Childhood How did you "see" it as abuse?

ninja

MyPTSD Pro
Background context - I've told my therapist a lot (via email and then some in person) about experiences I had as a kid.
She says I was sexually and emotionally abused, publicly humiliated, and witnessed domestic violence (my parents were never physical with each other!) as a kid.
I can't seem to "see" that. I am years into therapy and still can't seem to see it.
I think if she's right, some part of me should be able to recognize it. She thinks it became so normalized and part of the work is teaching me that it was abuse. I'm afraid to teach myself something "wrong". She reminds me that I have received confirmation of some of the things that happened. I just end up saying, "Yeah."

How did you "see" it? Did you at some point just decide to believe your T's (or someone else's) perspective over your own? Did you integrate the other person's perspective with yours? Did it take a while?
 

prynne

Confident
It did take a while. I still go back and forth between believing and not believing that some of the things that have happened to me are abusive. I remember starting by just being willing to hypothetically consider that it was abuse.

It helps me to see that my experiences fit literal, clinical definitions of/examples of emotional/sexual abuse. I can believe okay, at least according to this definition it was abuse. It helps to hear stories of similar things happening to other children/adults because I will think man that is horrible and abusive. So if what happened to them was abuse, and almost the same exact thing happened to me, why wasn't it abuse when it happened to me? "Because I deserved it. Because I was born evil and I was being punished". These types of thoughts are easier for me to recognize as unreasonable than just "it wasn't abuse".

It also helped to be exposed to normal and healthy family/relationship dynamics. When I see how good those relationships are for some people, firsthand or in the media, I realize how much I was missing out on. It is painful but powerful to see how things should have been
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I still go back and forth.
I think, for me, it came from building up a sense of self. And by that I mean, learning about my feelings, learning that my feelings are valid, thinking about how I treat people and how I want to be treated and how I was treated then.
I have told my T things and then after working through and building up my sense of self, I have re told those events to T from my perspective. Not the emotionally numb, unable to see this as abuse or whatever position, but one where I exploring it more.

Can you think about if someone else experienced what you experienced, would you say what T is saying to you, to them?
 

Sideways

Moderator
It's still a work in progress. And it may never fully reconcile as all bad in my mind. I don't know if that's avoidance (it sounds a lot like it), or just part of coping.

When I first sought 'help' because it was clear that I wasn't okay, ptsd wasn't on the radar at all. Because if you asked me? I had a "pretty normal happy childhood". That was part denial, part truth - it was normal as far as I could tell.

Today? I can relocate into a fairly rational part of my head, where emotions aren't really registering, and see what happened to me as qualifying for the 'abuse' label reasonably easily.

But most of the time? It still doesn't register unless I'm specifically shifting into that 'therapy' headspace. I don't know if you know what I mean, but at intervals, it'll hit me like a tonne of bricks - that was fawking awful - and yeah. I usually break down.

That always passes. It has to. Because I can't carry around the huge awfulness and function at the same time. I deal with it a but better each time, but I doubt it will ever stop being horrific when I have those moments.

It took me a long time to get to having those moments. Because I started from "it's normal and happy". Several years I'd say. There was a long time of "nothing to see here". I didn't trust my therapists, I didn't trust myself, and I was profoundly depressed. So I wasn't ready.

For me, a lot of my mental shift to acceptance of it being abuse, and that being the truth (even though it's still patchy!) came when I stopped working on it all the time. I worked on my relationship with myself, and the world. And that was immensely helpful to understanding my past more realistically.

Sadly, reporting it also helped. It was an awful process, and I can't honestly say I'd recommend it. But if I'm completely honest, that helped a lot. I decided to behave like it was true. I had to walk in and take up all those valuable police hours like only an abuse victim deserved. That changed a lot of things, but particularly how I now "see" things.

And despite all that? When most people ask, my first internal thought is usually still "I had a normal childhood". I leave the 'happy' out, because it's confusing. But that's as close as I am 90% of the time.

Sorry that reply was all over the shop, but I was working through multiple parts of my own shit. Hopefully something in there makes sense, but I doubt much of it does.
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
A series of unfortunate events, my mom and I had this big fight so I was refusing to talk to her. A month later my main abuser died which sent my brain into flashback mode. Now this memory reel included going to the police and telling my mom what happened, she believed me but just wanted it gone. 20 years later it resurfacing while I wasn’t talking to her, nor living with her allowed me to see things as they are rather than how I wish they were. I also think the isolation of the pandemic helped fuel the fire.

Being able to accept my parents abuse and neglect (yep hard to say, my mind balked at the thought of it) allows the space to consider the CSA as abuse. Some days the past way of thinking wins- I had a great childhood. Sometimes reality shows itself.

