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.

 

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.

AFTER THE SENTENCING

As I mentioned before, I did not write in my journal about what happened after Laura, Bill and I walked out of the courtroom.  I just checked to see if I mentioned anything at a later date.  I never specifically addressed it, and all I wrote the following day, 26 June 2012 was:

“Yesterday, to me, still feels surreal.  I don’t have a strong feeling either way.  All I am certain of is he deserves to be in prison.”

When court was adjourned, cockroach boy’s sister and father, who had been seated right in front of us, practically ran out of the room.  I remember thinking, ‘good, I don’t want to see them anyway.’    We couldn’t leave right away because the D.A. needed to give me a copy of the restraining order that the court had gotten on my behalf, so we kind of hung around inside the courtroom.  When it became clear that it would take a bit longer than anticipated, we left to wait outside.  As soon as we walked through the outer door, the sister and father descended upon us.  The sister, whose name I never did get, said to me, “I just want to apologize for what my brother did to you.”  And the father piped up, “Yeah, we didn’t raise him that way.”  To say that I was in shock that they were even speaking to me would be an understatement.  I did my best to be polite without really saying much.  What did they expect I would say?  ‘Oh, it’s okay, don’t worry about it.’  Hardly.  It was not okay and I wasn’t going to say otherwise.  When the father spoke to me, I thought, ‘no way does he live in Coronado.  He had exactly 3 teeth in his mouth, and I am pretty sure there must be a city ordinance that says you must have teeth to live there.’  Seriously, no way could he look like that and live there.

I really didn’t respond to her apology.  I thought they would then walk away.  But, no, she wasn’t finished with me yet.  So then she said something like, ‘my brother is mentally ill and needs help, he doesn’t need to be in prison.’  I said, “Oh, I understand mental illness.  I have a brother who is bipolar and he doesn’t take his medication either, but he doesn’t attack women.”  I was feeling very uncomfortable and wanted her to leave me alone.  No such luck.  Then she said to me, “Did you see him?  He’s going to be attacked in prison.”  And all I could think was, ‘Oh well.  He should have thought about that before attacking me.’  What I said to her was, “If you had ever been attacked, you would understand.”  And she said, “Oh, I have been.  He attacked/raped (not quite sure which word she said here, but the meaning of what she was saying was very clear) me.  Twice!”  What I wanted to say to her, but didn’t, was, ‘You stupid bitch!  This is your fault for not reporting him to the authorities.  We wouldn’t be here right now if you had reported him.’  What could I actually say to that?  Nothing.  By this time, Bill was in between the sister and me and Laura was trying to pull her away.  I was extremely upset, but saying nothing to her.  As Laura pulled her away, she turned and said to me, “I hope you learn something from this.  And I hope you have a nice life.”  Those statements made me want to attack her.  Really?  Of course, she would have no way of knowing just how much I struggled with what should be done with him and whether he would be better served out of prison than in.  And of all the people to say ‘I hope you learn something from this’ to, I just wasn’t it.  I was learning from it the minute it happened.  Stupid bitch.

I was in absolute shock.  I could not believe what I had just heard.  I couldn’t believe that she verbally attacked me, especially since the judge had just said that there was to be no contact with me, and even though I know cockroach boy did not tell her to say these things to me, it didn’t matter.  In my mind she was disobeying the judge’s direct order.  The D.A. chose this moment to walk up with my order of protection.  (And why I would need a restraining order against someone who is in prison and an order that would expire before his prison sentence is even up always baffled me.)  I/we told the D.A. what the sister had just said.  She thought it interesting, but it’s not like she could do anything about it and it’s not like the sister was suddenly going to report the crimes he committed against her.  And at that point, fat lot of good it would have done anyway.  I just wanted out of the court-house, so the D.A. took us the back way down so I would not have to walk by the father and sister and be attacked, yet again.

Even as I am writing this today, I still feel the anger from that day.   After sitting through cockroach boy’s stupid attorney’s words and then having the sister come after me because I had the nerve to make sure her criminal brother was sent to prison, I was completely spent.  I was so glad this part of the process was behind me now, but there was still a lot healing to be done.  I somehow knew this to be true.

Again, it is amazing to me, looking back, how my mind and body protected me.  How I was able to do what needed to be done in order to come out the other side.  Interestingly, as stressed as my body and mind were during this period, I never got sick.  That is, until after the sentencing.  I normally do not get sick anyway, and I really never get sick in the summer.  About a week later, though, I did get sick.  I got a cold and a hacking cough that kept me from sleeping.  Still, my body waited until after he was sentenced and in prison to allow the overwhelming stress I was going through to manifest into sickness.  Amazing!

ANOTHER PART OF THE (VERY LONG) PROCESS

After coming out of shock, the fun was just beginning.  Believe me, I use the term ‘fun’ very sarcastically here.  As you will read in the next several entries from my journal, my initial conversation with the D.A. that precipitated my coming out of shock only served to confuse me further when I met with her the day before a scheduled hearing to see what was what and where everything stood at that point.  Really, I was a complete mess at this point in the process.

