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.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

LONG TERM EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD ABUSE

Here’s a couple of very interesting articles which consider how childhood trauma affects old people. I thought the findings were relevant whatever age you are. Also I thought the findings backed up my own experience of the effects getting worse with age not better. What’s really helpful for me about these articles is that research is being done into the long term affects of childhood abuse which totally ties in with my own life experience. I do not need research to tell me this but it is good to have my own experience validated by research. I find a little validation goes a long way on my healing journey.

Seniors Abused During Childhood Face Increased Risk of Sleep Troubles, Study Suggests

An analysis of data from 877 adults age 60 years and above found that early parental emotional abuse was associated with a higher number of sleep complaints in old age. It was specifically emotional abuse -- rather than physical abuse or emotional neglect -- that was tied to trouble in getting a good night's sleep. "A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives," said Cecilia Y. M. Poon, MA, the study's lead author. "The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world". Emotional abuse was assessed by asking participants how often their mother and father insulted or swore at them, sulked or refused to talk to them, stomped out of the room, did or said something to spite them, threatened to hit them, or smashed or knocked something in anger. The same survey found that emotional abuse during childhood also was associated with poorer relationships in adulthood. Poon speculated that this lack of support, associated with stress, likely influences sleep quality.

Older People Surviving Child Sexual Abuse

“If you were sexually abused as a child, you are still suffering from its impact as an adult. Childhood sexual abuse is such an overwhelming, damaging, and humiliating assault on a child's mind, soul and body that he or she cannot escape emotional damage. The abuse invades every facet of one's sexuality, one's ability to be successful, one's ability to trust others, and physical health. Whether you actually remember the abuse or not, the damage caused by the abuse only increases with time. As the damage becomes even more noticeable, your life becomes progressively more unmanageable. You begin to realize that time alone cannot heal the wounds, and that a history of sexual abuse is not something you can "learn to live with." On the contrary, as time goes by, the emotional damage takes a heavier toll on you. Pain that has been hidden for years suddenly becomes unbearable.
Older survivors may have come from an era where sexual assault was not spoken about, myths abounded unchallenged that kept them ashamed and silent, and there were no resources, meaning that people victimized in this way could not find counselling. Stop and take care of the little boy or girl inside you who was abused.
You may be bothered by thoughts that you should be over it, but as the above quote says, child sexual abuse is a wound that time alone doesn't heal. I once spoke to a rape survivor new to healing in her fifties who said to me "If I have only twenty years left, I'm going to make damn sure they're good ones." You deserve good years too - you have been through enough - both the abuse and the decades of its impact on your life. You have been through this alone - you don't need to be alone with it anymore. Break this long silence, my friend. The fact that our experiences can still hurt so badly at times says nothing negative about our characters. It tells us much more about the nature of trauma. We are not failures because we are hurting now. That we have managed to live full, though affected lives is testament to strength. What does "get over it" even mean? We know that this is a cliché offered to abuse survivors with boring regularity.
If people have shamed you by telling you to "get over it" or questioning the fact that you aren't yet "over it", not only are they wrong, but you have experienced Secondary Wounding, which is the messages trauma survivors receive from others that compound their pain. Is getting "over it" the same thing as healing? I am recently persuaded that the answer is no. I saw and experienced things that I have done so much healing around, but I am not "over" them in the sense that people generally mean that, and I don't believe I ever will be. And that feels very okay to me. Child abuse can be such a terrifying ordeal, such a profound betrayal. It accrues tremendous losses, and getting "over it" may be neither possible nor desirable, certainly not when it means we beat ourselves up for failing to be "over it." We don't hang onto our histories for the fun of it; we want to heal and learn to manage the worst ravages. We strive, we have victories, and yet if memory and feeling recycle later in life, we need to respect that this is part of being a survivor, and get through it, not over it. It may be that we need to accept that a history of child sexual abuse can have longer-term impact on us than we might once have thought. 
Part of the reason for feeling traumatized now for events in even the distant past is physical. Our bodies were not designed to handle repeated severe stressors. Research findings indicate that the stress of early childhood trauma such as child sexual abuse can cause actual physical changes in the brain. Traumatic memory appears to be stored differently than ordinary memory. One consequence of this is that when we're in situations that remind us - even in not-so-obvious ways, of the actual traumatic experiences we've had, those memory tracts open up, causing us to feel as if it were happening again. Your brain is acting the way that those of many trauma survivors do."


