Rules of kvetching: applied to CSA survivors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Cortisol Levels for People with Complex PTSD

One of the problems with having been in a chronic state of fear and anxiety for years and years while surviving the abuse, and then while healing from it, is that the cortisol levels in the blood get really high. High cortisol levels make it almost impossible to lose weight, and are linked to all kinds of diseases, as if we didn’t need more negative effects from the abuse.

Here’s some tips I researched to reduce cortisol levels. I’ve added my notes next to them about how they’ve worked out for me:

  1. Avoid caffeine, which can elevate cortisol levels. [I avoid cafeine, which does make me anxous, but still eat chocolate. If I feel the need for a latte, I have steamed milk, which is just as satisfying. ]
  2. Get a good night’s sleep. Cortisol levels are generally lower in the middle of the night while you’re asleep, and sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cortisol levels. [Hard to do if you’re already anxious. But I do modify my life to prioritize not having to wake to an alarm in the morning. ]
  3. Exercise regularly, but avoid intense or prolonged exercise as it stimulates cortisol release. [This is interesting, intense or prolonged exercise does make me really uncomfortable – I feel hyped up, anxous and emotional. When I work out, I now stop and take a walk around the gym if I get like that, and won’t do an exercise that doesn’t permit this kind of break when I need it. It’s really made exercise possible for me. ]
  4. Try music therapy, massage therapy, and dancing, all of which have been shown to reduce cortisol levels. [I like all these things, interestingly dancing is one of the vigorous exercise types I can tolerate well without getting anxous or adrenalized.]
  5. Consider supplementation with vitamin C, omega 3 fatty acids, black tea, or phosphatidylserine. [I don’t know what this last thing is, but I have been taking more vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids. I take 6 or more salmon oil capsules a day, after reading how good it is for the brain, especially those of us with gunk.]
  6. Laugh and cry – research has shown that both reduce cortisol levels. [This must be why crying always makes me feel better. I’ve been looking for more opportunities to laugh.]
  7. Eat regular meals and stick to low-glycemic foods to maintain a constant blood sugar level. [Always a struggle, but I think this helps too when I can pull it off. I don’t like sugary foods anyways so it’s not as hard for me as it might be for others, and I actually like whole grain foods. ]

Since it’s been a while since I posted.

Update: Things are a lot better with my wife. We’re communicating a lot more, and she’s reading an excellent book “Pagan Polyamory” which is starting some good discussions. We had a lovely romantic weekend a couple of weeks ago, which went really well. I also read my Car Crash post out at a workshop I was at last weekend. Afterward I felt like I’d overshared, but my friend who was there pointed out that it was a similar time I thought I’d overshared that had resulted in our friendship, so I think it was okay.

I am open, and I am willing

Hey folks. I know I haven’t been writing here much lately. I’m working on my book a bit, it’s coming along nicely, actually. I got a bit of a boost from a reader here who commented with support for my writing (thanks!) and got going on it. Also, I haven’t had anything sworddancerly to report. I haven’t heard from any of my biological family, I’ve not been triggered by anything and life is going pretty well. Mostly I’m just busy at work.

I’ve also started working out with a personal trainer. For folks that can afford it, I recommend it. I would say overall it’s cheaper than joining a gym, because there’s no way I’d go regularly to a gym. Too many thin, fit people there, it’s off-putting. And the music is loud, and… well you get the picture. My trainer brings us to a gym that’s only for trainers, so the only people there are out of shape, older people like me, and their trainers. My wife and I go together.

On the survivor front, I made it really clear to the trainer that I was a “no pain, no pain” kind of gal and not a “no pain, no gain” gal, and that one of my main motivations for working with a trainer was to avoid injury or being too sore or exhausted to work at my main job. I just wanted to learn to have fun moving my body, and do things that made me feel strong and powerful. I like working with the trainer because I can ask questions right away like: “am I doing this right?” or “my knee hurts when I do that, is there another way to do it?”.

I'm guessing Xena would know how to dance on a sociopath's grave....Photocredit: Unknown.

I’m having a lot more fun than I thought I would. I really like the free weights and feeling all strong lifting them. I’ve got a big body (tall and big boned, not just curvy) so I do have quite a bit of power and it’s nice to feel it. I’m actually bigger than your average guy, which is kind of nice to realize if I’m walking on a street at night. I’m aiming to be a big strong sword-dancing amazon. I’m getting what are starting to look like fit-looking muscle bulges on my arms too. Okay, I’m starting to fit the lesbian stereotype, and that’s fine. If I end up looking like Xena or Wonder Woman, that’s just fine with me. (Actually, I do look quite a lot like Xena already…)

My wife is having some challenges lately to do with her work, and is pretty depressed. As per normal, she won’t let me do anything to help, so I’m kind of stuck here waiting for her to figure it out. Depressed people aren’t very creative in thinking about solutions to their own problems or seeing options, which is frustrating to be around. She’s also got chronic pain and what I think is sleep apnea. None of which she’ll do a lot about. I know, it’s hard when you’re depressed to do anything. I think back to when I was depressed in my early healing, though, and know that I fought pretty persistently through it, sneaking around my limitations. Okay, I didn’t have energy to do anything, I’d work on getting enough rest. Okay, I was crying all the time, I’d give myself permission to cry as much as I wanted till it cleared. Okay, I was low energy all the time, I’d make sure I at least took my vitamins.

