Archive for Survival

unnamedWhat if I told you that there is a predator in the survivor community posing as an advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse. What if I told you that he has a large following, is well respected, has been interviewed many times and has even been on television. What if I also told you that the evidence against him goes back several years. What if I said that 11 women have come forward with very similar stories of sexual harassment, bullying, blackmail, shaming, and threats.

Would you believe me? I am guessing you would believe me. Most people who follow me, read my work, buy my book and share my posts believe me when I write about my childhood, my mother, my upbringing, my parents and the ways that I was regarded and disregarded, all of which communicated to me that I was not as lovable or as valuable as the people mistreating and disrespecting me were.

But what if you were a friend of my family? What if you realized that I was talking about someone you knew that had been the one doing this stuff to me? What if it was your pastor, your teacher or your coach that had been messing with me? What if it was your aunt, your cousin or your brother in law? How would you react then?

This survivor advocate that I am talking about today is very skilled in grooming his victims to be afraid to tell on him. He is just like any other manipulative controller or abuser who knows that he has to find a way to keep his victims quiet. His pattern is very similar with each of the women he has targeted. He gains their trust, he finds or creates something that he can use against them and when the victim objects, or realizes that he is an abuser, he uses threats, guilt and calls them all sorts of horrible names defining his victims as the problem, taking them back to the helpless childhood they are trying so hard to emerge from and keeping them in the web of fear. Read More→

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christina 11The first time a boy got a little rough with me I was 14. I had been swimming at our community pool and Mike the 17 year old life guard let me wear his diving watch in the water, which I thought was so cool. My boyfriend Rob showed up and called me over to the gate and I forgot to take the watch off when I went to meet him. I could tell he was angry.

I grabbed my towel and as we were walking away from the pool I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Looking back it was a familiar feeling, one that I had had often in my lifetime; it was the feeling of impending doom.

My internal dialogue went like this; “I have a bad feeling. Something bad is going to happen. Something bad… my tummy hurts, I don’t feel good; I don’t like this feeling.”

I remember my boyfriend started questioning me.            

Rob: Who is that guy?

Me: He’s just the life Guard

Rob: Why are you wearing that watch?

Me: Because he let me wear it to dive in the deep end. It’s so cool!

Rob: Give me that watch.

Me: NO, I have to give it back to Mike.

By now the feeling of impending doom is almost making me throw up. I am scared; I feel like I have done something really bad but I am not sure what. I want to hide and there is nowhere to hide. I want to disappear. I want Rob to stop breathing in that angry way. I want him to calm down and listen to me.

I can see that Rob is getting more agitated. He grabs my wrist with one hand (OW, stop it, you are hurting me!) and he rips the watch off my wrist with the other hand. Then he goes back to the fence surrounding the pool and he throws the watch over the fence and into the pool. I am just standing there dripping wet, feeling scared and stupid and starting to give myself shit for being so dumb. Earlier in the year Rob had beat up a boy at school because he said something flirty to me and it took three teachers to break the fight up and now I am really scared he is going to beat up the life guard. But he doesn’t go into the pool area. Read More→

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Christina 8Please help me welcome back one of our most popular guest writers ~ Pam Witzemann! In this post Pam shares about how seeing the truth in a bigger picture way, helped her to recognize what her inner critic voices were telling her. Truth was the balance in accountability that Pam needed to silence the lies those inner voices told her about herself that she had believed for so long as part of her coping method. This post is extremely content rich and I encourage you to read it through more than once! ~ Darlene

 How The Truth Silences Inner Critics Voices and Healing Begins by Pam Witzemann

An abusive childhood left me with little self-worth and a damaged ability to trust and form healthy relationships. I have lived most of my life with both a strong inner and outer critic. The inner critic tells me that I’m defective and responsible for every bad thing that happens to me. The outer critic tells me that most human beings shouldn’t be trusted because they are all potentially, dangerous. Both my inner critic and outer critic lie to me and they present themselves as my greatest obstacle in healing from the abuse I suffered during my childhood. Truth is the balance in accountability I need to heal from childhood abuse. Only the truth has the power to silence my inner and outer critics, who are never satisfied until they fully disable me, driving me into deep depression and isolation from others.

