..."Enough of any stress," the doctor says, "good or bad, love or pain, can cripple our reason and bring us ideas and talents we can achieve in no other way."

Chuck Palahniuk, Diary: A Novel

See also: chronology, and Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Do I have a distorted idea of what I was like as a teen? Can any of us see ourselves objectively?

My father commented that I was more 'rational' when speaking to my mother than he could ever manage to be. When I told her I wanted to live with my father, I was never mean, even when she repeatedly said angry things to me ('You are throwing your life away!', 'You are going to the devil!', 'You are becoming an ugly person.'), I told her that I loved her, and when she asked me if it was because of her that I wanted to live with my father, I said no, but that I didn't like her boyfriend. My dislike of him was not irrational or a typical threatened teen reaction. He was a violent person. He raped my mother, he dropkicked my cat, and he told my mother he would kill her and/or her kids if she left him.

I admit that I did complain about my mother to a couple of other teenage girls, and I felt guilty about it even at the time.

I was not a sullen teen when I moved in with my father and his girlfriend. I was desperate to be liked, and for them not to be disappointed with their decision to allow me to live with them. I didn't know what their expectations of me were, because my father was inconsistent, while his girlfriend was not verbal at all. With my mother, my obligations had always been clear, and I performed them. My attitude was positive in the first year of living with my father and his girlfriend, and I can't see myself as giving off negative vibes of any kind. Even when I noticed that I was depressed, I did not take it out on others, and I would try to appear as normal as possible, and as enthusiastic as possible.

My father's girlfriend could not have failed to notice that on weekends when she went to bed early my father and I shared a kind of intimacy. She may have been offended by my bedroom graffiti which included synonyms for the word 'fat' - but this was in no way aimed at her. I actually thought she was pretty, prettier than even my father seemed to think, and that she underestimated the feminity and shapeliness of her body as a whole. And I thought that different rules applied to teenagers than to adults. And it was probably her body issues and constant dieting that had some effect on how I saw myself. And the reason my bedroom was graffitiied was that I had asked if my bedroom could be redecorated, and my father had agreed, (it was seriously ugly) but nothing ever came of it, and in the end I ripped off the ugly wallpaper myself. I didn't even have access to a can of paint, so I wrote on the walls with magic markers, and later, blood. I actually thought I wanted a 'pretty' or sophisticated bedroom. I waited and waited, and then I graffitiied.

My early weekend socialization consisted of me sitting and listening to a progressively more drunk father talking about all manner of things, while his girlfriend slept. The stage was set for me to have unusual social needs and unusual insecurities. What was ripped away for me was that the civilized or respectable front that people showed to the world was not the whole truth. But while my original beliefs were confounded and shown erroneous, I was not given any new beliefs to replace the old ones, and this might have something to do with why I foundered.

When I finally had a social life, I had a curfew, which at first was not a problem, but eventually it was fuzzy because when I returned home my father might be too drunk to know if I was late or not, might have gone to bed, or was sometimes mad, or sometimes only faking being mad, perhaps pleased that I had the guts to rebel. He would also sometimes forget, as he had frequent blackouts. He was definitely impressed by my note-forging ability when I began to skip school in Grade 11 - perhaps even more impressed than by my previous scholastic achievements.

I would say that for Grade 9 and 10 it would be difficult to come up with major complaints against me - especially compared to other teens my age. I was doing well in school (1st place overall Grade 9, 2nd Grade 10), achieving things athletically, and coping as well I could with erratic parenting and parental expectations. I washed dishes every night, helped to feed horses and muck stalls, and I cut the lawn. I was polite. If it seemed I had a bad attitude, I would think that it had more to do with my being out of control with food and feeling panicked about that, or that I was sometimes outwardly showing depression - not through mouthing off, or being disrespectful, but by appearing morose or without energy.

In Grade 10, after spending months training every night for a horse show, I was not able to ride the horse in my events because in the first event he was entered in, my father rode him, and was exceptionally drunk, which had resulted in the horse behaving badly. The horse was disgraced, and not allowed to participate in any other events. I never screamed and yelled at my father, or even showed him any attitude at all - I just accepted it as part of life without complaining. Sometimes you put in effort that comes to nothing - don't dwell on it, move on.

