Our Family Crisis

| By Paul | | Comments (30)

The problem I have had with writing this blog recently is related to the "elephant in the room" phenomenon. In the last post, I alluded to the family crisis that has enveloped my family for the last few weeks. I feel as though I now have to write about it in order to move past it.

Here goes the drama:

We had a "family friend" who was continually pushing boundaries for a long time (10 or more years). I had always been incredibly uncomfortable with her, but she was my wife's "whacky" friend. For a while now, she has been trying to insert herself as an authority in our family and trying to control situations. She was overbearing. She thrived on creating conflicts or problems and being there to solve them. Many of these problems were lies or the facts were greatly twisted and exaggerated. I saw through most of them and questioned all of them. But my wife was not able to. This created a huge conflict between the two of us because she was convinced there were real problems, focused mainly on our children and on what I was not doing for the family due to my "problems".

A few weeks ago, my wife came home from her evening yoga class and said she got a phone call from our "friend" who said she got a call from one of our neighbors claiming we do not care well for our kids and one of the kids had said she is very sad and angry. The neighbor supposedly threatened to call child services on us.

I immediately confronted our "friend" through a phone call. I warned her that if this was a lie, that it would be the complete end of her relationship with my family. I am convinced she did not expect me to do this. My wife didn't want me to pursue it because she believed the "friend" might have been telling the truth and didn't want to irritate the neighbor or make waves. The "friend" said not to worry because she had someone on the inside of child services who could help us.

In the past, I may not have been strong enough to see through what she was doing. And may not have been strong enough to take action like I did. But over the past year or two, with my increased awareness, I had begun to question things. And this act was just over-the-top. She had done things like this. But this was well beyond everything in the past. I think my increased awareness pushed the "friend" to act in this way because she saw her control being taken away.

The next morning, I had a conversation with our neighbors, with whom we are fairly close. They said they had no idea what our "friend" was talking about. They claimed that no such conversation ever took place. My neighbor confronted our "friend", but through voicemail, calling her on the lie.

At 3 pm that afternoon, I got a phone call from child services stating these allegations. This then required a letter from me to them, phone interviews with both me, my wife, and my neighbors. Child services also contacted my children's school to see if there was anything in their records that caused concern. I told them what I was certain had happened: that this "friend" called child services in order to keep intact her original lie.

For several days I was in "family protect" mode. The only problem was that I was not paying attention to a good deal of me.

After a couple days, the "friend" started to contact my wife, some friends, and relatives and act like she did not do anything and blamed it all on my mental status. In fact, when child services was called she said brought up my mental health issues.

By that time my wife and I agreed that my original warning of no more contact ever would be enforced. We told the girls a kid-acceptable story. I told many of our neighbors and relatives. I changed our house locks, security codes, and got blocks on Facebook. I told the school and talked to the principal. I told the kids that they are to treat this "friend" like a stranger and find help if she ever shows up. Luckily, she lives about 25 miles away, so there is no reason for her to be in our town.

Then I sent her a registered letter. The key paragraphs are these:

If you do not stay away completely, and this means not only zero contact with my immediate family, but also zero contact with our friends or our extended family, then both [my wife] and I will take that as a direct threat to the safety of our family and seek a restraining order.

I am extremely serious about this. So, heed my words. I will have a very low threshold for legal action because we all do consider you a safety threat right now. And in all the discussions I've had last week, this was echoed by others.

We will not entertain any kind of discussion whereby you defend yourself or your actions or blame them on someone else. Or pretend nothing happened. That's all over now.

The story is bizarre, at least bizarre for my standards, because as this all played out, certain things started to click for me. As one small example, the "friend" had often called my 8 year old "our daughter" referring to she and my wife. And over the past several months she had been pushing to get my daughter to stay over her apartment. I never agreed to that, causing friction.

One of the problems is that I was not completely stable throughout the entire crisis because of being in "family protect" mode. I had periods, especially at night, when younger parts of me thought I was indeed making it all up or at least blowing things out of proportion. Or they didn't know what was going on at all. I had other problems where younger parts felt it was a violation to stand up for ourselves. It was not, in their mind, consistent with how things were supposed to be. Needless to say, this caused a great deal of difficulty and required a good deal of support from therapists, family, and friends.

So far, we have not heard from our "friend" since the letter. And the conflicts and drama we got used to experiencing as a family—due to the constant influence of the "friend"—have completely gone away. Family life and married life seem much simpler now!

Now I have said what has happened. And, hopefully, soon I can begin posting some of those 30 "articles" I have started.

