I feel embarrassed and weird after dissociating in front of my partner. My parts tested her for a long time in the beginning. We feel S is very trustworthy, but deep down no one is trustworthy. Or at least they can be and then things change. I enjoy long term relationships but they can be hard and I think because I have changed so rapidly over time, that I can get distracted and lose interest. That’s complicated because I am now the most settled I have ever been. I’m rambling. Dissociating last week with S was difficult. I just retreated and went deeply internal. She could see I was in parts, but didn’t really respond very well (so my parts perceived). She offered to give me a massage (my parts don’t want to be touched or feel their body so it’s not a welcome suggestion). She painted my nails (cute gesture but my parts just felt guilty she was being nice). She comforted me, snuggling up to me and we just felt weirded out by it but too bad to say anything. I went to bed early, she came too, when really I just wanted to be left alone as my parts weren’t wanting to talk or be with anyone. We just wanted to be alone. Then she kept asking me “what’s wrong honey, you can talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.” And again, I just clam up. I don’t have the language for how I’m feeling and secondly I don’t even know how I feel – just dark and blank and desperate to be alone. This continued into the next day, followed by similar patterns of approach. Friday night I had a bad dream and thankfully woke Saturday morning feeling like I’d switched back to normal. This is where it gets tricky. So she’s begun to distance herself from me (realising her approach isn’t working, she has to cut off a part of herself to respect my wishes of needing distance), so I come back thinking she’s going to be all normal and happy but now she’s distant and weird. This irks me because I am shamed about what’s happened and the wedge of silence is exacerbating these feelings. I decide to talk to her. I just tell her that I feel weird that she’s gone weird because I know I went away but I got deeply triggered by the memory work with my T and I actually think it’s a privilege that my parts came out over the last couple of days, because they obviously felt safe enough for that to happen. And we are pretty much dealing with traumatised parts of self who don’t know what they need or want, can’t “just talk about it”, feel so ugly and disgusting and horrible that they don’t want you to even look at them, let alone touch them. And so we need to treat them like they are just in pain and scarred and full of fear and accept they maybe don’t like me or S or anyone because they have been deeply hurt. But over time that will change as they learn to trust me and S. It was hard for S at first to get it and I acknowledged that it sounded like it was on my terms and all about me and that she has needs and wants to, understandably, but in those moments, I got to push for my parts to honour how they feel or how deeply damaged they are and I need her to see that and understand that because it’s complex and not easy. Anyway she explained that it’s hard for her to give me space because she wants to fix it and make me feel better and my parts and so she has to go internal after a while to do that and it takes her a bit to come back to normal. And I get that, I really do, and I get it is not easy for both of us, so we just acknowledged that it wasn’t easy and then things felt better between us and we took the dogs for a walk at the park and I went running and then we were back to normal.
I am stuck in my head. I am doing okay, but sometimes I feel like I am going to have a dissociative breakdown, then it passes.
Last week I did some powerful stuff in therapy (we are on Skype now). The session continued on from the week prior where I was doing art therapy and drawing. I was dealing with the theme “body”. My drawings during the first week were abstract – with the feeling of trapped and confused evident. Last week, my T got me to draw my body (or representation of) and I drew a figure of me in between two ghostly oppressive figures. Then T encouraged me to shift the focus and add some protection to my figure, so I drew yellow light around her to separate her from the darkness. Then T suggested I think about modifying the figures and I found myself rubbing crayon over their bodies and faces and scratching them out with the coloured pen. I said some things like “get off me” etc to verbalise the emotion (which was quite cut off). That was the session and then I dissociated almost immediately after and went internal for two days. It was hard for S but I really struggled to talk to her. I just wanted to be left alone. She was saying, “talk to me honey”, and I just found that so frustrating and ineffective. In those states it is difficult for me to verbalise how I feel or even write. I just feel very sleepy and well, internal. Blank. Different. We debriefed on Saturday when I had come back and talked through a few strategies. That’s another post in itself.
Outside of that experience, I am noticing more the pattern of feeling very intimate and loving toward S and then within a couple of days going internal and into self protection mode. Like the experience of deeply loving shifts into fear, internal anger and rejection. I get it’s linked to abuse but I struggle having no clear narrative to support the feelings.
