My counsellor called it "haunting". The events of my past relationship with that man are almost always on my mind in varying degrees. Usually typing up a post about a particular event helps rid me of that event to some extent; this is why some of the posts in this blog are so dramatic or heartfelt or upset, because I write them at the moments I'm experiencing the memory or the trauma. This is why sometimes I say extreme things, for example that I'm going to end the blog. That man exerted control over me in so many ways, and by saying I'm going to end the blog, I think I'm taking back control and deciding whether I will continue to talk about these things or not, on my own terms in my own time.
Usually the traumatic memories float around in my head until I find a way to make sense of them or understand them, or even just name them. To discover "Covert Incest" (which is quite a strong term but what else can we call it?) has been a revelation. Naming something gives me so much power and helps me to further understand the Parental Alienation - and even the reasons for my mother's actions. She pretty much kidnapped my sister and me and for decades I was angry about it. However, as information starts to creep out, and as I've been making sense of things over the last 3 years, as I've read about PA and now Covert Incest, I'm beginning to see that it's entirely possible she was escaping with us in order to keep us safe from him. I'm not sure she would ever have been able to name what he was doing anymore than I could until I found the CI website, but I know for damn sure his behaviour made her uncomfortable. Other people noticed his behaviour too - and thought it was creepy (they said he was obsessed with me, had a strange fascination with me). So if she was seeing Covert Incest, and if she was afraid that it would lead to actual abuse, I would have done what she did too. I would have left him and left everything behind.
Insomnia is making me incredibly miserable at the moment. I'm trying to go to bed at a reasonable time but I'm unconciously avoiding sleep. I'm actually afraid of sleeping, but I don't remember any dreams at the moment, so I don't know what's going on. I'm so tired that my memory is going and I don't even have the energy for much housework. I'm sleeping in my clothes and all I want to do is read books. So ... displacement much?
And yet I can't put my finger on what's wrong. I feel so alone - but that's normal. I only have my children. I was afraid I'd seen the male parent last week. I saw someone driving the opposite direction who looked just like him in a car just like his, but my startled expression didn't cause any reaction whatsoever from the man. I'm fairly sure it wasn't him. He just looked at me blankly with no recognition at all. It terrified me though, and reminded me that he's a creep and wouldn't think twice about driving three hours up here to spy on us. I'd bet money that he has already.
So, on to this amazing source of help. This brought tears to my eyes and caught my breath. It's from here: http://covertincest.proboards22.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=2
It's all about Flashbacks, and I think it's worth reading and then re-reading by all of us, not just those who were affected by CI. Parental Alienation is a form of child abuse, just like CI, and therefore we have suffered harm from it. PA especially means that at some level we were emotionally neglected by one or both of our parents - and that means that some part of us is still a child. A counsellor once told me some of the things in this list and I failed to remember one that I felt was so important at the time: that self-care is vital, especially for the child in us that has stunted (because if your childhood wasn't normal, then you didn't grow properly in all areas), and that even self-parenting may be important. I need to remember that and read this list over. I might even print it off and put it up in my room because I'm so forgetful. I need to be the adult and parent myself - take care of myself the way my parents should have, and be affectionate, treat, arrange cuddles from somewhere (I have a child who is always happy to oblige, and a cat that is occasionally happy to deign to oblige), feed properly, exercise properly, ensure quiet time and rowdy time, and proper bedtimes - even if I don't sleep because then at least I'm resting. I also need to remind myself that I'm doing a GREAT job with my kids, and that I'm achieving good things in my life.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Flashbacks are memories of past traumas. They may take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, body sensations, feelings or lack of them (numbness). Many times there is no actual visual or auditory memory. One may have the sense of panic, being trapped, feeling powerless with no memory stimulating it. These experiences can also happen in dreams.As a child or adolescent, we have to insulate ourselves from the emotional and physical horrors of the trauma. In order to survive, that child remained isolated, unable to express the feelings and thoughts at that time. It is as though we put that part into a time capsule until it comes out in the present.When that part comes out, the LITTLE ONE inside of us is experiencing the past as if it was happening today. As the flashback occurs, it is as if we forget that we have an ADULT part available to us for reassurance, protection and grounding. The intense feelings and body sensations occurring are so frightening because the feelings/sensations are not related to the reality of the present and many times seem to come from out of nowhere.We begin to think we are crazy and are afraid of telling anyone (including our therapist) of these experiences. We feel out of control and at the mercy of our experiences. We begin to avoid situations and stimuli that we think triggered it. Many times, flashbacks occur during any form of sexual intimacy. It may occur with a person who has similar characteristics as the perpetrator. It may be any situation today that stirs up similar trapped feelings.If you are feeling small... you are experiencing a flashback. If you are experiencing stronger feelings than are called for in the present situation... you are experiencing a flashback.
