SC Speaks Up

Help From An Unexpected Side

22-May-2015

Miki had told me that SC wanted to speak to me that morning at her session. Given the week that we’d just been through, I was expecting her to sit us both down and try and help us both work through our emotions, accusations, and behavior.

As usual, I was waiting downstairs, outside the flat a few minutes before 10:00. I texted Miki, telling her where I was parked and that I was ready whenever she was. Thirty minutes later, I was still waiting. Miki always makes me wait – her definition of five minutes definitely isn’t the same as mine – but this was the longest she’d ever made me wait. Finally, I saw her saunter around the corner. I leant over and opened the door for her. She looked fantastic.

“You look fantastic,” I said as she settled into the passenger seat, pulling the seat buckle across her and fastening it with a small snick. “That’s a new top, I’ve never seen that top before.” I smiled enquiringly at her.

“Yeah, Mikhaila bought it the other day,” Emma replied.

“Hi Emma. You joining us for the session, or just the ride?”

“Just the ride she replied.”

I always enjoyed Emma’s company, but today her conversation was a bit frosty, a bit accusatory. I figured it was the result of the long, painful week we’d both had. The girls had had a few days to talk amongst themselves without any interference from me, and they could’ve decided on anything.

The drive out to Blaauwberg was as beautiful as ever. It was unseasonably warm that morning, and there was no wind to speak of. The sun shone low from the northeast as we drove up the R27 – a perfect, autumn day. I was quite nervous about the upcoming session, but I smiled and chatted with Emma as the sea drifted past smoothly on our left. Just before Blaauwberg, they were working on the other side of the road; big, purpose-built tarmac trucks and machines inching their way along one of the lanes, cordoned off by bright orange bollards. The traffic had backed up for about four kilometers on that side of the road.

“Oh no, it’s going to be a nightmare trying to get back into town after the session.” I said to Emma, pointing out the traffic. “I have to be at YvdH’s at 13:15 – not a lot of time to get stuck in a traffic jam.”

“Huh, what did you say?” Miki asked confusedly.

“I was just pointing out the traffic to Emma, but you’re here now. How are you today? I see you have a new top – Mikhaila bought it.”

Miki looked down at what she was wearing and groaned. “Oh, these girls, I’d never buy this, it’s too expensive.”

“Price is no issue for Emma, Mikhaila, it appears,” I replied, “you know that!”

Since SC wanted to speak with me, I was expecting to go in with Miki, but she came up to me personally, “Brett, I’d like to speak to you alone for a few minutes before I speak to Miki. Are you OK with that,” she asked.

“Sure, no problem.” Must be serious, I thought to myself and followed her down the doglegged passage to her rooms, seated myself on her couch, leaning forward slightly expectantly. Here, I couldn’t choose between the chair and the couch, because there was only a couch. Her room was smaller, more intimate than Yoav’s, and there were fewer books around. Whereas YvdH’s room was more of a testament to his studies of the mind – shelves of books on a myriad of subjects – and personality in general, SC’s room was setup strictly for therapist and patient discussion. Directly in front of me was a glossy book, open, double-spread to a beautiful picture of nature. It was very calm, quiet and pleasant. I relaxed.

“Brett, I asked you in here, because I thought it’s important that you know I understand – as best I can – how difficult this is for you. It’s a momentous task you’ve undertaken, and I want you to know that I recognize that. I think it’s important that you know that I am aware of how difficult this is for you.”

Well, I hadn’t been expecting that. I believed her. It was a relief to hear someone acknowledge the difficulties that I faced daily in dealing with Miki and her Alters.

“I know that everything is black and white for Miki, and that she often thinks you’re being a complete bastard to her. But I want you to know that I don’t think you’re being a bastard to her. I understand that it’s very hard for you all the time, and what Miki may feel as terrible behavior on your part, is just a natural reaction to the situation you’re in.”

That was a big relief to hear SC say. Miki speaks to her so often, and there’s always so much negative, or uncontrolled emotion threading it’s way through our daily behavior that I always feel Simona must think that I’m a terrible partner, and that I contribute to her disorder and distress. Sometimes I think the exact thing myself; I said as much to her.

“Brett, you’re in a very difficult position. What you’re doing is super hero stuff. I know it’s going to feel hard, and I know that you’re not always going to cope as appropriately as you, or Miki, or I would like. That’s ok too.”

