I am a survivor of extremely severe ritualistic childhood abuse and sadistic systematic torture. Without God's intervention in my life I wouldn't be here - NOW is the time for me to tell MY story by speaking the TRUTH about MY life. I will be silenced no more! On this blog I share MY life, MY healing journey; helpful quotes/stuff I come across and MY thoughts along the way. The more I speak out the more liberated I am from the shame and trauma of the abuse. My broken wings are gradually being restored. This blog has helped me begin to get my voice back and documents the journey God is taking me on to heal me from the trauma and damage caused by that most appalling abuse.

Monday, 25 April 2011

THE NATURE OF INCEST


Incest is more than just a sexual act.
 
I was "the other woman" in my parent's marriage which was very damaging to me and confusing for me to process. My father by his actions and choices made me “the other woman” which is a terrible thing for a father to do to his daughter.

My entire family was incestuous. It wasn’t just my brother and parents but my paternal grandparents, who were the only grandparents I ever knew. Every single member of my family used me to satisfy their sexual and emotional needs. I had no value outside of that abuse. It meant I never had a chance to be a child. I wanted to do child things and activities but was prematurely forced into grown-up things instead. 

I was forced into adult roles and my needs were ignored, minimised and neglected.

I never had a childhood but when the entire family is incestuous that is normal. I did not realise it was not normal until I was outside of that toxic family after I was beaten up and left for dead when I was 19. 

While it was happening to me I always felt it was wrong but because no-one else considered it to be wrong. I thought I must be wrong to think it was wrong. Also I was indoctrinated with the “you are bad, everything about you is bad and wrong and you bring everything upon yourself” so I doubted my own gut reactions to what was happening to me. 

Truth is deep down I knew it was wrong but my abusers did everything to make me believe it was normal behaviour.

But there is more to incest than the physical side of incest. Incest is also emotional and psychological.

My experience of incest was that it permeated and affected every aspect of family life. 

Incest is so insidious. Some of it was obvious and overt. The obvious overt physical and sexual incest was much easier to deal with than the covert and impossible to define emotional component. All aspects of the incest were equally damaging to me. 

Covert incest occurs when the parent makes the child a surrogate partner. The boundary between caring and incestuous love is crossed when the relationship with the child exists to meet the needs of the parent rather than those of the child.” Silently Seduced by Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D.

The emotional component was about being responsible for everything that happened including everyone's happiness and bad moods. I was constantly monitoring everyone’s moods. I also had to constantly monitor atmospheres in the house. It was exhausting but essential to my survival. I constantly monitored everyone’s body language. A simple narrowing of the eyes; a brief look; a manner of walking into a room; how someone sat down in a chair – these all told me a lot. I knew to look away or to flinch a split second before anything happened just from my constant observances.
Constantly monitoring was exhausting but I guess I was hyper vigilant from a tiny age and knew nothing else. 

Hyper vigilance kept me alive.

Being responsible for everyone's wellbeing or otherwise was a terrible weight to carry. I feel that weight as I write about it. I had no needs as a child. I was not allowed to have any needs. Normal childhood needs were minimised, denied and ignored. I wonder if my family ever saw me as a child? Did they ever see me as a human being? NOPE, it sure never felt like it! Did they only see me as this thing which they could use and abuse at will? YES, that was what it felt like. Me as a person with my own feelings, needs, opinions etc was invisible. It was all very confusing, isolating and conflicting!

I existed to fulfil everyone else’s needs. I existed to be blamed for everything that went wrong in the family. I existed for their purposes and their purposes alone.

I was the scapegoat of the family. Everything was my fault. My brother could do no wrong in my parent’s eyes and they always defended him against me. They were completely and deliberately blind to his faults. My brother took advantage of that by manipulating and controlling me and events to his advantage and to my disadvantage. They all picked on me, bullied used and abused me no matter what I did. I felt totally trapped and helpless.
 
No-one in my family took responsibility for or considered my needs or wellbeing. Incest was all about what they wanted from me. 

It was all about how useful I was to them. It was all about them meeting their needs through me.

And that is what incest is about.

While I was writing this article I came across the following quote about incest. 

“Family members are immersed in the overt level on a daily basis, and they bond to each other at this level. They feel love, affection, and loyalty not only for each other but also for the image of the family as caring, strong, and devoted. Belief in the overt system is so strong that it is difficult to believe repressed abuse memories when they emerge.” Repressed Memories by Renee Fredrickson

That describes the conundrum incest creates really well. When I think about what went on in our family and what my mother, in particular cared about most, it was about image, all about image. Everything in our family was about the "reputation of the Nicholson family", “what will people say?” It was all about the public perception of the Nicholson family, how people saw the Nicholson family, "no one in the Nicholson family does..."

The image of “the Nicholson family” was always the bottom line. So many comments ended with words to that effect. So many comments began with words to that effect. It was almost a mantra. I remember many times I wanted to scream “will you shut up about the image of the Nicholson family, what about how people IN the family are? Does it matter to you at all how I feel?” I didn’t of course! I valued my life more than to speak my mind. I would have been severely beaten for that. The truth is I knew the answer to that question. To have spoken my mind would have been considered disloyal to the family at the very least, betrayal at the very worst! Loyalty to the family unit was the absolute standard, nothing else was acceptable. Loyalty to my abusers and loyalty to the image! Yet they were not loyal to me. They demanded loyalty from me but gave nothing back.

I think it is the nature of incest to take and take and take, to demand and demand and demand but to give nothing back.

In public the family was seemingly happy and smiley, a model family, but once you entered the front door of that house and that door shut... it was a very different story. It was all very confusing, contrary and impossible to make sense of. My parents tried to give off an image of the family being healthy and happy even though they weren't? Enormous effort was put into creating this look - looking right, looking happy, looking normal, looking healthy and no effort was put in to actually achieving those things. It was all superficial. I hated that superficiality. The superficiality of image over reality, honesty and truth.

Our house was a building within which 4 people lived. Those people lived in many ways separate lives but those separate lives were invisibly bound by one thing - INCEST. The ties that bind through incest transcend and permeate everything those people do, think and feel. 

Within that house I was invisible. Within that house I did not exist unless they wanted to use and abuse me, then I wanted to be invisible but there was no place to hide and none to rescue me. I had no understanding of what was going on and was unable to understand because everything was so confusing. Within that house the messages I got were constantly mixed and conflicting. Within that house I did not know how to feel because I was not allowed to feel. 

Incest meant I grew up in a climate which was uncomfortable, full of superficiality, fear, confusion, distrust, innuendos, manipulation, control, physical, sexual and emotional pain and trauma. 

I knew it did not matter how anybody in the family, particularly me, felt. It is a terrible thing to have your feelings consistently minimised, ignored, belittled, denied and neglected. I learned not to trust my feelings. I learned not to feel. In consequence my feelings were pushed down deep inside of me and have done terrible damage to my physical, emotional and mental health.

What mattered was towing the family-line and being what was expected of you in public regardless of what happened in private.

That in itself was a terrible weight to carry because I always knew that once we were out of the public eye there would always be something that I hadn’t done or said right and I would be beaten for it regardless of whether I’d done anything wrong or not. Such was the importance of the image of the “Nicholson family” and such was the perception of me that I “could do no good, say no good, be no good” no matter what happened in reality.

The problem with the image issue was that it didn't matter what happened IN the family as long as people outside the family saw the family in a particular defined way.

I suspect that is one of the things that lies at the heart of incest. It is narcissism taken to the extreme but then my mother was narcissistic to the extreme.

The amazing thing I’ve found out is since I going to the police and going public about the abuse is that no matter how hard my family worked to be seen in a particular way that is not how people actually saw the family, many people knew things weren't right or that I was being abused but didn't know quite what was going on or the full extent of it and didn't know what to do about it either.

