Borderline and self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem

I grew up believing that there is nothing I can do well. The only thing I believed I was useful for was to give other people sexual pleasure. That’s sick, obviously, because I was a child.

Awareness of who we are grows through the kind of feedback we receive about ourselves. As a social species we use others as a mirror to see ourselves. By how they react to us, verbally and through behavior, we draw conclusions about ourselves.

My mother was unable to be a good mother. My needs usually went unmet. She was unpredictable, angry and often aggressive towards me. I concluded I was unimportant, unlovable, unable to do something right and that I deserve punishment just for being there.

My step-father’s interest in me centered solely around the sexual abuse. If I didn’t do what he wanted me to, he became violent. My mother often said that she only kept me around because I had made him “addicted” to me. I concluded that I had to earn my right to exist by making myself available for abuse.

At school I got held back because I did not learn. Teachers used to say that they are not sure that there’s anyone actually at home inside of my head. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” I concluded that I must be really dumb.

In the institutionalized years that followed people became annoyed with me very often after what had always looked like promising starts. I concluded that I may look worth saving on the outside, but that there was nothing inside of me that would keep anyone going.

As you may imagine, my self image was real bad. I didn’t like myself. Like, at all. The feedback I had received painted a very unlikable picture of me and I was convinced that it was true. Because as a social species we tend to take social feedback seriously.

Unfortunately we’re also not born with a way to tell whether the person who reflects an image of us back through feedback is a good mirror, or one right out of a fun house. Imagine you had looked into a distorting mirror all your life. How would you like the way you looked? And if you had grown used to always looking a certain, distorted way in the mirror because you never saw yourself in any other mirror, would you believe the reflection if it suddenly were different?

I went through a lot of unhappiness and trouble with the positive feedback I received after I met my family and came to live with them. Lots of fear that once they discover how terrible I really am, they will want to have nothing to do with me anymore. In lots of ways I have tried to force them to hate me and be repulsed by me. Sometimes I could not stand their presence. At the same time I am and always was mortally afraid of losing them. But I wanted to have it happen, because I was convinced that it was what I deserved and what was going to happen anyway. When things don’t match up, when everything is a mess, when you don’t know who or what you really are or are not, that’s what happens.

Lots of tears, tantrums, hugs, yelling, cuddling, passionate hating, ardent loving and most of all lots of patience later, I am pretty sure that my “self” I have been aware of, was really not very realistic but just the reflection of other people’s mental issues. I don’t feel horribly unlovable, useless and dumb anymore most of the time. I am starting to allow the thought that there are things I might be good at, that I can be a kind person who others like and some even love. That this is not just some con act, but actually part of who I am.

At the same time I do not have a lot of practice thinking those things and old habits die hard and I have moments where I get very confused and find it hard to assess who I am. What I am. What I can. That I am important to someone.

It helps that my family are aware. Sometimes my mom sings the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” chorus to me. You know, the “I belong to you, you belong to me, you’re my sweet-heart” part. She does it just because. Just because she wants to. I really like that because it feels like she means what she sings and wants me to know.

What also helps is actually DOING something useful. I have started volunteering at my mom’s former psychiatric ward. She used to be the head psychiatrist there or something and it’s a kids ward. That they know my mom and trust her judgment is probably the only reason why they agreed to let me volunteer. Anyway, I am going there once a week to just be with a little girl they assigned me to and play. To just do normal stuff with her, so she gets to just play and relax and laugh. We’re friends. She loves my long blond hair and says that when she grows up she wants to be just like me. I always laugh and tell her to pick someone else to be like, not a girl who’s way too old to not have an education and stuff. But deep down I am starting to think that maybe it’s not the worst thing. Being me, I mean. Maybe not by everyone’s standards, but my own standards are modest. Or maybe not modest, but different. But my life is different from that of many other people, so what do I need their standards for, right? 😉

I think finding the right mirrors for myself and the right standards to assess my behavior and my “self” with is one of the keys for a better and more realistic awareness of myself and for becoming more confident and stuff. Also, it helps to actually DO things that I can then assess. After all, staying on the borderline isn’t much fun. Lines are narrow. Borders are boundaries. And while boundaries are not necessarily bad, I don’t want to live ON them, but within them. And maybe sometimes beyond. In a good way. And a feeling good about myself way.

So that’s where I want to get. Slowly but surely.

Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 3)

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Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 2)

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The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 6 – Collage Day

SexualHJ_06

With today being something of a rotten day, I still decided to have a go at continuing with the sexual healing journey. I have entered the first chapter of the second part. The second part of the book is all about “making changes”. It introduces various ways and areas in which changes can be necessary to go from an unhealthy idea of what sex and sexuality is to a healthier one.

I didn’t feel up to much writing and reflecting today, but the book suggested to make a collage of the unhealthy view on sex that I have, as well as the healthier view I would like to develop. You know, to get a better idea of what my current understanding is, as well as to get an idea of what I’d want my future understanding to be like. So that was what I started the day with today.

*TRIGGER WARNING: the ‘now’ part of the collage is graphic and contains explicit imagery.*

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Okay, so here we go. Here are the two collages I ended up with next to each other:

CollageBoth

And if you want to see better, here is my current, unhealthy idea of sex:

Collage01

And here is what I would like my healthy version to be like, the goal I am working towards:

Collage02

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What’s interesting is that when I started out, I had absolutely no idea of what my ‘goal’ side was going to look like, but then it kind of came together easier than I thought it would be. So I guess the good the collage making did was that I realized that my current idea of sex is really nasty, but also that I actually do have something of an idea of what I want to work towards. That’s more than what I thought I had before I made the collage. So I guess that’s a good step into the right direction.

Okay, off to do something nice with my mom now.

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Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 3
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 4
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 5

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

The Dreadful 15th

Like my previous post already said, I’m having something of a crappy time. It’s probably all the good stuff and progressish stuff coming to kick me in the ass. I learned not to fret too much about it, because it’s what always happens after a good stretch, but I hate that it came with a lingering headache. I mean really, that’s overkill. I wish it fucked off.

Anyway, I suppose what also contributes to the crappy time is that the 15th is drawing closer. Dreadful date. In 2002 it was Tuesday and a social worker lady and a police officer barged into 6th grade math class. I had just turned 15. (And if you are better at math than I was and wonder what the heck I was doing in 6th grade at age 15 – I got enrolled in school a year late and then got held back twice, repeating 1st and 5th grade, but it didn’t matter because by looks I fit in with the others and I never really cared anyway.)

Anyway, the police officer and social worker lady called my name. I panicked. I thought I had somehow gotten into trouble, big-time. I was mortally afraid of what my parents would do to me once they found out I had attracted not only the attention of some concerned teacher or something, but of the police and whatnot. They demanded I take all my things and come with them. First they took me to the social worker’s office, then to a children’s home.

I didn’t comprehend until a couple of weeks later that this was not some temporary thing but that I wasn’t ever going to see my family again. At that point I seriously freaked and my foray into mental health care started with a hospitalization.

Ever since then Jan. 15th is a bad day. The day I lost my life and everything in it, basically, and had to trade it for shit. Not that my life wasn’t plenty shit before that, but at least it was the shit I had grown up with. Familiar shit. I would have given anything to get it back. Especially since by then amnesia had set in and I wasn’t remembering most shit.

Fast forward eight miserable years and some months and my future family picks me from an advertisement text stating my name, age, diagnoses and a short summary of what the shrinks-in-charge perceived to be my advantages and disadvantages, along with a 2×3 inch picture. They probably figured that since I have no next of kin who might complain, I’d make a good guinea pig for some foundation’s family care project. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about most things.

FirstPictureTurns out it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got kicked out of the project, but my family kept me. Adopted me, even. And ever since I am looking at the picture – they kept it – and wonder why on earth they chose me. Why did they want to meet me and not some other chick?

I still remember the day they took the picture. The guy with the camera was all ‘smile, put your best foot forward’. Well, you can see for yourself how well that worked. Maybe if I hadn’t been drugged up so much I would have smiled. But then no, probably not. So it certainly wasn’t because of my engaging smile that they picked me. And I hate to think it was out of pity. I really can’t tell what it was, so I return to the picture again and again trying to find out.

Mom assures me it was because when they saw my picture they felt like this might work out, having me at home with them. She says she can’t explain exactly what it was that brought her to this conclusion. She calls it intuition. Which is one of the most annoying non-answers because it tells me nothing at all.

Ah well, but I’m rambling. I guess I just wanted to put the crappiness into words that the 15th comes with. Losing everything. Eventually meeting my family for some unknown reason. Maybe it was random. Maybe my whole life is random. I don’t know. I try to make the best of it anyway. I just wish the headache would fuck off.

