A CLEAR MESSAGE?

I attended an orientation yesterday afternoon for people who think they may be interested in becoming an advocate for victims of sexual assault. This is something I’ve contemplated off and on since my attack, and when I was recently telling my story, it was suggested that, perhaps, the time had come to think more seriously about it. At the time, my first response was “I’m not ready yet.” The more I thought about it though, the more the idea grew on me.

First up, I had to google sexual assault advocacy to find out what, if anything, was even available. I immediately found an organization that sounded really good. The more I read, the better it sounded. Then I realized they were located in New Jersey. As good as they seemed, I figure that’s a bit too far away to do me any good. So it was back to google with San Diego added to my search. I finally got to where I needed to be, which in this area is CCS, Center for Community Solutions.  The mission of CCS is “to end relationship and sexual violence by being a catalyst for caring communities and social justice.”  And its vision is “for all people to live full, free, expressive and empowered loves in a safe, healthy, vibrant and peaceful community.”

“CCS was first established in 1969 as the Center for Women’s Studies and Services(CWSS), a grassroots feminist organization that helped women overcome obstacles preventing them from achieving independence, economic stability and growth, and self-sufficiency.  Over the years, in response to community needs, CWWS narrowed its focus to address three core issues—relationship violence, sexual assault and the prevention of both.  In the mid 1990s, CWSS adopted a new name, Center for Community Solutions, to acknowledge that the elimination of sexual assault and relationship violence will occur only if everyone in the community becomes a part of the solution.”  This all sounded good and once I was able to read about all the volunteer opportunities, I thought, “Yes, now is the right time. It has been a little over four years and I think I’d be able to use my experience to help others in a similar situation.”

The times I had to choose from were 3-4:30p or 5-6:30p at their Escondido office.  From where I live, neither of these was a great option, mainly because of traffic.  I decided on the earlier time (less traffic getting there) and planned on dinner at Fatburger, which would be a huge treat since it is the only one left in this area and I particularly love their milkshakes!  I thought by the time I finished with dinner that traffic would have let up.  Ha!

While there are many volunteer opportunities with CCS, the only one I was/am interested in is SART, Sexual Assault Response Team.  “SART volunteers provide immediate, in-person support for sexual assault victims during the forensic exam process.  All SART volunteers must complete a 60-hour Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Training and a Live Scan criminal background.  A twelve-month commitment of 4 six-hour shifts per month is required.”  Again, all this sounded fine with me, so the next step was to attend the orientation, which I did yesterday.

All day yesterday I had a stomach ache.  I attributed it nerves more than anything else.  The actual orientation was no big deal, much to my relief.  After listening to all the available positions for volunteers, I realized a few things:  first of all, they really do not need help in my area of town, and because one must be a 20-minute (ideally, but no more than 30 minutes) commute away, even if I wanted to help out in North or East County, I really cannot; secondly, my experience of being sexually assaulted really isn’t an asset in their minds; and lastly, the way the system currently operates there does not seem to even be a place for me.  What I think is important, what would have been incredibly helpful to me, is an advocate who is there every step of the process…from the forensic exam all the way through the court and sentencing phase, someone who will go with the victim to each and every court date, who can help explain what is going on and what is likely to happen, someone who has actually been through it and knows firsthand, not just in theory.   This type of volunteer position does not exist, at least not at CSS.

When I got home last night after my yummy dinner and one hour of traffic, I still had a stomach ache.  (I thought it might have been the giant milkshake that was so thick I had to eat it with a spoon.)  J and I talked about it for a long time and at the end my questions were, “What am I supposed to be doing to help other women who have been sexually assaulted?  Why did I go through it if not to help others?  How can I make a difference if no one wants my help?”  J wisely said that the answer would come to me, maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week, but it will come.  So I went to sleep, not feeling that great about it, but not as upset as I had been.  This morning, though, I woke up with a knot in the right side of my upper back.  This is a place that I’ve never had an issue with before.  As soon as I felt it, I knew.  You cannot get a much clearer message than that.  I know, with certainty, that CCS, though a wonderful agency, doing important work, is not for me and I am not for them.  I also now understand, clearly, that as ready as I’d like to be, my body has other ideas.  The body really does keep the score and it was/is telling me loud and clear that now is not the time.

