Archive for August, 2015

Wow. I seem to have worked my way out of the trap of feeling like I need to feel upset about what happened in order to believe myself. At least for now, I don’t. I know that terrible things happened with my dad, I know that I experienced things that I shouldn’t have and I can feel compassion for the child that I was, stuck in an untenable situation. But I can do it from a now where I feel safe and loved.

I can see how sometimes, I, now, will feel sad or angry or even bewildered at how ithat abuse could be a part of my history,, but the terror and the devastation of my body being actively violated don’t belong to the now me. Understanding the impact of the violation and feeling compassion for myself for having had that experience is different from feeling that violation as a part of my now, if though I know that it is a past event.  The past can truly be past. 

I have a slightly older child part with me, right now, crying that what my dad did really hurt me between my legs. It is a relief to be able to say, “yes, I believe that he hurt me that way. And I am so glad that is my past, not my present. It’s a past that I need to work with, but no one is going to do things like that to hurt me anymore. My husband is the only one who is allowed to touch me there some of the time, and he wants for sex to be something I enjoy, not something that causes me pain.”

Right now, it feels like such a relief to start to let myself really know what happened. Not by lots of detailed memories, but allowing what my mind really needs for me to know to just be there. The result is a set of details that I vary between absolutely believing happened to those that I simply believe happened. Beyond those details is a deep sense of the type of experience that a certain age had. For instance, I believe that I know the type of things that happened, but I am certain that my body felt invaded and violated with my three year old memories. And the three year old sense of that is quite different from what it felt like even a bit older. Or what it felt like with my grandfather. 

I can feel that what I am doing right now is helping these very young parts of me feel confident that I am safe and will stay safe. I know that working through the different parts and ages will be a process that will take time and I am restraining myself from pushing at it. I can tell that letting it unfold as it needs to will get me to where I want to be with a lot fewer bumps along the way. Slower is faster, right? But I really want to be able to help the older parts with the sense of horror and shame that that section of me lives with. I can tell that I’m not ready to go there yet, though. Things get more and more complicated as the memories get older. My hope is that by working through it all one step at a time, what helps a younger age will also help an older age. That way, by the time I work up to the older abuse, it will have been broken down into something more manageable. 

Ugh. This feels like a joint, multi age message from inside…  So intense (and more explicit than I will include here).  My dad used my body as this Thing to do things with and to. . That was so, so wrong. I don’t have words for how wrong. But while what he did hurt me very, very badly, it can’t destroy my life. For whatever reason, I’m stronger than what he did. These are horrible, horrible things, but they can’t stop me from getting more and more of what I want out of my life.  Mama Bear likes to say that I am moving beyond being a survivor to being a thriver. Right now I kind of feel like that something that actually is possible, rather than her just being my cheering section. 

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I survived 

There must be so much processing going on inside right now. I have been sleeping so much and I know that I process in my sleep.  I rarely have dreams that I remember, but I’m well aware that my brain will get busy enough shifting things around and I will have no choice but to succumb to an irresistible surge to fall asleep.  Yesterday that meant a 1 hour nap in the morning, a 2 1/2 hour nap in the afternoon, and then 9 hours of sleep overnight. 

Today I have been experiencing some of the results from all of that processing. 

The first thing that I noticed was that memories of abuse by my father were coming up pretty quickly, in short, precise snippets. For once, it was like I was able to help the part that holds the memory watch the memory go by without becoming very emotionally involved. Instead the responses were more like, “Wow, I can see why that would be confusing, scary, and icky feeling,” or “Yes, I can see how I would have changed from being curious to being scared and dreading what might happen next under those circumstances.”  

I don’t know how many times Mama Bear has talked with me about “letting the memories just pass by, neither rejecting them, nor engaging with them.”  Until now, my reaction has always been, “Yeah, right, you try remembering your dad doing X to you and neither getting caught up in it or trying to push it away as fast and hard as you can!”  To be fair, she also has become clear that she understands that it may simply not be possible for me to do that, but then asks me to keep on practicing the mindfulness meditation to help me get to the point where I might be able to do it. The last time she asked, it was like a child part was involved in the conversation, and it was that child part who answered, “I can try.”  Today, it felt like all of me was working together to try to manage the memories differently. I wasn’t fight with myself, with part of me trying to get the memory out and paid attention to, while another part was fighting desperately to “make it not be.”

