Tag Archive | isolation

Isolation

I have been isolating myself again, or still. It seems to be getting worse, and I don’t care any more. Being social is no longer a goal, short term or long term. I am not going officially hermit…yet. Though I would if I could. The only thing stopping me from slipping away into my own world is my kids. 

As I near the end of my therapy program, I have done some even deeper thinking than usual if that might be possible. I am thinking I am done changing to be accepted or make others happy. (Except my kids, they are always the exception and I will endure whatever is needed for them) If others don’t find me acceptable I am finding I don’t care. I prefer to be alone and at peace. I have no need or desire for friends. I am done trying to force fit myself into some model that works for others. I am content being invisible. It is only when I try to fit in that it pains me when I cannot. I have never enjoyed what others enjoy, even when I am included. Shopping is a tortuous necessity. I know nothing of fashion and dress for comfort and function and value. I hate wasting money. I feel most things most people have is a waste of space and money. I admire beautiful things but feel content to visit them in nature or museums, no need to own them. I have no need for touch or affection. I would prefer no one ever touched me ever again. I continue to adapt, to try to be okay in a world that disagrees with me on nearly everything. Everything I am ‘supposed’ to be, I am not. I am done trying. I won’t run away or become the eccentric oddball everyone talks about. No, I choose door number 3. I shut up. Keep to myself. Try not to bother people and try not to let them bother me.

Discarded

abandoned-1251614_960_720

I’ve been thinking all day yesterday, all last night, and I finally figured out the word I need to describe how I felt  when I was 16. Discarded. Like trash.

Here is my attempt to process this event using ABC format – Event – My thoughts – My feelings.

I’ve been thinking for years I made a horrible decision in telling my mom about the abuse and asking to move in with her.(column A) I have thoughts like – I should have kept my mouth shut, my life would be better if I stayed quiet, I was stupid for thinking people would help me, my reality is too terrible for other people to handle… (column B)

I feel angry at myself still for this decision to speak up, to get myself out of AF’s home. I am thinking I only had one more year of high school, it would have been better if no one knew and I finished with my friends instead of losing everyone. (column C)

I feel angry at all of the adults in my 16 year old world that mishandled the situation. I should have been protected. They should have known what would happen socially and emotionally, but they were doing their job to protect me physically, that’s it.(column C)

I feel ashamed when I remember the looks of everyone who suddenly knew my secrets.(column C)

I feel guilt for keeping the secret, and also for not keeping it, for betraying AF. (column C)

I feel overwhelming sadness for that girl and what she endured, how alone she truly was. (column C)

There is no part of me that believes my mom did not know about AF’s abuse, that he was touching me all day, leaving her bed to come to mine at night. But denial is strong and she chose not to believe it or act on it until the day I said to her “He touches me”. That’s all I said, she did not ask for details. Because I am sure in heart she already knew.

My boyfriend had encouraged me and said I had to do it – He is the reason I spoke up at all, not for myself, but for him. He couldn’t stand the thought of me living with him any more. I was so confused and conflicted. I was trying to build a relationship with this boyfriend but it was impossible, all these barriers that I didn’t understand then but I do now. I fell for this boy, deeply, painfully, and so I wanted to do the right thing  – for him. Of course he broke up with me after all this happened, after he pressured me to sleep with him. He was a year older and said he wanted to be “free” at college. Lucky him. Getting to be free.

Here is the part that may be difficult for anyone other than an abuse survivor to understand. I didn’t want to leave AF. I didn’t want him touching me, but he didn’t do that much any more – I was hardly ever home and I think he preferred younger girls (gross, vomit, but I think true). I also think I was more difficult to control now, as I grew older and gained independence he lost some of his power over me and tried less often to exert it. But listen closely – I loved AF. I needed him. (I feel the worst guilt, the worst torment over this, how will I ever forgive myself for needing what this foul creature offered me??)

