You are absolutely right it is both incredibly exhausting and invigorating! Yesterday i just had to sleep most of the day. I couldn't keep my eyes open. But I also feel a wonderful shift.
I think one of the hardest things for me, and what has made it even harder to deal with the past and be real in the present. is I have at times been (nearly) completely debilitated with mental health issues - hardly able to function at all. I look around at others here who have similar histories and I am ashamed to say I feel ashamed about how the abuse impacted me. Why didn't I develop parts with high functioning to mind me? To stay strong and keep it structured and together? Why was this very physical kind of breakdown my way? I think though I may be able to answer that...
Don't get me wrong, I can be, and have been very high functioning. I've puled off a lot in my life. It just makes the times when I 'break down' all the more painful.
I remember trying to go back and finish school after my mom decided to pull me from art school, after my first year... because it wasn't a 'real' study and was only for crazy people. I just always seemed to be a person who would end up being sexually exploited... at the end of my year there I was hurt again. I was hurt a few times. Art school helped a lot, but being pulled out didn't, it set me back. I was extremely dissociated when I went back to high school - which had always been a very hostile place for me.
I remember going into biology lab. I was always so good at science. And I was trying to prepare a slide for the microscope. And I couldn't for the life of me coordinate my hands or body to do so, I couldn't even see. I was just a shaking mess. Silently I left the class. Then found a place, where no one could see, to cry. I felt I could go to no one for help. This was because I was 'incompetent', confirming my mother and fathers hateful put downs, and I had to try and hide it. I never went back to class again.
When I was a child no matter what happened to me I always seemed to be able to stay very structured and do, and present well - I was an excellent student. Even though I was a strange child, I was very dissociated... have you seen that movie Tideland (2005) by Terry Gilliam? There is a little girl who has to deal with two addict parents. Maybe a bit too triggering to watch, it's very dark, so I don't know if it's a recommendation... But I really could relate to her fantasy world and her lightness, and also her parts.
In any case a lot of that ability to structure and perform like an outstanding child, I think came from the pressures and supports of living on the same street with my extended family . I based my internal working method on it. Do you remember how we were talking about disorganized attachment and it's relationship to dissociation? From psychology Today:
Another aspect of this, is that a system is created. What they call an Internal Working Method to be able to keep going and 'fit in', when undergoing frequent and extreme abuse over purlonged periods. cPTSD symptoms are often suppressed until something fundamentally shakes the grounds on which a person - adult survivor or child - has used to order their place in the world. Some of this could just be finally getting safe.... to not always being in a frightening world, means the energy used to maintain controls can be released but then the trauma needs to release too... enter PTSD... but it also explains why people may seek out similarly abusive environments because it literally holds them together strangely enough...One particular form of attachment, disorganized attachment occurs when the caregiver mistreats the child, frequently frightens the child, miscommunicates feelings, and has highly unrealistic expectations of the child (e.g., relying on the child for care).
Caregivers who act in ways that give rise to disorganized attachment may behave very inconsistently (for example at times they are intrusive, at times they withdraw), which creates confusion for the child. The child may end up with multiple, incompatible views of the caregiver (seeing the caregiver as a source of protection and danger at the same time) and incompatible views of themselves (feeling confusion about whether they are good or bad). These incompatible views are very difficult to reconcile and hard to combine into a coherent structure.
The child is left with confusion about who their parents are, and who they are, making it difficult to establish a coherent sense of self. This sort of fragmentation lays the groundwork for dissociative experiences.
Even more confusing, the child faces the dilemma of both protecting themselves from a caregiver and maintaining a relationship with them. Jennifer Freyd explains that the betrayal trauma, the sense of betrayal often found in children abused by their caregivers explains why many children forget the abuse, or rather, put it out of their minds.
I think that immigrating at once made me safer, I was away form the ring, but also more exposed to my parents inability to parent. In my old country at least I had some people around who coddled me, I had an aunt I could go to, who would treat me like her daughter (I was more like a doll she could play with, but she did want me to be her daughter. When we were immigrating she begged me to stay...) . And my Nana. Of course they were involved in enabling abuse... but they buffered my self esteem. School had also been a much safer place, where I was a star pupil.
But then when I immigrated at 10 nearly 11 years old, home was not safe with nowhere else to turn to, and then school was not safe because I was bullied a lot for being an immigrant. I would be badly bullied for years! On top of this my aunt , my Nana and none of my 31 first cousins , 8 uncles or aunts ever wrote to me again. They cut off communication. It felt like I had been disowned - I knew it was because of me. because I was 'sinful' - unforgivable. When I met my mothers side of the family, it was clear they did not like children. And I was really shocked at how they spoke and behaved. It was a big leap from the close knit clan and continuous culture I had left.
I was particularly badly bullied at school between 12-14. My mother was psycho. My father was psycho, My brother was showing himself to be psycho and would beat my sister and I. There was so much pain and darkness Everyday I would go to school and be tortured - physically, emotionally, verbally and even sexually abused. The other children were very rough, and one of the teachers, my home room teacher, called me the troublemaker, because I was the one always being picked on.... my brothers and sister would taunt me about it too. Everyday I would cry for hours in my room, my sister or brother would sit outside the door mocking me...
On the last day I was at this particular school, I was playing 'fruit salad' in a drama class, where you need to run across the room. I ran across the room and three boys ran up, grabbed me, slammed me against the brick wall, and tried as hard as they could to break my arm. Somehow I managed to break free and ran for the door, the whole class laughed.
I had begged my family to allow me to move schools for years... but my father said, it was all my fault, because I was a 'little bitch'. When I escaped and came home after being attacked like that, my father told me the same thing. He told me I deserved to be hurt and worse, I deserved everythign I got and brought it on myself.
Well long story short, the internal working method that allowed me to be highly functioning despite experiencing extreme abuse just broke down. There was no safe place... the symptoms I now still experience to this day first kicked in when I went to the new school after being bullied at the old one. They got worse and worse, the dissociative switches more profound, like rapid cycling of states. I never had any support or counseling. My mother without asking me how I felt, or observing the symptoms, or bringing me to a doctor ( doctors were avoided in my family) said I had hypoglycemia ( more because my freezing had become hard to ignore by outsiders, I would just cease up into catatonic dissociation, lose motor functions and fall down)... she made me eat a sandwich every 2 hours...
Later when I finally got safe and away from my family... even though I had earlier flashbacks and nightmares, and things came up... at 24 PTSD hit full force after being raped AGAIN after a healing ceremony by a shaman while I was under the influence of a powerful psychoactive- which as you can imagine has also caused me to question myself and my memories a LOT. I have been trying to actively heal since then, but for me it has been one flood, and new terrible revelation, after the other. There is so much to process from my childhood. And what happened in my teenage-hood was also very hard... It always made me wonder why do I need to 'make up' child sexual abuse and torture? .... I mean I already have enough trauma that can continuously remember for a life time of PTSD? The denial has also really blocked self compassion and dealing with anything. I would just seek to 'prove' myself, diving into things repeating the very responsible but not able to, pattern of childhood.
So even though in 2012 it was recognized that I am officially disabled - long term disabled.... I have never been able to accept it or believe it is real. I have felt like a fake, and there is 'no excuse'. That as my wonderful mother would say I was 'worthless', and lazy and bad. So you know I would just try and out perform the assessment. Be the best or better... and then it comes up again, the symptoms escalate, and I just can't do anything anymore...
I think when I return to school I want to be a proud person with a disability. I want to own what I need in terms of supports. I want to claim my right to be there. I don't have to pretend to be 'normal' or 'above average'... I just need to be me.
Thanks for listening Coconuts.