November 28, 2006
Half-Year Mark for Carnival
This month's host is Mike at www.childabusesurvivor.net. Mike said this month was slow for contributions, but he's got 15 or 16 carnival participant posts up, with much significance and variety. I think he's done an excellent job as host. Please go check him out and check out the sixth edition here. Also, don't forget to use the links to visit the bloggers participating and leave your comments of support. There continues to be new bloggers joining us for this carnival every month--we want to make them feel welcome and appreciated. Thanks, all!
November 19, 2006
Child Advocates Unite!
Howdy, all. Did you know that today, Sunday, November 19, is World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse? Are you familiar with Yes I Can? Yes I Can is short for "Yes I Can Break The Cycle." I sure like that idea. I've had Yes I Can linked on my www.survivorscanthrive.com site for over a year, under my Resources "Advocacy and Prevention" page, and they are, indeed, a wonderful child advocacy and child abuse prevention organization. You can find out all about World Day at www.yesican.org/worldday.html. I just finished up my anual trick-or-treat donation to Unicef, but I can also get involved in World Day through them. To go directly to their web page where you can "Say Yes" for children, go to www.unicef.org/say_yes. Other children's advocacy and child abuse prevention links are, as I said, on my website resource page here.
Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse--6th Edition--Coming Soon!
I am pleased to announce that my friend, Mike, over at the Child Abuse Survivor blog, will be hosting the sixth edition of our Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. He has set the deadline for this Wednesday, November 22 (midnight), for a Saturday, November 25 carnival post. Hurry and get your submissions in. As usual, the categories for submissions are: Survivor Stories, Poetry, News, Healing & Therapy, Aftermath, and Advocacy & Awareness. You can go directly to this submission form at Blog Carnival dot com, or visit Mike's blog for more information.
November 15, 2006
Happy Anniversary Survivors Can Thrive!
And I want to thank you guys (and you know who you are :) for making it so rewarding!
November 13, 2006
From Negative Assumptions to Autonomy
It's interesting how synchronicity works. One day in the outpatient program, we discovered that our facilitator would be out. That particular day, we got a variety of fill-in therapists and facilitators for our group. One guy was Jim. I don't even know what his last name is.
Jim taught us something that I found quite illuminating and helpful. It's called "The Racket System." Ever heard of it? I hadn't. And Jim didn't tell us where he learned it.
After doing a little research on the Internet, I found that the Racket System has its roots in TA--the Transactional Analysis model. TA was developed back in the 1950's by Eric Berne, MD of "I'm OK--You're OK" fame.
In 1982, Richard G. Erskine and Marilyn J. Zalcman won the Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award for their Racket System. You can read more about this at the International Transactional Analysis Association website at www.itaa-net.org.
As a child abuse survivor, I find The Racket System helpful because it helps me identify my patterns of behavior based on my belief system--a faulty belief system born out of abuse. The Racket System helps me identify my negative reinforcing patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Basically, how I used the Racket System is by drawing myself a little diagram. It starts with a simple line, drawn in horizontally across my paper. The line has three notches in it, one for each heading: "Feelings," "Behaviors," and "Reinforcing Memories." I was asked to start with the "Feelings" category. (I told you they are really big on feelings down at the Ross trauma program.) When I first arrived in Dallas, the major feeling on my plate was "Overwhelmed." So, I wrote this down under the feelings category. I also filled in, "Annoyed," "Resentful," and "Disappointed."
During our group session/lesson, Jim pointed out that we often have feelings that come up again and again, but aren't really the root of what we're truly dealing with. As a society, we've come up with more "polite" terms to use, such as overwhelmed, annoyed, resentful and disappointed. Jim stressed that the real, underlying feeling at play is usually anger, fear or sadness. He also reminded us that the first feeling we have as infants is anger. When we're babies and we're hungry, we are immediately angry. "Whhaaaa!" we wail. "I'm hungry! Feed me now!"
In my case, I am probably more accurately experiencing the feeling of fear when I say I'm overwhelmed. I'm angry when I say I'm annoyed or feeling resentful. And when I say I'm disappointed I may be feeling a mixture of anger and sadness.
Under the next heading, "Behavior," we were asked to look, not at what we always do, but what kind of behavior patterns we tend to exhibit. For my behaviors, I wrote down: depression, isolating, rage outbursts, dissociation, self-injury (I haven't scratched for years, but I've caught myself hitting myself in the head again recently), cruel self-talk, and "wishing I was dead." (I have not been actively suicidal for years, either, but I have to be honest about my bad habit of wishing I was dead.)
I'll get to the third category/heading across the top of my racket system diagram later. Next, I want to explain the sub-category under the "Feelings" heading/section I wrote down. This was a biggie for me. What I wrote down here were my "Beliefs." These are the faulty assumptions we often jump to just before, during or after we indulge in our negative behaviors such as self-harm, negative self-talk, depression, isolation and outbursts of rage and violence.