I’m not one of those perky pollyanna types, really I’m not. I think I’m pretty honest about calling it as I see it when there is a bad situation going on.

Speaking of bad situations, my country is going to hell in a handbasket and I’m really worried about it. We’ve elected a prime-minister (our national head of government) who is evil. George Bush-calibre evil. He’s on record as wanting to dismantle our universal health care system and social safety net. He squeaked in the last two times with a minority government, which means he can’t do much that would really annoy the other two parties elected, but now he’s got a majority, which means he can really do anything he wants. This is one guy I’d like to dance a sword dance for (or on).

This guy is anti-marriage equality, anti-women, and a right-wing religious nutball with creepy eyes. Someone put a video on youtube of him speaking, comparing his manner and words to Emperor Palpatine (who later is the evil emperor, Darth Vader’s boss) from Star Wars, and the comparison is apt. I like to refer to him as ‘Voldemort’. He thinks global warming is a hoax, sent our citizens to for ‘enhanced questioning” in other countries by less torture-averse allies of the US and has taken down pictures of all the past Canadian leaders and replaced them with multiple copies of his own face.  I just can’t believe that the good, decent, let’s take care of each other citizens of Canada elected this creep. He seems to have a lot of money behind him, and used it to saturate the airwaves with ads, particularly attack ads on the other parties. He’s sneaky and Machiavellian, and is right now dismantling all the government accountability and freedom of information services so that when he really gets going doing evil, it will be hard to find out before it’s too late.

It’s kind of like the ‘abuser always win’ problem with survivors. Justice for us (well me) has been so sparse it’s easy to get hopeless. My religious Pagan self says, it’s part of the Goddess’ plan perhaps, and sometimes a loss is the way to a greater gain. Our most progressive party in Canada also won a lot of seats in the last election and is now official opposition, but with a right wing majority in parliament, all they can really do is complain.

The nutballs within the Christian faith (don’t worry, we all have our nutballs, I’m not being anti-Christian here) are going on about how we are in a time of tribulation and the world is going to end and such. I have to say it seems like a time of tribulation to me too, but they’re causing it. A lot of them are against doing anything for the environment because they want to get the end of the world  over with. I say to them, “Don’t you want to hedge your bets?”. It seems like doing evil (destroying the environment and making species extinct and people starve to death  and such…) in the name of religion is still evil. Just saying.

So I’ve been doing a lot of praying lately. My God(dess) is more of an ’empower the people and you sort it out’ kind of god, which isn’t nearly as comforting as a “don’t you worry your pretty head, I’ve got it all in hand” kind of god. The Earth, Gaia, a living and most likely sentient organism, has an complexity and intelligence that is vast and beyond me. She makes this planet function so incredibly beautifully, and it breaks my heart to know that she is wounded by our actions.  I can only hope that each of our hope, goodness and willingness to take right action in the world on Her behalf will be enough to overcome and heal this cancer of greed the way the way a healthy body routinely dispatches cancer cells before they get out of hand. May the less literal soul of Canada do the same.

Photocredit: unknown

As children’s author Dr. Seuss would say “unless people like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not”. The only generally agreed upon moral rule of Neo-Paganism is “an it harm none, do as thou wilt” , which means: As long as it harms no-one or nothing, do as you will. The quality of ‘will’ is important in Neo-Paganism, where we literally believe that you can will things to happen to a certain degree, much in the way that other people pray for things to happen. I am ‘willing’ everything to work out in the best possible way as hard as I can right now. I am ‘willing’ the world supply of Goodness to be blessed and increase.  Anything more specific is too simplistic to have an impact on this chaos; I’m trusting in the mysterious forces for good in the universe to work things out, and am willing to cooperate in any way I can.  Compost, eat organic, sustainable transportation, stick up for others, stick up for myself, vote, help ethical politicians and groups, speak up and out, I am willing.

Holly Near has a great song the lyrics of which were written in response to the US’s dark period governed by George Bush. I can only hope we get our own Canadian version of Obama to clean up the mess this bastard is making too. It’s a grieving song and a hopeful alliance with goodness and change song. Here are the lyrics.

