Category Archives: self-healing

Letting Love In

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When I was pregnant with my first, I remember going to watch a movie and as I felt her move inside my body, a magical feeling surfaced, one that I had not felt for so many years. That feeling was love, and it scared me. So much so that I immediately felt pain and fear. And I pushed that euphoric feeling of love away. Since then, this has happened quite a few more times when I have looked at my children and husband.

This love bubble rises through my stomach and as soon as I feel its presence a sharp pang of fear and pain follows. Up until now, finding my voice in the aftermath of childhood abuse has been a focus. And now, at this stage of the healing I see a new goal. And that is allowing myself to feel love.

I understand why the love and pain co-exist. Children in abusive homes never blame their parent. Instead, abuse is internalised. It must be my fault: I’m not good enough, I’m not loveable, I am stupid, I am dumb. A child will always blame themselves. In this experience, any love felt toward the parent becomes toxic. Always trying to please, or in my case, playing along with twisted little narcissistic games that I was too young to fully understand.

I have been switched off from love, I believe, in an attempt to protect myself from imagined fear of abandonment. And now this no longer serves me. There are two precious kids that need me to be open to the experience of love. As much as it hurts, my mission is to let love in. To feel it, allow it to wash over me and through me.

To let that little tortured girl who exists in the cells of my body, know that she doesn’t need to be afraid anymore.

Spilt Milk

Screen Shot 2019-07-11 at 12.52.42 PMNo doubt you have heard of the saying “don’t cry over spilt milk”.

Now that I am a mother, this is something I have taken quite literally.  When food and drink spills and makes a mess, I don’t freak out or get angry or blame. I’m not so sure it would have been the same when I was growing up.

The other day, my daughter knocked me and I spilt a glass of water over the table, she and my other daughter laughed and made some comment about me being clumsy and helped me clean up. There was no fear, no worrisome looks my way. They are not scared of me.

It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside to know that whilst I am still battling my own internal triggers, that whilst I still struggle to remain calm and not be the parents I had growing up, my children are happy and joyful.

Not every moment is perfect, but this one certainly was.

 

 

Photo credit: Awaiting September 

Window of Experience: Adult Child with a Toxic Parent

What does narcissistic abuse from a parent look like when you’re an adult with your own family?

It’s so pervasive and unrelenting that it colours your entire reality, it can affect how you see yourself, relate to your husband, wife, children, friends and work colleagues. I was in this half reality for so long and did not even realise how affected I was until going no contact for a length of time. The more time that went by without seeing the toxic parent, the more I was able to see just how damaged my perception of reality was.

Let me explain, before seeing toxic parent, I would strategise and have a plan if certain behaviours were to occur. I was not to allow myself to get baited by her unrelenting comments that were usually highly critical, undermining, and essentially said to try and get a reaction from me in public (so that she could look like a victim). After being in the company of toxic parent, I would de-brief and cry most of the time because she was just so damn mean and dismissive. For days afterwards, my mood would be low, my general interactions with my husband and children would be affected. A week or two goes by, I feel better. Then it happens all over again with the next visit. This cycle of narcissistic abuse continued for years. It wasn’t until going no contact for 2 years now, that a veil has lifted.

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m happy all the time and completely healed, what I do have are better coping strategies with life in general, I understand self-care, being forgiving of myself and others more easily rather than hold grudges and negative energy. I can handle small obstacles and bumps along the way without over the top reactions, and if I do react, the moment passes quicker and I am able to press on with the day.

A toxic parent stunts your growth as an adult. After such a traumatic childhood filled with all kinds of abuse, I still had so much growing up to do even in my late 30’s! There’s still such a way to go, but I feel confident that I have the skills to continue living a good life, make good decisions and go on protecting my own children from this most toxic person I used to call Mom.

I do not advocate for no contact as the first port of call, each person’s journey is unique and their own. For some, clear boundaries and low contact can work. For other’s it doesn’t, and that was the case with me. Honestly, it wasn’t until I witnessed the same psychological games being played on my children that were played with me that I finally had enough. Not everyone can understand my decision and that’s because I won’t tell everyone all the details. There’s no point re-living this experience just to help someone else make sense of it. The more time that goes by where I remain no contact, I stand on firmer ground and become stronger emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

MIRACLE

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How can one describe a moment of true healing? One where your past behaviour did not dictate an action taken in the present. That is what happened today!

