Thursday, 13 September 2012

My child is healing/teaching me.

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now (about a month) but I needed some time, I guess, to actually deal with and simmer on what I'm about to talk about here. On what happened with my son and myself that resulted in me relapsing once again, but in a very unexpected way.

The love of my life, my beautiful son, Channing Danté Olivier

I had been speaking to a therapist a recently (About two months back) about various things around my abuse and how it was and is still affecting me. Especially about how angry I get at myself sometimes that it is still affecting me. I feel that I have done so much work on myself around this issue that it makes me mad when I find myself relapsing or becoming sensitive or withdrawn. She spoke to me about the fact that relapsing WILL most likely continue to happen, especially as a result of my son as there will be various things I will have to deal with regarding him as he grows up and goes through various phases himself. Like what about when he hits puberty and becomes aware of sex and his own body? When he becomes interested in girls and how I will deal with him as he becomes a man.

Anyway, what happened about a month ago was that he had tonsillitis and had a fever as a result. So we got suppositories from the doctor for him. That evening when we got home, my husband had to go somewhere (I can't remember now where) to help someone or get something. So I decided that I would give Danté (my son) the suppository myself. Not thinking much of it or that it remotely come anywhere close to becoming a relapse trigger, I undressed him and lifted his legs to give him the suppository. He immediately started screaming and crying and tried to protect his bum as I tried to push it in. It didn't go in properly because of his squirming which meant that I had to keep trying to push it in.

I immediately felt like I was on the other end of abuse. As if I was the one abusing my child. His reaction and my forcing the suppository was a massive, massive shock and blow to me. How could I do this, how could I hurt my child like this.

I just left it like that, with the suppository half way in and held him, crying (both of us) and telling him how sorry I am. I am SO SORRY. I wanted to tell him I loved him but then I got worried that he would associate that phrase with hurt to his private areas. I was broken and distraught. Suddenly I saw myself in the same box as abusers.

Very soon my son was fine, running around the room and playing again, but it was taking EVERYTHING out of me to not show him how broken and guilty I was feeling right then. I knew the best was to just pretend to be okay and play with him. But man oh man, it was taking a lot out of me.

When my husband finally came home, I could give Danté to him as I went into the bathroom to cry.
Of course, Julio (my husband) wasn't going to leave me there to cry. He came into the bathroom to talk to me about why I was crying and what happened. When I told him, he assured me that Danté was okay and that I didn't hurt him. That I shouldn't be hard on myself about it. Which was easier said than done. The damage was done (the emotional damage in me - the relapse, in a sense)

The next night was girls night with my girlfriends. I knew I had to talk to them. Robyn and Ashante have always been extremely understanding, caring and attentive, not to mention proactively helpful with me and my issues. I'm always surprised by how, after all these years, they never seem to tire of me coming back to them with the same issue over and over again every time I relapse or have a moment of weakness.

The most amazing women I have ever known, Robyn (left) and Ashante (centre)

So anyway. After a couple of drinks and talking about a couple of other things, I finally told them I needed to talk to them about something big. So I started explaining to them about what happened and how I felt about it. Firstly they explained to me the things I had told myself. That I know I didn't do it with an abusive or sexual intention. It was a suppository for his own good. That his reaction was normal for a child getting a suppository, it wasn't because I did anything wrong, etc etc.

So we dug a little deeper. I started realizing and saying that part of it was that I was angry that this happened to me at all and that it was affecting how I interact with my child. That I was angry about not being able to just be angry about it and get mad that it was unfair. I am always the one keeping it together. Keeping everything together and sorting things out for everyone around me. Pretending that I am always okay, until I get a nervous breakdown.

Then Ashante said "You have every right to be angry and feel that it was unfair. More than anyone I know, you have absolute right to get mad and scream about how unfair your life is."

I immediately broke down and started crying. It was SO GOOD to actually hear someone say that to me. To be told that my feelings around my life is justified. It felt great to actually cry about it and to say to myself "Yes, this is bullshit, it's not right and it's not fair and it pisses me off to no end."

Wow, what a relief and a breakthrough. I always felt that it would just be selfish, not to mention, self pitying to do that. But now to hear that I was completely justified, Wow.

But that wasn't the end. Then it was time for brutal truths, as we tend to do. Both Robyn and Ashante started talking to me about how Danté came into my life to help me heal. That I wasn't done healing, that I still had a long way to go in fact. That I have to start understanding and accepting the fact that through Danté I am going to have many more relapse episodes and that they are there to force me to face many fears and issues within myself around my abuse. They were basically telling me the same things that my therapist had told me, but they had a way for putting it to me much more straight. Much more real.

