My Dirty Little Secret

I have a secret that I keep hidden from most people. The secret is that I am dirty. I am being completely honest. When I rub my skin, just so, little remnants of dark substance come off of me and I rub it in between my thumb and forefinger into a little ball of… dirt. My aunt, whom I love and trust, tells me this is normal. It’s basically dead skin. We are human, and our body replenishes itself, including our skin. Our skin sheds, and new skin cells are formed. If we get a cut on our skin, our body heals itself. So I am not dirty, she says. I am just human.

I met my abuser when I was 12 years old. We had a class together. He was two years my senior. We reconnected after he graduated high school and started dating. The fact that my Mum didn’t like him made me want to date him more. The fact that I didn’t have a father after the age of three made it to where I didn’t know what a healthy relationship with a male counterpart should look like. I wanted to wait until I was 17 before we had sex for the first time, and my first time ever. He had other plans. Some might call it statutory rape because the age of consent is 18 in the state of California.

Many years later I fantasized about going back to that year and having him committed to jail for the statutory rape. Many years later I fantasized about having taken the external hard drive from our home that we later shared and giving it to the police, as it would have him committed to jail for possession of child pornography. Many years later, after undergoing years of sexual abuse, I fantasize about getting a gun and shooting him. Rage could define where I am at right now with my understanding of what has happened to me in my life. But many years later, I also still think that I am dirty, because men had sex with me while I was drunk and not able to consent to sex. Not once, but for six years.

At times I keep my fingernails long enough so that when I am in the shower, the seldom miraculous occurrence of a shower a week that happens, I stand there under the hot water scraping off the dead skin, off of my inner thighs, my chest, my neck, my arms, my bum, wherever I can reach, just scraping off dirt from my body, as it catches and collects under my fingernails. It’s proof to me that I am dirty, the fact that dead skin that looks like dirt, accumulates under my nails. I wash it clean and do it over and over again. I am dirty. I am dirty. I am dirty. And no matter how long the shower runs, wasting hot water, no matter how much dirt I get off of my body, there is always more.

Imagine how much dead skin needs to be cleared off of your body if you don’t shower more than once a week. I dread showers. I dread the nakedness, my fat, ugly body, appearing in front of the mirror as I make my way to the shower stall in my bedroom bathroom. I dread having wet hair for a night. I have really really long hair, it goes all the way down to my bum. Why don’t I get my hair cut? Rebellion! My abuser would always come with me to my hair appointments and tell the hair dresser how to cut and style and dye and highlight my hair. Never again! I get to have my hair as long as I damn well please. And it’s going to stay long, thank you very much. I’ve also thought about chopping it all off, which would be the polar opposite of what it is now.

So that’s my secret. My secret is that I am dirty. I can’t get off of my psyche the memories of decrepit man after sorry man raping me, not knowing even that I was not able to consent. He would always get me drunk, my abuser. “You’re more fun when you’re drunk” really translated to “I can get you to do my bidding.” My abuser? He’s alive and well, I would assume. There hasn’t been any contact since I left him nine years ago. I left him but he filed for divorce. Thank God! But really, he should be getting ass-raped in prison at this time. One can only dream and fantasize.

Trying to Figure Out My Worth After Sexual Abuse

What am I worth? Am I worth a $90k a year job when I’ve been working very underpaid jobs for the last six years? Before that, I couldn’t even hold a job. I was so broken. Broken down from a relationship that exploited me. Some say I was sexually abused. I say I was sex trafficked. I was only worth what someone would pay to have sex with me in a hotel room or at home in our living room with my malnourished, anorexic body.

My tears are still dripping as I type this. I’m too dumbfounded by the realization that I’ve undervalued myself for so many years to wipe the tears away. Wet, shining, they caress my cheek as they find their ultimate resting place. What am I good at? In my opinion, not very much. I don’t have much to speak for myself. Yes, I can write a mean poem and then recite it wholeheartedly. It takes everything out of me to perform my poetry. I need an entire day of rest before and after if I’m the headliner for the open mic show.

I’m on my sixth interview with a company. It’s scheduled for Monday, in just a few days, with the founder of the company. I guess they want to make sure that I am the right person for the job. If I get the offer, the numbers in the approximation of $90,000 will be stamped in black and white. Of course, in that area of the country, the living costs are very high. Rent would be around $40,000 a year, so that brings the number down a bit, and with taxes taken out, well, I would still be able to save a bit of money. I want to go visit my aunt in Australia one day. That will cost a bit of money.

When I think about my malnourished self of around the age of 24, that was in 2008. It’s when I started seeing my therapist, who hasn’t left my side in over a decade. I call myself malnourished because my abuser, who was also my husband and pimp and sex trafficker (the pimping out started only when we had gotten engaged)… let me side track for a minute. I remember an attorney over the phone exclaiming stupidly to me: “You married your pimp?” I’ll never forget those words. To an outsider who doesn’t know my story, it may seem like that. But no, I married my high school sweetheart. Only, he wasn’t so sweet. I didn’t know what narcissistic personality disorder was back then. I didn’t know that people who are sexually abused as children either become abusers themselves, or they heal from it. He was the first of those two options. We dated and the screwed up sex stuff didn’t start until he “owned” me by putting a ring on my finger.

In 2012 when I was 28 I left that relationship. I had been seeing my therapist for four years. I couldn’t take it any longer, the abuse, that is. Don’t get me wrong. There was a part of me that didn’t want to leave him. I was trauma bonded to this abuser and thought that I loved him. I grieved that loss of relationship for many years. It was a long time before the anger came. I still feel angry now and then. The anger rears its ugly head in the form of suicidal ideation. When I’m furious, I think about ending my life. At times, this is really intense.

Back to the beginning of where I started out. I’m about to get or not get a really good job offer that no one in their right mind would refuse. But it would mean leaving a city that has been my home for so long, and leaving my friends behind, even though I don’t see them often anyway. Taking this job would mean delaying my dream of going back to school to become a psychotherapist. But am I ready to help others when I am still healing myself? A therapist who helps suicidal people not kill themselves and yet experiences suicidal ideation on her own terms?

I really don’t know what to do. What am I worth? Does my $22/hour job define my worth? I’ve wanted to take a $15/hour job as a mental health worker, but that would mean I would be using a minimum of $10,000 a year of the nest egg I got from my divorce, because yes, everyone, the narcissistic man who sex trafficked me was a promising young CEO of a technology company. That’s the only reason I can afford to work such low paid jobs in the first place is the “savings” that I have which aren’t savings but divorce severance from the profit of a company sale, a company which I, in a way, helped to build, because I was married to the man who was a founder. Enough technicalities. I’m being completely open and honest here, and I have no idea who is going to read this, or what you, reader, are going to think. Of me. Of my story. Of my latest conundrum.

Really my focus should be on healing. I should keep my underpaid job that has good health insurance, whilst using some of that nest egg every month to make ends meet, and heal, heal, heal. I need to heal and figure out what defines my value. God defines my worth. Not a job. Not the status of my mental health. Not my depressed thoughts and feelings which tell me lies. Not my trauma. Not my history. God defines my worth and I define my worth. That last one is tricky, because whilst God may value my existence and my soul, I do not. Whilst at the moment of creation, God knew that he was creating the makings of a masterpiece, here I am years later still wishing I were dead because the trauma in my mind won’t leave me alone.

Images and memories pop up constantly, uninvited and intrusively pushing their way in to my present moment, making the nine years in which I have been safe from my abuser seem like the blink of an eye, and I am being raped, in my mind, in the present, by men whose faces all blur into one unpleasant, gruff essence of “man” and “abuser” and “rapist.” What I need to find out, before I start graduate school, again, is what I am worth. The truth is that I am worth my weight in gold. Gold is the word that God gave to me when Ruth and I were praying together.

