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Archive for October, 2014

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I hate body memories. Sometimes they linger and push and push at me until I finally find a safe time and place to let them come through. Other times, they just come crashing through without warning, generally while I am falling asleep.

Today was pretty much without warning. I slept terribly last night, so after getting my daughter off to school and doing things around the house for a couple of hours, I decided to take a nap. I was aware of a young part that needed to feel safe being close by, so I welcomed her to just feel the cosy safeness of my bed as I was falling asleep. I probably made it most of the way asleep when, bam!, suddenly I was In full blown body memory mode.

My body was being tossed around as if the assault was happening then and there. It was like I was being violently sexually assaulted- not that I was being beaten up, but that my body was remembering what it was like to be invaded fast and hard. I whimpered and moaned liked a frightened, bewildered child that was being hurt. And I knew that I was six.

For so many years, I used this type of memory to doubt myself. I don’t know who assaulted me in the memory. The identity is a huge blank. It’s almost like I was raped by a phantom. It felt like a rape, but that was awfully young, and I don’t believe that my mom could have ignored the sort of physical evidence that would have left. Also, the memory contains more terror than physical agony, which would have been present if I had been raped with a penis.

In the past, particularly when the memories started to surface, I would have used all of those doubts to skewer myself and convince myself that somehow I was “lying” about what happened. It simply didn’t add up and make sense immediately, so it couldn’t be.

I have since learned that things aren’t so cut and dried. I believe that the more intolerable the situation was for me, the more my mind dissociated the identity of the abuser and turned him into Him. Now, if I push, I probably can pick up a scent, smell, taste, sound, or just “sense” that indicates who the abuser was, if there isn’t an identity to start with, but I’m also probably best off not pushing for more details. Instead, I’m willing to go by location, if it’s in my grandfather’s bedroom, then it must be him. If it’s in a bedroom of mine that I don’t believe that he ever saw, then it was my father.

Rape doesn’t mean that a penis was used; rape simply means that my body was violated by someone with something that did not belong in it. Something else could have been used that was much better sized to my body of the time, but still used in a way that for a 6 year old would have felt violent. I could easily come up with a list of things that I know were used at one time or another, but you all probably don’t need any help understanding what I mean.

The upshot to all of this is that this body memory is all too likely to be accurate to my experience. I suspect that it might even be more likely to have a higher percentage of accuracy than a detailed memory, just because there are fewer details that could have gotten confused or distorted. It is the essence of the experience.

In this particular memory, if I really was 6, it could have been either my grandfather or father, because they both had access to me, although at different times and my father had much more access over all. I had no visual information at all in the memory, so I have no sense of the room. The violence is more like my grandfather, particularly at that young of an age, but my dad had far more access to me and I don’t remember much about what happened abuse wise that year. So, it really could have been either and at the moment, I have no interest in asking inside.

I’m also not saying that my insides cannot give me more information. It’s just that I know that at the moment I am feeling frayed and I have learned that if I keep on pushing, then I stand a good chance of ending up connected to a part that responds to feeling overwhelmed by wanting to be dead. I know from experience that I am likely to get more information about this memory over the next few days, so I am willing to give it some time to come out on its own. I will concentrate on soothing this part and dealing with the remnants of yesterday’s overwhelming situation and the part associated with it, which makes this one look trouble free in comparison.

I do hate body memories, though. It’s bad enough being forced to live through it the first time, but again and again as I try to heal from it now? The worst part is that I know that this is only an echo of my experience as a child. How do children survive these things? I know that the answer for me was dissociation, but what about those who didn’t have that escape? Or does every child who is raped dissociate, to some extent or another?

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I am not a big fan of change, especially the sort of change that I don’t feel in control of. I’m realizing that even “good” change makes me feel very uncomfortable when I’m not sure just what is going on and how long lasting it is going to be.

I continue to not feel pressure today and it is just so weird. I feel like I should be jumping up and down that this weekend has been so drastically much better, but I find myself being suspicious of such improvement. Why such a sudden improvement? When is the other shoe going to drop?

I know, I should just relax and let it be, but it is so strange. Not feeling like I’m in real danger of being attacked at any moment? How long has it been since I wasn’t feeling that? Not hearing 6 “voices” in my head at the same time, all trying to get their viewpoint across. Not feeling like I have to fight to be in this time stream.

