Caged Bird

“I see at intervals the glance of a curious sort of bird through the close set bars of a cage: a vivid, restless, resolute captive is there; were it but free, it would soar cloud-high.” ― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

It hacagedppened yesterday, another flare up out of the blue. I woke up early to head out for my Praxis II exams, which was then followed by my teaching assessment class midterm. I wasn’t worried about how much testing I was going to have to go through, it was more of just wanting the day to be over with. Once the exams were complete I headed home, finally able to rest. I had a nice lunch and took a relaxing shower, then decided to lay my head down for a few before heading out to my education based math class for yet another exam. And that’s when it hit me.

I was laying there and I could feel it, the creeping pain spreading from my neck to the front of my head. It wrapped around my left eye and started to pulse. My back started to tingle and the shooting pain exploded to every inch of my body. I told myself it was just a headache and to not worry. I took some Tylenol and hoped for the best. It wasn’t helping, and my status was deteriorating at an even faster rate. My legs ached and were ice cold. I was having rapid hot/cold flashes. I was in pain from head to toe.

But I pushed through, what choice do you have when it’s an hour away from exam time and at a university that could care less about your medical condition. I was forced to get out of bed, get dressed, and drive myself to my exam regardless of my pain.

By the time I was at school my mind was completely absent. I looked around and it felt like I wasn’t even there. By the time I sat down in my chair for the exam it felt like I was in a dream, those moments when you are dreaming something so real it feels real. Except mine was the exact opposite. I was there, and this wasn’t a dream.

As the exams were passed out I realized I was screwed. It was a packet of 10 pages with questions we hardly even covered. I went through each page and picked out what I automatically knew. When I hit the simple addition problems I stared at the page blankly. The question was to write a real world example for -5 – -5. The answer was 0, but my brain could not think of anything that made sense. I flipped to the next page. Find the error: 10 – -14 = 4. I looked at the problem, stared at it for a good five minutes. The error was obvious and could be applied to the rest of the problem, but my brain just stopped. I looked at the numbers and they seemed so foreign. I went to write my answer and explanation but my hand didn’t want to hold the pencil. Attempt after attempt I failed, I couldn’t hold the pencil and write properly. My handwriting on the test was so poorly written, the spaces between large font letters and sentences made it seem like I was in grade school. But no, just a senior in college having a horrible episode.

When the test was over we had class, 2 more grueling hours of mathematics. By this time I could no longer speak, or sit up straight, or even really look up. I sat in my chair hunched over with my hoodie bunched up around my neck. I was an icicle. At some moments it felt like my breath was even cold. The class passed and I wiggled and waddled out of my seat, having to pause while my blood pressure caught up with the rest of my body. Walking back to my car I was so dizzy and I could hardly breathe. The massive change in temperature blasted me as I went from a lukewarm classroom to a freezing windy outside. As I managed into the car I just wanted to cry.

I was so out of it that even the emotional process of crying was too much for my brain to handle. So I drove home with this heavy feeling in my chest. I felt like a failure, a down right absolute failure. I cursed all of this medical garbage I was dealt and thought of all my other classmates who could care less that I looked like I was dying in my seat. I thought of how wonderful it must be to not be sick all the time, how amazing life must be when your wings haven’t been clipped.

At moments like these I wonder what my life would have been like it I never would have gotten sick. How much different would things have turned out? If I was given the ability to fly from day one would I be someone completely different? If I was given the ability to fly forever would I be like everyone else around me?

Connecting the Dots

It was 3 months of waiting around for the rheumatologist appointment. 3 months of realizing my entire life was practically a lie, a lie told and set in stone by someone you should trust and depend on.

I was walking around on a day to day basis telling myself I don’t have POTS. It was hard and honestly it was weird. Every pain I had, every inability to complete a task, I never went back and associated it with POTS. It was something else, something yet undiscovered.

The cardiologist left us with the lingering thought that I might have some terrible nerve damage or some other extremely rare and untreatable ailment. But through research my mother and I came to the conclusion before the appointment that more than likely I had fibromyalgia. It was shocking reading articles online about the condition and how just with a quick google search the top 10 symptoms of fibromyalgia I had. Before the POTS diagnosis one of the things my mother was thinking was fibro but no one ever told us to pursue it. Now here I was 6 years later about to find out the truth and have a definite answer.