 

17 January 2012

I may have moved from shock to anger, but now I’m feeling a lot more depressed.  I am meeting with the D.A. today.  She needs to know who I am and that I am expecting her to do her absolute best to make sure cockroach boy pays for his crimes.  Oh, I definitely have mixed feelings about it all.  On the one hand, he violently attacked me and I KNOW he’ll do it again if he is not in jail.  I also know that in jail/prison he will just learn to be a better criminal and may do even worse things when he gets out.  So what’s the answer?  That I do NOT know.  And it turns out that cockroach boy apparently has bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Oh well, doesn’t excuse his actions one little bit.

 

18 January 2012

Off to the fitness hearing.  Oh, joy.

 

20 January 2012

And more joy — the trial/case/whatever you want to call it is postponed/continued for another 8-10 weeks.  I don’t know the exact dates yet since the D.A. didn’t bother to call and let me know.

 

21 January 2012

6AM  Feeling very overwhelmed and depressed, like something very heavy is sitting on me. Mother’s suggestion – just don’t feel it.  Ah, okay.  If only it were that easy.  I’m feeling like I did when I was still in shock and had no control over what my body was doing.  All I could do was go along for the ride.  This is so much like when I came back from Spain and no one knew the true extent (hell, they didn’t have a clue) of how I was feeling.  No way am I telling Bill.  I feel like I have to ‘put on my happy face’ around him.  It’s not that he wouldn’t be supportive, but I’m not sure he’d understand, not really.  No one can.  I feel all alone.

 

23 January 2012

I actually feel like I am not going to make it, like this is all too much, that the ‘injury’ my brain has suffered is just one thing too many in a life full of one thing after the other, that it truly won’t get better in time, that all the EMDR is doing is stirring up all the old crap and nothing good will ever come from that.

We didn’t even get to the EMDR today.  Suzie gave me the brain assessment test again.  Turns out I’m depressed and I have excessive anxiety and I’m a little something else, which I forget.  Probably has something to do with memory.  I even saved getting my Sprinkles cupcake until this morning when I was leaving La Jolla to go to therapy.  Of course, I couldn’t eat it when I got it because I had an empty stomach and a cupcake on an empty stomach isn’t such a good idea.  So I waited until I got home and ate lunch.  Then I finally ate it.  It didn’t taste so good to me.  Maybe I’ve reached my cupcake limit.

I can feel my heart beating ad I can tell my breathing is not right.  Also, I think Emily is pretty close to dying.  I held her when I got home.  She did purr for me but she won’t eat.  I told her it’s okay if she leaves.  I also asked God to let her go to sleep and not wake up.  It’s not that I want her to die, it’s just that I cannot take her to the vet and have her put to sleep.  I don’t think she would want that.  I just need for her not to wake up.  I can just add that to my PTSD list.  Her death, I mean.

 

24 January 2012

6:30AM  I can feel myself sinking further and further into the hole.  It’s just like when I was feeling that my brain wasn’t working properly and there was nothing I could do about it.  It’s a terrible feeling.

 

25 January 2012

I knew Emily would not be alive this morning.

 

27 January 2012

Still keep looking out the window to see Emily in her chair and when I slept until 7:30 this morning, I thought, gotta get up to feed Emily.  Can’t believe she’s really gone.

 

28 January 2012

It is so weird to NOT have to get up to feed Emily.  She is my first thought each morning.

Today is my 5th day of taking SAMe.  Do I feel better?  No idea.  It’s probably too soon to have kicked in, anyway.  It is sunny today, which does help, and it’s supposed to be 80 degrees.  That really helps.

 

So as you can see, I had a lot going on.  Dealing with my 20-year-old cat dying was just another added thing I clearly did not need.  And even though it has been a year now since she died, every time I come through my back gate, I turn to look at her chair, expecting, I guess, to see her waiting there.  I did bury her in my backyard, so I can ‘visit’ her whenever I feel like it.  It’s not the same as having her here.  Not even close.

Another strange thing is happening to me.  The other day I was talking with a friend I had not seen in something like 7 or 8 months and she was asking about the sentencing and all that had transpired since we last sat down and really talked.  I had trouble remembering the details, which, of course, at the time I thought I’d never forget.  I said to her that I hoped I had written about that experience.  Turns out I didn’t.  It is funny how our minds work, whether it is to protect us or to keep us safe in some way.  That’s why I think the retelling of what happened to me and how I felt at the time is so important.  What is also nice to know, is that I was able to completely heal from this.  I think I may have mentioned before that when I read or tell my story now, it seems like I am talking about someone else.  I feel a sense of sadness and empathy, but it doesn’t feel like it’s me.  I guess that’s good.  And my EMDR really worked the way it is meant to work.  (Thanks, Susie!)