In Healing From a Violent Passion

I am going to keep living my life. I am going to keep on inspiring others by continuing on with my life no matter what obstacles come in my way. I don’t care if I inspire one or a hundred people. One person can make a difference. If I touch one person, just one person, then my mission, my goal, my heart will be complete. Every day is a battle in it’s own right. Every day I face challenges that have to do with my mental health. It’s just like everyone else in the world! It’s called being human.

My struggle on the grand scale of life may not be monumentous, but it has been for me. In trying to end my life, I have begun my new life. I have formed a new identity and a new way of thinking, feeling, and living. I have something called self-esteem, and it’s not based on my looks and my sexuality like it used to be. In fact, I am celibate, and sex does not enter my life at all. It’s by choice and it’s for a good reason. I want to have a child some day, and I’m planning on going to a sperm bank to make it happen because I never want to have sex with a man again. That might change one day, but this is where it stands now.

Next month it will have been five years since the day I left my abuser. I literally packed my car with everything that would fit in it, mostly clothes, and drove for nine hours straight to the other side of the state to get away from him. I wish that would have been the last time I saw him, but unfortunately I ran into him once soon thereafter. He was mocking me by asking if I had children now, when he saw that I had a child’s car seat in the back of my car because I was helping my friend take care of her child. And yet, I was still unhealthily emotionally tied to him, attached to him. Even though it was I who left, it was not I who had filed for divorce, and I was emotionally not even close to being ready to leave him. It was the physical urge, the sexual abuse, the fear, the act of self-preservation, which had led me into action by packing up my car and leaving.

And so, before he left me that one time, he asked to have one last kiss. And that kiss was deadly because it was tender and gentle. The years of psychological manipulation came to a front and messed with me for months thereafter. I was torn at being in the process of divorce yet still believing I loved him. It was because of the love that I had stayed so long. It was because of that unhealthy bond and extreme level of attachment and forced dependency which made me allow him to abuse me.

I had been vulnerable when he started dating me: I grew up without a male role model or model of how a healthy relationship should be. I was angry with my mother for a life of inconsistency and unhealthy boundaries between mother and child, and having suffered the wrath of her keen temper. I was a teenager and not yet fully mature. And his manipulation started from the get-go, only I did not notice it. I thought we were Romeo and Juliet, forbidden to be together, yet violently in love. The passion was dangerous and that’s what drew me to him. And he said he loved me. He said he loved me so that he could get sex. It started before I wanted it to start and I would have had no way of knowing that his sexual fantasies were so deviant, that he would become addicted to sex to an extreme extent, that I would allow us to each have multiple sexual partners which were forced upon me by mental manipulation and minutely planned and persistently relentless brainwashing tactics.

I am sober now. I am sober from having been addicted to a violent passion which ultimately destroyed the entirety of me: my self-esteem, my self-worth, my view of myself, my mental stability, my connection with my family and healthy friends. He gave my vagina as a commodity to every single one of his friends except for his equally narcissistic gay friend. The only difference between his friends taking me, without moral regard to the fact that they were married and whose partners assumed they were in a monogamous relationship, was that his friends didn’t pay him to do with my body what they pleased. I went along with it and by then I was completely brainwashed. There’s no other way to put it. No sane person would ever let this happen to them unless under extreme circumstances.

Everything about my life was extreme. In fact, he was a daredevil flying fighter jets and often driving 100 miles per hour on a 65 mile-an-hour road limit or even on 35 mile per hour roads. I hated it and he knew that I hated it, but he was too self-centered and too narcissistic to care about how it affected me, because he kept on doing the things which I hated. And although it was obvious that I disliked those things, I mostly kept my mouth shut. I didn’t speak back. No, that’s not true. I was a normal, self-preserving human driven by the instinct for survival. Of course I talked back. Of course I said “no”. I said no in many ways: verbally and physically. I used to push him away and say “no” and “stop it” and “I don’t like it”. I used to clasp my hands over the naked entrance to my vagina to stop him from penetrating me with his violent hands. To no avail. He always won, and he wore me down with daily persistence over the period of years. I was with him because we were attached by the invisible, cultural and moral code of marriage, and I naively believed in the phrase “until death do us part” because my father had died when I was three and a half. I took the fact that we were married very seriously.

