Jul
03

Low Self Esteem, Shame, Depression and the First Step

By

child abuse, innocence taken, unworthyDebbie V. wrote a comment today on my last post  (Survivors of Abuse) that just hit me in such a way that I thought I would respond with a new post about this topic.

Debbie said  “I am working on what you are speaking of.  I know right where it began, I can even remember the feelings I had as a child….embarrassed and ashamed “who did I think I was anyway”???  And how the adults felt looked like “job well done” when I’d been taken down a notch…..what crap.  I am grateful you asked me to relate experiences I had as a child to my own daughter…as in ~ what would I DO if someone did to her what was done to me or how would I process that.  It makes things VERY clear to me now.  I can’t BELIEVE anyone could do to children what seems to be done over and over and over again.”

It isn’t always easy for survivors of abuse to hear the stories of abuse suffered by others, but it far easier to react to the stories of others then it is to feel our own feelings about our own stories. I sought out people that suffered worse abuse then I did, so that I could reinforce the fantasy that it wasn’t really that bad. Who told me it wasn’t really that bad though? THEY DID; it was the ones that abused me and the ones that didn’t have the guts to protect me that convinced me that it wasn’t really that bad. I believed deep down inside of me that for some reason something was just wrong with me and that I deserved what happened to me.  This is how they get us to keep the lies and maintain the secrets. Do not bring shame on this family by exposing the truth.  So many of us remain in denial about the way we were treated, not protected, not valued, because it is so painful to accept the truth about our lives. But that truth is the truth that will set you free.

What Debbie is referring to in her comment is that in a attempt to make her react to her own terrible story of abuse as a young child, which included being grabbed by the hair and beaten, and having her skin twisted so hard that it came off, I asked her to imagine her reaction if her own young daughter came to her with that same story. How would you process it if someone you loved came to YOU and told your story as though it happened to them. Would you shush them? Would you make light of it? Would you say that they were exaggerating, lying, or trying to get attention? Would you say that they must have done something to deserve it? Somehow I don’t think you would. I think you would be outraged. I think you would weep tears of anger and frustration for them and for the innocence that was taken from them.  I think you would want to do whatever you could to reassure them that it could not have possibly been their fault, that it could not have been deserved and that it was the abuser was wrong to treat someone that way.

We don’t allow ourselves to feel the pain of the treatment we received when we are sure that the pain of accepting that being devalued to that degree would be worse than any other pain. We want to stay in denial that our own family could not possibly have neglected to protect us, or worse yet, our own parents could not possibly have used and degraded us in that way. I think my biggest fear was that if I faced the whole truth about my past that I would find out it was true… I really was not loveable or worthy of love. Blaming it on myself was safer then accepting that I was nothing.

And it is very painful to go back and face the events of the past. We were children; innocent children who were told that we deserved to be beaten; we were told (not always in words) that we didn’t deserve protection, that we didn’t deserve love and that we needed to be disciplined because we were bad, unruly and wrong. We felt defective. In psychological abuse, or emotional abuse we were told not to feel, we were told that we were stupid, in the way, whiney or silly and it was clear in our fragile minds that we were not valued for who we really are but only for what we could do to make someone else look good. In sexual abuse we were told that we needed to be taught the ways of the world, we were told that it was love, or that we were special and if we told on our abuser we lived in fear for our lives or the lives of our siblings, parents or pets. We lived in fear. We were told that we were lying or that it was no big deal, or that we must be insane to make up such a story. Some of us were brought in front of a church so that everyone could pray for us, further reinforcing our belief that the problem was within our own selves.  This is not love.

And so we grow up thinking that it was our fault, that we are the crazy ones. And when we struggle with mental health issues, low self esteem, and all manner of depression, then they point at us and declare “there is the proof. We always knew that it was you, you have always been the problem!” By that time, we are in such a fog and so used to living in the spin that it doesn’t take much for us to believe once again that they are right. We take medication; we often land in institutions, all the while never realizing where it all started.

I am encouraging you to take a step outside yourself, tell yourself your story as though you were hearing it from someone you love, and see how that makes you feel. It is okay to be angry. That anger is justifiable; blame and anger are important stepping stones to freedom and the pain is temporary when you face the whole truth. Hear your own story and realize that you deserve to know the truth. You are enough, you are loveable and you are worth it.

