On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The True Character of a Person

Eight years ago I had "girlie parts" surgery in a last ditch attempt to correct my organs and make conception possible and at the very least, minimize the pain and discomfort of years of monthly issues. As I came out of the anesthesia in recovery, the nurse asked me if I would like some ginger ale. I replied with a slurred voice, still in a foggy stupor of drugs, "Yes, please and thank you."

The nurse paused and then asked, "Would you like it with some ice?"

"Ooo..." I cooed, "That would be nice!"

When the nurse brought me my drink, holding the straw so I could sip, she said, "You must be a very nice person."

I nodded my head. "Some people tell me that."

"No. I mean it," she persisted. "When people are on drugs and coming out of surgery, you learn the true character of that person. In all my years as a nurse, never once has a patient said 'please and thank you' like you did. It says a lot about you. If you are that nice after surgery, you must be an angel when you're fully alert."

I just smiled back at her and sipped some more. I thanked her and drifted in and out of sleep.

That conversation with the recovery room nurse has stuck with me. The fact that the essence and true character of an individual can be made evident when they are most vulnerable is intriguing. Sure, it's astounding to learn that my true character is what I hope it might be, as though I've really seen myself in a mirror, not just my reflection but who I am to the world. But I think it's more telling to learn that the more likely reality is that people are not as they seem.

Long before parenting challenged children, I had many opportunities to be connected with the lives of other challenged individuals. I was intrigued by the potential for such alarming alterations of the mind and body and that the human spirit always prevailed over every adversity. I was equally intrigued by the ability or inability of other individuals to support the less fortunate and in my ignorance concluded that the choice to be benevolent was based upon moral character and integrity. Ignorance is such bliss.

In my senior year of college, I came face to face with the truth of the crippling nature of mental illness as it pertains to the benevolence of others. An individual that was highly regarded by my college campus ministry and who was generally accepted as very gifted, kind and compassionate was a pathological liar that had evaded police, engaged in credit fraud, identity theft and was in fact, not even an enrolled student. Layer upon layer of lies was peeled away and with each layer removed, those of us that knew her were stunned anew. The depth of her manipulations was far reaching and injured many, many people. Just typing this, I have a pit in my stomach remembering how hurtful and damaging her machinations were. It brings tears to my eyes and makes me weep both for those she hurt and in pity for her soul. This experience was the first true encounter I had with the threat mental illness plays on the moral fiber and character of a person and by default, those whose lives they touched. Once you know the character and face of a pathological liar, you never forget it. Any other person you meet that is deceptive stands out like '67 VW van in a sea of BMWs. And it's extremely painful to watch others be duped by their deceptions time and time again despite my warnings.

Fast forward to present day, living with a pathological liar that is so convincing in her manipulations that she has completely snowed the staff at her school, I am again reminded of the limitless depths of psychoses and the havoc it wreaks on the innocent and benevolent. Sissy doesn't do it on purpose. She just does it. And I continue to be the punching bag when the ignorant individuals duped by her machinations refuse to accept that it is my CHILD who is mentally ill, the mental illness and the psychoses of the mind knows no bounds and is not a respecter of age.

Sissy apparently told my therapist in a private session how much she LOVES math. My therapist and I had a good chuckle about it because it's not true in the farthest stretch of the imagination. Yet Sissy, compelled to make herself look good, concocted the lie and convincingly so, I might add. Oh, she can lie without flinching, adding just the right flair of truth that it is easily accepted as such.

Directly after my session with my therapist, I bumped into a school professional that I presumed was very familiar with the true character of Sissy. Still tickled by her latest lie, I said, "you'll never believe this. Sissy told my therapist that she LOVES math!" *giggle, giggle, snort*

The professional said, "Oh yay! Finally we're getting through! I knew she'd come around."

O.o "No," I continued to giggle, "Sissy doesn't like math, she HATES it! it's a ruse, she would rather be in the hospital than do math. She was lying."

"oh, you never can tell what will come out of these kids' mouths. At least some of that must be truth."

*brick wall, deep sigh, realization that once again, I'm being assumed to be the idiot* I answered dumbly, "yeah," halfheartedly chuckling, "you never can tell what Sissy will say."

