Saturday, November 24, 2012

I wonder if Steve Podborski had weeks like this?

[For those of you wondering what the heck that means, you might want to read this first: (about 11 paragraphs from the bottom).]

Because the "sick day" I awarded myself on Tuesday has dragged on to the 5-day mark, as I work through and allow myself to feel all I need to feel.  They say once you allow yourself to feel your feelings, you stop being overwhelmed with them -- I'm hoping that's the case, because I'm getting really tired of crying and screaming and those weird wails that keep coming out of my mouth at the most inopportune times...

Happy to report, though, that I have found my anger.  It was hidden in the filing cabinets and old computer and basement full of boxes that I've been sifting through to remind myself I'm not the crazy one -- and, as I should have known without having to go through the damned boxes, I am sooooo not the crazy one.  But as long as the Gate-Keepers still have the power to send me into the big barfy braincloud, I am hanging on to all the evidence, thank you very much.

Guess I should back-track, eh what?

As mentioned in the previous blog post, the Gate-Keeper's (can we just call her GK to keep it short?) abusive behaviour escalated on Monday -- as could have been easily predicted, since I wasn't playing along.

In fact, I was doing such a great job of avoiding the landmines along the ski-hill -- breathe and don't engage, swish, breathe and don't engage, swoosh, breath and don't engage, aerial! -- that she decided to take out a semi-automatic and go for my friends and family instead.

Various versions of an e-mail were sent out to anyone she thought might have read my blog (not a clue who or how many, or on what criteria she based her list of recipients) -- which seems a bit of a strange tactic, since she didn't want people to read the stuff I'd written about my childhood, and judging from the spike in blog stats, she actually introduced a lot of folks to the information who would not have read it otherwise (but hey, thanks for the new readership...).

Depending on the recipient, I was portrayed as either confused, mistaken, someone who always liked to "creatively embellish", or a flat-out liar hell-bent on character assassination.  ALL of the e-mails (at least the ones that have been reported back to me) included the claim that she had never known of my father's sexual abuse when it was happening, I had never ever told her anything about it, nor had we ever discussed it, and she only heard mention of it recently when she read the tag in my e-mail about the Katie Foundation.

Uh... SERIOUSLY?!?!?

For those of you who haven't been paying attention over the years: NEVER LIE TO OR ABOUT A CHICK WHO HAS TWO FILING CABINETS, ALL HER OLD HARD-DRIVES AND A BASEMENT FULL OF BOXES!!!

And yes, it pisses me off that I had to go through all those files and boxes and hard drives on Tuesday to remind myself that I wasn't the one making things up, and talk to other witnesses from back then to remind myself I wasn't imagining things.  It pisses me off that GK is still trying to convince me, and now my family and friends, that I'm the crazy one.

And then I think -- HOLY CRAP, I'm in my forties now and can figure it all out.  They were putting me through this same B.S. when I was a little kid who had no way of taking care of herself.

And that's when I need the frigging pudding room.  (See bottom of for that reference.)

Going back through my diaries, I read through the details of my initial disclosure -- which was in grade seven, and was transmitted to all family members of my parents' generation and above within a few weeks, as evidenced by the entries that lament my relatives are treating me differently since they heard.

Just the entries leading up to the disclosure were heartbreaking: "I walked to school with Cait and Ali.  I had science.  My history teacher is a jerk.  I had a ham sandwich for lunch.  I think Eric likes me.  I walked home with Cait because Ali had a doctor's appointment.  I wish Dad would stop raping me.  We had chicken casserole for dinner.  I'm in a bad mood today."  (The fact that my father raping me seems to have the same importance in my life as a ham sandwich is bewildering... although I never did like ham.)

But those were the entries my mother finally read, after my leaving the diary on the living room couch for several months with "Mom, PLEASE read this!" on the cover.  She read it, and I braced myself for the chaos and family upheaval I had been dreading to cause for years.  She showed it to my father, and I braced myself for the family to come crashing down.  She showed it to my grandparents, and I waited for the world to explode.  She told the aunts, uncles, close family friends, and I waited for life as I knew it to be ripped out from under me.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited...

But absolutely nothing happened.  Nothing changed.  Life as I knew it continued on as usual.  All the parts of life as I knew it.  Not just the ham sandwiches.  Move along, nothing to see here...

As an adult, it's easy to see how wrong that was.  (OK, as an adult who's gone through several decades of therapy, I can now easily see how wrong that was.)  But I was not an adult.

So "move along, nothing to see here, let's pretend this never happened" had some devastating consequences.  Not only was I NOT being protected from my father's abuse, I had lost the fantasy about someday being protected -- and my little-kid brain had to figure out a rational explanation for that lack of protection, as well as figure out a way to protect itself until I could get out of that fun-house world.

