Category Archives: therapy

technology follow up

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Wow wow wow!  That was so cool!!

I just finished my first session with my therapist using VSee and it was a perfectly great experience.  The connections were good, the sound was good, and it was nearly as comforting as being in her office.  Especially because I was able to be in my pjs on my couch with my dog next to me for extra comfort.

I’m so thankful for technology in going through my healing process.  There is this video conferencing which is new to me, so many sites for resources, and great forums.  One other thing I have been reading a lot about lately, but haven’t had a need to use personally is the Crisis Text Line.  According to a recent Facebook post on their page, the Crisis Text Line has just passed 8 MILLION messages exchanged since August of 2013.  That is simply AWESOME.

I love technology.  And it was so great to see my therapist again.  Thank goodness for VSee.

KK

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starting over…again

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I moved.  So I had to schedule my final appointment with my therapist.  She said she had an opening on a Tuesday and an opening on Wednesday, so I emailed back right away to say I’d take them both!  And I did. 

Leaving friends when you move is hard.  But even after a move you can stay in contact with friends.  Not so with a therapist, once you move, it’s over.  And that’s scary.  Especially after several years together. 

I’m lucky to have one or two connections where I’ve been able to get some names for possible therapists in my new area.  I like to at least get a name from someone instead of just searching and not knowing anyone who has even a small connection.  I ended up with my current therapist on a referral from a friend to that office.  I like that. 

So…fast forward to the first of the last two appointments and boy am I glad I took two!  What a mess I had been that week in some ways and I was glad to have lots of time to get input on how to move forward.  

In many areas, I’ve come really, really far.  And that feels just awesome.  And I’ve had plenty of opportunity lately to fully understand how terrific it is to know that as long as I am genuinely sharing only my own feelings, I am not responsible for a person’s negative reaction to those feelings.  My ex would argue that my feelings are an automatic attack on him as a person, but that’s because he hasn’t taken any responsibility for our divorce and sees no reason to work on himself or heal from the loss of our lives as we knew them.  And that’s his decision.  But I gotta be honest, I don’t get it.  At all.  He has changed so much and in many ways that is good.  I don’t think he should be the same guy I met in our early 20s.  Change is a very normal part of life.  I never asked him to change who he is at his core, because I loved that guy.  I didn’t need him to change that person at all.  But in the ways we needed to change together to be a healthy couple, he came right out and said it was only me who needed “fixed” and he wasn’t planning on changing anything.  Cuz he didn’t have any problems.  Once I “fixed” myself we’d be fine, he said that many times.  I said I was frustrated at marriage counseling because I felt he was just sitting there waiting for her to say it’s all just me, to which he quickly yelled, “What if it IS all you???”  And that’s just ridiculously sad.  

In any case, his lack of ability to grow and to support me where I most needed support was the deciding factor.  I remember the day clearly…after months of therapy, I finally knew some exact, actual things I needed in order to cope with my being a sexual assault survivor in our relationship.  And I’ll tell you two things.  

The first was that I wanted him to set an alarm on March 25, the date of the college assault.  A reminder alarm so that he could remember right away that morning each year that maybe I could use an extra hug and just a short “do you need anything from me today?”  This request was absolutely crazy to him.  He told me the same thing that day as he had told me before…he wouldn’t do it.  He would not set an alarm for a “bad” thing because nobody wants to remember bad things.  And besides, I could remind him.  After all, it didn’t happen to him, it happened to me, so why should he have to remember it?  Wow. 

Just let that sink in for a minute.  The person I chose to be with in marriage, through good and bad, said he was unwilling to remember something on his own, even if remembering that would help me feel supported and comforted.  Even if I asked him to remember it, for me. Wow…that’s all I could think while I sat there on the arm of his blue couch staring at him.  Wow. 

The second thing I said is that I need my husband to be one of my biggest supporters. To be able to stand next to me at survivor gatherings or events to support sexual assault.  To be proud of my progress.  To not laugh at rape jokes or tell me I have no sense of humor because I don’t find rape funny.  To understand why rape scenes in shows sometimes bother me and sometimes don’t and why some movies will never be on the list of movies I can watch.  I didn’t need him to march down the street yelling anti-rape statements.  I didn’t need him to stop watching shows he likes.  But understand–this is a guy who will argue with you ALL day about gay rights and has worked phones for Planned Parenthood.  He’s not gay.  I’m not gay.  He’s never used services at PP and I only did once, a million years ago when I needed birth control and wouldn’t ask my mom.  Please believe me when I state that I am not saying those things don’t matter, and we absolutely have reasons to support those things too.   

But I was his wife.  I felt many times that his feelings of obligation to others came before his comittment to me and the fact that he could so clearly and regularly support those things, but not be willing to stand by my side to support something that actually happened to me and absolutely affected me, and, therefore, our marriage…dang…I will NEVER understand that.  Never. 

My point here, and I’ve taken long to get here, is that I have come really far in many areas with therapy.  And one of those big areas is that I truly forgave my ex for the fact that he is not the kind of person who is willing and/or able to support me as a survivor of sexual assault.  He’s not the guy he was and now that I have started over in completely healing from my past traumas, I can’t accept not having exactly what I need from a person I’m going to spend my life with from now forward.  I simply won’t accept the lack of support.  Ever again. 

Starting over again with a therapist means returning to the beginning of most of my story.  That’s difficult to face, but I’m hoping that this time it won’t be as challenging because of the success I found in attending the groups I completed. 

Starting over means facing things again, like all those feelings I just touched on that brought me to divorce.  I guess it will be a test of how far I really have come, because in talking about the past I will find out if the triggers still start up a bunch of physical yuck.  I sure hope not. 

Starting over isn’t always difficult.  Starting over in a new place has been awesome.  I get to see my family often, and being able to spend so much more time with my boyfriend and my bonus boys is unbelievably perfect.  Plus, my daughter said to me just last night, “this feels like home more than any place we have lived.”  I felt really proud hearing that.  Proud of myself for making tough decisions and honoring my gut.  Proud that I haven’t let fear get in the way of getting back to who I really am inside and out. 

I’m proud of me.  I have learned to like me in ways I haven’t for so long.  

And starting over this time, I’ve decided, is going to be great.  Because now I can talk about my history as not just awful experiences, but experiences that I fought hard to get through and to move forward from to become who I am today. 

I’m proud of who I am today.  I am me. 

KK

Not broken 

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Not broken. 

I try and remember that.  It’s difficult for me.  I don’t believe it sometimes.  

Last week was pretty tough in some ways and not as tough as it could have been in other ways.  And after it, I feel a little less broken.  Which is mostly nice, but a little bit hard to handle. 

In my individual therapy last week, she asked who I am without the burdens I carry, without the negative tapes in my head.  Without feeling broken. 

I really don’t know the answer to that.  What if I wake up every morning and feel worthy of love and safety and a great life?  What does that look and feel like?

I’m beginning to learn.  

Processing trauma is strange.  If you really commit to the process, it’s unbelievable.  One of the coolest things is that after a disclosure or a big moment of any kind, you go through a continuing process.  You feel a bit numb.  Sometimes a bit let down.  But then your brain just keeps on working.  I sleep great after many big moments.  Not last week, but many times.  A few days go by and I realize I just feel different.  Calmer.  Tired, exhausted, really, but calm. 

And also free.  Lighter.  Less burdened. 

Not broken.  NOT fixed, but renewed and validated.  

Giving my most recent disclosure was not at all planned when I started this therapy process.  Mostly because I had buried the thoughts and experiences so far away from my reality that I didn’t know they needed to come out.  I didn’t carry them around like bricks on my shoulders. 

What I didn’t realize though is that the experiences were just as present in my daily life than the burdens I carried from the sexual assault that was clear in my brain.  Sometimes more present because the experiences belonged in a relationship space in my head.  They didn’t fit into what I could see clearly as assault because they were connected to some love.  Some loss.  Major confusion.  And a very  large chunk of blame.  

In 2012, I faced something I always knew may happen, but that I had minimized for a very long time.  And at first, I handled it great.  But then I let my guard down and that’s when I start blaming myself for everything after that first moment.  

Should haves.  Shouldn’t haves. 

Cripes. 

It was a year of complete chaos.  And I blame myself for every bit of it. 

Or at least I used to blame myself.  I am working on that.  And I’ve come quite far now that I’m not spending so much energy avoiding. 

Avoiding that Girl in the Corner was slowly killing me inside.  Sucking every bit of confidence out of me most days.  Keeping me in hiding.  Pushing me away from acceptance of myself and of love. 

Keeping me feeling broken. 

I’m throwing that Girl a blanket and digging her out of that corner.  I’m learning to accept that the Girl is me. 

And that I am not broken. 

KK

Another disclosure

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Well, as if the anniversary of an assault isn’t already enough in one week, I have my second disclosure tonight in group therapy.

A disclosure I can’t even see in my head at all.  I don’t know how it starts or how it ends or what it looks like in the middle.  I’ve been rather quiet about this round of group therapy.  Mostly because I’m still blaming myself for a lot of the stuff involved.  The group has been helpful in many ways, but I’m avoiding things and fighting myself every step of the way.  And I feel shame.  Blame.  Disgust even.

I’m really hoping to break through those barriers tonight. I’ve talked through the disclosure issues in my individual therapy and I’m kind of a believer in the fact that whatever needs to come out will come out during the moment the facilitator says go.  I couldn’t write it down because I didn’t know what to write.  And reading it would probably mean I would disconnect from the feelings and read it as if it was about someone other than myself.

Parts of this disclosure have sometimes come out in my relationship and I like when I just blurt out something and it is ok.  Validated even.  The freedom to work through this stuff out loud and sometimes completely at random is one of my favorite things about the comfort, support, and love I feel in my relationship.  I have never had that before now.  This kind of unconditional love is absolutely amazing and I cherish it every single day.

Tonight is about the Girl in the Corner.  I hope I can have some compassion for her and provide her with some forgiveness.  I want to be able to see her as a person who is worthy.  I want to be able to incorporate her into myself and accept that she is a part of me.  A part I don’t have to be ashamed of because wanting to be around someone doesn’t mean I asked to be humiliated or coerced or forced to have sex.

Part of me wants to run the other way and not show up.

But I have to do this for that girl.  She deserves so much more love than I give her.

KK

Another March 25

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Sit with it. 

That’s a phrase I hear a lot in therapy, whether it is my individual therapist or in group.  And the internal dialogue I hear is never as loud as when I sit with it.  It’s uncomfortable at the very least and absolutely horrible on my worst days. 

Tonight, I sit with it.  Waiting to fall asleep knowing that tomorrow I will wake up to another March 25.  When the day will go by and I will know as evening comes that I will start to remember the time I left my dorm.  The time I arrived at a friend’s house to hang out.  The time I walked back to my dorm alone, crying and throwing up.  The time 22 years ago that “friends” assaulted me while others watched. 

The moments that the hospital failed to help me feel believed and safe.  The questions asked without hesitation at the police station about what did. And the weeks of media and campus torment as I went through a trial where the only person questioned for hours was me. 

It’s different this year.  I am not having many physical symptoms and that’s nice.  I have completed group therapy and embraced my right to feel empowered by that process.  I disclosed the details necessary for me to heal in a room full of women who absolutely understood every feeling I have felt. 

I have overcome. 

It’s been 22 years.  I will not ever forget some things.  I will fight through the moments in my life when shame starts to try and creep back in and take over my days.  That shame is no longer my burden.  That shame never was mine to own. 

You, both of you and those who stood by and did nothing, you own the shame.  You own the guilt.  YOU, not me.  

I will celebrate my healing instead of reliving your crimes on this and every future March 25.  Because you do not win. 

I will absolutely not let you.  

I have overcome.  I have forgiven, not for you but for me.  I have embraced full healing.  That feels awesome. 

And you cannot ever hurt me again. 

KK

The moment I cried

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**Trigger warning if you read the linked article because she talks about abuse.**

I read this article after noticing it because of its title.  And boy did it hit home.  I will link it here so you can read it if you want to before going on to read about why it was so important to me.

“MY BOYFRIEND WAS ABUSIVE — AND I DID NOT REALIZE UNTIL AFTER WE BROKE UP”

Timing is everything.  And it is sort of ridiculous that this week is when that article posted and when I saw it to read.  Except for the actual boyfriend part and some of the boyfriend’s anger, this is me.  SO me.  Well…so much the Girl in the Corner.  All through high school and not with a titled “boyfriend,” but certainly someone I really thought I wanted to be my boyfriend.  He let me believe that is what he wanted too, because if he let me believe that, it made it easier to abuse me.

Allow me to go back a few weeks and say that I am really, really struggling with this group therapy this time.  I need and want to focus on this relationship which shaped so much of what I have felt about myself and how I responded to everyone around me throughout high school and since 2012. But I victim-blame myself on this relationship SO much, that I am consistently failing to stay engaged in group.  I begin minimizing my experience and feelings the second group begins and I punish myself with put-downs for taking up space for a “real” victim.  I know it is silly because the group members and the facilitators would never want me to feel that way, and we always discuss that exact feeling when groups begin.  It is common to feel that someone’s situation may be “worse than” and so victims begin to minimize their own experience as not as bad and, therefore, not as worthy of help.  Ridiculously sad.

So I’ll return to high school now.

The very first time this guy finally showed me some attention was one night when I was having a sleepover and he knew it.  He told me how much he and his friends just wanted to have some fun and that we should sneak out to party with them.  And at that point, I would have done just about anything he said to get his attention.  So we did.

As we got to the woods where everyone was partying, I was happy.  Happy to finally have his attention.  And all of us had fun for a while, but there was a few times I just felt it.  And by IT, I mean that gut feeling that was trying to say “not ok, get away, this isn’t right, he is a jerk” and “you are worth more than this.”

Sometime during the night we were all by a pond and most people were stripping off their clothes to go swimming, including him.  And here’s the thing about that–no way was I doing that.  Not because I couldn’t or wouldn’t get naked, but it was dark out and I don’t like fish touching me so I’m sure as hell not getting in the water in the dark at that point.

That’s a whole other issue for another time.

In any case, I was more than happy to hold his clothes and laugh and have fun with a few people who didn’t last long in the water.  I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I did smoke cigarettes at that point so I just hung out and smoked.  Later, back at the area where everyone hung out, there was a tent.  And when he asked me to go in that tent, I was happy, just like the girl explains at the beginning of that article.  Happy to have attention from someone I liked so much.  I was so excited that he was showing me attention and I was thrilled that he was taking me in this tent for what I thought would be some kissing.  And he made it clear very quickly that he was interested in more than that.  And I completely froze.  I had NO idea what was happening and NO experience in dealing with it.  And, again, just like in the article, the next day or the next weeks at school he was so distant and acted like he didn’t know why I wanted to leave that night when I finally said “take us home.”

Given some time, he was right back to flirting and calling and showing me attention.  And he made it seem like what happened was no big deal, so I just moved on without giving it much more thought.

In the article linked above, the following quote hit me so hard I had to read it again and again:

This is the hardest thing to explain: I really liked him. So when he turned on me, it felt so insane that when he was normal again, I’d forgive the crazy behavior — and then do everything to prevent it from happening again.

Now, unlike the article, he never yelled or threw things at me.  But he was mean.  So very mean.  He would say really rude things to me and treat me like crap if other people were around him and just generally disrespect me.  He would say such awful things and I always felt a level of humiliation being around him, but I didn’t know what to do to get away from him and just as I would decide he was horrible, he would say loving, wonderful, fun things and I would forget everything else.

He would call me and apologize and say wonderfully nice things to get me to come over to his house or pick him up.  And we would go places or do the things he wanted and needed to do in my car because he didn’t drive.  It always felt like a mixture of fun and torture to be with him.  He would always try to talk me into sexual stuff.  Sometimes putting me down until he got what he wanted.  I would laugh things off uncomfortably and tell him I hated him.  But I did things he wanted to do most of the time.  He humiliated me on a regular basis into having sex with him.

Two other quotes came at me like slaps to the face from the above article…

It didn’t feel forced, but it certainly didn’t feel good.

I was so deep in the relationship that I didn’t have words for how I felt.

WHAT IN THE HELL WAS I THINKING?????  The blame the guilt the yuck just comes at me from all over my head and all over the things people say about girls “like me.”  Girls like me.  I felt that my choices were what made me into that girl.  A girl who felt SO MUCH SHAME on a regular basis, but didn’t really know why.  A girl who became mean and confrontational and just generally not nice to people she identified as better off than her.  Which was pretty much everyone around me outside of my close friends.

I didn’t understand why I felt so terrible being with him because I could only see the worth he allowed me to feel and to believe.  Which was tiny.

Fast forward now to last week in my group therapy and the topic of anger.  We did an exercise that I laughed through because that’s what I do to avoid and cover when I can’t cope.  When I feel blame and guilt for my own sexual assaults.  When I feel unworthy of the free therapy and the healing and the love and support all around me.  Healing is difficult, exhausting, frustrating work.  But the anger exercise broke me.  I threw the word consent out as confusing and as something that makes me so angry when focusing on this past rape.

Because I liked him.  Because I wanted to be around him.  Because I said yes, I’ll go with you and drive you, and I NEVER SAID NO.  I would shutdown and say nothing when he humiliated me to the point where I would just “let” him have sex with me.  And when I would “let” him, he showered me with attention and fun.  He built me up just enough to feel worthy of his time and attention, so that I would be around the next time he called.

And as I said those things to the group, the room went silent.  And the facilitator said…”humiliation is not consent.”

And then she just let me sit there with that feeling.  And in that silent moment I did not laugh.

It was the moment I cried.

I can guarantee you that this moment was only the second time IN MY LIFE I have cried over the realization of how horrible this person was to me.  I let that out on the side of a road one other time, with a friend who I had called to come and sit with me because I was sure I would never stop crying and was going crazy.  It was the first moment I cried that led me to this second moment last week as I cried all over again.  This time with the complete realization that it was NOT my fault.  That he was the one in the wrong.  That he KNEW very well what he was doing all those times.

That liking or loving or desiring someone is NOT equal to giving consent.  Humiliation is not loving.  It is wrong.

The first moment I cried empowered me.  And that was in 2012.  That year I had contact with this guy for the first time since 1996 and it was a mess.  But I’ll talk about that another time.

For now, what is important is that being contacted by him brought me to healing.  Brought me to try EMDR.  To become aware of who I was and how that made me into who I am today.  I won’t thank him and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive him, but I do recognize that from pain came knowledge and healing.  I’ll say again, I won’t thank him.  He gets ZERO credit.

That first moment that I cried brought me to my second moment.

I did the work.  I recognized that the work needed to be done.  I took back control of my emotions and my body and my life.

The last quote, which I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE from the linked article is this:

It’s funny to hear the word empowered when where you’re coming from a place of zero power. I’m just trying to get mine back. People talk about survivors like we have an extra coat of armor when really we’re just trying to grow back our skin.

I’m doing the work and I’m finding my power.  And it sucks and it is really difficult.  I want to give up most days.

But it is also awesome and freeing and wonderful.  And I cherish the opportunity I have been given to find healing.

And you know what else I really cherish??

The moment I cried.

KK

Can you give her a blanket?

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The girl in the corner came up at group this week. I was completely honest about her and had a physical reaction to talking about her–I got warm, my breathing was weird, and my body shook as if I was freezing.

She came up because we talked about fear and vulnerability. And things we avoid.

I absolutely avoid her.

After listening to me talk about her, the room was quiet. The group facilitators always know just how long to let you just sit there with your emotions so you can completely feel what you need to in order to figure out how to get through it. I quietly said that I can’t like the girl in the corner, I can’t give her a break, I can’t absolve her of guilt, and I don’t even like her. I won’t give her any credit and I just ignore her most of the time.

Then, the main facilitator said, “can you at least give her a blanket?”

I laughed. Cuz that’s what I do. Then I sat with that a minute and said, “I can try.”

We created our fear in a project I enjoyed during the last group and this group as well. It really is cool to just follow the instructions given and see what comes out in a project. First, we talked about what triggers fear. Some things for me were right there, almost waiting in the pen ink. I quickly wrote cigarettes, hometown, and high school people/connections. Then, after a pause, I added woods and card games.

I likely should have added the girl in the corner. Because clearly I am scared to have to face her. She’s not to blame and that feels true sometimes, but then all the victim-blaming attitude flows into my head. I try to put it into perspective and I just can’t quite get there. I feel defeated by her and by the idea that sometimes I said yes to this person. That over time, I got used to being treated so poorly by him that it was easier to say yes than no. That I convinced myself what we really shared was love. The kind in ridiculous teenage love stories.

But it was never real. And I can see that now.

And that’s when I punish the girl in the corner. How could you be so stupid? Why would you go along with something that made you feel sick to your stomach? Why wouldn’t you just walk away? Why didn’t you tell someone?

And the worst one, which is so often in the media today: why did you wait so long to say it??

Fear and shame. Denial and disgust. That’s why.

I have a lot of work to do here. I have to face someone I don’t want to forgive.

Myself.

When I had individual therapy before group I told my therapist I’ve been frustrated in group. Distracted. Feeling like I don’t belong there. Like my assault is “less than” because it isn’t the same as the other sexual assault I experienced. It isn’t clearly assault in my head. She asked me to pay attention during group the same night to what was really going on in my body. Am I really feeling distracted? Or am I putting a lot of energy into avoidance and denial, and punishment of the girl in the corner? Am I minimizing the assault because I’m more willing to victim-blame the girl in that corner forever?

It was absolutely avoidance. An “l don’t deserve to be here like the other group members do.” And that scares me. It’s the kind of assault people, apparently me included, want to explain away as not that bad. But it IS as wrong as the sexual assault I experienced in college. And in many ways it is more harmful to who I am because it shaped who I was from age 15 on up to 38 years old.

Enough is enough. I will work harder in this group than I did before because what’s at risk is the real me. The girl I left in the corner. What’s to gain is more of what I’ve been experiencing since starting therapy and that is forgiveness and healing and freedom and acceptance and love.

I can’t hide now that all my therapists know I have been doing so up to now. They’ll help me understand and forgive the girl in the corner. They will help me understand that I am not to blame for what happened, even if I thought I loved the guy.

They will help me heal. And tonight, I promised to try by giving that girl in the corner a blanket.

It’s the least I can do.

KK