He peeled my hands away forcefully from the entrance of my vagina. He forced me to wear scant clothing which barely covered me, so that I would be vulnerable and sexually attractive to him, but mostly to others. He was addicted to watching other men take me. There was no sense of protection and everything about my life was reckless and unsafe. He adamantly denied me the use of condoms. He pimped me out to hundreds of men over the years and it is only to God’s grace that I do not have HIV. I do have HPV but my doctor told me that it is supposed to go away over time. I was shocked when I found out, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. No one wants to hear such news. I understand that HPV can cause cancer. I don’t want to develop cancer. I want to live and I want to become a marriage and family therapist and I want to help other people who have been victims of abuse, terror and neglect. Humans can be the most despicable of beings when they cause harm to others, to children of all people. They cause indelible suffering. But in helping, in becoming a therapist, I can be a part of the healing. My therapist pointed that out to me. Even though humans can be so horrible, there are others who have the power to cause positive change and to elicit healing. I want to not only inspire; I want to heal. I want to have the healing power that my therapist has passed on to me. I want to employ that power for my own personal gain, which is the feeling of pride, of having made a contribution, of feeling good for having helped another person.

I know I don’t have to become a therapist to do those things. I can let a pedestrian cross the road even if there is no crosswalk. I can let a car on the freeway into my lane before me. I can smile at a stranger in the grocery store thereby sharing with them that there is kindness and gentleness in the world. I can be a big sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. I can love another woman’s child by being a dedicated friend and consistent positive presence in their lives. I can listen to a friend when she needs to be listened to. I can sit with silence and share compassion and be non-judgemental. I can make another person laugh. I can make daily human connections. There are so many ways that I can make a difference in the world. I choose to study to become a therapist because I believe from my own personal experience that it is the most effective way to enhance the quality of another person’s life on an emotional and spiritual level. One person can make a difference, and I want to be that person for many people. I care about myself and I love my life and I now have respect for myself. I have standards that I live up to. I want others to love their life as much as I love my own. I cannot force that to happen, but I can show them the way. I can guide them to self-actualization. I can be the enabler of positive change.

Change is difficult. To change one’s thinking takes years of training in therapy. It is challenging. There’s no other way to put it. It has been one of my greatest accomplishments to date. I know now that I can make things in my life happen. I have the confidence to be able to envision what I want, and to cause things in my life to go in that direction. I have the power to make my dreams come true. I have the power to respect myself. As my best friend, who is my sister from another mother, put it: self sacrifice is one of the greatest acts of self love. Knowing that has slowly changed my life.

When I spent five months studying for the GRE, four months into it, when I was really struggling with the maths quantitative portion in particular, she gave me this gift of insight. I didn’t believe it at first. I didn’t want to. But the way to show your child your love is to make sacrifices. And she told me to be my own mother, a mother to myself, and to love me by making sacrifices for me. The emotional energy, the strenuous commitment, the time spent studying: that was and is one of the greatest acts of self love because it is getting me towards where I want to be. I will do anything it takes to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. It is a long road of study, practice and training ahead and I am not daunted by the looming challenge of these years upcoming years of struggle because I know they will get me to where I want to be. I am me, I know I can be fully me now, and I have nothing to be ashamed of in wanting to be the best me that I can muster.

