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Archive for June, 2015

I hurt

Wow, I hurt. I hurt through and through. My young selves hurt and my current self hurts- all of me hurts. The grief seems to be a thick substance that fills me and surrounds me.  I feel drained of hope and I have forgotten how to laugh. The young parts of me seem to think that there is no possibility of comfort from anything or anyone. I’m tending towards deadening my feelings and just enduring, without even realizing what I’m doing. There is a small part of me that wants to fight back, but that part feels so weak and overcome even before she starts. There is despair. 

My father raped me. The resistance to believing myself is dissolving further and it’s emotionally devastating. I wanted so much to be loved by him when I was a child. There were times when he was an ok father, never as fantastic as he wanted to believe that he was, but at least ok. But he didn’t just sexually abuse me, didn’t just molest me, he raped me, and I have a remembered sense of the world coming to an end. It was like I reached a point at some time when it felt like some part of me broke and there would never again be safety in the world. Not for me. 

The wisest part of me knows that even though this is incredibly painful, I will work my way through it. I will eventually laugh again. I will eventually want to be touched again. My heart will stop feeling like pieces have been torn out of it and I will heal again. I can’t feel any of that at this moment, but it have been through this sort of painful process enough times to know that if I don’t give up and I keep on moving in the right direction, eventually I will start to experience some glimmers of hope. Eventually I will come out on the other side.

Nothing can undo what my father did to me, but at least I can learn to live with it.  I will have stopped hiding from it and so this dreadful grief and pain will have been processed and no longer be an invisible anchor that is tied to my neck, threatening to pull me under. Life will get better. Eventually, life will be much better. 

But for right now, I just have to get through each day. 

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Trigger warning: I talk about trying to understand having been raped. I do not describe memories, but talk about the confusion of it and around it.  I do not use graphic descriptions, but I also don’t shy away from naming things for what they are. Please be aware of your needs and take care of yourself. 

So many questions that don’t have answers right now…

What does it mean to believe myself?

What do I believe happened?

Who is that “I”?

How much of my belief is affected by how parts are set up, which part holds what, whether parts are still behind strong dissociative barriers?

Is my ability to believe myself limited by how much I can tolerate knowing?

If what I think happened really did happen, how can my father live with himself?

How can he live like a normal person?

He isn’t psychotic. He isn’t deranged. He isn’t evil. He is damaged, but close enough to pass for normal with most people. 

So how can he sleep at night?

How can he not come to me and beg my forgiveness?

Is it ok to him that he raped me when I was too young to have any real understanding of what he was doing?

Is it really ok to him that he put his penis inside his daughter?

Could that actually have felt good to him?  Or was he trying to regain power over what his dad did to him?

Is that what I offered him?  A chance to be the powerful one- the raper- the one who holds down and controls the other?  The penetrator- the one whose body invades the child’s body. 

How can he not have been completely disgusted with himself?

How can you rape a child over and over?  For years. 

Especially if you knew what it was like to be raped yourself?

Who the hell rapes a child?

It seems like it should take a monster, but my dad wasn’t a monster. My grandfather was more monster than my father and even he wasn’t all monster. My dad didn’t feel like he was a monster. 

So how does a man rape a child?

It makes it all seem as though the memories can’t be true. But I know that children are raped. Not just me. Not even just rarely. It happens every day, all over the world. 

But still, nothing adds up. It shouldn’t be possible for my father to have raped me. These memories should be impossible. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Father. Rape. Daughter.  I was taught that my Daddy treated me like a princess. That isn’t the way that princesses are treated. 

I use the word “rape” now, but really, in my mind, it’s the experience of me as a child who didn’t know the word rape or understand the concept. It’s the utter bewilderment of a part of his body going into mine, which hurts and is gross and really scary. It’s overwhelming sensations and emotions. It is knowing that he uses my body and grandpa uses my body, there is something very wrong about it even though Daddy is supposed to take care of me, but no one can talk about it. It’s feeling totally and utterly helpless and alone. It’s feeling like a part of me died. It’s wanting to be dead sometimes. It’s just wanting for it to stop, so I can have a safe daddy. 

