My Dear Friends and Readers,
One of my earliest memories from childhood is of me weeping and saying “nobody loves me.” That was me at five years old. The funny thing was that I held that belief -that nobody loved me and that I was intrinsically unlovable for most of my adult life.
I did not realize that I had operated out of these beliefs until I was in my late 40’s. Through therapy I uncovered that this was my core belief about myself .What got me to therapy so that I could learn this important lesson was a boyfriend who I suspected was cheating on me. I broke into his office to find him with his ex-girlfriend. They were working on something, but the mere fact that he was secretly with her was enough. I screamed and yelled at both of them, so that he had to escort her out of his office, because she feared that I would physically attack her. Later at home, I wept and I realized I was crying because maybe I was not good enough for him.
I was so stunned at how out of control I had been, that I found a therapist and got the first available appointment. I was fortunate that it was a therapist who specialized in addiction and abuse. He helped me unconceal from myself the unconscious thoughts that were running me. It was a valuable experience, but recovering from early childhood trauma- in my case severe physical abuse, neglect and incest, is like peeling an onion. You peel away as much as you can and then you practice in life what you learned in therapy. While therapy may not be a staple in most people’s lives- partially because as a society we are ashamed of therapy, in my life when I feel out of control and I don’t know why, therapy is where I go to find out.
As I reflect upon how my abuse has colored and shaped my life, I see how because I felt like I had been damaged I felt “less than” and undeserving. I felt like I didn’t belong and that I carried a secret that would cause people to shun me, if they found out. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and I was lucky to get anything in life. Worst of all I blamed myself for what had happened to me.
None of these feelings which sometimes still creep back, are unusual for a person who as a child had to plan and figure out how to avoid a father who alternatively beat me or raped me. Add to the scenario a mother who didn’t protect me or believe me and you create a suspicious angry person who was on her way to becoming an alcoholic until cocaine got me into treatment first. Succinctly said, I could not perceive who I really was or could be.
So you might be asking, like some of my friends and family members why am I still writing about this issue? I write to provide information that may bring understanding and hope. Be clear, I do not write for sympathy or to receive comfort. I write not as an example of perfection or from a superior position-I write to educate and to inspire. I also write this blog because I believe that it’s the silence, the denial and society’s desire to just cover it up or get over it that keeps people ill. There is power in saying I am an incest survivor. There is power in saying I was once a crack cocaine addict. There is power in not hiding. There is power in telling your truth. When people are able to articulate what happened to them they remove the story from inside of themselves. then they can begin to deal with their trauma and when they can do that, they can begin to heal.
Years ago when the aids epidemic was beginning, the gay community had a saying that “silence equals death”. Silence in the community of trauma also equals death- death of the soul. Tonight I want to write about an aspect of trauma that I have just learned about and it’s called “freeze”. We have all heard about fight and flight, but for many children who are too small to fight back or flee there is only one other option and that is to give up and freeze. When a person disassociates and disappears because that’s the only choice they have, they take themselves away. As a result they lose a sense of themselves because in absenting themselves from their pain they absent themselves from themselves. Unfortunately, if a child disappears and disassociates long enough it becomes a coping mechanism that becomes a way of life- not being fully present. When a child disassociates they numb themselves from pain and terror but also they dull the pleasure of life as well. Later in life many children who had to freeze are ashamed of what they had to do to survive. Don’t be. We lived, but it takes active work to come fully present to life. That means being able to be present to what happened when you were abused. Life is about being present to all that you meet in your full capacity as a human- not being a person who is constantly watching and feeling left out. This is not what life is about.
I have learned another important thing in these past few months and that is that community can go a long way in helping to heal. Create community. When you create a community that cares and understands you, you create safety. I close by saying reach out into your community. There is help. No one needs to suffer alone or in silence. I am here to lend an ear and a heart. I understand. I survived and so can you. I send my love to each of you with each blog that I write. I wish each of you healing and love and friends and family who love and understand you.
Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes