Trying To Hang On…

Trauma is weird. Repressed memories are even weirder. Nothing makes sense when you live in that world. And when you are attempting to move on with life and forget anything and everything and just try for the love of God to be normal, (or maybe sometimes, like me, stoop to convincing yourself nothing you think, feel, dream, or see is real and you are just drama obsessed and overreactive) it just gets weirder. Your body is in control at this point. You have no control. You can’t deny what’s happening to you, but you can’t seem to understand it either. And when you have been through abuse and trauma, you NEED to feel like and have some sort of control. This is where safety lies for you. Am I right? Somebody please tell me I’m right.

For months, maybe for over a year now, I don’t know, I’ve been seeing myself as a young girl of varying ages in horrible, horrific, abusive situations. It’s a blip here and a glimpse there. I have no complete story to any of it yet but the physical effects I feel with these visions are incredibly intense. Did you notice what I did there? I said visions instead of memories. I have no desire to claim any of this as real. But I think I’m to a point that if I don’t I might be stuck in this place of horror forever. I’m not there though. I can’t claim or accept this as my life so I waver back and forth between two realities. One that I used to have (bad), and one that seems to be (even worse).

I’ve researched my brains out about trauma and the effects of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I try to find anything that goes against what I’m experiencing to prove to myself and my therapist that I’m just a bat-shit crazy, mentally ill, hopeless attention seeker, and liar. After all, that’s what I was always told I was growing up. I’m trying relentlessly to live by this identity. If this were all my fault, I could handle it. I would be responsible. As always, there is just something wrong with me. This is familiar and very weirdly safe. I can handle this. Breathe, fix it, stop it, whatever…and move on.

What I can’t seem to get a grip on or handle is the idea that there might actually be something really wrong with me. So wrong that it causes others to hurt me, punish me, exploit me, and degrade me because I’m so awful and unworthy of anything better. This is a different type of “there’s something wrong with me.” What I described above is self defined. What is happening here with abuse is validating that definition into reality. What I don’t understand is how another human being can be so cruel and heartless. I don’t understand how God could be so cruel and heartless that He would allow one of His own created beings to behave in such a way. If God is love and humans were created in His image, then logically, this becomes my view of God, and love, if I’ve never experienced anything differently. But instinctively, I know this doesn’t fit either. Because I am not those things. I want to believe I was created in the image of love. But why couldn’t everyone have been?? Or were they, and I wasn’t? Everything feels so twisted and confusing and incomprehensible. I can’t reconcile any of it. So I twist it more and make it my own fault and failure to be whatever I was supposed to be, because that, I can swallow and make sense of because it’s what I’ve always known.

With regards to trauma and repressed memories, I have read often that there can be an unrelated traumatic event that happens in the victim’s current place in life that triggers or awakens the brain to other traumas hidden inside of them. I guess this could be the case for me. My husband has been chronically unfaithful to me, our marriage, and our children. It is something I have always accepted and hoped, after the last discovery and round of counseling, was over with and behind us. I fell into a deep state of trust, safety, and naivety and was blind to what was really going on. This is another effect of trauma. When you deal with traumatic events, you can dissociate to cope with them. When you dissociate when triggered, or chronically, to cope with pain and emotions, you become vulnerable to further abuse in the future because you are living in a different state of mind and different world. I can look at my life and it makes sense to me that this was me if I accept what I am experiencing. When I discovered again to a much deeper and twisted and offensive level the activity my husband was up to, I crumbled. My world fell apart, and not long after, it fell apart even more with the emergence of these visions (memories?) of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that came at the hands of my father, mother, sister, a neighbor and others that I have not been able to identify yet…they are still shadows in my mind. If this is real, I’ve become incredibly desensitized to abuse. It’s normal. It’s my life. Even today. It’s all I’ve known. I don’t know what to do with this.

