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Archive for December, 2013

On vacation

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Sunset with pampas grass

I’m just dropping in quickly to let folks know that silence in this case is a good thing. I am on vacation to someplace warm with my husband and daughter. We have been visiting his family and I am grateful that to them I am an integral part of the family.

Happy New Year to all!!

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My daughter adores the ocean

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Leah Day Sunrise of a New Day

Leah Day
Sunrise of a New Day

I’ve been doing it again. I’ve been trying to go back and rescue myself, which is impossible. No wonder I’ve been feeling hopeless, because it’s a task that I have no hope of being able to accomplish. Unfortunately, when I fall into trying to do this, I trap myself in re-experiencing trauma memory after trauma memory. As Mama Bear said today, it wouldn’t be so bad if my adult was witnessing it and supporting the child part, but I go into the child part and simply re-experience the trauma. Nothing good comes from re-experiencing trauma over and over. It doesn’t facilitate healing; all that it does is stir up trauma symptoms to some degree or other.

In my session today, Mama Bear urged me to not engage with every memory, but to instead practice simply letting them be. I told her that it felt like a betrayal of the child part to leave her to the memory, to which Mama Bear replied, “C., you are thinking as though the child part is a real child inside of you, not a part of you.”

I stopped, stunned, but soon realized that she was correct. I was acting as though I needed to rescue a real child- a child whose needs I needed to put before my own. But as separate as the parts can sometimes feel, we are all a part of the same whole. I was forgetting that the distress that I feel now when I engage with the memories is every bit as important as the distress that I remember. And even worse, by putting myself back in the memory in a futile attempt to help the child that I was, I was instead helping to keep all of me in that distress. I have to remember: I’m not trying to rescue a child; I’m trying to rescue me. All of me. In some ways the now me is the most important, or at least where the ultimate healing needs to be focused, because that is where I should be living and that is where all of the best stuff is. I don’t want to live my childhood over again, but really living now could be a very good thing.

Then Mama Bear dropped the real bombshell on me: “You have already lived through everything that happened to you. You don’t need to experience every detail of it again. What you needed was for the adults in you life to see what was going on then.” That’s exactly what I have been doing. I have been acting as if my being there with the child part during the abuse will somehow change what happened. I desperately want to change what happened. But I can’t change it now. I did the best that I could to deal with it then and I couldn’t change it then. I needed an adult to change what happened. I have never had the ability to change what happened to me; that ability lay outside of me and I had to rely on the adults to do what they should do. It’s not my fault that they didn’t.

I’m not sure whether it is more freeing or heartbreaking to take in that stopping the abuse was out of my control. Mama Bear reminds me that I wasn’t fully helpless, because I got myself through what happened and got myself to where I am now, but in terms of stopping the abuse, I was helpless. Helpless sounds bad, but in this case, because it is the truth, there is a good facet to it. It absolves me of the responsibility for stopping the abuse, for saving myself. It isn’t my fault. It isn’t my shame that it happened. It wasn’t that I let it happen; it was that I had no control over the actions of the adults in my life. Stopping an abusive adult requires the intervention of another adult. I couldn’t make it happen on my own.

I can stop trying to make it up to myself. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t save myself. I may need to repeat that to myself a lot before I fully believe it.

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Torrent of Fear Leah Day

Torrent of Fear
Leah Day

I am massively confused, so please bear with me while I babble.

I don’t know what’s quite so wrong with me right now, but I don’t seem to be able to find my hope. I so rarely lose the sense that I am certain that things will turn out OK in the end, even if I know that it will be painful and may take a long time to get there. But for the last few days, that sense of hope is just gone.

I feel as though everything is wrong in the world and that even the best things are shadowed somehow.

I don’t know how much of this is a remembered sense of despair from when I was a child and how much might be depression right now. It doesn’t feel like a normal depression, but I don’t usually find myself in the grip of an emotional memory for days on end. In fact, I think that it would be a first for me. But that is more what this feels like.

After all, “I” know that this is a phase, and very painful phase, but I have been through painful phases before. I will eventually work through it. I don’t rationally agree with this thought, even if I can’t emotionally shake it off right now.

And then when you consider that I have had no desire to end my life for months, the fact that I had the wish tonight that there was some way to kill off all of me that remembers and feels anything about my family and just leave enough to be a mother for my daughter is a sign that something is amiss inside. Given how completely out of the blue it was, I suspect that it is a remembered desire to end the pain.

