one hundred & ninety two: heat

for whatever reason, the expression that came to mind was if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

such a gentle, understanding, kind thing to say…not. it probably came to mind in the first place because the sentiment and its tone feel familiar. it’s something my parents would say. it’s aggressive, no-nonsense, and also, leaves little room for alternate interpretations of reality. it leaves no room for how you feel, for any context. it’s kinda like, if you have anything other than accolades for me, then shut up and get out.

when i did some research into its origins, it apparently came from US president harry truman, a plain-speaking guy by all accounts, who told some of his staff that if they didn’t like how he did things, they could clear out of the way for someone who did. fair enough, really. he was the boss of the country, after all.

but one interpretation of the phrase made me first flush with shame, and then anger: that if you can’t cope with something, leave the work for someone who can. and also, if the pressure is too much to deal with, if you can’t hack it, perhaps just bow out.

oh, okay. yeah, let me try that. coz you know what, i’d love to get out of the fucking kitchen and have someone else step in and deal with the aftermath of early childhood incest, neglect and trauma. please do. please cope with it for me, so i can not be such a disaster. sign me up for that.

coz yeah, i’ve had it with this heat. i’ve had it with messing up my relationships, with battling shame, with hurting others and being hurt. i’ve had it with suicidal ideation. i would be more than happy to tag out so that someone can do the work of knitting my life back together. i’m game. i’d empty my bank account for that for sure.

one hundred & sixty one: anger

i don’t do anger very well, either. let’s just get that straight.

*

a few years ago i would have said i was fluent in anger. it was an acceptable expression of emotion, just like with pocketbrit’s family, but there was no awareness of what drove it. what it was covering. what lay underneath.

at the beginning of my marriage, when my wife and i argued, i’d often end up really angry. super frustrated, sharp words, defensive, prickly, unfair, terrible. and her response was to cajole, distract, or check out, coz that’s what kept her safe in her home as a kid, being able to interrupt a volatile situation or just exit. coz she also came from a home where anger was dangerous; where there was screaming and violence and arguing. in fact, she remembers often taking refuge on the roof of her house, where the shouting and crashing were muffled, where she’d sit, with her knees drawn up, watching the stars, waiting for it to end. that makes me so so sad.

it just occurred to me that we triggered the fuck out of each other. i got angry, and she got absent. she didn’t get angry, she just got quiet, and then i got absent.

*

over the ensuing decade and a bit, we worked it through. she knows that when i am lashing out at her, that i am hurt. and i know that if i want her to hear me, i need to dig deeper, and let her know what’s beneath all my spikes. similarly, i know that when she starts raging about the house being out of order or going silent, that she is scared, and needing to exert control somewhere. she has learned that disappearing when she is angry is far scarier for me than any words or actions she may take.

however, these last few years have really fucked with that vibe. separately, we’re each working through our trauma(s) in therapy, and it’s been hard, really hard, to figure it out with each other while we’re evolving individually. she is learning to find her voice, her entirely justified anger, her inner advocate, and it is so good, and so important, and so necessary. by no means am i always good with it, coz sometimes i’m just terrible, ask her. and on the flip side, i am learning (so so fucking slowly, like turtle-with-four-broken-legs slow) to allow room for my hurt, to feel the stuff beneath all those angry, prickly layers i built up, to unpack the reflex to get mad. it is the worst timing, and the best timing both, and it is hard.

*

more often than not these days, i am terrified by anger. my own, and that of others. i get instantly small, instantly triggered, instantly wanting to bolt out of wherever i am so i can hyperventilate and panic. and it is really fucking inconvenient, and so shameful. i mean, fuck, i grew up with a goodly dose of violence, parents who yelled and hit us fairly frequently, i used to have no problem getting enraged, why am i getting so fucking weird about it now?

i don’t know, but nowadays, anger undoes me. i’ve gone the opposite direction.

ask the people closest to me (my wife, pocketbrit, even my kid) and they’ll tell you. a hint of anger and i’m outta there. it’s the worst, the absolute worst.

i really want to get better with it.

