Nov
05

Self-Worth Gives You Ability To Say No by Patricia Singleton

By

self esteem, self worth, recovery
Patricia Singleton

 

Today I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Patricia Singleton from the blog “Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker” writing about the importance of improving Self Worth on the journey to wholeness.  Please help me to welcome Patricia and feel free to leave your comments and contributions.  Hugs, Darlene Ouimet ~ founder of Emerging from Broken

Self-Worth Gives You Ability To Say No  by Patricia Singleton

Darlene recently wrote a post called Low Self-Esteem And Relationship Disasters Someone else posted a link to the post on Facebook where I left the following comment:

“When you are taught self-worth, you can’t be controlled by the abuser.  You will say, ‘No’ which they don’t want to hear.  You will tell others what is happening to you because you know you don’t deserve to be treated badly.  The abuser doesn’t want you to do that.  Abusers don’t abuse children who might talk.”

The first time that I said “No” and meant it was when I was 17 years old.  That is when the physical part of the incest stopped.  I knew, in some small part of me, that I didn’t deserve how my dad had treated me for the six years before that.  I had said “No” so many times before that day but wasn’t strong enough or courageous enough to stick with my decision.  I really wanted the incest to end but didn’t know how to make my dad honor my decision and leave me alone.

I didn’t know it at the time but that small burst of courage came from the survivor hidden deep inside of me.  All I knew was that I had just about reached my limits of how much stress I could handle without totally losing who I was.  I knew that I couldn’t be pushed any further and continue to hold on to my sanity.  I didn’t say it out loud but I had reached the point that if my dad hadn’t left me alone, I believe that I would have told someone about the abuse.  I was that desperate, feeling an emotional break near the surface of my control.  My dad must have sensed what I didn’t say.  He accepted my “No” finally.

At that point in my life, it wasn’t self-worth that gave me the courage to say “No” to the incest.  It was a need for self preservation.  Sometimes I think that self preservation was the only thing that kept me going through the fog of pain that was the incest.  Some part of me simply refused to quit.

I was still many years away from feeling my own self-worth, from really knowing that I didn’t deserve to be abused, from knowing that I didn’t cause the incest.  Finding my self-worth was a long, gradual process that didn’t really start until I got into 12-Step programs starting in January of 1989. 

In those 12-Step meetings, I met other survivors.  I met people who were talking about growing up in alcoholic homes and its effects upon them as an adult.  I learned about healthy boundaries, co-dependency and the disease concept of alcoholism.  I learned that the control that I thought I had to have in my life was me being out of control and so afraid of life and people.  I was able to recognize and step away from people who just wanted to abuse and control me.  I learned that I had done some abusing of my own with my weapon of choice—sarcasm.  I also learned that I could stop the sarcasm when I recognized that it was an unhealthy and destructive way to release my rage.  I could make amends to those that I loved.

 Probably the most important thing that I learned was that the only way out of the pain was to go through the pain.  I could feel and I wouldn’t die from it.  I could love myself and take care of my needs which I had never recognized that I had before.  I could be the real me as soon as I found out who she was and people wouldn’t hate or blame me for the incest.  People could love me for who I was.  Being authentic was not only okay but preferred.  I could trust people and they wouldn’t hurt me.  I could trust myself.  I could trust God.  The abuse wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t God’s fault.
Patricia Singleton

Self-worth starts with learning to take care of yourself and learning to love yourself.  How did I learn to love myself?  Respect myself?  I built a support system of people who loved me until I could grow to love myself.  I stopped questioning their love for me as I saw that their actions followed their words.  I learned to trust my own intuition or gut feelings that told me who was safe to be around and who wasn’t.  To love myself, I had to learn to feel all of my feelings.  I had to learn how to let go of all of the rage, hurt and sadness.  I had to let go of it because it was hurting me, causing me pain and health problems. 

I learned that I had inner children in me who were wounded by the abuse and needed healing too.  I had to learn that I could nurture and love those inner children instead of hating them for causing me so much pain.  You see I had blamed them for their own abuse—my abuse.  I found out that I was so afraid of others blaming me for the incest because inside I blamed these inner children who were me for our own abuse.  It was easier to blame them and me that it was to blame either of my parents because I depended upon my parents for my survival.  I had to work with and talk to each of these inner children.  I had to get them to trust me which wasn’t easy because I had abandoned and hated them for so long.   In learning to love and nurture them, I learned to love and nurture the adult me.

I had to grieve.  I had to let the tears flow freely.  As long as I was carrying around all of the rage, hurt and self-hatred, I had no room for self-love.  Grieving was the longest part of the process of recovery from incest.  I had so many tears hidden inside of me—tears of rage, tears of hurt, tears of sadness, tears from abandonment, tears from neglect, tears from the physical pain of incest, tears from the emotional abuse, tears of hatred, tears of self-hatred.  My fear of allowing myself to grieve was that once I started to cry, I would never stop.  I went to 12-Step meetings and cried for over a year before the tears started to slow down.  Looking back, I don’t know why I was so afraid to cry.  As a child, I was told that crying was a sign of weakness.  I was determined to be strong so I couldn’t cry, at least not in front of anyone else.  The truth that I found out was that tears are cleansing and healing.  The flood of tears that came out of me left room for joy and laughter to come back into my life.

