Tag Archive | childhood sexual abuse

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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Timeline

Last week’s homework for therapy was to create a timeline of my entire life including anything major, stressful, traumatic, or highly memorable.

Umm yeah this was not fun. I went back through forty years, year by year and filled in the events. It left me feeling drained. And sad. So much pain there.

We started going through the events together, and my counselor asks questions or for more details about certain events. So far we made it to age 5. I was already tired going into the session. This format is particularly troubling. I feel like I can’t hide anything. Like every secret is coming, and that timeline is the roadmap of doom.

We spent some time discussing the molestation by my brother when I was 5, he was 12. Counselors have never focused much on this, because of my dad’s abuse taking center stage. But it seems I have considerable amounts of shame and guilt surrounding what happened with my brother. I think I have not been able to shift blame onto him like I did for my dad, so I still feel responsible or accountable. We were both kids, more equals than with dad. It is not simple. I want to forgive us both. But I don’t. It makes me feel like a bad person.

So yay, we uncovered the next topic for cpt retelling exposure. I am not sure if I should post that story once I write it. I feel much more protective of my brother than my dad. Or is it my own shame that makes this feel wrong? Have to think about it. 

Face it to fix it

Do your demons live in your peripheral vision, off to the side, just out of sight like mine do? I know they are there, I readily admit it, but struggle to face them and really give a good look.

Avoidance has been the biggest symptom of my ptsd for years. Avoid the triggers. Avoid the feelings. Avoid the pain.

New counselors are coaxing me out of hiding, teaching me to stop avoiding. Like holding out bacon to a scared lonely puppy. I come out for a moment to inspect the bacon then retreat back into hiding safely again, not sure I want it, not sure I trust them, not sure it is worth the risk.

My assignment for couples counseling has seemed impossible this week. I don’t know why I agreed to do it, other than I always agree to try. He asked me to write a list of all of my touch-related triggers so we can work on creating safety at home.

This is my fault…I opened my big mouth and complained that hubby often seems to forget about my specific triggers, and sets me into flashbacks or panic, and I am always reminding him don’t do it like that. And then I have to go somewhere horrible, recover, and forgive him. Repeat nearly daily. It never gets better no matter how much I remind him.

And so I have been asked to put it in writing. All of the things that terrify me. The things I don’t want to happen to me, so I won’t be triggered and reminded of AF or my brother abusing me. I am supposed to round them up, list them out, and share in counseling with two men? Yes one is hubby…but sometimes he is just a scary man when I am frightened.

I do NOT want to do this.

My inner lost puppy is whimpering and hiding under the bed and does not want bacon.

I put it off all week. I have to leave for my session soon. I decided to post it here, because my friends are here, and I feel braver here, and because knowing it may help someone else gives me strength.

So here it is. I may be vague on some of these, writing just enough to know I looked quickly. Some of these are quick startles. Some of these are context specific, like time of day, room, position, preceding events and mood. Some are mild while others are instant and extreme. Some cause me to get upset, some I try to hit the ‘attacker’, some I freeze up and can’t move or speak for some time. Some make me feel used and owned, like my body does not belong to me. Some make me feel luke I am a bad person, a whore even.

* Unexpected touches of any kind
* Grabbing or hugging me from behind me, reaching around me
* Swatting, grabbing my butt
* Hovering or leaning over me while I am lower than you
* Waking me up with touch and no sound
* Me sitting on someones lap
* Me laying on top of someone, facing up
* Someone sitting next to me grabbing my knee or leg
* Thumb in my hand without noticing
* Slow motion touches
* Massage that turns into touches
* Asking me if I like being touched
* Watching me change my clothes
* Touching or kissing me or leaning over me while i am sleeping
* Opening my bedroom door at night

Truth can’t be seen by all

Shared from Soul Healing Art, Convincing – http://wp.me/p1C6hH-2lw

I’ve known so many people unable to see the truth. This post explains why in such a simple way. The truth seems like an attack. Hmmm.

In this way, I’ve attacked many. They didn’t want to believe their husband, father, brother, neighbor, coworker, etc could be such a terrible man. That evil can be likable. So when presented with my truth, it was easier to believe I was lying. That didn’t ruin their lives or view of themselves or their worlds. If I was lying, then nothing had to change. It was easier and they felt safer.

I understand. I do.

Maybe I would even take the easy and safe option if I ever had one. We don’t know. I don’t know. I never had easy and safe so for me, I’ve always been able to do the hard stuff.

Well, I can do what’s hard for others anyway, like facing the truth and enduring pain. The things that might be easy for others, that’s what’s hard for me, like taking care of myself, enjoying a picnic, feeling human like I belong.

But I’ve always known my truth. I may not have understood why until recently, but I knew I had these issues, and have been desperately seeking help, trying to get better. Trying to BE better.

I wish I knew a way to reveal the truth to those in hiding without them seeing me as an attacker or a threat. Is there a way? Or do we have to be patient and wait on the other person to come around?

Migraine and PTSD memory emotion connection

migraine and ptsd, seems to be like peanut butter and jelly.

Today my brain is like jelly, missing that peanut butter to make anything stick, but wanted to try to get some thoughts down.

Yesterday was watching ‘So you think you can dance’ with kiddos and a girl with a hurt leg from a car accident came on to audition and it triggered me big time, I guess, I didn’t know at the time.

I cried when she talked about rehab and saw her supportive family, and how brave she was to get on stage with her ugly leg. My family hid me, made me feel ashamed of my ugliness. I was overcome with happiness for this girl dancing again, but also knowing she’ll never be quite the same, so much damage, so much pain. And then I had a flood of memories of AF and his own physical therapy for my paralyzed leg, he refused to pay a dr, so he was the one to do it.

