Medical History

My stepmother has been finding things to get rid of since my father passed. Last weekend she led me to a filing cabinet in her garage, and inside was a file with my name on it. Not one for my brother, just me.

Inside were notes I had written for friends, lists of my friends and their phone numbers, and medical evaluations written about me. I have read through three of them so far- evals written just after I turned fourteen. I am going backwards, and I hope to find some good stuff from when I was twelve and committed to a hospital.

I had called that hospital upon reaching adulthood and requested the file but it was no longer in existence. A legal rep for the entity informed me that all patient files had been destroyed.

So far I have found some interesting things. I was recommended to be placed in foster care and given intense therapy instead of going back home after I completed my survival course for troubled kids. My father’s parenting style was not working for me and was affecting my health, and I was considered to be isolated- which again is about my father’s parenting style.

I am hoping my proof of virginity is in here. Not because I need it, but because it is so fucked up that I had such a test done at age twelve that it seems unreal and I want to see it, even if in billing format.

Maybe I was predisposed to PTSD.

When I Was Stolen

When I was fourteen, I was stolen, twice. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, I was sure I knew what I was doing, but they were adults. Now that I am a parent I know it was abuse, even if I considered myself complicit.
If I had a loving home and support from both my parents would I have made those choices again? No. I don’t think so.
I get hazy on the details, which might be a blessing.
But I ran away when I was fourteen, to be fair, I ran away at twelve and thirteen, too. I ended up squatting, nearly right away this time, in a suburb close to home.
I was in an abandoned apartment. There were no tools for survival or cleanliness besides running water and heat. There was some half eaten chicken that I recall, and I can still remember the smell of it- which was not pleasant. I don’t know if I ate any. I might have been vegetarian.
His name was Mike. I don’t know how I met him, but somehow I ended up in this abandoned apartment with him and then we got into a beat up old truck and there was another man in there named Tom. Those are their real names, though they sound made up and generic. It was really cold out, and it was the middle of the night.
We went to a house in the city that a couple with a new baby had just bought and were renovating. They let us stay a few days, it wasn’t bad, Tom and I babysat and Mike did odd repair jobs and it all seemed fine.
But after those few days it came out that Mike, a felon from Leavenworth, had a pistol. I think also he figured out Tom and I had been intimate. The couple in the house did not take kindly to unsecured firearms around their baby and Mike did not take kindly to my involvement with Tom and there was a fight on the front lawn. Very civilized. I sure can pick some winners.
Tom, outsizing Mike by quite a bit, won. Mike left, and I think he took his gun with him.
Days later Tom “borrowed” the couple’s older car out of a snowdrift and drove the two of us to Canada, right after I had given my age to the young mom, who had assumed I was an older teen until that point. I did not realize he was stealing a car. I had his ex-wife’s security number memorized with her birth date and we got through customs without issue. I passed for an adult. We were nearly to the first city over the border (about 120 miles in) when he turned around and brought us back, because he realized he had no work permit. Maybe he realized he had just committed international kidnapping. Not sure if he was smart enough to keep such a thing to himself. I spent a lot of time hiding in the car, though, so perhaps it had occurred to him.
We returned the car and of course were kicked out of the house for stealing it in the first place. We had been gone three days.
We went into Uptown and ended up sleeping in the back of a movie theater (they had an unused hallway on the side of the building) for a few nights before they realized we were in there and started checking for us at lockup. Tom got a job working under the table at the pizza shop next door and sometimes we slept there, but other nights we slept at a squat at 37th and Garfield.
There were tons of kids at the squat, one punk, and some crackheads. The heat was on, the water was not. The upstairs was not too bad, but the basement was awful. It was not a well maintained squat.
This was where I spent most of my time away from home during that run, on the streets in Uptown and sleeping in that squat.
My mother’s wife spotted me on a street corner there and mentioned it to my brother, who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone in my squat. So he had me arrested.
After they let me out of jail I asked to go back to the Bridge, a home for runaways. My mother had found a letter from Tom and read it at the hearing. Tom might have been there, I don’t know. I suppose I must have known him for a long time, as it was a twelve page letter, but I can’t remember how. Maybe I ran away to him, a second time, and am confusing the two as one. It seems telling to me that I cannot remember. Like my brain is trying to protect me. I spent a few weeks there at the Bridge before they sent me home.
I didn’t see Tom again as a kid.
He called on my eighteenth birthday. He described the cars in my driveway and asked who was in the house with me. I knew, right then, that this was not going to go away. I only had a two weeks before I was back out on the street but I wanted to nip this in the bud.
I invited him to dinner. At a restaurant. I invited every one of my friends over eighteen and every one of my brother’s friends that I could find-even the ones who couldn’t stand each other agreed to come. I think a dozen people showed up and they all knew the deal.
We all had breakfast (yes, at dinner, what’s better than all day breakfast?), with this bastard sitting at one end of the table and me down on the far right and all my friends in between being loud and obnoxious and laughing a ton. He never called my mother’s house again and I never spotted him after that, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. He had been there for four years I never knew.
I had some very good friends. I still owe them.

