Happy(?) Holidays

I include the question mark because so many people struggle this time of year.  For me, issues with deep grief and ritualistic trauma frequently permeate the lighter side of the season.  This year I have made a concerted effort to participate, rather than hide myself away somewhere.  I have gone Christmas shopping and made plans for both Christmas and Chanukah celebrations.  This has helped, to some extent, but I find my agita spiralling as the holidays near.

My sister’s death from suicide on 7 December 2000 is the most painful thing I’ve ever been through, and its sting is still just as sharp as it was that day.  I have had quite a few other losses, and they all still sting. My sister’s death, however, still drops me to my knees sometimes.  She was my second self.  We were rarely separated, and I still hold myself partially at fault for not seeing the signs in her.  That day was just as painful as ever this year, and it started my mind down the spiral of grief and fear.  I’m trying to bring it back up.

If you are struggling this month, please hold on.  Somewhere out there, someone needs you more than you know.

In the UK & Ireland: Contact the Samaritans  116 123

In the US:  1-800-784-2433;  TTY:  1-800-799-4889

 

 

 

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Flashbacks

WARNING:  This post contains graphic descriptions of ritualistic abuse.  Read with care.

 

 

 

I *hate* when flashbacks ruin progress.  Due to some events from last night, a flashback triggered in my mind.  I found myself caged, a collar around my neck and unable to stand in the confines of what amounted to a large pet carrier.  I was a child, maybe eight or ten at the time, and completely terrified of what was happening around me.  There were other caged children in the room.  Some were completely silent, staring with empty eyes.  Others were scared and crying.  Thinking about it now, well past the flashback, it makes my stomach hurt.  I’ll never understand how people can do those things to others.

The goal, if I remember correctly, was punishment for disobedience.  The children had to prove that they were sorry through acts of self-harm.  We had to *prove* that we were sorry.  Hence the fact that my feet and arms are now covered with SI wounds.  It had been many months.  Yet here I am again, all bandaged up and feeling like an emo teen with a razor and a book of Sylvia Plath.

This flashback has left me shaken, no doubt, and it’s definitely something I’ll take to therapy.  The hard work now is to toss away the feelings and go back to life proper.  It is 2016, and I am, at least for the present moment, safe.

Dichotomy

That word defines my mother.  She was at once child and adult, beauty and darkness, safety and absolute danger.  Her multiplicity threw an interesting hook in to our relationship; I was more often parent to her than child.  She was very abusive to me and even moreso to my sister.  Even in her death, she left a sting.  The suicide note blamed me.

It’s taken years for me to accept that her death was not my fault but a bad choice on her part.  It’s taken years for me to learn that her treatment of me was not a reflection of me as a person but of her dealing poorly with her own Stuff.  Now, as I make changes in my life, she is on my mind.  I’m thinking of her as what she was, though: a person, separate from anyone else.

My mother had a very difficult life.  She told me in graphic detail about things that happened to her as a child.  She met my father early in her 20s.  A handsome soldier, he must have seemed heaven sent to rescue her.  She told me once he pitied her and married her for that reason.  Instead of rescuing her, though, he brought her to a cult where she was abused further and used basically as a breeder.  In an odd sense, she probably felt more wanted there than anywhere else.  Early in to it, before the serious harm would have started, the cult must have seemed like the first place to *need* her.  That breaks my heart.

She ran out of time at aged 51.  She made the decision to end her life because, if the note is to be believed, she thought I wanted her out of mine.  I had been making plans for both of us, though.  Had she just hung on a little longer, I really think things would have improved for her.  As it is, though, none of us will ever know.

Nostalgia

It has been ten months since my last post, according to the date here.  I sometimes wonder why I keep the blog active, but then I realise it truly is about nostalgia.  I started this blog many years ago.  Life has changed so much since then, but this blog is a constant.  Hopefully, it still helps people.  It certainly still gets views.  But it helps me, too.  It’s a documentary of my life through graduate school, through multiplicity, through traumas that have been resolved and some that plague me still.  In a life like mine, constancy can be hard to come by.  I cling to it wherever possible.

So thank you, dear readers, for your constancy.  I hope you still find meaning here.

Lessons Learnt

I was arguing with a housemate this morning and thought of the lessons learnt by children of abuse.  In response to the housemate’s anger, I immediately started putting myself down and raising him as the superior person.  His anger cooled as I made myself lower and lower, and my shame rose.  Just like old times, eh?

