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Posts Tagged ‘visiting hometown after child abuse’

This week, I have been talking about the stress of returning to your hometown in which you experienced child abuse. Even though I have been healing from my child abuse issues since 2003 and, for the most part, live a life that is free from my past abuse, I experience a terrible regression in my healing whenever I return to my hometown, as I did recently. I do not recommend returning to your hometown where your child abuse took place unless you have a very good reason to do so.

How do you decide what is a good enough reason to return to your hometown? Bottom line – The good coming out of the trip needs to outweigh the damage that you do to yourself by retraumatizing yourself. If the good does not outweigh the bad, then choose not to return to your hometown. It is simply not worth the h@#$ you put yourself through.

The reason I returned to my hometown recently was to visit my grandmother. This is my father’s mother (the “good” parent). She is in her nineties. She is ailing physically, and she has been lonely since my grandfather died a few years ago. I thought the joy it would bring her to see both me and my son would outweigh the pain that I put myself through to make the trip. This time, I was wrong.

My grandmother wanted us to leave within an hour of our arrival. She used to keep us there for hours, constantly bringing up new subjects to delay our departure. This time, our visit was clearly a burden. She just wanted to go back to bed.

I have had several people tell me that elderly people cannot handle long visits, and I get that. The problem is that I put myself through h@#$ for two weeks for that visit, and it was not worth it. The joy she experienced did not outweigh the price I paid to give her that visit – suicidal urges, weight gain, terror, depression, and despair.

Some child abuse survivors return to their hometowns in order to face down their demons. There was a good example of this in the movie Forrest Gump. Sexual abuse survivor Jenny goes back to her old house and throws things at it before collapsing in tears on the ground. Facing down your demons like that can be cathartic, but you need to set aside lots of time afterward to process your emotions before you are going to feel better.

Returning to your hometown to confront your abuser is also a good reason to go. While it is not necessary to confront your abuser in order to heal from child abuse, many abuse survivors find the experience to be very empowering.

I still have people (mostly friends) who I care about that are living in my hometown. I still plan to see them on occasion, just not in my hometown. I met some of them in a location that was a good halfway point. I would love to do that more often. In that way, I get the joy of interacting with people I care about without having to put myself through two weeks of h@#$ to make it happen.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This week, I have been talking about the stress of returning to your hometown in which you experienced child abuse. I have talked about my apprehension before the trip, my stress during the visit, and the aftermath of the trip. I do not recommend returning to your hometown where your child abuse took place unless you have a very good reason to do so. Even though I have been healing from my child abuse issues since 2003 and, for the most part, live a life that is free from my past abuse, I experience a terrible regression in my healing whenever I return to my hometown, as I did recently.

After this last trip, I questioned my sanity. I do this every time I return to my hometown, but I still find myself falling into the trap of questioning whether I really am “crazy.” I don’t feel like myself. I push away the people I love the most, and I just want to die. The despair runs so deeply that the things that matter the most to me no longer seem to matter. I can barely function. All I can do is sit and cry.

I have learned that trying to repress the emotions only makes things worse. I have to allow myself to grieve, which is something I do not enjoy doing. I have to allow myself to feel the anger, despair, terror, and grief before I can move past this terribly painful place.

And then here is the real challenge – I have to allow myself to release these emotions without attaching to them. I have learned through experience that my thoughts and energy are incredibly strong. I equate my energy with being a like a Corvette when many people that I know are like a Corolla. Other people can drive down the wrong road (suicidal urges, etc.) and then turn around much faster than I can because they do not go as far as quickly as I do. If I add my own thoughts and energy to the suicidal urges, it is like flooring it in a Corvette. I will find myself so far down the wrong road that I run the risk of never returning. Of course, the good news is that, because I am a Corvette, I can also get myself out of a bad place much faster than many other people can, but have to recognize that is even an option first.

The strength of my energy is both a blessing and a curse. My strength enabled me to survive levels of child abuse that has broken many other people’s sanity. However, the flip side is that, if I direct my energy in the wrong direction, I can find myself in such a bad state that it can be very, very hard for me to find my way back out. It is not my strength that is at issue but my self-perceptions about my strength. Once I buy into the lie that I am weak and that my situation is hopeless, I am vulnerable to harming myself. Because I know this about myself, I am very careful never to act on the things I am feeling when I am in this place.

What ultimately pulls me out is expressing my emotions for a few days and then talking about how I am feeling. My feelings are so “off” from who I am today, but I need an outside person to remind me of who I am. When I return to my hometown, I “forget” that I am this strong conqueror who has healed from my past. Instead, I buy into the lies that I am weak and worthless. The challenge is remembering who I am. Once I remember, I am able to propel myself out of this two-week period of h@#$.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This week, I have been talking about the stress of returning to your hometown in which you experienced child abuse. I have talked about my apprehension before the trip and my stress during the visit. I wish that returning home would end the stress, but it does not. It takes me a good week to recover from the aftermath of a trip to my hometown. I do not recommend returning to your hometown where your child abuse took place unless you have a very good reason to do so.

I awaken the day after the trip home from visiting my hometown with the expectation of feeling better, but I never do. I feel like I am recovering from an intense battle. I am not myself. I feel drained of energy. All I want to do is cry. I generally spend hours each day in tears for the first week home.

I have no energy, which is unusual for me. I am generally a very energetic person who gets twice as much done than most people in half the time. That is just the way I am. All of that energy is sapped when I return home. It is an effort to get out of bed in the morning, although as a mother of a young child, I do not have a choice.

