Archives for category: Anniversaries

Hello,

This weekend is a holiday weekend in the USA.  That means we have a 3 day weekend to celebrate Labor Day.

Not sure about any of you but most major holidays bring about some anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and so on.  Triggers are everywhere, and a lot of places don’t feel safe.  I worry about what could or will happen if I interact with people when I feel this way.

Staying home feels right unless there is something I HAVE TO do that requires leaving.  Delivery works best too since it helps me meet my self care needs without causing anxiety or panic attacks.

Depression is something that comes and goes in waves.  Last month, it took over for quite a few weeks as I struggled to process so many changes and cope with flashbacks.  Funny how (for me at least) working through anger and shame eases the feelings of depression in my mind/body/spirit.

At times like this (read almost any anniversary), Self Care and Self Soothing are super important to maintain, increase, start again, continue, or follow up on – depends on where you are in the moment – so that the symptoms and scary stuff don’t take over as easily.

So I wish you all a safe, healthy, relaxing weekend full of sleep/rest, self care, and positive energy.

xx AlterXpressions

p.s. Yes there is a post going up tomorrow.  This is a bonus for all of us 🙂

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Dear Mom,

I love you.  I hate you.  I feel sorry for you, for me, and for all we didn’t have as a mother and daughter.  Sometimes I think I miss you.  Other times I feel shame that I don’t miss you.

But I’m happy we are not in each other’s lives anymore.  I needed to find myself.  And you needed to do the same.  Me in your life just brought back stuff you didn’t want to deal with.  You in my life kept me from finding my confidence and truly living.

But you also did something I didn’t fully appreciate until after I moved out of state and started remembering my childhood.  You left me with monsters – pedophiles, rapists, cults, drug traffickers and dealers – when you didn’t want me around.  The monsters paid you and compensated you with other perks that made you happy once in a while.

But those monsters also raised me into the woman I am now.  They taught me life skills and survival skills.  They taught me how to protect myself and identify lies as they are told to me.  Most important, they taught me how to survive anything with intelligence, patience, and resilience.

Living with you, taking care of you from childhood into adulthood taught me other important skills.  Not all of them good or bad, but extremely useful in dealing with the bullies, pushy relatives, and generally mean people.  If you hadn’t been so abusive and neglectful, if you hadn’t told lies that convinced others to treat me like a lying pariah for most of my life, and if you hadn’t tried to control me by destroying my sense of self, I might not have learned how to be independent and self-reliant.

So maybe I am a suspicious and skeptical person when it comes to trusting people.  Maybe I keep most everyone at a distance and only let in so many people at a time.  And maybe I lack confidence in socializing and communicating because I spent so much of my life quiet and silent.

But I am the woman I am today because of you.  I am smart, strong, resilient, caring, empathetic, creative, confident, sometimes rebellious, assertive, respectful of others, and able to stick to my values.  You taught me to fight for what I believe in and speak up even when I’m going to get in trouble.  Sometimes honesty and persistence turn people away.  And plain speaking can make other people uncomfortable.

All of that is okay as long as I stick to being me instead of pretending to be something or someone I’m not.  In trying to make me your creation, you taught me how to preserve my sense of self even when times were darkest.  In turning everyone against me, you taught me that I didn’t need other people (or their approval) to be happy and fulfilled.

So thanks for being the mom you were.  I love you sometimes.  I hate you other times.  And I wish you can find the happiness you’ve been searching for someday.

Love,

Your daughter

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Yesterday was a blood relative’s birthday.  Over the weekend was another relative’s birthday.  This weekend is Mother’s day.  Next week is two more family birthdays.

The memories are strong this week.  So are the physical symptoms that come with my PTSD.  Strange how my alters and I experience our physical changes both together and separately.

Yesterday, I realized that crying makes me sneeze and look like I’m having an allergy attack.  My nose drips constantly, and I’m always sneezing or cleaning up.  My eyes get red and itch, but hardly any tears come out.  The headaches and muscle aches get worse.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach and scared because I don’t know how to make it stop.

And that happens because my alters are crying, not me.  And they weren’t allowed to cry as children or teens.  But they were allowed to sneeze and look like they had allergy attacks.  So I sneezed and so on all day yesterday and a few times earlier in the week.