I have very few memories of my childhood (another effect of abuse). Entire chunks and ages gone. Nothing is there. And the things I do remember vividly with confidence often involve physical abuse, fights, weird drunken parties or sexual behavior my parents and other family members had and some family trips. I’m beginning to realize I was pretty isolated. I had very few friends. I was shy, quiet, and unsure. I asked some relatives for pictures of me when I was growing up. When they sent them to me I was shocked when I looked at them. I had no idea who that little girl was. None. I even questioned if it was really me. I didn’t recognize her. At all. My kids can look at pictures and see themselves instantly. I couldn’t do that in some that I received. It was by process of elimination that they were me. That bothers me so much. There is a little girl who lived some time ago who didn’t even know herself and still doesn’t.

It’s scary and disorienting to think this could be who I am and was. Everything I thought I knew about myself is turned upside down. I’m a stranger to myself. I question everything. I have so much fear now. I don’t trust my own judgement of people, their character, and if they are safe. I worry about my children. I’m very skeptical and am easily triggered into varying states of panic and anxiety for no apparent reason at all. I don’t want this life. It feels like a prison. I want to escape it but I don’t know how. And in a weird way I’m afraid to move forward into freedom from this because it is completely unknown to me. Unknown is a trigger and is incredibly stressful. It always has been for me, but now, I see scary things in the unknown parts of my mind. I don’t trust the unknown. It feels like a trap.

My health has significantly suffered this past year. I’ve discovered and had treatments for severe anemia. I’ve seen specialists at the Mayo Clinic and have had countless tests to try to figure out what’s wrong. I was finally stabilized about 4 months ago, only to find out yesterday that I’m right back in the “you could die if this doesn’t get under control” danger zone and severely anemic again. I feel like I’m constantly going through a cycle of putting fires out in my life. One thing happens, I stabilize it, something else happens, I stabilize it. Something else happens and I freak out from the pressure, and think only of the dark places I can go. Then I pull myself back out only to find myself back in that place of distress once again. I wonder if God will ever look at me in pity and say enough is enough and make everything stop, but He hasn’t and I begin to wonder again if it’s really all true…I’m damaged, unworthy, not even good enough for God to rescue and save and use in some way.  I feel so incredibly defeated.

I want to get out of this, though. I want a new reality so badly. One I’m in charge of for once. One that is filled with comfort, stability, safety, joy, sound sleep, health, kindness, love, and trust. I’m so desperate for peace. It feels impossible most days. It feels like a fantasy. I feel like I don’t deserve it. I feel like no one feels like I’m worth the effort to love me or help me get there. I’m determined. I fight. I like to prove everyone wrong, even myself sometimes. I’ve lost that part of me somewhere in this. I’m none of those things anymore. I feel like a failure, worthless, and weak because I can’t just “buck up” and move on. My husband even told me that if he had to pick something I was addicted to, it would be my past. But I’m not. I want nothing to do with it. I constantly try to walk away from it but at every turn I make in a different direction there it is waiting for me.

I feel very alone in this journey. Someone help me hang on, please. Someone tell me this gets better somewhere. Someone tell me they understand any of this and can relate. Someone tell me they’ve experienced anything like this. That they didn’t believe their “memories” either but accepted them and are still OK. Someone please tell me they created a new reality for themselves and they believe God really is good. I need hope. I need something, anything, to hang on to.

Advertisements

Leaving A Legacy…

I’ve been sharing a little with my therapist about my feelings of wanting to end my life. I’ve been feeling this way for months. We argue about it, he tries to switch my thinking and paint a darker picture of what the end result of this would look like rather than what I will face in moving forward with my life. His points are valid, and though I try, not really arguable, so I shut down and stop talking because I don’t know how to explain what I need to say. I love my children. I would hate to hurt them and abandon them. It would be messy. On a logical level, I get that. But for some reason, that doesn’t motivate me as much to want to stay anymore. Sometimes, the thought of me leaving them seems more attractive to them (from my perspective) than being here in the state that I’m in right now.

The last time we talked about this he asked me what I wanted my legacy to be. He probably asked me this to distract me from my negative thoughts. It didn’t work. I immediately started thinking of what I perceive my legacy currently to be, and that just became greater justification to act upon my current state of mind…to get out, and end it all. The pressure building up inside of me is so intense. I can’t figure out what it is. Or how to release it. It’s becoming unbearable. It’s the heaviest of weights. I feel trapped with no way out. It’s getting darker and scarier and more and more confusing. I think I’ve actually really lost my mind. I haven’t ever felt this before. I feel like I have no control and no where to go to escape the torture I feel. I’m completely frozen yet completely on fire all at the same time. I’m afraid of myself and who I’m becoming.

