Hangover

Today was the first day alone I’ve had since I got back from my trip to see my relatives.

My house is a mess, something that if I don’t deal with soon, will probably put me at odds with my wife. I spent most of the day in bed reading, broken up but largely context-less bursts of sobbing. There is so much to integrate from my trip, and I feel utterly alien. It’s like I’m hiding my own emotional reality from myself unless it leaks out suddenly, as it did on the weekend in an unexpected burst of anger which I wasn’t that good at hiding and today in an unexpected burst of crying while reading a novel.

I hate it. It makes me wonder what I’ve got locked away so tight, since my own emotional reality sneaks up on me, like it’s coming from somewhere else. I mean, I was a therapist, so I know it makes sense I’d have grieving to do, and anger to express. It’s the fact that I don’t actually feel them, until they burst out suddenly and then just as suddenly are gone. Am I in some sort of shock? It’s not that I’m not capable of strong emotion sometimes, but I seem to need someone there to validate and protect me, even if it is only the Goddess in the form of a beautiful natural location, in order to truly feel.

I”m overwhelmed.

What am I overwhelmed about? The trip went well.

1) I disclosed graphic details of the abuse: That I’d been injured in a rape at the age of 5 and that my mother must have known – to family – her own brother and sister. They’d believed me, shown me validation and respect for my strength, and apologized for not seeing and intervening. They totally got why I needed to ask questions about my mother and father, and answered them honestly and as fully as they could.

2) I got information about my father and mother. My mom’s high school yearbook, which my uncle had since he went to the same school, referred to her dating my father at the age of 15. My aunt said that her parents were strongly against sex before marriage, and that my mother was the golden girl, very obedient. She thought my father must have put huge pressure on her to have sex with him before marriage, and that her getting pregnant before marriage as she did was a huge deal. My uncle told me a story about going hunting with my father and my father firing a gun irresponsibly, scaring my uncle so he didn’t hunt with my father again. The way he told the story, I could see my father doing it on purpose, just for the risk and to freak out my uncle. He loved freaking people out. Very sociopathic.

3) I got triggered by two things at my paternal aunt’s house. One was a room I think I was abused in, which I’d dreamt about, but didn’t realize actually existed, a ‘secret room’ behind one of the bedrooms that used to be a storage area. The second was the type of attention her husband showed toward my cousin’s son, his grandson. He lit up when he saw him, but was a bit controlling with him, and the little boy moved away from him later in the meal. Nothing major, but he was just enough like my dad to creep me out, given the context.

4) I went to a couple of places I’d been to as a child, but didn’t have the liberty to wander and soak up impressions, to get a sense for whether I could remember how I thought or felt there. It was like I am so hungry for places that were familiar to me as a child, places I could recover lost parts of myself from.

I found a really good way to explain why survivors don’t want to ‘just forget it’. I told my mom’s brother’s wife, my aunt: “Because of how overwhelming it is when traumatic things happen, the brain doesn’t store the information properly. You get bits of memory floating around, ready to surface at any time. Like a feeling of terror, with no other information. To stop it, you have to allow yourself to feel whatever it is, and then sometimes you get more information  to go with it and it can become a normal memory.  So why would I want to forget a memory I worked so hard for?”  Shortly after this she told me how much she admires my courage.

The problem is people don’t really get it unless you tell them everything. If they don’t know how bad it really is, they don’t get why things are important. I really respect my maternal aunts and uncle for hearing, and asking and being unflinching in looking at things. I offered a couple of times to change the subject, but they said they were comfortable with talking about it if I wanted to.

I think it’s the love that makes me cry. I’m not used to getting this kind of love and support and willingness from people, certainly not my family.

My aunt told me she was going to tell my mother she should confess, tell the truth about what she did. We both agreed it would be good for my mom to get it off her chest, and that she owed it to me. My aunt thinks she can get her to disclose. I think she can try, but I don’t really see it happening.

And then there’s this whole thing about whether my mom abused me. I’m afraid if I remember anything like that it will f up my sex life even worse than it already is. One of the great things about being a lesbian is that I don’t have sex with men, and don’t have to wade into the minefield of sensations that are too similar to the ones of the abuse.

And lastly there’s the whole sociopath thing. Even the small morsels of love I thought I might have had from my father, the connection of singing together and all that, was probably either grooming or his ego at having a talented daughter.  He literally had no ability to connect or love anyone. I had no father. Someone f’ing saddled me with a sociopath father! and it’s fricking hereditary!  I can’t have a child knowing he or she might be sociopathic, not that I was really planning to, but still. On the other hand it validates what happened to me. He just did what he wanted to, and liked to torture and dominate people.

My wife and I get into fights because I think she lets’ mean people get away with hurting her. It triggers me because I know you have to cut off people like that. Apparently I did the best thing you can do if you are involved with a sociopath in some way, just cut them off completely and permanently. As long as they have contact they will use it to meet their needs for stimulation and winning at the expense of others, to manipulate with pity and power. I cut him off effectively. Why did he give me his piano? Was it to manipulate my mother into thinking she could get restitution and repentance from him to mend her broken family to the way it was? I can’t think of another reason. He made trouble for me actually, because by giving it to me, he  broke his separate promises to both of my brothers to leave it to them.

My mother should just cut him off, and wait for him to die, not count on getting a penny out of the house, and do whatever hands off legal shielding she can do to prevent herself from becoming accountable for his debts.

I hope in a few days I’ll feel better. The crying feels more like exhaustion that anything else, and the rage. It’s like I’m overwhelmed and just can’t take anymore.

Visiting Family

Stag on Hillside Photocredit: Kev747 via Flickr

Well, I went back east for a week to visit my moms siblings, my dad / abuser’s sister and a bunch of cousins and second cousins. It went very well, and I got a lot of loving supportive connection and reconnection and lots of validating and useful information.

I’ve been researching sociopaths lately and am reading a good book on them by Martha Stout. I’m only partly through but it’s good. I am working on the assumption that my dad/abuser is a sociopath. I told my maternal aunts and uncle this, and they were receptive. My uncle looked up what a sociopath was on the internet and told me the next day that he agrees that my dad fits the profile. Very validating. I got to ask them all kinds of questions about my parents and they were very open to answering. I also explained about how I’d been injured in the rapes and how I now know that my mom would have had to have known.

This is now what I think happened.

I got raped and injured when I was little. Mom found out when she found the wounds. My father went into a big sob story about how it was because he’d been drinking so heavily and drinking hard liquor. (According to Stout, the ‘pity play’ is almost universally used by sociopaths, and a person who behaves badly toward you more than once or twice and tries to make you let them off the hook out of pity is likely to be a sociopath.) My mom forced herself to believe this and told him she’d leave/call the police/whatever if he ever drank the hard stuff again. He drank beer from then on. I remember this being a rule that he complied with that my mom had set, she told me she’d forbidden him to drink hard liquor. Since my dad was an incredibly sexist, arrogant, dominating patriarch, he would never have complied with a rule set by his wife for so long with a rule she set without a really compelling reason. Being a sociopath, he wouldn’t have done it out of guilt since they don’t have any. Also, it was the very same excuse he gave me in his letter he wrote me, that he didn’t remember abusing me but if he’d abused me it was because of the alcohol.

Now she feels so guilty she did this that she’s either blocked it out, or is unwilling to confess her guilt to me. I don’t think my mom is a sociopath, since she wouldn’t have stayed with my father if she didn’t fall for his bullshit, and I think she’s actually shown empathy, although she is very selfish.  She’s a workaholic, probably in part to keep herself from thinking about any of it, something I know from experience works very well. You can pretend you don’t even remember, although if you stop bailing constantly, that boat sinks instantly.

So I think this was her ‘deal with the devil’ to try and keep me safe while holding on to the status of being his wife, which I also learned was incredibly important to my grandmother. My mother had been groomed to be a rich guy’s trophy wife, and they thought they’d caught one, except my dad, although he’d been from a rich family, was never rich himself. Sociopaths are motivated differently (to say the least) from other people, and avoiding debt or providing for his family would never have been a big deal. My dad was motivated by exercising power over others and torturing people, so he didn’t need to be very rich to do that. His behaviour with money didn’t make much sense until I read that some sociopaths will just take the path of least resistance and sponge off of others. He worked just enough to maintain his status. My mom was a beauty queen, which also fits the profile, as sociopaths, since they don’t love anyone, tend to pick partners that iether support them financially or are high status in some way.

It’s all starting to make a lot more sense. I don’t need to worry about confronting him, because I won’t be able to affect him, he has no sincere connections with other people. I’m released from that. He’s probably also not interested in haunting me either. I was just a toy.  My father never loved me, which is good to know since it’s consistent with his behaviour, although I did do some grieving.

I had a neat pagan thing happen.

I was heading out to visit my father’s sister and was quite nervous, since they’re snobby and besides, they know I’ve disclosed the abuse. On the way out there, a stag leapt across the road in front of me, not close enough to be dangerous, but close enough to see him clearly. Stags are the symbol or embodiment of the God, the positive, brotherly, nature god of Wiccan belief and brother or consort to the Goddess. So it was this positive image of maleness,  who represents sacrificing that others may live like the meat animals or the grain that is cut for food, and not incidentally the polar opposite of my sociopath father, who blessed me on my journey to may father’s family. In a way it was like the really wonderful love and support I’d received from my mom’s older brother on my trip, who was very supportive and loving.

I got to swim in the lake I’d swum in as a child and spoke with my favourite cousin and met her kids. I found out a little  information, like what the age difference was between my father and his older sisters. My aunt was not someone I could ask abuse info from, but I may pump my cousin for info later, now that we’ve reconnected.

I went to all my grandparents graves and had a talk and a cry with them. I went to a florist and picked out flowers I thought each of them would like to put on their graves as offerings. It was good. My maternal aunt and uncle came with me to help me find the graves and then left me alone when I asked for some time to mourn privately. Since I hadn’t been at the funerals for any of them, it was important for me to do that.

My mom’s sister said their childhood was fine, with no abuse or neglect, although she doesn’t remember any of it (yikes). I didn’t point out what you will know is the obvious explanation of that. Perhaps some other time. She struggles a lot with compulsive/addictive behaviour, particularly to do  with food,  but there’s only so much you want to intrude on someone else’s process.  She was very welcoming and loving and willing to answer any of my questions. She even offered to talk to my mother and get some info from her on my behalf. Both my maternal aunts and uncles wanted me to make up with my mother at first, but once I explained I think they got it, and understand why I’m waiting for my mom to provide the info I asked for.

Anyways, it went very well, and I don’t seem to have much of an emotional hangover from it. I was very proud of how I handled everything, and felt so healthy. I didn’t even stress-eat. I brought my mp3 player and some noise cancelling headphones and listened to comforting music and relaxation meditations, which helped a lot too. I rented a car, and would sing pagan hymns or meaningful songs  to vent feelings and give myself strength.

Hand-delivered note from mom

I went out my front door and found the following note stuffed into my mailbox, hanging out. I recognized my mom’s handwriting at once. Here’s what it said:

“July 9, 2010

Hi [SDW] & [Wife],

A long time has passed. Maybe we could meet for “coffee” tea” soon.

Love Mom”

and then on a separate piece of hotel notepad paper (they were small, and printed with the hotel’s address and phone…).

“Just so you know, Joetta [her dog] died yesterday. I called B—- [the dog’s former owner], she came to see her. She developed Cancer that spread. She couldn’t walk. I had her checked at the xxxxx Vet Hospital. xxoo”

Why would she travel so far (to my town, a journey of perhaps 5 hours) to have her dog put down? Perhaps because the former owner of the dog lives here, or perhaps because my brother was here to offer emotional support. That seems more likely.

I’m relatively calm, but I had a sudden impulse just now to burn her notes. I spaced out a little, because when I went to find the notes to transcribe them here, I was surprised to discover I’d put them back in the mailbox. I instantly came in and wrote her a reply.

I’ve sealed the envelope now, but it reads roughly.

“Dear Mom,

I’m sorry Joetta died.

I’ve been waiting for a written reply from you to my letter. I would welcome a written response with some of the information I requested.

Sincerely,

SDW

PS: [my wife’s name] and I are doing well”

She’s having an emotional crisis and needs her mommy – me. Generally the safest way for me to be with her is ‘big sister/therapist’ since it meets her needs enough that she stays relatively calm. In fact I think she’d like me to be like this forever. She thought given the situation, the death of her dog, that I’d feel socially obligated to be nice to her and let bygones be bygones. I’ve let two Christmases and birthdays pass without contact, so she’s getting desperate perhaps. She was hoping I’d call her at her hotel and all would be forgiven. It creeps me out a little that she was here and I didn’t know, although my dog was barking quite a bit earlier today. Perhaps it was when I was out for breakfast, since I didn’t go by the mailbox on the way back. Yick.

I think my response sets the boundary I want to set: I’m not speaking to you unless it’s on my terms. Whether she abused me directly or not, she overlooked my father raping me so brutally that I had large tears on my vulva. When I remember that, I hold firm.  I expect I’ll have feelings later, and I’m going to leave my house in case she comes by again. Ick.

Expanding, letting life in

He really did rape me. He really did. He really did rape me. Over and over that’s all I think, suddenly. I say it out loud, to feel my own reaction ot my words, I am sobbing as I say it. I’m reading a book by an author that is hitting the nail on the head for me, I’ll give the name of the book later, and it occurs to me that I’m only reacting to this book about survivors in the way I am, breaking into tears of self-recognition every page or so, because I am in fact a survivor. There are things about my life that I don’t consciously know, details, but I have seen the scars on my vulva, I have seen them. They’re long and they are from a terrible wound, and all of this proves, he really did rape me. It’s old news, it’s new news. It’s feeling the same thing at a different level, letting it in, letting myself see myself.

I knew this fact as an article of faith, coming from my commitment to believe my own self, the feelings and memories, but somehow hard visual evidence, the picture I took of those wounds I didn’t see until a year ago, is so unalterably true that there is no layer of protective denial any more. Fuck my brothers’ arrogance, fuck his saying he always believed me. He doesn’t believe me even now. even now.

What more don’t I know about my past? What more am I shielding myself from?

I’ve been noticing, walking outside today that I have two ways of holding my eyes. I habitually narrow my vision, which has been deteriorating these past two years, to the extent that I need glasses again. Lately I’ve been experimenting with purposefully expanding my field of vision, using my peripheral vision, which makes all my sight more clear. Normally, even with my glasses off, I see as if I’m wearing glasses, noticing only what is right in front of me and relatively close. I don’t even realize I”m doing it, most of the time. Now I’m trying to learn not to, to see the whole big picture at once. When I do it outside, even on a cloudy day, my eyes water. The light seems overwhelming. It’s like I don’t ever open my eyes all the way. I believe I’ve been shielding myself from seeing the full picture, and it feels like I’m doing it because to see it all at once, the sky the tops of trees the buildings in the distance, to expand my focus from the close, the immediate the controllable, makes me feel overwhelmed. I worked with an affirmation of ‘it is safe to see everything’. I practiced looking around and feeling the slight overwhelm of all the information coming at me visually. Interesting that I hadn’t noticed this before. I’d noticed the two ways of seeing, but not this, not in this way, this depth.

Photocredit: Chaval Brasil via Flickr “Great view”

No wonder I”m emotional tonight after doing that so much today. I was successful at it too, tolerating it for quite awhile, eventually even my eyes stopped streaming. The book was talking about the difference between feelign numb and dissociated, barely alive really, avoiding all the closed boxes of memories and feelings, and choosing the risky process of living life with those boxes all open. I am opening. I am writing and singing and being creative and it is bubbling up. I want to see it all.

He really did rape me. He really did. Perhaps there is more too.

Adrenaline makes our vision narrow too, opening up my field of view feels unreal, to look at this suddenly panoramic view of where I am. When I do it, everything seems small, like I”m viewing it from a great distance.

ps: The book: The Myth of Sanity: Divided Consciousness and the Promise of Awareness by Martha Stout, Ph.D.

Linear time 7+

Photocredit: Mararie, Piano Keys

When I was 7 we moved to the second house. The dog who died in the first house was replaced near the end of our time there with two black lab puppies. What were my parents thinking? Amos was a high strung hyper dog, and Andy was more placid. My father was training them as hunting dogs and made them respond to whistle commands. Andy often ignored the commands because he thought he knew where the duck was better than my dad did. He usually did. One time he couldn’t find the duck my dad had shot and brought back an uninjured one instead. He was a good dog. My dad would pinch their ears if he thought they were misbehaving. I thought the noise was terrible and that my dad was cruel, which of course he was.

The new house had a playroom in the basement that I remember quite well, along with a suite of rooms that became my older brother’s bedroom. It also had a formal living room that wasn’t often entered, that I would hide in. I spent a lot of time being still in that living room, staying out of notice. The living room contained a piano, which my father would play sometimes. I took piano lessons for awhile, but my teacher wasn’t nice and nobody made me practice, so I didn’t do well with it. I now have that piano in my home. I still don’t really play it, but at one time I thought I would. I still kind of intend to learn…. Chaotic households don’t lend themselves well to establishing routines, something I still don’t really have the hang of.

