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Posts Tagged ‘DDNOS/ OSDD’

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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Something keeps on going around in my mind…

I experienced my grandfather as enjoying hurting me. I believe that he derived pleasure from my terror and pain. I don’t think that it’s possible to fully describe what it’s like to know that your terror and pain is giving someone else pleasure. Yes, it’s frightening to know that you are under their control and what makes them feel good is very, very bad for you, but, for me, even worse than that was feeling as though for that time my purpose was to be hurt. In that focused time and space, there was nothing more to me. I was worth nothing. The phrase that comes to mind is “soul murder”, not because he actually killed off my soul, but because there was something about it all that felt as though it was an act of that level of violence against my soul.

The odd thing about it all is that even though what my grandfather did felt extremely violent and I was terrified about what he might do and in fear of my life at times, I get the sense that he was careful to always send me back to my mother with no physical evidence that would have shouted, “abuse!” to her. I think that he created more psychological pain and trauma, than physical. There are a few memories of very, very intense pain, but most of it seems to have been pretty numb physically, but with the emotions at over the top, mind shattering levels. He abused me with items that could have caused a great deal of physical damage and I was terrified as to what could happen, but he used them in ways that caused psychological scars, not physical scars.

I experienced it all as my grandfather trying to destroy me. It was like he was trying to crush the me out of me. Exactly what his motivations and mindset actually actually were, I will never know, but my sense of what he got out of abusing me isn’t ambiguous. It certainly could be wrong in areas, but I strongly doubt that it would have been completely wrong. He abused me because my suffering pleased him. The man was sadistic.

On the other hand, things with my dad were very different. Putting the different impressions that I have from memories together with my everyday knowledge of my father, I don’t think that he abused me because he was cruel. The abuse was cruel because it was abuse and sometimes he may have done things intending to hurt me, but I don’t think that was his over riding motivation. My father is self centered and does not take others’ needs into account, but he isn’t so motivated by wanting for others to suffer. He may act cruelly because he needs to feel more powerful or his needs/desires conflict with those of another person, but the suffering of others is a by product of his actions, rather than a goal. My father hurt me badly, but he is not a sadist.

My sense is that he abused me because he felt that he needed something. I think that it’s likely that he didn’t know why he was doing what he was doing. Whatever it was, though it wasn’t the need to destroy me.

I would be surprised if my grandfather didn’t sexually abuse my father. Because of the different types of motivation, the types of abuse that I remember with the two men tend to be different. However, there are a couple of odd things that I am sure that my grandfather did, but for months I have been getting hints in my mind that my father did them as well. Recently, it’s been stronger than hints. My instinct is that these “crueler” things that he did may have been re enactments of abuse that my grandfather might have done to him. Just a hypothesis, yes, and not something to rely on being correct, but it fits and it “feels” right.

My dad has always had such a strong need to be a “good guy” that I have no idea of how he could have justified even the more “normal” abuse that he was doing. That was one of my arguments for years as to why he couldn’t have abused me. Molesting your daughter just can’t be turned into a “good guy” type of activity.

I do have an idea of how he might have managed it, however. I don’t know if this simply was how I perceived things, or if it was influenced by how he perceived himself while he was abusing me as well… When I was young, I have more of a sense of it being my dad in the memories, but as I got older, more and more often I have a sense of the man being “Him/ He.” When I remember “Him,” “He” has no face or other defining characteristics, but I also know that “He” could only have been my father. God only knows how much my father would have needed some survival tool like dissociation in order to survive growing up in my grandfather’s house. I really wonder if he might have dealt with his conflicts over abusing me by dissociating and “He” really had seemed different to me from my daytime daddy. Did he wall off what he was doing, to protect himself from the guilt and conflict that would have come from abusing me?

