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.

Listening

The seventh of this month marked the 13th anniversary of my sister’s death.  She has now been gone one year longer than she lived.  The thought is devastating.  There are no words to describe how much I miss her.  She dances through my mind all the time, and she is a constant presence in my life.  Unfortunately, she also left a constant and suffocating absence.

I had the chance to visit my far-flung FOC earlier this month, which provided me with the strength to get through that day and will surely help through the upcoming holidays, as well.  The night before the anniversary of my sister’s death, I talked a great deal about her with my brother-of-choice, and that turned out to be one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had.  That’s the focus of this post– help for those grieving losses that have never had a chance to heal.

The week of my sister’s death anniversary, I play through the events over and over in my mind.  I look for any sign from that week, trying to figure out what I missed.  My mind holds the false hope that maybe this is the year I’ll be able to stop her going through with her plan, even though I know that will never be a possibility.  I have nightmares, flashbacks of the day I found her body, and a general haziness to my thoughts.  It is a horrible week.

In our conversation, my brother-of-choice simply listened.  He provided excellent advice without trying to ‘fix’ the problem, and he listened.  He listened to me talk about her death, as well as her life, which was essential to me at that time.  I needed to get the negatives and positives of her existence out of my mind so that the space I keep for her was calm again.  I also needed to share her with someone who feels a closeness to her, even though they never met in this life.

If you know someone in a similar circumstance– someone grieving the loss of a young person or of a suicide– you might well feel helpless if they turn to you to talk.  You might feel a need to shield from the harshness of the death, as well as distance from the fact that the person lived.  When you are feeling most helpless, though, the way to help this person will likely be simple.  Just listen.  Let the person tell you about their loved one’s life and death.  Let them get lost in the wonder of their loved one’s existence, and be there to help them stay grounded when memories of the death start to cloud out the present.

By the same token, you must take care of yourself.  If you do not feel comfortable listening to such details, speak up.  You will hurt yourself, as well as your relationship with the person, if you push yourself beyond your own limits.  If you can, though, just listen.  Don’t feel the need to solve the problem of grief.  No one needs that responsibility.  Grieving people *need* to talk about their losses, particularly when the losses leave behind so many questions like suicides do.  By simply listening, you can do wonders for helping your friend or loved one heal.

I will be forever grateful to my brother-of-choice for helping me mark both my sister’s life and her death.

Raw

That’s exactly what this post is going to be.  Please take care if you’re not up for a graphic discussion of bulimia.  This is going to be one.

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Last night, I made plans.  I knew I’d have the house alone all day and spent a great deal of time planning what foods to take in based on how easy they would be to bring back up.  This morning, as I sat in my typical spot in the bathroom, a thought occurred to me: I don’t want to do this anymore.  Physically, the problems were evident.  There was blood in the toilet from irritation of my throat.  My stomach felt like someone had set fire to it on the inside.  My heart was beating so hard that you could literally see the pulse of  it through my shirt.  I was freezing and confused as the room dimmed and my consciousness slipped.  When I awoke, I was still in that bathroom and happy I wasn’t covered in my own bodily fluids.  My first thought?  Guilt that I’d got the last of the food I’d eaten out of my body but had been unable to get out the cup of cereal I had for breakfast.  Guilt that there was still food in my stomach no matter how hard I’d tried to get it up.  This wasn’t after a binge– I’d had roughly 200 calories.  Just the thought of *any* food in my stomach made me feel guilty, though.

I found out recently that some people aspire to have eating disorders.  They see it as a quick fix for weight loss.  What they don’t see or don’t think of, at least, is this side of it.  The vomit in the hair, blood in the toilet, stomach acid eating your insides part of it.  These girls (and some guys) look at the societal concept of ‘glamour’ and ‘beauty,’ and they are willing to do anything they have to do to get that body.  I hope, if nothing else, that my posts will help people see the dark reality of bulimia.  Nothing is worth this.

