Belonging

I’m taking a break from therapy and want to share my reflections and hold myself to account by using the time to do that here. I haven’t written for ages, partly due to the belief that no one wants to read my depressing words, but I guess I’ll just share my processing and if you’re interested read on and if you’re not, no pressure.

Christmas always seems to bring up some very tricky themes for me and I feel like I’ve taken a step backwards, but I’m trying to keep in mind the concept of a healing spiral where I’m revisiting well known themes but from a different perspective and each time I spiral into and out of stuff I do so with new information and ideas. blog spiralIt feels more compassionate and less catastrophic than the linear idea of taking a step backwards. I did my usual thing of holding it together until Boxing Day and then when there’s nothing to constantly busy myself with, the feelings seep in and grief overwhelms me in quite a physical way and I can’t stop crying, not like sobbing, but tears streaming unstopably, triggered by everything and nothing. No particular thoughts like poor me or I wish this or that was different, it’s just like the bottom drops out and there I am hurtling through the eternal abyss of shock and grief again. It’s exhausting and adds to the feelings of being dysfunctional and freakish. I have learned to be more compassionate with myself though and just sit back and observe from afar instead of allowing my internal sergeant major to run riot on his judgmental rampage stamping on everything and leaving me feeling furious with myself and my “weakness” like he used to. Now I just notice “here I am crying again”, it feels like it will go on forever but I know it wont. And when the crying stops after a few days, I regain the capacity to think and do my detective work.

The theme this Christmas was pretty much the same as it is every year – belonging, or lack of, like I’m sure it is for many people around this time. There were various different triggers and also the reality of spending Christmas Day with just me and my two teenage boys and how that confronts me with guilt and regret for how I haven’t managed to create a wider pseudo family for them like I hoped I would. How I still totally lack the skills to do that and wish I were better at it. I also feel a bit embarrassed about having a difficult time at Christmas, when I know it’s all stuff in my own head. How glad and grateful I am to be materially secure with all that me and my family need, and how I don’t have to deal with any wider dysfunctional family stuff like others have to endure. I’m free of all that and I’m very grateful. And because of that I imagine people think I create a hard time for myself for the drama of it or something, like I have a choice and why can’t I just get on and have a nice Christmas and be grateful. But it isn’t a choice. I don’t sit there and think myself into a hard time. In fact I do the opposite and keep myself busy so I can avoid the thoughts and feelings but it all comes crashing down when the pace slows.

I feel like I’ve got a bit more to the roots of it this holiday and it’s been another reminder of what a deep impact my childhood experiences still have and how wide the fall out. I feel less resentful and more acknowledging, less judgmental and more compassionate I guess. For sure, I judgmentally wonder what am I doing here in my late 40s still struggling with themes I surely should have resolved by now, especially given that I’ve been actively trying to heal for more than half of those years. Why do I still feel like such a freak and an alien, such an outsider who doesn’t belong anywhere, so bereft of community and lacking in connection with significant others?

lonely

Image from Karen Treisman’s Therapeutic Treasure Deck

So wanting to be part of someone’s inner circle instead of being a constant satellite around the edges of everything and everyone. And I totally acknowledge my ambivalence too – I want it, but don’t want it; the thought of it makes me want to run in the opposite direction – people are a source of stress and fear, not comfort and safety.  It’s easier to be lonely than make myself vulnerable with needs of others which aren’t met. Only it isn’t. And it’s not my adult experience, people haven’t been a source of stress or fear generally – my radar is set to lie low and avoid those people – so why does this sense of alienation persist? It runs so deep, this childhood brainwashing of being other, that I have wholeheartedly adopted and owned it as my version of myself without even realising. It was the job of my parents to show me how to belong, to give me a sense of fitting in to the family and a sense of how that fitted into the wider culture and they didn’t do that. They did the opposite and instilled the belief in me that the world would be a better place without me in it and that continues to manifest in such insidious ways which are just coming into focus.

