Runaway train

This morning I went for an hour long massage.

Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr
Photocredit: Cindy47452 on Flickr - or is my life like this? This looks much more appealing...

I really like my massage therapist. I don’t see her that often, but she’s this nice, smart woman and we have lively conversations while she unknots me.

Today she commented on my back, how profoundly solid and unmovable with tension it was. I seem to be in a ‘coming out’ frame of mind lately, and so I said in the plain calm and collected (I’m just fine) voice I use when telling most people anything about the abuse “I’ve been under some stress. I’m a child sexual assault survivor, and my abuser, who is a relative, is dying. I expect I’ll be on high alert for the next year.” I still can’t believe I said it. Sometimes I’m excessively honest when I’m stressed or tired.

She said “I’m sorry.” and I changed the topic, saying “I’m trying to just be matter of fact about it.” Later on in the massage she was working on my neck from the front and I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I could have numbed out, but instead I said “I’m starting to get triggered, could you tell me what you’re doing?”. She removed her hands and said “sorry”. I said “no problem, I just need to know why you’re doing that? She said something about fascia, which helped,  and did it a little more, but moved on.

I did the “I’m a perfectly capable person and am not going to get all needy on you” thing and immediately started a conversation about politics.

I just want to be able to tell the truth about my life.

Yesterday I was in a meeting – I have a client who is a mental health agency, and all the people at the table were representing mental health agencies. We were talking about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which looks to be pretty effective, actually, for anxiety and depression mainly. Anyhow, there were these two guys from an anxiety disorders organization. One of them I’d met before and knew he had PTSD like me. At the end of the meeting, I asked him collegially if he knew of a specific CBT program for PTSD, we ended up getting into a conversation about it, with some of the other people in the room listening in, and couple involved in the conversation. During the conversation I outed myself as having my PTSD from child sexual assault. You have to understand this is a business environment where it is fine to disclose you’ve had mental health stuff, and I knew the health status of several people in the room. It went over just fine, with the sense that I’d made some allies, but was a little stressful. Sometimes I just do these brave things without thinking about it, and then afterwards wonder ‘what the hell was that?’ However, it’s usually something that I can stand behind, in retrospect.

I seem to be busting out. Last night I had the ‘our marriage is in trouble’ talk with my wife, and it went better than I thought it would. There’s something about being married, that makes it safer to talk about how dire things really are, since we both know we are too committed to make any hasty decisions.  We came up with a plan to fix things – both with some ideas to work on our non-sex life, and to find some things that are fun to do together that she can do with her injured foot. We also agreed that going back to couples counselling might be a good thing.

This morning before the massage, we did one thing we’d agree to do to work back into having a more regular sex life. Part of the problem is she’s too tired to have sex at night (and doesn’t feel like it) and I’m too spacey to have sex in the morning (and don’t feel like it). When we were first together the hormones take care of such trivial matters, but after eight years, there aint no hormones left.

I found out something I didn’t know before, the real reason why I don’t have sex in the morning.

My abuse happened late at night. I tend to prefer to have sex then, and sleep better afterward. It’s a wierd thing like, “now that the sex is over, it’s safe to sleep”. It’s not quite as creepy as it sounds, and for the most part, when I have sex at night, I can keep stray abuse images out of my head and concentrate on the here and now.

However, whenever I have sex in the morning, if it’s at all intimate or intense I end up crying or near tears. For years I’ve thought of it as being that I’m kind of raw in the morning, but now I don’t think so. This morning, I couldn’t keep the flashbacky stuff out of my head, but the unwanted intrusive images were not of my abuser, but of someone else. A woman.  I’m pretty sure the person I thought it was did not abuse me (please Goddess, no…), but the images were ghastly and intrusive. I managed to fend them off finally after a bit of a silent struggle and my wife ended up holding me as I cried. I didn’t tell her.

It’s like morning is safe time. I always feel good in the morning, raw yes, open yes, but more because it’s safe to be open and raw that out of anything raw.  This likely accounted for the brick-back I brought into the massage therapist an hour later.

It’s really going to piss me off if I was abused by more than one person. I’m not even completely sure who these images referred to, I’m used to just batting away flashback stuff during sex, like horseflies. “Yes, yes, you’re trying to terrify me, let’s think about something else. What was I doing again? Sex, right. Back to that.” Sex must be so simple for non-survivors. I can’t imagine it.

I was trying to come up with a title for this post and what came to me was ‘runaway train’. It feels like things are just progressing in my life just slightly ahead of me, gaining speed. No wonder my body is trying to put on the brakes. I don’t want to lose positive momentum, but I don’t want to go any faster. I’ll have to think on how to do that.

Photocredit: Jeff McCrory
Photocredit: Jeff McCrory Is my life like this?

9 thoughts on “Runaway train”

  1. Pingback: Is my mother another abuser? Was I abused by a woman? | May We Dance Upon Their Graves

  2. Well I can’t say it doesn’t screw with me a little. I saw some of those same people today at another meeting. One of them is a bit of a bully, and she was sort of shouting down me and some others in a kind of free for all discussion we were having. I said “Can we slow the pace of this discussion down? I’m uncomfortable with all the shouting and talking over one another.” They toned things down, but one gave me a strange look like she thought maybe it was related to being a survivor that I was ‘sensitive’. I had this paranoid thought that since they worked in mental health they had more extreme ideas of what having PTSD entailed. However, I felt empowered that I asked them to stop shouting, it’s been bugging me for awhile. After these meetings sometimes I feel drained from it. They probably think they’re just having a loud intense conversation and I don’t mind people talking over each other, there’s just an agressive edge to the one person’s behaviour that stresses me out.

