The Familiar Pain

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*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.

Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want nothing more than to move past it. But I have inner parts. And I may have an inner part who isn’t ready to let go of the familiar.

There is a phrase: “the evil you know versus the evil you don’t”. I think it sums up the recovery journey well. When pain becomes familiar, letting go of that pain can cause more of it, at least at first. And recovery doesn’t feel like jumping off a cliff. It feels like jumping off multiple successive cliffs. So when faced with one more change, one more risk to take, it might feel better to go with what doesn’t feel good at all, because at least we know it. In this journey, pain may be the only thing that isn’t new. Continue reading

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Words to Live By

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How many people in your life would qualify as the “A-word”? You know those people who are nasty and manipulative and selfish, the people who are only interested in what’s in it for them. And I label them as abusers. (What word were you thinking of?) They aren’t necessarily punching you or sexually assaulting you, but their behavior is abusive on the emotional and mental levels.

Sometimes I wonder if trauma survivors are more prone to come across abusers. I wonder if there is a sign on my back that says, “I was horribly mistreated by my parents so that makes me more likely to succumb to your nasty bullying behavior.” (That message may be a little long.) And while I could spend hours, even days, feeling victimized all over again, I know I have to look at this from a different perspective. It is not possible to change the abusers. It is not possible to avoid the abusers entirely. While I am proud to say I have learned to set better boundaries, the abusers will always be around. I have to understand how I am reacting to them internally. My reaction must change. Nothing else can. Continue reading

The Wilderness

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As a trauma survivor in recovery, I have spent a long time in the wilderness. It isn’t an actual wilderness. I am not a fan of the outdoors. Nature and my dissociative defense mechanism are not compatible. I am speaking of the wilderness that is often the subject of the spiritual texts. It seems that before most protagonists find their mission or purpose, there is some period of waiting. There is some period of preparing, of letting go of the old.  And it makes sense to me. I don’t see another way. If the foundation is shaky, it cannot be built upon.

But I hate it.

I carry a large amount of masculine energy with me. I rejected that which was feminine many years ago in my attempts to avoid the loathing that my parents spewed upon their little girls. I figured that if the feminine was so easily abused and disliked, I would not be that. I learned over the years to be about action, to be about the willful accomplishment of goals. In my early adulthood, it seemed to work for a while. It worked until the children were born. But children don’t respond to the unbalanced masculine unless the goal is to rid them of any individuality. They must be raised with both. So I have worked hard to resurrect my feminine aspects. I have even found some balance. But I still favor action. Continue reading

50 Shades of Abuse

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When I was a child, I was taught that sex was about power. More importantly, I was taught that sex was about a power differential. My needs, wants and concerns were of no interest to my abuser. And “no” was never an acceptable response to my abuser’s desires. I internalized that message. I grew up expecting sex and relationships to be unhealthy. And I unknowingly searched that out. Abuse was familiar. It was what I knew.

The worst part wasn’t the abusive relationship. It was the internal belief systems that each relationship confirmed. I was convinced that the power differential was critical to an intimate relationship. And I was unable to be in a healthy relationship because of that. I even considered healthy relationships to be boring or unfulfilling. I saw them as fake. I thought there was no way people could genuinely care about each other. I thought the only passion that could exist in a relationship was abusive. Continue reading

My Inner Rebel Will Not Be Stopped

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My family members were masters at squashing rebellion. It is what any good (or bad) dictator learns how to do before all else. It only takes one person to rise up against you, one bad link in the chain, and the empire can fall. Personally, I could not imagine depending on the fear in others to maintain the life I want. It sounds like a lot of work to keep that house of cards intact. But many are willing to try it because they think it is the only way to have power and control. And honestly, what can be easier than teaching children to fear you … especially if they are your children? I believe this actually works most of the time. I believe there are thousands (or more) of children who never speak of their devastating childhoods, who spend their entire lives deeply hating their parents while going through the motions of one big happy family, even arranging the perfect funeral for their parents in the end.

My parents were expecting everything to happen just like that. After all, it is what they had done for their parents. And who are we kidding? Their parents did it too. Unfortunately for them, they had me. I have a rebellious side. I have always had a problem with people telling me what to do. I told far more people about their abuse than they expected. They had to do far more cover up than they had planned. And then, at 38 years old, I blew the lid off the whole thing, denying them their self-ascribed right to abuse their grandchildren and keep the cycle going. I know they feel like the victims. I know because they told me. They told me I was breaking their hearts and that they didn’t deserve this treatment. They never expected this to happen. But unfortunately for them, they had me. Continue reading

As I Stand In My Way

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As I look at my aspirations for the coming year, I must stop and examine my sense of worth. Is my sense of worth the key to my future manifestations? Are my lofty goals at the mercy of my beliefs about what I deserve? I am starting to believe that the only thing standing in the way of my dreams is me. If I believe I am not worthy of my goals, they will never happen. And as an adult, I have the ability to adjust my own feelings of worthiness, so that I can reach my full potential. I have the ability to say “yes” to my dreams.

But there’s a problem. My sense of worth is marred down by years of messages about my unworthiness. I certainly wasn’t born this way. I see that in my own children. They think they should be able to do anything. They think they should have anything they want. They think they could be anything. It is only the adults (specifically the parents at first) who tell them otherwise. Continue reading

Mount Everest

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Relationships are hard for everyone, but especially for survivors of child abuse. Before I started my recovery work, I spent years in relationships that were obviously abusive and damaging to my emotional wellness, but I was too blinded by my own trauma to see it. My family had always taught me that survival depended on having a man in my life. In my family, women kept abusive men around because of this belief. It was critically important for this to be ingrained in each family member as early as possible. There could be no understanding of their individual power. They must believe they could not survive without a partner or the abuse might not be tolerated.

So, I spent many years in codependent relationships that perpetuated my belief systems born from an abusive childhood. I am not worthy of love. I am not meant to be happy. I must do whatever my partner wants so that he will remain happy and not leave me. I cannot say no. I cannot react to his emotionally and verbally abusive comments because that might be dangerous. It was not until my children were born that I realized something needed to change. As I have written before, it was their birth that gave me the motivation to examine my past. Continue reading