Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Writing Ex 2 - Coping: Honouring what you did to survive

This is an opportunity to write about your experience of coping - how you remember it, how you're still doing it, how it's affected your life. Write with as much detail as you can, always from the perspective of honouring what you did. 

It is quite staggering to accept that I have been 'coping' all this time. I have never felt like it was coping. It was just my life. A weird life full of patterns that I didn't seem to be able to break. I suppose, until you acknowledge that something wrong happened, you can't really acknowledge that you did something to deal with what was happening. 

I have convinced myself that I lived a troubled life as a teenager because I was the problem. I didn't know how to be normal. 

The list in this chapter pretty much covers all coping mechanisms. I'll talk about the ones that I used and just mention the others briefly.

The Basics


"Minimising means pretending whatever happened wasn't really that bad."

I didn't realise I was minimising till Tanisha brought it to my attention. I suppose I should be thankful that I talk to her about this stuff openly and being the person she is, she jumps to my defense; even if it means making me face some hard facts.

I think minimising what happened helped me keep the more intense memories of the abuse at bay. If I pretended that he only touched my waist or thighs, then I would be able to block out the vision of his penis covered in semen, dangling centimetres from my mouth. 

If I told people it wasn't too bad, they would stop thinking of me as dirty and maybe still talk to me. 

Also, my eternal problem of feeling selfish gets some help as well. If I pretend that things weren't so bad, I would be taking the attention away from myself and hence being less selfish. 


"Rationalising is the means by which children explain away the abuse."

For a long time, I told myself that he himself was young when he had sex with me. Even as I sit here and write this now, I am scared that that is going to turn out to be the solution to my problems. That he was young and his teenage hormones were acting up and he couldn't help it. So he can't be blamed. Hence, it was OK. And I don't have a problem. That I should be ashamed of myself for making this what it is. 

I even found myself making excuses for my mother not doing anything about it. Why blame her? After all, this is her sister's son. She can't break off ties with her own sister, surely? Not in favour of her daughter. 

I suppose rationalising it at the time is what kept me from losing my mind completely. The pain of what amit bhaiya was doing and what my mother was not doing would probably have been too much for me to take. 

The logic of rationalising made things seem better than they were. It gave me an immense ability to explain away people's shortcomings. Maybe that's why, on the whole, I am a non-judgemental person.


"Denying is turning your head the other way and pretending that whatever is happening isn't or what has happened didn't."

I have never been in denial. The day I realised something wasn't right or that it could have drastic results, I told my parents. 

Again, the day Tanisha suggested that it was rape, it felt like she was telling the truth. It was scary, but I didn't pretend to myself that it wasn't as bad as that. I knew there was nothing anyone could do but I did have a very real sense that what was happening should not be happening. 


"Forgetting is one of the most common and effective ways children deal with sexual abuse. The human mind has tremendous powers of repression. Many children are able to forget the abuse, even as it is happening to them."

I keep coming across the term 'children' and continue to be amazed. I've never felt like a child and yet I was. I was an 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 year old child. 

In this section, a survivor talks about how she doesn't remember the abuse so much but if you asked her to describe the room they were in, she could do it in full detail. I can relate to that. I can tell you what bedsheet was on the diwan. I can paint you a picture of the bathrooms he took me to. I can even remember exactly how cold the bathroom floor felt. But there is very little I can actually remember about the abuse. I know it happened a minimum of once a week. I know the feeling of premonition I got when it was about to happen. I know when he went upstairs to lie down, how much longer I had to leave it before following him upstairs and pretend to lie down next to him. 


a. Lack of integration

"One of the by-products of forgetting is a feeling of being divided into more than one person. There is the little girl having the good childhood, but underneath there is the child who's prone to nightmares and sees people hiding in the corner of the room...
... on the inside you feel evil and bad and know that something is very wrong, but on the outside you present a different view to the world."

Although I was always aware that what was going on was wrong, there was also the need to make sure no one got the slightest inkling it was happening. I have blamed my parents for not doing anything and yet I always pretended everything was fine. How can I blame them if I never let them know that it was still happening? Everyone in my family knows me as a quiet, contented soul, who doesn't want anything from anyone and is always ready to help. No one knows that what I really do when I'm on my own is pig out in front of the television, lost in a world of my own. 

I can quite easily flit between the two personalities. Good example is me sitting at home feeling miserable, unshowered and still in my pyjamas, and then my neighbours says she's coming with her daughter to play with Veer, and within minutes I am the image of hospitality, genuinely happy to see her.

Or, as it has been evidenced in this blog so far, my dislike for my mother is pretty strong and yet I have proof that I have written letters to tell her how much I miss her and how much I want her to come and spend some time with me. 

b. Leaving your body

"Children who are abused or battered often numb their bodies so they will not feel what is being done to them. Others actually leave their bodies and watch the abuse as if from a great distance."

I've already discussed this at length before now. I do leave my body. 

Not with the abuse, but with my mother's beatings I have often left my body as it was happening and seen the rulers break on my arms or back. I don't remember the pain from those beatings. 


I don't feel the need to control. Never have. In fact, I have always left decisions up to other people; my parents, boyfriends, friends. I adapt. It's my speciality. 


"Survivors sometimes maintain control by creating chaos."

This seems more fitting to what my life has been like. I am attracted to situations that need solving. I've always been controversial. I'm the one two friends turned to when they got pregnant and needed abortions. I found a doctor and sorted it out. Sorted a traffic jam out with Tanisha. My mother-in-law once said that when I'm cooking, it looks like there is such a lot of mess all over the worktops but nothing seems to be ready and then suddenly, this amazing meal appears on the table. 

I never clean up. I remember where my things are in a mess but don't know where to look when Darren tidies up. 

I work best in a crisis. I can be the ocean of calm. The midwife delivering my son said I went into my zen mode in the middle of giving birth. I thrive on chaos. It helps in life, this ability to remain calm in stressful situations, but it also means that I don't allow myself to feel things as they should be felt. 

I feel uncomfortable if there is no drama. 

Spacing out (my favourite!)

"Survivors have an uncanny capacity to space out and not be present."

Exercised this ability to space out regularly. In class, at home, at parties. Sometimes I can even space out when I am not doing anything anyway. I have no thoughts. I am not there. 

My mother always said, you're not fooling me, you're fooling yourself. I can laugh at jokes without hearing a word of what's been said. Regularly space out during conversations. Even while writing. Only come back when I lose the thread of what I'm writing or struggle to spell simple words. Amazing. 

Got through my entire junior college like that. No wonder I barely passed. I even space out when I know that it's really important I stay present.

Being super alert

"As a child, tuning into every nuance of your environment may have saved you from being abused.You may always be aware of where you are in a room...
... You may always be hyper-aware of the people around you, anticipating their needs and moods."

You had to be aware of every sound of every footstep and the creak of every door. One, so that no one would walk in and find you in the state that you were; and two, so that when he arrived at the door, you could make sure you were in a place which would prolong the journey from there to under him. 

With my mom, I knew exactly when she was going to get up from across the table for a cup of tea or a toilet break. Or to throw something at me. I knew when she went to lie down whether she was awake or asleep by the subtle change in her snoring. Even now, I can tell the exact moment that Darren falls asleep. Have been able to do it since the first night we spent together. 

I am always conscious of what people need and can sense how they're feeling. I adapt my behaviour accordingly. 90% of the time, I'm right. 

There was a test someone once taught me. Just some 20-questions nonsense to find out what find of personality someone had. I did it with a guy I had only just met. And as we were going through the questions, he was only humouring me, that was clear from the beginning; but at question 6 or 7, he properly got bored of it and his mind wandered. I stopped mid-sentence and said, 'I know you're not really listening so I'll stop.'

He seemed genuinely shocked at how I could tell because he was doing a pretty good job of pretending to be interested. 

I have had a lot of practice of saying the right things to the right people. Avoiding certain words of topics in front of certain people. It's helped. I adapt easily. 


"A tough sense of humour, a bitter wit or sense of cynicism can get you through hard times. As long as you keep people laughing, you maintain a certain protective distance."

This is a recent coping mechanism, obviously inherited from Darren. I have become just as cynical as him but making a joke out of an unpleasant situation helps more than getting down and miserable about it.

But it also makes me feel like I'm losing my sense of self. Adapting to Darren by being like him and losing myself in the process. 


"Staying busy can be a way to avoid being in the present moment, to avoid feelings."

I've never used being busy as a coping mechanism. 


"As a child or an adolescent you may have made attempts to run away. If you were passive, there was escape through books, sleep and television. Many adult survivors still read obsessively."

Yep, I have done both. I have run away twice. Once when I was 18/19 and once when I wanted to marry Darren. Although I didn't consciously do it to draw attention to myself at the time, I did wonder what would happen when my parents realised I wasn't coming home that night. It was quite a thrill to walk out knowing I wasn't coming home for at least one night and they would only find out when I didn't.

I have also spent nights finishing a novel or a painting. I used to get a feverish need to finish it once I'd started. I still can't start a painting and do it little by little. I have to finish it. At one point, I got addicted to Sudoku. I had to do a few puzzles before I slept. I'd have sex with Darren, then turn around, switch on the light and do Sudoku. During sex, I would be looking forward to Sudoku. At least, it distracted me from the flashbacks. 

"If you couldn't afford to believe the abuse was really happening, you could make believe something else was going on."

Yep, did that one. I was always fantasising that I met a wonderful man who would make me very happy. He would be the most wonderful man ever and my parents would finally realise that I wasn't an idiot; I had a brain and knew a good thing when I saw it. They would feel very sorry, I would forgive them and then we'd all respect and love each other for the rest of our lives. 

I found my man but the rest of it never happened. He is the man from my fantasies but my parents haven't exactly had a change of heart. 

I've made up a boyfriend and lost him painfully so that I could cry real tears from grief. There seemed to be some satisfaction in venting about a feeling of loss.

When the pain gets too great

Mental Illness

"Problems occur when the line between fantasy and reality blurs. For many survivors ;going crazy' makes a lot of sense."

I can't say that I have ever really gone so far into my own mind that I believe my fantasies were real. In fact, I was painfully aware that they could never be real and that always brought me back to earth with great force. I stopped believing that anything good could happen to me or that I could make something good happen for anyone else. 

But, Darren has helped  a lot on that front, as well as his parents. They are a big part of the good that has happened to me. My friends care for me a lot and I feel lucky to have them be a part of my life. I must respond in a satisfactory way, otherwise what would make them stick around? I pride myself on being able to make those I value care enough to stay. I have a constant fear of them possibly walking away some day but I must be doing something right so far. 


Except for the one instance I've mentioned before, I have only ever been scared of the physical pain of hurting myself. 

Suicide attempts

Again, only the one unsuccessful one. Never felt like killing myself again but often wished I wouldn't wake up in the morning. 

Addiction and Isolation

"... (addictions) are usually self-defeating and self-destructive. You can be addicted to dangerous situations, to crises or sex."

They also mention material addictions, but apart from cigarettes, I have never felt the need for those.

I got addicted to talking to faceless people. Internet chatrooms became my scoring ground. There was a sense of liberation in talking to people who had no idea who I was. I could be anyone I wanted. I could pick an age, a gender, a profession and no one would be any the wiser. When sex came into it, I became an expert. It was a wonderful second life where everyone I spoke to loved me. 

It got quite problematic though, because dial-up internet connections had just been introduced. You got only 100hrs per month and I used those up pretty quickly. My dad got angry. So I used family and friends' passwords to log in and used up their allowances. Then when I couldn't do that any more, I started missing college to go to internet cafes. It was an addiction. 

Swapping from computer science to English Lit gave me a new level of existence. I felt like I had been pulled out of a ditch, up into the fresh air. I met real people who actually cared about me. The ME that I really was. It was quite refreshing and my need to interact with faceless strangers disappeared in the blink of an eye. Never done it again since. I found Darren over the internet, yes. But that was a fixed-term dip into online dating. Did it for a purpose and pulled out within seconds of achieving what I'd set out to do. 

As for isolation, anyone who knows me can vouch that if you want a break from the noise, you can come to me. I have always kept myself away from company. I am most comfortable left on my own. If there is no one around me, there is no scope for them to hurt me or me to hurt them. It makes matters really really simple. 

