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Posts Tagged ‘Parts’

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Today,I wanted to jump out of a window, but I knew that it was an old voice of an old terror speaking. I cast about for now and today, for the reality of the life that I live and I want, but it seemed to be the insubstantial, not for real time. The terror time was too solid. I reached out for a voice who could help to guide me back, help me find my solidity in the now, help me find compassion for the part of me who remembers terror.

Yesterday’s session was intense. I found some of my intense rage at my father and my outrage that he raped me as a child and that the consequences wreck havoc on areas of my life to this day. All of it is painful to own, yet at the same time it also is a relief to be honest. The hurt me’s and the adult me’s worked together, both to express the pain, grief, and anger and then to find comfort and support, knowing that I had been heard and was not alone.

Today I woke up feeling fairly good, but then I was triggered and some terrible memories came up in regards to my grandfather. It felt as though everything fell apart. All of the communication, cooperation, and comforting skills that I have learned around my father just don’t seem to automatically apply to the parts that hold the abuse experiences with my grandfather.

Memories of some of the most intolerable experiences with my grandfather came up and I was completely overwhelmed. I began to have extremely strong urges to jump out the window, or begin to bash my head as hard as possible against the wall, or break a glass and begin to slash my arms with it. I have only very rarely done any self injury (and never serious self injury), but when I have, it has been related to my grandfather’s abuse. That awareness coupled with the strength of the urges made me wary of these impulses.

I kept on trying to ground and orient myself to the here and now. What was the texture of my pants, under my fingers? What did the light look like coming into the room? What did my chair feel like under me? It did little to no good. I could look out of my eyes and see the here and now, I could reach out my hand and touch it, but it still seem ephemeral in contrast to the intensity of the feelings of terror, abject helplessness, and vulnerability from knowing that I am at the mercy of a man who enjoys hurting me in disgusting ways. And at that moment, even though the abuse happened over 3 decades ago and he has been dead for more than 25 years, I could not shift that present tense perception into the proper past tense.

The panicked parts driven urges to do things that would harm myself did not ease at all and I was afraid to move from where I was sitting, because I wasn’t sure who would be in control when I got up. I realized that it was close to Mama Bear’s lunch hour and I considered trying to contact her. The “I need to do this on my own!” voices started up immediately, but I realized that I could either try to contact her or I could go curl up in a ball in bed, hope to fall asleep and reset before I needed to pick my daughter up in a couple of hours. “She deserves a peaceful lunch!” the voices went, but I knew which option Mama Bear would vote for.

I did manage to wait until about 10 minutes into her lunch, so she could have a bit of a break after her last client, but then I sent a text: Hi. Was doing ok until suddenly not. Can’t get myself present oriented. Panic stricken parts that want to self destruct. Grandfather. I couldn’t quite manage to get myself to explicitly ask her to call, but I knew that with that message she would at least ask if I needed to talk.

She called a few minutes later and started in on helping me to present orient myself. Where am I? My art studio/ sitting room. What do I see? My cat in the other rocking chair. We talked about how he doesn’t only have extra toes, but he has proto- paws, with all of the claws and mini toes. Once I was more now oriented, she reminded me that I had been experiencing memories of the frantic need to escape that I had experienced with my grandfather. The urges had nothing to do with the here and now. I was already clear on that fact, but it still was nice to hear her say it.

We talked a bit more and she asked if I was ok with ending the conversation there. I slowly said, “Yes…” “Are you telling me the truth?” “Well I’m ok with it, but parts inside are frightened.” “Ah… Can you ask what would help them to feel more safe?”

I felt inside and then knew what was needed. “All of the work done over the last few months around the parts wreathed to my father is missing with these parts. They don’t have the same safety and ability to be comforted. I don’t want to dive into dealing with lots of issues around what happened with him right now, but I do think that I need to work with them to set up some of that same safety connection.”

“You don’t have any of it with these parts? ”

“No. At least not in the same way that is so helpful to the other parts. These parts really need it, too. They need to know that they are not alone and can be heard, even if they need to wait to fully tell their story.”

“That really is essential to you, isn’t it? Not being alone and being heard”

“Yes!”

“Ok, this all makes sense to me. Shall we work on this when we meet on Friday? Is that ok?”

