Love is not a prize

I am whole
I am holy
I was born from pain, raised in pain but I overcame

I deserve all the love this world can offer
I deserve a beautiful life
And I will live it

I told her of my fears
showed her all the things I was afraid
would scare her off
believing they would not
for I am whole
and now I am afraid
they will

Somewhere inside is the little girl
who knows, feels believes that
her story makes her damaged goods
Dirty and unwanted

Why do I tell people this truth
knowing it is only where I have come from
what I have fought to restore my sacred self
I show them the dragon, slain
with pride
but then fear they only smell the rotten meat long hauled away

I am still trying to win love with brave deeds
when love is not a prize
I am still trying to prove myself worthy
when I always was.

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.

Staying present and moving at the same time

Unladylike
I have two books on the go right now. Writing, not reading. One is a novel I wrote about three years ago, which I’m trying to polish and complete. The other is a self-help book for survivors based on this blog. Both are well along and both have a lot of promise.

I’m having a hard time getting to them and working on them.

I like to write, but it’s so solitary. I’m not an introvert. I’m a highly sensitive extravert. I think about things deeply, but then they don’t really have lot of meaning for me until I share them, understand them by talking about them with others. I like to connect with other people, but I’m happiest if they are people I feel good around and connected with. My skin is not so thick.

The novel has three main characters. Two are recently broken up lovers, who don’t interact much with one another during the book. The other is the new lover of one of the women. I have the plot mostly mapped out, and am just working on improving the dialogue.

I’m feeling a bit dead and hopeless right now. Not that my life isn’t great, objectively speaking, but I’m lonely. My introverted, asexual wife is not really meeting my needs for socialization and intense connection, as you might imagine. She’s also highly sensitive, but in different ways from me. She’s picky about touch and smells, while I’m sensitive to sound mostly. It’s not that I don’t love her, I do, but I need more intense and engaged physical and emotional connection. I’ve been getting out and meeting new women, but nothing has gelled yet.

The self-help book is about reorganizing the material from this blog, identifying gaps and then writing material to fill them, also putting in transitions to make it flow and make sense, changing the voice from time to time. I want it to still stay immediate, a conversation between me and other survivors, but to flow like a book.

What has all this got to do with staying present and moving at the same time?

Well, it’s all about resistance. As a survivor, I learned to close myself off from triggers, from memories, from anxiety, from feelings. I have a hair trigger avoidance process that’s hard to turn off or sometimes even be aware of. If I’m feeling anxious about my skill as a writer or what will happen to my book(s) once they are complete (who would want to publish them, for example, and all the rejection that might involve), I just avoid writing, almost without being aware of it.

If I’m anxious about whether the cute girl from my poly group is actually interested in me or just being friendly, and realizing that I probably need to make a move at some point, I can just pretend to myself without even realizing it at first that being a sexual person isn’t really necessary after all, and that the corresponding loss of life energy is just a normal part of being middle aged. Eventually I might forget what it felt like to have an actual interested, engaged lover and even believe that. [By the way, if you’re new here, (welcome!) I’m not talking about cheating, I’m in an ethically open, polyamorous relationship]

So I was re-reading a book – never mind the name right now, it has the word ‘bliss’ in the title – that talks about two reactions to things: expansion and contraction. People do both all the time, and often alternate between them. However, people get locked into the contraction and it turns into resistance, or as I think of it, the survivors old friend avoidance. Anyhow, the author’s solution to this is to ask oneself two questions:

1) What is happening right now? and then
2) Can I be (present) with it?

The idea is that by accepting what is and then allowing oneself to experience it, it shifts a person from contraction to expansion, and opens them to being able to respond more capably and happily. I should note that being with something doesn’t mean you’re endorsing it, approving of it or interested in that thing persisting, it’s just basically our old friend acceptance, the last stage of grieving. Once I accept reality, I can make choices about it.

So I’m trying to get into the habit of recognizing and accepting what actually is.

I’m afraid of what will happen when I finish my books – won’t I want to try to find a publisher? show it to other people? What if they reject me / my work?

I’m feeling protective of my heart and worried about judgment, but impatient to connect deeply with another woman again. I’m still feeling sad and angry about being rejected by my last lover, and questioning whether she was faking how she claimed to feel and think about me. If that was the case, then was what I felt any less real? Does it mean I made a fool of myself to bring my authentic self into the relationship? No. I stand by what I did and said. But it makes me feel a bit naive and cheated.

