The house down the street

There’s a house like this just down the street from me. Until the other day I thought a normal, happy family lived there. Apparently not. Apparently the dad in this house* is an abusive shithead. His now-ex partner turned up on my doorstep last weekend, quite distressed, in the process of leaving and needed somewhere to store some things. I spoke to her today. She’s safe, thank heavens. She confirmed that this not-so-nice suburban husband and father is a selfish, egotistical, narcissistic a$$.

Unfortunately his daughters still have to visit him and be subjected to his revolting behaviour. I can’t tell you how incredibly ANGRY I was when I heard that. That f***ing son of a b**ch. How dare he treat those girls like that! How dare he pretend he’s this nice pillar-of-the-community type living a “normal” life! I was so MAD!!

I know this is probably more about my own father, but I wanted to yell at this poor excuse for a man and scream and pummel my fists into him. I didn’t. But I did report him to the relevant authorities. I just couldn’t stand the thought that his daughters will grow up with all the weirdness and craziness that I’ve grown up with. I couldn’t stand the thought that they’ll grow up thinking this has something to do with them, when it has NOTHING whatsoever to do with them, and EVERYTHING to do with that piece of sh*t father.

In a not-so-happy coincidence, it was White Ribbon Day here last week – our campaign to stop violence against women.

I’m proud I stood up today, but I’m also a little unnerved – it was a sad reminder that this nastiness is everywhere; that no where is truly safe, not even the nice little houses in my street. I hope and pray the authorities intervene so the girls can be safe.

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* Not actually this house in the photo, one like it though.

Guilt and confusion

So, it’s Mother’s Day here. I spent much of the weekend at my parents’ house which, as you know, is never a good thing for me.

My father was his rude obnoxious self, making snide remarks to me and calling my mother awful names. Why does he do that? I just don’t get it.

My mother spent most of her time complaining about my father. When I offered the “logical” solution of putting him in a nursing home (which is what he needs), she just made various remarks on the theme of: “It’s not that easy.”

I thought, “Bulltish it’s not, Mum, but this is your life.”

Anyway, none of that is really the point of this post. The point of this post is guilt – feeling guilty, to be precise. Or ranting and rambling about feeling guilty. And being confused about feeling guilty.

It struck me today that I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I no longer play the “good daughter” routine where my father is concerned. I will be civil to him, but that’s about it. I won’t engage in conversation with him, and I try not to look at him as far as is possible. Given how rude he usually is to me this generally means we say hello to each other, and nothing more. I certainly don’t make any effort, not like a “normal” daughter would. Thankfully, at least, this trip I didn’t have to sit through dinner with him – that’s always quite triggering for me.

Anyway, as I was packing the car to come home, I made the mistake of looking at him. He gave me that look – the look of a sad, frail old man. I hate that. It made me feel guilty for not feeling more compassionate towards him, and for not making the effort.

Now I’m confused and torn because as soon as this guilt thing hits, I start yelling and screaming at myself that I don’t need to feel bad for not being the adoring daughter – he’s hardly been the adoring father.

So… guilt and confusion. It’s a mess.

When I came home I settled in to some colouring. It didn’t solve the guilt, or the confusion, but it calmed me a little (even if it’s not William Morris; not even a real Roger Burrows book).

I also took some photos in the garden after the rain. 

I still feel guilty, and I still feel confused, but I’m better able to sit with those feelings. For now, at least.

Processing the memories

Back Up Therapist says that triggers do your head in when you don’t know what they’re about. That’s true. I can’t make sense of this latest bout of flashbacks and, yes, it’s doing my head in. It’s frightening when images you don’t understand keep jumping into your head.

My father’s hands keep jumping into my head, along with the fish. I don’t know what the hands are doing. Not in this context, anyway.

I tried to do some colouring today to keep myself calm, but it didn’t work – I just got increasingly angst ridden about using the “wrong” colours. I also can’t talk to anyone at the moment, so instead I drew this:

Artistically I know it’s limited (I didn’t have the pens or pencils I wanted and I couldn’t make the ones I do have draw the image in my mind accurately – it’s at least 10 or 15 years since I drew anything), but it’s helped.

They are my father’s hands. They’re big, and rough. I still don’t know what they’re doing but there is blood from the fish. I’ve locked the hands in a cage so they can’t hurt me anymore.

A friend commented on the lack of a discernible thumb – that’s interesting, because in my mind’s eye there isn’t a thumb, just a hand. And fingers that I can see in great detail. As crazy as it sounds, I can even feel them.

