Aftereffects List #17

17. High risk taking (daring the fates); inability to take risks.

For a long time I liked to think that I didn’t take high risks. For a long time I thought that I took normal risks. Now I think that was all denial. I have had big problems with both sides of the continuium. Both problems have improved.

I used to live in a big city. Now I live on the edge of suburbia. I used to go out any time of the day or night. I used to go out to bars to listen to bands and travel home late at night. I was taking big risks with my life and safety.

Even though I was told how unsafe I was to do that, I still couldn’t believe that something could or would happen to me. When I became an active church-goer as a young adult, I just couldn’t believe that God would ever let anything horrible happen to me. That was an inaccurate thing to believe and it was a problem for me and my safety.

I still sometimes go out in the middle of the night. I live in a safer area. It could still be dangerous. I try to do my best to be safe. Still I am not as safe as I should be. I need to do more.

I trusted men that were untrustworthy and unsafe. Something abusive could have happened to me so easily. There are a lot of things that I don’t do anymore. I am kind of upset and baffled that I could have been hurt or abused so easily.

I do take risks. At times I took more, at times less. I take less, because of all my fears and worries. I take less, because I fear failure and I fear being hurt by others. I get rejected a lot by others and it keeps me from reaching out to others.

When I was a child, and a young adult I had so much more difficulty talking, interacting, and being with others. I had a painful time doing any of those things. I was painfully shy. Even talking was a great risk. I have come a long way. Now it isn’t painful, it is just potentially painful. 

I’m working on reaching out more and taking the normal interacting and achieving risks. I am working on learning how to accurately assess safety, trust, and risk. I’m working on making my life and body safe as I move through the world.

Aftereffects List #16

16. Trust issues: inability to trust (trust is not safe); absolute trust that turns to rage when disappointed; trusting indiscriminately.

Yes. Yes. God Yes.

Abuse and my family of origin had taught me that no one was trustworthy. I didn’t have any trust in my daily life to give to any of my family, my teachers, my fellow students, anybody. I was a keen judge of character, very intuitive. And yet I couldn’t keep myself safe, I was a little child. I learned that my trust was always betrayed. I used to have a lot of rage sitting in my little body.

I needed someone to rescue me when I was little, abused, and vulnerable. I needed someone. There were some who abused me and yet they saved me from other abuse. I put my trust in them. They abused me at the same time they said they loved me. Others said they loved me and stood by and did nothing when they knew someone else was abusing me. I pust my trust in them. I needed them. They didn’t protect me and keep me safe. That is what love was to me outside my family.

As a young adult I put my love and trust in my friends. Well they weren’t really friends. I’m not sure what they were, people who found it handy to have me around, dunno for sure what they felt or thought. I only know they never acted like they loved me. They never acted like I could trust them. They never acted like they wanted me in their lives and wanted to spend time with me. I think now it is hardly surprising that I didn’t feel trust in them, but gave it to them undeservedly.

I was in a horribly abusive relationship. I didn’t feel any trust in him. But then I didn’t feel any trust in anyone. I didn’t understand whether I should or should not be around someone. I didn’t understand that my own safety mattered more than being loved by someone. I didn’t understand how an untrustworthy person would wear me down like water on rock, until I was a tiny pebble. I didn’t understand.

Then I saw a therapist that I had no trust in. I gave her blind trust. She betrayed me and used hypnosis on me even though I told her repeatedly that I would not give consent for any type of hypnosis. She admitted it when confronted about it and would not stop. She insisted that I had to write it all down and write under which circumstances I would allow it and which I would not. I told her I don’t have to write anything down. I said no to everything. I have always said no to everything.

I had to stop seeing her. She was untrustworthy and I did not know that she was not to be trusted with my life, my mind, my soul, my healing. I couldn’t see another therapist for years. She was an abuser. I did not know how to protect myself by avoiding someone like her in therapy.

It took a long time to boot the untrustworthy people out of my life. They kept coming back. And when they finally didn’t come back, another one showed up within a month to replace them. It is uncanny. But very true. Nature abhors a vacuum… especially in a person’s life who comes from a dysfunctional family of origin.

It took me a long time to learn what trust was, to learn that others needed to earn trust from me and that it was okay not to trust someone. It’s only been about the last ten years that I have really known that and acted like that in my life. I remember the first time someone said that to me and I thought yeah.

It took me a long time to figure out how to discern whether or not someone was trustworthy and how to trust my judgment, my intuition, and their general vibe. It took me a long time to understand that someone earns my trust by being trustworthy, over time, and by being a good person. It took a long time to believe that I deserved to act untrustworthy towards someone when they were untrustworthy.  It took a long time.

It took a long time. Now I just have to figure out how to say no, mean it and stick to it, and to be heard saying no. A trustworthy person hears and respects no.


Aftereffects List #15

15. Childhood hiding, hanging on, cowering in corners (security-seeking behaviors); adult nervousness over being watched or surprised; feeling watched; startle response; hypervigilance

I did hide as a young child. It was self-defense. It was the only way to avoid being sexually abused and beat. When I got older I tried not to be in a room alone with my mother. When she would be in the kitchen cooking dinner I would stand by the door, as far away from her as possible, when I needed to talk to her.