Going into the rheumatology appointment I had made a list, just a general “all the things I can remember that are wrong with me” type list. This time no stone was being left unturned and everything was being ruled out. The list goes:

  • Head tingling
  • Neck pain with/without headaches
  • Difficulty focusing eyes
  • Brain fog (memory & concentration; slurred/stuttered speech)
  • Face rash with chills
  • Elephant on chest
  • Rapid heartrate (heart feels “weird”)
  • Chest pain (worse when active)
  • Acid reflux and gastroparesis
  • Arm/hand rash (little clear bubbles & at random times)
  • Bathroom habits (half constipated or not normal)
  • Can’t feel feet/legs (sitting or at random times)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Muscle spasms in leg, feet, back, arms
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Constant aches
  • Severe insomnia
  • Random pain like electric shocks in various locations
  • Chills and sweats
  • Dizzy spells

And that was just what I could think of off the top of my head that I have experienced in the last month on going. As I wrote it I felt this wave come over me like, oh my gosh am I messed up. I could think of no area where I was so and so “right”. But at the same time I felt like I was regaining some power in my life. I was about to go to a doctor that hopefully could help me and really look at this list with a brand new set of eyes.

Can I just say he is the nicest man. He comes into the appointment with his aged face and wrinkled hands and cracks a joke. He goes on to crack wife jokes about how he is a “bad husband” but all in good fun. But then he got down to business. I gave him the list after telling him my story and his first response was.

“Some people might look at this list and think these are all random, unrelated things, but I am looking at this list seeing a connection between each and every piece.”

I almost cried. I was so happy inside. For once it was recognition that I wasn’t making this up, it wasn’t all random, and best of all IT WASN”T ALL UNRELATED. The pieces of the puzzle were finally coming together.

The referring cardiologist suggested somethings for him to rule out and it was all done with simple blood tests. He was a little suspicious that I might have celiac but the results came back negative. In fact the results came back negative in everything. The only area was my thyroid which had me going to a different doctor to rule that out. After that was ruled normal, and just a skewed blood test result, it was time to give a final diagnosis. It was after all fibromyalgia. All the symptoms fit together, everything made sense, and it was time to discuss treatment.

For some people fibro seems like a grim diagnosis, and to my surprise it is so far from it. Like so so far from it. The first medication we tried was Gabapentin, which I could not handle on a higher dose so we switched to this magic medication called Savella. We have been figuring out the dosage and at this moment in time I am on a very low dose. I was having to severe side effects to continue upping the dose so for now it is on the lower end.

The first few weeks of taking it was a miracle. Literally a miracle. I woke up feeling WELL RESTED. I woke up PAIN FREE. I woke up feeling human. I spent my days like someone without all these things would do. I was normal. For the first time since early childhood I felt right. It didn’t exactly last long, but I can say for 3 whole weeks I felt alive again.

We started playing with the dose after 3 weeks and I crashed. The headaches were insane and I couldn’t really eat since the side effect of this medication was extreme nausea. So where I’m at now is getting my sleep issues resolved. My rheumatologist believes after I can have normal sleeping habits again we can play with the dose and prescribe maybe a counter for the side effects.

The hope is seriously there. Every day I wake up and believe that this year might be the year I finally get a handle on my medical issues. And with each appointment that passes my hope grows stronger and stronger.

hope

Dark Depths and the Woman in White

My entire life I lived with symptoms, symptoms that seemingly didn’t fit together. All the doctors looked only at what they were trained for, sticking with what they knew best. But when more than a decade goes by and you are still struggling to live a normal life isn’t it time to wake up and realize that there might be a bigger picture.

After completing high school and entering into the world of college everything seemed to be going pretty steady. My symptoms were manageable enough to attend class, but after my classes ended I would travel home weary and tired. The brain fog consumed my thoughts. I slept when I could and never went out at night. My life consisted of going to and from the university just for educational purposes, the social life was still at a standstill.

Having been diagnosed with POTS my life consisted of maintaining the symptoms and hoping flare ups would be left at bay. My life was also very limited after seeing the cranial osteopath, I was told what I can and cannot do. The list of activities I couldn’t do grew practically every trip. It was hard to have fun when you knew that anything out of the ordinary could mess you up. Even sitting in a different chair could jam my tailbone, or lying on a pillow too high which would push my skull forward. I had to calculate my life down to a tee. Anything else would result in a flare up which would cause me to miss class, and even the disabilities office refused to work with me on my absences. I had to push myself through or face the thought of being forced on medical leave from the university and be pressed further behind on my degree progress.