Love Heals All

To my therapist,

My tummy is full and my mind is quiet. I feel content. I took advantage of the holiday sales and went clothes shopping. You see, I was holding onto all of my clothes that were too small for me. Four years ago I was an extra small, and then I became a small and now I am a medium. The clothes I wore three years ago no longer fit me. I probably bought 10 new tops. I even got some low cut not so conservative shirts so that I can wear them when I go on a date. They are definitely not shirts for work. Ever since that marriage ended and I threw out all of the skimpy and “sexy” clothes I have wanted to be totally conservative. As things began to not fit me I kept wearing them anyway. I’ve only been wearing tshirts on weekends or pajamas but now I have some elegant tops. See, on weekends and before I worked, all I did was stay in bed and sleep. But now that I am doing more things on the weekends I actually have a need for things that are not tshirts and work shirts. I just went through my closet and probably took out about 20 shirts that are far too small for me. I have to donate them but some I will keep to give to my younger cousin like how I gave her my really nice but too small winter jackets last week. I think this change will feel good. I often didn’t ever really know what to wear over the last two years but now I have choices from clothes that I picked out. I think it feels good. Even some of my old dresses are too small but I am not ready to say goodbye to those ones yet.
I feel more at peace. I’m so glad you agreed with me that going to the jacuzzi the night I got home from my trip was a brilliant idea rather than writing about and therefore focusing on trauma from the past.
It feels nice to be earning money and then to have money to spend to basically buy a new wardrobe, because being in clothes that flatter me and fit makes me feel good and is therfore good for my self esteem and confidence. I actually rather like being a size medium rather than a small. It means I have grown into my beautiful, curvy, womanly body and that is how a woman’s body is supposed to be. Women, people in general, are not supposed to be like sticks. I never ever want to go on a diet again. And no one will ever be able to force me or pressure me to go on a diet because I like me just the way I am. I could lose a few pounds but I don’t need to. I just need to focus on being healthy, my mental health being the most important. I am about 138 pounds and I have weighed that same weight for over a year straight without gaining or losing much. It is the first time in my entire life that my weight has remained constant. Since I was about 17. It would go up and then drastically down and because that whole time I was with my ex-husband and under his influence.
I like my life right now. I drink tea all day long, mostly at work. I have given myself permission to enjoy tea. I am motivated to do these classes early in the year and it will be a preview of what grad school will be like. I am going to become a professional person, and I am going to have a real career for the first time ever and be doing work that is going to be meaningful and that I enjoy. I can hardly believe it. My life is so much better than it used to be. It just keeps getting better and my life is more full, even though there are always challenges along the way. You have helped me so much and I’m so glad that you continue to support me. I want and need you in my life. Today talking with you was really helpful. I feel as if I can learn more when I am not being held hostage by intrusive memories of pain and fear and anger and trauma. Earlier this week was so scary for me because I was remembering painful memories. But then things got better. The feelings came and went and I remained.
I really love you and I’ve never asked you but I know that you love me too, and that last little bit is everything to me. It’s how I have healed so much. Because of love.

Sentimental Time of Year

Today is Christmas Eve and it is still light outside. I have Christmas music playing. I am in very comfy clothes with my legs crossed on a couch with my laptop in my lap. Emotions come and go, but I still remain. I must often remind myself of this imperative phrase. My therapist taught it to me.

Last night I cried. For good reason, I think. I want my Mum to see a therapist. I want her to be able to live her life fully and for her to heal the hurts of the past as I have done and am doing. But therapy isn’t for everyone, and the person has to want it themselves. So, I won’t go into it. But it still makes me feel sad.

Two of my friends from Switzerland sent me Christmas greetings in the physical mail. I only got around to sending out cards to people locally in the U.S. I will have to write them nice emails some time. Luckily they speak English as I have forgotten much of my German.

I am trying my best to keep my mood afloat today. I want to feel happy, calm and content, and that means focusing on positive thoughts. I was reading some emails I had sent to my therapist earlier in the year and it is apparent that my mental health has improved a great deal. I used to cry a lot more, I used to choose to not get out of bed or eat or shower on weekends. I was much more depressed. Life was a lot more difficult to live.

