Doctor: “But there’s a big difference between you and your father.”
Me: “[long pause] …okay, what’s the difference between me and my father?”
Doctor: “You’re not evil.”
Discussion between my doctor and myself; June 4, 2010
Appointment: Friday, June 4, 2010
Two weeks ago I jolted my son. I didn’t shake him, I spasmed while he was cradled in my arms. My whole body jumped up two inches, then fell back to the couch.
But it was a reaction to his crying. I was deeply tired. My girlfriend has been working morning shifts at the convenience store, this means either she takes Victor to work, or she leaves him with me at 5am.
Two weeks ago, while I was holding him and he didn’t want the bottle, his crying was like a nail pounding into the back of my head. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t reason past that moment. And I had a short convulsion. Like I’d been shocked with jumper cables.
I’ve never, ever felt the same way when I was awake… or in the afternoons or evenings. I can reason then, I can think past the moment. I can understand how to help Victor when he cries.
But I’ve had the feeling — just the emotional response — on each of the four or five occasions where Victor has been with me so soon after I woke up.
I’ve only had him while she was working a morning shift once since then. I didn’t like how I felt while he was here. It’s just a level of frustration when I’m basically still asleep that spikes too fast. On the few occasions Victor’s been here so early, I’ve done my best to get a full nights sleep beforehand. This means going to bed before 10pm, but it also means waking up every two hours.
I’ve been blaming the Seroquel, because of how groggy it leaves me in the morning, but now I’m really not sure. I only take 50mgs, and it’s not the slow release kind.
Something else is I’ve been recognizing my father lately in the things I do, and how I look. Specifically in the frustration I feel around Victor so early in the morning.
And also in photos. My girlfriend took a photo recently of Victor and I, and in it it’s remarkable how much he looks like me when I was two. She took another photo a few days earlier, and I look so much like my father.
I’ve seen myself as my father in my recent behaviour and feelings, and myself as him in photos, and I’ve seen my child look just like me when I was a baby.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to not be my father. Basing my behaviour on rumours and the half-truths given to me by my aunt and my mother. My father abused everyone around him. He led a cult of personality based around himself, he slept with the women how joined, he got my mother’s best friend pregnant, he corrupted the people who followed him.
And he ignored me and my brother from almost the day we were born, even when we lived under the same roof. When I was a baby, he held me out a fourth-storey window because my mom had gone out with friends instead of staying in with him.
When I was four or five we were rough-housing in the living room, and I punched him in the shoulder. In front of five people he punched me hard enough that I left my feet.
…my mother, after my brother was born, was paralysed down one side of her body — basically Bell’s palsy — and in the hospital for close to six months with other postnatal difficulties. My father, as a “get well soon” gift, brought her a negligee to the hospital… while she was still paralysed.
The doctors told my parents that my mother would surely die if there was another pregnancy. My father, being both Catholic and Communist, refused contraception, but demanded sex. My mother nearly died before their third pregnancy was aborted.
The thing with having a father like mine is you can do horrible things but never be as bad as he was.
All I’ve done is have feelings, had a spasm, recognized his eyes in mine, recognized his beard in mine, but I still feel like I’ve walked dangerously close past a piece of him that lives in me.
After I told my psychiatrist about the jolting he tried to assure me that I wasn’t my father, even telling me “you’re not evil”, which stunned me for a few moments.
But I could have been. I very easily could have been, if my mother hadn’t escaped with my brother and I, if I had stayed and he had raised me, I believe I would be just like him now. That’s a lot of “ifs”, but there is a lot of abuse in my family. Not the kind where people end up in hospitals with broken bones, but definitely the kind that leaves you doubting everything you know about yourself, definitely the kind that leaves your spirit crushed.
I love my son, and I’m trying very hard to learn how to be a father.
I just know that I have something wrong that I need to get fixed.
My grandfather went headstone shopping with my parents and my uncle two weeks ago. My grandfather basically just wants a simple rock with his name and dates on it. My mother insisted they look into something a little more ornate.
My grandfather is an engineer who built bridges, tunnels and dams, so my mother wants to have a beaver, or a bridge on his stone. My grandmother worked as a Registered Nurse until my mother was born, so after some thought my uncle suggested suggested a large hypodermic needle, dripping some kind of fluid. My grandmother wasn’t there, so everyone laughed at the idea of a syringe filled with poison on her headstone.
This is a woman who, three months after my son was born, demanded to know why I hadn’t demanded my girlfriend to have an abortion.
My psychiatrist got a kick out of it as well.
My grandmother recently had day-surgery to have a melanoma removed from her neck. She showed up during our yard sale, along with my grandfather and one of his work friends. She had what looked like six or eight stitches in her neck… it really looked like they finally removed the last little pieces of her soul.
I know we talked about more than this… I remember having a great appointment. Unfortunately, I take lousy notes.