I also remember my own bedroom well, and every area of the house and yard. My parent’s bathroom stank of my father and mother’s bodies, which always repulsed me. I had a closet in my bedroom that was furnished with fake-gilt furniture my grandmother had bought me, complete with a pink canopy bed. I was one of those princess girls, so much for the stereotype of the butch from birth lesbian. Come to think of it, I was given that furniture when I lived in the old house and I do remember when it arrived and setting it up there, which is kind of a bedroom memory. I was one of those girls who had barbie dolls, and I even had a barbie townhouse for a short while, which made me a popular gal around the neighbourhood. That ended when my younger brother ran down the hallway with one of the townhouse pillars in his mouth, falling and cutting the back of his throat. At least that was what I was told. It happened while I was out of town with my mother for a family wedding, so Goddess only knows how his throat got damaged. He’s never told me any different.

Anyhow in the new house I had my own room. My abuse memories from that time are mostly about waiting for my father to go to bed each night. He’d get hammered beginning before dinner, and then eat dinner, watch tv, get belligerent and pass out. Good nights were when he passed out fairly early. Then my mother and brothers and I could relax. As long as we didn’t make too much noise we could talk and be relatively relaxed. While my father was awake and belligerent it was important not to rile him up. The more riled he got the more likely he was to take it out on me.

I’d be put to bed, but wouldn’t sleep. I’d lay in my bed in terror. I complained almost every night to my mother that I couldn’t sleep, and she’d say everything was fine and she was right down the hallway. A lot of good that did.

My father would wake up at some point and would turn the TV back on and watch it. He’d often wait a couple of hours after my mother had gone to bed. I think he did this on purpose to maximize his chances to abuse me. Finally he’d come staggering down the hallway, his big fat-fingered hands brushing on the walls as he made his way down the hall. Sometimes he’d pass my door, which was opposite the bathroom, and continue down the hall to their bedroom, which had it’s own ensuite bathroom. Sometimes he’d go into the bathroom across from me, use the toilet, turn on the fan. When he came out he’d come into my room. I don’t remember much more. All I know is that I spent some time in my closet in that room, that I really really wanted a lock on the door, and that I have a trigger about light shining around a partially opened bedroom door. I honestly don’t know if I was raped there too, but I think it’s likely given all the triggers. Iether he slipped my mother something to keep her asleep, or she pretended not to know. I do have one memory of trying to wake her and being unable to.

I remember spending a lot of time in the bathroom with pain in my vulva. I had an itchy discharge and pain I now know is similar to a urine infection, sitting on the toilet for hours feeling like I had to pee but being unable to. I was pretty thoroughly out of my body, but I remember this pain.

I got my period when I was 13. After that I think the rapes changed from vaginal to anal and oral. I have body memories of the oral, mostly the aftermath, and to a lesser degree of the anal rapes. I don’t know when or where those rapes happened, but I’m guessing that they were in my bedroom. I know that around that time I became unable to sing. It felt like I had phlem in my throat, which was sore, all the time.

One thing I wonder about is something my mother said to me repeatedly. If we were talking about my father’s crimes, she’d say “but what did I do?” with emphasis on the “I”. At the time I thought (and said), “it was more what you’d didn’t do, which is not protecting me or leaving him.” But now I’m wondering if she did anything to me herself. I’ve never had much response when a love goes down on me, and have a particularly hard time staying in my body while it’s happening. If she did anything to me, that’s what she did. I had that wierd kind of memory last year of her abusing me, that I discounted, and I’m still not sure whether it was real or not.

I was anxious and odd enough by the time I lived in the second house that kids teased me, including my older brother. Noticing that I would get terrified if I was in the bathroom if he reached in and turned off the light and on the fan, he would do it to torture me. As an adult, knowing what happened to me, he apologized for doing that, knowing that my terror must have been related. Not that it made it any easier for me at the time.

My younger brother, who would have been about 3 by this time, had his own room across the hall from my parents’ bedroom. I don’t know if my dad abused him directly. I hope not. I’ve always felt protective toward him.

When I was in grade 9 I think, I read an article in a magazine that talked about a young woman who had been arrested for prostitution. She’d been put in a cell, which she had smeared the walls of with menstrual blood. The article explained that she had run away from home to escape the sexual attentions of her step father, and had ended up in prostitution. The tone of the article made it clear that the stepfather had no right to be hitting on his step daughter, and that she was clearly forced to run away.

This article was liberation for me. Before that I had no inkling what sexual abuse was and that he wasn’t allowed to do it. This is why silence about sexual abuse to children is so harmful. I immediately began to fight back. I think I realized I could tell the police on my dad at some level. I argued with my dad when he became belligerent rather than trying to placate him. He began to get worried. The abuse ended definitively one evening. He confronted me in the hallway, in front of a wall hanging of trees screen printed on a sheet. He said “you know I would never hurt you” looking at me in the eyes. He didn’t say it like a question, but like he was instructing me on what to believe and say. I don’t remember what I said in response, but it was not compliance. He left me alone after that.

Life wasn’t a whole lot easier at that point, but it was manageable I guess. I had two boyfriends in succession, and one part time job, and got decent marks, good enough to earn me a scholarship that paid for my tuition in my first year of university. I got the hell out of town at 16 and went to university. I started to realize I was gay, but didn’t do anything about it. I had two boyfriends in university, which lasted till the end of my third year there, when I came out. I had been fighting to suppress some pretty major flashbacks most of my teen years. I continued to have major flashbacks in first year, but didn’t make much sense of them, again until third year, when I started attending a 12 step program for children of alcoholics. I started hearing other women speak honestly about their childhoods, and some even disclosed abuse. It was the first place I’d ever remembered feeling safe. Once that circle was opened with the women sitting in a circle doing the beginning readings, it was like a magic circle had been cast and I was protected from my father. That circle saved my life. I began going to twelve step meetings a lot.

I’m amazed I didn’t act out. I barely drank, didn’t do drugs and didn’t particularly sleep around, although I’d had sex with one of my two boyfriends. I think I felt I needed to be ‘on’ to be safe, which mostly involved manipulating situations that got scary rather than kicking butt. That I learned to do later. The first boyfriend was gay, which worked out pretty well for both of us until he left me for a guy. The second boyfriend, predictably for a guy of 18, wanted to have sex several times a day, and I didn’t usually want to have sex at all, but complied out of a sense of obligation and to maintain his attention and regard. I liked to sleep with him for the feeling of protection. When I broke up with him I swore I’d never have sex with a man again, and didn’t for several years. It wasn’t all bad – he was a kind guy aside from the sexual pressure, which I stopped being mad about after a couple of years, and we’re still friends. After we broke up he called my father to confront him, but my mother either wouldn’t put him on the phone or he wasn’t home. I would have paid money to hear that if he’d have been able to get through to him. While I was with this boyfriend, I wrote my mother a letter disclosing the abuse, and cut ties with my parents. I moved and didn’t tell them where I was living. For most of the next several years, I didn’t even tell my mom where I was living, just called her from time to time to let her know I was okay. I’d hang up without saying anything if my dad answered. During this time my I didn’t speak to my younger brother, who was still living at home. It was about 14 years later that my mother finally left my father. During those years I almost never saw iether her or my younger brother.

Every once in a while she’d breeze into the town where I lived and have a very short visit, one or two hours, sometimes more. During this time I asked her to mail me my stuff, which she mostly did, but she went through and read all my journals, which, not surprizingly, had nothing in them about the abuse, although a bit about the neglect, which I haven’t mentioned. Basically, there was almost no food at home. My parents used their credit cards to eat in restaurants during the day, but there was often no groceries at home, at least not enough for hungry teenagers. There’s one passage in my journal where I am a teenager and am talking about how hungry I was and how there was no food at home, and how I was using the money from my part time job to buy groceries at the mall and eat there. I could get more food for less money if I bought groceries rather than going to a restaurant or fast food place. I also bought vitamins for myself. What kind of teenager does that?

"The Wedding Couple, After Abott" Photocredit: Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

So until about 7 years ago, I didn’t see most of my relatives at all. Then my mother left my father and I made an effort to be supportive. I started seeing her a couple of times a year, and realized who she is like when she’s out from under my father’s shadow. How she is is mostly anxious, needy and high maintenance. She needs to have all the attention, and tries to buy my affection with gifts she thinks I’ll like, while withholding what I actually want, just like she did when I was a child. She had a couple of shining moments of helpful mothering, like when she co-signed our first mortgage, and when she organized a bunch of relatives to attend our wedding. She was like the poster mother for gay friendly parents, telling her friends they needed to accept that her daughter had a female partner or lose her friendship. Every once in awhile she gets it right. Most of the time she gets it very wrong because she wants me to pretend everything is okay the way I did when I lived at home. F— that. I respond by pretending for short periods and then getting irritated with her. Finally I stopped seeing her all together. Now that I know about the scars, I don’t know what I’d say to her. If I told her about them, she’d deny knowing, and I’d feel like killing her.

