At therapy tonight, a protector part came out and spoke to T. She was asking T questions like, “have you done this before” (in terms of her experience helping survivors), whether she had a gun or was going to give us drugs.
The switch seemed natural and I could observe it. I felt co conscious enough to recall, though it definitely didn’t feel like me in my body.
I’ve been sick all week. I think the half marathon really took it out of me. Apparently you’re immune system can be impacted for a few days and people get sick. That’s what’s happened to me. I didn’t realise it would deplete me so much. Today I started to feel better but now in bed, I am struggling. Every night for the past few weeks I keep closing my eyes and seeing horror nightmare images. I sense terror. I’ve got to get curious about what this is- memory? Fear? Both?
Tomorrow I’ll start boxing again.
Last year I shared aspects of my personal survivor story with my students in relation to a talk on “resilience”. I work in a creative arts faculty at a university and we have very poor mental health statistics, but on the flip side very high levels of satisfaction and engagement. Ah the existential existence of the artist! Seriously though, I felt it was important to address this research and reflect on the idea of resilience and unpack it a bit. Resilience is a buzz word and essentially means the ability to bounce back from things. For a long time I took this as “moving on”, “disconnecting” and denying or minimising my experiences. That’s how I grew up. I was later to discover that resilience meant the ability to face and accept (and become willing to transform) the deep pain caused by my abuse. I shared that I started my post graduate studies (the same course these students are studying) having memories activated over that summer that I had been sexually abused as a child. That’s how I started my post grad year. I am mindful there is more to this story and a richer context, but basically the talk triggered quite a few students. I knew it would and warned them up front. This wasn’t a bad thing as it has allowed students to be vulnerable and give voice to their own stuff and my relationships overall with them are very positive and rewarding.
What happened today though was that I had a meeting with one of my students and I knew she had been having a rough time and was feeling very overwhelmed and stressed. She basically told me today that she had memories of abuse come up, which she knew of but the memories were repressed. For whatever reason, now, they were coming out. She also hinted she was dissociative and feeling like she was having a mental breakdown. We talked for some time and I checked in with what resourcing she had (she has a therapist) and also discussed taking some leave and / or other strategies focused on self care and grounding herself. The hardest thing was seeing her so sad and distressed. She talked about how “dirty” she felt and I could relate to her so much. When I remembered my abuse it was like my whole world turned upside down. I knew life was never going to be the same again and it wasn’t. I felt for such a long time this feeling of dirtiness and disgust and shame that the student was experiencing. It was inside me and still is when I have memory. I have repressed so much of this.
I am honoured the student spoke to me and shared some of her pain and story but I also got massively triggered as it brought up so much of my stuff. I want to be able to help her but I know that it is not my place and the best I can do is offer professional pastoral care. I am sad that little kids get abused and hurt. I am sad about how much damage it does to ourselves and how long it takes for things to surface. Repression. Denial. Dissociation. I understand they are all protective mechanisms.
Tonight I just feel the dirtiness and shame and disgust. I am really close to dissociating as it really affected me. I feel like I have caused it because I initially shared my story. I know that might sound ridiculous and self centred but I just think maybe if I had of shut up she wouldn’t be triggered and stuff wouldn’t have come up for her. I know this is parts talking. I also feel really powerless and upset that she is so distressed. I can see her switching in front of me and my parts are confronted by it. I will check in with her tomorrow and offer her an extension on an assessment to give her some time to build her resources. Life can be so hard for so many people and I feel really down about that.
The writing and boxing workshop I ran today really brought up a lot of sadness for me today. I feel humbled to have created a space where women share deeply held secrets. I feel privileged to hear their words and pain. For so long I felt alone with mine and I desired to meet other people like me. I have read many survivor stories, to relate, to believe, to break down the denial programming and to really see how other people survived. Now, every week I get to hear stories and see people who are living and doing life, day by day. I realise that mostly as trauma survivors, we just get on with things, but underneath it all seems to be this heaviness and sense of loss and shame. No doubt to do with the disconnection of self.