I know that what happened between the two of us was very harmful to me. It hurt me so badly that it can still make me feel like I am being torn apart.  In some ways, knowing just what happened shouldn’t matter all that much. There is so much work that I can do just working from the emotional memory of how hurt, frightened, and betrayed I felt.  However, at the same time, it’s like these memories keep on being shoved at me. I think that in some way I have a profound need to have my experience be understood and accepted, most of all by myself. By it is so hard to accept. Intellectually, I believe that my father could have done these things and I have for some time, but on a more basic level, it’s as if believing that my Daddy did those things to me would mean that there is no safety in the world. I cannot expect for anyone to act like they are supposed to. I’ll just be waiting for the whole world to shed it’s mask and dissolve into chaos. It’s like some of me is so tightly holding on to how I survived that abuse. “This cannot be happening to me. It isn’t real. Not real.”

I wasn’t aware of that part and I don’t think that it’s been included on any of the “I’m safe now” work.  Until that part feels safe enough to let go of her job, I’m going to keep on being stuck in this “it can’t be true” place.

  Both Mama Bear and I are going on vacation at the end of the week, so I think that it would be a bad idea to mess with any protective mechanisms before then. My fear is that I could get flooded, when this part lets go of her job. I would like to actually enjoy myself for once and have some fun with my family on this camping and puppy pick up trip. Flashback hell would not be conducive to fun. Waiting and doing things in as easy and safe of a manner as possible after everyone is home again sounds like a much better idea. 

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“Don’t cry”

“Don’t cry. Don’t cry, C.  Please don’t cry. You’ll make me cry, too.”

This afternoon, I was thinking about my session on Monday and what I would want to talk about. I realized that the parts are T one of those pints where they just need to talk and Mama Bear and I will need to make room to listen and be careful to not make them feel like we are telling them how to feel. 

I became aware that a young part needs to say that my dad hurt me and that “he made me cry inside.”  I wondered, “just inside?”  And the answer was “yes, can’t cry outside.”  Then I could hear a voice saying “Don’t cry. don’t cry, C,” and I felt some fear. 

“I was told not to cry?” I’m not surprised, based on how I have acted in the past, but I haven’t ever remembered it in the past. “I was threatened?”

“Don’t cry. Don’t cry,C. Please don’t cry.”  But that voice isn’t threatening. It’s gentle. A bit pleading. And it isn’t male. It can’t be my father. 

“Don’t cry. Don’t cry, C. Please don’t cry. You’ll make me cry, too”. It was my mother. I feel sadness fill my heart. My mother asked me not to cry, because my crying made her feel sad, too, and she couldn’t tolerate those feelings.  I loved my mother so much. She was my world when I was young. She was The source of good in my life.  The source of love.  She was my the point of stability in a world where other family hurt me with their hands or their words or both.  She had  to be ok for me. She had  to continue to want me.  So I would have done whatever was within my power to do for my mother. I dried those tears, plastered on a smile, and my mom told me, “What a good girl!” I was. 

It has taken me decades to learn that I can afford to have my tears in front of other people, but I very rarely cry in front of anyone other than my therapist, still. My old fall back is that smile when I am struggling to not fall apart. 

Earlier this week, my father texted me 6 times, following up on my mother’s request to send our daughter out to them this summer.  I discovered this as I was walking out the door to pick my daughter up after school and it created a rush of reactions. Anger, fear, overwhelm, feeling hunted and trapped. I couldn’t speak to my husband at that point, so when I got to the school and saw a friend who knows something about my history, I asked to talk to her for a bit. As we were walking to an area where we could have a bit of privacy, she asked if I was ok and I told her that I wasn’t really. When I sat down and turned to her, struggling to find words, she remarked, “You’re smiling. That’s good. You’ll be ok. Humor will get you through anything. Keep that smile!”

