Stuck with the Sexual Healing Journey, but here’s the plan

Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s been quite a while since my last sexual healing journey post. The reason is that I’m a bit stuck and in a dilemma about what to do. On the one hand I’m stuck because this second part of the healing journey, the ‘making changes’ part, is less linear and I’m a bit overwhelmed because there are so many individual things within each chapter of the book that I don’t know which to tackle next and how. But I guess I can figure that out.

On the other hand, however, covering the ‘making changes’ part requires some more in-depth thinking and focusing on the sexual abuse itself, and I feel a bit uncomfortable making myself vulnerable to everyone’s eyes by describing those things. I’m a suspicious gal. I’m afraid people who don’t come to read here for good reasons, but because they have abusive mindsets themselves, might read about my experiences and get some sick kind of satisfaction out of it. I’d hate for the things that hurt me to be the jerk-off material for sickos.

So while I plan to continue, I  will password protect some of the upcoming Sexual Healing Journey posts. If you’d like to read them and I “know” you already from your blog, or because we’ve been “talking” here on my blog and I have a good feeling about letting you read, just raise your hand and the waitress will serve you. 😉

Just thought I’d mention that before the password protected stuff pops up. 🙂

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Resilience – too stubborn to stay down

Duncan (nobodysreadingme) said yesterday that he admires my resilience. I found that a curious thing to point out, but sweet and touching, too. It has also helped me realize, looking back, that I actually must be kind of resilient. I’ve had my flirts with depression, and I certainly get low and desperate moments with a hopeless mood that makes me feel like my whole life is shit and maybe I should die. When they are there those feelings are really strong, but those moments don’t usually last and never really have. Sooner or later I always feel like ‘fuck all, I’m not gonna do anyone the favor to just go away for good’ and that ends the depressive mood.

It’s a feeling that I have known for a long time already, and I remember having it towards my mother mainly. She made it no secret that she hated me for being alive and often said things like ‘I wish I had aborted you when I still had the chance’ and while that always made me real sad and I felt like I shouldn’t be living on one hand, I also had the ‘fuck you’ reaction. Maybe that was because I knew that while I was getting hurt, I also had something my stepfather wanted. I remember being conscious of that fact. I remember knowing that that was why my mother both hated me, and couldn’t afford to lose me, because without me, my stepfather would probably not have stayed with her.

In some perfectly weird and twisted way that gave me power. It was power I wish I would never have had, because look at the mess my life turned into because of how fucked up everything was, but even so, I think that’s where my resilience comes from. I was aware that despite all the pain it caused me I was important, even when it was in a sick way, to both my parents. I think that was what gave me the leverage to develop my ‘fuck you’ attitude that keeps me from staying down. I’m somehow too stubborn to. Weird how life works.

Anyway, I’ve made a list of the things that I think contributed to my ability to stay alive and not give in during the three major phases of my life so far:

1. The time during which I live at my childhood home (0-15)

I HAVE: what my stepfather wants, everything my mother hates, myself.

I AM: an involuntary sex object, a scapegoat, a loner, different, secretive, distrustful.

I CAN: die inside, tolerate pain, read subtle changes in people, tell which is the safer of two options, hide from harm, wait things out, distract myself.

2. The time I spent in mental health care (15-23)

I HAVE: several diagnoses that tell me who I am, myself.

I AM: a mental health case, a calculating sex object, a loner, secretive, distrustful.

I CAN: dissociate, ignore people, rely on myself and self-destructive acts to keep a certain balance, self-medicate.

3. The time after I met my real family (23-now)

I HAVE: myself, a supportive family, my mom, a good therapist.

I AM: a daughter, learning to trust and how to be trustworthy, recovering, artistic.

I CAN: think about myself and my behavior, accept my mom’s help, keep from self-medicating and increasingly from self-harming, too, let myself in for safe relationships, look towards the future.

Life sure is weird and complicated.

Signs of good therapists + warning signs of bad ones

After the statement about “good” therapy with which I did not agree, I want to write down my thoughts regarding what I actually consider signs of good therapy, or rather of good therapists. I’ll add things that I learned to recognize as warning signs, too.

