Friday, October 17, 2014

Survival/Coping Mechanisms

I'm reading an amazing book right now. It's called Hush by Nicole Braddock Bromley. I'm only about half way through it but it's helped me understand my situation more. Brandon has been reading it too and I'm thankful for his support. Through her words he's able to understand the things I can't explain. The first chapter in I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through the book. I felt a bit of panic several times, and I'm sure I'll experience more. I also feel, I don't know, like I belong to a community of people who are struggling to get through life with this burden. Obviously I know I'm not the only person going through this, but it's almost never talked about. Even after the secret is out you keep things quiet and tucked away in the farthest corner of your mind. It's been crazy reading a book that so perfectly explains my thoughts. She's given statistics of abuse survivors and it's just disgusting how many people are hurt this way. So many people are lost and feel so lonely. It's hard to take the steps to a healthy life after abuse and I'm lucky I had a great counselor and lots of support through my teens. Brandon is so supportive and has never made me feel like I need to just get over it. I often think it's been so long since I've dealt with Drew that I shouldn't have my issues anymore. I ignored my pain because I was afraid of giving into the victim mentality. But I am a victim and I have to get comfortable with that fact otherwise I'll never move on! I was reading last night and this paragraph really stood out to me.

      "In order to survive the effects of abuse, they detach themselves from their intense feelings of hopelessness, anger, and shame, often through unhealthy coping mechanisms. But the problem is that you can't be selective in the process; you can't choose to shut yourself off from some feelings and not to others. When you detach yourself from the pain and hurt, you cut yourself off from joy and happiness as well."

I survived by completely shutting everything out. My mind just checked out when things would happen with Drew, and it'd check out when he was messing with my head and making me feel stupid for my emotions. You know when you catch yourself just staring into nothing and your mind is completely empty? It's similar to that. But, for me, a tidal wave of silent anger, sadness, guilt and frustration joins in with the emptiness. Does that make any sense? I have a point I'm trying to make but it's really difficult to put it into words. When Drew was abusing me I had to go to a place in my mind that was completely empty. Over time, that place was filled with the emotions that I had during the abuse. It turned into the place I go when I face a problem in a relationship. When Brandon and I have a disagreement, it doesn't matter what the topic is, I immediately go to that place and I just can't connect with him. It's gotten better over time, but it's still so hard. My coping mechanism was/is food. I was given anything I wanted. I could have any snack or meal whenever I wanted. I loved/hated food. I never felt good after eating, but while I ate I felt great. I started putting on weight in 1st grade. Kids told me all through elementary that I was fat and ugly. So I'd go home and eat. Food was my comfort. In 4th grade I started to get really depressed and I remember one day I just kept eating. By the end of the day I was sick and my mom took me to the hospital. She didn't know I'd been eating so much because I was super sneaky. When the xray came back showing I was constipated I was so embarrassed. I vowed to stop eating like that. A few days later I was back at it. It continued until I was 12ish. I stopped eating for the most part and exercised like crazy. But I always thought about food. If I caved and ate something I hated myself for not being able to resist and I'd go walk an extra two miles. I spent a few years with a small figure, but I never stopped struggling with food. To this day I have issues with it. I put all the weight and then some back on by my early 20's, had babies, then was too depressed to do anything about my weight. Last year at a women's retreat I shared with the ladies that I struggle with food. It was embarrassing to admit it. I know y'all see me, you know I'm not small. But I never wanted to talk about the struggle with food addiction because I hated acknowledging that I'm a big woman in front of people. I hid my addiction from Brandon too. It wasn't until last year that I told him about my struggle. We'd been together for 13 years but just didn't have the courage to tell him. A few months before I turned 30 I realized it was time to do something about my self confidence. So I asked my hair stylist if she'd lighten my hair. That was a big step. A few months later I pierced my nose. That was exhilarating! Then in May I was driving back from a camping trip with a new friend. We stopped at a hiking trail and went to check it out. Towards the end of the trail there was a pretty waterfall and we took individual pictures in front of it. When I looked at myself I was disgusted at what I saw. I was the heaviest I've ever been. And the first thing I wanted to do was check out of reality and eat my feelings. But seeing that picture made me mad. I hated what I'd done to myself. I had to do something about it. I didn't want to spend my 30's hating myself anymore. I didn't want to tell Brandon that I had nothing I liked about myself. I've told him so many times that I can't see what he sees in me. I knew he hated it when I would talk like that. But when you habitually tell yourself you're disgusting, you don't look like you should and nobody really thinks you're pretty so you should just eat whatever you want because there's no point in caring, you don't realize the damage you're doing to the people around you. With his encouragement I've slowly made changes. I still have my moments, but I've stopped giving into the self-hate. Since the beginning of June I've lost 30 lbs. I have a goal to lose 20 more by December. I was worried for a while that if I didn't reach that goal I'd revert back to old habits, but I know I won't. Taking the step to stop hating myself was hard. But it gave me the courage and strength to face my past and accept that I can have a brighter future. I no longer feel I have to keep silent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Self-loathing

Drew really confused me. He treated me nicely. He'd do things to keep me happy. He had me convinced that everyone else was out to harm me. He always had my best interest in mind. He said I could always talk to him about anything. He'd always be there for me. He bought me so many things. If I saw a commercial for a new toy and wanted it, we'd go straight to the store. Eventually he started to bribe me. Sometimes it was with toys or clothes, other times it was with food and treats. When I was a little older I knew without a doubt that what he was doing was wrong. I also knew I had no control over what he did. So I began demanding specific things. Bikes, roller blades, Barbie houses. Doing this made me feel like I had a little control. I hated that I'd get rewards for the abuse but I felt stuck in it and I got to a point where I had to accept that I wasn't able to stop him. I had two choices. I could either keep on going through abuse, just do what he said when he said to do it. Or I could make demands, fight, argue and try to control him the best I could. I tried fighting him off a few times. I learned quickly that it was a terrible idea. I couldn't win. He was obviously stronger than me and he'd get me pinned to the bed or the floor. Then he'd take longer with what he wanted to do. His usual activity was to reach orgasm then he'd leave me alone. But if I fought him he wouldn't stop until I did too. I'd argue with him and pick fights in hopes he'd be too mad to want me for anything. The result was the same. Forced into an orgasm. Like I said a few posts ago, I would fight the urge but he wouldn't let go of me until I did so I would give in. Being manipulated and controlled into an orgasm, at an age when you aren't even supposed to know what that is, is just awful. I was confused with the feelings I had. I absolutely hated it. I hated that he could do that to me. I hated that at times I wanted it. (I don't know why I feel so compelled to share this. This is horribly difficult and makes me feel nasty. But it's part of what I experienced so I have to talk about it.) Drew always said he'd convince me I wanted it. He'd show me that I liked the things he did to me. I can't express enough how much I hated the complete lack of control I had. Not being able to fight him off was bad enough. Not being able to stop myself from giving in has always tormented me. I remember one time after a long argument with him I admitted to it feeling good. I immediately regretted it. I wished I could take away all of the good feelings. As the abuse was happening I was scared and felt ashamed that my body was going to give in. Once I climaxed I felt disgusting, shameful and hated myself. I wish I could forget that admission. He was so pleased with himself. He was convinced I wanted it from him. And I was so confused because I hated the abuse and I wanted it to stop. I feel by admitting that it felt good just caused more abuse. For the most part I don't blame myself for what he did. But I blame myself for making it worse. I blame myself for giving him more reason to touch me. I can still see his stupid satisfied smile when I admitted it and I wish I could shoot him. I've always felt disgusting for how I physically responded to his touch. It's hard not to feel like I played a part in my abuse. I didn't want to like it. I didn't want to admit it to him. I didn't know how to tell him that while it felt good physically, it was tearing me apart in every other way. I never said anything about liking it again. And I always stayed still and quiet so he'd think it didn't affect me. But it often did and he always knew without me saying a word.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Rough Week

