January 2014

Anxiety PictogramI come from a family with a long, sad history of depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, alcoholism and abuse.  I experienced my first major depression and panic attacks when I was 19. I have also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD. I developed fibromyalgia (like many trauma survivors) which became very bad and has stayed that way for a long time. Aside from being very painful, it brought with it permanent debilitating sleep disorders. I have had a very tough time getting through school and earning a living. I have been living on disability for over ten years.

On top of the mood disorders that came down to me genetically through the family tree was laid the burden of serious emotional abuse by a raging, mentally ill, alcoholic father and the criticism and demands of a perfectionistic, controlling mother.  She had an idea in her head of who I was supposed to be and never let reality or compassion get in the way. She was also unwilling to protect her children or herself from my father’s daily outpouring of rage, humiliation and delusional behavior.

Despite growing up in an emotional war zone I accomplished a lot. This was never acknowledged. Oddly, this became a source of strength for me. I was constantly being belittled at home (which took a terrible toll), but that contrasted so sharply with the rest of my life that at some point in my teens I just stopped believing them.

Unfortunately, the anger and criticism continued and I never received any family support to help me deal with my mental health problems.  To my parents, my illness was just another vulnerability that could be exploited. My three younger brothers see my mental health problems as a moral failure, a fraud, and a direct criticism of them. This kind of rejection or backlash is common in families with abuse. Unable to tolerate their hostility, I broke off all contact with them several years ago (in my late fifties).

My art and photography have helped me deal with conflict in the family and my own illness. Often I can use an element of humor in the mix. Looking at the work on this page will give you an idea of some of the problems I deal with every day as well as some of the feelings I have about the way I have been treated. I hope that you will be able to find something here that gives you support in your own struggles or just makes you laugh.


More information
Recognizing Emotional Abuse: A factsheet from Prevent Child Abuse New York (PDF file, 80kb)

13 thoughts on “MY STORY

  1. I love them. Favorite is probably “just pretend everything’s okay”. I find this depiction of the situation perfect somehow.

    Only person I know (knew) with fm is probably still in denial about how psycho her mom is, which I understand. I was in denial for a long time too. But it hurts to watch, so I don’t.

  2. Thanks so much for your thoughts. It’s difficult indeed to watch others suffer with this stuff. The only way I’ve ever been able to make any progress is by ‘keeping the focus on myself’.

  3. Wow, Dan. Your art continues to be great and gets better and better. Having known you “back when,” but in many ways not closely, it’s hard to believe you were suffering through all this at the time. Just crushing. It’s “cute” that you stopped believing them and unbelievably lucky. Most people believe all kinds of nonsense about themselves forever and the outside world never breaks through the induced delusion. It’s one bit of seriously good luck amidst all of this horror. Don’t know if it works for you or is tantamount to somehow “giving away” your work, but would love to post some of what I see here on my FB page just because it’s so provoking. Let me know when you can and care to.

    An old friend, Peter Schwartz

    P.S. Biggest most recent news is that I suddenly picked up a desire to learn the trumpet. So I bought an old one for $30 and am more or less trying to teach myself. Wow. Difficult instrument. Best to you always, my friend. I don’t speak with Adler much these days, but when we do, we always speak of you fondly.

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