Massage

I just had an hour long massage at a spa. Steam room, cucumber water, soft music, the whole bit. I decided to spend the money I’d been spending on therapy on something body/soul nurturing, and this and the singing lessons are it. I even spent a little time meditating in the quiet, pleasant waiting area. So I’m feeling pretty mellow.

One of the things that I have a love-hate relationship with massages about is the fact that I often cry during massages, particularly deep tissue ones. This time, the body worker was working fairly intensely on my left shoulder-back and I started to cry. Now a certain amount of crying is easily hidden during a massage, with your face down, a lot of people get sniffly just from their nose clogging up, for example, and there’s a bit of music, and well, your face is hidden. The sobbing breathing has to be controlled if I don’t want her to know I’m crying. I walked a middle line there.

What I ended up crying about is stinking father’s day. As much as I try to avoid it (I actually put a rule in my email that deletes any message with the phrase ‘father’s day’ in it), these kinds of holidays are ubiquitous. I ended up on the table praying to ‘the Father’ a made up god from a book called “The Curse of Challion”, who is kind of the soul of positive fatherhood, and also the god of winter and death. I was asking him why he didn’t strike my father dead for desecrating fatherhood. That reminded me of my grandfather, and I asked him the same thing (he died when I was 13), why he couldn’t do something to make sure my father dies. Father’s day would be an appropriate time. Anyway, I started to feel my grief.

The woman’s hands on my waist as she massaged my lower back reminded me of being touched by my wife, and how I miss feeling intimate with her, how I miss loving, present, touch. It’s not as if she doesn’t caress me, but I still miss the way it used to be.

Luckily, she worked on my back a long time before flipping me over, and I was able to enjoy the pleasure of her massaging my feet, and scalp and arms. By the time it finished, I was ready to go to sleep.

I feel calm and peaceful, and still a bit sleepy.

Photocredit: Morning Spiral Rose by Nexus6

Vulvodynia and the power of the vulva

Click on this image for the history of the vulva in many cultures as a power symbol of political change and protest

Vulvodynia is a medical term for having persistent pain in your vulva that isn’t explained by the usual causes.

You know what is so wierd? I just had gotten so used to the burning, itching and periodic pain, that I thought it was relatively normal. I’d gotten used to having to have sex in very limited ways and to feeling pain after and sometimes during. At times it hasn’t really seemed worth it. No wonder my sex life has fizzled.

Vulvodynia comes in two types. The first is where the woman experiences pain with intercourse, or inserting a tampon or similar, and afterwards, but not the rest of the time. The second kind is when the woman has the first kind of pain, sometimes not as severely, but also a persistent pain or itching at other times.

That’s the kind I have, and now that I know what it is, I can access the wisdom of women all over the world who have it too. Unlike the pain I had as a child, I’m not alone.

I found a list of things that are thought to be involved in vulvodynia and things that make it better and worse and I’m trying them. It’s actually helping.

One of the things that doctors believed about vulvodynia was that it is psychosomatic, caused by being a sexual abuse survivor.  I think that’s demeaning. Of course there are physical effects of being raped, I’ve got the scars to prove it. And of course there are psychological effects that affect how the vagina and vulva feel and perform, particularly in how relaxed and open we feel.

What is demeaning and insulting to the brave women warriors who have survived rape as children is to dismiss our complaints as if because we know the cause it doesn’t need to be cured, like it’s some kind of hopeless case to have a vulva that feels healthy and good, and it is some kind of hopeless case to have a healthy mind and spirit after being ‘damaged’. It’s like we’re in some feudal culture and we’ve been ‘ruined’ by losing our virginity in an unsanctioned way.

I went to see my nurse practitioner, the one who showed me my rape scars last summer. I wasn’t there specifically about my vagina, but after she looked into what I was there about I asked her about the pain and itching. She told me all her tests had been negative for infection, that everything looked fine.  I said “you think this is psychosomatic?” She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no. She said “we’ll you’ve had a hard life”. I said, I had a hard childhood, I’ve had a pretty good life, for the last 20 years, actually”. I hate it when people assume I’m some kind of lifelong victim.  I’ve never been in an abusive relationship as an adult, I’ve never done drugs or abused alcohol, I’ve not been raped or beaten as an adult and I’ve made good choices for myself. 

After I got home from my appointment I did some research. Vulvodynia is thought to be caused by chronic tightening of the muscles of the vagina, which restricts blood flow, causing the pain and itching. There are of course other theories, but I like this one. It looks like everyone wins – psychological: clenching of the vaginal and vulval muscles – physical: restricted blood flow causing persistent pain.

So what part of this allows her to dismiss my valid medical issue?

I’ll tell you what does. Her discomfort with having to help someone who was raped as a tiny child having persistent pain her whole life as a result. In her vagina. People don’t want to think about it. They want me to be crazy. They want it to be something they can discount. It makes it less scary for them.  That a man can rape a child and get away with creates enormous cognitive dissonance for people. It’s nothing that should happen. It’s nothing he should get away with. I agree. But rather than trying to ignore or brush away the effects, I want to resolve them. I’m one of the sanest people I know. I know how to face reality in ways they don’t.

My wife and I are coming up on our ten year anniversary. I joke that it’s actually 40 years in ‘het years’ – kind of like dog years. Because lesbian relationships get little social support, a ten year anniversary is the equivalent of 40 years for a straight couple who have had help and approval from their culture from the beginning, going back as far as high school. How does this apply?

Life is a lot harder without social support. By shunning survivors of abuse, in all the ways our culture shuns us, we inhibit and restrict the healing and change that is necessary to make child rape obsolete. My ally, my nurse practitioner, well meaning and educated, does it, I’ve had a lover tell me, upon looking at a cute picture of myself as a child that “no wonder my father loved me so much”.  I broke up with him soon after. It’s not love. I’m not a victim. Let’s just fix the problem, shall we?

So I’m working on relaxing those muscles, in various ways, on my own and with a little help from my wife. It’s working.

Now was that so hard?

Linear time – Age 1-7

I was told that it was good to tell your survivor story from beginning to end, as part of integrating it and setting it to rest.

Part of the problem with that is that I have some gaps  and some memories that are still in dissociated states, but I’ll try. I’m going to ‘bold’ the memories where I remember what it felt like to be ‘inside my own head’ for that memory, to be the girl having those thoughts or experiences.

My first memory is before the age of 7, since it is in the front yard of the first place we lived in, one side of a duplex. For some reason I don’t know who lived on the other side, but the neighbours in the next house had a daughter a few years older than me who I adored and looked up to. Her mother was also nice, but looked more like a grandmother than a mother.

In my first memory I’m making mud pies sitting under a tiny weeping willow or similar tree, which had long dangling drooping seed clusters that were green and then would dry to a caramel colour. When they were dry you could crumble them into the seeds, which were like roundish flat stars. I put them on top of my mud pies like sprinkles and my memory is of being delighted with discovering their beautiful star shapes and deciding to use them to decorate my mud pies. I could hide under this tree and it felt like a bit of a fort.

I also remember being outside in my front yard when I came home found out my dog had been put down. The front yard was covered in small pools of yellowish vomit. I think he must have had a heart condition. They didn’t tell me beforehand so I didn’t get to tell him goodbye. I still think this was wrong, although I can understand why they did it.

I can remember almost the entire path to my elementary school from the duplex, which was black and white on the outside. We walked through a forest trail we kids called “the path” which ran in a cut between two rows of houses. I liked the path.

I remember sledding on that street one winter, with my dog Tony pulling me behind him on the sled. We thought he was a very strong dog.

I remember learning to ride a bike with training wheels, it was a blue bike I think, and my dad was helping me, and when he let go I crashed into the neighbours yard two doors over, which was on a slight hill. I landed on the grass so it was a good place to crash. This lady and her husband both smoked, which smelled bad, and had a daughter with bad asthma who had to have oxygen tents and go to the hospital, but her parents wouldn’t quit smoking. I wrote some of my first word ‘mom’ I think, when I was four years old, at her kitchen table, to much approval. I felt very smart. I also remember helping change her baby daughter’s diapers when she was little, this is the one who had asthma,  and the beautiful pink drapey stuff on her crib.

There was another lady who I think lived nearby as well although she moved before we did, who had a son exactly the same age as me with my same birthday, so sometimes his mom and mine would have birthday parties together at their house, which I didn’t like.

I remember a chair in the front room, the living room, which me and a friend rocked on together until we crashed it over and I had to go to the doctor for stitches. I remember this because we were trying to experiment with trying to rock it side to side and around in circles at the same time.  I remember the stitches felt stiff, like someone had laid a strip of glue on my skin.

