Coping

When you’re going through hard times in your life you find ways to survive.  Therapists call them coping mechanisms.  They also say that holding onto these things to long can be unhealthy.  And yet, they become so much a part of your life it can be hard and frightening to give them up.

How have I coped with my abuse, depression, and bipolar disorder?  Well…I write, mostly poetry.  I may post some of my writings on here in the future.  I also listen to music, a lot.  If you’ve read my post “I am not alone” you’ve seen some of what I mean there.  I fantasize about a better life.  One where I’m thin and beautiful and confident.  One where I don’t lack for attention and people care about how I feel and even put me first.  Truthfully though, I do have a good life now.  My husband is very supportive and my kids are the best things I’ve ever done.  We aren’t rich, but we don’t lack anything.  I also read, a lot.  I find it easy to lose myself in books and the character’s burdens and pain.

These things don’t sound too unhealthy on the surface.  Writing is a good way to vent.  Music can also be a great outlet as well as a calming influence.  Who doesn’t fantasize?  Reading improves your mind and is way better than watching television.  Right?  I don’t know anymore.  I needed these things to get through what passed for my childhood, but do I need them to manage day to day in my adult life?  Sometimes I feel like I do.  But, sometimes I wonder if they make it hard to face reality.

Writing will always be a part of me and I can’t see a downside to getting things off my chest…until I can’t get the words out.  Sometimes I just can’t get it right or I can’t finish it.  I get frustrated with myself and that beats at my already waning self-image.  I can’t see anything wrong with music being an outlet also…until the songs I’m listening to aren’t appropriate for my children’s ears.  They are young and I don’t want them hearing things they aren’t going to understand or that they shouldn’t repeat.

Now fantasizing can be bad, bad thing.  It indicates dissatisfaction with my life, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  It also prevents me from living in the here and now.  Sure, fantasizing about winning the lottery and paying off all my bills and setting my kids up so they never have to worry about the future is normal and something most people do.  But it’s unrealistic and my time could probably be better spent teaching my kids to be independent and self-reliant.

Reading…here’s the hard one.  I love to read.  In fact, it’s almost an obsession.  I deny myself visits to the bookstore because I could drop $100 without even thinking about it.  I would spend the next two days doing nothing but reading the books I brought home and then I would be alone again.  I am kept up at night thinking about characters in books and what I would have done in their situations.  It’s just so much easier to deal with issues in books, particularly romance novels, because the author usually resolves the problems for you.  Don’t get me wrong, reading is a wonderful pass time and a fantastic way to improve your mind.  I encourage everyone to pick up a book, and I’m trying to instill a love a reading within both of my children.  But when does it go from being a healthy hobby to a way to escape life?  Perhaps when you’ve read a book so many times that the cover disintegrates, you know the words by heart, and the book automatically falls open to the most painful passages.  Possibly when it depresses you when books that helped you make it through hard times become stale and it sends you spiralling into depression.  I just don’t know anymore.

Some people use alcohol or drugs to escape.  Some people who have been sexually abused become promiscuous trying to find love and approval.  Some people become abusers themselves to try to regain control any way they can.  In my opinion, those things are way more dangerous and harmful to themselves and others, even criminal.

Does that make me any more right in my coping mechanisms?  I’m not doing anything criminal.  I’m not hurting myself or anyone else physically.  But am I neglecting the most important people in my life in favor of living in a dream world?  I’m not sure if I know what’s up or down anymore, let alone healthy or unhealthy.  Life can be hard, but isn’t it better to face it than giving up control by pretending everything is okay?  I do that if people had stopped pretending and hiding I most likely would not have been abused.

Awful things I can’t admit to

Dearest Husband, this is a post you DO NOT want to read!  Should you choose to read it, well you have to deal with the scars it’s going to leave on your soul.  God knows I’m having a hard enough time dealing with mine.

My last two therapy sessions have had a repeating theme that I haven’t been able to talk about as yet.  I think this may be causing some of the depression described in my last post.  It’s hard to even type the words that she spoke at this point, but I think I need to get it out.  So here goes.

She wants me to say or admit or whatever that some of my abuse felt good to my body.  There it’s out.  The horrible, sick thing she wants me to say.  She says that the body is made for those things to feel good and it’s only natural that some of it felt pleasurable.  Okay my gag reflex is going into overdrive at this point.