The age difference still concerns me. I am maturing at a rapid rate (that sounds silly), but it’s true. To be honest I didn’t mind that M was 20 years older than me. I liked it and I think if we were together now I still wouldn’t mind. Sometimes it was frustrating as he would really show his age (as in archaic belief systems), but then again I am finding I am becoming more conservative as I get closer to 40. Like people in their 20s are pissing me off (my students). They’re so entitled and selfish. But I was exactly the same so I am struggling to have compassion for that part of me, who sucked at life in her 20s. I think I just want people to have their shit together more because I am starting to get my shit together. Or maybe I’m jealous that some of them do and it reminds me that I never did. I don’t know, I’m rambling. I feel like a failure and old tapes started placing this arvo. I’m over me and trying to prove myself to me and over life and getting older and over needing validation and pretending like I don’t when I really really want it. I’m over being scared of being abandoned by my young girlfriend, as though I am waiting for the day when it happens and I say to self, “ha, this is karma bitch for all the times you screwed over all the older people you went out with”. I’m over saying trite things like “you’ve got agency. I believe we’ve all got agency”, as though I should be holding bom boms whilst saying it. I’m over seeing myself on zoom and trying to look okay or act together and I’m over passive aggressive emails and saying, “I’m glad we’re all on the same page”.
How have I come to know what I know?
My schooling was average, or more so it was that I was an average student who excelled more in humanities and arts than science and maths. I liked to play, imagine and explore. My mother enrolled me into drama at the age of seven and I pursued this passionately for ten years. Sometimes I dreamed of being an actor, but I realised quite early in my teens that I didn’t have the “tug in my heart” that would be required to weather the storms and more importantly, the rejection. I also struggled to stay present and so “being in character” as an act of presence and vulnerability, was scary to me. I preferred to “put on a character”, that felt safer and more in control. In my late years of highschool I found media, alongside drama and that ignited a deep passion in me. I loved filmmaking, I don’t think I was particularly good at it, but I was a doer and creator and pretty good at organising things. I seemed to be able to get a project off the ground and get things done, which meant that I was able to gain a lot of experience as people began to rely on me. I was more practical than intellectual and at 21, I left small town Perth, Western Australia to live in London and make it big. Everyone said I would love London, but the truth was I hated it as soon as I got off the plane. I’d backpacked overseas at 18 and had some pretty wild experiences, so I felt older than what I really was. I was so young and dating a 30 year old and trying to be mature beyond what I was capable of. I’m sure I’d noticed it before, but perhaps having to battle so many unknown environmental factors, I became more aware of a depression lingering, a sense of anxiety, fear, shame and self loathing. I had little language for these feelings and so alcohol and cocaine provided me with the relief that I needed to stay clear of my head. There was a pattern emerging- an artistic identity in which creativity was generated in a hap hazard way but yet it satisfied something inside of me and a persistent and unavoidable need to completely separate myself from my thoughts and feelings to retain a relief that was otherwise impossible to experience. I learnt later it was dissociation because of trauma. I only lasted a year in London before I came to Melbourne to pursue an undergraduate degree in performance studies. This training has forever changed me, although I don’t think I realised how powerful it was at the time. It empowered me to be okay with sitting in the unknown- a very difficult concept for a survivor. It encouraged me to tap into my unconscious to access creativity and generate performance and ideas. The knowledge generation was implicit and tacit and I learnt to trust a process that I wasn’t able to define. It provided a safe space to be silly and experiment and fail and be reflective and it framed the process as valid and systematic and artistic, yet I didn’t really know this at the time.
Later, in therapy I would come to know my trauma implicitly too. Through body memories, “feelings”, “senses”, dreams, reactions and sometimes abreactions where I would dissociate and switch, but it was hard for me to accept those states as they felt weird and I hadn’t found the right therapist yet to help me process things.
For so long I have operated with this implicit, tacit way of knowing and seeing the world and now I am having to make this explicit through the writing of my PhD. It’s exciting and scary and I can’t help but feel it is going to have an effect on me subconsciously… but perhaps this is part of trusting the process that I have learnt over my years, abstract advice that has kept me sane because this shit can get weird.
Tonight I read some work for my PhD and then played games with S. We had so much fun but I found that I started to dissociate a bit at the end. It’s almost like the idea of having too much fun is overwhelming and I just want to go internal. It’s not noticeable and I ended up being able to say I felt like it was time to go to bed, but I could sense it. When I check in, I feel like parts just don’t think it was ever truly safe to play games or have fun. But I don’t have memories to validate that. I just have the resonance of feelings- tinged with sadness.
Anyway it was fun to just hang and be safe and silly and competitive and I need experiences like that to show my parts that we can have fun now and it can end safely and with love not badness.
I read tonight that the belief systems of Christianity, Hinduism etc is often at the exclusion of others. Although I identify as Christian, this has been one of my problems with it as I have struggled to accept this divide between myself and fellow humans. Not that I don’t think the divide is there between people, I just don’t think it’s helpful for me to perpetuate it by claiming those who don’t believe are not “part of”. It keeps me separate and fostering a cold heart instead of one with love and joy. Believe me I need love and joy. It’s been a stressful day.
I have lots of friends who don’t believe or have been so burnt by the Church that they are just turned off God. I have gay friends who have been completely rejected and shamed, I understand why they want nothing to do with Christianity. And then there’s the survivors who have been raped by the priests and the institution… don’t get me started.
There are many things I don’t get in the bible. Like when Yeshua says, “Suppose Ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Luke 12:51)…. He sounds divisive, not life and love giving. Or is it loving to cause division- cutting off parts of ourselves that no longer serve His vision? I’m not a super fan of gendering God but I can see why people, women usually, have problems with God in the masculine. Particularly SRA survivors and sexual abuse survivors. Usually the abuse is perpetuated by men, although in my abuse, there was more than one gender. Either way it’s hard for women survivors who are trying to reclaim their sense of feminine power (whatever that is/ looks like) and I think opening up language around God is important for survivors who may need to play and explore with language whilst they arrive at a meaning that is comfortable for them. It’s unfair for Christians to judge or get offended about that, because it just affirms the survivors narrative that they are “bad” or “wrong”. The Christian doesn’t have to agree but by viewing faith as a process of “inquiry”, it opens up possibilities for exploring the potentialities of Faith. It can become multi dimensional, reciprocal and endlessly fascinating… which as a great mystery, it is! I have limited my faith for so long… based on fear, judgement, terror and overwhelm. I can’t believe God desires me to be in those states. I don’t get all His/ the word … centuries of iterations and misinterpretations have fuelled hate and despair and division. But is that what Yeshua wanted? Or to cut us off from that? I’ve come circular. I don’t meant to get all spiritual and utopian. I have little faith in humanity. I don’t trust the government or the media. I think the world is run by powers of darkness and principalities but yet I believe God has won the battle. Why aren’t we living it? How the hell would I know? Does the not knowing and sense of powerlessness stop me from trying to do something with life whilst I’m in it? Of course not. How f***ing boring to just sit there and watch it waste away. I gotta do something. Read, learn, run. Thank God I don’t drink or do drugs anymore. Oh God, thank you that I’m not in my 20s whilst this shit is going down in the world. I pray for the suffering. Because I’m better than? No. Because I know what it’s like to wish I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.
She saw text as writing landscape. It was an inspired and romantic view. I am trying to develop the confidence to be as curious and clever as she is.
I am exploring my ontological self; how I have come to be; the subsets of my experiences and how these relationships and concepts have come together to inform and represent me, as a subject, as a practitioner, who chooses to do a thing.
Shame is at the root of this self. A deep seated embarrassed sense of self starting from an early age of being caught picking my nose, forgetting where I was, throwing stupid tantrums, telling the principal I was adopted when I wasn’t, peeing over a puddle in the bitumen basketball area (later a psychologist said I might have had a UTI. I was only six.), being told I smelt by my supposed friends when I was hitting puberty. I smelt, I did, my mother hadn’t bought me deodorant yet. I didn’t know you needed to wear it. Sitting silently in a circle with the pretty girls, whilst they complained that they were fat and ugly. They were the most popular girls. They all had boyfriends. I thought, if they think they’re fat amd ugly, then I must be so disgusting. It continued on and on and on. I had no language for how I felt, i just knew that the feelings weren’t so bad when I kept busy. It felt good to keep busy. I forgot who I was and felt in charge, in control and sometimes even euphoric. I liked writing lists and crossing things off. I lived in my head and it was safe and fun and full of endless possibilities. I was going to travel the world and embark on crazy adventures and create and make and explore and do and laugh. One day I was staring out the window on the train, my mind going a thousand miles, and a guy said to me, “what are you thinking?!” I must have been so deep in thought. I didn’t know how to respond. “So much.” Do you know how many worlds are inside of me? They were fleeting thoughts, fragments of self coming to consciousness, neural explosions- momentary connections- zap, gone. I lived for these synapses. Otherwise I felt empty and dead. I kept forgetting I had wanted to die so bad. I had a fish memory. I was trained that way. I constructed an identity along the way. An artistic one, a dramatic one, an unpredictable, somewhat fascinating and maybe a little crazy. I had to construct an identity. Mine was shattered. I thirsted for knowledge but struggled to maintain it or articulate it. I’d been defiled. I was running from the truth of having been defiled. Everything I did or said or wore or wrote or touched, I was embarrassed for, I had covers of self that were so goddamn confident you’d never pick it. Best not to draw attention to yourself. When i was younger it was easier to play in the bravado space. Even now as I write this I think I’m full of shit.
I am enjoying reading or hearing about how fellow trauma survivors are handling Covid-19. It seems most of them are just getting on with things, because that’s what survivors do. Virus or no virus. Am I depressed because of the virus? Possibly. Likely not. It lives with me most days in some shape or form. I still get on with shit. We are resilient. I was listening to some adventurer talk on the news today and here was a man who had put himself in extreme circumstances for much of his life. He commented that in situations of external crisis, it is best to focus on something you can do that is within your control. Like getting a project or task done. Over the past few weeks, something switched in me and i have just gone head down, into my PhD. I am so getting this done in the next few months, that will be my achievement during this time of isolation. What I thought was an avoidant strategy, seems to be a very positive one, and I just think that for survivors the experience of Covid19 is meta- we feel isolated in general. Isolation of self, from family, people, society, our bodies, our minds. The imposed isolation is just an extension of that. I know one survivor who finds that aspect very difficult, because it reminds her of the cult she grew up in. Being told to stay inside, to stay disconnected. Coming from the government has reminded her of that which is sad. For me, I feel like I’ve needed it. I’m worried I won’t want to go back to society. I am enjoying laying low and having little to no contact with people.
Changing tact, Easter is the worst. Every year. I hate this time. So goddamn triggering. I just focused on PhD stuff but just suffered deep fatigue, feelings of shame, disgust, headaches, dissociation – yesterday afternoon I went for a walk and then I felt so triggered because I hate “feeling” my body. Sensing my body when I walk is so hard, it made me shiver with disgust and I was very scared and in a heightened state but could not talk. I just went to bed early and could hear all my parts talking. I have been hovering in and out of a depression today but went for a long and fast run which made me feel good. Running makes me feel good as I am moving fast so I don’t sense my body as much. I think that’s important to me. I am in a trauma shame spiral about my body.
I want to be thinner so I don’t have to feel my body. To feel my body is to feel disgust and shame and defilement. I have a part that doesn’t want to eat and then parts that do, who love to eat. I do eat and am strong but I wish I was frail and thin. Maybe so I could eat more. It’s all very weird and I can’t seem to break this pattern of negative thinking.
Q. What was the process of moving away from wanting to self destruct daily?
The process was long and filled with disappointment and despair. The process firstly involved me admitting I experienced persistent and daily suicidal ideation. I needed to speak it out loud. At first I did this in twelve step programs. I did it with my therapist, my husband at the time, other people in recovery. I wrote about it on my blog, I spoke about it in prayer ministry and prayed about it with my spiritual adviser/ mother at the time. I broke a lot of programming around this- through deliverance prayer, prayers I found on the internet, spiritual warfare prayers. I did the best I could with this as sometimes it was very hard and draining. I wrote journal entries and spoke about the impenetrable darkness inside of me.
