Interview Six: The Problem Child (With Update)
“Even when my childhood was good, I kept acting out. I would scream, kick, hit, spray air freshener in people’s faces… I would get really nasty. Pound on doors all night long, pull my hair, scratch my face… I would keep panicking until I couldn’t breathe… just sitting there wondering why I couldn’t stop panicking… when there was nothing wrong.”
[Content Warning: Abusive Relationship, Discussion of Illegal Drugs and Abortion, Parental Neglect, Suicidal Thoughts]
Reading Time – 13 minutes
*This interview contains an update with the storyteller at the end of this post.*
From Everything to Nothing
My father is still a mystery to this day. I asked my mom about him my whole life, but she never gave me a clear answer. She just always told me not to worry about it. My birth certificate… under father… says “No Information Recorded.” So there’s no name, no story… I asked my grandpa if he knew who my dad is. I just want to know… Is he dead? Was she raped? I really just want to know. He said that from what my mom told him, she was out with some random guy, had sex with him… didn’t know him, never saw him again… and just happened to get pregnant. She never dated when I was growing up. I was her whole life. Her room was all pictures of me and her. We were best friends.
When my mom met my stepdad, that all changed. They got married and had my first sister all in a year. We moved out to the North Hills. It was a completely new area for me… I grew up in the city. Before, I was the only child, the only niece, the only grandchild, and the only great-grandchild. I grew up getting everything I wanted, which was both a blessing and a curse. If I wanted something, I just had to ask, and it would be put right in front of me. But then it all changed… my mom wouldn’t do anything with me, because she had to worry about the newborn girl. My stepdad, at the time, was a new father… and I was irrelevant to him in a way. I had nothing to offer him… I was just a burden… that’s the word he used… “a burden.” I remember him saying that to me when I was seven. That whole situation was a trigger, and everything basically went downhill from there… my home life, everything…
I was diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, and depression in third grade. I had a lot of problems… I mean, I remember being a kid… just tantrums, screaming all the time. I would have psychotic fits… I would scream, pound on my parents’ door… I just craved attention. Any little crazy, psychotic thing I could do to get attention, I would go that route. I was so spoiled my whole life before that, and I was never taught a normal level. It was just all or nothing.
At first, I was so excited to have a sister, then once she was here, and I saw everything change… I’ll never forget, the first time my mom was feeding her when she brought her home from the hospital, I was like, “Mom! Can I have chicken noodle soup?” And she said, “After I feed the baby.” I threw a manic fit, I was like, “No! You’re going to make me this now!” I had to learn that the baby came first, that the baby came before everything. And I feel like my mom and stepdad didn’t deal with all that too well. They didn’t really give me enough attention… or they didn’t really try to ease me into the lack of attention.
Even when my childhood was good, I kept acting out. I would scream, kick, hit, spray air freshener in people’s faces… I would get really nasty. Pound on doors all night long, pull my hair, scratch my face… I would keep panicking until I couldn’t breathe… just sitting there wondering why I couldn’t stop panicking… when there was nothing wrong. It would just start happening. My mom finally decided to take me to therapy once the newborn was around… though it didn’t help at all at that point.
The “Problem Child”
I had a hard time in elementary and middle school. A lot of teachers and guidance counselors… I just don’t think they were properly trained to understand these kinds of circumstances. They would always see me as “the bad one.” I think I thought that if I acted out at school, maybe I would get attention again. I would fight people at school… I wasn’t afraid of anyone. I talked to my city friends on the phone all the time, so I thought I didn’t need any friends at my new school. I kept trying to purposefully get myself expelled. But… my mom refused homeschooling, and I couldn’t get myself expelled.
I had to take special education classes in school… not because I was “stupid,” but because of my mental issues. My mom didn’t fight to get me out of the classes, so I became part of the “emotional support kids.” I never got along with them, I didn’t like the classes, and I felt so stupid… I would get a 100% on all the tests, but they wouldn’t let me leave.
I had to go back to therapy at 11, because they almost put me into Western Psych. Instead, they took me to someplace in Bridgeville, got me on two different medications… one was Risperdal. That helped me tremendously! I guess they finally found the right treatment for me. That was when my life started to get a lot better. I wish I was still on those medications. I was on Risperdal until my freshman year of high school, but I gained like 60 pounds on it. I was 90 pounds in eighth grade, and then almost 160 pounds freshman year! When they took me off that I went back down to 120, which was a normal weight for my age and height. Then they prescribed Zoloft to me… it wasn’t nearly as effective, but it still helped and didn’t cause me to gain weight.
