Sufferer I didn't have a childhood - cptsd - childhood trauma, csa, cult

Status
Not open for further replies.

luc

New Here
Hi.

I'm around twenty. I'm a student. I've been diagnosed with CPTSD for a couple years. It's been a bumpy ride. When I have my normal support system, I'm stable. Almost normal. When I don't, I have to work twice as hard to be half as healthy. Right now, I don't have my normal support system.

The background of my trauma isn't something that I've shared with a lot of people in depth, either in the sense of telling them about it or in the sense of knowing others who have had comparable experiences. This is going to be long, and this is the short version, so please bear with me. It's an unpleasant story. I hope I've skimmed where appropriate so as not to cause anyone pain in reading this.

I was essentially raised by a kind of one-person cult: my mom. She subjected me to emotional, physical, and sexual violence that ranged from very subtle and insidious methods to much more... extreme ones.
I'm not going to delve into the more lurid instances of abuse. I just want to cover the ones that have conditioned me to this very day. She brainwashed me in ways I'm still just beginning to be aware of. Because she was a fundie Baptist, and what some would today call a neo-Nazi, she homeschooled me. For the first twelve years of my life, social contact with anyone my age was limited to select monthly playdates with my friends. My dad was constantly working, and I still can't say how much of his lack of interference was due to her abuse, or to external factors, and how much to his own neglect. Furthermore, my media consumption was highly controlled: I wasn't allowed to have my own music, I could only watch the movies or shows that we owned on VHS/DVD, I wasn't allowed to touch computers, and she closely monitored which books I was reading, always making sure I was interpreting them in the "right" ways. I grew up isolated from my peers, and from the culture around me as a whole, except if she chose to teach me something about it. Certain political buzz-phrases still give me... certain gut reactions, positive or negative, even if I strongly hold an opposing view now to what my mom taught me. The conditioning was intense.

I didn't have a childhood. She expected me to be her perfect kid (so she could live vicariously through me), her best friend (she was socially paranoid, not to mention a generally abrasive person, which led to isolation among her own peers), and her therapist, and some sort of "eromenos" to her "erastes", and the list goes on. She was totally dependent on her idea of me, but she had all the power.

When I was fourteen, she started letting me have a little bit of independence, comparatively speaking -- she would let me go to (take me to and sit in the room with me during) a local youth community service club, she would send me to the occasional summer day camp, but at that point social exposure just served to brainwash me further. In the eyes of my peers, I was a freak, and no one made any bones about excluding or insulting me. I eventually found two other freaks who would tolerate me, and for the first time I had friends. Not that I, as a friend, deserved them -- I was argumentative and aggressive on good days, incoherent and hateful and detached on others, and downright manipulative on the worst. Then again, I never really had a chance. I regret my behavior, but I can't beat myself up over it. I started being allowed to use computers, but my mom was watching over my shoulder whenever that happened. Another major change was puberty, when I started having weird feelings -- not normal puberty weirdness, but daily dissociation whenever I became aware of my body. I would later find out that this was a symptom of gender dysphoria.

As high school progressed, she put more and more pressure on me to do the things she never got to (I guess). In a year, I went from minimal social contact to a full extracurricular schedule. By senior year, I was sixteen. Between home study and dual enrollment (because I had then developed a fixation on college as my only viable escape route, not that I ever would have said that, because I was living the lie so hard that it was almost true), on top of college applications, I've crunched the numbers, and between those commitments, two semi-professional bands, and an internship, I was doing the time-commitment equivalent of a full undergraduate course load + a full time job. I barely slept that year. On the upside, I also had my driver's license (thank god). For the first time, I could control my environment, even if only for ten or twenty minutes at a time; I could even occasionally visit or meet friends (no, no more of those had come around, I still only had the two -- but I'm proud to say that I had become a much better friend, at least performatively, even if I didn't know how to connect with them deeply).

Aside from the sheer workload, senior year of high school was a turning point for me in two ways. One, I had learned how to fake social engagement. I'm pretty sure I came off somewhat fake and robotic, but I wasn't an embarrassment anymore, and hey, living a lie was natural to me at this point. Two, actually being exposed to normal social interactions began to force me to face the wrongs I was always hiding from at home. Between this and stress, and let's not forget my burgeoning gender dysphoria, the CPTSD symptoms became unignorable. I essentially dissociated for the entire year. I barely slept -- couldn't sleep -- and when I did, I would invariably have sleep paralysis. Psychotic symptoms became normal: I would keep a mental bingo sheet to see if I could get all five kinds of hallucinations in a day (gustatory, olfactory, tactile, auditory, and visual). I had panic attacks on a weekly basis or more. I was also engaged in an extremely physically demanding extracurricular, to the point where even if I ate everything I could manage, I physically could not gain weight. I was constantly emotionally numb, and started self-harming in subtle ways. And yet, even though my subconscious was screaming at me to realize what was wrong with my life, I couldn't admit to myself that my mom was the reason for this. Honestly, sheer terror was the only thing that kept me out of involuntary inpatient that year. I was simply too scared of being powerless when I was so close to being out of there.