The main part of my diet in the last three days at my Mum’s house has consisted of bread and brie cheese. It has been lovely. Since I drove here I was able to bring whatever I wanted, like my decent-sized and really soft teddy bear, which is actually an elephant, and I have been holding on to it to comfort myself, as I do every night. Mum took me for our favourite walk around a lake today and we held hands together and smiled and talked. I think she did most of the talking, and it was nice to connect. I know she actually doesn’t have a lot of people to talk to. Every time we walk around this lake, which is seldom, she tells me about my late father and about how when they were dating they used to take walks there, have picnics, and watch the sunset. Those are very sentimental and special memories and stories for me to hear.

I have nothing special to say. I have nothing else to share. I am simply writing to fill my life with meaning, my day with joy, and the world with words. Words can make a difference and they are worth writing down and sharing if it touches just one person. Thank you for reading my continued story, and Happy Christmas.

I bleed freely

Yes, I’m talking about my period. When it’s bright red like it’s supposed to be I feel as if everything is right with the world, my world. I feel free, because no one is inconvenienced by my menstruation. I have no sexual partner. I have no one around me with any expectations when it comes to my body. I get to own my body. And I get to make decisions. Am I going to wear a tampon or a pad or both as back up? Am I going to wear the extra long pad tonight so that when I’m lying to my side in bed the blood won’t ease it’s way up my butt crack and make its way onto my panties and possibly onto my bed sheets? Yes! These are the things people don’t like to talk about. But they are a part of everyday life and I am not afraid to talk about them just like I’m not afraid to talk about my mental illness.

You know they make all kinds of products for women’s menstruation? There are heavy absorption and light absorption products. There are pads with wings and extra thick pads that make you feel like you’re wearing a rag. Women used to use rags. Rags! And then they had to wash them after each use, hang dry them for reuse. Reusable cloths. This is where the phrase “on the rag” comes from. But we don’t remember those days, do we? A newer generation that has it easier.

I’m very lucky that I don’t get cramps. I just completely lucked out! And when my period doesn’t come for a month or two, I don’t worry because I think it is normal. Other people would worry a lot and head straight to the doctor. What’s wrong with me?! But even without the period talk I think that’s a question I used to unconsciously ask myself all the time. Or the belief that “there must be something wrong with me.”

Why is he upset with me? I must have done something wrong. He played on my guilt. He perfected his craft. He trained me, molded me, coached me, groomed me into doing what he wanted me to do. See, I could go on about this forever. It’s a part of my life and I haven’t talked about it enough, in general, and to enough people. But “people” don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to talk about sexual abuse, marital rape, mental illness, chronic depression, suicide attempts, ECT’s. “People” just want to live their lives and thanks to social media they come across some stories that they wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

I haven’t talked about it enough, so I’m now going to therapy twice a week. I haven’t talked about it enough so I’m going to find a sexual abuse survivors group to talk to. I haven’t talked about it enough and I want the world to know what I went through, but the world doesn’t want to hear it. They wouldn’t be able to handle it. I am tough shit, because I lived through it. I am a warrior because I live with the knowledge that it happened to me every day. My supportive network is full of champions because they treat me kindly and with compassion. I have something. I have enough. My story is out there and people will find it if they want to.

Reclaiming my sexuality

Last night I went to take a shower. Normal, everyday thing, right? Right. There are lots of mirrors in my home. A large, full-sized and wood-framed mirror in the living room, ceiling to floor mirrors on my three sliding closet doors, and a full-sized built-in mirror in the bathroom nook within my bedroom. I walked by that bathroom mirror across the sink in the nude as I do every other day. Sometimes I do stop to look at myself for a few minutes, mainly in self-hatred at the belly fat which isn’t flat – because I am now a fully-grown woman with curves, not sickly skinny with diets being forced upon me. I often look at other womans’ bellies at the gym and wonder how it is possible that their stomachs are relatively flat.