My response…well he never physically hurt me that I can remember.  Did it feel good when he performed oral sex on my 8 or 9-year-old body?  I’m choking on the words, but probably.  And probably is as close as I can come to admitting that anything might have felt physically good at this point.  I feel horrible and guilty and shameful for even saying it probably felt good. 

The fact of the matter is that I can’t remember a lot of the feelings.  I can remember the day when he was doing things to me and I looked down on my own body being manipulated and used and had this feeling of dread wash over me and knowing it was all so very wrong.  I know that every time he touched me after I could feel a piece of my soul dying.  Did those feelings overwhelm anything that before that point might have felt pleasurable?  Again, I say probably.

So why the guilt and shame, even if it did feel good, it’s not my guilt and shame right?  I was just a child with no control over what was happening to me.  I was a sad little kid whose father turned out to be a nut, whose mother was little more than a kid herself, whose body was just a little too chubby for the other kids to resist teasing.  Hell, I was the  perfect victim.  But he was the perfect abuser.

He made me feel loved.  He took care of me.  I always knew I could live with my grandparents and have a roof over my head.  He would protect me from my dad.  And since he loved me so much, well wasn’t he just showing me his love?  Who was I to tell him that the way he showed love was wrong?  Who was I to say no?  Even though I can remember him telling me that I could say no and he would stop, could I have really stopped it?

And there’s my guilt.  Because I never did say no.  I never told anyone either.  Of course, he was the only one who really loved me, or so he said.  And no one would understand that he was just showing me how much he loved me.  And then they would send me away or take me away or something equally horrible.  And I would have nothing and no one to love me or take care of me.  Also, if he was doing this stuff to me, well then he was leaving my cousins alone right?  (Thank God, he really was leaving them alone.)

I know now that I couldn’t have said no.  Oh I could have, but the next time who knew what it would have been.  Maybe his patience would have run out and I would have been raped instead of just molested.  I found out later that he did rape someone long before he ever molested.  But, when he told me that I could say no, he absolved himself of the guilt and shame and put it on me.

So, the big question that keeps coming up in therapy…did it feel good?  Probably.  But I don’t remember it that way.

Depression

I’ve noticed myself slipping into depression in the last week or so, maybe longer.  I don’t know for sure just how long it’s been, but I have noticed it recently.  The symptoms:  I want to sleep, a lot.  I’m so tired that even though I’m forcing myself into the regular routine, I have to sleep before and after each activity.  The routine is forced.  Things that I normally find enjoyable and rewarding are chores.  I have no appetite, until the middle of the night at least.  Then I crave sweets.  I’m trying to resist these cravings by eating apples and bananas whenever possible.  I’m smoking like a fiend.  I’m going through a carton of cigarettes in about a week.  That’s about a pack and a half a day.  I don’t know how it’s possible considering the time I spend sleeping and volunteering at school, but I’m doing it.

Being bipolar, I understand depression.  I’ve suffered depression since I was 13 years old, maybe younger.  I know how detrimental it can be, not only to me, but to my entire family.  My home is suffering horribly.  I have a basket of laundry that has been sitting in my living room for at least a week waiting to be folded.  My dishwasher is sitting empty, waiting to be loaded since this afternoon.  My sink is currently overflowing with dishes.  My son asked for dippy eggs for dinner and I did manage that, but last night was pizza.

I don’t know if this is a medication problem or the fact that I’ve got so much going through my mind in beginning to rehash the abuse inflicted upon me in my childhood.  What I do know is that I cannot give in to these feelings of hopelessness and despair.  I have to keep pushing myself to be a mother and a wife and to live life.  It’s just so hard when all I want to do is sleep.

I’m Not Alone

Statistically somewhere from 70% to 80% of homes across the United States have some sort of abuse happening inside their walls.  Much of this abuse goes unreported or unnoticed until the victims are adults or in safe situations and can talk about it.  Some people never talk about it.  Does it make me feel better to know that I’m not alone in what I have suffered?  Not really.  Sure, the fact that it happens everywhere helps me to realize that it wasn’t my fault; but, at the same time, I regret that there are others who have suffered through what I have.  It’s not a racial thing, it’s not hampered by religion or income level.  It is truly a problem that has no boundaries.

