Tag Archives: incest

Same issues; new year.

FAITH

Greetings to all in this new year!

I begin 2013 with the same issues I had going into 2012. I’d like to think I am getting closer to healing but it sure isn’t happening at lightning speed.  This is where mindfulness and compassion come in.  I must have faith, focus on my life now and not judge myself harshly in my haste to get well.

Follow the link to a post from the early days of my blog that succinctly explain why I’m in therapy and what I have to work on.  Warning:  detailed account of incest.

https://mydepressionchronicles.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-effects-of-childhood-sexual-abuse-or-what-i-have-to-work-on-in-therapy/

♥ Daylily

Incest sufferer or survivor?

The past is coming to the foreground because I disclosed the fact my oldest brother molested me when I was a child.  This time I told my step-dad who was not around when it happened.  We’re talking about forty years ago and yet it still has the power to derail me. Twenty years ago I told my siblings and confronted my brother.  The dust had settled (or so I thought) until I talked to my step dad this weekend.   My step dad cried and hugged me and today I got an email in which he wrote that I’m brave.  I won’t go into all of that except to say I felt loved and supported.  It was the right move to tell him.

However, I am inundated with images and feelings that continue to have a firm grip on me.  The incest, the shame and guilt, the ways I misbehaved in the aftermath.

I wish I had the courage to do more.  I should be protecting others.  Courageously speaking out in public.  Sharing my story to help others.  Stopping the pattern of childhood sexual abuse.  But I can’t because I still carry shame and a prevailing sense of unworthiness.  I should, I should, I should… Oh, the guilt of it all.

Here are some examples that hurt deeply because it is not fair that I still feel guilt around incest:

I stole from my brother’s coin collection when I was 10 or 11 years old.  Just as he snuck into my room at night, I would go into his room and unlock this tool chest that had stickers all over it saying, “Keep Out.”  I took the coins that were old but still in circulation such as silver nickles, dimes and quarters and used them at the local penny candy store.  My heart fills with shame for my actions.  It was not me doing that.  It was the violated girl getting her payback.  Sometimes I feel he deserved it but other times I get this surreal feeling that I was driven by outside forces and I feel shameful. I never ever would have done such a thing if I hadn’t been sexually abused and so the shame in intertwined.  What I did and what he did.

I got into a car accident and totaled the vehicle my brother was to get for his birthday from my mom.  He was so mad at me and I felt guilty for it.  I wonder if I subconsciously wanted to screw him out of the car.  Again, I can go between feeling vindication and feeling shameful for crashing my mother’s car.  What I did and what he did.

There should not be any sense of shame or guilt on my part when it involves the brother who committed incest upon my prepubescent body.  But there is and I’m struggling right now.

Each time this brother brought up the things I did (and he did have the nerve to blame me!) I wish I had the courage to say, “You took away my innocence which is worth more than any coin collection or vehicle.”

I never said that.  I should have.

My life is in a flashback.  I feel weak.  I was abused and I should not carry shame.  This fight with myself that I judge what I feel is the inner critic speaking.

I’ve written about my desire to be mindful and compassionate and it must begin with me.  I’ve got to quiet the inner critic that allows for a continuing sense of shame and guilt for something that happened so long ago.

Tears are bubbling at the surface because my feelings are so raw.  Fuck the shame and guilt.  I want them out of my life.  2013 is the year I recognize the ways I make myself suffer and focus on how to rid myself of feeling like a failure.  I will be the survivor I like to call myself but right now I do not feel.

♥ Daylily

Family dynamics

My husband, kids and I have been home for Christmas vacation. Husband and kids are having a grand old-time but I am busy cleaning, organizing, doing laundry and keeping the kitchen up. To my kids credit they helped clean their closet yesterday (because I forced them to). There is some pride in getting that nasty job done; but last night I was pissed off that I was not enjoying the same vacation as my husband. I expressed my displeasure a few times and each time my kids and husband say, “Don’t do it.” That’s easy for them to say. If I don’t do it everything will pile up for me to do later. I have ignored the kitchen for 24 hours and the counters are piled with dirty dishes because the dishwasher is full and someone needs to empty it. The roaster pan from Christmas still sits on the stove top, waiting to be cleaned. It’s been there for 4 days. (During this writing I hear the sounds of my husband cleaning the kitchen and making the kids pancakes).

Last night I was angry enough that I wanted to run away. This coping mechanism is totally a mental escape that allows me to not feel trapped. I learned it as a young girl who suffered in silence with the shame of incest. Maybe getting older is not such a good thing because I realize I can’t simply “run away.” I have a house, husband and kids.

