Another lesson for me

As a survivor of domestic violence, and one who has been through trauma therapy, I have to be aware of a lot of my behaviors. I need to recognize when, for example, I’m subjugating my own needs in order to avoid conflict.

That’s what I’ve been doing lately. I didn’t realize it until yesterday, after a heated discussion with my daughter. She wasn’t angry with me — she was angry about something else that involves me, though. And I realized that, in part, my own behavior has been contributing negatively to this situation.

So I need to rectify it. I need to be brave enough to confront someone. I’ll do it with love, care and respect. But I absolutely must assert myself and not try to bend and twist myself so someone else is more comfortable. In this particular situation, the cost of that “comfort” is too great, for me and even for the other person. It’s damaging our relationship, not helping it.

Wish me luck.

Strange days

I suppose this is all part of the trauma recovery process, but I have had some really strange days recently.

Mostly, the strangeness has resulted from my newfound feelings of dissatisfaction with my work life. During the trauma therapy, I learned that, in fact, the life I had been living for all these decades really wasn’t the one I chose. As a victim of long-term domestic violence, combined with dealing with his sexual abuse of our daughter, I have had serious trauma and PTSD symptoms.

One of those was the inability to make choices about my life. In some ways, I THOUGHT I was making choices — but looking back, they were really more about surviving, not living.

Now, I’m finding myself in a position where I truly hate — HATE — my job. Some days I barely make it in there. What is bringing about this hatred? Three things, as best I can figure:

1) It’s very paternalistic. Both directors are male, and they assert their authority every chance they get. Our overall boss is male. And, it’s a medical school: university plus medical doctors = male-dominated culture. I don’t want to work for this many men, especially men who enjoy being in power.

2) “Leadership” doesn’t lead. They don’t want to be leaders, and they don’t have what it takes to be leaders. I am learning nothing from them and, if given the opportunity, could lead them as well as run circles around them.

3) The job itself allows me very little creativity and autonomy. Every time I assert myself, I’m told “no.” My boss doesn’t come right out and say the word “no,” but he acts passive aggressively and undermines my work on a regular basis.

My solution: Strike out on my own. So I’m developing my own business and will stay in this job until I can afford to quit. It’s tough. It means that I literally work all the time: Before I go to the office, on my lunch break, when I get home after the gym at night, almost all weekend/every weekend. I’m determined, though, to make this business succeed.

I have to. My mental health depends on it.

Learned a lesson today

Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person inside this traumatized world in which I live. I suppose to some extent that’s true, because it’s my personalized, traumatized world.

But today I was shaken from my solitary vision and saw that, like so many other people, a close friend of mine has also experienced something traumatic — different from my own experience, but damaging and life-changing, nonetheless.

I tried to show as much compassion as I could. I love this friend very much, and it hurt me to hear about such deep pain and suffering.

The lesson I learned is two-fold: Many people live with trauma and, like me, hide it from the world because they’re afraid of what other people might think. But the truth is, more often than not our friends will be supportive and helpful, and they’ll do their best to listen and offer what help they can.

And the second part is this: I was in the role of supporter today, and while my friend’s anguish was hard to take, I know that I was really present and gave everything I could. It’s a role I embraced, just as I embraced my friend with a hug at the end of our conversation.

And that felt good.

Where is my voice?

Like many people who have experienced trauma, I believe my own inner voice has become buried under a blanket of others’ voices — including my own. Let me explain.

When I try to tune in and listen to my own inner voice these days, I am consciously having to tune out the following people (in no particular order);

– My abuser

– My father (who was not abusive but who was influential)

– My mother (ditto)

– My boss (who can be subtly abusive)

There’s another voice, though, that I hear all too frequently. That’s my own voice, but not the deep, inner one. This voice is Lucy the traumatized woman, the one who still occasionally flinches when people get to close to her on the subway; the one who “tracks” people around her to make sure they’re not going to hurt her; the one who doesn’t trust herself to make the best decisions.

So not only do I have to tune out those other people, I also have to tune out the traumatized version of myself. Only then can I get to the real, inner me — the voice I should be listening to.

This is an extremely difficult process for me. About the only way I can do is by writing. Writing a lot. Writing often. As a professional writer, I’m lucky because this process is fairly easy for me because of my facility with the written word. That doesn’t make the emotional part easy, though, nor does it make it easy to really understand what that inner voice is saying much of the time. Sometimes it comes out like a jumbled mess. Other times my voice is clearer, but rarely is it crystal clear.

The result is that I still feel as thought I’m acting on inner information that’s not totally trustworthy. I’m also sad that my inner voice is so covered up. I know it’s not lost, but it’s barely a whisper most of the time.