“Grabbing a text bull(y) by the horns”

This isn’t exactly a Recovery Writing 101 writing exercise, but in a way, it fits.

With technology out there today, I find it absolutely amazing how many people there are that indulge in the deplorable act of bullying via text message.

It used to be that the big kid would threaten to meet you on the playground at high noon.  The sweaty, snot-nosed bully versus the small, nice child.  Something about milk money, or looking at them wrong that day.  It didn’t matter.

“It’s butt-kicking time.  Just you…and me… and whoever happens to be watching at the swings,” he sneers.  “You better show up.”  And you, the small, nice child, is sweating bullets, fervently praying for a fire drill or a natural disaster to wash the school off the grid by 11:59.

Now, it’s different.  The bullies are older, and they all possess a SmarterThan iPhone that can remotely knock the wind out of you just as hard as when you were a child.

Every minute out there, someone is threatening another with words.  Words escalate into physical.   It is the nature of abuse to (d)evolve until the threat is removed or a life expires.. whichever comes first.

Abuse comes in all forms- whether it’s physical, emotional, sexual, discriminatory, or in the sheer power of the written word.  Texting is an alluring tool that abusive people use to keep others under a suffocating blanket of fear.

Text harassment is defined as a way of stalking-   “the activity of sending text messages to mobile phones which insult or abuse people.”

For a person with PTSD, receiving text harassment from an abuser is nearly as frightening as the abuser chasing you down the street with what looks like a machete in hand.  

So what if it’s really a Blackberry, or an iPhone?  Hey, it’s just as sharp, and just as dangerous- because the words are meant to hurt you, and the threats need to be taken seriously.

There are some ways to protect yourself to stop the threats.

~ change your phone number or,

~ cancel your texting altogether or,

~ report the issue to the police (I highly recommend this one).

eHow put together a little blurb on how to be safe in a texting harassment which is worth reading.  There are always varying degrees per state of what constitutes texting harassment.

For nice people (especially ones who’ve been through major trauma) it feels so much better to just avoid the stress and change their lives around simply to avoid the triggers of another conflict.  I’m definitely one to talk.  I did this for three years- altered my life as much as I could to avoid the drama, the stress, the mess.

It doesn’t work.  You have just enough time to relax.. and then it starts all over again.   Fresh triggers with re-victimization turns us into emotional wrecks that jump at shadows and the vibrating of a new text message.  It’s done on purpose, folks.  It’s meant to hurt, meant to frighten, meant to demean and/or humiliate.  It’s intent to harm.

It won’t stop until action is taken.  Studies show that verbal threats have a moderate to high risk of escalating into physical violence.  Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and be free of the fear.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

This has been a difficult road.

 

Trust is a hard thing to come by.  A word, with so few letters.. and so much weight to it.  One thing I have learned the hard way recently, is who to trust with what, and how.

A heavy part of a support system relies on someone who can listen to you with out bias or judgements.  Someone who can bite their lip and hold their reservations- their opinions- their beliefs.

And just be there.  Just exist for a moment, for you.

I confided in a support person the other night about some heavy situations I was grappling with.  Fear for my safety was the only thing on my mind.  The other person proceeded to launch into a heavy speech about “I should have known” and at that point, I laid down the phone while they rattled on endlessly.

Five minutes later, I picked up the phone.

Still going.

ugghhhh…….

 

I never called the person back.  Not because I don’t care about them..

But because I care about myself.

 

Unlearning (Trust = Hurt)

You could ask me at any given moment what empowers me internally, and likely my immediate answer would be “knowledge”- followed closely by love, acceptance, family, trust.

Knowledge = power.

Knowledge is having answers to dilemmas that are harmful to you. Knowledge is protection- not knowing is frightening.

A person with PTSD feels powerless, unprotected and overwhelmed.  The more power we can gather into ourselves, the more balanced we feel.  And so for many of us, we spiral into a vicious cycle of  THE QUEST TO KNOW- what happened to us, why it happened, how to protect ourselves from it happening again.

If we are stuck in yesterday as opposed to living in the Now, we will look at everyone and everything as a threat- maybe not now, but maybe tomorrow you could inflict harm upon us- hey, we never know, do we- and therefore, we need to know.

I sometimes visualize people like me dressed as slightly-bizzarish Einsteins, muttering to ourselves in our white smocks as we scribble mindless, endless equations that make no sense to anyone but us.

Geniuses win Pulitzers and are applauded for their quest to make sense of the seemingly insensible.

