Archive for February, 2013

So, last night I took a very big chance and ended up talking about what I would consider to be one of the two worst types of memory for me.  I have a good friend who is steady, has a good head on her shoulders, acts as a mother figure, and has always reacted kindly, if forthrightly to what I have told her about the abuse.  Ironically, she lives only about 30 minutes away from where my parents live.

I don’t know whether this “memory” really happened or not, but what I can say is that I have parts inside who are convinced that it happened.  In fact, the part who holds this was so badly injured at the point when I told Mama Bear about it last summer, it seemed like she looked like someone who had been in an accident where her skin was torn off and most every bone in her body had been broken.  There was no comforting her the way I comfort other parts of me, which is to imagine holding them in my lap, rocking them, sometimes stroking their hair.  The closest that she could bear to come was the corner of the room.  We quickly determined that it was a memory that I could not tolerate working with, even though it was one that kept on pulling my mind back to it, even after I tried to put it aside.

Eventually, I successfully put it aside, and then it would only come up briefly every month or two.  Each time, I could tell that it was still A Very Bad Place for me, but I could also tell that the child part was slowly healing.  Yes, in my experience, sometimes you don’t have to deal directly with a memory in order to do a substantial amount of healing around that particular memory.  Thank goodness it turns out that Mama Bear is right: I don’t have to work on each memory from beginning to end,  in order to heal.  Healing in one part of me does help other parts, which only makes sense, because while these “parts” can experientially feel so separate, they really are all a part of the whole me.

And when I started to think about the memory yesterday, I realized that the child part who holds it is largely whole, now.  I don’t know when that happened, and there is much about her that needs a great deal of care, but she is now at the point where I can interact with her.  Despite how much she has healed, it astonishes me that my mind picked this memory to feel compelled to talk about yesterday.

This is a memory that I have a very difficult time figuring out whether I believe that it is real or not.  I want to believe that even my grandfather could not have been so sick.  I want to be able to conclude that this horrible thing didn’t actually happen to me, even though for some reason it seems like it happened.  It is like it just threatened to completely overwhelm my ability to survive what he was doing to me.  And when I got near it as an adult, it still felt like it was overwhelming my ability to survive.

While I hope that it didn’t actually happen, that it was only something that I was in some way threatened with or it almost happened or I had a nightmare about it or something else that I haven’t thought of, I can’t help but wonder how could a threat or a dream cause such devastation inside?   How could anything other than it really happening create certain reactions and beliefs in me?

But I am so afraid of getting in trouble for saying that I think that it really did happen.  Who would I get in trouble with?  I guess that I am afraid that Mama Bear has decided that it couldn’t have happened.  But I also remember when I first told her about this memory, she held my hands and said with great intensity, “I am so glad that you survived.”  If it really happened the way that I seem to remember, if what my grandfather did had gone wrong, it would have resulted in very severe injury or death.  The evidence is that she understood that and at least at that point believed that it was likely that it happened.

Huh.  I just realized that I have to find it in myself to not be so concerned about whether Mama Bear or anyone else believes me.  I am the one these things happened to, and while memory is fallible, I am still going to be the person who best knows whether something happened or not.  No one else can make that judgement and I can believe in my right to say, “These things happened to me.”  Maybe I will make mistakes about some of the details, but, really, when you get down to the basics, I know what happened.   I might be wrong about how something happened a particular time, but I know all too well what types of things happened to me.  Yesterday, my friend encouraged me to trust myself.  I don’t think that I can trust that everything that I seem to have remembered actually happened, but I do think that I can trust myself to be sane enough and discerning enough to stop waiting for someone else to tell me whether something really happened.  I am an adult now and I can say what I believe to be the truth.  Really, no one else has the right to tell me whether something happened or not.



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It seems that now that I have started writing about some of the things that my grandfather did, I want to write about more.  There is something so freeing for me about someone else responding, “That is horrible, I am so angry for you.”  I think that it has to do with the fact that while from within the experience, for me, it was terrifying, in contrast, from without, to many people, it is horrible/disgusting/anger provoking, but not frightening.  It shows me that there is another way to respond to what happened other than my normal fear state.  Yes, I have seen that Mama Bear doesn’t react in fear, but when I tell her, I am so focused on what I am experiencing, that I don’t really take in her reactions.  I also think that it helps to see this response in multiple people, so I can prove to myself that it isn’t just that one person is exceptionally strong or brave.

