Weak (98)

I feel like I need forever to actually be able to write this post and do it justice for all the power this word holds over me.

Being ‘weak’ is the most insufferable, sickening, shrinking, painful thing to me. The idea of it, the suggestion that I might be it, the thought that people may misjudge me and consider me weak where I am not.

The origins of the pain of this word, of course, are from my family. They lie in the fact that being upset, needing, being sensitive and emotional were considered to be ‘weak’, and that being weak led to abuse and trauma and pain.

 

  • My mother was not the cuddly, gentle, reassuring, patient mother that small children need. She was generally inpatient, had no time for tears or being upset, or hurt. She didn’t react to those things with gentleness, but instead with annoyance and sometimes anger, and frankly, a lack of mothering. I hadn’t actually made the connection between this word and my mother to this extent until I began writing, but it is extremely clear. I don’t think she meant any harm by being that way; it was not intentional, likely passed down from her own upbringing. However the effects of it were far-reaching and really quite devastating. How was I ever going to feel like I could turn to somebody and admit how I was being hurt, when doing exactly that had been ingrained into me as being weak? How could I cry and need and ask for attention when that only ever resulted in impatience and annoyance, and a “come on, you’re fine, stop making a fuss”.

 

  • And all of that just caused so much shame. I closed in on myself to keep myself safe. Don’t cry, don’t be little, don’t be needy, don’t hurt, don’t be hurt. The white hot shame of doing those things only to be ten-folded when met with cold irritation. I hate that bastard shame, I really really do.

 

  • Today this word sits differently amongst different parts of me. The older parts don’t like it, but they are generally disdainful, quietly hating or judging the younger parts when they do something ‘weak’. If the rage-y one rages then this often is a source of huge self-hatred that she uses as ammunition. They take the place of my mum, inputting all of her shame. The youngest part pays no mind to not being ‘weak’; shes needy and emotional, and full on, and doesn’t care except to not want to be told off for it. The one that this is the be all and end all for is one of the young ones. The word sits in her belly and weighs it down with shame. It is always in the background, always there. It’s why she is spikey and walled up and tries to scare people away. It why she can’t ever let anybody totally in, despite being desperate to be loved and cared for like the little one she is. Her world centers around this 4-lettered stupid little word. It causes more pain, keeps more relationships from deepening, and keeps us more alone than any other word in the dictionary. And worst of all is the self-hatred it invokes.

 

I think this is going to be a part 1 of 2 (or more). There’s more to say…its huge impact even today, how I thought I deserved it all for being weak. How I thought if I physically made myself strong I would hate myself less for being weak…. But this will do, for now. It’s a start.

one hundred: diligence

i searched for the definition of this word, coz i like to see if how i understand it is how others do. (also i like to compare canadian and british definitions, just coz.) (canadian ones are far superior of course.)

the most common definition is about showing care or conscientiousness to one’s duties, and is the one i had in mind. but the one definition i encountered that hit me square in the solar plexus is that being diligent means that you are earnest, and try to do everything right. hello, welcome to my life (and my recovery from trauma).

probably every school report card from kindergarten to high school called me a diligent student, and i was, and i am, a hard worker. it matters a great deal to me for me to be careful in word, and in deed, and throughout my life – including as recently as last week, in a work evaluation – people comment on it.

coz it’s true, painfully so. i work so hard, all the time, to know what the right thing is for all the people around me, all the situations around me. for me, showing love includes knowing what to do, what to say, how to be present. getting it right, hitting the mark, is what drives me, is what i strive for.

and so, when i miss? dear god.

my worst shame, the very very darkest and scariest thing that it says, is that i won’t get it right, not ever. that i can’t, no matter what. that i won’t, because i’m too selfish and stupid, because i could never, because there is something just so wrong about me that i would never even be able to know. and that this core inadequacy is unforgivable. that i will drive everyone away and be alone, as people as disappointing as me deserve to be.

my hands shook typing that, all of the truths of my shame. the truth about me, the truth about diligence: that i can try all i want, but it doesn’t matter.

all of it served to me in my mother’s voice, with her the mist of her hissing spitting s’s landing all over my face.

