Burning the Journals

Midnight ember
I just got back from a camping trip with my wife. With her support, I burned several boxes of old journals, dating back from my childhood through the present. It took me three days. Now that I’ve decided not to sue the old hopefully soon to be dead bastard, I don’t need them any more.

I flipped through each of them, tore out some poetry and things I wanted to keep, and then burned the rest. As a Wiccan, releasing ritual is usually done on the waning moon, but the moon was waxing so I needed to interpret what I was doing in that light, as accepting, increasing or making whole rather than discarding something unwanted.

What I came up with is that I am all of it. I am the woman who  wrote 30+ years of journals, writing mostly when I had too much inside that I couldn’t share. I am the teenage girl obsessing about boys and interpersonal crap with girls, even though I’m a lesbian. I am the young woman obsessing about guys, money and finding a job. I am the emerging lesbian obsessing about women, whether to label myself bi or lesbian. Thank goodness queer wasn’t a label in use then, that would have been way more confusing. I am the woman who lived with a man but knew she  preferred women, who fell in love with her best friend and was rejected by her.

I am the woman who saved her friend from committing suicide because I could read the signs and took a long cab ride out to stop her. I am the woman who stood up at a 12 step convention and asked a crowd of 300 people to tell me they believed me about the abuse. I cry even now thinking of how powerful that was, when they all unanimously stood and declared it in unison. I am the woman with a powerful and direct voice when she has enough social support and a hesitant, anxious and ruminating manner when she doesn’t. I am the girl who wrote poetry. I am the girl who counted in her head to keep from having intrusive thoughts and feelings about the abuse.

I am the woman who successfully pulled her mind away from abuse thoughts during sex, who once despaired of ever having an orgasm without some abuse fantasy in it, who took her sexuality back from the abuser. Who now almost never thinks or feels those things in sexual contexts.

I am the woman who chronicled her flashbacks – reading them I remembered when the memories of the abuse were more visceral, and am glad that has faded as they got integrated.

I accept all of my experience, power and knowledge into me. I integrate that girl, that woman I have been and am. Although I have changed and evolved, it is all me and I welcome that stored energy and passion back to me.

What I noticed as well, is that so much paper was spent agonizing over decisions, fretting and obsessing rather than acting. Some of this is my highly sensitive person nature, where I am cautious and slow to act. Some of it is the chronic anxiety I struggled with most of my life. Some of it is just that I had no one else to tell. Some of that has not changed.

If this ritual, this spell of release and transformation, has one goal, it’s to end that. I will write purposefully – envisioning the ideal future or in poetry, music or prose – or not at all. I will put my feelings into music or art instead. I have obsessed and ruminated enough. Now I will act.

My self-help book is underway. The working title is “It gets better: What I learned from 25 years of healing childhood rape”. I could use some ‘test readers’ to give me feedback on the rough draft – not about fine editing things and grammar, those are third or fourth draft, but about what parts seem most helpful, what might be missing, what’s unclear. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to review a copy of it and give me some feedback. A lot of it is from this blog, just organized in a different way with some added material.

Grief and Fierce Self-Love

So, things are still rough with my wife. I was at a practice for the choir I sing with and during the vocal warm up for freaking sake I started crying and had to leave the room to calm down. Then I came back and during the first song we practiced (which was a sad one about the loss of a loved one…) I started crying and couldn’t stop, literally couldn’t stop. I’m pretty good, as I expect most survivors are, at squashing down feelings and going numb, but literally could not stop crying. I had to run out of the room and sob in the bathroom. My friend followed me and gave me a hug and held me as I cried. It took several long minutes to calm down enough to go back in.

Interestingly, I was out of the woods a few minutes later when that same friend asked me to dance with her during one of the other songs. She and I will likely do some choreography during this specific song so we were practicing it. Moving my body in this way got me out of whatever groove my brain had gotten into. I’m all in favour of grieving when you need to, but normally am able to postpone grief until I’m in an acceptable place to cry.

The grief I’m feeling about my marriage is really deep and as is frustratingly usual, I don’t actually understand fully what I’m crying about. Generally I don’t get this information until after I’ve really let the feelings out, which can be hard to surrender to, but seems to be the way I work. It’s another part of my feelings being dissociated from the information about it I guess. I’ve been crying on average once a day since then, which was about a week ago.

What I can put together is this: My wife has been my person, for the last 10 years, who will physically be there for me in the night, and physically hold me when I have a nightmare or need to cry. She’s gotten to be adequate at this over time, although my waterworks isn’t something she gets intuitively, unfortunately. Now that we’re sleeping apart about half the time, I don’t have this body comfort any more. I have a lot less touch in my life, something I really need a lot of. Her not wanting to have sex with me any more is something I really grieve, I crave that kind of intense physical intimacy with someone who loves me. This is not something that is easily replaced. I don’t even really have that with her anymore on the rare occasions we have sex now.

There is something that is so deeply accepting and shame reducing about an intensely intimate physical connection with someone who I love and who loves me. It’s something I really crave. Casual sex isn’t going to do it, and it will be a long time before I’m even ready to find someone else that I can have this with.

There is this central theme in the Harry Potter books, of which I am a fan, that Harry is spared a lot of damage from the abuse by his aunt, uncle and cousin by the spell his mother invoked, of loving him so much she gave her life to protect him. I was thinking about this today, and though I have no-one else’s love to immunize me from pain and psychological harm, I do have my own self-love. It seems to be my duty to learn to love myself as fiercely and loyally as I can.

My wife is out of town for a few days and I’m happy she’s gone. It gives me some psychological space to grieve fully. I’m finding myself hibernating from everyone.

Today, it is probably no accident that I forgot about my piano lesson. I am kind of relived I did, as I don’t think I could have played the piano without crying either. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do over the holidays, concentrate on loving myself and making music to clear out all this pain and grief. Surely there must be an end to it if I let it flow, that seems to be how it works.

To all of you in grief this December, I send my solidarity. May you love yourself fiercely.

SDW

Piano lessons and a gift of compassion

I’ve been taking piano lessons. I’ve got a great teacher and I’m enjoying it.  As I’ve written about before, I have a hard time learning to play musical instruments, despite being quite musical and not for lack of trying. I get anxious and frustrated easily when doing music, and have a hard time sticking with it.

Apparently my piano teacher has noticed this and asked me about it today, in a very kind way. He asked me if I’d taken piano lessons as a kid, and wasn’t surprized when I told him the teacher was awful. He said he gets that a lot and can usually tell if students have had bad experiences in the past.  He even disclosed that he’d had a difficult upbringing himself, I think to make me feel comfortable. He doesn’t (and probably won’t) know the half of it.

My literally psychopathic father played the very same piano I have in my living room. I asked it of him (indirectly through my mother) as an apology offering for raping me as a child. The one time I saw him expressing what seemed to be a sincere emotion in response to a relationship loss was when he played one song, moonlight sonata, on the piano well into the night on the evening he found out his father had died.  I think of it as my grandmother’s (his mother) piano.

I took piano lessons at age 8 with a teacher who lived at the top of a tall hill. She expected me to practice during the week, something I did not, at the age of 8, in a chaotic alcoholic home, have the organizational skills to do without support from a parent, something I didn’t get. She repeatedly berated me for not practicing.

When I was about 30, I auditioned for and was accepted into a professional music program at a local college. This program seemed to think it was a good idea to treat sensitive music students as if they were in some sort of boot camp. I got some good things out of it, and a lot of very painful ones. I dropped out after about a year. It broke my heart. It took me about a decade to recover afterward enough again to start creating music again.

I sketched the teacher and music school issues in rough terms for him and I really do get that I’m not going to be berated for not practicing, like my piano teacher, or for asking questions, like my music theory teacher in school. I’m very grateful that my teacher gets that I have issues and will practice as much as my issues will permit, but may learn slower than I might otherwise. Compassion that makes room for us to be as we are, and be supported in continuing regardless, is such a rare and beautiful gift for a survivor.  I am blessed.