Anger (161)

Safe to say, I don’t do anger very well. At all well in fact.

Anger was always considered a strong emotion in our house; one of the few emotions that were actually allowed. The major problem was that anger far too frequently involved violence. Doors slammed, words shouted, objects smashed, things thrown. Anger was terrifying when I was little, and yet there was so much of it, and worse of all, from a young age I took on the role of mediator. I was the only one who could get through to my dad when he was raging (and he was the very worst), and it somehow just became my duty to try to step in the middle and keep the peace. From all of that I ended up keeping all of my anger inside. I separated off from all of it, and most of the time I directed it inwards, because if I directed it at anybody else there would be nobody to step into the role of mediator.

These days I get angry, I have a part that just gets referred to as the angry one, and she rages and is awful. I can’t stand her. I am also not very good with anger. It doesn’t matter how okay I was beforehand, pretty much as soon as anger comes up I’m a triggered mess, scared of what will come next.

So yeah, I suck when it comes to anger, its not my favourite.

one hundred & thirty two: pessimism

there are words that we use that have judgements inherent in them, and this is one of them, i think.

to be a pessimist is to have a shortage of hope or confidence that things will work out. to see the ‘worst’ in things, to focus on the negative. it’s seen as an ‘attitude’ (which is also a judgy sort of word, if you ask me) that things are not going to be all right. i’ve met very few people who would say, oh yeah, i’m a total pessimist except, you know what, you’re going to, right now. coz unfortunately, i am a pessimist.

i say unfortunately because you know what, it fucking sucks to feel like this. to not trust that things are going to be fine. to catastrophize, to have those niggly annoying convictions that the other shoe is going to drop and it’s all going to hell. to wait for people to leave you. to find it nearly impossible to imagine that people might like you, for real.

i feel like the judgements about pessimism is from people who don’t have a trauma history. and while i am so glad there are people out there who don’t, who were born into families who harvested hope, security and trust, who grew up with confidence and pride, i also feel a bit resentful about the discrimination. i would LOVE to know what unadulterated hope feels like, without the panic alongside. i would have loved to have been a child whose autonomy and growth was fostered and encouraged, instead of squelched. while we’re at it, i would truly have loved to have been spared my dad and uncle’s nocturnal visits, and if they really had to happen? i would have loved someone to have noticed, and to have intervened, rather than turning the other way.

coz it seems to me that the ideas of pessimism and optimism suggest we all start off on equal footing in life, and somewhere along the way, we make a choice to see the glass as half empty or half full. and that, friends, reeks of bullshit to me, and is an incredibly simplistic, reductionist way to classify people into who’s good, and who’s less good. and crappily, some of us start off with less of a chance of a sunny outlook than others.

among the things that make me tired, taking full ownership for my lack of hope is yet another one.

Written Feb 12/19 but backposted to Feb 3/19

 

 

Forgiveness (121)

I think I actually made an ‘ugh’ sound and scrunched up my nose when I read this word out today. Lost in my own world despite being in a busy classroom. Because, well, fuck this word.

I don’t agree with any bullshit notion that somebody will never move on from the things that happened to them until they forgive the perpetrator. Really, come on, that’s so fucking minimising and arseholeish to suggest. It’s not that I am vehemently against the notion of forgiveness, (and I’m most definitely not vehemently for it), it’s that I just don’t agree that I need to rise above all of it and ‘forgive in order to find peace’….don’t mind me, I’ll just be over in the corner puking.

And, maybe I would forgive them, except one thing I am extremely set on is that I will not ever forgive them, unless they actually come up to me and ask to talk about it. To face it, stop pretending, apologise, and are actually meaningfully regretful, and also, seem to actually understand the fucking colossal effects of what they did. Until then…fuck forgiveness. No fucking way.