Finally, I made it to undergraduate, got out of the state, and two really good things happened. I got to devote myself to a field that I really love, and my mother died of natural causes in my freshman year. The emotional impact of the funeral was a blip on my radar -- and I can never say this publicly, because I have to play the part of the loving child while my dad's still around (though after he dies, I suppose I could say something; my extended family has already disowned me for being transgender anyway), but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I'm recovering, I really am, but I'm trying to make the most out of life at the same time. Dealing with the self-destructive tendencies I have as a result of my "childhood" is difficult at best, and I always feel like I'm working twice as hard to make it half as far. Likewise, it's hard for me to find fulfillment in relationships. I'm bad, really bad, at empathizing with people, even ones I care about deeply. The upshot to that is that I've worked twice as hard to be good at sympathizing with people, and now I can definitely say I'm a good friend. I enjoy caring for my friends, but I always worry that I'm doing it for the wrong reason -- do I just want a distraction from my own problems? Am I still playing by the rules of conditional love, do I think that I'm indebting them to me? And the obvious flip-side is that I'm really bad at letting my friends care for me in ways that are meaningful to me (instead of being more performatively-based acts of caring), even when I know they want to help me.

In the end, I've spent the majority of my life in my own personal hell. I'm trying to climb out. And that's really hard to do when no one else seems to understand what kind of struggle goes into having to assimilate into a culture you supposedly grew up in over the course of half a decade. In some ways, I have a very strong sense of identity, but in others I feel like a changeling.

If you've had a similar experience, whether you were denied a childhood by a cult, a family member, something else, or somewhere in between, please talk to me. I want to be a good person, and I want to feel like I am a person. I'm overseas and struggling and I don't want to feel so alone.
 

Fadeaway

MyPTSD Pro
I can relate to a lot of what you said, just not to some the extremes you had and only from 5-13. The isolation part, that I can relate too. I think in theory my grandmother wanted to be like your mother but at the same time, it was to much work for her to pay attention to what I was doing. Were you an only child by any chance? Learning to socially interact after isolation is hard. I actually fell back on it in my mid 20's as a coping tool despite how much I hated it as a child. Learning social skills as an adult sucks.
 

Miles2go

New Here
A very sad tale indeed. My upbringing was not as severe as yours but I can identify with much of it. Not believing I'm a good friend/person, feeling unworthy to accept the kindness of another, feeling that I suck at my job even though I show better productivity numbers, and ambivalence about the passing of a parent.

When my step step father passed I got the call in the early AM from a neighbor, because I'd gone no-contact with the parents, and I just said "thanks" and went back to sleep. I saw no reason to attend the ceremonies just to save the feelings of my "mother" because she'd watched her husband destroy me on a daily basis and done nothing. At times she'd use me a a human shield, to soak up the mental/physical abuse that might come her way otherwise.

I just joined this forum this morning. It's a sad thing that we're both here - but a good thing also, to keep us focused on continuous self improvement. One thing you have on your side, it that you recognized at such an early age that you needed/wanted to make positive changes - and didn't wait, like me, until your early 50's

I wish you all the best.
 

Xena

Policy Enforcement
I'm so sorry you had to endure that hell.
My mum has borderline personality disorder and wasn't a good parent. Very abusive.

I think for me I got help went to a therapist.. Read alot about my mum's mental health condition... And over time.... Got better.
Do you think your mum was mentally ill?... Your gender dysphoria.. Are u getting support?
 

luc

New Here
I can relate to a lot of what you said, just not to some the extremes you had and only from 5-13. The...
Yeah, integration into society has been stressful. Honestly, I think the most taxing thing specifically has been having to go through fifty different levels of appalled intrigue over stupid things like not knowing having seen classic movies, or heard famous songs, or experienced firsthand important political events, because a lot of acquaintances tend to assume that my ignorance is due to my being a boring person, or is indicative of the local culture I should have grown up in. Saying that I had a "sheltered childhood" to someone I don't know well helps me avoid having to mention explicit trauma (which is generally either viewed as attention-seeking or as invasive oversharing, and makes me feel like a zoo exhibit), but on the other hand it seems to give people the impression that I lack serious life experience, which isn't fun either. I'm at a loss for appropriate ways to communicate the cause for having to constantly play cultural catch-up.
 

