Monday, March 11, 2013


Getting a lot of testimonials on the video I mentioned in my last post. Check it out if you’re having running issues. One way I check myself as I run is to see if far-off objects are bouncing up and down, which means I am. A little bounce is inevitable unless you’re sprinting, but you shouldn’t be pogo-sticking.

I’m also getting a lot of women telling me that they have some of the other kind of issues that I do. As I said to a friend: it may be the curse of the smart responsible woman – many of us were forced into this role in some ways (usually by insufficient – or worse – parenting plus something – or things – really bad happening). Not that I think my personality isn’t mine, but my overwhelming sense of failure and shame if I don’t take care of everyone and everything perfectly? That I could do without.

As for what exactly happened to me, I know I’ve been vague. It’s hard to spell it out (duh – it took over 30 years). Part of that is because my mother, whom I love dearly and who has grown into an amazing person, does not come off well. And part of it is because in some ways the exact things that happened don’t really matter.

But (some) of the story is: My brother and I were unwanted, to the point where my brother went 10 days without a name after he was born (because they hadn’t really believed it would happen, I guess?). My mother was immature, resentful, and lonely. My father was older, aloof, and moody. My parents took no pictures of us – I mean NONE. They rolled my crib into the bathroom and closed the door when I cried because I would wake my brother up (this is a “funny” family story). I felt amazed and lucky when either of them held me any longer than necessary. My father was sometimes fun and loving but sometimes violent, somewhat toward me but much more toward my older brother, who would have been diagnosed as being on the spectrum were he growing up these days. My mother was enraged by my brother too. I became hypervigilant and spent a lot of time trying to help him avoid punishment for typical Asperger behaviors. I tried to be perfect so as to avoid punishment myself. I drew picture after picture of a man spanking a child until my mother told me it was weird and I should stop.

That was the first 5 years. When I was 5 my father died in a motorcycle crash. Chaos of a different kind ensued, including a mother who intermittently did not parent and a tenuous financial situation. When I was 9 we moved to a new house where we were rather isolated. When I was 11 or 12 I was molested by a family member who was living with us for a time. I told my mother and the behavior stopped but she never discussed what she'd said to the person, nor did she discuss it with me any further. When I was 12 a boyfriend of my mother's moved in with us. He tortured and molested me over the next year and a half or so. He left and came back several times; I never knew when he would be there. I tried to tell my mother but she did not hear me. From the time my father died, I had been terrified of losing my mother too. I did what I had to do to keep the family from being broken apart.

My family was partly salvaged by my sane, responsible, caring stepfather, who entered the picture when I was 15. It took years, but my mother grew up eventually. She has apologized to me and my brother in a genuine way. She ended up caring for my grandparents despite having always insisted she couldn’t and wouldn’t, and she set out quite consciously to be a nicer person overall. I was very angry with her for a long time but when I forgave her, it was (and is) real. (Her ex-boyfriend I doubt I will ever be able to forgive. I do not know what became of him and it is probably best that I don’t know. He should be old enough at this point that no one else is in danger.)

Many of the things my mother did I liked. I kept a mental list of what I did and didn’t want to do like her. And in fact I have stuck to that list. The main things I do differently (aside from watching for abuse, obviously): giving my son as much physical affection as he wants; not saying “you’re just feeling sorry for yourself”; not spanking; less criticism of everyone and everything; not freaking out in front of my kid; being willing to talk about sad things (ahem - aside from my own); making sure there is enough money; keeping the house clean and vermin-free; and not losing my keys all the damn time.

If you look at the risk factors for and symptoms of “complex PTSD,” I can check too many off. But I have compartmentalized things amazingly well. My self-image in most areas is pretty intact. I have avoided most self-destructive behaviors (workaholism being the hardest one to kick). I did have severe somatization (aka hypochondria) for a while but running seemed to cure it. I can trust people - thank heavens, because I have to trust a lot of them/you. And all of the good changes that I have made over the past few years are robust.

Hearing how I have taught people to become runners makes me happy because I know running is partly why I am as sane as I am. It has been one of my lifesavers. That's why I'll keep saying it: get out there, Maggots.


