Tag Archives: rediscovering me

WILD

Standard

**This post discusses the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I wasn’t able to include page numbers to completely give credit to each quote because I have only a digital copy of the book and so that won’t be the same as pages in the actual book.  But I made sure to use quotes and it is not at all my intention to try and claim any of her awesomeness as my own.

This book means a lot to me.  I don’t remember why I picked it up or how I heard about the book.  But I am so thankful I did.  I just saw the movie this week and I loved that too.  Not nearly as much as the book, but the movie had all the parts I had hoped to see and all the feelings the book had me feeling.

The book was in my life at exactly the right time and reading it gave me exactly the validation I needed to make some final decisions.  To understand what I needed to do to more forward in my life.

The first big moment for me in the book was her discussion of why she chose a new name after getting her divorce.  The weekend I read the book I was alone at a cabin with just my dogs.  Silence and beauty all around me as I sat by the fire and in the cute cabin and read her story.  She says she knew if she got divorced she couldn’t stay her married name, but “I couldn’t go back to having the name I had had in high school and be the girl I used to be.”  And as I read that I knew that it had described exactly how I was feeling.

I had filed for divorce that same year and had been living alone for only a few weeks short of one year.  I was beginning to think a lot about my name and the choice I had to make in keeping the married name or “restoring” my maiden name.  To me, keeping my married name was never a valid choice.  I don’t mean it to sound as harsh as it likely will, but I just didn’t want to keep that connection to him.  It is who I became because I married him and I wanted a full disconnection from who I had allowed myself to become in our marriage.  However, going back to my maiden name seemed like going back to the girl in the corner.  The girl I didn’t like or accept.  And the girl who was sexually assaulted.  It felt unsafe and just not at all who I wanted to be again.  It was difficult for me to accept that because I also have very warm connections to that name.  I am close to my father, I was very close to my grandfather, and my maiden name is both the middle name for myself and for my son.

When I read that part of the book where she decided to choose her own name, I put the book down and just sat with those feelings.  And very quickly I decided that I would do that myself.  I would choose my own name.  I would decide later if I would keep my maiden name as my middle name, but I spent the next few minutes sitting by the fire thinking about what my last name should be once I was single.  I didn’t expect to come to a decision so quickly, and I won’t describe the personal moments that led me to my name, but it was a completely clear moment.  One of those moments that takes your breath away because it is so perfect.  I knew sitting by that fire who I would become.  And then I laughed and said right out loud to my dogs and the horses nearby, “that.  is.  awesome.  and that’s what i am going to do.”

Cheryl Strayed’s description of her feelings about divorce just hit exactly on the types of things I was feeling and had been feeling while deciding to move out and then go forward with divorce.  Reading her story validated my feelings and allowed me to give myself a much needed break from punishing myself for my decisions.

She wrote “as close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last” and I understood that feeling in a personal way.  My husband and I had been close in some ways for many years, but never quite the way I needed.  I wanted a best friend to come home to and I never felt comfortable sharing my whole self and my whole, true feelings with him.  But after I moved out, a really strange thing happened for awhile.  I did feel closer to him and him to me.  We had long discussions and said things we should have been saying all along.  I felt closer to him than I had felt for years.  Which led to a period of us accepting separation as an option when we had always said if we couldn’t live together, there was no point to staying married.  So for the next 8 months, we lived separately and we talked and got together often to see if we could fix what was broken in our relationship.  We didn’t succeed, but I’m thankful for the time with him because feeling close to him then allowed us to move forward and not go through an angry, hateful divorce.  We were able to talk and be with our kids and treat each other with respect.

As I moved forward in living alone, I referenced the book often. I read parts of it over again and looked back at my favorite quotes a lot. I liked living alone and I still do. Cheryl Strayed wrote “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” I like that because to me that is one of the best things in the world…being alone. And I’m thankful that I can be alone and be comfortable and happy. I’ve not always been good at it because I didn’t like myself. It’s one of the best benefits I’ve received from therapy. I know now that I can be alone and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I want to be completely alone all the time or forever, but when I am I know that I’m still with a person who’s pretty great.

I lived alone for about a year and a half before the day of my divorce arrived. And even though it was the day my marriage would be ended, I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel happy or relieved or angry or scared. I just felt like it was what was necessary to do what we had already done in separating ourselves and agreeing that although we loved each other, we just didn’t work the same way we once had and that wasn’t enough for me. I kept thinking of this quote from the very same book, “I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.” And no matter what else I was feeling, that day I just knew I had made the right decisions for me.

In moving forward now in my life, I still think of Cheryl Strayed and her story often. I’ll probably read the book again someday. There are a lot more quotes I read and think about on an almost daily basis.

Although our experiences in life were not the same, I understand the enormity of the quote ”what if I forgave myself?” Her quote goes on, but that’s the part I cling to because that’s what I have left to do with the girl in the corner. I must find a way to forgive her. And to accept that she is a part of me. A part of me who deserves forgiveness and love.

Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for being brave enough to share your story. It has played a large part in my healing and my ability to move forward each day to rediscovering me.

KK

Taking on the girl in the corner

Standard

***I kind of feel like this post, and many to come, should have some kind of trigger warning in addition to the fact that sometimes I will add sexual assault disclosure warnings.  But I am not sure what kind.  So let me just say please be self-aware when you are reading this post and any posts going forward for awhile.  This is very new to me and I have not spoken about it with the majority of people in my life or disclosed it publicly.  I have barely been able to recognize and name it and accept it myself.***

Well, here it goes.  I have committed to another 12-week Adult Sexual Assault (ASA) therapy group and it starts a week from today.  It is technically the same group I did last year.  The topic and goals will be the same and there will be a disclosure.

But for me, and I can’t even believe I am saying this, I think it might be scarier this time around for me.  The last group was extremely tough in many ways and disclosing that college rape experience was SO challenging.  However, even though I needed to rid myself of some blame, guilt, anger, fear, and shame, the completely logical side of me lived every day knowing that it really had not been my fault at all.  Getting through the group last year was about making a declaration, shaking off the shame, and recognizing that I have the right to complete healing in order to rediscover the me that was lost and ashamed and terrified. The level of healing that I have experienced from completing that group has been just awesome. I am thankful every single day for that group therapy success.

This time I will tackle some experiences with a specific person from my past that in my head are much more complicated AND that will force me to examine, discuss, accept and cooperate with that girl in the corner.  The one I avoid and ignore and cover with laughter.  And for the last 7 months or so, I have gone back and forth in my individual therapy between being ready to tackle this and trying to convince myself (and my therapist who wasn’t buying it) that it’s fine if I never deal with it because it doesn’t really affect me on a daily basis.  But it does and I don’t like that.

The worst part of taking on the girl in the corner is that I don’t like her and I don’t even feel like she is worth my time.  And I am ashamed of her.  And I sometimes even hate her.  And I don’t feel like anyone will believe her.  I judge her and disregard her.  I call her names and I blame her.

For anyone reading this post who hasn’t followed my previous posts and feels confused, that girl in the corner is me.  A younger me.  Somewhere between 16 and 20 most of the time.  And once in awhile she’s 38 year old me.  And I shoved her in the corner a long time ago, never to be dealt with again.  Or so I thought.

For this session of group, I may be disconnected or distant or crazy or mean or many other things.  Maybe I’ll be fun and happy most of the days.  Maybe I’ll look like I’m listening to you and have to ask you to repeat yourself.  I really have no idea what to expect.

So for now, I just want to say that I have great people around me and you each know who you are and what you mean to me.  If I don’t call enough, or laugh enough, or respond enough, or reach out to you it is NOT because you don’t mean the world to me or I don’t trust you or want and need your support.  This fight for healing is going to be difficult.  Because today, I can’t even talk about the experience as rape or sexual assault without immediately victim-blaming my very own self.

And that is a miserable feeling.

One I am proud to say I am ready to leave behind to continue rediscovering me.

So look out girl in the corner, I’m coming to rescue you and learn to love you again.

KK

A New Year and a Look Back

Standard

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

Asserting myself…maybe

Standard

I’m still avoiding the girl in the corner. Mostly, I think I know why.

It is very difficult for me to talk about it because I never have fully discussed it outside of my disclosure night in my last therapy group. That night, information and realizations came out of me that I had never admitted to myself. In fact, I blatantly ignored the information that I was aware of and denied there could be anything I had not fully recalled.

I buried that girl in denial and shame. And part of me would really like to leave her right there.

Sometimes, you come in contact with people in life and you just wonder what possible good they are offering the world and the people around them. You know the people I’m talking about, don’t you? People who are just mean for no good reason. People who are aggressive or manipulative, or both. People who just say or do awful things without even knowing what they are talking about or why they are doing whatever it is they are doing. This blows my mind.

I was not a nice teenager, and I’m certainly not going to justify any of my bad behavior, but you can excuse teenagers for acting out some or being mean to some degree because they just aren’t fully developed, functioning people.

Here’s what bugs me the most right now about wanting to face that girl in the corner: I am scared of what she will do and say.

I have exactly 2 very challenging people in my world right now. And when their behavior gets to a certain point, I allow myself to think and feel in ways that the girl in the corner controls. I don’t like it. I haven’t learned to control it.

So there it is. I feel like I can’t.

On the logical side of my current self is someone who is well-aware that speaking my full mind to these 2 folks would be all wasted breath because they are not ready or able to hear what I have to say. This logical side is intersecting with the person inside me who just wants to defend myself and explain some things and make them understand and yes, just plain hurt them in return for the things they have said or done that I have allowed to hurt me. But again, that is because the part of me that isn’t done with therapy still feels that sometimes I can control or own other people’s reactions or feelings.