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30 Comments


Nansie said:

Hurray to you Paul! Not only did you address this but you also completed it in a way that shuts it completely down for good! You were very thorough and covered every base I can think of and some I didn't! Wow! Slam dunk and you got your game on! I am very impressed at how you handled this and kept it together the whole time! What a nightmare story and who needs "friends" like this? I can't tell you enough how much I respect how completely you handled this and got it at every possible angle. Your instincts were right on! Your actions were powerful! Somewhere you must be feeling real good about this. Kudos to you and your family. Be safe!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie! Thank you! Your words mean so much to me. I did have many people I reality checked all of this with. But it feels good to be able to say it here. So which bases did I cover that you didn't think of?

Shen said:

Paul,

First of all I am so glad you are back to your blog and that you and your family are okay.

Secondly, I completely believe everything you said here. I have had weird experiences with people a few times that echo your issues with the "friend". There seems to be a kind of radar some people have for anyone who has past abuse issues and I am not the only other person I know who feels they have been specifically targeted as an "easy mark" by someone.

I'm glad you told your story. I hope it brought you some peace to have it out. If you're like me, you were probably worried that others would judge you or disbelieve you in some way, so I hope having your story out here, among true friends, will help you feel the acceptance and support I have found by people in this blog circle. (I know it isn't a true circle - it's just how I've come to think of it. I run into the same names and blogs again and again, so to me it is like a circle of people who understand.)

I'm also really glad your wife has "seen the light". It can be really difficult when you know something, maybe intuitively or maybe through some experience, and your partner doesn't see it the same way. It sounds like that's what you were dealing with for some time. That must be a huge relief to you to know that you and your wife have a united front to raise and protect your children free of this aggressive abuser.

That may sound like a strong term, but I don't think it is too strong. People who seek to wedge their way into someone else's family and who will go to any length, including lying even to authorities, are definately abusive.

So glad you are back, my friend. Peace.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Shen:

Shen. Thank you so much!!! When I said things started clicking into place, I also meant the sort of things you brought up, like "easy mark". Not being able to talk about it here was binding me up and making me close things down. This goes to show how important the public blog is for me. Even though I have the private journal where everything is documented, this blog has become an important place for me. Yes, I understand that her behavior was abusive. Thanks for saying that and confirming what I know.

katie said:

hi paul, i'm so sorry that you and your family have had to go through this. but it sounds like you have handled everything really well, and together done so. as well as received support from your community. that's so great. i hope all continues to go smoothly from here on out.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to katie:

Yes, Katie. It goes to show how contemporary events can be so intertwined with what we have to do to heal.

Nansie said:

Hey Paul! The thing that really impressed me the most was how you went to every source involved and exposed that "friends" can lie. I think it was great that you opened the whole thing right up... you exposed this "friend" for what she was and then took care of every possible angle she could come back from. I love the letter!! You registered it and everything. There is no way this person can make casual or try to minimize any of this. It is really clear and you exposed her at her own game. She deserved that. Exposure doesn't happen enough in this world as far as I am concerned! I can hear the crowd cheering as I write this!!! lol

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie. Thanks! Yes, there was some reasoning behind telling so many people. It had to do with making sure it was real, and reacting appropriately while I was able, and validating it all for me. I anticipated that I would eventually have a compartmentalizing/dissociation reaction. And I did. But I set everything up so nicely that when the minimizing and thinking I was lying happened, there was a body of evidence to call upon. So, I felt that while I was in that "mode" of protecting, the more people I told and got validation from, the better. Plus, I was really concerned that the "friend" would try to get back in with my wife. I felt that if I told everyone we needed to and was open about it, it would make that likelihood very low.

castorgirl said:

Your "friend" sounds like a master manipulator... She had your wife in a place of vulnerability and was firmly driving a wedge between you all. I'm glad you were able to get this person out of your lives.

Telling as many people as you did, not only helped when you were confused or minimising things; it was an important step in lessening her power... Manipulators thrive in an environment where people stay quiet and don't ask questions - usually because they are scared of making waves. So, by telling everyone, the power of her lies and secrets were diminished. Good on you for taking such powerful steps in protecting yourself and your family.

Thank you for sharing what must have been a very traumatic experience. It's obvious by the way you talk about your family how much you love and cherish them, so to have Child Protection Services investigate the family like this, must have sent shock waves through you all.

I hope your "friend" stays away and doesn't try to manipulate their way back into your lives...

Well done on protecting yourself and your family.

Take care,
CG

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

Yes Castorgirl, I didn't realize how much of a trigger it always was until it was over. The "manipulating" was always there and I often didn't know what it was directly but had triggered symptoms by it.

Evan said:

Wow, well done Paul. I have had some friends in this kind of situation so I have some understanding how awful and difficult it is.

My most heartfelt congratulations.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Evan:

Thank you so much Evan! And thank you for stopping by.