He was the only human connection in my life – he designed it that way, remember? We were actually very close and talked about everything with no boundaries. I understand this now, the enmeshment, but back then it felt like he truly cared about every detail of my life. He needed to know everything to control me…but it felt good to tell him everything because there was no one else. Above all I wanted to make him happy, to please him, to make him proud of me. My overachieving was an effort to escape his punishments but also to gain his approval because sometimes he did show me warmth and those moments were amazing. People will do anything for a few moments of warmth, to feel connected to another human, to feel accepted – we are wired this way – and AF  took full advantage of this my entire childhood. Anyway, I am trying to explain that I did not want to move out of AF’s home and into my mom’s, I did not want to leave the only person that accepted me, that talked to me. I feared my mom, I feared that she did truly hate me, and only met me out of obligation from the court order. Our conversations were always surface level, like strangers discussing the weather, we were not a part of each other’s lives. Until I said those words, “He touches me”, then suddenly she was to be my mom, my actual mom, and life was never the same. Sadly I cannot say it got better, and in many ways it got worse.

Child Protective Services came to my school and pulled me out of class, in front of everyone, to interview me, no, to interrogate me in the principal’s office, where he looked at me with such pity. They asked me to tell them exactly what AF had done to me. I froze, unable to speak. So they asked me a series of disturbing questions to which I could say yes or no. “Did he ever kiss you?” “Did he ever put his tongue in your mouth?” “Did he ever take your clothes off?” “Did he ever take pictures of you?” ….you get the idea. It was horrible, humiliating, traumatic, terrifying. I think I answered honestly but I don’t recall, I think I dissociated at some point to avoid passing out.

Sent back to class, kids asking me what that was about, I think I told them it was a custody battle, that my mom wanted me to move in with her. At some point that week, everyone knew. I don’t know how. I don’t know who told my secret. My mom? My best friend? My best friend’s mom? A teacher? Did someone overhear a conversation in the office? I just don’t know. All I know is that at some point, the hallways became easier for me to walk down, because the other kids stepped aside as if I had the plague. They stared, they made nasty comments, they laughed, they stopped sitting with me in class or lunch. Some of my friends’ parents actually yelled at me for not speaking up sooner, angrily scolding me, publicly shaming me, for endangering their kids, for allowing their kids to come to my house. No one was allowed to come see me or talk to me any more even though I was now at my mom’s. This sent me the message that it wasn’t AF, but me that was bad, disgusting, damaged and might somehow hurt their kids. I absorbed that deeply on top of the message AF had already planted there. None of those other adults reached out to me and said AF was horrible, not me. Some actually said they knew AF for years and I must be lying, he wouldn’t do that. Others said nothing, but looked at me from a distance with such pity that I wanted to melt and disappear.

So I did. I disappeared. I withdrew from everything. I stopped trying to talk to anyone. I brought headphones so it seemed my choice to not talk when I sat alone. I worked in the art room during lunch to avoid no one wanting me. Then I found the program to attend classes at a local college. I had completed my high school credits already, I was in all AP classes anyway, so this was perfect. I left. I disappeared and no one noticed.

I have never had a friend, other than my husband, since then. 24 years of isolation to both protect myself and punish myself – simultaneously. Again, a duality that only a survivor understands.

Great ABC sheet handouts with explanations

Celebrating my own freedom

English: A height diagram of the six tallest t...

The six tallest towers in the world  – Nope, Mine was much taller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been a prisoner far too long. A prisoner of my parents’ abuse. A prisoner of my own dark thoughts. A prisoner in my own tallest tower.

Today I am celebrating my own freedom, from myself, from the lonely tower.

I am celebrating because I am a strong woman, and I’m allowed to be a strong woman in this country.

I am celebrating because I am making healthy choices for myself, and can walk around with my head held high. And can accept the smiles of my family, friends and strangers, as they see me. They actually see me.

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For the first time EVER in my life, I am making long term goals. Like picturing myself as old and wrinkled (but still vivacious and gorgeous) and enjoying a life I made for myself, a life I shared with my husband, kids, and friends.

I used to be hidden away, locked in the tallest tower, protecting my heart from pain by never letting it love or hope or dream. Life was dull, dreary, and meaningless.

