Letter to My Younger Self

Dear younger self,

I’m so sorry for all the feelings you’ve been having all this time. I’m sorry no one listened to you. It must have been so hard to keep it all inside. But I want you to know now that it’s okay to feel. You deserve to have feelings. Your feelings are valid, and they are yours. No one can take them from you anymore.

It’s okay to feel confused. Mommies and daddies aren’t supposed to hurt their children. There’s nothing wrong with you. There never was. Mommy and daddy told you that so they could keep hurting you. It was all lies.  I’m so sorry they confused you. You may never understand why all those times, daddy chose to hold your hand instead of pushing hers away. He was wrong. She was wrong. But you were not wrong. You were just a child.

It’s okay to feel afraid. Instead of fearing monsters, you feared mom and dad. It must have been so scary for you. You had nowhere to hide. I’m so sorry you had to live in constant fear. But you were always so strong, even when you felt afraid. You are one brave little girl.

It’s okay to feel scared. Mommy and daddy made you believe that the world was scary and full of bad people who were going to hurt you. That wasn’t the truth. That’s what mommy and daddy told you to make you stay. The real scary place was home, and the scariest people were mommy and daddy. I’m sorry you feel so scared. It’s not fair. You don’t ever have to go back home again.

I know you feel empty. Mommy and daddy made you believe that you had no purpose, that you were worthless. That must have hurt your heart so much. I’m so sorry for your pain. But the truth is, there are so many good things inside of you that mommy and daddy never wanted you to see. Now you can let those good things free.

I know you feel lonely. Mommy and daddy kept you away from everyone. You were never allowed to talk to outsiders. Mommy and daddy told you that no one would ever understand you, that no one could be trusted. But that was all lies. I’m so sorry they lied you. It hurts to be alone. But there are people here to help you now, to help you feel less lonely. You don’t have to hide anymore.

I know you feel small. All of the bigger people around you didn’t help you. They didn’t notice you were desperate to be saved. It must have hurt so much to feel invisible, to have no one see your pain. I’m so sorry no one let you know how important you were. I see you, and you’re not small. You’re a little girl with a big heart, and you matter. You always have.

It’s okay to feel angry. You can be mad at mommy and daddy. They hurt you, and you didn’t deserve to be hurt, ever. You can be mad at the other adults who didn’t listen to you. They should have helped you. You can be mad at world. You deserved to have good parents, and you didn’t get that. I am so sorry for all of the hurt they caused you. I’m so sorry for all of the anger you’ve had to keep inside. But it’s okay to be angry. You deserve to be angry. I’m angry, too.

It’s okay to feel sad. Mommy and daddy told you it wasn’t okay to cry. They told you that you had no reason to be sad. They hurt you. But they were wrong. I’m so sorry. It must be so hard to hold that hurt in your heart for so long. But it’s okay to be sad now. No one will punish you. It’s okay to cry. You won’t get hurt. You can cry for the childhood you didn’t have. You can cry for the mommy and daddy you wished you had. You can cry for all the times they hurt you. You can cry. You can be sad.

It’s okay to feel hurt. You were wronged, in so many ways you were wronged. The grownups in your life failed you. Your mommy and daddy hurt your heart as much as they did your body. You had to learn to live with the pain. You deserved to be comforted and supported and nurtured, and instead you were hurt over and over again. It wasn’t fair. I’m so sorry that you are hurting.  I wish there was a Band-Aid I could give you that could make your hurt go away. I want you to know now that mommy and daddy can’t hurt you anymore.

I know you feel hopeless. Mommy told you that you would never be away from her. You thought that she would keep hurting you forever. I’m so sorry that you were hurting so badly that you wanted to die. You were just a little girl, in so much pain. Someone saved you from drowning, but no one saved you from what led you there to begin with.  I want you to know that you are safe now. Mommy can’t hurt you. You don’t have to die anymore.

I know your heart is broken. My heart breaks for you. You are just a little girl. A beautiful, intelligent, strong, kind, amazingly courageous little girl.