Survivors of DV and RR-PTSD do not win any awards, and this quest- this need to know everything- sometimes costs us dearly.  We’ve created so much emotional distance that the applause is not there.

I might get a cosmic frown for using this word-

PARANOIA  but honestly yes, most PTSD sufferers at some point feel so distrustful of everyone and everything that we feel as though we are losing our mind.

Because we learned through victimization and survival that in order to trust someone, we must be wary about who you are, what you do, if you are friend or foe..

we must have one eye on the exit while deciding whether you are safe..

We are likely psychologically picking you apart to find out if you may harm us..

If we happen to live with you?  Naturally, you’re screwed.  You are likely guilty until proven innocent.

Heaven help you if you’re a human being.. because humans make mistakes…

Unless you’re made of gears and wires- you are guaranteed to find yourself under a PTSD microscope the moment we feel unsure- which is DAY ONE.

We can find absolutely barely nothing and turn it into a life or death scenario.  We can imagine the worst things that could happen (and the mind is terribly suggestive- those very things we worry about may end up happening because that’s all we think about- and because TRAUMA HAS ALREADY HAPPENED TO US.)

It’s not that we are incapable of trusting others.. it’s more so that we are wired for survival.  Those that we trusted, harmed & betrayed us- forming the survival aspect of PTSD- so trust (for us) is detrimental to survival.

Trust = hurt.  It is a purely illogical learned response that sounds perfectly logical to us- and even harder to unlearn once we wake up one day and it sinks in just how little we trust anyone.

It’s around this time of our awakening, that we run to support groups- we start calling our friends again- we admit we need help- and we accept help.

Now, I have a question to ask.

You’ve read this entire post and now you’ve come to the end, and so there’s something here that you had to know- something, that you needed.

What empowers you internally at this point in your life?

Trust and Fear are Synonymous

Backup_of_RW 101 coverThe biggest obstacle for a victim (like I was) is trusting others.

Yes, today I can say I feel more so a Survivor and less of victim.  My goal is to be a Thriver, and that is baby steps.

For a long time- three years, in fact- I was the victim.  After we escape, we become “stuck” or caught in all of what happened to us.  We are confused, we feel lost, isolated and cannot find the exit out of the revolving door of Hyper.

We are hypervigilent, hypersensitive, hyperemotional, and hyperpanicky to escape feeling or remembering, so we go ’round and ’round until we are running from anything that might remind us.

Every exit off the Hyper door has something frightening to remind us, and so we don’t take that exit.

We just keep running, disoriented, and feeling pretty ridiculous at times because we know fully well we need to stop running and step out, but we simply are not ready.

And when there are no safe exits, it is indescribable for a victim to feel brave enough to step out of the Hyper-go-round, because staying there as ridiculous as it feels, is better than what’s out THERE.

So of course, we will eventually crash from exhaustion and the Hyper door will stop (and we crawl out on our hands and knees), or we will take a brave step out because the motion sickness one day becomes more overwhelming than the nausea of fear.

It is a mix of subconscious triggers of yesterday with today.  It is the “red alert” syndrome.  That is a part of both trauma and PTSD- and not every victim develops PTSD, but alot of them do, especially if they have been victimized repeatedly by one trauma or many different traumas.

This is our traumatized mind seeing everything – and nothing- as potentially dangerous.  For those like me, it’s perfectly unnormal and how we have had to live in order to survive.

Instead of enjoying the sunset, we are afraid of the long shadows (I was sexually assaulted at night.. what could hurt me there?)

or instead of enjoying the simplicity of a friend’s hug, we stiffen and freeze with panic (my best friend raped me.. what about this one?)

or instead of enjoying a sincere handshake, we are afraid of the person’s strong grip (I was gripped around the throat with hands just as strong..why is it so hard to breathe suddenly?)

or instead of hearing the jingling of wind chimes on the back porch, our ears detect a trigger (I can hear my rapist’s keys jingling from his belt from a 1/4 mile away in a particular pattern…I immediately have a backup escape route even though I wasn’t thinking about it a second ago.)

or the worst mind warp, which is having to interact with the spitting image (behaviorally, emotionally, physically) of the one who nearly destroyed you.  (This copy of your past probably wouldn’t even run with a dull butter knife, as opposed to your reliving memory of someone identical to him/her chasing you with a REAL knife… but yet, the feeling is real, and therefore, it is REAL to you.)