Under "Beliefs," I was instructed to set up three bullet points for beliefs about: "Self," "Others," and "The World." For beliefs about myself, I wrote, "Unworthy," and "I don't deserve to be happy." For beliefs about others, I wrote, "Abandonment," "My kid doesn't get to be happy either," and "Friends can't be counted on." For my negative beliefs about the world, I wrote, "Nothing works," "People suck," and "Nobody cares."
Good Lord! With beliefs and assumptions like that, no wonder we get depressed!
The thing Jim told us we need to remember here is this: It's all based on lies!
I keep this in mind as I continue with my racket diagram. Even though it's all based on lies, I don't quit here. Knowledge is power, people!
I use my painfully honest list of faulty beliefs to think back in my life to events that I can include under the third main heading over on the right of my page: "Reinforcing Memories." Here, I listed: "My son has colic for seven months," "My son hates school," "My friend's sister commits suicide," "My lay-off," "My failed business," "I didn't get the internship I wanted," "Friends ignored my birthday," and "My 20-year friend decides she doesn't want to be friends anymore." Whew! Can you see how we focus on events in our lives (some would even argue draw situations to us) that reinforce the negative world assumptions and beliefs? It's easy! We do it all the time!
Then, under the main heading of "Behavior" we insert "Body/Somatic Complaints." This may be a good place to look if you're having trouble identifying feelings or even the first category of "Behaviors." Our bodies send us pretty accurate messages all the time, if we will only listen. For my "Body/Somatic" category, I listed: "Tense Muscles," "Migraine Headaches," "IBS," and "Can't Swallow Food."
The last thing we were told to fill in was also underneath the "Behaviors" category, down below "Body/Somatic." This category is called "Fantasies." Jim told us we could include best and worst scenarios for our fantasies. I suppose, under best fantasy, one could write something like, "Prince Charming comes and takes me away on his white horse." I'm not sure about this. What I wrote was simply, "If I'm dead, I can escape this shitty world." Again, this is not how I feel, think or fantasize all the time; this is my best/worst fantasy that fits with what I've already identified as my faulty beliefs in my personal racket system.
I'm sure you can see, as I did, how all this can lead to a negative, unhealthy, yet self-fulfilling prophecy!
Before we get too caught up in our own racket and start feeling even more depressed, let me tell you about what Jim explained next. Here's the good news: This unhealthy racket system can be transformed into our new "Autonomy System." Yay!
You can re-write your Racket System into an Autonomy System using the same type of three-pronged diagram. First, attend to the "Feelings" area. Feel the feelings. Allow yourself to do this. And allow yourself to feel the real, impolite, down-and-dirty feelings of anger, sadness and fear.
Second, stay in the left-hand "Feelings" area and take a good, hard look at your Beliefs and assumptions about yourself, others and the world around you. Spend some time with your list and rewrite the negative beliefs, changing them to Positive Affirmations. The list of affirmations must be written in the present tense, only in positive terms, and must be realistic. (No Prince Charming fantasies here, thank you.) For instance, I rewrote "I don't deserve to be happy" and changed it to, "I am meant for joy." I also wrote the affirmations, "I am worthy" and "I am deserving." (I will include a list of my negative self beliefs-turned-to-positive-affirmations down below.)
Many people don't believe in positive affirmations. I, myself, am giving them a try. If this is difficult for you, remember this great quote I got from one of the therapist facilitators down in Dallas: "Even if you can't believe it yet, say to yourself, 'I choose to acknowledge that it is possible.'"
Next in our new Autonomy System is "Behaviors." Let's change these negative behaviors that keep us stuck! Here are the behavior changes I have listed for myself:
- Suicide is not an option!
- End self-injury (I'm worth it!)
- Get out (end isolation)
- Stay present
- Use appropriate anger management
- Ask for what I want and need from others
- Say "No!" (set and maintain boundaries and limits)
Last, but not least, is the "Reinforcing Memory" category. You can search your memory to find positive experiences to focus on and reinforce positive beliefs and behaviors. On my list, I mentioned that my wonderful husband found a way to get yellow roses to the hospital on New Year's day when our son was born. (Guess what? I was assertive and I made sure I asked for this! Instead of expecting mind reading, I asked for what I wanted and my husband delivered--even on New Year's Day.) Recent "reinforcers" I listed were: "My husband has cake and flowers waiting for me upon my return from Dallas;" (I told him that I was anxious about returning from the trauma program and would need some special pampering and love.) "My husband has the house cleaned for me when I returned from Dallas;" and "I reached out at church and got positive feedback and hugs."