FLASHBACKS ARE NORMAL
Vietnam vets have normalized this experience and have coined the term as posttraumatic stress syndrome. Even the diagnostic category book for psychiatry defines posttraumatic stress syndrome as the normal reaction of all people experiencing an event that is outside the range of normal human experience.Flashbacks feel crazy because the little one doesn't know that there is an adult survivor inside to help.
1. TELL YOURSELF THAT YOU ARE HAVING A FLASHBACK.
2. REMIND YOURSELF THAT THE WORST IS OVER. The feeling and sensations you are experiencing are memories of the past. The actual event took place long ago when you were little and YOU SURVIVED. Now it is time to let out that terror, rage, hurt, and/or panic.
3. GET GROUNDED. This may mean stamping your feet on the ground so that the little one knows that you have feet and, if you need to, you can get away. As a child, you couldn't get away... now you can.
4. BREATHE. When we get scared, we stop normal breathing. As a result, our body begins to panic from lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen in itself causes a great deal of panic feeling: pounding in the head, tightness, sweating, feeling faint, shakiness, and dizziness. When we breathe deeply, a lot of the panic feeling can decrease. Breathing deeply means putting your hand on your diaphragm and breathing fully so that your diaphragm pushes out against your hand and then exhaling so that the diaphragm goes in.
5. REORIENT TO THE PRESENT. Begin to use your five senses in the present. Look around and see the colors in the room, the shapes of things, the people near, etc. Listen to the sounds in the room, your breathing, traffic, birds, people, cars, etc. Feel your body and what is touching it: your clothes, your own arms and hands, the chair or floor supporting you.
6. SPEAK TO THE LITTLE ONE AND REASSURE HER/HIM. It is very healing to get your adult in the picture so your little one knows that he/she is not alone. Say: "You are not in danger now," "You can tell me about it," "It's OK to feel, I won't hurt you." The child needs to know that it's safe to experience the feelings and let go of the past.
7. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR NEED FOR BOUNDARIES. Sometimes when we are having a flashback, we lose the sense of where we leave off and the world begins; as if we do not have skin. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or stuffed animal, go to bed, sit in a closet... any way that you can feel yourself truly protected from the outside.
8. GET SUPPORT. Depending on your situation, you may need to be alone or may want someone near you. In either case, it is important that your support people know about flashbacks so they can help with the process... this may mean letting you be yourself or by being there in a way that is safe for you.
9. TAKE THE TIME TO RECOVER. Sometimes flashbacks are very powerful. Give yourself the time to make the transition from this powerful experience. Don't expect yourself to jump into adult activities right away. Take a nap, or a warm bath, or some quiet time. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Appreciate how much your little one went through as a child.
10. HONOR YOUR EXPERIENCE. Appreciate yourself for having survived that horrible time as a child. Respect your body's need to experience those feelings of long ago. Keep a journal as a testimony of your healing.
11. BE PATIENT. It takes time to heal the past. It takes time to learn appropriate ways of taking care of self, of being an adult who has feelings, and of developing effective ways of coping.
12. FIND A COMPETENT THERAPIST. Look for a therapist who understands the process of healing from incest.
13. KNOW YOU ARE NOT CRAZY... YOU ARE HEALING!