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Archive for March, 2015

This is an excellent post on consent. I highly recommend reading it. As a bonus, it manages to bring a touch of humor to a very serious topic, as well.

rockstar dinosaur pirate princess

http://kaffysmaffy.tumblr.com/post/780535517 http://kaffysmaffy.tumblr.com/post/780535517

A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?

Consent.

It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it…

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I know that when I write, it sounds like I don’t have any trouble believing myself about what I believe happened. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet made it past the belief/ disbelief struggle. When I work with the hurt parts, I believe, but when I step back and ask myself whether I think that the abuse with my father could have happened, I get a strong, “No!” reaction.

Yesterday, I went in to my session, intending to talk about how both the belief and disbelief seem necessary for me right now, but as I was talking, I experienced an abrupt shift into my teen part and started to cry with a searing pain from my gut. There were no words, no coherent thoughts, I just hurt and I needed to be seen. When I grabbed a tissue, tissues went all over and Mama Bear came over to pick them up. When she was done, I took ahold of her hand and wasn’t about to let go. The pain still was far too intense to find any words, so that was the only way that I had to ask her to sit next to me and stay.

She sat next to me and I continued to sob for a bit, bent over my knees, then I looked at her and leaned into her for a hug. I went back and forth between letting out that rending pain and leaning into her for comfort. I started to hit my knees with my hands, connecting to some of the anger that lurks inside and Mama Bear found a pillow behind her and put it on my knees, for me to hit instead. The intensity started to ease a bit and she encouraged for me to breathe into the place that held the pain and imagine releasing the tension on the exhale. I stumbled through the breathing and I slowly started to feel as though I could begin to put words to what I was feeling.

Mama Bear said, “I know that the kid is here; she’s always around when there is physical comfort. Is the teen able to take in some comfort from the contact as well?”

I shrugged one shoulder and then nodded. “Yes, I am.” Actually, it meant a huge amount to the teen part for Mama Bear to touch me as if I am clean, after what we had talked about in the previous session.

We then talked about how important it was for all of me to feel heard. How I still have not been heard by my mother and it is something that I need. I talked about how crazy making it was to be told that the grass was blue and the sky was green when I was with my parents.

And then something came together. I doubled over again and groaned in agony and rage, then looked up at Mama Bear and asked, outraged, “How could he rape me and then the next morning act as if everything was alright?!? How could he?!?” I was hit by how it was for me to experience one reality during the night sometimes and, the next morning, the world around me would be as if everything was normal when it was anything but. It was like being torn apart and compressed into a tiny box at the same time. How could what was happening be real, if nothing else reflected what was happening? If my father either was alone with me and sexual (sometimes) or we were around other people and that reality just vanished? How could what hurt me so much, especially in my soul, seem to just vanish for him?

No wonder it doesn’t feel real. It never felt real.

No wonder that I struggle with making it feel real now, because that whole not feeling real was one of the main injuries, I think. I had this huge, overwhelming thing happening between me and my dad, but it wasn’t allowed to be real, so whole areas of me weren’t allowed to be real. But all of the parts of me really are me. That incredible pain, confusion, and outrage over how my dad can have sex with me one night and then act the next morning as if everything is normal, that’s mine, but it’s finally having the space and safety to come out. Knowing that someone can sit next to me and stay WITH me, hear and understand what I am saying, not be revolted by my talking and being, and in fact continue to CARE for me through it all- that’s just such a huge thing for me to experience. When I get the feedback of having her right next to me, it helps those parts of me learn that they (as parts of me) are real and I actually am embodied and in the world.

I spent some time meditating today and it felt like one of my older, wiser parts was there helping me try to just “hold”/ contain as much of me as was there. Just accept the me’s as me and not worry about their stories right now. To know that their stories are my story, whatever is up with the individual details.

I then had a vivid image of there being a me in the top of a tower, looking out and down. And around the base of the tower, developing into a spiral going underground, there were these “garages” (that’s the word that insists on being used, even though I guess that shed might make more sense size wise), and each garage has a doll in it. The doll seems both human sized and doll sized at the same time. Each doll is unique and each is injured, whether you can see it or not. Each represents a time when I was badly violated by my father from 10 or 11 on.

The interesting thing is that while I was very sad looking at this, seeing how many dolls there were and knowing that I couldn’t see the full number of them, it wasn’t frightening or overwhelming. It’s like I was being shown that I’ve been trying to care for the parts of me that had to take the worst of the abuse and at least treat them with dignity, even if I couldn’t let them wake up and be real. And I had a system in place that kept those experiences away from some crucial me. I am angry about being forced into a denial of self by those around me when I was young, but I am grateful to my mind for being able to protect the self that allowed me to get the good that I did get out of my life then.

