But if I'm it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I'm going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity's last war, then I am the battlefield.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim--letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.
The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always founder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night will find you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows. And maybe it’s treacherous old age coming on, threatening the worst. Not much music left inside us for life to dance to. Our youth has gone to the ends of the earth to die in the silence of the truth. And where, I ask you, can a man escape to, when he hasn’t enough madness left inside him? The truth is an endless death agony. The truth is death. You have to choose: death or lies. I’ve never been able to kill myself.
My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.
So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent. The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis
Her Kind I have gone out, a possessed witch, haunting the black air, braver at night; dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite. I have been her kind. I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods; fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves: whining, rearranging the disaligned. A woman like that is misunderstood. I have been her kind. I have ridden in your cart, driver, waved my nude arms at villages going by, learning the last bright routes, survivor where your flames still bite my thigh and my ribs crack where your wheels wind. A woman like that is not ashamed to die. I have been her kind.
I have gone out, a possessed witch, haunting the black air, braver at night; dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite. I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods; fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves: whining, rearranging the disaligned. A woman like that is misunderstood. I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver, waved my nude arms at villages going by, learning the last bright routes, survivor where your flames still bite my thigh and my ribs crack where your wheels wind. A woman like that is not ashamed to die. I have been her kind.
Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again ... we are survivors. If you are here today... you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it thru hell and are still standing? We bare a different name: warriors.
Why do I take a blade and slash my arms? Why do I drink myself into a stupor? Why do I swallow bottles of pills and end up in A&E having my stomach pumped? Am I seeking attention? Showing off? The pain of the cuts releases the mental pain of the memories, but the pain of healing lasts weeks. After every self-harming or overdosing incident I run the risk of being sectioned and returned to a psychiatric institution, a harrowing prospect I would not recommend to anyone. So, why do I do it? I don't. If I had power over the alters, I'd stop them. I don't have that power. When they are out, they're out. I experience blank spells and lose time, consciousness, dignity. If I, Alice Jamieson, wanted attention, I would have completed my PhD and started to climb the academic career ladder. Flaunting the label 'doctor' is more attention-grabbing that lying drained of hope in hospital with steri-strips up your arms and the vile taste of liquid charcoal absorbing the chemicals in your stomach. In most things we do, we anticipate some reward or payment. We study for status and to get better jobs; we work for money; our children are little mirrors of our social standing; the charity donation and trip to Oxfam make us feel good. Every kindness carries the potential gift of a responding kindness: you reap what you sow. There is no advantage in my harming myself; no reason for me to invent delusional memories of incest and ritual abuse. There is nothing to be gained in an A&E department.
The return of the voices would end in a migraine that made my whole body throb. I could do nothing except lie in a blacked-out room waiting for the voices to get infected by the pains in my head and clear off. Knowing I was different with my OCD, anorexia and the voices that no one else seemed to hear made me feel isolated, disconnected. I took everything too seriously. I analysed things to death. I turned every word, and the intonation of every word over in my mind trying to decide exactly what it meant, whether there was a subtext or an implied criticism. I tried to recall the expressions on people’s faces, how those expressions changed, what they meant, whether what they said and the look on their faces matched and were therefore genuine or whether it was a sham, the kind word touched by irony or sarcasm, the smile that means pity. When people looked at me closely could they see the little girl in my head, being abused in those pornographic clips projected behind my eyes? That is what I would often be thinking and such thoughts ate away at the façade of self-confidence I was constantly raising and repairing. (describing dissociative identity disorder/mpd symptoms)
The guarantee of safety in a battering relationship can never be based upon a promise from the perpetrator, no matter how heartfelt. Rather, it must be based upon the self-protective capability of the victim. Until the victim has developed a detailed and realistic contingency plan and has demonstrated her ability to carry it out, she remains in danger of repeated abuse.
Changes in Relationship with others: It is especially hard to trust other people if you have been repeatedly abused, abandoned or betrayed as a child. Mistrust makes it very difficult to make friends, and to be able to distinguish between good and bad intentions in other people. Some parts do not seem to trust anyone, while other parts may be so vulnerable and needy that they do not pay attention to clues that perhaps a person is not trustworthy. Some parts like to be close to others or feel a desperate need to be close and taken care of, while other parts fear being close or actively dislike people. Some parts are afraid of being in relationships while others are afraid of being rejected or criticized. This naturally sets up major internal as well as relational conflicts.
