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Around The Bend


Have you ever walked in circles in the forest? That heart-sinking moment when you realize you have been here before rather than moving in a solid direction feels a lot like having complex PTSD.

I will take Anthony's advice and try to make a list of trauma (although it is not complete, due to amnesia)
  • pneumonia: severely ill soon after birth but was not hospitalized; was held upright all night by my crying and exhausted new father who has mental health issues of his own. Where the hell is my mom?
  • earliest memory (<1) is looking up the stairs, wondering if my mom would ever come back. Fear of abandonment.
  • (4?) memory of being held over bathtub that appears to be filled with blood that they want to put me in, but I fight, until I realize it's my blood, and I black out
  • Being asked to take clothes off and play "games" with my two best friends and my sister on the bed in front of my friends' house guests, Gorge Mullins and his adult daughter, Teresa, who reward us with stickers that we are instructed to place on each others' various body parts, and private parts, which we are then told to rub together while stacked on the bed for their viewing pleasure. The worst part was when my BFF wouldn't speak to me after for a long time, and it was never the same. This man and daughter were my parents friend and went to our church.
  • (5?) being awoken to the "monster" shadow who bashes me on the back of the head to stun me and attack/rapes me (I learn to dissociate completely, to black out, when I hear the door open at night.)
  • my sister and I see our bedroom pictures "moving" (a la Harry Potter) and tell our mother, who tells us we are being tormented by demons. We are given more Bible verses to memorize, and we are blamed for being "evil."
  • (5) going to kindergarten gives me courage to tell my mom about my Dad's touching, which results in three attempts and three sessions in which I am told all the terrible things that will happen to me and my siblings if I ever tell anyone else these things I don't understand. These involve being taken into a bad home and never seeing my siblings again, while they also are taken to bad homes where they are tortured and mistreated also. (I will have recurring nightmares of this for 20+ years because, after all, it's all my fault this could happen.)
  • (6?) being awoken when I heard something, and looking down at the lower bunk and seeing my Dad fondling my little sister under her covers while she appears to be asleep: I sit up reflexively, and hearing him make a lame excuse about the window, which he checks, and leaves
  • (6?) sharing the top bunk (twin bed) with my sister now, as we are both terrified. Waking up to see her nightgown off and lying flat on the bedspread next to me and some furry animal curled up in a ball snoring on her pillow. I feel terror and do not understand if I am dreaming or what. I reach out to touch the furry, spiky ball, and it shudders but doesn't wake up. I recoil in horror and think I have completely gone crazy.
  • Taking the top bunk and not even being able to care if this is to save myself and not my sister. Using her as live bait for my dad. Living in terror he will come back.
  • (6?) Waking up one night in the middle of the night and thinking "He's gone. I wonder what happened."
  • (age?) seeing my Dad pull my mom upstairs by her long, red hair during a fight
  • (1-9) hearing loud fighting, taking my sibs to hide in our room. I herd them into my room, shut the door, shut off the light, hide them in the closet, further away, and hide myself where the door opens so "if they come for us" I will be in between the kids and the "monsters" my parents turned into when they got angry. I cover my sister's ears with my hands to try to shield her from the fear I am feeling from what I am hearing, leaving my ears exposed to listen for any indication they might come for us.
  • (7?) being left to watch my two younger sibs at night while parents at Bible study when they start their own church and are gone nearly every night, leaving us alone sometimes. This night there was a terrible loud thunder and lightening storm and the lights went out. I had no way to find a flashlight. My sibs were terrified, so I again, grouped them into the back corner of the dining area, and stood out in front of them with the biggest knife I could find in the kitchen, willing to kill any intruder who threatened us/them. (BTW, I had amnesia for this memory until my sister narrated it, and half-way through her narration, I remembered this memory again.) We don't know how long we waited like that.