So I did the second best thing I know to cope with a shitty situation. I opened a bottle of beer and then had a couple of glasses of wine. I went to bed at 8:30 pm just to get away from everyone. The alcohol worked by easing my anxiety/anger but I wondered why I’m afraid to demand my needs get met. What would happen if I told my husband to help me instead of what he does, which, when he is not working, is hobbies or sitting in the recliner and watching TV.

Earlier in the day I tried to express myself in a non-confrontational way. I asked my husband, “Will you do me a favor?” His answer was an immediate “No.” I responded, “Why would you answer that way?” He laughed and said, “Because it’s the way you ask it.”

I’m not even going to go into the conversation because it triggers a sense of helplessness. I really should address this issue in therapy. Well, I have and Lynn tells me to make lists but I can’t get my husband to do anything on my lists. That would be a topic for therapy.

I am writing on a new laptop I received for Christmas. My husband surprised me with the gift even though we had agreed not to spend money on each other. I know that was sweet of him and I shouldn’t be so angry. He knows a lot more about computers so he spent hours on Christmas day installing Microsoft Office 10, updates and virus protection. When he transferred all of my files from the old laptop, I became nervous that he would open one of my blog posts that are kept in a folder called “Weblog.” He passed right over the specifics and I worried for nothing.

I had to enter a password for access to my new computer and so I typed it in without showing my husband. It asked for a hint in the event I forget so I wrote “flower.” Husband needed to get into my computer so he asked for the password. I said, “It’s a flower.” The children guessed sunflower and Mayflower (that’s my younger one who was thinking of the pilgrim’s voyage to America). Husband guessed daylily, typed it in and got immediate access. “How did you know that?” I asked. His answer, “You told me you had a handle by that name on some website.”

I felt a wall of self-protection go up. Oh crap, what if he has been to my blog? Quick, think, do I say bad things about him? I wondered, Is he the one who visited the day I had one visitor read almost all my posts. I quickly decided he hasn’t been to my blog because he really doesn’t have an interest in what I write. He’s never liked my ramblings on paper and the times he has suffered through listening to me express things similar to what I write about he looks bored. He spent all day on my computer and I know he didn’t read my documents. Emotional stuff is boring. I know this about him.  (I changed my password anyway).

Tomorrow we are traveling to visit my mother and step-dad. They are both 78 years old and live a few hours away by car. We have a reservation at a hotel and will hang out with them most of the time. I look forward to the break from all the things I do around my house. My mom lives in a retirement home and wants to show us off to all her friends in the dining room. She also said her place needs a snowman out front. This is how my mother is. She likes to show others she has the perfect family and so I will play along. I do love her and I like to make her happy. So, I’m bringing along a scarf, hat, carrot nose and my kids snow gear (We haven’t thought of what the eyes and mouth will be yet). My boys will be instructed to build a snowman and just as I was the dutiful daughter so shall my children be the dutiful grandsons. I know I sound sarcastic but all kidding aside; I want my boys to make Grandma happy. I am bringing my Sony Handycam to get some video. Life is short and she is getting older. I want to have video to look back on as a way of remembering my mom.

We’ll see my oldest brother, who was the perpetrator of sexual abuse upon my prepubescent body. Ironically, he has always been my mother’s favorite. I feel slightly sickened by the reality of such facts but otherwise I’ve forgiven and moved on with my life. My brother has admitted his mistakes (been counseled by his pastor) and we have made amends. It took years of therapy but I no longer think of what he did to me when I was a young girl. My boys like to see their uncle and all of this will make my mom happy.

I have been open about the sexual abuse within my family (with my siblings, not with my children) but my step dad has never been told. I sometimes have the desire to disclose this family secret because he has been part of the family for over 10 years. I love him for the wonderful grandfather he’s been to my kids. He is also so good to me and my husband. What would it serve for me to share this? I wonder why I want to. If my mother hasn’t told him would it be wrong for me?

œDaylily

How childhood sexual abuse affects my marriage

It’s not news to anyone that a child who was sexually abused suffers long-term effects that carry over to adulthood. The early trauma is not an event that can be isolated because abuse touches all parts of a person’s identity, their social-emotional lives as well as the perceptions of themselves and others.

I have written about my experience of incest. I was prepubertal and research shows that the onset of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) factors into measuring the extent of trauma. Some studies show that younger children are somewhat more vulnerable than older children to trauma. I don’t need research to tell me this; of course a brain that has not developed (especially in terms of maturation and puberty) would be more affected. Other research shows that if the survivor lacks a sense of being protected by their parents, which is especially true with incestual CSA, the trauma can be worse. When I say trauma, I broadly speak of all the ways a child could be hurt; the more trauma the more far-reaching the effects and the harder the road is to recovery.

