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Archive for October, 2015

I have really been struggleing with an inner battle over believing myself about the abuse with my father- especially the more severe abuse. This has been going on for months, more or less constantly. It’s always in the background, even if it isn’t the center of the work that I am doing. Sometimes I find some peace with the disagreement between my inner and outer selves as to what happened, but often it leaves me feeling at such odds with myself. 

Mama Bear and I have tried to look at the question of, “Well, what would it mean if he really did the things that I seem to remember?” without saying that he actually did. Sometimes I can get somewhere, but often my mind just completely freezes. We try grounding in the safe now and that does seem to help me to feel better in other ways, but I just can’t get past this refusal to belief myself. 

I have tried treating my young parts with compassion and meeting them where they are as best I can. Yet again, very important and helpful, but it doesn’t get past this sense that I Cannot Believe It Happened.  Period. It feels like the world will fall apart/ I will run crazy and destroy everyone and everything around me with my rage/ I can’t live with it/ everyone will be able to see what happened/ I will lose everything/ it will destroy me. 

This morning, I realized That I feel so much anger at my mother. So much of me either believes at some level she knew something was wrong or doesn’t care that she didn’t know that he was abusing me because she should have.

I know that she wasn’t responsible for the abuse, he was, but she helped to create a situation that let it keep on happening. I don’t want to believe it, but she had a part in my being hurt so badly. She has some blame.

I hate this so much. I don’t want for her to have had a part in my being hurt. 

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Musings over my Mom

A picture of my mother came up on Facebook tonight. It elicited such an intense blend of emotions. Love. Anger. Yearning. Loss. Loneliness. 

I am far better off not having anything to do with my father. I’m not so sure about my mother, though. I know that she won’t intentionally hurt me, but she is so defended that I tend to expect for any attempt at real communication to go no where. And I fear the poison that my dad may be feeding to her. I may need to try something one last time though, now that I have a better idea of what happen when I was a child and as I feel better able to hold myself together and protect the most vulnerable parts of me. I keep on thinking this and then deciding that the costs are higher than I am willing to pay right at that point. But I think that I will need to try some day or else I will regret it too much in the end. 

I want for things to be simple, in some ways. Sometimes I wish that I could just blame her for not protecting me from my dad and grandfather, be angry with her, and feel justified to turn my back on her. Or I wish that I knew that she tried to help me in some way, but x kept her from preventing the abuse.  Then I could be sure that I meant enough for her to try to help.  Instead, I know that she comes from a background of physical and emotional abuse and I suspect sexual abuse as well. She probably didn’t have the resources to get the help that she would have needed to stand up to her fears and see that something very bad was going on for me. It seems like a lousy excuse to me for to have not protected me, but it likely is close to the reality. It makes me angry that she didn’t love me enough to overcome her fears and do her job as a mom. It is outrageous that my grandfather played his sadistic games with me and my dad used me sexually because she couldn’t find the backbone to see that I was hurting badly and figure out what was causing that damage. 

I want a mother that is at least as strong as me, so I can lean on her some of the time. I don’t want to have to worry about whether my actions will break her life apart just because I decide to no longer hide what happened, to whatever extent that might be. 

I wish that I could say, “Your husband, my dad sexually abused me. Not just little touches, but serious, very damaging abuse. He left so much devastation inside that I couldn’t even look at it for decades. When I started to look at it, it felt unendurable, unsurvivable, like it must have felt at the time. He put parts of his body where they had no business being. He left me feeling so violated that the memories are seared into my mind as if they are happening now. Where the hell were you while all of this was going on?  How could you not see it?  How could you have left me in his care?  Why didn’t you save me?  I needed for you to save me, Mom. You.”  It would feel so good not worry about her, to concentrate on what I need to say, rather than figuring out what she can handle. 

A lovely fantasy,  but I don’t think that I would get a useful response.  And then I would feel badly for loosing chaos in her life, if she was forced to see what she had paid such a high price to avoid dealing with all those years ago. Or rather, I paid the price then. We are both paying the price now because our relationship has become only a shadow of what it could have been, if we didn’t have all of those horrid secrets between the two of us. I can’t pretend that they don’t exist anymore, in order to maintain a superficial relationship. They are the elephant in the middle of the room, but I really don’t know whether my mother is completely blind to that elephant, or she is just willing to ignore it for as long as I don’t force the matter. 

So often I have wondered if I am imagining and creating all of the problems with my mother, but then Mama Bear asks me how I would respond if my daughter were to act the way that I have been acting. “I would be asking her what in the world is going on. Something has to be very wrong and I want to help her with it. I would go to her and wrap my arms around her.”  