WEARY OF GOODBYES

I’ve been feeling very weary lately. It’s no surprise that I am feeling like that given the events of the last month or so. 

Mid June I was told of a colleague at Open Door being made redundant. He had been at Open Door longer than me and was a paid worker whereas I’m a volunteer. He has been a good friend to me throughout the last 4 years and has helped me heal in some areas of relating to males and realising there are safe males in the world. He has always treated me with incredible respect and I value him very highly. When I was told that he was going to be leaving I was shocked and incredibly gutted. 

At that time I had no idea of what was ahead concerning ChildLine and didn’t realise I was facing a double whammy. 

Over the next couple of weeks I slowly readjusted to the fact of ‘J’s’ impending departure but wasn’t particularly looking forward to the actual ending and was wondering how I was going to handle that. But I was adjusting to it and thought I was going to navigate it ok in the end. Yes, dealing with it was going to be hard but at least I had a month and a bit to adjust to the news before the goodbye was going to occur.

As I reached that point I was hit by the news of ChildLine’s closure which was immensely shocking. The trauma and shock effect of that news was very deep. The trauma and shock was made even worse by the suddenness of my final shift occurring just 5 days after hearing the news of the impending closure. That afternoon was incredibly difficult for me. It was impossible for me to hide my feelings and for the first time in my life people saw the real me not the “me“ who smiles through everything.

I’ve reflected on that. Although I felt at the time “if only I could have held together” it was good for those around me to see that I have feelings. Little did they realise that up until the last few months I’ve had no feelings. I’ve gone through life not feeling, that was part of my survival, but that’s changed during the last few months. Now I have feelings and boy do I feel them? They are very intense. I either feel intensely or not at all. I hope over time that is going to settle and I’ll find some middle ground but for now I’m just getting used to feeling. All my life I’ve felt like a fraud because nobody has ever seen the real me.

Well that changed on 6th July 2011. I sat on the bus coming home afterwards and thought “well everyone saw the real me today.” I felt embarrassed about that to start with. But after a while as I thought back on the events of that afternoon my thoughts were “wow, yes I cried, yes I fell apart, yes people saw the real me BUT it was safe, people rallied round and were amazingly supportive” and I began to feel better about what happened. There was a part of me that was proud of me for being real. Nothing bad happened because of it, in fact only really positive stuff.

Since then I’ve been very slowly adjusting to the fact that ChildLine has gone. I’ve experienced immense grief and anger over that. It has left a huge gulf in my life. I have no idea what I am going to do about that gulf but I acknowledge that that gulf is there.

It’ll be three weeks tomorrow since that day. I’ve come a long way in that time but I am weary, very weary. Just dealing with ChildLine’s closure by itself would have been huge. Dealing with my friend and colleague “J’s” departure from Open Door would have been huge on its own. 

BUT to have both together has been immensely hard indeed. There are no words to suffice for how it’s really been.

It was "J's" leaving do last Friday and that was a really tough evening, I was glad when it was over.

The next big date for me is 18th August when there will be a big party for all involved with ChildLine. That will be very hard. Part of me is looking forward to that knowing it'll help closure but a larger part of me is dreading it. ChildLine's been such a huge part of my life. It's very hard to wrap my head around the fact it's not there anymore and never will be. Working for ChildLine was such a journey for me.

I realised something really important yesterday as I journaled my thoughts and feelings on all this.

I realised that in all of this I’ve taken really good care of myself. That is new for me. Usually I just plough on regardless because that’s what I’ve always had to do. 

Instead I’ve been taking note of my feelings and thoughts and been very gentle with myself. I guess I’m slowly learning to re-parent myself. I’ve been taking it very gently indeed and just been giving myself space to grieve and process rather than deny those feelings or pretend everything’s ok when it isn’t. I don’t push myself now in the way I used to. 

I refuse to guilt trip myself for feeling bad or needing time and space to adjust. I refuse to guilt trip myself for feeling. I refuse to guilt trip myself for having needs. That last one is such a HUGE one. 

YES, I HAVE NEEDS AND THEY ARE VALID NEEDS. YES I HAVE FEELINGS AND THEY ARE VALID TOO!

Feelings and needs are allowed now!

And that I guess is progress!!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

INFO ABOUT LIVING WITH CFS/ME


We all get tired. It's part of life, and especially part of modern life. Think for a moment about the last time you were really tired at work. It's harder to focus, harder to function, but you can push through it. 

