A Flat Battery, A Broken Charger

You know that mode where you get so overwhelmed by things that your whole system simply shuts down? That state where everything tangles and intertwines into an almighty tied up, knotty, gnarly mess and you can’t find an end to start, even though you are staring at a million and one loose ends [either one of which would do], but you just can’t seem to be able to pick one up? That is the mode I have been in lately.

Today I finally managed to pick one of those loose ends up: writing something about what has been going on. It’s not the one that should be at the top of my list, or even in the top ten, but it is the first one I have felt able to pick up in a long time, and starting somewhere, I suppose, is better than not starting at all. Perhaps.

My sessions with P. have been progressing in a squiggly upward curve. I have challenged myself to share things that I would never have thought possible, and I have very very cautiously began to accept – maybe even trust – our emerging relationship and the terrifying intimacy that comes with it. There is something very gentle about the way P. works with me. I don’t mean that she takes things unduly slowly or that she doesn’t challenge me, because she does, but there is a lot of focus on doing things in such a way that there is always time to experience the emotional impact of what we are talking about. There is space to explore both how it is for me and also, crucially, how it is for her to enter these dangerous minefields, where each tiny step can so easily explode into painful memories or full-blown flashbacks. I think [even though something inside of me feels afraid to put it in writing, lest I jinx something] that I am in fact beginning to feel safe with P., and it is such a deliciously unusual feeling, so delicate and precious, that I find myself softening my grip on Control to ensure that I don’t accidentally break it.

Some weeks ago I said to P. that beginning this journey felt like standing on the very edge of a pool knowing that I need to dive in, but feeling uncertain whether or not I would be able to keep myself from drowning once I hit the water. So, P. looked right at me, in that way she does when she wants me to really listen, to truly hear her, and gently suggested that maybe I could try to remind myself that I am not alone and that she is actually quite a good life guard.
P. often talks of how desperately Little S. – my inner child, the child me – needed to be seen and heard and cared for, and how this, our relationship, is a place where that can happen, where it is safe to let Little S. out.

So, I have been pushing on, have been trying really hard. Yesterday, I even brought Doth to my session, because I knew it would be an immensely difficult one, and I thought having her in my arms might make it a little easier.

But at the same time, there is this other part of me that can’t help but to ask why I am even doing this. What the point of it is.. Because lately I am struggling to see one.

You see, all my life – even while the abuse was still going on – the one thing that always kept me going, that got me through, was the thought that one day I would have children of my own. It made it worth soldiering on, made it worth living through the abuse. Later on, it made it possible to cope with the daily onslaught of flashbacks, made it worth going through the often very painful process of being in therapy. All because one day I was going to be somebody’s parent. That thought, that one day I was going to be somebody’s parent, is what has always kept my heart beating; as noisy as the difficulties and struggles have been at times, that thought always beat louder. One day I was going to be somebody’s parent.

Only, for the last five years I have been trying for a child, have discovered that I have fertility issues, have had fertility treatment, and have had it fail. And as much as I have been trying to fight it, slowly the knowledge that this – my one dream, the one thing that has always kept me going – has dissolved, has died and no longer exists, has truly sunk in.

Please, refrain from telling me that It may still happen, you can’t know that it won’t or Have you thought about adoption? or Lots of people have no children and still have fulfilling lives. Yes, I have thought about all of those things, of course I have, I have had years to think about it, but the bottom line is that the one thing that I have ever wanted for myself is something that I will never have. And the one thing that has made it worth working so hard all these years to keep my head above water is no longer there. And rather than well-meaning, but ultimately empty, encouragement, I need space to mourn. Because, for me, this is a loss greater than any other. It is the loss of hope.

The motivation for going through therapy, for wanting to get to a place where I am as whole as I can be, has always been because one day I was going to be somebody’s parent. I wanted to get through as much of the difficulties as possible, for the sake of my future child. But, if that is never going to happen, then, what is the point?