I really like this kind of soul-searching and empowering transformation. For me, it truly describes autonomy. It continues to place the responsibility for my recovery and healing on me. But, it also gives me the power to do just that!
Below is my list of negative self-beliefs turned into positive affirmations. I told my therapist down in Dallas that I was really resisting doing this exercise. I can be extremely mean and nasty in my negative self-talk. I was afraid that writing it down would "set it in stone" and make it too real. So, what I did is I wrote the negatives one-by-one on one side of a notebook. I immediately went to the facing page and wrote down its opposite, the positive affirmation. When I was done with the list, I drew a huge "X" through the negative side. I also pulled this page out of the notebook and intended to throw it away; I haven't done that yet.
- "I have no value/I'm worthless." --> I am worthy! I am worth it!
- "I'm a burden." --> I am loved and wanted!
- "I'm a bad person." --> I'm a good person!
- "I'm dirty." --> I'm forgiven! I'm clean and pure!
- "I'm not allowed good things." --> I am allowing all good things in my life!
- "I'm a threat." --> I'm a good friend!
- "I'm not good at ____." --> I excel at my endeavors
- "I'm an idiot." --> I am intelligent!
- "I'm ugly." --> I am beautiful!
- "I hate myself." --> I forgive and love myself!
- "I'm not meant to be happy." --> I am meant for greatness and joy!
- "I have a lot of nerve." --> I am proud of me and my accomplishments!
- "I'm afraid to be pretty." --> It is safe for me to be attractive!
- "I can't get better." --> I am healing and getting better and better every day!
- "I don't have choices." --> I have many viable and desirable options to choose from!
- "I'm not safe." --> I am enfolded in light and safety!
- "I don't deserve ___." --> I deserve abundance!
- "I'm a piece of shit." --> I am divine!
- "I have bad luck." --> I am attracting positive, helpful, healthy synchronicity to me always!
November 06, 2006
The End of Denial & Minimization
You see, the overwhelm really started to mount when I heard that my sister had retrieved repressed memories of additional perps, outside the "family." At first, I couldn't wrap my brain around the idea. Then, it sent me into a spiral.
This is one of the three things that I listed on my post, "More Trauma Processing--Yippeeee!" as not being adequately "processed" yet. Actually, I decided to drop it all together. I decided I had enough traumatic memories on my plate, thank you very much.
They were very supportive of this decision down at the Colin A. Ross Trauma Institute. In fact, their creed is something like: "It doesn't matter what happened to you, it's how you feel about it." So, I decided instead to focus on the feelings that I hadn't dealt with on the other two processing biggies I had identified: my mother's participation in my rape and my father's sadistic torture and mind control tactics.
When I first went down to Dallas, I wasn't focused on these goals at all. I just felt overwhelmed and I couldn't take it any more. Help!
When I first met with my temporary therapist--the kind and qualified woman I would be meeting with during my stay in Dallas--I went over a recent nightmare with her. Luckily, dream interpretation is one of her specialties. I won't go into the gory details of the horrific nightmare now--I had thought it dealt with torture. My therapist thought the message in the dream was how excruciating it was to be in my skin; how uncomfortable it was to be me.
Hhmmm...maybe there was something to this. Maybe it was a good idea to steer away from gory details about torture, additional perps, etc, etc...the actual acts of abuse. Had I really dealt with any of the feelings I had in reaction to the abuse? That would be a solid NO!
So, one of the first therapy homework assignments this Dallas therapist gave me was writing letters to my parents. I have done these never-to-be-mailed therapy letters before. In Dallas, however, we patients received detailed prompt sheets for our letters. I had never seen this detail before. These prompts were sentence starters and left no feeling unexplored. I started with a letter to my father. The exercise got me in touch with feelings like nothing ever has before.
The first feeling I got in touch with was extreme anger, no rage! I was intensely agitated the next day. I couldn't keep still; I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin...or rip somebody's face off. Yikes!
This got some fear going again. I am still at the point where I deal with a lot of fear over anger, even (and maybe most especially) my own.
I talked to one of the group therapists/facilitators about it. She said I was dealing with something called "flooding." See, the goal is to get in touch with feelings, but not be flooded with and incapacitated by them. She explained how I could use some techniques I already have for grounding to pace myself and go in and out of the feelings in a manageable way.
This was really handy for me and my therapy, for the next letter I decided to write was even more difficult. Guess who it was written to? You got it: My mother. (And I do, indeed, use that term loosely.)
The letter to my mother would take quite a while to complete. It continues to amaze me just how much fear is still there when it comes to this evil woman who gave birth to me.
As I was taking my time and taking baby steps with "the mother letter," I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Dr. Ross himself. I was one of the few in our outpatient group who volunteered to have a session with him. He is very intimidating, but I thought, what the heck. I might as well get my money's worth while I'm down here, right?