  • First day of first grade: lunch room. Feeling the shock and awe of discovering that I am not like any other child in the school. Feeling like I am from another planet and wishing I could disappear because I was so obviously a terrified mute creature and these were talking, smiling children.
  • First grade, all year: trying to fit in by talking a lot at the wrong times and getting in trouble for not paying attention. Not being able to pay attention, or to make myself focus. Losing time and fading out dissociatively. Being terrified of my teacher.
  • Many minor episodes of minor child abuse involving being spanked daily with leather belt and buckle, 2x4 shaped into paddle with our 3 names carved on it, and Ivory soap scum put in mouth. For coloring on the wall or anything really.
    Being told daily what a bad child we all were and in need of daily punishment. Mom being on the phone doing PR all day long and ignoring us. I have to mother my two sibs most of the time.
  • My mom keeping us in our room to wait for beating from dad when he gets home most days.
  • Being whipped naked by Dad and then molested in closed room while mom is with brother. Being forced to leave sister there and very angry not able to protect her or know what he will do to her after whipping and molesting me while she was bent over, waiting, humliated, naked and exposed. Having his big hand covering my mouth and nose while molesting me so that mostly what worries me is that I will suffocate. My lungs ache. I ask him why he touched me there, and he lies, saying he wanted to check he "didn't hurt me" with the whip. I am angry he lied to me, and that is mostly what I remember for 25 years, that he is a big, fat, mean liar. I don't realize he is a sex offender until I am 33.
  • (7) While at my loving grandparents where I feel safe, I contemplate suicide by holding my breath. It doesn't work.
  • Many instances of bullying and taking pleasure in humiliating, spanking (6th grade) comingled with encouragement to get perfect grades
  • 2nd grade. Being shamed for getting an A-. The B was not even worthy of mention.
  • (9) Moving to a new home and having my beloved grandpa die of cancer. I am unable to grieve or cry. I feel numb.
  • (10) my parents start taking in foster children from foreign countries who don't speak English for medical saving reasons. I end up with two foster sisters younger than me, who I love and worry about, and lose. My mom takes my winter coat from Value Village (it was $2, and we lived in a mansion) that I just got that fall and gives it to the foster sister. I do not have a coat for the winter and nobody notices how cold I am. But I don't say anything to anyone because I feel "ungrateful" as my mom constantly tells me I am.
  • (Life at the mansion) Having random episodes when my mom bursts into our room and screams at us for a long time calling us terrible things and shaking us, until we collapse in tears, for no apparent reason.
  • Having only handmedowns and Value Villiage clearance items to wear, feeling very ugly as a tween when girls in my class are starting to wear jewelry and lip gloss. Having the worst hair cuts possible, including having most of my hair cut off at beauty schools (so that the Queen mother will always be the most beautiful, after grandma had a painting done of my, and she was jealous). My mother praising the ugly hair cut daily, as I wore home made clothes from color blind grandma, and felt very, very ugly. Eating tons of ice cream every day when I get home from school to numb the pain and getting fatter.
  • (11) suddenly being bought real, new clothes (one outfit) that is "conservative" to be paraded up and down the West Coast during their "deputation" or begging from churches for money to go be foreign missionaries for a sudden career change from rich Dentist and part time nurse who forgets her children at school.
  • (11) begging grandma to keep me so I don't have to move to Costa Rica, which I know nothing about and don't trust my parents to bring us back alive; she didn't. I cried myself to sleep on the matress that countless people had peed on in the cockroach house with bars on every window. I woke up and found out from my sister that it was not the next day, but rather, she's been worried cause I've been asleep for three days, coming out only to pee in the bathroom across the hall from my bedroom. When she talked to me I didn't respond and appeared to be a zombie. No wonder I felt so thirsty! Mom made no mention of this and did nothing. ( I win a championship for dissociation, which includes a prize in being totally ignored by the parents. )
