I've been somewhat disconnected these last two weeks, focusing more on getting through the last week of work, then heading out to spend time with my dad and stepmom, all the while having to get over the fact that my sister couldn't come with me. I got stuck in the vicious cycle of "should" statements and guilt, followed by bouts of entitlement.
"I should be journaling like A asked."
"But I don't want to. I've earned a week off where I am not constantly observing and analyzing my every thought and emotion."
And repeat. I'm not sure if my entitlement is warranted or if it my denial finding more clever ways of surfacing. Either way, I didn't journal a single day since I last saw A. I never really felt I had anything to journal about until Friday, when my sister picked me up at the airport. She hesitantly told me that she and her BF were patching things up (after a nasty break-up 6 months ago ending a 5 year relationship). This really took me off guard. I don't approve of her getting back together with him because I don't think he will change, but I didn't say anything to her that made her aware of my disapproval. I know she already seeks my approval, so I don't want to make her feel guilty for making choices in her life. She is an adult.
That being said, I could not let it go. I obsessed over it all weekend. Why is she doing this? More so, why do I care so much? Of course I care because she is my sister and I don't want her to get hurt, but this was something more. It took me a while to put my finger on it.
Envy. How green it is.
However unhealthy her relationship with him is, she has someone who cares about her. She has someone she calls her best friend and can talk to about anything. She is getting that back, and it was a sharp slap in the face. I've never had that. Of course, I've never been in a place where I could get that, but as scary as it is for me to acknowledge, I think I'm ready for that now. I'm ready for the best friend and confidante. I'm ready for the trust and emotional connection. Realizing this has brought out my old friend anxiety.
I am not ready for the physical connection.
I think about it and it almost brings me to tears. It made me want to cut this weekend. It has been the number one source of pain and unanswerable questions since Friday... and I don't think it is going away any time soon.
I'm in Cal.ifor.nia right now visiting my dad and stepmom. My sister was supposed to come with me but she got violently ill on Monday and has been throwing up non-stop since then. She has been in the emergency room and to the doctor 4 times, and has lost 20 lbs in 6 days. She was just too sick to come, which sucks on multiple levels. I hate that she is so sick, but I'm really bummed that I don't get to spend any time with her. This is normally the only time I get good one on one time with her and could possibly be the last time we'd be able to do this as she is a senior in college and will be graduating and working soon.
I'm making do with the situation and really exerting myself. Today I worked out, watched 8 hrs of football, took a nap and laid out by the pool. Yeah. Tomorrow we're going shopping, then to the movies and dinner. Now that's what I call vacation!
Last year, after surviving another meltdown in late October, I spent much of the holidays in a fog. It was a time where my attempt at denial had come full force to knock me down, take away all my defenses and make me feel as though I wanted to die.
This year is different, although part of me is on edge expecting something huge and awful to happen again. I am still finding that my moods are very erratic, but I am attributing that to stress more than anything. My sadness this year is coming from missing my cousin and hurting for my family. Her death is still so painful.
This week has proved to be a test of my strength and ability to focus on my recovery. Tuesday I let my exhaustion override my desire to heal, and basically wasted my time with A. The only thing I think I really gained was that I was able to communicate that with her and realize the actions that led up to it, hopefully so that I can keep it from happening again. Part of what kept me from pushing myself is that I have been feeling very alone lately. I do not want to push myself into things that hurt as bad as they do without having someone there to comfort me. It's a vicious cycle. It is very hard for me to trust people with my emotions, yet I want them there.
As part of my homework for the week, I was asked to think of ways I can start reaching out to others and allow them to begin seeing my emotions. Trusting people with facts is one thing, trusting them with how you feel is something completely different. As previously written, I reached out to a friend at C.R. who has been very supportive. She has helped me feel as though I am not alone in this world, even if it is only once week for a few hours.
I went to C.R. on Thursday and sat in the back. I just wanted someone to notice me alone: a non-verbal way to describe how I was feeling. I was nervous about small group because I knew I needed to let some things out, but did not want to cry in front of everyone. I listened as others shared, taking bits and pieces of things that I could relate to and dreaded my turn. Finally, all eyes were on me and I began talking of how hard it has been for me in the past week to not push. I am not trusting God to put that person in my life, and I am trying to play God and do it myself. I think I do a pretty good job of letting my life flow the way it supposed to, but there are times that I am just convinced I am being short changed and will just push until I have no strength left. This is definitely one of those times.
I moved on to what I had recently discovered about my relationship with my dad. I explained to everyone that I had come to terms with the fact that I was not going to have the relationship I wanted with my dad a long time ago, but that I was just now realizing it was OK for me to be sad about that. And not only that, that I could also be hurt and disappointed for things he had done in the past. I told them of a paragraph I wrote in this letter to him about how excited I was when I found out M was going to move in because it meant that he didn't have to be alone, but it also meant that someone was going to pay attention to me. M always did, my dad rarely did. Realizing that if my dad had been there for me before M, I wouldn't have needed him to save me from M.
I didn't do such a great job holding back the tears. I imagine I was somewhat incomprehensible throughout my time, but I think I did a pretty good job letting others see my emotions, instead of just the facts. Baby steps.
After small group, our women's leader pulled me aside and asked me if I was coming to the leadership meeting. I believe "Hell no" was what went through my head, but I'm pretty sure I responded with "Uh.. no way!" I am not a leader. My main fear is that with a leadership role, the expectations that would be put on me would be too fast and too much. I see what the leaders do in this group and I am NOT ready for that. I told her that and she insisted I come anyway. I am by far the youngest person at C.R. (with the exception of one other guy) so it was very obvious that I stood out in that meeting. I kept asking myself "What am I doing here?!", while we were waiting for the head of the church to arrive.
Recently our C.R. group has gone through a lot of changes with our coord.inator being laid off. Ever since then the feeling has been different, to me at least. Things were not as organized. So with the shift of power was the need for a new team to be put into place. Once everyone arrived, we were told who was going to be in charge of C.R. now and what her goals were for our group. Using the CR group manual (as provided by Saddle.back church, the original starters of C.R.) she went through the 4 different teams that needed to be formed to make everything run as smoothly as possible. Immediately I looked at those teams and wanted to RUN AWAY. Most carried a year long commitment which freaked me out. In comparison to everyone in the room who were a good 10+ years into their recoveries, I was just an infant. How in the world did anyone think I was ready for this? The man sitting next to me was new to our C.R. group, only in attendance for 2 months and he spoke up. He said he was there because he wanted to help, but did not feel that he was seasoned enough to help in the ways that most jobs required. There was one job on the list that had very few requirements as it came to the intense work of helping others, and that was the job of the "Greeter". He volunteered for that position and said that he was looking forward to just being able to help the group by volunteering to be the smiling face at the front doors, telling newcomers where to go and introducing them to everyone.
God was giving me my window. I chimed in and thanked him for saying exactly what I was feeling. I volunteered for the same position and felt this huge weight lift off of my shoulders. It was replaced with a sense of connectedness and acceptance. I might not be ready for 95% of the jobs on that list, but I did know I could do this. God gave me the chance to take a risk. I had my mind and heart open to it and now I am feeling less alone than I have in a while.
So far, I'm liking this December.
The pain and loneliness that oozed from my words still stings.
I feel so alone. I have pushed everyone away from me because they have not been safe, supportive people in the past... but in doing this, I have left myself alone. "What can you do to remedy that?", A inquired. "How do you go from being superficial friends with someone, to someone who you let know things, to someone you let see how you feel things? How do you know someone is a trustworthy person; someone you can confide in?"
Basically I don't have anyone in my life that fits into that trustworthy category right now except for the women in my C.R. group. Specifically, two women that have reached out to me and taken me under their wings. So taking my homework assignment in stride, I took a step towards a putting myself out there; letting my pain be known to someone else besides myself. I will see her tomorrow at C.R., when I can talk to her face to face, but I sent her a Facebook message last night, in the throes of my pain and tears...
What do you do when you feel so alone that God suddenly isn't enough? I know if I keep my eyes on Him, He will comfort me but how do you counter that with wanting someone to comfort and support you?I don't know how much more I can start uncovering in therapy by myself. I just want to curl up on the floor and quit until someone notices I'm down there. How am I supposed to keep going?
You keep going because God isn't finished with you yet. You keep going because He never gives us more than we can handle. I Corinthians 10:13 says....."No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." This is the way it is said in the NIV Bible and although not usually one to like the way The Message Bible reads, I thought it was better said...."No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it."
Making God enough is a challenge for everyone. We are all faced with wanting something we don't have or with a feeling that we NEED something to make our lives better. I struggle with this! You heard me at C.R. the other night how I struggle with wanting a spouse in my life. It is my deepest desire. I struggle with making God enough on a daily basis! So it's a daily sometimes hourly decision I have to make to give it to Him and ask Him to make Him enough. Luke 9:23 says..."Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." It is a daily decision to deny ourselves and follow Him. Don't look to how much you will have to uncover in therapy by yourself. Look at it as, today what will God and I uncover together.
So many people have told me over the years when I talked about my desire to be married again..."you have to make God enough first" and most of the times I wanted to punch them in the face! :) Yeah....blah, blah, blah, I know I have to make God enough, but what do I do with this burning desire I have? Contentment is a hard place to get to, but the one thing I have figured out is that being content is not never having a desire that isn't met, but it's having that desire and having faith to wait for God to give it. You have to be content where God has you right now..even though you see it as a bad place. God won't have to find you curled up on the floor, because He will be down there with you. He hears your cries and it pains Him, but He has greater purpose for your suffering than to just let you out of them. I know this may be difficult to believe right now, but take it from someone that has been there before.....He WILL use it someday and then you will understand and glorify Him for it. God is the God of broken people and we are His most prized possessions. Because it is when we are broken that He can fix us and then use us to help fix others that are broken. How could I write this encouraging email to you if for not that I have been EXACTLY where you are and have made it through? I have curled up on the floor with a bottle of sleeping pills in my hand, but God wasn't finished with me yet because He knew that one day this beautiful woman named Lily would need me to encourage her! I absolutely love God for that!
But no amount of words from me will encourage more than the words written in the Bible. Go read it. Go devour it.
Do me a favor? Write the following scriptures on a notecard and take it with you the next time you go to therapy.
"I will go before you
and will level the mountains ;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
These are found in Isaiah 45:2-3 and next to them I have written "healing!"
I will be praying for you!
I read this at work and cried, because for just a minute, I didn't feel so alone anymore. Maybe God is giving me exactly what I've prayed for.
I didn't sign them, either.
It was hard enough to address them as "Dear Dad" and "Dear God", let alone give them an author.
So when she asked me why I didn't sign or close them, I didn't really have a response that was acceptable to not probe further into. I didn't want to sign them. They hurt so much to write, that making them belong to me just hurt that much more. So she wondered if it was my unconcious mind telling me that I still had things I needed to put in those letters.
I thought a bit and wondered that myself. Is there more I left out? Did I hold back on anything? I don't think I did, but who's to say for sure? I personally squirmed at the idea of having to go back and re-live/re-think everything over again (and possibly more) to add to and/or close the letters.
So I was given two options this week. Go back and finish what you started, close out the letters, even if it is as "simple" as signing your name or as involved as adding more information... or journal why I am choosing not to sign/finish these letters. What is holding me back?
My session Tuesday was great. I am so proud of myself for being able to push through my fear and not only write the two things A asked me to, but read them to her. Reading things aloud scares me. It has always brought forth an intense emotion that I can't describe. I can listen to my own words, think the same thoughts and talk about the situations/events with more ease than if I were to ponder over them, write them down, then speak them.
When I got there I knew it wouldn't take long for her to ask me if I had done what she had recommended, to which I knew I would have to make a choice on which thing to read first.
My first letter was to God. Here are some excerpts:
I always believed you were there, but that I just wasn’t supposed to know You like everyone else seemed to. I never understood why my friends were able to have such a great relationship with You and I didn’t know how to. I thought because I didn’t know how to that it meant I didn’t deserve to and never would. I was ashamed of not knowing You.
But with that realization came the most overwhelming sense of confusion and anger. How could the moment in my life where I have never felt so alone be shared by You? How am I supposed to reconcile the fact that not only did my parents let me down, but now all of a sudden You did to? I wish You weren’t there. Then I could say that it was my fault for pushing You away and that I deserved what I got and I could come back to You and ask for forgiveness. But instead I am stuck trying to understand why it was chosen for me to endure this and now understanding You let it to happen.
I was able to hold it together while reading through most things, with the exception of a couple of paragraphs about my abuse and a couple of paragraphs about my cousin's death. Those hit me hard. Harder than I was expecting them to.
Having read this one first, I was hoping I could avoid reading my next letter in the same session. I knew it would be harder. But A had different plans for me. My determination was really going to be tested here.
I stared at the letter I wrote my dad. I had plastered pictures all over it of the two of us. I love pictures. They speak so much when words cannot. Reading this was going to be so much harder. It took me a while to get up the courage to read the first word. I didn't hold it together as much as I thought I would. Some excerpts:
I always felt like I was in the way when I was with you. I never did anything right. You yelled and cursed at me, threw things, broke things, slammed doors. You used anger to communicate with me. You must have been mad at me, right? I must have done something wrong. I got to the point that I hated being alone with you.
When "M" moved in and I was excited. Not only for you, because he was your friend and that meant you didn’t have to be alone, but for me, too. He was nice to me. He talked to me. He wanted to be around me. He took advantage of my desire to be close to YOU. My pain is so magnified by the realization of that. If you had been there for me before "M", then maybe I wouldn’t have needed you to save me from "M".
Through the tears, I looked up at A and told her how much it hurt to think about and write down all of these things that I've never allowed myself to acknowledge.
It's amazing how a little validation can make you feel so whole, or rather, a little less empty.
by Dia.ne Lang.berg
"How to Ca.re for You.rself As You Read"
Reading this book is terrifying for most survivors, as it means you have acknowledged you abuse and are doing something to remedy it's position in your life. This book will definitely bring to the forefront some thoughts and feelings you forgot you had. In order to make sure you are doing so in the most healthy environment, the author provides tips in helping you get through this book.
1: Don't read at night. Most abuse happens in the cover of darkness and it can easily be a trigger.
2: Read in small bits. I can say personally I read a few chapters of this book in March, then had to put it away for a few months. It was just too much at times.
3: Stop when you have had enough. For some it will happen faster than you'd like.
4: Write down your thoughts as you read. Rarely will you remember your first response to reading a passage that strikes a chord with you unless you write it down. It can provide great insight to the thoughts/feelings you are having at your current stage in healing.
5: Make sure you have a way to deal with what you are reading in a safe relationship. Whether with a therapist, pastor or mentor, you need to have someone who can support you in what you are opening your mind up to.
6: Plan constructive ways to take care of yourself. Garden, exercise, scrapbook, listen to music. Find a way for you to give comfort to yourself when you get too overwhelmed.
7: Realize that reading through this book will hurt. You will want to stop. You will want to tell yourself you are being silly and should just get over it. You will want to run from the feelings you will face. You will be completely normal in that.
I had a conversation with my cousin one night while in Chi.ca.go that brought out some thoughts that have been deeply buried for a while. She is the only person in my family who knows about everything that I have been through the past two years and a lot of the personal struggles I have had as a result of that. So I updated her on counseling and how hard it has been, but how grateful I am that she pushes me to do the work I need to be doing. I talked about my current state of being afraid of confronting God and what all that means. She asked me about my dad (her uncle) and how he fits into my recovery. At the time I honestly told her that he didn't. I never expected anything from him, so it wasn't a surprise when that is exactly what I got. She went on to say that both of her parents (my aunt and uncle, dad's brother) are both so upset with how my dad handled everything with me and my sister. I don't think she meant the abuse specifically, I think she meant more of how he handles his relationship with us, but I was shocked to be so stung at the fact that they too have acknowledged his inaction. I sort of shrugged it off for the time being, but I felt inclined to mention it yesterday in session.
I was surprised at the emotions I had when I talked about that conversation. I never felt the need to confront my dad with the way he handled/didn't handle my abuse as well as other aspects of our relationship. I came to terms with the fact that he was not the type of dad that would be there emotionally for me. I had tried changing that for a while but just became angry and resentful. But once I made that realization, I was able to accept him for who he was and not expect that support. I have spent the last 8 years or so really enjoying being around him and not harboring any bad feelings of anything. Even after all of this, I still will be able to do the same thing. But now I am realizing the hurt I feel because of this. I never thought about it. Now that it has been brought to my attention I am realizing how much I have avoided that because it brings me so much pain.
Same thing with God. The underlying pain being that He was also the one I wanted and needed to protect me and that didn't happen. The pain that comes with those two acknowledgements have caused me to drag my feet a lot in session. It almost seems like too much to think about at once so I am finding myself shutting down. Even A mentioned it. For 6 weeks I have been letting this wall keep me from moving forward and I haven't really been pushing myself (with the exception of last week) to get past it. With that was said that she realizes how huge these two things are because I have kept them so buried because they both cause so much pain. She realizes how hard these two things are for me to talk about.
I told her that I do want things to get better, but I don't know what I have to do to start pushing forward. When first acknowledging my abuse, I knew that I had to eventually tell her my story to start healing. With trying to improve my relationship with my mom I knew I had to acknowledge everything she had done that hurt me. I knew that... but this is different. I don't know what I have to do to make things better. I'm scared of what it is I will have to do. I have proven that I will do almost anything I need to do in order to get better once I know what that is. So she told me where a starting point is for me... and that is what I am working on this week.
I wrote a little bit yesterday and kept myself from dis.sociating while writing. I cried more than I expected to while writing to my Dad. I then started a little bit with God. I found myself more confused and annoyed than hurt while writing, but it could have been because I tried doing too much at one time. I'm planning on revisiting it again soon.
I just want to get past this. It's bringing out an angry, hurt side to me that I am not enjoying.
Yesterday I had a double session, in reaction to my session last week. I was extremely pass.ive agg.ress.ive (which is not like me at all) and got home and felt horrible for wasting my time and hers. I made an agreement with myself that I was going to get it together and do what needed to be done... even though it scared the crap out of me. I journaled every day and got some good things to talk about. The best thing out of all of my entries were 3 questions. 3 questions I wrote in huge block print taking up the whole page.
These questions represented what I needed to be asked in order to feel ready to say what needed to be said. To say what has kept the "inner me" silenced so much lately.
The panic that rushed through my body when she asked me the first question was something I had almost forgot. It numbs your arms and your legs, but pools all of your blood in your heart causing it to beat wildly in your chest. Your breathing gets so fast it feels like you won't have enough air to continue breathing. It took me a while just to compose myself. I asked her to ask me again. Another wave of panic, but this time a little shorter. I asked her to ask me again. I sat there and thought... I stared... I closed my eyes. I told her I thought I could answer these questions if I kept my eyes closed. She asked me again:
Why are you afraid to give up control and let God take over?
(through streaming tears) He had control. He chose this for my life. He put me in that bedroom alone. How am I supposed to let Him have control when something like that could happen again?
Why don't you trust Him?
(through sobs and tears) Because He left me. He left me in that bedroom alone. I had no one. I needed Him there and he wasn't there.
Why is it easier for you to believe there is no God than to be so hurt by this one?
Believing there is no God is so much easier. It's so much harder to think that there is a God, that He wasn't there for you when you needed Him and that you are so hurt by that.
Just like your family?
It took me an hour to answer those 3 questions. The next hour we began to touch on breaking down some of the answers to those questions. Free will is what it is, so God doesn't cause things to happen, but he does allow them. Stopping them negates free will. So getting myself to a place where I can acknowledge the difference is a first step. I don't remember how, but we arrived to the fact that God was there. At the beginning of the session, we had talked about my hesitancy to cry while I was there with her. I gave her my reasons then she asked me if I ever cried about what happened to me. I told her the truth... no. She then asked me what I thought God was feeling when I was in that bedroom. My only response was that He felt all the pain that I couldn't feel... the pain I still can't fully feel. If He was there, he took my pain so I didn't have to shoulder the burden. Now I think God is trying to give some of it back to me. I hope I'm ready.
Chapter 2 "On the Threshold"
This is one of the shortest chapters of the book, a mere 3 pages in length. It is begun with a story from the Bible. A Levite took in and managed to lose his concubine by his arrogancy and unloving treatment. When she fled, he went after her and demanded she come back. On their way back to their town, they had to stop choosing a town that was much further along because it offered them safety. The nearest town had no Israelites and the Levite did not feel safe there. They were taken in by an old man and given dinner, before some of the townsmen came beating on the door demanding to have sex with the concubine. The old man, feeling he could not allow his guest to be taken advantage of in this manner, offered his virgin daughter. This did not please these men and they continued their raucous arguing. The Levite, finally frustrated with all the noise pushed his concubine out in the street where she was beaten and raped all night by these men. When they finally let her go, she dragged herself back to the steps in front of the home, to die alone and broken. When the Levite finally opened the door and saw her crushed figure there, his reply was "Well come on... let's get going!".
The main reason for this story is to validate the anger and disgust you feel when you are able to connect with the atrocities of this story. To not be protected by the ones who are supposed to love you. To be taken by strangers and held against your will, thinking the night will never end, wishing death to arrive to take away the pain. To the lacksadaisical response of those around you; "Well come on!" or "Don't dwell on the past" or "Just get over it".
Those that read this book are on that threshold, dying as the concubine was. But the response will be different. Instead of "Let's get going" the voices of survivors in this book will offer new responses: "There is hope. I have been there. I can help."
I've started re-reading On the Threshold of Hope again, hoping to help me go back and reflect on things that I pushed aside because they were too hard to deal with initially. A lot of it I feel I have already moved past, but there are some things that still ring true, and others where my "hell-no-o-meter" is still going off loud and clear.
Chapter 1 (approriately named) "Getting Started"
When I first began this book, I was about 4 months in to counseling, having just verbalized my story for the first time since I first disclosed it to my mom, my counselor and then to the police and prosecutors. After those intial 12 weeks, I never spoke of it again for 12 years. My counselor recommended this book, as she had used it in the past with other clients dealing with sexual abuse, and she liked it because of how it was geared towards spiritual healing as well as healing of the body and mind.
The first chapter begins with a breakdown of the "voices" you will be hearing throughout the book. No, you aren't going crazy... you really will hear voices. ;) The first being the voice of the author; inserting her own experiences with clients and important identifications of the symptoms/thoughts/beliefs etc of sexual abuse victims. The second is the voice of survivors. Those she has worked with and gathered information on all the way up to Elie Wie.sel's abuse suffered at Ausch.witz. The third voice will be your own; chiming in with "Wow, I could have written that passage word for word" or "I can't believe someone else thinks that too." Other times the voice will remain silent. The last voice is that of the Redeemer. For those like me who have struggled with allowing that voice to break through the hurt and pain that you have carried around, this voice may not be as loud as the others. It may not break through for quite some time.
The author writes "... (this book is) meant to assure you that there is a way out of the darkness, that others have gone before you and now want to lend their voices to encourage you. It is my prayer that this book will enable you to see yourself "on the threshold of hope." "
I am hiding.
Not me personally, but my inner self. Something has caused her to retreat into darkness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Is it confusion? I have been trying to find myself for the past month and cannot figure out where I have gone. I feel empty; just a shell of my former self.
I sit and listen. I hear nothing. No inner voice telling me I am strong, I can continue fighting and trudging through the pain. Silence.
Session on Tuesday was very "basic", not really delving into anything intense but focusing more on what my next step to intensity is going to be. I am on the edge of approaching the spiritual grief I have kept hidden for so long. It is so frightening to me to try to step into this that I am dragging my heels.
Next session will be my one-year ann.iver.sary with A. I cannot believe it has already been a year. I think back to that day and remember just how out of control my life was and how terrified I was of my future. Man, that seems like such a long time ago, but at the same time when I think of the fact that it has only been a year, it's hard to wrap my head around! Towards the end of the session, we went over my intake form and re-assessed the things that I had written, such as my reasons for being there, my goals, and what I thought my focus needed to be in different areas (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.) After just having discussed how hard I've worked and how much (she and) I feel I have changed, reading over my goals caught me off guard. I don't feel like I've made any huge strides towards the goals I had a year ago, even though I have done the hardest work in my life trying to confront my abuse and work through it. I still feel like the biggest reason I am in counseling is to deal with the effects of the abuse.
Not only that, now I'm thinking I'm wrong for having these feelings. I've worked hard! I've changed! How can this still be something I view as an issue? Why haven't I been able to take everything I've learned and live my life, be in a relationship, and be happy? Why is it when she read me that goal of being in a relationship I felt that all too familiar surge of terror? Maybe I haven't worked as hard as I thought. Maybe I haven't changed as much as I thought.
I am so afraid. The path I have traveled over the past two years has led me on all sorts of twists and turns, stops and starts, climbs and falls and I have ended up here. At the edge of a place I never thought I'd be, a place I never really planned on being, but yet my steps have lead me here.
I feel so alone. I'm on the edge of a confrontation that breaks all my rules. You can't possibly love and be faithful to God and have such anger towards Him. Or even if you do, you don't dare admit it. You become the fake person who pretends that everything is OK, but live in constant fear that your secret will be revealed.
Every ounce of me is trying to pull myself from the edge. It just seems too dangerous.
Everything is normal... I wasn't expecting anything less! My HDL (good cholesterol) is a little low, but that could have been the medicine I've been tapering off of or just the fact that I am overweight. I knew that was going to be my only mark. So I got my analysis back this week and the first thing that I open in that folder is a sheet saying I'm at risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The first two mainly because of my family history, but also because I am oveweight. It felt like such a slap in the face. I know that I worked my butt off to lose the weight I did and I know that I did so much to improve my health, but seeing this analysis just makes me feel that all that work was for nothing because I am still unhealthy! I have gained 20 lbs over the past 3 years and have now pushed myself back into the obese (god, I hate that word) category. I am short, but carry my weight well. I wear 10's and 12's for the most part and do not feel that I am *sigh* obese. So with tapering off my meds, I know that my metabolism has a better chance of ramping back up and giving me an opportunity to get back to the wei.ght lo.ss that I was able to achieve in 18 months.
Only problem is, I have no motivation. Sure I want it, and I know I could do it if I could get my will power under control, but I am having a hard time finding that drive that I used to have. It is so frustrating. Over the past 3 years, I can get my food under control, but then can't establish an exercise routine. Then I get my exercise under control but feel that I can slip on the food. My lifestyle has completely changed however. I rarely eat fast food and whenever I do go out I'm always thinking "Is there anything healthy I can eat there?" but it is proving to be the things that pop up that are doing me in. Snacks in the work room, snacks at meetings. I eat and don't even realize it! I used to be able to see all food and be like "WHOA. Red light! Do you want to eat that even though it is going to cost you?"... and the answer was always NO! I had such willpower! Now it's like I go into a complete haze and just stuff my face with (insert any food here) and only then do I realize that I could have stopped myself if I had just thought about it!
November 29th is my 5th year ann.ivers.ary of starting W.W. My goal is to lose 10 lbs by then so I can celebrate two good things. Somehow that ann.ivers.ary will almost be in vain if I continue on the path I am on right now.
Work is always super busy in the fall, with many after hours requirements. I worked two 14-hour days last week, and had to miss church on Thursday to help out my best friend who needed childcare because of her own hectic schedule. In addition to that, I had a big day on Wednesday. I got bra.ces!! Most of my friends were suprised that I was doing this as I have very nice teeth, but my fear of surgery lead me to leave my wisdom teeth in too long, which crowded my bottom 4 and top 2 teeth. So my dad is getting me a better smile for Christmas :) He was so sweet and sent me a little note saying he thought my smile was beautiful already. So I had that done Wednesday afternoon, and have been remarkably pain free, until today... but Tyle.nol is helping. I can't really eat, as my top two teeth are hitting my bottom brac.kets which is keeping my molars from touching in the back, thus not being able to chew anything. It has been interesting, but I am having fun eating ice cream! :) (photo removed 10/13)
I have had a rough couple of weeks emotionally. The first ann.ivers.ary of my grandpa's death was hard for me. I remember picking up my grandma a different hospital, and driving her to see my grandpa thinking we still had a few days to say goodbye, but when we got there the doctors told us he wasn't going to make it and we needed to go see him immediately. I remember standing there watching her say goodbye to him. I stood there and watched him die.
My grandpa was one of the only men in my life that I truly trusted. He was such a good grandpa. He gave the best hugs. Even when he was so sick, he still crushed me with his big bear hugs. He was always so positive... even when he was exhausted from che.mo, he wouldn't let it get him down. I miss his presence in my life.
I ended up choosing cutting as an outlet for my grief, bargaining with myself Tuesday night that I would only cut twice and go to bed. I did that, but then Wednesday I felt so much emotional pressure I thought I was going to explode. I ended up cutting almost 20 times that night. I felt so ashamed the next day that I had let myself get so out of control... so ashamed I couldn't even bring it up in session on Tuesday. I went in thinking I was going to tell her, but I did not want anyone else to know how weak I was. My homework had been to identify things that had happened or things I had done that is a testament to my strength, as I have been feeling very weak lately. We went through that list and then I just started crying.
I knew it was going to happen. That emotional pressure was only temporarily released with the cutting, but it had built back up. I am tired. I am so tired of having to work so hard at every little thing in my life. Having to care about everything. I can't ever just go blindly into a situation, because I am terrified of the outcomes. I told her I'm tired of living this life. I'm mad that this is the life I have to live, when others seem to have it so much easier. Do they have to analyze every situation for danger? Do they have to hope that every man is not abusive? Do they have to push back awful memories when they see a face that looks remotely familiar? Does everyone have to work so hard emotionally that they are raw all the time? My tears turned into anger, with no one to blame.
We got on the topic of God, seeing as I told her I don't feel I have anyone here to blame and she asked me how God fit into that category, specifically if I was mad at Him. I told her yes, but I would never admit it to anyone, or even say the words to myself. I feel like such an awful person even thinking it, let alone admitting it. I think I said that it was my parents who taught me that it was never OK to be mad at God, but later I realized that they taught me it was never OK to be mad at anyone, and I was the one who made that leap to never be mad at God. It's part of the reason why I am afraid to go to church. Everyone pretends they live this perfect life and are never mad at God, and I just feel like I don't belong... because I am mad.
I've been reading Psa.lms this week, mainly the verses where Da.vid voices his frustrations and angers with God. A man after His own heart, was mad at God. I've got to learn that it's OK that I am mad, too. Easier said than done.
Another thing that is a red flag for me is that he calls or texts me ALL the time. For instance... when he first asked me out we exchanged numbers and I talked to him for like 3 hrs last Sunday. Whatever, that seems pretty normal to me. But then he'd text me Monday morning to see how I slept. Then 4PM Monday as soon as work was over to see how it went. Then would call me Monday night. I told him I don't keep my phone on on Tuesdays (session days), so then he called me Wednesday, talked to him for almost 2 hrs (ugh, I hate talking on the phone), he sent me a text at 2AM wishing me a good nights' sleep, a text at 6AM greeting me good morning, then called me after church Thursday. This is all before our first date.
So we go out Friday night and it wasn't the best date in the world, but it was fun enough. He drops me off at home and no lie, 3 minutes later he calls me and apologizes for being such a goober... telling me he was so nervous, etc. He had asked me earlier in the night if I wanted to go to the state fair with him on Saturday, which I politely declined since I already had plans. So I wake up to a text asking if I am sure I don't want to go. 6 hrs later he texts to see how my day went. He wants to know if he can call me when he gets back to his truck (which I thought would be immediately) so I told him that I was eating dinner. No problem, he says... he won't be back to his truck for an hour or so. So I asked him not to call me, told him I don't even talk to my mom or best friend but once or twice a week. He apologizes and that's that.... I started to think I got my point across when he texts me tonight. "I know I'm not supposed to call, but I just wanted to see how your day went."
That just does not seem normal to me, and is a total turn off. I do NOT want to get involved with someone who is that clingy and smothering. Part of me thinks I'm over-reacting, trying to convince myself that I am the one being too sensitive but the other part of me knows that this would probably not be a healthy thing for me at this time in my life. I've been praying a lot for guidance, asking God to help me see what He wants me to do... I think I already have my answer but I am just not sure. Opinions, please.
I have a date Friday night. I met a guy at my friend's party last weekend, and he found me via Face.book when I was tagged in some lovely pictures (it was an 80's theme and let me tell you, I rocked it!). I'm not one who is easily flattered by what others say to me, generally because I don't believe it, but he basically said he'd like to take me out sometime because I caught his attention immediately and he thought we would have a good time! So we exchanged numbers, talked for about 3 hrs Sunday night and he seems like a really awesome guy. He is taking me to the base.ball game Friday night. I told him I'm a huge sports fan and he called in a favor to one of his friends to get these tickets! I am excited :)
But at the same time, I am scared. I haven't dated anyone since I started confronting all these issues I have with my abuse. I feel like I am in a much better place to actually enjoy dating, but I am also so much more aware of how affected I am by what happened. I am still terrified of being touched. I am afraid to trust anyone with that information... so in the past I always sabotaged the relationship before it got to that point. I don't want to keep doing that, but I don't know how to not be afraid. I've been praying a lot this week. I've felt more peace than I've expected to so far this week, so I hope that can continue.
This worship and support group is really good for me because it allows me to see how God is part of my recovery and journey to a better me. During those few hours every Thursday, it is so clear to me. I have a lot of things to be grateful for, and a lot of them I can see God's hand in. But I have to sit down and think hard. I do not take the time to acknowledge the gifts life has given me, but rather I focus most of the time on the little things I cannot change and forget the amazing things I have in my life. When I let go of those things I want to change, I feel out of control. Instead of focusing on the positive, I am holding onto the negative.
Today I had a very stressful day. I was running circles in my head of what I could have done differently, how I can handle what comes after, and everything I needed to do before heading out for the weekend. No gratitude in my mind. I finally left and stopped to check my mail, which I hadn't done in almost 2 weeks and my little box was FULL of stuff. After sifting through all of it I was left with my water bill, a shoe store coupon and an envelope from my doctor's office. Ugh. I really thought I was done paying all my medical bills! I ripped it open wondering how much I was going to owe this time, but to my shock it was a check! $50 back in my pocket! Sometimes gratitude comes in different forms, but I chuckled and thought to myself, "Nice one, God. The $10 off coupon I got for the shoe store would have been enough, but you really made your point with the check!" Suddenly, the weather seemed nicer, the day a little easier.
I'm grateful I had my eyes and my heart open to God today.
Tuck.er is doing remarkably well. His surgery had to be postponed because of concern about complications since his liver is not fully recovered yet, so they are looking to Monday to be his first surgery. He had his first bottle today :) He's such an angel. I can't wait to go back to the hospital and see him.
When all of this blew up Thursday, I was left with a profound feeling of guilt of how I had been viewing my personal situation. I felt horrible for cutting, and feeling so down about things that now did not seem like such a big deal when this little baby's life hung in the balance. It helped me keep my promise that I would not cut that week.
I am having trouble maintaining a balance of things. I am pushing myself further and further into denial and pulling other things in front to try and block entry to my feelings. I am in workaholic mode, doing way more than necessary and not delegating the responsibilities to my counterparts. If I keep on this pace I am going to burn out quickly. I am struggling with my weight. I have my eating under good control and am doing a good job of exercising at an appropriate rate, but due to medication I am not losing weight. In fact I have gained over 15 lbs since I started and cannot seem to drop an ounce no matter what I do. So I've made the decision to start tapering off my medication. The main reason is for the weight... I am falling back on unhealthy habits to try and induce we.ight lo.ss so I can get back to my "normal weight". Another reason is that I think it will help me get more in touch with my emotions. Unfortunately I am taking the risk of my anxiety returning and being a hinderance on my recovery, but that is a chance I am willing to take right now. My panic attacks have been under control, only having two in the last 3 months, and those were induced by very intense sessions. On an unconscious level, I think I already made this decision because I had forgotten (really and truly) to take my meds for about 5 days and was having some massive withdrawals. I couldn't figure out what the deal was, then it hit me. I called my doctor today and asked for a schedule to follow so I could taper off.
This week I have got to work on being more balanced. Normally on Wednesday's I work late, then go workout, come home and have time to eat, shower and go to bed. But because my schedule this week is a little more hectic than normal, I gave myself permission to just go home and veg today. It was nice. I'm about to go journal a little bit and dig into some things that we discussed at my last session. Why do I think it's wrong for me to feel the way I feel? Why do I minimize how I feel? That's my focus for this week... being OK with my feelings.
I had a panic attack in session today in the midst of discussing my need to cut lately. I can't pinpoint anything specific that caused me to cut Friday night, but I went looking through drawers and boxes because my cuticle scissors weren't going to be good enough. I found some straight raz.ors in my toolbox I didn't even know I had and cut more in one night than I ever have.
I knew by revealing this that I was setting myself up for being asked to commit to no cutting this week, but she also threw in asking me to throw away my raz.ors. Immediate panic set in. I can't do that yet. Knowing they are there serves as a comfort even if I don't use them. I just don't think I WANT to do that yet. For whatever reason I have convinced myself that this is what I have to do in order to feel better and I just don't have the desire to change it, even though I know I should.
Back in July I had asked her if she wanted to get together one weekend and she told me she was busy. Again, I asked what she was doing and she wouldn't tell me because she was afraid I was going to judge her. Through a short game of 20 questions, I found out that she had been in contact with an old high sch.ool teacher of hers (she's now 22) that she had a huge crush on. They had been talking about meeting up that weekend. Why would that be a problem for me? Well, he's married.
I don't approve of it, but I can't do anything about it. She's an adult, he's an adult. I didn't tell her anything but to be careful.
So rewind to this past Saturday. They had finally set up plans to meet up (while his wife was conveniently out of town, nice, right?) and she said she was excited all day long but as she was getting ready she was so nervous. She downed 3 shots to calm her nerves, then drove (yikes, again) 30 minutes to meet him. She said the whole time she was there, she kept downing drinks to calm her nerves. She said he kept leaning over and touching her, just stroking her arm or leg, or touching her hair. Thoroughly weirded out, she said she went outside to smoke (according to her so trashed she couldn't even sit up straight) and he came up behind her and started rubbing her back and telling her he wanted to take her home so he could take care of her. I have never seen my sister so panicked as she was telling us this story. She said she was freaking out, that she didn't want him to touch her and that she just wanted to leave.
I looked at her and told her, "That's what M used to do to me. He'd come up behind me and start touching me, telling me things that sounded loving but he was just earning my trust so he could hurt me later." I told her, even now I freak out when people touch me, especially guys I don't know really well. I told her the reason she was freaking out is because she knew he was not a safe person, and that her instincts were telling her to run away. And the fact that she had to drink before she got there and the whole time she was there should be a clue that something was wrong.
We let it go at that.
My little sister is crumbling. Since she broke up with her boyfriend of 5 years in July, she is finding out what it is like to try and find a guy who is not going to hurt or take advantage of her. She is on the road to alcoholism, drinking every day, often getting very drunk. She is angry. She lashes out with little reason or provocation. While her coping mechanisms are completely different than mine, she is headed down the same road I was on. That road where denial throws you head first into a brick wall and you have no idea what hit you.
You see, my little sister was abused by the same man who abused me. And I am watching the slow, painful train wreck of her life knowing that I can do nothing to stop it... why? Because she's not ready. She doesn't realize that her life is revolving around her denial that what happened when she was 10 years old didn't affect her. She hasn't the slightest clue. Even if I told her, she wouldn't see it. She is going to crash and burn and it breaks my heart that this has to happen to her, too. I've was there. 21 months ago I hit that brick wall and my life fell apart. But when that time comes, she is going to have something I didn't... a sister who has been there and can help. When she is ready, I will be there for her.
Not only do we use our smiles to hide our feelings, but others do the same. How do we know when someone is truly happy or is using their smile to hide their real feelings? For most of us,we don't. Obviously the closer the relationship, the more you are going to recognize the attempt to cover up, but most of our daily interactions do not involve processing the true feelings of others. So is it suprising that we take the lead from others and plaster a permanent smile on our faces, too?
Today I have realized just how much that affects how I perceive other people. Being as it is the first Thursday of the month, we had a pot-luck dinner before worship tonight. It's always so much fun being able to socialize with everyone and enjoy some home cooked food. Tonight we listened to the testimony of one of the leaders of our group, and his rocky road with abuse, sexual addiction, drug use and pornography addiction, his breakdowns of multiple marriages, abandonment of his kids and the eventual path that lead him to church, God and to a seminar recommended by his pastor that introduced him to C.R. and lead him to begin this ministry. Listening to him go through his story, break down when he talked about how abandoned he felt as a young child, how empty he felt when he tried to use sex as a means to fill the hole in his heart, hit me hard. Not 30 minutes before, he was across the table, talking, eating, SMILING like nothing was wrong. And here he was before me, a flawed, hurt and broken person; just as every single one of us in that room is.
Why do we spend so much time hiding who we truly are? Why do we feel obligated to do this? Who are we protecting from our real feelings? When we split into small groups, all the women tend to break into sub-groups: one for general life issues, one for issues of abuse. Today we didn't really have enough to break apart, so we stayed together and for the first time I felt an absolute sense of security. Every week we come together and talk about our individual journeys with abuse, addictions, etc. There is no pretending that everything is happy behind our smiles. We all know otherwise. And for the first time I realized that I am safe with these women. I don't have to always have a smile on my face, or reply "good" when someone asks me how I am. I can take off my smile for a couple of hours a week and feel safe that no matter how I feel, I will be supported and loved.
Not everyone is given the amazing gift that I am just now realizing I have received. So the next time you put a smile on your face, I hope it is because you are truly happy, not masking your pain.
I didn't bring them up in session yesterday as I was afraid of talking about them. But when I got home I knew I needed to bring them to her attention so I didn't hide from it, so I e-mailed her and let her know just how bad they had been and the details of everything. I felt a little better knowing that I hadn't just tried to push them aside, but now I'm scared about having to talk about them. I went back and read my recap of one dream in particular and could feel myself trying to shut down just reading it. Talking about it is going to be much worse.
I was just listening to the C.D. of our Christmas performance and it made me sad knowing I wasn't going to be part of that, but yet I know I have made the right decision for me. I was planning on taking the whole year off and returning at the end of the spring season, in time for all the summer concerts, but I am going to give myself permission to re-evaluate and possibly go back after the Christmas break.
The weekend was full of some lingering anxiety of beginning a new year. Like I wrote before, the fall has been a very hard time for me in the past and I am worried of a repeat performance. My mind has been drawn to cutting a lot more than it has in the past, which just gives me one more thing to try and keep under wraps.
Today in session we talked more about what exactly my fears are of this fall season. My habit is to take my past experiences and use them as the foundation of future experiences without taking into account the fact that the situations might be completely different. In my case, I have been working HARD for about 9 months now on my healing, when before I was pushed so far back in denial. Basically it was just a forum for me to recognize the steps I have taken and the differences in myself now as opposed to a year ago. So often I forget about the actions I have taken to improve things in my life and focus so much on the things I cannot change. It just takes a little reminder sometimes.
I wanted to bring up the fact that I had noticed myself becoming angry with things that didn't nomally make me angry before. I felt like this was a subtle change in my personal balance with things, and I wasn't really sure what it meant, nor was I really sure how to react to it. We discussed a situation I gave her as an example, how I would have reacted before, and how I reacted in the present. We pulled apart the actions and thought processes in each time frame and talked about the hidden messages I was sending myself in how I chose to react. While anger may not be the right emotion for that situation, the anger is telling me something . Oddly enough, it's telling me that I am realizing that I want to be able to set boundaries with people. I'm not angry at that person for approaching me and expecting me to do what I always do, I'm angry at myself for not having the boundary to begin with.
Apparently that is a huge deal to reach this "step".
People who are sexually abused (especially as children) have a very skewed and misguided sense of boundaries. You are taught, shown, whatever verb fits that you have no personal boundaries; that someone can take from you whatever they want. A lot of the times, you don't even feel like you deserve to set boundaries. Either way, realizing that I just might have the right to want boundaries in my life is huge. I'm not sure how to set them, or what to do with them, but apparently I want them. Now all I have to do is learn how to set them.
Initially I didn't see the big deal in reacting in anger towards someone else. I saw it is a bad thing. Anger = bad. But as we were talking about the effect it has on me, I started to see that maybe I am changing for the better.
The abuse group that normally breaks off from the large group was missing its leader today, so I stayed in the big group and wasn't used to their routine. I ended up not being able to share because of this, so I'm going to do so here. What was rattling around in my head as others were speaking is how difficult last week was for me, and the thoughts that fueled my depression and destructive behaviors.
Last week I was stuck in a rut of self-hatred. I despised myself for being an (unwilling) participant in my own abuse. Thinking of the fact that I was still carrying around the body that was abused made me want to crawl out of my own skin. I have never felt so uncomfortable with me. So with these thoughts fueling my actions, I made the concious decision to punish my body. I felt as though I deserved this treatment. I cut to scar my body. I cut to release emotions I had no valve for. I have no words or outlet for them yet. I cut to make myself feel better; to alleviate those feelings of hatred. Cutting is such an enigma for me. I do it as a punishment, for being weak and "allowing" myself to be abused... but at the same time, the feeling I get from doing it is strength. I look at the cuts and think, "Wow. I was able to endure that. I am strong."
So tonight our main question was to think about choices that are negatively affecting you (or others). This question brought me to thinking about my bad week. I started thinking about the things I was telling myself that pushed me to the point that I chose to cut. As I am in better place this week, the things I was telling myself sting a little less, but I can see them for what they really are. While I wouldn't say necessarily they are "choices", they are this: They are REAL feelings and REAL emotions that are being masked/diverted/portrayed as something else. I have a feeling, my self-hatred is soon going to turn into anger. And I have a feeling it won't be anger for anything I have ever done, but rather what was done to me.
Towards the end of my session last night, I told her that I was worried about starting the upcoming season because the past two years have resulted in a VERY rough fall . Last year things fell apart in October, starting with my grandfather's death and snowballing with constant panic attacks, depression and my eventual re-entry into counseling. The year before that is when my whole world came crashing down at the realization/confrontation of my abuse. I could barely function. I don't know how I made it through working during those first few months. I am worried that I am doomed to have another awful fall. October is when I start running out of fuel, getting too much on my plate then crash and burn... and last year I crashed and burned hard. I do not want to have to go through that again.
So when I sat down to write about this, I was just as emotional as I was bringing it up in session. I was on the verge of tears because the fall represents such a low point in my year... I can still feel the wound that has had little time to heal. I am so afraid that no matter what I do I can't prevent it from happening again. And not only that, the friend/mentor who helped me through the roughest time in my life is now retired and is no longer a few doors away, which leaves me feeling even more trapped at work. No one knows what I am going through. I don't think I can handle having to put on a happy face in front of everyone at work again. At least with C, I could be real. I don't think I can handle going back to that place again. I am just not strong enough. The fear is overwhelming. It's causing me to want to ditch my path and hide where no one can ever find me.
We talked about all of that, and she discussed how she felt that cutting was not only unsafe physically, but detrimental to my healing. The way it was worded caused me take on a tremendous amount of guilt, and I felt awful for saying something. I ended up going home Tuesday night and cutting again, but not as a punishment... just as a way to physically feel my emotional pain. So I knew when I went in today, I had to say something to her about walking away feeling guilty because of something that was said. We talked about that and she reiterated that she was not blaming me in any way, she just wanted to let me know that in her opinion, my decision to cut was only going to hurt me, not help me. I told her I cut again, and we compared Saturday to Tuesday and the emotions that were going on inside me at those exact moments. It led up to me needing to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to try out healthier ways of dealing with those emotions, even though they may not be a quick fix, or continuing to use the quick fix even though it might cause future emotional pain. She asked me if I could make a committment to myself not to cut until I see her again on Tuesday. I said yes, but I hate telling myself "No! You can't do that!" in times of need. It just makes me want it more. We talked a little bit more on the subject and she asked me again if I thought I could make that committment to myself and I started crying. Giving up my back-up plan is extremely vulnerable and I just don't think I'm ready to do that yet.
Part of what started this whole tailspin of stuff was me sitting down to journal Saturday night because I was feeling anxious. The evenings are a very vulnerable time for me anyway, so taking on such heavy things at night is sometimes detrimental to myself. So on Tuesday I was asked to stop journaling and processing difficult things at night, which is why I haven't checked blogs or updated yet... because I'm always on at night! Hopefully these next few days will give me the proof that I can find other ways to cope, and that saying I'm not going to cut doesn't make me feel cornered and out of options. I hope Tuesday gets here quickly.
So I punished my body for the way my mind and heart felt. It felt like the only way to make that pain go away. I'd much rather feel physical pain then what I feel inside... if only it was that easy. Seeing the bruises and cuts makes me feel better. Proof that I am as damaged on the outside as I feel on the inside.
Today's topic in large group was God's grace. It is through his grace that we are able to define and admit to our weaknesses, because only then are we truly strong. This is such a struggle for me. Admitting I have weaknesses and need help with those is something that does not come easy for me, but to think that admitting them to God makes me strong makes it so much easier to do. After reciting the serenity prayer, the leaders began to give out celebration chips, which is something that is done at the beginning of every month. It can be to celebrate the decision to recover, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 1 year of recovery/sobriety etc. I took my first chip today. The chip that one gets when starting their recovery, and ironically enough here is what it has on it:
Now that I am beginning to understand the complexity of how what I experienced has shaped my way of living, my coping mechanisms, my relationships, etc, I have found a way to release a bit of the fear and allow myself to experience other emotions. Things like anger, shame, loss, and grief. They come in waves, generally triggered by an event, a memory, discussions in sessions, or journaling. In experiencing these new feelings, I am having a hard time allowing myself to fully open up to feeling those feelings. It's painful. I find myself attempting to divert my thoughts and shut down when I start to feel too much. Like right now.
Every feeling can be described using physical attributes. My stomach feels heavy and tense, like I'm trying to shield myself from a blow. My heart is beating a little faster than it normally does, there's just an edgy feel to it. My throat feels like it is going to close off as a result of my shallow breathing. I can feel myself inching close to something big, I just don't know what it is. I have a feeling however, that I am going to find out soon. I just hope that I can handle the pain that comes with it.
Going over those beliefs today makes me realize just how alone I felt in the first few years after my abuse. Everything I wrote down was something I believed as a direct result of that. Some of the beliefs were things that I no longer believe to be true, or only apply with certain people instead of being a blanket statement. Some I still believe to be completely true. One in particular has pushed me back into a feeling of such deep loss and grief that it brings me to tears when I just bring it up, let alone discuss it in depth... and of course tears presented themselves in session when I voiced this belief: God abandoned me.
That being said, all good things must come to an end and as I was driving home from the airport tonight I could feel the weight of my life starting to balance on my shoulders again. I did journal one night, but did not feel the emotion and connection that I normally feel when I am at home in my own bed, so close to my life that I can't help but feel everything that goes with it. I spent a ton of time with my sister on this trip, which I really enjoyed. I have learned not to obsess over trying to change her ways. She and I are very different and part of the reason why we had a falling out (among other reasons that had nothing to do with me) is because of my inability to accept her the way she is. I really do feel that I have grown and learned with my own changing that a person can only change if they want to, not because you want them to. I think that has really helped me in continuing to build a relationship with her.
Having so much time with her, we really were able to do a lot of talking. Something we normally don't do and I did my best to be supportive of her endeavors in life. A normal event for us when we are out there is to be handed the credit card and sent to shop til we drop. This time proved to be no different. Seeing as they live in the mountains, we are a good 45 minute drive from the mall or any shopping center, so we had a lot of car time. If you've ever driven a lot with a loved one, I'm sure you've noticed how much easier it is to talk side by side instead of face to face. Anyway, there were so many times I wanted to bring up the guilt I felt about her abuse and ask her if she blamed me for it, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want to dampen the mood plus I really know what she would say to me. I know she doesn't blame me. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I can honestly say I am starting to not blame myself either. I know there is nothing I could have done to prevent it and there was nothing I did do to cause it. I really think that what I am feeling now is just pain... pain for her.
When I look back on that session where all of this came up, the session that I had that massive panic attack, I wonder just how much of that was a reaction to talking about my abuse so in depth. Initially I thought it had everything to do with how I felt about my sister's abuse and what I viewed as my part in it, but now I'm not so sure. When I think about how easy it was for me to write that letter to my sister AND read it out loud in session, it makes me think that this was not what was affecting me so much that I broke down. When I think about the 6 page account of my abuse that I wrote and brought into session, I can feel the adrenaline start coursing through my body and the increased pace of my heart and breathing. When I think about the last three paragraphs we read before I had to stop, it makes me want to crawl in a hole. That feeling makes me think that the issue of my sister's abuse was just a smokescreen. I am really starting to feel that God was just giving me a break in the road I was on to allow myself to gain some healing in my relationship with her and to gain some insight in how I can help myself before I turn my attention back to where we came from. And where I came from is a deep, dark place where I will need His help the most.
Why can I think logically about correctly placing blame where it lies, but yet my heart tells me otherwise?
Why is it so hard for me to let go of the guilt and allow myself to really feel what is beneath it?
Why does the prospect of just touching a toe into the metaphorical pool of my pain make me feel as though I am going to fall in and drown?
Why can I not feel the anger I think I should for the man who abused me?
Why is it I can envision forgiving myself for the hurts I have caused others, but not for the hurts I have caused myself?
Why was this the life I was supposed to lead?
Why was I chosen to bear this pain?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Today's session started off discussing last weeks, how could it not? I confessed to having an awful day Thursday and completely numbing out the rest of the week. I avoided anything that would cause me to feel. We discussed what exactly triggered my attack, as well as the physical reactions and the emotional reactions that went with it. I am finding that I am very "dumb" when it comes to describing how I feel. Trying to explain what I felt during all of that was hard, but I finally settled on a word: Guilt.
That brought us to a discussion on the guilt I feel as it pertains to the abuse. Not only to the abuse I suffered, but that of my sister as well. I feel as if both are my fault, even though logically I know that neither of them are. That brings us to "True Guilt" and "False Guilt". True guilt is the emotion in conjunction with a guilty action. False guilt is the emotion of guilt in the absence of the guilty action. My guilt right now is all false, although regardless of its label, it feels just the same. True guilt has a purpose in life, to teach us how to change our ways and to look to God to forgive our sins. False guilt is a black hole. It consumes time, energy and faith.
When presented the question why I find it so easy to blame myself for both my and my sister's abuse, I was perplexed for a short time. Then it occured to me, when I blame myself, I give myself a (false) sense of power. If it was my fault, then there is something for me to fix. If I admit it was someone else's fault, there isn't anything I can do. I am powerless.
Continuing to provide a safe environment to heal, I was given the power to choose my homework assignment from two options. I can choose to veer away from the path I am currently on (the guilt of my sister's abuse) for fear of triggering more panic attacks, and determine what I would like to tackle instead of this, or I can stay the course and start by acknowledging these feelings in a letter to my sister. I can tell you even though I am going to feel so much pain initially, I am going to stay the course. I will not let myself fall into the habit of avoiding what is hard. It's all hard, and will all have to be acknowledged sooner or later.
In my effort to speak the truth, I am bringing this song to the forefront of my mind. This song is my connection to God. Every time I hear it, I feel as if He is saying this to only me, and no one else.
I found out today that my inner child is carrying around a tremendous amount of guilt. Guilt about her little sister's abuse. Reading through my account of the abuse in session today triggered a memory of a conversation I had with my little sister 12 years ago where she blamed me for being the reason she was available to him, and triggered a reaction so intense that I spent the latter half of my session in hysterics, hyperventilating and shaking so bad I thought I was going to pass out. Never in my life have I felt like this. I didn't realize I could hurt this much. All I can think about is the burden of her statement and I want to die.
My inability to think like a child is causing me great pain. It is keeping me from healing the way I need.
Today in session, we discussed a few dramatic happenings in my life (which I will go into tomorrow or Thursday after it has all died down) and the things it brought up that are important to my work. There were actually quite a few that have given me some things to ponder. The majority of our time was spent discussing what I decided to do in order to sleep better at night. Last week I decided that I was ready to write down, word for word, the experience of my abuse so that I was released from the deep need to go over it every night before I fall asleep. This has been a contributing factor to having nightmares over the years.
I sat down at my computer to type it out, starting around 9PM and ending after 1AM. Sometimes the words were just too much. Taking a memory you have and attaching words to it is extremely hard. Words have meaning. Words have emotion. I had to stop a couple of times and focus on my breathing before I slipped too far into a panic attack. I was left with a 6 page account of everything I could remember that I would go over in my mind. Things I was afraid I might forget. I went a little bit further and wrote about some things that happened after the abuse itself, like the legal stuff, detectives, court, etc that I felt just needed to be told as well. I can honestly say that knowing I had everything written down and that I hadn't skimped on any detail, helped me give myself permission to not think of it at night. I wasn't perfect all week, but I did very good. I know it will get better with time.
Today I printed it off and took it with me, wanting her to keep it there, for fear of someone possibly finding it here. She asked me what I wanted to do with it at that moment. I knew that this question was going to be asked, so I had already given it some thought. I had a lot of options.
"Any decision you make is fine. I can tell you what I think is best, but what you have written represents probably the most powerless moment in your life, and choosing what to do with that should not be a powerless moment as well."
Reading what I had written out loud was something I already knew I was not going to do. I told her that I just wasn't ready for that, but I was not opposed to her reading it.
"Read it out loud or to myself? I can do either, ask for clarification when I need it, or we can go paragraph by paragraph. Your choice."
Knowing it would be hard, I told her to read it aloud, and she made the choice to go paragraph by paragraph to get more information if needed. We only made it through 3 paragraphs, but that was enough. Without realizing it, I tuned her out as she was reading, trying not to hear what she was saying. She stopped and looked up at me. I didn't even realize I was crying. That question I love was said next, "What are you feeling right now?". There aren't words for what I feel. PAIN. Not having the words to explain that, I told her I was frustrated with the fact that even going through every awful thing he did to me, I still place the blame on myself and cannot find it in me to feel anger towards him.
"Placing blame on yourself means that you had the control in that situation and the power to make the decisions. Were you the one in control?"
"No. I wasn't the one making decisions, but I had the ability to do something. Thinking that I had no control scares me. It's much harder to think that I had no control as opposed to having some control and not doing anything."
"You had no control. You were a child. You were doing everything you were taught to do. To not disrespect your authority figures. To not hurt others feelings. You are thinking of your control in the mind of Lily, the adult. Your life experiences and status as an authority figure to your students has given you the sense of control and the ability to apply that control to your memories. You have to think of it as Lily, the child. She did what she was expected to do and she did everything she could have done."
Through the tears and the pain, I learned something that seems so painfully obvious but something that I think is going to help me on my journey to heal. I can't think of this as an adult. I have to realize that my inner child needs to take control of this one. I just hope she feels strong enough to come out.
If you have the time, listen to the two parts I have linked here.
Session today went well. I adapted my summer goal from "not having nightmares" (not really something I can control) to "not thinking about things right before bed that cause me to have nightmares". That being said, I established a habit a long time ago to go through step by step all of the events that occured up to and including my abuse, mainly because there are fuzzy spots/gaps in my memory and I would always hope that I would remember if I went through it every day. So it just became something I did before I went to bed, like washing your face or brushing your teeth. Aside from being habit, there is a fear there that I am going to forget things and not be able to remember enough to work through it. Like I really could ever forget, but the fear is still there. So it was suggested to me that I write it down, that way I don't have to burden myself with the constant barrage of emotions and feelings that come with reliving the abuse every day. My first reaction was so point out that it could be found and read by someone, but honestly the fear was more in the actual putting into words what I see in my head. That is extremely scary for me. (See this post for a journal entry I wrote on this exact thing).
So as it was presented to me, I've put myself in a very contradictory circle. I am having nightmares because I am thinking of the abuse every night, but I have problems going to sleep if I don't go through it. I'm afraid I'm going to forget if I don't do that, but am also afraid to do what will give me the piece of mind to go to sleep easier. So my homework this week is to figure out a solution to my dilemma that I am comfortable with. It can be anything I want it to be... there is no right answer. But I know what I can do to help myself heal (and possibly hurt) more, and it isn't the easy decision. But life lately has been anything but easy decisions, so why should this be any different?