I can now see that these relapses are actually good things as it helps me heal more and more. That Danté, aside from being such a blessing in my life, aside from bringing such joy and purpose to my life, he is also there to challenge me and heal me. That he is my angel in more ways than one, but it's up to me to decide how I'm going to handle those situations when they come. And my amazing husband is my unconditional pillar of strength. How blessed I am despite all the pain.

My wonderful husband (Julio) and son (Danté).
Some things I might be able to predict, more or less, like when he gets to an age and starts expressing an interest in sex, he may do something inappropriate without knowing it. Even now, me having to deal with his genitals is sometimes difficult for me because of the abuse I've gone through. I have to deal with my discomfort and guilt about that discomfort. But there may be other things in the future that will catch me completely off-gaurd, that I would have no way of knowing that it would happen or affect me. Like the incident with the suppositories.

So now I'm trying to live my life by making peace with relapsing and triggers that may result from my relationship with my son. And I am grateful for it everyday.

Thank you for the challenges
Thank you for my beautiful, wonderful Danté.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Wash Away Those Years

For the longest time I have had a problem with crying. Not that I think crying is stupid or anything like that. I want to cry, I understand the value of crying, of allowing your tears to flow so as to wash away the pain, or at least release some of it.

The problem I have with crying is that I struggle to cry. I sometimes sit and feel my heart breaking, I feel the hurt and pain as it overflows and seems to be too much for my emotional, mental and physical self to contain. I feel like my head and body want to explode and all I want to do is cry, to let it all out. But something inside me holds onto my control so hard that my head soon does explode... Into a pounding headache that soon becomes a migraine.

I learned at a conference this weekend held by Lynne Fraser, an amazingly inspirational woman, that I am not celebrating and being grateful for the one tear that does fall. I have been expecting myself to cry with tears streaming down my face. That it should pour with as much power, freedom and velocity as the Victoria Falls during the rainy season. The only times that my tears do actually flow is when I have a nervous breakdown, and though that helps and though it is necessary at times it is not the same or as healthy as quietly sitting and just crying. I am working on appreciating my one or two tears and trying to teach myself to stop forcing it. To just let it be.

I think that in itself is a valuable lesson to learn even in the greater scheme of things. To just appreciate things as they are, as apposed to trying to force it to the way I want it to be and then ending up with disappointment and a massive headache.

So here I want to share a song from Creed which I haven't listened to in a long time and which used to help me cry a bit more fully than I have in a long time.

Maybe it will help you too or help someone that you may know that is struggling with releasing those emotions.

So here I go, on the road to washing away those years through tears.

She came calling
One early morning
She showed her crown of thorns
She whispered softly
To tell a story
About how she had been wronged
As she lay lifeless
He stole her innocence
And this is how she carried on
This is how she carried on

Well I guess she closed her eyes
And just imagined everything's alright
But she could not hide her tears
'Cause they were sent to wash away those years
They were sent to wash away those years

My anger's violent
But still I'm silent
When tragedy strikes at home
I know this decadence Is shared by millions
Remember you're not alone
Remember you're not alone

Well if you just close your eyes
And just imagine everything's alright
But do not hide your tears
'Cause they were sent to wash away those years
Well if you just close your eyes
And just imagine everything's alright
But do not hide your tears
'Cause they were sent to wash away those years
They were sent to wash away those years
Maybe we can wash away those years

For we have crossed many oceans
And we labor in between
In life there are many quotients
And I hope I find the mean
the mean, the mean
Well if you just close your eyes
And just imagine everything's alright
But do not hide your tears
'Cause they were sent to wash away those years
Well if you just close your eyes
And just imagine everything's alright
But do not hide your tears
'Cause they were sent to wash away those years
Maybe we can wash away those years
I hope that you can wash away those years

Monday, 23 July 2012

The weight of your words, the weight of your actions.

In so many different areas of life, be it work, relationships with lovers, with friends or family, even with ourselves, does anybody ever really put their money where their mouths are?

People like to talk big about various things around them.
Reading an article in the newspapers about a young girl that was raped, I see people saying "Oh, that's so sad. How can people do that, poor girl. Blah, blah, blah."

Or lovers that say "Baby, I love you so much. You mean the world to me. Blah, blah, blah."

Or at work where you are told, "You are such a good worker, you will be rewarded with a raise. We appreciate you. Blah, blah, blah" and so it goes.

But does that person commenting on the newspaper article really support that person in their own family that has been abused. Or is the supposed "what will people think" comment and argument, more important. So many people feel so uncomfortable with the issue, they just refuse to deal with it or acknowledge it as being present in their immediate circle.

