Posts Tagged shame
Drama everywhere I look these days. Jane could have never guessed that Tarzan’s secret daughter would have been the problem she wished for instead of his problem with alcohol. I myself come from a long line of alcoholics, and I truly didn’t see this elephant in the room. To be perfectly honest though I have been wrapped up in my own menopausal woes here lately. Like most addicts Tarzan is masterful at hiding his addiction.
I hold no superior judgement on this subject. Alcoholism is no different from having any other disease in my opinion. I would not judge a person harshly for having diabetes, or any other illness in spite of a rather horrifying childhood of having an alcoholic father.
Jane herself is no stranger to life with an alcoholic. Her story differs from mine though. Her mother died from sclerosis of the liver when she was just three years old. Her father did not drink so she really doesn’t have any experience with detecting the symptoms.
So you can imagine her great surprise of finding him passed out cold on his back doorstep completely unresponsive. Having him rushed to the hospital by ambulance, and having the doctor ask you how long has he had a problem with alcohol?
Jane’s response was that he does not have a problem with alcohol. The doctor looking at Jane with an expression of great belief replied that his blood work results showed otherwise. He then strongly suggested that rehab should be the next consideration.
She is 18 quiet in her demeanor. Looking at her youthful face is misleading, she has mastered the fake smile. She knows that it has the power to keep most people at a safe emotional distance. She feels shame for her life’s circumstance. Circumstances that have aged her way beyond her eighteen year existence.
Her parents are just starting to see the incredible strain their selfish lives have imposed upon their oldest child. Dad is a cheater, and a drug addict. Mom is the oldest daughter of an alcoholic father, and drug addicted schizophrenic mother. Mom has adorned her own fake smile for the majority of her own life. She shares her daughter’s shame for her own upbringing, and now she shares the shame for the lifestyle she has bestowed upon her oldest child. In spite of her every desire to escape her own childhood she has repeated the cycle of dysfunction.
This is Mom’s second marriage, her first was to the love of her life. He was to be her white knight. He was a party boy who cheated on her within the first year of their marriage. Luckily they had not had children. She divorced him, and two years later met the girl’s father. On the outside he seemed to be the complete opposite of the first husband. By all outward appearances he was the shy family man who loved his wife, and their beautiful baby girl.
The truth was that Mom who mastered her own fake smile was equally skilled at putting forth the fake happy life illusion. She was determined not to fail at this second marriage. Like a lot of woman she thought that by continuing to have more children the marriage would magically heal itself. So now their first daughter had two sisters, one fake mom, and a father who was drugging to escape the pressures of his fake happy life. So of course Mom decides to have another baby. A boy but this joyful moment dealt their already strained marriage another harsh blow. The baby boy was born with Down’s Syndrome. Dad who is already abusing drugs, and couldn’t possibly be the guy who dumps his wife, three toddler daughters, and his newly born son with Down’s Syndrome decides to have an affair with a woman in their church.
Mom is still fake smiling her way publicly, and she went to great lengths to make sure her husband went along with the charade. I am sure this was the stage in life that the oldest daughter, and her four siblings began to develop their ability to adorn their fake smiles. A house filled with tension, lies, and shame. The continuous fighting, financial strains, and the demands of having a child with special needs must have been extremely unstable to the young children. Mom and Dad through all of this emotional and financial trouble had two more sons who were just a little over a year apart. Six children later one ongoing affair with the lady from their church, continued drug abuse, and finally no job later, Dad decides to leave.
Then he comes back again. Then he leaves again… The oldest daughter has at a much to early age become the main source of parenting for all of her siblings. Mom leaves more, and more responsibility on their oldest daughter in order to continue the fake happy life illusion outside of the home. So now at the age of eighteen the girl quiet in her demeanor who has endured more emotional pain than most people experience in a lifetime has moved out into her own apartment.
She is happy for her new-found freedom, and simultaneously filled with guilt over leaving her siblings behind. She worries that the second sister will now be faced with all of her prior responsibilities. Myself, I worry about her. I worry that she does not realize that her Mother had repeated the same cycle of dysfunction that her parents before her had lived. For you see many deep dark cycles are cultivated behind the fake smile. A smile that was mastered to keep most people at a safe emotional distance can have the hidden power to lure in the emotionally unsafe elements of life. 😉
Most people equate crying with the sound of pain. Some people would say screams or wailing, sounds that seem to originate deeply inside a person. For me the sound of pain is silence. The deepest pain seems to reside in the deepest depths of silence. A place so deep it can not climb to the porthole of where screams, wailing, or cries escape.
Some people live their lives in continuous forms of physical pain. Ours is a society that will most generously acknowledge that kind of pain. For those people we show infinite amounts of empathy, and we should. We should also evolve to a level where we are capable of recognizing pain that can not seen with the physical eye. Pain that can only be seen with mind’s eye.
People who suffer from within tortured by feelings and emotions they are powerless to control. The kind of pain that inflicts shame, confusion, self-hatred and blame. These are the souls who try to explain the unexplainable to those who could not possibly understand. These are the people who are so weakened by their pain that they can not face the possibility of facing someone’s judgement, or even worse their disbelief.