I drew some of it out the other day:

belonging tree

I have had a bit of a revelation that this lack of belonging in my family is the source of my lifelong self alienation and that healing into a sense of belonging means noticing the brainwashing and separating myself from it. And that is the task ahead which feels tedious and massive, but at l have some ideas of where to start. The first one being to embrace the parts of myself I have abandoned and banished. Just like I continued the childhood abuse in the form of self harm for decades, I am realising I have done the same in terms of belonging and I need to find ways to welcome myself home before I can feel like I belong anywhere else. And only I can do that.

I’ve got a good grasp of many of my parts – the 3 year old hiding behind the arm chair, the furious painter, the infinite crevasse, the sergeant major, the lava lamp type blobs, the ashamed, self hating one who believes she is the source of all badness, the dirty toddler with her arms reaching pleading to be picked up, etc, etc. I’m gonna try holding compassionate welcoming space for them all and hopefully when we are all gathered and I have welcomed them in and I fully belong to myself, I will find ways to belong elsewhere.

It ain’t gonna be easy…

I’ve been listening to this great audiobook: Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner.

 

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Sometimes

Sometimes I loose myself
And cannot get myself back
It happens so quickly
A short sharp jab
Or an imperceptible scratch
To the tin foil surface of my delicate soul
Is all it takes and I am gone
Like a dandelion puff
Lifted by the wind
And no matter how hard I try
What sweet things I whisper
Or how much I persist with my lasso
I cannot quite catch my spirit ankle
Its like the end of the rainbow
On the pavement that time
The smell of the rain on the road
Running towards it with my hand outstretched
Chasing it’s magic
Wanting to touch its gold
But it moved as I did
Unreachable ethereal
Now I just have to sit here and wait
And know that
One morning when I wake up
I’ll wiggle my toes
And know its my body
I’ll feel my breath fill my chest
And find myself back
(The lame, foggy frustration
Of putting key in lock lifted)
No longer floating around and above
But here
Able to see the day
And taste the air
Senses align
The chime of twelve
This is me

Posted in Dissociation, mental health, trauma, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Body Remembers

I’ve been struggling again over the past few weeks, not to the point of hopelessness and despair, but properly out of sorts. I’ve been wondering if I’ve contracted some mystery virus which has left me feeling like the life-force has bled out of me – exhausted, brain fuddled and grouchy. Wondered if I’ve been deficient in this or that, looking for a physical explanation for why I’ve felt so tearful and pulled to my bed. There’s no reason, no sense in the dreaded weighted jacket of dissociated overwhelm pulling me to my knees once again. And then yesterday listening to the radio, an interviewee was reminiscing about the late 80s and I started to feel some cogs turning in my brain and later on in the day having an a-ha moment (not of the 80s type!)

the-madness-vase

I had the sudden realisation that my eldest son is the same age, and we are at the same time of year, as I was when I was headed towards my first psychiatric admission. I’d been self harming for a year or so, had stopped speaking, tried to kill myself for the first time, whilst my family ignored, judged, denied and blamed and shamed me for being mad. I remember feeling so horrible, how I just wanted everything to stop; the fantasies of lying in a deep dark hole in the ground; how my head pounded and skin crawled with the self hate and shame and feelings of contamination, what an immense effort it was to do the most basic things, the impossibility of holding my head up. In a few weeks from now, at his age, I would’ve been pulled from the classroom by the year head after getting lost in the rhythm of banging my head on the desk, and been told I wasn’t allowed back to school. It has been a relief to make that connection, it is such a visceral thing, so resonant. I feel now a homeopathic dose of what it felt like back then, the wise words of Babette Rothschild “The Body Remembers” echoing in my head. Climbing the stairs exhausts me at the moment, although I’ve got myself out for a run today in the hope of speeding my system up a bit.

I think I’ve made the connection of my son being at this (significant for me) age a couple of times before, but at a mental level and I’ve pushed it out of my mind, turned the other way. Now it’s showing up on a physical level and it will not be ignored. I’ve been resistant to seeing myself in my son, as he’s obviously who he is and completely separate to me and I don’t want to think about how I was back then but my body reminds me it wont be silenced.

