Tag Archives: compassion

it’s hard to admit…

why is an abuse history so hard to admit? the shame should not belong to me. it was not something I did to someone else. it was done to me, so why is it still hard to say “this happened to me”?

a few co-workers and I were commiserating on insurance quality when I was asked where I get mine. I was able to admit being on disability for ptsd, but when asked what it was from, I couldn’t utter the words… I said “other stuff” (I was asked if I had served, since this is still the first thing people think of when ptsd is mentioned)… they didn’t ask for more details. I wouldn’t have been able to give any even if they had.

at the dentist the other night, I couldn’t check the box that would have disclosed my ptsd diagnosis to them… granted, the office tends to be pretty inappropriate in their banter around patients, so I have reason to hold back, but still. I doubt I would have disclosed even if I didn’t know they talked about their patients freely in front of other patients. it feels like a character flaw. it feels like something that deserves the shame it carries…

stigma, ignorance, judgement… our society oozes it. compassion and understanding are severely lacking on all fronts (see the articles about Charlie Sheen being forced to disclose his HIV+ status because a tabloid believed the public had a right to know his private medical information, or any of the stories on the plight of Syrian refugees). it feels like more and more people I used to peg as understanding are spewing their judgement at every turn… ignorance and hatred are running rampant. it makes me sad, and it fuels the fear that keeps me from admitting my own struggles to the people in my life.

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thoughts on today’s therapy

It was my second-to-last session with TM today. It ended up really good.

I remembered her wanting to get the assessments out-of-the-way (TSI-II & BDI2), so after the greeting, I mentioned them. She had them waiting next to my chair, along with some journal entries and my timeline to give back to me. I was glad she remembered.

We joked a bit, and kinda chatted while I did the assessments. She busied herself looking up some more quotes for an activity she wanted to do together either today or next session. As I handed the assessments in, I told her that some questions were answered with caveats, but then I suddenly forgot any of the examples (Now I remember that the question around feeling punished on the BDI2 I answered scoring low because it’s not so much that I feel I am punished, more so that I “should” be punished simply because it’s “right”… There was also a question on violence on the TSI-II that I answered high because it was vague, and I acknowledge responding violently towards myself… That one we kinda talked about and she knew why I responded like I did. I answered the suicide/death questions honestly: that I always think about dying, but don’t always have a plan or intent)… I told her I’d be interested in comparing the scores from the first time and now. I know I have a really skewed self-assessment much of the time so I wouldn’t mind seeing it on paper… that & I’m a huge dork around this kind of stuff, so it also holds great academic interest.

I think at about this point TM told me something that blew me away… She reminded me of one of our first sessions, where I refused the descriptor of “therapist” when she had mentioned it. She said she understood where I was coming from (because I never did finish my MA or internship), but that I seemed more insightful, compassionate, and understanding of the therapeutic process than a lot of therapists she has known… ???!!!!???? I think I was in shock and trying to digest that for a good 5 minutes afterwards. I have no idea what topic we moved on to, because I was still reeling (in a good way) from that huge compliment. I was actually so shocked, I didn’t even deny what she was saying… Maybe I could then go back at some point and be a real clinician? That could be cool… It might have been just before she said this that we talked a bit more about my last hospitalization at IOL. She had mentioned the PDoc incident where he threw a stapler or hole puncher at me, and how that was something she never expected to hear happening in a hospital. I brought up that yeah, while it sucked, I’ve had time to process it more. He may have been triggered, or feeling really helpless, or scared, or frustrated (or all of the above) when he did that. It certainly does not excuse his actions, but it would make them understandable. After all, G behaved much the same way: always angry, yelling, violent, abusive… For a lot of years, I had no clue why he was so awful. Then one day we had a more in-depth conversation. He revealed some of his own abuses and traumas. He also said he did not recall being as abusive and horrible as we remember him being… It didn;t excuse his behavior, but it brought an understanding of his motivations. I could empathize. While I am trying my hardest to break that cycle, he was just repeating what he knew…