The sound of their excruciating pain is silence. Once you have heard this sound of inaudible pain you may find yourself deafened by it’s incredible loudness. 😉
My strange relationship with my Dad was the single most impacting relationship of my childhood. This is my first attempt to post about it so please bear with me, because it will hands down be the most difficult post I am sure I will ever write. I would like to start out by saying that our relationship comes with some very graphic unpleasant details, so this may not be a post that’s suitable for you. I would also like you to know that in spite of some of the details I will share with you, my intention is to bring some perspective on what it’s like to be the child of someone who was mentally ill, and was never diagnosed. This above all else is the true tragedy in my story. In fact my Dad is the main victim in this situation, because he was cast as the villain in his own life story.
Being born in the wrong the era can make a catastrophic difference in your life story. Just ask the women who were burned at the stake for being cast in the roles of witches. Being mentally ill in today’s world is incredibly difficult at best, but being mentally ill in the 60’s was a completely different animal. Are you familiar with the term “there’s a fine line between genius and insanity”? I fully understand this concept. Having known many people who deal with mental illnesses, I can tell you that in my experiences the majority are highly intelligent people bordering on genius. My Dad was extremely intelligent. One might think well this should be a great asset in life, but I have found this to be the complete opposite for people dealing with mental illness. It perpetuates the false belief that intelligence should over ride the symptoms of their disorder. This is about as logical as telling a diabetic “Well use that intelligence of yours to tell your pancreas to work correctly” you see my point? Stigmas associated with mental illness keep people from seeking medical care. The fear of being labeled as crazy, and being thrown into some horrifying mental institution (sadly not that far from the truth) was a very liable reason for my Dad to keep his personal issues a secret and certainly played a huge part in his self medicating with alcohol. My Dad was a severe alcoholic.
Dad’s violent, paranoid, and erratic behavior was always attributed to his constant drinking. I believe this false concept is frequently assigned to people with mental illness by unknowing, well-meaning family members, friends, and co-workers… Just one more thing “they” should be able to control. It’s no wonder the suicide rate is so significant among people who have mental illnesses. Can you even begin to imagine being smart enough to know something is terribly wrong within yourself, the self loathing, and to have a society that blames you ( for something that those without mental illness) fail to recognize? For many years of my life I inflicted this judgement onto my Dad, not only during my entire childhood but well into my adult life! I for lack of a better depiction tied him to the proverbial stake, and lit the fire every time I felt the need to defend myself from his deplorable behavior.This thought alone haunts me on a constant basis.
Every time he would come home drunk, enraged by his own delusions yanking me from my childhood bed to beat me unmercifully I would pray for his death! Even worse was to watch him beat your mother or siblings, you would do anything to divert his attention back unto you just so you would not have to watch in horror as your other family members endured his torture! I still vividly remember not being able to sleep, my stomach in knots knowing that at some point when he returned home from the bar that we would hear those footsteps coming down the hallway. The anticipation of what was about to happen to you was as damaging as each physical blow. The emotional and verbal abuse was unimaginable, the horrible words, accusations left marks on our souls that we carry even today. The deep humiliation of having other people witness these almost daily abuses even more devastating. Every single day uncertain of what might happen. Hating him, loving him, in those even stranger days where he seemed “normal” and he was so loving we were still somehow tortured inside.
It would take a thousand posts, and a much better writer than myself to accurately tell this story. After all this is a story that has lasted for fifty years plus. My intention today was to bring about some awareness regarding our worldwide lack of knowledge, empathy, research, and ability to recognize mental illness. To point out how improper diagnosis, and treatment has the potential to destroy a person’s life story. My hope is that by removing blame, shame, and stigma we will be able to someday give everyone’s life story a shot at being a fairy tale. 😉
Recently I was second in line at a popular fast food drive thru. After an unusually long wait the man in the car ahead of me jumps out of his car wildly enraged. Eyes bulging, he was practically foaming at the mouth. This man ran back to the original window where the clerk had taken his payment demanding to have his money refunded. This clerk sent him back to the second window where he was to receive his order. As this man kept running (back&forth) by my car, he seemed to be searching my face for some sort of approval to his anger. I’m not sure what the look on my face was like, I just know his behavior caught me off guard.
Now he is standing outside his car, screaming at the top of his lungs at the young woman who was appologetically refunding his money. Then he took his order, and threw it at her through the window. He got back into his car and sped off. I then pull up to the window. This young woman is visibly shaken ,and bracing herself for the possibility of further abuse from me. This was even more disturbing to me than his deplorable behavior. We are becoming a world where people who behave in such a horrible way are being accepted as somehow having the right to berate and humiliate another human being.
I felt like she in some way thought it was okay for him to treat her this way. This man had not been insulted, abused or hurt in any way. He was enraged because he had to wait a little longer than usual to be served. Her hands trembling she proceeded to apologize to me. I told her I was so sorry she had been treated that way. I told her I was even more sorry that I had not come up with some sort of a way to stop his awful behavior. I assured her no great tragedy had occurred simply because I had to wait a little longer than usual.
The truth is a tragedy had occurred. She had been verbally abused by a man with a highly distorted view of entitlement! Even worse I realized that I had unconsciously accepted this as “the norm” in our society today. I had seen this whole thing happen before my eyes, and had done nothing to stop this abuse. I like to think of myself as a good person and yet my response to what I had just witnessed was to do nothing. I now understand completely how atrocities occur while good people stand by. Who would have known the profound lesson one might learn by simply going through a drive thru. I will do my best not to fail this lesson again! 😉