Boundaries

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On my journey of recovery from childhood abuse one of the steepest learning curves as an adult is learning BOUNDARIES.

This is something I still struggle with as I am a people pleaser. Always wanting to say yes, and never wanting to let anyone down. This kind of self-sacrificing approach no longer serves me in this life.

Yes, it was necessary as a child, for my very survival to be on high alert, tip-toeing around parents without any recognition or awareness of what my own needs might be.

Not. Any. More.

I am allowed to politely say no to people if I can not do what they are asking of me.

It. is. OK.

Practicing boundaries is something I will most likely continue to work on for some time yet. Visually, I am beginning to post look-outs on my boundaries, scouring the scene ahead, little protectors that put me first. And I mean this in the most un-egotistical way possible.

I believe, for anyone recovering from trauma, knowing your own boundaries and what your limits are, needs to be a part of that therapeutic journey.

Boundaries.

Yes Please. 

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Car Accident

 

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The other day I was in a car accident with my children. The other driver slammed into us from behind, the car was a mess, I was a mess, but thankfully no one was hurt.

At the moment of the accident I was trying to find my way to an address which wouldn’t show up on my GPS for some reason. Traffic was heavy, the girls were shouting in the back, I was anxious, stressed and distracted. Then, suddenly a loud crash and the car lifted from behind.

As I pulled the car to the side of the road I felt as though I was going over the edge, as though I was hanging on by a thread. My daughters looked to me in this moment, in all the commotion and confusion they looked to me to make sense of this situation, to make sense of what we were all going through. My emotions were raw.

Something happened in that moment. Something that affirmed my own perception of who I am in my heart and in my soul.

Knowing in that moment that my daughters were fine, that I was fine, that we were still here together and with each other was enough for me. I was relieved and thankful everyone involved was ok.

It was only later that the real shock and wave of negative emotion started creeping over me like a dark shadow in the form of a memory from my past.

You see, when I was a young girl a similar incident happened to me with the mother driving the family car.  Only that time, there was no crash, no commotion, just what should have been the relief of a near miss. However, instead of relief at narrowly avoiding tragedy the mother used this moment to guilt and shame me into years of believing that I had distracted her while driving, claiming over and over that I had tried to kill us all. That I had somehow intended to have her, my younger brother and myself all fall victim to a horrible accident – simply by  carrying on the way children sometimes do in cars.

It was my younger brother who screamed out as the mother went to drive into an intersection. He became the angel of our salvation and for the years following I became the devil who tried to kill us all. She literally said “you tried to kill us” more times than I can remember.

Thinking back to that traumatic experience with the mother, and looking at how I myself handled my own car accident and my own children in that circumstance AFFIRMS for me that I am nothing like the mother. This experience, this baptism of fire, proved to me that I am different. That I am cut from a different cloth.

I once read ‘that which we fear we attract’

I no longer fear being like the mother.

Already, I feel more at peace with being a mum. These last few days since the car accident, I have sat with my daughters, admired them, drawn pictures and have felt so grateful to be able to give them the love I didn’t have growing up.

 

 

Photo Credit: Hurt Meatz

 

 

Blood Dripping

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When I was a pre-schooler, around the age of 4, I have this memory of being dressed in a ballet costume.  I am standing on my grandparents front porch crying and looking at the blood dripping down and along my hand.

You see, I am a nail biter. It’s something I began at a very young age, and are my first attempts at self-injury. Later in life, I would cut myself with razors and broken mirrors or glass. The scars are still visible.

In this particular memory, I have made a real mess of myself. I look at the Mother, crying and wanting her to wipe the blood away. She is holding a camera, taking photos of me, smiling and laughing. Telling me to pose for the photo. 

Over the years, when the Mother was allowed contact with my daughters and I witnessed this kind of inconsiderate behaviour around taking photographs, it would trigger me to either ask my step-dad to remove her phone or I would hide her phone myself. And it was never just one photo, it was 10 plus photos.

The Mother was constantly behind her camera forcing my daughters to pose, scrutinising their natural smiles with comments like “act normal”; “oh that’s too much of a smile” ;“don’t smile too much”; treating them as if they are little dancing monkeys, there for her own amusement at no matter what the cost. There was no regard for what their needs might actually be, which is usually just wanting to play with their toys.

I would see the shamed look cross their faces, their plastered fake smiles and lack of joy.  All the while, the Mother continually wanting more photos. I feel so much guilt at allowing these kinds of toxic interactions into their precious world.

I’ve often thought that the ‘buck stops here’ when it comes to having my own children. So far, i’ve been No Contact for 10 months and I must keep reminding myself why this is so important. As time goes by, it’s easy to forget why I am No Contact and this natural forgetting is perhaps one of those inbuilt survival mechanisms of trauma that has allowed the mother continued access into my life after no contact periods.

I am not forgetting this time. This time the stakes are too high, I only get ONE chance to give my daughters the best chance at a happy, fulfilled life. Narcissistic parents go on to traumatise their grandchildren. This is fact. Everyone is narcissistic supply.