Bailing vs Being Self Protective, a case study…

Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.- Albert Schweitzer
I’m fine. All is well. There’s no drama, generally or abuse wise, in my life.

Except, I feel edgy and menstrual, which in itself is probably the cause of the edgy.

I have a performance this Friday. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to be better prepared, but feel like I’d be wimping out if I bailed.

I really really want to bail. Firstly, my guitarist who would normally play for me can’t make it, so if I want accompaniment, I have to sing with a recording. I’ve never done that before, and don’t have a lot of faith in the sound tech for this event. This in itself gives me a good reason to bail, as I told the organizer my acceptance was contingent on my guitarist being able to make it.

What is actually a bit worse is that I volunteered to help with the opening blessing, and yesterday got an email letting me know who the other priestesses are to be. One of them is a woman who is an ex housemate. We had to kick her out of the shared house we lived in because she was bullying me.  What this looked like was a lot of yelling and imposing body language on her part and a lot of cringing and ineffective arguing on mine, much like my experience was with my father/abuser. Generally she did the worst stuff when no-one was around to witness, until one day my wife came home when she was at it and intervened. We lived together during the time shortly after my father/abuser was in a car accident and I thought he would die, so I was quite fragile and definitely in no shape to defend myself the way I would normally do. It is the first time since I left my home with my parents that I have felt that afraid and helpless.  At one point I was so afraid of her that I left my wife and dog at the house and went to live with a friend for two weeks, so I could make it through to the time she was due to move out. It was a close thing as to whether she would succeed in bullying me to leave or would leave herself.

This happened over six years ago, and I have run into her at events from time to time since then. Mostly I ignore her and don’t initiate contact with her, and that works out tolerably. Since she seems to have gotten into leadership roles in the community, I’ve mostly bowed out completely so I don’t have to be around her. This has cost me opportunities to priestess and be in community, but honestly there are other things about this community that don’t fit well either. Priestessing a blessing together would require interaction.

Generally, the more orthodox Pagan protocol for these types of situations, is that if two members of a circle have a conflict they cannot resolve, it is the responsibility of the parties to put it aside during the ceremony completely, or if they cannot, to withdraw. It’s kind of like “speak now or forever hold your peace” at weddings. Some circles even ask “is there peace on the circle” before starting to ensure that people have a chance to withdraw if they need to. I’m on the orthodox end of things when it comes to pagan ethics, and this community isn’t, so withdrawal wouldn’t be required of me by community standards, but is absolutely required by my own standards.

I have stopped going to religious events in my former community because this bully is quite active in leadership roles. At the time, she was angry that she was kicked out of our house, not accountable for her behavour (as bullies seldom are) and has no doubt spread her perspective among the other people in our formerly shared community. One or two of her friends, when I have run into them, show signs that they have been told something (I’m not sure what) that makes them cooler toward me. The way Pagan opening ceremonies work is that the people doing the opening have to stay to the end and participate in the closing, so I wouldn’t be able to leave if the going got tough.

My third reason for wanting to bail is that, I lead a choir that has offered to perform that night, and we’re just not ready to perform publicly.

The fourth reason is that there are lots of other performers, and we probably won’t be on till about three hours in, and I’ll be fried from the priestessing and the waiting and even less likely to be able to perform competently because of it.

One other glitch is that the organizer has disclosed to me that she has BPD and I know rejection, if she takes it that way, might be particularly painful for her.

I don’t want to do a bad job in a hostile environment as my first time performing in awhile in front of people who may have been poisoned against me. I don’t think it would be good for my currently fragile performer’s soul.

I am an amazon; I can get through anything, but do I want to? I really should let the organizer know now, so she can find someone else for the opening.

_____

Okay, I’ve finished drafting my bail email to the organizer. I haven’t sent it yet, but I should do soon, as the gig is less than a week away.

Now I’m not certain. Is this a challenge I should accept, making myself visible and possibly a target, or a valid warning that I should avoid?

What I learned about night fears and sexual abuse survivors

In this post, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about night fears resulting from sexual assaults as a child and how to reduce them.

I started out with night fears which were more of the usual type. I had a real sociopathic perpetrator, in my house, with real access to me, and I was afraid. Straight up, regular, warranted fear. My mother was no help. This was a lot of real, justified fear and I lived in real risk of being raped at any time for at least a decade. So you might say I was conditioned to associate laying in my own bed at night with, if not being raped, at least with the persistent fear of being raped.

Over time, I developed what I called ‘monsters’, which I still don’t fully understand. They were compilations of my fear and rage that seemed to haunt me, give me a target for the fear in my body, other than the one I couldn’t admit into awareness, that it was my father who was the source of the danger and injury. When I’d be in bed, it would feel like a ‘monster’ was there just outside of my awareness (or in it) that was waiting to harm me if I dropped my guard. I had these from early childhood onward through my 20’s.

When I left home I still had the monsters of course, and it took me a couple of years to even begin to figure them out. I’d started attending an adult children of alcoholics (ACoA) meeting that was for women only, and it was there I started to have some support and validation. It was also the first place in my own memory that I’d felt safe.

One afternoon or evening, I was sitting on a couch in the common area of the student housing where I lived with a friend who was a survivor, and she was asking about the monsters, about what would happen if I let one of them come close. I trusted her, and I tried to do this. Once the monster came close enough, I suddenly knew it was my father, that it was my father who had hurt me.

This is the first learning about night fears. It helps to find out, even roughly, what real life person, location, experience or whatever they are about. From then on, when I had monsters, I could say, “this is from being abused by my father”, and I didn’t feel like I was going crazy.

I started to notice I’d get what I called ‘monstery’ when I was triggered by something, usually something I’d seen on tv, but sometimes contact with my family. The types of things that triggered me were depictions of women-hating violence like rape, or scary movies with a supernatural element (reinforcing my fear that the monsters were real). If I avoided triggers like that the monsters were under a bit more control. I could also do things as part of my going to bed procedure that would make me feel more safe, such as having a candle lit by my bed and blowing it out last, or by writing in my journal and clearing out all my worries by writing in bed, just before turning off the light. I wrote my journal as a letter to the Goddess, so it was the same as praying before bed.

A major breakthrough came a few years later, when a friend from ACoA said I could call her the next time I had a monster, no matter how late it was. I called her and with her prompting, described the monster in enough detail to try and figure out what event or fear it was associated with.  I still remember that phone call, and how helpful it was to have someone there with me when I was so afraid. Over time, I became good at letting the ‘monsters’, which were really flashbacks and the fears of flashbacks, come to my awareness during therapy sessions and then allowing them to come closer to me so I could feel what information they might hold about my life.

People have these misconceptions about survivors, they think it would be best if we just forgot all the bad stuff that happened to us. What they don’t get is that we may be able to forget the facts and details in our heads, but our body never forgets on it’s own. the memory isn’t all stored in the same place like a regular memory. It doesn’t fade until all or most of the pieces are brought together into a bundle, and that takes psychological detective work.  If I didn’t remember and assimilate all the traumatic events, I’d still be terrified every night going to sleep. When healing from chronic trauma or complicated PTSD, I believe the only way out is through.

Some other random things that helped:

1) Giving myself permission – I was terrified to get out of bed in the night to go to the bathroom. I got myself a chamber pot to use for awhile so I didn’t have to.

2) Pets – Pets are excellent company for keeping away night terrors. They don’t mind if you wake them up for company in the middle of the night and they are always alert for real-world dangers. If you feel like someone is in your room or hallway to attack you and the dog hasn’t noticed, it’s not a real-world attacker.

