When I began counseling for childhood physical and sexual abuse, I was broken.
A broken heart, a broken spirit. I had carried the guilt and shame of my childhood abuse for so long that it was like an old winter coat. So heavy to carry around each day. So hot that some days it was stifling. And yet it had the comfort of the known.
It was scary to throw off that old heavy coat of guilt and shame and face what else was under there.
I thought we would begin slowly. I thought I would share just a bit at a time. My counselor agreed to go at the pace I set. But once I began talking, I kept right on talking. I told her EVERYTHING I could think of. If I thought of something in between sessions, I wrote them down so I could tell her next time. It seems that once I felt a crack in the dam that I’d built to protect myself, the floodwaters couldn’t run fast enough.
I let it ALL out.
It was scary. I shook like a leaf in a hurricane the first session and sometimes after that. But the overwhelming feeling was relief. My need to let it all out was greater than my fear of what my counselor would think of me (of course, that was my insecurities and had nothing to do with my counselor). It was such a RELIEF to release all the secrets I had been carrying.
Once the rush of information was over, we started working on issue after issue.
At some point in counseling, my shame and guilt turned into anger.
ANGER that the abuse occurred. ANGER at those adults who knew and did nothing to protect the little freckled girl with long braids that I had been. ANGER that I carried the guilt and shame of the abuse for so long. ANGER that my stepfather never was held accountable for his actions. ANGER at the days and nights of fear and pain and abuse I endured as a child unable to protect herself. ANGER at the bruises, welts and blisters I had to hide outside of our house. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER.
My counselor encouraged me to feel the anger, but I was terrified of the anger. I remember one conversation where my counselor asked my what about the anger made me so afraid. My reply was “I am afraid that the anger is so huge and so overwhelming that if I tap into it I won’t be able to control it.”
She asked me what I thought losing control of the anger would look like.
I told her I was afraid that the anger would take over and I would just scream and scream and scream until my throat was so raw I wouldn’t be able to scream anymore or that the anger would take over and I would break every single thing in my house. I truly was afraid to let myself feel the level of anger that I knew was raging inside of me.
Then she told me she had a plan, if I was willing. She took me out to her car in the parking lot. She opened the trunk. There in her trunk and in her back seat were huge plastic garbage bags of glass bottles. She had been saving glass bottles for a month or so. Not just hers, she had also asked friends, relatives, and neighbors to save their glass bottles for her.
Her idea was for me to find a place and time where I could be alone (or have a trusted person with me if I chose) and break the bottles. I could scream, cry, or “talk to” the people who I was angry at with each bottle I threw.
Her only “warning” – wear safety glasses.
I won’t lie. It sounded kind of corny to me. But I really trusted her by this point and I was aware that I really needed to deal with this anger before it exploded in some uncontrolled way.
My husband took the kids for a Saturday to go to a park, out to lunch, etc. I went into our basement and set the stage for a safe anger experiment.
I wanted to be able to contain the flying glass so I could avoid anyone being cut later on an overlooked shard. I hung up some plastic sheets so the glass would stay in one area of the basement. I lugged bag after bag of glass bottles to the basement, knowing there was no way I could break all of these bottles at once. I put on long sleeves to reduce the chance of me being hurt by flying glass and donned the ever-so-lovely safety glasses.
I felt stupid. I felt ridiculous setting all of this up. Do “normal” people have to go through all of this just to deal with some anger? But I soldiered on. I wanted to at least be able to say that I tried.
I threw the first bottle. It shattered, but I felt nothing. I threw the second bottle. Again, nothing. I threw the third bottle with some real gusto. Oooh, that felt GOOD! I started throwing the bottles as hard as I could. I eventually started yelling things like “THIS IS FOR NOT PROTECTING ME” or “YOU BASTARD, ROT IN HELL” or “YOU SHOULD CARRY THE GUILT AND SHAME” as I threw the bottles. IT. FELT. AWESOME.
Oh, I was ANGRY. REALLY, REALLY ANGRY.
But I can’t even describe how it felt to have an outlet for that anger.