Thank you for reading my rant today. I encourage you to post your comments about how this post affected you; how does it make you feel? Did I get too blunt? Push too hard or was it exactly what you needed to hear?

All my love, Darlene Ouimet

Categories : Depression

26 Comments

1

What a hard hitting post. I feel like I just did 12 rounds with George Foreman, in the boxing ring not eating off the grill. Great post!! Sometimes we need to get mad at the things that were done to US Getting angry “is” part of the healing process. Without all emotions, through healing, we can stay stuck in that numb spot or space. That is why we can relate to others more than ourselves because we would rather stay disconnected and distance from our own abuse. Looking deep into our belief systems, sorting out the truth from the lies, is our only way to a happier, healthier and wholer life

2

Thank you for being willing to express your feelings so openly and rawly. I was not abused in this way but I know of people who were and I will use this as a means to help them through it. So many times, we want to bury our hurt and think that by pretending it didn’t exist, we will get over it faster. Actually, the only way is through it. It will feel worse before you are better but that better place is freedom! I have seen the effect of someone who finally went through it and came out on the other side a healthier, whole person.

3

Wow! I don’t know why I never thought of it that way. It’s the kind of truth I appreciate. It’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

4

Very good, very very good. It’s one of the big things I ask when someone comes to me…”How would you handle this, if it was your child?” The outrage is right there, and then I remind them…you have a right to be outraged and to have expected outrage on your behalf. NOTHING you could have done, not the worst behaved child, ever deserves this kind of treatment. And as side note here, far too often that badly behaving child…is suffering somewhere, and if you go looking for answers you will find out what adult in their life is causing that behavior.

Anyway, one of the big things I sorted out in raising my son is that one time is too much. His father lost control ONE time and I put a stop to him then and there, but it wasn’t soon enough. He still carries that lack of trust for his father, he still feels that pain. I managed to put an end to his father ever being allowed to discipline our children. But to this day…my son still remembers the day his dad lost control and tried to beat tears out of him.

One time. Is too many.

5

Darlene,

This is such a powerful article! And so true. I was just talking about something similar with my mother last night. She read me a story of a survivor who’s experience closely mimiced my own. My reaction was of shock and horror. Then I realized, “Why don’t I have the same reaction to my own abuse.” It’s like I’ve written myself off. It was very eye opening to see it in that light.

Thank you for sharing this post.

Bethany

6

Ligeia, you make a couple of great points here. One of them is that many children do misbehave as a result of the abuse they are suffering. We all have different coping methods and acting out is certainly one of them. The other great point you make is that once time is too many. SO many of us discount our abuse if it only happened once and I am refering to ANY type of abuse. I have met adults who were molested once and feel like they have nothing to complain about. This is the same for physcial abuse and emotional abuse and it seems like with emotional and psychological abuse that it can be even harder to place the blame where it belongs when it is sublte abuse using mostly manipulation or control. Ohhhh I feel another blog post coming on!
Thanks for your comments!!!!
Hugs, Darlene

7

Thanks Jen,
I love the expression ‘the only way over is through”. So true. Abusers so often tell us to just get over it. We hear that a few times and we take over the chant in our own heads. ” JUST GET OVER IT”.. and then we start beating oursleves up because we can’t just get over it. This is ture of so many of the treatments we have faced. We so often find ourselves taking over as our own abusers because we are so used to it.
Thank you for your comment Jen!
Hugs, Darlene

8

Jimmy,
So true and so important for us to accept that the path to healing is about facing the truth.

Christina,
Thanks for the compliment and thanks for being here! (and thanks posting my blog posts on your amazing facebook page “Overcoming Sexual Abuse”
Hugs, Darlene

9

Darlene, this was great!
It is so true that we deny ourselves the right to feel what we need to and yet we can feel it so readily for others. I am so proud of the progress we all make day by day no matter how big or small! It proves that we are valuable and can emerge from having been broken!

Thanks Darlene!

