A CHANGE OF PLANS

For a long time, as a society, we seemed to think that once it was decided what we wanted to do or what we wanted to be when we ‘grew up,’ we could not change, that we had to stay in our chosen fields, to stick it out, even if we were not happy with what we were doing.  These days, though, it is not unusual for people to have several, if not many, different careers.

As many of you know, I have had my own business for 24 years now.  While I enjoy what I do (custom home furnishings,)  I can get burned out and long for something different.  The truth, though,  is I am very good at it.   I love to create beauty for people’s homes and their lives, and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  That being said, as you may also remember me writing about desiring a chance in my life right about the time I was sexually assaulted.  My attack resulted in me launching this website with the intention of helping other women who had been through a similar experience.  You may also remember that I posted pictures of my dream/vision board, which I had made in July 2012, about a month after the sentencing of my attacker to prison.  What I did not say at the time was how more specifically this vision board came about.  Just the other day, though, I came across what I had written the day we made our boards.

Rather than just making the board on my own, my local Hoffman facilitator held a special gathering, apart from our normal monthly meetings, where we did guided visualizations to help us clarify what we were hoping to manifest into our lives.  What follows is the notes I took from the various exercises we did.   Keep in mind that I was still a good four months away from finishing my EMDR, and, as it turned out, a few years away from being truly through my experience:

 

“Message from Spiritual Guide –  pay attention to ALL that is happening to you; it is ALL happening for your highest good.

What do I believe is preventing me from manifesting my vision?   Fear

Elevator question – What are my self-limiting beliefs that keep me from having what I truly desire in my life?

(What I got from the elevator exercise)  Very fancy elevator opens to a very pattern-rich (floral sky, striped trees, plaid grass, color everywhere) scene that is a cross between Dr. Seuss, H.R. Puff-n-Stuff and Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, where everything is make-believe and happy and where nothing bad happens.  It feels like the happiest place on Earth (sorry Disneyland.)  Everyone is smiling, happy and helpful.  The sun is shining.  I don’t really seem to be a part of it though.  I am looking into a place I’d like to be.

(Then the question asked was, What is your vision for the future?)    My vision is to help women who have been victims of sexual assault by giving them a platform where they can tell their stories, anonymously if necessary, so that they are able to heal themselves emotionally, spiritually, physically and intellectually.  I also am affecting change in the ‘system,’ in how victims are treated though the entire process.  I see myself teaching the police. EMTs, DAs, and any and everyone who comes in contact with the victim so that they are more compassionate and understanding.  Just as it takes a village to bring up children, I think it takes a village to help heal those who have been harmed.”

 

 

I find it very interesting that my vision was so clear even though I was still in the middle of my healing process.  What changed for me, however, was/is the fact that most women simply do not want to talk about such a horrific event in their lives.  While I do understand the reluctance, I also feel that it is important they do it anyway.  Unless and until someone is ready to talk about it, though, there is not a lot I can do to ‘make’ them talk.  Nor do I want to.  Because of this, I changed the focus of this site.  Instead of a platform for others, it is simply a place for me to continue to tell my story.  I hope in this that it is clear that healing and recovery are possible if you truly want it and are willing to do the work.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not, but my experience is that it is absolutely vital.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

IS THIS MY NEW NORMAL?

Just when I think I’m all done…Since it has been a little over three years, for some reason, I think my healing should be complete. Is this too much to ask for? I’ve worked really hard. I did I intense therapy (EMDR) for 14 months; I’ve read and reread (okay, actually I’ve listened and listened again, since I still have some trouble reading a book) books designed to help me through the trauma, and really, life in general; I workout again on a regular basis; I write about my experiences each week; I feel really good, for the most part. Oh, I have my moments, but they are few and far between. So why, oh why, is my body still hanging onto the muscle memory of my attack?