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 3

SexualHJ_03_3

Today I am going to finish chapter 3. This part of the Sexual Healing Journey is about “remembering sexual abuse” and “telling others about the sexual abuse”. And I think I’ll jump right in.

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Remembering sexual abuse

Like many people who have been sexually abused, I have memory issues. It’s quite amazing to consider it, actually, but after sexual abuse having been a daily (I think) part of my life for 15 years, after I had gotten removed from my family, I forgot about it. Thinking back I find that creepy, that I could just forget it, like it never happened. My sexual behavior was still way different than what’s normal for 15 year old girls, but I managed to forget that I had been abused. The memories only resurfaced lots of years later, many months after I had come to live with my family. I started having flashbacks and memories returned.

Even so, I still don’t have coherent memories of the abuse to this day. I have memory fragments, a collage of a plethora of memory snippets, but I have a hard time determining what goes together, a hard time putting them in order and sometimes even a hard time really making sense of the fragments, because they are so small and isolated. Some of the fragments consist of visual memories from my own perspective, some appear like scenes from a movie, from an outside perspective, some consist only of feelings and a vague sense of something happening and no real visuals to go with them at all… it can be quite confusing.

Usually I do okay with the memory fragments that I have. Sometimes, however, something scary happens. I suppose it’s some kind of flashback thing going on. Then memories will appear before my mind’s eye, and I feel like I am seeing a memory clip of sexual abuse happening under a stroboscope light, so that rather than smooth movements I see rapid successions of pictures, along with the eerie feeling that goes with the strobes effect. It feels like not being able to breathe properly. It’s a really fucked up thing to happen.

So I guess I have memory issues and remembering sexual abuse properly is a challenge. The book says that’s okay, though. It also says that while it can be helpful to retrieve and make sense of the memories, it’s not absolutely necessary for healing, and that the mind probably knows best what to remember when and that it can’t and shouldn’t be forced. I like that. And what I find important is that the book says to trust memories or feelings of abuse when they do appear. Sometimes I get visual snippets of some seriously sick shit, and I don’t know if those are to be trusted or if they are just my own imagination being really sick. But I am working on trying to trust them. A little.

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Telling others of the abuse.

Okay, so remembering was one thing. Telling others of the memories is another. The book says that often people don’t tell anyone of the abuse that happened. That can be

  • for fear of others not believing us or downplaying it
  • because we feel ashamed
  • because we don’t want to be seen as victims
  • because we were told not to tell
  • because we’re afraid the other person can’t handle it

and probably various other reasons, too.

I think I am at least partway lucky (if you can speak of luck in such a context) insofar as I don’t have memories of being told not to tell. I was told it was normal, something all good little girls had to do. As a child I would have never told anyone because I didn’t want to call anyone’s attention on me, did not want to give people ideas, and most of all, because I would have felt way too embarrassed and exposed to ever speak about it. I think I tried to pretend the sexual abuse didn’t even exist the best I could, so acknowledging it was indeed real by telling someone else about it? No way! To my mind there was nothing I could have told anyone, especially not nosy teachers who were concerned about me.

But on the positive side this means I don’t have to struggle with disobeying anyone now that I am older and can tell someone of what happened. Even so, at first I still struggled with all those feelings I knew from when I was little, after memories of the sexual abuse had come back. I didn’t want to tell mom because I was ashamed and felt exposed and vulnerable and like she might come to see that I’m nothing but a sleazy whore after all, causing her to abandon me because she doesn’t want someone like me for a daughter. Yeah, so that caused me to act out quite severely, which in turn caused mom to be all over me, so that in the end I didn’t know which was worse anymore and ended up telling her.

I’m still her daughter, so all is well, and very slowly I learned that it’s okay to talk about the abuse in appropriate contexts. I’m speaking about it right now. So I guess I am doing okay acknowledging the abuse, even when my memories are still upset and there still are things that get in the way, like my feelings disappearing when I talk about the abuse, or the opposite happening (especially when I talk about it with mom).

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Okay. So with the acknowledging chapter behind me, I think it is time to go on tomorrow. I’m a little sick and tired of acknowledging, to be honest. So tomorrow I will deal with “Identifying the Sexual Impact”. Stay tuned if you want to learn what it’s about! 🙂

And I think a thank you is in order to everyone who is following my journey, who leaves kind comments and words of encouragement. I really appreciate that. Thank you. 🙂

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Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2

 

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

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