This Is Trauma…

I’ve been reeling inside my head all day since my therapy session this morning. It was a lot of the same conversation we’ve been having. “You’re not a liar…what would you be gaining from this…I believe you, I don’t think you are making this up,” and the same physical reactions from me…I hear hard things, get asked questions I’m too scared to answer, go into frozen, can’t talk mode, my foot bounces with anxiety, and the tears start streaming down my face. Today I couldn’t turn them off. Not like I usually can. I was frustrated that I couldn’t stop crying. In fact, the tears have mysteriously begun falling right this second as I begin to process my thoughts.

This is trauma. Right? These reactions are the way the body speaks about what happened when words can’t be found. I’m sitting with that today, and when I think about it I begin to panic. I feel trapped in a situation that does not allow for any good outcome. If I accept these memories as real…accept that I am not lying, being overdramatic, over sensitive, reading into things too deeply, and they’re actually not real memories, what happens to me? This is what I’m ruminating over in my head…I’m negotiating the consequence of my acceptance. If I move through life and accept it all, tell my story, maybe share what I’ve learned, and it’s all wrong…I’m a fraud. I’m a liar. God detests liars. What will He do to me when judgment time comes? Will I be sent away from Him? Will I be punished? Will He turn His face away in disgust? Will He reject me? I’ve realized today that this is my fear. What are the consequences…how will I be hurt? How will I be used? How will I be abandoned this time?

This is trauma. Right? Expecting the worst in every situation. Weighing the pros and cons of every move and decision you make because you fear for your safety and your life. You don’t want to ruin anything good you might have. This is how someone thinks when they have been abused over and over and over and over again. This is how that person lives their days. Every day. Afraid of everything. Afraid to disagree with their abusers or the voices in their head for fear that they would be found or hurt or tortured yet again. To go out and live on your own and walk your own path is very dangerous. It’s walking away from a normal that should have never been. It’s an enormous fear of the unknown, even if the unknown is promised to offer freedom from pain and hurt. When all you know and have adapted to for the entirety of your life is the opposite of free and safe, you can’t imagine a life with hope. It is change. Change brings hurts. Surprises lead to torture and torment and death. Why would you willingly walk into change? Why set yourself up for the damage and chaos you’ve known to come with every walk you thought you were making into something better?

This is trauma. Right? The inability to trust. Anyone. At any time. When the ones who were supposed to model love and trust and security are the ones who turned you into an open door for exploitation, humiliation, degradation. They handed out the key to your body and your heart for themselves and others to go in and take a piece for themselves…to steal your soul…and leave you empty and worn, scarred, and stained…worthless. Why would you trust a God who says, “Come, follow me. I have something better for you. I will give you love. I will give you comfort. I will protect you.” All that was learned up until now was that these calls to follow…to take a hand in trust…lead to very dark, scary, impossible situations that had no means of escape. How do you even begin to trust? How do you risk even one more time? Why would you? So you stay in your prison cell of fear. Because at least you know that. At least you know how to cope with that. At least…

This is trauma. Right?

Abused.

Used.

Thrown.

Smashed.

Hit.

Tortured.

Burned.

Hair pulled.

Trapped.

Tied.

Bound.

Isolated.

Ridiculed.

Drugged.

Slapped.

Silenced.

Secrets.

Let down.

Rejected.

Chased.

Special.

Penetrated.

Suffocated.

Sodomized.

Afraid.

Confused.

Terrorized.

Chosen.

Raped.

Abandoned.

Voiceless.

Empty.

This is trauma. Right? This is me. All of it. And more. I see it. I feel it. I understand it. I know it. I want to look at it. I want to fight it. But I fear it. I fear for my safety. I fear for my sanity. I fear for my future. I fear the unknown. I fear acceptance. I fear being wrong. I fear the consequence if I am. I am the animal in the cage…afraid to walk out the open door. Too afraid to take one more risk. Too afraid to trust again. Too afraid to believe I can have something better than this. Too afraid to believe God can redeem something so ugly. Too afraid to speak my truth because speaking truth has always been a very bad, bad choice to make. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma. This is trauma…

This is me. Afraid to move. But what if…no. Don’t hope. Don’t go there. Stay still and quiet. It is safer here.