Human beings are social creatures. I am a human being and I too am meant to enjoy relationships. However, my early childhood taught me that I wasn’t quite human and the second half of my childhood taught me that all human beings, not just my alcoholic parents, were dangerous. I decided that if I had the choice, I’d rather not be a human being and I spent several decades of my life seeking safety through various forms of isolation and very limited close relationships. As a small child, my isolation was involuntary and imposed on me by poor health and by the way my parents chose to treat my unhealthy condition. From birth, until age seven, I spent most of my time in bed and usually, I was medicated with alcohol. All during my elementary school years I was often, sick and kept in bed. I had a deep longing for something that I didn’t understand, an empty, excruciating, emotional ache; but I grew used to being alone and that state of aloneness became my safe haven from the alcoholic drama that characterized my home life. Read More→

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EFB car picEarlier this year my 16 year old daughter hit glare ice, flew off the road and crashed her car. She hit the first tree and took it out which caused her to roll and flip into the air, crashing 5 feet up on the passenger side and wrapped around a second tree.  Her face and hands were covered in blood and cuts from the broken glass and she thought her arm was broken. When she was taken to x-rays in the hospital she fainted.

The images of her near death were haunting.  I couldn’t stop imagining what she went through, her fear and how much worse it could have been. Even though she walked away, even though I was fairly sure she was going to have a complete recovery, the feelings, emotions and fears that came up for me were overwhelming.

On the third day after her accident my entire body was ‘humming’ with fear, emotion and flashes of the way my mind imagined the accident. I felt nauseous, exhausted and totally stressed out. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t concentrate on a book, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even escape with mindless television shows.  I found myself reaching for weird food, like potato chips and chocolate and I reached for them as though they were a life preserver. I ate  mindlessly and in a frenzied manner and as I shoved things in my mouth I became aware of the thought that I somehow believed eating those foods might block the feelings of fear and anxiety out of my mind.  I had this crazy belief that eating those foods would squish the fear and flashbacks of her accident and all my feelings of helplessness, down and away from me.

I felt like I couldn’t cope. I felt like there was ‘nowhere’ to go and nothing I could do about it, that I was powerless over the outcome of her accident, that I was helpless and I had been helpless in that moment. And in the case of my daughters car accident I was powerless and helpless but the problem was that  I felt like that ‘powerlessness and helplessness’ defined me as ‘useless’ and as a ‘failure’ as a mother, as a woman and even as a person. 

Useless and a failure;

And I had this nagging feeling that this feeling I was trying to get away from was very familiar for me. I had this sense that this feeling was something that I had had for most of my life.  And while I was in bed that night, half awake, half asleep, it came to me; this is the feeling that Read More→

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psychological abuseI had to learn to shift my thinking in this process of overcoming the damage caused by emotional abuse. There were a few rather large shifts that I had to make in order to make progress and there was a process to shifting my thinking! It didn’t just happen overnight. 

Instead of trying to understand why ‘they’ didn’t like me or why ‘they’ didn’t love me and why I didn’t fit in and why ‘they’ treated me so badly and what was wrong with me, I started to try to understand why I kept trying.

 I started to ask myself new questions;

Although I had some suspicions that most of my relationships were not fair to me, deep down why did I believe I was the one that was wrong about everything ~ which kept me trying to fix me?  

Although I has some suspicions that there were some things my family was doing wrong, why was I so easily convinced that I was the problem in the relationship which also kept me trying to fix me?  

Why didn’t I expect to be treated the way they insisted that I treat them? 

Why did I accept such a one sided definition of love that so obviously had two very different sets of rules; a set for them and a set for me?

And as I started to ask myself different questions, I started to Read More→

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psychological abuse

poster by Judy Baxter ~ quote by Darlene Ouimet

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. find out what it means to YOU………

A lot of my emotional healing grew out of realizing the truth about some of the concepts that I had been taught wrong. The people who were in a position of power in my life taught me a lot of false definitions of words like love, respect, relationship, trust, forgiveness and a few others. Growing up from so young with the false definitions I had been taught caused me to automatically accept them as the truth.

Yesterday on my previous post “how to recognize when your best interest are not being considered” when referring to her mother a commenter wrote “I am sure she thinks she deserves to be respected…” and it got me thinking about how much learning the truth about definitions of certain key words and concepts helped me in my process of overcoming depression, trauma and low self-esteem.

When I refer to a person in a position of power I am not just referring to our teachers, the police, or judges or government. I am also referring to “our elders” and our families. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all in a positions of power in my life. My in-laws were in a position of power in my marriage and in our lives.  All these people were in that power position because they were “the adults” and I was a child. In my childhood that meant that they were right and I was wrong. In my adulthood, this belief didn’t change because they never let it. In both cases (as a child and as an adult) this is called a dysfunctional relationship because the elders decide and communicate that not everyone in the relationship has equal value.

