Many of you who follow my writings started to get to know a little more about me personally around one year ago. Today, in this third installment (and after my early life and childhood), I’m sharing essentially my teen years which should help you understand how I got to where I am today. I’m doing these articles as a source of inspiration (hopefully) to my readers, and also because I think there are many people who can relate well to my saga, if not exactly in a similar context, in the dynamics of the situation. Remember – no situation and no person is hopeless!
Again, as I stated in my first article, I identify as an adult child – which means I am a child of parents who were involved in using drugs and alcohol. With both of my parents, their substance use likely got started with smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails socially. My dad was more of a functional alcoholic, and my mom developed very fully into alcoholism. Additionally, my mom’s family doctors, knowing fully well that she was drinking, continued to prescribe uppers and downers. Addiction was swept under the carpet much more in the time my parents lived.
I’m going to pick up where I left off in the last installment – we had moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland when I was 12, a ‘tween. I had become even more depressed (I wasn’t making the transition very well), and my mom was also having a hard time. She was away from her family, my dad was gone a lot at work, and whenever they had a bad fight, he would take off to parts unknown for God knows how long. I was too young to keep track. I wasn’t paying that much attention to their issues (fighting was the norm for us); I was overwhelmed with my own depression (which never got diagnosed), feeling alone against the world except for my new best friend. I am very thankful that my new friend Susan was part of my life. She was very empathetic to my situation. We could rely on each other’s support no matter what.
A full year younger than nearly all of my classmates due to skipping one year, and very emotionally immature, I was nevertheless known as a good student. For the most part I got good grades at school. I don’t remember exactly when we moved to another suburb, and I had to change schools again, but it must have been around the second year of high school that we moved to Rockville, Maryland. The house was nicer, it was sunnier, it was a split level, and my new high school was closer. I continued to be very depressed…. In fact, I remember in one English class we had to emulate a famous author, and I chose Edgar Allen Poe because it was easy for me to write sarcastically and in depressed themes (think of his poem, The Raven). Of course, I aced my way through that assignment!
All the while I was being belittled at home non-stop by my mom and my sisters and getting physically punished. So, my self-esteem was falling to new lows. I began to gain more weight from my mid- to late-teens, and honestly, I don’t really know how I put one foot in front of the other, continuing to live out my daily life with only put-downs, getting hit, and other types of negativity and not very much that was positive. The overeating was acting as a buffer, a blanket if you will, which took the edge off the constant, unrelenting emotional pain. It made life just a little bit more bearable. Even if there were positive things going on (and I now assume there were), I certainly wasn’t noticing them. I was by then severely emotionally damaged, and my growing attachment to food felt like this was the only way I could survive this ongoing mental, physical, and emotional abuse. In fact, to this day I am dealing with trapped emotions from these earlier years, wondering why I have at times such a compulsion to eat, remembering how this unbearable abuse at such a young age felt, and am now using a different way to rid myself of them…Emotion Code treatments, an energetic approach. I buried this pain deeply, and it’s not easy to bring it back up. However, I want to be completely free from it so I’m in it till the end – till these difficult trapped emotions are completely gone except for maybe a dim memory.
I can remember trying cigarettes at this time, and a little later I tried marijuana (it wasn’t nearly as strong as it is today), but each time I ended up coughing so hard that I couldn’t continue. For that I am now grateful because I never had to quit seeing as how I never really got started! Today I have a different view of why my respiratory tract is still as inflamed as it is, but I am beginning to understand that I didn’t have a voice during my childhood, and with all that is being discovered in the mind/body space, it’s not surprising that this area of my body would be so physically affected. I had also tried beer and wine but wasn’t much of a fan of the taste and effect of alcohol. I never liked and still don’t like it when my mind is not my own, completely under my control. It’s funny – I’d always assumed I was much more like my mom than my dad, but it turns out to be true only in some ways. Falling so hard into substance use was never my thing like it was for my mom. Falling hard into food abuse – well, that’s a different story. Food abuse was also her thing, at least until her latter years when she’d almost stopped eating and was only smoking, drinking, and taking uppers and downers by legal prescription. How she lived to be 55 years old, I’ll never understand. That was her age at death. I’ve already got that beat in spades.
I was only 17 years old for less than three months when I graduated high school. I moved to my girlfriend’s family for the summer because there was a scenario at home where I’d taunted my mom, and she grabbed a big butcher knife from the kitchen and chased me around the house with it. Thank goodness I was faster than she was, and I went upstairs into her bedroom and locked the door – it was the only room in the house with a working lock. That bedroom had a connecting bathroom. My mom was furious that she couldn’t get at me, and she banged on the door for a while, yelling for me to get out, but I had planted myself in her bed and covered myself up with her blankets, I was shaking so hard from being that scared. Then she went across the hall to my bedroom, and I could hear her taking out all my clothes from my dresser and closet and throwing them all over the room. Finally, she called the police and told them a lie – that she was afraid I was going to hurt myself with a razor from her bathroom. The police came, knocked at the bedroom door, I let them in, and told them to look at what she had done to my bedroom, and that I did not want to cut myself. There were two cops, they just looked at each other, and told us to apologize to each other. I did it, not seeing the need for any apology from me, just to send them on their way. Then I reached out to my girlfriend, and her parents came and picked me up. I never went back home again. In any case, around that time my parents finally split up so there was never a family home to return to.
That fall, I began to study at the University of Maryland and lived at a dorm. It was a very shaky start to my young adulthood, but more on that later.
As always, have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.