I’ll probably still need to talk about this, but for now the hands are quieter and not tormenting me so much. They’re still there, just not as noisy. I’m safe, I guess, now that they’re locked away. May be now I can figure out why they’re there. And hopefully I can talk to the Back Up Therapist about it next week.

Headaches, triggers and flashbacks

I’ve had a headache for the last few days. It feels like someone has my head squeezed inside giant pliers or something. I thought I was getting another sinus infection, but I also got triggered quiet badly last week and have been triggery, freaky, flashbacky ever since. The Back Up Therapist says this could be the cause of the headache. Oh, great.

She said that triggers can get worse if you just continue to fight them, ignore them, squash them and don’t deal with them. She said it’s like someone who can’t go near the scene of a car accident where a loved one died. At first it’s just that part of the road, or the light pole with the flowers on them… then it’s all light poles with flowers… then it’s all light poles… You get the picture.

I had to go out for a work lunch last week. The big boss decided we’d go Japanese. This isn’t great for me because of my food intolerances, but that isn’t what got me. We ordered Bento boxes with lots of stuff in them. The chicken teriyaki and the vegetables tempura were nice, but they also came with fish – LOTS of fish: sushi fish, sashimi fish, fish in dumplings, fried up fish, fish just about every way you can think of doing it. As I’ve said before, fish is quite a trigger for me.

As soon as I saw the fish on the plate, and dangled in front of me in a colleague’s chopsticks, I started freaking out. Flashbacking all over the place. I started sweating and shaking all over. I had to keep shaking my head to stop myself from vortexing out completely.

Ever since then I’ve been all flashbacky. Just when I least expect it memories of the fish jump into my head. It’s possible that I have more memories surfacing as my father’s hands have featured strongly too, though they haven’t ever before. I’ve even been smelling fish when it’s nowhere to be seen. Even sitting in the Back Up Therapist’s office I was getting flashbacks just talking about this.

I’ve never freaked out like that about fish in a restaurant before. The Back Up Therapist says I need to do something about this. I need to talk about what happened, may be do something creative to lay the fish to rest. I’m not sure if I can, but if I don’t, she said this will just get worse.

The Back Up Therapist said that if I was a little kid we would do something creative to symbolise dealing with the fish – like drawing them, painting them, making them. Locking them up in a box. Burning them. Whatever. But, she also said, that the first step for me needs to be talking.

Ugh. I thought I was done with talking about all that sh*t. And why would new memories start to surface now?

The elastic band

I’m home. I’m still magically in love with the place I went to for a mini-holiday. It’s such a calming, nurturing, wonderful place. Sadly, much of the warmth I found evaporated once I came home, both literally (because I went from warmth and sunshine to Antarctic blasts and rain) and also figuratively (because the darkness I left behind was waiting for me when I returned). But I’m trying not to forget my Special Place. I haven’t had a chance to post any photos yet, but I will. I promise.

It’s been a big week for me – coming home, my first session with the Back Up Therapist (which was just a lot of catching up, really), getting hammered at work….

But the thing I most want to talk about is The Group. About twelve months ago my therapist suggested I do some group therapy/support group work. I tried and tried to find a group, but could find nothing at the time. And I mean NOTHING. I rang just about every organisation in my State, even some interstate, but nothing. Nada. Zip.

Finally something came up with one of the sexual assault organisations here. The first session was tonight. (I should have warned you that this post is a pretty random dump, but I need to process it a bit before my brain will rest for the night.)

I was incredibly anxious beforehand… what will it be like? What if I’m a freak? What if … what if … what if…

But, it was good. More than good. It’s a group for women who experienced hideous cr@p in their childhoods. There are eight of us. It’s weird sitting in a room full of women who know – and I mean really KNOW – what this is like; who understand the weirdness in my head, and the strangeness in my life. The isolation. The obstacles. The mixed up stuff of my life that I’m learning actually has a root cause. They get it – they REALLY get it.

The group facilitators are lovely and are doing all sorts of things to make us feel welcome and comfortable and safe – even offering to walk us to our cars afterwards, if that will help us feel safe. I’ve never experienced this sort of thing before.

We spent the time tonight getting to know each other (in safe, non-disclosing ways), agreeing on our “rules” and brainstorming issues we might want to discuss over the next eight weeks.

Of course some of the things we talked about were confronting, and brought up stuff I thought I’d laid to rest. The Wonder Therapist said this might happen – she said it might be like an “elastic band” that pulls me back to places I don’t necessarily want to go. Of course there were tears (which was initially quite embarrassing for me until I realised that no one else was embarrassed by my “weakness”, and that others were teary as well).

We brainstormed a whole lot of issues that we might want to talk about over the coming weeks. I was interested in both the sameness of issues on my list and the lists of others … as well as the differences.