My heart sunk because I knew that the smile showed just how much distress I was in and it was even deeper than I had realized until I stopped moving and sat still. Eventually as we talked, I just burst into tears and she eventually began to realize that she just needed to put an arm around me, say supportive things, and let me cry until I got the big emotions out and could start to think clearly again.

I thought that I had cured myself of that fake smile, but I guess that I am using it differently now. Now it isn’t to cover up and hide my emotions, now it’s to help contain them until it’s safe to let them out. That outburst wouldn’t have been safe while driving through town. 

If I hadn’t been in such intense need, I wouldn’t have shown her that raw, young, wounded part of me. But I was. I’m just grateful that over the last couple of years I have slowly taken risks and developed our relationship so while this was a leap, it was one that feels ok. She has acted the same to me in the following days and I haven’t had an “Oh my God, what have I done” panic reaction. 

I’m learning that there are people who can handle emotion. Even intense emotion. It might make them kind of uncomfortable because they want to take the pain away and they can’t, but they aren’t going to reject me or fall apart themselves if I show them that I hurt.  I do know that I need to test people out carefully before I show this side of me, but there is hope, there are normal people out there, not just therapists with training, who can stand by me while I am fully me. I don’t have to just be a prettied up me, minus the hurting parts, in order to be accepted.  This somehow makes life feel a whole lot safer. 

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Art break

Something a little bit lighter than talking about trauma, today. I’m emphasizing the living part of Living While Healing. 🙂

So the art lesson last week involved starting with some colors choices, then putting down some collage and color on the paper, then allowing a face to just emerge from it all. When I saw the lesson, I was dubious about whether I would come up with anything very interesting, but I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. I have done 5 pieces so far and all of them are quite different from each other, yet they all have so much personality and richness to them. I am in love with this way of doing art!

  
This first piece probably is my favorite.  The tilt to her head comes from realizing that I placed large blocks of color in such a way that her face wouldn’t fit, unless I tilted her head. 
  
This one is so sad, yet I still like it. I love the background, especially in person. 
 
This woman seems like she would be such a strong character and be at all apologetic about who she is. She seems a bit sad, but still very much a part of her world. 
  
I could not have done this piece if I had set out to make something in this style. There was a mark where the lips are, suggesting lips and the whole things developed from there. 
  
A witch?!?  Yep, a witch. I was quite surprised that there was a witch who wanted to appear on this piece of paper.    She actually looks like someone I would want to know, though. I see humor in her eyes and a solidness that is appealing. I enjoy the juxtaposition of taking a chatter that we traditionally think of as being something mean and nasty and instead make her an appealing character, pretty, and someone whose presence generates butterflies. 

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I’m still wrapping my head around today’s therapy session and it’s 1AM.  I kind of shifted how I did things today and I think that it helped the processing that I did to sink in more deeply. 

I have been running into episodes of feeling/being frozen for a couple of weeks now. I always have that reaction when I feel overwhelmed, but relatively small things were setting it off in my every day life. There seems to be a whole host of reasons for this reaction, but my mind finally settled on focusing on one of them this weekend, which was a relief to me because it meant that I finally had something relatively solid to work on. 

I kept on starting to connect with a very young anger at being hurt, but then either the feeling would fade away into a fog or I would freeze and make everything go still inside. I couldn’t tolerate experiencing the emotions for any length of time. Anger is a difficult emotion for me, in general, but I haven’t had this sort of difficulty with anger in years. Something different was going on. 

A few minutEs into the session, she told me that she would be talking with a representative from my insurance company to do a case review, because I have been seeing Mama Bear twice a week. It’s been almost a year and a half since the last one, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that it would be happening, but it still was unwelcome news. It seems a bit crazy that meeting twice a week is such a luxury when dealing with complex trauma, but according to the insurance companies it is. I hate feeling at the mercy of some unknown person’s decision and it brought up feelings of vulnerability and fear that I needed to talk about. Mama Bear’s first reaction was that if we were denied, it wouldn’t change what I need, which is 2 sessions a week right now. We would work something out between the two of us to make that possible. Then we went on to speak a bit about the other feelings. Once what she had said fully sank in, I started to feel more secure, though. My well being and continued improvement isn’t contingent upon this decision, although it would be to both MB’s and my financial benefit if it was approved.  MB is so committed and invested in helping me heal that she wouldn’t prematurely cut me back to 1 session and put all of my hard own progress at risk. I still felt kind of vulnerable and resented that the insurance company is in a position of power, but was able to take in that They could not prevent me from getting what I need. 