Or the lover that says all those wonderful loving words. Are they really showing what they say? The man that says his woman means everything to him. But when he is drinking with his buddies till all hours of the night and hung over all the next day when he had a date set-up with his lady or is supposed to help with the baby, does he really put her or his family first? Does that woman actually feel his words every single day through action?

Or the woman that says she loves and respects her man. When she is out flirting, or with her girlfriends gossiping about his mommy issues or about what he's like in bed, is she really respecting him and is that love honest?

When that boss makes all those promises and says how much he or she values the employee. But those promises are as wispy as the air they are spoken into and the compliments are used as a tool to keep that employee hoping year after year that one day those promises will be fulfilled. Is there really any future for either the employee or employer, or even that business? How can there possibly be growth for anyone?

Photo by darianpisano

Lies and insincere words have become so common place that we cannot see the wood for the trees. Actually, we cannot see either anymore. We don't want to. It has become so acceptable to be treated like crap, to just take the punches. Especially as women. It has always been expected that woman should just deal with it.

"Who are you to complain that you are not being appreciated at work. You fought to work alongside men and now you have it, so stop complaining."

"You wanted to be in a relationship, have that child, get married, you brought it on yourself. So deal with that man/woman that doesn't give you the time of day and that doesn't bring his/her side with the home or the kids. With a person that's abusive. You asked for it."

Or worse yet. "You wanted to wear that short skirt. You wanted to wear figure hugging clothes. Obviously that would attract a man, so don't come and complain about being raped. You asked for it."

Really??? Really??

Isn't it about time we stop just sitting back and muttering our opinions for the sake of conversation or for the sake of fitting in or whatever your reason may be.
Isn't it about time we stand up and demand better? Isn't it about time we stand up and start realizing our value and fighting for it. Isn't it about time to make those hard decisions, to cut those ties that are killing us slowly.

Why do we hurt each other so with lies and deceit? Do you not realize that when you hurt someone else, you are really hurting yourself too? We all contribute in our own small way to the fabric of life, to societal perceptions and norms, to how the community at large responds and takes action, or not.

When you are sitting with your colleagues or your group of friends or your family and you are having a conversation, your words have an impact on them and their ideas, and they will carry that forth to the people that they encounter and talk with. That contributes to the general perception.

When people use the word "rape" as part of a joke. When they say things like "That car is so sexy, I just want to rape it." Having a survivor (or victim) of abuse in the group or in that conversation . . . saying THAT, shows that person how little care or concern you have for those that have gone through it. It shows a complete lack of respect and consideration, not to mention education and decency to the value of being a human being. It's a slap in the face to someone that's dealing with it. Do you really wonder, with this (very common) way of communicating and thinking, why so few victims of abuse come forward?

Why is it that only a fraction of the cases of sexual abuse and sexual violence is reported? What about you? You may have been living with someone for years or known someone for years that has never told you that they were abused. How do you think you may have contributed to then staying silent?

But to do that and to really live it and be transformed by it. To make yourself open to a victim, to welcome those difficult truths. . . well, it takes some serious introspection. Can you do that? Are you ready? Are you willing to even try?

Put your money, your time, your heart and soul, where your mouth is!!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Some Useful Links

Encouragement for survivors of sexual abuse and people who care about them
Overcoming Sexual Abuse inspires, empowers, educates & supports male and female survivors of sexual abuse.

Here is a link to a page full of links to blogs and resources.

For incest survivors and prosurvivors
"Prosurvivor": Someone who loves, believes and supports the survivor in their recovery from incest.

Articles and information, but also, some documentaries.

The Survivor Alliance
is a group of abuse survivors coming together to raise awareness about the different kinds of abuse that exist in our society today. Whether it's physical, mental, or sexual abuse

Adult Survivors of longterm child sexual abuse / incest.
Facebook group.

Dancing in the Darkness
Another place for discussion and articles and support.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A safe place

And so as I continue on my, once again, new journey of sexual healing since my relapse, I find myself thinking about the tools I enlisted in the past to help me deal with the panic and fear. How did I get control in the past? Because I figure that's what I need to be doing this time round too.

Through all the various therapists I'de been to throughout my life, the one that did help me a fair bit and that I felt most comfortable with was Janke from Khomas Medical. This was a couple of years ago and I think she was only a few years into practicing (as she sometimes took her books to check things) she was the first therapist I actually felt comfortable with. I think part of why I felt so comfortable with her was because it seemed like she had recently finished studying. She never had a hint of that egotistical "I know it all" attitude that I got from other therapists while they fakely smiled and (clearly) pretended to be my friend. It always felt like my issues weren't all that big as far as they were concerned because they had seen worse, therefor, in my mind, they weren't taking my feelings and issues seriously.

