Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Liberals – Art part V 111

Ghastly Book Blows Open the Safe Door Guarding “Invalidation”

I found the worst book I've ever owned or read a couple of months ago. This is not going to be amusing, as my summary of The Sword and the Dragon may have been to some blog readers. Before I make some comments about this book, I feel it appropriate to explain how I found it.

All my life I've been cursed with peculiar, unusual paperwork skills. I've been at a desk all my adult life, even as an enlisted man in Navy boot camp. They needed some forms typed, and I typed them without error at 110 words per minute at age 19. That made me a marked man as a sailor. It's been like that ever since. In my thirties I obtained employment at a very large and universally known large American nonprofit organization. One tedious job I had was to update a 30-volume set of tax research with input each week. I hated the dull task but was good at it. I was soon asked to draft tax research.

The reviewer, my immediate superior, took up the ambition of going to law school in addition to working. I helped him by taking over the tax research. I got so good at it that the annual financial reports from the field were updated and reviewed by me for completeness about tax information for the consolidated report. And then the field office local CPA firms started calling. At headquarters finance, even folks at the director level were afraid of these calls from the field. I got them. I became the unofficial but very real national tax expert of the organization.

A lot goes into this. It requires at least 20 hours a year of on-going professional education. There's more. Computerized tax research, being fast and thorough (there are none of those updates to prepare manually!) is also misleading. You must use the right words on a search or risk grabbing the wrong answer – and the way to avoid that is to go backwards in time and use the annual telephone book of tax summary information and take the 200 question quiz that accompanies it. Looking it up manually. Then, and only then, check it through word search on the computer. I also sat at the feet of the national expert on nonprofit tax research at my frequent continuing professional education meetings. It even got so that other financial professionals, chief financial officers of other nonprofit organizations, would call me before a presentation or conference and ask me if their “take” on a tax issue was perfect.

There is nothing quite as tricky as federal tax research, and I had, and still have, legendary skill at it. Other pros could and did bet their careers on it with confidence.

This ability blows back to the Internet and surfing the net for answers, although it does not make me a whiz at eBay or certain compulsive shopping performed by collectors and obsessive shoppers. While reading reviews of Robert Cole's books on child psychology, I came across information about children who are able to deal with crippling stress and thrive on it. There's a book on that, “The Invulnerable Child.” Eric Berne's Games People Play says a great deal about the way children are manipulated into playing certain roles. For children of the religious right, there is substantial literature about the background and techniques, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Elmer Gantry to the plays of Tennessee Williams to books on brainwashing and the blogs of fallen-away Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons.

None of these avenues seemed to me appropriate in dealing with liberal Americans and their sub-culture. From observing liberals for a very long time at close range, it did occur to me that a key element and key manipulative technique used within the home was invalidation. This is why it is mentioned and emphasized in blog posting # 15 – Simplifying statement of cognitive bias (especially the Ten Common Cognitive Distortions) and #17 – where I mention that Invalidation is the preferred method of attack.

So I sought to find a book dealing with a liberal background and invalidation. What fell out of that search is Saving Jessie, a book by Imogen Clark. This is the worst book I've ever bought. The author, Imogen Clark, has no idea whatsoever that she is describing herself as a cruel torturer concerned only with her own appearances and her own social position. She's a profoundly cruel woman who doesn't know herself at all. Like a vampire, she doesn't recognize herself in the mirror. Her daughter Jessie starts using heroin as a teenager, and she fails to effectively deal with it for years.

Imogen Clark is “it.” She's the liberal intellectual school teacher who uses words like mellifluous and prevarication but doesn't know what she's doing or what she is teaching her daughter. She opens the door to the unstated and secret liberal civil religion. And it's not pretty.

I do not fully understand how this awful book actually got published by Doubleday in Australia and distributed among the English-speaking countries. I recommend this horrible tome because it opens a hell that ought to be thoroughly examined. Rather than review it myself, I offer a shrewd and insightful review from a compassionate counselor who is alert to the nuances of Imogen Clark's self-defensive blather.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Book Review – and notes from –
Saving Jessie by Imogen Clark
by S. Hein

