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Showing posts from June, 2017

Absolutes and Gray Areas

I am naturally inclined to look at a topic from every angle in order to find the truth in it. Empathy and understanding have always been strengths, most likely developed out of a need to survive my toxic, abusive, narcissistic parents. I've always wondered why some people have such a hard time seeing other points of view. This question is the fallout from being raised by narcissists whom I knew and understood very well, but never bothered to know me.

I've noticed there is a correlation between absolute thinkers and abusers. Abusive people have to be right. They will destroy anything or anyone who challenges what they believe is right. And what many abusers believe is right is black and white thinking. Abusers make sweeping statements about people and ideas, like, "Homosexuality is a disorder." "All Muslims are terrorists." "Liberals are pussies." You get the idea. They are the Archie Bunkers among us.

Black and white thinkers seem to enjoy maki…

Protecting My Abusers

Victims do it. Abusers do it. Regular people do it without even realizing it. All too often in abusive situations, all the attention goes to protecting the abuser and blaming the victim.

For most of my life, I absorbed the responsibility for my abuse. I did it because at a young, formative age, I was taught to do it. As a child, I had no other option but to accept that my parents' bad behavior was my fault. Their failure to treat me with love and respect was my fault. When I was sexually abused, I internalized that I was the one who was wrong and bad for what happened. I dutifully kept secrets for my abusers because I was used to doing it, and because I correctly believed I would be the one punished if I said anything. When I did finally stand up to the abuse and escape my toxic family, I was scapegoated. When I went no contact, I still felt guilty about it. Even today, it is difficult for me to separate understanding my abusers from excusing them.

I've been putting off writ…

Why I Stopped Being Too Busy

Wherever there is wi-fi, there are people inundated with too much. Too much information coming in, too much to do, too much to respond to, too much to process. Then there's all the real life stuff, like earning a living, raising a family, and staying connected to friends. We live in a paradox, where we no longer spend our days gathering and preparing food to survive, yet our lives have become so full and complicated, it can overwhelm even the most steadfast among us. We are barely surviving. I am barely surviving.

Like everyone else with a family, mortgage, and career, I was too busy. In the last couple years, I also attended graduate school, published a book, ran a small business, remodeled a house... you get it. I was legitimately busy, but my busyness was not enough for me. Instead of focusing on the accomplishment of starting a business from scratch, I focused on the stress and shame that I wasn't making enough money. In spite of the fact that I had a home-cooked meal on …

"But You're So Normal!"

When the subject of my abusive past comes up, the surprised response I most often hear from others who have known me for a while is, "But you're so normal!"

There are a lot of different ways of coping with abuse. For me, I thought I could perform and please my way out of it. I was the responsible one. I was the one who appeared to have it all together. People who knew me in high school would say things like, "But you seemed happy!" Yes, I was smiling. I was even bubbly. And I was also coping with narcissistic, emotional, sexual, and spiritual abuse.

Outward behavior does not always indicate the inner life. For me, appearing to look normal and happy were necessary for survival. But it was also those coping skills that made me put off seeking a deeper level of help for my wounds. For me, admitting that what happened was not OK, that I was not OK, was extremely difficult and scary. I didn't want to admit that I was abused, because I felt that meant on some le…

Detox

Denial about the abuse I experienced had a grip on me for a long time. Even ten years after no contact, I still questioned whether the hell I lived through was my fault. I felt a lot of guilt about going no contact, but knew that I had to, for the sake of my own sanity. This is the problem with early childhood abuse. The child who experienced it was made to believe that what happened to her was normal, and there must be something wrong with her, not the abuser, if she had a problem with it. When someone is not given what they need for healthy formation, it becomes a part of who they are. Abuse gave me an over-developed sense of guilt and shame over things that I didn't do, that were out of my control. I was supposed to be responsible for the failed relationship with my parents. I was supposed to take the heat for their bad behavior. It was my fault that they couldn't offer me love or understanding. There must be something wrong with me that these things happened.

Of course, n…

Take This Job and Shove It

As a survivor of abuse, I've always known I have an over developed sense of responsibility. My narcissistic parents made sure they were never at fault for their actions, and that I was somehow required to carry that burden for them. A sense of responsibility and independence carried me through adolescence, and ended up being a positive characteristic that allowed me to accomplish quite a bit. However, this over-developed sense of responsibility also eats at me. I become anxious and hypervigilant because it's hard to shake the feeling, even being aware of where it comes from. I continue to struggle with internalizing things that aren't my fault. I am realizing just how much effort I've exerted over the years to make sure I could not be blamed for something going wrong. It stems from an experience of being blamed for everything anyway. Even if it's not my job, I will make sure it gets done. If someone is unhappy, I will make sure I do everything in my power to pleas…

A Day Off

When I started this blog a few months back, I only intended to write maybe two or three times a week. Instead, I've kept a steady stream of posts going every weekday. I've found it's been a necessary and helpful outlet to express my thoughts, and also for me to observe how things are shifting and changing as I process the effects of abuse in my life.

