Mental health, Parenting, Relationships

Ugly Truth 50: 4 Ways to Forgive an Abusive Parent

“I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Dear Readers,

I wrote about my parents in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You. In it, I unveil all of the heartfelt hurt and truth we share, and how I learned to move forward. I used to think parenting was simple. As I grew into my motherhood, however, I learned nothing is more complex than parenting and family dynamics. In general, most of us need to feel we’re loved, we’re accepted as we are, and our parents are proud of us to grow into resilient productive beings. We generalize our own sense of self worth as a result of the treatment we’re given. Furthermore, we are asked simultaneously to discover just who we are apart from that.

In my first year of college I learned about “tabula rasa,” better known as the “Blank Slate Theory” brought forth by an English philosopher named John Locke who expanded on an idea suggested by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.. Essentially, this theory suggests all children are born as white boards and their parents hold the markers. That is, we are shaped by our environment. While the Blank Slate Theory is half true, I take issue with the fact that it fails to take our autonomy into account. Certainly we are all born with predispositions and temperaments, regardless of our environment. Surly we inherit personality traits, our quickness to anger, and shared interests genetically. Therefore, the answer to the Nature versus Nurture debate is yes. With that being said, it stands to reason why some people cope better as adults while others fall into addiction. Likewise, it explains why some believe abuse and suicide are acceptable while others would never behave in such a manner.

As children, we hope to emulate our caregivers. In adolescence, we’re more likely to judge them when faced with the fact that our belief system may be different from theirs. As adults, we seek to understand and are quicker to offer up compassion, primarily when faced with our own independence and the humbling experience of our own parenthood.

How then does that translate when abuse takes place? Is there something to be gained other than mistrust and resentment by hearing them out? What happens when the confrontation fails to yield accountability or even acknowledgement on their part? Apology remains the most promising way to rebuild a damaged relationship, but more often than not that doesn’t happen. While immensely helpful, the truth is we don’t need an apology to heal because sincere forgiveness remains an equally powerful alternative.

Maya Khamala at Goal Cast offers 4 solutions on how to forgive your abusers when they’re not sorry.

1.) Accept and acknowledge all the reason’s you’re angry – Make peace with what happened, how you feel, and their response to your confrontation should you choose to go that route.

2.) Write a letter – Get it down in writing. You may decide to share it or keep it to yourself.

3.) Get Physical – Exercise helps us better manage emotional distress.

4.) Seek Therapy – Every person on planet earth can benefit from some well spun therapy, especially during experiences that bring trauma to the surface. Don’t be afraid to seek extra support.

If you or someone you love is in a dangerous situation, please see below to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, available 24/7.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health

Trauma Confession Series: The Letter

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”
Michael J. FoxDear Readers, In my previous post Trauma Confession Series: Confronting Abuse, we discussed the importance of taking back power and the tough-love approach as an abuse survivor. As promised, I took the time to pen a few words of harsh truth for my perpetrators. I have yet to decide when I will actually send it, and will likely alter it a bit more. I place value in the short and simple, assuming these type of people seldom find the time to read – or genuinely give a shit about what I have to say. So I will not pour my heart into it, for it would only be a gift wasted. Instead, I choose facts. For those of you who have followed along these past few weeks, asked questions, or contacted me as a result of my work – I want to express my most heartfelt gratitude. You’ve offered a warm response to the most honest series I’ve ever written. I remain humbled, aware and empowered by it. The Letter
I want you to know that I am healing from trauma as a direct result of the things you did to me as a child. The next step is confrontation and resolution. So I have decided to tell you, and the world, in words. I want you to know that you hurt me. I want you to know that you objectified a child. I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten. I want you to know it caused a decade of self loathing and poor choices resulting in near death experiences. I want you to know that I know that I am not the only one. I want you to know your behavior is unacceptable, and does not go unnoticed. I want you to know that your selfishness cost me 15 years of therapy, multiple hospital stays, and psychotropic medication. I want you to know your lack of acknowledgment hurts more than the abuse. But also – I want you to know I’ve put the work in, and you can’t hurt me anymore. I want you to know that you should keep your hands to yourself. I want you to know I seek to forgive you, but it hasn’t happened yet. I want you to know I found strength in suffering. I want you to know I found restoration in self love. I want you to know I found solace in self care. I want you to know that I chose to break the cycle with my children. I want you to know that you will suffer isolation as a consequence, and these words as a reminder. For additional reading on confrontation and boundaries when recovering from trauma visit Confronting an Emotional Abuser, Psychology Today Other posts in the Trauma Confession Series in order of appearance: Overcoming Avoidance (my story) Love After Abuse (my relationship) Mourning (my grief) When Trauma Work Wakes Other Sleeping Monsters (my diagnoses) Confronting Abuse (my decision) **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health, Relationships