I’d like to address how CSA has affected my marriage of 23 years. I struggle with the ability to trust and be intimate with my husband. I fear re-traumatization if I stay in any relationship with the potential for emotional harm. When my fears over-power my rational thought, I want to escape. Yesterday in my blog I shared that I felt my husband does not respect or value me. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve had similar fears? More than I can count. Just about every time I don’t get my needs met.

My marital relationship is a concern but I am awakening to a realization that the bigger problem is that I continue to replay the same stories in my head. Recovery is hard because I keep my shame, guilt and sense of unworthiness hidden.

My thoughts regularly turn pessimistic and I fall into an all too common space in my mind that is self-protective. The proof is in every journal I ever wrote. I go between drastic states of believing that my husband is safe and loves me to an overriding sense that he hates me. Realistically, I am not in a relationship with a man who hates me. The relationship is unpredictable because I cause it to be so. A published piece of scientific literature about CSA says that dysfunctional family dynamics may occur in the families of survivors. These include “denial, unpredictability, lack of empathy, lack of clear boundaries, role reversal, a closed family system, incongruent messages (body language differs from speech) and extremes in conflict (too much conflict may result in abuse, too little may result in hiding problems and not dealing with them).” (Engel, 2000)

This is my reality — I do not think or react normally. CSA causes extremes in the quality of my intimate relationship with my husband.

My past shoves its way into the present and I re-live feelings of trauma and express myself in an extreme manner. I’ve never been diagnosed with a personality disorder of any kind, so this behavior is your standard post traumatic stress disorder. The reality is that my husband does not hate me nor does he think I’m stupid.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I believed he hated me. I admit throughtout the day, I was recalling my childhood and I suspect it triggered my thoughts to go into protective-mode, hence the previous blog post threatening divorce. I have similar journal entries from the past 30 years, stating my husband doesn’t love me and I would be better off without him.

He proved me wrong yesterday by working in the kitchen all day, cooking the Thanksgiving dinner, from stuffing the turkey, to peeling potatoes to heating up rolls in the oven. I showed up just in time to set the table. He didn’t complain and in a sense proved he is good to me, to the kids and to my emotional health.

Dinner was followed by some television and then mutually satisfying sex that left me completely satiated. So much so, I forgot to take Klonopin at bed time and slept well regardless of missing my medication. This morning, my husband initiated more sex and I responded positively because he proved he could be trusted yesterday and so I felt safe.

This flip-flop in my thinking is the aftermath from CSA. It’s so paradoxical that half the time, I can’t trust myself. Is my husband loving or is he full of hate for me? My distorted thoughts aren’t reliable and so I’ve learned to go into isolation-mode when I feel unloved and low on self-esteem. I don’t want to do anything rash or sudden because I think it will hurt me more in the end to not be with this man I’ve loved for 30 years.

My instincts are good because it protects me from doing further harm to myself. Otherwise, I would still be living out my adolescence with sexual promiscuity, an eating disorder and drugs. I realize that when my thoughts turn to self-hate, I should isolate myself in order to stay safe. This defense mechanism has kept me in a good marriage, allowed me to raise well-adjusted children and kept me employed.

Things are beginning to change. I’m recognizing these stories and past patterns of thought are hurting me. No doubt they impact my relationships, and especially my marriage; but I count my blessings. I’ve never threatened divorce, I’ve only fantasized it would be best. I know it wouldn’t be the answer to my problems. My husband is aware of my past CSA and has stuck by me. He is a good man and I am ready to change my thoughts so that I can both give and accept love fully.

Daylily

Am I just “settling”?

Is my marriage healthy for me? Is it allowing me to be the best that I can be?

Huge questions.

Life changing answers that I admit I’m dreadfully scared of.

There’s so much buried anger and resentment in my marriage of 23 years. If I were to complain to my husband, he would respond “How do you think I feel?” He would go on to list things I don’t do for him, ways in which I don’t show love, behaviors of mine that make him feel isolated from me.

I have the same feelings of resentment for how he talks to me and how he responds to simple requests. I can list numerous ways in which he sounds bitter, angry and hateful toward me. It seems he always answers me by being snotty and angry.

He could say the same about me. We both feel unloved and unsupported.

It’s a vicious cycle of our emotional needs not getting met.

Did I marry someone with the exact likeness to my parents? I feel constantly criticized just as I did as a child. Brief interactions cut me down everyday – it’s no wonder I continue to have a low sense of myself. My husband treats me like I’m stupid. The same way I felt growing up.

Why have I been in a marriage to someone who can’t offer empathy for my emotions unless they are spilling out with sobbing tears?

I know why – because when I make a commitment, I stay with it. I tell myself I must endure, regardless of whether the relationship supports me or not.

The following are deep-rooted excuses that I believe down to my core, ways to justify staying in my marriage:

I would still be stuck with myself, no matter who I was married to.

