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 →
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 →
I think all the time. I have always been overly cognitive. Inhabiting my body was not safe when I was a child. I invented a much nicer world in my head and it helped me through some horrible situations. But constant thinking is a recipe for disaster. It is easy to take small things and turn them in to big things. That’s how the brain works. It stays in charge that way.
The problem with the “brain on trauma” is the creation of problems that do not exist. The brain will take those old separated emotions and create a problem to accompany them. Then, the brain will create all sorts of approaches to resolve the non-existent problem. This overactive brain of mine has led to heavy anxiety levels and an exhaustion that reflects running a marathon a day. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
When I was a child, I was taught that sex was about power. More importantly, I was taught that sex was about a power differential. My needs, wants and concerns were of no interest to my abuser. And “no” was never an acceptable response to my abuser’s desires. I internalized that message. I grew up expecting sex and relationships to be unhealthy. And I unknowingly searched that out. Abuse was familiar. It was what I knew.
The worst part wasn’t the abusive relationship. It was the internal belief systems that each relationship confirmed. I was convinced that the power differential was critical to an intimate relationship. And I was unable to be in a healthy relationship because of that. I even considered healthy relationships to be boring or unfulfilling. I saw them as fake. I thought there was no way people could genuinely care about each other. I thought the only passion that could exist in a relationship was abusive. Continue reading →
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 →