The Best Words

Today, one of my kids at work said the best thing to me.

I’m the homework teacher. Which means that on any given day I help 18+ kids with their homework. At the same time. It’s a non-stop barrage of “Miss Laura, I need help”, “Miss Laura, I don’t understand this”, “Miss Laura, I was next” and “Miss Laura, it’s too loud”, naturally all being yelled across the room at the same time.

But I love it. I love watching the kids learn, and helping them see what they are capable of. I love that they know that they can turn to me with their problems, and not just their homework problems. Most days, it just fills my heart.

But some days. Oh, some days.

Some days, the kids who have finished their homework can’t seem to stay quiet so the other kids can keep working, and there are a few kids who are just at each other’s throats, and someone just has to have my attention right now, and BLARG!

And today was a little bit of that. Nothing too bad though, thankfully. But there is this one little girl, M. I love her to pieces. She is in 4th grade and super smart, but also super distractable. She is in advanced placement classes, but she gets lost in her own head (yes, she has ADD) and just can never seem to focus. She has good days and bad days and man, today was a bad day. We would be working on a problem together and she would drift off while we were talking.

And I just felt that I was failing her. I knew she had homework in three subjects, and that she needed to make a significant dent in it if she wanted to avoid getting in trouble at home, but I just couldn’t get her to focus. I was getting frustrated and I wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding it, and it was finally time for me to close my room so she asked to pack her backpack back up. I told her she could, because she wasn’t going to get any more work done and that I had to leave anyway. But after she finished, she came up to me and said, ” Thank you for doing all you could to help me Miss Laura.”

It just kind of made me stop.

I had felt myself starting to go over the my time with her in my head, wondering what I could have done different, what I should have done. What the ‘right thing’ was, because I felt that I had failed. I was starting to beat myself up because I felt that I couldn’t help this wonderful little girl, and yet she still appreciated that I took the time to try.

I went over to her and put my hand on her head and said “Thank you for saying that. That really means a lot. I was just getting frustrated because I felt like I was failing you because I couldn’t get you to focus.”

And she looked at me and nodded. She went over to get something she left at a table and said, very matter-of-factly, as if that’s-just-how-the-world-works “But not focusing is my issue, not yours”

This little girl gave me a life lesson in a 2 minute conversation. Because that is how the world works. I’m not responsible for her actions, only my efforts.

I don’t know if she will ever know how much I will cherish her words.

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I Was A Good Mom

For three years I have felt that I caused Jamie’s death.

Just take that in for a minute.

For three solid years, I felt that I had failed as a mom. It was my body, and it didn’t protect my child. I took medicine I shouldn’t have taken while I was pregnant. I didn’t take the partial bed-rest seriously enough. I was struggling with the idea of never being seen as myself any more, but just a baby-carrier. The reasons went on and on, and each one told me that it was my fault that Jamie died.

That I was responsible.

And I never mentioned it to Rob. I mean, in the hospital right after they told us, I remember saying through my tears that it was my fault, and he held my face in his hands and as the tears rolled down his face he told me it wasn’t, but deep in my heart I always believed it was: It was my fault.

But yesterday I started talking to Lori about it.

She tried to tell me all the platitudes. ‘No one is perfect’. ‘You didn’t know when you were pregnant when you took those medicines’. Blah, blah, blah. The things that people say that don’t really help. She told me that at least I can learn from what happened. (again, not helpful) And she said something that jumped out to me. “In the future you would know that if you are having unprotected sex you would make sure you aren’t taking certain medicine”.

And I just kind of stopped.

Because we weren’t being irresponsible. We were trying to have a child. I did change my medicines. I did check with the doctor about one of the medicines I took and she said it was okay until I got a positive pregnancy test. And at our first appointment after we found out we were expecting, we told her that I had accidentally taken the medicines they recommend not to take and she said it would be fine.

We asked.

When I told Lori that, she gave me this funny little look. Almost as if she was surprised she had to say it. “You were being a good mom”.

And since I talked to Lori yesterday, I kept remembering little things. That even though I didn’t like being on bed rest, I did it. I checked about the medicines. I changed what I ate and drank to be safe for the baby. I was reading the pregnancy books. We were cleaning out space for the baby supplies we were already getting. (For crying out loud, I gave away some books!) I called and got the insurance sorted out so our baby would have insurance the minute he/she would be born, and so that we could both have good coverage for the entire pregnancy, especially in case there were complications. And I called the doctor the second I started bleeding and insisted on being seen and being given an ultrasound. And when we heard that heartbeat I never felt happier or more relieved in my life.

