Archive for mental health
When we are not heard as children, then naturally we learn that we are not important enough to be heard. Every action has a reaction. Having no voice ~ not being heard~ naturally results in having lower self esteem. Trying to accept that I had no voice which equals having no value is not a very healthy place to be mentally but as a child I had no choice in how I arrived at those conclusions.
Believing that I didn’t count and actually accepting that I was not heard lead me to many unhappy places and resulted in many depressions, low self esteem, relationship struggle and trust issues. I made choices based on what I believed about myself as a result of accepting that I did not have equal value to others.
When I was in my early twenties, I met a really charming and extremely good looking young man who I would say I had a “red flag” feeling about right from the start. I ignored it. He was working with the security team in the major hospital that I worked in. He told me that he was a city police officer who had been laid off due to cutbacks. Everyone knew about the cutbacks so I had no problem believing that. I started to date him.
I was pretty messed up about the guy that I had just broken up with because I found out he was cheating on me and I used my pain over that relationship as an excuse to ignore the red flags that I was getting over this new one. And this handsome man said he was a cop… which for some unknown reason in my mind made some sort of difference when it came to trust. By the time I thought about escaping this relationship, I needed police assistance. My beautiful boyfriend wasn’t a cop or anything else he pretended to be. He was a compulsive liar and a murder suspect.
So what on earth made me ignore those red flags that I got from the very beginning?
It is a natural progression to go from believing that I am not worth being heard, to going on to have self doubts such as not believing in my own feelings and not listening to myself; no one else was listening to me either. Can the majority be wrong? Eventually I started to ignore my own feelings… telling myself that my feelings are wrong. And pretty soon I was also ignoring danger signals, because I must be wrong about those too. Although I had trust issues in general, not trusting myself is an entirely different problem then not trusting others. Survivors are groomed not to trust themselves.
I was taught in the cycle of abuse to discount my own feelings. Then I was taught to discount myself and my value. Then I naturally accepted that I didn’t deserve a love relationship that was mutually beneficial, fulfilling or even safe. Remember that this was a coping method. We are not at fault for accepting that we are not valued. I accepted it as a way of surviving. I was just trying to make sense of my life. It is much easier for a child to decide that he or she is “wrong” than it is for a child to decide that the “all powerful” adults are wrong. If we decide that the adults are wrong, where does that leave us? (Abandoned, rejected and even more alone then we already are. When we blame ourselves, we convince ourselves that we have a chance, ie: I can be better.)
If you combine the facts that I had learned to discount myself and my feelings and I had learned to ignore all my intuition with the fact that I learned to accept the false definition of love, it is understandable that I ignored the red flags that I got when I met an attractive man who just happened to be a compulsive liar and a murder suspect. I was flattered that he was interested in me. At the same time I had learned to be thrilled by danger. (abuse grooms you for that too) I only wanted to see that he seemed to be this dream come true kind of guy, very attentive, soft spoken, a real knight in shining armor and prince charming type and I believe that he would sooth my aching heart and he was “the one” who would take me away from all this. (and that was exactly what he had in mind too except that it involved my death) It wasn’t long before he was telling me all his hurts and problems I went from the “treasure” to the emotional hostage, but it was too late. I thought I could love him enough to take his hurt away and then I would be the “treasure again. Isn’t that what I had been trying to do with the people in my life that had taught me that I was unworthy?
On this journey to emotional healing, I had to undo all of the past false belief systems and coping methods and survival modes, in order to get my life and myself back. I had to learn NOT to discount danger signs and my own feelings, intuition and emotions.
Today I don’t ignore those red flags because I successfully re wired my belief system. I don’t believe that I deserve less than anyone else. I am no longer attracted to danger therefore I no longer discount my intuition. I don’t believe that I am the answer to someone else’s pain, OR that they are the answer to mine.
The follow up to this post with the actual story is here: Dangerous Men, Red Flags, Victim Mentality.
I welcome your comments and contributions as always,
related post ~ Emotional Healing and the will to go forward
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
“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.
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.