  • (12) I develop depression and my mom decides its best to leave me home alone all day with the maid to do my school work "homeschooling" on my own. I finish my English in 2 weeks, and try to do the math alone and can't.
  • (12) my sister is sexually assaulted while walking to school with my little brother, who thinks the man was "trying to steal her backpack." I am really upset. I should have been there, plus my sister's a wreak and has insomnia and my parents, as usual, do nothing.
  • (17) I move back to WA, USA. I black out when a male neighbor friend pranks me. I can't figure out why I dissociate. I can't remember my childhood. In fact, I can't remember two days ago well. In fact, I have serious anxiety and depression and....I wish I were never born.
  • fast forward to 21, when major anxiety attack watching Isabel Allende movie with an incest and rape scene(s). Go to therapy and diagnosed PTSD with dissociative amnesia for abuse.
  • (33) Have flashbacks during sex that hint that the abuse was, in fact, my Dad raping me, and that is my major trauma, for which I have pretty much no memory.
  • since that time, flashbacks of what if feels like right after your Dad rapes you in the night and your mommy never comes when you are in shock, crying, and wanting to die.
  • Flashback of Dad saying I can't tell Mom because "it would kill her" but me thinking he meant "he would kill her" which explains why I have been afraid of him killing her my whole life with attendant, elaborate homicide nightmares and obsession with detective shows and books for my whole life.
  • Now, finally not fearing my fear so much and being willing to do EMDR even if I have to drive 2 hours away over a mountain pass for therapy every Friday.
Oops. Just gone a while time period in the DR that I tend to dissociate as a sub-category of traumas.
  • the out of body experience while walking and waked into a wall during my 2nd period at age 12 in Costa Rica.
  • the dead body on the roadside in the rotunda in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 9th grade. The body had no face.
  • the time Dad driving van of church folk and my family at night in DR, got hit by a drunk driver with no light on his motorcycle at night in DR. The very drunk man pulled a gun on us, and I was the only one who noticed it and said several times, "Dad, he's got a gun" before Dad noticed. (Hmm, I think I may have been whispering out of terror and not realized it.) Dad was immediately taken to jail for a night and, again, I was left alone to watch the kids all night long, who were fine, while I fell apart with a panic attack wondering what would happen to us.
  • the death threat from the pastor and some hit man my parents worked with in DR and getting physically ill (nausea and cold sweats) during a couple nights while I was told they would "come for us with machetes" rape us and kill us systematically. They never did. Had an old friend staying with us from the States, who I also was afraid for.
  • I was the only one happy we returned to US. Parents sued the Conservative Baptist Mission Society for $30,000+ and won.
  • I went to high school in US, in 11th grade
  • I met my husband at age 17; my life continued to stabilize thanks to him. I fear losing him as a reserve police officer with a dangerous job.
  • Too many other things swimming in the fishbowl now, gonna stop.
(11) the lost year. Deputation. I put head phones on and spaced the entire 8+ months on the road. Did not get any "homeschooling" and had to do special ed stuff as a 12 year old after school to make up for lost time. I learned that my cat, Sam, peed in the RV toilet. I found out animals are really smart. Had to sleep with brother and sister in basements with creepy mannequins surrounding the bed at weird Christian-people's houses. WTF?! Other than that, I do not recall most of that year.
Strangly, after reading of a woman with animal alters from the really bad stuff that her Dad did to her, that I won't ever repeat, I feel that this is all nothing compared to her traumas. Of course, since I don't remember most of the rape content anyway, it does read kinda like I guess my Dad raped me a lot for a while but I don't remember that, and then I pretty much just hated my family life until I got away.
Honey- my goodness. I went through a lot of that crap but don't remember much. I'm so sorry. You are going to have to find your strength and do it yourself like you always have. What a nightmare- but, I'm finding I have to fix it instead of being hurt and mad constantly. It's awful. It's unfair. And it happens.