These are my notes from a book by a mother in Australia titled "Saving Jessie." It is made out to be a book showing how a loving mother tried to save her daughter from heroin. I am uncertain as to the mother's main motive for writing the book. On one hand I believe she may honestly be trying to help other families avoid the pain she, her family and her daughter faced. I chose that particular order just now because I believe it reflects how the mother seemed more concerned with her own pain than with her daughter's. This is something I have seen frequently in dysfunctional families. The person who turns to drugs is often called selfish for hurting the other family members. This only adds to the drug user's emotional pain, which causes them to feel more need to numb it with drugs or anything else available.)
Returning to the topic of the mother's motivation for writing the book, it appears to me that it was to primarily to defend herself and the rest of the family. This book is unique, in my experience, because it is written from the mother's perspective and contains extraordinary detail in what was happening inside the home. Many people are quick to say that teenagers exaggerate and want to place all the blame on the parents, but this book is written by the mother herself. While she seems to be presenting a case for her self-defense, I couldn't help but think that the whole book is actually an indictment of the mother and all of the dysfunctional family patterns, feelings and behavior which lead to a teen wanting to numb their pain with drugs or suicide.
As I read, I understood why Jessie was in so much pain that she turned to heroin. I found myself wanting to find her and tell her that I understood and offer her a chance to talk to someone with whom she didn't have to put herself down or defend her parents. I found myself wanting to offer her a hug and a safe place to cry over all the years of her emotional pain which had been invalidated by her family.
S. Hein
April 2003
Bathurst, Australia

The book shows clearly, in the mother's own words, how her daughter was emotionally and physically abused and why Jessie was in so much pain she needed something as powerful as heroin to self-medicate it. Somewhat cynically I thought that a better title for the book would be "Poisoning Jessie" since her mother and the rest of her family poisoned Jessie's mind, heart and soul with their toxic words and actions.
Here are some examples from the day Jessie told her mother she was on heroin. Jessie was 15 at the time. The mother shows how she:
- Verbally attacks and labels Jessie
- Takes things personally
- Places the blame on Jessie
- Fails to show either understanding or empathy
- Creates negative feelings for herself by comparing reality to her own unreal expectations.
- Uses sarcasm to attack Jessie
- Physically abuses Jessie
From page 101:
How could she do this to me again? What was wrong with her? How could she have been so stupid? My child was not supposed to be on heroin. She was intelligent and beautiful and talented. This was not the way it was supposed to be.
"Your on heroin. Just like that. You're on heroin."
She nodded.
"Fuck you, Jess. How can you be on heroin?
"I just am, Mum. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry. Well, that's great. That makes a big difference, doesn't it? Terrific."
Then when they got to Jessie's place that same day, the mother tells us this...
I hit her as hard as I could across the face. She sank to the floor sobbing, holding her cheek, her eyes full of hurt and amazement that I could do that to her. But I was not finished. I drew back my arm and brought it down with full force, raining blows wherever they fell, stopping only when I had no strength left.
After reading just this, in the mother's own words, is there any wonder why Jessie turned to drugs?
These notes are very rough and largely unedited right now, but I wanted to post them before I start to travel again so I might help people understand why teens use drugs, why they self-harm and why they commit suicide. Not all such teens have the same kind of parents as Jessie had, but in my experience, all teens who turn to any kind of dangerously unhealthy ways of coping have been hurt emotionally, if not physically or sexually, by their own parents for years upon years. Their emotional needs have simply gone unmet for too long. The pain from their unmet emotional needs to be listened to, validated, understood, accepted, and really cared about is just too great. This book shows exactly what I have been talking about on this site.
While this book will not serve the purpose that the author intended, that of defending herself and her family, it does have great value to society in showing how parents unintentionally lead their own children straight into drugs, self-destruction and, far too often, death.
S. Hein
Bathurst, Australia
April 2003

April 2006 update
I first read this book in April, 2003. I found it in a library in Bathurst, Australia. Now it is April, 2006. I cried again when I read about the mother hitting her daughter. I feel disbelief that any mother could treat her own daughter this way. I feel pain at the thought that any human could treat any other human so cruelly. But especially their own daughter, all the while professing love for the daughter. Yet though I am stunned by what this mother wrote, I know that other mothers treat their daughters in similar ways, particularly in England, the motherland of those now in power in Australia.
Last night I spoke with a 15 year old named Flick in England who has tried to kill herself. Her mother sounds very much like the one who wrote this book. I will ask Flick to have a look at this file and let me know if she seems similarities. But for now I just want to say that if you are interested in either why teens turn to drugs, why they self harm or why they try to kill themselves, read this page very carefully. I would like to see it be required reading for all psychology students.
By the way, a while back I got a letter from someone who said he was a school director who knew Jessie and her mother. He said something like "you, sir, have no clue." So I wrote him back and invited him to enlighten me about what he meant, but he never wrote back. Then recently I got an email from someone who implied she was Jessie. She attacked me or "trashing her family" and she said something about "the success of her mother's book." I wrote her back and told her that I'd like to find out if she was really Jessie from the book and if I could have permission to post her email, and I told her that if she were proud of her mother's book, then I felt sorry for her. So far, I haven't heard back from her. I am afraid it's all to possible though that she really is the daughter in the book and now mother and daughter are close friends. This reminds me of what happened to Steff, who once could see through her mother and now defends her.
S. Hein
April 21, 2006
Salta, Argentina