I don’t know how to express this, but I’m a rich handful to be intimate with. I’m grounded in a way that makes other people grounded. This brings them in contact with themselves in ways that they may have been avoiding, but which feel like a completion. I think people connect with their own wholeness, because I give myself permission to connect with mine when given the opportunity. People like it but they can’t always handle it. I can’t always handle it either, which is why I dip into my own richness and then avoid, but I hunger for it and I think I do a better job of being present than most people. This is particularly odd given my inherent survivor spaciness, but perhaps it is the discipline involved in undoing that which has given me this skill.

Writing that, I’m wondering if learning myself how not to avoid can help me better recognize who I can be intimate with? It seems obvious that the better I am at being intimate with myself the better I can be intimate with others. It also seems obvious that if I’m attracting people who hunger for connection but can’t provide it, I may be ambivalent about that process myself. Do I really want to be intimate with myself after all?

One of the recommendations I read online for self care for highly sensitive people is to make sure you get enough sleep and alone time, to meditate for an hour daily and to exercise outside daily. I’m trying to implement that, which should perhaps help. Meditation, after all, is about being present with what is and just accepting it.

I know this all is a bit of a ramble, but I hope some of it makes sense. Perhaps I’ll write more when I’ve figured it out a little better.

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?

Free your vulva and the rest will follow.

I used to know this woman, a survivor, who was a fitness trainer. She loved exercising so much it was actually contagious. She and I used to go dancing a lot. At the time, there was a song called “Free Your Mind” with an anti-prejudice message. The chorus, which was most of what we could really make out in a noisy nightclub, was “Free your, mind, and the rest will follow”.

My friend adapted it to “Free your ass, and the rest will follow”, meaning “be in your body and grounded and everything gets a lot better”. It has a lot of truth, and has stayed with me. When I moved to another town, she made me a dance tape as a goodbye gift and titled it “Free your ass and the rest will follow”.  When I need to ground, shaking my butt or dancing helps a lot. It’s hard to be clenched up and  anxious when your butt is relaxed. Try it.

Artist Taishe sells these t-shirts. The image is linked to her site.

So this morning, after writing about my internal debate over my mother and whether I have more than just the one main abuser (*I removed this post because I was getting homophobic comments on it), I went to a place I go to do do a walking meditation. During the meditation I came to this.

It doesn’t matter if there’s more abuse I don’t remember. What matters is, can I live my life as fully and joyously as I want to? It’s been my experience that by going out and living passionately, the stuff that gets in the way needs to be cleared comes up. If it doesn’t get in the way, it’s irrelevant at this point.

The only tricky thing is when my unconscious hides my limitations from me (like being unaware that I clench my hands or jaw in sleep until it does damage).

In my meditation walk, I suddenly had a flash that my new motto was “Free your vulva and the rest will follow”.

What this means to me is that I need to stop clenching my vulva, in order to improve my vulvadynia, the sensation in my vulva, and hence, my sex life. I also need to unclench my passion and creativity (symbolized by my vulva) in all the other ways that they’re locked up. So instead of whining about how unmotivated I am to do my singing, I need to press into the resistance instead of allowing it to smother me.

Now, I know from past experience that my resistance is extremely well developed, and battling on to create anyways is a central struggle of my life so I’m not going to promise great results here. However, just as focussing on keeping my hands, feet and neck warm has unexpectedly resulted in me being more grounded, I have a suspicion that keeping my vulva relaxed will have good, but as yet unknown effects. If it brings flashbacks, so be it. If I suddenly find myself singing or making love, so much the better.

Writing a book

At the encouragement of one of my friends, I’m working on a book about sexual abuse recovery, based on the writing I’ve done here in the past two years. I’m working on the draft today, organizing the content and writing the introduction.

What I’m thinking about is that a lot of us learn by watching how another person does things, and a good story is a nice way to organize things, but on the other hand, sometimes its easiest to go directly to the sections that apply and so I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to organize the book roughly chronologcally, or by topic. What do you think?

I think the story of waiting for my father to die so I can dance on his grave, deciding to divorce my mother and then discovering my scars is an interesting thread to weave through it, but I’m wondering if I should extend the story back in time, in order to have some context for what I’ve learned about healing flashbacks and piecing together memory.

The blog format is so much looser than a book, and I don’t have to think about where things go other than to categorize them. I’m open to suggestions…

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.

Girl in a blue velvet dress – novel

Photocredit: Shutter Daddy on Flickr

This is another installment of my novel, in progress. More pieces here.

