Survivor Aftereffects List #10

10. Suicidal thoughts, attempts, obsession (including passive suicide).

Yes I went through this. I have heard this issue repeated so many many times by other survivors. I have had friends go through this for months, for years.

I used to think that I never acted out my suicidal thoughts. But that was before some memories surfaced.

My brother, who was a less than two years older than me, was the closest thing that I ever had to having a good mother. He meant the whole wide world to me.

When I was five my mother had manged to finally turn him against me. She taught him how to say the filthy nicknames at me with classic conditioning techniques, good old cookies. I knew if she could get him to hurt me like this and to enjoy it, she would do this to my younger siblings as well and then I would truly be alone.

It truly was my breaking point. I just couldn’t endure anymore from her or my family of origin. One day I climbed up the staircase to throw myself on the floor beneath. I calculated that I would have to climb on top of the railing at the top of the stairs in order to get enough distance between me and the floor below. I tried and I tried. I couldn’t manage to get my little body atop the railing.

I emotionally fell off the cliff after that failure. It took a long time for me to be able to pick myself up and walk away from that.

I started picking and scratching my face and having raw and bleeding areas, with scabbing over being pulled off over and over.

Kindergarten was a blur. I remember the first day and I remember sitting in the back of the class and looking at the letters of the alphabet above the blackboard. That is all.

I remember getting ready for my kindergarten school photo one morning and how my mother managed to damage my beautiful navy dress that I loved so much, so I had to wear a different dress for the photo. I still see the damage on my face on that picture, with the white itchy cream she would force me to wear.

A few years ago I finally cut my brother out of my life. He was exactly as my mother had fashioned him, still taking glee in hurting, wounding and abusing me. He still doesn’t get why. Though I tried for over three years to get him to stop verbally and emotionally abusing me. He still doesn’t get why. He never will.

There was another attempt when I was eleven. I’ll try to write about that another time.

When I started to remember ritual abuse memories and learning that I was multiple, I had constant suicidal thoughts. So many of my littles were feeling the abusive group’s programming to kill ourself after we started remembering. It was a constant thought process for several years. I’m so glad that we survived.

Survivor Aftereffects List #9

9. Need to be invisible, perfect, or perfectly bad.

When I was very little and older siblings and father were away it was always a good idea to be invisible. I was not very effective at that, but I learned.

At home with her while I was a pre-schooler was the most dangerous, the most abusive time of my life. To be seen by her meant something horrid, something painful, something abusive would happen. I was always trying to not be seen by her.

If I was playing and I was happy, laughing, or smiling it was like a magnet to her. She would rush at me, grab me up, take me out of the living room, and sexually abuse me.

I learned how to wear a mask. I learned how to look serene, to avoid her notice. I learned how to protect myself from her.

I still have trouble showing happiness on my face. When I am really happy and I am with someone else I have to say out loud I’m really happy right now, because I know that no one can tell from looking at me.

I learned how to become the wall in the living room. I don’t mean how to dissociate into the wall or how to float up to the ceiling. I mean to become the wall, to step into the wall. To not breathe at all. To not think at all. To not do anything or be anything. At times she would walk right by me, standing up against the wall, while she was hunting and preying for me. And I was invisible. And I was safe.

I didn’t just need to be invisible. At times I thought that I was. After being bullied in sixth grade in a small town I didn’t think students remembered my name, knew me, or knew I existed.

When I moved away at age sixteen and came back to the area the next summer, I believed that no one would know me. Almost daily I would bike to the river for a swim by myself. There would often be other kids there. I remember being shocked when one of the kids insisted it was me, called out my name, and got me to acknowledge him. I swam alone and thought of myself as being alone those afternoons, but I was seen, I was remembered, and it did not make me feel good.

I like being invisible. I hate it when a man decides to stare at me and think about sex. It makes me feel so violated. I know that look. I’ve known that look since I was little. I’ve seen that look on my mother’s face so many times. It is stomach churning. I hate that look. I hate when men do it to me. It is not a compliment. It is disgusting. I wish I was invisible to men like that.

Perfect… I always wished that I could do that. But it was not achievable for me. Not based on the load I was under as a child. Not then, not now, not ever.

I read once that a procrastinator is only just a failed perfectionist who has given up. Yeah, I can relate.

Now I try for being the best I can be, as a human being, as a woman, as a person, as me. Working on that and not feeling like a failure anymore.

I don’t think that I ever wanted to be perfectly bad. I was just too much of a little girl who wanted to be loved, in my heart, to be anything bad or to embrace that.