Anyway… Oh, another thing that I was kinda blown away by from TM was her opinion that I do not fit a bpd diagnosis. She started out asking me why I had self-reported that dx when I first started therapy with her. I honestly don’t know. She is the first therapist I’ve ever volunteered that dx to. Others have either come to it on their own, or been told by a referring therapist and then decided it did not fit. Part of my reasoning was that it had been relatively soon after I had read through my disability records. Most of those had bpd as one of the diagnoses (of course, they also said I was hopeless & bound to live in residential care for the rest of my life unless of course I killed myself first. One PDoc went so far as to say I he did not expect me to survive the next 6 months… and that was oh… 5 years ago now? So I guess I have to take all of that with a grain of salt. TM reminded me that hospital records reflect the worst of my recent history. She also reminded me that they will often pad dx so that insurance companies will continue to pay (I’ve been witness to some “creative billing” in my professional experiences). I’m not sure why I was surprised that TM would say she disagrees with the bpd diagnosis, but I was. She said the “cornerstone” of a bpd dx is unstable relationships (and according to what she read to me from the DSM-V, this is accurate to their wording), which neither of us see in my life. Yes, there’s a fear of losing people, but only because I actually have lost a lot of important and close people in my life. It’s not so much a fear anymore as an expectation… It’s also something I was overtly taught while growing up. And sometimes the people closest to you will hurt you the most, so a difficulty with trust is understandable… She reminded me that while I may be able to check off some of the bpd traits, it makes a lot of sense given my history… Maybe now I can hold on to that longer. I know Dr. C is of the opinion that I do not fit a bpd diagnosis. We had talked about it a long time ago because of my experience with LKB and her insistence that I was bpd & just needed to learn to accept that fact. Aside of Dr C though, no one else had openly and pointedly spoken to me about bpd vs. trauma. I know even D eventually saddled me with that diagnosis. I’m not sure De agreed, though I never asked her. TL and I never spoke about diagnoses either. It was kinda nice to get confirmation from TM as well that my resistance to the bpd label has merit… Personally, I think the whole disorder should be removed completely. I’ve yet to meet someone with a bpd dx who does not also have a trauma history. Bpd comes with SUCH a stigma (which can also lead to an excuse for not working to change the thoughts & behaviors both on the therapist’s end and the clients… think of how you would feel if even the professionals felt you were hopeless) that it’s more a detriment to any person with the dx. I don’t see how it helps the understanding of behavior or attitudes, it simply labels them. I would much rather have an understanding and hope than a mere label… Kinda like labeling someone an alcoholic without taking into account what it’s used to cope with.

Ok, sorry, went off on a soap-box tangent there. So, yeah. Session with TM was good. We laughed and also talked about heavy stuff… Part of me wonders if TM has found me online somewhere. She sometimes brings up things that I have only ever mentioned online either here or in one of the support forums I use. I might have to ask her that next week. At this point, I don’t think I would care since I won’t be seeing her after next week anyway, but if I had found out something like that sooner, I would be censoring more. I already catch myself being careful what I post if I know someone in real life will see it. This blog is written with sensitivity to my wife and my mom having access… There’s something to be said for anonymity and honesty. I’m very careful in what I reveal to others because I have had it twisted and used against me. I’m careful what I write both online and in a physical, paper journal… I actually no longer keep a paper journal because too many have gotten their hands on them and read them without permission… But whatever. I would be interested in how TM thinks to bring some of the stuff up that she does if she hasn’t found me online. Maybe I talk around it enough, or I mention it without realizing it? It’s too much of a coincidence with a lot of the stuff in timing and wording for her to just come up with it out of the blue. Maybe I’m leaving her more messages than I realize? I know a few times I had thought of leaving her a message, but don’t recall doing it, then she mentions the next session that she got my message(s)… Hmm.