To be completely honest here, I feel like I’ve failed.  I thought I was ready.  I told everyone in my (amazing!) women’s group and my Thursday morning beach yoga class (also pretty amazing, I might add) what I was doing and every single woman was so supportive and so encouraging, and now I have to go back and tell them all that it isn’t the right time yet and I was not received with the open arms I kind of thought I would be welcomed with.  So for now I will continue my journey and helping process by writing on this site and will keep my ears open for the kind of opportunity I am seeking.

Advertisements

FOUR YEARS AND A DAY

Today is the 4th anniversary of the day my life changed forever.  But, really, every single day is an opportunity for our lives to be changed forever.  It’s not so much the events of our lives that determine what happens next, but, rather, it is what we do with those events, how we respond to them.  And how we ultimately deal with and grow from them.  While it would have been far easier to not actually deal with what happened to me on 24 September 2011, for me at least, this was not even a remote option.

 

I wrote the above paragraph on Wednesday, which was actually the day before the anniversary.  It was as far as I got because I thought I should wait and see how the day unfolded.  Let’s just say it rather sucked.  The following is what I wrote in my journal yesterday afternoon:

I thought, mistakenly as it turned out, that the discomfort and sadness I felt at the end of last week and into this week, up to today, which I attributed to the 4th anniversary of my sexual assault, might be all I had to deal with this 24th of September.  No such luck.  The good news, I suppose, is no nightmares/flashbacks have come up today.  Well, that’s not quite accurate.  Every time I close my eyes I feel DCD’s weight on me.  You better believe I snap them open as soon as I can.  I was okay in savasana this morning, I think because I was mentally chanting I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you.  My neck and back are killing me.  This is all muscle memory.  There is no physical reason that I should be having pain in either place today.  I guess this whole week has been a build up to today.  I am ever hopeful that tomorrow I will awaken feeling back to my normal self.  Right now, though, I have splitting headache.  ///J was so loving and patient with me this morning.  When I got home from beach yoga, I was pretty much covered with sand, which meant I had to shower.  After my shower, I laid down on the bed and just stared into space.  He came and laid behind me and simply held me, not saying anything.  Eventually, I was able to talk about what I was feeling.  The first thing I said was, “I just wish he {he being DCD} knew the effect of what he did to me, and how it continues to impact my life.”  Not that it would make a difference if he did know, but maybe, just maybe, it would in a tiny way.  I cannot imagine that he won’t do it again once he gets out of prison, and because he must register for the rest of his life as a sexual predator/offender, he’s pretty much screwed.

 

At the end of each day, for the last 2+ years, before I go to bed, I write down 5 things I am grateful for.  Yesterday all I managed to write was, ” I am grateful I made it through.”

And by the way, I do feel a lot better today.

 

WARRIOR POSE

I just finished reading, (yes, I actually had to read it as it is not available on audio), this book, and it is amazing.  AMAZING!  It is Brad Willis AKA Brava Ram’s autobiography, the story of his life as a war correspondent, how a devastating injury changed his life and the unbelievable power of the mind to heal.

DSCN3744

Warrior Pose is Indiana Jones merged with Gautama Buddha…a miraculous affirmation of the power of self-healing, a war story, a love story and a spiritual journey of epic proportion.  It is your story, my story, the human story.”  ~Dr. Emmett Miller, Pioneer of Mind-Body Medicine

Also from the book jacket:

“From covering the front lines of the Gulf War to investigating Colombian drug lords to living with freedom fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan, war correspondent Brad Willis was accustomed to risk.  But when mortal danger came, it was from an unexpected. direction.

At the pinnacle of his career, a broken back and failed surgery left Willis permanently disabled and condemned to a life in a body brace.  Then came a diagnosis of terminal, stage IV throat cancer.

At his 50th birthday party, friends gathered around Willis, who was crippled, almost mute, depressed, strung out on narcotic medications, and dying.  Halfway through the celebration Willis realized the party’s true purpose–his friends were there to say goodbye.