Along with the trust issues, one of the hardest parts to deal with is the feeling of not being believed or supported, especially by your own grandparents and extended family. When I have been through so much pain and hurt and have to live with the scars every day, I get angry knowing that others think it is all made up or they brush it off because my cousin was a teenager. I was ten when I was first sexually abused by my cousin, and a majority of my relatives have taken the perpetrator's side. I have cried many times about everything and how my relatives gave no support or love to me as a kid when this all came out. Not one relative ever came up to that innocent little girl I was and said "I am sorry for what you went through" or "I am here for you." Instead they said hurtful things: "Oh he was young." "That is what kids do." "It is not like he was some older man you didn't know." Why does age make a difference? It is a sick way of thinking. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse. What is wrong with this picture? It brings tears to my eyes the way my relatives have reacted to this and cannot accept the truth. Denial is where they would rather stay.
It’s hard to feel supported when you can’t tell people everything. People haven’t really got a clue what it’s like. It’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard to believe people won’t let you down. I’m feeling like I want to cry. My body feels hollow. Empty. I don’t feel like I’m 17. I feel young. I’m not sure how old, maybe about 10 yrs. It’s hard to accept that I can’t get all the support I need from one person. From any person. It’s hard that no one can fully understand. It’s hard for me to admit that inside I feel a really lonely person. What do I need to do to take care of myself right now? Well I need to cuddle my teddies — it sounds silly, but I need some comfort... I was still cuddling teddies when I should have been cuddling boys. The sick imagery in my mind, rather than making me sexually active, had closed that door completely.
Survivors often develop an exaggerated need for control in their adult relationships. It’s the only way they feel safe. They also struggle with commitment—saying yes in a relationship means being trapped in yet another family situation where abuse might take place. So the survivor panics as her relationship gets closer, certain that something terrible is going to happen. She pulls away, rejects, or tests her partner all the time.
In her heart she is a mourner for those who have not survived. In her soul she is a warrior for those who are now as she was then. In her life she is both celebrant and proof of women's capacity and will to survive, to become, to act, to change self and society. And each year she is stronger and there are more of her.
The thing that most people didn't understand, if they weren't in his line if work, was that a rape victim and a victim of a fatal accident were both gone forever. The difference was that the rape victim still had to go through the motions of being alive.
Even in times of trauma, we try to maintain a sense of normality until we no longer can. That, my friends, is called surviving. Not healing. We never become whole again ... we are survivors. If you are here today... you are a survivor. But those of us who have made it through hell and are still standing? We bare a different name: warriors.
Underlying the attack on psychotherapy, I believe, is a recognition of the potential power of any relationship of witnessing. The consulting room is a privileged space dedicated to memory. Within that space, survivors gain the freedom to know and tell their stories. Even the most private and confidential disclosure of past abuses increases the likelihood of eventual public disclosure. And public disclosure is something that perpetrators are determined to prevent. As in the case of more overtly political crimes, perpetrators will fight tenaciously to ensure that their abuses remain unseen, unacknowledged, and consigned to oblivion.
The dialectic of trauma is playing itself out once again. It is worth remembering that this is not the first time in history that those who have listened closely to trauma survivors have been subject to challenge. Nor will it be the last. In the past few years, many clinicians have had to learn to deal with the same tactics of harassment and intimidation that grassroots advocates for women, children and other oppressed groups have long endured. We, the bystanders, have had to look within ourselves to find some small portion of the courage that victims of violence must muster every day.
Some attacks have been downright silly; many have been quite ugly. Though frightening, these attacks are an implicit tribute to the power of the healing relationship. They remind us that creating a protected space where survivors can speak their truth is an act of liberation. They remind us that bearing witness, even within the confines of that sanctuary, is an act of solidarity. They remind us also that moral neutrality in the conflict between victim and perpetrator is not an option. Like all other bystanders, therapists are sometimes forced to take sides. Those who stand with the victim will inevitably have to face the perpetrator's unmasked fury. For many of us, there can be no greater honor. p.246 - 247 Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. February, 1997
If your body is screaming in pain, whether the pain is muscular contractions, anxiety, depression, asthma or arthritis, a first step in releasing the pain may be making the connection between your body pain and the cause. Beliefs are physical. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. The belief then becomes biology.
The truth is that all this was just part of the suicide process. Because tanning and steroids are only a problem if you plan to live a long time. Because the only difference between a suicide and a martyrdom really is the amount of press coverage. If a tress falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, doesn’t it just lie there and rot? And if Christ had died from a barbiturate overdose, alone on the bathroom floor, would He be in Heaven This wasn’t a question of whether I was going to kill myself. This, this effort, this money and time, the writing team, the drugs, the diet, the agent, the flights of stairs going up to nowhere, all this was so I could off myself with everyone’s full attention.
