Book One: Healing Begins
Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Let me tell you a story about my childhood and forgive me if I jump around like my brain has leaped and dodged and darted in and out over the years.
Trigger Warning: For those suffering from abuse-induced PTSD, the following story may be triggering as it contains general discussion of abuse and its effects.
I was just a toddler and my mother was young, naive, and perhaps a bit desperate when she moved my three older brothers and myself out of our dead beat dad’s home and into the house of a charming, manipulative, financially well off sociopath.
“This man who for a short time I called ‘Daddy,’ quickly became more like a monster...”
This man who for a short time I called ‘Daddy,’ quickly became more like a monster, and I now understand that what I’ve been experiencing over my lifetime since the very first time he held me down, put his hand over my mouth and threatened to kill my mother and brothers if I told, has been dissociation.
Dissociation, also known as ‘freeze’ in the fight, flight or freeze cycle is common with trauma of all kinds, and particularly that which involves a still developing small child and an adult who is supposed to love, protect and support her, but instead is the cause of her distress.
Zoning out is a survival mechanism which unfortunately did not ease the impact the trauma had on my developing brain and body. Unable to move, my heart would pound and my body would be unable to complete the trauma cycle and for example, ‘shake it off’ like a threatened animal in the wild would, therefor this energy literally became lodged in my body, intensifying with each threat, and leaving me more prone to dissociation while beginning a domino effect of ill health.
“A near constant state of feeling unsafe/fight or flight (stress mode) compromised my immune system, making me more prone to infections...”
A near constant state of feeling unsafe/fight or flight (stress mode) compromised my immune system, making me more prone to infections, mold toxicity/inability to properly detoxify mold and heavy metals. I developed shingles around age five and UTIs became common as well as the inability to fight off, handle, or detox any lurking nasties, including parasites, yeast overgrowth, and Lyme Disease, which is notorious for being opportunistic among those suffering from deep seeded, unresolved trauma and/or emotional issues.
In my case, with the busyness of a multiple child household with rambunctious brothers and then a new brother when I was 3 year old, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle and I assume for them to chock my ‘sensitivities’ up to just that.
Thing is, I was dying on the inside, and felt lost, confused, different from everyone else; disconnected from even those I was closet to, such as good friends.
Sexual trauma is known to be one of the worst kinds as it robs a person of their very innocence and steals something sacred which can never be fully restored. Combine this with the shame and horror and it’s a recipe for future ill health, emotional instability, and dissociation.
My first sexual experience should not have been uninvited and at the hands of a middle aged coke snorting sociopath who told me I ‘owed him’ for taking us all in.
What compounds the effects of this sort of trauma is the ongoing abuse and necessary secretiveness. There is something about the way dysfunctional families work. We are often masters at hiding just how inappropriate our situations are, and having a manipulative money making father figure running the show, brainwashing siblings against one another from a young age and getting the mom involved in the teasing , etc... it can become quite the circus and soon feels normal... It was all I knew, though I always sensed I did not belong in that setting and instead of joining the circus, I isolated myself from my immediate family as much as possible, leading to more teasing for being withdrawn and depressed.
It’s surprisingly easy to hide severe dysfunction from the outside world.
“Things appeared quite normal on the outside.”
My brothers and I went to school like normal kids, played sports, had birthday parties and friends over, and our mom volunteered at our school when we were young. We laughed and played and my mom was even my brownie troop leader when I was in elementary school. Things appeared quite normal on the outside.
Thing is, I did not receive what I needed most: unconditional love, support, and protection. I was unsafe in my own home.
When it did become very clear later on that I was having profound emotional problems, I was told in a shaming way that although we can’t really afford it, I’d have to go see someone. This of course did not happen.
It was a very shameful thing to have real emotions in my household.
Early on, my stepfather would tear my brother’s thumb from his mouth, stripping him of his security blanket. Through the years this escalated to much more emotionally damaging behaviors, that were perpetrated upon all five of us kids and my mother. Any show of vulnerability was met with more shame and fear, further exacerbating the cancer of our childhood development.
