Retraumatized after Reporting

Gray Swirl frame Retraumatized after reproting
Retraumatized after Reporting ~Doodle by Jeanine A Thriver
Oh, Goodness… I think this may be a long blog post.  Which is not what I had planned.  But I want to tell the story of my reporting, and that will be long I believe.
She was a strong-willed, independent, fighter, thirteen year old Mia.  It feels weird to call my younger self Mia, because that is my pen name.  Months of concentration camp style controls did not break me.  Nothing broke me until my dad got the church involved.  But still after all those years, there she sat, determined, determined to report.

Once I faced in therapy the EXTENSIVE manipulations my dad masqueraded around me and my family to stop me from reporting.  Once I saw how he systematically isolated me.  How he stopped me from going to my mom.  How me stopped me from going to the church. How he stopped me from talking to the counselor.  How he stopped men from talking to the police.  How he implanted my oldest sister as his spy and my pretend supporter.  How systematically he popped one after another of all support systems around me.  Once I saw it, as an adult in therapy, I KNEW. I KNEW and I could not deny.  There was only one way out.  There was only one option at the end of the therapy road.  Thirteen year old Mia wanted to speak out. She always wanted to speak out.  Now I must as an adult give her the chance to tell my family, to tell the church, to tell the state, and maybe… If I was strong enough… To tell the community.  Young determined Mia inside of me would not settle for any less.
All of that sounds so good and bold doesn’t it?  Well let me tell you what it looked like in real life.
Four years of therapy.  Every so often young determined Mia would come out in panic in Therapy.  She was afraid I would never report.  She was afraid her voice would be silenced and controlled forever.  I would then go into therapy anxious, jittery, bold and determined to report, and yet fearful and closed up at the idea.  I want to report I would tell my Therapist.  And he would talk to me about my plans, and I would write down stories and stories of my abuse.  And then I would crash under the pure stress of considering it.
Time went by in Therapy and then younger Mia poked up her anxious head again.  I want to report I told my T again.  I then boldly took two steps towards reporting, and crashed under the stress of it all.
Surge of boldness to report.  Take two steps towards doing it. Crash under the load.  Take some time off.  Surge of boldness to report, repeat ad infinitum for four years.  But each time I got closer to reporting.  Each time I got stronger.  Each time I felt more ready.
As an adult my other two sisters had positioned themselves in the role of fake supporters, just like my oldest sister in my youth.  I trusted at least one of them.  I did not expect the same pattern of my youth to duplicate in her. I told my fakely supportive sister I was going to report my father to the church.
Finally I went to my church leaders to report my dad to the church.  I spoke to my church leader, and then I came home and had a nervous breakdown.  We told him I could not go through with it at this time.
I then wrote to a famous incest survivor in my state.  I asked her how she ever got past her fear to report.  She offered to meet me at the park.  In our meeting she told me her story, and of her successes.  I came home no longer fearful of everything going wrong. I came home and for the first time I felt hope.  My husband said “That was a game changer” and it was.
This Survivor got me a professional referral at an Anti Child Abuse Rally.  She referred me to the States Attorney Generals Office,  I had the direct number to my states leading expert on Child Abuse.  Last summer  I called this woman.  She invited me to come to her office the next day.  I took her pages of written witnesses against me father.  She was supportive, but did not believe I had a case against my father.
She called me back the next day. She told me she thought I had a good chance.  She would assign her top investigator to my case.  The weekend before I talked to the States Investigator I almost pulled out.  I started to feel confused, to wonder if my dads ingrained-training that I was making-it-all-up was true.  But. Guess what.  I was cleaning out my garage that weekend.  As I cleaned out my garage I found journals, letters, artwork and poems that corroborated my story.  Armed with this new documentation I worked past my fear and went in and talked to the states investigator.  He said I had the best documented case he had ever seen.
We waited for months.  Not hearing much back. Calling from time to time and getting vague reports on the status.  But eventually we could tell….. The Statute of Limitations took my “well documented” case and made it worthless, and the States Investigator was trying to find a way to let me down easy.
Thankfully I managed to not tell my sneaky sisters about the investigation.  They were as surprised about it as my dad was.   The states investigation did manage to scare my dad good for a little while, but in the end nothing came of it, and it ended quietly as if it never had happened.
But young Mia inside of me was not satisfied.  Now she wanted her turn to talk to my father’s church. But I was panicked, and afraid.  Again I battled extensive fear.  Again I approached telling the church and had a nervous breakdown, had to regroup and approached again.  Finally my sisters pushed the envelope and did several things to force my hand at reporting my father to his church leader.  I felt they supported me, tried to feel brave and moved forward.  Ten months after reporting my father to the State I was finally made the appointment. This summer I scheduled an appointment to tell my dads church leader.
Two days before my appointment fear was seizing me and causing me to shut down.  In utter panic I contacted both of my sisters. I told them of the pending appointment, asked them to show strong support towards me, and asked them to not tell my father about the upcoming appointment with his church leader.
This is when all the masks came down. This is when they stabbed me in the back.  Apparently they had not been believing  me for some time. Apparently they had told everything I was telling them to my mother.  Apparently my mother already knew what I was going to say.   Of course my mother relayed all of this to her husband, my father, my abuser. Then they called my mother told her exactly when my appointment would be and supported/ helped her schedule an appointment with this very church leader for the night before my appointment.  As a final blow in a phone call my sister told me she believed I was making it all up, and confusing my dreams with reality.
Four years of fake support.   My sister who I thought was my best friend.  The most significant place I felt security out side of my husband and my therapist. Came crumbling down on me in a mass of confusion.
I became lost in a mental abyss.  I could hardly interact with my husband.  I became despondent.  He would not leave me alone.  He had me go with him on some errands and our vans tires went flat.  We were out of money, I was in a mental abyss and we were stranded.  My Sister in Law picked us up, my husband found a source of money, we took the van in for tire repairs. After several hours of me just going through the motions we came home and I crashed on my bed.
