I’m beside myself… My 11 year-old daughter recently decided she wants to live with her dad, citing that she’s not happy living with me. Unsurprisingly, this has elicited within me feelings of failure as a mother… I’ve loved her and always provided for her as best I could as a single mother (with a hell of a mother wound myself) since the day I found out I was pregnant with her. I’ve sacrificed, fought back tears from her dagger-like words and given SO MUCH of myself that some days I don’t know who I am anymore.
I’ve been in therapy for a year working on my past traumas, as has she. I have offered myself as a safe space to her and have used every parenting tactic known to the human race… I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless, hopeless and want to crawl in a hole and bury myself. She has told me she wants me all to herself, doesn’t want to share me with her sister or anyone else. She’s also been mean, verbally abusive and morbid as long as I can remember. Her dad can’t believe the behaviors I’ve described to him, as she’s never that way around him.
I feel like giving up, folding my cards and letting them fall as they may. My health, both physically and mentally, has deteriorated tremendously over the last several years and I simply don’t have the energy to keep fighting.
six months before my wedding years after i started dating my husband. just over three months after my stepfather died.
my soon-to-be husband and i were about to move in with my mom and younger brother to help fix up the house and pay the bills. it was a good arrangement – i was living with my dad for the first time since my parent’s divorce, and it was not an ideal situation.
he didn’t know what to do when i would bang my head into the wall, lock myself into a closet, have to walk out of a room in the middle of a sentence. just because i haven’t cut, i don’t think that means i haven’t been involved in self injury, or si, self-harm, self-injurious behavior, as it is also referred to.
self-injury includes many types of injury or mutilation – cutting, burning, picking, biting. some people consider trichotillomania (self-pulling of hair) in the scope of si, even though it has it’s own diagnosis.
there is no fancy word for cutters. we cut. we burn. we bite. we scratch. we self injure. that’s it. i first identified myself as a cutter when i was 12.
i realized that physical pain of the cut almost released the emotional pain i felt. as i got older, i could look back and see even more instances of it. i remembered biting my fingers and hands until they bled when i was only 5. i can’t remember what made me want to do that, but i remember feelings of emptiness, even then. i remember pulling out my hair around the age of 7 or 8. i remember digging my fingernails into my palm hard enough to break skin. at those ages,
i do not consciously remember why i did what i was doing.
i only remember doing it, and that some how it made me feel better.
i don’t know where i got the idea. i hadn’t seen a television special, i didn’t have any friends cutting. many people think it’s a goth or emo thing, that girls do it to seem cool or special or mysterious. that they do it because their friends do, because it makes them hard or whatever the
fuck stupid people think. i didn’t know anyone who cut or self-harmed in any way.
i do remember taking a pen cap and scraping it back and forth across my arm hard enough and long enough that i drew scraggly lines of blood.
there was this initial release, like the darkness escaping, and then this delicious numbness spread through my body.
before the blood had even dried, i methodically started to clean up with tissues. this would become a ritualistic experience for me.
i stole a paring knife from the kitchen, hid it in a drawer, and knew i had an option at all times. i can’t explain why, but the ritual became almost as important as the cutting.
i would get my secret stash of hydrogen peroxide and gauze. i’d cut, i’d bleed, i’d revel in the numbness. then i’d clean up the blood, clean out the cut, wrap up in bandages. by the time i was around 15, it got worse.
i would enter almost a trancelike state, methodically cutting and bloodletting for hours at a time. i’d make small cuts, long cuts, perpendicular cuts.
instead of using the paper towels to clean up, i’d press them to my cuts so the blood would seep into it, then save them in my notebook. i know, it sounds horrifying. then i decided it would make more sense to do that on the actual paper – i would be able to keep them forever.
i still have them. i cannot get rid of them.
i was always afraid of being discovered.
my scars and cuts were not a badge to show my friends, they did not make me cool. i cut almost everywhere, and had ways to hide everything. i did not want to have to explain how it made me feel.
i cut my forearms rarely, although that is the only place i now have scars. i cut my thighs, my calves, my shoulders, my hips, my stomach, my breasts. i would cut, bleed, mark, clean, wrap. constantly.
i finally got caught out at 16. i had a fight with my boyfriend, went home, got high, and put on hole’s ‘live through this’. i don’t even remember getting my paring knife or other tools.