The last couple of weeks have been very, very difficult for me. I am trying my hardest to learn how to manage some very intense feelings of rage and grief, but I’m not really succeeding yet. I feel as though I have been sucked into this emotional vortex in regards to my dad, what happened with him, all of the unknowns about what happened, and my mother. My ability to disengage and give myself a break has been as its lowest level for the last several months. I’ve done a bit better today, but that isn’t saying much. There are a lot of different parts to what I am dealing with, but the most confusing of which are those that are memory related. I’m not going looking for memories, but it’s like I’m just surrounded by them and things are being triggered all too often.

Lately, I have been dealing with so many memories of sensations, emotions, and vague impressions that are I believe are from something real, but are so disjointed that I don’t know what actually happened. It is extremely difficult for me to deal with knowing that something really, really bad happened and having some vague idea of what it probably was, but not actually knowing. I strongly suspect that sometimes my mind may try to make sense out of the confusing information that I have and in the process fill in some of the blanks, without my being aware of it. This is hard for me to admit, because it is all too close to “making things up,” but I understand now that it is a need to make meaning and give some form to the terrifying pieces of information that I do have. And it isn’t like I’m doing it intentionally- it’s something my mind does in the background. For all I know, those blanks are filled in by pretty much what happened. Or they could be filled in by something that the information reminds my adult mind of, but might not have happened. I believe that this is why I keep on being warned that I can know in general what happened, but I can’t be sure of the details. I so seem to be developing a sense as to when this might be happening, and I try to take a step back and give myself an extra reminder to not rely on that memory to be literally accurate.

Right now, my most present conflict centers around a teen part. I know that I have had a sense/seeming memory of this part sitting on the floor of the bathroom of our house at the time, crying. I have seen this many times over the last 9 months or so. My intuition is that little to nothing physical happened with my father while we lived in this house, but what did happen is that I kept on getting triggered and so I lived with the sense of despair that nothing would ever be OK again. I do remember that for several months when I was 13, I would sob on my mother almost every day. The purported reason was because of social adjustments in school and while I was having trouble there I also seem to remember either at the time or afterwards thinking that my reaction was stronger than the problems warranted.

There is something that has been very disturbing to me in a vague way over the last while. I don’t have any physical memories that I identify of abuse during this time, but there is something else there. Then, tonight, while I was sitting in the bathroom, I got those memory type things that are almost too clear in the way that I identify as possibly being “fill in the blank” “memories.” Sitting here, writing, it has occurred to me that when I was a teen, I might have been triggered to being afraid and imagining certain things that might happen with my dad. He used to take me out on father/daughter “dates” to movies mostly and I can easily imagine that in my traumatized, dissociated brain, that would have been very threatening to me. It would have provoked fears of what he might do, which I probably would have dissociated, in an attempt to keep everything tucked away. This “feels” right- that I was terrified inside that he was going to rape me and I struggled to manage that fear the best that I could. It makes sense of why I have memories of crying in fear and emotional pain and I have images (with some emotional content) of being raped, but there are no physical or emotionally intense memories even though those types of memories are predominant in other ages. My heart goes out to the teen me; what a burden to try to manage without even really allowing myself to understand what I was trying to manage. I don’t know if I had some inkling of memory of abuse from when I was younger, or if I was as clueless as I seem to remember being. I don’t know which would have been worse: vaguely remembering being abused by my father or having these overwhelming fearful/despondent/painful feelings that I couldn’t make sense of.

Yesterday, I said something to Mama Bear about desperately wanting for someone to hold me while I sobbed on them and I immediately realized that I was experiencing a child/teen desire for my mother to hold and comfort me while I sobbed on her. I think that I was connected to memories of when I was 13 without being aware of it and that is why I have been experiencing this sense that everything is wrong and nothing will be right again. Even if I was mostly dealing with memories on the inside, I can only imagine how much despair would be evoked in a 13 year old who was going through sex education, starting to be aware of boys, and who had been sexual with her father and grandfather.

I just realized something… I was mostly an A student. I have only ever failed one course and it was that year. I failed PE the quarter that they did sex education. I refused to do the project for it and I wouldn’t go to school the day of the test. It’s like I tried to tell my mom that something was wrong. I don’t remember having any understanding of why I couldn’t deal with the class. I assume that I must have attended the class, in body at least, but I have no memory of it. I just remember all of the conflict and shame around failing that class, but being unable to take advantage of the opportunity to make up the test or turn in the project late.

I don’t know what to tell that 13 year old inside of me, because she is really hurting. The reassurances that work with the younger parts don’t seem right for her. And for the moment, nothing comes to me when I “listen”.

