Pushing Away

This is my coping mechanism when I am scared. I push away. More so, distance myself before you can hurt me.

My session Tuesday with A was centered around this letter that I wrote to myself. Almost everything in it was an "I'm sorry" statement for something that someone did (or didn't do) that hurt me.

There are many times in my childhood where I was in pain. Doing as kids do, I tested my boundaries and tried to determine what kind of response I was going to get for my pain. Physical pain got the most immediate response/attention. I was a clumsy kid, but never broke any bones or had anything catastrophic happen. I remember two specific instances where I tried to intentionally sprain or break my wrist to get attention. I did a pretty good job, as both got me trips to the ER, but the attention was short lived and left me yearning for more.

Emotional pain acknowledgement was almost non-existent. My parents never were in tune with how things made me feel, what I needed from them, or if things hurt me. They still think that because I cried easily (when appropriate, like at a sad movie or when something upset me) that it meant I could release my emotions and not need anything else.

So I learned that unless I wanted to be in constant physical pain (self-inflicted of course) that I wasn't going to get what I wanted and needed from my parents. So what do kids do when they have no options? I got myself an attitude and terrorized my little sister. Bad attention was better than no attention. I started stealing when I was in the 6th grade. From my teachers mostly, but then I graduated to my mom. I felt less guilt there. She owed me right? I just kept pushing and pushing, hoping that I'd find a way to get what I wanted.

All of these instances and behaviors were already in place BEFORE I was abused. I wasn't getting what I needed before my life got upended with the life-altering experience of sexual abuse. So when I disclosed to my mom what had happened, I really expected her to be there for me. If this wasn't bad enough for me to get a hug, a tear, some screaming rage at who hurt me, then nothing would be.

I was a kid. Kids are resilient. Kids are trusting. Kids are hopeful. In the face of a life where everything has proved to them otherwise, they still think the good things can happen. I still hoped they could, too.

So I started testing the waters again. What support was I going to get? How do I have to play this? My support was being handed off to a counselor once a week. I remember her, she was nice. I don't ever remember talking about the abuse. I didn't want her. The first 4 months after the abuse, it was everywhere. Counseling, visits to the police station, interviews with the detectives, meeting the prosecutors, etc. Even with all of that going on... nothing. Not even a discussion, let alone support. When everything died down, my hope went with it. Insurance got changed and I no longer could go to counseling. The continued silence at home told me I wasn't going to get what I wanted. So my resiliency turned into denial. I shoved everything inside myself and went on with life, keeping everyone at an arm's length so they couldn't hurt me.

I started realizing all of this around April of last year. I started noticing how much I hated being around my mom, that just her presence or the thought of her brought out this bitter, angry, passive aggressive person. I pushed myself away from her, for my own sanity, but due to the co-dependent nature of my mom, she would not let go. She confronted me about my behavior in June of last year and I let her have it. The truth. Not 100% of the truth, but enough of the truth for her to know what I was going through at the time for her to know that I needed some space to figure things out without having her hovering over me. (See this post for more info).

Things settled down and are at a more comfortable place for me now, but around Christmas I started noticing my patience and desire to be around her were heading in the same direction. I can feel myself pushing away from her again. All of this work dealing with the absence of things I needed as an abused child is bringing up so much pain that I can hardly look at my mom and think of anything else.

The girl who has done so much healing in this past year is falling back on hope again. She's hoping that her mom will be different this time. She's hoping her mom will acknowledge her pain; past, present and future. The hope is what hurts the most.

A Moment To Be Happy

My principal stopped me in the office yesterday after school and told me she had received the most wonderful e-mail from a parent about me. She forwarded it to me this morning and I almost cried. I don't think I have ever felt as proud of myself as I did when I read this e-mail. :)

Mrs. _______,

My name is J, and my son C is a 6th grader enrolled in one of (Lily's) AP math courses. I wanted you to know that while we’ve been extremely impressed with the school district since moving here in 2006, (Lily) stands out as one of the most outstanding teachers I’ve come across. She communicates in a way that resonates with both the students and parents, and if you can find more like her, I’d hire them all. C is geared towards math and science in particular, and so he naturally enjoys the subject, but (Lily) really ties it altogether for him. I visited with her at curriculum night, and she was generous with her time and direction on what C needed to do to really excel in her class. He’s making straight A’s, and if we hadn’t discussed his performance early in the year, it might be a different story.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I just thought you should know that (Lily) is making a real difference with a bright mind. I hope you have a great day.


