Warning:

This blog could potentially contain triggers. Please make sure you are emotionally safe before continuing.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Was I Abused?

When I went to therapy that was the question I wanted answered most.  I felt that I had been abused.  I knew I was damaged.  But I needed validation.  I needed someone to hear my story and tell me that what happened to me was wrong.

The more I told my story, the more validation I received.  No one that heard my story questioned whether it was abuse or not.  And this helped.

It helped because part of abuse is teaching the victim to doubt herself (or himself, but I'll say her just for simplicity).  I didn't know what was true anymore.  I didn't know how I felt or what I wanted.  I no longer trusted my feelings or my judgment.  The various abusers in my life had taught me that what I felt or knew didn't matter.  They had become God -- they ruled my universe, each in his turn and setting.  They created a new me.  They programmed me to be what they wanted.

And as I continued with therapy I began to see more and more how much I had surrendered.  Not because I wanted to, but because I had to.  For survival.  Our instincts to survive are so much stronger than our desire to be happy.

For a long time I was trapped because I was a child.  I could not leave the situation because I could not take care of myself.  And I didn't know if there was anyone who could protect me if I spoke up. 

As an adult I was trapped again.  Not because I couldn't take care of myself, but because I couldn't see that I could.  I didn't understand that I could survive and find my way even if no one believed me or supported me.

It took a lot of therapy for me to learn to trust myself again.  To finally listen to my own voice.  To come to a place where I am willing to stand by what I believe without feeling the need to convince anyone else.

And I no longer need anyone's validation for this.  I know I was abused.  I know I was forced to do things I didn't want to do even if no one used a gun to make me do them.  I know that without striking a single blow my abusers beat me into submission.  I know that they have a wide array of weapons to use that no one but a victim can see.  I know that doesn't make those weapons any less real.  I know that doesn't make the threat any less dangerous.

And I know that the abuser often doesn't think he did anything wrong.  But that doesn't mean he didn't.  He doesn't get to judge if his actions were wrong.  They hurt me.  They damaged me.  They changed me in a way that will never be gone.  I will heal, but I will still have scars.  And they did that.

Yes, I was abused.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Story is Important

I have been honored to have many people thank me for telling my story.  They tell me it helps them not feel so alone.  They tell me it helps them believe that their feelings and experiences are valid.  They tell me it gives them hope.

For whatever reason, sharing my story has helped people.  What an incredible privilege. 

It took me many years to get to a place where I was ready to tell my story.  Many years and lots of therapy.  And sometimes I still struggle.

But even though it's difficult, I believe it is important.  I believe prejudice about mental illness is so common because people don't talk about it, except to mock.  I believe abuse runs so rampant in part because people look away.  People don't want to know about the dark stuff.  Or they are afraid that they carry some shame or guilt because of it.  They are afraid they will be judged, looked down on, or in danger if they tell their story.

And, unfortunately, sometimes that's true.

I am blessed that I am at a place now where I do not fear those things like I used to.  I do not tell everyone I meet, but if I asked I will own these things as part of my past.  And part of my present.  Part of who I am.  I speak because I can.  I speak for all those who cannot.

But I believe every story is important.  I believe everyone should get to tell their story even when others don't want them to, even when they are afraid.  I believe strength comes from saying, "This is what happened to me.  It is not who I am, but it does affect me.  And it was wrong."  I believe healing comes from saying, "This is what I did.  I hate who I was.  I am trying so hard to change."  From saying, "This is what I struggle with and I am ashamed."

Whatever your story, I believe you will be stronger and more whole when you are able to share it.

I offer to tell your story for you.  If you want your story known, but are fearful of the outcome, share it with me and I will share it here.  I have had people ask about this, if I would be willing to post their story here.  Yes, I am willing. 

If you do not want to share it publicly, I am still willing to listen.  Feel free to email me and we'll "talk" electronically (without your story being published here).  I am not a therapist.  I will probably not give you any advice.  But I will listen and honor your offering.  If you are uncomfortable talking to me, please find someone who is emotionally safe for you, someone who has never violated your trust.  Talk to them.

And if you aren't ready to talk about it, I suggest writing about it.  Electronic or paper, writing will help get the toxins out.  You are not your past.  Don't let it keep holding you hostage.

Please don't feel pressured to do this.  I do not mean to push.  Everyone comes to their moment(s) of healing in their own time.  But if you've felt like you might want to move ahead, I would be honored to help.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Tough Day

I've been kind of lost today.  Unsure of myself.  Without direction.  And anxious.

Today is my dad's birthday.  I have been unable to decide how to deal with it.  I feel like I should make some kind of contact to let him know I remembered.  I really don't want to see him.  It's impossible to buy him anything. 

Today I wished I lived far away.  That way I could send a birthday card and that would be enough.

I'm afraid to initiate contact because I don't want a conversation.  I don't want two-way communication.

I spent the whole day trying to decide what to do.  Until I noticed at about 11:00 tonight that it was too late.  By not making a choice, I guess I kind of did.  I did not make contact.

I wrote happy birthday on his facebook wall.  That doesn't really count though because he doesn't check it.

I'm thinking maybe an apologetic "Sorry I missed your birthday; I hope it was a good one" text tomorrow.  I know it sucks, but it's really all I feel good about and honest in offering right now.

There's a small piece of me that is afraid I'm in trouble.  I doubt it because he doesn't feel insulted very often.  He'll probably just shrug it off.

But maybe I am in trouble.  I guess I won't know until tomorrow.

I'm trying to remember that I'm an adult.  Just because he gets upset it doesn't mean I am in trouble or that I've done anything wrong.  I'm trying to remember that he doesn't control my life, that he doesn't have the ability to punish me anymore unless I let him.

Now if I could just figure out how to stop letting him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fear of My Father

This is an incredibly difficult topic to write about.  I have avoided it for a long time.  I avoided it in therapy as well.  It's amazing how powerful fear is.

I have faced fear before.  When something I need to process frightens me I know I need to deal with it, that's the only way to take away the unrelenting power it has over me.

And yet, I still don't want to write about this.

I am afraid to think about it.  I am afraid to remember.  And I am so terribly afraid that my father could find it and read it.  Imagining the fallout if that were to happen is almost enough to make me stop.  Almost.

But it hurts me.  It controls me.  It makes me sick.  It is a toxin I have to get out.

My father is a bully.  He is controlling and domineering.  I thought he had changed.  I guess it was only a matter of time.

He expects people to give in.  They always have.  He makes sure of that.

I wish I had the words to describe how he does this.  I don't fully understand it.  I think it's because I was programmed so young.  I think the control tactics are so deeply rooted that I can't see them anymore.  All he has to do now is look at me in a certain way and I know I have no option but to comply.

I do have options.  I understand that now, at least on some level.  It took several years of therapy but I believe I can choose for myself.  But knowing the wrath I will face if I choose differently from what he wants is enough to keep me in line way too often.

We had an incident recently.  He overstepped his bounds and verbally attacked my daughter when I wasn't there.  She was devastated.  I was so angry.  I thought of many different ways to confront him about it.  I stewed about it.  I vented about it at home.

And in the end, I did nothing.  I did nothing but prepare her for a future attack.  I gave her permission to walk away.  I told her if he did something like that again to come get me or text me.  I told her he was wrong and did what I could to support her.  But I did not confront him.

I am ashamed of this.  It breaks my heart that I was not strong enough to better protect my daughter.

I wonder if I will ever get there.  I wonder if I will ever be strong enough to look him in the eye and tell him how much he has hurt me.  I wonder if I will ever be able to stand in front of him and say no.  I wonder if I will ever be able to tell him he's a bully and unless he changes his behavior toward us he will no longer get to be with us.

But I'm not there yet.  Just thinking about it brings me to tears.  It makes me shake.

Since that incident I have avoided him as much as possible.  We took him something for Father's Day but didn't stay long and I kept others in between me and him.  I haven't taken his calls but I have responded to his texts (I get in trouble if I ignore him).  I avoided a family dinner that my husband and children went to on Memorial Day.

His birthday is in two weeks.  I don't know how I'm going to handle that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Taking Pleasure in Another's Pain

I was recently accused of gaining pleasure from hurting another person.  Initially it stung.  I got defensive. 

Then I realized that this person was striking out from a place of pain.  I was sad that she either didn't know me very well or couldn't see things as they really are because of her pain.

Other people's pain.  I've spent a great deal of my life concerned about other people's pain, especially pain I caused.  I have given up so much of what I wanted and sacrificed who I am to make sure I don't hurt others.  This is not healthy.

