Tag Archives: healing

Online support can be weird, but also awesome

Standard

I started a therapy group online today.  I think it will be kind of cool.  I’m hopeful it will be kind of the last piece of the puzzle for me.  

Online support can feel kind of weird and I have experienced this now in both individual and a group setting.  My online therapy session with my past therapist was pretty comfortable right from the start because we knew each other so well anyway.  This session today was a bit unsettling at first.  I heard the ring of the video call and kind of froze before accepting the call.  All at once I’m looking at 5 people I have never seen before and I have to just trust them.  It’s a strange thing indeed. 

We did short introductions and then proceeded with the group and I really relaxed into it.  It is a little awkward at first because when the facilitator asks a question you have to kind of wait to see if someone will jump in so we are not all trying to talk at once.  But the group is small so it works out quite well. 

After each session we will get an email and information for reading and reflecting.  It’s optional, but will move us into the next session discussion so I’m willing to do that work as well.  I used to have a difficult time being alone with myself while reflecting on issues of sexual assault and what I need to move on safely.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually look forward to it now. 

I haven’t decided if I can or will share any topics of this group, but it is really looking like it will be valuable to me and I’m really excited about the information to be covered.

The world is changing and we rely heavily on technology.  After attending group therapy, I had a discussion with someone about attending groups via Skype.  We agreed at that time it wouldn’t really be a great way to connect with people.  But after only one session of this online group, I’m not so sure.  

I’ll say more as the group goes on. 

KK

Bitter or Better

Standard

There’s a saying I see often that says “you either get bitter or you get better.”  It refers to anything that goes wrong really in your life.  But I think it mostly refers to relationships.  At least, that’s how I relate to it because I have really had to work hard at not being bitter and angry quite a few times in my life.  Two major relationships have challenged this for me.  And I struggled with it for many years with the sexual assault as well, but more internally.

With the first relationship, I really struggled with that feeling of bitterness.  And anger too.  A complete lack of forgiveness because I was young and I thought of forgiveness as excusing his behavior.  Behavior that made it ok for him to abuse me and then walk away from me and a child. I held onto the bitterness for a LONG time. I’ll come back to that.  Maybe.

With my marriage and divorce, I’m still struggling.  Mostly because I have kids with a man who chose to mostly check out.  He won’t help me coparent because it’s too difficult for him.  He won’t really talk to me at all.  He will allow email.  Wow, thanks.  That’s super helpful when one of the kids is going through something and I’d like his support and opinion on how to handle it.

I do not get that at all.  I won’t apologize that my kids are closer to me than to him and so they come to me with things.  That’s because throughout their lives I was there for them and tried to help them learn how to solve problems knowing that mistakes are ok.  I let them know their feelings are never wrong, they have the right to their feelings.  And so they came to me and then I shared with their father how they were feeling.  But now that we aren’t together, I’m not allowed to share their feelings and discuss things with their dad.  I’m suddenly a liar who obviously changes what my kids tell me to make their dad feel badly.  Um, hello?  The people who would be hurt if I did that are my kids, and I would never do that to my children.  Never.  I would never decide for them how they feel.  I could not hurt them by making up things and passing them off as their feelings.

Deep breath.

The first four months after moving away from their dad, I felt like that almost every day.  Just angry and bitter.  And I really had to work on it.  I had to decide it doesn’t matter.  I can be a great parent to them without him.  And I can support them through hurt, and choices, and happiness.  And they will absolutely be ok.  I still have plenty of time to show them how to take care of themselves and be proud of who they are and the feelings they have in going about their lives.  And the best way I can do that is by showing them how I will live a life being true to myself and how I really feel.  I will not be with someone who tells me I shouldn’t or can’t feel what I feel.  I will never, not ever, accept someone telling me my feelings are wrong.

Listen, I AM wrong many times. If I present something as a fact and I can be shown the correct information, I accept that. If I go East from Wisconsin to find Wyoming, I’m not going to try and say I’m correct. I fully accept responsibility at work when I do something wrong, or say something I shouldn’t, or forget to complete something due.  But when I feel something, I own that feeling, and that is never wrong.

I knew when I thought about dating that I would never date someone who doesn’t have what I consider successful, honest family relationships and at least one friend who knows everything about them. I would say now that the lack of that is a giant red flag for relationship success.  You can disagree if you want to, but I can tell you that based on these two challenging relationships in my life–if someone doesn’t have a close friend(s) and doesn’t seem that honest with their family about who they are, it is likely because they aren’t capable of the empathy and emotional openness that is required in a forever relationship.  And that is just not ok.  At least, not for me.

