SO FUCKED UP

The day before Christmas and I’m pretty fucked up. It’s a good thing the kids are with their father. On Monday I had a very traumatic dentist appointment that culminated in him using a probe to take a complete picture of my mouth. It was not unlike one of the times I was raped and had two men try to use my mouth at the same time. By the time Thursday came around with my therapist I was a wreck. So we did some unplanned EMDR. Just knee tapping, so it didn’t feel as intense. But damn, does it mess me up.

And Young One wants to do some scarification on my ankle. A butterfly. We’re arguing about whether that constitutes self-harm or not. I say yes, she says no. My therapist did not respond to my email Thursday, which surprised me. But it’s her prerogative. I have to respect her time out of the office.

Dad is now home until next week, which sucks. I am always stressed out when he’s home. Giving me a hard time about my weight, my hair, my clothes. Though to be honest, since I moved back home this time he seems to have let a lot go. But that feeling of being judged is still there.

And for some reason, I have purchased tickets to a New Year’s Eve party, with a roaring twenties theme. I purchased a silly panama hat, a bow tie, suspenders, and arm bands. The kit also came with a fake cigar and stick on moustaches. I hope it will be fun and not stressful. I need to buy a white shirt and a pair of black pants, as the black pants I have are ladies’, and my long sleeve white shirt is too small. And of course, the big kicker. Benzos before I go to stay calm, or have a social drink or two with my friends. I have a week to decide. I’ll probably bring them and decide there.

And I’m not wanting to shower or change. My hair is gross. I smell, and I’m isolating. Thursday I’m taking my friend shopping for a new phone, so I’ll pick up a dress shirt and pants while I’m out with her. And I’ll have to shower for that. So that means it will be a whole week without showering if I don’t shower tomorrow. Which I should do. But I dread getting in the shower. It’s an all glass enclosure that has no frosting. And I’m only coming out of my shut down from Thursday’s therapy session. Which is great. I’m doing it with just the support of my friends. Attending that group for sexual assault survivors was one of the best things I ever did. I have two really good friends out of it.

One of which I’m seeing on Friday. Hopefully the other one can come, but her husband has been being an asshole lately, so I’m not sure. She is starting to see how emotionally abusive/manipulative he is, but I have to tread lightly. She knows I’ll be here for her, whatever she decides. As she is there for me.

VULNERABILITY

Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. That useless feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or DO something that forces us to loosen control”. A quick google search defines vulnerable as “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.” Why this sudden interest in vulnerability? Because that’s my homework this week: trying to eat better and getting in touch with my own vulnerability. I think she’s tired of hearing “Eww” every time she says vulnerability. Just typing the word causes my anxiety to rise. I also realized that I don’t really understand what she meant by “get in touch with your vulnerability”. She didn’t mean being vulnerable with other people, she meant with my own. Which is a difficult thing to come to terms with. So I’m going to blather on about it on the internet. While researching vulnerability, I came across a term that DID resonate with me. Vulnerability Hangover: the rush of regret you feel after sharing your weakness (read vulnerability) with others. I am terrified of being judged, or not believed, or, worse, believed and mocked/ridiculed. That stems directly from my extremely judgemental parents. I remember when I tried to tell my mom about my first rape a few years after it happened. I started with, “When I was in high school I went on a date that went very badly.” She gave me such a look of disgust and then turned and walked away, so I never trusted her again. With anything. I remember telling her stuff as a teenager that she would relay to dad, and then dad would use it against me. Usually as an excuse to beat me. Betrayal runs deep in the family. So many betrayals and failures. Both by those around me and myself. I can forgive myself, as I honestly didn’t know better. If those who were supposed to love and care for me would treat me thusly, obviously I deserve it and will treat myself with the same disregard. That is still something I struggle with. How to love myself when my parents didn’t? Even now, the little innocuous things I share almost always garner some sort of criticism. Vulnerability. Maybe if I type it enough, the revulsion will dissipate. Vulnerability. This has been a huge trigger for my dissociation. It has taken me almost two hours just to write this much. I keep zoning out. So let’s approach it carefully. What is happening? Why am I so unfocussed? What is triggering my dissociation? Obviously the answer is the word vulnerability. But why? What about it is making it so difficult to stay present? And Rock gets huge. Why is this? What is going on? I’m writing this more like a journal entry than a blog piece. More stream of conscience type writing. Dammit. There I go again. Anything but the topic at hand. Vulnerability. Let’s personalize the definition. What does vulnerability mean to me? It means being open and susceptible to being hurt, used, and abused. My whole life I’ve been abused, it seems. Only the past few years, where I have made a conscious decision to avoid toxic people as much as possible, have I been abuse free. And this life of chosen celibacy has pulled me out of the dating pool for a while, as I focus on my healing, which means I’m not putting myself in positions where I’m open to betrayal and abuse. Some day I will again, but not right now. Vulnerable. Open-hearted. What does that even mean? Open-hearted. Definition of openhearted according to Merriam Webster: 1 : candidly straightforward : frank. 2 : responsive to emotional appeal. I am not unmoveable, but I am definitely guarded. I listen lots, talk less. I care about specific persons, but can’t stand people in general. So where does my vulnerability come in as it relates to me? I’m really struggling with this one. I am certainly not gentle with myself. Vulnerability. A few months ago I submitted some poetry for publication. That was being pretty vulnerable. When I open up to Angry Dude, Young One, and Squirrel, I guess that could be a form of vulnerability with myself. When I’m honest with myself with what I’m feeling, how I’m coping.

