Self-help for trauma victims: my way

After spending years in traditional therapy and even more years reading self-help books, I finally realized something: when it comes to designing or changing one’s life, trauma victims are not like non-traumatized people.

How? Let me count some of the ways, using myself as an example:

1. I have virtually no understanding of this idea that I can, in fact, change my life.

2. I cannot relate to the notion that my life, and how it is, is a result of choices I made, because most of the choices I made were completely influenced by the trauma/PTSD. They weren’t my choices; they were “trauma’s” choices.

3. I cannot uncover my passions by doing assignments with lists and so forth. I have trouble keeping a bead on my own inner voice for more than 30 seconds at a time, because I’ve been so conditioned to be aware of people and things outside of myself.

4. I don’t know what I really want. My personal period of self-discovery was cut off before I even had a chance to start, at age 22. So don’t ask me what I really want, because I have no idea.

I could continue writing this list until Christmas. What I learned through the right kind of therapy — and it was right because a) I had a great DV therapist and b) because I was ready for it — is that I have to stop listening to the self-help gurus. It’s great that they can help other people. But they can’t help me.

And you know what? I’m not going to complain about it. Do I wish I were like non-traumatized people who can follow a step-by-step process for reinventing themselves? Of course. I would give anything to not be a traumatized person. I can’t even imagine what my life might have been like. I could have been a published author, or a music history professor at a great university. I might have been a successful lawyer or public speaker.

I’m none of those things. I’ve barely managed to keep my head above water, emotionally, financially and every other way, for the 30 years since I was first raped by my ex-husband.

What I need is a new way to actually LIVE, because I have spent 30 years existing, not living. And now that I’m 51 years old, I have no time to waste.

Can I find fulfillment through my new adventures in fiction writing? I don’t know, but I’m going to keep at it.

I’m also going to do self-help my own way. Stay tuned to this blog to find out what that is.

It’s not cool to be a victim of domestic violence

There are a lot of conditions our society “forgives,” if you will. If you have an illness or disease, for example, society pardons you, lets you talk about it. I realize there are exceptions for, say, certain types of mental illness (I have a cousin with schizophrenia, so I get it). But for the most part, our society has reached a point, thank God, where we can accept people who aren’t “perfect,” whatever that means.

It’s cool to be gay. It’s getting to be cool to be transgender. It’s getting cool to be a lot of things.

It also helps if there’s a celebrity attached to the disease or condition, but that’s a subject for another post.

But you know what? It’s just not cool to be a victim of domestic violence.

Because you are seen as the person to blame, not a person who was hurt.

People don’t believe you. Or they wonder why the f*&k you stayed. Then they wonder if you’re stupid, or uneducated, or if your parents beat you (I fit none of those categories, myself).

You’re seen as someone who should just “get over it” and “move on.” “Don’t let him control you anymore.”

If I hear that one more time, I swear I’m gonna barf all over the person who says it to me.

I have been open about my situation with a few people who are close to me. Most of them have reacted warmly once they’ve read my memoir. A few have reacted with silence.

But it’s not the people close to me whose reactions I worry about, to be honest. It’s that American society — it’s the only one I really know — still DOES NOT accept victims of domestic violence as victims of a real crime. And our society DOES NOT understand, by any stretch of the imagination, the lifelong effects of domestic violence.

My life — my ENTIRE ADULT LIFE (yes, I’m screaming) — was stolen from me. STOLEN from me by the man who did this to me. The aftereffects of the rapes and all the other abuse done to me and to my daughter will never, ever go away. She and I have to fight daily just to have some semblance of “normal” in our lives, and I’m still not even sure what that means.

So I deal with it as best I can. I went through hell in therapy to be where I am now, and I’m trying to figure out, at age 51, how to actually LIVE my life and not simply exist. Think it’s tough to grieve the death of someone you love? Try grieving for your entire LIFE. For the person you should have been. For the mother you should have been. For the wife you should have been. Grieving my life equals grieving the death of my parents times a thousand.

And: I do not have the support of the society in which I live, which continues to put victims at the center of the problem instead of the perpetrators.

In the end, it’s not cool to be a victim of domestic violence. And I don’t think it ever will be.