This is trauma. Right?

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The Battle…

I have a tug of war happening inside of my head…inside my entire being, actually. One part of me sees and feels myself in horrible, horrific, tortuous, exploitative situations. Another part of me screams, “This DID NOT happen…you are making this up…this did NOT happen!” I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go from here.

I was sitting with my therapist last week and for the second session in a row he presented the “facts” that I have laid in front of him about some of my past in an attempt to help me verbalize that I have been abused. I can’t do it. I can’t say the words. I can’t accept it as real. It doesn’t feel right. I can’t connect with the things I see in my head. They don’t feel real. It just feels wrong. Nothing feels good about it or accepting it as my truth. All this time I have been trying to prove it’s wrong…but it never. goes. away. ever.

He asked me directly again if I had been sexually abused as a child. I sat quietly for a while and then answered that I had been thinking about what the definition was for sexual abuse. If I could connect that to memories that I KNOW are true, then I could give him the answer “yes” that I knew he was hoping to hear me say. I said that “yes” out loud. I was, technically.

My parents openly had sex in our home when my siblings and I were children. We heard them and saw them all the time…sometimes they did it in the same room as us when they assumed we were asleep and would not wake up, but we did. There were Playboy magazines throughout the house for our little eyes to find. My Dad watched pornography on HBO and Cinemax while we sat behind the couch or played quietly in the next room, pretending we had no idea what he was watching.

When I was around 9 yrs. old, my older sister convinced me to engage in sexual activity with her. She would have been 13 or 14 yrs. old at the time. She made me sit on top of her. She unbuttoned her shirt and exposed her breasts to me where she then instructed me to touch her and kiss her in ways I did not want to do, but I did anyways, because, I don’t know…I just did.

These things all fall into the definition of sexual abuse. I know they happened. I connected immediately to these memories when they resurfaced two years ago. Some of the memories I have always remembered periodically throughout my life. So yes, I was sexually abused. My therapist just looked at me though, clearly not satisfied with my rationale. So he changed his question to something like this…

“Have you been sexually exploited and used by your Father and other men?”

 I don’t know. I can’t say yes. It doesn’t feel right…I don’t know if it actually happened…and I froze and went silent, filled with excruciating anxiety and fear and guilt and torment. I cannot say yes. I cannot talk.

He reminded me of the stories that I have told him, the physical reactions I expressed when I told them, and all the evidence we have that this in fact is not something I could just “make up.” I argued. The voices in my head were loud and clear. You are lying. You are just looking for attention. Do not speak. You are wrong. This did not happen. They will find you. They WILL find you. They will kill you. Leave right now. No don’t…they’re probably waiting for you right outside that door. You are not safe. You are wrong. You are being overdramatic. STOP.

 And then he triggered me. He repeatedly said the nickname my Dad used to call me when I was little during his rebuttals against the voices in my head, and for some reason in that moment it sent me to a place I had not been to yet in excruciatingly vivid detail. I was a little girl sound asleep in my bed, maybe 5 years old. I was awakened by my father whispering that nickname into my ear as he put his hand on my leg, and moved it up my thigh under my nightgown. I remember the nightgown very clearly. It was a Christmas gift from my grandparents. It was white flannel with puffy gathered sleeves, with a ruffle around the neck and the bottom hem. There were stripes of pink flowers and lace around the neckline. My hair was short. I remember looking at the wallpaper where it met the white ceiling…it was floral on the wall behind my head and a pink gingham check pattern on the other wall along the side of my bed. I stared at the angle in the ceiling as my Dad’s head went down between my legs…

My therapist is getting pretty good at reading me, or I’m losing my ability to mask what’s going on inside of me. It’s hard to hide from him lately. He must have seen something shift in me because he stopped talking and asked what I was thinking about. I couldn’t talk. I kept asking myself, “If this isn’t true, then why are you thinking about this? Why do you remember so much about what you were wearing and the patterns on the wall? Everything is so clear. Where did this come from? It all just appeared…” I wanted with every fiber of my being to tell him what was going on in my head but my tongue was tied. I could not speak. So I stuffed it away and tried to pull myself together.