Everyone knew Willis was on his way out…everyone except his 2-year-old son, who urged, “Get up, Daddy!”

His son’s words ringing in his ears, Willis chose to abandon Western medicine and embrace the most esoteric practices of Yoga to heal his body, mind and soul–ridding himself of cancer and fully restoring his back.  As a symbol of his journey, he took the spiritual name Bhava Ram, which stands for “Living From The Heart.”

Warrior Pose is an adventure chronicling some of the most momentous events of our time through a journalist’s eyes, an unforgettable story about the power of love between a father and son, and a transformational journey of self-healing, inner peace and wholeness.”

Candace Pert, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, RAPID Laboratories, Inc; author of Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d and Molecules of Emotion: The Scientific Basis Behind Mind-Body Medicine had this to say about the book:

“Remarkable recoveries and miraculous healing of incurable cancers and other terminal disease have been the topic of many recent books.  Bhava, born Brad Willis, has written the most exciting, original and vividly relevant book yet on this topic.  Its concise, hard-hitting prose makes a page turner about the shockingly grim world behind the nightly news as revealed to a top television reporter.  Ram ignores his progressive physical collapse, stuffing his feelings and internal life to focus entirely on his macho career.  Using his fierce will to survive and strong intellect to question medical authority, Bhava draws inspiration from the miracle of his son Morgan, halts his self-sabotaging habits, chooses ‘right living,’ and heals himself via a selfless emotional life dedicated to teaching and healing others.”

I have said before that yoga was instrumental in my healing process, that it definitely contributed to saving my life during my healing process from my sexual assault, and it was and it did.  I am in awe of just how dedicated and determined Brad Willis was to save his own life and transform himself into Bhava Ram.  I highly recommend this book.

 

IT’S NOT A STRAIGHT LINE

As much as I’d like it to be, as much as I’ve tried to make it be, it simply is not a straight line.    In my mind it goes something like this — you get attacked, you do whatever it takes to make sure your attacker is prosecuted and sent to prison, you go to therapy, and you are healed.  But what happens when you get attacked, you do everything you can to make sure your attacker is prosecuted and sent to prison, you go to therapy, and you aren’t quite healed?  If you are me, apparently, you beat yourself up for not being where you feel like you should (there I go, shoulding myself) be at this point.  I have been accused in the past of being too hard on myself, for holding myself to some impossible standard or ideal that pretty much no one could ever attain, and when I, of course, fail to achieve it, I then beat myself up.  This is a vicious cycle and it needs to stop.  The question is how to do I do this, how do I get off this merry-go-round?

I am not sure why I have such a hard time acknowledging and being proud of myself for how incredibly far I have already come.  I can easily say that I understand this to be true on some level, but I’m not sure I truly understand that to be the case.  I think I want it to be true, because otherwise all the work I’ve done, and it is considerable, would seem to be for nothing, and that might just put me over the edge.  Some days I do see the progress I’ve made and I feel good about it.  Other days, though, the most innocuous comment sends me off the deep end.  And, worst of all, sometimes it is me who makes that comment.  Like today.

I was accused (and rightly so) of being mean to myself.  At first I did not see it this way.  I was being sarcastic about what I was saying about myself.  I used to be a very sarcastic person (pre-Hoffman), but these days I rarely use sarcasm because I now understand that sarcasm is just thinly veiled anger.  And I make an effort to be kind, not condemning to others.  I somehow forget to include myself in that effort.  (How’s that for irony?)  Then it was pointed out to me that perhaps it is myself that I am angry at, for not being what I call ‘done with my healing.’  This, of course, starts me on the hamster wheel yet again.