“I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless, would seem so strange. It dishonours those who go before us, so lift me up to the light of change.  There is hurting in my family, there is sorrow in  my town. There is a panic all across the nation. There is wailing the whole world round. But I am open, and I am willing, for to be hopeless would seem so strange, it dishonours those who go before us. So lift me up to the light of change. Give me a mighty oak, to hold my confusion, and give me a desert, to hold my fears. Give me a sunset, to hold my wonder. And give me an ocean, to hold my tears. May the children see more clearly, and may the elders be more wise. May the winds of change caress us even though it burns our eyes. For I am open and I am willing, for to be hopeless would seem so strange. It dishonours those who go before us, so life me up to the light of change.”

May it be so.

More great Holly Near songs: Gentle Angry People ; Fired Up

Eureka – take that, vulvadynia!

Okay, I seem to have it figured out.

The yoga is great, but I found something even better. Just becoming aware of how often I clench the muscles of my sore, rape-injured body was a big first step. Now I’m learning to train my body not to do it.

It helps that it doesn’t hurt much any more. The clenching was a reaction to the pain. My guess is my smart child self figured out that clenching restricted blood flow, which dampened pain. It does do that, but now, years later when the wounds have mostly healed, the restricted blood flow causes damage and pain of it’s own.

Heating pads.

The yoga increased blood flow thing worked so well at bringing the pain down, I’ve moved on to prevention. I’ve been sitting on a gentle heating pad, set on low, while watching TV with my honey. The constant gentle heat keeps reminding me to relax, and with that relaxation, I feel so much more grounded and safe, less on guard, which should be a paradox, but isn’t. The heat and a conscious decision to relax have allowed me to get familiar with the sensation of not-clenching, and helping me make it the dominant way my body is. I still clench, but not as much, and my vulva is a lot better.

It reminds me of training myself not to clench my jaw (TMJ) a few years ago. I’d do big yawns to loosen my jaw before bed and put heat on my jaw joint, consciously loosen the muscles and put them in a position where they weren’t as easy to clench, jaw hanging loosely. Over time, it gradually lessened, and although I don’t know if I never clench my jaw when I sleep,  I no longer wake up with a sore jaw, and the dentist doesn’t mention it when I go.

I’m thinking this is advanced-survivor stuff. Perhaps ten years ago, unclenching my muscles would have brought flashbacks that would have seemed too daunting to embrace. Perhaps they are still working themselves to the surface, although perhaps not since I’ve remembered the injury I’m recovering from. Perhaps I couldn’t have done it before I saw the scars stretching across my vulva from the rapes. Knowing is always better than not knowing, no matter how hard it is.

A good friend of mine from my teens got in touch recently. I hadn’t seen her since the first year of university, or perhaps before. She asked me how my parents were. I realized she must not have heard, that I didn’t tell her back then, at the beginning of my healing.  I wrote back that my parents had split up, and that I don’t see them, and asked how her parents were. There are many ways to tell, and which I use depends on my sense of balance between a strong certainty that I won’t lie about this any more against the need not to drive people away with awkwardness.

Complete and specific honesty is reserved for therapists, close friends and other survivors, who usually can take it without saying something stupid or hurtful or shrinking away from me, which is worse. This would be “My father is a sociopath and raped me starting when I was a preschooler. We lost touch after I reported him to the police. I recently found out my mother was actively complicit, so I don’t see her any more either.” Telling it this way is the best. It is a truth that prevents ever having to dance around the topic again. It allows my inside and my outside to be congruent and gives accurate context for things that may come up.

The other versions, for trusted non-survivors, are a lot less specific, such as “My parents were abusive and I don’t see them.” If the person accepts this, and leaves the topic alone, or says, ‘mine weren’t great iether’, we have a stronger friendship. If they say some rubbish about forgiveness or parents doing the best they can, I write them off.

If the person or situation isn’t important enough to get into it, I tell the truth, but not much of it.  I will tell strangers and acquaintances partial truths such as  “I don’t see my parents much” or “My mom is in X and my dad is in Y, they split up a few years ago.” A bland partial truth is usually enough to satisfy the question, and change the topic without lying.

I thought about telling my old friend more, but I decided to be more gentle. She knew my mother and father after all. This tragedy happened to people and in places that she is familiar with, that don’t have the distance they might otherwise have. She can read between the lines, and if she wants to know, she’ll ask. If she doesn’t, I have no need to tell her. Another thing that has loosened.

What Quark the Ferrengi taught me about coping mechanisms and PTSD

This won’t make much sense to non-Trekkies. In the Star Trek Series of TV shows, particularly ‘Deep Space Nine’, there is a species called Ferrengi, who are avaricious and focussed on accumulating wealth. Their central philosophy is rooted in the ‘Rules of Acquisition‘ .

I was struck by a unique application of rule #3 in the Deep Space 9 episode “The Maquis, part 2“.

Rule of Aquisition #3 Never Spend More for An Acquisition Than You Have To.