Still Looking Backwards

It was a short-term goal my therapist and I set for me, well over six months ago, to look back at my life and try to see it through “the lens of autism” in the hopes that it would make sense.

It doesn’t, still, and I have gotten in the habit of looking back and analyzing frequently.

What I talk about in my sessions with my therapist is about the feelings of isolation or being misunderstood. I can explain that as being symptomatic of autism but what stands out to my therapist is neglect.

I know I am a different sort of parent from my own.

I try to figure out what is going on with my kids in school, I play with them and their friends, I encourage them in things I don’t care for – growing out their hair, playing social video games.

I don’t always do this because I am interested, though I am. I sometimes am motivated by what I remember of my own childhood, because I don’t want my children to ever feel as I did. I felt a lot of self-loathing, and as if I were never good enough. I want my children to feel validated, to feel that their own interests are legitimate, that they matter as their own selves.

I look back and I remember always feeling as though people did not understand my intent. My intentions were often announced by me, and still not understood or accepted.
I think this is how things work, actually. I think we assign our own motivations to others and rarely accept their stated intentions as truth. For we see others through our own lenses, our own frames of reference, rather than through their eyes.
I think we also deceive ourselves quite frequently, even regarding our own intentions. So maybe it is not that people did not understand my intentions or feelings, but that I did not understand their interpretations of me- why or how they were so off.
I remember feeling gutted by the assessments of others.

This all looks like autism at first glance. But the therapist says that a skewed or dysfunctional attachment to the primary caregiver creates a bit of disassociation like this, for instance:
I have always felt closer to people who talk a lot about themselves. I often feel as though I have a better picture of them, as if they were “more real” than others who are more conservative or discreet in their self praise. This is not the healthiest, but it is instinctive, I cannot help it. I know, now, that this is my tendency, and so I try to lean away from those I am trying to lean into. If that makes sense. Because I know now that self absorbed people are not good for me (or really anyone) and that their endless chatter on their favorite subject is not necessarily the truth.
So the therapist’s assessment is that I am attracted to people who convey a false sense of intimacy (immediate intimacy) because I did not have real attached intimacy with my primary caregiver as a child. Deep shit, right? Makes for a complicated life and a lot of bad judgement of character. Like being autistic.

How can I untangle all that?

And my therapist, in case you were wondering, is pro-neurological diversity and not in doubt of my autistic assessment last year. So it is not even a simple matter of her throwing her own disbelief into it.

Boundaries Between Identities

Most often when I try to explain emotional things my tongue dries up and my mind goes blank and I crack a joke instead.

I wasn’t always like this. I used to write poetry, free form stuff that drew pictures in the mind of the reader and also created emotional response. I used to be in touch with myself, I think.

I haven’t been able to write poetry for years. I think I stopped during my second marriage. I don’t know if it was about the marriage or about being happy or about embracing religion or about being so busy working that I put in fifty plus hour weeks. I just stopped and never started again.

I don’t know if I ever explained myself properly, emotionally. I just know I used to write it down pretty clearly. I could write rants, too. Those emotional rants you write while crying, the ones you never wanted anyone else to see. I don’t cry anymore, either. I stopped crying and talking about emotion while I was with their father.

I joined a PTSD forum a few years ago and was flagged as being in violation of the rules because my paragraphs were not double spaced on my intro (see how I am doing it here, remembering this). I made maybe four comments and never went back. It hurt my feelings, to not be able to follow the rules. It brought up some deep pain in me that I know has been there since childhood. I was always in trouble, socially.