When I first started therapy I was asked what my boundaries were.  I was very confused.  I had no idea what he meant.  I had no idea that I had a right to set boundaries.  The more I learned the more I understood that I had very few boundaries.  I had some legal and religious boundaries, but that was about it.  Other people could push me, manipulate me, into doing what they wanted time and time again.  And the tool they used to do this was their pain. 

By making me feel responsible for their pain they could make me change my behavior.  Even if I knew my behavior was wholesome and healthy, they made me question that and sacrifice that because I didn't want to hurt them.  One of the main motivations in my life is to not cause others harm.  This has been used against me.

I remember sitting in a therapy session sobbing.  I was learning so much.  I was making healthy changes in my life, changes that were so good for me, but they were hurting others.  I remember asking my therapist how these could be good things if they were hurting others.  He told me something that has changed my life.

I felt like I was personally hurting other people.  I was not.  They were hurting themselves.

I had finally set boundaries.  He told me to imagine these boundaries as a brick wall.  They are there to protect me.  I can set these boundaries but others choose what to do about it.  The people who were hurt by my new boundaries were choosing to continually push against that brick wall.  They were choosing to run head-first into that brick wall and then blaming me for hurting them because I built the wall.

I've seen it happen over and over.  Pain is a difficult thing to endure.  We want to blame someone else.  It's easy to see how another person's behavior makes us unhappy.  It's tough to admit that our response to that person's behavior is what determines our happiness.  It's difficult to admit that our own behavior may be causing us pain.

On the other side of it, I've been hurt by others.  By the boundaries that they've set.  Not because these boundaries were unhealthy but because I was unhappy with them and kept banging my head against them.

Seeing another person hurt because of something I did is horrible.  I hate it.  But I must stay true to the boundaries that I need in order to feel safe.  I am not responsible for their pain.  And it's not my job to fix it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Progress Not Perfection

I have to constantly remind myself that's the goal.  Progress, not perfection.  Because, man, do I get frustrated when I find myself in familiar territory.  Back in a place I hated that I worked hard to crawl out of.

I'm a mess right now.  Lots of things getting me down, not the least of which is my health.  I feel awful.  Almost all day every day.  The last week has been particularly bad.  So much pain and dizziness and blurry vision.  It's really hard to function.

I can't control that.  I get it.

But I keep thinking that I should be able to control the other stuff, the emotional stuff.  I've experienced it before and learned how to handle it.  So why, when it comes back, do I have no clue what to do.

The thing that has been particularly troublesome lately is my sensitivity to the emotions of others.  I knew I was off my game.  Then I found myself in several situations in a short period of time where other people were upset.  Intense negative emotions.  Sometimes directed at me, sometimes not.  Either way, I crumbled.  I froze.  I shut down.  I withdrew from life.

I am in a place where I feel like I have to justify all my decisions again.  As I state how I feel or what I want I am taking an emotional read on the people around me to make sure that what I say is okay with them.  I hate that!

I am hiding from people because they might ask something of me that I don't want to give and I won't have a good enough answer.  Any little bit of pushing with strong emotion can make me buckle under right now.  I feel so vulnerable and weak.  I hate that, too!

I hate that other people's emotions are ruling my life.  I hate that I can't remember how I got past this last time.

The only thing I'm happy about in this situation is that I noticed.  I guess that's progress.  And that's what I'm working toward.

If you're wondering why I put this on this blog instead of my main one, let me tell you.  It's about fear and self-protection.  Honestly, too many people who know me read my main blog and I worry that there may be people who would take advantage of my current vulnerability if they knew.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

One Step Back Again

I've slipped up.  There are things in my life that I have worked so hard on, and made so much progress on, that are a big giant mess again.

And I've ignored it as long as I can.  Or not noticed.  Or not cared.

But I do care.  Even though it's difficult, I want to change things.  I want to swim upstream because I've tasted the other waters and they were satisfying.

When you are in the flow of things and stop swimming, the tide carries you backwards.  The idea is to notice before you get too far away from where you want to be.  And to keep heading in the right direction.

So I'm back on track, or working to be anyway.  Back to work.  No more floating along wherever life takes me. 

Even if I have to ask for help -- because we all need a life preserver every now and then.