In the story, a Ferrengi is locked up in prison with a Vulcan. Ferrengi are ruled by the ‘rules’ and Vulcans are governed by logic. The vulcan is a member of a group called the Maqui, who were trying to defend their home territory from a nearby empire, and were cut off from help by the Federation of Planets by a treaty ceding that land as a buffer zone between the two empires.

Here’s a link to the conversation between Quark and the vulcan Saconna. He calls her position with the Maquis illogical and uses the Rules of Acquisition to explain that, “peace can be bought at a bargain price.” He explains she doesn’t have to fight or die to protect her home, but can get peace in a less costly way. The conversation is right at the end of the video so it gets cut off and continued in the next video.

I have adapted this rule and the logic behind it, as interpreted by my guru Quark, into:

Sworddancewarriors rule #3 of being a survivor

(I’ll come up with #1 and #2 later)

Never use a self-destructive coping strategy, when a less harmful one will get you what you need instead.

Some examples:

  • Why cut your body to convert unbearable emotional pain into physical pain and banish dissociation when holding onto cubes of ice will do the same job without injuring your body permanently?
  • Why stay in a relationship with an abusive partner in order to feel safe sleeping at night, when a big dog will do the same job?
  • Why drink to numb overwhelming feelings when expressing them in a safe place will get you to a calm place without the hangover and liver damage?
  • Why over-function to make critical people like you, to deal with hating yourself, when you can learn to like yourself and find people who like you without being bribed?

Anyone got any other examples of substitutions of cheaper coping strategies for expensive ones?

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.

Article about survivors and strenuous physical exercise.

Here is a sports medicine journal article which is the only one I found about survivors and issues with exercise. There was another one that said that about half of the survivors surveyed had found physical exercise to be a helpful healing strategy. I’d have to say that it fits for me. I feel like I’ll fail, generally, at whatever physical exercise I do if it’s at all taxing. Partner dance seems to be an exception for me. I think it’s the slower pace initially and the social part of it (someone is there to do it with the whole time) that makes it easier.

Relationship of Sexual Abuse to Motivation for Strenuous Exercise

Hesdon B, Salmon P
J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003;43:213-219

Aim: Sources of motivation for intense physical exercise are poorly understood. Based on views that link such behaviour to preexisting psychopathology, we tested the hypotheses that history of childhood sexual abuse would be greater in intense exercisers than in non-exercisers, and that effects of abuse on self-esteem, perfectionism and body dissatisfaction would help to explain any link between abuse and exercise.
Methods: Consecutive attenders at two types of exercise were recruited: weight training and running. Sedentary attenders at a further education college provided a third, comparison group. Each group contained 64 men and 64 women. Participants completed questionnaires to record history of sexual and physical abuse in childhood and adulthood, body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and positive and negative perfectionism.
Results: Adult, but not childhood abuse, was reported by more weight-trainers than others. Abused individuals were more anxious and depressed, were more negative about themselves and were more concerned with avoiding failure in general. Women abused in childhood were more concerned with avoiding failure at exercise in particular.
Conclusion: These results suggest hypotheses that link adult abuse to intense weight training habits and, in women, that link child abuse to feelings of failure in exercise.

Exercise

I just did a rather mild exercise session to an online video: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/you-diet-beginners-workout I didn’t make it through without crying. I think I stopped half way, doing the floor exercises.

It seemed to be the  ‘holding on’ part of the exercise that got me. The part where you’re in mild discomfort from laying down and doing situps or holding your arms out or whatever, and waiting for them to finish the damn count down from 10 to one. Thank Goddess the instructor didn’t do the countdown more than once for each exercise. I hate it when they count down to one and then start again from ten. It’s a nasty trick.

This is what is inconvenient about being a survivor – bursting into tears during workouts and feeling embarrassed about it. If I could announce somehow. “I’m a sexual assault survivor. While exercising, I might start crying, and if I do I’ll feel better if I just go with it and cry openly till I’m done. I may need to sob a bit. No need to worry, I’ll take care of myself. Please ignore me and go on with your routine. You help me best by just realizing this is normal and I need to do it my way.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were fitness classes for survivors? Ones with no counting, soothing music and a kleenex box, punching bag and stuffed animals in the corner? Where everyone knew you were a survivor and you didn’t have to disclose, just get on with it?

If we really valued survivors, we would have those things.

The Bear

Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman
Photocredit: Buzz Hoffman

So I figure I’ve got grieving nailed down now. At the retreat this week I had several gut-shaking cries that were very cleansing. In a wierd way, I like grieving, it’s when the pain leaves my system and I feel peace.

So now I’m on to anger and rage. Like when I first started grieving, it tends to give me a hangover for a few days and leave me feeling vulnerable. It’s tied up in my ability to exercise hard, something I have problems doing because they bring up feelings that seem to intense for public spaces. Such a relief to be at the retreat where I could just duck off into a nice forest or drum when I had feelings to express!