3) Feeling anger – once I’d cleared out the fear of being raped that was stored in the monster experiences, I became aware gradually and with some help from a therapist, that anger was actually the main trigger, or even rage. While it may seem odd for me to fantasize a monster hurting me rather than the other way around, that’s how it worked. Anger was so dissociated from my awareness – I never consciously felt anger – that my mind had somehow decided it was safer to have the monsters angry at me than me at them. The monsters were in fact my own rage. This convoluted theory was proven right when I started acting as if this was correct. When I had the ‘monster kind of scared’ going on, I’d assume I was angry. I looked in the mirror, into my own eyes and told myself “I’m angry, I’m angry” over and over. I found it was impossible to feel both angry and fearful at the same time. I tried to both feel the anger, and see myself in the mirror believing and hearing me. I tried to feel the anger in my body. This completely dissolved the monsters! It was like I’d found a magic wand to turn them off.

4) Being brave / exposure. I began getting up in the night to pee. When I felt a monster coming on, I would practice thought-stopping. “no, I’m not going there” I would tell myself firmly, and although the awareness of the monster feeling was still there, I’d go through with my plan to get up and pee and come back to bed. If I had to turn on all the lights, so be it, if I had to run back to bed afterward, fine. I would remind myself that monsters were just my unconscious letting me know I was triggered or angry. I would tell myself “I’m angry I’m angry I’m angry” instead. I’m not going to tell you this wasn’t hard, but over time the night fear conditioning I’d gotten as a child gave up. I almost never experience it any more. More recently, I would read about how exposure therapy, progressively desensitizing yourself to the fearful situations, gradually and under your own control, is an accepted treatment for anxiety. Before I actually got up though, I tried some easier things, like allowing myself to lay on my back (a trigger) when the lights were on or  allowing my foot to stick out of the covers (where apparently I was afraid a monster would grab it). If I couldn’t deal on a particular night, I kept the chamber pot as a backup.

I’m happy and proud to say that most of the time I don’t have a single fear to get up in the night to pee any more. Unless something incredibly triggering is happening in my life, I also never have monsters any more. If I can do it, you can too.

You know, I was realizing as I was putting the categories on this post, that this qualifies as perseverance. Perhaps I am perseverent after all, I just have had a harder time doing regular life perseverance while I have been caught up in persevering on the healing tasks that I needed to do.

Post therapy

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since my last therapy session I think. I’m choosing to spend time on the present day goals I have, improving my singing, finishing the book I’m writing, getting my physical health in better order, having fun.

I’m feeling a bit isolated. Father’s day was hard this year, which it isn’t usually. Normally it’s this irrelevant thing that passes by without my notice. This year I really wanted him to die, was really hoping and expecting him to die on Father’s day, like it would be fitting somehow. He could of course be dead right now, given I’m out of touch with anyone who’d tell me in a hurry, but somehow I doubt it.

My wife asks what does it matter if he dies? To me it’s a product of my anger. I’m angry that I was wounded so bad on my vulva and remember very little of the situation surrounding it. I remember it happening, but not what happened before or after or even the place where it happened very well.

Has anyone tried hypnosis to fill in the details in their memories? I’d be interested in finding out how that worked out for you.

I’m angry and he should have some consequences for something as horrific as that. My friend the lawyer says it’s not to late to pursue criminal charges, but I’m not sure I want to do that. I don’t think much of it would be within my control. I mean, I have these big scars on my body that prove I was injured. Does that mean they’ll have a big picture of my vulva in the courtroom, or read out my medical report, or have me examined by a forensic gynaecologist or something? That’s actually not the part that bugs me, it’s just that they won’t be representing me, I’ll just be a witness and they’ll be making decisions out of my control on a situation that should be completely within my control.

What I really want is to rub my mother’s nose in it, make her explain exactly how she managed to overlook such a serious injury, force her to take back her lie that she didn’t know I was being abused. I want to scream and yell and force her to tell me the truth finally.

What I really want to do is sing and dance and be happy and not worry about shithead.

I read something recently that a therapist wrote about survivors. That we’re not willing to live an ordinary life. That our winning back of our souls and hearts and memories had better bloody well mean something. I’m paraphrasing here, but I agree. I’m not content to have a job and a marriage and a home and routine activities. My life has to count for something or it wouldn’t be worth the first 15 years, and the ten after that recovering myself.

I told my therapist in my last session that what I wanted was to do earth work, get my regular life sorted out, and balance out all the water work of healing. Now I actually have to do it.

I have had two singing lessons now and I rehearsed tonight. My first lesson went amazingly well and I sang like a rock star. Predictably, by the second lesson I had a sore throat and a head cold. I’m now over the cold and practising for my third lesson next week. I was in the park today on my dinner break and was thinking about how my eyesight has taken an abrupt turn for the worse these last two years. I paid attention to what that meant, looking out with my eyes at the beautiful trees around me that I could no longer see crisply without glasses. I realized suddenly, suddenly knew that my eyes were trying to protect me by shutting out seeing things, the way they had as a child. That I needed to give them permission to see. It felt like I had been cutting off the blood flow to my eyes. I told myself, my eyes that it was now safe to see everything. It is now safe to see.

With my father in my face all the time, the only way to lesson the visual impact of what he was doing was to blur my vision. Perhaps that’s the gift my body gave me. I had eye surgery about 10 years now, but just recently my vision has reverted, making eye glasses necessary again. Maybe being in therapy these last almost two years has made my body react in the same way again. I’m going to experiment with that idea.

Happy Solstice

Today is the morning of the shortest day of the year.  A time when I usually clean up, simplify, tidy, pray.

I’m grateful for my blessings this year: learning to persevere, my friends.

I’m also grateful for something that happened recently.

In the place cleared by recognizing that I’d already lost my older brother, I found I have other relatives.

I talked to my aunt yesterday, my mom’s sister. She’s had therapy so is pretty real to talk to. We’d made a date (she’s in another time zone) to talk about my father as a young man and my mother and whatever context she could tell me.

She told me some useful things and gave me a lot of support.

Apparently I was right that my father acted out with other women – he’d ‘gotten fresh’ with my aunt (which I think means he made a pass that was more than verbal) and she’d had to kick him hard on the leg to get him off of her. After she told me this, I remembered, I’d seen the scar and heard the story from his perspective, which was mostly in the line that my mom’s crazy bitch sister had kicked him in the leg and left a scar. It’s a big scar, maybe 4 or 5 inches long, and pretty wide and red. I told my aunt “good for you” for giving it to him.

She told me she made a point of telling her sons to keep their kids away from my dad, and why. She confirmed the story I’d heard about my other aunt and my dad saying something awful to her too, but said I’d have to ask her directly for the details.

She explained a bit about their upbringing, and how they’d been raised to do whatever your husband wanted, and that their mom would be very angry at any show of disloyalty by her daughters to their husband. This tells me a bit about how my mom might have been cut off from support for leaving my dad. I also was able to explain to her what I wanted from my mom. My aunt and I agreed that my mom probably wouldn’t be able to face the enormity of what happened, that she’d be stuck in this workaholic avoidance for a long time. I told her I felt it was loving to not write her off, to believe she could do it, even though it was unlikely. I think she got it. She knows my mom better than I do.

She asked me essentially if I would ever heal, as if she thought I hadn’t, and I told her in one sense I already had, probably ten years ago. I gave her an example of a person getting in a car crash as the driver, where the passenger was killed. I said “would they think about it, on and off for the rest of their lives? probably. It’s not something you’d even want to forget, something that important. Would they still have feelings come up about it from time to time when they were reminded? Of course they will. What happened to me was many traumatic events like that, so there are more reminders and more feelings. However, essentially it’s as healed as it would ever be.  I think I’m getting better at explaining it.