As children of abuse, we learn the rule that secrecy is of utmost importance.  In fact, secrecy is needed for survival.  Without the sacred secrecy of our dysfunctional families, the world as a whole will fall apart.  Keeping the secret becomes a physical ache.  But keep it we do.  Why?  Because they told us to.  And because by the time we find out how different our lives are from those in ‘normal’ families, we are too ashamed to admit what’s going on in ours.

We learn to feel what we are told to feel.  Mum is sad today, so I’m sad too.  Why?  Because she will only tolerate sadness when she feels that way.  Any other emotion is wrong and is an affront against her.  We learn to hide how we truly feel.  Eventually, we learn to stop feeling any way at all unless we’re told to do so.

We learn that, no matter what, it’s our fault.  We may not remember what we did or when or how.  It might even seem impossible that we did *anything.*  But we know we did.  And if we forget that, our abusers are quick to remind us.  We take it to heart, and it becomes another secret.  We spend our lives terrified that others will see what our abusers saw, and they will hurt us, too.  We learn that everyone will desert us in the end.

*Un*learning all of that takes a lifetime.  I’m not sure it’s ever entirely possible.  We *can,* however, discover ourselves.  It took years, but I can now state my emotions clearly.  Sometimes I can even do it without fear.  I have a favourite colour that was not chosen for me.  I have my own likes and dislikes, and even if I worry about being ridiculed, I’ve been known to share them from time to time.  I have grown as a person through the love and patience of my family-of-choice.  They’ve taught me other lessons.  I still doubt their truth sometimes, and the child of abuse within me argues against them.  But I know deep down that they love me, even if I don’t feel worthy and can’t imagine how they could.

We learn lessons as children of abuse that are meant to break us.  The hard work comes in learning lessons as survivors that help us fly.

Update

I just realised how long it’s been since I’ve posted on this blog.  This year in general has been bad for writing.  I’ve rarely journalled, even now that I have my own space again.  It’s like my brain prefers not to remember right now, even though things aren’t particularly difficult.

The other aspect is therapy work.  We’re in the midst of serious discussions about ritual abuse overall and cult structures, which is making me want to guard every ounce of information I’ve put on the Internet regarding the subject.  I’m worried that my therapist will change her mind about my sanity and decide the whole bit has been nothing but a fantastical story.  That’s a risk I’ll have to take in order to move forward with therapy, though.  It’s such a precarious process.

Other than that, my mind has been reasonably quiet.  Life and work and learning go on with the past as a shadow that is, for now, not winning.  I’ll take that.

THAT Exam

My doctor has suggested it.  My therapist has suggested it.  My psychiatrist– if he were so inclined– would probably suggest it, too.  When she was just a bit older than me, my mother went in for a routine pap test and found that pre-cancerous cells were forming in her uterine lining.  Now, I need to get a bloody pap test, and I cannot seem to even schedule the appointment.

For those of you who don’t know, pap tests involve using a speculum to expand the vaginal opening so that the doctor can see the lining of the cervix.  Then, cells are brushed off into a specimen jar.  To end the exam, the doctor inserts two fingers in the vagina and presses on the lower pelvic area to feel for the size, shape, and location of reproductive organs.  ‘Written out’ it seems fairly innocuous.  Why, then, have I had to pause this post to go and be sick?

For me, the panic starts when I have to lay my head back.  At that point, I can’t *see* the person touching me.  As I was often tied up and blind-folded during sexual trauma, this is terrifying for me.  I don’t want to lie there with my head back unable to see this person who, at that point, will feel all-powerful to me.  That utter lack of control makes me physically ill.  I don’t want anyone even thinking about that area of my body, much less concentrating on it and even touching it.

Logically, I know this is a very simple medical procedure that will be performed by a female physician who has probably done thousands of these.  I know it only takes a few minutes and isn’t likely to cause me a great deal of pain.  Yet I cannot bring myself to even set the appointment.

Any strategies, dear readers?  I know this is incredibly common amongst women with sexual trauma histories.  What has helped you through?  Thanks in advance.

A Different Sort of Addiction

**TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF INJURY**

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My arms are becoming road maps again.  Little red lines that decorate the tops and my right forearm.  The scars aren’t enough in number these days.  For the first time in my 17 years of dealing with SI, I’ve found myself in the category of wanting the outside to match the inside.  For the first time, the scars are visible unless I wear long sleeves.

In my defence, the latest cut was a direct response to a threat of violence.  I attempted to wound myself to keep someone else from wounding me.  It worked only momentarily, and, in the end, has led to more harm that I probably would have initially received.  In that moment, I was terrified and desperate to save myself from a difficult situation.  The stress was so high, and the emotions were so extreme.  Later, I realised that cutting had numbed it all.

