Tag Archives: support

Another disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KK

Validation is the key to happiness, or at least mine

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According to Merriam-Webster online, one definition of VALIDATE is this – to recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of. A synonym shown for validate is support.

I believe everyone enjoys and wants to be validated and supported. And I believe the lack of each creates most conflict in relationships whether it is family, friends, or partners.

Think about validation for a whole day during every conversation you have with other people. Think about how you want to initially respond to what the person says and if it negates or validates what they think and feel. Do your best during conversation to respond first by validating what the person said to you. Then, respond with your own thoughts. Remember, validate does not mean agree. And thinking that it does is why people don’t do it.

I can guarantee you that in the majority of your conversations, if you start by validating the other person, you will have a lot less conflict.

In my marriage, there was never much validation. I was married to a guy who believes all things are either fact or things which can be proven wrong. Which doesn’t leave any room for how a person feels. And it’s easy to see why he communicates that way if you spend any time with his family, mostly the men. Don’t get me wrong, they are all wonderful people. People I miss often. Most just don’t believe in validating the feelings or opinions of those around them. Unless, of course, those feelings and opinions are exactly the same as their own.

That makes for some really challenging communication and some serious strain on relationships. In its worst form, it’s emotionally abusive. And as a parent, if you don’t validate your children and how they feel because you believe you don’t have to, you’ve taught them to doubt themselves. I justified that kind of communication for a lot longer than I should have, and I certainly don’t miss it.

Validation is essential to healing from lots of things, including loss, divorce, abuse, and trauma. It’s easier than trying to tell a person how to feel or to get over it anyway!! You don’t have to understand what someone went through and you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing. But if someone says “I feel…” you can say “I understand you’re feeling …….., is there anything you need from me right now?” Boom, you validated their feelings. You supported how they are feeling and offered to hear what they need, if anything. This gives them the power to say that they need nothing but a listening ear. Or a hug. Or time alone. Or help finding resources. It gives them the power. And that’s critical to feeling you’ve been heard. Validated. Supported.

The first week of group therapy was last night for me. Validation always comes up. It’s the best part of being in a group with people who understand exactly what it’s like to feel the things I have felt. And we always set ground rules which include asking the person who just spoke if they need anything from the group. Always giving the speaker the power over their own experience. I love that. There is a power in group therapy that cannot be explained. The support and validation of the experience is unmatched by anything else. And that’s because of healthy communication.

I’m not at all saying that my communication is perfect every day or right for you or without flaws. But I certainly AM saying that to be in my life, you better be someone who is capable of healthy communication, or of learning and growing in communication style. And you must love honesty. Even when honesty is difficult. If you’re in my life, you’re likely someone who already communicates in a loving and accepting way, and who can understand that certain things aren’t negotiable if you wanna be with me. And you’re someone who expects the same honesty and understanding and communication from me.

I worry about things I can’t control. Prior to abuse in my life, I didn’t worry about a thing. I think most people would agree that I was a pretty free-spirited kind of gal. No worries, just fun. And when that began to change for me around 16ish years old, I covered my fear and hurt with laughter, and recklessness, and being mean to people so I wouldn’t have to focus on my own hurt. I worry now mostly because I don’t feel worthy of goodness, success, safety, or love. Not on the surface, logically I know I deserve to be happy. But I don’t feel worthy way down, where it counts, where it can give me peace. I don’t feel validated or supported. It’s part of who I am. It’s the girl in the corner. The one who has the right to be healed and forgiven and free. And it’s that girl that I am working so hard to validate and to heal.

Validation…recognizing the worthiness of

I’ll get there.

KK

the girl in the corner

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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

Needing Each Other

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I read this post and wanted to share it here because it is a really great read and it says a lot of things that I feel, even though the post is referring to people dealing with childhood trauma and abuse.  It is called Why Survivors Need Each Other

It was posted at an interesting time, since I was just looking for the paper from my group therapy where we all put down our phone numbers and full names for each other.  For 12 weeks I was with these people, trusting them with my most traumatic thoughts and feelings, but I only knew their first names.  That stuck out to me as odd today, but only for a moment.  Their last names were not important in order to know them, but I had never thought about it before today.  I still think of those women often, and gather strength in bad moments from their bravery and their encouragement and their trust in me being able to push forward each day.

