WORK, WORK, WORK

After my sexual assault, though I did my best, I really did not work for over a year.  Because I had a traumatic brain injury and was unable to think properly, work was very difficult.  If someone wanted a square (read ‘normal’ here) pillow, I could do it because I’ve made about a million and don’t have to use my brain or think how to make it.  If there was any variation, though, I simply was unable to do it.  Or if I did, it took me forever.  Over time I healed and so did my brain.  Looking back it seems like the Universe was right there for me as far as the amount of work I had.  While dealing with my attack and getting my mind and body through the trauma, I still had work, but not a lot of it.  Enough to somewhat get by.  Now, that has changed drastically, which is actually a good thing.  No, it’s a very good thing.  To me, it means that I am truly healed.  Oh sure, I have my moments when I wonder if my brain really is working, but that could just be how I am, with or without a TBI. I literally have so much work these days that if I think about it too much, I feel like going to bed.  It’s hard to get much done while sleeping, though I’ve tried.

So, today, because I have a deadline for the job I am currently working on, and it is necessary to stick to these due dates as much as possible, and because I am a member, I am going to the San Diego Zoo to see the new giraffe baby.  Sometimes a mental health hour or two, if an entire day in not really feasible, is necessary.  Then I can come home and get back to work.

UPDATE – I did go to the zoo and even got to see the baby giraffe!  The picture isn’t so good because I was far away and it is thru a fence, but I still got to see him/her.  Because the baby was born yesterday afternoon around 1:30p, they are not yet sure of the gender. Even from a distance, it was still pretty cool to see.  At birth, the baby was 6’1″ tall and weighed 150 pounds!

Newborn giraffe at the San Diego Zoo, 20 May 2015

Newborn giraffe at the San Diego Zoo, 20 May 2015

THE HUNTING GROUND

Today is the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2015.  As unpleasant and difficult a subject that sexual assault is it is still vitally important that we, all of us, do what we can to change it.  I saw THE HUNTING GROUND on Sunday, and though I cried through most of it, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.  I only wish it was required for all high school students.  Sexual assault  is an epidemic that we have the power to stop, and we must stop it.

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“THE HUNTING GROUND

From the Academy Award-nominated filmmaking team behind “The Invisible War” comes a startling exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. “THE HUNTING GROUND” debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival and is being released by RADiUS and CNN Films. The film has captured attention across the country, and it has even made it to The Daily Show where Oscar-nominated filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick talk about the film’s impact and the scope of this problem.

This film is powerful. Through stories and statistics this film highlights the far-reaching scope of campus sexual assault. It adds names and faces to the many reports, trends and articles on this timely issue. Most importantly, it looks to engage audiences to take action to end sexual assault on college campuses.

NSVRC is partnering with The Hunting Ground this April to help spread the word. We know this film is going to be a conversation starter, and we want to play a role in building this conversation toward action. Stay tuned to hear more from us about how you can be involved.”

For more about the film and a list of screening locations, go to www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com.

I DID IT!!!

Yea!  Yippee!  Music cued and I’m doing the happy dance!  Okay, really, I’m just sitting at my desk typing, but in my mind, I’m dancing.  Yesterday was day 28 of my own personal yoga challenge, and I am happy to say I did it!  Of course, if it would not have rained all last night and this morning, I would have had 29 days in a row since I always do beach yoga on Sundays.  Unless, of course, it is raining.  When I realized beach yoga would not be happening today, my first thought was, ‘I’ll go to Bikram;’ my second thought was, ‘what’s wrong with you?  Your body needs a break.’  So, no yoga today.   My body truly does need a day of rest.

This what I learned from doing 28 straight days of yoga – it is exhausting.  For whatever reason, I definitely need a day off to let my body recover and recuperate from all I ask of it on a daily basis.  I also think if I did beach yoga 7 days a week, I’d probably be okay.  It was the Bikram that I found so difficult.  And not difficult in that it was hard, but, rather, it was the heat and sweating like a racehorse that did me in.  Don’t get me wrong, I kind of liked it, or I at least liked the challenge of doing it.  I did not manage to fall in love with it, though I will continue to do it, but only one day a week.  What I also learned is I need to walk.  It is like breathing to me, and when I am unable to do it, I feel like something vital is missing.  I simply did not have the time to do yoga every day and walk, too.  Maybe if I didn’t have to work… but I did, I do.

