ACCEPTANCE

Picture 078 I fought it, raged against it, but there it was, I was abused. No amount of wishing changing it. Look at her, I want to be her, happy, trusting, loved. The pain, the cruel pain of not wanting to be me followed me everywhere, every minute.

I fanaticized what being ‘her’ was like. And ‘her’ was any girl, adolescent, or woman who looked free of burden. Why me? And the burden became heavier every time I asked.

How could I slow down enough to settle into what is if I couldn’t talk about IT? Familial sexual abuse isn’t light-hearted banter. You can say, “I was mugged on the street and my purse was taken!” And receive comfort and sympathy in return. But you can’t say, “I was raped in my bedroom by my brother!” (or father, uncle, family friend, etc.)

I wrote my book and each word, each chapter, lifted the burden out of a space so deep it was hard to find. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. I told my story, I spoke my truth. I am not hiding. And during that process I accepted what is. I was born to a family who hurt me so completely it changed me. I no longer run from that or wish for something else.

At times I’m still wistful when I watch a young woman full of trust and many friends and wonder what that’s like. But it’s not all consuming or constant like it once was. Having many friends does not mean they are close friends. And you only need one. And the one friend I’m learning to check in the most with… is me.

EFFEXOR

_DSC0035 I swore I’d never take another anti-depressant. I hate putting chemicals into my body and am very sensitive to foreign objects. After trying many doctors over the past ten years, I finally decided to stay close to home and try a man. Of all the females I tried the only one I related to and who also provided good care, left the practice.

So how did this man talk me into trying an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, not only try it, but the intention is to stay on it permanently just like my Lipitor? Because he looked me right in the eye and listened to me. Because he knows about PTSD and its long term effects when left untreated. I didn’t say I was depressed or anxious, just that I had been in the past. Still, he was sure this would make those neurons in the brain connect because they aren’t and haven’t been since the age of eight when the first brother attacked me, all of which is still blocked out. Must have been bad when at 61, my psyche still won’t allow it to surface.

So why did I allow this doctor to put me on a medication I never wanted to take again? I have had Prozac a few times for short periods because I know depression well like wearing an old familiar coat, and I didn’t like taking it, getting off as soon as possible. Maybe my resistance is partly due to not wanting to need a medication for emotional stabilization. Hey, I’m stable! But he knew and I knew he knew. Life is hard, and it is very hard for me. Maybe too hard. And maybe this will help.

LONELINESS

DSCN3369  Loneliness can kill. Some die from it. My uncle shot himself in the face after his wife died.

I know loneliness, the depths so deep I ran from the feelings, but it found me everywhere…since childhood.

Keeping secrets not mine to keep made me lonely. Not your everyday lonely but a scraping, clawing pain I could not escape from, exacerbated by life events- my children going away to college, a death or any loss.

Telling my story on paper removed the burden. I check my feelings, still in wonder at the peace- it’s peace; highs and lows, but not the swing of emotions that’s hard to ride. Is that nothing in there? No, that’s peace.

I still feel pain over painful things but not the sword of loneliness cutting so sharp I could not sit still. That loneliness evaporated with the written word when I shared my story. I’m not alone anymore. In the process I found…me…inside where I’d always resided but had been too broken to find my way home

PTSD

DSCN3245  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or more commonly PTSD: I wondered if that applied to me after years of overly exaggerated responses to everyday encounters, like my kids, husband, or anyone coming from behind or around a corner. I feel a rush of terror, let out a scream and jump away from the perceived threat as if my life were in danger.

Kids thought it funny and scared me purposely until I turned on them, snapping, “That’s NOT funny, stop it!” I attempted to explain, “I get scared very easily and become extremely frightened when you do that.”

It began to sink in that others don’t react as I do; my responses are out of whack. I read about trauma and its effects. Could this be it, so long after childhood?

Trauma causes post-traumatic stress, and one symptom is an exaggerated startle response. That must be it, but what’s the timeframe? I didn’t read anything about how long it lasts. A lifetime? Mine does. I read about veterans returning from war, the suicides, drinking, and the inability to hold down jobs or their marriages. I have deep empathy for them. But I wouldn’t compare myself to them. War? I can’t imagine what they saw or experienced. It’s no comparison. Or is it? I underestimate what was expected of me, how I was trained to feel, which wasn’t what I really felt. I was trained to act like I loved my attackers, so I lived in terror but had to hide it, even from myself.

Like leaves in the wind, parts of me scattered to places I couldn’t reach. How much energy does it take one’s psyche to repress a violent traumatic event, or more than one of them? I became two selves: one that cannot remember, and one that remembers but remains inaccessible. I broke in two, leaving fragments along the way, hard to pick up and paste back into one, not the same one anyway. I am not the me that I could have been had I stayed whole and safe from attack. Our psyche protects us by splitting our spirit or soul apart from physical and emotional trauma. But then we are left that way, broken, with no clue how to put ourselves together again, like Humpty Dumpty.

