January is always a very difficult month partly because of the aftermath of getting through Christmas and New Year but also connected to many traumas I endured during January in my childhood and the massive trauma of events in January 1986. I now know from my godmother and her mother that what happened that awful night in January 1986 would have happened whatever I did because my mother repeated everything that was done to her in her abuse of me in precise detail even right down to dates. My mother was thrown out and disowned by her parents on the same date in January she did exactly the same to me. I cannot get my head around the mentality that can act like that. I never have been able to. I also cannot get my head around someone who deliberately goes out of her way to cause me the most extreme hurt and pain possible, and the more hurt, drama etc she causes the more delight she gets out of it. That describes my mother very well - a very cruel, deliberate, sadistic person. Totally sick too!!
It helps me ENORMOUSLY to realise now that what occurred that night was deliberately engineered by her and would have happened regardless of the sequence of events which led up to it.
So what happened in January 1986?
I had a terrible month as the violence from my parents and brother was escalating to very dangerous levels and the torture meted out on me was horrendous. I was regularly turning up at work with bruises and red marks and making excuses along the lines of “oh nothing happened, I walked into a door, you know how clumsy I am”. But my work colleagues and boss in the travel agency where I worked did not believe me and increasingly attempted to persuade me to get out. I couldn’t tell them the truth and tried to hide it from them but the bruises, red marks and the fear they saw in me told them the truth. I was finally persuaded by my friend ‘M’ that it would be better if I moved out. My boss gave me space in a cupboard to store my stuff. During the last 2 weeks in January I carefully moved a few of my possessions down to there - as much as I could fit in to my work bag each day to avoid suspicion. I‘d moved most of my stuff out when it came to 28th January 1986. It was exactly 3-weeks to my 20th birthday which is why I remember the date so well.
That day I went to work as usual. It snowed heavily during the day so by the time work ended there were no buses running up the hill out of town and I had to walk home. It was a long tramp through the snow. A half hour walk took me 1 ½ hours so I arrived home an hour late. I had to knock on the door as I had no key, they never allowed me to have a key. My father opened the door and dragged me in. I wondered what on earth was going on as I was dragged into the living room. The atmosphere was horrendous, what I sensed in my gut terrified me and I thought “someone is going to get killed tonight.” Of course that someone was me. I sensed their murderous intent and wondered what they were going to do to me. My coat was torn off me as they interrogated me. They’d been through my drawers and wardrobe during the day and found out most of my stuff gone. They wanted to know what I thought I was doing. I said that “they had thrown me many times and told me to get out so many times that now I was getting out and that was that.” My mother spat at me and laughed “how dare you answer us back like that, when you are under this roof you do what you’re told, when you’re told, and that includes leaving or not leaving”. They’d realised that as I had moved my stuff out they were losing control of me and were obviously not prepared to totally lose control of me. My response was “I wasn’t a child anymore and was going to be 20 in three weeks time”. My mother exploded. I was thrown across the room hitting walls. They both beat and kicked me, all the time laughing at me and at my pain and confusion. I was used to living with violence but the violence that night was of a level that surpassed anything I’d experienced up to then. My fear of being killed grew as I found myself bouncing off walls. Throughout my childhood they’d been very good at beating and torturing me to the point where I felt and thought the next moment they would kill me then stopping at that point. They seemed to get enormous pleasure out of taking me to that point and then stopping. So one more time of that was nothing new – but the level of violence was worse than anything I’d ever known at their hands. After an hour or so of this they decided they’d beaten me enough for me to have learned my lesson and told me “you do not leave this house unless we tell you to.” I asked for a glass of water and was refused. I then asked if I could change out of my work uniform as I was going to have to wear it the next day. My mother refused but my father said that “let her, we don’t want anything happening to that uniform” so I was allowed to go up to my room to change. However, my mother changed her mind and stormed up the stairs after me. It was a race to my room which I just won. I did my best to stop her getting in but she forced her way in. She slapped me and threw me across the bed and stated “you think I am going to let you change on your own? No way. I will stand here and watch you get changed, you have no choice, I am your mother and you have to do what I tell you, so get one with it.” I remember feeling something inside me snap. In that moment I felt “I am 19, nearly 20, I just cannot cope with the thought of you goggling at me again, poking me and making horrible comments about me and my body, I am not going to do it.” I remember realising there was only one way out of this. I had to stop her and refuse to change but I knew I couldn’t do that, the beating I would get would be so horrific I couldn’t contemplate it. I knew she would get her way whatever it cost me. I realised I couldn’t ‘NOT’ change but I was NOT going to change. She said “how dare you defy me, get out of those clothes now!” She grabbed me and started trying to tear my clothes off me. I picked up something. To this day I do not know what it was. Whatever it was I went to hit her over the head with it. It was the only way to stop her. It felt like “kill or be killed”. It was apparent that the only one to stop it was to kill her before she killed me. I brought my hand into the air then froze. Our eyes – the only time we ever made eye contact in our lives. I saw total hatred in her eyes, her eyes also mocked me. My father burst into the room at that point. I was dragged out of the door and thrown to the floor. I curled myself into a ball and put my arms around my head. They started kicking and beating me, swearing at me and spitting on me. My brother joined in. When they’d had enough they kicked me to the top of the stairs then kicked me down step by step to the bottom then out into the snow garden where they disowned me and left me for dead.