I have a urinary tract infection. I think it is just from stress and being tired. It makes me fatigued and feel out of whack. I read the metaphysical meaning behind it (thanks to Louise Hay), which says that a UTI is all about being “pissed off”. Whilst I have definitely been able to access anger over the past few years I mostly repress it and turn it inwards with depression, low self esteem and negativity. I don’t feel angry at the moment, I feel tired, sad and stressed. Maybe I’m angry at myself. Yeah; there’s truth in that. Angry that I screwed up my marriage, angry I feel like a failure and angry I can’t remember or let go of my past. Yeah, I feel angry at myself. Like I deserve bad things and to be hated. Wow, I didn’t think this was underneath it all. I pray that God will help me show compassion to myself and show me how to love and be kind to me.
I want to channel my anger properly and not turn it inward. I want to feel safe to let my anger out. My dad was so angry, he was scary. Anger feels scary and uncontrollable and cruel and mean and I don’t want a bar of it. Yet anger is in me and I need to let it out, without hurting others. How?
I feel somewhat clammed up with writing. I just feel like a whiny bitch with no purpose. A self indulgent, uninspiring, negative blogger who contributes nothing. Should I be expected to contribute anything? As though the online space brings with it these implicit expectations to be positive or polished and one sided.
I remember many years ago, early 2000s and I was on the internet browsing around. I came across a blog – people talking about cutting and another person sharing sexual polyamorous adventures. I was baffled by people’s need to “tell all” to the world. “Secret” online diaries. It was a window into other lives and I felt weird reading it. I didn’t get why someone would write candidly about themselves. Now, as I do this, I get it, kind of. I started writing this blog as a recovery tool. A way of trying to get what was inside my head out onto screen. I also know I was programmed to keep silent and my thoughts were scrambled. Blogging has helped challenge this thinking and made me feel more confident in myself, that I am allowed to speak and share and tell my story, as fragmented as it is.
My frustration comes back to me not believing what I think or what I have to say is of value. It’s hard for me to shake off that shame.
Last night I dissociated. I bought a new bed frame and it finally arrived. It came a few weeks later than I thought, so I had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. My girlfriend and I put it together and it just ended up looking and feeling so big in my bedroom. Before this I started to get a headache and it increased as the night went on. By the time I went to bed I had dissociated into parts and was shivering and shaking with memory. I ended up going to sleep soon after but then the dogs woke me up in the middle of the night barking. I was in parts and really scared and they asked S if anyone was under the bed. They just felt really triggered by the bed. It was so high and big and they hated it. I discovered this at therapy tonight as my parts spoke about it. I realised “bed” is quite triggering for me. It doesn’t feel safe.
It feels scary and disgusting and as though bad things happen in it. Why now though? Why am I only feeling these reactions about bed now? I think it is because this is the first bed I have officially bought. It is mine. So me actively purchasing it has brought up memory. Funny how this memory stuff works. I feel a bit better about sleeping in my bed after going to therapy and I know it will be okay, but it was weird to connect with these deeply unconscious belief systems.
Although I feel strangely connected and deeply loved tonight, my insiders are in turmoil. I will write what I hear and sense within me.
– love is dangerous
– I’m scared
– don’t hurt me
– it hurts, my body is frozen, I can’t breathe
– don’t go in there please, we will die
– i am so deeply sad, I am alone, I wish I was dead
It was late. They’d turned the lights off by now, usual practice. She turned to me. It’s about to start, she said, between gritted teeth. I didn’t know what she was talking about. I felt like I had been here before, but it was a long time ago, and things had changed, I’d changed, and I never wanted to go back . I’d moved on and I liked it that way. But the air of familiarity that night sparked my curiosity. “Tonight it’s the dungeon crowd. They’re the worst. They smell”. She beat me to it, I remembered the stench. Bowled over, I wasn’t gonna make it out alive tonight, I could feel it. There was no going home, no crawling to bed, fresh sheets. This was it. My time was up. I would be chained to the wall, spat on, and kept alive only to be laughed at for some kinky adult pleasure. I was a lab rat. I hated myself for coming into existence. I hated them but that wasn’t as deep as my self loathing. Every part of me wanted to shrink inside itself. I couldn’t wait until it was over, yet, it was never over and I knew they had me, at least until I blacked out. That night I ceased into existence.
