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Scared Stiff

Implicit memories and flashbacks are no respecter of present situations or whether you feel safe or not...They are like demanding teasers saying get back here and give us a voice or we'll get your attention some other way...

I currently have a roommate who sets her alarm for 6AM. When she told me that I felt my heart sink and I hoped that I wouldn't start getting nightmares again. If you're new here you may not know why I say that. Let me explain...


At home, as a child, wake up time was 6 AM. When I was a teenager I was expected to get up and help with the chores. Dad would call me when he was ready to go out to start and I was given 15 minutes to get dressed and get out to help. Due to circumstances, it was extremely hard to wake up which resulted with me being late most times which then caused my dad to get upset and if he caught me I'd get hurt which resulted in all kinds of survival techniques to avoid getting hurt, more of which can be read about in my other blog posts...


As an adult I struggled with nightmares to the point that I was afraid to go to bed. One time when I was starting a new job, I had to get up at 5 AM instead of 6AM and I discovered that I rarely had nightmares so I tried to keep that schedule ever since. In the last 3 months when I was trying to rest from burnout, I was letting myself sleep whenever I could, but now being in a shelter there's too many people, no privacy, and plenty of noise to wake up anyone who dares to try to get good rest...


I've been on edge for my roommate's alarm. I usually wake up before. It's like I have an inner alarm clock and if I ever have to set an alarm for anything I usually wake up beforehand simply because I hate the reaction I have to deal with in my body if I have to hear an alarm clock go off...its like I have an adrenaline rush which gives me a bad start to my day and I try to avoid it if at all possible.


I haven't said anything to my roommate about it because I don't want to make it hard for her and so I usually wake up before and even though I wear ear plugs, it still has me on edge because I can still hear it.


This morning I was already on edge but I didn't expect to happen what did. I wanted to sleep longer because I'm still exhausted most of the time but once an alarm goes off the adrenaline rush makes it near impossible to fall back asleep but I wanted to try.


She got up and started moving around the room getting dressed. I was rather impatiently waiting for her to go downstairs when I suddenly noticed that my body felt frozen with fear. I tried to reassure myself that she has never given me any reason to be afraid that she would hurt me. I was rather puzzled and as I wondered about it trying to figure out the reaction I was feeling it was like I was transported to another time and place. I knew I was still in my room at the shelter and that it was my roommate that was moving around the room but at the same time I was in another room...


My parent's bedroom. In a crib as a toddler in a cloth diaper and rubber pants. Frozen stiff in fear. No other clothing on so it must have been summertime. The alarm had gone off and the bright overhead light snapped on. The light was bright in my eyes but I saw the brown paneled walls through the sides of the crib and I heard my dad moving around the room. There was no sense of the presence of my mother even though I didn't feel a connection with her even at that age. Just me alone with my dad.


But why was I so afraid? I was fully expecting my dad's hand to pull down my diaper enough to insert a finger into my body. And I was afraid it would hurt. I was only about 2-3 years old. Trapped in my crib with no safe place to go. Here was this huge person who was supposed to be my Protector and yet he did things to me that I knew even at that young age that was not right. Plus there was the confusion and pull between the pleasure it gave and the fear of it hurting. And the smell of my dad's body and his tobacco breath...


With the memories and sensations of this memory going through my body, I knew there was no way I could go back to sleep so I turned on some music and proceeded to get ready for the day, all the while puzzling over this flashback...


I don't want to believe it. I'm so afraid I'm just making it up. But I have a feeling it happened and that this is just the tip of the iceberg...I don't like this at all...but I also want to heal...and I'm not near done...


I spent most of the day resting because I am exhausted but I also took time trying to put words to the memories and feelings that I was feeling...but not until after I went down the porn rabbit hole, which of course caused a lot of shame. Everytime that sexual abuse memories come to the surface it is extremely hard to not go down the rabbit hole for a few reasons:

  1. There is a part of me that wants to understand how it works so that it might take the fear out of it.

  2. There is a part of me that identifies with the victim and therefore doesn't feel as alone.

In IFS(Internal Family Systems) therapy, memories are viewed as different parts, almost like a separate individual (even though it isn't) because its easier for me to have compassion towards the hurting parts of me. If you have experienced abuse, you will probably understand how hard it is for the individual to have compassion for yourself. This is where the IFS therapy comes in well...