That’s one of my classics. But doesn’t that thought hurt me? It takes the blame off my husband and puts it all on me. I recognize self-blame as my lifelong pattern, learned in childhood, as a way to avoid abandonment. If I entertain thoughts that others are not good for me and I, God forbid, voice those feelings – I could very well be left alone and abandoned.

Children cannot survive on their own so the thoughts were justifiable when my parents divorced and I feared being alone.  But, I’m an adult now and I could survive. Why do I blame myself instead of my husband who hurts me constantly with his tough, hardened exterior?

My husband doesn’t physically abuse me nor intentionally hurt my feelings. He is a good man and I am just sensitive to how others speak because I live with a sense of unworthiness.

Which is it? I’m too sensitive or my husband is an egotistical hard-ass who doesn’t think before he speaks? My perspective is so distorted that I just do not know the answer. My dad was the same way and my brother’s grew up strong, ambitious and competent. They didn’t feel the criticism that I did. I truly could be over-sensitive.

I hope my two boys don’t feel their father’s judgmental attitude and turn it against themselves. Perhaps that is how men raise children and as a girl I am overly sensitive in close relationships with men.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

I try to follow the word of the Lord and not be selfish. I have intentionally never written down the numerous ways my husband’s words have hurt me because that would be keeping a record of wrongs.

In my childhood, as a survivor of sexual abuse, I learned to rise each morning and shut out how I felt about my brother molesting me each night.

In my marriage, comparably speaking, I do the same thing and block the painful interactions and have learned not to remember.

My childhood patterns helped me master the ability to separate from painful emotions – to the extent of not being able to retain information that caused emotional pain only moments before. In my current life, this allows me to go to work, raise the children, do the household chores and stay married.

No marriage is perfect because no person is infallible. Any marriage has times of neglect because humans are not faultless creatures.

I must stay in my marriage and accept culpability for my part.  I can grow from this relationship.

That is true but I can only grow so far and no further — if my partner chooses to not see the part he plays in the relationship. Each person comes to a marriage with a past wrought with baggage. I’ve gone through a lot of therapy and I’ve been working hard to release my past baggage and learn to live in the present. Can I say that is so about my husband? Would my husband admit to his faults and accept he is not blameless?

That’s the question I’m dreadfully afraid of.  He most likely would blame me, depression, my history of sexual abuse, my inability to let go of feelings, my sensitivity and my self-imposed isolation.

The answer I would most like to hear from him is, “We both play a part in this marriage and we are equally at fault for the anger, resentment and lack of intimacy.”

This ideal is not far-fetched because my husband does care about me. He tries so hard to give me the love I need but over the years I have been unpredictable and he has rightfully used caution.

Where does all this lead me? At this moment, as I look truthfully at my marriage, I feel beat down. I don’t honestly know how much more I can improve in terms of building up my sense of worthiness and ceasing my behavior of drinking to numb my feelings, while I’m in this marriage with a guy that when I pull away the blinds, I see as playing a part in me continually feeling a sense of shame and guilt. I am perpetuating my past and something has to change. I can not continue to disengage from my emotions and think I will develop self-love and the ability to stop the negative thought patterns from my past.

If every relationship is wrought with fault and built-up resentments then I seriously wonder if I would be better off alone? At least until I could work out my own issues within a healthy atmosphere that doesn’t continually replay past patterns.

But, I must ask myself, why would I bail on a good man who has gone with me this far in my journey of self-discovery? He is painfully aware of my past and my present. Am I hiding from my own issues and wishing I could be alone so I don’t need to make those final steps to finding intimacy and real love?

Seriously, why would I want to start over after 20+ years?

I must talk to my therapist about this revelation and eventually discuss it with my husband.

Really big questions with no clear answers.

Daylily

Confused with PTSD

My therapist confirmed that I was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) during the “Radical Forgiveness” workshop I attended.  I guess I put myself too far out on a limb and was dangling by a twig.  I had no way to protect my mind from the onslaught of feelings that got stirred up and I resorted to what I know, to disassociate and shut down.  I told Lynn I can’t remember what I said.  What others said.  What I was supposed to say.  I can’t remember the names of anyone (including the leader) although I said their names many times in the workshop.  href=”https://mydepressionchronicles.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/2188/”>

Radical anything should have been a red flag,” said Lynn.  “Yes,” I agreed.  “But I wanted to practice mindfulness and be aware of my negative thoughts toward myself in order to move on.”

Lynn told me, “You know what your problem is.”

Hmm?  I am wondering what  a person does if they know what the issue is –poor self-image, self-protectiveness skills in abundance and a facade that no one sees through.