This would probably be a good place to bail out if you're worried about triggers. I'll bracket the triggering material with red borders. You can safely jump back in down below the ending red asterisks. So, be careful with the information that follows. It contains highly triggering and sometimes graphic material. I'm sorry for the necessity of this. However, I can't explain clearly what the huge revelation for my recovery was unless I explain some abuse details--it just wouldn't make sense otherwise. There is also a lot of swearing--sorry.
*********TRIGGER WARNING: USE EXTREME CAUTION ON THE FOLLOWING!********I already wrote a post about my impressions of Dr. Ross and my meeting with him. What I didn't mention there is the fact that this man kept using the word, "seductress" during our session. We were talking about the fact that I still haven't fully forgiven myself for what was done to me as a child. When he first chose the word, "seductress," I thought the guy was nuts. I was under the age of eight when the bulk of my child abuse occurred. How could I have possibly been any kind of seductress?
I dismissed what Dr. Ross was, apparently, trying to get at. What I thought I was dealing with was the guilt and lack of forgiveness for myself when it came to the times that I felt I hadn't tried to protect my twin sister. We shared a tiny bedroom with two twin beds crammed in there. Many times, I wished and prayed that my father would pass by my bed and go to my sister instead. Many times he did. I have a lot of guilt about this and that's what I thought the lack of forgiveness for myself was about.
So, at first, I just dismissed this "crazy man's" use of the term "seductress." I don't think I did much homework the night following the Dr. Ross session. I was pretty shagged out after dealing with him.
The next morning, however, during process group, another patient used that term again: "seductress." What the hell were these Texans talking about? I had never heard that term in reference to me in all the years I've been in therapy. What the hell was going on? I blew it off and had a pretty average day, as far as outpatient trauma programs go. But then--DUN-DUN-DUN--I went back to my hotel and continued "the mother letter."
Holy shit! Did I get in touch with my feelings! Actually I got a "two-fer" deal because I got in touch with emotional feelings AND the feelings in my body. Good Lord! I was literally writhing in pain on my hotel bed. And I could feel the grief, like a weight on my chest. My whole body ached, especially my arms, neck, ribs and back. I was feeling it alright, and it felt like shit!
I just couldn't believe the hurt I felt. Most of the hurt felt like it was coming from my mother, more than my father. The feelings finally came when I decided to take what Dr. Ross had said more seriously. He had said two very important things: He had referred to me as a "seductress." He also said that, as a child, I was in an impossible bind.
Be careful. Major triggers ahead! This will be more triggering than what I've said so far. And there's lots of swearing, sorry. I've got to stay in my anger here or I won't be able to do this. Use extreme caution!
When I allowed myself to truly look at the truth buried in these two statements, and get in touch with how I felt about it, I realized so many things I have been dealing with for my entire life. The first--and biggest thing--I had to admit was the truth of the rapes. I have only retrieved and begun to process one complete memory of my father raping me. I denied this fact for years. It was hard enough to remember the numerous acts of oral abuse. Rape just wasn't something I could wrap my brain around or face and feel.
After I couldn't deny it anymore, I minimized it. I convinced myself that maybe, somehow, it was a mistake. And then, I told myself, it probably only happened once.
You see, the memory I've retrieved is mostly an auditory and body memory. I can feel my mother holding my arms down. I can hear her saying some bullshit about how, if I didn't stop squirming, I could get hurt. I can feel my father rubbing himself between my legs. Then, what I can remember hearing is, "You idiot! She's bleeding!" I have some theories, but I don't know what happened next. I think what happened next may be related to the fact that my childhood pediatrician's office claims my medical records went "missing."
So, I had the memory of my mother holding my arms down while my father raped me, but I had minimized that as possibly being a "mistake" (he was "only" rubbing himself between my legs at first, after all) and then I started bleeding and, of course, it must have only happened the one time, right?
But, see there's been this partial memory hanging for a long time: I wake up to the sounds of my sister begging and sobbing. I look over to see her tied up with the bed sheet. I can see the tiny pink flowers of her sheet. That's what I focused on. I couldn't remember the rest.
My sister ended up being the one who first retrieved the rest. She was being routinely sodomized by our father. It was very painful for her. One night--this night--she can't take the pain any longer. She begins to sob into her pillow. She can't remain quiet. Our father hears her and becomes annoyed, then enraged. She's such a pain in the ass with her sniveling and now he can't finish. He ties her up. He hog-ties her with her own top sheet off her bed. He tells her that if she moves--the way he has the sheet tied around her neck--she will strangle herself and it will be her own damn fault. He tells her she must watch what is going to happen next or he will kill her.