I’ve written a lot about my childhood belief system; how it developed and how I came to believe that I always had to try harder; that it was my fault if others were unhappy and even that it was my job, my task to make others feel better about themselves. This all tied in to why I ended up in such serious depressions and need so many coping methods. It was in realizing some of this stuff that I was able to move forward and recover my life. Taking a look at the mother daughter relationship with my mother and how one sided it was, and the father daughter relationship with my father and how nonexistent it was; adding individual events, and adding the way that I was regarded, (before, during and after) mixed in with the way that I learned to regard myself, all added up to the bigger picture of who I was and where my problems started.
With the back ground that I had from my unhealthy dysfunctional relationships to my parents, believing that I was not worthy, not lovable, not good enough for the love and regard that I thought other people had, coupled with the fact that I had learned to try harder and harder and was willing to get angry and frustrated at myself when I “failed”, is it any wonder that I started to have trouble in relationships as I got older?
I was attracted to guys who were “troubled” and I thought that it was my job to love them enough that they would feel better about themselves. Deep down I was pretty sure that if I could love them enough ~ they would realize that they were lovable, and then they in turn would love me back. I was very attracted to these broken guys but I went into the relationship with the idea that I had to “earn my love” from them. I didn’t realize that I felt that way, but I looked back on my relationships and that is the way that it played out. I carried the beliefs about myself and about the way life worked, into my relationships.
The guys had their own belief systems that they brought to the table with them. I picked the ones that needed me to “restore” them, and it seemed that what “restored them” what made them feel good about themselves, was if I put up with devaluing treatment. It was as though they were saying “Will you still love me if I do this?” (for example, forget to call me and ignore plans with me) And if I did accept that treatment, (I always did), then they upped the ante. “What about if I do this….?” and maybe the next thing would be flirt with another girl in front of me or call me a nasty name, or stop talking to me (punishment) because I made a better joke then he did which took some of the attention away from him. There are a billion examples and ways that we can be “asked” to prove our love; their worth, and our worth (or lack of it) in a relationship. There are a million ways that we can be “manipulated” and taught that the way we are isn’t acceptable ~ and if I wanted to be accepted/loved then change was the silent message. I was used to not being accepted.
When I was 17 I had a big crush on a neighbour who was 20. He drank, but I didn’t mind because he liked me better when he was drinking. I didn’t have the self esteem to take that as an insult. I wanted him to notice me. All the girls thought he was dreamy, and I thought that if he noticed me, then I must be okay. I sought my value through other people, just as I had learned to do my whole life.
He used to come over to my house at around 10:00 pm at night and with no prior phone call or any prior arrangement, he would beep the horn from the driveway, and I would grab my jacket and go with him. I was “sure” that I could prove to him that I was the right girl friend for him, but I never considered that he was the wrong boyfriend for me. I accepted that kind of treatment from him for almost 5 months until on New Years Eve, he didn’t ask me out, but he showed up at my house at 1:00 in the morning after the party he was at, raped me, and then demanded that I call him a cab. That was what it took for me to realize that he was “not the one”. That was also when I reached a new depth in giving up on myself.
P.S. It isn’t surprising that I had these beliefs, I have written a few blog posts about how my mother expected me to define her; to make her feel loved and valued and how by her actions it was obvious looking back on our mother daughter relationship, that she thought my purpose in her life was to restore her value. I just accepted that as “my job” and carried that with me into all my future relationships. See ~ The beginning of Broken ~ Family Foundations about my mother’s expectations in our dysfunctional mother daughter relationship.
The Emerging from Broken book “The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing
I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today. Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own wonderful blog “A Journey” and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. ~ Darlene
“When I finally was able to make peace with the past I could write a new ending to the story and claim what was rightfully mine – me.” ~Susan Smith August 26, 2010
Like many – or most – of the readers of EFB, I grew up in a less than nurturing environment. Physical, emotional, mental, sexual abuse and neglect was the “normal” for me in my home and the rural community where I was raised. As one person put it, I’d grown up in a “battlefield”, a warzone where there was no “safe place” for a small child to even exist. I’d been taught that sex was where my value lay and that this was where my emotional and physical needs were met – by exchanging sex for physical touch. I came to believe at a very young age that this was how the world accepted me and valued me; this was what my role was.
