Accepting narratives

I’ve accepted the narrative of shame as a survivor, bestowed upon me by perpetrators, who granted me the right to wear what they refused to. And now I live safely in my head and in my small apartment and when I leave, and walk the streets, to do whatever needs to be done, I notice the shame crawling between my legs and over my body. I see it in my reflection and I shudder at the sight of me. Desperately wanting to be affirmed, aware of my desperation and resentful at self because of how close minded and selfish I am. Self obsessed. Mentally deficit. Ugly. Fat. Jeans too tight, should be thinner, hair so stupid, should be prettier, face too serious, could be nicer. Then I arrive home and I am calm again. The vacuum of negativity smacks shut as I close my door to the outside world. I am safe again and can check my vanity in the mirror or change clothing or hide under beanies.

I tell myself now when one relies on self to distract self or fix a self rooted in shame, they get stuck. It is the spirit of God who lifts our souls up and cleanses them to renew. Tonight I will close my eyes and wrestle with the discomfort of feeling body and mind try to tolerate one another.

Expectations misaligned

Christmas come. Christmas gone. Thank God. Until next year. The dissociation hit two days prior, perhaps triggered by a culmination of stress and fear. That night I distanced myself from my partner and tried to keep myself busy and distracted. I really had no choice as work took me right up until Xmas eve. Then Xmas eve was full of self loathing, bitterness (mostly at self) and a general feeling of dis-ease. That night I shivered and shook in bed waking from nightmares not remembered, but body shocks as though I was processing electrocution. I went for a run Xmas morning and attempted to glam up for the day, trying to feel cool, pretty and normal. Lunch was at S’ extended family and it was nice and the food was yummy. My soba noodle salad was a hit, so that made me feel good. I was very welcomed but let’s face it, I was a third wheel and I think just knowing that and knowing it’s been like that for years now (with S or not), made me feel sad. I got through everything okay and with relatively good cheer and I do want to say S’ family are beautiful to me and gave me the feminist, Clementine Ford’s book “fight like a girl” – yes S told them to get me that but that’s not the point. It was a cool present and I am reading it voraciously.

We get to Boxing Day and S wants to go shopping briefly to pick up a pair of shoes. And it starts out all light and fun, but then we go into this retro store and S buys something and I buy something next and the girl at the counter can see we are together and says, “oh mums getting something too…” and I just kinda freeze, thinking how freaking old do I actually look and how young does S look? And it just triggered this massive shame spiral that has been with me all day and I feel paranoid and embarrassed. My friend L says that because we both have short blonde hair people make assumptions and gay relationships, age difference or not, are still not as normalised as heterosexual ones. And I know she’s right but I find it hard to accept the bite and it just sends me into feelings of shame, unworthiness, weirdness and embarrassment. And all I can think is I am only going to get older.

Aagh. And I know this is completely gendered because when I was the 20 year younger woman in my relationship with a man, M, no one batted an eyelid and it was seen as empowering or cool or I don’t know, maybe none of those things, but it was less weird that’s for sure.

Wrapping up the year

I am in busy mode, wrapping up end of semester, with only one day to go before I get a break. I have been powering through things in the hope that I can take a complete break to finish my PhD in January and escape Melbourne for a road trip holiday. I am craving two weeks at the least of no fancy thinking or responding to requests. I just want to be left alone to ruminate in my head.

Christmas is a triggering time for me as a survivor. It feels like the whole world has gone to shit, which leaves me feeling somewhat calm in the chaos, although that sounds macabre. I am trying to avoid the news. I’m over the fear based propaganda and the media machine. I’m over this year like most but feel we have another six months of walking on eggshells. Then what? Just keep your head down, focus on the things you like, and keep connected to God.

I attract survivors, not least because I have set up a workshop for them, but beyond this, I feel like a magnet to them. They are the only people I truly relate to. I care so deeply about how they were hurt, my heart aches and I wonder if perhaps it is aching not just for them, but for me. I wonder if I will ever get a proper story about me. I have to let it go for now and just let God reveal to me what He needs and wants me to know. I am tired of forcing things.

The work.

My T says to try and develop adult observer self when I can and then when I am enveloped into it, to work with it and try and express the feelings. Eg. Through drawing or body work or role play stuff with toys.