A Reflection on Coming Back to the Present Moment

I have just been waiting for this moment, a moment where I can sit down and have the motivation to write a journal entry in my blog. I think about it a lot but the actuality of doing it is more daunting, even cumbersome. So here I am on a Sunday morning drinking French Vanilla coffee from a special mug with my small dog in my lap and laptop off to my side. I can hear birds chirping as I have my patio door open, which typically is a rare occurrence. The weather is so nice outside, I just decided to slide the door open.

These are sensory things, grounding things, things to keep me in the present moment. If I notice what is around me, and follow my senses of touch, taste, sound and smell (am I missing one?) then I can stay in the room. However, my mind wanders and goes to other places, far-off distant lands which have nothing to do with my present surroundings. I suppose that is called dissociation. I can be sitting with my therapist and he can be talking and I won’t have registered any of the sentences because I was still busy in my mind bringing myself back to the present moment. My therapist is kind and patient and he doesn’t mind repeating himself for me.

Last week I was suicidal. That was maybe a week and a half ago actually. When I am feeling suicidal it’s like there is an emergency happening in my mind and there are invisible and silent alarm bells going off in my body telling me that I am in crisis. I can be sitting quietly at my work desk and someone could walk by and not notice anything unusual, whereas in reality I am panicking and frantically texting with the crisis hotline to get help and calm the emotional storm. But that’s really what it is, isn’t it? It’s a big storm, something you really have no control over, but you have to hold onto the fact that it will eventually pass and the waters will be calm again and the clouds will be gone, letting the sunlight shine in. For many years I lived in a fog of dark, dark clouds and the possibility of the sun shining into my being was close to nil. These days, things are different. I still feel suicidal but I seem to be able to get out of that state more quickly than ever in the past.

Just over six months ago I took an overdose to end my life. You see, however, I didn’t really want to end my life as in dying. I wanted to kill myself as a punishment to feed my self-hatred and mostly to end the suffering which consisted of overwhelming emotional pain and a deep sea of sadness. There is more sadness these days in my life than anger. Yesterday, seven years ago, is the day I packed up my car and left my abuser. It was either going to be leaving him or kill myself because I couldn’t go on living like that. I have many memories and at times they are intrusive, and I find it best for me not to verbalize any of those memories, lest they become more real and concrete in my mind to the possibility of retraumatizing me. So these images and memories come up as flashes in my mind which involve the visual aspect of memory as well as thoughts and words associated with that memory. As long as I don’t say any of this out loud then the images will fade away. If I were to describe them it would just extend my discomfort.

Those images, those flashes of memory, used to scare me and make me feel that I was living those moments over again and again. I couldn’t sleep with the light off because many bad things happened to me at night. I have to remind myself even now, that nothing he did to me was ever my fault. He was ill in his mind and the things he did to me were not okay and not normal. The sad thing is though, that it was my normal. I didn’t know any different. I was young and naive and I didn’t believe in divorce. Even though I’m the one who physically left (he changed the locks to our home right away) there was a big part of me that couldn’t imagine life without him. He had controlled every aspect of my life including what I wore and how I got my hair cut. I had no say, and when I did try to refuse or speak up or say no, it would be met with emotional turmoil because, in a sense, he punished me by making me feel bad and by making me believe that everything that happened was my fault and not his.

That’s enough talk of the past. I just realized I was starting to go to a bad place in my mind and I needed to come back to the present. I was verbalizing things from the past which are better left there, in the past. I can hear my dog snoring in my lap, which is very comforting and which I happen to think is adorable. My coffee is now luke-warm but still tastes good. I think I am going to make scrambled eggs for breakfast and of course, I have to use a whole bunch of salted butter, to make it really good! You see? Now I actually have a smile on my face and there is less tension on my cheeks, forehead and eyebrows. I’m back where I need to be, in the present where I can hear the birds singing. My roommate just woke up and her noise will also help keep me in the present.