Tonight my therapist friend took time to help me "go inside" to help give that part of me a voice. A 2-3 year old doesn't have much words yet so it is hard for her to express herself. But I can feel the sensations and feelings in my body.


The fear. Freezing my body in place. Jelly legs. Feeling like they couldn't hold me up if they tried. Flat on my back.


I was reassured that my going down the porn rabbit hole was a trauma response and not something to be ashamed of. (I had been feeling upset with myself because of it. ) I was able to cry a little but then I couldn't. I tried to connect with that young part of me but I was having a hard time because I wasn't feeling very safe and I was scared of what lurks beneath the surface of my memory.


I felt really sad. She asked me if it had a color or a shape. I said it's like bands holding me helpless, wrapping up my throat and entire upper body in its tight grip. Even though my legs felt free they felt like jelly. All rubbery.


I felt like I was struggling to connect with the younger part of me. I wanted to even though I was scared. She asked if I'm feeling shame. Shame for going down the rabbit hole. I said that I think so and gently she asked if we could put the shame in a jar. And put the lid on. Because it doesn't belong to me but to my abuser. It was as though a "block" was removed and I was finally able to actually cry for a bit. The comforting words helped, too, to release the tears from their prison.


The conversation moved on to other things but a lot of the tension I was feeling in my body was able to be released even though I am left with a slight headache and still carry some tension in my back. My chest and throat don't feel quite so tight which I'm grateful for. Hopefully now I will be able to sleep well tonight even though I know there's a lot more to be uncovered. If I was in a place where I actually felt safe instead of in the shelter and if I had privacy where I wouldn't have to be afraid of being heard crying I think I'd have been able to go much deeper and face more but at this point I can't.


I'm proud of myself for wanting to heal. I'm proud of myself for sticking with it. Its almost like I can't get enough of healing work though I keep being reminded that going slow has better results. I'm proud of myself for what I was able to face and put into words today. I'm proud that I was able to paint the picture I did. I'm proud that I've been able to teach myself how to paint and how it helps me in my healing. I'm proud for how far I've come and for the dreams I have to work towards. I'm proud of myself for being brave and having the courage to face and give voice to these painful parts of my life that I didn't realize existed. I'm proud of myself for being safe enough that those hurting parts of the past feel safe enough to reach for daylight so that they can be seen, heard, comforted and healed with compassion and love.


I do believe that I'm starting to feel a little safer and more confident in my own body. I also feel like the heavy load of grief and pain that I've carried all my life is slowly diminishing. I feel more free to work towards my dreams. That in itself is encouraging and makes me want to heal more...


I don't feel like I made as much progress tonight as I normally would. But I did make a little bit of progress. So I will cling to that little bit. I keep being reminded that I will one day have my safe place. That being here in the shelter is only temporary. It's hard to see that far ahead but I'm hoping it is true. I've never had a safe place in my life. And the first safe place that I thought I had got ripped out of my life. And so all the betrayal and abuse I've suffered at the hands of others makes it extremely hard to trust anyone. I'm constantly on edge everywhere I go. I expect my stuff, my food, to disappear. I think some has already.


Survival mode sucks. It saps your energy. It's no wonder I can't seem to get my energy back. Four hours at my job exhausts me so much that I come home and cry and spend the rest of the day in bed. Its miserable. But I guess this is my life and I have to make the best of it. But with everything I've been through in my life...all the various abuse and the stress of never having a safe place to live makes for burnout and that's where I am. I only hope that I won't end up with some chronic illness brought on by it all...but I guess it remains to be seen...


Thanks for taking the time to read...if this has been helpful to you in any way please let me know in the comments...it always means so much to me when I know that my story has been helpful to someone else...

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