I hope, as well, that people can consider alternative causes.  I don’t want to look like a glamour girl or be twiggy thin.  I just want my outside to mask any sense of chaos on the inside.  My past brings with it loads of reasons to feel disgusting, and, in an ironic way, bulimia is my attempt to purge out the disgustingness.  It’s my attempt to make my outside body look ‘normal’ so people don’t question the state of the inside.

It’s a way to purge memories, as well.  Whilst we were still underground, I never knew when or if food would come.  When I was fed, sometimes it felt like a binge.  I was told I looked like a pig and shown other kids who were not getting fed because I *was* being fed that day.  Those children had to watch my group eat, and I knew the kind of hunger they were feeling.  What I didn’t realise is that our roles reversed; sometimes those children were fed when I was starved.  The fact is, neither group of children could hurt or help the other group.  The lasting impression is a feeling that I don’t deserve to eat, which leads to the restricting, which leads to ravenous hunger, which leads to the binge, guilt for eating so much, and purge as reparation.  Eating disorders are not always about looking beautiful.

I’m still not sure what the next step will be from here or whether I’ll be able to keep things under control.  The psychiatrist is quite right in pointing out the high rate of recidivism among bulimics.  For now, though, I at least have the *desire* to stop, and that is overriding (somewhat) the fear of gaining weight.  I’ll take all of this to my therapist next week and see where we go from here.

Equivalent

Today is the 12th anniversary of my sister’s death.  She has now been dead the same amount of years that she was alive.  I don’t like this tip of the scale.  It feels very much like she’s getting further and further from my life.

Last night, I had this bizarre dream where I saw my sister reaching for me.  As I walked toward her, though, she fell further and further in to shadows.  I can’t claim to know what happens after death, but I do hope it’s more than just shadows.

I’ll re-live the afternoon of her death over and over today.  It plays out like a horror film.    At any given time on any given day, those images flash in my mind.  Today, though, they are in the forefront.  I loved my sister dearly, and I hope that– in whatever form she’s taken– she knows I still do.

Penance

Therapy has become very difficult.  We’re starting to work through memories of sexual abuse and assault, which is causing so many reactions in my mind.  This came about as the therapist and I searched for the root of my eating disorder.  She kept saying there had to be a trauma root, and I was completely unaware of it.  My therapy homework was to write out the negative thoughts that popped up in my mind when I did anything related to food.  One idea came up time and again: I don’t deserve to eat.  That’s when the trauma connection was made clear.

As a child, my relationship with food was disturbed, to say the least.  Sometimes, it was used for ‘reward.’  I got taken out for ice cream when I did sexual things that were required of me.  It was my ‘reward’ for being a ‘good girl.’  To this day, eating ice cream requires heavy dissociation for me.  We’re working slowly through those memories now, but that’s for another post.

Food was also a punishment sometimes.  My mother would choose which child got to eat on any given night and make that child eat whilst the others watched.  We were told that our behaviour determined whether our siblings could eat.  The chosen child felt horrible, because he or she had to eat whilst the other hungry children watched, knowing they wouldn’t get food that day.  The children who were not fed felt horrible, because they were filled with both hunger and anger.  We were pitted against each other like that.

There was a twisted middle ground, as well.  My mother would buy junk food, allow both my sister and me to eat, and then berate us because all we ever wanted was junk.  If we refused to eat the junk food, we were punished for being ungrateful; if we did eat it, we were taunted for being slovenly.  Not that that would cause food issues in the future, right?  It was the catch-22 we often found ourselves in.  Regardless of the choice, you would be punished.  The real choice was to decide what action would yield the least punishment or the easiest to take.

Fast forward to today.  I don’t want to eat, because eating makes me *feel* slovenly.  When I do eat, I feel guilty and like I should purge it all to avoid being selfish.  It goes back to taking food from others.  I can see my siblings’ faces as I ate when they weren’t allowed to.  Even thinking of it makes me want to throw up.

That brought me to an idea I know trauma survivors will understand: penance.  The things I put myself through, be it self-injury, bulimia, or anything along the spectrum are my penance.  People tell me all the time that it wasn’t my fault and that I don’t have to pay for the things done in my past.  Still, I feel the need to do my penance for all the people who were hurt by my actions and all the people who suffered simply from my existence.  I didn’t even realise this is what I had been doing all these years.

