I live by parameters.
My mother drilled into me two fears; the fear of not being productive enough and the fear of repercussion.
Always being obedient, always being highly productive, always caring what people think about me is the main source of my anxiety. I MUST achieve. I MUST fear what will happen if I don't, if I'm not good enough, if I'm coloring outside the lines.
I don't know where the parameters came from that I once decided I have to live by. I just know they are there and if I dare to step outside them, I will be "in trouble."
I am a 31 year old woman, and I find myself thinking this, even saying this: I don't want to get into trouble.
Today my daycare provider, a friend of mine, texted me to ask if my daughter was coming today. She was concerned that I might keep her home because we were struck by an ice storm. Immediately, my heart began to race. These, my thoughts: "Does she want my daughter to come today? Does she need the money? Does she want her to stay home? Will her kids be off school and maybe she wants a day alone with them?"
I can't make a decision based on what I want because I'm afraid of how it affects everyone else. I wanted my daughter to go to daycare, but while trying to predict what the daycare provider wanted, I decided it was more likely she wanted her to stay home. So, that's what I did.
This is just an example of what I do to myself.
My main anxiety stems from the fear of getting in trouble because I fell in love.
I am recently divorced. It's been a year since my husband moved out and we officially divorced in July. I fell in love with someone else before my husband and I separated, and even though it was absolutely the best thing for everyone that we parted, the guilt burdens me.
As it should, right? Because I deserve to feel guilty. Because even though my husband abused me and controlled me, I shouldn't have fallen in love before we divorced.
So, now, my love has asked me to marry him. I happily accepted - I have never been so encouraged or supported by anyone, and I am joyous that we found each other. It feels like a rebirth, a second chance at the healthy life everyone wants.
And, yet... it doesn't fit into my parameters.
I'm uncomfortable telling other people, because I fear they judge me for finding love so soon.
I'm terrified that I will "get in trouble" for following my heart and for not following how "it's supposed to be."
I honestly would be more comfortable if I had stayed with my mean husband. Not happy, no. I'm very happy now. But I'm uncomfortable because of how it may look to everyone else.
I try to tell myself it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. But it does. I live in a small town. I'm in a sort of prominent position. People know me. Reputations matter here.
Does anyone understand this or have something wise to advise?
Child abuse is a hidden epidemic that can happen in any family, and its effects are felt all the way through adulthood.
This is her story.
I must have said that growing up a million times. "No really, I'm fine."
It's only been recently that I've discovered that whatever I'm feeling screams across my face. Here I thought I was a good liar. Seems not so much.
I guess people just decided not to press me any further when it seemed like I didn't want to talk about whatever was going on with me. And that's a respectable response. Don't push when it seems like the other person doesn't want to talk. It worked in my favor growing up. Or maybe to my detriment.
Now this has to be about one of the hardest posts I've ever written but I think that a large part of the reason that I can't find anything to write about is because I refuse to write about what comes to my head but it just seems so wrong to say out loud. Seems like a betrayal. But I guess that is how it plays out when you talk about abuse. If the abused felt free to talk about what was going on, my guess would be there would be far less abuse.
At least, that would be my hope.
I'm not one to not talk about myself. Anyone that knows me knows that. I'm sure some would wish I talked far less, but that's not my nature. I figure that whatever my story, whatever my pain, maybe it will help someone else.
I've also learned from therapy that keeping it all bottled up is just not a good thing. But there are some things that I almost never talk about. And like I said before, it seems like a sort of betrayal to say what happened to me out loud.
But I'm tired of being bound by the...hell, I don't know what to even call it. Fear? Shame? I think a large part of me really doesn't want this to turn into a pity party. Because that is not my goal. But again, if one person reads this and finds a little bit of healing, then it's worth it. And maybe it will go a little way towards my own healing and possibly explain me a little better.
Growing up was absolutely horrible for me.
I spent my whole growing up bound by the invisible gag of fear. I was abused as a child and even some when I was into my teens. I think what was going on in my teens had more to do with the fear that was so expertly instilled in me when I was younger. Sadly, I thought this was normal. At least to a degree. And I most certainly knew never to talk about it. To anyone, ever.
So I sat as a quiet, lonely child with a storm brewing inside. I look at my girls and see the brilliant life they possess and wonder how I seemed to others when they watched me. Wonder if they looked at me and thought me quiet and reserved or if anyone wondered. If they did, no one ever said anything.
Right now, my palms are sweating. My body temperature is elevated. 35 years old and I still have a very visceral reaction to my abuse. It has taken me 25 minutes to write what you have read in two. Ugh!!