At 14, my son’s not particularly ambitious but I think he’s going to be ok. All I want is for him to be happy and kind. He’s been out with his friends on this sunny afternoon and it makes me happy that he’s enjoying his freedom without it entering his mind that he’s one of the lucky ones. It’s not all been easy for him living with a mum in various states of PTSD, but I’m doing better than I did. We’re quite normal in some ways – he hates me at times and I get frustrated with him and his seeming inability to tidy up after himself (after my run earlier I came home to an upended bottle of milk between the sofa cushions which leaked on the sofa and has rendered the TV remote useless [for example!]). We get locked into conflict less than we used to as I have learned and practised to not meet rage with rage and instead hunker down and wait it out until the storm has passed. And he talks to me about stuff, and he knows I love him and his brother right up to the moon and back googleplex to infinity and beyond.

I want to heal. I have worked hard to sort my shit out, to be more the parent I wanted to be, to be more free from the enduring fall-out of trauma. But grief it seems, is always just round the corner, a dark looming brick wall which I run from at top speed in the opposite direction. Terrified of it’s shadow, I don’t want to even look. I’m ramming it down all the time, the edge of tears, it makes me want to collapse but I can’t let myself go there despite it snapping at my heels. Keep running, keep looking away. I know I do need to look, that there’s some healing to be had there, but how do you grieve something you’ve always been better off without – your family (some of whom are now dead), psychiatric abuse (the physical remnants of it flattened years ago into a housing estate). Where do you start? Is there an end? Always having to hold it all together in case anyone should see through the gaps to my messy insane insides. Sometimes I yearn to surrender, to be held, to not have to be the one who holds it all together, but I know that’s a dangerous place to go and as a single parent, so much would be lost in a landslide and I don’t want that. So I just need to find a way to sit this out with as much compassion as I can muster until it passes again and do all I can to gather supplies along the way. I know it will pass. And hopefully at some point, I’ll find the courage and some support to start dismantling that wall brick by brick and it’s shadow will no longer loom so large over my life.

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Resistance

horse

Resistance is huge for me. I have so many intentions to heal. Sign up to the latest programme that gives me hope, the latest therapist and engage positively up to a point and then something happens and I’m wading deep in old patterns of self hate and self sabotage. It manifests in watching too much crap reality TV so that I don’t have time to think, reflect and just be, so that my leisure time after the kids are in bed in focused around the TV – there’s no space for anything else. And socialising – so much resistance to that! And I have good reasons to back up my resistance – social anxiety is so uncomfortable, my alone time so precious, so why would I trade the relaxing and comfortable for the paranoid, heart racing unsettling. And yet I struggle with feeling lonely, with my life feeling barren of meaning, of sustaining life affirming connection. I get frustrated with myself but with some work I have moved from a position of habitually berating myself and giving myself a hard time for not being more open to new experiences because that’s an intense swirly downward spiral of self hate. And kicking my self up the arse never achieved much anyway – you can’t get much out of social connection when you’re in survival mode, it is just a matter of surviving it, and waiting for the relief of being back safe at home. But there is something about kicking myself up the arse I need otherwise I’d just be a formless blob on the floor.

Listening to Irene Lyon earlier about befriending resistance, which is not new, but I haven’t really looked much into the source. What am I resistant to?

  • Intimate relationships
  • Structured healing time
  • Healing
  • Finding life easier
  • Forgiving myself
  • Socialising
  • Going to bed
  • Dropping this private identity of someone who doesn’t cope well with life
  • Flow and fun
  • Living

Its hard to believe in the idea that resistance is there for a good reason, that it has developed in order to protect myself from something. It is easier to believe it is more a fundamental flaw in my character epitomised by laziness, fear and deep feelings of futility – the fear of failure, the acceptance that failure will be part of the outcome so why bother trying in the first place. So I stay stuck. How to befriend resistance, to walk alongside it? When I think about the feelings of futility, my ambivalence about my life despite having two great kids (how fucking ungrateful am I? roars that hateful voice in my head, and I agree) it does feel like a very young part of me. The part that kept myself as small as possible in all ways in an attempt to avoid the wrath of my dad. The part that learned I was too much, too needy and that my needs could never be met and there was only me to rely on despite the knowledge that I was fundamentally bad wrong and unlikeable. And when I think that, it’s no wonder I am constantly trying to flee from myself via TV, drugs, etc. My granddad was the only one to show me any softness and offer the comfort of his knee, but with that came his hands down my pants, so no wonder it’s hard to let my guard down, no wonder I have resistance to intimacy, to finding any safety there. So the resistance shouts NOOO!!! Don’t let go! Keep yourself locked in tight. Another part of me says, yes but all that stuff was so long ago – you haven’t had any contact with any of them for over 20 years, why are you still so stuck? And I guess that’s the thing, with a deep resistance to trusting life and the people within it, I keep myself very small and that in turn limits my ability to rewire those experiences, so it’s like a self perpetuating force shield – resistance means I keep myself safe, but also means I limit my capacity to grow and form new core beliefs. Oh to feel some sense of victory in survival instead of feeling so done in by it. I want to be better at surviving, I want to feel more flow, have easier access to happiness – especially when it’s right there for the sharing with my kids – instead of turning away, keeping myself perpetually mundanely occupied with petty “useful” tasks so I can justify being, trying to fulfil a role and keep going.

