Category Archives: sexual abuse
Reblogged from the amazing Martha Beck: http://marthabeck.com/2012/11/when-you-feel-lonely/
At times in my life, I have felt utterly lonely. At other times, I’ve had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture, and you’ll find they evoke identical responses: Listeners cringe with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and alarm. In a culture where everyone wants a happy family and a sizzling relationship, the phrase “I’m lonely” rings like the medieval leper’s shout of “Unclean! Unclean!”
Fortunately, we now treat disease not by isolating its victims, but by diagnosing and healing them. Finding those who can comprehend the emptiness of your heart, diagnosing and ameliorating its ailments, can keep you productively engaged when your loneliness is at its worst.
The Time-Tested BLD System
Allow me to introduce the Beck Loneliness Diagnostic System, which is based on years of research I’ve conducted by brooding about my own problems during bouts of emotional eating. My system divides loneliness into three categories—absolute, separation, and existential—each of which has different remedies. I prescribe two courses of action for each type: quick fixes (to feel better immediately) and long-term solutions (to banish it for good).
Type 1: Absolute Loneliness
This malady occurs when we believe, rightly or wrongly, that there is no one who understands us and no one who wants to. Absolutely lonely people have few personal interactions of any kind. Isolation creates indescribable despair, for which typical self-help advice—”Have a bubble bath! Try aromatherapy!”—is ridiculously inadequate. The only saving grace of this state is that it often hurts enough to motivate people to try the following prescriptions.
Basic human contact—the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words—is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. If you’re feeling abandoned by the world, interact with anyone you can—today. If you can afford it, hire a good therapist; if you can’t, hire a bad one. Attend a 12-step group, claiming codependency if you have no addictions. Sift wheat from chaff later—right now, it’s “Hail, fellow! Well met.”
If you’re living completely on your own, you must find understanding somewhere, somehow. No matter how scary it is to learn and use social skills, absolute loneliness is scarier. The best method to break out of solitary confinement is to seek to understand others, and help them understand you.
A simple three-step communication strategy is the most effective way to accomplish this. When you meet people, show real appreciation, then genuine curiosity; offer an honest compliment (step 1) followed by a question (step 2). Say “Cool hat. Where’d you get it?” Most often this approach will result in a brief, pleasant chat. Occasionally, though, someone will answer in such an interesting or charming way that you’ll want to respond by volunteering information about yourself (step 3), such as “I can’t wear hats—they make me look like a mongoose.” Repeat these three steps, and you’ll gradually connect at deeper and deeper levels.
The key word is gradually. Understanding is a dance of seven veils in which strangers take turns revealing a little more about themselves—not everything at once. Be patient, and the three-step combo can take you all the way from discussions of headgear to conversations like “You’re amazing. Shall we get married?”
Type 2: Separation Loneliness
If you force yourself to communicate with people appreciatively and curiously, you’ll eventually emerge from absolute loneliness. However, you’ll still experience what I call separation loneliness. Traveling, empty nesting, and almost any job will distance you from friends and family. Only since the Industrial Revolution have most people worked in places away from their homes or been left to raise small children without the help of multiple adults, making for an unsupported life.
Use separations to remind yourself how wonderful it is that you have people to miss. Solo time can motivate you to demonstrate that love. Focus on communication over distance. Tell interesting stories on the phone or in an e-mail about your day. Let your favorite people see life through your eyes. Ask them about what they’ve been experiencing, and listen or read with total concentration. You’ll come to know one another in new ways, and absence really will make your hearts grow fonder. Once that’s done, I recommend finding understanding by doing what the song says: If you can’t be with the one you love…love the one you’re with. Use your appreciation-curiosity-openness combo on the folks around you.
This remedy requires facing some hard choices. If you’re continuously aching to be with people you never see, the rewards of your career or nifty home in the exurbs may not make up for the sacrifice. Many of my clients decide that their horrible jobs aren’t worth forfeiting years with their family. Others stop hanging out with people—even relatives—who drain them, in order to be with those who inspire them. You don’t have to make such decisions immediately, but you do have to make them. Every day brings new choices. If you want to end your isolation, you must be honest about what you want at a core level and decide to go after it.
