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.

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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.

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.

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.

Lines of light

I’ve always seen auras.  When I was still at school, teachers thought I was mad because I kept describing shades of colour surrounding people and shifting in to beautiful patterns that seemed to change with emotions.  I could *feel* the atmosphere changing as their moods shifted.  This is nothing special, really.  I truly believe it’s something we all can do.  Living in a cult environment, I had to be acutely aware of changing moods in order to gauge levels of danger.  Therefore, logic follows that my sense of reading auras would be well developed and remain in place.

Now, though, I’m seeing strings of light.  This is new.  Before anyone wonders, I am still taking my meds as prescribed and am not having psychotic symptoms.  I’m perfectly lucid.  But there are visible connections between beings and objects around me.  Little strings of white or golden light drawing connections.  They seem to predict how objects and beings are going to interact with one another.  I see how things resonate through the vibrations of the lights.  It’s frightening and wonderful all at once.  No idea how this will progress, but I’m trying to learn more about it and see how I can develop the sense to help bring peace.  That is, afterall, the grand purpose of anything metaphysical I’ve ever experienced.  It’s just odd at the moment.

When Rituals Go Wrong

Cults, in spite of how in might seem, are not infallible.  Sometimes, rituals do go wrong.  The anxiety this causes victims is almost unbearable.

Consider the ‘normal’ injury.  Let’s say a child falls and scrapes his or her knee.  What happens?  Hopefully, a loving care-giver picks up the child, comforts him or her, and tidies up the injury.  The child won’t think about lasting changes.  The caregivers, however, will.  Even an injury as minor as a skinned knee will make a concerned caregiver worry for their little one.

In cult circumstances, though, people sometimes *pray* for lasting injuries.  At least in the cult that has damaged my life, marks are made on the skin to signify rituals and status.  Higher ups will have different markings from lower order members, for instance.  Those who have been through specific maturation rituals will have symbols on their arms.  Those marked for death will have symbols on their thighs.

So what happens when these rituals get bunged up?  They are repeated.  Cuts are deepened, burns are taken to higher degrees, and bones are re-broken.  For those living in cult environments, the knowledge that a ritual might be repeated until it is satisfactory is terrifying.  Going through rituals that leave permanent marks is hard enough.  When, due to their own healing mechanisms or the ‘help’ of well-meaning individuals, a cult member’s injuries heal better or before they were supposed to, they have to worry about when the ritual will be repeated and how much additional force will be applied.

Even more terrifying, rituals can be designed specifically around the individual who is healing too well.  In cult survivors with DID, insiders can even be brought in as helpers, destroying even the potential safety found in one’s mind.  Those on the outside pray for injuries to heal and fade in to the past.  Cult victims, on the other hand, sometimes pray for the marks to stay so that the never-ending rituals are finally done.

Unknown Longing

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having this odd weepy feeling.  The feelings come on very suddenly and leave almost as quickly.  In the moment, I feel close to bursting in to tears with no real idea of what’s prompting the feeling.  It’s a haunting sense of longing that I can’t quite place.

And then there’s the wailing.  It’s this constant chanted mantra of ‘I want things to be like they were before.’  Sometimes, the voice is very quiet and the feeling is completely one of longing.  Sometimes, the voice is an actual wail, full of panic and pain.  It comes from the very depths of my consciousness, and it leaves me feeling weak.  The weepy feelings spring from this sort of primal reaction, I know, but I don’t know the actual cause.  Which makes working to heal it only slightly difficult.

I need to identify what ‘like they were before’ means.  It could be any number of things.  There are the major changes– transatlantic move, deaths, et c.  And there are the more minor changes that became major in my mind– changes in relationships, my best friend moving to a new part of the city, et c.  There are many, many ‘befores’ in everyone’s life.  Some of mine are just a bit more pronounced than average.

As I mentioned a few posts back, the bit with my best friend’s moving to a new house in a new part of the town has been a rather large upset in my life.  I recognise part of that as feeding in to the current issues.  Quite some time before he moved, his mother had already moved out.  That was the point when the home I knew there broke.  I didn’t realise, at the time, that things would never go back to how they were in the flat before she moved.  That’s led to a feeling like unexpected loss.  Things changed forever without a thought of it; I didn’t know those last days before she moved would be the last days when things were as they had been when my best friend’s flat was home to me.

