One woman's journey and dawning realization of the slow destruction of her spirit while trapped in the jaws of disability.

Disability is at first an affliction of the body, then a state of mind and finally a shackle upon the spirit.

Lydia M N Crabtree, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Revelations Part 4 - PTSD

In this series I have focused on specific epiphanies I have had since I was declared legally disabled.

Some of these are:
I have not been forsaken.

You have not been forsaken. You are believed. You are supported. The Goddess and God are with you.
You are not misunderstood. You haven’t given enough education to be understood.
Teach and tolerance follows…and if not tolerance at least understanding and educated when decisions need to be made.
Dysautonomia is a complicated disorder whose physical impact has daily consequences.
My fourth epiphany is this:
Mind, body and spirit are one.
Most persons who follow an earth based spiritual path will tell you that this is true. I have often personally felt that this leads to some unintentional judgment on the part of some against those of us who are chronically ill. If mind, body and spirit are one, then you could THINK yourself well. I have written on this topic at various times during my disability and the simplest way to explain my current belief is this: if, in nature, disease is nature then disease within the human population is natural too.
What isn’t natural is the way that many of us end up ill. The interplay of pollutants, hormones and preservatives in our foods and even the chemicals that are used to process our foods are just beginning to be studied and understood. We know that these affects are debilitating in some. Tony suffers from migraines caused by MSG intolerance. The life changes we have to go through to accommodate this disorder is pretty extensive.

One of the other ways many of us end up ill is through prolonged psychological, sexual, physical and mental abuse. It is a medical fact that those who grow up in environments where stress is not the overwhelming energy around them are far healthy than those who do not. Further, I think that often those who were exposed to psychological, sexual, physical and/or mental abuse are lead to believe that with a strong will the long term affects of such exposure can be overcome.

It is not necessarily common knowledge that I was raised by a pedophile and rapists. The abuse took me to a place where I had a three day fugue, that is a time period in my life that I cannot account for where I was, where I had been, what had happened.

I came out of this fugue state in a batter women’s shelter. I had obviously been beaten and roughly treated. I was suffering from Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and had never willingly taken a sexual partner.  Slowly I remembered my name and the shelter relocated me out of the county and off the books because my biological father at the time was a deputy sheriff in the town that we lived in. Given my biological father’s position of authority and my outward state of terror, I wasn’t even offered a chance to press charges. Of course, remembering the abuse is an important factor to prosecution.

My childhood is one of crystal clear memories followed by periods of complete absence of memory. I seek counseling on a regular basis to combat PTSD attacks. These are periods where I relieve my abuse as if it is currently occurring. I lose time and become unclear of where I am or even who I am with. With counseling and medication, these episodes have lessened significantly. Stress is a major factor in their frequency and severity.

I used to believe that I could separate these events in my life. Box up my PTSD and my years of sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse and separate them from what was physically happening to my body. However, it is of interest to note that nearly 80% of those who have Dysautonomia also suffer from PTSD and Anxiety. The theory is that years of living in a flight or fight response causes permanent physical damage to the body, especially to those who may have a genetic predisposition to problems, like neurocardiogenic syncope which I was born with.

My life has been one lived surrounded by an immediate biological family who treated me like an outcast. I often fought back against my physical abuse and was not known to holding my tongue even if that would have been to my benefit. My biological mother was and is the classic enabler. When my father tried to kill me with a 9mm automatic and missed her comment when confronted was, “If he really wanted to kill you, you’d be dead. So he was just playing around.”

This statement really sums up the tone I grew up with. When I married, my first husband met my handsome biological father and seemingly well put together mother and decided I was a liar. It is no hard stretch to understand that the marriage would fail. Not that I particularly blame my ex. My biological family could be charming and I was a mess. They had been calling me “mentally unstable” for years as an explanation for any number of cues that would have told authorities or other people I was being abused.

When Tony met my biological father, he told Tony that I was insane and if he was smart he would encourage me to enter into a treatment facility and give up custody of Sam. Tony stated firmly that his visits with my counselors and experts and the direct problems we had in our sexual life was all the confirmation he needed that my biological father was indeed a rapist and a pedophile.

Of course, I am not the only survivor. I have been approached by two girls who I went to elementary school and high school with. Both accused me of not protecting them from the rapes they received at my father’s hand or penis, as the case may be. There isn’t a whole lot an adult child of incest can say to another survivor. I was raised in a house of abuse and taught that abuse was normal. The fact that it never occurred to me to protect my friends was natural because the abuse was normal. Explaining the psychological damage these types of relationships have on people is difficult and an extremely foreign concept for most people.

I have always maintained that my life growing up was for a purpose. I don’t believe that I chose to come to this lifetime to be abused; however that doesn’t preclude me from trying to learn what I can from having been abused and surviving.

One thing that a life time of abuse of this magnitude does is destroy the fundamental guideposts that people use to set up and maintain relationships. There is a definite cycle where the survivor tends to attract abuse in all forms to themselves and then goes into what I call, “Whatever it takes mode.”
After realizing that you can identify abusers and chose to not have relationships with them, you begin to seek other types of relationships. However, your ability to set boundaries, understand other people’s boundaries and find a way to have a productive and mutually uplifting relationship is destroyed.

