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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been desperate to dissect and analyze every piece of me to try to determine what’s so  fucking wrong with me and how I might fix whatever it is. I can’t even recall a time in my life from my earliest memory (which was around 3) til today when I wasn’t acutely aware that I’m different- and not necessarily a good different, but vastly different from my peers, my family, my friends, and co-workers.

Recently a friend of mine contacted me to tell me she’d stumbled across some study which she found that discovered a strong link between domestic violence and early- age stroke.  She thought of me because she knew my history of domestic violence as well as my stroke at age 26.  I googled this and discovered that link as well as research linking child abuse/neglect and early-age stroke.

I had an acute ischemic stroke at the age of 26.  My mother (who knows all!) immediately dismissed the cause as a common side effect of taking birth control pills and smoking.  I tended to believe that too (after all mother knows all, right?!) until after several doctors gathered my history it was deemed that my use of birth control pills was so random and scarce throughout my 26 years that they did not feel inclined to think that caused it, citing that typically stroke only occurs due to that in women who have taken contraceptive pills for many years without ceasing.  I had only taken birth control for a sum total of 2.5 of my 26 years and that was scattered across a period of six years.  My ex has told people it was caused from me “chain smoking”, which he apparently determined I was doing from two states away in addition to my full time job and not smoking at home around my infant.  The doctors also determined my smoking probably hadn’t helped me not have a stroke at 26 but they did not deem that the cause.

Ultimately, in my humble opinion for lack of any definitive answers, the team of specialists blamed my 6 week pregnancy as the cause of my stroke.  Although after 3 months in the hospital recovering, my obstetrician told me that in all the gazillion tests which had been run on me in my 3 month hospital stay, they never could pinpoint a single probable cause for me at 26, underweight, with typically frighteningly low blood pressure, and zero history of drug use, to have had this sudden stroke. It remained an elusive mystery to all the specialists.

That said, I feel it’s quite likely that it was from my history of child abuse and domestic violence which was pretty much non-stop my entire life.  According to this article, For women, the consequences of domestic violence can last a lifetime,

Women who have fallen victim to domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 70 percent more likely to become heavy drinkers, and 60 percent more likely to become asthmatic than women who have not, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And another article, Childhood Neglect Linked With Stroke Risk says,

Children neglected before the age of 18 have a higher risk of suffering a stroke in adulthood, according to new research.  Earlier research has found a link between childhood abuse and later mental illness. Neglect, or the lack of a warm and responsive caregiver, has also been shown to cause changes in the brain’s grey and white matter. Bullying, abuse and other exposure to violence are also known to accelerate biological aging in kids.

It’s uncanny that all this abuse that my perpetrators claim didn’t happen, would have made the possibility of me having a random extraordinarily rare with no obvious causes stroke much than an 80% chance.  If domestic violence alone increases the odds by a whopping 80% and then childhood abuse adds even more to that risk factor, then there were clearly far more cumulative odds I would have an atypical random circumstantial stroke in my lifetime than that I would not.

I’m no scientist of course, but I would be willing to bet the farm that relationships with long term narcissistic abuse are, in themselves, a strong risk factor for things like stroke, chronic depression, alcohol abuse, severe low self-esteem, and debilitating identity disorders.  …makes me want to go back to school to get a psychology degree just so I might do this research study myself!

Over my lifetime when I’ve doubted my very experiences, questioned my own memories,  and struggled desperately to figure out what the fuck is WRONG with me and FIX IT ALREADY for fuck’s sake, I frequently cling to the one blessed moment of validation I received as a child.  My mother had dragged me to a psychiatrist, Dr. Orndoff, when I was in the 7th grade because she was so SICK AND TIRED OF ME ACTING UP.  I was mortified, already had terrible trust issues from being raised and abused by a pathological narcissist who hated me for existing, and had no clue that mother wasn’t right about me, nor a single clue that it was some pretty rough chronic abuse I was dealing with.  I was scared to talk to this elderly (seemingly goofy and odd) man in this hot little upstairs office.  I was wildly afraid (and positively certain) this man would scream at me and tell me what a fucked up horrible child I was because all I knew for certain in the 7th grade was that mother was never, ever wrong and entirely infallible while I couldn’t seem to get anything right no matter how desperately I wanted to please her.

I thank my lucky stars that this kind, gentle doctor was able to convince scared-out-of -my-mind ashamed-to-even-exist-13 year old me that it was safe for me to talk openly and freely.  This would be my only moment of safety and validation from my first 17 years of life and the only hope I had that maybe I wasn’t just a horrible kid who didn’t deserve to exist and who brought all the abuse I received ONTO MYSELF for being me.  After several weeks of talking and listening with this man, he had me take the MMPA and when the results came, he informed me that the lie-proof results indicated only 3 specific items of great note and/or concern:

1. I was exceedingly honest.  He said that the lie detector built in to the test typically had some scale, even when the patient wasn’t lying but might change their mind or perspective slightly when a question was repeated and worded differently.  He said that I scored a literal “0” in the lie-detecting factor and that he’d never seen that score before as most scored at least a 1 or 2.

(Yes, I was painfully honest and meticulous in my answers!  I wanted to know what was wrong with me so he could help me fix it and maybe my mother could love me)

2. I scored no balance for the male/female traits we all carry.  I was 100% feminine through and through with literally none of the typically masculine traits like anger, stubbornness, or violence which most females carry at least a small degree of to balance out their personality, just like most men carry at least a few tiny traits of the more traditionally feminine traits.

3. I was clinically depressed to a dangerously critical level.    To this, Dr. Orndoff gave me the greatest validation of all.  He said,  directly to me, with consideration of your home life and your mother’s many indications of paranoid schizophrenia. I’m shocked you are as normal of a child as you are under such circumstances.  His was recommending anti-depressants and going to encourage my mother to re-think her parenting tactics as well as maybe seek professional help for herself.  I immediately begged (yes, as in pleaded tearfully!) Dr. Orndoff not to tell my mother ANY of these things.  I told him point blank, “if you tell her any of that, I’ll never see you again and I’ll never be able to fix what’s wrong with me.”  He insisted that because I was a minor child, he was obligated by law and ethics to give my mother his honest and straight professional assessment.  And I knew that was the end of any validation that I wasn’t horrible and weird and bad and it also meant I’d not be able to correct whatever was so very WRONG WITH ME.

Oh and yes, mother was LIVID!  She was NOT going to have me taking “happy pills” and thinking “taking a pill would solve all my problems in life!!!”  ohhhhhhhh hell nooooo!  There would be NO HAPPY PILLS for her HORRIBLE daughter who must have faked and lied about everything “just to get attention!”  Mother was infuriated and disgusted at this man’s “complete incompetence” to fall for my “charade and my lies!”

And I never saw Dr. Orndoff again professionally.  However, I was given a lead role in a play at our civic theatre a year later and after it was over and we lined up in the theatre lobby to greet the audience, HE WAS THERE!   I couldn’t believe my eyes!  He shook my hand very warmly and said that I had done wonderfully and that I had a really compelling stage presence that was undeniable and strikingly obvious.  He encouraged me to continue to pursue theatre throughout my life. (This was a shining moment in life for me and I’m getting choked up even now just recalling how in awe I was that he’d came to see me perform and was saying such encouraging things to me.

And that’s the last I saw or heard of Dr. Orndoff until some years later when I was in college and mother called to tell me he’d died.

Thank you Dr. Orndoff for the words you spoke to a scared, confused, and beaten down teenage girl that she still holds onto to this very day. Thank you for being the only person who saw straight through my mother’s schemes and lies.  Thank you for believing in me as a person and for patiently listening to and believing my experience.