Snickollet said...

It's amazing how running can help with incredibly deep emotions, pain, and scars. I've not lived through nearly what you have, but I've felt that power, too. I have so much respect for the way you encourage others to explore how running could help them without being pushy or alienating--just real and so genuinely supportive.

I'm learning so much about forgiveness from you, as well as how to have the courage to face things that I'd rather ignore. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

"Not freaking out in front of my kid." I need to work on that one. It's not helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I can relate to it so much. I remember longing to be sick so that I could get some attention from my parents. I guess I just realized that I was "unwanted" too. That's fine though. Just because my parents didn't want me at the time, doesn't mean they don't want me now... and doesn't mean that I am unwanted by everyone. Anyway, I hope your journey towards recovery continues, painful as it may be. I wrote a "I forgive you" letter to the man who molested me. It was hard, but I am SO glad I did it. I kept a copy. I have no idea if he even got it but as they say, forgiveness is between you and God. It has nothing to do with the person.

(I normally post using google, but will choose to post anonymous this time.)

- M

Anonymous said...

Running has been my silver bullet. My bouts with depression and anxiety have been kept in check for the most part. More amazing is that I've menaged to self ween myself down to 10mg of Citalopram/day. (specialist says it's thoughly useless at this dosage.) It works for me. I run counter to some of your suggestions (4- 6x/wk 50 - 80kms) but it keeps me sane (or tolerable to be around).

I'm off to hug my children.


Anonymous said...

Bless your hearts. My heart aches for you and your brother. No child should go without love and affection.

WantToRun said...

I can relate to so much of your story and have suffered many of the same consequences of abuse and neglect -- depersonalization, hypochondria, panic, etc. The depersonalization and panic are largely under control, but I struggle with hypochondria nearly every day -- likely a result of the amount of time I've spent fearful and at odds with my own body. I'd LOVE to be able to run -- to get that feeling of freedom and ownership of my body. My problem is a pelvic floor prolapse (bladder and uterine). I do all the recommended exercises for it, to the point that it's not much of an issue on a day to day basis, but every time I try to do anything with any impact I feel like my insides are going to fall out!! Any suggestions on how to run with pelvic floor issues?

ozma said...

Oh. Oh. Oh. That's so much. Now I am truly floored at how things turned out for you. You are really an amazing person. I thought that before. I guess this adds dimensions to it.

It is hard to read your list of things you don't do like your mother. I do things on that list. I honestly can't help them. I always lose my keys. That's the least bad one, I guess. I freak out in front of my kid. That's the worst. And everything in between. My house is not so clean. I am critical.

Dang, I'm your mother!

My kid seems OK. But maybe she'd be better if I didn't do these things?

I don't drink as much as my mother. Also, no hitting. Lots of physical affection. That's kind of a low bar though!

I hope healing will continue for you.

DoctorMama said...

ozma - NOT a low bar. At all.

WantToRun - the lowest-impact type running possible (eg barefoot-style); sometimes a pessary

M - true. I know that my mother wants & loves me now. This helps. That letter? I could not imagine writing.

V - silver bullet, yes! And if you don't get injured, I won't yell at you ;)

Snickollet - thank you.

L. said...

I'm so sorry for what you suffered. Any one of those things would have been too much. My heart aches for you as a child. Self-help talk can come off cheesy but I think there is really something to the idea of the inner child, that part of one that doesn't understand all our grown-up intellectualizations. But it is amazing that in such a short period of time you have gotten to a point where you are able to recount all this here. As always I wish you continued healing and health.

I like that your mom was able to change so much. I always worry that people don't change. But your story about her combined with my own experience suddenly makes me wonder if we change most easily our interactions with others.

I went running with a group for the first time a few weeks ago. When driving to a group potluck after I saw a woman who'd gone for a longer run running down the last mile to her car. She had a HUGE smile on her face. At the potluck I mentioned this and she said, "oh yes, running is my therapy." I smile every time I think of her grin.

I ran three miles home today and it was pretty hard after the winter months of indoor exercise. I was knocking myself about how little progress I've made and then took a reality check, like hey, I used to not be able to run twenty minutes. Three slow miles is not too shabby.