Bottles were flying fast and furious! There were clear bottles, green bottles, amber bottles and blue bottles (the blue ones had the most spectacular shatter for some reason).
When I had thrown EVERY. SINGLE. BOTTLE. I was breathing hard and exhausted. But I realized I had felt my rage, really felt my RAGE, and the world had not stopped turning. My house was still standing. My family was fine. All was well. Better than well. Not only had I started my anger work in a very satisfying way (I can not describe the satisfaction of yelling out “YOU ARE A SICK FUCK WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A LITTLE GIRL ” and then hearing the shattering of the bottle) but I had also proved to myself that I could handle the anger without losing control.
I know it sounds a little “nuts.” I know it sounds kind of corny. But I am here to tell you – this exercise opened the door for me. It helped me get past my fear of the anger and bring it out in the open so I could work on it.
So thank you SR for being such an awesome therapist that you collected bottles from far and wide for me. Thank you for showing me a way to tap into that anger safely.
I saved a little glass jar of the multi-colored shards of glass. Blue, green, amber, clear. I smile when I walk past it now. Beautiful reminders of my righteous anger and SR’s lesson that helped me release it.
my dad was, and still is, a serious control freak. he wants everything to go his way, all the time, forever. His need to control + my rebellious streak – any display of love or affection = a seriously fucked up child.
i’d love to write this on my regular blog, but it would upset the people who know me (and we both know that i shouldn’t upset others, right?), so i’m writing it on the down-low. anyway, this is more for me than for you, because you would never admit to fucking up. mom has put up with a lot of shit to stay married to you for 44 years, but i don’t feel sorry for her because we both know she loves to play the martyr. you two are a textbook case of how not to raise a daughter, and i’ll get to mom in another blog. this one’s for you-
i know that you and mom “had” to get married. i know that you weren’t thrilled about it. i also know that you really wanted a son, but you got me instead. while i made do with the john deere tractor and matching wagon, you and i both know i really wanted the barbie corvette. so barbie and her friends went on lots of hayrides, no biggie. because i loved you.
lesson #1- be happy with whatever i get and don’t be disappointed; any affection i may receive depends on this.
we had fun when i was little. we played football with pillows in the trailer that i grew up in, you pretended to be a horse so i could ride on your back. except you always bucked me off, every time. you’d hide in the bathroom down the narrow hall and call to me and when i came to you, you’d jump out of the dark and scare me. i hated that game, and tried to refuse, but mom would insist i go every time. when mom called that dinner was ready, you’d always hold me back and say that i didn’t get to eat. even though i knew it was a game, i didn’t like it. now that i think about it, your sense of humor was somewhat sadistic. but i didn’t see it that way at the time. because i loved you.
lesson #2 – play along, even when i don’t want to.
when i was small, and did something wrong, you whipped me. you had that fucking collection of belts and always made me pick one. i took a long time choosing, hoping you would change your mind, but you never did. i always chose the red, white, and blue one, because if i had to get whipped, it should be with a pretty belt. and it wasn’t just one or two times. no, you beat my ass. and bare legs. and back. and arms.
i stole some of your coin collection to use in the gum ball machine at the trailer court. it was only a couple of wheat pennies and a dime, but you found me at the gum ball machine and my heart got stuck in my throat. you had a wire coat hanger in your right hand and it was summer and i was wearing shorts. you beat me with that wire hanger all the way to the trailer and that was a long way and i couldn’t run fast because i was only 4. and still, i loved you.
and that time you got mad ’cause mom made chili in july. i was still in a highchair, even though i was 3. i dumped my chili onto the metal tray and you swore at me for wasting food. you grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me out of the highchair. my legs got all cut up because you didn’t take the tray off first. then you threw me on the floor of the living room, and that’s how my favorite top got ripped. then you grabbed a belt from your collection and started beating me and you wouldn’t stop. mom finally pulled you away and threw you out. she let you come back, though. because she needed you more than she loved me. i asked mom to fix my top, but she threw it away instead.
