AM I GAY, OR IS IT COVID?

Where to begin? So much to say, and no words to say it with. This pandemic that has affected the world has left me largely untouched. A homebody already, I have found that my day to day has not differed much. The biggest difference for me, right now, is I should be shopping for back to school supplies for my children. This is largely unnecessary, as they are staying home. There is too much uncertainty for me to risk their health, and thus my family’s health, to send them when I am in a position where I can keep them home. This was a fairly easy decision for me to come to. There are parents who have no choice in the matter and must send their kids. Keeping mine home creates space for those who can’t. Mom only finished her chemo sessions last month, so she is still immunocomprised. I would be doing her no favours by sending my kids. They are okay with staying home. The biggest hurdle is neither of my kids have great attention spans. So it will fall to me to be encouraging them, without nagging, to pay attention and get their assignments done. I worry for my oldest. This is his last year in the french school system. He has chosen to go to an english speaking high school next year. This is a very important year both socially and academically. With an extra big adjustment next year. I hope I am not setting him up to fail.

As for me, I think I’m doing alright. I have had a lot of time to do some thinking, and some deep soul diving. Mostly about my sexuality. This is going through some deep revisions. I always considered myself bi, or, as a term my friend introduced me to, hetero-flexible. But the more I come to terms with my history and myself, I find this is not quite as fitting as it once was. I was talking to a guy, the first man I’ve talked to with the potential for dating, since the assault, and I found myself discomfited whenever the talk came around to us meeting. At first I thought it was just because trust with men is difficult. But the more we talked, the more I found myself finding excuses not to meet. Covid always was the go to response, but if I’m honest with myself, it goes much deeper than that. When my wonderful therapist asked if I felt ready to be someone’s sexual partner, I had a very physical reaction indicating the answer to that was no. I immediately zoned out, and started trembling. This confused me, as I have been sexual with women since the assault, and never had that reaction at all. So what was that reaction all about? A friend of mine is exploring her burgeoning feelings of attraction to women, and found an article on Compulsory Heterosexuality. She sent it to me, and wow, did it make a lot of sense. Did my early experience with M, the pedophile, shape me? After all, I did go home to be with his wife. And how did my even earlier experiences with my cousin affect me? Growing up in a very religious family, homosexuality was always taught as wrong. So i internalized my wrongness, and covered it up with a dual attraction to both men and women. Before I met my husband, and after our separation, I looked for validation, not from myself, but from men. Of course, I didn’t see it that way. I thought I had broken the chains that kept me bound, and was enjoying my freedom as a woman. But was I? I tried dating couples, thinking that would provide me what I thought I needed: a sexual experience with both genders, and no strong relational ties to bind me. I much preferred being with the woman, and was rather indifferent to the man.

Since then, I’ve been exclusively dating women. And I can honestly say that I don’t feel that I ever zoned out while being intimate. Not once that I recall. Yet I can’t remember, with any clarity, any of the times I’ve been with a man. All the memories are fuzzy and fade in and out with each other, faces and names long forgotten. I do remember always feeling surprised when we were done, as if I was someplace else, someone else, never feeling satisfied. And the last time I went on a date with a man, I went along with everything he wanted because I felt I couldn’t say no. From the moment I stepped into his apartment, every fibre of my being was telling me to leave. But I didn’t. And when he got violent, I accepted that as normal, and just shut down.

Talking to my friend, I posed the question, “How much of my lack of interest in men is due to my past experiences, my past traumas, and how much of that is me being legit into only woman at this stage of my life?” She responded with, “Does it matter?” I didn’t have an answer then, but I think I sort of do now. It matters to me, because I don’t want my life to be a knee-jerk reaction to my past, but something that truly comes from me. I don’t want to be a lesbian because all the men in my life have been abusive jerks. If I am a lesbian, I want to know it is because I am, not as a default, but because I truly love women. I joked with my former therapist that women were crazy, and men assholes, so it was better to stay single. She took a bit of offense to that. Maybe my crazy draws crazy. I can look at a man, and see him as attractive, but when I see a woman I find attractive, my body responds, not just my mind.

So that’s what keeps me up at night these days. Oh yeah, and by the way, when I had a kid free weekend and told the guy I was talking to that I was taking that weekend for some serious me time, and well, I haven’t heard from him since. Dodged a bullet, and now I can rest easy, knowing his true self.

I hope to start writing again with some regularity. Take care and be safe out there.

I BROKE HIM

I had a major epiphany this weekend.  Life-changing, send my world on it’s head epiphany.  Fifteen year old me, trapped in an abusive relationship with a 32 year old man.  Very abusive.  At seventeen, when he removed my collar, he told me I was “too old.  I have nothing left to teach you”.  I’ve spent twenty-eight years feeling rejected, broken, not good enough. But then I had a thought, ‘what if I look at his uncollaring me as freeing me, instead of rejecting me’?  Which opened up the flood gates.  He always called me a Brat, which is a type of submissive in the BDSM community. Which, I have to admit, I am.  Always have been, and likely always will be.  Now here’s where things get crazy:  what if he released me, not because he was feeling altruistic, but because he couldn’t break me.  What if I broke him?

He could never beat the mouthy out.  I always maintained that little spark of me.  I remember the way his wife was: never spoke, never looked up, never complained.  I don’t even remember her name.  That is what he wanted from me.  Complete odedience.  My dad tried to beat that into me till I was eighteen.  He didn’t fair any better.

I was sharing my new found outlook with my best friend, Jen.  And her reply was priceless, “You broke a paedophile!”  Which made me happier than it should have.

And on that note, good night.

REHABILITATION

I’m re-writing history
Changing the ending

Rejection turns to freedom
My bonds broken

Released into the wild
Free to rehabilitate myself

Who am I?

and

Where do I go from here?

GONE THE INFECTIOUS SCAB OF MEMORY

Hello again. For those following, you know that I spent two years in an unhealthy fake BDSM relationship. I was 15, he was 32. I was young, naive, hungry for love and acceptance. He was a pro at what he was doing. And next week is the anniversary of him callously removing my collar and throwing me out, stating I was too old. Two weeks shy of my 18th birthday. I was 17 years old, and had spent the previous two years as his abused sex slave. “You’re too old. I have nothing left to teach you,” indelibly written in my brain. I have spent the last twenty-eight years spending this month in great emotional pain, feeling rejected and not good enough, and all the other fun psyche damaging negative self talk. That ends today.

Today I pull off the infectious scab of his memory and forge a new narrative. Freeing me from his slavery was the best thing he could have done for me. Gone the beatings, the gang rapes, the honeyed lies. No more living in fear. Free to heal, to discover who I am without being coloured by him. It’s been a long, long climb to get here. But here I am. FINALLY! Slowly, painfully, learning and accepting it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deserve what happened. I didn’t ask for what happened. And then he set me free. FREE!!! Too bad it took me so long to figure this out. That he was a paedophile, an abusive paedophile. As if there’s any other kind. And now I’m free. Free to re-write my narrative. Not my fault. And he set me free. He didn’t reject me. He set me free.

Here’s to a fresh new look on painful old wounds.

Alone in the Dark

Fortunately, most nights the prazosin does its job and my nights are nightmare free. Which is a relief after years of constant bad dreams and terrors. Unfortunately, it can’t stop the terrors. Or the somatic memories. Which are coming in full force. I always forget the body keeps track of the changing seasons, and the associated traumas that come with them. I ignore the tightness of the chest, the trouble breathing. The tightening of the body that indicates a collapse response. But to what? There is no reason for this sudden onset of dark memory. Until I look at the calendar, and realize this is the time of the great uncollaring. Two years a sex slave. There is no way to soften those words. The acceptance of the reality of the years I spent from 15 to 17 has been hard to swallow. The depravity, the cruelty, the bones of affection that kept me coming back. The collar that was supposed to indicate a commitment from him to me, me to him. In some ways, that collar was more symbolic than a wedding band. It meant my total submission to him. My mind, my heart, my soul, my body. And a promise to take care of all of me. To cherish that submission. Instead, I was trafficked, used, abused, and, jsut shy of my eighteenth birthday, he took the collar off. “You’re too old. There’s nothing left to teach you,” summarily dismissed. No contact ever again. Thirty years later, I’m still dealing with the aftermath of that cold abandonment. So much of how I see myself shaped by those cold, calculating hands.

And I lie awake at night, woken up by the spectre of his presence. Even now, there are times the agony of the missing collar hurts worse than the missing wedding band of a failed marriage. I swallow hard, expecting to feel the hard leather around my neck. It’s absence a hard thrust into reality. A reality where I feel my failure keenly. Even though, really, I didn’t fail. I was trapped. And even though the method of my escape was brutal and cold, I did. Not unscathed. Not whole. But free.

And yet I wake at night. Cold sweats. Rapid, shallow breathing. I feel his breath on the nape of my neck. The touch of the lash. The cuffs. As I type this, I need to practice my grounding techniques. The touch of the floor on my feet. I’m safe. I’m where I chose to be. I can leave. I’m alone. That’s the big one. I’m alone. I’m all alone. By choice. No one around to hurt me. No one to pin me down. I’m free to be the best self I can be.

SECRETS

Secrets kept since childhood. A cousin who molested me. A rape at fifteen by a thirty year old man. Another rape three and a half years ago. The moments of terror blend together, sometimes. And I’ve carried this trauma by myself, for so long. I just recently started opening up to friends about it. And the support has been unequivocally amazing. My friends are amazing. My family, not so much. So much so, that when the rape at fifteen happened, and I tried to tell my mom, the minute she heard “I had a date go bad,” she gave me a look of pure disgust and turned away from me. Bodily turned from me and walked away. The kind of betrayal that runs deep. So I’ve never trusted her since. Never trusted anyone since. If the woman who birthed you and is supposed to be there for you turns her back, where is there left to go?

This week has been hard. My mom went in for surgery on Tuesday to have a complete hysterectomy as they found a cyst on what they thought was her ovary. Turns out it was a growth on her bowel. So she is in the hospital and my sister has flown in from PEI to help out around the house. My sister and I have a very strained relationship. As the baby of the family, she was pretty coddled as a child. And she never suffered at the hands of dad like I did. I was the black sheep, and she always sided with both dad and my brother. So the line was drawn, with the family on one side, and me on the other. Is it any wonder I don’t do “family” with them?

Tuesday night my dad and brother had a fight, and my brother drove off drunk. So my sister had a good cry on my shoulder. We talked about Mark, (my brother) and how he was the golden child and how much of an asshole he has become. She asked what made me start getting into feminist literature and poetry, and I told her the #metoo movement flipped a switch. When she responded with, “it did for a lot of women. They no longer felt alone,” I almost spoke up. But instead, I just nodded and said, “Yeah, it did”.

So today we’re driving to the hospital, and talking about the J Dubs, which is what my sister calls Jehovah’s Witnesses, the faith we were raised in the and the faith my parents still follow. I took a chance and told her that I struggle with my sexuality, as I’m bi. She said that really doesn’t surprise her. And then she really surprised me, “You know, no matter what, I’ll always support you.” At this point, I go out on a limb and tell her what I’ve never told a family member. I told her about my rape at fifteen. I did not tell her about the subsequent relationship that developed, or the depths of depravity he brought me to. And she just held my hand while we walked into the hospital.

So now I’m in knots wondering if I did the right thing. I hope she doesn’t tell mom. I don’t think she will. She won’t want to worry mom about anything while she’s recuperating. The only thing she asked is why I never told, and when I told her mom’s reaction, she just said, “Oh.”

Secrets are hard to bear, but the spilling of them, after so long, isn’t any easier.

SOMATIC MEMORY

The past couple of days have been really really tough. Stuck between hyper and hypo arousal constantly shifting back and forth. Moments where I’m overwhelmed by fear and can’t breathe, and then moments where the slightest sound makes me jump. Even though my mind finds no connection between the here and now and this feeling of doom, I have a full blown fear reody response. My therapist did get back to me today, (YAY!) and she said it sounds like I’m having somatic flashbacks. I should have recognized this right away. What is a somatic flashback? It’s your body remembering, not your brain. “Memory is reminding you about the state of your being all those years in childhood and adolescence when you were in danger” is how my therapist worded it in her email to me today. I lived in fear growing up. Beatings from my father were a daily, consistent thing with him. The only thing that was. And I had a real rough session this week. Last week brought up a lot of history, how no one noticed the sad little me acting out and begging for attention. And this week brought more of that to the fore. And just like I did in adolescence, I’m living a double life of sorts here at home again. My parents don’t know about my cousin molesting me. They don’t know about the abusive relationship I was in at 15. They don’t know about my sexual assault three years ago. They don’t know I’m living with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. They think my therapy is for my anxiety. I have to keep so much hidden, while living in the house where I grew up abused. They say you can’t heal in the environment that broke you, but I am. Granted, things are different now. I’m a grown woman with a voice. My body and being are different. It’s now 2019 and I am no longer in danger from anyone.

So I orient to the here and now. I’m in my room, the room I grew up in, focusing on what’s different. My bookcases, the books in those cases. My bed. The decorations on the wall. The flooring. The sheets on my bed. All things that are from the present. Nothing in my room remains from the past except my bear, Bettina, who has been with me since I was six months old. She has been the one constant in my life. I have been struggling with the desire to self harm this weekend. That, too, was a constant in my life for many years. It had its purpose then. But things are different now. I need to remember this with the very core of my being. All my emotional parts need to recognize that we are no longer trapped in trauma time. I have so many new coping tools and a great support network. Parts of me may be trapped in the past, but I have the strength, courage and determination to show them a better future.

MED COMPLIANCE

It’s kind of cool, at the end of the week, to look at your weekly pill box and realize that you haven’t missed a day, and it’s been a few weeks since you missed a dose. For someone like me who struggles with med complaince, this is huge. And I’m still struggling. I’ve been feeling pretty stable the last little while, so the first thing I think of is, “I can go off my meds!” Of course, my therapist,the wonderful grounding presence that she is, immediately responds with, “Maybe it’s your meds making you feel this good.” So, of course, I bring it up to my GP, who handles my meds. “I want to see you stable for a longer period of time. And back to work. Maybe once you’ve been at work for a year we can look at tapering back a bit.” Talk about feeling deflated. Stupid brain. Can’t make it’s own feel good chemicals. And I know, I know all about the comparisons to heart medicine or diabetes. The brain is just like any other organ that can, and does, malfunction. And there is nothing wrong if your brains happiness needs a boost from the wonders of modern medicine. But I have to wonder, if treated today with our vast assortment of chemical bliss, would Van Gogh have painted Starry Starry Night? Would Byron and Poe have been so eloquent and prolific if their fits of melancholy were treated with modern medicine? Would Shelley have written oh so beautifully? Byron was well aware of the connection between madness and creativity. He wrote, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.” Sure, there are many examples of people being medicated and having successful careers. A quick google search provided me with the names of ten poets currently living with mental illnesses. I wonder how/if they’re all medicated. My medication makes me dull, and creativity is hard. When I’m unmedicated, the words fly to the page easily, too easily I’ve been told. Those words are hard to follow, syntax becomes strange. Even given the free nature of verse, mine becomes difficult to embrace. Kay Redfield Jamison writes quite freely about her battles with bipolar disorder. She knows the dangers of not being med compliant. Yet she wrote a whole book, “Excuberance”, about the very thing lacking in my life with my meds. I tried lithium, but the amount I needed in my system to keep it at therapeutic levels was too high, and the side effects too great. So I’m on the mood stabilizer aripiprazole, to help boost the anti-depressant that I’m on. And I can’t tell which one makes feeling deeply and passionately difficult. So for the sake of my mental health, my creativity suffers. Some days I have to ask myself is it worth it. Then I look at my two boys and realize a subdued mom is better than no mom.

SISTERHOOD

A year ago I attended a twelve week group for survivors of sexual assault. I was hesitant to go, as my experience with groups wasn’t very positive. With a lot of encouragement from my therapist and best friend, I decided to give it a shot. I am very glad I did. A year later, and I have a group of women I now consider to be my sisters. Bonded in a way I never imagined possible. A group of women I can share both my highs and my lows with, and everything in between. An amazing group of women who are supportive, loving, and quick to both laugh and cry with you.

It goes beyond our shared traumas. We are able to share the common, everyday things, the small tragedies and the big joys. And the seemingly small thing of being understood. Unless you’ve been a situation where your whole world is shattered, you never appreciate the comfort in sharing that trauma with people who have suffered in ways similar to you. We’ve all experienced different things, and suffered differently, but we all have been broken. The Japanese have an ancient art of mending broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum. Kintsugi. They are the gold in my healing cracks.

WHO AM I

Numb

An emotional lockdown
Fearful
That once the walls crumble
There will be no relief

Sorrow
Runs deep
Permeates my very essence

If I allow myself to feel
The full depths
Would I ever recover

Fear of getting “better”
Of never getting “better”

I’m not sure I could bear
That this is the way
It will always be

Yearning
For a family that doesn’t exist

For what worth have i
If I’m rejected by those
Who share my blood

That nameless ache
Undefinable
Intangible
Pervasive

Both physically
And in my pysche
A part of me

Steadfast
True

Who am I?

IF ONLY

It’s been a long time since I posted anything. Life has been dark and I have been in a state of broken disrepair, unable to write.

Tonight it appears the dam is cracking and I can write about the childhood that broke me.

IF ONLY

If my presence offends you
I can only beg forgiveness
And apologize for my sins

However slight

The pain
The tears
Never knowing
What might set you off

If only

If only I was quieter
If only
If only I was more docile
If only
If only I was the daughter you wanted

Not the one you received

Not wanted
Unplanned
A mistake
I don’t ever remember

Not knowing this

Shut up
I don’t want to hear it
You know why

Heartbroken

Alone in my room
Snot and tears
Mingling on the
Flowered bed spread

No succour
A pariah
Hours alone

Today you wonder why
I need so much
Time by myself
You trained me

Isolated me

Self reliant
To not need
To not feel

To not cry

SHAME AND SELF LOATHING

I’ve been struggling with the facts that I stayed in a very abusive relationship with a much older man when I was 15.  I stayed until he ended it shortly before my 18th birthday because, as he put it, I got too old.  Despite the reassurances of my amazing therapist, Vera, I somehow still feel responsible for staying. Over the holidays, my young teenage self was badly triggered and I spent a solid two weeks,  at least, battling the urge to self harm.  Angry Dude (another part of me that has separated from the rest) has been bubbling up with rage and the two have been feeding off of each other. I finally let Angry Dude out, with some careful boundaries.  NO SELF-HARM!!!  Instead, he did some writing.  Harsh, angry words at me for going back again and again.  Here is his story:

IDIOT

You went back

Again and again
Knowing full well
What was in store

IDIOT

You hungered for 
His small mercies
Carfully played
After he used you

Good Girl
My Slut

Positive reinforcement
Being claimed
Being wanted

IDIOT

Was it enough
Was it worth it
The fist in the hair

The violent sex

The beatings
Was it worth it

Going back
Again and again

IDIOT

Not strong enough
To walk away
Though given ample
Opportunity

IDIOT

You let him do things 
No one should endure
Just for his approval

Those damning words
That get me every time

Good GIrl
My Slut

IDIOT

How could you not see
The end
How could you think 
It would last forever

IDIOT

Did you really think 
He wanted YOU? 

Claimed
He said

Your heart
Your body
Your mind
Mine

IDIOT

To be so naive

The beatings
The gang rapes
The timeouts in the closet

IDIOT

There was nothing you
Wouldn’t do for him
Nothing you wouldn’t
Let him do

Your innocence
Your dignity

You gave it all up
For what? 

A gentle touch
A kind word
Thrown like a bone
To a starving dog

IDIOT

You lost so much
Of yourself
Unable to find
Your true self
Given all up for
A gentle word
A false sense of belonging

IDIOT

How could you not see
What he was doing to you
Using you
Corrupting you
Defiling you

IDIOT

How could you believe 
How could you keep
Going back
For more
And more

IDIOT

Now you’re broken
Beyond repair

Vera can’t help fix
The shattered
Remnants
Of your destroyed
Soul

IDIOT

Admitting Need

Something my therapist and I have been back and forth with since the beginning is my refusal to admit to needing to need for connection.  Sure I have some real close friends that I have a real bond with, but she insists I need something more.

Because of my history, sex and relationships have always been separate from one another, and that has got me into a LOT of trouble.  The kind that exacerbates an existing PTSD condition.  The trauma work I’ve been doing is apparently working, since the last time I was intimate with someone who was just a booty call left me empty and feeling stuff I didn’t like but didn’t recognize.  She says that someting in me wants more of a connection but my mind has to catch up.  I wrote this poem while trying to sort this crap out. (Yes, emotional stuff is crap as far as I’m concerned).The last line betrayed me.  I almost omitted it when sharing it with my therapist, but I decided if I’m asking for help in fixing my brain, I better be 100% honest with her. And now, I’m sharing it here.

The night it is thick
My intentions are pure
I only want
To make love to you

There is no tomorrow
Only the here and now
I only want
To make love to you

No games to be played
No he said she said
I only want
To make love to you

No heartbreak heartache
No broken promises false protestations
I only want
To make love to you

A lonely life to live