Warning: Reading the following series may be injurious to your peace of mind. They are intended to be. Without knowledge, we cannot prevent child abuse from happening. Go beyond this point at your own risk. Join me for the painful, frightening, emotional, freeing journey.
My last article in this series talked about Family Secrets and why letting go of them can be so difficult. It is because of those family secrets that breaking the silence isn't an easy step to take. Another reason for the difficulty is what this article is about---the mixed emotions that the victim feels. I hate using that word---victim. Even today, I feel a knot in my stomach just thinking about those days. Even today, I still get "emotional" about this subject. I watched a movie last night that helped me to get in touch with some of my own tears. I cried and cried and cried. I realized that my tears had nothing to do with the movie, even though it was sad. What I had touched was some of the deep hurt and sadness that I am, even today, still carrying around inside of me. I realized this, while I was crying and allowed myself to cry until the tears stopped.
Yes, these articles can still cause the tension to build up in me. Writing about the "secrets" can still make me, not exactly fearful, but at least uncomfortable because some part of me is still not comfortable with this whole process. You would think that I would be after all of the years that I have talked about the incest.
The difference, that I am just beginning to realize, is that I am truly writing about it for the first time with no holding back. Writing for me makes something more real. You would think that living it was "real" enough. Talking about it was "real" enough. Writing about it for all of you to read is taking it to another level for me. In the past, I would attempt to journal about my emotions at different steps in my recovery. I didn't dare write about it when I was a child experiencing the abuse, because, you see, I didn't even think that my journals were private enough not be to violated as well. I couldn't take a chance that someone would read what I wrote and discover the bad person that I really was. They might discover that the "me" that I presented to the world, wasn't "ME". Then I would be known for the liar that I really was.
Today, I have "run" away from sitting down to write this article. I have put away the dishes, washed other dishes, cleaned the bathroom, thought about going out to the store, anything not to sit down and write tomorrow's article. I am still not "ok" with my own emotions. The intensity has always frightened me. Sometimes, the anger and hate feels so all consuming that it could swallow me whole and anyone else that gets too close. Now, most days, I don't feel that way.
I think that sharing my current process of writing is as important as sharing my past experiences with you, my readers. I don't want to give the impression that I am totally "recovered". I don't know if that will ever happen. The process is more important than the destination in our lives anyway and I want you to see that. I don't know that "Recovery" is a destination at all. I think it is the process, the journey that is most important, so I am going to take you back in time to read what I wrote in a journal entry on Tuesday, May 13, 1986. Here goes.
On Tuesday, May 13, 1986, I wrote the following entry in one of my many journals that I have tried to write over the years.
"No matter how angry I get. No matter how much I think I hate my Dad, I still love him and want him to love me. That is what hurts so much. A child needs and should have a parent's love. With the incest, he took that away from me. He shattered my world---my self-respect, my value as a person. My self-confidence was destroyed. I don't know what's supposed to be normal behavior in a family. I always felt that my Mother had closed herself off to all feelings, all pain. I couldn't reach her, touch her, talk to her, tell her that I loved her, tell her to make him stop. I couldn't hurt her by telling her."
These words came from one of the many pieces of journals that I have started writing and then stopped writing over the years. Sometimes years would go by before I would pick up the journal and start writing again. Why would I start to write and then stop? Each time that I would start to write, a little more of the pain would come out. I would get frightened and stop writing again. Each little piece, I can look back at and still see the pain that I was in. I still didn't have the tools to "feel" the pain so that I could heal it and then release it.
Each little awareness would peak though the covers that my mind and body layered them in so that I could survive. Our mind does what it can to protect us. That is what flashbacks do. When I experience a flashback, I have learned to take that as a sign that my mind or body is telling me that I am now strong enough to deal with this situation or this person. Flashbacks let me know that I am ready to "face" whatever it is that I need to face at this time, whether it is emotions, situations, other people or myself.
I have learned that love and hate are opposite sides of the same coin. Very often they reside in my mind and body side by side. When I wrote the above journal entry back in 1986, I was still 3 years away from having the support groups that Al-Anon and ACA (Adult Children Of Alcoholics) provided me with. Even so, I got the quiet realization that the mixed emotions sharing the same space in my mind and body were what was causing me all of the pain and distress that I always carried around with me. Not dealing with these emotions was what caused me to suffer migraines on and off for years. Even today, I still haven't learned to deal with the internal pressure caused by not acknowleging these two extremes, I still get an occasional migraine. It hasn't been enough to just say, "I know you are here. I release you." There are underlying issues still to surface, before I stop "doing" migraines.