However, I think I should mention drawbacks or inconveniences related to me: in Grade 9, I was taken to a dermatologist, which was probably an inconvenience. On my part, the lack of viable solution for ichthyosis probably resulted in depression for me.

In Grade 10, I had to go in to the city for a series of tests to see if I had an ulcer or some recognizable stomach problem. I did feel guilty about these stomach tests, and how it all had to be arranged when my father's schedule was so busy already, and he was already so stressed with how long it took each day with the commute between city and country for work.

In the summer between Grade 10 and 11, I asked to see a psychiatrist. The previous summer I had spent completely with my mother, and my father and his girlfriend had a break from me. It may be that they were looking forward to a break from me and my sister that summer, but I had come back only a couple of weeks into the summer. And he was again forced to deal with the inconvenience of taking me to appointments.

As for my father's girlfriend, it was probably bad enough when I moved in, but when my sister moved in her stress might have increased considerably. She may have wanted to leave at that time or even before, but it took another year for her to manage. Some of the anxiety I experienced in 10th and 11th Grades might have been related to the disintegration of their relationship, which might have triggered anxiety related to my parents' separation and divorce. I don't have a good enough memory of that part of those years. They may not have fought openly or violently, but there may have been a noticeable tension in the household for a considerable period. My behaviour, rather than causing that tension, might have been a reflection of it, or of an unconscious fear that I had caused that tension (if it was about realizing she had never taken to me and didn't want me and that I was actually part of why she wanted to leave). But in that case, it would appear that my sister was part of it, too.

If a teenager asks to see a psychiatrist, goes a few times and then quits because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, and then can't get out of bed - I think that would in most cases signify to the parent that the child had a problem it didn't know how to solve, and that it was up to the parent to insist on trying more options, get another psychiatrist, and if my father could physically force me to feed the horses in my nightgown, he could force me to get in the car and sit at an appointment.

My increasing inability to stay with my mother had something to do with the lack of rules regarding food at my father's that had resulted in me experiencing a constant state of panic while I lived with him - I was using food as an outlet. He and his girlfriend were both out of control with food (and in my father's case with alcohol and cigarettes as well), and that lack of control, rules or guidance had an effect on me. It could be that that environment, combined with my genes, was not beneficial. The first summer, my mother's discipline kicked back in when I visited her because I hadn't been away from it too long, but by the second summer it was too restrictive for me and couldn't help me. She would have been horrified if she knew the excesses I indulged in.

My father didn't see that there was a connection between my depression and the major change between the stability my mother provided and the chaos he provided, because he didn't recognize her contributions.

It wasn't long after Grade 11 started that I began acting out, getting drunk and skipping school. To me, it seems like it makes sense, considering the chain of events. Physical causes had been ruled out, the psychiatrist angle had turned out to be disappointing or hopeless, I had no excuse for myself, but I could no longer contain the pressure. My father now had more inconvenience: grounding me, driving me to the hospital for suspected alcohol poisoning, getting me a prescription for antidepressants, driving me to mandatory counselling sessions. This may have put a further strain on his relationship, and maybe although he tried to conceal this from me, I picked up that just like my mother thought that I had been the one to ruin everything with my negative attitude, my father was now feeling I was a serious liability.

As for me breaking curfew and binge drinking - I would say that the example he himself set contributed to my behaviour. He himself was out of control, e.g., in getting arrested for drunk driving three times that year.

There was the incident in cold weather when I was extremely depressed and he dragged me to the barn in my socks and he was violent when I slipped in the mud, and in response my anger burst forth - when I wouldn't have otherwise even thought myself capable of such anger or violence. I think this may be an example of what at least part of my depression was about: repressed rage. I was dependent on a person who saw our relationship as a power struggle, and who didn't know how to be a parent.

There was the time he suggested we get drunk together.

There was his girlfriend moving out.