I’m used to functioning in a particular way and while it is difficult, I’ve also figured out how to handle it. Right now, I feel at a bit of a loss. I normally spend upwards of 50% of my mental and emotional energy dealing with abuse related issues and the strains of living with a dissociative system. This weekend, it was more like 10% and that includes these worries! What do I do with the rest of my time and energy? Right now I am doing art, spending time with my family, and cooking again. Maybe I don’t need to do anything elaborate at the moment. Maybe I can give myself some time to make sure that I have a real shift here, before I feel obligated to go out and get a job or take on something else big. Maybe I need to figure out how to find a new balance that works for me, if I’m not going to be forced to work flat out, most of the time.

If I am shifting into a pattern of less pressure, then I am going to need to learn how to determine what the correct pace of work is for me. I don’t know what it is like to have a choice of how hard I work on something or even what I work on at a given time. I’m used to feeling like it is being jammed down my throat. I could try to avoid a piece of work in the past, but I always felt awful until I finally let out whatever it was that needed to come out. Now, I think that I am going to have to really look and listen inside for what my insides need to have done.

Maybe that is part of the reason the pressure has vanished? I started to really listen to my insides, even when to the point of accepting things that I have spent decades not believing. It certainly can’t hurt.

I suspect that a large part of what is going on is that I have worked my way through all of the major traumas and put them on the table. So up until now, I would get one trauma out and then my system would turn around and start pushing to get the next one out. I never had a chance to fully process anything. I have spent from the beginning of the year having trauma after trauma come out, both for my father and for my grandfather.

With my grandfather, these were the traumas that were too terrible for me to take on when I did therapy before. They came out in a way that was fairly chaotic, but probably roughly followed how traumatic they were for me. I’m not even sure of my age in some, probably because that type of abuse happened at different ages. Some of these memories may have sunk back down to where I no longer remember them again. I’m hoping that my mind will only pick those that really need to be processed and let some others that are similar enough to sink into obscurity. It isn’t necessary to process every abuse memory, just the ones that the mind needs to. By the end of this process, I was dealing with memories that left me feeling as though I had died and someone propped me back up, so I could keep on functioning. Somewhere between a month and six weeks ago, I managed to write to Mama Bear about some very confusing memories that seem to be about a type of abuse that took me to and past the edge of what my system could handle. When I told her, I also told her that it was extremely destabilizing to my system and that I while I needed for her to know, I couldn’t tolerate talking about it. As a result, the only additional reference to that abuse was a few days later when I wrote to her said that it felt to me like I had told her all of the things that I had been hiding about what happened with my grandfather. I no longer felt as though I was hiding secrets about him and it was such a relief.

With my father, the process was different. It has roughly followed an age progression, starting at age 3. I spent more time dealing with different age ranges than others. I don’t know if that’s because there was little abuse then, as compared to other times, or if I seem to most strongly remember the periods when something new was added on that hadn’t been done before. Either way, I know that I have not dealt with strong parts from certain age ranges and while I remain open to dealing with anything that might come up, I have zero interest in going looking for what my dad was doing during those times.

Anyways, I worked my way through 3, 6, and then starting from 8 or 9 constantly through until I was a teen, other than the year when I was 10, which is when my dad was gone for most of the year and I spent 2 1/2 months being terribly abused by my grandfather. I have fought accepting that I was abused by my dad for a long time, but I fought even considering that he abused me as a teen until the last few weeks. I had memories of sobbing in the bathroom of the house that I lived in as a teen, I knew that I had a teen watcher part that just sat there, watching for danger even though she knew that she couldn’t stop it, and I knew that I spent most of a year crying on my mother every day (according to her, I only very vaguely remember it), but I was convinced that these things were just related to the abuse that happened earlier.

But last week, something shifted and I finally simply said, “Yes, my father raped me in that bedroom and that bathroom. Yes, I remember being put into those positions. Yes, I accept that this happened.” Once I spent a few days letting that settle in my mind, the pressure vanished. I think that I had finally made it through all of the most important abuse memories. Maybe there will be others that will come up later, but I have a strong sense of, “Nothing gets worse than this. This is the edge for me and now that I have found it, I can rest assured that I can deal with everything that happened to me.”

