Category Archives: Abuse

Basket Case No More


This weekend I’m running into a trigger that’s not unexpected under the circumstances but is surprising me with its ferocity at times. The trigger is the fact that I’m going to my former community college campus this week to take care of a financial aid issue so I can go back to school in September. The reason it’s triggering to even think about it is because I was a total basket case the first time I went to school there.

The autumn after I graduated from high school I was still living at home, my father was still raping me, I could still not break away at all even though my boyfriend was trying to help me with that. He didn’t know what was going on at home. I didn’t know what was going on. Each instance was hidden away in one nook or another in my mind. It took a lot of learning about DID to figure out how I never seemed to know what was going on and why it took so long (only four years ago) to remember the abuse that went on after I became an adult.

The summer after graduation was a semi-disaster of trying to work my very first job other than babysitting. It didn’t go over very well and toward the end of the summer I ended up in the hospital for the second time. (The first time being for three months when I was a senior in high school.) I still couldn’t remember what was going on but the hospital was at least a safe haven. I stabilized some, went back home, and started community college. That in itself was quite an undertaking. We lived out in the boonies 20 miles from campus and I didn’t drive. I found someone to ride share with but I still had to walk or ride my bike at least 1 1/4 miles to meet my ride, and usually 2 miles. I had to sync my schedule with hers and when I had a psych appointment after classes it created a logistical nightmare for me. On those days the closest I could get to home on buses still left me with 12 miles to figure out. Between that and what was going on at home, I was a mess. (Also, my psychiatrist was a complete asshole to me, which didn’t help. He was also an offender against some of his patients and lost his license a few years after I stopped seeing him. I sometimes still wonder if he hurt me and I’m not remembering that yet. I would have been a prime candidate for his abuse.)

In some ways I don’t remember a whole lot about being in school for those two terms, in other ways I remember plenty. I remember looking up ways to hurt or kill myself in the school library a lot, and my boyfriend in tears restraining me from scratching myself with a paper clip. I remember having a hard time in classes and a hard time studying at home. I remember buying hot canned ravioli out of the vending machine but also going hungry many days because my stepmother wouldn’t provide anything at home for me to make lunches with and I wasn’t given enough allowance to make it through my school week. I remember a crush on a deaf guy in one of my classes. To me/us he seemed alone and needy like me/us even though I can look back now and know he was probably pretty well okay. I remember being thankful for Mondays because it meant my father was out of the house for the week for work, and feeling more and more dread as Friday night approached because it meant he would be home to wreak his terror on me over the weekend. I remember wearing my grandfather’s old blue and white railroad overalls, which I embroidered a bold peace sign onto the back of. I remember a lot of turmoil for my boyfriend and me. I remember ending up in the hospital several times before I finally knew school wasn’t working for me. I remember feeling lost and, well, a basket case. I was a mess, I really was.

About 13 years later I took a handful of classes on that campus again. It was triggering but back then my mind was just telling me that it was because I was having so much trouble with life the first time I’d been there. Now I’m planning on going back there and will be on campus this week. Now I have so much more knowledge and memory of what was going on back in late 1987 and early 1988. The knowledge is both empowering and scary as shit. The anxiety was more vague the second time I took classes there. This time it’s not vague. At moments, not vague at all. Memories bordering on flash backs, intrusive thoughts, moments of feeling like I’m going into a panic attack. Listening to a couple songs yesterday from my favorite album during my basket case community college days really threw me for a loop. Being on campus won’t be easy at times, I can tell already. I worry that I won’t be able to tolerate being there.

The good thing is that I’m armed with knowledge and memory. This knowledge and these memories may haunt me but they make it possible for me to say “That was over a quarter century ago. That man is locked up for the rest of his life and has no power over us now. He’ll never rape again, he has no say in our life. We get to have the power by proudly being well enough to not only go back to school but to do it at a place that evokes negative memories. We are okay now. We are okay!” I’m no longer a basket case. None of us are. We can do this. We can do this.

I Really Don’t Do So Well


**This post discusses self injury that has not occurred, and not in detail. Still though, take care in reading if it could be triggering.**

“You’re so strong and brave.”
“You’ve come so far.”
“You inspire me all the time.”
“You’re amazing.”
“You’ve been through so much and still deal with a lot all the time, I don’t know how you do it.”

