Trusting myself

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It was beautiful and sunny afternoon, so I decided to take a walk with my dog.  We got ready and walked for a bit without passing anyone else.  There are walking trails that go all over my new town so we took one of those.  I have safety issues on the trails, but I’m getting a lot more comfortable.

As we were getting near the end of our trip, we got to a place where we would pass a few more buildings, some railroad tracks, and then a golf course would be along the road the rest of the way.  I looked down at my phone to read something and heard a car approach and stop across the road.  As I glanced over, a guy got out and started walking toward me.  Pretty quickly.

As this guy started toward me he said “hey, I noticed you have a cell phone and I am having car trouble, can I use your phone?”  All my safety bells instantly went off and thankfully, I replied without even having to think about it.  I said “nope, sorry, it is a work phone so I can’t let you use it.”  He scowled at me and kept coming, so I said “please don’t come any closer, you can’t use my phone, sorry.”  I had continued walking the entire time, but looked right at him.  He was definitely surprised by my lack of willingness to help.

Now, I’d like to take a moment to explain that I am well aware I have more safety issues than many people.  But I am also 100% sure that as I walked toward the area that guy was not out of his car flagging down people to help him.  In fact, I am positive that he pulled into the driveway and got out and then started coming right toward me.  There is plenty of traffic on the road, it was not horribly hot or horribly cold, and there was definitely no emergency.

In any case, he was surprised that I wouldn’t help him, but when I would not stop looking at him and said loudly not to come any closer, he stopped and started walking away.  I picked up my pace, but I kept my eye on that guy and then when I was too far to be safe looking behind me, I glanced back a few times to make sure he was back at his car.  I couldn’t see where he went.  But what I know for sure is that he didn’t stay at the side of the road to flag anyone down for help.  He was not within my view.

As I walked away, I started to feel guilt and shame!  It took me a little by surprise.  I totally shamed myself for not helping this guy and felt guilty and rather stupid for being so unwilling to help and assuming the worst.  After all, I told myself, this is a small town for gosh sakes, most people would think I was really rude for not helping him and a bit crazy for feeling so nervous.  I felt those things, but I can say happily now that I didn’t feel them for very long at all.

It was like a switch was flipped.  All of a sudden I realized that I can protect myself however I want to and it wasn’t about being nice to some stranger.  It wasn’t about him, my life and safety have to be about me.  And that’s ok!  I trusted my gut, instantly and without question.  Hooray for me!  That doesn’t happen very often to me.  I try to ignore my gut a lot.  This time I went with it.  And I’m really glad I did.

I know that he could have really needed help, but I also know that it doesn’t matter because he could get help many other places from many other people.  What is important is that I felt extremely uncomfortable with the way he was approaching me and I protected myself without thinking about it.  I felt something was off and I didn’t worry about hurting his feelings before protecting myself, and my dog for that matter.

If there is one thing I could do over as a teen and young adult, it would be to stand up for myself more and not worry so much about creating conflict.  If there is one thing I could do over as a mother, it would be to demand that my kids be allowed to voice their own opinions and be heard more by their father.  I don’t think they ever felt their feelings validated by him and because of that, they doubt themselves, they don’t trust their guts, and they don’t feel able to stand up for what they actually think and feel with him.  And with other people sometimes too.

I have worked hard to explain to my kids that no parent is perfect and I made lots of mistakes.  But I also will never go back to how I was, and I feel closer to them now than ever because of that.  They know that I value their opinions and choices.  They know I will always support and listen to them.  And I’ll continue to teach them to trust their guts.

Walking that day and taking control of me without worrying about what that guy thought felt great.  I’ve worked hard to learn that it’s ok to trust myself.  To protect myself.  And that’s what I did that day on my walk.

Trust your gut.

KK

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

technology rocks

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I love technology so much and this week I’m about to love it more…I hope.

I get to have a session with my most recent therapist tomorrow using an app.  That’s right, an app.  Not something that is ideal for therapy, but since I am a long-term client of hers and going through a transition, she is willing to see me (and other clients in similar situations) through this app.

I am starting a new job next week and even though I have insurance right now through the Affordable Care Act, I am reluctant to begin with a new therapist and then find out whatever insurance I get through my job won’t cover the same therapist.  I’m trying to just go without getting a new therapist until November when I’ll be eligible for my work insurance. So far that has been working ok and I have been emailing a bit with my former therapist, but it is time for a more thorough check-in and so I am thankful for technology.

The app is VSee if you want to check it out.  I’m hoping the connection and app work well for a session in case I want to have a few more before I am set up with someone new.  I really geek out about stuff like this, I just love that I have this option!

I’ll post how it goes after the session.

KK

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

tequila and heartbreak

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I have written several posts in the past few months and then not published them or deleted them all together.  Because…shame.  It’s been present off and on in heavy doses because I’m making some major life changes and I have extra stress right now.  I’m also fighting feelings of failure. 

Maybe I’ll publish some of the posts that I kept, or maybe I’ll just keep them for myself.  But this one I am writing today because I don’t like keeping this secret inside that reduces me to feelings of shame and failure.  And I really do believe that speaking my experiences has been an enormous help to me in getting through the negative and feeling free to heal. 

I have been called a crazy dog lady many times.  I have an enormous, deep, and unconditional love for all the dogs I have ever had in my life.  I have an immediate love for most dogs I meet.  I would do anything to ensure my dogs feel safe and loved.  And I spare no expense on their health. 

I have been uncharacteristically quiet for the last several months about my dogs.  And that is because I was feeling like a complete failure.  Unworthy of having them.  Full of shame that I was going to have to face a decision I have judged people for many times. 

I am heartbroken still as I write this because I had to return my Tequila to her foster home last week.  

I’m taking a very deep breath as I feel the weight of what some of you will think as you read that.  And because I still cry every single time I think of her and what had to happen.  I don’t have any idea how to stop hurting over the loss I’m feeling not having Tequila in my home where I felt she belonged. 

My dogs were together 4 months before they fought for the first time.  It was terrifying and I didn’t know what to do or if it was an immediate reason they couldn’t be together.  But thankfully, I have great dog-loving people in my life and many great connections from volunteering for the rescue both Fiesta and Tequila came from when I adopted each of them.

I was quickly connected with a great trainer who worked with us in my home in order to bring harmony back to all of us.  And I had my dogs examined by their fabulous vet to ensure there were no medical issues going on that could be causing the aggression.  Their vet is someone I have relied on for many years now and I am so thankful for his expertise, advice, and support. 

I was so relieved that my home quickly became a house of beagle love again.  For awhile. 

Unfortunately, the fighting kept coming back and in the last few months it escalated to the point where I had to face the fact that they may not be able to both be safe in my home.

Then, one day a few weeks ago I put both dogs in the car to go to the park.  And just as I parked the car, a fight broke out in the backseat.  Before I could even understand what was happening, there was blood and I no longer remained calm as I yelled and tried other things that in the past had worked to prevent or stop fights.  In a split second of panicking and not thinking, I reached to grab a collar and got in the middle of them fighting in the way a person never should. 

With my hand.  

I felt the pain immediately and froze in hopes that my dog would let go, which she did.  And then they went right back to fighting with each other as my wrist started bleeding everywhere and I continued to struggle to stop them. 

Eventually, I was able to stop the fight and keep them separate in the car to get home.  They went into their crates and I headed to urgent care.  I was confused and hurt, both emotionally and physically. 

I still have pain and bruising, and it’s been a few weeks. But I was lucky I wasn’t bitten in a way that caused permanent damage.  

The damage to my heart is not healing as quickly. 

I tried to reunite them several times with no luck before I admitted to myself that this recent fight was the moment I knew that I couldn’t keep them together.  Everything I tried to make a safe home for them both has failed. 

I failed.  At least that’s how I felt at that time. 

I know I made the right decision to separate them, but it has been really awful. 

I will say again, I have great dog-loving people in my life.  I reached out to a few and received so much understanding, support, and love.  And I am so, SO thankful to each of you who were there for me in the last few weeks.  You know who you are and I just can’t thank you enough. 

Facing the fact that I couldn’t give both of my dogs the home they deserve is one of the worst things I have ever had to face.  

I know in my heart and my gut I did what was best for both of them.  Tequila is doing great in a place where she feels safe and loved.  She will be cared for by a rescue I respect that will protect her best interests and make sure she finds a great new home.  And Fiesta is relaxed, playful, and happy in a way she hasn’t been in a very long time.  That is good.  That is what they both deserve.

I helped my Tequila girl get through illness and reach her healthy weight.  And that’s success, not failure.  

I’ll have to hold onto that since I can no longer hold her little paws or rub her soft ears.  She won’t be with me, but she will always be in my heart as my dog. 

Miss you, Teq.  Soooooooo much. 

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