Welcome back! Last week, Dr. Ross educated us about food and it’s impact on the child’s brain. Wasn’t that fascinating? This week, we welcome Maggie Cook. Maggie has a daughter who was sexually abused by her father at the tender age of 3, and as a result, suffered with mental health issues that determined her life path. For obvious reasons, Maggie is blogging anonymously.
Let’s grab a cup of coffee and listen to Maggie’s story:
I can’t remember when I made the connection between my daughter’s mental health issues and her father’s abuse,
but I remember the day I heard the pediatrician tell me he was going to call protective services and report our family, as he had high suspicions that my husband was molesting our two children, ages 3 and 5. My knees buckled.
How could this be possible? How could the man that I fell in love with and trusted enough to bring two beautiful babies into this world with, do such an evil thing? Surely the doctor must be mistaken? Time would show that he was not. I left my husband and have spent the rest of my life trying to heal my daughter’s broken spirit.
Early on, she developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; OCD. It would take her 45 minutes just to put on her socks before school. We were late every day, no matter how early I got her up. Being late to school became part of her ritual. Her teacher, unfortunately, didn’t understand her condition, and one day, my daughter mentioned to me that her back hurt. I asked her if she had fallen at recess, and she said the words that would bring me to my knees for the second time in my life. She said, “No mommy, the teacher makes me sit on the floor when I’m late”.
I wanted to believe this wasn’t true. My daughter had been known to tell some untruths, so I simply had to give this educator the benefit of the doubt. The next day, I dropped my daughter off, but instead of going home, I parked down at the end of the school, walked in a back door, and positioned myself outside her classroom door, peering through the window. Sure enough, the teacher called her to the front of the room and announced to the students, “Class, Emily is late again today…what happens when she’s late?” to which they all gleefully replied, “she has to sit on the floor!!”.
My daughter slowly made her way to the back of the room, and obediently sat on the floor. My heart broke. But what happened next would send me into a mama bear rage. Her teacher took off her shoe, walked over to my daughters textbook, and started running her panty hosed foot through the pages. My baby girl was screaming, “NOOOOOO!!!”, as the teacher laughed at her fear. She then walked back to her desk and sat down. I watched my baby girl spend the next hour turning every page and “cleaning” it with the end of her shirt.
I walked down to the counselor’s office, didn’t even knock….just walked in, and said, “you are going to fire a teacher today”. He heard me out, told me how many years this woman had “dedicated her life to teaching”, but I was unmoved. He went to her room, had an office aide watch her class, brought her back to his office and I told her I had seen it all. She didn’t even deny it. She stated that my daughter was “fine” and the only “disorder” she had was a mother who didn’t know how to discipline her. Her ignorance ended her career.
From day one of discovery, my children were in counseling. They did fairly well, and I was warned of the “milestones” ahead…first date, first kiss, puberty, my eventual dating and remarriage. All would throw my child into a tailspin. I was prepared, or at least I thought I was.
As she got older, her emotions started to control her. She would go into fits of rage that lasted hours. She bit me, kicked me, scratched me, and her sibling was a recipient as well. Any man in her life, from her grandpa to the man who supervised court ordered visits with her father, received a nice kick in the groin as a hello. She was so angry, but didn’t even know why. Her memory was vacant of the abuse, but the doctor’s reported her “muscle memory” was what was driving her.
When she turned 14, I took her to therapy as we did every week for the past 11 years, but was met at the lobby and told I couldn’t come back with her. “The laws have changed”, they said, “at 14 she can now make her own decisions regarding care”. Come to find out, she didn’t have to let me in on her therapy, she didn’t even have to have therapy, and she could go off her psychotropic medications, the two things that had helped her the most.
Needless to say, she stopped therapy and all prescriptions. What she turned into next, I find hard to talk about. Her old violent behaviors came back, but she was now in the body of a woman. I couldn’t control her, and she began to physically abuse me to the point that I was in fear for my life. One night, I felt her staring at me as I dozed in bed. I raised up on one elbow and said, “what’s wrong…are you ok?” She stared at me in the dark room and said, “why…are you scared of me?” I lay back down and said, “of course not sweet heart”. What she said next chilled me to the bone. In a flat, monotone voice she said, “well you should be…I’m visualizing me stabbing you to death in your sleep”.
Eventually she found herself in jail due to her violent outbursts. This led to court mandated counseling and medication. I would like to say it’s all been peaches and cream since then, but it hasn’t. Our relationship has it’s up and downs. As a mother, I have so many regrets…oh, so many regrets. If only…
My daughter has had trouble keeping relationships in her life. Best friends, boy friends, church groups, all come and go. She has never held a job for more than a year. She often finds herself on the receiving end of car accidents, on the job accidents, and personal illness. She struggles with weight issues as well. Life has been very hard for her.
If I could say just one thing about living with a child with mental illness it would be this: Get help for YOURSELF. Go to counseling, eat good food, take time away for your spiritual growth. Find respite care so you can recover and be a support for your child. It’s a very draining experience, living with mentally ill children. You need to take care of you. You cannot give what you don’t have, and if you don’t fill up your own tank, then not only will your car not run, but you have zero hope of filling your child’s gas tank.
And, never give up. Ever. They may be telling you they hate you, treating you poorly, or making you feel like the worst parent on the planet, but in the case of sexual abuse, just remember: They weren’t born that way…somebody did this to them.
And now, let’s read what Dr. Ross has to say to Maggie:
I have read and reread this blog several times. It is powerful in so many ways…..
Abuse by a family member or anyone in life experience is so common and so very disruptive to everyone. How can one forgive the unforgivable? Anger and rumination can keep one held in a “mind prison”. This prison can lead to mental illness, suck the joy out of our life, and rob us of the happiness we deserve. Breaking out of this prison can be so very difficult. But we must try. How do we help those in need?..especially a parent with a mentally ill child?….I cannot say it better than the blogger…so I suggest you read and reread her last two paragraphs……
“If I could say just one thing about living with a child with mental illness it would be this: Get help for YOURSELF. Go to counseling, eat good food, take time away for your spiritual growth. Find respite care so you can recover and be a support for your child. It’s a very draining experience, living with mentally ill children. You need to take care of you. You cannot give what you don’t have, and if you don’t fill up your own tank, then not only will your car not run, but you have zero hope of filling your child’s gas tank.
And, never give up. Ever. They may be telling you they hate you, treating you poorly, or making you feel like the worst parent on the planet, but just remember: They weren’t born that way…somebody did this to them.”
About Charles Ross
Charles S. Ross DO board certified in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine. Currently practicing Lifestyle Medicine. Has been a practicing physician in Oregon for 40 years. Currently, 1/2 time Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at COMP NW. Practicing Lifestyle Medicine in Oakridge, OR one day per week. Teaching total health improvement classes for free weekly in Oakridge and online for those with computers.
For more information on depression and anxiety/weight gain/loss and it’s connection to sexual abuse, click this video.