Posts Tagged 'Abuse'



Dirty and disgusting

Note:  This post may trigger due to sexual references.

It’s not been a good day.  We were meant to go over to Tauranga to see the ocean, but the mother woke up with a cold, so those plans were cancelled.  This meant that we were left on our own for most of the day as the mother tried to sleep the cold away.  In the morning this was fine, we went out and cleared our mail from the post office and found that a series of DVDs we’d ordered from England had arrived a week earlier than expected – yay for Amazon.uk and the Royal Mail!  When we got home there was an email from our American friend.  In that two line email, he managed to make us feel dirty, disgusting and used.  He was manipulating us into trying to scare away his current housemate who thinks that dissociation is fun, he thought the way to do this was for S to talk to her and then have phone sex with her.

S was used to please women during the CSA.  She knows how to please women as well as men.  Our friend wanted to use that ability.  It’s been a long time since we’ve felt that used and manipulated.  We know it’s the wrong thing to do, but S feels an irresistible pull to please our friend by doing what he bids.  The only thing that stopped the phone call was the mother being in the house.

We hadn’t heard from him in over a week, so thought he was finished with us.  We’d talked honestly about something that happened a few weeks ago involving S acting in a self-injurious way and he’d reacted in such an odd and negative way, that we thought he was disgusted in us.  But now he is blatantly trying to use our dysfunction for his own needs.  It’s been a struggle not to self-injure today.  S badly wanted to act out.  We tried going to take photos, but there were too many people around.  We felt too dirty to be near other people.  Children were everywhere and we had this fear that we would contaminate them with our filth by being near them.

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

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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.

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Now playing: Hollie Smith – Bathe in the river
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

Oceans

I’ve never lived more than a 2 hour drive away from the ocean.  Until my early 20’s I could drive 15 minutes and be looking out to sea.  This was my escape, my coping mechanism, my release from the craziness in my head that I didn’t understand…  Go around to the beach and sit and watch the waves come in.  Watching the endless wave action, hearing the water birds calling, seeing the sunset or sunrise…  these are the things that have always brought us back to steady ground internally.

I think this is part of the reason that when our friends are in pain, we’ve never known what to say to help.  We don’t know soothing words, but we know peaceful silence that comes from being alone with the ocean.  You can’t transfer that feeling into words.

When we lived in Wellington, we would sometimes go around Coast Road beyond Wainuiomata and watch the storms rolling in from the Antarctic.  It was like watching some of the storms that happen within my head.  Seeing the ferocious wind and waves crash up against the rocks, it freed some of the tension and anger that we would feel coming from our internal Basement.

Negative memories are associated with the ocean, but we can block those out when looking out to sea.  It numbs, yet frees us.  We’ve yet to find an alternative for this feeling, the lake is a very poor substitute.

We need the ocean now…

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Now playing: U2 – Running to Stand Still
via FoxyTunes

Silence is very loud

As a note of warning, this entry could be triggering.  No event is described, but abuse is mentioned.

If you have silence in communities, I think that silence is very loud.

(Rebombo as cited in Jecks, 2009)

This quote is from Dumisani Rebombo, a man who admits to raping a young woman in his village.  He was talking about how silence within the community, enables South Africa to continually have appallingly high rape statistics.  But I think that this quote is easily transferred to almost every situation where abuse goes unreported or hidden.  Someone is keeping the silence, someone is benefiting from that silence and someone is suffering within that silence.  Through tacit consent areas within society allow abuse to occur.  In New Zealand, the most obvious case of this was the death of Nia Glassie.  Neighbours and family members admitted during the trial, to seeing Nia being subjected to the horrific abuse.  But, they never reported any of this abuse to the authorities until after her death.  The silence around Nia was deafeningly loud.

The secrets that the dissociative system keep are another form of this type of silence.  I often wonder when we learned to keep the silence.  As a newborn until about six months old we screamed whenever put down for a nap, so we obviously didn’t come into this world silent.  We were the only one of the four children that was a Plunket baby – monitored for health, well-being and development.  According to our Plunket book, we were a healthy, happy, alert and curious baby.  But by the time we reached school, we were noted as being withdrawn, studious and a loner.  The changes in our behaviour may well be nothing of consequence, but in the context of Katie being three (nearly four), it raises questions.  It is this documented change that I struggle with the most.  Why were there no questions asked?  Why didn’t anyone see the changes?  I know that there are now no answers for these questions, but it feels like we were subjected to abuse and an associated tacit consent from before the age of four.  This consent meant that for the next 30 years, it felt as if we didn’t have any control over our life.  This statement is obviously not true in the strictest meaning of the words – we went to University, got a job, moved away from the home town etc.  But none of those decisions seemed to have been made consciously, it was about meeting expectations of those around us and keeping busy – must always keep busy…

The one other area of our life where the quote from Rebombo fits, is the silent anger that the father exhibited.  I’ve mentioned the father’s brooding, silent anger briefly several times in this blog.  One day I might be able to write about it in more depth – not his anger, but the effects that it had.  Today isn’t that day, but if I keep mentioning it in little snippets, then it becomes less scary to talk and think about.  Well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it :)

Reference:

Jecks, N. (2009, July 29). Tackling South Africa’s rape epidemic. BBC News. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8171874.stm

Secrets acting as a poison

Two blogs that I read regularly have talked about secrets recently – Secrets over at Kerro’s Korner and Amy in a password protected entry in Waiting my turn in the queue.  Both wrote about being how the seemingly poisonous, insidious way that secrets can eat away at you.  Kerro describes the toxic relationship that can be formed with secrets.  My comment on Amy’s blog was to share five secrets that I have.  Two of these secrets aren’t really secrets at all, namely –

  1. I’m sure I’m faking this whole abuse history and mental health stuff – I’m such a drama queen.
  2. I hurt myself every day and I don’t really care – I deserve it.

