Today’s word: Choice

Today's word: choiceI chose to marry my ex-husband.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

I get really, really tired of people — most of whom are uneducated about domestic violence — saying that it was my choice to “let him” hurt me or continue to hurt me.

That is so far from reality, it’s hard to even know how to respond.

Domestic violence is not like alcoholism, for example. There, it does seem to me that certain people “enable” the alcoholic’s behavior by their actions.

DV is completely different. There is no “letting” or “choosing” or “enabling.” The actions of the abuser put the victim into a persistent state of trauma, which then proceeds to get worse over time.

Even if you’ve never been the victim of an abusive person, you’ve most likely experienced something you would label as “traumatic.” Let’s say, you were in a car accident, or you witnessed a crime, or whatever it might be.

How did you feel afterward? Picture that moment, and put yourself back there, right now.

  • How do you feel?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • Do you feel like yourself?
  • How is your mind working? Is it clear or fuzzy?
  • Do you know what you’re doing or saying, for sure?
  • Are you shaking?
  • Do you feel like you’re going to be sick?
  • Do you feel afraid?

Multiply those feelings by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’ll have some idea of what a DV victim experiences with an abuser.

Was it your choice to have that car accident? Using the same logic a lot of people do with DV, they would say, Well, it was your choice to get into the car, even though you were reasonably certain the car was working properly and you knew how to drive it. And you also were pretty sure where you were going; you even had directions.

I made the choice to marry that guy.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

He hurt me. That was his choice.

After the first incident, the trauma was already in place and doing its thing: clouding my mind, making me shaky, setting my life on a course I did not choose. I left when I felt reasonably sure it was safe to do so, though clearly I risked my life during that process. Every woman (I’m generalizing) does when she finally does leave.

I still struggle with choice, every single hour of every single day. I’m never completely sure if the trauma is behind a choice I’m making, or if my real self is behind the choice. If I’m totally honest, I’d say it’s probably about 60-40 or maybe even 70-30 right now, and the trauma is winning.

The lens of truth, not trauma

About a month ago, I wrote about some difficulties I had with my book.

Today, I decided that I’m not going to change anything in the book unless my daughter, and only my daughter, asks me to.

The only people whose opinions matter are hers and mine. No one else’s.

Because in the end, it’s a record of my life and how I experienced it. If someone in the book doesn’t like what I wrote, then they can write their own story. The truth is the truth, and if I start adjusting the truth to suit someone else, where does it end?

What that person wanted me to change isn’t a fact; it’s a difference of perception.

My daughter has mentioned that I made one factual error, although she hasn’t shared with me what it was. And it wasn’t big enough for her to ask me to take the book down. I told her that I want to write a second edition in 2013, this time including some information about trauma therapy, and she said it was fine for me to fix the error then.

Although I’m writing this blog post about my book, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about being able to connect with the truth of my life. Some days I can see through the fog of trauma much more clearly than other days.

The goal every day, however, is always the same: To experience my life through the lens of truth, not trauma.

“Life of Pi”: I am the tiger

What a wonderful movie experience this was: miraculous, beautiful, thought-provoking, involving.

“Life of Pi” is so visually stunning, I want to dream about it every night for the rest of my life. I’m totally serious.

While I do go to the movies regularly, I don’t often recommend them. I do recommend “Life of Pi,” preferably seen in a theater and with 3D (and I normally can’t stand 3D, by the way).

If you haven’t read the novel, as I hadn’t, I won’t give anything away here. All I will say is that the movie must be approached from the part of yourself that hasn’t fallen victim to cynicism. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s easy for us to forget how amazing life can really be. Even when things are bleak, we can find a light somewhere, somehow.

There was a point when I was watching the movie where I truly felt a connection to what was happening onscreen. The young man is facing a life-or-death situation, over which he has virtually no control. Everything is stacked against him.

Like the young man, I lost everything — everything except the essence of my “self,” the part of me that can withstand such a loss and continue to battle for whatever remains of my life.

As you know from reading this blog and perhaps my book, I still fight this battle every day, and it’s in my fiction writing that I’ve found a renewed sense of who I am and what I might contribute to this world. It may be a small contribution, but it’s one that I can make.

Seeing this life-or-death struggle played out in such a visually magnificent way was very moving to me.  Because I feel that tiger spirit within myself.

No, that’s not quite right.

I don’t just feel the tiger spirit. I am the tiger.

Results of the Thanksgiving Day fast

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was doing a juice fast for Thanksgiving. I thought I might continue it for a second day, but I decided to limit it to 24 hours.

Two really interesting things happened during the fast:

1) I had no waves of panic at all. None.

2) I felt physically and mentally fantastic. Alert, energetic, excited about life.

I was really surprised at both of these results, mostly because I thought the opposite would happen: that I’d feel nervous because I wasn’t eating, and that I’d feel tired and worn out.

What’s the lesson for me here? First, I think I need to add more juice to my regular diet, perhaps in place of a meal or two each day. And second, that the focus on myself, on the essentials, may have played a role in cutting down the anxiety.

Today, I started eating again. And guess what? I’ve had two minor waves of panic, and I’ve felt kind of lethargic. The thing is, I don’t eat badly at all. Here’s what I’ve eaten so far today:

  • oatmeal
  • plain yogurt
  • a large glass of freshly made orange/carrot/apple juice (contained 2 oranges, several baby carrots and half an apple)
  • a small serving of pasta with a teaspoon of butter and a tablespoon (not even, really) of Parmesan cheese
  • an apple
  • a small scoop of sorbet
  • a piece of whole wheat bread with peanut butter
  • a handful of mixed nuts
  • water and decaf tea

Not exactly junk food, right?

I believe my feelings of well-being yesterday had more to do with the fact that I took an entire day to focus on myself, in the most elemental sense. Maybe I need to do it more often to keep my PTSD in check, because lately it’s been pretty difficult to manage.

I may have found a way to fight back against PTSD and anxiety. I’ll keep you posted.