Avoidance (177)

I think I might just avoid this one….

Ugh, I wish. I’m a big avoider. It’s something I do pretty well.

This always reminds me of way back when I did EMDR with the man who was head of counselling at my university. When I got there the first day he asked me to fill out a bunch of questionnaires/forms. I can’t remember the name of one of them, and I can’t find it online, but there were a load of pretty odd questions. He scored it and then explained the questionnaire to me at the end. It was testing trauma, maybe PTSD, I can’t remember, but there were three categories that you were scored in; hypervigilance (I scored mid range I think), dissociation (my response – “that stuffs bonkers”. I scored low. lol), and avoidance….where I scored extremely extremely high, high enough that on that section alone I would have been put in the PTSD bracket. (Not that the point of any of it was diagnosis, but just for him to get some background before we could begin the EMDR).

Back then my avoidance was absolutely huge. I had yet to find the forum where I met PC (or maybe i had just found it, I can’t remember, it was around about the same time – I think the forum was just after). I hadn’t told a single person about my childhood. Hadn’t confronted any family, hadn’t told a single friend, and was very much trying to continue avoiding the whole thing even in my own head. Because I had done that for years, and it had worked remarkably well; it got me here. But then relationships were becoming difficult, I was starting to have it confronting me when conversations between 20 year old female friends turned to stuff like sex, when I tried dating and freaked out when things progressed too far, when I started drinking a lot more because all of a sudden my brain was refusing to ignore it all and instead decided to bombard me with a fucking running background commentary on all of it. And I’d ignored it for years, for my whole life that far. But something to do with living away, having space from my family, and having it very obvious to me how differently I felt, and how withheld and scared I was, by being there as my friends relationships unfolded, made it somehow impossible to ignore. Avoidance totally failed.

That’s not to say that I don’t still avoid – I absolutely do. Last week I sent an email to my t that I wanted to talk to her about some stuff. This week I avoided going into it, and I likely will next week, and the week after, until forever lol. I’m good at being an idiot like that.

Also, a huge difficulty (I wrote part of my problem just then before changing it – that’s what it feels like, but I’m trying to be just a tiny bit nicer to myself), is what I’ve written on here about before, which is a phobia of inner experience, or easier put; I’m a wimp and scared of feeling the feelings, so I avoid doing that a lot. I could go into that tonight (it ties into my saying fine all the time too acutally…), but I think I’ve written enough nonsense for one night.

Shame (168)

This word is a huge one in both of our lives, and seriously, how are we even meant to come close to doing this word justice given the hold it has over us? One blog post can’t ever even begin to describe the fucking constant presence of shame. How it sits back and quietly tuts at you so that you think you have enough of a hold over it to not let it impact your life, until it eggs itself on until its completely screaming in your ears, and you can no longer hear/see/think straight.

***

The image that comes to my mind when I think of shame is of a fire…sometimes controlled, a medium burn, easy(ish) to handle. Sometimes that dies down, its just embers, still hot, but not in your face, not painful…and then all of a sudden without any warning it’s fed some fuel and it’s roaring, burning you, engulfing everything around you. If anything is volatile (yesterdays word), it’s shame. Shame can go from nothing to everything in a millisecond.

***

Last summer shame was being particularly noisy one day, and pocketcanadian suggested that I write out everything I was ashamed of, and for once I did. I’ve got a word document here titled ‘all the shame’. It’s not short, 3 pages long, full of things that I was ashamed of. Some of them feel less real reading them tonight (though I know they were incredibly real to me back then), and some of them still ring true. And, as ever there are more that come to mind. It’s an ever changing (and probably expanding) list.

Here’s one that still has a massive hold over me because the personal belief underlying it is one that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake:

  • That I’m too much. Too needy, too incessant, too annoying, want too much, ask for too much, am too emotional, take too much away from other people.

And here are a couple that I wrote that still make me feel physically sick:

  • That it was my fault because he was just a kid, a victim, and if he’s so young and innocent I should have been able to stop him.
  • That he was just a kid so it can’t have been bad. That it’s different to abuse by an adult, that I’m lucky and should shut up. That I’m being disrespectful to people that were actually abused.

***

If/when PC writes about this one, I think she’ll probably talk about the shame spiral…about how once your ashamed and then trying to let somebody in you start getting ashamed about being ashamed in the first place. I’m nowhere near as eloquent as pc, so I’ll leave that bit to her.

