Making Truth a Priority

Making Truth a Priority

After writing publicly for more than a year, I received the first blog comment that attempted to deny the truth of my story. I have never received these comments because I am telling the truth and truth is easy to spot. Survivors know it. Clinicians know it. Everyone knows it. And honestly, why would I make this up. Why would I leave my entire extended family, raise my children without any familial support and write for hours each week for no pay? If I wanted attention, there are millions of more pleasant approaches I could take. I am a good writer. I could write a parenting book. And I have always wanted to work on my singing voice. I would love to win a Nobel Peace Prize too. If I wanted revenge, what would I want revenge for? Abuse? When I first read the comment, I was a little confused. The commenter claimed to have a Ph.D, but they were making uneducated statements. And why would they care enough to take the time to write a comment denying my understanding of my abuse? Why would they care? And if they cared so much, why did they leave an email address that was fake? And why would they make up a name like Georgia England? And why do their comments sound exactly like my own family’s denial of my abuse? Word for word … Oh … wait … Because it IS my family. I cannot believe that took me longer than five minutes to figure out. I’m a little ashamed. My next question was more important. What do I do...
Who Do You Want Me to Be?

Who Do You Want Me to Be?

Sometimes I receive emails from acquaintances I knew in my early years. They usually start by expressing their deep concern for me and what I went through. Each message like this is healing because validation and concern for my situation was something I desperately needed as a child. But their next questions are more challenging. “Should I have known?” “How did I miss the signs?” The answer has always eluded me. I really have no response. I know I was an extremely anxious teenager and young adult. Even when my children were toddlers, I remember having panic attacks. Anyone who was paying attention would have noticed I was anxious. However, most people aren’t paying attention. That is why this work is sometimes referred to as “building awareness”. In addition, there are so many anxious people in the world. And in high school, I am sure I behaved like the average teen. I was caught somewhere between hyper-arousal and dissociation. While I had a habit of studying every aspect of a room and the people around me, a threat (even a small threat) could send me somewhere else, almost as if I was day dreaming. And yet, nobody knew it. If I missed an entire lesson at school, I could teach myself the information at home. I was able to hide my dissociation because I am lucky to be book smart. My grades never faltered despite my dissociative nature. And nobody could see what was happening on the inside. To them, I seemed like a normal person, albeit a little stressed. The constant analysis of my surroundings was my most...
What Do Teenagers Want?

What Do Teenagers Want?

After a childhood of severe abuse, I am a walking web of defense mechanisms. The most destructive mechanisms were developed when I was a younger child. Because of their devastating impact on my adult life, it was absolutely critical that I identify and work with these defenses. The most notable defense was the dissociative response which manifested as memory repression. From the point of repression, my unconscious past ruled my life. And it was as disastrous as it sounds. I also learned some other helpful tips as a child. I learned to hide who I really am and what I really want. I learned to meet the needs of others while ignoring my own needs. I learned to ignore all feelings. Emotions were definitely a problem in my childhood. I numbed out. It was the safest and best response to an abusive childhood from which I had no escape. Although I have slowly learned to overcome many of these defenses, I have recently come across some new strategies as I delve deeper in my recovery journey. These strategies seem a little darker, a little less optimistic, a little less hopeful. As a young child, I believed that if I changed myself, I could establish a relationship with others, no matter how abusive they might be. But that changed when I became a teenager. It has occurred to me recently that I am working with a teenage part of me who doesn’t see things the same way. I think my recent writings about my intense rage were an introduction to her. Don’t get me wrong, I have known about her for...
Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics

There is a problem with the human experience. We don’t have a point of reference. We have only known one reality. And that one reality may not be the best way to live a life. I am finding that despite all of my efforts to recover, and the progress I have made, I still have some habits that aren’t healthy. They aren’t conscious habits. In fact, I didn’t know they were a problem. But lately, I am starting to realize that I need to make changes … fundamental changes to the way I live. First, I have to start breathing. I know that sounds a little crazy. I rarely think about it. I don’t think many people do. But I don’t breathe … not really anyway. I probably use about 10% of my lung capacity. I know there are several reasons for this. When I was a colicky baby, my father would suffocate me to stop my crying. I was also strangled a few times during my childhood.  As a defense mechanism, I learned to take in as little air as possible. As a child, it seemed like a good way to stay alive. If I am not breathing, but still living, nobody can hurt me by taking away my ability to breathe. It seemed reasonable. But there are other reasons. As a child, I was sick a lot. I had pneumonia and other lung illnesses more times than I can count. In addition, my immune system was too shut down to fight these illnesses because I was always in “fight or flight” mode. I believe that my lungs...