Self-Harm & Managing Difficult Feelings: Making Good Choices During Therapy Breaks

Therapy break, once again. This time for two weeks. And I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive about it. The funny thing is that up until the night before the final pre-break session I had hardly even reflected on the fact that there was going to be a break. I mean, on the whole I’m doing good. No major hitches the last few months. Nothing much to worry about, apart from the pending move, which is still a fair while away, and is also a different kind of worry. It’s more of a stress factor than something that expresses itself in an anxiety ridden can’t cope sort of way.

So, as I said before, I’d felt absolutely fine about this upcoming break. Fairly confident that it wouldn’t pose a problem. And then, suddenly, I had this huge slap of panic hit me right between my eyes.

Talked about this in my session the following day, and naturally A. wanted to know what I had been doing when this happened. So I gave it a second and then began trying to explain. It ended up being a bit complicated, but in essence it went something like this: I was thinking about something someone at work had told me. It was to do with a child acting out in a way that both my [equally upset] co-worker and I felt was an obvious cause for concern. The incident had happened at another establishment, and so I was hearing about this as a third party, but even so, this retelling really got to me. Not so much what the child in question had done, but rather that no alarm bells had gone off for the staff on duty. From what I was told the staff had been much more concerned about the nuisance the child had caused, rather than triggering any questions of why the child had a need to act out in this rather extreme way.

And it was in the middle of thinking about this that I suddenly felt panicked by the thought of not having any therapy for two weeks.

It may seem that there’s very little to connect what had happened earlier in the day at work and the sudden onset of separation-anxiety later that evening, but if you look it from another angle it may become a little more clear.

To me, the incident with the child and the staff’s reaction was about people whose job it is to look out for kids failing to do so. This got to me because it echoes off other incidents also missed by the adults who ought to have been in charge; in short all the adults who in my childhood failed to notice that something was wrong.

My party line regarding this has always been that they didn’t see anything because there was nothing to see. I was simply such a good little actress that I managed to steer peoples’ attention elsewhere.

But – and this is where it gets hot – is that really true..? Is it even possible for abuse of the kind I was subjected to truly go unnoticed by every single adult in a child’s life..? Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, family friends..? Really? Twelve years is a very long time, and whilst I may have become a very skilled life-actress as I grew older, certainly at the very beginning, back when I was barely five, I simply can’t have had the tools or the know-how to cover up that something had happened. How would I even have known that I needed to assume the role of model child. At that age..?

So, now we’re entering dangerous territory, because that all-important party line – that no one could have seen anything because I was so darn good at concealing the truth – well, it’s a party line in the flavour of a defence mechanism. Not only has this mantra served to allow me to dissolve all the adults around me of any responsibility, but it’s also been a perfect reason for putting the blame solely on myself.

No one could help me, because I didn’t signal that I needed any help. Through acting so convincingly I am the one who made sure the boat wasn’t rocked. In short, I am to blame for not making the abuse stop. I get to take full responsibility while, at the same time, avoiding having to think of the possibility that perhaps there were some signs somewhere that the adults around me where either blind to or did not have the courage to tap into.

I’ve always been very good at blaming myself for letting the abuse go on for as long as it did. Expressing, or even experiencing, any anger directed at the adults in my life (whether founded or unfounded) has simply been too frightening to cope with. And to a large degree it still is.

So, whenever feelings along those lines surface I am astonishingly apt at turning that anger back on myself. Half a heartbeat and out come the scalpels and matches and choke-cords; I turn to self-harm in the most creative ways imaginable. I suppose it would be fair to say that I act out the way I never did as a child. Anything to avoid having to think about the possibility that, maybe – just maybe – there was something to see. That maybe all those adults did miss something, maybe they did fail to act, maybe they did lack in courage.

And this is where my anxiety about the break in therapy comes in. I have enough self-awareness to recognise this pattern of mine; to take things out on myself. And to have thoughts of this nature surfacing at a time when A. is going to be away, it’s not ideal. It is cause for concern. Because, as aware as I am of this pattern, I am equally aware of how incredibly hard it is to break it.

