37. Hypervigilance regarding child abuse, or inability to see child abuse, or avoidance of any awareness or mention of child abuse; tendency to develop relationships with incest perpetrators.
(Note to therapists and others: Many of these “aftereffects” can be the consequence of other problems that occur in early life. There are, however, some items which nearly always indicate childhood sexual abuse,and when one experiences over 25 of the items on this checklist, incest should be strongly suspected.)
Proceed with caution! (Survivors and partners, be gentle with yourselves—and each other.)
I do see how abuse has made me at times very hypervigilant and judgmental. I do think that I am a good judge of people, when I can trust my intuition. However I have often been told not to trust myself, including my abuser, about my inner knowing about whether or not a person was safe or not.
There were many years in my adult life when I did not watch the daily national news or read the newspaper. It was just too painful to watch or know about. I did not want to know what was going on.
I was overwhelmed with my own pain, issues, and abuse. I was not able to take part in a healthy way the awareness of abuse, pain, loss, war and its consequences. It created so many triggers, worsened my PTSD, and made my daily life so sad. Slowly I started coming out of my protective shell.
36. Compulsive honesty or compulsive dishonesty (lying).
I was compulsively honest. I told things that were none of anyone else’s business, often to people who did not care about me and did not respect me, my life, or my boundaries.
When I was very little it was common for my mother to ask me questions. I was expected to answer her or she would physically attack me. I see that as directly linked to disclosing to others answers to questions. It took me a long time to really understand I owe my allegiance to myself and to my own personal safety and integrity and that I get to decide what I tell others.
I think it is common for survivors to have difficulties with boundaries. We want so badly for others to love us and for them to attach to us. We see how others seem to get that through interpersonal interactions.
We often try to be very available to others and to give a great deal just so that we can be considered worthy. That often reflects the self-esteem level that we have due to abuse. Establishing good boundaries is often one of the hardest parts of healing. It includes how much we share with others and how much we give to others.
I have had a few friends that were compulsively dishonest. I even have family members like that. I would say that it was very hard to keep a friendship with them, to see them, or to interact with them. But at that time I was very dysfunctional and no one I knew really cared for me and was often with people who were not really my friends.
35. Food sensitivities/avoidance based on texture (mayonnaise) or appearance (hot dogs), which remind the survivor of abuse, or smell/sound which remind survivor of perpetrator; aversion to meat, red foods.
I have tons of food sensitivities, avoidances, and triggers. I carry around so much shame about that. Though I know and understand that I had nothing to do with it, it still clings to me. It is still a process and will continue to take time, effort, and healing to get me where I want to go to let go of so much of the shame and blame for this aftereffect, which I did not cause or create.
I have food texture issues, although mayonnaise is not a texture that I had problems with. I remember as a young child hating the texture of pancakes and split pea soup, among others. I still won’t eat the soup.
I have big issues with meat, but still eat some. I have met many survivors who won’t eat meat at all. I have a strong gag reflex related to abuse and it is obvious during eating and brushing/flossing.
I think for me it is so much worse because I was abused with food by my mother. That made my daily life about abuse. That makes my continuing life all about abuse.
Figuring out that I was gluten intolerant has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I don’t feel so conflicted about food anymore. I feel happier and my body feels so much better; lighter, with less pain, and with no more food urges that are out of control.
That some of the food I can’t eat anymore were some of my abuser’s favorite foods and some of the same ones she liked to abuse me with, well that makes my life easier now that I don’t eat them anymore. It has brought a lot of control, in a good way, into my life and made me feel as though I can in a large measure make my life better, my health better, and my experiences with food better.
34. Multiple Personality “disorder” (often hidden).
This was already covered in #23 of the list. I did not recall that there was a separate number to cover this, so I wrote here on that subject.
I have been multiple since I was an infant. At six months I already had more than one perpetrator in my life. The incident of abuse that caused me to form into more than one part is written about in my poem A Child Abused.
I always knew that I was different. I didn’t think that everyone was multiple. But I never would have told my family members that I was multiple. I was already being told by the mother abuser that I was crazy and she was going to have me locked up in the mental institution. I never would have given her any information that might have jeopardized my freedom. Her family had commited one of my aunts to a mental institution. It was something I totally believed them capable of doing to me.