One day, on this blog actually, I was contacted by a fellow survivor and she prayed with me and broke suicidal programming. I believe it still took a few months to leave me, but I haven’t felt suicidal nor thought about killing myself for some time now. I am not sure when it fully left me or even if it has gone forever. I just know that wanting to kill my self is not my “go to” thought anymore. When I got triggered my “go to” thoughts (as in what I needed to do to escape) used to be drinking, drugging, sex, then when I got sober it became smoking, then when I gave that up, I just imagined killing my self, now I think it is sugar or coffee and straight into dissociation. I need to think about that a bit more. All in all I think this programming took about six years to break from when I became conscious of it. I believe I had always been suicidal but I was so disconnected from my feelings that I didn’t hear the thoughts.
Q. What has the difference been in believing myself? What did this look like practically?
In my first few months of therapy my therapist asked me “what would happen if you believed yourself for one year?”. She said that by denying my abuse existed I was denying my parts from healing as until such time I believed them they couldn’t trust me. Sage advice. Although it took time, I practiced believing myself. It was a process of saying to myself “I believe you”. It was a process of writing down all the evidence I had to remind me of why it was true. As soon as I started to believe myself or at least made the conscious decision to, I believe the healing process truly began. It wasn’t always easy and I had lots of denial parts programmed, especially if I had a memory, immediately a denial part came out. I had to remind myself that part was programmed, so just had to work through these feelings and responses as they arose. I did this mostly in therapy and also in prayer ministry.
I know a survivor who has rescued most of her parts by herself and not with a therapist or through prayer ministry. She would write to them and get them to respond in her non dominant hand. I believe there are multitude ways to heal and recover and that survivors should be proactive in whatever ways they can and use whatever modalities they are drawn to.
This is the second conversation I’m attempting to have with disgust. The first section is me grappling with what disgust is. Eventually disgust talks to me. We converse. It’s not particularly friendly. We struggle to find a way forward.
NB: swearing, ritual abuse stuff.
Disgust – what are you? You are like a snake slithering over my body. Rats crawling over me. Head in ants. Spiders close to my face. Sticky oil. Buckets of flesh. My hand in it. You are palpable. You are fear frozen in pain. You suffocate my being. You make me walk funny. I wince. Shallow breathing. Disgust – is my face, my hair, my teeth, my body, my skin, my thighs. It is me. A rotten core. I can’t even look at you- I turn away from you- I’m ashamed for you to see me. Disgust is seeing my reflection. It’s hearing my name said aloud. It’s you telling me you love me. Why? It’s me telling you I love you. Why? It’s dead bodies thrown on me. It’s waking up in the middle of the night. It’s the feeling I’m wrong, I’ve got it wrong, I did something wrong, I’m in the wrong – yet never knowing the truth. It’s black ties and coats and scary eyes. It’s loud music and silent whispers. Disgust – blood stained hands. Bowels. Babies. Nauseous conversations at parties. I fucking hate parties. I wish I knew that I hated parties.
Disgust is a wet, sticky blanket. You’re not comfortable. You don’t keep me warm. You don’t protect me.
You think I don’t protect you? I fucking protect you.
How? How do you protect me? You destroy me. You suffocate me.
I make you forget. I make you so crazy with fuzzy feeling you block out the truth.
I don’t want to listen to you or feel you or like you or welcome you. You’ve hurt me.
I don’t want you to listen to me or feel me or like me or welcome me. I hurt you.
We are at a standoff. Who makes the first move?
I am still very much on a healing journey and I know I have a long way to go, particularly as I have not recovered full memories and they remain amnesic.
I had the privilege of talking with another SRA survivor on the phone today and she was curious as to how I function/ get through the day, particularly when I’m not feeling great or am triggered. I have done a number of things to help me function.
Pre sobriety, I did therapy but made little headway as I was not diagnosed as DID and my ritual abuse history was not something I had accepted or knew how to process. I tried lots of things to “get better”; hypnosis, shamanic Witchery, law of attraction, neuro linguistic programming, meditation, yoga, EFT, positive thinking and exercise. Some things had momentary effect, but I quickly slumped back into states of despair, existential crises and feeling that something wasn’t quite right but not knowing what it was, nor how to change it.
