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.

 

 

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

Forced

Every action is forced. This is what new therapist told me today – it sounds like every second of every day you feel forced into doing what you’re doing. Well let’s see.

I force myself out of bed. Because the alarm went off and the kids need my help

I force myself to smile. Because it is not everyone else’s fault I am suffering.

I force myself to work. Because we need the money.

I force myself to go out with friends. Because it is good for me??⇓1

I force myself to do chores. Because the dust bunnies do actually jump up and attack. And we need clothes to wear and silverware to eat and all that.

I force myself to be honest with hubby. Because it is good for the marriage??⇓2

I force myself to hug the kids. Because they deserve it and I love them even if I don’t like hugging.

I force myself to exercise. Because it is good for me

I force myself to eat vegetables. Because it is good for me

I force myself to keep going. to keep trying. to keep hoping. Because there is no other choice.

I thought her word was much more negative than what I thought I have been doing. I thought I was choosing to do these things, out of love.

This new therapist essentially broke up with me today, saying she can’t help me, there is nothing new to say, and that I should wait for my previous therapist to return. Know what I needed on top of adjusting to a new therapist? Being rejected by a new therapist. Wow. OK then.

I have really been struggling with depression again, been through a lot this winter, and although she was not a perfect match for me, I thought things were going well. I use therapy as a way to keep me centered and balanced, check I’m not slipping away, and that I’m making healthy long-term choices. She asked me today if I had any hope of feeling better one day. I said no. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like ‘she can’t give it to me. I’m more self-aware than anyone she has ever met. I’m more self-actualized than anyone she has ever treated. I know all the coping tools and use them daily.’

What she didn’t say out loud to complete that thought, because she stopped herself short, but I fear to be true – this is as good as it gets for someone like me. And this isn’t good at all. I don’t know what to do with this information. Nothing I guess. Just file it away with the rest of the crap in my head and keep going and keep doing.

I’m tired. so so tired.

⇓1 – I’ve discovered I only like my ‘friends’ in very controlled settings where we have a purpose, like art, dance, music, volunteering and working together. I have survived several dinner parties, informal gatherings, and nights out now and really have no desire to hang out with these people. The more I know them, the more shallow and negative they seem.

⇓2 – I’m not sure honesty is always best for marriage to someone like me. I know he loves me, and there is nothing he can do when he asks how is my day and I tell him the truth – that I endlessly pictured my death all day long and find relief in the images. Whenever I drive I see the trucks next to me crashing into my car. I feel the airbag hit me. I feel the glass and metal puncture my organs. I feel my bones crack. I feel my life slip away and I am comforted by this. I should feel tortured perhaps, but I don’t.

Dances With Pedophiles

Get ready for a post full of pain.  I’m angry and hurting and not quite sure what to do with it, or how to find peace again. I’m still struggling with what is right.

I made it to my niece’s wedding. (See this old post )

The day itself was lovely. My niece was so obviously happy and in love, full of hope for her future. It was amazing to share her special day. I just wish I didn’t have to share it with two known pedophiles.  Yes two. This family has two abusive grandfathers, one is my father, and the other is my sis-in-law’s father.

I was prepared for my own abusive father to make an appearance. I was feeling strong and knew I could handle it. I was completely taken aback to see the other grandfather there, and seemingly welcome. Just 2 years ago, he was caught touching a few of my nieces. They stopped talking and visiting at that time. I guess they asked the bride not to invite him, but she did anyway – since the grandfather had never violated her and she had nice memories of him and missed him.