As a child, I wasn’t taught any of the things that I learned in those 12-Step meetings.  I wasn’t taught self-worth by my parents.  I doubt that they were taught self-worth either.  I have found out with a little bit of genealogy research that abuse in many different forms has been a generational thing in my family.  Rage, domestic violence, alcoholism, incest, family secrets have all come down my family lines for several generations.  The present generation can stop the abuse from damaging any more children.

I was easily controlled by my abusers when I was a child because I wasn’t taught that I had any value except as a sex toy for men.  My dad wasn’t my only abuser but he was my main abuser.  Because he was my parent, he is the one that I have the most issues with.  His betrayal was the worse. 

I never learned, as a child, that I had the ability or the right to say “No” to my abusers.  They were adults who had all the authority to tell me to do whatever they wanted.  My parents told me to respect all adults and to do as I was told.  Please teach your children that they can say “NO” to anything that doesn’t feel right to them, to anything that feels uncomfortable to them.  Children can say “NO” to any kind of touch or attention that they don’t like.  And tell them you will believe them.

I was afraid to tell anyone about the incest when I was a child and even when I was a young adult.  I was afraid that I would be blamed for the incest or called a liar.  I know many of you can relate to this fear.  I was also afraid that my mother would shoot my dad and kill him if she believed me.  If she shot him, she would be arrested and my siblings and I would be left without parents and it would have been my fault.  Today I know none of this was my fault but as a child, I believed that it was all my fault.

Because I didn’t have any self-worth, I went along with what my abusers wanted and kept the secrets of incest.  I was silent until I was 38 years old and found 12-Step meetings.  When I heard other Adult Children talking about the abuse of alcoholism and drugs, I decided it was safe for me to talk about the incest.  In talking about my own incest issues, other Adult Children felt free to start to talk about their own issues from sexual abuse. 

In opening the door for myself, I opened the door for other incest survivors to be able to speak about and heal their own issues with incest.  Now I share my experiences with incest and with healing and recovery on my blog “Spiritual Journey Of  a Lightworker”.  Talking about your abuse and your healing from abuse is not only okay but it is a necessary step to take if you are going to stop any more children from being abused.  I have taken this step in my own life.  I hope you will take this step in your own life.  Secrets can harm you and your children.

Patricia Singleton is a 58 year old incest survivor who chooses to share her journey through incest and recovery by writing the blog Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker and by participating in the blogs of other survivors. She calls herself a Lightworker due to the healing that she has accomplished in her own life and because of the ripple effect that her healing has on others. By sharing, she hopes to light the way for others in their own healing. She has a passion for others to know that healing and recovery is possible and necessary if we are to protect our children from being abused.

Patricia is a wife, grandmother and so much more. Today, Patricia loves life and is thriver, which is so much better than just surviving.

 

Categories : Self Esteem

37 Comments

1

Patricia,
I was really attracted to the wording in your statement that day “”When you are taught self-worth, you can’t be controlled by the abuser. You will say, ‘No’ which they don’t want to hear. You will tell others what is happening to you because you know you don’t deserve to be treated badly. The abuser doesn’t want you to do that. Abusers don’t abuse children who might talk.”
Because it is true for so much of recovery. As my self esteem went up because of the recovery work, I began to realize that it was okay for me to have boundaries. It was okay and RIGHT for me to say no. It was right for me to tell. (contrary to the beliefs that I always had about loyalty, shame, embarrassment etc.) As I grew stronger, I realized that I could be the master of my own ship in a positive healthy way. That I could make decisions on my own. That I could succeed and live fully and even be an example to my own children of a better system then the old system that I was raised in.
It isn’t that it began with self worth, so many things seemed to grow alongside of each other, one step led to another in another area ~ but it was when I began to have some self worth, that I realize in so many ways, I was still being abused (at the time) that I was being treated less then equal, still devalued, still discounted and not as important… and when I stopped believing and accepting that was true, so did others in my life.

Great post Patricia, Thank you so much for all you do in the world of survivors and for your consistent contributions to emerging from broken!
Love Darlene

2

Thank you Darlene for allowing me to share a part of my journey with you and the readers of your blog. I am honored to be here.

3

Darlene, like you said, I didn’t start out to build self-worth in the beginning. It did grow along the way as I stopped believing the lies and started feeling my own love and started believing that others could really love me if they knew the real me. As I started discovering who I was my love for self and my validation of my self happened more and more.

4

Patricia,
So much of what you shared resonates with me. My own healing journey sounds very similar to yours.

I especially liked, “Probably the most important thing that I learned was that the only way out of the pain was to go through the pain. I could feel and I wouldn’t die from it. I could love myself and take care of my needs which I had never recognized that I had before.”

