Friday, September 19, 2008

Memories, or 4th stepping

I woke up this morning from a bad dream. I never remember my dreams, and this one left me with just one parting image: a young woman exposed in a public place, defenseless, degraded and vulnerable to rape. And sort of oblivious, on the surface, numb, like I was as a teenager.

I stayed in bed another half hour or so to reflect on the emotions the dream had stirred up, to place my heart in God's hands and His healing. Then I got up, washed and dressed, and went to the chapel for the Office of Readings. Ezekiel, Chapter 16. The image of Israel, the bride of God, turned harlot. My bible's footnotes pointed out that ritual prostitution was one of the features of the pagan religion the Israelites had strayed into -- along with child sacrifice. So the graphic imagery was not only figurative, but literal. Coming after that dream image, it was disturbing.

It's time to delve into my past. The rape, the twisted, painful, fearful sexual and emotional interactions with men, starting with adolescence, focusing there, perhaps, but not ending there. Of course, I will not be dredging up these memories on the blog!! Anonymous or not, this stuff doesn't go online.

I developed some effective defense mechanisms to keep me safe from the kind of violation I suffered back then, but evidently I am not healed. It's been a long time. This has implications for my religious vocation, of course. I know it's not normal to have next to no sex drive, but I've just taken it at face value, appreciating it as a grace God has given me to embrace chastity easily, at least, even if poverty is a lot harder and obedience just seems totally beyond me. One out of three's not bad, I think.

It's been almost 20 years since I realized that the fear was gone, the acute sexual fear I had carried around since ... I don't know, exactly, when, or what incident started it, or if it was cumulative. I thought I had healed -- and of course, I had healed, just not all. T tells me I have crazy barriers, not just nice healthy boundaries, but lead-lined walls that suddenly come slamming up out of nowhere. I guess I didn't totally resolve the sources of the fear -- I did, in part, but I guess it was too much, partly I just built some high massive defenses to be safe behind.

This is the time to dig ... I am safe, I have time and solitude and silence, I don't have to show up and be professional and cheerful and responsible to anyone. My relationship with God is relatively good, compared to past years, I feel fairly secure with Him. But then T won't let me alone so much to let me slip into depression, either. He is the most gentle, loving friend I've ever known, and I can trust him like nobody. I might even do the 5th step with him. Maybe. I will let God show me the right person when that time comes. I can melt down, now, rock and re-mother my poor inner child, my poor traumatized inner teenager. Whatever it takes me to get through this. One of those concepts I remember from some 12-step group from way back when: the only way to heal is to go through the pain, you can't go around it, over it or under it, and you can't turn back or go another way. The pain won't stop controlling your life until you go through it to the other side. Pain, or fear or any other negative emotion, suppressed still wreaks its havoc. This has been pretty deeply suppressed -- I resolved a lot, too, 20 years ago, but obviously not 100% -- I never think about the old, painful memories, but they are affecting my life in ways that I suspect will surprise me before it's over and done with.

For one thing ... it's not just trauma, not just what happened to me. Just like PTSD in a soldier, who has to come to terms with the psychology and emotion of killing, as well as of being targeted for killing. I was complicit in my own abuse, and I have violated myself, and others, too. Yeah, I know, that "blaming the victim" line raises red flags for me, too -- don't worry, my complicity doesn't let the rapist off the hook. But Al-Anon taught me to clean up my side of the street, and really, there's enough here to focus on.

Again, I won't be journalling these old memories here, on the blog. This goes in the paper journal. But please, hold me in your prayers.

Regina Terrae

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