lesson #3 – i am bad, and being hurt by someone i love is acceptable. in fact, i should expect it. i need to learn the art of survival, nobody else is going to protect me.
you have never told me you loved me. never. not once. you have never told me you are proud of me. not ever. not when i graduated from college, or grad school, or got straight a’s, or stuck with my crappy marriage for so long, or left said crappy marriage when it was time. i craved your approval like an addict craves that next hit off the pipe, knowing it will never be enough. and i chased after your approval the way a child chases their shadow, knowing that they will never catch it but always hoping against hope that this time might be different. and i never hated you for it. instead, i hated myself for not being enough.
lesson #4 – it’s not you. it’s me. and it will always be me, even when it’s you.
you had a girlfriend on the side, beginning when i was 5, and ending around the time i went away to college. i know this because i rode the bus with her son in high school. he told me all about how you’d come over on christmas day when he was little. i always wondered why you left after we’d opened presents. you were going to your other family. the one with two boys.
remember that time when i was a senior in high school and my friend viki and i saw your truck at your girlfriend’s house? i rang the doorbell and asked your girlfriend if you were there and i told her who i was. after viki and i drove away, we hid in a driveway and watched you speed past us in your truck, racing towards home. and we laughed because we knew you couldn’t touch me. not unless you wanted to tell mom what you were so pissed about.
mom still doesn’t know about that time i called your girlfriend at work and called her a whore and a bitch and demanded that army picture of you back. the one that mom kept asking about and you kept telling her that you’d left it in your locker at work. only it wasn’t in your locker, was it? it was on your girlfriend’s tv, because her son told me. you brought the picture home that night. that’s when you stopped looking me in the eye and started hating me. because you’d been caught by your daughter. and i began to hate you right back.
and when you suddenly decided not to pay for grad school, i became a stripper to pay for it myself. because i had learned the art of survival.
lesson #5 – i have nothing to lose and it feels good to be a bitch.
you stopped hugging me when i turned 10, and i’m pretty sure it had something to do with my going through puberty. especially when you went on a trip and brought me back that cleveland browns sweatshirt, threw it in my general direction while averting your eyes and said, “here, this will cover up your bumps.” nice way to encourage a young girl to have pride in her body. so i started covering up my bumps, all the time. when i was in my late 20’s, i got rid of my bumps altogether by developing anorexia. then i had to cover up my bones. i began to loathe myself.
lesson #6 – my body is sexual, and sexuality is bad.
the only birthday of mine that you ever came to was when i turned 5. i still remember it because that’s the birthday i got my first barbie. you took her away and wouldn’t give her back. you thought that was funny and i played along so you would stay. to this day, i occasionally find myself playing along, for fear of being abandoned or pissing someone off. when i was 17, you never came to my high school graduation. i know this because when i got home after the ceremony, the ticket i’d left for you on the kitchen table was still there. you were still pissed about me finding you at your girlfriend’s two months prior, and calling her at her job. because i’d stopped playing along.
lesson #7 – when i stop playing along, you will hate me.
in high school, you started to have me followed, instead of sitting me down and asking me about what was going on in my life, you got kids from the trailer court to tell you shit about me, a full $5 for each bit of information. that’s how you found out i smoked, drank, got high, and had a black best friend. you even sent two guys on my fucking spring break trip to daytona beach. i know this because on the last night, we all got drunk together and they told me. then they proceeded to tell me your name, my full name, where i lived and what you wanted to know. i wasn’t even safe from you 1,000 miles away.
can i just tell you how fucked up that is? that is seriously fucked up. i was the most paranoid teenager i knew, even without the pot.
you made me stop being friends with kim, you beat my ass when you found out i smoked and you grounded me for three months for drinking. fuck you. i started getting high with my dealer’s 16-year-old wife before school, i went through the bottle of vodka you had hidden in your cupboard, filling it with water instead. that’s right dad, the more you tightened the screws, the more i fucked up. i went to school drunk every day, or high, or both. i hid beers in my bedroom and drank them when you were asleep. i smoked in the bathroom after you and mom left for work. i feared getting caught, but the rush was incredible.