There was me failing a few exams, and him kicking me out. (I wrote all three exams on one day, and knew that later that day my mother would be picking me up at school to take me up north for a week - that in itself might have played a part - those three were the only exams I have ever failed. Normally I saw my mother at Christmas and summer break only - and by the end of Grade 10 I was never able to stay for a whole summer, because of the tension and my out of control relationship with food/weight, which I knew my mother disapproved of. My weight from Grades 9-11 started at just over 100 lbs and went as high as 125 lbs as time went on, but I was never at a steady weight throughout high school. It was not just a steady increase as I got older, my weight was in constant fluctuation. I was never unfit - and in Grade 10 I was the top PE student in my class, and also won some sporting events/prizes.)

His response was anger, when I took pills and had to go to the hospital. My side was that I was in an unendurable state and had been for some time, his side I guess was that I was a problem child who was trying to manipulate him. He was furious and refused to see or talk to me for a couple of weeks. When he kicked me out, way out in the country, with no money, no car, he might have expected me to call my 'boyfriend', not understanding that I didn't want to be in that relationship and was having trouble getting out of it. Two nights previously, this boyfriend had thrown me a 'Sweet 16' party, but when the guests had left and I had passed out drunk, he tried to rape me, but was pulled off by his father. I was experiencing a lot of confusion because this boyfriend was very persistent, my father was distant and I had no one to talk to about what was going on with me - the professional counselling and antidepressants did not address or identify the real issues.

Could he not see my pain? It seems not. Maybe he blamed me for his girlfriend leaving, and then perhaps also for him losing the farm. My suicidal feelings might have actually represented a wish he had that I would go away somehow, because he didn't know how to deal with me. He had suggested I go back to my mother's, but I had refused, panicked at the idea of having to go back there. If he couldn't cope with me, it probably was up to him to make the decision to send me there, and insist on it.

After his girlfriend left, nighttime meals changed. I don't think he ate with my sister and me. I remember heating up canned ravioli and spaghetti for my sister, or frozen TV dinners - it was not until the following year that I began to attempt to cook (and to make detailed shopping lists).

His girlfriend might even have thought her wish to leave was related to me, but when I see the situation as a whole, I don't think she was ever meant for the country. She had more power in the city. She might have originally been attracted to my father because he seemed like a single man who didn't have all that much involvement with his kids, or who even expressed ideas that made him sound less attached.

When my mother died, perhaps even more hope died that there was a solution, or that he could leaving the parenting up to her. And now the burden of all 4 children was upon him, and he would never have time off until we had all moved away. It was a nightmare, and even a well-adjusted person would have had trouble with all the changes he faced in such a short time. His own family, who had been through a similar situation when he was an adolescent, did not try to help him out.

His accident (falling down a set of stairs, which resulted in a fractured skull) might have been about his unconscious wish to escape the burden. It was too much for him. He almost did die. His stress at that time might have come into focus mainly as the result of having a problem child. It was one thing after another - then I got pregnant. Surely this child is self-destructive to an extent that will bring death? I am trying to understand his perspective and possibly the perspectives of others who don't have sympathy for problem adolescents and lump them all into one category.

He had already done all he could for me, and I continued to screw up. A parent can only do their best. If you have been 'rescuing' your child from unpleasant circumstances for a long time, you eventually have to realize that it is time to stop and force the child to stand on its own. And if the response to that is further manipulation, the correct response is anger. The kid needs to get over it, there are people all over the world who have things a lot tougher, in fact she has it far too easy.

Everybody does the best they can. Everybody thinks their intent should be obvious to others. Everybody thinks they're a good person deep down. Decent people are able to see the good in others, and forgive them their mistakes, realizing that no one is perfect, and that we all strive to be better people.

It begins to make sense that he was so overwhelmed that I did become a kind of scapegoat, when my crises were in the first place related to absorbing his crises, combined with me not having adequate support and guidance regarding issues that affected my present and my future. 'Psychics' picked up that he had a strong unconscious wish I would die - and more than likely I picked it up, too. This information was not shared with me, and probably had a big impact on my present attitude: I mistrust all people who seem to think they know best, and who withhold important information from me. What he withheld out of misplaced 'virtue' or ignorance seriously affected my life. I was affected by his attitudes unconsciously, as were my siblings. We all treated me as if I were expendable. Why wait 7 years, and then finally tell the truth? Why waste all that time?

