No roots to the earth

My depression and fantasy filled head is a self centred addiction. It keeps me from being centred or connected to this world. It separates me from self and others and is an insult to God and who He made me.

I long for freedom from the bondage of self. I long to sit quiet with my thoughts and hear nothing. I often wish I won’t wake.

Morning breaks and I forget and then it is nighttime and it creeps up on me again.

Multi modal process of enquiry into memory

Last week in therapy I discussed my sense of confusion of being in a committed relationship and my therapist and I got curious as to whether I had “issues” around commitment. I wrote about commitment using the prompt “commitment is…” and then with my non dominant hand, wrote the words that came to mind.

Commitment is….

When I came to the session tonight my therapist had her PhD thesis sitting on the desk in the room. It was a beautiful royal blue bound book with a gold lettered title. The thesis is a narrative account of her MIECAT process of enquiry into the experience of moving on from trauma. She asked if I wanted to go through this process of enquiry with her. MIECAT is a creative arts therapy unit in Melbourne, Australia and applies a multi modal artistic approach to healing. This is perfect for me as it is what I do with boxing/ writing workshop and in some ways (although the focus is not on healing), I like to be multi modal with my education style. Anyway, as soon as she said it, my parts got really excited. We decided to work with the list I wrote about commitment. She said I could choose any artistic practice to explore the writing with. I felt a part say “movement” and so just went with it. Movement is hard for me as I have difficulty with it. I have a love / hate relationship with movement, although it might be better for me to explore this in another post.

So I wrote down the first few words on separate pieces of paper and then picked the first word “Peace”.

I then “performed” a movement to demonstrate “peace”. This was really just shifting my body into a meditative position and holding it. So it wasn’t anything dramatic or complex, it was a representation. Then I just shared whatever came to me in terms of words and I wrote them on the paper.

Commitment is…peace

Up the top I wrote truth and comfort and down the bottom, I wrote that peace feels impossible, dangerous, like a lie/ false. I unpacked it a bit more and T wrote a description of what I said as I talked:

I feel trapped. There’s no way out, which way I turn they are always going to get me.

Then I moved on to “Laughter” and stood up this time and stood in a stance with my arms out wide. T took a photo each time of me in my movement positions (we used my camera).

Commitment is… laughter

Like peace, laughter was split, with some positive words up the top and then thoughts/ beliefs like “impossible/ dangerous” and “feel like they (as in parts) are going to get in trouble if they make noise”.

Laughter Description: Split. Same as peace. But the movement is wispy, lighter than peace. We’ll get in trouble if we make noise.

Next, was “Pain”. This time I crawled into a tight ball and my feet were arched and my hands were frozen apart. I wrote other words to accompany pain which did not seem split. There was shared agreement inside on this one.

Commitment is… pain

Pain description: Its going to be over (meaning pain leads to the rituals stopping, so you might as well get used to it). Feeling disgusting – link between liking being controlled. So maybe I want this, so its my fault, I am responsible. I’m destined to be like this (in terms of I wanted it, I made it happen, I am responsible…).. so what hope do I have.

Then we moved on to the last one in this session “Getting Killed”.

Picture of movement I chose to represent “getting killed”
Commitment is…getting killed

This was a hard one. The description was: a part feels like I am making it all up. You’re a f”‘king liar to pretend its true. Look what you have done. Doesn’t matter what I do, no hope, I am bad and wrong.

I think this is the crux of my confusion about so much. The double binds. It’s kept me bound, stuck, on repeat, feeling caught, trapped and not sure which way to move forward in life. And then a sense of powerlessness, what’s the point? What does it matter? There is no hope.

I am grateful for the times I have found hope and been shown hope. I am grateful God gives me a spirit of strength and power and sound mind.

Before we moved on to each theme, I acknowledged both parts (the parts who felt joy and the parts who felt there was no hope). My T reminded me she did not judge one over the other, which makes me sad because I do and I can see that this was learned behaviour. I feel tired and depleted but excited to be working through this process.

Gym incident trigger

This is a long post and probably more of a record for me. I am keen for anyone’s thoughts but appreciate its layered, might lack context and be too personal. In my head I am judging me for sharing this post. I’m embarrassed for expressing myself. I’m ashamed I had a run in with someone. I’m glad I stood up for myself and I know confrontation is okay and that I need to practice not judging myself.