That incident has stuck with me for almost a week now. Even when I saw him again yesterday, I could not get it out. I wanted to tell him everything about it. I planned on telling him about it, but I froze as soon as I tried. I don’t know what I’m fighting against. I’m terrified though. I’m terrified I’m being watched and followed. I’ve had a few very uncomfortable run in’s with strange people over the last several months that have left me reeling. I have had symbols and triggers of my past show up in places I had considered safe that have left me feeling like everyone in my life is part of the tribe, the cult, the whatever it was I was used in, in my childhood. Are they trying to access me to keep me silent? Is their control so powerful that all they have to do is leave a random vase of flowers for me to see somewhere to shut me back down and keep me quiet?

This all sounds so ridiculous and outrageous to me, every last bit of it. But I can’t shut it down. The fear is so real and the images won’t go away. It’s burned into my brain. And there’s so much more that I haven’t even verbalized because I don’t even know how to put words to it all. I don’t know what it is. It’s like a horror movie. It doesn’t make sense. I can’t make sense of it or reconcile myself to any of it. It follows me everywhere.

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m crazy? What if I claim this as my truth, my reality, and I go through the rest of my life living a lie, exploiting God for His “healing power” on the other side of this for my own gain? Then I am a liar, slamming the character of my Father and Mother who have always told me how much they have sacrificed for me. How is that honoring them? The guilt I feel for this is so heavy and crushing. Would I be feeling this guilt if it were true? What if the guilt and the fear and the unsettled state of my being is God telling me, “NO, this is not your reality!” And honestly, I don’t think anyone would ever believe me if I spoke the things I see out loud. I have no credibility. They have all the power. They will hurt me even more if this becomes exposed. Why won’t God rescue me from this? Why won’t He give me the answers and the certainty I need?

I don’t know what to do. I’m trapped. I’m backed into a corner. I’m afraid to keep going. My head is spinning and I’m tired of the push and pull and I don’t feel safe. I feel empty and drained. I feel unsure and afraid. I feel numb and confused. And the tug of war, the battle inside…it continues.

Used Again…

I’m in a daze today. I can’t focus. I can’t eat. I was raped by my husband again last night. This is becoming a regular occurrence. It’s sneaky on his part. He preys upon me when he knows I’m emotionally weak. At least I think he does. Maybe he doesn’t. I don’t know. Maybe I’m over exaggerating the circumstances. I can’t think clearly.

I came home from a therapy appointment last night completely overwhelmed and exhausted. It was my second 3 hour session this week. We are talking through abuse memories that I have had. It’s hard and it’s scary. I don’t know what to do with them all. I’m afraid they will find out I have talked to him about my past. I’m afraid they will come after me. Or my children. Or even him. I know they are watching me. I’ve never been able to escape. They find ways to warn me not to screw up, not to talk. They will hurt me again. This makes me want to quit therapy every time I go. I leave in a complete state of panic every time. What if they are waiting for me in the parking lot? My heart pounds as I scan my surroundings before walking out the door. I wonder sometimes if my therapist is one of them. I want to think no, that he’s not, that I’m safe with him, but I don’t know. I always wonder.

I wanted to go to sleep. I wanted to completely shut down and let the night go away. I was hoping for rest and no dreams. I was falling asleep. But my husband was not. He kept touching me and kissing me and I froze. Everything I talked about earlier in the evening…being tied down, held back from running away, raped, tortured. Every image flooded back in. I went into compliance mode. I acquiesced. I couldn’t talk the words that were screaming in my head…for him to leave me alone. For him to understand that this isn’t a good time. He knew where I was. He knew I had a hard appointment. He asked me when I got home. I told him so he knew. Why? Why was he doing this? Doesn’t he know?? HE KNOWS. I’ve told him before about how this happens to me. I asked him to be more aware. To back off. Please. He said he would. He didn’t. Again.