I had meant to ask her today if it would be ok if I call once I am settled after the move. It feels less needed now that I know I will be seeing Dr. C again, but I rarely get the chance to update a therapist on how something went after a termination. I get the boundaries of the relationship. I know it won’t go beyond this termination, but I’m hoping to be able to let her know that things went well, and my idea that I will do better back up north and away from the constant triggers is one founded in reality… I know I would love updates on some of my past clients, though that is me. I’m not sure if she would want one… Dunno though unless I ask.


Self-compassion & recognizing limits

An article on self-compassion and understanding your limits was definitely something I needed to read today.

The last few days have me slamming hard into my own limits around processing my trauma. I am working towards acknowledging them to myself, and admitting them to TM (as much as I don’t want to in the moment because it means we will need to tweak our approach). I certainly want to push past my limits, but I need to do so carefully. I really wish I could keep seeing her for longer, and maybe a bit more often to help move past this, but therapy has its own limits and boundaries.

On another note, a friend pointed out something to me last night that was hard to hear, but definitely something that needs addressing. She was suggesting some coping strategies that I have used in the past, but have become huge triggers in the last year (mindfulness around breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation… well, they were always triggers, but not this intense in the past. I could utilize at least breathing techniques in the presence of someone I trusted. I can no longer do that without triggering or intensifying flashbacks). My problem comes from the memories that have surfaced recently. In them, I would pretend to sleep in order to “get it over with” faster. Pretending to sleep involved slowing my breath and relaxing my muscles so the person would believe I was asleep… I didn’t understand why these two techniques were so difficult for me until last year, when the cognitive memories started accompanying the physical and emotional ones. Since then, my reactions to the two techniques are incredibly intense and visceral. In the past, I would panic when I tried them, but I was able to try them without my whole body shaking; not so much any more. I know I need to work on this, but I’m not totally sure how. Time with TM is limited in so many ways, and there is so much to cover. 😦

Anyway, back to the article on self-compassion. It can be found here on GoodTherapy.org. While their articles are often geared towards professionals in the field, they have a wealth of articles for clients, friends, and family. I don’t always agree with what they post, but some are spot on, like the one mentioned.


My heart weeps

“I don’t understand how a person gets to think they matter more than others. Children are not born thinking this way. Children are TAUGHT to hate, discriminate and value certain things more than others. Children are thought to value some lives more than others. We are doing this to ourselves and by doing it so, we keep failing our children. And failing life.” ~ Summer Solstace Girl via A Canvas of the Mind


moving through

I’m still in a fog, and not quite sure what to do about it.  I can finally talk about ending therapy with De without bursting into tears immediately.  Remembering that it’s the emotions from more than one loss is helpful.  It doesn’t make it all better, but the mantra tones it down some.  I’m trying to reign in the feelings that equate this to a death.  I know where those stem from, and I’m reminding myself of that every moment…

I’m trying not to write my experience over hers.  I’m trying not to create a story around why she is leaving without knowing the full details.  But my head has other ideas.  It’s playing my story over her’s. It’s making me feel guilty, which amplifies my feelings of abandonment, which makes me feel more guilty, which intensifies the loss… and it’s an ever-faster circle of thoughts of which I’m trying to rationalize my way out. I can hear De saying this is a train of thought I need to get off.  The problem is, I’m having trouble catching my breath long enough to talk my way out of it.  I worry that this is how I made my clients feel (or I made them feel worse, which would really, really suck) when I disappeared on them without warning.  At the beginning of my crash in 2010 (which lasted through 2011), I was still seeing individual clients at the domestic violence shelter.  One week (with no notice), I simply did not show up for them.  I had landed myself in the hospital for self harm or severe depression, or something like that, and had my wife call me out of work (or maybe I called myself out from the emergency room, I don’t quite remember).  My supervisor was only told that I was at the emergency room, and not expected back for at least a week, but I would let them know.  It must have been me that called out, because I had to give them my list of appointments for the week so that they could cancel them.  I don’t think I went back right away upon discharge, but maybe I did.  I did not see any clients though, because they had been cancelled pending my return to be able to re-schedule them.  I lasted maybe a day and a half before I walked into my clinical director’s office for spontaneous supervision (I think I scared her because I remember being quite blank and subdued, much different from my presentation prior to my spiral).  I admitted to her I was overwhelmed and highly triggered by one client in particular, but also the whole concept of working in domestic violence.  We agreed that my clients would get transferred to another clinician, and I would concentrate on office work.  I left messages for my clients with instructions to call my supervisor for their new contacts. I did not tell them my real reasons for transferring them, but I did not offer a termination session either.  I feel like I cheated them out of closure (something I value very highly), but I would not have been effective even for that last session.  So the guilt weighs heavy on me.  In the moment, I know how shitty it feels with appropriate termination, it must have felt much worse without it (actually, I know it feels much worse without it.  I didn’t have that opportunity with D and with some other therapists in the past).

