Tag Archives: abuse

An unspoken secret

18 year old me

I have a secret.

This may not be a surprise to you if you know anything about my past.

But its not what you think.

This secret has created meaning in the events that followed. The secret has eaten away at me.

You see, it’s not what happens to us that causes us a problem. It’s the meaning we assign to it. It’s the meaning that triggers a protective state. It’s the meaning that causes hurt.

There’s a catch though. We interpret and attribute meaning to events, well before our brain is developed enough to understand.

The prefrontal cortex, the rational and analytical part of you brain, is not fully developed until you are at least 19 years old.

At least 19 years old before you can understand what happens to you

And before you are 16 you have learnt all the important lessons that you need to stay safe as an adult

This is the catch.

And so I have a memory from when I was 9 years old, and it had meaning. It was the unspoken thing.

I think we all have them, those moments that we carry, that we don’t want anyone else to know of, for whatever reason. Sometimes, they rest, untouched, with very little impact on our day to day lives. Other times the gnaw away, answering with silent words in our head.

They are not big, traumatic moments, but they are moments that form our sense of self. They might be loaded with shame, or guilt or something else.

They are unspoken.

My moment? I walked in on my stepfather when he was having a shower. I was 9. I pointed to his private parts, and touching it accidentally, asked what that was. He angrily told me that I should never touch that.

I thought that I made him think about me as a sexual object. I thought it was my fault that he abused me. I thought I was his partner, not a young child who was abused.

I never, ever spoke the secret.

And it meant everything was my fault. Who was I to cry victim when I created the problem?

This unspoken secret meant I planted the idea. It meant I was complicit. It meant I was not a victim. It meant I was a participant in the abuse, not a victim of it.

Because it was my fault.

I knew about my secret. But I didn’t ever speak about it. Or even tell anyone I had it.

I didn’t want them to know that all these things I spoke about were my fault. But I was sure they were.

And so I hated myself and my body for the role it played. I hated it for being involved in what happened. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like a fraud for letting everyone else believe I had been abused, when actually I had created the problem.

And then thanks to the help of my amazing therapist friend, I spoke the unspoken and the spell was broken.

And now I see that there was nothing I could do. I was a young child. I was abused. That is never a child’s fault.

My body is not to blame. I am not to blame.

Speaking the unspoken changes it.

What is your unspoken thing? Who do you trust to tell that thing to?

You deserve freedom from the unspoken.

Just talk to someone

13439189_10154271134650768_101458163295860802_nThe other day my daughter (8) had been complaining of a poorly tummy all weekend, so we kept her off school on the Monday and took her to the doctor. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong and called her a puzzle. On Tuesday she got up and ready for school and all was fine. Until I told her to get her shoes on. She started whining that her tummy was sore – worse than it was before. I told her she couldn’t keep missing school or she’d end up going back a year. She cried and said her tummy was sore. I told her if she stayed home she’d have to spend the day in bed. No technology. She said she wanted to do that.

And then I knew something more was wrong than just her tummy.

“Is there a reason you don’t want to go to school?” the hubby asked.

“I am scared of X who is really mean to me. He shoves me around”

And there it was. The reason for the sore tummy.

My daughter doesn’t worry what people say. She knows everyone is screwed up and she knows she can’t read minds. She’s pretty resilient and one of the happiest kids that I have ever met. But that doesn’t work so well when someone is being physical with you. So we headed up to school and spoke to the head who was extremely supportive and told her she should never feel scared at school. School was for having fun. She made sure my daughter understood she could talk to any of us if she was ever worried.

Since then we’ve had no problems. She is my happy little girl again who loves school.

What I couldn’t understand is why she didn’t tell me or the hubby that she was worried about this? We talk about everything (or so I thought). She had kept this in her head and it had become something bad enough to start taking a physical toll.

In our house, because of my childhood experiences, we have a rule which is no secrets. There is no good reason to keep a secret. We can do surprises (secret with a known end date!) but not secrets. So we talk about everything. And yet, she had kept this to herself.

In 2015 I took my abuser to court for historical abuse. When I was talking to the police in the run up to the trial I mentioned that I told my best friend what had happened when I was 16. I didn’t think she believed me. We stopped being friends and I hadn’t been in touch with her since we were at school together. But the police tracked her down and as soon as she took the call she knew what it was about. She remembered it well. She also remembered a bunch of other stuff I had told her, that I didn’t remember. She had felt guilty her whole life for not acting on what I told her. I had no idea. I was amazed. And over the last couple of years, as I’ve re-connected with old school friends, it became clear that they knew too.

