Tag Archive | abuse survivors

Reasonable Expectations from your Partner

Before I start this topic, a quick update may be in order for anyone that has noticed my absence. Feel free to skip this part if you only want the subject matter I planned to write about. I am fine. Relatively. I graduated my trauma recovery program, err, rather, we mutually decided to end it due to several factors. I was working on exposure therapy and we went through several key events, but I could never work through them all, there is simply too many, thousands, 10 thousands actually for my entire childhood. We decided to end before the holidays to reduce my stress at that time so I could enjoy it more with my family. We decided not to continue in the new year to reduce my medical bills that I already cannot pay and need to dodge bill collectors calling me. My credit rating is tanking.

We decided to end it to give me a break. That is also why I was not blogging. I needed some time to stop thinking about my traumas and let some of the open wounds heal.

I was not completely unsupported in this time. I have still been using 7cups.com and amazingly enough, I have found an online friend that I chat with daily that understands my history and is both strong enough and empathic enough to listen to me. I am truly grateful.

Today I want to talk about some reasonable expectations from your partner if you have been abused. I have found some other sites that seem to expect more than I have from mine. This one was great https://sworddancewarrior.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/primer-for-partners-of-sexual-abuse-survivors/

I read through that one together with hubby, explaining the parts that didn’t quite fit with me and what really did. What I loved about this was the idea of the safety list. I’ve included an excerpt below.

“6) How do we have the best sex possible with my survivor partner?

Make a written ‘safe sex’ list and stick to it. In this context safe means ‘no or low abuse triggers’.  The survivor can make a list of things that are sure fire abuse triggers and things you can do that have no abuse gunk attached to them. These will be unique to each survivor. Group the list by level of safety. Green light items are things that never trigger flashbacks. Red light things will pretty much always trigger flashbacks. Yellow light things might be possible from time to time but the survivor should initiate them.

If there is a sexual act or practice on the red light list that you really really like, give up all hope of ever doing this thing with your survivor partner. She or he might give in and do it, but it will do serious harm to your relationship if she does, and will set you back a lot.”

I extended this idea to all triggers, not just the sexual ones. I created a red light list of things that will always trigger me, make feel unsafe, cause a flashback, cause me to dissociate, or large amount of panic. This list is not really that long and is incredibly specific. I explained each item to hubby even though it was traumatic for me to do so. Most of them he knew already, somewhat, but we had never categorized and gone into this level of detail before. Some things I even modeled or demonstrated for him to be extra clear even though I thought my heart might explode as I pretended to be my abuser.

So why, please tell me why, hubby still does things on the red list? Here is what he says. “Oh, I forgot”
“I thought it was okay like this”
“I wasn’t thinking about that”
“You seemed fine”

I don’t think all rules are meant to be broken. Some are funny when they are.

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Okay. He is human. He is bound to make a mistake or forget. Yes? or NO? I’m not sure. I mean there are other red list behavior items in his life if he thinks about it.  I’m not the only one that has created rules for him. He doesn’t break many rules. He doesn’t walk around naked. He doesn’t swear at his boss. He doesn’t bring home every puppy he sees. He does have a memory and impulse control. So why can’t he remember these few things that are important to me and my recovery? I have explained that once triggered, it can take me hours, sometimes days to get over it. I have explained all of the triggers and my feelings multiple times over the years.

And yet this morning he does it again before he leaves for work. Leaving me here alone to deal with it. Yes I told him. And he said he was sorry, and acted all confused. I don’t understand his confusion. I don’t know what to do.

Am I being unreasonable in my expectation? Is he correct that he shouldn’t have to remember? Or should it be on him now to periodically review the list we wrote out together to make sure he is being supportive and not adding more trauma to me?

I understand it is my responsibility to heal. I have been working very hard in therapy and completing worksheets and excruciating homework. I understand he is not responsible for my reactions or what happened to me. But I feel like if he told me “I don’t like when you do this” even if no trauma were associated with it, I would never do “this” again.

So I’m here again, where I need to try to understand. To forgive him. To rebuild trust. To feel safe in my world.

 

 

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The cost of healing part 1

Healing costs more than money, and I have been paying the price for years. But somehow this year seems to be costing me the most.

Let’s talk about money first, because it is easier.

I had a full ride scholarship for biomedical engineering to an elite college, $50,000 a year. I worked so hard to get myself there and had big dreams. That was the time PTSD first hit me, when I left home. The migraines became daily, I became suicidal, unable to sleep or think, nightmares, social anxiety, startling easily. My confidence vanished. Every skill I used to get myself there – poof – gone. By the end of the first year I was forced to withdraw, lost my scholarship, lost my dreams, my hopes, forced to change to a less expensive school and a major I did not want. I was forced to take out student loans for the entire amount, well I thought I was forced, I did not clearly understand what I signing with Sallie Mae at the time. They said sign here and you can go to school, so I did.