In reading the diary entries following my initial disclosure, I noticed something I hadn't previously -- there are a number of dates after which my handwriting changes dramatically.  Not a gradual maturation or experimenting with a new style, but a sudden, complete turn-around.  Big swoopy letters suddenly become small cursive, the angle changes from right to left, serifs are added or subtracted.  The fragmenting of my mind made visual.

From later, adult years, I find yet more correspondence with GK of the "you're making this up, it never happened" variety, interspersed with the "oh how hard it was on us, but we did everything to protect you" variety, a smattering of the "it couldn't have happened like you remember it" variety, and the "what on earth are you talking about, I've never heard about this before" variety, and, of course, my favourite "prove it!" variety.


Truly crazy-making reasons why I still keep everything -- a touchstone to remind myself of reality, and the myriad ways in which Gate-Keepers of every stripe will try to erase it.  And, considering the number of times this has happened in the last 20 years, a good reminder of why I should breathe and not engage, breathe and not engage.

There is no way I will ever be able to convince the Gate-Keepers of my story or my right to tell it.  At least not in a way that it will be remembered in an hour's time.  A basement full of proof, and I still have to "prove it!" to myself, fer cryin' out loud!

And that's where I see it -- the anger and the sadness that I was forced to fragment my mind in order to fit in a world that was so utterly dangerous for me.  If only I could send a message back to little-girl me and say "hey kid, it's not your mind that's the problem, you can trust your senses, you can trust your memories, you can trust your feelings -- they're trying to convince you of something that is simply not true because they can't deal with the truth, not because it isn't true."  Oh yeah, and "maybe stay away from the ham sandwich..."

I see, in these files and boxes and hard drives, that even as recently as ten years ago, I was still trying to make it all make sense.  This giant, neurotic, swirling cyclone that arose between GK and myself as I tried to make it all make sense.  The cyclone she seems to need to happen again, is so desperate to happen again that she will give up on silent anonymity in order to drag others into the void I refuse to step into.  Which is quite sad.

Though it's kind of tricky to be sad for someone who is pointing a semi-automatic (or a totally-knee-jerk-automatic) at your head and at the heads of your family and friends...


Instead, I feel sad for the little girl who wrote in big swoopy letters that angled to the right and had lots of pretty ornaments.  For whom being assaulted by her father was just as much a part of her daily routine as walking to school and eating lunch.  Whose caregivers would not or could not give her care.

And I hold her hand and give her a really big hug, and we cry together, and stamp our feet and punch pillows and make those weird howling sounds together until we exhaust ourselves.  I get angry on her behalf ('cause she's not so good with anger, but I'm slowly learning).  I tell her she really didn't deserve any of this.  I tell her we're OK now.  We're safe.  The totally-knee-jerk-automatic weapon aimed at our heads only hurts us if we believe in it.  I show her the boxes to remind her not to believe in any of it.

And then we take out our notebook and coloured pens, and in big swoopy ornamented letters, we design the ski jump for our Pudding Room.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Marking the Day(s)

Today is Universal Children's Day.  Yesterday was World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse -- I'd meant to write about it, but it kind of got lost in the latest brou-ha-ha.

I'm afraid I'm going to disappoint you again today.  Things have escalated, in rather predictable fashion, and I just don't have the energy.

Instead, I've decided to call a sick day, and have that nervous breakdown I've been promising myself for months.  (Well, once the appliance repair guy leaves, anyhow... don't want things to get too messy!)  Jammies, books and comfort food -- and, happily, yesterday my therapist prescribed me daily foot massages from Don!  (I love my therapist...)  I will also be indulging my inner child by designing her a Pudding Room*, at least on paper -- still have to convince Don about converting the garage, but maybe if I distract him with a new kitten, he won't notice the construction...

But I did want to mark the day(s), at least, as it's so important for people to be aware of the issues, and to know where to seek the help they need.

Here are a few of my favourite places -- if you know of others, please add them in the comments below, because I'd like to include a page on the Katie Foundation website of such sites:

Break the silence, shout it out.  Let's make that 1 in 4 statistic whimper.

In solidarity (and jammies)

*Pudding Room

An idea my friend and I came up with last night -- there may have been wine involved.  A therapy room with BIG BOWLS OF PUDDING you can fling at the walls as you safely vent your rage (don't think anyone's ever been injured by pudding, but we will research this, just in case...).  When you're finished, sprinklers come out of the ceiling and wash it all down the drain in the middle of the floor.

Or, if you're like another friend who commented on the idea, you could just sit in the middle of the room and eat all the pudding.  Unless, of course, your trauma has manifested as an eating disorder, in which case that might not be such a good idea...

