After a long break in writing this blog I began to wonder why am I writing this or who am I writing it for. I started writing this to tell some of my stories and to just feel like maybe there was someone out there that this could help. Maybe there was someone who just needed to know that they were not alone in their suffering and healing. I never intended this to be a forum on my trauma. What I really wanted was to tell my story in small chunks and talk about how I was moving through the process so that maybe someone else would not feel alone. I hope that in some small measure I have done that. Thanks for reading.
Since the last time I went to the hospital my anxiety level has increased. I was very blessed with caretakers who tried to make sure that through all of the procedures I felt safe. I knew that I was safe. Feeling safe when many of the practices in the hospital trigger traumatic memories of the torture that I endured is different.
For one of the procedures they needed to anesthetize me and put very deep under. I was terrified at the thought of not having any conscious control of my body. The doctors let me hold the mask over my face and I was in control for as much as I was able to be. As I was coming out of the anesthesia I could hear myself talking. Some of the things I said were trauma stories that I have told no one. That was very disconcerting.
Through the hospital stay I did my meditation everyday. It was sometimes for only five minutes. There were a few times that I was able to meditate for longer periods of time. It is very hard to focus on the breathing when you are in the middle of panic and anxiety so I often used guided meditation. When the meditation did not work I tried to listen to a piece of classical music that seems to work as though it is magic for my anxiety. I have this particular piece in three or four variations. I put them all onto a playlist and hit repeat. With ear buds in I was able to fall a sleep and rest for a few hours.
Flashbacks and dissociation happen very seldom these days. I have been working for a long time to process through a lot of the trauma. Years and Years of working through the trauma. And yet there still seems so much still to work through. I have found that the old adage that for every bad person there are hundreds of good people you can turn toward to help and to heal.
The anxiety seems to be harder to face and to work through. And it always scares me because my first thought is that my heart is misbehaving again. I do a body check of where is the pain. When I slow down long enough to actually put my hands over the painful spots it is never my heart. I can then stop and breathe and slow things down and put them into perspective. This means slowly reviewing what just happened in the last half hour. Sometimes there is a delay on the anxiety and the cause could have been anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour before. Finding the trigger and working forward to a better place helps.
The meditation seems to be the best course for me at this time. Though I now have to augment the meditation with medication to get me to a point that the meditation helps. Primarily I use the Calm.com app for meditation. It has soothing sounds as well as a timer or a peaceful voice that leads the meditation for a set length of time. Lately I have been taking advantage of the gratefulness.org resources. What ever format the meditation comes in I hope that it helps.
Sometimes, when I am very stressed or in the midst of dealing with ghosts from the past, I stutter. This used to be a real problem for me. I also had a lisp. I saw a speech therapist for a short time when I was very young. And it also led to many opportunities for me to show the bullies why it was not a particularly good idea for them to pick on me. But teasing hurts. Which led to me not talking much. Or I would pace myself so it didn’t show up as much. It was not a constant thing and definitely more prominent during times of traumatic experience. But it was still there.
After my father died and we moved to Texas my mother bought a house that saved me. Well the fact that the bathroom had fabulous acoustics actually saved me. My father had died and the majority of the ongoing trauma died with him. But I still had the stutter and the lisp. And this is how the bathroom saved me. Everyday after school when there was a lull between anyone else coming home and my coming home, I would read out loud in the bathroom. I could hear myself clearly and listen for the shape of the words. I read Jane Eyre out loud in the bathroom until I had the stutter under control.
The depth of the language and shaping of the words enabled me to be able to overcome that particular obstacle. It was also an amazing feat since in reality I had only been reading for about four years at that point. Up until the fourth grade I had been just barely getting by in the reading department. But again I kept practicing and reading until viola I could read Jane Eyre. And pretty much anything else that was put in front of me. It was how I escaped the horrors of my life and stayed sane.
The other night I started to stutter again. There is a lot going on in my life and I had been having a particularly hard time with nightmares. While talking to my children I could not get out the words that I wanted to say. I started to panic. It is kind of a claustrophobic feeling to not be able to talk. To not be able to express the things that you are feeling. It creates a sense of being trapped. I took a moment to think and try to get past the feeling and relax so that the words could come out. I stayed silent and let the breathing ease my thoughts back into a place that was calm. And then I slowly began to finish what I was saying.
There are fewer and fewer times when I feel my ability to speak slip away. Being able to remember how to stay calm and speak slowly has helped. As has the knowledge of breathing and being mindful of what is happening around me at that very second. And not the panic that is trying come from the past. Right now at this very minute there is no threat, there is only me and the sounds of the cars driving past and the sound of the keys as I type. In this moment I can speak and not stutter, be free of any traps, and allow myself to just be at peace.