I was still shaken enough that I then spent much longer than usual talking about a variety of lighter things. Showing her pictures of the puppy that we will be bringing home in a couple weeks. Talking about her upcoming vacation and how I will handle it (go on vacation myself and travel to pick up the puppy).  Being distracted by issues with the central air system that was having work done on it.  I wasn’t really avoiding the main issue, but I needed time to regain my balance. 

I saw her look at the clock and she said in a joking tone of voice, “OK, we are enjoying ourselves too much, some suffering needs to happen here!” She paused and her voice became a touch more serious, “Actually, no, it’s your choice what we talk about. Sometimes it is helpful for you to fill me in on the other things going on in your life, that that’s fine if that’s what you want to do. I just want for you to be aware that it is getting late.”

I looked at her, took a deep breath, found myself reaching for the bear blanket, and started to slip into a child state. I struggled to find words. “I… I realized… That I’m….. Angry.”  The last word came out so tentatively because it was so hard to say. 

“There is a lot for you to be angry about.”

“It feels like very young anger. And I’m having real troubles with it.”

“Troubles?  As in you don’t know what to do with it? Or you are having trouble tolerating it?”

“Tolerating it. I’m not experiencing it for long enough for it to build to a point of not knowing what to do with it.”

“There have been times in the past when you have had trouble with knowing what to do about it. We can talk about that some more at another time.  It is young feeling and you can’t tolerate it?”

“I keep on shutting down/ freezing up.”

“That would have been important for you to do when you were young, when you started to get angry,” she said, sympathetically. 

I felt myself slip more I to the child state and start to hide in the blanket, as I nodded my head vigorously. 

“C, come back some. You are starting to go too far into the child state. Remember what you wrote to me about maintaining dual awareness?”

Over the weekend, I read something on another blog about neuroplasticity, “catharsis”, and healing from trauma. Catharsis in this case does not mean just letting all of the emotion out. It means re experiencing the emotions of the original trauma while also feeling safe. The only way to do this is through dual awareness: both being in the child state and experiencing the original emotions and being connected to the adult state, here and now, and aware of my current safe reality. 

So I took a few breaths, paying attention to the sensations as the air went into and back out of my body. I straightened up a bit, emerged from behind the blanket, and looked in her eyes. 

“Hi.” She said, smiling. I smiled back a bit. “Usually avoiding anger has something to do with safety with you, as does freezing.”

The next part of the session becomes vague for me, because I was speaking so much from that young child part and feel such intense feelings that I was just this side of being overwhelmed. I struggled to find the words to talk about how I would both know something and not know it as a child. Know that what was happening was wrong somehow, but also not let myself know. (I remember wailing “because he was my Daddy” at that point).  How anger wasn’t an option.  I described the memory that I was powerfully getting of “desperately not wanting to be the girl who was being hurt. Hating her.”  How I needed so much for someone to hold me and make everything ok when I was a child. Remarking that my husband lets me cuddle up against him. (I was very deeply into the child state at that point. Everything that I was saying came purely from that part, although the adult part was watching and monitoring what was happening. I was astonished that this part responded with the comment about cuddling with my husband when MB had noted that my mother hadn’t been able to be available to the hurt parts. This is hugely important at east one part is starting to see him as a source of comfort, not a threat.)  When Mama Bear asked what it felt like to cuddle up against him, the child part answered with a huge sigh of contentment and snuggled into the blanket. 