Mandy

10

Hi Bethany,
Great to see you here and for contributing this story. That was smy personal experience too, that I heard a story like my own and I reacted with so much horror and disgust that it shocked me to realize that I felt none of that for myself. My therapist mentioned to me the first time I told him about my first memory of sexual abuse, that I told it as though it wasn’t me that it happened to. I had learned to disconnect myself to that degree.. It was in reconnecting myself to the event, the fear and pain and everything else that went with it, that I was able to beging the healing process.
Hugs! Darlene

11

I agree with the others – a really powerful post. It takes this kind of honesty to confront and disrupt the cycles of denial that allow abuse to continue from generation to generation.

Great work!

WG

12

O!! M!!! G!!! in the back of my mind I thought that maybe there would be SOMEBODY out there that could relate to my history at least a little. I have been turned away from several different counselling and psychiactric therapists as they all have said the same thing… my abuse is tooo intense and they are not equipped to counsel someone so severly abused. So I fight my demons alone and try to still keep breathing, keep living and not go crazy. I counted my sexual abusers one time. I only counted (with a shrink) how many people (not incidents) had abused me (only sexually, we counted the physical abusers later, seperately). We stopped counting when we hit 100 sexual abusers. After 100, one or another 100 hardly mattered. I never relate my story and when I do tell some of it, it is always said as if I was reading someone elses history, not my own. It is easier to stay detatched, remote and removed from all of it. This post made me cry, shake, nod my head and want to scream at my abusers, including my parents and other family members. I wanted to yell at them..”See, this is what YOU did to me!! I am NOT mentally unstable!!! I am fighting to recover from EVERYTHING YOU did to ME!!!!!!”
I was raped from the age of 3-6 months old until I was nearly 30. I hve been gang-raped, raped at gun and knife point, raped repeatedly by many family members and the list goes on. All 3 of my children are rape babies. I always knew that it was my fault and that that was all I was worth! My mother even said that exact thing to me only 18 months ago…I am 45.
I try to say I am not broken only severely cracked. But then I look around and see that I am in tiny, tiny bits and pieces, and that I am allllll alone and nobody seems to be capable or willing to understand or help. Not even our Sexual Assault Crisis Centre. I finally started looking on line.
This is the first time I have ever publicly said any of the things that I have endured. I have tried with people I thought were friends, those I thought cared for or even loved me and EVERY time, that was the last I saw of them. I scared and overwhelmed them. So I learned very quicklu that I HAD to keep my mouth shut. Now, I am trying to learn to open it and whisper my truth, talk my truth and, hopefully, one day I will be able to SHOUT my trith without fear, guilt or shame. I am not there yet. I have never heard a history as abusive or intense as mine, just different and as hard on each of us no matter the degree. It sounds horrible, but I wish (and I truly DON”T WISH!) that someone has/had endured a similar past, just so I would know that I am NOT ALONE, that there is ONE person out there that can TRULY understand the painful fires I have been forced to crawl through.
I am grateful to be able to hear all of your stories, not of abuse, but of survival, victory against those that tried their hardest to murder our souls, hearts and very lives. Thank you for fighting so damn hard for yourselves and inadvertantly helping to save so many others. A kiss and a bandage doesn’t mend the wound, but it helps to mend the heart. Thank you all for sharing and caring.

Janice

13

Awesome post, Darlene. On the money.

Janice – I “get” where you are coming from. I was 15 when I stopped counting the adult men who had raped (I stopped counting at 100) me and the women who told me it was my fault. Like you, I stopped even trying talk about it because I couldn’t bear the shame of it any longer. And like you – I was told that I was too “damaged” to be helped (once by a “pastor” no less). Yet – here I am, living the life I choose each day. We can find our way “through” to “get out of” that pain and begin to shape our life and live our dreams as we shift from “surviving” and escaping that past to creating and living our life. And this is a very good place to be to do just that:)

Love the post, appreciate the community:)

Susan

14

Mandy,
Welcome and thanks for your comment. YES! We can recover!

WG ~

Welcome! it is great to see you here, I have enjoyed your visual blog commics. I like how you say “disrupt the cycles of denial that allow abuse….” OH isn’t that the profound truth! Thank you!

