Posts Tagged ‘child abuse’

Some weeks I just have to say to myself over and over, “I am strong enough to do this. I am strong enough to do this.” This has been one of those weeks. Or couple of weeks.

It hasn’t been all bad. I actually seem to have taken a big step forward on figuring out self soothing and support. But part of taking that step forward was to realize in a different way that I simply can’t abandon myself to the pain or fear. I have to sit with myself feeling the pain, while also doing whatever is soothing. I can’t keep on rejecting and pushing away from me the feeling parts. As a result, I believe that all of me probably is doing better, but I feel so much pain. However, I know that if I am making it through this period without thinking that it is too much for me survive or that I wish that I was dead, then I have to be moving forward.

A part of what has changed for me is that I decided to stop fighting with the rest of me. It hurts me too much to keep on saying, “I don’t believe what I am being shown/told because it is too threatening for me to believe.” When I do that, it’s like I’m telling those parts of me that they are liars or they are stupid and can’t accurately relate anything. To some extent I am saying, “Go away and shut up,” when those hurt/frightened/shattered parts of me desperately need love, comfort, stability, and to be soothed. I just can’t reject this aspect of me any more. I’m not willing to do that.

I don’t fully know what this decision means for me. But at least to start, it has involved deeply accepting that there was something about my relationship with my dad that was damaging to me. I keep on hearing over and over, “He hurt me” and I have been reassuring those young parts, “Yes, he did, but you are safe now. Feel this blanket or shawl that is wrapped around you; feel the safety, warmth, and comfort that it surrounds all of me with. I am safe now.”

Sometimes it is like I am being told that certain things happened. Right now I am taking an approach of, “Maybe that literally happened, maybe it didn’t. But for whatever reason, this part of me believes that it did. I’m not going to do anything right now other than say, ‘I understand that for some reason this feels real. Right now the most important thing is that I deeply know that I am safe now.'”

Much of the time, this keeps me from getting too caught up in the memories, but not all of the time. They still manage to suck me in some of the time. And sometimes, when they seem to make sense of body sensations that I have gotten for a very long time, it is hard to not jump to conclusions.

But my heart is breaking just from dealing with the acceptance that something about my relationship with my dad harmed me and accepting the possibility that there may have been sexual abuse. I don’t want to have been the child who was hurt that badly. I don’t want to have been the child whose mother failed her so miserably. I don’t want to have been the child who was only able to hold on to scraps of a sense of safety and who felt them slip through her fingers too often. I don’t want to have been the child that people believed that it was OK to use. I don’t want to have been the child whose body was used against her.

It’s great that I was also brave and resourceful and strong and determined to survive. But dammit, I don’t want to have been forced to be those things so young in order to survive!!! It isn’t a fair trade off. I could have learned how to be those things in ways that didn’t threaten to tear my soul apart. There is nothing that will ever make up for what happened to me.

I can go forward from here. I will have a life that I am grateful for. I will fill it with love and many of the things that were almost ground out of my soul. I am determined that I will have these things, because I have every right to create a life filled with love, beauty, creativity, nurturing, empathy, connectiveness, nature, the desire to stretch and grow and all of the other things that make life worth living for me. I will not let the sick and damaged members of my family define my life.

Yes, that is where I am going and I need to keep my eyes on the focus of that promise, but right now, I hurt. I hurt inside, in my vulnerable parts. I hurt in the greater me, because I see just how much I endured as a child. I don’t think that I can express how awful it is to accept, “Yes, things were that bad. It wasn’t just a bad dream that I will wake up from. I don’t just have an over active imagination. No, I’m not overly sensitive in a way that made me turn nothing into something huge. My family really did hurt me in a way that hurt my heart so badly that right now it feels like pieces of it are breaking off, falling to the floor, and shattering. My daddy hurt me.”

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I am not alone

One of the things that is hardest for me about the abuse is how alone I felt with it all.  I had to go through it alone when it happened.  I had to deal with it alone afterwards.  I had to find someway to get through life, on my own.  Even if the abuse had still happened, but I if had received adequate support and protection afterwards, I most likely wouldn’t be here writing about this now.  The type of support that a child receives to help her deal with the aftermath of abuse is a huge predictor of the long range impact of the abuse.  PTSD becomes much rarer in situations where the child had a loving adult help them deal with the impact of the abuse in a caring and sensitive manner.  Dissociative disorders become all but unheard of, with that kind of support.  Children are incredibly resilient, if you only give them what they need in order to heal.

But, when you are left alone to deal with the trauma and all of the messages that you have been taught about yourself via the abuse and lack of protection, you are left with a gnawing, bone deep certainty that you will always be alone, even if there are other people around you.