The job of my adult was to provide a safe anchor in the now, support my staying with and feeling the emotions, and keep myself from slipping into being too analytical. Amazingly, it worked. Mama Bear tried to follow along with my difficulties expressing myself, but for once I didn’t worry about correcting her when she misinterpreted what I was saying. It felt like I needed her there as my witness and a safe person, but I knew that I was doing all of the important work. Other than making sure that I didn’t slip too far into the child state, she was just along for the ride, whether she realized it or not.  

I think that it might have been the memory and emotions about not wanting to be the girl who was being hurt that sparked the shift. It was like the child part understood that all of the things that I had been talking about were in the past.   I could now hold that child in safety, because no one is harming me in my present. And I just settled into that feeling, ‘leaning’ into it as much as I could. 

I think that I talked with Mama Bear a bit, but mostly I needed to just remain in that state. It felt like the traumatized child was bathing in a healing balm and things just felt ‘right’ for once. I remember her commenting on how much compassion and caring I had shown for the child in the session when she gave me the 10 minute warning for the end of the session, but I have not idea if she said anything else or just sat there silently, in support of me. When we had 5 minutes left, she told me that she know that I was very comfortable where I was, but I needed to sit up, so I could ground into my adult. I had already started the process of coming back after the 10 minute warning, but even so, it took a real effort to disengage from the child me and clearly place myself in my adult. 

After I gave her a goodbye hug, I stopped, looked right into her eyes and said, “What happened to me was very hard.”  Her eyes were sad but caring as she responded, “Yes, it was.”  Inside I was contented. She saw what it was like for me and understood. I am not alone now. I am safe now. 

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Musings on posting

  
 
I have been wondering why it has become so much harder for me to write a post here and while I think that there are multiple reasons, I finally figured out that part of it is because I have had some responses left by trolls. They have ranged from down right abusive to simply rude and insensitive and I always delete the response immediately, because I refuse to give a troll the satisfaction of being in a position of power where I try to defend myself to him or her. Their opinions are worthless and they elicit feelings of contempt that they feel the need to sit behind a screen of anonymity and search out vulnerable people to bully, based on blog subject matter.  How pitiful they must be, if that is they way that they find their power in the world. And how dispicable to seek out those who are already hurting. It’s the sort of thing I imagine that my grandfather would have loved to do, if the internet had been around while he was alive. He was just the sort of person to do the most damage that he could to others, with the least risk to himself. Trolling on the internet is made for those who are too weak and cowardly to deal upfront with whatever makes them want to lash out, so they instead hide their identities behind screen names and pretend that they are big and powerful because they can hurt the vulnerable. 

My first experience with a troll was a particularly vicious one who told me that my daughter would be better off if I was dead.  I certainly had a memorable start.  That took me a session of processing to get past, but after that session I simply was angry that people out there are so uselessly mean to others. I don’t remember what the second thing was, but I think that it might have gotten a mention in therapy and a few minutes of time processing how people who act in this manner make no sense to me, because their behavior is so counter to what I find makes for a rich and satisfying life.  Really, what a waste of time and energy when they are so many other more rewarding and interesting things to do out there!  None of my other troll encounters have merited a mention in therapy or even to my friends. I just click delete. 

However, I will admit that they leave a bad taste in my mouth and I finally understand that they have been subtly invluencing my behavior here on the blog.  I’m not afraid of them and if I have a strong need to write about something, I will still do it, but I am unsettled by the reminder that there people out there who like to prey on those who are already hurt.  It’s enough to make me hesitate and have trouble focussing when trying to write one of the blog posts that is meaningful to me, but my motivation to write it comes just as much from the desire to share my experiences with others and potentially help them.  A lot of the energy that used to go into my writing is now going into my art and I find myself using the art to process a lot, even when the art has no obvious connection to my past.  As a result, writing seldom feels as urgent as it used to. 