Does your struggle to accept stem at all from the benefits of your childhood?

For instance I am a great cook and baker, but the reason is because I started young, 8 in fact, making dinner. By 10 I was making things better than my mom, I have an extraordinary nose so nuances of flavor stick out. When I was 12 and got to take foods and nutrition in school I absorbed the material like a hungry sponge. Soon I was the dessert maker, I was cooking dinner most nights. But I did these things because it was the only way I received attention. I’m very independent and great with money because there was no option B. These are great adult skills but children should get a childhood. I was too busy trying to please the adults in my world which is why I was an easy target for the sexual abuse that occurred outside my immediate family.

Yes I struggle to see the abuse for what it was, it’s a work in progress but 6 months not really talking to my family while in crisis allowed me to see it more easily. In crisis I should’ve been able to get support from my family and yet I knew the opposite would be true, my crisis would become my moms crisis as she attempted to manage me and get me to stop thinking about it, not talk about it, get over it. The intense shame I feel would be amplified to an unbearable level and I would resort to Im fine, it’s fine.

Is there a part you can easily see as abuse? Like the stuff with your brother and just sit with that knowledge? Seems to me that seeing one part of the abuse for what it was has allowed the other parts to be more possible. Welts from a beating is not discipline it’s abuse. Being so afraid to step out of line is not discipline, is not discipline. Seeing these parts allowed the neglect to be true which allowed the sexual abuse to happen because I needed love somewhere.

Sorry I know that was long winded, hopefully you find something useful. Good luck on your journey!
 

Livi

Learning
I appreciate this thread so much. For me, I remember not believing for a really long time. My T would use the word and I would shake my head, wrinkle my nose and tell him all the reasons he was wrong. Everyone's family is like this, surely? It was when I started to talking to trusted people outside that it helped - one friend in particular had the relationship with me where she would stop the conversations and say 'Erm, FYI - Not normal!'

One day this friend cried when I was talking and she told me she felt so sad by my story... I was so shocked to hear that. I started to think about conversations I have had in the past when you say something and people look at you slightly aghast... and you make the decision to ignore that and just change the subject instead and I realised I had been inadvertently disclosing for most my life.

I didn't so much as 'see it' one day, as it kind of slowly grew on me. When it was the right time, my T put a book in my hand and told me to read it. That was useful.

I remember not trusting him with it for a very very long time. Was he leading me to thinking something that wasn't true? Was he tricking me in someway to prove his point/make his money/keep a client? So I asked him, how do you know? And he told me "because you have been telling me!" He reminded me of all the things I had mentioned over a 12 month period. It was hard to argue with that and yet I was still stunned.

I have learnt that recovery and growth with PTSD is about slowly realising, uncovering and peeling layers of the onion, carefully and (for me) with support. I hope this helps.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
in my case, calling it abuse was a language shift. i started psychotherapy in 1972 and the word, "abuse" had yet to come into vogue for folks like me who were JPC. (just plain crazy) i didn't take note, but i believe that the word came into standard usage in the late 80's or 90's. i'm far from certain, but i think we called the behavior of my birth family, "shitty luck" in my therapy sessions.
 

ninja

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks, everyone.
It is taking me so long to respond these days.
I read, think on, and appreciate your posts.
Somewhat gradually, somewhat abruptly, my perspective is shifting a bit. It flickers. Sometimes I can see how aspects of it might be abusive, sometimes that understanding is so far away.
It helps to know I’m not alone in that.
 

Weemie

MyPTSD Pro
I've always known that I was abused. Like, I knew that I was raped because I knew that rape was sex without consent. I knew that it was rape because sex with kids is always rape. I knew that I was
beaten and waterboarded and electrocuted and screamed at
. People call those things abuse so I knew that I Was Abused. Saw it happen to other kids and I knew they were being abused.

My biggest issue was understanding that Being Abused is a big deal, emotionally. I still struggle with this one. So I was raped, so what. I didn't understand that I'd been trafficked. Now that I do I still don't understand why I should care, beyond the global awareness that millions of kids are trafficked and enslaved and I am not special, and we should care about all trafficked children.

I didn't understand that there is a specific international humanitarian legal context to the crimes that I committed as a child indoctrinated into armed violence, nor that it was a crime against me to have been forced to do this. I met other children in my program who more closely fit the popular awareness of these words and felt like it didn't apply to me. I wasn't from a developing country. I wasn't in a war. It's taken me a long time to understand that for all intents and purposes it was a war. It was a drug war, it was organized crime, it was mafia violence, it was war. It was just war between civilians.

