Posts Tagged 'Mother'

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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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.

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

Perfect daughter – where are you?

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

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

Apple

Apple

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

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

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

Time to go back to being the perfect working daughter…

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Now playing: U2 – Running to Stand Still
via FoxyTunes

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

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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