Freshman year was like a new start for me. A lot of people only knew me as “the girl who got in fights a lot,” but I feel like a lot of people gave me a second chance in high school. People were nice and accepting of me, and no one really picked on me anymore. I started getting more social, joining theater… I started getting invited to theater parties, my older friends drove me around… I finally felt like I was a part of a good group. Everyone was so nice to me, and I wasn’t used to that. Then I met David, and he was my first relationship… first kiss… first everything. I was always very open about my dad situation with him, and my mental issues and what not… He let me in with open arms, and he accepted me.
But… he also started to control and manipulate me. Within the first month, he told me to stop taking my psychiatric medications. He was telling me that they give me an artificial personality, and I shouldn’t be taking them at all… that I shouldn’t need the meds. His mom was also against my medication, and they drove me off of it. I was okay for a while, but when bad things would happen, the episodes would come back… I would cry after having a fight with him, and I remember him laughing at me… laughing in my face. He’d just sit back and enjoy the show. Once I’d be happy again, he’d come running back to me, only to drag me back down again over and over.
Everyone thought he could do no wrong. His math teacher called his house when she found out he was dating me and told his mom, “Oh, I heard bad things about this girl David’s dating in school. I don’t think she should be dating your son.” Everyone put him on a pedestal, like he was this glorious person. I wondered why I was the only one seeing this nasty side of him. I thought no one would believe me if I told anyone about how he treated me. And I thought… if someone like this treats me so badly, how can I ever expect to be treated this well by a nice guy…
I can’t exactly describe why he would treat me this way, especially when he knew I had issues. I would say he was sadistic. He enjoyed my pain… and he enjoyed seeing me down, maybe because he was down about himself. He took it all out on me, and I didn’t realize it at the time. Honestly, he was never physical with me… maybe one time in school, I think he punched me and threw me into a pillar… but besides that, he wasn’t physically abusive. I wouldn’t have let him do that kind of stuff… I would have told everyone and posted about it on social media.
A lot of people… my mom, my therapist… told me these were warning signs and that I needed to get away from him, but I wasn’t seeing it at all… I fell too hard, and I think he took advantage of the fact that I used him as the male figure in my life… like a role model. He was older than me, very smart. He would always tell me that I had “daddy issues.”
“We Need to Get Rid of It.”
David was also against me taking birth control pills. I told him how important my virginity was to me, though I later found out he secretly lost his to another girl at school while we were dating. I wouldn’t have lost my virginity to him if he would have told me that… He was the first guy I ever had sex with, and of course I wanted to use condoms… but he never wanted to use condoms.
Right when I turned 18… we weren’t “officially” dating at the time… I got pregnant by him. I was working at Giant Eagle and hadn’t started my career yet. And when he saw the pregnancy test, he didn’t give me a hug or try to console me. He just said, “We need to get rid of it.” He told me that if I got the abortion… we’d date again, he’d propose to me, we’d get a little cottage together, he’d spoil me the rest of my life. He told me that if I kept the kid, he’d leave me and never talk to me again. Of course, 18-year-old me… I wanted a life with him. We met up a day before the abortion. He didn’t even talk to me, just took me to the ATM and gave me the full money for it. He wouldn’t come to the clinic with me, so I went alone and got it…
A few weeks went by and he never asked me if I was okay or how it went. He actually didn’t contact me at all, so eventually I moved on and started dating someone else… As soon as he found out, he came running back like, “Why are you dating someone else? I would have married you! I would have spoiled you!” So of course I dumped the new guy…
Things were okay for a while, but then I got a great job at Citizen’s Bank… I think he couldn’t handle that I was doing well and making friends. He said I had no personality other than the one my medication gave me and tore me down… said I was a narcissist and that he wanted me completely out of his life. I just wanted to die… I mean, I planned my whole life around him… I got an abortion for him, lost friends over him… and he just said goodbye. I was crying my eyes out every night, wondering what I did wrong… I didn’t date anyone good for me for a long time, because I didn’t think I deserved it… To this day, he still mocks me on social media, saying that he’s happy to be dating a “normie” girl now.
Current Symptoms and Life Today
Recently, I finally realized that I wasn’t in the wrong, and I became really, really angry. Like, I spent ten years of my life torturing myself over David. It took a while to get all that anger out. Now, things are a lot better. I’m married, and though I still fight with my husband sometimes, he treats me well. He’s very calm, sweet, and patient with me… zen-like. He’s kind of like a medication for me, because he calms me down so much.