I don’t remember my bedroom at all. I don’t remember much more than the hallway, where my dad, drunk and angry, ranted at my brother and I for awhile about what a terrible house cleaner our mother was, herding us around and showing us the dirt and dust bunnies. Our mother wasn’t home and we were scared.

I remember seeing my father ‘asleep’, passed out from alcohol, on the kitchen floor, which had a kind of U shaped cabinet with a sink and window and then another area with kitchen table and a red rotary phone placed high on the wall. I don’t know if I remember this phone directly, since it’s in a picture I saw as well. I don’t remember my mom there at all, except maybe at that garage sale we had.

I remember I had to stay home all summer and not go out and play at all, although my younger brother could go out (he would have been only 2 or so?) because I had to be there in case he needed me. This just doesn’t make sense to me now, since I would have been too young to babysit, and surely they didn’t let a 2 year old run free in the neighbourhood? Anyhow I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play with friends all summer. But when I remember it, I remember the duplex, not the later house, so I think that happened then. Now I think that perhaps this was a ruse to keep me inside while I was healing from the rape.

I remember having an elaborate cool-aid stand in front of the duplex that I ran with a much older boy (about 10 or 12) who tried to kiss me in his basement. Around the same time I was at a Halloween party at his house and saw someone sit up out of a fake coffin and got very badly scared, in a reaction that was much more extreme than warranted. His sister was about my age. I remember a girl named Carla who was relentlessly teased for being fat, who lived at the other end of the U-shaped street, across the street from the boy. I still feel sorry for her and hope she is now happy and grown up. I remember my kindergarten room at school.

I don’t remember the basement at all, although I have a vague recollection that it had a window that looked up into the back yard. The stairs led up and down from the doorway at the side of the building, down to the basement and up to the main floor. Apparently there was a play room there, chock full of toys. I think it was where I was first abused, although my bedroom is also a good candidate. How come I remember the yard so well and the inside of the carport, where we had a garage sale once, in front of the house, and a lilac bush my mom liked just behind the side door, but not my own bedroom or playroom? This is of course a rhetorical question, since it is likely where I was abused. I have fairly fleshed out memories of places in my front yard or neighbourhood, but not the back part and lower levels of my own house.  I also remember my neighbours garden really well, and exactly where she planted the rhubarb that my neighbour and I would eat sometimes with sugar. I also remember my neighbour friend’s bedroom a little.

We moved from that place when I was 7, and to another house where we lived till I left home at 16 to go to university (yep, I’m kind of smart).

I remember the day we moved my parents brought us over to the new house and we waited in the basement, watched I think by my older brother, who would have been 12, while they did the final cleanup of the old place. This was during a brief prosperous time where they bought the house.

I was afraid of basements, and had a persistent fear feeling walking up stairs from the basement, especially if the light was turned off, as we were supposed to do when we left the basement. I would always run up the stairs, taking two at a time, in the new house, which had the same sort of entrance door that opened onto a landing between the basement and upper floor.

I know now that I was raped during my time at the duplex, probably in the basement. I have two abuse memories from that time, one of the pain of the actual first rape and belief that I was dying and afterwards,  had actually died , a persistent terror of basements, and one of trying to climb frantically up the stairs at the duplex and being pulled down by someone bad, probably my father, by the ankles. Now perhaps I have no memories of certain places in the duplex because I was in shock so much of the time there.

There was a babysitter we used to go to named Mrs. L – she had a day care in her basement, and I didn’t like her. She was rigid and strict and unfriendly and English. My older brother didn’t like her, and my mom apparently stopped taking us there when my brother wouldn’t let go of her legs one day when she was dropping him off. We stayed with Mrs. and Mr. L one time when my parents went away on holiday. Mrs. L had nothing she considered age appropriate for me to do, she said all her toys were too young for me, and I was permitted to file my nails and clean them, and I think watch a half hour or hour of television, but otherwise had nothing to do. Mr L could watch TV, but we weren’t allowed in to bother him.

This is almost the complete set of memories from zero to 7. I have no way of knowing if that’s normal, but I suspect it is a bit sparse. I had a babysitter who would do crafts with us, a girl, who we liked. Once coming home from school a person (lady?) asked us if I wanted a ride and I said no, since you weren’t supposed to take rides from strangers. She wrote a note on a brown paper bag for my mother, since she actually was my mom’s friend as she’d noted, but everyone said I was good not to get in the car.

What I’m trying to make sense of, integrate, is the incidental non-traumatic memories of the time and the abuse ones. I’m looking for holes and for some bits to fit together to make others make more sense. Was my father the only one to abuse me, or did he get his friends involved? Were my brothers abused as well? My older brother hinted at some things he had to go to therapy for, triggered by me disclosing abuse. I’d really like to know what those things were. I shared a bedroom with him at that house, so he might have been abused or witnessed abuse. It’s frustrating to have gaps, and it’s also frustrating to have so few memories that feel ‘in the first person’ like I can remember experiencing the event and not just the details or that the event happened.

the great divide

I can’t sleep so I’m writingthis in the middle of the night on my mini-laptop in bed. What a modern gal I am. My wife is sleeping next to me, and I”m hoping the dim light of the screen doesn’t wake her.

I’m thinking about taking a break from my therapist. It just doesn’t feel lik I’m making any real life positive changes as a result of therapy any more. If anything I’ m a bit more ashamed,a bit more depressed than has been typical, and I can’t seem to shake it. \I feel like I need to do some present day life housecleaning to feel better, to get on the physical level and her approach isn’t really that style.

I need to get this feeling of general dissatisfaction, confusion and shame about my job sorted. \I’ve taken on too much and am just not ableto do the stellar job for all my clients that I once was.

I feel overworked, anda bit burnt out. My father is still not dead, stinking Father’s day is looming (I don’t know exactly when it is, but the media is putting on more positive stories about fathers and someone tried to sell me a robot controlled helicopter today at the mall for father’s day.I didn’t tell him my father is an evil bastard and the only way I’d buy him a helicopter is if it could be reliably expected to hasten his death.

My marriage is a bit better than usual lately, and I’ve seen some of my friends more. I’m thinking I could get a nice long aromatherapy massage every two weeks for the same money as seeing my therapist and probably more benefit to my mood.

It’s not that I don’t like her or that she’s doing a bad job or anything like that, it’s just that I don’t feel like I’m getting anything done,or that seeing her right now is improving my mood or life. She’s become like a friend I complain to, and that’s not cutting it.

I need a mom, nurturing or life skills instruction. I need a small business coach or a priestess to bless me. I need to feel that it is all going to work out okay. I need to know it, with help to create a rational plan I can reasonably believe will do the job in a reasonable time span. I need hope. I need someone to tell me what vitamins to take and what exercise to do to make me feel better, who isn’t flaky or expecting me to take their advice on faith with no evidence.

I have no mother or father or big brother to believe in. I have no family but my wife and she seems fragile and overburdened herself half the time. She loves me. Today was her day off and she popped into my office to bring me snacks andvitamins and juice smoothies at intervals,did my filing and looked after the dog so I could concentrate. She’s a good person and gives me practicalsupport that I find nurturing and helpful because she loves me. does she talk abou tfeelings with me? not so much, but she doesn what she can.

The great divide is between the physical and the emotional, or perhaps both of those and the spiritual. It should all be one seamless whole, but it feels unbalanced.I need to be in my body more, I think that will help with the shame. What do I feel shame abuot? Really I’m not sure. The loss of my older brother and mother, realistically, finally, is something I’m still grieving. Their rejection seems like a rejection of some child part of me, like my inner child just can’tfigure out why my adored older brother, the safe one, the hero, treats me like I’m craxy and bad, and my own mother won’t do me the courtesy of responding to a letter I sent more than a year ago.

the great divide is between holding on to my reality, the true reality where there is actually nothing inherently wrong with me and their reactions are their own gunk and nothign to do with me at all, and the fear that somehow they are right, or perhaps just me bargaining with the loss. If I accept their premise that it really is me that is wrong, that I need to just shut up about the abuse and behave as if it never happened, then I don’t have to accept that I’ve lost them both. However, since they really do believe that, I really have lost them both. Perhaps I need somesort of grief ritual for more than my father. Perhaps it is not just him I’m burying.Like most of the survivors I know, I have finally lost my family of origin.

I was talking to an old friend of mine who I ran into yesterday. He was saying how his family had basically disowned him for being gay, but that his mom had told him years ago, that as you get older it’s your friends that matter more than your family, that your friends become your family. Perhaps this is true.

I’m a pretty intense person. Apparently us creative types, and highly sensistive people often are. I like the richness of my inner life, the depth and the interconnection of symbol and spirit that I feel and wouldn’t give it up. It’s what helps me write,what makes me care about my job, and have compassion for other people. It’s what  makes me who I am. But  being true to myself can sure make me lonely too, realising that very few people see the world as I do.

