Skip to main content

How Much Is Too Much Abuse?



I've known for a long time that I grew up in a dysfunctional home, but it was only recently that I decided to fully accept that I was abused. Accepting it meant that I was willing to take that knowledge out of the dusty back corners of my mind where I had been storing it, and finally put it on display for others to see. It's like discovering you inherited one of those (Margaret) Keane "Big Eyes" paintings that you know is considered valuable, but to you it's some worn out, tacky/ freaky tchochke that directly contrasts with your contemporary tastes. I know for my own healing, I need to expose it, but I don't know where to put it.

I had been minimizing it for so long, I really don't know how "big" it is. I vacillate  between thinking I'm over it and ready to move on, and then I am blindsided with a debilitating memory or emotional flashback. I get restless and I want to go back to my usual way of coping, which is to push it away and keep myself too busy to think. But instead, I am learning to sit with it, to look at it, to feel it. It feels shitty. This new strategy feels foreign to me. How much is "too much"? Am I wallowing? What's the healthy way to acknowledge the reality of my past?

I need to determine for myself what's enough and what's too much. It's hard to gauge, because I was told from a formative age to "get over it," and "you're being dramatic," and "that didn't happen." Then when I go back and analyze the events, I realize that, yes, it did happen, it was pretty fucking dramatic, and no, I am not over it.  I had a normal response to a traumatic event, and then I pushed it away. I repeated that pattern over, and over, and over, because it was how I survived my childhood.

Sometimes when I uncover a memory or really look at what happened,  I marvel that I am alive at all. I don't think I should be, statistically speaking. When I divulge a few details to friends for the first time, the typical response I get is shock over how I turned out so normal and well-adjusted. Right now, "Big Eyes" is out on my mantelpiece,  staring back at me. I don't feel well-adjusted. I feel raw. I feel hurt. I feel permanently damaged. I hate looking at it.

Yet, the longer I look, other thoughts come. One big, obvious one that I hope to dwell on is, "Look how far you've come." Another is, "Yes, that happened, and you survived." Better yet is, "Not only did you survive, you stopped the pattern." Best of all, "Look at the love and life in your family today. You made it."

I wish I could live there permanently, in the thoughts that remind me more of heaven than of hell. But today, I need to embrace where I am. I am in all of these places simultaneously, because they are all valid, and they are all me.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

No, There Are Not Two Sides

I was in a meeting where a mediator was trying her best to stay impartial to a situation where a large volume of well-documented verbal and emotional abuse had occurred. She was a trained professional, but professionally speaking, she didn't want to be in a position to take sides on the issue. She offered the worn-out platitude, "Well, there are two sides to every story..." I let it slide the first time she said it, but when she said it again, I stopped her.

"Actually, when it comes to abuse, there are not two sides. There is abuse, and there is the recipient of abuse. The recipient of abuse is not at fault for the actions of the abuser."

Her jaw dropped a moment, then she nodded slowly. She knew I was right, and in this moment, a light went on. The situation she was mediating was not about two people having a disagreement. It was about a serial abuser attacking someone else who had done nothing to provoke the attack. She couldn't stay impartial. It was h…

Codependent or Empath?

There are a number of resources and articles for survivors of narcissistic abuse, and taken in all together, are extremely helpful in better understanding the abuser and our own role in the abuse. There is a certain type of person narcissists, psychopaths, and Cluster B abusers tend to seek out. Terms like "codependent" and "empath" are tossed around, sometimes interchangeably, but they are not the same.

A codependent's core issue (like the narcissist) is low self-esteem. They attach themselves to an alpha personality for their identity, and are constantly looking outside of themselves for validation and definition. They are helpers and fixers. Many people in the caring professions, such as teachers and nurses, tend to be codependent. They crave external praise and will go to great lengths to enable others in order to be liked. A codependent's sense of happiness and self-worth can be entirely dependent on the moods, actions, and feelings of the alpha. Code…

The Difference Between Trauma and Anxiety

I've been living with the effects of complex trauma for a long time, but for many years I didn't know what it was. Off and on throughout my life, I've struggled with what I thought was anxiety and depression. Or rather, In addition to being traumatized, I was anxious and depressed. 

All mental health is a serious matter, and should never be minimized. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it's important and urgent to find the right support for you. No one gets a prize for "worst" depression, anxiety, trauma or any other combination of terrible things to deal with, and no one should suffer alone. With that in mind, there is a difference between what someone who has CPTSD feels and what someone with generalized anxiety or mild to moderate depression feels.

For someone dealing with complex trauma, the anxiety they feel does not come from some mysterious unknown source or obsessing about what could happen. For many, the anxiety they feel is not rational. Gene…