Mama Bear then asks, “Has your mother done any of this?”

“No. She has never asked what is so wrong. Not in general. Not in regards to why I am avoiding speaking with her.”

“Do you still think that it is all your fault?”

It’s so hard, though. The young parts inside of me need to believe that she really was a source of security. The me that has always taken care to not upset her too much fears crossing the line of no return. The current me doesn’t want to feel guilty about dismantling her version of reality. 

The problem is, though, until I decide that it’s ok to name the elephant in the room, I have that added pressure to not believe myself that the elephant really is that big, painted bright purple with huge orange dots, and has blood dripping off its tusks. I feel like I need to believe that it’s just a figurine, not something so grotesque and horrible. But in order to be able to deal with it, I need to see it for what it is. I’ve spent too many years lying to myself, in order to be a “good girl” and not upset my mother. I may have to let go of my need to try to control the whole thing and let my mother make her own decisions about how she is going to react to a situation that she helped to create by being blind to the fact the her husband was doing adult sexual acts with their daughter. 

I need to stop protecting my mother and start nurturing all of me. 

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A few weeks back, I had a pretty intensely disruptive session with Mama Bear. It was extremely painful and made me feel very, very rejected. For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of that going on between other folks and their therapists these days, so I thought that I would post an email that I sent to Mama Bear as a part of trying to fix the rupture, along with some notes. 

The day before the session that went so awry, I sent to Mama Bear an email some insights I had had into my dynamics with my mother. They boiled down to her being unable to tolerate seeing me when I was in severe emotional distress. In the session, I was struggling a lot to talk at all about my feelings elated to what I had written. From the outside, it looked to Mama Bear like my adult had completely vanished and the distressed child had taken over. From the inside, I could feel my adult self trying to gather around and support the young child self, but it was taking time to do so.  Mama Bear decided to try being directive and firm at that point and say that the child part needed to not take over. 

Frankly, I’m not exactly sure what she exactly said because I went into such a distressed dissociative state. It felt to me like I was told to shut up and go away, which I am positive she didn’t actually say. She says that she had said that the adult needed to come forward more, so that the child wasn’t all alone with the overwhelming feelings. I think that probably is what she meant, but those weren’t her actual words, because whatever she said was far more triggering. What we realized afterwards was that we had somehow fallen into reenacting exactly what I had written to her about the day before. For that young child state, it was being told all over again that she was too much when she was full of overwhelming emotion. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to work through things the next session because I had found out the day before that I likely had skin cancer and I needed to deal with the fears and other emotions that was eliciting. I could hardly say anything at all during the next session. It was incredibly frustrating. The session after that was the day after the trip to see the dermatologist and a confirmation that while it almost certainly is skin cancer, it probably is the least serious type that isn’t lethal. (I’m still waiting on the biopsy results.) We talked about that and then started to deal with deeper therapy material again. Before that session,I had sent to her an email saying: “Hi. I think that I’m afraid to cry in front of you. So much bottled up.” For whatever reason, we didn’t end up talking about that what I had written, though. I think that we may have started to, but were side tracked by the cancer thing. I wrote the following email a day later. 

Hi,

I think that the struggle that I am experiencing right now comes largely boils down to there being the me that holds an intense sense of horror, terror, and sheer wrongness over how some things with my father made me feel physically and emotionally coming up against the me who just doesn’t know what to do with the fact that my mom didn’t protect me.

It’s probably obvious from where you are sitting, but it wasn’t for me. Such a sense of a bind. It feels like either my suffering is visible and she is choosing to ignore it or it’s invisible and I don’t really exist.

An intense need to say what happened and just as strong of a need to “not know”. So I hear parts inside saying that certain things happened, I feel like a part just wants to tell you what happened, every once in a while I will start to feel as though I am experiencing a memory of something happening, and, at the same time, I’m increasingly confused about what happened.

After the session, yesterday, I realized that I had experienced just how intensely I feel that I need the support, caring, and acceptance of a safe someone in order to be able to tolerate facing what happened to me. I need it now, which makes sense, because this is intense and difficult. But even more, I needed it then. But I experienced a bind because I couldn’t figure out a way to actually get all of my needs met that it felt like like I needed to have met, so that all of me could survive.

Towards the end of the session, I had been struggling with some intense feelings and I finally realized that I felt terribly alone and isolated with her across the room. I asked her to move to sit by me, which was a difficult request given the recent conflict, but it enabled me to continue pushing forward, even though I didn’t feel our normal sort of connection. 