lesson #8 – my father is out to get me, and he will always find me.
you wouldn’t let me date the same guy twice, because you didn’t want me to get pregnant, the way mom did. you wanted me to get an education and be someone. or something. not for my sake, but so that you could say you had a college-educated child. and i was so terrified of getting pregnant that i didn’t had sex until i was 19. and then i slept with every guy i wanted to when i went away to college. because i could, and you had never taught me to respect my body. you had only taught me to get away with whatever i could. i never enjoyed the sex, but being sneaky felt awesome.
lesson #9 – sex is about power and revenge.
when i was in my final year of grad school, i met my future husband, only i didn’t know it at the time. i was smart and i knew about birth control. but when you should have taught me confidence, i learned fear. where self-esteem should have been, there was an empty well, waiting to be filled by someone else’s ideas and beliefs. fear of abandonment took the place of knowing my own worth. standing my ground was replaced by an aching need to please, at any cost. so when my future husband said “no rubbers, please” i said “ok”. because i needed to be loved, and i was afraid of losing him.
lesson #10 – do whatever i have to do make other people happy. my thoughts and feelings don’t count and should be kept to myself. they will only make others stop loving me.
and then i got pregnant. your biggest fear. and because you were my biggest fear, and because i didn’t believe in myself, and because my boyfriend didn’t want a baby and because i didn’t want to be abandoned, i had an abortion. then the self-hatred really kicked in.
lesson #11 – all decisions should be based on fear.
it has taken me 20+ years to undo what you did to me. everyday i untangle a bit more of the knot, trying to smooth out the yarn. it’s still good yarn, and everyday i knit myself.
lesson #12 – you made me stronger, smarter, tougher and braver. so fuck you.
I’ve written about the night my daughter died. I’ve gone on and on about my depression battles. I’ve even written about a suicide attempt. Yet this is the most difficult post I’ve ever written. Because I’ve never told anyone. I just made the connection a few weeks ago. My “aha” moment, Oprah would say.
And Oprah could probably relate.
I’m a binge eater.
I’ve never typed those words, or even thought about telling anyone.
I’m ashamed. The stigmas attached to this disorder, painful. I’m the fat girl. The one you judge. The one you think should “just go on a diet.”
I used to lie to myself. Tell myself excuse after excuse. For a while, I went to the other extreme. I stopped eating for over a year, and the weight fell off. I became so sick. I was “normal” weight for probably under a year.
When my daughter died, the weight gain was so fast. I told people this or that. I lied to them and lied to myself.
The truth is I’m overweight because I eat an outrageous amount of food when I’m sad. I eat too much.
I’m so ashamed. I’m ready to get rid of that shame. I’m ready to eat like a normal person. I’m ready for my husband to not ask “Is the ice cream all gone?” or “Did you eat all the XXX?” He means no harm, but I feel so bad when he asks. I feel like a fat ass.
I think coming to this realization is important. I think it will be key to changing this. It’s not going to be easy though, The Band, not easy at all.
I’m scared to hit publish. I don’t know if I should do it anonymously or not.
I’m scared people will think of me differently.
I know that coming out about this publicly will mean that I’m fully ready to admit to being a binge eater.
I just don’t know that I’m ready. I can continue to deny and go on eating to provide comfort if I publish this anonymously. Or if I publish as me, it will be the catalyst to change. I know that from my experience with other demons. I need to own this as both part of me and something beyond my control.
I’m a binge eater.
How can you explain the unexplainable?
The intangible that lives within and is expressed without but not with words…thoughts, deeds, drinks, and pills. Words seldom give justice to the turmoil within. And even when blurted out in a moment of weakness or vulnerability…if expressed to the wrong person they are still and float on the air like flotsam…better left wherever the journey began.
One might say “get a therapist” or “join a group.” Some psychobabble will surely help things along. Turn lemons into lemonade, bump inertia into movement. But, what to do without that ever-expensive, mostly elusive thing called health insurance?
