Tag Archives: awareness

SJ’S playing?

Woke up very aware of the little kid. She’s kinda skipping around and anxiously bouncing alternated with just sitting there waiting for me to notice her. The memories are playing at the edge of my awareness.
I think she’s reminding me to talk to TM about her. The angry, defensive teenager side was around for a few sessions, but she didn’t want to be revealed. She rarely does… maybe this is SJ thinking TM will be safe? Or maybe she is just around because the memories are within reach (or they’re within reach because she’s here?)
Strange though, I’m picturing her playing. She doesn’t often play. Most of the time she hides or is just very reserved.
No, she’s not a whole other, but she’s the most distinct. I don’t know what she doesn’t tell me except the emotions. I can feel her emotions… the other sides are less distinct. I know they are all me, just different aspects with very set emotions and responses. SJ’s just… well, she’s SJ…

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Every demon has it’s reasons **triggering**

This post has been hanging out in its infancy stages in my draft folder since April… I keep meaning to add to it, to flesh it out, but I have trouble articulating.  I think I am just going to hit post and hope for the best. I know I didn’t say everything I wanted to, but maybe this can be an ongoing thought process.   TRIGGER WARNING for talk of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence…

Recently I’ve been seeing that a county in Florida is posting “public service announcement” signs declaring the residence of sexual predators as such. I’m filled with mixed emotions in this. The survivor in me is happy that others will know, but the clinician in me cringes.

As someone effected by sexual violence, I want others to know that it’s not ok if it’s being done to them. It’s not ok to ever be hurt like that. It’s not ok to live with that fear. I want to be able to spot a “predator” from miles away and warn anyone that may come into contact with them. I don’t ever want anyone to go through anything like that again.  I want all failsafes in place to forever prevent situations like that. I want that as a professional also. I hate to see clients hurt like that. I want to stop the cycle of abuse and victimization. I want to be out of a job (or the prospect of a job, since I don’t currently work). I understand all too intimately the struggles of victims. I know the emotional torture these situations can bring about.  I know the lasting effects af assault and abuse.  I have taught classes on the effects of trauma.  I have interjected my personal experiences to these theoretical classes.  I can speak with some authority on it, but I wish I couldn’t. So totally I understand the need to point out dangerous people and situations.

The other side of me however, balks at the idea of signs proclaiming the presence of a “sex offender” plastered outside their homes. Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly do not ever want to see anyone else harmed like that, but I also know (from training and experience) that most sex offenders have some sort of trauma history.  Most offenders did not get to the point of harming someone else without first being harmed themselves.  Take the story of Aileen Wuornos (made into a movie, Monster, in 2003). She was one of a handful of female serial killers who murdered men in Florida.  She was tried, found guilty, and executed in 2002.  On the surface, she was a horrifically scary woman who seemed to kill her “johns” for no reason.  But if you dig into her story, you find a scared, damaged little girl who responded to the world in the only way that made sense to her at the time.  No, not all (or any? I can’t remember the full story at the moment) of the men she killed harmed her, but several others did.

I think there’s a very fine line that keeps some victims from becoming perpetrators themselves.  Many of us don’t ever cross that line, but some teeter on the edge, and some do cross it.  And not everyone that crosses that line is dangerous.  I worked in a clinic once where a “sexual predator” was receiving services.  To most people, he was a sick bastard who like to get off under women’s windows, or in the backyard by the kids toys.  He was arrested several times for exposing himself and “voyeurism”.  When he came to the clinic, he was quiet and shy.  He looked and acted more like a wounded animal than anything else.  Once he opened up to his clinician, we quickly figured out why he was doing the things he did.  Initially, all but one of the clinicians that had been asked to work with him had refused to do so.  Because of so many being reluctant to engage the client due to prejudices, his case was used in on-going training everyone at the office was required to attend.  The first training had almost all staff leaving either in tears or in a slight fog.  We were floored by the horrific abuse this man endured as a child.  One of his many punishments was being stripped naked and tied outside by his penis for hours at a time in all sorts of weather, and for seemingly innocuous “transgressions” (eating outside of a meal time, taking more food than allowed, not returning home at the appropriate time, simply existing).  He lived this his entire life.  No one made a move to take the child out of the abusive situation. No one helped him when he was “bad”. In turn, he learned that exposure and sexual discomfort were appropriate punishments for being “bad”, and that being bad could be as simple as thinking the wrong thing, or being early/late by a few minutes.  He learned to punish himself. After he grew up, he would stand outside a family’s home and expose himself.  He would stand there until someone called the police, or until he felt he had been sufficiently punished (sometimes hours in the snow). He replayed the same abuse he grew up with, only we didn’t see that part of his story.  All we saw was “some creep” being inappropriate around families, and it scared us… I still cry thinking of his story.