And I’d spent a lifetime carrying this baggage with me. I’d become an irritable, angry, pessimistic person that tried to control everyone and everything around me. My relationships were unstable and fraught with conflict, confusion and replicated the abuse, neglect and violence that I came from.
Eventually, I lived in complete isolation and had gotten to a point where I was losing more and more time. I couldn’t remember things – not only things from a few minutes before, but memories of my own life and of raising my children. I’d gone from “normal” dissociation to the extreme on the dissociative scale where I realized years and decades were just gone from my memories…and that this wasn’t “normal”.
Depression had plagued me off and on for years. My anxiety was bordering on paranoia and I could easily be triggered into “psychosis” as I reacted to today’s world as though it was my past. PTSd symptoms had turned me into a prisoner in my own home. I was ashamed that I even existed and believed that I was “broken”, “ill” and somehow intrinsically defective.
I found myself stuck in that place where I was “acting in” and my pain was turned inward and expressed as depression, anxiety, dissociation and other emotional and psychological coping skills that were less than helpful. Sometimes my pain was expressed in “acting out” as I engaged in self-harming behaviors and abusive relationships that recreated the trauma I had been raised in.
My body was falling apart and no physical cause could be found for much of my physical pain and complaints. Life had become too difficult a burden to bear any longer. I had shut down mentally, emotionally and physically. I had dissociated to the extreme point and in the fall of 2007 I was told the newest diagnosis was D.I.D. and I was abruptly taken off the numerous psychotropic drugs I had been on for all the previous “diagnosis”.
At first – I listened as the latest psychiatrist told me that this was my “diagnosis” and he handed me a couple of books on the subject one that told the story of one mans journey through MPD and talked about “alters”.
And while I admittedly recognized that I felt fragmented, I had turned to another psychiatrist that encouraged me to become more attentive to time and what I was doing by using a time log and recording periodically the time and what I had done. This was an exercise in learning to stay present more than one of time management.
I read about “Internal Family Systems” and began to understand that when I was “tuning out” I was avoiding some painful thought or feelings. The therapist I’d chosen to see encouraged me to become intentionally aware of where I was, what I was thinking, feeling and doing.
And while there are many more layers to my journey and how I found “me”….I first had to lay claim on and believe that I was a single person who had had some horrendous experiences and that I had the potential to be and live a whole healthy life.
I came to understand that dissociation was a wonderful tool that protected me from the pain of the past. I also understood that this skill of slipping into a dissociative state was no longer helpful – and was in fact hindering my ability to live beyond the past as I was in a chronic state of avoidance and nurturing the anger and pain connected to it instead of going “through it” to “get out of it”.
By facing dissociation and my other avoidance strategies as learned skills that had helped me to avoid my pain – I became strong enough to face the pain and begin to let it go.
about Susan Smith;
I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. After a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help for depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and irritability where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.
I connected with a therapist trained in Trauma Informed therapy and heard a new message of hope – that I could learn to create the life I wanted for myself…in spite of the past I’d had.
Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.
Please be sure to visit Susan at her website http://www.susankingsleysmith.com/
In my last post “Sexual Abuse ~ Devalued, Discounted and Unprotected” I talked about one incident where I was sexually abused and the damage that I became aware of. In this post I talk about some of the other events in my life that actually groomed me to believe that I had something to do with this incident of sexual abuse and some of the things that I realized about this particular sexual assault later on in my recovery process. I hope to illustrate how the belief system formed in me and how I was able to take it apart by looking at how it formed in the first place.
It took me several hours in therapy to dig through all the details so this is just the quick version to hopefully give you an idea of what I am talking about.