I had a few siblings who flirted with the disaster of embracing their perfectly bad selves. It did not go well for them. Their black sheep status was not something that I ever understood. I know that they did not choose their status, it was the product of living in a dysfunctional family system. But I could not understand embracing it either.

As a teenager I had often been accused by family members of purposely looking for negative attention. I guess that was about the time that this idea entered our society. My family used it to justify their mistreatments and verbal abuses of me instead of trying to see how much they were wounding me. At any family gathering being invisible would have been preferred by me over their abusive attentions. I never wanted it, I never tried to get it, and their accusations left them comfortable to do what they wanted to do, to wound me further.

When I was a teenager my father used to accuse me of purposely trying to be bad. It hurt me so much. When we would be disagreeing he would accuse me of being awake in bed thinking of ways to hurt and upset him. He wounded my sick and sad heart so very much.

He would make me feel ugly and miserable and unloved with his words, bereft, and then had the audacity to accuse me of doing what he was, purposely and with forethought wounding him with words. Yes being invisible… it would have been lovely.

Survivor Aftereffects List #8

8. Phobias, panic attacks.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I shared earlier about my fear of sharks when going to bed as a teenager after reading the book Jaws. That was just one of my big fears, though not at all based in the realm of possibility. I had never been to the ocean.

Perhaps I was projecting my fear of sex offenders onto the killer shark. In which case, the fear made perfect sense and was a reasonable amount of fear.

I have a lot of phobias. All the ones that have been explained to me where in flashbacks. They were all caused by my mother. For a long time I thought that they were all caused by being ritually abused. After all many of my fears are ones that ritual abuse survivor sometimes share. But I subsequently learned the fears were in place in my life before the ritual abuse and due to specific abuse incidents by the mother.

I won’t go into detail about them. I get concerned about telling someone my fears and triggers and trusting them with that information. I trust survivors. I just don’t trust abusers and there are plenty of those out there.

My ex-boyfriend was like that, gathering information like a spy to only use against me later, pretending to be supportive, while trying to make me hate and doubt myself more and more, making me more vulnerable and easier for him to control and keep. He was a real mind abuser, just like my mother. Actually, exactly like my mother.

Yes on the panic attacks. I have memories of having panic attacks as a child. Sometimes I couldn’t breathe and would pass out, falling over onto the floor. Some people around me, who were loving, knew how to deal with them, how to distract me, and how to calm me down. I am forever thankful for that and for them. 

I will say that I have gotten a lot of control over panic, although they do sometimes come up when someone thoughtlessly triggers me into an attack.

Being in the DBT, dialectical behavior therapy, program contained so many triggers that I had to stop the program, twice. The first class I had a panic attack and had to leave the room and go sit on the floor outside the meeting room until I could breathe normally and could stop crying and shaking.

This past week I was close to having one and tried really hard to use my coping skills to put the thoughts aside for a while. It helped. I still have a feeling of floundering on the sea and someone trying to pull me under. (A little too much like my actual life with my mother when I was very tiny and very defenseless. She often tried to pull me under the water when I was in the tub.) It feels better.

Survivor Aftereffects List #7

7. Self-injury (cutting, burning, etc.) (physical pain is manageable) (this is an addictive pattern); self- destructiveness.

I used to think that I did not engage in self-injury. But that is not true.

When I was around five years old I started having problems with this. I would classify it as picking. I’m not sure exactly how the problem started, because I don’t have a lot of early memories of doing picking with thoughts about it, I just know that I did and I remember the damage it caused.

I remember now the family environment that I was living in. My mother was abusing me. I was being abused by a male adult that my parents let live with us. And I was being abused by a ritual abuse group that this adult was taking me to. I was very suicidal.

I don’t know if I started scratching my face or if I broke out in hives or some kind of reaction from the stress and abuse. I had painful open sores on my face, around my nose, especially under it. They would start to heal and I would scratch them off again. I couldn’t stand it. It was painful and there seemed to be no way to stop the pain. It all must have itched painfully, but really I don’t remember.

It was very serious, because this was one of the rare times that my parents took me to the doctor and got any medication of any kind for me. It was a white cream that was horrible to have to have on my skin. This did not seem to help me to heal. It seemed to trap the heat in on my skin and make me itch even more. Slowly it got better and healed.

Over the years any time that I had a scab over a wound anywhere on my body, I would pick it off. It was compulsive. I had no control over it. I was about in my mid-twenties before I was able to exert any control over this behavior.

