Tag Archives: Anxiety

I just want to be normal

I Just want to be normal

I Just want to be normal

“I just want to be normal!” 

If only I had a dollar for every time I have said this, or any of its many variations, because I would be Rich, Rich, Rich – yes, Rich with a capital R!

My diaries are filled with this statement, along with “Why can’t I just be normal?”  “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” “If only I was normal!”

Guess what?  For what I had experienced in life, I was normal.  I was, and am, just like everyone else who has experienced some form of major trauma as a child.  The hell I have experienced while healing is the same hell others experience while they heal.  Yet, all the while, I just wanted to be normal.

What is ‘normal’ anyway?

For me, it was ‘normal’ for my father to have sex with me.  It’s just what he did.  It was ‘normal’ to never know from one minute to the next if there was a belting waiting for me when the next minute arrived.  It was ‘normal’ to not know from moment to moment if I was ‘loved’ or hated by my father.  It was ‘normal’ to show the world I was ‘normal’ according to society’s stereotypical standards, while at the same time asking myself why I couldn’t be ‘normal’.

The first time I remember verbalising that I was not normal was when I was 12.  My brother and I had been fighting, as we always did if ever we were in each other’s company for more than 30 seconds.  We were home alone and during the fight my brother had grabbed a large kitchen knife and started chasing me with it.  Eventually he caught me and knocked me to the ground.  As he held the knife to my throat I practically begged him to kill me.  I told him that he should do it because the world would be a better place without me because I wasn’t normal and should be in the ‘looney bin’ anyway.

He didn’t kill me.  In fact, telling him this had the opposite effect, and he helped me up off the ground and said, “No it wouldn’t Sis.”

My brother was 10 at the time.

It wasn’t until I started to understand what I experienced emotionally and psychologically was normal for people who live through child sexual abuse that I started to recognise how I continued verbally abusing myself.  I had fully taken on the role of abuser through my inner voice, telling myself I was useless, stupid, abnormal, crazy.  I came to believe, absolutely, that I was insane.

My only ‘insanity’ was the inability to process my trauma in a way that would release it, rather than relive it.

The process is long, slow, and unbelievably painful.  It cannot be expressed in words.  It is a very lonely road, because although you may be lucky enough to have a ‘support system’ unless those around you have experienced exactly what you have experienced, there is no way they can comprehend what you are going through.  Every moment of healing feels like you have to fight your way, kicking and screaming, to find even enough air to breathe, let alone find the strength to function in any ‘normal’ capacity.

For a while I didn’t want to be normal.  I craved complete loss of function.  I thought it an exceptionally cruel twist of fate that, although there were days when all I could manage was to pull the covers up and a pillow over my head, I was still able to hold down a job, be a mother, be a partner, and work on my healing all at the same time.  I envied people who could just withdraw from life completely.

In hindsight, I am glad I was able to keep going, even if it was in a reduced capacity.  I did withdraw from the world, but not completely.  I did want to die so very badly – but I didn’t.

So, am I ‘normal’?  According to some, I am not.  According to others, I am.  According to myself?  I don’t always conform to society’s norms, but I am not a complete deviate either – I am me – and for ‘me’ I am normal.

Advertisements

Thanks for thinking badly of me

Thank you for providing opportunities to learn & grow

Thank you for providing opportunities to learn & grow

“To all of the people along the way who hurt me, lied to me, betrayed me and broke my heart…

You unknowingly pointed me in the direction of my own North Star.  Without the messes, I wouldn’t have a message.

You gave me more than you ever take from me, so thank you.”

 

My friend posted this on Facebook yesterday.  I instantly connected with it because it is something that I have believed in, and lived by, for quite a while now.

People often tell me I should be angry – at my father, at other adults who did not protect me, at the family and friends that have, as a result of the legal process against my father and his subsequent death, turned their backs on me.

What use to me is anger?

I spent the first 38 years of my life being angry – angry that I had to live this life.  Every one of my emotions expressed itself as anger – even when I didn’t ‘feel’ angry – and it was a horrible existence.

For years I wondered ‘why me?’  What did I do to deserve all of the pain I felt, both physically and psychologically?  What had I done to cause my father to be so angry?  What was that I did that made him sexually abuse me?  Why did I have to be born?