After many years of therapy, and healing, and some really super-duper hard work, (understatement yes, but this post is not about the hard work) I saw a glimmer of light off in the distance, and I had to get out of my walls of solitude to investigate. That glimmer, was the love my husband has had for me all these years. I never believed in it, never felt it. But the more I came to believe that I was worthy of it, the more I wanted it – no, NEEDED it.

So I climbed down my tower, slowly, step by step. Then  I opened the door. I tentatively took a step outside, and the light nearly blinded me by its power, so I stayed there in the doorway for a bit, unsure if my next step would be forwards or backwards. But the next step was not up to me. My husband was there at the door, and as soon as it opened, he reached in and pulled me out. (Tears in my eyes writing this) And then he held me. Just held me there, at the edge. He knew not to pull me any further, that I needed to stay close to the tower or I would run away. (He is such a smart man, this hubby of mine) And every day we have been walking away from that tower, together, hand in hand, step by step.

Well last night, I looked behind me for the first time in months, expecting to see my tower waiting for me with the door wide open. But I did not see it. It seems that the door not only closed when I wasn’t looking, but I have come so far from that blasted lonely tower that I can not even find it any more. I can not imagine a life on my own any more. I am free now.

I have plans with friends so often now, that it no longer feels strange to say “my friends”. Of course I have friends, everyone has friends – yes well, up until a year or so ago, I did not have any at all. No one to talk to except my mom, my young kids, and emails with my boss. I barely spoke to hubby. And all those talks with my mom,  well, we now know she is not a friend.

I have plans with my husband and kids, plans I look forward to. Day trips, vacations, even family movie or game nights. It is not me and them, or me and him, or just me – it is US!

I have plans for my career, to achieve a position with more hours, benefits, and add to the financial security of my family.

I have plans to fix up my house, both for me to enjoy right now, but with the goal of selling it, so we can find one that has enough space for the family that has outgrown it.  This tiny house was fine for a young married couple, but is now bursting at the seams.

I have plans to show my husband I love him, and be the wife he always knew I was.

I have plans to establish healthy boundaries in all of my relationships, to respect all involved.

I have plans to nurture my children, as well as support them into becoming whatever they may have plans for.

I have plans to grow old with my husband and visit grandchildren. (more tears)

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NONE of these plans include hiding. NONE of these plans include me locking myself away.

No wonder I can longer see that tower.

 

Controlling Cognitive Distortions

My previous post let you see the ugly negative cognitive distortions that feed into my emotional not-well-being.

Convex lens Taken by fir0002

Image via Wikipedia

First, thank you to everyone who commented there, your rational comments snapped me out of it and back into me. I am not that whiny pitiful person, but I do think and feel that way at times. It is painful.

I have trouble with All or Nothing thinking. I quickly assume the worst, and asume I know what people are thinking or feeling based on a few words, or past behaviors. Example: No one has RSVP’d for the party. Party is 1 week away, yet I assume no is ever going to call because no likes me, knows me, wants to know me, is upset about something I said years ago, everyone in this town is best friends and I am the only mom outside the loop.

Wow, see how thoughts build and spiral, mentally attacking myself? No wonder I cried. I am my own bully. I guess my dad fed those thoughts to me daily, so it is hard to stop them from forming. When I recognize them, I can easily stop them, but when too many things happen, or it involves my kids, the reactions are stronger. My mommy protection kicks in and sends those negative thoughts into overload.

So I am always having to examine my thoughts and reactions for various cognitive distortions, which my excellent therapist has pointed out over the years. I can see them now, but can’t always prevent them.

Problem is, I just realized from reading your comments, is that my husband FEEDS my cognitive distortions. His support to me that night was to agree with me, that we were outsiders in this town and would never be accepted. He feeds into my built-in feelings of no self-worth. Not good. Not good at all. I’m hoping now maybe he just didn’t want to argue with me, but even as I type it, I know it isn’t true. He actually brought up other examples of when sis-in-law has hurt us, and he told me about the grandma jealousy issue. I wouldn’t have known that. He was the one on the phone with his brother, hearing sis-in-law in the background saying the play place I selected is too germy this time of year and she wasn’t sure if she could let the kids go.

