Posts Tagged Sexual Assault

Reflection: Progress on Assertiveness, Self-Advocacy and Hypervigilance

This week I reflected on several situations where I was assertive, my own self-advocate, and where rather than assuming something was wrong with someone because of their behavior, I figured I wasn’t the cause of it. Here’s some situations and how I used to deal with them, and how I dealt with them now that I am well on my way to recovering from post traumatic stress from child abuse20120810-144453.jpg, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

Situation 1: Someone asked me to help them but I was not feeling well, so I just stated that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down, and if they could ask someone else to help.

How I used to deal with it: I would just continue to help anyway even if I was on the verge of collapsing, putting someone else’s needs above my own.

How I dealt with it now: I was assertive and my own self-advocate. I said what was in my best interest.

Situation 2: Someone was very standoffish.

How I used to deal with it: I would just assume I did something wrong and that’s why they were behaving so standoffish.

How I dealt with it now: I figured something else was going on that had to do with their behavior. And even if they were upset with me for some reason, I decided that was their problem and I couldn’t do anything about it anyway unless they asked me to. I thought it was much better to just enjoy myself and worry about me rather than worry about if this person was potentially upset with me.

Situation 3: I had lunch with a friend and they also seemed standoffish. Like I was having a one person conversation.

How I used to deal with it: I would again assume I did something wrong that this person was upset with me or that they didn’t want to bother to spend time with me because of some reason.

How I dealt with it now: I figured this person was just pre-occupied with something else and self-involved so they weren’t able to interact well at lunch. There was nothing I could do about it, but I probably won’t ask them to get lunch again anytime in the near future.

Situation 4: A loved one insists that I can do something I do not think I am capable of.

How I used to deal with it: I’d feel this immense pressure that I would be letting this person down if I was unable to accomplish what they felt I was very capable of doing.

How I dealt with it now: Though I’m honored this person thinks I can accomplish this goal, I honestly feel like I am not capable of it from knowing myself, what I have been able to accomplish thus far, and what is realistic. I told this person I felt they were projecting themselves on me in thinking I could do this and that it is ok if I do not think I am capable of it, and I know that they wouldn’t think anything less of me, as well as myself.

Can you think of situations that you deal with differently now than you did before? How does that make you feel? It makes me feel pretty empowered and like I have accomplished a lot in getting better from PTSD.

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Reflection: Steubenville Rape

I was a rape victim. I was raped by a person I thought was my best friend since high school when I was in college. When I went to the school clinic for help, the way they treated me was as if I was the problem, as if I asked for this, as if I made him do it, like it was my fault and I was so terrible. When I told my ex-husband about the rape, he insisted it wasn’t rape, it was regretful sex. It was rape. Years later I received an email from my rapist apologizing for what he did to me. He realized how very wrong what he did was. He had to live with it for many years and though I really never wanted to hear from him again, he had to say something to make him feel better.

This is probably the first time I am expressing any kind of impartial opinion on here. And possibly the last time. All of the stories about the Steubenville rape have been disturbing me today. It is interesting that I have a deep compassionate feeling for both sides. People have been complaining about the sympathy for the two boys, but there has also not been sympathy for the rape victim involved and another article surfaced the victim being attacked once the boys were found guilty. I wonder to this day if my rapist still feels remorse for what he did or since his email has been able to go on with his life uninterrupted by it. I know I have not. And I’d like to think he has not either. And I can only hope as a result it had changed him to be a better person or at least stop him from doing this again. I will never get an apology for how the people at my school clinic treated me or for how my abusive ex-husband dismissed my rape. But, I can know that they were wrong and that I did nothing wrong to deserve what had happened to me.

I did not report my rape and I did not report my ex-husband’s extensive physical and mental abuse. I wonder to this day how things would have been if I had. I admire the courage people have to report these things and speak out against them. I am relieved that people are actually talking about it now rather than sweeping it under the rug even if I do not agree with everything they are saying. A couple weeks ago I started following Erin Merryn on twitter and her appearance on Katie Couric’s show and I am so impressed and proud of her for what she is doing to try to pass Erin’s law in every state in the US to help save children from child sexual abuse. I think it is time we talk about these issues and we stop belittling them and allowing them to happen. Rape, child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, it is all unacceptable and we can all do our part to stop them by saying they are not acceptable.