From the very second I made the decision that I mattered, that I was important, and that I was going to stand up and do my very best to protect other children from experiencing what I had experienced, my anger started dissipating.  I started to look at the crap dished out to me by other people in a whole new light.  My perspective changed, and so did my attitude.

I no longer approached everything from the ‘why me?’ perspective.  Instead, I looked hard for ‘what can I learn from this?’  Let me tell you, it was hard, unbelievably hard, but it was so amazingly worth it.

Why was it worth it?  Because the more I looked for the lessons in what I was experiencing, the less others controlled me.  The more I learnt about myself – what were my thoughts, what were my feelings, what were my beliefs, what were my vales – the less the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and values of others that I had unknowingly adopted as my own, impacted me.  The power of other people to hurt me reduced dramatically.

I had always believed the world would end if I dared to tell, or that Dad would make good on his threats to kill me, or that the family would implode if the secret ever got out.

Well, the family did implode – but I survived!

There are numerous people out there who would be horrified to know that I write about my experiences of child sexual abuse.  They are the family and friends who chose to protect my father and the family’s public image.  Not one of these people know all of the facts.  These are the people that will do whatever is within their power to stop me from getting my message out there, just as they have used a variety of actions and threats to try to stop me, and those who have supported me, in the past.

There was a time when having the possibility of conflict hanging over my head would have sent me into a tail spin, if not a complete melt down.  I would have been flustered, depressed, and upset, but mostly I would have been angry that others ‘just don’t understand’.

Now, however, I know that the actions of others are not a reflection of me.  In fact, their actions have no relevance to me at all, because the actions of others belong to them, and those actions are motivated by the thoughts and feelings of the people that carry them out.  Just because other people behave badly towards me, does not mean that I am a bad person.

About six months into the legal journey, I had to go on medication because I was barely able to keep myself breathing, let alone be a mother, a partner,  and continue to hold down a full-time job.  Over the next 18 months my ability to function improved, and my outlook on life had really started to change.  Everything went down hill very quickly after Dad passed away.

To be honest, I didn’t even really notice.  It was my partner that made me sit back and take stock and see how I was returning to my old,  comfortable, but totally unhelpful, ways of coping.

After much discussion, we identified the turning point.

My brother was speaking to one of my father’s friends the day after Dad died.  The conversation was going well until my father’s friend, thinking that my brother did not support my decision to speak out, said to my brother, “Well, your sister should have thought about the consequences before she went to the police…”

This statement from my father’s friend sent me right back to square one.

If other people said bad things about me, then they believed I was bad; if they believed I was a bad person, then it must be true that I am a bad person; if it is true that I am a bad person, then I must believe that I am a bad person.  So, if anyone indicated that they thought badly about me, I believed them.  This was the way my mind worked for 38 years.

The challenge was, did I want to go back to that way of thinking, or did I want to continue the work I had been doing and reclaim the progress I had made in the two years following my decision to speak out?

I had worked far too hard, and experienced way too much pain, to go back now.

This meant I had to analyse the way I processed things in my mind.  I had to ask myself, “Am I a bad person just because someone thinks or says that I am?”

The answer is a resounding, “NO!”

What other people think is just their opinion.  Just because they, or I, think something does not make it true.

The next step was to ask myself if I, taking away all of the opinions of others, thought I was a bad person?

No, I don’t.

I am generous, honest, loyal, trustworthy, open, friendly, loving… and a whole heap of other adjectives.  I say what I mean, and do what I say.  What you see is what you get.  I don’t say this to one person and that to someone else.  I don’t judge people by what they have or don’t have, do or don’t do, or any of their personal preferences.  I call a spade a spade, but I am also able to be tactful and understanding.

(Gosh, do you know how hard that would have been to say or write not that long ago?  I have come a long way!).

Anyway, my long-winded point is this – it does not matter what any one else thinks or says about you.  It is their opinion.  It is only your opinion of yourself that matters.

What the opinion of others is good for, however, is as an aid to identifying those parts of you that are not truly you, that you have taken on from someone else.

How do you know if something is truly you or not?  Sit with for a while and it will either feel comfortable or uncomfortable – it will either fit with your values or it will irritate and itch and not feel ‘right’.

