Posted in Life & musings, My BFD

Dipsophobia

As New Year’s Eve approaches, which is the 2nd anniversary of my BFD (for the newer readers, my BFD = the night of my sexual assault; i.e. my Big F‘ing Deal), my spare time is becoming increasingly dangerous to my mental health.  My mind keeps wandering back to that night, and I’m much more anxious than normal.  I’ve already had one breakdown this week at the thought of talking about what happened to a relative stranger, and the PTSD-flashbacks of laying in bed, paralyzed from both alcohol and terror, are coming back at night as I lay in bed.

Even the worst flashback, which I thought was gone, made an appearance last night.  On that night as I lay in bed passed out, he came in my room and climbed on top of me, and I could feel his hardened penis against my thigh as I said no.  Feeling him against my thigh right before I passed out, knowing through the haze what he wanted but feeling helpless to do anything to stop it besides a whispered no… this is the worst.  For months afterwards I could still feel him against my thigh, and the fear… I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

This week has been terrible.

However, on top of the flashbacks and the constant thinking about my BFD, I’m also dealing with another unexpected side effect of that night… approaching this Saturday, I am absolutely terrified of being around alcohol or people drinking.  Which tends to happen a lot on New Year’s Eve.

1: dipsophobia: a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of drinking, despite conscious understanding by the phobic individual and reassurance by others that there is no danger.

2dipsophobia: an extreme unwarranted fear and/or physical aversion to drinking.

This dipsophobia isn’t limited to New Years… I’ve felt this way for months.  Being around drunk people, even if they are my closest friends, will sometimes fill me with fear.  Seeing a friend drink a single beer is enough to make me feel anxious.  When I make myself examine why this is, I realize it’s not that I am afraid of them, but I am afraid that they are not in control – of themselves or of the world around them.  And in the deepest part of my mind is the thought that if my loved ones are not in control of themselves, then how can they possibly protect me if something terrible happens?

Spelling out how this trauma has warped the way I think about daily, ordinary events is painful.  Even more painful is the realization that, two years later, I am still wracked by fear.

Of course, I will not be drinking this New Year’s.  But then again, that will not affect what will happen.

I will feel panic.  I will feel fear.  I will seek comfort in the arms of loved ones.

I hate that this one night still controls so much of my life.

I can control one thing though – I can continue to fight.  I will face my fears.  I will grieve.  And I will continue to get stronger.

I’ll toast to that. 

Posted in Life & musings

Illusory control

I think my mind has tricked me into believing that I can control my circumstances.

My BFD has proven this false.  Control is only an illusion.

But why is it so hard to slacken my grip?

I hope that I will look back on this period of my life and realize that this is when I started becoming the person I want to be.

 

I need to let go.

Posted in Life & musings

An open letter to holiday idealists

This Christmas, and really every holiday, I wish people would realize that celebrations, love and joy do not have to conform to pre-conceived Hallmark notions of family togetherness.

This year the battle royale is over my mother’s and my sister’s perceptions that if we are not opening presents under my mother’s tree Christmas morning together, then the holiday is a sham.  My spending 8 hours with them on Christmas Eve is insufficient.

Well, humbug!

For all those who suffer from the pressures doled out by the devotees of holiday idealism (including myself), below is my holiday wish:

Dear mother and sister, and all mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents everywhere:

NEWS FLASH: life is not a Norman Rockwell painting.  Celebrate with your loved ones when you can, let them know you are delighted to share in their joy and presence whenever possible, and embrace the concept that family togetherness is not confined to certain days and times.  Cherish every moment you have, and let go of preconceived ideas and stereotypes that only serve to unrealistically raise expectations and may inevitably lead to unnecessary sadness and strife.

Sincerely,

A holiday non-conformist

p.s. One should always enjoy a turkey dinner though, whenever it is to be had! 😉

Posted in Life & musings, My BFD

Fighting fear this NYE

I have never had a good track record of success when it comes to celebrating New Years.  In college, on two different NYEs my then-boyfriend and I had big fights… one alcohol-induced fight really had no clear cause, but the other stemmed from his loathing for PDA and his belief that I wanted to kiss him when the ball dropped just “to be like everyone else” and my fury at his turning away pre-kiss was just silly.

Yea, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either.  There is a reason he is an ex.

Post-college, there was another New Years I celebrated with family in Louisville, but that ended very poorly because I had never had Kentucky bourbon before (and likely never will again). Then, of course, there is the mother of all New Years disasters: the anniversary of my BFD/sexual assault is on New Year’s Eve.

Coming up on the 2 year mark, I’m starting to get jumpy a lot, easily startle, and angst when worrying about where and how to “celebrate” the day.  To be honest I don’t want to celebrate at all.  And that it an option; K has said that we can stay in, or go to a party we were invited to, or really whatever I want – the ball is totally in my court.  Which is comforting – my being in control on this night is a psychological necessity for me.

