Tag Archives: orange is the new black

Loss in any form is difficult, especially when you have not dealt with the past ones yet.

So I’ve had a few hours to sit with the concept of De leaving the agency.  I had cried about it (yup, actual tears spilling down my face. Not just tearing up, but real crying complete with gross boogers).  I was somewhat able to “talk” to L about it.  I have thought about it, and processed it, and moved past the anger (it was fleeting).  I’m in a weird flat place right now. If I think too hard or too long about it, I will cry again (have I mentioned I hate crying?).  So I’m concentrating on little things.  I’m concentrating on typing my words correctly (I’m sure there will be many mistakes, and I suck at proof-reading, always have).  I’m concentrating on keeping the dogs from going nuts because they are tired and want to get to bed.  I am taking breaks to take them outside one by one so I can finally put the boys to sleep.  I was concentrating on listening to my mom as she talked about how we may go about fixing the fridge.  I’m concentrating on the decision-making process of whether or not to start into Game of Thrones again tonight, or go with something easier, like Orange is the New Black, or Grey’s Anatomy or Dexter.  I’m concentrating on wanting to find a way to express myself either through art or writing, but certainly no more crying.

I’ve been able to formulate and articulate to L that this overwhelming loss I feel at the termination with De is really the compilation of losses that I have yet to deal with.  It goes back decades.  It’s disproportionate to the relationship because it is so much more than just this one relationship. It’s the loss of friends and family and memories and innocence.  It’s the loss of supports and home-bases.  It’s the loss of a sense of security.  And it’s the premature loss of someone I had expected to lose, but managed to trust anyway.  I am not good with loss.  I never have been.  Sure I can smile through changes, but the tears always glisten in my eyes.  This time they broke free.  I don’t know if was because of how worn-down I feel lately, the creeping depression, or the fact that De was the first (only) person to hear some really heavy stuff. I was prepared to walk away from this relationship at the time of my move.  I was expecting it to help keep me balanced as my stress rose.  Just last week I had asked her for more support.  This week it’s all going away much faster than I had thought.  It’s pointless to try to find another therapist for those last 6 weeks, so I guess I will have to just figure it out on my own (though I am toying with the idea of trying to get a referral to someone for those 6 weeks)… I know it will be ok, because it always is in the end, but right now it feels really shitty.

When she first told me, I couldn’t exactly speak. I was too busy trying to hold back the tears and the sobbing because I knew it was disproportionate to the situation.  My tears didn’t listen to my insistence.  They spilled down my cheeks anyway.  When she asked me to articulate what was going through my head at the moment, all I could muster was a half-whispered “whatever” through clenched teeth.  I was afraid that if I opened my mouth more than that to speak, I would either sob uncontrollably and loudly, or I would speak out of my fear-driven (and old) anger.  She challenged my “whatever” by saying that she knew this was hard for me, and she knew it wasn’t “whatever”.  All I could do was shake my head as more tears streamed down my face.  I couldn’t look at her, so I looked everywhere else in the office and just repeated “whatever” one more time.  We sat in silence for a bit longer as I looked everywhere but where she was sitting.  More rogue tears.  She asked if I could tell her what I was thinking, if self-harm urges came up.  I realised then that my head was frantically backpedaling in an attempt to halt all thought (much like pedaling backward on a BMX bike to brake).  There was a forced-stillness in my head.  Conscious thoughts had stopped.  All efforts were being diverted to stave off any melt-down beyond what had happened.  It struck me as odd that there were no self-harm thoughts or suicidal thoughts.  There just were no thoughts.  She eased into a verbal safety contract, and was able to joke around it, which helped pull me back into the room and back to functioning. When I stumbled over concepts as I tried to agree to what she was asking, she helped out by saying “Whatever you need to agree to to get back here in one piece next week is what we are going to agree to”.  In the past, she had always wanted specifics, but I don’t think I could have given those to her in the moment.  I think I recognized a bit of freedom in that change (and I think I just now recognized how the weight was off her this session.  It was familiar in that I had felt it after I had given notice at the group home, but still had to deal with the kids for 2 more weeks. I no longer cared about the strict rules of etiquette because I was leaving soon. I was able to be more genuine, and the girls had picked up on it with me.  I think that’s what I felt from De today.  It was a freedom from the pressure to be “perfect” in the role… It’s funny how some guidelines are in place to help us do our jobs better, but in the end we are burdened with the pressure to stay within the boundaries – we lose our genuineness…) but I digress.  We chatted about other things for the remainder of the session. She had asked something about letting “us” know if I ever figured out a way to apply my knowledge-base in psych to myself.  I think she was going to go somewhere else with that, but she stopped herself.  I talked about my complete inability to have access to both my emotional and intellectual sides at the same moment.  We talked about this blog, and how it had been born of the idea of being able to look at all of it over time (the more professional side of me when I am in a more emotional space, and the more emotional side of me when I am locked in professional mode).  I told her about an early entry on the concept of  “attention-seeking” and how it is not always as sinister-ly manipulative as the field makes it out to be…  I kept a close eye on the clock because I had brought my Wreck This Journal with me to show her.  With about 5 minutes left, I changed the topic to that.  She always seems genuinely interested in what I bring in, but this time there was something else again.  I showed her the piece with the prompt to “make a paper chain“.  She seemed excited about it.  It was weird because the excitement was different… I’m not sure how to describe it.  She said something along the lines of wishing she could show it to other people because it conveyed so much more than just words could. The way she said it made me feel like she was trying to make a point to someone.  I had wanted to tell her she could (I may have imagined it, but it looked like she was ready to get up and walk out of her office with the book. She scootched forward in her chair as she had said that about showing it to others), but I was caught off guard.  The words “you could” spun around in circles in my brain, but never made it to my tongue… We moved on to scheduling after she looked a bit more at my book.  She pondered the best way to fit in the second appointment.  I put my vote in for Tuesday & Friday citing my “OCD-ish tendencies” for wanting to space out the days a bit more. She actually laughed and said she prefered that for the same reason (more genuine-ness).  So I will be seeing her twice a week for the next few weeks until she leaves.  We will be figuring out the content of our sessions as we go.  She checked-in about the possibility of doing more Duckboy work on Tuesday, and would I be ok if she sprung it on me that day.  I told her I was open to whatever, but that I needed her to lead if it was the Duckboy stuff because I feel totally lost on what to do with it.  I think she was still deciding on how to approach Tuesday.  There are a lot of days between now and Tuesday, so my opinion may change, but for now I’m ok with pushing the assault topics.  I guess it depends on how far I get with this internal processing of her leaving instead of me leaving.  I may decide by Tuesday tha I really need to talk to her about some of this stuff and whatever else it will bring up.

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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.