**this post was actually written on jan 13/19 but backposted to the day the word came out**

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.

eighty-eight: fault

i feel entirely battered by this past week’s words.

to be fair, i am likely just feeling battered by december: a month of rampant over-consumption, of consumerism, of pressure to be happy and to get the right gifts and to send cards (i never do), a month where i have to hear about people’s family gatherings and traditions, where there is such emphasis on togetherness and peace and FUCK OFF ALREADY, a month to overeat everything in sight, and the month, nearly to the day, that three years ago, i first remembered the incest. while doing something innocuous and festive with my daughter, on a sunny afternoon.

kiddo and i did that same festive activity tonight (for the first time in three years) and i was trying really, really hard to stay present. i think i succeeded. she had fun and went to bed on a huge sugar high. i didn’t crumple into a heap on the kitchen floor, or scream or weep. (well not tonight i didn’t. that was earlier today, on my own.)

one of the few friends who knows *all* of the shit about my dad said, the worst thing about all of this [pain and upset and hurt] is that none of it is your fault. you didn’t do anything wrong at all. and i’ve read those words a million times in a million places and my wife and therapist and pocketbrit have said that to me another trillion times yet it took this friend saying that, as simplistically as she did, for me to truly take it in. it wasn’t my fault. i was just a little girl.

i take ownership for so much else, but finally, finally, i know that bit to be true. it wasn’t my fault.

it wasn’t pocketbrit’s fault (no, my love. i promise. not ever.)

and for everyone else reading, if you were little, and someone hurt your body or your mind or your safety, it wasn’t your fault, and i’ll hold that for you until you can.

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.

seventy-eight: breath/breathe/breathless

two things i thought of:

  1. my utter failure at yoga and meditation. because i can’t just breathe, or settle into the breath. i find this to be the hardest ever. i feel judged and like a complete failure at mindfulness because i may be completely relaxed, i am breathing in and out, and my body is feeling okay, but then the instructor tells us to bring back our thoughts to the breath and i realize i’m daydreaming or my thoughts are wandering to daily banal stuff and fuck, why can’t i just focus on the gd breath?!
  2. how i breathe when i am having a flashback. how i pant, almost, how it happens without me even being aware of it, until i realize i am trying to gulp huge lungfuls of air but i am also sort of choking and it’s really awful. and usually, at the same time, i’m crying but there’s not the feeling of crying, it’s just that buckets of water are flowing down my face and i can’t talk.

seventy-five: enable

i have a fair number of people with a variety of addictions (food, alcohol, gambling, drugs) on both sides of my extended family (and my wife does, too), so i thought immediately about enabling in that sense; that is, an unhealthy interdependence, whereby the person with the addiction is protected by another/others from the consequences of their behaviour.

i of course also thought about abuse (when don’t i?) and about how angry/sad/crazy it makes me feel when i think about how long i was complicit with the story my parents had woven about me. how long it went unchallenged, how deeply i believed it, how hard it was to consider that the wrongness i had always believed was mine, maybe wasn’t. how difficult it is to shake, even now. that its familiarity, its tune, has been bred into my very cells, it seems.

i enabled that story. meaning, i actively participated in it, for years. in fact, that story is still being told, and i wish i could say it doesn’t hurt me, but it does, it really fucking does. i’m a grown-ass woman, but they can still make me feel miniscule.

that i’m not seen, that i’m not known by them, feels like a wound that might never fully close over. i think we’re doing so good but then a word…a text…a fucking greeting card aisle…a stupid holiday…and it’s weeping again, the pain fresh and new and sharp.

day seventy-one: freedom

at various points in this journey (extra long eye roll at that euphemism), particularly as i was railing against the injustice of it, or in a particularly deep pit of grief, i would sometimes think, you know what, fuck this. i don’t need to keep wallowing in this crap. i just need to pull up my bootstraps and get through it, you know? get over it. stop making our lives so miserable and just cut it out. and each time i’ve said those things (actually, usually i’ve shouted them, on the sofa across from my therapist) – i’ve then sat there, eyes ablaze, chest heaving, eyes streaming, fists clenched, ready to challenge everything that came out of her mouth. and pretty much very time, she would say, with such sadness and compassion, no, sweetie. that’s not how you get free from this. being mean is never the right answer. being gentle always is.

and the concept of freedom always gave me pause. i think it was because i didn’t often think in these terms: being free versus being bound or imprisoned (although jesus, why not, it’s a pretty fucking apt description)…and then, it just didn’t seem like something for which i could hope or see as being possible for me. i mean, what would freedom mean? what would it look like? how would it feel? so much of the time, i walk around feeling like i’m a raggedy, rat-gnawed shell in the shape of a woman, a fraud of a human being. how could freedom apply?

over time, however, i began to crave it. i will never be free of this experience, i cannot take away what happened to me. but the shame, oh. if i could be free from some of this shame…if i could hear the word ‘family’ without feeling choked, or if i could just bask in the affection and adoration from the people who see me, and love me, if i could stop my descent into the dizzying spirals of shame…that feels like freedom. i mean, the shame’s not ours, is it? it was given to us, inserted and splashed and threatened and shoved and suffocated into us, and we’ve been carrying it, our bodies bent and bruised and battered. haven’t we held it enough? please, let’s give it back.

