Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Heart of Darkness: Long Term Consequences of Domestic Violence

(I hope writing this helps someone out there. As has been pointed out, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this piece is a reminder that the adult woman is not the only victim when there are children in the house.  It also demonstrates how very long the repercussions of domestic violence go on.)

Drama.  I was raised with so much drama.  One of the worst varieties was waking in the middle of the night, from a very young age onward, to the sounds of someone leaving to "never come back."  Crying, screaming, doors slamming, cars driving away.

To say that I have a fear of abandonment is not some psycho babble.  It is my core fear and it is deep and dark and entangled in every fiber of me, sometimes so overwhelming that it threatens to take over everything, convince me that my life is not filled with love, that things are falling apart, that perceived threats are real, that I will never be loved or happy again.

The saddest thing is that none of this is ever true, but my brain -- this poor, damaged brain -- cannot tell the different between now and then.

So the loneliness I feel with Marcy in Italy is not your garden variety, "oh, my partner is not with me."  Many moments it is just that, but there are moments when it becomes my own personal heart of darkness and last night, in the middle of the night, was one of those times.

Waking in the middle of the night, paralyzed by fear, is not unusual for me. But to not have Marcy right there and to feel physically left alone...that is unusual.

Call it Complex PTSD; call it Borderline Personality Disorder....whether learned or genetic or whatever...it all comes from the same place -- the place of a small girl frightened for her very existence, having learned that her existence was dependent on people who were, themselves, not parenting because they were too busy reacting out of their own fears and weaving their own violent dramas.

Last night, because Marcy is not here, I had to ride this wave all by myself.  These emotional storms are physically painful, extremely.  Normally, in order to try to rid myself of that pain, I start an argument, but how do you do this when you are alone?  (And believe me...this is hard to see about yourself but it is not intentionally done; it is part of the illness of this.)

I am starting to see, no matter how hard this is, that this separation is good, because it's time for me to fight these demons on my own.

Thanks to the mindfulness that my practices of yoga and dance have given me, I was able to watch the process.  Not at first.  No.  At first, I was caught up in the wave, but then I felt myself pull back and watch.  And I saw how the storm passed as fast as it came in.

It almost took my breath away.

For the first time, I truly saw the abnormality of it.  I saw the damaged and hurt brain from which it came.  I saw the "illness" of it.

I try so hard to convince myself that I am not ill, that I am not truly suffering, that I am keeping it all together.  This is the opposite of compassion, is it not?  This denial only keeps me from taking care of myself.  It is the "push through" method, and it doesn't work.

I have big moments of Bliss in this life.  I have work that I love and a partner and animals and a beautiful home, so I have this feeling that to admit to illness is to be ungrateful, but it is really the opposite, is it not?  To admit to illness is to love all the parts of yourself, no matter how unattractive you may find them.

To embrace the whole of your life -- that is true gratitude.

31 comments:

Bob Weisenberg said...

Very moving, Christine. I'm sure this will be of help to a great many people.

Bob W.

Jennifer said...

Your post has touched me more than I dare to share. Listening to my adult child literaly cry to me on the phone as recent as last night about all the same things you just wrote breaks my heart. I know this is directly related to he and his sister baring witness to my abusive marriages and now I feel helpless in how to help my children through all this.

Thank you for sharing something that needs to said and heard!~

The Other Laura said...

I know the writing you're doing here will help shed some light into some dark places.

I am sending a little love and a little light your way...

Christine Claire Reed said...

Jennifer, You can't undo the past, but it sounds like you are trying in the present. If you can just hear him and validate his pain...what a miracle that can create. As the child in this equation, I know you can help him by just loving him and saying, "yes, yes...that was what happened and I am sorry..." as many times as it takes. Much peace to you and your children.

Lisa said...

Bless you for demonstrating the courage to share your own painful story ~ and to battle the demons that seek to overcome you.

My heart of hearts is with you, dear Christine.

Sending rays of Love, Light, Healing, and Peace your way!

Kirsten Alicia said...

Bleesings to you Christine.

Jaliya said...

"I try so hard to convince myself that I am not ill, that I am not truly suffering, that I am keeping it all together. This is the opposite of compassion, is it not? This denial only keeps me from taking care of myself. It is the "push through" method, and it doesn't work."

~ Christine, these words strike me through and through. Right now, I am experiencing "the opposite of compassion" from a few people from whom I never anticipated contempt ...

I have never felt so fragile and so close to metabolic breakdown ... and I have never felt so determined to rise above and move beyond damaging people and circumstances, and my own history of inflicted violence. There is a balance to strike between compassion and its opposite ... and I will find it. In the meantime, you're not spiritually alone while riding those waves, my friend ...

War and peace begin and end with I and Thou ...

xoxo

JuliaDharmaYoga said...

Thank you for your post, Christine. As you know, I, too, am a survivor of ptsd and one of the lucky ones! My youngest sister, Tricia, was not so fortunate. Today is the 2nd anniversary of her death due to a drug overdose. While we were growing up, I was her protector from the violence and the insanity. As an adult, she turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to ease the fear of abandonment and self-loathing. I took the same path, but finally woke up from my fear induced coma in 1995, when I got sober and found meditation or "divine therapy" - By committing myself to a daily meditation practice, I've healed many emotional scars and have found that I can turn my suffering into peace. I am very blessed to be able to share this with other suffering beings, by teaching meditation and yoga.
May all beings have happiness and be free from suffering.. one day at a time.

claire said...