Ways the mother causes pain for her daughter:
Talks about things being "appropriate" and "inappropriate" rather than giving real explanations or expressing her actual feelings and taking responsibility for them.
Uses sarcasm.
Is wrapped up in her own feelings.
Talks about "expectations" and how things are "supposed" to be.
Uses the word "should"
Verbally attacks.
Blames her.
Lays guilt trips. (How could you do this to us again?)
Labels. (An example of how she labels even other people is on page 110 when she calls other mothers "stupid, self-centered bitches" Another example is on p. 240 when she calls someone a "spiteful bitch" -- If she can talk like this about other people, she surely has said the same kinds of things to Jessie. One trait of dysfunctional relationships is that the people in them are always harder on those they "love." I suppose this is because they need more from them, not because they really love them more.)
Labels her behavior (Ex. "embarrassing and atrociously rude" - p 238)
Lies to her.
Controlled her.
Ask questions that contain the answer (That makes a big difference, doesn't it? - p. 101)
Swears at her (p 101 Fuck you, Jess. p. 260 For fuck's sake..)
Is not emotionally honest
Says things like "How dare she complain.." (p. 110)

Mother's values: Clothing. Appearances. Parties. Being strong. Clean rooms.

Quotes from the book -- my notes are in ( )
Back cover:
I discovered that my daughter was a heroin addict at 7:25 pm on Tuesday, February 13, 1996...I'm not very proud of the next couple of hours. I would like to be able to write that I gathered her in my arms, soothed her obvious misery, reassured her that I loved her...but I was enraged. How could she do this to me? What was wrong with her? My child was not supposed to be on heroin.
Nothing could prepare Imogen Clark for the shock of discovering that her daughter was a heroin addict. The youngest child in a tightly knit, loving family, Jessie was intelligent, beautiful and talented -- she did not fit the stereotype of the unhappy child who turns to drugs to escape pain.
How could she do this to me again? How could she have been so stupid?
p 1.
"What is it that leads some people to drugs?"
"The literature is filled with a complex interaction of many factors, ranging from social, psychological, and familial. Was it a form of protest, a result of boredom, disillusionment with the establishment, the hopelessness of her generation and pervasive youth unemployment? Was it due to her personality, her inability to cope with normal problems as they occurred? Did we protect her too much from pressures and the consequences of her own actions? Was she programmed with an addictive personality and addiction to something almost inevitable? Prepared to take risks recklessly? Was the structure and nurturing environment of family somehow inadequate?"
(Note how she uses fancy, evasive language... "a complex interaction of many factors...")
Mom is a primary school teacher. Dad is a professor.
Mom says Jessie had a "Strong will" and "Strong sense of individuality" - yeah, I would say most heroin users did and their parents tried to crush both the will and the individuality.
p 3 "... she showed strong indications of individuality at an early age."
Example of mother being controlling...
p 5 mother wouldn't let Jessie's sister Lucy date an 18 year old guy when Lucy was 15
Mom defends herself and family
p 2. Says sister Lucy and brother Sam both loved her and wanted to be the first to give her a cuddle when she came home from the hospital. This means nothing about how they treated her when she was an adolescent.
p 3 says "she was in no way a difficult child to raise" - not till she was an adolescent- which is when most girls become "difficult" according to many abusive mothers
Parents label her...
p 2 father called her "Messy Jessie" as an infant p 3 mom called her a "dreadful" sleeper
p 3 Said she would have to get up several times a night "in an attempt to stop her from disturbing the rest of the family." ie blames an infant for being an infant and disturbing the family.
Mom tries to get the readers' sympathy by talking about how cute she was and how much the family loved her. Tells needless stories about her learning to swim, going to the library truck and the supermarket, for example.
When she was two the mother started teaching 3 mornings a week. The next year it was four mornings, then when she was five it was each morning. So in other words the mother wasn't there for her, which might have actually helped Jessie in this case.
p 5 "She seemed mature for her age." -- yeah, most heroin users that I know are mature for their age. They don't want to be treated like children and they feel underestimated, disrespected, and over protected - or totally neglected.
p 5 more examples of mom trying to make the family look good by talking about how Sam was protective of her and how she would be taken out for a "special treat" by "her big sister" on holidays.
"Big sisters often find their younger siblings a nuisance, but Jess managed to fit in unobtrusively."
"She was not only a social leader in the class, but bright." So she was smart and a born leader, but her mother over-controlled her, which is also typical of heroin users I have met.
p 6 Mother kicked Sam and Lucy under the table whenever she thought the conversation wasn't "appropriate" for Jessie because she "wasn't old enough to deal with" the topic. -- Overprotective, underestimating her.
She said she would always try to change the subject just when Jessie thought it was getting interesting. More over-protection, underestimation and disrespect.
"Inevitably she became aware of 'older' issues."
"Quite often, we would realize that whole meals would have passed without Jessie making a contribution to the conversation. It was largely because she couldn't get a word in, her two older siblings and both parents all having strong personalities."
Defends family by saying when Jessie would put up her hand to get a chance to speak they would "stop immediately" and let her talk. She also says "The sneaky kicks were not to censor now, but to give her a go." Mother admits she is being "sneaky" rather than emotionally honest and just saying "kids, I feel bad that Jessie isn't getting a chance to talk..." This home must have been full of superficiality.
p 6 Said Jessie "announced that she was now a vegetarian." "We felt it would last a few days at most. I decided to take no account of it in preparing meals, to give her no sense of added importance... Her 12th birthday was looming in a few weeks. That would sort her out for sure..."
It is obvious the mother is mocking her daughter's choice and disapproving of it.
"As her birthday approached, she decided that what she would like to do, instead of having a party, was to go out to lunch with the family. She selected a place we'd been to before, with a smorgasbord lunch. I was certain this would be the breaking of the fast but, on the day before, she insisted, that I ring to check if they had vegetarian meals...It was six months before she gradually allowed some meat back into her diet."