This year has been a struggle in terms of cutting.  It hasn’t been this bad in a while.  Now, though, it’s like the addiction is back.  Mine started when I tried to cover a scar that was put on me through cult activities.  It was a means of control.  If they were going to scar my body, I was going to do it worse.  Logical, right?  Now, I’m feeling that same sense of control again.  Like cutting is the only thing I *can* control, and like it proves to everyone that my body is truly mine.

Yesterday, I almost had a panic attack when I realised the box of plasters was empty.  No plasters means nothing to cover the blood, which means not being able to cut.  The panic only subsided when I found the box I keep for ’emergencies.’  Like the sewing needle I keep in my purse, supplies are hidden everywhere.  Now, I’m back to wearing sleeves that hide my arms, flinching when people touch me, and praying no one will feel cuts or bandages under my shirt.  I’m back to feeling exhilarated,ashamed, in control, and completely helpless over the same action. Cutting is a regular part of my life again, and I need to decide to let that go.  I’m horrified at the activity and terrified at the thought of losing it as my only means of coping and control.

Obstacles

Since my mood episode has passed, we’re back working on grief issues.  Specifically, we’re working with my sister’s death.  I asked the therapist if she found this repetitive, as we do keep returning time and again to this one loss, but she said we deal with another aspect of it every time we discuss it.  This time, we’re dealing with the extremes.

I have a tendency to bottle emotions (gasp from crowd).  As it turns out, merely intellectualising my feelings or stating them as fact does not count as actually expressing them and processing.  My therapist told me that I’m merely doing circles about them and will have to open them up in order to heal them.  Then, we discussed obstacles to that.

Obstacle one is easy to understand:  culture.  The stereotypical English stiff upper lip isn’t as stereotypical as some might think.  I’m not accustomed to overly emotional displays.  I’m more accustomed to the quick acknowledgement and subsequent containing of strong feelings.  This is separate from abuse issues or any kind of disorder.  This is simply culture.  Overcoming it is probably a question of pride and modesty.

Obstacle two *is* the trauma issues.  I grew up in a cult where people were literally killed for showing emotion sometimes.  Funnily enough, I have trouble with that now.  Then, Dr Freud, there’s the abuse my mother handed down.  On the day of my sister’s funeral, she was kind enough to remind me that, since it wasn’t my daughter, I had no right to be upset.  When I was a child, she taunted or hit my sister and me for showing emotion.  Again, small reason I have trouble with that.  Overcoming this is my biggest challenge.  No idea where to start.

Obstacle three is something I’d never considered: bipolar disorder.  My therapist pointed out that, given bipolar disorder is a condition of extremes, we spend some time attempting to keep me from giving in to strong emotions.  My emotions can’t always be trusted; some result from psychosis or other bipolar symptoms.  To overcome this, I guess we’ll just have to be overly cautious about the pace at which we attack the pesky little emotions.

There’s a danger in opening this box.  Sometimes, I follow down the path of wanting to be with my sister and follow her lead.  I don’t think that is a problem now, though, as I seem to have got a decent amount of control over the suicidal feelings.  Self-injury is the more likely problem, but I’ll deal with that when/if it happens.  It’s time, regardless of how much my mind fights against it, to at least begin the raw work of true mourning.

Visible Loathing

For most of my late teens to mid twenties, I had a *major* problem with cutting.  It seemed I couldn’t go through a day without making at least a tiny scratch somewhere on my body.  When I wasn’t cutting, I was thinking about it.  As time passed, though, it got better.  I cut less and less until I found that an entire year had gone by with no issues.  Now, however, the problems have started again.

Now, I’m either cutting or thinking about it again.  I wrote about this in a previous post and about the response in this post.  I am truly trying to overcome this, but it’s a bugger of an issue and seems to be all-consuming again.  It causes me both deep shame and deep relief.  In going a bit further, I made the first ever cuts that are easily seen.  It’s like all this talk of trauma in therapy makes me want to seem as ugly on the outside as I do on the inside.  Like I’m afraid that, if I don’t have visible scars, people will keep hurting me until they put them there against my control.

This started well over a decade ago in an effort to cover a scar.  Now, it seems to have come full circle.  Now, I am creating external scars to show the gaping internal wounds and get the disgusting-ness out.  It’s not a pretty habit and not something I’m proud of.  Right now, though, it’s in control.