She asked me about confronting my abuser. I told her I’d reported him to the police and how that had all gone down. I said I didn’t think I wanted to talk to him personally about it, because he’s so creepy I thought he might make it worse by telling me something more that I didn’t know. I told her about the scar tissue, and about planning to sword dance on his grave. She said she’d be happy to come and hold the circle for me when I did that, and so would her kids and my uncle and his family. This brings tears to my eyes even today.

So I seem to have lost a brother and gained some aunts and an uncle and some cousins. Not too bad, actually. I had dinner last night with my other brother, who is a good guy. He works in the alcohol industry and his job essentially requires him to be a party guy, so I worry a bit about his alcohol consumption, but he’s a stand up guy, and I avoid judging him as much as I can.

I had a birthday party this week, and eight people were able to make it, which is a miracle, really for December. We had a really nice time, just having dinner in a restaurant, but with lots of good food and talk. I felt connected.

Yesterday one of my friends gave me an drum lesson on the Irish hand drum (the Bodhran) which was fun and I did pretty well at. It seems like a good bardic instrument.

So today, I am grateful for my family and my friends.

Happy Solstice and Yule Everyone.

Blessed be.

Body Memories of Strangulation

I haven’t been on this blog much lately because I was writing my novel. I did it! I finished 50,000 words in one month. Yay for me. I took a break from the singing practice during novel writing month and hope to come back.

[Abuse triggers]

Lately the big issue for me is strangulation.

I’ve been having body memories from when I was strangled. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a body memory (I don’t have a lot of them) or just a sore neck in a place that made me think of when I was strangled when I was about 6. So being the kind of person who likes to know what I’m dealing with, I did some internet searching on long term effects of strangulation. I was wondering if the pain I was feeling was some kind of long term effect.

Kind of a mistake, although maybe not.

I remember being strangled into unconsciousness from pressure on the front of my throat. I was fairly young, maybe 5-7. I remember the pain, struggling to breathe and not being able to take in air, and passing out. I passed out long enough that I was disoriented and he was gone. I was in shock or quite disoriented for a day or two afterward.

What my internet search told me about this is that I survived attempted murder.
My air was definitely cut off, and perhaps blood to my brain as well.

Here are some immediate effects:

  • Abrasions, lacerations, contusions, or edema to the neck, depending on how the patient was strangled
  • Subconjunctival and skin petechiae cephalad to the site of choking (Tardieu spots)
  • Severe pain on gentle palpation of the larynx, which may indicate laryngeal fracture
  • Mild cough
  • Stridor
  • Muffled voice
  • Respiratory distress
  • Hypoxia (usually a late finding)
  • Mental status changes (short term -restlessness or combativeness, long term  – amnesia, psychosis (hallucinations))
  • I definitely had the larynx pain. I don’t know what else. Hypoxia is a shortage of oxygen in the tissues. Cerebral Hypoxia which can cause confusion and fainting. I have these constant, recurring nightmares where I am trying to get help but am confused and can’t successfully do whatever I’m trying to do, usually get away or call for help on the phone or some other way.  I think when I came to I was very confused.

    Apparently depending on how much blood supply is cut off, a person can lose consciousness in as little as 10 seconds, if the strangulation happened for longer, I’d have been dead. Strangulation, according to the sources I looked at,  typically has very subtle marks, even when it is severe. Even people who were killed by strangulation might not have much in the way of marks. There might not even be bruising, which tends to lead law enforcement to underestimate the severity of the attack. Women are far more likely to be strangled by men than men are by men, since the person doing it has to be a lot stronger.

    I can’t find the reference now that really hit home for me. It said something like if the victim was strangled for a short while they might lose consciousness and then regain it quite quickly when the strangulation was released. If the person was strangled for a little longer, and lost consciousness for longer, then they were very close to serious brain damage and death. That was me.

    What was different for me this time is that I’m feeling less separate from what happened to me. I used to feel these things as happening to my child self, with an intellectual sense of it having happened to me. Now, I think it is finding the scars on my vulva. These things happened to me.

    I told my therapist my full memory of being strangled, went into the body memory and described it to her. The pain in my throat was bad, and over the course of the session it dissolved. My larynx still aches from time to time, when I get triggered, but is a lot better.

    No WONDER singing has been such a struggle for me. No wonder I’ve had these constant dreams of being confused. I sure hope I’m going to have more of these body memories. I know there’s more, unfortunately. I guess the only way out is through. They’re validating but painful.

    Big fight with brother

    Ah, that stuff they I read about family systems work is right. When you try and change a long-standing pattern, people freak out on you to try and get you to change back. The deal is that you’re supposed to respond in a low key manner.

    I wrote the follow-up email to my older brother, where as promised I responded in more depth.  Probably not a mistake, but man did it piss him off.  My first email had been textbook family systems, my second one, less so.

    I told him his behaviour was condescending toward me, and essentially he didn’t know what he was talking about. I said that his fancy story of the woman he knew who’d just decided to be ‘over it’, was a case of her succumbing to peer pressure. And I called him on being incorrect when he said he’d ‘always’ believed me. (He once accused me of being delusional  “I know *you* believe you were abused…” he’d said in that patronizing lets be nice to the crazy person or imbecile tone. He was in med school and must have got it from somewhere)

    Now, I did word it very carefully, and kept it brief, but essentially I shifted myself out of “messed up younger sister willng to put up with condescension and arrogance and let you get away with crap” to “knowledgable adult who calls you on your crap”  This is a big change.

    His email back to me was vicious. Poor fellow must be freaking out. He accused me of all kinds of things, like making a dig at him in my speech at the wedding (he’s dreaming it) or buying a gift for his teenage son that was too young for him (I liked it, and I’m a lot older than his son, and besides, who criticizes a gift?).  He’s been holding all sorts of stuff against me, although I think the main thing is that it scares him I’m switching roles and he’s mad at me for disclosing in the first place, instead of being mad at my father.

    Anyhow, I replied and told him I was his sister and he’d either have to work out his issues with me or project them on to other relationships, and if and when he was ready to talk further I would. I also responded to all of his accusations, explaining some of the misunderstandings he’d had without backing down.  As far as family systems correct responses go, I’d give it a C, since I did sink to his level a bit, and really you’re supposed to respond in a light, friendly and firm way, without muckraking. I did edit out some of the worst bits and was certainly warmer than he was.

    The thing is, he’s behaving a lot like my dad. I wonder if he realizes? It’s that alcoholic selfishness, everything is never one’s own fault, getting angry when being held accountable. I don’t know if he’s a drinker, but he’s sure behaving like one. Someone at my wedding told me she thought my older brother was selfish and arrogant in the same way my dad is (she was a friend of the family and knew my dad. I defended him at the time (she’s a friend of my mother, and what my mom sees as selfish isn’t really), but now I see her point. )

    This was just in email, thank goodness, but I was so angry I pounded my hands on the table and cried. What a dickhead my brother can be. I have this place where I remember him as a really nice guy, and I hold on to it, but honestly, he’s not showing it to me, not in several years.

    NaNoWriMo

    I’m writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve decided to do it here, and will be adding to this post throughout the month. The task is to write 50,000 words between November 1-30th. We’re not supposed to edit or review so this is the first draft, but I thought it might be interesting to follow the process. Here’s more info on www.NaNoWriMo.org

    It was a dark and stormy month. November in Vancouver is always a bit cold. People who can, stay inside, except for the soccer players, who are crazy and run around in the mud and cold like it was any other day. Lucy found all her great tentatively anchored new good habits, to go for long walks daily, to garden and get outside to see the sky, washed out like a chalk drawing on the wet sidewalk.

    Lucy’s friend Michael, had other ideas. A confirmed gym bunny, or whatever guys with tight butts who go to the gym all the time are called, he liked the different quality of gym time in the winter. The condensation on the windows of the second floor the Tim Ralley’s gym he went to prevented people from looking out and so people talked to one another more. You had to. The place was so crowded these days by people antsy to move but unwilling to get cold and clammy, that there was always someone asking to work in on your set, and conversations just happened.

