The most important work we can do, individually and globally, is the healing of traumas so that we don’t pass them down to future generations. This blog is a working tool to contribute to this good work.
My memoir has just been published about growing up with my mother’s untreated BPD. I wrote it on the advice of my therapist, for people like us who had their childhoods stolen, had their hearts and souls whittled away by incomprehensible behavior and suffering, and who yearn for a life where the past no longer ruins the present. The Emotional Terrorist: Growing Up With a Borderline Parent (Amazon) resonates with readers and shows them the light at the end of the tunnel.
As well, my story demonstrates that it is possible to break the cycle of abuse and raise a child with unconditional love. I hope it offers some solace.
Linda, thank you so much for answering my comment in such a compassion way. I was truly touched by your words and I really do appreciate the time and care that you took in responding to my post. I have been finding myself going back to your encouraging words in your last paragraph and being comforted by them. I have spent some time thoughtfully reading your blog and have also followed your advice for doing some research on “my problem”. Good luck with your book. May the process of writing it bring you healing and peace and may the sharing of your story bring you satisfaction in knowing that you have reached out to others in the hope that they will benefit from reading it.
I truly appreciate your concern for those of us who have been affected by our unhealthy pasts and the action that you have taken in reaching out to us by creating this site. One of the effects of the environment that I grew up in has resulted in me having gaps in the memories from my childhood. I do have a very limited recall to small fragments of memories of being sexually assaulted and an awareness that I endured considerable mental and physical abuse by someone in my family with little protection provided by my parents. I suffered nightmares as a child and all my life, I have screamed in my sleep and have had no recollection of anything that has happened through the night upon awakening in the morning. I was told by my sleep partner in the morning that I had been screaming and moaning during the night and that is how I know that it has been taking place all these years. I am now close to 60 and for the past two years, I am finding bruises on my arms that I know I inflicted on myself during my sleep. Sometimes I can actually see the outlines of finger and thumb marks. Recently, my sleep partner has been waking me up when my screaming and obvious discomfort in my sleep has woken him up. From this action, I have been able to remember being chased in my dreams or having someone spying on me while I was getting dressed. This is all very unsettling. I have never posted or written about this although I have searched the internet looking for others who have similar stories to share. The brain certainly is complex – and does its best to protect us. The actual memories of the traumas that have taken place are obscure and largely inaccessible but the effects of the abuse live on in the body… I would be interested to hear from others who have suffered similar sleep disturbances. Thank you again for your kindness and compassion and I wish you and other visitors to your site healthier and happier futures.
Thank you so much for your comment! Please just post another comment here and click the box – something I can approve for publication and from then on you will receive notification of any future comments here. I don’t know how to do that on this end!!!
Reading your words I immediately think about the literature on right brain-left brain asymmetry and how left or right handedness is related to risk factors for the development of PTSD. While I have posts on the blog about this I can’t just pull them up unfortunately
but you can Google search these terms and then take a look at the information that pops up in return: “risk ptsd handedness”
This fits together with how early severe trauma in infant-child attachment relationships changes the development of both brain hemispheres and the corpus collosum between them that passes the information back and forth for processing and integration.
All of these brain processes are interfered with due to severe early abuse and trauma. The region of the brain, the amygdala, that processes emotional memory and the hippocampus which processes the ‘factual details’ of memory are also changed through early trauma. (Look on Wickipedia for info on these regions for a start, then use them each in Google searches with ‘child abuse’, ‘infant abuse’ and then combine these terms with ‘brain develepment’ and/or attachment
SLEEP is a period of our life that is meant to allow us ‘down time’ for our brain hemispheres to process info with one another. This process is vastly interfered with by early abuse, linked with the changes I have just mentioned.
Being robbed of a nervous system central balance point of calm, peaceful equilibrium due to early abuse while our body-brain formed is a cruel consequence of early abuse.
The way I see it ANY way that our body-brain finds to help us overcome these trauma changes is a GOOD thing! Dreams are a way of communicating information to us — and to each brain region and to and from our body-memory — that allows us to heal. Our body-brain will form and USE detours to accomplish this healing end.
If AT ALL possible, especially if you have access to a support group and/or a therapist while you do this — DRAW or in some other way allow yourself to express outside of the sleep arena whatever comes to you.
The right brain is formed first in the first year of life — directly in response to ‘signals’ received from the early infant/child-caregiver environment — be these messages about safe and secure or its opposite. This is the social emotional region of the brain, which will also process all body-based experience for our lifetime.
In disturbing dreams images that cannot reach consciousness will repeat themselves until the entire brain-body-mind-self can integrate this information. Repeating dreams offer the most obvious and ‘noisy’ (as in PAY ATTENTION) information. Even though we might hate them and find them deeply disturbing, nightmares that repeat themselves are very informative.
IF we can HEAR the messages contained in the images they present.
I trust EVERY memory that arises no matter HOW it appears.
Being able to keep MY SELF in the present strong, clear and absolutely safe is of paramount importance.