luc

New Here
A very sad tale indeed. My upbringing was not as severe as yours but I can identify with much of it....
Hey, I'm glad you replied. Having to arrange an abuser's funeral is pretty stressful and emotionally confusing, and I'm happy that you opted out of attending your step father's funeral. It also makes it a lot easier to reach out to people who knew you, but not about the trauma, if you don't attend the funeral, because having to grieve performatively seems to really undercut people's willingness to believe you about your past (and if a survivor did still have legitimate love and grief for the person, well, that makes it even worse, cause you can't love someone who ruined your life, right? haha). That sounds like it was a good call. And right back at you -- it's good to be here and to be trying to make good changes.
 

luc

New Here
I'm so sorry you had to endure that hell.
My mum has borderline personality disorder and wasn't a good pa...
Same to you -- I'm sorry to hear about the negative effect your mom had on your childhood. But at the same time, it's really encouraging to hear that you've been able to use therapy to improve. Thanks for talking to me about it. : )

I've gotta say, therapy has been an on-and-off resource for me. Because of transportation and financial issues, I haven't been able to go to therapy as regularly as I'd like -- usually in chunks of regularity that last for a month or three, but I'm rather transient due to the nature of my academic career/chosen field. Another major problem is that I have a very, very deep-seated instinct that therapists are a major threat to my autonomy. Maybe it's the nature of emotional disclosure involved, maybe it's the commercialized aspect, maybe it's because needing therapy marks me as a liability to employers and schools. It's the kind of problem that, ironically, I'd need therapy to address most effectively, and I'm kind of at a loss on how to get past it.

I'm certain my mom was mentally ill -- I definitely saw effects reminiscent of bipolar II, her own CPTSD, and possibly STPD in her. She was never diagnosed with anything aside from unsuccessful 1980s medication for depression. She definitely loved me, but she was too messed up to ever have a shot at raising me properly. I do have a brother who is twice my age, but the circumstances of his upbringing were very different -- she was a lot less of a zealot, he got to go to school, and she was working when he was younger. His life currently consists of funding a gun collection and substance abuse habits with an extremely stressful factory job. He's still in deep denial over anything he experienced, and has shut down any attempts I've made to reach out to him.

I'm definitely getting support for gender dysphoria -- while transitioning isn't accepted by a lot of people, a lot of other LGBTQ people also understand and accept it very well. The transgender community is overall very supportive, and I've been able to begin the physical transition process as well as the social transition process (i.e., coming out), which has helped a lot. It's a lot easier to deal with everyday discrimination when you have everyday solidarity. Dysphoria-fueled dissociation is maybe a monthly occurrence, and psychotic effects are completely gone, so I'm out of the woods in some sense (thank god!), but I'm realizing that the process of improvement can't end there.
The only major negative impact brought by transitioning has been the background of pressure to be a perfect representative of trans people. I've already got one "strike" against me, so I better have perfect academics, great style/ability to "pass", insightful political engagement, constant eagerness to educate people.... don't get me wrong, I'm motivated to engage with people as a representative of the trans community, but I don't want to feel that extra judgment on the days when I get a bad grade or I haven't showered or I don't have the energy to "pass" as well as I can. I still feel more like a real person, if that makes sense, than I did before I came out, but between the stress of being a minority representative and my painfully obvious emotional bonding issues, I feel like I'm not connecting like a real person a lot of the time.
 

Xena

Policy Enforcement
Im glad ur getting support from the lgbt community.. I myself I'm a lesbian and very proud to be one.

When I realised my mum was mentally ill it didn't take away the pain hurt, humiliation... But it explained stuff. Now I'm not saying that should make it easier... It just made sense.

There are many Free support groups... I'm sure the lgbt centre may be able to assist with mental health stuff.

This is a good place.. With lots of supportive people..... Take care
 
Last edited by a moderator:
I feel you. I had your typical religious nutcase, overprotective parents. My upbringing was similar in ways though not as bad and had no sexual violence from my parents, and I had the positives of having two siblings. I was homeschooled straight through and my family don't talk to a soul, not even coworkers or neighbours and we have no extended family in Australia. For religious nutcases, they don't even go to church. I basically grew up without talking to a soul outside my immediate family until I turned 17 and went to University. I wasn't allowed to leave my backyard until I was 16. Even then I had a little radius and wasn't allowed out for more than an hour at a time.