I was in touch with myself when I was very young. I knew what abuse was, from outside, when it was being done to others. I had boundaries and I had terrible crying fits that could last hours when I realized someone didn’t love me or had cheated or had hurt me in some way. My boundaries eroded from constant battering, on all fronts. Abuse wasn’t abuse anymore, it was how things were. It was what was to be expected if I wanted to keep my religious beliefs, my husband, my everything. It wasn’t until the children were being battered that I woke up and I remembered where the boundaries should be.

Most of those boundaries never came back. I tell my children all the time where their boundaries should be, how to respect the boundaries of others. But I haven’t got them anymore, myself.

I think it is a good thing I don’t date. I think it is the best thing I have done for my children apart from separating them from their abuser.

I worry all the time that it is not enough. I worry every time I am angry that I am abusive, that my children are being scarred. My own mother was pretty cold. I don’t remember much anger from her, or much feeling, really. She compliments me all the time now and I have no idea where it is coming from. She was not like that when I was a child. I have always responded to very verbal and very intense people, like my father. Which is not a good thing, necessarily. Very verbal and intense people are often self absorbed or abusive. I just couldn’t feel people who were more low key. So I worry that I am setting my kids up to expect outbursts from people, or scolding, or punishment when I make them clean up their messes or go to their rooms. Am I being hard on myself? Maybe. I don’t know the proper boundaries. I feel a sense of panic if they have no consequences, too. I am terrified to go easy and frightened of coming down too hard.

I don’t know how or where being autistic plays into this. I don’t know where I and autism differ (perhaps we do not) and I often do not find the PTSD until retrospect kicks in. I hate it, I hate the PTSD. I was the most patient person in the universe until PTSD. Now I am tired and I am distracted and I am irritable often enough that I worry how it affects my children.

I was sick with food poisoning for the past few days. None of the last minute Christmas stuff got done. There is no one to do it for me. I have to get it done and I have to do it while being tired and meeting my prior commitments. I have to keep the PTSD at bay. I don’t want to spend Christmas yelling at my kids, like I did this evening. Kids will goof off and break rules and violate boundaries with each other. Why do I expect more? PTSD is always so much worse with stress or fatigue.

Maybe I should try EMDR. Maybe I should talk about what happened to me.

Happy Holidays.

How We Are Formed

Are we born perfect, to spend the rest of our lives trying to heal the wounds that this world carved into us after birth?

Are we born susceptible to wounding?

Are we at fault for being wounded, even as children, even as the disadvantaged?

Can we grow without being hurt by our parents?

I don´t know.

I keep reaching back, trying to discern what it was that made me like this.

It is so easy to just throw up my hands and say ¨There was no diagnosis for verbal high functioning autism when I was growing up¨ and just insist that I was misunderstood.

But that does not explain the extent of the misunderstanding, the wounding ramifications of it, the mental and cognitive disorders and the problems I had with comprehension and safety. That does not spare me the curse of repeating the cycle with my children, of misunderstanding them to the point of causing them pain or driving them from me. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I am connecting with and appreciating them, instead of just working the time away. I am diligently trying NOT to go through the motions of appointments and meals and cleaning. I am paranoid about showing love. I am consciously loving them as much as I am unconsciously loving them. I am always forgetting to teach them to care for themselves, because I am so anxious to show them love by caring for them.

I want to understand what went wrong in my own life to such an extent that my own mother  and father did not want me, even as an employed teenager who followed house rules and kept a good academic average. I know many parents now, as I have been an adult now longer than I was a minor, and I don´t know any personally who have done what mine did. I know I had some difficult years in my early teens, where it was easier to leave my home and live on the street than it was for me to stay where I was feeling unloved. I did not try to make up for that, there is not much you can do to make it up, but I did change my tune and stay put at home where there was usually raw fixings in the refrigerator and I had access to medical care. I bought Christmas and birthday presents for my mother. I thought I was doing alright, with following the rules. But it was not enough. I know people my own age who live with their parents, and it seems to be an arrangement everyone is happy with. Even my own cousin does this.

My therapist has her theories, but those theories are born of my recollection, not of the facts of my childhood. I cannot trust such theories. She is too willing to forgive, too willing to remove the blame from me, she would, I often suspect, make me innocent as well as naive. I was never treated as innocent when I was a child, she must be mistaken.