Type 3: Existential Loneliness
The final type of estrangement is a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft. No one else can take risks for us, or face our losses on our behalf, or give us self-esteem. No one can spare us from life’s slings and arrows, and when death comes, we meet it alone. That is simply the way of things, and after a while, we may see it’s not so bad. In fact, existential loneliness, the great burden of human consciousness, is also its great gift—if we give it the right treatment.
One word—art. In the face of great sorrow or joy, love or loss, many human beings who went before me learned to express themselves sublimely through clumsy physical things: paint, clay, words, the movement of their bodies. They created works of art that remind me I am not alone in feeling alone. Seeking the company of people who have learned to transcend the isolation of an individual life, who have felt as I feel and managed to express it, is the best treatment I’ve found for existential loneliness. (Notice that this advice is the opposite of the quick fix for “absolute” loneliness; you may need both prescriptions.) Make your own artistic connections. Read novels, listen to samba, watch documentaries: Seek art from every time and place, in any form, to connect with those who really move you.
Same word—art. The quick fix is to appreciate others’ artistry; the real deal requires that you, yourself, become an artist. I’m not asking you to rival Picasso or Mozart, but I would challenge you to think the way they thought, to put aside convention and embarrassment and do whatever it takes to convey your essential self. Use anything you can think of to understand and be understood, and you’ll discover the creativity that connects you with others.
If you begin to apply these prescriptions, whether by drumming up the courage to connect, choosing a moment of love over a moment of work, or creating something as silly as a bad cartoon, you’ll soon find yourself stumbling across beauty and communion. Loneliness, far from revealing some defect, is proof that your innate search for connection is intact. So instead of hiding your loneliness, bring it into the light. Honor it. Treat it. Heal it. You’ll find that it returns the favor.
It’s been almost a week since the incident in our Al-Anon group. I’ve spent many hours praying, meditating and tapping to relieve myself of the trauma caused by your actions during our weekly meeting. It’s important for my own recovery that I become extremely clear on my thinking surrounding this incident as well as the motivation that prompts me to speak up. I’ve been haunted by the occurrence and my resulting reactions. Knowing myself well as I do, I work hard to clear these issues before speaking. It has been and will continue to be the best approach for me, to think before I speak.
But now, at this moment, I’m crystal clear on most of my emotions surrounding this and am ready to speak.
(In accordance to Al-Anon protocol, the members in this story remain confidential. I only identify them by first name and do not reveal the state or location of the group).
At a recent Al-Anon meeting which I sporadically attend, I was singled out and humiliated in front of the group for the location in which I chose to sit. I chose a seat at the edge of the group for reasons outlined below. The rest of the group (over 20+ people) were sitting at several conference tables pushed together and the meeting had already started as I was about 5 minutes late. I settled in, removed my coat and pulled my Courage to Change book from my purse. (Several times before when choosing this seat, I was asked, by two women in particular, to join the others at the table but declined with a no-thank you. It seemed to bother them each time but I dismissed it).
This last week, a member named Susie, got up from her seat during the meeting, came over to me, grabbed both arms of my chair and jerked on them. She says to me “We don’t let people sit back here”. I froze. In a split second I was triggered. I had been invaded in my safe space, without invitation, a clear violation of my boundaries. (She’s very lucky I have tamed my knee-jerk survival skills of physical aggression). When I didn’t budge, she continued to pull on my chair in some weird tug-of-war and I obliging stood up. She placed my chair where she thought it should be and I sat down. All eyes were on me. Whatever serenity I had achieved regarding my anxiety level was lost. My face flushed with shame, embarrassment and humiliation. I instinctively pushed my chair back from the table attempting to regain some safe space again. For a few minutes, I tried to center myself. The man next to me, who was also on the we-must-sit-at-the-table-with-our-hands-folded campaign, gestures for me to scoot up. I say No, thank you. He won’t give up. More words, more gestures. Now all eyes are on me AGAIN as he attempts to get me to comply. In a slow motion haze, completely triggered, I put my books in my purse and stand to leave. I do not hurl the words spinning in my head, I do not attempt to make my issues the issues of the group. I simply leave.
Dear Susie….here’s what you didn’t know or take the time to find out.
- I have logged over 25+ years in Al-Anon and am not a newcomer to the philosophies of the program. Having attended hundreds of meetings in many different locations, I’ve never had anyone question where I sat. In fact, most meetings allow for personal safety and comfort, making this a non-issue which has always been the beauty of this program.