Inactive

I haven’t posted for awhile because I haven’t been inspired to write anything on this topic. I’ve been reading other people’s blogs and commenting a little but that’s about it.

I’m actually pretty proud of how I’m doing lately. I was feeling depressed on the weekend – crying easily and not finding pleasure or interest in anything. I researched what I could do about it, and settled on some science based self-help:  vigorous exercise, pharmaceutical grade Omega 3 fatty acidsand changing the sheets on my bed to improve my sleep (I’m allergic to dust mites). As an additional health thing, not directly brain related, I’ve been trying to drink more water.  

Here’s the skinny on Omega 3’s –  2 grams a day – 2000mg – is the consensus on the recommended dosage – one high dose capsule with every meal – according to some researchers who spoke at a conference I attended recently if you are recovering from a mental illness, 1 gram (1000mg) for everyone else, but Omega 3’s don’t have any downside for taking too much. They are good for your brain and your heart. Since I’m vegetarian now, I’ve been dosing myself with flax oil in a fruit smoothy each morning, but I bought a bottle of the fish oil based capsules to try anyhow. I’m still looking for other good vegetarian sources. Wheat germ (which is usually removed from wheat products because Omega3’s go rancid quickly) is apparently a good source.

I’m already feeling better. I have a treadmill and I’m doing ten minutes on it first thing in the morning. I figure I can do almost anything, no matter how unpleasant, for ten minutes, and first thing in the morning I seem to have less resistance, although I’m definitely not a morning person. Vigorous exercise is apparently about as effective as antidepressants for mild depression, and since I’d rather not mess with my brain chemistry if I don’t have to, I chose that as a first try. It also has the side effect hopefully of helping me lose some belly fat.  I can’t find the exact links I found again, but you have to believe me, it was credible evidence.

I also researched sleep apnea (which my wife has) and found some evidence-based self-help for that too. I know you’re supposed to go to a doctor for sleep apnea, and we live in Canada so we don’t have to worry about affording it, but my wife isn’t keen on going to the doctor so we tried the stuff I could find out, which was: 1) sleep on your side, not your back and 2) make sure you do what you can to not be stuffed up (which to mean means avoiding allergens – dust mite dander isn’t good for anyone, even if you’re not allergic.)  Wonder of wonders, just by trying to sleep on her side and changing the linens, she slept well and woke up without pain. She seemed to me to breathe quieter too.

We have special covers for the pillows, mattress and duvet that seals off dust mites, but you still have to change the linens that go over them regularly, and I get lazy about that.

The first day on the treadmill my asthma kept me from breathing as deeply as I needed to so I was dizzy from lack of oxygen by the time I finished my ten minutes. Not good. However this morning after sleeping in the dander-free zone, I didn’t have that problem.  I emailed my doctor about making an appointment to look at asthma controller medication too, just in case. I think it will help with my singing too, to have full lung capacity again.

My therapist today came up with a reasonable explanation for the ‘monsters’ – kind of ‘hallucination lite’ experiences I had as a young adult, unfortunately quite drug unaided.  She said they were probably like body memories, but emotion-memories dissociated from most of the other information – just fear, all by itself, or rage, that my mind put images to to make them make sense. That fits for me, because unlike true hallucinations (which I’ve read about but not experienced) they went away when I recognized and expressed the feelings stored in them (usually anger).

So anyhow, things aren’t perfect, but I’m actually coping pretty well. I feel resilient.  Which is a good thing because my rolfing session this week will for the first time be working on areas of my body that are likely to trigger me a lot. Fortunately I like my rolfer, he’s young and unthreatening to me, and he says helpful things like “you’re in control” so I think it will be okay. If not, they’re just flashbacks… I mean really, if it didn’t kill me then, it won’t now.

My brother

I’ve been getting rolfing sessions lately. I’ve had two. It’s a bodywork method that is about restoring the connective tissue to balance, to release physical stuff held in the body. It was most likely in no way designed for work with survivors, more like held tension or sports injuries, really. Anyhow, I thought “held things in the body, that’s me.” and figured it might be worth a shot.

So, of course it’s bringing gunk up. I had a session a couple of days ago where the person worked on my back and then then next day woke up feeling as if I’d been punched in the solar plexus, and felt like that most of the day. That evening my wife and I went to a kids movie, how to train your dragon. There was this scene in it where the kid is in a ring with a dragon he’s supposed to kill and he’s trying to tame it instead, and his dad freaks out and they rush in and this sets the dragon off and it’s attacking the kid, and his tame dragon comes to rescue him and they’re going to kill the tame dragon, and he is begging his dad not to kill the dragon.

At this point I got triggered. I’m finding myself getting more and more upset, and I walk out of the theatre and go to the bathroom. I get into a cry and then start sobbing. Then in my head I hear myself saying “don’t kill him, take (kill?) me instead”, and calling out my older brother’s name. I think he was who I was trying to protect, offering myself to my father to rape so he wouldn’t hurt my older brother. I guess he really does have something to feel guilty about after all, although of course I don’t hold him responsible.

In the days before cell phones bathrooms were a refuge where an emotional girl could go to cry. Even if someone came in they’d do their business and leave. But no. Not one but two women came in and had long loud conversations on the phone while I was busy trying not to cry too loud. I could have let myself go into it further, and gotten more information (I seem to get the information more clearly if I let myself go fully into the feelings), but then I’d have been sobbing loudly and someone would ask if I was okay, and I’d have to pull it together and tell them I was fine and just wanted to be left alone to finish crying. Honestly, ladies, just pee and leave, it’s not a phone booth, it’s a place to do private things, like eliminate wastes and cry when you’re too heartbroken to do it quietly a dark theatre and don’t want to shut down, not to have loud conversations with your boyfriend that you could have in the lobby or hallway or whatever.

So today I have some unfinished crying rattling around in my solar plexus that I really wish I’d been able to vent yesterday in one go. Much easier that way than having to work into it to release the rest, without as big a head of steam behind it.

Do I really think I offered my father to rape me to save my brother’s life? We’ll it’s not out of character, for him or for me, or out of scale with what I now realize happened. These damn post traumatic memories come in such tiny installments it’s hard to know for sure till I get the rest of it, if I ever do. I know though that my first memory of the rape that I now have proof happened, was not much more information wise than this, so I’ll have to leave it open and see what flows out.

My brother is a dickhead for blaming me for the fact that me disclosing abuse got him into therapy. He needed therapy because of what happened to him and in his home, not because of anything I did. It’s just more scapegoating, anything that happens is apparently my fault. He probably remembers all kinds of facts and details he’s withholding because he doesn’t want to get into it, information I need to be whole. Bastard! To think I loved him enough to stand in the way of him being abused, knowing my dad wanted my silence about the rapes more than he wanted to dominate my brother. Well, you’re on your own now, brother. You’re on your own. And so am I.

Highland Dancing History

Excerpted from: http://www.angusmackenziedancestudios.com

HIGHLAND FLING
As was traditional of the old kings of Scotland, Highland dancing was used to choose the best men for their men at arms.  These dances tested the culminate of warrior skills including accuracy, agility and stamina.  Prospects danced upon a small round shield (called a Targe) and they learned quickly to move with dexterity as a false step would land them upon the spike in the middle.  The dance is said to have been inspired by the capers of the stag – the dancers upraised arms representing the animal’s antlers. Danced vigorously and exultantly, it is now highly stylized and calls for the greatest skill in technique and exactness of timing.

SWORD
Tradition suggests a Celtic prince, Ghillie Callum, was a hero of mortal combat against one of MacBeth’s Chiefs at the Battle of Dunsinane in 1054.  He is said to have crossed his own bloody claymore with the sword of the defeated Chief and danced over them both in exultation.  This dance of exultation became a tradition among the highland warriors.  It is believed that to complete the dance without touching the sword is a good omen and indicative of a successful battle.

Sounds like good dances from survivor warriors!

Soundtrack for a Survivors Sword Dancing Road Trip

I’m planning to rent a bus to drive up to my father’s grave with all the survivor friends I can muster. So far I have about six, including my Aunt.  (He’s not dead yet, but  a girl can hope.)

I’m thinking of having a road trip CD. When we got married, I spent months crafting four cds of music I wanted played at the wedding. It was great to have.

On the road trip I want women warrior music. Here’s what I’ve got so far.  It’s kind of amazing this music exists.

Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl – the story of a domestic abuse survivor and her good friend who poison the survivors husband because he is trying to kill her despite her having left him and having a restraining order.

Dar Williams – Flinty Kind of Woman – The story of a group of New England matrons who mobilize immediately to garotte a child molester in a marsh.

