I wrote recently, here and here, about revelations about my ex Phil. To sum up, Phil–my spiritual husband in college, who turned out to be very emotionally and sexually abusive, with a pattern of broken, abusive relationships, story here–was engaged for a third time. (After me, he was legally married to another woman for ten years. It has been about 11 years since their divorce.) I found out about her one day when looking at his Facebook profile, trying to find out why his own sister filed a restraining order against him. I will call the latest fiancée, Doris.
I checked out Doris’ profile a couple of months later–and learned that Phil was diagnosed as bipolar in 2010. He hadn’t been taking his meds for some time, so brain cells were being destroyed–and the effect on his behavior was too much for her. They mutually broke up.
I forgot–because Doris didn’t seem to know for sure at the time, and at that time, mostly posted about Bipolar II–that he also has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Instead of Bipolar II, she has been posting lately about FAS.
I had no idea his mother had been an alcoholic. I knew she smoked a lot when his brother was born, so they all joked that it affected his brain, because he talked like it was missing a few cells. I also knew that the brother drank too much as well for a time, leading to an accident, leading to him losing his license for a while, so Phil kept having to drive him around. But I didn’t know about the mother’s alcoholism. There was nothing physically unusual about Phil; in fact, instead of short, he’s 6’5. Yet his mother drank enough that it has affected Phil his entire life.
Now, originally, Doris pinned his bad behavior on the Bipolar, calling him Bipolar Phil. But lately she’s pinning it on FAS. From what I’ve learned about Bipolar since, that seems more likely, because Bipolar is not supposed to be a cause of abuse. FAS, on the other hand, is linked to all sorts of terrible behaviors which cause trouble throughout the person’s life.
For example, I’m learning that Phil has not been able to hold down a job for long. Years ago, when he posted about the divorce from Wife #2 on one of those websites that link up classmates, he blamed it on his wife. He said she refused to “support” him by moving to the city of M– when he got a teaching certificate and a contract there.
Being a math teacher was supposed to bring him stability–yet he hasn’t had a job for a while, and was about to go into a new line of work when his brain went haywire. What happened to teaching? A check online reveals that he still has a certificate, so why can’t he do that? In any case, FAS is linked to job instability.
FAS is linked to trouble staying in relationships. Phil’s exes seem to be able to find long-term relationships, while he himself is not. I found a new guy shortly after our divorce, and have been married for 21 years. Wife #2 found a new guy shortly after the divorce, and has been with him for 10 years now. Phil found Doris a few years ago, but they’re no longer together. Admittedly, I don’t know about Phil’s dating life since he divorced Wife #2, but obviously nobody lasted long enough for him to marry her.
FAS is also linked to suicide.
A few days ago, Doris posted that Phil’s mother was bothering both her and him about some petty matter (I won’t go into detail). It reminds me of Phil’s girlfriend after me, Persephone, calling his mother “Dragon Lady.”
Then a couple of days ago, Doris posted that Phil is back in the hospital, “on watch.”
I googled “on watch,” and “suicide watch” came up. 😮
And this all reminds me of how upset and sad I was when Phil broke up with me, all those years ago. I thought he was the One. He was handsome, and we had been passionately attracted to each other. In the beginning, he seemed nice, sweet, caring. He was goofy. Talented. Smart. A geek (a good thing).
Doris wrote, How can she easily move on from someone who said such sweet things about her? He said the same things to me, so I can relate.
During the months after the breakup, he did a few things which suggest that he would’ve tried to get me back, if Hubby-to-be were not already there. After divorcing Wife #2, he told me that he and his mother both thought I was the one girl he should’ve held on to. But by then, I had been married for 10 years.
Well, just think: If we had stayed together, this all would have been MY life: turbulent, Dragon Lady mother-in-law, unable to keep a job or even a profession, living in an apartment instead of our own house, and mental health issues which could lead to me being a widow at age 45 because of suicide.
Heck, even Doris couldn’t handle it. And she is still where I was about 24 years ago.
It makes me appreciate my husband more, despite the ups-and-downs we’ve been through.
At first, Phil blaming his behavior on Bipolar seemed to me a way to manipulate Doris into thinking she should stay with him. But the FAS makes it more likely that his behavior does indeed stem from a sickness.
Of course, there is the usual question: How far should you blame behavior on a disease, and how much should that person take responsibility for? Maybe it wasn’t him being Evil, but him with a sickness. And maybe he knows it wasn’t my fault when–or even if–he remembers what he did to me. It does make it easier for me to forgive him.
And worry about him. After she posted that–and a bunch of Vaguebooking posts about angels and death and what looked like a memorial to Phil–I freaked out a bit. It sounded like somebody she loved had died. Had he already–??!!
