Monday, July 17, 2017

Generational Trauma

The idea that we can carry generational trauma is not a great thought for anyone, when does it end. It makes me wonder? The Bible speaks of the sins of the forefathers being cast upon up to the forth generation. The things our parents struggled with become our problem, no one likes that idea, but it's the truth. None of us escape 'doing the work'. The work of owning our own stuff and working through it.
The bible also says, 'work out your own salvation with fear and trembling', that means 'own your stuff' and work through it without blaming anyone. Click on the link to find out more about generational trauma.
Inherited Family Trauma

Mental illness isn't funny

What's the difference between a mental illness and a sense of humour? It's too late to ask Robin Williams but I can try and tell you.
As a young child both my brother and I had an incredible sense of humour. I used to laugh at him a lot, though he didn't find me very funny. Throughout my life, if you asked all the people who have known me, they would tell you I have a good sense of humour. The problem is that at times I didn't know what was funny and what was a diversion from my pain. The thing is, neither did anyone else which made it difficult for me to communicate effectively, my struggles with CPTSD.

There have been times in my life that I've done some pretty bazaar things, which others found amusing but in my heart I know came from extreme stress and anxiety and not from a humorous place.

There are two stories that I can remember in particular. A friend of mine was getting married and at her bachelorette she had 2 male strippers. The function was held in my home. After the strippers finished their little act, I went upstairs and dressed up like a stripper,  nothing over the top, but very high shoes, teased big hair and heavy make up. Requesting that the male stripper sit in a chair I proceeded to act out a lap dance. Of course all the guests found it very amusing, but one of my daughters did not, she was highly embarrassed.

On another occasion I went to the theatre with my ex husband and some friends. That night I was carrying a very pretty and unusual handbag that I loved. During the interval I went to the bathroom and a lady made an incredible fuss about my bag, saying it was the most exquisite bag she had ever seen. I looked at her grubby bag and asked her go give it to me. I emptied the contents of both bags out on the basin and filled my bag with all her goodies and gave it to her. Putting all my things into her bag I said 'you can have it'. While she stood in absolute shock I turned and walked out of the rest room.

There are so many stories similar to these two. Of course other people wouldn't think much about these two examples, but years later when I started therapy I looked back over my life at all these incidents and I wept, with a broken heart, for my inner child,  constantly using humour to mask the pain.  Both these incidents and many more happened during my 3rd marriage to a man I absolutely adored, but who tortured my soul daily.

When I was in therapy, I shared these stories with embarrassment, to my therapist. My question to her was why? She had no problem with anything I shared with her, if I was happy with the memories, which I wasn't, but I needed to understand why I had behaved so out of character on so many occasions. It wasn't difficult for her to explain, it was my way of coping with extreme anxiety and in all situations I was hugely triggered.

Most people who don't suffer with PTSD or CPTSD wouldn't understand, what is a trigger, it's different for each victim, but I'm going to try and explain one of my biggest triggers by unravelling one of my worst  - crowds of people.

Therapist : what is it about crowds that makes you anxious, what are crowds normally doing.
Me: shopping, watching sport, at a concert, having a party.
Therapist : what are they doing that you find stressful.
Me: they are drinking or if they are shopping they are spending money.
Therapist : why does that upset you?
Me : because the drinking gets more and more out of control, everyone gets drunk, there is going to be an argument which might lead to someone being beaten up. If they are spending money it reminds me of the shopping sprees my husband used to go on where he spent so much money in a short space of time, on anything from a suit to a building. He had the money and never ever discussed with me what he spent it on. It was overwhelming.
Therapist : why was that a problem for you?
Me : because when people drink, the violence and abuse was often directed at me, from my husband, from my ex husband, from my mother and my step fathers.
My 2 abusive husbands earned the money and I had no say how they spent it. I felt powerless.

(I feel anxious even now while writing this).

When my anxiety went through the roof that is when I would use humour to mask my anxiety. I've learned over time,  how to manage these triggers, but there are many many more.
So specifically what triggered me on those two occasions? Both those incidents happened a few months before my marriage ended. The tension was mounting and I'd discovered some sordid truths. Everything was a repeat of what I'd been through with my first husband, I was re living the trauma, all over again.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In My Sisters Shoes

