Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Never let me down again

Just a quick update, until I have time to write more- therapy is going well. I've just seen her three times, and I already feel like I understand how I feel much better, and why I feel that way. For instance, why when everyone seems to think I should feel strong and capable and confident, I feel overwhelmed and scared. It's not that I don't believe in myself. It has to do with the way I coped as a child, and I can't just see the world in a totally different way now that I'm an adult. I'm also learning about how the abuse affected me developmentally. The important thing is that my therapist is so knowledgeable about the affects of child abuse and PTSD that she really understands what's going on with me emotionally, and has a plan for how I can learn to cope in ways that will be more successful for me as an adult. Today I left therapy with the realization that I did an amazing job of coping as a child. Good for me.

Speaking of doing a good job, I got my mid-year performance evaluation at work, and it was very positive. I was surprised. I have felt so overwhelmed for probably the last year, I keep expected to get called out- "What is wrong with you? You are not concentrating on your work! We all know how depressed and messed up you are!" Of course my boss is not thinking that at all, which was obvious from my evaluation. I talked about that with my therapist, and I'm also starting to understand my feelings of being a fraud, that fear that at some point everyone will figure out how screwy I really am, and my perfectionism. She actually said, "You're easy!" today, referring to how clear the connection is between the negative feelings I have now and the triggering events or circumstances in childhood. I am totally textbook. When I read about PTSD and the affects of child and sexual abuse, I often think of how perfectly my symptoms fit into the descriptions. I'm an eager to please, straight-A perfectionist even in my emotional sickness. That makes me sound like Hermione, although I really feel more like Luna.

Speaking of, I still haven't seen the fifth Harry Potter movie, but I've seen 1-4 and 6 now, and I just got the first book. I am currently reading the first Sookie Stackhouse book (by Charlaine Harris, the books that True Blood is based on). It is a page turner. It is so great to be reading books just for fun.

Since I did get such a glowing review at work, I decided it would be safe for me to take the anniversary of Jeff's death off so I wouldn't be crying at work that day. It is next Wednesday.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Heart Shaped Box

I have a new therapist, and wow, she is such a professional! By which I mean, she knows more about this stuff than I do. Yay!

Not that it was particularly fun, but I was impressed. I never even mentioned the whole dissociation thing, and she picked up on me doing it right away. She even said- you were talking but you weren't there anymore. She was right, but I didn't know I was doing it (since I wasn't there anymore). Then she explained to me how I was more aware than I realized, and helped me pick out what I was feeling and thinking that I was trying to distance myself from. She totally understood what had happened to me with the email, and the taking a week for it to hit me, and the emotional breakdown. I could tell because she interpreted and clarified what had happened based on my disassociated ramblings that didn't even make much sense to me. When I talked about my family, I felt like she totally got it, that is, understood what me and my brother went through and why I felt the way I did. In a matter of minutes she ascertained that my biggest source of pain over my brother's suicide was the feeling that I wasn't there for him in the last year of his life. She also commented on how I seemed especially bothered by people holding me at a distance, or just watching me and the drama of my life in a removed way instead of interacting with me as a fellow human being.

I was kind of taken aback by that because I had never really thought of it that way. I DO hate that! I probably hate that more than anything. It pretty much boils down all my frustration with the adults who I feel betrayed me as a kid because they wouldn't get involved and protect me, and the emotionally distant people in my present. She seemed to see through me so easily that it was kind of uncomfortable. I am, and probably most people would be, not totally sure how to respond to someone who really listens, asks targeted questions, and then makes some insightful comment about what I'm feeling that cuts to the point in a way I couldn't do myself. It almost made me feel like a kid with a parent that actually cared about how I felt and understood my childlike state of development with an adult perspective, which made me feel a little defensive and with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was feeling this huge sense of (potential) relief that I may have found someone who can really help me, someone I could trust to guide me through some of this lingering childhood emotional chaos with knowledge and experience that I don't have. On the other hand, I was feeling scared that someone who can get into my head like that could do some serious rearranging, and I would just have to trust it would turn out okay. Of course, I'm not okay now, so how much worse could it get? (She reaffirmed my diagnosis of PTSD, and added another one- depression. How am I still functioning? I am so adaptable to any situation.)