I felt an internal sigh of relief. “Yes, that would be good.”

These parts of me were terrorized by my grandfather. I’m at the point of increasingly taking in what that meant emotionally. I had somewhat grasped it intellectually, after all, I know what many, if not all of the acts were. But I simply didn’t grasp the emotional depth of what happened with him. I have struggled with suicidal feelings after dealing with intense material for a period of time around him, but I don’t remember ever going from being just fine to feeling such intense urges that clearly weren’t mine to do things to escape the memories that couple have seriously injured me or put my life at risk.

I wish that I could keep myself from falling into that pit in the first place, but it happens so automatically and quickly that I can’t stop it with my grandfather, yet. I have come to the point where I can at least keep one foot out of the pit with my father, so I know that it possible, it just takes time and effort to get there.

If I’m going to fall into the pit, then I wish that I could get myself out again, but I have come to see that when the terror is above a certain level, I freeze and can’t effectively help myself. The best that I can do is to reach out for help, create support and connections! and slowly start to learn that I am safe no matter how terrified I am in the memories. But I can’t do it on my own. I need help. I need someone else there, providing a new voice, with new messages, to help me teach the old voices that they can be safe now. They don’t have to do anything drastic to escape. They don’t have to struggle all on their own. Life is different today.

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Trigger warning: I need to write about some my worst experiences with my father, so this post is full of triggers. It does not contain graphic details of physical acts, but it does talk about rape and the details of the emotional effects. Please be aware of what is safe for you to read.

I am struggling to learn how to support and being to safety some of the parts that were most traumatized by my father. Two of these hold experiences of being raped and the third is younger and seems to remember a time when he tried to have sex with me, but I was too small and he stopped.

I also have been struggling with accepting that the rapes really did happen. What I sense of them is so mind-blowingly overwhelming that it makes me feel as though it would have been impossible to survive that level of abuse over a period of years. I don’t mean that it would have killed me physically, but it seems as though it would have destroyed what makes me essentially me. What makes me human, empathic, capable of loving. When I told Mama Bear this in our last session, her first response was that it was the dissociation that allowed me to survive, which probably is indeed true, but it wasn’t enough of an answer. Then she thought about it more seriously and agreed that my experience was a lot to survive. She paused for a moment and then said, “I don’t know if I could have survived it.” But then she went on to point out that humans have an amazing capability to survive extreme situations. “Think about slavery. Think about the Holocaust. Many did not survive, but some did survive with their humanity intact.”

What I went through was no where as extreme as slavery or the Holocaust, but when I thought about it afterwards, I realized that she hadn’t chosen those examples at random. There are many facets of what I went through that are similar, but thankfully on a much smaller scale. I felt that my body belonged to my father and I was in the frightening situation where it seemed that he could do anything to it that he wanted to, whenever he wanted. No one would stop him. No one would help me. The way that my grandfather did things, it felt like he was constantly experimenting on me, using my body to see what reactions he would get when he changed the variables. I also experienced what was happening as him wanting to destroy me and there were times when I was afraid for my life. Seen from that point of view, it makes even more sense why my abuse story can seem so unreal to me. It involves elements that a child would not be capable of fully taking in and processing as being real. I lived it, but I couldn’t fully live it, both because I had to dissociate what happened and because I wasn’t intellectually and emotionally developed enough to process the dynamics of what was happening.

Writing it all out sounds like the process of coming to that understanding was mostly intellectual, but it wasn’t at the time. It was instinctual and emotional, as I was waking up from a nap. Immediately after that, I first experienced the memory of my father trying to have sex with me, and then since then I have been dealing with these three parts pretty much around the clock.

Previously, what happened in age range of the attempted rape was just a blank. I have a bit more information about the year after, but none about this year. I get a very strong message that I was 8. It makes me want to cry, thinking about being 8 and having this happen. My guess is that he tried and then decided that I was too small for him to have sex with, without doing real damage, so he stopped. Frankly, the memory is hazy, although it seemed sharper in the flashback. I remember laying there, afterwards, curled up in a ball, feeling like a part of me died. It seemed like the world became a darker, more silent place after that. Even with other people, I was alone. I know that there was a period of time at either 8 or 9 when I stopped speaking for a few months. I wonder if this is when that happened. This part isn’t as frightened as others, maybe because it was a one time thing, but she is devastated. Quiet, alone, and devastated. The way that this part feels matches with what I remember about feeling when I lived in this house, except I don’t remember feeling that devastated. I also don’t remember ever feeling really happy unless we were away from the house and doing something that I really loved.