Victims, and survivors (with or without PTSD) are not crazy, or demented.  They are regular people that have been through something life-altering trauma that went far beyond the epidermal layer of their psyche.

It is very easy (and very terrifying) to be triggered into reliving yesterday.  Just ask any war veteran.  PTSD is a large issue in the military.  They have been on “red alert” internally, everything in a war zone is a potential threat, anything and everything could take their life in a blink when they are on duty.  And when they are sent home, they are still caught in “red alert” syndrome.

Triggers exist everywhere, and sometimes seemingly from nowhere.  It is always a fight to bring yourself to center (grounding yourself) and remember that was in the past.  But it can be done, and we are all capable of finding our own safe place and ways to ground ourselves.

When a victim finally crawls out of the Hyper-go-round, getting out there and getting help, talking to others, or maybe not even talking about it but seeking out others..

That is bravery at its most terrifyingly finest.  Trust me, it’s holy hell to say, “I need help and I am afraid to trust you but I must try.”

That is the transition stepping stone from victim to survivor.

Eight Opportunities

Backup_of_RW 101 coverWhat I had to ask myself one day, is am I ready to deal with the past?  Am I safely far away enough from the abuse that it is safe to face the trauma?

You may remember things that you don’t want to recall and be triggered.  That’s a part of the process and why it’s so crucial that before you get started, make sure you have support systems in place.

Counseling is beneficial in so many ways.  The best learning skills can be found in therapy sessions, women’s resource groups, churches and even in anonymous groups such as Al-Anon.
Friends are well-meaning and a good shoulder, but do take care about taking advice, for if they’ve never walked an inch in your shoes, their advice given may or may not be damaging.

“Get over it.”  “Forget about it.”  That is double-edged advice that haunts those that have been traumatized.  We want to get over it, we want to forget it, and we try very hard to.
Sometimes leaning on friends causes them to distance themselves.  They either can’t bear the burden of what you’ve endured or they simply aren’t connected with you in that way to hear all of those closeted skeletons.
My circle of friends is exclusively small with a lifetime membership.  My true friends know my triggers, know the rules, accept and love me as I am- and I do the same for them.  True friends tend to be discovered in the most unlikely places under the most bizarre of circumstances.
Where I found the most beneficial support was from online support forums.  I was allowed freedom to process in my own private way, without feeling overwhelmed.  As my abuser was suffering from anxiety and alcohol abuse at the time I was escaping, I subscribed to support groups for families of alcoholics and women’s abuse groups online.  It was helpful to learn that I was not alone, and that it wasn’t my fault.

In support groups you have a great chance to find comfort and companionship as you all share a common thread.  You may find though that over time, people may come and go, for each trauma is different and victims heal at their own pace from victim to survivor to thriver.  There is nothing wrong with that, and there is no right or wrong way to heal.

Many times the abuse stems from some type of addictive issue on the abuser’s end, such as a chemical addiction.  Sometimes abuse stems from the abuser’s feelings of insecurity and fears.  Some abusers are disassociated (detached from their and others feelings) and yet other abusers run purely off of raw emotions while you become disassociated as a result of the abuse.  Some abusers reenact what traumatized them.  Abuse is a continuous cycle.  All it takes is one to break the chain.

Abusers play games, speak in riddles, and make you feel like you’re losing your mind- and all the while, do their best to make you completely dependent upon them.  Their goal is power and control.  Abusive types are unhealthy individuals in need of professional help.

It’s unfortunate and frightening that many victims of domestic violence stay home in an effort to help the one abusing them, hopeful that they could fix the problem- when truly, the problem is not theirs- while their life is in a repetitious pattern of danger.  The general pattern for a woman to return to an abusive relationship is eight times before the final escape.

Eight times.

Eight opportunities to be harmed- eight opportunities to be broken physically, spiritually, emotionally- eight opportunities to die.

“The White Rabbit” a spiritual recovery writing exercise

Today is a day out of my rabbit hole.

Thank you, Jim McAllister of iNation for helping me venture out today.  I’m nearly out of hibernation.

 

THE WHITE RABBIT

Envision a small white rabbit, furry soft, venturing from the snugness of the Safe Tree that used to be a safe place, but now is old and rotting from countless horrible storms.

She’s stroking her whiskers, breathing fresh spring air, her pink gaze lingering on the low-growth dandelions dotting the tender cool moss that contrasts the azure sky.