Some of the books I've read talk about how growing up in an abusive home screws up your emotional development, and it can be a little discouraging because these books don't exactly tell you how to fix that. In normal childhood development, you learn things like self-regulation and self-soothing. In an abusive home, you learn coping mechanisms. When you become an adult, you still have the coping mechanisms without the self-regulation. You hold on to the coping mechanisms because its all you know, and more importantly, your brain recognizes them as what kept you alive. As she told me, your can't just stop doing something that your reptilian brain (that's where all that fight or flight stuff is) has experienced as key to your survival. So, as she said she was very goal-oriented, her goals in working with me are to teach me how to recognize when I'm disassociating so I can acknowledge and work through my feelings, and how to self-regulate my emotions, so I don't feel like I'm either numb and not feeling anything, overwhelmed with my feelings, or a combination of the two- feeling disconnected and upset but not sure why.

I came home and re-read the chapter in "Trauma and Recovery" (Judith Herman, M.D.) on child abuse:
"Repeated trauma in adult life erodes the structure of the personality already formed, but repeated trauma in childhood forms and deforms the personality. The child trapped in an abusive environment is faced with formidable tasks of adaptation. She must find a way to preserve a sense of trust in people who are untrustworthy, safety in a situation that is unsafe, control in a situation that is terrifyingly unpredictable, power in a situation of helplessness. Unable to care for or protect herself, she must compensate for the failures of adult care and protection with the only means at her disposal, an immature system of psychological defenses.

The pathological environment of childhood abuse forces the development of extraordinary capacities, both creative and destructive. It fosters the development of abnormal states of consciousness in which the ordinary relations of body and mind, reality and imagination, knowledge and memory, no longer hold. These altered states of consciousness permit the elaboration of a prodigious array of symptoms, both somatic and psychological. And these symptoms simultaneously conceal and reveal their origins; they speak in disguised language of secrets too terrible for words."

(Page 96, or the first page of Chapter 5)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Precious Things

Righteousness is a matter of relationships - with God, with things, and with other people. In one instance the word means being right; in another it is used to mean doing right; in still another case it means putting right.

Update from the dark, dark place- getting through the days by doing my crying in the car. Lots of opportunities to do that in LA, not so great for my driving. My saving grace is that it is LA- everyone drives crazy here. I'm thankful I'm not in SF. You almost run red lights there, and they'll plow you down, honking madly at you. My other saving grace is writing. The best thing I ever did was to start blogging. Writing it out is helping me move through it, and bring people to me who are giving me the support I didn't have after my brother's suicide. You find out who's there for you in times like these. Honesty is a powerful force, one that I hope I can be strong enough to let burn away this shame and humiliation and put things right with myself.

I found a psychologist who has experience with PTSD caused by child and sexual abuse. It isn't going to be pretty, or easy, or quick, but I want to see this through until every bit of self-hatred is gone, every bit of guilt, disgust, all the poison. Every year, my life starts to get hard around now- the anniversary of Jeff's death is coming up, then Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I was forced to go to the sexual abuser's house for the holidays. If I'm not tormented it's because I'm suppressing my feelings, so to work it out I'll be trying to let the raw pain wash over me. Two days ago my body and soul ripped open, and I've been walking around like that since then. It hurts, but I want it to keep hurting until I've truly moved through it and reached the other side.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

eyes on fire

I'm in a dark, dark place right now. It's hard to write because, even while trying to be brutally honest, I want to edit myself too. Some things feel too raw to share. As painful as it is to write sometimes, I always feel better afterward. Not right afterwards. It takes some time. It feels like prying out a bullet, and the wound needs to heal. I want to write myself through this, though. I want to look this in the face, as its happening. I don't have a plan, and I'm just writing until I stop, wherever it is. Then I'll come back and write more later.