~When I was six years old my mother began teaching me that my value was sexual. It is important that you read the post about this in order to understand how my belief system formed. Click: The Progression of Mental Health Breakdown
~I had already learned not to bother expecting to be protected via previous events that I had been ignored ~ I highlight this in the post about the teacher who was picking on me so much that I developed a serious illness and the Pediatrician figured it out. Once again it is important to understand how a belief system forms even before the abusive or trauma event takes place. This was key in my recovery from abuse ~ to realize it began in several different places. This post has nothing to do with sexual abuse, but is about emotional abuse and how my parents failed to take care of me. Click: Psychological and Emotional Abuse ~ How Self Doubt Grows
~Regarding the sexual assault when I was 14~ it wasn’t me that told, it was my Aunt who told. I didn’t realize how key this was in why I gave up hope after this particular sexual assault. This is a huge point because I think deep down I believed that if someone ELSE told my Mom that she would actually do something ~ I was just so sure it was because I had been labeled as a “story teller” (and therefore my own fault) that that was the reason no one would believe me.
~My body responded. I woke up and my body had responded to his touch. I blocked this out and I didn’t acknowledge it for many years but deep down I knew it and it made me feel very guilty and ashamed. In my young mind I believed that I must be very bad for having that reaction.
~My mother denied that it happened. She said that I was mistaken. She never for one minute gave any indication that it might have actually happened. Which at the time made me feel discounted and eventually it made me question my own memory. This had happened in the past too, but what was different this time is that my Aunt was a witness which helped me to at least partially accept that it was a true memory. I hoped that this time I would be heard and validated.
~although my mother denied that it happened, the fact that she added at the end that I had a crush on him, indicated not only that she believed it happened but that it was my fault. I didn’t realize this fact however until I was well into my late thirties.
~the fact that he was drunk was used as an excuse and it was HER excuse for letting him stay in the house that night. She had broken up with him because she found out he was married, and he showed up at the house drunk, and she didn’t want him to drive. SO she let him have her room and she slept downstairs on the couch. She also kept repeating that he didn’t remember doing it. (which in my mind meant that if he said he didn’t do it, then he didn’t ~ but that is like saying it isn’t raining when it is, makes it true) If she had believed and defended me, this would not have been such a big deal, but the way she handled it made HIM more important than ME. And I concluded (what choice did I have?) that my value was less than his value.
~with each boyfriend that my mother had after that, she acted like I was her competition. She said inappropriate things about me in front of her boyfriends which I had no idea was strange, I just thought it was hurtful. I didn’t realize until much later that this was because she really believed that I had done something to invite her drunk boyfriend to come into my room. (I had a LOT of trouble accepting that she really truly blamed me and I preferred to make excuses for her in my own mind. I felt sorry for my mother for years and years.)
~Because I believed that my mother was right ~ that I had a crush on him and therefore I had done something to invite him to my room, psychologically, I believed that I had done something very wrong that somehow invited him to come into my room and I didn’t know what it was, so I spent YEARS living in fear that I would do “it” again and invite or cause another assault. I also spent years trying to figure out what the heck “it” was that I had done, believing that if I figured that out I would not repeat the mistake.
~Instead of being able to talk about the assault, to tell my mother how terrified that I was, what went through my mind, what he said, what he did, and how I tried to get away, I was caught in a second nightmare of defending myself to my mother. She never once asked me what happened.
This kind of self blame stayed with me until I got help re-wiring my belief system, and it had a effect on the way that I lived the rest of my life, the choices I made, my self esteem and my self image and the way that I did relationship. I also had to learn to re-parent myself and I had to start going back to that young age where I really needed a parent but didn’t really have one. I had to validate myself and stop believing that if she finally heard me and said that she believed me now ~ that I would finally be okay.
The complicated thing here is that the post about Phillip coming in my room was only ONE event. Mix a few more in there that are equally mishandled and add the other events that teach us that we don’t really have much value and guess what happens. Well I think you already know.
I welcome comments, feedback, stories or whatever you would like to share.
Exposing Truth ~ one snapshot at a time!
In my last post I talked about how I learned to take apart a memory. In this post about child sexual abuse I am going to detail one event in my life and then In part three, show how I took the memory apart a bit more in relation to the “other things” that happened in order to realize that the confusion and depression that I thought I understood had a much bigger impact on me then I realized just from the event itself. There were other things associated with this child sexual assault that contributed to my low self esteem, depression, mental health struggle and dissociative behavior. I had been emotionally abused and mistreated many years before this, and this assault was not the first sexual assault of my life, but it was one that seemed to set my path in deeper cement. Something broke in me after that night. I think this is when I lost hope. I think that this is when I believed that I really was worthless and unlovable.
