Archive for the 'Creative expression' 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

Looking out through crying eyes

Looking out through crying eyes

Looking out through crying eyes

Perfect daughter – where are you?

While growing up, I tried very hard to be the perfect daughter.  I was polite, quiet, obedient, a good student, tidy, shy and seemingly happy.  This is the daughter my mother knows and loves.  She doesn’t know the daughter she is now faced with.  She doesn’t recognise the woman who can’t go outside unless it’s for work; the woman who will stand in the middle of the kitchen and start scratching her hand while staring into space; the woman who says that she can’t serve up dinner because the food has suddenly become dirty and disgusting; the woman who sits on the Internet until 2am because the idea of sleep is too scary for her and she needs the distraction.

This week, the mother has been faced more and more with the daughter she doesn’t know or recognise.  The session on Monday with Liz stirred up all sorts of issues internally and I’ve been struggling to cope with the reaction.  It got to the point on Tuesday night that there was going to be some fairly serious self-destructive behaviour occur if there wasn’t some intervention.  That intervention came in the form of someone coming forward to take photos.  They realised we were too unsafe to drive anywhere, so the usual routine of driving somewhere to take photos was out.  Instead they decided to use some props from around the house to see what they could do.  The mother could tell we weren’t well, so she ended up helping by having a look for different props to photograph and holding the torch we used as a light source.  This is one of the results…

Apple

Apple

Because the mother helped us with all of this, she could monitor us more closely.  She said that it wasn’t until after the photos had all been taken and we were putting them onto the computer for processing that we sort of “came back”.

Awhile ago, Sophie tried to apologise for the not being that perfect daughter the mother remembered.  The mother said that we were probably never that perfect daughter, but she didn’t see it.  She didn’t see what that perfection was hiding.  I think she really does want to help sometimes.  But her own dysfunctional thinking and lack of healing, mean that she will never really be able to help us.  I don’t resent her inability to help us, but I do wish that she would seriously look at her own need to heal.  She went to therapy for a couple of sessions, but then stopped as she thought it wasn’t going anywhere.

I’m aware this makes us sad or uncomfortable or something.  I’m not good at naming or understand emotions, but I noticed that the body was feeling very cold and I need to do up the jersey we wore to work.

Time to go back to being the perfect working daughter…

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Now playing: U2 – Running to Stand Still
via FoxyTunes

Music, soothing and snobbery

Jennifer Riley over at Psych Scamp recently shared some links to research about music therapy.  Until this final prompt, I never really considered the role that music plays in my life. When I wrote about Oceans soothing me, Paul responded that music gave him a similar feeling.  I didn’t really think about this at the time because I was so caught up in my feelings about the ocean, but I think I can understand a little more about what Paul was meaning now.

I know many people use music to soothe and to help tell their stories – Matthew (our American friend) often uses music to indicate how he is feeling and to try and take away the pain; Secret Shadows lists music that has a special meaning for her within her blog; and Sophie used music to help tell our story when creating the Little girl lost clip on YouTube.  But for me music has often been a noise in the background, it’s not something that I really thought about, but I feel fear when it isn’t there to break the silence.  I suppose in many ways, music is a form of protection for me.  But for others in the system, music has a totally different meaning… a few bars of heavy metal and R is fronting, ready to take on the world; One prefers the blues and Motown so he can lie back and restore energy; Sophie prefers Pink, Brooke Fraser and alternative music, while  Katie loves anything that will mean she can dance around.

Our taste in music has always been fairly eclectic, with classical being one of the few genres we don’t listen to.  I know that the main cause for the lack of classical music in my life is the influence of the father.  He would make fun of those who listened to classical music, saying that they were elitist snobs.  I have no memory of us listening to anything other than what he described as, the local “rubbish” radio station.  I have no idea what his idea of good music was, but it wasn’t anything that the family listened to.  A week ago, we were sent a link to some classical music and from that list we went straight to two pieces which were in the middle of the list.  This in itself is odd, we usually have to work through lists from top to bottom.  But these two pieces (Cantique de Jean Racine and Silouans Song) were picked and recognised by part of the system immediately.