*****

The one and only person that I do want to forgive (and maybe forgiveness actually isn’t even the right word), is myself back then. For doing what she did, for surviving how she did, for not choosing to do the things that adult me wishes she had. Maybe that’s not really about forgiveness, but about accepting the situation…but from where I stand today, feeling so hateful towards a younger me, forgiveness maybe does feel like the right word. Maybe? I don’t know.

 

Gratitude (113)

This ones a bit sticky for me. In our house gratitude was horribly interlinked with not complaining, keeping your mouth firmly shut.

“Shut up and be grateful for what you’ve got”.

And yes, we should all be grateful for the things in life that we have, nothing is a given, not a home, or a job, or safe people or loved ones. Some people currently have none of those things. And yet, as I’ve grown up, I don’t for one minute agree with this notion that talking about things we wish were different, “complaining”, expressing negative sentiments towards things, makes us ungrateful people, or ungrateful for those things that we do have.

I was extremely grateful to go to a private school (although to begin with I begged to go to the local school with all my friends, and would have done perfectly well there), and yet in our house we were continually reminded of how much sending each of us to a private school had cost them, (quite literally, we were given the figures), and everything they had missed out on in order to do so. And I am grateful, truly, for my school was in fact a bit of a safe haven for me for a few years, and yet it does not make right the pressure placed to do well and “make all the money worth it”. It also doesn’t make right the rest of the shitshow of a childhood we had at times. In order to be grateful for the sacrifices they made (and they did do it with the best of intentions), I do not need to be grateful for the rest of my childhood, or pass it off as being ‘made up for by’ that one thing, or ‘well, think about everything we gave up for to send you to that school, how much it cost’.

One right (and actually, a questionably necessary right) does not make okay other wrongs. Being grateful for one thing doesn’t automatically mean you should forget other wrongs.

I am not grateful for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse I endured growing up. Nor the neglect. I will not ignore or forgive those things simply because I “ought to be grateful” for the house we had, the food and clothes, the gifts my father bought us in the airport each week, the schools we went to, the opportunities we had, the birthday and christmas presents. I won’t allow the violation of my body to be made right by the fact that my dad bought me back a big bar of milka chocolate from Schippol Airport most weeks, and “dads home and he’s bought you a present so you have to be on your best behaviour”.

I’m absolutely positive that in my parents opinion, the rapes at the hand of a member of my own family are made okay by the fact that I never went without food or clothes, things I needed, and very often things I didn’t need. I am to keep quiet, keep the secret, no make a fuss, be grateful for all those things that I did get, not be selfish and focus on the negative, make out that it was all awful, and make life difficult for them.

And I still cannot comprehend this response of theirs. I don’t believe I am being ungrateful at all, I am grateful for the things I got.

Their disregard for all of my hurt however, has me floored.

Boundaries (97)

First thing this made me think of was a blog called Tales of a Boundary Ninja that pocketcanadian told me about a couple of years ago now. The blog doesn’t seem to be active anymore, but I know I found it helpful and pc even more so. Definitely so worth a read to anyone who hasn’t heard of it.

And as does that blog talk about boundaries in relation to the authors therapist, this word makes me think of mine.

My t has very strict boundaries, and I completely hate them. I have been so jealous of other peoples relationships with their therapists. When my friend talks about their t checking in, texts that tell her she loves her or is thinking about her, when I hear about contact during the Christmas break, I am so full of ugly jealousy. Even worse, when I read about and hear about people having their therapist come over to sit next to them during a tough session, when they rest their head on their therapists lap or against their chest, when a therapist will read children’s books or stroke their hair…. All I can think is what is wrong with me? Why won’t my t ever do that? And ugh, the jealousy, the anger, the self hated. All because of boundaries.

And her reasons are the same bullshit thats always given… Its so important to have boundaries to keep it safe, that it’s a total lack of boundaries that has hurt me so much in my life, and it’s essential that she models good boundaries.