    “You should come to the gym with me sometime” he told Lucy. You’d get to like it.”

    “Which part of it would I like more, the sore muscles or the slipped vertebra when I put something out of joint trying to lift the damn weights? Or maybe listening to my attractive puffing and panting in a nice public place where people can hear?” Lucy liked exercise that was dignified, or, failing that, done to loud music so no-one could hear her asthmatic bellows cope with the unaccustomed strain. Men with cute butts were in no position to know what would make a perimenopausal amazon like herself happy.

    Walking slowly to the escalator, they left the food court and wandered upstairs. Lucy liked shopping with Michael. He shared her taste for rapid browsing, non-engagement with salespeople and Purdy’s ice-cream bars with fresh melted chocolate and toasted nuts that were so fresh and crunchy they squeaked on your teeth. After losing Brenda, he helped keep her moving, even if it was only on the mall level.

    Hugging Michael goodbye, Lucy buttoned her coat and headed out the side doors of the mall and onto a courtyard that if not exactly rain-proof, was at least sheltered from the wind. The old stones were time-roughened, or perhaps time-smoothed from a rougher state centuries ago. Looking up in the too-early to be dark wintering sky, she noticed that the moon was a wee sliver of platinum coloured light, pale like baby hair against the black. Just past new moon, waxing crescent. Brenda would have said that it was a time for good new beginnings. But not to Lucy.

    I wanted my life to be a science fiction novel, thought Lucy. Where anything could happen, and the truths that seem to hold me from stretching out into life were only one version of reality, and a highly unlikely one at that. I wanted to live in a world where Brenda and I could just be who we were.

    ___

    Brenda had disappeared. On purpose, probably.

    “I don’t know why you need to tell everyone. It’s not something I need.” she’d said during their last, dismal failure of a fight. Brenda’s need to pretend to herself that she wasn’t gay was understandable at first, but had begun grating on Lucy , who wanted to go out with other couples and stop pretending they were just roommates. Brenda’s religious guilt and, to Lucy’s mind, intrusive family were big blocks around her neck pulling her into the closet and anchoring her there.

    The sex had dried up. They were barely talking, and had become room-mates in truth again.

    Then one day Brenda was gone. Had Brenda told her family and they’d come to pick her and her things up while Lucy was at work, hauled her off to some bible camp to be brainwashed and married off to some church scion?  Lucy had even called Brenda’s mother in Seattle, who said she hadn’t heard from Lucy and didn’t know where she was. Somehow Brenda doubted that.

    This courtyard was where they’d met. Not in the rain, obviously, because they’d never had sat out here, finishing the last of their lunches while watching the birds finish the last of someone else’s and then fly off. The seagulls had been brazen, and had sneaked up beside Lucy and nearly stolen half of a good roast beef sandwich. Brenda had leapt to her defence and waved her umbrella like Xena the warrior. For someone who was such a strong presence in the rest of her life, so articulate and decisive, Lucy couldn’t understand why Brenda had quailed at this last, seemingly straightforward challenge, to be honest about her life.

    Lucy had told her mother when she was 19. They’d been walking on the beach on one of her mom’s visits to town, and her mom had asked about her friends. “Do you hang out with any guys?” She asked.  Lucy drew a deep breath. “Not really, I have a couple of guy friends, but most of them are gay.” Long silence. “I thought that might be the case.” said her mom, and changed the subject. But her mom had liked Brenda, and had treated them just the same as she treated her brother and his girlfriends, so Lucy figured her mom was fine about it.

    Lucy passed the bench where a lone seagull squatted. No squabbling for leftovers today, he’d have to go back to eating fish. “Better for you anyhow” Lucy admonished him. “Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you too, I’m sure.” She reached the end of the courtyard and went down to the water, walking along the large rocks that line the shore, slowly to avoid slipping on the wet underfoot. It was barely raining now, only misting and by Vancouver standards, that really didn’t count as rain. But it was enough to keep the beach relatively clear, and she could pretend she had it all to herself. She might even be able to cry, here, surrounded by the comforting sound of the waves slipping back and forth, and the big grey belly of the Mother behind them.

    Lucy could feel the mist swirling around her as she walked, getting to almost pea-soup thickness. It reminded her of Samhain, when they’d visualize visiting the island of apples, Avalon. Stories of getting lost in the mists and having adventures were a folkloric staple, as were tales of coming back after only a few days to discover years had passed.

    Her shoes weren’t the best for this kind of thing. Brenda was always on her about wearing her nice clothes and shoes when she indulged a sudden desire for gardening, or fixing something in the yard, or walking a muddy beach. Well Brenda wasn’t here to judge. She could walk just fine in a leather sole on a slippery rock. It was just like walking on ice, and she’d done that often enough growing up. She’d be….

    Lucy’s ankle wrenched as she went down on the rock, hitting her butt and back of head. A person standing on the courtyard above, if someone had been there, would have seen the mists wash over her, hiding her from view.

    ___

    The sunlight was frighteningly bright. Looking out over green hills and birch trees with light green leaves. “I’m looking out  over green hills and birch trees – what the hell?” thought Lucy. Looking down, she noticed her clothes and shoes were gone. Nearby, neatly folded on a rock was a cream-coloured soft fabric tunic, with soft leatherlike boots. She pulled them on. The rock she was sitting on looked familiar, somehow.

    Just out of sight around one of the trees, she saw movement, and a woman emerged from the forest and started coming toward her. “Good, you’re here. Come this way.” she said. “Do you need medical attention?”

    The woman was beautiful in a solid no-nonsense way that Lucy liked a lot. Slightly taller than Lucy’s average height of 5’6″, she was fairly broad-shouldered and carried herself with posture that Lucy’s chiropractor would have approved of. She was always giving Lucy exercises to do to strengthen the muscles in her upper back to balance her largish bust. Lucy shook her head.

    The woman’s hair was pulled back in a low ponytail. She wore no makeup, and a tunic similar to Lucy’s.

    “Sorry about your clothes” she said. “It doesn’t bring those. Maybe it thinks materializing you with our clothes on would be better than bringing you through naked, given your cultural norms.”

    “What are you talking about?” Lucy said. “Who are you?”

    “Oh, sorry” said the woman, pushing back a wisp of blonde hair from her forehead in a way Lucy suddenly found facinating, “I’m Mariha, Mariha Birch. This is going to be confusing for awhile, I’m afraid, and I’m not sure what I can explain to you yet. But we mean you no harm.”

    With that, the woman turned and began walking back toward the forest. Lucy didn’t see any reason not to follow.

    The path narrowed a bit and the ground underfoot got a bit boggy after a few minutes of fairly brisk walking. Lucy found herself panting and wheezing, as usual, from her asthma. Marja didn’t seem to notice, but slowed her pace slightly, which Lucy appreciated. She also appreciated the boots – her ‘girl shoes’ would have been more hopeless here than they had been on the wet seaside boulders she’d been walking on earlier.

    Their trudging fell into a steady rhythm and Lucy found herself listening to the leaves rustle. Looking up she could see blue sky in places through layers of soft green leaves, lit up in the sunshine.   As she let the peace of the place fill her, she found her breathing eased a little.

    Mariha stopped for a moment and drank a little from a canteen looking thing she wore on a strap over her shoulder. She offered some to Lucy. “Water?” Lucy drank a little and caught her breath. She’d been studying the woman’s back for some miles now, but hadn’t hadn’t exchanged much in the way of words. Getting pulled along in Marija’s wake, a bit like she did with Brenda, now that she thought of it. Brenda had a way of sweeping you into things, that at first Lucy found endearing. Swept her into her bed, and then into the closet pretty quickly, once it became clear that was the only way Brenda would have a relationship. At first Lucy hadn’t noticed, since she pretty much didn’t want to get out of bed when they were together, but after awhile she picked up that Brenda would show her no affection at all if anyone else was around.

