Posts Tagged 'Husband'

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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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

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

Gender, victimisation, healing and society

Please note: This entry may trigger due to talk of sexual abuse.  When reading this, also consider that our point in the healing journey is still firmly in the intellectual, and it is one of our more unemotional ones writing this.

About a year ago, Matthew (our American friend) asked us if we considered that it was different for males to be sexually abused.  My immediate reaction was to say “of course”.  I said this purely from what male survivors have told me about the reactions of those they have made disclosures to.  The ex-husband was told that he should count himself lucky that he learned about it early, or that he was lucky he “got some” regularly.  To put this into context, he was sexually abused by his sister and her friend from the ages of 7-13.  Matthew has been accused of being homosexual because his abusers included males – his abuse started at the age of 3.

I know that women are also subjected to this sort of minimisation, denial and warped thinking.  But because of the perception of gender roles, many societies do not look at male sexual abuse victims in the same way as female victims.  This inequity can be seen in the stoning of a female rape victim in Somalia and the need for articles about the problems male rape survivors experience in America (e.g. Male disclosure of sexual abuse and rape).  This also makes sense within my culture – I crave secrecy about my abuse because I am an educated middle class woman of European descent, and “they” aren’t victims.  In New Zealand men are expected to play sport, hunt and do all things masculine, they are not expected to be victims.  Victims are that group of people whom no one ever sees, hears or knows.  The perpetrators are unknown “creepy” men in long overcoats whom drive slowly past schools.  Yes, stereotypes are alive and well around the world.

Maybe Rambo-Ronai (1995) and Blair (2002) were right when they compared society … to an abusive patriarch who demands the silence of his children. The groundbreaking work of the feminist movement did much to decode the complexities of violence and abuse, and new service delivery models for trauma have emerged (Goodwin, 2005); however, despite their titles, many agencies that identify themselves as sexual assault centers only serve women. This preclusion of male victimization is no doubt due to the primary mission to address the impact of male perpetration. However, through its inadvertent sole-gender mandate, these centers deny the reality of sexual victimization of men. Thus, male victims are provided with no avenue of reporting or addressing sexual abuse. What occurs is that social stereotypes are indirectly reinforced, and male survivors of sexual abuse remain social enigmas (Goodwin, 2005; Pelka, 1997).

(Lemelin, 2006, pp. 345-346)

We live in New Zealand where as a female survivor of abuse, we can access woman’s support programmes and specialised domestic violence courses for female survivors.  If I was a male survivor, my options for accessing those free programmes would be limited.  Many of the programmes receive funding on the proviso that the programme be targeted to a particular population (predominantly females, youth or a cultural minority).  I can see how this may assist the participants, but I can also see how this may create a barrier as well.  I’m not advocating for the gender specific programmes be disbanded, but rather there be a balance.

It has been interesting writing this entry.  There has been much angst about it internally due to the fear of offending any readers.  I apologise if I have caused offense by what I have written – especially to the male readers of this blog whom I know B and Sophie care about.  I also realise that this may offend woman readers, but I hope you can see that I’m not trying to minimise the woman’s experiences, but rather draw attention to a perceived inequity regarding an access to services and an attitude towards male survivors.

Reference:

Lemelin, R. (2006). Running to stand still: The story of a victim, a survivor, a wounded healer, a narrative of male sexual abuse from the inside. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 11(4), 337-350. Retrieved June 9, 2009, doi:10.1080/15325020600663128

Unfortunately, the article is only available through subscription or purchase.

Reflections and realisations

Today we were doing some work on our old blog when we realised something which tells us a great deal about our coping mechanisms and psychology.  Reading through the December entries it is obvious that we were struggling with what Bob was asking us to do – evicting one of us from our internal house.  But what is also obvious is that we were fighting!  We were arguing, trying to learn, working it through.  There was humour obvious in our entries despite the confusion – for example Today’s lesson on how to bang your head against a brick wall… When we compare these entries with the entries over the last few months, it appears obvious to us that our fighting spirit has gone.  Things are no worse than they were then.  In many ways they’re better.  What has changed is our reaction to the things around us.

Potential reasons for this –

  • We’ve been trialled on several different anti-anxiety medications, none of which have been effective and have often caused very nasty side effects.
  • We haven’t heard from Ellie (affectionately known as the “Irish Bitch” by Carrie) since before Christmas.  Ellie takes on many of the characteristics (and accent) of an amazing Irish uncle who told brilliant stories about his times as a policeman in Rhodesia and running black market flights in and out of Africa.
  • Management has been around only sparingly since that time as well.
  • The restructuring at work was badly handled and our job was changed to one that we don’t get any satisfaction from.
  • Our levels of exhaustion caused by chronic insomnia have not been able to be relieved by any catch-up weekend sleeps.
  • We took the risk of caring for Kriss and it proved to be a disaster.
  • People around us who knew about “us” mentioned that they wanted to talk to the “real T” and that they didn’t want different ones coming forward to perform their roles.  This told some of us that they weren’t wanted and were being rejected.
  • We don’t have anything concrete in front of us to fight.  We don’t have the husband to get rid of, Liz doesn’t generate the anger that Bob did and we don’t care about our job.

Little OneWhat we’re going to do about it…  kick ourselves in the butt.  Remind our collective selves that the reason we survived that kindergarten fort, rugby clubrooms, parties etc is because we are stubborn fighters!  It’s about time we remembered that.

At the moment we need to poke and prod at ourselves to get that fighting spirit back.  We need Management, Ellie, S, Sophie and every one of us to fight back against this apathy.

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Now playing: Iggy pop – Lust for life
via FoxyTunes

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

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