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I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things, due to witnessing and receiving acts of repeated abuse. For me, it was usually verbal and emotional. There were rare instances where things got physical. But the fact is, the terror and vigilance, combined with periods of “peace” where we had good times and seemed get along quite well, created a constant and sickening rollercoaster that became my norm. I was taught to minimize and brush off and excuse the unacceptable behaviour. I was taught that if I spoke up or pointed out the mistreatment, it made me ungrateful, unloving, and selfish. I was taught that to insist on better treatment was to be a villain myself. I was taught to silence myself and hide the things that were most important to me because they were threatening to you. I was taught that love isn’t safe. Love means never having to say you’re sorry. It’s permission to hurt and to destroy and to suppress. In the chaos and uncertainty, I was taught to find control in whatever ways I could, including hurting others, just like you. And so the cycle continues.
Whatever your reasons, and whatever well of pain you were drawing from, the experience has had long lasting and deep reaching effects on me. I’m no longer go to let you tell me that the abuse didn’t happen, that I deserved it for whatever reason, and that I should be grateful that it wasn’t worse. I’m sure those things were told to you, and as you can see, it’s neither helpful nor true, and only perpetuates the cycle. Yes, things weren’t always bad. You’re not a monster. You were doing it because you enjoyed my pain, unlike some abusers. You just didn’t know what to do with the big feelings that you had. You were never taught, and by the time I was old enough to try and change things, you didn’t believe that anything needed to be changed. The status quo as so familiar to you that anything else seemed ludicrous. In your eyes, I’m ridiculous. I get it. And I’m so sorry that you had your brain turned inside out, just like mine.
My brain is riddled with holes. The structural matrix of my being is barely strong enough to resist a slight breeze. I require others to keep me together, because left to my own devices, I fall completely apart. Without you controlling me, I don’t know who I am or what to do. When there’s good things or peace, I panic. I’ve been conditioned to anticipate that any calm is only the calm before a devastating storm. I’d rather bring the storm on myself than wait in endless tension for lightning to strike.
I’m addicted to the ways that I learned to protect myself or find control in my out of control world, just like you became addicted to the abuse that you inflicted. Because there is a sense of relief and release after the climax of an explosion. It became the only way that you knew to relieve the stress, so that we could get back to the good times. You didn’t know what else to do, or everything else felt like too much work, too much energy with the high chance of failure. You and I, we do what works. We rely on what we can be most certain of, even if we don’t know that we’re doing it.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13