I was so busy getting through last month’s challenge that I never thought of anything to do for the month of March.  Like I mentioned a few posts back, January was cleansing and no sugar or alcohol; February was continuing to eat clean, and though I did drink alcohol a couple of times, for the most part I stuck with not drinking, and, of course, my yoga challenge.  I think for March I will take it easy and spend the month deciding on a challenge for April.  It seems a good thing for me to challenge myself.

Below are a few quotes about challenge that spoke to me.  Perhaps they will inspire something in you, as well:

“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.”   ~Summer Sanders

“Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us. Knowing the difference as you set bigger and bolder challenges for yourself is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.”   ~Brendon Burchard

“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.”   ~Joel Osteen

“Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge – whether it’s coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression. Researchers call this ‘post-traumatic growth.'”   ~Jane McGonigal

Of these four quotes, the last one explains, perhaps, the why I feel it necessary to challenge myself.  I guess in some ways I am still healing from my sexual assault, and this is my brain’s way of continuing my ‘post-traumatic growth.’  I like it!  It makes sense to me.  I think so much of what we do, of what I do, is more unconscious than not.  These small or not-so-small challenges I set for myself are a way of being more conscious in my life.  And if life truly is a journey, not a destination, as Ralph Waldo Emerson believed, then the way I see it, the more conscious we are, the better that journey will be.  So much, well, really, everything, changed in my life on 24 September 2011, which has turned out to not be a ‘bad’ thing.  I’ve just had to learn how to embrace what now is.  I will continue to challenge myself, and, hopefully, continue to grow.  And that, I believe, is a very good thing.

 

 

CRASH INTO ME

While trying to decide on which book to choose for today’s post, this one practically jumped off the bookshelf and into my hands.  CRASH INTO ME, by Liz Seccuro, was published in 2011, and that’s when I read it.  How I was even able to at that point, I’ll never know.  The only thing I can think is I was still in shock and my brain simply shielded me from the horror of what I was reading.  (It continues to amaze me how my body and brain protect me when I don’t even realize that’s what’s happening until much later.)

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From the inside dust jacket:  “Dear Elizabeth:  In October 1984 I harmed you.  I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake.

In September 2005, Liz Seccuro  received an apology letter from William Beebe, the man who had raped her twenty-one years earlier.  Liz was only seventeen when she was assaulted at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  Although she reacted as best she knew how–going straight to the hospital and taking her story to the college administration–the school’s deans discouraged her from going to the city police, and effectively denied her the kind of justice she sought.

For years, Liz struggled to put the trauma behind her and lead a normal, happy life.  The letter brought it all raging back.  Terrified that her rapist had tracked her down, Liz began an email correspondence with Beebe, and became determined to pursue the criminal investigation that should have happened years earlier.  She wanted justice, and the case seemed clear-cut: she had a confession from the man whose face had long haunted her.  But as the highly publicized investigation progressed, a narrative unspooled that was darker than she had believed: a gang rape with at least two other assailants and numerous onlookers, and a wall of silence among the fraternity brothers that persisted two decades later.

Liz Seccuro’s experience of campus assault and justice deferred is an all-too-common one, but it is a story we too rarely hear.  In CRASH INTO ME, Liz tells her story with candor, courage and hard-won hope.”

 

Truly, I do not know how I read this book, as I was right at the beginning of my ordeal.  It is easy now, though, for me to see and understand that as difficult as it was and as hard as I had to fight the justice system to make sure my attacker was convicted and sentenced to prison, I actually had it better than a lot of women who suffer similarly.  I had the support of family and friends.  I also had the maturity to not let anyone keep me from what I knew was right and necessary to do.  The ignorant comments from the police (Are you sure it wasn’t a robbery? I HAD NOTHING TO STEAL! and Are you sure you didn’t just trip? YEAH, I TRIPPED AND MY CLOTHES FELL OFF!) not withstanding, there was no way, NO FLIPPING WAY, I was letting this drop.  It was too late for me to be safe from him, but getting him off the streets and keeping other girls and/or women safe was my responsibility.

Although Liz Seccuro’s book is a difficult read, I do recommend it, especially if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted in any way.  It is also another example of how it is possible to go on and live a normal, happy life after surviving a horrendous event. In the end, getting the justice you deserve is its own reward.  It may not be easy, but is it ever worth it!