That is what happened. It is as real as if it was only 5-minutes ago. There are 2 main differences for me this year in coping with it:-
The first is I am no longer in a numb place and cannot go back to being numb. I feel everything. I feel everything at very extreme levels as I am unable to regulate my emotions. It is good that I can finally feel but it is still new and strange to me. It’s not good though that I experience my feelings so extremely especially when it’s around really traumatic stuff.
The second difference for me is I have excellent support. My counsellor and therapist give me excellent in depth support as well as my CPN who keeps an overall eye on my progress and supports me in enabling me to discuss any issues that come up concerning the work I’m doing in counselling and therapy. Each of them has said to me that the progress I see in myself is testament to the hard work I’ve done. But I also put my progress down to having the right support, the right people at the right time!
However, having said all that it has been a very hard January which I’m very glad to have successfully gotten through. But it has also been, arguably, my best January yet. Those two statements sit alongside each other not 100% comfortably but both are equally true!
The support I’ve had from my counsellor throughout January has been top class. She saw me immediately after the New Year on 2nd January which enabled me to work through issues that needed attention following Christmas + New Year. What a difference that made to me. She saw me again 6-days later when I was able to do some work on the tough memories of ‘childhood January’ and my feelings about the approaching anniversary at the end of the month. My counselling continues weekly which is fantastic support. It’s fabulous to finally be feeling safe enough to stop dancing around the big issues and begin to look at them and explore how I felt as a child, how I feel as an adult and the effects upon my life all in a safe, non judgemental compassionate space created by my counsellor. My work with her throughout January enabled me to approach the anniversary with more understanding of what happened and the dynamics of it. She extended last week’s session by half an hour because of the hard stuff I was processing it was not appropriate to end the session when the hour was up. I really appreciated her doing that and it showed how switched on she is to how I’m processing and the trauma I’m experiencing.
The big change is I’ve begun to realise I’m not a bad defective person anymore but rather just an average human being who was subjected to terrible life threatening events by very bad people who carried out the most appalling abuse which I did not deserve. I find it hard to write “I am not a bad defective person” and “I did not deserve”. The programming is very strong but that programming is beginning to be challenged and I can see a huge difference in how I see myself, how I see the abuse, how I relate to that abuse and understand more about the effects of it upon my life. As a result I’m a lot more relaxed about being me that I’ve ever been and don’t give myself such a hard time about the way I think, feel, act, respond to the world around me and things that happen. And that is HUGE!
Alongside that is the work I’ve been doing in January with my sexual abuse trauma therapist. I met her for the first time this year on 11th January. We had been due to meet on the 9th and I had a text message on the Tuesday changing that to the Friday because she had a funeral to attend on the Wednesday. That threw me into chaos because I had been mentally and emotionally preparing myself for seeing her on the Wednesday and now it was going to be Friday. I had to make quite a few changes to my calendar to see her on Friday. It also pressed a lot of buttons being pressed – I really struggle to cope with last minute changes to my schedule that are outside of my control – I also find it very hard to deal with changes imposed on me with no space for discussion or negotiation. So I found myself feeling very angry and hurt over the change to our appointment. I felt my response to the situation was disproportionate and unfair. As far as my therapist was concerned it was ok and what she expected considering what my history is. But for me, it’s very hard to deal with such strong reactions. [My CPN’s view of it when I was able to discuss it with her, was “how you feel is how you feel, don’t give yourself such a hard time about how you feel!”] Once we’d got through discussing all that stuff and re-established the safety of the therapeutic relationship and environment I was able to discuss all the Christmas and New Year stuff. By talking about that I was able to slowly feel my way back to trusting her again. The rest of our sessions through January focused on the anniversary looming. We discussed what happened that fateful evening on the 28th January 1986. It was really helpful to talk through the details, how I felt then and how I still feel now. I remember the sheer terror and confusion, how my parents put me in a “kill or be killed” situation and how there is outrage inside me but I cannot allow myself to feel it. It was great to acknowledge that! It was really healing to go into all that happened. It is all so real to me it is as if it only happened yesterday rather than 27 years ago. My therapist explained to me how trauma affects the pain and that with C-PTSD until the trauma is processed it remains in that ‘totally real’ place until it can be resolved to some extent.
In our session last week we looked at how I felt after I’d been beaten to within an ace of losing my life, then physically kicked out over the threshold of the front door and into the snowy garden where they left me for dead in the snow. We explored what I thought as well. It is apparent how deep the belief is that I was “a very bad person and deserved it all” and how strong that programming is. It is good that we are beginning to tackle those beliefs and that programming. I spoke about how my mother spat on me and stated “from this moment forward you do not exist” and how my father kicked me and said ”from this moment you are no longer my daughter.” They laughed as they walked away, went back in the house and shut the door behind them. I discussed the far-reaching effects of that appallingly brutal rejection on my beliefs about my ‘self’ and on every single aspect of my entire life. I said “how on earth does one get over something like that?” My therapist made no attempt to answer instead she asked for the tissues and wiped tears away from her eyes. She knew there was no real answer to give me and we sat in a compassionate silence together.
The last couple of sessions I’ve done a painting at the end of each session. The first painting from 2-weeks ago shows me in black lying in the greyness of total abandonment, knowing no-one was coming to my rescue, thinking “if my parents, brother, family could not want me, accept me or love me then I cannot expect anyone else to, no-one’s gonna help me, it’s me and me alone, totally alone now in a great big scary world”. Pressing down on me was the weight of the blackness of the horror of the abuse I had experience and the red of the sheer anger and hate towards me.
The painting I did this week shows me lying surrounded by circles pressing in on me.