A second thing I noticed after dealing with a round of memories this morning.  It was like a part of me went, “Wait a minute. All of those bad things happened, but I’m sitting here, functional. I survived. I’m OK. Really actually OK, not just having to look and act OK.  I then had such a clear sense of being little and hurting, physically hurting, but also needing to live, to go out and play and be happy. That need to live and do living things was more powerful than the pain, at least some of the time. But there were so many reasons for me to not look like or feel like I was hurt for so much of my childhood, whether it was just to allow me to go on for my own sake, or to keep things secret, or to make things easy for my mom, or to be in agreement with my parents over what our family is like, or whatever. There was so much pressure to fool myself and the rest of the world.  But I think that left me with confusion: “How do I really know that I am ok?  How do I really know that I am safe? What is real and what is not real?  What is true and not true?”

In our last session, I told Mama Bear that I had realized that this whole confusion over what was real and what wasn’t real and the pressure to see the world the way that my parents wanted to see it must have been a trauma in it’s own right for me. Her response was, “I’m sure that it was.”  She went on to point out to me that so much of the therapy that we have been doing for awhile has been working on this very issue. “What is my story?  How can I believe myself?  Am I real?  Can I trust my feelings, intuitions, memories?  How do I reconcile my love for my mother with this whole mess?” And so on. I then told her that on the way to the session, I could feel that a young part wanted to take her hands and go, “Is this real?  Am I really safe?!? Or is it just a dream or my imagination?  How do I know if I’m really safe?”  Mama Bear had me wrap my arms around that scared child part to hold her close and soothe her and answer her questions.  It helped with that issue and it helped the session go to a deeper level.  It seems that I’ve been working inside on those questions ever since, though. 

The third thing that came up was that I realized how much I had lived with the sense that what my father was doing to me was unsurvivable. It’s been harder for me to see that with him than with my grandfather because I had been very afraid was that what my grandfather really wanted was to kill me. (From my current perspective, I don’t think that he did. I think that what he wanted was to have free rein to do whatever he wanted to me and keep on hurting and terrifying me as much as possible. If he had killed me, he would have lost that.). When I finally dealt with my terror that my grandfather would kill or otherwise obliterate me, I felt such joy and relief at being alive. Parts of me that had been afraid that I was really dead and just some sort of a zombie (or something- it never made sense) were giddy to come out into the world and feel the air, smell the trees, see the sunlight filtering through the leaves. It finally felt safe for them to feel that I was alive. 

Today something similar happened in regards to my dad. I noticed all sorts of little things that have always been there, but I haven’t been able to see. Smells were more intense. People seemed more present to me. Everything just seemed more alive. Or I suppose that I felt more alive. I was confused about why I was feeling this way right now. I don’t remember ever thinking that my dad wanted to kill or destroy me, so why was I feeling such relief and even surprise at being alive?  I eventually realized that while I didn’t feel that my dad had any intent to destroy me, it very much felt as though I might not be able to survive his actions. 

I have a remembered sense of being small, not understanding what was going on, and being afraid of what was going to happen to my body. Being afraid that my body might be hurt too badly. I don’t know if that comes directly from what happened with my dad or if it comes from knowing the types of things that could happen from what my grandfather did. I also very much remember, “This is too much. I can’t take this. I can’t handle this. I would rather be dead. It is going to tear me apart. This is impossible to live with,” at the emotional level. 

I think that I lived with an on going sense that the abuse wasn’t survivable. I also think that sense is why I have had such a strong belief that the abuse can’t be real. It seems so bad that I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far, if it had really happened.  That wasn’t a case of my now mind grasping for some reason to doubt my memories, it was a reflection of just how awful the experiences had been for me. 

But today, somehow, it feels safer than before to look at how awful it was and say, “Yes, that was me when I was little with my father. I was scared that my body and mind would be torn apart, but I’m sitting right here, in one piece. I’m not bleeding. My mind has done some funky things in order to survive, but it adapted to protect itself, it didn’t get torn apart. I’m now in my 40s. Nothing can change the fact that I survived my childhood.  I don’t have to be afraid of what happened anymore, because it ended a long time ago.  Whatever the worst thing was that happened with my dad, I survived it then and it will never be repeated. The past really is over. The present is real. It’s safe to have a life that feels good to me.”

I wish that I could say that I believed that this meant that I would never feel terror again while dealing with a memory, but I’m not so sure of that. I do hope that it will happen less often, though. I also hope that I can keep in touch with the fact that I have the safety net of a safe now always under me. No matter how bad a memory is, eventually I will come out of it. And my now has a lot of love in it. 

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Trigger warning: this post specifically references young and severe sexual abuse by my father. It does not go into details and sticks with the emotional and psychological part of the trauma, but if you feel that such a topic would be triggering, please take care when deciding whether to read. 

I am having a hard time getting anything written for the blog, so I will start with an email to Mama Bear:

There is something that my mind has been struggling with off and on for a couple of weeks. I’ve been confused about why it felt so important, but I think that I am starting to understand now. 