So let’s paint the picture. It was nice small wedding, in a tiny chapel, and then a fairly small reception hall. My own abusive father did not attend the wedding (I personally think he fears the lightning bolt may strike him down if he dares enters a church) but the other guy did – all smiling and proud like he owned the place and nothing was ever wrong. I felt like a hand was gripping and crushing my heart when I saw him there. But I focused on the ceremony and how happy the young couple looked, and how much in awe my own children were since this was their first wedding. (I did not like the old churchy phrases in the vows of her submitting and obeying her husband, but I didn’t dwell on that)

After the ceremony we had a couple of hours before the reception, so we explored the quaint college town. After a stop at McDonald’s, we visited a tiny candy shop with many flavors of popcorn, a cool antique shop, and an art gallery/store with many amazing handmade items like wooden boxes, felted creatures, mobiles, candles, etc. We were all truly enjoying our time there. I was not feeling nervous at that point. (Although the interesting and over-friendly shop owners in the small town made me wonder if I was actually in a Stephen King novel at one point)

We knew in advance that this would be a dry reception and had made the necessary preparations. Hubby bought a dozen little airplane or mini-fridge sized bottles of whiskey. We dosed our sodas before going in, and filled my purse and his pockets with extra bottles. Not that we couldn’t make a few hours without drinking, it was for the fun of it. We felt like we were in college and sneaking a drink became a fun distraction for us. We’d sneak off to the restroom and have a secret shot, and giggle together while the pastor and best man spoke of the evils of drinking.

After the long, way too long, toasts and introductions, I heard a waiter say they needed to make room for a man in a wheelchair. They were making room at the table next to mine, right behind my seat. Yup, you guessed it. In came my abusive father on his motorized scooter, with his mini oxygen tank. His emphysema makes him unable to stand any more. I looked out the window and at my kids across my table as I heard the scooter behind me. I did not turn around. Hubby put his chair closer to mine and sat with his arm around me.

Somehow we had our dinner, with a pedophile directly behind us, and another a few tables away. My daughter asked “Is that Grandpa?” and pointed behind me. I said yes without turning around. She looked away and went to talk with her cousin, completely uninterested in him. My boys didn’t even ask. My youngest doesn’t even know who he is. I felt so good that they would never be a part of his world, never miss him, and never know him. So happy I was able to do that for them. Even if he is still alive, there will be no confusion about wanting him invited to special events.

Then my little guys needed a potty visit. I went with all 3 kids out to the lobby. As I waited outside the Men’s room for the boys to finish up, I saw my abusive father, my brother and his youngest son heading outside. I was curious but not worried since my brother was there. When I got back to my seat, my mom said she overheard my abusive father asking the little boy to go out to his van! She said she told my brother right away and he went along with them. No idea what that was about, and I’m not letting my thoughts wander too far about it. Needless to say that brought me up to high alert level and made me question if we should stay, but everyone else was having a good time, so I should be as well, right?

Dinner was over and the happy couple had their first dance. It was so sweet and tender, I was bursting with joy for them. And then it was time for the father-daughter dance. I saw my brother head out onto the dance floor, but then my mind turned him in to my own father, and I was immersed in a flashback. Instead of my brother and my niece, I saw my father and I dancing at my own wedding. I felt my father’s hand on my back as we danced. I felt the crowd watching us, so few of them knowing our secret. But the ones that did, let me dance with him, so I took my cues from them. And then I was back to current time, the flashback passed, but I was afraid I was going to scream, cry or vomit. I told Hubby I had to get out of there. We rushed out of the room and went to sit in our van for a while. My vision restored, my fear passed, and was replaced with a deep seated anger – nearly rage – that I was out here suffering while the pedophiles were in there having a grand time. So I steeled my nerves, downed another mini-whiskey, and went back inside.

Like anyone raised as prey, the first thing I did upon re-entering the room was locate my children and the two predators. I realized I shouldn’t have left them and felt so guilty. They were fine, more than fine, dancing with their cousins and not even aware I had left the room. My Mom was watching them and motioned for me to join her. I wasn’t ready for that and shook my head as I scanned the room for the predators – the scooter-bound one was taking picture after picture of the children dancing (vomit rose in my throat as I thought about them lustfully viewing those pictures later) and the other was on the dance floor, twirling one of my nieces (She was 18 and seemed to miss her Grampa). Everyone seemed to be having a great time, and only I was suffering or worried. Although I am used to this now, it is still surreal to feel like the crazy one. The only one with problems, why can’t I just relax and have fun? That’s what they say to me, not to let these creeps have power over me, to ruin my day. I tried to eat the wedding cake and convince myself that we were all OK and safe, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t take my eyes off those men for a second.