I am a professional writer and I am accustomed to the discipline of writing every day, but I never intended for this blog to become something I do with my professional hat on. I wanted it and needed it to be something I do for me, without rules, or a feeling of obligation of daily maintenance. As a writer, I know the trap of feeling guilty about not writing.

Yesterday, I was feeling particularly fried. Emotional flashbacks are particularly intense for me around holidays, and Mother's Day and Father's day are some of the most difficult days of the year. Father's Day reminds me that I never really had a father. I h…

To My Narcissistic Father

Dear Dad,

The young child that you molested and terrorized is no longer afraid of you. She resides within me now, safe from all your treachery. Today, I am a strong and capable woman and you are a sick old man. We both know that you knew exactly what you were doing when you abused me. You stole my innocence. You stole my childhood. Not once did you ever admit wrongdoing or remorse. You are evil and cruel, and you ought to be in jail.

You made me bow down to you, but it was never enough. You punished me because I could never give you enough validation. No one could. You'll think this is blasphemy, but children are not created to worship their parents.  It should have never been a requirement, yet I was forced to carry the burden of your own guilt and shame.

You did not love me. You didn't even care about me. To you, I wasn't even a person. I was not allowed an individuality. The only worth you saw in me was my usefulness in feeding your ego. When I failed to do so, I wa…

Minimization

"It wasn't that bad."
"What happened to me is nothing compared to what you're going through."
"Well, at least... {insert positive thought here}"
"Others have had it so much worse."
"It was a long time ago."
"Well, there's nothing I can do about it now."

Our brains and bodies are experts at self-protection, and minimization is one way we shield ourselves from the reality of abuse. Survivors of trauma can become so good at minimizing their experience, their own self-deception becomes a core identity. Minimization leads to denial and dissociation. Dissociation can lead to split personality disorders and other forms of psychosis.

There is another word for minimization. Lying.

As I have confronted and come to terms with the real, long term effects of psychological and child sexual abuse in my life, I am shocked how much I minimized the impact over the years. I lied to myself that I was fine. I lied to everyone else t…

Lone Survivor

As I sort through the formative moments of my past and reflect on where I am today, I am amazed. For some reason, even when I was very young, I knew that what was happening around me was wrong. For some reason, even though I was traumatized, I chose to go a different route with my life. For some reason, I survived. I am grateful to be alive. And yet, being a survivor has its own challenges and problems. There is no happy ending for childhood trauma. I can get perspective on the basic needs I was denied as a child, I can heal my brain, but I can't get my childhood back. In fact, healing means that every day I am realizing more and more the gravity of what was stolen from me. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the people in my life I have today, but having good people in my life now does not negate what horrible people did to me when I was a child.

One of the most difficult aspects of the abuse I experience is that I am a lone survivor. I have come to accept that there w…

"Be Nice"

My entire childhood was formed around the interests of my father. My mother worked very hard to make him happy, and to ensure that my brother and I fell in line to please him. Like so many toxic parents, they worked together to abuse their children in a classic codependent pattern.

My father was angry and aggressive, solely focused on who wasn't giving him the right kind of attention and reverence at any given moment. He viewed the world through a lens in which everyone and every thing was created to please him. He drank through the weekends in search of some escape from himself which never seemed to come. I tried to escape him, too, but I did it through making myself as invisible as possible. The only attention in my family was negative attention. It was much less stressful to be ignored. When I did catch his attention, often it was because of something wrong that he perceived (read: made up) that I did or did not do. On trash day, he'd rage about the trash not taken out so…

Teenagers

We are approaching a milestone in my house, where my oldest daughter is entering her teen years. Growing up, I was taught that teenagers were shifty, sneaky, untrustworthy, terrible, liars, cheaters, drunks, and sluts. In other words, my parents projected all their own bad behavior, along with a heaping dose of shame and judgement, onto the concept of what an adolescent is. When I was a teenager, if I was rebellious, it meant I was "bad." Yet for me, rebelling against my parents' constructs were most likely what saved me. It took a long time for me to deconstruct my normal teenage reactions to abusive people as not being "bad." Because of my parents' projections, I carried a lot of their shame. Yet, from my own experience, and from the experience of observing other teenagers, I knew they were wrong. Teenagers are not shameful people. They are beautiful, challenging, and complex, but not shameful. What's shameful is neglecting their need for love, safet…

What Evil Looks Like

I've always had a sense of the supernatural around me. Long before I studied what that means from a Christian perspective and gained all the Christian vocabulary, I saw the forces of light and dark at work in the world, and in my own life. I've always had a sensitivity to these forces around me. When I was a child, I was fixated on understanding what "goodness" was. I read a lot of books about good people, and dwelled upon what aspects and qualities made them good. As much as I could, I focused on what the good people were doing, and how they were doing it. Perhaps I did this as a form of self-protection. Because, you see, I was raised by evil people.

