A desire to connect

My trauma stopped me from learning how to be vulnerable, intimate and how to connect. I did not experience proper attachment and so I became a non attached individual.

I find it hard to connect to others because my first experiences of connection were so scary and violent. The ingrained belief is that it is not safe to connect. I learnt I couldn’t even connect with myself/ hence the dissociation. I fragmented.

Intimacy is so hard because that is the ultimate connection. To be intimate is, once again, to get hurt. For me, as an SRA survivor, it ends in death.

it’s hard to sit with but I’m glad I’m understanding these feelings more. I need to practice compassion for how I have acted. Ten years ago I was in a massive trauma reaction state. My behaviours were frozen in ill equipped responsiveness. I wish somebody could have told me. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to listen. I have a migraine tonight. I got through today okay, no feelings of disgust or shame, which was so nice. It’s definitely the hard part of processing memory and learning to tolerate the discomfort of my feelings.

I do believe that I will be able to connect and be intimate. I just have to keep taking the right action as it will slowly rewire my brain. I used to be so impatient, but it’s all taken so much longer than I once thought, I have just resigned myself to the fact that it is going to take time. However long that is.

Sometimes

Since running the writing boxing workshop for women survivors of child sexual abuse and trauma, I have been struggling to write on this blog. I write in the workshop with the women and I share with them, but I feel like I am digging up a deep dirty well of shame and low self worth. The feelings and thoughts pummel me, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m ugly, fat, disgusting”, “I wish I was dead”. I know they’re not helpful thoughts or rational or loving, but they’re in my head. They are within me. I feel embarrassed to exist. I feel embarrassed to write this and share how I really feel. I am sad and ashamed and disappointed in myself. Sometimes it feels like I move so far back in time, to the beginning of the journey of waking up- to a shamed sense of self. A fractured identity. I think I’ll just shut my eyes and pray to Yeshua to help me.

Magic surgery

I am doing body work in my therapy at the moment, which means working with my feelings, locating them in my body and getting the feeling to “talk”. I’ve had one powerful session that I wrote about a few weeks ago and since then it has been difficult to connect. This afternoon was different though. I lay down and T got me to drop down into by body and to try and locate a feeling or experience/ where it was in my body. I often have a lot of strange things come up but just try and tell her what’s going on in case it is a part trying to communicate. So I asked for more information – what does this actually mean? Like how do I connect with the feeling or locate it in my body. I explained that it felt like I was separate from my body, as though it was cut into pieces. It wasn’t part of me, it was all sliced up. She went with that, and just got me to “find” a piece – so I said there was something in my throat. We went with that, she asked me to get my throat to speak. “It hurts”, (my throat said). “I can’t breathe”. I felt like I was going to be choked. I told her it felt like they made me swallow something gross. She reminded me I was safe and to stay with it. Then, I think I asked her if it was safe to speak. And she said it was. And the throat or part said there was a star inside my throat. They put a star in there. My T asked if I knew how they did that and the part responded, “throat surgery”. My T asked do I know why it is there and I said so I wouldn’t talk, because if I did it would slice my throat. My T told me that this is common for the cults to do and that I could get it out. I just needed to visualise it melting and then sliding down my throat into my stomach and then it would just disappear. I imagined this and it worked. I also gave myself a hug and really practiced self love for the first time. I felt so much better afterward and when I got home I took the dogs for a run. I yelled out to them a few times and my voice was breaking! I’m not sure if it was because I was parched or if it had something to do with the work I did tonight. Now I have a bad stomach ache and I am feeling very frightened and dissociative. I just feel real small and disgusting. I’ve had a really good week, work wise, but in general feel very paranoid, as though those close to me don’t like me. I know I will be okay, I just think I’m in for another round of memory work and bad feelings. My focus to get through is on practicing self care and journaling.

Days are a distraction

Holidays are well over as I hit the ground running with work, PhD, film, recovery, a looming separation and new abode. A new life. I am establishing myself well in my career, yet money is an issue. I have assumed greater leadership roles at work but because I am not full time, my earning capacity is not that great. I think I have defective beliefs to do with money around my abuse. I have a clear memory of counting money in Steve’s house. He was one of my perpetrators. He lived opposite me and I used to play with his granddaughter, Rebecca. His wife’s name was Gina and they had a chihuahua named Susie. My sister tried to drown me in their pool. Steve let Rebecca and I count the money in his tin and then keep it. I remember feeling so rich. The memory is getting paid for sex. I always felt pulled toward prostitution but thankfully never did it. I think my negative belief around money is linked to all this. I’m scared of it, I don’t know how to look after it and it just seems to disappear. I’m not lavish, I just don’t have a good grasp of it. I am going to hit debtors anonymous later this year as I want to apply a spiritual framework to processing this stuff. I’m not massively in debt other than a mortgage but as I said I’m just not great with saving or budgeting.