Well, anyway, Janke and I tried a couple of techniques, as I had tried with other therapists too. There weren't really many (hardly any actually) that really helped. Especially the exercise of just breathing and closing my eyes sent me into even more of a panic. The talking was fine and all, but we needed to find something that I could do at the moments when it mattered the most. At those times when the darkness would come to devour me and strangle me. When I felt the panic rise.

So as we talked about trying different things and as we tried some of them, Janke talked to me about where I felt safe. Where was the one place I was completely in control, safe and where I felt cocooned from the world and all the demons in my head. At that time, that place was my car.

Oh, my beautiful, sexy, bright blue roadster. My Shianne, my Mazda MX5. When I was driving her, it seemed the world disappeared. It was the only time the muscles in my body actually relaxed. The sound of her engine softly growling seemed like a fresh magical melody going through my head and clearing out all the confusion and uncertainty. When I drove her, when I felt her, it seemed I found myself. I found myself without any of the bad things. It was as if I knew myself without the pain, the lost innocence, without any fear or guilt or judgements. She was my sanctuary, she was the ointment that soothed my soul. When I drove her, it was as if her engine and my heart purred together. The way she gripped the road, especially around a turn . . . it was a pure flowing connection from my arms and hands grasping the steering wheel to the point where the rubber meet the road. It was pure poetry.

When I bought her, I heard many people tell me how buying a two seater was a selfish decision. But at that point, I didn't really have anyone else I needed to consider. And how glad I was that I bought her, because finally I had found my sanctuary. Finally I had a place that was all mine, that wasn't tainted or touched by anyone, and it was meant for only me. She belonged to me and I to her.

So I had my "safe place" when Janke asked me if I had such a place. She taught me that even when I wasn't physically in my car, I could go to her and be safe. When the panic came, when the demons loomed, I would close my eyes and go to Shianne. In my minds eye, I would feel her, hear her and smell her. I would feel her bucket seats hug me, telling me I was safe in her arms. I would hear that glorious sound of her engine gently whispering to me that everything was fine, everything was great. And it was just me and her and the road. I had my sanctuary!

Now, it's a couple of years later and she is not with me anymore as I'm going through this relapse. I had to let her go, she was the sacrifice I made for my son. And as much as I loved her and always will, she doesn't compare to how much I love my son. My beautiful boy.
But now, here I sit, with no sanctuary, no place to feel safe. Since I let her go, I never found anything that has come close to replacing her as my safe place. The car we have now is our family car. Our home is shared with other people since we are renting out the rooms of the house, so everything is communal. And my bedroom belongs to my husband and son as well. So where do I go now, what do I do for a safe place.

I can't go back to thinking about Shianne now as my safe place, because now she belongs to someone else and is just a reminder that she is no longer mine. I could think about the next car I want as MY car, but it just isn't the same if I haven't had a personal experience and developed a relationship with that car again.

So now I have identified what helped me previously and what would potentially help me this time round. But with that comes the realization that, now, I don't actually have a place anywhere in the world that I feel safe, that I can breath and find me. That may sound sad, and yes, it is a bit sad and disappointing. But I refuse to be a victim and feel sorry for myself. So though it seems sad, it's actually a good thing. A great thing. Because now as part of my new healing journey, I have been able to give myself a clear cut mission. Find or create a safe place.

So now I'm on my way to finding where else I feel good and safe, what else makes me happy and takes me a bit closer to finding and feeling like me. The me without the pain and fear. So here I go, off to find my new "safe place".

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Damage and Justice

This morning I read an article in The Namibian newspaper about a rape appeal that backfired on a rapist. The accused ended up getting more jail time for his crime than his original conviction.

"Awesome!" I thought. "That's the way it should be done."
In fact, if that's what happened this time around and if that's what could happen every time, then please, rapists, appeal to have your cases overturned and get more jail time. Because you know what? That jail time ends eventually anyway, but the damage that was done to the person that was raped, well, that's a sentence that lasts a lifetime.

Whether suffering with it or living with it, when shopping, being out with friends, playing with my child, spending time with my husband, talking to my mother, even sitting at work in a meeting or talking to a client, watching the races at Tony Rust race track, doesn't matter what. Where ever I am, whatever I'm doing, my sentence goes on and is with me.

Which brings me to another point.
When woman that have NOT been raped claim that they HAVE been raped.
Ooh, I get SO FURIOUS, enraged even, when I hear about cases like that. Aside from the fact that it is grossly unfair to the man involved and that such a claim will always taint the name of that man, even if found to be innocent. What really gets my blood boiling so much more, is that these women don't get that they are adding further insult to serious injury to women that have been raped.