Yesterday in therapy, my therapist asked me if there was a spirit or energy that went with my anger and I realized there is. The bear. A big brown mother bear with all my mass and bulk, strong forearms and claws. The bear can eviscerate my father with a few strokes of clawed arms, with all the weight of her large fur-covered body behind each stroke. In anger as/with the bear, I can express anger safely.

I’ve joined one of those exercise ‘boot camps’ with some friends. Normally I get triggered while exercising hard, but with my emotional backlog cleared at the camp I was able to just exercise without tears or getting bitchy or overwhelmed. I’m hoping that exercising with/as the bear will help me learn to be in my physicality again. Physically I am kind of a bear (without the fur) so it makes sense on that level as well as spiritually.

I also tried invoking the Goddess Artemis, Bear Goddess and Guardian of Virgins, but becamed overwhelmed with the energy and conflicting emotions connected to her. I should have realized that she and I would have some talking to do after seeing for myself the scope of the damage to my virgin self. I haven’t dipped into those feelings yet, but I suspect they are about the Goddess’ rage and my own at the magnitude of violence against girls, as well as hurt confusion at not being protected by Her. It is in a way lucky for me that Artemis and all the other Goddesses were not the Goddesses of my childhood. I think God/dess/es generally don’t protect us so much as empower us to support/heal and protect ourselves, which often seems woefully inadequate.

As a girl I believed somewhat in the standard vaguely Christian male God of my Anglican and United Church parents. This particular God has often been on the side of oppressors (sorry, but it’s true), so I now choose other deity forms that fit my values and experiences better. Do I want to support the God that has been used (perhaps against His will, perhaps not) to prop up abusers and the patriarchy for centuries? This God does not seem very interested in or effective at inspiring His supporters to love their neighbours as themselves and quite good at supporting men at being mysogynist power-trippers.  However, perhaps I am being unfair. Perhaps this God has just taken on the toughest cases: the bigots, the patriarchs, the mysogynists, the warmongers, the paedophiles and the racists, and is just taking awhile to influence and heal them. May it be so.

For my part, I see my own wounding and recovery as an unfortunately necessary passage, like childbirth, in order to create a woman’s voice and warrior that the Earth and humanity needs. It’s my job to do what I am guided to do to make the world a better place, and I know that my background and what I’ve learned helps me do that. Perhaps when I’m dead I’ll understand more about why this was necessary, but it will do as an explanation for now.

Filling a space

Photocredit: paul+photos=moody
Notice how they have the same tail curve, gait and body posture? Photocredit: paul+photos=moody , Photocredit: Bazin Erwan

Last night I was reading in bed waiting for my wife to (finally) stop messing around on the computer and come to bed.  The book I was reading was on psychic self defence, not a topic I particularly needed, but it was the only book in the bookstore by an author I like.  Anyhow, he was writing that one way to divert an attack of yucky energy (or the more common garden variety yucky energy around places where negative things are happening, for example) energy is to ‘entrain’ it with the good energy coming off of you, which is kind of like how your heart beat and your lovers begin to beat in the same rhythm when you are pressed against one another. Vibrations tend to ‘entrain’ or match frequency when associated with one another. This might be why we often absorb the moods and attitudes of people around us.Anyhow, he suggested filling a space around me with the energy of ‘calm and friendly’. The idea is that being clear and focussed (sending a louder, clearer ‘signal’) makes it more likely that any energy around me will dance to my beat instead of forcing me to trudge along with it.  It took me awhile to figure out how to do ‘calm and friendly’, when my headspace was more impatient and tired. Finally I thought of sitting in the sun doing my meditation, how the sun feels friendly and the meditation feels calm and my body is all relaxed.  I let that energy surround me. He suggested focussing on this for 10 minutes, which I don’t think I did, but after about 5, I felt great, and my bedroom (which has a tendency to grow shadows and creepy feelings at night sometimes) felt much safer. It was like the feeling of having Reiki or a really good massage, or a nice hug after a thorough cry by someone who understands.

One foot in front of the other

I went and looked up the name of a lawyer I want to talk to about pressuring my dad into confessing. I want to have a confession or something like that before he dies so I can do the activism I want to do without having to use the word ‘alleged’.  With the evidence of the scar tissue, and a good lawyer, I wonder if I could get him to sign a confession in exchange for me not suing him into bankrupcy or reopening the criminal case.  Like the clinic for the pap test. I’ve printed up the contact information, which has been sitting on my desk for several days, waiting for me to decide when and whether to move forward. Talking to a lawyer doesn’t mean I’ll go through with it, and I’ve already decided it definitely doesn’t mean I’ll talk to my father about it. That’s what lawyers are for.

Things are always in tension for me between making meaning of my life, fighting injustice and expressing my creativity in the world. The first five years or so of healing, that was my main focus in life. Everything revolved around healing and reclaiming myself and my body. Life was simple. Now, 21 years after I began, it becomes a choice.