I don’t ever remember going to her for comfort. I got love and acceptance from siblings, some of the time, that is who I went to. My brother was definitely a person I went to for safety and security in a compulsive way. He rescued me hundreds of times from her when I was a  pre-schooler.

I have never liked being watched. If my mother was watching me it was because she was thinking about abusing me, one way or another, and nothing from her was good. Even when she fed me it was for her own ulterior motives of making me cooperative and compliant so she could abuse me. So being watched has a long history of being abused. The same for family and others.

I never felt like I had any private moments. I always felt persecuted. Going off by myself became my self-defense at a certain age. I still do that.

I hate being stared at by others. It is a trigger that I am going to be abused or the person is thinking of attacking me. Again, my mother’s abuse history still impacts this. If someone is talking to me and looking at me, I feel fine. If someone is blinking or looking away some of the time when they are talking to me, I feel fine. If some stranger is looking at me, I might be upset or I might be fine, depending on the vibe I get from them, the circumstances, and how safe of any environment I am in. It is ridiculous that I have to evaluate that when someone looks at me, but it is a product of being sexually and physically abused.

I have a strong startle response and still deal with a lot of hypervigilance. I hate it when someone tries to scare me on purpose. My family used to do that and I never thought it was funny. They did.

I have trouble sleeping deep due to hypervigilance. It interferes a lot with everyday life.  I was having trouble going to a near store because they have a very small area at the front and when they are busy there are people who insist on getting too close to me from behind.

I have verbally told a few men in the store they were too close to me and they started getting verbally abusive. One guy denied that he was in my space. I told him I just told you that, so you know it is true.  I just talked back to them. I told one of the staff person’s that I have issues with strange men standing right behind me or touching my things and she was understanding. I try to go when the store is not so busy to avoid this kind of rude behavior by strange, creepy vibe kind of men.

At one time I wouldn’t have noticed they were creeping me out. At another time I wouldn’t have trusted my intuitive reaction. At another time I wouldn’t have been able to talk back to them.  I try to see this as progress, but feeling creepy guys invade my space is icky and I am trying to avoid that.  It is a discount store, so it is worth going to, even though the customers are not as safe feeling as the big store. I know that my hpervigilance makes this worse and I am trying to manage it. Little baby steps to healing.

Survivor Aftereffects List #14

14. Rigid control of thought process; extreme solemnity/humorlessness or extreme wit (often sharp).

This one is probably the easiest one to post about. At first I thought I don’t deal with these issues, but then thinking about them shows that I do.

I have in the past had big issues with a need for rigid thought control. I had a lot of trouble seeing the world/people the way that they really were. I needed to believe the world was better, nicer, kinder, safer than it really was. It took me into a really bad, horrible, emotionally abusive relationship for me to accept how tthings really were. I guess he abused me out of it.

I already posted about how difficult it is for me to be happy and to show it. My face is a mask, despite my best efforts, it is still an issue. So I suppose on the outside I look solemn a lot of the time.

I have a very sarcastic sense of humor, at times, and am trying to get myself out of expressing that when it seems to be mean spirited towards others. I think that I used it as a self-defense.That is how all my family are and I know from deep personal experience how painful and wounding that can be.

Survivor Aftereffects List #13

13. PSTD symptoms including shock or shutdown in crisis (stressful situation always = crisis); psychic numbing. Symptoms of physical pain, paralysis, or numbness associated with particular memory, emotions (e.g. anger) or situation (e.g. sex).

I dissociate. Though I don’t think I do as much as I did in my childhood, teen years, and young adult years. I was never myself in my childhood. I never wanted to be me. In my mind I was always someone else. This carried on into my life. I think that I finally got a handle on it less than ten years ago. I try really hard to live in my body, to be in my life, to feel and to experience the world. It is one of the hardest things that I have to do. I think that I should get the Congressional Medal of Honor for that.

I split a lot of the time. I was in the wall, hiding, trying to be safe. I was silent, still, feeling nothing and being nothing. I wad hiding inside the system where no one could find us or hurt us. Abuse does that to a child. It’s survival.

I was always off in my mind, living a different life, imagining all the things that I would do and say in that life. I was almost always thinking about myself some time in the future, when I was different and living a very different life. It took a long time to want to be me.

I was not me in my nighttime dreams. I would be someone else and when my family members showed up in my dreams, they too would be someone else. I still dream of my mother abuser and when I do we are not ourselves. I have an awareness it is a dream and who they are in the waking world. I think this is a huge part of the huge dissociation from myself I endured due to emotional and verbal abuse.

I still have trouble with accepting that I was the person my family hated and abused so much. I don’t want to be that girl. Slowly I am coming to accept that I am that girl. I was loveable. They just didn’t love me.