My therapist talks a lot about dissociation when he tries to explain why I feel or remember things the way I do when I can’t find any understanding of it on my own. I still don’t grasp the concept of this or how it works so I’ve been reading a lot about trauma to try and find answers to help me understand myself better. I was reading the other day and came across some things that resonated with me. One author was discussing the impact of our inner critical voice and stated that it causes us to contemplate suicide. She also states that the critical voice is also hope-phobic. It doesn’t want us to hope because disappointment is so excruciatingly painful and it’s very good at predicting the worst possible outcome. She goes on to say that having no hope, the critical voice doesn’t want change. It doesn’t believe change is possible. I feel that sometimes. Another author I was reading touched on suicidal tendencies as well. She states, in reference to past childhood abuse and resulting dissociation, “Fight and flight driven aspects of the self that are suicidal or self-harming developed as a way of increasing the child’s sense of having some control (“If it gets too bad, I can die—I can leave—I can go to sleep and never wake up”) and may continue to have strong self-destructive impulses in the context of loss or vulnerability.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past couple days and I wondered if this feeling of wanting to escape, to end my life, is not necessarily because I can’t endure or cope with the “whatever it is I’m experiencing feeling” as much as it is a symptom of what I have experienced. In a way, that perspective shifted my thoughts around my desires. They’re there because something happened to me. It was a way I tried to cope and have control when I physically didn’t and I’m using this strategy again now as an adult as I relive some of what happened to me as a child. I felt a small twinge of freedom from the stronghold this desire to end my life has had on me. Maybe this quote about another woman I read about experiencing something similar can explain better what I’m trying to say. “…As she began to label the panic symptoms as “memories” and refrained from either “believing” them or exploring them (just noting that they were not a reflection of her present), she found that she was less overwhelmed by them and more able to reassure her traumatized child parts (and thus, herself) that “it’s not happening now—you are just remembering how afraid you were…” (source). 

So as I translate this information into my own experience, I’ve begun to wonder if these suicidal thoughts are actually “memories” of past distress as I sift through the ones that are continually surfacing from the depths of my mind. Even if they’re not, and I am truly feeling all hope is lost for me, which I genuinely feel sometimes, it releases some of the pressure somehow and frees me from the desire to act on these thoughts to a certain extent. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone else, but it clicked with me on some level.

I’ve been in a very low emotional state for some time now with a very strong “flight” desire burning within me. With this new thought process digesting, I realized I need to take whatever steps I can to prevent myself from unknowingly trying to reenact these suicide attempts I made as a child while dealing with my seemingly very traumatic past and the emotions and thoughts that are coming with that process. I don’t really trust myself right now. I think it’s because I don’t have a conscious awareness of ever feeling this low or lost or confused. Without explanation, I asked my husband to remove all the medications from their normal places in our home and put them away somewhere. He did it without asking questions and I appreciated that so much. I think he’s smart enough to understand why but he didn’t make me tell him.

When I was 12 years old, and my parents were out at the bar, I sat on the floor at 2am in my bedroom closet and methodically swallowed over 100 aspirin. I was horrifically sick and violently vomited for days and my parents did not take me to the hospital or my primary doctor. They left me alone at home during the day while they continued on with their lives and went to work. I don’t remember what I was feeling or thinking, but it must not have been good as I went on to repeat the process again only a couple weeks later. Again, my parents neglected to care for me and this time around even barked at me for vomiting in my bed and cracked jokes that I was “still sick.” They never knew why I was and I never told them or tried swallowing pills again.

