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Posts Tagged ‘mother-daughter sexual abuse’

I was doing completely OK until late Saturday morning. My son’s friend spent the night, and I picked up some breakfast for the boys at a local restaurant. As it turned out, the restaurant gave us the wrong side dish for my son, and he got angry with me. I don’t know what it was about that interaction, but I was suddenly SLAMMED with Mother’s Day grief.

I am trying to focus on the positive – that I only got triggered the day before Mother’s Day instead of weeks ahead of time. As a friend pointed out, I typically start wigging out sometime in April, and that didn’t happen in this year. In fact, I was in a great mood while driving out to pick up the food from the fast food restaurant. However, once I was slammed, I was slammed hard.

I spent half of Saturday and all day Sunday fighting off tears. That’s one of the challenges of Mother’s Day – because it is supposed to be celebrating me, I don’t really have the option of blowing off my family to go grieve. I did it in subtle ways, such as taking a Sunday afternoon nap (something I rarely do) so I could have some alone time. I spent the weekend feeling like I had a heavy pit in my stomach – the grief was so heavy.

I just woke up on Monday morning, so it’s too early to say how much residue I still have to deal with. At the moment, I am still feeling depressed with little energy. At least the “holiday” is over, so hopefully I just need to recover from the weekend.

I was able to be objective enough to recognize the progress in only being slammed for half a day before Mother’s Day instead of going through that pain for weeks. I was also objective enough to recognize that this is temporary. That being said, it’s no wonder I have battled my weight (eating to “stuff down” the pain) and questioned my sanity throughout my life. Having to live with the weight of that pain is nearly unbearable.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This week, I have been talking about the need to remember enough of the trauma to “let go.” I have also been sharing some personal examples of how this process has worked for me. You can catch up here and here.

I don’t want anyone to think that there is something “wrong” with them if they don’t experience the same results that I did in “letting go” of my most traumatizing memory in about three weeks’ time. Healing is not a race or a competition.

I don’t think it is possible to “let go” of trauma in three weeks without a significant amount of practice and experience in working through trauma. When I first started on my healing journey, I recovered memories of the mother-daughter sexual abuse. My “breakthrough crisis” lasted for six weeks – every single minute of six weeks. I then got a four-hour reprieve where I realized there was actually life after this horrifying experience. When the four hours ended, I was right back where I was before – drowning in emotional pain – but this time I had the **hope** of a future that was not consumed by pain.

My therapist assured me that the healing process would move me toward shorter difficult periods (from six weeks to hours or days) and that the easier periods would grow longer (from four hours to weeks or even months!). Of course, I had a hard time believing this in the moment, but it gave me hope.

Healing from child abuse is a process of remembering what happened and finding a way to accept it as part of who you are. The way you get from A to B is going to vary from person to person. For me, yoga and meditation were a huge part of this process. For Michael, yoga is just about the last thing he would do, but art has been very helpful. Art is not my thing (unless you classify writing as “art”), so many of the tools he shares are not tools that I have used. However, we are both moving from A to B one trauma at a time.

The more experience I have in healing from trauma, the better prepared I am to navigate through new memories. My new memories seem to be surfacing about once every six months now, and I am growing more confident in my ability to work through them. If I could just “let it go” without having to remember, I would. That hasn’t been my experience. I need remember enough to heal, and I cannot “let go” until I remember and process.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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In my last blog entry, I answered the question of how a person can “let go” of a traumatic memory that he or she does not remember. I said that you can’t. “Letting go” of a traumatizing memory before processing it is simply denial. The trauma will continue to plague you until you process it. I then shared me experience with healing from mother-daughter sexual abuse – I didn’t have to remember every abusive experience to heal.

Now I would like to focus on healing from the ritual abuse. I recovered my first inkling of there being any ritual abuse with a flash of my soul/spirit being high in the treetops looking down at a bonfire (out-of-body-type memory). Since that first flash, I have recovered quite a few horrific trauma memories of the ritual abuse.

I believe I have needed to process more specific ritual abuse memories than I did of mother-daughter sexual abuse because the ritual abuse memories had significant differences that I needed to heal. With the mother-daughter sexual abuse, it was mostly the same thing over and over again, so I only needed to remember a handful of memories to heal. However, the ritual abuse varied, traumatizing me in different ways. I have had to process specific traumas that are different from one another, at least different enough that I need to work through them one at a time versus in a blanket way.