I had no idea. I thought it was only me. I thought I made it all up. I thought I was making a big deal out of nothing. Other people knew stuff and I had no idea. I would *never* have spoken to them about it. Like my daughter didn’t tell me what was going on with the older boy at school. It would have made such a difference to know I wasn’t alone. Just having someone who listened.

So my point is, keeping stuff in your head, doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make it go away. It makes it bigger. Because it occupies all the space. It becomes your reality. Talking about it, opens that space up. It allows you to expand your reality and share it with others. Which makes it all look different. Just talking can be enough to help you see a different perspective, and a different perspective can make you feel less alone, less different, less broken.

So don’t worry what people think – you can’t read minds and they can’t read yours.

Talk. Talk to a friend on Facebook through messenger if that’s easier, write an email, tweet it, pick up the phone, send a text message.

I know any of my friends would listen to me if I needed it. It might surprise you who is listening. And if you really truly believe that you know absolutely no one. If there is absolutely no one that you can message, then contact the Samaritans using the details in the image on this post. They are really really good at listening.

You are not alone. Ever. No matter what you think. The thoughts in your head are not real. They are a factor of right now, and right now always changes. See, it just changed again…and again…and again…

The effect of childhood trauma

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As a child I discovered a little black box in my head.

I was trying to find somewhere to escape – a place I could go to hide that was away from everything. A place that was safe for me and where no one could find me, touch me, hurt me. A place where I didn’t have to feel anything, physical or emotional.

I found a little black box.

When I needed to I would go into my head and climb into the little black box. I would stay there until it was safe to come out again. As time went on I spent more and more time in the little black box.

Eventually the real me hid there most of the time.

I liked my little black box. It was safe and no one knew about it.

One day, when I was at University, when I had just got together with my hubby he decided he would try a sort of hypnotic relaxation on me (what a charmer!)

I lay on the floor and he talked me through relaxing.

Within a minute or so tears were streaming down my face. Not the result he was expecting. Needless to say we didn’t do it again.

Many years later I began training as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Something that often requires going into a trance state. On weekend 2 of my training, when we were doing positive trance work with a partner I found myself freaking out as my partner tried to take me into a trance state. I left the room confused, upset and shaken.

Meanwhile I went on this amazing journey with the help of Trevor Silvester, founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. I reached a point where I was happy and was able to feel those emotions I had kept locked away for my whole life. I was able to be myself.

I visited the box less and less. In fact, I almost forgot it was there.

Then I went on another course where we were being taught Self Hypnosis. Again within minutes of starting I had tears streaming down my face and I was shaking.

I thought the work I had done with Trevor had sorted this.

But we had never been near the little black box.

Then a fellow Questie and lovely lady called Michala and I were chatting one night. She made a statement that maybe for me going into a trance state had a different meaning/purpose.

And whoosh! just like that I returned to the time I first went looking for and found my little black box.

And I realised that every time I had tried to go into a trance state it had reminded me of going looking for my little black box. For needing to escape.

And so I went back to Trevor. I told him about my black box. I told him how I used it. I asked him to help me get rid of it.

Trauma is not created by an event. Trauma is created when the event is so emotionally overwhelming that your only option to cope is to shut down (to escape into something like the black box). This is why each of us will process events differently. For some they will be traumatic, for others they will just be horrible.

The problem with triggering a traumatic episode in your brain, is that it then creates a barrier, a void. Everything that went before the void is cut off. And whilst those things before the void are outdated and primitive, they at least provided some structure; some guidance, for how to deal with life events.

Everything after the void becomes uncertain, a risk. Without rules there is no structure and without structure, nothing is safe.

This is what trauma does.

Trevor worked with me to help removed the black box. It was one of the hardest sessions I have ever had. It was also one of the most transformative. Even now, over 4 years after that session, I notice things that are safe that didn’t used to feel that way.

There is a trend right now to define child abuse as trauma. Clients often come to me with a PTSD label after being diagnosed by mental health professionals.  They then work with the symptoms of the trauma. This can detract from the root cause, the traumatic moment.

That traumatic moment is not what you might expect. It is often not the worst act or event in a stream of abuse. It is usually a moment that you simply can’t bear to think about. A moment that your brain won’t allow you to go near: A person walking into a darkened room, a bag left on a chair, a sound of breathing, a physical moment. It was for me. It has been for many of my clients.

When a client comes to me that has clearly got a traumatic memory, we first clear that. I recognise that while I can do other stuff, as long as the void/barrier/black box remains, they will remain on alert. And the great thing is, the work I do doesn’t require them to tell me anything about the moment that created the trauma. All the work is done in their head with me as a guide.

A traumatic event does not have to create a lifetime of trauma. It can be changed. Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com to learn more.

Is violence ever acceptable?