I can’t. That’s a thing that really sucks sometimes about communication.

But now I have new information that is causing me to regret one situation where I did not speak my mind. One situation where I have learned that with self-control and compassion, I could have asserted myself and that would have been perfectly acceptable and would have been just what I needed. I am a couple of weeks into group and last week this realization hit me like a 2×4 across the face. I can BE successfully assertive EVEN IF the person reacts in a way I don’t like or that doesn’t give me an opportunity to feel better about the situation. I have still done what I needed to do to feel good about myself. I have asserted myself. Successfully. Because the reaction of that person isn’t what controls the success of my learning to be assertive.

Bam! I love that realization.

I wish I had that realization a few months ago, but I didn’t, so I didn’t assert myself with either of these 2 jerks. And with 1 of them, that really bugs me. Worse yet, I allowed myself to get talked out of asserting myself. You know why? I sure don’t. That’s not typically me.

Now, my group facilitator would say that I still have the right to assert myself now even though the actual moment has long passed. And I understand that she says that because, again, the reaction of the person is not the successful outcome/measurement to me asserting myself. So who cares if I am a few months late in asserting myself? Well, I did care, but now I am beginning to feel that I cared for the wrong reasons. I let shame and ick from the girl in the corner get in the way of what I need to be happy.

Today I was driving some distance and I do some of my best thinking in the car. And what I learned today is that in the spirit of letting that girl in the corner start to heal, I MUST assert myself. No matter what the reaction. Especially when not asserting myself is holding back my healing.

So look out world, I’m about to rediscover my assertive self.

KK

Going back

Standard

Well, I’m going back for more. More support. More information. More learning. More validation.

More group therapy.

I wasn’t going to do it. And then this week happened. It’s the worst week I can remember having in a very long time. (No, I do not want to talk about it so don’t ask.) And just as it is about over, I realized I have ignored some very large moments in the past week or two that I needed to give more attention.

The first was running into a member of my last group. It was really great to see her and talk about how we are each doing. It was extra great that it was specifically her because she struggled a lot and I have hated not getting to know if she’s ok. She is. And that’s awesome. I ran into her at the end of last week and it was great, but I brushed it off as just a strange coincidence.

I know that is not the case now.

Just when this week became what I thought was a total loss, I got a voicemail from the facilitator of my last group. She wanted to offer me a spot in a new group starting next week. I brushed off the phone call and waited for the voicemail, which I listened to and then also brushed off.

But this afternoon I had a trigger moment happen that took my breath away and really knocked me down for awhile. And now all I can think about is the fact that neither of those two things–running into the group member and getting the phone call–was a coincidence at all.

They were moments I desperately needed.

Moments where my intuition was trying to say “how are you doing because you look like you need some support.”

And that’s true. I do.

So since it was a crap day and I couldn’t make the return call without being a mess of tears, I emailed the facilitator to say please put me in the group if the spot is still open. I sure hope it is still open for me. And I’m hoping some of my former group members will be in it too. Reconnecting would be really nice.

It’s important to really listen to yourself. And I do that fairly well most of the time. But I need to stop being lazy about it. It’s easy to ignore my own stuff right now because things have been going really well for me. That’s awesome and I’m glad to be where I’m at right now.

But I can’t forget about taking care of me. Not ever again.

So I’m going back. For me.

KK

a little less hiding a little more me

Standard

I danced.  And I got contacts.

These seem like insignificant things to many people.  But certainly not to me.

The last time I danced freely I don’t have any memory of it because I drank too much.  This time, I remember how it felt to dance.  I still had been drinking, but I was not out of control and I remember all things that happened that night.  I had a great time.  And dancing felt really, really good.  It felt like a little more of me fell into place and that is so cool.  I want to do it again soon.

For me, glasses are fashion.  Just about the only fashion I care about most days.  I love all my glasses and I always have a lot of them.  But a part of me uses those glasses for safety.  To hide behind them because without them, I kind of feel exposed and naked.  That’s weird, but it is totally true and absolutely how I feel.  I used to wear contacts and this week I decided it was time to try them again.  And it has only been two days, but I feel pretty comfortable so far.  Exposed, yes, but ok with the risk.  Confident even.  Well, confident might be going too far.  But I think I’ll get there.

These things feel like big steps to me and I’m proud of them.  I continue to make progress in discovering me and I really love that.  I’ll still wear glasses at times.  Sometimes that will be cuz I’m too lazy for the contacts and sometimes that will be because I just like the way I look in many of my glasses.  And possibly I will wear glasses at times I don’t feel confident and want a bit of protection between my eyes and the world looking at my eyes.  I like to look at people when I’m talking to them, but having them look back at me when I’m feeling vulnerable (or avoiding feeling vulnerable) is less comfortable for me for sure.

