The teenage part of me is out in full force today. I’ve been emailing with Bea for the better part of the day, about how snarky I feel and how scared the little girl is of the snarky teenager. Bea suggested that the teen part of me needs to know that she will accept her, that I maybe need to test her limits; that this is all about trust. So I gave in and sent her the snarky email I had sitting in my trash folder– my first response to her email (response to my Brave email) this morning. And now I’m terrified. I need support. So here I am. Eeeeek.
So here is the email conversation I started yesterday……….I am in italics, and Bea’s responses are in regular font.
When you asked me to sit up and said you would turn around, and then you asked what I was thinking. I couldn’t answer because there was so much running through my head:
-no way, that is not okay
-I do not want to move right now
-if she turns around, it will feel like she is leaving me or rejecting me
-don’t be stupid
-you can’t feel like this
-this is silly, just sit up and stop this nonsense
-I don’t want to look up and see someone seeing me, listening to me, being there– that feels overwhelming–, but I don’t want her to turn around either because that feels like she is leaving me
-I’m so stupid, this is ridiculous to feel like that
-I can’t tell her all this, that’s too vulnerable, too much.
-she’s changing everything. I hate this
-Is she watching everything I do now? She asked about my making a fist. I can’t do this.
Thank you for sharing this. It gives us much information, and I think we should go through this list on Monday because it’s a great place to start.
Oh crud. That makes me nervous. We can go through it but just…..picking apart all my thoughts. Well, that is what makes me so scared to speak my thoughts. They’re just….ugh. I guess I am afraid of what the information is that this list gives you.
All of that went flying through my head, and then I went away. Because I just couldn’t deal with it. Too much. And all I could manage to say was that I felt uncomfortable. Just saying that was so, so scary because it seemed like the “wrong” answer, like I was supposed to agree to what you had proposed, and I was being bad by not agreeing. And I was afraid you would be mad or disappointed, and in that moment, that felt like it would be unbearable if it happened. But I clearly couldn’t say that and be so hugely vulnerable. And then I just couldn’t stop crying for a little bit and didn’t even know why I was crying. Which makes me feel even stupider. I hate crying and feeling so sad and all overwhelmed and not knowing what I am even crying about.
So what you didn’t mention here was my celebration of you speaking up–that to me that was huge because you expressed how you were feeling. Were you too far away to get what I was saying?
I don’t know. I have this sort of fuzzy vague memory of you saying all you cared about was me just making a choice. I don’t know. I was far away, but also maybe waiting for disappointment or anger to show up. I’m sorry, I just don’t think it really fully registered because I was too busy being worried over not doing what I “should” and what would happen….
I thought it was awesome! To be in that scared state and actually have had a voice! You never had that voice with Kenny or the boyfriend. I didn’t care in the least if you did what I suggested–it was about however you reacted and what we could do with that.
And you asked me why I made a fist, and I was so uncomfortable that you noticed what I was doing, so self conscious, and then I couldn’t answer. (I’m not saying this so you stop adding little bits of sensorimotor stuff in. I know it is to help and it isn’t just going to be easy. But I also need to tell you how I felt…idk. I just need you to know that it felt really…I don’t have the word…something between icky and off.) And you guessed I felt like fighting, but I didn’t. But I was too…… embarrassed?… ashamed?….to say why. I made a fist because I needed to…I don’t know, I wanted to dig my nails into my palm and feel hurt for a minute. How could I say that? I’m sick with nervousness just typing this. I mean, who does that? It’s insane.
I wasn’t consciously adding the new stuff, but I’ve been doing so much of it that it’s becoming automatic. It just makes so much sense, adding another layer of awareness beyond thoughts and feelings. I’ve always watched and been in tune, I just didn’t know there was more I could do with that. And the cool thing about this–if I guess wrong it gives you the opportunity to correct that wrong guess and say with certainty what is really going on–exactly as you wrote above. That is exactly how it is helpful!