Out of pocket expenses for mental health care are damaging.
So the cycle continues. The mood swings, the doubting, the bursts of mania. The decision to do one thing and suddenly another road is taken. All the while keeping things together. Feeling very little, looking very ill and fooling no one. Or maybe, just maybe, fooling everyone and that is the very problem that needs to be addressed.
The adjectives used to describe this current state are self-actualized and negative. But what is the alternative?
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”
No, these wings aren’t broken, my cape is not torn, I can handle everything that is happening. In the midst of accolades for “making it,” the pieces of my heart slowly tumble and quietly hit the ground while barely making a whisper.
And yet the pain is still devastating, immobilizing and nobody knows.
Admittedly this is my fault. Perhaps wiping away the facade will release magical healing powers, somehow I find that doubtful. So what if the alternative means holding it all in, weight creeping up and face looking as if I’m aging in reverse – teen years I’m back! Acne and all.
Sadly I don’t know how to remedy this. And so I sit. Waiting for the next thing in the pipeline and inevitably it comes and keeps me focused.
For a moment.
But in the quiet times (which are rare) my truth must be faced. I’m inert. Immobile. Dysfunctional and pray that someone will swoop in and take it all away. The likelihood of that happening? Nil.
And so I wake to face another day, I wear the mask and hope that no one notices.
As a child of a covert narcissist, who spent every day breaking down any self-esteem I might accidentally grow, I was a prime target for my malignant narcissist of an ex-husband.
Keep in mind that there never has been and never will be an actual diagnosis for either my mother or my ex. Both fought like hell against any hint of therapy because there was nothing wrong with them, everything was my fault.
There are many stories, some I have already told, and this one, which I never thought would see the light of day.
I don’t even want to think about it, never mind discuss it with anyone. But people need to know that it exists, that it happens, and that it’s not OK.
I married my “high school sweetheart” AKA, a predator who targeted someone vulnerable 3 years his junior. Now, the age difference wouldn’t matter if we had been grown, mature adults. As a matter of fact, my current wonderful husband is 7 years older than me. But then, my ex was my first real boyfriend, and as I said earlier, I was raised in a dysfunctional family in which the normal was not normal.
I was taught to serve, to ignore my own needs in favour of other’s wants. I learned that I didn’t matter. I had no choices, no opinions of my own. I was a mirror.
And that continued throughout my marriage. I was perfectly broken and ready to be used.
From the beginning, he taught me that it was my fault if he was in pain. Physical, mental, financial, it was all my responsibility.
That continued into the bedroom.
Sex was not a loving act between two cherished partners, it was a power play. If he had a need, I was to fulfill it. If he had a desire, I was to play the part. Women were his enemies and only to be used. His porn addiction was out of control, and this was before the internet, so our bedroom was filled with falling down piles of the most degrading magazines he could get his hands on. I was only the receptacle, not the object of desire. I was too fat, too ugly and nothing about me was good enough.
He groomed me to be meek and accepting that he was the only one in the world who would ever put up with me and I needed to be grateful that I had him, because otherwise I would die alone. I was only acceptable as long as I did what I was told.
I was expected to be “ready and willing” at any time, any place, because you see, blue balls are fatal.
I bet you didn’t know that.
My sex education was brief at best, back in 1980ish and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t covered. As the years dragged on, I was barely even worth being a receptacle.
The worst part was when he…couldn’t.
That would bring the rage. That was when the worst times happened. If he couldn’t do it himself, he used whatever was at hand, including a police issued nightstick. He bought this illegally, as normal citizens aren’t allowed to have these in my country. This added to the thrill, I guess.
What it has done to me over the years has led to a deep fear of police. It’s not a straight line, there are many other stories involved, but that’s a biggie.
As a boring, law abiding middle-aged white woman, I actually have very few encounters with police officers. (Yeah, white privilege at work, sigh).
