More thoughts on yesterday’s session

Yesterday’s final trauma therapy session was more emotional for me than I thought it would be. I felt quite stirred by it the rest of the day and into the evening, and the feelings are lingering with me today.

I suppose it’s because for the first time, I really talked to someone about what happened to me. Even those closest to me — even the people who have read my book — don’t really know the full impact of my life experience the way Kris does. And that’s OK, because there really isn’t a way for them to know, not unless they have experienced long-term trauma themselves.

I still have a lot of personal work left to do. I pray I have time to do it.

Final trauma therapy session

Can I just say that I had the best trauma therapist who ever lived? Kris, you are a genius.

So kind, patient, knowledgeable and insightful. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for all you have done for me and will continue to do by your presence in my heart and mind.

It was an amazing (and sometimes excruciatingly difficult, but well worth it!) experience.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

What should I do now?

I posted this originally on my previous blog, but I’m re-posting it here, edited slightly, because it really encapsulates what I’m trying to do:

To say that the therapeutic process has been life altering would be putting it mildly. It has also, without a doubt, been the most challenging personal endeavor of my life. That includes dealing with the deaths of my parents and my mother-in-law. The grief I have experienced over the past year has eclipsed everything else, at times.

I have struggled to keep my balance at work (and eventually took a one-month leave). Although I’m back at work, I’m having a difficult time some days putting on that “work face” (you know the one I mean!).

Sometimes I feel like giving up. Other days I feel hopeful. Most of the time, I keep asking myself these questions: “Who am I? What should I do now?”

Being in that state of uncertainty is, honestly, terrible. And I also have to fight against being angry all the time at my ex-husband for hurting me in such a deep and permanent way.

I suppose if I could do anything now, it would be to try and help people understand that domestic violence doesn’t end when she (usually a she) walks out the door. The damage is permanent. And she will need help and understanding every day, for the rest of her life.

The regular rules do not apply to her. She can’t “just let go,” or “pull herself up by her bootstraps,” or “just make different choices.” Those are options that people who have experienced this type of trauma NEVER have. And never WILL have.

That’s a tough concept to grasp as a trauma victim/survivor, and even tougher for people who haven’t been in this situation. But believe me, I’ve berated myself for years, wondering why all those self-help books and advice guides never seemed to work for me.

Now I know that they weren’t meant for me, and people like me.

So if I could do anything, it would be trying to explain that while survivors of domestic violence aren’t “damaged goods,” we are somewhat disabled. Our thinking processes, even with therapeutic help, are different from a non-traumatized person’s. We can learn coping skills, but the disability is permanent.

We wouldn’t tell a person with one leg to just go ahead and walk. And when he can’t, we wouldn’t say, “What’s the matter with you? Just do it! And what’s taking you so long? Hurry up!”

That’s part of the message — only a small part, by the way — that society sends to victims of domestic violence.

All this to say, we have a long way to go before we, as a culture, can truly support people like me in the best way possible. I’m fortunate to have found a good therapy provider while, God willing, I still have a few years left to live.

Maybe those years can be better.

He’s not controlling me anymore. It’s the trauma.

I am part of an amazing support group online for women who have experienced domestic violence. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been discussing how difficult it is to create a new life. For me, it’s been 22 years since I left that marriage, 11 years since he stopped abusing our daughter (thanks to a much-too-late court ruling). And it is only now, in 2012, that I am even starting to put my life together.

I wanted to share a posting I made in the online forum I mentioned, in response to someone who said she felt, despite being away from him and with a court ruling in her favor, he was still controlling her life, to some degree:

I totally relate to the feeling that he’s still controlling your life. I felt like that, too, until last year. My therapist had a different explanation: that I was experiencing the long-term effects of trauma.

Here’s why I think it’s important to make the distinction. People outside DV often said to me after I left, “Stop letting him control you.” That just made me feel worse, like I was weak-minded, letting some freak have control over my thoughts, etc.

But those well-meaning people were simply wrong. It isn’t about control at all, at this point. It’s that I am experiencing the after-effects of what happened to me.

That clarification REALLY helped me, because it took him out of the equation entirely. It also showed me that I was not weak or “allowing” anything to occur to me. Instead, I realized that I have a condition/state of mind that I need to try to understand.

All of us in this forum have figured out ways to cope post-abusive relationship. My task now is to figure out how to live with this condition — really LIVE, not just exist.