Bonni's Personal Pages
 
"Well, now that we have seen each other, said the Unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you. Is that a bargain?"
Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass

Survivor



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Please note: This page contains material which may not be suitable for sensitive or young readers. I am not graphic, but I am frank, so please consider this fair warning.

For abuse and trauma recovery resources (including some of my original writings on various recovery topics) visit The Trinity Pages.

In the clearing stands a boxer and fighter by his trade
And he carries a reminder of every glove that laid him down
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his pain,
"I am leaving, I am leaving!"
But the fighter still remains

The Boxer (Simon and Garfunkel)

About This Page

Although I have found great healing in being open and forthright about the story of my life and my dysfunctional past, I no longer really own the identity of "a survivor". When you are "a survivor", you are necessarily "a survivor of" something. Being "a survivor" ties you always to the thing you survived. It's a necessary stage of healing, and it's much better than being "a victim" but I've come to a place where I don't want to be "a survivor of..." any of this stuff any more. It is what it is, it was what it was, and that's all.

I don't need or want to define myself by that which I have survived.

I keep this page online because I know from many years of emails that people find it helpful and maybe healing, and I always wish healing for any victim, or survivor. I even wish healing for perpetrators of abuse and for those who perpetuate dysfunction, because they're surely in need of healing, growth, and transcendence, too...

I also want to state clearly that I am now mentally and emotionally healthy, spiritually flourishing, and joyful more often than not. I take things in my stride almost all the time, and not a lot really bothers me deeply. I just wanted to say that, so people don't think I'm still angry, dysfunctional, and the subject of mood swings and the like. I've transcended, like a lotus that starts growing in the deep mud and slowly works its way through the murky water to eventually burst out into the sun.

I am, every moment, growing closer and closer to my goal: FREEDOM.

There is an alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.
- Pearl S. Buck

My Story

My childhood was a picture of dysfunction and abuse. My mother was mentally ill, the child of an alcoholic, verbally and emotionally abusive, and profoundly in denial, as well as being incredibly naïve and perpetually clueless. My father was a bully, a perpetual liar, more than a little Narcissistic, and a rageaholic with a mean streak, who was prone to punching holes in walls and throwing furniture around when he got angry. Neither one of them have ever really learned to take any real responsibility for their decisions and actions.

As I grew up, I became subject to bullying, sexual assult, domestic violence, and other forms of victimization, not all of them inside my family. Having been taught to be victim, I practically had a sign around my neck that said, "I am a victim. I expect you to victimise me." And when there was nobody else around to do it, I victimised myself, mostly because I didn't know any better, nor did I have any idea how to break out of victim mode (or even that there was such a thing). I spent most of my life in victim mode.

My response to the dysfunctional family in which I grew up was typical. In addition to being in a permanent victim mindset, I was sullen, suicidal, overly emotional, self-destructive, promiscuous, dissociative, addictive, codependent, I developed an eating disorder, and I carried around a huge amount of rage, pain, and fear. I was a classic textbook example of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and specifically of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD). I had absolutely no self esteem, and had to resort to a wall of arrogance and anger to cover up for the fact that I felt totally worthless inside. Hence the victim mentality.

As an adult, I married far too young the first time, a marriage which ended in divorce. Later, I ended up in a destructive relationship, caught up in the cycles of abuse. I was sexually assaulted, emotionally manipulated, and eventually physically abandoned. I very nearly ended up in a homeless shelter, and the stress of the situation did, in fact, put me in the psych ward a couple of times. That relationship disintegrated for lots of reasons, some of which were neither his fault nor mine, but the overall situation was unbelievably stressful, emotionally and financially ruinous, and physically torturous. Now, I can see and accept that I put myself in that situation. I alternated between being the victim and being the victim-who-lashes out, that is, the perpetrator. It was the only pattern I knew.

In order to finally break out of victim mode, I actually had to have a complete breakdown, lose everything that was important to me, end up in the psych ward, and spend several years in profound mental and emotional disarray as I deconstructed my personality and built a different one in its place. This metamorphosis was an excruciating process, and I'm sure there must be an easier way to do it, but that's how it happened for me.

This is how dysfunctional people manage their lives.

My Motivation for Speaking Out

I have some reasons for talking about my abuse history. First of all, it's not for some sort of "revenge." I don't mention any names or post any photographs of my parents or my abusive ex, and if I wanted revenge, I certainly would do that. In fact, I'd get an anonymous website somewhere and post not only their names and photographs, but a lot of truths they wouldn't want published, and I'd make sure Google could find the information so anyone who searched for their names would find it. But I don't do that, because it's not about them, is it? And I'm not into revenge.

