“My Dad always uses really bad language at mum. He laughs and mocks at her and calls her stupid and unstable.”
Complex trauma exposure refers to the simultaneous or sequential occurrences of child maltreatment—including emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and witnessing domestic violence—that are chronic and begin in early childhood. Moreover, the initial traumatic experiences (e.g., parental neglect and emotional abuse) and the resulting emotional dysregulation, loss of a safe base, loss of direction, and inability to detect or respond to danger cues, often lead to subsequent trauma exposure (e.g., physical and sexual abuse, or community violence).
Complex trauma outcomes refer to the range of clinical symptoms that appears after such exposures. Exposure to traumatic stress in early life is associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These after effects include: (a) self-regulatory, attachment, anxiety, and affective disorders in infancy and childhood; (b) addictions, aggression, social helplessness and eating disorders; (c) dissociative, somataform, cardiovascular, metabolic, and immunological disorders; (d) sexual disorders in adolescence and adulthood; and (e) re-victimization http://www.attachmentandtraumaspecialists.com/trauma/complex_trauma
I hated to see mum get hurt by my uncles… I have images of her getting physically assaulted by her brothers in front of us. They didn’t just stop at her, I have the physical and emotional scars as lasting reminders too. At times things at home were ok, but at other times the uncles would turn up and get into these nasty moods. I used to stand right there and watch – sometimes I would escape outside and peep through the window. I hated to see my mum and siblings get hurt.
At other times, the uncles would fight amongst themselves. I recall being woken up by the sound of yelling, screaming and slamming of doors. It was terrifying not knowing what was going on. During those incidents we would all hide under the bed, praying and hoping our mom was ok. One of our neighbours was a soldier, and sometimes our mom would send us next door to take refuge. When my mom died at a young age of 44 – we were all devastated. This left us even more vulnerable to the abuse. Some sexual abuse occurred too. We were constantly told that we would amount to nothing. Resentment was constantly expressed by relatives who felt inconvenienced by mom’s passing. Statements were made to us that it wasn’t their fault our mom had more than one child – and then died.
As a teenager I was told by one of the uncles “you are ugly, no man will want you – your cousins on the other hand are gorgeous and will have men lining up to give them all they desire. As for you, the only way a man is going to want you is if you contribute to the household financially…. Otherwise, you will never be worthy.”
Was he right? Am I ugly? Am I undesirable? Is that why the man I call my husband thinks nothing of yelling at me/ ignoring me/ demanding sex/ and expects me to contribute 50/50 in the household even though he gets paid twice as much?
- Is it why he has cheated on me before – telling me there’s something lacking in me?
- Is that why I can never touch his phone/ ask him where he is/ touch his mail etc.. without him yelling at me?
- Is that why he told me he used to date women who were ‘head turners’?
- Is that why he thinks nothing of giving me warning/really ugly looks if I speak up in public?
- Is that why no-matter how hard I work in the home and outside – cooking/cleaning/being his secretary/ primary parenting our kids/ putting his and the kids’ needs ahead of mine – he still finds something to complain about?
- Do I feel that no one else would want me… is that the reason I allow myself to be treated this way.
Growing up I was in constant fight/flight mode – I had to be creative in order to survive and protect my siblings. As a teenager, I had this fairy-tale expectation that the man who would love me (ugly and all) would take away my tears and restore my confidence in men. How did I end up here? Once again constantly in fight/flight/survival mode? Tiptoeing around him, worried about him blowing up – his face tenses; eyes bulge out; fists clench; he advances into my personal space and yells in my face; he calls me names; uses offensive language; pushed me once; and as of last night – threw my bag against the wall, scattering all my items – all the while yelling at the top of his voice for me to ‘fucken get out!.
When he is being sweet and loving – he has taken to telling me that I have confidence issues; and anxiety issues – I want to say to him that of course I do have anxiety from constantly living in hyper vigilant mode. Not knowing what would set him off. Him talking to me with disdain; disgust and irritation half the time – the other more from a confrontational point of view.
It got so bad that I had to take some medication for anxiety… Which he then uses against me because I am not stable.
I didn’t like watching my mom being harassed and it still makes me sad to date. I didn’t ask to be exposed to adult conflict as a child; neither did I ask to be raped at age 4-5; I also didn’t ask to have a broken nose at the hands of my uncle; and whilst I didn’t invite the verbal, financial and emotional abuse I get from the man I give myself to – I have to be willing to stop the cycle for my children’s sake. Their father does not care whom he hurts when he is angry – he charges in guns blazing (this from one of my children) – and all I am left doing is defending myself whilst trying to keep his wrath centered and focused on me – not my children. My heart aches for what my children have witnessed…
At what point do I say enough?
What makes me stay?
I am an intelligent; well educated woman who has some emotional intelligence as well – so can somebody please explain to me why I allow myself to be mistreated? Most importantly, what stories will my children tell once they are grown?
Is this going to be the sum total of my life?