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

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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 Mirror in Severus Snape

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I recently read the first two Harry Potter books to my eight-year-old twins. They were astounded by them. My children’s entire lives shifted forever when Harry saw Quirrell standing in front of the mirror at the end of the first book. I knew it would be surprising to them. The brilliance of the Harry Potter stories is their unpredictable nature. And since my children are still processing things as black and white, they just received a mind-blowing lesson in “things are not always as they seem”.

But I have a truly shameful revelation to make. I had never read these books either. I know. I may have been the last person on the face of the Earth who had not read them. I am not sure why. I have always loved fantasy stories. I filled my childhood with unicorns, wizards and fairies just to keep distracted from my reality. But I was already an adult when the Harry Potter series first came out. And I was living in a world of obligation. I didn’t make time for my own entertainment. And my dissociated brain had trouble focusing on books, so I usually didn’t read unless required by school or work. Of course, I went to the theater for the first couple of movies like the rest of the world. But as is usually the case, the books are in another league. 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

Packing Up The Trauma

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When I was growing up, I never grew up. I grew upward. I grew taller as most kids do. But many aspects of my development stopped at a very young age. While my brain grew intellectually, my unprocessed emotions from my traumatic experiences thwarted my reliance on emotional intelligence and intuition. I had shut all of that down. And while I grew taller, I hid most of my unprocessed experiences in my body which resulted in chronic bouts with pain for many years.

There is much discussion in the therapeutic community about how much recovery is possible when acute (one time) trauma becomes complex (chronic and inescapable) trauma. Most trauma experts are convinced that recovery can be extensive, but may never reach “full” recovery (whatever that may mean). As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “she [his patient] will always love with an accent”. 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

Overqualified for the Job

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I have been thinking about leadership lately. What does it mean to be a leader? What personal characteristics does that require? Is a leader defined by their followers, by their dissenters? What is required of them when they are a leader? And why am I so scared to be one?

In our society, most leaders seem to be figure heads. It appears that most of them have a team of people in the background telling them what to do. And while I agree that everyone should collaborate in their creations, it seems that most of our leaders aren’t creating much. They aren’t standing up for much. It seems that they are maintaining the status quo. So to me, they are not leading. They are staying put. Continue reading