***

I wish I could say something more positive in this post, but well, I can’t. It’s just one of those crappy things, and I could write a whole load more about it, but I think that’s enough rubbishy stuff from me for today.

one hundred & sixty five: greed

this one just makes me want to swear and throw things. it makes me so, so ashamed, and it’s all mixed up in all kinds of stuff from my childhood and i just really don’t even want to write about it but i also want to keep the momentum going on the blog so i’m going to, but ugh.

and ugh again.

*

being greedy is interwoven so tightly for me with selfishness, another word that makes my cheeks flush with shame. wanting anything when i was little was too much, was selfish, was greedy. and what i was most greedy about, and for, was attention.

i was a teacher’s pet. i aspired to be. the moment someone i liked, or admired responded with kindness or positive attention, i bloomed. i can remember the feeling, of literally unfolding, of how my body relaxed and i would feel warm and soft and glowy. i can almost imagine it was a physical thing that happened, that i expanded somehow into the space around me.

i was desperate for attention, and was shamed throughout my life for striving to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed. it was a personal affront to my mom (and she was right to be offended, it was most certainly a commentary on her parenting) and she’d shut it down at every opportunity.

*

all kids are greedy. they are egocentric, they situate themselves at the centre of everything. it is necessarily how kids are, until they reach a certain age. and that natural sense of wanting the biggest slice of cake or of arguing over the larger half of the cookie or wanting the sharpest pencil crayon or holding the teacher’s hand the most times at recess was used as evidence of my selfishness and greed, to support how i was a little girl who didn’t think of others. i can feel myself shrinking even now, recalling it.

*

i’m really struggling to write this next part but it feels important so i’m going to try…it’s just that when i read all the definitions of greed, they mentioned food, and it upset me the most about the word, because my relationship with food is the one area i just haven’t been able to touch in therapy. and it’s fucked up, friends. a real mess.

the completely disordered way i relate to food was inherited at least in part from my constantly-dieting mom, but is also deeply rooted in trauma. i feel like i’m only starting to realize how deeply and it terrifies me. to start, i hate my body. for so so many reasons, mostly the mere fact that i have to have one, that i have to dress it, that i must attend to its needs, that i have to look at it ever, that i have to acknowledge it.

you see, my current body is the type of body my dad was always disgusted about. there was almost nothing worse you could be, than fat (which is a physical manifestation of greed and gluttony, obviously). and…over the years, i have built myself this body, i have cultivated it into my current form, as a way to defy them, as a way to challenge their love, but the thing is, i fucking hate it. like fully, absolutely hate my body. i want to be positive about it, i want to love the fact that i am soft and comfy and curvy but i don’t. i feel (and actually am) heavy, lumbering, ungainly. so so ugly. out of control, and fully broadcasting it to everyone.

everyone who looks at me can see my greed. everyone can see that i take more than my share, that i am selfish, that i am gross. that i’m screaming out for attention, daring to take so much space.

it would be one thing if having this body made me happy, or fulfilled, or proud. if i somehow reclaimed it. if i grew to love it, just as it was. that’s what we’re all meant to do, right? love and accept ourselves?

i can’t. even though i built up layers and layers around me, even though i’m safe now, even though the only person i’m punishing is myself, even though it’s not proving any points anymore. i can’t be gentle about the fact that i’ve done this to myself. that i’ve internalized their disgust so deeply that i am harming my body and my health and my appearance. that i do this in front of my daughter. i can’t love or accept any of it, it’s so incredibly sickening.

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.

Affirmation (159)

People who have grown up in abusive families tend to have missed out on these growing up, I think. Maybe they totally clung to them whenever they received positive affirmations from people, or maybe they dismissed them, refused to let them in, shrugged them off as not truthful, they are only saying that because they don’t really understand, they don’t understand all the reasons you’re actually just terrible. Some people do both; I did. Both clung to any slight positive affirmation thrown my way, and refused to truly let it in. Voices inside my head citing off every single reason that the person was wrong to say what they did, backed up with the data of every single time everybody else said something bad to you, or wasn’t there.

Now, particularly when I’m young, I need (too) many of these from people that I have let in. (Which is not very many people – only pocketcanadian and my therapist). Sometimes my shame surrounding this feels crippling…because to me asking for affirmations – that I’m not alone, that my hurt is justified, that I’m not bad, that I’m loved, or even just that I matter, my hurt matters; all of it feels needy. It feels weak.

In both mine and pc’s circumstances, our parents are acting like nothing is really wrong. It is crazy-making. Like truly *crazy* making. I’m sure there are unfortunately so many out there that know exactly what I mean, and I can’t begin to sufficiently express how insane it makes you feel when your family are carrying on as though everything is just dandy. In my case having no doubt as to the abuse actually having taken place (after all, I didn’t tell them, they merely asked me to confirm it), but nonetheless having a family dinner complete with my abuser, as though we are one happy family. Most of the time I know that they are the crazy ones, but sometimes i start to truly question my sanity…have I lost it? Did I tell them? Am I imagining all of it taking place? Or are they right, is this just not a big deal but I’m making it into one?
This is maybe the most hurtful part of it all.

And so, my point to that last paragraph, was that having somebody by your side, rooting you on, confirming that yes, that really did happen, and yes they really are doing what they’re doing, and no my love, you are not the crazy one, they are the crazy ones, the crazy is theirs, not yours…Having those affirmations, is invaluable, and without it I don’t think I would be here. It feels like when you take the stabilizers off your bike for the first time and you have somebody running alongside you as you cycle…you’re still so scared, still unsure, you still don’t feel totally safe, but you know there’s someone right with you, keeping you going, there ready for when you fall, reassuring you.

Uncover (140)

I feel like all my blog posts on here lately (despite being extremely few and far between) have been about trauma and that is feeling crap and just kind of tiresome to me today. I don’t mean for them to be, and yet, that’s how we met, and this blog that we created together was always going to have a lot to do with it. But I’m hoping some of these words will start to have some better connotations soon.

This one makes me think of all of those people that recover memories of childhood sexual abuse. I wasn’t one of them, I’ve never really forgotten what happened to me, so I can’t ever truly understand the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under you and recovering these kinds of terrible things.

I can’t imagine the shock, the terror, the pain, the horror. I can’t imagine having to try to comprehend it and sift through it, and try to accept it as your truth.

I have remembered memories that I had forgotten about, but they were just more memories, more times it happened, different places. And they were simply forgotten for a few years, put to the very bottom of my mind, so that I could get on with my life for a little bit, just like I did will all of it for a couple of years.

I can’t imagine having this thrown into your conscious out of nowhere, the pain of uncovering, piece by slow, horrifying piece, a childhood that you had no idea belonged to you. So this word makes me think of those poor people, and the terrible experience of that.

And as a side note, to all those false memory syndrome bastards… fuck. you. 

Nobody would choose this.

Inside (136)

To everybody out there I seem calm and collected. I can seem extremely in control, like I know what I’m doing.

And it drives me nuts.

Because everybody thinks I’m completely fine, nothing wrong here…even though inside I’m a total mess. My therapist once said that she didn’t think even the best psychiatrist in the country would have known what was happening to me back then. That I shut it all away, and what I show to people is an entirely different person. That actually made me feel proud, a bit. Someone inside was so proud that no one would know. The same part of me that is so proud when somebody says I’m closed off, and don’t let people in. And it also makes me mad, that people couldn’t figure it out, that I never allowed people to know. And sad, to be alone. And crying out, now, for someone to break down those walls. To not have to be alone with it all.

Inside is a mess. A mess of ages, of experiences, of emotions, of control, of lack of control, of wanting, of pushing, of pulling, of being completely at odds. Outside is a relatively rational, calm, collected, understanding, controlled, unflappable (as my teacher always used to tell me) person.

I’d really like my inside to begin to match my outside now. I’m so tired of the chaos.

one hundred & thirty nine: family

today, this word is not much hurting me. but many times, it does. honestly, it’s like the new f word in my life, and more times than not, makes me want to spit and scream and cry, makes my insides all watery and sick. coz i want it. i want it so badly. so badly i wonder if one desperate day i’ll just retract all of it, like the false memory syndrome people say we all will.

nearly every time i hear this word, i feel orphaned, small, and alone. because no matter what, the truth is that i have no parents, not anymore. i don’t have a mom, or a dad. i mean yeah, they’re alive…but not in my life, they’re not. the pain of that feels like it won’t ever fade because no matter how okay or how good i am, no matter how much healing i do, no matter how much i know that it’s not my fault and no matter how much they continue to disappoint me…i still want it. not them, specifically. but i miss the idea of family, i bought into it hook, line, and sinker. that sense of history, those people who knew you back when, the people who are meant to hold you, stay with you, be yours forever, the people you see for holidays and birthdays and special occasions. i feel the absence of it all the time.