All that being said, have you ever heard a song that resonates so loudly with the voice inside of you that it moves you to tears or that you can’t get it out of your head.  (There are many things that do this to me:   books, movies, music.  But I’m just going to talk about music for right now.)

Since the 80’s I have listened to rock.  I love all the old hair bands from Motley Crue to Bon Jovi, Poison to Whitesnake, Guns and Roses to Slaughter.  The 90’s grunge really killed my rock and roll.  But much to my relief we are heading back into the era of rock, even though most bands call themselves alternative.  Nickelback ranks as my favorite band and I make sure to get in on the presales of all of their CD’s.  Songs like “Savin’ Me” and “Never Gonna Be Alone” make my heart ache and my soul scream at the same time as filling me with a sense of kinship to those who have suffered.

Okay, getting to the point.  My husband listens to the radio a lot more than I do (I usually have Nickelback CD playing), and he’d been messing with my radio stations in my van.  I heard this song that I really liked the sounds of, the music was great even though I hadn’t paid close attention to the lyrics.  It played again a few weeks later, while in the car with my husband, and he tells me that it’s Papa Roach.  I didn’t consider myself a fan of Papa Roach, even though my husband has downloaded quite a bit of their music.  At home I searched out the song, and would you believe it’s called “Scars.”  It’s a couple of years old, but new to me.  Anyway, I found this too much of a coincidence and looked up the lyrics.  Here’s the chorus…

I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut
My weakness is that I care too much
And my scars remind me that the past is real
I tear my heart open just to feel

In the song, he’s talking to someone (most likely a girlfriend), telling her that he’s had enough.  He can’t deal with her garbage anymore and he can’t fix her.  It hurts him every time he sees her self-destructing, but there is nothing he can do about it.  So why does this song stick in my head?

Well obviously, the whole Scars thing is a bit too coincidental to let pass.  But on a deeper level, I have felt numb for a lot of years.  I have been complacent in thinking that I was over all the shit from my past.  And now, I am basically ripping myself open to try to heal some of the pain that is so much a part of my life I hadn’t even realized I was feeling it.  There are other lyrics also, besides the chorus, that stick with me.

I saw you going down
But you never realized
That you’re drowning in the water
So I offered you my hand

How many people have offered me their hand in an attempt to save me from drowning?  I don’t know.  I have felt so alone for so long, like no one could possibly understand the hurricane inside of me.  But here is a song that says “ha!  You don’t know shit.  I’ve been trying to help you, I could see your pain but you refused to acknowledge it or me.”‘

For a very long time I’ve thought I was over things.  I can tell people that I was molested.  I can acknowledge that it happened and have even tried to help some kids who have been through similar things to know that they’re not alone and not at fault.  But I think I was just fooling myself.  I’m not over shit, as seen in the incident with my husband a couple days ago (see Aftermath if you want the details of that).  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that I’ve tried to help others, but who am I to help someone else when I haven’t even recognized the fact that I still need help?

I wish I could be angry.  Anger is an easy emotion.  It takes over until all you feel is the rage, it doesn’t hurt to the core of my being.  But all I feel is sad for the years I’ve wasted feeling emotions that I haven’t acknowledged.  I’ve lied to myself for so long that the truth is stuck in my throat and I’m choking on it.  And now that I’m letting these feelings come to the surface, even in a small way, I do feel like I’m drowning.  I’m pretty sure my husband has thrown me lifelines over the years and I’ve ignored them.  I think I may be to the point of sink or swim all on my own.  Some battles are internal and there is just you and the pain.  I guess the question is…can I feel the pain, deal with it, and sew myself back up before it destroys me?

I’m strong, refuse to allow the pain to win.  But am I really dealing with the pain or just locking it away?

Aftermath

Growing up I can remember being touched, hugged, and kissed all the time.  Unfortunately, most of those touches, hugs, and kisses came from my grandfather whose intentions were less than honorable.  In fact, they were quite sinister.  I could always tell when “it” was coming.  He would brush against me, slide his hands over my shoulders, squeeze me a little too tight when he hugged me.  Nothing that would look inappropriate if someone was watching, but I always knew.  At times when no one was looking it would be more intimate caresses, as though we were lovers.  He would run his hand over my butt or between my legs or he would squeeze my tiny preadolescent breasts.  No matter what the touch was, it always filled me with dread.  My stomach would knot up and I would feel like I was going to throw up.  Frankly, I think I would have preferred violence to his twisted attempts to seduce a 7-year-old child.

