Aftereffects List #23

23. Dissociation: blocking out some period of early years; (especially 1-12 but may include adulthood; or a specific person, place, or event; creating fantasy worlds; identities (including women imagining themselves to be male, = not a victim; Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), was MPD.

Yes. The story of my life.

I am so good at covering up, covering over, it was so easy to not notice that my life was being lived in little chopped up bits and that those bits didn’t remember everything. It was so easy to ignore all the signs. No one ever suspected. Not a single one.

If your memories are truly an essential part of your life, who you are, and a part of how you become who you want to be, the repression and dissociation is a way of being robbed again and again of your life, of your memories, of making full use of your past to map your future.

There were times when I was small that I knew I was in many pieces, many parts, many inside of me. Usually that was during times of being abused and I’d forget it all later through repression. I only know that now, because I have had flashbacks of memories where I know others inside and talk about them.

When I was 27 and had broken up with my abusive ex-boyfriend, had started going to therapy, going to a support group, reading books about child sexual abuse and healing; that is when I started getting close to knowing again.

I read the book The Courage to Heal. In the book there is a chapter on the Inner Child. I did one of the exercises. I tried it and I knew, this is not my inner child. I could tell. I knew she was real, she was me, and that she was a part of me and that there were more. Six months of fear while I visibly shook during every therapy session. The therapist never once asked me what was going on. It took me six months before I could talk about it in therapy and then they all started coming to talk. Six months of terror meeting them all.

What I felt then was so much love for them. What I felt from them was so much love for me. It saved my life. Every day it still saves my life.

Aftereffects List #22

22. Disturbances in attachment, abandonment issues; desire for relationships with no separateness; avoidance/fear of intimacy.

There was a time in my life, in my early twenties, when I wanted a fusion relationship. I wanted someone who wanted me so much that they would never want to be without me, that they would never hurt me, and that they would never abandon me. 

Then I had a relationship with someone who was nothing like me, who lacked compassion and empathy, and I did not want to be fused with him. That one relationship cured me of a lot of things, but it also robbed me of so much of my empathy and humanity. He robbed me of my naivete and innocence as well.

He used a lot of emotional and verbal abuse. He would break up with me all the time and I would beg him to take me back. He was breaking my heart, making me think badly of myself, and rejecting spending time with me in favor of others.

He really knew how to find and use my abandonment issues against me. I don’t know how he figured it all out, but I guess abusers are like that. They know or they know how to find out information.

He used to talk to me for hours at a time when we first started going together, acting like he was my best friend, always on my side, and I told him things that you tell someone who loves you, someone you trust. For a time he pretended to be on my side, to love me, to care.

I knew that I was nothing. I knew that I was ugly. I had not dated someone long-term before that. I was 24 and thinking no one would ever care for me. He never did.

At the end of our relationship I was so crushed, so devastated that I didn’t care if anyone ever loved me. I didn’t care if I ever dated someone again. I didn’t care if I was ugly and unloveable. I just knew I didn’t want to be with him or anyone like him ever again.

Now I avoid dating. It is pretty easy to do that. I haven’t kissed someone in years. I miss that a lot. But the rest is too horrible to imagine. Guess that is encapsulated in this item. When I think about dating I usually think in a year or too, maybe. But I keep pushing that forward into the future.

My family don’t want me. They see one another, but since I don’t see some of them that are emotional abusers, I don’t go to those family gatherings for the last four years. I only see a couple family members and even then only a few times a year for each of them. It always feels like they are abandoning me, pushing me away, a very old pattern with all of them. It is still such a trigger for me.

I am still struggling with establishing and keeping friendships. I have so many fears of being abandoned by them. I do tend to want to attach to a lot of people and most of them don’t want me. Managing that is still pretty hard.

 

Aftereffects List #21

21. Feeling the demand to produce to be loved; instinctively knowing and doing what the other person needs or wants; relationships = big tadeoffs.

This is one of those ones that I don’t think that I have many issues with. Though I see how it has impacted me a lot more than I recognized in the past.