Martina McBride – Concrete Angel – Tells the story of how an abused girl appears to teachers who see bruises but don’t intervene and how she is beaten to death by her mother.

Martina McBride – Independence Day – Story of how a battered mother, when her community looks the other way and will not help her, burns down her house while her child is away, killing herself and her abuser.

Goddess protection song – “I invoke the protection of the Divine Mothers embrace. I invoke the protection of the Divine Mother’s grace.”

George Straight – She let herself go – Story of a woman whose husband leaves her, thinking she’ll fall apart without him, and she starts to have fun and adventures.

KD Lang – Big Boned Gal – Story of a joyously dancing curvaceous woman in small town Alberta.

Terry Clark – She didn’t have time – Story of a woman left by her husband with a small baby and how she puts aside grief and hopelessness to go on living.

Pat Humphries – Bound for Freedom – “Here I go bound for freedom, and my truth takes the lead” ” I will organize for justice, I will raise my voice in song, and our children will be free to lead the world to carry on.”

The Wyrd Sisters – Warrior – “I will a brave warrior be, till not another woman dies.”

Tery Clark – Emotional Girl – “I’ve got a passionate heart, and that’s just the way things are.”

Holly Near – I am willing

Martina McBride – When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues – “When God-fearin’ women get the blues, There ain’t no slap down or tellin’ what they’re gonna do, Run around yellin’, I’ve got a Mustang, it’ll do 80, You don’t have to be my baby, I stirred my last batch of gravy, You don’t have to be my, be my, be my baby”

Pat Humphries – I will be with you – “You must be who you are, you will find your way through”

Pat Humphries – Swimming to the Other Side (check out the lyrics, they’re beautiful.)

Pat Humphries – Keep on Moving Forward (Never turning back)

Maybe we’ll bring instruments and sing too.

A gift

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? Perhaps for some of you here today, I am the face of one of your fears. Because I am a woman, because I am Black, because I am lesbian, because I am myself — a Black woman warrior poet doing my work — come to ask you, are you doing yours?

And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, ‘Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.’”
-Audre Lorde

Talking to a lawyer

The Goddess Brigid

So I did end up talking to a lawyer about my father and the scar tissue last night, but not in the way I expected.

I asked a friend of mine, who is a lawyer about how I might go about finding a suitable lawyer. She asked what about and we got into it. She was very helpful, and told me a few things.

Criminally, there’s no time limitations on being charged for raping kids. Unless charges were laid and dropped, I’m good to go.

My aunt’s testimony wouldn’t be usable, since you can’t use ‘he did things like that to other people’ as an argument apparently.

She knows some women in the system and is going to ask around about who might be helpful. In one case she knows of a witness for the crown (which I would be) hired a lawyer to advise her about her records (journals, therapist notes etc…)

Because I was assaulted as a child, there might be an automatic publication ban on my name and by association the name of my father, which would be against what I want, which is to out him as a rapist.

I could put a stop to the proceedings at any time if it got out of hand just by refusing to cooperate, since I’m the main witness. They’d be unlikely to force me to testify.

The judge reads over journals and notes and medical records and such and decides what is relevant before allowing it into the court, but don’t give anything to the police that you don’t want my father’s side to have. The thought of him having access to my private information is creepy.

And she’d be willing to come and watch me dance on his grave, if it came to that.

Aren’t allies wonderful?

Do I really want to do this? As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I’ve been mulling over what the spiritual meaning of my fathers ongoing near death experiences are for a long time.

I believe that the Goddess gives us help to do what we’re meant to do:

I have proof now.

I have more support now.

I have a job that will tolerate me going to another city for a court case now.

He’s old and sick and the stress of being charged would do him good.

The question I have to answer for myself is  the same one I was asking in my last post. What do I want to have happen? What do I need for me?

My friend said to be clear about what I need and want. If I go to dance on his grave, who do I want with me, how do I want to travel there? What do I want to have happen? She said to treat it as if I needed a lot of medical attention and expect the same support. People support someone with cancer or whatever by rallying around. I could invite that around either the court case or his death.

What does the sword at the top of my blog mean for me? Is it the sword of the sword dance on his grave, or the sword of justice? Is it the Pagan sword of the East and air that cuts the circle and sets the boundary around oneself? In what way am I meant to be the sword dancer?

I hate and may regret when he’s dead that he got away with it. He may be up there raping kids and women all these years because I didn’t go through with the court case all those years ago. Not that he’d have been likely to have gone to jail, even then. Convictions don’t stop abusers from offending, we know that. Psychopaths like my father just keep offending. Only the Goddess can stop that. My hope is that his poor health has kept him from his usual activities.

What is happening to me this past year is a rite of passage, the rite called, “Death of an Abuser” or maybe some level of warrior initiation. The first initiation was all those years ago, when I was in university and was safe enough to recognize the intrusive and fragmented memories for what they were and who they were. This plunged me into a kind of isolation, where my whole world was healing for about five years. I’d always felt separate and different from other people, but now I knew why, I’d experienced something that most people don’t want to think about.

The second stage was reporting him to the police. I did it to protect my younger brother, and because it was the right thing to do, but I don’t know if I ever expected it to go to court. The crown didn’t even contact me about it and the police didn’t investigate till several years later, when some political pressure was forcing them to get old sexual abuse cases off the books.

At that point I told my first lawyer in full about what happened. He interviewed me for seven hours, but it was a relief rather than an ordeal. I discovered that I actually did remember a lot of detail. He told me that abusers are always at a disadvantage in court, because they’re lying and people can tell.

I don’t know what this stage is. Facing some hard realities I guess. My mother was complicit in the abuse. My formerly revered older brother is behaving a lot like my father and is now essentially dead to me because he won’t deal with what happened directly. I now wonder if my nephews have been safe all this time. My only reassurance is that my sister in law is a strong woman, who I hope would know what to do if there were concerns. The memories I have of being raped as a tiny child are absolutely real. It really happened. It happened to me in this body. I not only still have the scars, the damage still physically affects my ability to do something as simple as having sex with my wife without pain.

The Goddess Brigid

Or perhaps this stage is knowing the possibilities and having the opportunity one last time, to choose. How do I approach justice? Do I just begin speaking about the abuse, doing whatever activism I feel is necessary? Do I earn myself a sword in that battle, the sword of truth, by fighting the monster in his den? Do I wait for him to die and dance the sword to celebrate my victory over him?

When I pray for guidance from the Goddess, I have to be willing to listen to it. She doesn’t always make it easy, but doing the right thing has it’s own blessings attached.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” WH Murray

I believe this to be true.

I wish I could say I knew in my soul what I’m meant to do. Or can I? All this is adding up to taking him to court. The scars, the friend coming back into my life at this time, the support from my aunt, all my ducks in a row. When I found out he was dying (or so I thought) I literally could not stop crying, something that almost never happens. Not grief for the dying psychopath, but what? Regret? Relief? Fear?

I was afraid of him dying and haunting me, but now I’m not. That’s a good thing. No matter what I decide, it’s about me. The important things I’m meant to do with my life could be about the arts rather than justice. Or the arts and justice. I’m meant to write, I’m meant to sing and write songs, and who knows whether a long court battle would just drain and distract me from that? Perhaps dancing on his grave is enough. Or perhaps I’m avoiding, as anxiety is wont to make me do. To do what I’m most anxious about would be to go to his door and confront him – and having the RCMP at my back would only make it stronger.

I don’t want to disrespect Her gifts. I want to honour them, and myself. I don’t want to be a martyr for the cause. My ‘scars to prove it’ song has been running through my head. A concert tour to raise awareness about incest. Could I go public about the incest without ‘earning my chops’ in court? Am I entitled? Are the scars enough? Do I want vengeance? Of course I do. Who wouldn’t? What I need is a Pagan to talk to about this.

Have I committed myself? Perhaps not yet. I’ve committed myself to dancing the sword, but the ‘stream of events’ could carry me away if I’m not sure where my tiller and my sail are intended to take me. That is what I need to decide and commit to. It’s clear the Goddess is ready with a wind at my back.

Boxed in

Photocredit: Erix! Title: Circle

Last night I watched a show called ‘the listener’ where the hero is this paramedic with the ability to listen to people’s thoughts. Often this leads to him helping people. The episode I watched, he hears/sees in the brain of a street kid about a young girl being held captive in a steel box and begging to be released. The girl looks a lot like I did as a young girl, same hair and everything.

I wasn’t particularly scared during the episode, my wife was there, and it worked out well in the end, with the girl being released and the guy who captured her committing suicide by cop. However, you know that she’s been assaulted by this guy all this time, and she’s just frantic to get out of that box. I had that suspense feeling, waiting for her to be rescued (I was pretty sure she would be, it’s that kind of show, thankfully.) which normally I try to avoid. I’ve been trying to learn to tolerate and invite anxiety lately (I read something fairly convincing that avoidance reinforces the anxiety and by ‘welcoming’ anxiety, I could dial it down), and it was manageable and once I started watching it I had to keep watching till she was all right.