When I was 13 years old, my mother had an Italian boyfriend, Phillip, who was much younger than her. He was really cute with sparkling light brown eyes and curly black hair. He worked in construction so he was what we teenagers thought of as “really built” and what is known today as ripped, hot etc. He used to take my brother and I riding in his convertible and we thought he was totally awesome.
One night while I was sleeping, just after my 14th birthday I woke up to Phillip touching me sexually. I was disoriented and immediately scared. This was not my first time being sexually assaulted and I had learned to freeze. Freezing includes being too afraid to scream and I found myself whispering things to him, trying to talk my way out of it. He was drunk and not making a lot of sense. All he was wearing were little white briefs and he was trying to get into bed with me. I lost time. I remember him telling me that he loved my mother, but I also remember him calling me by her name when he was getting into bed with me, grabbing and groping me. The next thing I remember is my Aunt who was visiting us and sleeping in the room next to mine, opening the door of my bedroom and shouted at Phillip “Get out of her room” He argued with her, and she stated again, this time louder “Get out of her room”. I don’t remember anything else that night.
No one addressed it that night; he could have come in again. I don’t remember much about the rest of the night though. I stayed in my room that morning, and when my mom came in I knew that my Aunt had spoken to my mother. I remember her sitting on my bed and telling me that I must have misunderstood, the he would “Never” do that. He was still in the house. It was the next morning and he didn’t have to get out of the house. My mother was saying something about how he wanted to take us on a picnic to make up for the misunderstanding. The thought of that started the panic all over again in me; I said that I would not go. I was really stunned that this conversation was happening. How could she consider going out somewhere and doing something “fun” with this creepy scary man that tried to have sex with her 14 year old daughter? I remember wondering if I was dreaming. I wondered if this was my mother. I wondered if she would suddenly hear me and realize that I had been violated; ME her daughter had been violated. But she sat there pleading with me to come on a freaking picnic (with the same guy that had been trying to rape me) and kept explaining that he was drunk; that she had broken up with him because she found out he was married to a woman who was still in Italy, but when he showed up drunk, she didn’t want him to drive so she let him stay. She tried to convince me that maybe he didn’t know what he was doing but he would never do “that”.
She never once asked me what happened. I don’t recall even trying to tell her. I guess I knew by that age that I would not be heard and I the truth is that she didn’t want to know.
But at the end of the conversation my mother dealt the crushing blow. She said “Well Darlene, you do have a crush on him.”
That is the memory of the event. I started having anxiety attacks. I gained 30 pounds over the next few months. I stopped sleeping properly and preferred to sleep in the daylight. I tried alcohol that summer and started to sneak it mostly because I was having trouble sleeping. I withdrew from all my friends including the boy that I considered to be my boyfriend. I didn’t even give him an explanation; I just stopped taking his calls. Over the next year I became obsessed with suicidal thoughts and prayed to die in my sleep every night. My mother let this man come over a few more times. I lived in constant fear because I never knew when he would show up. I never knew if he would come and punish me or threaten me for telling. And since there were no consequences to him, I was afraid that he would come back and finish what he started. I didn’t tell anyone else. I didn’t see the point.
These are the things that I put together myself about this one incident. In my next post I will list all the factors that I had not considered prior to learning how to take a memory apart.
Please feel free to share your story, your reaction or whatever else you would like to say.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Foundation of Eating Disorders and Body Issues and I mentioned using a technique mentioned to me by life coach and Author Kim Vazquez. I am excited to have Kim as a guest blogger today! Please help me welcome Kim and feel free to leave your comments for her. You can visit her website at www.kimvazquez.com or join her author facebook fan page ~ click here.