I have had to work hard over the years to even begin to take in that I am not alone and to trust the people around me to not abandon me when I most need them.  My poor husband was so frustrated by this, because he knew that he was trustworthy, but I just couldn’t fully believe it, even though I knew it.  In fact, he is one of the most trustworthy people whom I have ever met, which was one of the reasons that I fell in love with him in the first place.

Slowly, I have learned to rely on a small handful of people, to actually be there for me, especially in every day circumstances.  I no longer fear that my husband will abandon me. I am happy to say that even I can look at the fact that he has stuck with me through thick and thin for 23 years, and come to the conclusion that he just isn’t going to leave me.

It takes a lot longer for me to take the chance to rely on friends than it does the average person.  I have an extremely difficult time asking for something, especially the first few times, and I find it very threatening to start to perceive myself as needing something from a friend, especially emotional support.  But we are social creatures.  We are designed to need each other, not to live in isolation.  The vast majority of us need others in our lives with whom we can give and receive support and love, in order to really be able to flourish.  While I find it difficult to trust others enough to make those deep connections, I also crave those very connections from the bottom of my heart. 

Today, even though I am not where I want to be, I am astonished to realize that I have more support from friends than I have ever had before.  I made decision that if I really wanted to have meaningful friendships, then I was going to have to take the risk and show the real me.  If I kept the wall up that kept almost everyone from seeing how I really felt and what my experience was really like, then I would continue to have many people that I was friendly with, but no real friends.  Taking that risk to show your real self as you are getting to know someone can feel very scary, even if you take it slowly and test out each and every step to see if that person still feels safe and reliable.

But the payback when people come through for you and show you that they still care for you and want to be there for you, warts and all, is beyond words.  For me, it feels like my entire world is being shifted just a bit, into a kinder world where there are people who will accept and value all of me.  As this started to happen, I was frightened that I might have made a mistake, but over time, I am learning that it is safe to rely on other people to be there for you.  No single person can be there all of the time, we all have crises, illnesses, distracting events, and just plain exhaustion that keep us from being able to be there for someone that we really do want to support.  But I am slowly relaxing into the fact that as I let more people into my heart and trust them to take me into theirs, I am building a support system where I am bound to almost always have someone available for me whenever I need it.  I just have to remember to reach out when I am in need of support.

Predictably, when I am working from a place of dealing with the abuse, it all becomes even harder, because parts of me are still entrenched in the memory of being utterly alone when I most needed for someone to be there for me.  It becomes very hard to believe that others really will be reliable and that I won’t be rejected simply because I am in need of support and comfort.  In fact, it is so foreign to my way of thinking as a child that I now have trouble even remembering that I can reach out for help when I am most in need of that help.

But somehow, over the last several weeks, I have noticed that starting to shift.  I find myself willing to take more risks, even when I am working from a hurt child part.  First, it started with Mama Bear and simply being willing to acknowledge just how very much I need the connection that I have developed with her.  Then with my husband, I took the chance of admitting to him some of the things that I am remembering that shame me the most, allowing myself to cry on him, and actually letting go of some of that shame.  Then with a group of trusted friends, I have become ever more honest about how the abuse has affected me. 

I see now that it isn’t just that I have trouble relying on people to be there for me because I am afraid that they will let me down.  In fact, the more potent factor right now is that there are parts of me inside that are completely convinced that the reason I didn’t get the support that I needed as a child was because there was something intrinsically bad about me that would disgust people and drive them off.  The more that I showed them who I was and allowed them to get close to me, the more likely it was that other people would see just how damaged I was inside or experience being overwhelmed by how much I need the support others.  It was a given to me that people would vanish from my life as a result.

Unfortunately, the way to undo that sort of faulty thinking is to take a risk and experience that what I fear the most will not actually happen.  I needed to take the chance that I could really lean hard on people and not have them step away from me, leaving me to fall off what felt like a cliff.  Fortunately, my greater self could look at both sides and both see how deep the fear was and what caused it and yet also see that I have people in my life who have over and over again shown every sign of thoroughly reliable.

And so I am learning to open my heart, ask for, and take in the support and care that has been there, waiting for me to ask for it.  With Mama Bear, that means feeling safe enough to actually call and ask for help, when I really need it, despite how scary taking that action feels.  It also means allowing myself to fully take in and believe that there is nothing that I might bring up in session that will make her reject me or judge me.  No memory is too horrible and no emotion is too intense, it is safe for all of me to be there, and she will not leave me alone when I most need her.

To my astonishment, while I was at a friend’s house recently, I found myself reaching out for support, because I was in so much pain and I was desperate to not feel alone with it.  As she put an arm around me, I responded to my needs and the kindness that was being shown to me, rather than to my fear of rejection.  I leaned into her shoulder and just cried and let myself accept someone supporting me from her heart.  I am so grateful to her for just being herself and supporting me in being me.

I really am starting to believe it all the way…  And I thank God, that I really am no longer alone.

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