Ways I coped: Minimizing, Rationalizing, Denying, Forgetting, Leaving my Body, Control, Chaos, Being Super-Alert, Humor, Busyness, Self-Mutilation, Suicide Attempts, Eating Difficulties, Lying, Avoiding Intimacy, Religion and Sex.
Start time: 2:28 am, 3-26-07
I’m supposed to write about how I coped, how I’m still coping, how it’s affected me-with details and honoring what I did. I don’t see how that is possible, but I think I can swing it better than I did the inner child thing.
I have almost all of the ways the book talks about, so I listed them up top so I could get through them all. Somehow I think this will take longer than a half hour…
Minimizing: I minimize everything-less now than I did before, but still, a lot. My favorite sayings are: “It’s no biggie” “It’s not a big deal” and “It doesn’t matter”. What I mean is: “This is a huge deal.” “Please listen to me” and “I don’t matter”. I normally talk myself out of these attitudes now, but every once in a while when I get shaky or weak, I go right into the phrases. Normally now I say them aloud on purpose, so that I can hear them and start to correct myself. For years (a really long time) I said them aloud and never even heard them.
I think it comes from my mom…she told me when I was 5 and first went back with the kids to “go with the flow”, and I have lived by that for 15 years. Nothing was a big deal, and nothing mattered except taking care of the kids and other things around me-but not taking care of me. I didn’t matter. I do now, but I don’t always see it, and I hardly ever feel it-maybe four or five times before.
Rationalizing: I remember the first time I heard myself rationalize what had happened to me. I must have done it before then, but the first time I heard it, I’ll never forget. I was standing in Aunt Janet’s kitchen, on the phone with Preston in February 2005. He told me that I was five years old when it happened, and no five year old could do what I did, and should never have to. And I fought him! I don’t know why, but I did. Just thinking about it makes me want to fight him again. I told him how it was perfectly reasonable and I went on for about six or seven minutes until I broke down crying. I sat with a knife held to my breast all night, just so I could breathe. I didn’t cut, but I hoped I would doze off and accidentally do it in my sleep.
Denying: This is one of the quietest ways of coping for me, and probably the most active. I deny things almost every day. I fight the urge to deny everything about myself the moment I walk onto the patio of Trinity after my session with Chrissy. I tell myself it never happened-none of it happened. I have stories of a happy childhood. I know they are wrong, but they feel as right as what actually happened. None of it feels right-none of my memories feel right. I don’t feel good about the abuse or about the good times. I mix up abuse accounts and switch summers sometimes when I flash, and it gives me ammo later to use against myself so I can doubt it all. I listen to lies that my family tells me, and I indulge myself in daydreams of a caring home life. It’s crazy and I’m crazy for it. But no one really knows that. Well, I guess now Christina knows. And I guess I know more now. Damnit…
Forgetting: I forgot it all. I had to. I remember waking up with nightmares, and so I stopped sleeping. From age nine to age 19 I slept about 3 hours at a time, no more than five hours a night. When I was 18 I started taking naps, but still slept very little at night. I go in spurts now, but never for the reasons I avoided sleep when I was younger. Everyone told me that Jim loved me and would never, ever even dream of hurting us kids. But they always asked if he did when we came back.
I remember waking up one night knowing that Jim was going to get me. So I went into mom’s room, and told her a woman was after me. I told her I needed her to stay awake with me, and talk with me and help me stand watch for the kids. She kept falling asleep and eventually yelled at me for keeping her up all night and sent me back to bed. I sat in the hallway with Brownie (my teddy bear from when I was a month old) and waited for sunrise. I’ve never told anyone that before.
Leaving my Body: I do this now sometimes, but not often. During the abuse I used to go and play on the ceiling, or dance by the fishbowl, play with the mirrors and check on the kids. I know now that it was so that I didn’t feel what happened as much. I used this in jr. high with the boyfriends I had, and in high school with Devin-also every time I cut. I would watch but not feel-I was just a case. A numb shell. (I almost typed “it’s not a big deal”)
Control: I don’t know when I started controlling everything…probably early on. I packed and took care of the kids all summer (well, for 5 weeks) when I was 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 with Jim in LA. I took care of the kids with Mom after I was 9 when Dan left. That’s when I started working, but I had started saving money when I was about 8. I didn’t work for real, just little odd jobs for neighbors-gardening, housecleaning, walking/washing pets, washing cars, babysitting, whatever I could do.