I am proud of what I did in finding proof and having a vaginal examination on my own terms. I am also proud that I’ve been meditating and going outside and enjoying the sunshine at least once a day, for the most part. The other things I wanted to incorporate into my daily routine aren’t getting done as regularly, if at all.  My therapist says it takes awhile to make changes into habits, even positive or enjoyable ones, and I’m finding that to be true.

I’ve practiced singing one more time since the time when I felt the joy, and it wasn’t as good. I’ve been avoiding it since. I love singing, but I’ve thrown up a block for myself. I do this all the time. Sometimes I think it is a part of the anxiety that is a part of being a survivor, that I close off my channel to passion once it starts to flow.

I brought my guitar to my wife’s family reunion recently and did a bit of campfire singing, which counts as practicing my guitar. I’m learning to play the bodhran, which is a tradional Celtic drum. I seem to practice it more than anything else, perhaps because it blows off some energy.

I think what it is is that, fundamentally, I’m lonely. I’ve got all this powerful stuff going on and rarely see anyone but my wife (I work from home) and certainly speak to few people who I think will get it. I’ll try this weekend to make contact with some friends, which might give me some momentum.

Photocredit: Brian Auer
Photocredit: Brian Auer

I didn’t know how I was going to end this post until I went searching for a photo to put with it. In my religious tradition, having one foot in the water and one on land means to pay attention to both the realm of feelings and the soul and practical life. To be balanced in this way is to be in Grace. I went looking for some bare feet walking, then realized I meant bare feet on the beach and then saw this one. That’s what I’m doing, trying to walk with one foot on water and one on the earth. Sometimes I sway more into one world than the other, but I’m best when I can walk in both.

My Older Brother

Photocredit: H KoppDelaney
Photocredit: H KoppDelaney

A few weeks back I called my older brother, and left a phone message. I want to talk to him about some stuff to do with my father dying and also to ask him for information about the first house we lived in. However, we’re somewhat estranged, which started happening around the time I started being in relationships with women. I’ve seen him once since my wedding two years ago, which was the first time he’d met my wife, who I’d already been with for several years prior to that. He claims he’s not homophobic, which in Canada is considered almost as bad as being racist and would get him a lot of flack in my family. Nice to have their support in that, anyways.

So yesterday I was having a good day in general, in part due to my new meditation practice. I’m finding my skills at ignoring intrusive thoughts and images on the survivor front stand me in good stead at staying focussed on my breath in meditation. It’s nice these skills are good for something else! I got an email from my brother saying that he didn’t seem to have my correct phone number and had deleted my phone message, so could I send him my number. I replied with all my phone numbers. On the way to my therapist  a couple of hours later, I realized I was nauseated. I put on a ‘sea band’ I happened to have around and continued on to my appointment. I was a bit early and sat outside on a bench enjoying the day, I realized I was weepy and could not for the life of me figure out why. Not my time of the month, nothing else going on.

Well of course it turned out to be a reaction to my brother’s email – grief at missing him, being touched he was intending to call me back. How starved for family regard am I, that an email from my brother and the suggestion he might want to speak with me makes me weep with comfort and recognition of loss.  Funny how the body knows before the mind does.

We talked over what I would say to him, and came up with some strategies when we speak on the phone. My fall back is to ask him about his kids, which is a nice safe topic, and then talk about my work and renovating the house. If I get an opening, I’ll ask him how he’s doing with our father being so ill. Later on, probably only if we meet in person, I’ll talk to his wife, and explain to her that I’d like some time alone with him to talk about some family history stuff and ask for her support. Now that I write that, I’m sure that she won’t give us time alone together (she tends to include herself in these things and then do all the talking, which means I don’t hear from my brother), but maybe that’s okay. I could at least point out that I’d really like to hear his perspective, which might keep her from butting in.  

I’m also making up index cards with things I want to accomplish in my life that I feel like I procrastinate on and putting on each card what’s ‘juicy’ or passionate for me about each thing. The idea of that part is to try and do whatever will get me in contact with the juicy part of the activity as soon as possible. Then I’m going to order them according to what I feel like doing that day, or what is most important to me. So far, it seems to be moving something. I did vocal exercises, practiced the piano and meditated so far this morning. I seem to be a bit unstuck. Yay!

Hunting down the fragments

After my success last week with the intrusive imagery, I decided this week to hunt down other pain in the ass residues of being a survivor that are persistent.

I have a fear of walking up stairs from basements. I manage to do it on a regular basis, in fact my bedroom is in the basement and my bathroom is on the main floor, so I go up the stairs at night frequently. However, pretty much every time I have to bat away a monster, a flashback fear that something is going to grab me and haul me back.

This week in therapy I went hunting to figure out what this is and eradicate it.

