What If No Really Meant No

What If NO Really Meant NO

“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.” The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis”
― Ellen Bass, The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

There are things in my life t;hat I continue to hide under a bush away from the light. Mostly because it’s embarrassing to deal with. The sexual abuse I endured has affected my life in ways that I can’t seem to find words for. In my early 40’s I should be in my sexual prime. But instead I sit here getting nauseous at just discussing the topic. My first sexual experience was around the age of 5 years old which is incredibly too young to know anything about that side of life. It terrified me when it happened not once but several times. I hear their words and can still feel them touching me. I still hear the words whispered in my ear. It all burns so bad in my soul that I can smell my charred remains.
Where this is something that I’ve left covered and protected I’m also not healing in this area of my life. I have run until there’s no where else to run to. It’s time to turn around and face it. Coach has proven herself time and time again that she’s trustworthy of this information. Now it’s my time to allow my trust in her to do it’s job.

protect me

Sex for many years has been a taboo topic that most people shy away from unless poking fun. But, even as an adult I was violated aggressively by a person that was supposed to protect and cherish me…….my husband. Instead, however, fear and pain were shown. I allowed him to do things to me that I was against personally and saying, “NO” just made things worse. So, I reluctantly went along as his submissive with total disregard for how I felt.

Me and my alters don’t understand how this process is supposed to feel and be in a loving way uninhibited by young and adult alters who are terrified of being a part of a process that is meant to be one defined by the words “precious and sacred.” I have often said that I “let” people do to me sexually what they wanted. When, in fact, I was saying NO and being told what would happen if I didn’t allow it. So, silently I would lay still hoping and praying that whatever was being done would end quickly.

By the time I met Mel sex to me was a horrible amd very scary word. But, the damage had already been done. The nausea I now couldn’t control which ruined the experience time and time again. The only thing that seemed to save me what the ability to float away. What I did was leave alters in my place further scaring and traumatizing them. No matter how many times I tried this process became automatic. And now one of the most intimate areas of my life has lead to a life of hibernation rather than fulfillment. I didn’t “LET” anyone do anything. They took my pride, self-confidence and humanity. Which leads me to ponder the question, “What would life had been like if No actually meant NO?”

#thispuzzledlife

Code Of Silence

The Code of Silence

The predator wants your silence.  It feeds their power,

entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.”

—Viola Davis

When I first begin getting to know someone, the very first thing I look for is their level of snitch. What do I mean by this?  Snitching is when you tell on someone to get yourself out of trouble.  Another word for a snitch is a tattletale.  To be labeled as a snitch socially is to be ostracized.  In other circles being labeled as a snitch can get you killed.  And snitching is a predator’s greatest enemy because that exposes secrets.

As a small child the term snitching wasn’t used yet. I did know what the term tattletale meant.  And what hurting my friend’s feelings and damaging a relationship because of telling secrets meant.  It meant people would be mad at me and I would have no friends.  Even teachers at daycares can get tired of all the tattling.  Step inside any daycare and you’re liable to hear, “The next child that tattles doesn’t go outside and play.”  These are two dichotomous examples of telling information.  My question to think about is are we teaching our kids the best and safest message?  There are always exceptions to the rule.  By the time these children are teens there’s an unwritten “code of conduct” around telling information whether it be relevant or not that might save lives.  This will also get someone labeled as a snitch.

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I can expand more about teens later, however, for the sake of this blog post I’m going to refer to myself as a young child.  My first lesson in keeping secrets that should’ve been told was around 5 years-old.  I was molested many times by my neighbor’s youngest and middle sons.  These boys were around 13-15 years old and old enough to know better.  The way I was held emotionally hostage was through threats like “the police would come and I would have my parents taken away.”  I was also told, “that I would make people mad and no one would want to be my friend. And it would be all my fault.”

This little girl named Dana would do everything possible to make sure both she and her family was safe.  From a child’s point of view, I hung on to every scary word spoken.  And afterwards they would tell me how beautiful I was.  The searing pain that would burn my body would leave an imprint on my psyche even today.  The pain and fear would start and I would leave somewhere in my mind where pain was not felt.  Still to this day, I’m very confused in just about every way in regards to having been molested.

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People  that seek power over other people instill in their victims that telling about abuse is a sign of weakness.  As a teenager, anytime I told or tried to tell about the abuse to the school administration this information would get back to the teacher making the abuse worse.  The message I got from doing that was to “forget asking for help and save yourself.”  After the abuse of my 8th grade year, I vowed that as long as I was around to witness someone needing defending or help I would step in and protect in whatever way that I could.  This has bought me unnecessary trouble with coaches and friends but to me it was worth it.  I could then lay my head on my pillow at night and sleep.

One night after Mel and I had been speaking to a class at the college, A mother from that class asked me where I went to middle school.  I told her Petal Middle School and she asked about the teacher that was so abusive.  Because her 8th grade son would come home from school every afternoon with tears in his eyes due to being called names in front of his classmates by a teacher. She told me the teacher she was speaking about and after my heart dropped into my stomach I said, “Unfortunately, ma’am that is who I was speaking about.”  She asked, “What should I do?”  I told her, “Tell someone and get your child in counseling like yesterday.”  I don’t know whatever happened to that mother and her child’s situation.  The information I shared with her helped she and her son?  However, a big load of shame and guilt was dumped on me as penance for that child and any other children after me that I kept the secret about the abuse ,consequently, leaving the predator unscathed and in the driver’s seat to handpick her next teen victim with ease.