Trauma Confession Series: Overcoming Avoidance

“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” (p.97)

Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Dear Readers,

Welcome! I have decided to invite my audience in a little deeper with this trauma series. My hope is that this platform will allow me to find the language on the topic of physical trauma and heal once and for all. I will be sharing with you things that have never been uttered from my lips before. The truth is, I haven’t the slightest inkling how to go about this, other than to first offer a trigger warning for those who may be sensitive to physical or sexual abuse, and then – to simply start.

This week, my partner brought to light that I was becoming intolerant to touch and therefore, our intimacy suffered. I trust this person, yet my body still becomes triggered. It is worth noting that this has happened in all of my relationships, and is largely responsible for why some of them ended. I realized then that I still had skeletons in my closet. When I don’t understand something, I turn to research.

In her article, Overcoming Sexual Assault: Symptoms and Recovery featured in Psychology Today, Elyssa Barbash Ph. D. writes,

It is not exactly known why some individuals recover more quickly than others, but one theory is that those individuals who recover do not “avoid” the trauma. That is, they do not avoid thinking about it, talking about it (which is suggested to do with a trained mental health professional), and expressing natural emotions related to the assault. Conversely, avoidance is known to be the most significant factor that creates, prolongs, and intensifies trauma-reaction or PTSD symptoms.

So here we have an Ah-ha! moment. Just simply reading this article triggered me into an episode of dissociation. I realized then that I do avoid this pain not only consciously, but unconsciously as well, and it has prolonged my suffering. I am guilty of locking up these secrets intensely with clinical-grade distraction for two reasons. One, I can not find the words, and two, when I try to verbalize my past abuse, my overactive mind leaps to protect me by dropping a concrete wall between the memories and my ability to process them. I often have physical symptoms such as muscle spasms, nausea, dropping of the head and/or the locking of joints when reliving trauma. My body remembers.

I care about my relationships, I value my health, and I want wellness for my family. So the challenge becomes ending avoidance by talking about it and staying grounded in the present moment long enough to face the pain, rather than suppress it further. Let’s just say it out loud then, and I’ll do my best to write through the trembling. Again, I offer a trigger warning for those of you who can’t digest the nitty and gritty. Turn away now.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Okay, well, what does that mean exactly? Who, what, where, when, why and how did these things happen? How do I resolve something that has become inaccessible by supression? These are the things we will be exploring.

What does it mean to be a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence?

Again Barbash writes,

The term “sexual violence” is an an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Sexual assault is defined by the United States Department of Justice as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” This can mean inappropriate and unwanted touching, forced sexual acts including sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral sex, and rape or attempted rape.

Additionally, Google dictionary offers this definition of domestic violence:

“Violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.

For this to work, I have to strip away all the technicalities that comfort me, and tell you the truth.

Who, what, where, when, why, and how did these things happen?

My perpetrators have been family members, close family friends, partners, and strangers.