The bruises were strategic so that only if I specifically showed you, there would be no way that you would know anything was wrong.
I remember being eleven years old and telling my gym teacher that I was cramping from my period and couldn't participate in PE. I was still three years away from actually getting my period. Actually at that age, I didn't even know what happened during your period. All I knew was that it happened to girls.
So I sat at the edge of the bleachers because my backside was so bruised, I couldn't sit on the hard surface for any length of time. The thought of running around in PE seemed excruciating. I wonder if he thought anything about the fact that I seemed to constantly be on my period.
Instances like that happened quite frequently growing up.
All the stories you see on television about a woman making excuses about hitting the door knob. She fell down the stairs. She knocked into whatever. That's how it is. Your mind spins looking for what could be a valid excuse for why you are hurt, because that is what you do. You cover it up.
So I left that house but I carried it inside of me for a very long time. I have trust issues out the ass. Another gift I received. Couple the abuse with constantly being told that people were innately bad and only wanted to use me and wham-o, here comes the crazy.
But then I hit rock bottom. I accidentally took too many prescription pills one night and almost died and knew I had to pick a different way to live. Five years of crazy therapy of all sorts and deciding to no longer live in fear and here I am.
I'm no longer the quiet, scared girl in the corner, watching life pass me. I've decided to jump in with both feet and experience whatever comes my way. Sure, there are people that are just as she described. People whose only purpose is to use those around them to serve their own selfishness. But there are also a whole lot of other people, really good people that I am glad I get to experience.
I've hurt greatly but I've also experienced love in a way that I never would have if I kept to myself. And I'm only 35. I've got a whole lot of life left to live and a whole lot of great people still to meet. Maybe the great love of my life. But I can't do that if stay bound by my fear.
So today, I make the first step and acknowledge the grave injustices done to me. And I take another step down the road of healing, feeling a little lighter as I cast off the shrouds of guilt and shame.
Because no really, today I actually am fine.
Band Back Together has been nominated for Best Group or Community Weblog in the 2013 Bloggies! Visit their site to vote and check out the other categories!
Narcissistic Personality Disorder can permeate every family dynamic.
This is her story:
Smiling down at my beautiful three-month old daughter, her eyes the most beautiful dark, chocolate brown I've ever seen. Her tiny little lips perfect cupid bows, a personality as big as Texas shines from her eyes, lighting up her adorable face.
A crowd-stopper at three months of age - she already has two bottom teeth! I'd swear on a stack of Bibles that she understands me.
Of course, I keep my feelings to myself - ALL mothers must feel this way about their children, right? This little brown-eyed beauty WAS special; for a secret reason. Only one other human on the planet knew the horrible secret I kept locked deep inside.
This child was almost an abortion.
At twenty-one, I found myself pregnant again, thirteen months after giving birth to another baby, married to a man so horribly abusive that I'd pray for a fist to my face just to get it over with.
I was bound to a theological system misinterpreted by the men who preached it. Looking back, I wonder how many of our religious leaders were covert Narcissists, using a Loving and Benevolent God to abuse the women in their lives and congregations. I'd see it Sunday after Sunday, women in impossible relationships seeking answers to their pain.
Divorce was unheard of; separation with "the intent of reconciliation" was the "Christian" term for what to do when you finally ask for spiritual guidance from the "Leaders." You'd see these women each week, desperate for solace, battered from years of being "obedient," weak from loss of hope.
Surely, God must hate me.
Or, I have to work harder, pray more, be a BETTER wife. I knew he was a bad man when I married him - I made my bed, I must lie in it.
At home, I have one beautiful, precious green-eyed blonde baby, thirteen months old. She doesn't have a mean bone in her little body. She's a sweet, loving baby with a tender heart, not an drop of malice.
We can tell. Moms. We know.
When my beautiful sweet daughter was thirteen months old, I found myself pregnant again, unable to get a divorce. I know that I cannot have another child with this man.
I told no one.
Finally, I told the only person I knew would never judge me if I decided to have an abortion; she knows I cannot have another child with this man. My loyal to the death sister-in-law, best friend, wife of my favorite brother.
She took me to Planned Parenthood.
Abortion had been legal less than ten years at the time; pretty bold move, if you ask me.
She and I sat in the waiting room, silent. My brother was watching all the kids, never ever saying a word about the choice I was making. He never judged me, he knew my husband.
As we sat in the waiting room, I prayed to a God I desperately needed to hear from. I was considering the Christian unthinkable.