The last few months I’ve started doing personal training with a female trainer at the boxing gym I go to. There is another trainer there who is a big muscly dude with lots of satanic tattoos. For the sake of this post I’m going to call him Diablo. He’s a wrestler and S and I have been along to one of his shows (I love WWE and secretly dream of being a show wrestler). Diablo is an excellent strengths based trainer and is regularly at the gym. I have no problem with this guy, except he happens to have a penchant for heavy metal music. It’s death metal really and he plays it during his classes (mildly tolerable because it’s easy to zone out) and also when he is at the gym doing personal training sessions. The last few times I’ve been attending PT with my trainer, he’s there at the same time with his client and he’s got his heavy metal music on. So when I rocked up this morning, the metal was playing and I noticed it was particularly intense. It was real hardcore demonic sounds and whilst training I started to feel really agitated, uncomfortable and disconnected from my body. And finally it just irked me so much that I said, very firmly, “Diablo, could you change the music?” It was very clear by my tone that I was hating it and he kinda smirked and said yeah and so my trainer changed it. So training is done and I go home and I am feeling really weird about it still. The story goes a little deeper. As some readers know, i lead a boxing/ writing workshop for survivors. As part of it we are co-curating a book of the writings and also making a documentary. When we filmed at the end of last year we did some interviews at the gym. Although I’d asked to use the gym at downtime, there ended up being some clashes and Diablo was doing personal training outside whilst the filming was going on. One day during filming, he kept walking in to the gym whilst a survivor/ participant was being interviewed. It was weird and uncomfortable for her of course and it ended up triggering discomfort and shame. I felt responsible for this as it is important for me to create an environment where the survivors feel safe and supported and I felt I should have put more boundaries up. It opened up a discussion between me and this survivor friend about the need to feel as though the work we were doing at this gym, was being better respected and that perhaps what was missing was some trauma informed guidelines about taking a project like this into a gym environment. This particular survivor was a new member of the gym and so felt exposed by the idea that this trainer had perhaps heard her story or knew she was a survivor and might look at her in a “particular way” each time she came to the gym. It’s just another layer of shit a survivor needs to manage, when they shouldn’t have to. I’d mentioned this incident superficially to the gym owner (a woman) and suggested we have a coffee to talk about stuff. She was quite offhand, stating the gym is a safe space. And I’m like, nothing is safe because you say it’s safe. Safety is a set of principles – that ultimately form part of values, it’s an ethos. If a couple of survivors are asking for certain needs to be met to feel safe, then that’s because you haven’t considered their feelings or needs and so it isn’t “safe”. I didn’t actually say that but we did agree to have a coffee soon and talk about moving forward with the project in the space.

So… back to heavy metal incident. I’m feeling worked up and so I decide I’m going to just request that no heavy metal music be played. I decide to send Diablo a message:

“Hey X… I got super triggered by the music you played today. My background is as a satanic ritual abuse survivor. This means that I am very sensitive to the demonic, irrespective of whether you think this music is linked to that. I feel anxious, irritable and disconnected to my body being in the space when this music is on. I need to know the gym is a safe space for all, and that you are aware that sometimes people who train at gyms come from diverse trauma backgrounds. Would you consider avoiding playing this music? Donna

He responds: Do you mean all heavy metal triggers you?

And then… “Of course the gym is a safe space for all, regardless of what music is playing. We try to cater for everyone and many people especially those who attend my classes, prefer heavy metal music.”

This gets me. It goes back to the “safe space” bit I spoke about before.

So I wrote: “If I say I don’t feel the gym is safe when you play this music I need you to just accept that. Just because you say it is “safe” regardless of music indicates you are not hearing me. I’m happy to have a conversation with you about this. And yes heavy metal in general.”

He writes: “You also said I triggered someone during your filming?”

And I’m thinking, wow, so the gym owner has relayed a private conversation to this guy. A half baked conversation that needed to be unpacked at a later time, that we agreed on doing together. And she has gone and told him he triggered someone. Not cool.

I wrote: “Happy to have conversation about filming. I talked to X privately. It’s a conversation best done in person.”

To which he says: “That’s fine.
If you’re triggered by the music, I have no issue changing to less extreme music. If however you’re triggered by me and my satanic tattoos, I can’t help you.”

I said thank you for hearing me about the music and then “Different conversation X. I never mentioned that.”

Then it starts to get pointed, defensive and annoying. He says: “Yes regardless of which conversation it was, I can’t help you with that 😎”

I told him I was confused. I wasn’t asking for him to help me with anything other than what I reached out about. To which he revealed the crux of his issue.

“Help as in stop you or others from being triggered by my presence.”

So the guy thinks that he is a trigger for survivors- based on the gym owner mentioning something to him that lacked context and clarity. I indicated again that we should have a conversation about the filming but do it face to face. He said we won’t be there at the same time again (referring to project filming). To which I replied, that triggers are multi faceted and complex. He responded:

“I’m a trainer. Not a social worker. That’s a bit above my pay grade.”

And i made one last comment to which he did not respond: “You are a trainer who works in a space where people come who are black, may have injury or trauma or other needs. As a trainer you no doubt consider how best to appropriately work with people to accommodate their needs. This is not a personal attack. You are you, who brings a richness of experience and character to a space. I have no issue with that. I hope you can see that my text was about expressing what I need. You have responded to that. As for filming this was a private issue I discussed with X that I am happy to have a separate conversation with you about. It’s not about you- the way you look- it’s the context in which the events took place.”

A few things I want to get off my chest and I totally get this is a rant and this blog is for me to just spill out how I think and feel so my apologies if it is boring or sounds immature. Firstly, yes his satanic tattoos trigger me but not enough that I would ever complain about this to the owner. People can wear, dress, tattoo themselves whatever way they want frankly. I don’t have to like it but I also don’t have to stare at it and I don’t. Music is different. It’s inescapable. I would be happy to do a poll and see how many people in his classes actually do like heavy metal, but my time is spent better elsewhere. Secondly, his attitude is demeaning and threatening and I feel massively triggered by the interaction. I feel scared to go back to the gym, unwelcome and troublesome. I am disappointed the gym is so closed to working with survivors in a way that is conducive to creating a positive environment and relationships. Why would you want to create an environment that triggers people? Don’t get me wrong, I handle triggers every day. I manage a lot. But if I am paying membership fees to go to a venue and also bringing a workshop that is for survivors to the space (granted the gym is free) , then I don’t feel it is too much to ask to consider how trainers etc are engaging with the “out” survivors. I think trauma guidelines are pretty freaking simple. 1. Understand a survivor is walking around carrying consciously or unconsciously shame, disgust, body dysmorphia, fear, self loathing, negative self talk and is often dissociated whilst training. No one needs to fix it, just be aware that this person carries this shit with them day in and day out.

2. Think about how your surrounds can therefore make someone feel at ease.

3. Be respectful, nice and friendly.

4. If you can be extra encouraging that’s nice too as it feels good.

There’s probably more but I’ve written enough. The incident has triggered in me sadness and shame. I am unsure whether to find another gym.

Prompt: tonight was…

Tonight was draining and exciting and hollow and sober and glamorous and intelligent and artistic and boring and polite and a bit scary and sad and confusing and de-stabilising and affirming and long and loud and depressing and long and loud and depressing and interesting and intense.

I think I am in a depression. Bugger. It just kind of sneaks up on me. The meaninglessness, the hollowness, the self pity. God, I pray for your clarity and to fearlessly claim the spirit of power, love and sound mind that you have given us.

Developing an executive self and commitment phobia

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Therapy tonight. I spoke about the difficulty in how I am feeling about my relationship and the age difference and how I feel deeply anxious about being abandoned – amongst other things. I trust S but yet the age difference is difficult for me to come to terms with. T saw a photo and agreed S looked young and that made me feel paranoid. I feel confused about what I want and need and whether my feelings are to do with parts or trauma or acting out or whether my feelings are valid. My therapist believes that I have some ‘issues’ (not her words thankfully) with commitment and also brought up the dynamic of our relationship at the moment. Whilst S is building her life, I am carrying / supporting the relationship – much like what a man would do (in a heteronormative context). And it feels like a lot of pressure, that in many ways I am struggling with. This dynamic might continue over time. If S decides she wants children, then I will need to support that and I guess it is “doable” (my therapist’s words), but I feel internally resistant. Like is that what I want? I know I am futurizing. I feel unsafe and scared. So I wrote about commitment, but just used it as a prompt and then wrote the response with my left hand. This is what I wrote:

Presupposing then, that this writing is memory within my system, it is not surprising that I am absolutely terrified of commitment, age issue aside! Look what it ends in! I do note however there are some positive things written down.

I know I need to talk to my system and work with these parts. I am going to do this with my therapist next week and believe it will help. I am just feeling stuck and confused otherwise.

My therapist also said that if I develop a stronger Executive Self then this side of me can call the shots. She has another client like me who was once afraid of commitment and her Exec Self became really ruthless and made sure that no saboteur parts got in the way of her relationships and her daily life. That is what I want, because otherwise I am going to keep coming back to this place of feeling muddy and confused and wanting to act out.

I think I am ready to do more internal work and have started to write down “Rules for the System to Live By” – it’s basically just principles of life. I have gotten better in so many areas over the years but it is all still such hard work. Sometimes, right now, I feel very defeated. I still lack a lot of self worth and it affects my sense of direction and self. I do want to write more to my parts and talk to them. I think I need to develop stronger internal communication because there is so much going on unconsciously, it is hard to identify often what I am thinking or feeling. It is also hard for me to know what I want. As though whatever move I make is never right or always complex and layered and that scares me. I do wish I was normal sometimes.

Mostly, I think I am tired of feeling shame and that is what gets triggered externally with S because of the age diff. Thats what I need to work through. I wonder if the shame is going to be there no matter who I am with. The shame feels deep. I feel deeply embarrassed for someone to see me, although I know I can be seen with S and held through it. It is so freaking hard for me to reach out. As though there is a big barrier there preventing me. When other survivors do it, I am blown away. I wonder if I will have the capacity and strength to do the same? I wonder if I am addicted to the confusion and pain? Or if I will keep playing it out as some sort of trauma re-enactment to try and get on top of it and create a different ending. I feel like a rat on a wheel.

The watcher part

I am so dissociative tonight. Feeling very strange and weird and embarrassed and stupid and confused and sort of excited to be out, but don’t know what to say or do. Not that I know what to do as I don’t know how to live a life, just watch. A watcher and a waiter – as in just waiting. I don’t even know what I am watching for or waiting for. For them to come back. To alert the rest of the people inside. I guess that’s it. It sounds boring saying it and I am embarrassed because I sound uneducated and sort of stupid. I guess I am. I think I have been good at my role and also very awake and on top of things. But it’s not like you win an award or anything. You just do a good job and that’s it. Anyway I do feel a bit stupid for writing and stuff but I’ve done it now.

Process

A few summer holidays ago, I would spend most of it in a dissociative state. These days, I am less out of body. The trauma still lies underneath all I do, but i seem to have accepted it. I’m not so scared of it. I often wonder how much truth is in the lines I write. As though there is a part of me that believes it and another part that thinks I’m constantly full of cow dung.

I want to be whole, but I want to fully experience (see, hear, taste, feel and smell) the fragments of my hidden abuse. It’s about verification, validation and justification. I know I have pieces, yet I long for coherence, narrative. A mosaic narrative is fine, but everything still feels shattered. Yes mosaics are pieces, but to me the point of a mosaic is it comes together to represent a greater picture. I feel 26 again. Desperate to make impact and do positive things, yet still in identity formulation stage.

I’m impatient. It’s about process. Sometimes sitting with the discomfort of present day is harder than sitting with the discomfort of memory. As though I am waiting for the bomb to go off, but I don’t know when or how or who will trigger it. Maybe it will never go off.

Dreaming page 144

Last night I dreamt of my parents dealing in lots of cash and woke remembering page 444 of the bible. So I looked it up and there was half of psalm 136, all of 137 and 138. I felt the verses were about trusting God, that He loves me and He is protecting me. I expected to read something foreboding so I felt blessed to read these words of encouragement.

