Onward

Today marks one year since I ceased contact with my entire family of origin.

I wrote a blog post for the occassion at about 2:30am this morning. It had to be deleted – turned out it wasn’t the greatest idea to write after waking up from a grim dream. Plus, I’ve been struggling for a little while now. Two months ago I developed an abscess in the nape of my neck that had to be surgically removed. I was in agony from it (I’m unable to safely take any painkillers stronger than ibuprofen). I lost a lot of sleep around that time. The situation seemed to send my body out of whack – I developed a marked hormone imbalance which has since righted itself. Then I came down with a virus. And another… ended up in hospital again with my chronic medical condition flaring.

It’s been two months and my digestive system has all but shut down… each day is back to being a pretty difficult struggle with many symptom flares (though thankfully not as difficult as the situation was when I first became struck down by illness 6 years ago).

Add to the medical issues this looming ‘anniversary’, and I have not been coping well.

Coming up 8:30pm on this day, and I have some interesting news to share. I thought that today would probably be pretty awful for me. Expected to suffer a lot. Cry a lot. Pine a lot.

It hasn’t happened. Somehow, it feels as though as certain weight has been lifted. My head has cleared a bit. I’m not in denial… but I feel a strange kind of peace with relation to my family. A sense of gladly letting go.

My hands unclasp
You drift away
I smile
before turning,
Onward

I had no control over the family I was born into. Nothing I did or didn’t do could ever have changed reality; the family unit was dysfunctional, and as long as I stayed a part of it I will have borne the brunt of the abuse.

I did not ‘ask for’ nor ‘deserve’ the pain – the dysfunctional unit simply required me to fill the scapegoat role in order to preserve the majority… I functioned almost like the unit’s pressure valve.

When you think about it that way, it doesn’t even seem personal anymore.

I was part of an organism, a unit, that was unhealthy and floundering. The unit realised it could sacrifice a small part in order for the rest to get by ok. I just happened to be the ‘small part’.

The analogy makes sense to me as somebody with autonomic dysfunction – my body cannot maintain homeostasis, and so it constantly makes ‘choices’ about which functions to sacrifice/strain during any given moment in order to maintain other functions. For example, my body mostly opts these days to put strain on my heart by greatly speeding it up, instead of me losing consciousness whilst upright. Sure, I’m not able to function too well anyway due to cerebral hypoperfusion – but I’m awake, and functioning to an extent. I’m not out cold on the floor.
Does my heart take the choice to stress it, personally? It’s not personal – it’s merely about survival.

The survival instinct of my dysfunctional family of origin benefitted others whilst greatly stressing me. I let go of taking it personally. It was what it was, and I had no control over it.

What I do have influence over is the kind of person I aim to be, to become; the type of wife and mother I wish to be for my beloved husband and daughter… and the sort of friend I can be to myself. Such beautiful responsibilities — how blessed I am.

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The heavy weight

Living with PTSD is not easy. I tend to think I’ve got a handle on it for a while, before it unexpectedly rears it’s head again.

This weekend just gone I experienced an engulfing flashback. By engulfing, I mean I lost touch with the reality of space & time… it’s almost as though a fog descends over the here and now. I’m in a highly reactive (and defensive) state – my body acts as though the abuse is recurring. At one point I remember hearing the words ‘You are my ENEMY!’ roar out of my mouth before I launched myself at my husband.

My husband;

Not my father. Not his couple of friends who hurt me too.
Not my mother.
Not my boyfriend when I was a teen.
Neither of the two men who stalked me.
Not my sisters.

All those people either physically harmed me or else posed a genuine physical threat.
Most of them physically harmed me.

Words can’t express how demoralising it is to experience a flashback like this one. I am reduced to a worm; floored, screaming, begging – before lashing out violently (in ways not unlike those that hurt me) in order to defend myself against a mirage.

The reason I can relate at least part of what happened is because during a severe flashback like this one I sometimes have the experience of being beside myself. Slightly behind, and to the left of my body. Other times I just hear in darkness what is coming out of my own mouth. It’s like waking to the sounds of an attack outside your house in the middle of the night.

At one point I bawled my eyes out – so deeply deeply ashamed, humiliated, and feeling as though all my efforts to recover have come to naught. They mean nothing.

What if it’s true? What if my efforts have amounted to nothing? It’s all very noble to have good intent and to put in hard work to change – but if those efforts ultimately prove fruitless, what’s the point? How does it help me and the people around me whom I love?

Being who I am, I’m tempted to redouble my efforts – to study more, meditate more, work harder to heal myself; despite having noticed that I’m already starting to experience a kind of ‘recovery burnout’.

Are my expectations too high? They usually are. Perhaps I should just let the flashback go. It was what it was. I’ve apologised to the people I need to apologise to. The good news is that despite my desire to die on the weekend, it’s dissipated as my confusion has faded and I’ve come back to reality. So I don’t seem stuck with the obsessive suicidal ideation I experienced last year. Progress? Dare I think it.

In a few days it will have been one year since I cut contact with my mother, and therefore my entire family of origin by association. The potential significance of the proximity of this event with last weekend’s flashback episode is not lost on me. I was also given the ‘hard word’ (ok – a gentle instruction) by my Māori studies tutor that for this module I am required to write a bio of a member of my family of origin. A positive and uplifting bio. I wrote it near the end of last week. I had no choice but to lie, make things up. But there was genuine stuff in there too – really positive things my mother has done. Admittedly mostly for others outside the family – but I guess the writing process and reflection stirred up conflicting and painful feelings for me. Plus, I detest lying. I’ve mentioned that before right?

At the 1 year no contact anniversary, I’ve got a little note in my diary: “How is life different now?”.

The short answer I’d give today:

Life is different in so many ways. But in none of the ways that truly matter to me.

Expectations.

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Negative Grandiosity

Today I learned a great term: ‘Negative grandiosity’. It describes the situation whereby an individual thinks they’re so especially defective, or bad, or seperate, that they stand apart from everybody else on the planet as the only one who doesn’t deserve love and compassion. This truly is a kind of grandiose thinking. Why can we not be ordinary — an ordinary human being who will screw up, who will be hateful, who will disappoint themselves and others at times? Of course, in being human we also embody many wonderful qualities. It’s ok to be one of the pack; just a being – born human – doing what human beings do as they go through life. It is ridiculous to carry the expectation of perfection. It’s arrogant, in a sense, to even entertain the idea that we could ever be perfect.

Human.
Imperfect like everybody else.
Deserving of love and compassion, like everybody else.
Fine as you are.

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Abandon all hope of a better past

I need to give up my desire to shape history into something that it was not, and will never be. Each day I run down the path towards childhood, growing smaller with every bound. I go armed with my adult mind – my supposed wiles, my strategies. I tinker around in scenes of my childhood, seeking out certain rooms… I sneak up on people; jump from behind doors and yell ‘a-HA!’. I point accusingly. Sometimes I plead. Sometimes I threaten to tell.

But nothing changes. I return to myself, defeated every time.

It is dawning on me that my life is more important than this obsessive game of make-believe. There are things here, now, which matter. There is joy to experience that does not depend on me achieving the impossible.