It seems that something crucial hasn’t fully shifted to where it needs to be yet, but it is in less of an awkward position, so I feel less stressed today. There isn’t a real acceptance yet, but there also isn’t denial that I had sex with my dad. It’s more like seeing the handwriting on the wall. The me’s that know what they believe (but there really is no “they”, even though they aren’t yet part of the “I”) continue doing what needs to be done inside to help all of me. I continue to work from this weird state that neither fully believes nor disbelieves (but believes more and more on balance) so I can do what I need to do. Fully not believing myself would be devastating.

And then I have periods of just believing myself, when it feels like the walls break down some, and I know that he had sex with me. A lot of times. But that’s part of what makes it almost impossible to take in, isn’t it? The magnitude of the offence, how it went on and on, how my mother didn’t do anything, and how it didn’t seem to exist out of my mind- it happened and then disappeared, except for how it made me me feel.

At least I can start to understand and accept that it could be possible for it to continue to feel so not real and yet actually be real.

I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone else, but once I finally saw it, it made such sense to me. The trauma experiences as they happened were experienced as real by the parts who hold the experiences. That’s why when I connect with the memories and parts they feel real, if confused/ fuzzy/ what have you from being in trauma states. But whatever part of me acted as a bridge between the everyday me and the hidden me and could know what happened, she would encode the memories the next morning in a crazy making environment where what had happened couldn’t really have happened. I think that is what I access when I go directly to trying to believe myself. It’s like if I try to go in through the front door, there is a mess of “is can’t be real” memories that I get stuck in, but they feel now, not like memories.

The mind can be a very funky place, can’t it? I probably have some of this wrong, but I’m betting that this understanding brings me closer to what is going on inside my head than what I had before. Most importantly, it seems to bring me closer to accepting myself in all of my strange adaptations to impossible to deal with situations.

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Trigger warning- references to sexual acts and feelings about what happened as a teen

I saw the beginnings of the fruit of many, many years of work in my session yesterday. Thinking about it, it’s like I’m finally getting around to working on what first took me in to see Mama Bear back in 1992. It just took me far longer to get to the point where I could begin to tackle it than I ever could have guessed.

I was referred to Mama Bear by a couple’s therapist because I was so terrified of sex that I had trouble even allowing my husband to touch me non sexually. I knew that I had experienced a date rape in college and Mama Bear says that when I described what had happened, she recognized that I had strongly dissociated during it and that it was likely that I had a prior history, even though I reported my family as being “perfect”.

I know from my journal at the time that in the period when I started to see her, I was experiencing body memories, even though I did not understand them and they made me feel crazy. Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to start to talk about the type of abuse that happened in one of those recurrent body memories. I have mentioned it to Mama Bear in writing before, but I haven’t ever been able to say anything out loud. Even yesterday, I used a combination of words and pointing to an area of my body because I was incapable of saying the proper words through my shame and sense of shock. Even starting to talk about it sent me straight into a re-experiencing, so Mama Bear had me shift to paying attention to what I could physically feel right there and then, plus she got me to talk about the bear blanket that I so love the feel of. But at least I was able to get it out, into the open, after so many attempts to say something.

I can see now that it is highly likely that the abuse memories that were trying to come out all of the way back in 92/93 were largely related to my father, but I simply couldn’t go there. I had good reasons to be afraid of my mother’s older brother (he had hurt me as a toddler, had a history of extreme violence with my mother growing up, had PTSD from being a foot soldier in Vietnam, and was all around an unsettling/scary person.) I am very sorry to say that I attributed memories to him, because he was more acceptable to blame than my father. I suspect that he also used his physical presence to overwhelm me in ways that were very reminiscent of what happened during the sexual abuse with my father.

Anyways, I told my mother that I thought that her brother had sexually abused me and she had no trouble believing that he was capable of it (I suspect that he may have been abused and then turned around and abused her when they were young teens), but she was full of disbelief that she could have missed something that big. Everything got turned around to being about her in that moment and from then on, I kept on trying to ask for help as things got worse and worse for me over the next months, but she could only give me lip service support. What I needed was for her to fly across country and hold me and give me tangible support.

At the level that knew that my father had abused me, the decision was made to close that down, and instead I shifted to working on the abuse with my paternal grandfather. He was openly acknowledged as being a terrible person, so it was relatively safe for me to bring that abuse out into the air.

