4th April 2016 at 9:44 pm #12990
My name is Lilycat and I am fairly new to the forum, having being involved in discussions over the last ten days, but not having posted a thread until now.
I joined because I want to be supportive to other women who have been or continue to be in situations where their dignity has been/ is being denied spiritually/ psychologically/ physically/ mentally/ emotionally. Like you, I also have my narrative. I will keep it brief…
I endured daily psychological and emotional abuse, for (detail removed by Moderator) months, and also financial abuse, at the hands of my young adult stepchild and their father, my husband (the latter of which I am going to divorce soon).
As a small example of what I went through, I had my toothbrushes dipped in faeces and mucus, and sentimental and high-value possessions were broken or smeared with cream/ bodily fluid (?). I was also commented upon, on a regular basis, for being ‘posh’ and ‘privileged’ and had it hinted to me at various times that I was sluttish (for wearing kitten heels with my suits) and butch (for wearing mannish shoes with my trousers). When I told my husband about these things, he always asked me to stop making a fuss because, for one, his child was ‘vulnerable and fragile’ and, for another, my telling tales was ‘abusive’ and disruptive.
I became isolated in several ways. My parents live almost (detail removed by Moderator) away, so I couldn’t I couldn’t go to them for help. I could not bring my friends home for fear that my stepchild would explode in a fit of rage and my husband would blame me. I could not go on dates with my husband because he felt that he could only take me to dinner with his child’s permission. On occasions, if we were 30 minutes later at home from work than had been suggested, the young person would threaten suicide, shout and insist that they had an eating disorder, etc. My husband would drop everything and make a fuss and their child would only calm down when their father made them the meal of their choice. Financially, sums of four figures went missing and my husband got passive- aggressively threatening, manipulating me and confusing me so much that I had to shut up, put up and shut down to stay sane.
Throughout this time and for a year before the abuse really escalated I learned, increasingly, to shut down, act bravely and ‘not react’- as reactions would prompt a kind of sadistic delight from my step-child and my husband would panic and ignore me.
(detail removed by Moderator) and a half years later, having walked out, I have become so numb and disconnected from my own feelings that I cannot cry or explain what I feel. I know I am still in shock and still troubled by the experience because I have almost nightly nightmares and night terrors. I also suffer from panic attacks and severe anxiety. Self-harm temptations come and go and they are hard to fight, but I mostly overcome them, as I do sports and don’t want people seeing the scars on my arms when I am training. I have a therapist, but the healing process is so slow. CBT is having limited success because I can’t even name and describe what I feel inside.
The strange thing is that I seem to function normally at work and in public life. I hold things together and have what could be described as a high-flying job- (detail removed by Moderator) at a large organisation, etc. I have to be corporate, strong and ‘inspiring’. The job is hard work, but meaningful and I value it and my lovely colleagues very much. But I dread weekends and evenings and feel overwhelmed by a sense of worthlessness and self-hatred. I really do feel like rotten piece of meat. Trying everything from extreme sports, to opera singing, to breakdancing and adventuring to different cities, I can’t seem to shake the damage and build up self-confidence and put my life back together.
‘It’/ life all feels like wanting to scrub off dirt that just won’t come off.
There is some peace and value in being open with those women and men who have come to me and confided that they’ve experienced abuse, too. For me that is the only way I can make sense of things- using what happened to help others. But I wish I could be good to myself.
Does anyone have any tips on building up self-respect and self-confidence?
Thanks and kindest wishes to anyone who answers
Lilycat x (Yes, I like water lilies and cats :).)