I was constantly rejected and scapegoated. I never felt an accepted part of any group. Therefore the power of the group did not have the same power over me that I have seen happen to others and seen their struggles with these issues. Not being loved made it easy for me not to give up everything in an attempt to get something I couldn’t attain.

I was not a part of the accepted group, whatever that was, females, girls, women, women who get men, etc. My mother and sister made it abundantly clear to me over decades that I was an unwanted person, would never been wanted, and would never find someone to care for me.

When you are treated this way and believe these negative and hateful things; it makes it hard for social control and pressures to have as much power in your life. So I didn’t feel as much need as other women or other survivors might have felt in their life to conform, to curry favor and love.

It wasn’t like there were a lot of potential partners seeking me out. I have been told that I was intimidating. I was merely scared out of my mind and shy. I understand how that could have been misinterpreted by others.

I did see a lot of trade-offs in relationships, especially for women. So that made it easy for me to be content where I was. I wanted to be able to think and believe what I thought and believed. I wanted someone who saw me and wanted me in their life. I had a lot of friends who never seemed to want me.

I didn’t want to repeat that with a partner. I could manage that pretty good until I actually did date. The one long-term dating relationship I was in was horrible and cost me a great deal in order to keep the relationship going. It was not worth it.

Now I like to be good to my friends. I like to be there for them. I like to do things for them. I don’t think that I have to earn their love, their time, their attention. But I understand that a lot of survivors do things to get others to want them and to be with them and to love them.

I finally have survivor friends who are good to me, I know that I am wanted by them, and that I can be as nice as I want to be to them, knowing that I am not buying them, their time, their love, and that they care and accept me as I am. It is a wonderful healing gift to not have to give up a part of who you are in order to be loved.

Aftereffects List #20 Part 2

20. Pattern of being a victim (victimizing oneself after being victimized by others), especially sexually; no sense of own power or right to set limits or say no; pattern of relationships with much older persons (onset in adolescence); or exaggerated sense of entitlement; revictimization by others (adult sexual violence, including sexual exploitation by bosses and helping professionals).

I wanted to try to explain my previous post. I don’t think that I am explaining what the beliefs about survivors were around twenty-five years ago and why it has been so triggering and continues to be so for me. I will try to explain it better.

When I first started dealing with healing there was a belief in society, in the therapeutic community, and among many survivors as well.

It was easy to get survivors to agree that we were to blame. We had been blamed for almost everything all our lives. We blamed ourselves.

The belief was that being re-victimized, being adults and still being abused, having drama repeatedly in a survivor’s life, and a borderline sense of self-entitlement were a part of a survivor proved that survivors were masochistic.

I don’t hear this masochistic concept as much anymore. It might still be out there. I just don’t hear it as strongly. That idea still travels around and I hear it still among people when they talk about a person getting abused while an adult, especially when the topic of domestic violence comes up. I still can’t fathom how blaming a person for being beat and staying in a relationship means they masochistic, wants it, and has every opportunity and support to leave. She/he doesn’t.

This concept that survivors were inherently masochistic and therefore it was not necessary to understand them, their motivations, the psychology of trauma,  the aftermath of abuse, the abusive elements in our society and culture; to not help or empower them to heal and to have a better adulthood than their childhood had been, to not provide for them a system of healing within our society, to not protect them and the abused children, or to challenge any of this.

I totally disagree with this. Survivors are not inherently masochistic. Survivors are not more or less masochistic than any group in our society. We were abused. We might be abused in our life right now. We are trying the best that we can. I think the point might be to ask; why is society so sadistic that it wants to stand back and do nothing, while judging and blaming the victims?

Aftereffects List #20

20. Pattern of being a victim (victimizing oneself after being victimized by others), especially sexually; no sense of own power or right to set limits or say no; pattern of relationships with much older persons (onset in adolescence); or exaggerated sense of entitlement; revictimization by others (adult sexual violence, including sexual exploitation by bosses and helping professionals).