A QUESTION OF TRUST

I was recently asked, given what I went through because of my sexual assault, if I trust again.  I was pretty sure what I was being asked, but I replied, ‘You mean people in general?’  Hesitantly, he said, ‘Yes.’  I suspect he was asking if I trust men again.  What I told him was, ‘Yes.’  He thought maybe I look for ‘the lie’ when dealing with people.  No, no, I don’t think I do.  I’ve thought about it a lot in the last 10 days or so since the question was posed to me, and the longer I think about it, the more I know this is true.

I have definitely been accused in the past of being naive.  Seems hard to believe that someone  would think that of me just because I tended to expect the best from people, and tended to give people the benefit of the doubt.  As Anne Frank said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are good at heart.”  I do my best, though I am not always successful, to live my life this way.  The truth is, even immediately following my assault, when I was still in shock, afraid of most everyone, men, women and children, I still knew, deep inside, that in spite of what had happened to me, most people were not bad.  And just as I really hated living on Coronado for a long time after 24 September 2011, I also knew that it wasn’t the island that had done something to me.  It was one person; well, and the entire process did not help, but it was never Coronado that hurt me.  Didn’t make it any easier to live there though, until I got through it.  I can’t even tell you exactly when it changed back for me, but one day I was walking home from uptown and it suddenly hit me that I no longer wanted to move away anymore.

I believe what I am told…is this the same as trusting someone?  I don’t think people are going to lie to me.  If you tell me something, I trust that you are telling me the truth.  Somerset Maugham said, “It’s a funny thing about life: if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”  I prefer to live my version of his quote:  It’s a funny thing about people: if you expect the best from them, you very often get it.  Or as Claude M. Bristol said, “We usually get what we anticipate.”  I think Anne Frank, Somerset Maugham and Claude M. Bristol sum up the way I used to be pre-attack, and the way I have, finally, gotten back to after a whole lot of work.  Part of what made my healing process so difficult was getting my head around the fact that it happened to me at all.  The only thing I did ‘wrong’ that morning was be tall, thin and blonde, and was be in a place that a predator was looking for just that type of woman.  I never expected it to happen to me.  Never.  And in spite of doing everything I was ever told or ever heard about how to behave in a situation like I found myself in, nothing worked, starting with no warning bells going off in my head when I first encountered DCD.  I attribute that to the fact that I didn’t expect to be attacked.  I trusted that I was safe.  Turned out I wasn’t, and my world turned upside down as a result.

What I do know with absolute certainty is I cannot, I will not, live my life being afraid.  Part of the reason I worked as hard as I did to heal from this was because no way was I letting one person, one awful event, determine the rest of my life.  I was very lucky that at the time of my attack, I was in a healthy, happy, loving relationship.  I know that my healing process would have been very different, and much more difficult, had that not been the case.  The fact that my boyfriend was very supportive and encouraging made all the difference, and even though, ultimately, the relationship did not survive, he was there for me through the worst of it.  For that, I will be eternally grateful to him.

Back in 2013, I chose TRUST as my word for the year.  This is what I wrote then:

“I TRUST that everything is working out. I TRUST that I am right where I am supposed to be. I TRUST that I am doing just what I am meant to do. I TRUST that everything happens for a reason. I TRUST that even if it may not seem like it at the time, everything truly is happening for my highest good and to make me a better person. I TRUST that the right people, the people who can be helped by my story, will read my story. I TRUST that the right people show up in my life at the right time.  I TRUST that even in the darkest hour, there is light. I TRUST that I am safe. I TRUST that even behind the clouds the sun is shining. I TRUST that I am making a difference. I TRUST that all my dreams are coming true. I TRUST that everything happens in perfect and Divine timing.”

Yeah, what I said more than two years ago!  And since I am two years further along my healing path, I can honestly say that, yes, I do trust people again, though I’m not positive I really ever stopped.  And last, but not least, my new favorite quote from Pinterest:

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And while the patience part is challenging, I do TRUST my journey.

 

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

I loved this book by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.  I just finished listening to it yesterday, though during the middle of it, I ordered the actual book, too.  I knew it was one I’d want to have and be able to reference.  It was a tough listen as times, but it explained a lot of what I’ve been through and continue to go through.

 

 

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What makes this book even more relevant to me is the fact that it was just published in 2014, which means it has the latest information about trauma that is available.