From suicidal one week to looking to become a first-time homebuyer! Really. Due to circumstances, which is that my landlord wants to sell the place I live to me or to someone else and that I can’t afford it, I have begun to work with a real estate agent. I know nothing about home buying and now I am about to hopefully become an expert at it. I can’t afford much but I am hoping to buy a two bedroom, two bathroom condo. My commute to work will be extended by at least an additional half hour if not more because I cannot afford to live any longer in the central location of town where I live now. So there you have it. I’m thinking about my future whereas just prior to that I didn’t want my future to be continued at all. It’s just that, I don’t actually want to die. I just want the pain and sadness to end. That’s what plagues me. That’s what makes me suffer. That’s what needs to change and I myself need to make that happen. I’m going to keep working hard at it every day and when bad things come up in my mind, I will always do my best to come back to where I am in the now, the present, the reality of things. For memories can seem real but they are not and they are not happening any longer. That’s the hardest thing, to remember they aren’t actually happening when I’m remembering them.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it. You know, very few people read these words that I write yet I appreciate every single person who lets me know they read my journal entry by clicking on the “like” button. It warms my heart that my story, my experience, my words, became a part of your life if only for five or ten minutes whilst you were reading this. Thank you for existing, thank you for being you, thank you for gracing my words with your attention, and I hope your day continues with peace and comfort. Just remember, when you are suffering, you are never alone. Let me say it again: you are never alone.

Fear Of Living

I’ve been afraid of writing a blog entry for a while now. I have been imagining that it will take out a lot of energy from me and be exhausting and I wasn’t sure I could spare the energy. As always, so many things are going on in my life. Last year when I was in the hospital I met a man who was a suicidal drug addict, I didn’t know about the drugs at the time. He convinced me to let him into my home and then over a two week period proceeded to spend thousands of dollars of my money on drugs and stupid things like an electric guitar. I finally got him out of my home and now his friend, who gave me money which this guy spent, is threatening to sue me. Oy Veh. That’s the last thing I need right now. But he has no legal recourse over the monies? I have no idea. Oh, God.

Anyway, so I’ve got that going on. My brother is going through a divorce right now and I feel sad for him but I know that he is a strong person and will come out okay on the other end. There are just the technicalities of who gets what upon separation, money-wise, asset-wise, debt-wise. It’s just so complicated and it’s bringing up memories of my own divorce, which was just awful and so emotional for me to go through. Of course, there is a difference here: my brother’s divorce does not involve a history of domestic violence and abuse as mine did. There I said it. It’s out in the open.

Now what. What else? I’ve been really into my poetry. This is what has been keeping me afloat. Keeping me grounded. Keeping it real. My world of poetry saves me. When I finish writing a poem, I feel accomplished. Any time I do anything with my poetry, whether it’s making art out of my poetry, or anything really, I feel joy. Speaking of joy, I spent 30 minutes this morning reading a book out loud in Italian. That is a language which brings me joy.

So even though I have all of these difficult things going on in my life, it is possible to find a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been sick and out of work for the last week and so I have lost a lot of money. Thank God I have just enough money to survive right now but I’ll never be rich, especially not if I want to be a writer or a therapist. I haven’t written in any of my blogs lately, not at all. I have been silent, mute. The only thing about this blog is that I can write in a stream-of-consciousness manner without holding back, just as it comes to my mind so it gets written onto virtual paper. There is a certain process that the mind goes through which is different when you write out your thoughts versus just thinking them, wouldn’t you agree?

So what am I supposed to do with my life? Keep my job, focus on happiness? There’s a man who is interested in me and I’m so hesitant because I’ve been hurt too many times before and deeply wounded. Because my first marriage was such a co-dependent relationship, I would have to say I’m a virgin at relationships. I don’t even know what it takes to have a healthy relationship! What am I going to do about that? Go into something new and unknown head-on? I don’t think so! Caution is a must.