It is in this way, that people who do not like us, who hurt us, lie to us etc., can teach us the most wonderful things about ourselves and our purpose in life.  So, just like the meme posted by my friend on Facebook, be grateful to those people for the lessons they lead us to, and in doing so, such people and their actions can no longer have a negative impact on your life.

 

 

Acknowledging the pain of others

Growing through pain

Growing through pain

People like me, who write about their experiences of child sexual abuse, do not intentionally set out to cause other people pain.  Unfortunately, however, we do.

When we are lucky enough to have people in our lives who are supportive, and willing to try to understand the impact of what we have lived through, it is sometimes difficult to balance the work of creating awareness and the desire not to hurt those we care about and who care about us.

Some may call us insensitive, or selfish, in our desire/need to speak out.  Personally, I am not insensitive to the pain I cause.  I know it is there.  It hurts me to know it is the result of my actions.  However, I do not deliberately set out to hurt people.

Why do I write?

I write because I have to write.  Writing is something I have done for most of my life, although until 2010, all of my writing was in secret.  During the darkest period of healing, from 2011 until recently, I tried to keep my writing hidden and yet still raise awareness of the long-term impacts of child-sexual abuse.  I did this because I know what I write can cause pain to people close to me.

Why did I have to ‘come out’?

Trying to write as someone else, using a fake name, and fake persona, really starts messing with your head.  Particularly when you have spent two and a half solid years smashing down the barriers and vowing to break the silence.  I found myself questioning my ethics and my values.  There I was, telling all and sundry about how important it was to speak out, but hiding my true identity.  I started to feel like I used to – that I had to have a face that I showed the world, and another that had to be hidden at all costs.  There was no integrity in that.

If I wanted to be true to me, and put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, I had to make a decision to either back off and remain silent, or be truly open and honest.

Honesty won.

The flip-side of this, of course, is now those close to me are confronted with my writing on a day-to-day basis.  The end result is pain.

Why do I have to write about child sexual abuse?

There are a couple of reasons for this – first, I write what I know.  It is so much easier for me to write from experience than to write from imagination.  Tied in with this, is the healing writing brings for me.  Yes, even my short stories are generally dark, but usually it is because something inside me needs to be fixed and it just appears on the page in front of me.

Second, I write about child sexual abuse to raise awareness – not that child sexual abuse happens, but that the impacts of repeated trauma as a child never go away – they do lessen in strength, but they NEVER go away.

Third, I write about child sexual abuse because I know that while I sit here, in my comfy chair, in a warm and cosy house, with all of my basic needs met, there are children being sexually abused, beaten, neglected, sold into prostitution, and having all sorts of other horrendous things done to them at this very moment.  I cannot sit here in silence.  Awareness needs to be raised.  Something needs to be done, and all I can do at this point in time is write.

Children are so very precious.

I am sorry for the pain I cause.  I am sorry that the things I write also brings back bad memories for you.  However, to those close to me, there are some  things I would like to say:

  • You are not responsible for what happened to me.  The person who abused me – the person that could have chosen not to abuse me – is no longer with us, but it is important to understand that the responsibility for what happened was his, and his alone.  The rest of us have been involuntarily caught up in the consequences of his behaviour.  Do not blame yourself.
  • I am well.  I know the last few years have seen me crash to the deepest depths, but right here, right now, today, I am well, and I have been for some months now.
  • Just because I write about what happened to me does not mean it is the only thing I think about – it no longer consumes me the way that it did.
  • The past cannot be changed – it is what it is.  All we can do is enjoy the here and now, and have hope for the future.  My way of doing that is by sharing my experiences.  You never know, someone else might find them useful.

I am truly grateful for the support I have around me.  Knowing that I hurt them is not a nice feeling.  If I could wave a magic want to erase it, I would.  For now, all I can do is love the people around me and support them as they have supported me.

My heartfelt thanks to the ‘inner circle’ who have seen me at my worst and are hanging in there to see me at my best.  I love you all from the bottom of my heart.

You look fine

Hidden pain

Hidden Pain

You look fine.

Can you not see my ugliness?

You look fine.

Can you not see the scars I carry?

You look fine.

Can you not see the sadness I feel?

You look fine.

Can you not see that big Black Dog that has been at my heels for the last three decades?

You look fine.

Can you not see the huge, heavy,  black box inside me that oozes sludge, pus and monsters?