That’s been such a powerful realization in my process. I was so accustomed to thinking that I was still that frightened, friendless child. But the truth is that I’m not alone anymore. I’m surrounded by supportive friends and I’m able to give myself the love and comfort that I never got while my abuse was happening. The pain WAS unbearable then, but I CAN handle it now. And I have to face and process it so I can move away from it. Thanks for sharing the truth! Hugs, Christina

5

this is another wow blog,
the first time i ever said no n meant it to my phyiscally abusive father i was 16 n half n movin onto a friends sofa. i had never questioned how i had been raised, yet a few weeks later i had a flashback concernin a babysitter n sexual assualt when i was 8 or 9 yrs old. i didnt see or go back to the house as i thought he wouldnt love me because i stood up to him, lookin back i was so scared that my parents wouldnt love me at all and all that pain came from how they had warped my self esteem n belief system. it has taken me the last 25yrs to get as healthy as i am now mentally, emotionally i am still crippled by their warped teachings but every day i am growing and crawling out from under the shadows of my past and into the light of my future. thanks darlene and all those who have shared their stories so those following behind you have hope and a belief they are never alone, not anymore

6

Christina, you are very welcome. I resisted feeling the pain for so long and in so many different ways. I finally realized that I had to go through the pain rather than resisting the process. I hated feeling the feelings, crying the tears, raging like my dad did when I was a child. It hurt so bad. I did get through it. I did survive and in the surviving came the healing. I had to let go of my hatred of myself which I had carried around inside for so long. I hated and blamed myself and transferred that hatred to my inner child. It was her fault. I even used her to try to avoid the pain. That didn’t work either. I love the way you said that you “have to face and process so I can move away from it.” That has been my truth too.

Carol, thank you. The fact that I am not alone in this struggle means so much. I think that is true for each of us. I know that you can each overcome the pain of your past because those who are ahead of you in recovery have done it. That is where hope comes from. What one can do, we all can. It is possible to heal. You can overcome “the shadows of your past.”

I am so blessed to be a part of this healing, loving community of survivors.

7

Patricia – once again your words resonate with me, have me nodding my head in agreement and wishing I could wrap my arms around you to give you a hug! 🙂

When I decided to go through the pain to the other side I found a healing path, when I was avoiding it, hiding from it there was nothing but more hurt.

Your word powerful words to tell our children, to teach them to say ‘NO’ touched me very close to my heart. It also goes closely with my personal goal to always listen to a child who is trying to tell me something or someone made them feel ‘bad’ or ‘uncomfortable’ and extend that to anyone who is being silenced by abuse and abusers.

Thanks for sharing your hurt and your heart so candidly!

Blessings always and in all ways,
Shanyn

8

Shanyn, you are very welcome. I hope that we do teach our next generations of children what we didn’t learn, that it is okay to say no to what doesn’t feel good or to what makes them uncomfortable, that just because it is an adult doesn’t mean that the child has to do something that makes them uncomfortable. Adults do not have the right to hurt a child or to disrespect that child in any way. Children need to know this.

9

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Darlene Ouimet, Raoul Grouls. Raoul Grouls said: Impressive story ~ Self-Worth Gives You Ability To Say No by Patricia Singleton http://t.co/H7G2RLa […]

10

i have always said to my daughter, if mummy and daddy dont do it to you then nobody is allowed to do it, and that she must tell us so we can sort it out. this holds good because we have tried to raise her to be strong and outspoken and not treat others badly if she doesnt like something then others might not as well. i wish m parents had the intelligence to do things differently but times where so very different when i was a child and there wsnt things like the internet or even proper couselling services, the world was still stuck in the mindset of ‘you made ya bed now you have to lay in it’ domestic violence wasnt heard about as it ws kept hidden and abused people had nowhere to turn.
god i am glad things have changed since my childhood, not by much but at least it is getting recognised now

11

Patricia – this entire post resonates with me but the thing that caught my attention was on the grieving that you did around these issues. This was and is so vital to me as a survivor because not only was I taught that my value lay in what my body could give men and to tolerate this as normal but like others who travel this path I was taught to not feel, to disconnect from my thoughts and my body by turning of and denying my emotions. The grief process you describe was absolutely for me also a core piece of this healing journey. I’ve since learned to recognize “feelings” and each day its actually exciting to be able to say that I “felt” something because this was completely foreign to me.

12

Carol, thank God that things are different in many ways than they were when we were children. One of those major differences is that sexual abuse survivors and incest survivors are finally beginning to speak out about being abused. That opens so many doors of awareness for everyone.

When you read about one abuse survivor speaking out, that in effect, gives you permission to tell someone about your own abuse. It shouldn’t take celebrities like Oprah and Mackensie Phillips to have to open some of those doors but in our society it does, so we still have some work to do. Anyone who has been abused should be believed, not just because they are celebrities. I do thank Oprah and Mackensie Phillips for speaking out. With Mackensie Philips we even got to see how the dysfunctional family system still works to try to shut up the victim and to try to make others believe that she is crazy and a liar. I know that many of Darlene’s commenters here and also those on my blog can relate to that.