I understand my resistance to forgiving myself, I’ve done a lot of thinking about that and get glimpses of the grief under all the self hate, the shame and the blame. I have moved slightly, and I do actively remind myself that self compassion makes life easier and I have notes stuck up all over the place to remind me. So I guess understanding what drives that resistance has been helpful in trying to make space for something else. It’s not about tackling it full on, but about making space round the edges for something softer. Slowly slowly, and it’s hard not to get frustrated with the pace of it, of my ability to change. That aggressive voice of GO GO GO and the feeling that it will never be good enough, that I’m a waste of space piece of shit who will never amount to anything is always shouting at various volumes in the background. Another insight into why it’s so hard to believe in my capacity to change so that I can live life with more ease.

So what can I do about that? My foundations are built of all that stuff, no wonder it’s hard to be a solid adult. In terms of befriending the resistance, maybe it’s about using my imagination to sit with that young part and say I know that you are scared, and to stay frozen seems like the safest thing to do. If that was me with an actual child, I wouldn’t say “Get yer coat on, we’re going on a train to the city.” I would do things little by little to gradually build up a sense of internal safety, and of course there would be freak outs along the way – I’d try and go at the child’s pace, not push my own. It feels like what underlies all the things I feel massive resistance to is fear. For me, resistance is fear and I need to sit alongside that to understand what would help, to respect that being frozen makes me safer (not in reality, but in this concept of resistance), to listen to the pace that young part can tolerate instead of pushing through with the force of the sergeant major that’s so familiar.

Resistance is fear. It is the child in me knowing that the best thing I can do to survive is stay out of everyone’s way, be invisible, say small and frozen – it is definitely not standing up and saying I want more, I deserve better than this, which is what I’m trying to do now. That would’ve been very dangerous. Hence the resistance.

 

…..And so more pieces come together…..

 

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Glimpses of new possibilities

feetearth

Change is a happening in me. In a good way. An unfolding, an opening, and uncurling unfurling. A new place. A new way of being with myself, a new way of dealing with things. Just starting. Glimpses of new possibilities.

I went to the dentist on Friday and did my usual thing lying in the dentist chair with my mouth open, telling myself over and over in my head that nothing bad is happening, it’s all ok. I’m lucky I get to see the same dentist every time and even luckier that he is a decent man who doesn’t seem to judge me. I told him when he first became my dentist that dentists were difficult for me and I had some related trauma and although we don’t talk about it, he heard me. On Friday he was looking at my x-ray a bit mystified and I started saying “I’m not making it up, but..” and I was going to say maybe I was overplaying it as I have a tendancy to trivialise and felt embarrassed and like I was wasting his time. He reacted incredulously with “I’m not in any way suggesting you are making it up”… Then I became aware of the tears, the feeling of utter devastation, the bottom dropping out as is fairly familiar. The glasses steaming, the tears silently torrenting. I couldn’t get them to stop for the rest of the consultation and he didn’t comment, and I appreciated that.

