Laura’s Story, Part 7

Written by Christine Scott

Christine

Christine

Everyone is familiar with the pop song, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson.  I’ve heard the quote, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” repeated a lot over the past few years. I don’t know if the popularity of the quote came from the song, but I’ve decided to make it my mantra as I approach the very difficult topic of sharing my adolescent and teen years with you. Since the fact I’m here writing this, I’m living, breathing proof that those years didn’t kill me—so I must be stronger.

In many ways I was a normal adolescent girl. My hang-ups were typical. I fought with my mom. I felt awkward. I wanted to make friends and find a boyfriend. I liked all the popular music and wanted to dress in the current brands. I wished I was prettier, funnier, and more popular. I didn’t know my talents. In a lot of ways I was lost—similar to many other kids my age.

Laura teenager

Laura

However, I had a mentally disabled sister I didn’t want others to know about. I’d moved past the point where she was my sister and I’d stick up for her—my reputation was on the line. I was afraid if someone found out about her they’d think something was wrong with me too.

I remember my sister chasing me down the aisle at Harmon’s grocery store and pulling my hair. I remember the humiliation. I remember feeling that maybe it was my fault for not standing up for myself. My brother was bigger than her and she didn’t pick on him like she did me. Should I have been more of a fighter? I’ve always felt like I should be more of a fighter. That I’m too weak, that I let others take advantage of me. And maybe I have.

But I suffered a unique form of abuse—one you don’t hear about. One that doesn’t have a name or a definition.

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized I was an abuse victim. I suffered abuse at my sister’s hands and neglect from my mom’s failure to act in a way that protected me. I realize my mom was overwhelmed with Laura’s behavior problems, but it wasn’t until later she sought help by medicating Laura—and I don’t understand why she waited. I do remember her saying that Laura was so sweet mannered at school that the teachers and whoever else she sought help from, didn’t believe her about the behavior problems at home. Maybe if my mom had a support system, maybe things would have been different.

Laura teenager1

Laura

Laura ruled the roost at our house. Mom did everything to appease Laura. From letting her watch the shows she wanted to Mom staying home from work or whatever outing we’d planned when Laura was having an “off” day. She didn’t expect her to do chores or respect the needs of others. Mom’s coping strategies allowed Laura to have terrible tantrums, which were often focused at me.

To keep the peace, my mom told me to go to my room. If I was out of sight, Laura didn’t torment me as much. From my alone time, I learned to love reading and I read a lot of romance books. I became an introvert, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The worst part was the important interactions I missed. Family time. Time spent with my mom teaching me and believing in me and my abilities. I wish my mom would have made more time for me instead of taking the easy road with disciplining Laura. I wish she would have made time for herself, for friendships, for exploring her own talents and interests. Maybe if she had, she would have expected more from Laura. Maybe she would have disciplined her so our family could have been more functional.

But these are only wishes for a different outcome. To be healthy in this life you have to take what you’ve been given and make the best of it.  In retrospect, I wouldn’t trade growing up with Laura. The experience gave me insights I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s led me down the path to become an occupational therapy assistant so I can make a difference in situations such as these.

And there’s the proof that I am stronger, but what’s even better—I found a way to thrive despite the challenges I’ve faced.

Thank you, Christine, for being a guest author. I enjoy reading your insights on the challenges and rewards of growing up in a caregiving household where another family member requires so much of the care due to mental and physical health disability. I imagine there’s others who can relate and have been neglected due to the main caregiver’s extreme demands. I’m sorry you were one of them.

For me, as a caregiver, this article spotlights the importance of respite care. Time away from the problems can clear the vision. However, it’s hard to find people who qualify or are willing to take care of the needs of our loved one while the caregiver gets that much needed break.

For our Tip next week, we will brainstorm and list some ways a caregiver can find the help needed for some time to refuel, recharge and be revived.

In February, Christine Scott started sharing childhood segments of her life with her mentally disabled sister, Laura. It’s been inspiring to get a child’s perspective on her family’s caregiving journey and the trials they had to withstand. The first segment of Laura’s Story, recounts her birth and slow development. In Part 2, Christine recalls the impact of Laura’s seizures and in Part 3, details of Laura’s fight with cancer. Part 4, reveals how Christine, at age ten, learned about the accident which lead to her father’s death and Part 5, recognizes the community of angels who helped her family get through their darkest days. Part 6, illustrates the importance of building fun memories with our loved ones, which can ease the grief of losing them.

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Writing is Therapeutic

It’s good to look to the past and gain appreciation for what we have in the present. This also gives perspective for the future. If the pioneers or forefathers didn’t write about their experiences, we wouldn’t have records of it. How could we have learned from them if they didn’t share their thoughts and events through their writing?

WritingAs a teenager I faithfully kept a journal and found it helped me understand my roller-coaster feelings of the love/hate relationships between young boys and girls. A few years ago I read it and didn’t want anyone else to know those inner feelings, so I decided to destroy it. Even though that journal no longer exists, I believe it helped me navigate through some rough teenage years.

After the car accident I felt the need to write again. My head was spinning with all kinds of worries about Mark, our children and how I would juggle all the responsibilities. My attention span was very short. I couldn’t watch T.V. or concentrate on a book—so I wrote. I would maybe write a few sentences about my worries, but mostly I recorded Mark’s progress such as how many breaths he took on his own that day and what his temperature was. I wrote about things most people don’t think about let alone write or read about, but it helped me focus on the positive. I still have that notebook and like to look back on it to remind myself how far Mark has come.

The past nine months I’ve benefited from writing about “Our Story”. Putting words to our experience brings meaning to it and helps me understand the purpose in the events. It’s amazing the clarity that comes from writing. Through writing I am able to sort out and work through the emotions by searching for the right words to describe it. The act of writing has provided me with a greater depth of self-knowledge and has helped me become a resilient person. Some seek the comfort of a therapist’s office, I find it in writing.

Writing is so much more than a method of communication. I’ve listed six benefits of writing:

  1. Writing is a powerful teacher that can guide us toward a happier, more contented and positive purpose-driven life.
  2. Writing promotes self-awareness and personal growth.
  3. Writing enhances knowledge, which guides us towards realizing our truth and values.
  4. Writing is a support system which creates confidence in our own unique style. With thought and purpose to what we’re writing, it can be done without apology.
  5. Writing can educate, inspire, influence and help others.
  6. Writing is like a sieve, separating worries and insecurities. It compels us to do the daunting task of confronting them, which facilitates in understanding them. Ultimately the words help us leave our fears behind.

typingYou don’t need to be a professional writer to achieve the benefits. Writing is an exceptional tool for self-exploration and inner growth which is available to everyone. It can facilitate understanding and change in our lives. From the art of writing, we learn and grow and it is a powerful method to share our love, happiness, gratitude and fulfillment.

Do you write? How has it helped you? If you don’t, you really ought to try it. Whether you write it for yourself or want to share it with others, it will be therapeutic. I dare you to try it.