"Jessie, like Lucy, had strong opinions on clothes from a very early age. I realized with Lucy that arguing over what was worn was a great waste of energy and ultimately did not really matter. Initially, with my firstborn, I had felt that my will should prevail over that of a four-year-old, and that was what it had become, a battle of wills. Lucy was determined and eventually we learnt to compromise, so it was no longer a battleground. So, when Jess was born, I enjoyed the opportunity while it lasted to be able to dress her how I pleased...She was so cute and sweet and there was the feeling that this was my last child and I was going to enjoy her toddlerhood."
p 15 "Another example of her disregard for authority."
"I'm not sure if she learnt the value of politeness completely after that incident..." (always trying to teach her a lesson)
"Surprisingly, Jessie was never in real trouble at school."
p 33 At age 15, when Jess called to say that she wasn't coming home one night, the mother responded:
"Jessie, don't be stupid. Where are you? This is ridiculous."
Jessie hung up.
They eventually found where she was and sent the police to go get her.
p 47 "If you loved your family, how could you put them through such a time." (referring to her running away)
p 73 "It was completely out of the question" - when she was 17 and told them she wanted to move to Melbourne.
p 89 "I still harbored resentment for her leaving so suddenly, when she still should have been attending school and living at home."
p 90 When she came home for a few days the mother told Jessie "it was not too late to admit that moving to Melbourne was a mistake.."
p 92 "I feel so under pressure, Mum..."
The mother writes, "I was a bit skeptical about this apparent melodrama... There was no pressure." ie the mother invalidates her.
p 94 "Her future and direction were unclear. Behaving recklessly caused her no concern. And a drug induced stupor meant none of those issues had to be dealt with or faced, no decisions made."
p 96 About the time when she wanted to start staying away from home again at age 18 her mother writes, "It was a natural and healthy to want to be independent. But as we went to sleep that night we both knew that that was Jessie's quiet way of doing exactly what she wanted."
"In the following weeks she rarely came home, although she'd occasionally ask herself to dinner." (more resentment show by the mother)
p. 97 When she hadn't called them to say where she was and why she was late they said, "It's typical of Jessie's attitude...Everything's just too much trouble."
"The least she could have done was ring to tell us she was delayed."
The mother then called Jessie's apartment. Someone told her she was out and would be back soon. The mother decided to go there and wait for her to come home.
"Stephen appeared, or at least I assumed that the apparition before me was Stephen... I had long since ceased to be surprised at the appearance of either Jessie or her friends."
p 100 The mother is waiting outside and Jessie arrives and gives her mother a quick kiss. The mother writes "She wasn't going to get away with it so easily."
Then the mother started interrogating her. Where had she been? What on earth did she go to Ian's for?
The mother looked at her eyes and said "You've taken something haven't you?"
Jessie said yes. The mother writes:
"Well what?!" I almost screamed at her.
Jessie tells her it was heroin.
p 101 (The mother's reaction when Jessie admits she is using heroin)
Next the mother writes the same thing that is on the back cover, but with more detail:
I'm not very proud of the next couple of hours. I would like to be able to write that I gathered her in my arms, soothed her obvious misery, reassured her that I loved her and that I would do whatever she needed me to do to help her. That we went quietly back to her flat, and with Joe, we calmly and supportively discussed what was to be done; what, if anything, she wanted to be done.
There may be some parents, who having dealt with their much-loved and cherished child's increasingly severe problems over a number of years, could face this one, the one that made all other problems seem just minor irritations, with a degree of equanimity and sensitivity. I was not one of them, then.
I was enraged.
I had stopped worrying. I had thought it was over. How could she do this to me again? What was wrong with her? How could she have been so stupid? My child was not supposed to be on heroin. She was intelligent and beautiful and talented. This was not the way it was supposed to be.
The mother said to Jessie:
"Your on heroin. Just like that. You're on heroin."
She nodded.
"Fuck you, Jess. How can you be on heroin?
"I just am, Mum. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry. Well, that's great. That makes a big difference, doesn't it? Terrific."
p 102
Then the mother thinks back before continuing.
Once the mother called her to tell her about a possible job she saw in the paper. Jess was still in bed. The mother writes: "How could she be serious if she were still in bed at lunchtime?" Jess admitted she had been "slack" and promised she would start looking for a job. The mother writes:
"She was a master at saying what we wanted to hear. Her acting ability was not for nothing."
"Then there was the night the three of us were going out for my birthday dinner. She'd arrived home in dirty jeans, looking quite disheveled. She had years ago learnt the distinction between what was appropriate to wear with her friends and what we would accept when we were going out. Dirt was definitely out. Not wishing to create a scene on what was meant to be a happy family occasion, Joe quietly insisted that she find something clean from what she still had left in her wardrobe.
"For God's sake Jess! If you can't come to dinner without being stoned, then don't come at all. I can't stand to look at you like that." Then he left the table.
Then the mother continues with what she did to Jess when Jess told her she was on heroin.
First she interrogated her.
She demanded to know how long. The mother writes that she almost spat in Jessie's face as she questioned her.
The mother grabbed Jessie by the arm and started to pull her towards her car. Jessie protested and they got into an argument. The mother insisted they talk about it immediately either at home or in Jessie's place. Jessie said there were people at her place and the mother ordered her to tell them to leave.
"I shouted in her face, 'Get rid of them.'
Jessie told her mother that she couldn't just tell them to leave. They were her friends and had no place else to go.
The mother writes:
"All semblance of calm left me. 'You're on heroin and you can't tell them to leave so we can talk about it. Right then, I'll tell them."
Jessie cried and pleaded with her not to do that. She said, "You can't do that, Mum."
The mother said, "Watch me, Jess. Either you tell them or I tell them."
The mother started to go in and Jessie stopped her and said "Just wait, will you?" She went in and told her friends and they left.
p 104
The mother writes
"Her flat was a mess. Not just the remnants of a day's living not yet cleaned up, but general disarray. Ashtray's overflowed, the bed was unmade, clothes were all over the place, a coffee cup had been overturned and left to stain the carpet."
Then the mother pulled a sheet off of her bed and started throwing all of Jessie's things into a pile, telling her "You're getting out of her now and coming home."
In tears, Jessie says, "I'm not."
They began to fight over a pair of jeans. Then the mother hit Jessie.
She writes that she "hit her as hard as I could across the face... She sank to the floor sobbing, holding her cheek, her eyes full of hurt and amazement that I could do that to her.