I went years being unable to verbalize any part of that. I didn't understand that I'd been tortured, legally, because of the intersection of law enforcement who directly participated and the corruption in my city that prevented these people from being brought to justice. It was just "abuse." I made sense of it that I abused other people, so what goes around comes around. I
raped other people, so it wasn't a big deal that I was raped. I beat other people so it made sense that I was beaten
. The morality that I was taught was that there is no such thing as right and wrong. There's only such a thing as weak and strong, and the strongest person gets to do what they want first.

It didn't make sense to me that being forced to
rape others as a child is a form of rape against me. It didn't make sense to me that being forced to abuse others is a type of abuse against me. It didn't make sense to me that there was a linearity in the amount of times I was violent of my own recognizance and how much of that was deliberate conditioning and amphetamine usage introduced by the adults around me who should have taken care of me.

There are times that I still don't developmentally and emotionally grasp that, though I am getting better at talking about it openly. For most of my life this was just how life was. In life, people get abused. People who are big and strong and who have guns and knives use those weapons to get what they want and amuse themselves by hurting people.

So I learned that if I wanted something, or if someone disrespected me or my family, they would meet the end of my fist, and my gun, too. Having to put it into the context that actually, this is abusive. Actually, violence is wrong. Actually, there is a reason why we should not harm other human beings because it causes suffering and suffering is wrong. The suffering that I endured was wrong. And it was suffering, even though I didn't personally perceive it that way for decades.

A lot of this is due to my developmental diagnoses. I have inhibited RAD and my therapist has confirmed I very likely have ASPD. While I have empathy. ASPD is a description of behaviors. Not direct No Empathy diagnosis. It most often appears in prisons and among the criminal element. My PCL-R is 22, which is within the normal range for someone who has a criminal history and not psychopathic. RAD especially creates emotional stuntedness and disrupts your internal working model of relationships.

I had zero emotions, none. Almost schizoid-level until I hit my 20s. And even then that emotional awareness was very limited. I'd cry but have no sensations of sadness. I'd talk about being afraid but it was masking. I wasn't really afraid. It was just what I heard other people discuss in similar situations. I was trying to mimic how other human beings spoke. I honestly hadn't suffered that much because I didn't sensationally have those experiences.

It was very cognitive. I logically couldn't put it into perspective. I had a hard time being around others and making friends because I wasn't certain how to ethically do so, with the type of history that I have. Psilocybin changed a lot of that for me. Now I have gained access to real compassion. The first feeling I ever got back was remorse. I understood exactly why my behaviors were wrong. I know why harming people is wrong because I can feel the results of it.

Nevertheless to this day I will discuss experiences that are no big deal to me that evoke horrified expressions among others. During one therapy session I mentioned that
during a drug deal gone bad I got yanked in front of one of the men who had a gun pointed at him and told his adversary that if "he wanted to kill me, he'd better kill [Weemie] first." I was 8. I was laughing because "I was a short kid. Why wouldn't he have just shot the guy in the face? I don't get it." My therapist goes, that is f*ckED UP.

Now I can say that I was abused but I can also understand it. Mostly.
 
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ninja

MyPTSD Pro
That was part denial, part truth - it was normal as far as I could tell.
Yeah. I also definitely feel it is a confusing blend of both.
It took me a long time to get to having those moments. Because I started from "it's normal and happy". Several years I'd say. There was a long time of "nothing to see here". I didn't trust my therapists, I didn't trust myself, and I was profoundly depressed. So I wasn't ready.
It's definitely taken a while.. is taking a while... to be ready enough to see something different or feel something different.
It's taken a while to stabilize, which isn't so much fun to sit back and realize.
For me, a lot of my mental shift to acceptance of it being abuse, and that being the truth (even though it's still patchy!) came when I stopped working on it all the time. I worked on my relationship with myself, and the world. And that was immensely helpful to understanding my past more realistically.
Can I ask what working on your relationship with yourself and the world looked like?

For the past several years, I've had the sense that I need to work on building a life that "supports" me, if that even makes sense? My life is not set up for how I show up with T. I think I'm still working on accepting that how I show up with T is still "me" - just not a part of myself I'm accustomed to others seeing.
Sorry that reply was all over the shop, but I was working through multiple parts of my own shit. Hopefully something in there makes sense, but I doubt much of it does.
I spend most of my days all over the shop, so no apology necessary. It makes sense. Thank you!
 

MaplePancake

New Here
If seeing acts as abuse feels inaccurate to you, I wonder if you could start to see them as not ok or not acceptable? You do not have to answer this, but my theory is that if you have a poor sense of personal boundaries it is hard to see it when lines are crossed. If someone is rude to you (not abusive) do you make excuses for them? Do you have a hard time feeling irritated at them? If so, maybe boundaries are not well established for you.

I will also add that abuse / assault exists on a continuum . You do not need to have been raped to have been sexually abused. You do not need to have been beaten within an inch of your life to have been physically abused
 
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