You look fine.

Can you not see the blood I have lost?

You look fine.

Can you not see the bruises I have had?

You look fine.

Can you not see my body silently screaming in pain as it remembers the trauma it has lived through?

You look fine.

Can you not see the pain of an adult penis being jammed into a nine-year-old’s vagina?

You look fine.

Can you not see the terror of knowing your father could get you pregnant?

You look fine.

Can you not see I would rather be dead?

You look fine.

Can you not see all the things I cannot put into words?

You look fine.

Can you not see the pain my anger has caused others?

You look fine.

Can you not see how a song, a smell, a memory can cause me insanity?

You look fine.

Can you not see the nightmares that keep me awake at night?

You look fine.

Can you not see how your ignorance and arrogance cause me despair?

But, you look fine.

Being true, being vulnerable

Being true, being vulnerable

Being true, being vulnerable

I am currently working on an ethics assignment for my Bachelor Degree, and although I am having difficulty with all the theorising and waffle, it has had me thinking about how we make decisions and be true, or authentic, to ourselves.

Being true, unfortunately, also has the consequence of being vulnerable.

In 2010, on receiving confirmation that my father had abused a fourth victim, one much younger who had been abused much more recently than the other three, I felt I had been forced into a dilemma – do I remain silent, or do I take action?  Typical of all dilemmas, I had the capacity to choose either option, but only one of them.  Both choices had severe consequences attached.

Although my journey towards speaking out had, in hindsight, begun much earlier than the catalytic phone call I received, it was not until during that phone that I took the first step that really left me no option but to act.  you see, it was only during that phone call, that I actually stood up and said, “What about me?  What about what I have been through?  What about my life?”  It from these three small statements that I came to understand that for the previous thirty-eight years I had believed I, me, did not matter.  Whatever had happened to me didn’t matter, because it was just me.  Whatever my father had done to me did not matter, because it was just me.  Whenever anyone told me I was volatile, volcanic, miserable etc., did not matter, because it was just me.

I cried, really cried, for the first time that night – for me, for the little girl I had been, for all the things I had lost and could never get back, for the others that I knew my father had abused, and for the desperate hopelessness that had followed me all of my life.  Crying left me exhausted, but that exhausted state gave me time to think about my father’s life at that moment.  He still had regular and prolonged access to young girls in what appeared to be his target age group.  His wife (not my mother) had a number of nieces that would visit and stay at their house, their friends had young girls who would visit and stay at their house, and his family had young girls who, although at that time too young, would one day hit that ‘golden’ age and who would visit and stay at their house.  What was I going to do about that?

My options, as I saw them was to do nothing and stay silent, to confront my father directly, or to make a stand and go to the police.

Doing nothing really wasn’t an option.  I was already feeling guilt, because if I had spoken out sooner, the other three victims may have been saved.  This was no longer just about me.  Confronting my father directly, I felt, was not an option, because it did not guarantee the safety of those young girls he still had regular contact with.  That left going to the police.

I had first seen a counsellor when I was twenty-one – I had been almost literally dragged their by a co-worker because I had a ‘melt down’ (now known to be a panic attack) at work one day, and I had blurted some of the story out to her in the bathroom.  Anyway, that counsellor told me that because I was twenty-one, if I didn’t make a complaint to the police at that time, I would never be able to.  Being in crisis at the time, I was in no fit state to make any major decisions, so i never made a complaint to the police.

So, twenty-odd years on, when the only choice I seemed to be to take action and go to the police, I remembered that first counselling session, and thought there was nothing I could do.

I already had plans to pick my friend up from the hospital the following morning, so, after a sleepless night I tried explain what had happened and what I was thinking to my somewhat bewildered partner, I collected my friend and we have breakfast together at a cafe near the hospital.  I explained to my friend what had happened the previous night, telling him for the first time about what had happened to me as a child.  I explained how I felt I only had three choices, and how two of those were not really an option.  We sat for an hour, him listening, me talking.  Then, he said he would support me in whatever I decided to do.  He suggested, however, that I should consider those young girls who may currently be in danger of my father.

I was already beginning to focus my thoughts along those lines, but I was terrified of actually doing something, of going to the police and putting into motion who-knows-what type of consequences.

