Survivors Empowering Survivors

A Second Wound: A Survivor’s Decision to Cut Ties with Family

Many survivors mourn the loss of the life they feel they were born to live, as the ripple effects of abuse lead them in a different direction. Often times, as they heal, survivors have to cut toxic people out of their lives to continue on their path to recovery. Sometimes, that entails another major loss – the loss of his or her family. This is a dilemma many, many survivor’s face and we’re very grateful to share Miranda’s story and powerful point of view on this topic today, as part of the #SurvivorsEmpoweringSurvivors Series.

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I have come a long way. From the fractured child who was silenced when I tried to speak up about my abuse to the whole and healthy woman I am now. I rose from confusion and pain, and faced what I knew to be true. But like many other abuse survivors, I paid a painful price with regard to my family of origin. I tell my story not just because it helps me heal, but to help other survivors who recognize my struggles in their own lives – in the hopes that they will feel less alone.
It was always complicated with my family. When I was twenty-five, I revealed that I had been sexually abused by my older brother as a child. My mother and older sister believed me and even expressed regret that they hadn’t prevented it. The brother who perpetrated the abuse wrote and told me he was sorry, at least at first.

 

The problems with my family started when it became clear that I had a lot more to say. I needed to focus on what had happened to me in order to heal. Living in the truth meant holding my brother responsible, examining the environment that allowed it to happen, and trying to prevent further abuse by pointing out red flags and problematic behavior that still existed within our family.

With hindsight, I was probably naive to think that we could address dysfunctional patterns together, learn from them and go forward. Instead, my family members seemed increasingly aggravated with me as I refused to move on from the subject. My sister suggested that I be grateful for my brother’s apology. “What more do you want?” she asked. What I wanted was more than a closed door and a singular acknowledgment of an event that changed my world forever, instilled me with shame, stole my innocence and shook my sense of trust.

I felt like I had become the family troublemaker. As a child, I had been taught to be quiet, to read the temperature in the house and adapt my behavior to avoid conflict and chaos – if that was even possible. I was an adult now, with my own family and out from under their power. But when I spoke up, I still felt shut down. I had pointed at the Emperor and declared that he had no clothes. It was not a popular move.

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I began to stand up for myself more than ever. I pushed my mother to hold my brother more accountable for his treatment of me since I had revealed the abuse. She defended him, insisting that he was a “good person,” even after he said he pitied me, told me to stay away from him until I changed back to the way I used to be, and suggested I get a refund for my therapy. In certain moments, my mother’s capacity to understand my stance and provide empathy appeared to be just out of reach. She seemed to grasp the truth she’d been denying as she acknowledged her mistakes with words of regret. But these flashes of insight never seemed to last.

The abuse had long ended. The shame and self-doubt that had haunted me through my childhood and adolescence were healing nicely with therapy and time. Yet, my pain was still alive and well. Now it was centered in a desperate desire to gain my family’s understanding and support. I would never accept feeling that my voice was being ignored again, just as it was during my childhood.

I loved my mother and wanted to continue our relationship. But to do so felt like I was betraying myself. Eventually, I found a way to live with this dilemma. I decided that I could love my mother for her many positive qualities (including her love for my children) without accepting that she couldn’t see what I needed, and why it mattered so much. I kept her in my life and we maintained a level of closeness. Of course, I made a point to speak up and stand my ground whenever I felt the need, even if it brought about discomfort or confrontation. For a long time, this arrangement worked for us, more or less.

Throughout this journey with my family, it occurred to me that there must be many more people like me: sexual abuse survivors whose family relationships added to their pain. I wanted to shine a light on this subject and create a community of support. I decided that I should write my story.

Not really knowing where to start, I practiced my writing and learned more about family reactions to sexual abuse survivors. There were doubts and concerns that slowed me down, though. I was hesitant because I knew that going public with our family secrets would likely cause greater conflict with family members. Perhaps they would even retaliate against me.

While my goal has never been to stir up trouble, sometimes it can’t be helped when standing up for what I believe is right and just.

I worried about my kids too. I have always focused on giving them the kind of safe, nurturing home that I never had and I was reluctant to tell them my abuse while they were still young. I wanted to protect them from the darkness that I had left behind. Also, I worried that if I wrote about my story while they were still in school, they would feel embarrassment or shame among their peers. I also feared that they would lose their grandmother.

As it happened, I ended up feeling that I had no choice but to break most of my ties with my mother. She and others in the family had attached themselves more intensely to the brother who abused me, aligning with him in ways that I experienced as deeper levels of betrayal. At the same time, I felt my mother’s opposition toward me increase. Finally, I reached the limit of what I was willing to accept. I was exasperated, infuriated and just plain tired after a lifetime of feeling dishonored by the people who were supposed to love me the most.

I stepped away from my relationship with my mother and decreased the little contact I had left with other siblings. For about a year, I grieved for the loss of my first family and the lifelong hope that they would ever protect or truly support me. Then I took my first steps forward with a lighter heart – and a mission. I am writing now. I hope that through my story, I can offer solace and a sense of recognition to others like me. I recently created a Facebook page and Twitter account to offer support and solidarity to fellow survivors, called The Second Wound: Coping with Family while Healing from Sexual Abuse. I have blogged for other sites, including Trigger Points Anthology.

Now that my kids are older and know the truth, I’m working on larger projects as well.  It still takes courage to put my story out in public, but it also feeds my spirit and gives my pain a purpose. The wound of losing my family never subsides – it just loses its sharp edge in increments, and some days are definitely worse than others. But every message of solidarity or support reminds me that I am raising an important aspect of the effects of abuse, and that survivors like us don’t need to be alone in our struggles. We can join together in the truth and create a different kind of family.


Bio:  Miranda Pacchiana is a mother of three and a social worker who lives and works in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. She has started a Facebook page and Twitter account called Second Wound: Coping with family while healing from sexual abuse.

Twitter: @SecondWound
Survivors Empowering Survivors

Trigger Points Seeking Submissions for Survivors Empowering Survivors Series.

At times, survivors may be their own worst enemy. We riddle ourselves with doubts, constantly questioning whether or not we are good enough – as parents, partners, human beings – and determine our accomplishments to be irrelevant. Some aren’t cautious enough with the empathic residue left by their abuse, and find themselves unable to recognize when they are being used or further abused. At times we self-sabotage because there is no fear greater than the unknown, and for many of us, our wires misfired on the way to building happiness and aspirations, creating uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable feelings in the presence of simple joys and accomplishments.

Two of the most brutal side effects of childhood traumas in adulthood are self doubt and lack of self value. In order to combat the often self notion that you aren’t deserving of the recognition of what you have overcome and accomplished, Trigger Points is re-igniting the Survivors Empowering Survivors series, and are currently seeking submissions for guest posts.

Our intention with this series is to offer a platform to which survivors can proudly speak about achievements – big and small. We’re looking to inspire and educate readers by introducing them to the difference you are making in your day to day, or how you are contributing to cultural change. Especially, as it pertains to parenting as a survivor.

We want to hear about:

  • A book you’ve published, are working on, or took part in as a contributor.
  • A recovery-focused workshop, class, center, non-for-profit or conference you contributed to or helped create.
  • A service you provide specifically for parenting survivors.
  • Your experience speaking or teaching on the topic of parenting as a survivor.

Other stories we are interested in:

  • A discussion you’ve had with your child(ren) about your abuse.
  • How you’ve found a way to channel your recovery in a healthy, productive way, such as creative arts.
  • A trigger you have experienced that you are struggling with; one you may or may not have learned to manage yet.
  • Your reaction to reading the Trigger Points Anthology and the impact it left on you.
  • An essay you have written based on one of the journal prompts from the Trigger Points Anthology.

If you have an idea based on something other than what is listed here, we encourage you to reach out to us.