I hear and read things like this quite often in my daily interactions with friends and family. And I’m not saying that their words aren’t true or that they don’t mean a great deal to me. I do know I’ve come a long way–and one has to be strong and brave to do that, they go hand and hand. I believe the people who say these uplifting things and I love my friends and family for saying them.

But! People don’t know what’s going on in my head. Most of my friends and none of my family know I still struggle almost daily with the urge to hurt myself. People don’t realize how much of the time I feel overwhelmed with daily life. They don’t know how much I hate myself at times. How insecure I really am. How sad I often am. That I feel completely crazy quite regularly.

It’s true that my functioning is much better than it used to be. When my father was in my life before he was arrested for hurting my niece, I was his puppet. He truly controlled me and I was a basket case. Then he was physically out of my life and I was reeling from the truth of what he’d done to me and to my niece. Over the past 6 years I’ve (we all in the system have) slowly started functioning better. Self injury by myself and others has gradually dwindled to virtually nothing. I rarely think seriously about suicide. I can get up and get on with my day most of the time. I’m not having flashbacks and other crazy shit going on all the time like I did for a while. There’s less rage-y, tantrum-y stuff going on with a few insiders.

But several of us think about cutting almost every day. We’re extremely ritualistic about cutting and need the right supplies and for everything to be just so. I’m doing my damnedest to make sure the supplies never make it into the apartment but it’s been rough. Right now this very minute I feel like I’ll publish this post and then go order what I need from Amazon so I can have the relief of cutting in a few days.

I may not think seriously about suicide very often these days but thoughts still come quite often. I don’t want to leave anyone behind, of course, but it’s my sons and my cats that keep me from entertaining the thoughts and thinking about a plan of any sort.

Nearly every day feels like a struggle. Between my physical and mental health, much of the time I don’t feel like I have it in me to make it through the day in a very successful way. I hate that getting half a dozen things done is a big accomplishment. Oh, I cook a few meals each month for a handful of people in my life? So what! That’s nothing. It feels like nothing and that makes me feel weak. And yet I don’t feel strong enough to do much more. I’m not a wreck anymore but daily life still bowls me over. I’m so tired of that.

I fully acknowledge that I’m stronger and healthier than I used to be. But I still feel so weak and inconsequential. I don’t feel strong enough or brave enough to change that. My life has changed a lot in the past 6 years but to be honest, I really don’t do so well.

Thanks for listening.

Sociopathic Blindness (A letter to my father)


I’ve been crying on and off for many hours today. I wish you could see and understand why. I wish you could see how far-reaching your actions are. I wish I could open your sociopathic eyes and you could really see the damage you’ve done. But therein lies the problem: you are a sociopath. You don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. But I wish so much that I could pry your mind open so your eyes and your heart could see.

I wish you could see how much your entire family struggles because of your actions. Your brother has lost his faith, one of your sisters was nearly homeless at one point even while she was critically ill. Your oldest two children unable to work, one (me) directly because of what you did, the other indirectly. I can’t say anything about your two younger children because they chose to remove themselves from my life—due to your actions. All five of your grandchildren are struggling. Two have been homeless, another is on the verge of it. One is on disability directly because of your actions. One of your grandchildren has no money for food and is immobilized by depression and anxiety so hasn’t applied for food stamps. He’s so immobilized that he doesn’t care if he has no food and actually considers it to be a possible means of suicide, just letting himself fade away. Today I especially wish you could see that! I wish you could see how scary it is for this mother to see her child in such a horrifying place in life.

I wish you could see how your actions ripple out to those around us. My ex-husband and his family, my current husband and his family. My friends—and for a couple of them, their families. My therapist, who has cried for me on numerous occasions. People who treat our bodies and our minds. Your actions affect people in this community, this state, this entire country who have never met any of us—every person in this country who pays taxes so your children and grandchildren have shelter and food and a meager existence.