We talked for longer than a few minutes, longer than SC was expecting I think. She gave me a crash-course in psychotherapy, and I jumped ahead with each thought-train as soon as I had grasped the essentials. We talked quickly and we covered a lot of ground in just thirty minutes.

I explained how terrified I was all the time; terrified that something was going to happen to Miki, that she was going to die at any moment. I was also angry all the time, and often this terror and anger would manifest itself at completely inappropriate times and places, often towards complete strangers. I’ve walked up to strangers, engaged them in an argument, hoping they’d get aggressive and I’d have an excuse to beat them.

SC said something I really hadn’t expected. She said that it was quite possible that the fear and rage I was feeling wasn’t my own, it was Miki’s and I was acting as a container for her fear and anger. I had never thought about it that way, but it made sense. Emotions are energy, and people are always interacting on that subtle level, exchanging emotions, and energy. It was entirely probable that I was trying to own and contain all of Miki’s pent up rage and fear, trying to protect her from it.

I explained that I was frustrated with our relationship. I didn’t know anymore how two adults were supposed to interact. We hadn’t interacted like partners for a long time. I had Miki and a whole host of Alters to manage – that’s not a partnership. I told her I wanted Miki to be my partner again, to stand next to me. I wanted to be able to rely on her, and love her as an equal, not continually look after her, and fear for her life constantly.

SC looked a bit sad when I said that, and all she could say was that it would take time.

We discussed and agreed that boundaries were acceptable. I give Miki a lot of freedom, a lot of space. We don’t have a conventional family life. At times, it’s complete chaos in the house: furniture gets rearranged on a daily basis; I find Miki’s outfits and boots stuffed into kitchen cupboards – no idea – or pilling up behind the door in the bathroom; I can never dress the kids because their clothes are always in a different place. At one point, I tried to instill the maxim ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ but that failed miserably. Each Alter has it’s own idea of a place for something and that’s where they put it. I don’t rigidly enforce any rules in the house – how can I? You have to pick your battles and that one would just be pointless. Control has been synonymous with abuse for the whole of Miki’s life. As it is, most of Miki’s Alters are teenagers, or young adults just finding their freedom, their voices. To push back on that, and stifle that, would be to stifle Miki and prevent her from moving on with her life. She has to have the space, both internally, and externally, to act out her emotions, and to learn to manage them. But, I had to put boundaries in place to ensure her safety. I was adamant about that with SC, and she agreed wholeheartedly. Miki was a thirty year-old woman, with three children: she needs to behave as such, and if I have to put boundaries in place to ensure she does, I must.

Finally, SC insisted that I must start my martial arts again. I’ve been practicing for 24 years; it’s a fundamental part of my make up. I need to make the time for personal maintenance – I can’t help anyone if I fall apart completely. And I’m close to it.

I sent SC the following text that night:

Hi SC

Thank you for taking the time with me today. It was totally unexpected but really appreciated and insightful. I honestly was hopelessly lost and feeling completely alone, but not so much anymore. ☺

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SC Speaks Up

Admissions

Honesty, and Hopelessness

21-May-2015

I really hate my life at the moment. I finally admitted it to myself a few days ago. This is a very strange feeling for me, one I’m not at all familiar with. In the past whenever somebody asked me how I was, I would always reply with a big smile and an honest, meaningful, “fantastic.” That was exactly how I felt most of the time. Sure, there were bad times, and good times – some of them written here, other’s forgotten, or just deemed too run-of-the-mill to write about – but I always had this core sense of happiness that drove me onwards.

Even when Miki and I were going through our ‘Bad Times’, when we had no idea what was happening to us, I could count on my sense of self, my sense of being in the right place for me at the right time.

But not anymore! I’ve felt this way for a while now, but never admitted it to myself. I finally admitted it to myself. I even said it out loud a few times, just to confirm whether or not it was what I was feeling. It was.

Just getting out of bed in the morning requires every ounce of will power I can summon. I don’t want to get out of bed. I want to stay in bed for the whole day, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks; maybe I’ll just stay in bed forever.