It’s been so long since I truly cried that I forgot the physical sensations associated with crying – pressure around my nose and eyes, drippy noes, red/swollen eyes, feeling clogged up, having to mouth breathe, and constant sneezing – since I obviously am not lady-like when I cry.  And neither are my alters.

But why the tears?  My therapist and I are working on ways to express anger and other feelings in healthy ways.  And people often tell me that crying can relieve pressure/tension and have many different meanings.  Tears are not weakness either.  So maybe everyone needed an outlet and couldn’t think of anything else to express all of the anger, fear, shame, hurt, guilt, and sadness of the memories.

Either way, the tears opened up a path for my alters to finally confront the worst memories and feelings that tear us up during the month of May.

I thought they all had to do with my parents, my brother, my relatives and how they treated me.  But it’s more than that:

  • Senior prom/prom queen nomination
    • I didn’t want to go, didn’t understand why my mother and brother forced me to go, didn’t understand why suddenly so many classmates who tolerated and ignored me now hated me, until yesterday.  Why was I nominated for prom queen?  I wasn’t popular.  I didn’t have the best GPA.  I didn’t participate in many school activities.  Maybe someday the reasons will come back.
  • High School graduation
  • College graduation
  • The end of 2 cults
  • The end of a combined pedophile/human trafficking porn ring
  • Injuries and “secret” ER visits to get treated, but not completely fixed
  • The secret life changing into something positive, but still a secret because hardly legal or legitimate
  • Seemingly conscious choices in the “public” life that were not
  • Finally understanding why my body hurts so much in so many places and potentially how to fix the related problems

Downside – I’m really tired and kind of distracted.  My alters are also distracted and feeling scared.  Scared equals angry.  Angry means an unstable temper no matter who is in charge.

And an unstable temper creates more feelings of fear that turns into feelings of anger.

I feel like this anger is different from other anger that we’ve experienced.  With this anger surfacing, the vault opens more.  Memories show up.  Feelings flow through us.  We alters can connect with each other more.

So while I/we are so upset and scared about the instability of these feelings right now, most of us are also happy about the change.  It means all of us are moving forward again.  And we can look back without the pain of shame and guilt distorting our perspective to find a more objective understanding of the past.

So while my brother tried his hardest to make me feel useless, crazy, invisible, and worthless before I left home, I still wish him a happy birthday.  Same for my other relatives – the ones who I miss so much my heart hurts and the ones I alternately love and hate.

Thanks for reading

 

Sometimes I can write and share a post on holidays.  Sometimes I can’t.  Easter is one of those holidays that sometimes overwhelm and other times I forget about.

With everything that’s happened and all that I’ve remembered, Easter was better spent hiding and sleeping.  And that’s what I did yesterday.

But I also didn’t want to end this post on a sad note.

So I’m sharing some links to positive affirmations for survivors of abuse, trauma, or related issues.  This way you get to choose which ones to view and (if you like) add to your personal resources.

https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/3949/7-healing-affirmations-victims-narcissistic-abuse/

http://www.thehotline.org/2016/03/5-self-care-tips-for-abuse-and-trauma-survivors/

http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/post-traumatic-stress-discussions/general-support/3378995-affirmations-for-the-trauma-survivor

 

Thanks for reading

The past few months have helped me realize that sometimes experiences become benchmarks.  And benchmarks become anniversaries.  Not all anniversaries are bad ones.

These are some of the good ones I feel grateful to remember and want to share:

  • 22 years of keeping secrets and choosing not to address rumors about my sexual orientation that got me ignored, bullied, harassed, etc. by “friends”, family, class mates, teachers, and community members
  • 20 years since one rapist got me pregnant and then forced an abortion
  • 18 years of celibacy by choice – I chose not to have sex or sexual relations until a time came when I changed my mind
  • 13 years into recovery and in the “live” phase instead of “crisis” phase
  • 12 years since I learned about posttraumatic stress disorder and trauma therapy
  • 10.5 years working at the same job
  • 10 years since I started choosing my own medical and mental health providers
  • 5 years since I walked away from my family and started to take my life back
  • 5 years since I learned that the “voices” in my head were real (DID) and not my imagination making me crazy
  • 3 years since I legally changed my name and started to feel safe in all parts of my life
  • 8 months since I reconnected with safe family members
  • 8 months since I moved out of state and started fresh
  • 6 months until I turn 35 years old – 14 years beyond what I assumed by expected life term

Sometimes it takes a look backwards to remember all of the good that happened in spite of the bad.  I feel grateful for the opportunity to remember and celebrate these benchmarks this week.

