Saturday, 9 February 2008

What do I do with my journals?

This is a question that I've been asking myself lately. On and off over the years, I have written a lot. Most of it was handwritten and lately I have been transcribing the writings into the computer. I've been asking myself why? Do I think that I will forget everything again? Reading them and then typing them out is difficult. Sometimes, I just have to stop for a long time. Even if I understand it now, it is still painful to watch myself trying to understand myself. And it helped - I can see the changes and watch as I put all the pieces together slowly, but surely. BUT the big problem is that I did forget. I would have to go over the same thing again and again - never the same, but sometimes I just forgot that I had already remembered.

When I was in my twenties, I was sexually assaulted and this started the trickle through the walls that I had built for almost twenty years to survive. I would wake up screaming or so I thought - but I never woke up my husband or my baby, so I was only screaming in my dreams, which I didn't remember. I would get up and write and write and write. This was the seventies - one pulled up one's socks and got on with life. We moved, then 3 years later moved again. At that point, I reread what I had wrote and it upset me so much that I threw it all out. Five years later, I wished I hadn't because when the next episode hit & this time, with such force that I was almost catatonic, I only had some vague sense of what had gone on before.

I was lucky that I already had a psychotherapist in waiting at that point. I was in session every day for about three weeks. Looking back on it, I still am not sure how I survived the flashbacks, the hypnosis, the absolute need to run and run and run but from what? and where to? - who knew?? At that point, there was little rage or anger - only massive quantities of fear washing over me time and time again and a relentless need to know - when we decided to try hypnosis, my therapist asked me if I wanted to remember, see it on the big screen, or forget after it we stopped the session. I needed to know and remember - I'd spent too much of my life with almost no memories prior to the age of 12. The pain, the anger, the memories, the reality all came later, at that point, I needed to know. Needless to say, that I hardly got the whole picture - I spent years ripping apart my life, my dreams, my childhood, my relationships - all in order to understand.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Stigmas

There are many reasons for my writing a blog of this type. One of them: I was looking at a number of YouTube videos and that led me to some of the blogs by survivors. Some were without names because of the stigma attached to being a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I could say that I don't talk about it much because it makes people uncomfortable. But... If we are having a bad day - well, we're crazy. I f we get angry, well, it's because we have this terrible history and that explains everything. If we seem to be perfectly "normal", what happened when we were children couldn't have been that bad. Heaven forbid, if we seem successful, then we have overcome - it all seems so patronizing. We are witness to a world that doesn't want to know that we come from all parts of society; that there is something wrong about the way we treat our children; that we are everywhere and can't be labeled. Some of us don't survive. Some of us never find communities where we can feel at home. And sometimes it is just easier to let it go, not to explain and I don't want to be an example of how well one can "get over it", because it's never really over - it just gets easier to live with. Thirty years of therapy does wonders. Learning how to cope with the anger/guilt/depression/flashbacks and not knowing what triggers the emotions - a song, a phrase, a television show, a certain kind of touch, a smell and finally being able to know that when those feelings come, they will not last forever is the greatest gift I have received over the years.
In 2006, instead of giving an academic paper, I decided to tell my story at a workshop on theology and child sexual abuse, to bring some reality to the proceedings. It was not easy and the aftermath was even worse than I could have envisioned. The stigmatization exists and is couched in many different forms. Academics, myself included, often try to control our emotional existence by living in our heads. Writing this blog is going to be my attempt to get out of my head, and try to write with my whole being. Only time will tell if I can do that.
And just to bring in the Christian angle - god was the biggest obstacle I had to get over - but more of that later!