Anyhow, so at 5 this morning (I normally wake around 9, so that’s early for me) I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. Maybe it was the green tea I had last night too, but regardless, here I am, wide awake. For once my wife is asleep (she has menopause sleeping problems), so I couldn’t really get comforted by her without waking her, and I wasn’t distressed enough to feel okay about doing that.

And I get to thinking about my mom and how I should probably confront her about the scars on my vulva/vagina, and hear her explanation about how she didn’t know her 5 year old girl had torn her perineum. Or hire a lawyer to coerce my father into confessing or sue him. Now that I’ve got my aunt as witness that he tried to assault her too, it kind of makes sense.

Wait a minute.

My aunt is quite a bit younger than my mom. Like 8 years or so. My mom married my dad when she was 21 and the assault happened when they were still living in Winnipeg, which was when my older brother was very little. My aunt could have been as young as 14 when he ‘got fresh’ with her. I think of my aunt as an adult, but she wasn’t then. I need to ask her. It’s amazing I didn’t think of that before.  More validation. I wonder if my grandfather knew. My mom said once that he’d have killed my dad/abuser if he’d known about the rapes.

If I sue my dad and my aunt was as young as I think she was, she could witness for me. I bet my other aunt that he insulted would too.

I skipped last week at the boxing gym, and am going to try and go this week. This morning I feel like it would feel good to hit something. Now that I’ve given my self permission not to hit ‘Bob‘ or do the ‘lay on your back and kick your attacker in the small of the back’ exercises it should be better. I also found a ‘sea band’ that presses an acupressure point to suppress nausea. Last time I almost threw up after exercising. My friend who also works out at the gym says she sometimes gets nauseous too and she’s in way better shape than I am. It’s kind of crazy really, that we pay money to do this stuff.

Tonight I’m going to the first rehearsal of  a choir a friend is in. It’s supposed to be a nice choir, so I’ll see. I’m not a choir person exactly any more, but I thought it would be social and help me get my voice going a bit.

My wife is doing a bit better. She’s on hormones for the menopause thing, and has been more attentive. We’ve been doing a lot better this week, and yesterday was particularly good. I keep forgetting my promise not to nag her about her health, but after my therapist reminded me, I’ve been able to stay off her about it for about a week. I made a promise I’d leave her to do her health stuff without nagging until March, and I’m going to keep it. In March, if things are still rocky between us, I’ll push hard for couples therapy, but perhaps we won’t need it by then. One can hope.

You know, I was looking at my categories, and realize that I don’t talk about spirituality and sexual abuse much any more. Faith has always been my main antidote for fear and anxiety. I was talking to a friend yesterday about spells. She’s feeling hopeless about her love life and I suggested a love spell. I was explaining how spells work. When casting a spell properly, you focus on the one essential thing about what you need to happen. It’s like a lever. You have to apply the small amount of energy to a specific point to change the course of something. Or it’s like sailing a boat, you need to take into account the winds and water of reality, and even if they’re blowing against you, if you set your wind and tiller right you can still go where you want if you are clear and firm about it.

I had a student once who got frustrated with me because she had wanted me to teach her how to cast prosperity spells. She said she kept trying and it wasn’t working. When I tried to tell her what was wrong, she wouldn’t listen. She wanted exactly what she wanted in lots of detail, against considerable real world obstacles. This was the equivalent of trying to steer your boat into a headwind. She wasn’t willing to tack. I said, focus on the one small thing that is the core of what you want. You don’t really want a million dollars, you want to feel safe. Or you don’t want a tall, brown- haired woman who speaks another language and owns her own house, you want someone perfect for you. By leaving open all the variables that don’t really matter and letting go of the need to control how it happens, you can get what you need. It’s like the rolling stones song.

So if I approach the situation with my father that way, what is the core of it? What do I really want to happen?

Photocredit: deVos Title: Dome - Passage - The Hague

I want my experience to have meaning – I want what happened to me to be part of the Goddess’ plan for making the world a better place.

That’s not quite it.

I want to be happy.

I want justice.

I want to reclaim my power from him. (This one is closer to core, I think)

I want to not be afraid of him any more. (this is also close)

I want social support. I want allies. (so I am safe from betrayal by his collaborators)

I want to walk tall in my own space.

I want the body feeling of being strong and assertive and unafraid more of the time. I want to stop being controlled by PTSD anxiety.(this is also more like it)

I want to push back against the abusers, to feel my strength there and make them afraid.(this too)

I want a public sex offenders registry in Canada so parents can vett the people who have access to their children. I want the justice system to lock anyone they can’t cure up for life. (this would satisfy my meaning making)

I want meaning and justice.

I want wholeness.

Back at it

"The first tear" photocredit: lepiaf.geo

I haven’t seen my therapist in about a month and will be seeing her this afternoon. I’ve been seeing her for about a year, first weekly then biweekly, since soon after I found out about my dad/abuser’s cancer recurrence and had a strong emotional reaction.

She’s pretty good and I like her and I fairly often do some deep work with her, which is usually a good sign. However, I started healing 20 years ago. (I haven’t been in therapy that whole time, and there’s been several long breaks, including one of at least 12 years in there), and I’d like to have an idea of what it is I’m trying to get accomplished, so I can get it done. I don’t want to be spending so much money on this. My older brother’s voice echoes in my head. What a jerk he is, like he’s any more healed than I am if he’s reacting so strongly to me.

I’m thinking of tapering off to about once a month, or quitting completely and putting the money into say, a reiki session or massage once a week instead. Part of me suspects that this is just me feeling abandoned that she took a few weeks off over Christmas and so feeling a bit betrayed and dumping her. I had a hard Christmas this year, harder than I expected and I needed her. I had some mother grief going on. My mom sent me a card with a cheque saying ‘it’s been so long, I hope we can get together soon’ as if nothing had happened and it should have all blown over. I just want a damn letter from her saying something real. My therapist said I could call her if I needed to, but really I’d never do that unless my father died or something equally major.

I saw my younger brother just before Christmas, which was nice, but I’m pretty sure he’s mad at me for not giving gifts to my mother this year or seeing her, which increases the care-taking burden on him. (I did a donation to the food bank and a local group that helps incest survivors in lieu of gifts to family) I was planning to give him a gift, but he didn’t come by as expected to exchange them. I expect he may be taking her side. He doesn’t know about my finding the scar tissue. There’s no easy way to tell your brother that your vagina got ripped as a child by your father and that your mother would have to be extremely negligent to never  notice a serious wound like that in a daughter she bathed regularly. Bullshit she didn’t know.

Over the holidays I woke up from a dream where I had birthed a baby on my own and had been nursing her. The nursing sensation was so real-seeming that it made me wonder if it was a memory. I suppose it’s possible I could have birthed a baby and not remember somehow if the dissociation was severe enough. I remembered in my medical report from that exam I had (that I wrote about in this blog) that my ‘os’ was tight, which according to the internet means I’ve never had a pregnancy, so that settles it. The rips were not from childbearing, they were from being raped when I was tiny. How crazy is post traumatic memory that I can’t even know for certain without checking that I’ve never been pregnant? How good of my practitioner to write that in my chart for me as confirmation and then send me a copy.

I’m nervous about my first session at the fitness club I signed up for. I go for my orientation tomorrow after work. They do a kind of boxing circuit training, and I’m worried I’ll end up crying. I may just tell the trainer that I was attacked so I may get emotional while exercising, and would she do me a favour and please just ignore it? I’ll see how she is and how I feel.

I started taking passionflower, which is an herbal antianxiety thing that Dr Oz, the tv doctor from Oprah said had been shown to be as effective as prescription antianxiety meds. I took it before going to a stressful meeting yesterday, and I think it actually helped. I don’t feel particularly sedated, which is good, but perhaps a little more sleepy. I’m not taking it today, and am ambivalent about the whole thing, but I thought maybe if the anxiety didn’t get in my way so much I could do some of the things I want to like singing and taking lessons and such,a nd then when I was used to doing them, I wouldn’t be so anxious.

I feel teary, which I often do on a day that therapy is scheduled, and was a bit yesterday too. It could be a bit of a hangover from the meeting yesterday. Intense people-stuff does tend to fry my circuits a bit, which I understand as being part of being a bit more sensitive than regular folks

Anyhow, I feel a bit guilty not writing the more interesting and inspiring stuff I used to write, but honestly, I don’t have it in me right now. May that change.

Blessings to you all (or at least most of you).

SDW

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.