All of this happened today in my energy healing session with Marsha Bliss.  I am still in physical pain, and though not a lot, it is still enough to make me want to do something to get rid of it.  While Marsha was working on me and we were talking about my post a week ago about my ‘new normal’, as in, is the way my life is now my new normal?  Marsha made up an example of someone who has lost a limb, and after a period of time, is now skiing.  This person has not let the lack of a leg stop them from moving forward.  This has become the new normal for them.  Something about that conversation triggered an incredible sadness in me and the tears to go with it.  Here’s the thing – when we see someone, (from the outside, because, really, unless you’ve been there, you can NEVER know what goes on behind the scenes, what goes on inside of them,) who has triumphed after a tragedy and we think, wow, this person is happy and has moved on and bla, bla, bla.  That’s just it, we simply do not know what happens when they go home at night, if they are crying themselves to sleep or are one step away from suicide or really are doing okay, in spite of it all.  We just don’t know.

 

I wrote the above paragraphs last night, and while I have no idea if they somehow influenced my dreams, I did have really weird dreams and woke up this morning feeling rather blue.  Then when I was going through my emails, I came upon the following quote, which gives me enormous hope:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”   ~Benjamin Franklin

I’ve been nothing if not persistent in my desire and actions to move through this traumatic event.  And something else Marsha said yesterday has been running around in my head, and that is that we are never done with whatever it is we are doing in our lives.  If we’re done, we’re dead.  I get this, I really do.  I understand that once we get through, put behind us or in some other way move on from a situation, traumatic or otherwise, something else is bound to come up.  We’ve all heard the adage that God, Life, the Universe (whatever word you want to use) never gives us more than we can handle.   I believe this.  I even have it posted above my desk (don’t always remember to look up to read it, but it’s there.)  And as much as I subscribe to this belief, I always just as often forget about it.  I think what all this means to me is I just have a lot more stuff to deal with, and not all of it, maybe even none of it, has anything directly to do with my attack.  I definitely attribute, if not all, most of what I am dealing with these days to that one event, and that would be because so much of it seems to stem from it.  Physically, I have not been the same since, so it makes sense that it would be the reason.  And, really, it probably is.  At the same time, what this also means is there is still unresolved issues from my past that are arising now because I am finally at a place in my evolution that I am able to deal with them.  That is both comforting and annoying.   So, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald from “The Great Gatsby,” I beat on, boat against the current, born back ceaselessly in the past.

 

 

A FINE LINE

I started writing this post last night on my phone.  I only wrote a portion of it because it is a bit of a pain doing it that way.  I need to be able to see the entirety of what I’ve written and that just isn’t possible on a tiny screen.  Reading over what I wrote, though, I think I’ll go in a different direction.  I was going to eventually tie what I wrote last night into what I really want to say, and it would have been a far longer, more complicated essay, so, I’ll leave that for another day.

What I really want to say today is there is a very fine line between teasing and being rude and disrespectful.  I grew up being teased, and though I am not always crazy about it now, I do understand it, and it is familiar.  And, to a point, I am truly okay with it.  However, it simply does not work for me in the ways it used to.  Was it my attack that has made me more sensitive to this?  Is it evolving and changing to a kinder, more loving person in general?  Or is it not being willing to put up with any crap and rudeness of any kind anymore?  It’s probably a combination of all of those things.  And, really, it doesn’t matter what the reason…if I perceive it as something I do not want in my life, I have every right to feel the way that I do, and to do whatever I need to so that it stops.

At the risk of being called overly sensitive and/or ridiculous, I had an incident occur on the 4th of July that upset me.  A LOT.  A little background…I drive an old car.  Her name is Grazelda.  She is a ’96 Volkswagen Golf, the Harlequin edition, which is a multi-colored car.  It is one of the rarest Volkswagens ever made. There are only 70 of my version.  Most people love my car and think it is really cool.  Okay, so she is faded and has some rust on her hatchback.  So what?  The thing is, you do not have to like my car, and, frankly, I don’t give a damn whether you do or not.  What I have an issue with is you telling me that I drive a piece of shit car or that no one wants to be seen riding in it, etc.  Yes, these comments and others like this were made to me on Friday.  The sad thing is they were made by someone I’ve known since I was 18 years old (36 freaking years!) and not for the first time.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I have two family members that jumped on the let’s-bash-Tamerie’s-car bandwagon.  The seem to think it is cute.  I do not.  Not even a little bit.  And these relatives are not young teenagers or even twenty-somethings; no, they are in their sixties!  Of course, this behavior is nothing new and something I have put up with for as long as I can remember.  I do know they care about me and are just teasing me, and in spite of that, and in spite of my asking that they not do it, they continue to do so.  It makes me not want to go to family functions.