Well, I’m not sure that there was much here for anyone else, but I figured some things out that were quite useful. So thank you for “listening”!

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100 Ways to Answer the Question “How Are You?”

I know that I struggle with this all of the time and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.  I think that there is something for everyone in here.  Number 59 and 85 made me laugh the hardest and some day I’ll have to use one of them on Mama Bear.  92 is brilliant for when you don’t want to lie and don’t want to go into how you feel but do want to engage with someone.

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Katie Pasquini Masopust Painted Canyon

Katie Pasquini Masopust
Painted Canyon

I hate my father right now. Please don’t tell me that I should forgive him or that hating him hurts me more than it hurts him. I think that sometimes there is a time and place for hating someone. For me that time is this period when I am finally accepting not only that my father abused me, but allowing myself to see and feel how that has affected me for most of my life. It is my way of laying claim to the certainty that what he did was completely and inexcusably wrong. He harmed me so badly. Yes, I am determined to recover from it, but I have spent 4 decades paying for his misuse of my body and my trust. I am so far beyond angry about that and I hate him right now. How else does a person express the level of rage and revulsion that she feels when she finally allows herself to experience what it was like to have her father do things to her that only lovers should do to each other?

I hate him for the fact that I have been experiencing body memories for 20 years, but my mind couldn’t let me know who was creating those sensations. I have spent decades remembering/feeling him doing things to me that no father should do to his daughter. This week has been especially intense in terms of body memories. There is one in particular that has come up repeatedly and brings up such feelings of rage. He taught me that he could take things that feel bad and combine them with pleasure to make them feel good. I feel so much outrage at both what he did and how he manipulated my body.

I hate him for daring to touch me, for acting like he had a right to my body. No one has a right to my body other than me. No one. Definitely not my father. I hate him for not caring about what his using me would do to me. I hate him for how my husband is paying for my father’s actions.

I so wish that he was not a part of the world. So much of me hates him so much right now that I wish that he was dead. I wish that I could wipe him off the face of the earth. I am so angry that he has a comfortable life when he has caused me so much pain. I hate him.

I hate him for the fact that I cooperated. I hate knowing that I did what he wanted for me to do. I hate remembering doing things to make him feel good. I hate that he gets between me and my husband when I try to touch my husband.

I hate him for not loving me. If you love someone, you don’t use her in a way that is going to scar her for life. Love and forcing your child to have sex with you just don’t go together. Don’t tell me that you loved me. I haven’t bought that lie in years. You were proud of me and glad that I could make you feel like you had done a good job by raising an accomplished daughter. I hate you for using the fact that I wanted your attention and wanted for you to love me when I was a child, though. I was so confused, because at last I felt like I was useful for something, but it felt wrong somehow. What you did left parts of me feeling like I’m only good for sex- I should just be used and then thrown in the trash. Or maybe that’s both you and grandpa.

I hate him for the fact that I think that things didn’t stop when I was six. I seem to remember things happening when I was 8 or 9 and then again somewhere in the 10-12 age range. I just hope that they happened for a little while and then stopped until they started up again. I thank God that he was in the military and would be gone for 6 to 9 months at a time, so I know that I definitely had periods of safety that way.

I hate him for the fact that I may lose my mother over his abusing me. Yes, she is the one who will have to choose how to respond if/when I tell her whatever I tell her. As much as I wish that I could avoid it, listening to myself, I suspect that I am going to need to confront her with some very unpleasant truths. I also fear that she won’t be able to deal with them. If he hadn’t abused me, we would have had a fighting chance if we only had to deal with the abuse by my grandfather.

At the moment, though, I think that I most hate him for my having to live with the physical memories. In most of them, I’m not even entirely sure what he did; I just know that he produced certain sensations in me and I know what sorts of actions on his part would do that. I get to go through the day, experiencing body memories at unexpected times. I might be sitting in the grocery store cafe, making a shopping list, when I feel myself being penetrated so painfully that I just want to curl up in a ball. Fortunately that happens rarely, more often it will be a case of my driving the car down the road and I will experience intrusive feelings of penetration. Or I will be standing on the playground, waiting for my daughter after school when I have phantom feelings of being stimulated. I was at the ballet tonight and I briefly experienced the memory that my mind is most struggling with with week. I know how to deal with it so that no one around me knows that anything is going on and I don’t let it stop me from getting done what I need to get done, but it is so wrong that I’m still feeling things that my father did 4 decades ago.