So I just titled this post, “Fear Of Living.” All of these difficult things makes life difficult to live. Does that mean I can’t move forward? Not necessarily. But it makes me want to deal with the difficult things less and less, and the less regard I pay to the difficult things the more urgent and looming they seem upon me. Like there is that $1,000 hospital bill that I have six months left to figure out how to pay. Well, that just sucks big time. I don’t fucking know what to do about it. I just swore because swearing is one way to get out anger and frankly, hospital bills make me feel angry. Angry with myself, angry with the system, angry with the world, and most of all, angry with my ex-husband for abusing me and getting me in this mess of mental illness and suicidal depression in the first place.

My Final Goodbye

After seeing my psychiatrist today during a session in which I felt extremely nauseated due to the conflicting feelings of sadness, anger, shame and guilt, I decided to take a different route home. Usually I go on the freeway but I decided to drive by the local park instead. When I say park, I mean, it’s a really really big park spanning perhaps ten blocks. In doing so, I came across the street where I used to live. I decided to do a drive-by. Serendipitously there was a parking spot open right in front of the building. It was dusk and the sun was setting on the building in a beautiful deep yellow reflection. This isn’t the most beautiful street. In fact, it’s close to downtown and it’s also not the safest neighborhood. The apartment is on the ground floor and has bars across windows with a metal gate locked in front of the front door.

This was the first apartment I lived in after I left my abusive relationship. I have a lot of bad memories here, including the cops picking me up violently and aggressively after I had called the suicide hotline telling them I was cutting on myself. Apparently a knife, even a small cheese knife, is considered to be a weapon. The PERT team never comes because that division is always understaffed.

Why was I sitting in my car staring at this place? I was feeling even more sad and dejected by this time, and I called three close girlfriends in succession. The third picked up and I was ever so grateful. We immediately made plans to meet up and I was able to leave the sorrow behind for the most part. As I was leaving the answer dawned upon me: the reason I came here was to say goodbye. I was saying goodbye to my former life. I am saying goodbye to the abuse and the sexual trauma.

Why? Because I met a man. I am infatuated with this man. He is kind and gentle. The kind of healing I am doing now was not going to be possible until I met another man. We have been intimately involved sexually for the past two weeks. After over five and a half years of abstinence, and an overarching fear of anything to do with sex, I am discovering how much I enjoy having sex. It’s an amazing feeling. I can have sex in a carefree and loving manner with a man whom I have chosen. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t know what he wants in terms of any commitment or relationship. It’s all so new. I have spoken with a lot of people about this new development in my life and I have decided to just have fun and take it week by week. I am not the one calling him often. I am going to leave the pursuit up to him and mirror his advances. I was advised not to give more than he gives. This is a dating game, but I can play this.

He is my lover. I have a lover and we make love. We also have plain and simple sex, and sometimes it is aggressive or vigorous sex. I have been able to communicate to him two things that he did which I did not like, which included having a hand put tightly to my neck. I have been strangled before and I don’t want it to be perpetuated by any man. I don’t find it exciting. I am learning about my sexuality and I am on a sexual journey. I realize that everyone’s sexual journey is different, and I am just so glad to be able to start my journey of self-discovery in this realm.

Love letter to my dear friend

To my dear friend,

I am not going to ask you to write a love letter to yourself. I’m just not going to do that. What I am going to do and what I can do is to write a love letter to you from me. I am going to speak words of wisdom and courage into you. I am going to lift you up out of your anxiety. Why? Not because I care. That’s obvious. It’s because you deserve it. You fight so hard every day and your strength, the strength that you may not always have the perspective to see, is awe-inspiring. If there were to be any woman I would want as a role model, that would be you. Because guess what, we are not perfect. No one is. And sometimes we fuck up. But when justice comes into play, you don’t have to cognitively admit to yourself that you are right. You know it in your heart and your body knows it for you. That’s why somatic issues creep up and tears emerge and restless nights occur.
But you are not alone. If there’s one thing you take away from this letter, it is that you are not alone. It’s not that you’re amazing, and that the value that you bring to this world and my high opinions of your morality come into play. It’s that you are simply you. You deserve everything. You deserve justice. You deserve to have other people fight for you and to support you when you become weary and want to give up. You deserve to know that what you are going to do in trial is absolutely the right thing to do.
This isn’t just for you, you know. I know you want justice to be served, as much as a detriment this would be to the recipient of the consequences and possibly the short-term public opinion of you in the field. Notice that I said, short-term, because in the end, justice always prevails. The law and binding ethical standards exist for a reason. It is to protect the consumer from getting taken advantage of. Because in a therapist-patient relationship, who really has the power? It’s the person who is acting upon their professional license, the person getting paid for their service. The mere fact that you were paying for a service, for this woman to be your couples counselor, gives her a huge responsibility and those people who hold responsibility in their hands have power. She had jurisdiction over her ethical obligations to you as a couple and to not take sides and to not breach confidentiality. She made an active choice and an active decision to choose one party over the other and not just that, but to write a damaging letter which had detrimental consequences.
What were those consequences? I wasn’t the one living that life and going through the motions and trials and tribulations and heartache and shame and disappointment that you went through, but I can imagine the consequences you had to endure. Any compassionate, rational human being would realize that this letter had damaging consequences, but you are the only voice you have for yourself and no one other than you can say it on stand under oath. You are all you’ve got when it comes down to it. How do you want to look back upon this time in your life when judgement day comes around? Do you want to feel confident and relieved that you did everything in your power to ensure that this woman did not do damage to any of her other patients?
People don’t lie once. Because if they’ve done it once, and with such ease, the chances are they’ve done it before and they will do it again. Why would they choose to speak anything but the truth? That’s not for you to know and it is not for you to judge them. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. Of course it will. This event was the catalyst of a storm of events which occurred which then culminated into a tsunami. It could have killed you but it didn’t because you are resilient and strong and you fought for what you believed in, part of that which was believing in yourself as a mom and fighting for the custody of your child. If you didn’t fight, could you have lost your child, thus causing extra damage and trauma in his life due to your absence? Absolutely, but that didn’t happen.
What did happen is that your son suffered the consequences of an unfortunate series of events which weren’t his fault but which he probably grappled with in blaming himself for, which all children do. They blame themselves. The ripple effects of this one breach of confidentiality and smearing of your reputation reached far and did not stop for years because of the PTSD which you endured. No one should have to go through what you have been through and I want you to stand up for what is right and know that when you are on the stand at trial, you are representing all women whose voices go unheard and who get taken advantage of by “the system.”
Do this for your fellow women, and sisters all over the world who are moms. Do this for me. Do this for you. Do it for your mental health and for your future. Do it for the people who’s lives this woman will damage if you don’t tell your story. Do this for your son and for the pain you endured and the sleepless nights it created, the anxiety, the fear, the trauma you experienced. Nothing can make right what happened to you because of that letter, but knowing that you can finally do something about it, even all of these years later, can be somewhat of a consolation. And a confidence-booster. Knowing that the nights you spent feeling that the whole world was against you were not in vain and were not right. No one should be made to suffer so much. You can’t take back the suffering, but you can take back your life. You can take ownership of your past and rewrite your story. Write your story in a way that you would want to be remembered for the rest of your life. Let justice take its course. All you have to do is tell your story. Nothing else. The judge, the general attorney, balance of good and evil, and fate will take care of the rest. And God is behind you lifting you up because you are his child and were made in the image of him.
Lord, anything that is evil, I cast and bind it away to the foot of the cross, Amen. May my dear friend be protected by your ever-lasting love and be infused with the peace that passes all understanding. Please let the strength and the courage which are already within her shine through and give her a sense of knowing that standing up in trial and telling her story is the right thing to do. Please give her the wisdom to choose her words carefully and not let anxiety get the best of her. Please let her rest and prepare for this important occasion you have granted her and challenged her with. And please bless her for being just who she is, because who she is, is just enough.