I did not care much any more, I felt empty, but I kept going.

The migraines and depression were a constant battle but I graduated with honors, easily got hired. But the stress was building. My new marriage was sad and distant and lonely. I had no friends. I was not challenged in my job, only by the social anxiety and panic attacks. I became suicidal again and was forced to resign.

At that point we had bought a house based on my income. Losing it suddenly was devastating. We could no longer afford two cars, cable, eating out. We also lost my insurance. The psych visits and meds were staggering. We kept adding to our credit cards for groceries, meds, doctors, even getting advances for the mortgage. Until we couldn’t.

Hubby convinced me to cash out my 401K that I had been paying into since I was 16. All my hard work, all that planning working in government jobs and we had to flush it away at age 25. I still regret that, especially since the following year we declared bankruptcy anyway.

That’s when we decided to start a family. No job, me sick, no money. Such idiots. It is amazing we are all still here really. But I had my reasons.

I healed enough to work part time and hubby got a new job, where he is now finally making a decent average income. When we both worked it was okay. On only his income we struggle and cannot pay every bill each month, we have to pick which ones to delay, slow pay, or skip a month.

I tried working full time. I am not sure if that was my mistake, or that I worked with a horrible CEO, or that it was bad timing too with AF’s death. For a year or so we had more money than we needed. It was amazing. We paid off every credit card and started making repairs around the house with new windows and such. But I crashed. The migraines returned, but with an evil twist, hemiplegic this time. I became suicidal again due to the anti seizure meds given to me to control the migraines. I was hospitalized, in a psych ward for two weeks. I was given ECT treatments and more meds than I can recall. It was horrible. I still haven’t written much about it here, might be ready to do that soon.

My hospital and medical bills are staggering, even with insurance I owe about $500 a month to various locations. My pharmacy bill is about $200 a month.

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Today is pay day. Before his pay came in, we had $48 left. Nothing in savings. A credit card maxxed out. No wiggle room. The stress of this hurts my stomach. And it all feels like my fault.

I need to work. I want to work. But I can’t yet. I am not well. Most of the time I sit and stare at the wall, or I turn on the tv and stare at that so it feels better to stare at something that makes sense to be staring at, but I don’t absorb what is happening. I have tried taking tests for jobs and I can’t pass them. I get confused, I can’t remember, I make mistakes. I am not well.

Money may not buy happiness but it does provide security and options and lower stress levels. I hate that creditors call me a dozen times a day. I would love to pay them. I am an honorable person. But I cannot pay them all, I have to choose. So I choose water, electricity, food, meds, school fees, lunch money…please be patient I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Part of the reason for this post is venting as usual, but part of this is to raise awareness. People don’t know how hard we work and what daily life is like. I hate money. I hate that we need money and that we need things. But we do.

We have never gone on a real vacation. We have saved up and gone to amusement parks for a day. We do not have nice new clothes, we shop at goodwill and walmart for the kids and most of my clothes are at least 10 years old, some even older. We all have 1 pair of shoes for each season. I have 1 purse. We eats lots of plain rice and potatoes and noodles. We do not go out to restaurants or movies or skating or skiing or golfing or whatever else might be fun because it costs money. We do free things at the library, parks, museums.

We do not qualify for welfare or free lunches for kids or food stamps or food cupboards. Our income is too high. But they do not look at our bills, that there is nothing left.

So kiddo says his knee hurts, he can barely walk. I take him in for an xray, they say not broken, likely a sprain, keep it iced and wrapped and gave him a note for no gym or recess. Dr calls me back and says they reviewed the xray report and kiddo needs an ortho specialist, there is some sort of bony growth abnormality.

I thanked her, made the call, and hung up and cried. I freaked out. Then I cried some more.

I don’t want to think about what might be wrong with his knee, does he need surgery? my poor baby is only 8. I have to be strong for him and I am so not feeling strong. Trying not to pre-worry but that isn’t going well today.

And then the money. I have not yet paid for that xray and I had to make more appointments that I know I can’t pay for. What choice do I have? He needs this. I’ll pay them eventually, or I won’t and the debt collector will call me for this too. I will do my best.

This life is effing expensive, and really effing hard.

What am I recovering from exactly

I’m supposedly in recovery right now. I just wish I knew from what exactly.