Oh, you will read books and go through programs and still the practical application can really be beyond your ability to execute.

I became a pleaser, a peace keeper. Somewhere deep in me is a little girl who thinks that if she is perfect: says the right things, does the right things then people will love her. I look at conflict as an opportunity for resolution and this usually means that I am willing to give up just about anything to bring peace and love around me.

Well before my official 2009 disability date, I was on a downward slide mentally, physically and emotionally. I was not well. I wanted to be adored and loved for who I was and felt strongly that I was loved and adored for what I could provide.

When I no longer felt I could provide to a larger group of people, I pulled back and focused on my family. A few friends weathered the storms with me and supported me as they could and over time I realized that as they did what they could, we were all working off of relationship constructs that didn’t really work before my catastrophic illness and certainly weren’t going to work under pressure.
For a little girl in me who understood that value is what you can do – have sex without making a big fuss – weather a huge beating and then wear the proper clothes to hide it so no one would know – take a beating for a sibling because they were angry and mad at the situation and I was mouthy. Being in adult relationships hasn’t lost a lot of these highly destructive and difficult to deal with constructs. I find myself in relationships trying to figure out what to DO to make them work. The concept that sometimes in relationships there is nothing to DO is really difficult for me to accept or even understand.

I keep trying. I am the peacemaker, the fixer. People are hurt, obviously I did the harm…maybe or maybe not that is truth; however, it is certainly my perspective. Others emotions and reactions to things scare me. People who are angry with me hit me. No, not anymore; however, when you reaction is to expect a strike, you expect that strike whether it is verbal or physical is irrelevant and in some twisted way you come to believe you deserve it. So I find myself in conflict with others fighting these ingrained reactions and looking for the emotional cues I have always understood – anger, resentment, annoyance.

When I got sick, for years during my illness, I believed that some of my relationships were one way. Later I would discover that those relationships were hiding aspects that were ugly and angry. That anger eventually erupted. As an adult I can rationalize what is going on with others and as a survivor I have all these complicated thought process that I know aren’t rational.
  1. If someone is mad at me, do they love me? Did they ever?
  2. If they are venting and I don’t feel like I am being heard, then should I just agree with them to make the situation go away?
  3. If I am having anxiety is it because someone is mad at me and I don’t know it?
  4. My entire life I thought abuse was normal and it wasn’t. If I believed that a relationship was one way for years and it wasn’t what do I do with that? What is my culpability? What do I do to fix it? I couldn’t fix my biological family…am I back in that situation.
My therapist and I have been asking, “What does Dia want out of relationships?”
It is an interesting question to ask oneself and the answer I know has changed significantly over time. I used to think that if I was adored by masses of people then somehow that girl in me would finally feel secure, safe. I no longer believe this to be true. Adoration is not the same as being known.
I have always maintained that I wanted my son to KNOW me. I wanted him to know my story and to know my triumphs and I wanted to KNOW him.
Knowledge, true knowledge, as always has been power for me. Most adult survivors of incest spend an average of four visits to mental hospitals. I have only been hospitalized once. When I left the system of the battered women’s shelter, my sponsor told me I might actually make it. When questioned she told me that most women eventually die at the hands of their abusers or spend their lives mentally and emotionally frozen, unable to do much of anything beyond subsisting. She felt I would actually thrive.
And I have in many ways. I have a son and a husband and we are not living in an abusive relationship. I have worked hard to distance myself from my biological family. I “divorced them” years ago and feel freedom and safety for it. I sought out and learned what motherly love really looked like and though that love is gone from this physical plane, it burns brightly as I deal with my boy. I have kept some semblance of my faith. I don’t attend large rituals anymore and that is ok. My quiet daily rituals are plenty for me.
Given all this, I still react to most all relational situations with the default all abusers have been trained to have. When someone is angry, I immediately internalize that anger and move into peacekeeper or fix it mode. The idea of giving someone space to feel on their own and process on their own is completely foreign to me and one I am working diligently on. I have had relationships where for years I was manipulated simply by my own desire to try to keep peace or fix situations that I alone could not fix. It has taken work on relationships one at a time to break these situations and keep them from continuing in destructive patterns.
The point of all this is if you deal with me and find my responses odd, they probably are. I am not necessarily just reacting to you and your relationship. I am reacting to years of abuse while I fight the conditioning that is a residual on my soul. When I ask questions, I am not being obtuse or mean or even sarcastic. I really need an answer. Asking questions is how I flesh out what is going on in a way that I can understand it.
I have had some great teachers and read some great books on communication. I try to utilize those tools to help me deal and I fail miserably often.
However, I believe what marks any survivor is their willingness to get up and go back for more. They try. They ask themselves questions and seek out their own answers and they relentlessly cling to relationships while trying to find a way for them to be healthy.
I plan on continuing to do this. I know it annoys some friends and I hope given this perspective understanding can continue to be shared.

1 comment:

  1. I am so proud of you. Reading your blog entries helps me learn and grow as well. Thank you for sharing :-)