Rape and sexual abuse are violations of our mind, body, and spirit. Because of these violations, it is extremely difficult to reclaim our personal worth. Without this self-driven empowerment, we can feel less than those around us. This feeling then causes issues in our personal, professional, and academic lives.
We often find it challenging to:
• feel secure in our emotions, reactions, and expectations
• stand up for ourselves
Accepting Who I Am
- I’m OK just the way I am.
- I am lovable and capable.
- I am an important person.
- I’m already a worthy person; I don’t have to prove myself.
- My feelings and needs are important.
- I deserve to be supported by those who care about me.
- I deserve to be respected, nurtured and cared for.
- I deserve to feel free and safe.
- I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes along.
No one expects you to change a long-standing attitude overnight. But if you can continue to reflect on these attitudes until you begin to believe them, you will be on your way to overcoming panic. Building up our sense of self-worth increases our ability to confront the obstacles to our freedom.
The second kind of affirmation has to do with our expectations about how we must act around others. It reminds us that we don’t have to please everyone else and ignore our own wants and needs, that we all get to make mistakes as we are learning, and that we don’t need to view every task as a test of our competence or worth.
Supporting What I Do
- It’s OK to say no to others.
- It’s good for me to take time for myself.
- It’s OK to think about what I need.
- The more I get what I need, the more I’ll have to give others.
- I don’t have to take care of everyone else.
- I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
- I can make mistakes and still be OK.
- Everything is practice; I don’t have to test myself.
- I am not ashamed.
But I am ashamed. It is still there, an aching, gnawing presence, something in me telling me I’m not the same as the other humans on the planet. That I don’t belong. That I can’t let them know about me or my struggles. That I am worthless.
I’m working on my stuck points but I have not had much movement in this area yet. I can intellectualize and know the bullet points above are true, but my heart and soul do not believe them. I was raised to be nothing, less than nothing. I was raised to be a playtoy, my only purpose AF’s sick enjoyment, one way or the other as he controlled me. His control was 100% complete. I was not a separate being with separate feelings. I served him. That was my normal.
My love and fear for AF were one in the same, and consumed me. I was driven to please him. I was so starved for attachment, connection, admiration, affection. My slightest mistake would be ridiculed and punished by removal of love. I was never good enough but it didn’t stop me from trying harder, because I had to try something.
- I learned to never say no, becoming whatever anyone else needed, whenever they needed me, I could morph into their ideal person and serve
- I learned to serve others selflessly, volunteer, help, cheer up, give gifts, boost, tutor
- I never needed anything for myself because there is no me inside
- I can keep on giving endlessly, it is the only thing that makes me feel ok, I will do it until I drop from exhaustion
- I have to care for everyone else and keep everyone safe and happy, everyone else is my responsibility, my fault
- I must be perfect to be loved, I understand I am unlovable
- mistakes are not OK, ever, I will punish myself
- I will test myself and set myself up for failure to prove my worthlessness
- I am ashamed of me, my thoughts, my feelings, my appearance, my past, my choices, my failures, my existence
So I have some more work to do. I can stop those thoughts now, as I am aware of them, but they are still automatic and triggering. The biggest problem I am still having is that I feel empty. And when I compare myself with the rest of humanity, I don’t feel like I am a part of everyone else, like I will always be a faker, because there is no me in me.
I am concerned with this now. Because knowing that I was raised by such a gifted psychopath, I am concerned that this state of being is irreversible. That my social damage is so completely devastating that I may never recover a sense of self that my parents were supposed to instill in me, not rob from me. AF knew exactly what he was doing.
He prevented my bonding with my mother. He told me she hated me. My youngest preschool memories are him telling me how much she hated me and never wanted me, telling me to stay away from, that he was the only safe person for me. I can remember that at age 3, so I can only assume he started it even younger. I can’t remember ever getting a hug from my mom, I was always afraid of her when I was little, and it wasn’t because she yelled or hit me, it was because AF taught me to be afraid with his whispering. Then as I grew older and he actually told me he loved me more than my mom and wanted to divorce her. My own mom was jealous of me. Hello, calling Dr Freud, come on, this is sick stuff.
He prevented me being close to my brothers. We were all isolated from one another and wedges of jealousy put in place. At age 5 I was overly affectionate with my older brothers and their friends, desperate for belonging, and thinking what AF did with me was normal. At some point one brother molested me too. At age 8 I was asked to tutor my 12 yr old brother who was struggling in school. It was humiliating for us to be forced to sit at the dining room table for hours. His work was easy for me…but that wasn’t the point, it made him hate me. I was put in direct competition with my oldest brother for grades and scores, but even if I surpassed him, I would get laughed at for trying because I just a girl and it didn’t matter, I would never amount to anything. I have a zillion examples, but this is enough for now.
He prevented my emotional expression. It simply was not allowed. I had to be calm and pleasant at all times. I had to deny my own pain and reality. Doctors were only permitted if his plaything was near death. Which I was, too many times. And it was mom that took me to the emergency room while he laughed and called me weak. I tried not to love the pets he brought home, but I became protector each time, and each time he tortured, took away, or killed one, he would laugh again, it was my fault for loving the filthy stupid beast. It was my love that killed it.
He prevented normal socialization. He did not permit going to friends houses, had all these rules for dinner time, phone calls, who could come over, invitations had to come before 6pm, you had be back before dusk, you could not attend other family events, we did not attend funerals or sporting events, we did not join teams or clubs. We only saw our Grandma once a year at Christmas. We did not have birthday parties. We did not go on vacation. He had total control over me in some ways, and complete neglect in others.
All of these lessons were repeated for me as I grew up. They were my normal. I believed the world he created for me, it was flawless and complete. I was alone.
I grew up with books and stories. My friends were the characters in the books and my imagination. I taught myself to read and write before preschool, language always made sense to me. I had trouble holding a pencil, but we had this clickety typewriter and I started writing stories in kindergarten. AF made fun of me for wasting my time reading and writing fiction, but I needed that escape. He tore up my little stories, along with the illustrations. I actually recall one about an invisible train. I’m sure they weren’t Shakespeare or anything, but I’m also sure I was pretty damn gifted and should have been encouraged not ridiculed. I stopped writing but I didn’t stop reading, knowing he wouldn’t destroy a book he would have to pay for. I did try to hide it from him though. By third grade I had read every book in my elementary school library. I started riding my bike to the public library, I still recall the day I got my own card! As long as I got back before dusk, got perfect grades, did all my chores, no one cared where I rode to by myself.
I didn’t start writing again until I had my first kiddo. I don’t know why, but something about becoming a mom brought out my creativity that I had stuffed away a lifetime earlier. I started writing a novel while my newborn napped. And I was happy.
Until I wasn’t. Postpartum depression took over. PTSD triggers took over. My novel sits in a folder, abandoned. I no longer have the energy or interest to jump back into it. I have no more creativity. I have nothing inside me. I have no ambitions that are for me. Everything is…meh. Pointless.
I have been off work over a year now. April 2015, PTSD became unbearable and I entered a suicidal crisis. A nervous breakdown I suppose. I am still not recovered from this, and although I can imagine getting some job and making money to provide for my family, I can’t imagine getting any job I might ever care about. And that makes me sad. But I will serve, because it is what I do. But not yet. I’m not ready yet. My mind and body need more time to heal before taking on more. My goal is when the kids go back to school, it is hard enough just being mom all summer without another job too.