I wish you could see how ridiculous it is, how ridiculous it often feels to be proud that I haven’t been in the hospital in years and haven’t cut or burned or been in respite in over a year. I wish you could see how much I struggle just to make sure my top two priorities in life right now happen: eating a clean, wholesome, healthy diet and getting out for a walk every day. Some days I can still barely manage much more than that. I shouldn’t be reveling in not cutting myself when things feel so out of control. I shouldn’t be reveling in crossing off every item on my piddly daily list of tasks. I should be reveling in attending my 100th, 300th, 500th birth. I should be reveling in the way my fruit and vegetable garden would be looking this time of year. I should be reveling in the amazing things my children should be able to do.

I wish you could see the pain in our lives and on our faces. I wish you could have seen me sobbing uncontrollably at times today, and sighing and shuddering still, tears in my eyes. I wish you could have seen my husband trying to console me, holding me and asking if there was anything he could do. I wish you could read the words of my two best friends as they offered their love and support online today.

But even if you were right here with us you wouldn’t see it. Your sociopathic brain will never let you believe you’ve done anything wrong or see the damage that wrong has done. But really, the saddest thing is that you also don’t get to see how we are all moving forward in life. You don’t get to see your third grandson learning a trade he enjoys. You don’t get to see me healing so much that I can think about ending therapy, that even when the thought of harming myself shows up I refuse to do it because I know it makes things worse and it lets you win. You don’t get to see your son’s amazing faith in God in spite of all the damage you’ve done. You don’t get to feel the relief I have knowing that even though one of my children doesn’t even care if he eats, his brother is starting to be a productive, happy person. The very saddest thing is that you don’t get to see us live.

Edited to add: I can’t believe I made it through all that without crying! All day the post was writing itself in my head and I kept crying over what I might write. I’m really thankful not to be in tears again.

The Good, Good Life is Just a Dream Away


Several mornings ago I had a dream that, thankfully, I was able to write down after I woke up. Considering that my father’s arrest anniversary is in a  month, the dream isn’t all that surprising. It contained several recurring elements.

I was at what is now my former stepmother’s (STM) home for a get-together with some of my family and some of her family. It felt awkward at first since it was the first time seeing STM or her family since my father was arrested. One of STM’s sisters was talking to me, asking how I was and such. We were getting food on the table for a big meal.

It was as if my father were dead. STM’s sister or someone from her family handed me a box of pictures and mementos. I was triggered and intrigued at the same time. The person said, “He wanted you to have these.” I wanted to look through them but I knew I might fall apart so I set them aside for later. There were also Christmas gifts that STM’s sister was handing out. My younger half-brother was there but I didn’t have a chance to talk to him at all.

At some point I was outside helping my grandmother navigate some rough terrain to the door of the house. She surprised me by being able to handle it even though she purposely made it look to people like she couldn’t do such things.

Then my father showed up. As usual, it phased no one but me. He seemed pretty pleased with himself to not be in prison when he knew I thought he still should be. He was proudly showing me improvements they’d made on the house.

We were standing on a porch that went over a rushing creek. There was no rail on the porch yet. Amazingly, I wasn’t afraid of the water. I kept wishing he’d fall in the water and drown, as I’d seen about someone on a news story recently. Then I was watching him fall off the porch and hitting his head on a rock in the creek. The water was no longer rushing; it was was now just meandering. I watched to see if he’d get up. When he didn’t, I watched to see if the water was deep enough to cover his face. (He was lying flat on his back.) When I was satisfied that the water sufficiently covered his face, I turned around and left. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened because I wasn’t sure if I had pushed him or not. When someone asked if I knew where he was I said I hadn’t seen him. My actions (and inactions) definitely made it seem like I had pushed him into the creek.

I think the most bizarre thing about this dream is how detached I’ve felt from it. It’s obviously a disturbing dream, yet I didn’t wake up afraid or even unsettled like I normally would. I still feel quite detached from it. When I woke up and was able to write the dream down I was quite dissociative, trapped in derealization. While I jotted down the dream my cat Abi came to me and was rather insistent on nudging me, licking and nibbling my fingers, licking my face. She only licks my face when she knows something is wrong. I shooed her away and wrote this:

“Having one of those moments where I wonder if I’m in a dream. Is Abi really in my lap purring or am I dreaming it? Is she really almost six years old with her six-year-old kitty face in my hands or am I dreaming that she grew up? Is she only a dream?!  Is she really real? Am I going to wake up and find out she never existed?”

