Listening to Myself

One day, I might actually develop this skill of ‘listening to myself’; listening to what I need and what I want, listening to what my body needs and my body wants.  Right now, at the start of writing this, I’m supposed to be on public transport somewhere, on my way to therapy and well, let’s just say that I’m really, really not.

From the moment I woke up this morning, I knew on some level that I wasn’t making it outside today.  I kept light-heartedly saying things like ‘I’m just not ready for the outside world yet!’, thinking that maybe I just needed more coffee, more time to recover from nightmares, more time to wake up properly before leaving.  But it was more than that, it was much more than that and I ignored everything that I was telling myself.

The thing is, I have a distinct habit of avoiding therapy.  It’s hard work, especially as at the moment I’m in Stage Two of trauma therapy, which for those of you that don’t know, is when you go over the flashbacks and the memories and the trauma; where you release that pain and you ‘get it out’ so as to be able to process the memories, reintegrate them into a part of the brain where they’ll become less raw, less painful.  But today wasn’t just my normal habit of avoiding therapy, avoiding exposing myself to that pain, today was much more than that, but I ignored everything I was feeling.

Frustratingly, I actually wanted to go outside today.  Well, I’m never exactly over-eager at the prospect of therapy, but I am really trying and I was so determined today.  I want to evict Dom from my head and I know I need help doing that.  I was also supposed to meet up with a friend today and I really was looking forward to spending time with her and I can’t even bring myself to do that.  And that’s not even bringing into focus all of the little things I needed to do today like food shopping or other shopping or going to the Post Office etc.

I just really hate myself so much, I really needed to be able to get outside today and I just couldn’t do it.  I ignored everything I was feeling and tried to force myself to do it anyway.  I ended up having a huge panic attack when I got anywhere close to the door and actually leaving, a panic attack that could have been avoided if I’d just listened to myself and what I needed today.

I know why today’s especially so bad.  I usually have nightmares, that’s a given part of my life (at least for the moment), but they usually centre around my abusive relationships and incest, it’s not as often that I get nightmares about the actual trafficking (I guess my brain’s willing to limit at least some of the crap it puts me through – thanks brain) or at least I tend not to remember them quite as clearly when I wake up.

Today I did remember, and clearly and I know that’s exactly why I can’t face going outside today.  When you’ve spent the entire night remembering the multiple rapes and pains and traumas that a multitude of men have put you through, you don’t feel particularly inclined to be outside around men.  I mean, granted, I never feel safe around men; I know too much about the violence and the abuse that all of them are capable of to ever feel safe around men, but on days like today I just can’t face it.

After a while, their faces blur, their names long forgotten (if you ever knew them), they can be literally anyone.  Any man you pass on the street can be a former ‘client’, a john and if not one of yours, then probably someone else’s.  And that’s a fucking terrifying thought.  Knowing that there’s a chance that any man you walk past on the street is one of your rapists, or has at least jacked off to watching one of your rapes and that you’d never actually know because you can’t remember their faces.

I know that this is partially paranoia and C-PTSD, but it doesn’t change how terrified I am to even think of leaving and going outside, at least for today.  And the thing is, whilst it may well at least partially be mental health, it is something that’s happened before.  I’ve been stopped on the tram, asked if it’s me (using my old porn name), been told that he loves all my work, especially my very early work (said with a wink – both of us knowing he was talking about child porn).  I wasn’t able to leave the flat properly without having huge panic attacks for a long time after.

I know part of this is my own fault; I know that I haven’t moved anywhere near far enough away so it’s always, always, always gonna be a fear, I’m always gonna be looking over my shoulder.  But the thing is, my entire life is here.  I’ve moved far enough away to not be anywhere near them, I deliberately don’t go into the city centre, I know that this isn’t an area that any of them come near, at all and never have.  But I’m still close enough for ‘clients’, who quite often travelled quite far, mostly because my family offered ‘services’ most other local places didn’t, to be around and it terrifies me.  But my entire life is here.  Before I left/escaped, I had a therapist I felt I could trust, I have friends that became my family, I had a sense of security and safety in those things.  Even just moving the distance that I did felt like too much of a step.

I know that, one day, I’m gonna end up moving further away, to a completely different area so I don’t have to feel like I need to be always looking over my shoulder (we’re just gonna ignore the fact that I was sold around the country so I’m familiar enough with a good chunk of the cities in the UK) but right now, there’s a lot here that gives me stability and security and logically I am far enough away to be safe (at least I have been for the last three and a half years).