The last hurdle for me in releasing the bitter from my divorce and being truly and completely better, is accepting that his truth is fine because it is his to live with as he chooses and I don’t have to worry about if he never accepts his part of the responsibility for why we are divorced.  This is very difficult for me.  Because I believe that he is of the opinion that I just gave up and walked out on him without trying.  He has actually said that I am the reason he doesn’t see our child.  AND THE WORST is that he truly believes and said to me several times that the problems, the reasons it ended, were ALL ME.  And that is so hurtful it makes me furious.  I own my problems.  I have said them to him and I have worked my ass off to change in the ways necessary to be a better partner.

Here’s the deal with change:  everyone does it, and if you get pissed off and say things like why should I have to change anything, you should just accept exactly who I am…that’s because you are unwilling to see that something can be improved and should be improved so that you are capable of relationship compromise.  Just like you learned as you grew up from being a child, and then a teen, and then a young adult.  If you act like all change is bad, and you function at 40 just as you did at 20, then you are probably a ridiculous person I don’t even want to be around so, whatever, stay exactly the same then.  I never asked him to change what makes him who he is for real, way down deep where his morals, values, and desires are found.  I merely asked for us to consider, together, how we can both have our needs met for love and safety, and how we can do better to respect and love each other.  To change…together.  To grow…together, instead of apart.

Deep breath.  Clearly this is my work.  Accepting that he wasn’t willing to do the work and that even if it appears that he is trying harder in his new relationship than he did with me, it is not the truth.  At first we did really well, with the help of a counselor.  But he just decided it was too hard to remember that “stuff.”  Which to me said, accept when I don’t care about you or your feelings of safety, or don’t.

I don’t.  Deeper breath.

That’s ok.  But really sad, because it meant we had to never be together again.  And that is not what I wanted.  You see?  I’m still bitter.

But I marched myself right back into a therapist office last week to get it all the way right.  To get all the way better and lose the bitter for good.  Because ultimately, I love the memories I have of my family with him and our kids, but I am much happier now.  I am with a man who I have always dreamed about because not only does he completely “get” me, he is very tuned into communication and love instead of just having a giant ego that only wants to be right.  We aren’t perfect, but we are absolutely perfect for each other.  And when there is conflict, we work it out and respect each other without trying to prove each other wrong and hurting each other with words that can never be taken back after being said.  And I will love him forever.

Loving him makes me want to be the best me.  The best me, and even better.

KK

I was freed

Standard

When someone says “back off” or “leave me alone,” they likely mean it.  Because for most people, it means they have put up with something or someone for some time before they reached the point of asking that person to back off.

In 2012, I made a wrong decision to speak to the biological father of my child.  The first time he contacted me, I was glad that he did and I remain glad that he did.  He contacted me to ask for my help in contacting my son because he felt quite sure my son would want to meet him.  Would want to know about him.  A valid request, or so it would seem.

During this first conversation I got a bit upset because he really started off implying that he knew better than I did what my son would want.  He called with a chip on his shoulder that he had allowed to be there for 18 years.  I can tell you with 100% confidence that he was crazy to think that.  My son and I are very close.  And on top of the fact that we are close, my son has known his entire life about his biological father.  My son doesn’t remember him at all because the guy chose a life of chaos over fighting for the right to be a father.  My son was barely over a year old the last time he saw this guy.  And when my son was only 14 months old, I met the man I would marry.  Later, when we married, that guy gave up his rights to my child, my husband adopted my son, we celebrated the adoption, and he became his loving and legal father.  The best part of being with the guy I married is that he 100% became a father to my son.  Because he wanted to do that.  Because he chose to love him as his own.   I’ll never stop being grateful for that.  And each year, up to and including this year, my son and his father celebrated Adoption Day.  And I love that.

So, in 2012, when the biological father contacted me I said I would talk to my son and ask him if he was interested in contact with the guy.  I also told him that I found it offensive that he would make the assumption that I would have spent all these years filling my son with hatred or not telling him he was adopted at all.  All these years, I have done an AWARD-WINNING job of biting my tongue and telling my son that this guy did a brave and loving thing.  That, because he was not able to be a father, he gave my son a great gift by letting someone else be his father.  I even told him some of the good things about the guy.  I never sat him down and bad-mouthed the guy.  AT ALL.