My friend was very aware that I am an ‘if-it’s-meant-to-be-it-will-be’ type of person, so he suggested that we stop at the first police station on the way to his place, and if it didn’t feel right, we could stop at the next one etc.

I don’t know how many stations we drove past that morning, but we got to the very last station and I knew it was now or never.  We walked to the door and immediately I was drawn to a poster that had my birthday on it (good sign), then we walked inside and there were posters everywhere about protecting children from sexual abuse (good sign), then I rang the bell on the counter and waited for an officer to arrive.  When he did I almost ran back out the door!  It took me five minutes to say, “I need to talk to someone – my father sexually abused me as a child.”

As luck would have it (or fate, or the Universe, or God, or whatever), the Child Protection Officer just happened to be at that particular station, at that moment (GOOD sign).

That momentous step was my first public acknowledgement of me being true to myself.  It didn’t matter if I was going to be killed.  It didn’t matter what anyone thought.  It didn’t matter if the world was going to disintegrate into a thousand different pieces.  All that mattered was that I was making a stand and saying, “I WILL NOT BE SILENT ANY LONGER.  I WILL NOT PROTECT CHILD ABUSERS.  I WILL NOT LET MY INACTION LEAD TO ANOTHER CHILD BEING ABUSED!”  And yes, it felt like I was screaming it from every fibre of my being.

Since then, I have been learning every day how to be true to me, to my values, and to what I think is morally right.  I do still find myself saying and doing things that aren’t ‘really’ me – for example, in a recent conversation with a friend I made a comment about how we might not have a ‘normal’ friendship.  She responded by saying, “It seems pretty normal to me.”  This made me stop and look at what I had said – did I think it was abnormal?  No.  Then why did I say that?  Because I was still holding onto someone else’s idea of friendship that was masquerading as my own.  Time to get rid of that and embrace my own ideas, thank you.

So, how does all this make me vulnerable?

Being true makes me vulnerable because I can no longer use the excuse that these are not my thoughts, that these are not my feelings, that these are not my beliefs.  I am putting myself out there in the world, and that’s quite scary.  For so long, I didn’t matter, but I do matter, and every day I have to prove that by being ME.  For so long, I believed everyone hated me, so by being me, and putting myself out there, I have to be able to accept that others may disagree with me, and might not even like me, but that’s okay because I am who I am, and if someone doesn’t like me, it’s no reflection on me as much as a reflection of them and their values, their morals, and their beliefs.

As long I am being true, being honest, behaving with integrity, and being open and vulnerable, that is all that can be asked of me.

He won

He won!

I don’t have any one to talk to that is going to understand this, so I will have to write it because if I don’t get it out somehow it is going to kill me.

He won.

He wasn’t a dumbass – I think he knew exactly what he was doing and what the outcome would be. Unfortunately, the dumbass is me, for taking so long to realise what his death means.

In many ways, and probably all the ones that count, I am now in a worse place than I was two years ago.

Back then, if I had a bad day, if I suffered from anxiety, depression, panic or whatever, it was my problem and my fault. (Just another day in Hell).

Then, for the last two years, I have been surrounded by people wanting to know how I am, saying they care about me, and telling me how brave I am and how strong I am.

Now, of course, Dad is dead, and with him died the court case – and it would seem that most people think that all of my problems relating to what happened to me died with him. “It’s all over now.”

Well, no, it’s not all over.

Now, not only am I some crazy bitch with a temper and mood swings and God knows what else, because now many people believe that I am the cause of my father’s death.

People still don’t know what he did to me. People still don’t know all of the ways it has affected me. But apparently none of that matters now because he’s dead.

If it was so easy to stop being affected by what happened, don’t you think I would have hit that switch long ago?

So, now I guess it goes back to being my problem, my fault, and all in my head. Now it means I am stuck in ‘No Man’s Land’ – I can’t grieve for my father because people don’t understand that even though he did terrible things to me he was still my father. I can’t talk about what happened because nobody knows or wants to know – and it doesn’t matter now, does it? I can’t have anxiety, a panic attack or depression because the cause of my problem is dead.  At least two years ago I could go through all of these things and I was just ‘crazy’ because no-one knew why I was like that.

I guess that means the last two years have been a complete waste of time.

And, I guess that means Dad won.