I don’t even know where I’m going with this any more.  I just know I’m far too scared to go outside right now and I can’t bring myself to do it without panicking.

I am just so frustrated with myself, though and I know in theory it’s not my fault; that today’s just a day where I have to listen to myself and accept where I’m at, but I am still just so frustrated.

I feel the need to force myself to be productive whilst I’m inside, at least, to clean the flat or something, because heh, I still suck when it comes to taking care of myself and my sense of self-worth is still so wrapped up in achieving something and being productive.

Rad-Survivor.

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Finding My Healing Path

So much of me wants to take into account the advice of other exited womyn; to take heed of their words when they say we don’t need to remember everything, that we need to accept and acknowledge our pasts and our realities to the point where we can heal, but we don’t need to remember each and every moment of pain, trauma and torture.

But my brain seems far too reluctant to pay much attention to that; it seems intent on remembering each and every single little detail (though it could just be that after close to twenty years of rapes and trauma and abuse there’s just so much of it that I’m inevitably gonna end up having to process so much just to reach the point where I don’t have to remember it all.  I’m gonna end up, no matter what, remembering at least something or I won’t have anything to accept and acknowledge and heal from.) and no matter how much I try and ease the flow of flashbacks, they just don’t seem to stop.

Logically, I know that part of this is because once again I’m actively avoiding healing, I’m actively pushing away my memories and actively avoiding therapy and not really engaging with anything.  There’s one simple reason for this and that’s that I’m happy.

For the first time in my life, I actually know what happiness is.  I’m starting to actually understand concepts such as happiness, calmness, trust, safety and I don’t wanna mess with that.

My trauma’s become this big, looming hornets nest and frankly, I don’t wanna poke it.  And why would I?  I’m experiencing positive things for the first time in my life and I have the option to welcome pain and trauma back into my life (they might be diminished as they’re based on memories, but it’s still pain and it’s still trauma), I don’t only have the option, but it is something that I’m inevitably going to have to do and that terrifies me; I guess you can understand my reluctance?

Despite all of this, despite my reluctance, I know damn well that I have to do it.  I might not exactly be old, but I’ve lived with trauma long enough to know that the more I ignore it, the more that it’s gonna come back and bite me in the arse.  Dissociation and distancing has served me well, it’s kept me alive this long, but there’s gotta be a point where I let go of those coping mechanisms and actually try and heal.

I sometimes really, really, really hate being smart enough to understand the healing process and understand the way that trauma works.  I wish I could just enjoy this happiness, blissfully unaware, but I do know that the longer I avoid engaging with the healing process, the worse the consequences are gonna be.  There really is only so long you can ignore trauma before it comes and bites you in the arse again.

And so, once again, reluctantly, I’m making a commitment to all this healing malarkey.

I had a realisation, yesterday, realised exactly where the starting point for me was.  The frustrating thing?  This is the same realisation I had about three years ago; I was right then and I’m still right now.  I know myself well enough to know what it is that I need and how to reach it and I did know the same three years ago.  I on some level knew that there was a specific starting point for my healing and whilst other aspects of my trauma might come up in the process (and has done) that this is where I need to focus the work I do, first.

So, this starting point.  I think it’s with my ex, which I hate, because I’m still utterly fucking terrified of him, but I do think it’s where my healing work needs to start.

You see, the thing is, despite this blog, despite the way I write here and elsewhere, I haven’t even remotely accepted my trauma as trauma.  If I was to write this blog and spend every other post going ‘nope, it’s not real, I’m just crazy, of course that wasn’t rape, la, la, la, la, la’ my voice would be silenced almost instantly.  I know how much people cling onto their token exited womyn and I know that if a good chunk of those people found out their token was just a bit… crazy, then they’d be gone in an instant.  (Newsflash – we’re all a little crazy because trauma is horrific, we just hide it because we know how quickly we’d be silenced if you got even the briefest glimpse of that 😉 )

It’s one of the most difficult parts of being a trauma survivor; accepting that our experiences actually count as trauma.  Even if we can get past the point where we insist that our memories aren’t real and we must just be making them up (which we usually reach because our brains unrelentingly throw flashbacks at us until we do reluctantly accept they’re real – which yes, painful) we still then have to try and acknowledge those experiences as being abusive and that’s where we get especially good at denial and loopholes and excuses and justifications.  You know all that victim-blaming nonsense?  Well trust me, no one is better at it than survivors ourselves.  We’re capable of finding excuses and loopholes and justifications in just about every single scenario – and of course, this only applies to ourselves.  I’ve never seen another survivor question her sisters, only her own experiences.  What’s true for our sisters simply isn’t true for ourselves.  We’d never, ever think of telling a survivor sister that her trauma doesn’t count, that her experiences weren’t abusive, but holy shit are we happy to tell ourselves that.

