Depression, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Survivor’s Guilt

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Seven years and ten days after my gram died, her daughter followed.

She left behind the Earthly prison of her body and mind to travel to joy and belonging. Within minutes of exiting her body, she was basking in the beauty of the sunshine–this was something that she had not been able to do for many years.

For years before her death, her wish was to sit out in the sun and feel it beat down on her skin. She rarely left the house due to her mobility, and as each day passed her by, she wished for better days.

Depression and guilt haunted her, and stole many pieces of her. She was barely able to exist some days. She had many dreams, many wishes, and the heart of a child.

One of her wishes, the one that I remember the longest, was to be a published author. She passed her love of writing to me; it was the one thing that we shared. Maybe my dream of being an author came from her–it was also the one thing I always hoped for.

When my book became a reality, I had a hard time feeling the joy it should have brought. I was sad. Sad that I was able to fulfill a dream we both had shared. Sad that I was able to find strength within myself to fight the depression and the blocks. Guilty that I lived to tell the story.

When I think back to the life my mom lived, a sadness comes over me. Her life was much like mine. We shared many of the same kinds of abuse, but we were never close enough to talk about it. There was a distance between us. I was unable to reach her in the places that I longed for.

I tried my best to save her, but I couldn’t. No one could. So I had to save myself. Through my healing, I think of my mom often. I struggle with knowing she was unable to find her own strength. Guilt overwhelms me when I think about all of her suffering. Shame shadows me as I think about the secrets I exposed.

I struggle with the reality of what was. I wish things could have been different. I long for her love, for her to see who I was. I dream of having a childhood, where I could have been a child. And then I feel guilty all over again. My insides cringe when I think back to how much my mom suffered.

But I suffered too.

Then, the cycle circles back to thoughts of why was I able to have a different outcome? Why was I able to travel on my healing journey when she wasn’t. These thoughts alone can take me to a place I don’t want to be. They interfere with my healing. I didn’t know what this was called, until I talked with my counselor. Survivor’s Guilt.

I felt guilty because I could crawl out of the trenches. I felt guilty because I could fight the demons. I felt guilty that I succeeded. I felt guilty that I am alive, living and thriving when she never did.

Giving these feelings a name helped ease some of the guilt. Understanding what I was feeling made me see that it was normal. It did not mean I was throwing away my healing, but that my heart held love for my mother.

I wish my mom’s life had of been different. I wish our life together could have been different. The past cannot be changed, but it can be learned from. I consider the lessons a gift.

Enjoy your freedom Mom. Until we meet again. Spring 2016 855

gas lighting, healing, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Gas-Lighting and Perspective

Recently I have been thinking a lot about my past. Writing my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy only scratched the surface of my story. Even after completing it, and receiving feedback, I still did not fully understand the magnitude of the abuse that I endured. I still told myself, “It wasn’t that bad.”

It was only recently that everything shifted and I was able to see. To really see. The dots began to connect. Everything that I had tried to brush off as “not that bad,” began to reveal how bad it truly was.

My entire childhood was filled with psychological warfare, and the baton was passed to my ex-husband to continue to keep me under the spell. I didn’t see this before. I forgave so intensely, that I did not allow myself to fully understand the damage that had been caused.

I existed my whole life in their made up reality. And yet, I never fell completely. I never gave in, but my world was altered. I believed untrue things about myself as I was fed their poison.

I struggle with the image of myself. That is my one weakness. I did not understand why the barrier to my truth was so difficult to penetrate. I did not see what others saw. And then, it hit me. A tiny spot on the mirror was wiped clean and I began to see. I began to understand the extent of the abuse I was subjected to.

My reality was tested as I looked back on the past thirty-six years. The world as I knew it was rocked under my feet as I heard the voices from the abusers circle my thoughts.

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You’re crazy.”

“You’ll never be happy.”8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You just want to get people in trouble.”

“You don’t know how to have fun.” 8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv

8346-illustration-of-lips-whispering-into-an-ear-pv “You’re worthless.”

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The words loomed over me, settled into my skin and became my thoughts. Even when life started to look up, I continued to be pulled back to these words. I beat myself up over the hold they had over me, which in turn, added to their strength. I found myself questioning their validity, and until recently I believed them.

That was until that slight peek into reality. The grime was lifted from the mirror. It began to become clearer. I heard the same words spoken by all of the ones who had hurt me in the past, and this time instead of believing it must be true, I finally saw it.

My mother had been at the center of it all. She fed the lies to others, and coached them into treating me the way that they had.

Every.

Single.

Person.

The people who had not hurt me, who had not caused me pain all shared a connection: they were not led to me by my mother. They were people I found on my own. The people who loved me, who saw the true me, were not my mother’s minions.

It was not good enough for my mother to abuse me, she needed help. When I did not break under her spell, she enlisted others. Child abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, rape, domestic abuse…all at the hands of people my mother introduced me to.

The caveat?

I was stronger than them all.

I believed their words. I bruised under their hands. I lost pieces of myself. But, I did not give up. I kept the fight alive.

With the help from the people I introduced to my circle, my strength began to intensify. Safe people. People who love me. People who believe in me. People who push me to find my true self. People who do not let me continue to believe the lies from my mother’s distorted reality.

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These are the people cleaning off the mirror. Washing the layers of dirt and grime off to allow me to see my true self. They push out the nonsense that made up my reality and offer kindness and love. They are patient and gentle as I learn who I really am–as I see myself as they have always seen me.

