Tag Archives: fear

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

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A New Year and a Look Back

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A lot can change in a year. And for me, 2014 was a really big year for change.

I started 2014 with many conflicting emotions and a rather high level of anxiety. I didn’t trust myself and I felt trapped by many of my own thoughts. I was thinking about buying a house or trying to decide on continuing to rent, and I had all of the stress that went with those decisions. I was getting ready to start my 12-week group which was one of the scariest things I have ever faced. I was at the end of a divorce that I agonized over for way too many years. I was helping my teenage daughter cope with the change of living in two homes and helping us both deal with the fact that my now adult son was living out on his own and not in our daily lives.

That’s a lot of stuff. And really those things were just daily life from January to April, which left a lot of year left to live.

Thankfully, 2014 started out a bit full of stress, but became a year of fabulous positive change as well.

I bought my house on May 27 and they only considered my income and credit.  ONLY ME.  I did it all on my own and that felt awesome.  Moving is always stressful, but this was a lot more fun because as I moved in all the decisions were up to me.  I could put colorful things and things that mean the world to me everywhere I wanted and that makes me feel comfy and good.  One of my greatest friends got to visit this summer and helped me settle in even more and decorate my sunroom, which is a really awesome space.

Spring and early summer was also a time for a lot of excitement, a bit of giggling, and a dash of anxiety as I began a positive new relationship and experienced a first date for the first time since 1995!  Scott and I went to high school together and reconnecting with him all these years later has been really, really great.  He and I reconnected at a time when I least expected to be taking any time for dating, especially any dates that would lead to an actual relationship.  I was in the middle of my therapy group, just a week divorced, and kind of a mess of feelings.  But from our first messages to each other, we have never stopped talking and he has very quickly become the best friend a girl could hope to have by her side through whatever comes our way.  In just 8 months together we have had many of the best times I could imagine ever having and we have also faced a lot of challenges…and whenever I feel like my “stuff” is just going to be too much for him, he is right there to tell me that I’m worth it.  He has listened to me scream, yell, doubt myself, doubt him, be stubborn as a mule, and cry my eyes out.  Scott is thoughtful, understanding, spontaneous, dedicated to who and what he loves, smart, respectful, a great listener, charming, trustworthy, a great father, a fabulous dancer, and makes me laugh each and every day.  I love you, Scott.  Thanks for being you and being in my life.

Going through summer was fun not only because of my new love, but because I got to become more and more settled in my home and finished up the first and most difficult therapy group after 12 long weeks.  Being a part of that group with the other terrific women I met and grew to care about so much was more rewarding than I imagined it would be when it started.  Disclosing my sexual assault experience was liberating and began a healing process that I had buried and ignored for a very long time.  I feel very fortunate to have met the people who helped me go through that process.

I have continued my individual therapy and it has brought with it some new challenges that I can now manage with better coping skills.  And I love that. Fall brought some personal challenges, some a surprise and some things that were just buried under the more obvious things I have faced that are now ready to come out.  I like that therapy place where I can say anything and get an unbiased opinion on how to handle it, when I could have done something differently, and when I really did a great job of communicating and maintaining my personal boundaries.

I also love that no matter what happens to me each day, the first person I think of to tell is Scott.  I always sold myself short on that part of my relationships.  I always felt my girlfriends were the people who should be there for that stuff.  I love that Scott has become my best friend.  I still value the love and friendship of my best gals, but I adore knowing that my partner in love has my back and loves me no matter what ridiculous thing I do or say.

This fall, I wrote a post about Thanksgiving being difficult for me.  And I love that I could get to Alaska for Thanksgiving.  Spending time with my friend there is like a reset button for me, she and I have known each other for so long there is a complete relaxation to being together.  I love her family, and being around her just makes the crazy in my head easier to bear.

Looking at December and the end of 2014 seemed SO far away just a minute ago.  But all of a sudden, there it was right in front of me.  And as years go, it was a really great one even though it started out a little tough.  Letting go of my marriage was difficult, but we have maintained a relationship that allows us to continue to love and parent our kids the best way possible and I am proud of that.  Celebrating the holidays with my kids has always been a favorite thing for me and this year was no different.  The way our family looks has changed, but the love we share is still the thing that puts a spring in my step and can bring a smile to my face anytime I think of it.

2015 has started off better than any year for quite a long time.  I look forward to the new and exciting things ahead and the continued healing I will explore in my therapy and in a new group I will be starting soon.

I hope your year will be great too.  You deserve it!

KK

Moments of doubt

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Moments of doubt come at me when I least expect them.  Sometimes without me even knowing that it is doubt.  These moments feel like many things, none of them very pleasant.  I get tired of these moments.  I get frustrated and lazy and anxious.  I get unreasonable and crabby and negative.  I want to do nothing and just wait for the moments to pass.

Sometimes they do.

And sometimes they don’t pass very quickly, but fade into the background of my days.

I love to laugh and even on my worst days I can normally be found making jokes or having a good time.  But I still may be feeling lost inside.  Struggling.  Lacking the vulnerability that allows for full healing.  I ignore the moments and hide them in hopes that they will pass quickly.

Thankfully, I haven’t had many days like that for awhile and that is really nice.  The disclosure still comes to mind when I think of how far I have been able to go toward healing and not having to go back to certain doubts and certain thoughts that keep me from rediscovering the full me.  That disclosure seems so long ago and also seems like it was just yesterday.

Seeing The Monument Quilt was powerful for me.  I’m certain that it was not a mere coincidence that when I found out about the quilt, it was only weeks from being displayed in an area that I could travel to very easily.  An area that had additional anxiety and healing qualities for me.  It would be displayed on the very campus of my assault.  It never crossed my mind ahead of time that the location would keep me from going to see it.  I never felt a moment of doubt leading up to that day.

And then it was the very day I was to see it.  And then the doubt and the tears came as I decided I didn’t know if I could go.  But more of the fight inside me took over and I went.

I read stories and looked at the designs people made to release themselves from some of the burden of being a victim and becoming a survivor.  It is always difficult to read other stories.  I find myself thinking that some have suffered so much more than me and, at times, it is difficult to see other stories and not let the terrible doubts of rape culture creep into my head as judgment.  A terrible feeling and one I don’t allow to stick around for long at all.  It is so easy to pass judgment, on myself and on others, but in those moments it is SO important to remember that all suffering is terrible.  ALL trauma is true for that victim and I absolutely believe in every one of those people and their stories.  Our stories are no worse or no easier than others, no less rape and trauma.  The mind is so complex during trauma that many leave a situation not even fully understanding that what they experienced is rape.  THAT is why it is so important to believe someone if they tell you they were assaulted.  And to stand by someone who may be turning to you for support if they aren’t even sure that something happened or that what happened really was rape.  The feelings a victim experiences are so full of guilt, disbelief, shame, and so many other things, that many deny that it happened at all.

I believe.  I support ALL survivors.  And I was honored to see the quilt.  I’d like to reconnect with my group members to make a quilt square, but I’m not sure if I will or not.

I’m glad to have overcome my moment of doubt to see it.  There were squares for each city where it is being displayed and on those squares were blank fabric where anyone could write.  Part of my message was this:

It happened here and I will leave it here.  

And I am glad that I could do that.

KK

Success, Healing, Connections

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My group is over this week which is really difficult to believe and a little sad in some ways.   I can’t believe that 12 weeks has gone by so quickly!  I wasn’t sure I could get myself to go and now I am looking at the ending of the process and the beginning of renewed hope and healing.

We will have a celebration and wrap up for the last time together and it is really difficult to imagine not seeing these amazing women each week.  There is no way I can describe just what these women mean to me and how much I admire each one of them.  They are beautiful people, courageous, strong, and inspirational.  They have touched my heart in ways I can never thank them enough for even if I have a lifetime to do so.  They are no longer victims, but survivors and friends.  People I will think about often and cheer for even from afar.

We all began this group worried and feeling defeated by our stories, by the victims inside of us.  We pushed against the process and tried to get out of the toughest parts of facing our pasts.  We made it!  We pushed past our fears to our disclosures.  We owned our stories and released the shame from ourselves to give it back to the criminals who deserve to carry that burden.  The shame is not ours anymore.  I am so very proud of each and every one of us.  The power in the room each week as we reclaimed ourselves and took control of our lives and our stories is something I will never allow myself to forget.  The support I received from these women as I began to rediscover myself without the burden of the sexual assault shame will remain a powerful force for me each and every day.

I have begun to heal in ways I never realized I needed to and in ways I never imagined were possible.  Healing has opened my heart in a way that makes me feel completely ready to trust and love myself and others.  I don’t wake up anymore with the heaviness that I have carried for over 20 years, and that is absolutely the best feeling in the world.

This week is a big ending to an emotional process, but an even bigger beginning to the rest of my healing and the rest of my life.  I love that group therapy was placed before me and placed on my heart as something I was ready to accept and trust.  I love that I understand healing now and that I understand that I am no longer a victim, but a survivor.  I love that I can now leave the shame behind me for the most part and move on to the rediscovered me.

KK

I did it!

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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

Disclosure **trigger warning**

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****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

Terrified

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My head knows I’m going into this building, but I can’t make my body get out of the car.

I don’t even have to disclose personally tonight since other people wanted to go first, but I just can’t get myself to move.

Ok go. And then I don’t. I’m frozen.

Ok go. Nothing. I can’t even think of one good coping skill to begin using. I’ve not felt panic and anxiety like this for a long time.

Ok. I’m going.

KK