Here is what I wrote just last night about the process of journal writing in the past and right now.
"Why would I start and stop the journal writings so many times over the years? Each time that I would start to write, as now with these articles, feelings would start to surface. In the past, I would start to get in touch with the feelings, get frightened by the intensity of the feelings and would then put away the journal for 3-5 more years. I would start the whole process over again.
My response to the feelings that would come up was to stop the journal writing and to stuff the feelings with food and to concentrate on taking care of other people, anything to stay away from the feelings that I was afraid to deal with. I put walls around myself to keep from being hurt.
In some ways, I became like my dad trying to control everything in my life, including the people closest to me. With my husband and kids, I leaned toward becoming the dictator that my dad had been with me as a child. I felt that if I could control the circumstances and people around me then I could be safe. I could be happy and no one could hurt me again. (As I was just writing this, I got the sudden realization of just how terrified my dad must have been. Boy, did I ever repeat this pattern in my life!!!)
I wasn't taught about healthy boundaries as a child. Neither of my parents were taught this either. The only boundaries that I saw were those fueled by rage or those forged by walls of silence. I have used both at different points in my life. (Make a note to myself to do an article on boundaries.) In using rage as a boundary, I became like my dad.
In using silence as a wall I was like my mom. I kept people from getting to close with a huge wall of enforced steel made of silence. No one could get in. What I didn't realize was that I couldn't get out either. The hurt, rage, and sorrow were held in, but joy, happiness, contentment couldn't get in."
Neither of these boundaries were healthy. They kept me in and other people out. The process of chipping away at the stones of these walls took years of work on my part. I do realize, that while, they were not healthy, they did enable me to survive an abusive childhood. During my first steps of recovery, I started removing the bricks one at a time.
I am tagging you again. This time for John W. McKenna's "Does Leadership Suck" meme. You can see my post here.
Priscilla, thank you for thinking of me. I left a reply on your site. I feel the same as you about this particular "assignment".
You are an amazing woman. Your strength is proven by your honesty. You are inspiring. Thank you for giving me things to think about.....
Dana, the good and the bad that we recognize in ours, we recognize because we have those same traits in ourselves. You also are an amazing and strong woman. I see both in the words that you share on your blog. Thanks for the kind words. Say them to yourself as well. You deserve the same praise that you gave me. Have a glorious day.
I know that I haven't been the most talkative of your readers...
But, with both your post and KL's post on my most recent article... it got me thinking about my next step.
KL linked to an article that stated that judging was bad, and that being able to forgive requires being judgmental. That didn't quite sit well with me, as I can see a lot of good in the act of judging.
After reading your most recent posts, though, I think I have a way to tie it all together... It is all connected by blame.
Judging something is necessary for survival... boiling water should be judged as unsafe to handle, and spouses can generally be judged as useful foundations. (I've been using my wife as a very firm foundation in my struggle to quit smoking this past week.)
If we judge our own actions though (well, reactions, actually), and attribute our reason for acting a certain way on someone else, then we aren't judging, we are blaming. I think that is where the whole "judge not, lest ye be judged" comes in... It should read "blame not, lest ye be blamed."
Forgiveness then becomes the way to remove the blame... It doesn't change what has been done to you, but it does help to understand your own role in your reactions.
Do you blame unfairly, or do you judge impartially? Withholding judgment can be just as deadly as laying blame.
Adam, judging someone does have a negative aspect. What we want to be is discerning rather than judging. Discerning is seeing something as it is without adding positive or negative judgements to it. Forgiveness, to me, is letting go of the judgements, letting go of the negativity that harms us, not the person we judge.
Until I forgive, I am carrying around guilt, resentments, anger, fear, and sorrow. When I practice forgiveness for myself and for the other person, I release all of those.
I look forward to seeing what you write about your journey through forgiveness.
Patricia - I agree with you, I hate the word victim and child abuse is a subject I have always felt very strongly about. I'm glad that there are champions like you that are continuing to write about sensitive topics like these.
Jerad, Thanks. As you can tell, this is a subject that I feel very strongly about too. Thanks for visiting. Hope to hear from you again.
This article has been included in Andrea Hess' Empowered Soul Blog's Carnival of Truth #3. Check out the other articles and Andrea's blog found at http://www.empoweredsoul.com/blog/?p=160 .
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