I have been dreaming about water lately and I took that to signify from my subconscious that perhaps I was ready to deal with the time that I nearly drowned as a kid. And today in therapy, we did just that, and it was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Literally coughing, feeling the water getting pushed out of my lungs, my heart pumping faster and faster to keep up. I was only three and a tiny little mite and did not deserve that experience, and yet when my therapist asked the three year old me whether she decided that she should die, I said no, and when asked why not, I replied that I was stubborn.
One of the most powerful things in hypnosis is the fact that you can talk to parts of yourself, reminding them that they are special and loved.
This is a post that I am battling to write. It has been brewing in the back of my mind for weeks. It has a close relative sitting in my drafts folder. It’s a post about not keeping silent, a post about speaking out.
Kristin from Wanderlust came up with a rather brilliant idea about having people speak out about domestic violence. And we should…but as I began to think about write…I found that I could not.
Perhaps, it is just the fact that this has been a rather rough and eventful month for me…another couple of milestones have occurred: We moved into our new house, my dad had his birthday (and now will always be older than my mom was). Or perhaps, it is something more insidious…a creeping shame or the thought that there are people who have experienced far worse than me…and that I am dishonouring their stories by speaking about mine.
I have experienced domestic violence at the hands of my mother, I was also raped by my first boyfriend. Neither of these experiences were my fault. Neither of these experiences are shameful. And yet, I have kept silent.
I wonder if my mother by speaking out, by seeking help, could have broken the cycle more completely earlier. But the thing is…no one encouraged her to speak. No one told her that there was no shame in what she experienced at the hands of her mother, and so in times of stress when she most needed support, she could not reach out.
The beauty of modern times of course is that it is possible to speak out anonymously…without having to deal with the consequences of coming out with the hard truths face to face. But speaking out from behind a keyboard is still valid.
Speaking out about one of your experiences does not invalidate any one else’s experience. It does not matter if you struggle to express what happened, or if you are not particularly eloquent. It does not matter if all you can do is remind another person that they still have a voice. It does not matter what you say…so long as you speak.
Because the thing is domestic violence thrives in silence. Speak out: you have nothing to be ashamed of.
I just had a moment. A moment where I was triggered and it truly hit me how much my father enabled the emotional abuse.
I cannot recall any specifics. Right now there is this weight pressing down on my chest. Tears have started welling in my eyes…and yet they are being fought back down. I have not chosen to press them down, and yet that is what is happening.
It was the strangest thing that triggered this moment. This emotional flashback. This moment of loneliness and pain and heartache. This feeling that I will never be whole. That I can never be whole. That I am blank.
I have vague recollections of writing in a luminous green frisbee when I was a kid that I hate my mom. I hate dad. My parents found it when I was away at camp and I was shipped off to a therapist. Sadly, I don’t think that this therapist was actually that great. She certainly never managed to penetrate that wall of solitude that I had built up. My formidable fortress to try and keep out the pain.
Ironically I think those walls are so thick and that very little can escape, but these walls are cracking. I will manage to break them down.
But I digress, the strange thing that triggered this flashback was seeing the word perspective in a computer game. I have played this game plenty of times before but perhaps this time the planets were in just the right alignment.
I was back in my room as a kid. Where my dad was telling me that I should see things from my mom’s perspective. That I was behaving in such a way that caused my mom to hurt me and treat the way she did.
I have cognitively recognized that my father enabled my mother to abuse me before hand. But tonight, for this first time it was real. Real and raw.
At the beginning of 2009 my mother called my husband and asked that we come over. And in the conversation she asked “That I forgive her for all that she has done and all that she has failed to do”.
This is a ritualistic formula in the Catholic church when you ask for forgiveness and to which I gave the customary reply of yes I forgive you.
I have been thinking about it a lot lately, my mother did not change her behavior afterwards and did not even acknowledge what she did wrong.
The truth is I don’t think that I will be ever able to make up with my mother, she will never be the mother that I wanted.
She is incapable of loving me…and that realization hurts. How do you deal with a mother incapable of love…and recognize the losses that you endured…the birthday cakes never baked…kindness never given?
Every time someone asks me how I am at the moment, I am lying.
I tell them that everything is good.
I repeat lies I was indoctrinated in childhood to tell. No matter what “family is family, and you don’t wash family’s dirty linen in public.”
I have lied for so long and so hard it has become a habit that is difficult to break.
Right now, I am not okay. I am in a painful place. I remember the vehemence with which I kept telling myself that I had a good childhood…and I wonder if my sub conscious was not poking at me and saying “Perhaps, you do protest too much.”
I live a lie hidden behind the curtain, keeping silent about the years of abuse. I recognize now the amount of gaslighting that took place, that my mother tried to convince me I was crazy.
I recognize that I am not crazy, but I am not brave enough to confront the reality…to live openly with my whole history yet.
So I will keep lying to the world and resenting myself for it.
I don’t do feelings very well…not ones that relate to me. I can empathize very well…I can feel someone else’s heartbreak or joy…but my own…those I tend to keep caged.
And if they start surfacing I generally become grumpy and moody. I imagine that I am an absolute terror to be around. But feelings are something that I need to learn to do…so I am currently trying to just feel. Especially emotions related to my past abuse…the problem is I am very good at distracting myself. I need to stop and feel…deal with these feelings.
Part of me feels that my childhood could be described using the opening line of a Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
But that is a cop out…it is an attempt to describe without actually facing the darkness, before I step into the light.
I feel stuck…I am slowly doing some recovery work outlined in one of the books dealing with having a narcissistic mother but I feel stuck…as though I am not willing to let go of the umbilical cord of my past.
My mother emailed me yesterday and I don’t know how to respond…if I even want to respond…no doubt the fact that I have not replied already makes me a bad daughter and vindicates her worldview…and yet, I can’t write: “Yes mother, I think of you too…and wonder if you feel any remorse for what you did to me? Whether you even remember it? Whether you genuinely believe it is my fault?”
The worse thing is I love her…but I don’t think there is any way for me to be around her at the moment. I fulfilled two roles in our little dysfunctional family: lost child and scapegoat.I am feeling the effects of the lost child at the moment…I literally have no idea what I want to do with my life at the moment or of who I am.
I wish someone could just hand me a map and instruction manual…but then, what would I actually learn…I am whinging…no, make that venting…I guess part of this healing process is just letting the feelings come and actually feeling them…inside of hiding behind a mountainous to-do list.
Just feeling my way out of this darkness and into the light.