“Addiction to guilt, shame, and self blame is quite common among sexual abuse survivors and became my survival mechanism.”
Addiction to guilt, shame, and self blame is quite common among sexual abuse survivors and became my survival mechanism. I was an ‘acter-Inner’ and took the trapped emotions and fear and hate I felt and turned it inward on myself; berating myself became the norm. I would spend my days trying to figure out how I could no longer exist.
I can remember one spring afternoon sitting on our outdoor trampoline, contemplating how I could get a gun to get the job done quickly. Many other afternoons were spent planning my demise while my friends chased boys and planned their bright futures. Any aspirations withered along with my weary soul.
In elementary school I started gymnastics and quickly excelled at it, practicing on a competitive team for several years. But even that was taken from me as the shame culture that was my family slowly eroded my joy and therefore desire to excel or even participate.
I can remember my mother recalling in my young adulthood that as a child I would poke holes in photos of my own face. I’ve blocked many of these events from my memory, but the evidence of faceless pictures of me exists, and demonstrates my self hate.
Protecting my younger brother also became a favorite survival skill and almost became my identity. Unfortunately, I was unable to fully protect him and he and my older brothers have their own share of significant issues, including addictions and emotional and physical problems. All five of us do, and it’s no wonder, yet it was common for my family to laugh about it all and just pick up another drink, drowning our fears and insecurities with booze and deflecting with humor.
From the time we were young it was ‘normal’ to pick on and berate and harass one another, and it became normal to my mother as well... that and/or she did not want to see it for what it was. Her pride did come before her children’s welfare in many instances. She would give the shirt off her back but would rather we suffer in silence than make it known to an outsider that we were struggling emotionally. SHAME, Shame, and more shame.
Memories resurfaced of my older brothers ‘whore shaming’ me when I was young simply for being female. I was ‘a little whore.’
“It is passed through the blood lines, perpetuating the addiction, illness, and toxic shame.”
It amazes me looking back that all this went on so openly and yet nothing was done about it. But it is all too common and until someone decides that enough is enough and breaks the cycle within the family, it is passed on through the blood lines, perpetuating the addiction, illness, and toxic shame.
This was the stuff that went on in our home, yet it was normalized and at the same time, very shameful to share feelings about it with anyone on the outside. Clearly we did have plenty to hide, but as a child, I didn’t see any way out. I hung in there for my brother and when I became suicidally depressed in my early teens, I had my very first conscious experience with what I now know was Divine intervention.
I had the bottles of sleeping pills laid out, glasses of water, and suicide notes to friends and family. I know I meant business. All I recall after this is being on my hands and knees by the bed, begging to the Above for help. We were not a religious family, but the pleading prayers just flowed from me. I did not want to leave my younger brother behind, but I saw no alternative to this nightmare existence I was living and that no one knew the extent of.
I clearly remember being lifted up by strong invisible hands, which carried me down the hallways to my mother’s room, where I remember breaking down and telling her of my plans. I do remember her asking me if anyone had hurt me, which is laughable now, and of course I replied no. If my mom had a middle name, it would be Denial.
She burned the notes, and I remember feeling some relief that maybe my help was coming, but it never came.
I know my mother would have her own twist on the story, which is how such tightly wound secrets are kept behind closed doors in dysfunctional families.
It was very clear looking back that I displayed all the signs of having been sexually abused, yet the help. Never. Came.
”Toss in my genetic tendency towards alcoholism and the abusive environment, and I didn’t stand a chance.”
I have to assume she comes from more of the same shaming background and I know that three of her four siblings were addicts, two now deceased from it. These things often are passed down through the generations, sadly, and I am proud to be breaking that cycle in my own family through healing myself. Like any other chemical dependency, the body can become dependent on those of depression and anxiety, leading to addictions to these emotions. Toss in my genetic tendency toward alcoholism and the abusive environment, and I didn’t stand a chance.
I started drinking in college and that is when I was able to have my first kiss, and most of my intimate relations after were also while under the influence.