Year after year went by and I could control most of my flare ups, I was far from perfect but it was still better than being bedridden. I was succeeding in school maintaining a high GPA even with my numerous absences and brain not being there half the time. In my junior year my cardiologist called me and told me he could no longer see me because his practice was refusing to see POTS patients. This happened once before when I was a minor still and the practice said no minors. He referred me to another doctor in the practice who would solely fill my prescriptions. When I finally had an appointment I was told he would only fill some of what I needed. The main problem was the sleep medication I was on, which he refused to refill. My entire life I have had sleep issues and after seeing the old cardiologist for a while he put me on Trazadone and after the Trazadone didn’t work he prescribed Ambien. The thing with Ambien is that doctors really don’t want you taking it every day for long periods of time. By this point I had been on the Ambien almost 3 years, prescribed to take up to 20mg a night every night. The next doctor refused to fill it, and I was left with my lingering supply to hopefully make it to the next doctor. Ambien has a nasty withdrawal and to flat out not prescribe it to someone who has been on it for years is wrong, especially when you know it does have a withdrawal process. And the real kicker was that not sleeping was a huge trigger for my flare ups.

I decided it was time to leave that practice all together since the doctor that would see me was not filling half of my medications and not caring about weaning me off of anything. Luckily I was able to make an appointment at a top heart center in the area and see a doctor who specifically treated POTS patients. The appointment was months away but I could wait, my hope was that she would recommend something else to help me feel like a human again. My life was so controlled by my diagnosis and I couldn’t break free no matter what I tried. I was starting to think I was a lost cause.

When the day of the appointment rolled around my mother came with because this was an incredibly important event to attend. The massive heart center must have spanned over 3 football fields with an extremely modern design. I was hopeful just walking through the door. I needed desperately a fresh take on my POTS diagnosis. When we were ushered into the backroom the doctor enters wearing the typical white doctors garb. She was beyond intense for having the thinnest frailest body imaginable. She talked fast and at some points I couldn’t even understand her. She asked me to tell my story, which I did.

“You don’t have POTS”

Excuse me? Wait what? What did she just say? I looked at my mother, as she looked back at me almost in a rage. What do you mean I don’t have POTS? She asked me to take away the POTS diagnosis and describe my symptoms.

“Because of my POTS…” She stops me and says no, take out POTS, and just describe the symptoms.

“I can’t exercise without my POTS symptoms…”

“Without the POTS…” she exclaimed.

I continue. Explaining my situation was very difficult without adding in the POTS symptoms. I was associating everything with that word. My brain fog, the blood pressure changes, the intolerance to hot and cold, the inability to exercise, the aches and pains I have all over, the chronic fatigue, all of my stomach problems, the cold sweats I would get, even my sleep issues. Everything I could think of I associated with the POTS diagnosis. Well after all I’ve been told this over and over again for years by my former doctor. Everything I had was POTS. All the symptoms were POTS. I couldn’t do this because of POTS. I couldn’t do that because of POTS. It was hard explaining it any other way.

But it was a misdiagnosis. Everything I was told was not true. After living with this diagnosis for 6 years I was told I do not have POTS. I was skeptical. So was my mother. In fact she started back talking the doctor who immediately talked over her. My mother is no wimpy woman and would never let me be pushed around by a doctor. She voiced her opinion while I sit there stunned, now rethinking practically my entire life.

The doctor told us that POTS is a regularly misdiagnosed syndrome since there is no official test to prove you have it. It is simply diagnosed by looking at your symptoms and labeling you with something so they can begin treatment. She also added that most people who truly have POTS are elderly people who can’t get up since they immediately pass out. Things like this did anger me since I knew it wasn’t true. I know in my case it might not have been POTS but by doing research it is most common in adolescents. Not once had I heard it be diagnosed to elderly patients only. She also questioned if my stomach problems actually existed which also frustrated me till no end. This woman sat there and decided to pick me apart piece by piece and tell me it was all a lie. I was questioning POTS but I was not questioning my stomach issues or migraines. Let’s just say this woman was a straight up bitch in white that had no problem exploding your brain with completely new information then stomping on you by insulting the support at home. To end the appointment she told my mother to be more accepting of this news and for me to keep a journal every day, then I would see her in 6 months. To see the look on darkmy mother’s face must have been priceless. But I signaled my mother to not say anything so we could get out of there and have a real discussion with just the two of us.

