Q & A on the Carnival Theme
I have been meaning to write a thoughtful article concerning this month's blog carnival theme (which I'm hosting) on significant others, spouses, families and parenting. That hasn't happened.
So, I thought I would do something simpler by answering some of the questions I posed when I announced the carnival.
I realize some of my answers may sound naive and may not all resonate with you. They are my answers and present my reality. I didn't want to go into details or long analyses. Of course, it's far more complex than what I'm writing here.
How does your spouse handle your healing? Or your symptoms?
This has varied over the years. And it seems that as time goes on it's harder to her to maintain patience. Like many of us, she wants this all done yesterday. And, while healing to us means being more aware of inconsistencies and dealing with them, she does not generally view that as healing. If I'm doing really well for a period and then have a collapse, it's very hard on her. She cannot really predict when the collapses will happen or to what degree and this makes it very hard for her to count on me in a whole host of ways. I do get very symptomatic at night sometimes. These are the times when the younger parts will have flashbacks and I will be in crisis. She handles these times extremely well. She's incredibly supportive there. I sometimes think that she wants it to be how it was before, when I was more "functional" and not showing outwardly how much pain I was in. Unfortunately, I was not healing much back then. And when I make the true statement that healing is messy, it's not just messy for me, it's messy for those who love me. But from her perspective, she has needs too. And they are being unmet because mine are "more important". I don't want that to be the case. She grapples with questions about whether I'm being selfish. These are tough for me to hear and some source of conflict. She thinks I can "toughen up" and sometimes sees where I'm at as a personal weakness. So, all in all, it's a complicated matter.
How do you talk to your spouse about your abuse or current place of healing?
Younger parts talk about these issues at night. During the day I try to be more protective of her. I really have a hard time explaining to her that I'm actually better now than I was a year or two ago. She understands that I have, to a large extent, been able to keep myself safe and she understands that is important. But she doesn't understand the scope of how unsafe I was. She sees this as a quality of life issue and thinks years are being wasted because I'm not healed enough. But usually we don't talk that frankly about my healing.
How do you talk to young children versus older children about your abuse or healing?
My children are 8 and 11. Both girls. I was symptomatic well before they were born and before I met my wife. I had a stability period. Then I became symptomatic again when my youngest was turning 1 and I was frequently in the hospital. So, it's been a long 7 year period since. I tried to keep my struggles as protected from the kids as possible. And what we said to the kids was mainly tied around the hospitalizations. We explained it as "Daddy has bad headaches and that's where they help get them better". This is how we explained some of my "having to sleep" or withdraw situations too. To a large extent, this is still how we explain it to them. However, about two years ago we had started to have more serious discussions with the children. I told the older one something about the abuse and how it's something that I struggle with and that my problems are more than just headaches. This came up because there was an abuse scandal in our town that my daughter became aware of. I couched my explanation of my abuse in terms that she could understand and then we talked about safety. I cannot honestly tell you if I've had a conversation with my younger daughter about the abuse. I think I haven't. But I have told her about my being "sad" sometimes.
What are the strains on the family and how do you cope with that?
I fortunately have good control over acting out behaviors at home. My kids accept me as me, even if that means I may act differently at times. And some of that is even desirable, like when younger parts can be young and play with them (while I do try to maintain a presence so that it's safe and appropriate). I would say the major strains are caused by my inconsistent ability to participate in what the family does. My wife ends up overcompensating some and resenting this some. But some of that has to do with differences between my wife and me. I am much more content to spend time with kids at night, reading and playing. And she is more content going out and doing things.
How do your child abuse experiences shape how you raise your children?
This is perhaps the most important outcome of my abuse. First, I don't let what happened to me force me to isolate my children. Quite the contrary. One of the things I am aware of that happened to me because of the abuse was that I withdrew and didn't have healthy experiences. So, for me, it's important that my children get to experience what being a kid is supposed to be. I want them to make friends. I want them to feel carefree. I want them to think the world is safe. That is how kids are supposed to be. Of course they are supposed to know good touch and bad touch and stranger danger, but I don't want to scare them. I don't think that's right. Second, I have taught my kids to express their emotions. I also know this was something I was unable to do. I want them to cry, laugh, and get angry. But most of all I want them to be able to find ways to tolerate bad feelings and move through them. Not alone. Third, I shower my kids with love. I tell them all the time how much I love them and I really try to show it to them. I hug them and kiss them. I fall asleep with them at night. I read to them. I scratch their backs at night. Fourth, I teach them. Constantly.
If you would like to chime in on the questions I raised, I'd be happy to hear your comments.
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Q & A on the Carnival Theme.
Thanks to everyone who made submissions for this month's "Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse". I have yet to fully digest everything that's been submitted and I look forward to following all these wonderful sites, many of which are new to... Read More