Sometimes I have issues with depersonalization. Though not often now. Usually it is a result of going through a traumatic experience or being hurt or wounded cruelly on purpose by someone. I feel cut off from my body. I have a high humming sound in my head and it is hard to hear. I feel cut loose from the living world. I don’t feel my senses much, they are very numb. It is scary and I don’t want to live that way.

I do still shut down in some crises. I look like someone who copes well, because I am feeling nothing, no fear, no emotions to get in the way, just numbness.

A few times my ex-boyfriend got rageful. Mostly he didn’t do that. Mostly he emotionally and verbally abused me. Until he learned that I had experienced physical abuse as a young child. Then he started being violent. He beat the driver’s wheel in his car while he was raging at me. I froze. He screamed and yelled at me. I froze.

He attacked me and physically assaulted me. I froze and then I fought back, pushing him away from me until he left. I wouldn’t see him after that. I had always told him to never abuse me, that I would leave him. I don’t think that he believed me. I was afraid of what else someone would do to me if I ever froze again.

I have also experienced physical pain and numbness due to memory, emotion, and situation. It is too painful and scary to talk about those right now.

Survivor Aftereffects List #12

12. Anger issues: inability to recognize, own or express anger; fear of actual or imagined rage; constant anger; intense hostility toward entire gender or ethnic group (race) of the perpetrator.

I think that anger is an integral part of being a survivor as much as it is an integral part of healing.

I have read from several psychological books that anger is not the original emotion. The original emotion is usually caused by being wounded by someone else. Often leading to fear and then anger.

So often we as survivors are taught that our anger is bad, malicious, evil by those who choose to control and abuse us. They often teach us through abuse and manipulation to hate and fear our anger. We often have to shut it off completely while living in the  environment of terror and abuse.

So often our society lets us down as well by blaming and shaming us further for our interpersonal challenges and anger issues. Our society says in so many ways it is okay to look the other way, it is okay to not help us and not make the world a safer and less violent world for survivors and future children.

I’ve had so many people talk about forgiveness. They always seem so uncomfortable with anger and pain that they are willing to intervene in my healing so they don’t have to face abuse, its consequences, and its aftereffects.

I’ve had therapists who counseled forgiveness before I was even able to talk about my mother abusing me. I had a therapist who showed more compassion in words and body language for the woman who beat and raped me repeatedly than to me. This was a deal-breaker for me. I deserve the therapist’s compassion and acceptance, wherever I am in my healing, at the good spots and in the bad ones

To see these connections between our being abused and our emotional landscape can often assist us in our lives and in our healings. Here are some of mine:

I have had all these issues around anger and rage. I never thought that anger was an issue for me. I tried to unconsciously disown it. That was not very successful.

My family scapegoated me. They would often tease, taunt, and bully me to get me upset, hurt, and to cause me to get angry, raise my voice, swear. It was all fun for them. If I did, they believed and acted as though they had “won.” This has happened most of my life. The only way to stop it was to stop having contact with any relative who does that.

Because of this feeling they elicited in me, of being out of control, I don’t like having angry or rageful feelings for someone else while I am talking or interacting with them. I need some space and some time to process what uspet me before I can talk about it. It takes me days to talk myself through the issues so I can finally go to the other person and tell them as calmly as possible what is bothering me, if it is a huge issue. Otherwise I don’t bring up issues between others, I embrace peace instead, sometimes at too high a cost.

When I am angry with someone that I do not know well, like a neighbor or another person on the bus or at a fast food place, for example, I have learned to say nothing. It is easier to say nothing and to walk away. I have had too many bad experiences trying to deal with others.

The only place that really gets me triggered into anger in public anymore is when I ride my bicycle and drivers are driving too fast or too near me, not braking for me when I am in the middle of the road or in a crosswalk and other dangerous and illegal behaviors that put me in danger. I’m working on that. It is really, really hard.

I can say that I used to hate and fear all men. Underneath that was as strong of a hatred and distrust with women that I only understood after I started to remember the mother-daughter sexual abuse. Slowly I have been able to heal that. It is a long road.

Survivor Aftereffects List #11

11. Depression (sometimes paralyzing); seemingly baseless crying.

This is something that I have dealt with all my life. I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t depressed. I had a lot to be depressed about.

I cried so much as a child and a young adult. It didn’t feel much better, but I needed it. I think it helped me to heal things that I couldn’t remember yet. I think it helped me to survive another day so that I could get closer to healing.

I look back on my life and see all the consequences of what the abusers caused in my life through abusing me. And I don’t want this past. I don’t want my life to be robbed from me any longer. And that is what depression does.

I’d write more about the specifics, but it is too depressing right now to go into that. I rationalize avoiding that by telling myself that every survivor has experienced depression and knows exactly what I am talking about.

It has only been in the last ten years that I feel as though I have gotten a good grip on my life, my choices, my healing. But I still get depressed. I still cry. And I think that I could still be categorized as having depression.

However, I think of it as the aftereffects. I think of it as grieving the abuse, its effects on me, my losses, and the pain that has been a part of my life. I need to grieve and it doesn’t serve me to try to avoid that. But it is hard, it has been long, and it can be depressing. And I am winning.