4th April 2016 at 10:24 pm #12991KIP.Participant
Hello and welcome. How dreadful for you to be treated that way. Im glad you recognise your self esteem and confidence have been eroded by these evil people. It will take time to rebuild so don’t push it, just be kind to yourself. Have you been in touch with your local women’s aid? I had a therapist too but nothing compared to help from women’s aid. They just knew what I was going through and exactly how to respond. Your GP might be able to give you some meds to help with anxiety and sleep problems. It sounds like your brain is now free to try and make sense of the abuse. Hence the nightmares etc. I think it’s a process you will have to go through. I certainly did. But if you’re stuck there too long, more help may be needed. If you can go total no contact too. That way there is no head messing. Just be kind to yourself and don’t rush the healing. I dreaded weekends too. Too much time to think. Try booking yourself a pamper session in advance❤️
5th April 2016 at 7:02 am #13003
Thanks for replying and for sharing your experiences.
I do go to my local Women’s Aid and they have been very helpful, and have helped me see that these individuals are ‘personality types’ that would probably do the same thing regardless of whether it was me or another woman. (So, I am getting to understand that it’s not personal, but hope that another person does not fall into their septic tank of a home set-up :(). My therapist actually recommended WA, which was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given.
You are right. This kind of thing takes a long time to heal. I am not one for medication, but have reached the point where and admitted to myself that pharmacological help is needed to complement everything else. I have an appointment booked with my GP on (detail removed by Moderator).
A pamper session of some kind would be helpful. I am not sure about a spa session/ spa day. Since all of this kicked off, I have real problems with anyone but my parents going anywhere near me physically. I can hug them and likewise, but nowadays I don’t like being hugged by even my best friends and hate going to the hairdresser, etc. (My husband was always hugging me but it meant nothing, so I think this is all a vestige of that era). With all the said, I’ll give it a go ;). If it fails I could try something like walking a dog or going horse riding again.
Take care and thanks so much
5th April 2016 at 9:24 am #13005SerenityParticipant
I am so very sorry for what you have been through.
The symptoms you describe ( panic, anxiety ) are the same as I and many others here have experienced, and very much sound like symptoms of PTSD.
It is great that you have managed to operate so well at work, though it may seem to you to have helped you, for example by taking your mind off things, especially if you love your job ( I couldn’t cope with my job for a long time). Maybe you have thrown yourself into work as a way of dealing with what has happened to you, but the fact is that you have suffered significant trauma, and that trauma somehow needs to be dealt with.
Women’s Aid directed me to a local DV counsellor. I went for a whole year, and have recently started going again. It has helped me massively. Maybe you could ask Women’s Aid about this support for yourself.
I am glad that you have recognised that your step-child has serious issues. As a way forward, keep reminding yourself if this, that your treatment was not due to any fault in you, of worthlessness on your part, but you were just a target. It will happen to others in your step-child’s life.
Your husband was too weak to stand up to his child, and was probably being manipulated by him/ her. I don’t know the reasons why he was unable to stand up to this child, why he felt protective, whether he just didn’t want to admit that his child has issues or wasn’t willing to put the effort in to get help or deal with them, or whether he felt our of his depth and unable to cope, but the fact is that he failed you massively, he didn’t protect you, and he has only enabled his child to continue behaving like he/ she is.
If your step-child has a full-blown and extreme personality disorder, then it might have seemed to your ex that nothing could be done , but your ex should have manned up and taken control, or at least asked for help to protect you, his wife. He has enabled you to become a victim of horrendous abuse, by not standing up to the perpetrator, his own child. Your husband stood by and allowed his wife to be treated appallingly in her own home; well done for getting out and divorcing him.
Your ex hasn’t done anything to help the situation. He has lost you, and he is left with a child who is running rings around him, and will no doubt treat anyone else who comes into your ex’s life the same. But don’t pity your ex: he is a grown up, and needs to act like a responsible parent, and should have protected you, or at least tried to get the advice and help to do so.
Over to your situation: it is no suprise you feel like you do. You were locked in a war zone, not in similar to a prison camp where you were tortured. There is bound to be massive fall-out from it.
A number if other things have helped me, apart from the DV counselling:
-Attending a support group, and meeting up with the women in between sessions for coffee, to support eachother and talk things out.