My friend sent me an email today that made me feel amazed that she understood me so well. Here are parts of it-

you will get thru this! i think you moved to la to move thru it all....to cleanse in this dirty place...if that makes sense...just breathe, trust yourself. you purged a lot in your blog-a-thon, of course you are going to be fucked up for a minute! this is not light shit you are dealing with!

And...always remember..."Healing hurts!" always! it hurts, that is how you know healing is taking place!

I need to keep saying that to myself- this is not light shit I am dealing with! I felt when I was writing about the coping mechanisms, I was purging them, and assimilating them. Understanding why I needed them at the time and what I don't need (most of them) now. Shame is so strong when you grow up feeling that you are causing yourself to be abused, and then you feel ashamed of all the ways you tried to deal with it. The shame can get so deep into you, make you so ashamed of everything about you. I've tried hard to control what I others saw of me, because I had so much darkness inside me that I thought was my fault. Even my brother, who I didn't want to know about the sexual abuse. The rest of it was bad enough. I thought he thought I deserved it too, so I was mortified of all the abuse he did see.

I'm keeping myself from going back and reading this. I would delete it all. I'm just writing.

I was in corporate housing when I first moved here, but that was just for a month, and I hadn't saved up enough money to get my own place. I temporarily moved in with the boyfriend. I thought it was a bad idea at the time since I didn't know him very well, having just moved down here. I didn't see that I had a lot of options. Almost immediately he started yelling at me. He would lose his temper over something that didn't make any sense at all, and just keep screaming and screaming at me. The more upset I got, the more belligerent he got. When I'd start crying he'd accuse me of trying to manipulate him. I was afraid to leave (during the yelling) because I thought he'd kill my rats if I left him alone with them. He seemed capable of anything- there was terrifying cruelty in his eyes.

That fear did strange things to me. Instead of leaving, I went into survival mode. I acted as if I couldn't leave. I felt like I was a kid, with my dad. I had unbelievable flashbacks; flashbacks that took me away from reality. I felt that I was in real danger, but I tried to manage the situation. I tried to get him to stop by being really nice to him, really accommodating and obedient. I was totally cowed. I felt like I didn't know myself anymore- I blocked out everything I was feeling. I was numb. I tried to talk him into letting me leave, but when I mentioned it he would start crying, saying things like he couldn't live without me. Then he'd accuse me of being abusive towards him. That accusation became more and more frequent, along with others- that I didn't respect him, I was just like his dad (who beat him), my attempts to defend myself were childish temper tantrums, I was telling people he was abusive, I wasn't contributing to the household. This was punctuated with telling me how perfect we were for each other, how he could never be with anyone but me, he would go crazy if I left him.

I already thought he was crazy. I thought he was totally mental. But I regarded him as a sick person, felt sorry for him, but didn't feel sorry for myself. Instead, I felt ashamed that I had gotten involved with someone like this. After all the books I read, after all I had been through already, and I had already had an abusive boyfriend. One that I stayed with for five years until I sure he was going to kill me. I kept thinking I could fix it. I kept thinking I was causing him to act that way. I was sure it was me, that I made guys act crazy. And I couldn't admit to myself that I was in the situation I was in. I wanted so bad for it to be something it wasn't. I couldn't tell anyone because I was sure they would blame me, and think I was the crazy one for getting involved with him, that our fights couldn't possibly be as one-sided as they seemed. That I must be egging him on, I'm an adult after all, how could I not defend myself? How could I be so intimidated by this guy when I was a grown woman? Even worse, if I'm an adult and I choose to be with someone like that, it almost seems like I'm at fault for the abuse that happened when I was a kid. I went back for more.