I let him have his way. I couldn’t fight it. I checked out and did what I needed to for him to be satisfied. He entered my body while I cringed and tears began to fall down my face. Maybe he didn’t notice, it was dark. I turned my head away from him so I couldn’t see his face anymore. He breathed heavily in my ear and I drifted away into the darkness of my mind. I didn’t kiss him back. I didn’t talk back. I didn’t move. I was gone. He knew I was. He kept asking if I was ok. I couldn’t answer. He didn’t stop. It was finally over. I just laid there, exhausted and confused. I’ve felt this before. I barely heard him talking to me…

“Did you leave me? Come back…” 

Now he notices I am not ok. But it’s too late. I wish he would see me. I wish he cared enough to do what was right. I wish he would leave me alone. I can’t do this one more time. I’m all used up. I’m damaged and broken. I’m empty. Disgusting. I feel so alone.

Maybe I’m just tired and overreacting. Maybe I led him to believe I wanted this somehow. Maybe I shouldn’t complain and be grateful he provides for me. It’s the least I can do. I am his wife after all. Maybe this is all I’m good for.

Running Away…

I’ve remembered something from when I was a little girl. In my memory I’m standing very still in the woods. My father is standing next to me with his strong, thick hand wrapped around the back of my neck. The canopy of the trees cover us and in the distance I see a girl. She is lifeless, hanging from a tree. Her arms and legs dangle and her neck has fallen to the side causing her long, wavy dark hair to fall over her face. This image is burned into my brain. It never changes, it visits me frequently. There are also men standing around in the woods in the distance. She was all alone. No one was looking at her. No one was helping her. I don’t understand why no one was helping her. The grip of my father’s hand tightens around my neck and I feel an incredible amount of confusion inside of me. I also remember running. Running like crazy through the woods. I don’t know if the two memories are connected or not. I ran so furiously my heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my ears. Sheer panic. Footsteps thunder behind me as I try to get away from something. Someone. Yelling and commotion, like a stampede, closing in behind me as my little body tries to escape. I was out of control and I crashed down to the ground. Everything goes black.

I ran away two weeks ago. I am overwhelmed, scared, panicked, desperate…to get away from the stampede of emotions that engulf me. My heart pounds through my ears. Sleep evades me. I feel sick. I am sick. My body is distressed. My heart is stressed. I’m exhausted and devoid of any life. My emotions and feelings terrify me. I don’t understand how to feel and not be afraid. Afraid of being hurt, assaulted, beaten, thrown, dragged, tortured…ignored.

So here I sit, stunned, two thousand miles away from my reality, trying to understand what’s happened to me. Why? Why me? WHY?? What now? Who am I? Where do I even belong? Does anyone even care?

There are people here who have rallied around me. They’ve scooped me up and said “Let us help you. You matter. We’re proud of you.” They’ve asked me to talk and they’ve listened to the tiniest fraction of my story and they have cried, cried, and said “This is too much. You have dealt with too much.” They don’t even know. But I don’t cry with them. I sit there and wonder why they do.

It feels so awkward and foreign to experience what I am. I feel guilt when anything I say upsets someone. I shut down. I can’t accept their emotion or sadness for me. I don’t understand it. This is my normal. I live in fear every single day. I’m constantly scouring my horizon for danger and disruption. It seems as though my job is to only please others. My body to be used. My emotions to be criticized and discarded and silenced, buried deep where they can no longer be accessed. They mean nothing. I mean nothing. Tossed aside until I’m useful again. This is my normal. This is the way it’s always been. No arguments. No protesting. No resistance by me. To be loved was to accept the way it is and to live is to not deviate from the routine. So I push away the kindness and try not to make a mistake and trust…it seems very, very dangerous…and I continue to run away, looking for peace and solitude. And I wonder. I wonder how far I will have to go to be able to stop running.

Discomfort…

I am a mess of stuck emotions right now. I have so many things to say I can’t say anything. I have tears bulging, pining to flow like rapids in the spring. I have screams twisted up in a lump in my throat. I have anxiety pumping fiercely through my heart. My hands are shaking and my body is tingling with nervous energy. My breath is hot with anger as I inhale deeply trying to keep it from exploding into a fire-y ball of hysterical chaos.