A week ago I had a complete breakdown. The kind where you sink into the floor and wish it would just absorb you. I wasn't thinking of killing myself, but I wouldn't have minded if I died. Anytime I was driving alone I'd think maybe this is the time I could be hit by a car running a red light. I needed to feel pain. Physical pain is what I wanted. I understand it really wouldn't have helped anything, but I felt like I needed that to distract me from the emotional turmoil. I wanted to stop existing. Fall into a coma and sleep the pain away. Brandon would ask me to talk to him, to tell him what I was feeling and thinking. There were no words to explain how I felt. For the first time in a very long time I was back at stage one. I couldn't deny the pain of the things that I went through. Years and years of barriers had been knocked down and I felt lost, lonely and afraid. I questioned everything. Why did it happen to me? Why did I keep the secret for so long? Why was I even born? How am I going to be a wife and mom through this? I couldn't understand why God let it all happen. The years before I told my secret I'd imagined what life would be like once Drew was out of the picture. I thought life would be so simple. In some ways it was. I didn't have to go to his house anymore, ride in his car or sit on his lap. I didn't have to practice passing my gum into his mouth with my tongue anymore and I could have privacy in the bathroom. But he was still on my mind all the time. I was sure he was going to show up somewhere. I was worried he'd come to my school and take me. I'd have flashbacks, feel dirty and I didn't want to talk to anyone about these things. So I began stuffing the memories. I'd put on a smile and fake it. After some time I felt like I'd moved on because I wasn't faking the smile anymore. Then something would happen and I'd have to stuff all over again. This has been the way it is. I'd stuff then lose control. Regain control and I'd coast along for months at a time then lose it yet again. I noticed each time stuffing was easier and I had more control over my feelings. I knew I couldn't go on like that forever, and I didn't want to. I wanted to share my story but I hadn't anticipated what it's done to me. I never thought I'd wish so hard to die, or wish I had an injury I could focus on. I hadn't considered how I would feel to no longer have the mask on. I can't fake my way through things anymore. As hard and scary as this is I know I'm taking the next step in healing. I'll always have my memories but by sharing them I feel like they don't have the control they once did. I've had so many people reach out to comfort me, support and encourage me. I've reached a few other victims and I'm so happy for that. Blogging is the hardest and most therapeutic thing I've done. I spent a week in misery. I know there are more rough weeks ahead. But the next time it gets really hard I'll remember that people are praying for me and I'm not as alone as I feel.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Feeling down

I'm having a hard time. I feel exposed and vulnerable. I worry about what people are thinking of me. I worry about hurting feelings as I go through this. It's difficult to continue on with this. I might take a break. I'm numb from pain, overwhelmingly sad and even though I have people supporting me I feel lost and lonely. I don't really know what else to say. I'm not trying to be dramatic. I just can't do anymore for right now and needed to share these feelings.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Body image