I am unable to walk, as in my working out walk, near the Hotel Del without a physical reaction. Usually this means that when I get too close, my back starts hurting. The really weird thing is I do yoga on Thursdays and Sundays practically in front of the Del, and that isn’t a problem. I can even go inside the hotel without a response, but if I walk anywhere near it, my body seems to think I’m still in some kind of danger. It is beyond frustrating. Do I have to walk by the Del?  No, but this is not a huge island and not being able to walk on that side of it definitely limits where I can walk. More importantly, how can I get my body to understand that I am safe? That proximity to where my attack happened does not mean it is going to happen again. Or is this something that I will just have to live with for the rest of my life?  Is this really my new normal?

And as if the physical aspect of this isn’t enough…last Saturday at my Hoffman gathering, during one of the visualizations, up came my attack.  This was quite a surprise as with this particular tool, it is usually a scene from childhood that comes up.  No such luck.  And whereas I normally cannot see the patterns I am still hanging onto, I clearly saw and understood what they are this time.  Rats!  Even more distressing was the second time we did the visualization, I got the same dang scene.  That really threw me.  After we complete the elevators, we pair off to discuss them.  I simply did not wish to go into it with my partner.  It was nothing personally against him, but he is a guy, and a guy is the reason for my attack, so I chose to let him tell his scenes and I kept quiet about mine.  Because I am usually more forthcoming at these gatherings, the facilitator was a little curious as to why I did not want to share with my partner.  In the end, I ended up sharing it, to a degree, with the entire group.  Again, it wasn’t anything personal, but it was such a shock that it came up this way and I wanted time to think about it on my own.

So what have I thought about since Saturday?  Honestly, not much.  It seems that the memories come and go and I, apparently, have no real control over them.  I know that I want, more than anything, to be completely over my attack.  And maybe this is just unrealistic.  Do we ever totally get over the traumatic events of our lives?  Or is it more of a fading of the memories over time?  In the scheme of things, three years really isn’t that long.  It feels like it is, but, really, it just isn’t.  It feels like I’ve been dealing with this forever.  I just want to feel good again.  Like, really good, in mind, body and spirit.  I don’t think this is too much to ask.

If this is my new normal, (and just what is normal?), then, perhaps an attitude adjustment of sorts is in order.  What I’ve done, and continue to do, is what has gotten me to this point, and I think I am on the right track, so I just need to keep on keeping on, trusting that I’ll be finished with my healing when I’m finished with my healing.  There is no rushing it, as much as I’d like to, and as much as I keep trying to.  Clearly, that is not working.  And the truth is, I am much better able to deal with the mental aspects of this far better than the physical ones.  (After I finished my therapy and then five days later my back went out, I realized that I’d rather have to do another 14 months of intense mental work than have physical pain.  That, I am really not good at handling.)  As far as my body goes, I know I just need to keep moving it.  I need to feed it good, clean food.  I need to do my best to stay away from the things that make me feel worse, like my old friend sugar.  I do so well for a time, and then I fall off that sugar wagon.  Again.  Right now, I am half on, half off, which I guess is better than completely on, but not nearly as good as completely off.  Working on it, though.  Every day.  And getting used to the idea that this is my normal now, and that’s okay.  It is what it is.

HAS IT REALLY BEEN A YEAR?

Time flies.  And it seems to fly faster the older we get.  Remember being a kid and the days just dragging by?  Unless, of course, you were waiting for the bell to ring at 3p on the last day of school before summer vacation started!  And the truth is, time flies, whether or not you are having fun.  Well, according to the calendar, it has been a year since my boyfriend of almost 2 years broke up with me and, more or less, broke my heart.  As my heart, and all the rest of me, was still recovering from my encounter with cockroach boy, it was particularly difficult to deal with.  What was very clear to me, almost immediately, was that he had, in fact, done the right thing.  Oh, it’s not that I wanted to be alone.  Actually, I hated it, and, truth be told, still do.  What was right about it was I would have eventually broken up with him.  It probably would have taken me years to realize this because we really did have a great relationship in a lot of ways.  Was it perfect?  No, but it certainly was perfect for me, and I suspect, for him, right up until it wasn’t anymore.  Because of all the intense therapy I had done, and all of the crap from my past that had been dealt with during that therapy, I had grown.  A lot!  So much, in fact, that I had outgrown him.  I truly was no longer the person I had been when we first met.  Is this a bad thing?  No, it’s not.  Do I wish this ‘change’ had never occurred?  A part of me does.  A larger part knows, though, that it was necessary for me to experience and go through what I did to move me along my path.