I don’t think that I consciously sat there and thought through any of this in this way when I was growing up, but it’s the best way that I can describe it.

Whatever the exact phrasing was in that session a couple of weeks ago, it triggered the belief that my pain, my woundedness makes me dangerous, untouchable, and it was necessary to escape. I suspect that as I acted more and more weird, it affected how you responded to me and you probably responded in a way that felt more careful and less natural to me. (This isn’t a criticism, just a recognition of what the probably happened). I, of course, took that as further evidence of just how wrong things were and felt drawn even more into that place where the very existence of the hurt me was what was dangerous.

Yes, I was finding it difficult to trust you, but I didn’t think that you would intentionally hurt me. That’s not the issue here.

Buried in there, there is a primitive corner who is afraid that because you were the source of so much distress (as I experienced it) you don’t really have any warm, caring feelings for me. You didn’t care enough to make it stop.

Even more, though, it brought up the feelings that I evoked a rejection. That fragile, hurting part of me, to be precise. Even though I desperately wanted to escape, I wonder if the reason that I stayed in that state was because of how much that part needed to change things so that I felt accepted. There was my bind being acted out of needing to feel accepted where I was, but being afraid to move because I felt like the part that most needed to be accepted had been told that it was unacceptable.

Your instinct to say something about my being ok as I was was right on target, but the problem was that we were dealing with the parts of me that don’t trust words. It’s too easy just say pretty words. I wish that I had been able to ask you to come and sit by me, because it might have gotten through. But I felt like I couldn’t ask for anything that would have answered the needs of the parts of me that were at that point driving everything.

I noticed yesterday that it felt like you were kind of distant and guessed that was more about your being cautious and trying to maneuver through a series of potential land mines rather than that you wanted to be distant from me. That is why I asked you to come and sit by me.

Somehow this all tapped into the deep relational wounds. I feel like we have gone through this before, but I can also recognize that I’m dealing with it on a different level. Yippee.

C

So, the next session after that, our relationship definitely had top billing. Both she and I realized at that point that we had to work things out, if I was going to be able to freely do the work that I needed to do. It was such an intense session, spent in so many different states that I don’t clearly remember much of it. I do remember being very clear with her how much I needed for her to accepting all of my parts exactly where they are and her clarifying that she wants for my parts to share everything that they need to share, but she believes that at this point I need to be a part of the support for that part, so the part doesn’t take over, putting me into a state where I can’t recognize that I am in a safe now. She doesn’t want to see less of any of the parts, she just wants to see me there along with the parts. I let her know that sometimes I might be working under the surface, but still might be present. 

And then we talked about anger. During the disaster session, a part of me had yelled at her, “I don’t trust you!” in a clearly angry voice. I was still angry with her about parts of what had happened, but I couldn’t come right out and say that. This is a very confused part of the session for me, so I don’t remember what I needed to say, I just remember the struggle. I remember a young part becoming more and more active and eventually getting to the point where I found myself hitting my leg or my head to stop myself from feeling what I was feeling.  This is not normal behavior for me, at all. I don’t remember doing it more than once or twice before with her.  I remember her saying, “C, you don’t need to hit yourself. I’m the one that you are angry at. It’s safe for you to be angry at me. I won’t hurt you and I won’t leave you.”

Eventually, enough of the adult me was present to start to be able to work with the situation. She asked, “Did you hit yourself as a child to control yourself?”  I couldn’t even think about it and wailed back at her, “I don’t remember!”  She went on, “That’s ok, I think that we can see just how important it has been for you to not allow yourself to be angry at the people you rely on.”  I remember agreeing and then the rest of the session is a blur of anger and tears, but also feeling once again like I was being seen and accepted by Mama Bear. 

Mama Bear and I have talked about how it sometimes is difficult to say whether the direct abuse or the emotional neglect that went on around the abuse is more damaging. I think that the emotional neglect that enables such severe trauma creates enormous relational difficulties with everyone who otherwise might be safe. In the therapeutic relationship, there is a chance to experience those dynamics in action and start to work through them, but it is staggeringly painful and difficult to stay with that work in the moment. I haven’t actually left her office mid session but I have started to gather up my things and even made it to the door once. The desire to escape can be unbelievably intense. 

But the rewards for make it through what feels like sweating blood are also immense. Slowly, I am starting to be able to break through some of my self imposed isolation. I am reaching out to my husband again. In small ways, but we are making genuine connections. I am seriously considering letting him in on what is really going on for me, so we can connect more deeply. The fears around trusting him are starting to lose their grip on me. Movement towards a more genuine relationship with the person you love is worth a great deal of struggle. 

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