I am in the process of writing the story of my abusive childhood for a book — and I have to pay attention CONSTANTLY to how I am feeling in the present moment as I work with the serious trauma information that is related to my past.
Nearly ALL of the memories of my childhood are not accessible to me, and I value that fact. What I DO remember is therefore very important because these memories give me very important information about myself — both ‘then’ and ‘now’.
I am limiting myself to what I write at this point in time so that I can write for the book, so this is it for today. Please add any questions you might have into another comment and I will respond, though.
Simply put on the left-right handedness topic: Those with left handedness are more at risk for PTSD – as are those who are ambidextrous. They are even more at risk if their parent or parents were left handed. fyi
Take a look at the Google search info — and do not FEAR (if I can be so bold as to say this) ANYTHING that is coming to you in dreams, though physically hurting yourself is NOT what you are after. Sounds like you are in a state of ’emergency’ — things are wanting to emerge right now because you are ready. But find OTHER and better ways to work with the memories, images, feelings, facts that are coming out — and this has to happen in the end by GIVING THEM WORDS — no matter how you draw, dance, sing, pantomime, dramatize — and dream them FIRST!
You are strong and gifted. You have endured and survived. That is ALL GOOD! You are continuing to heal!! All that is related to your power and your empowerment OVER anything anyone has EVER done to harm you in the past.
Yes, you may post it. That’s the point of writing it down, the body of work you have done is amazing. I do appreciate your asking. As you well know, boundaries are very sketchy for survivors, despite the fact I am very conscious in my life about them.
Thank you for the encouragement. I need it now. I woke up last night with inconsolable crying, this is the infant stuff. My mother punished me for crying. Couldn’t stand to hear it. I am scaring the crap out of my husband, who is doing his best to try and understand. .For that matter so am I. I feel so broken right now and why would anyone want me? These are the results of infant abuse. And you are right; no one wants to see it. It is too uncomfortable for most people.
I believe the work you are doing is extremely important. Somehow, I feel not only for YOU but that you are leading the way for others to be able to recognize the depth of the wounding that happens when infants are abused – and survive.
I hope you can find a balance between words and the body-memory states and feelings. What you are ‘remembering’ is of course from before words, but as the memories are translated into words – and even into images before they become available in words – the physiological torment will lift to a higher (more conscious) level. You are learning learning learning at the same time you are going through this.
Please see if you can locate work by Diana Fosha – if you Google search Fosha and attachment you will locate her work. From what I have encountered, her ‘philosophy’ of healing is most positive – the whole ‘knowing which way to tilt a crooked picture on the wall to straighten it’ idea – that we innately, intuitively and instinctively know what we need for our healing.
Just (my thought) don’t allow yourself to get STUCK in the infant pain. Going back and forth, so to speak, allows time itself to assist in the healing. Not being an infant NOW means that your body is also chock full of all kinds of OLDER (age wise) resources to assist you. Writing (to me if you like), any kind of art work — and PHYSICAL activity, even gentle walking, will help. Rocking will help. But as soon as you can after a ‘body memory’ try to bring your conscious awareness into play about what it all feels like to your OLDER self.
Much of the change we experienced through trauma altered development has to do with how information as it is supposed to pass between our left and right brain for processing has been interrupted and hampered.
Also important is to understand that as you do this work your need for receiving caregiving is overriding your ability to caregive your husband. I believe as you heal this will balance out, but if he has his own insecure attachment patterns (which can be heightened if what you experience is distressing-stressing him) this will not probably be the time that you can offer him what he needs. Hopefully you two are not alone, hopefully you have a resource-support system. Therapist, also!
Maybe you can assure your husband that this is a growth and healing stage and that you will be OK at the end of it – better than ever, as they say!
I will be anonymously posting parts of what you write UNLESS your let me know otherwise. It is our experience during the first 33 months of our life (including in the womb) that shape ALL people! Most people don’t yet accept this FACT – and for the sake of the suffering little ones TODAY (and for adult survivors) we need to know this!!
Just don’t get STUCK. Find ways to bring yourself back and forth between ‘then’ and ‘now’ in any comfortable, safe way that you can.
Being able to self-COMFORT and self-sooth is part of what a safe and securely attached infant will build into their body-brain as they are growing. We didn’t get a chance to do that, so NOW is the time to retrain our body-brain AT THE SAME TIME the feelings in the body are being recognized, felt and released.
Thank you Linda for your kind reply. Today was a tough one for me. All this body memory pouring out, I felt nauseous most of the day and now like a mack truck has run over me. So much emotion getting released right now. It is very painful but I have done enough of this work I know there is another side to get to. Right now, while I am in it, is very difficult. Admitting that you still have deep traumas that need release and healing..after all this time, I thought I would have purged it out. But that is not so. This was very young infant stuff, I was no older than 9 months . I don’t have words, but in it’s deepest reaches the aloneness feels like it may swallow me whole. It is a very hard thing to try to explain to someone. I will not put myself out there to one more person in this universe who thinks it maybe could not be true. No more !! That makes me feel isolated, also, because I have a very small support system compared to what I used to in early recovery. This is 22 years later now.
