Co-Parenting With A Psychopath: The Story of The Headless Bear

 

bear-suicide

Some of you who have been following my blog since the beginning, may remember this story.  I am releasing it from the CQ vault today, because I think it illustrates the complete chaos that many parents feel when forced to co-parent with another parent who is mentally unhealthy (or specifically, a psychopath).  I wrote this post a little over two years ago, when I was in the throws of co-parenting hell with Luc.  Every visit was a nightmare, and my mind would race from the time I dropped Prince off to well beyond the time when I picked him up.

————————————————–

June 2012, a week before Prince’s first birthday: 

When I first became exposed to the term “co-parenting”, I remember having a visceral reaction.  I was sitting in the three hour court mandated co-parenting class, breaking into a sweat, and having what felt like a full on panic attack as the woman leading the class showed slides of “parenting schedules.”  ‘How in hell was I going to co-parent with a man who was capable of such terrible things,’ I thought as I tried to get myself under enough control to not look like a crazy woman.  At the beginning of the class, the leaders made a point to tell everything to disregard most of what was being said if you were in a situation with abuse/domestic violence.

For some reason, this statement made me feel worse because I knew that somehow the courts were not going to treat my case the same as a cookie cutter domestic violence case (as if there ever is one).  I knew how good Luc was at playing in that “grey area” of criminality and how adept at making himself look like the victim he was.  That panic that I felt throughout the entire three hours of that class only seemed to get worse as the months passed.  While I don’t break out into sweats and actively panic every single time I drop my son off, I never feel at ease because I know his father is damaging.  The point of co-parenting is to allow the child to have a healthy relationship with both parents even if the parents are no longer together.  My motherly instincts will not allow me to trust that baby boy is ever going to be able to have a healthy relationship with his father because his father is not healthy.

One of my coworkers wrote on the white board at her desk the phrase, “Crazy people make sane people crazy.”  Most people who have never had the misfortune of co-parenting with a sociopath (if that is even what you would call this) might think that the below story sounds a little crazy.  Honestly, I feel a little crazy sometimes whenever I try and get in Luc’s head and proactively prepare for his next crazy stunt.  You tell me, is this crazy?  Or is this just a reaction to the insanity of being forced to co-parent with a sociopath?

 

The Headless Bear

When a person creates an environment of distrust, it makes you question everything.  Since the beginning of this nightmare (i.e. the existence of Luc in my life), I have been lied to on a regular basis by this man.  Many of the lies have put both me and my family in harms way.  Every time I think that things have calmed down, the man pulls another crazy move that I didn’t anticipate.

These crazy moves have left me attempting to anticipate the lies and deception before they happen.  Please note, this is not easy as sometimes it makes you feel like you are going down the rabbit hole of crazy.

For my son’s first birthday, Luc bought him a build-a-bear.  This was the very first thing that Luc had ever gotten the baby so as you can imagine I was a bit skeptical of this furry creature.  Part of me thought, ‘come on cappuccino queen, it’s just a bear’ but then the other voice (the skeptic) said, ‘wait a second…he never does anything just because he is trying to be nice.’

(Note:  Two years later, I now know that the bear was not the first thing Luc bought for Prince.  The first thing Luc actually bought Prince was a life insurance policy worth over 580k if Prince died.  I guess the policy wasn’t for Prince.  Oh well, I digress…)

While my first instinct was to tear the bear apart with my teeth and throw it in the mall trashcan, I decided I would do the more sane thing and ask my mother and aunts (who were standing right next to me when I first saw it) what they thought.  This is when I realized how truly traumatized my entire family had been.  One of my aunts said (before I even told them how I was feeling), “you better check that and make sure he didn’t bug it.”  The other said, “It’s too risky, just throw it out – don’t even let it in the car.”  I shook my head, threw the bear back in the box and took my son home.

I thought about the stupid bear the whole ride home.  I also thought about how throwing it out wasn’t the answer as this could be the ONLY thing my son would ever get from his father (I suspect it was purchased in order to look good in front of the court ordered supervisor who would be testifying in court the next day).  That being said, I still didn’t trust the bear.  That night the bear spent the night in the garage.

The next morning, I walked downstairs (having dreamed about that stupid bear) and low and behold my mom was awake and didn’t waste any time to ask me what I had decided to do with the bear.  I told her that we were being paranoid and that there was nothing wrong with the bear.

On the drive to work, I couldn’t stop trying to figure out if there was more to this bear thing. This is a man who has been lying and terrorizing since he met me.  A bear couldn’t JUST be a bear.  Once I got to work, I brought up the bear to my coworkers.  Some of the more paranoid ones were all for the idea of cutting the bear open and making sure it wasn’t bugged.