Then there is the part that is most in need right now. She has been largely hysterical over the last few days; for awhile she was screaming, “No! No! No!” on and on. It is with her that I get the strongest, “Oh, my God. He really did rape me. This really did happen” realization. She is slowly calming, because I have been doing here and now exercises and pointing out how I am in a safe time and place for the last couple of days. Interestingly, writing all of this out seems to have calmed that part even more.

This part insists that she is 10, but I know that I lived in the house that these memories belong to between the last few months of age 10, though 12. This is when he started to rape me. Ten. Ten. My daughter is ten. I can’t imagine her dealing with being raped, especially not having to deal with it all alone, without any help.

The memories of the rapes themselves are weirdly focused. They took place on the floor of the back room of the house and I remember looking to my right side, focusing on the rug on the floor, clutching at it, and looking at the leg of the piece of furniture that the TV was set on. I was completely separate from the rest of my body, it was just my eyes and my hand. I wouldn’t hear the sounds that he was making, feel what was happening to the rest of my body, smell anything. It would have been too much. I couldn’t avoid seeing his motion out of the corner of my eye and that alone was almost too much. I have gotten very brief snatches how it felt emotionally to the part of me that was really experiencing what was happening. All I can say is that it was horrible beyond words for me. My body was being invaded in the most intimate way possible by my father. Words simply fail me when I try to express what that meant to me. I know that it sounds horrible, but I you haven’t experienced it, let me assure you that it is even worse than it sounds. It’s one of those sources of isolation, knowing that no matter how much someone cares and wants to understand, they can’t fully understand unless they have experienced it. Even Mama Bear. As experienced and empathic as she is, she will never fully understand how horrible this was then and now is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that most people do not know first hand what it is like to be raped by their father. I am grateful for those who are able to put aside their revulsion at the very idea and use their empathy to try to come as close to my experience as they can. And I value those who love and support me, even though they never come close to understanding what it was like because their experiences don’t take them close, and even though they sometimes think that they do understand. It’s just that I was completely alone with the abuse when it happened and other than a few people that I know via blogs, I’m alone with fully understanding it now; that current day aloneness sometimes reverberates with being so alone as a child.

And then there is the teen part. Or really there is a collection of teen parts. This is the most chaotic and confused area. I was going though physical changes and I think that my body started to respond differently to him during this time. I remember sitting in the shower, crying, but I think that some of the time I didn’t even know what I was crying about. The dissociation was so effective that it cut off my everyday self from the abused self, with little to no exchange between the two.

What I access now is such a confusing array of emotions and thoughts from that time. Why is he having sex with me instead of my mother? Rage. Fear that it is all my fault. That it is something about my body that makes him act this way. Confusion over pleasure and pain together. Desperately wanting to escape, but believing that there is no escape. He is in control and always will be able to do whatever he wants. Knowing that he can hurt me badly. Knowing that he can make me feel extreme pleasure. Wondering how my mother cannot know what is going on? Tired. Resigned. Depressed. Always, always, always trying to look normal for everyone outside.

So, I have these three segments of me, from three different times, all with real needs, all waiving their hands, going, “I need to be heard and believed,” all profoundly traumatized in their own ways. What do I do? I have decided that my first step simply has to be helping each of them find safety. I did it with my youngest parts and then they could finally talk about the worst traumas without getting stuck in them. If I don’t do it with these parts first, then I am going to go around for at least a day or two after each session, with echoes of the parts’ trauma bouncing around in my head. It’s much better for all of me, if I help each part find safety first. That is my plan for the session tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure what it will look/feel like for each of the parts, but that doesn’t matter, as long as it is something that I can help that part reconnect to when she starts to relive the trauma.