black, black, black, black, black robes. Red. Such darkness exists that to consider the light one must become something else. The truth rooted, buried deep. Who will comfort me in my darkest hour when I don’t want anyone to see me? I crawl inside a hole and watch as they walk overpass. I yearn to yell out but my voice has disappeared. I resign to staring at the dank walls.
I had a horrible sleep last night and woke this morning from a nightmare. I am going to interpret the dream as I write about it. I dreamt that I was walking down the side laneway to my uncles house and I was leading a blind woman (representative of me not wanting to see the things I need to see). We got to the end of the lane where the outdoor laundry was (laundry represents dirty washing/ past- also cleaning – airing memory). I saw my dog (representing safety), but as I went to open up the laundry door, a spider came down and I woke up frightened and screaming (the palpable fear and terror behind breaking down the programming and remembering).
I woke with a headache and felt weird. I sensed memory was on its way, my body felt gross and I was not particularly present. Working today helped as it kept me distracted. I thought I might go into parts tonight but I haven’t yet. I guess I feel sad and empty. I think I just want to be held.
I also got a message on Facebook from the pastor whose church I spoke at the other week. He said that people were still talking about how affecting my testimony was and that a friend of his who has a Christian radio station is interested in interviewing me. I would like to find out more, but I feel conflicted because I don’t feel as though I will be accepted by Christians because I am in love with a woman. I won’t mention it but I guess it feels as though I am not being truthful. Or that they wouldn’t want to hear me if they knew this side of me.
We will see it might not turn out anyway. It’s good to be speaking out about the ritual abuse though. I wonder if I will have a memory soon.
Mother’s Day is triggering for many survivors and even though I know this is the case, it still hits me every year in some new, unanticipated way.
I am not sure what was what today however, as I went to a new church, given that I have now settled in my area across town. The church looked good from all accounts- small, informal, held in a community centre and Christ based. I arrived a little late and there was the inevitable worship music; simple, standard fare. There were quite a few children and babies there and I find that super triggering. I stupidly sat in front of a young mum and her child who was making all these noises and I ended up shifting in my seat, leaning forward, holding one finger to my ear (I was trying hard to not be obvious, but I was feeling dissociative). I’m praying to God, like, come on, help me out here and she ended up moving. Then a young man introduced the service and he gave context of the church. That’s when I heard it was Anglican based and that just weirded me out as I am not a fan of denominational churches (okay, so I don’t mind the Baptist’s). The church was originally planted and supported by the Anglican Church, and remains so until it is able to stand on its own. I get the need to have foundational support to commence the planting of churches, I am just unsure whether community Christ based churches need a religious structure to support their inception. Overall there was nothing said in the service that was overtly suspicious; but I felt really dissociative, triggered and my parts were scared. They felt everyone had no joy or spirit, which is weird as that is what God is all about to me. I don’t believe Church needs to be this happy clappy place, but I think there needs to be warmth and love oozing from leadership. I looked up the Anglican Church and ritual abuse and there have been many reports of this kind of abuse and more within the context of this organisation. And that’s what it is to me, an organisation. I talked to a man afterwards and he spoke about their ministry groups and stuff and it seemed interesting but I just couldn’t shift the triggering feeling. He asked me if I wanted to meet the pastor and I just said I need a few weeks to settle in before I join anything. I scurried away and then spent most of the afternoon in a highly depressed, avoidant dissociative state. I also experienced a deep urge to die, still lingering as I write this.
I’m disappointed I didn’t connect. I don’t know whether I am making it up- as in my reactions. I don’t know whether it is Satan or a spiritual attack or whether I trust my parts and intuition. I am opting for the latter as I know church can be triggering, but I don’t think I should be thinking about suicide afterward. That’s the enemy and stuff getting activated but not in a good way.
