More Family ≠ Better Family (Part 2)

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Before we go into more detail, it’s important to clarify, as much as possible, the roles and relationships in my family. The core of this has to be my siblings. I’ve mentioned the Great Reproduction Wars in a previous post. Today you get to dive into the core portion of why I have more siblings than many people have cousins. Depending on your definition of “sibling”, I have between 2 and 18 siblings. You see, in my family, there are “degrees of relation” for our siblings.

My mother and father had three children together. This is the core section of our siblings, because we are the connecting factor in the two sides of the Great Reproduction Wars; Mother and Father. After my father was imprisoned for his felony offenses (see Part 1), my mother moved on from him, and started her next relationship, which quickly resulted in another pregnancy. This man had other children when they commenced their relationship. I believe there were three of them, but I don’t believe I’ve ever met any of them.

Around this time, my father was released from prison, and started dating his second wife. They became pregnant not too long afterwards, and then got married. This second wife had one child from previous relationships.

This was the second blow in the GPW. At this point, I now had two half-brothers, a couple of step-siblings on my mom’s boyfriend’s side of things, and a step-sister on my father’s wife’s side of things. As you can see, this escalated quickly, right from the start. I was already questioning the order of things at this age (5). How do you label your half-brother’s half-sister, whom you’ve never met? And the same situation on my father’s side of the family, but with a sister figure whom I actually had a relationship with. Do the same labels apply to both of them equally?

As of the first step-mother, and first step-father, there were 9 of us, with several degrees of 1) genetic relation, 2) interpersonal relationships, 3) time spent together. But wait, there’s more!

After my mother’s second baby-daddy became a felon, she shacked up with another man. Again, the cycle repeated, and I had another little brother on the way. This new half-sibling came with another 2 step-siblings. My mother decided (Thanks be to God), to have her tubes tied. But this round wasn’t over. Almost as if my father and his wife felt an imbalance in the Force, they conceived another child together.

As of this round of Procreation, we were up to 13 siblings. Toss in some drug addiction, untreated mental illness, and another round of criminal behavior, and my father separated from his wife. We had moved to another state, while my father stayed behind. This move was prompted by my mother meeting “THE Step-dad”. He had 2 other children already, who were added to the mix when my mother married him. Then my father met his third wife, and surprises of surprises, she got pregnant. At this point, she already had an adult daughter, and they had another child when I was 20.

Twenty years of the Reproduction Wars, and we had a final count of 18 children tied up in this net. It was practically one child a year for my entire childhood. To this day, I don’t know how to label many of them. Hell, I still don’t know all of their names, or even if that is the full extent of them.

The longest label in our family starts with my father’s last wife’s oldest child and ends with my mother’s youngest child. The label runs as such: Boy A is Girl B’s half-brother’s half-brother’s half-brother. Many of my siblings have zero direct blood ties with each other. Instead, most of them have indirect relationships via other siblings.

Why did this war happen? Well, there were many contributing factors.

The first factor is poor education. None of these adults had proper planned-parenthood education. They didn’t practice any kind of effective contraception. The biggest problem here is that they weren’t taught to care about the number of kids they had. It just wasn’t an issue to them.

The second factor is leverage. The adults involved in conception subscribed (consciously or subconsciously) to the idea that having a child with someone makes the relationship more “real” or “permanent”. This was a direct incentive to have children with each significant other.

The third factor is welfare. The way many welfare systems are set up, parents can get help with their costs (in the form of WIC, TANF, and Food Stamps programs) when they have small children. Unfortunately, a good bit of this dries up as the children get older. This provided another direct incentive to have more children over time. The welfare system is a carrot on a string which drives many families.

The fourth factor is one I mentioned in Part 1. Both of my parents thought that creating more children meant creating more people who would love them no matter what.

In the end, I have “siblings” I haven’t talked to, ever. I have “siblings” whom I grew up with, but have no relationship with, because of our history. It’s painful to discuss my siblings with people, because I don’t want to say I only have 2/4/9 siblings by oversimplifying, but I also don’t want to mis-represent the situation by claiming 17 siblings.

Adding a bunch of people to the mix in this way did not improve our family. I wouldn’t say it made our family worse, though. Each of the children born or brought into our family is precious to me in their own way. I adore all of them for who they are, who they can be, and who they represent to me and my past.

I am sure this post is as clear as mud. My family tree is so complicated (based only on my siblings and their parents) that ancestry websites can’t keep it all straight. I can’t possibly expect you to keep it all straight, which is why this post exists. Below, you will find a reference of my siblings’ names, their relationship and degree of connection to myself, and their parent’s role(s). Of course, none of the names will be correct or legal. This is for the protection of all involved parties.