Tonight there was memory that they split body in two, to split the part because they were evil. So my legs were cut off and T said they lied because my body was intact and got me to touch my legs and slowly feel up to my hips. And the part was confused about why they would lie and T told them it was because they were the ones who were evil. The part was confused because they felt so bad and so T explained again that little kids believe everything good and bad happens to them because they made it happen. It’s quite confusing but I guess we trust her. All I know is I am really tired and need to drive home now and go straight to bed.

Daily battles.

Sometimes it is a daily battle of simultaneously denying and processing trauma in my body and mind.

I went for a run this evening and the body memories started. I had to breathe through it, tell myself I was okay, but the feelings of disgust just wriggled through my body. I wanted to stop and crawl into a ball and shiver and shake, but I was in public so I just ran and then walked for a bit and then ran. It kind of passed when I got home or I just suitably distracted myself. Work helps like that. Sometimes I don’t know what I would do without it, but lately it has been causing me such stress. I recognise I am part of a massive institution of systemic power that ultimately quashes your soul. I believe in the values and principles of a University, I just don’t believe in “it” as a system of power or structure of truth and integrity. Not that I expected it to be I guess, but perhaps there was some delusional thinking there.

We are all over worked in this pandemic. Forced to adapt and be agile and change plans every two weeks almost. Be compliant, be innovative, be student centric, don’t come back, come back now, teach better, faster, smarter, less, more. It’s almost done my head in. Toxic leadership working all hours, no boundaries, no context, no analysis or too much analysis! Aagh.

I need a break. It’s coming. One week to go.

I met a colleague today who is a fellow Christian and it was so good to talk to her and every conversation went back to God and it just felt so refreshing and invigorating. We prayed at the end and she filled me with the spirit again. I just wanted to cry and cry and cry. Lord, where are you. You are right there, I sense you. But to sit with you is so excruciating because it means I have to feel me, feel my body and it is painful. I want to collapse. I feel you there respecting my boundaries, my parts that are angry at you, and I don’t know why you stick around, but of course I do. And I hate the way you love me because I don’t think I deserve it. That’s the truth. I feel unworthy. And I know you are waiting patiently for me to believe you and I don’t know why it is taking me so long to be convinced. In my heart I know, I am just disconnected from the truth. I am stuck in a sorrowful Psalm. Anguished, deep sighs of misery, shame oozing from my pores. And yet you love me. You truly love me and I don’t get it. Why? How could I ever imagine you accepting me, how could I ever imagine accepting myself?

I’ve been experiencing a lot of body dysmorphia recently. I feel so ugly and too big/ athletic and my hair is so gross. I can’t get a grip on who I am. Seeing myself on zoom all day is hard and triggers great discomfort in me. I feel old and embarrassed to be in my skin. I think I am going to be crawling to therapy on Thursday.

Holding onto hope in the face of fear and terror

This is a continuation of a writing exercise taken from a group for survivors of sexual abuse. You can read about it here: https://dulwichcentre.com.au/articles-about-narrative-therapy/the-journey-of-a-lifetime/

  • How do we recognise fear?
    • Fear can be felt, seen, heard, talked about. Fear can be a felt sense – a gut feeling, a strange sensation that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes we recognise fear when it is manufactured, like in trailers for scary horror movies, or news stories, or government messages or sounds in music. We recognise fear because it comes with a sense of darkness.
  • What happens physically in our bodies?
    • Fear can cause anxiety, sweaty palms, shallow breathing or holding breath. Fear can cause digestive problems, panic attacks, insomnia. Physically I think we tighten up and go still.
  • What is useful/not useful about fear?
    • It’s useful to know if you are in danger, then you might need to do something about it. But otherwise I think it can keep you trapped in the states I’ve described above and that can cause all sorts of challenges in daily life.
  • What name would you give to the ‘unuseful’ fear?
    • The trapping

Taken from workshop and website listed above: “As facilitators, we then introduced the idea that perhaps terror (or whatever name the participants gave to the ‘unuseful’ fear) was like an unwanted person/companion on their journey. We checked this idea with the young women and they confirmed that terror was like an uninvited traveller who was following them around and seemed to find them even when they didn’t want to be found.”