Looking Into My Eyes

I've felt so silenced lately. It was a stark contrast to how I have felt since I started counseling and started this blog. It has really wreaked havoc on my emotions.

I was terrified of Tuesday. I knew that reading what I wrote was going to be really hard. Normally I can gauge just how bad it is going to be by how hard it was for me to write it. Sometimes that is misleading because I can dissociate from the writing then be hit hard when reading. Not this time. I cried when I put those words on paper. But there was a strange sense of desire to read what I wrote this week. I have felt silenced. Even though it was going to be hard, I wanted to read it. I wanted to not hide. I wanted to be heard.

I got to the third paragraph and had to stop. I wrote about something I've never admitted to anyone. My dad is an alcoholic. He has been since I was born. He still is today. I never really thought about it all that much until I started writing this letter to myself; myself as a child. As an adult it doesn't affect me that much, but when I thought of myself as a child, it hurt. It surprised me just how much it hurt.

A talked me back down out of the panic and I was able to pull together the strength to keep going. I did fine until I got to acknowledging my abuse to myself. To me; the child. Looking into my own eyes and saying I'm sorry. Saying the very words that no one ever told me or admitting I deserved the things no one gave me.

Looking into my own eyes and realizing just how much I wanted my mom to be there for me and let me know it wasn't my fault, that she was sorry, that I didn't deserve it. To hold me in her arms. To cry with me. To be mad. To do ANYTHING.

Lots of pain in those eyes. Lots of pain to try and deal with at once. Lots of pain I never let myself think about.

I Can't Be Myself

It's your fault they found you.

It's your fault that you weren't careful enough.

Last night I sat down to work a bit on my homework. I just felt pulled to my computer to begin this letter to myself. I tried to remember what exactly the goal was and tried to logically think my way through the many aspects of my life that longed to be on the page in front of me. After going that route for a while, I erased it all. This letter is not supposed to be logical and precise. It is supposed to be from the heart. I was using the wrong organ (muscle? is the brain considered a muscle?). I thought of everything that hurt me, from birth to high school, all involving some aspect of my parents inaction/neglect as well as the abuse. I don't know how many times I wrote the phrase "I'm sorry" to myself. It's a lot. But still not as many times as I should have heard it from my parents. No, there aren't enough of those in the world.

Dread and Fear

I was dreading tonight. I was afraid to tell A the reason why I cut. I was afraid of what she would say/do/think. I was afraid of how I would react. I was afraid of moving more and more towards the things that scare me, but the things that will help me grow.

After our normal pleasantries, we moved onto other things, like my relapse of cutting this week, my homework from the previous week and my continued minimization of my abuse. The trifecta. I let her read a journal entry I wrote (basically a mirror image of my last post) of what lead up to and why I cut. I really felt it important to be honest with how I use cutting as a coping mechanism in order to quit doing it.

That lead us to a conversation of why I think I need a physical reason/proof to prove to myself and others that I am hurting emotionally. It all boiled down to the fact that I never got the proof when I was younger that it was OK to be emotionally hurt, but that physical pain was understood and acknowledged. We also talked about who I am trying to prove this to. I know I'm in pain, she knows I'm in pain. Have I been trying to convince other people and had my pain minimized? No, of course not. But the problem with that is no one knows I'm even in this much pain. I can't trust most of the people in my life right now (mom, dad, sister, best friend, etc) because they have proved to be minimizers in the past (abuse and otherwise). It is a vicious circle. I want/need someone who always minimzed it in the past to tell me now that it's OK that I'm feeling what I'm feeling. And I'm not getting that.. so that means I must be wrong. Ugh.