The other night I was thinking about my brothers, all 5 of them and wondering why we just aren't close and never have been. There is no doubt we love each other but none of us really connect. I have always thought it was because I was the girl, but it's more than that, we are all very different.
Then I started to think about my 3 daughters and how different they are too, but they adore each other and quite honestly when they were growing up, as a mother I worked really hard to help them respect and love each other as sisters, even if there were times they didn't particularly like each other. 
As they have got older and two of them have a family the differences between them are even greater. Sometimes they don't get along as well as I would like them too, life is busy and my daughter that isn't married often feels very left out.
When we are in pain we often wish others could understand what we are feeling and going through, but each person is in their own world doing their own thing, the best they can.
There have been times in my life when the pain was so bad and I wasn't getting the comfort from family that I needed, it would make me really angry, I'd feel sorry for myself and decide I didn't even care if I never saw them again. Pain does that, it can separate us from people we care deeply about.
It's different today, in the process of understanding the Bible, which says we are to forgive 70 x 70, not in a life time,  but in a day if we have to. Many times when trying to fall asleep at night I would imagine myself literally in the shoes of who ever it was that I needed love and acceptance from, imagining what their life was like and how they had to cope with their own struggles. My attitude would often change instantly.
There us so much we don't know about what goes on in other people's lives and how they feel, day to day.
My prayer for my daughters would be that they understand, having the same parents doesn't mean their experiences growing up in an abusive home was exactly the same.  Each one of them experienced me as a mother, their father, 3 marriages and 3 divorces differently, and I pray they will try to wear their sisters shoes and imagine what life was like and is like now. 
Divorce affects children so badly, some kids bond better with the absent parent, therefore it's tougher on them.  Our children desperately need to be heard and understood, not just by parents but each other. It's the unspoken and not heard, that separates families forever sometimes.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Androphobia - what's that.

This is something I haven't spoken about very much. In 2009 which was shortly after the publication of my book, I moved to Cape Town to get away from absolutely everyone that was connected to my ex husband.
One of my daughters was married with a baby and I just wasn't coping at all with the trauma of my divorce, faking  that I was just wasn't working.
I found a cute little apartment on top of someone's house, with beautiful sea views. It wasn't going to be very permanent but I needed to heal and isolation was the only way I could do it. Long walks on the beach, hours and hours of painting and reading tons of self help books my CPTSD symptoms just weren't going away.  
There was a Trauma Centre near where I lived so I made an appointment to see the psychologist. She was weird, very agitated and made me feel even worse, but I was totally committed to healing and willing to overlook her strange manner. After telling her my brief story she suggested hypnotherapy and told me to lay across the couch and close my eyes, which I did. She started to do the count down and my anxiety went through the roof. I opened my eyes to find her laying on the floor in self hypnosis. I couldn't believe my eyes. That session ended immediately and I never went back.
A few weeks later I found another therapist who was sweet, but I just couldn't connect with her. I think I saw her 3 times and again chose not to go back. Several months passed nothing was changing. I loved the solitude but constant nightmares, panic attacks and absolute terror going into public places, it was torture.
In desperation I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist and it was imperative to me that the doctor was female. My first appointment with her was 2 hours and I managed to pretty much put her in the picture. She asked to see my the following day. During that appointment she concluded that I needed medication which I refused. I'd made up my mind that medication was simply going to make me feel numb and I wanted to heal and face what ever I had to face, head on.
My sessions with the psychiatrist were every day for a week and I had begged her to be honest and tell me if I had Borderline Personality Disorder,  Bipolar,  or any other mental illness and I wouldn't stop seeing her until she could come up with a diagnosis. She in the mean time had read my book so I was extremely hopeful together we would find a solution. In my last session with her, she said and I quote, 'Caryl if all my patients had as much insight as you, my wards would be empty'. Yes, and? She then said I was suffering extreme Androphobia, which I'd never heard of before. She recommended I see a male psychologist,  which didn't excite me, but I was willing to give it a try. She said absolutely nothing about either PTSD or CPTSD. 
After two appointments with this male psychologist who was a total chauvinist. Even with a referral letter from the psychiatrist he just wasn't getting it and I found him to be extremely confrontational, basically telling me to 'get over it'. Whaaaaaaaat?  That was him over with.  He tried to sue me for not continuing therapy. I was dumbfounded. Thank goodness I had a friend who was an attorney and he sent off a letter that shut him up very quickly, including a letter to the psychologist who lay on the floor self hypnosing, during my therapy session. One can imagine, I never wanted to see a therapist ever again.
The months and years passed with my symptoms becoming worse and worse. I missed my children desperately, but I didn't want to burden them. They needed a whole and happy mother which I couldn't be. Suicide was a constant thought, how much better off they would all be without this dysfunctional mother. Thank God I would force myself to think that if I chose that path, I would leave my beautiful daughters with the same pain I couldn't handle myself.
Androphobia- fear of men was unbearable.  I hadn't connected the dots up to that point. I hated going to public places anywhere that men could possibly be. This went on for years. God was even a problem, in my mind God represented 'male'. But God is so Faithful even when we aren't.  I was new to Facebook and slowly over time I connected with a lot of men on Facebook who were all artists. It took a long time but I started to read their posts and experience these men very differently to the men in my life. These men were all happily married, not afraid to share their softer side, it was so refreshing. My healing towards men has come a very long way, although I am still very sensitive to macho, jock type men, they are and probably will always be a trigger for me.
Thanks to my therapist Dr. Annemarie Norvello who has been a gift from God in my life. While I wasn't speaking to God, He orchestrated the best therapist I have ever come across and I will forever be thankful to her. More about that later, diagnosing CPTSD.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Princess Diana