I was a good mom. I did everything I could. I wanted to do more, I just didn’t have the chance. And for the first time since we lost Jamie, I truly feel like a mom who has lost a child, and not like a mom who has caused the death of her child.

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.

 

It’s Over, I Am Safe Now

Today was EMDR, and this was the first time we did the bilateral stimulation with the trauma memories. Lori had me bring up the image and feelings that I associate with the abuse–A low wooden desk, plastic and metal chairs around it. I’m looking down at my lap. I can see my bright pink sweatpants with the white cord and the desk is covering part of my knees. I was wearing sweatpants because I had learned that he couldn’t get his hand under the elastic, so he would stay out of my pants. I can feel his hand on my right arm, going up the sleeve of my t-shirt. The phrases we had paired with that memory was “I am helpless and alone” and the phrase I want to change it to is “It’s over, I am safe now”.

Lori asked me to rate on a scale from 1 to 7 how true the phrase “It’s over, I am safe now” felt. I said a 2. I knew logically that it was over, but in my heart it didn’t feel that way. Then she asked me to bring up the image and tell her on a scale of 1 to 10 how disturbing it was. Tears burned my eyes and my voice shook as I said “Ten”.

Lori started the bilateral stimulation by having me follow her pen with my eyes while she moved it horizontally at varying speeds, all while I kept the image in my head along with the phrase “It’s over and I am safe now”. Every time she stopped she asked me to tell her what impression I was getting. It could be anything, from a color, to a physical sensation, to an image. I just had to be honest. I don’t remember all of my responses, but I know some of them were ‘blurry’, clouds, and clouds with a little red kite.  With each new impression, she had me focus on that impression, so it was kind of like a chain leading away from the original image. After a while she asked me to again rate how true the phrase “It’s over, I am safe now” felt. This time it was at a 4. She asked me to bring up the original image of the trauma and the phrase “It’s over, I am safe now” and I couldn’t find the image in my mind.

I COULDN’T FIND THE IMAGE!!!!

This is something that has haunted me for 19 years, and in the span of a half an hour, I went from crying when I thought of it, to not being able to find the image. I was completely thrown. I told Lori what I was experiencing, explaining that it was like when you are searching for a specific word and it’s on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t reach it. She told me to close my eyes and take my time and bring up what I could of the image and when I had that paired with the phrase “It’s over, I am safe now” to open my eyes and follow her pen, concentrating on those two thoughts. I did manage to find the image, but it seemed almost faded, like it was a memory, not reality. It didn’t have all the details I could see just minutes ago. I knew that there were scratches on the wooden tabletop, but I couldn’t see them. I knew my pink sweatpants had a white drawstring, but I couldn’t see it. I knew his hand was on my arm, but I couldn’t feel it. When her pen stopped, she had me take a deep breath in and out, and asked me to rate how true it felt. This time it was a 6. I told her how it felt true, but there was still this little part of me that was holding back, that wasn’t breaking through.

We repeated the exercise, and when I let out my deep breath my eyes filled with tears and I felt a huge smile on my face. It was a 7. I started laughing and crying. I am safe. I couldn’t believe I’ve never felt this way before. I AM SAFE! IT’S OVER AND I AM SAFE!!!!!! I was practically giddy. I wanted to run through the street laughing, I felt so amazing. Part of me never truly believed I would feel this way. When our session was done, Lori and I were talking and she said how she could see the joy on my face. That’s what I feel. Joy. I have a part of myself back that I never thought possible. I still don’t think it has completely sunk in. I want to run up to everyone I know and tell them how awesome of a day this is, how much I have gained. I AM SAFE!!!!!! It’s just so amazing.

When I stopped laughing and crying, Lori had me visualize the ‘safe place’ I had created in one of our earlier sessions (a forest with the sun shining through the trees) and to describe any changes I could see or feel. It looked the same, but it wasn’t. It was still a pleasant place, but it didn’t do anything special for me. It wasn’t a sanctuary, a retreat. I felt like I had outgrown it. Lori asked if a new safe place came to mind, and instantly the thought of being with Rob came to mind. I have never thought of a safe place with another person. It’s always been just me. But the thought of us together, just laughing and talking and being together made me feel amazing. I could feel myself smiling. Lori asked how that image made me feel. Loved, safe–truly safe–warm, happy, complete, whole. She asked me to assign a word to that image and feelings, and I chose Love. My safe place is now the love I share with my husband. It’s not me hiding out on my own, it’s being close and sharing my heart with the man I love. This is only the beginning of my EMDR journey, and I already feel I have been blessed beyond measure. As I am writing this I am smiling with pure joy and my eyes are filled with tears because I never thought I could feel this way. I can’t thank God enough for what He has done for me, nor can I thank all the people who have and continue to support me. I love you all.