The more I sit with it, the more things I can pinpoint as playing a part in my reaction this time around.  I feel guilt at my failures as a provider and support for my clients.  I feel the loss of closure-less endings from both the side of a clinician and a client.  I’m feeling the shock of a sudden loss.  I’m reminded of all the other losses from the past (deaths, endings to relationships, moves, loss of sentimental objects, my failure as a human being… Yeah, I know that last one seems like a huge leap, and it likely is, but my head goes there.  I fail at finances, at life, at caring for people and animals, at all my dreams. I have not found anything that I enjoy but am also good at.  The critical part of me denies even “being” anything at all).  I have trouble pulling out of this right now.  I know I’m being harsh, but it’s the only thing that is keeping me from crumbling under the weight of all this compiled loss.  I can handle criticism.  I know what to do with it.  I can’t handle the loss, so I take the lesser of the two evils.

My fear of sobbing in front of De yesterday brought up the memory of being as disproportionately crushed by the sudden death of a classmate in high school.  He actually no longer attended my school at the time of his death during sophomore year, but we were a small incoming class the year before (maybe 100 students in the whole freshman class) and had all grown at least familiar with each other. The news of his death hit our class hard.  It hit me harder because I had lost my aunt a few months ago at the start of the summer. I wailed at his memorial service. I made everyone uncomfortable, but I couldn’t will my legs to move when my teacher suggested my friend accompany me to the bathroom or guidance office.  I just shook my head and cried uncontrollably.  I didn’t think I could have walked without collapsing to the floor.  I heard my classmates comment and disapprove.  I saw my teacher’s reaction, but I could do nothing except cry hysterically in my seat.  I think that experience plays loudly into my shame at crying right now, at my overly intense reaction to De’s departure… Crying is bad enough when Skeletor threatens death if you don’t stop; add to it humiliation and disapproval of everyone around you and it cements that experience into your soul…

Anyway, yeah, I’m trying to gain more insight around all this in an effort to move through it.  I’m trying to decide how much of this I should try to process with De, and how much I need to just deal with myself.  I’m at once trying to balance pulling away so I can convince myself I will be fine after she is gone (to keep the hurt a step removed), and processing what I can so I am not left hypothesizing.  I want to know that (maybe) I’m just reading too much into all this, and maybe her story is not as close to mine as I think (I hope it’s not as close to mine as I think, because it means someone else is hurting like this)…

Ok, time to take a breath and step away from this for now because it’s getting overwhelming again. Need to keep moving through this without getting trapped…


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.


Friday Nights and Deep Thoughts

I think I like having J on Friday nights.  She is more spontaneous and will joke with us for most of the hour.  She seems more relaxed and less therapist-ish.  It has its drawbacks (we don’t necessarily accomplish much on the serious side during sessions, but that’s ok for the moment).  We laugh a LOT, and time seems to go by faster.  We still cover some important topics, but a lot of the heaviness is left off.

Tonight, after starting really late then laughing our butts off for the first 20 minutes, we continued to joke and be inappropriate randomly throughout session.  We accomplished some stuff though.  L showed J that she had actually made progress on her resume.  J gave us some more resume pointers, then we talked about jobs/volunteer positions L and I would like to apply for.  We talked about taking personal risks and about some fears. We discussed goals, and came to the conclusion that L and I will be in this state for maybe another year.  She will go for the Office Manager job, and it will either be a means to an end, or it will be our ticket back North.  We were able to address the fears associated with trying something so drastically different.  J even let us in on some of the other jobs she had done in her previous life (prior to becoming a therapist).  Turns out, she had done a job similar to what L is hoping to apply for and thinks L will really enjoy it.

