Archive for the 'Family' 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.

—————-
Now playing: Powderfinger – Sunsets (acoustic)
via FoxyTunes

I’m thick!

Yup, I’m thick.  I might be intelligent, but I’m still as thick as a thick thing on a thick day.  I’ve been a dissociative, anxiety ridden wreck for the last week and had no idea why.  I thought it was just S acting out that was causing me to lose so much time.  It’s only today when I was at the supermarket check-out that it clicked… The check-out operator was asking the usual pleasantries about how my day was etc.  Then she asked the big one “Did you do anything special for Father’s Day?”  How in the world could I not connect today with being Father’s Day?  I brought one of the special Father’s Day lotto tickets last week; I’ve seen the Father’s Day card stands in the shops; I’ve seen the advertisements on television; I even thought of buying a camera tripod in a Father’s Day sale.  But for some reason, the words ‘Father’s Day’ didn’t connect correctly in my brain.  Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t associate it with the father and the past.

I don’t know if this lack of connection is a good or bad thing, but it sure helps to explain why I’ve lost most of the week.  It could also explain why S was acting out so violently and challenging the power dynamics within the system.  We were all oblivious to her pain and memories…  I’m so sorry S, please forgive us.

—————-
Now playing: Mad World – Gary Jules
via FoxyTunes
watch via YouTube

Alone

The mother has gone and we’re alone.  It’s a very odd feeling after her being here for so long.  I knew there would be some reaction after she left, and there was.  It wasn’t tears, grief, or even relief; but rather a sense of wanting to “reclaim our territory”.  The house, body and reactions almost feel as if they belonged to the mother while she is here.  I know that this is our sense of wanting to be the perfect daughter for her, but it’s quite disconcerting to look back on it and realise what had happened.

While she was here, we tried so hard to appear “normal”, and we quite often succeeded.  She was much more accepting of the times when any form of normalcy was impossible.  This gave us hope that she was more accepting of us, but that hope was put under question yesterday when she stated that she is going to come off the anti-depressants that she’s been on for the last year.  Our fear is that this accepting attitude will disappear when the drugs wear off.  I know that the drugs have shown that she can be accepting, but that acceptance was covered up by her inability to cope with what life sent her way.  She hasn’t been in therapy or learned new skills to cope with life, so with the drug leaving her system, will those stressors mean that she will again not be able to cope?

When we got back from dropping the mother off at the airport, S ended up calling Matthew.  It turns out his intentions have changed from talking to his house mate, to something else.  This was the trigger for a night of self-injury.  We’ve just cleaned the house, mowed the lawns and did some gardening to distract and possibly punish ourselves for allowing S to come forward and act out.  Which of course infers that we have some control over the switching, which we don’t *sigh*.

We have a two week break from sessions with Liz as she goes on holiday.  She asked if we wanted to text her while she was away, we said “No, we’ll be fine”.  Liz said that she knew we would be fine because we were survivors and had the skills to ensure that no matter what happened, we will still function.  I think she has more faith in our ability to not self-destruct than we do.

—————-
Now playing: Brooke Fraser – C S Lewis Song’
via FoxyTunes

Google maps as a therapeutic tool

Several years ago we tried to create a hand drawn map to show our therapist where the different places we talked about were.  This turned into a triggering and self-destructive experience as a young one came forward and was overwhelmed by looking at the different “bad places” on the map.  Last night we tried something slightly different.  We were talking to another survivor online and we decided to try using Google Maps to show each other significant places in our present and past.  It was an interesting experience, it didn’t have the tactile component that caused the dissociative switch to a younger one who would see the exercise as a threat or a trigger for a flashback.  Instead it became an exercise for the computer literate, analytical thinkers.

The road where we grew up has been covered by Google Street View, so we could see how that house looks now.  This was probably the hardest part of the exercise.  It looked like such a normal, boring, middle class, typical New Zealand house.  Our old bedroom window is visible, but we couldn’t look at it.  The most we could do is look at the garden, this has changed dramatically.  But there was no indication that anything awful happened in that house.  In some ways this is comforting, as it helps us to understand why no one asked any questions about us.  We were the quiet girl from a sometimes rough family – we were the lucky one in many peoples eyes.