Oprah just helped open doors for all of the men survivors of sexual abuse and incest with her show yesterday with the 200 men survivors and Tyler Perry who spoke out about their own experiences with abuse. I wanted to see that show but family stuff got in the way and I missed it. The impact of that show will be huge. I remember how Oprah telling her own story years ago affected me and made it easier for me to start to share my own story of incest.

Carol, I congratulate you on teaching your daughter that she has the right to say no to anything that doesn’t feel right to her. You have given her control over what happens to her body. That is a truly great gift to give any child. It is a right that every child should be aware that they have. It is our responsibility as their parents to teach them that. We might not can change our past but we can change the future for ourselves and for our children. Our children need to know that they can tell us anything and they will be believed and we will still love them unconditionally and with open arms.

13

Here is the link to the Oprah show that Patricia is refering to where 200 male victims of sexual abuse come forward. This link will show the entire one hour show. (click on the title that I wrote to view the video)
Hugs, Darlene

14

Susan, you describe my healing journey with grief and with learning to feel again so well. One of the ways that I learned to survive in my family was to totally disconnect with my body from the neck down. I lived in my head for many years. That worked in two ways. I didn’t feel the pain in my body and I didn’t feel the pain of my feelings.

Illnesses, when I was an adult, got ignored until my body was in so much pain – ulcers and headaches – that I couldn’t ignore it any more. I had bronchitis many times as a child and didn’t even know that was what it was. My parents down played it as a chest cold which was ignored and never treated so I learned to ignore them too. I was sent to school with a cough and a cold. I was never taken to the doctor with these chest colds. I was about 40 when I took myself to the doctor with a chest cold and found out that it was bronchitis. I had not had bronchitis since I left home until I started working on my incest issues in 12-Step programs.

I believe that my body got sick with bronchitis because this was an area that needed healing too. I had to learn to take care of my body so that it wouldn’t hurt too. That included going to the doctor and to the dentist when I needed to.

I had to grieve all of those chest colds and the little girl who never got taken to the doctor with them. I always took my children to the doctor when they were sick. They had bronchitis occasionally when they were young. Until my own bout with bronchitis as an adult, I didn’t make the connection between my childhood chest colds and my own children’s bouts with bronchitis. I didn’t realize that they were the same thing and how I should have been taken to the doctor when I was a little girl. I had to grieve for that little girl and her chest colds and the neglect that she suffered through.

I struggled in my early years of 12-Step recovery with getting in touch with my feelings. I resisted feeling. I didn’t want to feel. I was afraid of my rage. I was afraid that I would hurt or even kill myself or someone else if I allowed all of that rage out. Rage to me equaled danger and violence. I was afraid that I couldn’t control it.

As I started to work with my anger, I soon found that anytime that I got angry, I was afraid of something. Anger, to me, was safer than fear. I saw anger as strong and fear as being weak. Any weakness could be taken advantage of and used against you by your abusers. I didn’t want to be angry but even more, I didn’t want to be afraid.

It was a long, hard struggle before I allowed myself to feel again. I was afraid that I would die from all of the rage and the hurt. I didn’t. Instead I learned to live more fully than I ever had. I learned that to feel the love and the joy, I also had to feel the anger and the hurt. You cannot shut down just one feeling without shutting them all down. Today I feel anger, sadness, hurt, joy, happiness, contentment and love. My life is full and I love it, even when it hurts.

15

Darlene, thanks for the link to the Oprah show, I really wanted to watch it yesterday. Now I will. I have heard that it was a really powerful show.

16

Patricia,
This is so validating to me in how you have shared your fear of no one believing you. I think it is fear that keeps us entrenched in the abuse and plunging us further into our despair. My frustration is that I only remember portions of what happened to me because I disassociated to be able to cope with what was going on. This was our big family secret my mom fully knew what was happening and was mad at me for it that some how it was my fault for being pretty and daddy’s favorite. Then when I got older boys would take advantage of me I then carried on the pattern of not talking to anyone because here again it was my fault. My fault for even trusting some one first of all that turned on me because I should have known better in the first place that ALL boys want sex. My fault for being so pretty and that I intoxicated boys so that they didn’t know what the hell they are doing. SO here I carried the burden of the hurt from being violated then I carried the self blame that I should have known better ( I should state here that “talking” about sex in our family was forbidden and therefore I could never ask questions without being blamed for doing something wrong this was at the age of 10/12. I was very uneducated when it came to sex and my own sexuality.) I also felt a huge sense of shame because of the way that I looked, like I was some kinda freak or something.