Evil is not a word I use lightly. In People of the Lie, Scott Peck describes evil in psychological terms. According to Peck, an evil person:
Is consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfectionDeceives others as a consequence of their own self-deceptionProjects his…

Decompression

As I am gaining a better understanding of Complex PTSD and how my body responds to stress overload, I am more aware of the things that trigger it. That means that I feel immediately affected by loud sounds, or intense people. If I am dealing with my child's tantrum or if I am in a crowded room with too much sound bouncing off the walls, I feel like Superman walking into a cave full of kryptonite. It's physically painful to me, and I need to go lie down or take a break in a calm, preferably dark space. The good news is that I am now able to recover faster. The bad news is that I have to admit to myself and to others that I have real limits when it comes to coping in certain environments.

For years, I've struggled with migraines. After the birth of my third child, I developed something called "abdominal migraines" where I went to the ER a few times for pain in my gut that was so sharp, it took my breath away. I once had a migraine for over six weeks. I tried fanc…

Troll for a Day

You know what really pisses me off? Trolls. Trolls are abusers who hide behind computer screens and tear people down. They lurk in the comments sections, ready to pounce, waiting for someone to point out their fallacies so they can attack. Ugh, I hate bullies. I really hate them. And I really hate watching them get away with it.

In the past, when I saw a troll I would disengage and slip out of whatever dust cloud they were trying to stir up. As someone who has a low tolerance threshold for assholes, this was probably a good idea. But now that I've unlocked some of my anger, it's time to fight back. Of course, engaging in any kind of reasonable argument is futile and crazy-making. However, I decided that for one day, I'm going to indulge myself.

For one day, I'm going to troll the trolls. Whenever some troll attacks or acts in an abusive way, I'll post memes about abuse. I'll attach the definitions for gaslighting and word salad. I'll poke holes in their l…

Knowing My Worth

I work in a career field that does not offer a steady paycheck or job security of any kind. Like many artists, I most of what I do in order to make a living is generated from self-motivation and hustle. Often, the hours of work I put in are not compensated, but rather considered a (necessary) accessory to a finished product. I can go for months pouring my heart and soul into a project not knowing when, or if, it may pay off. Sometimes, I see projects appear out of nowhere like magic, and more often, I see projects fizzle into nothing. Needless to say, it's not a lucrative way to live, but I do it because I reached a point where I found my soul was too valuable to stick into a cubicle.

As someone in recovery from psychological abuse, I am learning to listen more to what my soul wants. I am also learning what my real limits are. I am capable of doing a lot of things, and in the past I often took on way too much in my job. When my employer downsized, I was the one who stayed on to d…

Hate Couch, Part Three

I thought I would update you all on my Hate Couch progress. If you haven't read the background about Hate Couch yet, you can do so here and here. I decided that I would chip away at it, literally, and take my time dismantling it. In the same way I am processing thousands of instances in which I was attacked, demeaned, belittled, oppressed, lied to, manipulated, and silenced, I've had multiple opportunities to whack away at it, given whatever has come up. It allows me to focus and connect whatever present situation ignites my anger and link it to original threat.

The thing about processing trauma is that you never know exactly how or in what way it will hit you. I'm currently going through a season where a lot of my pent up, completely justified anger is allowed to surface. Some of it is stuff I have never allowed myself to feel. When a child is traumatized and has no outlet, it does funny things to the brain. The brain locks the trauma away until the child feels "saf…

In Sickness and In Sickness

After years of dysfunction and abuse, my alcoholic, narcissistic father and my enabling, codependent mother divorced. I was in college at the time. My mother hid behind "staying together for the children," even though we didn't want her to. I suppose she couldn't use that excuse any more when we weren't there. When she left him the first time, my father called me, upset. He didn't see it coming. He insisted it was completely out of the blue and without reason. Ha.

During the first time they were separated, I was attending a school that I knew I needed to leave. I made plans to move back to my home state and transfer to an in-state university, though it meant having to move back in with my mom for a short time. I had some hope it might not be too bad since she was finally facing some reality and had left my father. About a week before I was due to arrive, she moved back in with him.

It was awful. Worse than when I had left the first time, and I had graduated …

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…