this word holds shame, as well, because i do have a family – my wife, my daughter, beloved friends (looking at you across the pond, my lovely) and even my in-laws. but my family of origin, relatives, and extended family i had growing up…are dead (either literally or figuratively), or faraway, or rendered faraway by the big gross secret i’ve been keeping.

it is a lonely, isolating experience. to have chosen this, in some sense, but having so much grief, shame, and hurt about it. i wonder all the time whether i will come out the other side.

one hundred & twenty nine: violence

violence is so, so many things.

overt things, like hurting someone’s body, with purpose.  i mean, there are millions of horrible ways to harm a body: hitting, kicking, slamming, pushing, shoving, choking, pinching, smacking, smothering. small things on small parts, also bigger things, with bigger sounds and bigger sores left behind.

violence is also quiet things, like silence. refusing to speak to someone, for hours, or days. the tilt of a head. a glare, or an empty stare, as if you are invisible. ignoring, either purposefully or by being disengaged. not watching, not telling. keeping secrets. perpetuating lies. the absence of presence.

violence is words. ones that are spoken, or hissed, or screamed. ones that are whispered. dirty, disgusting words, yes, but also words that are used opposite to how they’re meant. like i love you while simultaneously having disgusting things done to your body without your say, or you’re a good girl when it really means shut up, don’t tell, no one will believe you. words that get so confused in your brain because the sound of their voice, and what they say is not in line.

violence poisons things. violence dresses up in sheep’s clothing. it is a backdrop, an acrid smell, an insidious chill. violence has bad manners; ignores no thank you and please, stop! and fuck off.

violence was bred into me, was done to me and all around me, and i worry i won’t ever get it out, or off. i fear that others can smell it. that i will never get away. that my cells are rotten, that my body was so steeped in it, that violence is my inevitable destiny. though i know it, have always known it, i am terrified, i am an unwilling servant, i want to be free.

written feb 12/19 but backposted to jan 30/19

one hundred & twenty two: tired

oh god. this word.

i don’t know how many times i’ve sobbed about being tired in a therapy session. and i’ve meant it in terms of the hundreds of nights of stolen sleep, the physical exhaustion of my ridiculous on-call work life, but mostly, in the aching fatigue that comes from dealing with the fallout of incest and trauma. with battling parents and a brother who deny it happened in the first place, with a mother who thinks i’ve been hypnotized and a father who thinks my lesbian man-hating therapist planted ideas in my head (never mind that she is quite heterosexual and incredibly man-loving, never mind that i’m not a brainless blob that believes everything thrown her way). when i sob that i am tired, it is of the isolation, the shock, that this is in fact my life. i am tired of knowing this stuff, of carrying it. i don’t know when it will stop hurting. i don’t know how it ever could.

i spent much of my life convinced that there was something wrong with me. that all the labels and medications were to try and name and then fix the inherent brokennness that was me. and i was a fierce advocate for mental health issues, i disclosed often and in varying detail my journeys of depression, anxiety and panic disorder, because i hoped that i could help others (and myself?) by staring it in the face. i took full ownership of the wrongness of my neurotransmitters and hormones, medicated them, attempted to forgive my brain for its idiosyncrasies, and just tried to live the best life a damaged, sick, crazy person could live.

until remembering sexual abuse in my childhood, at the hands of two members of my family, turned it all upside down.

and over these past three years, i wished, so many times, i could just go back, that i could just unknow it all and go back. i have been gutted, time and again, by how difficult it is to share the responsibility for how i am; have been razed to the ground by the realization that the inherent wrongness i have always felt was a fucking lie, planted in me by the people meant to love me most. it is exhausting to flinch at the word family. it is exhausting to be reminded, with every interaction with my parents, that i am unseen, unheard, unknown. it is excruciating to nearly drown in the waves of abandonment, terror, and shame, and realize that this is how it felt, this is how little pocketcanadian felt all the time back then.

she wasn’t crazy. she wasn’t sick. she was damaged, oh yes. she was so so hurt, she was made to know things that she never should have, she was unsafe in her home, she was the receptacle for so much shame.

and unlearning all the things that were inserted into me, when i was too little to know different? is a full-time, full-body job. there is no amount of sleep that can remedy this sort of tired. there is just time, i am told. the passage of minutes, and days, and years, becoming accustomed to this new reality, to this identity, to these new labels. hoping that the sting eases. hoping that i can build a new life: of safety, of love, of compassion and gentleness, and that it can be enough.