So I stood there. And then on impulse, I sat down on the soft bathroom floor mat in front of the mirror with my legs spread wide open. And I looked at myself. I looked at my breasts, my long, dark hair, my stomach, my vulva. Now that I’m thinking of dating someone I am wondering what they would think of my body. Because we are sexual beings, right? Sex is often part of an intimate partnership formed with another being. It’s an intimate act and it’s supposed to be beautiful and special and cherished. Not forced, not abusive, not scary. Not what I experienced for so many traumatic years. I am in control now.

My hands made their way down to my vulva, and I opened my labia and just stared. So, this is what my vagina looks like. To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever in my lifetime properly taken a look at my vagina (well, the outer part is actually called the vulva, you cannot actually see the vagina because it’s inside). My vagina got used a lot for many years in sexual acts, but I’ve never really looked at it. I have never appreciated it. I have never loved it. Apparently the vulva and inner labia have a pinker colour than the rest of the body’s skin. I didn’t remember that fact and it was surprising to me. Is that where the pink comes from on the ribbon logo of the breast cancer walks? Probably not but a point worth considering.

I looked at the hair covering my private part. Hair everywhere. My abuser infantilized me on a regular basis and wanted me to be like a little girl, so he often made me trim, shave, or wax the entire thing. It was more pleasurable for him. Pleasure was completely out of the picture for me, but I obeyed as usual. I was a good girl and an obedient wife. Now that I have hair down there, I feel like a real woman. Women have hair. That’s just it. So do men. And sometimes traces of pubic hair end up on the bathroom floor and that’s okay too. I can clean it up.

I gave myself a haircut. It was kind of spontaneous, but also influenced by my newfound penchant for dating someone. I didn’t want the future person to have to deal with that big bush, so I grabbed my pink scissors from the kitchen and chopped off what I could. I was pleased with the results.

Soon after I started to touch myself. I rubbed my clitoris, lubricated with some spit, and then had the courage to put my finger inside of myself, just like I would do with a tampon. For the last four years I have been essentially asexual, and I can tell you, this act did not arouse me. It felt okay. After a very long ten minutes my body was creating some of its own lubrication. So I said, okay, fine. This was self-inflicted for the purpose of pleasure. My body did not betray me like it had so many times before, becoming wet because of sexual acts forced upon me. “See, you liked it,” my abuser would rationalize. He told me what I wanted. I was not allowed to have my own feelings or thoughts. Now, no one is telling me what to do, especially when it comes to my body.

I got bored and stopped but I continued to just stare. I looked at my vulva with the labia closed. I thought about the thousands of women on this planet who have to undergo FGM (female genital mutilation). I thought how lucky I am that I was not born into a culture which believes in FGM. The country doesn’t matter, because immigrants from those cultures still practise this act upon young girls in my own country. Essentially the young girl is told there will be a ceremony and a celebration. There is dancing and sometimes gifts. Then the older women hold the unsuspecting, naive, innocent little girl down pinned to the ground, undress her from the waist down, and then a man who is usually not a doctor begins to literally sever, to cut off the labia without anesthesia. If there is music, live or recorded, it becomes louder to cover the screams of the girl in pain. Once the labia are cut off and the vulva is bleeding, what is left of the skin gets sewn together, leaving a small hole for pee and a period to come out. The skin fuses together. Sometimes a full circumcision is performed and the clitoris is also cut out. Then, in order to have sex when these women come of age, the skin rips when the penis is inserted because the hole is too small. When the woman has to have a child, the skin which has been fused together has to be cut in order for the baby to fit through the vagina, and then the woman has her vulva sewn up again. It’s a medical process which has no medical benefit and is often not performed by a medical practitioner. Don’t quote me on any of this. I am not an expert. This is what I know from what I have read.