It was a huge part of my survival mode to go along with these false teachings and when I became an adult I still believed the false truth that Read More→

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problems with parents

if you don’t comply ~ good-bye

Today I was thinking about how many emails I get from people who sincerely want to find validation. Unfortunately most of them want validation from the people who invalidated them in the first place.  I am always thinking about ways to communicate WHY hurt people seem to think that if the people who invalidated in the first place would finally validate, then life would be so much better.  It is the way our belief systems have been fed and formed that is at the root of this dilemma. And there are MANY hidden false truths back there that govern the confusion we are dealing with.  

It occurs to me that the people in my own life who invalidated me had this kind of “if you don’t comply ~ Good-bye” attitude towards me. In realizing that truth I remembered that my mother always said “if you don’t like it, lump it.” I don’t remember if I ever wondered what the hell that meant but I always took it to mean that if I didn’t like it, too dang bad. And that means the exact same thing as “if you don’t comply, good-bye”.  When I got older she started to say Read More→

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abuse was not that bad according to who?

Who says it wasn’t that bad?

It wasn’t that bad. What happened to me wasn’t “that bad” and I told myself that for YEARS.  When I was in my early twenties and struggling with trying to quit the coping methods of alcohol and drug use, some of my memories of child sexual abuse were coming up and I was trying really hard to get rid of them without resorting to alcohol or drugs. At that point in my life I had never told anyone (outside of family but they didn’t validate the abuse OR me) what had happened to me.

One day I was having coffee with a friend of mine who I had met in a 12 step program. In an attempt to mentor me and validate an issue that I was struggling with he told me that from as young as he can remember his parents sandwiched him in between themselves while they had sex. He told me that he can never remember a time growing up when he didn’t have sex with both his parents. He told me that by the time he was 5 he liked it and by the time he was a young teenager, he loved it. He didn’t know it wasn’t “normal”.  It was his normal.  And now he was struggling to learn what the truth about “normal” actually was and to overcome the damage that had occurred in his life. He was having all kind of relationship problems as a result of child sexual abuse.

Although I felt extreme compassion for him, I didn’t hear any of what he was trying to communicate to me. He was trying to communicate that it wasn’t his fault and that his body reacted to being sexually stimulated. He had been sexualized from a very young age. All I heard was how horrible his childhood was and how horrific the child sexual abuse that he endured was. And the biggest thing I “heard” was that what had happened to me did not compare with Read More→

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sexual harassment and freezing in fear

trapped in the deep

I was fifteen or sixteen when I worked in that Real Estate office as a receptionist on the weekends. I answered the phones, and typed offers for the salesmen.  My mother’s disgusting boyfriend got me the job. That should have been the first red flag.

There was this one chubby salesman named Ron who gave me the creeps. He was about 40 years old. He was just a little too friendly. He would come up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He tried to rub my back. I was terrified of him and didn’t even understand why. It was one of those feelings that today I have come to realize was my intuition. It was my “radar” warning me about a predator. That man had really bad motives when it came to me.

One day he came up to my desk and showed me some porn pictures. At first he was on the other side of the reception desk. He handed them to me; I took one look at them and handed them back without speaking. They looked like snapshots and they were mostly of naked people having oral sex.  Those snapshots were pretty graphic. He came around to my side of the desk and at first I tried to look away, but he told me to look at the pictures. Something about him scared me and so I did as I was told and looked at the pictures. He slowly flipped through them, and I looked at them one by one. I was horrified and terrified, but I didn’t turn away. I thought if I was strong, if I showed no reaction, that he would lose interest in me. I thought that if I just pretended that it wasn’t bothering me, he would not ask me to Read More→

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emotional healing from abuse Sometimes facing the pain seemed so overwhelming that I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to face what I had to face in order to get on with my life. I didn’t want to feel anything. I had survived by shutting down my feelings and by shutting down my needs. I didn’t want to feel or be aware; it was much too frightening.

This was the spin; the vicious cycle.

But I must have wanted to live. There was a tiny spark in me that didn’t go out. There was a tiny flame that belonged to me and a determined little flame it was. That spark was determined to live. The “how to go about doing that” was the problem. I wanted to be free but there were certain chains that had to be broken. Certain things held me back and because those chains formed when I was so young, I didn’t realize they were even there. They were familiar; they were part of me. I thought they helped me, and even thought they were “saving me”. I was afraid to break them and emerge into the sunlight. That was the spin that I was caught in.  I had lived in “survivor mode” for so long that it was all I knew. 

Survivor mode is the shut down place; not feeling, not needing, not facing the truth.  Survivor mode is the only way to get through any kind of childhood trauma. But as an adult it was in my way.  It became one of the road blocks to freedom.

Victim mentality believes that being compliant will keep me safe. Being compliant means Read More→

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