Hugs, Darlene

15

Janice,
Welcome. I am glad that you found us too. It amazes me how many people have these extreme stories of abuse and at the same time so many professionals (dr.s therapists, psychologists) say that some of us are beyond help! Beyond healing…?? How can that be true? I am so glad that I didn’t give up my search for wholeness. I am so grateful for my persistence! (and that I found a good therapist) I had a few not so good therapists myself. I think that sometimes it is the professional that just doesn’t know exactly how to help.
I am glad that you are here, please feel free to share often!
Hugs, Darlene

Susan
Thanks for sharing and for inspiring with your own success story! Yes we can find freedom and wholeness after abuse.
Hugs, Darlene

16

Courage to write, courage to respond and courage to survive! We are all survivors, and to each of you I give a special hug and send a heartfelt prayer for you. Janice and Susan – your words touched me and I wish I could give you more than mere words to let you know that you have found a good place, a safe place that survivors can heal here together. I too understand the point you come to where keeping count doesn’t mean anything, and have been told that there isn’t the kind of ‘help you need available’…and I’ve come to see that lie for the truth that it is…for some of us the very act of survival, once we relate even a bit of what we experienced, is too much for those who would help. Not that we are TOO broken, but that we are SURVIVORS. We can speak, we can walk, we can talk (somedays better than others) and we can look them in the eye and say, “Are you going to help or not?” and expect an answer that they cannot give because we are at a place that THEY cannot really understand unless they’ve gone there the same way we have – by surviving. Keep looking the right person is going to be there for you…don’t give up!

I was on a page for another forum where a family was shunning a friend of their child because she was behaving badly – and when I asked why they didn’t seek to learn more about WHY this child was looking for their attention they seemed put off. If a child is seeking attention, negative or positive, there is a reason and I have learned from my own childhood that being ignored or discounted is abuse too. I ALWAYS listen to children, and animals, when they are telling they are being abused.

I am learning that my own value, as a person, is not dictated by their valuing of me. If I am too much ME for THEM then it is THEM and not ME that has the problem. I wasn’t wrong then, and I’m not wrong now. Abuse is abuse, it doesn’t matter what clothes they try to hide it in, what stories they try to disguise it with. I didn’t ask for, deserve or even ‘earn’ the things that happened. I am not less for them, but I know that I am more for surviving.

When I look back on my life I am proud to be a survivor, I’m aware of the person I am today for the experiences and scars I bear, the wounds that didn’t heal and those who are freshly made. I am who I am today, with a wonderful son and husband, because I survived and somehow learned to love ME for who I AM, not for who they tried to make me feel I failed to be.

I love your words, your hearts and your sharing…you inspire me, you bring me to tears and you light my courage to keep the commands to ‘be quiet’ disobeyed!

17

Thank you for this powerful post. Its how I truly felt when it happened to me. I have done years of therapy for what happened to me because it effected my life deeply. I have to say now I am well and have found GOD in my life and he has been my truest life SAVIOR. Thank you again. Awesome post. Blessings and Prayers for you forever.

18

Shanyn,
Thanks for adding your comments ~ and for stating one of the MOST important truths that I live and share with others which is: my value as a person is not dictated or decided by how others value me. So true and so foundational to recovery!

Valerie, Welcome!
I am so glad that you are well now, that you did what it took to break free of the cycle of abuse! So great to have you share that victory with us here on this blog!
Thanks for your blessings and prayers, same back to you!

Hugs, Darlene

19

Janice and Susan, I shred tears for both of you and for all of us who are survivors who have experienced abuse that no child should have to endure. I was only abused by 4 men but I cannot count the number of times that I was raped by my dad over a 6 year period of time.

I have worked with 4 different counselors over the years and still the majority of the healing that I have done has been on my own through the books that I have read and the writing that I have done. Most people don’t know what to say or what to do to help us heal. That includes some counselors as well. My last counselor I left because she wanted me to start over at the beginning of my journey so that she could catch up. I was so far beyond that point that I didn’t see any reason to go back to her.

Darlene, thanks for this great post. I am going to include a link back here in the post that I am getting ready to write on my blog. This post is so inspiring and so empowering. I am also going to share this with several friends and family members. Thanks.