I am a child of teen parents. My mother is an abuse survivor herself, and went on to marry two men who grew to become abusive, neither of which were my biological father. Throughout my childhood I suffered from exposure to physical and verbal abuse, death threats, property destruction, violent conflict, police questioning, drug use, infidelity and witnessed the abuse of my mother. We fled the first relationship in the middle of the night. My mother woke me with whispers and bags at her hip to shuffle my sister and I out of the house, into the car, and three hours north. I was so proud of her. Her second marriage has since been forgiven and resolved. I can’t say the same about the first.

Meanwhile, I was molested by an older child between the ages of 6 and 8 in the neighborhood I grew up in. He wanted to play “doctor” in a storage closet. He sat me in a chair and told me “everything was okay.” Fortunately for you and I both, everything goes black after that and all I remember is the grimy lightbulb hanging above my head. I remember running home and crying beneath my blankets. I remember bumping into him months later at a tree farm. I told no one.

When I was 12 years old my father relocated from Minnesota to Texas. This abandonment was significant, visceral, and my first experience of deeply true emotional anguish. As a girl coming of age without her protector, this was the first experience that urged me to write.

When I was 15, I was invited by a close family friend in his 30’s to road trip from Minnesota to Texas to visit my father. I gleefully accepted, unaware of the damage that followed.

We began our trek south and it started with subtle touches. I recall the sunlight beaming in from overhead, music, and glistening sunglasses when suddenly I felt a hand on my inner left thigh. I was confused, uncomfortable, but generally unshaken. We drove this way for many miles before reaching a hotel in Kansas. I distinctly remember walking up to the hotel lobby window where they asked if we wanted one bed or two. He suggested one. I casually held up two fingers.

The evening hours were unremarkable. We smoked cigarettes, and fell asleep in separate beds. Upon waking, this man was in my bed spooning me in his underwear. I became alarmed then, but pretended to sleep until he moved away. I maintained a level head knowing I would see my father soon and surly, this was all a misunderstanding. Our visit was normal, I wanted to tell my father, but I was too frightened and confused. Unable to reconcile what was happening, I remained silent.

We traveled home a few days later and upon our arrival, went to sleep in separate beds in my grandparent’s basement. Again I woke in the middle of the night to him sneaking into my bed in his underwear. Things were escalating and I was terrified. His hands traveled across my body for a long while this time. I pretended to sleep, praying that it would end. When he finally fell asleep, I rolled out of bed and raced up the staircase as quickly and quietly as possible to the phone hanging on the wall. The house was dark, everyone was asleep. I knew I had to tell someone, but who?

I decided to call my then boyfriend, and he urged me to tell my father. I knew I couldn’t say the words. I couldn’t bear to hurt him. So, I turned on the computer and wrote him an e-mail instead. Soon after, morning came and the house phone rang. I could hear my father yelling at my Grandpa on the other end, demanding to talk to this man. Soon the whole family knew, and I was immediately removed from the situation by my Grandma.

He became excommunicated for a short time. Ultimately, I had to taper my visits with my family on the grounds that he was not in the house. My mother rushed to my side, no charges were pressed, and no one spoke of it again.

Shortly after, I had my first in-patient psychiatric stay spawned by self-injury, and the family dialogue changed. This violation was emboldened by my father’s lack of acknowledgment, which would go on to re-traumatize me for many years.

When I turned 16, I entered into a sexually exploitative relationship. Restraints, violence, drugs and documentation were used over the course of two years.

Ten years later, I was sexually assaulted by a partner.

How do I resolve something that has become inaccessible by suppression?

I resolve these memories by talking about it with those who are willing to listen, namely my mother. Many times she has negated or confirmed my recollections, and for that I am eternally grateful. Coping with repressed memories is extremely challenging, and a topic for another day.

You can see how anyone with these types of experiences can develop an unhealthy relationship toward sex and affection. The important thing is to talk about it, and not let avoidance or silence empower your anguish. In the coming weeks we will explore reconciling abuse with positive touch, confrontation, and resolution. If you have read this far, thank you for helping me start on my path toward healing.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!