    What am I doing? Where the hell am I? thought Lucy bracingly to herself. This is a crazy situation, and I’ve just been going along like a good girl. Just like with Brenda, Lucy found that with an attractive woman leading the way, she didn’t much care. “How sick is that?” She thought. However, what else was there to do, really?

    Finally, the forest opened out to a sloped clearing containing a large adobe-coloured circular building. It appeared to be made of some kind of concrete, or maybe actual adobe. The walls had a comforting curved warm look to them, and several of the windows were round as well. A relief showing trees and what looked like agriculture scenes flowed along the walls, inlaid with what looked like bits of glass and stones.

    Mariha stopped at a small fountain near the entrance and splashed water on her face, drinking some and sprinkling water lightly down the front of her tunic and over her hair. It was an automatic gesture that looked like she’d done many times. Lucy awkwardly drank a little water, finding that it tasted slightly of iron. Now that she was right at the fountain, she saw that the water seemed to flow from a stream nearby and then empty back into it once it had made it’s tour of the pool. The edges of the fountain were surrounded with shells, lozenge shapes, and sensual looking pale rose flowers.

    Past the pond was a curving half wall that bordered the walk that led to the front entrance. Lucy scrambled to catch up to Mariha. The door looked to be carved of a single piece of wood, fir if she remembered her woodworking classes, with a curved top and a latchlike handle. Mariha opened the latch and held the door for Lucy. Then followed her in to the slightly cool interior.

    Inside a lot of the light came from skylights curving around the ceiling, in which Lucy could see what looked like strandboard beams supporting the roof.

    ____________

    Lucy looked around, registering a kind of vestibule with a series of small doorways and one large one, like a church. “Is this a church?” she asked.

    “Not exactly, I mean, all of our forest gathering places are sacred, of course, but not in the way I think you mean.” said Mariha.

    “Well, where are we, then? What happened to me? What’s going on?” Lucy was beginning to feel like it was time for Some Answers. “It’s not that I’m not happy to be out of the rain but you have to tell me what is going on.”

    “I’ll tell you what I can. A few years ago, we discovered that the rocks in the place where you emerged from would from time to time deliver us a person from some period in the past or future. It’s like we’re a way-station of some kind. The person stays for awhile and then, without us really knowing why, dissappears again. We’ve worked out a schedule in relation to the sun and moon, and are getting better at predicting when women arrive, but not exactly when they leave.”

    “Women? only women?”

    “So far. You’re the sixth woman to arrive so far.”

    “Can I meet the others?”

    “Eventually, although, only four are  left. Two disappeared again about a month ago. First I’d like you to meet our Elder. She’s waiting for you in the central hall.”

    Mariha led Lucy to the main doors, and into the central hall. The hall was a large circular room with a high ceiling. Benches in a circular pattern lined the circle two deep. In the centre was a beautiful mosaic floor pattern depicting the four seasons in colours of red, green, blue and yellow, that looked like it was made of glass tiles. A woman about Lucy’s age sat on a bench in the inner circle, to one side. ‘Elder?’ thought Lucy ‘this woman is about my age’.

    The woman rose to greet them. “Thank you Mariha, for bringing our guest in. It looks like the schedule is as accurate as we thought.” she said. “At first the newcomers would wander through the forest and became quite tired and hungry before we located one another. This is a lot more civilized.”

    Civilized was right. looking around the room, Lucy saw that over to the side was fresh fruit and vegetables, a pitcher of what looked like the spring water from outside and some delicious looking bread. Lining the walls were beautiful tapestries meant to mirror the trees outside. The skylights in the ceiling were made of glass of uneven thickness, which provided a mottled light, primarily in the centre of the space. It gave the place the feel of being in a clearing in the woods, except with far more comfort. A fountain at one end provided a low burble that gave a restful undertune.

    Seeing Lucy’s gaze, the woman moved over to the food table and took a seat on the outer ring of seats, motioning Lucy to sit opposite her on the other ring. “Can I offer you something to eat?”

    “Perhaps in a moment”.

    “My name is Rosemary, and I think Mariha will have probably explained that I am Elder here.”

    “Yes,  but I don’t exactly know what that means”

    “Well, I’m the person in charge of holding this gathering space both physically and spiritually for the people who come here, which includes the nearby holy forest. Since the travelling stones have showed up  near here, they have been given to my care as well. I’m called Elder in part because of my age, but also it’s just the name this role assumes.”

    Lucy didn’t feel it was polite to ask how old Rosemary was, but wondered how young people died here if this woman was considered old. Rosemary’s face had a few wrinkles, like Lucy’s did, and her hair had a few grey strands, but she wouldn’t have put her at over 50, at the most.

    It must have showed on her face, because Rosemary said “You’re wondering how old I am. Some of the others were confused too. It seems people in your time have environmental factors that make them age prematurely, so I’m not looking old enough to you?” She chuckled and shook her head. “I assure you I am old enough to have great, great grandchildren. Our people generally live to 150 or so, and I’m well past middle age. ”

    _____

    The rock basked in the sunshine of this clearing. Of all the times it inhabits, this one was/is/will be its favourite, so it focused it’s attention here often, usually when it could feel the warm sun and strong pull of the full moon. A trick of the moon sometimes allowed it to bring along a traveller. This latest had seemed so wrong for her time, like that other one had. The rock is old, as rocks go, in this time especially, and it’s worn soft surfaces absorbed the radiance and pulled it deep inside.

    The rock couldn’t remember when it had developed this skill. Like all rocks, it could be in multiple times at once. Most rocks learned this in the first millennium or so – it was only the fresh lava who hadn’t yet mastered it. Most of the beings seemed to be stuck in time. Some long-lived trees and fungi developed the ability of being in many times at once, but since they were easier to destroy than rocks, few made it so far. The ever-reincarnating spirits of people and animals did have a sort of permanence, but didn’t often retain enough memory while in body form to get the hang of it. But the ability to bring the soft ones along when it shifted focus from one time to another was not widely known among the rocks of this rock’s acquaintance. The Weaver, yes, that was who had helped Rock learn this skill. She had demonstrated it once, moving a doe forward in time to prevent her species extinction. She didn’t do it much, though. “Wouldn’t want people to catch on. They need to know the consequences of their actions. Just enough.”

    ______

    Lucy is a woman on  a Mission from the Gods. She just doesn’t know what it is. At least that was Rosemary Elder’s take on it. “You’re here to do something, to affect us or yourself, we don’t know. Follow your instincts. You’re here for a reason.”

    “Yikes” thought Lucy. “What do I do now?” she said aloud.

    “That’s not for me to say” said Rosemary. “Whoever or whatever brought you here did so for a reason.” We don’t even know what time period you’re from in relation to this one, or I guess where in the world.

    “You must be in the future” said Lucy “since your setup here doesn’t seem like anything I know of from history, and besides I can understand what you’re saying. That must mean you’re not so far removed in time or geography that you speak a different language. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

    “160”.

    “Wow! – er I mean you don’t look a day over 100. holy Dinah!”

    “Just because Mariha and I can speak your dialect doesn’t mean the younger folks can. I remember it when I was a little girl.”

    “Where did you grow up?”

    “Canada, in the west near the ocean, in a place that’s now underwater, unfortunately. Before the big quake changed the coastline a bit. But I’m not that old, some of the trees have been here longer, and the rocks. Some of them were dredged up from the sea bottom and moved here to shore up the dike, but that was awhile ago now too”.

    “So you’re not going to tell me where to go or what to do?’