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If you want to get a better idea of what the Survivors Empowering Survivors series is all about, check out these previously included essays:

“This collision between my work as an abuse counselor and my work as a birth worker who had indirectly referred a “woman in need” to an inexperienced doula, is what changed everything for me, laying the foundation for A Safe Passage.”      ~My Worlds Collided.by Jodi Hall

“Many survivors “know” that being sexually assaulted was not their fault. Now, I’m one of them. But the question I’ve worked to answer after a decade of healing and processing what happened to me is, “Well, then why didn’t I do something?”     ~The Freeze Response: How a Warrior Handles the Trauma of Sexual Assault by Amy Oestreicher

“If I was having a hard time and needed help, it didn’t mean anything other than that. If I was soaring and taking on the world, I still had nothing to prove. I was just as worthwhile, sitting alone in yana mudra in my apartment as I was putting on a symposium.”    ~Just Breathing, I Was Enough. by Anika Tilland-Stafford

“After years of struggling and feeling no one understood us survivors, I determined that the only way to create change was to start our own organization. So, I announced at a particularly irritating health professionals meeting that I would start our own organization which would truly present the survivors view of what we need in order to heal and if anyone wanted to join me, to phone me.”    ~We Just Have To Be Asked. by Liz Mullinar

**We prefer original essays tailored to the survivor community, which includes loved ones of survivors and those that are working with survivors on their recovery journey. However, we will absolutely consider previously published work. Please let us know if what you are submitting has been previously published, so we can offer proper credit.

**Send your essay in the body of an email to triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com, with SES Submission as the subject. Don’t forget to add a short bio (3 to 5 lines), including social media profile links, and a headshot if you would like. And send along an image to go with your essay if you have one you’d like to share.

We can’t wait to hear from you guys!

♥ Dawn & Joyelle

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Not All Wars Take Place on the Battlefield

There is a misconception in our culture about who suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and what they look like. A quick Google search will lead you to believe that the majority of those living with PTSD are men in uniform. The reality is that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, and not all wars take place on the battlefield.

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We have seen great progress in the last few years in mental health awareness related to PTSD among veterans. We would like to expand on that progress to include all who suffer with PTSD. It’s time to accurately represent the thousands of women and men of all colors, ethnicities, ages and socioeconomic background living day to day, while doing the best they can to manage flashbacks, constant triggers and the debilitating medical and mental health effects of this disorder. It’s time to change the face of PTSD.

Last week a friend of mine, Christine White, wrote an article describing her irritation when a PTSD Google search resulted in the vast majority of the information being war-related. The image search results displayed men, almost exclusively, despite data evidencing that women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

Christine’s article sparked a conversation about this misrepresentation among a group of us. We asked, “What about the survivors of childhood sexual/physical/emotional abuse, those who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, war (as a civilian) and even murder, those who have been involved in fires or accidents or those who carry traumatic grief following the loss of a loved one? Why do people not associate traumas outside of war with PTSD?”

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Having worked in the trenches of the mental health field for the past decade, I have witnessed firsthand how undiagnosed PTSD affects those in treatment. In my personal life, I survived ongoing sexual abuse for eight years, witnessed years of domestic abuse, was estranged from both of my biological parents by the age of two and lost my mother to cancer less than two years after reconnecting with her at the age of fifteen.

I spent my high school and college years in and out of therapy. No one suggested that I might have PTSD until, as a twenty-four year old adult, I interned under an elementary school social worker who noticed a pattern: without exception. I would call in sick the day after we had worked with an abused child. She told me she suspected I was experiencing PTSD. She also said I wasn’t ready to become a social worker. I was pissed, but she was right, and that changed my life.

Trauma as a whole is ignored as a key factor to mental illness, despite a growing body of evidence to show there is a direct correlation between trauma and chronic mental and medical illnesses. The body remembers what the mind—or the survivor—forgets. Harvesting our experiences, good and bad, our bodies collect it all, and the energy created can manifest in ways that aren’t easily identified as a symptom of trauma, but rather, as unexplained mental and medical malfunctions.

We need to start asking people, “What happened to you?” Not, “What is wrong with you?” Only then will we get to the root of peoples’ experiences, and identify and treat PTSD. Google’s search results reflect our culture’s perspective on mental health issues, which only feeds shame and misconceptions.