But I was not finished. I drew back my arm and brought it down with full force, raining blows wherever they fell, stopping only when I had no strength left.
p 105
She scrambled away from me... I followed, screeching after her, 'Show me your arm.'
Jessie obeyed. Then the mother demanded to know where the drugs were. Jessie complied again and told her.
Then the mother decided to call her husband. Jessie pleaded with her not to. She started to cry. The mother writes:
She started to cry again, but it simply made me more resolved. It was okay for me to go through this, but she wanted to spare Joe the anguish.
"Tough, Jessie, I'm ringing him."
When the father arrived he was angry and started to interrogate Jessie some more. Jessie promised she would go back to the detox center. The mother said sarcastically, "Ask them if they will give you a discount for being a regular."
p 106 She writes
"I knew my sarcasm was not in any way helpful, but I wanted it to hurt, for her to really feel as bad as I did."
on page 107 the mother writes that she was concerned about Jessie's clothes being dirty when she went to the detox center.
"If there was ever a time for unconditional love, this was it. But she got none from me that night."
When the mother was finished lecturing her, interrogating her, trying to hurt her and control her she said, "I've had enough... ring us when you get out of detox."
Jessie asked for a kiss and the mother refused. She said, "I'll kiss you when you get out."
Jessie tried to get a hug from her but the mother pushed her away, saying "I don't want to kiss you Jess."
Looking back the mother has some awareness of how hurtful this was as she writes:
Not to kiss Jessie before her two weeks in isolation as she struggled to detox is something I will always regret.
p 109
She talks about going to work at the school. She writes that she had "not yet tamed" the year 4 students in her class.
p 110
She complains about a mother who had some trouble getting her daughter to school on time. Thinking that this mother's problems were much worse than anyone else's she writes "How dare she complain...."
The other mothers were sympathizing with her, sharing their problems with their own children. Completely absorbed in her own pain the mother thought at the time:
"They didn't know how lucky they were. How trivial their concerns. I felt like screaming at them all, 'You stupid, self-centered, bitches. Is your child on heroin? No. Then don't you dare complain."
Another teacher asked what was wrong, why her voice was hoarse. She didn't tell her what had happened.
p 113. We learn that Jessie checked herself out of the detox center after just two days. She told her father she hated it there, the room was cramped and she had to share it. The mother writes:
"How precious of her, I thought. What exactly had she expected? The Hyatt?"
Jessie had a plan to stay at a friend's farm. Then this fell through. The mother said "Why don't you go back to the detox center?"
Eventually the mother suggested that Jess stay at a relative's farm and Jess agreed. The mother would take some time off of teaching and drive her there. The mother and a friend of hers at school "concocted" a story to explain why she had to take the time off from teaching. The mother didn't want anyone to know the truth.
The night before she left she laid awake and thought that her life was supposed to be ordinary and this type of thing was "not supposed" to be happening to her.
p 121 In thinking about what she might have done wrong as a mother she writes:
"There are few more definite indications of parenting failure than heroin addiction."
But still not able to see what she had done wrong, she writes: "We could not have loved her more."
Then she writes "I could not have felt more sorry for myself." (Again thinking of herself and not her daughter.)
p 122
About being at the farm the mother writes:
"I knew Jessie had little control over when she was able to sleep, but after the first night I insisted that she got up when I did."
p 126 "On Thursday I insisted we go for a walk." She did this even though she writes that she knew Jess "had no stamina and was far from well."
She said as they walked Jess was "moaning all the time."
p 128
She says she asked once how Jessie financed her heroin usage. Jessie replied, "You don't want to know." She said she was never a prostitute, that mostly she sold drugs. Then she told her mother "Let's just leave it at that." The mother agreed because she really didn't want to know the details and has never asked again.
p 131 When they got back to the mother's house, the husband didn't want to talk about any of it.
p 134 The mother talks about not having many friends she could confide in. She says most of her friends were more conservative than her and tells a story of one time when her feelings were invalidated (but she doesn't call it that.)
p 134 The mother was feeling very drained and talked to a drug counselor who recommended she join a support group for parents of addicts. The mother writes:
"A support group was out of the question. Jessie was not that sort of an addict."
Then she writes:
"In retrospect it was very good advice. But it was many months before I was prepared to take it."
p 135 She talks about going to a dinner with some friends and trying to look like there was nothing wrong. She said she wouldn't have gone to the dinner had her husband thought it was "inappropriate" for her to go, but he thought she should "make an appearance."
p 151 uses the word "appropriate" again. Also uses the expression "out of the question" again, and says of something, " "That is how it should be."
p 152 she decides to go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting to get more information about addictions.
p 153 she talks about worrying what to wear for the NA meeting. She says "I prevaricated about what I should wear."
p 155 she says the NA meeting was the beginning of her gaining some insight.
p 157 she says Jess had made "a few half-hearted attempts" at finding work. She said Jess had not made the progress that she and her husband had "expected."
p 158 She uses the expressions "Why couldn't she just get on with it?" and "Wasn't this being overly dramatic?" and "If you are going, you should do it properly."
p 175 When Jess was in a rehab program and called to say she was ready to leave because she had learned what she needed to, her mother said, "What nonsense."
Then she attacks and interrogates her some more.
p 198 Jessie says she feels like going to bed. Mother says "Well, why don't you?"
The mother writes that she wanted to make things better for Jessie, just like when she was a little girl, but she realized she couldn't. She writes:
"She had to live through the consequences of her decision to use drugs, and although we could lovingly support her, essentially it was her own battle to be endured by her alone."
p 205 Her sister makes a joke about how terrible Jessie looks in her draggy clothes.
p 215 She lies to Jessie about not being able to call her uncle and tell him that she doesn't want him to visit her.
p 217 Jessie told her that she knows all the family thinks she drops out of things when things gets tough. The mother replies: "Darling, that is because so far you have always done that."
p 224 Jessie is at another rehab place and the mother writes:
She relied on me to have someone to talk to, as she was isolated and had no friends. And I desperately needed to know that she was OK at leas t for that day. If she were in good spirits, I felt in good spirits. If she were miserable, I felt miserable. I could not separate her feelings from mine.
(I'd call that a pretty clear case of co-dependence)
p 225 Jessie calls to tell the mother that she and her boyfriend Simon have been asked to leave the rehab center. The mother assumed they had been asked to leave because they were caught using drugs. She interrogates Jessie again in what she describes as a "cold" and "unsympathetic" voice, saying, "Why, Jessie. Why have you been asked to leave?"
(Note that she uses talks about being unsympathetic, rather than being unempathetic. Sympathy is more of a pity for someone who is looked down upon. Also note that the mother virtually never shows empathy for her daughter, nor does she ask how the daughter feels about anything.)
Another example of needlessly big words:
p 227 "I introduced myself to the mellifluous male voice..."
p 229 Talks about them having a big party for her husband's 50th birthday. A marquee on the front lawn, catering, and 200 balloons.
Jessie and Simon come for the party and decide to stay in town.
p 235 pressures her to go to the doctor even though Jess was protesting "loudly and vehemently"
still commenting on her clothes saying she was wearing "sloppy old pyjamas and ugh boots"
p 236 she says Jess complained "loudly and rudely" when the doctors tried to pressure her to give them a blood sample and moved her around to examine her.
p 238 they go back to the hospital. The mother writes that she had told her "how embarrassing and atrociously rude her behavior had been" the last time.
p 240 The mother is arguing with one of the female doctors. She writes this about the doctor who wants to give her a blood test:
"You spiteful bitch, I thought. You never for a moment suggested an examination before. You know it's on her record that she is phobic about needles. How could you do it?"
p 241 The mother says "Leave her alone. Don't touch her. We're leaving." Then she takes Jessie and leaves the hospital.
p 242 She talks about writing a "blistering letter of complaint to the chief executive of the hospital." Most of this page is spent on her attack of the hospital staff.
p 246 mother goes back on anti-depressants
p 251 Jess tells her mother over lunch that she had recently used again. The mother interrogated her a bit, but not as harshly as in the past. She didn't tell her husband.
p 252 Jessie is still calling her mother when there is a crisis. This time it is Simon threatening to commit suicide. The mother again tries to solve the problem. Then she calls her husband and they make plans to fly to where Jessie is. Another example of how they are very reactive, and controlling not allowing her to become independent.
p 255 The mother explains how the brother and sister started to get impatient with Jessie:
"They were impatient with her and had had enough of her problems, which seemed to go on endlessly. Sam, especially, lost patience with her and reacted angrily whenever her name was mentioned. It was deep anger, unresolved from the time she lived with him.
"I didn't blame them. Jess was not good company. There were times when we would all be eating and she would sit morosely, scarcely eating, rarely saying anything. She was fairly rapidly becoming estranged from both her brother and her sister... They had strong opinions about what she should do."
She and her son Same got into an argument and he left "without it being resolved." She says this was their first adult argument.
p 256
She writes:
"I went into the laundry, shut the door and cried. Was this how heroin addiction pulled families apart? We were at each other's throats. I gave him time to drive home and then rang him. But he was still to angry and I was too upset for us to get anywhere. I hung up, feeling no better.
(I'd say it is how lack of listening, compassion, acceptance and validation pulls families apart)
"That night was one of the worst. Not only were we dealing with a drug-addicted daughter and trying to get her better, but our family, previously so close, was falling apart." (They weren't really close at all. It was all appearances and "I love you, darling"s)
The brother and sister agreed to try to keep their opinions to themselves. The relationship with Jessie became "polite, but distanced and often strained."
"Jessie was especially hurt that she seemed excluded from Lucy's pregnancy...She'd initially been asked by Lucy to attend the birth, but it gradually became clear" that she and her husband did not want Jessie there. "Jessie felt that deeply."
p 257 She talks about how Simon was getting worse. She writes:
"Joe and I prevaricated about how much it was appropriate for us to interfere."
(prevaricated? appropriate?)
She tells us that Simon's mother had told him that she did not want to see him until he had solved his drug problems. Jess's mother convinced her to change her mind and they convinced Simon to move back in with his mother. (Simon is about 29 years old at this point.)
Then she writes that Jessie was unable to cope with Simon there and unable to cope with him gone.
p 258 Talks about how Lucy was arguing with her vehemently, telling her not to go to the same rehab center as Simon was going to. Jessie eventually gave into Lucy.
(So basically the whole family is trying to run her life.)
p 259 Jess is in another rehab center. She is not allowed to come home for Christmas. (In other rehab centers they seem to all follow the pattern of a lot of controls and isolation. At one place they were not allowed to talk to anyone on the outside for the first two weeks. Then it was just 10 minutes a day. I have no doubt that this is designed to break the person down so they will be more obedient and compliant. It let's them know who's the boss.)
p 260 Mother is still attacking her, interrogating her and accusing her. Jess had called to say she had been asked to leave the rehab center. The mother responded:
"What is it this time? For fuck's sake, Jessie. How could you blow this opportunity, too."
(One of the rules was no sex, and Jess had slept with Simon when he came to visit. She admitted this and instead of being thanked for her honesty and given an explanation of why they didn't want the patients having sex, even with their boyfriends, they "asked" her to leave." It seems to me it is just another way of depriving the people there and making them feel even more helpless, needy and therefore compliant.)
I kept hoping that I would see the mother start to acknowledge all the mistakes she made, that she would see how she literally drove her daughter to drugs and then back to them time and time again. But now I have reached the second to the last page, page 265. The mother writes:
"What led Jess to use drugs? The stereotype of the unhappy child, who embraces the drug culture to escape pain, simply does not fit.
"For Jessie, I think the answer is very simple. And for other parents, if I am right, very frightening."
"Jessie experimented with drugs because it was exciting, different and daring to do so. She enjoyed the way drugs enabled her to alter her mood, feel relaxed, reach a heightened state of awareness, and vary her conscious experience. She persisted because it felt so good. And then she found it took superhuman strength to stop."
"Is she better?"
"Not yet. She will never be cured. She will always be an addict. She will always be taking it 'a day at a time.'
"And so will we."