When I think about what I want my legacy to be, what I leave behind for my children to treasure and what others would remember me for, it doesn’t look at all like my parents do to me now. My inner critical voice speaks loudly to me that I am a failure in so many ways. Because of the neglect and abuse in my past, and the emotions (or complete lack of them) that I experience, I too have neglected my children unknowingly on some levels. As I realize more and more why I live the way I do, as a reaction to my past, I feel more and more damaged and inadequate. Compound this with the feelings of abandonment by my husband and his lack of love and faithfulness, it makes for an impossible situation to feel anything but inadequate and like a failure sometimes. But on a different level, I have this information now, and I can use it to change for the better in ways I didn’t know I needed to change before. I don’t know if I can articulate yet what I would like my legacy to be when the end comes and that’s all that’s left of me here on earth, but I hope that my children and others would see me as authentic and bold and brave and learn that one way to honor God is to continually strive to be real, balanced, healthy, and the best we can be. I genuinely want to keep fighting to see what God might have in store for me. I want my children to see my faith and watch how God can work bad situations out for our good. I believe He can.

It’s hard sometimes to cling to that hope offered from God. I don’t always do it or find comfort in my faith or His promises in my circumstances, obviously. I’m easily overwhelmed and anxious and scared and skeptical that God actually cares at all about me. It’s hard for me to trust. And I think God requires full trust in Him. I haven’t learned how to do that yet. But I can’t leave that journey of discovery behind if I cut myself off from fighting and trying. So I guess I’m still trying to fight for control and my freedom, just in a different way than my mind has been trying to convince me to do. I hope I can stabilize in this place for awhile and as I get overwhelmed with doubt or become distressed, because I know I will, I can remember that maybe the feelings aren’t real in my current moment, but are a memory from my past and old ways of coping and surviving. And I hope I can also remember that if I made it through then, I can do it again now.

If Walls Could Talk…

If the walls that surround her could talk…they’d tell you this…

“There have been some who have hurt here before, but this one…she is lost, she has no hope. She’s confused and scared, ambushed by many, and she is cornered. Her eyes dart back and forth…she’s lost in her thoughts, unable to make sense of her world. She doesn’t know which way to turn or where to go. She’s alone. She has no one to hold her. Her husband leaves her feeling empty and cold. He is unsafe. There is no love or kindness from him. She cannot feel it.”

“She’s a child…but she’s not. She cries in her sleep and she screams out in terror. She lays still with eyes wide open, frozen, while the touch across her body transports her to a world of confusion and distress. As he moves about her, his words smooth and sly, the panic rises inside of her and she is overcome with anguish, no longer able to take anymore. She trembles and cries, curls up, and is unable to speak. He looks at her and says simply, “you’re ok…”  and turns over, leaving her, cold and alone again. He’s blinded by himself, she’s not ok, but he got what he wanted from her. She shakes, trying to gain control, and wonders what she did to deserve to be so hated. She wonders why she is so inadequate and if he’ll ever really see her. She feels used. Invisible. No one sees her. No one rescues her.”

“She escapes from her reality and cries out to God. She clings to the pages of His word, caressing them methodically back and forth, a momentary calm washes over her. Her peace disappears when they enter..searching for her companionship. She breathes deeply and returns to her tasks. She worries she does everything wrong. She feels like she’s failed as a mother. Her confidence is waning. Nothing she does satisfies her. She counts the minutes until her fingers can run across those smooth pages again. She is weary.”

“He sleeps soundly next to her, oblivious to her heartache and pain. Her chest heaves as she tries to breathe. Tears flow freely. The nights are hard for her. She’s afraid to sleep. Her pen moves furiously across pages and pages…pleading through unending prayers night after night. She finally relents and closes her eyes but her mind races still. She is so restless.”

“When the light peers in at dawn, he moves about in a fury and she startles out of her dreams. Her breaths are short and labored as her heart pounds through her chest. He leaves her and walks away in a rush. She sighs deeply. She’s a fighter. She rises again, embattled, though weak-kneed. Her shoulders hunch over somedays, weary of what’s ahead. She disappears into her day and we wonder if she is ok…there have been some who have hurt here before, but they have escaped. But she…she has no hope. She is confused and she’s scared. We surround her. We protect her. We hope for her because she can not.”