20

Patricia
Thanks as always for your comments. There is so much power in our shared experiences and even in our differences. I was super ticked off when my last therapist asked me to start at the beginning, but because he used such a unique model of therapy, that is what ended up working for me. It was the therapy to end all therapy! I didn’t have to tell everything, just enough so that I could begin to see the patterns that had formed in my life and the belief system that I adopted. But I was lucky that time. You are right however, so many therapists can’t help at all.
I really appreciate you sharing the link to this post on your blog (click on Patricia’s name to visit her blog) and for your wonderful compliments. You are such a blessing to all of us here on Emerging from Broken!
Hugs, Darlene

21

Darlene ~

I didn’t think this was too bold at all. Having been a victim of emotional/verbal abuse as a kid – what made me finally see it for what it was, was when I had children of my own. Up until then I was convinced that, even though I had been a Christian for a few years at the time, that I was a terrible human being, not worthy of anything beautiful or truly wonderful. And it didn’t matter how hard I tried to get her to love me and respect me (my mother), everything I did was never enough. As the abuse worsened through the years, I tried distancing myself at first, but anytime I saw her, the abuse was inevitable. After EVERY visit, I drove home crying … trying to understand to the depths of my soul what it is I could have ever done to warrant such treatment!

I truly thought that when I had kids of my own, that finally I would have this ‘light bulb moment’ as to why she treated me the way she did for so many years. I truly thought I’d have this ‘awakening’ and then I’d finally understand and then have this profound respect for my mother. But as I had kids of my own, I just became more and more confused!! How can someone say they love you and then tear you down, ignore you, give you hate looks as though she could shoot daggers with them, not hug you back when you hug them and also humiliate and degrade you in the company of other people.

I didn’t come to learn what real love was until I met my husband and starting studying the Bible – learning that love wasn’t conditional, that it’s not something you earn, but something you choose to do no matter how you feel was nothing short of LIBERATING!!!! It also made me so angry having a parent make me believe it had to be earned!!

Being made painfully aware of her wrongs against me, the abuse, I became very angry, and then when she humiliated me in my own home that is when I broke ties. The woman was slowly killing my soul and I didn’t know who I was and there was no inkling of any self-worth left. She never let me be who I wanted to be. And now I find I’m rebellious in that area of my life. ‘Just let me figure out who I am – let me be me!’ That day she humiliated me, it was as though I heard God’s voice say to me, ‘There is nothing you could ever do that is going to make her love you.’ And I cried.

I could not imagine myself treating my kids the way my mother treated me. I tell my kids I love them. I always hug them and kiss them. I never want a day going by when they don’t know I do. I never compare them to people of bad character like my mother did. I never call them names and I do NOT swear at them. It’s been a long journey these past 10 years with a Christian parenting course interjected in there, “Growing Kids God’s Way.” It’s been a very long journey, but so worth it.

I know that if she had stayed in my life, I would have ended up an emotional wreck (more than I was) and I know I wouldn’t have been able to be a better woman or wife either. God has been my strength through this – figuring out who I was/am, was easier in knowing that God knows me better than anyone and that it is He who defines me. He sees a greater person in me that I don’t always see. When we trust in Him, He gives us the desires of our hearts – so He has been making me into the woman and mother I have always longed to be. How great is His faithfulness!!

I am so glad there is a site like this – I sure wish something like this was around 10 years ago when I was going through it. But its amazing how folks wouldn’t talk about it. And now I’m meeting so many women who have come from similar backgrounds and experiences – its an encouragement that others can derive strength from other people’s stories, experiences.

Thanks, Darlene!

22

For Janice …

Coming out with it is a great start Janice – and at least here, although I’ve never experienced sexual/physical abuse – I have endured emotional/verbal abuse which took longer for me to see and identify!

If there is any community where you can draw strength, I am sure I can say that this community is where you cab find that. All abuse does one thing – it kills the soul, slowly and painfully and it robs us of who we could have been and of who we are.

I hope that here, with other abuse survivors that you too will find your way to freedom!

23

Thank you all for the welcome, kind words and support.

I wanted to clarify that most of the people (men & women) who sexually abused me did so numerous times. Very few only assaulted me once or twice.

I was also emotionally, physically, pychologically and spiritually abused.

