Family As A Barometer – The Highs and Lows of Life
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Thomas Franklin is new (11-17) to He has no experience with being published as an author. He has a fondness for reading and an appreciation of words. His curiosity is insatiable. He carries the burdens of his youth like Marley dragging his chains of bad deeds. The difference is that Marley's burdens were a result of his behavior. Life just happened to Mr. Franklin. These life burdens shall be the topic of Mr. Franklin's writing. Be kind for he is quite sensitive.

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Family As A Barometer – The Highs and Lows of Life

Most of us do not like to talk publicly about our families. When we do we are praising someone for a public accomplishment, like being on the honor role at school or getting a promotion at work. The underbelly of family life generally is taboo. And why not? It is nobody’s business what our family does behind closed doors. The problem is that we take this to an extreme – and consequently never address the crazy Aunt in the rocking chair over in the corner. We may not want to talk about the obvious for we know we have our rocking chair moments ourselves.

It is within the family fold that we see a reflection of ourselves.  This is the moment when most people get off the bus.  We generally accept the crazy of our family but deny that we are a part of it. This denial can keep us sick.  While acknowledging the sickness of other family members we must be careful to look honestly at self.  I exist in two dimensions – within my family and out in the public.

I am the black sheep of my family.  I have existed the past fifteen years living on the Island of
Elba, exiled from family.  Mine has been one of self exile.  I needed the distance to heal my own wounds.  My family had too much power.  They had the power to mash me into the swamp of dread and despair.  On the few occasions that I visited my family these past fifteen years I have often come away damaged, hurt, sad, and even bewildered.

I have brothers and sisters who I learned to keep away from.  I don’t know how most families operate but in my family they unconsciously look for painful buttons to push.  I say unconsciously because I want to be polite.  Much of my story has been told in previous essays.  Mental health treatment as both an inpatient and an outpatient has been a part of my life the past thirty-five years.  I unwittingly gave my family the power to cause my hard drive to crash, to send me into a mild psychotic episode.  By limiting my exposure to my family I was able to maintain longer periods of sanity and thus more normalized behavior.  But I never was completely well.  Events other than family could also derail my search for sanity.

A couple of important things happened in the last fifteen years.  One is the simple realization that I suffered from periods of mental difficulty.  One might quickly see one of the problems.  What the heck does “mental difficulty” mean.  Finding a way to articulate what is happening is crucial to understanding.  I have noted that my behaviors included anger, intensity, intimidation, sarcasm, stubbornness, and anger.  Another word might be added to each of these – persistent.

Once I hooked the rope of trouble I was unwilling to let it go.  So a second learned realization was that I was working on problems that were not really mine to work on.  I became aware of a need to help others, to fix them, to lead them by the still waters.  This is a hard one to sort out.  It is a consequence of both nature and nurture.  What boy does not grow up with the fantasy of being a white knight riding in to save the damsel in distress.  We grow up with Snow White and Cinderella and white knights and King Arthur and Superman and Batman and we are nurtured into a false sense of responsibility.  We witness great causes being challenged by the brave – how about civil rights, social justice, gay marriage, anti war sentiments – all noble causes that justify our psychotic overbearing.  Learning to identify what battles are mine and what are not has been crucial.  I have addressed most of this with talk therapy.  And these ’causes’ are best treated with facts and logic from an experienced talk therapist.

After escaping the orbit of family influence and toning down my super hero ego I found that problems persisted.  I was escorted out of the local hospital by security because I would not let go of a problem that was no longer mine.  My patience and tolerance were constantly tested and found to be wanting.  I was often irritable and frustrated.  The third leg in my sanity stool was my medical Doctor.  Actually, a Family Nurse Practitioner.  I became more open to discussing my behavior. This particular care giver has been with me for over ten years.  It has been in the process of regular exams relating hypothyroidism that I have discussed my life.  About five months ago she offered psychotropic drugs.  She suggested I might suffer from depression and a mood disorder – nothing more specific than that.  I agreed to try the medicine.

Next week I am scheduled to meet with her again.  I must be able to articulate what is happening with me in order for her to properly manage the meds.  I am going to ask her to up the dose.  On what evidence do I make that claim?  I am irritable in traffic, not road rage, just road aggravation – but the point is that I am irritable at things that I cannot control.  I have learned in talk therapy to recognize that which is and that which is not in my power to manage.  So why do I get irritable when the driver in front of me is driving under the speed limit?  What is the point?  Some say that we continue bad behavior because we are getting something out of it – some unspoken reward.  Logically, if there is no reward then we stop the behavior. Right?  One would think so, it is simple logic.

And the same logic brings us to psychotropic drugs.  If after years of talk therapy a person continues errant behavior then logic suggests that more is required than the logic of talk therapy.  I have reached that point.

Last weekend marked a significant milestone in my family.  The matriarch turned 95 years old.  Everyone was there.  From as far away as the East Coast and Bartlett Park people came.  My presence shocked most of my family.  I was there on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  Each day I walked away satisfied that I had no need for recovery.  If those folks took shots at me I completely failed to notice.  It was the best four days with my family in past memory.

I credit the mood medicine.



There Is 1 Response So Far. »

  1. Don’t short change yourself… I am completely happy for you and your family.

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