Actually, now that I think about it, writing here has helped me to identify what the most in need part probably needs in order to feel safe. All of my parts felt extremely alone with the abuse, but I seem to be experiencing that most keenly with the 10 year old part right now. She is the part that clung to Mama Bear on Tuesday and desperately didn’t want to leave her office at the end of the session. She is the part that needed for me to call Mama Bear that evening, because she felt so crushingly alone with my understanding that I really was raped. She is the part with whom I strongly get the sense that if she had only had someone to hold her and work out all of those hysterical, horrible feelings at the time, things would be so much better. She doesn’t just need me, she needs someone else, as well, to help hold her in all of her trauma, at least until she has worked a good portion of it out. That can easily happen in session, but that’s only for two hours a week. Mama Bear is available via email, text, or phone, but I try to not over use those options, especially phone, which is what is most effective for my parts. I think that she and I need to work together to establish a safe, nurturing place for this part that involves both my internalized version of Mama Bear and me. My sense is that this can work.

This is hard work. Some of the hardest that I have done. But as painful and overwhelming as it is, I can also tell that this is the work that I need to do in order to feel more whole. These experiences forced me to dissociate large chunks of myself. I won’t ever be able to integrate dissociated aspects of my sexuality until I am able to deal with the rapes and all of the responses that they evoked in me. I don’t think that I will be able to figure out what I want to do with myself, who it want to be when I grow up, until I have better worked through learning to feel safe fully being. I’m afraid of what it might mean, but I’m also tired of a half life of mostly existing. I want to learn how to fully live.

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Drained

I have been so tired lately, even when I have gotten enough sleep. It’s as if there is nothing left over after I deal with what is going on internally and the bare basics of what to be done for my family. The house is a disaster and has been for almost two months. My daughter is bored, because ever since Winter Break, I have crashed for a nap soon after I pick her up after school. And that often is after I take a nap in the morning. I feel guilty, but I am running on empty.

I saw my psychiatrist today (who has experience working with dissociative disorders) and we spent some time talking about how I have been experiencing increased parts activity internally and trying to get a handle on the emergence of external parts activity. (By that I mean I’m experiencing parts being in control of my actions.) This is new for me and frankly rather freaky. It’s also somewhat alarming, because I’m not in control of the process and yesterday I found myself with a very underage part increasingly taking control, while I was driving. I begged for another 4 blocks to get home and did get us home safely, but it was a close call.

We talking about how I am managing, but I am feeling like I am in it to over my eyebrows and I feel like I have nothing left to do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary right then. I asked if a recent med change might be causing decreased energy levels and she was very sympathetic, but clear that my problem simply is that my brain is running at capacity trying to manage all of the parts, figure out internal communication, come up with some way to manage the parts starting to emerge into the world, after hiding away for so long, and deal with over the top intense emotions and memories.

She did hold out hope, though. As the communication improves, eventually I will either start to integrate parts and the load will decrease that way or I will find that parts can take on some tasks and the load can be shared. Honestly, I’m intimidated by the thought of the second option. It’s hard for me to imagine what that would be like, since my parts have always been ‘behind’ me (other than in sessions) up until now. I never thought that I would have to deal with them emerging into the world, but it’s starting to happen, so I really don’t know what will happen.

One benefit to my talk with the psychiatrist is that I stopped feeling so guilty about ‘getting so little done’. If I have nothing left, I have nothing left. Period. No feeling like I ‘should’ be doing more. As Dr. L said, first priority is safety. (No three year old driving the car.) Next is taking care of basic needs and for right now, that means dealing with what is going on internally for me. The house can wait. The house has to wait. I continue giving my daughter what I can, as often as I can, and even though it isn’t nearly what either of us would want and I am sure that I will hear about it 10 years from now, for now the reality is that it’s the best that I can do. My husband loses out the most, I’m afraid, but at least I can be mindful about the situation and try to do more hugs or sit next to him on the couch more often. If I stop beating myself up over not doing enough, then I can pay attention to doing the little things that are possible.

I do hope that I make it through this drained dry stage soon, though. This is the most extreme that it’s ever been for me. I need to have a bit of energy left over to get back to being able to do some more of that living again.