I know I am supposed to want to do it for me, but that has just never felt important enough. I have never been important enough to me. And, yes, maybe that can change. After all, that is part of what P. is trying to do with me. It is just that all of my energy is draining from my soul and the hope that once helped recharge my battery isn’t there anymore, and soon I will be running flat.

So, do forgive me if I have been a poor and absent friend lately. I really am truly sorry that I haven’t been able to be there for you in the way that you deserve. I am so very blessed to have people who care so deeply about me and I am incredibly thankful for having you all in my life. But, right now, I suppose I need to preserve whatever energy I have left in my tank, to fuel whatever it is that it takes to be me.

xx

 

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The Greatest Joy & The Biggest Sorrow

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Making Sense Of Abuse & The Need To Feel Heard

I really shouldn’t be writing this. I ought to be writing an essay on attachment. Especially seeing as I’m working to an absolute deadline, having already exhausted all opportunity for extension. Only I simply haven’t got the head space to do any studying. Or anything else, really. In fact, if you find this post a bit fragmented that is because it has been written in fragments; a sentence here and there whenever I’ve had a short break from the hellish onslaught of constant flashbacks I am currently experiencing.

I’ve spent a lot of time in these past ten days [or however long it has been] talking both to the Samaritans and the Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Line. Talking to them doesn’t stop the flashbacks; I will often continue having them even while I’m on the phone, but at least, when I come out of them I’m not alone. Also, I’ve come to realise that what I really crave is to be allowed to tell my story. To share what happened to me. And, more importantly, to feel heard. To hear the reaction of others, when they hear what happened to me has played an important part in coming to see that what went on while I was growing up was actually quite bad.

Rather unsurprisingly, I’m very good at minimalising the abuse that I was subjected to as a child and teenager. Minimalising what went on is in essence how I got through it. I genuinely believe that had I allowed myself to see the magnitude of what was going on at the time there is no way I could have survived it. At least not with my sanity intact. So I dissociated and numbed myself to the whole experience.

But, there comes a point when you have to begin to look openly and honestly at what really happened. There is no way that you can forever keep running from it. Sooner or later you have to find the courage to look the past in the eye or you will never be able to heal. By that I don’t meant that it is necessary to explore in minute detail every single abuse situation you were ever in, but that one has to face one’s own emotions about what happened.

When I think back to the things my oldest brother did to me – not through flashbacks, but simply by normal recall – I can’t say that I remember feeling much at all. Maybe, very early on, when I was little, I have a vague memory of feeling confused, but that’s about the extent of conscious emotions. The rest is something of an emotional void. What is happening now with the flashbacks – and what makes them so terrifying – is that it is as if I am now reliving what happened, with the emotional response I should have had, but couldn’t have, as a child.

As a child, even from very early on, I always knew what was happening didn’t feel right, but in order to cope with it, I very soon began to understand ‘not feeling right’ as a the normal state of being. The abuse became so routine that it seemed no less normal to me than going to school or doing my chores. It was just one of the many parts that made up my day-to-day life.

I think the abuse began around the time when I was about four and a half, because that’s the earliest I can remember, and my brother says that was roughly when it started. Of course it could have started earlier, but I simply haven’t got any memories – happy or sad – from before that time.

It went on for a very long time – all the way until I was 17 – and only came to light because I tried to kill myself. There was one occasion, when I was about seven, when I did try to tell my mother about what my brother was doing to me [although my mother says this never happened, that I never told her], but unfortunately that ended disastrously with my mother unable to take on board what I was saying to her, and I never again tried to tell anyone. For years I held on to that question mark posed by my mother, that maybe I really hadn’t told her, because that idea was so much easier to cope with, so much less painful, than the idea that I did tell my mother and she was unable to do anything about it. There are definitive mitigating circumstances in terms of why my mother couldn’t cope with what I was telling her, but the unavoidable fact remains: as a consequence of my mother’s inability to intervene the abuse carried on for another ten years, which is – of course – and absolute eternity.