GoodRorschachSigns of good therapists:

  • a good therapist explains how she works and why she works that way
  • a good therapist is interested in helping me figure out what my therapy goals are and in helping me achieve them
  • a good therapist is a genuine, authentic and decent human being
  • a good therapist’s office feels safe and comfortable
  • a good therapist contributes to a feeling of hopefulness
  • a good therapist accepts my feelings and helps me explore them
  • a good therapist is respectful and professional
  • a good therapist is interested in establishing a positive, safe and empathic relationship with me before going anywhere in therapy
  • a good therapist is able to maintain this positive, safe and empathic relationship with me, even when she says things that might challenge or upset me
  • a good therapist can help me feel safe during the sessions and makes sure I am in a good place before I leave her office
  • a good therapist is knowledgeable on the issues she wants to treat and will say so, if something exceeds her abilities
  • a good therapist is *there* with me, I can feel her be genuinely present
  • a good therapist stays calm and on top of things even when I become chaotic
  • a good therapist is a mature person whose behavior speaks of her having morals and ethics
  • a good therapist knows how to laugh, too
  • a good therapist is honest with me
  • a good therapist can read my nonverbal cues and reacts to them
  • a good therapist is willing to give me feedback and answer my questions, as long as they are relevant to therapy
  • a good therapist steps back from power games
  • a good therapist respects it if I disagree with her or refuse to do something
  • a good therapist will admit to a mistake if she made it and apologize

 

BadRorschachWarning signs that I have encountered in past bad therapists:

  • therapist is repeatedly late for appointments (or does not show up at all)
  • therapist does not explain what she wants to do or why
  • therapist crosses physical boundaries (like by hugging or touching, euuuuuwwww) without asking for permission
  • therapist talks a lot about herself and the hassles of her own life
  • therapist talks not at all
  • therapist follows her own agenda and does not consider my goals / wishes / requests etc.
  • therapist is judgmental of my behavior
  • therapost does not take me and / or my objections seriously
  • therapist tries to manipulate my feelings (like by inducing guilt or making me feel bad about my behavior)
  • therapist blames my family (or, I suppose, other people in my life)
  • therapist thinks my opinion is uneducated and not worth listening to
  • therapist understands everything I say as evidence of my lacking mental health
  • therapist openly admits to bordering-on-illegal stuff like fraud (for example by charging the insurance for different services than she actually provided me with)
  • therapist wants to become personally involved in my private life and/or answers to invitations along those lines
  • therapist agrees to having sex with me or even invites me
  • therapist tries to feel better about herself and tries to meet her own emotional needs by helping me
  • therapist tries to talk me into / out of things
  • therapist makes unprovable claims regarding what causes my issues
  • therapist empathizes so much that I feel like I need to protect HER, because she can’t cope with the bad stuff
  • therapist identifies with me and / or my situation too much
  • therapist pushes me into the direction she wants to see me go
  • therapist leaves me feeling unsafe and unstable
  • therapist insists to muck around in issues that I don’t feel ready to face
  • therapist conveys that she does not like me, that I am annoying or a pain in her neck

Wow, I noticed that I could go on and on and on, especially with the warning signs list. I really have met my share of crappy therapists! I’m glad that my therapist F, however, has given me some faith in therapists back. The signs of good therapy all apply to her. 🙂 Even so, it’s rather outrageous that so many crappy ones are out there and allowed to mess with people. It always makes me very sad when people speak about crap their therapist did.  😦

Taking it easy today

Yesterday was a tough day, with all the thinking and writing about my sexual healing journey. I am okay, but I noticed I need to be careful when I ended up dissociating later in the day.

If you want a rather unusual glimpse at what can happen when I dissociate, here’s some dissociation art. I had just planned to draw a zentangle to calm down and focus, and it worked for the snail shell. Then I started with the little hearts. And kept drawing. And drawing. And drawing . . .

Dissociation Art

Pretty impressive. So today I’m going to take it easy. Focus on some good things. See if later I feel up to some journeying, but if not, I won’t and will rather wait another day. We’ll see. I really want to keep it positive and all that.

I hope you’re all having a good day today.

The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 4

SexualHJ_04

After my little break over the weekend, I’m now ready to continue with my sexual healing journey. Today’s chapter is called “identifying the sexual impact”. The book identifies six areas that will typically be affected by sexual abuse.

  1. Attitudes about sex
  2. Sexual self-concept
  3. Automatic reactions to touch and sex
  4. Sexual behavior
  5. Intimate relationships
  6. Sexual functioning problems

Today’s part of the journey will be for me to identify what kinds of impact my experiences of sexual abuse have had. The book provides a checklist with common impacts for each area, which I will not reproduce here, but if you are interested, the book is only about $10 / £7, so not really expensive to get. Instead of reproducing the whole list, I’ll list only the items that apply to me, personally, and add my own.

So the big question of this chapter is “What kind of impact has the sexual abuse had on me?” Here are my answers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. How sexual abuse has impacted my attitudes about sex:

  • I feel like sex is a form of punishment.
  • Sex feels dirty and degrading to me.
  • I think sexual desire makes people act unpredictably.
  • I feel like sex is something I have to endure until it’s over.
  • I feel like sex is something to pleasure men.
  • In my mind sex and sexual abuse are the same thing.
  • I feel like sex is aggressive and hurtful.
  • I feel like sex gets dangerous if I don’t comply.
  • I feel like sex is a way for one person to dominate another.
  • Sex feels humiliating.

2. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual self-concept:

  • I feel like I am an easy sexual target.
  • I feel like sex is the one thing I can be of use for.
  • I feel like my sexuality is disgusting.
  • I hate my body’s sexual responses.
  • I feel like I want sex for all the wrong reasons.
  • I feel like I don’t have the right to deny my body to anyone who wants it.
  • I feel like I am still a girl, sexual development wise.
  • I feel like I am either inviting abuse, or have no sense of being sexual at all.
  • I feel like if I want sex, I want abuse, and am as sick as an abuser.
  • I feel like I deserve whatever I get during sex.
  • I feel like I’m inferior to people because of my sexual history.
  • I feel like I am damaged goods.
  • I feel like I am really disgusting for having done certain sexual things.

3. How sexual abuse has impacted my automatic reactions to touch and sex:

  • I normally have little interest in being sexual.
  • I sometimes seek out inappropriate sexual possibilities.
  • I am bothered by sexual thoughts I can’t control.
  • I get sexually aroused by thoughts of sexual violence and abuse.
  • I have a sexual response in situations where I shouldn’t.
  • I easily misunderstand touch to mean that somebody wants sex.
  • I have flashbacks of sexual abuse during sex.
  • I feel emotionally distant during sex.
  • I experience negative feelings (shame, disgust with myself, anger, hate…) when I’m done having sex.
  • I experience physical pain after having sex.

4. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual behavior:

  • I am unable to say no to sex.
  • There are no limits to what I would do during sex.
  • I feel confused about how and when to be sexual.
  • I manipulate others into having sex with me.
  • I don’t care whether sexual partners are involved with someone else, if they are in the right place at the right time.
  • I had more sexual partners than was good for me to have.
  • I feel confused about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate touch within the family.
  • I often can’t stop myself from engaging in sexually suggestive or explicit sexual behavior within the family.

5. How sexual abuse has impacted my intimate relationships:

  • I have no interest in proper intimate relationships and have never had one.
  • I engage in casual sex that I invite myself, because I’m afraid of letting someone else determine time and place, knowing I am unable to say no.
  • I want nothing to do with people I have had sex with, because I find them disgusting for having had sex with me.
  • I feel like anyone who wants to have sex with me is a despicable person and a pedophile, because I still think of myself as a little girl and because I definitely look and behave an underage person, too.

6. How sexual abuse has impacted my sexual functioning:

  • My sexual behavior aims at relieving tension, not at achieving pleasure.
  • I don’t find sex pleasurable.
  • I don’t find sexual arousal pleasurable.
  • I don’t find orgasms pleasurable.
  • I do not like to touch myself, sexually or for reasons of hygiene.
  • I experience pain with sex.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so what have I learned from that, and how do I feel?

First of, I find it quite shocking to see so fucking many items on each list! I mean I knew I was messed up, but seeing the mass of items is really depressing. It’s not like any of the items would be real news to me, but still… seeing them all written down in plain words, so many of them, that’s different than just kind of knowing they are there and then quickly looking elsewhere. 😦

And how I feel . . . well, really embarrassed. Some items make me sound like a really sick person. I am afraid that everyone will think “whoa, she’s fucked up, who would think/feel/behave that way?! She must be one really dirty slut!”

But at the same time there is this stubborn part of me that says “Shut the fuck up! It’s not me who chose this, it’s what happens when people get abused, so I won’t sugarcoat it only to look better, because it’s not me who ought to feel guilty, but any asshole who assaults innocent kids or would consider me an appropriate sexual partner!” I mean really, I try to be respectful of everyone, but when I think back at the people who I’ve had sex with, there’s not a single one I feel even one shred of respect for. Anyone who looks at me and thinks I’d make for an appropriate fuck, despite the fact that I look like a teenager and that my sexual behavior is way inappropriate, especially those who actually carry through with it, THOSE should be the ones feeling guilty and embarrassed!

So I resist the urge to delete this whole post and remind myself that I haven’t chosen any of this. I have not chosen any of those behaviors! They are the impacts of shit other people did with me! I don’t feel good about any of them! In fact, I do what I can to avoid anything sexual altogether, because it’s so threatening and fucked up for me! But the impacts are there and I really, really want to get rid of them.

The next chapter is called “deciding to reclaim our sexuality”, and I look forward to that. I very much wish to reclaim it!

Thank you for reading, and I’m sorry if this was a hard or depressing or fucked up read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 3

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

This should be me! – a.k.a Gone Baby Gone

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There was a terrible situation yesterday night. I went to the kitchen with mom and in passing I looked through the door to the living room and caught a glimpse of a scene from a DVD dad was watching, Gone Baby Gone. I have no idea what was going on, but the scene was in this shabby house with a woman who was, like, a drug addict or a boozer or something. You could see from the way she looked and talked and behaved that she was really fucked up, unstable and unpredictable, able to turn violent and stuff.

