Sunday, April 17, 2016

Could be worse...could be like them....

This is so true. 
While I do not feel sorry for the abuser, because I see the damage he has done to others (ESPECIALLY the children)...
I remain grateful that I am NOT LIKE him...

  • I have empathy...
  • I feel pity...
  • I am imperfect and I can SEE THAT. 
  • I have family that loves me and whom I love. 
  • I can make the BIGGEST MISTAKE in the world and that will not change. 
  • I do not have to remember whether A is talking to B this week...or whether B is talking to C. 
  • I do not have to manipulate, or PAY, to get my children to do something I want done...I only have to ask. 
  • I do not have to wonder where my money will come from because I am willing to work.
  • I do not have to argue with my children to sway them to my opinions and I do not have to lie to alter their perception of me. 
  • When they look back they will see that I never abandoned them or let them wear the same clothes 5 days in a row because I refused to buy them any. 
  • They will never be able to look back at me and call me a hypocrite or remember that I took them on dates with a man while I was still married...
  • They will never be able to look back and remember a SINGLE lie I ever knowingly told them. 
  • They may look back and see that I have made mistakes but they will know that I never purposely harmed them. 
  • I do not have to demand, or punish, them into respecting me. 
  • I do not have to worry that the IRS will catch up with me. 
  • My children will never look back and see that I denied them anything they needed simply because I had better things to spend my money on. 
  • My children may look back and remember occasional anger in my eyes and screams on my lips but they will never remember those things without also seeing the tears in my eyes and hearing me apologize to them for losing control. 
  • My children will never look back and remember days when I was PLAYING and chose not to be there...
  • They may remember that I worked a great deal but they will also remember that my closet was never full of new clothes, I never had the very latest I-Phone in my purse, I never bought myself "toys" and then claimed to have no money to buy them shoes. 
  • My children will never look back and remember me throwing them out of my house, saying I no longer wanted to be their Mother or abandoning them. 
  • My children will never remember a SINGLE TIME when I denied them a hamburger because someone else (who is more important) might feel left out if they eat without them. 
  • My children will never remember a time when they had to lower their voices because I was outside their door listening...or hide their phones because I might go through their text messages. 
  • My children will remember that I trusted EACH of them enough to lend them my ATM card...shared my passwords...left money laying out without fear that it would be taken... 

YEP....there are things to be grateful for....

Saturday, April 16, 2016

"What do YOU like or want?" A question that exposes damage...

I have stated before that I have had many THOUSANDS of hours of therapy over the last 23 years.
I was quite disappointed to learn that, while I HAVE made some strides...the core issue remains.... or PERHAPS the more accurate statement is that any strides I had made in this area have been obliterated.

23 years ago, my first real therapist asked me several questions...

"If you could travel any place in the world, where would you go?"
"If you could do anything that you wanted, what would it be?"
"What do you enjoy?"
"What do you consider fun?"

I sat looking at her without any answers. I could answer those questions about OTHERS. I knew what others (family members, my husband)  enjoyed. I knew their dreams and hopes. Looking inside, however, I could not tell her anything about ME.

I am not saying I NEVER enjoyed anything...I did, occasionally, enjoy an activity or a task. This enjoyment was always "accidental". For example, about 10 years ago, I discovered that I was very good at party planning. On several occasions I planned, catered and hosted several large scale parties in my home.

The thing is, I always did this for another reason. Because I was ASKED to by my, then, husband....or for business contacts..etc etc. Never once did I just decide that I wanted to throw a party and then do so.

I will state that this is NOT a problem that began in my abusive marriage...and I do NOT believe it is an issue of "Depression". I have EXPERIENCED major depression and I believe I know the difference. Medications did help me when I was actually "depressed"...but medications cannot cure some things.

Medication cannot cure the fact that, in many ways, I do not exist at all. For whatever reason, even as a child, I was so concerned with focusing on OTHERS that I never allowed myself to do anything else. I became a caretaker...a codependent. I had started to work on this when I came upon the ultimate "project"...the EK. For 18 years I lived FOR HIM and THROUGH him and (if I HAD started to build a "self") all progress on "me" was blown away.

At FIRST, his HAPPINESS was my only goal and concern. Over the years it evolved into a, much less pleasant, "his satisfaction was my only goal and concern" and then, over the last years, it became a nightmare of "keeping him from being angry was my only goal and concern".

Unlike the times of my childhood, when I simply wanted to please other people...when I was trying to gain their love and approval (which I did not FEEL I had but that I likely already had most of the time)...
In those last years it was no longer trying to please, it was a matter of PROTECTION from the consequences of NOT pleasing him. Consequences paid by my children and myself continually over many years.  NOTHING pleased him but not because I did not try.

So, now, I have been asked the question again "What do you want?""What do you enjoy?""What do you do that is fun?"