I’m very jittery, sporadic, hyper… I have to be all over the place. The symptoms have turned into more of a positive for me now, because I can get things done right away. Sometimes I go to the gym three times in a day. I’m not depressed about it; I love it! And sometimes I go on spending-sprees. Like, if I see a $200 pair of headphones, I have to go get them! I might have to open up a new credit card, but I’ll pay it off in two months. I can’t not do it, or it will drive me crazy. I’ve thought about going back on medications, but I’m terrified of the weight gain… like what happened to me with the Risperdal. I’ve used eating as a coping mechanism in the past, but I’m trying to replace that with going the gym, with being healthier in general.
Advice for Those Who Are Struggling
My advice is… Just fight through it, and stay away from substances. There have been times when I’ve had cocaine or heroin right in front of me, but I’ve always stayed away from it. I just stayed strong and always wanted to succeed. Try to prove everyone wrong. Nothing made me happier than finding my career and doing well, even though people said I’d never get anywhere in life. Keep your head up. You can sit there and cry… like, I’d cry my eyes out every night, but I would always want to succeed. You might put me down for a night, but you’re not going to put me down for the rest of my life.
April 2018 Update
It was overwhelming the first couple of times, reading the whole interview in one go… because I think of it in pieces. I pieced everything together… and it was like, “Oh my God, I went through all of that?! That’s real.” I always pinpointed my main issues as the ones in childhood. But looking back at the whole, entire thing, it kind of made me realize that maybe there’s other things, besides my childhood, that trigger me… newly developed things… that happened with my first boyfriend, things that happened with school or work. It made me realize that I can’t keep blaming every single thing on the way I was raised… that I need to stop using that as a crutch, basically.
I haven’t had any contact with David for the past six months. He actually contacted me about six months ago and told me he was gay. Looking back, as much as I want to be supportive and say, “Oh, that’s great! I’m so happy for you!” I just ignored him, because of the things he did and the things he said about me before he came out. I hope that now that’s he’s out, maybe he’ll realize that some of the things he said… were maybe to overcompensate for this.
I think how David said that my medications gave me an artificial personality… it’s the most ridiculous thing, and I’ve heard a lot of ridiculous things. While I was manipulated into thinking that was true back then, I’ve realized over the last couple of years, trying new medications and things like that, that there’s no such thing as getting an “artificial personality.” It just relaxes you, or helps you to not be triggered. And I’m sure he still feels this way to this day, which is kinda sad.
I’m not sure if I have closure. It’s a hard question, because I never quite understood what closure meant. If I could have a conversation with him, I’d like to know why he said the lies about me that he did before I got married. Why he used me as a scapegoat for a long time. Why he treated me the way he did when I was young and vulnerable. That would be my way of closure… would be to know. But, my husband and everyone says I’m better off not knowing. Still to this day, it’s a sensitive situation for me, so I don’t want to open that up.
My marriage is going well. I think, as our marriage goes on, my husband is becoming more strong in a good way. He doesn’t let me take my anger or frustrations out on him. As much as he doesn’t deserve it, when I’m in that moment, I can be very tunnel-vision. When we first got together, he would kind of just let it go… but now, he will step in. He’s tougher on me than before, which I think is making me a better person. It’s also making me realize that I need to take my frustrations out on what my frustrations actually are. If it’s about work, I need to deal with it at work. He’s so calm.
I’m actually pregnant now – due in October 2018! It’s been really hard, because I thought the pregnancy hormones would make me all happy, excited, and horny. [laughs] I mean, that’s what everyone makes it seem like. I didn’t think my mental illness would carry over with me. I thought I could set it aside for nine months… but I don’t think there’s any way to just set aside a mental illness, even for your own child. It’s been harder, because my body’s changing, I can’t do the things I used to do… being so sick. So all that has kinda piled up on top of everything else. I had some situations with my pregnancy that were frightening, but my husband was so calm and told me it would be okay. He told me afterwards that he was scared to death. He would do anything to keep me calm.
I’m definitely excited for the baby… but with the mental illness, I worry if I can be strong enough. I know I’ll have a huge support system once the baby is born, so I hope it will be smooth sailing for me. I just hear horrible things about postpartum depression, so it’s a little scary. I’ve heard of perfectly “normal” people just killing themselves when they had it, though I’m not thinking of doing that. I mean, I’m depressed now, so I can’t imagine what postpartum depression would be like on top of what I already have now. I need to make sure I’m heavily armed with a therapist and medication.
To handle all this stress, I’ve been watching a lot of comedy on TV. Laughing has helped a lot and got me through a lot of it. I also have a referral for a therapist from my doctor that my insurance covers. I’m looking into that next month. Also, I always let my husband know how I’m feeling… if I’m having a good day or a bad day.
I’d love to do another interview after I have the baby!
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