It infuriates me because I know the true character of Sissy. I've talked to her, metaphorically speaking, when she's in post-op recovery, still in a drug stupor. The true character of my child is to manipulate at all cost in an odd and convoluted attempt of self-preservation. It's called RADs. It has stolen my child's mind forever. Her psychoses continues to bring me pain and sorrow daily. And what of my true character?

Though I be stung, pricked, abused and blamed, I will always be a very nice person with integrity and the moral fiber of Christ whom I profess as my Savior. It would just be very nice if once in awhile, other people might get a true glimpse of the depth and the many layers of manipulations Sissy feels she must continue.

I asked her two nights ago as an off-handed thought, "Hey Sissy, what's your favorite subject. And don't say math."

"What? Why would I say math? I hate math."

"I know you do. I was just wondering why you would say you love it."

"When did I say I love math?"

"To my therapist in a private session."

"Huh? I don't even remember that. Why would I say that? That doesn't even make sense."

"I know. That's why I brought it up."

"I think I like science the best. Yeah. I like science. That's my favorite."

I laughed. "Yes. Yes it is."

Oh the mind games I have to play to get the truth from her. It's exhausting. But I believe always maintaining personal integrity despite the unending barrage of interrogations, disbelief and second-guessing I endure because Sissy is a pathological liar is more exhausting. Maybe one day I'll go psycho back on these people.

Nah. They'll just say, "see, I knew it all along. It really IS the mom that's whack, not Sissy."

I think I'd like some ginger ale with ice, please and thank you.


Anonymous said...

You are a nice person with the gifts of Christ inside of you. Otherwise you would have snapped long ago. I know Sissy vaguely at the barn and can tell that she can manipulate and I don't have to read any blog or anything else to be able to see the macinations in her head. It is obvious by the look in her eye and the tilt of her head. It is called being an observant adult who can see through children. It is sad a professional can't see it. You know you will always have my support.

Ilsa said...

14 years, and still my heart lurched when I recognized your story. I never considered mental illness as a factor. I sometimes wonder what happened to her. She wreaked such havoc in my life, and then everything blew up and she just disappeared, leaving a whole lot of hurt and unanswered questions in her wake. And given that this is about to be a public comment, I will just leave it at that. I had forgotten that you were still there when it all happened.

missjenngirl said...

Neither of you were there the summer before that happened when half of the college ministry was in my college appartment, blaming me for something I didn't do, that ended up being another part of this web of lies. I left school with the minister, his wife and half of the ministry thinking I was a liar, I felt like I had lost every friend I had. No one ever told he that what happened after that summer happened, I heard bits and pieces, but never once got an appology. I am a special ed teacher by trade, the niece of a mentally challeged individual and have had may encounters and interaction with the mentally ill, yet that was the single most damaging action I ever encountered... Until my step child started having issues. Now, she has been expelled for threats and has become the queen of manipulation, I read this blog and that of others and I worry that she will never be well. That she will never be able to life alone and that she could have been helped if she would have recieved the right treatment earlier.I know she isn't RAD's but it sure seems like it sometimes.

Ranger said...


FosterAbba said...

The true character of a person tends to come out during the most amazing times. I have, for many years, volunteered at the local convalescent care center. Before that, I volunteered at a senior day care. The most amazing revelations of character came from the Alzheimer's patients. There were some patients who, as the layers of their personalities peeled away, were revealed to be incredibly nice people. There were others who were weren't. The experience made me give a lot of thought and wonder to what it is that makes each of us a unique individual.

Elizabeth-Anne said...

I was just thinking about her, too! And you. I was also thinking of my own stinkers who do the strangest things in their own webs of problems and remember how it is never the $10,000 in her case or the biting and bruising in theirs, but the small things--the scribbling out our names on the shared tupperware and writing her own or the CEASELESS whining in fear that I am leaving in the little one's case (Good God! He whines even in his sleep!!)--that set me right over the edge. And as I encountered someone today that utterly oozed hatred, I wondered what Jesus would do--and I got the answer in the woman at the well--forget the argument and go right to the point, no blame just the facts, AND THE PROMISE of everlasting life. Oh, to have Jesus' eyes to see to the point, because I'm still hung up on the tupperware.

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

You have awesome character!