Archive for January, 2015


As children we believe that we are the center of everything, that is why children who experience the trauma of problems in the family, such as marital discord and divorce, often blame themselves for it. It is just part and parcel of childhood development, It is even worse when parents appear to blame us by behavior that seems to be rejecting of us. Of course there are times when that is perception and there are times when the rejection is real. But do we know the motives behind these behaviors? Not always, because once again we think it is about us, not them.


Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problems in my family were not about marital discord, but something that shook the very foundations of the entire family, the death of my brother. This is perhaps the most traumatic thing that can happen to parents, and it often results in divorce. In my parents’ case, they supported each other, which was good, but that does not mean that the family dynamics were not dramatically affected.

It has taken me a long time to put the pieces together and realize how much of my parents’ behavior towards me was a result of this. Some of the details I only found out about as an adult. My therapist also helped me to understand this better as well. I am now in a position where I am able to finally put myself in their place, rather than letting my wounded inner child carry the whole narrative. Perhaps I should have seen this earlier, I am now 50 years old, but better late than never.

From my earliest recollections, I never felt loved. My mother was critical and rejecting of me and my father was distant. I never bonded with either of them. There are many reasons for this dynamic, but one of the big ones was the accidental death of my older brother at age six. I was only a year and a half old when this happened and my sister was four,

Looking at family pictures is very telling. My sister for instance looked very happy and care-free before this happened. Afterwards I can see the birth of the very serious sister that I knew growing up.

I don’t remember my brother, yet oddly enough I miss him. A piece of the family went missing and never came back. I am told that he adored me, and would crawl along behind me on the floor and call me “baby-doll.”

The trauma didn’t actually start with his death, although that was the climax of it. He was always a sickly child. Born prematurely, he had a defect in his stomach valve that caused him to have serious fits of vomiting, where he became dehydrated enough to require medical attention. Insurance laws on pre-existing conditions back then made it extremely difficult for him to get the surgery he needed to correct the problem. Family pictures show him as a happy child, but pale and skinny. He looked similar to pictures I have seen of children with cancer.

Eventually he did have the surgery, but it did not fix the problem. During another one of his vomiting episodes my mother took him to the doctor. His regular doctor was out of the office, but another one was covering for him. My parents at that time had no idea that he was not a pediatrician. He gave my brother a shot of compazine for the nausea and sent him home.

The following details I only got from my father after my mother passed. I never knew the exact details of my brother’s death but they are horrifying.

In the afternoon my mother got a call from the doctor. He told her that he thought she should take my brother to the hospital. But my brother had stopped vomiting so she assured him that everything was fine. She just thought the doctor was acting out of an abundance of caution.

That night my brother died in his sleep. An autopsy showed that he had fluid in his lungs. The medical examiner believed that he aspirated vomit.

My father was very suspicious about the whole thing and went to see the pediatrician. Having not treated my brother himself he looked in the medical record. He did not have much to say to my father, but he left the record with my dad before leaving and asked for him to take it to the front desk. My father believes this was intentional, that the doctor wanted him to see what was in there. My father took note of what drug he was given and the dosage. When he looked it up he discovered that the doctor had given him the ADULT dose of the drug!

And the most horrible part of the whole thing is that obviously the doctor at some point realized what he had done, which is why he made the strange call to my mother. But he was too chicken to tell the truth so he could get help!

The way compazine works to stop vomiting is to reduce the gag reflex but it also reduces the choking reflex as well. In an appropriate dose that is not a problem. But in the dose that my brother was given it completely eliminated it. My mother gave him water before putting him to bed. That water went straight into his lungs, explaining the autopsy results.

My mother blamed herself for not taking him to the hospital. She felt that she had put finances before my brother’s well-being because my father had just gotten a new job and they did not have insurance yet. Of course it was never her fault but that did not stop her from feeling guilty.

My father put the blame where it belonged and went to a lawyer but at that time the doctors were the ones who had all the powerful lawyers so it would have been almost impossible to win the case. Furthermore my father had no money to pursue this. And it was not going to bring my brother back anyway.

So here was my grief stricken mother who was trying to hold it all together and still take care of two young children, one just a baby. No wonder I felt rejected, she simply couldn’t deal with it all. My sister was probably old enough to be sensitive to the situation and try not to be a bother. Even before my brother died though, my mother most likely was having some trouble taking care of me because my brother was sick all the time.

Things were very bad for my father as well. In fact I can’t even imagine how he had the strength to keep going. He had to take time off from his new job to take care of funeral arrangements. And his boss bullied him over it. And not just him, but my father’s co-workers as well. My father has told me that they actually made sick jokes about my brother’s death. And he also told me something that shocked me even more than that. He said that this is the kind of bullying that makes people want to kill themselves. Then he said “But suicide would not have solved anything.”

Even as I write this down I am fighting back tears. My poor, poor brave father! No one should ever have to go through that!

He actually stayed at the job because they needed the money. So day after day he had to keep going. He was fired eventually, and this same boss blacklisted him, so he could not get another job. But my father got lucky on one count. He talked to someone who knew this boss and it turns out this guy had something scandalous on him, and told my father not to worry, that he would take care of the situation. The blacklisting stopped.