List of Parents:

Mother
Father
Baggins: Mother’s second S.O.
Gamgee: Mother’s third S.O.
Dirk: Mother’s fourth S.O.
Blushing: Father’s second S.O.
Birdy: Father’s third S.O.

List of Children:

Rory (me)
Oak: My twin brother, born to Mother and Father
Spoon: born to Mother and Father
Walken: born to Mother and Baggins
Sam: born to Mother and Gamgee
Gem: born to Blushing and past partner
Big: born to Father and Blushing
Little: born to Father and Blushing
Complete: Born to Father and Birdy
Jax: Born to Father and Birdy

All unnamed children who did not make it onto this list did not have a parent in common with myself AND I do not have a relationship of any kind with them.

Disclaimer: The number of kids seems to be different each time I count it up. It doesn’t help that several of the father-types in this list have kids I don’t know, and there are a couple of illegitimate kids I can’t confirm. All numbers are as close as I could get at 2am.

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More Family ≠ Better Family (Part 1)

Reaching Out for Love by kjherstin on deviantART (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Reaching Out for Love by kjherstin on deviantART (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

My family tree is a mess. I couldn’t explain it well enough to be understood unless I had a dedicated website JUST for that. Ancestry websites get confused and give up. It’s quite fun to try to get them to represent my whole family. [sarcasm]

A lesson I learned early on is that adding more people to your “family” just waters down the term. I have more siblings than I can count on both hands. (And another person would have their hands full with the rest). I have aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, several step-moms/step-dads, and all that jazz. I tried counting them once. And then, half-way through, I got an update on Facebook saying that another of my cousins was pregnant. I gave up.

The thing I never understood back then is that my mother was (to be quite blunt) batshit crazy, and universally abusive. You could say she was an equal-opportunity villain. She used my family up. She took their money, their love, their time, and more. And you know what she did with every drop of it? She threw it out. My aunts and uncles withdrew. They would throw out a helping hand here and there, but they couldn’t risk sending us money, because they knew that she would take it. Probably to buy drugs.

Each time one of my parents got married, I was excited. The new spouse brought a line of family members my family hadn’t used up yet. This made them warm and welcoming. They were often kind and generous, because they weren’t out of money yet. I cherished these people. Then my mother would use them up. They would withdraw, and we would be confused. It was neverending.

My mother spent her life chasing from one man to another. My father spent his time in a cycle of: get her pregnant, go to jail, get her pregnant again, go to jail, she leaves him, he starts over by getting the next chick pregnant. Throw in a marriage here and there, and you basically get the 20+ years of breeding that my parents participated in. Each baby brought family members close for a short term, before my mother ran them dry and they retreated again.

I think it came down to a simple fallacy my mother clung to: If you want your family to love you, make more family. She thought that having children meant having more people who loved her. My father subscribed to much the same thought, I think. They kept searching for people to love them, never realizing that they were the ones breaking the cycle of love. They blamed others for being spiteful, mean, jealous, even evil. They never internalized that they were the common denominator.

I don’t blame my extended family for their distance. Hell, I applaud them for their love for me as an adult. Many of them have reached out. When I was hospitalized last year, they were among my most vocal supporters. They truly love me. I trust even the most distant of them more than I trust my mother. I never needed more family. I needed more of my family. Getting to know the people who already loved me meant that I have more love than I ever thought I’d have. And I didn’t need to get pregnant every second year to have a huge, loving, family.

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Growing Up With Felons (or How to NOT Become a Felon)

Image by Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA (CC BY 2.0)

Image by Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA (CC BY 2.0)

There’s nothing like looking up the people from your past on offender databases, and finding that many of them are felons. I went through some databases,  and found uncles, my father, my step-fathers (all but one of them), and many other “role models” from my past listed. Yay for public records. Good news, though: I’m not one of them!

With such an overwhelming number of negative role models, most people assumed that my life was on the fast track for self-destruction. Many of them were not far off; I have a couple of brothers who are felons. The thing is, I had a few important things in my life that kept me out of trouble. Things that everyone needs in order to be a working part of society.

I had an inherent passion for rules. I love for things to be correctly done, and take pride in doing things according to the rules. This made me an annoying contemporary at school, but it gave me a strong sense of disconnect from the lawless community I lived in. It made crime something “other”, something outside of myself.

I had bad role models. I saw people using drugs. I saw people steal, fight, drink, and much more. I saw my mother grope men, and make herself as trashy as I’ve ever seen any woman be. I saw the lives of my neighbors, family, and friends turn upside down over petty crimes. I saw parents loose their children because they didn’t act like decent people. These bad role models gave me a great sense of disgust for crime. Not just as a rule/rule-breaking issue, but as a this-shit-doesn’t-work problem.