The alcohol wasn’t always able to completely keep the symptoms of PTSD at bay. I can recall waking up in college with my dorm room and my pride in shambles with the vague recollection of stomping, screaming at my invisible enemies, and tearing things apart.
The harmless, unimposing guy I was seeing at the time had been sitting, head in hands, in shock and confusion as I relived the suffocating rage and horror of being held down. Dorm mates filled me in a bit more on this particular incident, which I just as quickly swept under the rug. Most of my relationships ended before they began.
I even avoided the gynecologist and any doctor who would have to touch me in any way, especially males. Later I’d begin having the most severe form of ‘white coat syndrome,’ though didn’t realize it was due to the repressed sexual trauma.
“I was crying out for help the only way I knew how.”
My memory is sketchy due to having dissociated so much throughout my life, but I do know that when young I desperately wanted friends to know something was going on and I acted in ways to get their attention without giving it away, I assume because I was literally trapped in an impossible situation and I was crying out for help the only way I knew how. A couple life long friends have told me that, as a child, I had told them my brother and I had been hurt, but I said it was over and it had been at the hands of a stranger. They say I swore them to secrecy.
My family would later joke about our step father, who we un-affectionately referred to as ‘The King,’ and his sick, twisted games and how he got away with so much violence.
I returned to his home even after my mother had moved out, leaving my tortured, bullied high school age brother home alone with his very sick father. Again, this was all we knew; it was our normal, and that had been my home from the time I was a toddler.
“It was psychological warfare.”
The King’s absolute favorite game was using his money to manipulate, anger, impress, and turn us against one another. I was ‘the spoiled princess’ and he would shower me with material things I did not ask for, while two of my older brothers more or less rotted away in the attic. They grew to despise me for this, as was surely his plan. It was psychological warfare. He did at times feign father like affection towards me, and attempted ‘brainwashing,’ especially against my mother, is not an inaccurate description of what went on. He was the only father figure I knew.
Once I got away to college and was free of him and no longer under the grip of his control, I figured, what the hell? Let the sonofabitch ‘impress’ my boyfriends with his money.
My now husband recalls meeting him for he first time and how insistent he was to buy me a car, suddenly. Initially I assumed he was just trying to impress Scott, but I now realize that it was ‘hush money’ to further guarantee protection of his dirty little secrets.
It was around this time that I began to realize that he had been the one to poison my dog the previous year. He had picked me up from college and then disappeared after dropping me at his house... my younger brother was there and as we chatted into the wee hours, our dog Saddie was becoming lethargic, thirsty and was rapidly losing her functions. By the time we got her to the emergency vet, she was dying and they told us her kidneys were failing likely due to antifreeze poisoning. We didn’t have the money to keep her there and they sent us home where she began to have seizures. I will never forget holding her in the back seat while she foamed at the mouth, her head smashing against the widow with each violent jerk.
“I’d gotten so good at dissociation and denial...”
I’m unsure how I didn’t see it right away, that The King had waited till I was home to poison her, but I was later told he had been bragging about it to a friend. I’d gotten so good at dissociation and denial and did not want to believe he’d do this.
I was mid college and with my now husband, Scott, when I realized just how unhealthy my situation was and it was my beloved dog’s death by poison that made me finally say ‘no more’ and walk away for good. Even my brothers finding child pornography hidden under the floor boards didn’t drive me away for good. Killing my dog, did.
I thought that by physically leaving his home and never looking back, I could escape. I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. I ran, but I could not hide from the demons lurking within me. This set off the path to more addiction, more ill health, more self blaming and shaming, and more secrets. It was a viscous cycle, one that I’d grown used to.
An overdose attempt in my early twenties and subsequent placement on a cocktail of potent psych meds only worsened my mental and physical state. My hair was falling out and my adrenal glands were tanked.
I can remember sitting in the mental health ward of the hospital as the psychologist on staff explained to my now husband, my mother, brother, and I the importance of getting away from my stepfather for good after we told him of what we could remember of the abuse and how our memories surrounding so much of it were so foggy and patchy.