Seeing this alternative way of responding brings up new possibilities: I can consider that now that I am no longer actually experiencing the abuse- in fact it is decades in the past- I can feel free to have some of those other reactions myself.  I don’t have to go to the place of fear.  Nothing bad will happen to me if I am not frightened or cowed into submission.  Could it really be possible to think about something that happened and just sidestep the fear?  Or maybe my brain isn’t quite to that point yet, but I sure hope that it is getting there.

I love the thought of being able to say, “Yes, I believe that my grandfather did X to me” and not want to curl up into a frightened ball, but rather go straight to being outraged that someone who had an obligation to take care of me instead made use of the relationship to hurt me so badly.  I can accept that I will always be vulnerable to being reminded of the fear that I experienced, but I want to be free of going there so easily.

So each time I see or hear someone else respond in a way other then the way that I tend to respond, it helps me to take it in a bit more that it is possible to have a reaction other than going into survival mode.  Lately, I start writing about a topic and I find that my posts tend to work their way around to something that my grandfather did, even though I had no intention of including that story.  Somehow I seem to have lost my shame over what he did and instead I want to be a part of a group that finds his actions to be a source of outrage.  In addition to the people in the WP community, I have a group of friends who often read what I have posted and respond elsewhere, so I really am starting to develop a sense of “lots of people know and they all think that it is something to be angry about, so it must actually be safe to be angry about it.  I’m not alone with my anger.”

But I worry about triggering other people by saying what happened or what I seem to remember happening.  While talking with another blogger a bit, she noted that it seems like I am getting triggered about possibly triggering other people.  She was right on target, because I know that I have a strong fear of triggering Mama Bear and driving her away, but I can also see that it really extends to pretty much everyone.  And I am positive that has to do with my mother.  Mama Bear and I are convinced that she has C-PTSD as well, given what she grew up with and how she acts. So it was probably all too easy to trigger her and have her effectively disappear on me, even if she was still in the same room. Given that she was my source of safety and security, I had a powerful motivation to not trigger her.

Maybe I am taking on too much responsibility here, the way that I had to as a child?  I suppose that I could just put a trigger warning up and trust others to either not read that post at all or to stop if it starts to become too much for them.  I also know that I’m not talking about step by step gory details on what happened, but a one or two sentence description.  You see, there are some things that I can’t even begin to write about unless I say what happened and I just find myself growing more and more loathe to keep the things he did a secret.  To my surprise, I’m not even too worried about talking about things that I’m not certain really happened, because I know that something had have to happened that planted it in my mind as if it did happen.  Terrible things happened and if he has a few extra terrible things attributed to him that he didn’t actually do, well it’s all because of what he did do.

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Today has continued the trend of being difficult, but not impossible.

I think that the hardest thing is that I am having trouble feeling fully “me” today. There are some times when I feel like there is an overlay of a slightly different experience on the way that I am experiencing things. Usually it goes on for an hour or two, although in times of significant stress it has gone for days, maybe even weeks at a time. Today, it has persisted almost all day long.

I feel like my body is two different sizes at once. There is the body that I can see, which obviously is my adult body, but it seems like there is a ghost image of a body that is smaller. If I close my eyes, I can both feel where my fingers are physically in contact with the keyboard, and I have a physical sense of fingers that are shorter and palms that are smaller.

Today, I have only spoken from my adult voice, but I have felt the urge to say things differently. It is like a voice that sounds differently and uses different words is just behind my own voice.

I am both aware that I am an adult who is quite tall and very able to take care of herself and I feel small and so very physically vulnerable.

I think that I have only moved in my normal way today, but there is a strong awareness of another way of moving.

There is an eerie sensation of not being the only one looking out of my eyes.