My other brother brought his new girlfriend over to meet me, and I cringed. I didn’t want to meet her, and I had no energy left for small talk. She started asking questions and demonstrating ownership of my brother, with her hands all over him, and telling him where to sit and stuff. I don’t like her, and view her as manipulative, though I don’t really know her. But I’m an expert at spotting fakes. I was ready to leave, and about to leave soon, and told the kids just a few more dances. They were having a great time and hadn’t seen their cousins in nearly a year. To them – nothing was wrong. I so much wanted for them to have this wonderful memory and begin thinking about falling in love some day.

But then something was terribly wrong. I felt it before I saw it. The other grandfather left the dance floor, and walked over to one of my nieces (about age 13) that was holding my youngest niece (about age 2) who had fallen asleep in her arms after making her pretty dress twirl and twirl the hour before on the dance floor.  Her grandfather held out his arms and though I could not hear him, obviously asked to hold the littlest one. I watched in horror as my niece easily handed over the tiny sleeping girl and went off to dance, never looking back, never thinking twice, never viewing any harm or threat in the situation.

I lost my mind. It’s a good thing the music was very loud, because I screamed, “Oh hell no!!” and then “I can’t fucking do this any more, I have to get out of here!” and I ran out of the room blinded with rage. Hubby followed me again, made sure I was OK, and then went back in to tell my brothers and my mom.  I paced around the lobby liked a caged lion ready to attack, so full of adrenaline that it felt like my heart was thumping in my head instead of my chest. It took every ounce of energy I had to remain outwardly calm and not cause a scene. I just needed to feel safe, and to know those little girls would be safe.  And to stay grounded in reality. Why was no one else upset? Why?

My brother and sis-in-law were shocked when I went back in there, pointed at the grandfather holding the little girl, and said very clearly, “This is not OK. I can’t pretend that this is OK. I love you, but I have to go now. Please keep your kids away from him. Please.” I walked around the room, fists clenched, my fingernails digging in my palms to keep me grounded and present, and hugged everyone and said goodbye with the best smile I could still manage. Luckily everyone was so busy chatting or dancing, and the music was so loud, I don’t think anyone noticed a problem. It made sense for us to go, we had a long drive home.

I went back out to the lobby while Hubby gathered our kids and belongings. My mom came out to wait with me, and kept rubbing my arm and telling me it was all OK, that everyone was watching the Grampas and no one would let anything bad happen here. She insisted they were safe. Every time she touched my arm I had to control an urge to punch her or her push her right through the door. I was so sickened that everyone was more concerned about appearances, that they actually thought it was OK for that man to hold that sweet little girl. And what about the girls he touched? What were they thinking? I’m sure they were minimizing what happened, and thinking it must not have been so bad if Mom and Dad allowed him to dance with them now. Those mixed messages are so dangerous and can open the door for that man to contact those girls in the future. They listen to him because he is an adult. Even though that teenage niece knew what he had done, she didn’t think twice about giving her little sister to Grampa. It’s just Grampa. Yes he’s weird, but that’s just Grampa.

———————–

And now I’m so confused. I spoke with my brother the day after the wedding, and he said he felt he didn’t have a choice here, not a good one anyway. He said his adult daughter invited the grandparents even though he asked her not to. He said he had everyone on high alert and was shocked at first that his daughter listened to Grampa so easily. But then again we weren’t shocked. Children rarely defy adults, we’re just not wired to do so. He said Grampa was watched much more closely after I left, but that they could not tell him to stay away from the children. They said he is angry and unpredictable and would have no problem making a scene and ruining the wedding. So for fear of a scene, a toddler was held by a pedophile. Because it was ok, calm down, everyone was watching, so nothing bad could happen. Why am I the only one that thinks something bad already happened? Why do they allow these people to control them, to do things they know is wrong, to avoid a scene, and actually protect the abuser? Should they have put their foot down and demanded the Grampas not be invited? And then he said that my own father had no formal invitation, that he showed up anyway. I’m not sure I believe that. I think the young bride acted the same way I did, and wanted an image of a perfect wedding, which for her needed to include grandparents. For me, at my wedding, it had to include my father or I would have had to tell hundreds of people why he wasn’t there, and I was unable to do that yet. My delusional world of denial was the the only thing that kept me alive at that point.

But now, me now, would I have done the same for my own daughter’s wedding? Would I have allowed this man to touch my youngest daughter to keep things going smoothly for my oldest? No. Never. If it were my own daughter in his arms, you better believe there would be a scene. Even if it made me look like the crazy one. Maybe they’d accuse me of being drunk. Whatever. It’s bad enough that these creeps get to enjoy viewing children. No way would I allow them to get within arms reach.

But for them – I played along. I can’t change them, I can’t protect every child, and it isn’t up to me to scream pedophile. No one would believe that charming man, smiling, laughing, and dancing with his grandkids was actually plotting out ways to get them alone. At least this man will go back to his own state and leave us all alone. But I still feel responsible and like I let down my nieces some how. Like I should have done more.

Damn these men for putting this burden on us. Damn them.

 

Sometimes it is Better to Go To Bed Angry

I know I have always heard the advice for relationships and marriage to “Never go to bed angry”. I have been finding that isn’t the best advice for me, and possibly not for other abuse survivors and PTSD sufferers.

I’ll share my recent experience here.

I have found that anger makes me quite irrational and generally pissy. These characteristics are not good a good foundation for constructive conversations. In fact, anger gives me piss-colored lenses, so that anything Hubby says will further annoy and anger me, causing greater distance between the two of us. Combine this with his tendency to get defensive, and a short temper that makes him yell when someone is being pissy. Then combine that with my PTSD response to trigger fight-or-flight when someone scares me (like his raised voice will do). What you get is me either shutting down and pushing him away, or him running to the hills to avoid conflict and blame. No healthy conversations happening here at all.

In the past, meaning most of my marriage up until last March, I never even knew when I was angry, and simply swallowed it down as another sign that life was terrible and that my marriage was terrible and added whatever caused the anger to my ever-growing list of reasons to resent Hubby. I lived in a foggy state of survival, somewhere between feeling numb, or let-down. I never took any responsibility or thought I could change anything. I had learned helplessness from childhood abuse that carried over to my marriage. I had no sense of self-worth, and based everything on how others treated me, so someone in a crabby mood confirmed I was a bad person. Until one day, I couldn’t take it any more. I was willing to lose my marriage if it meant finding myself. I got brave, and presented Hubby with my list of resentments. He wasn’t exactly pleased, and things were quite bumpy (think earthquake) for many months. We decided to have a fresh start. Erase the past hurts, and try to re-connect to each other, to the couple we were before kids and life wedged us apart. I enacted the 3 day rule for fighting fairly. Any issues must be discussed within 3 days to avoid resentment piling up. I love the 3 days part still, because it allows us both to cool down and find a calm, safe environment to have the discussion. And it has always been a discussion these days – no more fights!

Currently I am working on the process outlined in the Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz. I am becoming aware of feelings and identifying triggers. I used to feel so bad all of the time that I didn’t notice when a fresh hurt had been triggered. Now I can say that I am centered more often than not, and can feel when something is off. I don’t always know what yet right away and have to do some detective work.