I am dreading what it will be like to deal with some of these memories, although I hope that now that the parts that held the traumas are no longer so buried, they will have been able to take in a bit that the world of today is far different from the world of my childhood. I am more confident now than I was 6 months ago that I can tell Mama Bear anything and she will believe that there is at least a core of truth to the memory, even if I find it very confusing and am not sure what to make of it, but the most obvious interpretation just seems too bizarre to be real. I know that she respects and thinks highly of me and the work that I am doing, so venturing into the weird won’t put her opinion of me in jeopardy. I’m also more willing to lean on her when I need to and better believe her when she says that she wants for me to contact her when I start to be in a type of distress that I cannot handle on my own.

I wish that the work on these memories was done, but at least I know that as I go back, I am better equipped to deal with all of those facets that I could only barely tolerate naming before. Now I need to really deal with them, so the parts involved can start to heal.

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The pressure is gone

This is such a strange experience for me… I’m haven’t experienced any internal pressure to figure anything out or deal with any memories today. Things have been blessedly quiet.

I always experience pressure of some sort, sometimes even around the clock. Mama Bear keeps on having to remind me to take some sort of a break and when she does so, I want to say, “If you can figure out how to turn down the firehose, I would be happy to take a break! I’m not being very successful at figuring it out!!!” So going for an entire day without a single body memory, urge to figure out some facet of my past, or being strongly drawn into a child state is a remarkable thing.

The oddest part about it is that I haven’t even made a big effort to do this. I have started to think about a topic that currently concerns me (but I can’t actually do anything about at the moment) a few times and then deliberately turned my mind away from it, but other than that, I’m not making any other special effort.

So what is different? The only things that I can think of are that this week I finally stopped fighting myself about whether my dad abused me and instead started to focus on accepting and comforting the parts that hold the abuse, plus I came to the conclusion that I have to speak to my mother, even though I am not yet sure when or what I will say. These are two things that I have been fighting with myself about for over two decades.

I don’t know how long this will continue for. I do know that I still have a lot of work to do, but at least I no longer feel as though I am tearing myself to pieces and that seems to have given me the room to finally be able to take those breaks that Mama Beat has been advocating for so long.

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I password protected the previous post so that people will not accidentally read it and be triggered. It contains an intense description of my emotional experience of being raped. The usual password will work on it.

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A different approach

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Last night, in my art journal, I drew an outline of my body over a multicolored painted background. The red in the background ended up being focused in the pelvic and heart/throat regions of the figure. When I drew the figure, I was planning on writing in words describing the emotional experience of being raped and trying to deal with the damage afterwards, but once it was there in front of me, I had a much different reaction.

I know that pain. I am all too familiar with it. Looking at the figure, I saw how much the parts of me that hold those experiences need to be comforted, rather than reminded of just how much they hurt. I found myself holding my hand over the figure, imagining warmth, love, healing, and safety bathing the sexual centers of the parts of me that were forced into situations that they were not prepared to handle.

It’s a different thought for me: I don’t need to try to connect deeply right now with the pain and trauma. It’s all right near the surface these days until I get overwhelmed and have to shove it away. I do very much need to connect with the internal resources that will allow me to heal these parts of me that feel brutalized emotionally and physically.

So, today, I keep on mentally putting my hand over that figure, reassuring the parts that “the bad stuff is over now” and imagining the children involved being wrapped in a magic, glowing blanket that will heal the wounds that they hold deep inside.

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“The most purely painful thing about the abuse is how it has affected my relationship with my mother.”

“Yes. You know, it is your dilemma with your mother that has made everything else be so very hard to deal with over the years.” Mama Bear looked at me carefully as she chanced this sympathetic, but blunt statement.

I just nodded my head and said, “Yes, I do know.” I have known for years that I was trying to protect my mother, but I always thought of it as protecting her from the pain of not having protected me from being abused by my grandfather. I have been trying to protect far more than that, though; it’s our basic ability to have any relationship at all that feels at risk. In fact, that’s what I have been trying to protect since my dad started to abuse me, so it is the habit of most of a lifetime. And that’s why I couldn’t allow myself to believe that my dad abused me, no matter what other costs there might be. Over all, I could not “destroy” my relationship with her; never mind that if it is destroyed, it will be destroyed by the pressures of the abuse, not me.

Over the last 6 months, I have said to her as loudly as possible without actually coming out and saying the words, “I don’t want to have anything to do with my father.” I have refused to speak to him on the phone, insisted that he pass the phone to my mother, and gone to some lengths to arrange for my calls to go directly to her, rather than through him. I say nothing about him in any of my communication with her. While I did send cards and gifts for Mother’s Day and her birthday, I did not acknowledge his birthday or Father’s Day at all.
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Despite all of this, she still manages to pretend that all is well and she recently asked if she and my father could take my daughter on a trip. I her lack of reaction demonstrates to me that the only way I might get some acknowledgement from her would be if I am very blunt with her about how I feel, at least to the point of saying that I do not feel at all comfortable with my father and I do not plan on either myself or my daughter being in the same room with him again. On the other hand, she just might act like I said nothing- at this point I can’t predict the extent that she will go to in order to not acknowledge what is going on.

This is a painful situation for me now. I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. Either I can accept the status quo and have no acknowledgement at all as to all of my pain and suffering, or I confront her and stand the very real chance of it all blowing up in my face. I can’t imagine a good outcome that I think has any real chance of happening. On the other hand, not saying anything is eating me up inside and complicating my healing.

Unlike what any semi healthy mother would do, she isn’t ever going to come to me and say, “obviously something is going on, talk with me.” If she was capable of it, she would have done so years ago. It’s all going to be on me to initiate and lead any discussion that we might have. And it’s going to be on me to absorb the pain when she can’t react with concern for me about my feeling that it is so impossible to have a relationship with my father. I don’t know whether she will be defensive, hurt, protective of my father, in shock, angry with me, or if she will simply act like I didn’t say anything. I am 99% certain that I will have to either take care of her, protect myself, or both. I can’t escape this dilemma without experiencing a great deal of pain where she is concerned. Pain that I have been avoiding for so very long.

At the end of me session today, it hit me that I need to know that it is ok for me to talk about the abuse with my dad. Not just the abuse that I am pretty certain happened the way that I remember it, but especially the abuse that I am terribly confused about. I need for it to be ok to talk about it from the place that believes that it happened exactly that way, but also have it understood that I have some reasons to believe that some things didn’t actually happen the way that I think that they did. I need to know that it will all be accepted and safe for me to talk about, both the believing and the not believing.

Mama Bear listened to me say this and she agreed that I need to be able to talk about these things in regards to my dad, but she also reminded me that it is very important that I be working on helping the traumatized parts feel safe and connected to the here and now. “When you talk about what happened and those parts of you don’t feel safe enough, the part of you that beats up on the rest of you gets activated. When you were a child, you absolutely could not afford to remember what was going on. That part of you kept the rest of you quiet and separate, so you could go about your business and actually manage to have a life and grow up. Now, when you talk about what happened, we need to make sure that you feel safe enough, so that part won’t come out and harm you. Keeping you terrorized will only make all of this take longer. This part is too frightened to understand that she is making things worse for you, rather than helping you now. How do you feel about what I have said?”

“It feels right. I understand better now why you keep on pushing me to defocus from the memories and place more focus on calming and soothing the traumatized parts. When things gets to be too overwhelming, it does bring out my self destructive part.”

Walking home from the session, it became increasingly clear to me just how desperately I needed to not “know” about the abuse when I was young. I had to dissociate my knowledge of what was happening, not just because the abuse acts themselves were too much to deal with, but because I was so convinced that my mom would pick my dad over me. My mom was my only sense of stability and safety in the world, so the prospect of losing her was as threatening as an obviously life and death situation.

I have remained stuck in that feeling for all of these years since: I cannot do anything that would create a situation where she might chose my father over me. Never mind that I haven’t lived with her or relied on her for financial support for over 25 years. Or that I went for a period of almost 10 years without speaking to either of my parents. Or that I am hardly speaking to her now and I am getting all of my emotional support and nurturing from other sources.

I’m unable to forget that I love her so very much and I know that she loves me. It’s hard enough feeling my love for her in the now, but I also feel that over riding child’s love, where it feels as though the sun rises and falls in my mother. She is the person I loved first in the world and she is the person whose love kept me whole enough to keep on going, even in the face of the abuse by my father and grandfather.

But something else has to give now. It can’t be my sacrificing my ability to own my own story any longer. I don’t know yet what it will be, but I do know that something has to give.

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