For the most part I think this list has held up over time. However this item I find several things that I don’t agree with and have never agreed with. I do think that more survivors and more therapists and psychological professionals are understanding these issues better. Though these misunderstandings are still prevalent in our society.

Personally, I think, you can see from this item on the list, how some of the language of psychology and healing has changed. Some of it I find offensive and have always found offensive: vitimizing oneself after being victimized by others and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

When I first started in therapy I heard these allegations against child sexual abuse survivors. I heard and read them a lot from the therapy professionals in books and in the therapy community.

Here is how I understand these issues. And I will have to say I have a more loving and kind take on this than I have seen at times from professionals and our society at large. I don’t believe in a healing philosophy that includes victim blaming.

An exaggerated sense of entitlement:

Personally I don’t think that survivors have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. I don’t agree with this negative assessment of survivors. I believe that trauma survivors need and deserve a great deal of support, care, and assistance in order to heal. Healing takes a long time and a great deal of energy, effort, and courage. To label survivors with an entitlement issue is a way to blame the victim for needing and wanting help in dealing with abuse and healing.

Victimizing oneself after being victimized by others:

I don’t like to use this kind of language when referring to survivors. It is another way of blaming the victim for being abused and not being healed. It is a way of making the survivor to blame for everything, so they don’t get or deserve help or understanding in healing.

Let me elucidate. Survivors do not victimize themselves. We were victimized. We were abused. We survived the abuse. Others continue to abuse us. They are abusive and abusers and they want to abuse someone. That is not about a survivor victimizing themselves.

Yes there are some survivors who are narcissistic. Yes there are some survivors who are borderline. Those personality disorders do have elements of a false sense of entitlement and enacting drama for drama’s sake. However I think it is best to look on the inside of what the survivor is feeling, their inner reality, rather than just their outer behaviors.

Survivors are trying the best with what we have to live our lives. Some coping skills may look and seem to others as victimizing the survivor. They are the best that they can do with the skills that they have at the time.

No survivor comes into adulthood with a full skill set of coping mechanisms that allows them to be loved by others and loving to themselves. That is a long hard war; with battles that take place over time and place. It is hard to be loving to yourself in actions when the emotions are not there. It is hard to feel loving emotions to yourself when all the brainwashing you have gone through from being abused has taught you to hate and loathe and judge yourself.

I experienced so much self-judgement for my own coping skills when I first started working on healing. I know I was more functional than some survivors, even those I knew through support groups. Some issues I could not understand or relate to.

Soon after starting therapy I read The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. In the book is a section on coping mechanisms and giving yourself the credit you deserve for surviving and starting to heal. I took that section to heart. I learned so much and was able to throw out a lot of guilt and self-hatred at the same time. I learned it is okay to honor what we did to survive. I learned how other survivors had coping mechanisms I had never used, but for reasons that I could relate to.

I have already written about my own issues with power, boundaries, safety, and trying to live a life free from abuse. They were always issues in my life. They take a long time to figure out. There are not that many people out there to help survivors, making it that much harder and taking it that much longer in order to get to a better place in the healing process. We want and ask for what we need and deserve. It is the right thing to do.

Aftereffects List #19

19. Guilt/ shame/ low self-esteem/ feeling worthless/ high appreciation of small favors by others.

Yes.

I have an incredible amount of guilt over small mistakes that I make. I am so judgmental of myself. I make mistakes that I would totally overlook from someone else. I totally know how to be good, loving, kind, and accepting of others and their mistakes. But I still judge myself so harshly. 

Shame is something I know very well. I know that the shame is not mine. The shame is from those who have abused me. They are abusing me and throwing their blame onto me. I am making a lot of headway in this area of healing. Still sometimes I feel the shame that rightly belongs to someone who has abused me.

Still working on trying to increase my self-esteem. Usually it is very good. I have finally gotten to a place where I see and know some of my strengths and gifts. However little mistakes and the accompanying shame can bring forth a fast and significant decrease in my self-esteem. Working on that.