Things are good. I’m just ticking along, head down, working hard, never hard enough. Underneath it all, my default is a deep depression. A sadness. A sense of loss. I don’t let it get to me, but I notice it’s there. I live with it. It hits me in the morning and at night. Days are a neat distraction.

Reflections

Any procrastination is fear based.

I am better promoting others than myself.

I’ve liked almost everybody more than I’ve liked myself.

Trauma survivors feel like my tribe.

I identify with pain, sadness and joy.

I once used to reject others emotions. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.

I hated feeling.

I always felt like something was wrong with me but couldn’t put my finger on it.

Things changed when I learnt I had been ritually abused.

I desire a clear narrative of my life but I live in fragments of memory and abstract feeling.

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I got a text the day after my slaa 12 step meeting saga Wednesday night. It was terribly long, formal and cold. It explained the protocols of meetings etc and basically said i couldn’t be co-secretary. I just responded gracefully and said thanks, no worries, take care. I won’t go back. Decision has been made. I have to trust God is looking out for me. It still hurt and I felt rejected. I realised this afternoon though that when I was only one to two years in recovery (which these girls are), I was very black and white like them. I used to listen to older sober members in recovery (who had more than five years) and roll my eyes if they professed they felt misery or the like. I was in so much fear still, I just desperately wanted to know I was going to be okay and happy and safe and to hear someone who was more sober than me express a contrary view, made me scared. I only wanted to hear positive messages. So I understand that’s where they are at. Now at almost seven years sober, I can see life is more nuanced than that. There are good periods and there are dark ones. Now, it is about learning to sit with the feelings and not acting out or denying or minimising. So it’s unlikely I am going to get this next phase of recovery there. I am getting it in co dependents anonymous so will just keep pursuing that and see what happens. I think sex, sexuality and love etc are at the core of a fractured shame based identity like mine, so I need to honour that. Go slow, stay safe, be validated and focus on naming the shame not denying it.

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Boxing, writing workshop number three today. I asked God to run this one today as I was soooo tired. He always comes through. It was a good session. I wrote a love letter to my neck. The women are so beautiful. Hurt but beautiful. It’s amazing facilitating the group. It is taking quite a bit out of me. I feel emotional- sad. I am sad they have been so hurt like me. I see their bravery. I see how silenced they have been and it makes me angry. It is so good to hit things in a safe environment. It feels as though the anger is just so so so deep. I have buried it for so many years. It feels never ending. I am angry for me and I am angry for all these women and men too.

Recovery – high school drama

Tonight was a difficult one. I took over as secretary of this SLAA group (sex, love addicts anonymous). When I showed up about 6 weeks ago, the group was in disarray- for example, there were some weeks when no one showed up with the key. Despite this, there was something very authentic and raw about the meeting. It seemed to attract abused women who were willing to go deep into some tough material related to their past. I offered to be the group secretary, thinking it would aid my recovery and hopefully there would be a chance to get the group on track. Anyhow, there was a bit of rumbling the past week about having a meeting to “shake things up”, from some previous group members, who had gotten wind the meeting was in disarray. They wanted to organise what’s known as a group conscience. It was a strange vibe as I felt odd that as secretary, I wasn’t even invited!! I ran the meeting tonight and a couple of young girls turned up who had an obvious hidden agenda as to what they thought would be best to “sort things out”.

This kind of thing is a massive trigger for me. Due to the abuse I operate better when things are transparent, so I was feeling anxious and on the defense. Turns out one of them wanted to be secretary, so I handed it over and after some polite “inclusive” faffing around, I became co-secretary. Then I think the real truth behind what they were thinking came out. One of the girls, who was incredibly controlling, suggested we start the sharing with members who have had the most recovery and then go down the pecking order. A couple of women said they didn’t agree and gave suggestions for it; hearing the warts and all stories can be very grounding and is relatable, to another they felt a bit freaked out by someone who had five years of recovery etc. The controlling one then said, “it’s not about hearing people sharing their wounds all the time”… and I just responded “that’s a judgement”, to which her friend snarled at me, “no it’s not” (I immediately felt like I was back in high school). I responded, “we are not in control of what people share. Women come here from trauma backgrounds and need to be able to share these wounds”. I realised that was the nub of it. I say I am a survivor of sexual and ritual abuse at those meetings. I go straight to the core of my acting out- I announce it is embedded in shame based behaviour and my skewed perceptions, low self worth and failed relationships rest solely in my abuse and the programming I grew up with. I also talk about how I am gaining conscious awareness of my behaviours in recovery as I don’t want to act out. I think I trigger her as she may not be able to access her past. To own the sexual abuse and programming is so hard but the message she transmitted unconsciously to me was “shut up, don’t talk about how you feel, don’t talk about the abuse, your feelings don’t matter”. I think that is so retraumatising to survivors and I was not shy about challenging this. I also find that kind of dictatorial style of recovery very unhelpful and damaging to the growth of people, who mostly come from trauma backgrounds. I think we need to empower each other, not disempower by telling people they are wrong.