The incest in my past is something I live with every day. It is something I have to deal with every day. Some days are better than other. The abuse is part of me and will be with me until the day I die. My reactions and decisions are coloured by it. I never quite know if my thoughts, feelings, reactions and decisions are because of my childhood abuse or if I’m reacting like a person who hasn’t been abused would. I often feel it is the former.

People have said to me statements like “why don’t you just forgive and forget?” “Why don’t you just let go, forget about it and let the past be in the past?”

I saw a comment from someone on Facebook recently on exactly this question – his response was “I can’t let go of it because it won’t let go of me.” I thought that was a very good way of putting it.

The problem is it is not in the past. It is an integral part of who and what I am.

Every birthday, Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, anniversaries are all excruciating reminders of the fact I do not have a family. No-one can ‘just’ wipe 20 years of their life out. To wipe those years out of my life would be like giving myself irreversible amnesia. Those 20 years formed who I am.

The abuse affected how the pathways in my brain developed. My brain is different to the brain of someone who was not abused and that is very fascinating. That is a proven scientific fact.

The abuse affected me to my core.

My entire belief system was formed in an abusive incestuous situation.

I had no childhood. I had no love, affection, neither was there fun or laughter in my life because of the incest.

My memories are an integral part of me just as they are for anyone else.

It isn’t about forgiving, forgetting, letting go, the past being in the past. The past will always be in the present just as it is for anyone else. Everyone has a past and everyone is affected by it for good or ill. I cannot just forget, that is asking me to do the impossible. That is also taking away the very things that make me who and what I am. But there are some things I can do to minimise the effects of the incest upon me, upon my life, upon the way I think, feel, react, and process what happens to me in life.

What I can do is talk about it till I don’t have to anymore. What I can do is write about the abuse to get it out and to help others. What I can do is to grieve healthily. What I can do is to be angry about all that was done to me especially as I had to stuff that anger down inside me when it was happening. What I can do is learn to feel so I can heal. What I can do is be honest and tell the truth thereby breaking the power of my abusers’ lies. What I can do is be the person that I am instead of pretending to be someone or something different. What I can do is do the healing work of therapy to get my life back and start to live instead of existing and surviving just for the sake of it. What I can do is discuss what happened to gain insights into the dynamics of what happened giving me better understanding of the situation I was in and how it affects me.

I am an incest survivor trying to make sense of what I survived, trying to have a life. I will be working on this for the rest of my life.

I will be dealing with memories for the rest of my life. I will be dealing with pain and trauma for the rest of my life. By speaking and writing about it I am enabling healing to happen.

Incest is something which shatters lives and needs to be spoken and written about. Incest is pernicious and insidious. Incest is a crime, a terrible crime.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

MEANDERING THOUGHTS THIS EASTER

Holiday times such as Easter, Christmas, bank holidays and mid-August have always been difficult times for me. They are reminders that I have no family and am alone in the world. They are full of painful memories too. I see the messages on Facebook. I receive the cards. They all say “Happy ...” I really appreciate the thought behind the sending of the card and the person who sent it to me. 

But for me the “Happy ...” sentiments ring hollow and I find it all rather hard to enter into. Decorations in the shops, adverts on the TV, hearing the plans of friends all add to my feelings of unease and isolation. They are culturally special occasions when family members gather for fun times together.

In my family at holiday times we were forced to wear a false fixed smile. We were forced to pretend we were a happy family doing normal family things together. There would be special trips out planned. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? It wasn’t! Certain clothes would be chosen for me to wear. I had no choice over what I wore. They were usually ill-fitting unflattering clothes which did not suit me. I had to present the image that was chosen for me. That image included the mandatory “look happy even if actually you’re desperately unhappy and want to die”, which I often did feel like. 

I have memories of trips out which give me the appearance in my memory of doing normal family things. Such memories cause enormous confusion for me. On one hand we appeared to do normal family things but the reality was very different. 