I remember one afternoon when I was 8 or so, Drew and I were sitting on my swing set. I got the nerve to ask him why he did the things he did to me. He sat there quietly for a minute. When he answered me it was in such a calm and normal way. It was like I asked him why the sky was blue or something. His answer was that I needed to learn how to treat a man, know all the ways to please him and I needed to be prepared for the things they'd want to do to me. Someday I'd get a boyfriend and I needed to be ready for them. If I didn't know how to do these things then no guy would want to keep me around. If I don't know how to please them, or anticipate their needs, then I have no use. He said I don't look like the type of girl boys want so I had to know these things. I asked him why he wanted to touch me like he did if I didn't look like the women in the pics and movies he showed me, but he had no answer. He told me that when I turned 16 he was going to take my virginity. It was his. I said maybe I'd have a boyfriend before I turned 16 and I'd lose it to him. That got him terrifyingly upset and he made me promise my virginity belonged to him. He'd been working a long time on preparing me for sex so he gets to have it first. And it's true. He had been working on getting me used to being penetrated. He didn't put it in too far because it hurt too much. I'd start to cry from the burning pain and I guess he'd take pity on me or something. He'd try every few months to put it all the way in. Out of fear of him getting more angry I said I promised, never intending to have it actually happen. He went on to taunt me about how much fun it will be. I'd have boobs by then and pubic hair. I'd look like a real woman. He'd talk about us having a baby together, or "teaching any children I had the lessons I was learning" if I got pregnant from someone he didn't approve of. I vowed to run away before I was 16 if he was still around. I'd never have a boyfriend and I swore off children. I struggled with my weight starting in 1st grade. I had epileptic seizures and I was on meds. I was told those kind of contributed to being chubby. But I know that the majority of it was from taking comfort from food. I didn't think about the thing it'd do to my body. I just knew that in that moment I had what I wanted and nothing else mattered. Drew would give me whatever I wanted and let me eat as much as I wanted. I weighed over 200 lbs by age 12 or 13. Even after Drew was out of my life I took comfort from food. But after I ate I immediately hated myself. I was fully addicted to food and needed it to feel calm. By age 13 or 14 I was fed up. I stopped eating as much as I could. I'd eat at dinner because my mom was watching, but I got away with hardly touching my plate. I began walking all over my neighborhood. As I got fitter I'd push myself harder. In less than a year I went from a size 22 to a size 10. I had developed my curves and boobs. I started to notice cars slowed down so guys could look at me. I started getting whistled and hollered at. For the first time I was receiving positive reactions to my appearance. I was thrilled! I know Drew was out of the picture, but his "lessons" had been taught and I had my impression of what men were like. So I continued barely eating and exercising for 2 hours a day. I gradually started wearing skimpier clothes and received more attention. All the things Drew taught me about my looks was true. Skinny body, show lots of skin and you have attention. I received that attention and ended up in compromising situation after compromising situation. I'll go into that another time. So here I am, 30 years old. I have more confidence than I did then but I still feel uncomfortable around men. Perhaps it has to do with how much weight I've put on over the last decade. I know Drew was a horrible person and that most men don't hate you if you don't look like a porn star, but I hated myself for not being skinny. I told Brandon often about how much I hated my body. There wasn't anything I liked about it. I was disgusting and I didn't know what he saw in me. He would tell me how sad it made him that I felt that way and wished I could see me how he did. I knew he was attracted to me, but I didn't see how he could handle looking at me. In my head I was disgusting. But at the end of May I was driving back from a camping trip with a new friend and we decided to stop for a small hike. There was a pretty waterfall and we took individual pictures in front of it. When I got home and saw it I couldn't believe what I was looking at. My body had become this lumpy glob of yuck and it was embarrassing. So I started working out, initially because I wanted to look a certain way. But my motivation has changed into I want to be healthy and not end up with diabetes. It runs in my family. My grandma had it and my mom was diagnosed with it in her late 30's or early 40's. I'm in the middle of a slump right now and it's hard to get out of it. But I'm trying. What's nice though, is that while I still struggle with wanting to look like something I never will, for the most part I feel like I've accepted my body and I don't hate it anymore. I'd just like to improve what I've got.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Acknowledging the pain

This last week has been rough. So many things were shared and forgotten memories remembered. Normally when I have a bad memory pop up I focus really hard on distracting myself. I couldn't handle thinking about any of it. I've had to acknowledge so many things and I'm left feeling numb, sad and insecure. I'm incredibly blessed by the encouragement though. So many people have messaged me, commented on my posts, sent friend requests just so they could tell me they're reading my blog, and today a friend from church gave me a hug and was so sweet. These are the things that get me through this. Thank you for all the love you are showing me. I couldn't do this without you. The hardest thing for me to distract myself from is this really awful dirty feeling. It's overwhelming. I feel nauseous and weak. The parts of my body that Drew touched are uncomfortable and make me wish I could remove them. I don't know what triggers it. It can overtake me in the middle of doing dishes, eating dinner, laughing at something stupid and during intimate moments. Not just with my husband but even while I'm hugging my kids. It's the same feeling I got when Drew was pinning me down until I reached orgasm. I feel gross, ugly, angry at my body for not giving in to him despite what my mind wanted and everything comes to a stop. Sometimes it passes quickly. Sometimes the feeling is so strong I have to just lay down and wait. It's the closest thing to a flashback I experience. When it happens all I can see is Drew using me. I don't know what it's going to take to get past this part. I don't know if I ever will. It's hands down the hardest thing to overcome for me. It strikes at random and drags me down. I absolutely hate it. It's such a lonely feeling because it's nearly impossible to convey just how sickening it feels. But blogging about it helps. Sharing these things with you help. I don't know how far these blogs are reaching. I know sharing my story has impacted a few others I know with similar stories. I hope it reaches men and women who need to read about someone that knows what it's like. When I learned that someone close to me went through a horrific childhood like mine I immediately took comfort knowing I wasn't alone. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, it means a lot to me.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