 

Laura

Taking Off the Life Jacket

I have had so many people say to me that I am brave, that I am strong, that they are amazed by what I have been through. And what they say is nice, and I appreciate it, but I don’t believe it.

I’m not strong. I have gone through things because I had to. I didn’t have a choice. If I could choose I would gladly choose to be a selfish person with no life experience rather than go through what I have. I face things that I have to face Yes, I am very good at dealing with whatever life throws at me. I don’t like it, but sadly I have had enough experience that to onlookers it comes off as ‘brave’ or ‘strong’.

But I’ve never really been brave. Or strong.

When I tried to get help for my abuse and it backfired (horrifically), I took one look at what had happened and gave up completely. I hid inside myself for thirteen years. I mentioned to Sheila that I felt like I had been avoiding my issues and now with the EMDR I was having to truly face them, and I didn’t feel strong enough. She gave me this look, as if she was surprised that I didn’t see the truth, and said “But you haven’t been avoiding it for the past four and a half years, you’ve just had a life jacket on. Now you’re in the deep without a life jacket.”

So I think this is the first time I have been brave, and strong. This is the first time I have said that I don’t want ‘good enough’, I don’t want the bare minimum I need to get by. I want everything. I want my life back. I’m scared, and I know it’s going to hurt, and I hate that I’m having to go through this, but dammit, I’m going to do it.

This time, I am brave.

Coming Unglued

Last night at my church there was an event called Unlgued to kick off the fall women’s study, also called Unglued. It was an event solely for women and we had a guest speaker from Proverbs 31 ministries, Nicki Koziarz, who spoke about  how becoming unglued can be miraculous if it leads us to holiness. She spoke about how she was the quintessential Jesus lover in high school, and one day God revealed the real her when she found herself pregnant at nineteen. She talked about God used her brokenness to do amazing things, including leading bible studies for the very women who rejected her and her baby.

She encouraged all of us to let God expose our true selves and to let Him use us for His glory, and it was beautiful. It was everything that I have been trying to do. I want to do the EMDR not just for me, and not just for Rob, but for God. To become the person I am supposed to be for Him and to let my story be a light to others who think there just can’t be healing for them. I don’t want them to look at me and say “oh she is so amazing”, I want them to look at me and say “look at how amazing God is, I want that

Telling the Story

I start EMDR therapy in 3 days, and I am getting really scared. I know that in the end it is the best thing to do, but reliving all of this is going to be awful, and I’m scared. I’m trying to be brave, but every time I remember what I am getting ready to face, I feel like I am six years old again. Rob and I talked and he held me while I cried. He told me how proud he is of me and that he is here for me. And I feel a little better. Someone commented on my post from the other day and told me a little bit about what they went through that led them to EMDR therapy, and I realized that I have never really shared my story with you, the reader.

So here it is. I don’t remember everything that happened. I don’t know if it went on for days or months, or what time of year it was. This is what I do remember:

I started 1st grade in 1993 at Butlerville Elementary and my teacher was Mrs. Beel. She was pregnant, so most of the year–at least it seemed like most of the year to a six year old–we had substitute teachers. My class was small, maybe fifteen of us, and between church and kindergarten I knew almost everyone. I don’t know if I knew Matt from before or if I met him in first grade.

Back then I was the popular girl. I was a gymnast—had been since I was 2 years old—and was very outgoing, athletic, and pretty. I was a happy little kid.

When I was in kindergarten I had a ‘boyfriend’  named Nathan, and at our school’s skating night at the local roller rink he won a bracelet for me. It was made of three little gold hearts joined together and I loved that bracelet more than anything.  I was so smitten with the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, and to me, that bracelet was a symbol to the world that I belonged to someone. That someone loved me.

When I got to first grade,Matt was the popular boy and I thought he was the coolest person I had ever met.

And he liked me.

It just seemed like the thing to do, so we started dating. He held my hand. He bought me a gold necklace with a little red heart that I wore every day. He was my man. I remember sitting in class and he would pretend to shoot all the other kids so we could be alone.

That should have tipped me off right there.

I wanted so badly to be grown up. I was fascinated by this popularity I was experiencing and wanted to live in that world forever. I went to gymnastics, played with my friends, and was Matt’s girlfriend. I thought I had the world. I remember being so unbelievably happy.