The real change started to happen when I went to AA and eventually got sober. I found God, repented on all my new age adventures, and felt called to go to Church. I also went to prayer ministry for a few sessions but they were intermittent, spaced months apart and I suffered terrible spiritual attacks in between. That’s when I found my therapist, who I have been seeing for about seven years. I also started Skype prayer ministry sessions with Patricia, which lasted four years.
During the first five years of my recovery it was a daily rinse and repeat schedule involving praying daily and reading the bible. I also went to AA meetings, sponsored people, did prayer ministry up to three times a week, listened to podcasts that were spiritual or recovery based or survivors experiences. I read literature about ritual abuse nightly – blogs, books or articles. I needed to know this shit was real and that other people had survived it.
I exercised and landed a job in an environment that allowed me to be a self starter and action driven and contribute to change. The environment felt empowering and this was important for my self esteem as I had little. The job was within a university so I was in an environment that was creative and stimulating. I love learning and within the arts and university there is always so much to learn, so this sense of purpose helped drive me and keep me focused. I also started my masters by research, which eventually transferred and transformed into a PhD.
Before work and after work were the worst for many years. I woke up depressed and came home dissociative. It was like I could only hold it together in the day. Even then, sometimes I would need to take myself off to the bathroom to sit there and squirm in my skin because i felt so disgusting and ugly and full of shame. Negative thoughts were pervasive. I still battle them constantly/ i’m ugly, disgusting, worthless, a piece of shit, stupid and bad.
At five years of sobriety I started to do boxing and also felt like I was “waking up” from an extreme period of fatigue and tiredness. I also had an affair with a woman, which sent me on a two year roller coaster ride of guilt and anguish and shame, mixed with passion and joy. I stopped AA and prayer ministry and focused on boxing, God, therapy and writing. It took me about a year to deprogram from AA and regain a sense of self. I tried co dependents anonymous and sex, love, addicts anonymous. I left my husband and moved in with my girlfriend and started a new life- again. Work changed tact and I transitioned from a professional to an academic and continued work on my PhD, plus making a film etc. oh my gosh life was / is so busy.
A fellow Christian survivor reached out to me during this period and prayed with me and became a lifeline. She broke a lot of suicidal programming which I don’t seem to have these days, or super rarely. Killing my self used to be my first go to in my triggered dark thinking.
The last eight months have been more stable. God is still in my life but my understanding of Him and Yeshua is more expansive and inclusive. I have no choice being with a woman, I either sit in the camp that he rejects me and that I’m a sinner (more shame based cult based narratives designed to separate me from His love), or I accept that He / She/ God/ light adores me and wants me to be healthy and well and full of love. No questions asked. This space is healthier for me.
Writing about and talking about my survivor history and trauma is super important to me and I am involved in a research project/ documentary around the power of writing and boxing to aid healing for women survivors of abuse. Meeting other survivors and connecting with them has helped me so much. I feel less alone. I feel like they get me. I still don’t feel “part of” and I can just be a loner with my partner, but I am super busy. I know that’s programming and one day God will tell me when it’s time to stop, but I am building an identity that was stripped away from me. I am constructing a sense of self in the things I do because I never felt like I had a clear sense of who I am or who I was. I am re-Storying myself. Writing myself into existence.
Days feel like less of a struggle but when I am triggered less so. When I am doing good I forget what it is like when I am depressed. The self loathing and disgust eats away at me daily. I am getting ready to work with it. I want to know why it’s there.
Wrapping up, I just took action. I had little time for reflection but I guess blogging was my way to do that over time. When I fell off the routine, I just picked up where I left off and kept doing the actions listed earlier. I felt led by God. I have never really felt in charge of this journey. He just kept nudging me to go forward and over time things have gotten better. I’m definitely less fearful and I can better say how I think and feel. I still struggle to know what I want or need. My boundaries are getting better. I’m just going to keep practicing and working to notice the results and changes.
So much more to say but it’s a long post and I have run out of steam.