But fuck that. It isn’t boundaries that hurt me back then, it was violent, abusive arseholes. And how can it be safe for some therapists to do these things and not her? And I bet she does it with other clients. I bet she just doesn’t want my crazy rubbing off on her. Well fuck her.

And, where did these bullshit boundaries come into play when her husband came into my place of work on Christmas eve? Yes we are a business open to the general public, but he knew who I was, I could tell, and that’s fine, I go to his house every week and sometimes we see each other, but he shouldn’t fucking come to my place of work. That sounds like bullshit boundaries that are there how and when she wants them.

Progress (93)

366 days ago I was spending Christmas with my parents, my brother and his fiancé, and a couple family friends, at my parents house (the one where a lot of the abuse from my brother took place) . My therapist last session said something about how terrible last Christmas was for me and I did a huge double take, (was it? Fuck I don’t remember that), because it all kind of blurs in I think. You do what you can to get through it, and the immediate aftermath is normally pretty bloody bad, but then you get by and you just sort of erase the details from your memory.

In these last 365 days, progress has been, well, non-e-fucking-xistant.

Let’s see, after that terrible Christmas, my therapist and I talked a lot about all the reasons it wasn’t really safe to tell my parents, to do the one thing that was on my mind all the time. Pocketcanadian would tell me that it wasnt safe for me to tell my parents like she had, that it was different circumstances, I am younger and I’m not independent from them. So a measly 6 weeks later, like the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the biggest idiot that I am, I fucking tell them.

And you’d think, 10.5 months on, that a lot would’ve happened, progress would be made, but that’s the biggest fucking laughable joke going.

I didn’t even have to say it, my mother asked the question, because she already knew the answer… What did he do to you? I know he tried it on with you once. Yes mum, he fucking raped me and attempted it a couple of times when you walked in and basically did sweet fuck all. Everything took place under your roof where you turned a fucking blind eye and allowed your daughter to be abused. Amazing.

And their responses… They don’t want to lose him. They don’t want to risk his career. They don’t want to risk him never coming back. They want me to keep my fat gob shut, and to play their little game of happy families. I’m to attend family events, I’m to act the part of loving daughter and sister, I’m to let no one know. I have to be so grateful for my darling brother. Told that I have to open presents from him that I really really don’t want to. Told to not be selfish. Told that isn’t that lovely of him /them.

Summer birthdays were the first time I actually was made to be there all together again, I had successfully managed to avoid being there when he was up until that point. And guess how it went? Dinner parties where my mother gushed over her amazing son, and slighted me every way she could, in front of everyone. I actually couldn’t believe it.

And now I’m back here again, a year later, a full circle. Thankfully no brother as he is away, but that doesn’t mean a lack of all the other stuff. Dinner table talk of how amazing he is, how wonderful his fiancé (their perfect vision of a daughter – if only they could’ve got one like her, not me). Video calls with both of them. All the lovey bullshit about how wonderful he is, what a shame he can’t be here, how missed he is. All for the audience of a family friend and grandparents. Meanwhile I’m barely at the table. I’m the waitress, that’s what I’m there for. To help cook, to carry plates, to fetch and carry and pour wine. To wash up everything from cooking a massive meal and serving a four course meal for 6 people (shit ton of washing up). And I’m not missed. I’m told what to do, not wanted to sit down with everyone else. And I sit back and do nothing (because there is no point), when my mum goes on about what a great mother she is. How she’s thinking of my other brother (who only wants anything to do with them when he needs money), how poor him, and poor her, and shes such a great mum, and when you have kids you’ll understand how mothers just want to protect their kids and have them close. Protect them? Lol!!!