I carried this burden till I was in my thirties and hit bottom emotionally and psychologically. I sought councelling and through this process I realized that this was not my fault. I am still working on my self worth and learning to take care of myself. Claiming my self worth is a long process because like you have said you go through a time of grieving. Presently I am having nightmares relating to these experiences, which I think is good because I am facing this and working these things through.
Thank you so much for all that you have shared it has made me feel not so alone in this journey.
Angela

17

Hi Angela,
You bring up an important point about the fear of not being believed. When we are adults that same fear may be dominant. It was really important in my recovery for me to believe me. My family still does not want to believe me, but I no longer care. I can’t let that hold me back anymore. Once I believed myself, other doors opened on the path to healing. I had a big struggle with not being believed, but finally realized that it makes no difference anymore who does or does not believe me as long as I know it is true. The tricky part is that we were also taught to doubt our own memories, our own stories, etc. for so long that we are used to not even believing ourselves. And that is why the rest of your post here also makes sense when it comes to the progression of everything after the abuse. We are always blamed, for various things that don’t really make sense when we come out of that fog. (as you say, how can it be a fault to be so pretty??) The more I was able to sort out all those things, the more I was able to realize that I was not the one at fault. The guilt and shame were not mine to carry.
Thanks for being here!
Hugs, Darlene

18

Angela, thank you for sharing your story here. I was 19 and away from home before I overheard someone ask, “Doesn’t she know she is pretty?” No, I didn’t. No one had ever told me that. I saw myself as ugly and worthless except for sex. That is what I was taught as a child. The really ugly word in my family was pregnant. Having a baby was okay but the word pregnant was not, probably because one of my aunts had two babies before she was married. I suspect that she might have been sexually abused as a child but I don’t know by who. My dad is someone that I suspect but it was never talked about. She committed suicide when she was in her 40’s.

I can sympathize with you over the not having memories of the abuse. I have six years of memories from the age of 11-17. I also called myself an adultress sitting in church when I was 3 years old. I know that something really big happened when I was 7 years old. I can’t tell you what that something was but I know it had a tremendous effect upon my life. Whatever that happening was, it wasn’t good. I know that in my gut.

I can’t tell you which of my fears was bigger – the fear of not being believed and blamed or the fear that my mom would believe me and would kill my dad and maybe her self. Both kept me silent for way too many years. Those beliefs kept me locked up in the silence of incest and the resulting pain grew bigger every year that I kept the secret. Family secrets can do so much damage to those who are forced to keep them buried deep inside.

I went to bed with my first boyfriend at the age of 19 because I was taught that if I wanted him to love me then I had to be sexual with him. I hadn’t learned to say no yet. I hadn’t learned that I could say no and that someone who used me for sex only wasn’t worth knowing or loving anyway. I hadn’t learned about my own self-worth yet.

I came from a poor family. My brother, sister and I shared a bedroom for most of our childhood; my sister and I always shared a bed. We had clean clothes, usually hand-me-downs from my dad’s youngest brothers and sisters. We had food on the table, even if it was only beans and bisquits or beans and cornbread with fresh vegetables when we had a garden. We didn’t have a lot of necessities that other kids had. We were always short on school supplies. We rarely had indoor plumbing. I felt shame for many years over these circumstances in my childhood. Today I don’t.

We lived with neglect as well as emotional and sexual abuse. My mother was there physically but never emotionally. My dad had one emotion – rage. I do remember always feeling different than everyone else. I had a few friends at school but none of them knew what was going on in my family. I lived for school where I was appreciated by my teachers for my good grades and was away from the tension of incest. I hated summers and school vacations.

Angela, I am glad that you were able to find help through counceling. It helped me as well. Even from my counselor, I still hid a lot of stuff because of feeling ashamed. Shame is a hard feeling to admit to. Until I did, I didn’t realize that the shame wasn’t mine. John Bradshaw’s book Healing The Shame That Binds You was a very important part of my journey in realizing that the shame wasn’t mine.

I have had nightmares about the incest. They were also a part of my healing. It is said that, in our dreams, we deal with things that we sometimes aren’t quite ready to face when we are awake. I usually have a vivid dream recall ability and can take my dreams apart to figure out what is going on. I have done some major healing in my dreams over the years.

Thank you for letting me know that I helped you to feel not so alone. That is important to me because I do remember how that aloneness feels.

19

Darlene, yes, when you believe yourself, others lose the power to control you. They can’t tell you what to believe because you know the truth and that truth terrifies them.

20

Okay, I am completely frazzled right now…I’m sure my post will come out disjointed and hard to follow, but I think I need to respond.

My first reaction to your post, Patricia, is that I have no right to feel what I feel, to still be stuck in the past because so many people…as demonstrated here every single day…had it so much worse than I did. I wasn’t hurt enough to be here and to be still stuck. I was molested by my older brother. Never raped. Some uncomfortable touching. That is all. And he was a child himself, which makes the layers of blame and forgiveness even more difficult for me. How can I hate him when he too was a child? My mother was a single mother of four, three girls and a boy. My brother was the eldest and I was the youngest. My mother was (and is) a devout Catholic. As was my grandmother (who co-parented us after my father left). Both of them had issues with sex and sexuality that were compounded by the church. Those issues were drilled into me. And it made me confused and ashamed and every other bad thing. It made me bury my own sexuality for my whole life. I was over 30 before I lost my virginity. My face is burning as I type that because I am so ashamed and embarrassed by it. It makes me a freak, especially in this day and age. I have had very few sexual partners but I have never EVER had sex while sober. And since I barely drink anymore and haven’t for some time, I have never had a healthy sex life. I have told myself I don’t want sex. I don’t miss it. And it’s true as far as it goes, because I did not particularly enjoy it when I had it.