As we were walking out the door she also added that she would refer me to a rheumatologist because she thinks I might have nerve damage that might be causing some of the symptoms. We finish up the scheduling and head back to the car where I immediately start having a meltdown.

And there I was, back in the dark yet again.

Seeing is Believing

For something to truly work you have to believe in it first.

When the treatment for my POTS was failing miserably with just medication it was time to look at a more nontraditional treatment. My cardiologist recommended I go to a cranial osteopath to see if he could find anything wrong that could be causing my symptoms. When I say cranial osteopath you probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but a cranial osteopath studies the anatomy and physiology of the cranium and its inter-relationship with the body as a whole. In layman’s terms it is a certified OD who moves your skull around and changes the pressure going to and from your head. The complexity is truly amazing and when people are at an advantage to benefit the outcomes can be spectacular.

The first trip I was skeptical. The office music was much like a spa, relaxing yet strange when listening closely enough. For treatment I would go back and lay down on the table and close my eyes, knees bent to align my spine. The doctor would just slightly touch my head and move his hands around applying the lightest pressure possible. I couldn’t even call it a head massage since the pressure is sometimes hard to even feel. Here I was a teenager with a doctor seemingly doing nothing, and to my astonishment I could immediately feel a difference. The treatment sessions lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to a whole hour, depending on what he found. It was odd after the first few trips, my brain felt like the blood was actually moving and I had just drank 6 cups of coffee, but the next 24 to 48 hours I could feel pretty messed up. It was a sign my body was responding to treatment.

Cranial osteopathy is something truly unique that I sincerely doubt most people have even heard of, but the benefits can be life changing. But like anything else if you don’t believe in it most likely it isn’t going to have such an impact right away. I was hopeless and willing to try anything, this allowed my mind to be free and ignore how strange this treatment was. On the website for cranial osteopathy it lists who might benefit from treatment, and it ranges from migraines to Downs syndrome to Autism and more. Within 5 months of treatment going every week to every 2 weeks I wasn’t bedridden anymore. Even though I was far from cured I was able to get up and actually walk downstairs unaided. It was a spectacular feeling having my independence return.

Sadly though there is always a catch. The doctor is one of a kind on the east coast, and is about an hour away. The real kicker, he doesn’t accept insurance. In my personal belief this is unethical, but in the medical world pretty much anything goes. He costs a pretty penny and luckily my mother was able to afford his rates, after all he was the only thing helping my POTS at the time. For years I went to him, in fact I am still going today, and after a time it was found that my skull was pushed inward causing a majority of my symptoms. The treatment showed that my body was compensating for the massive hit I suffered to the front part of my skull. Still to this day it is unknown how that happened, but in my personal opinion it was from the forceps birth. On visits where he “popped” my skull back into place I did have violent reactions, typically the next day I would be throwing up uncontrollably. Now when I say popped I don’t literally mean popped. The skull stayed in place but the joints in-between each part was shifted. There is no pain involved, just usually a strange sensation felt afterwards.

Throughout my ordeal with POTS I have always told people of this doctor, and time after time people give me this strange crazy look like I was being ripped off. The fact of the matter is nontraditional methods are still frowned upon in the medical world and most non-medical people view it as a scam. Sure, scams out there do exist but he is a trained licensed professional doing his jbelievingob, which also so happens to be a little out there. My advice for people seeking any type of treatment that is not the norm is always do your research. In my case it was in the medical field, just not very recognized amongst other doctors, but in other cases it is supplements or herbal remedies. Just always do your research and if anything is seeming uncomfortable or not right then trust your gut. I looked at this situation with open eyes and the outcome made my quality of life go from nothing to something.

After years of treatment and ongoing medical care from my cardiologist I had plateaued and my symptoms seemed to stay at a manageable level. I finished my high school career at home and was able to graduate on time and with my peers. I never saw myself graduating on time since I had been in bed for half of my high school career, yet there I was walking down the aisle holding my diploma. The next step was going to college, it wasn’t a choice in my mind. I had applied and accepted to a local university within driving distance. I felt accomplished and I felt ready to conquer the world. I could leave high school behind and start my new life as a college freshman. With my symptoms finally under control I was able to get back as a player in my own life.

Fall of a Titan

How long do you wait when you’re status isn’t improving?