(Following may be triggering, but is not graphic)

So I’m in session doing stuff like talking about the fear, the feeling that someone is hovering right behind me, and trying to trace it back to the earliest I remember having this fear (I’m about 12) and where I think it came from. I don’t remember the basement of the first house we lived in, which is a red flag to me, since I remember the kitchen, front yard, side yard, front carport and living room. I also have no memory of the inside of my bedroom  there. Sound suspicious to you too?

Hunting something I’ve been batting away for years is a bit hard. It’s like trying to get inside a sweater made of clouds, you’re never really sure if the images or sensations are real. My therapist says, trust the body memory (the part of the memory that is sensation, that I do have, the sensation of being afraid, being on a stairs, and someone being behind me and dragging me back by the ankles. Also behind me is dark and in front of me is a lit doorway. I’m on the lower of two flights of stairs, near the landing. This is pretty much all I’m super sure of. Then the feelings come. I’m trying to get away, I’m running up the stairs to the landing where the door to the outside is. The door is partially open and I can see the light outside. As I’m sitting in the therapists office, my left toe and foot curl under like they’re retreating away from something – I moved my legs to avoid his hands and get free. I almost escaped, another sensation snaps into sharper focus, I can see the edge of the stair tread, I’m holding on with my hands to the top stair tread to resist being pulled back.

I’m less than 7 years old at this point, since that’s when we moved from this house.

Tonight, when I go up the stairs to the bathroom, instead of swatting the monster feeling away, I’m going to tell myself. “This is a physical memory of something that happened. You know what happened now. Thank you for holding this for me, body. Thank you for telling me. He had no right to hurt you. You’re safe now. ”

I’ll let you know how that works.

I put in a call to my older brother and got his machine. I’m going to ask him what the floor plan of the basement is. It will be awkward, since we don’t talk very often, but I’m going to try. He’s five years older than I so hopefully will remember something.

~Sword Dance Warrior

Rage

Now, probably some folks will think that with name like SwordDanceWarrior and a project like planning to dance on my fathers grave, I have no issues with expressing my anger. Quite the contrary.

I finally got in to see my therapist today and figured out the intrusive images of being abused by a woman. We stayed in the ‘I don’t know’ place with them and did some EMDR with the images. If you’ve never had EMDR before (I hadn’t), its a technique where you basically get distracted by a visual or kinesthetic stimulus while you’re paying attention to the intrusive image, flashback or whatever. The idea is that it makes your brain integrate it better and reduces the level of anxiety/emotion/gunk attached to it. It’s a bit like when you’re in therapy re-living some crappy thing that happened to you, but you have part of yourself watching and comforting or analysing or just being aware that you’re an adult and okay at the same time.

I’ve always thought that it was not fair to turn down the volume emotionally on a memory or flashback until I’d made meaning of it, but today I didn’t really care.

So my therapist sits in front of me and to the side and waves her fingers back and forth in front of me while I’m supposed to call up the intrusive images. She stopped and grounded me whenever I couldn’t focus on both at once. It worked a bit better when we tried the tapping method, where you cross your arms and tap one side and then the other. I couldn’t do the staying open to the image and at the same time look at her finger thing, but the tapping I could do.

Anyway, my point, rage.

I’m enraged at my mother. I’m angry at her for allying herself with my father yet again by not replying to my letter. It’s been a couple of months.  But instead of feeling my rage at her (I’m thinking I needed to maintain connection with her as a child, and she had a thing about anger – I was not to express even annoyance in her presence), I create an image of her hurting me instead.  Helpful, huh?

I’ve done this to myself before.

When I was about 20 my best friend got assaulted and narrowly escaped being abducted by a truly evil man who was a serial abductor/rapist. She escaped, thank Goddess, and thank herself for being a fierce and resourceful amazon, before many of the truly evil things happened to her that happened to the other women. This guy got caught and tried and it was a big media circus. He was also rightly sentenced as a dangerous offender, which I understand means they’re never letting him out.  It was all over tv and radio, announcers describing what had happened to my friend and what had almost happened to my friend.

I was angry, but I didn’t feel it. I was extremely stressed out, but my best friend was in hiding from the stinking media so I couldn’t talk to her, and besides she was in worse shape than me. I also couldn’t talk to other people about my connection with the situation to preserve her privacy. Instead I sort of hallucinated (I say sort-of, because I knew it wasn’t there, but it was still pretty damn real seeming) a guy hanging from a rope in my bathroom who talked to me saying he was going to kill me.  I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life, so it wasn’t a flashback. It was me projecting my rage, like a movie, in my bathroom, but having the man I wanted to kill threatening to kill me instead. It was terrifying. Crappy, eh?

A therapist finally figured it out for me. She said “You’re having revenge fantasies. You’re in a murderous rage.” This made sense. I figured out eventually that the sure-fire way to make these images go away was to say to myself ” I’m angry, I’m really angry” and to intellectually figure out what I might be angry about and say that to myself. “I’m angry at shithead rapist abductor for hurting my friend” “I’m angry at my father” etc… and the monsters (as I called them) just dissolved. The more I could feel the anger in the correct place, the less power these projections had. I eventually stopped having them.