I battle with thoughts of self-harm on a regular basis, but having the safe haven that therapy offers I can usually make a different choice. I can choose to explore the underlying emotions, I can decide to gently prod whatever it is that has triggered the urge to self-harm in a safer way.

Therapy gives me the option to work through rather than act out.

But with thoughts like these in my head, and no therapy.. Well, it makes me worried. I hope that enough will have changed inside of me to make it possible to resist falling back into familiar patterns. In many ways I feel that enough has changed. I just don’t want to be over confident. Because, ignoring the danger signs can have very serious consequences.

Anyway, time for bed.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I feel obliged to point out that it hasn’t gone unnoticed that whatever anger I have about what happened is hardly ever directed at the source of it, at the abusers.. but hey.. that may be the next step.. Who knows?

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow – Looking Back Is Looking Forward

Having one of them days again. You know. The kind when you struggle to get out of bed, despite the sun shining outside of your window – or possibly because the sun is shining outside the window. I dunno. Or, actually, I do know. I just think my reason for getting like this is a bit lame..

It’s his birthday today. Consequently the day I least want to celebrate or even remember. Only I do. Remember it, I mean. Not celebrate. It seems impossible for me to just forget it. Every year it reminds me of his existence, the effect he’s had on my life and even, for better or worse, the person that I am.

On the more positive side it’s my sister’s birthday on Tuesday. Something I do want to celebrate. For all the difficulties in my life, I am blessed to have the two best sisters the universe has ever seen. They do get me through an awful lot of things, just by being who they are, and by allowing me to share in their lives. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Tomorrow is two years to the day since I was first admitted to the women’s crisis centre. I think back and realise how much my life has changed since then. It’s almost unrecognisable. Back then I was one of those people who poured all of me, all my energy, into my job and I was struggling with the idea that I wasn’t able to work. In all honesty, I still struggle with that, because, I like working, I like feeling like I’m of some use to the world around me. But, I can also see that I needed that time off. That it’s been useful and necessary. Had I not taken that time, I doubt it I would still be here now.

As I’ve mentioned before I do some unpaid work these days. Not much, but enough to feel like it makes a difference. And recently I’ve actually upped the hours, which I think is a step in the right direction. I may not feel quite ready to go back to full-time paid employment, but I do enjoy having a sense of purpose in what little work I do do. Also, I am toying with the idea of studying. More than toying, really – but we’ll see if anything comes of it.

I have three long-term goals that I’m working towards. Life-time goals, more accurately, and I feel pretty sure that I will find a way to make them happen. I just don’t know how soon or in what order.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that I have those goals. I think it’s important to have goals, a sense of journey, of going somewhere. Sure enough, life throws you curve-balls, and sometimes you simply can’t catch them; you have to settle for dodging them. But all the same, having a goal does help with all that.

I was at synagogue yesterday morning, and I was sitting – as I always do – with a person who is a long-standing member of the congregation. And I was thinking to myself: How blessed am I?

Two years ago I was at a place where I saw no meaning at all in sticking around. I just wanted to pack up, close the shop,catch the bus. And yet, here I was, two years later, in a place I’d never thought I’d find myself, with people I would never have met, feeling completely and utterly filled with gratitude. Thinking that I wouldn’t want to miss this for anything.

And this is what I try to keep in mind today, struggling as I am with difficult thoughts and feelings – that, if I don’t find a way to make it through today, that means I won’t be here tomorrow.

And if I’m not here tomorrow, who’s to say I won’t be missing out on a day like yesterday?

xx

Heather Nova’s live version of Gloomy Sunday

D.A.M – An Entry About Memories

I feel sick. Stupidly wolfed down a pizza on my own in less than fifteen minutes. Somewhat unlike me to binge in that way, I’m too much of a control freak to do that, usually – but lately I’ve been continuously hungry, and I can’t seem to stop eating.