I only had a glimpse of a moment of that memory yesterday, and really wasn’t even aware of it at the time until much later last night. I didn’t hold the tears back, as it was appropriate to cry a bit during this scene, we all were affected by it. But I didn’t sob, just a few tears, moist eyes really, and that tight feeling in the throat. But then I felt overwhelmingly sleepy, and since the kiddos were all content watching tv, I lay down on the couch and fell into a deep, deep uncontrollable sleep for the next 3 hours.

I could not believe so much time had passed when I woke up and saw the time. I noticed my hands were tingly, but thought I must have been laying on them. Until I stood up, and saw how wobbly I was, and then the real problems were when I tried to talk the words were all scrambly and I saw sparkles everywhere, like rainbow fireflys.

I felt quite uneasy, a deep fear, a childish type of fear, like don’t turn out the light, and I noticed it was unbearable when Hubby simply left the room. I felt abandoned! I was doing anything to keep him in the room and I had no idea why. We ended up talking about all kind of things for the next several hours, until we uncovered a whole slew of fresh memories I had from childhood. They weren’t all bad or disturbing, they didn’t all involve AF, many were about the 4th of July, but all of them were so vivid I could taste, hear, smell, feel, or re-experience some part of them. Some of the memories were from early times with Hubby and he had trouble recalling what I described from 20 years ago. I think it helped Hubby to understand how intense this experience can be for me, and that I am not intentionally sitting and thinking about anything, not drudging up the past – the past came back and hit me unavoidably in the brain.

I think it overloaded my system and forced me to sleep and caused the migraine, all those memories reactivating.

The emotions attached to these memories were raw and wild, and I went through each one, like rapid fire, not knowing what to do. I kept asking Hubby if I am crazy, is this it, have I lost it, because I feel like my brain has been hijacked, these thoughts and feelings are not my own. I had all this shame and fear and confusion.

I’m still in pain, limping a bit, so much visual snow, distortions and sparkles, but my thoughts and emotions have slowed down a bit. Hubby stayed home from work to help me today, which both angered me that I need his help, and is a relief to me that he is helping. I have too many things to manage with the kids that I’m beyond struggling to do and the pressure to be the mom I want to be is too much. Constant worries and always something new to do and take care of, doctors and appointments with kids, it is too much. But I have to find a way to do it.

AND then – I don’t like ME right now. In fact I hate me right now. I discovered this last night. All this talk of acceptance and self-love and I’m back here at the loathing. I think I’m pathetic and I’ve lost patience with myself. I think its because those childhood emotions are so fresh right now, so trying to be gentle, but honestly I’m so confused. It’s like my brain is slippery and I can’t find anything solid to hold onto anymore. I need and hate Hubby in the exact same moment and with such intensity, it is truly frightening to me now. I used to make sense. I used to be logical. These migraines have turned me into nonsensical soup and I swear I did not go through the mirror or the rabbit hole drink from the ‘drink me’ bottle.

Hands Off, I’m Healing

My biggest stress right now is the relationship I have with Hubby. I am deeply saddened and disappointed by his expectations of me as I heal. I feel so pressured to be all better right now and act and respond the same way I used to to him. Problem is I am learning those weren’t healthy responses.

I am appreciative of his constant energy towards housework and drudgery of just getting work and stuff done, doing what is required to keep us afloat, taking it on without much complaint. I’ve asked him to help lighten my load, drive me here and there, and does all this.

But when I make myself vulnerable and honestly tell him how I am feeling and he says he doesn’t believe me, and goes on acting as he always has, I get quite hurt and angry. I told him I am not ready for intimacy. I don’t trust him. My body doesn’t trust him. I don’t feel affectionate. Please don’t make me hug and kiss you when I don’t feel it, please don’t ask me to fake it. I keep saying this over and over and he doesn’t stop trying to kiss me goodbye until I finally demand it, and then he feels all rejected. I don’t want to hurt him, but he is asking too much of me right now and if I say my body is untouchable than I think that should a clear and respected line.

I shared that how I feel right now I can’t see our marriage recovering and that it is fundamentally broken and I need to work on feeling safe and feeling like we can even be good friends and coparents again. Based on the fact that I can feel so terrible and he thinks everything is perfect, it is worrisome how poorly we communicate.

And then after so many years together, he just does not get the abuse issues. That I have a hard time saying no to him. Actually nearly impossible time saying no to him once he is already touching me, I’m already frozen. It was how I was raised. So I asked for a break while he wasn’t touching me, for him to give me some space in the next few weeks, to let my body and nerves heal. The stress of ‘is he going to try to kiss me? or swat my ass?’ was too much. It shouldn’t be stressful at all and not fair to me. It makes me furious that he can’t understand this and plays the poor wounded puppy being pushed away and rejected by his wife. Its not like I’m doing this out of some power play, like no sex for you unless you buy me those earrings or something stupid. I’m trying to heal. I’m sorry he is so insecure he can’t handle giving me some space, but I don’t feel I have to supply him his comfort and affection. I’ve done that way too long already. Go hug the dogs.

So I thought I spelled this need out really clearly to him a few days ago. I was starting to feel safer in my own home.

He actually woke me up this morning before work, after I clearly asked him not to do this, and started rubbing my feet. Which should be a sweet thing because I injured my ankle last week, but not when I told him that startling me awake in the morning by touching me has to stop. He starts rubbing my feet and all the way up my legs and I want to scream stop but of course I can’t, and I want to kick him, but of course I can’t, and it also feels good and he’s being nice so I feel guilty, and then nauseous, and then he leaves for work and I hate him. I curl up in bed, and I hate him and want to run far away and never see him again ever.

I’m left wondering if this if intentional abuse or can he really be this thick headed. Either way, I really don’t want anything to do with him right now.

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