Archive for the 'Domestic violence' Category

Once upon a time…

Note: This post was going to be submitted for the Carnival Against Child Abuse, but it became more about trying to peel off another layer of scar material that was caused by the marriage.  It could be triggering, please read with care.

There was once a little girl who got hurt by the people who should have taken care of her.  This experience taught her about keeping secrets, packing the bad things into containers inside her head and to forget about most of the bad things altogether.  She became good at playing the parts and emotions that were acceptable to those around her.  Compartmentalisation and dissociation became her way of life.

As this girl grew, the dissociative walls became higher and more entrenched.  Her core beliefs were that she was a nuisance, stupid and ugly.  But she wasn’t a victim.  Oh no, she knew that bad stuff had happened, but she believed that it happened to every little girl, and no one else seemed to be complaining.  So when the girl became a woman and met a nice man, she didn’t tell him about the bad stuff; instead she listened to his stories of being abused by his sister when he was a boy.  She didn’t understand how that could have happened to this seemingly big, strong man.  It made him cry and she comforted him.

So began, what would become 8 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse for that woman – us.

In many ways, the man came into the relationship more honest and open than we did.  He said he’d been abused, we didn’t. We got so caught up in his past that we didn’t say anything about ours – we didn’t really consider it that bad or worthy of talking about anyway.  Abuse was what we had come to expect.  So when he raped us for the first time, we dissociated it away and considered it normal.  Besides, he was good to us – he gave us flowers, cooked for us and treated us with a form of delicate care (when in front of other people) we’d never experienced before.

A pattern developed over time, he would have a crisis of some sort and we would save him.  He needed us to be strong, so we were.  We were hardly innocent within this scenario.  The woman at work used to feel sorry for him as we appeared to pick on him and order him around.  I can understand why they would get this impression – he needed to be saved and we needed to be a saviour.  The weaker he became within his work and mental health, the stronger we had to be, and the more he would abuse us when no one was looking.  The strength we showed to the world was one of us organising our world to gain some control.  When we got behind closed doors there would be a dissociative switch to one who enjoyed the pain that he inflicted sexually and physically.  He became good at triggering our switches, so we built the walls inside our internal house higher and stronger.

About four years into the relationship, we were in a side impact car accident.  We sustained a mild concussion.  In that one instant, our lives changed forever. Our coping mechanisms fell apart.  Suddenly we were weak.  Suddenly he had to be strong, but he wasn’t able.

He had been intermittently seeing different therapists over the years, but had never seen one for more than three sessions.  They were always useless or changing their fees or playing games…   We realised we were in trouble and started counselling again.  He began to self-injure, often in front of us or because of us.  He was fired from his job for assaulting a supervisor.  We tried to be strong, but were slowly falling apart.

He got a job as a security officer – a job where he could “get some respect”.  We also changed jobs.  But nothing fixed the things that were happening in each of our heads or in that house.  We were two people who had serious mental health issues crashing into each other.  We became suicidal and were regularly assessed for danger, always to be released back into the care of the strong man who was now our husband.

On the 9th of February 2008, we attempted suicide.  It wasn’t our most serious attempt, but it landed us in A&E and then the secure psychiatric ward.  On the 10th of February 2008, the strong man took us home.  What followed is blurry, but I know M made a smart arse remark to him about how he needed to grow up.  He then showed us how strong he was by trying to kill us.  His level of violence scared him and he called our mother, screaming that he’d done it this time and it was all over.  The mother thought he’d killed us.  When she talked to us, she asked if we wanted someone to come up to be with us.  Sophie said “yes”.  With our family there, he couldn’t cope with what had happened, so left the house on the 14th of February 2008.

Looking back, I can see how our different issues collided to cause what happened.  If he’d married someone who wasn’t dissociative, this probably wouldn’t have happened.  We were so conditioned for abuse, if it hadn’t been him, it would’ve been someone very similar.  Could we have ever made it work?  I doubt it.  He was not interested in healing.  He paid lip-service to therapy, but wasn’t prepared to invest the time and energy.  I was too defensive and in deep denial.  I wasn’t prepared to heal myself, instead I was so caught up in his problems that he was all I could see.  My life became about fixing him.  He has refused to attend the court ordered counselling as part of the Protection Order, so I don’t think he’ll ever heal.  I hope he does and proves me wrong…

The following clip is one we did a year ago to try to work through the events surrounding the marriage.  It may trigger.

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Now playing: Powderfinger – Sunsets (acoustic)
via FoxyTunes

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Hospitals – the psychiatric type

In the town where we grew up, there was a psychiatric hospital.  It was spoken about in hushed whispers as a scary place where crazy people were fenced in and tortured.  In reality, the hospital catered predominantly for those who were institutionalised during a time in our history when those with even minor problems were often hidden away.  We were told as part of our abuse, that if we told the secrets we would be sent to prison or this hospital forever.  So our early contact with psychiatric hospitals was negative.