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Here’s the good news!

We have the power to change it. We really do. It may take a little effort to convince ourselves (those of us who identify as having PTSD) that we carry scars—not blame—and it’s ok to talk about it. But it can be done.

How you ask? Easy peasy. If you have, or currently are experiencing PTSD, share a picture of yourself on social media and add #FacesOfPTSD. Show us your everyday self, with whatever emotion you are wearing that day.

Yes, it may feel uncomfortable, and yes, people may ask, “Really? You don’t act like it.” But isn’t that the point we are trying to make? Most who deal with the effects of PTSD suffer internally, and in silence, alone. Most do not risk the judgment that comes with saying, “I’m not over it,” or “I can’t get past this.” That admission, in our society, is a sign of weakness, and very unwelcomed.

We go to work, despite flashbacks, and carry on even when we’re not sure we can take another step. We raise our children, navigating triggers. We live a “normal” life, because we have been conditioned to “deal with it” instead of recover from it, so at times, hidden away from the world, we fall apart. We self medicate, or do whatever we can to swim through the suffering, and the cycle continues…

If we can do one thing to help break this dysfunctional cycle of pain and suffering, shouldn’t we do it?

 Join the movement.

Like, join and share the #FacesOfPTSD event page. Let’s kick off this campaign May 6th, 2016 with as many images as possible. Share to the event page and/or to your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc pages. When sharing, be sure to add the hashtag #FacesOfPTSD. Let’s do this one little thing to help show the world what PTSD really looks like, and perhaps alter search engines to more adequately capture the faces of PTSD.  Maybe then our culture will start to understand that not all wars take place on a battlefield, and all struggling with PTSD need and deserve representation.


**Please feel free to show your support for the #FacesOfPTSD campaign by sharing any of the images included in this post. If you would like to help us share the event page, here is a link to do so: https://www.facebook.com/events/1000290716727551/permalink/1000292133394076/

**If you would like to join our community of parenting-survivors, like our Facebook Page and join in the conversation. To read personal essays written by parents, about the challenges of parenting as a survivor of childhood abuse, get your copy of the Trigger Points Anthology on Amazon.

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

It’s a Shame About Shame

Shame has a crushing feel to it. I think to those that have felt or continue to feel shame, it’s suddenly having a spot light aimed on you. It’s the turning of your stomach, like a cement truck, endlessly twisting what’s inside. Shame is that instant jerk of my head, so as not to force another person to have to look me in the eyes. It’s the belief that I am damaged goods, and everyone knows it.

Shame is a burden I have carried most of my life. It seems to come with the territory of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It wasn’t something I identified as a consequence of the abuse. Growing up, I didn’t know life without it. I felt like I walked around with a neon, flashing light on my forehead that said, “Don’t look, I’m gross.”

Shame is still present in my life. It doesn’t consume me, but becomes an occasional reckoning force. Nothing turns that spotlight on as bright as talking about being a mother suffering with depression and suicidal ideations.

When people talk about suicide, it often lacks an empathetic tone. I don’t fault people for this. It’s not my wish that anyone should feel a pit so deep in their soul, that they crave to feel nothing at all instead.

I’ve been in many conversations where the word “selfish” has been used to describe someone’s decision to attempt and/or succeed at suicide. People say things like, “He has a good life – why can’t he just see that?” Believe me, he can. That’s what makes the coat of shame so thick. In spite of everything he may have –  family, money, love – his brain will win every time.

I used to immediately slouch my shoulders and look away from others when the topic of mental illness or sexual abuse would come up. I would feel as if I was burdening others to know they were talking about me. The secret that I am that tainted person, may upset them, so best to just sink in to the pavement.

Shame makes you feel like it is not your choice whether or not you can openly talk about what was done to you, or what was etched in to your DNA. I never felt like I was allowed to let anyone know that I genuinely have felt like suicide was an option. I didn’t know how to not put someone else’s comfort level above my own.