Penance, according to the folks at dictionary.com, is ‘a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.’  All the sins of my past, regardless of whether they were ordered by the cult or controlled by others, haunt my present life.  I do my penance for things I’ve done and seen.  And I have no idea whether I even *want* to move past this.

Robbery

I had a nightmare last night about a time I hadn’t thought of in quite a while.  Since this blog is, if nothing, written to help survivors, I’ll do my best to write candidly.

There’s nothing quite like the first time someone enters your body without your permission.  I’m speaking of the physical body here.  I just can’t say the more technical words involving this particular type of abuse.  As a child, it was horrifying to me, but it felt even more disgusting as an older teen.  My leadership training ended like that.  Five men standing about me, and I was tied to a sacrificial altar wondering what they would do to me.  They took turns, and after a while, I didn’t even try to resist.  It really wasn’t worth it.  I knew there was no way I could get away from them, so I just drifted off in to my world.

They hadn’t touched me like that in over a year, but when the first man took his turn, I literally threw up.  They take something, every single time they do that.  More and more of you drains away.  It’s a violation like no other.  It’s your space, the space that no one is supposed to get to without you.  Once they’ve taken that, you have nowhere else to go.  You’re not safe internally or externally.  They’ve got you completely.  No part of you is untouched.

I still feel disgusting, no matter how many times I’m told it wasn’t my fault or that it won’t happen again.  The nightmare brought those feelings back.  My skin is quite literally blistered in spots from the shower this morning, and I can’t get myself to feel clean.  It will pass, and the darkness surrounding that memory will go back in its box.  I just have to push through this spot and in to the sun again.

Surprises

Grief and anger are the two prevailing states of my mind these days, so pardon the endless ranting posts.  This one focuses on abuse, with some specifics thrown in.  Please be safe while reading.  My standard trigger warning applies.

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I hate it when surprise triggers pop up.  This morning, I was doing the simple task of making my bed.  It’s something I do most days, so I had no reason to think it would cause problems.  However, a friend of mine recently gave me a blue blanket that was, at one time, an electric blanket.  The electric part of it no longer works, and the wiring was removed.  I realised I was feeling a bit nauseous, but that’s fairly typical these days.  Then, the memories came.

Electricity is the friend of many cult trainers.  Children are forced to wear shock collars, electric fences are used to hold people in pens, electromagnetic stuff is used to monitor vital signs during particularly violent training sessions.  For me, electric cord was frequently used as a restraint.  I’m not talking about actual charged electric cord.  I am, however, talking about restraints to hold me to the lovely stone sacrifice tables.

Obviously, I was not sacrificed.  Early in my training, though, I had to watch quite a few sacrifices of animals and humans of various ages.  Some were incredibly brutal, and the sights and sounds stay with me.  There’s nothing like looking in the eyes of a sacrificial victim who is begging you– the only person not actually participating– to save them.  It makes me want to vomit to even think about it.

And that’s where the anger comes in.  Making a bed should *not* be something that concerns me.  These people warped my mind to the point that even a simple task held a surprise trigger.  I get angry when everyday activities become so upsetting to me.  This is progress to some extent, I suppose.  Until very recently, those memories would have immediately sparked guilt.  Now, the anger came first.  The guilt is still there every bit as strong as ever, but it came on the heels of the anger.

I’m an excellent stoic, so people rarely see my emotional reactions to triggers.  This was no different.  It’s made me take time out of my day to sit and write for a bit, but that’s not a problem.  I’m not missing any deadlines.  I’m fortunate to be among the few who can remain functional, probably out of necessity more than strength, when dealing with triggers like this.  Some SRA survivors make it out only to take their lives.  Many have to cope with limited functionality.  I deal with triggers rather often, but I find myself able to function most of the time.  For that, I am grateful.  My heart goes out to the families and individuals who have to cope with losses of loved ones who are still physically alive.

