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Memory - Trigger warning brief CSA mention

My cousin's story.

My cousin, for the sake of writing I will refer to as Jackie. Her name was not Jackie. She was the daughter of my mother's sister. My aunt. My aunt had grown up, as my mother had, but she became quite the opposite of my mother. She was frail, meager, quiet. She went from violent relationship to violent relationship. She kept in contact with her mother, who once tried to kidnap my cousin Jackie. My cousin was about my age. Her father sexually abused her over the span of several years, but my aunt was too afraid to escape. My cousin was blamed for it. My aunt stayed with us in our basement for a while, trying to get on her feet. My aunt went back and forth in the same way her husband went in and out of prison. Eventually she left, she married someone else. He was an abusive alcoholic. He was violent and would throw things. My cousin was maybe 12 at this time, and now had two baby siblings. Jackie still had visitation with her father. My cousin's home life was not good, and she became quite difficult as a result. She was very rebellious and ran away often. She spent nights out, not saying where she was going, and at 15 she fell pregnant.

We had always been taught to believe that Jackie was bad. When she stayed with us, she was always used as an example of how not to be. My mother had always loathed her. When Jackie became a mother, her, my aunt, her two toddlers, and my baby second cousin came and moved in with us. The violence had become too much for my aunt.

Because of the way Jackie was raised, she had no connection to her daughter. To her, her daughter was a mistake, a shame. I was the primary caretaker of my cousin's baby. My mother hated babies, and my aunt was too busy working non-stop trying to rebuild a life for her other two traumatised children.

One day, Jackie told me that she had to go somewhere quite far away to pick up some things from her daughter's father, for the baby he had never met. She left me to watch her daughter. My parent's were also out of the country for some weeks. I grew so attached to that little girl. I cared for her all day and all night. I dressed her, I fed her, I changed her. No one else would.

My cousin never came back.

After some time, family services came to take the baby. They had been notified by a neighbour of my cousin's birth father that Jackie had taken her baby to meet her own father. Mind you, my cousin was forced to live with him for years, and no one seemed to believe her, or care. But family services came, and they took my second cousin away.  I last heard that she was adopted by a distant relative.

On one of my mother's phishing accounts she posted several years ago a message directed at me that my cousin Jackie had been murdered. It took a quick Google search to learn that she had died in a car accident and that my mother had of course lied.

I realised that this was traumatising for my when I was in my early twenties, and while I was working as a dancer, someone told me that family services were going to take she children away. I broke into tears, and she asked me if that had happened to me. I told her the story of my cousin, and of my second cousin.

I don't know why it has taken me so long to write this memory, maybe because it is not my story. It is my cousin's story.
General Discussion / Re: What can your loved ones do?
September 26, 2023, 11:06:03 AM
Thanks for this thread. It's not so talked about. Maybe there is no easy answer.

I tend to be very flighty and am prone to feeling trapped. So for me it's very important not to pursue a subject I don't want to talk about, to be mindful of the space they consume. For example, if they are talking to me while standing in a doorway, it will trigger me. If I am avoiding a topic, persistence will make me feel threatened. I don't have support, so it's hard for me to envision what that would look like in an effective way. I know perhaps more about things that are harmful. Problem solving. Like you expressed, no amount of being rational can counter CPTSD, and solutions people pose that seem very simple to them, may be unthinkable to us. Maybe my problem could be resolved by a phone call, but that's not just a simple phone call, and that suggestion would leave me feeling even worse. The suggestion suggests that I am to blame for my problems, which would affect my executive function for a week. No one wants to be a part of that cycle.

I guess it would be nice to have someone listen. They don't need to agree or offer solutions, but just imagine what it feels like to us and focus on that as a fact and not something to be corrected. As far as practical things, I had a friend who would draw me cold baths or bring me ice cubes to hold on to when I was having a panic attack, and that was amazing. Above and beyond. It absolutely helps. Maybe having someone who asks what you need, when you don't realise that you may need something would be helpful. It's easier for an outsider to see. Having someone who constantly tried to find solutions kind of felt like there is a problem, that I am a problem, a burden.

