Content note: Internalization of abuse
I’ve been observing how I’m feeling the last few days and realizing that I feel pretty numb when I think about childhood. Behind the numbness is a feeling of overwhelm. I don’t feel I’ve been able to ground well and I’m realizing that I need physical exertion to bring me into my body. Today I spent a few seconds acknowledging my feelings and breathing into them. It feels better than dissociating but I can only do it in small bits before I dissociate again. Writing and exercise seem to help ground me though and keeps me feeling longer.
One by product of observing myself is realizing where and how my body stores tension. I’ve had headaches the last few days and a body memory of having these same headaches often in childhood arose. The headache is from over thinking and rationalizing things away, which I do to keep from feeling, and from furrowing my brow and contorting my face when I do so. My neck, torso, and legs constrict too and my breathing becomes shallow. So now I know this is one way my body stores stress.
I know I am stressed about having to address my childhood eventually. I think I am also stressed because of ‘Step Five’. ‘Step Five’ is the Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) step of accepting what happened wasn’t your fault. I started going to ASCA meetings because I wanted to meet others who I could relate to on this deeper level. Meeting such others has been great. ‘Step Five’ has not. I know I am far away from being able to do it.
As a little kid I was angry when my parents mistreated me and I expressed my emotions. That gave me a healthy ability to hate them, which I did well into my 20s. I know it sounds bad to say hating was healthy, but I did so because I knew they were being monsters and not me. It is my memory of that feeling that I’ll have to follow to actually do ‘Step Five’ because somewhere along the way I began to internalize their mistreatment of me. I questioned if I was remembering things right, thought maybe I deserved what happened, and thought I was defective in some way. I think what also makes ‘Step Five’ so hard for me is that I don’t think they intended to harm me; they just couldn’t see past themselves. This makes it harder for me to put the responsibility on them though.
The mistreatment I experienced from other kids I also internalized as somehow being about me being defective or weird or odd. Internalization is hard to overcome. I mean even my Complex PTSD diagnosis can make me feel shame and guilt. I feel I have a flawed character to have developed this, that I should be stronger, and that having this diagnosis means I am weak. I know this is the voice of my father I internalized since childhood though. I wouldn’t think the same of someone else. It’s just hard turning that script off for myself.
Asking for help and letting others know what’s going on is also hard… yet empowering. I posted an abbreviated version of my first blog post to a custom facebook list, and getting comments and messages back has been encouraging. I also have one follower on this blog! That feels amazing… to be seen and heard and know there are others of us out there! I’m looking forward to following her blog too.