MED COMPLIANCE

At night, the monsters come out. Since my dentist appointment last week, I’ve been having dreams of disembodied hands. Creepy and unsettling. I wake up in a cold sweat, and don’t want to go back to sleep. So I stay up and read. Or listen to books on Audible. I’m acquiring a collection of un-listened to books that will rival my to be read stack of paper books. But that’s ok. Somethings to look forward to.

Am struggling with med compliance again. I’m tired of feeling flat and numb, and blame it on the Abilify. I’ve been reading up on it, and apparently it’s a common side effect. Right away she was concerned that I was still taking them. She was genuinely concerned that I would quit it cold turkey. Given my history, I would have to say that her questioning me is warranted. I started at 2mg, and now I’m up to 20. That’s a big dose. Especially since the last p-doc I saw stated that I don’t even have bi-polar. I understand that I might need a mood stabilizer, as anti-depressants alone never work properly. I do question, however, the need for an atypical anti-psychotic. At such a high dose. The last p-doc I saw was just a consult, but she said I could see her in a year if I wanted to discuss a med change. So I need to call the hospital and find out if I can make an appointment through them, or if I need to go through my doctor. My therapist is all about getting it done. I hem and hawed and will be doing it in the new year. I may bite the bullet and call this week, so it’s not hanging over my head. But I hate talking on the phone. I have real anxiety about it. So much so that even my therapist only contacts me via email. Even if it’s the day of an appointment, she knows I’m on my email, but if I don’t recognize the number, I won’t answer the phone. I’m so glad she’s willing to work with my limitations and foibles, without making them a focus or a big deal.

I have a feeling, since last week we didn’t really touch on anything big, as I’ve been pretty stable, we’re going to do some EMDR on Thursday. Just in time to do three weeks before she takes her two weeks off over Christmas. She is also planning on taking a week off in the middle of January. I’m just glad she’s not taking all three weeks off at the same time. Three weeks is a long time when you’re used to weekly sessions. She asked me how I’m feeling about the two weeks off. I replied, “Besides feeling abandoned?” Then I laughed and told her I was joking. “You’ll be holding seminars on how to yank your therapists chain.” I have mixed feelings about starting EMDR again. I’m scared of how it’s going to go now that I’m having visual flashbacks. My flashbacks have always been somatic, meaning feelings only. Recently, I’ve been having some pretty severe visuals. Not just feeling his hands around my neck, but seeing them. His cold, cold eyes. The collapse when I tried to stand up and he grabbed me by the neck and threw me back on the bed. Instead of just feelings of dread and sensations, I’m full on remembering. Which sucks.

I have my protocols. Babette Rothschild has saved my sleep. Her “8 Keys To Safe Trauma Recovery” has provided some very solid protocols on dealing with flashbacks and nightmares. So much so that I wrote them down for easy access at night. And I’ve passed them onto friends. They’ve been so helpful. I recommend that book to everyone I know with a trauma history that impacts their daily lives. Even if only sometimes.

