Child Abuse, Emotions, My story

I can answer your question…

I always get a kick out of reading Experimental Chimp’s Answers to Search Queries. I’m not going to do that. Well I am, sort of. But in a different way.

Anyway, as I was looking at the searches that brought people to my blog (and some of them crack me up), one from February 26th really caught my eye.

“what would happen if I abused my child”

I can only hope that the person who searched for this was trying to avoid doing anything to a child. Or that they were trying to keep their temper or impulses in check. Or if they are doing something that it is an attempt to stop.

So what will happen? I can only speak for myself. But I know my reactions aren’t all that unique. In the last few months, I’ve written about many of these things.

For me, the abuse has profoundly affected who I am and the way I view myself and others. I struggle daily with self hated and self blame. Even though I hear over and over again that it wasn’t my fault, I still struggle with blaming myself.

I deal daily with fears of simple every day things like showering and sleeping. I constantly combat the urges to hurt myself and on particularly bad days, suicidal ideations.

I learned that it was okay for other people to hurt me, although I’m working on unlearning this. It’s slow going. And it’s very easy to fall back into putting others before myself, even when it’s to my detriment.

I have extreme problems with trust. And that leads to serious deficits in interpersonal relationships. When people start getting too close, I push them away. It’s like a reflex. I don’t even think about what I’m doing. It takes a major mental commitment to keep from doing it. I do it with online friends and real life friends.

When people touch me, even if it’s in a friendly way, it physically hurts me. The thought of a hug, even from my best friend, terrifies me.

I wish I could get the money and the time back that I’ve spent in therapy and hospitals trying to rebuild my life. I wish I didn’t have nightmares every single night. I wish I could feel confident in myself and my abilities. I wish I had the courage to date. Aside from the time and money, I’m working on getting these other parts of my life closer to some sort of normal state. It’s going to take a lot of time and money.

And that, dear reader, is some of the things that might happen if you abuse your child. I hope you read my words and thought long and hard before doing what you might have done. If I can prevent just one child from living the life I lived, then it will be a good thing.

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Anxiety, Emotions, Fears, Therapy

One step at a time

I’ve written in the past about my fear of being in the shower. One thing my therapist suggested last week was to take some small steps to work on overcoming those fears. Those of you who have done any sort of cognitive-behavioral therapy or taken a psychology class on therapy techniques or learning and behavior (a la Skinner or Pavlov) will probably recognize the term “systematic desensitization“.

The basic idea behind systematic desensitization is first to teach the client effective relaxation technique and then have him/her use those techniques when confronting an object or situation that elicits fear. So, in essence, you retrain the mind to not get anxious or scared when confronting an anxiety provoking stimulus.

I’ve pretty much got the relaxation techniques down. I’ve pretty good at the deep breathing and I have a quick and dirty version of progressive relaxation.

My therapist’s suggestion was to run the shower and stick my arm in it. Eh… I’m not much on getting wet when I don’t have to. Plus, it would probably elicit too many questions from my grandmother and brother as to why the shower is on for extremely short periods of time. And as I don’t really feel comfortable with talking to them about this stuff, the fewer the questions the better.

So I came up with my own version (yippee me for being pro-active). I decided that every time I went to the bathroom, I would step into the shower fully clothed and leaving the shower door open (as I tend to start feeling a bit claustrophobic when the door is closed). As I get ready, I take about five deep breathes. Then I step in. As I’m in there, I tell myself what the date is to reinforce in my mind that this is the present and I tell myself that there is nothing in the shower that will hurt me. All the while making sure I’m breathing. I’m one of those people who seems to forget to breathe when I start getting extremely anxious.

Last week when I started this, I could barely make it ten seconds before I started to freak out. Now, I can make it for roughly a minute. My goal is to make it up to five minutes. Then I’m going to start back at a few seconds with my shirt removed. Work myself back up to about five minutes. And then start again with both my shirt and pants removed working my way back up to the five minute mark. Then start again with the water running and actually taking mini showers. I figure by the time I actually get to this point my brother will have moved out of the house and gone back to college. I can work on it while my grandmother is napping.

So that’s the plan. I don’t know how well it’s going to work.

I think this weekend I’m going to go to Bath and Body Works with my best friend and smell some bath stuff and shampoos. I’ll need the moral support. I doubt that I’ll actually buy anything, but it’s just one more small step.

Emotions, Positive things

Anger and Reactions

I don’t really want to go into what pissed me off but good today… but I will say that I think I handled it well.

To make a fairly long story short, another person accused me of being abusive and bullying her on a set of message boards.

Believe me. I know what being abused is. And I know what bullying is too. What I said to that person was neither. In the end, I got positive feedback from two people I highly respect and neither thought what I said was wrong.