When I was reporting I could take shitty notes because I also had a tape recorder hooked up to the phone. There was also the time factor. When I took notes for a story, I was writing the story within the hour… so my memory was still fresh.
The notes I take after an appointment with my psychiatrist, however, sit around for a week or two until I start writing the piece. So right now I’m looking at a pocket-sized notebook with a page filled with squiggly lines and a few vowels.
I do know we’ll be using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) during our next appointment, we’re going to try and start working on the issues surrounding my childhood rape. Good times baby, good times.
EMDR has worked for me in the past, I just really don’t like it because, in order for it to work, you actually have to concentrate on the bad shit. Effective, but not fun.
Oh my God!! You remind me so much of my dad when he was young and a little bit of myself, just the male version 😀 The funny thing is that I suspect my father to have bipolar, and I have depression, anxiety, OCD and eating disorder myself. Even more weirder is that my father has also abused me, my brother and my mom, psychologically and physically (physically just for some time) and he is an alcoholic with PTSD (war in the ex-Yugoslavia). But he was very bad with my brother when he was little, even before the war. My grandfather was rough with him as well, but he wasn’t abusing him, just overly strict and was asking him to help him all the time with his work, didn’t allow him to have anything…. There are 3 suicides from my father’s paternal side, my father tried to commit suicide and he would have hasn’t it been for my mom who found him right when he was preparing the rope! 0.o Though, he doesn’t know we know that. Also, from my father’s maternal side there are 4 cases of OCD (including me), compulsive overeating and two women from that side are often hospitalized, but I don’t know their diagnosis. It’s stigma here to have a mental illness., but newer generations are slowly eradicating it as in the rest of the world, I guess 😀 However, mom thinks one of them had severe depression.
Is there any history of mentall illness on your dad’s side?
All the best in your life!
Not quite the comparison I was hoping for… yes, my father had / has manic depression. He was never diagnosed — it’s very difficult for narcissists to acknowledge behavioural faults — but in interviews I did with the people who surrounded him in the early days, and from anecdotes from others, it’s pretty easy to see he had the behaviours typically associated with someone living with manic depression.
It does manifest itself in family trees. My father, his mother, and her father all exhibited the classic symptoms. My maternal grandmother is a mean, black-hearted, angry bitch, but she never showed any symptoms beyond her own mostly unique psychosis.
There are scientifically recognized genetic components to mental illness — such as OCD and bipolar — but clinical depressions and PTSD have direct causes… it takes a lot of work, but they can all be treated.
Thanks for the comment Romina, and all the best in your life as well.
Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings in any way 😦 I just wanted to give you an interesting thing that probably all of us have someone somewhere in the world very similar to us physically 🙂
Regarding genetic causes, I have done a lot of research about that as well, that clinical depression has about 50-60% genetic causes, as it gives the person susceptibility to develop it. Bipolar is somewhere 75% genetic. A lot of those experiments are done on identical twins that have lived separately. Even schizophrenia isn’t 100% genetic.
My opinion, though, is that depression is overdiagnosed (in the USA). Some studies show that around 25% of women and 15% of men suffer from it at least once in their lives. Most of those cases are just once in the lifetime cases, and are usually reactive to some stresses-divorce, loss of the loved one…. They usually begin in 30-40 year olds, whereas bipolar disorder typically begins in 20s. The recurrent depressive episodes and those that start earlier in life are probably of more genetic causes.
The susceptibility for PTSD is also inherited; some soldiers don’t develop it because their genes protect them.
Children of those with bipolar are more likely to develop bipolar or depression themselves. All of those illnesses are heterogenous and thus it is hard to pinpoint the exact genes.
There’s a lot of good stuff on PubMed, I enjoy exploring it 🙂
You didn’t hurt my feelings, I was just expecting a different response from someone I knew.
Depression is a natural response to stuff that sucks like someone “de-friending” you on Facebook. People can usually get over a depression by watching an hour of “The Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival”. A “clinical depression” is a depression that lasts longer, and goes deeper, something like a death in the family or intense and prolonged ridicule during high school. Clinical depression is something which could take years of therapy to put behind you.
Are people genetically predisposed to being unable to come back as quickly from a depression as other people? Probably, I’ve known people from Finland and they all come from a pretty shallow gene pool and seem to be pretty messed up.
I do think there’s a tendency to seek out professional help when all we’re feeling is an extra long depression, but I also don’t see a problem with someone being prescribed Welbutrin after they’ve been depressed and unable to work for two months.
Children of parents who have bipolar are more likely to suffer from prolonged depressions because of the inherently unstable nature of the relationship with their parents. Bipolar adults, for example, are way more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol as well. I don’t think kids living with prolonged depressions in that household would be a genetic response, I think that’s just learned / taught behaviour.
I think we mostly agree on this stuff, the problem continues to be in the definitions… depression, clinical depression, PTSD and manic depression all mean entirely different things, but regularly get mistaken for each other.
Thanks for coming back.