Still So Much to Learn

Sometimes I feel like I am a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to communicating effectively.  I often forget that not everyone sees the world the way I do, and when I rely on what I have been taught about dealing with conflict, I can really confuse the people around me.

The two biggest things challenges that have been brought to my attention as of late are 1) the belief that everything that goes wrong is about me and 2) my reaction to conflict is to remove the perceived problem, which in most cases I feel is me.

In the midst of conflict, I somehow revert to that child that was taught she was the problem in every situation.  If someone is angry and upset, I must have done something wrong.  Even if I am right, and someone is actually upset with me, I have trouble thinking beyond myself and asking, “Is my part really this big, or is there something else going on?” I forget that there are so many other things going on in the lives of others, and sometimes people are just venting to me, not really as angry at me as I perceive.

When I do feel I am the problem, once again, I rely on the old lessons and tend to believe that if I just give them space…if I go away for a bit, everything will be ok again.  What I fail to understand is that not everyone is really that angry at me…not everyone needs me to disappear.  When I go away, most people feel I am walking out, abandoning them, running away from the problem, or all of the above.  I never really realized that people felt this way, and it’s been a real eye opener to hear others say to me that they feel I am acting differently toward them, when in fact I am just giving them space.

I am going to have to really work on finding ways to snap myself out of the “it’s always my fault” mentality in the midst of conflict.  I am not really sure where to start with this, but I am guessing it’s much like having a flashback, I just need to find ways to ground myself better. I do believe, however, that if I ask if someone needs space rather than just assuming they do and giving it, I can resolve my other problem quite easily.

There is still so much to learn…

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Eureka!

I minimize my feelings because my father minimized them first.

Minimizing. It’s something I often do.  Although I do it less often than I used to, I am sure I still do it far more than I should.  I’m not sure what brought me to the thought because I think about so much.  I analyze my world and everything in it.  Every single thought, I have to fully explore it.  I’ve known for a long time that part of this was a coping mechanism.  When I was little, analyzing every movement, mood, tone, look, action, and reaction was essential to my attempts to keep the balance and strive to live in a happy world.  I learned to watch everyone else to be sure I was prepared for what was coming, but I also learned to watch myself, just in case any little thing I did might set a new chain reaction off.

Along with the running analysis of my environment, there also came another coping mechanism – the art of staying small.  Until tonight, I did not realize just how much of my minimizing actually developed as a reaction to my environment. Yet in twenty-one minutes, I realized how years of emotional guilt and shame all come down to that one little sentence.  In just twenty-one minutes, I understood so much more about my life.  This is what I learned (forgive me if it is a bit fragmented, it was a continuous stream of thought):

I’ve spent my entire life feeling guilty for feeling anything – feeling like I was wrong or bad for having emotions…like I shouldn’t ever be angry or hurt, like I’m a bad person when I don’t like someone for [hurting] me. When I say guilty, its not like “I ate that ice cream, I shouldn’t have” guilty, but seriously guilty – not owning things emotionally because my father’s (and now other’s) feelings were more important, and my feelings didn’t matter.  What he wanted or needed came first, so I learned to protect myself.  I had to make me small, and to protect people I loved, I had to not feel anything at all.

I didn’t tell about my abuse because my father taught me that my feelings did not matter to adults. My grandmother reinforced this when she basically told me that what my grandfather did was my fault. I also did not tell because I did not want my mom to get hurt. Years later, I don’t tell people when they make me mad because I don’t want their feelings to be hurt.  It is safer to absorb the negative feelings I have than to risk the added emotion and guilt from creating a negative reaction in someone else because of course, negative reactions are my fault. I’m a bad person if I make others feel bad, and its all because that’s what i was taught…I just didnt realize that’s what I was taught.

It makes a little more sense now – that man and all his guilt…

Something else I realized was that I’m shy as a result.  My mother tells stories of when I was little, before she and my father divorced.  Back then, I wasn’t shy at all.  I never met a stranger, and I loved everyone in the world.  Yet, after she left, and it was just my father, brother, and I, I learned fairly quickly that it was really important not to show how I felt.  I had to process my thoughts before speaking, and analyze my actions before following through.  It was important that I did not act or speak in a way that would anger my father, or “hurt” anyone else, thus I turned inward and became very shy.  After years of coping this way, it kind of just became a part of who I am.