It was the way my mother used to look. Except my mother had brown hair and that woman’s hair was blond. Like mine.

The resemblance to how my mother had been was horrifying. My heart beat like crazy, I felt frozen to the spot, instantly detached from reality, and I couldn’t look away from the screen even though what I saw made it worse.

Mom noticed I hadn’t followed her into the kitchen, so she came back and got me. She’s really quick to pick up on stuff like that, so I never needed to explain what had happened, she could already tell I had been triggered and was in a bad place. So instead of taking me to the kitchen, where we might have overheard stuff from the DVD, because the living room is right next to the kitchen, she took me back upstairs, and helped me come back to reality and calm down.

Which worked for a little while, and we snuggled, but then I got this thought that this woman I had seen should be me. I mean, really, it should. That was exactly the kind of home where I had grown up. Our house had looked cleaner, because of my mother’s OCD, but the whole atmosphere was exactly the same. I got this overwhelming feeling that this was the life that had been planned for me. That this is what I ought to have become: A fucked up drug addict and alcoholic who has a shabby home and a pathetic, miserable life.

But instead of that, I live in this really nice house, with people who I’m not even related to yet call mom and dad, exploiting them, messing with their lives, taking all those things they give to me that I don’t deserve, because the life that I was chosen for was never this life, but the kind of life I had seen on the TV screen.

The noise in my head was unbearable: This should be me. My life should be like that. How dare I exploit good people. I deserve a life like that, not the life I live now. I took something that I had no right to have. I should get punished. I must leave them. I do not deserve people who love me and care for me. I should be doing drugs and alcohol and have a shit life, just like my mother had . . .

To cut a long story short, the night turned into drama. I wanted to hurt myself and screamed and cried and it took a long time until I calmed down again. Most of it is hazy to me, but I think dad stopped watching the movie when I started screaming and helped mom with keeping me safe, because I have half a memory trying to kick him because I was so angry that they wouldn’t let me leave. Which in turn meant that I woke up several times during the night in a panic over losing everyone. Mom didn’t leave me during the night, so it was okay-ish, because I wasn’t alone, but this morning I feel exhausted, because of the bad night and waking up early, and awful about giving everyone such a terrible night, after it turned out to be me, who ended up “gone baby gone”.

Feeling exhausted and guilty is a dangerous mix for me, so that even when it has the potential to make me feel even more guilty, I’m also grateful that mom keeps me close by today. Crisis watch.

Mom insists I skip today’s part of the Sexual Healing Journey and I can’t argue that. I’d be a mess today. So instead I’ll do something a little more uplifting and try to make a list of things that I like, to get my thoughts (and hopefully my feelings, too) into a good direction again.

I hope you all had a nicer start into your Sunday.

And the Christmas Challenge begins

I was bored yesterday evening and drew this picture. It’s how Christmas feels to me. It has got its nice moments, things that I like, but right at the center of it is the Big Abyss Of Christmas Dreadfulness and when I misstep or get a push in the wrong direction, I’m headed downwards. Unfortunately everything Christmas takes place really close to the edge of the abyss.

Challenging Christmas

And the “fun” is already starting, it’s not even Christmas yet and already I fell into the abyss. I had very, very cautiously wished for something this Christmas. Something that I could have gotten, something the odds weren’t even too bad for getting, so I had foolishly allowed myself to picture in my head the nicety of getting it. I told nobody that I actually wanted this thing, because, well, deep down I don’t really feel like I deserve to ask for things and don’t want to make myself vulnerable by telling someone what I want.

Anyway, I had foolishly allowed myself to hope for it. Well, turns out today already that I even when the odds had been good, fortune was not on my side and because I had dared to hope, I was terribly disappointed when it turned out so differently than I had hoped. Now I hate myself for having hoped in the first place, for having been so stupid to set my heart on it, despite knowing better and disappointed that what I had already pictured in my mind is now not going to come true. So I’m disappointed and sad for not getting what I had stupidly hoped to get, angry at myself for not keeping from hoping and to make matters worse, mom said I could have just told her beforehand and that would have been it, but now it’s too late, which means I’m doubly angry at myself, and doubly disappointed and ready to be done with the holidays.

Familiar feelings of being the one who misses out while everyone else is happy. A painful, sad and abandoned feeling, yet it’s oddly comforting. Maybe because of the familiarity.

What a start into the holidays, head-first into abyss. I’m halfway out again by now, but even so, Christmas feels like disaster waiting to happen. I won’t get as much time to post, so if I’m not around, I’m probably dealing with the abyss in one way or another, whether it be near it, in it, or whatever.

Merry Christmas.

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