Midway through my junior year of high school I was being home schooled and was completely bedridden after a diagnosis of POTS. My days consisted of waking up with deep pains all over my body with no energy to even drag myself out of bed. By the time I made it to the bathroom and back I was completely out of breath. I would collapse in bed and wait the day out. Time seemed to not exist. My mind was completely blocked with brain fog and any attempt at doing anything just wouldn’t work. I couldn’t read for my mind jumbled the letters and exhausted itself within minutes. I couldn’t talk because the stutter was so bad. The very thought of opening my mouth caused such immense pain. On some days I would strictly text to communicate with my mother since the slight movement of my fingers was less painful than actually opening my mouth.

The fatigue was all-encompassing and most of the time I needed the assistance of my mother to get around the house, most of the time leaving me with no choice. I mastered what I called the “zombie walk”, when forced to get up I would drag my legs and walk with my arms and back hunched over. In a sense I looked like a zombie walking around the house, which could come in handy if I needed to blend in during the apocalypse. For me this was the best I could do, my energy levels were just not there. Then to mention the actual process of changing positions, once I got some place I liked to stay there for a while because getting up was going to just absolutely be miserable. My eyes would “change” and my mother would hold on to me for a good 5 minutes. I felt pathetic. I felt weak.

My entire life I was raised to be strong, to be independent and rely on no one. And here I was not even able to get out of bed by myself. On plenty of occasions my mother would find me in bed broken out in such a cold sweat unable to move that my then step-father would pick me up and plop me in the car to then go to the hospital. For those of you suffering with the POTS diagnosis you know how much fun the hospital trips are. When I would go to the hospital the doctors would shake their heads and find nothing really wrong, so all you get is hydrated and sent home. For me personally I struggled with severe chest pain and the inability to breathe, which had me going to the hospital frequently. But upon arrival my vitals were fine and the doctors just didn’t care. When I described symptoms that were considered heart attack symptoms I would be practically laughed at and told I was far too young to actually have a heart attack. And throughout all the extreme flare ups I was never admitted to the hospital, well with clear vitals why would they? And back in the day doctors had no idea what POTS even was which made hospital trips even more pointless.

Each and every day I slept, sleeping was all I could do. I would dream of a life where I was actually living. Waking up with my reality was a nightmare all itself. Since I was unable to move much my doctor put me on medication to keep my muscle retention and keep my body from creating bed sores. From there we tried medications for energy, all serious controlled substances that all had the adverse effects on me. I tried Adderall and Ritalin, both made me so exhausted and in so much pain that we stopped immediately. The doctor was stumped since he never heard of those medications having that effect. I tried every supplement in the book, all with no success. My life consisted of staying in bed and sleeping my life away. I felt like I was hibernating and some day I could return to the land of the living.

sleeping titan

After a year of suffering with POTS my stomach started having issues again. This time I felt like I had a rock in my gut every time I tried to eat. So the combination of not eating, not being able to move much, and everything else made my migraines start to flare horribly. When we called the doctor treating my POTS he suggested I get tested for gastroparesis. The two tests to check for this was an endoscopy and a stomach emptying test. The endoscopy was scary since I did have to be put under, but it came back clear so we proceeded to the emptying test. This test was pain free but did require me to eat radioactive eggs, so that’s always interesting. The results told a clear story of how my stomach would not empty properly and the diagnosis of gastroparesis was given. When on average it takes a person to digest a meal maybe 2 to 4 hours, it took mine 8 hours. Again I was happy, another question answered! But there was at the time no FDA approved medication for treatment.

My body was failing and there was nothing I could do. I went through hell as a child and came out stronger, but this diagnosis knocked me down and took my life. I was unable to be like everyone else. I was unable to feel like a person. I was alive, but I was nowhere close to living.

Labels

Labels. They’re slapped on you and when they stick they are the hardest to remove.

After the whole fiasco with my father was over my health started to truly deteriorate. One might say it was the after effects of stress during that time period, but it was persistent and it was getting worse on a daily basis. For years I had dealt with debilitating chronic migraines and on again off again acid reflux, but now more symptoms were getting thrown into the mix. It was my junior year of high school and every day I would end up in the nurses office. I was so tired, I couldn’t think, I was sweating terribly yet cold to the touch. I had gone out of state to a different children’s hospital to go through a tilt table test. The results were not in my favor.