    “No, but we’ll help you in whatever way we can. We have a pack fixed for you if you want it, with some supplies and equipment and you can take the ferry to the mainland. You won’t need money. That’s so funny to think of needing money, I haven’t thought of money in ages…”

    “You don’t have money here?”

    “Not as such. People just do and make and help where and how they see fit. For larger projects, like the ferries, we meet in places like this one and decide who will do what. It’s kind of like barter, but we don’t keep strict track of things, just make sure everyone gives what they can and has what they need. It only works because we organize in smaller communities. In the larger places they have a more formal system of credits, with the produce and labour each person contributes tracked by neighbourhood, and then they draw what they need. It’s all tracked by something you’d probably think of as a computer. It’s not the only way to organize, but it works for us around here.”

    “So what do I contribute?”

    “You’re a special case. You’re here from the Gods to do whatever you think you need to do. You don’t have any restrictions on you, within reason. When you feel you’re done, go back to the place we found you and you might be taken away again. We’re not sure where to, though, since nobody has come back.”

    How wierd. No job, no family, an important mysterious mission, and no one telling her even which way to go. Lucy couldn’t let it all in. She decided to focus on the concrete. Travelling alone. She’d never travelled alone before – she was unfortunately too aware of the hazards.

    “Where are all the men?” Lucy suddenly realized that she hadn’t seen any guys or even heard male voices around.

    “Oh, they’re here all right, but we didn’t know what time you were from. Some of the other times seemed to have some quite barbaric practices about women and men and we thought it would be most comfortable for you to be met by a woman. In your time are men more violent than women? Some of the women seemed quite wary of men here – it seemed they’d come from times where women were enslaved and treated pretty badly.”

    Lucy had to admit that in general that men murdered more women in her time than was true in reverse. “I guess, when you’re used to it, it doesn’t seem unusual. Women aren’t property in my time, but it was a relatively recent thing, so a lot of vestiges still definitely exist. Women’s labour is worth less, for example, and women aren’t safe to travel alone in many places. In some places in the world women are still property.”

    How strange to talk of women’s oppression like it was ancient history. This might be a good thing after all.

    After her interview with Rosemary Elder, Mariha led her to a small bedroom off the main corridor, which held a double bed and very little else. “These are our guest quarters for gatherings”, Mariha said. ‘Mostly people are so busy meeting they don’t spend a lot of time in the rooms.”

    Laying back between sheets made of something that wasn’t cotton. Linen? Lucy began to cry, tension rolling from her body in large shaking sobs. First all her worry and hurt about Brenda and now she’d had such a confusing and overwhelming day. For all this space was almost unbelievably calm, ordered and tranquil, it only made her all the more aware of the rocks of tension in her shoulders, the screaming waiting at the back of her throat. Thankfully, the soft looking plastered walls looked soundproof. She certainly didn’t hear anything from outside, and hoped that went both ways.

    If this was the future, then everyone she’d known, Michael, her parents, even Brenda were long dead. How wierd to think she’d outlived them in the blink of an eye. Would she ever get back to them?

    Eventually, the room’s cool, solid, patient darkness won out and she fell asleep.

    When she woke she didn’t remember any dreams.

    ______

    A bird landed on rock, scrabbling a bit as it settled in with it’s prey to eat. The soft brush of it’s feathers were familiar, as was the light touch of it’s spirit, trusting, grounded by the rock’s presence.

    The rock liked birds, the light touch of their mind, focused on small details that were easy to overlook otherwise in the vast stream of time. Birds paid attention to small things – seeds, wind patterns, the clouds of dust raised by a small animal digging, an unusual animal in the forest. This bird had flown from the mud building some distance from here, and had seen the soft-bodied one the rock had shifted through time enter it.

    It was as the rock had expected, he’d seen it plain in the mind of the soft bodied human who’d collected his charge. The swirl of time around her made her easier to track, dust patterns were shaped by it as they blew by. The rock would watch this one.

    ____

    Persevererence & Change2Mind video

    I did do my practice yesterday, and got a little farther into exercising my voice. I seem to do it best when my wife is around. She came home from an evening shift at work, and started practicing guitar, which gave me space to practice voice. I could hear her strumming in the other room and it felt safe to focus on what I was doing. Then she left to walk the dog and I noticed it was harder to concentrate. I’m learning a lot about this.

    I just watched a video about overcoming bias against people with mental health problems. I started bawling when I saw a pair of people wearing shirts. One was a guy with a shirt that said “post traumatic stress disorder”. The woman next to him had a shirt that said “battle buddy” . What a great thing to do – makes me want to have some kind of walk where everyone is wearing a shirt saying “incest survivor” “childhood sexual assault survivor” “better half” “battle buddy” “support spouse” etc…  Here’s the video: http://www.bringchange2mind.org/

    My grade 6 teacher was at a presentation I gave last week. I recognized a woman in the audience, but didn’t know who she was till I saw the sign-in sheet. I emailed her and she emailed me back, with a lovely description of what I’d been like as a 12 year old girl. She said she was glad I’d weathered the adolescence and early adulthood well, and I replied back that I’d had more to weather than most. I said she may have heard, since a few of my teachers were interviewed by the police, that I’d been rather seriously abused by my father. I said “I’m telling you this not to make a big deal of it, but I make a point of being open, as I think it helps prevent the silence in which child predators hide, and if that helps some kids, it’s worth any awkwardness.” and then I gave a few more chatty details about my life and ended thanking her for some things she’d said.

    I hope that was okay. No real impact on my life if it makes her feel awkward, she’ll just not reply. I’m seeing my younger brother for dinner tonight. He’s the one I have the least gunk with, so it should be nice.

    [Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies: If mentions of mainstream, benign Pagan/Wiccan spiritual practice are triggers for you, please go read something else now. ]

    I went to a public Hallows ceremony a few days ago, organized by some folks I  don’t see any more, as one or two are unpleasant to say the least. An ex-roommate we had to kick out for raging at me was there, but I managed to avoid her successfully. I did see several nice people I actually missed though, and connected with some gals that might want to have a women’s circle, so that was good. It was nice to have my wife there.

    Oh, the main thing about all that was, Hallows is a time when Wiccans think about our ancestors and make a ceremony of visiting them on the isle of the dead in trance to speak with them. We also  remember and recognize both loved ones who have died in the previous year and bless the babies born in the past year. It’s our new year. Blessing children at hallows/Samhain is where the practice of giving candy to children came from. It’s a way of blessing the new year through blessing the young ones. There was quite a long trance my grandmother was there when I got to the island. She led me to my other grandparents. I spent some time crying, telling them off, and then made them all promise they’d keep my father completely away from me after he dies, since they owe me for that. And then I asked for their blessings, which they each gave me.  They got why I was mad and didn’t take offence. Dead people are much more sensible about these things.

    Perseverence Practice – Day 4

    I was able to practice voice for longer last time, and it felt good. It’s amazing how alive I feel when I’m singing well. I still haven’t done the full routine, but I’m getting there. I had a long day today, and feel edgy and distracted. The last thing I want to do is put focussed energy into anything, or is it to be fully present? Anyhow, I haven’t done my voice practice yet today, but I will.

    _______________________________________________________

    3 1/2 hours later

    _______________________________________________________

    I just finished doing my voice workout. I didn’t do all the warmup stretches and really felt the increased tension in my neck and shoulders impacting my voice. I was sitting with my back to the door, and the door open and felt (still feel) a creepy sense that something low and black is slinking up behind me to grab my neck. Lovely being a trauma survivor isn’t it? 35 years later, when I try to focus completely on something I love, I get distracted by phantom abusers sneaking up on me. I hope that rat bastard’s cancer is really hurting him today.

