Much of my childhood and adolescence was about surviving. Surviving the best I could given the circumstances. In some ways, I still feel like I’m in survival mode.
First let me say I was not physically abandoned by my family. This is true despite it being threatened with being taken to an orphanage and left there. But developmentally, psychologically… I was abandoned at an early age.
It was often threatened to be driven to the orphanage when I was young. On more than one occasion, I was put in the car and was driven around. All the while, I was being belittled and told that nobody would want me. I lived in fear of those car rides.
But more than that, I was abandoned when my mother looked the other way. She knew what my father was doing. She did nothing to stop it. She looked the other way. I had no one to protect me. My grandmother looked the other way too. In some ways it didn’t seem as sinister as my mother. I think she had almost no power when it came to my grandfather.
My parents were simultaneously over-involved and under-involved in school. On the one hand, bad grades were severely punished and usually involved a message to the teacher asking what happened. But good grades (what I usually brought home) were ignored.
Abandonment is a tough issue for me. I’ve learned to rely only on myself. Not having someone who cared enough to stop blatant abuse scarred me for life. And trust… Well that’s a tricky one too. It all goes down to not having someone who cared and left me to my own devices.
Child abuse leaves scars. Both seen and unseen. Both large and small. Both chronic and acute. Yet they are all scars.
I think that everyone carries some scars. Nobody has a perfect life. But the scars that abuse survivors carry are more extreme. They impact daily living for so many survivors.
I try to hide the scars I have. I was “lucky” that my parents tried to minimize leaving marks. My mom was a guidance counselor and knew the things that CPS looked for. I was a cutter for many years, and thankfully, I didn’t scar a lot. Those are the seen scars. The unseen ones are still there, though.
There are times when those scars get ripped open again. Flashbacks, physical memories, panic attacks. All are our mind’s way of reminding us of what happened.
My scars make me who I am. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I can’t get rid of my scars. As physical scars are permanent, so are psychological ones.
I live my life behind a mask. My mask is happy. My mask is confident. I’m good at wearing this. Despite how I feel inside, I don’t reveal my honest feelings and fears.
I don’t really let people see the “true me”. Hell, sometimes I don’t even know what the “true me” is. I’ve hidden behind a mask for so long that maybe that is the “true me”.
There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where a character has a bunch of laws to live by. Her law number one was “You always have to rely on yourself”. I totally agree with that. But my law zero is “Trust no one”. If you can’t trust, it’s hard to show your “true self”. It’s hard to take off that mask.
I’m slowly learning to trust Dr. D and Dr. W. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. Last week, I tried to cancel my appointment with Dr. D and quit therapy all together. I made a deal to come that one time. Ordinarily, I would have hidden how bad things were and just tiptoed around the issues. But I didn’t. I sat there and talked through the flashbacks. Making myself that vulnerable was extremely scary. And although nothing bad happened, I still want to put that mask on.
Maybe this is a turning point for me. Maybe it’s okay to drop the mask and let safe people see what’s underneath.
It feels like I could never go a week without getting punished for something. Those rare times when I brought a bad grade home (spelling assignments, I’m looking at you), it seemed the punishment was more severe. And I wonder where my extreme perfectionism comes from…
Bringing home a bad grade was my worst nightmare. It was usually followed by the wooden spoon, no dinner and no books. The dinner and the books, although crappy, weren’t probably abusive. I can’t say the same about the wooden spoon.
The hitting was almost always done with my shirt on. She couldn’t risk leaving any marks. Sometimes it was the spoon base. But more often than not, it was the handle end. In some ways, I preferred the spoon end. It didn’t sting as bad. And, in my (probably) distorted view, she seemed to tired out more quickly.
It came to the point, I no longer cried. I laid there, dejected. Resigned to my fate. There was no fighting back. If anything, tears made it all worse.
Thankfully (I guess) I did well in school except for spelling. I still can’t spell to save my life. I’m thankful for the invention of spell check, even if I do still stump it. So school related wooden spoon contact was rare. Not that there weren’t numerous other things I was punished for.
I spent a lot of my childhood hiding, both mentally and physically. I clearly remember hiding, although I don’t remember a lot about other things.
I used to try hiding from my mom when she was drunk. I didn’t want to be hit or berated. I just wanted to be left alone to do homework or read. Hiding didn’t always work. I think me trying to hide made her angrier.
Many a night, I tried hiding in my closet. I sat there hoping that my dad wouldn’t come that night. But eventually I had to come out and go to bed. I could only hope at that point I would escape whatever was coming that night.
I spent a lot of time hiding my depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety from my teachers at school. I trusted no one. I guess I thought it would be more of the same pain.
Another strange dream last night. This one I kept falling back into. It started “normal” enough. I had gotten a job at some kind of MLM operation. I was going to meetings and learning the ropes. These meetings always ended with some sort of product test. This went on for a while and everything seemed fine. I ended up going home, which was my grandmother’s house.
As time went on, things started getting weird. I would be going down L Road to the library. Suddenly things would go dark and gloomy and I freaked out. I tried running back the same way I came. But I never could escape the place.
This all went on for a while. Then the MLM thing turned cultish. There were people chasing me every time I tried to leave. As before, this went on for a while. It got more and more intense. In the end, people were holding me down as I struggled to get away.
Thankfully I woke up at this point and listened to a podcast to center my mind.
I’ve been having bizarre dreams lately. Last night’s dream has been 0n my mind all day.
It took place in my house at the present day. A drifter comes by and settles down in the family room. I finally get her out but I can’t close the garage door fast enough and she keeps coming back in. This happened three times. I finally decided to call the police. There were three phones in the room. None of them actually worked. One phone was garbled. One phone wouldn’t dial. The third one was just dead.
I finally went upstairs and managed to call the police on a phone up there. It took me a long time to communicate what was going on. It felt like we were speaking two different languages.
The officer finally came and I explained what was happening. It was at this point where I woke up. There was no resolution to the situation. I never figured out why communicating was so hard. I wish I could have fallen back into the dream just to see how the whole thing ended.
I have two views about children. What I think about me as a child, and what I think about all the other children in the world.
When I think of me as a child (looking back on the past), the only thing I see is what a horrible person I was. I was was clearly at fault for what happened. I can only blame myself. It’s full of shouldas. I should have told someone. I should have fought back. I shouldn’t have hid.
When I think about other children, particularly ones in situations like my own, I see nothing but innocence. How could you blame them? It’s like their lives are out of control and they’re doing the best they can.
I have a hard time reconciling these views. On the surface, it seems so easy. But when I try to tackle it, all those negative thoughts come racing back.
One of my biggest challenges has been taking showers. There were countless times where my father fondled me while washing my hair. I came to hate showers and associated them with pain and anxiety. And the fear and anxiety led to what I call the 3 minute shower. In and out just as fast as you can.
I’ve been struggling with shower issues for years. I finally buckled down and got my fears under control. It took a lot of time. I started by just standing in the shower, fully clothed, for increasing amounts of time. Once I felt comfortable there, I moved to standing in the showers with no clothes on. That was really hard. But with time, I was able to be in the shower for increasing amounts of time.
Then it came time for actual showers. This brought back the panic full force. I just had to power through it. Now, I was doing all this in the daylight. Nighttime was nearly impossible. So once I finally got comfortable with showers longer than three minutes I started back at the beginning, but after dark.
It feels like the entire process took f0rever. Now it’s to the point where there isn’t any anxiety surrounding the shower.