The Pudding Room can be used for whatever makes you feel better, without causing yourself or others harm.  (And it comes in several great flavours!)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Keep speaking your truth -- and find your tribe

Hi folks,

OK, I obviously lied again about not posting here for a while.  :-)

But I've been a little worried that all the past few weeks' posts about being socked in the gut by a GateKeeper might be a bit discouraging for those of you with stories to tell, so I thought I'd share something my friend Sue sent me, via Chris Cade:

I think I might have to have this made into a t-shirt!  :-)

Yes, keep speaking the truth -- but don't expect the people embroiled in the situation to listen, or handle it well.  As you can easily see from my "adventures" this month, and in my childhood, you need to be rather judicious about who you share your truth with first.  The best bet is an outsider.  The best bet is someone with experience in a situation that resembles yours -- either because they've been there themselves, or because they've been trained in how to help guide you through the cobwebs.

Depending on the truth that's aching to get out, this could be a crisis hotline, a medical or emotional health professional, a support group (for those of you living in low-population areas that might not have such "in person" support groups, you can find many such things online these days -- as with the traditional models, not one size fits all, shop around until you find something that's a good fit for you), or another big-mouthed blogger who's been-there-done-that and probably has lots of resources (s)he can point out, as well as a pour-yourself-a-cup-of-tea-and-let-me-tell-you-you're-not-alone comfort.

As you know, I've got decades of therapy under my belt (and probably more decades ahead).  And they made a world of difference -- can you imagine how completely nuts I'd be now without them?  ;-)  But while those sessions were (and are) important and helpful to me, it was the support group that finally gave me the "aha!  I'm not the crazy one" moments.  Because much as a trained professional can help you see your patterns and help you collect some better tools for your mental and emotional toolbox, there's nothing like laughing with fellow survivors when you discover the latest in the "oh lordy, I thought I was the only one who..." stories.

Misery loves company, I suppose, but it's also good to be able to laugh at your misery every once in a while.  :-)

I just finished watching at TedX talk by another friend and fellow musician, Heather Dale (scroll to about 58:00 and you'll hear Denise Donlon's introduction to her speech), which is all about "finding your tribe".  Because all you have to do is look around, and you'll find like-minded people, who think what you do is the most amazing thing in the world, and will share with you and support you.  In this internet age, it's so much easier to find, too -- there are webpages for pretty much everything you can think of (some stranger than others, and I'd advise you to think carefully of your search terms, lest you come up with some disturbing surprises... ).

Because I can guarantee you, whatever you thought "I'm the only one in the world who..." about -- you're not.  Yes, you're a unique and fascinating individual, but you are never alone.  Never.

That's been some of the "fun" (if you can call it that) of reading this book about enabling family members in incest cases.  Because, while I'm still guilty of sometimes thinking "hey, I thought I was the only one who...", I've been reading 186 pages worth of case studies and summaries that tell me nope, not even remotely the only one.  Everything I've gone through has a mirror, and a context, and an explanation, AND A WAY TO GET PAST IT.  As many times as this book has reduced me to tears this month, it's also given me those same laughs of recognition that I'm not alone.  There are a whole lot of people -- far too many people -- who are walking this path with me.

And misery does love company.  Not because we like to wallow in misery, but because we know how to help lift each other out of it.  We laugh, we cry, we fight our dragons, then we set out to help others fight theirs.

And speaking of musical friends, we had Rob Lutes staying with us last night -- a brilliant songwriter, one smart cookie, and really wonderful person, so go search him out and invite him into your tribe -- and he gave us a copy of his not-yet-released new album The Bravest Birds.  I've listened to it three times this afternoon, and am about to turn on a fourth round.  Tears, laughter, dragons.  He digs deep, and it's a thing of beauty.  I'm not just enjoying listening to it, I'm being inspired -- for me, the best songwriters make me want to write my own.  I don't know why, but as someone trapped in a dry patch, I think I'll be listening to a lot more of this CD.  :-)  Glory glory hallelujah.

OK, I'm really going back into Hermit mode now.  Honest.  I mean it this time...  ;-)

Go find your tribe and keep speaking your truth!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hurtling along the emotional landscape

Hi all,

Thought I'd better check in, as I've been told many of you are worried about me.  (aww... stop makin' me teary!)

Sorry to leave you in the dark -- just been doing a lot (understatement alert!) of work behind the scenes, as well as enjoying a weekend escape with some dear friends (just what the doctor ordered!).

I'm doing alright -- it's been a struggle, most certainly, but between my immediate support team, my e-support team, workbooks and therapist, I'm muddling through.

The Gate-Keeper is still on a rampage, mind you... so I must admit, my shoulders are still around my ears, as I brace myself for the next attack (seriously, I had TWO massage appointments last week, and you'd never know it...).

Quick update:

Earlier last week, I received a giant package in the mail of letters and cards I'd sent said Gate-Keeper over the years, childhood concert programmes, stories and poems I wrote as a kid, and several file-folders of other "memories of Lyssy" artifacts (kind of surprised it wasn't sent C.O.D., but...)