For instance, one of the things that is important to me is doing something positive with my hideous cr@p, helping other people in some way (even if I don’t know how yet). Though some others in the group said this is the last thing they want – they just want closure.

And some of the others want to take legal action against their perpetrator, but I am so totally NOT interested in this. For me it just feels like I’d be dragging myself through a whole lot of negative shyte, when I have enough of that in my life already and find more “peace” in the positive elements of my healing.

One thing I learned was that even though these differences exist, we can accept those differences in an open and non-judgemental way. That in itself is a new experience for me, because I’ve always thought that if someone didn’t agree with me, then it meant that I was somehow “wrong.”

I think the biggest thing for me was feeling comfortable with this group. Even after one meeting. I almost always feel awkward and anxious and scared in group situations. But here everyone is so accepting and warm and open. The anxieties I normally feel just weren’t there tonight, which felt totally weird, but very nice. I felt… safe. I’m not sure I’ve ever really felt like that. It felt… good. 🙂 I can honestly say I’m looking forward to doing this, even if it’s going to be hard at times.

One thing came up that I can’t quite process yet… the idea that I will never be “cured” or “better”. I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, of course I won’t ever be “cured” – this isn’t an illness; this isn’t something that can be “fixed” in the same way a disease can be fixed. But, on the other hand, if I am irreparably broken, then what is the point? I need to sit on this one for a bit.

I’m sorry this is such a long post. If you’ve stuck with my ramblings, then thank you (but I won’t hold it against you if you haven’t).

Stay tuned, because I’m sure I’ll talk more about The Group in the coming weeks.

In which the flood gates open

I’ve been walking around in a daze for days. Weeks, actually, including while I was away. How is it that you can be with people 24/7 and yet still feel so isolated? So completely alone and empty inside?

My head is a muddled, jumbled mess. In many respects I feel like much of my progress over the last few months has evaporated. I’m not sure how this happened – was it spending too much time with my mother? Or not enough time alone? Or just too much time stuffing down every conceivable emotion while with my mother? Or … who knows?

I’m hoping that writing will help. I went to the gym earlier and treaded the treadmill for an hour, almost completely unaware of what I was doing. I think it worked, emotionally at least. As soon as I got in the car I burst into tears. I’m not sure why, I guess the proverbial flood gates just opened.

So here we are. I suspect this will be a rambling dump of things swirling about in my head. Apologies.