You think maybe if you just work harder and faster, you can hold off the chaos, but then one day you’re changing a patio light bulb with a five-year life span and you realize how you’ll only be changing this light maybe ten more times before you’ll be dead.
You may be operating from the belief that you must do everything yourself because no one will ever be there for you. Or you may think that if you never speak up you’ll avoid being rejected. Both these fears no longer apply to you today as an adult. If you never reach out for help, you will continue to deprive yourself.
When I deny the seriousness of my abuse I agree with my abuser and those who wouldn't acknowledge it. When I am in denial, I have the tendency to minimize my abuse, believe the lies others have said, as well as deny it ever happened. It is important for me to remember as much detail as I can so I can trust my own perceptions of what really happened and not depend on the validations from others.
The power we discover inside ourselves as we survive a life-threatening experience can be utilized equally well outside of crisis, too. I am, in every moment, capable of mustering the strength to survive again—or of tapping that strength in other good, productive, healthy ways.
Alterations in regulation of affect (emotion) and impulse: Almost all people who are seriously traumatized have problems in tolerating and regulating their emotions and surges or impulses. However, those with complex PTSD and dissociative disorders tend to have more difficulties than those with PTSD because disruptions in early development have inhibited their ability to regulate themselves. The fact that you have a dissociative organization of your personality makes you highly vulnerable to rapid and unexpected changes in emotions and sudden impulses. Various parts of the personality intrude on each other either through passive influence or switching when your under stress, resulting in dysregulation. Merely having an emotion, such as anger, may evoke other parts of you to feel fear or shame, and to engage in impulsive behaviors to stop avoid the feelings.
Complex PTSD consists of of six symptom clusters, which also have been described in terms of dissociation of personality. Of course, people who receive this diagnosis often also suffer from other problems as well, and as noted earlier, diagnostic categories may overlap significantly. The symptom clusters are as follows: Alterations in Regulation of Affect ( Emotion ) and Impulses Changes in Relationship with others Somatic Symptoms Changes in Meaning Changes in the perception of Self Changes in Attention and Consciousness
I had a bizarre rapport with this mirror and spent a lot of time gazing into the glass to see who was there. Sometimes it looked like me. At other times, I could see someone similar but different in the reflection. A few times, I caught the switch in mid-stare, my expression re-forming like melting rubber, the creases and features of my face softening or hardening until the mutation was complete. Jekyll to Hyde, or Hyde to Jekyll. I felt my inner core change at the same time. I would feel more confident or less confident; mature or childlike; freezing cold or sticky hot, a state that would drive Mum mad as I escaped to the bathroom where I would remain for two hours scrubbing my skin until it was raw. The change was triggered by different emotions: on hearing a particular piece of music; the sight of my father, the smell of his brand of aftershave. I would pick up a book with the certainty that I had not read it before and hear the words as I read them like an echo inside my head. Like Alice in the Lewis Carroll story, I slipped into the depths of the looking glass and couldn’t be sure if it was me standing there or an impostor, a lookalike. I felt fully awake most of the time, but sometimes while I was awake it felt as if I were dreaming. In this dream state I didn’t feel like me, the real me. I felt numb. My fingers prickled. My eyes in the mirror’s reflection were glazed like the eyes of a mannequin in a shop window, my colour, my shape, but without light or focus. These changes were described by Dr Purvis as mood swings and by Mother as floods, but I knew better. All teenagers are moody when it suits them. My Switches could take place when I was alone, transforming me from a bright sixteen-year-old doing her homework into a sobbing child curled on the bed staring at the wall. The weeping fit would pass and I would drag myself back to the mirror expecting to see a child version of myself. ‘Who are you?’ I’d ask. I could hear the words; it sounded like me but it wasn’t me. I’d watch my lips moving and say it again, ‘Who are you?
A broken person understands she needs rescue, and she depends on God to resurrect and deliver. And she also understands that even if God chooses not to deliver, His ways are higher and more amazing then what we can fathom.
Why did I allow the abuse to continue? Even as a teenager? I didn’t. Something that had been plaguing me for years now made sense. It was like the answer to a terrible secret. The thing is, it wasn’t me in my bed, it was Shirley who lay the wondering if that man was going to come to her room, pull back the cover and push his penis into her waiting mouth it was Shirley. I remembered watching her, a skinny little thing with no breasts and a dark resentful expression. She was angry. She didn’t want this man in her room doing the things he did, but she didn’t know how to stop it. He didn’t beat her, he didn’t threaten her. He just looked at her with black hypnotic eyes and she lay back with her legs apart thinking about nothing at all. And where was I? I stood to one side, or hovered overhead just below the ceiling, or rode on a magic carpet. I held my breath and watched my father pushing up and down inside Shirley’s skinny body.