And then…I realized something else. This is why, no matter how many times I speak in public, or how comfortable I am with a crowd, I always become unbearably nervous while in the midst of my speech. My voice wavers and I start to shake, even when I know the content and the people extremely well.  I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to keep myself calm and not let it get out of control, and yet now, I realize it is because I am not supposed to let others see my emotions. There is a recording in my head somewhere that says, “Stay quiet.  Stay small.” and by speaking to others, I am going against that thought.  My fear of being heard, or doing something wrong, of making others upset takes over – even  when I am not worried about these things at all – my brain remembers all the lessons I have been taught and it tries to take control.

My Own Little World…

“Now it makes sense!” He said that the only thing he had remembered about childhood was that he seemed always to be alone. “Now I understand that being alone was when I felt safe. There was no one around to hurt me.” 1

This quote struck a chord with me.  It resonated deeply, and it brought everything about the few good childhood memories I have into perspective…

As a child, these are a few of my most vivid memories:  riding my bike for hours, searching sandy terraces for quartz crystals, exploring the woods near my home, playing in my room, sitting in my closet in the dark, reading under the covers after the lights were out, fixing meals, eating dinner, playing board games.  Most of these memories are after the age of nine.  All these memories are peaceful, and in every one, I am alone.

I have other memories.  Memories of school, memories of being at my mom’s, memories of staying with my grandmother, In some of these memories, I am solitary, but never totally alone. Most of them are vague, the ones that are more clear are generally punctuated by fear, anxiety, or hurt (emotional or physical).

I have some memories of my “family,” as it were (dad, step-mom, brother, and me).  I am not sure there are more than a couple that involve all four of us.  Most of the memories are from trips to visit family or go shopping. I remember the parts where I was alone more vividly than the rest.  The remaining vivid memories I have from that time are negative ones.

When I was alone, I felt safe.  When I was alone, I was sure of myself.  When I was alone, I was not doing ANYTHING wrong.

It makes more sense now why I prefer to be alone.  My world has perspective when I am not anxious about someone else.  I deal better with people when the situation is one to one because most of my positive interactions as a child were exactly that.  Just me and my mom, my friend and I, etc.

My world was, and always has been, very small.  I like it that way because it is all I have ever known…


1. Cecil Murphey. When a Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman’s Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation (p. 43). Kindle Edition.

Who Is Responsible?

As a child, I learned to take responsibility for a lot of things.  Sometimes, these were the things that most youth learn in order to become responsible adults.  Yet, there are other things that I learned to take on that are clearly not my own – or at least it is becoming more clear that they do not belong to me.

I remember thinking that it was my responsibility to protect my mother from the wrath of my father.  He said ugly things, lots of ugly things, about her, and I did my best to hide them from her.  Not only this, but after I was molested by my grandfather, I remained silent because I wanted to protect her.  I knew that if my father found out that her father molested me, he would find a way to blame her – even though it was his fault for leaving me with that man instead of with my mom.

As a teen, I took on a new responsibility, that of the secret keeper.  I kept the secrets of my grandfather locked away inside because I was afraid that if I told, I would bring someone else pain.  My greatest fear was that someone else (especially my mother) had been molested by him, and sharing my pain would bring back ugly memories.  I knew what it felt like to remember, to loathe, to feel shame, so I did anything I could to shield others from the past.

What is even worse is that I even learned to protect my abusers from their own shame. For many, many years, I protected them out of respect for what is most people call “family.”  I felt it was my duty not to sully the family names by bringing out the ugly secrets that lay within.  I believed that bringing their offenses to light would destroy the world that family members considered safe.  I even felt, and still to this day somewhat feel, that to point out their shame would somehow be unfair because, they are “family” after all…

In my blindness, I enabled my family to pretend that nothing was wrong.  I was, and am still, fairly certain that my father would not believe that anyone in his “loving, Christian family” would be capable of causing such harm.  I believed that my mother’s family would turn a blind eye to the ugly truth, because they have a history (in my opinion) of sweeping things under the rug.  “Talking” is something they never truly do.

Where does this leave me?  I have not the slightest clue.  Sometimes, I want to call them all together and lay it all out.  I want to tell them about the dark and ugly secrets of which they are not aware.  Yet, my mind keeps coming back to the question, “What good would it do?”  I fear that my voice would not be heard – that their collective propensities for blaming someone else would end up making me look like the bad one and once more minimize my experiences.

I guess deep down, what I really want is for someone else to shoulder the responsibility for this entire mess for a while.  Yet all my life, all I have received from others are excuses.  Excuses as to why it is not their fault and why they should not be expected to bear the burden as well.

So, I keep shouldering the responsibilities, even if they are not my own.

Learn from the past…

Parents, aunts, uncles, adults,

If your child, or a child you know, seems to be experiencing more troubles than other youth (emotional, academic, or behavioral), please dig a little deeper.  If you cannot seem to find a way to help the child yourself, seek professional help.

A few days ago, my mother and I were talking about my book.  She, like the proud mother she is, was one of the first to purchase a copy – hoping I would not know.  While I was not apprehensive about what she would read, I was worried about the concern it might cause her.  The content of the book is by no means happy, for the most part, and I feared she would turn my sadness inside, blaming herself.

While discussing this concern, she told me, “I tried to talk to you.  I wanted to know what was going on, but you wouldn’t talk.”  I told her that I wouldn’t talk to anyone back then because I didn’t know what to say, and I was trying to protect her.  She then told me, “But if I had known, I could protected you.  I could have done more to take care of things.”  I knew what she was alluding to, that she would have pressed charges against my grandfather. I told her once again that it was not her fault, that honestly, by the time I was with her, only a trained counselor could have gotten through to me.

The past cannot be changed, and the struggles I endured were by no means her fault.  If anything, I was able to begin healing at a much earlier age because she and my dad provided a safe place for me to “vent” the anger I held inside.  While living with that “demon child” was no picnic for them, I am sure my life would have taken a much uglier path otherwise.

Yet, there are lessons to be learned, even when we make the best of bad circumstances. My guess is, if she were not too shy to say it, she would tell adults this: If you don’t know how to help your child, find someone who does. Looking back, I would also have something to say to youth: If you cannot talk to your parents, find a safe, trusted adult.  Tell your story.  Do not remain silent. If you need help telling your parents, ask that adult to help you find the words.

Afraid to Dream… *Trigger Warning*

I’ve been here before.  I’ve felt these emotions, and I’ve fought to quell these fears. Yet, knowing I can overcome it just is not enough.

I went to sleep last night praying I would not dream of questions that are on my mind. Somehow, it seems it would be more terrifying to remember in a dream.  I really do not want to travel down this path.  I’m not even sure there is anything at the other end, yet the possibility of finding something terrifies me.  I’m not sure why it still scares me so much.  Haven’t I been dealing with flashbacks since I was fourteen?  Shouldn’t I be prepared for that queasy feeling that everyone gets when approaching the dangerous unknown?

In my mind, the answer is, “No, Kylee. No matter how long you are on the path, this part of the journey will always feel the same.”  Still, I keep wishing there was a different answer.  I know I have the tools.  I am strong.  I have conquered the darkness many times before.

I guess, even though the memories are mine alone, I’m just a little afraid to do this on my own…

Something I Can’t Remember… *Trigger Warning*

Have you ever had something that you just cannot remember?  You know it is something you need to know or say, but for some reason, no matter how long you wait, it never comes to mind?

There is this memory – one I cannot shake.  I am not sure how old I was, so I cannot place it on a time line.  All I can remember is taking a bath at my grandmother’s and being afraid.  You see, there was an older man there (my step-grandfather), and I was anxious that he would come in to the bathroom while I was alone.  I am not sure if this is a normal fear for most children, as it is something I was always afraid of as a child.  Since I cannot remember how old I was, I am not sure if this moment came after my grandfather molested me or not.

There are a few memories I have of this place where my grandmother lived.  I am not sure how many of them are from separate times, and how many were from the same visit. What I know is that I remember every place I have ever slept, except that one.  For some reason, I have always memorized every room, even if I only slept there one time.  Yet, I spent the night at this place, and do not remember a single thing about it.

Those two puzzle pieces, coupled with one other, make me feel as though something more went on.  One afternoon, after my grandmother, aunt, cousin and I had been on an outing (this I do not remember either), we returned to the house to find the door locked.  When we tried to get in, this man came to the door and told my grandmother to leave and never return.  He was angry and he was accusing her of something.  I was confused.  I did not know what was going on.  All I could think of was that my doll and my clothes were in the house.  I begged and pleaded with him to let us come in and get our things.  The memory fades from there, but I think he might have set my things outside the door.

Honestly, if there is more, I do not want to know.  Yet there is this nagging feeling that I cannot escape.  It is a very uncomfortable feeling that I wish I could just ignore.