Eating difficulties

"...compulsive over-eating is another way of coping. Survivors may feel that being large will keep them from having to deal with sexual advances."

I did have a problem with food. My mother used to say that I could eat till someone asked me to stop and then I would stop. 

Thinking about it now, there were a couple of reasons why that may have happened. The 'spacing out' aspect of coping had a lot to do with it. I would be eating and not realise I was eating. I would never know if I was full. I was never aware of what my body was saying because I had taught myself to ignore the messages I was getting from it. I didn't live in my body. That's why I used to wet my bed till I was 13. I wet myself during the day till I was 9 or 10. 

The eating problem started getting resolved when I finished school and went to college. I was too embarrassed to be the fat girl and so I joined a gym and got a dietician. I don't think I'd expected to enjoy the exercise as much as I did. And I lost weight really quickly. That helped to make me aware of my body. That helped me limit my intake of food because I finally felt full. People started appreciating what I looked like. 


"When children are told never to talk about the abuse or don't want people to know what's really going on at home, they become adept at lying."

It becomes a behaviour over time. If lying helped the asshole get away with what he did, it could help me with what I wanted. 

I lied at home about school, I lied in school about homework. Sometimes, there would be no need to lie and I would still lie because I became incapable of telling the truth. I was scared of telling the truth even when I would most certainly be beaten if I told a lie. There was always the feeling that 'they're not going to believe me if I tell the truth anyway, so might as well lie.'

It was liberating when I decided to be honest with Darren. I don't know why, but from the very first time I spoke to him, I decided I wasn't going to like to him or fabricate anything. It was what it was. If he didn't like it, well, he could choose what he wanted to do. 

To anyone else it might seem odd that I had to actually decide not to lie. Why would you lie in the first place? Lying had become a form of escape from reality for me. It had been my alternative reality. I had to make a complete break from that if I wanted things to be normal and healthy with Darren. 


"Stealing is a totally absorbing activity. It enables you to forget everything for a brief moment, even the abuse. It is a way to create a distraction, to re-create the feelings you had when you were first abused - guilt, terror, the rush of adrenaline. Stealing is also a way of defying authority, an attempt to take back what was stolen, to even the score."

Apart from using family and friends' internet connections on the sly, I stole cigarettes from my dad's cupboard and chocolates from my mom's. They thought it was the help. 

Of course, my dad would never admit that he has cigarettes in his cupboard - I came across them by accident - so he would never admit they were being stolen. But my mother made a big hue and cry about the chocolates. Every time I took one, I'd think 'there are so many, she wouldn't miss one.' Until there were only two left and I would still take one. She indicated very loudly that the maids might be going through her things but never accused anyone because if the girls left, she wouldn't be able to find anyone else. It was hilarious. 

Never stolen anything from a shop or a hotel. In fact, I am fastidious about paying the asking price for anything I buy. 


Gambling is an indulgence and we have already established that I have a problem with indulgence. I did go on to a Bingo site recently and spend £30. Made £20 and then lost another £10. That's when I realised it was a slippery slope and pulled out immediately. Haven't gone back since. 

I have gambled in life occasionally. Put my resources into things that didn't have a guarantee of success and then realised that I've wasted my investment. 


Haha! Never been a problem. I only become a workaholic when it's crunch time. 

Safety at any price

"Whilst some survivors have felt compelled to go out and overcome every obstacle, others have chosen security. They are the obedient daughters, honour students, good wives and selfless mothers. They take few risks, sacrificing opportunities for protection."

I have mixed opinions about this one. I have opted for the safe option with Darren. He has a stable career, he is sensible and has a good head for money. He is morally sound and very easy to please. But I had to take a risk to be with him. I had to risk being disowned by my family and also the possibility of not being able to go back to India ever again. 

I had a safe option with computer science. I could've got a good job and had a fantastic career. But I followed my dream and studied English Literature and then creative writing. Not exactly lucrative.

Avoiding intimacy

There are many levels of avoiding intimacy. I have consistently been in relationships since I was 16. And yet, I have always maintained a certain distance, emotionally. I may have appeared to be completely and utterly smitten, even heartbroken when things ended, but I always knew that I didn't feel as bad as I showed I felt. I had to tell myself to be sad because normal people feel sad in such a situation. 