The Body Disconnect: A Journey to Self-Love. By Kim Vazquez
I was only eleven when my dad married a woman who was closer to my age, than his. It seemed to me that his young, second wife and I were in competition. As my dad became less and less available to me, I felt she was winning the competition. When he left my life altogether, I was eighteen. Game over. She had won, and I was officially the loser. A woman discarded. Unloveable. Without value. And I had my whole life ahead of me. I’d have to face it without self-esteem.
During the years that followed, I believed in my worthlessness. It was easy to find a multitude of people who helped me keep that story going—employers who didn’t pay me fairly, abusive boyfriends who hurled more than insults at me, friends who just didn’t seem to care enough. The energy of my pain worked like a magnet, pulling toward me evidence that the world at large agreed with me that I was irrelevant. I was so busy looking outside myself, so stunned and distracted by the unkindness of others that I was unable to see what my own actions were doing to me.
During those tough years, a spell was cast over me by a dark voice in my mind. Not the voice of a separate personality, but the voice of my ego, which promised me that if I pushed myself harder, I’d eventually achieve enough to force the world to acknowledge my worth. I thought this voice was trying to help me. I called it a motivator. It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand that this voice, the one I now call the Taskmaster, was really teaching me self-abuse.
When the Taskmaster said, You don’t need to eat yet, finish your project first, I learned to resent my body for having needs that interrupted my time. When the Taskmaster said, You don’t need to rest. First, let’s get your to-do list done, I learned to push through fatigue. Ignore that migraine, the voice in my head told me. You have one every day. What are you going to do, lay around and never get anything done because your head hurts? I learned to push through pain, no matter how severe. You don’t have time to be sick. We’ve got a lot to do, the voice would say. So I began to feel disappointed in my body for failing me when I was already stressed out by my busy schedule. I resented the body for holding me back when I had too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
Don’t worry about drinking six cups of coffee a day, the Taskmaster murmured. I learned to have no regard for the body’s need to be hydrated with water so it can function optimally. You don’t need anyone’s help. The Taskmaster urged me to be independent and reminded me that I couldn’t count on anyone else, anyway. I never gave my body a break. Okay, the voice said, you can take a bath, but if you do, we’ve got some endless thinking to do while you’re in there. The Taskmaster encouraged me to spend every moment of so-called downtime chasing my tail around my mind so I never had any real peace or rest.
The Taskmaster also took charge of my social life. You’re too busy to meet up with your friends. Forget about sitting on the couch with your husband. The voice encouraged me to do only things that were task-oriented. It—and I—ignored any activity that might bring joy or balance to my life. Buy another rental property. Buy a new home. Get a new car. Buy a vacation home in Tahoe. Open your own business. Open a second business. I learned that my happiness was in my future when I achieved (fill in the blank).
At age thirty-seven, I hit bottom. My body was failing. Seventeen pounds fled from it in just nine days. My organs ached. My mind was fried. I was put on disability and was forced to change my whole life.
My body had let me down again.
Will the real offender please stand up?
While I was recovering from that episode, it began to dawn on me that I was the problem. I had taken a lot from my body over the years and had given it very little in return. I was mad at everyone around me because I thought they should take better care of me, but I couldn’t see that I was The Queen of Self-Abuse. Five-year-olds probably knew how to take better care of themselves.
From a new sense of compassion for my body, I decided to look back to see where I’d gone wrong. Where could I make some changes? I found that in the past when I was sick, I was always impatient and basically demanded that my body dare not inconvenience me. Forget that I didn’t eat nutritious food, get any rest, exercise or drink water. Talk about a disconnect.
When my body had physical needs, I had just thrown whatever I could into it to get it to shut up. Here’s some Nyquil. Here’s an Ambien. Here’s a Vicodin. Here’s some fast food. Now, hurry up and quit bugging me with your needs.
When my body had felt emotional pain, I’d berated myself for having needs and for being weak. If I couldn’t chastise the feelings out of myself, I used work as Novocain or went out for cocktails.
Yes, it was clear. I was the person who had harmed me the most. I was ready to make amends. With pure gratitude, I began a conversation with my body. Please teach me to speak your language, I said. It responded with joy, and a beautiful source of wisdom and guidance opened itself up to me. Our new relationship began with my commitment: Body, I said, I will listen to you. I will care about your needs. I will love you.