Little by little these feelings stuck inside of me are leaking out, like a slow drip or the barely audible whistling of air escaping it’s containment. I become painfully aware of their tactics to escape. I do a little patchwork here, apply a little duct tape there, to try to maintain composure and hold it all in. But the pressure is building. The faint whistles want to become like the blaring screeches from water boiling in a tea kettle, and the drips, a raging waterfall crashing down on boulders below. They are pushing and pulling, looking for their way out. But it’s too much. I’ve never felt this way before, or really ever felt anything at all, and now, now it’s everything at once and more than I feel I can handle. The fear of the unknown has infiltrated into the act of feeling itself.

Fear leads to numbing. That place of safety and solace…for me at least. Numb is where I like to live. Numb is where I go when I don’t know how to cope. Numb is my friend. Never failing, never hurting, always available at a moment’s notice. I slip numb on like an oversized fuzzy bathrobe and pull it up close to my chin. It envelopes me in comfort and coziness and I become oblivious to the reality around me as I snuggle in and fade away. But now that I know numb exists, I don’t like it. I wasn’t aware of numb before, so it worked out just fine. “What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you…” Right? Wrong. Now I know all about numb. And it’s not a good relationship anymore. I see all the red flags. The warnings. The patterns. I need to let go of numb and move on. But I don’t know how.

It’s interesting how this picture of emotion perfectly explains my conundrum in my life right now. My feelings mirror the reality I’m living. It’s a perfect storm. I’m faced with so many important, life changing decisions. Do I stay with numb (pretend happy marriage, pretend kind and loving father/mother/family) or do I go with emotional chaos (end pretend happy marriage, return to abusive father/mother/family) and live forever afraid I’ve given up too much and created a new conflict and chaos that’s just different (traumatized children now in a broken family, financial ruin, no more family connection anywhere)? How do you even choose? I know what I’m involved in now.  I’ve survived it and could probably continue to. But I’ve lost my comfort in it. The bathrobe is matted and old and full of holes. It’s cold and drafty now. It rubs my skin raw and offers no protection or warmth. I’m becoming…exposed. And exposed is not at all comfortable or desired when you’ve been hiding out in numb your entire life.

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.

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.

Silenced…

In the past weeks my words have been frozen inside of me. I can’t speak, even though my my mind is screaming that it has things to say. When I want to get the words out, I remain silent. I fight an incredible battle inside of myself trying to muster up whatever it is I need to thaw and allow the words to flow freely again. I can’t figure out how. I don’t understand why this is.

My dreams are active and vivid lately, but dark and obscure all at the same time. They’re like blips, or a 30 second trailer for a movie. I feel tension and confusion, pain and fear. They demand my attention regularly. The visions they provide never fade away from my mind like normal dreams do. They haunt and taunt like ghosts when they want to be freed from inside of me…

…A woman, she is standing over me on a catwalk up above. I look upwards, standing frozen and still as she gazes back down at me. There are shadows all around and a curved stairway to my right…

…There are men who surround me in a living room, their laughter and joking banter echo from all angles around me. My mind is curious and cautious all at once, and I stand very still, looking around, and wonder what will happen next…

…I was walking down a hallway that continually darkened the further I went. I walked though a door and entered a dim, concrete room. There was a window past a pile of boxes in front of me that was faded and yellowed. It glowed from behind. There was a man and a woman under a blanket in the corner of the room…

…Candles are burning and trying to talk, but they can’t get their words out. The “mother candle” spoke and said “let’s open the door, that will help…”

My fingers often linger over the keyboard unable to formulate the words I’m trying to translate out of my thoughts. It’s frustrating. It feels like I’m tied up and gagged, or trapped in a cage screaming at the top of my lungs for help over and over and then falling, defeated and exhausted, into a crumpled heap of a mess in the corner when no one hears or rescues me. I’m silenced once again.

It’s No Big Deal…

Just into the second year of my marriage, I found a charge on a credit card bill for an escort service during a time when my husband was traveling for work. I was devastated. We had a newborn. I went home and cried to my mom. She told me “oh…guys do things like that…don’t get worked up.” I told my father, he scoffed, called him a “dumb shit,” and looked back at the television. My mother told me to go back home and keep the peace. I told my mother-in-law…and I received the same message…it’s just what guys do. Really? I felt so alone and confused. I never told anyone again. I questioned every emotion I had surrounding the incident and buried them deep down inside of me with all the others not knowing how to cope with the pain and loneliness I was feeling. This was the beginning of a whole new nightmare inside of my already secret life.