Now think back to the last time you were really sick with something like strep or the flu, too sick to work, and too sick to function. Can you remember how exhausted you were, how hard it was to get out of bed and even take a shower? When you're sick like that, it's like your body just shuts down and demands that you rest. 

There's a big difference between the two types of tired, right? That second kind of tired is what people with CFS/ME deal with every day. They're not just sleepy, and they can't just push through it. They're so wiped out that their bodies demand rest and sleep constantly. 

Most people who are regularly tired can trace it to some aspect of their lives, they don't get enough sleep, they're too busy, they're under too much pressure, etc. People with CFS/ME, however, don't have an obvious cause of fatigue. Usually, they were perfectly healthy people one day and no longer healthy the next. 

What many experts believe is going on in the body of someone with CFS/ME is constant immune system activation, as if the body is trying to fend off illness. Working that hard all the time is a big drain on the body, which is part of the reason we all get so tired when we're sick.

Common CFS/ME symptoms include:
  • Sleep that isn't refreshing
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Headaches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Cognitive problems
The cognitive problems associated with CFS/ME are sometimes severe. Regardless of how intelligent the person is, he or she may become forgetful, be unable to recall common words, frequently lose a train of thought, or sometimes become confused. Simple tasks such as reading a newspaper, cooking a simple meal, or finding your car in a parking lot become daunting and overwhelming. 

Well-meaning people frequently tell those with CFS/ME that they'd feel better if they'd get more exercise. Most people do get an energy boost from exertion, but people with CFS/ME don't. They have a symptoms called post-exertional malaise, which means that even small amounts of exertion can make all of their symptoms worse for a couple of days.

People with CFS/ME are more than "just tired." They're suffering from an intense fatigue that doesn't go away. No matter how long they sleep, they don't wake up feeling refreshed. 

Many people with CFS/ME also have a lot of muscle pain and other flu-like symptoms, so, essentially, they feel as if they have the flu all of the time. Their immune systems also show signs that they're actively fighting an infection. 

CFS/ME is not a psychological condition. Research shows multiple physiological abnormalities in the nervous systems, immune systems and hormones of people with CFS/ME that are not shared by people who are depressed. 

Also, it should be noted that depression actually is a physical illness. The overlap in symptoms between depression and CFS/ME is likely due to common mechanisms involving brain chemistry, including abnormal levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. 

Many people with CFS/ME become depressed, but that's generally believed to be the result of living with a debilitating illness.

Imagine suddenly feeling sick and exhausted all the time and having someone tell you that you're not really sick. People with CFS/ME face that all the time. Some doctors say they're depressed or that it's all in their heads - they're just whiners or hypochondriacs. It's also common for them to tell someone, "I have CFS/ME," and hear something like, "I think I have that, too. It seems like I'm always tired." 

Because we don't yet have a good diagnostic test for CFS/ME, sometimes it's hard for people with the condition to convince the people around them they're really sick. It can strain marriages, drive friends apart, and make work conditions especially stressful. People with CFS/ME often end up feeling isolated, which compounds the depression that frequently goes along with any debilitating illness. 

Some people with CFS/ME find medications, supplements and life-style changes that help them feel better, but it's a long, difficult process of experimentation and not everyone finds things that make a big difference. So far, no drug is FDA approved for treating CFS/ME, and no treatment works for everyone. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome can take someone who is educated, ambitious, hardworking and tireless, and rob them of their ability to work, clean house, exercise, think clearly and ever feel awake or healthy.
  • It's NOT psychological "burn out" or depression.
  • It's NOT laziness.
  • It's NOT whining or malingering.
It IS the result of widespread dysfunction in the body and the brain that's hard to understand, difficult to treat, and, so far, impossible to cure. 

CFS/ME is a serious, life-altering, frustrating, often misunderstood illness. What people with CFS/ME need most of all from those around them is emotional support and understanding. 


What "We" Don't Want to Hear
Certain phrases really annoy a lot of us with chronic illnesses such as Fibromyalgia (FM) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). While they're usually said with the best of intentions, we hear them so often and they reflect such a lack of true understanding that they're like fingernails on a chalk board. 

Here are some things to avoid saying to someone with FM, CFS/ME, or any other invisible illness: 

"You look great - you must be feeling better."
We're likely getting better about concealing how we feel, not feeling better. Or it might be a single good day after a month of horrible days. 

"Let's get you out of the house. It'll give you a boost!"
If we're staying home all the time, it's probably because we're not feeling well enough to get out. 