Listening to my D.A.M playlist as I’m writing this. D.A.M is short for Depressed Angry Music. Has everything from Rammstein to Nitin Sawhney on it. Quite a wide range, in terms of genres – but all tracks are on the theme of depression, anger, frustration, gimme-a-plate-and-I’ll-smash-it..

“..I just wanna be destructive
trash everything in sight
beat the d’vil at his game
abuse myself all night

I wanna bitch the world out
one loud aching scream
don’t want anybody
wanting anything from me

I just wanna be destructive..”

You get the idea.

I’m just feeling very very frustrated at the moment. Had a few really rough sessions last week in therapy. The one I crowned ‘roughest one yet’ the other week was, it turns out, tip of the iceberg material. In last session things tumbled out of me that I hadn’t remember until in that moment, and that’s a pretty scary thing to cope with; the not knowing what might come next. It wasn’t in the form of flashbacks, which I am grateful for, since flashbacks – in contrast to normal memories – you have no way of shielding yourself from. But even without the re-living through flashbacks, sickening memories are still.. well.. sickening.

Had to pause a few times in the session, covering my head with my hands and arms, and repeating out loud that “I really don’t want to remember this, I really don’t want to remember this”.. Almost as if by covering my head, by closing my eyes, I might be able to stop the memories from emerging.

And yet, as hard as this whole remembering things is.. maybe it’s a good thing? Maybe it’s a sign that I’m better able to manage this now? Maybe I’m more ready to let my feelings come out? And the fact that I remembered things in session, maybe that is an indication that I actually feel safe enough with A. for that to happen?

Also, now that I’m at home, alone with my memories – rather than switching me into must-get-scalpels-out mode – well, it seems to come out in very sudden bursts of anger.

That’s right. You heard me. I used the A word.
About me.

Goes to show, doesn’t it? That anything is possible.

And that’s a good thing.

xx

PS. The lyrics above are from LeAnn Rimes’ “destructive”. Fantastic version of the song below – recorded at legendary Abbey Road Studios. (Also check out the Dann Huff produced album version.)

Lyrics from Destructive ©  LeAnn Rimes

Rough, Rougher, The Roughest

Another week gone by. On the whole it’s been a good week. Training, work, therapy and.. well.. those other things I do. Seems like a winning concept to me.

Had a rough session on Friday, though. Possibly the roughest one yet. Especially in contrast to the one I had on Tuesday, which was essentially me faffing about completely random things. [A. pointed out that they weren’t necessarily irrelevant things, but, honestly – to some degree they were].

On to the Friday session. I could feel it the second I walked through the door. It hit me straight off. In fact I struggled to say anything at all at the beginning of session. It happens sometimes. My mind goes blank. But this time the silence wasn’t down to a mental blankness. I could feel something very heavily in my head, and an almost physical gag over my mouth, stopping me from speaking.

Eventually, I did manage to speak. At first about something trivial: I had forgot to put my ring on, the one my parents gave me years and years ago, and which I go through periods of wearing. So, not wearing it, I felt naked. Felt like something was missing. Like there was nothing to hide behind. I often fiddle with that ring in session. A nervous habit. But it works.

And then I launched into the Real Stuff. Which lead on to even more Real Stuff, and ended with me actually talking about The Abuse. Something I haven’t really ever done, apart from during the court hearing years and years ago, and that – as I pointed out to A. later in the session – is very different, because it’s essentially presenting facts, it’s not really talking about anything. [Which is probably why, at the time, I was able to do it – I was just completely emotionlessly describing situations of abuse, without even properly reflecting on what I was talking about, or even that it was me I was talking about.]

So, yes, this was different. It was rough. Seriously rough. But, amazingly, somehow I did manage to talk about some things. Not through the use of pictures [as I did in that session months ago, talking about flashbacks], but through actual words. There were times when I stumbled, and other times when I felt like I was going to be sick, but somehow I still did talk about some of the things that happened. The extent of it. Even managed to talk a little about the feelings attached to talking about it.

At the end of it I felt completely emotionally exhausted, and, glancing over at A. I could see that she seemed to be in a similar place, which, in a way, was strangely reassuring. Felt like a real connection. Some sort of meeting.

