Dissecting Behaviour: why not act?

I wondered why I didn’t act, to do something that would have prevented catastrophe. This morning I woke up, very little sleep, thinking I understood something about my past that predicted my inaction when it counted.

Perhaps experimenting with feeling threatened and feeling threatening my brother would chase me around the house–at home alone together or if our mother heard she would shout his name with an angry tone. I think we considered it a natural sibling thing. I didn’t know what I feared, but I knew the right thing to do was run. We would start out angry or intense, he would say something disparaging about my friends, or knock something from my hand, or I remember he turned off the tape recorder, I was taping music from a movie on TV and he had to interfere. I would be defensive, verbally or wack him and, run. Eventually he would laugh and leave me alone. Maybe I laughed too, with relief–it was over, I was okay and only a little literally bruised. It was all in fun though I had no fun. At dinner time we behaved normally. Nothing wrong, we had run it out of ourselves. We might have our secret (sibling-rivalry), but for the moment, all was apparently well.

When it didn’t serve my brother he sometimes lost his temper, in sports getting penalties for poor sportsmanship (smashing the ball against the floor after a whistle), and at teachers, losing out on academic recognition because he had an attitude and a bad temper. Years later I heard a radio interview, “Depression in youth is not sadness; it is anger.” I found the information shocking as a revelation. It fit with what I knew–an angry boy, suffering depression as an adult. Something else I heard was, an infant that experiences trauma at birth can have psychological scars in adulthood. Mother said, “He was black and blue” (and probably should have been a C-section) but in those days, who knew.

Children of royalty are surrounded by influencers and our children are no less precious. People try to help them. I would have treated a pet better, a voiceless thing. She had excuses, explanations, and only me, so the effect was reassurance but not happiness for either of us. I should have recalled that, with other hospital admissions to regain weight she would be happier straight away. Angst, irritability, continued and it was contagious.

From the time we met, my husband had occasional melt-downs of apparent anger or angst. After quite a few years (when it was affecting the kids) I realized there was a pattern and pointed it out to him–every 3 to 5 months he would disintegrate; bellow about being misunderstood, world against him, and us siding with the rascally world. We had small children and my husband would get out of sorts, erupt in a sort of argument, “Things shouldn’t be thus, and, there!, you are!, (me), disagreeing with me–always siding with them (whoever).” I think it might be a socialising reflex to respond to grumpiness intending to sooth or reveal the benign truth, with things like, “Possibly you misunderstood. You feel this way, but they probably never thought of it as a put-down. Possibly they misunderstood,” or whatever.

2016, twenty-seven years into our marriage, husband experienced occasional visual migraines, experiencing loss of time. Going to evening class, 5th of 6, on Anger Management, he had to pull over. He thought he was hungry, but then couldn’t remember his PIN for debit purchase at 7-Eleven. So he called me, got an ambulance, and we met in Burnaby emergency. He was diagnosed with epilepsy, spells he could predict from how he felt. He was told to avoid flashing or blinking lights on TV, and given medication. Some of “our arguments” over the years may have been after TV news or shows that included blinking lights. Driving that night would have included oncoming lights. He was disoriented.

About 8 years into our marriage we had a typical argument battling for affection or intimacy. Of course this never makes sense, you don’t get angry when your partner is uncertain of the answer for, “Can we have sex.” But, there you go. I ran (a familiar feeling) from anger in the house. I ran out the door and onto the deck, on the snow and ice. I ran around the perimeter of the house and he was outside so I ran back in, made my way to daughter’s room and lay down between the wall and the bed in her room in the dark to sleep. I was aware he searched and was awake when he peeked into the darkened room and could probably see my feet, and I slept, there on the floor.

Recently my husband simply corrected me and I was aware several times that it gives me an awful feeling through the chest and stomach, say when we are working together on painting, things like that. And it cuts, I can feel a stone in my stomach and I think I have always been this way. She experienced this from both of us.

All this to say–this morning I recognised my behaviour last summer, as incapable against the confident, irrational eating disorder (aka my daughter, my pet) telling me what to do and think. And my husband, deciding for “us” to sell the condo and move to the interior–in spite of having a daughter across town struggling with mental health problems. She seemed fine, text and phone calls, but I think I knew better. Did I know? I convinced myself to concentrating on staying-the-course, by reflex or habit, as someone else is in charge. The object is to maintain the status quo, accept what is provided as a framework. There’s been a study of crabs in the ocean, they are bold or shy. Action decisions are personal and not predictable across all individuals. Responses may not be altogether unpredictable, but it depends on circumstances, like influencers.

If I understood in my subconscious that the ED was driving her (making stuff up), then my own behaviour was to smooth things, make what was dealt appear to be fine. It seemed a much bigger a-ha when I woke today (very little sleep last night and working at 3 PM today).

I did not act. I felt crazy, but was maintaining control by sticking to habits. She called to get picked up and taken for a drive. “There is a little bit of white fluff on your cheek …” “Oh, that is probably from the tape from the feeding tube,” but it was just a speck of white satin. How did she have an answer ready?

Visually, things were seriously dangerous. We stopped the one time at the back of Lions Gate Hospital and I wanted her to get out and I could take a photo with the sign, “HOpe.” But she wouldn’t, “Let’s go Mum. This is annoying. Take me home.” We spoke of mild things, not too much about recovery or treatment–because she said she was in the intensive programs at St. Paul’s. Her weight was low, the light on the panel for the front passenger seat was on–indicating 65 lbs or less, if I had cared to look up what the light meant before she died (I looked it up after she died).

I think the idea of treating the most valuable relationship in my life, as no more deserving of attention and appreciation as I had been given, had to do with being accustomed to despair and making-nice. Act normal and things will settle down to being normal. I figure we were both terrified. I wanted the status quo to begin to work–behave like normal, including the assumption that she ate food when she was at home. And she wanted me to guess, to figure out her lies, and to save her against the disorder that made her lie.

Personality and experiences worked against us. We were out of sync. Fear took away common sense. Words and reflexes meant both of us were disarmed. No one to intervene, even the slightest concerned comment would typically have steered me in agreement towards appropriate suspicion, realisation, and determination, and dramatic action, against dread, fear, and indecision. But the disease ran its natural course. Service to others is perhaps treatment. I am in prison and there is no parole.

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