"Your silence will not protect you""You're as sick as your secrets."
-Alcoholics Anonymous saying
I don't write about this fact much here, but I come from a family full of alcoholism. There are three in my family who have had some treatment for it, one of whom has been in recovery for twelve solid years, and then another who has never admitted they have a problem of any kind. When you grow up, the oldest child in an alcoholic family, in a chaotic life with a parent who also has an untreated mental illness, things get pretty crazy. I hate the word, "crazy", but sometimes it's the only word that fits. In my family I experienced some verbal and physical abuse, which did not cause my mental illness, but did not help me feel great about myself either. I have written here before that when I was psychotic, I believed I had been sexually abused, although I really hadn't been. That is a complex issue to explain. But that happened, and had a major impact not only on my own life, but on the lives of several family members, most of whom didn't want much to do with me for a long time after my accusations, which I, at the time, believed were true.
At the same time all this was going on, I found out that there had been real, actual abuse that had occurred to two people in my family. And I can't disclose here who those people are, as it is certainly not my place to do so, but I just wanted to write about it because knowing that someone you love has been abused can hurt you too. It has caused me many years of worrying and angst, and guilt because I didn't know about or prevent this abuse from happening. And because the people who it happened to have had a really hard time with life ever since. They are two of the alcoholics I mentioned, and they are ones who do not seek help often. One, right now, is in what I think is a life or death situation, and is not doing anything to get help. I am not able to fix this. I want to be able to fix it, to make it better for them, to take care of them, to erase the past, to convince them to go to a therapist, or a psychiatrist, or an AA meeting or a hospital, and I can't make them do anything. They are adults. They are way too old to want my advice, and they don't think they need my advice.
The other day I got physically sick, vomiting and everything because of this situation. I had seen my one family member in a bad state, and realized that this person is really bad off and isn't interested in admitting they need help. I was distraught. I still am. But I can't let this get the better of me. Because worrying about people, or worse, trying to "fix" people with alcohol or drug addictions certainly doesn't change anything for the better. They have to want help, or at least that is what I have heard a million times, either in Alanon meetings I used to go to, or books I've read, or pop psychologists. I am talking about somebody I love who is an intelligent, even gifted, and witty, funny, creative, talented person, who is dying here. And there is nothing I can do about it. But the more that I offer advice, the less I get a response. So I know it is doing no good to offer advice.
I don't know what to do about this situation. My friend Kate who I met here years ago (hi, Kate), recommended Alanon, and I am sure that is a good idea. I just have a hard time with the focus on a Higher Power, because I do not believe in God. And I also don't have a lot of free time and energy to go to meetings. But I did go for a while, and there were some understanding, compassionate people there who knew what I was dealing with. You don't talk about the alcoholic there, though. You talk about yourself. But talking about my personal problems without mentioning that I have a mental illness is kind of contradictory. And in Twelve Step groups the focus isn't on going to psychiatrists and getting treatment for mental illnesses. The focus is on self-help. I have found self-help to be of limited use to me in the past, so I guess I am wary about it. But if I want my family member to go to AA, then I guess I am a hypocrite if I do not go to Alanon myself. So I will go.
The stress of worrying about these family members is, at times, utterly overwhelming, so I have to compartmentalize it, and really try not to focus on it too much. That's hard to do when you are confronted with someone who has lost everything and is continuing to suffer, badly. But it is necessary to not let that person's problem become your sole focus in life, and your own major problem, especially, I think, if you already have your own major problems to deal with. Everybody has problems, but stress has a definite detrimental effect on my mental stability, more than it might to someone without a mental illness. So I have to be careful not to let the worrying overcome me.
The fact that these people were abused has haunted me for years, and I have at times made major mistakes in regards to that and brought it up when they didn't want it brought up, which was not my right to do. The fact that I did that makes me feel terrible, and also makes me feel guilty as though the drinking was caused by what I said, or worsened by it. That is logically not likely to be the case, but I still feel that way.
