*I was writing a post about crying really hard when my son was ill and veered off on a tangent about another time I’d cried that hard, which was supposed to be a line or two, but the words wouldn’t stop coming. So I decided to make the side note it’s own post.
Side note: I believe now that that psychiatrist – the one who did my intake interview at the treatment facility I went to in 2006 – was way off base. He was a southern man and I think the idea of a female sex addicted mother was repulsive to him. I was suicidal but didn’t look or act like people do when they’re suicidal. I tried to explain something that happened when I was 9 or 10 with my father and the doctor said that it sounded like I was trying to avoid responsibility for my actions.
Here’s what I was trying to explain. My parents were divorced when I was 8 and it was an ugly divorce. We lived with my mother and visited my father after he got out of the “loony bin” (my mother’s words). My mom said that my sister and I came back different after we spent the weekend with our dad. We were bad, spoiled, rude, basically he turned us into brats. I tried so hard to be good when we got back home, but it never worked, I always did something wrong. At my house, my dad was called “The Creep,” as in “If The Creep really loved you, he’d pay his part of the dentist’s bill.” Whenever I was bad, and I can tell you that I really did try to be a good girl, my mom would say that I had too much of The Creep in me. I heard that a lot and like children do, I internalized the shit out of it. For most of my life, I was convinced that one day I’d go crazy because I had too much of The Creep in me. But back then, there was a day when my mother was ranting and raving about The Creep and my sister and I chimed in that we hated him too. We hated him too. It makes my stomach queasy to write this now, but back then I felt powerful and validated and (probably) loved by my mom.
So when she said that I was a hypocrite for saying this behind my dad’s back, that if I really felt that way I’d tell him to his face, I agreed with her. I remember my mom standing in the living room, smoking a cigarette, wearing cut off denim shorts and a t-shirt being really angry at how two-faced I was. Eventually my mom said that if I really felt that way, I should tell him so. She dialed the phone, told my dad that “The girls have something to say to you,” and handed the phone to me. I couldn’t say a word. My sister, who was 6 took the phone and said loud and clear that she hated my dad and never wanted to see him again. She handed the phone back to me and walked over to mom, who was very proud.
When I put the phone to my ear, my dad was crying. I still couldn’t talk. My mother turned away in disgust when the tears started down my face and my sister went with her. I remember my dad asking if I felt the same way my sister felt, and through my tears I said, Yes.”
My dad remembers it differently. He said that my sister went first and that although it took me awhile I said I hated him and never wanted to see him again too.
But back at the treatment center, I hadn’t spoken to my dad about that phone call ever. So I only had my memories to go on and the doctor believed that my telling of the story was an example of an addict refusing to take responsibility for her actions. He thought I was trying to blame my mother. When I reiterated that I was only 8 years old, he was nonplussed. Then he segued into questions about my family now. Did I have children. Had they ever seen me or my husband naked, did we sleep together or bathe together.
Because I answered yes to his questions this was evidence, according to the psychiatrist, that my husband and I had covertly abused our children because when they were little they would come into the bathroom when we were undressed. That was just not true. For covert abuse to occur, there must be an undercurrent of sexual energy that just didn’t exist in our home. I tried to explain that, but the psychiatrist would have none of it. He wrapped up the interview and I was given permission to leave the room. I walked with tears streaming down my face to the dining area and got a glass of water, but it wasn’t lunch time yet. The woman there was SO kind to me – she said that I would get better and that God loved me. She looked at me like I was a worthwhile human being, not a living breathing piece of garbage, which was how I felt the psychiatrist looked at me. She gave me Kleenex.
I sat down at a picnic table in the courtyard and just sat while my eyes ran. No sobs, just tears. It was weird. Then this guy comes rushing up, angry because I’m alone and I’m not supposed to be alone. That broke me. I looked at this man and said, “I had permission. I wasn’t sure where to go but I thought that sitting in the pavilion wouldn’t be a bad place to sit. I wasn’t hiding, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I had permission. I broke down then. It seemed to click for the therapist who’d been chastising me and he sat next to me while I cried. I tried to stop but couldn’t. I kept apologizing but he said that it was okay, he was just going to sit with me.
We got a new psychiatrist a few days later. The other one had moved to another job or something. Nobody thought there was anything wrong with my interview.
Later, after I was home and discussing this with my CSAT, he pointed out that I’d been traumatized by this interview, and that I’d done really, really well because I continued to live. You see there were train tracks very near this treatment facility, and my back up plan was to just hop the fence and sit on the tracks a few minutes before the train was due.
Looking back, I think almost all of the problems I had during that interview and at other times in treatment was because I had undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. I really wish I could go back and explain this to everyone who treated me so they could apologize for causing me unnecessary pain, but I doubt they’d remember me. I doubt they’d want to hear from me.
I feel sad about that because I am grateful for their help, despite their mistakes. And I wish that there was more checking in with clients after graduation. Therapists often don’t seem to want to know if their therapy was effective, or if there were things they could have done better or differently. I was a mess when I got to treatment and they gave me a safe place to heal away from the therapist who’d been abusing me. But they agreed with my self diagnosis, which I now know was completely wrong. At that time, I presented myself as a sex addict who had ruined a good man’s career because she had lured him into a sexual relationship. In fact, it wasn’t until my husband came to family week and pointed out that had he done what this priest did, he’d lose his medical license and go to jail. After my husband painted a more accurate picture, in fact that I was abused by my therapist, that my therapy went much better. It so happened that the head of the program was there at that time, and his reaction was that of COURSE my therapist abused me. The staff all looked at me differently after that, or at least it seemed that way to me.
All that aside, I did get better there. None of the counselors deliberately abused me – even the psychiatrist. Nobody used me sexually. My former psychoanalyst, the priest, used me for lots of different things, for money, for titillation, for power, and for sex. He made me much, much sicker. My combination of Asperger’s Syndrome and a history of childhood sexual abuse left me unusually vulnerable to his grooming and seduction.
Most of my adult life, I’ve felt like there’s something intrinsically wrong with me and that eventually I’d go crazy. I have too much of The Creep in me. I felt that I’d lost my mother’s respect because I was willing to bad mouth my dad behind his back but not tell him to his face that I hated him. I believed that I was not a person of integrity. But none of that is true. I have integrity. I am a decent person. I have been a good wife and a good mother. Not every minute of every day, but overall, when I am not in an abusive relationship, I thrive.