Care and feeding of the unconscious

scorpIf you believe in astrology, I can sum up my experience this morning with one phrase:

I am a Sagittarius with a moon in Scorpio.

This means that my inside and my outside aren’t always on speaking terms. My super open, transparent, honest to a fault Sagittarius outside persona is at odds with an inner Scorpio emotional self that would just like to keep all that sh*t secret and close to the chest. If it lets the information out to tattle-tale Sagittarius, she’ll want to be all open and authentic and sh*t, which makes the Scorpio part of me very unhappy.

My sneaky Scorpio moon fights back against all this dangerous openness by just neglecting to tell me how I feel for long periods of time, then suddenly wakes me up at 5 am on a weekend to tell me all about it, like the girlfriend who wakes you up in the middle of the night to ask you where your relationship is going.

This morning went down like this:

Uneasy dreams about being in a house with doors and windows that won’t even close properly, let alone lock, on a windy night on the third story or so of a low rise building with outdoor terraces.

This is Scorpio code for “your boundaries suck, dude.”

Then I wake up gradually ruminating about the dream and my jazz piano lesson, which I suddenly realized had been dumbed down for me because I didn’t really get the previous lesson. No wonder practising hadn’t sounded as good the night before, all the fun jazz stuff had been stripped out of the exercise after I complained I couldn’t remember it when I got home. I felt shame and frustration.

My Scorpio moon whispered to me. “What are you going to do about it?”

Well what can you do about shame in a darkened bed with a sleeping wife and chihuahua on a Saturday morning?

“You wanted to know how you feel.” Says the Scorpio moon nastily. “Now deal with it.”

But that wasn’t even the main course. As if pulling on the edge of a big knot that had suddenly come loose, all my week’s shame and anger came unravelling into my heart, spooling out from some place I hid it without knowing I’d done so.

The meeting I’d had yesterday with a team I supervise hadn’t gone well. It was the yearly review and while I’d collected feedback, I hadn’t given any.  A key member is moving on, and the remaining team, a performance troupe, isn’t up to the quality I need. I may need to cut some underperforming members and add others, which I need to do without completely demoralizing the group.  Complicated, murky and targetting the very area I feel insecure. The people I supervise are working musicians, and I am an amateur. What the hell do I know?  I know what I need them to accomplish and that sometimes someone has to be the heavy.  I feel a sense of my own incompetence in failing to address this at the time, my unease, and anger at my team.

Then I noticed the birds singing that “you’re up way too early in the morning” song they do when the sun is rising in the summer and I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep.

So what did I do? I got up and wrote about it here. Because shame doesn’t go away by ruminating on it in a dark room at 5 am. It goes away by shining light on it. Even if that has to be early morning on a Saturday.

Take that, Scorpio moon.

Rules of kvetching: applied to CSA survivors

The rules of kvetching. Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times
The rules of kvetching. Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times

My neck has been particularly seized up since I found out about the appointment with the gynecologist. Coincidence? Not likely. Since the assault that caused the tearing in my vagina also caused a neck injury, the two are definitely linked.

I believe in the saying “trust in God(s) but tie your camel”, which means to consider both the practical and the mystical in life and cover both. So I did.

I went to both the chiropractor and massage therapist. The chiropractor assessed my neck and said my alignment was fine and that the issue was muscular. She referred me to the massage therapist and wrote down what muscles to work on. They both gave me exercises to do.

I also did a very powerful cleansing and healing ritual in my bath, praying for help from my matron and patron gods, in the journey of restoring the damage to my body from the abuse. I metaphorically let the gunk fall from me, and my body be whole.

And I told/tell myself that my emotional processing system is likely to be taking up a portion of my mental and physical space, even when I’m not aware of it, between now and the appointment, and of course afterwards, until I sort out what there is to do. This is completely normal.

I’ve been a lot more open about my injury in the past several months, which gives me a larger pool of people who I don’t have to ‘come out to’ about it when things get more intense in order to have some support. The isolation of having an injury that it freaks people out to discuss just makes things more difficult, so creating some pockets of awareness is part of my support system. However, it does come with risks. There is always the risk of people negatively stereotyping me because of my injuries and experiences and treating me like ‘damaged goods’ in one way or another. I’d prefer people see my considerable strengths instead.