Everything is overwhelming. Everything I think about makes me anxious. Whether it’s Miki dying – I have this constant fear in the pit of my stomach that Miki is going to die – or the kids getting sick, or paying the bills, or going to the grocery store, it all terrifies me. All I want to do is hide away at home, and hold my kids, just hold them tight.

I tried to book a consultation with Dr. L last week for my anxiety and insomnia. I trust her, she’s really great to talk to, and since she knows our history, I figured she’d be in a perfect position to help me, personally. But she refused: Miki is her primary patient and she doesn’t see direct family members of patients. She did however have two names that she referred me to. But, I didn’t contact them. Firstly, I’ve bared my soul to too many medical professionals over the last three or four years. I won’t do it with someone else, again. Secondly, her refusal called into question my perspective. I’ve learnt over the years, particularly over the years of Miki’s therapy that there are some signs that you just shouldn’t ignore. Dr. L’s refusal to treat me rated as one of those signs. I was clearly looking at this from the wrong angle. I needed to review what I was really thinking, and what I was going to do about it. That led me to the realization that I hate my life. You can’t medicate that.

I told Miki via text how I felt one evening, while I was away in Johannesburg. I’m not sure what I was expecting from her, but I didn’t get any sympathy. I suppose I was hoping for some kind, motivational words from her, something along the lines of us working together, fixing it, getting through it together, as a family. I was hoping that she might return the strength that I’d shown her over the last few years in staying with her, through everything. Instead, she did what she usually does when I open up to her emotionally: she made it about herself. She turned it around completely, blamed herself, said everything was her fault, and that she felt terrible that she was causing me all this pain. She said she just couldn’t cope with me feeling this way and knowing it was all her fault. She was thinking about a separation; apparently, that was her solution to the problem. That’s another one of her knee-jerk reactions: run away when things get tough.

Sitting there at the airport that Thursday afternoon, waiting for my flight back to Cape Town, I had no idea what was waiting for me at home. Miki had arranged for both of us to see Simona together the next morning – that was proactive. But all her texts had been about separation, and decisions, etc. and she’d stopped answering my texts that morning.

Admissions

Zee Pranks 7’teen

Mobile Games

16-May-2015

Zee likes to watch a few TV series: his favorites are Adventure Time, The Regular Show, and Big Bang Theory. We have them on disk so he can call them up whenever he wants. He watches them in order: from Season 1, Episode 1, through to the end, then he repeats the exercise. They’re all quite off-the-wall, especially the two cartoon series. Even Big Bang Theory has some interesting, offbeat humor in it, which at first I didn’t think he would understand, but as it turned out, he did. As a result, he’d developed this interest in ‘pranking’ us whenever he can. His pranks are usually incredibly funny to him; we can never really figure out the point of them, but he finds them hysterical.

That morning, I left my mobile phone at home, under my pillow, while I went out shopping. Zee found it while he was neatening up the bed, and decided it was a perfect opportunity to prank Miki. He called her phone from my phone.

Buzz, buzz, Miki’s mobile rang in her pocket. She pulled it out, recognized my number and hit the Accept icon. “Hello.”

No reply. That’s weird, she thought to herself. “Hello,” she repeated.

“Hello,” Zee responded, his small voice coming through her mobile speaker.

“What the hell are you doing with my Brett’s phone?” 7’teen immediately presented, enraged, mistaking Zee’s small boy voice for a women’s voice, pushing Miki aside.

“Hello,” Zee repeated, walking towards Miki with my phone held to his ear. He was laughing by now – his prank was working perfectly well. He’d confused her completely: apparently that being the sole purpose of his exercise.

“Fuck you!” 7’teen shouted down the phone. She was furious, convinced she’d found evidence of me cheating on her.

Miki reasserted her presence, forcing 7’teen back aside. “Zee!” Miki shouted across the room, finally noticing that Zee was on the phone, my phone, laughing hysterically to himself. She meant to ask him what he was doing on the phone, but she suddenly realized that it was he calling her. As she did so, she also realized what it must have sounded like, those two sentences strung one after the other: “Fuck you, Zee.”

“Sorry Zee, I didn’t mean that. 7’teen came out quickly.” She tried explaining, half over the phone, half directly to Zee’s face.

Zee wasn’t upset at all. He wasn’t even really listening to her. He was in hysterics, laughing wildly. “I pranked you. I pranked you,” he kept repeating as he thumbed the Disconnect icon.