Yeah, point taken.  Thank you very much.

And yes, it hurt like hell.  BUT (silver lining, Lyssy always has a frigging silver lining...) at least there was a RIDICULOUSLY CLEAR shift from passive-aggressive into the wide world of aggressive -- which, honestly, is much easier to deal with.  Kind of a relief, actually, when you get rid of all those extra layers of second-guessing.

Plus, being cut-off and non-existant saves a lot of tap-dancing energy, once you get over the giant cannonball that's just been lobbed into your gut.

[Of course, I mentioned this to my therapist, kind of non-chalantly, I guess, and her immediate reaction was "What kind of person actually DOES something like that?!?", so maybe I'm just in full-on denial.  But then I told her that this was actually pretty mild for folks in my family, and mentioned that one time when my grandmother was angry with my mother, she actually enlisted my father to disinter my dead (well, I guess the dead part was obvious with the disinterring, but...) grandfather and move him to a secret spot we'll never know about.  Said therapist was stunned into silence for a moment, and then started scribbling furiously before making sure I was fully aware that normal people don't do such things.  (Oh yes, I'm very aware... there's a good reason why I've been in various forms of therapy most of my adult life!)]

A few brief moments of silence, when suddenly:

Apparently I wasn't COMPLETELY non-existant to Ms. Gate-Keeper for long, as this you-no-longer-exist-for-me package was soon followed up with an e-mail missive (a word I chose because it's so close to the word "missile", which would also be quite accurate).  This contained a number of selected, selectIVE, and often ridiculously out-of-context quotes from blogs past, with some segments bolded (I assume to indicate her disapproval, although a legend was not included...).  These quotes were followed by a series of "footnotes" which were filled with so much denial, gaslighting, half-truths, some downright lies, and so many other forms of verbal and emotional abuse that I was triggered into a massive barfy braincloud on the spot.

[Interestingly, the points she decided to pick apart were mostly really minor, piddly details that really didn't change the bigger picture -- she totally ignored the whole family-led-me-into-it-on-a-silver-platter details -- but attacked this minor stuff with such ferocity and desperation that I imagine her Denial (with a capital "D") wouldn't allow those other major points to have actually registered in her mind.  Sigh... Yes, here I am again, trying to understand and forgive the folks who can't bring themselves to forgive me for having a memory or being me... But that's the only way I'm going to get out of this with some semblance of sanity, so I'll keep doing what I do.]

Back to the triggered massive barfy braincloud:  I have to tell you, it was REALLY DIFFICULT to keep my therapist's and support team's "breathe and don't engage, breathe and don't engage, breath and don't engage" present and face-forward -- but I succeeded (Don treated me to creamy mac & cheese and Rioja, which didn't hurt).  Yay me.

Of course, 5am rolled around, and I had already composed a 13-page essay in my head of how to explain myself better to her...  Until 7:30 rolled around, and I remembered that juggling chainsaws in my belly meant verbal abuse, and I should just breathe and not engage, breathe and not engage.  Hmm... guess those folks were right!  ;-)

[But... sorry folks, just have to rant for a moment:  She takes something I said about child abuse in general, a neurotic tendency I was worried about in myself, and a complaint I had against my paediatrician as being a personal insult ALL about her, and then takes offence at my saying narcissism runs in the family -- how, exactly, do you define "irony"?  AND, apparently my recurring nightmares shouldn't have the images they have -- seriously, subconscious, you should try a little harder to repress your memories so the Gate-Keepers don't get offended...  AND, in this shopping-list of ways she thinks I'm attacking the family, she obviously chose to totally ignore all the "I forgive - " "I can totally see where they came from with - " "I don't blame them - " and "It's not their fault - " prefaces to these points, and instead CHOSE TO BE MAD ABOUT THE THINGS I'VE FORGIVEN!!!  Oy, just the tip of the iceberg... Here endeth the rant.]

I did write the reply, for my own sanity, but have tucked it away in a place where I cannot impulsively press "send".  I'm still breathing, still not engaging, still bracing myself for the escalation when she realizes I'm not engaging, and needs to find other ways to ensure my silence...

In the meantime, I've been working my way through an AMAZING book, which I coincidentally had bought a few weeks before this brouhaha began, and had already promised myself to dive into once Don's CD release was over (last Sunday -- and the publicist in me is saying you should check out or iTunes to buy the new album "I Am Myself").