When you talk about cultural catchup it made me cry - I've tried to explain the feeling of growing up in a culture that you know nothing about so many times, but they never get it. I still haven't found a one word explanation for my childhood. I was banned from music (anything with a beat was from the devil himself), radio and was only allowed to watch some kids TV things. Lion King is the only thing I recall and I wasn't allowed even Cinderella and such. I get the same thing about political buzzphrases - I still don't even know where I stand politically or religiously because I don't know which are my parents' thoughts and which are my own. It's like I just automatically make certain choices without knowing why - guess I never had a choice. It's like me doesn't exist, me is just the sum of my parents' influences.

I've even had people ask me why I didn't protest or ask to go to school, or ask me why I let myself be homeschooled. It still astounds me that people manage to blame me for this. I didn't even know my childhood was abnormal until about 10. By then, they had me so brainwashed and controlled that I didn't dare disobey. I couldn't even ask 'why' in a raised voice without getting the belt to the point where I couldn't sit. So I learnt to never express any anger and to roll over whenever someone wanted something. They had me so well trained and scared of hell and physical punishments, that even when they weren't home I wouldn't dare set foot outside of my backyard. That's been an incredible thing to get over.

My mum admitted to me that she is 'living through me' because dad won't let her live her life. I spent most of my life appeasing her becoming everything she wanted. I still don't know if the degree I picked was one I picked for myself or if that's the brainwashing. She refuses to admit to my problems adjusting to society being from anything she did wrong. I won't even get started on my dad. But yeah, it's a long road. I'm 24 and at University and still struggling with learning all the social and even other life skills that I don't know.

If you ever want to chat or vent or exchange stories, send me a message.
 

sara

New Here
Hi.

I'm around twenty. I'm a student. I've been diagnosed with CPTSD for a couple years. It's been a bump...

You are not alone. My heart is with you and I envisioned myself and my own trauma as I read your story. If I could reach out and hug you I would with your permission and remind you how wonderfully brave you are.

I revisited this site after being gone for several years. I am in my 60s and I too felt as if I had no childhood. for me it was neglect. The youngest of 8 by the time my older siblings were up and gone, it was if I did not exist. I was 7. I could have been kidnapped, run away for days before anyone would noticed. I grew up as a feral child. I had no structure, no routine, no direction for self care. I was left alone for days (2) and I lived EVERY SINGLE DAY in abject terror because I never knew what was going to happen to me. I never felt safe, cared for or as if I had the right to breathe air. I was emotionally, verbally, psychologically and sexually abused by family, school and teachers. I isolated my self because I was afraid of EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. I came close to disassociating several times. I had three benefits to my trials. 1. I got a good primary education despite being the one every one made fun of ( I learned to read and write well); 2. My family was highly critical of anything that crossed their paths - if you had an opinion you had to justify it. (this taught me critical thinking (who said something was so?); 3. I knew I was smart. Even from an early age. I would observe my family and think "something is not right here." School was excruciatingly painful but I excelled in several areas did OK in some and not so good in others. Anxiety was present every day. Over time I was diagnosed with ADHD (combined type) and later PTSD. I attempted suicide 1 x at 16. Had five children with my soul mate by age 26. At 32 I was in school where I excelled. My social skills sucked and I was a battered woman for nearly 8 years. I never received any support from any one in my family, and the only friends I had growing up were those who bullied me because they could. Today I struggle with isolation and the feeling I am lost in a world I do not understand. People are mean. I know enough to know I am psycho-socially impaired. I have the intellect of an educated woman, but react to certain life events as if I was 13. I have little or no trust in others, and I presume any friend of mine will eventually betray me. I am working on my social skills and MAKING myself engage with social events. It is terrifying. I look and act "normal" but re social interactions I feel myself zoning out and depersonalizing. It is a horrible way to live because the end result is 1. I feel safe when alone, but 2. I feel very lonely. I know enough o know all humans need human touch. I feel socially trapped and sad as I watch life pass me by without feeling the right to participate. I have learned many personal and social skills to make myself do those things I fear, but I am tired of living a fearful life. I too have CPTSD and am currently studying it in earnest. I am studying "the Body Keeps the Score," Waking the Tiger and the PTSB Workbook." TV has been my savior. PBS and other educational programs reminded me of my abilities, but I never really "felt" it inside. But this is getting better....I could write more and I may share more of the particulars in future posts. But I am tired right now so I will sign off for tonight. My heart is with you
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top