- I am a trauma-incest-abuse survivor. That means I’ve maneuvered and survived masters of pathologies; narcissists, alcoholics/substance abusers, perpetrators of sexual abuse and violence along with the run-of-the mill shallow and unenlightened individuals. Acts of aggression which include the definition of assault, “Assault is an act which causes another person to have apprehension of imminent harmful contact”. If you lunge unexpectedly toward a survivor, especially using force to grab at them (in this case my chair), most times the trauma affected brain perceives that movement as assaulting behavior. In other words, you triggered me by your sudden moves, by grabbing my chair and with your words.
- I’m no slouch when it comes to personal development. My entire life is devoted to recovery, empowerment and mindful awareness. As a retired nurse, social worker, massage therapist and overall student of life, this has been my mission; transforming a childhood of trauma and despair to one that prospers in healing and kindness.
- I have a few residual health issues. The entire reason that I choose to sit in the periphery of the group is that I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Perfumes and laundry detergent smells are the worst of dangers to me and are often a problem when I attend. Sometimes I take a pre-emptive antihistamine just to be present. Sometimes I sit by the window in case I need some fresh air or just need to not be stuck next to someone who wears perfume. To a MCS person, these smells are toxic. They can trigger many different responses such as asthmatic symptoms, headaches, dizziness. I know my issues as well as my boundaries on this subject.
- I struggle with anxiety. It takes me days sometimes to psych myself up to attend a meeting. As much as I’m a social person, I also, because of recent circumstances, struggle with isolation. Several women from the group gently nudge me to join them for dinners, meetings, gatherings. I adore them for that. And I work on centering myself for hours before coming to a meeting.
- I’m a writer and an advocate. I use my voice often even when it is scary to do so. It’s what I do. I have a blog dedicated to recovery of trauma. I serve as a moderator on a international FB page devoted to trauma recovery. I am a virtual assistant on Twitter for a national organization for Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse. My voice serves as an advocate for those that can’t speak. I made this vow after recovering my own memories of incest. I will use my story to empower others, giving them a safe place to speak. I am not afraid anymore.
Dear Susie…..here are my direct words to you.
- Examine your own agenda and ego. Why would you make your personal agenda one that trumps an individual’s well being?
- Please God, tell me you won’t treat a newcomer like that. If I were a newcomer, perhaps filled with anxiety and trepidation about my life with an alcoholic, desperate for resources to help with a life filled with chaos, issues of personal safety, financial problems, would you treat a person with such disregard? I hope not. It goes against everything that these meetings represent.
- How dare you compromise a resource that I needed. At this point in time, I need community. I’ve suffered the devastating loss of my husband and his family. I need to know that there are groups that can support me during this time. I’ve reciprocated to support others during their rough times and now need that support myself.
- Are you speaking for the group when you say “we”? Are you the self appointed gestapo of the group or has this group named you the seating relocation person? This should be verbalized in the opening statements of the group each and every meeting.
- Wondering if you’ve reflected on your behavior at all. As of this writing, after receiving no response to my text to you, I called. At first you didn’t know who I was. When I explained the reason for my call, you did recognize me due to the circumstances. While I did receive a “please forgive me”, you also defended and back peddled a bit as to your position. Apparently, you felt justified in what you did.
- You given me the “opportunity” for growth and got me writing again. In Al-Anon as well as other self help modalities, we learn to thank certain opportunities for individual growth. This situation gave me exactly that. I got to examine the types of people I choose to be with as well as how to assert and protect myself. There is always room for growth and self reflection, thank you for that.
- Your actions and words could be viewed an act of aggression to me as well as many abuse survivors. While you didn’t realize I was a trauma survivor, you also didn’t approach me with respect either. We must entertain these possibilities when dealing with populations of this sort.
Thank you to my friends who have talked me through the triggering incident and the losses associated with it…y’all are my lifelines.
I’m hoping that this post serves to increase awareness about many topics. It is imperative that we practice compassion in the moments of our lives.
When we know better, we do better.