There was one year, when I was eight going on nine, when things could have changed quite dramatically. That year my brother was away from home, doing his military service – which was at the time mandatory. In a tragic twist, that same year – which could have been an opportunity for me to get to experience what life without abuse might be like – my parents decided to take in a foster child, a much damaged 16-year-old refugee boy from the Lebanon who had seen war up close and who was deeply disturbed by it. Cut a long story short, he began abusing me almost immediately after moving in with us.

What happened with this person was something I was completely unprepared for. You see, with my brother, what he got off on, was the idea that what went on was something we both wanted. So he would constantly be asking me questions. Do you like this? Does this feel good? What would you like to do? And I soon learned what was expected of me, learned to step into the role he wanted me to play. With this other person, there was something entirely different that motivated him. What he enjoyed was to see me terrified and in pain. Whereas with my brother I could choose to either step into a role – in a sense choose to not be me – or to dissociate and go somewhere else in my mind while he was doing what he was doing, with this other person, he wouldn’t allow me to do that. If he noticed that I was zoning out, he would slap my face to bring me back to the present, or he would hold my chin and peer into my eyes, thereby ensuring I couldn’t escape him or what he was doing to me. He had a knife strapped to his leg, concealed underneath his jeans – he called it his Rambo knife – which he would hold against my neck while he was raping me. Not with the sharp edge, but with the blunt back of it, just as a mind game making sure I could never be sure if this would be the time he would finally kill me. Even in completely normal situations he would play these horrendous mind games with me. For example, we would all be out in the garden, him, my brothers and I, playing football. He would then kick the ball far away, my brothers turning their backs to us, running after the ball, and as soon as they did, he would grab me by my throat and throw me against the wall of the house, choking me – and then immediately let go the second my brothers were turning back, as if to drive home the message that it doesn’t matter where we are or who is around, I can do whatever I want to you, whenever I want.

I had a very good session with A. earlier this week, where I for the first time ever, talked about the way the abuse happened. Not details of what actually happened or specific incidents, but the ways in which I was made to be compliant with it, both through things that were said, and through things that didn’t need to be said.

I spent an entire year in fear of this other person, and what happened with him; the violence, the threats and the psychological mind games matched exactly the stereotype painted by media. It took years for me to appreciate that what my brother did, the subtle grooming, coercion and indirect coaching, was also abuse.

But it’s all coming back now – all the pent up emotions – in the form of flashbacks.
And it’s really really scary.

xx

Pregnancies, Therapy Breaks & A Possible Bin Liner

First post of the new year. Can’t believe it’s taken me this long!

So what has the new year been like this far? Well, ups and downs. And lots of them. On the one hand there are some really good things happening in my life, although as per usual I am finding it hard to entirely trust it that it will last. On the other hand there is a lot of unrest, especially surrounding A.’s impending maternity leave, which is really stressing me out in a big way.

Over our two week Chrismukah break I did struggle, although I struggled more in week one than in week two. I think had there not been an impending longer break round the corner, this break would not have been quite so bad; most of my freak-outs over this period were connected with the knowledge that I have this massive break ahead of me.

A. is now back, and therapy has resumed for the time being. Of course there is no knowing exactly how much longer I will be seeing her before she goes on leave, adding another prickly little layer to an already exceptionally difficult situation. As much as I appreciate being able to go to therapy, I do feel ultra-aware that each session I have is another step closer to the time when I won’t be having them, and I really don’t know how I am going to cope for such a long time. Also, A. looking like she is about to pop at any given moment makes it entirely impossible to do what I usually do prior to an upcoming break; going into solid denial in true ostrich style and pretend it’s not going to happen..