I do feel like I can cut people out of my life quite easily. I've done it. I don't feel bad about it. 

But, I feel like a change has started. A few years ago, the list of people I would never want to lose would have been blank. But now there are a few names on it. I am feeling more and as a result feeling more vulnerable too. Exactly why I preferred to avoid intimacy in the first place. I don't like feeling vulnerable. 

Give me that old-time religion

Never been religious. Spiritual, yes, but never fanatically spiritual, in order to distract myself from the pain, either. 

Compulsively seeking or avoiding sex

I have been quite promiscuous. Relationships were only about sex. Non-relationships were only about sex. If sex wasn't involved, I felt uncomfortable. I always had flashbacks and always dissociated but the expectation of sex felt familiar. Those who didn't expect sex confused me to begin with and then made me feel dirty for wanting it with them. 


That's put a sort of dread in me. The idea of change is not inspiring just yet. The thought of breaking out of behaviours I am so well acquainted with is very daunting. But I also know that the liberation I will feel when I come out at the other end will be worth it. Doing it in little ways, like being honest with Darren, made a tremendous difference. One step at a time I guess.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Random thoughts 2

Dreamt that Darren had decided to marry someone else. 

Simon Mayo announced on Radio 2 that the government had passed a new law. You could marry a second time if you had the consent of your spouse.

Darren asked me, ever the gentleman, if he could marry an ex; someone he had been madly in love with. And me being me, I said Yes, If you want to. Of course I didn't actually expect him to go ahead with it. 

But he did. It was after the wedding and time to welcome the bride to her new house. This new bride was the CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell but she had both her arms.

And for some reason her welcome was a traditional Indian welcome for an Indian bride. I hadn't had the traditional Indian welcome, why the hell was she??? There were all her relatives. All Indian aunties. 

I could see Darren and this Cerrie all loved up and hated every minute of it. Tanisha was sitting next to me and spitting venom at her. At one point Cerrie went off to change her sari and walked past us looking really bad. And Tanisha in true form said, "Aga tila idea ahe ka ti kiti ghaan distiye?!" and I said, "Shh, tila marathi kalta!"

Tanisha: Does she have any idea how bad she's looking!?
Me: Shh, she understands Marathi!

Throughout, Tanisha didn't actually say it but I could hear her thinking, "How could you let this happen Ruch?"

And then the ladies asked me for some kumkum (vermillion) to put in a thali (plate) to welcome the bride. And I used to have a huge bag of it somewhere. I look everywhere and just cannot find it. The ladies stare at me as if I'm the bad one to not be happy for Darren and his new wife. 

Anyway, they all go out of the front door, including Tanisha, to start the proceedings and I just can't take it any more. I go upstairs to our bedroom, crying my eyes out. Sobbing loudly.

The house is exactly as it is right now. But there are diyas on the stairs.
Random wedding clothes in the back bedroom. As I reach the landing I make up 
my mind to tell Darren I would sleep in the back bedroom from now. That he can 
come to me when he wanted. Woke up crying.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


"One quality every survivor can be confident of having is strength."

Emma has said a couple of times, given what I've been through and what my brother and sister have been through with our family, it's a surprise all of us have actually turned out sane. Normal. I'd have to agree.

I still have some doubts about our sanity but I do believe we know the difference from insanity. 

I often find myself thanking my mom and the bastard for the things they did - quite wryly thanking them. I have lived through shit. But that's just the point. I lived through it. I have been able to recognise what's right for me and had the courage to take it when the time came. 

Darren is right for me. I knew it in the early days when we started seeing each other. When I had to decide whether I was going to marry him against my parents' wish, there was a calm acknowledgement that that was the only thing to do. No one was going to stop me. It wasn't rebellion or spite. What my parents or family thought had nothing to do with it. I knew he was the only man who would look after me and love me for who I was. Who I am. 

The ability to escape uncomfortable or dangerous situations helps me in times of need. I can switch off my emotions and deal with the matter at hand without it affecting me. It may sound too cold and extreme but it helps me not to panic. 