I realised at some point yesterday, when my dad got angry and arseholeish with me because i hadn’t immediately gone and got something he wanted me to (because I was washing up a stack of plates resembling everest), that that was all I was there for. They had all the family they wanted when they could phone call my eldest brother and his fiance. They are their darlings, all they need in life. And I will never never never live up to them. And immediately I was so full of shame. I was being yelled at, I wasn’t good enough, yet again, and worse still, I was actually not really wanted. And that was it, I was 4 years old, crying without being able to stop the tears falling, escaping to cuddle my cat and try to find just someone that loved me and wanted me. My little one is still noisy, still sad, still ashamed for always being wrong.

Yesterday I texted pc, whilst I was so mad and losing it, and I said this: Here’s a resolution for 2019. Fucking kill myself so that I don’t have to see another year through. That’s how I feel about all of it, that’s really how I’m still feeling, how I can’t bear another year like this one.

So that’s my full circle of this past year. So much has happened, so much that a year ago I would have bet all my money on not happening… if someone had said I would tell my parents, face this stuff, I would have told you that’s incredible progress. But I guess that’s the amazing thing now about hindsight, because progress? What fucking progress? I’ve told them and *nothing* has changed. And that fills me with so much shame that I really do wish I was 10ft under.

Merry Christmas, folks.

Relief (87)

I think of the relief I feel when I’ve lost my shit, gotten angry thrown a total temper tantrum… How releasing that anger suddenly feels like relief.

I think of how people say that crying when you’re so so sad offers relief and how actually, it really fucking doesn’t. How you feel like you’re drowning in it, it’s not getting any less, how actually letting it or doesn’t seem to help… Until suddenly you feel empty and full all at the same time. How that actually doesn’t feel like relief, it just feels exhausting.

I think of how I truly truly believed that if I could just tell my parents, I’d feel relief. I’d feel freer. How that is laughable to me now (omg I was naive). I think of how I guess it did offer a small amount of relief, I no longer have to constantly ruminate over how I would tell and what would happen if I told, and that’s amazing, but also, I’ve just substituted ruminating over that for ruminating over the fact that they couldn’t have given a rats arse about it. How dumb and naive I was, how shameful it feels, why? What did I do? Is it me? What do other people think? Well anyone care? Am I being an idiot?

I think of the sweet relief of cutting, how it releases everything inside of me and just quietens it all down for a bit.

I think of the relief of telling somebody, and not being alone. I think of pc and how talking on the phone to her and laughing and joking or just being heard and loved can bring sweet relief.

I think of how I had no relief back then. Except to dissociate, to split off and to ignore it all.

Sharing

I’ve found sharing here really hard lately. Which is why I’m now catching up on five posts all in one day (or trying to at least…if my laptop wouldn’t keep crashing and deleting everything I’ve written). But I think the reason I’m finding sharing here hard is that I’ve been sharing so much in my personal life. Only really with pc and with my therapist, but it feels like such a lot. It’s tough and it takes your energy, and I’m more of the closed-off/keep-it-to-yourself kind of person. So I’m learning, or rather unlearning, that lesson that it’s bad to share.

The other thing that this makes me think of is of my mum. Ugh. She has always told me and everyone else about how secretive I am. How I never tell her anything, how everything always has to be a secret with me. For obvious reasons, I really truly hate her saying this. Because I mean if it isn’t enough that I’ve obviously had to hold so many secrets; of a family where so much abuse is taking place behind closed doors; emotional, physical, and lucky me, sexual (and let’s be completely clear, she’d have gone mental had I not kept those secrets), then how about all those other times the lesson of ‘keep yourself to yourself, don’t share’ was instilled… How about the time she told me that if I didn’t help her keep a secret from my dad they would get a divorce and it would be my fault? And how about being a little girl and sharing something only to be met with judgement, or anger, or annoyance, or laughter, or a very matter of fact “i don’t care”? How about her telling me how she just tunes herself out and nods along pretending she is listening because she really doesn’t want to listen? So fuck her and her sudden decision that actually, she would now like me to share everything with her. Fuck her.