For better or for worse, A. and her ever growing bump completely takes that option away. It also makes me have to think about how badly I want children and leaves me unable to shield myself from the fear that that may never happen.. At least as long as A. is still working, I can talk about all of this [to whatever extent I feel able to].. Once she goes off, I’ll still have all those feelings, but I’ll have lost my safe place to talk about it. On top of the stuff I always deal with during a break, I’ll be left with all the feelings A.’s (and other women’s) pregnancies have brought out. I genuinely hate this non-pregnant state I’m in with a passion, and having all these emotional triggers around can be really really painful. Sometimes I feel convinced that there must be a correlation between how badly you want a child and the number of people around you becoming pregnant. Like a cruel joke on the less fertile ones among us.. I know that’s not really the case, but it sure feels like it sometimes. So, I’m under no illusions that this break is going to be anything other than excruciatingly challenging.

On to something a little more positive..
I wrote in a previous post about the need to find something to help contain my emotions during this break, and the worry at not knowing what that might be. And then one morning it just hit me – and please don’t ask how it could possibly have taken so long to come up with something so utterly obvious.. Of course, the thing that could best help me get through the break is – ta-dah! –WRITING! Partly here on the blog, which I have come to realise is the closest thing I get to therapy outside of actual therapy; it’s a space where I can express whatever I want without having to censor myself for the sake of other people. Blogging also has that key therapeutic quality of allowing me to feel heard, through the comments you post and the emails you send. So, please, do keep ’em coming; they really mean a lot to me. Your comments and emails are what makes blogging different to journaling. I suppose you could say that journaling is communicating your emotions for inward reflection, in a completely private way, whereas blogging is communicating outwardly, to tell the outside world what’s going on. And your comments help me feel heard and also give me a variety of perspectives on whatever I happen to be going through.

So, journaling and blogging are two ways to keep me going. But, of course, they are both things that I am already doing, and – as regular readers will be aware – this is not necessarily enough for me to not dip in that rather extreme way I sometimes do. The other way I’ve come up with is to push myself to get back into doing some proper writing. In the past few years I’ve been suffering from a writer’s block of gargantuan proportion, having not really done any real writing at all. Yes, the odd poetry reading, a few bits and pieces here and there, but nothing I would call real writing, only faffing. Fair enough, it’s at times been very useful faffing, but it’s simply not been as emotionally and spiritually consuming as the kind of thing I experience when I’m really writing.

Thus, my brief for myself in the coming several months, is to push myself to take my writing more seriously and to really work hard at it. Not just to do a bit here and there as the wind happens to blow, but to really dedicate some serious time to doing it.

I’ve already started on something, which – naturally – could turn out to be nothing, but at the moment it feels pretty good. I’m not going to go into detail in terms of what exactly I’m writing about, but it feels like it could potentially turn out to be something reasonably readworthy.

I’m sticking to the age-old rule of Write About What You Know, but without making it autobiographic. Of course, there is bound to be a lot of me in what I write, that’s the nature of writing,; the author’s voice will always be there somewhere in the background, spread out in between the written words, but it’s not my story I’m writing, it’s fiction. Or, as I like to call it; semi-fictive storytelling.

And that is what makes writing so exciting for me. That, while what I’m writing is based on what I know, I also have the complete freedom of inventing this whole parallel universe, where anything could happen. And even though the things I write about tend to be fairly ordinary; about how everyday people form relationships and how they relate to one another and so on, it is still all coming out of my own imagination. I always think of writing as the introvert’s opportunity to be a great actor, because, in order to write about people and relationships, you need to put yourself in their place, you need to get into their head and look at the world through their eyes, so that when you’re writing, what ends up on the page isn’t fifteen versions of yourself, but something that feels authentic and congruent for each one of the characters.

Now, of course I am aware that writing also is a form of escapism, a way to get away from my own reality.
I know this. You know this. But, surely, a bit of escapism is a far healthier option to getting those scalpels out, in a bid to get away from what I really can’t get away from?

So, there you are; a possible bin liner.

Do wish me luck.

I may need it.

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. I’m receiving a ridiculous amount of spam comments on some of my posts, and so I’ve password protected them. If you would like to have the password, feel free to drop me an email. I have no idea if the password thing will help with the spam, if it doesn’t I’ll take the protection off, but for the time being it will stay there.