Sarah waited in a vinyl-covered, yet surprisingly comfortable chair at the edge of the central court. The mall quiet enough in this second week of December to worry even the most seasoned mall retailer. The windows were bright and filled with shiny sparkly things that made even environmentally obsessed Sarah want to buy shiny sparkly things she didn’t need just to feel that infectious Christmas shopping happiness.

A regular stream of parents trickled slowly into the exit line for Santa’s photo gallery, each told by the somehow still smiling staff to go to the poorly marked entrance line, surrounded by a greenish fabric covered rope. One of these groupings was a mother, father and what looked like grandparents surrounding in adoration a small girl in a stroller. The girl, who basked in a beam of adoration as bright as Christ in the manger, wore a beautiful royal blue velvet dress. Sarah was struck by how perfect she looked, how happy. The colour of her little dress, neither too plain nor too fussy, in a rich, deep colour of plush velvet that looked luxuriously soft. Her rosy, peaches and cream cheeks and bright delighted blue eyes smiled up into the love that was her due. Her daddy lifted her from the stroller and carried her around to the correct entrance.

Sarah found her eyes and then her cheeks, suddenly wet. All that love for a little girl. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. She thought back in her mind to all the pictures that had been taken of her as an infant, and could only recall ever seing one. In the picture, a smiling, chubby baby is surrounded by a papasan chair in black and white. The baby, herself probably before she experienced any severe damage, is wearing a plain white terry-cloth onesie. There is no-one holding her or gazing adoringly at her, except perhaps the person taking the photo.

In the mall, it didn’t seem to matter that she was crying, that the man in the chair next to her might notice, that someone walking by might notice. It just didn’t matter.  Sometimes you have to let people see, she told herself.

Her partner walked toward her with a brisk, businesslike walk. Places to go, shopping to do, his body posture said to the world. She looked at him and decided to let him see it too. She said “there was a little girl in a blue velvet dress. She looked so loved it made me cry”.

Her partner frowned. “cry?” he asked, but not like he really wanted to know.

She tried again “I don’t think anyone ever took me to take a picture with Santa Claus”. What she meant was, “no-one took pictures of me because they thought I was wonderful and that all the relatives needed a copy”.

Her partner began walking, his body language lacking any encouragement to continue. Sarah gave up and started a conversation about the groceries they needed to buy.  It seemed like nothing much had changed.

A Sexual Abuse Survivor’s RCMP statement – novel

This is another excerpt from what I’ve been writing this month for national novel writing month. I can’t seem to make much of a transition to fiction again this year. Some of this is blatantly ripped off from my life, but it’s interesting to see it from the perspective as part of a story. Those of you who have read the non-fiction parts of my blog will no doubt recognize parts of the story. However, some of it is completely fiction, and it’s meant to be fiction, although there’s a lot of truth in it. 

This is another installment of my novel, in progress. More pieces here.

Sarah sat in the beige hallway waiting room and looked at the woman across from her. Zelia had long black hair, liberally threaded with grey, which she wore unbound, shoulder length around a thin face. She wore no makeup, and a pair of dangly shell earings. Her black pants were paired with a knit shirt and cardigan in rust tones, and her shoes looked good for walking. She had a soft accent, south African it sounded like. Sarah didn’t want to ask, she thought speaking to a white person from South Africa might bring up uncomfortable topics, and she needed this woman as an ally. They hadn’t known each other long. 

Zelia had met with Sarah in the offices at the family service centre and had explained what would happen. Sarah didn’t tell her her story, but Zelia was aware of the basics. Zelia said the officer might not let her be in the room when she told her story, but she would come with her, and wait for her outside if she couldn’t be there in the room.

Sarah wore black pants and a long sleeved black turtleneck. Her skin fully covered like this made her feel safer,  more protected, although she knew even in this she was still a target. Her flat heeled shoes made her feel more grounded, and she wore thick soft socks that caressed the one part of her body she could easily love. Her light brown hair was tied back with two metal clips in a fashion more practical than fashionable. She had blue eyes that boys had told her were beautiful often enough that she thought it might have some truth in it. She carried her tall frame with a bit of a slump, perhaps so that people wouldn’t notice how tall she was. She had her grandmother’s skin, fair and translucent like thin porcelain. She liked it too, unless it was flushed red with embarassment or exertion, when the translucence failed to mask dark blotchy redness.  She wore  no makeup. Why invite male attention she desperately didn’t know how to field? Today, all she wanted was to look respectable, believeable, and feel safe. She’d have to settle for one out of two.