Please Rescue Me…

Dear God, today I’m not so sure we’re ok. I don’t understand what’s going on in my life or what it is you want me to do. Love my enemies. Surrender. Trust. Have faith. Develop a personal relationship? How can I? These buzz words and phrases I get tired of hearing. Tired of trying to achieve. I’m afraid I don’t measure up. I haven’t been praying as I usually do…does that offend you? Is my faith too weak and scattered? How can I be what you want if your standards are impossible to reach? I’m human. I don’t have the strength to handle what you’ve dealt me. It’s too much. My plate is full. It’s overflowing actually…it’s been dropped all over the floor and I’m crying over the mess of gunk I now have to clean up as well. I don’t know how to stand tall and reflect what you need me to because I feel like I am the epitome of darkness. My life is a mess. It wasn’t my plan. I tried to stop it but I failed. I tried to cover it but my blanket is too small. I’m trying to hide but exposure screams and beckons me like a fire does a moth but then it burns me up. Memories are flashing again and dreams are haunting and terrorizing me in my sleep. I don’t know what they mean. Why are they here again? What do I do? Where do I go from here? I have a million choices to make and I can’t hear your voice or know what you want me to do. I’m stuck. I’m lost. And I’m scared.

Run Wild, Live Free…

I cower in fear in the corner of my mind. I’ve been beaten and battered and twisted and tattered so many times this is my safe place. Stay back. Stay quiet. Don’t feel. Don’t move. It’s too dangerous. I feel trapped…even though I’m not.

Freedom is an elusive thought for me. I don’t even know what it means or what it looks like. How can I know if I even want it? At least here in this corner I know what to expect and I know how it feels and I know how to self soothe. Go out into the world? Run? What are you even talking about?? That’s “crazy talk.” That’s for brave people. Not me. I don’t belong out there. I don’t deserve that.

I’m like a caged animal. I’m not under anyone’s control anymore and my door is open to go out but I can’t. I’m too scared. I’m afraid I’ll be alone…even though I’ve never felt more isolated and as lonely as I do now. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid to tell my story and live out in the world free of the pain I’ve been in. It’s terrifying. But I want it SO badly. But I can’t. No one would understand why I walked away. Would anyone even believe me? Everyone else has been trained to see the facade he’s built as well. I would be the crazy one. But no one knows, that right now, I’m already crazy inside my head. Maybe the freedom takes the crazy away. But what if I’m hurt again? I can’t take anymore. I just can’t.

I’m numb. I can’t move. I can’t even get the words so desperately needing release out of that corner of my mind. I pray to God to help me. But does He even hear me?

God? Are you there? HELP! Give me strength to endure my own emotions. Understanding and wisdom to see how you will use this for good. Patience to be still and learn. And love…help me understand your love…your perfect and pure love. I don’t know how to receive it. Father, take my hand. I’m too afraid. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go or what I’m supposed to do. My hurt is deep. My fear is strong. You know this. I need you…

Gasping For Air…

It’s been three weeks since I set this space up. I want to use it to get things out of my head and in to the open. But ironically, the secrets stay stuck inside of me. And even more ironic, this doesn’t reveal the real me…it’s just disclosure in secret. Secrets. Everywhere. I hate secrets. They represent darkness, isolation, hurt, and fear to me. All things I want so desperately to gain freedom from.

I’ve lived in a world too painful to ever tell. I’ve lived with relationships too hurtful and humiliating and shameful to ever show their reality. I’ve lived in darkness for as long as I can remember and sometimes not even knowing that the darkness was even there. I’ve been lied to, betrayed, abused, rejected, and misled. I’ve been taught that my worth and ability to be loved lies within earning it, being controlled, manipulated, agreeable, or looking a certain way.

The person I thought I was has crumbled all around me into a big messy heap and exposed more of who I feel I really am sometimes. I’ve been hiding…wearing a mask of strength, steadiness, perfection, and order. But underneath I really just feel weak, damaged, used, insecure, uncertain, and like a failure.

I need freedom from the hurt. I need life returned to me. I need air in my lungs. I want to believe that I’m ok. But I feel like I can’t breathe.

God? Where are You?? Why so much ugliness? Why so much pain? Why so much confusion? Why so much loneliness? Why so much fear inside of me that even You don’t love me like You say You do? I’m fighting to follow You and bask in Your grace and glory but the darkness sits inside and holds on to me like a prisoner held in place by chains…