So, ideally someone would ask if we need anything while we are disregulated, offer us space (even if it means parting with some of their own for a bit), and not focus on the symptoms too much. Be chipper afterward, not mocking, but enough that we know we are still loved, cared about, and not a burden. Compassion and acceptance.
I have been thinking about things. I think a lot of my difficulty goes beyond what is actual. I don't want to talk about it, not just because I don't want to pause conversation, and that I don't want attention, or to be seen as different. I also don't want to be seen as the same, and if my feelings are not seen as valid I would be devastated. I can't place my own discomfort, and it wouldn't stand up to cross examination. I don't want to be known at all. I have spent so long being intentionally vague, because I don't want people to know my name let alone anything else. I have had people exploit information.

I'm in my third semester of this particular course. No one knows me. I don't group up with others. I have avoided disclosing anything outside the context of assignments. In the beginning of every course there are always three groups that form from the second lecture on. Here I am, in my third course. People know my name. They come to me when they need notes or have a question, but we don't engage. I don't add anything, nor to I ask anything. I came to this conclusion as I was panicking about one of my papers being posted to Padlet, corrected publicly. Everyone saw it, and saw the notation. Maybe no one saw it. I was the first to hand it in, and I have made the corrections. Only two other people have even now handed in their papers (due tomorrow). My worries boiled down to the maple syrup of it, is just being seen. If I fall over in the forest, did I even fall at all?

My issues with self, identity, culture, (the r-word that is not real), and my appearance... It is all just a manifestation of my discomfort existing as anything more than a fallen tree that no one happens upon. I don't want to be identified. I can't handle the pressure that would cause. I can't maintain the expectation of fulfilling the terms of . classification. One day I'm a tree, the next I am fungus, the next I am moss, until I am sod. I don't want to disappoint. I don't want to deceive. Keeping myself invisible is the only way I know how to not disappoint anyone. I've never not disappointed someone.
Thanks NarcKiddo. It's not overstepping at all. It's much appreciated. I guess the difficulty is the explaining and the questions. It's disruptive to the flow. Everyone says where they are from, and when it gets to me the conversation is paused. I take up too much time, and it leads to questions which feel too personal, and everyone is then looking at me and sometimes other people fill in blanks for me. I actually really appreciate that. If I say some place that seems outlandish(irony), and someone else chimes it with "...But actually because of this..." I just need to take someone like that with me everywhere I go. I need more of those people.

No one at university knows. My professor has only read my papers that kind of allude to places elusively. I know he read part of my notes that actually called a city by name.  :aaauuugh:
General Discussion / Re: One memory to sum up childhood.
September 21, 2023, 04:48:11 PM
I am so sorry that we can all relate to this so much, and I really want to hear more stories. The shame can be so intense. I don't know what triggered your reaction to custard NarcKiddo, but I was forced to spend the whole night at the table over split pea soup with ham. ...Did it make me become a better adult? No. It certainly did not.

StartingHealing: The starving children bit never made sense. When my mother spoke it, it felt more like a veiled threat.

I think why this memory has stuck with me for so long is because of my absolute shock when my grandmother told me that it wasn't in my head. She showed me the package and read it to me. I don't think I replied to my grandmother. If anything, maybe an "Oh.". It was the way I hesitated to answer her question. I thought my grandmother would think me stupid. She didn't. She never judged me for it. Instead my grandmother told me that there weren't any foods she didn't like, and I'm pretty sure I ate all my noodles. I do buy rainbow pasta for my kids now too, but I think about this memory every time.