A door opened and a tall RCMP officer in a blue uniform entered. Miss Norland, would you come with me please”.

Sarah thought “I thought you’d be a woman, don’t they have women officers for this?” She wasn’t sure she could be alone in a room with a male police officer. As if in response to her thoughts, Zelia stood up and introduced herself. “I’m a victim legal support worker, I work for family services. I’m accompanying Sarah today.”

“Can Zelia to come with me?” asked Sarah. She wasn’t sure where she’d found the voice to speak to the officer. She’d never spoken with a police officer before. She had to do this. She had to do this for her little brother’s sake, if not her own.

The officer looked them both over and questioned Sarah. Do you know this woman?

Sarah hesitated, “well, we just met, but she works for Family Services and they said she could come with me to help me make my statement.” 

“She’s not a family member, or a friend?” he asked, looking at both of their faces for a reaction, as if they might be lying.

“No”, said Sarah, wondering why it mattered. Well, now that she thought of it, a family member she could see, they might try to shape her story. Then she got it. “This person has no personal connection to me or what happened to me. ” she said. It did kind of make sense. She wouldn’t have wanted her mother sitting in on this interview.

“It’s my job to be do legal accompaniment” confirmed Zelia.

The RCMP officer looked at Sarah and Zelia, considering, and then motioned them both ahead of him, through a door and down another hall into a small beige interview room.

The officer introduced himself and gave her his card. He got out a note pad, and prepared a tape recorder on the table. Sarah got out her notes.

“Why don’t you tell me what happened in your own words” he said.

Sarah looked at this man, and then at Zelia, who smiled. “you can do this” her eyes said.

“I’m from Still Lake. Beginning when I was about five, my father raped me.” she started.

“When you say ‘raped’ what do you mean?”

Sarah thought, “if this guy was a woman he’d know exactly what I meant” but said, for clarity”He vaginally raped me”

“Do you mean he had intercourse with you?”

Sarah didn’t like that term for it, there is no ‘with’ in rape, and the way it was phrased implied she’d had consensual sex, but technically, that was the term for what he’d done ‘with’ her. “Yes.”

The officer motioned for her to continue.

“It happened from the time I was about 5 till I was 15, when he stopped. When I was twelve he… switched to oral and anal rape. I think he thought I might get pregnant once I started having my period.” The officer asked some questions to clarify what she meant by oral and anal rape, as if it needed to be clarified. Zelia didn’t look surprised at the questions though, so she went on, patiently, as emotionlessly as possible explaining what he wanted to know.

The police officer asked how many times it had happened. Sarah honestly didn’t know. More than once? he asked. Yes. she said, definitely more than once. No, I don’t know how many times. How did she know it had happened more than once?   I remember at least three different locations where things happened, so it must have happened several times. In my memories I’m different ages. It all runs together.

When did it stop? he asked. I don’t remember exactly, but I know definitely by the time I was fifteen.

“It slowed down when I started having my period. I think he was worried I’d get pregnant. Then later, he was worried I’d tell, so he stopped.”

He had stood in front of her in the hallway, tall, trying to look gentle, concerned, like the nice daddy he pretended to be in front of others, and sometimes for her. She had stopped pretending she believed in his act, and it worried him. Lately she’d been arguing with him in the evenings before he passed out in his chair. She’d found out he wasn’t supposed to be doing what he was doing and she had stopped being a good quiet little girl. Away from everyone else, he’d cornered her there with his back to the fabric wall hanging of trees, hanging at the end of the hall. She kept her eyes on the hanging. He said brightly “you know I’d never hurt you”, like this was the truth she was supposed to believe, or more likely tell others she believed. Sarah looked at him and said nothing, but her look did not comply or submit.  That was the day she was sure it had stopped. He never abused her after that day. Her mother and brothers did not stand up to him. He’d tortured and terrorized her almost her entire life, she had refused to comply, and it had ended.

“Why are you reporting this now?” asked the officer.

“I am not living with my parents any more, and my dad doesn’t know where I am. My little brother is at home and I want to protect him. I think he might have moved on to him.”

“Why do you think that?” asked the officer.

Sarah told him of her suspicions, that her dad had taken too much interest in her brother being naked in the shower, had made a sexual comment to her once about her brother. Her father said creepy things, like they were perfectly normal, but this made her wonder if he was eying her brother sexually.  Mike’s bedroom was next door to the one Sarah had been abused in, even closer to the master bedroom than her own had been. Access would not be hard.