I was not connected to reality.  I was really lost in some surreal abyss.
My Grandmother has always been my guardian angel.  I felt her presence around me, once again.  She told me I needed to report my father to his Church leaders, even if it failed miserably.  I asked her what could I ever say, to combat all the lies that were stacked up against me.  She told me which stories to tell.  I slowly started to reconnect with my surroundings.  I looked around, noticed the texture of my bedding, slowly sat up, felt the carpet under my feet, took a deep breath stood up and walked into my office.
Within no time I was back in the game.  My husband and I stayed up all night preparing documentation.  We went in the next day to the appointment on no sleep.  My church leader met us there to support me (thank goodness).  We met my father’s church leader and it was clear he was groomed and prepared for meeting me by my family.  I walked into the very building of my youth.  The very building where my father lied to the church and used it against me to control me.  I walked up the stairs to the very office where my teenager church leader delivered the words that broke me mentally.  I was glad the place was remodeled because it looked just different enough that I did not bolt and run, but my anxiety grew and grew every moment I was there.
I pushed past stress that was almost causing me to black out and I read my three stories.  The last and hardest story was the story that took place right there in that same office, the story of how the church was used by my father as a manipulative tool.   As I read this story I shook all over, my mind raced, every muscle was tense and aching.  But I was not allowed to finish reading this story.  My dads church leader interrupted this story, at my extremest level of triggering, and started to deliver my mothers message to me.
The problem with mental abuse is the mentally abusive messages can be so custom fit to the victim that the victim can be brutally mentally abused while well meaning onlookers do not see it.
My dads church leader used the tone of caring and delivered my parents message as clear as day as though it came from my dads lips directly.   I sat stunned at first.  And when I became angry and started to fight back against these words it seemed to me that  my actions were strange and curious to all in the room.  My husband who was there to support me.  My church leader who was there to support me.  They did not hear what I heard.  They did not know what this finely crafted message really meant.  It went straight into my brain, at the moment I was most vulnerable, and my supporters sat by and did not stop the pre-canned message from my father as it was delivered to me by his church leader.  They did not know what toxins were pouring out of those lips in words that sounded good and supportive.  (This is not completely true I realize as I re read this.   My dads church leaders words angered my husband.  My husband spoke back to him with very eloquent and angry words.  My husband was calmed down by my church leader just before my husband went over board with anger.  He did show strong support to me.  And I knew it.  And I trusted him greatly for it.  But somehow it was not enough to stop the pending crisis I was thrown into because of the words my fathers church leader said.)
I need to add in a side note.  I believe my father’s church leader is a naïve and good man who was unwittingly groomed and co-opted by my father.  I believe he meant well.  I do not place him in the villain status.  Deceived?  Yes, he was deceived for sure.  Even my own church leader and my own husband were somewhat deceived too.  They did not know that they should have pulled the plug and gotten me out of that room.  They did not know that those words triggered in me the instinct to hide.  Hide my emotion, hide my reaction, hide my pain.  I showed them nothing, no clue, that I needed to leave that room, that I could not hear this message, that it was doing real mental damage to me.
The words were so finely crafted that those words turned off my trust of all of my support systems.  In the months following reporting I lived in a mental prison and let no one know.  I was too afraid they all would call me crazy and turn against me as my sisters had done, as my dads church leader said it would happen, in the crafted message he delivered.
In fear I turned off all symptoms and hid my emotions and isolated myself into an ever-increasing state of crisis.  Because I showed no one in my support network what was inside, no one saw the increasing crisis.  Finally, about a month and a half ago, about three and a half months after reporting to my fathers church, my crisis built up to the point it all exploded. I went off the deep end, I was lucky I came out of it alive, and I was lucky I found my way back home, I was lucky I did not run from everything.  Well… I will not call it luck. That is not true.  I knew, in-spite of my exploding emotional crisis, I knew I had a strong male guardian angel sitting next to me, though I was alone in some random parking lot in my van.  This guardian angel protected me from the most destructive pathways of thought.  He gently guided my thoughts and somehow slowly in a matter of hours, was it two?  was it four? He brought me back to a better mental place.  Eventually I drove back home, much to my husbands relief.
Slowly I started to tell my Husband and my Therapist where I had really been emotionally since reporting my father to his church.
It is now five months since I reported my father to his church.  It is now a month and a half since my crisis bubble popped.  I am growing stronger a little bit every day.  I still feel more pain then I would like, more fear, more anger, more confusion.  But I am starting to mentally re-piece my world together and heal from the retraumatization I suffered when I reported my father to his church.  Thankful I am getting stronger again, though I often feel impatient with myself and the pain, fear, and confusion I still feel.
Now I have a name to put on these strange symptoms. I have been retraumatized.  I looked that word up on Google and there is not enough information about it.  I have chosen to write this post in order to add to the material available.  Retraumatization after  Reporting is apparently a big deal, and something survivors and supporters of survivors should be aware of.
I have been afraid that this last trauma was the final straw that broke me, that I was now irreparable.  But I have been reassured by two solid sources that I am retraumatized, that my symptoms make sense, that there is a way out of these symptoms, that things will get better.  So I find hope in that and look forward to when I feel less fear, pain and confusion caused by retraumatization.

Thanks for reading.


retraumatized commentsThis blog post was lost when my Mia Thriver Blog went down. Thankfully I found the text in a chached version of this page. The cache also included comments that were posted on this blog. These comments can be seen in the above image.

Gray Swirl ~ Doodle By Jeanine A Thriver
Gray Swirl ~ Doodle By Jeanine A Thriver

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