I did what my mother told me to do. I went home. I did let my husband know I wasn’t happy about it, but I let it go, just like she instructed me to. We moved on. No harm done. A little mistake. An error in judgement. I had just had a baby. I obviously wasn’t what he needed or desired. I’ll fix it. I can be better. That’s all it could’ve been. Right?

Not really. He was just warming up.

As the years went on, the discoveries continued. A strip club visit here, another one there. Online chats with other women. Pornography on hotel bills and magazines hiding in his computer bag. Sex became less frequent. Then it became scary. One night he raped me. I was trapped underneath the weight of his body, may face buried in his chest, I was unable to get out. I told him to stop, I couldn’t breathe. But he didn’t. He was angry. He was in a different world. I did not know the man on top of me. When it was over I remember sitting alone in our bed crying harder than I ever had before. I remember thinking to myself that the intensity of my tears felt very foreign and weird. What was wrong with me? When he came back out of the bathroom I said to him “What was that?” His response, “Ya..that was bad.” and he got into bed and fell asleep. I must have stuffed this away too, because it took another 10 years to remember it happened.

I kicked him out a short time later when I learned he was still messing around. He lived on his own for six months. We went to counseling. He joined a sex addiction group. He went to therapy. I went to therapy. We had 5 children by this time. I told no one what was going on in my life. Despite the fact my family all lived within 10 minutes of us, I managed to keep this all a secret. After all, it’s what guys do. Who was going to help me? He said he was sorry. I told him he could come back home. I thought I was being the bigger person by being forgiving and loving and sympathetic to his “disease.” We carried on in peace. Things settled down and I trusted him again. For awhile.

The memory of the rape (and one other) was triggered by yet another discovery 8 years later. A text conversation I saw on his phone, which then led to the discovery of many, many more text conversations, and the discovery of coffee dates, hotel room charges during times he wasn’t traveling, meet ups in the parks during the day while he was supposedly working, an Ashley Madison account, among other dating site subscriptions. And these were all proceeded by the discovery of thousands and THOUSANDS of dollars spent on massage parlor escapades over the course of many, many years. Dozens, probably hundreds, of women. Too many to count or remember the details.

I left. I packed my bags and took off for three weeks leaving the kids behind with him. I told him I needed space to figure out my next steps and that he needed to figure out his own. I couldn’t live this way any more. I don’t know why I had endured this chaos for 19 years. I thought I had to. I was told to. I didn’t know how to fight for myself. I’d been trained from a very young age that I wasn’t supposed to fight back. I just didn’t know that brainwashing was what I was operating on all these years.

After some explosive episodes over the phone, and through texts, he begged me to come home. He told me he was sorry. That he had told me everything. He handed over access to the bank account and I took control of all the money. He promised to go to therapy. He had an epiphany at church one Sunday and decided to get baptized that afternoon. He had seen the light. He was sorry and he was willing to do the work to make this right. He wanted our family in tact. All my prayers were answered. I went back home. Foolishly.

Something was off. I knew it was. I could sense it, just as I had sensed before all the other discoveries. I wanted to believe this was finally over. I wanted to save my family. I was terrified of what divorce would look like. I didn’t want to hurt my children or disrupt their lives any more than I already had. I was trying to figure out what my role was in all of this breakdown. Was I too controlling? Too high maintenance? Not attractive or skinny enough? I was desperate to take the blame and fix it all.

I don’t know why all the other incidences didn’t seem like they were serious. Maybe because he insisted that he had actually never had intercourse with these women. They just “messed around.” He had always saved that for me. That was untouchable. At least that was what he said. I don’t know why I believed him. I don’t know if I did actually believe him. I still don’t. But I accepted it. I clung to it. But it suddenly became serious when I realized one of his employees kept coming up out of nowhere. A lot. They were just good friends. Right. I knew better by now. I set boundaries. He bucked them. I couldn’t control it. He had been having an affair with her all along. While I was away…when he was baptized and washed clean by the Lord…he intermingled her children casually with ours.

He was sneaky. He told me he was going for a “prayer walk” one night last summer while I was waiting for him in bed. He was gone for a long time. I tried texting and checking his location but his phone was shut off. We were talking in bed after he returned and I asked if I could see his Apple watch. I started scrolling through it. He forgot to delete the texts off his watch before he came to bed. I saw everything. He was walking with her. In our neighborhood. Talking about their future and their next steps. I was stunned. I didn’t even know what I was feeling. Was it rage? It was bigger than anger. I grabbed his phone and found the contact info for this woman’s husband. I called him, despite the fact that it was 2am, and informed him our spouses were having an affair. He informed me he already knew and this was the second affair his wife had had in their office. I hung up and stared in shock at my husband as he stared back in shock at me. He couldn’t believe my behavior. He had the nerve to tell me I was the one who was out of control.

But as the story goes. We danced again. I stuffed feelings and froze in time. I told him I wasn’t giving up on him. We went to therapy. He went through the motions. I believed he was truly done and wanted to change and save our family. We had made fools of ourselves in front of our children at times and we wanted to rectify that. Or so I thought.  He continued his affair, but he eventually got caught at work. Amazingly neither of them lost their jobs. Probably because he was an executive. I was humiliated. I’m still humiliated. But I haven’t left him. It’s been another year. I don’t know how. I feel trapped.

I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m frustrated. I’m so hurt. I’m damaged goods. Who would want me after all of this? I’m 41 yrs old. I have six children now. I don’t even trust myself to make a good judgements on other people’s character. I expect the worst in every situation. I’ve been used my whole life and it’s all I know. I don’t even know what “real” love is or what it looks like. I hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me how great my life is. I have loving, supportive parents who have made great sacrifices for me all my life. I have a husband who makes good money and a big beautiful home. I don’t have to work and I can stay at home to care for our children…I should be thankful…after all, it’s just what guys do.

Burdens…

I’m losing all ability to stay in control. My mind is racing and I’m questioning everything about myself. I used to like who I was. Completely in control and confident in myself and my roles. I was an amazing wife who kept a beautiful home. I was told I was a great mother over and over, that I ran a tight ship and my kids were so well behaved and polite and smart. I wasn’t afraid of paving my own path and doing my own thing and bucking the system here or there to prove I could be different from where I came from. I was proud of who I was.

I didn’t know what was lurking inside of me. I didn’t know I was a fraud and a fake. I didn’t know I was a shell around a ticking time bomb of dysfunction. I didn’t know that really, I was just like them. I have made mistakes. I have done horrible things. I think I have destroyed people’s lives for the sake of trying to save my own. I didn’t know my actions were because I so desperately needed to be seen and be loved. No one stopped me and told me they cared. I was told to just conform and let it all go. They looked the other way. And now, they don’t even look at me at all.

I didn’t know I would become the greatest burden I never wanted to be. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to keep it together. I didn’t know I wasn’t fit to be a good mother. I didn’t know I wasn’t good enough to keep my husband faithful. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth the time or effort to be loved and honored and cared for. I didn’t know feelings weren’t acceptable. I didn’t know I would be so rejected. I didn’t know my brain would fail me and deceive me. I didn’t know my heart would either. I didn’t know!

If I had known, I would have never brought children into this world. I would have never gotten married. I would have never adopted another child. I would have never tried to confront those who have hurt me. I would have never attempted to heal. I would have never become the burden that I am right now. I would have never allowed myself to lose control.

I didn’t know I was weak. I didn’t know I wasn’t worth anything. I didn’t know I didn’t matter. I didn’t know I couldn’t be different. I didn’t know I couldn’t be better. I didn’t know I was invisible. I didn’t know I couldn’t endure. I didn’t know I couldn’t be me and everything else they wanted me to be. I didn’t know I would need to be known. I didn’t know I needed to be listened to. I didn’t know I needed to be loved. I just didn’t know…and now that I know, I feel like the burden I never wanted to be.