Thanks for reading

I have one grandparent still alive.

She turns 101 today.

We spent 4 years apart because I had to walk away.  The year she turned 100, we reconnected again.

I saw her 2-3 times before I moved across the country.  She never doubted me, always believed in me, consistently loved me even if she couldn’t protect me.

Hard choices all around.  Choose one person or the whole family?  She chose the whole family, and I think I’m better for it.  After all: I got to be part of her, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins lives then.  Still have them now.

So today, I’m feeling gratitude and love.  I’m celebrating life.  And I’m thanking the universe for both of us still being alive.

My grandmother survived marriage, war, immigration, births, deaths, children, grandchildren, and so much more.

Still, when I saw her today, she smiled and asked if I ate yet.  Then told me I’m wearing a pretty hat.

She’s 101 years old.  She still wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night.  She uses a walker and watches her favorite TV shows during the day.

I love you Grandma.  You inspire me to keep on going, living, enjoying life.

Thanks for reading…

My Biased Perspective of Past Holidays

Holidays make me feel crazy an inadequate most years.  Also scared.  This is the time of year when everyone is “on a diet” or “off a diet” or “going crazy with the shopping and the parties and the party planning” and “making travel arrangements”.

People compete with each other to get the hottest trend item or have the best, most talked about party.  Everyone talks about gifts they’re buying or getting, vacations they’re going on, and the stress of holiday cheer.

Too many people.  Too busy.  Too loud.  Too much anxiety-provoking, stressful environmental factors in the outside world this time of year.

A New Goal: Fun, Relaxing Holidays

I was raised to believe holidays were about spending time with loved ones; enjoying good food, conversation, and games together.  Or for introverts like me, spending time around family, listening to conversations while playing puzzles or relaxing with a good book.  It meant helping my aunts and uncles cook and set the table for family dinner.  Or playing elf on Christmas morning at my grandma’s house and seeing everyone enjoy their gifts.

Those are my best and most favorite memories  of Christmas.  And they all happened before I turned 8 with my father’s side of the family.

These days, I don’t decorate or go to parties.  I do send messages to my friends and cook something good for myself.  Then relax with some books and movies if I’m not sleeping the day away.

But this year, I’m trying something different.  Since letting family back into my life, I have more reasons to be thankful and to celebrate.  I also have more triggers to cope with.  But I live far away from my friends and family now.  And connecting with them is not as easy as before.

So I’m reinstating a tradition.  Holiday cards.  By snail mail.

My only problems?  The cards might not all arrive in time.  I had stamps.  But not enough.  Friday was not a day I could go out – my cold decided to clear out and left me exhausted – and left me without enough stamps.  Then I realized I didn’t have enough cards.  One more…that’s all I need.

Fingers crossed I can get stamps and a card tomorrow.  With luck, the cards will be in the mail and delivered by Saturday.

Instead of blame & shame, a positive reminder of life’s surprises

you-may-not-control-all-the-events-that-happen-to-you-but-you-can-decide-not-to-be-reduce-by-them-struggle-quote

Thanks for reading

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Another quote from the Power of Positivity website (via Facebook)

Ever since moving to my new home, I’ve been recovering memories during sleep.  This is difficult because the memories come as dreams and sometimes interfere with or interrupt my regular sleeping.  That means I’m not getting as much rest as usual even though my sleeping habits have not changed.  Sleep deprivation and its resulting symptoms set in.  And I stop wanting to go out.

This quote resonates a lot with me because the exact scenario happened more than once as I reclaimed independence from my father.  His birthday was last Thursday; a few days after Labor Day; two week’s after my mother’s birthday; a little more than one month before mine.  In the past, memories of the trauma and abuse from my father were hazy and blurred.  Nothing concrete except feelings and fragments.  Now, I am remembering.  And the more I remember, the more I realize how covertly abusive he was.  And not just to me.  To my mother and brother too, but in different ways.