There have been times of extreme stress when I have harmed myself, but the experience was as if I had no control over my actions. “I” was far back and only an observer; another part was controlling my actions and being driven by memories that “I” couldn’t even access at the time. I knew that the actions were wrong and that I should stop myself, but I felt trapped at the back and without any ability to change what was happening. I didn’t even understand why I was doing what I was doing and what it signified. Did my father experience something similar, but instead of harming himself, he harmed me. And instead of it happening a few times, it happened regularly over a period of more than a decade with him. Doing something wrong in a dissociative state is no excuse for what you are doing, it just means that you have to fight hard to find a way to alter your behaviors/ stop what you are doing.

I know. I don’t really know anything about why my dad abused me and I am not wedded to any of this, but “listening to” and putting together my impressions/ understandings from different places inside of me helps things feel less wildly confusing. It at least helps me to see that there are possible reasons that make a weird sort of sense, rather than it just being the case that my daddy must have hated me, or that I was bad and brought it out in him, or that my main purpose while I was growing up was to be sexually used, or that people will just randomly do such horrible things to the people that they are supposed to love. I may find the reasons unacceptable and the behaviors inexcusable, but it helps to know that there is some sort of reason to what happened, even though I won’t ever actually know exactly what those reasons were.

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“The most purely painful thing about the abuse is how it has affected my relationship with my mother.”

“Yes. You know, it is your dilemma with your mother that has made everything else be so very hard to deal with over the years.” Mama Bear looked at me carefully as she chanced this sympathetic, but blunt statement.

I just nodded my head and said, “Yes, I do know.” I have known for years that I was trying to protect my mother, but I always thought of it as protecting her from the pain of not having protected me from being abused by my grandfather. I have been trying to protect far more than that, though; it’s our basic ability to have any relationship at all that feels at risk. In fact, that’s what I have been trying to protect since my dad started to abuse me, so it is the habit of most of a lifetime. And that’s why I couldn’t allow myself to believe that my dad abused me, no matter what other costs there might be. Over all, I could not “destroy” my relationship with her; never mind that if it is destroyed, it will be destroyed by the pressures of the abuse, not me.

Over the last 6 months, I have said to her as loudly as possible without actually coming out and saying the words, “I don’t want to have anything to do with my father.” I have refused to speak to him on the phone, insisted that he pass the phone to my mother, and gone to some lengths to arrange for my calls to go directly to her, rather than through him. I say nothing about him in any of my communication with her. While I did send cards and gifts for Mother’s Day and her birthday, I did not acknowledge his birthday or Father’s Day at all.
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Despite all of this, she still manages to pretend that all is well and she recently asked if she and my father could take my daughter on a trip. I her lack of reaction demonstrates to me that the only way I might get some acknowledgement from her would be if I am very blunt with her about how I feel, at least to the point of saying that I do not feel at all comfortable with my father and I do not plan on either myself or my daughter being in the same room with him again. On the other hand, she just might act like I said nothing- at this point I can’t predict the extent that she will go to in order to not acknowledge what is going on.

This is a painful situation for me now. I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. Either I can accept the status quo and have no acknowledgement at all as to all of my pain and suffering, or I confront her and stand the very real chance of it all blowing up in my face. I can’t imagine a good outcome that I think has any real chance of happening. On the other hand, not saying anything is eating me up inside and complicating my healing.

Unlike what any semi healthy mother would do, she isn’t ever going to come to me and say, “obviously something is going on, talk with me.” If she was capable of it, she would have done so years ago. It’s all going to be on me to initiate and lead any discussion that we might have. And it’s going to be on me to absorb the pain when she can’t react with concern for me about my feeling that it is so impossible to have a relationship with my father. I don’t know whether she will be defensive, hurt, protective of my father, in shock, angry with me, or if she will simply act like I didn’t say anything. I am 99% certain that I will have to either take care of her, protect myself, or both. I can’t escape this dilemma without experiencing a great deal of pain where she is concerned. Pain that I have been avoiding for so very long.

