Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A long story

I'm putting this in my blog so I don't forget what brought me to this place. This story is 100% true, and for that reason, 1000% sad. Last night I found some letters (I keep everything) sent to me by family members and friends over the years. I found several sent by my youngest sister, and when I read them, it makes me so sad. I don't know what happened to her -- she had so much promise and so much hope at one time. I am considering scanning these letters and sending them to her to remind her of who she used to be. I wish I knew how to fix her, and how to make sure her children don't suffer further, but I don't, and I'm trying to come to grips with it not even being my place to do so. I think that part of this for me is that I've always thought of both my sisters as belonging to me, like they were kind of my children. My older sister (age 38) had some rought times earlier in her life, and had two marriages that thankfully ended in divorce. She has been married now for 13 years to a wonderful man, and they have 1 son, who is the first apple of my eye. I'm so grateful she found the right man. My brother (age 41) has been married to his soulmate for about 12 years now, and though they have no children together, he is stepfather to 2 boys and 1 girl. The girl is 15, almost 16, and is a truly delightful young woman. I enjoy her immensely and am looking forward to 'keeping her' for her spring break in March.

And now, without further ado, the long story...

I am the oldest of 4, with 1 brother and 2 younger sisters. My youngest sister (age 36) has been in an abusive relationship with the same person since 1992. She left him in '92, only to have him follow her down to Florida from Michigan, and somehow convince her to marry him without telling anyone. Then they headed back up north. During the next 5 years, she would call me from time to time, because he'd gotten violent, abusive, etc., and she wanted to leave. I would always encourage her to pack her things and get out of there, and sometimes she would actually get on the road, with me waiting for her to arrive at my house. However, every time there would be a point at which she'd call to say she changed her mind, she was going back, etc. In 1998, she had her first child, thinking that this would 'solve the problems'. Naturally, it didn't. Over the course of the next few years, my sister became an alcoholic, or maybe she already was an alcoholic to begin with, and it was just exacerbated. At one point in 2000, she finally entered a rehab facility due to her clearly uncontrollable behavior (diagnosed with bipolar disorder and polysubstance abuse), but this happened just before 9/11, and that gave her the excuse she needed to leave the facility -- wanting to be with her family. Over the ensuing few years, she went from bad to worse, and lived far enough away from us that we could not 'keep an eye on her'. She did a lot of really degrading things, really embarrassing things, and was hospitalized several times for her behavior. I tried to help her from a distance, but eventually had to convince my mother to actually go get her and my niece and take them away from her then-husband. My fear was that my niece would be taken from both parents and placed into foster care. Sister and husband did get a divorce, but she did not get an attorney. She agreed to the terms he wrote up, which included the codicil that my niece can never live more than 25 miles away from his union hall that the ex is assigned to. (Stupid, stupid, stupid, I know.) She moved back near him to comply with the divorce decree, and took up with another guy. Her ex didn't like this and came over and beat this man to a pulp while my sister was at work, taking my niece out of the house with him. (He was drunk at the time himself). The police found them, and returned my niece to my sister, and the ex was charged with assault and battery, but he cross-filed against my sister's boyfriend, saying he started it. The police knew this was BS, so nothing came of that cross complaint. I was called to come help, and I went straight away. The first night I was there someone (the ex) tried to break down her front door, and I literally threw my body against it and wedged myself between it and the wall to keep him from coming in. Naturally, my little niece saw all of this and 'knew' it was her daddy doing it. For some reason, my sister eventually took this idiot back, and immediately became pregnant. Mind you, they were and are still divorced. Then shortly after giving birth to her second daughter, she became pregnant again, and now has 3 children, ages 8, 20 months, and 8 months.