Sometimes I think my parents fed on each other’s negativity and enabled each other to be more abusive and destructive in our family system.  Maybe that is co-dependence; maybe it is something else.  But whatever the case, dad took out his frustration with my mom’s refusal to get consistent treatment and care on me.  And he put all of this projected hopes and dreams for the future on my brother.

And when I moved so far out of their control that they couldn’t force me into compliance anymore, my parents & sibling went out of their way to control how everyone else in our family system and community saw me/treated me.  None of those people are safe.  Not when they all see my mom and ask her how I am.  Not when they ask my brother, father and maternal relatives the same questions instead of asking me.  Not when those people tell lies and make up stories about me that I can’t refute or deny since I have not idea what they’re saying.

The persona they created for me lives on in many minds.  The truth of who I am is a mystery wrapped in an enigma both to me and everyone in my circle of trusted people.  I’m still learning who I am.  I am still becoming the woman I aspire to be.  Like an onion, I have to peel away the layers of denial, amnesia, trauma fragments, and disguises that kept me safe in order to find the authentic person underneath.

And when times are bad; when the switching is almost constant; when the depression sets in, I remember this quote.  And then I go to sleep.  My alters come out and do what they need to do; sometimes we cry; sometimes other chores get accomplished; sometimes exercise; sometimes we have lucid dreams.  A day might pass.  Two days might pass with a few wake-ups to use facilities, get a drink or food, etc.  And then, our mind relaxes into restful sleep.  And I/we awaken feeling refreshed.  And the cycle starts fresh again.

Thanks for reading.

Background

End of July and most of August are typically the time of year when out-of-town relatives stay at my aunts’ houses and visit for a long family reunion that ends with the maternal grandmother’s birthday.  Some used to stay with my parents, but that changed sometime when I was in college.  This is speculation because no one ever told me anything, but I guess my relatives couldn’t face the truth of who was acting out against (aka abusing and scaring) their young children.  It’s easier for them to blame the scapegoat than to face a reality they refuse to acknowledge.

Why this anniversary is so scarring

But back to family reunions.  As scapegoat, I was mostly ignored or bullied by everyone.  And made to be the de facto babysitter as a young teen to keep me separated from the rest of my age-mate cousins and younger brother.  I didn’t mind because that gave me something to do with my time.  As I got older, though, so did the kids.  And the next generation of young children came from my older cousins – people who didn’t trust or like or respect me – and other relatives by marriage who didn’t want my help.  So I suddenly had nothing to keep the anxiety away.

And that generation of children were raised to treat me the same way as the adults.  And they did it with relish.  No one scolded them for being mean or indulging in bad habits around me, so they constantly made up ways to antagonize me.  And then with the silent treatment and shunning from the adults, I basically had no place to hide at family reunions.  No one to offer empathy, compassion, friendly conversation, etc.  And no place to go and cope with my anxiety or triggers.  I was on a stage with bright lights pointed at me all the time; they used every word, every gesture to humiliate and condemn me.

Typical Response

Dissociate, not leave the house, feel hyper-vigilant and scared all the time, stop sleeping, have nightmares, miss time from work, have panic attacks, severe body pain and memories, get sick, pass out, not eat, etc. for days or even weeks.  Lose time, lose memories, switch and practice self harm.

Response in new environment

Some disturbed sleeping, lots of anxiety, some flashbacks, lots of shame and tears, problems with my digestion and visit the bathroom a lot, increased body memories and body pain but not so much that I stay home and am incapacitated.  Some switching and reckless behavior – but that is more due to mistakes and learning a new environment that the shame capitalizes on than anything deliberate.

I am:

  • still working 5 days a week
  • going out with friends
  • active on the blog and website
  • going shopping/cooking/to restaurants
  • exercising
  • decorating my apartment
  • keeping in touch with safe family and friends (another post)
  • Utilizing my coping strategies (especially the hotline) while I try to find a provider here
  • making and keeping appointments for graduate school, scholarship research, etc.

Conclusion

The 2 months of anniversaries are tough.  Remembering how I was treated brings back lots of negative feelings that are hard to accept and cope with.