Needless to say I’m not real open about having had these experiences. I also want to note that a boyfriend concerned about the monster experiences I told him about got me in to see a psychiatrist, who confirmed that I was a garden variety survivor, not coming down with a nasty case of schizophrenia, which is a relief.

I haven’t had them in so long, actually  that I’d kind of forgotten what they were like. I get a bit triggered by scary movies and such and sometimes have intrusive images, but not nearly as persistent (and disturbing) as these ones recently.

Labelling them as repressed rage against my mother feels right in my bones, and is frankly a bit of a relief. I’m too fricking old to remember another abuser. I don’t want to go through all that again. 

I am angry at my mother. She’s chosen shithead over me and she is so fucking clueless about what she’s missing. I’m quality daughter material. I’m a woman to be proud of birthing and she blew it. She’s a disappointment to me, again and again, stubbornly sitting down to the occasion. I repeat – I am enraged at my mother. I hate her. She betrayed me and she’s going to keep betraying me. She doesn’t deserve me as a daughter.

And while I’m on it, why the fuck isn’t my father dead already?!!! liver cancer 5 years ago with recurrences last year, necrotizing fasceitis, .4 blood alcohol, flail lung, chronic alcoholism, chronic heavy smoker, 68 years old, living in a town with a lot of air pollution. What is his problem? Die already!! I had a nice murder fantasy going on in my therapists office, where I go into his hospital room and remove whatever tubes or masks or whatever is keeping him going and bludgeon him to death.

I’m that angry.  

And this, as my friend Butterfly would say, is why you shouldn’t fuck kids. (Or fuck them over, in the case of my mother).

Hidden Disabilities and Dentists

My dentists booking secretary, Judy, got snotty with me because I hadn’t booked my cleaning on the required schedule, like my wife had, every six months.  She wasn’t overt about it, but I got the message and was pissed off. I booked the apointment anyhow since my wife was going in and I could have my appointment at the same time.

The thing I hate most about going to the dentist is the part about not being able to close your mouth, and all the guck that drools down your throat, despite the suction thingie. The very worst part is not the pain, which I can dissociate from, but the damn fluoride treatments in trays, since you have to sit there with them so long and the thick, gooey liquid always ends up going down my throat without my consent.

Photocredit: Only Alice on Flickr,who titled it "I am just a mouth" (this is not a picture of me)
Photocredit: Only Alice on Flickr,who titled it "I am just a mouth" (this is not a picture of me)

Without my consent.

I’m not going to get graphic here, but I’m sure you can guess, given the theme of this blog what kind of thick liquid went down my throat without my consent as a child.

I knew I didn’t want to go to the dentist, but I didn’t really know why clearly until I was sitting in the waiting room, almost in tears at the thought of those damn fluoride trays and what the sensation was too similar to.  Then for good measure had a hastily squashed mini-flashback about it in my dentists waiting room. I thought “I can’t cry here / I can’t do this!”

Then I realized. I don’t have to do it.

I don’t care whether it’s good for my teeth. I’ll let them scrape my teeth but no frigging trays. I have fluoride mouthwash I can spit out when I want to. Just say no to trays! I felt immediately a lot better. Adulthood gives one the blessed right to be irrational. I’m paying for this after all!

So, I follow the dentist in to the treatment room and before she starts I tell her. “I have a sore throat, and I have some personal reasons as well, and it’s very important to me that nothing goes down my throat.” She was a lot less snotty than her receptionist, but I still felt a bit like she must be thinking “oh she’s one of those difficult anxious ones…” I’m sure there’s something in my file about it. 

However, she said she’d get her hygenist in there to wield the suction so nothing would go down my throat. It’s not the bits of tartar or whatever I’m worried about, it’s the fluid, so this wasn’t a complete success, but enough to keep me from iether vomiting or sobbing during the cleaning. The TV mounted on her ceiling helped a lot too. Dissociation is my friend.

After the dentist had finished her scraping, the hygenist came back to do some more stuff, and I had to give my little survivor safety talk to her as well. She clearly thought I was being difficult but gave me the suction thingie to hold.

At last she asked me what flavour of fluoride treatment I wanted. I sighed inwardly, and said to myself “I think I can handle this.” I said outwardly “mint”. She handed me a little cup and asked me to swill it around my mouth for a minute. No g’dammed goopy trays! I was all prepared to balk at the trays but blessedly, didn’t have to.

So this is why I don’t go to the dentist every frickin six months, Judy. If you think it’s awkward to have an anxious patient asking you to be extra careful, you have no idea how awkward a flash-backing sobbing vomiting survivor would be.

Photocredit:  patries71 on Flickr
Photocredit: patries71 on Flickr