Twenty two years ago, I was incapable of dealing with my father’s abuse without my mother’s support. I was too young to do it on my own. I had only just started therapy and didn’t have any of the skills that I have learned over all of these years. I was so vulnerable that I was afraid that I was going to kill myself in an attempt to escape the pain and that was without considering my that my father was one of my abusers. When it became clear that she wasn’t going to be able to provide any meaningful support and instead I had to worry about taking care of her, because my distress was causing her distress, I went by instinct and did what I needed to do to take care of myself. Invisibly, everything regarding the abuse with my father was walled off, I didn’t realize that I did it and Mama Bear didn’t know either, because I had never said a word about him. Very visibly, I cut off contact with my parents. I couldn’t take care of both my mom and myself at the same time. What I didn’t realize is that I must have been experiencing a huge sense of betrayal inside. I knew that I was angry at her for not coming through for me, but all beneath the surface, once again, she had chosen my father over me. I had been in a situation where I could have started to open all of that up and let the poison out, if she had solidly come through on my side. But it was a repetition of my childhood and the abuse had to remain unspoken and unknown.

There were at least two other points over the years when my mind started to leak memories of my dad’s abuse and I really looked at it and considered whether he had abused me. Each time, I decided that something had happened, “but surely it couldn’t have been as bad as the dreams make it seem” and it was firmly walled away again because my life wasn’t in a situation where I could deal with something that devastating.

So, here I am, twenty two years later. Lots of life experience, time off from therapy to get my daughter off to a good start, a couple of masters, some professional work, and many, many internal changes later, I am ready to take it on, after three years of intense prep work with Mama Bear. Granted that I have been tackled the whole “my dad abused me” issue for a big chunk of that time. But now I ready to start to deal with what probably is the crux of the matter in regards to my sexual relationship with my husband: How my father raping me affected my developing sexuality as a teen and all of the confusion/ guilt/ shame over the acts done, feeling like I was betraying my mother, confusion over what sexual acts do I like/ want to do and what is only because of the abuse, what are my own responses and what are conditioned responses, shame over expecting pain and sex to go together, remembered conflict over both wanting to tear off and throw away my body so I couldn’t feel anything and sometimes wanting to be touched. And more than anything, that one type of act. It isn’t even anything that is all that unusual, but inside there is such a sense of overwhelming shame for some reason it makes me feel less than human. Perhaps worst of all is the fact that my body learned to like it, a lot. I feel so confused with that- part of me feels completely disgusted and betrayed by my body and another side of me understands that there are lots of people who find it pleasurable. It’s yet something else for me to try to puzzle out and find a way to make my peace with, along with so many other sexual experiences with my father. (Now that is a sentence that a person shouldn’t ever have to put together.)

There is so much shame over being a teen, knowing what is right and what is wrong, and what was happening with my father was very wrong. Somehow, it’s like there was no choice in whether there would be sex, though, just how I would manage my part in it. Mama Bear tells me that is normal in cases when there has been long term abuse from a young age. She is going to bring in something for me to read, which I hope can help me understand what happened better.

The thing is that I wanted very much to be loved by my father, I just didn’t want to be loved that way. I wanted to be held by him, because even as a teen, I needed a safe snuggle; I certainly didn’t need an intense sexual experience. I needed for him to see me as important and useful, but it was toxic for that importance to be as a sexual partner.

And I did want to be touched in some of the ways that he was touching me, but not by him. But by a boy that I liked who and my father made too afraid to date me. I wanted to be kissed, but not feel my father’s tongue in my mouth, I needed to kiss someone I wanted to kiss, to start lightly and learn what I wanted. I yearned to feel my body close to this boy’s, but what I needed was to experience that sweet wanting to be oh, so close, but to be held and safe with that wanting. I don’t know for sure that I would have gotten that with this boy, but I do know that he very much liked me, he respected me, and cared enough about me as a person to continue to be a close friend, even after my dad scared him off from dating me.

I was a physically healthy teen. The time was right for me to develop sexually, but not only had things gone wrong earlier, but my dad was using me through this very vulnerable period.

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Sometimes the here and now packs a wallop that I would dearly love to be able to avoid. The picture is of my much loved dog and she is in the last stages of dying from cancer. The picture is from last fall, before we knew that she was sick, on a wonderful day spent hiking through the woods, alongside gorges, and up beside waterfalls. Our part of the USA doesn’t have the majesty of the high mountains, but it’s still pretty special.