I think it is time for me to reach out to one, two, or all of them for a reconnection of sorts.  I miss them.  I miss their smiles and their laughs, their inspiration and their resilience.  I need them.  And the article referenced above says why.  They understand me without much effort and without ANY judgment.  They get it in a way people who aren’t survivors just cannot get inside the anxiety that comes with the traumatic responses I sometimes have in certain situations.  And more than that, I want them to know that I think about them and I still cheer them on each day.  I want to know they are ok and let them know that I am too.

I suppose group therapy for a set amount of time makes sense because if there is no end, it is really an ongoing support group like AA.  Sometimes, I think a support group that kept on going would be better than what I experienced with a group that had a clearly defined beginning and end.  But I also believe that having steps to the group that led up to the disclosure and then wrapping up those defining moments and putting an end to it gives some definition to the assault in terms of now it is in the past and I can heal properly to move forward.  Now I have given the shame and the responsibility over to the criminals and relieved myself of that burden.

I love that I have supportive friends and family. And I love that I now have added these amazing women to my life, who without even being present, support and inspire me every single day.

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

Just go with it

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Last week and over the weekend I was really stressing out about the disclosure for my group therapy.  It was like I couldn’t think of anything else.  But a friend of mine told me to stop thinking about Thursday and when it gets here just go for it.  And for some reason even though I could tell myself that, it just stuck more when the friend said it.

So I have been very busy this week and not really focused on the disclosure, which felt really great.  I went to all my favorite workout classes, got caught up at work, and continued to work with my dogs who were recently fighting a lot.  And when today came, the actual day I will be doing the disclosure, it didn’t feel so big.

I mean, I’m sure as tonight gets closer I will have more nerves than I do right now, but mostly I feel like whatever happens will be good.  Freeing.  Positive.  Necessary for healing to really move forward.

Two brave souls went first in the group.  It was tremendously cool of them to take that on and go first.  It was exhausting to be a listener of someone’s trauma.  But I’m truly thankful for them being so brave because it gave me the chance to see how the process happens.  And you know what?  It is really great.

I’m even kind of looking forward to it.  After the disclosure the group is allowed to give feedback and what could be more awesome than supportive feedback from people who have felt most, if not all, of the same feelings I have felt and continue to feel?  It is a bit crazy to think that I have been stuck with this burden for all these years and a good chunk of it could feel a lot less heavy after I make it through this day.

“Just go with it.”  That’s a phrase used often in EMDR.  When a feeling comes up or I notice something during the process, my therapy always says “just go with it.”  And then we proceed.  When EMDR starts there is a negative cognition.  I’ve listed some before, but things like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve love” would be negative cognitions.

One successful session of EMDR for me was “I am a disappointment.”  When it begins, the therapist asks how true that statement feels.  For me it was very much a real feeling at that time with some specific circumstances from my past.  So, in EMDR, there is a stimulus used such as buzzers in each hand, eye movements following a hand or light, tapping, or tones with headphones.  At the time, I used the buzzers in each hand.  So I would close my eyes and just “notice” what feelings would come up thinking about that specific situation that made me feel I was a disappointment.  After a certain amount of time, the therapist would have me open my eyes and say what I thought about, pinpointing something by saying “just go with it,” and then I would close my eyes again and the buzzers would start.  Now, I am no expert in EMDR.  So research it if you want all the specific information, but this is my experience.  It never seemed like I was doing it right.  I always felt like I would think the wrong things or not focus on the things that were necessary.  But that’s silly.  The idea is that I close my eyes, the buzzers start, and I just think about what comes to mind without judging myself for it!  In any case, I couldn’t believe that I could feel that good about a situation in only one session.  I felt released from the burden of that disappointment and truly felt that I was ok just the way I was and so I’m fine the way I am now.

I think “just go with it” and/or “just go for it” are my new buzz phrases.  I can’t wait to get the disclosure over with tonight because I feel like “going for it” is really going to get me through some of the necessary steps to move forward.  Not without my experience or my trauma, but better because of how I got through it and how I can now begin to recognize that it is a piece of me and NOT who I am.

KK