Talking Is Overrated

Three trigger dates fell within the same week this year in April. Easter is a kind of “floating” trigger date as it isn’t one of those holidays that’s nailed down to one particular day. I managed. I got through them. As always, I avoided as much as I could, distracted when I couldn’t, and coped when reminders triggered flashbacks or panic or whatever else. I’m told that’s all I can do. I feel numb, emotionless, and detached — not surprising for this time of year, especially not surprising for the month of April.

I’m convinced this is as good as it gets.

The final trigger date at the end of April passed much the same. I was supposed to meet with my case manager that day, but she called the day before to cancel again. I had an appointment with my counselor this past Friday — the day after that trigger date; but I didn’t even mention my son’s birthday. My biggest problem is that I avoid discussing these events in my life even when I know I need to. Rather, I opt to talk about trivial matters or anything else. This causes me to feel even more frustrated with myself as well as mental health treatment (obviously, considering my last post).

“Is there anything else major you think we need to talk about?” That open-ended question is daunting. It fills me with dread and panic, signaling the end of a session. Immediately an inner conflict arises as some parts express a desperation to be heard, demanding with urgency the chance to speak up, while others caution against saying too much. The fatalist cynic reminds me of the pointlessness of therapy as the paranoid social phobic sounds the sirens of compulsive distrust. All within seconds of each other, the final word comes down to the inner critic who demands silence, effectively shutting me up.

What actually comes out of my mouth in response is resigned exasperation of yet another wasted chance to talk with another human being about something more meaningful than the weather. What actually comes out of my mouth in response is the minimization of how I feel. Detracting from the complexity of my inner world protects it, protects each part of who I am from further humiliation.

What I don’t say keeps it locked safely inside, guarded against criticism of being overly sensitive or crazy or weird or any other judgement I’ve heard time and time again throughout my life because I know it sounds absurd. I know it sounds completely insane. Worse yet would be no one believing me should I disclose such an intimate detail of how I experience my life. The conversations within my mind have more value to me than conversations with other people. I’m convinced other people don’t listen anyway, whether it’s family, friends, or those within the profession of “paid-listener.”

I get that it “takes a while” to work through particularly difficult issues like what I’ve faced in my life. I know there is no simple, easy solution to working through past trauma or present difficulties. I need no one to remind me of that. It doesn’t help matters any to be shuffled from counselor to counselor to counselor or having no consistency in a treatment schedule whatsoever. The hopelessness of this situation was triggered at the end of my last counseling session when my counselor suggested that I switch to yet another counselor — someone I don’t want to see, someone I already know I don’t “click” with because she and I have met before.

After our session, my counselor asked me to wait in the lobby to meet with one of the care coordinators. As I was sitting there waiting, the conversation in my head debated wildly about the prospect of having to find a trauma therapist elsewhere. Starting over completely at a different facility entails a bigger change than simply giving up on treatment altogether. I waited until my counselor called her next client back and they disappeared behind the door. Feeling the familiarity of that trance-like disconnect, I impulsively gave in to the argument within my mind.

I impulsively gave in to the urge to flee and simply walked out — left the building, got into my car, and drove away.

TV Therapy

At the first of this month, I had the flu — a vicious, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-for-a-week-flu. After making its way through the school system in our area last month, this flu found its way into the workplace. Several people passed it around where KR works which meant that he inevitably brought it home to me. I’m still coping with that lingering exhaustion and annoying cough, but I finally feel human again.

Since I wasn’t up for anything else, I began binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Although it seems familiar, I don’t remember ever having watched it when it was on TV, probably because it started during a time period when I didn’t even own a TV, let alone watch TV.

First, let me say, I love this show! Great cast — the chemistry between all of the characters flows so well from the very first episode that I can see why it stayed on-air for 7 seasons, simply fantastic acting by everyone involved in its production. As is so often the case when I find a TV show I actually like, I can’t get enough. The theme song is perpetually stuck in my ever-obsessing brain, trying to work out the nuanced chord shifts so I can learn to play it on the piano.

Last night, I got to Season 2: Episode 21, “Lorelai’s Graduation Day.” The last 5 minutes of that episode was an incredibly emotional exchange between the daughter, Rory, and her mother, Lorelai, after Rory missed Lorelai’s college graduation ceremony as a result of impulsively skipping school to visit Jess in New York. Alexis Bledel’s (Rory) convincing performance was so emotional for me, in fact, that it triggered a flashback and moved me to tears.

Bizarre how something so seemingly random and unrelated like a TV show can trigger emotion in this way and cause memories to flood back into awareness.

