Sunday, July 13, 2014

Of Therapy Ending, Granny Bullies, and Small Miracles: The Warp and the Weft of It All


The Chambered Nautilus:
One of Nature's Miracles



If somebody were to ask me to describe my life in one sentence, I might, depending on my mood, reply, “My life is a series of sucker punches, unexpected events that may knock me off my pins at the time but which later become inextricably a part of the old, familiar tapestry I call ‘life.’”   

At first glance, this description of my life may not make much sense or it may seem shallow or incomplete.  But the more I reflect on my statement, the more I see its truth.  For example, when I consider the matters of ending therapy, dealing with grannies who are mean-spirited bullies, and recognizing and appreciating miracles, I know that while these three matters may seem disparate and be, each in its own way, a shock to my system at the moment, I will soon understand why they are important and how they relate to one another.  And then each will find its place in the warp and the weft of my life’s tapestry, and the tapestry will be made all the richer. 

In my previous post, July 6th, I discussed the matter of ending therapy.  I indicated the reasons why it was time for me to end my therapy sessions and mentioned that my therapist and I would come to an agreement on this topic when I had my July 10th session.  Now, ending therapy is not a step to be taken lightly, as you probably know if you have been in therapy for PTSD or C-PTSD.  I know this for certain because I have ended therapy with many therapists—16 total!   

However, this time the process of ending therapy has been different from all the other times.  Why?  This time I am ready to end therapy!  There is a huge difference between ending therapy because  it’s simply time to end therapy and ending therapy for other reasons.  This time I have known intuitively that I am ready for formal therapy to end, and ending has been easy.  My therapist and I have formulated a plan together.  I have a session scheduled for late August, and in between now and then, I am on an “as needed” basis.  But I really doubt that I will need a session before late August.  I’ve checked my body for a response to this decision, and the only perceptible reaction is a slight twinge of anxiety in the pit of my stomach when I think about stopping my formal sessions.  The twinge is no more intense than the twinges I get when I know I have to speak to an audience, and I know that as time passes, the twinges will fade.   

When I have ended therapy with other therapists, I have not really been ready, and not being ready has made ending difficult.  For example, I ended therapy with my first therapist because she retired and moved away.  I grieved the loss of this relationship for years until the memory faded and drifted to find its place in my life’s tapestry.  This therapist and I had been close.  She was there for me when my psyche fragmented into bits and I couldn’t put myself back together.  She was the person who helped me through the process of turning my husband over to the police when I caught him violating our daughter.  She was there for me as I filed for divorce and endured the usual nastiness of the legal battle.  And just before she left, she was there for me as I began a new job and embarked on a new path for my life.  What neither of us knew, however, was that our work together was merely the beginning—I was not ready for an ending, for in 1983 Complex PTSD was a diagnosis yet to be discovered.  I had a lot of work ahead of me!   

I ended therapy with other therapists for various reasons,  mostly because I relocated or they relocated.  I left a few because they were unprofessional and caused me harm.  I wonder why none of those therapists, such as the one who slapped me and the one who became angry at me because I did not appreciate the way she touched me,  accepted responsibility for her behavior and apologized to me.  When I ended therapy with these therapists, I felt relief but also pain from unresolved issues with them.  Because they had not apologized to me for their contribution to my pain, I was left to clean up the messes they made in my psyche.  A few times, I had to see somebody just to get help repairing myself after having been abused by therapists.  I doubt that any textbook mentions this reason for seeking mental health help.   

So now I am truly ready to end therapy—I feel it in my bones, and I also know it in that part of my mind where rational thought resides.  And I have proof that I can manage my life without needing therapy.  For one thing, I have been tested and have passed/am passing the tests—and this is where the “granny bullies” enter the picture.  

Because I am seventy-five years old and rely on Social Security and my small teacher pension for my income, the HUD people consider me to be a “very low income” person and eligible for subsidized housing.  I have lived in six housing complexes for low-income seniors, and of those complexes, three were HUD-related subsidized complexes and three were what is known as “affordable housing” complexes.  Rent at the “affordable” complexes rose alarmingly, so I have made peace with the fact that I will probably spend the rest of my days in HUD subsidized housing where my rent will never be more than 30% of my adjusted income.   

As I have relocated and moved from one housing project to another, I have done a casual sort of research project on the phenomenon that I call “granny bullies,” elderly women who spend their time gossiping about other tenants and bullying those tenants who appear most vulnerable and least able to defend themselves.  In general, I have found that the places where I have paid the least rent are the places where the bullies are most active and most vicious.  When I lived in Sherwood, Oregon, a pack of “granny bullies” delighted in tormenting tenants who were on disability due to mental health problems.  These elderly women also sold their pain medication to earn extra income.  I’ve heard psychologists say that if you want to know how a person will behave in the future, look at past behavior.  If there is any truth to this guide, then I can imagine that the bullies at the Sherwood complex have been bullies all their lives.   

How did I handle the Sherwood bullies?  I did my best to avoid them.  I was scared and lacked confidence in my ability to defend myself.  The level of my fear rose one evening when I came home from choir practice.  I lived in a second-floor apartment, and my door opened onto my balcony.  From there, I had to share the stairs with the woman across from me.  On this night, I reached the landing of the stairs and was confronted by my elderly neighbor who blocked my way.  She told me that she would allow me to pass if I told her that I would join her and her bully friends in tormenting another tenant, one who had a psychiatric diagnosis.  I told her there was no way I would participate in bullying, pushed past her, and entered my apartment.  I considered calling the police, but I was too afraid she and her pals would retaliate if I did that, so I just let the incident go and began searching for a new place to live.   

Fast forward to the present, the summer of 2014.  Again, in my present complex, the “granny bullies” are alive and active.  One has chosen to pick on me.  She pounded on my door and ranted one Sunday because my friend who brings me home from church was parked in the fire lane.  A lot of people park temporarily in the fire lane, but she chose to rant at my friend and me.  Luckily, my friend is an extrovert and an expert at dealing with obnoxious people, so she ranted right back.  The bully will be back, however, because I ignored her the other day when she came to my door.  She wanted me to sign a petition, and I was on the phone and let her know I didn’t have time for her and her petition.  Bullies do NOT like to be ignored, and she will let me know that, I’m sure.  But this time, I’m not afraid of her or the others in her circle of bullies.  Bring them on!  I have confidence now that I did not have when I lived at Sherwood, and whatever the bullies may do, I will take care of the matter fully and legally.  I realized in therapy that I am smart and resourceful, and I can deal with whatever the bullies dish out.   

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve passed the “ending therapy” test and know that I can handle my life without needing to schedule therapy sessions.  My reward for staying with therapy, gaining new confidence, and ending therapy?  The reminder that yes, life is filled with miracles, little gifts of love that help me continue to grow.   

I was part of one such miracle last Thursday.  For weeks, I have had to contend with the cigarette smoke from my upstairs neighbor’s apartment.  Every time she has smoked in her living room, her smoke has drifted through my open living room window.   As a result, I have fretted and stewed about this.  Should I risk knocking on her door and asking her if she could please keep her smoke to herself and hope that she did not explode in my face?  Or should I simply bypass her and talk to the manager?  I’ve lived here for six months, now, and my upstairs neighbor has remained an unknown quantity.  But last Thursday, when the smoke was particularly noticeable, I made my decision.  I decided to make the trip up the stairs, knock on her door, and ask her if she could help me solve the smoke problem.   

When I knocked, the woman came to the door carrying her little dog.  I told her that her smoke was coming through my window and into my living room and explained that I’m allergic to cigarette smoke.  As I talked, she began to cry.  I asked why she was crying, and she told me that she was so relieved that I had come to her rather than take my complaint to the gang of “granny bullies” who sit at the round table in our front yard.  After I replied that I would never, ever go to the bullies for that reason, she explained that at one time, she had been part of their clique but they had been so nasty to her and another lady who smoked that she felt like a leper.  Now she is so afraid of those women that she seldom leaves her apartment.   

When I left my neighbor, we parted in peace.  I told her that I would appreciate anything she could do to minimize the smoke, and she assured me that she would try her best.  I let her know that I don’t expect perfection, but I’ll be happy if she can at least cut down the amount of smoke.  So far, so good.  I don’t know what she is doing, but I’m not getting nearly as much smoke in my apartment as I have in the past.  I plan to let her know that I appreciate her efforts.  I also will reinforce the fact that others I have met here feel the way I feel about the women who sit at the table in the yard.  My neighbor is not alone.   

What, exactly, is the miracle?  I went, unafraid, to ask my neighbor to help solve the problem.  My attitude was not accusatory or blaming—I simply wanted her help to solve a problem that was clearly partly hers.  The miracle was that I decided to approach her directly and with love and courage rather than with fear and trembling.  And she was grateful!  We both gained from the experience—she received my assurance that I was not going to attack her or bully her, and I received her cooperation in reducing the cigarette smoke coming through my living room window.   

I see my neighbor differently now.  I no longer see her as a malevolent person who is trying to make my life miserable with her smoke.  I see her now as a person who needs to be reminded that not all the people who live here are against her and that she is no more a leper than those women whom I call the “granny bullies.”  And difficult as it is to admit—the incident has reminded me, also, that inside each bully resides a person who is possibly just as scared as the victims of her bullying.  I say that this is difficult to admit because in seeing bullies this way, I am forced to admit that even bullies need my compassion.  For some reason, it’s easier to be angry than to have compassion at times.   

While this experience may not seem like a miracle to others, it is a miracle for me.  As I was making my decision to approach my neighbor directly, I remembered Christ’s command in the Book of John, King James Version:  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  In the past, I have not usually called upon the principles I learned as a child in Sunday School, but now that my mind and my heart are not so distracted by my therapy, I am more inclined to think about and apply those principles to my everyday life.  In this case, I am so glad I did!
 
Following is a quote about miracles that is attributed to Albert Einstein by many people but is not attributed to Albert Einstein by other, more skeptical, people.  Frankly, I don't care who wrote it; I choose to see the miracles in life and to let them lead me. 
 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Time of Peace



To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.  
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), King James Version of the Bible
 
 
 

 

If you follow this blog, you have probably wondered why I have not posted recently.  Have I lost interest in writing?  Have I lost interest in therapy?  Am I “cured” of my Complex PTSD?  The answer to those questions is “NO!”  I have not lost interest in writing or therapy, and I most certainly am not “cured” of my C-PTSD.  But I AM at a point now where I am ready to end therapy.   

When I began therapy with my present therapist, a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating people who have developed Complex PTSD caused by abuse, I was at a point in my life where I knew that if I did not get competent help and get it soon, my symptoms would cause me to isolate myself to a point of no return.  In other words, I would withdraw from all social interaction to a point where I might not be able to return to the “real world.”  Why?  The flashbacks and the other symptoms I experienced were so daunting that I simply did not want to be where other people were.  Also, because I lived in a big city and used public transportation, my symptoms were constantly triggered every time I left my apartment.   

Thus, I knew in April of 2010 that that I needed to find help, the right help.  Over the previous thirty years, I had seen a succession of therapists, only one of whom had given me an accurate diagnosis.  He could also have helped me, but he moved away before we had time to get started.  The others?  Well, some were well-intended but were not capable of diagnosing me and then offering me treatment options.  Others wanted to stuff me like sausage meat into their well-practiced treatment modalities and force me to accommodate myself to their requirements.  A few therapists during this time wanted me to be their therapists.  They were more in need of help than I was.  In total, during this period of thirty years, I saw fourteen therapists.  By April of 2010, I had given up on finding competent help.    

Then one Monday evening in mid-April, 2010, I suffered a flashback so debilitating that it took me five days of hard work by myself to get back on track, and I decided to try one last time to find somebody who could diagnose me and then help me to heal.  I phoned a woman who had been the head of the psychiatric department at a prominent teaching hospital and asked her for some names of psychologists who worked with trauma patients, and then I began calling those names until I reached my present therapist.  During my first session with her, this therapist not only gave me an accurate diagnosis, but she gave me treatment options.  I chose the option that sounded like the best fit for me, and—as people say—the rest is history.  

Now, slightly more than four years later, I am ready to stop therapy.  How do I know I’m ready?  For one thing, my symptoms have abated to the point where they simply do not interfere with my daily life as they once did.  I know that they can always reappear, but now I am no longer afraid of them and no longer afraid they will reach a point where I cannot control them.  Now, when I am in a situation where I begin to feel spacey—a signal to me that something about the situation is not working for me—I take a “timeout,” analyze the dynamics, and help my ego states work together to restore my inner equilibrium.  

Another reason why I know I am ready to stop therapy is that I simply don’t have time for my sessions.  When I began four years ago, I met with my therapist twice a week, 2 ½ hours per week.  If I had been allowed to, I would have met with her every day, for my mind was working full tilt at getting myself out of my psychic “mess.”  I did, however, work on my Ego State Dialogue almost every day, and by doing that, I accomplished what I needed to accomplish despite not being able to see my therapist every day.   

By the end of the second year with this therapist, my PTSD symptoms had faded in intensity, and I was able to focus on other aspects of my Complex PTSD and to do some important EMDR work.  Recently, in the past month, my therapist has taken a few weeks off.  Did I miss my sessions with her?  No!  I was glad to have the time off and not structure my Thursdays around my therapy session.  I missed seeing her, as I would miss seeing any friend or person whom I liked and enjoyed, but I did not miss my sessions.  I’m just too busy now for a session per week!  I’m too busy for any sessions at all now!   

Finally, I now live in a small town, and I am feeling confident about my ability to deal effectively with any social interaction in which I am involved.  Life in a small town is not so overwhelming as life in the big city was, and I feel quite capable of taking care of myself.  I’ve already gotten myself into and out of some sticky situations that could have been nastier if I had allowed them to be.  But I didn’t allow them to grow nastier—I called them as they were and put up my boundaries and probably “unfriended” a few people in the process, but I have no regrets.  They were what they were, and I’ve moved on.   

This next Thursday, July 10th, I will have one more session, and it will be my final formally scheduled session.  My therapist and I have discussed the fact that I am ready to end therapy, and she is okay with my decision.  I plan to let her know that I’d like to be placed in the “as needed/if needed” category.  Of course, I don’t know for certain what she will say, but I would like to think she will be happy with my decision.  It’s time.   

In closing, I would like to thank my therapist by quoting the following:    

New Blessing in the Celtic Style 

I lay my head to rest
and in doing so
lay at your feet
the faces I have seen
the voices I have heard
the words I have spoken
the hands I have shaken
the service I have given
the joys I have shared
the sorrows revealed
I lay them at your feet
and in doing so
lay my head to rest

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)