I had a deadbeat father. My father spent most of my formative years in prison. When he got out, he re-married, and had more kids. This began the Great Reproduction War, which I’ll talk about another time. He was a drunk, a lifetime criminal. He was racist in the most ethnic neighborhood I’ve ever seen. He gave me a starting point: I’d do anything to not be him.

I grew up in the “Hood”. I can’t help but grin self-consciously when I say that. Alas, it is true. The first 12 years of my life were spent in a run down part of a big city. My family constituted the only white people I knew for most of my childhood. I saw from a young age what life-long poverty was. I also saw what it meant to pass that poverty on to your children. I learned that crime wouldn’t fix a family.

On that note: I had ONE good step-parent. He was my mother’s youngest child’s father. I can’t say it any more clearly than that, unfortunately – it’s too complicated. Anyway, for the better part of 5 or 6 years, I knew a man who worked for a living. He didn’t know how to drive, so he woke up at 4:30 am to ride the City Transit to work on the other side of the county. He played hard, but he didn’t break laws. At least, not the big ones. I saw in him a starting point. He was the minimum of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I had my grandparents. Hard workers, Depression survivors, and alcoholics. They weren’t perfect, but they tried. They also loved. They joyously shared of themselves at all time. The effect they each had on me is immeasurable. Two biological grandmothers and no biological grandfathers, but a step-grandad who was my father-figure, replaced both grandpas, was a spiritual rock, and was the kindest person I have ever met. They are the core of who I want to be when I grow up. In retrospect, they were all bat-shit crazy. Just like they should be.

Most importantly, I had my personality, and a twin brother. With Oak by my side, and our crazy little brains, we knew that we could be good people one day. My personality never would have been enough to get me through without him. He was the one thing we all need: someone to hold us accountable. I told him everything, and when I got off track, he reminded me where I wanted to be. Through beatings, scoldings, family-wide disease, broken bones, concussions, and bad grades, Oak was a light for me. Still is, actually.

Life isn’t a simple equation of Parent A + Parent B = Child. It truly does take a village to raise a child, even if the village is mostly showing that child how to be a criminal, so he will decide to not be one.

Posted in Daily Update, PTSD | Leave a comment

Not My Story to Tell

Smiles for you, smiles for me.

Smiles for you, smiles for me.

Sorry for the long hiatus. My family always comes first, and for the last 7 months, that has meant not posting. I can’t share details, because it isn’t my story to tell. Suffice to say that it has been a hard year, and that my posts are back. Please rejoin me as I return to publishing my adventures and shenanigans.

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A Look at Complex PTSD

Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as C-PTSD) is a little confusing. The term isn’t accepted by the American Psychiatric Association as a mental disorder, but is used to describe PTSD that is the result of extended exposure to trauma. Here’s the deal: The term PTSD describes the symptoms that a person experiences after they’ve suffered a short-lived trauma, like a violent act or a car accident. In the case of on-going or extended trauma, like being held captive or being subjected to years of abuse, a diagnosis of PTSD doesn’t really capture the psychological damage that comes from prolonged trauma, which is where the label C-PTSD comes in. So, even though it is a diagnosis given by professionals when the circumstance warrants, it’s not formally recognized and isn’t officially classified with other disorders.
Who Gets C-PTSD?
We touched briefly on the kinds of situations and events that can cause C-PTSD, but here is a more detailed list to give you a better understanding of who can suffer from this form of the disorder and why.

People who have experienced repeated trauma or long-term exposure to stressors including:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Being under the control of another person
  • Captivity, either physically or emotionally captive
  • Prostitution
  • War

C-PTSD can even occur in people who grew up in an environment where they were exposed to the emotional or physical abuse of another person.
Symptoms

The symptoms of C-PTSD have some similarities to those experienced with PTSD, but PTSD symptoms tend to be based predominantly on fear, while those with C-PTSD on top of fear also experience much more, including:

  • Feelings of shame
  • Feelings of betrayal
  • Feeling trapped even after they’ve escaped the traumatic environment or stressor
  • Feeling demoralized

The way that C-PTSD is expressed can also be quite different from PTSD. People who have experienced complex stress experience the following symptoms:

  • Altered consciousness in which they forget the trauma or feel detached from their own mind and body, also known as disassociation
  • Issues with self-perception, like feeling as though they are different from everyone else or are completely helpless
  • Problems connecting to others and isolating themselves
  • A loss of faith and ongoing sense of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and depression symptoms
  • Anger management issues and angry outbursts
  • A preoccupation with revenge on the person(s) who inflicted the abuse

These overwhelming feelings usually lead to destructive behavior and activities, like:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Eating disorders that often include overeating and binge eating, often in an attempt to make themselves less desirable if they experienced sexual abuse
  • Promiscuity and excessive and unusual sexual behaviors
  • Self-injury, like cutting