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Trigger warning- references to teen sexual abuse and a part’s way of dealing with such

So, I have been having a very hard time over the last several weeks. I have been dealing with difficult material in regards to my father in addition to some anniversary effects related to my grandfather. What I haven’t mentioned so far is that my dog has developed untreatable cancer. She has a 6 inch tumor in her right lung that has metastasized to multiple organs. It is a very aggressive form of cancer and she doesn’t have long to live. There is an immense amount of grief over this impending loss in our household.

Therapy has been difficult. I have been encountering resistance from some parts to going to therapy. I hear wails of, “I don’t wanna go!” when I need to get up and get dressed so I can go to my sessions. As a result, I have started to be one or two minutes late regularly, sometimes even three or four minutes late, when in the past I have always been there when the previous client leaves her office. In addition, parts have been throwing up barriers more often, making it harder for Mama Bear and me to connect.

Last weekend, I wrote something which I sent by email to Mama Bear. It got to the core of what I am most ashamed of about my experiences with my father. I won’t go into all of the details, but if I can trust my mind, my dad continued to have sex with me until I was 15. At that point I was completely aware of how horribly wrong it was, but I also felt that I had no choice in the matter. I also was at a point developmentally when I was at an age where my body was more ready to feel sexual feelings and I normally would have been dealing with sexual thoughts and urges. A part of me seems to have developed to deal with the impossible stresses of everything that I was dealing with in regards to my dad in combination with the biochemical developmental stresses. For her, my father wasn’t my father, my father was ‘Him’. She didn’t think about what was going on, she just felt the sensations, because none of the rest of me could tolerate the terrible tension between the mental agony and the physical pleasure when my dad had sex with me at that age. It wasn’t always pleasurable, but he could make it very much so.

It has taken me years and years to get to the point where I can begin to look at this part and what her role was. From ‘my’ broader, more experienced, more compassionate point of view, I can start to see how such a part would have developed and how her presence would have helped to hold the rest of me together. Even with her there, bleeding off some of the strain, things could be almost unbearable. At the same time, though, my mind wants to reject the very possibility of her existence and say that it just seems like something out of a sick fantasy.

Once I told Mama Bear about this part by email, I fell apart even more. I remember that I called her over the weekend because “there is a part that you haven’t met in person yet who needs to know that you will listen to her.” My sleep deteriorated to an even worse state than it had been before. I felt like I was wandering around in a dissociative fog with a constant underlying layer of terror.

I got to my session 5 minutes late that Tuesday, which is later than I have ever been, unless I am in another appointment that is running late or something. The reason that I was so late was because I had been dealing with a swirl of parts that desperately did not want to go to the session. I walked into the session still partially in that dissociative swirl. A corner of me noticed that something seemed to be kind of off with Mama Bear, but the rest of me was caught in that swirl and ready to talk with her about the sleep issues which where making me feel pretty desperate.

The session was kind of odd. We made some progress, but I never felt fully there the entire session and that corner of me felt that something was off with Mama Bear the entire time, even though that part was far enough back that I couldn’t have articulated the concern at that time.

That evening, though, I became more and more certain that something was terribly wrong between me and Mama Bear. I was sure that she was angry with me about something. Then I realized that I was certain that I had either completely disgusted her with what I had emailed to her or that she had decided that what I had said was so unbelievable that she was going to turn her back on me. I was sorry that I had trusted her with what I had written and certain that I had messed up our relationship. I felt terribly alone and started to think that I wouldn’t even be able to ever see her again. Writing this out now, I can see how far fetched these fears were. For one thing, after I sent her that email, when I spoke to her on the phone, she reassured my parts that she would talk to absolutely any parts that wanted to talk to her, no matter what they had to say. She knew what she was freely committing to. Even if she did not believe that things happen exactly that way, she has said before that confusion in parts isn’t a reason to reject them, it’s another reason to help them.

However, on Tuesday evening, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was too caught up in my fear of abandonment. I was thinking clearly enough to recognize that my thinking was distorted, though. I realized that I could either check out with her whether there really was a problem or I could let myself become more and more miserable and certain that things were over with Mama Bear.

I did the right thing, I sent her an email, although it was late enough that it didn’t reach her until the next morning, right before she left for work.

“I wrote a whole long email that was mostly about other things which I’m not sure whether to send or not.

I also asked a question in a much more sophisticated way than I’m going to now. Am I on trouble? I feel in trouble. Something feels wrong with you and did in the session. Some part, I guess a protector just wants to hide myself away from you because I’m afraid that I’m being rejected.

And I’m sorry that I’m so much trouble, that I can’t just be quietly cooperative and easy to deal with.”

Her response was:

I just got this and can not respond further right now other than to say no; you are not in trouble with me. I think that is what you were asking. You may be upset with me for redirecting the discussion when you were unable to speak. You are not sleeping well and there are other ways to help you, other than to go deep into all the parts.

Her response helped. At least I had her assurance that nothing was terribly wrong, but I still had the feeling that something was off.

A bit later, she texted me:

C, this may be an opportunity to ask adult/present self whether I was being hurtful.. If not, bring some reassurance to the child.

To which I replied:

Hi. No you weren’t unkind. But something felt off the whole session. Can believe it was from….. My disorientation from dealing with so much inner turmoil from the get go.

And her final reply:

OK, we will discuss more. For now, use your adult/present self to help yourself calm. And, yes, much going on for you. Come as much…..on time as possible so that we have as much time as possible.

Aha. There had been something. She had been bothered to some extent by my being late. Mystery solved. Normally I would feel ashamed for “getting in trouble” about something like this, but this time I was able to look at it and see it as a normal, everyday problem. It was a relief to have it be something that I could relatively easily do something about. After all, I agree with her that we need every minute of each session. Ideally, the sessions would be 15-30 minutes longer.

I had indeed correctly sensed that something was off, but I was so primed by the huge shame topic that I was ready to attribute any relational issues with Mama Bear to what I had shared with her. The reality was that what I had shared had not created any problems between us from her side, but it certainly had created problems from my side. While the rupture between us had been a perception that pretty much was all in my head, it still had been painful and left me feeling less secure in my relationship with her.

I could either stay where I was and wait until the next session to try to get things on sounder footing again, or I could take a chance and share some of the thoughts that I had previously written out and see where that took me. I have the luxury of having met Mama Bear over 20 years ago and while the work that we have done over the last 3 years is far deeper than anything we ever did the previous times we worked together, I have seen time and again that she has my best interests at heart, despite whatever my parts might fear. I decided to take the risk.

For some reason, Mama Bear decided to write back more than she normally does. We used to get into trouble with my misinterpreting her email responses, so she decided that it would be best to keep any meaty responses to our sessions. This time she responded to each point that I made though and her genuine affection for me and wish more my well being came through clearly. Somehow, that response just eased all of the worries that my parts had left. What I had told her really hadn’t changed the way that she felt about me. My fear was that I was going to be left all alone with my shame, but the reality is that I am not at all alone.

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Trigger warning: There are references to rape and talk about how my sexualized traumatized parts function.

I struggle with sleep and have for many years. Really, I have struggled with it periodically for as long as I can remember. The last three years have been particularly bad, with it getting worse and worse over the last year. At this point, I am just plain exhausted.

Because of my severe sleep issues, doctors have had me on an antidepressant with the side effect of drowsiness (Trazadone) for years. Most of the time, this will allow me to get to sleep to start with, but first I have to force myself to get into bed, which sounds like it should be simple, but isn’t really. And then there is the little matter of staying asleep once I fall asleep. It simply doesn’t happen these days. And then there is the matter of the dreams…

I used to feel really badly about needing a sleep aid and I kept on taking myself off of it, thinking that I would just grit my teeth through the transition and surely my body would eventually get tired enough that it would give up and sleep on its own. I spent multiple vacations going around in a sleep deprived, cranky haze, attempting this, but I never stopped waking at the slightest sound or movement in my room, especially during that falling asleep phase. Eventually I conceded that the PTSD startle reflexes were just too strong and it wasn’t a matter of ‘learning to sleep on my own’; I was simply too easily stimulated into a startle reflex while I was falling asleep. There is a place for sleep aids, because long term sleep deprivation is harmful physically and psychologically. Everyday psychological stability is hard to maintain while sleep deprived, but heavy duty psychotherapy with parts can become all but impossible when I am too sleep deprived.