We were only six months into the relationship when my sexual assault happened.  At the time, I asked him, “Does this mean you aren’t going to like me anymore?”  He told me, “No.  You are precious to me.”  And I believed him, and that belief allowed me to focus on myself and my healing.  No one, least of all me, knew exactly how long that would take.  I probably thought it would take a few weeks or, maybe, a couple of months.  It never occurred to me that it would take as long as it did.  I went to therapy, every Monday, week after week after week, for 13  months, and I hated every minute of it, though I loved my therapist.   It was incredibly hard and physically painful for lot of it.  Through it all, though, I had this amazing, loving, supportive, incredibly encouraging boyfriend.  I cannot imagine how much more difficult it would have been had I not been in this relationship.

When I inquired it he thought the breakup was a delayed reaction to my attack, he said, “No.  Yes.  I don’t know.  All I do know is I’m exhausted from having to deal with it.”  Okay. Well, so was I.  Still am.  Because I am still dealing with it.  Certainly not in the same ways, but the effects are ever-present.  There are certain books I cannot read and movies I cannot see.  Although I am not afraid of it, I do not really walk in the dark anymore.  When a stranger approaches me, especially at night, I wonder if he is going to attack me.  When I get sick, yet again, I curse cockroach boy for the trauma my body has suffered and continues to suffer.  I live with the thought, in the back of my mind, that one day in the not-too-distant-future, he will get out of prison, and though I do not believe he will come after me, who knows what he’ll do?  I certainly never expected to be attacked in the first place. One of the things I do tell myself, and something that allows me to carry on from day-to-day, is because it happened once, there is just no way it could happen again.  Don’t know if this is actually true, but I HAVE to tell myself this or I’m not sure I could go on.  It feels like all of these things are a part of my being now.  Will they fade in time?  Will they go completely away?  I have no idea.  I hope so.

What I was then, and will continue to be is grateful to my ex for sticking around  the way he did.  I know it made all the difference in the world to have him stand beside me, to not walk away.  It wasn’t easy for him, and even though I knew it, at least to a degree, I wish I had been more aware of how it was effecting him.  Would that have made a difference in the end?  No way to know.   All I am really certain of is he was/is a good man, and I miss him.  Still.

 

DREAM BOARD

Last year at this time, I created this dream board.

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It was about 3 weeks past the sentencing of cockroach boy, and I had been biding my time since January, when I had first gotten the idea for At Long Last Heard, to launch this site.  I was still deep in the recovery process and, although I was then ‘free’ to talk about what had happened, I was still hesitant and, most likely, afraid to put it out there for anyone to see.  I was still suffering from PTSD at that point.  When the opportunity presented itself for making a dream/vision board, I jumped at the chance.  I saw it as a way for me to have a tangible representation of all the healing quotes and phrases that were constantly running through my head.  And instead of having just a board full of quotes, which I could have done, I chose to have flowers, as well.

I have it beside my bed and still look at it each day for inspiration.

THERE WAS STILL A LOT MORE HEALING TO COME

The following are entries from my journal:

12 July 2012

“‘Trying times are not indications that we have been forgotten or have lost our connection with the Divine.  Rather, they are times of growth and healing and we need to turn away from doubt and fear in order to realize the good that is unfolding for us.’   (Not sure where I got this quote, nor who said it.  I neglected to give credit to the author in my journal.)