We went over my homework which was to help me try and visualize my recovery as not something black and white, but as a gray journey, bookended with accomplishments/changes and desires/goals. I have trouble thinking in the gray. Going through my list of changes was quite humbling. Sometimes I forget how much I really have changed in the year that I have been with A. She even said, "If I had told you a year ago that you were going to be able to list these things as something you have already accomplished/changed and are living it now, you would have one, been so overwhelmed by the idea, and two, laughed at the prospect that you could change this much. In all honesty, this is pretty rapid growth." That felt good... and I actually believed it. I worked hard for those changes.

After the list of changes, was the list of things I still want to change/work on. I have trouble identifying these things when I am not in a state of pain. It's like the happiness clouds my judgement, but I had plenty of pain to go around last week so I got a good list. I tried to prioritize it by putting little stars to the ones I thought needed the most immediate attention, aka the ones that scare me the most. One of the biggest ones for me is my fear of touch/physical intimacy. Just like a year ago I am looking at a list of things that I think are going to be impossible to conquer. My list is a lot shorter now, but the remaining things are the ones that hurt the most. I know that I am going to get better because I am going to keep doing the same thing I have done this past year. I am going to TRY. It is going to hurt... a lot, but I am going to do it.

Up and Down

Wow, this week has been certifiably insane. Seriously.

I finally am sitting down now to do some reflection on the challenges that I have faced over the past 7 days and I a tad overwhelmed just thinking about it all. Tuesday night was the absolute worst, throwing me for a huge loop that I wouldn't have even dreamed about. I initially was very upset. I called out to God...

"Why is this happening?! Of all things? Of all people? What is the purpose of this? What am I supposed to learn here because it just seems unfair!"

I sat with my frustration and anger and realized that God was keeping me safe. I could adapt.

I chose to do my homework Wednesday, and although it was easy enough to punch out, the subject material is what scares me. I'm going to have to talk about it; work through it. It's something I have been avoiding for quite some time. Until I work through my fears with A, I won't be able to be in a relationship. My fears are holding me back. I just have never admitted this fear to anyone before.

Thursday was C.R. and this week's focus was on a testimony rather than a lesson. Our min.istry leader was going to be sharing her story again. When I walked into my first C.R. meeting at my current church, her testimony was the focus for that night as well. It was the reason I felt strong enough to stay. Listening to it again, I was surprised at how I reacted to it. The main thing that I focused on and connected to the first time was the fact that she was sexually abused too. It made me feel validated even though our stories are so different. Thursday night was harder. I have been struggling big time with minimizing my abuse, so when I sat there listening to the repeated horrors of her life, there was this little voice in the back of my head telling me I shouldn't be so upset about mine, or that mine didn't count. Sharp contrast from 7 months ago. I talked a little bit about that during our small group time, as well as my relapse with cutting. Every week I am with these amazing women that are going through such life-altering journies and I can see their pain. Right now I don't feel the same pain that I used to, and it's causing me to convince (brainwash?) myself that I made it up. It's frustrating.

I spent most of Sunday in a bubble of anxiety because I had my annual appointment with my OBGYN today. Last year was a catastrophe. I disclosed to her my abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc. and proceeded to have multiple panic attacks during my exam. I was so afraid that was going to happen again. Logic wasn't really working for me.

When I decided to cut last weekend, it was for a couple of reasons. One because I was so out of control emotionally and just WANTED to, and two because I knew this appointment was coming up. I was having such a hard time even convincing myself that my abuse really affects me, let alone other people. I wanted proof. Proof that it is still affecting me. Proof that someone else could see. The cutting proves that. So Sunday night I took a peek at my cuts and decided they weren't BOLD enough. I fixed that.


What am I going to tell A? I promised her I wouldn't. I did it for a stupidly crazy reason that I am ashamed to write about, let alone disclose to her.

And I still feel the same way I did before. I'm sure she saw them, but what did she think?? Crazy dog attack or purposeful self harm? Recognition of a hard journey or the thought that maybe it wasn't that bad after all? I have a feeling if I can't get myself out of this unhealthy mindset I am in, I'll be trying to figure it out again when I have to go back next month.

Believe in Yourself

My week has been pretty unstable. I had a very rough session Tuesday that involved a lot of acknowledgement of pain and suffering that I have never really come face to face with. My shift in thinking has gone from the physical act of the abuse to the emotional impact it has had. She (A) compared it to the shift in perspective from child to adult. I am finally understanding how I wished my parents had reacted to my abuse, and how I would react if this were to happen to someone I loved, and it is making me feel this pain I never realized I had. That's the shift in pain that I've talked about lately.