The officer was not impressed. Fathers abusing daughters, he could apparently believe, but teenage sons were a bit beyond his credibility. He asked how old her brother was, and evidently thought he was too old to be abused. He thought that her father would not abuse boys and that a fifteen year old could defend himself. Sarah knew that her dad controlled her home so absolutely, he could do whatever he wanted, to his wife who should have been old enough to defend herself too, and even to his son, but how could she convince the officer of that?

“Do you think he would rape his own daughter and stop at boys?” Sarah thought to herself, but didn’t say it. She hoped her brother had been spared. Truly hoped it. Instead she said “He would do anything.”

The officer asked her a few more questions, gave her an incident number and told her that a typed transcript of her statement would be sent to her. At Zelia’s prompting, he asked whether Sarah felt afraid about her father’s response, and she said, he doesn’t know where I live, I think. The officer aske d if her mom and dad might try to get her to retract her statement, and Sarah allowed that they might try. She was more afraid her father would come to town in person. That would be very bad. He said he’d add a no-contact order to the file, so her father couldn’t contact her. Sarah didn’t know that was even possible, but was so relieved she could barely speak. S nodded, relieved.

The officer seemed to be done with her at that point, and showed them back to the waiting area. Sarah couldn’t have spoken more, she was so relieved to be done, if frustrated that she hadn’t been able to convince them to protect her brother. She was so glad to be out of the small room with the big man, and left. Zelia told her she’d done a good job.  She drove her home and said goodbye. Sarah never saw her again.

The police sent the transcript, as promised. Sarah waited. Almost seven years later, apparently under political pressure to clean up the backlog of sexual assault cases, they questioned her mother, father, older brother and she didn’t know who else. The no-contact order was apparently a fiction until then, if they presented it at all. She found out later that her mother refused to speak to the police. Until charges were laid they couldn’t force her to do so. Her father had been taken down to the station in a police car by two police officers, who had read him her statement and questioned him. Sarah had decided to let that be her justice, that he’d been treated like the criminal he was. He’d immediately lawyered up, and refused to talk to them iether. Her mother told her later that he was terrified afterward for years that they would come back for him.

When, twenty years later, her mother informed her that her father had a recurrence of the cancer he’d almost died of two years before, Sarah realized that till then she had always been waiting, hungering for his death. She wanted the satisfaction of knowing that it was over, that he would never hurt anyone again, and that it was no longer her responsibilyt to stop him. She had been dreading the tidal wave of emotion and possibly, horribly new memories her mind would release once assured of her safetly from him by his death. However, despite these fears she could feel his hold of fear on her, like a psychic choke chain, weaken to a thin strand, near breaking.

Car Crash – or what PTSD is like – novel

Photocredit: Kel Patolog via Flickr

[Note: Since I first wrote this, this piece has gotten a lot of attention for being a really good way to explain to people in your life what it’s like to have PTSD and Complex PTSD in particular and why there aren’t any quick fixes. I hope it’s helpful for you and your loved ones.]

I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) and the following excerpt is what I wrote today on it.

The novel this year is about sociopaths, a people making sense of a past including child abuse, disconnection with nature and people trying to do the right thing in the face of it. I don’t know exactly what shape the pieces will take yet. I didn’t know last year at this stage iether really, but I suspect it will be more complicated this year. Last year was a simple time-travelling love story.

This is an installment of my novel, in progress. More pieces here.

Excerpt:

It’s like this.

Imagine you are a mother driving home from a family function with your nine year old daughter in the passenger seat. You have had one or two drinks but it was awhile ago and you decided you were okay to drive.

The night is rainy and you get into a serious car accident. You are thrown forward in your seat and injure your body where the steering wheel strikes you. Your daughter is killed. You are helpless, pinned inside the car, unable to reach her as she dies before your eyes, convulsing, screaming, blood coming from eyes and ears.

The experience is so overwhelming, emotionally that your brain can’t process it, can’t store it in the usual way. The information flows in to fast and too intensely to be properly filed in one place, all together. The sensation of the steering wheel and the pain in your abdomen gets put in one place, completely separated from the visual memory of your daughters face as she struggled and died. That memory is separate as well from the contempt in the voice of the rescue worker who asked if you had been drinking. That memory is separate from the lights of the semi high beams in your eyes which blinded you for a moment, contributing to the accident. The pain from your chest. The emotional pain of watching your daughter die. Your daughter’s last words.