In the background was Mother’s Day and I tried not to engage. I understand not all mothers are bad. It would be nice if we could acknowledge the nuance associated with a day like this however as for survivors, it is a shit day all round. Tomorrow, a new day begins.
I feel privileged to be running the boxing and writing workshop for women survivors. Today was a smaller group but it felt very special and when people shared I related to everyone. The writing prompts were provocative and some of the women really expressed their anger, which was so cool. It’s good to unlock the anger. Man, there is so much of it.
I had a chat to one of the women (K) at the end of the workshop and I talked about how each woman requires a different approach. To me, their bodies speak, they tell of where they have hidden their trauma. K asked me about her and I said that she lunges in like an excited kid but then gets scared and jumps back, as though she is frightened and doesn’t know what to do with herself. I asked her to consider what it would be like to stay in close to the bag, to stay with the experience. We will see. I have no expectations. I just really like that the women are so different and that the journey is so personal to each and everyone of them.
I told my friend C I have been dreaming every night of faeces. She said that means creativity. That made me feel a bit better as it hasn’t been very nice.
I also gave a book about ritual abuse to my fellow SRA survivor in the class (N) and she got so excited. I laughed and said that only an SRA would be so enthused to read this. I like having that connection with her. She inspires me. All the women inspire me. I feel this is my calling but I have a little while until it all eventuates. I am okay with that. I feel blessed that God is guiding me. I did pray today and grounded myself and felt a lot better, the whole day and night. I am also noticing how easy God is making things for me. Just simple stuff, like getting my internet connected or things set up in my apartment. I just feel He has my back and I am really thankful for that.
So fatigued. End of a week and massively drained. I’ve been struggling to fall to sleep at night. I sense nightmares when I close my eyes. I seem to sleep through, but there is terror that nestles beneath the dreaming.
I’ve struggled to pray all week, it’s not been on my mind and day two of no prayer, I know I can easily lose perspective. It’s happening, tomorrow I’ll start again. I don’t know why I am so resistant.
Paranoia also lies within me. I’m not even sure of what, but a sense that people are out to get me.
I also feel guilty for not travelling well tonight. It’s hard to allow myself to feel exhaustion. I feel weak and that’s triggering.
I need to lay low this weekend, which I’ll do. It’s Mother’s Day Sunday too… I try and avoid that.
Therapy session today. I felt this morning a sense that my T hated me. I have no reason to feel this way so knew that it was transference. I bought it up with T at my session and she asked me who my parts thought she reminded them of. “Mother” came to me. She suggested I tell them who she was and I told them she was our therapist and here to help us. They didn’t know what a therapist was, so T explained it to them. The parts were left with a sense that if she didn’t hate them, then it meant that they just hated themselves and they didn’t know what to do with that. They knew they would have to change but they didn’t know how.
T suggested we do some art therapy and work with a memory the parts held. I decided to do sand tray stuff and so picked some figures that represented the bad people and a pair of legs and a small cat for me. The bad people figures were dark and demonic and there were two skeletons and a scary hand that looked like a spider. I positioned the figurines that represented me, in the middle. She asked me if there was a word to go with the experience and I said “power” and “scary”. The cat and legs represented me as innocent and also dismembered- perhaps fragmented. Body split. I brought in the figurine of a lion to cover the scary hand spider thing and then T suggested I put “myself” together via the figurines. Then I took myself out of the picture. This was a big move and felt scary but possible. We then put up barriers and set up a safe space for the part filled with zoo animals. We acknowledged that this didn’t mean we were saying the bad things didn’t happen, but rather that we were safe now and could separate it from us. I felt dissociative but T grounded me and I was okay tonight considering this stuff usually sends me in a depressive, dissociative spin.
It was a big session. I made a commitment to practice radical vulnerability and I feel like I was able to do this today in therapy and not judge myself or the process. I can feel and see that things are improving.