At the end of me session today, it hit me that I need to know that it is ok for me to talk about the abuse with my dad. Not just the abuse that I am pretty certain happened the way that I remember it, but especially the abuse that I am terribly confused about. I need for it to be ok to talk about it from the place that believes that it happened exactly that way, but also have it understood that I have some reasons to believe that some things didn’t actually happen the way that I think that they did. I need to know that it will all be accepted and safe for me to talk about, both the believing and the not believing.

Mama Bear listened to me say this and she agreed that I need to be able to talk about these things in regards to my dad, but she also reminded me that it is very important that I be working on helping the traumatized parts feel safe and connected to the here and now. “When you talk about what happened and those parts of you don’t feel safe enough, the part of you that beats up on the rest of you gets activated. When you were a child, you absolutely could not afford to remember what was going on. That part of you kept the rest of you quiet and separate, so you could go about your business and actually manage to have a life and grow up. Now, when you talk about what happened, we need to make sure that you feel safe enough, so that part won’t come out and harm you. Keeping you terrorized will only make all of this take longer. This part is too frightened to understand that she is making things worse for you, rather than helping you now. How do you feel about what I have said?”

“It feels right. I understand better now why you keep on pushing me to defocus from the memories and place more focus on calming and soothing the traumatized parts. When things gets to be too overwhelming, it does bring out my self destructive part.”

Walking home from the session, it became increasingly clear to me just how desperately I needed to not “know” about the abuse when I was young. I had to dissociate my knowledge of what was happening, not just because the abuse acts themselves were too much to deal with, but because I was so convinced that my mom would pick my dad over me. My mom was my only sense of stability and safety in the world, so the prospect of losing her was as threatening as an obviously life and death situation.

I have remained stuck in that feeling for all of these years since: I cannot do anything that would create a situation where she might chose my father over me. Never mind that I haven’t lived with her or relied on her for financial support for over 25 years. Or that I went for a period of almost 10 years without speaking to either of my parents. Or that I am hardly speaking to her now and I am getting all of my emotional support and nurturing from other sources.

I’m unable to forget that I love her so very much and I know that she loves me. It’s hard enough feeling my love for her in the now, but I also feel that over riding child’s love, where it feels as though the sun rises and falls in my mother. She is the person I loved first in the world and she is the person whose love kept me whole enough to keep on going, even in the face of the abuse by my father and grandfather.

But something else has to give now. It can’t be my sacrificing my ability to own my own story any longer. I don’t know yet what it will be, but I do know that something has to give.

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A lot of my memories are very physical in nature. I remember a lot more of what happened in the abuse via sensations/ emotions/ just knowing than I do via visual memories.

One of the memories that I have been struggling with lately is the sensation of wishing for my father to do good feeling things to me. Needless to say, this has brought up intense feelings of shame, horror, disgust, and self loathing. It took me a few weeks, but I finally managed to talk about it in session with Mama Bear last week and she brought up several good points that I will talk about in a bit, but she missed the most obvious one: I knew that the abuse could feel just bad or a mixture of good and bad, so when I knew that something was going to happen, I would hope that it would be something that mixed the good and bad sensations.

There were things that my father would do that were pleasurable for my body, sometimes very much so. Bodies, including children’s bodies, are set up to have defined physical responses when they are stimulated in particular ways at certain locations. Even some young children can be stimulated to orgasm some of the time. It isn’t a case of anything being wrong with the child, it is a case of the child’s body being used against her.

It is extremely confusing to experience physical and/or emotional pain in combination with sexual pleasure. In some ways it adds another layer of pain to what is happening. At the same time, for me, having some pleasure was easier for me than not only just feeling negative physical sensations, but also experiencing the loneliness of feeling like an object that was being used and thrown aside. If he cared enough to make me feel good, then in my mind that meant that he cared about me and he remembered that I was there and I was a person who felt things.