Am I being a big, fat baby about this?  I don’t think so, and even if I am, their behavior lands on me as disrespect.  And that I should not have to tolerate, especially from people in my family.  As for my friend from college, that’s an entirely different story.  And why, would someone please explain to me, are there people who think it’s okay to give me their opinion about my car, especially when it has happened numerous other times, and I have made clear that I do not appreciate nor want to be subjected to it?  To me, this is extremely rude and so uncalled for.   It has been suggested that this is his way of letting me know that he likes me.  Really?  Really?  Grow up.

I have always been a person who stands up for myself.  I have never cared if others like me or not, nor have I cared what they think about me.  If you don’t like me, okay.  I see it as your loss more than anything else.  I would never tell anyone, ANYONE, the things that certain friends and family members feel they have the right to say.  I learned a long time ago that words can never be taken back.  Oh sure, you can apologize for saying something hurtful or mean or down right cruel, BUT you can never take it back.  It can’t be unheard.  Because of this, I am very careful what I say to others, and even more so if I am angry or upset.  I am not sure why others are not as careful.  It seems like such an easy and kind thing to do.

HONORING AND LISTENING TO MY BODY

Finally, I had a good night’s sleep.  Because I have had a flold (since I had symptoms of both a cold and the flu, I decided it should be called a flold) and also had two weeks during which I had company staying with me, which meant I was staying up later than normal, when I would go to bed, I could not go to sleep.  Between coughing (is it possible to actually cough your lungs up?) and not getting to bed early enough, I would get a second wind.  When this happens I cannot go to sleep until very late.  My trick is to not look at the clock, even as I am lying there, not sleeping and though I do not know what time it is, I am still not sleeping. I, of course, still wake up early.  My ‘best’ sleep would happen between 5a and 7a.  I couldn’t work because I was weak and my back was killing me.  And my foot.  It was like my flold was in my back and my foot and in all my joints.  I couldn’t sit for very long, which meant I couldn’t really sew.  I tried to rest as much as possible.  That is also difficult when you have someone visiting.  Well, not so much visiting, as staying here while in San Diego going to doctor appointments.  The day Darlene was to arrive, I woke up sick.  I did not even realize I was sick until I coughed, and then I thought, “What?” and “Oh, crap.”  Of all the people who should NOT be around someone who is sick, it is someone who already has a compromised immune system.  Since there was no way to get ahold of her, I just had to await her arrival.   And since there was really no one else for her to stay with, she stayed with me, and I did my best not to breathe on her.  She was here for 3 nights and 4 days.  At the best of times I struggle with having someone in my house, though it is nothing personal.   Feeling as awful as I did, it was that much more difficult.  I did my best, though, and got through it.

I was still feeling terrible after a week and continued to take it easy.  I knew I was getting another visitor about a week after Darlene left and was hopeful I would be better by the time Kim arrived.  The week without house guests was no better as far as sleeping went.  I simply could not get to sleep.  One night, I thought I’d take a melatonin, and it did not really help.  Plus, it gave me weird, bad dreams.  So forget that.  The entire time I had been sick, I was, of course, NOT working out.  The first day, I did my planks and squats, but that was it.  No yoga, no walking, nothing.  Even going to the store was hard because my back hurt so much.  I decided I would just wait until I felt better before doing anything.

Kim arrived on Saturday night, and Sunday morning we did go to my regular beach yoga class.  I felt well enough, and I knew I was no longer contagious, so even if I coughed, no one was in danger of being infected.  Because I was feeling much better and because yoga had been a success on Sunday, I thought I’d go back to the gym Monday morning.  When my alarm went off at 5a, it was raining and I really did not fancy getting up in the cold rain and walking to the gym, so I went back to sleep.  I did manage to do my walk with my friend Mike yesterday morning.  We did 3 miles in 40 minutes.  Kim left last night and I thought I’d be good to go to the gym this morning.  Nope.  I was plenty well-rested, and like I said before, I actually like going to the gym; but clearly, there is something else going on in my body.  It just felt like I needed to stay in bed and pretend sleep instead of getting up and getting outside.