The small little southern city with air tight politics and a nose for people’s business other than their own was to my detriment that year.  I was told many years later by one of the administrators that worked there my middle school years information that still burns my ears.  I was told, “You were a child at that time and I couldn’t say anything especially due to the politics.  But I can tell you now that she should’ve never been around children.”  The disappointment must’ve been written all over my face when she saw how perplexed I was.  She said, “Is there something I can try to clear up for you?”  I stood there for a moment not knowing what to say but burning with questions.  “Yes ma’am.  I do have a question…..So you all knew she was abusive and shouldn’t have been around children and you let her teach anyway?!”  “I was her verbal punching bag and her abuse has affected my education, my career, my relationship with my wife and children, my relationships with others and above all the relationship and image of how I view myself as a human being!”  I was mad but I couldn’t stop then tears.  She hugged me as we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

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 When I went to my own vehicle and unlocked the doors, I sat down and shook my head and said, “They knew the whole time and didn’t try to stop her.  Didn’t they know how badly it all hurt?  Did they even care? Yes, I fought every way possible to make it through that year in school that still shows its ugly scarring.  No matter what adult I tried to tell that year I got no help from the abuse.  And “snitching” never did me any favors.  Had someone look past the labels and protected me from the backlash of telling the truth about the abuse my life could and maybe even would be much different now.  That one year of school affected a few other teenagers in ways that are still damaging to them.  The most visible are the scars that line the forearms of those teens with 30 years of thick scarring  from the one thing that would listen to us all then…..razors.  I also had the experience of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia), alcoholism, drug addiction that were all there with their arms wide open to help shield me from the unwanted torture of abuse.

The “Code of Silence” protected by perpetrators in a way that I had no defense.  And as a very young bride, I would face abuse again for the next 14 years.  That “Code of Silence” that was used as an intimidation factor all those years worked.  It kept me silent and the perpetrators innocent.  I go to bed scared every night and the first emotion I have in the morning is fear.  This shame based silence that seen as normal or acceptable is very hurtful.  Maybe protecting offenders because of “snitching” isn’t the problem. And maybe listening and helping to protect children and teens when they tell should be handled first instead of politics and reputations.

“We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

–Elie Wiesel

#thispuzzledlife

My Own Prison

My Own Prison

“To be able to break free from prison, one must know how they became imprisoned to begin with.”

—Anonymous

One of the things I’ve learned through the process of trying to live with this disorder are “triggers.”  Triggers are anything that can set off a memory that can take someone back in time to when the original trauma.  It’s like being in an instant time machine.  A trigger can be anything related to sight, sound, smell or taste.  These seemingly innocent moments to most people can set off internal and external eruptions in others.  This can often lead to strong and immediate reactions by those they affect.

I don’t have all of the answers about these little disruptive beasts yet.  And no matter how much I want all of the answers immediately I have to always keep in mind that it has taken me 42 years to become this dysfunctional and repair work does not happen overnight.  I guess to be cliché this process is “a marathon not a sprint.”

The ultimate goal of therapy is to be able to acknowledge these events but not let them overtake you.  Before this can happen specific triggers must first be identified and the event can be processed.  Recently, I did a therapeutic assignment related to this very thing.  One of my personal and very strong triggers is the feelings of being trapped either physically and/or emotionally.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I don’t have much success in lockdown psychiatric units and inpatient programs.  My ultimate goal is ALWAYS TO GET OUT!

confinement

While doing this assignment I looked specifically at individual traumatic situations where these fears were imposed and I was instantly blown away.  I had no idea how “trapped” I have felt the majority of my life.  When I began breaking down the different time periods for these situations things have begun to make a little more sense.  I felt myself becoming nauseous and beginning to float away while looking deep inside for these answers.  Here are just a few that were identified.

  1. Being molested by people older, at the young age of 5 years old, and not feeling powerful enough to make it stop while also holding these secrets left me feeling trapped.  These abusers were also our neighbors and were always around me because of how close our two families were even at church.
  2. As a teenager, I was trapped as some sick form of sport and/or punishment in a closet where I was verbally abused, humiliated and tormented on a daily basis.  I was like a dog that was chained to a tree and forced into aggression.  I was often sent to the office to face false accusations by the administration where no verdict other than GUILTY was ever considered.  I always felt as though no one would listen and that no one cared what was happening.  The times I reported that this teacher was “being mean” ultimately got back to her and the abuse intensified.  I was often belittled and embarrassed in front of my classmates.  The reality of that situation was that there was no way out….period.  That was the first time that I ever had any type of suicidal feelings of any kind.  Her words still burn deeply as the day that were first said.
  3. Anyone who has experienced domestic violence, in any form, knows the fear and panic of wanting and needing to leave but terrified of the repercussions.  I was also followed and constantly watched.  The mental anguish from his degrading comments and vile actions left me feeling completely lost, broken and fearing my own decisions.  No matter what decision I made it would always be wrong.  He had me convinced that I would never be able to do anything without him because I was too dumb.  The most powerful statement he ever made to me was “You’ll never get rid of me.” And so far this statement has not been untrue.  I was trapped.