She wriggles her rabbit toes into the moss sprouting around the rotten Tree, delighting in the Now.  She sniffs the air, her nose distinguishing the Past from the newness of Now.  The Past smells old and stale, just like her rabbit hole.

Her fur reeks of the Past and she rolls gaily about over the moss, giggling like a youngster, washing it away, kicking her strong hind feet in the air.  The rabbit sits up and rests for a moment, breathing quickly, feeling completely safe.

She plucks a four-leaf clover and chews it thoroughly for luck and courage, tasting the dewdrops that cool the palate.

She plucks a dead dandelion full of Wishes and stands on her haunches, turning the stem thoughtfully between her paws.

Clearing her small throat, she begins talking in a quiet feminine tone- not quite standing on a soapbox, but more so a general musing to everyone and no one- to the Sky, the Earth, the Wind, the flowers; her inner bunny and the Universe. 

“Bad memories of the past, like any other memories, ought follow the general pattern of the stages of grief and loss.. Shock, denial, anger, acceptance…”

The rabbit gently blows the Wishes, asking the Wind to accept them.

“To fade with time and be replaced by the warmer glow of the “good ol’ times” mingled with subconscious programming hard at work not to repeat the same mistakes… and as we rebuild our life, the dust settles.  We call that moving on, healing, spiritual growth.”

The Wishes softly sparkle far across the horizon as the rabbit asks the blue Sky to accept them.

“The past was yesterday, the present is today, and tomorrow is..an adventure or a tragedy, who knows?”

As the Wishes fade beyond her vision, the rabbit asks the Earth to accept them. 

“Today is the gift of Living in the Now, living in present time.” 

Her soft eyes catch upon baby dandelions already growing in the Now that glow against the green pasture of the Earth.  “This is the natural course and this is how it has always been.  Time continues onward and this is the process of Life as We Know It.”

“For many of us though, the past lingers.”  

Her brow is furrowed in a sad frown,  for one Wish clings to the dead dandelion stem tucked in her paw. 

The rabbit blows, and blows even harder, and shakes the stem until frustration wells within her bosom and her soft pink eyes glow an angry tulip hue. 

The Wish is stubborn and even though it  clings to the Past, to Death, it will not let go, not for anything.  And under no circumstances for her.  Especially not for her.  In fact, the Wish seems to be taunting the rabbit.

The rabbit sighs heavily, knowingly.   “I’ve often wondered why the past refuses to let go.  Perhaps there is something there that demands to be acknowledged and addressed, something we need to learn from it.”

She thoughtfully turns the withered stem this way, and that way, upside down and then right side up, staring holes into the rigid old Wish, wondering why it is behaving so ignorantly, why it refuses.  There is nothing more to learn and it can grow no further.  It must let go.  It is the natural course.

“Or perhaps, the past needs to learn a lesson to let go of us.” 

Tenderly, the rabbit plucks the protesting Wish off the dead stem and buries it in a shallow hole.  She thanks the Earth for accepting it (even though the Wish is still arguing in muffled tones), and as the heavy rainclouds begin to rumble in the distance, the rabbit thanks the Wind and Sky for doing their part. 

Finally, the Wish is quiet and accepts.

Her speech done, and her eyes tired, the small rabbit curls up under protection of scotch broom bushes laden with bright yellow buds as the patter of soft rainsong lulls her to sleep.  She has outgrown her stale rabbit hole and quite frankly, it stinks of the Past.

“I want.” A Trauma recovery writing exercise

I WANT…

I want to write even though my thoughts feel like scrambled eggs and sound outrageous.

I want to reach out to people and have people reach out back.

I want to be left alone.  I want to be held.

I want to wear an astronaut’s outfit so I can’t be touched- and a rocket to escape with.

I want to take fifty showers a day with a sandblaster, because I cannot I get clean enough.

I want to change my hair color (again) and my clothes (again) and my job (again) and where I live (again) so when I look in the mirror, there is nothing there to remind me.

I want to build that brick wall back up as quick as I can when I find a hole in it.

I want a delete button hard-wired in my brain.

No… First I want to transfer my memory out into a hard drive, and THEN a delete button.

I want to live on a desert island with my daughter, a bunch of happy female monkeys in touch with their spirituality, with eternal internet and a nice hammock.

I want to stop freezing when I’m frightened.

I want to protect others.

I want to be protected.

I want the guilty to be held accountable.

I want to pound the gavel myself when its time.

I don’t want to be there when it’s time.

 

I. want. Peace. Within myself.