These symptoms and feelings just barely begin to scratch the surface of what someone suffering from complex PTSD deals with during the abuse and long after it has stopped. This disorder can impact every aspect of the person’s life from personal relationships because of their lack of trust and need to isolate themselves to feelings to their entire outlook on life by robbing them of their trust in humanity and filling them with a sense of despair and hopelessness about the future.
If you would like to learn more about PTSD, visit Healthline.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals for Healthline or other health sites, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
References
Whealin, Julia M, Ph.D . A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet. New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Retrieved on February 16, 2014, from http://www.svfreenyc.org/survivors_factsheet_97.html
Cloitre, Marylene, PhD. A Developmental Approach to Understanding Complex PTSD. International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies  (ISTSSS). Retrieved on February 16, 2014, from http://www.istss.org/source/stresspoints/index.cfm?fuseaction=Newsletter.showThisIssue&Issue_ID=73&Article_ID=1233
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (2013). Royal College of Psychiatrists. Retrieved on February, 16, 2014, from http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/posttraumaticstressdisorder.aspx
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What Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Looks Like In Children

When kids act out and misbehave, we’re quick to assume that they’re spoiled, lack discipline, or are just having one of those days. For the most part, it really is usually one of those things—not that parent’s want to admit that their child is anything less than perfect. Unfortunately though, some poor behavior could actually be an expression of something much more serious, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It’s hard for a lot of people to even imagine that a child could suffer from PTSD. Most of us think of it as an adult disorder, often because we only ever really hear about PTSD when they’re talking about soldiers returning home from duty. Your child couldn’t possibly be that traumatized by something in their life, could they?

According to the U.S. Department of National Affairs National Center for PTSD, a child can develop PTSD from having lived through or witnessed an event that could have caused them or someone close to them serious harm or death, like sexual or physical abuse, violence, or things like car crashes, floods, or fires. Children may also suffer from PTSD from hearing about something life-threating that happened to a caregiver. It doesn’t need to be something as dramatic as a serious accident or act of violence either; it could stem from knowing that a parent has had cancer or some other serious illness.
PTSD’s Expression in Children
PTSD can look different in children of different ages and entirely different from what you would see in an adult with PTSD depending on how young the child is. Different age groups exhibit different behaviors from PTSD. Here’s a look at how different age groups express symptoms of PTSD.
Toddlers and Children Under 12

  • Bedwetting, even after having been potty-trained
  • Nightmares
  • Acting especially clingy with a parent or caregiver
  • Forgetting how or being unable to speak
  • Being easily startled and jumpy
  • Acting out the traumatic event while playing
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Avoidance of places or things that remind them of the event
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep issues
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Acting younger than they are/baby-like

It’s also been shown that older children may fit aspects of the trauma into their daily lives, like carrying a gun to school after witnessing a shooting. Some children continuously repeat the trauma throughout the day.

Teens (over 12)

Teens can show many of the same symptoms listed in the younger children as well as those of adults with PTSD. The biggest difference is that teens tend to be more likely to develop disruptive behaviors and “act out.” Teens tend to express any of the following:

  • Impulsive behavior that can be destructive
  • Disrespectful behavior
  • Disruptive behavior, such as acting out at home or in public
  • Constant thoughts of revenge when the trauma was related to abuse; either their own or witnessed
  • Feelings of guilt for not having been able to prevent the event or trauma
  • Fears of dying at a young age and not living to do certain things, like graduate, get married, or have kids
  • Angry outbursts with seemingly little provocation
  • Issues with concentration
  • Limited range of emotions and a feeling of numbness
  • Avoidance of getting close or attached to others
  • Withdrawing from things and people they used to enjoy and care about
  • Turning to drugs or alcohol or other even promiscuous behavior to try to numb their feelings

As you can see, there are all kinds of expressions of PTSD to look out for in a child that has been through something traumatic. Often the signs of PTSD can also be mistaken for other disorders like ADHD or anxiety disorder. In some cases the event is obvious and known to parents and friends, but in others the trauma may not seem like it was that big a deal to others around the child that’s suffering. In cases like this, understanding how PTSD looks in children can be the only way that you can be alerted to what’s going on.
You can learn more about psychological disorders in children by visiting Healthline.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
References
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Landfall Beta and TeamSpeak

Started messing around with the Landfall Beta, because Oak (my twin brother) got a Beta key to share. It’s pretty great. It’s like MMO Minecraft. I’m in #Love. TeamSpeak is another new friend, and both programs are super user friendly so far.

Stand-outs for Landfall? Easy download, etc; players share resources they gather; there’s an easy way to mask your screenname; Terraforming.

Standouts for TeamSpeak? Quick download, and no account needed.

That’s my new fun. Yay for free games.

Posted in Mental Illness | 1 Comment