I know that this all means that I am partially stuck in a memory state/part and I really need to be better grounded in the here and now. In fact, I have been aware of memories being right there, pushing at the edge of my awareness, several times today. I even know what some of the content is, enough to know that I really don’t want to remember. It isn’t violent, but it involves clearly feeling what it was like to feel my grandfather’s body in contact with mine. I think that there is little to no sexual content, but the thought of experiencing that skin on skin contact just makes my skin crawl and leaves me wanting to crawl into a safe corner and cry. It’s just too real.

So far I have managed to keep it to knowing that the memory is there, if I were to let down the barriers and allow myself to fully remember. Earlier, I almost sent my daughter and husband out of the house, so I could have the privacy to fall apart and cry and scream, but I know from past experience that indulging in the urge to do that doesn’t “just get it out of my system,” but rather it seems to set it there more firmly. It activates more of the trauma responses. Even though the urge is to act out my fear, I know that the best way to help myself is to work to calm my system as much as possible and let this pass by me for now.

I just don’t want to do this alone. I am tired and still drained and frankly ill equipped to deal with caring for myself while experiencing such difficult memories. Besides, I don’t have to do this alone and it really does help to have Mama Bear there, making sure that I don’t end up getting completely sucked into and stuck in the experience.

There are times when “I” know something, but so much of the rest of me is close to the surface and the rest of me doesn’t have the same understanding. I know that the vulnerable, hurt parts of me will listen to Mama Bear though. So, earlier in the day, I sent an email to Mama Bear: “I don’t have to remember, right? It is OK to at least say, “not right
now.” I’m trying to convince all of myself of that.”

This was her response: “You have remembered many times. You don’t need to keep thinking about it in order to know what has happened. It is not only fine for you to ground and enjoy the now, you owe it to yourself and the life that you have made to care for yourself and to live the now. You honor your full self when you calm yourself and allow yourself to live that life that you have so beautifully made.

Most of me was able to hear her and settle a bit better into today. My hope is that maybe tomorrow I will even more fully and concretely be me. At least I can hope for that.

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Yesterday was a rare sunny and relatively warm day, so I took the dog out for a walk on my favorite trail.  I have done many hours of post therapy processing on this trail, and I knew that I needed some help working my way through what had come up the previous day in session.

Sometimes the obvious can hit me in a way that I had never considered before, however when I try to write about it, it comes out in a “well, of course” sort of way, even though there was a huge impact when it came to me.  Yesterday’s “stop me in my tracks” realization was just that way…

I had absolutely no choice about the abuse.  All that I could do was to adjust to the circumstances as best I could.  It is likely that when he “gave me a choice,” he knew full well which I would pick, because the other was so much worse.  I was completely manipulated by him and I was so young, I had no way of understanding that he was manipulating me.

I did not choose the abuse in any way.  No matter what he convinced me of, I did not choose the abuse.  The abuse did not happen because of anything that I did or said.  There is nothing that a child could do or say that would cause an adult to sexually abuse her; the adult only abuses a child because the adult decided to.  I remember an old therapist of mine telling me that a child could dance naked in front of an adult and the adult would bear sole responsibility for any decisions that he/she made.  A child cannot cause the abuse.  Period.

But I also think that parts of me may have held on to a sense of responsibility as a way of keeping some hope that I might be able to do something to change what was happening.  I seem to remember hoping that one day I would do whatever it was that he really wanted and then finally he would be satisfied and it would all stop.  I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and I desperately wanted to, because I wanted for him to get what he wanted out of me so things would stop happening.

The reality is that there was no way that I was ever going to be able to satisfy him.  Even now, I don’t fully understand what it was that he felt like he needed/wanted, but I am positive that there was no way that I would ever have been able to do something that would satisfy him for all time.  At least part of of what he needed was to have power over me and make me hurt in multiple ways and that would have been something that he would have come back for over and over, then the only way to stop the abuse was to get me away from him.  No matter what I tried to do while I was alone with him, it could never have prevented the abuse.

The only thing that I could have done was explicitly told my mother what was going on.  I do believe that if she had been confronted with something that she couldn’t pretend away, she would have dealt with it.  But I didn’t understand that then.  And I think that I was trained so early that it was impossible for me to tell that I will never fully understand how it happened.