I used to talk to the kids’ teachers if anything went wrong with them. I also was the boss to the kids, I guess. They stopped listening to me when they got to 5th grade for Alex, and 2nd grade for Allison. They still came to me with problems and their teachers still contacted me, but they didn’t come in the house for bedtime or do homework anymore. And Alex started hanging out with bad kids. The first time Allison stopped listening to me, I had tried to stop her physically from going out at about 10:00 at night-she was eight years old. I got my arm all cut up from her fingernails digging into my skin as I tried to hold her and walk back into the house. Alex I flipped over my shoulder and thunked his head on the patio in Whittier the last time I tried to stop him from going out physically. I have never felt so bad about a physical action I took than when I did that to Zanny. I didn’t know he was so light, and I cried and cried after he ran out anyway. I knew what an awful, terrible person I was. I still feel ashamed and horrified at myself for what terrible things I did to those kids. I should have never touched them.
Chaos: I didn’t create chaos as much as I functioned in it to cope. Having it around me made life smaller and easier to deal with. I didn’t really have to hunt for it either-all I had to do was come out of my bedroom, and Mom took care of the rest. Now I have order, and life is much better.
Being Super Alert: I can tell most anything about anyone I talk to. Well, anything about their tone, their sitting habits, how they move when a subject changes, how their eyes shift when a specific topic is brought up-whatever. I can also list for kind of eerie accuracy every room in my father’s house and in the condo where we lived when Mom was at her worst. I can gauge most peoples’ mood by one or two sentences. I learned all this when Kimberly and I went through it. She said I was aware of things around me, and we worked through seeing how aware I was (very, as it turns out) and why I had become so. I still do this, but I don’t think it hurts me…it’s basically second nature now. I don’t mean to do it, but it happens all the time.
Humor: I’m not actually funny. Well, Preston says I’m not funny. (I think I can be quite funny at times…) But I did use humor to cope. I remember being told (by over 20 people in high school probably) that I should do stand up. I could not talk about my mom and the kids without it being in a light hearted light. Even now, I explain my various step-dads to the fact that my mom gets married as a hobby. I would always make jokes about it-it’s just easier that way. I still do this now, but now I know that I’m doing it and why. I don’t think that makes it okay, but I have bigger fish to fry, so I’m not too upset about it.
Busyness: I am not busy at all now like I was in high school. In high school I ran the church youth group, the women’s’ group, the FAITH outreach teams, and the kids’ bible studies. I also was president of two clubs and a member of about 5 total. I had full classes, always, and at least a 3.5 all terms. I worked two-three jobs at a time. I also was on dance and cheerleading (but only for a year), and I had a boyfriend that I saw about 3 times a week. I got up an hour-two hours before school to pray, and did the same thing at night. I never watched TV, except nick at night to fall asleep to. Now that I do so much less, I have no idea how I did all that. Really, I don’t see how I squeezed an extra day or two out of each week….I must have been impossible to get over the phone…
Self-Mutilation: I cut myself for years. (I was to deny this right now. “Maybe I didn’t do it”) If I couldn’t cut myself-I knew we were going shopping for new bras in a couple weeks or something like that, I used sex. That was harder to swing, but it worked-especially when I dated Devin. Later on I learned to use eating and throwing up if I could get sex, and later it just lead to me trying to kill myself. I don’t cut anymore.
Suicide Attempts: I started writing suicide notes when I was 12, after my last summer with Jim-the one where I was alone. I wrote one every day for months, and then only once a week for years maybe. I saved them all. I knew I wouldn’t do it, and I didn’t show them to anyone, and I never ever printed them out, but I wrote them. I’ve never told anyone until now. Don’t tell, ok? I wasn’t going to do it anyways.
I started to tell people I was feeling this way senior year of high school, when I started leaving my body more and having a really hard time with things. I told my boyfriend Josh who would not help, and it was just like I’d thought it would be. I told him because I had training as a student counselor (one of my many clubs in HS), and I knew if I told someone than it wasn’t that serious. So I told someone. I didn’t feel less serious, but I figured I just was not doing it right. I told him over and over for a couple months, and then I took about 35 pills one night. I just got really sick and threw up all over, but that was the first practical suicide attempt. I had one in 9th grade, and several after the pill incident senior year.
Eating Difficulties: I have a hard time deserving like I can eat. I also know that I will get into trouble if I do anything at all that feels too good, so eating food might taste good and then I’d be in trouble. I don’t have any real issues that would classify me as an eating disorder, but I do have some problems when it comes to diet. I’m learning. It’s not fun, and not easy, and pretty damn embarrassing. A twenty year old woman should know how the fuck to eat.
Lying: I don’t lie anymore without going through a process of reasoning and figuring out what is best and what I want, and after I figure out there are no other ways to make things work for my safety. I hopefully will be strong enough one day (soon, I hope) to not lie and just tell people to mind their own business, but until then, I’ll probably keep lying.