We would go on the planned trip wearing fixed smiles pretending to have a good time. We pretended to enjoy ourselves. We pretended to be celebrating on the outside, but it was all shallow. It was all for show, just like everything else in the family. For a short while I might forget we were pretending and actually begin to enjoy whatever we were doing but then there was tension in the air. I wasn’t allowed to enjoy myself you see and was quickly squashed on. There would be looks or comments that meant I was in for it when I got home but I didn’t know why I was in for it because I didn’t think I’d done or said anything wrong. Sometimes if they thought I was enjoying myself too much the trip was brought to an abrupt end and we went straight home. I was told I’d spoiled the entire day by my behaviour and beaten for my perceived sins.

You see it was all about presenting an image to the world of a happy smiley family regardless of what people within that family unit really felt like but you weren’t allowed to actually enjoy yourself.

The repercussions were huge. The beatings were always worse on these days. It was as if you were not allowed special days with special trips without paying for them in some way. 

As an adult I’ve tried hard to recreate these holiday times for myself. I try hard to look forward to holiday times but to be honest I dread them because with the best of intentions they trigger memories that are hidden away the rest of the year. 

Memories of family outings that began well but always inevitably ended horribly. Memories of special meals forced down me until I choked and vomited then was banned from the table so I starved while the rest of the family feasted. Often I was also banned from the house with an empty stomach for that. Memories of looking in bins for scraps of food. Memories of feeling totally invisible. Memories of feeling so horribly alone. Memories of wandering the streets looking in windows of houses where families were watching TV or enjoying activities together. It all made me feel utterly miserable. In the end I felt so miserable I couldn’t bear wandering the streets so I’d find somewhere to hide instead. 

All I wanted for those days to end and get back to ‘normal’. That sounds crazy doesn’t it because ‘normal’ just meant more abuse. Problem was the pressure and tension of those holiday days was immense. I always hoped this particular holiday, Easter, Christmas, bank holiday would be different that it would be happy. But that never happened instead the day or holiday in question was always darkened by the painful reality of abuse but to no avail, they never lived up to expectations, always disappointing. 

In recent years I’ve managed to transform Christmas by going away and having a fun times but even then those trips are over-shadowed by hurt and reminders, memories that are revived just by the fact that it is Christmas. It is the same with Easter.
 
As a child less fuss was made of Easter than of Christmas. However, my parents made much ado about the religious importance of the festival. It was our Christian duty to be in church at everything from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. Again particular ill-fitting unflattering clothes would be chosen to be worn to each church service. I had to wear a suitably solemn face because Easter was such a “very solemn religious occasion”. Easter Sunday after church we had trip somewhere always followed by a beating and then thrown out of the house for the remainder of the day to walk the streets just like at Christmas. And similarly, like at Christmas, I often had to spend the night out on the streets banned from the house if that was the punishment they decided to mete out.

I never received an Easter egg from my parents as a child at Easter. The only time I had an Easter egg was when I was given one by my godfather. I remember that Easter extremely vividly. 

We visited my godparents and their children in Manchester and spent the day with them. My godfather gave me an Easter egg. It was only a few days later that he dropped dead from a heart attack and I was told never to speak his name again. That is why I remember it so clearly.

It was bizarre that for the rest of the year we did nothing as a family except going to church together and being seen to do that but at Easter, Christmas, bank holidays and for 2 weeks every summer we carried out this “happy families” charade. It just didn’t make sense. But then nothing else in my childhood made any sense. Although I was with my family on those days we were 4 separate people pretending to do things together and it felt so wrong. I felt desperate and alone because there was also so much pressure to behave and speak in certain ways. There was so much underlying tension in the atmosphere. There were so many unwritten rules I had to follow. It was impossible! 

The only other vivid memories I have of Easter involve rituals, church services, solemnity, more rituals and more church services and more solemnity. The pressure of presenting the image of being happy when inside I was crying and bleeding away longing for someone to see past the fixed smile and see my misery and pain was so tough. I see and feel the memories as if I am back there. The years roll back such is the vivid nature of them. I am triggered back to terrible times and dark places in my mind. There is no escaping the memories however hard I try to make holiday times now.

What also makes these days hard is that my friends are my family now but my friends have their own families. That means I’m still alone just like I was when I was a kid. I come up against that every single time. It’s one thing that is impossible to get around. That’s why I go away at Christmas but I cannot afford to go away during the rest of the year so I just try to make the best things.