Left feeling a combination of lightheadedness and nausea. Headed straight for the nearest shop to get chocolate. After-therapy comfort-eating. [Not that I actually ate it – I still have it here now].

Since FriSat is Special Day for me, I put all of the worries about the consequences of this session out of my head for the time being. But now that Special Day is over, well, those worries are re-emerging. I’ve got this fear lurking once again; Will A. be able to cope with this? What if I pushed too hard? What if I’ve broken her?

Please, hold your “It’s her job, she’ll find a way”s [and any variations on that theme]. The point here is not really how reasonable or not this reaction to sharing difficult stuff is. I can see as well as the next person that this is a reaction based on experience of how other people in my life have felt unable to cope with hearing my story. I know this. And I also know that A. is not them. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling this way. That doesn’t stop the What ifs. What if it turns out that this actually is too much? What if she really can’t cope?

Reality-based or not, this is how I feel. And so it is valid.

Hm. I really need to work on this whole I-know-how-people-will-respond-and-judge-thing. Yeah, yeah, I know.

But that’s a whole nother session.
Or ten.

Be well.

xx

And On We March – An Entry About Accepting The Good Enough

So, I’m back in the land of the living again. I’m out and about and doing things. The flashbacks seem to have ceased – I’m on day seven of no flashbacks at all, and I feel like a new person.

The thing is that I know that these periods of flashbacks, as horrendous as they are, do pass. It’s just that when I’m in the middle of one I find it so incredibly hard to remember that, to focus on that.

It’s very hard to deal with anything when you’re fighting off your past on an hour to hour [or sometimes minute to minute] basis, because it leaves you with no safe space to look at things rationally, and it’s very hard to look past the current reality. I know I’ve gone on about these flashbacks a bit, but they really are that hard to cope with. They’re debilitating. They truly are. And because you are so caught up in it all it’s neigh on impossible to do anything even remotely constructive with the memories you’re flooded with.

Now that this particular period seems to have passed, I hope that I’ll be able to do something with the memory of it. Now that I’ve got a bit of distance from it. But it is difficult. There’s a part of me that wants desperately to explore the things that happened back then, and there is another part of me that wants nothing more than to run as far away from it as I possibly can.

So, it’s slow progress.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was able to share a drawing I’d made with A. And I think that was good. It was bloody hard, but it was good. It was needed. Yet I find so terribly difficult to stick with it. There are other things, other memories, I feel a strong need to talk about. But I feel unable to. It’s too scary, too big. So I talk about other things instead.

It’s not a complete shying away from it, because it’s still there, on the surface of my conscious. But, I just can’t bring myself to say the words. So I don’t. A part of me wants to take the plunge, to risk it. Another part just wants to stay safe and sound and not stir things up.

And how do you know which is better for you? Pushing yourself, or waiting until things come out more naturally? I could push myself, only to find out that I can’t quite cope with the consequences of that. Or I could just wait. But I’ve been waiting for a long time already. What if there isn’t a right time?

On to something entirely different. I’ve finally started doing my voluntary work. And it feels great. I’m not going to go into detail about it in this blog, mainly because – for the sake of relative anonymity – it would give a bit too much away, but I will say this: there is something about working that I have really missed.
I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is, probably because it’s really a combination of things, but I really am enjoying having something to do again. To go out for a reason, to be around other people, to feel like everyone else. As opposed to what? Hm.. I’m not sure. I guess there is something about not feeling like The One With Issues. To just be one of many, to be there on equal terms.
I missed that.

I have my ups and downs. I suspect that I will continue to have those ups and downs. And that things may never be ideal.

But for the time being.. well..
they’re good enough.

xx

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Sideways

A. is back.
Four long weeks, but now she’s back. And that’s good. Really good.

But, it doesn’t change things.
I’m still having flashbacks and they are still as vile as ever, still as difficult to cope with. I’m still trying to not cut, and I’m still failing most evenings. But at least I have a place to explore that.