As I write this, W is telling me that we got told off for listening to the Concert programme by the father.  I think listening to classical music was her rebellion against him.  While we listened to these two pieces, there was calm throughout the system.  It was a different calm to what we experience when near the ocean, but I think this is because more of the senses are involved with the ocean experience.  But still, there was a sense of peace.  We all listened with respect to something that held importance for a young one.  It was her quiet protest and we all admire her strength and courage.  But we also just loved the music, it held a fascination for the rest of us.  I know those of you who know classical music will be able to tell me why those two pieces are amazing, but for us it wasn’t about dissecting something to understand it.  Listening to that music was purely about being there and being surrounded by something soothing.  That is a special gift.

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Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Shadowfeet
via FoxyTunes

Losing myself… over and over

The last few months have been interesting ones to reflect on.  I can spot within the blog entries the points at which I’ve been suicidal, trying to reach out and at what point I shut down and went back to the “everything is fine” mindset.  This is the one of the big advantages of blogging – the ability to reflect back on your thinking.

So I sit here, listening to Missy Higgins and wonder how I can keep going and in which direction to go.  I know that I am losing myself again.  I know I do this regularly.  I get lost, confused and overwhelmed.  I then seem to find some sort of plateau that seems safe for awhile – almost like finding a clearing in the forest.  I’m deep in the forest now and I’ve got no idea which direction to turn.

Having the mother here is difficult.  I have issues about the sound of people eating or breathing – yeah, I know it’s weird.  I can’t stand the sound of either, it seems to get amplified in my head and drives me crazy.  Unfortunately the mother does both fairly loudly.  I wish I could say that I love her and this is the only problem, but in all honesty I don’t love her.  I know some of us feel happy when she is around, but there are no tears when she leaves.  We don’t mind her being here for a short time, but we’d prefer it if she was only here for a very short time.  I know this sounds ungrateful, disrespectful and as if it’s breaking some law of nature.  But I don’t feel anything much towards her.  I also don’t feel hatred, I know that much.

Part of the reason is that I have never felt like a person around her.  If I was noticed, it was as a medical condition, an A+ grade at school, thin, fat, loud, silent, the mistake…  I was never “Michelle”.  This de-humanisation has been present throughout my life.  At the wedding, it became more about what the sister-in-law wanted rather than anything to do with me or the now ex-husband.  This feeling of being an object is what I tried to capture in one of the very first Polyvore sets I did…

I was a silhouette that had no soul, no place and no voice.  I can hear some in the background telling me not to be so melodramatic :)  I apologise, I’m in a rather odd mood.

Yesterday while out mowing the lawns, we decided to give Liz another try.  It was interesting reading through the comments to our entry about our journey with therapists (a BIG thank you to those who contributed).  Our reaction to the comments summed up our history – if it was possible to read into any of them that the whole issue was our fault, we would; if it was possible to read into it that it was the fault of the therapist; we would internally defend them.  It was a replica of our attitude towards our abusers…

Anyway, we’ve decided to give seeing Liz another go.  We don’t have any strong objections to her methodologies (although the religion issue is a big red flag).  Many of our issues with her are about her habits, for example turning her cell phone to vibrate mode.  I’m a little stunned that none of her other clients have found this an issue.  One of the major issues is that we are unable to communicate an issue as it occurs.  Because of this, we couldn’t say “Liz, we find it uncomfortable that you look at your cell phone while we are having a session”.  We sent an email to her to explain some of the issues and to see if she thought therapy was what we needed right now.  She responded that maybe the relationship issues with therapists is something that needs to be part of my healing (or words to that effect).  I agree with this, but also know that I’ve let bad therapeutic relationships go on for too long when they’ve hurt and been destructive.  I don’t trust my own judgement on what to do at a very basic level.  I, as the object doesn’t have a direction…

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Now playing: Missy Higgins – Stuff and nonsense
via FoxyTunes

Our journey with therapists

I’ve seen 4 therapists in the last 5 years.  That seems a high number.  M was told by Liz that we have very high expectations of therapists, maybe they are too high?  Here’s a brief run-down of what happened with each –

Debra seen for 6-8 months.
Worked part-time from home.  Her methods were based on Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  She was intelligent and studying towards her masters.  Reason why we stopped seeing her was because of boundary issues and she was stopping therapy work to concentrate on her masters.