There’s a huge disparity in the treatment provided to victims vs offenders.  This is evident not only in the way we treat sex offenders, but in the way we treat perpetrators of domestic violence, or anyone in the criminal justice system.  We tend to forget that traumas wound deeply. Sustained traumas or early traumas tend to wound more deeply than later ones, but all of them have long-lasting effects on the people who experience them.  I think a good recent attempt at illustrating this is the Netflix show Orange is the New Black.  While it centers on one woman’s journey through the prison system, it does a good job of telling the stories of others also.  The characters we are introduced to as vile and unsavory turn out to be some really endearing and struggling women.  I don’t like every character on the show, and I don’t agree with all their life choices, but I can understand them.  And the show reminds me to take a breath before judging someone.  I try to let the anger wash over me, but then wash away.  I try to remember this for myself also when I get too down on my actions and behaviors.  I could easily have been one of those perpetrators with a sign in front of my house, but I’m not.  I had the presence of mind (and the support of others) to realize that certain actions are not ok.  I wasn’t pushed as far as some others have been, but that does not mean that if I had been in their exact situation I would have behaved differently.  I still very much struggle with the concept of some of the thoughts I used to have as a child.  It’s something I had only started admitting to De very recently, and only in the most vague sense (there is SO MUCH shame around it).  But I think it’s very important to realize every action or inaction has a reason. The more I learn about trauma and abuse, the more I deal with in my own personal life, the more I begin to think that the “nature” side of the debate is less and less pivotal than the “nurture” side of things.  Yes, there are very much differences in the way people are wired. There are different levels of sensitivity and resilience that have no known root in nurture, but nurture goes a long way in dictating the rest of our lives.  Had I not had the conversations with my mom and aunt that I did as a kid, had I not overheard their conversations, or seen the way they and others reacted to some horrific stuff, I doubt I would have set out on this “different” path than some others who became perpetrators.  I could have easily become the violent and out-of-control “monster” my father was (and still can be). I could have easily been in jail by now, but I’m not.  And I’m thankful for that every day…

I don’t want anyone to think that this blog is meant to advocate no punishment, or no consequences for actions, because that is certainly NOT my intent.  I just want to get wheels turning and people thinking.  I want to advocate compassion in everyday life, and an awareness that sometimes acting out is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are certainly people who are beyond scary. There are people who will likely not benefit from treatment or leniency, but there are also a lot of hurting people out there in the world.  I think we need more compassion for that…

I’m suddenly reminded of a TED talk that I first heard about last year or the year before.  It’s a different way to look at mental illness, and it speaks about “psychosis” with similar insight. It’s definitely worth a listen (or re-listen). Abuse and trauma has long-lasting effects, and maybe as a society, we need to start being more trauma-informed when dealing with perpetrators of abuses and crimes. We certainly need an over-haul to the mental health system in this country.


Translations from the dark side

Why is it that something genuinely supportive and helpful comes off as condescending and invalidating? What lens do I put on that turns all the nice into hate? I know my stress is skyrocketing, and that the depression is creeping back in. I guess that’s the lens right there: depression. I had reached out to someone in hopes of finding support, but all I read from their response was how wrong I was doing things, how deliberately miserable I am, and how inadequate I am. In actuality, their response was uplifting, supportive, positive, and understanding.  My head instantly turned that positive into disparaging. Even as I recognize this, my head is battling itself. There’s the side that is berating me for being inadequate and stupid.  Then there’s the side of me that is taking the response at face value and trying to convince that other side that it’s reading into things. Depression will do that to you. Self – doubt and self – loathing become a way of life.
So my eyes will read “you’ve had so much success until now, you need to focus on that” and my brain will understand “you worthless piece of shit, you can’t even get recovery right. I told you you’d never amount to anything more that a useless waste of space. People tell you all the time to focus on the positive, but all you do is choose to be miserable. You’re a horrid person. You deserve everything you get and then some” (note here that a simple line of text has been translated into a tirade of the self…).