I started working through the healing process (having flashbacks, seeing a therapist, reading self-help books, etc.) in 2003, and I started working through the ritual abuse traumas in 2005. Even though I did a lot of trauma work and experienced a significant amount of healing, I was still extremely triggered by Christmas because of the memories I just worked through this past Christmas, which I blogged about here:

I could not “piggy-back” that trauma with the other ritual abuse memories despite the fact that I have done an enormous amount of work processing traumas from ritual abuse. I had to remember what happened before I could “let it go.”

I haven’t yet shared what an amazing transformation has taken place inside of me from letting go. For the first time ever, I decided not to “do” anything with those memories. Other that writing about them on the blog, I did not analyze them. I did not sit around thinking about them. I didn’t do exercises to work through my emotions. Instead, I chose to “be” with whatever I felt without judgment or action.

For about three weeks, I was probably clinically depressed. I withdrew from everyone in my life to the extent I could. I didn’t return phone calls or get together with friends. I just went about my day feeling sad. I tried to visualize allowing the pain to pour out of me with nothing to interfere with the process – no distractions, no advice, no trying to make it better, etc.

After about three weeks, I miraculously felt better – I mean really, really better. I found myself sometimes singing Christmas carols and appreciating the beauty of Christmas lights at night. I stopped feeling the urge to wear my “Bah Humbug” shirts. By remembering what happened and “letting go” of the emotions, I found freedom from the emotional bondage.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled What Does “Letting Go” Mean?, a reader posted the following comment:

How do you let go of abuse you can’t remember? I try to tell people who don’t understand PTSD, “you can’t forget what you can’t remember.” ~PW

The short answer is that you can’t. Trying to “let go” of memories you have not yet processed is simply denial. Well-meaning people sometimes advice child abuse survivors to “let it go,” but what they really mean is to shove it back down inside so nobody has to deal with it. What these people don’t realize is that until you process the trauma, it continues to affect every single area of your life. You cannot “let it go” until you process the trauma.

Considering how much trauma I suffered as a child, I feared I might not live long enough to process every single memory of every traumatizing incident in my life. My therapist assured me that there is no need to recover every memory of the abuse (thank goodness!) You need to process just enough to reach a place of working through accepting that one area of trauma.

For example, I know that my mother sexually abused me from when I was a toddler through around age six. I can pinpoint the length because I recovered a memory of her sexually abusing me as a toddler and then another memory of myself at around age six when my father walked in on my mother hurting me. That’s when her sexual abuse stopped (although it started up again briefly after my father’s death when I was 16).

My mother was a stay-at-home mom and had 24/7 access to my sister and me except when we were in school, so I know there were more incidents than the two. However, I have only recovered a handful of specific memories of being sexually abused by her. One was when I was two years old, and she performed a “new” sexual act on me. Another was the memory of my mother sexually abusing my baby sister in front of me for the first time (when I was four). Within these flashbacks are the thoughts I was having, which confirm that these four incidents were not the only times she sexually abused me.

I have been able to process the trauma of being sexually abused by my mother by working through this handful of specific memories, even though I was likely sexually abused by her hundreds of times. As my therapist said, I don’t have to put myself through reliving all of those incidents. I need to remember enough of what happened to process it and heal.

This blog entry is getting too long, so I will continue with this topic tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am currently in training for a new job. It is a part-time position that I can do from home on my computer. It is very flexible, which works out nicely with my schedule. So far, training is going well.

However (and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?), the training requires me to use my real name. That is unbelievably difficult for me. I have been active online for years, and I have always gone by “Faith.” That name feels like the “online me.” I have to remember not to refer to myself as Faith in this online training.

And here is the kicker about why I am having such a hard time in using my real name – It is the same name as my mother/abuser. That really stinks, doesn’t it?

My mother’s name is “Faye,” and she named me “Faye Anne.” My parents called me “Annie” until I was seven years old. Annie is who I identify with as the original child. When I was seven, Annie went to sleep. I woke up one morning and did not know who I was. Everyone kept calling me Annie, but that name did not fit. I hated Annie.

So, I insisted upon being called by my first name, which happens to be the same name as my mother/abuser. I don’t think I knew this when I made that decision, or at least that part of myself (my host personality) did not.

So, now I have the instructor and my fellow students-in-training calling me by my mother’s name. That has been triggering. But I really don’t know how to tell them to call me Faith when that is not any part of my legal name.