i do know that i spent almost five hours smoking pot and carving the lyrics from two songs into my legs. i didn’t do my own laundry at the time, and ended up throwing out the sheet i had on my bed at the time because of the blood. i didn’t want anyone to know. i was ashamed and afraid and addicted.
my boyfriend found out.
we were talking about our fight, sitting on his couch. i pulled my leg up under me, and my jeans leg rode up. he saw my calf and made me take off my pants. he then told me he wouldn’t see me anymore unless i told my mother.
i told my mother, she got me counseling. he did stay with me for a few more months. he tried. i continued cutting on a near-daily basis for years, until i was 20. i moved in with my dad after his second divorce. i still had my knife; i needed to have it. i went almost four years without cutting. i was helping my soon-to-be husband move into my mother’s house. i don’t know what set me off, but i needed my knife and couldn’t find it. this made it worse.
i took out my keychain-sized swiss army knife and dug into my upper arm until i bled.
i haven’t cut since then. but i haven’t stopped self injuring.
i have scratched my face until it bled. i have banged my head on a tile floor hard enough to concuss myself. i have pulled hunks of hair out in frustration. i bite my tongue until it is raw and bleeding at times. i pick and pinch at myself more than i care to admit. i have gone to get a tattoo in desperation to feel something (incidentally, not the right reason for ink).
the worst part is, and i think any cutter will agree with this. the worst part is that we do what we do TO FEEL SOMETHING. but the problem is we already feel too much. we have so much (fill in the emotion) inside us, that we need to feel something else.
is it that we need to feel something we can control?
like eating disorders, is it about having control over something in our lives when it feels like everything else is out of control?
do i cut or self harm so that I AM IN CHARGE OF MY PAIN… at least for a few minutes?
Last night, after my session, (which was a combination service and whipping session that, in itself made me feel better) I treated myself to a cleansing evening at the local Spa. I sat in the heat and watched the parade of local naked girlies walk by and I realized something:
We women come in a LOT of shapes and sizes. Very few of them Playboy-ready.
The adorable curvy girls who mentioned being from the Pacific Northwest and sported HUGE dark bushes to prove it.
The skinny ass lil tattooed and shaved (yes, down there. No landing strip, no nothing) Emo Girl types.
The HUGE chicks. Both tall and… well. Just big. Two of them. Gorgeous and loud.
The tiny little Asian girls who sat in the water with their towel wrapped around them. Can’t tell you much of what was under there. It was tiny, and I’m thinking pretty firm.
The freaking adorable young blond with the tight ass, the tiny waist and the perfect perky boobies (not to mention the HUGE ovarian reserves) who probably hated her body as much as the rest of us do because she doesn’t like… well…. I’m not sure what there was to not like, but I know she was of the age where she doesn’t feel she measures up to what she, in her mind, should.
The other mommies with our soft bodies and stretch marks.
And, as in any Korean Spa, the obligatory 60+-year-old women who used the sitting shower the entire hour I was there. And yes, graphically scrubbed both the front AND the back door. Oh, my eyes!
So yes, I may not like my mommy belly, my sloppy boobies, or my extra IVF pounds. I may someday get a Mommy Makeover, but I’m about in the middle. Not so bad for being 41 with four kids.
And never ever working out. Ever. Even my Wii fit has given up on me. She just looks at me and says.. oh, YOU again…
I think we should all get to spend a couple of hours sitting in the hot steam of a Spa and realize: we all have our curves and our cellulite and our war wounds, but we are all pretty awesome when we are naked. It all adds up to make us what we are; who we’ve become.
So once my number was finally called and I was taken to the massage room – and not the private, darkened, quiet massage room where they step out for a minute so that you can position yourself on a pre-warmed massage table under neither a protective layer of sheets – but a large room, lit with fluorescent lighting and filled with massage tables, where a smiling lady women strips you of your towel and positions you by force, naked on a wet plastic massage table, and starts tossing hot buckets of water on you.
Thankfully she will toss a towel over your face to prevent you from opening your eyes and accidentally seeing the women on the next massage table over treated much like your dog at the groomer.
Just like you are about to be.
Sounds humiliating, but they get in and exfoliate and massage EVERYTHING. They get on top of you and dig their knees into your butt so they can get a better grip on your shoulders. They spread your legs so they can make sure those inner thighs are smooth as silk. They flip you, turn you twist you and stretch you until they knock the cry-baby right out.
Then they toss a couple more buckets of hot water on you and start again.