Eventually, I allowed my mom to check for a bug.  She cut the bears head off and pulled out all the stuffing.  Of course, there was nothing there.  It was JUST a bear filled with stuffing and a fake heart.  (A lot like Luc himself actually)  I felt terrible – and a little crazy.  My mom told me I shouldn’t feel bad and that the bear was a “casualty of war.”

Yes, one could say it was JUST a bear – but it was more than that symbolically.  That bear became a symbol of the environment of distrust.  It also made it very obvious to me that co-parenting would be impossible.  I have a lot of work to do on myself to get to the point where the little things don’t bother me.  I also need to get to the point where I can safely stop anticipating his next crazy move.

 

 

 

 

 

Child Soldiers

On March 24, 2013,  a Washington Post Editorial shed light on the ugly realities of Child Abuse in our country.  According to the Washington Post, experts estimate that more than 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, with nearly 82 percent of victims being under the age of 4.  The Post then goes on to disclose a possibly even more disturbing comparison when it mentions that between 2001 and 2010 15,510 children were reported to have died from child abuse and neglect.  This number is 2 1/2 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When I read the Post editorial, I stared at my computer in shock – completely hung up on these statistics.  Ironically, while I was reading the editorial, the national news was playing in the background.  The newscaster was discussing how careful we must be when we send our troops to war, and the tragedies that occur on the home front when a soldier doesn’t return.  My son was sent to war too, but it was a different war.  It was a domestic war that children are fighting every day.  Healthy mothers and fathers are forced to send their children to the battle lines of a disordered/crazy/abusive “co-parent” –  armed with nothing more than the hope that they will return unharmed.

The War:

I have spoken with many parents about Family Court, my beliefs when it comes to the system, and tips I learned the hard way.  When I describe Child Custody as a Custody War, I am not trying to be dramatic.  That is exactly what it is.  If you are faced with going to court for custody of your child, with someone whom you believe to have a personality disorder, it will not just be a battle it will be a full on war.  These individuals need to feel as if they win no matter what happens and they will continue the battles until the war is won to their satisfaction.  The reality is – this war could very well last 18 years.  It will be ugly, your child will likely suffer as a result, and the court will inevitably not put the child’s needs first – ever.

Difficult Questions:

Not every custody situation needs to turn into a war.  While I understand first hand how emotions can run high when it comes to your child, it is in the best interest of your child to step back and try to look at the situation with the most objective eye possible.  Before entering into a war, I suggest asking yourself the most important question every parent should ask themselves in a situation like this:  “Will my child’s parent physically harm my child – intentionally or by neglecting the child’s immediate needs?”

 

Honest Answers:  

If the answer to the above question is “yes”, you need to find the most intelligent/aggressive attorney you can afford, dig your heels in, and prepare for an all out Custody War.  Your child deserves to be protected and deserves the healthiest life you can possibly provide them.  If the unthinkable happens to you, as it did to me, you will need to know that you did everything in your power to save your child or else you will blame yourself forever.

If, however, the honest answer is “no” then you need to think hard about what is making you uncomfortable about the other parent.  The hard reality is that the world is full of terribly immoral jerks.  Your child’s father or mother might just be one of them.  Your child will run into a lot of jerks in his/her life and you will not be able to shield them from these deplorable people forever.  Trust me when I tell you that if the other parent is a scumbag, your child will probably realize this before you need to even utter a word.

One of my readers told me about something her young daughter recently said after coming home from a visit with her father.  (Note: the child is about four years old)  The child wisely said, “Mama, I don’t think Daddy is a very good person.  He lies a lot.”  The woman was shocked (and a bit worried) as she had worked very hard to make sure her daughter never heard her speak negatively about the father.  While the father would without a doubt blame parental alienation for his daughter’s statements, the reality of the situation is that this child is just perceptive.  Children can spot bad sometimes sooner than adults can.  Prince hated evil.  He was always able to spot it and it didn’t take me having to tell him.  In fact, he wouldn’t have understood me even if I had tried.

Little Soldiers:

Possibly the most painful part of any Custody War is the days when you will have to send your child to someone you wouldn’t even hire to be your daycare provider.  Even worse, the constant reminder that you had a child with this person and will be battling this monster for 18 years.  No matter how awful it feels to constantly drag yourself into court day after day, turn most or all of your salary over to attorneys, and face legal abuse every single day – your child is the real soldier.  Your child will be on the front lines of this war and you will not always be there to protect him/her.

I wish there were something I could say – some advice that I could give on how you could prepare your child with some sort of weapon for protection.  The only weapons there are in this fight are the weapons of love and hope.  I will never forget the last time I saw my son.  As I placed him in the supervisor’s car, I kissed him on the face, hugged him tight, and told him how much I loved him.  I armed him with love that day.  It was all I had to give him.  There are days when I am angry at myself – wishing that I could have armed him with more.  In the end, however, I know that at least my son knew real love in his 15 months of life.  My son knew that day how much his Mommy loved him.  That is what I hold onto when I am so angry and full of rage at the outcome of my Custody War.