It triggered how felt in April ’98 — all the emotions of guilt and shame and disappointment in myself for hurting and disappointing my husband and family as a result of my own inexplicably impulsive behavior for which I still, to this day, struggle to find a rational explanation. That emotional pain is still so fresh and raw as the day it happened. It triggered the memories of trying to explain to other people what happened when I, myself, didn’t understand. It triggered the self-deprecating memories of how I admonished myself for being so irresponsible.

Despite the unexpected trigger in last night’s episode and everything it brought up for me, I made the connection quickly — in that moment. I was able to identify a triggering moment, able to recognize I was having a flashback, in the moment it was happening. For the past 19 years, a triggered moment meant a varying amount of dissociated awareness, an inability to remain present. Depending on what the trigger was, it was only later — after hours or days or weeks or sometimes, even months later — that I could connect something triggered me and left me reeling in overwhelmed emotion or completely numb.

Last night, I remained present. I recognized I was having a flashback. I identified the trigger immediately. And I self-soothed by allowing myself to cry and “feel” the emotion while reminding myself, “This is just an echo of your past. You already survived it. Everything is okay.”

This was a first.

For me, this is huge.

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Pokémon Go Home

I’m sure most everyone has heard something or another about Pokémon Go by now. KR and I downloaded it last Sunday to check it out — ya know, just for kicks-and-giggles. We goofed off with it throughout the day around the house but didn’t make much progress. The game rewards getting out and about to find imaginary beasts to capture. It has the potential to take gaming to a different level. It’s much like a scavenger hunt, and I like that about it.

Tonight, there was an event at the Depot museum in Cookeville, a pizza/Pokémon Go party before the movie at the Depot. Usually, I enjoy these types of events because they get me out of my comfort zone and at least, around people; but today, I struggled to make myself leave the house. I didn’t even go on my usual Friday afternoon hike. I did an hour of yoga at home instead. Yet, I made myself go to the Depot anyway, despite that uneasy feeling I often get over leaving my home. I walked around downtown for about 45 minutes, with the intent of getting an ice cream cone at Cream City and watching tonight’s movie afterward.

I’m not really sure when that feeling took over. I felt exposed — like “you’re-such-a-pathetic-loner” exposed. If I had to properly label it, I guess it was a feeling of sadness (lonely, inadequate?) and fear (insecure, foolish, embarrassed, discouraged). By the time I got back to Cream City, the line was out the door. It’s a small space. I stood in line for only a few minutes before bolting. The crowd was too much. I left — no ice cream, no movie. I left and came back home.

I didn’t want a repeat of Monday. I hate having panic attacks in public. Usually, I can fake it well enough so no one notices when I’m having a panic attack. Monday afternoon was different. I felt trapped. The doorway was blocked by a crowd of people. The little girl in the waiting area having a meltdown reminded me of me at that age. Her mother’s comments about her being a bad little girl for the whole room to hear caused me to empathize with the child despite her overwhelming shrieks.

I’m not sure if all of this is a symptom of social anxiety or PTSD, but I simply wasn’t up for being around people tonight. Lately, I haven’t been up for much at all.

Injustice Trigger

By now I’m sure most people have heard about the reprehensible lenient sentence given to Brock Turner, a 20-year-old Stanford University student convicted on three counts of felony assault — “the intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/ unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person.” [Source: CNN] Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Turner to a mere 6 months in county jail.

Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker

Her letter — her courageous account describing her attack, as well as the aftermath and impact on her life — gives all of us who have ever experienced rape/sexual assault a voice. My heart goes out to this woman who suffered a horrible violation of not only being raped but also an injustice of the court system.

As is so often the case when stories like this appear in my news feed, I couldn’t turn a blind eye, not even with the knowledge that it would trigger my own suffering once again. Granted I’ve already been struggling for the past couple of weeks with a triggered loss of safety due to the theft I wrote about in my last post, Strangers and Thieves; but the Stanford survivor’s story gave me serious pause. The circumstances of her rape were frighteningly similar to that of my own during that first rape in ’98.

Those of us who have been victims of rape — survived such unconscionable acts of violence — suffer the consequences of our rapists’ decision for the remainder of our lives. Had someone told me that in the aftermath of the rapes I endured, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself every time I found myself (yet again) struggling with any of the following symptoms that so many of us are forced to cope with after such trauma:

  • The intrusion of memories of: the actual rape itself; the immediate events afterward and our own reaction; the responses of those we’ve told; displaced emotion; and for those who had the courage to press charges, that ordeal as well.
  • Flashbacks and panic attacks that force us back into those horrid moments, reliving the emotions and vivid recollection of such memories.
  • Nightmares that wake us from the safety of our own bed, preventing us from getting restful sleep.
  • The hyper-vigilance of constantly being “on guard” in an attempt to protect ourselves from further threats, including an exaggerated startle response, and the exhaustion that results from being in that constant state of anxiety and fear.
  • Triggered dissociation, feeling numb, inability to experience emotion (not even joy or happiness), or feeling out of touch with reality.
  • The lack of trust and problems maintaining relationships with others that lead to isolation.
  • Shame, worthlessness, and loss of “self.”