Anyone who even half knows me, knows that I believe these two things about myself.  The other three secrets are a not things that I can comfortably share here – yes, secrets have a grip over me.

Part of my abuse was a fairly typical threat about keeping secrets.  But, as a child I was incredibly bad at keeping secrets.  There is a family story that I told the mother that she wouldn’t find the watch she was getting for her birthday in that drawer, it was in the bedside table.  This story has always encouraged me to doubt my abuse history – surely if I was this bad at keeping secrets, I would have told someone what was going on.  But the session a couple of weeks ago with Jo gave a clue as to why this was possible, apparently the young ones within the system have a hierarchy of secrets.  Some secrets weren’t really secret, so you could let the little girl know about those ones – gift location for the mother was amongst that level of secret.  But the other secrets were held by the younger ones created from the abuse, these were the real secrets.  These young ones knew about the importance of secrets, they had been told what would happen if those secrets were told.  They lived with those threats and kept the secrets well hidden.

Insert from Management: The incident with the mother’s watch also taught them how to keep secrets, they learned it was bad to tell.

But how much can those secrets hurt me now, if told?  Jessica Hagy has provided one potential answer in Indexed with her entry about Physics and emotions.  Jessica looked at the relationship between time, distance or pain and the speed or trouble caused.  But for us, this formula doesn’t quite fit.  Our abuse secrets seem to have a different timeframe – I’ve always thought that if you don’t tell about the abuse straight away, then it becomes exponentially more difficult to tell someone as time goes on.  Then there is a breaking point – the coping mechanisms are overwhelmed and the self-destructive pattern reaches a crisis.  This is where in some regards, the ACC system had the benefit of forcing me to tell about some events in order to get coverage for the mental injury.  The problem was that we weren’t ready to share those events, it became more traumatic to talk about it.  We’re still not ready.  The secrets that we have shared with the mother and therapists have always been believed, but this actually scares us more.  Why do people believe us?  It makes no sense.  Sorry the denial comes forward so strongly at times, it all becomes a jumbled mess.

I’m not sure when the grip that the secrets hold over me will ease.  I live in fear of that day, what will it mean for myself and those around me to know what happened?  What possible benefit will come from telling the mother that this is what happened to her little girl?  I don’t plan on pressing charges against anyone.  I’ve already decided that telling the mother everything isn’t an option, she isn’t healthy enough to be able to support me.  So the only benefit is to lance the festering wound that sits in my brain.  One day I will have to convince the young ones that this will help, that we and they are worthy of telling their truth…

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Now playing: Missy Higgins – Where I stood
via FoxyTunes

Were you missed while growing up?

Liz asked us this a few weeks ago.  At the time we answered that we wanted to be, but too many people saw us.  The implication for us was that people saw us and hurt us.  But for Liz this question had a totally different meaning.  She wasn’t asking if people physically saw us, but rather she meant that people didn’t notice us.  We were overlooked, ignored and treated as a chattel.  We weren’t listened to.  Nobody got down to our eye level, ask us how we were and waited for a response.  Part of me is grieving that fact, part of me thinks it’s more melodrama and we just need to get over it.

We were rarely treated with hate.  We were annoying for those around us, but we never generated hatred in anyone except the sister and to a lesser degree the other siblings.  I wonder if we had generated open hatred whether our life would have been different?  Would open hatred have led someone to noticing that we were being hurt?  The mother would often forget us when we were out shopping and we ended up having to wear a harness because we were constantly wandering off or being forgotten.  It’s odd reading these words, I don’t feel any sympathy towards that little girl; but I’d be the first to call the authorities if I saw similar behaviour towards another child.

So we were missed, as Liz calls it.  No one noticed us and this made us an ideal target for abuse.  The teachers missed the signs, the mother never saw a thing and the abusers saw an opportunity – this was one group of people that didn’t overlook us.  I’m sure that this became part of our self-defeating cycle of needing to be invisible.  We need to be invisible because no one can hurt you if you aren’t there.  This need also meant that we actively deflected any worry people may have had, away from ourselves.  Mickie remembers going into 6th form Biology one day and just sitting on our stool with our bag on our desk for the whole lesson.  To put that into context, we were usually a very attentive student – you had to be in order to keep under the teachers radar.  But that day Mickie was fronting and he didn’t want to even pretend to do Biology.  Something really bad had happened the day before and he’d had enough.  The teacher who had known us for over two years came up and asked us if we were alright at the end of the lesson, Mickie grunted that we were fine.  The teacher replied “Poor Michelle” and went back to preparing for the next class.  This was the teacher who was the closest to actually seeing us, and we deflected him.  Life is filled with these “what if” moments.  But there is no use holding onto them and questioning our motives.  The only option is to learn from them.

I know that many of the people who read this would have been subjected to hatred by various people, including those who should have cared and protected them.  I don’t want to in any way minimise the damage that hatred can do.  But I think abusers know when to show that hatred, which is why I state that open hatred might have changed our life, just as it might have changed those who were subjected to hidden hatred.  The sister knew when she could be open in her hatred for us, and who would go along with that hatred.  To her and a group of her friends we were a play thing.  This hatred did immense damage to us physically and psychologically, but it was always hidden from someone who would question it.

It’s time to go take some calming photos… Take care…

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


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