Concluding notes
I cried at many points as I read this story, especially as I read how the mother beat her daughter when she found out she was using heroin, and when I read that she said "How could you be so stupid?"
The saddest thing to me is that the mother really has no clue how she contributed to her daughter's need for heroin to numb her emotional pain. Or if she doe, she is in deep denial. Because this mother didn't see the connection, I am afraid other parents will not be helped to see it either. This is why I have taken these notes and added my comments.
When I told a 14 year old former heroin user about this book and how the mother really didn't know why her daughter used heroin, my friend said, "Did she ever ask her daughter why she used drugs?" At no point during the book does the mother give an example of her asking a question such as this and really listening. It is no mystery to me why Jessie started using drugs and why she continued to use them even after many trips to the rehab centers.
In the back of the book there is a glossary. I looked for the word "invalidation" since the mother did so much of it. But it was not there. Instead were only drug related terms like "bong," "cold turkey," and "shooting up." These do not help us understand why Jessie began using heroin. People are not informed of the most important things when they are taught a few terms used in the drug world. What would be much more educational would be to inform people why drugs are in such high demand.
Her mother never believed in Jessie. To the very end of the book she labeled her and showed her lack of faith in Jessie. On the last page she said, "Jessie will always be an addict" I can just hear Jessie saying, "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mum."