Yes, I was trying really hard to be a "good girl" while simultaneously feeling very hurt and angry all the time, which I repressed and occasionally unleashed on my undeserving husband (still do rarely).

End of March, 2011, had the major flashbacks of the rape. Frankly, I have spent the last 2.5 years appalled and never want to have that happen again. But if an alter or fragment has all the memories of the rape and only has released tiny bits to my core knowing, then, I wonder how much I have to remember in order to heal.

I have encountered people who into their 50s still have total amnesia for the sexual abuse by their father but who claim to have "healed" that. I don't know if a person has to remember all, or even most of it, to be fully healed. I don't know if anyone ever gets that whole "alter" back and gets all of the "missing information" or not.

If anyone also has this kind of trauma, I want to know if doing EMDR has helped or what has helped the most. Thank you for sharing what helps.
Congratulations on starting your diary. I know it's hard to write about this but is worth it. Take breaks so as not to overwhelm yourself but keep getting it out. You can do this!

Thank you, Candleflames,

I think you can understand that all I know is that I've had this tendency to "auto-archive" my life.

Every time we moved or the environment, or my development, demanded changes or that I adjust, I had to seal off behind me and move forward Me version 4.0 kind of thing. Often I would lose direct access to Me version 3.0, but somehow I managed fine without a history. This was the best way for me to be able to act "normal" while living in an abnormal home and life.

As life normalized and stabilized, the coping skills I have used to grow up PTSD style no longer work to keep me moving forward. In fact, they only remind me of the past. And I want to move forward. But even as I keep learning, I still have the old stuff to contend with.
The one memory that was always intact was the "attack" memory.

What's so strange is that this memory is like my car accident (rollover). It happened so fast that it's a blur, but I'm pretty clear on what happened in a sharp way.

With the rollover, it happened suddenly but each thing, the left side white lines being covered in gravel from the whole winter's road gravel, the too many reflectors a blur so that they were useless as a guide to the left side of the road, the brake locking the steering column, and the sudden soaring in mid-air into the deep median and rolling in the soft, dirt. It was like 2 seconds, but I have so much detail in that 2 seconds. It's very sharp, but I don't have flashbacks. It is all "normal" range of memory.

The "attack" of the monster is my Dad waking me up and I fight him so he pummels me with fists, mostly to the top and back of my skull to stun me without leaving signs, probably. But I felt arms grabbing all over and being attacked. I must have blacked out.

Maybe this is how I learned to just totally black out (I call it "check out of the hotel") and not be present for the rape part that likely followed the attack.

When I think about the attack, I get:
-racing heart
-numb legs

But I don't black out. I can remember it now and not get beyond the above. I guess I've been doing exposure therapy on myself with this memory for awhile. I dare myself to remember and each time, let it be that it happened a long time ago and keep busy with my life at home. I don't let the physical get too bad. I think of something positive in the future, and the above symptoms stop really fast. So I think I've done my own self-therapy on this memory fragment.
I'm getting a suffocation feeling now. Hm. I'm trying to remember if he maybe smothered my face in the pillow while hitting my head.

I'm not sure if while I was "out" alters or fragments were created. I know I have a part of me that hid these rape memories from me. I have dreamed of it often. I can see her smirking while I look for the memories in the "attic" during dream time. She knows where they are hidden, but she is not going to tell. She thinks I can't handle it. Maybe she's right. But then, why am I getting bits at a time?

The major rape flashbacks have been bits of the rape, only sound and darkness. They bled through a real time sexual encounter so that all I could hear was the rape from 30 odd years ago.

Then I got two separate fb memories of 'after' the rape when I'm feeling terrible. I have processed and released those by reframing those. The first time, I felt I was a toddler, and I literally lifted all fours into the air and cried for mama! I know. It's embarassing, but I felt a child fragment take over. The second fb was older child. I knew what had been done to me, and I was terrified. That one came back twice until I released it. It was way worse than the early child one who didn't understand what had been done to her.