I’ve learned though, that drawing attention to the fact that I can empathetically talk about the subject of depression and abuse actually heals me. Discussing it has become one of the most effective tools I own. I can help control the conversation when I use the unfortunate knowledge I have. Even so, it doesn’t come without a strong pull on my chin to look at the ground when I actually do join a conversation. I try my best to fight it.

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People talk about fighting stigma but go about combatting it in a processed, packaged way. The stigma exists because of the shame. Lets start accepting that to be worrisome or embarrassed over what you can control, is to be ashamed. Feeling shamed, is what happens when something is done to you. One is always without choice. Understanding the difference is critical, and can in fact save lives.

**Originally featured on Crazy Good Parent

trigger points cover~Breaking the Silence, Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

We hope you’ll join our supportive Facebook community, where the challenges and successes parenting-survivors of childhood abuse face are brought to light. You can read personal stories written by mothers and fathers about their experiences of parenting as an abuse survivor in the Trigger Points Anthology, available on AmazonDawn and Joyelle are currently running a call for submissions for the Fathering as a Survivor Interview Series.

 

The Voices Of & For Parenting Surivors

Trigger Points to Present Fathering as a Survivor Interview Series

Our intention with the upcoming Fathering as a Survivor interview series is to give male survivors the opportunity to explore the effects childhood abuse has on them now as parents. We want to help fathers educate our society on what their particular triggers and struggles are, as they work to break the cycle of abuse.

When we set out to raise awareness on the challenges abuse survivors face as  parents, we absolutely intended to address the point of view of mothers and fathers. Hearing from fathers has proven to be much more difficult than we imagined. It has made us even more determined to extend the opportunity for father-survivors to be heard.

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Photo Courtesy of http://www.oprah.com: 200 brave survivors stand with pictures of their younger selves, working to lift the veil of shame.

Because of the few brave fathers who have written for us, we know that male survivors transitioning into and experiencing fatherhood have their own unique challenges and triggers. We want to help bring these challenges to the surface, so that male survivors who want to become fathers, or already are fathers can have the information and support necessary to address this particular part of their healing. We want to offer a platform to speak from that offers safety, support and the option of anonymity.

So what are we looking for and what you need to know…

  • It is absolutely acceptable to remain anonymous. Please make this decision very clear us so that we can respect your choice.
  • This series will be an interview format that will run through out the month of June, in honor of Father’s day.
  • Each participant will be answering the same questions, but will be free to elaborate on the questions as you understand them. Every question will need to be answered in order for your submission to be considered.
  • While we cannot accept every submission, we will work hard to allow every voice to be heard.
  • We reserve the right to edit for clarity and brevity.
  • We will be monitoring comments to ensure a non-threatening, safe environment.
  • The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2016.
  • Please copy and paste the questions (see below) in to the body of an email or word document. Please send finalized submissions to Triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com, with submission for interview series in the subject line.
  • If you do not wish to remain anonymous, please include a brief (3-5 lines) bio with your submission. Please include a head shot and any other images that you would like to add, if you are comfortable doing so.
  • Although we regretfully cannot offer financial compensation at this time, we will be offering a free PDF copy of the Trigger Points Anthology to those whose submissions are included in the series.

Here are the questions we are looking for responses to…

  1. Before becoming a father, did you look forward to becoming a parent?
  2. How did you feel when you first learned you were going to be a father? Did you have any specific fears and/or joys?
  3. Were there any triggers that came up for you while your partner was pregnant?
  4. What has surprised you most about parenthood?
  5. What acts of parenting have led you to be triggered? Examples could be disciplining, bathing, showing affection/touching, etc. Have you learned anything from these triggers about your own fears, or the parts of you that still need healing?
  6. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your child(ren)?
  7. What would you tell another survivor father who is expecting their first child?

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may have. This can be done either with a post/message on the Trigger Points Facebook page or via email at triggerpointsanthology@gmail.com.


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The Trigger Points Anthology is now available for Kindle and paperback. Click the link to get your copy today!!

Trigger Points Anthology paperback

Trigger Points Anthology for Kindle

Become a member of the supportive Trigger Points community on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other parenting survivors.