Rather than being closer to an answer than I was 23 years ago...I am even further in the dark.
When I was asked that 23 years ago, I TRULY felt that there MUST be someone inside me with dreams and hopes...with desires and preferences...and that I WOULD find her.

Now, after living the way I have lived for so VERY LONG I have come to doubt that. The behavior that the young me used in an effort to secure acceptance and approval has now become much more malignant.

It has become my defense and my protection against abuse, It seems that I am truly incapable of doing ANYTHING without a REASON.

I have been away from the EK for 3 years. I no longer live for him. But I still function only for a reason.

I function, I work, I go through daily life, I BREATHE, for my children. While this may seem altruistic,  it is truly not. Perhaps, at one time, I thought it was. I see now that it isn't. I love them dearly but in many ways, they are my "life support". Their NEED for me keeps me functional and alive.

Soon, they will be grown up and gone. I WANT that for them. I WANT them to be happy and have a wonderful life. I am not disturbed enough (unlike others I know) to try to keep them tied to me forever so that I will have a reason to go on. THAT I will never allow myself to do.

Still, I wonder, what REASON I will find to function when they no longer need me. What is going to happen when I truly have "No reason to get up in the morning"

That is not their problem and I never intend to make it their problem. This problem is within me. At this point, I am unsure that it can be changed.

I find the phrase "I just have to make it until they are adults" coming up in my mind and in my conversation very frequently.

Why? Because in my world, this is like the "Mayan Calendar Countdown". The day on which my reason for existence will come to an end...when I am no longer "essential" and I become "useless". I am very aware that they love me and that this will not end when they reach adulthood...but THAT is not the issue.

Because even in the midst of that terrible time when my main function was simply to PROTECT them from as much psychological abuse as gave me a function and a reason to go through daily life. A GOAL to try to help them NOT become what he was OR what I was. Neither a machine designed only to TAKE... OR a machine designed only to GIVE.

Because that is what I see myself as. A machine that functions only because I am NEEDED...only when I have a reason to...only as long as someone is there to function FOR.

THAT is not is not is not self-sacrifice or devotion or love.

It is emptiness. It is lack of self-purpose. It is a life lived out of self guilt. It is a life where personal desires, personal preferences, enjoyment and pleasure are immaterial and have never been considered or explored. THIS is not "sacrifice for the people I love" but rather "living only to meet a need"

It is an emptiness that has NEVER been any different than it is right now. This is not new.

I am not suicidal and that would never be an option or a consideration for me.

Because that IS the case, I do not know what will happen when the day comes that I wake up and realize that I no longer have an "excuse" to function. If I have no reason to live and no desire to die... what will remain?

When I was diagnosed with cancer a while back I truly thought that this was the answer I had been given. I would survive and continue until my "assigned function" was complete and then I would cease to exist. That is not a decision for me to make.

Whether that can be changed for me, after over a half-century of living this way, I do not know.

I guess that remains to be seen. I am trying to change it but how do you change something so ingrained?

and, meanwhile, the countdown continues....

Friday, April 15, 2016

Reenactment of Childhood Trauma


Reenactment and Trauma

I have resumed my therapy. I had many years of therapy, mostly based around the use of substances. I have used no substances in more than 15 years now. But my work is far from over.

No one else can experience your life the way you have....and even the most "well cared-for" children suffer abuses, hide secrets, become traumatized. This does not happen only in homes that APPEAR to be chaotic....not only in homes where there is poverty, addiction, physical abuse....but in the home behind the white picket fence next door. 

This may be preaching to the CHOIR, because any one led here is likely aware that things on the OUTSIDE of the door can bear little resemblance to things that are happening on the INSIDE of it. 
Many of us have been told, throughout childhood, that it is a BETRAYAL to SPEAK of these things...some have been taught that it is a betrayal merely to have CERTAIN THOUGHTS. 

Many more of us have been taught to "intellectualize" away events by being very "understanding" of the REASONS they occurred. "You MUST understand that when Uncle Charlie tried to rape you when you were 12, it was BECAUSE  he was (enter your own excuse)". Perhaps he was drunk...or perhaps he was depressed...or perhaps he was an abused child...or perhaps HE was traumatized....

Those of us who have experienced this growing up learning that NO MATTER WHAT may have happened, or been done, to us....the perpetrator cannot be held responsible because there is was a "REASON" and we "need to understand that" and "learn to forgive" and realize that we "make mistakes too".  

So while we "learn" to "let bygones be bygones" or "stop living in the past" ...that wound festers in us. The child still cries out for someone to answer the question ...

"If it was NOT their fault then who WAS at fault?" 

Unfortunately, by covering these wounds, having them painted over, not discussed, ignored...the child inside us comes to the only conclusion that is possible...

"It MUST have been my fault!"

No matter how well the logical part of us may understand that we were NOT at fault. The child who drives our actions still believes it was.

Experts say that PTSD/CPTSD actually causes a CHANGE in our brains. It colors all that we do, every decision we make, what we feel we deserve, what we are willing to tolerate.

It can also cause us to, unconsciously, reenact traumas.

For example...

A child was abandoned (on some level) by a parent. This abandonment may not have been physical. Perhaps the parent was consumed with trying to please someone else and emotionally abandoned the child. Perhaps the child was never good enough. Perhaps the child experienced a trauma at the hands of someone else, and the parent did not believe it or did not act appropriately on this knowledge.

(I have been reminded to re-watch the "Prince of Tides" in order to understand how this will affect the grown up version of that child.)

If sexually abused, that child is much more likely to experience sexual abuse (even rape) as an adult.
If physically abused, that child is much more likely to have an abusive partner.
If abandoned, that child is much more likely to experience abandonment by a partner(s) in adult life as well.
OTHER children will react by BECOMING the rapist, the "abandoner" and the abuser.

Is that just bad luck?

No. It is all classic in "reenactment" of the trauma. This is an effort to gain CONTROL of what the child experienced but never processed...and it can come out in many different ways...but all are devastating.

Let's use an example of an 8 year old male child who was sexually molested by "Uncle Charlie". His Mother was never certain whether what he was saying was true...and she was LOATH to bring it to the attention of his Father who ADORED his only brother "Charlie". The child was told, by his Mother, that his Father might become ANGRY and punish him if he did not believe him (and this may well have been true)....and that telling anyone would "break up the family"....and that it was in the past and there was nothing to gain from telling anyone else....and that "Uncle Charlie" had been through so much, being abused as a child and being left by his wife and losing his job...etc.etc.

As a result EVERYTHING within "the family" seemed to remain unaltered....everything except that child.

Via the process of "reenactment" there are many different things he might grow up to do as a result of this trauma.

  • Perhaps he will grow up and become powerless in an abusive relationship because he has learned that it is NOT OK to defend yourself or "say bad things" because doing so will result in being "abandoned" or cause other pain. This may lead him to go to ANY LENGTHS to maintain a relationship EVEN IF IT IS ABUSIVE.
  • Perhaps he will grow up to have children of his own and, not trusting his own experiences, he might believe that "Uncle Charlie" has changed...and it would be "OK" to let his children spend the weekend with him...placing his own children in danger that he should KNOW EXISTS.
  • Perhaps he will become involved WITH an abuser who sexually molests an attempt to FIX the molester and resolve his own trauma.
  • Perhaps he will grow up to BECOME the abuser and molest other peoples children...leaving that helpless victim role by becoming the perpetrator.
NONE of this is something that he makes a conscious DECISION to do...for who would become involved with a KNOWN pedophile?

But that CHILD INSIDE SEES the similarities between the prospective partner and the person who abused him as a child....the inner voice might LEAD him to be attracted to that person...because although "Uncle Charlie" hurt him...he was also very powerful...and PERHAPS if the child had done something different...or NOT done something....or handled it another way...Uncle Charlie would NOT have hurt him...because everyone he trusted told him that Uncle Charlie is a GREAT GUY!

The reasons for his continued misery may not be within his control, or within his conscious thought, but a result of actual, physical changes in his brain.

Without realization of this, the cycle often continues....

I am just beginning to see how this "reenactment" has likely altered the course of my own life. 

Now, I need to begin to heal it and prevent it from repeating in the future.

I have been paying long enough...

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Guilty Confessions of a Bad Housekeeper...

Guilty Confessions of a Bad Housekeeper...

I cannot tell you how many times I WISHED I was one of those people who could have "drop in" company without dying of embarrassment. Sadly, although I did occasionally wish for this, it was NOT to be.
In my job I go into many houses...many that make me feel shame by how spotless they are...and many that make me feel better and think "Well, at LEAST my house isn't THIS bad!" If I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 20, with 1 being the worst kept house I had ever seen and 20 being the best kept house I had ever seen, I would rate my house as about a 10. 

It just always seems to me that there are so many more important things to do!

I come by this honestly. I lived with a Mother who lamented about her housekeeping skills...and felt guilt...and felt bad. Out of the brood she produced, I had two sisters whose houses are immaculate and three others whose house keeping fell between theirs and mine. I hold the DISTINCTION of keeping the messiest house in our family! 
I do not count the male children in this as I imagine that much depends upon their wives.

Now you would THINK that I might just DO SOMETHING about that and I HAVE tried. 

I do not want to give the wrong impression here. My house is not FILTHY (by my standards). When I cook I am very clean. There is not food on the floor or trash piling up in the corners. I am not a "hoarder" but my house was, and is, "cluttered", "messy", "unkempt in appearance". My tubs are not spotless and I have been known to have some dreaded "mold and mildew" that could use some attention. There are spots on the bathroom mirrors and, yes, occasionally, dirty dishes left over night in the sink. Mostly it is the things that are "not where they belong". Counters, shelves, drawers and cabinets...not to mention the kitchen table...cluttered with "stuff". Just like my Mother...