Ugh, let’s see if I can get this out. I know that the definition of rape that is used federally includes penetration by anything, not just a penis. My gut tells me that those young (3 year old or so) memories with my dad of being penetrated by something and the oral sex have too much basis in real events. While it hasn’t been a big front of my brain thing, it has been rattling around inside and I’ve tried to either leave it be or at least understand why part of me is intent on struggling through the realization that technically all of this would mean that my dad raped the young me. But I kept on having a knee jerk reaction of, it couldn’t be rape- I was only three! Three year old don’t get raped!

This evening, I was writing, and I realized that I’m talking about my dad having done adult type sex acts with me when I was three. They were adapted to my body size, but there wasn’t really any other consideration for my age. If three year olds are forced to endure adult type sex acts, then, yes, they can be raped. I understand that the way that a three year old experiences the same acts will be very different from how a 23 year old experiences them. At least a three year old isn’t burdened with knowing that she is being raped. But that doesn’t change his actions. That doesn’t make them any less serious. It just gave me a different package of horribleness to deal with. 

I think that I need to understand that what happened really was that serious. I mean, yes, I know that it was serious. Part of the reason that I resisted the idea that my dad abused me for so long was that I always knew that what happen was serious. But at the same time, there also is a side of me hasn’t been able to bear to see that it was That bad. Yes, three year olds do get raped. It’s a different experience for them than it would be for someone older, but it’s still a horrible experience. 

This makes me want to swear a lot, but I’m better off knowing and accepting this because there is a young part that actually feels safe and secure for once. It’s like that part has a place inside of me where it can click into place and feel at home. I probably won’t always be able to tolerate it being so close, but for right now, this feels right. 

When I am able to look at it the right way, admitting to what my dad did to me feels like accepting myself. I don’t have to deny my reality anymore in order to be able to have a family and to tolerate my existence. This is part of the reason that you want for me to share more with my husband isn’t it? So I don’t continue recreating the dynamics of my family of origin and triggering myself. Ugh. I’m slowly moving towards there. At a snail’s pace. Well, maybe that fast. 

– C

I feel the presence of such a young part so much of the time these days, while I try to work through finding a way to hold everything together in my mind. My dad abused me; it really was horrible,; my mom didn’t protect me; it felt unsurvivable to me at times; I did survive; I am real and my safe now is real as well. I can hold all of the “bad stuff” together without imploding and I can hold both that and the “good stuff” at the same time. It doesn’t have to be black or white. My then could have horrible things that happened and happy times. My no longer fighting what my then was like does not mean that it needs to take over my now. Now I will go in and out of grief, anger, pain, and other emotions as I deal with my then and those emotions can feel spearingly intense and in that moment all but unendurable, but I have so much more to my life now that brings contentment, even joy into my heart. 

It is safe for me to both know just how awful it was (at least in doses that I can handle) and to then  move on to something else that makes my life worth living.  I don’t have to cling to that knowledge all of the time, trying to watch out for the same danger. That danger no longer exists in my life. My father no longer has any real power over me. 

I hate knowing what my experience was and so much of me still fights against knowing, but the more fully I know what is important for me to know, the more whole and accepted I feel. Right now that means dealing with this very young experience. I still can’t tolerate knowing the experience as fully my own, completely from the inside. I might not ever be able to. But I can accept more and more that I understand what the experience of this part was and I do know that this part is me. I just need the buffer of that extra distance from what happened in order to keep things tolerable. Frankly, I’m not sure that it would gain me anything to experience a memory from the inside of what it was like to be three and have my father doing oral sex on me.  Or any of the other things. The brief glimpses that I have gotten are pretty horrifying. 

So, today, whenever that traumatized young part that was raped by my dad comes up, I try to find the quiet, still place in my mind, so I can allow her to exist with me while neither fighting against her experience nor being drawn into it. I’m having mixed success- it isn’t an easy skill, after all. But I also have faith that this is the correct path for me. I need to learn how to gently coexist with the me that was traumatized. I need to learn how to no longer be scared of what happened to me decades ago. That’s a long, slow process, because I was young enough when it all started that it means relearning how to be in the world. I’ve come this far; I’m determined to keep working on it no matter how long it takes. 

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I may be pissed. I may be grieving. I may be doubled over in pain sometimes. But I’m learning how to add back in to my life the things that make me happy, as well. Right now mixed media cats seem to be at the top of the list. Pretty funny, since I’m a dog person and not super enthusiastic about the cats. 

For real life, though, I have this not so little guy. I’m really falling in love with him. 🙂

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Storm Cat

I wanted to share my latest painting because it makes me happy. I painted this cat with attitude as a gift for my husband. He says that it looks like the cat is calling down a storm. 

There is so much beauty and love to be experienced in the world, even in the midst of struggling with the pain. 

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