It started slowly. He would sit next to me at the little table in class when our teacher would read us stories and we would do our work. He used to put his hand on my thigh, and to be honest I liked it. It made me feel special. Over time, his hand crept higher. It went up my leg, under my shorts, and inside my panties. It felt nice. I felt shivery and special. This was something new for me. Eventually his hands ended up inside my shirt too. He would have me lean forward and put his hand through the sleeve of my t-shirt in order to touch and rub my chest.

He did all of this at school, during class.

There were days when I got tired of him touching me; I wanted to learn but what he was doing was distracting. I remember one time I wouldn’t lean forward so he could put his hand in my shirt and he got really mad at me. He told me that this is what boyfriends and girlfriends do. He told me I had to let him. And I did.

I don’t know how long it went on, but I do remember that I started trying to avoid him. Him touching me started making me nervous, and him getting mad and telling me that I had to let him scared me. I started trying to sit across the table from him instead of right next to him. But all my friends said we looked so cute together and I always ended up right next to him. Right where I didn’t want to be. I remember being scared. There is a home movie of me in my leotard and tights showing off for the camera how I could take my tights off without removing my leotard. In the background you can hear my dad saying how he should show this video to Matt. To this day I can hear the fear in my voice when I tell my dad no. I was six years old and I was fighting a battle no one should have to face. I was trying so hard to be the perfect, popular girlfriend and yet my every instinct was telling me to run. Like I said, I don’t know how long this went on. I have all these memories but it isn’t one coherent memory, more like flashes. I do know that I started getting mad at him for getting mad at me all the time. It seemed like no matter what I did, or let him do, it was never enough.

So I started doing things to purposefully annoy him, hoping that he wouldn’t want to spend time with me. I remember one night my dad and I were at the elementary school after hours for a parent teacher conference and he was there too with one of his friends. He was listening to a Walk-Man and had his headphones on so when I said something to him he couldn’t hear me. I reached over and pulled the headphone away from his ear, repeated what I had said, and let the headphone snap back in place. The next day at school he told me that I had broken his headphones and I now owed him fifty dollars. When I got home I told my dad what he said to me, crying because I knew I didn’t have the money and because I was so frustrated. I don’t remember how the whole thing got settled, but we never replaced his headphones. After that we just kind of fizzled out.

It was a year or two later that I finally realized what had happened. One morning I crawled crying into my mom’s bed and told her what had happened. She asked me some questions and then called the school. I don’t know what she said, but I don’t think I went to school that day. I later found out that he had been forced to go to a day-long therapy appointment. We weren’t in the same class together, but when I walked into my classroom the next day, everything had changed. There was this feeling of hostility and anger focused on me that I didn’t understand. It turned out that he had told everyone what I had said and that I was lying to try and get back at him for breaking up with me in first grade. They all chose him. Every single one of my friends thought I was a liar and from that day on they had nothing to do with me.   Only one girl, Brittany, stayed by my side. She didn’t stand up for me, but she didn’t ostracize me. To this day, she is the only person from that class that I still speak to. In one day I lost all of my friends. Everyone hated me. I truly believed I was wrong to have said something. So I didn’t say anything else.

 

I learned to be okay being alone. School became torturous for me. I didn’t have any friends and I had gone from being the most popular kid in class to being an outcast freak. I started to turn inside myself. I thought that if I didn’t look like I used to then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought that if I made myself invisible then no one would notice me. I thought I needed to change because I had brought that on myself. So I changed. I became quieter, I kept eating, and I tried to quit caring. I went to school where I said nothing, and I came home where I sat in front of the T.V. and ate cereal from the box. I started gaining weight. I no longer had a gymnast’s body and I was okay with it.

I started trying to hide inside myself. I suppose that as a kid I couldn’t handle what had happened, so I tried to cope as best as I could. And so I ate. I remember coming home from school and instead of playing with the dogs or going outside I would sit in front of the tv for hours. Just sit there and eat. Cereal mostly. There would be times when I would sit down with a brand new box of Cheerios and when I got up it would be empty. I hadn’t even realized I was eating. All I knew was that I was safe. I could hide in the show, in the reality that wasn’t my own, and for a few hours I would feel safe. But in my little bubble something would always break through—my mom telling me to stop eating, my dad trying to get me to go outside, or even my sister just wanting to change the channel. And every time that happened I lost the tiny piece of safety I had clung to. It was like being abruptly woken up. Almost like I was in a deep sleep and someone shook me awake, back to the reality I was trying so hard to escape. But I could never escape. I never stopped trying. I kept eating, kept gaining weight. I thought that if I didn’t look like I did, didn’t look like a girl, then no one would ever do that to me again. I thought something about myself had made me be a target, that I had somehow brought the situation on myself. And so I just kept eating.

I went from an extremely fit little girl to an overweight shadow.

Food became my one safe thing in the world. My entire world had been taken from me, and food was the one thing I had control over was my food. Eating made me happy. Well, not happy, but I actually felt something when I ate. The rest of the time there was nothing. It was almost like I felt this void inside of me and I thought that if I ate enough then I could fill that void. That I would get better. But I didn’t.

Now, instead of being invisible, I was a target.  Kids at school who had been my friends only a few years ago now teased me. I was the proverbial fat kid. That became who I was. I wasn’t Laura. I was Fat. And to a certain extent I was glad for the change. I could hide behind that label, hide within my own skin. I sort of felt safe. If they started treating me as Fat, could I become Invisible? And I tried. I started dressing very androgynously and I cut my hair short. I remember there were days I wouldn’t brush my hair and would purposefully wear loose clothing so I could hide behind this new front I was making. I got very good at hiding. With the added weight and the change in my appearance I morphed further into an almost faceless kid. I wasn’t invisible, but I was unrecognizable. By the time fifth grade rolled around it was nearly impossible to tell that I was a girl. I remember walking into the women’s bathroom at the local library right as a little girl and her mom walked out. As I passed them, the little girl said to her mom “Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?” I felt proud. I had done it. I had successfully hidden inside my own skin. I wasn’t happy, but I felt safe.

 

After I told my mom what had happened I was never placed in the same class as him again. At least, not until fifth grade. My elementary school was very small but the number of students had started to grow. When I was in fifth grade we no longer had enough room to divide each grade into two classes. My fifth grade class consisted of thirty students: all of the fifth graders, including him. I managed to make it most of the year unscathed. There were a few times he managed to torture me, but overall he wasn’t a big problem. My teacher, on the other hand, was and so my parents ended up switching me to Morrow Elementary  to get away from him. Morrow was another elementary school in the district, but at that school I didn’t know anyone. My teacher was amazing. He was kind and understanding of the scared fat girl and I started feeling at home in his class. I made friends and actually had a good year.

Sixth grade started and I stayed at Morrow Elementary. I was so excited to be with my new friends and enjoy my year. For the first time since second grade, I was happy to go back to school. But the school year brought about some changes that I hadn’t expected. I no longer had my kind Mr. Perkins for a teacher. Ms. Hill was my teacher for sixth grade and she was as far from Mr. Perkins as one could get.  She unbelievably strict, condescending, and unkind toward us as a teacher could be without getting fired. I starting getting quiet again and there became fewer and fewer times I was happy at school. Looking back now I most likely over reacted to the situation, but I was gun-shy and just wanted to protect myself. My favorite time of the week was when I got to leave Ms. Hill’s class room for a day and take a bus with some other kids to Maineville Elementary (the third elementary school in the district). That one day a week was reserved for the academically talented program (ATP). We got to learn algebra, do projects, and learn things just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, the kids from Butlerville Elementary were there too. Seeing them once a week wasn’t nearly as bad as being around them all the time, so I still loved ATP with Mrs. Cusick.

In junior high all of the elementary schools came together into one big school. Having students from all three schools thrown together was chaotic, but the Butlerville students were diluted enough that it wasn’t too big of a problem. Don’t get me wrong, junior high sucked for the quiet nerdy fat girl, but it was the normal level of sucking, and I did make some amazing friends. High school was more of the same, but I started coming into my own. I joined the marching band and got closer to my friends. I was happy again and I finally stopped gaining weight. The entire time I only had one class with him. The last day of high school came and I was over the moon. I had been accepted to my dream school and I was finally leaving this place that had been so hard for me to get through. All of the seniors were gathered in the auditorium and we were told to split into groups according to what elementary school we went to. Well, I went to two of them, so the teacher told me to sit with the one that I had gone to the longest. That meant Butlerville, and so I warily sat with all the people I so desperately wanted to leave behind. When I came over to the group and sat down in the back, several classmates turned to me started saying how I shouldn’t sit with them because I had abandoned Butlerville and I wasn’t a true Butlerville student like they were. I was amazed and so hurt.

After all those years they were still against me.

 

Starting the Process

I start EMDR therapy next Thursday.

Holy freaking crap.

For the last few weeks I have been doing research on EMDR and emailing back and forth with my dad about insurance (I’m on his insurance because of Obamacare), but this morning I was poking around the EMDR Institute website. They have this really great tool where you can put in the first 3 digits of your zip code and they will find all the registered EMDR therapists in your area. I put in the numbers for my area and got around a dozen results, which was actually a lot better than I was expecting. Having been molested by a male, a male therapist is pretty much out of the question, so I found the first female name that I got a good feeling about (Dr B) and called and left a message. She called me back right away and we talked and I have an initial appointment next Thursday at noon.

Most of me is so excited that I am actually (finally) starting this. I can’t wait to see what my future holds and how I will grow and develop, and even flourish by going through this therapy. I feel like for the first time I actually have a chance to get back all of me. It’s like there have been parts of me that were locked away, and with this therapy I might get those parts of me back, and I can’t wait.

But part of me is terrified beyond all reason. I know this is going to be hard and I know it is going to hurt. This could be the hardest thing I ever do. Like I wrote in Setting the Break, EMDR works by re-opening the trauma and allowing the patient to process it properly. Knowing how the process works and knowing that I am essentially going to have to relive the worst moments of my life are two very different things.

I’ve tried to keep myself busy today, but I can feel myself starting to freak out about the idea of starting therapy. Part of me wishes I could start tomorrow. Just jump in, not let the fear get a hold of me.  I was actually surprised she could see me as soon as next week. I had wondered if she would be booked for weeks and I would have to wait to get an appointment. I think it’s good that I have a week before starting therapy. This gives me time to adjust and process. I think like any type of therapy a person has to go when they are ready, and if I can deal with the week of waiting, if I can wrap my head around this and reconcile it in my head and my heart then I truly am ready. A while ago, Sheila had given me a pamphlet on EMDR with a number to call and see about setting up an appointment, but the woman I spoke to was rude and I chickened out in the end. I don’t think I was ready. But more and more, with everything that we have been going through, I feel like everything is lining up and this is the right time. And I am ready. I’m scared, but I am ready.

Setting the Break

I’ve only just starting reading the EMDR book, but from what I understand, the body wants to heal itself. Say you suffer a compound fracture to your leg. With no medical attention, your body will do its best to heal itself. Bone will regrow, bruises will heal, and the break will slowly mend. But a compound fracture is so severe that the body can only do so much on its own. With no medical attention, the break will heal poorly and will most likely result in a limp, if not loss of use of the leg.

The same idea holds true for mental health. With a severely traumatic event, such as childhood sexual abuse, a part of your brain essentially breaks. Our bodies and minds can only handle so much, and when they reach that breaking point they can’t help but break. But your body wants to heal itself, so it tries. It starts to knit the pieces of your mind back together. But it does it imperfectly. Just like in the compound fracture analogy, the body is more focused on getting the job done as opposed to getting it done right. The body knows that there is a crisis and that it gets better if it tries to heal itself. What it doesn’t know is that in the long run, whether with the PTSD or the compound fracture, the body’s way of healing ultimately hurts the person.

EMDR resets the break. With a compound fracture, you have to re-break the injury in order to properly align the bone so that when the body sends the signals to regrow bone and tissue, the break can heal properly. With EMDR, the patient (again, from my understanding) re-experiences the trauma to a certain degree. Often times a person is not able to recover from a trauma because they have never fully processed what happened, simply because of the faulty healing the body does. But once they have processed the trauma, they can reconcile it and begin to truly heal. I read that most EMDR patients recover partially, if not fully, in 3 sessions.

I can’t even imagine recovering. All of this–the trauma, the PTSD, the fear, the coping, everything–has been a part of me for so long that I’m not sure how to even process the idea of it not being a part of me. I think it mostly scares me because it is a change. I would love to be one of the success stories of EMDR. I would love to be healed. It’s amazing to think that I could have a career. Maybe we could even have biological kids if we can fix my PTSD. There are so many possibilities if the EMDR works. Maybe that’s what scares me. The only times I’ve failed have been because of the PTSD, but if that is gone and I still fail, what does that say about me? I don’t think I will fail. Or, to be more accurate, I’m sure I will mess some things up and not succeed at some things, but I know that I won’t be a failure. The more I think about it, the more excited it makes me. I could be a teacher. I could have few (none!) flash backs. I could go to my sisters school plays without feeling scared and vulnerable. I could drive through my home town without feeling like I’m going to have a panic attack. I could be me again.