I don't think this is DID because I am aware of these fragments. They don't "take over" so much as take me on a ride I don't want to be on. I still have control, but the flashback makes me feel as I did then in a powerful, real way. The emotions feel very real and raw as if the attack happened just now.

To be honest, I don't really want more of this. I'm hoping EMDR doesn't lift too much up. And I hope that these are like fragments that can come out like splinters and be tweezed, processed, and healed so they are just a memory.

Even so, my PSTD levels are better but not gone at all. I can function, but I still have a lot of energy losses and crying times and angry times.
I don't know. It's unimaginable when I look around at especially girls around me who I went to school with for years who called me a slut, a whore, a drunk- I didn't understand that the way to get attention did not mean inappropriate sex. It took me years to figure that out. I always thought I was so different from other girls because they were so pretty and nice and normal with parents who actually showed up for things they did. Mine never did and it hurt a lot. I assumed parents are angry and scary and never thought that both your parents could love or take care of you.

I was molested as a kid, raped in college, and raped in the military- ironically trying to regain some strength and kicked in the teeth again. Does it make me sad? Absolutely. But more importantly it makes me angry and wanting to hurt people. But again, I am working through that and am generally a pleasant, genuinely kind woman. I just don't get why it feels like I keep getting beat down just when I was pulling myself back up.
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Yes, Cwolf,

My dad used to call me "slutty" at the dinner table. Great for your diet, bad for your self esteem.

He used a "look" with his eyes of hostile disapproval, which was I guess a projection of his damaged child or messed up mental health. Whatever it was, it was what made my teen years painful. My mom not only didn't do anything for me, she denies that this even ever happened. (Thanks so f*cking much mom!)

I got a "lovely" email from my mother as it's their wedding anniversary. It must be nice to be a narcissist living in your own little dream world. She sent their special love that only parents can have....I'm like right, the special pain that only incest and neglect can inflict.

I sometimes can't understand how I tolerated them for so long. Every time my mom tried to hug me for 34 years, I cringed. How did I do that??? How did I stand it? That is what I just don't know. How much of "Me" is forever lost to me? I can't focus on that, as Anthony says, it's counter-factual thinking that does not help.

So, last night before bed I got into my work email, and bam, there it came up. I had my H. read it. (He screens any communications from them to spare me any major triggers.) I read it. And I had the bad dream.

The "bad dream" now is that I'm still forced to be around them, like they can't be gotten rid of, literally. I am still forced to be in that family, now. It's like I have no control over being with them. There is like no escape. And my sister is still insisting the rapes didn't happen and that they are "good people" and I'm yelling at her that she's got this annoying black and white thinking aberration, and that people are capable of being "many things." I feel like she is still 2 or 3, and I am so frustrated. My uncle is there, and he obviously doesn't want to be there either.

When I interpret my dreams I use some basic Freud concept that everyone in the dream is also "me."

1. Thus, I am stuck with my internalization of the parent figures. I can't really get rid of them. [EMDR to help with that?]

2. I don't want to be there either, like my uncle. I remained always at the periphery, trying to find a way to escape or not feel I was really there (dissociate). [God, I've been doing this in school and work; but I am more aware and trying to be more present]

3. I don't want to see the complexity because it's too exhausting mentally, so I have blacklisted them totally (b&w thinking) and project the opposite on my sister, which is, not in dreamland, a reality of how she is right now.

4. I was frustrated and angry with my sister for not thinking clearly/logically, when, I am not either, for I know that the damage done to her means that this will always be a challenge for her and I. Therefore, I am also frustrated with myself.

5. This was also an abandonment dream, because I always have the fear that my Husband will just one day "Not be there" and I go back to the trauma time family. This was also the nightmare that keeps revisiting me.

What is this? I told my T. about this irrational fear that shows up regularly as a dream theme. I keep feeling pulled either back in time or in present time back to this family I have rejected. Then I feel stuck with them and my H is nowhere to be found. It's a terrible feeling. I hate it. I want to work on this in therapy.