“Real Heroism comes from having the courage to openly acknowledge one’s experiences, not from suppressing or denying them.” – Peter A. Levine Waking the Tiger
Brene Brown writes something similar about shame. Many self-help authors and trauma specialists say the same thing to survivors. Keeping the secrets means letting the abusers have power over us. Sharing the truths, acknowledging what was experienced with compassionate and accepting supports, puts the power back in survivor’s hands.
It took me a long time to believe this. Some parts of me still do not believe.
But now I do believe. And many of my parts do too. The rest are skeptical and heading toward belief.
This is part of the reason my first family shunned me. I spoke out about what was done to me. I faced the truths and held the people who hurt me explicitly and implicitly responsible. And I tried to talk to them about it. Until I realized that nothing I said or did would change their attitudes and treatment of me (unless you consider behaving worse a change).
Considering my role as the family scapegoat and the subjects I brought up, parts of me can understand why the family members circled around the egg and sperm donors (mom and dad to everyone else) and supported them instead of me. The ones who wanted to support me also told me to just get over it; to deal with it and move on. My “crazy reactions” and “strange behaviors” disgusted and embarrassed them.
And to the cousins and others who saw me as a role model, my obedience and flexibility (i.e. letting them walk all over me) disgusted and angered them. They didn’t want anything to do with me either. Of course, the obedience and flexibility were illusions that I used to survive family events. And when I did show my true colors, I got shunned and put down in obvious and intimidating (to them) ways.
The egg donor set these traps often towards the end of my time with them to show me that I would never have family support against her. The sperm donor and younger sibling did the same thing by ignoring my requests, stealing my ideas, and perpetuating the belief that I am an unreliable liar.
I got the message.
And then sent one of my own by leaving.
“Most modern cultures, including ours, fall victim to the prevailing attitude that strength means endurance; that it is somehow heroic to be able to carry on regardless of the severity of our symptoms.” – Peter A. Levine Waking the Tiger
When I first started remembering, I was a junior in high school. It felt like a dam burst inside of me after my aunt died. Or maybe a volcano erupting is more accurate. Either way, a monster was freed. An angry, raging monster that took over and caused wild mood swings with random bursts of violence.
The verbal violence and emotional violence was triggered and used against everyone including myself. But the physical violence was only used against my body unless I was triggered into dissociation. Then I blacked out, not remembering anything that happened during the time I raged. A lot of people got mad at me for raging against them; they thought the level of anger and what I said to them was insulting and unwarranted.
Especially my cousins and relatives because they weren’t used to me fighting back. So to punish me for doing that, they pretended I didn’t exist and expected me to grovel and beg them for attention and approval. But I stopped doing that after my last years in college. Some part of me understood that those rages did two things:
- Told me who actually supported me and accepted me without reservation – respect and direct communication would have resolved many of the hurts
- Protected those same people by keeping them away from me when I was a target for more abuse by people outside of the family; I was beyond the ideal age of the egg donor and her circle, but my cousins weren’t
Maybe the reaction were warranted, maybe not. All we know is that those reactions kept us safe in an unsafe environment.
The first two therapists and almost anyone who I tried to share my secrets with back at the beginning told me the same thing: get over it. Move on. It didn’t really happen. Accept that you’re crazy and useless and stupid. You are what your mother and father made you. And you will never get better.
Sounds a lot like what the second quote asserts, yes?
Maybe that’s why my parts and I are still searching for answers.
Psychotherapy with my current therapist combined with lessons from previous mental health providers have helped me work through the worst of my emotional and mental symptoms. My parts and I can manage those mostly on our own now. But the psychotherapy does not help so much with the body memories and physical symptoms.