It’s Story Time! “The Deer in the Road” Once upon a time a deer wandered out of the forest and onto a flat, stone-like piece of ground. It was night. A few clouds passed across the moon and the wind rustled the tufts of grass along the edge of the gravely surface. All was quiet…
In wanting to pay tribute to a wonderful woman whom I barely got to know and her partner, Ed, I’m re-blogging his post. This beautiful post reflects on love and loss, particularly to suicide. But as you will see from the content, these issues are complicated and layered with many issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse and how it can steal one’s soul. I’m proud of Ed Kurtz for loving her and having the courage and language to represent her with such sacred beauty.
These words are not mine but instead, those of a courageous and insightful fellow warrior. I’m fortunate to find these souls who in the absence of my words coming together to provide hope and compassion, they take over and provide us with comfort. Please visit the link below to see the full article and more of Matthew’s beautiful writing.
In fact, do better. Follow his blog and mine. Spread the word as kindly as you can about the specific limitations and ultra-sensitive delights of a sexual abuse survivor. We are worth it. In this age where we strive to embrace the issues of racism, bigotry, violence, LGBT, transgender, bullying, etc., let’s begin by getting to know one another, the history we’ve experienced and the path on which we forge forward. I’m ready, are you?
Dark Souls Are Not to Fear, But to Love
From Matthew Eaton: Writer, Child Sexual Abuse Survivor, Blogger
Do you languish in the darkness, or do you thrive in it?
This question lingers in my mind as I recall a conversation in my idle time.
“You know, the stuff you post is dark – really dark – but you’re always coming in here all cheery and happy.”
I discussed some people’s need to make me be something I am not. Instead, I learned a little more about myself.
I didn’t think anything about this statement at the time, but as I worried over it like a priceless possession, I wondered if it was possible the world was wrong and I, indeed, was correct in my darkness.
I live in the darkness, laughing at my disaster.
Dark souls are not to fear, but to love
What brought this post around was recalling a devotional my mother and I read when I was young. We were still members of the Foursquare church in Scotts Valley, and we weren’t the best of advocates to the holy life. No deep bible studies, no real praying or bonding with other believers, but we did invest in small devotionals that were to be ready daily. We read them in the morning.
They were filled with allegories and mental iconography galore.
So what made this particular devotional stand out? It contained the scientific knowledge (and commentary) on plant growth and the toxicity of continual exposure to light.
Since the beginning of my time as a God-ite, I questioned being in the light all the time. The thirst my other god-ites at the time held was rather interesting and confounding. They would shun people going through darkness, in fear the darkness would get into them like some sort of transmuted disease.
Nevertheless, here we were, reading a god-ite sponsored piece regarding the value of light and dark cycles with plants.
This is paraphrasing the work itself: “Too much time in darkness, and the plant withers. It is unable to reach any potential. Too much time in the light, however, is dangerous as well. At first, the plant thrives, but eventually it also withers and dies, burned beyond the point of recovery.”
Dear beautiful souls and loved ones,
Due to recent and horrific dips in my coping abilities combined with increased self harm and suicidal tendencies, I’m going for treatment at a residential facility. I will take each and every one of you with me in my heart and cherish greatly the friends and tireless supporters that I’ve met here. It is my hope that I will come through this stronger and more resilient than ever. Until that time, live greatly and peace be with each and every one of you. Aho.
For those of you that can’t handle my extreme and unbridled rage right now, let this serve as a TRIGGER WARNING. And here is a picture of a bunny to give you the opportunity to get the heck out of here.
Let the rant begin. This moment, right now, I’m furious. I’ve snapped with grief and I’m tired and exhausted and insulted and unwilling to hold it in any longer. The music is on full blast with Janis Joplin screaming I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now
I’ve cleaned and cried and smoked cigarettes as I look at my home that I’ve finally decided has to be divided. How the hell did I get here? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not bleed enough for this relationship? When did my beloved home turn into a cold gilded cage? Where are my plants going to live now? The wisteria planted in the early days of love that is deeply intertwined among the trellis and surrounding trees, how do I tell it to unwind, that there is no place for it here now?
I’m full of rage as I look at the items deciding what’s mine and what’s his. I hate his socks right now. They are everywhere, haunting me from the place where they were discarded at the foot of the couch for an intimate moment. His socks are mocking me. I still love, he doesn’t.