My decision wasn't the baby's fault; my decision was based upon the monster I'd willingly married. I hadn't known that he was a Narcissist and a misogynist. He no longer tried to hide it. I know that another baby was NOT part of his diabolical plan for world domination.
Needless to say, I changed my mind about the abortion.
I stood up, looked at my best friend and said, "Let's go."
Now, here I was, my second daughter cradled in my arms, about to nurse her. Her sparkling chocolate brown eyes, smiling, her cupid bow lips curved in what appeared to be adoration, her two tiny, sharp as hell, teeth visible. I'm thinking, "Look at her. I almost lost all the joy I feel this moment." Love washed over me as we locked eyes.
With her eyes still locked onto mine, grinning widely, she bit me - a pain sent shock-waves through me. Still, she was smiling.
I reared back, flicked her on her cheek and said, "NO." She just looked at me.
I picked her up, looked into her beautiful sparkling brown eyes and said, "Don't you EVER do that again! Do you understand?"
She started howling like I'd broken her arm.
I put her back into her tiny little bassinet, letting her cry it out. I was PISSED: that kid just bit the shit out of my nipple and ENJOYED it.
From that moment, I knew this child was different from her sisters.
My middle daughter has an off-the-chart IQ, and she was mean. She lied compulsively, even if the truth would've better served her. She created chaos between her sisters. She'd steal.
She was beautiful. Charming. Gifted student. Master manipulator. Opportunistic. Seemingly innocent while being precocious. Musically talented, she sang like an angel, gifted at piano.
Rage was one of her tools. Fear of upsetting her caused an entire family system to revolve around her until she was three.
Then, I outwitted her.
There are consequences for EVERY decision to be bad, do bad, or cause bad and a parent must be consistent, each and every time. Once I understood her motives, it was easier to separate her bad behavior from age-appropriate behaviors.
My kid had to know that if she was going to choose to misbehave I'd move Heaven and Hell to reach her, make her apologize, sit on my bed for 15 minutes. THEN, she had to tell me what she'd done wrong and why. If she decided to be stubborn (and she always did), I had to be more stubborn.
She had to sit on my bed for 15 minutes for me - I knew I had to be calm to discipline her. If I tried while I was angry, it fed her own calm. She fed off chaos. If I removed any scintilla of what she was trying to get, forced her to accept responsibility for her deviant behavior, we both won.
I gave my beautiful, talented, gifted child the gift of shame.
Shame to my little girl equated rage. Discovered doing something intentionally and deliberately wrong, hurtful, deceitful or self-indulgent didn't cause her to feel badly.
No, she became enraged when she got CAUGHT.
I could always tell, like only a mother can, when she switched into survival mode. I called it, "Making her sit down while she was standing up on the inside."
Self-will is incalculable. The strength inside a person cannot be measured.
If this power is used for good, we see people like Mother Teresa. If this human spirit is used for personal gain, we see people like Hitler.
I was raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Munchhausen syndrome, married a misogynist monster narcissist.
When she was fourteen, she chose evil over kindness. By then, I was a newly separated mother of three teenage daughters. Her behavior went into overdrive, becoming worse each day. Every attempt to help, use therapy, use love failed.
Her fangs grew before my eyes. Her rages kept our home in constant fear of upsetting her.
I got pissed.
I told her that I knew and understood how she thought. Why she behaved the way she did. What her motives were and why. The only explanation of my knowledge was divine intervention.
She sat transfixed as I spoke to her.
As I did, she began to cry genuine tears - I did not take mercy on her. I continued explaining, using vivid adjectives that finally reached the shame deep inside her.
My hope, my prayer, was that she would choose to use her genius for good, rather than personal gain and self-indulgence.
Nobody gives a shit about a genius who's an asshole, I explained. Your choice, I told her. Now YOU get to pick whom you will serve. You've just reached the age of accountability.
Self-indulgent genius and future criminal?
Or earn multiple masters degrees? Master many languages? Become a world traveler and consultant?
The choice was hers.
Sometimes the funniest among us are those with the hardest of problems.
This is her story:
I'm pretty good at being the class clown and making people laugh around here. I'm usually able to come up with something positive or an uplifting story when the editors call for lighthearted posts.
So when it feels like life is dark, I have a hard time letting it be known. Of course, when the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of change, I'll do something different. I'll reach out on Twitter, and sometimes I'll even post about it here with The Band.
It's one of those times.