Well it is so scary for me to correct someone, so it doesn’t feel……okay….I don’t know. Ugh. I don’t know how to explain. It is scary to correct someone. It feels like bas things will happen. I don’t know. And sometimes it’s too scary to explain or say what is really going on. Like, I was scared to say you guessed wrong, but even more scared to say what was really going on. Part of me can agree that okay, it might be helpful, and it might be a good thing. But part of me feels like it’s not fair that this is becoming automatic because you said I was the one in control of if any of this sensorimotor stuff was added.
And it makes sense that my commenting on the fist (and it’s about the commenting, not the noticing because I’ve always noticed that stuff) would feel yucky. It’s too much exposure, too much light being shone on you. I get that.
Well…it’s about both. For you, you have always noticed stuff, so it’s just the commenting that is new. But for me now I know you notice, so it is noticing and commenting that is new. Commenting feels like too much exposure. You do get it. But noticing feels scary too. Like now I feel like I have to filter not just my thoughts but my movements. Ugh.
I am having some major anxiety today. After yesterday’s season– which I will post about eventually– I took a long walk and did some processing and sorting. Then I emailed Bea. It’s been 24 hours, and she still hasn’t responded. I’ve kept busy– grocery shopping. Swimming, 2 yoga classes, cleaning. Playing with Kat. But I’m almost topped out for anxiety and vulnerability and I’m so close to closing off and saying screw it, I don’t need her. Why oh why hasn’t she responded?
Well. I did it. I send Bea an email, stating I was worried about the lack of response to Thursday’s email. Now it’s more waiting, and more anxiety. Ugh.
What follows is the email conversation between Bea and I regarding the flashbacks of my childhood sexual abuse. These are two instances among many. As far as I can remember, the abuse started when I was around 5 or 6, and ended when I was around 9 or 10. Because my memory is extremely hazy, and I have so many blank spots, I can’t be exactly sure when it started or ended. I debated about sharing this here, and decided that in the end, I want a true account of sexual abuse, and not a sugar coated one. Some may not consider the details below graphic. I would consider them to be graphic. If you are a fellow sexual abuse survivor, please read cautiously, as I am describing 2 separate instances of my abuse. I hope that if you choose to read this post, it gives you understanding of what a sexually abused child goes through, and why an adult still struggles on a day to day basis. It is often harder to share these types of details with our loved ones, than it is with strangers, or therapists, or people on message board support groups. I hope that by sharing the truth of what survivors go through, I can bring awareness to someone’s corner of the world.
I’m frusterated and mad at myself for not being able to talk about this on Monday. I wanted to talk, but I couldn’t. I think I would rather email my memories. I don’t really want to have to sit there and watch you read them. I have 2. Well, I have more than 2, but just 2 that I want to try to talk about. They aren’t full memories, so I don’t have a story to tell you. They are just peices, I guess just like the puzzle peices you were talking about. It feels wrong somehow, not having a whole story to tell… Like I should have the beginning, what happened earlier that day, what the context is, where other people were….but I don’t, I just don’t. You asked me if I could tell it from the end, and I said I didn’t think so. I feel like there isn’t an ending, I don’t know. But these are the “flashbacks” I was dealing with this weekend. I still couldn’t use the words for the “things”. I think you are right. I don’t want to think of those words in relation to childhood. I don’t know. The words just seem too big, too scary, too much. Maybe too real. So you are going to end up having to fill in the blanks anyway. I’m sorry. I still want to try to talk about it. It might only be a few sentences on a page, but they are extremely overwhelming. I told you before I wasn’t scared when I was a kid. That’s true. I don’t remember feeling scared. But now, the scared feeling is very big. I don’t know if it’s because it seems more horrible now that I’m actually (I don’t know what to call it) “looking” at the memories and not doing everything I can to block them out? Or if it’s what you were saying about needing to process something a little bit to be able to have the feelings? Or if it’s because I can’t help but think of it in relation to my own child, and see it as a mother and it horrifies me? Or a combination? And I’m embarrassed. Even though I believe you won’t be judging me, even though you have never made me feel embarrassed over anything. I’m still embarrassed. So, ok. Here’s my ugly stuff
They may just be two “pieces,” but what scary, confusing pieces for a little girl who feels she is with a trusted “friend.” This little girl had to learn to dissociate so that she could keep the idea of this person as a “friend” because the reality of what he was doing was really so terrible that she couldn’t reconcile both views of him (friend and abuser) at the same time. This is how she protected herself.