The level of 'horrible' that the sexual abuse and violence reached has prepared me for absolutely anything. I'm not fazed by anything. Shit happens. It needs to be cleaned up. I believe I can help anyone clean up theirs. 

Trying to face this head on now, there is some comfort in knowing that I'm going in the right direction. No one can ever put me through what they did back then. Certainly, no one will ever take advantage of me sexually. As for my mother, she continues to emotionally take advantage of me and I hope to reach a stage where I can flick that off my shoulder without having to cut her out of my life. If I'm not there for her in her time of need, I will be letting myself down. And as I am the only person who can truly be there for me, I cannot afford to let myself down. 

Recognising the damage: Families of origin

Write about the ways you are still affected by the abuse. 
Write about the strengths you've developed because of the abuse. Think of what it's taken for you to survive. 

I am going to use the sub-headings mentioned in the book. I hope they will cover everything. 

Families of origin

"Relationships are distorted in incestuous families. The essential trust, sharing and safety are missing and in their place there is secrecy, isolation and fear...
...you may have felt isolated, cut off from nurturing contact with others...
... you got the message that your pain wasn't important, that you couldn't rely on your family to protect or understand you."

It is incredible just how much everything makes sense suddenly. All those times when I told my mother she didn't understand me, I never knew why I felt like that. It seems astonishing that now, nearing 30, I have finally acknowledged that she failed me. I always felt like she was in some way responsible for the pain I was feeling. But, as a teenager, there was always that element of doubt; was I only feeling that way because I wanted someone to blame and she was an easy target? It was easier to blame her than admit that I had brought this upon myself. Because that is what I believed. That I had made it so that amit bhaiya just couldn't help himself.

Answering specific questions:

Are you satisfied with your family relationships? Or are they strained and difficult?

The second one. Strained and difficult. They have been like that for as long as I remember. There are two memories that make me - the child in me - quite sad. 

The first one is me standing just outside the door of my parents bedroom. My mother was sorting through some clothes in her wardrobe. My sister must have been 3 or 4 years old. My brother had not yet been born. She was having a tantrum and hitting my mother's legs. I can't remember if I actually said it or whether I was just thinking it - but I wanted to tell her to stop doing that. You don't hit your mother! I think I must have said it at some point because I remember my mother telling me off for it. And I had felt horrible. All I had been trying to do is show Radhika it wasn't good to hit your mother. But my mother thought I was wrong to say anything. 

The other one is just after my brother's naming ceremony. We had had a huge party. I had been so excited. Helped a lot in the prep for it. When all the guests had gone, my mother was relaxing on one of the diwans in the lounge and Radhika ran up to her to snuggle. She never liked me being too near my mother. As a younger child, I suppose that's expected. But Dad was about to take a picture and I remember really wanting to be snuggled up to my mom. So I went to sit behind her and put a very tentative arm around her. The abuse had been going on for a while and I now recognise that hesitance as fear - fear of my mother being disgusted by my touch; because of what had been going on with me. She didn't turn to me to involve me in the hug. There was no kiss for me. There was an arm around me that felt very cursory. I don't think she's ever felt 'loving' towards me. If she did, she hasn't felt it again for a very long time. 

Things have always been a bit awkward with my dad. I don't think he liked to interfere with how mom raised us. She told him often enough that she was the one at home with us so he should keep out of it. Guess that made us distant. Not to mention the added complication of us being Indian. Stamps out any 'affection' from parents. Parents dictate. They don't love. Bullshit. 

Is the sexual abuse acknowledged in your family? Do the people in your family support you?

It had been nearly 18 years since I told my parents about the abuse. Even then, it was at least three years since it had started. It wasn't dealt with then and it never has been brought up since. If we have discussed it, it has been when I've had one of my explosions of anger and have just blamed my mother for everything. Even in the midst of a heated argument, she has only ever defended how she handled it. That his parents were like God to her and she wasn't about to jeopardise that relationship for me. She did what she thought was right. That I was the one who had wanted to continue seeing him even after it all came out. 