Those snippets of memory, and hundreds of others from that night are stored in little boxes in your mind, with no connection to the other pieces. They don’t form a whole memory at all, and you have no ability to put them in the correct order or link them to one another. It is too painful and overwhelming when you try, so you don’t.

You receive medical attention but everyone drifts away from you after that and you move to a new place where no-one knows. You vaguely remember that your daughter died in a car accident, but don’t remember details. People think you are lucky not to remember any of it, and are relieved you have nothing to tell them. Knowing it happened at all is bad enough for them, and the uncomfortable look on their faces soon teaches you to not even go that far with them. You can’t tell anyone about what you do remember, because it feels like it was your fault. After awhile you seem to forget it happened at all.

Then one day you are riding the bus and someone pushes you hard, in your abdomen. Suddenly the memory fragment of the crushing sensation in your chest is triggered, which in turn has a connection to the box holding the emotional pain that you don’t know is from watching your daughter die. They both ‘fire’ in your mind simultaneously.

You feel the pain in your chest as if it was happening now, along with a loss so great and horrifying that you panic. There is no other information to explain what this is about. You freeze, ashamed, and people are well meaning but think you are crazy, or think you need a doctor. You think you are crazy too.

Later on, this type of thing happens again and again. Lights in your eyes trigger some part of the memory, or a particular phrase, or seeing a simulated car crash on tv, or seeing someone who looks like your daughter did, seeing a rescue worker in uniform, or being around your family members at the holidays, who carefully do not talk about what happened.

You feel anxious and fearful a lot of the time, but couldn’t say exactly why.

If you are lucky, you will be able to stand the sensation during the gift of memory that is a flashback long enough to put the pieces together a little and don’t try to numb it very often with drugs, or alcohol, food or work. You do remember that your daughter died, and you think that maybe this has something to do with it.

You find a therapist and tell her what you remember consciously, which isn’t much. Your daughter died. You were driving. The rest is a blank. One day you have a session after a particularly intense flashback. While telling her about it, in the safety of a non-judgmental relationship, you have another flashback that fits with the first and make the connection with what you already know. You realize that the lights in your eyes you’ve been having nightmares about are the headlights of the truck you saw that night. The next time you have a nightmare about them, you tell yourself this and it calms you down. The better you get at doing this, the less often you have these nightmares, and you gradually find you can look at headlights at night without feeling much panic. Eventually they are sometimes just headlights, unless you are having a particularly stirred up day.

One day, with a lot of support from your therapist, you get the courage to ask after the accident reports. You travel back to the town you lived, practicing deep breathing to keep from having panic attacks when you see familiar landmarks. The day you go to the station and get access to the report, you are terrified. Some of what is written is not exactly as you remember it, it is told from a different perspective. It reads like it happened to another person. When you read in the police station archives, that it said you’d indicated you’d had a drink at the party prior to driving, you become unable to read further and freeze. You run into the bathroom, find a stall and break into deep sobs in the police office. You hope no-one comes in and hears you, or worse, asks what is wrong.

However, the report helps because it gives you a framework to attach the snippets of sensation and memory that intrude into your consciousness or have been invited during therapy sessions. You find that they all fit at some place in the story, and you begin to have compassion for the woman who experienced this tragedy, that woman who doesn’t quite feel like yourself.

Now imagine that the situation is not a car accident, witnessed and documented by police, so you can check the validity of your memory fragments. Imagine that an incident equally horrifying or worse was perpetrated on you by a loved and trusted person while you were a child under their control. Imagine that there was no medical attention, even though you were seriously injured, and no one to help or tell. Imagine that it wasn’t a single traumatic incident’s worth of sensation fragments to piece together, but fifty, spread out over a decade or more. Imagine that as a result of the first couple of incidents, you had walked around in a self-protective haze for most of your childhood. Imagine that as a result, your brain didn’t bother to store the kind of information that provides context and meaning for these later traumas, but only the sensations of pain or horror. You are missing a large number of key pieces of several of the memories, meaning that without outside validation, you will likely never be able to explain or integrate them fully for yourself, make them whole and stop them from intruding into your life.

Imagine that your family members refuse to talk to you about what they remember of what happened, because it is too painful for them, or because they don’t want you to remember what happened, they blame you or they don’t want you to remember their part in condoning it. Imagine that they tell you that you are lying, making it all up, that you are crazy, either directly or indirectly. Or imagine that instead they say they believe you that this person hurt you, but don’t think it was a big deal and still spend christmas every year with the family member who hurt you. They expect you to do the same.