Getting into bed is where I seem to be having the greatest difficulty these days. It has taken me a very long time to come to the point where I can start to look honestly at what is contributing to this problem. In the past, I have tried to say, “X is the problem” and then just leave it at that. For instance, “I am afraid to go to bed.” Yes, there is fear, but what is the fear about? How do I address it? Is it current day fear, or is it fear based on the past?

For whatever reason, I simply was not looking at how much of my difficulty with getting into bed was parts driven, even though I should know by now that when I have an intractable, long term problem, I should take a look at whether parts are involved in some way, because they almost always are. Over the last several days, I have come to recognize that not only are parts driving this problem, but there are multiple parts involved.

There is the part who is afraid to get into bed because she is afraid that she will wake up with someone on top of her, assaulting her. I think that this has been an underlying fear all of these years that I never allowed myself to acknowledge. Some time in the last couple of weeks, the memories that this fear is based on have started to rise to the surface in bits and pieces. Last night, I had a bit of a breakthrough, though. The part who has this fear realized that my husband knows to not even touch me when I am asleep. He would never, ever do what she is afraid might happen. She realized that not only is she safe from my husband, but if she should come awake to someone assaulting her, it’s OK now for her to fight as hard as she can to protect herself. She doesn’t have to allow herself to be raped in her own bed now. I am not in the ’80s, I am in 2015 and it is safe for me to protect myself now.

Then there is the part that is just angry at me and doesn’t think that I deserve to be taken care of. It’s so incredibly angry at me for having a body. If I didn’t have a body, then I wouldn’t have been hurt. It’s all my body’s fault. There is so, so much rage and a desire to destroy. A desperate wish that my body could be made to go away. An even more desperate desire to go back in time and obliterate my body, so it couldn’t have felt anything. She feels panicked at the thought that I should be compassionate towards my body, because she just wants to reject my body because it feels so dangerous.

Something else is going on that is similar, but not quite the same: the belief that I am not worthy of being taken care of. There is a sense that I am so worthless that I am not worth the effort of overcoming all of the pressures to keep me out of bed. I am not worthy of being protected and comforted so that I can sleep. I just have to learn how to deal with it.

I also have the parts that are afraid to get into bed when my husband is in bed and still awake. He has problems with insomnia, so it can take quite a long time for him to get to sleep. These are parts that are afraid that he might make any sort of sexual advances at all. They know that he won’t attack me, but it is like they are programmed to go into action as soon as he touches me with any sexual interest. These parts aren’t always this active, but at the moment they are right there at the surface. In the rules that they exist by, there are two of them, because it was too big of a job for one; this way they can take turns. They have to do whatever they sense that the man that they are with wants and they have to act like they want it. I can’t quite tell if one of them actually holds being able to somewhat want what is happening and the other holds not wanting it or if both of them go back and forth, but I believe that the truth is that they really don’t want sex. They are too young for it. Closeness, yes, but absolutely nothing that makes them feel sexual feelings. Those times when I have had sex with my husband over the last year or two, when I have been able to recognize the presence of these parts, I have just wanted to hide my face and cry during the act. If he would sense that something was off and ask me if I was ok, I used to be able to get away with telling him that I was ok and just avoid looking at him. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t keep on doing that to myself, so one day when I wasn’t in one of those parts, I told him that if I won’t meet his eye, then there is a problem, no matter what I say. Fortunately, he wants to help me stay safe and he has no interest in having sex with traumatized parts, not even cooperative ones. The man now makes sure to look into my eyes, unless the lights are out (which is the next thing that I need to tackle.)

There may be more going on than just these four things, but it think that they are the four strongest forces at work right now: a fear of waking up to being assaulted, a self punishing aspect, a feeling not deserving help, and a fear of sexual advances. I guess that it’s more than enough. My feeling is that if I can deal with them enough to get myself to a place where I feel safe enough to go to bed without a fight, then the problems with the dreams and waking up also will ease. It will have to help. Anyways, just getting into bed is the first step.

Sleep. It’s such a basic need. I wish that is was simple to satisfy that need once you have been traumatized, especially once you have been woken up out of your sleep to be traumatized. I have to fix this problem, though, or at least make it better. I can’t go on this way.

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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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A lot of my memories are very physical in nature. I remember a lot more of what happened in the abuse via sensations/ emotions/ just knowing than I do via visual memories.