Today when I don’t feel well, I get quiet and ask my body, What do you want me to know? How can I meet your needs? Just like a whole person, a body responds to love and acknowledgment. It will heal so much faster when it’s spoken to with kindness. My body works with me to reveal the areas of imbalance in my life that need attention. Sometimes, through malaise or a touch of funkiness, it will gently remind me that there’s unresolved emotion lurking. I thank my body for letting me know this.
My body is an ally that is willing to work with me and guide me to optimum health and joy.
For me, it works out best if I listen to my body, not the voice of the ego in my mind. I am only a work in progress. Due to the many years’ practice of being disconnected from myself, I must be patient with myself as I learn new behaviors.
My intention is to honor myself and live the way of self-love.
Today I see my body as a gift. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this physical vehicle that I use to navigate through my life. My body is my own personal miracle. Have you ever thought about how truly amazing the body is?
What day is better than today to begin a loving relationship with your body, with your SELF? For me it started with gratitude: Thank you for all you’ve done for me. And then the question: What can I do for you?
Peace & Love~
Kim Vazquez is the author of two books: New From the Inside Out: How to Transform Your Mind and Your Life and Living in the Rear View Mirror: From Substance Abuse to a Life of Substance. Kim has found her true calling helping others connect to their divine guidance. She offers Transformational Life Coaching, Workshops, and Sacred Healing Circles through her practice in Placer County, CA. For more information, visit: http://www.kimvazquez.com/
With my Children ~ THEN and NOW
“If we are going to raise happy emotionally healthy, self reliant children with high self esteem and independence, who know their own value and the real definition of LOVE ~ then we have to be an example of those things and we have to know it for ourselves too”. ~ Darlene Ouimet
I used to feel a huge panic about the time it was taking to go through the process of recovery; like every moment that I struggled was going to damage my kids. On top of that I thought that every moment that I took to figure myself out was taking away from the time I needed to take care of all their needs. Mixed in with that was the thought that the depression and other mental health related struggles “should” just “go away” because I believed that depression was selfish too. All of those beliefs, all at the same time, adds up to what I call “the spin” and it is a huge waste of time. Time that I learned I could spend on my recovery!
In some ways it is a good thing that I was desperate for some help and I was pretty much forced to deal with life as it was. There are two ways to look at everything, and looking back I see that there was a major upside to my having such a huge breakdown followed by recovery resulting in major changes; my kids also got to witness me dealing with life. They got to see me FACE depression, tackle it and overcome it. They know now that it is possible that when life gets too hard, it isn’t hopeless. I was the example that they watched, and they watched me overcome. This makes sense to me now when I watch the way that they face the things that come up in their own lives verses the ways that they dealt with things in the past. The past was the way that my husband and I taught them to handle it. (and most of our examples were “just don’t handle it!”)
In facing my depression and where it came from, I faced my parents too. I told my mother that she could not treat me like “nothing” any more. And eventually, my mother did what she always did ~ she didn’t bother with me anymore, but my kids got to see that I was stronger than the abusers. My kids learned that they don’t have to be treated like “nothing” they can say “no, I don’t think so” ~ and just like me they said it first to themselves and then to others. In facing my depressions and dissociative issues, I stood up and declared that I was worth it; I stood up and declared my value, when up until that point my kids had witnessed their entire lives that my value was mostly in what I could do for them, how I could serve my family and my husband’s family. I thought that by putting my needs on the back burner, that I was modeling something GOOD for them. Did I want them to grow up thinking that a “good person” puts their own needs aside in favour of taking care of others, or did I want to be an example of independence, competence and individuality? Was I raising door mats or strong individuals with high self esteem? I hadn’t thought about it that way before.
In the old days, I modeled subservience to my children. I lived as though my only value was to serve others, to cook, clean and take care of everyone else. I was exhausted and believed that I was lazy. My husband (and I) have a big cattle and haying/grain operation. I was just his back up program though. I did the things he didn’t have time for, and I made sure that he and all the hired men were fed and taken care of every day. I didn’t have any life as an individual. I was just a wife and mother and I was dying. Instead of seeing that my life was way out of balance, I thought I was lazy, incompetent and selfish because I secretly wanted something else ~ something more.
