Group Therapy Homework – Feelings

Group therapy asks us to make commitments each week. This week I’m supposed to blog about feeling my feelings, which is something my regular therapist has been asking me to do as well. That leaves me feeling strangely empty. More and more when I try to feel or when my therapist asks me what I feel and where I feel it I simply feel very little. She asks, “Are you in your body?” Yep! Butt’s in the chair, feet are on the floor, my hands are gripping the chair, etcetera, etcetera. What else am I supposed to feel?

That’s it though, one isn’t supposed to feel anything. One simply feels what one feels. Why is it that other than anxiety and dread I don’t really feel much of anything? Is that the price of abuse? Or is that a good thing? Does it mean I’m not ready or that I’m incapable of feeling anything related to my past?

I think I should be angry. I should be angry that my dad was unstable and that I did what I felt I had to do just to get out of the house. I should be angry that Ex exploited and used me. I should be, but I just don’t feel it. Not really. At the same time I know I am capable of being angry or happy or sad, but it’s all in the moment. I think the wall I’ve put up might be leaking details and memories and flashbacks, but the emotional dam hasn’t burst. Will it? Do I even want it to? I’m not sure.

My therapist says that our bodies and brains release the things that we are ready to handle. Maybe this is something that I’m just not ready for yet. Have I failed this assignment?

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It Happened to Me

I am not really a Lady Gaga fan, but her new song and video really spoke to my soul.  If you are a survivor of sexual assault or rape, it might speak to you too.  Be prepared though, there are depictions of assault/rape and it could definitely be triggering.  View it at this link:

Til it Happens to You

Thank you, Lady Gaga.

I broke up with abusive Ex when I was a freshman in college.  I went home to do it and immediately after breaking it off I went back to school.  I looked like absolute shit.  I hadn’t showered that day, I had done a lot of crying, I was wearing an old sweater and pair of jeans.  Basically I was a hot mess in every sense of the word.  My roommate and best friend had gone home for the weekend as well so I did not have her to lean on; however, several of my friends who lived on my floor looked at me and suggested I go out partying with them.  I went.

When we went out we usually decided who looked the hottest that night and put her at the front of the line in an attempt to get into parties without paying the $5 cup charge.  That night I was definitely in the back of the group, but the guy at the door recognized me.  He was a few years older and had gone to my high school.  He immediately let us all in for free and brought me over to a table of guys who were playing a drinking card game.  I knew several of those guys from high school as well and joined them immediately.  I started playing the game and actually having a great time.  My girlfriends saw that I was with friends and drifted off to dance.  They thought I was ok and so did I… I was for the time being.

I left the table a few times to go outside and smoke.  Several times I noticed a guy really watching me.  It was creepy, but he didn’t say anything and I went back inside to the card table.  At the time I was an 18 year old freshman and probably weighed about 103 pounds.  Pretty quickly I was extremely drunk.  I realized I was going to have to throw up and I excused myself to the bathroom.  I ran in, closed the door, and proceeded to be sick.  I think I might have passed out on the floor for awhile.

I didn’t lock the door.  That was a failure.  Creepy guy came in and did lock the door.  He picked me up, sat me on the counter next to the sink, and proceeded to start kissing my neck and undressing me.  I tried and tried to fight him off and I tried to yell no, but I was so drunk I was fighting to stay conscious.  I don’t remember too much other than thinking to myself “Well, I guess I’m going to be raped now.”  It felt hopeless.  I felt powerless.

Luckily one of my male friends realized I had been gone awhile and decided to come and check on me.  I believe he broke the door in when I didn’t answer.  I remember him pulling the guy off me and yelling.  Other guys came in and grabbed Rapey dude and threw him out.  I think they may have beat him up, but I’m not sure.  Male friend got my clothes back on me and somehow got me back to my dorm room.  I remember him pulling my mattress off my lofted bed and putting it on the floor.  I remember him taking my shoes off, getting me a glass of water, bringing me a bucket, and holding my hand.  I remember him telling me that he would stay until I felt safe.  At some point I must’ve passed out.

If it wasn’t for that male friend my sexual assault would have been another rape.  It happens on college campuses all the time.  I thought I was safe.  I was with at least 5 girlfriends and I knew the guys who lived in the apartment.  I wasn’t safe.  There was a predator there and he was just waiting for an opportunity.  I’m sure that was his MO and that I probably wasn’t the first girl (or last) that he victimized.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t even go to my school.  He was just a college aged guy who scoped out parties.

That male friend of mine is a good and decent human being.  I have thanked him over the years, but I don’t think he fully understands just how grateful I am.  There are good people in this world and whenever I start to question humanity I think of him.

That’s a little part of my story.

Group Therapy – Commitment #1

My therapist recommended several months ago that I go to a local counseling center for sexual abuse/rape victims and get involved in their group therapy.  While it was not easy, I contacted the center and completed their intake which consisted of four individual visits with one of their counselors last February.  I actually had started to hope that they forgot about me when I received a call that a new group was starting; I had my first group session last week.

I have no real idea what this group will make me feel let alone if it will help me.  Last week was just basically laying out the group rules, making introductions, and completing an icebreaker.  The amount of anxiety I experienced sitting there really astonished me.  Just being in that room with the other women and knowing what we all have in common is hard enough; I don’t want to know what’s going to come up when we really start talking.  I guess that’s the point though, right?  Like my therapist says, “The only way out is through.”

Each week we will be asked to make a commitment for the following week.  We were told that people who honor their commitments do better with their recovery, but I’m not sure if that is anecdotal or if there is some empirical proof.  I suppose it doesn’t matter.  It’s part of the process and I need to try to engage.  One of the suggested commitments was to write a paragraph about what safety means and since we could do whatever we wanted with that paragraph I figured I would put it here.