My homework was to write a response to the blog entry I had her read the previous week; my January 1st entry. It was hard for me to sit down and write it because that "new" pain was so fresh. I didn't react well to it and ended up getting so overwhelmed that I cut for the first time in almost 3 months. I could have stopped myself, but I just didn't want to. I needed that physical release.

So because this was so heavy for me to write, I knew it was all the more important for me to read. Not have her read, but for me to speak the words. Of course doing that generally sparks a huge onset of panic, and this time was no different. I struggled with even starting. I sat there for probably 10 minutes before I just looked A and told her I didn't think I could read it. Slowly leading me in, she had me just read the first sentence. Then the second. Before long I read the whole thing heaving and crying like a fool, letting the panic of the situation completely take over me.

We didn't really talk about my reading specifically, but more of what it represented and the messages it conveyed to her. Again, when I am in panic mode I don't form good memories. What we discussed directly after that is a fog. Once I was able to calm down, I can remember more clearly. I talked to her about how I was afraid of approaching something that is causing me this new feeling of pain, because of how overwhelmed and out of control it made me feel. I did not disclose to her that I cut over the weekend... I was too ashamed. I tried to lead her into asking me about it, but it wasn't until I specifically said that I was afraid of approaching anything else this week through homework or on my own because I was afraid that I was going to do what I did to cope with those feelings again... she finally was able to arrive where I was hoping she would without me having to say it. Cutting is such a shameful thing for me. I don't like admitting that I do it. I always feel like I'm letting her down when I can't find another way to release.

One of her first responses is to ask me if I can make a commitment not to cut until our next meeting (where she will ask me again!). Having just been through a panic attack, asking me to give up the one thing that makes me feel better was just going to make it worse, so I immediately put my eyes to the floor and waited for that question. Sure enough, there it was and I could feel that surge of panic. I told her no, that I couldn't commit to it. She told me to look at her. She asked me again. Will you make the commitment? No again.

I have never been that hesitant with agreeing. I have always (reluctantly) agreed that I would not cut for the rest of the week until I saw her again. She knows how guilty I feel when I do fall back on it. She asked me to look up at her again. I know you are strong enough to commit to doing this. I know how guilty you feel because of this. You have always done it before and I know you can do it again.

I think I can. I think I will.

Fighting the Change

I've been staring at a blank page for about 15 minutes, just trying to gather my thoughts. I can't put my finger or any one thing. I have so much going on in my head right now I can't catch just a single thought.

I was out with some friends from church tonight at a local pub to watch the game. So much fun :) Sometimes when I'm out with new people (and most of these people I had never met) I tend to sit in the corner and let my mind wander because I don't feel comfortable enough to talk, but the game gave us plenty to talk about and I only had to redirect myself back to the present a couple of times. One of those times was because I was watching this woman across from me interact with her daughter, who was probably about 6. She seemed kind of bored to be there, but was sitting in her mom's lap just laying against her chest being bear-hugged since she was cold. Her mom was playing with her hair and chatting to my friend next to me. So many thoughts sprang to my mind...

"Will I be like that with my daughter?"

"What is it like to love someone so much you'd give your life for them?"

"What will my life be like when I have kids?"

"Will I be a good mom?"

I hate it when thoughts like these come up because I have no answers. The only way to get answers to those questions is to live it. So that brought me to my next thoughts...

"What is it like to want to be around someone all the time?"

"What will it be like to be married?"

"Will I enjoy being married?"

"How is my life going to change when I find the person I know I want to marry?"

These questions invoked a lot of anxiety. The overall theme in all of this for me is CHANGE. In order to find the answers to those questions, things are going to have to change... and boy do I hate change. Some days the thought of everything I'm going to have to change to have the life I want is just too much. I think today is one of those days.

I quickly got frustrated with myself for being so afraid of change. I can see my friends that are married with kids, or hear A talk about her two children and husband and it seems so normal. I can look at a picture and see just how easy it looks. Husband, wife, kids. Smiling faces. Do they realize that they make it look so easy? No fear in those smiling faces. No doubt. Why am I the only one who seems to have that?

A "New" Hurt

My session on Tuesday went well. Most of the time was spent going over the characteristics of a healthy relationship that I desire most as well as things that I think I can offer in a relationship. Both presented a challenge for me when compiling these lists, as I don't ever think that my presence in someone's life is something beneficial or desired. As it pertained to what I want in a relationship, that presented its own challenges; one because I haven't ever had a long-term relationship and two because the models that I have been surrounded with my whole life are very unhealthy. I was able to think about what I didn't want and in turn form basic ideas of what I do want.

I couldn't believe I could talk so openly with A about these things. In the past if anything remotely connecting to dating was brought up, I would turn into this scared, meek girl who was afraid to think about, let alone talk about the questions posed. It was strangely empowering. Even A noticed and commented on how confident I seemed and how different that was to how my reactions used to be. I definitely agreed, but made sure to let her know that while I do feel a lot more confident, I am still very fearful. I am still very anxious.

We still had some time left over after these topics, and I toyed with the idea of talking about what I blogged about last time. It continued to affect me throughout the weekend and was something I knew I needed to talk about eventually, whether or not it was right then or in the near future. Even still, I couldn't actually verbalize what was bothering me. I couldn't SAY the words that I was able to type. So instead, I told A that I had blogged about it and that I'd like her to read it since I couldn't muster up the courage to say it.

I copied and pasted it into a word document for her and she sat down at her desk and read it, while I could feel myself retreat to someplace else. I felt scared about revealing these thoughts. The all too familiar feeling of shame just washed over me. It's very hard for me to process when this happens. I am reduced to one word answers and almost no emotion. I can't focus on anything but the fear. It's often very hard for me to remember what exactly was discussed when I feel this way. I know she said she saw two things that stood out to her in my post. One that there was an acknowledgement of healing on my part, with the recognition of the fact that the pain is diminishing and getting easier to handle. The other thing had to do with the paragraphs I wrote about trying to figure out why my abuse was any different than the anonymous poster's. She identified this as something that was detrimental to my healing, along the same lines as false guilt... but for the life of me I cannot remember what she said. The fear had already taken over.

I keep revisiting it in hopes to conjure up some sort of new information, but so far I'm coming up blank.


***Trigger Warning***

I've been thinking a lot lately about my abuse.

It started off just reflecting on my year, realizing how far I have come from this time last year. I hadn't even disclosed my abuse to A a year ago. I didn't even think I could talk about it. I was so afraid. The pain was so fresh. That pain has dulled a lot over the past 12 months, for which I am eternally grateful. I can't imagine being in that much pain all the time.

But with the dulling of the pain has brought forth some confusion. I can think about my abuse and be hurt that it happened, but the pain isn't there with it. I don't know how to think about my abuse without having that sharp pain of betrayal, anger, disgust, etc stabbing at me. I almost feel like I am past the point of being "allowed" to let it bother me anymore. Or more so, let it affect my life anymore.

I was reading through some of my fellow bloggers posts and it has become more and more apparent that these women were subjected to long-term sexual abuse and rape. I was not. I was abused once. In my readings, I came across an anonymous comment someone had left about not knowing what it was like to be sexually abused, except maybe if you counted being "genitally probed" by her neighbors son as a teenager, under a blanket while watching a movie with their families.

I don't know what to do with that. It really hurt to read that comment because it was so brushed off... like, oh I don't even classify that as abuse, just something that I wish didn't happen but I'll survive. It really angered me and I only was abused once. I didn't incur daily or even weekly abuse. I didn't have to hide when I heard footsteps. So why is my view of this experience so much different than this anonymous poster?

I have spent the last two years of my life in freefall trying to recover from the acknowledgement of the abuse even happening, how it affected my life as I lived in denial, how to change my perceptions of men and start to trust people. Especially now that the pain has dulled, I feel like I made a huge deal out of something that wasn't. I mean, this person doesn't even view their experience as abuse. Is it different because the boy was her age? Is it different to me because my abuser was 40 years older than me?

I have been spending a lot of my time lately just trying to gain some perspective on everything and I am not getting anywhere. I am very confused.