Is it cowardly to just stay in, cuddle with K, and watch movies?  Should I face my fears and go to the party, knowing he will be there with me, and distract myself and try to have a good time?

Angst worry fear. Worry fear angst. Fear angst worry.

Repeat ad nauseam.

I’ve read that “anniversary reactions” are normal for people with PTSD.  But if this is normal, then I call bullshit. 

 ~ My jumpiness/constant vigilance is coming back.

 ~ My flashbacks are coming back.  Laying in bed last night I saw his shadow in my door frame.

 ~ I’m feeling the clutch of panic in my gut every time I think about the day.

Bottom line: I’m afraid. I’m fighting feelings of powerlessness.

But K tells me I am brave.

I hope that’s true; because for the next 2 weeks, all of my fears and insecurities are fighting back.

Posted in Life & musings

The CDC’s new Sexual Violence Report

I haven’t seen a ton of coverage yet, but The New York Times had an article today covering the CDC’s newly released sexual violence report, the first (!!!) nationwide study of it’s kind, at least in terms of the accuracy and number of persons surveyed.  The results are staggering.

Some high(low) lights:

  • 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime while 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 6 women have been stalked during their lifetime. 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner while 1 in 7 men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
  • 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long term impacts related to the violence experienced in this relationship such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and injury while 35% of men report such impacts of their experiences.
  • Women who had experienced rape or stalking by any perpetrator or physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime were more likely than women who did not experience these forms of violence to report having asthma, diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Men and women who experienced these forms of violence were more likely to report frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty with sleeping, activity limitations, poor physical health and poor mental health than men and women who did not experience these forms of violence.

The CDC’s website on Sexual Violence, and it’s various links, are located here: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/NISVS/index.html

The specific report I am referring to can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf#page=27

Hitting a little closer to home for me personally, the CDC’s “Sexual Violence Factsheet” also states the following:

  • Sexual Violence (SV) refers to sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. Anyone can experience SV, but most victims are female. The person responsible for the violence is typically male and is usually someone known to the victim.
  • There are many types of SV. Not all include physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator (person who harms someone else) – for example, sexual harassment, threats, and peeping. Other SV, including unwanted touching and rape, includes physical contact.
  • SV can have an emotional impact as well. Victims often are fearful and anxious. They may replay the attack over and over in their minds. They may have problems with trust and be wary of becoming involved with others. The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders and depression. Some even think about or attempt suicide.

The above SV-effects just about sum up my BFD.

 

The number of people who have been raped, suffered an attempted rape, or suffered any form of sexual violence is just astonishing.

I hope this report gets the coverage it deserves.

Posted in Life & musings, Therapy

Don’t control. Manage.

Sometimes I wish I could just let go.  Let go of the anxiety.  Let go of the fear.  Let go of the sadness and lethargy.  Let go of the shame and the anger over my emotional weaknesses.

For me, this task is much easier said than done.

I am a Grade-A overachiever who likes to be in control of all situations.  This may be one part genetics, two parts educational and professional training (law school/litigation doesn’t allow for emotion), several parts stubbornness, and, most importantly, 543254563 parts reactionary life experience; to me, the night of my BFD represented the ultimate horror of what can happen when you lose control of a situation.

Consequently, as #3 so kindly pointed out last night, my need to lead a life dictated by reason and control means that (in psycho-babble) I am: “de-legitimizing my right to feel and experience emotions” because “control is and has been something I value highly.”

No argument here.

However, not content to reveal myself to myself, #3 also gave me homework for the week.  Luckily I’m a huge nerd and a former all A’s student, so I didn’t let the dog eat my homework.  My assignment: examine and contemplate the difference between ‘controlling’ and ‘managing.’

Webster’s differentiates as follows:

con·trol

verb (used with object)

1. to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command.

2. to hold in check; curb: to control a horse; to control one’s emotions.

 —-

man·age 

verb (used with object)

1. to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship: She managed to see the governor. How does she manage it on such a small income?

2. to take charge or care of: to manage my investments.

3. to dominate or influence (a person) by tact, flattery, or artifice: He manages the child with exemplary skill.

verb (used without object)

4. to conduct business, commercial affairs, etc.; be in charge: Who will manage while the boss is away?

5. to continue to function, progress, or succeed, usually despite hardship or difficulty; get along: How will he manage with his wife gone? It was a rough time, but we managed.

Examining the above, the difference is subtle but significant.  I believe that ever since my BFD I have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to control my emotions – to hold them in check, to command them.  And every time a flashback ruins my day, or I struggle to get out of the bed in the morning, I beat myself up about it.  Because loss of control is just not something I can currently tolerate.