If you are lucky, you will divorce your family, get good therapy, and find some friends with similar experiences who understand and normalize what happened. If you are lucky you will have a spouse who becomes trained to hold you and calm you at night when you have nightmares, or if you have flashbacks during lovemaking, does not take it personally and learns not to touch you in ways that trigger the minefield of memory fragments. With luck and time, you connect the puzzle pieces you can, and develop what explanation you can for those you cannot connect. You learn, in the midst of the panic, to tell yourself, “this is abuse stuff” and that you are safe now, and most of the time that helps enough. If you are lucky and face it as square on, for as long as you can, then the memory fragments intrude less and less, and eventually they stop. You make peace with the mysteries you can’t solve, and protect yourself from further harm effectively.

You don’t tell most people about all this, as it upsets them and often they say stupid things that make it worse. They ask why you aren’t over it by now. They say “parents do the best they can with what they know at a time” or “forgiveness will set you free”. Their own experiences with minor wounds and misdeeds tell them that these are the truth, so they think it applies to you.

Friends you trust enough to tell how it really is are uncomfortable with the anger you have worked hard to feel and express, because turning it inside poisons you. They tell you that forgiving the sociopath who hurt you solely for his or her own enjoyment will magically make all the aftereffects disappear, forcing you to make the decision to tell them what naïve fools they are or just change the subject. Sometimes you want to ask them, “will forgiving the truck that hit you make the broken bones go away?”

If you are lucky, you will have some people in your life who never say these things, or you will soon have no friends at all. You learn not to tell most people things they can’t understand, which means that sometimes your behaviour is unexplainable.

Without being able to share the facts, it becomes impossible to explain in a compelling enough way to strangers, that unless they want to hold your hand, remind you to breathe, listen to you tell them the disjointed snippets of what you remember about being trapped and tortured in a small box, and comfort you afterward, all of which would actually healing, you simply cannot ride in an elevator today.

Some days you can do it with no more than some attention to deep relaxing breathing, and focusing on the elevator musak and the knowledge that you are safe and an adult. Doing this often enough will make things permanently better, but takes a lot of internal fortitude each time. However, you know from experience that if you do succumb to pressure and ride in the damn elevator (or whatever) when you’re not ready, you will pay by going numb for days, and spend days on high emotional alert and nights of nightmares. Because  they don’t or won’t understand why you have needs they don’t, people find you rigid and odd. They have no idea how courageous you are.

Checking in

Seen Scene - Photocredit: Via Moi (flickr)

I haven’t been writing because I’ve got a lot going on but most of it is not particularly survivory, and is private in that it involves more than just me.

I’m still doing the music, still struggling with continuing to rehearse, but I’m taking weekly voice lessons. I got the number of a piano teacher who I’ll follow up with when I can handle the extra.

I’m starting a pagan choir in my town, and have 5 people signed up, which is good to start with. It’s going to be more of a chorus than a choir.

My current drama is mostly about my relationship which will either end in the next few months or it won’t. We’ve been together for a decade, are legally married and have things like joint property and such that would get complicated if we split, but we’ve both accepted that the way it is can’t continue. Right now it’s in the air whether we’ll sort it out and come out better than before, or we’ll end it, or we’ll have an open relationship. Whichever way it works out the plan is to keep living together, which sounds crazy I know, but if you know the specifics of us and our living situation, could actually work. My wife is my family, my home, my security, my ally and I’m not keen to lose that, even if we’re not working in other ways.

Wish me luck!

Music

I was listening to the audio recording of my last singing lesson (I’ve had three so far) and damn, my voice sounds good. I went online and purchased some sheet music for songs I’d like to do. The music store even transposes them to the right key. This is a big deal, as transposing by hand is really labour intensive.

In short. I’m happy. I’m learning new things and I’m feeling confident. I might even branch out into learning an instrument.

In about a week and a half I’m going to visit my mom’s sister and brother out east. I’m hoping to ask them some questions, and visit my grandparent’s graves, since I wasn’t able to attend their funerals.  My aunt gets it and should be great, but I’m trying not to worry. Only knowing that I can stay in a hotel if it doesn’t work out with her keeps me from getting anxious about it. I honestly don’t know how it will go.

I’m sure I will have lots to write once I’m on the road.