My sister... I told her about it when she was about 12 or 13. She was a tomboy and was quite fond of him. Physically affectionate. I told her he wasn't a good man and  she should be careful around him. Over the years when I slowly told her the extent of what had gone on, she's been more and more supportive. Takes my side about it against mom. Even when she brings it up, again in a moment of anger, my mom defends herself. She says all these dirty thoughts are in our heads. What she did was right. 

Never talk about it with Dad. My brother knows and, on principle, supports me. In a practical sense, feels like there's not much he can do. 

Cousins who have had similar, albeit not as serious, experiences have a similar response. They won't go to his house but don't think they can completely ignore him. I'm grateful for their support. Really feel like I'm not entirely on my own. I'm still expected to visit his family when I go to India and that's not going to change till I lose this compulsion to do everything that's expected. 

I think that's what made the difference with the abuse. Shikha and Divya didn't take his shit. Radhika ran screaming. I gave him what he wanted. Just goes to prove there is something intrinsically wrong with me. The only gullible bum in the plant pot. 

Do you feel crazy, invalidated or depressed when you see your family?

How did you know? All of the above. 

Crazy. It's like I don't have any control over my emotions when I'm around them. I'm a wreck. I snap at seemingly no provocation. I get extremely tense and constantly feel like a failure.

Invalidated. I don't feel like I can make any suggestions or offer any opinions. I feel like I don't have a choice. Like the best thing to do is keep my head down and do exactly as they say.

Depressed. I want to leave/them to leave within hours of seeing them. The prospect of seeing them excites me because the feeling of "it will be different this time" refreshes itself with amazing ability every time. I seem to have the knack to hope for the best every time. Never works. I end up wishing I could be far away from them again. These days, even seeing them on skype depresses me. Just my mother's voice makes me want to vomit. 

Have you confronted your abuser or told other family members about your abuse?

I confronted him when I was about 15. He laughed in my face and told me he did it because he loved me. That I had wanted it as much as he did. I have nightmares about it all the time. 

I have told other family members about it. Cousins and one aunt. Cousins have all been very supportive. Aunt said it happens to all of us and that there was no need to make such a big deal about it. 

Do you feel safe with your family?

Never. I have complete faith that they will expose me to situations I am not comfortable in. 

My dad will insist I meet people or attend parties that I really don't want to because they make me feel fat, useless and like the lowest of the low. 

My mother will insist on me socialising with the bastard and his family and I get emotional blackmail if I refuse. 

The entire family is quite good at making me feel like I've failed them if I don't respond in a way that they're expecting. I don't trust them with my son. I can't see myself leaving him with them for an extended period of time if I need a break. I'll have to deal with "you abandoned your son" if I did. 

Do you expect the people in your family to change? To take care of you? To see your point of view? To believe you? Do you keep hoping?

They're not going to change. My parents. Never. I don't want them to take care of me. If I had to, I'd rather rely on Darren and his parents. They will genuinely care. With my parents, if they do show concern, they'll make sure they remind constantly about everything they've done for me and how I've never given anything back. 

They'll never see how I feel of why I feel it. It doesn't count. I am beyond the point of hoping they'll believe me. I have no hope of some sudden realisation some day. It's not going to happen. I don't want it to happen. 

Does incest still go on in your family?

He hasn't changed. He might not have physically done anything recently but he has always been flirty with female members of the family. I have no doubt he would take the chance if he saw one. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Recognising the damage: Children and Parenting

Write about the ways you are still affected by the abuse. 
Write about the strengths you've developed because of the abuse. Think of what it's taken for you to survive. 

I am going to use the sub-headings mentioned in the book. I hope they will cover everything. 

Children and Parenting

"If the abuse took place within your own family, or if your family did not protect and support you, you grew up in a dysfunctional family. You did not have the benefit of healthy role models. Until you actively face your abuse and begin to heal from it, you are likely to repeat the same parenting you had as a child."

No shit, Sherlock. There is no doubt I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I always sensed it but never understood why or what exactly made it different. It was a way of life, and it was a shit one at that. 

After seeing other families at close range, like my closest friends', Darren's and also my own little family now, I can actually see just how wrong we had it. 