I look back and it seems that I was not thinking at all. My brain was so dominated by fear. It seems so illogical now, yet, I understand it. The scary thing now is that I see how it is situational- if I am reminded of the abuse and that fear, I can flash back to the survival mode I was in as a child, and act like a child instead of an adult. Not make adult decisions. I haven't talked about this because I feel so disgusted with myself over it.

I did decide to leave after six months, in part because I told a co-worker a little about what was happening and realized how bad it was, and because he was treating me with more and more contempt and becoming more physically intimidating. I was afraid he would start hitting me. At the same time I decided I had no choice but to leave, I was afraid of his reaction, of what he would do. I was pussyfooting around, acting as meek as I could so he wouldn't get angry and decide that since I was moving out he had nothing to lose. The night before I moved, he demanded I have sex with him. I refused, so he forced himself on me. I don't think I'll forget what it felt like when he pushed me away with disgust when he was done with me, and rolled over and went to sleep.

The next day as I was trying to pack my things, he yelled and lunged at me, more angry than I'd ever seen. He slammed the door so hard it bounced open as he was leaving, while he screamed for me to get out. I was shaking so hard I could hardly pick things up. The apartment manager came and said he had to get the key from me because I had been kicked out. I called my friend (who I quoted above) and she helped me move everything and unpack my apartment. I was in shock for days. I felt like I wasn't in my body, numb all over. Relieved, too, that me and the rats had escaped.

I had flashbacks about that night for a year. I felt disgusted with myself. I didn't want to write about it on my blog because I was so ashamed of myself, and he knew about my blog and I thought he would attack me. I couldn't even talk to my therapist because it seemed to freak her out when I told her how disgusting I felt. I haven't had sex with a guy since then. I couldn't even masturbate without thinking about it. When I tried to just do other stuff with someone else, I felt afraid and kept disassociating, felt disconnected, had flashbacks. Felt sickened by myself. I felt really alone.

Last week I got an email from him. No apology- just wanted me to know he didn't hate me and wondered how I was.

Monday, August 03, 2009


is impossible. When I let the guy pursue me, I'm told he thinks I don't like him. (All those books say if he's not trying to be with you he's "not that into you" anyways.) If I pursue him, he loses interest and goes chasing after someone else. I can't win. I used to get flowers, now I'm lucky to get a phone call. The last time a guy called to ask me out was a year and a half ago- a 22 year old unemployed aspiring actor who chatted me up at the laundromat. (There are a lot of those around here. Don't ask me why I gave him my number- I really didn't think he would call. I thought he was just seeing if he could talk me out of it.) I wish I could give up. I'm trying to just give up. It would be a relief to not care. I can see why people would choose to stay far away from this stuff. It could be that I am covered with guy-repellent. Maybe I'm a terrible first date. Maybe I make hideous faces that make guys nauseous and they have to go throw up after they see me. Whatever the reason, I can't take any more of this rejection. I may start applying to MFA programs and submitting my poetry to journal because that kind of rejection would be a breath of fresh air!

I'm kind of hoping no one reads this. What a strange day. I was told I was stunningly gorgeous (which was really nice), that a guy I went on a blind date with (who I initiated contact with) told the setter-upper that he didn't think I liked because I didn't call him after the date (do I have to do everything?), and thought about, while trying really hard not to, how much it hurts that someone who told me he'd always be there for me is ignoring me and lavishing his attention on someone else, a friend of mine. And now I'm whining and feeling sorry for myself. I probably shouldn't be blogging about this, but I still can't talk about this stuff very easily, unless I'm in the bathroom crying before a hockey game I suppose. Then its kind of hard to keep up the brave face. Maybe I have given up. I think that I want someone I can talk to about how I'm feeling, but it just seems impossible that anyone would want to hear about that, which is why my blog seems like my best friend. I miss my brother. This is the death anniversary month. Good old August. It comes every year without fail and I feel like hell for a month straight.