-Doing the Pattern Changing / Freedom programme to help me to understand what happened to me, to receive understanding and to help me feel protected in the future.
-Reading around the subject of the personality problem which the abuser seems to have, to help me realise it wasn’t my fault and was no reflection on me.
-Using techniques outlined in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Distress Toletance ( both helpful to those who have suffered abuse). Even if you don’t go to a specific counsellor in this type of counselling ( I didn’t ), the tenets outlined on the Internet on these subjects are hugely beneficial, helping you cope day-to-day.
-Medication. I am still on Citalopram, and take Propanalol when I feel very panicky.
-I have heard that EMDR ( Eye Movement Therapy ) is very helpful in helping you to overcome the effects of abuse and PTSD. I haven’t tried it, but a number of women here have, and say it is effective.
Whatever you do, carry on telling yourself that you suffered at the hands of someone with an extreme mental / personality disorder. This is the objective truth. You were not to blame. Take extreme measures to pamper yourself and take things easy- treat yourself gently. You have proved that you are courageous and strong, but maybe need to self-care and wrap yourself in a huge metaphorical blanket now, and dress the injuries you have. Xxxx
5th April 2016 at 12:51 pm #13015
Thank you so very much for your informative, encouraging and detailed reply. Although our experiences are unique to us, there is quite a lot in your shared thoughts that rings true with me.
Although I can’t say what I do and where I work, my role is to (detail removed by Moderator); so it is deeply meaningful amd deeply human. With that said, it can really hurt at times, because some issues are so close to the bone and I have to bite my lip. Recently, I was in a situation with a colleague where we were discussing financial abuse and coercive control, and I had to take a call from the police about keeping track of my own situation! (I ended up being completely honest and it actually helped the work situ, as the person realised how committed I was to the areas of work mentioned:).)
I am glad that you have also recognised the need to ‘research’ one’s predicament and those of perpetrators. My ex-step-child does have significant issues. I am not a clinician, but from general and academic knowledge, it looks like they have a mixture of Borderline, Sadistic and Narcisstic issues for which they require help. My husband did nothing, I think out of pride and reputation. (He is on the ‘top deck’ of a top company, and he is very prominent in his church, etc.) I had suggested looking into understanding personality disorders and directed him to support from a caring for carers-style organisation, but he, in his passive-aggressive way, hit the roof and hinted that I was stigmatising his child and being a bully. Also, there might be things that are secrets between him and his child that he doesn’t want me to find out about, which would explain why he lets them get away with so much. This all seems to run in the family, as they are archetypal ‘polite middle-class society’ people- as I discovered- who when the ship is sinking must encourage the quartet to continue playing Schubert, because it is ‘the right thing to do’. Decorum, decorum .. ad majorem dei gloriam…(…blehhhhh!!!).
I don’t think my husband is just a weak character. My parents have told me that they have always found him rather Walter Mitty-like and suspected motives for ‘financial gain and an easy life’ in marrying me. My mother also mentioned, after I had left him, that she was subject to aggressive and threatening looks from him, when he visited. He was really threatening in tone when my mother and I twigged that substantial finances had gone missing, and I phoned him to say as much, yet he played the gentleman in public. He’s weird- not only’a nine bob note’ but darn right in the wrong currency.
I shall see what the doctor says about medication. Thanks for sharing the names of what you have taken. I was on Fluoxetine and occasional/ emergency Diazepam temporarily, when I first moved out. But things were still machinating in my head and the distorted nightmares, terrors and panic attacks had not manifested to the depth at which I experience them now.
The therapies you mentioned are not ones that I have heard of, apart from EMDR, so I will look into them with my therapist. EMDR has been effective for me, but my therapist is stopping it for now, as I am going through a divorce, and she reasoned that it would work better at more final stage of closure.
Thanks so much again for your many excellent thoughts. I’d like to wish you strength and happiness in your recovery back into a good and healthy life. If there is anything that I can do, by talking things through or sharing ideas, just let me know.