Here is an entry I made for my writing I do for teens
Blaming the child??
I did this book review of a book called Saving Jessie by a mother in Australia. Her daughter Jessie turned to heroin because her family was so dysfunctional.

The mother tried to make it look like she was such a good mother, but from reading the book it is easy to see why her daughter needed to numb herself.

Then I get this email from another mother who blames Jessie for "family abuse." This is so backwards. I just had to show this to show you how some parents turn things around. Here is the email I received:
I don't think you have had first hand experience with this matter before. I know someone very similar to Jessie, who steals from his own family and always gets away with everything. You want to give sympathy to people like that and trust them? I don't think so. Aren't they supposed to give respect and trust to you also? I mean once is enough, not over and over again. All they want is for you to feel sorry for them. This isn't child abuse but family abuse by the child. Jessie's slap across the face doesn't even come close to the years of emotional torture and abuse given out to the family by their "wayward" child. Friends and family try to help and give them advice and they take it and throw it back in their faces. I do have sympathy for these people but I think enough is enough.
This woman has no clue about cause and effect. Kids and teens aren't "supposed to give respect and trust" - respect and trust are earned by the parents.

This is like saying a girl is "supposed" to like some random guy no matter how he treats her. What if a guy came up to you, made you live with him, treated you like crap -- threatened you, punished you, hit , and told you that you were "supposed to respect and trust him"? This is not much different than some parents. Remember, you don't choose your parents. If you did there would be a lot less people on drugs!

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1 comment:

  1. Jesus christ what a fucking nightmare! Painful to read.

    still, i am not shocked. I grew up in NOVA and MGC. a lot of that. but i found it just as often in conservative military and state dept families as i did in liberal ones. Interestingly, i never found it in CIA families.