In the past few years, my PTSD has made me absolutely terrified of even the briefest encounter. Why it waited 20 years to fuck with my head like this, I have no idea, but my therapist does. I’ve been working on my fragile mental health for about 10 years now, one thing at a time, and she tells me that my brain will withhold things that I am not prepared to deal with yet. As I have gotten other things somewhat under control, my suicidal thoughts, my OCD, my anxiety, and depression have a little less hold on me. And then, slowly, over a few years, I found myself avoiding anyone in a uniform that might remind me. Whether a soldier, a police officer, or even a security guard if he has a nightstick or a gun, I will freeze and go into a panic attack.
This is interfering with my life dammit!
I am so angry at my stupid brain. I am absolutely terrified of getting stopped by the police, even for something benign.
What would I do?
My big fear is that I will bolt and not be able to communicate why I am acting erratically and get arrested. I fear my heart would stop, like a terrified rabbit caught in a trap. I
fear that I will have another nervous breakdown. I fear I would never recover.
But I’m working on it. I am going to beat it, I swear.
This particular mind-dragon is a powerful one, but not invincible. I have proven that over and over again in my recovery. I am worth the work, I deserve peace.
Session by session with my trauma therapist, day by day with my husband, we are all fighting for me. If you are reading this and you have experienced marital rape, you are worth it too! It’s not right, it’s not OK and it’s not your fault. Please use the resources here at The Band, and know that there are people who care and who can help.
I have had so much on my mind lately.
So many things make me question my worthiness. I don’t even know. I don’t even know what I want to say. Usually I pull out my journal and just write until my hand cramps. Everything that comes from my head through my fingers. Usually it doesn’t make sense. But I need to get it out.
So that is where I am today.
First. I have missed the Band so much. I am so grateful it is back together again!
I was fired last year from a job I HATED! but loved at the same time. I was a teacher in a 2-year old classroom. I loved my kids. Even on the worst days they made me smile.
People left, got new jobs. People were hired that didn’t like the way my classroom ran. They didn’t have the heart for 2-year olds. They accused me of some shady shit and state got involved. It was bad. I cried every day for a few months. I was terrified!
I mean, this is what I know I was put on this planet to do!
And it was taken away from me and ruined by some 18-year old snot nosed little bitch who didn’t want to work where she was told. I could go into a rant about entitlement here but that would be another post for another day. Ultimately she made up things that just weren’t true.
And to deal with it, I was fired. I was HEARTBROKEN! I was losing my kids. I couldn’t tell them why. I couldn’t tell the parents why. It was absolute bullshit! I was so hurt and angry. These people I worked with I thought were some of my best friends!
Guess what? I’ve talked to them maybe 5 times in the last year. They don’t care; I didn’t matter.
That is when I get into my head. See, I have heard my whole life that I don’t matter. That I am not good enough. That I am ugly and clumsy and not proportioned right – and too skinny, and too fat.
I was told I was stupid.
I believe all of these things to be true.
If the people in my life who are supposed to love me the most say these things to me as a child, they have to be true.
I don’t have relationships. I have people around me who I know I am not good enough for. I was just starting to actually build some self-confidence, believing that I was worthy of a friend.
Once again, I was told I am a terrible human; I don’t deserve friends, don’t deserve to do what I love.
I really thought my ‘friends’ wouldn’t disappear. I thought I might actually matter enough. And reality, once again, slapped me in the face.
It made me realize that I don’t have a single true friend. Someone I know I can call any time of the day and talk or cry or not talk or laugh.
I constantly feel like a burden. I don’t have a relationship with my own sister. Sure, I love her, I want to be her friend, but I am not even worthy of that. I feel so incredibly alone….. Even surrounded by people.
I know if I weren’t there, no one would notice. Or they’d be talking crap about me.
I have a new job now that I absolutely love and I work with some great people. But my walls are even higher than ever now: I can’t let anyone in. I can’t be devastated like that any more. It’s crushed me.
It’s happened more times in my life than I can count.
And here I am, rambling again.
I even suck at writing. I just wish I had a person. Someone who really cared. Someone I could give all my secrets too. Even the ones I am not so proud of. The ones that make me terrified.
I just want to feel worthy of someone.
To know that I matter.