I’m writing this and the voice in my head is reminding me how stupid I have become. This is all stuff I should already know. It’s not supposed to be such a revelation… when I try to change the voice, it gets louder, then more sly when the loud doesn’t work.  It rationalizes the negative self-talk and starts whispering little doubts “you have been really off lately,” “you’re such a flake , the driving is getting bad,” “pretty soon you’ll be completely worthless in everything”… it makes the negative sound like logical conclusions. It plants seeds of doubt “everyone can see you’re crazy. It’s written all over you.  Why do you think you can’t get a job?” “Even if you did land one, they’d notice the crazy and find a reason to fire you if you don’t end up walking out first because you can’t take it”

We went to a volunteer meeting tonight at the nature center. We got hugs from people we hadn’t seen in a while, and all I could think was that they were pity hugs. Like they knew I was crazy and wanted to pat me on the head for making it out anyway but figured a hug would be less condescending… I know they are all about the hugs anyway, but my head screamed at me that they knew and just felt sorry for me.

Mental illness, self-doubt, and self loathing have a way of turning even the most positive interactions into something terrible. I wonder how much of my therapy is viewed this way.  I know the obvious ones, but what about the things that don’t necessarily hit my awareness? What about everyday encounters? What if everyone is really a wonderful person and it’s all just me that views them as hating me? I know I really dislike spending time with G. L pointed it out that my disdain for him was very evident earlier today.  I tried to be nicer when we got back home, but I have a lot of work to do on that front. He may be a perfectly wonderful person these days (ok, that’s an exaggeration. He may be at least tolerable), but I only see him through these angry glasses. Everything he says and does I interpret to be mean and hateful so I respond in kind. Then I feel bad for being an asshole. The cycle begins again. I’m once again battling the translation of simple words. I’m twisting what I’m saying to prove to myself how worthless and horrid I am. I just don’t know how to stop it.  There’s only so much arguing one can do with oneself before a splitting headache ensues. I think it’s once again time for sleep.


Aside: I think I know another component to why I can’t seem to listen anymore

Reading through my “reader” (or trying to), I was struck with the thought “I can’t read all this. There’s just too much going on inside my head to allow any of this to sink in!”  So I backed out of the reader.  I want to read other people’s blogs when I can devote enough brain-power to absorb what they are saying… I don’t like skimming just to pick out the main points (what I see as the main points).  I like to know that I can actually devote attention to soaking up all that is contained in the words (and between them).

My head is full and empty at the same time.  I know I have thoughts and ideas bouncing around in there, but they are going at a break-neck speed (or way too slow) and I cannot grasp them.  The more I try to focus on any one thing, the faster it escapes me.  We are going on a mini-vacation in a few days.  My head is working out the details because I want to make sure to show L all my favorite stops there. I know I need to re-do my drawing from the other day.  I have to shower and get ready for the day (I still smell like wood-smoke from the fire pit last night).  I want to listen to music and nap and… yeah.  too much, but at the same time too slow to actually do anything.  Part of me wants to talk to De more but I’m not sure why or about what.  I think it’s just that I had gotten into a groove of seeing her on Fridays.  I saw her yesterday though.

Anyway, my head is too full of things that spill over to really allow me to pay attention to any one thing at the moment.  I can manage to be still in De’s office.  I think I need to pull that out into the real world again.  I need to be able to be still within myself.  Don;t get me wrong, I’m not racing, but more of just overwhelmed with too much input (what’s the correct term for information coming from within? input doesn;t sound correct in this sense).


#11 – Shattered

So, De has been asking me if I have been thinking more about creating something for Sexual Assault Awareness Month coming up in April.  It’s been tough trying to find something I want to show off (even though my name will not be anywhere on the piece).  I’ve been throwing a few ideas around in my head, and none really “worked” until this one.  The execution of it is a bit off though, so I will be re-doing the piece.  It’s just the “practice” version of the image I will give to her to put up in their little display:

2014 100-Theme challenge #11) Shattered

11) Shattered (preliminary)

I had wanted to do the background in a red chalk, but the one I used was not covering correctly.  I tried to draw over it with the watercolor pencil, but it did not cover correctly over the chalk… There’s also some issues with the faces on both characters, so it’s just going to be a complete re-do.  I really need to work on my coloring technique too.  I wish I could figure it out better on  my own, but I suck at it.  I think my drawing skills are coming back with practice though.  Overall, I’m happy with this piece, it’s just little things that are not working correctly.  I think I will also stick to dry media for the coloring this time.  Any time I use water or something wet, it really warps the drawing.  If I had the correct paper for the watercolors things would look better.