The derealization as well as depersonalization and just not feeling all here have been quite bothersome lately. Either I was dealing with this less for a while or I’m really noticing it these days. It makes perfect sense that it’s happening but it’s unsettling. Even though the dream has not felt that way. It worries me in a way, if that makes any sense. What I do know is that I’m going to lie down to sleep soon and I really hope I don’t have an unsettling dream. Or one that isn’t when it seems like it should be.

**Props to anyone who knows the song reference in the title. Without Googling. ;-)

Birthday + Anniversary = Varying Degrees of Chaos


I’ve been wanting to write but have a hard time churning out posts like some of you do. And sometimes I feel like what I have to say doesn’t matter. I know what you’re thinking and what some of you will probably say: that anything I have to say is worthwhile. There’s been a lot of feeling inadequate and less than others lately and it spills out into my blogging. I see some of you writing about therapy and healing and my words feel inconsequential before they even hit the page. But at least I can identify that a lot of this is feeling below you all. And I know it has to do with the title of this post.

My mother’s birthday is in a couple days. Even though our brief attempt at reconnecting didn’t work out for me, I still wish that I could write to her and tell her I want the best for her and that I hope she has a lovely birthday. I can’t do that because I can’t deal with the possibility of her starting to write letters again and the craziness that comes with that. But I honestly do hope her birthday is special. She had her faults and could definitely be abusive, but I extend far more grace than my brother seems to be willing to do, because I know she was abused and victimized growing up and then with my father. I’m sending you peace, PSD. You deserve that.

And then there’s the upcoming anniversary that has been causing so much chaos for us lately. In a month it will be five years since my father’s arrest for hurting my niece. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. He has been out of our life for five years! And yet he’s still so very present. The anniversary discombobulates us in general but it also has a few of us very much not okay. Robert has made physical threats toward this body, both regarding self injury and worse. Rhiannon is filled with guilt about not taking care of him “properly” and well enough to keep him from harming my niece and therefore getting arrested. She’s also stuck in one of her cycles of feeling like she’s not taking care of DH well enough, since taking care of the men in her life is her job, but also sad that it’s her lot in life to do this. And then she feels guilty for thinking such a thing when taking care of the men in her life is her job. *sigh* She’s actually considered purging since it’s a way she can have control over something. That is something we absolutely need to avoid since 1) it can spiral out of control so quickly, and 2) purging makes the gag reflex go into hyperdrive for us and the simple act of coughing turns into a mad dash for the bathroom.

Lately there’s so much desire from a handful of us to do some sort of damage to the body that I’m finding it harder and harder to keep everyone under control. I think about respite and even the hospital. If Robert goes beyond just berating me and threatening dire harm and starts making plans, I will be booking it to the ER and requesting a psych bed. It feels overwhelming to have to take care of everything like this. I don’t quite know how to delegate responsibility. How on earth do you delegate responsibility?!

There are things I want and need to be doing with myself and all of this chaos is making it rather difficult. Everything is so up and down.  I am–we all are–having a harder and harder time tolerating it. Just keep swimming, right?

Okay, I Hear You!


Trigger for language and brief mention of threat of violence.

For several months now I’ve considered reconnecting with a few members of my bio-family. I had pretty much decided to get the ball rolling sometime this month or maybe next month, with some very firm boundaries in place. Thinking about it has been both exciting and nerve wracking. With Christmas and now the New Year past, there’s been a lot of anxiety, worry and agitation throughout the system. I worry about how to make it work for me in a way my family members can live with as well. I wouldn’t want to start something with them and have to pull away like I’ve had to do a couple times already; I don’t feel that’s fair to them. Yes, it would be taking care of me and everyone else in the system but I don’t want to hurt my family by being what might appear to be wishy-washy. For me, it’s better to keep my distance unless I know everyone in the system can handle it.

I know there’s been some dissent from a couple of us about this and this morning I discovered how strongly someone, Robert, feels about it. And for Robert it’s not a matter of “I’ll be damned if you’re going to reconnect with people who trigger you, some who seem to be in a lot of denial about what happened to you and in their own lives.” No, Robert doesn’t want me to connect with my family because he doesn’t want me comparing notes and/or talking about what the father did to us. Robert has an allegiance with the father and shows it in emotionally and physically damaging ways. And he has been part of some serious su*c*de attempts so I have to take him seriously and keep things safe and level for him to the best of my ability.