So, I have an uncircumcised vagina / vulva. No one has seen it for four years, except for one doctor and a man with whom I did not have sex. I just sat there on the bathroom floor for two hours. Two hours looking at my body. I sat cross-legged. I sat in the lotus position with my feet crossed upon my knees. I sat there curled up, hugging my legs to my chest, naked. I thought about a lot of things. The time that my vulva and I spent together was very relaxed, but my mind was racing, not from anxiety, but from memories and other thoughts. In the end, I got up and showered for five minutes, changed into pajamas and sat on the couch with my wet hair draped over my shoulders. I felt mentally really exhausted. But I believe I had made a very personal accomplishment. I had achieved something, which contributed to my inner healing. I know that one day I will be able to have sex again, and that it will be of my volition, my choice, and self-directed. I want it to be beautiful. That’s how sex is supposed to be.

Growing into my Womanhood

I am a woman. I am not a girl, but a fully grown, mature, responsible, adult woman. It is a concept which I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around. Every once in awhile, I am reminded that I am a woman, like when I went out with another female friend tonight, and we had nice, adult conversation. It was give-and-take. We respected each other.

Going back to how my life used to be I can honestly say that I did not feel like a woman. I was anything but. I was the “toy” wife, the “play thing”, an object to use for garnering attention and sexual gratification. I had met my abuser when I was a teenager, and in many ways my young adult years of growth were stunted. I was treated like a child, someone younger, someone inferior, someone incapable (and not allowed) of making her own decisions. I wasn’t allowed to talk because he had to be the center of attention. I didn’t get to tell my own stories. A part of me lay dormant. That woman part of me that was waiting to blossom one day.

There have been many times in therapy where I have regressed to a younger state of self. I have this angry three-year-old inside of me who is angry because my dad died. I have an angry eight-year-old wanting to defy authority. I have a risk-taking 16-year-old and a mature 19-year-old. But somehow once I hit 20, that growth stopped. It was when I decided to move in with him. It was pretty much all downhill from there. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fun in life. There were things about my life which I enjoyed. But I wasn’t allowed to handle the finances or make any of the big decisions, like where we were going to live. I was actually dependent on him, and he cultivated that dependency to his own benefit.

So when I say that I am a woman, it means a lot to me. I am still trying to figure out my place in my world, where I belong, what my purpose in life is. I am learning to be okay with my body and the way that I look. I get to choose how long to grow my hair, and what colour it’s going to be (natural). I don’t have to wear makeup. I get to choose my own clothes. And even in choosing my own clothes, I feel like an adult. Because I actually get to cover myself up! Some might think that being a curvy woman, one would want to show off those curves! No! Not me. Now that I get a say in what I wear, I wear things that hide my curves. I don’t want anyone looking at my body and objectifying me. I want them to see me for me.

It was so validating, being out with another woman friend tonight. We both got to be just ourselves. We talked about fun things like the idea of “speed dating”. It sounds interesting because I’ve never done it before. We talked about our accomplishments at work, our future plans, the possibility of going on a road trip together. I didn’t have to worry that I would say the “wrong” thing and she already knows all about my mental illness, my depression. That’s how we met two years ago, at a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy meeting. She falls into the category of “friends and family” not someone personally afflicted with a mental illness. She has done her utmost to understand it on someone else’s behalf. I admire that.

I want to be able to be silly. To have the freedom to joke around, or to act younger than I am given the right moment (and not remain that way for an extended period of time as I used to have to in order to protect myself emotionally). I just want to be me. That’s what it boils down to. And part of being me is being a woman, and discovering what that means to me. In relating to other women, I begin to garner a sense of who I am in relation to them. I have achieved things in my life. I am financially independent. It’s so amazing! I wasn’t this person I have become many years ago. I continue to grow and to change. I want to have a future. I want it to be a better future than what my past has been. I can see it happening, slowly, day by day, step by step. And as my friend who text messages me for support and runs an anti-suicide website says, “just take a deep breath. Breathe.”