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

I Don’t Want To Grow Up

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I have a friend who is an adult. That may sound weird since all of my friends are adults. But this friend stands out as extra “adult”. She gently (or not so gently) reminds me of the things I have to do, the things I hate doing. She doesn’t let me procrastinate until they are problems because she knows I might do that. She reminds me of what it means to be an adult who takes responsibility for the stuff that adults don’t want to do.

We all have things we avoid as adults. We don’t like paying bills. We avoid the dentist. We hate doing taxes. We don’t often grab these things by the horns and make them happen with gusto. And for trauma survivors, it is worse. In many cases, we have triggers associated with these things. Maybe our parents didn’t do them well. Maybe they abused us after doing those things because they felt powerless, and they needed to feel powerful in their dysfunctional way. Whatever the reason, doing the things required of adults may make us feel triggered or powerless. 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

My Inner Rebel Will Not Be Stopped

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My family members were masters at squashing rebellion. It is what any good (or bad) dictator learns how to do before all else. It only takes one person to rise up against you, one bad link in the chain, and the empire can fall. Personally, I could not imagine depending on the fear in others to maintain the life I want. It sounds like a lot of work to keep that house of cards intact. But many are willing to try it because they think it is the only way to have power and control. And honestly, what can be easier than teaching children to fear you … especially if they are your children? I believe this actually works most of the time. I believe there are thousands (or more) of children who never speak of their devastating childhoods, who spend their entire lives deeply hating their parents while going through the motions of one big happy family, even arranging the perfect funeral for their parents in the end.

My parents were expecting everything to happen just like that. After all, it is what they had done for their parents. And who are we kidding? Their parents did it too. Unfortunately for them, they had me. I have a rebellious side. I have always had a problem with people telling me what to do. I told far more people about their abuse than they expected. They had to do far more cover up than they had planned. And then, at 38 years old, I blew the lid off the whole thing, denying them their self-ascribed right to abuse their grandchildren and keep the cycle going. I know they feel like the victims. I know because they told me. They told me I was breaking their hearts and that they didn’t deserve this treatment. They never expected this to happen. But unfortunately for them, they had me. Continue reading

Packing Up The Trauma

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When I was growing up, I never grew up. I grew upward. I grew taller as most kids do. But many aspects of my development stopped at a very young age. While my brain grew intellectually, my unprocessed emotions from my traumatic experiences thwarted my reliance on emotional intelligence and intuition. I had shut all of that down. And while I grew taller, I hid most of my unprocessed experiences in my body which resulted in chronic bouts with pain for many years.

There is much discussion in the therapeutic community about how much recovery is possible when acute (one time) trauma becomes complex (chronic and inescapable) trauma. Most trauma experts are convinced that recovery can be extensive, but may never reach “full” recovery (whatever that may mean). As Dr. Bruce Perry stated in The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, “she [his patient] will always love with an accent”. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Samantha Erdeley Rubin

I have been crushed by Rolling Stone’s note about their misplaced trust in the UVA rape victim. In reality, I feel that she misplaced her trust in them … and they re-victimized her. Here is my letter to the journalist which is posted on The Good Men Project.

The Good Men Project: An Open Letter to Samantha Erdeley Rubin

Evil is Complicated

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The other day, during my presentation to an audience of medical professionals, one of the doctors asked a good question. “Many of these victims eventually become abusers, so what do we do when they start abusing others? How do we treat them when they are no longer a victim but a perpetrator?” I didn’t have an answer for his question. It is true that many victims of childhood violence will turn that trauma on others if they don’t get help. It is easy to focus on our victimhood. We have been wronged horribly and we deserve to be heard. As a matter of a fact, I believe most people spend a lot of their time focused on how they have been wronged. But there is another side to us. There is the angry, raging person who is fed up with this world. There is a criminal.

Continue reading