If you place these experiences within the context of our rather traumatic experiences with the medical profession, you get a picture of someone who has deep seeded issues and fears about all things medical.  The young ones especially react with terror even when driving by a hospital.  We avoid dentists, doctors and nurses where at all possible.  In many ways this fear enabled us to appear high functioning for many years – if there was a threat of having to ask for help through therapy or medication, well that just wasn’t acceptable.  Time to stamp it all back down into The Basement and carry on being invisible.

Then arrives the dissociative train wreck we experienced when about 34.  Our coping mechanisms fell apart.  Then there was the final straw – we were teaching a group of 40 students when something about the interactive whiteboard markers caused Angel to come forward.  So there you have a 5 year old drawing pictures of flowers on the whiteboard while a group of adult students look on.  M comes back to find half the board covered…

So back to therapy we went.  We were in the throes of an abusive marriage and suddenly facing a childhood that wasn’t as perfect as we’d convinced ourselves it was.  These factors led to constant suicidal ideation and intent, which in turn resulted in us needing to find some support to keep safe.

In New Zealand there are a few support lines for suicide help – Lifeline, Samaritans, Youthline, the emergency number or the local mental health hotline.  Lifeline, Samaritans and Youthline are confidential – unless they feel you are in danger, in which case they will try to get your details and send around the Police.  Emergency services transfer you through to the mental health hotline, unless you are already need emergency care.  Once you’re in the mental health system, you are told to call the mental health hotline.  Usually you wait for 5-10 minutes on hold before the phone is answered – ever been suicidal during the Christmas season and had to listen to Christmas carols for 20 minutes while waiting to see if someone can help you stop killing yourself?  You can at least double the waiting time if you call after midnight, as that’s when they go down to one or two operators.

If you do manage to get through to a human, you’re asked for your details – name, phone, address, caseworker and then why you’ve called.  If they consider you to be at risk, they will send around the local mental health workers to assess you.  If they consider that you aren’t at risk, they will discuss grounding skills you can use before sending you on your way.  The problem with this is that at any one time we can have up to 5 suicide plans – apparently that means we don’t really mean to die as we’re not focused on one plan (we consider it covering our bases in case one doesn’t work).  We can also begin the phone call with one who wants to reach out for help; but by the time we get to actually talk to someone, we’ve switched to one who either won’t talk or says that everything is fine.  So in many ways the service doesn’t suit us (and a majority of the population).

If you are considered at risk, you get the joyful experience of being escorted up to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.  Where you begin the wait for some poor registrar who has been working for at least 10 hours and is surviving on a combination of adrenaline, coffee and sugar.  This person then has to assess your level of danger.  Most registrars haven’t dealt with anyone with a dissociative disorder, let alone tried to understand if there really is a risk.  They have a thankless job of walking a tightrope – is the patient telling the truth?  To make this job more complicated, during our experiences with registrars they’ve encountered –

  • Aimee (9 yrs old and carefree) who smilingly told the nice young registrar that she was too young to drink.  Quite forgetting that the body she shares is in it’s mid 30’s and sitting cross-legged on a hospital bed while drips are hanging from each arm to pump us full of drugs to counter the drugs we’d OD’d on.
  • Sophie (16 yrs old) who is our safest bet for these assessments – no one would section Sophie.  The main problem is getting close enough to hear her as she talks very quietly when scared or worried.
  • M who is the other safe bet.  She’s confident and knows how to work the mental health system to ensure that we are released.  Release is always her goal as the young ones she protects are violently triggered by hospitals.
  • Ellie who won’t be sectioned as long as she can keep her swearing and scorn for the medical profession under control.
  • Frank who is the worst one to front for an assessment.  He doesn’t get suicidal, but doesn’t understand what constitutes aggressive behaviour as seen in the eyes of a psychiatrist.  He doesn’t actually get aggressive, but his anger at being in a hospital is seen as aggression.

It’s at this point where we’ve usually been sent home.  But on two occasions we’ve been admitted or sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Event 1:  Sectioning with two nights in hospital.