I have so much rage, it terrifies me. I am so afraid that I will hurt myself or someone else if I face it. But not facing it, I may hurt someone else accidentally (for instance with my car…road rage) and for that I would never be able to forgive myself. So I turn my rage inward. I use food, cigarettes, TV, books, Facebook, etc. to bury it. To hide it. To pretend it isn’t there. I have a skin condition that I think is a direct result of all this hiding. It consists of ulcers in very painful places (underarms, groin, under breasts) which I will not describe in detail, because it is disgusting, but a shrink once told me she thought it was my body weeping because I wouldn’t. It rang true to me. I am more than 75 pounds overweight and I smoke a pack a day, sometimes more. If the rage doesn’t kill me, that will.

I subscribe to this blog and to yours and to others I find helpful, but still I am stuck. In self-hatred, in self-blame, in rage that is constant. I know I am covering up fear and grief and shame and other things I don’t want to look at. I can say I’m going to try and I can mean it. I do mean it. And yet, I do nothing. I stay stuck. I stay alone. I stay hurt and fat and ugly. I stay afraid of my own reflection. I write not at all. I don’t know what to do. I really don’t. I mean, what is the first step for me? Saying I want to get better isn’t enough. I have to take action. And yet. I don’t.

I do not think it is possible to have a normal life. I’m 42 years old and I’ve never had a normal sex life. I couldn’t get a date when I was young and pretty; how do I expect to ever get one now, with all this fat and skin problems and anger ALL THE TIME at EVERYTHING and EVERYONE??!!

Thank you Patricia for sharing your story and Darlene for this blog as usual.

21

Lisa, if I could I would put my arms around you and just hold you and ask you to cry out your pain. I know that isn’t possible. All I can do is to tell you that you have the right to feel everything that you feel whenever you feel it.

I heard Oprah say today and I agree with her, “All pain is the same.” Don’t minimize your pain just because it is yours. Your pain is just as real as mine or as anybody else’s. It isn’t fair to you or to me for either of us to say your pain is worse than mine. It isn’t. Pain is pain. When it hurts, it hurts, whether it is you or it is me.

I discovered for myself that I did a lot of resisting in the beginning of my healing journey. As long as I resisted, I stayed stuck in the pain. You are right that you do need to take some action of some kind to move forward. Until you do, you will remain exactly where you are. I found out that when it hurt bad enough then I took small steps forward. I also had to look at what I was getting out of the situation by not moving forward. I had to be brutally honest with myself. No more lies about why I wasn’t ready to move forward.

Don’t minimize your abuse. My sister was only fondled by my dad when she was a child. I was raped when I was 11-17 years old from 1-3 times a week average. I could minimize my own abuse. I was groomed to not stop the abuse. I wasn’t physically beat up or anything like that in order for the sex to happen. I don’t have any memories of it feeling good. My dad was only concerned with it feeling good to him. Personally I believe that when there is enjoyment, additional issues are created. I had trouble calling the experience rape for many years because I thought rape was always violent. It isn’t. It is rape anytime that your “no” is ignored. It is rape anytime that it is against your will whether violence is used or some other form of coersion. I have worked on my incest issues for over 20 years now. My sister is just now getting counseling for her incest issues. I have a kind, patient husband. He isn’t perfect but neither am I. My sister has been in and out of several physically and emotionally abusive relationships. She is finally beginning to move forward and to heal. I am so proud of her. I could have in many ways gone down the same path as her but I didn’t. I have been married for 38 years to the same man.

Lisa, you have nothing to be ashamed of. The incest was not your fault. It doesn’t matter that your brother was also a child. What matters is how it affected you and your feelings of self-worth. My rage used to terrify me as well. I was afraid that if I felt it I would either hurt myself, go crazy and totally lose myself in the process or I would hurt or kill someone else. None of that happened. I did have the help of several wonderful counselors at the time. One of them happened to also be my best friend and also an incest survivor in 12-Step programs herself. She understood me because she has been through similar experiences with incest.

I don’t want a normal life. I want a healthy life. There is a major difference. Today I am much healthier than I have ever been before. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have to deal with incest issues as they come up. I do. At 42 years old, I was married and still didn’t have a normal sex life with my husband much to his frustration and mine. Even today I am still not as sexual as my husband would prefer but today is so much better than we have ever been before.

You need to want to stop the self-hatred. You need to want to move forward. It isn’t something that anyone else can give you. I can encourage you and love you until you can learn to love yourself but I can’t push you forward. You have to want to move forward. You have to want to change. Until then nothing new happens. I can hope that my words will inspire you but only you can take that first step and the second and the third. I hope that you do. Please keep talking to us here and on my blog. Talking is how I started my journey to getting better. I talked and felt my way out of the pain of incest. I hope you will start to do the same. If you can, find a counselor to talk to. Write about what you are feeling. My writing is what made the biggest difference in my life. I didn’t write for others to read in the beginning. I wrote just for me.