I tell myself, sometimes, that the reason is BECAUSE.

Because I work two jobs and have for 20 years...
Because I have been raising children for 30 years...
Because I always have "pets"...

In TRUTH, it is BECAUSE I just can't seem to find it in myself to make it a priority.
Neither could my Mother. Not in her entire 86 year life.

For MUCH of her life she was a single Mother, working to support a household and children as well as grandchildren. She was a wonderful cook and always made great meals, she was a hard worker, her children were cared for and loved, she took time out to help others, she was loved by nearly everyone who met her and she was ALWAYS on the look out for how something might be of use in "the future". She collected jars, boxes and bags and they piled up. She was not a "hoarder" either but there WERE things that just seemed to pile up because she "might need them later".

I think it is a matter of being a "bigger picture" kind of person. When you do NOT live alone, keeping an immaculate house (unless you are a full time house keeper with no OUTSIDE employment) requires that EVERYONE who lives there be immaculate as well. In most cases this requires a great deal of reminding, nagging or even yelling. Constant correction...constant vigilance. 

I once lived with a man who did not appreciate my lack of housekeeping....BUT he was also not willing to do his part to keep it the way he thought it "should be". Even when he was working only a few hours a week, and I was working 60+, it was MY JOB to "keep the house". He would occasionally declare a "house cleaning day" which meant he would mop the floors, clear the counters by stuffing everything in any closed space he could find and make the children do everything else and I would hear how he had "helped ME".  

THEN no one could find anything, including HIM, which meant that I spent MORE TIME trying to locate items and hearing the ranting screams of "why does everyone always move my stuff".

So now, he is gone and I live in peace in my messy house with my happy children. They have what they need because I work two jobs to get them what they need. They have the best food, their clothes are clean and unwrinkled. They go to therapy appointments that are only possible because of the work I do,  They are good students who are headed to college...and I am afraid that they have inherited the "messy gene"

Perhaps I could try to INSIST they everyone put things where they belong, and take no glasses into their rooms. I could rant and scream. I could declare "cleaning days" where things are done, but not the way I think they should be. I could work less and take those hours to spiff up my house...tell the kids they can't go to therapy because I can't afford it. 

I guess I COULD have a clean house....but as I said, I have such a hard time making it a priority.
I guess it is in my genes....

Just one more thing I will likely feel guilty about for the rest of my life.

Still...while I often hear many things about my Mother and the way she impacted the lives of she was loved and how accepting she was...

I have never once heard anyone remember her because she had a cluttered, messy house.
Guilt can be a strange thing...guess I will just have to live with it!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why it is necessary to have "Bullet Proof Certainty"...

I was asked if I believed that a TRUE Malignant Narcissist, Sociopath or Psychopath could ever understand what they have done to harm others, if they can truly believe their own lies or if I felt they could pass a lie detector. I wanted to share my answer as this is the first time I truly considered that question and how I feel about that.

I am not an expert or a psychiatrist or a therapist but I will give you my personal opinion about the abuser I lived with for decades.
  • I am certain that he believes his own lies or that he believes he is justified in telling the lies because I DID SOMETHING (or someone did) that justifies his actions.
  • I believe that he feels SUFFICIENTLY JUSTIFIED in his every action that he might well pass a lie detector test.
  • I believe that he TRULY feels blameless in EVERY ASPECT of his life and that this is not malleable.
  • I believe, in my HEART, that there is NO ONE ON THIS EARTH who could convince him he has done one thing that was NOT DESERVED, no matter how cruel or heinous or despicable..
  • I believe that he is lost and there is no help for him.
  • Although he claims Christianity I do not believe that his delusion will ever allow him to truly believe in God.
  • Given that I believe this, there is no reason to hate him (though I hate his actions), no reason to communicate with him, no reason for him to exist in my world at all.
  • I believe there is not one thing I could say or do that would affect one change in him, make him understand what he has done or clarify his disease within himself.
  • I believe that there is no one else who could say or do anything to change one thought or opinion he has.
  • I know there is not ONE THING he could say that I would believe.
  • I know there is not one action he could take that would not CLEARLY have an ulterior motive that would serve him.
  • He is lost and cannot be found.
  • I don’t think there is anyone inside him to exist at all.
  • He lives as an image.
  • Quite sad... BUT I know I have no desire to beat my head against the wall any more.
  • Reality is, I did not break him and I cannot fix him.

Why is it important what I BELIEVE?
Because it is our beliefs that guide our actions.
Once you become certain in your belief of their disorder, you can become free to leave that ghost behind.

Until then the questions and the doubts and the self-blame will keep you trapped.