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It’s time to Ask The Band!
Hello, The Band. I’m afraid to share my story, so this is really hard for me.
When I was nine, I was sexually abused by my step-dad – the only father I’d ever known. I was born to a fourteen-year old mother who really didn’t want me. She was married at sixteen and had my brother, and at twenty-one, she had my sister.
The sexual abuse happened every other day beginning when I was nine. I was so scared; I was afraid to tell anybody.
He manipulated me, convinced me that if I told anybody of the abuse, my brother and sister wouldn’t have a dad. He told me that my Mom wouldn’t be able to make it without him – it would be my fault if they divorced. I prayed and prayed that that that abuse would stop.
I hid from him. I’d hide in my closet, under my bed, in the cubby holes in the walls, wherever I could when I heard him coming up the stairs. Sometimes it would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t.
He’d normally find me and make me “perform” for him. I cried, begged him to stop and told him that I didn’t like it. I told him that it was wrong of him to touch me in private areas, but he didn’t care.
The abuse continued for a year. I kept trying to tell my mom and grandma by dropping hints and complaining of stomach aches. He kept my Mom busy working and taking care of my dying Great-Grandmother.
She figured he was cheating on her; he always did. He was a drunk, a womanizer, but my mother was determined to make the marriage work.
She took me to the doctor who asked if someone was touching me in private areas. I was so shocked that I stumbled across my words and couldn’t give him a straight answer.
Right then and there my mom knew. When we left the doctor’s office and got to the car, she looked at me and asked me if someone was touching me in private areas. She was so upset that I couldn’t lie to her. I told her yes and broke down crying.
I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was so scared of how she would react. She asked me who had been touching me and I told her “Dad.” She was furious, but not at me.
My mom immediately took me to my aunt’s house and made me tell her what my dad was doing to me. My aunt was married to my step-dad’s brother. I told my aunt, and then my mom took me to the police station to talk to a detective and fill out a report.
The next thing I knew, my dad was being arrested.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. I learned that pedophiles usually target children who don’t have a close relationship with their parents.
If the pedophile is a parent, he or she will target the child who isn’t closest to the other parent. I’d always thought my mom favored my brother and sister. She was just too busy for the three of us.
I was so relieved when my dad went to prison. The abuse finally stopped. I didn’t have to worry about him touching me ever again. My mom went through a long depression and refused leave her room.
I needed her more than ever but she locked herself away in her room – day and night. I didn’t know how to cope with the abuse.
My abuser ended up serving eight years in prison. He got out shortly before I turned 18.
Thankfully, I had my grandmother, who loved me unconditionally. My grandmother had been raped when she was younger. It was a double rape – not only did he rape my grandmother, but he raped my mother too. My grandmother was often the target of my mother’s verbal abuse.
I was very wrong. Finally, I was pretty, I was wanted, I was loved. I eventually dropped out of school and worked. My mom would take whatever extra money I had for herself, or make me spend it on her one way or the other. I paid my truck payment and insurance. I had to buy all my own clothes, and everything else I needed or wanted.
My mother was also financially abusive. She never wanted to buy me anything. If I needed something for school, I usually didn’t get it. I was told if that if I wanted something, I had to work and earn it. I began my first job at thirteen. I lied about my age.
Soon, I got another job – this time I took total responsibility for myself. Who else would provide for me? She gave me a roof over my head, $100 a year in clothing, and one pair of shoes every year.
When I was working, I was happy that I could finally buy myself some of the things I needed and wanted. It felt nice. I had a truck payment, insurance and money for my necessities.
I could buy food. There was hardly ever food in our house. I usually was able to eat a meal at work for free and a bowl of cereal in the morning. I worked as many hours – picking up extra shifts – because I was only making minimum wage. I eventually took on another job and juggled the two.
Working nearly three shifts a day had become too much for me. I partied A LOT. I continued to drink, and occasionally smoked some marijuana. I’d have sex with my boyfriends – I felt used by other guys who only wanted sex. I experimented with women. Women were more comfortable sexually, but they were more complex emotionally.
I started dating guys again – I found a really good guy. We got our own place, found really good jobs. Things were starting to look up. Things didn’t work out with us, but I had hope for a better future.
I moved back to my mother’s house and remained focused upon getting my own place. That’s when I met my now-husband of twelve years.
He took me out of my mother’s house and brought me to the other side of the state to live in the country. He took me to church with him. I hadn’t believed in God and I didn’t know what to expect. We continued dating and eventually I saw a brighter future for me.