I have a hard time talking about child abuse. There were years of my life when I devoted myself to creating web pages of resources for survivors of abuse, reading books about abuse, and going to therapy for abuse I supposedly suffered, which was not factual. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with a rape crisis center and several trips to a trauma treatment program inside a psychiatric hospital in Washington D.C. where the majority of the people on the unit were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The fact that the majority of people on any unit could be diagnosed with that is a telling thing. People don't usually have Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is indeed quite rare. But at that point in my life, I thought it was common, and I was made to believe so by the so-called treatment providers I saw who only encouraged me to get even more delusional than I already was.
I truly believed I had DID during this period, and I was told that I definitely had a dissociative disorder and it might be DID, by several therapists. These people weren't there when I thought I was being chased by the CIA and hid in the bushes from their black helicopters, or when I thought I was Jesus and almost shot myself in the head. They weren't there to witness my full-blown, obvious psychosis that lasted seven years. They just were aware that I said I had been molested. So they led me to think that being molested, even though I did not actually remember it, was the cause of all my mental health problems. It has occurred to me that I should sue these people for the lack of actual help and the very real harm they caused me, such as the fact that my own father didn't speak to me for six years, because of all this, but I don't have the money for lawyers to sue people.
I have picked up an interesting book recently called Exposing Sybil, which says that the Sybil story was actually a hoax, and that before she was diagnosed a handful of people had been diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder in the world, and then after her book came out, thousands, and thousands were diagnosed with it. I am not going to try to make the argument here that Dissociative Identity Disorder is not real, but I will say, it was certainly not real for me, and I would bet a lot of money that it wasn't real for numerous people I met who said they had it, in that treatment center. Being tortured ritually by Satanic Cults and the Masons really doesn't happen that often that you should meet a handful of people who claim this has happened to them, and meet them all in the same place! Of course, I then believed that I was ritually abused by Satanists and Masons, too. This didn't do me a lot of good, and in preventing me from being accurately diagnosed with psychosis, I was not given the medications that could have transformed my life, like they finally did years later when I was given them. And in the process of being psychotic, I actually was raped by someone, because of my psychotic state, so you see, this "therapy" didn't do me a whole lot of good. It harmed me. And that still bothers me.
On the other hand, there are many, many people, as you can see on television frequently these days with the horrible Penn State story, who have been abused, terribly, and these people's stories deserve attention and recognition for their truth. For me, it wasn't true. For my family members, it was. Those family members never became psychotic and the person who abused them wasn't the same person(s) who I thought abused me.
Because this is all so complicated, I have never dealt with it in my therapy sessions. I am seeing my old therapist every few weeks again right now, to help me get through this difficult time period that started a few months ago, but I did see her much more often for four years. We never talked about abuse hardly at all. She knew about my misdiagnosis, and I think she wanted to steer clear of the entire subject matter. I never talked about the verbal and physical abuse that happened when I was a kid, because the focus in my therapy has always been on what is happening right now, and not what happened in the past that is old history. Sometimes I wonder if I actually need to talk to a therapist about this stuff. About the real abuse that occurred in my family which haunts me, because it has caused so much pain for my family members, and I feel their pain. I am kept awake at night worrying about their pain. But I only have a couple more sessions left to see this therapist, because the mental health center made me an arrangement to be able to afford to see her, which I can not normally afford, and that arrangement ends soon.
I'm not sure that anyone will really understand what I am talking about in this post, but it was hard for me to write about it here. I have always been the truth teller in my family, but in the cases of my psychosis when I told "truths" that were not true, that did a lot of harm. On the other hand, I feel as though my family members who were abused would really benefit from actually facing their abuse histories and getting help to deal with it so it would stop destroying their lives. So I wanted to write this here, because if you have been through any of the things I described, I want you to know you're not alone. If you were abused, you're not alone. If you imagined you were abused because you were delusional, you're also not alone. If you care about someone who was abused and don't know how to help them, you're not alone.