I believe that low self-esteem causes survivors to place so much value on the small favors from others. We have been taught and believed for so long that no one values us, when someone does give us some attention, it means so much more to us than the real value of the attention. We make something important that is only a small thing. We deserve many more kindnesses, though that is difficult as a survivor, because that is not usually what happens in our life.

I’m still working on never believing that I am worthless. Unfortunately I still put so much value in the opinions of others and usually a lack of involvement and care by others in my life often makes me feel worthless. This is one of the hardest things to change. I think that being an extrovert gives more importance to the opinions of others. However I hope that in time I will be able to significantly change that. But again, working on that.

Aftereffects List #18

18. Boundary issues; control, power, territoriality issues; fear of losing control; obsessive/compulsive behaviors (attempts to control things that don’t matter, just to control something!); power/sex confusion.

Yes to all the above.

I think that there are a number of issues that contribute to having boundary, control, and power issues.

If we knew who was trustworthy, if we had a healthy self-esteem, if we had a history of being treated with respect and having appropriate boundaries respected by others, if we had a good level of safety in our life, than many of these issues around boundaries, power, and control would be much easier for anyone to deal with. They all contribute to the level of difficulty a survivor has with these issues.

It all starts with being abused. Beverly Engel in The Emotionally Abused Woman wrote that a sexual abuse survivor doesn’t have good boundaries because their boundaries have been overrun each time they were sexually violated and assaulted.

This helped me to re-frame this issue as one that I did not cause, one that I could heal from, and one that I could overcome. After being blamed for everything all my life, I realized I wasn’t to blame.

I had been told by my mother that I was defective as a person and that all my problems were due to my inherently defectiveness from birth. I did not remember that she did that, but I remembered on another level. All her cruel messages were a part of my inner negative messages tape that kept repeating over and over in my head. Learning about the dynamics of abuse and slowly being able to re-frame different aftereffects of abuse, allowed me to truly start healing on a deep level.

As abuse survivors we didn’t have our body boundaries respected. That had a huge impact on our lives. It would for anyone. It wasn’t about us or our unwillingness to heal.

We fear for our own safety. We try to establish boundaries without knowing what is appropriate or what is healthy. We don’t have the body integrity to do so. We don’t have the self-esteem and body image to do so.

We are trying, but we are in the dark about these issues, stumbling around. So it is common to be fearful. It is common to feel a need to control everything, in a world where that is not possible. It is common to not know who is trustworthy and how to trust, compounding all our problems. It is common to want to have all the power and to often having power abused against us.

I still have problems with boundaries. I have made huge progress in my boundaries. I try really hard to remind myself every day that I have a right to my boundaries. And that someone who invades my space, makes me scared, or acts disrespectful is not someone I need to have in my life.

One of my boundary problems is in saying no. And when I do manage to say no I have a problem in my no being respected and honored by the other person. I don’t feel stuck in that moment like I have in the past. I feel more capable of moving on and away from a stranger who is mistreating me in public and not being upset about it.

In the past I could be triggered for days over an incident in public or with a family member. I am getting better at leaving their issues with them, knowing that it is not about me, knowing that there are plenty of boundaryless people out there, knowing that my family have never respected me and have always scapegoated me and they are who they were trained and raised to be, knowing that being in public means incidents are bound to happen despite my best efforts to take good care of myself, it is about them and I don’t have to take them home with me, in my mind, to be tormented further. And that when I do take them home in my mind and I am still upset it is okay to talk about the incident until I have processed it and feel that I have been validated, honored, and that the process has empowered me, rather than keeping me stuck.

Knowing that I have come a long way, that I am okay, and I am going to manage my life just fine, no matter what. That is a new kind of power and control. That is a boundary that says I have the life skills to manage my life and to love myself, protect myself, keep myself as safe as possible and that all helps diminish the need for excessive boundaries, excessive needs for power and control, and excessive thoughts about it all.

It is still a path. I am still walking it. The view gets prettier every day.