So how did I cope? The entire time this whole thing was blowing up, I was talking to a friend online. He kept me mostly sane. He even made me laugh (which is a pretty big accomplishment right now). But when the worst of the shit hit the fan, I simply said, I need to cool off. I’m going out.

I did. I went to the park. Walked through the ice and snow. It’s amazing what sub-freezing temperatures will do to cool you off, both literally and figuratively. I took my camera with me and took a bunch of pictures (about 40 of them if my memory serves me).

The couple of areas of the park I went to, I was the only person there. Go figure… How many people in their right minds walk through the park when it’s 30 degrees outside? No wonder I was alone. But the solitude helped. It was what I needed right then and there. I leaned up against a tree and cried all those pent up tears from the last few weeks. I made big snow balls and threw them down into the gorge. I let it all out.

(Note to self — when going to the park to cry and it’s freezing cold, take tissues… and gloves help too)

So I’m tagging this entry as a positive thing. Why? Well, I coped with my anger instead of stuffing it like I’ve done in the past. I let myself feel it instead of thinking “Good girls don’t get angry”. I didn’t resort to self-injury. In fact, the urges were minimal. I got some exercise tromping through the snow. And I took some good pictures.

Anyone who’s interested in seeing the pictures should click the Flickr widget on the sidebar.

Anxiety, Depression, Emotions, Self Injury, Suicide

Rough road

To all of those who have been trying to support me these last few months, I want to say thank you. I haven’t been the easiest person to deal with.

Once again, my moods are bouncing around all over the place. Earlier today was okay. I had a nice chat with a friend. I made a delicious bread pudding. And I dropped off a copy of my resume and an application at an area bank.

But I’m also getting sick again so I decided to lay down for a quick nap after I got home from said bank. Bad idea. I just can’t get my damn brain to shut off long enough to get some quality rest. I woke up totally depressed and thinking about cutting. I went so far as to get out my razor blades and sit there and stare at them.

All those thoughts going through my mind. Who cares? What difference does it make? Why bother? What’s the point?

And it just went down from there. I ended up staring at pill bottles for a very long time. In fact, I have no idea how long it was. I completely lost track of time. There must be something deep down inside stopping me. I don’t know what it is, but it’s probably better not to question it.

I’m sorry for being such a downer. I’m trying to do what my therapist has suggested. I’m trying to write. I’m trying to draw. I’m trying to combat these negative thoughts. But I don’t know that I’m getting anywhere. And that frustrates me.

Art Work, Depression, Emotions

A picture is worth a thousand words…

The people who live behind us have a major problem with their garage… It fell down. The houses in our neighborhood were built in the 50s. A few years ago we had to have our garage torn down and a new one built. So these people’s garage has been falling down for the last year or so, but the snow these last few weeks pushed it over the edge.

 

I post this because it so accurately depicts how I feel right now. I feel like I’m on the verge of collapse. Like that snow weighed down that structure, my emotions and the memories are weighing me down.

And I’m too tired to write anything more tonight so I’ll let that picture speak for me.

Child Abuse, Emotions, Self Injury

Control

I apologize for the length of this entry. I was going through some old back-up CDs and found a series of essays I wrote. This particular one seems so relevant even 5 years later. When I wrote them, I was in a particularly reflective mood.

 

Thoughts on “control”