  1. Night of admission, put into art therapy room with triggering artwork around the walls.
  2. Given a single room across from an alcoholic man in his 40’s (the father is an alcoholic).
  3. As punishment for being admitted W used all of her strength to try and break the arms by bashing them against the storage unit in the room.
  4. A miracle was there in the form of a part-time night nurse.  She realised we wouldn’t sleep so asked if we wanted art supplies and then she sat and talked to us.  She didn’t care who she talked to, she just sat on the floor and let us talk and draw.  She got us Arnica cream for the bruised, swollen mess that was now our arms without a fuss.
  5. Then there was the daytime registrar.  We had asked to be released as the hospital was too triggering.  He went through the whole assessment again.  He asked why our symptoms made us special.  We tried to explain that we weren’t special, just sometimes experienced dissociation.  He dismissed the dissociation saying it wasn’t important.  Then when returning after talking to the consultant, said that the dissociation made us too unpredictable to release.  Yes, the one symptom that he totally dismissed, became the thing he used to keep us in.
  6. That night the same part-time nurse told us how to get out – say the words “I have no intent”.
  7. The following day a different registrar got the consultant to come in and talk to us.  He was going to let us out for the day, but M came forward and dazzled him with a veil of sanity.  We were outta there.

Event 2:  Admitted to the secure unit with one night stay.

  1. Saturday afternoon attempted suicide through an overdose and was taken to ER by the husband.
  2. Put on a drip and was overwhelmed by the dissociation.
  3. Overheard the nurses say that we hadn’t really overdosed, but were just attention seeking – our bed was right beside the nurses station and strangely enough the curtains aren’t sound proof.
  4. As soon as we were coherant, we asked to leave.
  5. After a 5 hour wait, we were assessed by the same psychiatrist who once picked up the phone while we were in the room and told the DBT specialist that “the borderline actually turned up, do you want to come meet her?”
  6. Because of all the triggers, Ellie and Frank weren’t able to control the anger very well.  We were escorted to the secure unit by the Police.  We didn’t threaten anyone or even raise our voice, but we were considered to be irrational and dangerous because of the barely contained rage.
  7. We were released the next morning.

If we are ever sectioned again, we’ll request to go to the secure unit.  It was comparatively peaceful and safe.  If any of the half a dozen patients even raise their voice, they are immediately surrounded by about four staff and taken away to be calmed down.  The only downside was that the cups of tea were lukewarm – hot water being a dangerous weapon.

This is a very light hearted look at our experiences.  In reality, during the sectioning Sophie was nearly destroyed when her twin came from The Basement to tell her why they were created.  The day after we were released from the secure unit, the ex-husband tried to kill us.  Other incidents have occurred while we’ve been waiting to be assessed, including one I’d like to forget where a patient masturbated while looking through the window at us.

We sit in wonder when people say that they voluntarily go to hospital.  It’s a concept that we don’t understand – why would you volunteer for torture, ridicule and scorn?  We know our perception is warped and that hospitals help people every day.  But it’s not something we identify with.  It was once recommended that we go to Ashburn Hospital for a minimum of six months to try and break our cycle of destructive thinking.  Just the thought of that was terrifying.  I wonder if part of the reason is that in New Zealand the focus within the psychiatric ward seems to be on holding you in a safe place until the suicidal intent goes, rather than helping you in a long term way.  It’s reactive rather than proactive.

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Now playing: Dixie Chicks – Wide open spaces
via FoxyTunes

Hell & Anger

We did this clip over a year ago, but heard the song on the radio earlier and it reminded us about this clip.  Just trying to keep occupied…

Note: It contains images which are only suitable for adults and might trigger.

Host personality & secrets

Just read an interesting post by Faith Allen about the Importance of integrating the host personality.  This post hit a sore spot in that were not really sure who or what our host personality “looks” like.  Surely this is the sort of thing you’re meant to know?  I know more about who ISN’T the host, than who is…  You’d sort of think that this sort of thing would be obvious – ok, so maybe they haven’t got “Host Personality” tattooed on their forehead, but something would instinctively let you know surely???

We did have one who was the predominant fronting personality for much of our adult life, and her name is the one given to this body at birth, so maybe she’s “it”?  Only problem is that a couple of years ago  T thought the body was curled up on the couch reading, but it was actually S fronting having to have sex with the then husband and S forced T to see this.  At that point T went into her room in our internal house and locked the door.  We haven’t seen or heard from her since.

Feels like we’re trying to do a puzzle with most of the pieces missing and no idea what the final picture is meant to look like…

The following may trigger as a mild incident of abuse is discussed.