I found this image and explanation online and thought it was an excellent resource when applied when survivors disclose or are going through PTSD related gunk. It’s called ‘how not to say the wrong thing’. The idea is that you draw a circle around the survivor/person with cancer/bereaved person etc… and then a circle around that that contains the the person who is next closest to the trauma (spouse, for example), then a circle around that that has the people next farthest out and so on till you get out to the level of coworkers and acquaintances. The authors called this circle the ‘kvetching order’. Everyone is allowed to both complain or vent but they can only do so to people in a larger circle than them. To people in a smaller circle than their own, they can only offer comfort, not advice, emotional venting or complaint. Comfort in, kvetching out. The person at the centre can kvetch to anyone about the issue. It is apparently called the ‘silk ring theory’.

So let’s see if I can imagine applying this to myself…

I’m in the centre – I had the sexual assault that ripped my vagina and healed badly, plus the strangulation injury that makes my neck vulnerable now. I’m the one with the scary appointments and needing to advocate for myself to try and assess the damage and fix what I can. I am at the top of kvetching order and theoretically can complain to anyone and accept support from everyone. That’d be nice, wouldn’t it? In the circle around me is my wife. I don’t have any other partners, but if I did, she might be here. Around her is my close survivor friends, women and men who have experienced childhood sexual assault too, and get it but also might be triggered, and who I might share the more graphic details with because even though it might freak them out, they won’t judge me or say dumb things. Around that is maybe my Aunt and cousins, who know and are reasonably supportive, around that would be my non-survivor friends who know. Around that are nice people who care about me but don’t know the details. I would say that the perpetrator is always in the largest circle. Everyone can complain to him (survivor, her supporters, society at large), but he can’t complain to anyone.

Hmm… this is a lot different from a cancer diagnosis isn’t it? If I had cancer (Goddess forbid) my wife could put something out on Facebook about it for example, and everyone would know. Casseroles might arrive. People would still behave weirdly, and perhaps even blame me for the cancer if I was say, a smoker, but certainly it could be talked about. As a survivor, even accessing support about something heavy creates the risk of someone breaking the kvetching order and dumping their gunk/misconceptions/discrimination about child abuse survivors who disclose back on me.

The people who say dumb things to survivors are usually breaking the kvetching order now that I think about it. For my aunt to want me to take care of my mother’s feelings about my mother losing her idealized (and fictional) happy family is breaking the kvetching order. My mom has every right to complain to her therapist or friends, but not to me or my wife or my survivor friends. And my aunt has every right to complain about the impact the abuse has had on her family, but not to me or my wife.

I have an appointment!

tumblr_m8xh9scySH1qery84I just found out I have an appointment with a woman obstetrician/gynecologist for May 10th. The doctor who set up the appointment for me thought that an obstetrician might be a good doctor to help me, as the tearing is similar to tearing from birthing. I can’t find much about her online, but she teaches at one of the local universities so she is experienced and connected.  I expected to have to wait several months for an appointment, so this is really good.

When I got off the phone with the nurse I had a good hard cry and then looked her up, and then had a cry again. It’s relief and fear together. What if she doesn’t examine me very thoroughly and says nothing can be done? I deserve to know exactly the extent of my injuries, and what I might do to improve their impact on my sex life.

I have to remember to confirm the appointment a week before or I will lose it. I tend to get spacey about things with emotional energy attached to them so I’ve already set lots of reminders and will tell my wife and friends to remind me to confirm too.

I’m also thinking of who to bring with me to the appointment. Last time I brought my wife, but she doesn’t do survivor support well. She loves me, but she’s not great at demonstrating empathy in the way I need it when I’m upset. I think I need a survivor with me. My first thought was one of my longer term male friends, who has survived a lot himself and is good at being supportive, or maybe my other survivor friend who is a lawyer and good at collecting specific information. I need someone who will be compassionate, get what a big deal this is, help me remember to ask everything I want to ask, and offer moral support. Perhaps I’ll talk it over with both of them and see which of them is up for it. The guy gets a bit spacey himself so may not be the best choice if I need someone to be my rock. The woman is a bit less amazonian than I am about her survivor stuff so may not be as unflinching as I need. My wife was there when I first saw the scars so she has the history. But she hates talking about our sex life, and I’ll have to do that to really get the information I need. It will come to me who is best.