After putting this all together how can I not have empathy for what both of them went through? I would not have been able to endure that.

I now know that it wasn’t about me. The rejection I felt was from two people who were struggling to keep their heads above water. And they made it. They loved my sister and I enough to keep going.

God bless them both.





Disability benefits are already on the chopping block by the new GOP majority. And they are doing it in a rather unscrupulous way, by pitting the old against the young. I got this in my mailbox today from Social Security Works:

We knew that the new Republican Congress wanted to dismantle our Social Security system brick by brick—but we didn’t expect them to do it on their first day!

They’ve taken what should be a dry, mundane exercise – the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives – and turned it into a stealth attack on our Social Security system. This rule is nothing more than an attempt to divide people who believe in Social Security.

We need to tell Congress we stand united on the side of our WHOLE Social Security system! We reject the games and forced crises. Social Security works.

The new Republican rule prevents a simple technical amendment, known as “reallocation” – something that has been done many times over the history of Social Security, something that few persons other than actuaries and other Social Security experts ever know about – from being enacted in the next two years to ensure that all Social Security benefits continue to be paid in full and on time.

The new rule mandates a 20% cut in benefits to disabled workers unless legislation is passed that either cuts workers’ Social Security retirement benefits or raises taxes.


There are obviously MANY things wrong with this, being unfair to both sides. But some people may ask why it would be unfair to cut disability benefits for the disabled if they are capable of working. The reason why is simple. Not all of the disabled are capable of working full-time. The way things are set up now a disabled person can make up to a certain amount of money before losing their benefits. For some this a a good test of whether they can make it in the workforce part-time or eventually even full-time. It is judged on a case by case basis. The amount of money they can make by working part-time before cutting off disability benefits is NOT enough to live on. It is in addition to the amount of money they receive from Social Security which usually is not very much at all. I get $1000 a month on SSDI. The last I was able to work part-time the limit of what I could earn was $700 a month.

This arrangement is meant to provide incentive for the disabled to work and as a test of their ability to work. Periodically for those who are not on permanent disability (as their condition may improve), they will be evaluated on whether they are capable of working full-time. This is done on a trial-basis and if they experience a relapse then they can get their benefits re-instated. With those who suffer from mental illnesses, this is a very important provision. I have witnessed relapses where people end up homeless, in one case it was less than a week. One man who went to the mental health center I worked at lost his job AND his housing after a schizophrenic episode because they thought he was on drugs.

Cutting benefits not only reduces the incentive to work but also makes it difficult for the disabled to save any kind of money for them to fall back on. It amounts to punishing them for working! These are NOT people who are living the “High Life!”

I am probably preaching to the choir here, but still my readers need to know what is going on and those who do not have any kind of disability should know WHY this is a bad move.

This is also a bad sign for those who can’t work at all. I am in that position right now because of my secondary disability, fibromyalgia. I was able to work part-time before. If the GOP is willing to do this now, what are they going to do in the future?  I am not lazy, as anyone who knows me and those who read this blog knows.

As far as people who have mental illnesses, I know people who are able to work and those who can’t. There are people who are “high-functioning” on medication and those who are not. Some are under permanent conservatorship and cannot even live independently. Of course there are some in long-term mental facilities, but that is rare since laws have changed and many such facilities have closed down. A more common thing to happen is for people to cycle in and out of short-term facilities, where they are stabilized and released. The average stay is about a week. There are advantages and disadvantages to that system, which I am not going to get into now. But the point is that no one should assume that just because someone with a mental illness is not in a hospital, that he or she is capable of living an independent life.

This move is about creating more resentment by those who are not disabled and work, and those who are retired. The GOP has already done a fantastic job of convincing people that the majority of people getting help from the government are not working and have no inclination to do so. THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE.

Does anyone really believe that the majority of people that have been brainwashed by the TPGOP are going to go for raising taxes to help the disabled? Not when they have been taught that the majority of them are faking it!

While it is true that more people are on disability it is mainly because of an ageing population. Why not go after the minority who are abusing the system, instead?

Here is the rest of the email I got received. I would encourage people to not only sign their petition but to check their ideas on how to keep Social Security solvent for EVERYONE.

Social Security isn’t a hostage or a bargaining chip. It is a universal system based on the principle that we are stronger together. The program’s opponents seek to divide and conquer. They seek to turn young against old by falsely claiming that too much is being spent on the old. This time they seek to drive a wedge between retired workers and disabled workers by claiming that reallocation helps the disabled at the expense of retirees – another preposterous claim. All of these divide-and-conquer strategies are intended to turn Americans against each other so that all of our benefits can be cut.

This is no way for elected officials to treat the constituents they are supposed to serve. Hostage-taking to force changes that the American people do not want to a vital program like Social Security is no way to run the United States of America. But if we stand together, this stealth effort to pull apart our Social Security will be defeated.

Tell Congress: We will not be divided. Support for the whole Social Security system is essential to our economic security, and we won’t stand for underhanded attempts to undermine it.

Thank you,
Alex Lawson
Executive Director
Social Security Works