But a couple of days later, I see no death notices in the M– paper, nothing on his family’s FB profiles. On Doris’ FB I see a lot about positive thinking, and moving on, and her experiences trying to date again, and sadness about the end of the relationship with Phil–but nothing about him doing anything to himself. So maybe he’s still physically okay. Mentally–another story. Doris posted that he’s “fighting for his life.”
On FAS and whether it can co-exist with other disorders:
Eighteen of the 25 subjects had received psychiatric treatment. The most common axis I disorders were alcohol or drug dependence (15 subjects), depression (11 subjects), and psychotic disorders (10 subjects). The most common axis II disorders were avoidant (six subjects), antisocial (four subjects), and dependent (three subjects) personality disorders.
This study suggests that adults with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects suffer from substantial mental illness. —
Mental illness in adults with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause permanent structural, neurological and functional impairments to the developing fetal CNS. …Functional impairments can include attention and impulse control problems, hyperactivity, learning disorders, memory deficits, and disorders of communication and executive functioning.
…Red Flags for Referral:
- Adult was raised in foster care or adopted
- History of chemical dependency/child protection
- Adult has received many diagnoses such as ADHD, Autism, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, etc.
- Adult is easily distracted, hyperactive, inattentive, impulsive
- Adult consistently displays extreme behavior (aggression, emotional instability)
- Adult has been involved with the criminal justice system
- Adult gives inconsistent answers to questions, or can repeat a rule but fail to follow it
- Adult makes the same mistakes repeatedly
- Adult displays difficulties in holding a job
…Adults may also have many other disorders that come from living with FASD without support. Because FASD can look like many other mental health diagnoses, adults may go undiagnosed for the primary disorder: FASD. Common misdiagnoses for individuals with an FASD include ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Psychotic Disorders, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. —FASD: Identification and Diagnosis
According to researcher Ann Streissguth (1996), mental health problems are experienced by 94% of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). One of the hallmarks of FASD is poor impulse control. In many cases an impairment exists that warrants a formal diagnosis of Impulse Control Disorder (ICD). …Most individuals with FASD have symptoms of one or more Impulse Control Disorders.
…Impulsive behavior seems to have an underlying pre-disposition which may or may not be related to existing mental health or medical conditions but research over the past decade has stressed the substantial co-morbidity of Impulse Control Disorders with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, personality disorders, and with other specific impulse control disorders.
…Some Major Mental Disorders are often associated with impulsivity while the individual is in a psychotic state. This is particularly true of Bipolar Disorder where the impulsive behaviour is most often associated with the manic phase.
Impulse Control Disorder are often present in a number of specific Personality Disorders, primarily borderline, anti-social, narcissistic, and histrionic. Impulsivity in the form of risk-tasking behaviours, sexual promiscuity, gestures and threats of self-harm and other attention-seeking behaviours. They are less prevalent in avoidant, dependant, obsessive compulsive personality and other disorder types. —Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Impulse Control Disorders
But then I found this post on a forum:
Sorry, but if this person was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, that is organic brain damage….
His behavior, no matter how bad, is due to this, not mental illness or borderline. If a person has fetal alcohol syndrome, they were PHYSICALLY damaged before they were even born and will need lifelong caretaking as they don’t understand right from wrong which is WAY different from borderlines, who do and can learn to change. A FAS person can NOT change.
Also, doctors who don’t “get it” often diagnose it as something other than the obvious. That is sort of the same as borderline (the only thing that is). I was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar, never borderline. Same happens with FAS and meds usually do no good. Regardless of whatever else he may be diagnosed with, his brain damage is his main problem. I have to wonder about any doctor who gave somebody with FAS a dx. of bpd.
Beating up this poor man is not the same as taking on a borderline. It’s like picking on somebody with Alzheimer’s for behaving badly. This is a disabled individual who is not going to respond to psychiatric treatment …
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome does not go away nor can it improve. ….fetal alcohol syndrome is nothing even connected to borderline. You will lack the right connections in the brain to make good decisions with FAS.
…Fetal alcohol syndrome has Swiss Cheese thinking…you can remember something one day, forget it the next. You can’t concentrate due to brain damage. You are an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s due to the alcohol syndrome.
…[T]he biggest problem with this person isn’t borderline or any personality disorder or any mental illness…he victimized nobody on purpose. He is the victim.
I think it’s important the people understand there is a big difference between any personality disorder and the victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. —Posted here
Doris is calling it FAS, but the information I find suggests FAE, because of Phil’s lack of physical deformity or retardation. In any case, it is possible that his behavior can legitimately be blamed on this. In which case, as mentioned above, blaming him for it can be like blaming a person with Alzheimer’s. Except that he seemed too rational to me, his actions too calculated, to be blameless….