Those of you who’ve been following my blog will probably be puzzled by the title of this. I’ve been blogging for a while now about the aftermath of abuse, how can I only now be fully realising? The emphasis here is on *fully.* In a cognitive sense, I had realised I was abused throughout my childhood. I had remembered, and had realised the impact this had on my mental health. In a cognitive sense, I had realised. I thought this was as hard as it got.
I am now a layer deeper, and oh my God this layer HURTS. So much. I feel blind in it. Now it’s more than cognitive realising. Now I get stuck just thinking my family raped me. Just that very simple fundamental fact that in the grand scheme of it all is TINY, is leaving me stuck. Now I can understand my friends’ sadness whenever I went “its okay. It’s just one more rape.” There is no one more. Each is terrible and hideous and heart-breaking and I don’t know what I’m more torn up about, the fact that it happened or the fact they’d taken so much control of my head that I repeatedly found excuses for their behaviour, repeatedly found reasons why it shouldn’t affect me, and repeatedly would say things like “it’s just another rape” “he only hit me this time, it’s fine” etc etc. Am I more upset that it happened to me, or more upset that I was robbed of my right to feel??
Now I’ve cut off my parents, and other stuff, it’s like part of my head has shifted. Enormously. It’s like cutting them off so as to put myself first gave me a “permission key.” The crucial thing here was that I cut them off for my own good – for the benefit of those trying to support me as well, but primarily for myself. When I cut off my grandparents I did it for those supporting me moreso than for myself, it felt. I didn’t feel like I deserved to have them out of my life, but equally was very aware that my friends didn’t deserve to be constantly bailing water. I was MORE than happy to cut them off, but never felt like I deserved that safety. Cutting my parents off was different. I was very sad it had to happen, but also extremely aware I didn’t deserve their sh*t and needed to cut them off for my own sake, with the added benefit that my friends would be bailing less water.
Because I did it based on what I wanted for myself, because finally I was recognising my own needs and that I deserved my needs to be respected, my head has done something different. For what feels the first time in my life, I was fighting purely for myself before being backed into a corner with a gun pointing at my head (literally). I have defended myself in the past but it normally had to wait until extreme point with me being beaten senseless before I did. This time, I was sat in the university library. There was no sense of ‘I need to do this…’ but rather ‘I want to do this…’
Such a simple change of vocabulary, with such a profoundly different effect to my head. When I cut my grandparents off (who were decidedly worse than my parents) I of course felt relief, but this almost constant nagging sensation of “but you don’t deserve this safety” to which the only argument preventing me from letting them back in my life was “but my friends don’t deserve to be bailing water at the rate my grandparents caused.” I feel almost ashamed thinking that now. (I have moved on from this but it did take over half a year before the nagging feeling wore down). But with my parents, despite the fact the bond is greater and so I’m more in bits about losing them, I also feel relieved and a total sense of “I deserve this safety. I wish I’d done it sooner.”
But, of course, in realising that and accepting it…the recovery has moved on a level too. It’s like a video game; each level harder and harder and just when you think you’re winning, you’re back at square one. Aaaahh.
The immediate problem is that I started grieving for the loss of my parents, for the tiny glimmers of love they showed and I had a day of hopelessly feeling ‘If I’d just tried harder…maybe they could have loved me properly.’ This was a very lost and sad place to be, especially when mixed with the feeling of relief that they were out of my life for good. I grieved for the future too…suddenly everywhere I looked there were families, and I’ll never have that. Suddenly I felt extremely alone. The problem is when I feel alone, I seem to force myself into being alone. I don’t understand what random flawed element of my head this is, but as I felt more alone and sad, I withdrew from friends… not useful.
I also was now fully aware of how severe and horrific my whole life was. Even the good bits were tainted now. Like the bottles of poison had spilled onto the precious good memories I had too. I am determined not to look at my life and see only black, so I’m fighting at the moment to regain my precious memories and keep them untainted. But it’s very hard, because everything links together. For example, maybe I did laugh with my grandma sometimes…but what happened ten minutes later is unthinkable…
Suddenly I found myself thinking ‘oh my God oh my GOD why did I have to go through that?’ I felt despair like I’d never felt before…the real despair that I’d dissociated from at the time. Suddenly the ‘despair’ bottle was opened. Why why why why why….there’s so many things I can ask this for. Why was I abused. Why me. Why did none of my babies make it. Why was I allowed to live. Why did my family find me so worthless. Why did I let them get away with it. Why…why…why…why…
Feeling a crash was imminent, but determined it wasn’t going to wreck my weekend, I stuck to the plans that had been made before my head had begun exploring these new, untouched, precious and painful memories. I was due to host a child’s birthday party, for 20 children aged 3-6. I was stressed but also looking forward to it; I love spending time around children and watching their imagination.
I arrived at the party fine (left with a fractured finger, don’t ask). It was a lovely party, and so amazing to watch the children having such a wonderful time and laughing, and the parents talking together and discussing their lives.
But at the same time, I felt a sudden and profound sense of loss/grief and hurt. I watched the parents interacting with unconditional love towards their children; being deep in conversation with a friend and hearing from the distant their child call, and responding almost unconciously…catching their small child before she fell and grazed her knee…gently encouraging their children to come and play the drums, but keeping a gentle hand on their shoulder so that the child didn’t feel too shy and nervous.