Was it really that bad? I tell myself it wasn’t– that I shouldn’t be so overwhelmed and confused. You think I was already dissociating before the boyfriend? I was thinking that came from that relationship. I guess that would explain all the blank spots in my memory? And why I can and always have been able to compartmentalize everything– just block out what I don’t want to think about or kmow or feel? I feel like crying– I won’t becasue I don’t cry over big things– I feel very sad. I don’t really even know why. I’m just sad.
I’m sure you started dissociating as a little girl. I have something great to read to you about this tomorrow that will help you understand it all better.
As I said before, you learned to dissociate while this was happening as a protective defense. Truthfully, it really was horrifying and scary–so much so that you had to alter your sense of reality to deal with it.
I’m scared. I feel like it’s going to be important to talk about these things. But even writing them out, I could feel,the same scared I was feeling in your office on Momday– when you told me I looked scared. You said I had to feel the feelings to process these memories. I’m afraid of the feelings. Really afraid. Not so scared that I don’t want to try to deal with this. But scared.
I think every little step brings fresh fear–that’s why we have to let the trauma out little by little, process it, and move on. I think it will get easier as you realize that as you “get used” to the fear it begins to go away. Think about the first thing you talked about, with the boyfriend. There was much fear brought up by that. Does it seem a little less scary when you have that memory now? When you write about it I don’t sense the same level of intensity.
I remember him wanting me to put it in my mouth, to kiss it. Like a Popsicle, he said. I thought it was weird, maybe gross but I did it anyway. I went along with the idea, I didn’t argue, and it’s not like I was threatened or even forced into anything. I just said okay. I don’t really remember the actual “act”of it…it’s just a flash, a picture, a feeling , it’s quick, so I know what I did and I can feel the confusion and…apprehension? I don’t know. I can feel gagging, like I was choking. And then I do remember that there was something more, liquidy and gross warm in my mouth and I thought maybe he had peed in my mouth and I really gagged and I’m trying to move away and get it out of my mouth but he’s holding my head and I can’t move. I just can’t move. then it’s over and he’s my friend again. And he got me the trash can so I could spit the yucky stuff out, and was rubbing my back while I spit up telling me I was okay and then got me a glass of water, and then it really was okay again.
Do you see the total parallel to the scene with the abusive boyfriend? The acting normal afterward, getting you soup? I think you wrote that in an email–if so, go back and read it. The parallel is unmistakeable.
I thought that, when I was writing this. I had a flashback to that other memory. I didn’t write that one to you– I actually spoke it, face to face. 🙂 It was the end of the terrible memory. I do have it written out, I had written it out just in case I couldn’t tell it.
You are proud of having spoken about that!
They both always acted normal later. Well, as much as I remember anyway, they always acted normal. I think I kind of thought it was normal. I don’t know.
They needed it to be normal, both to control you and make it “okay” in at least part of their own minds.
I’m in my bedroom with him, on my rug. I think we had been playing with my barbies. I’m not sure though. But I remember he was touching me– down there,not just on the outside–I thought it was his fingers that were there, but then it seemed like his hands were by my face so I was confused. This is the only time I remember pain. And I remember staring at my barbie doll that was on the rug. And later, there was some blood in my underwear. So I hid them under the bed because I didn’t want to be in trouble.
So scary! So confusing! Now you see why dissociation is such an important defense–you needed it then, or how would you have coped?
I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like this was so big, so awful. Other times I feel like none of it was that bad. And really, there were a lot of times where he just wanted to touch me or kiss me there and that didn’t hurt. It was weird, or even felt good. I’m so tempted to delete that sentence. But I also think you should know that. Because that is where a lot of my guilt is from. Sometimes, I liked it. Do you see now why I am bad?