So, I hate him right now and I feel no guilt over hating him. I spent so much of my life trying to look at him positively, to my own detriment. Now I need to look at him honestly, even though that means that I hate my father. I’m guessing that the anger will ease eventually; it has for my grandfather. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to forgive him, unless he is able to apologize to me (which won’t happen), but I do hope that I will come to the point where he doesn’t matter enough for me to waste my emotional energy on. For right now, though, hating him is a part of my laying claim to being able name my reality. He hurt me badly enough for me to hate him. I’m not just angry at him, but I hate him.

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Talking

Leah Day Sink Hole

Leah Day
Sink Hole

Breaking the silence is so hard. It’s a completely automatic survival mechanism. Do. Not. Talk. For me, that seems to apply to my mother more than anyone else. And boy does it ever play out in the therapeutic relationship with Mama Bear. Talking to her can be painfully difficult. Simply getting any words out can take 10 minutes sometimes. And then it might still only be a few words, depending on how threatening the subject is.

Fortunately, we aren’t restricted to just verbal communication. I have found a way to tell her about important things that I would never be able to get out of my mouth in session- I write e-mails to her. For whatever reason, it by passes many (although not all) of the “do not tell” rules and has been an important method of passing information. It allows me to tell her difficult things that I am no where near able to discuss in person, but I very much need to know that I am not “alone” with. Sometimes I use the e-mails as a method to say, “I have to talk about this, so please don’t let me avoid it, even though I know that I am going to try to.” One time I even used it as a way to say, “I’m afraid that I am going to do something that I will regret. If I tell you what I am fighting doing, I don’t think that I will do it, so even though this feels shameful to me, this is what I’m afraid that I am going to do…” It worked.

The use that most frustrates Mama Bear is the one where I go away and the things that happened slowly and painfully in session finally work their way through various layers over the next several hours and then I am finally able to respond to the work that was done. I do half of the work of the session 3 to 10 hours after the session, often while I am writing to her. She wishes that I would do the work in session with her, where we could work on it together, but she also understands that simply isn’t the way that my mind works right now.

This most current topic- accepting that I believe that my father abused me- is pushing and pulling at the “do not talk” rule. Simply admitting it to myself is breaking the rule, really, however one of my most unexpected responses has been a strong sense of relief that I no longer need to keep the secret. So much of me wants to go and make sure that so many people know that it can never go back to being a secret again. Most of all, a young part wants to be able to go to my mother and do what I should have been able to at the time: tell her exactly what was happening with my father. I should never have had to keep the secrets of what he was doing to me and what I had to do to him.

At the same time, though, the “do not speak” messages are alive and well. I was thinking about my session tomorrow and what I need to say and I realized that while I can’t tell my mother exactly what happened right now (if ever), I can tell Mama Bear. I can experience the relief of knowing that someone knows exactly what he did and that he is the one that she is angry at, not me. I know exactly what I want to say, but when I imagine myself saying the words, I am silenced in my mind. I know that this is a time when I need to have her right there when I tell her, because experiencing someone who cares being there, hearing and supporting me and then seeing their reaction is what it is all about. An e-mail won’t do the trick at all.

I have some ideas on how to try to handle this, but I’m not sure how well they are going to work. To start with, I need to remain compassionate in regards to myself and not get too frustrated- I’m going to be doing the best that I can do. It’s the child parts who are still trapped with that rule and it’s also the child parts who need to tell and who have the information about what happened. So I will need to be very gentle with myself. I think that some parts might be able to whisper some of what needs to be said. Some might be able to mime or point to parts of the body and I seem to remember that Mama Bear is good at gently interpreting what can’t be said, but making sure that she correctly understands what I mean. Finally, I can ask to have a note pad at hand, so I can write down even bits and pieces.

Maybe if I do all of this, I will learn just a bit that it is safe to talk and next time it will be just a touch easier to use my voice. I have to find my voice, though. I have to tell my truth. The thought terrifies me, because so much of me fears that if I tell my truth I will end up all alone, but it’s just too much holding such difficult secrets. Besides, that’s an old fear, the people in my life now won’t abandon me just because I dare to say what I believe happened.

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Previous post

You may have noticed that my previous post was first available, then password protected and the normal password didn’t work. Since writing it, I have had a divided reaction of both being glad to stop keeping secrets and wanting to hide. Hiding won for awhile. I still feel a need to be protective, so this post will remain under a password, however, it has gone back to the normal password. If you are a regular reader or someone with a connection to the topic and do not have the password, please feel free to contact me at livingwhilehealing at gmail dot com.

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