Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Recognition and Appreciation of My Body, MaundyThursday, and Freedom to Choose to Love


 
Maundy Thursday


 If you have been reading my posts, you know most of my story.  You  know that during the three weeks surrounding Easter of 1981, I went from being a a wife with a husband and a young teenage daughter and living a small-town middle-class life to being a single mom living on the edge of poverty.  You also know why this happened:  I caught my former husband in the act of using our daughter for his own selfish sexual and self-satisfying purposes, and I reported him to the local police.  Did you ever think that one phone call could bring about such a dramatic change?  Believe me, in my case, it did!  And I’m still reeling thirty-three years later!  No doubt, my daughter is feeling the effects of my phone call, also, but I can only speak for my own response with any certainty.  And sometimes I’m not even certain of own feelings.   

Today is April 17, 2014.  If your daily life is guided by two calendars, the secular calendar and the ancient liturgical calendar that marks the seasons, festivals, fast days, and feasts of the church year, today is Maundy Thursday.  Easter is late this year.  It falls on April 20th.  In 1981, Easter Sunday fell on April 19th—just one day earlier than the date this year, 2014!  “So what?”, you may ask.  I believe that the proximity of Easter this year to the date of Easter in 1981 partially, at least, explains the peculiar symptoms I have been having for the past few days.   

I’ve never experienced a true panic attack, the sort that mimics a heart attack, complete with chest pains and shortness of breath, but on Monday, April 14th, I came close to this experience.  I felt sick to my stomach, spacey,  fragmented, numb, and I wanted to run as fast as I could, to get away from danger, but no danger was present.  My present living environment, unlike my living environment in 1981,  is safe.  Chehalis is a small town, and the local news reporters seem to go to great lengths to find evidence of any criminal activity.  A gunfight in Portland, Oregon, might make the headlines; here, an elderly man clad in a bathrobe, digging through a front-porch trash bin made the headlines.  I do not share my apartment with any creature other than my cat, and she poses no threat to my well-being.  On Monday, then, I used my powers of reasoning to keep myself grounded in the present and simply waited, trying to use my willpower to make the feelings go away.  Eventually, the acute reaction faded a bit, and I was left with the old familiar sense of panic in my gut.  

Because I had experienced this gut feeling at various intensities since I was four or five years old, I was accustomed to the feeling and able to go through Tuesday and Wednesday with close-to-normal functioning.  However, for some reason, I did not connect the dots—I did not understand why I had my Monday’s experience.  I also did not understand why I was more aware of  my gut feelings of panic and anxiety on Tuesday and Wednesday than I normally am.  But this morning, Thursday, April 17, 2014, I knew when I awoke that I had connected the dots during my sleep:  My body remembers what happened those thirty-three years ago.  My body is telling me something important, and I need to pay attention.  My body is saying to me, “Hey, I was there, too!  Don’t forget that!  Everything that affected your psyche,  your mind, your soul, and your heart those Eastertide weeks in 1981 affected me, too.  I remember!”   

As I lay in bed this morning, pondering my new insight, I knew that an apology was in order:  I felt moved to acknowledge and praise the work my body has done for me throughout my life, especially through the years of my childhood and my marriage.  For all those years, my body steadfastly housed and protected the rest of me as I endured childhood abuse and neglect and, later, spousal abuse.  My body faithfully saw me through a successful four years in graduate school and, later, through my community college teaching career.  Now that I have been retired a while and am considered “elderly” at age seventy-five, my body is showing signs of wear and tear, but I can forgive it for that.  After all, the stress of my experiences has taken a toll on my body.  I consider myself to be fortunate to have been as healthy as I have been to this point.  

Thus, this morning I thanked my body for all its faithful work in sustaining me thus far.  After giving thanks,  I apologized to my body for past neglect and lack of appreciation and pledged to be more mindful of my body’s needs for tender care in the future.  I don’t know how many more months or years I have left in this life, but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that I be more attentive and tuned in to my body and that I consider my body’s needs and choices when I make a decision as to what to eat or drink or how to spend my time.  This will be a start, at least, in letting my body know that I appreciate it for all its faithful work in the past and that I value its contribution to my future well-being, whatever that contribution may be.   

But back to Maundy Thursday:  This day during Holy Week is the day when Christ is fully aware of his fate.  He knows he is going to die on the next day, Good Friday, according to the ancient liturgical calendar.  He knows that one of his disciples is going to betray him, and he knows that his fate is sealed.  He cannot escape his purpose and his sacrifice.  And yet, despite all this, he gives the commandment that I find absolutely amazing!  After he washes the feet of his disciples in preparation for the Passover meal, he commands them “to love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34)  Amazing!   

So what does this day, Maundy Thursday, signify for me today?  And how does it relate to my insight of this morning?  For one thing, on this Maundy Thursday I am acutely aware that I am mortal, and I know I am going to die.  I don’t know when I will die, but I know that I will die.  I am fully human, and human beings die.  We mortals do not live forever.  Today, on this Maundy Thursday as on every other Maundy Thursday in my life, I am more aware than usual of my mortality. 

Also, I am aware on this day that I have a choice.  I can choose to die a slave to bitterness and hatred, or I can die a free person with a loving heart.  Since I do not naturally seem to tend toward hatred and bitterness, I do not foresee dying enslaved by either condition.  However, I can’t be sure of that unless I make an effort to increase my awareness of those two conditions and then change what I need to change to avoid being caught up in them.  God knows, to anyone who examines the first forty-two years of my life,  it might seem that I have good reason for bitterness and hatred!  But I don’t feel bitterness toward my past situations nor do I feel hatred for those who abused me.  I just don’t!  I seek to understand my abusers more than I nurture hatred for them.  From what little I know of hatred, I can say that hatred is a feeling that I do not want—now or ever!   No, I choose to die with a loving and peaceful heart, and I cherish the fact that I am free to make that choice.
 

By the end of the winter the bird had found and given away so many crumbs of bread that they would have equaled in weight the loaf upon which little Inger had stepped to keep her fine shoes from being soiled; and when it had found and given away the last crumb, the gray wings of the bird suddenly became white and expanded.

"Look, there flies a sea swallow over the sea!" the children said as they saw the white bird. Now it seemed to dip into the water; now it rose into the bright sunshine; it gleamed in the air; it was not possible to see what became of it; they said that it flew straight into the sun.

(Excerpt from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Girl Who Trod On A Loaf.”)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Few Words About Ash Wednesday and the Healing Process


Lenten Trillium

If somebody were to ask me which weekday was most significant in my life, I would reply, “Wednesday, hands down!”  Please note that I said “most significant” and not “favorite” or “most enjoyable.”  Yes, Wednesday has been an important day in my life, but that does not mean I have fond memories of the day. 

So why does this day of the week stand out as being significant? I  was born on Wednesday, for one thing—“Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  Remember that old nursery rhyme? Also, my favorite season of the liturgical church year is Lent, the season of personal change and of  turning away from darkness and turning toward the light.  And Lent is ushered in by Ash Wednesday.  And finally, it was on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 1981, that my daughter and I visited the Centralia Police Department so she could give her statement to the police regarding the sexual abuse she had experienced.  When I returned home from the police station, I wrote down notes so that in the future I would not forget what happened that Wednesday so long ago.  Below is an abbreviated account of our experience that day. 

At three o’clock we were ushered into what I can only surmise was an interrogation room, a starkly bare room containing four straight-back wooden chairs, a small wooden table, and a shaded light bulb that hung down from the ceiling. A uniformed male detective entered the room carrying a portable tape recorder which he told us was defective.  I wondered to myself why he was using the recorder if he knew it didn't work properly, but I kept my mouth shut. 

The detective’s first question was, “What did your daddy do to you?”  My daughter could only sob and was incapable of speech.  After repeating the question several times and getting no answer, the detective took a different direction and asked her how often her daddy had abused her. Again, all my daughter could do was sob.

The detective returned to the first question, and my daughter did her best to reply, revealing, at the detective’s insistence, the most intimate details of her father’s demands.  When she finished, the detective told us that the recorder had not picked up her answer and that she needed to repeat it so that he could be certain to record it.  She tearfully complied, and I began wondering if my husband had been treated this roughly at the police station.  Why was my daughter being treated as if she were the criminal? 

Promptly at 3:30, the door to the interrogation room opened and a new uniformed male detective walked in and took over the questioning.  He also took over the defective tape recorder and began the questioning from the beginning.  The same questions again!  My daughter was exhausted, and so was I, but we had no choice but to endure the interrogation.  The social worker said nothing to the detective about my daughter’s condition, nor did she intervene when the questions were repeated.  When the detective asked my daughter, however, if she had liked what her daddy did to her, she broke down and sobbed. The detective realized he would very likely get no more information from her, and the interview was terminated.

After the grilling, the detective told us that the material on the recorder would be transcribed and in a day or two an officer would drop by the house and ask my daughter to read her statement and sign it if it was accurate.  With that, the social worker took us home, we ate a late dinner, and then, exhausted, we fell into our beds.  

Words don’t accurately express my feelings regarding that visit to the police, and for the past thirty-some years the dark, seething anger I felt that day toward those detectives and toward the entire justice system in Lewis County has been trapped in the pit of my stomach or wherever within me all my memories of injustice and victimization lie in ferment.  However, until this past Ash Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, I had not experienced that anger as being separate from the anger and pain I have associated with my former husband’s behavior.  Now I can separate the experience at the police station from the experience of my former husband’s abuse; not only can I do that, but I can also forgive the police detectives for their behavior so long ago.  How did I arrive at this point? 

Ash Wednesday of this year, 2014, was another overcast and drizzly day here in the Chehalis Valley, one of a string of overcast and drizzly days.  Bleak, wet, and cold.  I forced myself to get up that morning at seven a.m., not knowing why I was getting up, but knowing I had a reason.  By ten o’clock, I knew the reason:  today was the day I was going to pay a visit to the Centralia P.D. and talk to a detective who interviewed child victims of sexual abuse.  I wanted to let the detective know what the experience had been for my daughter in 1981, and I wanted to know if the interviews were done any differently now, in 2014.  That was my day’s mission.

I arrived at the police station shortly after twelve noon not expecting to find anyone available to talk to me.  After all, it was the lunch hour.  I stated my business to the receptionist and then was surprised to be introduced to a detective immediately.  I told him why I thought I was there, that I wanted to know if interview techniques are any different now from what they were when my daughter was interviewed.  He read my description of the 1981 interview and began to talk to me. 

As he talked, I realized that not only have the interviewing techniques changed over the years but the detective speaking to me possessed both sensitivity and empathy.  In fact, this detective revealed to me that he made the effort to put himself in the places of the young victims and feel what they felt as they told their stories.  He realized, he said, that no matter how much time should pass, the abuse experience would never completely disappear from the memories of the child victims he interviewed.  This police detective is one of the few people I have ever encountered who truly understands the devastation wrought by sexual abuse.  For this reason, he is dedicated to doing his absolute best when he interviews the kids.

In the course of our discussion, this detective did something absolutely wonderful:  He gave me his sincere apology on behalf of the Centralia Police Department for the way the detectives in 1981 had treated both me and my daughter!  He also pointed out the flaws in the way our case was handled and told me how it would be handled today.  What’s more, as we said goodbye, he told me he would be happy to talk to my daughter if she thought it would help her!

As I rode the bus home, I understood that I had had an Ash Wednesday experience:  The detective had given me a gift, the gift of a heartfelt apology that would lead me toward change during this season of Lent.  I have, in fact, already forgiven those involved in my daughter’s interview.  I realize now that they were ignorant as to the differences between interviewing children and adults.  They needed information in order to pursue a case against my former husband, and they went about getting it as best they could at the time.  As the detective told me, despite their techniques, the men who interviewed my daughter did not intend or want to hurt her or revictimize her.  They were doing their job as best they could in the context of the times, in other words.

Yesterday as I walked to the post office I saw white camellias beginning to open to reveal their yellow centers, tiny pink blooms unfolding on the ornamental trees along the way, and brilliantly yellow daffodils bobbing on their slender stems alongside concrete foundations.  By Easter Sunday, the valley of the Chehalis will be different from what it was on Ash Wednesday—brighter and more beautiful.  My heart will feel brighter and more beautiful, too.     

A Scottish blessing for this season of Lent:

May the blessing of the rain be on you—
the soft sweet rain.
May it fall upon your spirit
so that all the little flowers may spring up,
and shed their sweetness on the air.
May the blessing of the great rains be on you,
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there many a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.

Read more at: http://www.faithandworship.com/Celtic_Blessings_and_Prayers.htm#ixzz2vV5KPuNU
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution


Thursday, February 27, 2014

"One More River to Cross"--A Post About Helping a Family Member Heal

Since I have relocated to Chehalis, Washington, from Portland, Oregon, about two months ago, I have discovered that my being here has been triggering symptoms in my daughter.  Before I moved here, I asked my daughter if she thought this might happen, and she was certain that it would not.  Well, I know now that her certainty was premature.  It's not that she and I spend all our time hashing over old stuff.  We don't.  But sometimes one of us will ask the other a question about that dark time thirty-some years ago, and then we remember. 

So when she told me the other day that she had been really depressed a few days ago for no apparent reason, I listened but did not comment.  When I questioned her yesterday about this, though, she admitted that the flashbacks, the nightmares, and the other nasty PTSD symptoms which she thought she had conquered had, indeed, been popping up with a lot more frequency since my arrival.  What to do? 

Luckily, yesterday I had an equine therapy appointment.  I didn't get to work with the horses, but my daughter, the therapist, and I managed to accomplish something more important, the formulation of a plan to help my daughter.  When we left the therapy ranch, my daughter and I felt that a plan was in place and help would be coming.  In other words, my daughter now has hope that she will get the help she needs to alleviate her symptoms. 

In the process of formulating a plan to help my daughter, I told the therapist that of the two of us, my daughter's help was more important than mine.  She agreed; in fact, she looked at me and said that I was really doing just fine.  As she said, for personal growth, therapy is always a good thing, but at this point, my daughter's need is far greater than mine.  Okay!  I'll go for that!  Let's do it!

The problem is that helping my daughter get the help she needs and deserves is not going to be easy because she is on Social Security Disability and has just Medicare as her insurance.  She has no backup insurance to cover what Medicare doesn't cover, and she doesn't have the money to make up the difference.  Does this sound familiar?  I'm sure that my daughter's situation is not unusual.  The therapist who does the equine therapy does not take Medicare--not because she doesn't want to do that, but because her particular license is not one accepted by Medicare.  And because my daughter has no backup insurance to pay at least part of her therapy, she cannot afford treatment.  Dead in the water? 

In this case, there is hope, thanks to the fact that this wonderful and dedicated therapist is willing to help us figure out a way to get my daughter the help.  As it stands right now, we are all doing our research.  We will come up with something, and just that thought helps give my daughter a reason to see the situation as a glass half full rather than the reverse. 

I, however, am having trouble managing my anger!  Those of us working so hard to help my daughter, including my daughter, should not be using our time, energy, and life doing this!  Why not?  Because the abuse that has caused her all the misery should never have taken place!!  We all know that!  At the very least, the perpetrator of the abuse should be paying to repair what he so remorselessly broke!  I say "remorselessly" because a few months after I turned him over to the police, he chided me for "overreacting" to what he did.  "Overreacting??"  When he used that word, I realized then that I had been married for twenty years to a complete stranger, a person I did not know and a person who had a totally different set of values and a view of life that he had kept secret from me.  Hearing him accuse me of overreacting, I felt sick to my stomach.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for my ex's crime has long since lapsed.  In addition, several years after his hearing and after he had "copped a plea" and had finished his probation, he was able to get his case dismissed, as if what he had admitted to doing had never happened.  Also, unfortunately, my daughter sued him during the mid-90s, won her suit, and then signed a paper saying she would never take legal action against him again.  So we are left now to regroup and figure out a way to get her the help she needs and wants.  Yes, I'm angry! 

I've learned, though, that anger cannot be an end in itself--not for me, at least.  I must harness that anger energy and make it work constructively.  I've done that a lot in the past.  Now I need to do it again to help my daughter heal.  As Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers sing, I have "One More River to Cross."  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPeCFEv6sfs)








Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Being Grateful for A Community of Bloggers, Integrating, and A New Direction

Dear Readers,
I know I promised you a post on integrating personality parts, and I actually wrote such a post.  It did not make it to this blog, though, because as sometimes happens, I clicked somewhere I should not have clicked.  And I was being so careful!  The result of the errant click was that I lost the entire post, and I have no clue as to where it went!  However, I offer you the following thank you, the beginning of my post, the part that did not disappear into the black hole: 
 
A Heartfelt Thank You!  
 
My thanks to Cat’s Meow and her blog (http://livingwhilehealing.wordpress.com/) and also to Sidran.org (http://www.sidran.org/sub.cfm?contentID=73&sectionid=4 ) for inspiring me to write a post on integration of personality parts.  I’m so thankful to be part of the community of bloggers addressing the topics of PTSD, C-PTSD, and DID.  I’m also grateful to the people who blog about domestic violence and child abuse, and I truly appreciate those who blog about the causes of these social problems, especially positivagirl whose blog is called “Dating a Sociopath.”  The more information we share, the more we learn, and the more we learn, the more effectively we can help victims become survivors. 
 
Having expressed my gratitude, I will say that since I have relocated to this small town, I have felt so much better than I did when living in the big city.  By this, I mean I have more energy and feel less stressed.  I feel more "together" than I have felt for a long time, and that may be in part because since I have been here, I am experiencing the integration of my personality parts at a more rapid rate than in the past year or so.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have even experienced the return of my female sexuality, a part of myself that I did not believe would return.  I figured I'd go to the grave without welcoming that part of myself home, in fact.  Not so!

I remember when I was a little girl, about the age of eight or nine, I more or less booted my sexuality out of my psyche.  After all, why would I want to be a little girl when my being female had led to so much pain?  When I was about four, my parents had forced me to pose nude for their guests, and the neighbor woman had fondled me and had sexually assaulted me.  A few years after that, boys chased me into the bushes on the way home from school and shoved sticks up me.  All that pain because I was a girl!  Get rid of the "girl" in me, and nobody would hurt me, I reasoned. 

                                                                 Image
 
I was about the same age, eight or nine, when I decided that I was on one side and everyone else in the world was on the other side.  In my mind, I became a tough little asexual being determined to survive even if my survival meant struggling alone against everyone else in the world, a tiny blade of grass determined to break through the concrete all by myself--as Malvina Reynolds sang in the 1960s:

God bless the grass that grows through cement.
        It's green and it's tender and it's easily bent.
        But after a while it lifts up its head,
        For the grass is living and the stone is dead,
        And God bless the grass. 


 (Stanza Three of "God Bless the Grass."  Malvina Reynolds wrote this song in 1964 after the assassination of JFK.)


Here I am, then, age 75, and I'm finally "getting it together."   The old cliche "Better late than never!" works for me! 

So with the above in mind and feeling energetic, I attended Mass this morning.  For some reason, simply being in a church, no matter what variety of church it is, helps me contact the right side of my brain and allows me to have insights or ideas I might not otherwise have.  Today's church experience was no exception.  I entered the church empty-headed and exited the church with an idea:  I've decided to take my long essay which I titled "Fallout" and modify it so that it becomes a monologue script. Once I have done that and have refined the monologue so it feels comfortable when I perform it, then I plan to contact churches and appropriate organizations and offer to do performances in exchange for donations to the local agency that helps survivors of domestic violence.
 
I have all the ingredients for success in this venture:  the already-written personal narrative, the personal experience of abuse, the experience of standing or sitting in front of an audience, and the sense that God has blessed this idea.  And rather than ask myself why on earth I would want to do such a thing, I have asked myself why on earth I would NOT want to do such a thing.  No reason comes to mind.  Over the years, and with God's help, I've learned the technique of turning a half-empty glass into a half-full glass--a very important skill!

So now I see a new task in my future, that of raising funds for the local Human Response Network.  To that end, after the pressure of participating in the big fundraiser coming up in mid-March, I will begin serious revisions of "Fallout."  If you would like to read that essay, simply find the search engine in my Google blog, healingabusecausedcomplexptsd.blogspot.com, and type in "Fallout."  I divided the essay into four installments originally to make them easier to read on the blog, so if you find the essay, be sure to get all four parts. 

It's Sunday afternoon now, and I'm going to kick back and relax and wait for tonight's installment of "Downton Abbey"--one of my pleasures in life!  Got to relax and recharge before the next busy week begins!  Namaste . . . 



Monday, February 3, 2014

A New Ego State Enters the Arena: Who In the Heck is She??




One aspect of my life that keeps me going is the fact that I never know what I'm going to do next!  Or, rather, I never can be entirely certain if I have it together.  By that, I mean--Am I all here??

As you know if you have been following my blog, I am on the downward slope of treatment for Complex PTSD and for the accompanying DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, once known as MPD), the fragmentation of my personality.  This happens to people who have been abused as small children, for scientists know now that the personalities of infants and small children are fragmented; their ego states have not yet come together to form the adult personality.  That "coming together" happens, generally, when a person is in his or her twenties, according to modern brain research.  For me, this information shines a new light on the expression, "I've got myself together" or "I've got my act together."  Before I began having the flashbacks and PTSD symptoms that led me to seek help, I thought I had my act together.  Now I know better, for I'm still healing, still bringing my ego states together.  For more on this, see http://www.esti.at/index.php/about-ego-state-therapy.  Also, if you want to know more about my personal experience with ego state therapy, please click on the topic in the list of topics on this site.

So here I am, now, living in Chehalis, Washington, after relocating from Portland, Oregon, in December.  If you have read my previous post, you know about that.  You know, too, why I'm here--I want to help the people in the this community who are trying to help the victims of abuse and domestic violence.  The agencies involved in this work here need all the support they can get--financially and in any other way!  The situation here regarding batterers and abusers and their victims has not changed much since I turned my husband in for child abuse in 1981.  I was shocked to learn that, but now I am more determined than ever to help where I can.  Now that I have said that, I can also say that returning to this area is helping me, too, as I heal and continue to unite my ego states.  Wild and wonderful things have been happening within me!

You may remember that I chose to work with my ego states in an imaginary equestrienne arena.  All my ego states live there and interact, and the arena is where the action has been--all 1,450 pages of it.  I chose to work with my ego states outside the therapy sessions and then read each installment to my therapist so she could witness progress.  In the process of doing this, I have alleviated my PTSD symptoms and have also quieted the battle that has gone on inside me since I was a child.  From the time I was a little girl, I felt that a war was taking place inside me.  I could feel it and hear it!  My ego states, as I know now, were fragmented, split off from one another, unable to communicate, and I seldom experienced inner peace.  Now, I do.  For the most part, my ego states are now closer to one another and working in harmony for my well-being.  I have worked long and hard over a thirty-year span--but especially in the past four years when I have had competent help--to bring about this state of inner peace and harmony. The struggle has been worth the effort--more worthwhile than words can tell!

So now I'm here in Chehalis, trying to help support the work done for victims of abuse.  And now a stranger has entered my arena, a new part has arrived upon the scene, a part that I thought was completely dead.  I'm talking about my sexuality!  Here I am, age 75, and I'm becoming aware of my sexuality!  How peculiar is that??

Yes, I was violently sexually abused multiple times as a child by various people, none of whom were my parents, and I told nobody when the events happened.  Thus, I received no help to process the assaults.  The memories and the trauma energy stayed in my right brain and were compounded, intensified during my twenty-year marriage to a man who, during the last few years of my marriage, took pleasure from performing sadistic acts upon me and laughing at my screams.  In the years before those last years, he simply used me to "do his thing."  I let myself be used because I didn't want to be the object of his temper if I said "no."  So my history of being a sexual human being is not a happy history.  "Sex" has been a negative word my entire life.  I never enjoyed participating in the sex act, and over the years, I have relegated that part of me to the garbage bin, the dustbin.  I've considered myself to be "asexual," a woman with a missing part, in other words. 

But just last week, I began to believe that the sexual part of me has begun to find her voice and, like the potted crocuses and iris I bought a few days ago, has begun to grow and show promise of bearing gorgeous blooms.  Maybe nobody outside myself will ever see or know those blooms, but I will, and that's what counts.  So what, I ask myself, has brought this on? 

As part of the fundraising effort to support the agency that works with victims of abuse, a community group is giving a performance of a play titled "The Vagina Monologues" written by Eve Ensler.  The purpose of this piece is to raise people's awareness of violence against women and children and to help women understand that their bodies are not any more "hush hush" than a man's body.  In other words, once a "secret" is busted, it's not a secret anymore.  People talk about it.  Women can say "no," just as a man can, and women can tell somebody if they are assaulted and victimized.  Being raped or molested does not throw the spotlight of shame onto the victim; it puts the spotlight where it should be--on the victimizer!  Well, those are my takes on the play.  Younger women may see this differently. 

After I spoke to a domestic violence support group last week, the Executive Director asked me if I would like to participate in this year's production of "The Vagina Monologues."  Astonished at myself, I said "Yes"!  I did that!  I said "Yes"!  I couldn't believe myself, but I agreed.  And here I am, an old lady who to this point could scarcely utter the word "vagina" let alone consider participating in a play about vaginas. 

When I arrived home after speaking, I booted up my computer and read the Wickipedia report on the play.  After reading that, I wasn't sure I really wanted to participate because it struck me that the monologues would be likely to trigger people if they had past bad experiences that they had not processed.  Then I read a few versions of the script.  And I thought about the whole matter.  I was born in 1939, and this is now 2014.  Young people in this generation do not perceive sexuality and sexual matters the way I do.  I decided to attend the first rehearsal for the play and see how the participants perceived the monologue contents.  I did that, and afterwards I felt comfortable with my decision.  I'll do it!  I have been assigned the "old lady" part, the one titled "The Flood."  I have not had the experiences described in this monologue, but I can relate to the woman whose story it is.  It's sad, very sad, and I can relate to "sad."  That's easy!  "Sad" has definitely been part of my life experience!

So now a new part is entering the arena of my ego states.  She is not well-defined yet, and she has not met my other ego states, but she will.  I sense that she will be greeted with open arms and relief, relief because she has found her way home.  Relief because she, like the vibrant green and red rhubarb plant that I found castoff and thriving on a pile of chicken manure long ago, has endured the neglect and has flourished.  Is flourishing!  Soon she will introduce herself to all the ego states at the arena.  More on this later!  In the meantime, here is an ancient Scottish prayer for peace within your heart .  .  .

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.


Adapted from - ancient gaelic runes

(http://www.fife.50megs.com/scottish-blessings.htm)








Saturday, February 1, 2014

A New Town and A New Calling

As you know, on December 28th I relocated from Portland, Oregon--a major U.S. city--to Chehalis, Washington, a very minor U.S. city.  By that, I mean I'm now living in rural America, where the sign on the nearby Laundromat says, "No horse blankets, please."  If I had not lived in this area previously, I might experience culture shock, but since I lived here in the 1970s and 1980s, I can remember the experience, and the memories cushion the shock. 

For the most part, I love being here.  I've led too sedentary a life for the past six or seven years, but that's mostly because I could not walk to the places where I needed to go and took public transportation, instead.  However, the fact that I've been recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes adds to my sense of having come to the right place to live.  I've been walking a mile a day--when it's not raining too hard.  I'm hoping to reduce my A1C score and avoid taking medication, but I'll see .  .  . 

So what does all this have to do with the purpose for my blog, to spread the word that people can heal their C-PTSD and PTSD and to give people hope for a life without the symptoms of PTSD?  As I'm discovering, this relocation is opening up a whole new part of my healing and is leading me into new experiences connected with the mission of my blog.  Thus, in the near future I will have more to write about and more posts to publish on my blog!  And that means that maybe you, my readers, will find more useful information and inspiration for healing.  This is what I hope will happen.  You will judge for yourselves, of course.

To begin this new part of my life, I spoke recently to the women in a domestic violence support group, telling my story.  Since much of the spousal abuse I endured and the sexual abuse of my daughter took place in this local area, my audience was immediately interested in what I had to say.  I, in turn, was interested in the changes within the local legal system regarding the crime for which I reported my husband in 1981.  I learned, for instance, that had I reported him for the same offence today, he would certainly have served time in prison.  In 1981, he got off with three years' probation and court costs of $60 for the damage he did to our daughter.  Now, that's quite a change!  During the past thirty years, there have been a few areas of progress here.  On the other hand, the services here for domestic violence victims and survivors are still woefully underfunded, and that's the area in which I hope to help bring about change.  I aim to do what I can here, anyway.

For starters, I have tentatively agreed to participate in the production of "The Vagina Monologues" in March, a fundraiser for the local domestic violence agency.  The first meeting regarding this production is at 2:00 P.M. today, in fact.  I am going to attend and make up my mind if this is something I can or want to do.  It's a tough call, for "The Vagina Monologues" is pretty intense stuff.  Some of it I can relate to, and some I cannot.  I'm not sure how I feel about being a part of it.  But I'm going to check it out and then make up my mind.  I certainly DO want to support the effort, but I'm just not sure I can do it this way.  More on this in my next post. 

Have you ever felt "called" to do a thing?  Well, I realized the other day that I felt called to come here and work at trying to bring about change in the way the system here deals with domestic violence and the victims of domestic violence.  When I left this area in about 1987 to go to graduate school, I thought I had left for good, never to look back.  But I know now that was a mere illusion.  I know now what I didn't know then, that I was supposed to return one day to try to make things better than they were when I left in 1987 and better than they are now.  Right now, the help for victims still has not evolved to the state where it needs to be in order to give victims the most chance to get their lives back and have hope for their futures.  I had that chance because I got out of here and searched for the help I needed and found it. 

My goal or calling is to play whatever part I can in making it possible for victims to have that chance and find the help right here in Chehalis, Washington.  More on this in future posts! 



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Denial and the Danger of Butterflies: A Reposting of an Important Post




The following post is one I wrote two years ago.  I'm re-posting it now because I'm afraid it has been buried, and the topic of denial is so important--as is the topic of dissociation, denial, in the case of the "butterflies."   I also want to honor the contribution of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her work in helping people become aware of the power of denial, especially as denial relates to abuse and to death.  Denial can be a friend and can temporarily spare us pain, but it can also be the cause of pain and lead to death.  I was lucky--my therapist had faith in me and cared about me. Our relationship helped me heal to the point where I could see the truth in my situation:  My children and I were being abused, and I had the power to stop the abuse. 

My former husband said to me several months after I reported him, "If you had not stopped the process, one of us would be dead."  Now that I have read "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans and "The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout, Ph.D., I know I would have been the dead person.  Scary!  If you are trapped in a domestic violence situation, I urge you to find help before it's too late.  Go to a women's shelter and let the authorities deal with your abuser.  Press charges, as I did.  That is your only chance to find freedom and get your life and the lives of your children back. 

In 1981, I attended a Life, Death, and Transition workshop held by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross at Corbett, Oregon. In one of her lectures, Dr. Kubler‑Ross talked about touring the German concentration camp sites shortly after World War II and her surprise at beholding gorgeous butterflies drawn on the walls of camp barracks. The prisoners, she said, drew those butterflies so they could deny the danger and the death inherent in their everyday reality.

As I listened to Dr. Kubler-Ross describe the butterflies, the concentration camp barracks, and the possible mental states of the prisoners, I felt a deja-vu sensation. What Kubler-Ross was saying about the prisoners and their butterflies resonated within me. I realized, then, that my daughter and I had been prisoners in our own concentration camp, and I remembered my own butterfly.

At the end of summer in 1978, my family and I returned to Centralia, Washington, after having lived for two years in Germany. We bought a house and proceeded to settle in. The following few years was a period of new beginnings. In 1980, our son went away to college, our daughter started sixth grade, my husband began a new position, and I began a job as an insurance clerk. And along with these beginnings came the beginning of stepped-up sexual violence in my marital relationship.

Now, some thirty years later, I can see the text-book dynamics of domestic violence at work—my isolation and lack of female friends in whom I could have confided, my fear of displeasing my husband and triggering his violent temper, and my inability to see that I was being abused. In 1980, I knew my life at home was not what I had hoped it would be when I married in 1961, but because I had no idea as to what behavior took place in the bedrooms of other women, I had no frame of reference, no way I could evaluate my own experience. Although I did not know it at the time, my mental state was much the same as that of the Jews described by Dr. Kubler-Ross: I denied the danger inherent in my situation, and I waited, expecting my situation to improve. To help me wait, I, like the Jews who drew on the walls of their barracks, painted an imaginary butterfly on my bedroom ceiling.

