A letter to my dog but for me

My birthday was last week. I’m not a fan of the event, it’s a ritual day you know, so I tend not to celebrate on the day. I quite like to make an internal fuss with my partner- will happily accept presents, expect a card and a cake and order some nice takeaway. So certainly not complaining! As for the day, I’m happy just to keep my head down and focus on work or other duties that I must do. As some readers know, I cut off contact with my parents close to seven years ago now. Maybe more. I can’t remember. Although I made a clear request for no contact, my mother would continually call my ex husband. It was and remains a sticking point and despite the fact we are no longer together, she has maintained a relationship with him. It’s weird and requires a separate blog post to unpack. So surprise, surprise he gave her my new address and since last year I am now receiving birthday cards and/ or gifts. So tonight I found a birthday card in the letterbox for last week’s big event. It was addressed to my dog c/o me. It also had my married name (no longer) listed on the envelope. That irked me. Not only does my mother not know my dog, she doesn’t know anything about me. I don’t carry his last name, I went back to my surname, which I chose as I got it legally changed. Now she probably does know that but hates the fact I have a different surname to her, so she refuses to call me by my proper surname. Plus I am in a gay relationship that she likely knows about but refuses to acknowledge. Again, because I don’t have a relationship with mother so she shouldn’t be engaging with me in a way of familiarity. Plus writing to my dog? Dear S, she says, I hope you looked after your mother for her birthday during lockdown … on and on she went. How creative and clever! (Joke). I am tempted to start correspondence under the pseudonym of my dog. It might be a way to get her to actually have a real conversation with me. It would go something like this:

Dear Leni’s birth mother,

This is S. Your daughters fur daughter. Thank you for the card. It felt nice to receive a card with a dog on it, although I don’t know you, so it was strange also. I did look after my mother, along with my other mother S who you haven’t met. I also have a sister who is small and grumbles a lot. She occasionally stops me from getting on the bed, which hurts my feelings.

Sometimes your daughter, my human mother, wakes in the night from bad dreams. Do you know why she does this? What do you think these nightmares are about? Also, sometimes my human mother dissociates and goes away and doesn’t recognise me. I feel sad when that happens because I love her so much. I read that when someone dissociates like that it’s because they were hurt real bad when they were little. Do you remember what happened to my human mum? I’d love for you to share so I can help her. There’s lots of other things I could tell you but I think that’s enough for now. I’m looking for an honest, willing and authentic furry pen pal only. I guess I just want to know more about my human mum. If you think you can do that then write back, but if not, it’s okay as we are very happy with our life here.

Woof for now.

S

In the ring.

Recently I’ve been listening to a female survivor and boxer talk to guests about trauma and all things related. Her name is Tiffanee Cook and her podcast is “Rolling with the Punches.” It is excellent. She talks a lot about why she was drawn to boxing and what she felt like the ring represented to her. It made me reflect on why I’ve been drawn to boxing and what fighting was like.

I think I always wanted to fight, but more than that, I think I always wanted someone to punch me in the face. I remember backpacking overseas when I was 19. Our first stop was Amsterdam. We took a lot of drugs and it was a crazy time. I went with my brother and his two friends. After three days, Chris, one of my brothers friends declared he was leaving. He missed his girlfriend. He was going home! All the way back to Australia. I got back to the backpackers stoned out of my head to find out the news. Everyone was walking him to the train station so he could get to the airport. Well I wouldn’t have a bar of it! I walked along badgering him, rambling off all the reasons why he should stay and continue travelling with us (we were off to Egypt, Tel Aviv and South Africa… we’d only just begun!). I started ranting, calling him a pussy, telling him it wouldn’t last, on and on and on. Finally we got to the train station and he yelled at me to stop and pinned me against the wall. I looked at him square in the eye. “Go on, do it”, coaxing him to punch me. I wanted him to regret it. He backed off and left and we continued our travels on without him. The relationship with his girlfriend didn’t last long. We never spoke when I got back. I remember wanting him to hit me so badly. I wanted to get hit the way my sister got hit by my father, I wanted external scars. I wanted to feel the pain and for people to see the effect on the outside.