A lot of people think anger is a good sign. It's a sign of life, of spirit, of at least a potential to change a bad situation, since you are aware of it, and fighting against it. But the danger is that in my situation there is always the risk that it sounds shrill, it sounds like sour grapes, it sounds excessive, it sounds like dwelling in the past.

The truth is that I do feel anger and resentment. And while through the years I had tried to be understanding, perhaps because I wanted to be not just a good person, but a rational person - a person who could really see more than just her side of a story - I guess I am not really the person I wanted to be.

The big question should be why? Why would a child who was excelling in school and had so many advantages decide to be so horrible? Was it just the unpleasantness of adolescence, that can have extreme effects that are unexpected? Was I spoiled? But if you trace the history, why would I choose to go to the extremes I did? My attitude toward both adults in the house was quite positive starting out - I talked about my father and his girlfriend to others in very flattering ways. It actually hurt my feelings that my best friend found my father creepy when she met him - she didn't come right out and say it, but that was the impression I had, and after the first time I invited her to the house, I never did again.

Was there an unconscious power struggle? Did he unconsciously resent my 'success' in school? Even with all I know, and factoring in ichthyosis, and living in a place with no discipline or model for behaviour with regards to food, and the fact that I was constantly out of control with food, the fact that I was estranged from my mother and that she had said some very harsh things to me, it still seems like there might be something missing, some piece of information that is necessary.

I don't even remember being angry except the one time it burst out unexpectedly with my father, and maybe the time I punched a stucco wall until my knuckles bled and were black and blue and swollen. It was like I was just not an angry person. I didn't dwell on things other kids did. It was shocking to explode like that, because I wouldn't have thought I consciously felt that way. My depression was all turned inward. Anger or aggression that cannot be expressed, rage about powerlessness can become depression.

I was fair in ways others were not, not even adults. Their irrationality affected my life. Maybe that is another key: the idea that I was powerless in the face of the irrationality of authority figures - and this has greatly impacted my ability to be self-sufficient, this is a manifestation of my learned helplessness. It would seem that I should now be able to shake it all off, but I still can't, and I keep seeking out authority figures who pronounce incorrect judgments on me while I struggle to assert myself. But if applied to the stress scale evaluation, I had my first full-time job during a period of time in which I faced an enormous amount of stressors - working might have been caught up in associations with that time. That is to say, that when I have tried to think about getting a job, or when I have attempted to get a job, I can't shut out all the associations of that time period, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed, that I can't deal with it all, which is partly tied to my father's stress related to responsibility as well. He was out of control, getting caught for drunk driving, having an accident that almost killed him, then spending money like there's no tomorrow, banking on an Apocalypse to make planning for the future unnecessary. I perhaps live in that state of uncertainty and instability. If it's mainly been an unconscious influence, is it something that can be changed if identified? I am not sure it can. Too many years of new complications have branched from the old.

My father's fears of always having children to support had more to do with me than the others, but he may have worried that the rest would have problems when they reached similar ages. None of them rebelled to the same extent, or were as inconvenient. Actually, they were pretty convenient for adolescents. They were the kind of adolescents it would have made sense for me to be. Curfews were not imposed on the rest of my siblings, and they received very little in the way of guidance from my father. And yet none of them got into serious trouble, had substance abuse issues, seemed out of control, self-destructive or even disrespectful.

Perhaps the more I picked up that he (unconsciously) wanted me dead, or that he feared he would never be free of me, the harder it was for me to leave. The less he was willing to talk to me about my situation, the longer it was all ignored. Maybe he feared he would become angry if we talked about it, and that it would result in a similar situation as when I first tried to kill myself. But to leave the situation for 7 years, while waiting for me to die, while I suppose may have been a human procrastination or avoidance issue, is not rational, and it seems to presuppose that my life was worthless - not saveable or worth saving, and that my original potential was now irrelevant.