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Reflection: Over 1 Year of SuperBetter and 4ptsdhealing

It has been over 1 year of me playing SuperBetter and keeping this blog 4ptsdhealing. It has been a tremendous experience for me and I can tell how far I have come in the healing process from PTSD since I have started. There have been bumps along the way, but I am amazed at how I have handled several difficult situations and people over the past several months. 3 years ago I would have never been confrontational and never would have recognized the reasons I was struggling with making personal decisions. I realized how lucky I am to have such an amazing family, friends, boyfriend, job and co-workers, and plans for the future. But, more importantly I realize, I made my life this way, I made these relationships, I put the work in and strengthened them. I met someone amazing after thinking I would never fall in love again. It isn’t exactly luck. Your life truly is what you make it. My heart is beaming with happiness and excitement for the future.

In the past year, I have had major breakthroughs on nightmares, confrontation, body image and negative self-talk through self-compassion. This does not mean I don’t have more work yet to come. One area I am struggling with still is hypervigilance and anticipation. I recognize when I am doing it, but still have a hard time making decisions freely without worrying about what the other person wants or how they will react. This is something I recognize has become so ingrained in my PTSD wired brain that I need to undo.

I have finally arrived to dealing with the abuse I experienced as a child. Last week I has a nightmare I was going to be killed for something my father did in his late 30s. They didn’t say what. They kept torturing me and wouldn’t tell me how they were going to kill me. If it would be quick and painless like shooting me in the head or terrifying like drowning, electrocution, torture. I kept trying to prolong being killed hoping to buy myself time as if someone would save me or something would interrupt me getting killed. For example, I said I needed to go to the bathroom and of course they said why does it matter, we’re going to kill you anyway. So I said well can you just let me go this one last time? Near the end of the dream my father showed up, but he looked the same as when he was in his late 30s. He was so distraught that I would be upset with him for them wanting to kill me. I wasn’t upset with my father. As far as I was concerned he did nothing wrong. These people that wanted to kill me were wrong. My therapist pointed out, when my father was in his late 30s was when my caretaker had abused me. When he found out about it, he was so upset with them which ended up causing me more grief from the abuser. I was coming to terms with this. I never blamed my father for the abuse I experienced. He couldn’t have prevented it and it was not his fault. The torture is akin to the torture I put on myself every day that I worry about what I say or want, the trouble I have making decisions, of dealing with difficult people and situations. But, I realize it is getting so much easier to deal with these things now than it has in the past. I have re-wired a good portion of my brain. I am getting better from PTSD and I am so proud of myself.

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Relax vs. Pressure

This week was a rough week especially Wed through Friday. I knew a lot of things were bugging me again so I wrote those up. A lot of the things had to do with feeling pressure. Pressure at work. Feeling pressure and judgment from coworkers and my boss. Pressure from a family member on my life decisions. Pressure to be in a relationship. Pressure to push myself harder in my workouts. Pressure up get everything done for the holidays for everyone. By Thursday, I was buckling from the stress and just wanted to crawl under the covers in my bed, cry and hide from everyone. But, I didn’t because I couldn’t.

My therapist noticed the word I used, pressure. This is something I’ve felt my whole life. Pressure to be perfect, to anticipate what someone would want so they would not be angry with me and not hit me. Fearing judgement. Fearing pain.

I don’t know how to relax anymore. When I’m alone. When I’m with someone, I can learn to relax. The guy I’m dating is superb at this that I look forward to Sunday afternoons lounging around with him. I can finally relax and escape from all the pressure. But, it’s not the world that’s applying the pressure.

It’s me.

Today I actually admitted my caregiver beat me. And I admitted I have been belittling it my whole life. My therapist and SuperBetter ally both said this to me today, that through reliving we can take back our power. I realize how true this can be. I recognize that I’m applying the pressure and I can change that. I can finally take back my life and stop putting so much pressure and judgement on myself.

