Can you mourn what you never had?

That feeling of emptiness, of something missing, of there being a dark hole, a void where something once was.

Mourning involves loss, traditionally the loss of another person in your life and the more important that person was, the closer the relationship with that person the deeper and larger the hole, the darker the void when we loose her, him.

People instinctively understand the how damaging, how traumatic the loss of a parent can be to a child. How that trauma can follow him or her. People understand that even as an adult that loss is never far away.
People instinctively understand that grief is a very normal reaction in these circumstances. They understand the damage loss can cause the pain that fills the void left behind.

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The Superhero inside

Popular culture is full of superheroes and all of them have one th8ng in common, they all obtain their superhero status by helping others. Save the world, save the person in danger save the day.

And, of course, everybody loves them for it. Survivors know all about that only they / we call it people pleasing. Society seems to need these outward displays of heroism, apparently selfless actions to justify them awarding somebody the title “hero”. Make it a big, spectator action and you may be awarded the “Superhero” badge.

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Where can you stand if your foundations are broken?

One of the things I have been asked to do recently is to try and identify what emotions accompany the emotional storms.  Some of you may ask what is an emotional storm, if so don’t worry I suspect this blog post isn’t for you.

I found the task surprisingly difficult, In the throws of the storm it is almost impossible to actually identify the dominant emotion and put a name to it, or it is at least for me. The storm feels just like a super enhanced version of how I normally feel so trying to identify an emotion driving the storm is a bit like trying to find a needle that’s 10 times the normal size in a haystack that is also 10 x the normal size. The needle might be ten times as long and ten times as wide but so is the haystack so its actually 100 times a big! I was simply swamped with the size of the emotion that even a needle ten times the size was way too small to ever find.

But eventually, but repeatedly letting my self go to the edge, to the place where I stop being me, A few episodes of self-harm to bring myself back again, I think I found the key emotion. Fear

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A letter to my Inner Child

To Steven

I know you are scared and that you haven’t told me everything but I know enough, I think, to tell you some things.
First of all, please believe me when I tell you how I am proud of the things you survived, to have been through even the bits that you have allowed me to remember and still be fighting is a magical thing.

I know you feel bad about that happened, and that you feel that you were to blame in some way for what was done to you and what happened to Dad but it was not your fault. I know that you done believe this but it is true, it wasn’t your fault.

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Self-care, Why Sometimes its Difficult

More and more we are being exhorted to ensure we maintain a good level of self-care, to consider our needs and to respond to stresses in our lives.

This isn’t about being selfish or not being concerned with others but making sure that we do not neglect ourselves.

This is particularly important, and emphasised, when you are struggling with mental health issues. therapists, peer group facilitators and Online chat moderators all emphasise the need for self-care. This is particularly true when a difficult or ‘triggering’ topic is being approached.

But many people find it difficult to ‘self-care’, to focus on their own needs and requirements and to make sure they are, and remain, safe. I count myself amongst these people.

So, what is it that makes Self-Care so difficult for some?

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‘I believe you’: 3 difficult words

It has been said that one of the most powerful things that you can say to an adult survivor of nonrecent child abuse is ‘I believe you’.

Why is this so difficult for people? Because in my experience it is almost impossible for people to say, at least people that haven’t experienced it for themselves. On disclosing nonrecent abuse I have been met with everything from ‘Well I don’t disbelieve you’ through a silent, confused look to ‘You must have dreamt it’ and I wont even go into the ‘well all teenage boys are up for it’ type responses!

So why is it so difficult for people?

It maybe that my experience of childhood abuse happened in the home, by a parent. This is something that while making up forty plus percent of abuse cases is something that go against deeply held and engrained beliefs. The belief that family is safe, that parents are loving and that because the vast majority of cases reported on are ‘stranger’ abusers then if it does happen in the family then it must be very very rare indeed.

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Transitive Triggers: Why did that trigger me?

We are all familiar with the idea of triggers. Things, events, places that take us back to the site, sounds and feelings of the trauma we suffered. These triggers are usually something more or less directly related to the trauma its self. Something present at the time of the traumas such as a sound, smell or physical sensations. Sometimes a visual queue will act as a trigger but again these tend to be more or less directly related to the underlying trauma.

Because of this direct, and often visceral connection to the deep levels of our sub conscious we are often able to identify the trigger and its relationship to the trauma itself.

A good example being a smell that was present when we were abused triggering memories, and an emotional response, when we smell it in later life.

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Therapy – Uncovering Uncontrollable Trauma

Its rather strange really. When I disclosed the abuse I suffered to the police, and social services before them, I was scared that talking about it would trigger me and I would breakdown. If not right there and then then certainly later. But it didn’t happen.

I was able to talk about it, to given them the details I could remember and answer their question without any problem. Almost as if I was telling them about something that happened to somebody else.

And it is that feeling of detachment that explains it I think. The abuse its self has been so well compartmentalised from me that all I can do is to relate to it in a disassociated way. I think that this was possible because the abuse was time limited in that it only happened either once or a couple of times, to be fair Im not sure which!

But the rejection and emotional dissociation that I experienced from my parent leading up to the abuse and the emotional manipulation and threats after were much more long term, indeed they formed the majority of my formative years so maybe that explains why as soon as I try to talk about them, even to a therapist, I totally break down. And its interesting that what I feel as an emotional storm with very little structure or discernible cause he has described as

‘Classic trauma response. Displaying extreme fear, withdrawn into yourself and a self-protective posture’

I didn’t expect this reaction, and most certainly not to be so violent and frightening. It was not just frightening to the little boy, and I was feeling his fear, I was back there. But it was frightening, terrifying, to me as an adult.

The experiences terrify me and its more than simply my terror or the inner little boy’s terror is almost like one terror is multiplied by the other. The little me’s terror and overlying that the terror I feel now as an adult.

After so many years of denying, to myself, what had happened to me, the abuse both sexual and emotional I was, am, totally unprepared for these feelings. I have no coping strategies and no way of dealing with it apart from pushing it all back down again into my subconscious.

But now they have been set free I can feel them, I can feel them even now. I can feel them every waking moment.

I know that this pushing them down, denying them expression can’t go on, it isn’t even a medium term solution but to tell the truth I have no idea what so ever how to manage them and even the therapist has said that this is way outside his experience and expertise!

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After Reporting Non-Recent Abuse: A Personal Journey Pt 4

No Further Action: The impact of being told that there isn’t enough evidence to peruse the case.

Research suggests that something like only 5% of reports of historical abuse ever make it to court and then a conviction rate of around 50% means that when reporting historic abuse to the police you really do need to set your expectations correspondingly low.
I knew this when I went to the police and reported what had happened to me. I knew that given the time that had passed, the lack of corroborating evidence and my limited memory the chances of my report going anywhere were exceedingly low. I had, I believed prepared my self for the inevitable.

 
I told myself that getting a prosecution wasn’t the main reason for disclosing, which in truth it wasn’t. I repeatedly told myself, before and after the disclosure that nothing would come of it and not to expect anything other than to be heard. This was about me formally acknowledging to myself and the world the truth of what had been done to me and the impact it had had. It wasn’t about vengeance, justice, retribution or even preventing further abuse taking place.

 
The police them selves never made any promises or raised expectations. The promised to take my disclosure seriously and to investigate fully but did say hat the nature of non recent abuse and my case in particular made the investigation, and obtaining sufficient evidence, difficult.

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