It deals with the enabling caregiver(s)'(s) role in incest and other child sexual abuse scenarios, and some of the oh-too-common dysfunctional patterns that occur.  THANK YOU, GOOD-TIMING-WITH-THE-BOOK-BUYING FAIRY!!!  It's filled with lots of case studies, assessment questionnaires and self-help exercises, which are pretty freakin' illuminating and liberating and just plain awesome.  (I'll share some of the info with you later, never fear.  But today's blog is all about me, because narcissism runs in the family. [insert grinny thing here])

Of particular assistance in the past couple of weeks have been the chapters on the enabler's attempts to control the survivor's feelings, the enabler's emotional alienation of the survivor, the enabler's need for the survivor (and others) to believe the family is and was perfect, etc.  Seriously, it's like every time I read a new chapter, the Gate-Keeper provides a real-life example for me.  It's really quite refreshing to be able to say "oh yeah, that's page 32, I won't take it on, buh-bye."

Hmmm... OK, I realize I said this was going to be quick, but...  You probably knew better already, right?  ;-)

Yesterday was Therapy Day (yay therapy day!!!), and our therapist gave me this WONDERFUL image that I think my fellow survivors will enjoy -- and maybe others too.

She said: "You know, Alyssa, as far as navigating the emotional landscape of life goes, you are Steve Podborski, and she's still stuck trying to figure out the bunny hill.  There's no way she will ever be able to do what you do -- if you go skiing together, it's going to have to be on the bunny hill."

As someone who totally sucks at skiing, it kind of makes me laugh to be compared to Steve Podborski.  :-)  But... yes, I'm definitely a Crazy Canuck when it comes to flinging myself onto those emotional mountains.  I've worked hard, I've been brave, I've pushed myself way past my comfort zone, and the results are pretty darned obvious.  And impressive.  (There, I just bragged a little -- pick your jaw up off the floor.)

To stick with that metaphor, though... I don't mind skiing on the bunny hill when I have to.  I understand the need to stick to the bunny hill, and don't really expect ANY of the Gate-Keepers to ever make it past the bunny hill (although it would be really awesome if some of them would even ATTEMPT the damned bunny hill some day...).

It's the land-mines they keep planting on the big-girl hills that are really starting to piss me off!!!

Sigh... well, that was a nice little vent.  :-)

To end on a high note, though, I must share some SUPER-EXCITING NEWS with you all.  A member of the extended family has come forward and offered to help with setting up the Katie Foundation!!!  (Insert cartwheels and streamers and balloons and dancing girls here.)

I'm so thrilled, because I was just at the point of "how the hell am I going to get this all figured out???"  I've got people on board who have lots of experience being on charitable boards and in organizations that deal with child and sexual abuse, but none of them have had experience in getting a charitable organization started from scratch -- and, as you may remember, the man who had been going to help me out with that died last year, 24 hours before it all became possible.  But this guy has tons of experience doing this for many organizations, and really wants to help.  I was also told that my Honourary Dad would be happy to do the legal stuff, as long as we get it together before he retires (I work well with deadlines).


Yes, it's been an icky couple of weeks, but I have received so much loving support from so many people, and sometimes from the most unexpected of places.  Thank you, everyone.  Yes, the Gate-Keepers may still be able to temporarily trigger me into oblivion, but you folks outshine them all.  It's folks like you who helped me become a survivor, and now you're helping me thrive.

So, I'm alright, I've got a great immediate support team.  I probably won't be writing on here for a while again, but don't let that worry you.  And if it does, just shoot a message to me directly, you won't disturb me.  (Although, knowing me, I'll get a little teary that you give a crap, but those are happy tears, so don't panic.)

I am so blessed.  I love you all!

In gratitude,
Alyssa, aka Steve Podborski  ;-)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Truth and Consequences

Today, I am reminded of my November post "The Truth will set you free".  The general gist being that this platitude isn't completely accurate:  First, you have to set the truth free.  Then you have to put on your helmet and defend it from all those people desperate to hide it away again.  Then you finally realize that the truth is there whether or not other people choose to accept it, and you just have to do your best to keep it alive.

I am also reminded of Claudia Black's classic description of what children learn in addictive families:  "Don't Talk, Don't Trust, Don't Feel".  Since first writing "It Will Never Happen To Me", discussing alcoholic addiction within families, she has expanded her newest edition to include other addictive disorders within the family (including sexual), and further developed upon the various family rules and roles.  While nature versus nurture can certainly be argued until the cows come home, there is a general consensus that addictive behaviours run in families.  I was somewhat (but not totally) surprised to learn in my research a few weeks ago that childhood sexual abuse has also been shown to run in families.  It appears the "don't talk, don't trust, don't feel" of the alcoholic family literature certainly has its place in the world of childhood sexual abuse, as well.  As an adult survivor of an alcoholic and incestuous family, I would agree I was brought up with AT LEAST a double-whammy of Don't Talk, Don't Trust, Don't Feel.

So, what's with all this reminding?

Well, the frying pan of life, as my therapist would say, has just brought these two concepts back together with a resounding clash.