My butterfly was merely a piece of ragged wallpaper on the bedroom ceiling, but my imagination added details and glorious colors to that gray, torn bit of wallpaper until it became a beautiful Monarch. As I lay in bed, I would stare at the ceiling, willing my self to fly from my body and become one with that butterfly. As the months passed, I became more and more skilled at flying. I reached the point, in fact, where I flew to the ceiling whether I wanted to or not. My body could be making the bed, changing clothes, or doing whatever it was expected to do, but I was on the ceiling the whole time, velvet wings flapping, watching from above. One day, however, I caught myself in mid flight, understood where I was going, knew why I was going there, and realized that my flying had to cease.

How or why did I suddenly recognize the reality of my situation? I can only surmise that the fact I was in therapy had something to do with my sudden insight. A few months previous, I had begun seeing a therapist because I felt so fragmented that I had to talk myself through my daily routine in order to function effectively. Each step of the way, I had to tell myself aloud what I was doing or what I was supposed to do, including during my job as an insurance clerk. Luckily, other than my boss, who was out of the office much of the time, I was the only employee, and normally not many clients came in person to take care of their business. When somebody came in, I was able to greet the person, converse, and do what was expected. When I was alone, however, I was forced to resume my dialog in order to do filing or other paperwork. After living for about six months in this condition, I knew I needed help.

Thus, when I entered therapy, I believed that my increasing inability to think or reason effectively and clearly without talking myself through my day was a sign that my cognitive abilities were breaking down, but I did not connect this with the abuses I endured in my marriage. I worked hard in therapy, and my therapist was supportive and concerned. As time passed and I became more trusting of my therapist, I found myself beginning to think more clearly without having to talk myself through daily tasks. In addition, as thinking became easier, I became more and more aware of the chaos outside my head. In the bedroom, I flew to the ceiling less often, and I became less and less tolerant of my husband’s rages, of his violence in the bedroom, and of his verbal abuse. I began telling him when I didn’t like what he was doing to me.

In addition to becoming more aware that I was being abused, I also let my husband know that I would not tolerate certain of his practices with our daughter. For example, rather than cringing in fear when he stood our daughter in the corner after dinner, shouted multiplication problems at her, and then cursed at her when she failed to give the correct response, I let him know that his behavior was abusive and unacceptable and had to stop. Although he did not completely stop this behavior, the after-dinner sessions became less frequent. Perhaps in response to my newly-exhibited assertiveness, his behavior changed—at least, that was my thought. He threw fewer tantrums, spoke more respectfully, and generally became less violent. He even asked me to buy our daughter some pretty dresses, something he had never done before. I happily assumed that our relationship was improving and that my husband was trying hard to control his volatile temper.

The change in my husband’s behavior caught me off guard. I relaxed around him and became more trusting. At this point, life looked good. My husband’s behavior toward our daughter and me was improving, so I thought, and I allowed myself to hope that in time, we would become a stable and loving family. Like the Jews lured into the gas chambers by promises of hot showers and clean clothing, I was seduced into believing that my husband’s outwardly changed behavior was an accurate indicator of his intentions. Thus, the truth of our situation hit me like a sucker punch when I walked in on him one spring evening in 1981 and caught him in the act of using our daughter for his own sexual pleasure.

Shortly after discovering the abuse and when I had my first chance to talk to my daughter without my husband being present, I learned that after we returned from Germany, he had begun grooming her for the abuse and had begun the abuse in earnest right after her eleventh birthday. Each time I left the house to shop or to run errands and left her home with him, she became his prey. And because our daughter had spent the first three years of her life being bounced from one foster home to another, she was especially vulnerable and eager to please him. She had no desire to displease him and risk being sent back into the foster care system.

Because her father had told her that if I learned of the abuse, I would be jealous and wouldn’t love her, my daughter was reluctant at first to give me any but the most general information regarding what had transpired between her and her father. After I reported my husband, however, and she realized that he  would no longer be living in our home, she gave me details of incidents. As the details emerged and I became progressively more horrified at the abuse she endured, my anger intensified. How could my husband have performed those atrocities on an innocent child, a child who had spent the first three years of her life in the foster care system, a child who needed so intensely to feel our love as her adoptive parents? How could he have been so, so selfish? How could he have been the person I was married to for twenty years? My anger and those questions swirled around my mind as I tended to the practical matters involved in establishing a new household, one in which I was the head and the sole parent of my thirteen-year-old daughter.

Thirty years later, I still can’t answer those questions. My daughter is grown and married. According to her, her life now is okay. I admire her. She is a good person, kind and loving despite the abuse she suffered. I’ve been on my own since that day in 1981 when I reported my former husband to the police. And since then, I’ve had no need for butterflies on my ceiling or for flying to join them.