What is up with the word control? Why do we want it? What is so special about it? Is the urge for control limited only to those with severe mental illness, a marker of sorts? Or is a more general phenomenon occurring in the everyday “normal” population?
There are so many things in the world that defy control. For example, the weather. It’s too big and powerful to be controlled, even for today’s technology. Using our ever-expanding knowledge of meteorology we can predict it, at least a few days at a time. But you can do nothing to control that tornado bearing down on you house.
Then there is traffic. It’s a whole system in which each individual makes up only a small part. We can’t control how others drive. We can never be sure that the other drivers around us are tired, distracted, or even drunk! The only thing that we can control is our own driving. By being alert and paying attention, we can minimize our risk for accidents. But there’s always that great unknown… The other person.
Maybe by defining the word control, we can gain some insight on what this thing is. Control can be loosely defined as to refine, regulate, to repress, to check, or to master. Let’s examine each of these synonyms carefully to see if we can understand what controlling or control is.
To refine doesn’t really seem to fit the bill. It’s just not a strong enough word for what I think control is. I don’t really want to refine my situation. That means to me that I’m almost where I want to be. And I’m far from that point. It is true that I’m better off than I was just a year ago. But I have a very long way to go before I can say I’m totally in control.
To repress. That’s not it either. I do admit that repression is a form of control. I used it for a very long time. That’s why I had to suffer from my mind revealing what it knew about my terrible childhood. That was horrible. I felt as if I had no control at all. Things were hitting me right and left. But that’s not what I really think of when I say I want to be in control.
To check or keep in check. That seems to definitely define what I’d like to do. I’d love to keep my emotions in check, instead of wearing my heart on my sleeve all the time. It’s like keeping my finger on top of everything in my life so it can’t blow away.
Finally there’s to master. When I think of mastery, I think of school. You have to master so many skills before you can go onto the next lesson. If you apply this to the fuzzy world of clinical psychology and the mind, this seems to be a positive definition of control. So, what is it that I want to master? Is it my mind? Like if I get all my “ducks” in one organized line, then I can master the universe. Could it be simpler than that? Maybe what I really want is to master my feelings, emotions and self-destructive urges.
I personally long for control, but what is it that I really want. Or rather, what do I want to control? Does it just boil down to just my emotions, or is it more complex than that. Sometimes it feels like my soul is open to the world and anything and everything hits me like a ton of bricks. It’s then the old destructive behaviors come out. Maybe self-injury is just one of my control issues.
Then, if that is control, what is “out of control”? So if I’m out of control, then I lose my feeling of mastery. For a while, I had few self-injury urges. But lately, I’ve felt the urges as strong as ever. I try to use the skills I learned while I was in the hospital. But when my mind is reeling and all I want is to feel pain. When all I want to do is slash mindlessly at skin. It’s hard to remember what those things are.
Controlling my emotions. Now, that’s a totally different topic. When I think that I’ve finally got everything under control. Meaning I feel not so much happy, but content. And I can interact with the world around me with a normal amount of trepidation, not looking over my shoulder all the time. That’s when things start to topple. And I feel out of control once again.
One place that I don’t feel in control is at home with my parents. Living with my grandmother has helped with that because I can limit the time that I see them. But those butterflies still invade my stomach. Like something bad is going to happen when I walk into that house.
From a cognitive-behavioral point of view, that fear should decrease every time I see my parents and nothing bad happens. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. Variable schedules of reinforcement and/or punishment create behaviors that are more resistant to extinction than do continuous schedules. I remember that from my rat running days in college. When I was growing up, there were no predictable schedules for bad things to happen. And even today it’s magnified because I never know when my mother will blow up. So I guess my fear is still being reinforced.
And then there is my health. Sometimes I think I got the worst of my family gene pool. Asthma, allergies, jaw, ankle and back problems. Thank God that’s it for now. Asthma attacks leave me feeling the most out of control. But I guess when you can’t get enough oxygen, there’s a good reason to feel out of control. I try to take charge with taking my meds and monitoring myself daily. But when the coughing and gasping starts it’s hard to stay calm and follow my action plan. It was even worse before I had an action plan to follow because I always relied on the doctor or the ER to treat me. At least now I can start treating myself and then call the doctor or rescue squad if need be.
Is control an absolute? If you take the experimental meaning of control then no, you can’t control for every single variable. Some things are just outside your power. Okay, so that should probably carry over to other types of control. Somehow I feel like I’m cognitively underdeveloped. Even working six years as a researcher or assistant, and knowing all about control, it’s still hard for me to see “control” as something that varies by degrees rather than an absolute. The question becomes how do I come to see control as it really is, not just an academic issue.
There are so many different issues that touch on the concept of control for me. Fear, self-injury, overall well being and even my health. The feelings are urges stirred up in me… well I’m not certain how to describe it. This definitely deserves some serious reflection. I guess that’s just part of the healing process.

Child Abuse, Emotions, Family, Relationships

The “What If” Game

Experimental Chimp recently wrote about how life would be different if the past was different. I have a name for this sort of thinking. I call it the “What If” game. I do it all the time despite it being a complete waste of the precious little energy I have.

Just some examples…

  • What if I was never born?
  • What if I was born a boy?
  • What if my parents weren’t so screwed up?
  • What if I told (insert any number of people) what was going on?
  • What if I would have went to medical school instead of graduate school?
  • What if I hadn’t lost my marbles during grad school?
  • What if I had finished my PhD?
  • What if I had left James?
  • What if James never hurt me?
  • What if I had killed myself instead of just thinking about it?

And my list goes on and on and on.

I have no idea why I continue to ruminate on these things. I realize that I can’t go back and change any of those things. Some I can revisit (like finishing my doctorate) but I can’t change the events of the past.

Granted, I’d be a much different person today if any one of those things were changed. But different doesn’t necessarily equal better.

One thing I gleaned today from doing some of the exercises in “The Courage to Heal Workbook” is that although I’ve developed some negative behaviors and coping strategies, I’ve also developed some positive ones. I’m extremely stubborn persistent. And I care deeply about the pain of others and I want to help them move through it. Does that make dealing with the abuse any easier? No. If I could go back and have a childhood free of abuse would I do it? HELL YES! In a heartbeat.