Losing an animal is always hard and I know that I have fallen in love with a breed that has a relatively short live span, as most of the large breed dogs do. It’s a reality that I am prepared to deal with, because the combination of character, family suitability, partnership, and beauty is like none other that I have found. I work with breeders that are trying to help reduce the health problems and my previous two Bernese lived for 2 and 3 years beyond the average live span. With Georgia, though, we lose. She is only 5 and 1/2. This should be middle age for her. She should have several years left!

She is the dog who finally would have been perfect for me to do Pet Assisted Therapy with, now that she finally calmed down enough and my life shows signs of lightening up. She has been my healing companion who helped to ground me in the here and now by sticking a wet nose on my hands, when I had a flash back. She brought me toys to cheer me up when I was crying and sad. She stayed by my side and helped my child parts feel safe because there was a Big Dog that looked a lot like a bear watching over them. She has the thickest, best feeling fur for me to bury my hands in, and is one of the best grounding tools ever. Even her doggy odor could help to bring me back, although that one of my family’s least favorite things about her.

She is very smart and willing to work, although she tends to ‘talk back’ when she really doesn’t want to comply with my making her control herself. She has spunk and has been the happiest dog that I have ever known. Until she got sick, nothing got her down for long. She adores her people and loves meeting new people. She loves to sit on the feet of any human she likes and put her muzzle between my thighs, so I can thoroughly scratch the sides of her body. Her gusto for life helped to keep my heart from feeling too bleak, during some very dark times.

Mama Bear calls her my “nanny dog,” because she has taken such good care of me over the last few years. She would help to draw me out for walks in the woods. Once, I had put in a call to Mama Bear after a session and then gone out for a walk in the woods with Georgia, to try to help soothe myself, before I needed to get into the car for the 2 hour drive back to where I lived at the time. I was tearfully talking with Mama Bear about something when all of a sudden I changed to my Listen To Me voice, “No! Georgia! Do not go in that swamp! Come here now!!!” Mama Bear still laughs about talking to me with my asides to the dog.

Even though she is so weak now that she has trouble getting up on slick surfaces, she used to be as strong as an ox. Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally breed as all purpose dairy farm dogs in Switzerland, including doing draft work hauling milk carts. She certainly would have been strong enough to do so!

She had so much strength and such a will to live that she has survived far longer than we had any hope that she might. We first heard the word “cancer” two days before Christmas, 10 weeks ago. We were able to do the diagnostics a couple of weeks later, after New Years, and we found out that it was indeed cancer, it had metastasized to multiple organs, the main tumor was about 6 inches long in her right lung, and it was almost certainly an extremely aggressive form of cancer. She had a death sentence. Most dogs with the diagnosis are dead very quickly, hours or days are most common, sometimes they have weeks, only very rarely do they last for months. We have had the gift of months, which we are incredibly grateful for.

Our vet has been great at working with us on palliative care, so we have been able to control her pain, keep her eating, and keep her happy to be with us. But she is starting to become very weak and we can see that the end is drawing near. My daughter is terribly upset, I am terribly upset, my husband is upset (but being a rock, because he has two emotional females in the house.) We have been talking about how this simply is a hard and painful time. Nothing will make it not be painful and we are all on edge and more inclined to be cranky or overly sensitive. However, if we try to keep in mind that we are reacting to our grief about the dog and it has little to do with the other person, we can keep from making things worse. If we hold on to each other with love and keep on talking, it doesn’t make the hurt stop, but it makes it easier to bear. My daughter comes to me and I hold her and talk with her. I go to my husband and cry on him while he holds me and we talk. I think that he also cries a bit while my head is buried, which would be good.

That is how the adult me is handling the grief, but the child parts are just blown away. They cycle between denial, refusing to let her go, and saying over and over, “I want my dog!!!” The thought of losing her comfort is overwhelming. But I will have to say goodbye to her soon. My plan is to spend tomorrow’s session on this and I hope to come to a place of enough acceptance so that I can make the right decision when I need to. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of tears and facing of the fears created by dealing with the fact that sometimes you can’t change bad things in life. Being unable to protect a creature that I love feels unsafe and scary to me. It’s a fact of life and it isn’t a case of someone trying to hurt me or someone I love, but it’s still scary.

I’ve lost other pets before and it has been painful, but I’m more present this time. I’m more aware of how it is affecting various parts of me. While I do put it to the side a lot of the time, so that I can function, that is different from numbing out. It’s just that I can’t remain constantly in a state of grief for months on end. Also, when it comes down to it, she is my favorite dog that I have ever owned. She is the one with whom I have bonded the most strongly and I also bond well with my dogs. She is the one who has had the greatest impact on me and my healing. Ironically, she also is the one who has been in my life for the shortest amount of time.

Georgia, you are amazing. I will always love you.

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