Although I had a suicidal ideation episode, I don’t think I’m in a major depressive episode right now. I can’t seem to get any 2 people to agree on this or a course of treatment. I don’t feel remarkably different from before I entered the hospital in April, although I do feel more in control, less reckless, but still quite hopeless, and it confuses me that these can coincide.

I am taking better care of my body, eating better, no alcohol, some exercise, getting outside, talking to friends more.

And yet the underlying thought remains – none of this matters, there is no point, no end to all this suffering, death would be welcome. But those thoughts aren’t desperate, aren’t powerful, but they seem to be at my core whenever I sit quietly and look inside. Whenever I ask myself what I want, that is the answer I get.

Last week, I found a newspaper in my closet from my high school, announcing my graduation. I was on the front page of this newspaper along with 5 other smartypants’es. We were the top 6 scholars, I tied for 4th place out of many hundreds graduating and had earned a hefty scholarship. I cried when I saw that photo of me.

I remember being that girl. I remember working so hard to earn my ticket out of hell. Ever since 6th grade when my big brother left for college, I was determined to do the same. I did everything they told me to do. I joined every club, art, band. I volunteered with Kiwanis, at Red Cross, at the hospital, at nursing homes. I worked 2 jobs. I took AP classes and college classes at the local college instead of at my HS. I had perfect grades, overloaded credits, overloaded life. I also had mono, an ulcer, anorexia, migraines, back spasms and weak limpy leg, insomnia, chronic bronchitis and asthma, and a really fucked up home life that I did everything possible to avoid going home. But I did it, I earned my ticket, I got out.

But I soon found out, as you all already know, hell follows you. There is no getting out. It doesn’t matter where you are, the demons will find you.

Here I am 20 years later still wanting to get out of hell. 20 years of hiding from, battling, ignoring, and thinking I had defeated those demons, or enough of them. Were the demons hiding or was I?

Or am I simply battling a horrific neurological disease, isn’t hemiplegic migraines bad enough, and this current suffering has nothing to do with my past abuse? Am I going to counseling and being treated for PTSD for what is actually a physical problem? But would I have this disease without the PTSD? No one knows. As with psychology, neurology is a load of guesswork as the brain is far too complicated for us to understand yet.

All I know is I am physically miserable most of the time. My emotions do go crazy all over the place when the flashbacks/memories flood in with the migraines. Otherwise I am fairly stable unless provoked/triggered. I am definitely edgy and worn out, my patience and stress tolerance is kinda nonexistent. How does a mom get to rest while kids are home over the summer? exactly, she doesn’t. So I’m doing the best I can to keep going with no energy and no chance to recharge.

I don’t know how to recover because I don’t even know what I’m recovering from.

I’m in all of these seemingly impossible situations, with no energy, no motivation, and I honestly just don’t want to work so hard any more. I just want to close my eyes and stop thinking and feeling and let it all disappear.

I feel pathetic, weak, and unreliable.

I know I’ll get through this, somehow, someday, but the frustration is turning into anger and I’ve run out of coping skills since these damn migraines have taken away all my usual stress relievers and turned them into stressors or impossibilities.

Any suggestions for something else to get rid of this anger? Writing only helps a little, and this post took me 3 hours with my stupid head and eyes and makes me angrier sometimes.

He needed a hug

I broke the no touch rule today for just a moment, Hubby needed a hug so badly, I could feel it in every cell. Even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t give in, that I wouldn’t comfort him with my own self, I couldn’t bear to see his pain.

He’s been struggling with our distance, with the no touching, no hugging, no kissing, no good byeing, no helloing. That on top of all the fighting. I have not had many kind words for him in maybe 2 weeks, lost track. I’ve been standing my ground and being firm on my boundaries, keeping my space, and telling him exactly what I need to feel safe.

And the anger inside me lately, wow. Intense. I am filled with so much anger, though some is directed at him, some is just general anger at the world, some is I think part of the anger stage of grieving for AF. Some anger is because I am still alive and still have to deal with, well, umm, everything. Some anger is because no matter how hard I work it seems I end up right back here in this exact spot. Some anger is because it seems most people I encounter are not trying to be better people, and I wonder why do I have to work so hard to grow.

I could just be a selfish, unenlightened sod and go on happily like the so many others in the world, right?? yeah I don’t think so either.

Anyways, Hubby had a bad night last night, turned to alcohol instead of me, got himself sick. I asked him if he was ok this morning, and we were able to talk more than we have in weeks, maybe years. It was a good little talk. We’re both hurting and confused, and we’re both angry at AF. I’m not ready to reconcile with Hubby, I’m still keeping the safe distance and no touching until my body says its ok. I have no length of time in mind, just I don’t want to feel I HAVE to be touched any more, ever again.