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Hi Lisa,
What you are writing about here is actually extremely common for survivors of ANY kind of abuse; psychological, physical, sexual or spiritual. To think that everyone else’s abuse was worse than mine, and I am no exception. For many years I felt so guilty that I felt like I had a right to my pain and my shame. I told myself all the time that I had nothing to complain about. I found friends who confessed to abuse that I “thought” was way worse then anything I ever went through. In my healing process I realized that mine was mine. When I met Carla (who co authored this blog with me from last December to last June, I was shocked by the issues and self esteem feelings that we had in common. Carla had never been sexually OR physically abused at all, and yet she had so many difficulties (like mine) that were in her way. (read some of her earlier posts through the archives for those months) The proved to me that abuse is abuse, and that each person has a right to our feelings. I have met people who were raped and beaten several times a week for years of their childhood, and they don’t think they deserve to have any anger or shame either. This belief does not come from the severity or lack of severity itself, it comes from our own self worth beliefs. (and usually our self esteem or lack of it was established because of abuse in the first place) For me, realizing that the abuse events themselves did not really hold the recovery keys for me was a great advancement on the journey. I realized that revealing the abuse was very important, yes, and accepting it was also very important; accepting that it was a terrible thing that happened to me, because it was, and so is your story, but the key was in learning the lies that I believed about myself and realizing why they were not true so that I could dump them. I was very afraid of moving forward out of my pain, in looking back I realize that I was afraid to live because what the heck did I know about living in “freedom” I was used to bondage. Everyone has a different light bulb moment where the decide to just “go for it” with healing. The good news is that you are here, and even though you are sharing your frustration, you are sharing. As Patricia says, the more we share the more we learn about ourselves, so keep sharing.
You are not alone and you are not the only reader who feels this way Lisa. in fact, almost every person that I know who has journeyed, has some of these very same issues!!
so glad that YOU are HERE; there is hope!!
Love Darlene

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I am afraid that when I really look, there isn’t anything under there. I watched that Oprah episode and I identified with Tyler Perry starting to cry when he looked at the picture of himself as a little boy. I really do feel separate from the child I was. But I’m afraid that if I look too hard, I will find out I really did imagine it. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t bad. And I’ve been using it as an excuse to stay lazy all these years. And then I will hate myself EVEN MORE.

Thank you both for your words of encouragement.

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Lisa, there is a very precious little girl under there that shouldn’t have been abused and she was by someone who was supposed to love her. Older brothers are supposed to protect their little sisters, not sexually abuse them. There is a possibility that someone else abused him. That still isn’t an excuse for what he did.

When I was a child, I also separated from the hurting child that I was. I disconnected from my body and my feelings. It was necessary for me to do that to survive. You probably did the same thing. Calling yourself lazy is another way to continue to abuse yourself like you were as a child. It is that critical inner voice that was usually our parents when we were little. We took their voices and internalized them as adults to keep us in our place where we wouldn’t rock the boat and tell anyone else about the abuse. You don’t have to listen to that voice any more. You did not imagine the abuse. It really happened. You survived it as a defenseless child. You will survive the pain as an adult. Facing your fears once makes it easier next time.

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What Oprah said about pain is true. Pain is pain. No one’s pain can be compared to another’s. What’s important is that each of us knows we are able to heal from the pain with appropriate help and support. Lisa, I hope you will consider working with a therapist trained in treating survivors of sexual abuse. I hear how much pain you are in. Minimizing what happened to you sounds like it is keeping you stuck in such a painful place.

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Maggie, I agree with you. Sometimes we need help to start our healing process. I know I sure did.

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Maggie, thanks for the advice. And you’re right. I need some help. Unfortunately, financial straits prevented me from continuing with the therapist I was working with and I haven’t found another (over 3 years now). I will see if I can find someone who is within my price range. Better yet, someone who works for FREE. 😉

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Hmm, Lisa, I thought there were counseling centers that don’t charge if you don’t have the capacity to pay. I, too, could never pay, not because I could not afford it, but because my ex would find out. So all of my counseling has been for free. I hope you find someone.

Patricia makes the point that you need to find a support group. I am determined to do that because I refuse to remain a victim. When I left my abuser (and the feelings of rage, self-doubt, etc are strikingly similar to those who are talking about child sexual abuse), I had no friends. I made sure first of all I had pastoral support – my pastor said not to worry – they would support me because my ex had “only 3 friends”. Well, that figure of 3 has grown to hundreds – he has cut off all my avenues of support by going to them first (and telling me not to tell anyone) and spilling his story of victimization, painting me the villain. Still, I keep trying and am slowly finding other survivors. I joined an abused womens support group – felt really weird because none of them seemed from the same background or age, but I keep going. I have found a forum online, and I keep trying, even if I feel like an outsider there too. I don’t know why it is so so hard to find supportive people who will love you until you can love yourself.

