Monthly Archives: May 2014

Shame transformation

Standard

Disclosures are almost over for group. Thank goodness, because it really makes for some challenging nights–it’s really difficult. I admire these women who have walked this journey with me so so much. They are truly amazing, strong, supportive, beautiful people. We share feelings and thoughts yet know very little else about each other and our lives. It’s strange how we have all connected through trauma. And shame.

One thing that we all react to is when the facilitator says something about shame. It’s so present in the lives of a survivor of sexual assault. I often wish it could go away forever, but now I wonder if that’s really the best way to look at it. Would I want to put it out of my mind completely if I could? I don’t know. I kind of don’t think so. I just want to change how I see it.

So when we talked about the rest of the group and she said we were going back to revisit shame, we all decided we didn’t like that. We then talked about what she meant which was that we will revisit how shame feels to us after completing our disclosures. We talked about saying “shame resilience” instead. Then we decided on “shame transformation.” I like that.

I like that it is still something I can see in my life, and feel and recognize as a part of me. But I like that I can think of it as transformed. I found this definition of transformed: to change the outward form or appearance of. I absolutely love that. Because that is exactly how it feels to me now. That the shame is inside me now and part of my experience, but the outward form of it is different. I don’t carry it as a weight. I don’t feel it sitting on my shoulders telling me how to act or when to not be me.

I have been through a shame transformation. Which feels really good.

Each day is better now. And when I have a bad moment, I’m better equipped to handle it.

I love that.

KK

Advertisements

I won’t compromise and I’m not sorry.

Standard

Grab life and move forward.  Feel deeply.  Love hard.  Have fun every chance you get.  Don’t worry about mistakes.  Everything works the way it is meant to work.  Chaos is good, it keeps me moving forward without giving a lot of thought to what I’m doing.

This is how I have plowed through life, starting with my teenage years.  I didn’t like to plan, I liked to have fun, and I enjoyed waking up and going on adventures even when the people around me tried to convince me to slow down and think about it first.  Even when my gut said, hey you should stop and notice this, it could be important.  Consequences?  Those aren’t things you worry about when you have life by the tail and are hanging on for your perfect, happy ending.  Except, I don’t think I ever thought much about what that happy ending should look like.

That’s ok when you are as young as I was and taking on life as chaotically as I was comfortable doing most of the time.  What I am facing now, is that I shame myself for being that way back then because I stayed that way.  I justify the negative experiences I have had by saying I wasn’t cautious enough, controlled enough, nice enough, girly enough, and I wasn’t always honest.  I wouldn’t say if I was uncomfortable.  I didn’t hold firm to my ideologies to ensure that life was exactly what I deserved.

You have to compromise to be in relationships, right?  Wrong.  One definition I found for compromise is this:  to accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmmm.  That makes me squirm a bit in my skin.

Accept standards that are lower than is desirable.  Hmmm.  Yeah, I don’t think I’m willing to do that.  Not ever again.

I have a bottom line.  So do you.  I have a core set of values and needs.  So should you.  I feel like those things are not negotiable.  They have to be serious things, obviously, not just “I like musicals so if you don’t there’s the door.”  You have to discuss things, you should negotiate some matters, you want to consider the other person’s opinions and decide if you want to change yours.  But that should never mean giving up your bottom line.  It is a boundary issue.  And that is something I never understood before recently.  And something I will be honest and say I am still struggling with just a bit.

I am having a great time rediscovering me lately and I know I’ve been saying that a lot.  It feels really, really good the majority of the time.  It stills feel scary sometimes too.  Because I built and lived with very poor boundaries.  If I didn’t want someone to walk out of my life, I let a boundary go so that they would stay or so that I felt I should stay.  If I wanted a person to like me, or love me, I was willing to ignore the fact that they were mean, or jealous, or a liar, not willing to be emotionally supportive, or said hateful things that I find unacceptable.

A book I reference a lot right now in my life is Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield.  I love the book.  I read it a lot.  On page 103, Charles Whitfield has a table of characteristics of safe and unsafe people.  When I have to look at a relationship in my life that is feeling “off,” I always check out that page first to see if the person is in the “safe” column.  If a new person comes into my life, I open to that page.  The safe characteristics that are most important to me include supportive, are real with you, accept the real you, validate the real you, and hear you.

I feel conflicted and a bit gross even writing those down here!  You know why?  Because it feels selfish to me.  The book focuses on knowing and protecting my true self and that is something I believe many people always felt I did fairly well.  I guess maybe I should have been an actor.  I feel like I’m a pretty supportive person to those I love.  But I also feel like I have spent a fair amount of my life being a person in the unsafe column.  “False with you, unclear, indirect, boundaries unclear/messages mixed.”  Those are the items I see which I feel fit me for a long time in my relationships.  And that is difficult to digest.

I moved out on my own in November 2012.  That feels like a very long time ago.  To be fair and completely honest, I had a pretty great marriage for many years and he is not an awful person at all.  He is not even the person I most often think about when I am writing negative relationship stuff.  Since I moved out, I have realized that those unsafe characteristics of my own personality really need some work.  And apart from the sexual assault healing, that’s why I go to therapy.  To understand me and to make changes that I feel are necessary to change those unsafe things to the safe characteristic instead.  Top of the list for me would be wanting to have appropriate boundaries and being clear and direct.

I know I’m improving.  I know this because I have met someone who is new to my life and I have maintained my boundaries and been clear and direct.  It’s pretty awesome.  What’s coolest about it is that even though it is new, it is completely authentic.  I know that in my past, this would not have been the case.  Because when you first meet someone there is a tendency for people to give in and compromise your own stuff.  To impress, to seem more the same, more of a match.  And I don’t feel the need to do that at all.  In fact, I’m more me than I have been in about 20 years when I’m around this person.  How freakin cool is that?

Many of the things that I used to love to do, and want, and be fell by the wayside after the assault.  I compromised who I was and what I liked to do to fit what I thought I needed.  To be good enough.  To fit into what I thought being a grown up really had to look like.  It wasn’t all bad, I’m not saying I haven’t had a terrific life.  I raised two awesome children, I have amazing family and friends, I finished two college degrees, traveled a lot, and had a lot of great times.  I’ve always been surrounded by some quality people who have been there for me through it all.

Going forward I won’t compromise, and I’m not sorry about that.  It feels good to finally understand that it’s ok to just be me.  And that in just being me I could be exactly the right person for someone who feels good about just being who they are too.

KK

 

A giant step in an awesome direction

Standard

I cannot stop smiling this week. For a few reasons. And that feels awesome.

Having that disclosure behind me feels so so good. And it’s not just that saying it out loud is over, but that I have realized it has really and truly released me from the victimization I have felt all these years. And I just cannot believe it. It feels like this enormous weight on my heart and my shoulders is lifted. Like it can stay in the background instead of being so present each and every day.

And what that has allowed for me is true healing. Healing I’ve never felt before now. Healing in a way that makes me feel a lot like the girl I remember. And trust. Wow, trust!! Trust in myself and the new ability to trust other people when I would normally have a wall up so high that most wouldn’t dare try to climb it.

I have a freedom in my heart that is making me excited and hopeful and possibly a little bit nuts. It’s like everything I always wished I could feel and say and be fell into place. All at once. And I know it will last because I refuse to go back to that girl who held back and was frozen when feelings were present.

Losing that victim weight is a giant step in an awesome direction.

Understanding boundaries and how and when and why to set them is a work in progress for me. But I feel this is also going in the right direction.

I have ridiculously cool people in my life. People I’ve known for so long-they’ve been patient, loving, and understanding. They’ve loved me when I’ve been scary quiet (yes, it happens, I’m quiet sometimes), crazy, a mess, a bitch, when I wouldn’t talk about feelings, and when I wouldn’t shut up. I can be a little much for a lot of folks. Thanks for standing by my side through it all.

And all these newer people around me-you rock! I cannot even believe it sometimes. I SO look forward to the new friendships and the supportive relationships in my future. I look forward to exchanging stories, and having laughs or cries or whatever you people need in return for what you have given me.

I look forward to long conversations that turn nights into mornings.

I am excited to take more steps forward. I’m excited to contribute whatever support and friendship I can to those people around me now. I am so excited to continue to heal.

I didn’t know I would say this so soon, but I’m back, bitches!! I’m me again and that is fucking cool.

KK

I did it!

Standard

IMG_1696

I did my disclosure yesterday.  I’m super proud of myself for standing up to the fear of judgment and for getting through the disclosure with honesty and vulnerability.  There were some moments I didn’t expect and some memories that I had buried so far inside me that they came out for the VERY FIRST time while I was talking.  It was extremely intense.

The response from my group was truly incredible and awesome.  I have formed new, and hopefully lasting, friendships with these women I have grown to learn from, admire, and cherish.  It is a group of ridiculously brave and beautiful spirits.  They helped me understand the victim I was at those times I described, and also helped me to see that the woman I have become is so much better than I feel inside sometimes when I wake up or feel triggered in daily life.  They helped me validate that victim inside me and see that I overcame a lot of injustice to be the survivor I am today.  Those women rock!

The heavy shame is lifted up to another level, a level where I can actually face it and begin to work through each piece of it.  I can actually see the future me enjoying daily living without that blanket of shame on my shoulders.  I can see myself dancing freely and feeling joy instead of hesitation.  I can look forward to being brave enough to fully trust and to love again, in ways I never really have before now.

Even after feeling so good, I could hear the tapes in my head starting to self-punish for not facing all of this sooner, not healing sooner, not trying hard enough.  The “I should have done something” starting to creep inside my head.  But this time I put a stop to it and spoke right out loud to those tapes to let them know I just did that – disclosed fully – and I will no longer be held hostage by those negative cognitions.  Sure, it will take some more work, I’m not under the impression that all of the burden left with the words that came out while I told my story.  But I have shed the secret in a way that feels like an ending to a lot of it.

That.  Is.  Awesome.

I feel crazy excited today like this is another new beginning for me.  A more aware me, a further healed me, a really, truly rediscovered me.

I did it!

KK

Just go with it

Standard

Last week and over the weekend I was really stressing out about the disclosure for my group therapy.  It was like I couldn’t think of anything else.  But a friend of mine told me to stop thinking about Thursday and when it gets here just go for it.  And for some reason even though I could tell myself that, it just stuck more when the friend said it.

So I have been very busy this week and not really focused on the disclosure, which felt really great.  I went to all my favorite workout classes, got caught up at work, and continued to work with my dogs who were recently fighting a lot.  And when today came, the actual day I will be doing the disclosure, it didn’t feel so big.

I mean, I’m sure as tonight gets closer I will have more nerves than I do right now, but mostly I feel like whatever happens will be good.  Freeing.  Positive.  Necessary for healing to really move forward.

Two brave souls went first in the group.  It was tremendously cool of them to take that on and go first.  It was exhausting to be a listener of someone’s trauma.  But I’m truly thankful for them being so brave because it gave me the chance to see how the process happens.  And you know what?  It is really great.

I’m even kind of looking forward to it.  After the disclosure the group is allowed to give feedback and what could be more awesome than supportive feedback from people who have felt most, if not all, of the same feelings I have felt and continue to feel?  It is a bit crazy to think that I have been stuck with this burden for all these years and a good chunk of it could feel a lot less heavy after I make it through this day.

“Just go with it.”  That’s a phrase used often in EMDR.  When a feeling comes up or I notice something during the process, my therapy always says “just go with it.”  And then we proceed.  When EMDR starts there is a negative cognition.  I’ve listed some before, but things like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve love” would be negative cognitions.

One successful session of EMDR for me was “I am a disappointment.”  When it begins, the therapist asks how true that statement feels.  For me it was very much a real feeling at that time with some specific circumstances from my past.  So, in EMDR, there is a stimulus used such as buzzers in each hand, eye movements following a hand or light, tapping, or tones with headphones.  At the time, I used the buzzers in each hand.  So I would close my eyes and just “notice” what feelings would come up thinking about that specific situation that made me feel I was a disappointment.  After a certain amount of time, the therapist would have me open my eyes and say what I thought about, pinpointing something by saying “just go with it,” and then I would close my eyes again and the buzzers would start.  Now, I am no expert in EMDR.  So research it if you want all the specific information, but this is my experience.  It never seemed like I was doing it right.  I always felt like I would think the wrong things or not focus on the things that were necessary.  But that’s silly.  The idea is that I close my eyes, the buzzers start, and I just think about what comes to mind without judging myself for it!  In any case, I couldn’t believe that I could feel that good about a situation in only one session.  I felt released from the burden of that disappointment and truly felt that I was ok just the way I was and so I’m fine the way I am now.

I think “just go with it” and/or “just go for it” are my new buzz phrases.  I can’t wait to get the disclosure over with tonight because I feel like “going for it” is really going to get me through some of the necessary steps to move forward.  Not without my experience or my trauma, but better because of how I got through it and how I can now begin to recognize that it is a piece of me and NOT who I am.

KK

Disclosure **trigger warning**

Standard

****TRIGGER WARNING****this disclosure is about sexual assault

Here it is, my disclosure.  I’m writing it out in order to decide what I need to say out loud for healing.  Maybe writing it down will give me some insight on what I really DO need to say out loud in front of my group so that I can heal and move forward.

During my freshman year of college, I had a lot of fun.  Some would say too much fun, except that I still got good grades and cared about being there to learn.  My party nights were spent with many friends, mostly somewhere in the dorm or at a few specific houses around campus.  I loved to dance and dance I did.

One specific house had a lot of parties with a lot of dancing, so that quickly became my favorite spot.  I danced with anyone who was interested in dancing and I had more fun doing that than drinking since I didn’t like beer and most of the parties in college revolved around beer.

I was a great dancer.  I laugh as I say that because saying things I am good at makes me uncomfortable, but it is totally true.  I always had a lot of attention on the dance floor because I loved it and was good at it and I knew how to have fun dancing.  I always felt free to dance.

I had a roommate.  I struggle to even say that because the thought of her makes me furious.  She was a friend since junior high and we went to a lot of the parties together.  One night she asked if I wanted to go over to the house to hang out with another girl and some of the guys.  Of course I said yes, I loved to dance!

When we got there, it was just some of the guys who lived there, a few who didn’t, and the three of us.  I thought that was disappointing, but I still stayed to hang out because I generally considered these people my friends.  We were upstairs in the house and some of the guys were drinking and some smoking pot.  There was some music on as well.  We sat and talked while they passed around beer and pot.  I took a few sips of beer, but was generally grossed out by it being passed around and as I said, I don’t like beer.  I took a few turns smoking pot because I did have some history of smoking pot and enjoying that.  But it tasted funny.  Since there was music on I moved to the side of the room and mostly danced a little by myself while listening to people talk.

Eventually, my roommate and the other girl said we should go, so we started to leave the room.  As we did, one of the guys said I should stay and dance with him.  I always liked him and he was frequently one of the guys I danced with, but I wasn’t going to stay if everyone else was leaving so I followed my roommate down the stairs.  He came down after me and put his hands on my shoulders to slow me down and said again that I should stay because my friends left me anyway.  When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw that he was exactly right about that, the kitchen was empty and my roommate was gone with the other girl.

The guy pushed me with his arms still on my shoulders toward the stairs and I started to protest, but he said just stay to dance awhile and then you can leave.  He kept his hands on my shoulders as I climbed back up the stairs, protesting a bit but kind of happy to have his attention.  Only we did not go to the room where everyone else was still gathered.  He steered me to a room on the right which he said as we entered was his room.  I remember my heart racing at this point.  I turned around and tried to leave, using the excuse that I knew he had a girlfriend and I was not that kind of girl.

He said “your dancing says you are.”

I’ve never forgotten that phrase and I’ve never danced as freely again.

He pushed me onto the bed and that is when I remember completely freezing inside.  I wanted to yell and couldn’t make sound.  He was pulling off my clothes, and began touching me and taking his clothes off as well, holding me down, and it was as if it was happening to someone else.  After awhile he yelled for a friend of his to come into the room, asked if I wanted to pick a person, and I couldn’t speak while he laughed and talked to some of the other guys in the house who had all gathered around the door of the room and were looking at me as he continued the assault.  Another guy got onto the bed and he pushed me down onto his friend and he was still on top of me and I could see people at the door.

Watching.  They stood there and did nothing to stop it.  They watched it happen.

When it was over he told me to get dressed and asked if he was going to get a disease or if I was going to end up pregnant.  I said nothing, just gathered my clothes and got the hell out of that house.  It was dark out and as soon as I was out of that house I just started walking back to my dorm.  Horrified as I passed a few people here and there.  When I reached my dorm, some people I knew were coming out and I wish I would have just collapsed in the horror I was feeling so they would help me. I walked past them and continued past security to the elevators.

When I reached my dorm floor I went straight to the bathroom and just broke down in a stall, thinking I was going to throw up.  It is there that my roommate and the other girl found me, and took me back to our room.  They didn’t know what to do and I remember talking to my best friend on the phone.  I remember calling my boyfriend.

I remember the next several hours of additional hell.  My roommate took me to the hospital and I remember very little of how I got to her car or the drive to the hospital.

But I will NEVER forget how I felt while I was there.  I remember seeing police on the way in and being led to a room.  I remember the staff was less than compassionate and I just remember the heaviness of the guilt setting in along with complete disgust for myself.  They told me to get completely undressed.  Are you kidding me?  Oh and make sure you undress carefully on top of this mat so your clothes can be sent to the police.  The last thing I wanted to be was naked.  I was given an exam by a doctor.  The process of the exam was just awful.  Collecting evidence, looking at every inch of my body, touching me.  The doctor that came in the room to do the exam was a man.  A man! I felt horrified, disgusting, dirty, very much like I wanted to die right then.  But it wasn’t even close to over.

After the hospital I was taken to the police station.  I asked for my cigarettes and nobody bothered to tell me I probably shouldn’t start chain-smoking because I had given blood during the exam.  So I felt sick, but just kept smoking.  I had to tell them everything I could remember over and over again and give a description of the guys and the house.

My parents and my sister came to get me from hours away and they took me home.

I was able to see some friends after a day or so, but it was difficult to speak.  I had to decide if I was returning to school.  It was difficult to see friends because I felt so disgusting and so empty.  I felt like the me I knew and loved was completely gone and I was filled with shame for what had happened to me.

I returned to the campus to continue school, but it was awful.  I couldn’t go anywhere without eyes on me.  The school newspaper and the local tv news had printed my full statement, minus my name, but it had gotten around who I was and it was complete madness.  I had one teacher who really supported me and several friends who stood by me in support.  My roommate was not one of them.  She was dating someone from that house where it happened.  She was absolutely horrible to me over the next few months and the betrayal was just devastating to me.

I would not be pushed out of that school.  I was not the person who did anything wrong.  Logically, I knew that.  At least on the outside I would present that belief.  Inside I was a mess.  I had to go to the district attorney and tell everything all over again to prepare for hearings.  I never felt safe.  I had to explain myself over and over again.

My roommate supported the guys.  I’m not kidding when I say she actually asked me if I thought that one of the guys was really great as a sex partner.  She brought people from that house back to our room sometimes.  I stayed other places and did the best I could to get through the semester.  I also prepared late entry paperwork for another school in another state so I could leave.

The preliminary hearing was a complete circus.  Preparing for it, reading my statements over and over was awful.  I had a boyfriend doing the best he could and a completely supportive family, but nobody can be prepared for something as horrible as rape.  Nobody knows what to do or say.  And I was slowly drowning in pain, guilt, and shame.

People had to be turned away from the courthouse due to so many people coming to the hearing.  News and many supporters of the two criminals.  Two people sexually assaulted me while others watched.  Nobody who stood there and watched was charged.  I testified for many hours.  I had to explain myself.  ME.  They were never questioned.  They just got to sit there staring at me and writing notes to their attorneys.  During those hours the court hearing had to be stopped many times for people to be warned about their inappropriate behavior.  People made sexual gestures at me during the hearing and were warned to stop, but never thrown out for the behavior.

It felt like I was a victim of rape all over again.  I can’t honestly say I could ever suggest to anyone that they report a rape at the risk of having to go through something as awful as the court process.

One night I took part in a rally called Take Back the Night with a girl I met who stood by my side all the way through.  Thank goodness she was there with me as we marched because we marched right into a building where the two guys who assaulted me stood watching.  I froze, but she kept me moving and kept me safe, putting herself between them and me.  I would do anything to be able to remember her name and be able to thank her for that compassion and unwavering support.  She didn’t even know me and she believed and supported me.  Unlike my roommate who I had known for many years. The betrayal of that friendship destroyed my ability to trust myself and others.

When the semester was done, I left the school and I never returned.  I moved to a different state and attended another university and the case settled out of court that fall with each guy getting a plea bargain to misdemeanor sexual assault.  A slap on the wrist.  I heard that one guy left the school and one guy stayed.

They raped me, and I was the one put on trial and made to leave the school.  I was the one who faced a lifetime of guilt, shame, relationship issues, suicidal thoughts, and loss.   I hadn’t done anything wrong, and my logical side understood that, but it sure felt like I did. I couldn’t trust myself, I questioned my own judgment over and over again. Had I given consent by dancing? Had my clothes been too tight? Had I not said no enough or tried to leave enough times? Was I to blame for what happened?

Rape changed my life forever.  But I will no longer let it define me.  I will not let them win.  I didn’t heal after it happened because I tried to ignore it and just go on with life, even though the me I was before it happened was gone.  It has buried me in shame for a lot of years and enough is enough.  These issues came up again for me in 2012 and I will work hard for whatever amount of time it takes for me to be free of the feelings of guilt, judgment, and shame. I will never forget and I can’t make it go away, but I will rediscover those parts of me that they tried to destroy with their crimes.

I will learn how to trust myself and others again. I will regain full control of my feelings.

I will overcome.

If you are a victim, or you know a victim, get help.  Find resources to support yourself or that person.  BELIEVE THEM and support them every single step of the way.

KK

The monster at the end

Standard

Growing up I always liked the Little Golden Book called A Monster at the end of this Book.  I own a copy still.  I feel like this book has been kind of coming to mind a lot lately as I get closer to this week being my week to disclose in group.

In the book, Grover from Sesame Street is telling the story and it is a really cute read.  The idea is that right from the start he is scared because there is a monster at the end of the book and he is afraid of monsters.  He comes up with different ideas to get the reader to stop turning the pages and getting closer to the monster.

This is how I am feeling as days go by because I would do just about anything to avoid this week’s group therapy session.  It is my week to tell my experience.  I can absolutely choose how I tell it and what I need to say in order to move toward healing, but I can’t imagine saying any of it out loud.  When I think about having to say it, I can’t get a breath.  The guilt I feel and the judgment I assume is the “monster at the end of the book.”  Rape culture is so focused on victim-blaming and what did the victim do that she/he should have done differently.  I know these people in my group therapy are “peers” and they, more than anyone else, understand how I feel most days, but it still feels like they will tell me how wrong I was or how it wasn’t really rape, or how maybe if I just did/didn’t DO x y or z it would not have happened to me.  I don’t know how to say it because saying it will make it feel so…real.  So…mine.  And I don’t want it.  I want to just give it away or stop turning the pages so that the monster is never something I have to face.

I started during the last week to write out my disclosure so that I could just read it, or so that at least I will have written it the way I think I need to say it to be most healing.  To try it out.  I can’t get through it.  I will, I hope, but so far I just can’t get myself to write it out.  And if I keep going and tell the story, either written or out loud, then the judgment will come.  I’m certain of it.

The “monster” at the end will come.  The monster feels like me.  What did I DO?  What should I have DONE?

In the story of Grover, the reader finds out right along with Grover that the monster at the end IS Grover.  That all along he was terrified of what was coming and at the end it is just himself.  Lovable, furry Grover.

This book is giving me hope.  Hope that at the end of this disclosure is just me.  That I built it up and made it a monster, but when I get through it and it is over I am left with me.  A wonderful, healing me.  A rediscovered me.  A me that is not at the end of a journey or at the end of a horrible story, but instead a me that is only beginning.

A me that can be accepted for exactly the person I am inside and have been all along.  A me with no more need to hide.

KK