I’ve seen A. a few times since she’s been back, and I’ve found it incredibly hard to talk. It’s as if the words are in my head and they’re desperate to come out – to be born, in a sense – but at the same time what I want to say is so frightening that I just can’t do it.

So, the first few sessions were a real struggle, trying to explain about the flashbacks and how hard things have been in A.’s absence. And whenever I get even close to saying something about what actually happens in the flashbacks [and by extension in the abuse situation] it feels as if the only way for me to get the words out would be to vomit them out. It’s an almost physical obstruction.

I did manage to tell A. that I have been able, for the first time ever, to draw some of the flashbacks, and we talked about me showing her them. It seemed like a good place to start. Only, for the following three sessions I was sitting there with my journal [where I keep my drawings] on my lap, completely unable to open it.

There was something so scary about the thought of sharing this very secret side of me, that even looking at the pictures myself in A.’s presence [without showing them to her] seemed impossible. So we spent time talking about that. About what it is that’s so frightening: A.’s possible reaction or lack of reaction, my own potential reaction, the fact that it’s so deeply rooted in me that I’m not supposed to talk about what happened, how other people in my life have been unable to cope with my story and so on.

Then last Friday the breakthrough came. I spent ten minutes at the beginning of session again utterly unable to speak, thinking I might never be able to break this pattern, before A. asked me if I would like to show her one of my drawings. At first I couldn’t, and so we spent some more time talking about the reasons for that and about other semi-related things. But then I did it. I sort of hugged my journal one last time and then I opened it and looked.

Some of the drawings I had to skip past, because I just couldn’t handle looking at them with A. there, but some I could look at. It’s all a bit of a blur to me, but I think A. might have asked me what was in the picture I was looking at, and I began, very tentatively, to explain that it was in my room. The room my dad made for me. Then I couldn’t say anything more, so I handed the journal over to A., who took it and looked at the drawing. As I handed it to her, I had to look away, because I was too scared to find out what her reaction might be – but at the same time there was a very strong feeling of Please let me pass this horrible memory over to you.

With some help from A. we managed to look at two drawings. There were some things I just couldn’t say, some words that were too dangerously charged for me to say out loud, but A. helped me out by saying them for me, and by asking questions.

Yes, I was a little switched off – but not completely. Not like I was during the police investigation or in court, when I mechanically delivered facts, completely without feeling.

That said, it wasn’t until after the session, when I was back on the street it really hit me. What I’d done. I started shaking as I was walking, to the point where I was wondering if other people could see it. And I had to stop and be sick three times on the way back.

But, I did it.
I really did it.
I shared something that I have never been able to share before.
And I survived it.

Still, me being me – I am now stuck with this ice-cold fear that I’ve done something very bad. That this will be far too much for A. to cope with, and she will call at any moment to tell me she can’t carry on seeing me, that she’ll have to terminate therapy.

I know it doesn’t make logic sense, but it’s what I feel.
So much so that I find it almost impossible to think of anything else. The last few days since Friday I’ve been completely wrapped up in this feeling. In fact, yesterday I spent four hours at the Tate, hoping to be so overwhelmed by other impressions that it would somehow drown out this gripping fear.

But, it didn’t.

So there you go – two step forward, three steps sideways.

And on we march.

xx

Sexual Abuse & Diagnosis

Let me share a quote with you that someone tweeted me today [along with a link to a really interesting bit of reading]:

“Sexual abuse is a complex life experience, not a diagnosis or disorder”

I love that. It makes perfect sense to me. Naturally, there are people who have been sexually abused who may also have a disorder. But the experience of being abused does not necessarily mean that you need to be diagnosed with something or other. I should think that if you have survived childhood sexual abuse, it’s pretty natural that you at some point in your life begin to react to it. And that doesn’t automatically mean that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. Absolutely, your view on things will likely have been affected by this trauma – but, can anyone really say what’s outside of the norm, when that crosses into the realm of illness?

Let’s say you break your leg. You’re in pain. You react by screaming to let people know of your agony. Does this mean that you suffer from broken leg syndrome or acute pain disorder? Or is this a perfectly reasonable response to what has happened to you? What if you pass out instead of scream? Does that put you in a position where you surely must be suffering from some DSM-IV/ICD-10 identifiable illness – other than the fact that you have a broken leg?