But I need to keep trying for the sake of the next generation. I don’t want my children feeling dismissed, discounted, etc because I don’t have the capacity to love them. They have suffered enough abuse at the hands of their father, the pain of which is devastating for me. All I wanted ever to do was be a nurturing, influential mother – I read hundreds of books, attended seminars, prayed, informed myself, etc. What have I got? Broken, abused, angry children because of growing up with a violent father and a mother who didn’t understand the dynamic of abuse.

I don’t even know where to start the journey. And doing it while still dealing with the abuser because he hasn’t stopped harassing makes it additionally difficult. I have to have contact until property and childrens issues are settled and every contact is more opportunity for abuse, not physical but psychological. I’m just hanging in there.

Well, I am over 42 and have never had a “normal” sex life either – glad I’m not the only one. Daily rape at a young age (which surprisingly didn’t really traumatize me – the guy wasn’t an abusive guy, just ignorant about age of consent!) and sexual abuse from my ex (now THAT traumatized me but I couldn’t name it for a very long time) made sure that I found sex repulsive, but kept trying for the sake of the marriage.

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Krissy, thank you for reaching out to Lisa and offering your compassion, understanding and possible resources for her. I have been blessed to have not married into a physically abusive relationship. I easily could have if the first young man that I dated had asked me to marry him. There was some small amount of physical abuse during the few dates that we had. I chose to overlook it because I thought I was “in love” with him. He thought about asking me to marry him. He told me so but for whatever reason, he didn’t ask me. Thank God. I would have said yes and would have become a battered wife. He and my dad took an instant hate/dislike of each other. You could feel the jealousy between the two of them. I believe they recognise the darkness within each of them, the likenesses.

I have to ask you and you don’t have to answer me but are you sure that you didn’t just disconnect from the trauma of being “raped daily” as you put it? Disconnecting or not remembering is how many of us deal with rape in our early years. I would think that the “daily rape” and the way it made you feel influenced your present relationship of abuse by your husband.

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Krissy, I have found a website for a local counseling center and I will call them on Monday to find out what services they offer. I am sorry for all you are going through and I hope you continue to get the help you need.

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thank you patrica for your encouragement and openess about how you overcame and your road to healing. these blogs on here have given me so much insight to how ohters dealt with similar stuff. it varies in timespan but there definitely seems to be a route to happiness.
i hope those following behind me, like ii am following you, will gain healing faster as we show them how the past twines itself around our present denying us our future. thank you all

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Carol, what a beautiful comment. Thank you. Helping others heal faster and with less resistance than I did is exactly why I write about my healing experiences on my blog. I bet that Darlene will say the same for herself. Some of our journeys were slower because the resources either weren’t there or we didn’t know they were.

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Lisa, I am so glad that you found a counseling center nearby. Sometimes in small towns like I live in the resources are more limited than if you live in a large city.

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I had never thought of sarcasm being a destructive weapon before. I’m often sarcastic, but didn’t realize that it is a way for me to express my anger and rage, unfortunately on those that I love. I was kidnapped and raped by two men when I was 11 yrs old. My mom was a single mother raising two children on her own, and worked late nights as a waitress, so she never even knew that I was missing. It went on for hours, finally letting me go, with threats of killing myself and my family if I ever told. It took me twenty years to break my silence, but by then, so much damage had already been done. I blamed myself because that night I had worn make up for the first time. I dissociated during the rape, seperating for the first time from my body, and since then, that has been my escape when the memories overwhelm me. I developed an eating disorder in high school, eventually being hospitalized in my forties. I was near death, and filled with self hatred and loathing. I’ve attempted suicide three times since that hospitalization, and spent too much time on psych wards. I’m finally learning to grieve and to have compassion for the little girl that I was. Patricia, your post moved me to tears because I’m just now coming to many of those same realizations. Thank you for sharing your journey!

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Angela, my heart hurts for the little girl that you were. My own memories of incest start when I was 11 years old. You are not and never were to blame for the rape or the kidnapping. Those two men were.

I am so glad that you are finally able to break the silence about the abuse that happened to you. Please find someone safe and continue to talk and cry and grieve until all of that bitterness, rage and hurt is out of you.

I didn’t realize that sarcasm was destructive when I was first doing it. Nobody told me it was. Most of the time they laughed. Most of the time it was directed at my husband who didn’t deserve the put-downs. Sarcasm, for me, was a way to make me feel better at the expense of someone else. I really had to pay attention to the words coming out of my mouth before I could change them.

You can use sarcasm as a way to put yourself down before others can too. I didn’t do that much but I have seen others do it. It is all tied into the self-hatred and has to change if you want to heal.

I am glad to use the gift of words that was a talent I was born with to be able to reach out to others. Thank you for sharing a part of my journey. Together we can heal.

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It’s only through breaking my silence and telling those terrible secrets that I’m able to begin to heal. While maintaining those secrets I could not heal. The secrets were killing me on the inside. Now I’m finding freedom each time I speak out about some aspect of the abuse I experienced. Telling takes the power out of those dark sordid secrets.

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Fi, Breaking the silence of incest was definitely when I started to heal as well. Someone once told me we are all as sick as our secrets. Telling gives us our personal power back.

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