There are a few things that I am sure that I remember from when I was older and some more that I seem to remember from when I was young. I know that he showed me a boiling cow’s tongue and told me that if I said anything, then he would cut out my tongue.  Later that evening he tried to force me to eat the tongue, but I chose to eat nothing rather than eat it.  That was the celebration dinner for my parents coming back from their 2 1/2 month long trip when I was 10.   It seems that there was something about cutting off other body parts, as well, but that is vague.

And I seem to remember a young belief that my mother had to have known that something so huge was happening.  That it was impossible for him to hurt me so much and for her to not know.  So she must know and she must either be unable to stop it or think that it wasn’t such a bad thing.

I want to wrap that child up in a blanket and hold her in my lap while I rock her.  What terrible options- either believe that I might be able to have some influence over the abuse and feel responsible or live with being totally and utterly powerless and helpless in the hands of such a terrible person.  I do know that a part of me is convinced that by making the choices that I did, I kept him from killing me.  I don’t think that he would have in reality, because it would have been impossible to hide, but I do believe that he carried in him a murderous rage and I had every reason to believe that I was in real danger of being killed.

He is the only one who made choices that dictated whether the abuse happened at all, whether it happened at every opportunity or rarely, and what sorts of things happened.  The sad reality is that all that I could do was to do whatever I had to in order to keep myself as intact as possible.

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I don’t know if other people go through the same cycle, but I definitely have a predictable pattern when I finally come to accept the reality of/let in something related to the abuse that is very painful.

First, I flounder around for days or weeks ahead of time, stumbling over The Issue, even if I can’t recognize it as such until later.  When it was accepting the reality that the abuse really happened, I couldn’t mistake that it was The Issue, because I just went round and round and round it.  This time, when The Issue was being forced to make choices, I can see more clearly in retrospect how I have been showing signs of needing to deal with that particular issue.

Second, I find myself being triggered more and more easily in session by things that previously had not been a problem.  In some ways, I think that my mind is pushing the issue at me, saying, “Pay attention,” until I finally break down and give it the attention that it deserves in session.

Then, there is a session that is extremely intense for me, but not necessarily in strongly emoting sort of way.  Sometimes it can seem to be almost quiet, but at some point there is a physical sensation of a click or a shift and I feel almost disoriented as a result.  I can tell that things are shifting around inside, but I can’t always tell exactly what is shifting or what it is shifting to.  At other times, it is entirely obvious.

And then over the next day, I become more and more aware of the pain and grief involved.  It feels like it weighs me down physically and I find it very hard to think through things and really concentrate on much.  I often experience echos of memory fragments that sometimes threaten to strengthen into full blown memories.  Sometimes the memories seem to be directly related to The Issue and other times they seem to simply be the result of my system being completely stirred up and they have no clear relationship with The Issue.

Eventually, the pain will fade and I will start to learn how to accommodate this new way of seeing things.

Right now, with the having to make choices issue, I find myself squarely in the pain and memory echo phase.  The one good thing is that I have been through the cycle enough times to have faith that even though I am in so much pain right now that it can seem hard to breathe, I know that this is a phase and it is time limited.  I don’t know if it will last 2 days or 2 weeks, but I do know that it pass.  I am also getting better at grounding all the time, so I am more likely to stop the memory echos in their tracks, rather than getting sucked into one and having it turn into an intense experience.

So, if you are new to all of this, please pay attention to what your personal pattern is.  Notice that no matter how intense the pain/terror/rage is, it always eases eventually.  You won’t be stuck in it forever, I promise.  The mind just doesn’t work that way.  The emotions have to ebb and flow.  You may come back to it many times, but you will always get a break eventually.

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Moving nightmare

I cannot believe what a trial this move has been. The movers we hired were absolute incompetents. It was like they just threw our belongings into the truck. And didn’t secure any of it. And stacked the dryer on top of the washer, loose, so at the first corner it would have home flying. We sent them away, called my friend and her husband and started to unpack the truck.

The movers had failed to fit about 50% of our stuff on the truck. After N packed it properly, we were able to fit almost everything on, thank goodness!

We are camping out here tonight. Too tired to drive safely.

Surely this will end at some point.


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