A NEW APPROACH

Last week we talked about about how my therapist recommended I start reading about Poly Vagal Theory. That was quite the rabbit hole to send me down. I learned a lot about myself. About my emotional parts, about my dissociative states. My therapists have always expressed awe over the mind’s ability to save itself. I have always looked at is as a failure. Every time I dissociate, I associate it with failure. My failure to stay present. I have never been comfortable with my EPs. They make me feel crazy. But you can only hear so many professionals say that it is an incredible thing your body does to protect itself, before it starts sinking in. And that it wasn’t a choice. That seems to be the key that finally got hammered home. IT WASN’T A CHOICE. My body/mind connection were threatened, and the option that led to my survival was collapse, or fawn. One that isn’t talked about near enough. Everyone knows about fight or flight. But the other two pieces, freeze and collapse, not so much. And when it’s your father that has you pinned to the bed, beating you until you can’t breathe, you can’t run, you can’t fight. Freezing does no good, so you collapse. And it happens so often, that you start shutting down at the slightest threat. And then you start shutting down all the fucking time. Talking about the weather? Shut down. Having a shower? Shut down. Playing with your kids? Shut down. Having sex? Forget it. Fucking shut down. You learn to fake it, but those closest to you can tell something’s not right. Your kids ask why you keep staring off into space. As for sex, why bother? You feel desire, but it’s never really sated because you can’t stay present for the act. So you become hypo-sexual. Which is okay, because the meds you take for your depression and C-PTSD kill the libido anyways.

But back to this new approach I was talking about. A new way of looking at my self. Appreciating how hard survival was. From a young age. And then the abusive three year relationship at fifteen. The date rape three years ago. All of which contributed to my C-PTSD. And now I have an appreciation for just how hard my mind worked to keep me safe. And that I didn’t out and out split, I just have different facets that need care.

And I can do that now. Start to take care of myself.

YOU KNOW IT’S GOOD WHEN…

You know it’s good when your therapist pinches the bridge of her nose and says, “Oh my God.” I didn’t think it warranted that kind of response, but then, what do I know. We were talking about early development, and how girls and boys get sexualized very young. “Who sexualized you?” I thought about it for a minute, and then told her how my dad was embarrassed by my developing body and made me wear baggy clothes. To which I got above reply, followed with, “He has a lot of problems”. I could only nod. Her reactions are usually not quite so abrupt: a sigh, a squeak, a gesture. But this must have really caught her off guard. I guess because my dad never sexually abused me. Mental, emotional, psychological, yes. Bare assed spankings with a belt, yes. But there was never a sexual overtone to it. It was about humiliation, not being sexualized. So it may have seemed out of character. But then, what IS in character for a narcissistic, over-bearing control freak? Other than the odd flashback, I’ve been having a fairly good week. Maybe because I’m relying on my tranqs more, I don’t know. Which really isn’t good, but it is what it is. I mentioned it at the end of my session Thursday, to say, ‘Hey, I’ve noticed this. I’m not abusing them, but I’m using them more than I’m really comfortable with.’ So we’ll see if she brings it up next week. Poly Vagal Theory is the next thing we’re discussing. How the Vagus nerve effects our affect and works with the sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems. I’ve just started reading about Stephen Porges, the father of the theory. Sounds fascinating so far. As I slowly start to get more and more control over my dissociation, we explore more and more things. My therapist knows I’m a reader, and that I really enjoy reading about neuroscience. And anything that helps me understand my body’s response to all it’s traumas helps me heal my mind and conquer my C-PTSD. I am sure that re-commencing EMDR is just around the corner. Just as soon as I can stay more connected. Which is happening, incrementally. The process is so slow, and it’s easy to feel discouraged. But this time last year, I was dealing with repercussions of self-harming from the memories. This year, I made it through intact. Which, if I’m being honest with myself, is huge. Every time I get stuck on how slow the progress is, my therapist helps me see just how far I’ve come. I’ve always described it as a spiral staircase, where even when it feels like you’re going backward, you’re still going up.

YOUNG ONE

As most people who have done trauma work, my therapist and I do extensive parts of self work. I find this awkward and, at times, makes me feel crazy. Yet there is no denying the fact that I do, indeed, have different parts of self. The twins, Young One and Angry Dude, two sides of the same facet, one with the anger turned outward, and one with the anger turned inward. I had a bit of an epiphany regarding that this week, when I wrote Young One a letter. I don’t cry easily at all, but this brought tears to my eyes:

Young One. I know you’ve been neglected. More than neglected. Blamed. Held responsible. Mistakenly so. I can see that now. With all that was going on in our life, how could you ever have had the ability to say No?

I wasn’t your fault. Vera and I have talked a lot about being groomed.

