I have worked hard to maintain my mask of normalcy over the years. I was trained by my family that there could be no external signs of abuse, physically or behaviorally. And since I was convinced the abuse was my fault, I thought it imperative to comply. When I felt anxious, I would use the manic energy to be more productive, so it came across as a positive thing. When I felt depressed, I would hide from the world. Those were the sick days from school or work. I was proud of my ability to preserve my mask no matter how difficult things became.
But the anger and rage was a different story. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I knew that acting out my rage was unsafe in my home because my father had made it clear that he would kill me. The rage was seeping out of me on all sides with no outlet. It was in my energy. It was wrecking havoc on my life through manifestations of chaos and drama. Interpersonal relationships were severely impacted by my anger and inability to allow the smallest indiscretion. Sometimes, I would self-harm or find any way to numb out. Sometimes, I would be passive aggressive, finding a way to sabotage something important, especially if it mattered to my parents. I did everything possible to avoid acting out my rage in a noticeable way.
There’s a popular Zen saying in the self-awareness circles. “Before enlightenment, carry wood chop water. After enlightenment, carry wood chop water.” As with most Zen concepts, it seems like a simple idea on the surface. And as with most Zen concepts, it isn’t simple. It encapsulates so many challenges in my own life.
While I do my best to stay conscious as I move through my life, it is hard work. So, I find myself going through the motions. I wake up every morning and make breakfast for the twins. I make their lunches while they eat their breakfast. I drop them off at school. I write. I pick them up from school. I take them to activities. I make dinner. I put them to bed, clean the kitchen, do laundry and get ready to do it the next day.
I find myself asking if this is what life is about.
As I continue my journey in conscious parenting, I have noticed a trend. I probably noticed it before, but didn’t have the time or energy to think about it much. But now that my kids are older and more individual and more vocal and well, more everything, it is getting more obvious. And frankly, there doesn’t seem to be very much support in our house.
This isn’t surprising to me. Throughout my life, I have felt invalidated and unsupported. It started in my childhood when I tried to get help and it wasn’t there. When I would speak up, I was told to stop making things up, stop lying, stop trying to get attention. I was told that I was not worthy, beautiful or intelligent. I was told that nobody loved me. Continue reading
Children have opinions. This is not a surprising statement for anyone who has raised a child past the age of 18 months. Children know what they want and they expect to get it. If they don’t get it, they will let you know their disappointment. Of course, this can be the hard part for parents. Words like “unfair”, “worst mother ever” and “I hate you” may be used at will. As parents, it is our job to remain calm, which is very difficult with or without a trauma background.
During my eight years as a parent, I have learned that children live in a black and white world. All dragons are bad. All candy is good. Every day is the best day ever, unless one little (very little) thing goes wrong. Then, it is the worst day ever. Every person wearing white is a good guy. Every person wearing black is a bad guy. You get my point. There is no grey area. Some ideas don’t register. The concept that people are both bad and good is particularly challenging. As is the concept that loving another person might mean walking away from them. Continue reading
When I write and speak about child sex trafficking and abuse, I am encouraged by the support from most people who hear my story or read my blog. Most people understand that children are victims and do not have the power to stop the abuse that is controlling their lives. Most people understand that the brainwashing and shame transference in these situations runs very deep and can keep a child victim from speaking up for many years, or at all. Most people understand that children are afraid in these abusive environments. And I am grateful for this.
But during the past two weeks, I have been discouraged and disappointed by the victim-blaming associated with three different attacks on adult women, some of whom were rich and famous adult women. The difference in our support of child victims compared with adult victims of abusive behavior continues to perpetuate a culture of oppression in which victim-blaming is acceptable. Continue reading
I love vacations. I know this is not a particularly startling revelation. But I think that I like them more than the average person.
I have perfected my escape-artist defense mechanism and there is nothing better than physically leaving home to appease an escape artist. If I did not have children, I would probably take a traveling job. That way, I would always be somewhere new. Nobody could ever find me. I wouldn’t even be able to find myself.
That being said, I am completely aware that “I cannot run from myself”. I tried before I started recovery, but it never worked. Now that I have miraculously lived in the same city for 20 years, vacations are my way of escaping for a week. And I usually need it. Continue reading
Do you ever have those days? When your skin hurts? When a cocoon of blankets is the only place that will provide an ounce of comfort? When no physical touch, no matter how well-meaning, can soothe the inner turmoil? When the idea of a meaningful embrace actually invokes nausea? Do you have those days?
I hope your answer is no. But if you are an abuse survivor, the question is rhetorical. Those days are inevitable.
For me, those days come when I am processing my past trauma. Usually a memory is looming on the horizon, waiting to bless me with additional knowledge about my childhood. I am generally happy to receive the information. I am happy that my inner-child is willing to trust enough to share one more piece of the puzzle. The physical pain is worth it if I can understand just a little more of the trauma I am carrying. The emotions are tough, but if I can compartmentalize them from my current life, they can be tolerated for the sake of recovery. Continue reading