"Are you sure you're not just depressed?"
If only it were that simple! Yes, many of us are depressed, and even if we're not the symptoms can appear similar. However, depression alone can't explain the broad range of symptoms we experience (often several dozen of them at a time.) Plus, depression is a very real physical illness, so the phrase "just depressed" is inappropriate either way. 

"I've been really tired lately, too. I know how you feel."
If you're so tired that you feel on the verge of total physical, mental and emotional collapse, you might. Otherwise, statements like that make it seem like you're trivializing an illness that's much more than being tired. 

"If you'd (exercise more, lose weight, eat a better diet, get back to work) you'd feel better."
While exercise or dietary changes do help some people with these conditions, they also can make us much worse. We know our bodies best and need to research those changes for ourselves. Weight has never been shown to exacerbate symptoms of FM or CFS/ME, and the physical and mental stress of "getting back to work" is far more likely to make us crash than recover. 

"You should try this new supplement, vitamin, medication. You'll be cured!"
For many people with FM and/or CFS/ME it has taken them years to fine-tune their regimen of supplements and foods. Yes, I am sure many of them would benefit from massage, blood tests, medical care, organic food, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs, but most people can't afford them. As for "cures", there are no such thing. Anyone who tells you they have a cure is either trying to get your money, lying to you, or both! Beware of these people. 

"You just haven't found the right doctor."
Pain, trouble walking and working accompany this person every single day of their lives, and there is no end in sight. The probability of a cure is not an issue - the necessity of living with illness is the only acceptable option. Your acceptance of their reality impinges on the disabled person's acceptance of life with illness/disability.

"Oh I forgot my perfume, fabric softener, smoking makes you sick"

Many people with FM and CFS/ME are allergic to, or are sensitive to: fabric softeners, essential oils, perfumes, bleach, any and all pesticides. When you keep "forgetting," they get one of two messages:
1.       You don't believe they're really sick.
2.       You don't care. 

"At least you can still (hear, see, etc.)." Or, the classic: "You should count your blessings."
If you have not experienced the loss, don't assume it's easy to discount. When your whole life has been turned upside down and nothing will ever be the same, it's hard to think you're "blessed".


What "We" Do Want to Hear
Sometimes it's hard to know what to say to someone with an invisible illness, such as Fibromyalgia (FM) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME/). 

Here are some things that someone with FM and CFS/ME would welcome hearing: 

"If you're not up to going out, we can just get together and (talk, play cards, watch a movie)."
This shows that you understand the limitations of our illness and it gives the person an alternative to cancelling plans. 

"Let's do our grocery (or Christmas) shopping together. I'll pick you up."
Shopping can be extremely tiring for us, and it can really help to have someone else there to help with things like loading and unloading the car, or trekking back across the store for a forgotten item on the other side. 

"How much are you up for today?"
This shows that you understand that our energy levels can vary from day to day and can help your companion feel comfortable expressing his/her limitations. 

"How are things going?"
This is better than asking "how do you feel." It opens the door to all aspects of life, instead of just physical well being. Most days, I don't feel that great, but my life might be going really well. 

Can I (pick you up, help with that, etc.)?"
This works better than something like, "Do you need me to..." because it shows a willingness on your part to help without implying the person is incapable or is a burden.




GRADUATION ANNIVERSARY

It was the 10th Anniversary of my graduation last week. I've written about it on my Autobiographical blog. 

The link to it is -
http://fromchrysalistobeautifulbutterfly.blogspot.com/2011/07/graduation-10th-anniversary.html

Here is a short excerpt:-
"The 10th anniversary of my graduation from university kind of snuck up on me a few days ago. 

It is amazing really to look back!! I have many happy memories of my 3 years at university. It was a wonderful time of my life. I met some amazing people, took part in all sorts of debates long into the night. My work placements were high quality. I was privileged to work with some amazing women and fellow youth workers. I was stretched and grew so much. I remember mentoring a 2nd year student when I was a third year student as part of my management and supervision module. I gained so much from that experience.

I have so many wonderful memories of my graduation spent in the company of close friends, my godmother, peers and my placement supervisors. It was an incredible day! To think I wore a mortar board and gown. I still look back at the photos with that feeling of wow, did that really happen? It makes me feel warm inside to remember and to dwell on those memories. Wow, what an achievement it was. I was so proud of myself and so was everyone else. I went through so much during those 3 years to get that degree. 

I re-shared my graduation photos on Facebook to mark the occasion. Ah it was so good to look back at those photos, so many very happy special precious memories!!"