While I was still lying in bed I thought about what could be preventing me from doing what I say I want to be doing.  I don’t think it’s the dark.  I’m not afraid of it anymore, though I can’t say that I feel safe in it, not like I used to, before cockroach boy happened.  I don’t think that it’s because it’s cold out.  Okay, it’s not that cold (55 degrees) but it’s not that warm, either.  This morning I was awake and wanted to go, but I didn’t.  And I doubt I’ll go for a walk later in the morning because that’s just not what I do.  I’ll be working and not want to stop.  So what I decided is to simply honor my body.  As I am not 100% yet, why push it?  And because I have a real need to move my body, I just have to trust that when the time is right, I will be out there again.  My job is to not beat myself up because I need more time, and whether it is attack related, or just my body telling me to rest more, I need to listen to it.

AN UNEXPECTED TRIGGER

Recently, a friend of mine asked, on a scale of one to ten, ten being completely okay, where would I put my healing?  I said a ten.  Because, honestly, I do feel like I am all better.  But, really?  Can I, will I, ever be all better?  I have to believe this is the case, and I would say that it IS true for me now.

I went to see “Captain Phillips” on Sunday.  I even skipped my beloved beach yoga to go to the 10a showing.  By the way, it is a great movie and Tom Hanks did a wonderful job.  Imagine my surprise when the movie triggered in me flashbacks, of a sort.  Obviously, I was not kidnapped by pirates, but something in me definitely resonated with the story.  I can only guess it was the trauma they suffered from the ordeal.  When they were in the life saving craft and one of the pirates looked out the window and saw three American Naval War Ships, all I could think was, Wow, you should never piss off the Americans because they WILL hunt you down and do whatever is necessary to defend their citizens and property.  I also thought, why would they not just give up?  Could they not see there was no way they were going to get away, either with Captain Phillips or with what they had already done?  Why wouldn’t they just surrender?

This is what happened when my guardian angel was on his way to save me from cockroach boy.   Clearly, someone was coming, and even more clearly, there was no way he was going to be able to follow through with his intention to rape me.  Yet, he did not stop.  He did not even get off of me, he just continued with his ‘plan’.  It was not until my angel was leaning over and yelling in his face to get off of me that he finally, I’m sure reluctantly, got off and ran up the sidewalk to the street.  I know now that he was in some kind of zone, as were the pirates.  Watching it on the big screen, but seeing myself in a similar situation was rather upsetting.

The other part of the movie that really hit home for me was after he had been rescued and was on the American ship.  He was so obviously in shock, and I do understand that they were all just following protocol, but the way he was treated reminded me of how the EMTs treated me.  I never mentioned this before because I never wrote about it at the time.  It has never left me, though.  You have to remember I was in a lot of physical pain after my attack, as I had been slammed to the cement and then fought with my attacker for however long.  My back hurt, I had many abrasions and cuts, and I was in shock.  Just as in the movie, they wanted me to sit down.  I didn’t want to because my back hurt and it was more painful to sit down.  Basically, they ‘forced’ me to.  I was told they wanted to take my blood pressure and other vital signs.  I told them that whether I was sitting or standing, whatever reading they got was going to be off the charts and not what my normal blood pressure would be.  I felt like no one was listening to me and it did not feel good.  In the movie, the ship’s doctor said, “I need you to sit down.”  It was just the way she said it that brought back my memory of the paramedics and how they responded to me.

It seems ironic to me that the most innocent of things can now trigger in me the very thing I worked so hard to get through.  I can understand how seeing a movie about rape or some other kind of physical assault would be hard, if not impossible, to watch.  (Actually, I do not think I could even see that type of movie now.)  I guess that there are some things that will be with me always.  I do hope in time this type of thing happens less and less.  The truth is the me that was attacked that day no longer exists.   You know the adage, ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’   Well, cockroach boy did not kill me and I AM much stronger.