33. Stealing (adults); fire-starting (children).
This is the second number on this list that I can say I don’t have an issue with. I don’t think that it is something that most survivors deal with.
I think that stealing and general law issues is something that kids and teenagers who are survivors deal with rather than only when they are adults.
I do understand how these issues can be caused by abuse and be aftereffects. It seems to me that they might be more accurately listed under obsessive and compulsive issues.
32. Aversion to noise-making (including during sex, crying, laughing, or other body functions); verbal hypervigilance (careful monitoring of one’s words); quiet-voiced, especially when needing to be heard.
I don’t really think that I have this issue. Which is amazing because I have had something to write about every other number on the list so far.
When I was a child I had an aversion to making noise because I had to try to be invisible. When other adults or older siblings were present I was able to act more like a child. I was careful what I said and how loud because I had to have a large amount of control for the same reason; being seen or heard meant being abused.
31. Limited tolerance for happiness; active withdrawal from/ reluctance to trust happiness (“ice = thin”).
Yes. I am not sure how much depression played a part in this, but since the depression was directly caused by the childhood abuse, I guess it is all about the abuse aftereffects.
For most of my life, even when I was living in my fantasy life, happiness ended in failure, loss, grief, abuse. I see how that pattern was set up in my life.
If I was happy my mother would pick me up and abuse me. My happiness got her attention. I was never happy afterwards. She always managed to rob me of everything. I learned how to hide my emotions. I learned how to be invisible. I learned how to run away from happiness.
I was so conditioned, so brainwashed by abuse that I could not trust happiness because it would lead to abuse, that I could not trust happiness because it would end, and that I could not trust happiness because it would not be real, it would be a lie put forth by someone who wanted to use and exploit me.
In my healing life now I am working very hard on embracing happiness, finding bliss, making a life of my own that includes friends and family that love me. Slowly I am making my life. And happiness is there.
30. Desire to change one’s name (to disassociate from the perpetrator or to take control through self-labeling).
Yes. I’ve always hated my first name. It was said and often screamed out loud by my mother, the abuser. It was used by those who abused me in the ritual abuse group. I loathe it and when I got into therapy I started using a nickname.
Now I use a nickname for everything but my legal stuff. But I plan on changing it legally. I am still conflicted about the name that I use.
It was given to me as a child by someone who loved me and abused me. It is a name that those who loved me as a child used. It is the name that people who love me now use. It has never been used by my family of origin. I’m still thinking about it.
I probably will keep using this nickname and change it so that it is legal. It is really the only name that I want to keep for the rest of my life. It is me. I am Kate.
29. Avoidance of mirrors (connected with invisibility, shame/self-esteem issues; distorted perceptions of face or body).
Yes. I do think that at one time I had body dysmorphic disorder and that many survivors have this disorder as well.
When I looked in the mirror, looked at pictures of myself, and saw others looking at me I saw ugliness. I know that I was systematically trained to believe that. But I wonder how much of that was the sexual abuse and how much was the programming by the verbal abuse and shunning, and by being told all the time I was a pre-schooler that I was ugly by my mother.
I was treated by my family like I was invisible. Except when they wanted to abuse me. I was treated by classmates like I was invisible. Except when they wanted to abuse me. I don’t think that I wanted to be invisible. I just felt as though I was.
I still feel a lot of shame and judgment when others are looking at me. It takes a lot of work to not feel bad about my body, myself, my looks.
I can look at the photos of myself as a child and see a pretty girl. It took a lot of healing to get to that point. I feel so grateful that I can see my childhood beauty.
I wish that even one person in my family or at school had mirrored that back to me. Just once. I wonder if I would have believed them. I wonder how much it could have helped.
I remember one incident in my teenage years when my sister said something nice to me about my looks. She said that I had pretty eyes.
Two other times she had given me a gift that said something in it about being pretty. One was a small mirror with a phrase on it. I think it said something like hello there pretty girl. Another time was when she gave me a small Peanuts book with the dedication at the front of the book where she had written, “to a pretty girl who is like a melody.” In the little book Lucy asked Linus, do you think a pretty girl is like a melody? Both times I thought she was making fun of me and pointing out how ugly I was. It was the kind of thing she would do.
She never told me I was pretty to my face, not once in my whole life. Neither of my parents either. I think that they should have. It would have mattered to me. Even if it was a lie, it would have mattered. It wasn’t a lie.