Being sexually abused is extremely objectifying and dehumanizing. It was more so with my grandfather who set out to make me feel like a ‘thing’, but even with my father, who had different goals, it was the case. After all, my father could not have really been looking at me and fully seen me, his daughter, in all of my individuality and personhood. If he had, he could never have done what he did. He had to have seen me as an object for him to use to deal with his demons. I could never have articulated this at the time, but I certainly sensed it.

However, there was no way that I could have understand the complexities of the situation that I was in as a child or even early teen. All I knew was that I was in an impossibly painful situation. My mind had to deal with what I had been dealt the best that it could; it seems that part of the way that I dealt- some of the time, at least- was by feeling like I wanted to be with him and feel pleasure. As Mama Bear pointed out, I had very little physical contact or even concentrated attention from my father other than through the abuse. I yearned for his love. Given that set up, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some parts of me value that interaction with him. When he intensely paid attention to me and did things that made me feel good, I felt closer to him than at any other time. But other parts of me loathed what was happening and are furious at me for trusting him and want to tear my skin off for physically feeling anything.

So I am left with these strongly conflicting feelings that I need to accept were all valid. It would be so much easier if I could only remember hating and rejecting the abuse by my father, but that wasn’t my reality. It was with my grandfather- there wasn’t the slightest bit of connection with him, because he was purely a monster with me. My father was much more confusing for me to deal with. He hurt me, physically and emotionally, but he could also make me feel loved and physical pleasure. I didn’t want what was going on and wanted for it to stop, but if it was going to happen, I wanted for it to happen in the “good” way. Worst of all, though, he threatened my relationship with my mother. This was something that I couldn’t tell her, because I was so convinced that she would pick him over me. Actually, I am convinced that I tried to tell her that something was wrong. I wouldn’t have said just what was wrong, but even crying after school every day for months at a time I only got sympathy, not her trying to find out what was so terribly wrong.

I couldn’t get her understanding and support for the terrible bind that I was in back then. I had no one to help me deal with the adaptations that I had to make in order to survive the situation as intact as possible. As Mama Bear keeps on reminding me, things in the now are very different. I have external support, but, even more importantly, I now have the internal resources to start to give myself what I so desperately needed then. Today, I need to set aside my repulsion for what I did and look at it with compassion as ‘what I had to do’. I did what I had to do. I would never have chosen to have sexual interactions with my father, if I hadn’t been forced into the situation. I simply found the ways to deal with it that made it all as tolerable for me as possible. Sometimes these options weren’t open to me and what I experienced was purely awful. Comparing the two, I am glad that I had something available that was able to soften the edge of the abuse, some of the time.

It swirls through my mind: it doesn’t matter what I did to get through what happened. I didn’t hurt anyone, after all, I just tried to find the molds to put myself into that would make me someone who could survive an untenable situation as well as possible.

——-

I felt stronger while I was writing this, but now I am feeling more vulnerable. This more compassionate understanding of myself is all too tenuous. We will see whether I can tolerate leaving this post up or whether the shame and fear of being judged wins out.

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I have come to realize that part of my problem with writing these days is that I have so many parts near the surface that I feel as though they are constantly interrupting my thoughts while I try to write. I can’t seem to think a full thought, never mind write it out, before something else is thrust at me.

It’s hard when different parts have different priorities. One will think that the most important think to write about/explore is my developing relationship with Mama Bear and I will start to write a post about how our interactions nurture my increased ability to trust and tolerate emotional intimacy. However, writing about her reminds me of the work that we have been doing on present centering and working to bring the traumatized parts forward, so that they are able to be comforted and helped in the safe now, rather than be retraumatized by experiencing the same memories over and over. This seems that it would be more useful to others, so I start to write about it. But then while writing, I mention something about my relationship with my father and another part barges in, urgently needing to write about father issues. But then a protective part silences me, making it impossible to write any more about my father, and I am left fuzzy headed, staring at a computer screen, feeling as though I have nothing worthwhile to say and that I should just shut up.