I know, I know – it’s an incredibly simplified comparison, but maybe you can see my point? Certainly there are people who have been subjected to childhood sexual abuse who are bipolar, who have a borderline personality disorder, who show signs of paranoia. Of course there is. But that doesn’t mean that as a direct result of having been abused you are now fundamentally flawed.

Anyway – just had to get that out of my system.

On to other things.

xx

Past and Present – An Entry About The Relativity Of Time

Following last week’s somewhat graphic blog entry, which seems to have – judging by comments and emails – really struck a chord with people, this time I will try to put into words what’s going on in my world. While drawing has been something of a release for me it has also in some instances put me in a far more vulnerable place than what writing commonly does, and so, we’re back to using the tool of my trade; the written word.

This whole week people have been saying one thing to me over and over; “Not long until A. gets back now.” I know that it’s meant to be encouraging, and that, in comparison to eight days or three weeks ago, this is true; it’s not long to go. But, honestly, time is a pretty relative thing, and when every night is an eternity of endless flashbacks and breakneck shuttling back and forth between the past and the present, well, four days is a very very long time indeed.

Also – and I accept that I am to a large degree responsible for planting this idea in people – just because A. will be back, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the flashbacks will stop. In actual fact I’d be very surprised if they did. I think that part of the reason why I’m having them is that I am, perhaps, becoming increasingly more able to allow these memories to surface.

Most of the flashbacks I have aren’t of ‘repressed memories’; most of the situations I actually consciously remember. What is new is that there are feelings attached to them. They aren’t just distant memories like “Oh, yeah, I remember that happening. He did this, I said that, and then…blah blah blah”, what they are is a re-experiencing of the emotions I had back then, played out in the past and present simultaneously. For the longest time, I never felt anything about the abuse. I was completely void of emotions and could be frighteningly matter-of-fact about it. Actually, I still can be. But now, all of a sudden, I’m having these flashbacks which come with a whole host of feelings I must have felt back then, but which I have never allowed myself to truly experience.

So, in a way, the flashbacks in themselves aren’t really the problem; as I’ve mentioned before I’m now pretty good at finding my way out of them. What is a problem is that even after I’m out of the flashback I still have to deal with all the emotions it has brought to surface. It’s a similar (but obviously much stronger) sensation to waking up from a nightmare; you know that there is no real threat, but your heart is still racing, the fear is still there, and it takes a while to come back to yourself. Only, in the case of flashbacks, the threat was real, and so are the feelings you are left with. It’s like a delayed emotional reaction to an experience that once was real.

Once A. is back, I hope I’ll be able to explore these feelings in a safe way, and at a pace that doesn’t scare the crap out of me. But, in all honesty, even though that’s what I’m hoping for, I’m not at all sure I’ll actually be able to do it. When it comes to the abuse, and by extension, the feelings I had about it – well, I just seem to be incapable of saying the words out loud. Even writing them down is next to impossible. In fact, with a few exceptions, the drawings I’ve made in the past days have probably been the closest I’ve ever come to actually expressing outside of my own head what actually happened.

But maybe they can be a starting point?

xx

PS. Observant blog visitors will have noticed that I’ve added a section called “On My Shelf” to my site. This is not a Best Oflist, but they are books I’ve found interesting and/or helpful – and I thought you might, too! That said, three of the titles listed are books that I definitely think should be required reading for anyone practising as, or training to be, a counsellor or psychotherapist.

What Words Can’t Express – A Visual Representation Of Sexual Abuse Flashbacks

Simultaneous Reality
– Real Time Flashback –

childhood sexual abuse flashbacks

What It's Like Having Sexual Abuse Flashbacks


Here Comes Trouble – An Entry About Accepting The Inevitable

I’m going home for Christmas. Not home home – as in staying in the house I grew up – because, well, I really don’t think that would be a particularly good idea. I’ve been virtually out of touch with my whole family since April, and the reason I’m going home is not to cause a stir or to confront anyone.

