Tag Archives: long-term scars of abuse

Death and Laughter

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in “Kings Row”, Author Stetsonharry (PD)

“Parris:  I don’t know if you can take it, Drake.

Drake:   Give it to me.

Parris:    Dr. Gordon cut off your legs.  I don’t know if it was necessary.  He was that kind of butcher, who thought he had a special ordination to punish ‘transgressors’… Heaven knows what else.  The caverns of the human mind are full of strange shadows, but none of that matters.  The point is he wanted to destroy you.  Oh, not literally.  He wanted to destroy the Drake McHugh you were.  He wanted to see you turn into a life-long cripple, mentally as well as physically.  That’s all there is, Drake…

Drake (after a long pause, chuckles):  That’s a hot one, isn’t it? Where did Gordon think I lived, in my legs?  Did he think those things were Drake McHugh?…”

–        Kings Row (1942)

My younger sister and I shared a second floor bedroom as children. We would often stay up past bedtime –  watching old movies, talking about what may have happened during the day, telling stories, or sharing our childhood dreams with each other.  The two of us would invent silly games or make up jokes, and giggle under the covers.

Saplings in a Hurricane

When our father yelled up the stairs at us for being noisy, however, we trembled.  His word was law in the house.  That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Like saplings in a hurricane, we were raised in the storm of my father’s ever-present rage. We were not beaten outright.  But the threat was always there.

And yet, at times, that threat made our laughter all the harder to contain.  We would laugh helplessly, till our sides ached.  My sister and I had a name for it:  laughing in the face of death.

A Life and Death Struggle

Looking back now, we were not far wrong with that description.  There was a life and death struggle going on.

Our laughter was the sound of life, winning out, over death and darkness.  Our laughter was the sound of hope and happiness, if only temporary; the sound of faith in a future we hardly dared believe might exist, a future in which we would be free simply to live in peace. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

Jellyfish

Cyanea jellyfish, North Sea, Author Ole Kils olekils@web.de (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, GNU Free Documentation License)

Jellyfish are equipped with stinging tentacles used to paralyze, capture, and kill their prey.  The largest known specimen, the lion’s mane or giant jelly, has tentacles which can reach 120 feet in length.  That is longer than a blue whale.

The sting of a jellyfish can be agony.  In humans, that sting can cause burning and blistering of the skin, difficulty breathing, changes in heart rate, chest pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness, and collapse.

The tentacles can sting, even after a jellyfish has died.

The Tentacles of Abuse

Like jellyfish, abuse has long tentacles.  Rather than extending into deep water, those tentacles extend across the years.  But their sting can still be agony.  Like the tentacles of jellyfish, the tentacles of abuse can paralyze, capture, and in some cases kill.

Real Wounds

Whether we suffer with physical ailments and visible scars or with depression, anxiety, and PTSD, the wounds stemming from our abuse are severe and real.  We are not weak.  We are not malingering.

It is, in some ways, easier when our wounds can be seen by the naked eye.  Burns are recognizable as such.  By contrast, the wounds of many abuse victims cannot be bandaged or sutured.  Invisible, those wounds can yet be deadly.

Long-Term Damage

Because it was inflicted early in our lives, while we were most vulnerable, the damage done by abuse is long-lasting and multi-faceted.  Victims must endure it for decades, across the full range of life activities.  This can be exhausting.

Eventually, we may feel overwhelmed by anxiety or depression, as if we were drowning; may feel trapped by our past, despite our best efforts; may feel wrongly that ending our lives is the only way out. Continue reading

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Healing from Abuse

Child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect – is likely to have permanent consequences. The wounds of abuse are grievous, inflicted when we are most vulnerable.

The extent to which we heal varies from one victim to the next, as does the rate at which healing takes place. This makes perfect sense. Victims are violated at various ages, for varying lengths of time, in countless evil ways. They have unique internal resources, and varying degrees of external support (sometimes none).

All these are factors in recovery. We must not, therefore, gauge our progress by that of others.

The “Inner Child”

Experts often refer to the wounded “inner child”. This is not to suggest that victims develop multiple personalities, though some may. It is an abbreviated means of saying we remain sensitive to issues relating to abuse, and – at an emotional level, at least – retain a strong recollection of the trauma inflicted on us.

Misplaced “Coping” Strategies

Unable to defend themselves against abuse, some children adopt desperate strategies in the effort to cope with it. These childhood strategies may continue into adulthood, becoming a hindrance where they once served a legitimate purpose.

Dissociation is one such strategy. The child, in effect, imagines himself or herself elsewhere while the abuse is taking place. This is the “out of body” experience. Dissociation may later be triggered by events which recall (or mimic) the abuse. Though meant to be protective in nature, dissociation can produce serious gaps in a victim’s memory. Continue reading

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Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse