You’ll Never Know the Truth: Childhood Abuse


On my way home from school, I was perilously close to tears the whole way. At some point, that thing I never ever talk about out loud popped into my mind. I tried talking about it out loud once. The conversations didn’t end well. My therapist at the time wanted me to talk about it and she’d encouraged me for months to open the topic. Once we did…Let’s just say I almost didn’t go away for college. My therapist told me I should work on the issue, but if I worked on it, I’d need to be inpatient because I was clearly a danger to myself.

It sounds so immaterial. On its own, I guess it is immaterial. That is reason #1 why this topic makes me hate myself. The memory itself is inconsequential. I have no right to be bothered by it, at least not compared to other people who experienced real trauma. Therefore, I am weak and pathetic for getting so emotional over nothing.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had one or two odd childhood memories floating in my head. In the first memory *hands pause above keyboard* …I still can’t even fucking type it! I’m continuing this post from yesterday and after a few hours I was okay again last night, but trying to explain this is putting me on the verge of tears. I have this maelstrom inside me tied to 2 short, old memories. The gist is potentially sexually abusive actions occurred, but the memories aren’t necessarily abusive. The first one involved foreign object insertion. The second involved touching. However, both have potentially benign explanation. For example, intramuscular injections of medication in the ventrogluteal and dorsogluteal muscles. As for the second memory, well…little kids have to learn about genital hygiene at some point.

Possibility 1: The memories have benign explanations.

For instance, the ones I proffered above. (Assuming this is the truth) Reason #2 to hate myself is that I’m a sick, twisted, weird, evil, dirty, bad freak for ever considering the idea that someone who cares about me would do that! Reason #3 is that I’ve dealt with all this fear and guilt for years over nothing. In fact, even now, I think part of my trouble relating to people romantically stems from this…nothing.

Possibility 2: These events never occurred in any form. At some point, I made them up.

On one hand, I have no doubt false memories are implantable through suggestion. Numerous psychological studies show it. On the other hand, these memories bothered me before age 12 (when I started therapy). So, no accidental therapeutic suggestion could cause them.

However, even without suggestion, false memories occur because our brains are just not perfect. When we remember an event, we change it. When we think about a memory, it isn’t as though we replay a video tape and when we’re done remembering we put the same video tape away. That is not how memory works. retrieving a memory can alter it and when we “save” the memory for later we save our most recent memory of the memory. So, the next time we retrieve that  memory, we are not watching an unadulterated movie of the event, our memory consists of what we recalled the last time we remembered the event.

It is kind of similar to these 2 examples: You are certain when you were 6 you had a black border collie named Keko. You ask your mom about the dog and she tells you there was a dog, but it was named Miko and it was a multicolored (including black) Lhasa Apso. Or you remember visiting a friend’s house when you were 4 (let’s say you know you were 4 because you moved neighborhood right before you’re 5th birthday and the friend didn’t move into your old neighborhood until after your 3rd birthday) and you remember the gigantic, scary, steep hill in her backyard. Then you watch old home movies and the camera shows her backyard in its entirety. You see the “big” hill, but as an adult you realize it was tiny. We see things through lenses clouded by our personal perception of the world (be that age, height, life experiences, anger, fear, etc)

Therefore, I can never know what is real and what is false without outside evidence because I cannot trust the reliability of my recollection of the events. I’ve had at least 18 years to “remember”, but with each thought, I could be altering the “memory”. At the same time, certain important events remain as clear as the day they happened in our mind. Also, evidence shows even pre-verbal children remember things and I was older than that.

(Assuming this possibility is true) Reasons #2 and #3 apply here, except it would be even worse! If this possibility is true, I made it all up! Everything! There wasn’t even a benign memory to misinterpret! What kind of freak am I?!?

Possibility 3: These events occurred and have sinister origins

There are unquestionable things (Here, meaning things that occurred in the recent past, as in I have no reason to question my recall) that support and oppose this possibility.

Support

  1. Some family members are odd about physical affection.
  2. Once I complained about the oddness using the word “touchy” and no other descriptors and my mom flipped out! Her demeanor immediately changed; she was horrified and scared. When I complained about the oddness I was not covertly referencing sexual abuse. Furthermore, she should have easily known what I meant. I brought it up at the time because she had recently complained about it!! Despite her own complaints, her immediate conclusion when I asked why someone was “touchy” was sexual abuse from a loving family member! I’m pretty sure that is an abnormal reaction. Most people deny a family member could possibly do that to a child. So, why the assumption on her part? My only answer is she heard, saw, or knew something.
  3. As a teenager or pre-teen I realized the possible implications of these memories. Since I have a lengthy complicated medical history, I asked my mom if I ever had intramuscular injections of medication in the ventrogluteal and dorsogluteal muscles. She said, No.
  4. Numerous therapists/doctors told me I “act like someone who was sexually abused” as a child and they won’t even believe me when I insist I was not abused!
  5. I brought up the false memory possibility that one time I tried to process all of this and my therapist did not agree that was likely because if it was fake, why did my mind keep returning to that point in time? She has a point. However, not the one she meant to make. I think it is possible it is a fake memory, but I’ve carried it around all these years almost as if it was a memory of abuse because I’ve gone over these arguments in my head a million times and I’m damned no matter what the truth is.
  6. Multiple times my mom has asked what bad thing happened to me as a child without me saying anything to instigate that conversation.