So onto secrets…  Over the last few weeks we’ve been struggling because we knew there was something going on internally, but we weren’t quite sure what it was.  We knew there were external stressors – ACC mediation, applying for a new job, finding a therapist etc, but this was something internal and quite different.  On Thursday we had another appointment with the woman’s support scheme/group that Bob encouraged us to contact.  In the morning we’d had a meeting about the review of the re-structuring that had occurred last year, so were very on edge and dissociated because of the stress.  When we got there the woman realised we were a bit out of it and suggested we do something other than talk.  She suggested drawing with crayons, which immediately fitted with what we needed to do.  After a bit of hesitation we agreed and sat on the floor with these crayons.  Thankfully the woman had to leave the room to go get some more colours (maybe just a good excuse?), so we could sit and gather ourselves.  There was an immediate need to go crazy on the paper with lots of red and black – just ram the crayon into the paper and rip it across so that it became covered in the black redness.  Sophie was overwhelmed at this point and a young one came forward.  She picked up the brown crayon and drew a table and chairs…  It was the classroom.

When we were in primary school there were a few students who knew quite a bit about sex – beyond the normal exploration.  We were one of this group.  Because this behaviour was such a normal part of our lives, we carried this sexual behaviour into the classroom.  One day we were under the table in the classroom pleasing one of the boys while a lesson was going on.  A student at another table suddenly yelled out “Look Miss Y, they’re doing dirty things”.  Miss Y looked straight at us while we were still under the table and as we moved to get back onto our chair, then she looked away.  Nothing happened as a result of this incident.

We’ve always wondered why this incident has affected us so badly.  It certainly wasn’t the worst thing an adult did to us.  Plenty of other adults had already turned a blind eye by that time.  Over the last few weeks we’d noticed this incident just sitting under the surface, chipping away at our safety.  After the young one had drawn this picture, the woman asked us about the incident.  It was only then we realised the true impact of this incident – we did more than tell the secrets that day, someone saw them and THEY DID NOTHING!  If a teacher saw the secrets and did nothing, what is the use of talking about them now?  No one will believe us.  So there’s no point in going to therapy, it’s all hopeless.  It was good to finally realise what the problem was.  We know what we’re facing again…

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Now playing: I’ll follow you into the dark – Deathcab for Cutie
via FoxyTunes

Caught between the old and the new…

So many aspects of our life right now are caught between old and new patterns, things, behaviours etc.  A therapist would probably describe it as a turning point, in that we can now see how damaging the past has been, but not yet healed enough to be able to fully challenge those old of ways of thinking and behaving.

Sometimes we can see glimpses of a healthy reaction to a situation.  Sometimes we’re flipped back into the old patterns and coping mechanisms.  Our reaction to Kriss is probably the most obvious example of this.  If he is not having a good day or is tired, we can sometimes see that it’s something that he has to manage – with our help if needed.  Unfortunately, most of the time we look for what we have done wrong, for him to be playing games with us or to be getting sick of having to deal with us.

The intellectual response is to realise that this is our PTSD and domestic violence patterns kicking in.  Problem is that we still can’t change our behaviour and reactions even though we know the reasons why.  The mixed messages from within make it impossible to decipher the true reason for him not having a good day.  The young parts fall into the only pattern of behaviour they know – “it’s our fault”; the angry ones consider him to “be a typical man that we need to get rid of”; the intellectuals argue about whether he is a good man, or we’re hoping he’s a good man but he’s actually just like the others and we’re fooling ourselves.  It’s exhausting to have this constantly going on.

This sort of thinking can go into every part of our life.  We know that this is often the reason that we can’t sleep – the brain is going too fast for it’s own good.  But the brain is all we know, we have very little awareness of the body – it’s too unreliable…

In the “well fancy that” files, we got the report to ACC from Bob yesterday.  She did consider us to be DID, she mentioned talking to alters and our “fragile personality structure”.  I now think that she was quite worried about that fragility, so as a result tried to rush an integration in an attempt to stop further splits.  If only we’d all been able to talk about it, things might have gone differently with her.  We’ll see what happens when we have an appointment with Carol (new codename for previous therapist).

Valentine’s Day

A year ago today, the ex-husband left us. Valentine’s Day means good and bad… hope and pain… life and death…

When Valentine's Day means pain
When Valentine’s Day means pain – by castorgirl on Polyvore.com

It’s gonna be a bad day… *Triggering*

A year ago today we were physically  assaulted by the ex-husband for the last time.  It’s a day to celebrate in that it was the last time he touched us with violence.  But we’re also being triggered by pretty much everything.

In the true tradition of YouTube, here is some illegal music that means something to each group within our internal house…

The Innocents – Hymn by Brooke Fraser

Sophie, M etc –  Breathe me by Sia

1st Floor –  Lust for life by Iggy Pop  Warning: clip contains content that should offend – we found a G rated one, but it’s all about Johnny Depp.  Iggy Pop and Johnny Depp????  Come on, seriously now…

Basement –  Show me how to live by Audioslave

Yes, we’re an eclectic group that doesn’t listen to any of the music above unless one group is strongly present.  We usually listen to soothing music of any genre.


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