Yesterday, the office manager at the clinic had asked L if she and I would like to volunteer.  I guess since we have been clients for at least a year (L for longer) and it was ok with both L’s individual therapist and with J, they offered us the opportunity to volunteer.  Both L and I really like the organization, so we filled out the apps before we even went into session.  Then during session, J talked about other positions opening up within the company and planted the seed for me to apply.  We were able to talk through some of my fears about jumping back into the full-time working world and into mental health.  I settled on simply volunteering for the time being while leaving the possibility of a paid position open for later exploration.  I have no doubt I could eventually kick ass at the job, I’m just not sure I am at a place to step back into full-time.  I’m quite a bit gun-shy about any major commitments when I only have a few weeks of stability under my belt.  For the past 3 years or so, I seem to be able to hold it together for 6-8 months, then things tend to go south.  I don’t want to ruin my relationship with this organization in case we do end up staying here and I do end up needing a full-time job down the line. And like I said, we both really like the organization and the services they provide.  J pointed out that they have not only the outpatient office, but also the youth center and senior centers that need both employees and volunteers.  She suggested that we start with the centers and see if we can incorporate our art-party ideas there maybe once a month.  It would still be on a volunteer basis, but it would give us a chance to try things out and to build up a portfolio.  De had also mentioned something along those lines with offering our services to the state with Kids In Distress and their family support programs.  It seems once again, J and De are on the same page without necessarily talking to each other (they have releases but neither has had to make use of them. That’s totally weird for me, as my providers up north have always had open and active communications. I find that is not common practice in this state, nor is helping a client hook up with additional services when needed).  I think doing more art stuff with “in need” populations could be fun.  As much as I try to break out of the helping professions for any length of time, I always find myself drawn back eventually.  I know at this time I do not want an 8-hour work day doing direct care.  I know that would be too taxing.  I would not mind doing some part-time group work or rec therapy. I miss the work I did as a Recreational Therapy Assistant (couldn’t officially call me a Recreational Therapist since I was not certified).  I enjoyed making my residents smile and giving them something different to do during the daily grind.  I’m sure I could find something like that here.  I’m just not sure how secure I am in committing to an actual job.

I read a quote the other day; “If something happens once, it may never happen again, but if something happens a second time, there will also be a third time” I wish I could look at this in terms of the positive, but the negative associations creep in.  I had 2 serious bouts of hospitalizations since 2007.  Both consisting of over a year of revolving hospital doors.  The second time was worse than the first.  I crashed again after our move, but it wasn’t as bad (only 2 hospitalizations total).  I find myself holding my breath for the next round of hospitalizations.  I don’t want it to occur, but I fear it might.  Triggers are rampant here.  I don;t always know how to handle them.  We had a great time on vacation, but I can feel little things seeping back in.  I want to cry for no discernible reason.  I’m sad more often than I had been in the past 2 months.  I want to drink and smoke because I like the feelings they bring when done in moderation.  I want to lose myself in my art and my music.  That all often means I start shutting out others.  I had told De last week that I felt as if I were running from something.  This week the feeling is a bit more desperate.  The self-harm urges returned with an earnestness yesterday.  I journaled to De that I felt like something had been left unsaid in session, but that it was because I was censoring.  My problem is that I don;t quite know what I’m censoring.  I’m not in touch with the content, just the emotions of feeling unfinished.  It makes me want to shatter myself (funny that the drawing I am working so hard on is entitled “Shattered”).  I think things are coming out in my art and my music choices before they reach conscious awareness.  I find myself collaging things without a real grasp as to why I am choosing those words or images.  It tend to all make sense later (like the drawing).  I have something in mind going into the piece but then it changes direction and meaning by the time it’s finished.  I think my dissatisfaction with my drawing is a measure of dissatisfaction with its ability to accurately convey what I need it to.