  • My mother: From the moment she arrived two weeks ago she started messing with my head and unwinding any shreds of confidence I had started to build. One of her first comments to me on arriving was “your bum is getting bigger again”. Sigh. In the time we were away she added to this happy moment saying I have to lose weight; that I shouldn’t eat nuts because they’re fattening; that I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mother; that I’m too old for a relationship; that a skirt I tried on was too short – or rather, needed to be longer to cover my legs because they’re too fat. She doesn’t mean any of this maliciously, but doesn’t understand the impact it has on me. My therapist said something like “God, if I asked your mother what she thought of anyone who said all that she’d probably realise just how awful it is.” Possibly, but it’s unlikely my therapist will ever get to ask her anything again because my mother flatly refused to go and see her. She even referred to my therapist as “that woman”. Sigh.
  • My therapist says that my father, my mother and I have a nice little malicious circle going on. My mother puts up with rudeness and nastiness from my father in the same way that I put up with it from my mother. That she uses my father as an excuse for not having a life in the same way that I have used my mother. I’m not quite ready to delve into this yet, so just throwing it out there.
  • Being triggered: I was triggered a couple of times while away. Especially by fish. Somehow my mother convinced me to try barramundi, which she says is beautiful and very unfishy to eat. Stupid, stupid me for agreeing to try it. I could smell it before it even came to the table and started freaking out and shaking and panicking and flashbacking and wanting to run away. Every morsel I put in my mouth made my throat close over and made me want to gag. Of course, I had to sit there like everything was fine. Pretend I’m normal and not a complete freak. Thankfully I had that old pattern down pat after spending so much time with my mother already.
  • I was also triggered by relationships. Specifically couples. Couples everywhere. Old and young. On the beach, by the pool, at the shops, on the boat, on the plane…. surrounded. Feeling like the only single person in a paired-up world. In many ways I long for a lasting and meaningful relationship. For the companionship. For knowing someone and someone knowing me. Connecting, even when you don’t speak. Even for holding hands. Trouble is, I’m too afraid to even admit I want this, let alone do anything to make it happen. I’m so afraid that everything I’ve always been told will be proven true – that I really am an ugly, nasty and horrible person and that no one will ever love me.
  • I also got mildly triggered by some friends, and listening to them talk about children and childhoods and our past.  I’ve known these people since … well, for a couple of decades or more though they don’t know about my past. I found it hard to sit there and listen to the memories of teenage years, of boys, of families, of … all sorts of things. I ran away to the kitchen where I could bury myself in preparing food without fear of freaking out.
  • The Body Image Thing: The hell of the body image continues. It was hard being away in a hot, summery environment where I was seemingly surrounded by models in bikinis 24 hours of the day. I did wear bathers/togs/swimmers (whatever you call them), though I felt hideous. And more hideous as time wore on because of my mother’s comments. Something odd happened when I got home, though – despite the mess in my head. I looked at my sun drenched toes and I thought, “hey, they’re not so bad.” I also looked at my eye in the mirror as I was putting the finishing touches on my makeup and thought, “that looks good.” Rationally I know these are good things. But they’re completely alien to me and with all the mess in my head I can’t accept or understand them.
  • The Weight Thing: This is still an issue as well. I’m still embarrassed to be seen. But one thing I realised while away is that gaining weight is a MASSIVE trigger for me. When I gain weight I think I don’t deserve to look nice, and “have to” buy whatever ugly potato sack fits. Somewhere in my crazy head I think fat is ugly and fat means you can’t look nice and fat also means you have to buy what you can because you might not find anything else that fits. So I buy whatever I can, which generally doesn’t suit me, or fit my personality. And then I feel worse.
  • Social Phobia: This is back with a vengeance. Somewhere over the last few months I’ve managed to come out of my shell enough to speak to people. Randomly, I mean. Like people in shops. Somehow that’s disappeared. A couple of friends from the past have been in touch with me via Facebook. People I lost touch with long ago. They’ve suggested catching up. Part of me wants to but the rest of me is too afraid. Of what I’m not exactly sure. Just too afraid. Afraid that they’ll judge me, I guess. All that stuff about me not being good enough has come right back again.
  • Pilates: I started back at Pilates just before I went away. My instructor is healing from PTSD as well, from what I’m not sure though I have some suspicions from clues she’s given. She somehow understands this thing. She even wants to talk more about it, outside Pilates. Part of me wants to. Part of me doesn’t. I don’t trust her (yet). And she carries a lot of anger, which is fine except I’ve been working hard on just accepting that what happened happened and not carrying that anger around anymore. I don’t want to get sucked into that again. And I don’t want to carry her anger. So I feel mean and horrible for not catching up with her this week. And weak and pathetic for not being able to say I can’t. And a bit angry at myself for being unable to have the kind of compassion I’d like to have for fellow survivors.
  • Abandonment: Somewhere in all this my fear of being abandoned by my therapist has come back as well. It’s always there, lurking in the background, but the last couple of months I’ve been able to convince myself of its irrationality. Not anymore. I hate this feeling because I know it’s stupid. I talked to my therapist and she did what she could to reassure me that she’s not going anywhere. The fear lessened, but still peaks. Or flip-flops between that and my terror at having to end therapy somewhere in the future.  We’ve had no conversations about ending (in fact, quite the opposite), but I’m still afraid. I know it has to end someday, and I used to think that when that time came I would be ready. Or more ready, at least. I’m far from being ready now, and I’m scared to death of the end. Part of me thinks I should quit now so I don’t have to deal with that. I feel hopeless and that therapy is pointless. Nothing will ever change, so why bother putting myself through the hell of therapy?

I have rambled. I’m just dumping. I haven’t really processed much of this. Just needed to break it down. I’m sorry.

Random ups and downs

I’m guessing that putting on weight is triggering for me or something. I went shopping today and the sight of myself in the fitting room mirrors made me feel sick. I was truly repulsed. I felt I didn’t deserve anything, let alone anything good or nice. I certainly didn’t deserve to look good.

I guess this comes from my parents (and particularly my father) who spent many years laughing at me or mocking me or telling me off for how much I weighed. He’s even done that to me as an adult. I remember a few years ago not having seen him for a few weeks. His first comment to me wasn’t ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’ or any other greeting; it was, “you’ve put on weight”.

Those comments, and the sight of myself in the mirrors, make me want to crawl into a dark hole for a very long time. This is the inner critic’s utopia.  

In other news I was offered – or sort of offered – another job yesterday through a former colleague. It sounds good – really good. If I were willing to go “freelance” I could start tomorrow (a salaried position may take a little longer). “Freelance” would be great as I could pick and choose my work, work more flexibly, work on the good projects (or the money spinners) and leave the rest.

Trouble is I have never been a risk taker so think I’m probably destined to indentured servitude for a while longer yet.