 

13 July 2012

I do not believe I am about to write what I’m about to write.  I do not even know what to feel.  That fucking cockroach boy has, apparently, filed an appeal.  As I have not yet talked to anyone who might actually know how this will impact my project, I don’t actually know if I have to wait some more.  I am pissed — that much I do know.  Un-fucking-believable.

10:35p  I finally was able to talk with Kim and she gave me the perspective I was missing: everyone appeals.  Still, I need to find out exactly what this means for me.  Beyond that, I am choosing not to give a flip.

 

17 July 2012

I heard back from the D.A. and, basically, she told me not to worry about the appeal, to go ahead and do whatever it is I need to do to heal from the attack.  That makes me feel better.

 

18 August 2012

‘In life, you always get what you ask for AND it rarely comes in the package you think it’s supposed to come in.’  ~Kurek Ashley

Talk about a package I wasn’t expecting!  We always tend to think of the “good” things coming in packages we weren’t expecting (several unexpected people come to mind here) and forget that everything shows up that way: the good and the not-so-good.  For a very long time, several years, I had been asking for something, really anything, different in my life.  I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  I just felt I needed a change.  Well, my change arrived in the form of a sexual assault in a package I never dreamed or expected could ever happen to me.  I recognized it from the very beginning as a blessing in disguise, though there was much therapy to go through before I would be able to truly appreciate it.  And the truth is I’m still in therapy and dealing with it, though each day I’m a little closer to being able and ready to forgive my attacker.  (Note-This was written almost 10 months ago, and as far as being able to forgive cockroach boy, well, I am still working on it.  I know I will eventually get there.)

 

21 August 2012

Had a bit of what I consider a set-back in therapy.  Susie would disagree with my assessment.  And, really, it’s not exactly a set-back.  I just thought I was closer to being finished than I apparently am.  It’s more disappointing than anything else.  It has to do with me going back to the “scene of the actual crime.”  I’ve been thinking about it and brought it up yesterday.  Turns out I’m not nearly as ready as I thought I was.  Since the thought of it literally makes me want to throw-up and makes me cry, I’ve obviously still got some more clearing to do.  Slowly, but slowly…

 

28 August 2012

Obviously, haven’t much like writing.  One day soon I hope that all I’ve been neglecting will fall back into place and I’ll once again be productive.

It’s amazing to me that I can be going along, day after day, feeling pretty dang good considering, and then one day (like today) I wake up and feel like I am in a hole, that all the work I’ve done has been for nothing and that if only the zillion pound elephant sitting on me would get off of me, I’d be fine.  I must feel even worse than I realize because this morning, for the first time EVER, I couldn’t do my walk even after I got up, got dressed and actually walked out the door.  I basically walked around the block, came home, got in my car and drove up town to get a breakfast sandwich.  Wow!  I’m worse than I thought.  And now, in hopes it’ll help, I’m ditching making pillows and am going to a movie.”

 

A friend asked me the other day, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being completely healed, where would I put myself?  I answered a ’10.’  Because the truth is I am completely healed.  That doesn’t mean that I am happy about what happened or that, as I already mentioned, I have even forgiven cockroach boy yet.  What it does mean is I am not suffering in the ways I was for so long.  My brain is functioning normally, or at least as normally as it ever has for me.  None of the triggers I had before are still present.  I see it almost as something that happened to someone else.   And although I mostly choose not to, I am even able to walk in the dark.  Granted, I am not going far and I am going to meet someone to actually do my walk with.  And these times of walking in the dark have all been in the morning, which means the sun will be rising soon.   The other night, though, I did feel like walking around the block, in the dark, way past sunset, and I did it!  I was never scared, nor was I constantly looking over my shoulder.  I’d say that is real progress and just reaffirms that I am healed.  Who knows if I’ll ever go back to the way I used to walk, very early in the morning and in total darkness?  I may not, but I like knowing that the option is there for me, even if I never use it.