So, the aftermath that has sparked this post…  My husband, the wonderful man who has put up with all of my issues for the last 11 years has been, yet again, the victim of my sordid past.  Even on the best of days, I have trouble swallowing my distaste for being touched in a sexual way.  I enjoy sex itself, but any kind of touching tends to make my skin crawl.  However, since beginning therapy again and trying to come to grips with the abuse itself, I am struggling even more.  It didn’t even click to me until today that I was transferring the childhood revulsion into my adult relationship.

It is not my husband’s fault that when he caresses me it makes my stomach clench and my teeth grind in my  head.  He didn’t abuse me.  He didn’t take advantage of my youth and steal my innocence.  For years, off and on, we have had the argument that the only time he touched me was when he wanted sex.  I realized today, that regardless of his intent when he touches me, the feelings inside of me are not caused by him.  Those feelings are the fault of a man who has been dead for 17 years and the child inside of me who cries out to be left alone.

It is a credit to my husband that I know his love doesn’t depend upon sex and that I can tell him no without fear of being rejected in other areas of our relationship.  Now I just have to find a way to explain all of this to him and apologize for the transference.

My Wounded Child

Therapy yesterday.  We talked about a lot of things, including my mom and last weekend’s debacle.  Although, after confronting my mother I feel immensely better about that situation.

We revolved mainly around my childhood sexual abuse.  I have yet to get into that on this blog.  I think it’s going to be the hardest and most draining.  Midway through she asked me if it was hard or uncomfortable to talk about.  Well duh!  Yes, it’s hard and uncomfortable.  I feel uneasy and stripped raw trying to recount details, some that are so vivid and some that are fuzzy and some that I just can’t remember at all.  It’s something I have never done.  It’s something I think I need to do.  Thus the reason for this blog in fact.

Anyway, she began to explain something to me called my “wounded child.”  Apparently, somewhere inside of me is this child whose innocence was stolen and is hurt and scared because of it.  Yeah I can buy that.  I have often thought my reactions to things, my insecurity, my lack of self-worth seemed child-like.  I have also felt woefully immature and undeserving of respect as other adults around me.  So, now I have to wonder if all this inner-child stuff isn’t bullshit as I had previously thought.

She said her goal is to help me merge the wounded child and the adult woman into one being so that I’m less conflicted and can find some measure of peace in my life.  Okay so that sounds a little out there to me.  I told her good luck with that.  I’m going to have to watch my smart mouth.  I often react with hostility and sarcasm when I feel threatened.  I guess this is threatening to me.  She did say she felt we made some progress yesterday though.

Maybe this time I’ve finally found a counselor that can really help me.

Can you still be a victim of child abuse at 32?

For the past nine years, well most of my life really, I’ve been dealing with my mother and her various addictions.  When I was a kid it was just pot, by the time I was a teenager she’d added pills into the mix.  At 14 I can remember checking to make sure she was still breathing.  When I moved out, into an apartment with my boyfriend, it moved into crack and heroin.  She kept those things secret from me for a long time, or maybe I just didn’t want to see it.  Sometimes I wish I could have stayed blind.

I got married at 23 and pregnant two months later.  During my pregnancy, my mother’s house was raided by the police, my stepfather was in jail, and we were battling to keep my mother out of jail and get her clean.  It was a futile battle of course, because you can’t force someone to stop using drugs.  Take it from me, you’ll make yourself crazy and run yourself down in the process.  I tried to detox my mother at home, cold turkey, from 10 bags of heroin a day.  I will talk more about that another time, I’m just not up for the emotional beating rehashing that would bring me.  Let it suffice to say that it took almost two years for her to get away from the needle and the catalyst was the death of my cousin.  My cousin was my age and killed in a car accident.  I think the shock of how she was throwing her life away as opposed to how someone who’s life had barely started had been stolen really shook her up.