I know you feel unloved. Children are supposed to be loved by their parents. But something was wrong with mommy and daddy and I guess they missed that memo. It’s not your fault they didn’t know how to love. It doesn’t mean you are unlovable. You are so loved. There are good people out there who want to love and care for you. You deserve love and care. You deserve to feel good feelings, too. You deserve so much, and I want you to know that.

Thank you for being so strong. Thank you for being you. Thank you for helping me get here. I love you.

PAFPAC blog

I have created a separate blog for PAFPAC: pafpacorg.wordpress.com

From now on, any PAFPAC-related posts will be on that blog, in order to separate my professional identity from my personal story.

I will also be focusing more on posting about female-perpetrated abuse there: facts and figures, research, education, etc.

I would also consider sharing blogs and posts from survivors who would like to be featured on PAFPAC’s blog.

(I will be deleting this post in a few days).

Mothers Abuse

The majority of child abuse and neglect cases involve a female perpetrator, most often the mother of the child. The majority of cases. That means over 50%.

Yet, what type of person is consistently portrayed as the typical child abuser? A creepy-looking male stranger.

No. Just no. Between 80% and 90% of child abuse and neglect cases involve a perpetrator that is known to the child. Most often, parents or other family members are involved.

Part of my struggle growing up, and also attempting to seek help in adulthood, was the flat out refusal to believe that females would abuse someone, let alone that a mother would abuse her own child. But they do. So often they do. And they get away with it because no one wants to believe it. But the facts are there. They’ve been there all along.

I was told I was just confused, that my mother loved me, that what she was doing was out of love and protection, that my mother seemed like a nice person so they didn’t think she was an abuser. One counselor, after learning my abuse history through hospital records and some of my own admission, handed me a book on attachment disorders and said “I think you have an attachment disorder. Read this.” In essence, I had the problem

Way back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post on mother-daughter sexual abuse: The Elephant in the Room. I will copy and paste it here as well.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, the majority of my posts are going to be mother-related. This is a difficult time for me, and for survivors of mother-perpetrated abuse. But we are not alone.

Continue reading

I live to live

No matter how shitty (or great) I feel, I wake up at 4:30 every morning, take a shower, get dressed, and go to work. I could have slept two hours; I could have slept eight hours. It doesn’t matter. I continue to do it because I need to, and because I want to.

When I fell in the street at the end of last August, I picked myself back up, wiped the blood off of my hands and knees, walked to the bus stop and went to work. I didn’t stop. I went to the hospital afterwards, where I found out I had fractured my right foot (and sprained my left knee). Even then, in a cast and crutches, I woke up at 4:00 the next morning, took a shower, got dressed, and hobbled my way to the bus stop to get to work.

When I neared the end of my undergraduate career last August, I put my heart and soul into my work. Despite moving out, being hospitalized, working, and being officially diagnosed with DID within the course of a month, I managed to complete a research project and thesis and receive a near-perfect score (99). I graduated with top honors, despite the chaos going on around me.

When I ended up in the hospital in the beginning of August, I worked my ass off to get out. Right after I was released, I walked right to my therapist’s office and had a session. I went home, unpacked my things, and worked on my thesis, a chapter of which had then been overdue. Then the next morning, I woke up at 4:30, took a shower, got dressed, and started my first day at work, less than 24 hours after being released from the hospital.

When I ran away from home prison on July 10th, 2015, I did so against impossible odds. I managed to hide money away in separate online bank accounts that my mother didn’t know about. I managed to find a place far enough away to keep me safe, but close enough to a competent therapist and to a school where I could fulfill my dream of being a counselor. I managed to free myself and physically leave through the front door of the apartment, the same door that my mother slept just feet away from every night, as if she were a prison guard on duty. I could have been hurt. But I escaped. Despite everything, I found freedom.

I have consistently shown that I do not give up. Life seems to knock me down quite a bit. Sometimes it really gets to me, but I have never stopped living. Even in the darkest times, I continue to live.

I can’t change some of my circumstances.

I can’t give myself a biological family; that’s gone forever. But I have a family that consists of my friends from the new life I have built here.