Flashbacks

Still having frequent flashbacks.  I think, in part, that this is because I’m feeling like there’s no one to talk with regarding the trauma.  By that, I mean there’s no one who I feel can listen to the details.  My former therapist had heard a great deal of the ‘regular’ abuse stuff, and quite a bit of the SRA stuff, as well.  Now I’m feeling kind of left alone with the details.  That’s not at all to say that I feel lonely or like no one cares; my FOC will be right there for me any time.  I’m just thinking about discussions with therapists.  I love my FOC too much to talk about the details of my past.  In terms of therapy, though, talking about details seems essential.

It’s probably macabre, morbid, or any other word like that, but I truly do feel a *need* to tell someone the whole bit.  SRA memories, regular childhood trauma memories, all of it.  I’ve thought about writing it out a time or two and even started that once.  Writing is more like talking to myself, though, and I know the details.  I need one other person to know so that I don’t feel like the weight of it all rests completely with me.  The whole world seems a bit mad at the moment.  I’m really hoping the past and present stop colliding soon.

PTSD

Since things have calmed down regarding the recent therapy debacle, I apparently decided to entertain myself by letting PTSD symptoms run rampant.  Today has been a running flashback.  I think I’ve spent more time in the past than the present.  The psychological symptoms are obvious, but the physical symptoms get in the way, too.  I get ‘tummy troubles’ as a dear friend calls them.  My muscles ache from being so tense.  I get migraines. My energy level flits about like leaves in the wind.  All of those lovely physical warnings that something is wrong.

A very simple thing the former therapist taught me is to ground myself by sitting straight in my chair and keeping both feet in constant contact with the ground.  When she first mentioned that, I thought she’d gone off her face.  It really does help, though.  The standard looking at a calendar to see the date can be helpful, but if it is near one of the SRA days, it can be tremendously harmful.  I’m careful with that one.

Above all, I’ve found that being outside helps.  I tend to avoid driving unless I’m sure I can keep my focus.  Still, feeling sun, rain, or wind on my skin makes me feel alive.  Again, SRA dictates the sort of places that help.  I can’t do open spaces like fields or car parks.  I need to be walking about in a residential area, surrounded by houses and people who are as alive as me.  It makes me feel a part of this world, so far away from the underground cult world.

I need to keep in my mind that the past is, in fact, over.  The memories and scars survive, but the events are over.  I also need to stop myself worrying about what’s to come.  It bothers me to think that the future could mirror the past in any way.  So here I sit on this August evening, trying to settle in to the present and remind myself of the wonderful people in my life who form the blanket of safety that now surrounds me.

Torchwood Triggers

This post could be *very* triggering to folks with an SRA background. Please be careful.
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I *love* Torchwood. The first two series, that is. I haven’t seen the third series, a 5-episode miniseries called ‘Children of the Earth.’ Series Four is ‘Miracle Day.’ The show has been absolutely ruined, in my opinion. It’s like a crime/conspiracy show. I’m an SRA survivor. I have no problems at all believing in supposed conspiracies. I know quite well that many of them are true. However, the sensationalistic plot lines in this installment of Torchwood are more likely to perpetuate the belief that things like government conspiracies don’t exist. Perhaps enough information is being put in to each episode to allow *dis*information to make it through undetected.

Torchwood rant aside, I feel it necessary to warn others with an SRA background that very serious triggers pop up at times. In this series, everyone is immortal, causing an immediate overcrowding of the Earth. Last night’s episode included categorising people in to qualities of life and locking those who were ‘walking dead’ in to ‘modules.’ These camps were set up in unused army bases. Imagine that. Part of it involved ‘extermination’ of people who were alive but should have been dead based on their injuries. They were locked in to what amounted to large ovens on the army bases and burnt alive. One character was even conscious. Immortality, governments categorising life and death, camps on army bases, human extermination. Sounds like your average underground Tuesday, no?

*Please* be careful if you or someone you know are an SRA survivor interested in Torchwood. This latest installment will not likely be safe for you. Don’t make the mistake I did and have flashbacks for hours just from one episode. I have yet to calm down even the physical symptoms. Take care of yourselves. We’ve all been through enough…