At that point I give up and have yet another partial draft post sitting there, never to be finished. I’ve been tempted to go ahead and post one of these attempts at writing, because I am feeling thwarted and somewhat silenced, but I think that they would be too fragmentary to be of use to anyone.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed these days by the intensity of dealing with these parts. One has a name. My parts don’t have names, but this one does and she seems to have a lot of life force. She only exists for one type of situation, but she will become completely dominant for those situations. She has strong beliefs and feelings. She holds so much of the more complicated trauma with my father. So often, touching her makes me start to shut down and go to sleep, because I can’t handle her and what she did yet.

But I’m supposed to be helping my parts cope and soothing them, not shutting down on them! I’m supposed to be stronger than her. I’m supposed to be lightening their burdens but with this one, I am too scared to look directly at what she carries, even though I have an idea of what it is. I am exhausted just coming close to her.

Right now I am grateful that my mind was able to dissociate and pull the experiences that she holds into a separate part of my mind. My father was a very deficient father in general, but he wasn’t a monster like my grandfather. Take away the sexual abuse, and I had a family life that was more inadequate than actively damaging, because my mother really did care. Take away the sexual abuse and I could look my mother in the eye and maintain the most important relationship in my life. Take away the sexual abuse and I could excel at school and buy my way into a different life. Take away the sexual abuse and my world didn’t dissolve into a bewildering morass of feelings and experiences that I had no hope of handling alone. But I am no longer 3 or 6 or 9 or 12 or 15. Slowly, bit by bit, I will take back the experiences and feelings that I couldn’t afford to feel for so long. I don’t want to, but I need to accept that her experience was my experience.

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Return of the Sun Artist- Robin Webb-Bransky

Return of the Sun
Artist- Robin Webb-Bransky

Ever since some point this spring, I have been struggling in my relationship with Mama Bear. I have had 4, maybe 5 crises with her since this started, which is completely unusual for me. I need for things to feel stable and it always causes me significant distress when I experience a rupture with Mama Bear. So, this has been a very uncomfortable summer from me, and for awhile I felt bewildered and started to worry that something was really wrong. Now that things have calmed down again, I think that my problems with Mama Bear actually were signs that things were going mostly right, rather than signs that there was something terribly wrong.

One of the things that seems to have been going on is that I feel more comfortable with getting upset with her. Dare I say it? I have even been getting mad at her when I think that she mishandled something and I was hurt in the process. In the past, I would have made myself swallow my hurt and anger and proceed as if nothing had gone wrong. This summer, we stumbled our way through my going back and forth between aiming my anger at myself and expressing it to her in bits and pieces. Thankfully, she has the knack of remaining completely non-defensive and even being able to welcome my anger. She would point out that I was taking it out on myself again because that felt safer than being angry with her and then she would gently point out my angry body language, the anger in my voice, the anger in my look, and question me to bring out the anger in my thoughts.

I had crisis after crisis with her, but I also was engaging with her more intensely and intimately. I was “letting her in.” Six months previously, I couldn’t make eye contact for more than a second or two, but now there were times when I would seek out and sustain that contact, so that I did not feel alone with whatever I was struggling with. I felt as though I was sitting in the same room with her almost all of the time, bumping up against her. You are much more likely to feel in conflict with someone if they are right next to you than if they are in the next room.

At some point, Mama Bear pointed out to me that in my family, no one talked about conflict. What was happening with her was my chance to experience talking with her about whatever was upsetting me and working through it in a safe way. As she said, “In your family you used smoke signals at best, but here you get to use words with me. It’s a part of what we do; we talk through an issue and come up with a solution that works for both of us.” As I had to find the courage to talk with her about issues that I didn’t want to broach, I kept on thinking back to this idea. It’s my chance to learn how to work through conflict using words and she will welcome what I bring up.