Twice this week I came close to “coming out” as a survivor of sexual assault in a more blatant way.  I can speak about the concept with De, however I have not admitted it outright to anyone else in so many words.  L knows and mom has a vague idea, but none of my friends or other family have any clue.  It had taken me over a decade to admit the impact of DuckBoy to myself, let alone admit to friends that it ever happened.  There are still some friends that will never know.  It’s not something I necessarily want to shout from the rooftops.  I do want to be able to share my experiences though.  I want to be able to help or inspire or at least make someone else feel less alone.  This blog is helping a lot, but I think there’s something to be said for a more personal connection.  Being assaulted is a deeply personal event.  It can make you feel alienated and alone.  It can make you question the events.  Acquaintance rape can find you defending the person (They didn’t mean it, not any of the times.  He just can’t control himself. I must want this.  It isn’t really sexual, just my imagination.  I should be flattered.  I should like this… He can’t be that bad because he’s my [boy]friend).  It can have you questioning yourself.  It can trap you (abuse has a way of doing that, especially if there’s already a history).  I don;t want to remain trapped in any of this.  I want to break free. I want to know my life will be different and better.  I wat to make it better.  And I want to help others make theirs better also.  So I toy with the idea of “coming out” to those around me.  I think they would do a double-take if they found out.  I think they would question my “defenses” of offenders.  I am famous for pointing out that offenders need compassion and help, not necessarily punishment.  One thing I have learned not only from having been assaulted, but from working in mental health: everyone has a reason for their actions or behaviors.  Many offenders were also abused as kids.  They have incredible baggage they carry around with them.  People who end up killing or harming someone else likely was taught, either directly or indirectly, that power and safety comes from domination. When I see a story about a child molester, I wonder if that adult also has a history of being molested. Abuse is generally performed in cyclic, generational patterns. An abuser was likely abused as a child.  We need to provide treatment and support to help break the cycle.  Yes, punishment is also a factor, but if their head is anything like mine, they are punished enough internally.

When I first started college, I was introduced via a family friend to a psychologist who worked exclusively with sex offenders.  At the time, I couldn’t picture working with that population (I probably couldn’t do it even now, but I have a better understanding of where they are coming from).  I was amazed that this man was able to work with these boys and young men day in and day out.  I wasn’t able to talk long enough to find out why he did what he did, but I think 18 years later I can hazard a guess.  Many damaged people damage others.  It’s not that they necessarily mean to, it’s just that it is all that they know.  There are some exceptions, but they are rare.  Even the most hardened criminal has a small, terrified child hiding somewhere underneath.  Violence and anger are fear turned outward.  An animal will strike out in fear and defense.  People will do the same.  If you don’t know that what you are doing is wrong (not by societal standards, but by your own moral compass), you see no problem with your actions.  An offender who came to a clinic at which I worked turned out to be jus a really hurt little boy inside. He had experienced some horrific abuse growing up, and he perpetuated that to a lesser degree.  He wasn’t a violent offender, but he did enough to be labeled and mandated to treatment.  Only the intern was willing to see him.  Once his story was known, every other clinician’s opinion of working with him changed.  They suddenly saw the human being behind the disordered behaviors.  Even the cops started treating him differently (repeat offender).  I only heard short updates in team meetings, but I know he got off to a start on his healing.  The instincts motivating his actions were finally understood by those in his life trying to help. I hope he eventually made it through that dark time… but I digress.

I think we all need to look at others with a different lens.  We need to look at ourselves with a different lens… Understanding and love is the key to improving both society and ourselves.  I wish I could remember this at times when I perpetuate the negatives I internalized growing up.  I seem to have nearly unending patience and compassion for most others but I cannot seem to muster it for myself.

Oh, I also wanted to add a pic of the collage I did yesterday after session… I’m still trying to figure it all out myself, but I think I may like it.  wpid-20140131_130957.jpg