I felt the frustration of my own weakness and inability to do a seemingly normal thing without feeling traumatised. I knew I’d been triggered and instead of angrily batting it away, I gave myself little moments to be curious and by the next day I understood more about what had happened. It was something about the dentist and his tall male assistant walking round me lying down reminding me and making me feel very unsafe, and the echoes of being force fed with a metal jaw clamp in psych hospital as a teenager, and my dad pulling my tooth out with the red handled pliers when I was a kid; along of course with saying “I’m not making it up” and how that fits in with it all, cos still now I think I made it all up or exaggerate the truth. And the feeling of being in the way, of attention seeking, of asking for something I did not deserve. Zapped me right back to an overwhelming blend of those times. I’ve been here before, but there’s something new in being more open to it, to letting myself join the dots. Usually I am so desperate to regain self control and the most efficient way to do that has been via self contempt and self hate – a great and all consuming distraction. It feels much healthier and actually healing to let myself join the dots, but has been a surprise in how much pain there is, how much it hurts, how deeply. The loss, so much grief and loss, the physical intolerable pain of that – I remember living with that as a kid, how exhausting and soul destroying it was.

 It is so fantastic having a break from work and routine, it is so what I need. More space. Enough space to feel like I can operate from a place that isn’t perpetual overwhelm. I am realising how much I depend on that routine to keep myself scrubbed up clean. Yesterday, I washed my hair and body for the first time in two weeks. I have always hated washing and not enjoyed baths, but after a weekend in a field, I eventually managed to get myself in there and it was a good experience. I had lots of bubbles, lit a candle and rolled myself a joint. I have been doing fortnightly sessions with a trauma therapist via skype since Easter, working on the level of the nervous system and my startle reflex has really calmed, which is profound for me as that has been one of the most horrible daily symptoms I have lived with. It has been amazing at times to realise I didn’t do the electric shock jump jolt to an unexpected noise, and others have noticed and commented on my lack of reaction too. A big focus of this work is about trying to be in my body more, which I have a lot of resistance to and it’s frustrating how difficult I find it to feel bits of my body and what’s going on in it. In the hot bubbly bath, I became aware of how uptight I’d been holding myself physically and emotionally for ages and willed and talked myself through letting it go, “It’s ok, everything is ok. There’s nothing to be stressed or worried about. Everything’s ok. I’m ok. I’m safe” etc. Then I moved on to feeling my body in the water, and for a while I was able to inhabit it and it felt ok and even nice in parts and I talked to myself some more “This is what it’s all about. Feeling ok in this body right here right now. This is what it’s all about. This is what it means to be ok, to feel ok” and some tears and surrendering. How awesome to be able to feel that. I feel very grateful.

 There’s a big hunger in me for being witnessed at the moment, I guess it’s always been there, but it feels like it’s shouting in a different way now. Like I have all these intrusive images and I want to be able to hand them over to someone with all the physical details and the emotional devastation, just hand it to someone for them to put in a box and bury it deep in the ground. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore, I want it gone. I have a fantasy that this is possible via a morning with an understanding therapist and some MDMA. The fantasy of handing it over, of being in control and not feeling retraumatised, being done with it, having it gone. Having more moments like I had in the bath.

Posted in dentist, healing, mental health, ptsd, trauma, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

A day out with the kids

I wanted to write this to share some of the ways past trauma leaks into my life today. Not in a poor me type way, just to share how it manifests in subtle ways, as it does in many of our lives creating additional challenges others might not imagine.

 

bricktastic

A close friend had taken suddenly very ill a few weeks ago, (thankfully she is slowly getting better). She is a generous and supportive friend and fairy goddess mother to my youngest, who turned 11 this week. They both share a birthday and as a way to celebrate, she had booked a day for her and my two kids to go to Bricktastic, a Lego convention in Manchester. Because of her poor health she could no longer take them, so it was down to me.

 

I was looking forward to it, as her and the kids were so enthused about it when they got back last time – the amazing models built by hobbyists, the freebies, the big builds they could get involved in, etc. I was anxious about one thing and that was getting there. I played this down, but looked it up on map and planned our route, thinking that the most straightforward way would be on a bus from the train station. It looked like an easy route, and my friend assured me it was indeed very simple.