Especially in light of an email he sent our therapist around 3:00 a.m. yesterday. I discovered this shortly before I had to leave the house this morning, when I saw an “undeliverable email” message in my inbox. I’m pretty sure it got kicked back because of the clinic’s internet/email filter–practically every other word was the F-bomb. So then I had to leave the house to do the monthly grocery shopping while worrying that Robert could do something drastic, all the while trying to figure out the best way to discuss it with our T. As it turned out, when I got back from shopping I was completely wiped out from my pain medicine combo and from being so switchy. I had no choice but to take a nap. When I woke up I was talking to one of my best friends about it and she convinced me to leave a message for our T even though I was feeling so messed up. I also sent T an email explaining better than the phone message could what about was going on, and I included what Robert had tried to send her with the filter-hating language removed.

Here is what he wrote, exactly as he wrote it. If you’re wondering why he keeps saying he’s Robert, it’s because my addled brain let me call him Richard in therapy on Monday. There were reasons it happened but I sure won’t make that mistake again!

Robert. I’m fucking ROBERT. Richard fucking makes sure no man hurts her. I will fuck her up if I need to. I made the collage, not fucking Richard. She’d better not start talking to the family comparing notes and asking what they know. I’M FUCKING ROBERT!!!! She’s lucky she’s still around. What a worthless piece of shit.

I guess it’s time for Robert to do some therapy work. Or some kind of work. A couple of years ago he did a two-page collage with magazine words and some pictures and I pulled that out today to see if I could get a glimpse into Robert’s head and also in the hope that he’ll say more, write more, anything more. Somehow he has to figure out how not to be so aggressive and berating and downright abusive to me. Even though he hasn’t done any major physical damage in quite awhile, I can’t help but worry we’ll be in a hospital bed like we were a little more than three years ago when he contributed to a rather serious su*c*de attempt. We can’t have that again.

I’m not angry at Robert, I know there are reasons he has such an allegiance to the father and reasons why he can be emotionally abusive in very much the same way as the father. He obviously has a purpose and somehow we need to make that purpose work entirely for good. I hear you, Robert. I hear you and respect you and we will work through this stuff. It won’t be easy but if you keep this body safe I will keep you safe. That’s a promise.

It’s Catching Up to Us


Christmas, that is. I’ve worked hard this year to continue reinventing certain days, including Christmas. And I’ve done a pretty good job of it. But I also knew Christmas has been slowing catching up to us and I think it finally caught us. I laid down to try and sleep and was hit by intrusive memories bordering on flashbacks. Opened my eyes and the dark room still felt too much like the rooms I grew up in. I can’t help but go to a particular Christmas and think on how I had to give certain gifts to my father each year. Memories of my grandfather play into it as well.

The simplest things can turn crappy rather quickly. DH and I were talking about the goodies I made over the past couple weeks and I mentioned that I’m no longer able to make my favorite Scandanavian almond cookies, both because we now know I have an anaphylactic allergy to almonds and also because my father loved them so much. I ended up feeling very panicky and on the verge of tears but I was able to steer myself away from the panic somehow, although I was shaky and triggered for a few hours. It’s still hard to see Almond Roca in the stores this time of year, since this is his favorite candy and I used to give it to him every December for his birthday.

The Nativity set in our living room feels a bit sinister these days because of him too. In turn, certain Christmas songs and Sunday school songs that we’ve been hearing are a problem. This religious stuff especially bothers Rachel, who dealt with his religious abuse.

I’m in tears as I write this and even though we’ve come a long way in the past few years, at this moment I feel like the weight of the abuse is heavier than all the good we’ve done to overcome it. I know it won’t always feel this way, it’s just how Christmas has caught up to me, to us. Separating myself from my family and doing so many things to reinvent certain parts of life helps a lot but sometimes the memories and flashbacks take over and whomp us. I knew Christmas would catch up to us and I’d be writing this post. I just hope I can get some decent sleep these next few nights. Thank goodness for sleeping pills.