Herein lies an issue with temporal space.  My logical mind knows that, regardless of where he lives, I am at home with my best friend.  It is the person, not the space, that makes me safe.  Living with him and his mother gave me a sense of safety I’d never known before, though.  It’s the only time when the Really Bad People did not know my location.  It was the only time I’ve truly been free.  With that gone, and the recent hacking away at my space done by the Really Bad People, I feel like I have no steady ground.  And I feel like I never even saw the steady ground fading away.  I guess the longing isn’t so hard to understand.

There are so many causes for longing, but this is more acute than the grief bits.  They factor in, of course, but this is a longing for something that still exists– a sense of safety from the Really Bad People.  It’s just outside the realm of possibility.

It’s Not the Same

My best friend moved house.  There were problems with his former residence and the landlord, so he was basically run out of his home of over a decade, to the other side of his town, a distance more from work and to a house near a very strange intersection.  He’s doing well, and his mother is thrilled with their little house.  Her face beams when she talks about it.  Everyone seems to have settled in nicely.

I, on the other hand, am a mess.

The move has very little to do with me; the only real change is that I drive to a new spot to meet my best friend.  My mind, however, has been thrown in to utter chaos and is having a great amount of trouble falling back together again.  His flat felt like home to me.  It was the only place I’ve ever lived where, by some odd twist of irony and luck, the cult could not find me for several months.  In the safety of that time, I grew strong enough to get my own flat– also a first– and live in a place alone.  Now that things have fallen apart and I’m living amongst some of the bad people again, I always felt that flat would be my starting point again some day.

A great deal had changed since all the way back in 2005 when I lived with my best friend and his mum.  His brother moved in and out of that flat, his mum moved out of the flat and, temporarily, back in.  Things were quite tumultuous (to understate) for his family over this past year.  I trusted, however, that things would calm, the flat would remain, and the three of us would live there again until I got my strength up to move to my own flat again.  It was the centre point around which I was building my future, and now, it is gone.

I feel lost, even though I’m trying to see this over-reaction for what it is.  That isn’t helping, though, and the constant thought in my mind is that things will never be the same again.  Nothing will ever find its way to solid ground again.  I’ve spent time at my best friend’s house now and have even stayed over for a night.  It doesn’t feel like home, though, and it’s closer to the local cult headquarters.  I drive a distance out of the way to get there simply so I can feel I’m at a safe distance from them. This isn’t getting easier.

The people in the house are the same.  My best friend and his mum are the same.  The only thing that has changed is the physical location.  Yet, nothing *feels* the same.  It all feels different and somewhat scary, like I’m having to re-establish something I can’t quite place.  I feel selfish and silly because the people who were actually involved in the move and are living in a new space are fine, whilst I’m in chaos.  This isn’t mine to take on.  Still, nothing seems the same, and the central point seems to have dissolved in to nothingness.  It’s like my central point of existence is gone, and with it my chance to rebuild a life on solid ground.  The constant refrain in my mind is that nothing will ever be the same and nothing will ever be stable again.  Try as I might, I can’t help believing that to be true.

What Not to Say

This somewhat bitter post is directed at anyone– friends included— who works with SRA survivors.

Please do not even *hint* that leaving a cult is the same as walking out of a domestic violence situation.  Yes, there are  many similarities.  But it is decidedly not the same.  The stakes are often much higher, and the consequences are typically much more complicated.  This is not to say that leaving any type of abusive relationship at all is easy.  It’s just to say leaving an SRA situation and leaving a domestic violence situation are as different as chalk and cheese.  The same strategies won’t always work.

As well, don’t hint at the fact that all one has to do is decide to leave.  Being one of the few people who has walked out of the cult my family belonged to, I can tell you first-hand that it took years for me to plan for my mother, sister and I to make it out.  Even then, we were followed every step of the way and got randomly taken back underground.  It was more like a half escape.  It still is.

To my readers who have escaped domestic violence situations not involving SRA, please don’t think I’m belittling your experience or minimising your pain.  I’m just trying to stop people equating them under the same therapeutic processes and plans.  It doesn’t work, and it makes the SRA survivor (at least in my case) hesitant to bring up the topic again.

It’s frustrating to try and explain time and again that walking out is literally not an option sometimes.  Lessening their presence or moving directly out of their confines is possible in many cases, but completely separating yourself from the cult my family belonged to is not possible, even in the best of cases.  It just doesn’t happen.  For those of you who work with SRA survivors in a professional capacity, I beg you to be aware of this and help your clients accordingly.  Cults are not abusive significant others.  Treating the situation like that will only make your client worse and chip away at any trust he or she has in you.  Trust me on that one.  I’m not a therapist, but I am a survivor of extreme high-level SRA.  I know what I’m talking about here.