Inside Out

“The structural decision to do without a villain, and ultimately to do without one of the easiest elements to make entertaining and marketable, means that the process Riley is undergoing — adolescence — is visualized as … normal. Her mind is not a space that’s been invaded by something that must be driven out, but a new environment to be mastered. And if other kids’ stories are there to teach kids how to be brave when they see witches and giants, Inside Out is there, maybe, to teach them how to be brave when there’s no witch and no giant, but things can feel broken anyway.”

Linda Holmes, NPR

Today, Robby and I saw Inside Out. If you haven’t seen it, go see it.

Seriously.

I’ll wait.

.

.

.

So, assuming that you watched it, I’m now going to talk about it, so if you haven’t seen it, go see it now, cause otherwise I’m going to blow the plot for you.

*Spoilers*

In the movie, a young pre-teen girl (Riley) starts to realize that her days aren’t just filled with joy any more. That she is growing up. But her mom–in an off-hand manner–asks her to keep being her ‘happy little girl’. So when Riley starts struggling, she begins to hide it, and that’s when her emotions get out of whack.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Through all sorts of adventures by her little inner-emotion cartoons, Riley starts to lose parts of who she used to be. When those pieces of herself start to be lost, she stops being goofy, she withdraws from her parents, she cuts off her friends, and she abandons the sport she has loved her whole life. In a desperate attempt to try and find herself again, she decides to run away, back to a place where she was happy.

Through all of this, Joy has been desperately trying to keep Sadness at bay, to keep Riley from being sad, but Riley is so mixed up that she ends up not being able to feel anything.

She goes numb.

Until Sadness steps in.

When she was a child, Joy had always been able to cheer Riley up, but she can’t go from feeling numb to feeling joyful. She has to feel the sadness. The pain.

Because it’s part of life. It’s normal.

It’s not fun, but it’s normal. And as she realizes that the different emotions can mix and form new emotions, Riley rebuilds the pieces of herself.

Riley’s Personality Islands at the beginning of the movie

To be honest, I cried a lot during this movie. I remember those days of joy as a kid, and I remember feeling my world fall to pieces. And going numb. Except that I was numb for years. I didn’t get to rebuild thepieces of myself right away like Riley did. I didn’t start learning about those ‘new emotions’ until I was in my twenties.

And seeing the childhood that most people had, the emotions that they went through just hurt so much. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair what I lost, what I missed. My personality ‘islands’ broke and I was just blank for years.

Riley’s Personality Islands falling apart

My ‘Friendship Island’ turned into ‘Distrustful Island’. I shut down my ‘Athletic Island’ because people kept making fun of me whenever I would do anything athletic. And my “Girlie Island’ was completely buried under self-loathing and fear of attention. I used to love to wear pretty dresses and jewelry, and having my make-up put on for dance recitals was so much fun, but once that island broke, I ran from all of that. I couldn’t bring myself to be a little girl anymore. I hid behind baggy boys clothes in dark colors. Nothing bright, nothing that would draw attention.

And I want to open those islands back up. I don’t necessarily want to dance on a stage like I did when I was 5, but I’d like to have the confidence to take a Zumba class now and then, because I genuinely enjoy it. I don’t want to be so afraid of ridicule that I don’t go to the gym on the off-chance that other people will be

Riley’s re-built personality islands at the end of the movie

there. And I’d love to be girlie sometimes. Maybe wear a pretty hair clip. I’ve always wanted to dye streaks of color, like blue or purple, into my hair, but I’ve never had the courage to do it, because it draws attention, and that’s something I am so afraid of.

I know that life isn’t all Joy, and that’s okay. I just want to rebuild myself.

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Keep Walking On The Path

I’ve been trying to reconnect with God lately, so I’ve been reading my devotionals lately and I really loved parts of two of the passages.

“Peace is more than a feeling, it’s a knowing that everything is going to be alright because God is on your side…A sure indicator of trust in God is a fixed mind…It is being able to rest in your heart and soul…”

“Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to My heart…All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction.”

I want to become more dependent on God. I’ve really struggled with being too dependent on myself. Ever since I’ve started healing from the PTSD, I’ve felt more whole than I have in my entire life, which–I am ashamed to say–has made me feel farther from God. Almost like I don’t want to need Him (?). I want to feel powerful and in control. I don’t want to feel dependent.

But I also haven’t felt very at peace.

Because feeling like you have to keep your life in control all the time is exhausting. And I love God. I miss that closeness, the comfort. The comfort of knowing that I am in his arms. I know I need to rest my mind on Him and to follow His path, even when it scares me.

So today I did.

A while back I met a woman who told me she tries to give everyone she meets a compliment, and I thought that was a beautiful way of life. To tell people what they mean to you, even if you don’t know them. To pass on the positivity. I really felt like it was a God moment.

And today as I was pulling into my parking spot at home, I saw a woman in traditional Indian clothing sitting on a rock. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful, and the sight of her really moved me. And something inside me really wanted to tell her that. But of course I argued with that something. I argued. I told myself it would be awkward. That I would make her uncomfortable. That I was already inside and it didn’t make sense. But I remembered that all I had to do was cling to His hand, even if I was afraid.

And so I walked across the street to talk to her. And it was scary, and a bit awkward but I am so glad I did it. She didn’t speak much English, and I speak none of her language, but we were able to cobble together a bit of a conversation. Her same is Sandya (sp?) and she lives with her grown son Raj. She likes to sit on the rock in the sun. She used to live in India where she was a priestess in the Temple. She also said something about waterfalls at Temples but I didn’t quite get it. She also asked if I was Indian.

I was so happy that I got to meet her and that I listened to God’s prompting. Just little steps at a time.

God’s Timing- Nov 2013

The same week we began ‘Unglued’ I started a new type of intensive therapy called EMDR. EMDR is specifically designed to help alleviate and even reverse the effects of PTSD. For me, I planned on Unglued being more of a time for fellowship than growth. After all, I’m not an ‘unglued’ person, so how much was I really going to get out of this study?

But every week God surprised me. It seemed as though He was personally tailoring my EMDR and Unglued sessions to fit perfectly together.

When I was struggling with the fear to start EMDR I read this passage “…I don’t know how to get a handle on this. But God help me if I don’t get a handle on this. I will destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear and frustration. Is that what I really want?” And I found the strength to walk into the office.

At the time I started to become frustrated with myself, telling myself that I should be able to handle therapy ‘better’ we started a session on self-defeating labels and grace, and I started learning to give myself a little grace.

As the memories of the trauma started to consume me, and made me feel like I was losing control, I completed my procedure manual for Unglued Moments. Those 5 steps helped me to feel as though I had a bit of control, a little bit of power, and so I kept going.

And when I had to start identifying the beliefs about myself that the PTSD had trapped me in, I found comfort and guidance in the study. The line “…Where you come to believe you belong is where you will stay” awakened me to the fact that I don’t want to stay in the PTSD reality.

Negative Inside Chatter and the related discussions helped me to realize that I am not alone in seeing the worst in myself, and that these wonderful women don’t see those terrible things in me at all. But even more importantly, it helped me to see how important the EMDR is, because after all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives.

And the ‘Good Words’ exercise revealed to me that my lingering words don’t have to be the ones that have haunted me my whole life. I no longer have to carry the thoughts “I did something wrong”, “my feelings don’t matter” and “I don’t deserve love”. Instead, God showed me that I can be—that I am—compassionate, friendly, generous, patient, playful, and—most of all—thankful.

Little ‘T’ Trauma

Lori and I have been talking about my need to protect myself for the last few weeks, and my view on why I feel the need to protect myself, and she thinks that I am suffering from something called “Little ‘T’ (t) Trauma”.

Big T trauma (Trauma) is a horrific event. A person who is gang raped, someone who survived the 9/11 attacks, being in war. Something that would be horrifying to anyone. Something that you would expect anyone to get counseling for.

Little T trauma (trauma) is an ongoing scarring event. Being bullied your entire childhood, an overly critical parent, living in a household with an alcoholic or addict. Something that causes your reactions to become ingrained overtime into the very nature of you, so much so that you don’t even realize that you’re different.

Lori thinks–and it makes sense now that I look at it–that the extreme bullying and ostracization I experienced from 2nd grade on developed into a case of Little T trauma and I have never really recovered from it. It’s why sharing things about myself makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe. Why I don’t like to talk about myself, especially my struggles. Why I always feel as though I have to keep everyone at arms length and even have a hard time opening up to my husband and my family. Why I can’t for the life of me ask for help even when I know someone is treating me in a damaging way. Why I have this overwhelming fear of telling people what I need. Why I am terrified of showing any kind of weakness or flaw, because a part of me is just waiting for someone to turn that against me.

And I always thought that the kids who turned on me just liked him better. I thought they looked at my story (the truth: he abused me) and his story (the lie: I made up the story that he abused me to get him into trouble because I was ‘mad at him’ for him ‘breaking up’ with me in 1st grade) and just decided to take his side.

I thought it was a normal kid argument. You see it all the time: Kid A and Kid B argue, A says one thing, B says the opposite. The class takes sides. A few days (or hours) later, it’s all over and everyone is friends again.

But they never got over it.

They never decided to be my friends again.

I kept thinking ‘maybe this is the day they’ll be my friends’. Maybe this time they’ll include me. Maybe this time they won’t tease me. Maybe this time I won’t be the brunt of the joke. Maybe this time when I trust them, they won’t torture me. Maybe this time, maybe this time.

But this time never came.

Ever.

And I could never figure out why. I didn’t make sense. And I kept trying. For years. I know it sounds pathetic, but I just kept thinking that somehow, someday, I would discover the right thing to do, to say, something, anything to make it all go away. But it just never happened. They were always against me. It never got better, I just moved away.

And as I talked to Lori and told her that I could tie the bullying to the very day that I came to school and the kids had all turned against me because they believed him, she pointed out something I had never realized before. They only ever heard the lie.

After I told my parents what he had done to me, they held me out of school for a day. From what I know, they contacted the school and he was sent to a counseling session. I can clearly remember being terrified to go back to school. I didn’t want to face him. I didn’t want to face anyone. They were all going to judge me. I was convinced everyone would hate me. I know he had told me that everyone would hate me if I told, but my parents didn’t hate me, so I don’t know why I was so scared to go back to school, but man was I scared. I don’t remember if they kept me out a second day, or just part of a day, or what, but I remember them telling me that I didn’t have to tell anyone why I wasn’t there or what had happened. That it was nobody’s business but mine, and they didn’t need to know. That the teacher’s weren’t going to tell the students, and that he shouldn’t tell anyone either, so there was no reason to be scared to go back to school. So I went. But the moment I walked into the classroom, everything was different. I could feel the difference in the room, and I remember seeing the kids across the room whispering together and I immediately felt afraid. The girl–who until that day was my best friend–came up to me and said (in an extremely superior and condescending voice) “He told us what you did” and swear I could feel the world drop from under my feet. What I did?

What I did?! I had never been more confused in my life.

I asked her what she meant and that was when she told me. That he has told everyone that I made up the story that he had abused me just to get even with him because he had broken up with me the year before. I tried to tell her that I didn’t make up anything, but she didn’t believe me. She walked away and I remember standing there at my little yellow locker, just fighting down the panic and the sorrow.

I always figured that somehow the truth had gotten out and he had panicked and tried to counter it with the lie he told, and they chose him and the lie. But, as Lori pointed out, they probably never heard the truth. Other than that one little girl, I never talked to anyone. They never heard the truth. So, to them, his lie was fact. In the minds of all those kids, I was a vicious liar just trying to hurt their friend. I hate that anyone could think that I was capable of purposely hurting someone. Because the exact opposite is true. He hurt me. I was just trying to get help. It feels like he was punishing me for trying to get help.

And he didn’t even need to tell that lie. No one would have known why he was pulled out of school. There was no reason to do that other than to be malicious. He went to everyone before I was even back at school and told this giant lie just to purposefully hurt me. How can someone be that evil? I can accept that the abuse was a reaction to him being abused, but telling that lie was more damaging to me than anything else, and that was just done out of spite.

He cost me my childhood. I didn’t have a childhood, I barely survived it. And I can never get that back. And I just have to keep trying to heal, trying to recover from what he did to me. And it’s just so unfair because there is no justice. I never did anything wrong and I am left to pay the consequences. I am suffering. I have to work to heal, fight to heal, pay to heal. My life has been damaged, broken, and all I can do is live with it. More than anything, I just want justice and I feel like I will never get it.

Because I’m still living in this trauma. Still expecting everyone to be against me. Still feeling like it’s not safe to trust anyone, because the second I do, they’re going to turn on me. And legally there is no way to get justice. It’s past the statute of limitations. It doesn’t matter that he sexually abused me, it’s been too long. And in any case, there is no documentation because no case was ever opened (which makes me wonder if the school believed him). And I highly doubt there would be a way to get justice for the bullying that was caused because of his lie, even if I had reported it at the time. I hate knowing that he did these horrible things to me and got away with them.

I hate that the more I understand what happened to me the more broken I feel.

 

Too Broken

In my EMDR session last week we were talking about how I have such a low opinion of myself. I’m always expecting that I’m going to fail, that I’m not going to be strong enough. That no matter what, I’m not going to be good enough. Lori and I were talking, and somehow I’ve gotten it into my head that I am weak. That I am “broken beyond repair”.

And that is a horrible thing to think about yourself.

I used to always have this mentality that I could get through anything, because I never let anything penetrate my emotions. Because, to be honest, I didn’t really have emotions. My range was from happy to annoyed, and I didn’t feel anything outside that range. I didn’t live in the world, but I could handle anything. I always knew that I could handle anything. I wasn’t truly happy either, so I decided on things I wanted for myself and measured my ‘happiness’ by if I achieved those goals. I might be terrified and have panic attacks, but no matter what, I got through it. I did what I set out to do.

When I met Rob and started therapy, I accepted the fact that I was opening myself up to a wider range of emotions, and (I felt) by doing so that I was exposing myself. Making myself vulnerable. All of a sudden I was having to learn how to deal with emotions that I had never dealt with. Emotions that most people learn when they are 7, that I had ‘stuffed’ for almost 14 years. It was overwhelming, terrifying, and exhausting. I started to actually have relationships and experience true happiness, but I felt so fragile. I felt as though I couldn’t handle anything. I had (willingly) gone from blocking my emotions and being able to take on the world, to opening this Pandora’s Box of feelings and feeling steamrolled by life.

I started to (sort of) get life under control (until, that is, the PTSD got out of control, so I guess my life never really was in control) and then started EMDR and–again–willingly pried my emotional range even wider. I willingly entered into a therapy where I strip myself to my core on a weekly basis. I know it’s necessary, but oh, Lord, it is so hard. And I haven’t felt strong the entire time I’ve been in therapy. There have been times (like when I took a break for the summer) when I have seen how far I have come, but I have felt like a bundle of emotions tied together with tears during this whole process.

And to realize now that that I expect myself to always be broken. To feel like I’m never going to feel ‘healed’, is just horrible. Before I started any treatment, I didn’t care. That was how life was, and wasn’t going to change, so why think about it. Now, I have fought for so long and all I want is to be healed. But I really don’t believe that I ever will be. I’m too broken.

And now I’m dealing with some health issues that I don’t want to be facing, and the house is a mess, and with this realization it just all feels like too much. I just want to hide and cry. I just want things to get better. I just want to not be broken.

Worth The Fight

If you couldn’t tell by my recent writing, Rob and I are really struggling. And we’ve both been coping (or rather not coping) in our own ways.

I cope either by eating everything in sight, or by not eating at all. There have been times when things were so bad that I only ate about 1 meal a day. I once lost about 15lbs in 2 weeks. It’s not a good way to cope. But it keeps me sane(-ish). My other brilliant coping mechanism is to either wallow or shove my feelings aside. For the past few months, I’ve been shoving and now I’ve gotten to the wallowing part. Basically, I cry, watch TV, and do nothing other than write, cry, and watch TV with occasional spurts of manic cleaning. Again, not the healthiest, but I’m still here, I’ve made it through every rough patch and I don’t see why I won’t make it through any future rough patches. It might not be the healthiest way to handle things, but it seems to work for me.

Rob used to cope with things by doing very destructive things. Drinking, smoking, etc. Basically any vice you could think of is what he would tun to. But over the years he’s moved away from destructive habits. There would be times when he was struggling and he would buy a can of dip, or backslide in some other way, but he has done so well the last several years, and I am so proud of him. But he is struggling more right now than he has in a long time.

Today, he was talking to me about how he’s been backsliding into one of his less-destructive habits: overspending. We have a pretty strict budget, and part of that is our weekly ‘mad money’–cash that we can spend on fast food or any other splurge items that we want. We withdraw a certain amount, and once your share is gone, it’s gone. But for the past few nights, Rob has been buying food that he didn’t have the cash for and just been putting it on the card instead of only buying what he could afford. I was a bit freaked out at first. This used to lead to bigger and bigger spending, and more and more destructive habits, until he swung manic.

But then he talked to me about how since he doesn’t want to fall back to even worse habits (he had considered buying dip and cigarettes) he is just sort of accepting the fact that he will overspend a little as a coping mechanism. He said he didn’t want to freak me out by talking about the things he was thinking about, that he didn’t have a plan to ‘misbehave’, he just knew what he was prone to and wanted to think through every possibility. So we talked about our different ways of coping, and we both agreed that neither of us have that great of coping skills. We also agreed that being aware that we are struggling is more than half the battle. He’s going to get in touch with his therapist on Monday and we have a couple’s appointment on Friday, and until then we are just going to cope as best as we can and be there for each other.

I was so glad that Rob was willing to talk to me, and I told him that. How only a year ago he would have just shut me out. And what he said back to me really made me stop. He said he was glad that he felt he could talk to me, because before with the PTSD he felt as though he had to watch what he said because he was never sure how I would react. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized he was right. I really did get confused sometimes, and sometimes I did really overreact. Granted, sometimes my responses were completely warranted, but looking back I can see where it would be disorienting to try and figure out who would be responding, me or the PTSD. In a way, it must have been like me trying to figure out if I was dealing with Robby, manic Robby, or depressed Robby. And I had never realized that before.

So I thanked him for being willing to work with me even when I had the PTSD, because he was willing. He was always willing. And I am so glad (and so is he) that I started EMDR. It’s been a long, hard fight, but so worth it.

Is That Why?

My whole life I’ve struggled with forgiving him for what he did to me. After all, how do you forgive someone for ruining your life? I’ve had therapists tell me that he didn’t know what he was doing, that at that age it’s called sexual reaction, that he was only doing what he knew.  That he must have been abused too.

But it never helped.

He still hurt me. I could never separate the fact that he hurt me from the fact that it wasn’t intentional. That he might have been a good person underneath it, and he was just as confused back then as I was during my PTSD years. That he was struggling with something bigger than he could handle, and that those actions weren’t his.

I never understood that. All I could see was what he had done to me.

Until today.

Because I know that boy from work. I know that he is not cruel, that he is not malicious. That he does not want to hurt people. I saw his eyes fill with tears when he told me that his future was to hurt people because his dad told him so.

I know him.

And he is not a predator.

That does not make what he did okay. Not at all. But it does help me understand my abuser from all those years ago. Maybe he wasn’t a bad person either. Maybe he didn’t want to hurt me either. Maybe someone knew the true him, was trying to save him, and was heartbroken when they realized how lost he was, just like I am with this little boy.

Maybe he was hurting just as much as this boy is hurting now.

And I still haven’t forgiven him, but for the first time in my life, I think I understand him.

My Post Secrets

Few people know I was abused.

Fewer know that almost everyone believed his story that I was lying, causing me to lose all my friends.

Hardly anyone knows that I’m writing a book about the abuse, the lies, the bullying, and my recovery.

No one knows that I’m scared to try and find a publisher for my book because I’m afraid people will still believe his story.

And I’m a little afraid of what that says about my recovery.

Losing Myself

I hate feeling like I’m losing myself.

I used to be able to process things and work through them, now I have to shove them aside so that I don’t burst into tears. Then I come home and burst into tears. I’m not able to remain in control like I used to. I don’t have the confidence or the surety that I once had, and I hate that I’ve lost that. I know that it’s temporary, but in a way, it’s worse to know that I had it and now it’s (temporarily) gone. I feel as though I’ve become helpless. I know I used to be worse, but I never had a ‘better’ to compare it to. I never knew what I was missing.

And now I do, so while I’m trying to hold it together and make myself work through the situation, I also feel as if the former, stronger, part of me is trying to hold on but is slipping and can’t figure out why. It’s like losing the ability to do something you could always do. I’m losing that part of me that made me feel free. And that scares me more than I can put words to. And I hate that after all the work I have put in, it’s already slipping away. That I’m already slipping away. I’m so heartbroken.

I know this can be fixed, and that in time it will be fixed, but it’s just so hard. And I’m so tired of it being hard. I knew there would be some regression, but I didn’t think it would be this drastic, that it would hurt this much.

What Kind Of Person Does That?

I had to call the police this morning because I could hear my neighbor beating his wife.

It was just horrible. I’ve heard him yell before, but she has always yelled back. At least, I thought she had. But this morning. This morning was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

I had my headphones in and was listening to Harry Potter while I worked on our budget, and I had just taken my headphones out to call AAA to have them jump my car when I heard it. He was yelling. Like I said, I’ve heard him yell before. Unfortunately, him yelling isn’t uncommon. And, to be honest, Rob and I have wondered before if he is abusive, but we’ve never had anything other than a feeling.

Until today.

Because among his yelling I could hear banging–thumping even–and a guttural wail. It was that soul deep cry that happens when you’re heartbroken. I made that exact noise when Rob and I were falling apart last year and when we lost Jamie. I have made that sound so many times when the trauma of the abuse consumes me. I know that noise. And I felt myself grow cold when I heard it come from next door.

I think they were in the front of the house because that’s where the sound was loudest, so I cracked our front door open so I could hear more clearly. And what I heard just confirmed that he was hurting her. There was lots of swearing. She was moaning and crying. She said ‘please stop’.

He said ‘I can do it harder’.

And that is when I called the police.

I don’t know if they heard me call, or if I was too loud when I shut the door, because the sounds stopped abruptly while I was on the phone. I gave the dispatcher all the info I could, and they said they would send someone. Then she asked if I wanted to leave my name, and that’s when I hesitated. I knew that leaving my name would help her if it came to court, but I was also terrified that he would find out I had turned him in and then come after me. I asked the dispatcher if giving my name would help keep her safe, and she said that they prefer witnesses leave names and contact info for those types of calls, so I did. And I’m still scared.

I kept glancing out the peep hole every few minutes, praying that the police would get there soon and help her. I imagine it didn’t take long for them to get there, but it felt like forever before they showed up. I finally saw the cop at the door, but he didn’t knock. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to hear her cries (although she’d been quiet for a while) or what, and he walked away for a bit and then came back. After a while, he walked away and another cop left the house, so I think one was in the house while the other was outside.

But then they still didn’t leave. They were hanging around in the side parking lot next to the neighbors house. And then a few minutes later the neighbor rode up to the sidewalk on his bicycle. He got off the bike, looked at the cops, and said “do you guys know what’s going on?”.

And that’s when I realized.

They keep their bikes on the back porch. He must have gone out the back door, gotten his bike, and rode off so that he could claim he hadn’t been there. And I just couldn’t stop thinking “what kind of person does that?”. Not only does he beat his wife, but he has the malice and forethought to think how to make himself seem innocent. That’s just horrible. And way too familiar.

I want to help her. I want him to have to pay for what he’s done. I don’t want anyone to have to be trapped, but I don’t know how to help her, and that makes me feel helpless. The only think I can think of is to keep my eyes open and if I hear anything again, I need to get my camera and record it so I have evidence. I don’t think talking to her will help, because most physical abuse victims won’t leave their abuser, and if she didn’t take the police’s help then she probably won’t take help from anyone.

And I’m scared that he will find out it was me and try and take revenge. But I hope he is a coward, like most abusers. And the situation brings up bad memories and feelings, but all I can do about that is process it, talk to Robby and Sheila about it, and try to help her so it doesn’t haunt me. I could never know abuse was happening and not try and help. I just keep praying that he will get arrested.