I am estranged from my parents and have been since 1997 (I haven't seen them since 1994 and we were partially estranged but not entirely out of contact). I do not care to involve them in my life, and as far as I am aware, they don't want contact with me, either. They made it clear to me that they felt I was nothing but a burden, and that they didn't want to deal with my "problems", and that I had "no right" to talk about my own life and their part in it (even though they admitted to much of the abuse, stress, and dysfunction). They made it clear they wanted no part in my healing or recovery. Despite their admission and confirmation that there were many traumatic episodes in my life and that our household was a high-stress, high-pressure environment, they claimed it didn't do me any harm, and they refused to discuss the matter, refused to offer any sort of apology or express any kind of remorse.

Neither of them are willing or able to examine themselves or their lives or their own behaviours or their own contributions to the boiler of dysfunction that was the family home. Neither of them are willing or able to accept any responsibility for themselves or their decisions.

The last time I talked to them (in 1997), that is, the "final straw" conversation, my mother insisted that nothing traumatic ever actually happened to me, and that it was all my own fault, anyway (nothing happened but it was my fault that it did?). She insisted that my "illness" (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from having grown up in an emotional war zone? No, she insists and has always believed that I was born bad) made me misremember my entire life. Essentially, she called me a crazy liar and made it very clear that my insistance on talking about things openly was unwelcome, and that I needed to leave them out of it and fix myself and my own life.

So that is precisely what I did. I haven't spoken to them since that day, and I have, indeed, taken complete responsibility for myself, my issues, my life, and my reality. In a twisted way, my parents' refusal to participate in any sort of healing or reconciliation gave me the permission I needed to walk away for good. I'm pretty sure that's not what they had in mind (what they wanted was that I crawl off to a hole somewhere -- they made it crystal clear they didn't care where I went or if I became homeless -- sort myself out, and then come back when I was able to continue playing by the family rules and dynamics, which, of course, would have been impossible). Since I stopped contact with my parents I have healed in profound ways, grown much stronger and infinitely healthier, and created a completely new, healthy identity and life for myself. They didn't want to deal with me, and now they don't have to do that, and I don't have to deal with them. It's a win-win situation.

I would like to publically state here that I do not think my parents are necessarily "to blame" for all my so-called problems. My parents were young, ignorant, immature, damaged, and woefully ill-equipped to handle any child, let alone an intelligent, willful, sensitive, easily damaged one such as myself. It was just a bad situation all around, and I ended up being profoundly psycholgically injured by it, partly because of my own innate nature, and partly because the family situation was nearly intolerable, even for the adults involved in it, though, of course, they maintained that it didn't do me any harm. (Such is the power of denial.)

Other than the personal healing I have found from talking about these issues and letting in the light of day, I have hope that by my "coming out" I may give some encouragement to other survivors, or to the friends and partners of survivors. I would like to think I may actually educate one or two people out there on the nature of abuse and the fact that the damage, although it can be deep and very serious, does not have to be irreversible.

Something to Think About

An abused child grows up feeling unloved and unlovable, unworthy, vulnerable, unsafe, angry, and hopeless. An abused child is burdened with a heavy load of shame, self-loathing, and fear, and is often taught by their abusers that the child is to blame for the abuse (and any number of other problems which are the sole responsibility of the adult/s in charge). This is also the case with an abusive spouse, who will frequently blame the other for their own outbursts and attacks.

The scars left by childhood abuse will not just "go away," but rather will fester and cause any number of behaviors which are harmful to both the abuse victim and society at large. Statistics show that one in three abused persons become abusers. Other behaviors which have a close tie to childhood abuse include prostitution, addictions, acts of crime, medical complaints, mental and emotional illnesses, chronic unemployment and underemployment, and a host of other problems. These are real problems for individuals and for society, but the root cause of so much of this is largely ignored. Far too often, these behavior problems, although clearly linked to abuse by statistics and history, are regarded as being a "personal problem" of the abuse victim.

In time, and with the help of a couple of good friends (though I will state that most of my so-called friends disappeared when things got really rough), a good support group, a solid abuse recovery counselor, taking up meditation, learning how to let things go, and a great deal of soul searching and reading on my part, I've worked through most of those negative things, un-learned most of the bad behaviors, and and learned a lot about myself and how I'm "put together" (and it's a pretty odd place inside my psyche, trust me). I've also healed myself of (supposed) Bipolar Disorder, (Complex) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic/Anxiety Disorder, Dissociation Disorder, and clinical depression, among other possible or suggested diagnoses of illness and/or disorder.

As I have healed, it felt as if I was finally starting to live and not just exist, not just survive. I am actually, honestly, happy much of the time! I know true joy, and I experienced it for no external reason at all, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

I want to tell anyone out there who has been abused, or who knows or loves a survivor of abuse:

... silence like a cancer grows,
hear my words that I might teach you,
take my arms that I might reach you ....
The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)

Healing is absolutely possible. Not only healing, but transformation, trancendence, and, yes, joy. I did it. You can, too.

Visit The Trinity Pages
for my trauma and abuse healing resources

Survivors Art Foundation

 

 
 
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