I will admit that I dislike troll attacks, but I doubt that there is a sensitive and empathic person who can honestly say that they have no discomfort at all with troll attacks. I’m not hurt by them, though.  There are lots of things about life that are unpleasant, but don’t really harm me and a part of my ongoing healing has been learning to identify those things as not being so threatening, even though they feel bad to experience. I guess that dealing with the trolls has forced me to have periodic lessons in making this distinction!  
What do I do with this new understanding?  I’m not sure. I do know that I don’t want to let the trolls control my actions. However, that means both not letting them drive me away from posting however much is right for me and not forcing myself to do something that makes me uncomfortable inside, just so I can “prove” that they aren’t controlling me.  I think that my answer is going to vary depending on a whole variety of factors, but those factors are internal to me and involve my immediate environment.  As always, my answer will come from ‘listening’ to myself and discerning what is right at that point for me, not what I think that I ‘should’ do, not what my old programming would have me do, but what All of me knows is the best decision for now. 

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I think that I have mentioned that I am doing a year long mixed media course on line. Each week there is a new lesson and this week the offering is on drawing a male figure. Not the full figure, just the face and very upper part of the chest. Up until now, I have only drawn female figures, so while I was wary of he lesson, I also was intrigued and decided that I would give it a go. 

Well, it has been very hard going. When I can just immerse myself in the art aspect of it, I am fine, but then every once in a while I am hit in the face with the “maleness” aspect and I just freak out inside. I’m not sure what I’m feeling with those freak outs. It might be fear or it might be rage. Maybe a combination of the two. The man in the portrait doesn’t really strongly resemble anyone that I know. He isn’t even all that strongly male– I’m not sure what I’m doing that makes him look like he might be a strong featured woman, if you took away the Adam’s apple, but he seems that way to me. Maybe it’s because inside I don’t really want to be drawing a man. 

I’m not on good terms with very many men right now. I’m not on bad terms with all that many either, I just view the vast majority of men with extreme suspicion. And I am achingly aware at the moment of the damage that one male (my grandfather) did to me. 

As I am writing, I have realized that trying to do this male portrait has brought up the part of me that wants to howl in pain and scream in rage about a memory that I have been working on. This part wants to never, ever, ever be touched by another man because what he did hurt so badly. This part doesn’t want to acknowledge that my father and my grandfather were individuals who harmed me; they weren’t the embodiment of all males. Most males would be revolted at the thought of raping girls. I know that intellectually, but I have trouble knowing it experientially because the two most powerful men of my childhood did rape this girl. That was my world.  Fathers and grandfathers rape the girl children in their family. I learned that everyone said that fathers and grandfathers spoiled their girls, were the source of love and encouragement, simply were supposed to be good to the girls. But my father acted like he was the perfect father when we were around others and appeared from the outside to be wonderful.  Inside, that left me with frightening questions as to what all of the other fathers out there that looked good actually were doing to their daughters behind closed doors. 

The reality is that some of them were also abusing their daughters, but most of them weren’t raping their daughters. And some of them would rather have cut off their arm than rape their daughters. In fact, I am quite certain that my husband would give up quite a bit more than his just his arm. 

However, back to this portrait…  I’m not sure whether I will finish it or not. There are other projects that I want to work on. I could force myself to finish it, but at the moment it brings up so much conflict that I have my doubts that it’s worth the effort. I find myself fighting the urge to destroy it even as I am carefully working on the shading.  

Something useful did come of doing this much of the portrait, though. I hadn’t been aware of this part that reacts to my grandfather wordlessly, but with such raw, intense emotions and a desire to see him completely neutralized. There isn’t the need to kill or maim him myself, but that part of me wanted to see him hung dead, with his hands and tongue cut off for extra safety. That’s what the wish is about, ensuring safety by making sure that he couldn’t hurt me ever again. Well, ok, if I am fully honest with myself, deep in the center of me, some of me wants for him to suffer as intensely as he made me suffer.  I want for him to be confronted with, “you made C. hurt this much” and I want for him to regret his actions. 

Of course, all of this is impossible. In reality, I couldn’t hurt someone that badly, not even my grandfather. I couldn’t even standby and watch it happen, if I had a chance to stop it. However, that is a moot point, because my grandfather has been dead for over 25 years. 

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