I’ve heard it many times. So many times that I’ve lost count of how many people, friends, medical professionals, strangers, close family, and my dogs have said it. Maybe it’s my rebellious spirit that doesn’t want to listen. Maybe it’s far more profound than that, and not exactly something that I’m ready to delve into. Nonetheless, I heard it again.
When we left Lethbridge, I was on the cusp of figuring out my medication. I was on the cusp of regaining some confidence in myself as I had walked away from my family, and my therapy was going well. I was about to enter a outpatient group for women who suffered from PTSD. I was so close to finally finding some sort of zen that I could pretty much taste it.
Then we moved. We moved to Edmonton. A place I ran away from. The place where I had my firstborn son and then relinquished my parental rights to him. A place that hurts every single part of my being. A place where my family lived. A place that I had told my husband that out of all the places he could be transferred to, this was not one of those places. Yet, here we are. It was the best decision for our family, long term, but for me? It was like I was walking into the gates of hell, willingly.
After being here for three months, I caved to my overwhelming depression and found a doctor. She couldn’t see me until June for a full check up. I waited another two dark, and lonely months before being able to dump my history on her lap and ask if she’d like me to sign a waiver for the other files in Lethbridge. She referred me to a psychiatrist, and a therapist. Because, once you’ve heard my history, there isn’t much else to do.
Which brings us to it.
New Therapist and New Psychiatrist greeted me, and we began the descent into my mental health history. If you’ve never done this before, it’s like answering one of those tedious questionnaires that goes on forever, and if you answer a specific way, you have to explain in the small, tiny space below, but it’s never enough space. I’ve gotten quite good at it, sadly.
“Yes. Though better since being on this drug.”
“I still get panic attacks twice a week or more. I worry about everything. I obsess over safety, over little things, I think about thinks most people wouldn’t ever think. I plan for the worst. Since being on Cymbalta, it’s been better. No mood swings, but I feel blunt. No highs, no lows, just here.”
“You were taking ativan, no more?”
“No. It’s not working. It makes it worse.”
“What other ones have you tried?”
“Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Quetiapine, Zoloft…”
“They didn’t work?”
“Nope. Wellbutrin did nothing at all. Celexa increased anxiety, Paxil was my first, but my parents weren’t supportive of me being on it, Quetiapine made me a zombie, and zoloft…I can’t remember.”
That’s the gist of how it goes. On and on. I can tell my issues to anyone in under 30 minutes, including my reactions to drugs, why I have each diagnosis, and what I have done to try to alleviate all the issues that come along with all the problems I have. Then, of course, we head into the history.
Which means abuse. Abuse, abuse, more abuse. Adoption. Sexual assault. Domestic rape and abuse. More abuse.
Usually, it takes a couple of sessions before they say it. My first therapist didn’t say ituntil one of my very last sessions. The next one said it midway through. The third, I said I was wanting to do it myself, and she said she was going to recommend it. Even my doctor asks about it, and how I am with it. With them.
There I am mid-sentence and he says,
“Why are you still in contact with these people?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“No, not good enough. Why?”
“Because they are my family, and well…I guess..uh,um..”
“No, no. Your brother molested your daughter. He was likely molested by someone, and you were also molested by someone, but your family won’t tell you who, or pretend like they have no idea who it was. They know who it was, but they won’t tell you, I can tell you that. Why are you endangering your kids by being involved in this mess? ”
“Because maybe they will change?”
“You are addicted to the idea that they will change. I bet you’ve tried to cut off contact before?”
“See, and do they come back to you?”
“You are an addict. You go back for more, even when there is no true benefit. Do they give you stuff? Buy you gifts? Pay for things?”
I nod, almost crying.
“This is manipulation. This is how they work: they buy you these things, so then they have leverage. They can manipulate you into staying, into saying nothing when they do something out of line, or abusive. It’s a cycle. They withdraw from you when you don’t give them what they want, or when you stand up for yourself. How are they acting with this news that their son has molested your daughter?”
I burst into tears, and New Therapist handed me a box of Kleenex, offering some sympathy with her eyes.
“They’ve withdrawn. A lot. They never really call. The investigation was supposed to be under wraps, and they told my brother about it. But they say they didn’t, but no one else knew. And when I was mentioning how hard this was for me, my mom told me to stop making it about me, and just go to sleep. My daughter is having night terrors. I can’t sleep because of that, and because of my own stuff.”
“So why are you still in contact?”
“I just want parents like everyone else.”
New Therapist piped up, ” Danielle, honey, they won’t change. Emotional abusers never change because they are the last to realize the damage they actually do. They will continue this cycle, and they will likely get worse. That’s just the way this works. You have to be willing to admit that if you don’t break free of this cycle, you may never get better.”
More tears, and a ugly sob. I wasn’t hurt by their words. I was struck by their bluntness. The truth that was bouncing off the walls in this tiny room. They wouldn’t change.
I was given a prescription with a diagnosis. An appointment for my New Therapist. And an Ultimatum.
One that makes sense. One that I understand. One that would probably help.
But it’s me. The Queen of wanting everyone to know I believe in them, and think they can change their ways. Also I can help them. Even if it’s at my expense. Even if it puts me in a place where I feel used, and bruised. I’ll do it, because, everyone deserves to have someone believe in them.
And it’s been at my expense for quite some time.
I was told:
“Pick your health. Pick your health professionals. Or pick them. If you want to remain in that cycle, there is nothing we can do to change this situation. You will never get better. These are the people who abused you every single way, made you give away a baby, and still manage to abuse you as a grown adult. It’s us or them. Do it for your kids. Do it for you. But, if you can’t remove yourself from them, you’ll always have every single one of these issues.”
You’d think I would know what to do. The answer is easy to anyone who looks in. Yet, for me, the complexity of it has me completely paralyzed.