disconnect

had some trouble with some flashbacks earlier today.  got through them ok, but they triggered a stirring in my head also.  still don’t have a clear picture about what was disturbed, but some of the monsters have been roused from their slumber.  they are starting to shift and awaken. not sure I want them awake. don’t know how to get them tucked in all nice again.  trying to get through some of it with art. not really getting anywhere with that.  don’t have coherent words or phrases to explain them.  can’t put pictures to any of it.  just sensations right now, moving, shifting, causing sparks. waking more monsters, but they’re slow to rise this time… really wish I had more talent to put them to pictures.  wish there were words with which to speak of them. wish De was back so maybe some of it could be understood.  teetering on the question of whether to reach out or just sit tight.  thinking sitting tight will work still, it’s not bad enough (or even threatening to be that bad any time soon) to warrant disturbing others.  just going to hold on.

wishing I was different.  wishing there was better communication between what’s buried and what’s conscious.  and things going scream in the night do not help at all.  finally started sleeping last night.  dreams made it feel like awake time.  can’t seem to get enough sleep to make up for what was lost over the last few weeks.  but at the same time, there’s fear of sleeping because the dreams are so compelling.  just want to get rest.  want to actually feel rested.

graphic pictures floating around when they do come.  not sure anyone should know the details of them.  would put them on paper, but they’re scary to others.  wishing there was metaphor to be used.  nothing’s come yet.  just those really graphic images. don’t want to have to explain them.  don’t want to have to show them.  so they stay inside.

really craving hurt again.  thoughts fluctuate between thoughts and cravings.  desire to be hurt because it’s what’s right.  know it’s mixed up signals. can hear De’s voice explaining it.  doesn’t change the desire.  wish there was relief without action first.  dunno.  holding out because it’s what’s supposed to be done.  really just want to hide away in art.  wish it would happen already.  so many topics to express, so little by way of expression…


Merry Christmas

Today/tonight was actually better than I had expected.  I hate the holidays, but we were able to keep occupied.  On Friday, I had taken De up on her offer to go in today. On the way there, I felt horribly guilty for “making” her work today. I was able to tell her that when I got there, and she set my fears at ease.  It was a light session, but a needed distraction from the holiday.  We colored, and I told her some stuff that I felt I needed to say, including how I had tuned her out on Friday because what I heard her saying was very invalidating.  She confirmed that what she said and what I heard were different. We talked about that a bit, and I caught myself tuning her out again.  I didn’t admit to it in the moment, but tried to return my attention to her words and not my perceived message. She asked what my plans were for the next few weeks that she will be gone.  I told her some of the stuff I intended on doing (work more on the shadow puppet play, do some more art, try to keep social and keep my thoughts from running away without me). She suggested that I also put effort into expressing what it is I need to tell her about the past. She also wants me to think about any advice or support I may want to give to someone else in a similar situation as mine had been. I jokingly told her that will happen towards the time she’s back because stuff like that opens up cob-webbed boxes and creates an urgency to talk about it all.  De was ok with that.  She reminded me to keep busy and enjoy the time with L and my mom.  We also talked about a few other things, but I kept it surface to avoid getting into anything I can’t put away again for the almost 3 weeks break.  We did talk more about the eating issues and how I’m not sure I’m ready to admit to the extent of them. I told her I liked the bonus of the weight loss, and I am not sure I want to do it in a healthier way at the moment.  She reminded me that eating and sleeping had a huge impact on my mood.  I agree.  I’m just not ready to totally pack those thoughts away at the moment.  So I will try to keep her voice in my head reminding me to be healthy about eating and sleep.  We talked a lot about awareness of actions and the choices I make.  Awareness is a large part of getting through/over things…

Anyway, after session I cleaned the mess on my craft table (technically the dining table) as my mom had asked (totally shocked her since it was such a huge pile of stuff). We had a pleasant dinner and then did presents (my family does Christmas Eve over Christmas day). I love what I got, but i really enjoy giving.  Both mom and L liked their cards. L even surprised me with a card she made (I think it’s the best card ever!). It was nice to just hang out and enjoy our time without electronics or tension. I think I could get used to Christmas with my family if it’s all like today.  Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of water works and missing friends and family from up north, but this was pleasant  as far as my side of the family goes. We incorporated some of L’s family traditions (Christmas music, shrimp cocktail for L & mom, a whole bunch of Christmas movies), and we made some of our own (L and I came up with our own Christmas Eve movie tradition: Jeff Dunham holiday special, and the holiday shorts from Pixar). For the first time living with my family, I’m more happy than sad on Christmas. It’s still just another day, but this year it’s also a good day.

I hope everyone had a peaceful and pleasant holiday. ♥

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