Looking back I am not sure why I thought that I was going to raise happy self reliant children who took care of themselves, when I didn’t model that for them. That was part of the fog that I was in. My husband and I were still emotional slaves to our own parents, and I was really just a servant in my marriage and in our home. I just didn’t see the truth of it then.
No longer in that fog, I believe that everyone has equal value and I model that to my children. My children know that no matter what anyone says or how anyone acts towards them, THEY have equal value to every other human being and I live like I believe that I have equal value.
Love is not sacrificing oneself for others. Love is taking the very best care of me so that I can take the very best care of them and model real self esteem for them. it is never too late for parent child relationship recovery! My wishes for my 3 children make much more sense to me now that I pursue the same things for myself.
I welcome you to share your thoughts or your struggles and fears.
Exposing truth one snapshot at a time!
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Living in the struggle, trying to overcome depression and abuse I had a lot of questions like “what is the point? What am I doing here? There must be more to life then this so what is it? What is the meaning of life? And there was that ever present feeling of having to “survive” so that I can…… WHAT?….. So that I can do “what” with my life? Raise another generation? WHY? What is the point, what is the purpose? What was I born for?
In the beginning of recovery all I knew was that I wanted something better for my life, I wanted to feel more alive, be more engaged and to know there was some reason for being. I knew that I wanted more out of life way before I found the answer to my longings which were so deep.
I thought I was chasing a rainbow; that recovery, freedom from depression and personal wholeness were not really possible. I thought I was ungrateful and selfish; always wanting something more but I didn’t think about where those doubts and those negative thoughts came from. I didn’t question if they were right or wrong. I didn’t think that maybe those thoughts about wanting something better or wanting something more out of life came from my inner being, my spirit or maybe even from God himself. I didn’t consider that maybe it was my longing for real life or that I really was missing “real life” and that life was meant to be fulfilling. Instead I thought that maybe those thoughts came from my ingratitude towards God.
I thought that I should KNOW by now what “life” is all about and to admit that I did not know would be like admitting failure. When I wasn’t feeling foolish that I didn’t know, I thought that the greatest joy should be about being in service to others, making a difference, being selfless, and showing love to all others but the problem was that I was not doing any of that for myself and had never actually been taught to take emotional care of myself.
Not having a proper foundation for emotional self care means that it is really hard to provide that for someone else. You know the old saying “you can’t give away something you don’t have”.
So ~ the world’s universally known recipe for a happy and fulfilling life, which is something about serving others~ didn’t work for me. So I was stuck. I would not only to serve others, I would try to live for others, and I would fall. Sometimes the ‘falling’ looked like a serious depression. I would give up and give in and go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I would plead with God; “Why can’t I just be happy? What is wrong with me, why can’t I just be normal?” And then I would answer my questions with a stream of mean and unsupportive answers “because you are ungrateful, it is never enough for you, you are selfish, you are self centered and there must be something really wrong with you that you keep on ending up here hiding under the covers”. (metaphorically speaking)
One of the first things that I had to learn was that I did not love myself and that I kept hoping that I would find someone to love me ~ to prove to me that I was lovable or worthy of being loved. In retrospect I realize today that that I believed if I could find someone to love me then I could love me. This is a left over from not being valued as a child and a belief that I carried with me into my adulthood. I thought someone else could provide my worth and provide my worth because it was defined for me as a child. I had to learn to define my worth and value for myself.
It was a shock and a relief to accept the truth that
a) I could learn to love myself
b) People did love me, and it didn’t change anything.
c) No one could ever love me enough to prove to me that I was lovable.
Self esteem had to come from me and for me; recovery began when I decided that there was more to life then the depression I constantly struggled with and there was more than always trying harder, and I was determined that I was going to find out what that “more to life” was….. and I did find out.
Living in the Truth means knowing that I am worthy, loveable and equally valuable!
I welcome everyone to share a piece of your journey, victory or struggle; please comment.