But being here in my new place, I truly feel safe and able to move beyond the typical fear.  Yes, it hurts.  yes I cry a lot.  Yes my body loses control sometimes.  Yes I feel aggression rise to the point where I scare myself of what could happen.

But it all goes away much faster.  I can let myself cry and experience all of these sensations instead of blocking them out.  And because of that, the pain and fear and anxiety lessen each time.  And each experience takes less out of me too.

So yeah, I’m still in rough shape.  The shame overwhelms me and causes me to apologize and over explain and feel terrible about good decisions.  It is constantly messing with my mind.  But I can get help from the hotline and my friends; they listen and help me find self-compassion through validation and reality testing.

I need my quiet evenings and 1 day a week of staying inside.  But I can spend that time being productive and happy (either doing something or doing nothing) instead of out of my mind with fear and disorientation.

Thanks for reading

Dear Dad,

It’s been four years since I left, and seven years since you shunned me.  Happy Father’s Day from the daughter who never meant anything too you.  The daughter you “loved and spoiled” until your precious son came into existence.  The daughter you hugged and cuddled until your wife’s tantrums made you stop.  The daughter you sacrificed to keep peace in your household.  The daughter you threatened to keep away from your mother and siblings if they interfered with how she was being raised.

Do you remember me at all?  Did you ever love me or see me as a human being?  When you touched me and played secret games with me as a toddler, did you know you were sexually abusing me?  Did you care at all?  When you caught your wife treating me the same way, did you try to stop her?  When the religious people came to “babysit” me or the contractors spent “private time” alone with me, did you try to stop them?  Was the money worth selling your daughter?  You treated my wounds and protected me from your wife’s physical abuse, but you let me be your housekeeping slave.

Did you enjoy having sex with me?  Did you enjoy forcing me to service you?  Did you enjoy punishing me by starving me?  Did you make me get good grades because you cared or because pride wouldn’t let you have a dumb daughter?  Why did you force me to do my brother’s homework?  Why did you punish me for getting a bronze medal in a Tae kwon do tournament?  Because my brother didn’t win or get a medal?

Mostly, though, I want to know why you let your wife hurt me and say terrible things about me.  Why you ignored me and also said terrible things about me.  Why did you sell me to the cult?  Why did you let my pediatrician rape and drug me?  And why did you rape me?  Blame me for getting pregnant?  Try to keep me a child and a slave instead of becoming an independent young woman?

I will never know the answers to these questions.  Every day, the fog of denial dissipates more.  And I realize my whole childhood was a lie.  You never cared about me.  You never wanted to see me.  You never acknowledged me unless I was useful.  And you taught me to hide my light or risk being rejected.

I loved you unconditionally growing up.  You were my super hero and number one favorite person.  I admired you and wanted to be like you.  You could do no wrong back then.  Not even mom, hard as she tried, could change that.  Then I hit adolescence.  My body changed.  I wasn’t your little girl anymore.  Other men tried to take my attention away from you.  And you hated that.

I grew up.  Started my own life away from you.  You couldn’t control my life anymore.  And I realized the painful truth.  You don’t care about me.  Funny, but I still love you.  You are my biological father even though you are not my dad.  I call you “dad” out of respect for the food and shelter you provided me growing up.  Nothing else.

Who is my real Dad?  Uncle Teddy is my dad.  He loved me and cared about me; taught me lessons about respect and boundaries; bandaged my scrapes and dried my tears.  My real Dad died when I was eight years old, and I never really got over that.  You never forgave me for wanting Uncle Teddy to be my dad either.  The night we learned of his death is the first time you raped me.  It killed you that I wasn’t a virgin, but how could you know Mom and Dr. D had been raping me for two years before that?  And of course it was my fault for letting them rape me.

But life is different now.  I gave you 29 years of my life in exchange for raising and sheltering me through childhood and adolescence.  You gave me the courage to walk away when you shunned me.  Now I am my own person.  Not your daughter anymore.  Part of me still grieves for the shattered illusions.  Part of me rejoices in the freedom of saying Goodbye forever.

And this is goodbye.  Good bye biological father.  You don’t have a hold on me anymore.  Good bye Dad.  I love you and miss you always.  Never again will I forget you.

Love,
AlterXpressions