You see, dear friends, the inevitable has occurred: a family member discovered one of my blog posts.  Not one of the (mostly same-generation, but not exclusively) family members who have already been supportive of and sympathetic to my journey.  Nosireee.  I mean one of the Gate-Keepers of Family Secrets.

And, as could also be easily predicted, this particular Gate-Keeper of Family Secrets is none too thrilled I left the gate open.

It began with an unexpected phone call.  Jumped quickly into a monologue about how upset this person was, how unfair I was, and how I shouldn't be saying such things where other people can read them.  And just as I was taking a breath to respond, the receiver on the other end was shut down and all I got was dead air.

It was the hanging up on me, hearing the click of the line going dead, that clicked everything back into place for me.

Because until I heard that click, I was fighting my way through that old "Brain Fog" that this call had triggered.  The initial panic of "oh my god, I let the truth slip" that could have, several decades ago, actually brought the world crashing down around me.

There was always the face that had to go out to the public.  The perfect, shining, we're-all-one-big-happy-freakin'-family face.  Any crack in that would have severe consequences, many of which were in the I-don't-really-know-what-the-consequences-would-be-but-everyone-else-is-terrified-of-telling-the-truth-so-I-will-be-too variety, but many of which were also pretty concrete and real.  And if you have to keep looking and acting like everything is fine-just-fine when it's really nightmarishly horrid, the cognitive dissonance is overwhelming -- hence the brain fog.

I'm still far too easily triggered in that department.  Especially when in the presence (or phone line) of the Gate-Keepers.

If I have warning, I can rehearse.  I can remind myself that the truth only hurts those who try to suppress it.  I can remind myself that telling the truth will no longer make someone die (if it even would have then, who knows).  I can remind myself that telling my story is a necessary part of the healing process, and that if the Gate-Keepers owe me ANYTHING it's a fighting chance at healing myself.  I can remind myself that the Gate-Keepers will use every tool in their arsenal to fight me, but that doesn't mean I have to use their tools against myself.

Part of the brain fog is, in fact, me giving myself these reminders -- only to have the old dissociated bits of me swoop in and try their old tricks to get me to grab onto those tools; followed by more mantras and reminders about how I can now embrace all those bits of me and integrate them in, because they're a part of the truth too, yadda yadda yadda...  It can be like trying to unravel an endless spiderweb, while being covered in a million spiders who are all still weaving... and then noticing you have eight legs.  :-)

Part of the brain fog is also the internalization of all the Gate-Keepers' voices (probably closely related with the other dissociative tendencies, although more like super-associated field-dependent tendencies), i.e.:  maybe I was remembering things wrong, maybe I was making a mountain out of a mole-hill, maybe I was just mis-interpreting...  Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt except me, my own senses, memories, symptoms and aforementioned decades of therapy.

Other than the general dynamics of the brain fog, I was giving myself additional brain fog by trying to decide the best way to respond.  The little-girl Me-s were all ready to tap-dance up a storm, saying "Oh I'm so sorry for letting that slip out, it must have been a crazy moment, it's not real, it's not true, I didn't really do it, that's not what I really think happened, I'll take it all back and say a thousand different wonderful things about everybody if you'll just forget this all happened and love me love me love me!" Grown up me was mad as hell that anyone would still be trying to prevent me from telling the truth, and was ready to grab a sword and go into battle.  (Little me-s were kind of terrified with that concept.)  The still rather neurotic side of grown-up me thought that if I could find several different ways of presenting and explaining the truth, or maybe just presenting and explaining it LOUDER, everyone would learn to accept it.  Not-so-neurotic grown-up me said that was probably one of the stupidest ideas we'd ever come up with...  Of course, grown up me also realized it would be a futile battle, since the Gate-Keepers of Family Secrets also tend to be Deniers-of-the-Secrets-they're-fighting-to-keep (nothing to see here, move along...), and it would probably just be yet another crazy-making activity.

So, as I was inhaling and about to offer my first "I'm sorry", still not knowing which version of me was about to win control over the remainder of the upcoming Response...

The phone line clicked.

And we all collapsed in a puddle of understanding and clarity:  The Response didn't matter.

Whatever explaining, presenting or tap-dancing we did, it would never get through a dead phone line.  And whether or not the Gate-Keepers have the phone to their ear or in its cradle, it's always a dead phone line.

Although, in this case, at least the person bothered to make it that obvious:  It's only her thoughts and feelings that are of any importance.  Mine are, apparently, not even worth sticking on the phone line to pretend to listen to.

No "hello" or "did I catch you at a bad time?"  Just instantly into the Gate-Keeper's thoughts and feelings and all the reasons why I should keep my own thoughts and feelings quiet, followed by shutting down the conversation before anyone else's thoughts or feelings might enter the picture.