What happens next is that he goes over to my bed. He rolls me over ever so gently. I guess, up until this time, I'm pretending to still be asleep. I'm now on my back and I glance over to see my sister tied up. My father is talking very soothing, quiet and sweetly to me. He says I'm a good girl and I love my Daddy, don't I? I nod my head and smile weakly. He rapes me vaginally. (I am never sodomized and my sister is never raped. He has specialties for us both and he doesn't mix them.) While he's raping me, he keeps looking over at my hog-tied sister. He keeps saying sweet things to me and making sure my sister gets the message. "This is how you love your Daddy," says the monster psycho creep. "I love her. She's a good girl."
Holy crap! I didn't remember that bastard ever telling me he loved me. He never told me I was a good girl or did anything right! This is the only time he tells me--while he's raping me???!!!!!
Shit! This is it! This is the mystery solved! I was the one. I was the one who was the goober reject twin. I was convinced my sister was the preferred twin. I was the extra copy who could so easily be thrown away. I had to be careful the monster didn't kill me. He would become so enraged if he found me hiding. He'd pull me out from under my bed by my ankles. He'd yank me out of the closet by my hair. He would yell, "You're going to learn to take your turn! You're going to learn to like it!" It would be so easy for him to throw me--the pain in the ass and "piece of shit" trash--away on the garbage heap because I was just a throw-away extra copy. Even if he killed me and threw me away he'd still have my sister. He'd still have his beloved, preferred twin anyway.
Then, recently, my sister told me she thought I was the preferred twin!! What???!!! What the hell was she talking about???!! What is this crazy bullshit??!! Was she just parroting back what I had said? How could this possibly be? This is crazy! This doesn't make any sense!
I was the ugly, goober twin, after all. I was the reject, the social zero that nobody liked. I was the one who got to be mortified at school hearing things like, "Don't tell Marj where we're going. We don't want her to come with." My sister never went through that. That was me. They wanted to be friends with her. My sister always had lots of friends. She always had lots of boyfriends, too. I was the one who sat home while she went to the prom. It certainly wasn't the other way around. What the hell could she possibly be talking about?!
Oh, Jesus! This is it! She thought I was preferred because he raped me?! How twisted! Little did she know, that, even though he said those sweet things to me while he raped me, I was still convinced that I was the bad one. Why? How did this happen? How did I come to this conclusion?
It's my mother. My shaming, evil mother is the missing piece. I didn't get it. I didn't piece it together until Dr. Ross used that word. That word, "seductress." At first, I just dismissed it. What the hell did he know? What was he talking about, anyway? I was a tiny girl under the age of eight!!! I couldn't seduce anybody. WTF??!!
But that's how it went down, isn't it? Shit! This is excruciating! I can't believe I didn't piece this together before! Yes! This makes total sense now. If my sister was going to be sodomized and she couldn't handle it, then he'd come over to my bed anyway. So he can get his damn rocks off and finish!
After my sister had written this account in her book, I asked her, "Did it look like I was in a lot of pain?" I asked her, "Did he finish? Was he satisfied?" No, it didn't look like--at that time anyway--I was in a lot of pain. Aaahhh! It happened more than once! It was routine, at least for a while! Apparently, I got used to it, eventually at least. And yes, after all the time he spent hurting my sister, he finally was satisfied with me. He finished. Things calmed down. Nobody ended up being killed. He finishes with me, then goes over to my sister and unties her. We are both allowed to go back to sleep. How do two little girls ever sleep after that???!!!! But, that's the crap we had to endure to ever be left alone and get any sleep and try to live our lives.
Shit! It just hurts too bad! Those poor tortured little girls! No wonder I forgot it all. It just hurts too bad! And I haven't even got to the part (the beloved feelings) about the shameful, evil, twisted part my mother played in this--in me being the "seductress."
Breathe. I've got to keep breathing. I keep taking breaks to calm and comfort myself. But, this is so hard. I just want to quit this bullshit and binge on chocolate and go back to bed.
So, okay. Even though satisfying my father would set me up for the double bind of feeling guilty being the "seductress," and my sister would come to be jealous of me and hate me for being the "preferred" twin who didn't have to endure as much physical pain, we are allowed to "get it over with" and get some sleep.
But, then there's the next missing piece: my mother. Okay, first of all I have to tell you that my mother is the type of "good Christian" woman who believes the only type of sex that is okay is between a married man and woman who are trying to have children. And it must be done in the "missionary position," of course. I know with utmost certainty that my mother never had anal or oral sex with my father. Ever. Period. So, I can ascertain that when my father was doing those types of nasty things to his daughters, she was okay with it. It got her off the hook, right?