I gave myself back to God.
My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive – but it was better than going back to my mother’s house. After a while, we moved out of his family’s house and got our own place. He proposed to me. A couple months later I found out I was pregnant.
There were generally happy times for us. We’d still have fights in which he would belittle me and call me names. I just told myself that the first five years were the hardest and we would get through it.
I was so depressed that I contemplated suicide. If I had to live without my son, I decided I wouldn’t live at all. I didn’t succeed at killing myself. At the last moment, I decided that I wouldn’t leave my son without me. I took my son and moved into my aunt’s house.
I’m convinced that I can’t make it without him as I’m disabled without disability. I’m currently trying to get disability and should have an answer sometime this year. I should be seeing a judge sometime next month.
While disability isn’t that much money, it’s certainly much more than I have. I promised to myself that I will NOT allow him to take my money this time.
In a lot of ways, I feel I married someone similar to my mother – just not as bad. He is a great father to our two children. He spends the money on our bills, our bills are always paid, the children always get whatever they need and a lot of what they want.
I’m stuck at home under lock and key all of the time. We have two vehicles and he’ll leave me one of the vehicles, but the gas tank light is always on, and the gas gauge is always well below empty. My wallet is always empty. If he gives me $5, he will make me spend it. He is very quick to take it from me.
Over the years, I have reached out to the church for marital help. My husband usually convinces them that he is Mr. Perfect and I am the bad guy, so they come down hard on me. My family tells me I should stay with him as they are convinced that he’s so wonderful.
I am turning to The Band Back Together. I need help, badly. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m on an antidepressant. I honestly do not know where else to turn. I wish I had my own place so I could leave with my children and find myself.
I know I have to step outside my current situation and because something is just not right.
It’s taken so long to realize some things about myself – things I thought were normal. There are certain emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I am just so used to thinking and feeling that they’ve become part of me.
My self-esteem is being whittled away, piece by piece – the marks invisible to an untrained eye.
“Look at everyone else, they’re way ahead of you.” Nick.
“Ugh, why do you even bother looking in the mirror?” Cut.
“Cripes woman, why the hell are you even trying? It’s not like it’s gonna get you anywhere.” Slash.
It’s just a small sample of the things I’ve told myself over the years. In twenty-three years of life, I have never once seriously congratulated myself for anything I’ve done.
Doesn’t matter that I was in the gifted program or was constantly told what big, pretty eyes I had or if someone told me I was cute: I still felt black, inky, sticky, dirty, utterly filthy, and undeserving of anything even remotely complimentary.
I am my own biggest critic.
It’s never been a fair critic; it’s always been like this wave of self-loathing and mental self-injury being thrown at me like arrows to blot out the sun.
So why do I do this? How did I learn it? Did I learn it from someone?
To those questions, I have no answer.
Two days ago, I had a panic attack so severe it left me passed out for several hours. I literally blacked out from my own fears and anxieties.
The next morning (yesterday) when I woke up, I knew something had to change. I started making a list of all the positives and negatives about myself. To my surprise, the positives outweighed the negatives. I was happy about that; it made me cry, but it felt good.
This morning, I was attacked – beaten and bitten. My brother and our parents saved me; they chased away the fucker. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t be here. More than likely, I’d still be baking in an unusually warm winter sun, waiting for a fridge in the morgue.
It makes me think, “If I’m so horrible, why did these wonderful people come riding in like the white knights to slay the dragon”?
The answer: They love me more than I love myself.
And that was a hard pill to swallow. I accept so much, yet give myself so little. When you hate yourself, you starve yourself of love, and a human cannot be without love – not a thing on this Earth can be without love.
So here I sit, beaten, battered, bitten, and bloody, telling each and every one of you who cares to read this, do NOT hate yourself.
Do not wake up and realize that someone loves you more than you love yourself because all you’re doing is killing yourself. It’s not the same as taking a bottle of pills or loading up a gun, but the effect is much slower and so much more painful.
It’s a battle, learning to love anyone. It’s so much harder to love yourself: you know each and every aspect of yourself (God willing), strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices.
Please don’t let a near-death experience be your wake up call. Please don’t let it get so bad that you think it might not be too bad, because it is.
Learn to love yourself, because you are the only person that can’t leave or be taken away. Have the faith in yourself to love and be loved.
I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?