But today he needed a friend, and it wasn’t scary at all to reach out and comfort him a bit. I hope it was a comfort and the talk meant as much to him as it did to me, because it has been difficult living here on either side of the Berlin Wall. Seems stupid, to write an entire post about 1 hug, but it was that important. We have to end 20 years of turning away from each other for the big emotional stuff, but neither of us trust that the other will be able to handle it. I am hoping Hubby finds a counselor he clicks with and can start working through some of his own stress and issues. It’s not all about me.

How do hermits make friends?

How to increase your support network?

How to come out of hiding?

How to find people to trust, people to like, people to talk to?

How to find people who care?

How to find people willing to help?

I have all of these questions lately. It has become painfully clear to me that one of my largest issues and reasons I continually slip down the rabbit hole of despair is that I have no one to talk to. That’s why I started this blog actually, so many years ago, and it has helped, but it isn’t the same as seeing and hearing people in real life, in real time.

This point was hammered home to me repeatedly in classes in the psych ward stay – they gave us worksheets to fill out with 10 blanks to list all the people in our lives we trust, talk to, interact with on a daily basis, that know us and could help us.

Mine was blank. I sat there staring at a blank paper and holding back tears as everyone else listed “my mother, my dad, my sister, my brother, my friend Joe, my neighbor Mary, my friend, my friend, my friend…..”

My world is so small and my isolation is enormous.

I had people that I went out with, that we performed together, laughed and had fun together, but we never talked. My family is so painfully dysfunctional I had given up on sharing anything or remotely relying on them. Hubby’s family is emotionally repressed or explosive and not people I can open up to. All my high school and college friends drifted away from me and it hurt too much to keep trying to find friends. I gave up decades ago.

So I’ve only had my counselor. That’s it. One trusted confidante that I have to pay and schedule a 1 hour visit.

All those online dating sites – are there any for friendships? Seeking intelligent, open minded women ready for deep philosophical discussions involving the latest neuroscience and psychology too. Seeking honest, yet gentle and non-judging, opinions and guidance. Seeking warm shoulders to cry on occasionally. Seeking happy voices to share funny stories. Seeking women who don’t mind that I only have 1 pair of sandals each summer, that my nails are never painted, that my house is a mess, that my garden is dead and full of weeds, that my tired eyes show a persistent sadness if you look too closely, but my soul shows a persistent humor and style if you don’t scare it into hiding.

Otherwise, I am seriously looking for suggestions on how to get back into the world and create authentic connections and start letting people know the real me. maybe.

only sadness

When the numbness fades

and the pain recedes

is a wave of sadness

only sadness

washes everything else away

I would die of this sadness

today

if I may

I’m sure the pain of losing me

would one day fade away

I’m sure the pain of being me

will forever haunt my days

I didn’t start this post as a poem or with any intent other than to write through these tears with raw emotion. I have shared these feelings with hubby and my therapist. This sadness is unbearable. I don’t know what to do. The thoughts of hurting myself are getting too strong. I’m terrified of a hospitalization, I’m certain a trip there would the last time anyone saw the real me. But I can’t bear these thoughts. Peter Peter pumpkin eater put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well. If they want to keep me, I will have to let them.

My boys, so innocent, so pure. they see me wiping my eyes and blowing my nose and they accept it is my allergies. Because they have no notion, not in their most creative imagination that someone could have this much pain and sadness. That is the only thing I have done right and why I still exist, to keep them from feeling pain like this. but oh lord I dont have the strength to keep pretending. They are behind me painting, something else I taught them. my back to them, they dont see the tears. the music up they dont hear me.

They paint happy spring pictures. for me. and All I feel is sadness. I can’t enjoy even one happy moment. I recognize it should be a happy moment and put a smile on face. usually. but theres no strength to smile today.

I was hit with another 4 days of migraine this week. It’s too much. I don’t have the strength to put on my mom facade while battling these migraines that stop me in my tracks. I have met my limit. Everyone says I’m so strong, and I am, but everyone has a limit. I have run out.

Attachment, love and NEED

The REAL! conversation was unplanned, and un rehearsed, so odd for me. It just happened. Started because of his fish tank…

Hubby loves his fish tank, NEEDS his fish tank. He’s had salt water fish and corals since he was in high school and he has this huge attachment to them. The tank has looked like crapola for many years now, as he has not had time/money to keep up with it. It has gone through cycles of every color of algae and slime covering everything in sinister looking ways, looking more swampy/deathy than lovely. He’s been working on cleaning it up, found an issue with the water filter, lights are old, pumps are old.