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New Work on Negative Self-Talk, Assertiveness, and How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

I had taken a few months hiatus from the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, but have recently returned to it at a time that seems most appropriate. Over the past few months I had been dealing with a break up and recently decided to return to the dating game, whether that is a good idea or not. Work has also been more demanding lately. I noticed over the past couple weeks, that “I’m sorry” and “I should have” have been making their way back into my vocabulary. It’s as if I have put myself back into the mindset of a domestic violence victim. So I need to do something about this fast.

The remaining chapters I had in the workbook were the following with these key takeaways. Believe it or not I have been facing these things fairly frequently over the last few months from friends, family, co-workers, dates, and strangers.

1. Assertiveness, Aggressiveness, and How to Take the High Road

  • How to Respond to Verbal Aggression
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Questions
  • How to Respond to Aggressive Exhortations by People Who Mean Well – Believe it or not I’ve had a family member and a friend tell me “You should be over it by now”.
  • The Importance of Not Tolerating Disrespect – I have had to walk away from people who have talked to me in such a disrespectful way.
  • Saying No
  • How You Spend Your Time Is Up to You – I have had a lot of practice with this and saying no lately.
  • The Importance of Being Able to Say No Without Giving Reasons Why – I still need a lot of practice with this one. I got really upset last week when I felt I shouldn’t have to give a reason but was asked to give a reason. My therapist said this was a good thing that this frustrated me. It means a big deal – that I think I deserve not to have to justify myself.
  • Saying No after You Said Yes
  • Communicating Feelings – “I’m frustrated”, “I’m upset”, “I’m disappointed”, “I’m feeling sad”
  • Making Requests and Communicating Wants – I have recently had practice with this. I still feel like I get walked all over, but well, I’m trying!
  • Assertive Escalation in the Work Place – Over this past year I have had to do this.
  • Assertive Escalation in an Intimate Relationship

2. Overcoming Fear by Exposure to Harmless Reminders

This chapter has you expose yourself to reminders of the abusive person, including:

  • Looking at pictures of your ex
  • Visualizing your ex
  • Exposing yourself to smell, sound, sight, touch that you associate with your ex (e.g. cologne, liquor, music)
  • Work on Regulating Your Tension if you were to run into your ex
  • Watching Movies that Portray Domestic Violence
  • Engaging in Activities That Remind You of the Abuse – TV programs that depict violence, eating certain kinds of foods, wearing makeup, jewelry or certain kinds of clothes
  • Identifying other things you have been avoiding

My conclusion for this chapter was:

  • I am not willing to look at pictures of my ex or visualize my ex
  • I’m ok with listening to music or watching movies that I associate with my ex
  • I am not ok being at places or walking places that remind me of my ex especially the neighborhood we lived in, two areas where I had been beaten severely after walking home through, and certain bars or restaurants that I associate with my ex
  • I am ok with watching violent movies, and identify with movies where a woman succeeds in escaping their abuser
  • I really dislike eating certain foods that remind me of my ex, but have been working on that
  • I have been avoiding doing certain activities that I had shared with my ex, but am ok with not avoiding them

3. How to Identify Potential Perpetrators

You would be surprised the men that are out there in that dating pool. On one date, the guy admits to me that he and his ex-wife were abusive towards each other. I was thinking, dear god, get me out of here. In a conversation with one guy, he tells me domestic violence is compromise. Conversation ended right there.

Though this chapter has all of the standard characteristics of an abusive person which I have become very familiar with since being in an abusive relationship, it also has some advice I did not know about and would like to consider. It advises you to identify the potential abuser early on. You need to identify if the person is inable to or lacks the desire to resolve conflict in a mutually respectful way. They actually advise you to piss your boyfriend off early on. Well, invoke conflict. Considering that’s the last thing I want to do as a domestic violence survivor, I’m glad they explain how to provoke conflict:

  • Disagree and Be “Selfish” – They advise you to disagree about anything, politics, TV, sports, anything where you opinion differs. To make a fuss about anything small, like what you’d prefer to do on a date. I am so very terrible at arguing. But, ok. I’ll give this a try.
  • Do Not Be Rushed into a Relationship – I am feeling this one right now. They advise you to go slow, don’t allow him to make you feel rushed or pressured to spend more time together than you are willing. I’m just feeling very cautious about getting into a serious relationship right now.
  • Tell Him You Are Going to Continue Dating Other People 
  • Insist on Reliability
  • Program in an Unexplained Refusal to Get Together
  • Find Out About His Prior Relationships
  • Check Out His Background – Ok these last 2 may sound crazy to you, but I don’t think so after being in an abusive relationship. My ex was very clear about how poorly he treated his ex. And knowing that now and knowing that I was in an abusive relationship, if I ever hear that again, I am running away from that.