Well done Paul! What a nightmare you and your family gone through. I'm so glad that you all are okay! Your registered letter to this "friend" was excellent. She has no way to bother your family ever again. You have convicted this "friend" of all the lies, she has put into the world. Has the child protection services confirms you, that the accusations are baseless and the "case" is closed for them? I don't know, how the authorities in your country handle such things. I hope it's all concluded and you and your family can live in peace.

Take care, LostShadowChild

Paul Author Profile Page replied to LostShadowChild:

Thanks LostShadowChild! As far as we know, the case is closed with child services. But I may follow up with a phone call today. I know they had staffing cuts and are overburdened. What's sad is that I am sure a lot of real abuse cases fall through the cracks.

Ivory said:

Oh Paul!! I am so angry for you and your family!! I hate busy-bodies! One good thing, though, is that you found courage and you moved through the fog of dissociation and you were able to stand strong. I'm very happy that your family is once again happy. It's too bad, too, that your mental issues came into play, but is so typical of those who are so ignorant to prey on the easiest thing.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Thanks Ivory! I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support here. Thanks everyone! Yes, I was especially not happy that my mental issues were on the table. One of the reasons why I recoiled from here and elsewhere was that I felt overly exposed. I had to assess what was safe and what was not safe, and I think let some time pass and have things settle a bit. The other set of triggers were associated with someone accusing me of being a child abuser! When I got the original phone call from child services, they said who they were and that, I will never forget this, "we investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect".

I've been mulling this post over for a while, struggling to know what to write. It is so hard to find the words. I am totally appalled at your 'friend' and her actions, and so glad that you were able to stand up to her. It is hard to believe that people act this way. At the same time it brings up sad reminders of a similarly awful situation I've been dealing with these last 8 months or so. You give me courage to face my own situation even as I despair over the implications of what 'might' happen.

Thank you.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to fromthesamesky:

Thanks Sky! Please don't ever feel you need to struggle to know what to write here. I am sorry you are struggling with something similar. If you want to write me, I'd be happy to help support you.

That woman sounds like a nightmare, Paul. Good for you for shutting down her nonsense factory!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ethereal Highway:

Lynn, I miss the way you write! Got to check out your blog. "Nonsense factory", I like that!

David said:

I echo everyone above who applauds the way you handled this -- and agree that you showed wisdom, courage, and proactive defense skills in involving people who were able to support your truthful version of reality. As Castorgirl said, secrecy is the friend of manipulators, and throwing her out in the open, and being willing to speak openly about your situation and experience, were the best things you could possibly have done to pull the teeth out of that wolf in sheep's clothing.

Austin said:

I believe I too would have doubted things. I would have been confused, wondered if I was wrong to stand up for myself. I know the emotional torture you went through trying to sort things out in your head. My goodness what a traumatic thing, both the family "friend" and dealing with it inside.

I know she played the "mental illness" card! Woman please!!!

She is obviously one of the more dangerous borderlines out there. This is absolutely pathetic of her and a clear example of why getting help benefits not only the person in therapy but those around them. Your growth too has benefited you in this situation as well as those around you.
Austin

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Austin:

Thank you Austin and David. This experience has got me on a focus that's in line with what Castorgirl has written about lately most recently (about online therapists). So, I suppose I'll write directly about it today. If not, then you will know I chickened out!

OneSurvivor said:

Wow! Way to go, Paul! You handled this SO well and your family is now free from this influence. What is more, your wife is now able to see what her "friend" is really like.

The inner conflict is so understandable. You were really having to cross those lines. But it was good. Those inside should be able to see now that you CAN stand up for what is right and not necessarily get hit for it. This is awesome!

I also know how scary it is to have child services called on you. Yikes! It is difficult not to have a concern somewhere that someone will decide that I cannot properly care for my son. Some of that is because of my situation, though, too... and that will hopefully change within the next six months or less.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

Thanks OneSurvivor! I really hope your situation works out.

OneSurvivor said:

Thanks, Paul. It will, someday. I am so glad that I read this. It is always good to hear how people triumph over difficulties. Thank you SO much for sharing it.

Wow, Paul, sounds like we have been living parallel lives. I have my own toxic friend thing going only I didn't spot it like you did. I got sucked in. Now my life is a mess.

Good for you for figuring this thing out and getting it under control. Wish my mess could be remedied as easily.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to risingrainbow:

Hi Rising Rainbow. I didn't spot it for quite a while. Now that you have noticed it, maybe you can indeed remedy your situation.

Paul, I have removed myself from the situation that's for sure but this man has caused a lot of damage to my reputation. That's the part that's going to be hard to fix. That and my daughter and granddaughter are still involved with him despite my warnings. I am really worried about my granddaughter.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to risingrainbow:

Great for you for what you have done. I have not seen this on your blog. I will send you a note.

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This page contains a single entry published on March 1, 2010 3:04 PM.

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