Despite the case I mention above, woman are not always treated with care and the required delicacy when laying a complaint of rape against a man that has, in fact, raped her. And though part of this is simply because there are people that don't care and do what they do (as police or counsellors or nurses) simply to earn a living, it is also because of these false accusations. It encourages those in positions of authority to question victims of sexual violence. When they don't trust that a woman has really been attacked, they couldn't be bothered to handle the situation as carefully and with the compassion that they should be.

And what about us woman that have evolved from being victims to survivors. It's a slap in the face to the pain and anguish that we have worked through, that we have had to face and fight. It's an insult to the realization that things will never be the same and the strength required to learn to live with that.

It is partly because of this behavior displayed by these selfish, stupid and arrogant woman that there are men out there that still believe they can get away with rape. They read about it and see how other men (who are actually innocent) where not convicted of a rape charge, and so they think that "well, if I ever get caught one day, I could actually get away with it".

Because, yes, once a rapist, always a rapist. If a man can do it once, he can keep doing it, and usually they do, until they are caught. Only to have the victim be placed in the position of having to convince the courts and authorities that she WAS raped, while the criminal bastard sits back, hardly having to fight back at all.

So, anyway, thank goodness, some proper justice has finally been shown by extending a rapists sentence. They should actually just put all rapists away for life, they don't deserve the chance of an end to their sentence. Let their sentences be lifelong, as ours are.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Relapsing is okay - just keep working at it.

I found myself so irritated the other day to realize that I was back in a dark place that I had worked long and hard, many years ago, to recover from. To get better and get stronger and function like a normal human being.

What I'm talking about is that I am a survivor of sexual abuse. It was something that firstly happened to me for a couple of years as a child. Because I was so young when it started, I thought that it was a normal thing that all girls go through and something was wrong with me for feeling scared by it.

Then as I entered my early teen years, it happened again with a vague aquantance that I had just met.
Again a couple of years later when I went to study in Cape Town, a stranger raped me.
I started thinking I was pre-disposed to attracting this kind of violence. That there was just something about me that told men to take advantage of me.

Anyway, eventually I came to realize and understand that it was not my fault, it was wrong and not normal and more than that, I decided that I wanted to fix myself.

Now the thing about "fixing" a sexual abuse survivor is not like fixing any other broken thing. It's not a matter of "follow steps one through five" and the broken thing is as good as new, essentially, back to what it was before it was broken. Which is kinda what I thought at first. But after years of looking for answers and trying to get help from various counsellors and doctors and other older (than me at the time) people, I came to realize that it's not about fixing. There is no such thing really as "fixing". It can never go back to the way it was before the attacks.
It's about accepting, forgiving and learning to live with being different.

Now I know at first blush the words "accepting" and "forgiving' may sound like a disconnect under such circumstances, but what I mean by this is "accepting" that this is a part of my past and therefor, my life. It is part of all the other things in my life that have contributed to making me the person that I am.
And "forgiving" meaning, forgiving myself mostly. Forgiving myself of the all the anger and hatred and resentment I felt towards myself and my body. Forgiving myself feeling unworthy and unlovable. And by forgiving myself, learning that I am worth loving, worth living.

The thing about being a survivor of sexual abuse (as apposed to a "victim" of abuse) is learning to accept "I am different and it's okay. I see things differently, my mind works a little differently and my body reacts a little differently and always will, and that's ok. I shouldn't feel bad about it, because it's not something I did or am doing, it's something that happened to me and changed me. This is who I am now"

It never goes away, not ever, not a single second of a single day, but you learn to live with it. You learn to function, to have healthy relationships, to have friends, to be a whole person again.

But with all this and even when getting to that place where, on the outside, one functions like a "normal" person. (The societal idea of normal) then things can happen that can cause you to re-lapse.

And that's what I realize the other day. There are always still risks for triggers that can make you feel like you're back to square one, after all the work you did at being okay.
And you know what, that's okay too. Re-lapses happen and there will always be triggers.

What I'm learning now, is trying to prepare for possible future areas of re-lapse. To try and identify what my triggers are and what sort of triggers could there possibly be in future that I've never faced before. Especially now that I have a son. There may be trigger areas when he hits puberty or starts getting curious about the opposite sex. Who knows. Now it's about trying to recognize what may happen in the future, trying to prepare for it, and if something comes up that I didn't expect and didn't prepare for, that it's okay if that causes a relapse too.

I'm only human and to again always remember, that it doesn't go away. My history and the way it has changed me will never go away, it's simply about managing it. So here I go, trying to predict the future, trying to prepare.