I'm not just guessing at these things, I have "sex talks" with my mother to back up my theory. And I'm not talking about getting motherly advice here. My mother sought advice from me! Pretty twisted, but true. You see, when I was in college, my mother remarried. She was horrified to find out that, after the nuptials, this man wanted to have sex with her. She was appalled. She said she didn't want to touch "it." She said she was appalled that he wanted her to put her mouth on it! Ah! A fate worse than death! Needless to say, their marriage did not last long.So anyway, I think my mother "sacrificed" her daughters to do the dirty deeds she didn't want to have to do with her sick, twisted husband. But, then a snag occurred. My father decided he wanted to have real husband-wife-type sex with me, his daughter. I think this is where my mother really started to unravel. Up until the point that my father started actually raping me, she saw no threat. But, intercourse--the type of sex that was allowed--the type of sex they had had together as husband and wife?! This was a different story.
I have had another vague memory for a long time. The visual details are sketchy at best. I am lying on the little bath rug on the bathroom floor. My mother is doing something to me "down there." I have remembered the excruciating details of the auditory part of this memory for a long time. My mother is telling me that I am a bad, dirty, evil girl and I need to be cleansed. Then she goes on to give me her version of what I'll have to do in order to gain God's forgiveness and not burn in hell forever.
After I finally put this together that, eventually, my father is raping me on a regular basis, I put this memory detail into the whole, huge, horrid puzzle as well. I don't know why I never wondered before. My sister and I have always remembered the routine. Before bed, we would "assume the position." We would jump up on our twin beds with our legs in the air. My mother would smear Vaseline on us. We've both asked her about this as adults and got lies. We were not being diapered. We were no longer in our cribs. We were girls, not babies.
This was hard enough to deal with. The bathroom incident is even harder. Why were we in there alone? Why did she say those things to me? What was she doing to me? (I don't want to remember. I'm not gonna go there.)
The point is that, after the rapes, my mother saw me differently. I am absolutely sure that I, indeed, became the "seductress" in her mind. I became the competition.
This, also, is not something I'm grasping at out of the blue. My mother has known about my father molesting girls at his high school pretty much forever. She was always open about this. She always referred to those "incidents" as "affairs." She called them "affairs!" She referred to it as my father's "philandering." Those were minors! They were being molested! I didn't think much of it when my parents first got divorced and my mother raged about this. To me--only eight or nine years old--those girls were like adults. I didn't think anything about my mother's choice of words. But it's obvious to me now: My mother blamed those girls. She saw them as seducing sluts having affairs with her husband!
And, guess what? She saw me the same way! That's why I was the bad, dirty, evil girl who had to be cleansed. I had seduced her husband! I had taken her husband away from her! No wonder she hated me so much!
******************************Trigger Warning End**********************************
So, I was convinced I was bad...and my own mother confirmed it.
This also explains why my sister and I have such differing memories and feelings about becoming Christians. My sister remembers it as a warm, wonderful time of her life. I could never figure out why this wasn't the case for me. In my case, I saw becoming a Christian and getting the baptismal dunk as frightening (I was nearly drown in the bathtub many times), but a necessary step to take. I had to be cleansed. This was my only hope for salvation.
This explains everything. God, what a bind I was in! After I had this realization--this final piecing together of all the parts of the twisted puzzle--I kept finding myself saying out loud: Oh! That's why! No wonder! That's why I did this and that's why I did that. No wonder I felt like this. No wonder I always thought that.
And I perpetuated my own bind. I've always been afraid of being thin and beautiful. I thought it was because I didn't want the extra attention from men. I've always thought this was the threat and the danger. Maybe it was part of it. What I really think I couldn't handle was having more women hating me, like my mother. I never wanted to be a threat to any woman, like my mother saw me. Another "aha!" and "Oh that's why" moment.
And then, the feelings came. Huge waves of feelings, that had been stuck and denied for decades, came crashing down on me. By the next morning, I was trying to get ready to go into the outpatient trauma facility and I was in pain. I was hurting so bad, in physical pain.
I decided it would be helpful for my healing to be assertive and ask for what I needed there in Dallas. I decided to go into the program early that day. I caught the facilitator as she entered the building. I told her I was hurting so bad and needed to ask the group for support. I decided that this could be powerful for me. The group was 99.9% women. I could come right out and ask--did these women see me as a threat? Could I ask them for what I needed to hear? I wanted to ask them to tell me that it wasn't my fault. I didn't deserve it. I'm not a bad person.
I started to form my request. I started to reveal my huge realization and how it lead to all these never-felt-before feelings. I had to choose my words carefully. They have a strict rule there about not going into any graphic abuse details. I was going to say simply, "My father only did certain 'things' to me and other certain 'things' to my sister." But, I guess this wasn't good enough. The facilitator stopped me. She completely shut me down. I guess she didn't trust that I was going to stay vague.