I’m feeling pretty good lately, but I will stay the course because I still have some hurdles in the way of rediscovering the full me.

I’m going to keep going toward being me.  So you should do the same.

Be you.

KK

the girl in the corner

Standard

I don’t want to do that. That seems like it could just stay like that. Avoiding her seems to be working so far. I just don’t want to work that hard. I don’t think I ever need to face her now.

Those are things I said in therapy this week. It’s hard to admit that, to read those, and to feel like that.

It seems that I could be standing in my own way right now. The former me, the pre-me, the ashamed me is hiding in a corner. She’s trying to get out. But she’s shoved way back in the dark where nobody would dare to go to drag her out. And I just pretend she’s not there. In fact, I really never thought about her as a separate person who needs to be discussed or healed in any way. She’s a separate person to me and I’ve been ok with that because nobody has ever pointed her out to me. Very few people have ever seen her or know she’s there. And then all of sudden this week a giant light lit up right in that corner and I was stunned for awhile. And now I can see her so clearly. She’s the reason I don’t have my maiden name, but instead a name I created for the me I like and the me I am most comfortable with being each day. Nobody needs that girl in the corner, least of all me. So why unlock the door and clean out the cobwebs at all? I mean, I like the me I am today and life has been really wonderful most of this year. Right?

But can I really rediscover me AND avoid the girl in the corner? Maybe for a while. Apparently my therapist feels that is unlikely to be a good path to a healthy future. Of course, she is probably right and she makes good points. But I just feel like I’ve done SO much work already and doing more isn’t really what I expected to have to do. After all, I made it through a 12-week group which included A LOT of really challenging steps and the ENORMOUS moment when I made a full disclosure of my sexual assault to my peers. I’m healed, right? It’s over, yes? I mean, that is what a lot of people say–it’s good that is all behind you, now you can move on, at least you don’t have to think about that anymore, and now you can be done with therapy.

In some ways, those things are what I was thinking would happen after group just as other people thought. I did take a break from my individual therapy after group ended because I didn’t feel I needed weekly support and processing if I was done with group. I was just waiting for my original therapist to come back from maternity leave so I could go in for a few weeks to tell her how well group went and how much I was able to get in touch with the vulnerability that was hiding inside me and holding back the healing. And I was feeling so thrilled after that disclosure and group that I sometimes couldn’t imagine what I would need to talk about anymore with her. I made it through the messy feelings I had before deciding to move out, I worked through how I felt living separately from my husband, we worked on our marriage to see if there was still a marriage for both of us, and I struggled and then faced the decision that-at least for me-it was no longer a marriage I could remain in and be happy. I worked hard in therapy to come to terms with the fact that my marriage was over and worked through my feelings of failure and grief over the ending of the marriage. Therapy is the reason I felt confident enough to go into group and was the support I needed to get in touch with my individual feelings which came out during the group sessions.

That IS all behind me now. So what would I even need to say? I’m healed and happy. I’m successfully navigating my life as a divorced woman with two kids. I bought a house and have a job and lots of supportive family and friends. I’m even dating which I really didn’t think I’d even consider for a very long time yet.

But…there she is, that girl in the corner. Peeking out once in a while now because the past and present are colliding in some ways. And because with some of the major shame lifted off my shoulders I can see other layers of me that need healing. Layers that I didn’t recognize as needing healing because sexual assault clouded everything else and took over who I was since it happened.

She was just sitting there looking smug during last week’s therapy session. And I ignored her until my therapist said, “so let’s talk about the girl you just pushed off into the corner, how is she feeling?” What??? How did she see that?? I’m sure you know by now that I have some issues with inappropriate laughter. So naturally that’s what I did, I started laughing. And then I got choked up and realized that she really is there in that corner. She’s another piece of me, the former me, the me I put away a LONG time ago and never really wish to see again. My therapist wondered if that girl in the corner is really hurt, or angry, or scared, or all of that and more. She suggested writing that girl a letter, giving her a break for what she went through, and trying to understand that girl in terms of what I would expect of someone who is the same age today.

I haven’t written a letter, but I keep thinking about that girl. I know it’s true that I don’t give her a break. That I don’t respect her and that, in fact, I don’t even like her or recognize her as having worth. She’s pissed off and has reason to be, but instead of having compassion for her, I punish her for not being good enough. For not being better. Smarter. For not seeing what wasn’t right and making better choices at 15, 16, 17 years old.

I’ll keep thinking about how I want to handle that girl in the corner. I know from my disclosure how she got there and I think I know why she’s trying to step out. I’m not looking forward to it and I’d really rather forget she’s there.

But I’ve got to face everything if I really want to move forward completely. And I really do.

I’ll look at the girl in the corner and I’ll help her come out of hiding. I know I have to do it. I know it’s time.

KK