5th April 2016 at 5:15 pm #13023
Just a clarification… when I mentioned my husband’s family, I was not criticising their social class (which has always been inconsequential to me), but rather noting that they wanted to preserve what they thought was a traditional ‘middle class’ image and reputation, partly by sweeping trouble under the carpet (which is not actually a feature of any social class). Even when they knew what was happening to me, they made no effort to find out what was really going on to help, placated me with tokenistic comments, and more or less felt that ‘it doesn’t happen in our sort of family’. I felt really silenced and felt like a worthless nobody.
I am still at a loss as to why I was mocked by my abusers as being ‘posh’ at their convenience- little things like using a grapefruit knife, once buying a few fruits from a certain supermarket and speaking with a RP accent aroused comment. They found it all rather funny, and I would get picked on for the tiniest things. I’m from an ordinary hard-working background, but every time I had a success or received a gift that my parents had clearly saved for, I was made to feel like a spoilt toff. Conversely, my husband would say horrible things about not wanting to shop in the same shops as immigrants (which is insulting because I am from an immigrant backround), he felt uncomfortable at attending multicultural events with me and he said disparaging things about friends of mine with manual jobs. I just couldn’t win and so I guess I feel frustrated with situations where people promote an image but are downright nasty and abusive behind the mask… I can’t believe how people like these individuals develop the world view that they do, succeed in life and squash everyone else who is different from them in any way.
Rant over :/. (Sorry:'(.)
5th April 2016 at 5:34 pm #13024SaharaDParticipant
Hi Lily cat and welcome.
I won’t dwell on the abuse that you survived.
I note that you haven’t mentioned a sibling. Being an only child or a child that spends a lot of time on their own can impact of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
I also note that your parents live very far away and that you felt unable to go to them for help. My parents have negative coping behaviours so I tend to avoid them but the breakdown of my marriage was so traumatic I emailed and called them regularly asking for help even though they couldn’t be there physically.
I am not sure your therapist is DV/DA specialised. Due to my specialised DV/DA counsellor for a ywar, I was able to analyse all of my thoughts, feelings and behaviours surrounding the abusive relationship without blaming myself. This is not negative reflection on any of us survivors. Some of us are victims because we lacked knowledge, Some of us are victims because we rebel and some of us are victims because we are people pleasers. I lacked knowledge and I am a people please by default.
It sounds like you do have CPTSD: Complex post traumatic stress disorder. It has similar symptoms to BPD/EUPD borderline/emotionally unstable personality disorder and professionals often get confused and misdiagnose. Both are cause by trauma unsuccessfully treated and rehabilitated.
I have BPD – CBT did not allow me to learn, understand and manage my emotions/feelings. DBT (dialectal behavioural therapy) was able to show me how to look at my feelings, recognise them and cope with them. These disorders often have to do with how your see and manage yourself and your feelings not managing other people’s; That is why you are able to function at work where you are emotionally distant except when it is emotionally triggering you to remember the trauma like the phone call.
I agree with everything Serenity and KIP say. I agree with a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and a holistic therapuetic approac liike the REACH Approach. These types of therapies and DBT use medication as a complement to other actions.
Here are some useful websites
I go to spa days where not a soul talks or touches me ( I go on a weekday and just swim, nap, use the Jacuzzi sauna steam room foot baths and skip the hands on therapies) You can spend the time meditating (they have meditation rooms) exercising reading journal-ling or using one of those adult colouring books. Lol! I notice you do activities that are well for want of a better word physically active…..What we often forget we need activites that are relaxing and sedentary like mindfulness, meditation, journarling, etc where we look at our thoughts and emotions carefully. Or in my case group work (sit in a group and cry and rage and rant and talk about feelings)(hardcore). I used to dread it because it was so emotionally charged but now I have learnt to tolerate the uncomfortable-ness of it and in the process get in touch with my own feelings.