I am trying too hard to fix my psyche. I think I know what I need to do.  Share my issues with safe people, open up to my feelings, get healthy in mind and spirit through exercise and meditation.  I’m doing all of that but the acronym PTSD keeps popping up in my thoughts and scaring me.  I fear my own feelings.  I shut down with my own thoughts.  My coping skills are to not deal with raw emotions.  I dissociate. I also drink to escape.

Sometimes, I am strong and can deal with this vision of my life.  Since my medications were increased I was doing well but then I saw my therapist.  She spoke words that I haven’t heard in years. Back 25 years ago, when I was working on sexual abuse issues, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I thought that was in the past.

I wonder what Lynn thinks of me now that she recognizes the depth of my issues.  PTSD is not small potatoes.  It’s overwhelming and I don’t quite know where I stand right now.

There is this general feeling that my whole life is a fake out.  Every “intellectual” interaction is blocking my true self.

Of course, that can’t be true.  My mind is playing evil tricks on me.  It’s those stories my narrative self has taught me along the way.  I blame myself rather than seeing things as they are.

Since I saw my therapist, I have not been able to meditate.  I feel no peace.   I have been preaching about mindfulness but I’m unable to find that stillness in my brain.

I will stay focused on the goal, which is to accept all of me and see that my thoughts are not me they are stories I’ve told myself.

But, again, I must ask, what do I do when the stories take over and feel so real? 

♥ Daylily, who apologizes for this unedited post.  I know it’s all over the place and I sound mixed-up.  To try and intellectualize my feelings would be one more attempt at a fake out.  This blog is the real me and right now I do feel confused. ♥

Changing my thoughts for the better

Here I sit, at a round table within a historic stone library nestled in a small New England town. The library is having a book sale today so I had to climb an old wooden staircase in order to get away from the frenzy of people searching for bargain books. The librarian and I are the only people in this cozy children’s room. I’ve never been to this library; however my son’s soccer club has brought me here. I intended to write report cards but I don’t have the necessary form so I feel unhurried, with time available to focus on my blog.

I saw Lynn at 8:00 am this morning. She fits me into her private practice on Saturday’s. I’ve been descending the stairs to her home office for about a year and I cannot believe that it’s taken me so long to build a trusting relationship with my therapist.

I could go 2 ways with this post:

  1. What the fuck is my problem that it took me so damn long to have confidence in this particular therapy? The post would focus on my blatant and ridiculous flaws.
    Or
  2. Recognize my progress with therapy. Celebrate the giant steps I’ve taken and look forward in this journey of healing my spirit.

The precedent would be to choose #1, based on historical patterns that I can easily list negative thoughts about how fucked-up I am. I will not entertain this old pattern any longer. It is self-sabotaging and not productive.

Oh, what the hell? For old time’s sake I will give short due to these feelings, if nothing else but as a way of distinguishing them from my newfound “mindful awareness.”

Here goes:

  1. The self protective walls I’ve built around myself are impenetrable. I never learned to expose myself to others for fear of being hurt and rejected. If I let someone in, they would see my flaws, my shame and guilt and surely I’d be judged as harshly as I judge myself. These thoughts are so imbedded in my brain that even when I voluntarily seek therapy, and go each week without someone twisting my arm, my fucked-up self does not know how to get the help I need.

I have this crazy thought, I should just fix what’s broken. I know exactly what my problem is. I grew up hating myself. I should just let it go. It’s simple, right? Maybe for you and them but it’s not as easy for me.  I’m beyond help.

My thoughts and feelings are deeply entangled in my mental illness and I’ll probably never be cured.

I’m on a roll with this train of thought. It’s so comfortable for me to berate myself. I want to continue. I want to write about how long it took for me to construct my sense of self and how nearly impossible it is to untangle fact from fiction.

STOP! I must learn to see these thoughts for what they are and so, I move onto #2;

  1. (#2 really, but I can’t edit it!)I have fabricated my life with amorphous things called thoughts and feelings but what are they, really? There is no truth to my thoughts of guilt and shame and yet I have allowed them to shape my life. I have conditioned my mind to hold itself separate from others. This has affected the way I connect with others, including the relationship with my therapist.

Truthfully, it is okay that it’s taken a year to let down my guard and share vulnerable feelings.

I will go further and boldly venture to say, I am making progress. I am beginning to see what is before me and not believe my historical interpretations that are riddled with self-judgment and negativity.

The practice of mindfulness is helping me investigate how I look at things and how I view myself.

The book I’m reading teaches me that my thoughts lead to emotions and my pattern of self-blaming thoughts has caused an undeserving feeling of guilt. I must begin to recognize my thoughts don’t represent reality. I will learn to recognize they are only thoughts; that these learned thoughts are arbitrary, nothing more.  Not realistic.

Ultimately, awareness of these thoughts will cause them to lose power. I will no longer be swept into a miserable psychological state of mind.