I just want to have a nice Christmas break. That’s all I want. Snuggling up on the sofa watching the Disney special. Going for walks in the snow. Mulled wine. That’s it. I don’t want any drama, don’t want conflict, don’t want to avoid conflict. I just want to be me. At home. At Christmas.

Only, I’m from a very small town and it’s not quite as simple as that.. Going home inevitably means running the risk of bumping into people in town who know people who know people. You know how it goes..

My solution to this was to ask G., my sisters’ mother, to tell my mother (and thereby, I assume, also the rest of the family) that I’ll be home, and that I’ll be staying at her house.

I figure it’s only fair that they, my mother and close family, know that I’ll be around, and that they have been told about it before I’m actually there. I really don’t want a scenario where my mother gets to hear it from one of her ex-workmates or anything like that, because, as far as I’m concerned that would probably be the cruellest option, and – as I said – my aim is not to cause upset. I would hate it if she spoke to one of her acquaintances and they said “Oh, by the way, I met S in town – I didn’t know she was back home?”

I am fairly confident that my family hasn’t really told anyone that I’m not in touch with them. And that is their choice, their prerogative. If they’ve decided to keep the situation under wraps, as it were, then that’s not my responsibility – and by rights I shouldn’t really need to worry about it.

But I do. Of course I do.
Because, as complicated as everything is I still do love them, and I don’t want to intentionally hurt them. I mean, I know that I am, by cutting them off, and thereby causing all manner of problems for them in terms of being able to act as if everything is ok. As long as I was being compliant, playing along with their version of what they like to call normality, it was pretty simple; family dinners, laughter and joy for the outside world to see and everything else could easily be choked to silence. And then, the second I decided not to play along anymore, all that was turned upside down, and I’m not naïve enough to believe that that hasn’t made everything a whole lot more difficult. It’s not as easy to act as if everything is fine when a key player is completely missing from the board.

So, yes, I do accept that I am making things difficult. But, the way I see it, I always have. Since that morning in December almost fifteen years ago I have been the stumbling block of my family. I know that the general opinion is that I should have got over It by now (God forbid using actual words and call abuse abuse..!) and that I am creating a major fuss over nothing. I’m not sure exactly where that stems from, but were I to venture a guess I’d say it is because my family have always only heard my oldest brother’s version of what happened, and that that version is more than just a little diluted, and fairly well removed from the truth.

I don’t think that my family are bad people; in fact I know that they aren’t – but they do have a very obvious inability to accept and cope with the reality of things. Particularly when it comes to the abuse that my brother subjected me to. And so, rather than asking me (or themselves, for that matter) Why are you reacting so strongly to what we have been told was pretty minimal? they find it easier to just put my behaviour down to ‘wanting to be difficult’ or possibly even ‘being a bit of an attention seeker’.

Sometimes I feel that my family have completely lost sight of the fact that this situation is incredibly hard and painful for me, too, and in their minds I end up being the trouble-maker. For all the If she just let go of the past it would make things so much easier for everyone‘s they seem to forget that I am the person who actually has to live away from my family, who has to spend hours caught in vivid flash-backs, has had to struggle with depression because of the scars inflicted by my brother.

And that’s not fair. It really isn’t. Because – and as far as I am concerned there are no two ways about it – it isn’t my fault that we’re in the situation we’re in. We ended up here SOLELY because of what my brother did to me, and no matter which way you look at it the facts are pretty simple: I was 4. I did not choose for him to do the things he did, I didn’t ask for it to happen. The abuse carried on for a full twelve years not because I was born unable to say no, but because he took that ability away from me. Regardless of which way you chose to turn it, it will always come back to that; had he not done what he did, we would not be in this situation now.

So, I’m going home for Christmas. And I won’t be hiding.
I won’t be seeking anyone out, either. But I refuse to be made invisible because of something that simply was not my fault.

It won’t be easy, of course it won’t. But I’ll still do it.

Because it needs to be done.

xx