‘If I just hadn’t pissed him off.’

‘If I’d just kept the door locked.’

‘It can’t be rape, I was just a whore.’

‘It was just a job.’

‘Well, I mean, I was drunk.’

‘I kept going back…’

‘I chose to go into that relationship.’

‘I chose it.’

‘It wasn’t that bad anyway, that’s not real rape, that’s not real abuse.’

‘I’m not a survivor, that’s taking away from real survivor experiences, I’m a disgusting person for claiming their words.’

‘Real abusive relationships don’t get that violent that quickly.’

etc.

etc.

etc.

We’re full of excuses and loopholes and justifications; excuses and loopholes and justifications we’d never impose on anyone else.

The simple truth is, despite logically knowing what my experiences amount to, despite knowing how others view them, despite me telling any other survivor with a similar past that it’s abuse, despite the way I talk on this blog – I don’t believe I’m a survivor, not really.  I can’t really believe that my experiences are abuse.

And that’s where my sticking point is.  I can’t accept my trauma as trauma.  I can’t accept abuse as abuse, at least for myself.

Except maybe, maybe with my ex.  I’m too lazy to come up with a pseudonym so here I am naming and shaming.  Except maybe with Dom.  (This isn’t the ex I spoke about here – this is the one after, my last ex.)

Something with Dom leaves me catching myself, leaves me questioning my own words.  He’s the only one out of a multitude of perpetrators where I find myself thinking, well, maybe it was abuse?

I think it’s partly because I realised, on some level, at the time that he was abusive.

I remember about three years into the relationship, I ran a session at a Summer Camp around healthy relationships with a colleague.  I already knew all the ‘red flags’ for abusive relationships, heck, I helped prepare the session and write out the information.  But for some reason, on that day, looking at all the flipcharts with all the red flags up there, something clicked and I started really questioning what I’d be leaving that safe space for, what I’d be going home to.  I ended up talking with that colleague afterwards, gently questioning the possibility that I actually was in an abusive relationship.  I very quickly backed away from it; it was nowhere near safe enough for me to question it at the time, but the seed had been planted.  It was possibly there beforehand, but that’s the first clear moment I remember questioning if Dom was abusing me.

I tried to leave Dom a few times, it never really worked out that well for me, but I knew, I knew on some level I needed to get out.  I broke up with him at the end of November/start of December 2011 and I finally escaped him completely May 2012.  The sheer fact that I was able to leave him means that on some level, I really did know he was abusive, I really did know that he was hurting me, I really did know my life was at risk.

And that’s why, I think, he has to be my starting point when it comes to healing.  He’s the only one I can even slightly recognise as being abusive.  And that skill, that ability to recognise abuse for what it is is undoubtedly gonna be a key part of my healing.  How am I ever supposed to heal if I can’t even see my trauma as trauma?

I instinctively know that once I can very clearly see Dom as abusive; that I can have that fact clear and stable in my mind, that I can recognise those behaviours for what they are, then I’ll be able to apply that same thinking to the rest of my experiences, slowly but surely.

I just instinctively know that this is where I need to start.  Which I fucking hate because yes, I’m still fucking terrified of him.  I still wake up from nightmares, drenched in sweat, nightmares that feature nothing but him.  I’m still constantly terrified he’s going to track me down somehow, even if I know he’s engaged to someone else, even if I know he has no idea where I am.  Even the mere thought of him freezes me in fear.  I broke up with him four years ago around now; I’ve been completely safe from him since May 2012, but I’m still just so scared of him; still just as scared as if he was right here.

But I frustratingly know that this is what I need to do, that he has to be my starting point.  Gah.

I decided, yesterday, that I’m finally gonna read Why Does He Do That?  I have a feeling it’s gonna have some of the answers I need.

Rad Survivor.