We probably ended up with about 12 markers on the map; these included schools, places where the father worked and a few other random places where abusive events had occurred.  We became very conscious that there had to be some “good” markers placed to try and balance the “bad”.  But we tried not to dwell too much on efforts to balance things out, but rather to purely put a marker in the map.  By doing this, the place became just that – a place.  It was where something bad happened to us, and that will never change.  But that place became a blue marker on a map, it wasn’t about the emotions, events or anything overwhelming.

I suppose in some ways, it was opening the door to further exploration about what occurred at each of those markers, but I really don’t think that is necessary.  Those markers became an acknowledgement.  They were the sign to us and our friend that a little girl was once hurt in that place.  Our friend respected that and some of us internally needed that…

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…

—————-
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.

—————-
Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Shadowfeet
via FoxyTunes

My father’s chair

Note: This was triggering to write, it might be triggering to read.

One of us has said that “My father’s chair” would be an excellent title to the book of our life. This isn’t to say that we are going to write an autobiography, but rather that this chair was pivotal to our life for so many years. To give you the context, I’ll tell you a little of our family hierarchy. We were the youngest of four children and the parents had an interesting relationship where the mother was the dominant force in many ways. We were all scared of the mother when it came to discipline, she would yell at us and enforce physical punishment.  In contrast, the father sat in his chair in brooding anger.

As far as I’m aware we had two sets of lounge furniture during my life in that house.  I don’t have any memories of the first one, but I know from family stories that it was a 3 seater couch with 2 chairs.  When the renovations on the house were done, a new set was purchased.  It was a 3.5 seater couch and had larger chairs.  Even with this second couch, I was relegated to the floor as I was the youngest and smallest child.  The older siblings would simply push me off the couch and use me as a foot stool.  Because of this, I was often invited to sit on the father’s lap.

You would think that this would mean that I hated that chair.  I think some of us did and still do, but I also know that we felt some sort of tie to the chair.  When we wanted to be far away from the sister’s boyfriend one night, we curled up on the father’s chair.  I’m not sure if this was to gain some sense of strength from the chair, or possibly it was to try and kick-start the dissociation.

One of the enduring memories of this chair is the view from behind the chair, looking at the father sitting in it with his legs crossed.  Often there would be a beer in his hand.  It is amazing how his silence could fill the room.  How his anger could fill the room.  I know that some of us used to bait him by making fun of the rugby or cricket.  I tried not to let that happen too often as the consequences weren’t pleasant.

His anger could make everyone in the house walk around on eggshells.  Some outbursts of anger were expected – the sister getting a new boyfriend, the brother being in a car accident, school report time.  But sometimes he would brood for days or weeks.  During those times I had to carry and fetch for him.  I remember the mother saying we were his favourite so he wouldn’t hurt us…

When the marriage ended and the house contents were sold, the lounge furniture was split up.  The couch was kept, but the chairs were thrown away.  I remember R coming forward and saying he wanted to burn the chairs.  The mother laughed at this, thinking it was part of the game where we now all hated the father.  She didn’t see the rage behind the statement.

It’s been hard writing this without falling into a flashback.  Sometimes the flashbacks are so strong in their pull, they suck you in and take you for a roller-coaster ride through hell.  I know I’ve glossed over much of what occurred in and around that chair.  But you all don’t need to read the details.

What I will share, is that the father’s anger was thrust upon me through the actions of those around me.  I’ll never understand why they chose the youngest and most sensitive child to act as fetch and carrier for the angry force in the house.  Yes, we were his favourite, but that wasn’t a good thing.  This role encouraged me to feel responsible for his anger.  It made me feel as if his explosions were my fault.  As children, we often feel as if we are responsible for the anger of our parents and desperately try to fix things.  But most of the time we have no idea what was broken, so we look around for a miracle cure that doesn’t exist.

—————-
Now playing: Hollie Smith – Bathe in the river
via FoxyTunes


April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Categories

I’m feeling…

My Unkymood Punkymood (Unkymoods)

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

del.icio.us

Flickr

Minion pumpkin

Milkweed

Jetty

More Photos