Don’t get me wrong, these symptoms may lessen over time; but unfortunately, they never completely go away. And a lot of the time, at least for me, when I’m triggered it feels just like it did back then.

We live in an overly-sexualized society that permits rape culture, blames the victim, and excuses a behavior that is nothing short of murderous intent — murder of the soul. Rape should carry as harsh a penalty as that of murder, not a mere slap on the wrist like what Turner received. It truly is no wonder why so many rape victims don’t press charges, myself included, and why so many more don’t even report the rape. When society, especially that society’s judicial system, values a rapist’s “potential” more than the victim’s suffering, it fails in every sense of the word to be a civilized community.

It’s shameful that so many people still don’t comprehend the damage rape does to its victims. It saddens and angers me greatly that Judge Persky failed to recognize the seriousness of Turner’s actions. It’s even more shameful that a judge would favor a rapist convicted on three counts of felony assault over the victim who has no choice but to now “cope” with what was done to her.

It’s not just shameful. It’s WRONG!


And just a reminder for those entitled few who still haven’t gotten the message:

Sex without consent is rape.

Welcome to Earth

Man, people are super sensitive these days. It’s like the world is losing its mind. At least, it seems that way on social media lately. Everything is something to argue over whether it’s politics, social injustices, religious differences, cultural differences, human rights, or whatever else you can think of.

So much hate.

That bothers me. I know I shouldn’t let it. Being overly sensitive myself (from birth, not just some strange cosmic alignment or whatever the frick is going on right now), it’s like feeling all of that hate even if I remove myself from online activities… or from social interaction in the “real” world… or however else I attempt to isolate myself and avoid what I can only describe as a psychic attack from the collective consciousness as more than 7 billion alternate realities collide.

Humans are intense creatures. This statement makes me think of Jem’s song, Down To Earth:

 

Depression is kicking my ass. I’ll admit it. The cycles have become a little more predictable. The constant, lower grade depression seems to spike into more aggressive depressive symptoms throughout the year, following trigger dates. This is true for anxiety symptoms as well. My startle reflex is a bit exaggerated right now. My neighbor’s 7-year-old has startled me several times this past week, popping up out of nowhere.

Walking down the hallway several days ago, I literally jumped after glancing into the spare room and seeing what my mind registered as a human shaped shadow. It was the mop propped up in front of the street-lit window of the darkened room. I had to laugh at myself over that one. Same thing happened today, except with an umbrella drying in the bathtub!

I’m also struggling with a strong sense of déjà vu. I see no point in going into detail because it’s seriously not even worth my freakin’ time to do so. I’ve complained enough. The resulting frustration bypassed angry and mad altogether bordering on a rage that made me want to throw my hands up in the air and quit! Obviously, I’m a bit irritable, too.

Just breathe…

And hold out for the good times, right?

An interesting link, though:

We Feel is a project that explores whether social media – specifically Twitter – can provide an accurate, real-time signal of the world’s emotional state.

Broken

Broken

“What the hell is wrong with me? I feel like I’m going insane.”

Her words spoke to each of us, all locked within her pain.

Broken heart.

Broken dreams.

Shattered soul.

Silenced screams.

Stuck in limbo, time’s meaning lost,

Eternity couldn’t pay the cost.

Lost deep inside where nothing’s real,

Detached and numb, nothing to feel.

Without warning, a momentary lapse,

Jerked into consciousness, falling prey to traps.

The ever-present danger is all around.

Quiet, now, don’t make a sound.

Panic manifests in gasps for breath.

What is this crazy dance with death?

Racing heart.

Weak knees.

Mind gone blank.

Stop.

Freeze!

No time to delineate,

Everything fades in that dreamlike state.

Soothe her fears,

Calm her tears,

Just make sure she perseveres.


 

I had another lengthy post written out for today; but in the end, the Critic won out. I left that post on private. My apologies, but I worry about sharing too much negativity here. No sense in “beating a dead horse with a stick.” I’m attempting to push through this creative block by writing poetry. Sometimes, that works. This poem describes what dissociation feels like to me. 

I also want to share two songs I’m kind of stuck on right now:

Disturbed — The Sound of Silence < Probably one of the best covers of this song I have ever heard!

AWOLNATION – Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) < This one — just because I love it, and my “Bad Wolf” is craving attention. (Good luck deciphering that.)