However, perhaps the most important factor was that I had started to share with Mama Bear some of the ways in which I believe that my dad abused me and memories of some of the worst of the abuse by my grandfather. Deep down inside, I expected that there wouldn’t be anyone in the world who would actually deeply believe me. I believed that anyone that I told would respond in one of two ways 1) they would be overwhelmed and turn away and abandon me or 2) they would say, “It is impossible that your grandfather did X to you. He didn’t torture you. Nothing that bad could have happened; you are exaggerating and you should be ashamed of yourself.”

After this latest crisis, Mama Bear had been talking to me and said something that drove everything else out of my head. She said that it made sense that I had dissociated so extensively and developed so many parts because the situations that I had to deal with as a child were so overwhelming and painful. She then said something about how I had experienced my of my grandfather’s abuse as torture.

I will admit that I stopped listening at that point. I was completely caught up in dealing with the implications of her statement. I had used the word “torture” a couple of times early in the summer, and while Mama Bear had agreed with my use of the word at the time, she had never before used it herself. I was stunned to hear it come out of her mouth so matter of factly. Maybe she really believed when I had told her what my experience was like with my grandfather? Maybe she actually understood just how horrific it was?

I went home and thought a good deal about it all. I thought some more about what I wrote about in “Is it safe to help myself?” Eventually I decided to take a huge chance and talk with Mama Bear about the issues in that post, because this was a dynamic that was keeping me stuck and unable to move forward.

When I talked with her in the next session, she clearly understood what I was saying and further realized how what she was doing in an attempt to help me was instead pushing me to entrench myself in a helpless position. If I hadn’t told her, in spite of my shame, who knows how long we would have remained trapped in the same pattern.

I went on to explain that what had enabled me to feel brave enough to tell her was what she had said in the previous session.

She glanced at her notes, “I don’t remember what I said. Do you remember?”

I sat there, struggling to get the words out.

She reassured me, “It’s OK if you don’t remember. It might just be the over all conversation.”

“Oh, no. I remember exactly what you said.”

That got her attention, because my memory often is so bad from session to session. “Really? What did I say?”

“You acknowledged that I experienced my grandfather’s abuse as torture and I realized that you really believed me. Someone really, really believes me.”

She looked at me gently, “Yes, I believe that you experienced your grandfather’s abuse as torture. I have heard you and I believe you.”

I stared into her eyes for awhile, taking in that she really meant what she was saying, and then I burst out with, “Thank you so much!” and I started to sob from the very center of my being. I curled up in a ball on the love seat and cried and cried. After a moment or two, Mama Bear got up and came over to kneel on the floor by me and hold my hand. Her gentle presence helped me to feel as though I was being held and that it was safe to let out all of the fear and despair that no one would ever believe me.

I looked up at her, “I can’t tell you what a huge relief it is to feel believed about this. I didn’t think that I would ever have anyone really believe me.”

“I am so glad that you can fully take in my support and caring and belief in you.”

I looked at her for while in a bit of a state of shock and then I laid my head down on our hands and just felt contained.

She said to me, “I feel like something awe inspiring has happened here and I am grateful that I was able to share it with you.”

I nodded my head and we sat there together for another moment or two.

This interaction seems to have changed everything between us, from my perspective. It feels safe to deeply trust her again. Deep inside I had previously feared that she would hurt me for telling her the worst that I had to share. I think that I believed that she wouldn’t be able to help herself because everyone had to eventually reject either me or my experience, once I had told/showed them just how bad it was. But she didn’t reject either me or what happened to me. Instead she came closer to me and she helped me to hold and take care of those parts that were so terribly traumatized by my grandfather.

I do hope that the crises of this summer are over, but this was a reminder that just because things feel awful and chaotic, it doesn’t always mean that I am really in trouble. Several times this summer, Mama Bear would take me by the shoulders and look me straight in the eye and say, “We are OK, C. We really are, even though it doesn’t feel like it. We will talk about what is going on and work through it, but things actually are more OK between the two of us than it feels like right now.” I wish that I had been able to believe her at the time, because it turns out that she was right.

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