 

We got off the train in Manchester in good spirits and headed for the bus stop. I tried to make sense of what the route map was trying to tell me, which was difficult, but I was reassured by the fact that it was a circular route. When I am stressed, even just a bit of ordinary stress, my brain finds it very hard to make sense of things, to take in information. This gets compounded in an unfamiliar place around lots of people. In order to cope with the stress and stimulation, I seem to shrink in my awareness, so it’s like I’m in a globe ball and everything outside it gets shut out, but it’s very isolating and hard to make contact with anyone, which I find pretty scary anyway. So, we got on the bus, and after about 10 minutes, I plucked up the courage (this sounds pathetic I know – I am an adult woman, a mother) to ask the driver which stop we needed to get off at. He said we’d got on the bus going the wrong way and that what we needed to do was to get off at the next stop and catch the bus going in the opposite direction.

 

That sounded simple enough, so we all got off. For a reason I can’t explain, I could no longer trust we would get there on the bus, so our best option seemed to be to walk. I was calm at first as we walked in a random direction whilst I tried to get a map up on my phone. The boys were calm and fine with not knowing where we were or how we were going to get there. My incompetence with technology frustrates me at the best of times, but to be in this situation where it could be really helpful if only I had the basic skills to use it fed into my rage at myself and added to my stress. Eventually I gave up trying and took another deep breath to go and ask for directions. I’m not sure why, but I always find it really difficult to ask for directions, scary and unfamiliar – something about asking for help and how visible that makes me. And then of course, I can’t retain the information.

 

I repeated to the kids immediately what the man in the shop had said, and we headed off in a promising direction. After a while we got to a really busy shopping area with roads going off in all directions and again the disorientation of sensory overload meant I couldn’t think straight. I had no idea. I asked a couple of people for directions who couldn’t help and that was my courage spent. We scrutinised sign posts, and stood about in a sea of people whilst I tried to work out what to do next. I spotted a map board in the distance so we headed there and I managed to look up the place we were heading, but couldn’t make any sense of the map. My youngest suggested we should head off back in the direction we had come, which we did for a while, but then it became clear that was not the way, so went back again to the map. I knew I had to do this, that this was our best option and stood there willing my brain to unfuddle. Eventually I managed to do what I needed, which was flip the map in my head so we could work out which way to go, and this time we headed off with hope of getting there.

 

By this time the stress and overwhelm was such that tears flooded my eyes and then wouldn’t stop. As we walked away from the crowds, my youngest looked up to me and said “Mummy, are you crying?” The shame. The shame of feeling so easily overwhelmed, of having the ground disappear from under my feet, of the physical fact of being lost and how that triggers my own internal disorientation. “I can’t even do this. I’m forty fucking four and I can’t even take my kids on a nice day out without going into melt down.” Etc, etc. The map of two straight lines I’d studied the preceding day taunted me, “Not even that. What’s so difficult?” The shame of people seeing me in the middle of Manchester crying with two kids in tow. We stopped at a shop to buy drinks in a bid to normalise and try to pull myself back together and stop the tears falling. My eldest said, “It’s ok mummy, we’ll be there soon.” I usually manage to keep my meltdowns hidden from them and felt bad that they were the ones reassuring me. Walking again, I thanked them for being so lovely, because they really were heart warmingly lovely to me, and apologised for being in such a state and the tears slowed down.

 

We got there and we had a good day – the kids had a lovely time, and I was really glad and grateful we did something nice together, something different. But it reminded of me of why my life is so small, why I don’t arrange to do such things off my own back with the kids. It makes me feel so pathetic, but it’s the reality of my limits, which I pushed at a cost and won’t have the resources or the courage to do again for some time. It reminds me of how getting a GPS for my car a few years ago felt extravagant but has totally transformed my experience of driving, taken the stress away, a visual contradiction to my raging self doubt at the smallest decision. We did it though, we got there! We got lost again on the way back, but it was tedious and tiring more than stressful. A messy disorganised brain makes it challenging to step outside my comfort zone. I need a life GPS, telling which way to turn, what decision to make – that would take the stress away. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to do – rewire my brain – it just takes a long time and a lot of commitment.