Unfortunately, why I think it sums up childhood is just the vulnerability of children, how they can be lied to, shamed, and guilted into thinking they are wrong. Shame for having a thought, guilt for speaking, guilt for existing. It's just this one time that her lie was called out. The rest of the lies were brought to light much much later when the damage was more serious.
General Discussion / One memory to sum up childhood.
September 21, 2023, 12:36:12 PM
I don't have lots of time, but I was just putting away groceries when I remembered this conversation with my grandmother. Rainbow pasta.

We were in the kitchen cooking together. I was probably five years old. We were making rainbow pasta.

Grandmother: (After pouring it into the pot) Do you like rainbow pasta?
Me: I know it's wrong, mother says they're the same and I know it's all in my head, but the orange ones taste different to me. I don't like the orange ones.
Grandmother: Your mother lied. The orange ones have carrot in them.

...That has stuck with me so long. It really sums everything up. I was putting away the groceries, putting away the rainbow pasta. I didn't like the orange ones, I ate them anyway. I felt shame voicing my opinion, even when asked to. My mother had lied to me. I believed that I was making it up.
Thanks for the replies. It really helps me to feel heard. I wish I could communicate these problems more effectively, but they just don't make sense.

I'm feeling a bit afraid. I just handed in a paper that I literally just wrote, again on cultural etiquette. It's posted publicly into a padlet. I have another paper due on Monday, and the worst part is that I have to do a presentation on my paper. It's about cultural averages. So, I am feeling so much like an impostor. These two groups that welcomed me are going to hear me present to everyone at the same time about "my" culture. I imagine them looking at each other confused, because they just heard me represent two different cultures last week.

I feel quite spread thin right now, and I know I am doing it intentionally. I always do. I try to make myself less nervous by making myself have less self. The worst is that it works for the most part, but it's not sustainable.

I kind of got myself into hosting a Halloween dinner party, and it just snowballed and I felt like I couldn't back out. I keep thinking about it like, I want to be the kind of person who throws dinner parties. I want to make that happen, and at least this dinner party will happen, but I feel like a burning incense stick. I am worried that I will be judged. I did a bit of research on how to throw a dinner party, and I have some great ideas, but I am just not a good host. I am so excited about my plans, and I shopped for great secondhand tableware and decor, and I have a great menu planned, a theme that is awesome... but people... They won't know the effort I put in and they might not like my ideas, maybe they won't even show up. They don't know that in hosting a Halloween party, in choosing a theme, in having people over that I am treading gently over all of my sensitivities.
Writing carefully.

Something interesting happened today during my lecture. The professor broke us out into groups twice, and I spoke with two groups about culture. The groups just happened to be of two very different nationalities, and both just accepted me as one of them as we spoke of cultural etiquette. It was so strange. They assumed I was from where they are from, and we spoke about that. It was odd to turn around later and talk to other people about different cultural etiquette, but it was based on an outside assumption. They saw me as from where they are from. I've never had that happen. It's always been that I feel excluded, like I can't speak about these things, or if I do it's safe to use a different culture from my background as referrence, because I don't want to be called a liar. I don't know if that makes sense, but it felt like a big deal.

The professor also called on me to answer a question another student asked. I knew the answer. Did I look like I knew the answer? Was he trying to help me to speak up? He does work to include me, when I don't include myself.

I was a lot less hypervigilant today too. I was actually kind of.. sloppy? I didn't have my books stacked perfectly. I didn't rewrite things several times until they looked perfect in my notes. It was okay. I also didn't do weird self-soothing things under the desk. I was generally okay.
Please Introduce Yourself Here / Re: Hello
September 18, 2023, 11:36:46 AM
Welcome to that forum Keirshy. It's very strong of you to leave those narcissists behind. You deserve that. I relate to so much of those techniques you listed. It's unfair that you had to go through that.

Welcome again.  :heythere:
Please Introduce Yourself Here / Re: Hi, I'm a hermit
September 18, 2023, 11:29:44 AM
Hi J I M. I don't know why I missed this post, but I am here now.