It was Princess Diana ' s birthday yesterday, she would have been 56. In August it will be 20 years ago that she died. If you are anything like me, I've read dozens of articles about her and watched hours and hours of videos, documenting the Royal family.
It still saddens me today to think what that poor woman went through. She made some pretty bad choices during her marriage, her affair with Hewitt being just one of them and her questionable judgement in dating someone like Dodi. Playing with fire is putting it mildly.
I've thought about her a lot over the past 20 years and there is no doubt her unhappy childhood wasn't the best foundation for marrying into the Royal family.  Insecure, young, inexperienced was a recipe for disaster marrying a man so much older than she was. She had her doubts about the wedding, red flags had already started waving in the breeze, which they both chose to ignore, after all, their names had already been embossed on everything from tea cups to dish towels.
Diana did the best she could to cope with Charles affair with Camilla, her bulimia a symptom of extreme pain, rage and helplessness.  Those were the days before psychologists knew much about bulimia and nothing of CPTSD, which I am absolutely sure she suffered from.
Was she emotionally unhinged when she gave her infamous TV interview, I'm sure. Quite honestly when things started falling apart during their separation and divorce she was on her own, fighting for her survival against the entire British Monarchy who accused her of suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. Maybe that was true, in the dark ages people with mental illness were thrown into a padded cell and forgotten, but this wasn't the dark ages.
The way I see it, is that Diana had to contend with years of abandonment issues, emotional abuse, her own struggle with bulimia,  possibly CPTSD, a divorce and separation from her beloved children.  What chance was there for her to make calm, wise, healthy choices at that time, she made some huge mistakes, who could blame her, sadly those choices ended her life, had she been entitled to Royal security, it may not have happened, but she lost that privilege soon after her divorce.

We watch from our tiny insignificant lives the tragedies of the rich and famous, their stories are no different to our own. We witness their pain and shame on the world stage in front of millions, while we experience the same dramas unfold in our lives with family and friends, it can't compare.

To honour Princess Diana in life and in death, we continue to fight for the down trodden, the weak and broken in society. May we all be less judgemental and more compassionate, reaching out to support those who struggle alone.

Temporary Insanity

One hears this term often used in court cases, but we seldom even try and understand what exactly that means. Click on the link -Temporary Insanity
When I was married to my Narcissistic ex husband who I believe was torturing me mentally for years there was an incident that occurred during one of our many fights, that pushed me to my breaking point, causing me to completely lose control and I proceeded to do some damage to ornaments, TV and various other things.

It's important to put things in context, in a time line of events. A few weeks prior to this demolition I had a complete nervous break down, attempted suicide and spent time in hospital. The attempted suicide was completely unplanned.  No suicide letter for my precious daughters, just an irrational decision. After 3 days of laying in bed unconscious, with no interest or intervention from my husband, my domestic worker chose wisely to call my daughters who took me immediately to hospital, no visits from my husband of course.
Anyone who has ever had a nervous breakdown will know, one is pumped full of medication and it's almost impossible to be rational. It was a few weeks later when I did the damage to my home. After I came out of hospital, my husband simply escalated the emotional abuse. I'm convinced that he was pushing me to commit suicide to escape any divorce settlement and make himself look like the victim.

My husband had me arrested and I spent 15 hours in jail which was the most traumatic experience I have ever been through in my life, far worse than the beatings he dished out regularly. I was charged with malicious damage to property. Unbeknown to me, one cannot be charged for damaging property in the matrimonial home when the property was 'ours', not his. We were married with an accrual contract. Everything was OURS, but at the time I was so mentally tortured I could barely speak my own name. My husbands cousin was an attorney, between them they were determined to destroy me. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't have a raging temper, he did, but my behaviour that night was simply out of character.
If you read my book, you may wonder what made me go back to my husband after this event? I was broken and simply submitted to 2 men who had the power to destroy me and my family, which they later did anyway. I spent the next 4 years, trying to hold on to my sanity so that I could figure out a way to escape unharmed. I may add, that from that day in 2000 to this I have never taken any medication for depression or anxiety ever again, in spite of the years of suffering with CPTSD, I was simply too afraid. I chose to heal my soul wounds consciously.

Several years later when we were getting divorced I had laid charges against him for Domestic Violence, my violent, controlling husband used the previous charges against me as leverage. He bargained, if I dropped the charges against him he would do the same. In hindsight, what a fool I was. If I knew then what I know now, I would have pursued the case to the bitter end. I had mountains of evidence against him, but I obeyed his orders and dropped all the charges. He and his cousin attorney had won that round and would win many more after.
Knowing that a violent guilty person can get off without even a rap on the knuckles can push any victim further into depression and mental illness, which in my case it did.
Please read my next post on HEALING SOUL WOUNDS.