In a moment of feeling stressed and at tipping point emotionally, I reached for a trigger food that would have begun the beginning of a binge. And something happened, that has happened before, but this time the voice was LOUDER. A voice in my mind said “NO!…NO!…NO!”

I’ve heard this voice like a faint whisper in the past, but today the voice was LOUDER and STRONGER.

Today I listened to that voice. And I stopped.

Instead of binging, I had a cup of tea.

And I cried.

I sat with my feelings and felt the weight of the world.

I cried for myself, I cried for all the suffering I see in the news everyday, I cried for feeling like a bad person, a bad mother, a bad wife. I just allowed  myself to cry. I allowed these feelings to exist and did not run away from them. I felt the despair and grief and refused to let it dictate destructive behaviour.

Today I realised there can be no more running away from myself. I have to face this deep ball of sadness and despair that lives inside my body. I’m so tired of carrying it around with me everyday. Today, my inner voice, my true self, fought destructive behaviour and reminded me I am strong. And that I am healing.

 

 

Photo credit:Jose

 

 

 

 

A Shining Light

“Your love heart is not cracked anymore….I love you mummy”

Screen Shot 2018-06-10 at 9.29.43 AMWow! What a thing to hear on a sunny winter morning. My four year old said this to me as I was washing the dishes. What seems to be a regular morning of random conversation carries a much deeper meaning.

It is a morning I am not impatient, I am not rushed, I am not angry, I am not sad. This shining light on the path of healing affirms the effort and reflection practiced daily so that I can step away from effects of childhood trauma.

After my second child I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and went on anti-depressants. Two key things stand out as I reflect on this period of time;  intrusive thoughts and anger. Both of these were very distressing and led to one and a half years of anti-depressants. This morning is a sign post showing me how far I have come along the journey of healing. As I I think about these precious words, it brings a smile to my face, a warm feeling that I am on the right path. As I listen to my daughters playing, laughing and expressing joy, I am grateful to give them a better life than what I had growing up.

My love heart is not cracked anymore. Honesty and wisdom out of the mouth of a babe.

How did I get here?

One of the first things I have committed to is being able to REPAIR. This means saying “sorry” when I have done something wrong. In no way, is this a free pass to do whatever I want and then say sorry. It is quite the opposite, it is the awareness that I have done something wrong, saying sorry and reflecting on how NOT to make the same mistake again. That being said, when I do make mistakes I remind myself of the 80/20 rule, it is impossible to be perfect all the time, in fact it is unrealistic to teach our children that anyone can be perfect all the time, we all make mistakes. The lesson is HOW do I handle myself when that does happen. This been to repair, reflect, forgive myself and keep trying.

Another thing, and perhaps the most important from a child’s perspective is PLAY. Making the time to play. This is how children CONNECT with us. Their invitation “come play with me” is a child reaching out. In order to make this achievable I aim to dedicate anywhere between 10-20 minutes for a play at the end of the day.  The beauty of this is that as a parent, I don’t even need to do anything. I follow my child’s lead, watch what they are doing and join in. And on the weekends, we DANCE, I put some music on and we jump around the room, spin each other around and be SILLY!

BREATHE. During those moments I am triggered and past traumatic feelings present themselves I walk away and I breathe. I remind myself that the feelings are a product of my own trauma and are more an indication of my experience rather than anything my children are doing. Once back to a calmer place, then I can re-engage and deal with whatever the situation is. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that children are at different developmental stages, they can and will do things that are irrational, they will not know how to handle their BIG emotions. I am the adult, and I have the cognitive capacity to react appropriately. And this has been my mission for years now, heal from  my trauma so that the cycle of abuse stops with me.

And a lovely resource I’ve been following for some time is Aha! Parenting. You can find their website HERE. I’ve found it useful to sign up as many different parenting newsletters as possible so that I receive daily reminders and reflections to keep me on a steady path.

Last and not least, is my husband. I have been fortunate to marry a man who is intelligent and philosophical about life. He knows my deepest, darkest secrets and loves me anyway. He knows my stories of abuse and has allowed me space to heal. He is my confidant and biggest supporter in life. Whilst marriages are not always perfect, with each person bringing their own trauma, issues or what ever you would like to call it, one thing we do have is a commitment to make it work. Both of us have had very poor role models when it comes to love and marriage. The ironic part is that my dad, the one who was physically abusive has helped us through some of our biggest conflicts. My dad may have brought heartache into my life as a child but there’s an element of peace that has been found. For that I am also grateful.

photocredit: Jodie Dee

Boundaries

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On my journey of recovery from childhood abuse one of the steepest learning curves as an adult is learning BOUNDARIES.

This is something I still struggle with as I am a people pleaser. Always wanting to say yes, and never wanting to let anyone down. This kind of self-sacrificing approach no longer serves me in this life.

Yes, it was necessary as a child, for my very survival to be on high alert, tip-toeing around parents without any recognition or awareness of what my own needs might be.

Not. Any. More.

I am allowed to politely say no to people if I can not do what they are asking of me.

It. is. OK.

Practicing boundaries is something I will most likely continue to work on for some time yet. Visually, I am beginning to post look-outs on my boundaries, scouring the scene ahead, little protectors that put me first. And I mean this in the most un-egotistical way possible.

I believe, for anyone recovering from trauma, knowing your own boundaries and what your limits are, needs to be a part of that therapeutic journey.

Boundaries.

Yes Please. 

Car Accident

 

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The other day I was in a car accident with my children. The other driver slammed into us from behind, the car was a mess, I was a mess, but thankfully no one was hurt.

At the moment of the accident I was trying to find my way to an address which wouldn’t show up on my GPS for some reason. Traffic was heavy, the girls were shouting in the back, I was anxious, stressed and distracted. Then, suddenly a loud crash and the car lifted from behind.

As I pulled the car to the side of the road I felt as though I was going over the edge, as though I was hanging on by a thread. My daughters looked to me in this moment, in all the commotion and confusion they looked to me to make sense of this situation, to make sense of what we were all going through. My emotions were raw.

Something happened in that moment. Something that affirmed my own perception of who I am in my heart and in my soul.

Knowing in that moment that my daughters were fine, that I was fine, that we were still here together and with each other was enough for me. I was relieved and thankful everyone involved was ok.

It was only later that the real shock and wave of negative emotion started creeping over me like a dark shadow in the form of a memory from my past.

You see, when I was a young girl a similar incident happened to me with the mother driving the family car.  Only that time, there was no crash, no commotion, just what should have been the relief of a near miss. However, instead of relief at narrowly avoiding tragedy the mother used this moment to guilt and shame me into years of believing that I had distracted her while driving, claiming over and over that I had tried to kill us all. That I had somehow intended to have her, my younger brother and myself all fall victim to a horrible accident – simply by  carrying on the way children sometimes do in cars.

It was my younger brother who screamed out as the mother went to drive into an intersection. He became the angel of our salvation and for the years following I became the devil who tried to kill us all. She literally said “you tried to kill us” more times than I can remember.

Thinking back to that traumatic experience with the mother, and looking at how I myself handled my own car accident and my own children in that circumstance AFFIRMS for me that I am nothing like the mother. This experience, this baptism of fire, proved to me that I am different. That I am cut from a different cloth.

I once read ‘that which we fear we attract’

I no longer fear being like the mother.

Already, I feel more at peace with being a mum. These last few days since the car accident, I have sat with my daughters, admired them, drawn pictures and have felt so grateful to be able to give them the love I didn’t have growing up.

 

 

Photo Credit: Hurt Meatz

 

 

Blood Dripping

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When I was a pre-schooler, around the age of 4, I have this memory of being dressed in a ballet costume.  I am standing on my grandparents front porch crying and looking at the blood dripping down and along my hand.

You see, I am a nail biter. It’s something I began at a very young age, and are my first attempts at self-injury. Later in life, I would cut myself with razors and broken mirrors or glass. The scars are still visible.

In this particular memory, I have made a real mess of myself. I look at the Mother, crying and wanting her to wipe the blood away. She is holding a camera, taking photos of me, smiling and laughing. Telling me to pose for the photo. 

Over the years, when the Mother was allowed contact with my daughters and I witnessed this kind of inconsiderate behaviour around taking photographs, it would trigger me to either ask my step-dad to remove her phone or I would hide her phone myself. And it was never just one photo, it was 10 plus photos.

The Mother was constantly behind her camera forcing my daughters to pose, scrutinising their natural smiles with comments like “act normal”; “oh that’s too much of a smile” ;“don’t smile too much”; treating them as if they are little dancing monkeys, there for her own amusement at no matter what the cost. There was no regard for what their needs might actually be, which is usually just wanting to play with their toys.

I would see the shamed look cross their faces, their plastered fake smiles and lack of joy.  All the while, the Mother continually wanting more photos. I feel so much guilt at allowing these kinds of toxic interactions into their precious world.