In 1975, Ghosts in the Nursery was published by Fraiberg et al., The authors conceptualise ‘ghosts’ as unresolved inter-generational trauma referring to these ghosts as ‘intruders from the past’ (p.388). The authors touch on the fact that traumatised children of narcissistic parents do not always go on to traumatise their own children. That these grown children seek help from professionals, identifying the ghosts and banishing them from the nursery.

This is ME. 

Not only are these ghosts banished. They are banished along with the Narc Mother who brought the ghosts into my life. The Mother is not aware of the ghosts that walk with her.

I am aware. The reality is all too real. There is no more pretending. In my grief journey of mourning the mother, I am finally at the stage of ACCEPTANCE.

I am FREE.

Physically free. I do not see her. The emotional anguish I experience daily at trying to NOT be like her is the legacy I am left with. Constant self-reflection, constant monitoring of my emotional reactions. This is the legacy of childhood abuse.

A good example of this is when my daughter stood up from the couch, stumbled and fell. The thoughts in my head were the mother “ha ha you’re so clumsy” “you’re so accident prone silly girl” “get up and stop crying”.

In the midst of hearing those things that were said to me as a child, I scooped my daughter up and gave her a hug, rubbing the spot where she hurt herself on the corner of the table. I told her she was ok and our day continued happily. The abuse cycle stops with me. 

The mother’s name-calling, snide remarks and meanness became my inner voice for a long time. I feel as though I am healing from this and am able to recognise when this happens. I allow those internalised comments to slide away because I know I am not stupid, I am not an idiot, I am not accident prone, I am not a bitch.

I am so many different wonderful things that she will never, ever know. She is not capable of knowing who I am because that would involve seeing me as an individual person who is different to her. And in her eyes I will never be enough. I now ACCEPT this without it affecting my self-esteem. This is an amazing feeling. 

Although there is still a long way to go in my path of recovery, I am allowing myself to enjoy this moment. This is what HEALING feels like. 

 

photo credit: Loren Schmidt

 

 

A Narcissistic Lullaby

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“Hush little girl, don’t you dare say a word,

You must forget all that, you’ve seen and heard.

But if my baby bird, decides it’s going to sing.

Mama will tell the world, that you’ve come unhinged.

Poor little child, your minds lying to you,

what you think, you recall is not completely true.

It’s not my fault that, you exaggerate and lie.

It seems Mama, can’t make you happy,

No matter how hard I try.

There’s food in the cupboards, and toys on the floor.

There’s clothes on your back, so what you complaining for?

So now hush little baby, and stop acting out.

Or Mama’s gonna give, you something to cry about”

Written by Kira Cooper 2018

Photo credit: a girl, dreaming her life away 

 

 

 

The Cutting Pain You Can Not See

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I drew this picture when I was in Year 11. That would have made me somewhere between 15 and 16 years of age. This picture was stuck on my wall, this picture was seen by anyone who entered our home. No-one ever asked me about the picture. No one raised an alarm that I would draw a picture of the Mother in such a grotesque way. At this point in my life I had begun self-injuring, cutting at my skin with razor blades or broken glass. Anything to distract me from the emotional pain, which now I only realise retrospectively. Drawing pictures like this must have been a cathartic experience to process the amount of hatred I felt towards the Mother that could not be expressed in any other way.

So here it is, I am looking at this picture through the eyes of someone so different to the girl back then and it brings tears to my eyes when I connect with this pain of the past. This pain grabs at my heart and then I can feel the ‘ball’. This is how I refer to the emotional trauma I carry with me everyday. If I allow myself to feel this ‘ball’ of pain too much I can experience panic attacks that feel out-of-body or I can shake uncontrollably. At different times during the years of therapy there have been moments of truly connecting with this unresolved pain and there are no words to describe the utter heartache my body feels, it physically hurts. Feeling scared is a severe understatement.

As I look back now, the first memories of experiencing this ball of pain began in those teenage years. This is where the name calling from the Mother truly began to escalate and affect me negatively. At this point in time I would swing between hysterical laughing and hours of crying. I was suicidal. Around this time I met a boy, this would be my first boyfriend, my first experience of love and sex. When I would come home after staying at his place, the Mother would say “Did you have a good fuck last night?” with such viciousness in her tone. And I would say we don’t fuck, we love each other. And she would scoff at me.

As I look back, it would have been so nice to have a mother who could embrace this new chapter in my life journey. Perhaps guide and accept that I was growing into a woman. A mother who would love me. And that is the clincher right there. For years I have wished for the Mother to love me. To truly love me without an agenda. In this later part of my life I have been grieving. I have mourned and cried for the Mother I never had and have slowly come to accept that the person who birthed me into this world is not capable of any genuine affection and love.

Since June last year I went from little contact with her to no contact at all. What I witnessed triggered me to the point of no return. In previous blogs I have discussed how the Mother has little regard for what is appropriate conversation for a child. On this particular day, the Mother was discussing my brother in front of my daughter. I politely asked her to stop multiple times. (To understand why I have no contact with my brother see this link here). The Mother proceeded to include my 5 year old in the conversation by directly asking her “its ok for me to talk about your Uncle and cousins isn’t it?” The Mother caught my daughter in the middle, she was between a grandmother and her own Mum who was clearly distressed. In response to the Mother’s question, my daughter began to self-injure, she started to bang her hand into her head and laugh hysterically. I could not believe my eyes, here was my precious little girl displaying similar behaviour to when I was a teenager. In that moment, I mustered every remaining strength in my body to stay calm, pack our bags and leave. And I have not seen the Mother since then. There is no turning back from here. The Mother is a toxic influence and I finally see that it is not possible to even have occasional contact with her. She has no respect for boundaries and no respect for the mind of a child.