After reading more of your site and articles, I realize now that this changed not only the cells of my body (which I already well knew) but the way my brain responds to things.. Lots of information there. It does not surprise me I guess. It explains a lot to me. Such utter deep sadness….
I just want to thank you for all your writing and for sharing your personal journey of healing and discovery. For me, most importantly, your articles on memory retrieval of infant child abuse. My abuser , like you, was my mother. Later, it was my bi polar brother, not only beating me, but sexually molesting me almost every day of my life. I had my first memories of infant abuse 20 years ago,after I got clean and sober. In fact, they were the first memories I got back… I had a powerful body memory of being burned with an iron. I was always told when I asked about the scar, it happened when I was a “little” girl and I had pulled the iron off the board. The whole experience was pre verbal, I lay in a fetal position under my therapist’s desk. I had more memories, too-being shaken so hard for crying that I would hold my breath and could not breathe from the fear…leading me on a path like yours, of investigation. I got a hold of my medical records, and everything was in there-and I was 9 months old. That rocked and turned my world upside down. I did confront my family, and the only one that admitted that the abuse happened was my very sweet, co-dependent father. He always thought she had burned me that day. now that’s another story.
F Forward to now. I have felt very good in my skin and my life for some time now. I am 53. I have been married to a sweet but (unhealed) loving man for 13 years now. I have found my relationship at times unbearable and communication cut off. I have been getting sick-body pain so bad I can hardly move. Comes and goes in severity, but diagnosed as “fibromyalgia”. I put myself back in therapy. I know the body stores every ounce of our lives, and I do believe there is more than meets the eye.
I started having very deep body memories, after feelings SO sad for weeks. Where I was being shaken so hard, and I could not breathe. Then I would feel so nauseous. IN my infant child hospital records, my mother told the DR.s that I had asthma attacks, telling them I would stop breathing, and she talked them into giving her shots of adrenaline to give me if that happened again. I never was asthmatic in my life. I held my breath because she could not stand to hear me cry and she was going to make sure I did not.
It was so good for me to find your shared experience of something similar.
I have had much greater resistance this time to go to these places within my being, because the pain there is so excruciating and raw. I have to go there because I want to be able to be present within my relationship, really present. It has been the catalyst.
For the first time in 5 months, I haven’t felt like my muscles are rigid and stuck to my bones.
Blessings to you..
I got goosebumps just now while reading your comment. It know it’s been 3 years since this thread started, but I’ll comment anyway.
I have a scar on my right hand from when I was too young to remember. I was told by my mother that I “pulled the iron off of the ironing board.” I have never believed it happened that way. I have always had a feeling deep down inside that I was burned by her as punishment or out of rage. As I recall all the other abuse (physical and emotional) episodes that I DO remember along with the emotional neglect and just plain neglect, I have almost no doubt it was done on purpose and not by my own doing. I don’t think I will ever verify what really happened, though.
And that is what makes me most angry. I have fantasies of confronting my parents with the same anger and rage in my voice they had in theirs with me when I was too young to know anything. I want to demand answers from their cowering, shaking bodies about what exactly they did to me and WHY it was done. I don’t think I will ever have that moment. I will always wonder.
I’m 45 years old and that scar is just as visible as ever. I look at it everyday.
I would say TRUST WHAT YOUR HEART TELLS YOU ABSOLUTLEY!! Horrible things are done to little people who will never be able to consciously remember them – the injuries are no less severe and longlasting!! I am SO SORRY for what you have suffered! It was so freeing for me when my parents died!! Yet I still pray for them! I do not want the darkness that was their legacy to reside inside of me. I will not give my abusers that victory.
Oh, I am so glad you found my blog – and thank you so much for your comment! I believe your words will resonate with readers who, like you and I, know exactly what infant abuse feels like and always will remember as long as we live in our body.
I am glad also that you have access to therapy – I sure wish I did — but I don’t! There is not one level of our being alive that hasn’t been affected by the abuse our mothers did to us – yet we are strong, we are good people, we are growing and learning and healing every moment we are alive, even when it might seem we are making no progress at all!
I believe it is so crucial that those of us who suffered severe early abuse come to understand that it’s effects changed how our body-brain physiologically developed – the information we receive within our body itself often seems to outweigh the input from the present because often the present cannot move forward – or us in it – because off the TOO MUCH feelings! TOO MUCH – it doesn’t take very much of that for an infant to be overwhelmed, but our NOW BIG body-brain-mind-self can make peace inside of us now because that peace is SO IMPORTANT to our ongoing self-in-our-life!
Reading your words brought thoughts of the ‘rupture without repair’ that so wounded us. We are looking for that REPAIR within us every step of the way. All the love we can find around us TODAY (that we receive and that we give) helps repair us from all the love that was NOT THERE during our earliest formative stages of critical development. There is so much for us to learn about how our development changed – what that means to us – and even though our body will always contain within it those trauma-caused changes, we are as individuals most amazing!
Yes, blessings to you, also! Please stop by and comment again – I hope you will!!! Linda