The more guilt I had about expense and inconvenience I had caused, the more expense and inconvenience I caused, through having to be fed and sheltered beyond the age I should have left home. But what was underneath that was an indictment. I had been brainwashed into thinking I was highly privileged, when in reality I was not given the kinds of support or investment in my future that would have helped me. In addition, my father had walked away from the divorce thinking himself superior to my mother, and what happened was that his own mistake came back to bite him. He underestimated her parenting, and overestimated his own. He didn't understand that his girlfriends' lack of involvement did not make up for my mother's contributions. He didn't realize that when my mother and I fell out that I was severely lacking a source of nurturing that I needed for balance. He didn't realize the emotional burden that he passed on to me when it came to the care of my siblings. The care I gave wasn't ambivalent: I was sure I didn't want them to die. I was sure that they had a lot of potential and that it would be a shame if it was wasted. I didn't receive that kind of care myself.

The effects of my father's drinking need to be clarified. For many people, the alcoholic becomes abusive when drunk. For the most part, my father was no more abusive drunk than sober - he was usually relaxed when drinking, social, likely to tell jokes or philosophize in his own way. For me, it was the learning of what other complicated feelings people had in addition to the acceptable ones that they showed most of the time. I think that had a significant effect on my stability and security when it comes to relationships. Also, that it is a way of coping with a life that is unsatisfying, stressful. I was affected by this very strongly, and from age 13 on, for me it manifested in my relationship with food. I used food in a way similar to the way my father used alcohol. His problems affected me.

My family moved three times when I was in Grade 1. At the end of the year, my father moved out for my parents' trial separation. By Grade 4 he had moved out for good, and at this time (end of school year) my mother moved us far away, to North Ontario. I was in one school for Grade 5, I skipped Grade 6 and was in a new school for both Grade 7 and then again for Grade 8. And then I moved south to live with my father on his farm, and began high school (another new school).

The beginning of Grade 9 was extremely stressful because there had been a lot of anger, screaming and drama on my mother's part. I was legally allowed to choose which parent to live with at age 13, but she sent the police (with sirens blaring and lights flashing) to the farm. In addition to this incident, there were a lot of angry phone calls on her part, and she refused to send my clothes to me. She also said that I was throwing my life away, and going to the Devil, and that I was becoming an ugly person.

I settled in to the new school well, made a good friend and was getting good grades. However, a trip to a dermatologist regarding my ichthyosis had disappointing results, and I think this resulted in a loss of hope which may have produced depressive symptoms.

On the surface I was successful and adjusting well, but I was feeling increasingly depressed. Another extremely significant factor related to food and body issues. At my father's there were no rules and no limits regarding food intake. I went from my mother preparing all meals to having to decide for myself and prepare food for myself every day, with significant periods of time alone in the house both before and after school. My father and his girlfriend did not have healthy eating habits, and his girlfriend in particular probably had a very serious (binge) eating disorder, combined with very poor body image. I think that their habits with food affected me, and from Grade 9 on, I have felt out of control with food.

In the summer after Grade 9, I went to visit my mother. During this time, my eating habits went back to normal for the summer, and my weight was stable throughout the summer. However, when I returned back to my father's, I was again out of control, and from this point on I would never eat normally again.

My mother was thin, but I do not think she managed to maintain her weight in healthy ways. Before her death, she had confided to me that she had heart problems, which had puzzled me. She was only 37, and appeared healthy. It could be that whatever she did to maintain her weight (fasting?) had resulted in heart problems. I had perhaps no healthy models regarding food and body image, and I may have inherited a combination of genes that made it very difficult for me to maintain a weight considered attractive by my mother and society.