 

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A letter to my dad

It’s Mental Health Awareness week here in the UK, and also locally there’s a festival Pushing Up Daisies: http://www.pushingupdaisies.org/ creating conversations around death, dying and bereavement both of which inspired me to write this letter to my dad today. He died a few years ago. I cried a lot when I wrote it, which is new for me and feels healthy and healing.chasm

Dear Jim, my dad,

Four years ago, when I found out you’d died, I was visiting Karen in France with my 2 kids. I was confused when we got there, because despite the anticipation it was clear she didn’t really want us there. We stayed in a caravan with no windows adjacent to her’s in a dilapidated, once upon a time, barn and she would drop us off by the nearest river where we would entertain ourselves as best as we could for the day while she went about her usual routine. It was isolating and stressful and I felt angry with her for inviting us when she so clearly couldn’t handle us being there. As the days unfolded, she told me you had prostate cancer and on the day before we left, she got a phone call from mum to say you had died. She couldn’t look at me. I tried my best to be there for her, to offer my condolences as angry tears spilled down her face. I felt like a hypocrite and she assumed the same and could take no comfort from me. There was just hot spiky anger and I felt like an intruder as she blanked me and I disappeared and tried to explain to the kids and keep them quiet.

 

Karen’s friends gave us all a lift to the airport the next day and they hugged and kissed her and told her how sorry they were. With the wind blowing in my face in the back of the car, I was struck how no one had ever said sorry to me for the things you did and it was like the cultural silence once again deafened me. She was relieved to say goodbye as we were dropped for a long wait at the airport where I tried to answer the kid’s questions about you – a man they’d never met but were intrigued about.

 

Back in the UK, I started to sift through my feelings and watch as new ones arose over days and weeks. I had been estranged from you and mum for over 20 years so I didn’t expect to feel much, as cutting you out of my life had been a very positive decision and one that was no doubt easier for you too. Without your hatred and your blame, I had been able to grow stronger and healthier, but you were harder to banish from my head and lived loud, doubting everything I did and telling me how crap I was. Initially, after your death, I felt a massive relief, a liberation that I would never have to fear you again, a sense that I could move on, that this was a new chapter. And then came an unexpected grief as I realised a hope so dormant it had long been forgotten. It was grief from the tiny child part of me, the one who had left those scribbled love letters by your bed telling you how sorry I was for being such a bad girl, and how I would try harder to not make you so angry. I thought she had been killed off by your beatings, by your hateful insults, by the hopelessness, but she was still there. At some deep down level, I still hoped you would tell me that I was ok, loveable even, so that I could have that voice inside me too and start to believe it. I grieved the loss of that whisper of hope.

 

I wish the things you said to me in anger and hate were as easy to lay to rest as your body must’ve been, because although it happened so long ago they stay with me, are part of me like the blood coursing through my veins despite years of therapy. You broke me Jim, and it is hard to believe I will ever mend. For the stuff you did to me, and the stuff you let others do to me I don’t blame you for, I blame myself. I still believe if only I’d have been better behaved, been more compliant, been less compliant, I could’ve stopped those things happening – I could have stopped your prodigal son, my brother from raping me, etc etc. I know you had a cruel and loveless childhood and were the scapegoat in your own family, and I know how that feels and can understand how hard it is to parent after that. That’s the bit I can’t forgive you for – how you have impacted my beautiful innocent kids, despite them never having met you. Parenting with PTSD brings up your voice loud and clear, the one that says I contaminate everything I touch, that whatever I give will never be good enough. Triggers spin me out less and they get older and I have had years to acclimatise, but still I hate you for handing me this legacy, for the way that despite my best efforts and conscious parenting, I know that my trauma runs through them in a more diluted form. I will have to hand the baton of “breaking the cycle of abuse” onto them as I have not entirely managed it. At least I’m trying though.

 

I have no doubt you rest in peace, if there is such a thing, and I wish you no less. I do wish we’d been given the opportunity to have a better relationship though, and that is what I mourn, rather than the one we actually had. Through you, I have learned determination – to keep trying when I fail – because I want more for my kids, and I am in the position to commit to that. I traverse the chasms, cling on by my finger nails, at times frozen in cowering terror, at others putting one foot in front of the other left, right, left, right; still trying to silence your voice in my head.

 

From your daughter, Ruth.

Posted in healing, mental health, parenting, ptsd, sexual abuse, trauma, Uncategorized | 8 Comments