So Jeremy Clarkson allegedly threatens to punch /punches someone at work and over 300k people sign a petition to get him back to work. How is that acceptable for anyone, anywhere to do that?

What I really like is that, as a backlash, people started a petition to bring back Terry Pratchett who died on 12th March after a battle with Alzheimer’s. That is the sort of cause we should fight for (It’s ok, I know he’s dead and can’t come back)

To me it’s all about perceptions and realities. It’s about realising that we all live in our own reality. An abusive partner defines the reality for the person they are abusing. People on the outside of the reality see it differently. They can’t understand why they don’t just walk away. They can’t understand why they don’t make excuses. It’s not rational. In the same way as thinking it’s ok for someone to threaten someone else and get away with it because they are a “quirky” person isn’t rational. We are all influenced by our own perceptions.

Here is a video of me talking about how those alternate realities can get in the way

I was recently sent an Infographic by Bethany Wilson at Laker Legal . I think some of the stats in it are shocking. For me, the key message is not so much for yourself if you are experiencing Domestic Violence. The message is for those of us who know someone who is going through it and working out the best way to help them. They are in a different reality. They can’t think rationally. It’s like they are on mind-altering drugs. But you aren’t and you can think. The puzzle is, how do we help them see that they can break out to a different reality? How can we show them there is an alternative.

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All abuse is emotional

I read many articles about abuse. Horrific stuff. Domestic violence. Sexual abuse. Neglect.

It resonates. A lot of it resonates. My own experiences through childhood tick many of the boxes of abuse.

So what is it that makes it abuse? It is not age. Domestic violence is abuse. Neglect is abuse. Sexual exploitation is abuse. 

The silence around abuse is not, in my opinion, driven by the acts. The silence is driven by guilt, shame, a belief that you deserve it, a belief that no one would believe you. The thing that drives the silence, in my opinion, is the common element in all forms of abuse – the emotional abuse. The silence around abuse is created by your reality being contained within the reality of your abuser

All abuse is emotional.

I often used to wish that I had been beaten to the point where I bled. At least then there would be something outside my head to show for it. Someone else would be able to see the reason I was hurting.

When I tried to make sense of what happened to me the only context I had was those people who raised me. And those people were my abusers. I wasn’t in my right mind. I was under their power. My world was defined by their thinking.

That applies to domestic violence too. People ask why someone doesn’t just leave when it is obvious that their partner will continue to be abusive. That assumes that they can think with the clarity that you have. When they go back to someone again and again because they believe it will be different this time – that belief is created by their abusers reality.

All abuse is emotional abuse. When in an abusive situation your world is defined by their world. Your thoughts are shaped by their manipulation of you.

We can endure the most horrific things through childhood and as adults. It is not the physical things that cause the real problem – it is the emotional consequence of those. Bodies heal. Time passes and whatever is happening has to stop at some point. But long after the physical stuff stops, the emotional stuff remains in your head.

This is not all doom and gloom though. Because if it’s in the head it can be changed. I can help you change it. I have moved on from the reality created by my abusers. I can help you move on too. Just drop me an email to dawn@thinkitchangeit.com

No one noticed, no one heard

I got a link today to a report published by the NSPCC after they had interviewed 60 young adults (18-24 years) who had experienced high levels of different types of abuse and violence during childhood.

I was shocked at a particular statistic pulled out in the report.

Disclosing abuse is a difficult journey and 90% of the young people had had negative experiences at some point, mostly where the people they told had responded poorly.

I know the NSPCC are working very hard to change this with their various activities including their Childline Schools Service (something I have volunteered to do as soon as it’s in my area)

But we can all work on raising awareness of this.

Personally I don’t believe we can stop abuse. I think it has always happened and always will. But we can change the way we respond. We can stop it early enough. The way we believe kids and take action when information on abuse is shared with us makes all the difference.

We all have a responsibility to act. To not assume it is not our business.

There are too many stories in the papers right now – most likely because this has a focus – of kids that people could see were at risk but for whatever reason took no action.

Parents/carers are there to protect their kids. If they are abusing them then as a society it is our role to step in and help.

If it was your kid what would you do? If someone knew something that was happening to your kid what would you like them to do?

Give it some thought. It can happened to any of us. It may well have happened to you when you were a kid. What would have helped you?

Think about it. We can change it. We just have to act if we have the opportunity.

Let’s be a society that protects our own not one that turns a blind eye and makes excuses.

And if you have had experience of abuse, please know that you don’t have to suffer the pain of it for the rest of your life. It is possible to find happiness. To be ok. I am proof of that.

Nothing needs to be the way it’s always been.

If you need someone to talk to, I will always listen. I believe you.  dawn@thinkitchangeit.com