Sunshine works in construction, which means that there can be great seasonal fluctuations in our household income. This year, we went beyond a fluctuation; the work dried up around Thanksgiving, which means the income went away. Literally, we have had three checks come in since Thanksgiving. Three checks that have not been enough to cover our expenses, much less The Christmas. We tore through the company's meager operating capital to survive the last couple of months.
I'm grateful that Sunshine has rubbed off on me. He firmly believes that the problems that money can solve are the good problems to have (if there is such a thing). See, we can always find a way to bring in more money; so if a problem can be solved by throwing money at it, it's not a bad problem to have. It's the problems that money can't solve that we don't want: health issues, heartbreaks, shit like that.
However, after around two months of being broke, it's starting to get scary. When I say broke, I mean broke. We are floating checks left and right (and the NSF fees for a business checking account make personal account NSF fees look dirt cheap), I am having to do fucking maths at the grocery store, we just put gas for our generator in my car for fuck's sake. We have no idea when the next money might come in, unless you count Sunshine's small quarterly check from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that's not due until the first week in April.
I could sit here and rail against contractors who use undocumented immigrants because they'll do the work for a third of the actual rate (because they don't carry the licenses and insurance coverages we do); I could scream and bitch about contractors that insist you act as their bank and do the work without getting paid for it until THEY get paid; I could gripe about homeowners that want you to rebuild their entire cracked & crumbling fireplace, hearth, and chimney but they don't want to spend more than $400 to do it (yes, somebody actually tried that).
None of that would do any good.
The first six weeks or so of this broke spell wasn't too bad. I've learned in recovery that if I just have faith, we'll be all right. This last couple of weeks, it's been getting harder and harder to stay calm. It's starting to feel like there is a pile of bricks on my chest; it's hard to breathe.
I'm scared, y'all. I'm a little bit angry, which is generally my response to fear or pain. Right now, it doesn't matter how much experience I have that tells me we'll get through this; the human psyche sometimes just does what it does. Right now, what it is doing to me is driving me batshit. And being so broke I have to do maths at the grocery store? Means that there ain't no stash of cookies hiding in the cupboard so I can eat my feelers. I'm stuck with them, which we all know sucks because FEELERS ARE BULLSHIT.
So I'm dumping this shit on y'all.
Because if there's one thing I've learned since I got clean, it's that pain shared is pain lessened. See, when I share my pain with others, it's like each person who I shared it with is now carrying a piece of that burden for me--making my burden easier to bear.
Now, before my sponsor can make me do it, I'm going to go ahead and make a gratitude list. And because you guys are gracious enough to help me carry my burdens, I'm going to share the gratitude list with y'all.
I am grateful for y'all. Y'all can't fix my problem, but y'all hold my hand while I walk through it. I am grateful that, in spite of the fear that grips my heart, some part of my rational mind still knows that this too shall pass. Walking through the fear sucks, but I know from personal experience that eventually I will come out the other side of it okay. Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right?
I'm grateful that, no matter how bad it gets, I am never alone. I'm grateful that most of you know me well enough to know that I really will get through this; that I am not completely lost in despair, I just need to get it off my chest. I'm grateful that we all know that I am a survivor, and when I sort of forget that y'all don't hesitate to remind me.
I am grateful beyond words that Sunshine spent most of 2012 paying shit off. It leaves us with pretty minimal expenses to have to worry about covering. Thank heaven we no longer have a truck payment, motorcycle insurance, a loan for his jeep, the tire company credit card maxed out, the forklift payment...
I refuse to think about the corporate insurance policies that renew in a couple of months with their monster down payments, I can't do that right now. I just can't. Instead, I have to be grateful that we are in that brief period where we're covered and the policies are paid in full. Denial isn't always a bad thing.
Every decision I ever made in my life was based in fear until I found recovery from my addiction. Today, I am grateful that I can share my fear, and y'all can help me live with faith.
And maybe soon, I'll be able to be the class clown again. I know I could sure use some humor, and I would imagine y'all could too.
Thank you for listening, the Band. Now, I need to go put on my armor and head to the grocery store to do some maths.
I just took the first pill of my first anti-anxiety medication. Ironically, I worry.
I worry that I am now on a lifetime of medication and I worry that I don't need it. After all, there is an easy solution to my social anxiety, just don't put myself in situations in which I know it will flare up.
I am also hopeful, especially that this feeling that I am tuned to a slightly different frequency than the rest of the world will go away and that the undercurrent of feeling wrong will fade.
The name of the medicine sounds like the name of a legendary sword (clever marketing) and I'm hopeful that it will cut away my anxiety without cutting away me.
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