It was really very beautiful to watch.
But also broke my heart.
Because I never had that. Every birthday party for me would be the same; a big show for my friends and parents, and then I would get a “special birthday present.” Every birthday I had was spent feeling on edge and scared, but having to wear a big cheerful mask otherwise I’d be punished. There was no unconditional love. I’d be bought the most expensive present every by my grandparents and be forced to hear everyone saying “gosh…you are a lucky girl aren’t you?”… so then when I was raped I wondered if they meant I was lucky for this too. Everything got jumbled. Could I tell anyone what happened? Would they scold me for being ungrateful?
So here I was, trying to do this party with the children, with this growing feeling of sickness deep in my stomach. I felt my muscles clench one by one, trying hard to contain the emotions so that I didn’t break down in front of everyone. I felt the hurt building in my chest, like I’d never felt it before. I thought it was going to suffocate me. All of this pain had been dissociated and carefully locked away for years; I had no clue how to cope with this level of hurt and betrayal.
I kept trying to smile and play with the children, whilst wanting to scream and cry. Again I watched the parents, and realised with a completely sudden lurch; I never had that. I will never have that. I never had this innocence that all the children here have. My parents stood by and even took part in the abuse. Everything I had a right to was stolen from me. I was never loved. Not in the sense that love should be. My parents even tried convincing me I was crazy and making this up. My family convinced me I deserved everything and so locked me in silence. I was robbed of my memories because they were too traumatic. I felt rage. I didn’t recognise it immediately. I felt this new emotion and it felt hot and out of control. Lady, one of my alters, gently explained it was anger…and it was okay to be angry.
I glanced at the little girl next to me, with her brilliant blonde hair and perhaps at the age of 3. She grinned, and stuck her tongue out playfully, before gently patting a drum and saying “‘at-er-pil-ar” (caterpillar. See http://woodchuck-rhythm.moonfruit.com/) I laughed and patted it back, and then she went “ounc-y ‘abb-it,’ tapped it perfectly on the drum and bounced around pretending to be a bouncy rabbit. (Again see website for context! I recommend the app!!) Her innocence was so real I felt if I put my hand out, I could touch it. The rage calmed for a moment as I realised I was witnessing something so precious; this tiny girl was entrusting me with her innocent spirit, almost laying it out in my hands, trusting the fact that I wouldn’t hurt her with it, or steal it away from her. I felt both honoured, and struck by the simple beauty of it…
But then I felt sad. Because once upon a time I had done the same thing, and trusted that the grown man wouldn’t hurt me with it. Again and again I trusted, always hoping that the next time would be different. I trusted other people, people whom I believed to be friends. Each time my innocence was set on fire, in front of my eyes, and stolen…leaving me in even more fragmented pieces and traumatised. It breaks my heart now how many times I tried trusting again…to just be betrayed each time. Suddenly I was no longer grieving for the parents I never had, because that had been their choice…suddenly I overwhelmed with grief for *myself.* This was a quite a bizarre experience, seeing as I’m still alive. But the realisation of how many times I was hurt and betrayed, despite being so tiny and vulnerable…suddenly I was utterly heartbroken. I felt the 3 year old alter inside of me start crying, suddenly able to cry for the pain she felt every day.
So when I eventually got home, I was both happy with how cute and fun the party had been, growling at my fractured finger…and completely drowning with emotions I haven’t ever felt before. I felt so much rage. SO much rage. And pain. And totally heart-broken. And lost. And unloved somehow. And lost. And more rage; rage for my tiny self, but also now for my adult self that has to feel this.
Sadly, I projected all of this onto a friend who’d done no wrong, just happened to inadvertently touch a nerve at precisely the wrong moment (not knowing my head was a MESS). I sent a furious text for pretty much no reason, before having to go upstairs to the “toilet” to sob hysterically for 5 minutes. On realising what I had done, one of my older alters took over to prevent me lashing out at anyone else, whilst I tore myself steadily to pieces for being an “abuser” because I had projected my own pain.
Once past this frame of mind, at 7pm last night, I broke down in bed. Totally broke down. Every time I think ‘I don’t think I could cry any harder than this’… I do. I was crying for what had hit me. I was crying with anger at how many times I’d been hurt and betrayed and how many times I kept trying to trust again and again. I was crying for the fact I never had parents who loved me properly. I was just so angry. But mainly, I was crying with absolute sorrow and some heart-breaking sense of grief for myself, both for my younger self and adult self. I didn’t try to stop the tears this time, and was grateful for the fact I was alone…because for this, I wanted to grieve on my own. I wanted to grieve and hold each small alter-personality and let them cry too for what pain they’d been holding. I grieved for the madness that I had to dissociate all feelings and memories in order to survive. So much was stolen from me. My life will always be tainted by my past. My memories were stolen. My emotions were stolen. My right to cry was stolen. My right to speak was stolen. My trust was stolen.
I cried for just over ten hours solid, until eventually I couldn’t cry anymore. For once I felt like I’d stopped crying naturally, rather than because I’d forced myself to stop. I felt physically wretched as a result of so much crying, not helped by the fact I’m ill anyway…but also felt like I’d done what was needed and what was right. They stole so so much from me and it hit me yesterday and broke my heart. Some of it I can never have back.
But some of it, I have back… my emotions and memories are my own now. And nobody is ever taking them from me again.