When I was younger, I lied once to Devin to try and get the abuse out. I told him that Jim had abused me, and I had one detailed story I gave him. I made it up, but there was truth to it. He believed me, and I thought he would quit having sex with me because he’d seen how hurt I was. When he kept having sex with me, (not intercourse, but sexual acts-that’s what I mean by sex) I told him it was a lie. I hoped he’d be mad enough to hit me, or better yet to leave, but he didn’t do either. He just held it over my head and I was not allowed to make choices or disagree with him, because I’d told such a horrible lie.
Avoiding Intimacy: I don’t get personal with people. I just never have really. The exceptions are Erica, Kimberly, Christina and a little with Sam. Erica and I worked so hard to build up the trust needed for me to be open, and it mostly came about because I was so bound and determined to trust her without feeling like I could. I just starting trusting, and blocked out all thoughts of doubt during the hour session, and it worked. I’d read Courage to Heal once by then, and it helped a lot. I knew Erica had worked with survivors, and so I just ran with it. I was transferred to Kimberly by Erica, whom I trust without a second thought now, so I trusted Kimberly too. After a while Kimberly and I built trust on our own relationship, like Erica and I did. The same thing happened with Christina. I have been so very fortunate to have three great women all in a row!
I trusted Sam because we have been friends for years. I started to get closer to him after Preston. He shattered that when he threw me aside for the lousy ex of his. (I’m bitter about it, clearly). I found out today he is moving in with her. I do not really want to discuss that right now, because I’ll never finish this damn assignment and I’m already 17 minutes over my time limit.
Religion: Jesus Christ, there is not enough time for this one. I accepted Christ in 7th grade at a church meeting that I went to by sneaking out my window while Jack was throwing plates at Mom in the kitchen. That summer (1999) I got serious about God at church camp, and my life was not the same until senior year. I lived, breathed, ate and crapped out Jesus. It was nuts. I can’t say I was faking it though, I truly believed every word with all I had in me. I knew God was my Abba and that He had a reason and a just explanation for everything that had happened to me and my family. Needless to say, I no longer believe that. (I could really do a whole 25 pages on this topic, so I’ll just leave it for now)
Sex: I used sex as a temp fix for cutting. I also used it to go numb quickly. Plus, it was my purpose-it’s what I’m good for. If I’m not having sex, then what the hell am I doing, and is it going to led to sex soon, because it should. Sex has never been about me-it’s a game and a job, and I was trained for it like I’ve been trained for every job I’ve had from high school on. I watched videos, I was taught the ways to do things, and I was tested-just like learning to make sandwiches at Togo’s, just like learning to make cakes at Baskin Robins. It’s no different.
Other: This wasn’t on the list, but I think it’s important. Plus, I have already told you about how I abused the kids and how I’m a filthy liar to Devin, so I might as well lump this in too, and that way you have lots of reasons to hate me, if you feel so led to do so. (Which I would totally understand and support, by the way.) I used to hurt my teddy bears. I would go through phases-sometimes I would pack every stuffed animal I owned in my bed, and cover them up with extra blankets, and I’d sleep on the floor so they were warm and comfortable. And then other times I’d throw them in the back of the closet and yell at them and hit them.
I still feel this sick attachment to all my stuffed animals, which is why I keep them packed away. I know if they were all in my room in plain sight, I’d still be on the floor some nights when I feel that compassion/guilt mix thing that comes over me.
I do tend to Brownie that way though. But every once in a while I would get mad, even now-only not as strongly-and yell at him for not protecting me. Brownie was the only stuffed animal I was allowed to bring back and fourth from LA to CA (I still won’t go out of state without him.) But he was there for all the abuse, every night of it. I would yell at him and throw him across the room for not protecting me. He’s a stuffed animal! Its nuts and I’m crazy. Then I would rush over to him and hold him and cry and see how much like my father and mother I am. I’m a bad person too, and so I deserved for Brownie not to speak up. And now I’m talking about a bear like it’s a person….yeah, I may have officially lost it.
Okay, so it’s 3:27 now, and I am still not sleepy. And now I feel guilty and bad for all the terrible things I’ve done in my life. But I’m supposed to be honoring them. Ok-I am honoring them…I know I did what I had to in order to survive. The fact that I came up with these things to get by, although it makes me want to hide and never face a person again, was good for me at the time. I didn’t give up, I didn’t kill myself, and I held on. It wasn’t easy, but I made it. And I don’t do all these things now. I’m in a process of removing what no longer serves me. Yeah. Or I’m trying to, anyways.