She made it about a year, maybe 18 months.  She didn’t start using heroin again.  She started drinking.  Now you might think that this is an improvement.  And honestly, for a little while, it was.  But my mother is not a good drunk.  In fact, she’s a mean drunk.  She is a blackout drunk.

She ended up with a man just a few years older than me who fed her alcoholism.  Once he’d found his way in, he became abusive.  But only when they were drunk and only when no one that cared about her was around to see it.  She ended up with brain surgery because he’d beat her so badly she had bleeding on her brain and clots.  We just found out recently that all of her back pain is being caused by three fractures that didn’t heal properly.  He ended up spending time in jail for violating a PFA (protection from abuse) order against him.  The PFA was filed because after my mom threw him out of her house he kept breaking in.  He held her hostage (and we didn’t know it) for almost 36 hours at one point.  Smashing phones, disabling them, keeping her from leaving…that was all part of his MO.  But after this stint in jail, he was released in June, she managed to stay away from him and keep him away from her (at least that we were aware of).  That is, until this weekend.

I got a call on Sunday from my grandmother.  No one had heard from my mother or seen her car since early Saturday morning.  I, myself, had talked to her Saturday around 10 am.  That was the last contact anyone had had with her.  I went to the house and the dog and cat had not been fed, the place was a wreck, the mail had not been collected, and the back door left unlocked.  This was so out of character for my mother, even in during the worst points of her addictions, that we all very, very concerned.  After over an hour of called everyone on her caller ID and getting no results, my grandmother and I decided it was time to call the police.

We filed a missing persons report on Sunday at approximately 6 pm.  Then we waited.  We were worried that this ex-boyfriend had gotten her and hurt or killed her.  A very valid fear considering his past abuse and his family history.  At around 8:30 we, my husband and I, decided to get her dog and take her home with us.  My husband, my aunt, and I went back to her house.  A news crew was there and I did a quick interview in hopes that someone would know were she was or what had happened.  When we went into the house, it was obvious that someone had been there since we were there earlier.  Things were moved around, lights were off, the deadbolt had been locked, and the mess in the kitchen had been cleaned up.  Very disturbing since no one else has a key and my mother is still nowhere in sight.

We returned to my grandmother’s, called the police again, and waited.  Shortly after 10 pm my husband and I decided we needed to head home.  Our kids were here with a babysitter and I needed to get things ready for school the next day.  We gathered up the dog and went to the car.  As we were getting ready to pull out, didn’t my mother’s car pass us going down the hill.  We did a three-point turn in the middle of the hill and took off after it.  The car pulled in at my mother’s house and as soon as our car was stopped, I jumped out and ran to the driver’s side.

It was my mother.  She saw me coming and tried to back up and take off.  My husband jumped behind the car so she couldn’t go anywhere.  She refused to roll down the window and it only took a minute to realize why.  HE was with her.  I grabbed the door handle and yanked it open and began screaming at her.  She was so drunk I can’t imagine how she was able to drive.  After a few minutes of screaming, I let her go.  I was hysterical and completely out of control of my emotions.  She took off down the street without a backwards glance.  We put the dog in the house and went back to my gram’s.

We were able to stop the new report, thank God.  And after a call to the police to tell them what happened, they were on the lookout and ready to arrest both of them.  You see, even though the PFA was against him, because she was with him willingly she was also violating it.  Also, if they’d have caught her driving she would have been arrested for a DUI.  Somehow, though, she managed to get home before the police ever caught up with her.

So I have to ask myself, the roller coaster I was on…the fear, the worry, the anger, the hysteria…can that be considered child abuse?  I’m not a child anymore, but when faced with the possibility that your mother has been kidnapped or murdered you certainly feel like one.  There is obviously no doubt that she put our entire family through hell and all she had to say for herself was, well I was drunk and I thought it was still Saturday and then finally I thought I’d get away with it.

The excuses are getting old.  I’m getting tired.  I told her the next time I got a call about her drama, it would be when they called me because she was in the morgue.  Is that wrong?  I don’t know how much more I can take before her problems break me.  My own problems, mental and physical, from the abuse I’ve suffered at the hands of my father and my grandfather are debilitating enough.  I don’t think I can spend the next nine years as I have spent the last nine years–cleaning up her messes.

I don’t know.  The whole situation is fucked up.  Add yet another scar to my already damaged soul.