Maybe the whole “What if” game is a complete waste of energy. But that doesn’t stop me from playing it. Maybe there is a parallel universe someplace where there’s another Kathryn who didn’t have these experiences. Who’s to say she’s better off.

Emotions, Family, My story, Relationships

Parents and Children

I was at the park today. I just needed some fresh air and to get out of the house. Actually Grandma was getting real close to driving me insane. Plus it was actually above freezing today…

Anyway, I was watching a family playing in the snow. Mom, dad, and a kid who looked about 4 or 5 years old. The little one was laughing and having a great time in general. And the parents appeared to be having a blast too

There was a huge snowball fight. Making snow angels. Building a snowman. All those things that little kids love to do.

I was so freaking jealous. I can’t even explain it. My soul just ached. All I could think about was how I wanted a Mommy and a Daddy.

It hit me all at once how little my parents were with me. And when they were, a lot of it was about them and me making them look good. Dance recitals were about my family sitting in the front row making a good showing. Same thing for band and choir concerts. Award presentations were about how they could tell their friends what great parents they were, not about my accomplishments.

I feel bad for feeling the way I do. I know a number of people who lost their parents to death at very young ages. At least mine were alive and in my life. I feel like I have no right to complain. Things could have been a lot worse. So who am I to complain?

Child Abuse, Poetry

Alone in the Dark

There she lies
On the bed
Under the covers

In the distance
In the dark
Cries ring out

Fear envelops
Like the grass on the earth
Closing around her

Silently she begs
Please no more
Please no more

No one to hear the cries
No one to feel the pain
Alone in the dark

 

February 19, 2007

Child Abuse, Emotions, My story, PTSD, Suicide

Cold Hands

Cold hands. Cold hands. That phrase triggered all this. It was on TV. I know I heard it there. But I have no idea what was on the TV. I’m typing this right now and I can’t remember what I was watching just a minute ago. Oh God, what is wrong with me?
Once my father found another job, my grandparents were the baby-sitters. Apparently, they loved it. And it seems like my grandfather loved it a bit too much.
I would take a nap in my grandfather’s bed. I chose that bed day after day after day, even though I knew what would happen. Why was I so stupid?
I wasn’t sleeping. He came in the room. The door opened ever so quietly. And he closed it without making a sound. The only thing I could hear was the lock clicking into place. I was pressed up against the wall. I felt safer that way. I was laying on my stomach. I had my mouse with me. He was in my left arm because my right arm was up against the wall. He took my mouse out of my arm. I loved that mouse. So why did he take it away from me?
His hands were so cold. They were under my shirt, on my back. I can feel his hands going all over my torso. He must have been outside shoveling snow. It was cold in the room. I’m so cold right now.
I stayed limp. He thinks I am asleep. I don’t know what would have happened if he knew that I was awake. His hands were so cold. And they are all over me. God, I can feel them on my skin. I’m shivering right now. Why won’t this stop?
He flipped me over so I now I’m laying on my back. My eyes are closed because I don’t want him to know that I was awake. He pulled down my pants. He’s touching me. It’s so gentle. It doesn’t hurt like it does when daddy does it. Why are his hands so cold? I’m cold. He keeps on touching me. Touching me on the inside and on the outside. But it doesn’t hurt. It just feels funny.
And my tummy feels funny too. I feel sort of sick. I just want my mouse back. He can do anything he wants to me. But why did he have to take my mouse? I hope he gives it back to me.
I’m so cold now. All the cold from his hands went inside of me. I’m shivering. I think he knows I’m awake. I can feel this scratching inside of me. Now it hurts really bad. It hurts just like when daddy does it. Why did he have to hurt me? I must have done something really wrong. I must have been really bad. But I can’t remember what I did. Please make it stop.

 

Not again…

What the hell is wrong with me all of a sudden. This time I found myself downstairs in the basement logged into my account on my brother’s computer typing away crazily. I was watching TV before that, sitting on the futon/couch in my room. And I have no idea what I was watching. And to top it off, the TV was tuned to a non-existent station when I turned it back on, so I can’t even look at the TV Guide and figure out what I was watching. Well actually I did look at the TV Guide and nothing is jumping out at me. There were a number of show I could have been watching at the time.

Am I completely losing my mind? Am I seriously going stark raving mad?

All I can think about right now is killing myself. I know my therapist told me to call if things got really rough, but I can’t. I just can’t even say these things out loud right now. But I need to get them outside of myself which is why I’m posting this. So fuck…

I’m tired. So fucking tired. I want to cry, but the tears won’t come. I feel so sick, but I can’t throw up. I feel like I’m going to crawl right out of my skin, and I just can’t calm down. I’ve got an entire bottle of Ativan from when I was taking meds before. So why not just down the whole bloody thing? What is the point in living?