My younger sister was very ill her entire life and of course as they couldn’t beat her and my brother was the only boy and the baby, I was the easy target. My parents would literally drag me out of bed, the top bunk, by my hair and beat me for some percieved wrong done by my siblings. As I was the “role model” it HAD to be my fault. I never slept/sleep well and always flinch(ed) no matter who was/is near me.

Even after I told what a few family members, family friends and neighbors were doing to me when I was about 4 years old, both my parents beat me with a leather belt and a wooden spoon, not stopping even when the spoon broke, she just grabbed another. I was called a slut, whore, liar, cock-tease, names i had NO idea what they meant except that they must be very very bad, which meant that I was very very bad. My mother even told me that i was “making them do it to” me just like I “made” my parents “beat me for my own good”. And if I didn’t like what was being done to me then I shouldn’t go near any of these people. I was my own fault, they wouldn’t HAVE to rape or beat me, if I didn’t want them to I would just be a “good girl” and then when we would see my abusers I was forced to sit on their laps, hug them and even kiss them, all the while being told that I was being raped BECAUSE I sat on their laps, etc, and when at 4 I tried to say this contradiction, I was again beat and told that I was “getting too big for my britches”.

I was a crier, my only way to vent, and I was constantly threatened to be`given `something to cry about` which was nearly always carried out.

I was given all the responsibility of being abused and yet was also told that I was lying, that I liked it, that I was just trying to get attention and the list went on. I learned before I even hit school, that I was bad and no good and I was the person who got everyone in trouble, I made my siblings bad, my parents mad. I was in control of everyones feelings but couldn`t ever make them feel the way I wanted them to… happy and loving me.

I felt the guilt, still do. All those erronious messages are hard to delete or rewrite.

I am (glad is the wrong word, relieved maybe) that I have found a compassionate, understanding, caring sisterhood.

Thank you Susan, Shanyn, Darlene, Patricia and Paulette and all the rest of you caring souls.

24

Thanks Paulette ~
for sharing your story and for your kind words of support for my message and for what I am trying to create in this site.

As you know, I can totally relate to how you describe your relationship with your mother. In my case, my biggest fear was that I was going to be like my mother. I vowed never to have kids of my own in case that happened. From the time I was 16 I begged “the powers that be” every day that I would not end up like her. I guess I was scared because she couldn’t see that she was just like her own mother and what if I didn’t realize that I was like mine too? I didn’t even think about having kids until I was in my late twenties. Once I had my own kids, I was even more baffled by the way my mother treated me. My poor mother had an extremely abusive mother of her own, and I guess that is what happened to her, but as for me I finally decided that I didn’t have to be the excuse for her to treat me like crap.

Janice,
Thanks for sharing even more of your history with us. I agree with you that it is very hard to re-write this stuff.. to re-wire the belief system, but it is possible! All I ever wanted was to feel okay, just okay! I never expected for my life to be this good. I do this work now because I am so passionate about telling others just how wonderful it is to live in freedom and wholeness. I am so glad that you found us!

Hugs! Darlene

25

Thank you, you are so right! I had to really work on the shame before I finally was able to start my journey. Everyone in my family said “Shame on you for brings this crap up” I told them “thank you” picked up my knapsack of life tools, (what little there were at that time) and started the fight of my life, a healthier me.

26

I used to think that I was overreacting whenever I reminisced about the terrible things that were supposedly done, for the “sake of my greater good.” I also kept telling myself that someone else across the globe probably has it worse. So that automatically pushes my feelings of pain down the toilet? NO!

If I hadn’t acknowledged every bit of abuse that I suffered from Dad and grandma, I would have continued making the necessary adjustments to appease them, at the expense of both my own happiness and most of all my sanity. I could have succumbed to depression, which thankfully did not happen (Ha you guys lost!).

I would probably still be the number one target in their never ending blame game (Let’s face it I always will be, but at least now I know that I am not the problem, so blame away folks! Fool yourselves all you want!).

I don’t like bluntness (especially if that is used as justification for abuse), but for this particular post, I’ll make an exception 😉

It’s great to finally be able to go “head on” with my past and dish out the dirt to where it truly belongs. Sorry did someone say that it belonged to me? No problem I know who the rightful owners are 😀

Leave a Comment