I’m seething at any person, at any time, for any reason has questioned my sanity. My brain, while different and reacting unlike normal people (whoever the fuck they are) is not crazy. It was changed. It was changed as a child when my father and my uncles for numerous years raped the children in my family. They forever and permanently changed the way that I see the world and severely limited my ability to trust. But they never stole my ability to love because that I do fiercely, deeply and with loyalty to a fault. But back to crazy, I’m not. And I’m fucking tired of folks too ignorant and lazy to become informed before slicing me and other survivors open with insane stupid comments and blatant arrogance that you know better. You don’t.
And by the way, disassociation is a thing. A real fucking thing. It happens because its the wondrous coping mechanism of the human under attack. When the pain becomes too traumatic, too difficult, too much for tiny little children’s minds to process, it splits. Bam, just like that. You go somewhere else, someplace safer than the place you are in where your uncle is raping you at gunpoint. And guess what, when you’re gone, you’re gone. And to the major asshole who said that my disassociative episodes were a ploy for attention, well simply put, go fuck yourself. You speak with ignorance and venom. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I try and try and then I fucking try some more to be the best, intact, whole person I can be given my history. To say anything less than that of me is cruel and unforgivable.
No, I’m not done yet, there’s more. I’m enraged at any person, for any reason who turns a blind eye to pain. This happens in so many ways; through denial of wanting to acknowledge a person’s pain, therefore maybe having to deal with it OR being frustrated that said person struggles a lot so you offer a platitude in order to get the hell away from this person you’ve judged as insane. Again, look at the above bunny and leave me the hell alone. You don’t have to hurt me just to get a safe distance away. I get it, of all people I understand that this is tough fucking shit and not everyone has the stomach for it. BUT…there’s always the option of offering love and leaving anyway. Bottom line, I’m left here to deal with this confusing mess of neurons on a daily basis and it’s no walk in the park. It takes hourly awareness and diligent practice to stay centered and even heal from these traumas. Don’t add to them. And especially don’t pretend it’s in the name of love. I’m calling bullshit on that one.
While I’m ranting, I may as well cuss the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture drugs to make lots of money that are prescribed by asshole doctors. My anti-depressants are giving me such incredible suicide ideation that the ideation is now taking form and making a plan. And getting off this shit is a bitch. Again, another mind-bending bitch to contend with. And yes, suicide ideation and self harm is a real thing too. It’s not just words that we in a secret meeting of the I’ve-been-molested club got together and invented. These are real psychological phenomena. Google it, you’ll see. We don’t just get up in the morning, feed the dogs, have a cup of coffee and say “I think I’ll go slice on myself today and maybe for fun, I’ll go sit in the garage with the car running and see how fast I’ll puff up from carbon monoxide”. But seriously, people talk to us as if we do this self-loathing, self-harming shit for attention. Really? Do you really believe that I’d prefer that method of coping to say…. working at the dog rescue shelter or taking some flowers to the old ladies at the nursing home? If you believe that, you need a quick reality check and a good therapist.
The rant winds down here. Be kind, everyone is struggling. If you don’t know how to help and you want to, ask. It’s that simple. Is there anything I can do to help? If you don’t care or are just socially awkward, flash a peace sign, say Kumbaya my Lord or offer a hug. If you don’t have more, that’s fine but if you think you can fake concern, use condescension or just toss a crappy cliche’ toward me, you’re wrong. Because here’s the other thing that develops in survivors as we are fending off our nasty fathers and uncles, we became ultra-sensitive. I’m talking over-the-top, can practically read-your-feelings-without-you-knowing-it, living and floating in an emotional bizarre dimension that few know anything about. We know when you’re lying and we know when you’re trying to be cruel.
End of rant. For those who stuck around to the end, well, thanks. You’re tougher than most. For those who didn’t stay, block me on FB and have a good life. Kumbaya.
God commands it – Honor your mother and your father.
I believe God passed down this commandment with the meaning that when you do honor your parents, you are honoring God, because, after all, God is our ultimate parent, considered “Father,” to many.
The question begged, however, is what if your parents do not honor you? What if your parents are abusive? What if they treat you with disrespect? Are we, their children, still expected to honor them?
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It is a brave woman that can sit with her pain. Sometimes it seems as if that’s all I do. But I will trust you on this and feel the hope again.
*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…
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