I take Sertraline which is primarily an anti-depressant also used to treat anxiety (it increases my anxiety! Bad side effect) I’ve suffered with depression since childhood and have been diagnosed by NHS GP, Psychologists and Psychiatrists
I take Quetiapine which is a sedating anti-psychotic mood stabaliser. I have suffered with mood swings since child hood and have been diagnosed by private psychiatrist. However after the abuse and the upheaval in my life (currently legally homeless-long story), I couldn’t sleep any more and I seem to go into to odd brief unreality disssociative states and rages (scary stuff but rare)
I take Hydroxyzine Hydrochloride which is a mild sedating antihistamine for daytime mild anxiety and panic attacks
If it’s is any consolation, I refuse to get involved with any divorce until I am stronger. He doesn’t need my involvement after 5 years and we have no children and finances together.
So I follow a type of recovery plan. I go to a women’s DV group, I go to community centre to see my caseworker (almost daily), I go to women’s football, I go to a mixed mental health peer support group, I go to the gym, I play women’s football, I work part time. I go dancing and I go on dates. Every week. If I was working full time, I would still do the gym the football and the women’s DV group because those are outside the 9-5 and I would also go to a local social group that does things like karoke, dinners, live music, comedy, museum, galleries and exhibits and walking tours.
I know you don’t want people around. I’m like that but we are designed to be social animals and hermits and monks only survive alone usually with pets and lots of meditation and prayer. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: we need love and belonging. I go on dates(not all dates involve sexual intercourse) for one-on-one intimacy that I can’t receive during group work.
Here is another good little website that I have found:
Write a post it on your mirror and read it every day, you deserve to be happy, I deserve to be happy, we deserve to be happy!
P.S. sorry for the ridiculously long post. (rare)
6th April 2016 at 7:46 am #13067
Not sure how this thread thing works, as I have never used a forum like this one before.
I have replied- and thanks so much for your post :)- but I am not sure if it would have got to you.
Will try out the tips and thanks for sharing.
Be well and have a lovely day.
5th April 2016 at 7:26 pm #13033SerenityParticipant
Excellent advice, Sahara. You are a mine of information.
Lilycat: if your ex isn’t whiter than white, then I know the type he is. A manipulator who uses others as his flying monkeys to deliver the injuries- whilst he hides behind a curtain ( think Wizard of Oz- the whole novel is an expose of the narcissistic and psychopathic personality- the Wizard is the grand manipulator, the monkeys his agents! The world a battle between good and evil. But Dorothy: found she had all the wisdom and answers within her own self all along!)…..
5th April 2016 at 10:25 pm #13042NemoParticipant
Hi Lilycat 😽
I don’t want to write too much as the other ladies have already given you so much wonderful advice and information.
I just wanted to add that I too have PTSD, and I also thrive in manic situations (as I like to call them), such as babysitting and arranging kid’s days out and in my career… but being at home alone was where I struggled.
My GP at the time suggested AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) – i got myself some chickens and i also have a kitten now.
The chickens have been a God send i sit in the garden hammock just watching them for hours and they have such a calming effect. And it gives me a purpose at home too because I look after them as well as enjoy them. One year i even let them sit on eggs too so one of my hens became a mommy which was amazing to be a part of 🐣
My kitten has been an unexpected help too because she picks up on when i am anxious or low and either snuggles me or lies on my chest to regulate my breathing. She only becomes clingy like this when i’m having a bad day so she obviously picks up on my feelings.
She does this at night too when i’m having night terrors. She stays in instead of going out (she is an outdoor cat) and keeps an eye on me while i sleep if i’m having night terrors and comforts me while i’m coming in and out of PTSD induced nightmares.
I just wanted to share this as AAT has helped me so much that if I didn’t mention it I’d just just feel awful.