A few years after graduating from college, severe headaches finally brought me to the doctor upon my now-husband’s insistence, which led to a diagnosis of severely high blood pressure and multiple visits to the ER for hypertensive crises, and concurrent testing out the wazoo, revealing wonky lab levels, off vitals, and no official diagnosis.
“...looking back, it’s hard to know how much was plain old dissociation as the amnesia and dementia were so extreme at times.”
With the ever imbalanced hormones and cascade effect of health issues came more foggy brain and looking back, it’s hard to know how much was plain old dissociation as the amnesia and dementia were so extreme at times.
“...my blood pressure and pulse shooting & staying up, even when they attempted to sedate me for medical procedures.”
Chasing a physical health diagnosis became a tempting escape from what was, in hindsight, a further distraction from facing The Truth of the horrendous abuse. My symptoms have been very real, indeed, landing me in the hospital on more than one occasion, my blood pressure and pulse shooting & staying up, even when they attempted to sedate me for medical procedures. The doctors were baffled and quite interested in my case until they could not find a concrete diagnosis, and I’d find myself on my own once again.
My dear husband never left my side during all of this, though it was quite a strain on the relationship and at times I felt very alone, as anyone with chronic illness can empathize with.
I sought support in online thyroid and Lyme disease forums and could not understand why others seemed to be getting better, but not me. I now understand that ‘chronic illness’ was a convenient excuse to further shove down my memories of abuse. Any disease or ailment would be easier than facing the soul destroying truth and these negative energies buried alive were in fact manifesting as physical symptoms.
What I knew deep down but was unable to face was that these horrors were literally eating away at me from the inside out, and it was only a matter of time before they came to the surface.
My daughter’s birth was such a miracle and a blessing after a rocky pregnancy with lots of ‘unexplained’ complications and a hospitalization, which I now understand was yet another physical manifestation of trauma, the root cause of all of my suffering.
Following her birth, my insomnia became even worse and my emotional state declined more, and regular hypertensive crises became the norm.
It is such a blur now, but she was my reason and I battled just to keep her alive and as happy as possible. Hiding my afflictions was much easier when I discovered red wine and later, sleeping pills and anxiety meds, which I abused over the years and eventually led to a near lethal overdose.
I hadn’t touched a drink in nearly three years and had been doing everything I knew in my power to get well, to no avail, and I can remember the day I caved and bought a bottle of wine to get me through an event at my daughter’s school. I knew from experience that it was a very temporary fix, but I was desperate for relief from my unrelenting physical and emotional symptoms.
I began sneaking booze and extra anxiety meds back in regularly and I now understand that these addictions were conveniently further masking my trauma.
“My foggy, exhausted brain would tell me that my daughter and husband were better off without me...”
My foggy, exhausted brain would tell me that my daughter and husband were better off without me and that if I were to just go now, my suffering would be over and they could start anew with a whole and healthy mom and wife they deserved.
It was after waking up in the ICU with a tube down my throat and my husband telling me that I had been life-flighted for a med/alcohol reaction/overdose, that the gravity of my situation hit. I had almost left behind my daughter, my very reason.
I’m still unsure exactly what brought my fight back, but I knew I could not and would not leave my daughter and I threw my hands up and pleaded to the Above, surrendering my fears unconditionally, not unlike how I had some twenty years earlier. It was in that moment that the shift occurred. As tears rolled down my face, I swore that I would remain open and do anything to heal, if I would just be shown what I need to know.
My prayers did not go unanswered and I followed the breadcrumb trail laid out for me by the Universe, first leading me to a wonderful therapist who opened me up to Inner Child work and within our second session she gently informed me that I have such an 'addiction to guilt, shame, & self blame' that she'd only seen so extreme in sexual abuse survivors, who use it as a survival mechanism.
Turns out and is all too clear now, that berating myself internally became my norm early on and an emotionally abusive, often emotionally neglectful environment only fed this addiction, perpetuating the cycle. Fortunately, I ‘acted in’ and took things out on myself versus harming others.