I remember some Easters which weren’t so traumatic on the face of it but were still difficult. There is the Easter in 2000 during my second year at university that I remember in particular. When the Easter holidays began my flatmates all headed home. But I had no money and could not afford to go anywhere so I stayed at my university room all alone. The hall of residence I was in was empty, there was no-one around. I enjoyed watching every single match of the Snooker World Championship that year but food wise I had no money so could only afford to eat a handful of rice and a few bits of chicken each day. 

As an adult I’ve been to many services over the Easter period. It’s hard to shake off what I was brainwashed with - to be solemn and suitably religious. Even going to church is full of reminders of how alone I am. Yes, church is about remembering what Easter is really about but coming home alone after Easter services was always excruciatingly painful. I would leave friends going out with their families for special meals and go home to a meal for one. Eating out alone at Easter is not a good option for me because who wants to go and eat alone surrounded by families eating together? That’s just too painful and triggering. Avoiding church may seem extreme but I just do not need reminding that I have no family and am alone. 

I’ve tried to change the occasions into happier ones but can’t get away from the reminders whatever I do. To be honest whatever I do they’ve not really changed. It’s just like when I was a kid - impossible really. I know I’m going to have to employ strategies to survive them in one piece. I know I’m going to be triggered so I’m careful now to be very kind and gentle to myself. I deliberately don’t plan anything special. If I feel like doing anything or going anywhere then I will but if not then that’s ok. The latter is so important now because I had to do and go what and where I was told on these days as a child. It’s mega important for me to give myself the option to do absolutely nothing and to be ok with that.

So far this Easter I went out on Good Friday. I took myself down to the seafront but the beach was full of people, families, screaming whining children, bikes crowding the pathways, noise, busyness, children playing, running around, it was overwhelming. I had a peaceful few minutes sat in my favourite shelter watching the boats sailing by but when a family of 5 descended on my shelter together with bikes, 3 children and fish and chips I decided to move on. I realised all this was making me very tense and hyper vigilant and that I needed gentle handling. So I headed off to the estuary and my tree and had a quiet hour there until a group of 8, including 5 children with 2 of them in buggies plus bikes and a picnic sat down at the tree next to me. I decided enough was enough and headed home then. Being out and about amongst people proved counter-productive and was not doing me any good. 

I had a lovely day on Saturday catching up with chores and watching the World Championship snooker on the TV.

Today I’m back to being hyper-vigilant and have not really slept. What is different this Easter is that I am writing. I have never written so much in such a short space of time. I hadn’t planned to write this, it just poured out of me, so I know it was meant to be written anyway. There is more snooker this afternoon and evening and I have a roast chicken meal for one in the freezer which I’m looking forward to.

So these are my musings this Easter. I am happy doing nothing, remembering and marking the spiritual significance of the occasion in my own way but not making a big deal about it. I decided this year not to say “Happy Easter” but to rename it “Resurrection Day” and to say “Happy Resurrection Day” instead. This year instead of trying to make the best of it I’ve just taken it as its come. That has felt really good and positive. I’m also happy to be writing and finding an outlet for my thoughts and feelings today. That is healthy and constructive. I think maybe this is the first healthy Easter I’ve had, being honest with myself. It may not look or sound pretty but I reckon being real and true to me, myself, is very healthy.

MY POETRY


Alongside writing about my abuse I also write poems which I publish on a separate blog called “my poetic journey” which is at http://asurvivorspoeticjourney.blogspot.com
Here are links to poems I’ve written during the last couple of weeks. 





Saturday, 23 April 2011

MY GRANDPARENTS

To complement my post on Surviving SRA I have written about my grandparents and my relationship with them on my Autobiographical blog "From Chrysalis to Beautiful Butterfly".

The post is at

I talk about the people they were, the paedophile ring they ran, others who were involved and ensured the abuse happened and what happened as I got older and my grandparents were frozen out of the family.