I realize I must continue practicing assertiveness, continue having self-compassion and the negative self-talk will dissipate. I am having a hard time adjusting to this new life again, but it’s not so bad. I am really proud of myself and how far I’ve come. When do I ever say that? Well, I just did. I’m proud of me. Hooray!!!

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I wish I could help more

Someone through a friend of mine just talked about an incident that happened when he was walking home last night. This man was laying into his girlfriend and he yelled out for him to stop. So the man stops and then goes to go after him and then the woman protests and sticks up for this abusive man. He then just had to leave the situation. He asks, “Did I do the right thing saying something?” I told him I felt he did even though he risked his own safety and possibly hers for tonight, but I said, when someone did something like that when I was in that situation, that memory burned in my head and I think it’s the very reason I was able to leave later. Someone told me this behavior was wrong and unacceptable by calling out stop.

This made me think of an incident walking to the bus stop a week and half ago. I saw this man treating his girlfriend very badly, pushing and shoving her, pulling her hair, glaring at her and calling her names. This reminded me so much of my ex. I just wanted to walk up and tell him to stop, that the way he was treating her was so wrong. There were all these other people standing at the bus stop with them and they said or did nothing. I was afraid to say anything because I thought he’d come after me. So I kept walking on to my stop. I kind of regret it. Should I have said something? Or would he have come after me and because everyone else in this city is so passive, would no one have helped me if he did? But, if I had said something, would she know now this is not acceptable and would leave him?

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Major Breakthrough: Understanding What It Is I’m Afraid Of

I wasn’t going to write about this because it is all too personal, but it is too important to pass up. Today in therapy, I had a major breakthrough on understanding why I was so afraid of “being alone.” Yesterday I was talking to someone about all the things I have planned and the time I’ve spent with my friends and they said to me, “You’re afraid of being alone, aren’t you?” This stuck with me. I couldn’t quite agree that it was being afraid of being alone that causes me to keep so busy and to be very social. But, yes, I have been wondering for some time, why is it my whole life I always keep busy? If I am not doing something, I feel like it is a waste of time. My therapist kept asking questions to help me get at exactly what it all meant. He asked me to clarify what “waste of time” means to me. I could clearly identify, to me, it means not enjoying life and not doing something that matters to me or applies to my goals.

He asked how does it make you feel if you “waste time.” I said, “aggravated.” “Unhappy.” He asked me to think about the times when I felt the most despair and on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the most despair and 10 being the least, what it was. I could quickly identify 3 of the worst times in my life where I felt the most despair. And this should be no surprise.

1. When I realized my ex-husband was abusive, I felt like I could not do anything to get out of it, that I was fully responsible for putting myself in it, and that I had lost all of my personhood

2. When I was raped in college and I was told a) to shut up b) that I wasn’t really raped and c) to get over it by the people I cared most about in life. This too removed my own sense of self.

3. An incident with my caregiver growing up that also removed my sense of self and having needs and wants

All of these times I felt so much despair, what I categorized as a 1 (the worst) that I wanted to not be alive to just escape the pain of them.

I came to the understanding that I’m not afraid of being alone. I’m afraid of feeling so much despair that I keep busy to avoid that feeling. In these past two weeks I have found I am quite content being alone. I never get bored. I never hate being with myself. I actually love myself and have a lot of compassion for myself. But, now I fully understand what it is I’m afraid of. And thinking about it, is enough to make me cry. But, I also know I am incredible for getting through all that I have gotten through. I am a strong woman who has regained my personhood. I am me. And no one can ever take that away again. Ever.

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