I do remember being terrified at an early age that I would hurt my baby cousins, as the desire was so frighteningly intense to torture the way I was being tortured. I feared for years after that if I were to have my own children one day, I would want to hurt them. Fortunately, I realized well before my daughter’s birth that those fears were unfounded as I had no instincts towards harming others.
In tapping into younger versions of myself through Inner Child work, the flashbacks started... not in my therapist’s office, as I was too shut off to allow those horrors in after stuffing them down for so many years.. I had a lot of work to do to make my inner children know they are now safe to remember, have nothing to be ashamed of, and can trust me.
So I worked my ASS off at home, physically, mentally, and spiritually, to break through and be shown what I need to know to HEAL in every way. Online courses, studying and applying John Bradshaw’s work, journaling, meditations and self hypnosis all helped to get the ball rolling. I was terrified of what I would remember and it is no wonder I started dissociating at the tender age of 2.
After a while, flashbacks began to happen and it felt like torture, but Scott and I knew it was necessary for healing.
“... my body took on a mind of its own, twitching and jerking and I became literally unable to speak.”
I got to a place I could drive again, so I began attempted EMDR at my therapist’s office, but my body took on a mind of its own, twitching and jerking and I became literally unable to speak. This was all quite stressful on my body, but I couldn't go to the chiropractor because my blood pressure would spike, I would convulse and my hands would fly in front of my face, trying to fight off flashbacks of being held down.. bear in mind, my chiropractor is a 120 pound female.
“... it is quite clear how it manifested physically, literally eating away at me...”
At attempted acupuncture appointments, I'd be unable to even sit on the table, the flashbacks of abuse so severe that I repressed and dissociated.. Memories so disturbing that not only could I not sleep, but my entire body jerked and convulsed and I could not speak as I relived events in which I was either too young or too traumatized to verbalize.
It was like an exorcism, but a necessary evil as trauma is stored in the body as negative energy that festers and you guessed it, has been quite literally making and keeping me sick for thirty some years. These demons can only remain trapped inside for so long before they begin to overtake you, hence my bouts of suicidal depression from a young age, and it is quite clear how it has manifested itself physically, literally eating away at me and nearly killing me, but mainly my SPIRIT.
In a near constant dissociative state of foggy fight or flight and flashbacks, I was unable to focus long enough on the pages of a book to research therapies, so my husband, determined to help bring me back, read up and we began applying Dr Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing therapy to me, day and night, for weeks and months on end. I let the flashbacks happen in the safety of my home, completed the trauma cycle and transformed it to positive energy, again & again & again. As I’d attempt to drift off to sleep at night, I would jerk awake, gasping for air and often by day I felt I could not breathe and would choke on my food.
I now understand that so many of my digestive issues and inability to absorb nutrients properly have been due to my system being in a constant state of stress: fight or flight, virtually paralyzed.
I've come to acknowledge and understand my tendency to binge eat and conversely to want to waste away at times during my teenaged years. I’ve been working hard to literally retrain every aspect of my mind and body.
“... it is quite clear how it manifested physically, literally eating away at me...”
Every second of every day was an incredible struggle, but I remained faithful that it would pay off in the end and frankly, I was often too sleep deprived, dissociated, and/or traumatized to know any better; I just kept inching forward. Hey, dissociation does have its perks; it's all quite a blur now and feels a lot like a nightmare I have finally awoken from. I'm thankful for photos and journals in case I ever want to go down that road to spark my memory of those most horrific healing times.
Many spiritually and emotionally healthy people who have a great support system are able to walk around with Lyme and its co-infections, no problem.
Those with underlying issues, the root cause being trauma, for example, can not and will not be able to handle it until they address the ROOT cause of their physical suffering. In this case, early childhood trauma and lack of support in healing it.
The thing about ongoing trauma (an event where the body and mind believe they are being severely threatened) at the hands of those who are supposed to love , support and protect you, is that it does more damage than a single traumatic event or even concurrent events where proper support is administered immediately following.
“If ‘I’ made me this sick, surely I can undo it!”