I had hoped and prayed that I would be able to give Prince more, but that is all I had – love and hope.  I now fight every day to make sure that your children are armed with more than mine was.  In order to make children safe, we need to stop making them soldiers and stop sending them to the front lines of battle.  We need to change the minds of those who feel the need to send them – the courts.

Prince was a brave soldier.  I am a proud Mama knowing that even after he is gone, he will fight to protect those who will stand on the front lines after him.  I will fight to make sure of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold Fast

In the past few weeks, I have received many more emails from women (no men yet) who are facing what seems like impossible situations with the father of their child/children.  Given what has happened to Prince, it has been hard for me to find the words to advise others who find themselves in similarly horrifying situations.  I fought through an impossible situation for 15 months, but even though I gave it my best shot – it didn’t end well for me and Prince.  My baby boy died during one of the first times he ever spent alone with his father.

While to many my story is uniquely horrifying, I have come to find that it isn’t as unique as it should be.  Sometimes after reading similar stories over and over, I start to think as if there is some playbook of psychopathy that all these crazy men are reading.  I say this because even though we are all different in some ways, some of the terrible things these men do are sickeningly similar.

Many people love to judge women for falling for psychopaths, but I am here to tell you that none of these men are going to walk up to you – punch you in the face – and then ask for a second date.  Most women who end up in abusive relationships (be it physical, emotional, or a combination of both) can’t even understand how they ended up in the situation when its all over.  The burning question on many of my reader’s minds is this: what do you do once you realize that you have been sleeping next to a monster and you now share a child?  The unfortunate reality is that you only have a few options and none of them are good.

1)  RUN:  If you realize the man is a monster early enough, the safest option is to back away slowly toward the door.  As soon as you get through the door safely, run as far and as fast as you can and make sure you hide in a place where he cannot find you.  If however, you have already entered into a Custody War with this person, this may not be a legal option.  (Note:  Even though it wouldn’t have been legal, I still wish I had chosen this option in order to protect my son.  Hindsight is always 20/20)

2)  FIGHT:  Once you find yourself in court with one of these monsters, you don’t have the option to stop.  By that, I don’t mean that you should get emotional and fight with your words or your fists.  If you truly believe this man is dangerous (gun carrying, serial killer, drug user, mentally disordered, gang banging, or whatever else evil you can imagine) type, you can try and fight if you choose not to run.  Most attorneys will not be prepared for the kind of crazy you are going to tell them, so start by contacting a local domestic violence group.  They can give you free legal advice and refer you to an attorney who knows how to deal with psychopathy.  If you choose this option, buckle down and get ready for a terrible experience.  Family court is never fun and games and this is especially the case when you enter into court with a pathological criminal psychopath.

3)  PRAY:  If the first two are not viable options, sometimes all you can do is be the best parent you can be to your child and pray for them when they are with the disordered parent.  The unfortunate reality is that in most situations, family court will not choose to protect your child if that means limiting the parental rights of the disordered parent.  (Yes, this is crazy – but true)  So if you have already considered the first two options, or have tried them and failed, your best bet might be to just be a good mom.  Your child will need you to be emotionally healthy so that you can help them weather the storm of the disordered parent.  (Note:  At the point where I ran out of money and my attorneys would not file an emergency order, I tried this – it clearly didn’t work)

Psychopaths do not play by normal rules.  You will find yourself playing a crazy and disordered game of chess with someone who might very well end up blowing up the chess board.  There are many things I am proud of in my life -my son is one of them.  I am not, however, proud of how many nights I spent stressed out over things I could not control.  I would give anything to go back and rewind time so that I could try all over again to save my son.  I would fight for him every single day and for the rest of my life.  I don’t have that option now, but many of you do.

Hold Fast

I come from a long line of strong people.  My Scottish roots can be traced back hundreds of years.  I am from the Clan McLeod.  My son is a McLeod.  When my son passed away, my father told me a story about how long ago when our family was still living in the highlands of Scotland there was a horrible tragedy.  The rival clan had gathered around the McLeod church and burned all of them alive inside.  Entire families were killed -women, men, children.  The only people who survived were the ones who happened to not be there that Sunday.

If my family members who had survived had not moved on with their lives, I would not be here.  They lived through a terrible situation and made sure to thrive in spite of it all.  Our family motto is “Hold Fast”.  This could mean many things, but to me it means sticking to who you are, protecting your family, and fighting for Justice.

So my advise to other parents who are living the nightmare that I have been living the past several years (since I met the devil himself), is to hold fast.  It is your job to protect your child in any way you can - even if that means just being the strong and healthy rock they can come home to after surviving the chaos.  For those of you, like me, who have lost a child (my unnatural or natural causes), you are still their parent and you must still hold fast in the fight to protect their memory and their legacy.