Editor’s note from Glenn Holsten:
A few months ago, Lauren Dicair submitted an essay about her life to OC87 Recovery Diaries. I was stunned by her story — it contained tremendously sad details of a traumatic childhood that was followed by years of wrestling with mental health issues. I was also impressed by her resilience — the writer who had weathered so many emotional and physical storms was able to tell her story with quiet determination and thoughtful reflection.
When Lauren and I first spoke by phone, she informed me that the essay was a condensed version of stories from her memoir, which she is currently writing. She spoke beautifully her reasons for — and challenges of — writing a memoir. I was struck by her resolve to discover meaning in her life, to heal herself, and to help others. By sharing her story, she wants to prevent another person from experiencing the isolation and pain that marked her childhood. The video interview excerpts that accompany this post include much of what was discussed in that phone conversation, in hopes of providing a window into Lauren’s writing process, and an effort to share the issues and questions that someone writing a memoir must address when undertaking such an effort.
We’ve decided to publish the story in three parts — which gives Lauren the space to include important details about each chapter of her life. In Chapter One, Lauren takes us from infancy and a very painful childhood through her high school years. In Chapter Two, Lauren recounts what may be described as her “roaring 20s” – a tumultuous time through college and grad school years where she completed school despite many mental health challenges, diagnosis, misdiagnoses, medication misadventures and compulsive behaviors — all the while being the child of drug addicted parents. Chapter Three, presented here, brings us up to present day, as Lauren describes a shifting of things – therapy approaches, diagnoses, medications, and relationships — that mark the beginning of the end of her isolation. Happy endings? No such thing. But there are moments of deep understanding and significant growth — and besides, she’s only 31-years-old. She has much more living to do.
Please consider the following an advanced peek at the memoir of Lauren Dicair, a licensed clinical social worker who has the courage to face life’s most difficult moments head on, in hopes of finding light and reason in the darkness. We are extremely proud to present this version of her journey.
My therapist suggested that I invite my parents to a session. At first, I brushed it off. But then some months later, the timing seemed right, so I asked them — and they surprisingly agreed to go. It was December 2011 — I was 27 years old — and it was the first time that I had ever exposed my dirty secret in the flesh to a trained professional. I made my parents sit in the waiting room and told my therapist that I had brought them but I was having a panic attack. She told me that we didn’t have to do this but I told her that we did.
And while their dialogue was filled with the same olio of apologies and denial that I had heard so many times before, it was their exposure in itself that was the final catalyst. Just exposing their worn out physical appearance from decades of drug use and hustling spoke for itself. I was finally revealing the cold truth of all of the years of dysfunction, neglect, and abuse to an outsider. It was the beginning of the end of my decades of isolating pain and shame.
In the weeks following this session, I fell into the deepest, darkest depression yet. For the first time, I questioned my ability to withstand my torment. In fact, it was so horrendous that my therapist suggested that I voluntarily commit myself for inpatient care. But that kind of submission was not an option.
Instead, I looked up a local psychiatrist and scheduled an appointment — the pain finally outweighing the fear. I told them my story, every detail about my childhood, my obsessions, my compulsions, my phobias, my dissociation, and my mood shifts. They diagnosed me with PTSD and Bipolar II Depression and explained that the panic reactions I had from the Lexapro and Zoloft was a key sign that I did not have unipolar depression; my severe anxiety in this case had been a form of hypomania that had been induced by these medications.
I distinctly remember staring down at the lone Lamictal pill in my hand with absolute terror, my mind racing with thoughts of all of the potential side effects that I might experience. But I took it. And waited. I sat on the couch for an hour in silence, on high alert, searching for any changes that might be occurring in my body or mental status. It took several more weeks until I actually began to experience those changes and they were like nothing I had ever experienced before.
The weight of terror and emptiness and all-consuming misery that I had carried around for so many years began to lift, and lift. The only side effects that I experienced were temporary weight loss and a new perspective on my perceptions. The psychiatrist agreed with my theory that my return to near-homeostasis with Lamictal may have been due to its anti-seizure properties — a cousin of the Phenobarbital I had to be given at birth to survive.
For several months after I got on Lamictal, Paul began to deteriorate more and more. Now that he no longer needed to babysit me 24/7, he could allow himself to fall apart and he went through multiple hospitalizations for psychosis and suicidal ideation. I had lost the Paul I fell in love with to the voices in his head. Our relationship had died several months before the Lamictal had a chance to help me calm down the electrical impulses in my own brain to the point where I had the nerve to try living without a babysitter.
After 7 months of being on Lamictal, I finally had the confidence to make a bold move. I essentially abandoned Paul and left him homeless in the hospital when I ended our lease, but due to our co-dependent dynamic, I felt that it was my only chance to escape without being manipulated by my inner child to stay.
As I packed up our belongings, separating his out from mine without falling apart, I realized that I could really do this.
I can’t tell you that I am completely healed, that I still don’t battle the flashbacks, the obsessions, the compulsions, the dissociation, the mood symptoms, and the sense of impending doom. I can’t tell you that I still don’t second guess my safety when my fiance leaves me by myself to head off to work.
Due to the complexity and longevity of the trauma I experienced, I still have a long road ahead of me and I have come to accept that I may never be at 100%. I have learned what works for me in helping diminish the severity of my symptoms. Taking the 150mg Lamictal pill every morning, getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night, avoiding caffeine, engaging in hobbies that bring me joy, and doing Svaroopa yoga exercises make my reality more bearable and manageable.
Sharing my secrets, while in the moment causes my heart to do somersaults, has also proven cathartic over the long-term. So, I have started coming out to people around me and have begun speaking at support groups among other suffering, adult children who I connect with like long-lost brothers and sisters.
As far as my parents are concerned, I have reduced the amount of contact that I have with them since going to my meetings so that I can concentrate on working on myself from a more objective place. Through the personal work I have been doing, my anger and disappointment have turned into pity and compassion for them . . . and for myself.
This is just a small taste of a full-length memoir that I am currently writing. My sharing triggers me to vividly re-experience of all of the sights, sounds, scents, and heartbreak as if I have traveled back in time. But I know in the long run, it will all be worth it to those readers who are still living in tormenting silence.
EDITOR IN CHIEF: Bud Clayman | EDITOR: Glenn Holsten | ART & LAYOUT: Leah Alexandra Goldstein