Posts Tagged 'Child abuse'

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

Demonising parts

I was talking to someone yesterday who got me thinking…  I’ve talked about S several times in this blog – she was born to protect the rest of the system from the sexual abuse and to cope with the psychological and physical abuse from the sister.  I’ve said that I respect her, but I’m also scared of her – what she holds and what she does.  I’m now wondering if is it possible for those factors to co-exist?

Yesterday, I became very aware that I have pigeon-holed S…  I am comfortable with labeling her as the “sexual one”, and the one who “lives and breathes sex”.  But what I forget when I say that, is that she is more than just “sex”.  She has shown this in the past by talking to other survivors and NOT turning the conversation to sex.  Another indication that she is more than what I imagine her to be, is one of her interactions with Kriss earlier this year.  Yes, that conversation involved sex, but it was discussing the past.  She was trying to heal.  I wonder how often I have put the brakes on her healing…

I’m not really sure how to deal with this information.  I know that I’m not ready to face what S holds.  I also know that I don’t have to re-experience every aspect of the past in order to heal from it.  But on some level, I will need to face what S had to do.  I truly admire her strength and courage.  She stood up to the sister when no one else could or would.  She has come forward at other times to help us when we’ve felt bullied, so I know she is more than sex.  But it’s so easy to pigeon-hole her with that label.  The ultimate in irony and hypocrisy – we HATE being labeled with a diagnosis, yet I gain comfort from labeling S.

Realistically, my next step should be to talk to Liz about S.  But this will bring up the whole sex issue.  I don’t think I can do that, there’s so much shame, disgust and rubbish tied to our ideas and feelings about sex that I don’t know if I can.  But I also know that I need to do something.  S is acting out in ways that are harmful, possibly as a way to gain some needed attention.  If I don’t act soon, how much damage will I do?  What is worse, finding out what it will take for S to be heard and healed, or ignoring it all?

—————-
Now playing: Dixie Chicks – Wide open spaces
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…

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

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…

—————-
Now playing: Missy Higgins – Stuff and nonsense
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

del.icio.us

Flickr

Minion pumpkin

Milkweed

Jetty

More Photos