For as long as I could remember I would have to hold onto something upon changing positions, such as from sitting to standing, or lying to sitting. I would say my “eyes were changing” meaning my vision literally turned to black and could stay that way for a few minutes. I was told I had low pressure after a round of preventative migraine medications when I passed out in the kitchen on Memorial Day. From that day forward we also had to mention to doctors of my low blood pressure situation. With a desperate mother researching away we both decided I might benefit from a tilt table test to see if blood pressure medication might help alleviate my symptoms. The procedure seemed harmless so I decided to make that decision and go forward with it.

Arriving at the children’s hospital was horrifying. The ward I was going to was mixed in with the cancer patients, and the constant sobbing of parents filled the hallways. In the procedure room I was hooked up to an IV and strapped to a table. The first test had me just lying down, then mechanically moved to standing. Nothing happened. My heart rate and blood pressure changed drastically but I did not pass out. The next test they injected an agent to make my heart race “like I was running”. The wording sounded harmless, but the actual agent felt like my heart was going to explode. I lay on the table, my heart beating a million miles a minute, my mother practically screaming to make it stop and turning away when they wouldn’t. I was thrust into the standing position, yet again keeping consciousness. Then the test was over. I had failed. Because of this test I was told I was fine and to improve my condition I should drink plenty of Gatorade and eat tons of salt, a diagnosis plenty of patients initially go through with this condition.

It was rather insulting, to be told to my face that I am perfectly healthy, to be told salt will fix my chronic fatigue. So I returned to school, struggling each and every day. The absences were growing and the school nurse was beginning to suggest things I might have. One day she thought maybe I might have this condition called POTS. My mother and I looked at each other like what in the world was she talking about, but then went home and researched the syndrome. POTS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, with a list of symptoms that I checked yes to every single one. The problem was POTS at this time was fairly new and doctors were hard to come by that treated specifically that. By lucks chance my mother called a doctor only 30 minutes away that would see me the next day, though not a POTS trained specialist. The next day I arrived and was diagnosed with POTS. I went for blood work to reveal my ferritin levels and that sealed my fate. The POTS label was slapped upon me.

The symptoms were getting worse and new symptoms arising. It was like walking a hallway, knowing there was an end but none currently in sight. The doors were endless. A symptom here, a symptom there. By winter break it was decided that I should be pulled from school and instead homeschooled. Instead of completely being homeschool the school provided that my actual instructors come to my house for a set amount of time each wehallwaysek. In a sense I was distance learning.

My growing number of symptoms was so vast and complicated that at times I stumped the doctor. The first issue to address was my blood pressure. It was incredibly low, and standard to POTS sufferers would go through severe drops when changing positions. Unlike some POTS patients though I never did pass out, but the severely low blood pressure might have been causing my other symptoms of chronic fatigue and brain fog. I was put on two medications, midodrine and fludrocortisone (which was a steroid). Together these were to keep my blood pressure at a certain level, which they did after months of taking them. The sides effects I had from both medications added to my daily woes. My head would go numb and tingle, which freaked my mother out but I told her I can handle it.

At the time the prognosis was slim but at least someone had figured out what was finally wrong with me. Even though I had this label it was still something compared to nothing. The hallway might have been long but it now had an end, so I was told. I was hopeful even though my condition was worsening.

The Wound That Never Heals

This is a continuation of my journey with my father, read part one, part two, part three, or part four.
There are always consequences to your actions, even if you are just a child. I didn’t know what was going to happen next in regards to my father, in my brain I guessed taking the initial action would be enough. I would never ever have to face him again, I wouldn’t have to fear what was coming next. But I was young, and I was oh so naive.

The first round of court was focused on making my father out to be neglecting. Our first lawyer said the abuse claim wouldn’t hold up in court since there was no actual “abuse”. That was like a slap in the face, even our lawyer didn’t believe I was in danger. I was told what to say and how to say it, nothing which was actually true. Because I was a minor most of the talking was on my mother’s end since she held custody. But what doomed me was the fact I verbally agreed to do week on week off with my parents and both of them signed. Although it was not court officiated it was used against me that first round. We couldn’t even take the case past the lower judge since my lawyer royally screwed us over. So at the end of this I was forced to see my father as I was before and if I didn’t they would hold my mother in contempt of court.