Sometimes I will wake up with deep scratches on my skin and not know how they happened. I bite my nails down very low, so it seems difficult to see how I am doing this in my sleep, but I must be.

The worst times are when I wake up and see that I was doing this on my face. That has only happened a few times and they were deeply troubling times. If I addressed the prominent issue in my life at the time, the scratches would heal with no new injuries.

Biting my nails was often something that I did to myself as a child to the point of injury. I still do it sometimes, though I try really hard not to.

At other times I would say that my behaviors or lack of proper self-protection has seemed self-destructive. I am just very lucky I guess that I survived those times in my life, especially when I trusted my safety and life in the hands of someone who was not trustworthy or safe. 

Some of the time I see this as due to the dissociation and disconnection from your body that all survivors go through. At other times I see this as being due to being a survivor and not knowing how to take proper care of yourself, not knowing who and what is safe, not having good and healthy boundaries, not having good role models all your life and on and on.

It is a work in progress. I see myself as half-way around the world from where I started on these issues. And that is a good thing.

Survivor Aftereffects List #6

6. Eating disorders, drug/alcohol abuse (or total abstinence); other addictions; compulsive behaviors (including compulsive busyness).

Yes and frankly I don’t see how survivors can survive and not be dealing with these issues. I have always thought that I have much less issues than some other survivors, but that is only in the degree that I have acted on these issues, rather than their impact in my life and how much they have affected me and cost me in coping and combatting the urges to act on them.

I don’t have an eating disorder. Though I do believe that I have always had what is now called “disordered eating.”

I heard recently by experts on The Today Show that more people have disordered eating issues than anorexia and bulimia combined and perhaps in the future it will be classified as an eating disorder.

I am not sure how I have avoided having an eating disorder. I think a large part of that is that my mother’s abuses of me when I was a pre-schooler and later would be classified as an eating disorder.

My female parent used food as a weapon to coerce my cooperation in her sexual abuse of me. She was particularly sadistic in her sexual abuse of me, making my cooperation highly unlikely. I can confidently say that what she did to me was forced starvation.

She would let me eat breakfast with my other siblings. After they went to school she would often try to sexually abuse me. If I was uncooperative or managed to stop what she was doing, then I paid the price.

She would often get enraged at me and forcefully cause me to vomit up breakfast. I would get no lunch. I would have supper in the evening and that was often my only meal, for a pre-schooler.

My mother did not believe in giving children snacks during the day, not even something healthy, saying it would ruin the child’s appetite. Seriously, nothing in heaven or earth could have ruined my appetite.

So I can say that I was abused in a manner that replicated an eating disorder, except I was not the person whose actions were in control of my body. Though I suppose to say that any survivor who acts out an eating disorder can truly be the cause of their eating disorder, but rather the aftermath of the abuse.

I have never used drugs. As a teenager and older I was always concerned about the health consequences and so have never considered doing drugs. It is easy for me to say no to that. 

I have only rarely drank alcohol, mostly in a context of social interactions with co-workers after a shift and when going out dancing. I haven’t had a drink in over ten years and that was only one night. I would say that the last time I drank before that was about twenty years ago.

My father was an alcholic. The thought of the smell of stale beer in leftover bottles the next day is something that still sickens me. I have never liked alcohol, the taste, or how it feels in my stomach or body. It is easy for me to say no to that.

So I guess I definitely fall on the side of abstinence when it comes to drugs and alcohol use. I feel fortunate in that respect. As I have heard many survivors have used them to push down the pain and to numb themselves out. Another obstacle that I have not had to overcome on the path to healing. 

I think that my rigidity in this respect is also just a reaction to the abuse rather than a true life choice that I made, just as I think my celibacy is a reaction to the abuse rather than a true life choice.

Compulsive behaviors and thoughts, including OCD features seems something so many survivors deal with. Me too. I think I am getting worse in that respect rather than better. But perhaps that is because more inners share more “out” time and sharing what they are dealing with and so I am absorbing and feeling their issues. I am working on coping with that. It is a very hard and intractible issue.

Recently some inners have shared a marked difficulty with the number 13. I am really trying to address that while trying not to make the issue worse. We have a lot of anxiety and sometimes it is just better to try to alleviate the anxiety by honoring their limitations than addressing the issue head on. It is an ongoing project.

As in all survivor issues I see how far I have come. It is a huge amount. I have dealt with so many memories in these categories and come out the winner, due to healing. I know and believe in healing. I believe in hope.

Survivor Aftereffects List #5

5. Wearing a lot of clothing, even in summer; baggy clothes; failure to remove clothing even when appropriate to do so (while swimming, bathing, sleeping); extreme requirement for privacy when using bathroom.

Yes, but I didn’t really get to wear baggy clothes until I was an adult. Before that my clothes were mostly monitored and approved by my mother and sister. Once on my own I started gravitating to baggy and oversize clothes because they made me feel less watched and more safe. Especially if I was going to be in an environment where there were guys and they might be watching me.

I think that part of the reason I did this was the sexual abuse. The other part was the consequences of sexual abuse; I hated my body, thought I was ugly and fat and did not want to be seen or watched.

I really think that I had body dysmorphic disorder until about ten years ago. It affected me a great deal. I think that it was caused by my mother’s abuses of me. I would look in the mirror and see all kinds of ugliness and evil.

It impacted how much I thought of myself. It made me painfully shy and reserved. It stopped me from being involed socially. I couldn’t partipicate in school sports because being watched in the school’s short shorts while being athletic was too repugnant to me. Now I know that it was not seeing the truth. I tried to cover that all up with clothes, lots and lots of clothes.

I couldn’t cover up my face especially, and that was the source of the worst of my self-hatred. I still struggle with this, but it has gotten better.

Privacy in the bathroom is something that I didn’t have much as a child. My family seemed to enjoy shaming one another constantly about bodily functions. Due to my particular abuses, I found it that much worse to deal with.

When I was a teenager I was finally able to insist that when I was in the shower no one could come into the room. My family were invasive in the extreme. It took a long time to get this enforced. There was a lock on the door, but I was constantly coerced into not locking it. Finally I did. I had a right to my privacy. One thing that I have no desire to ever be involved in is another person who thinks that pee breaks should be shared.

Survivor’s Aftereffects List #4

4. Gastrointestinal problems; GYN disorders (including spontaneous vaginal infections); vaginal/internal scarring; headaches; arthritis or joint pain; aversion to doctors (esp.gynecologists, dentists).

This issue really makes me feel sick. I was going to write about it two days ago and keep putting it off. Guess you can see how it is affecting me.

I have always had a very sensitive stomach, easily upset and easily nauseated. I had bleeding ulcers when I was a little child. It was horrible.

My whole digestive system is still very sensitive and I get very upset, very easily. I am so sensitive to any stress, family arguments, any issue coming up and feel like vomitting or turmoil in my digestive system. That has slowly gotten better.

A few years ago I would wake up every day, get up, and dry heave. I couldn’t eat for hours, sometimes up to five hours after I woke up, my system would feel so upset. I finally got that calmed down after several months and more issues emerged.

I finally got diagnosed with h phylori, the bacterium that causes ulcers. It took months after the treatment for my stomach to finally stop hurting and settle down.

Still I am, as I always have been, very sensitive to foods. Any spicy, even mild, has always been very difficult for me and my system to tolerate. My mother used to make me eat foods that were upsetting to my stomach and had told her they were. It made things much worse for me while I was a child.

Yes on the gyn issues as well. I have always been amazed at how many times one woman can get yeast infections. Now I can accept that was a part of being a survivor.

Yes on the headaches. Though I am never sure how much of that is due to the physical trauma and damage caused by my mother beating me, the ear infection issues that have been on-going since I was a child, and being multiple and having switching and control headaches versus just being a child sexual abuse survivor. I guess it is okay to say now they all contribute to this issue.

Yes on the aversions to the doctors and dentists as well. I think that with complex health issues and very little support or helpful appointments, it is not that surprising that my aversion has not lessened.

I have heard from so many survivors that doctors are a big issue for them. Gyn appointments even much worse and avoidance to the point of potentially effecting our health. 

Dentists, I think, are even worse to see. I have heard from many survivors that they have issues with dentists. I found a wonderful oral surgeon. It was still very difficult to get to appointments.

Yes on arthritis and joint pain. I have heard chronic pain is such a common issue for survivors. The rheumatologist that I saw said that child abuse is now considered to be a percursor to fibromyalgia. Yeah, that makes sense to me.

I do think that even despite dealing with a lot of health issues, I am optimistic for myself and for other survivors. I know that facing our abuse histories, remembering, feeling and healing, going to therapy, and working on healing from the emotional pain can significantly impact the physical pain and issues we as survivors are go through. I believe in healing.