While I liked being an 'only child', and having my own room, the drastic change may have affected me. I was used to having three other kids around, I had never been alone after school, and I didn't consciously realize it, but my mother's concern and care had contributed a lot to my ability to adjust. I went from a situation in which my mother was attentive to her children to one in which both adults thought kids raised themselves. Also, the anger/animosity my mother had expressed when I made my choice to live with my father affected me. I experienced something none of the others ever did. I think that my tendency to become obsessed was probably a result of my mother's anger and that she lived so far away, combined with my learning at least unconsciously that my father probably didn't really want to be a parent, and that when he had asked me to move in, he probably shouldn't have.

I think that I also adjusted poorly to my sister's moving in a year later. I was no longer an only child, but in addition to that people began to compare us, and everyone was more likely to find her cute. During the talks I had with my father, he had commented that I would do 'all right' because I was smart, but that my sister would be a 'heartbreaker'. And I think that this might have had a bigger effect than anyone could have guessed. I was brought up with the idea that only passionate love was important, and that only 'winning' was important, being number 1, etc, and could not fail to perceive that when it came to 'love', the most important part of life, according to what my parents both seemed to believe, I was never going to be someone who could be loved in the way they believed important.

'All right' actually does seem to sum up how I've done as far as relationships. I can't be grateful for that, because I can't seem to eradicate the conditioning that says only a more passionate and complete love matters. I seem to attract companionship and dutiful love, while always craving something more extreme. My depression at that age might have been about a kind of hopelessness about my future - I was brought up to think that love was the most important thing, but my parents and their subsequent significant others did not seem happy, and I myself seemed not to possess the kinds of qualities that would give me a chance to have something more than what they did. In addition, I might have felt that I didn't have what it took to make my parents love me. It may have actually been a somewhat accurate assessment, and that in part my features reminded each of what they didn't like in each other or in themselves. I tried to compensate by developing a very rational and understanding personality, one who wouldn't provoke retaliation, or who would try to diffuse conflict by taking an extra burden upon myself. I was sometimes praised for this rationality, but never loved for it.

I was not adjusting to having ichthyosis: I gave up the chance to go on an exchange to France in part because of anxiety related to my skin - so that perhaps did affect my occupational functioning at that stage. It may not have just been my parents, it may have been the times. Maybe it is still common for many parents to avoid talking about such things, thinking it better to just get on with life and not focus too much on what can't be changed. Theoretically, it seems better to me that we should have talked about it, given it a name, identified how to make the most of it. As it has turned out, that now is my approach to communication, relationships, every area of life. So, I guess that is a way of taking a stand.

My depression at the time probably increased because I was not able to take advantage of opportunities that would open up my life or help me to plan for my future.

At the same time, I put effort into activities that were more about trying to gain parental love and approval than about developing my potential. For my father, I trained every night for months to ride in a horse show, and then on the day of the show the horse was not allowed to compete because my father had gotten drunk and couldn't control the horse in his first event. At that point I quit riding horses, but it would still be a long time before I began to understand that I had no idea what I wanted to do, what my talents were, who I was, and that I was highly influenced by my parents and trying to win their approval in self-defeating ways.

At age 16, after a suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization, the unexpected death of my mother, my pregnancy and abortion, first full-time job, a move from country to suburbia, my brothers moving in with us, my father's accident, my father's sexual advances, my running away from home, my waking up in a field with unpleasant memories of a sexual encounter gone bad - I became a sort of housebound housewife. I cooked and cleaned for my siblings, I watched soap operas and talk shows, while completing Grade 12 through correspondence courses. I gained weight, because I was often staying up all night watching TV and snacking, because I was afraid to go to sleep.

I got myself together for the start of Grade 13. We moved again, this time to the big city to live with our father's new girlfriend and her kids. I had some difficulties adjusting, having lost the momentum of attending school, and because my problems had not been resolved, but in spite of that I stuck it out for the year, and got a part-time job to start saving for university, managing to save over $3000. Before the end of the schoolyear, our father had a breakdown, and by the end of the schoolyear, we moved again, as his relationship had broken up - for the first time into a cramped apartment. I seemed to resume my 'housewife' role, and was unable to move forward with plans for myself, and from this point on, have had no significant employment, and my 'normal' state is one of rarely leaving the house.















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