We’ve been discussing selling our house. Practical me asked him “Is there any way to simplify this tank setup so it is easier to maintain and will look beautiful when we show our house to buyers?” He responded with the usual anger and why am I attacking him and his tank. This tank has been a point of contention for over, well, ok forever. I never understood it and I still don’t. His NEED for it. We had that tank when we could not afford it. I used to resent the cost of electricity, water and upkeep supplies. We can technically afford it now – if I keep being able to work. I’m already worried about our reduced income with my reduced hours and going in to planning mode.And thinking it will A) be difficult to sell our house with this tank built into the wall how he made it and B) difficult to move with fragile critters and corals.

I asked him “Would it be possible to convert this tank into something easier to manage that will look great without all of the hard work and time?”

He responded “Roar, roar, why do always attack me and this tank, roar, roar, and why do want to take away something that I love?”

Something clicked in me. He does NEED this tank and LOVE this tank. He is ATTACHED to this tank. Hmmm. I don’t understand. In theory, yes I understand. But I have no possessions or relationships that I feel attached to permanently.

Hmmm.

So here is my basis for reality. I have no attachments. Nothing really matters to me. Certainly not any of my stuff, its all just stuff. Hubby responded with “What if I asked you to get rid of your art supplies? You’re always so protective of them and don’t let the kids use them. Wouldn’t you be upset that I asked you to consider that?”

I considered it, and no. I protect the art supplies because they are expensive. If I could sell used pencils/paints I would do it and buy new ones later in life if desired. I have no attachment to these particular pencils/paints and no use for them at this moment in my life. It didn’t hurt or pain me at all. Its just stuff – I don’t NEED it.

And I starting thinking about the people in my life. I have no actual attachments there either – close but not it. And this isn’t new or some leftover of depression. I’ve felt this way all of my life. I can’t rely on anything or anyone and so I learned not to attach myself to anything I think. I love my kids and will do anything to protect them, but if I could give them to someone else to raise, I would not hesitate, and I would not miss them. I would be relieved. Being a mom is hard, and for me, honestly, not rewarding. Am I a terrible person? Well – I do hate this part of me. But I seriously think my brain is incapable of this level of bonding. Groomed my entire life to mistrust, to fear, to analyze, to avoid, to expect everything I care about to be destroyed or taken away from me — Raised to survive, not to love or be loved, not to need or be needed, not to expect anything to belong to me or remain mine for long. I recall the devastation of watching my objects of affection be tortured, mutilated, destroyed, or taken away from me countless times.

The only thing I could count on was not counting on anything. At this point, at 38, after 22 years of therapy and/or meds – I honestly do not believe my brain can recover from this.

I think love, need, attachment – I think those are things that need to be given to you by your parents. I am going through the motions to provide this for my kids, and I think it is working. I love my kids, but I don’t feel attached to them. I don’t need them. I don’t feel like they are mine, and I know this is terrible to write, but I wish they weren’t mine. If there were any way to drop them off at Grandma’s permanently without causing them pain, I would do it.

I have no NEED for other people. I have learned to tolerate people. I have no NEED to belong. AM I antisocial? Do I have attachment issues? Some borderline personality traits? Permanent sense of loss keeping me in an avoidance pattern? Did fearing and hating my parents and brothers, being repeatedly hurt and abandoned by childhood friends, being repeatedly disappointed by the amount of hurtful people in the world at large…Is this as good as it gets for me?

I see other parents at kid events – sports, plays, recitals, competitions, etc beaming with love and pride and experiencing joy at their kiddos accomplishments. I do and say the right things, but I don’t feel anything inside, nothing more for my kids than any of the others. I could just as easily swap kids and guide and encourage someone elses kids. I have a generalized sense of wanting the best for everyone, but no specific feelings about my own. I don’t live through my kids and generally find all of the extracurriculars a nuisance and annoyance using up my time and energy in preparation, driving and then either dealing with or avoiding the other parents.

So sorry Hubby. I know this is terrible. I have huge amounts of guilt for feeling – or not feeling – this way. But thank you for listening, and freeing me to finally discuss these feelings here as well. I feel like a bit of my load is lightened now that you know the truth. I also know it is too much for you to accept, and that you will protect yourself by thinking this must be a fleeting bout of depression causing this and that it isn’t true. Sadly it is one of the main topics I discuss with my therapist, week after week, year after year.

I don’t FEEL  – I THINK.

Go to an article “Treating adult survivors of severe childhood abuse and neglect” http://www.johnbriere.com/stm.pdf