It is exhausting to always second-guess my own warped reactions. I wonder if it will ever get easier, or will I always have to look at myself through my dad’s eyes first? And I think my mom helped here a bit, as she scolded and punished us any time we interrupted adults speaking. It was probably not excessive, using my own mom experience now, but in the frame work of my dad feeding me lies that mom hated me, it was further proof. I would sit there silently, while she chatted with friends, waiting for some gap in the conversation so I could speak without interrupting them. I do the same thing now, when I am with a group of adults, I can not interrupt, can not add my thoughts to the conversation unless they directly ask me.

See, I am not shy. Not shy at all. NO fear of performance or public-speaking – I know it is my turn then. But I have an underlying fear that I am bothersome when in natural everyday chit chats.

10 examples of why I’m not messed up, the rest of the world is, really

I have decided I’m not the messed up one. It’s everyone else. Really. The more I see other people, the more I interact in various social situations, the more I react with “What? Really? Did they just say/do that? Do they really care (or not care) about that? That’s messed up.”

Child 1

(Child 1 (Photo credit: Tony Trần)) Maybe if I do this, I'll understand why everyone is so messed up

This may seem judgmental and condescending to some. If it does, I’d be happy to hear your side of the story. Just trying to understand what is happening to our world and why people seem to have messed up values for what is important.

Some examples of this recently:

  1. Shopping in Wal-mart (no that’s not the messed up part, just the cheap part) A small child, possibly 4 yrs old, wanders off from his mother. A Wal-mart employee finds child and attempts to find the mom. Child was in toys, mom was in women’s clothes dept, 1/2 a store away. Mother is found, child is returned. Mother never noticed child was missing, and did not seem concerned that child was returned by the employee. Mother did not scold child or thank employee, just kept shopping.
  2. While volunteering on a parent committee, one parent has in earphones, so we have to stop what we are doing, walk over to her and tap her shoulder every time we need to speak to her. Each time she puts the earphones back in. And then starts singing, badly, and loudly to the music that only she can hear. Then leaves early, allowing the rest of us to clean up.
  3. Parents on my own street drive their children to the school bus stop at the end of our street. And then they all wait in the running van watching a DVD until the bus arrives. My kids have to walk past 2 houses to get to bus stop. Neighbors would have to walk past 4 or 5. I can see the kids and even speak to them while waiting on my porch. When it is raining, my kids have umbrellas. When it is cold, they have gloves and hats.
  4. Another parent discusses remodeling her son’s room again. Says he is into Star Wars now, has all the Wii games and has seen all the movies. Son is barely 6 years old. Recommended age for Star Wars is 8-10, due to violence and intensity. I want to share Star Wars with my kids, but will wait until I know they can handle it without nightmares.
  5. Checking out at our grocery store, the clerk picks up 1 of my 2 gallons of milk, and asks if I saw the sign that half gallons were on sale today. I say “No”. Clerk stares at me, now struggling to hold up the gallon, apparently waiting for me. “Aren’t you going to go get them and put these back? You’ll save a ton of money” I had already decided that saving a ton of money (25 cents per half gallon, so I would have saved a dollar) was not worth getting out of line, making the people behind me in line wait, walking clear back to the dairy with 2 jugs and a squirming preschooler, and returning with 4 jugs and a squirming preschooler. I answer slowly “no, these are fine” and she expresses shock and stares at me while she makes it beep and then shakes her head in disbelief, muttering something about “wasting money”. I was just thinking if she’d hurry up, I’d get back to work and make much more than a dollar. I’d rather waste some money than my life worrying about crap like that.
  6. Every month the schools send home another fundraising packet. I refuse to sell over priced items to friends, family and neighbors. I will happily donate time and money to the PTO.
  7. People who know the least speak the most, and the loudest.
  8. The masses actually believe what they see on TV. The masses think it is right to pay millions to someone for throwing/kicking/bouncing a ball and allow nurses/teacher/police/firefighters to struggle.  The masses know more about celebrities than their own family.
  9. Many people express shock that my kids do not have ipods, DS‘s, ipads, etc. Our van has no entertainment. And yet we all survive long road trips somehow. They read, color, talk to each other, look out the window, play I spy, and the “stop touching me” or “stop copying me” games that every road trip needs. Sometimes they just think. Sit there quietly and think. And when they share these thoughts, I am always amazed.
  10. When I sit alone quietly – I am not always lonely, or antisocial. Sometimes I prefer to observe, rather than play all of the other reindeer games. Sometimes I am content to observe my own thoughts. I’ll try not to judge your endless meaningless babbling if you try not to judge my lack of it.