*

earlier today, my friend asked a question about whether i valued happiness and thought it was achievable. she was asking because we had been talking about our kids, and on the kind of life we hoped they’d have (and the one we were trying to give them). she said that her eldest sister thinks that the purpose of life is to leave a mark, to contribute, but that she feels that striving towards happiness is more important. i said that i wasn’t sure about happiness as a goal, that it seemed a bit overrated; that i definitely thought life was far more than about bettering the world…and then i surprised even myself by saying that really, what i wanted was to be okay with however i was, at any given time, in any given moment. that however it felt to me, whether it was horrible or joyful or hard or wonderful, that i could accept that as the truth for me. that I could just let things…it…myself…just be. and that that was what i wanted to pass on to my kiddo.

the more i spoke, the more i realized how true it was. that for me, freedom will be standing strong in myself. knowing that however i feel is fine, and okay: no matter how different it might be from how others feel. i want to be free from the me i’ve been for so long: from the judgment i absorbed, from the shame, from the awful endless convictions that there is something wrong with me. the very stuff that got me so strong that i am still here. the same stuff that was the lullaby of my toddlerhood, the soundtrack to my life. i want freedom from that.

sixty-four: departure

this makes me think of lots of things.

the first thing i thought about was when i was leaving for travel and a volunteer position overseas, in my early 20s. a few days before i left we had a huge going-away party at my house, all sorts of people from my past, families of kids i had nannied and their parents, current boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, high school friends, childhood friends. and it was fun but it was also really weird, because loads of people got really emotional and it surprised me (in my naive, youthful state) coz i kept thinking, um, i’m coming back, people! but what i didn’t know, and what some of them did, was that when i returned, i’d be an entirely different person. and they’re right, i was.

i don’t remember any tears that night of the party (very very close, though, when my ex hugged me before leaving and then started to cry in my arms…and i mean, really cry. hard.) and i’m not sure i even did when a cavalcade of people escorted me to the airport the morning i left, i was so anxious, so nervous, so scared about the assorted details of flights and luggage and would i be over the limit, etc.. it was only after i got through security, boarded the plane, took off into the air, and actually watched my hometown get smaller beneath me that it all came crashing down. the fact that i was leaving them, all of them, for an indefinite period of time. all my babies, my friends, my family…i cried the entire 2.5 hr connecting flight (which was unheard of then…more like my current version of me, although shit, 2.5 hrs is still impressive), with a sweet old couple next to me who passed me tissues and werther’s originals, alternatingly, while the tears continued to fall. once every 30 mins or so, i could feel one or the other of them, looking at me, and then they’d reach and pat my hand.

*

last week, i was pretty convinced that my departure from this earth would be a beneficial thing. one less burden for the people i loved, one less mess of a human being passing on her mess to others. i didn’t have a plan, not really, but i realized how much internal real estate these sorts of thoughts had been taking up, and i got terrified. angry and ashamed and terrified. i tried all sorts of things to keep everyone far away, i said awful things, i pushed them away as far as i could, i pitched my best case, but no one listened. they just sat with me, and passed me the equivalent of tissues and werther’s originals. wouldn’t let me leave. told me they loved me and would not be okay with a world without me in it. i fought it. but their love was stronger, it kept me here, again.

*

like so many survivors, i’m really scared about being abandoned. i’m pretty convinced that everyone will go, that i’ll wear them out entirely and they’ll have to. and then i’ll be alone, just as they always said i would be. the little one inside spins, even though she has always done it alone, why is it different? (i’ll tell yo: because today’s me knows the sweet taste of presence, and it’s addictive. it’s like crack for trauma survivors). and somewhere in the eye of the storm, i realize that i don’t want to die. i just want it to stop. i want there to be quiet and days that are free from shame.

i want a departure from the usual order, please.

so, i’m still kicking. thank you for reading along. for responding. for patting my hand every once in awhile, to remind me you’re still here.

Control

This is maybe the most obvious factor that’s played out in abusive situations and then subsequently by the abused person in the rest of their life. I wish I could say I was different, but well, I’m not.