I got very upset. I felt very invalidated and shut down. I expressed my feelings and how hard it was for me. I told them my request and how much it meant to me to hear the words I needed to hear. I at least got that part out. The rest of the group got angry. They said they wanted to hear what I had to share. They suggested the facilitator leave the room (this couldn't happen, of course, and I understood that).
Guess what ended up happening? In the meantime, another woman in the group started to sob. She could relate to how I felt and it was upsetting for her, too. She had been through some similar CSA to mine.
Do you know--can you even guess--what happened next? The facilitator left me hanging like a bloody slab of meat. She totally switched over to the other woman who was sobbing. She left me high and dry and...gave the other woman exactly what I had asked for!! She pulled her chair in real close. She got a very compassionate look on her face and gave the other woman lots of eye contact. Then she said--almost word for word--what I had asked for that I needed: It wasn't your fault. You didn't deserve it. You're not a bad person! The other woman got what I had asked for and never received!
I was crushed! But, I pulled myself together and managed to have a pretty positive experience down there, overall. Now, I've lost my therapist here. I have nobody else to talk to about this but you guys. If you've stayed with it this far, my thanks are endless to you. You have no idea how much it means to me. Because, after what happened down there and after losing my therapist, I don't know what else to do. I've been stuck with this my whole life. I just can't be stuck with it anymore. It will kill me.
November 03, 2006
The Search For A New Therapist
He told me, of course, that it was I who had made a mistake and must have written down the wrong appointment time. At first, I bought it. I'm the one with the dissociative disorder, after all. For this book--that I may or may not ever finish--I've transcribed all the notes from my therapy appointments with this man from August of 2003 until December of 2005. There were 134 sessions in all. From 8/20/03 until 9/8/04, I even attended therapy sessions twice a week. Not once have I ever written down the wrong time.
See, I haven't seen "my therapist" in a while. It's been almost a year; the last "regular" appointment we had was 12/14/05. I looked back over my therapy session notes and was reminded that he tried to "kick me out of the therapy nest" in early May of '05. The notes say we were, at that time, switching to an "as needed" basis. Still, in May and June of that year, I continued to see this therapist once a week.
I also saw him once a week during the months of September and October, 2005. During this time, I was processing triggers about a hair phobia, I was seeking help with anxiety about going to the dentist, and I had a major flashback during a yoga class.
At the time, I still needed to work on things like the daily trigger of seeing hair (any kind of human hair, in the sink, the bathtub, etc.) or feeling hair (even my own) on my skin. It initiates a response like, 'Aaaaaahhhhh! Get it off me!" The yoga trigger/flashback was terrifying because, in the class, I was required to do a move that had me pose with my wrists pressed together and it immediately launched me back to childhood when I would be tied up by my father. I also required help with severe anxiety over going to the dentist when I needed to get a crown put on.
Shortly after these events, I had to put down my beloved dog of over 14 years. I went through a lot of grief over the loss of this dear pet. We never did finish with the hair phobia triggers. We worked for five sessions on processing the sight of hair. We never did get to the triggers I deal with when I have to feel hair against me.
Still, in December, I had my last "regular" visit with this man.
I am, of course, not the trained, qualified expert, but it seems to me that I still had "issues" to work on during this time. Still, he pressed, and on 12/14/05 (just before the dreaded Christmas season, how odd) I had my last session with this therapist. He told me, "I don't know what else I can do for you. I think you're doing really well."
So, off on my own I went, until I started feeling depressed in early September and needed additional trauma processing last month. In September and October, I talked to my old therapist on the phone three times. He seemed more than happy to welcome me back to do more therapy with him.
After I got back from Dallas and went to his office, however, I continued to have difficulty setting up convenient appointment times with him. (I had no success over the phone with him from Dallas. I settled for scheduling two appointments that were not convenient for me.) I came into his office to give him a brief update and we looked at his calendar together. We looked two weeks ahead, to try to come up with something for me. I noticed lots of blank times and dates. I asked, "Why can't I have this time, or this time, or that?" He gave me this look. I felt like a complete imbecile. He then explained something like, "Those are regular appointment times I have with regular patients." What was I, chopped liver? I'm sure that I was one of the most "regular" patients he's ever had.
Still, he promised me he could change some appointment times around to accommodate me and in two weeks I could get in. Nope. I arrived at what I thought was the appointed time and got turned away.
I was so angry and upset when I left that office! I drove and drove for over three hours, trying to figure out what to do. It took a lot of strength and presence of mind not to drive my car over a cliff or run away again. I stayed on the interstate, just to make sure. I got almost all the way down to the New Mexico border, then I turned my car around and came home, picking my son up at school as if nothing had happened.