I left the meeting distressed, as I think we all did. It will be very interesting to see what happens next week. My parts felt like there were demons flying around this woman, so I gotta do my best to protect myself and my parts. I’m going to give it three to four weeks and assess the situation. I want recovery that is focused on empowerment, respect and authenticity. I am not going to have this woman silence me, at the same time, I am not interested in high school drama and so will only stay if it is an environment where I can flourish, not play bitchy games. I feel yuk about it all. But the good thing was I talked to my parts and really acknowledged that the situation felt shit and toxic and they had done nothing wrong. This is the part of twelve step programs that I find inherently unhelpful and damaging. There is no acknowledgment and understanding of a trauma informed practice and I think that can be dangerous when you have a bunch of survivors in a room at various stages of acceptance and recovery. Grrrr…

Tell it again and again and again

I rode my scooter motorbike home in the pouring rain. I knew it was going to be scary and potentially dangerous but I just handed it over to God to get me home safe. It didn’t stop me feeling scared riding, however I felt Him watching my back the whole time. It was a good opportunity to lean into Him more and trust.

It’s been a good week. I have developed a friendship with another D.I.D and SRA survivor. The relationship feels very healthy and I feel blessed to have her in my life. She’s so smart and considered and really good to talk to. All this stuff has landed for her lately in terms of memory and connecting the dots to her sordid past and I am so happy for her. That’s a weird thing to say but I am excited she’s waking up and breaking the silence. When I am running well, mentally I forget that I am dissociative and also tend to think that I am making the ritual abuse stuff up. I have to remind myself I have spent the last five (plus, plus) years battling so it’s okay to feel well and have reprieve. It’s okay to heal, even if I don’t have the full story of my past.

I wish I had a narrative though. I feel lost without one, as though I am missing parts of myself. I started the writing boxing workshop last weekend for women survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. It was a powerful day, and very emotional. I reflected on the workshop in my “normie” blog and realised I was second guessing myself the entire workshop. Because I was trying so hard to not listen to the negative voices or buy into them, I wasn’t able to be fully present and allow for any emergent findings in “the space in between”. I want to hold the space better and just notice more- allowing the women to feel supported, but also just allowing… whatever that means. I think the more I reflect on it, the greater opportunity I am going to have to overcome things. I would like to start the class with a feelings check, like we do in CoDA and then talk briefly about anything that arose from last week. I am going to mention how I felt I tried to rush things because of nerves and anxiety and that I am going to work on trying to be more present. I think everyone felt very “wired” and somewhat dissociative. It was an intense class and going around in a circle and saying, “I’m a survivor of sexual abuse etc” to a bunch of other women who all admitted it too, was so powerful but confronting. Why was it confronting? I think because everyone could relate to it being a hidden secret. We weren’t allowed to share. Some of us were told we were going to be killed, go to jail or insane if we told. The threats on our nervous systems were extreme and we never felt safe. To sit in a group and name the shame and not get in trouble or die or go insane was emotional. That was the confronting bit I guess. I heard today that in aboriginal tradition, stories about trauma are told and told and told until they are released fully. I feel as though this is what I am doing, what I am needing to do. Learning to “speak my truth” is what is healing me. I just have to keep claiming it and saying it and exposing the shame, the lies and the denial.

Intensity

Last night I dissociated badly. I’m not sure why. Stress. Spiritual warfare. Repressed terror. I rode on my scooter to S’s and she put on a kids movie for my parts. It was pretty silly (adult self talking), but the little ones did like it a lot as it had heaps of dogs in it and they beat the baddies. My parts cried in the end, even though it was a happy ending. They went to bed and were shivering and shaking. I felt paralysed, in shock. They didn’t say much internally or externally, they were just expressing deep fear. Today I felt progressively better. In therapy tonight parts just talked about how they couldn’t see the point to life. T asked me if I felt the same and to be honest I must admit I do. I am reading Ecclesiastes at the moment and it pretty much sums up my existential thoughts about life/ that everything is meaningless. I know God gives purpose, i guess I’m just waiting for that fire in my belly. I feel like it will come and the meaning will likely be in just helping others. Nothing overly complex. I just don’t do that well with normality I guess. Maybe with time it will balance out. I recognise I have to go to the extreme with everything. It’s the way I learnt. Extreme torture, dissociation, means I gravitate toward extreme situations to make meaning. Like boxing. I have to get in the ring and punched in the face on numerous occasions for it to sink in that I was powerless as a child. I also like to run long distances, preferably in very hot weather. I have always preferred intense situations. The good news is I am getting tired of having to learn things intensely…. at least I think I am. Or maybe I’m just accepting it.