Safety is an abstract concept that I’m not sure I understand.  I realize now that any sense of safety I’ve ever had was exterior to me.  I’ve hung my hopes of safety on my grandmother and my husband.  The problem with that is when my grandma died I fell to pieces and I live in terror that something might happen to my husband.  Basically, even my safety isn’t safe.  My own head certainly isn’t safe because I never know what insane memory is going to float up next.  It’s the mental equivalent of the proverbial other shoe.  I lay in bed and something drops.  I try to read and something drops.  I zone out in the car and a song comes on and something drops.  Always dropping, more and more sex, more and more control, more and more screaming, more and more shame.  Today I poked the bear and I’m wearing the guilt of that now and it feels like insomnia.  How’s that for a tangent?

Safety is the idea that I could live my life alone if necessary and thrive, that I would be able to continue as me without an US if my husband died or left.  I’m not sure that I could because everything safe is wrapped up in US.  Safe feels like his hug.  It smells like him and sounds like his voice when my head is on his chest.  That’s the only place I’m really home.  I understand intellectually that I must expand safety to include something interior to me, but frankly I have no idea how that would work.  Suggestions are welcome.  Commitment complete.

Letter to Ex

The following letter is a homework exercise my therapist asked me to write.  It just occured to me that in addition to working through it with her at therapy that I could post it here.  So here goes:

Ex,

Fuck you. Fuck you because it’s 12:35 a.m. and I’m not sleeping peacefully in bed with my husband. This is about the 20th time this month and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not being able to lie on my left side with my husband at my back because of you and your insatiable sexual appetite. I’m sick of flashbacks and the extreme anxiety they cause. I’m sick of middle of the night IBS bouts brought on by that anxiety. I’m sick of Xanax and depression medication and PTSD and RA and IBS and migraines and everything else that’s wrong with me at least half of which I’m convinced is your fault. Fuck you.

I never said yes to you. Not once that I can remember. Then again, I don’t really remember you ever asking. You certainly didn’t the first time. After that time you badgered, harassed, cajoled, quid pro quoed, and coerced. I didn’t deserve any of it. I didn’t want any of it. You should not have done it.

Sometimes when I get really upset I zone out completely and sit and stare for a while. I had a moment like that just now. It’s like my brain shuts off and when it’s over I feel almost dizzy. It’s like I’m back in dance and I’ve done one too many pirouettes, but I don’t actually fall. It’s not pleasant, but at least it’s not anxiety. I don’t know why I’m telling you this; you don’t have a right to know that feeling.

I was back in your room tonight, in my head at least. Don’t let that get to your head. I’m sure you’d love to know that I’m thinking of you. You’d turn it into some sick fantasy about how much I still wanted you. I never wanted you. I just wanted a way out. Funny thing is that I still want a way out; only instead of my parents’ house I want a way out of my own head. I hate you for trapping me, but I hate myself more for not being able to stop it. I couldn’t stop it then, I didn’t stop it then, I can’t stop it now, it’ll never fucking stop. Sometimes I wish I was stupid. If I was stupid, legitimately stupid, then I think I could let myself believe that this wasn’t all my fault or something I somehow deserved.

It’s stupid. If any of my friends told me about a HS boyfriend that did to them what you did to me I would feel badly for them and tell them it wasn’t their fault. I’d tell them that they were young and that everyone makes mistakes, and that it’s natural to want to trust someone they think they love. I’d mean it too. I just can’t bring myself to really let myself believe that for myself, especially when every day I remember more and more about the things you did to me. I stayed. I stayed! You sure picked the right girl Ex, you sure did.

Me

Followed

I was followed yesterday and it is haunting me.  I haven’t seen my perpetrator for 13 years… until yesterday.  I was headed to my therapist’s office for my weekly appointment and got on the freeway.  There is construction just north of my onramp and the lanes go from three down to two.  I noticed the car in front of me because of its bumper sticker and then the license plate caught my attention.  It was a vanity plate that contained my Ex’s name and the year he graduated HS.  I passed the car and looked at the driver and it was him.  And of course he fucking looked and realized it was me too.  He followed me from that point until I exited the freeway 30 miles later.  It could have been a coincidence that he was going the same way I was, but frankly I have no way of knowing.  He stayed behind me the whole way.

I am kind of amazed I didn’t get in an accident.  I pretty much drove watching my rear view mirror.  By the time I got to my appointment I was practically in a full blown panic attack.  I sat in the car shaking for a few minutes before I was able to get up and walk in.  Thankfully, my therapist was waiting for me and I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room.  She said she could tell something was really wrong when she saw me.  We worked on breathing and talking about where in my body I felt the anxiety and where I felt the fear.  She asked me what I needed to say to my Ex as the grown up woman I am today.  I told her that I would tell him that he didn’t deserve me then and what he did to me was unacceptable.  She noted that I didn’t tell him that he could no longer hurt me.

Can he still hurt me?  She says no, but my body screams yes.  I wouldn’t have been so fucking afraid if that answer is no, would I?  She reminded me that I am now a capable adult.  If he ever came after me I could 1) call the police, 2) drive to the police station, 3) carry and use mace, 4) call my husband, etc.  She said that I need to let the part of myself hear the rest of me when I tell it that we’re safe now.  I understand that on a theoretical level, but it’s just hard to from an emotional level.  I guess that’s what fucking trauma does.

The PTSD flashbacks have been bad today.  I have a project to do and I’ve been completely unable to work on it.  The fucking reverberations of this shit are so hard to handle.