I'm not responsible for my family being "low-drama, take it as it comes and let's face it together." I didn't know how to do any of those things. It is all Darren. Him and his family have taught me the practicality of being part of such a family. How to be one of the many cogs in the smooth running of this machine so that everyone involved actually wants to be there. I think we could successfully overcome anything as long as we are together. 

Answering specific questions:

Do you feel uncomfortable or frightened around children? 

I've always adored children. Been very maternal from a young age. I think children have always liked me. I used to get an irrational fear of dropping a child and them ending up badly hurt. That I would be responsible for it. I think I have always felt the need to protect kids. 

Have you ever been abusive or feared you might be?

I have been violent. Quite violent with my brother. Verbally violent and abusive with my sister. I stopped doing that a few years ago now. Since I have started trying to confront my own abuse - from my mother as well as the sexual abuse - I have had the shocking realisation of just how badly I treated my brother and sister in the past. I don't think I'll ever forgive myself for it. I'm glad that I will never forgive myself for it because it is helping me every day with Veer. 

Violence is a learned behaviour from my parents and one that will not be easily un-learnt. I may have just about learnt to control the physical manifestations of it, but emotionally, it's still there. 

Do you find it hard to set clear boundaries with children? To balance their needs with your own?

I believe every child has different needs. Every human being has different needs. When it's your own child, it is important to keep the balance between discipline and fun. There are things you need to teach them and things they need to learn themselves. It works better to adjust your expectations to their abilities than the other way round. 

I try not to think about my needs at all. And with children, my needs don't exist. It's what they need from me. Whether it's my son or someone else's child. 

I do set boundaries and I think, in general, kids respect them. 

(I have also just seen the other side of this question: my clear boundaries with children with respect to the abuse I suffered. As a grown-up, what shocks me the most is that a mature person could do that to an innocent child; that they would take advantage of someone's unconditional love and trust. I have always seen children as innocent. I do get panicky around children approaching maturity because there's no way of knowing just how much they're aware of about things like sex. I generally just assume they know nothing and, if I'm called upon, talk to them about it afresh. But the only time I have felt like crossing that line has been that one time with my brother and it was just anger. Nothing else. I wanted someone else to hurt just as I was hurting. But even then, his innocence stood in front of me with such clarity, that I felt ashamed of myself. There's no excuse for taking a person's innocence from them.)

Do you have a hard time feeling close to your children? Are you comfortable being affectionate towards them?

I love my son. He is too young to respond to any closeness I feel with him, but I'd like to think we will be close. I feel very affectionate towards him; it even surprises me. I have no inhibitions while being playful, loving, adoring with him. He makes me feel worthy of something. That someone so beautiful and perfect should think of me as their world is quite fulfilling. He's my second chance. 

Have you had trouble protecting the children in your care?

No. All children are safe with me. 

Are you overprotective?

I believe children need space to grow. They need to fall and pick themselves up. They need to come across adversaries in the  playground and learn to deal with them. So, no. Not overprotective in general. But when I do see someone, another child or grown-up, be spiteful and causing trouble with full knowledge of what they're doing, I do tend to jump in. Not just with my own son, but with any children I happen to be looking after. I don't think it's ever too early to learn respect. 

Have you taught your children to protect themselves? Have you talked to them honestly about sex?

My mother never explained to me about periods.Obviously, she never did anything about the abuse and we've never really discussed what happened. I didn't know how to start and she never wanted to know.

That made me feel very uncertain and lost. Confused. When I started bleeding for the first time, I thought I had cut myself while playing and needed a band-aid. And even afterwards, my mother didn't bother explaining what it was. That's when I knew I would have to tell my sister. So I did. 

My brother has always been mischievous and physically affectionate, playful, with people he liked. When he was growing up, he was very close to our cousin. Still is. He'd tickle her and roll around with her like any other child. When her body started changing, I realised she wasn't always comfortable with the way Pranav behaved. So I spoke to him that a girl's body changes just as a boy's does and he needed to learn to respect certain boundaries. I also had 'the talk' with him, more so to explain that it was important not to coax a girl if she didn't want to do anything. Again, respecting boundaries. 

My son isn't old enough yet, but I do think I will be able to talk to him honestly when the time comes.