One of the memories that I have been struggling with lately is the sensation of wishing for my father to do good feeling things to me. Needless to say, this has brought up intense feelings of shame, horror, disgust, and self loathing. It took me a few weeks, but I finally managed to talk about it in session with Mama Bear last week and she brought up several good points that I will talk about in a bit, but she missed the most obvious one: I knew that the abuse could feel just bad or a mixture of good and bad, so when I knew that something was going to happen, I would hope that it would be something that mixed the good and bad sensations.

There were things that my father would do that were pleasurable for my body, sometimes very much so. Bodies, including children’s bodies, are set up to have defined physical responses when they are stimulated in particular ways at certain locations. Even some young children can be stimulated to orgasm some of the time. It isn’t a case of anything being wrong with the child, it is a case of the child’s body being used against her.

It is extremely confusing to experience physical and/or emotional pain in combination with sexual pleasure. In some ways it adds another layer of pain to what is happening. At the same time, for me, having some pleasure was easier for me than not only just feeling negative physical sensations, but also experiencing the loneliness of feeling like an object that was being used and thrown aside. If he cared enough to make me feel good, then in my mind that meant that he cared about me and he remembered that I was there and I was a person who felt things.

Being sexually abused is extremely objectifying and dehumanizing. It was more so with my grandfather who set out to make me feel like a ‘thing’, but even with my father, who had different goals, it was the case. After all, my father could not have really been looking at me and fully seen me, his daughter, in all of my individuality and personhood. If he had, he could never have done what he did. He had to have seen me as an object for him to use to deal with his demons. I could never have articulated this at the time, but I certainly sensed it.

However, there was no way that I could have understand the complexities of the situation that I was in as a child or even early teen. All I knew was that I was in an impossibly painful situation. My mind had to deal with what I had been dealt the best that it could; it seems that part of the way that I dealt- some of the time, at least- was by feeling like I wanted to be with him and feel pleasure. As Mama Bear pointed out, I had very little physical contact or even concentrated attention from my father other than through the abuse. I yearned for his love. Given that set up, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some parts of me value that interaction with him. When he intensely paid attention to me and did things that made me feel good, I felt closer to him than at any other time. But other parts of me loathed what was happening and are furious at me for trusting him and want to tear my skin off for physically feeling anything.

So I am left with these strongly conflicting feelings that I need to accept were all valid. It would be so much easier if I could only remember hating and rejecting the abuse by my father, but that wasn’t my reality. It was with my grandfather- there wasn’t the slightest bit of connection with him, because he was purely a monster with me. My father was much more confusing for me to deal with. He hurt me, physically and emotionally, but he could also make me feel loved and physical pleasure. I didn’t want what was going on and wanted for it to stop, but if it was going to happen, I wanted for it to happen in the “good” way. Worst of all, though, he threatened my relationship with my mother. This was something that I couldn’t tell her, because I was so convinced that she would pick him over me. Actually, I am convinced that I tried to tell her that something was wrong. I wouldn’t have said just what was wrong, but even crying after school every day for months at a time I only got sympathy, not her trying to find out what was so terribly wrong.

I couldn’t get her understanding and support for the terrible bind that I was in back then. I had no one to help me deal with the adaptations that I had to make in order to survive the situation as intact as possible. As Mama Bear keeps on reminding me, things in the now are very different. I have external support, but, even more importantly, I now have the internal resources to start to give myself what I so desperately needed then. Today, I need to set aside my repulsion for what I did and look at it with compassion as ‘what I had to do’. I did what I had to do. I would never have chosen to have sexual interactions with my father, if I hadn’t been forced into the situation. I simply found the ways to deal with it that made it all as tolerable for me as possible. Sometimes these options weren’t open to me and what I experienced was purely awful. Comparing the two, I am glad that I had something available that was able to soften the edge of the abuse, some of the time.

It swirls through my mind: it doesn’t matter what I did to get through what happened. I didn’t hurt anyone, after all, I just tried to find the molds to put myself into that would make me someone who could survive an untenable situation as well as possible.

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I felt stronger while I was writing this, but now I am feeling more vulnerable. This more compassionate understanding of myself is all too tenuous. We will see whether I can tolerate leaving this post up or whether the shame and fear of being judged wins out.

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