Denise said...

Hi Doctor Mama. I am just catching up with your blog again - wow - you are going through some stuff! For some reason I thought you had shut it down.

I have started running again after a long layoff. I have been trying to correct my stride in the way shown in the video. It's been fabulous for my back pain, but damn my calves are tight! It's been much slower getting started again with this stride than other times I've started running.

I agree that running can be a great help emotionally.

Majerus said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this. Though I knew the general contours from conversations I've had with you in person and online, I had never heard it all laid out like this. It makes me want to go back and give you so many hugs and so much lap time, year after year.

I admire the work you've done, so many different kinds of work, to look at this (even though it's taken a long time, understandably, to look at some parts), and to become who you want to be for yourself and for your loved ones.

Big hugs to big you and little you.

Anonymous said...

Good Lord. I came to this page wondering how you are and I forgot the drama that was happening. But this is just what I needed to read. Our stories are very similar. My father died of a brain aneurysm when I was 8. My father was the nurturer of the family and I think he kept my mother somewhat functional.
After he died my mom was resentful and abusive and extremely neglectful. I remember not speaking for three days and at the end of the third day she said "you've been quiet today." My mom on her own was bad enough, but when I was 11 she married a drunken and abusive asshole and yes, I did try to tell her what was going on but she refused to hear it. This resonated so much with me: "From the time my father died, I had been terrified of losing my mother too. I did what I had to do to keep the family from being broken apart."

Right after my father died I used to climb into her bed and make sure she was still breathing. Even at age 8 I knew she was a shitty mom but when shitty is all that's standing between you and a foster home, you grab on tight.

Unfortunately, my mom coped with her grief and ours in exactly the wrong way. You must understand, this was a sudden death, but the DAY AFTER HE DIED, she took his pictures out of my and my sister's room. She did not allow us to go to his funeral (a decision, incidentally, that she believes was right to this day.) We were not allowed to talk about my father, and I remember being dragged to "family counseling' as a teenager with my mom and stepfather because A-student me was "the problem with the family" and when I brought up that I wanted to talk about my father, my mom started up with the crying and she said 'I couldn't talk it," You know if she couldn't talk about it, my sister and I couldn't either.

The counselor was a religious guy and WAY out of his league. He allowed my stepfather to jump im case and boy did I get it when I got home.

Although the secret is out in the open now. My sister, who was older and out of the house long before me, says it made perfect sense. Yet, my mother still denies that anything all that bad happened. She is in poor health and has dementia but she still says rotten things such as, "Well, it's not as if you were four or anything like that, and I'm sure you gave it back to him."

What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Molesting an 11 year old girl is so much "better" than a four year old? WTF?

Of course, if I call her on it, she later denies that she said anything like that. I'm firmly convinced that she was molested and refuses to see her own culpability.

She and I were estranged for many years, but after she had cancer she became a nicer person, at least on the surface. However, when she says things like the above and I don't want to have a relationship with her. It's so completely invalidating, and I a 50 year old don't have to take that shit from anyone.

In many ways she is an evil person. Sorry to dump all this onto your blog. I realize I need help and I'm going to get it.

Thank you for speaking out. You are so right, the SHAME is so awful. It makes me so sad to think, I was ashamed of my life as a teenager when I did nothing to deserve it. call me the blond geek.

Anonymous said...

blond geek

PB said...

I haven't read here in a long time -- like a few years. Your post left me in tears, and brought up some of my own issues that I've been shoving down and trying to ignore.

About 5 years after my ex-stepfather raped me, I told my mother about it. Her response was to start crying hysterically and say, "I can't believe he would do that to me." I was stunned. I had finally found the courage to tell her what happened and she made it about her, and didn't even ask how it affected me. We have a relationship, but I don't know that I can ever forgive her for that.

I think I'll try a couch to 5k. My husband is a marathon runner and I don't run at all. I see Snickollet's posts on Facebook about running, and although she doesn't know it, she has given me motivation to try running.

Thank you for this post. I know it's old and I'm commenting on it much later, but thank you.

pamela said...
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