I guess I will figure out a way to ride this out. It just really stinks. At least my sister was not named after our mother-abuser.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Hornet\'s Nest (c) Lynda BernhardtI really hate the word “incest.” I often hear people talk about “rape or incest” as if they are two different things. Yes, I understand that the use of the word “incest” is to specify that the abuser was blood-related to the victim. However, incest is rape in most cases. By separating out the word “incest” from “rape,” it makes incest sound innocuous when it is anything but.

Dictionary.com provides the following definitions for incest:

  • Sexual intercourse between closely related persons.
  • Sexual relations between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal or forbidden by custom.
  • Sexual intercourse between persons too closely related to marry (as between a parent and a child).

There are other definitions provided as well. None of them include that the sexual contact is by force.

I did not enter into a consensual sexual relationship with my mother as a toddler. She raped me. I have been raped by both men and women, so I am in a position to say with certainty that the sexual contact forced by both men and women is rape. The sexual abuse is just as horrible and degrading regardless of whether a woman or a man is perpetrating the abuse.

I refuse to allow another person to water down what I experienced by calling what my mother did to me “incest.” If the term “incest” must be included, then call it “incestuous rape” because that is a more accurate term.

The fact that a sexual abuser is blood-related makes the crime worse, not better. It really bothers me that, when the perpetrator is a blood relative, our language seems to downgrade the level of horror involved. “Rape” carries a punch. “Incest” is fodder for bad jokes about the residents of particular Southern states. There was nothing consensual with what I experienced, so I refuse to apply the word “incest” to what I experienced.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Microscopic view (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen I confronted my abuser, I did not even know that I was doing it. That is probably something that only a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) can understand.

I had turned down three full scholarships to attend the university that my mother/abuser wanted me to attend. It was a prestigious university that her sibling had been unable to get into, so it mattered to my mother/abuser that I go there. My interest was more in the doors that would open up to me by having a degree from this particular school.

In retrospect, I cannot believe that I turned down a free ride to stay financially dependent upon on my mother/abuser for another three years, but I did. She agreed to “be my scholarship” and pay for all of my bills while I attended this school. However, she reneged right in the middle of finals halfway through my education there.

I started receiving past due notices from my car insurance company. I kept forwarding them to my mother/abuser (as per our arrangement), but she did not pay them. I received an insurance cancellation notice right in the middle of finals.

I called my mother to ask WTF? I cannot remember specifically what she said, but it triggered Irate (my “rage alter”). Irate took over as my host personality sat back in horror and amazement. Irate b@#$%ed that woman up one side and down the other, ending it with saying, “You already f#$%ed me as a child. You are NOT going to f#$% me as an adult!!!!!” My mother/abuser hung up on me.

My host personality was a walking doormat. The “me” that most people knew was extremely passive and had a hard time standing up for herself, even in simple situations. The conversation had to have blown my mother/abuser out of the water.

Years later, my mother/abuser wrote a “book” about her life that included this situation. I put the word “book” in quotes because it was nothing more than a bunch of ramblings by an insane woman. That book is Exhibit A in my accusation against anyone who did nothing to intervene at a mentally ill woman parenting two children.

Anyhow, my mother’s account of that day is as follows: I telephoned her out of the blue and “was nasty to her.” She hung up on me. Then, she got out a gun, loaded it, and sat on the stairs debating whether to blow her head off. Ultimately, she decided not to do it.

That is how I found out about this – through reading her insane book. I have since asked her if she remembers why I “was nasty to her,” and she said, “No.”

Clearly, that moment between us was deeply significant. For the first time, I confronted her for all that she did to me in childhood. After I did, she was hit with the guilt and shame of what she did, which is evidenced by her first reaction being to commit suicide.

Ultimately, we both shoved it all back deep down inside again. I stayed angry at my mother/abuser for months and refused to see her. This was right before Christmas. I refused to come home, as did my sister, who was still angry with our mother/abuser for something she pulled on her over Thanksgiving. That was the first Christmas that my mother/abuser spent alone, probably ever.

By February, our mother/abuser came to visit (she owned the townhouse where my sister and I were living), and she “forced” a reconciliation of sorts. My sister and I reacted by taking complete advantage of this. We ran up her credit card like nobody’s business. Then, we went back to denial of what had transpired between us.

Related Topic:

How to Decide Whether to Confront Abuser After Child Abuse

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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