Abuse involves a lack of control. Always. A child being raped has no control over the situation and yet tries to claw at it in any possible way. I recently read the book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and in it the author gives an example of one of his clients, who during a time of sexual abuse by one of her mothers’ boyfriends, would go and find him when he was drinking and act provocatively. What she was doing was simply trying to gain some form of control over the situation. By doing that she could dictate when it would happen, and she wouldn’t have to be anxious and awake all night, waiting for it to happen. It likely increased the number of times he assaulted her, but at least she had some control over when it would happen.

I did something different, and yet similar, and have always hated myself more than anything for it. I have been disgusted right to my core at myself, called myself a prostitute, a disgusting little whore, and could never hear anybodys attempts at compassion for the child I was, gaining control over the situation in any way I could. I still hate myself. When I first read that chapter in the book something clicked and I suddenly felt sad, but that has long since dissipated.

But even in the everyday, normal things, I am, and for as long as I can remember have been, a massive (and extremely annoying) control freak.

I’ve never cared if it meant I’d be doing all the work, so long as I was the one in control and doing it. My best friends used to laugh at me for it frequently… It was just one of those things about me. And actually not something I’ve ever really wanted to change about myself (aside from getting a bit better at relinquishing control over really unimportant things, which I have done).

But the thing is, I still do it to my detriment far too often in my life.

Several weeks ago I got really mad at my therapist… I took a book with me that she had given me, that we were working on, and when I got mad I told her that I only brought the book with me because I was giving it back to her. I wouldn’t do the work, didn’t want to, and there was no point in me having it. (my version of a ‘fuck you’ – you’ve disappointed me so have it back. I’m in control here, and I’m not doing anything you tell me to).

And I had refused to commit to doing the work up to that point too. I’d read the chapters a lot of the time, but refused to do any of the homework or exercises in it that she told me she wanted me to.

Then, a few weeks after giving her the book back, I went to therapy and at the end of my session asked if I could get it back (petulant child? Oh yes). That was just two sessions ago…I got it back (I think she was pleased I wanted it back), and I went home and read a few chapters and did a few of the exercises. Because this time I was in control, it was on my terms, not hers. And I went back last week with the book in my hand, full of bits that I’d written in it.

And then (I promise we’re coming towards the end of this boring story, sorry), I was panicky and young and scared last week, and I told her I quit.

I was done with therapy. Didn’t need it, was a waste of money, there is nothing wrong with me and I’m just being stupid. Really, I was just feeling all out of control of my life. My best friend was wanting to kill herself, and I realised I couldn’t help her or stop her, no matter how desperately I wanted to. My other best friend is having a terrible time with her family and yet is in the beginnings of what will be a successful career, in a long term relationship with the man I have no doubts she will marry and have kids with, and doing all of this with her own background of trauma. And then I’m here, entirely alone, unable to work out what I want to do, unable to move away, unable to feel in control of my life. I have an ex(not boyfriend, don’t know what to call him) who is pestering me to see him and that’s really just one 6 year long mess. I’ve got a family that I don’t know what to do with because I can’t seem to stop myself loving them even though i know they won’t ever be who I need or want. My brothers fiancé is talking about them having kids, which just makes me want to hurl. And I just completed a chapter in a book on dissociative disorders that terrifies me and that I had refused to do up until that point but somehow I wrote stuff and now it’s out there for somebody to read, even if that somebody is my therapist, and that scares the crap out of me.

So I quit. Because that was something I finally had effing control over. I could say, no more. I could say I was done…Except I signed a contract stating we’d have 2 finishing sessions in the event of terminating therapy (fuck it).

So I handed her the book, told her to rub all the stuff I’d written in it out (to which she said the book was mine to keep, that I mattered, and that my thinking she would just erase me from her life made her sad and brought tears to her eyes). But she took the book, swapped it out for another one that I could read this week while she reads what I wrote in the first one. And then, tomorrow, she’ll let me leave and not come back, without fulfilling the requirement of two final sessions, if this is what I want.

And now I don’t know what I want.

Going there tomorrow and saying goodbye, refusing to let her in, makes me feel in control.

Going there tomorrow and saying I’ve changed my mind, I want to carry on, feels weak. It feels very much not in control. It feels exposed and vulnerable and like I want to push anyone that comes near my heart far away.

It feels like something that I can finally do to say fuck you, I don’t need anybody, I decide what I do, and nobody gets to hurt me.

What a bloody mess, this need for control. I’m not sure how much sense this makes, it’s now 2.45am, and I’m going to take something to try to sleep, so I’m ending it here regardless…