What I've learned about myself through this journey is that my inner strength is my greatest attribute and that in retraining my mind and my thought system, I can literally recreate myself. If ‘I’ made me this sick, surely I can undo it! Hallelujah.
Another of my strengths is that of compassion and I realized that I was living for others and never for me, and that I faked my way through one too many relationships for fear that I was a ‘bad person’ if I didn’t. I was merely showing up and surviving, never really living or loving. I was void inside, too afraid to really feel. I’d become an expert at shutting it down from a young age. Feeling was dangerous.
My daughter deserves a healthy and fully present mother and as I slipped further and further away, I finally realized my healing had to come first and I had to be okay in order to be the mother she so deserves.
Fortunately, we managed to shield her from the worst of my sometimes earth shattering flashback episodes.
I also struggled with irrational guilt over shutting out blood family.. What kind of a person would I be to shut out my own mother who was there during the latter years of my declining health, and who was actively hoping we’d find a physical diagnosis, taking our daughter for us and spoiling her while we ventured to various health facilities? The answer is simple, really: the kind of person who wants to HEAL and to live the life I deserve to live. In order to do so, I had to listen to the pleas of my inner children, begging for freedom from those who so contributed to their suffering.
“Ridding mysef of all toxic relationships has been key....”
Ridding myself of all toxic relationships has been key in recovery so far. I’m unsure if one day I’ll be able to forgive; I’m not there yet. The wounds are deep.
All I know for sure is that my love for myself, my daughter and my husband will always come first and I choose to surround myself with like minded, like hearted people. Life is far too short to waste pretending, and I’ve lost too many years as it is; it’s time to start living.
Although I would genuinely not wish this particular journey on my worst enemy, it has made me appreciate the beauty in the simplest things: a full night's rest, an extra delicious stretch in the morning, birds chirping outside my window, a deep full breath of cool mountain air as I romp in the yard with my husband, daughter, and fur babies.
I’ve learned just how precious true friendships are and I’m so grateful to those who’ve supported me through it all, darkness and light. It is clear now that my husband and I were placed together almost two decades ago to bring healing to one another. Our connection is deeper than we ever thought possible. Thanks to healing this trauma.
I used to feel shame for crying... now it is a beautiful release and almost always leads to tears of joy and freedom, gratitude for the very air I breathe. Smells like my sweet daughter's honeysuckle shampoo, new puppy and home.
“I didn’t know what it was to be alive until now. I didn’t know what it was to be free. I am truly free.”
I didn't know what it was to be alive until now. I didn't know what it was to be free. I am truly free. Diet, medications and supplements helped support my body through it all, Somatic Experiencing in particular helped address the trauma, and through prayer, meditation, and spirituality, I've come to recognize that my Self is Love, my worth is intrinsic and my innocence unchangeable. I was lost and now I am found.
“... get out of your own way. Miracles happen when we surrender fully and make our intentions clear.”
For those of you struggling, I need for you to know that healing from anything IS possible. The first step is simple: you have to want it, mean it, ask for it, and then get out of your own way. Miracles happen when we surrender fully and make our intentions clear.
Once you truly mean it and your higher power knows it, Healing happens in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like healing at all; it can and does come in many shapes and forms.
Remain open and the resources will fall into your lap.
Then you just have to put in the very worthwhile work.
Don’t underestimate the power of faith and the power of prayer. As new age spiritual guru Gabby Bernstein says, “The Universe Has Your Back.”
Your will is your destiny. ❤️❤️❤️
**I am a work in progress and like to believe that progress is perfection. I created this page to share my healing journey and connect with others on a similar healing path, mind, body & spirit.
*** Since writing this a few months ago, I’ve averaged one blog or podcast episode/week, including a podcast series called ‘Healing Trauma’ on how my husband and I took charge of my healing process when I was too ill for outside help. Do check those out on my site along with healing resources provided, like my Facebook page Meg Happens and subscribe to MegHappens.com to receive notifications of new posts.
Happy Healing! 🙌🏼🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