In October Hubby and I went to visit her (and him) to deliver a computer the rest of our family had chipped in on to help her stay connected to us, as she is pretty isolated. I dreaded it, but felt I had to do this. On my way there, I had my first panic attack in over 7 years, so that should have been my clue to turn around and go home. But, I persisted. When I arrived, my sister looked like a scarecrow -- gaunt, haggard, and kind of crazy. She is living with this ex of hers, who doesn't lift a finger to help with the housework or the kids -- he hands them off to her -- so she never seems to get any sleep. Further, he brings her beer or whatever to drink, brings her pot, and apparently buys pain pills from someone he works with and both takes them and gives them to her to take. Then, once she does these things, he berates her violently for having done so and tells her she's a terrible mother, she's ugly, no one would put up with her like he does, etc. While we were there, I witnessed him verbally abusing my niece, and I stood up to him, which earned me a look that made my blood run cold. It was then I knew that this man was more than capable of doing permanent physical harm to anyone he felt crossed him. He'd just days before thrown a baby car seat at my sister, and though it missed her, it hit her windshield and cracked it. The following day, Sunday, we were getting ready to leave, and my sister tried to apologize for how messy the house was. I told her I was impressed with how good everything did look, seeing as she didn't have any help. The ex, naturally, took offense at this and started verbally abusing me. I fought back, but throughout this entire weekend, I was convinced he could and would harm me, because I could see the real picture. Arnie and I left, after I told my sister that this man was eventually going to kill her, and that if she didn't get those children out of that house away from that man, she was just as guilty of abuse as he was. We got on the road, and I called my mother to explain what all had happened. In the meantime, my sister had gone in to confront her ex, who claimed that she didn't know his side of the story, that I 'just wouldn't listen', etc, but she told him she'd had enough, and wanted him to leave so she could pack her things and get out of that house. She had to call the police to get him to go, and she called my mother to have her call me to get us to come back and help, which we did. We brought them back to our house for the night (they lived about 5 hours away), and the next morning left to rendezvous with our mom in Birmingham, so that they could take them back to Florida. While we were doing this, the ex had the police call our house because he said we kidnapped his kids, but later he located them at my mom's. I was petrified that he was going to come looking for me, and since I worked at home alone during the day, Arnie and I decided that I should go stay out of town with a friend until this all blew over.

Since this event, I continued to have repeated panic attacks, and my depression, already being treated with medication, grew MUCH worse with an increased dosage that I myself requested. However, this was done by my family doc, not by a psychiatrist, as it should have been. Psychiatric medications should be monitored by an expert. I started into psychotherapy in November, for this event and for other reasons, so I thought I was doing well, but in December, I grew worse and worse, and actually became passively suicidal, again, as a result (unknown at the time) of the wrong dosage of medication. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't think -- all I could do was cry. On January 6 of this year, I had a 'crash', I guess metabolically speaking. Because I had not been eating or drinking enough, I became dehydrated and probably had some pretty serious chemical imbalances in my body. Fortunately, I got through that, but realized then that there was a big problem and that I need to see a specialist. I spoke to a doctor friend of mine who had me decrease my medication dose back down to the original level until I could get in to see someone. In the meantime, I saw my family doctor who added another drug to my regimen. I FINALLY got in to see a psychiatrist on 1/24, and have my first follow up tomorrow. I'm feeling a lot better, but still have a bit of a social phobia component going on. I tried coming to church recently, but had to leave halfway through the service because I began to have a panic attack. I'm hoping that now that more time has passed, I'll be able to try it again soon and be able to stay for the whole deal. I've resigned as chair of one committee, resigned from the another, and also resigned from being a Greeter. I hope that I will be able to return to at least Greeter duties soon, as I really enjoyed that. I am still helping out with one committee, and will continue to, but think I will limit myself to these two groups and to the Caring Committee, even though I don't seem to do much there yet.

End of long story for now....


1 comment:

Purr said...

Oh Honey! I'm so sorry you've endured all this. You are strong and with a little help you'll overcome these panic attacks. They're absolutely horrible. I've had a couple myself and one had me thinking I was truly on death's doorstep. Watching anyone you love deal with such tragedy in their lives is difficult at best. Especially when they're not doing much to help themselves out of the train wreck that occurs in their life over and over and over again. You're not alone. There is support out there for you. The truth of the matter is you cannot fix a bipolar. YOu can only love and try to guide them if/when they accept your help. We have so much to talk about.. Will chat soon. Love you.