All about Grandma

I was 11 when my grandma died. I was devastated. I loved her so much. She was the cutest old lady. Half Chinese, half Hawaiian and she loved old southern gospel music. She'd sit in her recliner, turn on the Grand Ole Opry and sing along. I loved watching it with her. I remember her hugs and gross old lady kisses. She worked at Denny's on Main St and Drew would take me to see her for dinner. Her coworkers would sneak me extra fries or make me a root beer float. They were really sweet and always made me feel special. Grandma would give them a little smack for giving me so many extra things but always laughed it off. She had her Hawaiian accent despite living on the mainland for so long and I always envied it. I didn't like not being able to talk like her. I'd try but end up sounding like an idiot. Have you heard of pigeon English? If not, YouTube search it and listen. I love it. My grandma and Drew hardly argued in front of me so I assumed they had a great marriage. They'd joke around with each other and have a good time. I loved those moments. She baked and cooked a lot. If there was a cake in the oven she wouldn't let me in the kitchen because it needed silence while it was baking. I never understood that and thought she was being silly. Until one day when I didn't know she was baking and I went in the kitchen for a drink. I shut the cabinet loudly and she came running in, angrily checking on her cake. It had sunk in the middle and she was so mad at me. She yelled at me to get out of the kitchen. That's the only time I remember her getting upset with me. We spent a lot of time at home alone because Drew worked from the morning until 11pm. We'd stay up late so we could sit with him while he ate dinner. For a while I enjoyed the normalcy of it. I wanted it to be like that all the time. But after Drew finished eating it'd be time for bed. I had my own bedroom with a cute bed but I had to sleep in their room. My grandma had a twin size bed next to Drew's big bed. I'd sleep there with him. After we all tucked in I'd try to get to sleep before Drew started messing with me. Sometimes I'd fake being asleep but he'd get right up behind me and whisper in my ear that he knew I was awake. He'd slip off his underwear and rub on me until he was hard. When my grandma started snoring he'd make his move and demand silence. I stayed as quiet as I could or he'd put a pillow over my head. I never wanted my grandma to know what was going on because she didn't have the best health. I was worried knowing would make her more sick and Drew told me if anyone found out about what he was doing he'd have to leave for a long time then my grandma wouldn't have her meds, which would kill her. Her poor health eventually made her quit work. She ended up in dialysis. Sometimes I'd go sit with her while she was there because it she wanted company. She always talked about Jesus and how good He is, and she couldn't wait to get to heaven. It made me sad because it was getting obvious she didn't have much time left. So I made a promise to myself that I'd tell on Drew after she died. She ended up living for a bit longer than I thought she would, and her death caught me off guard. All I know is she died during surgery. I got to the hospital with Drew but didn't know the news yet. We walked up to the room she was in and my brother was standing outside the door. He pulled me into a hug and that's how I knew. She'd left the house for surgery her usual bubbly self and a few hours later was gone. I was so sad and felt some relief because now I didn't have to keep my secret any longer. I planned on waiting until her funeral was over and life to get back to normal before I said anything. But fear kept me from saying anything for a couple of months and in that time Drew hadn't touched me. I thought maybe he was done. So I didn't say anything.

It wasn't until I was 22 or 23 when I realized there was a chance my grandma knew. It was a painful thought so I forced myself to stop wondering. But now I have to accept that she in all likelihood knew. I can't imagine how she didn't. And I'm faced with accepting that under her sweet grandma exterior was a woman who had some reason to turn her head at the obvious abuse. When I was 5 I told my mom that "Papa and I have a secret". I didn't know about this until recently but when my mom went to confront her about it she told my mom to not believe me. If she said anything to the police Drew would kill himself. In the end I was too scared to tell CPS the truth and answer their questions so the abuse continued. I wish I could go back to me as a child and help her to be strong and have the courage to get it out.