Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When the World Came Crashing Down

Recently, I had an experience that caused me to flashback to the 1st time I was raped. I was between 4 1/2 & 5, there were two men & the world came crashing down. The child I had been died though I was still alive. I have spent many years working to bring her back to life. Parts of her still exist but I will never be the person I was before that experience. Through God's grace, I have found life again or at least I had. This current experience has me teetering on the edge between that shattered child & the integrated adult I had become. There is potential for even greater integration, I know that. But for now, I can only live reality as it is & it is a time of wailing & gnashing of teeth - I can't describe the hell I experience any time I don't exercise every bit of energy I have to push it away & often when I do.

A flashback is partly reliving a past traumatic experience in 3D surround sound. But it also includes the awareness of the terror, fear, shock & horror that I was too young to recognize at the time, that God in His mercy saved me from experiencing then. There are other symptoms: my heart races, my blood pressure rises, I startle easily, some people or places make me feel frightened though I don't know why. Sometimes I feel like a hunted bunny, sometimes I just want my Papa to come & get me as he did then. The odd thing is the memory that is causing so much trouble has long been part of the platter of horrors I was served up in my childhood. But it was a memory not something that claimed my entire being while playing itself over & over in my mind against my will.

A friend encourages me to get a special form of psychotherapy. My income is fixed & I won't be able to afford such expensive therapy for at least 8 months to a year. And, given my previous experience of therapists & studies in psychology, I don't find the thought attractive. It is relatively new therapy (1989) & has been inadequately studied; I fear to expose myself to a treatment devised while on a walk by a therapist who completed her PhD in an unaccredited & now defunct institution especially when those who are trained certify that they will not reveal any information from the training session & the training modalities & materials are not made available to other scientists for study. And certainly at this time, I haven't the energy or ability to choose a therapist wisely: my ability to make appropriate judgements is compromised. I want to be safe & know I would tend to choose the first person who made me feel safe. That's a foolish way to choose a therapist as past experience has taught me.

So what will I do?

First, I know God has pulled me from hell in the past & am very aware that that knowledge is allowing me to get through each moment of the day right now. Memory is horrifying but also a lifeline. When I recall that another friend triggered a series of flashbacks just under two years ago & though it took a year, God brought me through them & sensibilities I thought permanently deadened were returned to life, I have hope. When I recall my belief that I would never heal after experiencing such an abusive childhood but that through God's grace, some therapy & Christian community I found healing & friendships I never imagined, I have hope. When I forget & then remember that Jesus' heart is a safe place & I can remain there forever, I not only have hope but safety. When I find myself being chased by hideous memories, I beg Him to pick me up & tuck me into His heart & He does. So though memory is my enemy it is also the gift that allows me to hope that God's arm is not to short to save me.

Second, I am listening to the Voice of my Friend, Jesus. Listening in a way I've not done before. Some people make me feel uncomfortable, I avoid them. I've told the person whose actions triggered the flashback that I cannot be in contact w/ her for now. Doing so is for her good as well as mine. Intellectually, I know she didn't intend to harm me but she did & the violation & rage I feel is intense. Eventually, we'll need to discuss what occurred but now is not the time. Now, I want to hurt her as she hurt me. I know how easily I could do so: I've lived w/ myself long enough to know how terribly I can hurt people w/ words & attitudes. I'd rather not. The harm it would do to my soul is inconceivable: I may feel like a 4 year old child but I'm an adult & I know better. I also know how to avoid such misbehaviour. She has sent me a note but I shan't open it. I'll put it aside until I can read it fairly & reasonably. Now, I'm ready to respond to it w/ rage even before I know the content; I want to express sentiments that I don't mean except I hurt so badly. I am not the person I would normally be. I am an enraged, terrified, violated child & it's best I remember that. I avoid large groups of people & many other experiences that normally tend to make me feel a bit unsafe or frustrated because I know now my response to them would be excessive. My life has become quieter: listening to P.G. Wodehouse & other lighthearted 19th & early 20th century audio books (including children's books), discussing distributism vs. genuine capitalism (sans most of the regulations & all the subsidies & bailouts) w/ a friend who has a calm personality, spending time w/ another friend & her young children - children are healing. I keep a blanket nearby to swaddle myself & when something occurs that startles me, such as a recent lightening strike & resultant thunder which is so much louder in a city where the buildings are fewer and much farther between, I remind myself of how I used to feel just 2 1/2 weeks ago: I loved lightening & will love it again.

And I am considering therapy. I plan to talk to a priest I know & ask him if he has an affordable suggestion for someone who uses more traditional therapy for trauma survivors. I need someone who is able to exercise his reason & critical facilities, someone who knows me, whom I already know & have reason to believe won't frighten me, who knows the possibilities in Houston & can help me during this time when I can't trust myself to act reasonably.

I keep prayer simple: the prayer to St. Michael, the Anima Christi, the Our Father, the Hail Holy Queen & other short simple prayers seeking protection, assistance & healing.

Finally, I maintain contact w/ old friends even though they are far away. We don't intentionally talk about the flashbacks but if I want to talk about the way I feel, I can. Friends help a great deal.

My dear friend, Dawn Eden has written a book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. I've read it a couple of times & though I can't read it straight through now as I have in the past, an occasional glance helps. One of the things I need to do is cry. I fear I'll never stop crying, that there aren't enough tears to wash away what was done to me but life doesn't allow me to cry indefinitely. Writing a piece such as this or reading a bit of Dawn's book helps me to cry in almost a structured way - so that I'm not keeping it all in & pretending all is just fine (I tried that week 1, it didn't work). Below is a recent interview w/ Dawn that is quite good. If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual abuse or other kinds of abuse or trauma, I highly recommend her book. Please keep me in your prayers. God bless.

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