GROOMED: PREPARE OR TRAIN (SOMEONE) FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR ACTIVITY

As far as dad was concerned, we were to be obedient and obey him without question. Lessons we didn’t learn easily and rebuffed at every opportunity. Oh but Young One, the fear of the consequences of disobedience was very real. It didn’t stop us, though, did it. Incorrigible. Defiant. Even when we knew it meant bruises coming our way. Not that it mattered. There were enough times the “discipline” wasn’t even understood.

DISCIPLINE: 1) THE PRACTICE OF TRAINING PEOPLE TO OBEY RULES OR A CODE OF CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOUR USING PUNISHMENT TO CORRECT DISOBEDIENCE.

Harsh, cruel discipline disguised as love. We never were very disciplined, were we? Do you remember a time we never feared dad’s wrath? Discipline, in and of itself, isn’t bad. We need discipline every day. It was the punishment, the abuse, that led to so much fear. The arbitrary rules, with the over the top consequences. Groomed to fear displeasing. Groomed to associate the lash with love. Oh Young One, did we ever stand a chance with Michael? How often were we “disciplined”, not even for breaking some rule or other, but simply because he didn’t like/was unhappy with our behaviour?

Conflict led to abuse-even if it was just a back hand across the face. Or, if not physical, than emotional and mental. Oh Young One, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand just how groomed and conditioned we were.

CONDITIONED: TRAIN OR ACCUSTOM (SOMEONE OR SOMETHING) TO BEHAVE IN A CERTAIN WAY OR ACCEPT CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES.

Conditioned to accept abuse as a consequence of conflict. Conditioned to accept abuse as a demonstration of love. Michael was the first. There was so much we could have done had we not been so conflict avoidant. Our first. Vera likened it to an emotional marriage. And the honeyed words after.

Oh Young One, so naive. So empty. Made us believe it was our fault. That we deserved it. That we wanted it. Natural consequences for coming home with his wife. One thing to disobey father, another to disobey this stranger, standing over us, naked and torn.

Oh Young One, we were so lost. So starved for affection. And Michael provided that. Brilliantly. The kind words with the abuse. A perfect fucking storm.

And the perfect rationale: DISCIPLINE = LOVE DISCIPLINE = ABUSE ERGO LOVE = ABUSE

Oh Young One. I finally understand. Today, as an adult, even in a safe environment where there is trust, NO is still not an option. If NO is not an option today, how the hell could it have been an option for us back then?

Young One, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for failing you and then blaming you. I’m trying to make it right.

ONE ROUGH WEEK

It’s been a while since I’ve written. So much has happened. We almost lost my mom after her cancer surgery. She had two blood clots, one on each lung. And no one wants to tell me anything. I talked to my mom in the morning, and she was coming home the next day. An hour later I talk to my aunt and find out mom’s staying for a few more days. When my dad and my sister come home, I talk to her. Find out what’s going on. Also that my dad has a leaky liver, that’s why he quit drinking. My sister tells me that no one wants to tell me anything because they’re afraid of setting me off. Which means setting my anxiety and depression off. Like I have no coping mechanisms. It’s so frustrating. Mom could have died, and no one wants me to know. Sigh. It’s better to know where I stand, I guess, so I know to ask more direct questions.

Moms surgery was also the anniversary of my most recent sexual assault. The struggle not to self harm was so very very real. And then I found some sharps. Tucked into the staple box in my art kit. My world reeled. Fortunately, I have some very good friends who were able to talk me down from it. Three different text conversations with three very different foci, but all with the same outcome: I stayed safe. Something even my safety contract couldn’t guarantee.

It is so hard to articulate exactly what goes through my mind when the urge strikes. Relentless begging for release. But release from what exactly? Too many feelings? Not enough feelings? Release from memory, from thought? From the too too much. It all gets to be too much. Existing. Being. Living. Breathing. Feeling trapped in a mind that is malfunctioning. Emotions hi-jacked all the time. Never being 100% present in my own life. That’s the hardest part, I’m coming to realize. The fact that I zone out all the time. I don’t know if I’m zoning out more, or if I’m just more aware of how often I do. Vera, my therapist, says it’s fine tuned to happen so often, and that I’m just starting to notice. So I take her word for it. She’s the expert on all things dissociative and traumatic. And, more importantly, I trust her and what she says. It’s been a long time since I could trust someone so implicitly to always do what they honestly believe is in my best interest.