Sending you some big hugs from me, my kitty, and the chickies 😉 ❤
5th April 2016 at 10:46 pm #13045
Thanks for your lovely creature-filled reply! Too right- animals are just the best. I would love to have a cat, chicks, a duck, rabbits and a horse… But I live in a big city and in accommodation that is not pet-friendly.
When I had issues, the only reason why I went home and didn’t leave sooner was my animals. They were warm and snuggly, and knew when I was miserable. I could talk to them and they just understood the sentiments and my tone of voice,they would do mad things and make me laugh, too. When I packed up and left, I only missed them and not the humans. They have had to stay with the husband and step-child, but I think that these two individuals can look after pets that eat, sleep and do their thing- low-maintenance emotionally and physically, etc- so I am confident that they are well-kept.
When I last went home to my folks, we sat down together and flipped through a huge pet encyclopaedia and picked some cat breeds. My mum and dad are encouraging me to buy a place of my own, so that I can have a cat; and they want me to aim at having a cat as a key goal in life- never mind the career! It seems that they can see that a little furry friend is pretty priceless and great for emotional healing and for re-learning how to trust and love, again.
Be well, Nemo.
Kindest wishes and gratefully
5th April 2016 at 10:29 pm #13043
Hi Sahara D and Serenity,
Wow. Thanks so much for sharing all of this.
Sahara- yes, I am an only child, but I have childhood friends that are almost siblings :). I am really close to my parents and they’ve been great. But being so far away from my folks and my friends, I just didn’t want to worry them. It sounds really odd, but I wanted to protect them from all the rubbish I experienced.
I think that I do have a kind of CPTSD, and my therapist has referred to complex Post-Traumatic Stress a few times. But I don’t dwell on it and don’t feel that I need a formal diagnosis, because it probably won’t help me to access any further help and it can be a label by which others define you, when really it is only just a part of your much wider life. Similarly with BPD, people assume that it’s a personality type and defines a person 100%. (Detail removed by moderator) who I haven’t seen for ages was a lovely, lovely girl as a teenager and developed severe depression and BPD in very late adolescence. She is now a mental health specialist and researches and campaigns on mental health, talking openly about her BPD to help other people, which is great. Anyway, ultimately what is valuable is how one reacts to challenges and disorders, rather than whether one has them or not.
Thanks for the tips on solo pampering, Sahara. I shall experiment with some of these :).
I do agree that we are social creatures. I am not quite a hermit because my work would not allow me to be one. Actually, there is nothing better than being around honest, kind and trustworthy people, and feeling comfortable enough to talk and be silent when the dynamics suit. But, I have come to understand that I am just recovering and need ‘rest time’, which means spending a lot of time alone or in silence. For several years, my life was full of emotionally and psychologically violent noise. I had to negotiate a co-dependent father and child dynamic. My stepchild seemed to become fixated on me in strange ways. Examples of this included: their writing becoming identical to mine in a matter of a month; their roving into my underwear and sock drawer and rearranging my socks and knickers; and, at one point, their taking my knickers and wearing them (which I discovered when I found my pants on their laundry rack, drying). Then my husband had the Jekkyl and Hyde thing going on.
Good luck with finding a place that is a true home, Sahara. I too had no permanent address for a certain period of time. I was not on the streets, but I had temporary accommodation. Life does settle and will settle.
I have never seen the Wizard of Oz in full, but it is interesting what you say about the characters, Serenity. I always thought the film stills and clips very disturbing, and I now understand why. It really isn’t a show for children, I don’t think. But then I think that of the Tellytubbies.
7th April 2016 at 8:40 pm #13201AyannaParticipant
Yep, work was a lifeline for me too. The only place where some normality took place …
And then there are these so called support services who want to destroy women as soon as they find out that they work after fleeing. Be careful whom you tell that you work. For a while I said I did not work because I was so afraid of those monsters in the so called support services.
I fled and thought things would be better. But instead they got worse. It was a fight so hard as never before in my life.
I did nothing wrong. My only mistake was to have a job and to refuse being abused.
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