 

Puzzle Pieces

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Picture Credit: LongEnough

For so long now, it feels like I’m trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together in some desperate attempt to understand why life unfolded the way it did. The frustrating thing about this is that I don’t have all the puzzle pieces, there are large gaps in my memory, most likely due to trauma and perhaps due to so many years passing since I was a child.

This morning a new puzzle piece was found,  covert sexual abuse. Upon reading this article I felt immediate relief that there is an actual term to conceptualise this experience. It’s something I have posted about here in The Mother Talks Too Much. This experience of knowing the sexual pressure she felt from my Dad, and becoming her emotional support from a young age, seems to fit with covert sexual abuse. Combine this with a father who shamelessly raked his eyes over me or came into the bathroom whilst I’m showering, all seems to have contributed to the erosion of my self  growing up in this toxic home.

So far, I have always wondered if I was sexually abused, everything I have experienced seems to fit with something like this. I’ve experienced depression, self-injury through cutting, an eating disorder, drug addiction, binge drinking, promiscuity, extreme self-loathing, multiple suicide attempts, traits of borderline personality disorder and most certainly have post-traumatic stress disorder. Having children has triggered memories, one very disturbing memory  is of a woman’s hand sexually abusing me. Now whether or not this memory is real is not what I am focused on now, what I realise in light of covert sexual abuse, is that it doesn’t need to have happened for there to be the same outcome. The memory could simply be a manifestation of the fact that whilst I may not have experienced “hands-on” sexual abuse, my experience of covert sexual abuse, of being sexualised, has resulted in the same experience.

I feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel as though I can release this idea that I need to remember something. A wave of acceptance has come over me, and I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other moving further away from this dark past.

 

Little Things

Broken heart

Picture credit: TimOve 

“Crying tears on the outside and blood on the inside, a stabbing feeling deep in my heart”

A little thing about the Mother that had a big impact on our day to day lives, and still does;

She is never, ever satisfied.

There was always something I did wrong, could have done better or not enough of. I would be chastised for mistakes or beliefs in her own head of how I caused something to happen for years following an event.

If I vacuumed the house, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the windows.

If I tidied my bedroom, she’d be upset I didn’t clean the kitchen.

If a photo was taken she was later angry about my posture.

When I wanted to ride my bike to school, she was angry and slammed the door in my face (a stranger got out of their car to help me cross the busiest road)

When I changed my hair colour to a deep red, she referred to me as “carrot head” until I changed the colour to a more socially acceptable colour, in her opinion.

When I was in a bicycle accident and couldn’t get up, it was my fault she hurt her back helping me get into the car.

When she went through a red light and almost had a collision, it was my fault. And I was actually trying to get us killed. I believed this for a long time.

When I was accepted into a uni degree she was annoyed at my excitement.

When I asked her why she doesn’t say nice things about me being pregnant for the first time, she replied “I don’t want you to get a big head”

There are so many more…

I think the biggest turning point in my feelings towards her was around age 15. I went away with a neighbours family for almost 2 weeks. I felt so homesick and missed the Mother so much. When I saw her on the platform I ran towards her, dropped all my bags and gave her the biggest hug. She immediately told me off for dropping my bags.

Then, in the car started yelling at me about the chores I didn’t do 2 weeks ago before leaving.

When we got home I went to my bedroom. This is my first memory of painful crying. My heart felt broken. I vowed to myself to never feel love for her again. Something inside me switched off.

In therapy I have begun to understand the dynamic with her a little better. During early childhood, everything I did was to keep her happy. Conform and mould into whatever she needed me to be. She was my world. This is what young children do. We do it for our very survival. She was the source of food and warmth. Then we grow up.

As I yearned for more of my own identity I believe this became a point of tension. Suddenly I don’t need the Mother so much, I want independance. I want certain freedoms, away from her. I was becoming a teenager who needed my own identity, I needed to figure out who I wanted to be. The Mother could not handle this natural separation. Instead she became extremely mean. Name calling was her way of bringing me back into line.

Name calling.

Every day.

I was so many things. So many nasty things.

Around this time Dad stopped physically abusing me, but now I was dealing with something else completely.

The next few years that followed are a little blurry in regards to the order of events.

I became bipolar. I would have extreme moments of happiness, laughing hysterically for hours followed by hours of crying. I attempted suicide, with 3 of those attempts landing me in hospital.

The accumulation of little things. Living with the Mother was daily emotional torture. This post scratches the surface of how these little daily interactions eroded my self-esteem and ability to even think for myself.

Now in therapy, one of the things I hope to achieve is finding my voice, allowing myself to have independent thought. Learning to find the words to express myself in a way that is constructive, assertive and respectful.