Could that explain why I don’t have the energy others seem to naturally possess? Repeated and excessive bursts of the hormone cortisol, meant to give us sudden energy quickly, to move us away from life-threatening danger, would spurt through my veins daily, depleting precious reserves. And draining that substance, which was meant to be used and resupplied much less frequently, took a toll on both my nervous and immune systems, burning them up. Chronic fatigue became normal. Though my body’s systems have healed somewhat, full recovery seems unlikely. The glands under my neck, and most likely elsewhere, pop out after very little stress. If I don’t pay attention and go at my own pace, I could weaken what’s left and cause even more damage. But it’s unfamiliar territory, respecting my own needs, because I tend to compare myself with others, and compared to them, I appear like a slug.

Energy used to protect my inner self from annihilation taxed my emotional and physical being, especially during my years as a nurse. But that didn’t stop me from trying to keep up with everyone, if that’s what it took to be “normal.” Being on edge, watchful, crouched internally and cowering in a defensive position for the next attack, exhausted my already limited energy supplies. Just carrying on a conversation with anyone who felt threatening permanently weakened resources over time—and nearly everyone felt threatening.

I craved social outlets, connections, and closeness, but when around others I buzzed anxiously. That feeling, like the excessive speed I experimented with in college, took precedence. I feared connections, yet needed them. I spent much of my adult life split, pieces flying about me like busy electrons, a carnival game trying to catch them and make them stick in the holes. Meditation began to bring the parts together, the feeling of wholeness brand new and magical, even if only momentary.

Meditating doesn’t take away pain, but rather takes me into it. Creative solutions to everyday dilemmas often occur. There’s new evidence suggesting it can help heal a brain damaged by PTS, (1) but I knew none of the latest research over ten years ago when I began practicing meditation.

(1) See Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius for more information.

 

KNOW THY SELF?

Picture 030 Well, that’s mature. Little did I know I was picking a fight with someone I love, when what I really needed was their compassion and support during a scary time.

I guess the point is to try…to try to love myself, to try to understand where I’m coming from, what I’m up to, even if it’s afterwards, not before, or while I’m doing it.

Now, six days later, feeling badly about the things I said, though the other person has moved on, I can finally look at my behavior and say, “Wow! I’ll go to great lengths to push someone away.”

I’m trying something new. Rather than kick myself with blast words like, “Dummy”, one of my mother’s favorites, instead, I’m curious…about me. “It’s OK, just notice what I do. Be open, and curious.”

Because if I gently notice how I really am, with an accepting, interested nature, I can maybe do it differently next time, opting to draw in what I need, not push it away…

COLONOSCOPY

Picture 1326  Isn’t that a dandy name for a blog post. How about dental cleaning, dental work, x-rays, mammo, or anything where someone is coming at my body. Can’t wait for cataract surgery, which I hope to be a few years off.

Though I may have forgiven my ‘brothers’, or at least moved on and found peace, I’m still left with the effects and damage from what they’ve done. I face many challenges and I guess that will be continue life-long. It seems to get harder, not easier.

We are all left with wounds from childhood. As adults it’s our work to heal from them best we can. But I can’t make everything as it might have been had I not been touched. Parts of me were forever changed. My work goes on.

It takes more sedation than most to lie back in a dental chair or on a stretcher while someone comes at me to hurt me, even if it is for my own benefit. Try telling that to the little girl inside me who still can’t allow the memories to surface. But the repressed memories are there, and/or the ones I do remember which are traumatic enough. My instincts kick in, fight or flight, and they say, “RUN!”

I can advocate for others, my kids for example, and for the developmentally disabled when I worked as an RN, but not myself. But I’m learning. After more than one bad or needless procedure, I am learning speak up. It’s not easy finding the right doctor with good staff, with ability, kindness and compassion; the whole package, a rare commodity, and hard to find these days.

But I found one. And I advocated for myself. She readily understood and agreed to a higher level of anesthesia. There is one available that is a step down from general anesthesia. One that is effective for me. Medications that usually are used for this procedure and knock most people out, don’t touch me. My adrenaline eats it up. I may appear calm, but the stream of tears coursing down my face, releasing my terror, tells a different story.

But tomorrow I’m ok, even receiving sedation prior to the procedure to quell my panic while I wait.

FORGIVENESS

Picture 2759  Guilt? Who needs it? I suffer from it a lot, but am learning to forgive myself, even if I’ve done nothing more than not know how to be ‘my own best friend’. I’m hard on myself. I learned this only because others pointed it out over the years repeatedly. After hearing it enough, I began to believe there was something to it.

I had to forgive myself for the abuse. A tremendous amount of guilt and shame invaded my entire being which only intensified as I grew and my thoughts about myself worsened.

As I let the rage and hate go for what they’d done, I needed to forgive me too, for whatever I thought I’d done…even if it was only  that I’d been so cruel to myself, yet kind towards others. Hate and rage began to loosen its grip during my daily half hour meditation. When I began to find myself, feel my center, nothing else mattered more than finding ‘home.’

Have I forgiven them? I believe some things are unforgivable. Being sexually attacked as a child is one of them. The best I can say is I let the rage go and let myself off the hook too- and maybe I have forgiven. That doesn’t mean I want to be around people I’m still afraid of.

The most valuable forgiveness was and continues to be… towards myself