Realistically speaking, I will also depend on antidepressants to help me on this journey. Every doctor, therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist has told me so. The chemicals in my brain do not properly fire the right neurotransmitters in my synapses. Whatever the fuck doctors mean when they say this shit, I really have no idea except it sounds so technically correct – who can argue?

I hate to end on a bad note but, here’s the million dollar question, Is it the right antidepressant cocktail or my wilfulness to change my thoughts in a way that will transform my emotional health?

Daylily 2012

Intimacy

My husband told me, “You don’t know how to be intimate.”

We’ve been married 23 years, together for 30.

How could he say that to me?

Last night he wanted a sexual encounter and I pushed him off.  I complained about this and that, including personal attacks on his performance since he got on high blood pressure medications.  He was hurt and left the bed.  That’s when he stated, “You don’t know how to be intimate.”

I was already in a funk of self-hate but his observation made me feel worse.

He’s right, I am a miserable excuse for a wife.

He’s been mad for days because I’m not cooking full meals.  I have no appetite and I lack any interest in food.   Sadness is all-encompassing at how much of a sucky wife I am. I hate that I feel disconnected and distant.

When my husband left the bed I wanted to get up and leave the house.  Not only do I want to avoid intimacy, I want to avoid all contact where there is an expectation of me to be someone for somebody else — wife, mother, daughter, sister.  It’s too much and I want to be alone where I can’t disappoint others.

Somehow, my recent attempt to focus on self-forgiveness and learning not to listen to the conditioned stories of my childhood has totally backfired.  My life sucks right now but no one else is different.  It’s just me — alone — and blaming myself.  I’m stuck in a rerun of my past that I can’t shake.

The shame and self-hate is more than I can take.  I wish I were anywhere but where I am right now.  ♥Daylily

The guilt is too much

I’m in unknown territory in terms of the emotional work on my past that I have never previously delved into. The words are hard to find because I feel guilt and a sense of failure, which I typically do not expose. I keep the walls high around this way of thinking and rarely expose my weaknesses.

The truth that my mom is imperfect is extremely difficult for me to write about. She raised me in a way that her needs came before mine. I remember things about her life during my childhood more than I do about my own life. I have selective amnesia for most of middle childhood, ages 5-12 but I remember my mom’s divorce from my father, the jobs she had, the therapist she relied on, her pursuit and attainment of a Master’s degree. What do I remember about myself? Not much except I tried to be the best at everything to hide my sense of inadequacy. I was competitive. I was the fastest girl. I was also the tallest girl. I was one of the best in gymnastics, the high bar (due to brothers) and I could always make people laugh. I hid my lack of self-esteem by portraying a person who was better than others. I grew up with this false identity.

My last post recognized my mom’s shortcomings. I’ve been trying to meditate and learn to just “be” with the idea that Little Me didn’t get what she needed and a void was left behind.  My goal is to fill the emptiness so that I feel whole and worthy of my own love and acceptance.

I’m doing pretty well with this grief work on my own but this morning I made the mistake of saying something to my mother during a phone call. My sense of remorse is enormous.

I’m fully present and aware of how badly I feel to call my mom out on her narcissistic traits.

I want to drive 300 miles to be with her, to show her I still love her, despite what I said.

I wish I could take it back.

It is my fault. Not hers. How dare I blame the person who raised me!

A mother can do no wrong. It is the child’s fault. I am and always will be a burden my mother had to bear.

What happened on the phone?

My mom and I were talking about menopause and her memory is failing, given she is almost 80 years old. She has rheumatoid arthritis and had knee replacement surgery last month.  (You get where I’m going – with all these things wrong with her what possessed me to speak up about my own little issues.)

I tell her I am having hot flashes and migraines, all due to menopause. She says, “I don’t know why you are having all of these problems, my menopause was fine.”

“Oh, no, it wasn’t. You were on hormone replacement therapy from when I was in high school until the 90’s. That was 15 years, at least. You don’t remember your menopause because you took hormones.”

Gulp, I did not just challenge my mother, who lives in a state of denial and believes she never had any troubles in her life. I have played that game long enough, of believing I have the problems but she never did.

Quickly, I try to set things straight by reminding her that her Dr at the time recommended she get on hormones due to calcium loss and the fear of osteoporosis from low estrogen levels. I gently tell her, “I know it was a long time ago and you may not remember.”

That sets her off and she justifies her need for HRT by reminding me, “I was dealing with a daughter who was kicked out of school for smoking in the bathrooms all the time and she had to be taught by this crazy lady.” [True, I was expelled for half of my junior year of high school and my mom found an old lady to tutor me so I didn’t fall behind. She puts a lot of pressure on academic achievement so for her to have to attend meetings with the school principal and superintendent because of her out-of-control daughter was too much for her to handle].

