Archive for December, 2014

It’s amazing how looking at things from a slightly different angle can sometimes give me a very different view of myself. Tonight I was thinking about a memory of something that I have always remembered and suddenly I realized that something that I always felt ashamed of wasn’t my shame at all. It was a direct result of my father’s abuse.

I have memories of being 12, at the oldest, and thinking that the men around me would want to have sex with me. One of my clearest memories of this was a time when we went to a fancy restaurant and the waiter flirted with me and asked if I wanted wine. It is true that I looked at least 14 or 15 at the time, because I was very, very tall for my age and did not act like a 12 year old.

I have always felt ashamed of my belief as a preteen and teen that so many of the men that I interacted with wanted to have sex with me. I knew that it was wrong for me to think such a thing and as I got older, I could even reason that most of them probably had no such interest. But I still had that gut level belief.

As I dealt with the sexual abuse, I realized that it had to be related to the abuse and confusion about sexual roles and sexuality in general. Somehow, though, that understanding didn’t lift the sense of guilt and that there was something wrong about me.

Tonight, I was thinking about that restaurant incident for some reason and let myself really remember what it was like being there and experiencing the interactions with the waiter. I realized that I was operating from a firm belief of my sexual attractiveness and that as such he would find me almost irresistible. It hit me: those are not the beliefs that a 12 year old would develop all on her own, particularly not back in the late 70s, growing up in a conservative military family culture. Those are the beliefs that I was burdened with when my father either explicitly or implicitly taught me that he couldn’t resist me. They come from having adult style sexual experiences as a child.

I was taught to expect for men to want to have sex with me. It wasn’t from some weakness of mine that I developed that belief.

I also realized that my reactions to boys my age were pretty age appropriate. I had “I really like being around him” crushes on a couple of boys whom I knew, but I wasn’t aware of them sexually. That was because they were boys and I hadn’t been taught to see boys that way, just men.

I think that I have felt so ashamed about it because I thought that those thoughts must mean that somewhere inside I wanted to have sex with those men. But I didn’t. The part of me that these beliefs came from is a complicated part in regards to sexuality. I think that she reacted, responded, and adapted to what I needed to do with my father. I don’t know what would have happened if any of those men had come on to me. For instance, I used to meet with my physics teacher after school sometimes. He could have tried something inappropriate, but he never did. The whole of me wasn’t interested in sex with any of these men, but the sexualized parts and particularly this part developed to respond… They saw sexual attention as valuable attention and affection; who knows what would have happened if I had responded from one of those parts. They didn’t want sex, but they certainly craved attention and affection and had been shaped to be OK with using sex to get what they needed. Fortunately, these men were all pretty decent and I never found out.

I think that my take away lesson for myself is that my relationship with my father was my over riding sexual influence until well into my marriage. Even now, it exerts a strong influence, but at least it isn’t THE influence any longer. I hate admitting that he shaped me sexually. I find it confusing and troubling that while it was a very bad thing that he shaped me, some of the outcomes themselves weren’t bad. For instance, I have a strong belief that I am sexually attractive to my husband and that he has enjoys acting on that attraction, when I am also interested. That’s a good thing to have in a marriage. These days, I just ignore the possibility that anyone else might be attracted to me, which works for me.

I wish that I could just hate and root out every influence, but it doesn’t work that way. I’m not entirely sure how it is going to work, but definitely it will involve coming to terms with the ways that I was influenced and that work for me. The side of me that wants to be able to see things in black and white is uncomfortable with this grey area. However, while there was a whole lot of bad in my relationship with my father, I suspect that there also is a lot of grey there. I just need to keep in mind that I am accepting myself and who I am, I am not saying that the abuse was in any way OK, even if some of the influences were not terrible.

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I have been struggling over how to name what happened with my father, now that I have started to talk about it with Mama Bear. I try to make myself go ahead and use the “proper” terms for body parts and acts for a couple of reasons. First, it increases clarity with Mama Bear. If I say, “He hurt me down there”, it gives her a general idea of what I am talking about, but she is left guessing as to what I mean exactly. Sometimes it isn’t important, but sometimes it is. The second reason is that it helps me to stay in my adult self, when I am trying to. The child parts are starting to us some of the specific words, but not all of them can and they can’t when they are very upset.

Any of this language is difficult for me. Unsurprisingly, I am not someone who is at all comfortable using sexual language. Even after working with Mama Bear for all of these years and working through a severe phobia of sex, I still find it incredibly difficult to talk about sexual specifics. This has become a problem, because my parts are increasingly insistent upon telling Mama Bear just what happened to them. Some of this I have been telling her by email, but much of it I need to talk about in person.