7’teen is intensely paranoid; likely to jump to the wrong conclusions at any time, and always expects the worst. When anything even remotely disturbing happens she’s the first one to jump up and down, screaming ‘the end is nigh.’ The Alters call her The Siren; they love her but they had a great time teasing her about Zee’s prank.

Zee Pranks 7’teen

One Track Mind

I Want To Go Out

15-May-2015

The whole family had been sick that week. Zee had started it the previous weekend, and by the time Tuesday came around, we were all down with it. I was in Johannesburg for work, feeling awful, curled up on a hotel bed. Miki was in Cape Town, also feeling terrible and having to look after all the kids. Ryder and Kai both had temperatures, and didn’t look good at all.

Miki took Ryder and Kai to the doctor downstairs. Miki was quite unhappy with the brief, cursory examination and prescription the doctor had given both kids. The doctor’s visit, followed by the trip to the pharmacy for the medication had exhausted her.

I was worried about Miki. When winter rolls in, her chest usually gets really bad. If she gets a full-blown chest infection, it usually triggers an acute asthma attack, and then we’re in serious trouble. Being so far away from the family was nerve-wracking and I was quite anxious.

On Thursday, as I waited for my flight back to Cape Town, Miki called Brandon for some Prednisone. Her chest was getting worse and the doctor downstairs was being difficult, refusing to prescribe the medication over the phone directly to the pharmacist; something she’d done previously, and given Miki’s history, something she should’ve been more than willing to do.

When I eventually arrived home, Miki was in a bad state: audible wheezes; use of ancillary muscles; and talking in words. She was having an acute asthma attack. Fortunately, after about half an hour, her symptoms resolved, and we didn’t have to go to the ER for further treatment. But, it was serious.

We cancelled her session with Simona for the following Friday morning, and scheduled a visit to our normal GP for 10:00. It’s quite a long drive, but she has a full history on Miki, and knows just how badly things can go if her chest is left untreated, or mistreated. Her examination indicated that Miki did have a chest infection – her lungs sounded very wet – and two sets of antibiotics were prescribed, in conjunction with ten full days worth of Prednisone. It was serious, and it needed to be taken seriously and treated quickly and aggressively.

I spent the rest of the day picking up the medication and buying groceries for the family. I was exhausted by the time 17:00 came around and it was time to settle to Kai for the evening. I crawled into bed with Kai after his bath and made him comfortable, breathing a sigh of relief for myself. Day survived: wife and kids were medicated, and were being monitored.

“Can I go out tonight?” 7’teen asked, loading up her arms with various outfits from the cupboard.

“What? Where did you come from?” I asked while Kai nuzzled his way through his evening milk bottle.

“I’ve been stuck inside all week with the kids, I want to go out tonight.”

“Are you nuts? You’ve been sick all week. You have a chest infection. You definitely can’t go out tonight.” I replied, astounded she’d even thought about it.

“I feel fine now. I’m tired of being inside with the kids. I want to go out, tonight.”

“Absolutely not.” I replied firmly, matter closed in my mind.

“Fuck you.” She shouted at me as she slammed the bedroom door closed.

Five minutes later, she pushed open the bedroom door, strutted in and tried again. “So, can I go out tonight, or what? I’ll dress warmly.”

I tried to reason with her. “7’teen, you’re sick, the kids are sick. I need you to stay inside so that you don’t get any worse. And, what happens if Kai gets worse during the evening, and I need to take him to the ER? If you’re here, I just drive him up the road without having to worry about Zee and Ryder.”

“Yeah, well, I would’ve done it by myself if I needed to during the week. So, you can do it by yourself if you need to tonight. I want to go out. Besides, we’re only going to the movies; it’s inside, there’s no smoking. I’ll be fine.”

7’teen often surprises me, but that evening her selfishness astonished me. She didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say – she only wanted out.

“Absolutely not.” I repeated as firmly and calmly as I could. “Anything could happen this evening and I need you here to help if it does. That’s final.”

“Fuck you.” The door slammed again. 7’teen was in fine form.

I briefly considered getting up and locking the front security gate, and keeping the keys in the room with me. But, I dismissed that idea – she wanted to be an adult, I’d treat her like one, and just hope she did the right thing.

One Track Mind