I’ve often thought that the ‘buck stops here’ when it comes to having my own children. So far, i’ve been No Contact for 10 months and I must keep reminding myself why this is so important. As time goes by, it’s easy to forget why I am No Contact and this natural forgetting is perhaps one of those inbuilt survival mechanisms of trauma that has allowed the mother continued access into my life after no contact periods.

I am not forgetting this time. This time the stakes are too high, I only get ONE chance to give my daughters the best chance at a happy, fulfilled life. Narcissistic parents go on to traumatise their grandchildren. This is fact. Everyone is narcissistic supply.

In 1975, Ghosts in the Nursery was published by Fraiberg et al., The authors conceptualise ‘ghosts’ as unresolved inter-generational trauma referring to these ghosts as ‘intruders from the past’ (p.388). The authors touch on the fact that traumatised children of narcissistic parents do not always go on to traumatise their own children. That these grown children seek help from professionals, identifying the ghosts and banishing them from the nursery.

This is ME. 

Not only are these ghosts banished. They are banished along with the Narc Mother who brought the ghosts into my life. The Mother is not aware of the ghosts that walk with her.

I am aware. The reality is all too real. There is no more pretending. In my grief journey of mourning the mother, I am finally at the stage of ACCEPTANCE.

I am FREE.

Physically free. I do not see her. The emotional anguish I experience daily at trying to NOT be like her is the legacy I am left with. Constant self-reflection, constant monitoring of my emotional reactions. This is the legacy of childhood abuse.

A good example of this is when my daughter stood up from the couch, stumbled and fell. The thoughts in my head were the mother “ha ha you’re so clumsy” “you’re so accident prone silly girl” “get up and stop crying”.

In the midst of hearing those things that were said to me as a child, I scooped my daughter up and gave her a hug, rubbing the spot where she hurt herself on the corner of the table. I told her she was ok and our day continued happily. The abuse cycle stops with me. 

The mother’s name-calling, snide remarks and meanness became my inner voice for a long time. I feel as though I am healing from this and am able to recognise when this happens. I allow those internalised comments to slide away because I know I am not stupid, I am not an idiot, I am not accident prone, I am not a bitch.

I am so many different wonderful things that she will never, ever know. She is not capable of knowing who I am because that would involve seeing me as an individual person who is different to her. And in her eyes I will never be enough. I now ACCEPT this without it affecting my self-esteem. This is an amazing feeling. 

Although there is still a long way to go in my path of recovery, I am allowing myself to enjoy this moment. This is what HEALING feels like. 

 

photo credit: Loren Schmidt

 

 

A 180° Turn

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 1.38.01 AM.pngAs of this last week, my story of healing has taken a large step in the opposite direction. Unfortunately these maladaptive ways of dealing with my feelings and thoughts has reared its head again. In the lead up to attending a mediation assessment at the request of the Mother, I am overwhelmed and unsure of what the future holds. I am having catastrophic thoughts of ending up in family court and her wanting to see my children. I keep thinking how am I going to protect my children from such a toxic person if a judge thinks she has rights.

I wonder if all the emotional abuse in childhood, as well as adulthood has any weight in the eyes of the law? So many questions and no clear answer has resulted in me stuffing my thoughts away with food. I know I’m attempting some kind of escape but can’t stop. Sometimes when I’m driving alone, I put the music in the car so loud to drown out all these awful thoughts about how my life would look with the Mother in it. It’s unbearable. It’s the ‘not knowing’ part that really gets to me.

So far, I’m doing everything in my power to create a different life for my girls, one where they are not abused, they are not toyed with, manipulated and used as a weapon for another’s gain. I have happy little girls who get to be who they want to be. They are accepted for all their quirks and cheeky antics, they have firm and reasonable boundaries that don’t change according to a parents mood. Without the stress of the Mother my girls have a Mum who is happier. Right now, thinking about some end point where I am in court having to deal with the Mother and all her manipulations makes me worry and loose touch with the present moment of all the joy that’s right in front of me.

How do I put these thoughts aside in a way that isn’t destructive to myself? Am I supposed to breathe them away? Distract with exercise? How do I make the worry stop?

Right now, much like the photograph attached to this post, I am in free fall. Falling down with no end in sight, how on earth do I float back up? I want to be able to rise above, in spite of what is happening that is beyond my control. Perhaps writing this post tonight can be my first step back towards the light and away from this dark patch.

 

 

Photo Credit: Sebas Oz