Thankful, November 18


Today is my niece’s 19th birthday and I’m so very thankful for her. Nearly five years ago she became my hero by reporting to the police the abuse she had been enduring from my father, her grandfather. About a year and a half after that she faced him court and with the help of the amazing prosecutor, brought him down so he will spend the rest of his life in prison. He may not be technically serving time for what he did to me for so many years, but I feel vindicated because of his long prison sentence.

In some ways my world blew apart the day my niece made her report and my father was arrested because my system was suddenly freed remember what he did to us. It was like opening Pandora’s box. But I also believe I may not be alive today if it wasn’t for her. Because we can remember, we are healing. I’m so thankful for that.

Because of family circumstances it’s been about two years since my niece and I have spoken. I wish she could know how much I really do love her and how incredibly thankful I am for her.

I’m thankful for AuraBowman‘s great prints on Etsy!


Thankful, November 17


This one will be short and sweet. Today I’m thankful that I made it through a newly recovered memory and related flashback in one piece. And I’m thankful my cat Abigail kept climbing all over me and licking me like crazy to keep me present–she knows. I’m also thankful my husband and one of my besties were able to come sit with me on the bed to help me get through it.

Progress and Boundaries


A lot has been going on in the last couple months, and over the past few days it’s come to mind quite often just how well we’ve come through it. There was a fair amount of upheaval because of the vow renewal, my brother visiting and truly letting go of the relationship with S. My pain level was horrid through September and still hasn’t settled down as much as I wish it would. Things could certainly be better in many ways, but they are so much better than they used to be.

One of the biggest changes I see in myself is in how I handle boundaries. Two years ago when I chose to step away from my family it felt very dramatic and I worried quite a bit about what they would think, even though I knew I needed to do it for my own good. I was still learning that I don’t have to explain myself or grovel like my father ingrained into me with his abuse and programming. If I’d chosen to end the relationship with S a couple years ago, it too would have been full of drama and worry for me. Pulling back from being on the verge of reconnecting with her sexually–twice–was full of drama. Instead, letting go of S last week felt very natural and virtually drama free. This is partly because it was simply time but also because of how much I’ve grown.

One way I see huge improvement with boundaries is how I’m handling my family. The other day my brother showed up rather unexpectedly. He happened to be in our complex helping a neighbor and it made sense for him to drop by since he was right here. I could have gone a while longer between visits but I rolled with it and it went well. When we talked I steered clear of heavier topics, since his first visit and the things we discussed had created some system chaos for a couple days.

I knew my brother was chomping at the bit to ask me about “my” (this body’s/Michelle’s) birthday coming up soon. He had left a phone message saying he and my aunt would like to have DH and me over for a birthday dinner. In return, I sent him an email saying that I need to keep things the way they are for now. As our visit was coming to an end, just as he was walking out the door after to leave, he finally asked why I feel that I still need to not see the family. I was able to explain it lovingly and honestly. I kept it simple and said that I’ve worked hard to be as well as I am these days and that interacting only with him for now is one way to keep it that way. I told him that even though our father was the one who did so much damage, it’s triggering to be around family just because of the association. I let him know that the birthday itself is a trigger because of things that happened every year on that day. I told him I don’t expect him to fully understand it all but I expect him to respect it. He said he does understand it to some degree and definitely respects it. Success! A calm conversation with my boundaries held intact. No over-explaining, no abasing myself, just a healthy exchange.

It’s growth like this that is enabling me to take a planned therapy break right now. Purposely going six weeks between sessions is not something that could have happened two years ago, one year ago, even six months ago. Sometimes I wonder if everyone in the system is getting what they need but I also know from experience that if someone needs something, they will make it known. And more often than not, we figure things out without our therapist, often with the help and support of friends.

I do want to keep talking to my brother and having him over once in awhile. (That’s a boundary I still need to work on–he wouldn’t mind visiting every week or so, while I would feel more comfortable with once a month-ish.) After the holidays and the beginning of the new year I’m hoping to feel peaceful enough about seeing my aunt to meet for coffee in a neutral location–with my brother there. In the mean time, I’m reveling in the progress I’ve made and the boundaries I’m keeping for myself.