But something has happened; something big. I told my son a brief version of what had happened. I told my husband the same story I'm writing here. He was livid! I'm not sure I've ever seen the mild-mannered man with the soothing voice get so enraged. My husband also happens to be a psychologist (he works with head injuries and brain damage) and he's given this particular therapist many referrals (as have I). My husband has also played what I consider a major part in allowing this man to quit his hospital job and start up a successful private practice, having paid him cash for 134 sessions (I have not been able to get mental health insurance for years, so we pay cash).
And this is the way he was going to thank us--he basically does not have time for me, only for his "regular" patients? Yowzer! I (and my husband, obviously) am floored! I guess I might have seen this coming, but I did not. I am reeling and don't know what to do!
Why does this crap have to happen? Now I feel stuck with all these painful feelings that I worked so hard to get in touch with. Aaaaaccccckkkk!
I guess I start looking for a new therapist. I've been up this long road before. It sucks. And, it's time consuming. What do I do with all this grief, anguish, sorrow and pain in the meantime? I have no idea.
November 01, 2006
The Heavy Weight Of Grief
Yesterday, I sobbed so hard that I went into fits of coughing. Then, my face started contorting in gigantic yawns--my body's way of getting in some oxygen in between wracking sobs, I think. This feels really bad. No wonder some of us stay in the denial stage for so long.
At least I'm "feeling the feelings," right? They were really big on that down at the Colin A. Ross trauma program in Dallas. They gave us patients these large, extensive lists of "Feeling Words."
You know, this is very new territory for me. I have a dissociative disorder (along with my lovely PTSD) that is very descriptively called, DDNOS. It stands for "Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified." There's a really helpful label for ya, isn't it?
Ironically, my therapist gave me The Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule which was developed by Colin Ross...four years ago. Basically, I do not have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, formerly Multiple Personality Disorder). However, I have experienced (and at times continue to have) the following: Somatic Complaints, Major Depressive Episodes, Sleepwalking and Trances, Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Fugues and Depersonalization. Some of you may be familiar with all of these terms. Maybe I'll go into more detail about some of these some other time--I don't want to get off on too far a tangent now.
My point is that, with my dissociative disorder previously firmly in place, I am new to feeling the feelings. Heck, it was only a few years ago that I wasn't even in my body. When I first started with my current therapist, he would ask, "And how does that feel in your body?" At first, I would just stare at him blankly or answer back with my own question: "What body?"
So, now, we're making progress and feeling the body as well as feeling the lovely feelings involved in healing from childhood sexual abuse (and every other form of abuse and neglect) and sadistic torture.
When I first got this list of feeling words, I was dumbfounded. I scanned the list and realized I didn't even know some of these descriptive words were actually feelings. Now, I'm fairly good with words and I'm pretty intelligent. But, as I said, this feelings stuff is new territory for me. I just didn't know half of these "feelings" even existed.
But, I'm rollin' with it now. Right at this moment, for example (referring to my handy dandy list here) I feel: tearful, sorrowful, pained, grieved, mournful, desolate, crushed, heartbroken, wronged, dejected, rejected, abandoned, diminished, miserable, disillusioned, vulnerable, raw, exposed...and probably most powerfully: a feeling of deep anguish.
It's all slamming me in the face right now because of this big realization I had down in Dallas. In some ways, it was a great relief to finally piece so much together, once and for all. But it is excruciating. It is more "feeling" pain than I've ever let myself experience.
My next post will attempt to explain all this shit I finally figured out, so that I could get in touch with the corresponding feelings. For now, let me just say that it is causing me a lot of grief. And, fate and timing being what they so often are, I've also got an additional grief on top of this biggie. My long-time friend, who I have known (albeit on and off) for 20 years is now gone. I tried to be assertive with her and set some boundaries and limits. She opted, instead, for no friendship at all.
It's hard for me right now not to focus too much attention on those feelings in the rejected, dejected, disappointed, diminished, detestable, repugnant, etc. category. I've been working on this for some time, but it remains difficult to keep from letting my wounded inner child get stuck on the feelings I just mentioned. It's hard not to feel like I am just very unlikable and unlovable. It seems, as so often in my life, that I am just so easy for others to hate (including my own parents). This is sticky, slimy, shitty stuff to "get over." I'm gonna go do the work with my therapist soon. That's all I can do right now.
I'm editing this post to add a more upbeat ending--the flip side, good side--is this: Right now, I am not feeling fear. I was dealing with a lot of fear when I first went down to Dallas. My reaction to the fear was that I was slipping into old dissociative patterns. I am not doing that now. I guess, when you finally face the worst thing you thought you could possibly be afraid of, the fear goes away. I figure, I'm feeling this really bad stuff and I'm still alive. So, what remains to be afraid of?
The other plus is that getting out all this feeling shit that's been trapped in my body for decades has a positive somatic effect. My muscles are feeling much less tense now. I like that benefit a lot!