It was part of his strategy to keep you involved. Some of it had to pleasant so you would agree to go along with what he really wanted to do. He was desensitizing you and making it seem okay.
Do you have any memories of him telling you not to tell, and if so, did he threaten you at all, or was it more of the “our secret” kind of thing? I may have already asked you this.
It was just a secret. A secret “game”. I don’t think he ever said not to tell, or threatened me. That’s what I mean. I was never threatened or forced, I just always agreed.
And he was very skillful at keeping you engaged and making some of it pleasant and fun.
It sucks that I can’t trust my memory. I can’t say for sure if something did or didn’t happen because I don’t remember. I can’t give a timeline, or when things happened, because I don’t kmow. I never thought about these things, or how many blank spaces I have in my mind from childhood, or the fact that I have to try to relate a memory– even a normal everyday memory– to a grade and them try to think of how old I was. It’s so screwed up.
It will make sense when I read you something from an article tomorrow
So that’s it. Could you email me back just to remind me you don’t think I’m this terrible person? Because on one hand, while I know that’s not what you think and I’m almost relieved to be able to not be alone with this anymore, on the other, I am nervous and scared and feeling a little freaked out to be letting someone else into my head this much.
I’m so glad you don’t have to be alone with this anymore! I’m sure it doesn’t feel very “safe” for the little girl to tell, but it is long over and time to heal! Nothing about this makes you a terrible person. This was so much to keep inside for all these years:(
Thank you for understanding this. Half of me is glad it is out, the other half feels like this was a terrible mistake and I should take it back quickly. I feel like a bad person, like there is something deeply wrong with me.
The article speaks to that as well.
We can start with the article if you like, and then see what you are comfortable with after that. I’ll see you tomorrow!
I struggle to write to Bea. Each time I sit down to write my flashbacks to her, something stops me. I can’t put them I to words. The dishes need to be done. I have a migraine. Kat needs something. I can’t focus.
Flashbacks are a hard thing to describe. In Bea’s own words “Flashbacks can be physical sensations, images, brief snippets. Trauma memories are stored differently than regular memories, so they don’t have beginnings, middles, and ends. They’re just as you describe, and to varying degrees people do keep their awareness of the present while experiencing them. This is what I was explaining about therapy helping to process these pieces that aren’t integrated as normal memories. Over time we create a coherent narrative about what happened–and then they are just memories.” Flashbacks aren’t like they are described in books, are shown in movies. Or, at least, they aren’t for me, I wouldn’t have called them flashbacks. I didn’t know what they were, I thought of them as really alive memories. Then Bea told me I was describing a flashback. It’s just a picture in my head, a quick flash. I know it’s now, not then, but I can literally FEEL THE FEELING THAT GOES WITH THAT PICTURE AS IF IT WERE HAPPENING NOW and it’s the same feeling I experienced at the time the memory originally happened. Sometimes, I can feel a body sensation, too, if there is something significant to go along with it. This is all very quick, and confusing for me. I think in words. I write novels in my head. I made up stories to help myself escape for years. I am a master with words. And yet, these quick flashbacks are next to impossible to put into words.
I get up at 4:30am on Tuesday. By 9:00am I have 2 sentences of one flashback written. 2 sentences. I am so frusterated. Why is this so hard? To make matters even worse, it turns out I can’t write the sex words, so Bea is going to have to play a fill in the blank type guessing game after all. By 9:00pm Tuesday, I have a few more sentences written. By 9:00am Wednesday, I have both flashbacks written out. They are each only a few sentences on a page.
I look at that and wonder, how can something so overwhelming, so terrible, disgusting, awful, scary, wrong only take up a few sentences on a page? How is that possible?
Once it’s all written out, I paste it into an email. I squeeze my eyes shut, and wonder if Bea is going to think I am a bad person after she knows the truth about me. I tell myself it will be fine. I hit send.