Years later, in boxing, I found it hard to hit back. I wrestled with the feelings that I deserved to be hit, I deserved to be beaten. At times I did hit back, of course, and it felt good, but I mostly felt like I was the victim, not the aggressor. It’s changed somewhat as my skill has developed, but it’s still not as instinctual as it might be for others. I’m less scared for sure.

I wanted to be in the ring so people could see me getting abused. So people could see me beaten. I think I wanted sympathy.

Now I’m just free writing tonight so this is just coming out. Is it really how I feel? I don’t know. Did I really want such patheticness to be on show? Surely I wanted to be strong and a winner? I never felt like a winner. I didn’t have a boxing persona. I didn’t want to put on a charade anymore. I think deep down I knew it was all false and I just wanted to show up in the ring and be truthful. And I guess that meant I was deeply afraid and vulnerable. Maybe I just wanted people to see it. To mirror it back to me.

Suffering in healing: a reflection

I learnt in AA that “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” This quote is an old Buddhist saying popularised by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Here, suffering is seen as a choice, rather than as part of the process, of healing and recovery. In the context of ritual abuse survivors, to deny or negate suffering minimises the tragedy of what is done to innocent children. Ritually abused children are tortured, gang raped, trafficked, filmed, spat on, pissed on, shitted on, sworn at, defiled, yelled at, electro shocked, drowned, covered in blood, tied up, buried, suffocated, terrorised, forced to have babies, kill babies, put in cages and boxes, prodded and abandoned and threatened and terrorised until their mind splits and they dissociate. Not once, but multiple times. Sometimes fully formed, sometimes only fragments. Sometimes with purpose, other times discarded or results of experiments gone wrong. How can one not expect the child to suffer?

The split parts remain buried and amnesic and are tortured and terrorised into silence. Life happens in one form or another and the absence of memory muddles the survivors perceptions and feelings. For me, it is often like walking around in a body and mind that is not connected to itself at any given time. As though, my body seems to be in one place but I cannot seem to reach it to connect. There is rarely congruence. It is an existential emptiness. An intangible suffering that seems like it may be optional. Feelings of despair may be present for months. I may sit in self loathing and depression for weeks or years or only days.

Without a connection to self, the suffering the survivor feels is not a choice. It is a reality.
Likely, the survivor works hard to create a connection to its selves to address the suffering, yet that is where things get difficult. To sit with even a shred of the pain and memory is so excruciating, the mind dissociates. It’s a tormenting cycle – a push pull of pursuing recovery, connection and healing and burying one’s head in the sand. Today, at the RA and Mind Control event, “poems of suffering and healing”, I was reminded of those who have walked before me and those who continue alongside. The survivors who have self published their books, set up groups, conferences, published academic articles to build legitimacy, written blogs, newsletters, produced wiki pages, podcasts and more. I was reminded of the ritual abuse survivors who have lost children, family and friends, careers, hopes and dreams. Those who have suffered a reduction in physical and mental capabilities and who live in despair.

I was also reminded that there are so many of us who have had their self esteem stripped away but yet have chosen not to hurt, but to serve and love others. Suffering is not an option for ritual abuse and mind control survivors, it’s part of their experience. To deny that denies them. The torture that was done to RA MC survivors persists into each day/ it is sometimes numb, sometimes throbbing with intensity. Yet, there is an incredible spirit and resilience and compassion amongst survivors. A fierce determination that inspires me. I always wonder; how did they survive? If they are still standing does that mean I can stand to? My survivor sister says to me; “we are waking up now because we are strong enough to integrate it.” When we see suffering as part of a process of healing, like as offered in Romans 5:4, we can also then rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Rat race notes

Working in a large institution has led me to discover a few things.

– things are constantly shifting and changing under the guise of being a dynamic and evolving knowledge space. Yet really it is a clever ploy to eliminate accountability and transparency. Too many shifting guards to pass blame between.

– the saying “nobody knows what they are doing” is true. It’s a large city with thousands of municipalities. There are pipelines and procedures but too many laneways to get lost in.

– leadership is found in the library not in departments.

– critical minds lead to critical evaluation, which leads to dissent and disruption.