#3 would like me to see if I could attempt to manage rather than control my emotions; to function or progress, despite the hardships or difficulties they have created

Can I let go of my need to control? 

The thought is both liberating and terrifying at the same time.

Posted in Life & musings

Tempered joy?

“Life is a tragedy full of joy.”  -Bernard Malamud

 

My sister is pregnant!!!  I am going to be an auntie!

I have been on a high of excitement for the past 24 hours.  I could not be more thrilled.  All day at work I looked at baby clothes and baby Christmas tree ornaments and thought about names & nicknames.  I was on cloud 9.

Then I arrived home, and reality has, inevitably, swung back at me.  Viciously.  I just found out  that an acquaintance has been injured in a car accident, and is currently in critical condition at the hospital.  Moreover, the thought that my sister is only 6 weeks along, and so many things can and do go wrong this early in a pregnancy, is now starting to consume me.

Is it impossible to sustain pure happiness for extended periods of time?

Does life always intrude to temper joy?

How can you hold onto the joy while at the same time accept the reality that tragedy can and does strike at any time?

 

Posted in Life & musings

strength in acceptance

Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses, – for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it – not in a set way and ostentatiously, though, but incidentally and without premeditation.  – Herman Melville

 

One of the reasons I started writing here was so that I could have an outlet to speak freely about all the anxiety/depression/fear I’m still dealing with from my BFD, and which I did not want to dump on my friends and family.  Yes, I know that they are there for me, and I still turn to them, but I also wanted this site to be somewhere I could think things through and reason out loud (or on paper, so to speak) without fear of repetition or well-meaning but nonunderstanding responses.

Writing here is also helping me confront insecurities and fears in a way I never wanted to before (yes, this sentence sounds utterly cliché, but it also happens to be true).  Of course no one wants to think about the things that make them afraid or ways in which they are weak.  However, I’m finding that the more I think/write/talk about these things, the more accepting I am becoming of my own flaws.  Which (I think) is a good thing, so long as I still keep trying to get better.

For instance, this Monday I had my first, full-blown panic attack at work.  It was awful.  I had to retreat to the bathroom, hyperventilating, and call my friend B, who works nearby, and ask him to take me on a quick drive to calm down.  Which he did.  And, knowing me as well as he did, he started trying to tell me that it was ok, sometimes unexpected topics will come up that will trigger a flashback, and that it is to be expected, and not something to feel bad about, etc.  And the point he was most trying to drive home was not to blame myself.  But, to both my and his surprise, unlike other instances in the past I really wasn’t angry at myself for the panic attack.  It sucked and it was awful, but, at least on Monday, I was not upset about my ‘weaknesses,’ I just accepted it and tried to get over it as quickly as possible.

Again, yesterday, I was with K’s extended family celebrating Thanksgiving, and while talking with his female cousin and S-I-L, without thinking about it, there was an opening in the convo where I could, and did, explain that I felt ____ way because 2 years ago I was assaulted in my home.  And I did not, and still don’t, feel ashamed for sharing this with them.

So, maybe embracing the weaknesses I have will be a good thing.  For one, I’ve realized that, despite my wishes to the contrary, maybe I’m not quite ready to taper my medicines yet, and should wait a few more months before attempting it.  And not being ready to taper yet is ok.  I’ve also realized that, just as on Monday, quickly admitting when I needed help is the best way to feel better as quickly as possible.

I’ve been fighting myself and my feelings for so long.  Letting go and embracing the good with the bad feels strange.  And different.  But, this week at least, it has been a good thing.

Since my M.O. has been to take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, I think this qualifies as a step in the right direction.  Here’s hoping I continue to minimize any shame I might feel over my ‘weaknesses,’ and use this step to carry me over pitfalls I might otherwise fall into.

p.s. this picture is thematically right on point, but isn’t it weird as hell?

SWALLOW THE SUN!

Posted in Life & musings

I give thanks

I am thankful:

  • to be alive;
  • for having survived;
  • for making it through one of the worst years of my life;
  • for the opportunities provided me;
  • for being much stronger today than I was one year ago;
  • for the self-awareness this painful year has brought me;
  • for an amazing support network of loving and caring friends;
  • for being found worthy of my family and friends’ love;
  • for K – for the amazing love and support you bring me every day;
  • for B, R, JV, SK – for being there when I most needed you;
  • for CP – for never judging me, always being willing to listen and gently encouraging me;
  • for old co-workers and now-friends, who granted more acceptance and support than I thought I deserved;
  • for new friends – for making sharing and compassion look easy;
  • for every kind word, gesture, and show of support I have received – I value it from the bottom of my heart.

I have much to be thankful for this year.  Far more than I can remember and list.

As I emerge from the darkness, my Thanksgiving prayer is to be able to be to others what they have been to me during this trying time.

I feel blessed.