  3. Sword Dancer, you are so so brave. Like others I long for a time when I can disclose in this way – or not – and not have it screw with me.

    Thanks also for the CBT resources – they’re really good. This is something my therapist is starting to work on with me, and they capture nicely a lot of the work we’ve done lately. Thanks!

  4. Hi SwordDancer,

    I know there is a method called DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, that is a type of Cognitive and Behavioral therapy. It was first created for those with borderline personality disorder and then was foung to be helpful for clients with childhood abuse issues among other things. Not sure if you have heard about it. It is very big here in the USA. I thought you might know all about it since you worked as an art therapist for a time.

    I wanted to also say that you are making big steps and it is okay to give yourself the credit you deserve.

    I understand what you are saying about the night thing and being sexual. I have read that same thing with some other survivors.

    I think you are very brave. Good and healing thoughts to you.


    1. Hi Kate,
      I’ve heard of it, but haven’t looked into it much. Thanks for the reminder.
      Thanks – blogging is so helpful to see the steps are bigger than they seem at the time. I’ve got a lot going on recently. Well, I kind of asked for it, invoking springtime and growth and unhiding. The way that I interpret that in my faith tradition is that the Goddess is taking me at my word that I’m ready for change, and is providing me with accellerated growth, and the resources to go with. Perhaps that’s the answer to my runaway train, just trusting that it’s all part of good changes, and trusting the Goddess and just let go and enjoy the ride.
      Good and healing thoughts to you as well, Kate.
      Your friend, Sworddancewarrior

  5. Thanks, Butterfly, I really appreciate the support.
    I don’t know what I was thinking coming out to so many people in the span of a day or two. I’d also come out to my chiropractor and one of my friends in the same time span. No wonder I was feeling exposed. Yes, I grieve that this sets me apart, separate, from other people, when it shouldn’t.

    Well, I guess I do know, I’m just getting tired of being hemmed in, and annoyed with the awkwardness about what is a normal thing to me, a simple truth of my life. It’s really a lot like coming out gay. When people are familiar with the concept and relaxed about it, it’s so much more comfortable, than when like you say there’s all this heavy air between us.

    About the potential other abuser – I’m not even going to think about it again until I’m in my therapist’s office. I’m not going to blog about it, and I’ve written down what I remember so it’s still fresh.

  6. WOW. SwordDanceWarrior – so many things in this post that I want to comment on. Let me start here. A huge round of applause for your courage and bravery. And friend, your grief. Disclosing a history of sex abuse isn’t like saying “I had a car accident”. It’s okay to be upset about it and fucked up after disclosure. If people are normal, they shouldn’t expect you to just carry on like nothing has happened. I hate that feeling, the disclosure so heavy in the air between me and the person I’ve disclosed to. I, too, have longed for the time when I can just say it and have it mean nothing. I am not there.

    The possibility of another abuser. Terribly scary images you were fighting off – good for you for leaning on your wife in your time of need. You are not alone, friend. All of us stand with you in your time of need.

  7. Thanks for writing. I’ve been reading for a while but finally went and made a WordPress account this morning so I can comment. I work with traumatized kids and my agency often uses TF-CBT (trauma-focused CBT). We don’t use the narrative part of it (putting the trauma experiences together into a cohesive narrative so it can be integrated into one’s other memories) because our kids are pretty young and because not all of us think that the exposure part of the narrative is helpful, but the skills-training and body-awareness parts work really well for our kids. (Most of them have experienced multiple traumas and almost all of them are in the foster care system.) Recently I’ve been using some of the stuff I use at work with myself (also a survivor of child sexual abuse) and have found some of it helpful and a lot of it pretty basic. Anyway, glad to have found your blog!

    1. Hi Maiaft,
      Nice to meet you. Yes, I had to lock it down so you needed an account to comment because of some comments from a perp. Too bad it made a barrier for your to comment, but I’m glad you made the effort.

      Yes, as I read it over (CBT materials), I realize I do a lot of it already (like changing beliefs about abuse, for example), but looking at the fear/exposure ladder examples it got me thinking if I could use some of it, and I’m using a bit of it around the sex stuff. It got me wondering – would debriefing one’s traumatic gunk repeatedly take all the fear out of it? If it did, is that even *right* to think of being raped without grief and horror, really? It’s not like being afraid of heights or something. However, since traumatic memory is so different and fragmented, perhaps debriefing the bits that one remembers or writing them down or something might help integrate them. I don’t think so, necessarily. I don’t think basic CBT has taken into account the wierd dissociative nature of traumatic memory.

      The only CBT references that were trauma specific that I came across were with kids in my brief search. Yes, a lot of it does seem pretty basic. Tell someone what happened to you, check. Change how you interpret what happened, check. Get used to doing, with a gentle push and support and staying in control of the process, the stuff that freaks you out because of the abuse that you actually want or need to do, check.

      A lot of the anxiety disorder stuff in general doesn’t apply to PTSD relating to sexual abuse anyhow, as far as I can see. I don’t think I had any genetic vulnerability to anxiety, I just was traumatized for a decade, with no social support or escape, which I think would give anyone PTSD. Panic attacks or depression unrelated to trauma are caused by different things, so just seem fundamentally different.

      I’d be interested if you want to comment here or if you blog, about what CBT strategies you’ve found helpful as a survivor. I used to be an art therapist, and did my thesis on clinical work with adult survivors. Must be exhausting to work with child survivors of recent trauma. Talk about your exposure therapy! I haven’t practiced in years, mostly because there wasn’t much work available, but I’m happy with what I do now, which is quite different.

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