with receipts for the child support he had paid over the years – The child support she claimed he never paid a dime of. I would never had the nerve to look in her room – there would have been swift punishment for such intrusion. I don’t know if she didn’t realize I might see them…I suspect she was upset over what she wanted me to be looking for and never considered what I might find.

In the late ’70’s, she finally allowed me to spend a month during the summer with him. It’s one of my cherished memories.

When the abuse/incest began, I was told “if you tell your dad, he’ll go crazy and he’ll kill Max (I’ll save Max for another day) and then he’ll go to jail and you’ll never see him again!” I was 5 years old. I believed it and I believed I had to protect my dad at all costs. So I never told him what was happening.

As an adult in my 30’s I did tell him, and he was greatly upset. He felt once my mom remarried she might have been more stable and there would have been someone to stand between us when she went over the edge.

Still, in honesty, I have to look at the situation with perspective. My father hated her so much, dreaded dealing with her, that he didn’t protest more about seeing me. He knew she was crazy….and he left me there. He thought she loved me and wouln’t hurt me. He was wrong.

In 1969, my mother remarried, to Max. Within weeks of their marriage, he asked her to bring me into their bed and he began molesting me. She participated the first few times, trying to please him. When she realized his attention was much more rivited by her 5 year old daughter… she argued the issue. When he insisted it continue, she no longer participated – she would take long, long baths on those nights he had me in the bed.

As a parent, I cannot fathom her behavior. To allow it? Not on my life. To participate to please him? It is incomprehensible to me.

Next:  Learning not to tell….

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