  • When did you first notice that terror became part of your life?
    • It wasn’t until I was 25 when I remembered I had been sexually abused that I noticed terror. I experienced it in body memories and flashbacks. Later, at a healing camp for survivors I engaged in art therapy. I wrote the word “terror” on a drawing. I believe now my childhood was full of terror which is why I dissociated. When I got sober and did a fear inventory I realised terror/ fear had been operating in my life so deeply. It was very eye opening.
  • How does terror affect your life?
    • It makes memories amnesic because to remember them is so painful and difficult on my nervous system. It makes me scared of life and causes me digestive problems and holding my breath. I find it difficult to pray or relax or sit quietly.
  • How does terror affect your relationship with yourself and others?
    • I am dissociated from self and the terror makes me second guess myself and makes me feel like I am going to be abandoned. The terror makes me feel a real quiet sense of dis-ease with myself. So I guess I feel awkward deep down and mistrustful and anxious which must affect my relationship with others. I guess by keeping people at a distance and also not getting close to people.

Breaking from terror: resisting the effects of terror

Think of a time when terror wasn’t travelling with you.

I guess when I led the boxing writing workshops. So even though I felt fear sometimes i still felt empowered and inspired to show up and lead the process.

  • What was different about this time?
    • I guess I just brought my whole self (selves) into the process and I wasn’t hiding.
  • How did you feel?
    • I felt vulnerable but a sense of strength and acceptance.
  • What were some of the things you felt when terror wasn’t with you?
    • Connected, strong and more at peace.
  • What is hope?
    • Hope is being able to feel like things will work out, get better, that love and God will prevail.
  • How would you explain it to an alien?
    • Hope is a feeling inside – like a resource – a strength – that helps to make the world a better place.

What effects does hope have on terror?

Hope quells terror. It quietens it and soothes it and shifts it from a space of inertia to free flowing energy. It shines a light on the fear and dismantles it’s power.

  • When did you start to recognise you had hope?
    • I started to recognise I had hope when I read other survivors stories, when I attended AA and got sober and then when I found Yeshua.
  • What effect has it had in your life?
    • Hope has kept me alive, even though I don’t always feel like I have hope or can access it.
  • Are there people who have taught you about hope, or from whom you have borrowed some hope?
    • Other survivors, people who have turned their life around and shared their stories. Christians have taught me about hope.
  • What would it be like if you invited hope to become your constant travelling companion?
    • Writing completely as free train of thought, I think it would scare me- as though hope could hurt me, I don’t deserve it, I’m not good enough, it would turn on me, abuse me. I can see this is programming and that I still have a lot of work to do with parts to accept hope as a companion, friend and even saviour. I guess deep down I still feel such worthlessness. As though I am not worth saving or wasting hope on me. I feel sad writing that but it is a part of me who believes this as her truth.

Stream of consciousness update

Stream of consciousness – sinking low, lost trains of thought. Beating up on myself hard. Shame, ugliness, disgust, the results of programmed memory. What if I never heal? Last night in therapy I explained how I have been super triggered lately. New world order / end times programming. I didn’t know it was this until someone in the survivors group (I’m in a survivors group), shared how the fear of what’s going on in the world can trigger that for her. And it feels so deep and I realised I have been in this programmed state for years, when I started to “wake up” just before 2012 and then in and out of it for the last 8 years.

My T talked to a little part. They are so full of fear. What happens if all this stuff is real? The group said that there’s two many factions within the cult, too much in fighting and also the cults are big liars. That helped me, because I think that’s true and I do believe that love and light will always prevail over power and darkness. But lately it hasn’t felt like it. My T said it is important my adult self positions themselves in a way that helps the system to come out of a fear based state.

Me as adult feels so tired and overwhelmed by the feelings of shame and disgust and body dysmorphia that it is hard to soothe and be straight about it all. T says I need to be careful about what I watch and read and tune into and that I can look after my space (me), who I interact with and to be kind. And then a part was like to be kind is to be bad and to be bad is to be kind. And I know that is backwards programming. And T helped explain to the parts that these were lies told to them, and they asked her if she thought they were stupid and if they could believe anything they thought. T said it might be good to run as many things past her so she can help the little ones figure stuff out.

Im really not sure what to think. I worry the world is going to become a one world dictatorship. I don’t know what’s real, what’s programming and whether I will ever know the truth.