I can’t grow money on trees. But I can keep working and find ways to survive until I find success someday.

I can’t cure my DID or take a pill and forget everything that happened to me. But I can keep going to therapy, even if I have to go for the rest of my life.

I may not be the best at life. Considering where and what I came from, I think I am doing a damn good job. I am living. Despite everything, I am living.

And I have died so many times, but I am still alive.

I am a work in progress, just like anyone else.

I was wronged.

In November 2014, my nurse practitioner called an ambulance to her office to have me escorted to the hospital for suicidal ideation. No one in my family was told the real reason why I was going – I said I was having tests done and to please leave me alone. Despite my mother’s endless calls to the office to find out information, my nurse practitioner revealed nothing. It made my mother so angry that she actually became threatening. Fortunately, my nurse practitioner knew that my mother was my abuser and saw right through her bullshit and kept my privacy intact.

My experience in the hospital, however, was a different story. Before I even made it to the psychiatric floor, my mother already knew I was admitted to the hospital and to which exact psychiatric unit. She had already placed several calls before I even got there. I did not want my family to know where I was. I needed to feel safe more than ever, and that was taken away from me.

My mother continued to call the hospital dozens of times a day, despite my outright denial to speak to her. Some of the nurses provided her with information on my status. This was after I made it clear that I wanted my family to have no information about me. I was 28 years old and a fully capable adult. My emergency contact was someone who maintained no contact with my family, and I instructed the staff that any issues concerning my care should go through that person and no one else. The social workers and nurses were aware that my mother was my abuser – I was open about that during our initial meeting the day after I was admitted. Yet still, my mother was allowed to call and allowed to gather information about me. The hospital would not release me unless my parents picked me up. They literally sent me right back into the hands of my abusers.

The same issues (and then some) occurred in my subsequent hospitalizations. The second time I was hospitalized, I admitted myself. I took a cab to the emergency room after work without telling anyone where I was going. As I laid on a bed in the hallway of the ER, I saw my parents approaching the front desk. I started to panic and asked the watcher if I could hide, but obviously I couldn’t. Within minutes, I saw my mother approaching my bed from the other side of the hallway. I turned towards the wall and hid myself in the sheet, refusing to talk, and struggling to catch my breath from the panic attack I was having. My parents continued to talk and I continued to ignore them, banging my head against the wall to make them go away. After a few minutes, I felt the anger in my father’s voice when he told me “I don’t know why you are doing this to us” and then walked away.

During that whole time, I just wanted someone to make them go away. Why did they tell my parents where I was in the first place? Why did I have no right to privacy or confidentiality? I wanted the watcher or the nurse to see my panic, to sense my pain, but no one noticed. Once again, when I needed to feel safe, that was taken away from me.

As my second hospitalization ended, I was released at night and the nurse called a taxi so I could get home. Freedom. I contemplated going to a motel, but I still had so much fear inside and ended up going home. As I walked up the last landing before our apartment, I could hear my parents arguing. Apparently my mother found out that I left during one of her many calls. My parents were furious. I could hear my father screaming that there would be no more secrets in his house. There was so much irony in that statement, since my whole existence and our family’s existence was built on secrets. He just didn’t like it when HE didn’t know something.

I knew as I unlocked the door that night, that I would be walking into a shitstorm. I wish so badly I would have gone to a hotel instead. I wonder if I would have been able to escape the pain and the heartbreak that continued for months after until I finally moved away. I wonder if I could have avoided that third hospitalization had I just not gone home that night and ran away forever.

I feel like I was wronged. The hospital continually violated my privacy and put me at risk by allowing my abusers access to me and to my information. Why is there an automatic assumption that, because someone is family, that he or she is a safe person and should be given access to information? Something isn’t right here, and I can’t be the only one who this has happened to.

If I was a minor when I was hospitalized, my mother would have never been given access once I revealed her as my abuser. People don’t realize that child abuse continues into adulthood. They didn’t see the severity of my situation. They only made it worse by handing me right back over to them, again and again. I will admit, my social worker was concerned about sending me back to them – but her hands were tied. There is no help for adult victims of continued child abuse. We continue to be abused by our families as well as the system.

I’ve been failed. We’ve been failed. Something needs to change.

Silenced in shame

I tend to be a very open person. I tell my therapist nearly everything on my mind and in my heart, good and bad, happy and sad. I’ve shared my thoughts and experiences with others by writing this blog.

But something came about last week that I could not talk or write about. The memories left me confused, angry, and ashamed. I hated myself. I hated the world. And I couldn’t tell anyone about it because I feared that would only make it worse.

When I went to my therapy session on Thursday, I tried to deflect talking about everything I was feeling by denying everything. And by everything, I mean everything. I told my therapist I had a good life, no trauma, and no problems. I didn’t want to deal with any of this shit anymore. But denying it doesn’t make it go away. I could’ve said I had a good life until I was blue in the face, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that I was seething on the inside.

I finally admitted to my therapist that I was full of anger, but I could not tell her why. It’s not that I didn’t know; it’s that I didn’t want to talk about it. She traced back the last few days trying to pinpoint when and where my feelings originated. I went over each minor detail of my life starting with Thursday morning and working backwards. Eventually I muttered “I checked Facebook.” That was when it all began.

I didn’t expect to feel anything when I checked Facebook that time. Then, I read a status that came up in my Facebook memories from six years ago about being admitted to the hospital. I instantly realized what happened in the days after I wrote that status. I felt as if I were right back in 2010, going through it all again.

My therapist asked me what happened and I burst into tears. All of emotions came pouring out and I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t even tell her all that happened. I told her that I cried for help and no one helped me. No one knew what had just gone on just minutes before the nurse came in my room. No one could translate my cries of desperation. No one could feel the pain I was in, the disgust and shame I was filled with. No one. I was completely helpless. I was entirely ashamed.

I remember laying in my hospital bed day after day just wanting to go. I couldn’t even eat. The numerous visits from nutritionists could not take away the sickness that was eating away at me from the inside. I was so disgusted with myself. I felt so unclean. I couldn’t shower for weeks, which only magnified how gross I felt. I wanted to scrub away the dirty. But no shower would have been enough. Nothing would have been enough.

It was at that point, after that incident, that I realized that nothing would ever stop my mother. She was sick; sicker than I had ever imagined. In my most helpless state, she took complete advantage of me, all the while putting on an Academy award-worthy performance of a concerned mother. No one knew how badly I needed to be protected from her. Instead, they inadvertently helped her terrorize me. I was completely alone. Despite the numerous flowers and gifts, and visits from coworkers and friends, I felt isolated and alone. Physically, my heart was trying to give out on me. Emotionally, my heart was already dead.

Despite my realization that my mother was (and still is) sick, I blame myself for what happened. I could have told her to stop. I could have gotten away. I could have told the nurses. But I didn’t do any of that. I let it happen. That’s all I could tell my therapist. I let it happen. As if I could have done anything to stop her. I had an oxygen mask, a heart monitor, and numerous IVs, but yet I expected myself to, in some way, fight back or resist; something I had never done before when I was in much better physical condition.

My therapist reassured me that there was no way I could have stopped her. I did what I could in that moment. It wasn’t my fault. But part of me was still angry. Part of me was still disgusted and ashamed. I left session that day wanting to destroy the world. All of that anger I was holding on to for so long was trying to get out.

But I couldn’t direct it at my mother. So I directed it at the branches I passed by on my walk home; the branches I ripped out from the bushes and broke into pieces, much in the same way I felt my heart had been ripped out and broken into pieces. I smoked, but not even 100 cigarettes wouldn’t calm me down. I drank, but no amount of alcohol would wash away my disgust.

It was only in today’s session, nearly a week after my memories and feelings resurfaced, that I was able to tell my therapist a piece of what happened to me that day. I still find myself overwhelmed with shame. I still fear that other people would not understand. I still fear that other people would think it was my fault. My therapist asked if there was anything she could do to lessen the shame. But I don’t know. As much as I know I need to talk about it, I can’t. Not even to the person I trust the most. I remained silenced in shame.