My wife and I are planning a trip for our vacation in a couple of months that might include my home town. I’d like to have a look at some of the places I spent time as a child, see if I can remember anything, maybe talk to some of my childhood friends. I must be doing a lot better because I’m not feeling afraid of running into my father. Instead I’m thinking I should practice up on my right hook so I can deck him if I see him. Then I fantasize about what the conversation with the police would look like, or if he’d even press charges  if I threatened “I will if you will”. I’m sure I’ll get nervous if it gets closer. We’re going to do some fun stuff too.

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.

Breathing easily

So today I had my lung function tested and it’s apparently just fine. The respirologist said the dizziness was just exercising too hard while being out of shape, as the lactic acid builds up in the body and gets released or something when you exercise hard, making one dizzy and nauseous. I guess I have to work up gradually or read up on lactic acid.

I did okay going to the doctor, but woke up at 4:30 this morning out of anxiety about it and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’m running on fumes now. At least I seem to be able to go to the doctor. I handled it by bringing my wife along and promising to take her to brunch afterward. If he was arrogant and condescending I would order waffles with strawberries and cream. He didn’t turn out to be particularly condescending but I ordered it anyhow. He even had to press around my throat at one point and I coped with that fine.

What was valuable about the whole thing was that I got a chance to ask about my chronic cough/sore throat and got a couple of strategies to help it. It’s not a big deal generally, but it does seem to mess with my singing endurance a bit. The asthma educator woman I spoke to said that I might try taking a silent break for a few days to let my throat muscles relax and calm down, as they might be twitchy because of some past issues (irritation from chronic nose runnyness, which is now fixed, but went on for years).

Basically my asthma is almost completely in remission, given that I’m mostly avoiding what triggers it. Also, apparently I’ve been doing everything right, even to the extent of taking vitamin D supplements, which are supposed to be good for the lungs. At least something works.

I had my first singing lesson and actually it went pretty well. The teacher said I had a clear tone and a large range, and I had lots of great overtones in my voice. I sang with so much resonance in my head that my ears tickled and my sinuses started to clear!

A good apology

This song often makes me cry. It’s about the Australian government’s apology to the aboriginal peoples of Australia, but…. imagine it is an apology from the people of your home town, extended family or community for not seeing or helping you when you were abused or for not stopping the sexual offenders they knew were active from hurting children. Imagine a day when people recognize the injustice of shunning incest survivors in all the subtle and overt ways it happens. Imagine allowing this apology to sink in.

I’ve been listening to a self-hypnosis tape on lately every morning before I get up. It gets some positive thoughts in my head and I’ve followed it in my mp3 player with some happy uplifting music. It’s a meditation on confidence and seems to be a good fit for where I get stuck in inaction. I wouldn’t have said I lacked confidence, but this is helping. The guy who recorded it seems to be quite good at what he does. I went to his website to see if he had anything else I might want to buy but got put off by the Tony Robbins style marketing. Ick. However, this recording is very helpful. It’s not the least religious, for those with religious triggers, and he has a pleasant British or perhaps Australian accent. ( I note that the amazon.co.uk description I linked to above warns not to listen to this if you have a ‘nervous psychiatric condition’, I’m wondering if this is some sort of blanket British legal thing about hypnosis. I suppose PTSD is a nervous psychiatric condition, but I don’t see what harm a nice calming positive thought meditation would do.)

Because of the meditation and music, I wake up dancing. That and the rolfing and I’m walking tall these days. I told my therapist I wanted to take a break, and that I’d call her when the old bastard dies, but for now I need to work on practical problem solving around my business and health. For right now, I need to be working on earth (practical) and fire (will creation), not just water (emotion, intuition) and air (thought) to balance my life out.

I’m going to my first singing lesson in awhile today. I’m getting my lung capacity tested this week to help me figure out how to exercise without getting dizzy and nauseous (something my NP says is tied to my vagus nerve and not getting enough oxygen). I’ve been taking my vitamins regularly and dosing myself with a fairly large dose of Omega 3 fatty acids daily, which are good for the brain and anxiety. I feel much more calm and relaxed than usual.

May we all be well and happy (except you know who…)

Meditation

My back yard is full of noise, concrete, chain link fence
overlooking neighbours in balconies.
But if I angle my chair
Facing the garden, seeing the leaves of the roses rather than the cars behind
hearing the miracle song of birds
not the pounding and shouts of men busy at building
there is a place
where the warmth of the sun is an embrace
felt with the heart.