I tell Mom, “I was really angry in high school. I know it was hard for you but would you rather be the person watching a teenager with anger problems or be the teenager living with that anger? I think it was harder to be me dealing with all of that rage.”

Mom replies, “I don’t know why you were so angry. I had you seeing a nice therapist once a week.”

“I did see the therapist and that was good you sent me there.” Truthfully I don’t recall her name or anything that occurred in her office. But, I do give my mom credit that she taught me to seek outside help.

“I wasn’t ready to talk about the real issue at that time. That’s why it didn’t help.” Mom and I both know by “real issue” I mean the sexual abuse by her first-born son, my brother, upon my prepubescent body but neither of us say “incest” aloud.

I talk in the safety of the third person and say, “Children don’t expose their pain until they feel safe and it wasn’t until after college that I spoke to a therapist about that.”

My mom’s head is spinning, I can tell she has lost focus and doesn’t know what to say. I quickly feel I’ve overwhelmed her and I say, “I apologize for bringing all of this up, I was just talking about menopause.”  Her response is, “it’s just stupid.”  That’s the stroke, the surgery and her recent move speaking because she never used to say things offhandedly that don’t make sense.

I feel bad that I put my needs first and now I try to back pedal. Be a good daughter. Ask about her. Talk about her wonderful new retirement home. The superb dining service they have. She tells me what she and the three others at her table had for dinner last night. I agree her new residence is like a 5-star hotel. She talks about the “culinary arts school” nearby and that she has a reservation for dinner tomorrow night. She tells me about the colleges her new friends attended. Her safety is in intellectual pursuits and knowledge and I play along. I agree that all of that is wonderful, blah, blah, blah.

But, I can’t take back that I told her my high school years may have been difficult on her but they were worse for me, living it.

I cannot believe the overwhelming sense of guilt I feel.

I should be helping her as she ages and begins to lose her full physical and intellectual functioning.

Wow, this sense of shame and remorse is so powerful I can’t stop it. I hate myself.

My mom couldn’t help me then and we know she can’t help me now. Why did I even speak up? I love my mother and I didn’t want to cause her pain.  Speaking up was a bad idea, it only hurt both of us.

Daylily

Self-help book leads to questions…

Reading self-help books may not have been such a great idea because they always start with what’s wrong and then lead into how to heal.  The book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, spends the first 9 chapters recognizing the problem and how narcissist mothering effects your entire life.  But the subtitle is Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.

I wonder why self-help books take so long to get to the healing?  I’ve read 120 pages of this book and thus far I’m so deep in self-pity that I don’t know if I have the strength to go on and finish the last five chapters about ending the legacy.

Does anyone know what I mean?   When a book hits too close to the surface of your most vulnerable feelings and every page feels like a re-traumatization?

I’ve had a long marriage that I’ve committed to for 24 years.  We’ve had our ups-and-downs but we both try not to carry resentments around and it’s kept our relationship alive and intimate.  Well, that’s what I thought but I’m reading the chapter on how daughter’s who didn’t get love from their mother’s end up repeating the pattern in their adult relationships.  I thought everything was generally okay in our marriage but the author says “we choose a partner largely on an unconscious level… we are attracted to the familiar….you will likely find someone who recreates that mother-daughter pattern of behavior.”  She goes on to infer I have chosen a partner that can’t meet even reasonable emotional needs because that is what is familiar and feels safe.

I’m having a self-pity-party right now, feeling like I’m such a loser to be with a guy that loves me like my mom did.  Emotionally detached, constantly busy, moving through life focused on his own needs.  Yes, I’m weak right now and believe that is true.  And it’s my fault entirely.  The vicious cycle of the mind of an abused/depressed woman.

I can’t get better when I get stuck on the part about where I am in my life and how fucking stupid I am to have allowed myself to be in this position.

I’ve got to keep reading, only 13 more pages until I get to Ending the Legacy.  I’m almost there…I will continue the book and get to the ideas for recovery, the chapter titled First Step.  I’ve come this far; I can read 13 more pages to get to the healing.

My husband and I were open to each other when we first met.  He cried about his mother abandoning him and I cried many times when his love was so strong it nearly scared me away.  How is that not finding someone different from my mother?  I never told my mom she shouldn’t bother loving me because I was defective, I would only think it was a reason for her inability to love me.  But in our early years of dating, I told my husband (H.) I wasn’t worth it many times.   I tested the shit out of his ability to tolerate my unstable emotions.  He always stood by me and professed his love; H. passed with flying colors.

My mom never said she loved me, except in letters and cards.  It was the same with my dad before he passed away.  I grew up with a bunch of intellects.  (Side note—since my mom went into a retirement home, I say I love you after every phone conversation.  She always acts surprised but answers back, “I love you too, Dear.”)