Pardon me while I rant

There’s been a story going around on social media about a woman who makes her son take her out on a dinner date and pay as a way of showing her son how to treat a woman.

The story bothers me for a few reasons. One, I don’t think it’s right to impose expectations of sexuality on a young child. She is telling her son he has to grow up and take women out on proper dates. What if he doesn’t want to date women? What if he is gay, or even asexual? She’s not giving him that option; only that he must date women and treat them this certain way.

I could go on. But what bothers me the most about this story (and others) is that focus is centered on teaching boys how to respect women. We don’t teach girls how to respect men. Instead, we teach them what to expect from a man, as if they deserve something greater just for being female. Respect is not gender-specific. We should be teaching children to respect other people, regardless of their gender.

Most people ignore the fact that just as many women perpetrate domestic violence against men as men do against women. Or they say that men are stronger, so their violence is obviously much worse than what a woman could do.

This sentiment makes me want to put my head through a wall. Yes, I’ll agree that in general, men have the capacity to be physically stronger because they can develop more muscle mass. It doesn’t mean they all are. And it doesn’t mean that women are weak little creatures that couldn’t hurt a soul. I can easily overpower most of the men I come into contact with on a regular basis, and I (unfortunately) have before.

I watched my mother beat my father. I watched her hit my brother. I, too, was a target of her violence more times than I could count. It doesn’t take much strength to stab someone, to set them on fire, to beat them with a hammer, or to shoot them with a gun. My mother used her hands, paddles, pans, or even rolled up magazines if she was desperate (though those were mostly for beating the cats and the occasional whack to the face). She wasn’t gentle. She caused damage. My mother is not a fit person by any means. She hadn’t exercised in all the years I knew her. But she hurt. Just as badly as any man would hurt. Angry people like her find strength wherever they can pull it from. She didn’t need a penis.

Outside of my family, I’ve come to know many male victims of female-perpetrated violence. Very few of them ever admit in public what happened to them. Why? Because of that sentiment I mentioned earlier. Men are strong. You can take it. It was a woman. It couldn’t have been that bad. Suck it up. You’re just a wuss. Meanwhile they suffer in silence, not only from the physical damage, but from the psychological damage initially caused by the female attacker and perpetuated by society’s gender-biased views.

This exact sentiment and attitude pours over into female-perpetrated sexual abuse. It was a woman? It couldn’t have been that bad! I bet you enjoyed it! She was probably gentle. Women don’t do that. You just misunderstood. It couldn’t have hurt. You should feel lucky. I could go on, but I don’t have to. If you don’t get it by now, you won’t get it at all.

I can only speak of my own hurt from my experiences opening up about the abuse from my mother. Some therapists ignored it entirely. Other therapists outright denied my experiences as abuse. “She’s your mom and she cares about you, you’re just misunderstanding everything.” Yep. That’s it. I just misunderstood. All mothers should bathe their children into double digits and have special nighttime sessions. My bad. If I said it was a man doing it, or my father, EVERYONE would say “that’s abuse!” before I’d even finish my sentence. But for some reason, when a woman is involved, people automatically jump to the gentle, nurturing view of women and deny the legitimacy of the abuse. It was aggravating, disheartening, and saddening to have my reality denied by other people for years. I can’t even begin to imagine how others, including men, feel when their experiences are denied.

Woman continue to get away with domestic violence and abuse because of the attitude that women are weaker, more gentle, and less violent. I am telling you now that women are just as fucked up as men are. Stop letting women get away with crimes that any man would be imprisoned for years for. Stop making victims feel ashamed for being victims of :gasp: a woman. It happens. Let’s acknowledge it. Let’s deal with it accordingly. Because if we continue to teach girls what to expect from others, they will continue to feel entitled to things they don’t necessarily deserve. And if we don’t teach boys AND girls respect, women will continue to think they can get away with whatever they want to because they are a woman.

Perhaps I should have been a man, because women are going to hate me for this and see me as anti-woman. I am not. I am for equality.