Thank you, Christine. I can so relate to what you are saying...

Beautiful. Inspiring. Thank you.

Blessings too.

Karen D said...

Thanks for sharing this Christine. I had a similiar situation when my husband went away for 10 days.. for me it is the fear of someone coming to get me and I have to be hyper vigilant so no harm will come.. with husband there it is easier, without him it is really a struggle.. most times I slept with a airhorn next to my bed so I can sound an alarm the neighbors will hear if I am attacked.. I don;t know if it helps but please know it is important to keep telling your stories, this will help you and others.. namaste, Karen

Karen D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori-Lyn said...

This is beautiful, Christine.
Love to you.

Linda Douglas said...

Christine, this was beautiful. I am a survivor and a trauma specialist working with survivors. It is so important that you remember that what you feel and experience is not because there is something wrong with you but that something happened to you. You are doing the best things for your health. I am always telling survivors - do yoga!! Dance!! Those are the best!

Emma said...

Really excellent post. Thank you!

Christine Claire Reed said...

Linda, thank you for your witnessing. You helped me to clarify something in my mind and it's a fine but important distinction.

When I think about there being something wrong, what I really mean (and again, thank you for getting me to this...) is that I have learned some really negative habits. Yes, you are right...there is nothing actually wrong...except then there is the very real physiological brain damage that is proven to happen with long term abuse. Thank GOD for brain elasticity!!!

But I understand what you mean...I am not a BAD person. Just hurt and a wee bit damaged (really...that's okay) and working hard to heal. :)

Linda-Sama said...

DV and sexual assault statistics are in my post here:

http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com/2010/10/october-is-domestic-violence-awareness.html

I find it very interesting that no one has commented on them, save for one.

Heather Plett said...

You are strong. And brave. And beautiful.

Linnea said...

This is the third time I've read this post. And I want to jump on a plane to comfort you, because that's how I roll (or fly, in this case).

I can't do that (no outbound flights from Charlotte to Erie today, for one), but know that I love you and Marcy and you always have a support sister in me.

Domesticated Gypsy said...

This post took my breath away. I know from my own personal experiences the lasting effects that abuse or violence can have on a person, and it is so hard to push those dark parts that you want to fight and hide from out into the light, But until you do, you can never truly heal them. This is so perfectly timed! Bless your heart for having the courage to share!

Jane said...

Right after I read your post this morning, I opened a book to this quote from Rilke: "what is going on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love" and it seemed to nicely echo what you had written. I need to hear things more than once before they sink in, I guess! :)

A while ago, I was venting about how frustrating this is - especially the intense physical reactions that seem to hi-jack my body - and a friend observed that I was rejecting and abandoning (and totally pissed off at!) the very part of me that was reacting with terror to the feeling/memory of being rejected and abandoned. When what it really needed from me was the love and compassion that was missing to begin with. I'd never thought of it that way before. It's still hard to get there, especially when I'm in the middle of a storm, but what you said is so true - that's when it passes.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and discoveries - it's been so helpful! I remember sitting in my steaming hot apartment last summer with goose bumps on my arms as I read the info you linked to on Complex PTSD. It was like finding the missing piece of the puzzle! I hope writing about this is helpful and healing for you, too.

Many blessings!

Tess said...

"To admit to illness is to love all the parts of yourself, no matter how unattractive you may find them."

YES! Resoundingly, YES.

A wonderful post.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blisschick.net
Is this possible?

Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul said...

Christine, I'm brand new to your blog and feel honored and inspired to have found it today. This post is truly beautiful and has such an important message. I'll certainly be sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blisschick.net
Is this possible?

Scraps said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Kimberley said...

Thank you for sharing this powerful experience. Yes, I need to remember
"push through" is a form of abuse to myself.

Nadine Fawell said...

Oh, honey.

What an amazing post. And what unbelievable courage, to be able to talk about it. You have opened the doors for so many, who feel they can't admit to what happened to them, who suffer in silence, who can't find a relationship they trust because their trust has been broken.

Wow.

svasti said...

Check. Check.

I hear ya. It feels so weird sometimes doesn't it? Being so aware of all of this stuff and yet still so vulnerable and affected by it?

I know about the physical pain these invisible scars can cause. It sucks.

Even if we are "injured", that is still an illness of a kind. I don't think there's anything wrong with admitting we are ill. In fact, it's quite liberating and perhaps allows you space to be more caring towards yourself.

That's the most important thing you can do for yourself right now. But then, you know that already :)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Svasti! You will be happy to know that I have a reiki session scheduled for Wednesday evening!!! YAY! :)

Karin Bartimole said...

Hi CHristine, I can SO understand what you are saying. How deeply cellular these woundings have gone. This is my deepest quest - to heal those individual beautiful cells, the brain, and neural pathways that send the messages through out my being - the ones that still believe the messages that my mother sent me beginning as an infant - that I shouldn't have been born, that life is unsafe and staying alive means being hurt by it. While I now have love all around me, while my heart and intellect feel healed in so many ways, the final layers of healing, deep in those preverbal learned levels I am working!
I send you warm thoughts of healing, soothing energy of love as we share in this miracle of healing.
with love and admiration,
Karin

I've addressed similar issues in a recent post I'd like to share with you here, titled I Am Worthy

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site www.blisschick.net
Is this possible?