My husband is emotional and needy; he tells me that he loves me more often than my parents ever did.  He is Italian (not trying to stereotype just stating a fact) and comfortably expresses all of his emotions – sadness, happiness, anger, disappointment, whatever.  I have learned a lot from him.  He’s taught me its okay to react and then to let it go.

Then why do I feel I chose someone who can’t meet my needs?  Maybe it’s that my needs can’t be met.  There is an empty hole that my mom left when she didn’t know how to give me the love I needed.  I carry it to all my relationships.  I don’t really blame my husband for our lack of intimacy.  It’s all me.

I can put on a façade, however, and do the right thing.  Yesterday was H’s birthday and I catered to him all day.  The children and I gave him cards, presents and I made a 7-layer chocolate cake because he always says my cakes don’t have enough frosting.  This one did and he loved it. I intentionally bought him a card with a sincere saying, “you are the perfect man” although I saw funny cards that are typically more my style.  I did what I knew he would appreciate.  The only thing I didn’t give him on his birthday was sex and I know he wanted it so today he pursued me.

I hate to always bring my intimate relationship onto this blog and I swore I would not do it again.  But, then, the whole love/intimacy/sex thing is such a major part of my growth.  Sex and intimacy is a key factor with all survivors of sexual abuse.

My husband had just returned from a week-long trip and I could tell he wanted intimacy.  He always seems to want me more after he’s been away.  Sex has been the farthest thing from my mind because I’m all wrapped up in my problems and issues (after delving so deeply into this book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough?).

I tell him, “I’m not in the mood.”

He’s persistent, though.  He whispers in my ear what he wants to do to me.  His whisperings are all nice things that will please me.

I tell him, “I’m just not feeling that way right now.”

H. keeps at it and while we’re in our pool he’s constantly pulling me against him so I feel his interest in me.

I tell him, “My head just isn’t into it.”  It’s as if he doesn’t hear me because he tells me what we are going to do later, after the kids have gone to bed.

Going back to the book, I’m certain my behavior is unhealthy and indicative of a dependent/co-dependent relationship.  Why can’t I give back when my husband is offering love to me?

I try to be loving and give him a hug in the pool.  I lean up against him so he can hold me.  Then when the kids are all in the backyard playing a game, and we’re alone by the pool, my husband is using the hair clipper to buzz his hair (which is a regular routine of his).  He tells me to come over and get a haircut so he can lick me later.  I know exactly what he means but I’m scared of showing I might like what he has planned so I say, “The kids will see” although they won’t because they are behind high hedges, laughing and playing with their friends.  H. asks me to come over and help clean up his haircut around the ears, which I do.  We’re close and I’ve been with this guy long enough to know he won’t hurt me but I still hold back.  I also know if I don’t show I trust him his feelings will be hurt, because he is putting his emotions out there and I know it’s a bit of a dance that I must reciprocate.  So, before I can run to safety, I pull my bathing suit bottom to the side and he gently buzzes my public hair.  Just around where he wants it to be short for his own enjoyment.  I don’t like the feeling of the stubble but I go along with it for him.  At least he doesn’t request an all-out shave because that I would refuse.  No way do I want my female parts to look like a prepubescent girl.  It would be a flashback to when I was sexually abused as a child.  But, he has never suggested he likes that…thank goodness.

WE jump back in the pool and, as soon as I get out and dry off, H. asks if I am going inside now.  I hear the hope in those words and say, “Yeah, I’m going to take nap.”  I should say do you want to join me? But lately, I’m feeling low on self-assertiveness.  That’s all he needs to hear, anyway.   H. is out of the pool in a flash and beats me in the house and upstairs to our bedroom.  I won’t go into the details but this guy of mine tirelessly works on pleasuring me.  It’s taken me a long time to realize that he actually gets excited when I feel good from what he is doing.

Survivors have difficulty believing sex is not just for the guy’s pleasure.  I know I have felt guilty-pleasure for many years that I shouldn’t like sex.  But, I do and I’ve found a guy who it’s safe for me to feel vulnerable and truly enjoy sex with.

I should believe I’ve done better in my marriage than I did with the relationship I had with my mother growing up.

I admit I’m not a very emotional person but allowing myself to be exposed in my marriage fulfills an emotional need to connect with others.

Hey, connecting with one person on this earth is better than feeling disconnected to everyone.

But, I also wonder if it’s right or wrong that sexual intimacy fills the empty piece of me in a way that day-to-day interactions never have?

I don’t believe I’m validating myself through sex like I did in my younger years.  I think I’m actually making progress that I can accept my husband’s love, even if it is by physically experiencing it in action.

♥ Daylily