In any case, the short story on that is that my son wasn’t interested.  He sat down with me and we talked at length about the guy and the relationship I had with him.  I reiterated how, even though my son was not planned, he was the best thing to come out of the relationship with that guy and because of that, I would never say I wished I had never dated him.  But this time I did answer all questions honestly and include information about why the relationship didn’t last.  And why I was glad that the guy hadn’t stuck around at that time.  Ultimately, my son said he never felt he missed out on having a father, that my husband had been the father he felt close to, and that there wasn’t anything he needed or wanted from that guy.

And the guy accepted that.  Which I thought was weird, but he explained that he didn’t know my son and hadn’t seen him since he was a baby.  So he wasn’t losing out on a relationship because there had never been one.  Whatever.  Not my decision or concern.  I don’t agree, but I don’t have to agree.  I didn’t miss out on that great kid, he did.

So, he called to request the contact and I called him back a few days later to say that my son had decided against any contact.  The guy agreed to honor my son’s decision and said he would not ever bother him again, but that he would be more than happy if my son ever wanted to contact him.

And then life went on as it had been before the calls.  I put it behind me and felt good about how I had handled the contact.

Not long after, I got a text from the guy saying it was good to talk to me and he would like to talk further.  I froze when I got the text because I worried first about my child and my family.  He had left us alone since the adoption years prior and I was happy about that.  I can honestly say I didn’t think about him much while raising my child because I was able to raise him with my husband.  And when I got the text, things were in chaos in my house.  I had filed for divorce the year before that and my husband and I went to counseling and had the divorce dismissed after working a lot on things between us.  We were moving and our son had turned 18, and our daughter was just going to enter her high school years in the fall.

In any case, I didn’t respond right away and then I finally responded that I thought us talking further was a bad idea, but that I’d think about it.

And then we did start texting a bit.  Just general information about how life was going, where we lived, and things like that.

And then just like that, I was talking to him a lot.  Telling him things he never deserved to know about me.  Excusing things he did and making it ok that he lied and manipulated and abused me.  At times, when we first started talking, I would shut down because I would start to feel that nagging in my gut saying I was walking a path that was dangerous for me. But I also felt a strange sense that the forgiveness I was expressing was more for me than him and I began to feel a release of emotions that had been stuck so deep for many years. 

I began to recognize…myself.  The girl in the corner and the current me all in one package.  I was empowered by how I started to feel. 

That guy was around when I was raped in college.  And he was strangely supportive.  By that, I mean he supported me the best ways that he knew how, while also having been a large part of the first sexual abuse I ever experienced.  And as he talked with me about my college assault, I began to realize that connection.  I began to realize that I didn’t need to reconnect with him because I wanted us to share some fond memories of the love we once shared.  I was glad he came back into my life because it shook me to my core.  It forced me to see what I had never wanted to face before that time…that he assaulted me on a regular basis for years before I fell in love with him.  

The day this became clear to me was a day I will never ever forget.  A day one of my friends had to rescue me from myself on the side of the road as every bit of confusion and self-hatred sunk into me like the weight of the world.  I punished myself that day for every single thing I ever said or did that was related to him in my life.  I called him the same day and let every bit of emotion come out the way he should have had to hear it when I was 20 years old.  

That day I became a victim all over again.  A victim who all at once believed that I was not good enough.  And because I wasn’t good enough, I deserved the abuse from him for all the years I suffered.  

And the strangest, most traumatic, most horrifying, but also the greatest part of it all, is that in the midst of the realization that he was not ever anything to me but an abuser…

I was freed.  

I remember thanking him one day when I was with him because in that moment I knew, as I flooded back into myself, that I was going to be ok.  That I was as far away from me as I would ever have to be and that I could now turn around and start back on the path to the Girl in the Corner.  Back to myself.  And I’m so thankful for the day I fell apart because it was my beginning. 

I saw and talked with him after that only a few times.  He didn’t know it, but I was so clear in those moments and I got exactly what I needed from our conversations so that I could truly heal from all of the abuse.  

I took back me and I began to heal and then I left him behind, where he belongs.  Where he always deserved to be–in the past.  With the other people who abused me and tried to make me to blame. 

And then I healed.  

As I did, he tried to contact me and I was thrilled to find out that I didn’t care.  At all.  I told him to leave me alone.  To back off.  He didn’t get it at first, even tried to be my FRIEND, but I had the support of a great friend and a great therapist to end all contact.  

I was free. 

I am free.  And I AM good enough.  

I am strong.  Strong enough to know that all of his ridiculous attempts to get my attention after that time don’t matter.  I’ve blocked him out and I am done. 

Forever. 

KK

Trusting myself

Standard

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

Not broken 

Standard

  

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 March 25

Standard

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

Can you give her a blanket?

Standard

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