Thursday, May 22, 2014

Healing Continues - Childhood Mental Abuse and the Long Term Effects



A few days ago was a day of tears and recognition. A very deep wound that was hidden, surfaced.

As a very young child, we were taught to hide who we were. We called our "Mothers", Aunts. Our  half Brothers and sisters, cousins.  When asked, we were taught to outright lie and correct the persons accusation. It was out of fear. If we didn't do that, we were told the parents would be taken away and all of the children torn apart and placed into other homes. We couldn't let anyone, outside of polygamy, know who we really were. We were to keep people at arms length and lie as if our lives depended on it. Everyone in the neighborhood knew we were the "Plyg house". There really was no secret but we were lead to believe it was a secret. That is, until we moved out of that house into a rental of our own. Then it really was a secret.

This causes deep wounds that most, if not all children of polygamy, have to live with. It creates a warped way of thinking and acting even years after leaving it.

I will never forget the police officer visits to our homes.  I always feared police officers and still struggle with that fear today.

One of our "Mother's" was very abusive to her children. One day, she was spotted abusing her daughter in the car, outside of the public school. Someone saw her and reported her licence plate to the police. Later that day, a police officer showed up at the house. All of the children were terrified! Did someone tell someone about us? Were they here to take all of the parents away? I remember that day well. The terrible fear that ripped though my body at such a young age, was painful and draining.

Another time, I was baby sitting my younger siblings (I was about age 11). My Sister was suppose to be down for a nap when she left the house and wandered away. A neighbor found her and brought her home, She told me to expect a visit from the police. I was sure he would take my sister and  brothers away when he showed up. I was shaking as I talked to the officer trying to explain her wandering off and how I will never let her out of my sight again. He told me to make sure it didn't happen again. Later, that same day my sister, again, went down for her nap. She climbed off my moms bed and fell asleep on the side by the wall. When I went in to check on her and she wasn't where I put her, I was frantic! I even ran outside yelling her name, trying to find her. 30 excruciating min later, with tears streaming down my face, I walked around moms bed and found her sound asleep on the floor. I sat down at the foot of the bed and sobbed. Had she left and gotten out, I knew it would have been my fault for causing our family to be torn apart. I put it upon myself to never have that happen again.

Expecting a child, so young, to lie in order to protect the rest of the family is mental abuse. You learn from a young age to not trust anyone and to pull away from people who you feel might know too much about you. It makes it almost impossible to make and keep close friendships. You throw up walls to protect yourself and your family. Fear of being exposed is huge. That behavior is then carried into your adulthood.

Only recently, have I been able to voice why I have this behavior. I have often questioned why I act a certain way? Why do I pull away from people? Why do I shut people out when they are finally getting to know me? It's the result from a deeply rooted ingrained mental child abuse. I know I'm not alone in this. A few friends/family have confided in me that they also struggle with these same irrational fears and  unexplained behaviors having also grown up in the same environment.

As a result, I have had a life long struggle to allow many people into my life. I have to feel safe with you, on my terms. I have to be able to be comfortable with our conversations. I have to know that you want to be friends and you've not been assigned, in any way, to be mine. It has to be genuine. I have to know you're not in the gossip group. It helps to have many things in common and if I even THINK you think I'm not being genuine... it's not going to work. It wasn't a conscious action. More of self preservation, automatic reaction to protect a very fragile mental state.

Keep in mind, many of these are my view and things that I have to be comfortable with... or you'll just be a person in the crowed that I will inevitably shut out, through nothing you may or may not have done. I simply have trained my mind to be hyper sensitive to things and very protective of, what I am now beginning to voice as....imaginary dangers....

I can not emotionally handle verbal abuse. Yelling and screaming is the quickest way for me to go into lock down mode. It could be years before I even look at you. Unfortunately, this happened not long after leaving the LDS church. One of my closest friends screamed at me over the phone about a video I posted on my Facebook wall. My sister yelled at me. My mother followed suit. It was almost more then I could handle in a weeks time. I was emotionally spent. Two of these three women were who I mainly leaned on, other then my husband, in the hard years I had with depression and suicidal thoughts. (Have never had a close relationship with my mother and this only put more strain on an already strained relationship), I can honestly say, had I not been held in the arms of my Savior, and supported by my new found Christian family, I might not be here right now. Had that happened in the mindset I had, as a Latter-day Saint, the oncoming semi truck would have been what I would have searched out. No contest. But I had Jesus. HE gave me the strength to endure it. The strength to keep speaking truth.  The strength to keep living each day and loving life.

I no longer want to be this person. I want to be more accepting. More forgiving. More outgoing and less closed up. I have no idea on how to go about doing any of this. It would be like re-writing someones childhood programming. (Pretty crummy programming, at that) I believe Jesus is going to have to take the wheel in this area. I don't know if I'm, personally, willing to cause myself that kind of discomfort. (as if writing all of this out and posting publicly is comfortable??)

If you are reading this and I have unintentionally hurt you by making you feel you have been rejected or shut out for whatever unexplained reason, please know, I am so sorry! I would truly like to make it better..but know I have only just now been able to put words to a behavior I was aware of but wasn't aware of why. Please, give me time to grasp this new found knowledge and try to figure things out.

If you are reading this (You will know who you are. You won't have to ask) and are one of those I mentioned above.. please give me more time. I am still deeply hurt over such close relationships being severed. If you are the first to reach out, please don't be offended if I don't respond right away. Even typing this out is not easy...but feel it is part of the healing process.

I am so thankful for those who keep shoving themselves back into my life. Thank you for being the first to call, come over to chat, text about whatever and private message or email me to keep the door open. It's made a world of difference. If I consider you to be a "Close friend" please know that is saying a LOT! Some part of you made me feel safe at some point and I felt I could drop some protective walls and let you in. I consider our friendship precious, even if we don't talk much anymore. The loss of such friendships cause me a lot of pain. It's not easy for me to overcome. You're thought of, almost daily.

I do pray that these words, even thought they make me feel extremely exposed, get out to someone who needs them. It needed to be said. I know there are many more out there dealing with the same issues I am. Perhaps my words will help you be able to put some meaning to your own struggles.


1 comment:

  1. I once had a friend who was dearer to me than a sister. She is still thought of every day. I have hope that one day we can put our differences behind us; but in the meantime, I still call her friend. In so many ways she has influenced my life for good and I'm grateful for her. She has given me courage to face my past through her brave openness of her own childhood abuses. I once believed (and incidentally still do) that she knows me better than almost anybody else on this earth. This gives me hope that someday we will be friends once more. She knows my heart... and hopefully she knows that hurting her is the last thing in the world that I would want. For my part, I am still her friend. For me our friendship never was a "tickling of the ear" and I hope someday she will see that.

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