    I have my period, which is always a trigger time for me, perhaps because of the blood and cramping, so that probably explains the ‘monstery’ – afraid and wary and haunted by phantoms – feeling I have. I’ve been curled up with my dog and the tv all evening, wanting some time to myself to curl up. I’m proud I did the practising despite feeling like a wounded bear, avoiding everything and everyone and eating a lot of something — fruit?  I still feel monstery, which usually means I’m angry. Ya think? I’ve been working on getting my sexuality back, which seems to be working, but bleeding this month is suddenly having a whole new resonance – reminding me viscerally of how I bled when I got those scars. I think that’s where the trigger is coming from.

    I will outlive him and dance on his grave.

    Perseverence Practice – Voice Day 3

    Well, I’ve managed to practice voice for two days now. Mostly I just did the physical stretches and some warm up vocalizations, not the actual practice, but I’m figuring out when in my day to do it, and I’ve remembered fairly late at night when I was tired. However, I did it anyway, which is good.

    Today I’m trying to do it before I start my workday, which might work better. It’s funny that I find it hard to do something I remember enjoying. When I talked it over with my therapist, I was saying that I’m afraid if I get unblocked, whether vocally, creatively or sexually, bad stuff like flashbacks and memories might come out.It’s like I’m trying to break some self-imposed (and partially culturally imposed, to be fair) glass ceiling.

    I guess we’ll see.

    unfinished business

    Photocredit: Lawrence Op
    Photocredit: Lawrence Op

    (Trigger warning to my ritual abuse survivor allies – the following has description of positive pagan ceremony. )

    Last night I got together with a friend of mine who shares my religious beliefs. We got to talking about how neither of us are completing our creative projects to our satisfaction. As we talked, we both realized that it’s at least partly about being seen in our authentic selves. Me, to be seen in my gritty survivor art that I am drawn to now, and her in her art at all. We decided to do a symbolic action in sacred space to magically invoke the ability to be seen. The Goddess we chose to bless us was Aphrodite. Aphrodite is the only Goddess I know of who has no myths about having been raped. She is often depicted naked and makes independent sexual choices about her lovers and seems to have no negative consequences for that independence. I think that a person who is able to be safely naked/vulnerable/visible without need for armour and violence is much more powerful than someone who cannot. So that was the aspect or spirit we wanted to bring in, the courage and strength to be visible in our true selves.

    We decided we would cast a circle, call the sacred elements and Aphrodite to be present and then for 40 minutes my friend would write a story, and I would try and complete an arrangement of a choral piece that has been unfinished for over a year.

    Something magical happened.

    My music notation software malfunctioned and I couldn’t edit my work. Every time I clicked on the score to edit it, it would play my piece for me, in its full imperfection and incompletion. For 40 minutes I read the manual and struggled with it, and got absolutely nowhere. Parts of it were perfect already, playing similarly to how I hear the three part piece in my head, and parts of it were incomplete and didn’t sound right, and I could do nothing to change it. By the end I was ready to cry and wracking my brains for what it all meant.

    My belief system is that anything that happens in sacred space is meaningful, and is likely a message from the Gods/Goddess. My friend didn’t seem to get it, and gave me a ‘better luck next time’ kind of encouragement, but what I really wanted to know was why this freak computer bug had emerged in sacred space when I’d invoked assistance on my creative work.

    When my wife came home, she understood immediately. Bless her! (things are going a lot better with her, by the way.) In talking it over with her I figured out why the Goddess was playing to me my same old song, unchanged, over and over. It was a song I’d written almost 20 years ago, one I’ve gotten a lot of recognition over, and could easily find a choir to sing for me if I had sheet music to give them. I’ve only heard it sung properly once by three voices and it made me cry. The topic is about finding strength from a relationship with a tree and the earth, but isn’t overtly about the abuse.

    It’s an old song. It’s not me as I am, naked. It’s me as I was 20 years ago. No wonder the Goddess of healthy empowered nakedness rejected my work on it as an offering in sacred space.

    I have decided to make another offering.

    I am promising to myself and Aphrodite that I will practice voice daily. Each day. Every day. Using a CD I have with some vocal exercises, the ones that fill me with a feeling of joy and mastery in my voice. For a year. Voice practice needs to be done frequently and for short duration, as the muscles involved are small and damage easily. By practising a tiny amount daily, I will do more good than practicing once a week for hours. By practising regularly I will build a much stronger voice, that I can depend on.

    I need to prove to myself that I can persevere with something I’m passionate about. So mote it be. (That’s a think pagans say at the end of a spell or intention, which means roughly, ‘it is so/it must be so’.

    I told my therapist about this today and she’s going to help me stay on track, despite my resistance. I’m also telling you, and I’m going to report in on my blog when I’ve done it each day.

    I’ve lost 28 pounds since January. I’m proud of that. I’m eating more healthily, taking my vitamins and getting regular light exercise, just brisk walking but it’s good and my wife walks with me so we’re working on it together.

    Inaction

    Photocredit: Swamibu
    Photocredit: Swamibu

    Why is it I can get so much done at work on a computer and the rest of my time I don’t live my life as exuberantly and richly as  I want to?

     

    It is almost a year since I found out my dad had been in the hospital with a cancer recurrence for three months. He’s still not dead.

    I’m in limbo.

    If there was an ethically, spiritually and legally palatable way of killing him, to get it over with, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    I’m tired of not living my life.

    My friend Kate said something that struck me (I’m paraphrasing here) – that her life could not be extraordinary enough to compensate for the horror of her childhood. I feel like I’ll never catch up. I’ll never be successful enough, famous enough, creative enough, happy enough. I’ll never have a good enough marriage, and active enough social life, do as much good in the world as I want to do, as I deserve to be part of.  That rings true.

    I know I wasn’t ritually abused, I only have one, maybe two perpetrators, and I’ve never been raped as an adult, except in that grey way so many women experience, where I gave in to sex I didn’t want to keep the peace with a boyfriend or two. As far as I know my identity is one intact piece. Things could be a lot worse, and I don’t have the denial most people have to prevent them from knowing that. Yes, I was raped as a small child, so violently that my perineum tore and so repeatedly over a decade that I can’t separate the instances. I know others have survived worse, but that was bad enough.

    If I can’t win, I give up. I’m in  some kind of weird holding pattern, only half living my life.

     

    Photocredit: Zachstern
    Photocredit: Zachstern

    Like surviving being torture-tickled by my dad, the only way to survive is to give up, to go limp and let him win.

     

    I have learned to fight, but  I like a sure thing. I hate suspense, I hate waiting, I am not patient. Waiting never resulted in good things in the past. I was never rescued, the abuse never didn’t happen because I waited silently or was a good girl and it won’t now. I see no value in patience.

    So if I can’t have it now, I don’t want it. I don’t have the patience to persevere with anything I really want or which makes me nervous. I am enormously productive, because I want it done yesterday, but I have a hell of a time practising an instrument or a physical skill or anything where I’m not assured of success.

     

    Photocredit: Jim Moran
    Photocredit: Jim Moran

    What does this all mean? I’m not special. 3 out of 5 women are sexually abused in childhood. I was perhaps abused a bit more intensely than some, but I’m actually within the range of normal. Horrifying that being raped by your father is relatively typical. More horrifying that more people don’t see it and fight it. I may be smart, I may be strong, but I’m not extraordinary. I’m starting to tell myself that I don’t have to be. I can live a life where I get nothing outstanding done and no-one remembers me when I’m gone and it won’t be any more unjust than it already that I was abused. I can’t redeem what happened to me. I need to stop trying. I need to see what my life is when I live it for me, not to make meaning of horror.

    It is so fucking wrong that so many men feel they can rape children and that so many of them get away with it. I want to scream and spit and rip things apart with the injustice of it. If there’s one thing being a survivor has given me is how important it is to speak truth to power and to take action to stop abusers. Failure to act destroys lives. Because they won’t stop unless we stop them.

    May we outlive them all, to dance upon their graves!