Thank you to my helpers. Thank you for your patience, your love, your kindness, your understanding. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for never believing the lies that my mom told. Thank you.

I do still forgive my mom. I do understand that she had her own demons she was fighting with. I now no longer live in the make believe world she created. The spell has been broken. And I am free.

mental illness, Uncategorized

The Devil Inside

My sister came acrmirror-1662178__340oss a paper our mom wrote for college. The subject: Mental Illness. The topic: Me. I debated on whether or not to read it. I had an idea what it was going to say, and I wondered if she would be upset to know it was in my hands. I waited a few hours, and when I couldn’t wait any longer, I skimmed it and decided it was going to be too upsetting.

A while later the pieces that I did read kept playing over in my head and I knew I had to finish reading it. This was my mom’s perspective of her first born daughter. I wrote my perspective when I wrote The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and thought it was only fair to see the situation through her eyes. I have forgiven her, and this was the past, written seventeen years ago.

I sat next to George as I started to read, reading pieces out loud and stopping with a few gasps, “oh my Gods,” and “wows.” I read a sentence, stopped, and explained the truth. There was a hint of truth in a lot of it, but for every truth there was a twist to make it seem like we lived in different worlds. An example: “Jessica was born from a rape.” This was the story I was told as a little girl, maybe to make me understand what a gift my mom gave me when she fought the world and decided to have a baby under such circumstances. The truth came out years later, after the guilt of my conception was carried on my shoulders. My mom and dad went to a convention in Atlantic City, NJ, where they had a mini vacation and I was conceived…consensually. She only admitted to this when I found a letter she wrote my dad that had been used as a book mark in one of Gram’s books. I do not remember the exact words now, but it talked about that weekend, and it talked about how I was created out of love and how it would be best if they tried to work it out and have him in my life.

My whole belief on who I was shifted when I read that letter, and I gathered a little more evidence to store in my mental file, “Your own mother doesn’t love you.” When I confronted her with the letter, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Surprisingly, she did not deny it. She was angry at me for “snooping.”

Another example, and I think this might have been her favorite, “She said she heard voices and they were always telling her to do bad things….She never mentioned the voices again, until years later. They had never left.” It is true that when I was seven years old I did hear voices, but they were never talking to me and never told me to do anything. When I heard the voices they were two women fighting with each other. I remember telling Mom it sounded like a mother and daughter bickering. I only heard them in my bedroom at Bill’s house, never anywhere else, and they did not last long…I stopped hearing them, and they never came back.

Her eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas when I told her about the voices. “Ahha…she is crazy!” I went to her for comfort and support, but what I didn’t know then, and probably didn’t really realize until recently she was compiling her own mental file, “Reasons why I don’t have to love my daughter, and can prove to the world she is crazy so they won’t love her either.” It wasn’t good enough that she didn’t love me; she had to make others feel the same, to maybe help her ego a little. If others thought the things she did about me, she couldn’t possibly be a bad person. It was me who was the problem.

At seven when I heard the voices I was under an extreme amount of stress and had undergone more trauma than most adults ever face. By seven I had been continually physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. I had my life threatened more than once. I was caught between two mentally unstable adults who made sure I did not love the other while I was in the opposite’s presence. I also had a new baby sister, who was loved by everyone, even my mom, who had been unable to show me love.

The rest of the fourteen page document is much of the same. She took a tiny truth and shaped it to fit into her belief. There was not one part that I could read without feeling like I had to defend it. As I got to the end of the document it became clear, “I think Kate had a much better life because Jessica wasn’t in the home.” My eyes opened wider than I think they had ever before, and my final “wow,” spewed out of my mouth. There we have it folks…a lifetime of being made to feel crazy…and the grand prize…a better life for my sister, who has her own memoir to write.

This twisted view of who my mom saw me to be was how I was raised. The toxic, crazy making was real. I have it in black and white. I cried at the end of reading it and talked it over with George. This. This was my life. It was like what you watch on a Lifetime movie. This isn’t reality. How could anyone survive in this type of environment? But, it was reality. A tiny life came into the world to this unstable person, and she tried so hard to find defects in me, and when I wasn’t who she wanted me to be, when I was able to withstand her venom and hatred, and twisted reality I became a problem. I was not moldable. I was the flower that grows out of the mud. I was the ray of light shining through the dirty window lighting up the room. Sure, I have my flaws, but I will never be the person my mother wrote about in that paper. I never was.

It is even clearer why I needed years of healing. Why I still struggle with loving myself, and seeing the adversity I overcame. For most of my life the air I breathed in was full of poison. The belief system reminds me of a cult, and because I would not follow suit I was punished. I believe my mom thought the devil was inside of me. She tried to schedule an exorcism for me after I told about the sexual abuse by Bill. She had to get the devil out of me, so I could see the “truth.” I never caved. I never went to their world. There were times that I believed I had no worth, and I am working on fixing that still. After a lifetime of being shown an image of yourself, it is hard to see what is really in the mirror.

Positive self-talk is a struggle some days, but it is the only thing that will save me.

I thanked George for seeing me. The real me. The me that my mom tried to hide. And for helping me see myself with different eyes.

The sad reality is that in order to heal, my mom had to die. The spell she cast over me, to alter my reality could only be lifted upon her death. And, then my healing could fully begin.