Had the scenario been more along the lines of "I was hurt and upset by this, what can we do to work through this?" or even "I was hurt and upset by this, what the hell do you have to say for yourself?" I would not have been left with a weekend full of triggers and nightmares and nausea and uncontrollable sobbing.

But the frying pan of life -- or the frying pan of the Gate Keepers -- has just crashed it home that I am not supposed to have thoughts or feelings of my own.  I'm certainly not supposed to have thoughts or feelings that might paint the super-cheery-one-big-happy-family (or any of its members--other than myself) as even slightly dysfunctional.  And put on my helmet and watch out for the frying pan if I dare think I'm going to talk about it.

I'm not supposed to have thoughts or feelings.  I am the receptacle of others' thoughts and feelings.  That's the rule and the role.

I don't have a story, I'm supposed to go with the official story.

Although, even in this particular Gate-Keeper's version of my story, it's a twisted-up funhouse-mirror version of my story.  Remember Bush's "you're with us or you're against us"?  Well, that's always held true in this family too.  If you notice, let alone point out, a flaw, you're against us and hate us and are deliberately out to cause us harm.  Period.  Shades of grey?  Uh... what's grey?

Never mind that when I *do* present something or someone in my history that has caused me harm, it's NOT a shopping list of what horrible people did to me -- I'm forever trying to make sense of it all, to see where they're coming from, to find reason, explanations.  I've spent so much time bending over backwards, trying to make my abusers and their enablers into three-dimensional people instead of caricatures, searching out the paths that took them to where they were (and many still are), eschewing blame in favour of understanding and compassion.

A process they apparently can neither see, nor return to me.

As my therapist says, though, if their programming is THAT strong, some people can't make it past the filters.  I could shout "I forgive you, I don't blame you, I forgive you, I don't blame you" until I'm blue in the face, and all they'd hear is I thought there was something they should be blamed for.  And my throat would be sore...

How do you tell a story of survival, if you aren't allowed to mention what you survived?

I suppose I might be able to tell my story, provided it didn't involve any other characters:  Once upon a time, a little girl grew up and had two abusive marriages, a string of emotional problems and spent a couple of decades in therapy because she didn't appreciate all that her shiny-happy-perfect family had given her and just wanted to make them miserable for no apparent reason.  The end.

Actually, there are a number of times when that has been presented as part of the official story...

In fact, I remember another of the Gate-Keepers phoning me up to tell me what a horrible person I was when I was divorcing abusive ex-husband #2 -- he kept shouting "It's your bed, you made it, now go lie in it."  (This is, apparently, supportive behaviour when someone is divorcing a man you never liked to begin with, and I was later chastised for not accepting said Gate-Keeper's loving assistance... but that's another blog altogether.)  In what I still think was a pretty ballsy move, especially considering the head-space I was in at the time, I actually replied to that one -- saying something about how the bed-frame had been put together years before I was born, from the branches of a diseased family tree, and all I'd done wrong was allowed myself to be tied to the bedposts for too long, so now I wasn't going to lie in anyone's bed, I was going to invite all my friends over to my own bed to eat crackers and have bouncing pillow-fights.  (It didn't go over so well, but I cannot even begin to tell you what a whoosh of relief it gave me to actually dare to talk back like that -- yes, it took me until my mid-30s, but I'd finally hit adolescence...)

Perhaps that's why this latest Gate-Keeper didn't give me a chance to reply?  She knew I would?

There is a reason why sexual abuse runs in families -- and I don't think it's because there's a pedophile gene lurking somewhere in people's chromosomes.  It's because of the culture within those families.  A culture of secrecy, of out-of-control hierarchy, of playing whack-a-mole with anyone who pops their head up for a breath of truth, of finding new and devilishly ingenious ways of silencing those brazen enough to think they can exhale the truth.  As I've said many times, I've dealt quite well with my father's sexual abuse.  It's the culture of the family as a whole I'm still digging myself out from.  This culture is what allowed the abuse to happen.  Not just to me.  This culture is what allowed the abuse to continue.  This culture is what preserves itself, keeping everything ticking along safely for itself... like a bomb.

Don't Talk.  Don't Trust.  Don't Feel.

Don't Talk kind of feeds the others, though.  Don't talk -- because you'll blow everyone's cover, because people won't be able to act out on their addictions if people are watching.  Don't trust -- don't trust outsiders, only your shiny-happy-perfect family knows what's best for you, and if you let outsiders know the truth, you'll be in the wilds; don't talk within the family, because you don't really know who's on whose side, and if the victims talk to each other they might realize something's wrong and talk elsewhere too.  Don't feel -- because as soon as you feel, you'll know something's wrong, and then you'll talk!

And yet, it's the talking, the telling your story, that opens you up to the world of healing -- that allows your story to help others heal along with you.  THAT PUTS AN END TO THE ABUSE CYCLE.  (No wonder talking is so feared...)