Right now, the single hardest thing is naming the rapes as rapes. Oddly, I was able to call them rapes when I first starting talking about accepting that they had happened. As they have become more real to me and more memories have come back, I can’t bring myself to name them for what they were. It isn’t because I believe less that they were rapes, really, what else can you call it when a man in his mid 30s has sex with a 10/11 year old? That isn’t anything that a girl that age would ever choose for herself. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t overtly violent. It doesn’t matter if she felt responsible. He chose it for her and all she could do was to make the best of what was going to happen. That’s rape.

It’s such a harsh word, though. It is incredibly difficult to use in relation to my young self, because in my mind it implies such violence. The parts of me that dealt with what happened remember what happened before and what happened after, but only have an impression of sheer sexual and emotional overwhelm during the period when the intercourse happened. It still is too much to fully remember what happened, and I find myself feeling protective of those parts and the level of trauma that they still are dealing with.

The word rape just makes my skin crawl when I am connected with them, so I find myself talking about how I “had sex” with my dad, even though I know that it is totally the wrong term. It’s just that right now it is the kinder term for me to use and it’s more important for me to be as kind and gentle as possible to these hurt parts. I know what am talking about. There is no denial of the seriousness of my father’s actions.

As I am slowly able to fully take the awfulness of what happened to me, I am sure that I will come to a point when I am ready to name it for what it was. I may even come to the point where I am so angry that I want to use the coarsest, most rude words that I know just to express how I feel about the acts. For now, though, helping the hurt parts to feel as safe and cared for as possible maters far more to me than how I use the language, as long as I don’t lose track of what I know happened.

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I’m sorry for my prolonged absence. I have been in a period where I have been dealing with so much internal change that I couldn’t even begin to write. Things may finally be starting to calm down. I hope.

Two of the major pieces that I have been struggling with are really taking in and accepting both that my dad abused me and the magnitude of the abuse. When I stopped having the knee jerk reaction of, “It can’t be true” every time a memory with my dad came up and kept an open mind, I started to see how everything fit together and that it is indeed likely that much, if not all of what I remember is fairly accurate.

I loathe the fact that I need to accept that my internal reality indicates that my dad hurt me so badly over a period of about a dozen years. I have to admit that many of the memories are no longer vague, but rather clearly indicate the types of abuse that happened and what ages they happened at. The fragments are coming together and creating recognizable stories. It’s no longer a just body sensation here, an emotion there, a glimpse of a room, and the presence of a man hurting me all in separate fragments; instead I may have a fairly coherent memory of my father doing something specific, in a particular bedroom, while I feel a mixture of fear, dread, and a desire to please him.

For a very long time I wanted to know what happened that kept on causing all of the mysterious flashbacks that didn’t make sense. More recently I knew to be wary of knowing. Now I have to say that knowing has been very hard on me. I believe that it is a necessary hard and I am making my way through it, but it has been very, very hard. Perhaps the hardest has been accepting that my dad raped me and allowing myself to see when it started. I found my mind titrating taking it in. I would sit there or lay curled up in a ball, taking in what had happened until I could handle no more and then the denial would start to kick in again. “It couldn’t have happened.” Then, later, when I felt stronger, my mind would start to let it in again. There probably were days when much of the day when my daughter was in school, I looked like a zombie. Everything was happening on the inside.

Slowly, I have come to the point where I can tolerate talking a bit with Mama Bear about how my father raped me, how it affected me then, and how it still affects me now. One of the most disorienting things about it is that the experience was so overwhelming that I had so many different emotions/ thoughts/ beliefs, most of which contradicted each other. That maelstrom felt like it would tear my mind apart and instead my mind created splinter parts for each separate reaction. So when I try to deal with my feelings, I feel as though I am spun from part to part, hardly able to identify what the feelings are, never mind deal with them.

It can be a frightening and overwhelming process. Sometimes I feel as though I get lost between the parts and can’t find my way back. If I am in session, I lose the ability to talk. Thankfully, I have found that I can reach out a hand to Mama Bear and she will come to me and hold it, giving me something real to ground on.

Amazingly, as difficult and gut wrenching as all of this is, there is such a sense of relief to finally be honest with myself about it. What happened with my dad should have been impossible, but it happened. I can stop beating myself up, trying to make it “not have happened”, work with what is there, and move forward.

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