trapped

These are just a few examples of feeling trapped.  And now….I’m trapped by all of the memories, images and statements that were made by those individuals.  I still can’t seem to break free from the abuse as it torments me daily.  The paranoia of being watched, followed or being attacked has me questioning the intensions of others.  Instead of waiting to see if the paranoia holds validity, I protect myself by being very verbally aggressive to innocent people who just happen to making seemingly non-malicious comments or glances.  Essentially, I’m in a perpetual state of being triggered.  Waiting for a happy ending that never happened during my trauma and today only fuels my impulsiveness in this area.

Being around too many people with too much stimulation sends me and my “protectors” into overdrive and into a state of fight or flight.  It seems to overload my brain, thus, making me think I’m in danger.  The anxiety becomes so uncomfortable that the only thing I can do is just “get away” in whatever form that might take.  I seem to tame this only by being alone and secluded from most people including those I dearly love.  I have become a prisoner of myself and life.  The dichotomous view of life leaves me imprisoned by my fears within four walls of my bedroom.  Outside of these walls I’m simply prepared for battle in one way or another by indiscriminately striking out at anything that moves. The situation that comforts me is also the walls of my self-created but protective prison.  My abuse was very real and still is. And I’m a work in progress.

#thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light Part2

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 2

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“I want everyone that has been abused by someone in their childhood to know that you can get past it. Having DID is not the end of the world; it’s the beginning of your new life. DID allows the victim of exceptional abuse the ability to “forget” the abuse and continue living. Without it, I may have gone crazy as a teen and spent my life in  a psychiatric hospital.” 
― Dauna Cole, A Shattered Mind: One Woman’s Story of Survival and Healing

One of the major issues with this disorder are what most people refer to as ‘alters’ or other personalities.  What I’m going to try to do is to paint the picture for you in a way that I’ve been learning how to understand this.  So, imagine you have an apartment complex and each person has their own room.  Except in these rooms, there are horrible memories that are behind doors and no one can get in without a key.  The only people that have these keys are my therapists and my alters which help keep anything else from hurting me.  This is what has protected me throughout the years.  However, some of the coping strategies that worked then DO NOT work now.

Alters can also range in age depending on at what age the abuse occurred.  As dysfunctional as things can get at times the alters as a whole are referred to as a ‘system.’  Until consciousness together can be shared, there might always be memory loss.  The amnesic episodes are, at the very least, scary as hell.  The memories that I often have include only flashes of pictures of the day or days. The information date, time and situation is usually not available.

Alters and systems are as individual as a finger print.  There is no ‘cookie cutter’ way of treating DID.  The most important thing to me hands down is the relationship with my therapists.  Without that relationship, recovery is futile for any issue or disorder.  I trust my therapists enough to take me into the depths of the most terrifying events that have ever happened to me.  This relationship that has been  allowed to happen, as close to trusting, as possible has taken 2 years now with one therapist.  However, both the ups and downs of these relationships has lead to the progress now being made by leaps and bounds.  Painful as this process is, I can only hope that things actually get better.

The tenets in these rooms represent parts of the person you know as Dana.  I will not get into discussing how many or their names.  I can tell you that while growing up with some of those reading this blog alters were already formed or forming.  Not only do these alters hold memories, but they also function in different ways.  However, sometimes the problem with the alters is that they function completely independent from the individual known as the ‘host.’  This is usually the mood swings that you might see. Alters develop out of traumatic events and sometimes more than one during a single traumatic event.   Just to put to rest for those that don’t know my parents, no they were not any part of the abuse.

Alters actually develop when the brain compartmentalizes the traumatic event, memories, etc.  The trauma is so overwhelming and the mind and body both have to survive, that the only way the individual knows instinctively to survive is by developing a new alter even though they may be unaware at the time.  Often times, it is many years down the road that survivors even realize that they have alters.  Therefore, many survivors are trapped in the cycle of the mental health system being misdiagnosed for years and much money spent on treatment for the wrong diagnoses.

Often times, many people say, “I’ve been through worse things and I don’t have alters.”  The only answer I have found is that what’s traumatic for one person may not necessarily be traumatic for another person.  There is also a genetic predisposition to being able to dissociate.  And dissociation is key to the formation of alters.  What is known is that trauma of any kind effects the brain permanently.  Severity depends on how long and what type of trauma was occurred.

You can most definitely have PTSD without meeting criteria for DID.  DID cannot exist without a diagnosis of PTSD since that is a large part of how the disorder forms.  DID also usually always entails some form of early childhood sexual abuse although ‘splitting’ in adulthood is uncommon.

“Another of the difficulties of having DID is the denial. DID is a disorder of denial. It has to be because if the original person knew about the alters and felt their pain, they would either go crazy and be hospitalized permanently, or would die.” 
― Eve N. Adams, A Shattered Soul

#Thispuzzledlife