I can safely blame many things in my life on my religious convictions, my personal convictions, my misplaced loyalties. But childhood things I cannot. None of those things were formed yet, when I was a child, all came later.

I am so terrified of hurting my children. I am petrified that they will reach an age, as I did, where they want to be far far away from me. I don´t want them to feel haunted, lifelong, by my actions. I want it to be transparent, my love for them. Transparent and tangible, something solid they can build on- forever. I am frantic to puzzle out the key to this, the rejection of my childhood self, so that my children never know it.

 

 

Freedom to…

Today the children asked many questions about Buddha. We are not Buddhist, in case you were wondering. I put on ¨Little Buddha¨ and answered whatever questions the film inspired.
I had used Buddha as a teaching tool when we first left.
My boys were so violent in those early days, I had to point to a figure that practiced a radical form of nonviolent living as an example worth following, just so there was another point of view. We spent early mornings, before anyone had a chance at misbehaviour in that chaotic and oppressive shelter, removing snails from drainholes in the lawn, so they would not ¨fall¨ or ¨drown¨ or ¨be crushed¨ by anyone stepping on the grate. While I talked about Buddha and why we should care if the littlest thing is harmed.
I have lately read the ¨One Minute Mother” which is short, but gives positive parenting from a very simple view. It was a nice little refresher.
My goal with my therapist was changed, from integration into Western culture to self acceptance, which has prompted the following recollections.
I had horrible insomnia as a child. I would count how many times I could go around the perimeter of the playground before the bell rang, because most days no one would play with me. I became a bully, beating up on boys larger than myself who looked to be ¨bothering΅ girls. I realize now, it was probably play for them, both genders. I tried to kill myself at age eleven. I really hated myself, and I always had this sense that who I was and what I wanted to do with myself was not acceptable to anyone. I am very careful to embrace my children’s interests as part of them, and not dismiss their passions, because of this experience. I had two pairs of pants, four shirts, and two sweaters one year, and my far wealthier classmates noticed-and made sure I knew they had noticed. I did not learn how to wash my hair properly until I was much older, and I remember my father forcing me in the tub to try to teach me at age eight, and I was so mortified that I remember only the shame and the terror of it, not anything learned.
The flip side was that I was responsible for myself completely at age six. I cooked, cleaned, and etc. My mother claims that I raised myself, to this day. I had no respect for either of my parents as a child, though I was afraid of my father’s displeasure. At age thirteen they kidnapped me and had me committed, because though I obeyed all local laws, such as curfew and doing nothing illegal, I did not obey my mother’s house rules. I left home shortly after I was released from that facility, which was the month it took to eat up my insurance coverage, because returning home and discovering my room had become a storage locker for the lover that my mother had moved into the house in my absence was just too much for me. A session on the streets of the city and a lecture from a juvenile court judge got me home again, though I continued to help homeless youth for years after. I tried to live with my father, made it for a few months, but they sent me back to my mother when they found my cigarettes, which I suppose was illegal, but common where we lived. That summer they sent me to survival camp, and my father informed me that he would never speak to me again if I did not pass with flying colors. I did, and he stopped speaking to me for four years, anyway. I called him shortly before I lost my home at age eighteen, when my mother planned on me being out. I maintained a relationship with him but never took his offers to move in and follow his rules, even when homeless, for fear I would lose my father again through my own mistakes.
For fear of causing them pain, I never talk to them about these things, unless they bring it up. My mother once commented that she was horrified by children fighting, and I asked her why she just walked away when my brother was beating on me as a child-every day. She said she wouldn’t do that now, and the little girl in me just about died from the futility of that statement.
My parents never spoke much about when they were children or even young adults. They did not talk much to me about myself as a child, either. I tell my children many things about themselves, and I tell them about how I grew up, too. I want them to have a sense of place, of continuity, of being wanted, cherished, celebrated, noticed.
I woke up ill today. I still feel awful and I should be asleep. I had reserved a spot for my daughter at a local kid’s play place, for her birthday party, and we went, despite how I felt. It went well. I hope she remembers that she got what she wanted. Someday they will ask me for something that I cannot give them, I am sure.
I was not allowed to take my kids to parties, or outside much at all. I was not allowed to talk about myself. I was not allowed to introduce peaceful concepts to the children. I was not allowed a therapist he had not met and approved of and interrogated me over mercilessly after each session. Not until we left.