Again, my husband and son pick up on my stress and react to it. I wind up having arguments with both of them multiple times throughout the week. I need time to lick my emotional wounds, and neither will give me the space to do that. Neither hears me unless I am screaming at the top of my lungs, so that is exactly what I wind up doing. And then I feel badly about myself because I am alternating between being so depressed that I can barely move and raging like a lunatic at my family.

The despair is overwhelming and, ironically, this is when I battle my deepest suicidal urges. I would expect to feel suicidal before or during the trip but not afterward. However, that has not been my experience. For a good week after returning from a visit to my hometown and seeing so many things that remind me of the child abuse, I just want to die. I “forget” all of the things that I love about life because they are clouded by my deep feelings of despair.

I don’t feel better until I finally talk about it with someone. I don’t want to talk about it with the people in my life because it is too painful. It also makes me feel too vulnerable. When my pain is that raw, I simply cannot endure another emotional wound, and revealing this deeply hurting part of myself to another person makes me extremely vulnerable to being hurt again. I do not think I could endure another wound on top of what I am already nursing.

Another odd thing is that I get very quiet. I am known for my chattiness. My therapist tells me that one reason I am so chatty is because I was silenced so much in childhood, so when I finally have another person willing to listen to me, the words tumble out quickly before am I silenced again. So, everyone in my life has the expectation that I will talk a lot in a conversation – not that I won’t listen, because I am a very good listener, but being chatty is who part of I am.

That changes for about a week when I return from a trip to my hometown. It is an effort for me to talk. I don’t return phone calls. I don’t say much when I am around my friends. I just want to melt into the ground and disappear.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my last post, Returning to Hometown after Child Abuse: Apprehension Before the Trip, I shared the stress that I endure the week before returning to my hometown where I experienced most of my child abuse. I do not recommend returning to your hometown where your child abuse took place unless you have a very good reason to do so. This series is to discuss the things that I go through whenever I return to my hometown, even after working through the child abuse healing process.

As I drive my car toward my hometown, I feel the stress intensifying. My head hurts, and I feel like crying. I find myself selecting CDs with melancholy songs to listen to on the drive. As I cross the state line into the state of my hometown, I “see” a gray screen descend upon my vision. I used to think that the gray was from air pollution because my hometown is a suburb of a large U.S. city. I now know that this is an internally generated “gray.” Everything around me looks like I am looking at it through a window screen – it looks darker and dingy.

I now recognize that this is me dissociating for my visit to my hometown. As hard as I have worked to stay present in my day-to-day life, all of my progress goes out the window when I return to my hometown. I am not capable of feeling safe when I am anywhere near the places where the child abuse happened, so I resign myself to feeling “off” and regressed in my state of healing in order to endure the visit.

I bring along melatonin to help me sleep at night because I have no hope of falling asleep otherwise. Even with taking melatonin, I toss and turn for a long time before I can fall asleep. I have terrible nightmares, and I awaken early. There is no rest in my sleep. My muscles are very tense, and my shoulders hunch forward to “protect” my heart.

I am unable to be myself while I am in my hometown. I drive by the streets leading to my first home, where most of the abuse happened, and I cannot help but go down memory lane. Seeing all of my old haunts resurrects my childhood ghosts (demons), and I feel like I am a helpless eight-year-old girl again.

I count down the hours until I can leave. I always plan the trips to arrive on Friday evening and leave early on Sunday morning (by 9:00 a.m.; preferably by 8:00 a.m.). I remind myself that I will not even be there for 48 hours. Considering this is a six hour drive, it really does not make sense to go for such a short visit, but I do it to protect myself.

It is a wonder that I do not get a speeding ticket whenever I leave because I floor it to get out of that state as quickly as possible. I look in the rearview mirror frequently so I can watch that horrible place growing distant. I can feel my muscles relax ever so slightly whenever I do this.

Crossing the state line out of that state feels like removing sunglasses. Suddenly, the world around me begins regaining its color. However, it will take at least a week for true color to return to my vision.

When I get home, I just want to sleep. I collapse into my bed and sleep more soundly than I have in a week.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I recently returned to my hometown, where I experienced most of my child abuse. I do not recommend doing this unless you have a really good reason to put yourself through it. I had such a difficult time on this past trip that I have decided not to return to my hometown again. I will probably return to my hometown for my grandmother’s funeral (she is in her nineties), and I will consider returning for my next high school reunion (not due for a few years). Other than that, I have decided to love myself enough not to put myself through the trauma I experience each time I return to my hometown.

My symptoms begin about a week before the trip. I start struggling with insomnia. I put off going to bed because I do not want to face the nightmares. I toss and turn until I finally drop off to sleep. I awaken in the middle of the night, pouring sweat in terror, and it takes me a good hour to fall back to sleep again (assuming I can even manage to fall back to sleep). I feel physically lousy from lack of sleep.

I also start binge eating again or at least emotionally overeating. I put on several pounds because I need the food. I also find myself drinking a lot more beer than I typically do. (I am only talking about one beer a night, but still…)

I become very edgy, which my family picks up on and reacts to. So, in addition to feeling awful myself, I wind up having multiple arguments with my husband and child. I find myself coming unglued over the smallest things. I can see myself overreacting to what is going on around me, but I feel helpless to stop it.

I also find myself battling waves of urges to self-injure and even a peppering of suicidal urges. I made a life decision a long time ago never to give in to suicidal urges, but it is still awful to have to feel them. I feel the undercurrents of despair that intensify as the day to return to my hometown approaches.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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