This was fun. This may become a series. 

My mom married a psychopath, part 1

My mom married a psychopath. It may sound like a new movie release, but this is no joke. Here is how it happened.

My mom grew up in a small town, the youngest child – nearly 20 years younger than her siblings. I never knew my Grandma, but I can only imagine her surprise to find herself pregnant when her other kids were already grown and having kids. My Grandpa died when my mom was only 2 years old. So it was just my mom, and her nearly elderly mother. They struggled for money. Grandpa had not been rich, and did not leave much for them. Grandma was proud, refused food stamps, and even continued to donate heavily to needier families.

My mom was (and still is) quite beautiful, and got lots of attention from boys. That was the time of the weekly sockhop at schools, my mom speaks of those times with great happiness and longing. Grandma encouraged my mom to date and find someone to marry, but no one seemed right. She was in no hurry, but Grandma was in poor health and wanted to see her baby taken care of. Mom accepted a job after high school working as a secretary for the company my dad was working for.

My dad brought my mom gifts every day, stopped in the office at every break to see her, bought her flowers, jewelry, chocolates. He was very charming. Always smiling, joking, and making promises. He told my mom she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and could not let her get away. He told my Grandma he intended to marry my mom. Grandma encouraged my mom, telling her it was time. So in just a few months of dating, my mom got married at age 19.

After the wedding, everything changed. No more gifts. No more promises. No more kindness. Instead, the woman he cherished became a target of ridicule. He told her daily that she was fat (5 ft 8 and 110 pounds in her wedding picture) that she was stupid, and so lucky he married her or she would have never found anyone else willing to have her. Her cooking was terrible, the house was never clean enough, she did nothing right. Now these things did not come out all in one day as it sounds. A true psychopath knows how to gently warp someone’s world so they never feel the need to run.

My mom never had any male role models. She did not know how a husband should act. She was told by her mom and her church to obey her husband.

Mom did not know what she had done wrong, and worked even harder to please him. She felt like a failure. She prepared him elaborate meals and ate none of it, trying to lose that weight he complained about. She tried to keep their nasty apartment tidy, but was scared of the cockroaches that he would not allow her to spend money on an exterminator. He refused visits to or from her family and friends, cutting her off, making her live in isolation. She quit her job at his insistence, gave up her dreams and lived only to make her man happy, not knowing it was an impossible task.

(to be continued)

Making Holidays Happy

Holidays used to be extremely difficult for me. My own kids have shown me the way to be excited and joyous this time of year.

They don’t fear comments from relatives – they can’t wait to see grandma and all the cousins.

They don’t worry they might get sick

They don’t feel judged

They go with the expectation they will have fun, and they do!

Look around your gatherings, and notice that the sourpuss sitting alone on the couch probably has a very negative view of things. I used to be the sourpuss on the couch. Thinking everyone was silly for all the merry-making.

I put myself in isolation, and it was up to me to get out

But when I brought my own kids to these parties, I would of course play with them and see that they had a good time. And all of a sudden, I had a good time too.

I no longer dread the holidays, and do my best to establish little family traditions and experiences full of love and joy.

I remember the first christmas tree I let my toddler help decorate and it was difficult to let her do it “wrong”. Each year I let go of more of this silly perfectionist notion and, now I let all the kiddos run the show, sit back and enjoy watching them work together and smile as they pull all the hand made ornaments they made from the box. I put a few of my special ornaments on too, but mostly it is their tree, and I love to watch it glow at night and see how my family has filled it with memories, and how each year we add on to it. It is very special.

Like this, but without the Liederhosen