Today it is stinking hot here in Melbourne. I went rollerblading with S and it felt fun and free. I talked about dissociation with a friend and realised that like depression, dissociation has been a good friend to me. It has kept me safe. But I don’t know if I want it anymore. There’s so much to do in this world, so much to fix and be part of. I’ve never felt like this before. Maybe the strength to live is now within me. I have embodied it and there is no turning back?

Sun kissed / exposing beliefs

I went to the beach today with S and sun baked and read a book. She went for three swims and i went for one. I am scared of the ocean so I couldn’t go far out. I tense my body and feel on edge most of the time. I did well considering and enjoyed being in the water with her. I ended up getting quite burnt, even though we put on sunscreen. I feel sun kissed tonight and a bit out of it. I finished reading a book, “Fight Like a Girl” by Australian feminist author, Clementine Ford. It was excellent and has challenged a lot of my beliefs and thinking around feminism, men and gendered violence. I realise how much I have perpetuated gendered violence against myself and other women. How much I have just accepted that men rape and abuse and they won’t change so it’s up to me to change/ the way I interact with them, where I go, what I wear, what I say etc. how much I have oppressed myself. The way I’ve toyed with me and desired them, played to their affection, been blinded by it. The way I married my ex husband because I thought no man would ever love a dissociative ritual abuse survivor like me, with multiplicity. How I have thought all I have been good for is sex. That’s my power. Might as well own it. How I used to want to be called a f**k slut, dirty, filthy slut. I wanted to be his whore/ in the early days. How I was operating so unconsciously and these deep seated beliefs were buried but actively playing out in distorted ways. Yuk. No self esteem, so needing, wanting / desperate for a man to say something nice, no matter who he was. I needed to be affirmed.

Sometimes I still count ex lovers, to remind myself of what I don’t know. Power? Regrets? Moments I was free or crazy or attractive or wild or in control?

I used to have a recurring nightmare. I would stand on a pathway looking out to the beach and a wave, like a tsunami wave, would come crashing over. It was so high and I would be swept out into its waters. My therapist would analyse this and tell me, I was being drowned by a sea of repressed emotion. My inner emotional landscape activated. Burying me.

Body memory therapy session. Light and easy.

I am at the conclusion for my PhD. Unbelievable. So my head is very “in it” and it is hard for me to think about much else. But I traipsed off to therapy tonight, determined to focus on some body work memory. We caught up a bit and then I wanted to get straight into it. I sat on the floor and tried to relax and breathe and focus on my breath. It was difficult though. I couldn’t concentrate, I was distracted. Too many thoughts, so T helped me. She encouraged me to locate a part of my body that felt pain, and it was my lower abdomen (again). So we talked about what to do and she suggested I move my hands on it and so I did and I said it felt disgusting. She got me to keep breathing and to try and give voice or sound to the pain. I did my best, saying “ow” and groaning and stuff. Then she suggested I lie down and so I did and I shook a bit and kind of cried. But then I felt like I was making it all up because I didn’t have a visual narrative. T said that this was memory and it was important I believe it. Then my parts asked her if she had dealt with clients who had levels inside their system and also programming to die. She said yes. That made my parts feel secure. T told me that one of the best ways to help the parts who believe in the suicide programming and stuff is to slowly challenge their beliefs. So if a part is being silenced or something, then I could say, “I know you believe that but I am going to say it (or draw it) because my role is to challenge what they have told you and show you that they are lies.” I hope I can do that. I want to challenge their lies. I believe in breaking the silence.

Tonight’s session felt anti climatic. I know my head is in the PhD so I am grateful my system is on board to get this done. I do feel as though, if I don’t go into full regression mode or walk away dissociative or in some sort of heightened terror state, that I haven’t really done it right. As though the worse I am in the session, is evidence that my memories are real. I do understand they are cellular body memories. I just have this belief they need to be visual images, and that there will a clear narrative – from start to finish. I just see black.

The other night I dreamt of dark satanic things and on a blackboard were the words “Delta”. I woke feeling very fearful and triggered, but otherwise it has been a very focused time.

Next week is a week off, and I will be finished with my PhD final draft and will actually get to rest and have some days to zone out.