Carol seen for 2.5 years.
Worked part-time from offices.  Her methods were based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with some influence from other methodologies including Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Reason why we stopped seeing her was because of boundary issues and her fascination with our dissociation. She loved playing with Aimee. She wasn’t helping us move forward in any meaningful way and we’d started to become convinced that she had planted the whole idea of DID in our head.

Bob seen for 6-8 months.
Worked full-time from her extremely busy offices. She came highly recommended and we saw her to try and find out if we were making this dissociation thing up. She had extensive experience with abused teens and children. Things went a bit haywire with Bob when she was trying to force an integration of personality states to counter what she described as a “fragile personality structure”. We stopped seeing her when the short term contract was up with ACC.

Liz seen for about 6 months.
Works part-time from offices. She was the only therapist willing to take on a client that came with warnings about dissociative issues. She has other dissociative clients and came recommended from another therapist. We don’t know if we can go back to see her.

Earlier this week we posted a rant that was fairly quickly deleted.  It covered the issues we’d had when seeing Liz on Monday and problems we’d seen throughout the time we’d been seeing her.  Some of these include:

  • Turning her cell phone volume down during sessions.  It has rung during session, so you get the noise of a vibrating cell phone dancing across the desk as you’re trying to talk about something important.  She has also looked at the cell phone to see who is calling while in session.
  • She has a habit of clearing her throat when being asked something difficult or is faced with challenging ones within the system.  Mickie is generally silent during sessions when fronting, which prompted much throat clearing and a conversation about us living alone meaning that we don’t know how to socialise and make conversation.
  • On Monday there was a discussion about our night-time photography trips and the reason why we’re doing them – to get hurt.  Liz suggested that the reason why we hadn’t been hurt was because of someone or something looking out for us.  She was meaning a higher power of some sort.  Any talk of religion is a huge trigger for us.  It felt more like the focus of the discussion had moved from helping us, to preaching to us.
  • She is unable to remember our basic biographical information – we’re the youngest of four, get on alright with the oldest brother and have minimal contact with the entire family.  This is the sort of information that she has asked several times, including constructing a sociogram with us.  If the information was important enough to ask several times, it’s important enough for her to remember or to write on the front page of our file for easy reference.

Monday’s session was particularly bad.  The religion trigger set off a negative reaction with W.  M came forward to protect W when she realised what was going on, but it was too late.  This meant that M came forward annoyed that Liz was talking religion without checking out who was present and their beliefs about the subject.

It was after Liz again asked M about our basic biographical information that things got particularly tense.  M asked why Liz had to keep asking about this information, Liz responded that she might get a different answer one day.  M pointed out that we would always be the youngest of four children and unless something major happened, we’d still feel the same about the family as we do now.  Liz said our expectation that she would manage this information was too high, M asked what a reasonable expectation would be…

To be fair, M was defensive as Liz had challenged one of the young ones she protects.  But Liz was helpless to find us all a way through that defensive mechanism.  We left without making a further appointment.  If this has been a one off bad session we would have had a cool-off period and made another appointment.  But it isn’t, it’s the latest in a series of unusual sessions.

Now we’re stuck.  We don’t trust Liz and don’t know if we can go back to see her.  But if we don’t, are we doing so because our expectations are too high?  Are we being unreasonable with our expectations that a therapist will manage basic information, silence their cell phone and not talk about sensitive issues without checking who is present?  Maybe our reaction is off the scale because of our dysfunctional thinking and reactions?

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Now playing: Audioslave – Cochise
via FoxyTunes

Bridge and night photography

We’ve started to go out at night taking photos.  When we first started doing this I took it as being a simple distraction; now I’m starting to think there is more to it.  The photo below is one of our favourites and was taken on a busy night in town under one of the bridges.  Under this particular bridge is quite busy – there is a road where cars tend to speed down and the homeless and drunk often gather nearby.  Put into this mix a dissociative woman walking into this area with a $2000 camera.  Are we asking to be robbed, attacked or both?  All of the places where we’ve taken photos at night have been in similarly risky areas.  Our neighbourhood is a rough one, yet we go walking with the camera knowing we won’t be able to take good photos because of our essential tremor (shaking hands and slower shutter speeds of night photography don’t mix).  I had sort of relaxed about our night expeditions as I thought they were innocent distractions.  Now I have to try to monitor them more closely…

Bridge reflection

Bridge reflection


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