Here’s how it goes now:

Hmm, I’m really hungry. Oooh, chocolate ice cream. Eat ice cream mindlessly until lips are frozen, notice half the carton is gone. Hate on myself for being a pig, put away the ice cream. Hmmm, I’m cold. Snuggle on the couch with a blanket. Wake up 2 hours later hoping I didn’t miss any meetings. Check the calendar. Phew! All good. But I’m still tired. Make some coffee, add some whiskey. Have a shot while making the next cup. Ahh. Some relief. Do some work. Get really irritated by some emails. Too irritated. Play a video game. Be short with kids. Push away Hubby when he comes home from work. Walk away when he asks what’s wrong. Yell at kids to go to bed, wish Hubby could do everything. Finally get kids in bed with Hubby doing just about everything. Hubby asks if I’m angry? Do I want to talk? Snap at him. No! Try to watch a sitcom and get very annoyed by it, just not funny tonight. Take my book upstairs and read alone in my room. Wonder why I’m angry?

Enter the slippery slope of self-hate, thinking I put on a few pounds this winter and should not have eaten ice cream today, worry that I didn’t do enough work and will have a zillion hours to do tomorrow, and what if I’m tired tomorrow? Then I’ll have 2 zillion hours to do the next day. I wonder what Hubby is doing downstairs and why he didn’t follow me up. I’m glad he didn’t, because I don’t want to talk, because I don’t why I’m angry yet. But feel a bit rejected any way. Focus on feeling rejected a minute. Is that it? Is that the source? Hmm, part of it. Stop self-hating and look for causes. Think about yesterday.

Yesterday I had some old feelings come back, where I felt fat and unattractive, and felt the need to prove to myself I was still attractive by flirting with Hubby and seeing if he reacted. I craved a feeling of power. I did some things and said some things that were out of sync with the true me. Not classy or cute flirting. I discovered I had some residual shame for that. And then when Hubby fell asleep early in his recliner, I felt stupid and rejected and went to bed alone. And when he came to bed a bit later, even though I was not in any mood for sex, I felt the need to have him want me – to prove I was desirable. But I wanted him to make the first move, otherwise it wouldn’t prove he wanted me, just that he was not turning me down. But that window of opportunity didn’t last long, as he was quickly snoring. At some point I fell asleep, though not a good sleep, one full of fitful dreams. Until I was awakened by a certain touch, an unmistakable move that says he wants me now. I was still a bit sleep-groggy, and still not really in the mood or recovered from that anger, but was very pleased that he initiated it finally. And so I didn’t stop him. Even though I was not in the mood. I had an initial surge of joy that he wanted me, but that quickly faded to a dull numbness. I went to that familiar place of not being totally present, of allowing my body to respond without letting any of the feelings or pleasure make it to my brain. I was disconnected. Again. And I hated myself for it. Yup, right in the middle of what should have been an expression of love, I hated myself. And then when we were done – the shame. The feelings of being used, dirty, powerless, worthless and empty. Later came the feelings of being disappointed in myself for making all this progress, and still not being able to speak up at the right time.

So after stewing in those feelings all day, without knowing it, that when the warning signals came from my brain to get relief, in my old friends sugar, sleep and alcohol. A terrible cycle of self-hate and misunderstanding, instead of self-love, like I know I deserve! And so I was angry. Angry with myself for being in the same place again. Angry at Hubby for not knowing any better. Angry at my Dad for putting this burden on me. Angry at anyone else who doesn’t have this problem. Just anger. I now know anger like this is a signal for me that something isn’t right, and I have to take action to correct it.

I also now know that although this anger is real and means I need to do something – it is not entirely rational, and is out of proportion. So I feel the anger, accept it, see it, and ride it out. One day I hope to use even better techniques here, like exercise or dance to help get the anger out more quickly. But for now, awareness is a good enough first step. This awareness allowed me to go be angry, recognize it, let it pass, and calmly discuss all these issues with Hubby the following evening without yelling, without blame. We sat on the couch, hand in hand, and poured it all out. We offered suggestions. He actually asked if something was wrong with our morning romp. He felt something too but wasn’t sure about it.

We decided not to have early morning escapades where he initiates before I am fully awake. This was too much of a trigger for what my Dad had done, sneaking in to my room so many nights. We decided he’ll wake me up with conversation and snuggles and make sure I am present and accounted for. Because it really isn’t something I want to miss, I want to be there, enjoying every second with him.

We are learning. We can get through this. Together.