For the last few weeks I have been doing course work on trauma. This has been both enlightening and profoundly painful. One of the projects that I am doing for the course is a video on PTSD. Two weeks ago I thought that it would be a good idea to do a trial run. No one was home so I sat down with my computer and started. Worked for about a half hour. I thought that I had accomplished a great deal. And I had.
What I also accomplished was to trigger a panic/anxiety attack that lasted for about a week. It was not always strong but it was relentless. Sleep was difficult and so was general functioning. At one point the anxiety attack struck with such force that I thought I was having a heart attack. (Since I have panic attacks frequently I found out and learned the signs of a real heart attack) This was so intense that it scared me and my family. I thought that I would not survive it. It scared my family so much that they put me on lock down from all school work for three days. I could read fiction, if it was not stressful and needed to do extreme self care.
The point of this is that though I took the three days off I went back to work on learning. Set up a new work schedule and increased the self care. It was a stretch for my comfort zone. I pushed the boundaries of my bubble a little harder than I usually do. But I grew and I learned more resilience. Each hard step can make us stronger if we grow from it and mot move back into our shell. That little chestnut was painful. But learning that like stretching muscles is painful so is stretching my bubble.And that information was very affirming.
About twenty years ago I was a totally different person. I worked basically on a survival mode. After years of taking care of myself and keeping myself safe I let go. I was and am in a relationship that was safe and healthy. I no longer had to be on guard against someone trying to hurt me for the first time in my life.
Over the years I have healed and grown and changed. I have developed coping strategies that cover such a wide range of situations. Creating those strategies took time and was a slow process. And over the years as I healed and grew some of the strategies became unnecessary. Some, though unnecessary, are still hanging around.
I guess the purpose of this post is just a way for me to mark the growth that I have experienced. It has been awhile since I sat down and truly looked at how much I have grown and changed. As I start down the path that is a new semester in school, one filled with tasks I am unsure of, I needed to see how far I have come to be able to see how far I can go.
The shadow of fear as well as the fear of being less than perfect is a hard one to move out from under. It seems to follow you. My goal for the foreseeable future is to find a way to stand in the sun. To feel the warmth of possibilities and the glow of attempting to do those things that scare me. And to begin to become on the outside the person I have kept safe on the inside. As well as to accept that there are a lot of people around me who have already seen that person and are waiting for me to realize that she is already here.
There was a time in my life that I felt like the abuse and trauma that I suffered were my fault. That somehow I was to blame for the things that were done. I also felt like somehow I should have been able to protect myself. With the last thought I realized I was looking at myself through the eyes of an adult. And not the eyes of a child.
Then I had a daughter. And she was an amazingly beautiful baby. She began to grow into a wonderful toddler. Then it all started to make sense. I saw my beautiful little girl, a small child, and I saw myself. There was no way on earth I could have protected myself from a grown adult. That was a truly mind stretching thing for me. I had always thought that I should have been able to do something. There was no way I could have.
It was also never, ever my fault. The fact that someone chose to do those things was their choice. I had no blame in the matter. I, contrary to what I was told, did nothing. I was just a child. It is a crazy world where the victim walks around believing it was their fault. Now I see where the blame lies and it is not at my doorstep.
The belief that something is our fault colors so much of our perceptions. Whether it is an car accident, an argument or any other thing that happens. We carry with us a guilt. We carry the “what if?” I sometimes wonder who I would be if I had had a childhood that was free of trauma. I know one thing, I would probably not have learned how to fight as early as I did. I got into more fistfights as a child than I even want to remember. I was never the aggressor. Even now it takes a lot to get me on the attack if it is only me that is affected by the bully. But in the defense of someone else, I have a hair trigger. Especially where my sister is concerned. I got into more fights defending her than anything. And even though we are both grown up women with grown children I still have a hair trigger when it comes to defending her. Though she has told me she can take care of herself.
It has taken a long time to reach a point where I do not feel guilt over what happened to me. And to stop feeling a guilt that I was not able to better protect my siblings. Turning the responsibility of what happens onto the victim is very much a part of the abusers arsenal. If that guilt is there than a feeling of responsibility is there as well. Realizing that is something that enabled me to move forward so much more smoothly through my healing. It is a hard to thing to get past.
I am who I am today because of everything that I have been through. I like who I have become. I like that I am stronger than I think am. And that I have developed my own inner solid core through the adversity that I have endured. At Goddard they say “to trust the process.” And the process of healing is not easy and can take you down many unexpected paths. But the trauma that I experienced was never my fault and I am the person I am through having overcome it. I may never be free of some of the things that accompany that trauma. But I like the person I have and am becoming. And the process of becoming free of the guilt and blame is well worth the effort.