But to my surprise my father didn’t want me. He of course didn’t say it in front of a judge because if he said that then the all mighty dollar would come back into play. By stating he didn’t want me he would be forced to pay child support. I couldn’t stand to be around him. And worst of all he was trying to make it seem like nothing happened, that I was overreacting to the entire situation. I would be lectured over and over. The family outing tripled. The car rides were excruciating. I had nowhere to hide. I was trapped and that was that. If I didn’t do everything he wanted I was psychologically messed with. The family friend would make comments about me to my face, then trade off to my father who would mock anything I do. The two openly discussed how horrible my mother was and that I was just like her. It was never ending. Then on top of that my father was pushing me further and further into the school nightmare. He would watch every homework assignment I had to complete. If I didn’t complete it to his likings well I better do it again, and again, and again. There was no asking for help. I did it right the first time or I was a failure. This was drilled into me until I broke down inside and knew I was a failure who would never be smart enough.

When I went to my mother for a second time I asked her if we could pursue the custody issue again but this time with a different lawyer. This time we won, we pursued the abuse issue and the courts dissolved the matter of me going there every week. My mother and him discussed on the phone how I would come over on weekends like before, and no fight was to be had. Those weekends were painful. Those weekends I shut off, I couldn’t stand to be in that house. I eventually stopped going because my father’s rage was clearly building again, and if he exploded in front of me again I just don’t know what he would have done. When my mother went to the court to have child support put back into place my father lost it. He was threatening my mother in front of two lawyers and a judge. Even his lawyer screamed at him to shut up but with no success. The last time I saw my father was that last day in court. He sat next to us waiting to be seen and tried to talk to me like it was any other day. He was unapologetic. He still thought I was making everything up. He truly believed my mother was the one doing all of this and that I was just following her lead. He had no idea what he had done and what he was doing.

I haven’t actually had any contact with my father since then, he had contacted me on three occasions and that was when he was about to go to jail for not paying child support. Every single time the bill was due he wouldn’t pay and when I turned 18 he just stopped paying all together even though in his marriage contract he signed to pay support until I was 23 no questions asked. He is currently 9k in arrears. For years after the last battle he would claim he was disabled and completely broke so that the court would pity him. He would show up with no shoes on and a walker, saying that his health is so horrible and he hasn’t been able to afford shoes in 20 years. He would fake a variety of ailments all to get his cost lowered. He would show up on purpose without any paperwork that the court ordered. The same man with a record collection worth over 100k. The same man with two cars. The same man that collects artwork from around the country. The same man that travels around the country for leisure. By the end of it all he was paying less than $200 a month for me. And even that was so much for him. For his own child with medical problems I was worth $200, and even then not even worth that much because he didn’t pay that money. The realization came to me years down the line that my father put on a charade just to get out of paying child support, but the game he was playing was my life and to him I was just a puppet.

He was vindictive. A year after contact was shut off he went into my college fund and withdrew 10k, the entire amount he had saved for me while I was living at his house. Because of the plan we had that 10k would be so taxed that you were lucky if you got back 1k. It was a slap in the face. Even without him in my life he would torment me. He called me on two occasions before court appearances saying he was on his “way out” and that we should “hug one last time”. His reason behind his so called death, a minor blood clot in his leg that was so minute not even the doctors would write him a note for the courts. He called again saying practically the same thing, just a different excuse.

And when I cut off my father I also cut off that entire side of the family. They knew how my father was, they saw what he would do and how he behaved. But I lost them too. A grandmother, an aunt, two uncle, and two cousins never to be heard from again. They could have reached out to me, and honestly I could have reached out to them but we didn’t.

The life with him as my father left me scarred, left me emotionally broken and in therapy for years but I regret none of it. What I did that day was something I needed to do on my own. It was the first time in my life I made a decision by myself for my own wellbeing. There are still days where I look back and question everything that happened, questioned if I did the right thing. But every time, even if it takes weeks to come to this conclusion, I realize that I did do the right thing. Someone who takes you for granted and abuses your trust, mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing and uses you as an object has no business being in your life. When I tell people my story I always get the “daddy issues” label and it boggles my mind. I think at the end of the day people need to dig deeper into who is in their lives and even if it their own flesh and blood realize that it is not okay to be abused.

It takes real courage and strength to exile an entire side of the family. It will haunt you forever. The emotions that come with doing this will cause all sorts of conflictions in your thoughts. My mind always creates scenarios where my father is a decent human being, where he isn’t the man that shaped who I was for the longest time. I have created my own defense mechanism where I just block out the painful barrenmemories. When I go to search for them they are no longer there. My mind becomes a wasteland and with that comes peace. I try my hardest to rid my mind completely of him, but what he did left battle scars that will never heal.