If I kept my mouth shut, and learned of someone in the younger generation going through what I and others of my generation have had to go through, I would never be able to forgive myself for staying silent.

If I kept my mouth shut, and went back to keeping this all inside, I would go insane.  I would implode.

From "The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse":
Why Telling is Transformative
  • You move through the guilt and secrecy that keeps you isolated
  • You move through denial and acknowledge the truth of your abuse.
  • You make it possible to get understanding and help.
  • You get more in touch with your feelings.
  • You get a chance to see your experience (and yourself) through the compassionate eyes of a supporter.
  • You make space in relationships for the kind of intimacy that comes from honesty.
  • You establish yourself as a person in the present who is dealing with the abuse in her past.
  • You join a courageous community of women [and men: my addition] who are no longer willing to suffer in silence.
  • You help end child sexual abuse by breaking the silence in which it thrives.
  • You reclaim your voice.
  • You become a model for other survivors.
  • You (eventually) feel proud and strong. 

Did you catch that 9th one?  YOU HELP END CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BY BREAKING THE SILENCE IN WHICH IT THRIVES.  The very culture the Gate Keepers are trying to preserve.

Telling my story isn't just to make me feel better -- in fact, on weeks like this, it does anything BUT make me feel better, and even on good weeks, it can be a terrifying and humiliating process.  But because I'm now in a safe place where I CAN speak my truth, I firmly believe it's my RESPONSIBILITY to speak my truth.  Because it's not just mine.  It's the truth of one in four girls or one in six boys (frankly, I think it's closer to 1 in 4 boys as well, but that, again, is another blog entry).  And if this runs in families, then I DEFINITELY need to break the silence, and break the cycle, so my beloved niece and nephew and everyone else in the younger generation and generations to come DON'T HAVE TO.  Enough is enough.

Today was therapy day (thank you, oh great spirit of therapy day timing!).  When I described this past week's occurrences, my therapist did a quick double-check:  You do know that you can't change your story just because she doesn't like it, right?

Yes, I know.

Yes, I needed the reminder from a professional.  :-)

And yes, I had already received SO MANY reminders from my close friends and supporters and co-survivors.  Thank you all, they were and are greatly appreciated, and kept me grounded and centred in the swirl of brain clouds and triggers.  AM's immediate "Well the truth hurts but honesty and integrity is the only THE ONLY way to be!" helped slow the swirling.  The other A's "She thinks this is about HER, doesn't she?  She's wrong" gave me a good chuckle, and some sane grounding.  And all the other reminders from so many men and women to be true and stay strong... well, they helped me to be true and stay strong.  I have such a wonderful community, I am so grateful.

But now, my lovelies, I am at a loss.  What the heck does staying strong look like in this instance?  I feel like I'm missing an important tool in my tool box, and could use some suggestions on how to go forward.

Conversation doesn't seem possible with someone who hangs up on you before you can speak.  And while SF's "She needs to hear it to heal herself" is a valid point, I don't think she's particularly interested in healing, considering how much she's fighting the idea that there's even something to heal FROM (from which to heal... yeah, I know, but the capitalization looks better that way and I'm a visual person, so tthhhphphww).  Attempting to explain myself seems to be yet another exercise in futility and talking to a dead phone line.  I feel, in many ways, that I should just leave it alone and not say anything, because it's just going to make things worse.

Of course, I resist the "not saying anything" part, since that's kind of like giving in to the Gate-Keepers all over again.  Which is how this whole mess got started.

It's a different kind of silence, though... I guess.  I'm not allowing them to shut down my truth.  I'm just not expecting them to listen.

Hmmm... maybe I already answered my own question in the first paragraph, and should simply click my ruby slippers together, because I just took a long and winding journey to find the answers I had all along?  :-)

OK, I'm laughing at myself now.  Laughter is good.

So... I'll save myself the energy of the fight, and leave my sword and shield in the cabinet.  I won't change my story just because the Gate-Keepers don't like it.  I won't expect them to listen or believe or even give a crap (wouldn't THAT be the day!).  I'll just keep it safe and warm and alive.  And keep Me safe and warm and alive.

And the war will carry on
Between the Sword and the Wand
For riches already gained
All advance, no retreat
Peel away the conceit
Until only the Truth remains
Truth remains

Ah yes, Alyssa, stop blethering on and just listen to your songs.  You'd save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you just listened to yourself instead of waiting for others to do so...  :-)

But thank you, as always, to you who do listen, and share your own stories.  (Yes, I do realize that MY programming has just had me focusing on the minority who insist on silence, rather than sinking myself into the majority with beautiful stories to share.  I'm working on it, promise!)  I couldn't do it without you.

In love and gratitude and hopefully a lot less vomiting,