The inside dust jacket has this to say about Dr. Van Der Kolk and the book:

“This profoundly humane book offers a sweeping new understanding of the causes and consequences of trauma, offering hope and clarity to everyone touched by its devastation.  Trauma has emerged as one of the great public health challenges of our time, not only because of its well-documented effects on combat veterans and on victims of accidents and crimes, but because of the hidden toll of sexual and family violence and of communities and schools devastated by abuse, neglect and addiction.

Drawing on more than thirty years at the forefront of research and clinical practice, Bessel Van Der Kolk shows that the terror and isolation at the core of trauma literally reshape both brain and body.  New insights into our survival instincts explain why traumatized people experience incomprehensible anxiety and numbing and intolerable rage, and how trauma affects their capacity to concentrate, to remember, to form trusting relationships, and even to feel at home in their own bodies.  Having lost the sense of control of themselves and frustrated by failed therapies, they often fear that they are damages beyond repair.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE is the inspiring story of how a group of therapists and scientists–together with their courageous and memorable patients–has struggled to integrate recent advances in brain science, attachment research and body awareness into treatments that can free trauma survivors from the tyranny of the past.  These new paths to recovery activate the brain’s natural neuroplasticity to rewire disturbed functioning and rebuild step-by-step the ability to ‘know what you know and feel what you feel.’  They also offer experiences that directly counteract the helplessness and invisibility associated with trauma, enabling both adults and children to reclaim ownership of their bodies and their lives.

Readers will come away from this book with awe at human resilience and at the power of our relationships–whether in the intimacy of home or in our wider communities–to both hurt and heal.”

What this book also showed me is the things I did, EMDR, yoga, to name just two, were the ‘right’ ones to undertake and have contributed mightily in my healing process.  I also realize I still have more healing to do –dang it– but that it is possible to rewire the neuro pathways in my brain even more than I’m sure they have already been rewired.  It is a process and as much as I want it to be finished, the simple truth is it’s not.  I think, too, that for people who are on a healing path, it is lifelong endeavor, whether you suffered a traumatic childhood event, a devastating car accident, the death of a child or spouse, or just the day-to-day living of life that can sometimes be unbelievably difficult.  I’m realizing more and more that we are never really finished.  As I always told my therapist, I do not have a choice in this.  I have to keep moving forward.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has suffered a traumatic event personally or knows of someone who has.  The knowledge and insights you will gain will be invaluable to understanding the why of how trauma affects the body and mind.

 

DYING TO BE ME

From the back cover of the book:  “In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body began shutting down—overwhelmed by the malignant cells spreading throughout her system. As her organs failed, she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth . . . and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita found that her condition had improved so rapidly that she was released from the hospital within weeks—without a trace of cancer in her body! Within these pages, Anita recounts stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, her challenge to establish her career and find true love, as well as how she eventually ended up in that hospital bed where she defied all medical knowledge. As part of a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, Anita had been pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs since she was a little girl. After years of struggling to forge her own path while trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, she had the realization, as a result of her epiphany on the other side, that she had the power to heal herself . . . and that there are miracles in the Universe that she’d never even imagined. In DYING TO BE ME, Anita freely shares all she has learned about illness, healing, fear, “being love,” and the true magnificence of each and every human being! This is a book that definitely makes the case that we are spiritual beings having a human experience . . . and that we are all One!”

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I listened to this book while in the middle of my healing process (not that is it actually over at this point) from my sexual assault, and I realized that I, too, had had a NDE, a near death experience, though not in the way that they normally occur.  Because my assault was interrupted, which prevented my attacker from following through with his intention to rape me, I was also saved from the punches that were coming my way.  The last thing I remember before hearing my guardian angel’s voice was DCD’s fists getting ready to beat the shit out of me because I wouldn’t stop screaming and fighting him.  The only way he was going to be able to get control of me was to knock me out.  As I’ve said in the past, I was literally fighting for my life.  And in doing that, I dissociated from myself from the situation I was in.  It wasn’t so much that I left my body and was watching what was happening to me as it was the feeling that I simply was not there.   Dictionary.com defines a near death experience as “an unusual experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person after recovery…”  Given that definition, that’s exactly what happened to me.  I am sure I’ll have plenty more to say on this, but for now this post is about Anita Moorjani’s book and her experience.

I loved the book.  Her story is simply amazing.  She was, literally, hours away from certain death when her near death experience occurred.  What she ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ changed her life forever.

 

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