Opposition

  1. No one in my family is capable of incest.
  2. If something occurred, why only when I was 4 -6 years old? That doesn’t make sense!
  3. If my mom freaked out when I asked about “touchiness” because she knew something I do not know, then how could she leave me alone with any family member she could not prove was innocent?!?!?!?! She would not do that.
  4. I have no clear memories of abuse, no actual sex. Potential sex acts, but not sex.

And so (again, assuming the current possibility is true) Reason #4 to hate myself is I considered the fact that my mom knew something and did nothing or Reason #4a My mom knew and did nothing, so…what? I must be garbage. Reason #5 On the continuum of childhood sexual abuse, this is a .00000000001, if 10 was the worst nonfatal sexual abuse you can imagine and 0 is no abuse. People who endured much more are relatively well adjusted. Me? FUBAR.

Also, like WTF?! NO MATTER what the truth is…even if it is the worst possibility (3), the memories in my head don’t have to be bad. I am afraid it is…In a way, I made it bad. Like even if abuse occurred, the memory did not have to be interpreted that way. I could have forgotten or passed it off as nothing. BUT NO!!!! I had to think about it.

Lastly, thinking about all this right now and last night makes me want to flay myself because I feel like a bad, sick person regardless of the truth.

Emotional Incest


2014 started out wonderfully with flashbacks of my early teen years. The times when Dad would disappear for days or months at a time without a word. I never felt safe. Things could appear normal for long stretches and then seemingly out of nowhere, Mom would come home with puffy eyes, screaming about Dad and his whore again. Last night I heard some of the same phrases I used to hear, “I’d never in a million, no billion, years want you to marry a man like your father” or “If it weren’t for you and your brother, I’d have left years ago.” Images of slamming doors, yelling, and sliding to the kitchen floor in tears after Dad stormed out of the house, raced through my mind last night…memories I thought were in the past. The things he did to her, not just cheating, are unconscionable and inexcusable. I thought I quelled the anger, but since hearing my mom last night, it’s bubbled up inside me again.

Faith_hurt the showerFaith_hurt the shower

On one hand, I told my mom years ago she had my blessing if she wanted a divorce, even if that meant years later when things seemed “okay” because I knew what he had done to her. On the other hand, over the past few years, I let the anger and fear slip out of my grasp. I let my guard down. I thought things were healing between them. So, I am sad.

Worse still, I fear the revolving door…Every time he was emotionally manipulative and/or abusive or she caught him cheating, she would swear it was the last time, this time they would get divorced. Yet, a few weeks or months later, before the final divorce papers were signed, he would come back, apologizing and promising to do better. And around and around we go… I fear the cycle restarting more than I fear their divorce.

Maybe this is why my brother never talks to us. 😦

I also fear her pain. My mom and I are close. Doctors use the word “enmeshed”. Yet, just like instances of alleged physical or verbal abuse, things are never simple. In a house with 4 bathrooms, we’ve shared a bathroom since I was 11. The change happened when they realized I was purging. For a time, we shared a bed. That is not as disturbing as it sounds. She made me sleep in her bed for a few months because she was afraid I’d hurt myself at night. I only went back to my own bed when my dad came home. Coincidentally, my most recent suicide attempt was a few weeks after my dad returned from “business” and my brother returned from school for the holidays.

The definition of emotional incest:

“Other scholars have used the term ‘enmeshment,’ ‘co-dependency,’ and ’emotional abuse’ is another related concept as well. For the sake of this short series of posts, I will use the term ’emotional incest’ because I think that if you can get past the ‘ick’ factor of the word incest, this construction is actually very descriptive.

Emotional incest involves an unhealthy relationship between parent and child in which the child serves as a sort of emotional ‘spouse’ to the parent. This can be mother/daughter, father/daughter, mother/son, or father/son. Here are a couple definitions, some using the term ‘covert incest’ and others using the term ’emotional incest.’

Covert incest occurs when a child plays the role of a surrogate husband or wife to a lonely, needy parent. The parent’s need for companionship is met through the child.  The child is bound to the parent by excessive feelings of responsibility for the welfare of the parent. The demand for loyalty to the lonely, needy parent overwhelms the child and becomes the major organizing experience in the child’s development.

 

Covert emotional incest begins when a person perceives and responds to a family member as a replacement or substitute for a partner.

 

This form of incest is described as a relationship where a parent turns a child into a partner or confidante that is inappropriate to the child’s age and life experience. Or to put it another way, when a child is manipulated into the role of a surrogate wife or husband by a needy parent. While some refer to this as covert incest, others refer to it as emotional incest.

You get the idea. Emotional incest takes place when the (emotional, not sexual) relationship between a parent and a child becomes like that between two spouses, except that given the immaturity of the child the relationship is one-sided and the parent feeds off the child emotionally while the child ends up feeling responsible for the well-being of the parent.” via patheos.com

Yep. That was us. I still feel responsible for her well-being. In fact, thinking about it, I remember feeling jealous, even resentful, that my brother did not feel responsible for her.

Is it still emotional incest now? Back then I was 15 – 17 years old, now I’m 23. I am an adult.