The Familiar Pain

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*If you are sick and tired of hearing people tell you to “put the past behind you” or “get over it” or “move on with your life already”, I want to ensure you that this is not the message of this post.

Today, I had a small epiphany. I was thinking about what life would be like if I wasn’t sad, if I no longer carried the pain with me. In that moment, I felt a twinge of sadness about not being sad. I felt grief about living life without pain. I felt fearful about living with the faith necessary to open up my life. It was as if I might be saying goodbye to a long-term relationship, a dysfunctional relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the pain. I push through it. I will my way through life with gusto despite it. I want nothing more than to move past it. But I have inner parts. And I may have an inner part who isn’t ready to let go of the familiar.

There is a phrase: “the evil you know versus the evil you don’t”. I think it sums up the recovery journey well. When pain becomes familiar, letting go of that pain can cause more of it, at least at first. And recovery doesn’t feel like jumping off a cliff. It feels like jumping off multiple successive cliffs. So when faced with one more change, one more risk to take, it might feel better to go with what doesn’t feel good at all, because at least we know it. In this journey, pain may be the only thing that isn’t new. Continue reading

An Impenetrable Strength

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As a survivor in the anti-trafficking movement, I am often treated as though I am only necessary for my story. This is not news. Most of my survivor friends can tell you about being re-exploited by those in the movement who are trying to make things right. But of course, in their effort to do the right thing, they are not helping the survivor advocates.

When I began my efforts, I thought I might be different. I thought that wouldn’t happen to me. I have an advanced degree in social work. I have twenty years of experience in the corporate world. I am different. I will be respected.

But in reality, I was stereotyping survivors too! Why am I so different? How many survivors have advanced degrees? How many survivors have experience in corporate jobs? How many are running companies? What makes me so special? Continue reading

Words to Live By

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How many people in your life would qualify as the “A-word”? You know those people who are nasty and manipulative and selfish, the people who are only interested in what’s in it for them. And I label them as abusers. (What word were you thinking of?) They aren’t necessarily punching you or sexually assaulting you, but their behavior is abusive on the emotional and mental levels.

Sometimes I wonder if trauma survivors are more prone to come across abusers. I wonder if there is a sign on my back that says, “I was horribly mistreated by my parents so that makes me more likely to succumb to your nasty bullying behavior.” (That message may be a little long.) And while I could spend hours, even days, feeling victimized all over again, I know I have to look at this from a different perspective. It is not possible to change the abusers. It is not possible to avoid the abusers entirely. While I am proud to say I have learned to set better boundaries, the abusers will always be around. I have to understand how I am reacting to them internally. My reaction must change. Nothing else can. Continue reading

The Wilderness

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As a trauma survivor in recovery, I have spent a long time in the wilderness. It isn’t an actual wilderness. I am not a fan of the outdoors. Nature and my dissociative defense mechanism are not compatible. I am speaking of the wilderness that is often the subject of the spiritual texts. It seems that before most protagonists find their mission or purpose, there is some period of waiting. There is some period of preparing, of letting go of the old.  And it makes sense to me. I don’t see another way. If the foundation is shaky, it cannot be built upon.

But I hate it.

I carry a large amount of masculine energy with me. I rejected that which was feminine many years ago in my attempts to avoid the loathing that my parents spewed upon their little girls. I figured that if the feminine was so easily abused and disliked, I would not be that. I learned over the years to be about action, to be about the willful accomplishment of goals. In my early adulthood, it seemed to work for a while. It worked until the children were born. But children don’t respond to the unbalanced masculine unless the goal is to rid them of any individuality. They must be raised with both. So I have worked hard to resurrect my feminine aspects. I have even found some balance. But I still favor action. Continue reading

My Mirror in Severus Snape

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I recently read the first two Harry Potter books to my eight-year-old twins. They were astounded by them. My children’s entire lives shifted forever when Harry saw Quirrell standing in front of the mirror at the end of the first book. I knew it would be surprising to them. The brilliance of the Harry Potter stories is their unpredictable nature. And since my children are still processing things as black and white, they just received a mind-blowing lesson in “things are not always as they seem”.

But I have a truly shameful revelation to make. I had never read these books either. I know. I may have been the last person on the face of the Earth who had not read them. I am not sure why. I have always loved fantasy stories. I filled my childhood with unicorns, wizards and fairies just to keep distracted from my reality. But I was already an adult when the Harry Potter series first came out. And I was living in a world of obligation. I didn’t make time for my own entertainment. And my dissociated brain had trouble focusing on books, so I usually didn’t read unless required by school or work. Of course, I went to the theater for the first couple of movies like the rest of the world. But as is usually the case, the books are in another league. Continue reading

Overqualified for the Job

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I have been thinking about leadership lately. What does it mean to be a leader? What personal characteristics does that require? Is a leader defined by their followers, by their dissenters? What is required of them when they are a leader? And why am I so scared to be one?

In our society, most leaders seem to be figure heads. It appears that most of them have a team of people in the background telling them what to do. And while I agree that everyone should collaborate in their creations, it seems that most of our leaders aren’t creating much. They aren’t standing up for much. It seems that they are maintaining the status quo. So to me, they are not leading. They are staying put. Continue reading

Letting It Break

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When I was growing up, I suffered all types of abuse, but I find the most difficult to overcome was the abandonment and neglect. While my abusers stayed in my life (to my dismay), they emotionally left me before I was born. They neglected me in my early life by not meeting my basic needs. So while they were still around, they were not, unless of course, they needed something from me. This feeling of abandonment was exacerbated by the bystanders who walked out of my life while I hoped they would help me.

In my adult life, I struggle to find gratitude and appreciate what I have. It seems as though the people, animals and things that matter to me the most are appreciated the least. It seems that way, but it isn’t the case. As a child, I “learned” that what mattered to me most would be taken away. In some cases, this was a result of manipulative parents who would use my favorite things against me so they could break me. They would also remove my favorite people from my life because they were dangerously close to exposing the family secrets. And their methods certainly worked. So, I developed a defense mechanism. Continue reading