It sounds like you are going through a lot. What you are describing is indicative of CPTSD. A lot of us struggle, and I definitely know that socially it can be very difficult. I tend to have one person in my life at a time. I do feel guilty about it, but I also find it difficult to manage more. It is hard, and it can feel sad and lonely. Sometimes I think what we want is not always what we need, nor is it what others expect of us...

If it's okay that I offer a little advice, you can ignore it if you want, or skip over reading this part if you're not in a place to. I think it's important to listen to yourself, and to what you feel. Sometimes we feel guilty for wanting to avoid social contact, but if that's what you feel you need, you may not be wrong in that. Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to meet other people's expectations before our own needs. We put other people first. We put expectation first.
(End of advice)

It's okay to be avoidant, even if it's because of CPTSD. It's okay to feel the need to isolate, and to act on it. It's okay to be a hermit, and if that makes you sad, that's also okay. It's okay to be sappy, or to express your feelings. They matter. It might change someday. Socialising may come easier eventually, but it may not. Sometimes we look at ourselves as damaged by trauma, and we try to take control and to correct those behaviours, and in my experience it leaves me feeling guilt and inadequacy.

I just want to offer you a welcome to the forum and tell you how great it is that you are exploring these things. You're not alone in this, and your difficulties are not problems here.  :heythere:

Recovery Journals / Re: Forging New Paths
September 17, 2023, 08:54:26 AM
Blueberry, it's great that you seem to know what you are comfortable with at the moment. You sound a lot like me, and I know that acknowledging my own struggles can be difficult.
Cultural identity is formed through exclusion, not through inclusion. It's a counter argument I have posed in my head so many times. Since I never had to courage to state this claim to a professor or as a counter to other students, I will do it here.

Cultural identify is formed through exclusion.

No one is born with a sense of cultural belonging. Rather people are born and develop familiarity, but you are not aware of a sense of commonality or togetherness until you are confronted with something else. We learned who we are through our interactions with others. We learn where we belong by learning where we don't belong.

I know this through trauma. I don't know where I am from or who I am. I am trapped somewhere not quite anywhere. I'm a "fourth country kid" who was told too many lies to distinguish what isn't a lie. I have an accent everywhere I go, and it changes depending on the subject or companion. I am confronted regularly by my strange habits, traditions, and colloquialisms. I am aware of them. I have learned that it is fine as long as I am consistent. I have absorbed so many, but they are not mine. I am an outsider, not because of my cultural similarity to you, but because of the things I do similarly to someone else who you perceive as different to you.

I know that cultural identity is formed through exclusion. I am reminded constantly.
The Cafe / Re: 5 Songs that Make You Smile
September 14, 2023, 05:42:44 PM
Thanks for this. When I do listen to music it tends to be quite somber, and even my happy music has quite somber undertones, but when I feel great resolve this song pops up in my mind:

Fyfe Dangerfield - High On The Tide ...I'm pretty sure that song is about my life...

Emiliana Torrini - Big Jumps ...My internal pep talk song

Feist - Tout Doucement ...Also a pep talk song.
Symptoms - Other / Re: Acquired Neurodiversity?
September 14, 2023, 03:54:35 PM
I'm not a professional, but it feels like it isn't damage. It feels like parts of our brain have to shut down, and have to learn to shut down, and other parts have to learn to multitask. It feels more like a reorganisation of sorts, not a highly beneficial one, clearly. ...But it served its purpose.
Symptoms - Other / Re: Acquired Neurodiversity?
September 14, 2023, 02:18:22 PM
I think that all makes perfect sense and it's something that I have certainly posted about, but then probably deleted. I know when I reread many of my symptoms they read as neuro diversity, and somehow I can see that how they express themselves are through the face of trauma. I avoid overstimulating environments because it makes me feel panicky and unsafe. In a way it's the same kind of losing track of my body in space feeling and losing track of your thoughts. It's described so similarly, but just a different neuro pathway.